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Doctor Goodenough found the party so merrily engaged, when he came in to pay his faithful gratuitous visit.
Warrington knew Sibwright, who lived below, and that gallant gentleman, in reply to a letter informing him of the use to which his apartments had been put, wrote back the most polite and flowery letter of acquiescence. He placed his chambers at the service of their fair occupants, his bed at their disposal, his carpets at their feet. Everybody was kindly disposed towards the sick man and his family. His heart (and his mother's too, as we may fancy) melted within him at the thought of so much good feeling and good nature. Let Pen's biographer be pardoned for alluding to a time not far distant when a somewhat similar mishap brought him a providential friend, a kind physician, and a thousand proofs of a most touching and surprising kindness and sympathy.
There was a piano in Mr. Sibwright's chamber (indeed this gentleman, a lover of all the arts, performed himself—and exceedingly ill too- upon the instrument; and had had a song dedicated to him-the words by himself, the air by his devoted friend Leopoldo Twankidillo), and at this music-box, as Mr. Warrington called it, Laura, at first with a great deal of tremor and blushing (which became her very much), played and sang, sometimes of an evening, simple airs, and old songs of home. Her voice was a rich contralto, and Warrington, who scarcely knew one tune from another, and who had but one tune or bray in his repertoire,-a most discordant imitation of God save the King,-sat rapt in delight listening to these songs. He could follow their rhythm if not their harmony; and he could watch, with a constant and daily growing enthusiasm, the pure and tender and generous creature who made the music.
I wonder how that poor pale little girl in the black bonnet, who used to stand at the lamp-post in Lamb Court sometimes of an evening, looking up to the open windows from which the music came, liked to hear it? When Pen's bed-time came the songs were hushed. Lights appeared in the upper room: his room, whither the widow used to conduct
him; and then the Major and Mr. War-rington, and sometimes Miss Laura, would have a game at ecarte or backgammon; or she would sit by working a pair of slippers in worsted-a pair of gentleman's slippers-they might have been for Arthur, or for George, or for Major Pendennis: one of those three would have given anything for the slippers.
Whilst such business as this was going on within, a rather shabby old gentleman would come and lead away the pale girl in the black bonnet; who had no right to be abroad in the night air: and the Temple Porters, the few laundresses, and other amateurs who had been listening to the concert, would also disappear.
Just before ten o'clock there was another musical performance, namely that that of the chimes of St. Clement's clock in the Strand, which played the elear cheerful notes of a psalm, before it proceeded to ring its ten fatal strokes. As they were ringing, Laura began to fold up the slippers; Martha from Fairoaks appeared with a bed-candle, and a constant smil on her face; the Major said, "God bless my soul, is it so late?" Warrington and he left their unfinished game, and got up and shook hands with Miss Bell. Martha from Fairoaks lighted them out of the passage and down the stair, and, as they descended, they could hear her boting and locking the "sporting door" after them, upon her young mistress and herself. If there had been any danger, grinning Martha said she would have got down "that thar hooky soord which hung up in gantleman's room," meaning the Damascus scimetar with the names of the Prophet engraved on the blade and the red-velvet scabbard, which Percy Sibwright, Esquire, brought back from his tour in the Levant, along with an Albanian dress, and which he wore with such elegant effect at Lady Mullinger's fancy ball, Gloucester Square, Hyde Park. It entangled itself in Miss Kewsey's train, who appeared in the dress in which she, with her mamma, had been presented to their sovereign (the latter by the L-d Ch-nc-ll-r's lady) and led to events which have nothing to do with this history. Is not Miss Kewsey now Mrs. Sibwright? Has Sib
wright not got a county court?-Good night, Laura and Fairoaks Martha. Sleep well and wake happy, pure and gentle lady.
Sometimes after these evenings Warrington would walk a little way with Major Pendennis-just a little wayjust as far as the Temple gate-as the Strand-as Charing Cross-as the Club -he was not going into the Club? Well, as far as Bury Street where he would laughingly shake hands on the Major's own door-step. They had been talking about Laura all the way. It was wonderful how enthusiastic the Major, who, as we know, used to dislike her, had grown to be regarding the young lady." Dev'lish fine girl, begad. Dev'lish well-mannered girl-my sisterin-law has the manners of a duchess and would bring up any girl well. Miss Bell's a little countryfied. But the smell of the hawthorn is pleasant, demmy. How she blushes! Your London girls would give many a guinea for a bouquet like that-natural flowers, begad! And she's a little money, toonothing to speak of-but a pooty little bit of money." In all which opinions no doubt Mr. Warrington agreed; and though he laughed as he shook hands with the Major, his face fell as he left his veteran companion; and he strode back to chambers, and smoked pipe after pipe long into the night, and wrote article upon article, more and more savage, in lieu of friend Pen disabled.
