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So the Prodigal came home, and the fatted calf was killed for him, and he was made as happy as two simple women could make him. No allusions were made to the Oxbridge mishap, or questions asked as to his farther proceedings, for some time. But Pen debated these anxiously in his own mind, and up in his own room, where he passed much time in cogitation.
A few days after he came home, he rode to Chatteris on his horse, and came back on the top of the coach. He then informed his mother that he had left the horse to be sold; and when that operation was effected, he handed her over the cheque, which she, and possibly Pen himself, thought was an act of uncommon virtue and self-denial, but which Laura pronounced to be only strict justice.
He rarely mentioned the loan which she had made, and which, indeed, had been accepted by the widow with certain modifications; but once or twice, and with great hesitation and stammering, he alluded to it, and thanked her. It evidently pained his vanity to be beholden to the orphan for succour. He was wild to find some means of repaying her.
He left off drinking wine, and betook himself, but with great moderation, to the refreshment of whiskey-and-water. He gave up cigar smoking; but it must be confessed that of late years he had liked pipes and tobacco as well or even better, so that this sacrifice was not a very severe one.
He fell asleep a great deal after dinner when he joined the ladies in the drawing-room, and was certainly very moody and melancholy. He watched the coaches with great interest, walked in to read the papers at Clavering assiduously, dined with anybody who would ask him (and the widow was glad that he should have any entertainment in their solitary place), and played a good deal at cribbage with Captain Glanders.
He avoided Dr. Portman, who, in his turn, whenever Pen passed, gave him very severe looks from under his shovelhat. He went to church with his mother, however, very regularly, and read prayers for her at home to the little
household. Always humble, it was greatly diminished now: a couple of maids did the work of the house of Fairoaks the silver dish-covers never saw the light at all. John put on his livery to go to church, and assert his dignity on Sundays, but it was only for form's sake. He was gardener and outdoor man, vice Upton, resigned. There was but little fire in Fairoaks kitchen, and John and the maids drank their evening beer there by the light of a single candle. All this was Mr. Pen's doing, and the state of things did not increase his cheerfulness.
For some time Pen said no power on earth could induce him to go back to Oxbridge again, after his failure there; but one day, Laura said to him, with many blushes, that she thought, as some sort of reparation, of punishment on himself for his for his idleness, he ought to go back and get his degree, if he could fetch it by doing so; and so back Mr. Pen went.
A plucked man is a dismal being in a university; belonging to no set of men there, and owned by no one. Pen felt himself plucked indeed of all the fine feathers which he had won during his brilliant years, and rarely appeared out of his college; regularly going to morning chapel, and shutting himself up in his rooms of nights, away from the noise and suppers of the undergraduates. There were no duns about his door, they were all paid-scarcely any cards were left there. The men of his year had taken their degrees, and were gone. He went into a second examination, and passed with perfect ease. He was somewhat more easy in his mind when he appeared in his bachelor's gown.
On his way back from Oxbridge he paid a visit to his uncle in London; but the old gentleman received him with very cold looks, and would scarcely give him his forefinger to shake. He called a second time, but Morgan, the valet, said his master was from home.
Pen came back to Fairoaks, and to his books and to his idleness, and loneliness and despair. He commenced several tragedies, and wrote many copies of verses of a gloomy cast. He formed plans of reading and broke them.
thought about enlisting-about the Spanish legion-about a profession. He chafed against his captivity, and cursed the idleness which had caused it. Helen said he was breaking his heart, and was sad to see his prostration. As soon as they could afford it, he should go abroad -he should go to London-he should be freed from the dull society of two poor It was dull-very, certainly. The tender widow's habitual melancholy seemed to deepen into a sadder gloom; and Laura saw with alarm that the dear friend became every year more languid and weary, and that her pale cheek grew
THE inmates of Fairoaks were drowsily pursuing this humdrum existence, while the great house upon the hill, on the other side of the River Brawl, was shaking off the slumber in which it had lain during the lives of two generations of masters, and giving extraordinary signs of renewed liveliness.
