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took a degree in no other), and some deprecate. And it is reported of him that little Mary Frodsham, the daughter of a certain poor gilder and frame-maker, whom Mr. Pen had thought fit to employ, and who had made a number of beautiful frames for his fine prints, coming to Pendennis with a piteous tale that her father was ill with ague, and that there was an execution in their house, Pen in an anguish of remorse rushed away, pawned his grand watch and every single article of jewellery, except two old gold sleeve-buttons, which had belonged to his father, and rushed with the proceeds to Frodsham's shop, where, with tears in his eyes, and the deepest repentence and humility, he asked the poor tradesman's pardon.
This, young gentlemen, is not told as an instance of Pen's virtue, but rather of his weakness. It would have been much more virtuous to have had no prints at all. He still owed for the baubles which he sold in order to pay Frodsham's bill, and his mother had cruelly to pinch herself in order to discharge the jeweller's account, so that she was in the end the sufferer by the lad's impertinent fancies and follies. We are not presenting Pen to you as a hero or a model, only as a lad, who, in the midst of a thousand vanities and weaknesses, has as yet some generous impulses, and is not altogether dishonest.
We have said it was to the scandal of Mr. Buck the tutor that Pen's extravagences became known from the manner in which he entered college, the associates he kept, and the introductions of Doctor Portman and the Major, Buck for a long time thought that his pupil was a man of large property, and wondered rather that he only wore a plain gown. Once on going up to London to the levee with an address from is Ma jesty's Loyal University of Oxbridge, Buck had seen Major Pendennis at St. James's in conversation with two knights of the garter, in the carriage of one of whom the dazzled tutor saw the Major whisked away after the levee. He asked Pen to wine the instant he came back, let him off from chapels and lectures more than ever, and felt perfectly sure that he was a young gentleman of large estate.
Thus, he was thunderstruck, when he heard the truth, and received a dismal confession from Pen. His university debts were large, and the tutor had nothing to do, and of course Pen did not acquaint him, with his London debts. What man ever does tell all when pressed by his friends about his liabilities? The tutor learned enough to know that Pen was poor, that he had spent a handsome, almost a magnificent allowance, and had raised around him such a fine crop of debts, as it would be very hard work for any man to mow down; for there is no plant that grows so rapidly when once it has taken root.
Perhaps it was because she was so tender and good that Pen was terrified lest his mother should know of his sins. "I can't bear to break it to her," he said to the tutor in an agony of grief. "OI sir, I've been a villain to her"--and he repented, and he wished he had the time to come over again, and he asked himself, "Why, why did his uncle insist upon the necessity of living with great people, and in how much did all his grand acquaintance profit him?"
They were not shy, but Pen thought they were, and slunk from them during his last terms at college. He was as gloomy as a death's head at parties, which he avoided of his own part, or to which his young friends soon ceased to invite him. Everybody knew that Pendennis was "hard up." That man Bloundeli, who could pay nobody, and who was obliged to go down after three terms, was his ruin, the men said. His melancholy figure might be seen shirking about the lonely quadrangles in his battered old cap and torn gown, and he who had been the pride of the university but a year before, the man whom all the young ones loved to look at, was now the object of conversation at freshmen's wine parties, and they spoke of him with wonder and awe.
At last came the Degree Examinations. Many a young man of his year whose hob-nailed shoes Pen had derided, and whose face or coat he had caricatured-many a man whom he had treated with scorn in the lecture-room or crushed with his eloquence in the debating-club -many of his own set who had not half
his brains, but a little regularity and constancy of occupation, took high places in the honours or passed with decent credit. And where in the list was Pen the superb, Pen the wit and dandy, Pen the poet and orator? Ah, where was Pen the widow's darling and sole pride? Let us hide our heads, and shut up the page. The lists came out; and a dreadful rumour rushed through the university, that Pendennis of Boniface was plucked.
FLIGHT AFTER DEFEAT.
