Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

They buried John Pendennis, Esquire, "formerly an eminent medical practitioner at Bath, and subsequently an able magistrate, a benevolent landlord, and a benefactor to many charities and public institutions in this neighborhood and country," with one of the most handsome funerals that had been seen sinca Sir Roger Clavering was buried here, the clerk said, in the abbey church of Clavering St. Mary's. A fair marble slab, from which the above inscription is copied, was erected over the Fairoaks' pew in the church. On it you may see the Pendennis coat of arms and crest, an eagle looking towards the sun, with the motto "nec tenui penna," to the present day. Doctor Portman alluded to the deceased most handsomely and affectingly, as "our dear departed friend," in his sermon next Sunday; and Arthur Pendennis reigned in his stead.

CHAPTER III.

IN WHICH PENDENNIS APPEARS A3 A VERT
YOUNG MAN INDEED.

Arthur was about sixteen years old, we have said, when he began to reign; in person, he had what his friends would call a dumpy, but his mamma styled a neat little figure. His hair was of a healthy brown color, which looks like gold in the sunshine, his face was round, rosy, freckled, and good-humored, his whiskers were decidedly of a reddish hue; in fact, without being a beauty, he had such a frank, goodnatured kind face, and laughed so merrily at you out of his honest blue eyes, that no wonder Mrs. Pendennis thought him the pride of the whole country. Between the ages of sixteen and eighteen he rose from five feet six to five feet eight inches in height, at which altitude he paused. But his mother wondered at it. He was three inches taller than his father. Was it possible that any man could grow to be three inches taller than Mr. Pendennis?

You may be certain he never went back to school; the discipline of the establishment did not suit him, and he liked being at home much better. The question of his return was debated, and his uncle was for his going back. The Doctor wrote his opinion that it was most important for Arthur's success in afterlife that he should know a Greek play thoroughly, but Pen adroitly managed to hint to his mother what a dangerous place Grey Friars was, and what sad wild fellows some of the chaps there were, and the timid soul, taking alarm at once, acceded to his desire to stay at home.

Then Pen's uncle offered to use his influence with His Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief, who was pleased to be very kind to him, and proposed to get Pen a commission in the Foot Guards. Pen's heart leaped at this: he had been to hear the band at St. James's play on a Sunday, when he went out to his uncle. He had seen Tom Ricketts, of the fourth form, who used to wear a jacket and trousers so ludicrously tight, that the elder boys could not forbear using him in the quality of a butt or "cockshy " — he had seen this very Ricketts arrayed in crimson and gold, with an immense bearskin cap on his head, staggering under the colors of the regiment. Tom had recognized him and gave him a patronizing nod. Tom, a little wretch whom he had cut over the back with a hockey-stick lasb quarter — and there he was in the centre of the square, rallying round the flag of his country, surrounded by bayonets, cross-belts, and scarlet, the band blowing trumpets and banging cymbals— talking familiarly to immense warriors with tufts to their chins and Waterloo medals. What would not Pen have given to enter such a service?

But Helen Pendennis, when this point was proposed to her by her son, put on a face full of terror and alarm. She said "she did not quarrel with others who thought differently, but that in her opinion a Christian had no right to make the army a profession. Mr. Pendennis never, never would have permitted his son to be a soldier. Finally, she should be very unhappy if he thought of it." Now Pen would have as soon cut off his nose and ears as deliberately, and of aforethought malice, made his mother Vol. ix. — 3

unhappy; and, as he was of such a generous disposition that he would give away anything to any one, he instantly made a present of his visionary red coat and epaulettes to his mother.

She thought him the noblest creature in the world. But Major Pendennis, when the offer of the commission was acknowledged and refused, wrote back a curt and somewhat angry letter to the widow, and thought his nephew was rather a spooney.

He was contented, however, when he saw the boy's performances out hunting at Christmas, when the Major came down as usual to Fairoaks. Pen had a very good mare, and rode her with uncommon pluck and grace. He took his fences with great coolness and judgment. He wrote to the chaps at school about his top-boots, and his feats across country. He began to think seriously of a scarlet coat: and his mother must own that she thought it would become him remarkably well; though, of course, she passed hours of anguish during his absence, and daily expected to see him brought home on a shutter.

With these amusements, in rather too great plenty, it must not be assumed that Pen neglected his studies altogether. He had a natural taste for reading every possible kind of book which did not fall into his schoolcourse. It was only when they forced his head into the waters of knowledge that he refused to drink. He devoured all the books at home, from Inchbald's Theatre to White's Farriery; he ransacked the neighboring book-cases. He found at Clavering an old cargo of French novels, which he read with all his might; and he would sit for hours perched up on the topmost bar of Doctor Portman's library steps with a folio on his knees, whether it were Hakluyt's Travels, Hobbes's Leviathan, Augustini Opera, or Chaucer's Poems. He and the Vicar were very good friends, and from his Reverence, Pen learned that honest taste for port wine which distinguished him through life. And as for Mrs. Portman, who was not in the least jealous, though her Doctor avowed himself in love with Mrs. Pendennis, whom he pronounced to be by far the finest lady in the country — all her grief was, as she looked up fondly at Pen perched on the book-ladder, that her daughter, Minny, was too old for him — as indeed she was — Miss Maria Portman being at that period only two years younger than Pen's mother, and weighing as much as Pen and Mrs. Pendennis together.

Are these details insipid? Look back, good friend, at your own youth, and ask how was that? I like to think of a well-nurtured boy, brave and gentle, warmhearted and loving, and looking the world in the face with kind honest eyes. What bright colors it wore then, and how you enjoyed it! A man has not many years of such time. He does not know them whilst they are with him. It is only when they are passed long away that he remembers how dear and happy they were.

Mr. Smirke, Dr. Portman's curate, was engaged, at a liberal salary, to walk or ride over from Clavering and pass several hours daily with the young gentleman. Smirke was a man perfectly faultless at a teatable, wore a curl on his fair forehead, and tied his neck-cloth with a melancholy grace. He was a decent scholar and mathematician, and taught Pen as much as the lad was ever disposed to learn, which was not much. For Pen had soon taken the measure of his tutor, who, when he came riding into the court-yard at Fairoaks on his pony, turned out his toes so absurdly, and left such a gap between his knees and the

« ZurückWeiter »