Just about the time of Pen's little mishap, and when he was so absorbed in the grief occasioned by that calamity as to take no notice of events which befel persons less interesting to himself than Arthur Pendennis, an announcement appeared in the provincial journals which caused no small sensation in the county at least, and in all the towns, villages, halls and mansions, and parsonages for many miles round Clavering Park. At Clavering Market; at Cackleby Fair; at Chatteris Sessions; on Gooseberry Green, as the squire's carriage met the vicar's one-horse contrivance, and the inmates of both vehicles stopped on the road to talk; at Tinkleton church gate, as the bell was tolling in the sunshine, and the white smocks and scarlet cloaks came trooping over the green common, to Sunday worship; in a hundred societies round about-the word was, that Clavering Park was to be inhabited again. Some five years before, the county papers had advertised the marriage at
Florence, at the British Legation, of Francis Clavering, Esq., only son of Sir Francis Clavering, Bart., of Clavering Park, with Jemima Augusta, daughter of Samuel Snell, of Calcutta, Esq., and widow of the late J. Amory, Esq. At that time the legend in the county was that Clavering, who had been ruined for many a year, had married a widow from India with some money. Some of the county folks caught a sight of the newlymarried pair. The Kickleburys, travelling in Italy, had seen them. Clavering occupied the Poggi Palace at Florence, gave parties, and lived comfortably-but could never come to England. Another year young Peregrine, of Cackleby, making a Long Vacation tour, had fallen in with the Claverings occupying Schloss Schinkenstein, on the Mummel See. At Rome, at Lucca, at Nice, at the baths and gambling places of the Rhine and Belgium, this worthy couple might occasionally be heard of by the curious, and rumours of them came, as it were by gusts, to Clavering's ancestral place.
Their last place of abode was Paris, where they appear to have lived in great fashion and splendour after the news of the death of Samuel Snell, Esq., of Calcutta, reached his orphan daughter in Europe.
Of Sir Francis Clavering's antecedents little can be said that would be advantageous to that respected baronet. The son of an outlaw, living in a dismal old chateau near Bruges, this gentleman had made a feeble attempt to start in life with a commission in a dragoon regiment, and had broken down almost at the outset. Transactions at the gambling-table had speedily effected his ruin; after a couple of years in the army he had been forced to sell out, had passed some time in Her Majesty's prison of the Fleet, and had then shipped over to Ostend to join the gouty exile, his father. And in Belgium, France, and Germany, for some years, this decayed and abortive prodigal might be seen lurking about billiard-rooms and watering-places, punting at gamblinghouses, dancing at boarding-house balls, and riding steeple-chases on other folks' horses.
It was at a boarding-house at Lausanne, that Francis Clavering made what he called the lucky coup of marrying the widow Amory, very lately returned from Calcutta. His father died soon after, by consequence of whose demise his wife became Lady Clavering. The title so delighted Mr. Snell of Calcutta, that he doubled his daughter's allowance; and, dying himself soon after, left a fortune to her and her children, the amount of which was, if not magnified by rumour, something very splendid indeed.
Before this time there had been not rumours unfavourable to Lady Clavering's reputation, but unpleasant impressions regarding her ladyship. The best English people abroad were shy of making her acquaintance: her manners were not the most refined; her origin was lamentably low and doubtful. The retired East Indians, who are to be found in considerable force in most of the continental towns frequented by English, spoke with much scorn of the disreputable old lawyer, and indigosmuggler her father, and of Amory, her first husband, who had been mate of the Indiaman in which Miss Snell came out to join her father at Calcutta. Neither father nor daughter were in society at Calcutta, or had ever been heard of at Government House. Old Sir Jasper Rogers, who had been Chief Justice of Calcutta, had once said to his wife, that he could tell a queer story about Lady Clavering's first husband; but greatly to Lady Rogers's disappointment, and that of the young ladies his daughters, the old Judge could never be got to reveal that mystery.