DURING the latter part of Pen's residence at the University of Oxbridge, his uncle's partiality had greatly increased for the lad. The Major was proud of Arthur, who had high spirits, frank manners, a good person, and high gentlemanlike bearing. It pleased the old London bachelor to see Pen walking with the young patricians of his university, and he (who was never known to entertain his friends, and whose stinginess had passed into a sort of byword among some wags at the Club, who envied his many engagements, and did not choose to consider his poverty) was charmed to give his nephew and the young lords snug little dinners at his lodgings, and to regale them with good claret, and his very best bons mots and stories: some of which would be injured by the repetition, for the Major's manner of telling them was incomparably neat and careful; and others, whereof the repetition would do good to nobody. He paid his court to their parents through the young men, and to himself as it were by their company. He made more than one visit to Oxbridge, where the young fellows were amused by entertaining the old gentleman, and gave parties and breakfasts, and fetes, partly to joke him and partly to do him honour. He plied them with his stories. He made himself juvenile and hilarious in the company of the young lords. He went to hear Pen at a grand debate at the Union, crowed and cheered, and rapped his stick in chorus with the
cheers of the men, and was astounded at
the boy's eloquence and fire. He thought he had got a young Pitt for a nephew. He had an almost paternal fondness for Pen. He wrote to the lad letters with playful advice and the news of the town. He bragged about Arthur at his Clubs, and introduced him with pleasure into his conversation; saying, that, Egad, the young fellows were putting the old ones to the wall; that the lads who were coming up, young Lord Plinlimmon, a friend of my boy, young Lord Magnus Charters, a chum of my scapegrace, &c., would make a greater figure in the world than ever their fathers had done before them. He asked permission to bring Arthur to a grand fete at Gaunt House; saw him with ineffable satisfaction dancing with the sisters of the young noblemen before mentioned; and gave himself as much trouble to procure cards of invitation for the lad to some good houses, as if he had been a mamma with a daughter to marry, and not an old half-pay officer in a wig. And he boasted everywhere of the boy's great talents, and remarkable oratorical powers; and of the brilliant degree he was going to take. Lord Runnymede would take him on his embassy, or the Duke would bring him in for one of his boroughs, he wrote over and over again to Helen; who, for her part, was too ready to believe any thing that any body chose to say in favour of her son.
And all this pride and affection of uncle and mother had been trampled down by Pen's wicked extravagance and idleness! I don't envy Pen's feelings (as the phrase is), as he thought of what he had done. He had slept, and the tortoise had won the race. He had marred at its outset what might have been a brilliant career. He had dipped ungenerously into a generous mother's purse! basely and recklessly spilt her little cruse. O! it was a coward hand that could strike and rob a creature so tender. And if Pen felt the wrong which he had done to others, are we to suppose that a young gentleman of his vanity did not feel still more keenly the shame he had brought upon himself? Let us be assured that there is no more cruel remorse than that; and no groans more
piteous than those of wounded self-love. Like Joe Miller's friend, the Senior Wrangler, who bowed to the audience from his box at the play, because he and the king happened to enter the theatre at the same time, only with a fatuity by no means so agreeable to himself, poor Arthur Pendennis felt perfectly convinced that all England would remark the absence of his name from the examination-lists, and talk about his misfortune. His wounded tutor, his many duns, the skip and bed-maker who waited upon him, the undergraduates of his own time and the years below him, whom he had patronised or scornedhow could he bear to look any of them in the face now? He rushed to his rooms, into which he shut himself, and there he penned a letter to his tutor, full of thanks, regards, remorse, and despair, requesting that his name might be taken off the college books, and intimating a wish and expectation that death would speedily end the woes of the disgraced Arthur Pendennis.
