Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

out one as he came into the yard at Fairoaks. The lady of the house might have been awake, but she only heard him from the passage outside his room as he dashed into bed and pulled-the clothes over his head.

Pen had not been in the habit of passing wakeful nights, so he at once fell off into a sound sleep. Even in later days, and with a great deal of care and other thoughtful matter to keep him awake, a man from long practice or fatigue or resolution begins by going to sleep as usual: and gets a map in advance of Anxiety. But she soon comes up with him and jogs his shoulder, and says, “Come, my man, no more of this laziness, you must wake up and have a talk with me.” Then they fall to together in the midnight. Well, whatever might afterwards happen to him, poor little Pen was not come to this state yet; he tumbled into a sound sleep — did not wake until an early hour in the morning, when the rooks began to caw from the little wood beyond his bedroom windows; and — at that very instant and as his eyes started open, the beloved image was in his mind. “My dear boy,” he heard her say, “you were in a sound sleep, and I would not disturb you; but I have been close by your pillow all this while : and I don't intend that you shall leave me. I am Lovel I bring with me fever and passion: wild longing, maddening desire; restless craving and seeking. Many a long day ere this I heard you calling out for me; and behold now I am come.”

Was Pen frightened at the summons ? Not he. He did not know what was coming: it was all wild pleasure and delight as yet. And as, when three years previously, and on entering the fifth form at the Cistercians, his father had made him a present of a gold watch which the boy took from under his pillow and examined on the instant of waking: forever rubbing and polishing it up in private and retiring into corners to listen to its ticking: so the young man exulted over his new delight; felt in his waistcoat pocket to see that it was safe; wound it up at nights, and at the very first moment of waking hugged it and looked at it. — By the way, that first watch of Pen's was a showy ill-manufactured piece; it never went well from the beginning, and was always getting out of order. And after putting it aside into a drawer and forgetting it for some time, he swopped it finally away for a more useful time-keeper. Pen felt himself to be ever so many years older since yesterday. There was no mistake about it now. He was as much in love as the best hero in the best romance he ever read. He told John to bring his shaving water with the utmost confidence. He dressed himself in some of his finest clothes that morning: and came splendidly down to breakfast, patronizing his mother and little Laura, who had been strumming her music lesson for hours before ; and who after he had read the prayers (of which he did not heed one single syllable), wondered at his grand appearance, and asked him to tell her what the play was about 7 Pen laughed and declined to tell Laura what the play was about. In fact it was quite as well that she should not know. Then she asked him why he had got on his fine pin and beautiful new waistcoat. Pen blushed, and told his mother that the old schoolfellow with whom he had dined at Chatteris was reading with a tutor at Baymouth, a very learned man; and as he was himself to go to College, and as there were several young men pursuing their studies 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.

Soms sone et points nettle

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 whirl. wind.

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.

CHAPTER V.

MRS. HALLER 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.

« ZurückWeiter »