They were all, however, glad enough to go to Lady Clavering's parties, when her Ladyship took the Hotel Bouilli in the Rue Grenelle at Paris, and blazed out in the polite world there in the winter of 183. The Fauburg St. Germain took her up. Viscount Bagwig, our excellent ambassador, paid her marked attention. The princes of the family frequented her salons. The most rigid and noted of the English ladies resident in the French capital acknowledged and countenanced her; the virtuous Lady Elderbury, the severe Lady Rockminster, the venerable Countess of South
down-people, in a word, renowned for austerity, and of quite a dazzling moral purity-so great and beneficent an influence had the possession of ten (some said twenty) thousand-a-year exercised upon Lady Clavering's character and reputation. And her munificence and good-will were unbounded. Anybody (in society) who had a scheme of charity was sure to find her purse open. The French ladies of piety got money from her to support their schools and convents; she subscribed indifferently for the Armenian patriarch; for Father Barbarossa, who came to Europe to collect funds for his monastery on Mount Athos; for the Baptist Mission to Quashyboo, and the Orthodox Settlement in Feefawfoo, the largest and most savage of the Cannibal Islands. And it is on record of her, that, on the same day on which Madame de Cricri got five Napoleons from her in support of the poor persecuted Jesuits, who were at that time in very bad odour in France, Lady Budelight put her down in her subscription-list for the Rev. J. Ramshorn, who had had a vision which ordered him to convert the Pope of Rome. And more than this, and for the benefit of the worldly, her ladyship gave the best dinners, and the grandest balls and suppers, which were known at Paris during that
And it was during this time that the good-natured lady must have arranged matters with her husband's creditors in England, for Sir Francis re-appeared in his native country, without fear of arrest; was announced in the Morning Post, and the county paper, as having taken up his residence at Mivart's Hotel; and one day the anxious old house-keeper at Clavering House beheld a carriage and four horses drive up the long avenue, and stop before the moss-grown steps in front of the vast melancholy portico.
Three gentlemen were in the carriage -an open one. On the back seat was our old acquaintance, Mr. Tatham, of Chatteris, whilst in the places of honour sate a handsome and portly gentleman, enveloped in mustachios, whiskers, fur collars, and braiding, and by him a pale languid man, who descended feebly from the carriage, when the little lawyer, and
the gentleman in fur, had nimbly jumped out of it.
They walked up the great moss-grown steps to the hall-door, and a foreign attendant, with ear-rings and a gold-laced cap, pulled strenuously at the great bellhandle at the cracked and sculptured gate. The bell was heard clanging loudly through the vast gloomy mansion. Steps resounded presently upon the marble pavement of the hall within; and the doors opened, and finally, Mrs. Blenkinsop, the house-keeper, Polly, her aidede-camp, and Smart, the keeper, appeared bowing humbly.
Smart, the keeper, pulled the whisp of hay-coloured hair which adorned his sunburnt forehead, kicked out his left heel, as if there were a dog biting at his calves, and brought down his head to a bow. Old Mrs. Blenkinsop dropped a curtsey. Little Polly, her aide-de-camp, made a curtsey, and several rapid bows likewise and Mrs. Blenkinsop, with a great deal of emotion, quavered out,
Welcome to Clavering, Sir Francis. It du my poor eyes good to see one of the family once more."
The speech and the greetings were all addressed to the grand gentleman in fur and braiding, who wore his hat so magnificently on one side, and twirled his mustachios so royally. But he burst out laughing, and said, "You've saddled the wrong horse, old lady,-I'm not Sir Francis Clavering what's come to revisit the halls of my ancestors. Friends and vassals! behold your rightful lord!"
And he pointed his hand towards the pale, languid gentleman, who said"Don't be an ass, Ned."
"Yes, Mrs. Blenkinsop, I'm Sir Francis Clavering: I recollect you quite well, Forgot me, I suppose?-How dy do?" and he took the old lady's trembling hand; and nodded in her astonished face, in a not unkind manner.
Ned? Never saw it but once, when my governor quarrelled with my gwandfather, in the year twenty-thwee.
Mrs. Blenkinsop declared upon her conscience that she would have known Sir Francis anywhere; that he was the very image of Sir Francis his father, and of Sir John who had gone before.
"O yes,-thanky-of course-very much obliged-and that sort of thing," Sir Francis said, looking vacantly about the hall. "Dismal old place, ain't it,
"Dismal-beautiful!-the Castle of Otranto-the Mysteries of Udolpho, by Jove!" said the individual addressed as Ned. "What a fire-place! You might roast an elephant in it. Splendid carved gallery! Inigo Jones, by Jove! I'd lay five to two it's Inigo Jones."
