« ZurückWeiter »
at Baymouth— he was anxious to ride over — and— and just see what the course of their reading was.
Laura made a long face. Helen Pendennis looked hard at her son, troubled more than ever with the vague doubt and terror which had been haunting her ever since the last night, when Farmer Gurnett brought back the news that Pen would not return home to dinner. Arthur's eyes defied her. She tried to console herself, and drive off her fears. The boy had never told her an untruth. Pen conducted himself during breakfast in a very haughty and supercilious manner: and, taking leave of the elder and younger lady, was presently heard riding out of the stable-court. He went gently at first, but galloped like a madman as soon as he thought that he was out of hearing.
Smirke, thinking of his own affairs, and softly riding with his toes out, to give Pen his three hours' reading at Fairoaks, met his pupil, who shot by him like the wind. Smirke's pony shied, as the other thundered past him; the gentle curate went over his head among the stinging-nettles in the hedge. Pen laughed as they met, pointed toward the Baymouth road, and was gone half a mile in that direction before poor Smirke had picked himself up.
Pen had resolved in his mind that he must see Foker that morning; he must hear about her; know about her; be with somebody who knew her; and honest Smirke, for his part, sitting up among the stinging-nettles, as his pony cropped quietly in the hedge, thought dismally to himself, ought he go to Fairoaks now that his pupil was evidently gone away for the day. Yes, he thought he might go, too. He might go and ask Mrs. Pendennis when Arthur would be back; and hear Miss Laura her Watts's catechism. He got up on the little pony—both were used to his slipping off — and advanced upon the house from which his scholar had just rushed away in a whirlwind.
Thus love makes fools of all of us, big and little; and the curate had tumbled over head and heels in pursuit of it, and Pen had started in the first heat of the mad race.
MRS. HALLEB AT HOME.
Without slackening his pace Pen galloped on to Baymouth, put the mare up at the inn stables, and ran straightway to Mr. Foker's lodgings, of whom he had taken the direction on the previous day. On reaching these apartments, which were over a chemist's shop whose stock of cigars and soda-water went off rapidly by the kind patronage of his young inmates, Pen only found Mr. Spavin, Foker's friend, and part owner of the tandem which the latter had driven into Chatteris, who was smoking, and teaching a little dog, a friend of his, tricks with a bit of biscuit.
Pen's healthy red face fresh from the gallop, compared oddly with the waxy debauched little features of Foker's chum; Mr. Spavin remarked the circumstance. "Who's that man?" he thought, "he looks as fresh as a bean. His hand don't shake of a morning, I'd bet five to one."
Foker had not come home at all. Here was a disappointment!— Mr. Spavin could not say when his friend would return. Sometimes he stopped a day, sometimes a week. Of what college was Pen? Would he have anything? There was a very fair tap of ale. Mr. Spavin was enabled to know Pendennis's name, on the card which the latter took out and laid down (perhaps Pen in these days was rather proud of having a card) — and so the young men took leave.
Then Pen went down the rock, and walked about on the sand, biting his nails by the shore of the much-sounding sea. It stretched before him bright and immeasurable. The blue waters came rolling into the bay, foaming and roaring hoarsely: Pen looked them in the face with blank eyes, hardly regarding them. What a tide there was pouring into the lad's own mind at the time, and what a little power had he to check it! Pen flung stones into the sea, but it still kept coming on. He was in a rage at not seeing Foker. He wanted to see Foker. He must see Foker. "Suppose I go on — on the Chatteris road, just to see if I can meet him," Pen thought. Rebecca was saddled in another half-hour, and galloping on the grass by the Chatteris road. About four miles from Baymouth, the Clavering road branches off, as everybody knows, and the mare naturally was for taking that turn, but, cutting her over the shoulder, Pen passed the turning, and rode on to the turnpike without seeing any sign of the black tandem and red wheels.
As he was at the turnpike he might as well go on: that was quite clear. So Pen rode to the George, and the ostler told him that Mr. Foker was there sure enough, and that "he'd been a making a tremendous row the night afore, a drinkin' and a singin', and wanting to fight Tom the post-boy; which I'm thinking he'd have had the worst of it," the man added, with a grin. "Have you carried up your master's 'ot water to shave with?" he added, in a very satirical manner, to Mr. Foker's domestic, who here came down the yard, bearing his master's clothes, most beautifully brushed and arranged. "Show Mr. Pendennis up to 'un." And Pen followed the man at last to the apartment, where, in the midst of an immense bed, Mr. Harry Foker lay reposing.
VOL. IX. —6
The feather bed and bolsters swelled up all round Mr. Foker, so that you could hardly see his little sallow face and red silk nightcap.
"Hullo!" said Pen.
"Who goes there? brother, quickly tell!" sang out the voice from the bed. "What! Pendennis again? Is your Mamma acquainted with your absence? Did you sup with us last night? No — stop — who supped with us last night, Stoopid?"
"There was the three officers, sir, and Mr. Bingley, sir, and Mr. Costigan, sir," the man answered, who received all Mr. Foker's remarks with perfect gravity.
"Ah yes: the cup and merry jest went round. We chanted: and I remember I wanted to fight a postboy. Did I thrash him, Stoopid 1"
"No, sir. Fight did n't come off, sir," said Stoopid, still with perfect gravity. He was arranging Mr. Foker's dressing-case — a trunk, the gift of a fond mother, without which the young fellow never travelled. It contained a prodigious apparatus in plate; a silver dish, a silver mug, silver boxes and bottles for all sorts of essences, and a choice of razors ready against the time when Mr. Foker's beard should come.
"Do it some other day," said the young fellow, yawning and throwing up his little lean arms over his head. "No, there was no fight; but there was chanting. Bingley chanted, I chanted, the General chanted — Costigan I mean. — Did you ever hear him sing * The Little Pig under the Bed,' Pen?"
"The man we met yesterday," said Pen, all in a tremor, "the father of —"
"Of the Fotheringay, — the very man. Ain't she a Venus, Pen?"