« ZurückWeiter »
people to dine with 'em. Champignon says it breaks his heart to serve up a dinner to their society. What a shame it is that those low people should have money at all !” cried Mr. Blondel, whose grandfather had been a reputable leatherbreeches maker, and whose father had lent money to the Princes.
“I wish I had fallen in with the widow myself,” sighed Lord Colchicum, "and not been laid up with that confounded gout at Leghorn. I would have married the woman myself; I'm told she has six hundred thousand pounds in the Threes.”
“Not quite so much as that,-I knew her family in India,” Major Pendennis said. "I knew her family in India; her father was an enormously rich old indigo-planter,-know all about her,—Clavering has the next estate to ours in the country. Ha! there's my nephew walking with—"
“With mine,—the infernal young scamp," said Lord Colchicum, glowering at Popjoy out of his heavy eyebrows; and he turned away from the window as Major Pendennis tapped
The Major was in high good-humour.
The sun was bright, the air brisk and invigorating. He had determined upon a visit to Lady Clavering on that day, and bethought him that Arthur would be a good companion for the walk across the Green Park to her Ladyship’s door. Master Pen was not displeased to accompany his illustrious relative, who pointed out a dozen great men in their brief transit through St. James's Street, and got bows from a Duke, at a crossing, a Bishop (on a cob), and a Cabinet Minister with an umbrella. The Duke gave the elder Pendennis a finger of a pipeclayed glove to shake, which the Major embraced with great veneration; and all Pen's blood tingled, as he found himself in actual communication, as it were, with this famous man (for Pen had possession of the Major's left arm, whilst that gentleman's other wing was engaged with his Grace's right), and he wished all Grey Friars School, all Oxbridge University, all Paternoster Row and the Temple, and Laura and his mother at Fairoaks, could be standing on each side of the street, to see the meeting between him and his uncle, and the most famous duke in Christendom.
“How do, Pendennis ?—fine day,” were his Grace's remarkable words, and with a nod of his august head he passed on-in a blue frock-coat and spotless white duck trousers, in a white stock, with a shining buckle behind.
Old Pendennis, whose likeness to his Grace has been remarked, began to imitate him unconsciously, after they had parted, speaking with curt sentences, after the manner of the great man. We have all of us, no doubt, met with more than one military officer who has so imitated the manner of a certain Great Captain of the Age; and has, perhaps, changed his own natural character and disposition, because Fate had endowed him with an aquiline nose. In like manner have we not seen many another man pride himself on having a tall forehead and a supposed likeness to Mr. Canning? many another go through life swelling with self-gratification on account of an imagined resemblance (we say "imagined,” because that anybody should be really like that most beautiful and perfect of men is impossible) to the great and revered George IV.? many third parties, who wore low necks to their dresses because they fancied that Lord Byron and themselves were similar in appearance ? and has not the grave closed but lately upon poor Tom Bickerstaff, who having no more imagination than Mr. Joseph Hume, looked in the glass and fancied himself like Shakspeare, shaved his forehead so as further to resemble the immortal bard, wrote tragedies incessantly, and died perfectly crazy—actually perished of his forehead? These or similar freaks of vanity most people who have frequented the world must have seen in their experience. Pen laughed in his roguish sleeve at the manner in which his uncle began to imitate the great man from whom they had just parted: but Mr. Pen was as vain in his own way, perhaps, as the elder gentleman, and strutted, with a very consequential air of his own, by the Major's side.
“Yes, my dear boy,” said the old bachelor, as they sauntered through the Green Park, where many poor children were disporting happily, and errand boys were playing at toss halfpenny, and black sheep were grazing in the sunshine, and an actor was learning his part on a bench, and nursery-maids and their charges sauntered here and there, and several
couples were walking in a leisurely manner; "yes, depend on it, my boy; for a poor man, there is nothing like having good acquaintances. Who were those men, with whom you saw me in the bow window at Bays's ? Two were Peers of the realm. Hobandnob will be a Peer, as soon as his granduncle dies, and he has had his third seizure; and of the other four, not one has less than his seven thousand a-year. Did you see that dark blue brougham, with that tremendous stepping horse, waiting at the door of the club? You'll know it again. It is Sir Hugh Trumpington's; he was never known to walk in his life; never appears in the streets on foot-never: and if he is going two doors off, to see his mother, the old dowager (to whom I shall certainly introduce you, for she receives some of the best company in London), gad, sir, he mounts his horse at No. 23, and dismounts again at No. 25A. He is now up stairs, at Bays's, playing piquet with Count Punter : he is the second-best player in England—as well he may be; for he plays every day of his life, except Sundays (for Sir Hugh is an uncommonly religious man), from halfpast three till half-past seven, when he dresses for dinner."