"The upper part by Inigo Jones; the lower was altered by the eminent Dutch architect, Vanderputty, in George the First his time, by Sir Richard, fourth baronet," said the house-keeper.
"O indeed," said the Baronet. "Gad, Ned, you know everything."
"I know a few things, Frank." Ned answered. "I know that's not a Snyders over the mantel-piece,-bet you three to one it's a copy. We'll restore it, my boy. A lick of varnish, and it will come out wonderfully, sir. That old fellow in the red gown, I suppose, is
"Sheriff of the county, and sate in Parliament in the reign of Queen Anne," said the house-keeper, wondering at the stranger's knowledge; "that on the right is Theodosia, wife of Harbottle, second baronet, by Lely, represented in the character of Venus, the Goddess of Beauty, her son Gregory, the third baronet, by her side, as Cupid, God of Love, with a bow and arrows; that on the next panel is Sir Rupert, made a knight banneret by Charles the First, and whose property was confiscated by Oliver Cromwell."
"Thank you needn't go on, Mrs. Blenkinsop," said the Baronet. "We'll walk about the place ourselves. Frosch, give me a cigar. Have a cigar, Mr. Tatham ?"
Little Mr. Tatham tried a cigar which Sir Francis's courier handed to him, and over which the lawyer spluttered fearfully. "Needn't come with us, Mrs. Blenkinsop. What's-his-name-you
Smart-feed the horses and wash their mouths. Sha'n't stay long. Come along, Strong, I know the way: I was here in twenty-thwee, at the end of my gwandfather's time." And Sir Francis and Captain Strong, for such was the style and title of Sir Francis's friend,
passed out of the hall into the reception rooms, leaving the discomfited Mrs. Blenkinson to disappear by a side-door which led to her apartments, now the only habitable rooms in the long-uninhabited mansion.
It was a place so big that no tenant could afford to live in it; and Sir Francis and his friend walked through room after room, admiring their vastness and dreary and deserted grandeur. On the right of the hall door were the saloons and drawing-rooms, and on the other side the oak room, the parlour, the grand dining-room, the library, where Pen had found books in old days. Round three sides of the hall ran a gallery, by which, and corresponding passages, the chief bed-rooms were approached, and of which many were of stately proportions and exhibited marks of splendour. On the second story was a labyrinth of little discomfortable garrets, destined for the attendants of the great folks who inhabited the mansion in the days when it was first built: and I do not know any more cheering mark of the increased philanthropy of our own times, than to contrast our domestic architecture with that of our ancestors, and to see how much better servants and poor are cared for at present, than in times when my lord and my lady slept under gold canopies, and their servants lay above them in quarters not so airy or so clean as stables are now.
Up and down the house the two gentlemen wandered, the owner of the mansion being very silent and resigned about the pleasure of possessing it; whereas the Captain, his friend, examined the premises with so much interest and eagerness that you would have thought he was the master, and the other the indifferent spectator of the place. "I see capabilities in it-capabilities in it, sir," cried the Captain. "Gad, sir, leave it to me, and I'll make it the pride of the country, at a small expense. What a theatre we can have in the library here, the curtains between the columns which divide the room! What a famous room for a galop!-it will hold the whole shire. We'll hang the morning parlour with the tapestry in your second salon in the Rue de Grenelle, and furnish the
oak room with the Moyen-age cabinets and the armour. Armour looks splendid against black oak, and there's a Venice glass in the Quai Voltaire, which will suit that high mantel-piece to an inch, sir. The long saloon, white and crimson of course; the drawing-room yellow satin; and the little drawing-room light blue, with lace over-hay?"
"I recollect my old governor caning me in that little room," Sir Francis said sententiously; "he alway hated me, my old governor."
"Chintz is the dodge, I suppose, for my lady's rooms-the suite in the landing, to the south, the bed-room, the sitting-room, and the dressing-room. We'll throw a conservatory out, over the balcony. Where will you have your