Then he slunk out, scarcely knowing whither he went, but mechanically taking the unfrequented little lanes by the backs of the colleges, until he cleared the university precincts, and got down to the banks of the Camisis river, now deserted, but so often alive with the boat-races, and the crowds of cheering gownsmen, he wandered on and on, until he found himself at some miles' distance from Oxbridge, or rather was found by some acquaintances leaving that city.
As Pen went up a hill, a drizzling January rain beating in his face, and his ragged gown flying behind him-for he had not divested himself of his academical garments since the morning-a postchaise came rattling up the road, on the box of which a servant was seated, whilst within, or rather half out of the carriage window, sate a young gentleman smoking a cigar, and loudly encouraging the postboy. It was our young acquaintance of Baymouth, Mr. Spavin, who had got his degree, and was driving homewards in triumph in his yellow postchaise. He caught a sight of the figure, madly gesticulating as he worked up the hill, and of poor Pen's pale and ghastly face as the chaise whirled by him.
"Wo!" roared Mr. Spavin to the postboy, and the horses stopped in their mad career, and the carriage pulled up some fifty yards before Pen. He presently heard his own name shouted, and beheld the upper half of the body of Mr. Spavin thrust out of the side-window of the vehicle, and beckoning Pen vehemently towards it.
Pen stopped, hesitated-nodded his head fiercely, and pointed onwards, as if desirous that the postilion should proceed. He did not speak: but his countenance must have looked very desperate, for young Spavin, having stared at him with an expression of blank alarm, jumped out of the carriage presently, ran towards Pen holding out his hand, and grasping Pen's said, "I say-hullo, old boy, where are you going, and what's the row now?"
"I'm going where I deserve to go," said Pen with an imprecation.
"This ain't the way," said Mr. Spavin, smiling. "This is the Fenbury road. say, Pen, don't take on because you are plucked. It's nothing when you are used to it. I've been plucked three times, old boy-a after the first time I didn't care. Glad it's over, though. You'll have better luck next time."
Pen looked at his early acquaintance, -who had been plucked, who had been rusticated, who had only, after repeated failures, learned to read and write correctly, and who, in spite of all these drawbacks, had attained the honour of a degree. "This man has passed," he thought, "and I have failed!" It was almost too much for him to bear.
"Good bye, Spavin," said he: "I'm very glad you are through. Don't let me keep you; I'm in a hurry-I'm going to town to-night."
Gammon," said Mr. Spavin. "This ain't the way to town; this is the Fenbury road, I tell you.'
"I was just going to turn back," Pen said.
"All the coaches are full with the men going down," Spavin said. Pen winced. 'You'd not get a place for a ten-pound note. Get into my yellow; I'll drop you at Mudford, where you have a chance of the Fenbury mail. I'll lend you a hat and a coat ; I've got lots.
Come along; jump in, old boy-go it, leathers !" and in this way Pen found himself in Mr. Spavin's postchaise, and rode with that gentleman as far as the Ram Inn at Mudford, fifteen miles from Oxbridge; where the Fenbury mail changed horses, and where Pen got a place on to London.
The next day there was an immense excitement in Boniface College, Oxbridge, where, for some time, a rumor prevailed, to the terror of Pen's tutor and tradesmen, that Pendennis, maddened at losing his degree, had made away with himself-a battered cap, in which his name was almost discernible, together with a seal bearing his crest of an eagle looking at a now extinct sun, had been found three miles on the Fenbury road, near a mill-stream; and, for four-and-twenty hours, it was supposed that poor Pen had flung himself into the stream, until letters arrived from him bearing the London post-mark.
The mail reached London at the dreary hour of five: and he hastened to the inn at Covent Garden, at which he was accustomed to put up, where the ever wakeful porter admitted him, and showed him to a bed. Pen looked hard at the man, and wondered whether Boots knew he was plucked? When in bed he could not sleep there. He tossed about until the appearance of the dismal London daylight, when he sprang up desperately, and walked off to his uncle's lodgings in Bury Street; where the maid, who was scouring the steps, looked up suspiciously at him, as he came with an unshaven face, and yesterday's linen. He thought she knew of his mishap,
"Good evens! Mr. Harthur, what as appened, sir?" Mr. Morgan, the valet, asked, who had just arranged the wellbrushed clothes and shiny boots at the door of his master's bedroom, and was carrying in his wig to the Major.