Well, it was a happy time for almost all parties concerned. Pen mended daily. Sleeping and eating were his constant occupations. His appetite was something frightful. He was ashamed of exhibiting it before Laura, and almost before his mother who laughed and applauded him. As the roast chicken of his dinner went away he eyed the departing friend with sad longing, and began to long for jelly, or tea, or what not. He was like an ogre in devouring. The Doctor cried stop, but Pen would not. Nature called out to him more loudly than the Doctor, and that kind and friendly physician handed him over with a very good grace to the other healer.
And here let us speak very tenderly and in the strictest confidence of an
event which befel him, and to which he never liked an allusion. During his delirium the ruthless Goodenough ordered ice to be put to his head, and all his lovely hair to be cut. It was done in the time of-of the other nurse, who left every single hair of course in a paper for the widow to count and treasure up. She never believed but that the girl had taken away some of it, but then women are so suspicious upon these matters.
When this direful loss was made visible to Major Pendennis, as of course it was the first time the elder saw the poor young man's shorn pate, and when Pen was quite out of danger, and gaining daily vigour, the Major, with something like blushes and a queer wink of his eyes, said he knew of a-a person-a coiffeur, in fact-a good man, whom he would send down to the Temple, and who would-a-apply-a-a temporary remedy to that misfortune.
Laura looked at Warrington with the archest sparkle in her eyes-Warrington fairly burst out into a bohoo of laughter: even the widow was obliged to laugh: and the Major erubescent confounded the impudence of the young folks, and said when he had his hair cut he would keep a lock of it for Miss Laura.
Warrington voted that Pen should wear a barrister's wig. There was Sibwright's down below, which would become him hugely. Pen said "Stuff," and seemed as confused as his uncle; and the end was that a gentleman from Burlington Arcade waited next day upon Mr. Pendennis, and had a private interview with him in his bed-room; and a week afterwards the same individual appeared with a box under his arm, and an ineffable grin of politeness on his face, and announced that he had brought 'ome Mr. Pendennis's 'ead of 'air.
It must have been a grand but melancholy sight to see Pen in the recesses of his apartment, sadly contemplating his ravaged beauty, and the artificial means of hiding its ruin. He appeared at length in the 'ead of 'air: buf Warrington laughed so that Pen grew sulky, and went back for his velvet cap, a neat turban which the fondest of mammas had worked for him. Then Mr. Warrington and Miss Bell got some flowers off the
ladies' bonnets and made a wreath with which they decorated the wig and brought it out in procession, and did homage before it. In fact they indulged in a hundred sports, jocularities, waggeries and petits ieux innocens; so that the second and third floors of No. 6, Lamb Court, Temple, rang with more cheerfulness and laughter than had been known in those precincts for many a long day.
At last, after about ten days of this life, one evening when the little spy of the court came out to take her usual post of observation at the lamp, there was no music from the second floor window, there were no lights in the third story chambers, the windows of each were open, and the occupants were gone. Mrs. Flanagan, the laundress, told Fanny what had happened. The ladies and all the parties had gone to Richmond for change of air. The antique travelling chariot was brought out again and cushioned with many pillows for Pen and his mother; and Miss Laura went in the most affable manner in the omnibus, under the guardianship of Mr. George Warrington. He came back and took possession of his old bed that night in the vacant and cheerless chambers, and to his old books and his old pipes, but not perhaps to his old sleep.
