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look. Major Pendennis had written on the card, "J must take A. P. home; his father is very ill."
As the Doctor received the card, and stopped his harangue with rather a scared look, the laughter of the boys, half constrained until then, burst out in a general shout. "Silence!" roared out the Doctor stamping with his foot. Pen looked up and saw who was his deliverer; the Major beckoned to him gravely, and tumbling down his books, Pen went across.
The Doctor took out his watch. It was two minutes to one. "We will take the Juvenal at afternoon school," he said, nodding to the Captain, and all the boys understanding the signal gathered up their books and poured out of the hall.
Young Pen saw by his uncle's face that something had happened at home. "Is there anything the matter with — my mother ?" he said. He could hardly speak, though, for emotion, and the tears which were ready to start.
"No," said the Major, "but your father's very ill. Go and pack your trunk directly; I have got a postchaise at the gate."
Pen went off quickly to his boarding-house to do as his uncle bade him; and the Doctor, now left alone in the school-room, came out to shake hands with his old schoolfellow. You would not have thought it was the same man. As Cinderella, at a particular hour became, from a blazing and magnificent princess, quite an ordinary little maid in a gray petticoat, so, as the clock struck one, all the thundering majesty and awful wrath of the schoolmaster disappeared.
"There is nothing serious, I hope," said the Doctor. "It is a pity to take the boy otherwise. He is a good boy, rather idle and unenergetic, but an honest gentlemanlike little fellow, though I can't get him to construe as I wish. Won't you come in and have some luncheon? My wife will be very happy to see you."
But Major Pendennis declined the luncheon. He said his brother was very ill, had had a fit the day before, and it was a great question if they should see hira alive.
"There's no other son, is there ?" said the Doctor. The Major answered " No."
"And there's a good eh — a good eh — property I believe ?" asked the other in an off-hand way.
"H'm — so so," said the Major. Whereupon this colloquy came to an end. And Arthur Pendennis got into a post-chaise with his uncle, never to come back to school any more.
As the chaise drove through Clavering, the ostler standing whistling under the archway of the Clavering Arms, winked to the postilion ominously, as much as to say all was over. The gardener's wife came and opened the lodge-gates, and let the travellers through with a silent shake of the head. All the blinds were down at Fairoaks — the face of the old footman was as blank when he let them in. Arthur's face was white too, with terror more than with grief. Whatever of warmth and love the deceased man might have had, and he adored his wife and loved and admired his son with all his heart, he had shut them up within himself: nor had the boy been ever able to penetrate that frigid outward barrier. But Arthur had been his father's pride and glory through life, and his name the last which John Pendennis had tried to articulate whilst he lay with his wife's hand clasping his own cold and clammy palm, as the flickering spirit went out into the darkness of death, and life and the world passed away from him.
The little girl, whose face had peered for a moment under the blinds as the chaise came up, opened the door from the stairs into the hall, and taking Arthur's hand silently as he stooped down to kiss her, led him up-stairs to his mother. Old John opened the diningroom for the MajoY. The room was darkened with the blinds down, and surrounded by all the gloomy pictures of the Pendennises. He drank a glass of wine. The bottle had been opened for the Squire four days before. His hat was brushed, and laid on the hall table: his newspapers, and his letter bag, with John Pendennis, Esquire, Fairoaks, engraved upon the brass plate, were there in waiting. The doctor and the lawyer from Clavering, who had seen the chaise pass through, came up in a gig half an hour after the Major's arrival, and entered by the back door. The former gave a detailed account of the seizure and demise of Mr. Pendennis, enlarged on his virtues and the estimation in which the neighborhood held him; on what a loss he would be to the magistrates' bench, the County Hospital, etc. Mrs. Pendennis bore up wonderfully, he said, especially since Master Arthur's arrival. The lawyer stayed and dined with Major Pendennis, and they talked business all the evening. The Major was his brother's executor, and joint guardian to the boy with Mrs. Pendennis. Everything was left unreservedly to her, except in case of a second marriage, — an occasion which might offer itself in the case of so young and handsome a woman, Mr. Tatham gallantly said, when different provisions were enacted by the deceased. The Major would of course take entire superintendence of everything upon this most impressive and melancholy occasion. Aware of this authority, old John the footman, when he brought Major Pendennis the candle to go to bed, followed afterwards with the plate-basket; and the next morning brought him the key of the hall clock — the Squire always used to wind it up of a Thursday, John said. Mrs. Pendennis's maid brought him messages from her mistress. She confirmed the doctor's report, of the comfort which Master Arthur's arrival had caused to his mother.
What passed between that lady and the boy is not of import. A veil should be thrown over those sacred emotions of love and grief. The maternal passion is a sacred mystery to me. What one sees symbolized in the Roman churches in the image of the Virgin Mother with a bosom bleeding with love, I think one may witness (and admire the Almighty bounty for) every day. I saw a Jewish lady, only yesterday, with a child at her knee, and from whose face towards the child there shone a sweetness so angelical, that it seemed to form a sort of glory round both. I protest I could have knelt before her too, and adored in her the Divine beneficence in endowing us with the maternal storgl, which began with our race and sanctifies the history of mankind.
As for Arthur Pendennis, after that awful shock which the sight of his dead father must have produced on him, and the pity and feeling which such an event no doubt occasioned, I am not sure that in the very moment of the grief, and as he embraced his mother, and tenderly consoled her, and promised to love her forever, there was not springing up in his breast a sort of secret triumph and exultation. He was the chief now and lord. He was Pendennis; and all round about him were his servants and handmaids. "You'1l never send me away," little Laura said, tripping by him, and holding his hand. "You won't send me to school, will you, Arthur?"
Arthur kissed her and patted her head. No, she shouldn't go to school. As for going himself, that was quite out of the question. He had determined that that part of his life should not be renewed. In the midst of the general grief, and the corpse still lying above, he had leisure to conclude that he would have it all holidays for the future, that he would n't get up till he liked, or stand the bullying of the Doctor any more, and had made a hundred of such day dreams and resolves for the future. How one's thoughts will travel! and how quickly our wishes beget them! When he with Laura in his hand went into the kitchen on his way to the dog-kennel, the fowl-houses, and other his favorite haunts, all the servants there assembled in great silence with their friends, and the laboring men and their wives, and Sally Potter who went with the post-bag to Clavering, and the baker's man from Clavering — all there assembled and drinking beer on the melancholy occasion — rose up on his entrance and bowed or curtsied to him. They never used to do so last holidays, he felt at once and with indescribable pleasure. The cook cried out, "O Lord," and whispered "How Master Arthur do grow!" Thomas, the groom, in the act of drinking, put down the jug alarmed before his master. Thomas's master felt the honor keenly. He went through and looked at the pointers. As Flora put her nose up to his waistcoat, and Ponto, yelling with pleasure, hurtled at his chain, Pen patronized the dogs, and said "Poo Ponto, poo Flora," in his most condescending manner. And then he went and looked at Laura's hens, and at the pigs, and at the orchard, and at the dairy; perhaps he blushed to think that it was only last holidays he had in a manner robbed the great apple-tree, and been scolded by the dairymaid for taking cream.