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she had no such feeling; but devoted herself to Helen with the utmost force of her girlish affection - soch affection as women, whose hearts are disengaged, are apt to bestow upon the near female friend. It was devotion - it was passion – it was all sorts of fondness and folly; it was a profusion of caresses, tender epithets and endearments, such as it does not become sober historians with beards to narrate. Do not let us men despise these instincts because we cannot feel them. These women were made for our comfort and delectation, gentlemen, - with all the rest of the minor animals.
But as soon as Miss Laura heard that Pen was un. fortunate and unhappy, all her wrath against him straightway vanished, and gave place to the most tender and unreasonable compassion. He was the Pen of old days once more restored to her, the frank and affectionate, the generous and tender-hearted. She at once took side with Helen against Dr. Portman, when he outcried at the enormity of Pen's transgressions. Debts? what were his debts? they were a trifle; he had been thrown into expensive society by his uncle's order, and of course was obliged to live in the same manner as the young gentlemen whose company he frequented. Disgraced by not getting his degree? the poor boy was ill when he went in for the examinations : he could n't think of his mathe matics and stuff on account of those very debts which oppressed him; very likely some of the odious tutors and masters were jealous of him, and had favorites of their own whom they wanted to put over his head. Other people disliked him and were cruel to him, and were unfair to him, she was very sure. And so, with flushing cheeks and eyes bright with anger, this young creature reasoned; and she went up and seized Helen's
order, and the younged by not pent in
hand, and kissed her in the Doctor's presence, and her looks braved the Doctor, and seemed to ask how he dared to say a word against her darling mother's Pen?
When that divine took his leave, not a little discomfited and amazed at the pertinacious obstinacy of the women, Laura repeated her embraces and arguments with tenfold fervor to Helen, who felt that there was a great deal of cogency in most of the latter. There must be some jealousy against Pen. She felt quite sure that he had offended some of the examiners, who had taken a mean revenge of him – nothing more likely. Altogether, the announcement of the misfortune vexed these two ladies very little indeed. Pen, who was plunged in his shame and grief in London, and torn with great remorse for thinking of his mother's sorrow, would have wondered, had he seen how easily she bore the calamity. Indeed, calamity is welcome to women if they think it will bring truant affection home again : and if you have reduced your mistress to a crust, depend upon it that she won't repine, and only take a very little bit of it for herself, provided you will eat the remainder in her company.
And directly the Doctor was gone, Laura ordered fires to be lighted in Mr. Arthur's rooms, and his bedding to be aired; and had these preparations completed by the time Helen had finished a most tender and affectionate letter to Pen : when the girl, smiling fondly, took her mamma by the hand, and led her into those apartments where the fires were blazing so cheerfully, and there the two kind creatures sat down on the bed, and talked about Pen ever so long. Laura added a postscript to Helen's letter, in which she called him her dearest Pen, and bade him
VOL. IX.- 20
come home instantly, with two of the handsomest dashes under the word, and be happy with his mother and his affectionate sister Laura.
In the middle of the night — as these two ladies, after reading their Bibles a great deal during the evening, and after taking just a look into Pen's room as they passed to their own - in the middle of the night, I say, Laura, whose head not unfrequently chose to occupy that pillow which the nightcap of the late Pendennis had been accustomed to press, cried out suddenly, “ Mamma, are you awake ?"
Helen stirred and said, “Yes, I'm awake.” The truth is, though she had been lying quite still and silent, she had not been asleep one instant, but had been looking at the night-lamp in the chimney, and had been thinking of Pen for hours and hours.
Then Miss Laura (who had been acting with simi. lar hypocrisy, and lying, occupied with her own thoughts, as motionless as Helen's brooch, with Pen's and Laura's hair in it, on the frilled white pincushion on the dressing-table) began to tell Mrs. Pendennis of a notable plan which she had been forming in her busy little brains; and by which all Pen's embarrassments would be made to vanish in a moment, and without the least trouble to anybody.
“You know, Mamma,” this young lady said, “ that I have been living with you for ten years, during which time you have never taken any of my money, and have been treating me just as if I was a charity girl. Now, this obligation has offended me very much, because I am proud and do not like to be beholden to people. And as, if I had gone to school - only I would n't-it must have cost me at least fifty pounds a-year, it is clear that I owe you fifty times ten pounds, which I know you have put into the bank
at Chatteris for me, and which does n’t belong to me a bit. Now, to-morrow we will go to Chatteris, and see that nice old Mr. Rowdy, with the bald head, and ask him for it, — not for his head, but for the five hundred pounds: and I dare say he will lend you two more, which we will save and pay back; and we will send the money to Pen, who can pay all his debts without hurting anybody, and then we will live happy ever after.” What Helen replied to this speech need not be repeated, as the widow's answer was made up of a great number of incoherent ejaculations, embraces, and other irrelative matter. But the two women slept well after that talk; and when the night-lamp went out with a splutter, and the sun rose gloriously over the purple hills, and the birds began to sing and pipe cheerfully amidst the leafless trees and glistening evergreens on Fairoaks lawn, Helen woke too, and as she looked at the sweet face of the girl sleeping beside her, her lips parted with a smile, blushes on her cheeks, her spotless bosom heaving and falling with gentle undulations, as if happy dreams were sweeping over it — Pen's mother felt happy and grateful beyond all power of words, save such as pious women offer up to the Beneficent Dispenser of love and mercy — in Whose honor a chorus of such praises is constantly rising up all round the world. Although it was January and rather cold weather, so sincere was Mr. Pen’s remorse, and so determined his plans of economy, that he would not take an inside place in the coach, but sat up behind with his friend the Guard, who remembered his former liberality, and lent him plenty of greatcoats. Perhaps it was the cold that made his knees tremble as he got down at the lodge gate, or it may be that he was agitated at the notion of seeing the kind creature for whose love he had made so selfish a return. Old John was in waiting to receive his master's baggage, but he appeared in a fustian jacket, and no longer wore his livery of drab and blue. “I’se garner and stable man, and lives in the ladge now,” this worthy man remarked, with a grin of welcome to Pen, and something of a blush; but instantly as Pen turned the corner of the shrubbery, and was out of eye-shot of the coach, Helen made her appearance, her face beaming with love and forgiveness — for forgiving is what some women love best of all.
We may be sure that the widow, having a certain other object in view, had lost no time in writing off to Pen an account of the noble, the magnanimous, the magnificent offer of Laura, filling up her letter with a profusion of benedictions upon both her children. It was probably the knowledge of this moneyobligation which caused Pen to blush very much when he saw Laura, who was in waiting in the hall, and who this time, and for this time only, broke through the little arrangement of which we have spoken, as having subsisted between her and Arthur for the last few years; but the truth is, there has been a great deal too much said about kissing in the present chapter.
So the Prodigal came home, and the fatted calf was killed for him, and he was made as happy as two simple women could make him. No allusions were made to the Oxbridge mishap, or questions asked as to his further proceedings, for some time. But Pen debated these anxiously in his own mind, and up in his own room, where he passed much time in cogitation.