The widow had left a jar full of flowers upon his table, prettily arranged, and when he entered they filled the solitary room with odour. They were memorials of the kind, gentle souls who had gone away, and who had decorated for a little while that lonely, cheerless place. He had had the happiest days of his whole life, George felt he knew it now they were just gone : he went and took up the flowers and put his face to them, smelt them-perhaps kissed them. As he put them down he rubbed his rough hand across his eyes with a bitter word and laugh. He would have given his whole life and soul to win that prize which Arthur rejected. Did she want fame? he would have won it for her :devotion?-a great heart full of pentup tenderness and manly love and gentleness was there for her, if she might take it. But it might not be. Fate had ruled otherwise. "Even if I
could, she would not have me," George thought. "What has an ugly, rough old fellow like me, to make any woman like him? I'm getting old, and I've made no mark in life. I've neither good looks, nor youth, nor money, nor reputation. A man must be able to do something besides stare at her and offer on his knees his uncouth devotion, to make a woman like him. What can I do? Lots of young fellows have passed me in the race what they call the prizes of life didn't seem to me worth the trouble of the struggle. But for her. If she had been mine and liked a diamond-ah! shouldn't she have worn it! Psha, what a fool I am to brag of what I would have done! We are the slaves of destiny. Our lots are shaped for us, and mine is ordained long ago. Come, let us have a pipe, and put the smell of these flowers out of court. Poor little silent flowers! you'll be dead to-morrow. What business had you to show your red cheeks in this dingy place?"
By his bed-side George found a new Bible which the widow had placed there, with a note inside saying that she had not seen the book amongst his collection in a room where she had spent a number of hours, and where God had vouchsafed to her prayers the life of her son, and that she gave to Arthur's friend the best thing she could, and besought him to read in the volume sometimes, and to keep it as a token of a grateful mother's regard and affection. Poor George mournfully kissed the book as he had done the flowers; and the morning found him still reading in its awful pages, in which so many stricken hearts, in which so many tender and faithful souls, have found comfort under calamity and refuge and hope in affliction.
FANNY'S OCCUPATION'S GONE.
GOOD Helen, ever since her son's illness, had taken, as we have seen, entire possession of the young man, of his drawers and closets, and all which they contained: whether shirts that wanted
buttons, or stockings that required mending, or, must it be owned? letters that lay amongst those articles of raiment, and which of course it was necessary that somebody should answer during Arthur's weakened and incapable condition. Perhaps Mrs. Pendennis was laudably desirous to have some explanations about the dreadful Fanny Bolton mystery, regarding which she had never breathed a word to her son, though it was present in her mind always, and occasioned her inexpressible anxiety and disquiet. She had caused the brass knocker to be screwed off the inner door of the chambers, whereupon the postman's startling double rap would, as she justly argued, disturb the rest of her patient, and she did not allow him to see any letter which arrived, whether from boot-makers who importuned him, or hatters who had a heavy account to make up against next Saturday, and would be very much obliged if Mr. Arthur Pendennis would have the kindness to settle, &c. Of these documents, Pen, who was always freehanded and careless, of course had his share, and though no great one, one great enough to alarm his scrupulous and conscientious mother. She had some savings; Pen's magnificent self-denial, and her own economy amounting from her great simplicity and avoidance of show to parsimony almost, had enabled her to put by a little sum of money, a part of which she delightedly consecrated to the paying off the young gentleman's obligations. At this price, many a worthy youth and respected reader would hand over his correspondence to his parents; and perhaps there is no greater test of a man's regularity and easiness of conscience, than his readiness to face the postman. Blessed is he who is made happy by the sound of a rat-tat! The good are eager for it: but the naughty tremble at the sound thereof. So it was very kind of Mrs. Pendennis doubly to spare Pen the trouble of hearing or answering letters during his illness.
Bolton affair found there, for the widow had to ask her brother-in-law if he knew anything about the odious transaction, and the dreadful intrigue about which her son was engaged. When they were at Richmond one day, and Pen with Warrington had taken a seat on a bench on the terrace, the widow kept Major Pendennis in consultation, and laid her terrors and perplexities before him, such of them at least (for as is the wont of men and women, she did not make quite a clean confession, and I suppose no spendthrift asked for a schedule of his debts, no lady of fashion asked by her husband for her dressmaker's bills ever sent in the whole of them yet)--such, we say, of her perplexities, at least, as she chose to confide to her Director for the time being.
There could have been nothing in the young man's chests of drawers and wardrobes which could be considered as inculpating him in any way, nor any satisfactory documents regarding the Fanny
When, then, she asked the Major what course she ought to pursue, about this dreadful-this horrid affair, and whether he knew anything regarding it? the old gentleman puckered up his face, so that you could not tell whether he was smiling or not; gave the widow one queer look with his little eyes; cast them down to the carpet again, and said, "My dear, good creature, I don't know anything about it; and I don't wish to know anything about it; and, as you ask me my opinion, I think you had best know nothing about it too. Young men will be young men; and, begad, my good ma'am, if you think our boy is a
"Pray, spare me this," Helen broke in, looking very stately.