"I want to see my uncle," he cried, in a ghastly voice, and flung himself down on a chair.
Morgan backed before the pale and desperate-looking young man, with terrified and wondering glances, and disappeared into his master's apartment.
The Major put his head out of the
Pen laughed bitterly at the word feather, and repeated it. "No, it isn't that, sir. I'm not afraid of being shot; I wish to God anybody would. I have not got my degree. I-I'm plucked, sir."
The Major had heard of plucking, but in a very vague and cursory way, and concluded that it was some ceremony performed corporally upon rebellious university youth. "I wonder you can look me in the face after such a disgrace, sir," he said; "I wonder you submitted to it as a gentleman."
"I couldn't help it, sir. I did my classical papers well enough: it was those infernal mathematics, which I have always neglected."
"Was it was it done in public, sir?" the Major said.
"The-the plucking?" asked the guardian, looking Pen anxiously in the
Pen perceived the error under which his guardian was labouring, and in the midst of his misery the blunder caused the poor wretch a faint smile, and served to bring down the conversation from the tragedy key, in which Pen had been disposed to carry it on. He explained to his uncle that he had gone in to pass his examination, and failed. On which the Major said, that though he had expected far better things of his nephew, there was no great misfortune in this, and no dishonour as far as he saw, and that Pen must try again.
"Me again at Oxbridge," Pen thought, "after such a humiliation as that!" He felt that, except he went down to burn the place, he could not enter it.
But it was when he came to tell his uncle of his debts that the other felt surprise and anger most keenly, and broke out into speeches most severe upon Pen, which the lad bore, as best he might, without flinching. He had determined to make a clean breast, and had formed a full, true, and complete list of all his bills and liabilities at the university, and in London. They consisted of various items, such as
Haberdasher, for shirts and gloves.
Crump, for desserts.
Wine Merchant in London.
Bill for horses.
Hairdresser and Perfumery. Hotel Bill in London. Sundries.
All which items the reader may fill in at his pleasure-such accounts have been inspected by the parents of many university youth,-and it appeared that Mr. Pen's bills in all amounted to about seven hundred pounds: and, furthermore, it was calculated that he had had more than twice that sum of ready money during his stay at Oxbridge. This sum he had spent, and for it had to show-what?
"You need not press a man who is down, sir," Pen said to his uncle, gloomily. "I know very well, how wicked and idle I have been. My mother won't like to see me dishonoured, sir," he continued, with his voice failing; "and I know she will pay these accounts. But I shall ask her for no more money."
"As you like, sir," the Major said. "You are of age, and my hands are washed of your affairs. But you can't live without money, and have no means of making it that I see, though you have a fine talent in spending it, and it is my belief that you will proceed as you have begun, and ruin your mother before you are five years older.-Good morning; it time for me to go to breakfast. My engagements won't permit me to see you much during the time that you stay in London. I presume that you will acquaint your mother with the news which you have just conveyed to me."
And pulling on his hat, and trembling in his limbs somewhat, Major Pendennis walked out of his lodgings before his nephew, and went ruefully off to take his accustomed corner at the Club. He saw the Oxbridge examination-lists in the morning papers, and read over the names, not understanding the business, with mournful accuracy. He consulted various old fogies of his acquaintance, in the course of the day, at his Clubs; Wenham, a Dean, various Civilians; and, as it is called, "took their opinion," showing to some of them the amount of his nephew's debts, which he had dotted down on the back of a card, and asking what was to be done, and whether such debts were not monstrous, preposterous? What was to be done?There was nothing for it but to pay. Wenham and the others told the Major