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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
saddle, that it was impossible for any lad endowed with a sense of humor to respect such an equestrian. He nearly killed Smirke with terror by putting him on his mare, and taking him a ride over a common, where the county fox-hounds (then hunted by that stanch old sportsman, Mr. Hardhead, of Dumplingbeare) happened to meet. Mr. Smirke, on Pen's mare, Rebecca (she was named after Pen's favorite heroine, the daughter of Isaac of York), astounded the hounds as much as he disgusted the huntsman, laming one of the former by persisting in riding amongst the pack, and receiving a speech from the latter, more remarkable for energy of language, than any oration he had ever heard since he left the bargemen on the banks of Isis. Smirke and his pupil read the ancient poets together, and rattled through them at a pleasant rate, very different from that steady grubbing pace with which the Cistercians used to go over the classic ground, scenting out each word as they went, and digging up every root in the way. Pen never liked to halt, but made his tutor construe when he was at fault, and thus galloped through the Iliad and the Odyssey, the tragic play-writers, and the charming wicked Aristophanes (whom he vowed to be the greatest poet of all). But he went so fast that, though he certainly galloped through a considerable extent of the ancient country, he clean forgot it in after-life, and had only such a vague remembrance of his early classic course as a man has in the House of Commons, let us say, who still keeps up two or three quotations; or a reviewer who, just for decency's sake, hints at a little Greek. Besides the ancient poets, you may be sure Pen read the English with great gusto. Smirke sighed and
shook his head sadly both about Byron and Moore. But Pen was a sworn fire-worshipper and a Corsair; i he had them by heart, and used to take little Laura into the window and say, “ Zuleika, I am not thy brother," in tones so tragic, that they caused the solemn little maid to open her great eyes still wider. She sat, until the proper hour for retirement, sewing at Mrs. Pendennis's knee, and listening to Pen reading out to her of nights without comprehending one word of what he said.
He read Shakspeare to his mother (which she said she liked, but did n't), and Byron, and Pope, and his favorite “ Lalla Rookh," which pleased her indifferently. But as for Bishop Heber, and Mrs. Hemans above all, this lady used to melt right away, and be absorbed into her pocket-handkerchief, when Pen read those authors to her in his kind boyish voice. The “Christian Year” was a book which appeared about that time. The son and the mother whispered it to each other with awe - Faint, very faint, and seldom in after-life Pendennis heard that solemn church-music: but he always loved the remembrance of it, and of the times when it struck on his heart, and he walked over the fields full of hope and void of doubt, as the church-bells rang on Sunday morning.
It was at this period of his existence, that Pen broke out in the Poet's Corner of the “ County Chronicle," with some verses with which he was perfectly well satisfied. His are the verses signed “NEP.," addressed “To a Tear;” “On the Anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo ;” “To Madame Caradori singing at the Assize Meetings;” “On Saint Bartholomew's Day” (a tremendous denunciation of Popery, and a solemn warning to the people of England to rally against emancipating the Roman
Catholics), etc., etc., -all which masterpieces, poor Mrs. Pendennis kept along with his first socks, the first cutting of his hair, his bottle, and other interesting relics of his infancy. He used to gallop Rebecca over the neighboring Dumpling Downs, or into the county-town, which, if you please, we shall call Chatteris, spouting his own poems, and filled with quite a Byronic afflatus as he thought. His genius at this time was of a decidedly gloomy cast. He brought his mother a tragedy, at which, though he killed sixteen people before the second act, Helen laughed so, that he thrust the masterpiece into the fire in a pet. He projected an epic poem in blank verse, “Cortez, or the Conqueror of Mexico, and the Inca's Daughter.” He wrote part of “Seneca, or the Fatal Bath,” and “Ariadne in Naxos; ” classical pieces, with choruses and strophes and antistrophes, which sadly puzzled Mrs. Pendennis; and began a “History of the Jesuits,” in which he lashed that Order with tremendous severity. His loyalty did his mother's heart good to witness. He was a stanch, unflinching Church-and-King man in those days; and at the election, when Sir Giles Beanfield stood on the Blue interest, against Lord Trehawk, Lord Eyrie's son, a Whig and a friend of Popery, Arthur Pendennis, with an immense bow for himself, which his mother made, and with a blue ribbon for Rebecca, rode alongside of the Reverend Doctor Portman, on his gray mare Dowdy, and at the head of the Clavering voters, whom the Doctor brought up to plump for the Protestant Champion. On that day Pen made his first speech at the Blue Hotel: and also, it appears, for the first time in his life — took a little more wine than was good for him. Mercy what a scene it was at Fairoaks, when he