"My dear creature, I did not commence the conversation, permit me to "the Major said, bowing very blandly.
"I can't bear to hear such a sin-such a dreadful sin-spoken of in such a way," the widow said, with tears of annoyance starting from her eyes. "I can't bear to think that my boy should commit such a crime. I wish he had died, almost, before he had done it. I don't know how I survive it myself: for it is breaking my heart, Major Pendennis, to think that his father's son-my child-whom I remember so good-oh, so good, and full of honour!- should be fallen so dreadfully low, as to-as to-"
"As to flirt with a little grisette? my dear creature," said the Major. "Egad, if all the mothers in England were to break their hearts because-Nay, nay, upon my word and honour now, don't agitate yourself-don't cry. I can't bear to see a woman's tears-I never could-never. But how do we know that anything serious has happened? Has Arthur said anything?"
"His silence confirms it," sobbed Mrs. Pendennis, behind her pockethandkerchief.
"Not at all. There are subjects, my dear, about which a young fellow cannot surely talk to his mamma,' " insinuated the brother-in-law.
"She has written to him," cried the lady, behind the cambric.
"What, before he was ill! Nothing more likely,'
"No, since;" the mourner with the batiste mask gasped out; "not before; that is, I don't think so-that is, I-"
"Only since; and you have-yes, I understand. I suppose when he was too ill to read his own correspondence, you took charge of it, did you?",
"I am the most unhappy mother in the world," cried out the unfortunate Helen.
"The most unhappy mother in the world, because your son is a man and not a hermit! Have a care, my dear sister. If you have suppressed any letters to him, you may have done yourself a great injury; and, if I know anything of Arthur's spirit, may cause a difference between him and you, which you'll rue all your life-a difference that's a dev'lish deal more important, my good madam, than the little-little-trumpery cause which originated it."
"There was only one letter," broke out Helen,-"only a very little oneonly a few words. Here it is-O-how can you, how can you speak so?"
When the good soul said only "a very little one," the Major could not speak at all, so inclined was he to laugh, in spite of the agonies of the poor soul before him, and for whom he had a hearty pity and liking too. But each was looking at the matter with his or her peculiar eyes and view of morals, and the Major's morals, as the reader knows, were not those of an ascetic.
"I recommend you," he gravely continued "if you can, to seal it up-those letters ain't unfrequently sealed with wafers-and to put it amongst Pen's other letters, and let him have them when he calls for them. Or, if we can't seal it, we mistook it for a bill."
"I can't tell my son a lie," said the widow. It had been put silently into the letter-box two days previous to their departure from the Temple, and had been brought to Mrs. Pendennis by Martha. She had never seen Fanny's handwriting, of course; but when the letter was put into her hands, she knew the author at once. She had been on the watch for that letter every day since Pen had been ill. She had opened some of his other letters because she wanted to get at that one. She had the horrid paper poisoning her bag at that moment. She took it out and offered it to her brother-in-law.
"Arther Pendennis, Esq.," he read in a timid little sprawling hand-writing, and with a sneer on his face. "No, my dear, I won't read any more. But you, who have read it, may tell me what the letter contains-only prayers for his health in bad spelling, you say-and a desire to see him? Well-there's no harm in that. And as you ask me-" here the Major began to look a little queer for his own part, and put on his demure look-"as you ask me, my dear, for information, why, I don't mind telling you that-ah-that-Morgan, my man, has made some inquiries regarding this affair, and that-my friend Doctor Goodenough also looked into it-and it appears that this person was greatly smitten with Arthur: that he paid for her and took her to Vauxhall Gardens, as Morgan heard from an old acquaintance of Pen's and ours, an Irish gentleman, who was very nearly once having the honour of being the-from an Irishman, in fact; that the girl's father, a violent man of intoxicated habits, has beaten her mother, who persists in declaring her daughter's entire innocence to her husband on the one hand, while on the other she told Goodenough that Arthur had acted like a brute to her child. And so you see the story remains in a mystery. Will you have it