“A very pious manner of spending his time,” Pen said, laughing, and thinking that his uncle was falling into the twaddling state.
“ Gad, sir, that is not the question. A man of his estate may employ his time as he chooses. When you are a baronet, a county member, with ten thousand acres of the best land in Cheshire, and such a place as Trumpington (though he never goes there), you may do as you like."
“ And so that was his brougham, sir, was it ?” the nephew said, with almost a sneer.
“ His brougham-oh ay, yes ;-and that brings me back to my point-revenons à nos moutons. Yes, begad! revenons à nos moutons. Well, that brougham is mine if I choose, between four and seven. Just as much mine as if I jobbed it from Tilbury's, begad, for thirty pound a month. Sir Hugh is the best-natured fellow in the world ; and if it hadn't been so fine an afternoon as it is, you and I would have been in that brougham at this very minute, on our way to Grosvenor Place. That is the benefit of knowing rich men ;-I dine for nothing, sir ;-I go into the country, and I'm mounted for nothing. Other fellows keep hounds and gamekeepers for me. Sic vos non vobis, as we used to say at Grey Friars, hey? I'm of the opinion of my old friend Leech, of the Forty-fourth ; and a devilish good shrewd fellow he was, as most Scotchmen are. Gad, sir, Leech used to say he was so poor that he couldn't afford to know a poor man.”
“You don't act up to your principles, uncle," Pen said good-naturedly.
“Up to my principles : how, sir ?” the Major asked, rather testily.
“You would have cut me in St. James's Street, sir,” Pen said, “were your practice not more benevolent than your theory; you who live with dukes and magnates of the land, and would take no notice of a poor devil like me." By which speech we may see that Mr. Pen was getting on in the world, and could flatter as well as laugh in his sleeve.
Major Pendennis was appeased instantly, and very much pleased. He tapped affectionately his nephew's arm on which he was leaning, and said,-—"You, sir, you are my flesh and blood! Hang it, sir, I've been very proud of you and very fond of you, but for your confounded follies and extravagances
and wild oats, sir, which I hope you've sown. Yes, begad! I hope you've sown 'em ; I hope you've sown 'em, begad! My object, Arthur, is to make a man of you—to see you well placed in the world, as becomes one of your name and my own, sir. You have got yourself a little reputation by your literary talents, which I am very far from undervaluing, though in my time, begad, poetry and genius and that sort of thing were devilish disreputable. There was poor Byron, for instance, who ruined himself, and contracted the worst habits by living with poets and newspaper-writers, and people of that kind. But the times are changed now—there's a run upon literature-clever fellows get into the best houses in town, begad! Tempora mutantur, sir, and, by Jove, I suppose whatever is is right, as Shakspeare says.
Pen did not think fit to tell his uncle who was the author who had made use of that remarkable phrase, and here descending from the Green Park, the pair made their way
into Grosvenor Place, and to the door of the mansion occupied there by Sir Francis and Lady Clavering.
The dining-room shutters of this handsome mansion were freshly gilded; the knockers shone gorgeous upon the newlypainted door; the balcony before the drawing-room bloomed with a portable garden of the most beautiful plants, and with flowers, white, and pink, and scarlet; the windows of the upper room (the sacred chamber and dressing-room of my lady, doubtless), and even a pretty little casement of the third story, which keen-sighted Mr. Pen presumed to belong to the virgin bedroom of Miss Blanche Amory, were similarly adorned with floral ornaments, and the whole exterior face of the house presented the most brilliant aspect which fresh new paint, shining plate-glass, newly cleaned bricks, and spotless mortar, could offer to the beholder.
“How Strong must have rejoiced in organising all this splendour," thought Pen. He recognised the Chevalier's genius in the magnificence before him.
“Lady Clavering is going out for her drive,” the Major said. “We shall only have to leave our pasteboards, Arthur." He used the word “pasteboards," having heard it from some of the ingenious youth of the nobility about town, and as a modern phrase suited to Pen's tender years. Indeed, as the two gentlemen reached the door, a landau drove up, a magnificent yellow carriage, lined with brocade or satin of a faint cream colour, drawn by wonderful grey horses, with flaming ribbons, and harness blazing all over with crests; no less than three of these heraldic emblems surmounted the coats-of-arms on the panels, and these shields contained a prodigious number of quarterings, betokening the antiquity and splendour of the houses of Clavering and Snell. A coachman in a tight silver wig surmounted the magnificent hammercloth (whereon the same arms were worked in bullion), and controlled the prancing greys-a young man still, but of a solemn countenance, with a laced waistcoat and buckles in his shoes— little buckles, unlike those which John and Jeames, the footmen, wear, and which we know are large, and spread elegantly over the foot.
One of the leaves of the hall door was opened, and John