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Mr. Foker had been employed; and he thought of the heir in Horace pouring forth the gathered wine of his father's vats; and that human nature is pretty much the same in Regent Street as in the Via Sacra.
"Le Roi est mort. Vive le Roi !" said Arthur.
"Ah!" said the other. "Yes. Thank you very much obliged. How do you do, Pen?- very busy - good bye!" and he jumped into the Brougham, and sate like a little black Care behind the black coachman. He had blushed on seeing Pen, and shown other signs of guilt and perturbation, which Pen attributed to the novelty of his situation; and on which he began to speculate in his usual sardonic man
"Yes: so wags the world," thought Pen. "The stone closes over Harry the Fourth, and Harry the Fifth reigns in his stead. The old ministers at the brewery come and kneel before him with their books; the draymen, his subjects, fling up their red caps, and shout for him. What a grave deference and sympathy the bankers and the lawyers show! There was too great a stake at issue between those two that they should ever love each other very cordially. As long as one man keeps another out of twenty thousand a-year, the younger must be always hankering after the crown, and the wish must be the father to the thought of possession. Thank Heaven, there was no thought of money between me and our dear mother, Laura.'
"There never could have been. You would have spurned it!" cried Laura. Why make yourself more selfish than you are, Pen; and allow your mind to own for an instant that it would have entertained such-such dreadful meanness? You make me blush for you, Arthur: you make me-" her eyes finished the septence, and she passed her handkerchief across them.
"There are some truths which women will never acknowledge,' Pen said, "and from which your modesty always turns away. I do not say that I never knew the feeling, only that I am glad I had not the temptation. Is there any harm in that confession of weakness?"
"We are all taught to ask to be delivered from evil, Arthur, said Laura, in a low voice. "I am glad if you were spared from that great crime; and only sorry to think that you could by any possibility have been led into it. But you never could; and you don't think you could. Your acts are generous and kind: you disdain mean actions. You take Blanche without money, and without a bribe. Yes, thanks be to Heaven, dear brother. You could not have sold yourself away; I knew you could not when it came to the day, and you did not. Praise be-be where praise is due. Why does this horrid scepticism pursue you, my Arthur? Why doubt and sneer at your own heart-at every one's? Oh, if you knew the pain you give me--how I lie awake and think of those hard sentences, dear brother, and wish them unspoken, unthought!"
"Do I cause you many thoughts and many tears, Laura?" asked Arthur. The fullness of innocent love beamed from her in reply. A smile heavenly pure, a glance of unutterable tenderness, sympathy, pity, shone in her face-all which indications of love and purity Arthur beheld and worshipped in her, as you would watch them in a child as one fancies one might regard them in an angel.
I-I don't know what I have done," he said, simply, "to have merited such regard from two such women. It is like undeserved praise, Laura-or too much good fortune, which frightens one-or a great post, when a man feels that he is not fit for it. Ah, sister, how weak and wicked we are; how spotless, and full of love and truth, Heaven made you! I think for some of you there has been no fall," he said, looking at the charming girl with an almost paternal glance of admiration. "You can't help having sweet thoughts, and doing good actions. Dear creature! they are the flowers which you bear."
"And what else, sir?" asked Laura. "I see a sneer coming over your face. What is it? Why does it come to drive all the good thoughts away ?"
"A sneer, is there? I was thinking, my dear, that nature in making you so good and loving did very well: but-"
"But what? What is that wicked but? and why are you always calling it up?"
"But will come in spite of us. But is reflection. But is the sceptic's familiar, with whom he has made a compact; and if he forgets it, and indulges in happy day-dreams, or building of air-castles, or listens to sweet music let us say, or to the bells ringing to church, but taps at the door, and says, Master, I am here. You are my master; but I am yours. Go where you will you can't travel without me. I will whisper to you when you are on your knees at church. I will be at your marriage pillow. I will sit down at your table with your children. I will be behind your death-bed curtain. That is what But is," Pen said. "Pen, you frighten me," cried
"Do you know what But came and said to me just now, when I was looking at you? But said, if that girl had reason as well as love, she would love you no more. If she knew you as you are-the sullied, selfish being which you knowshe must part from you, and could give you no love and no sympathy. Didn't say,' ," he added fondly, "that some of you seem exempt from the fall? Love you know; but the knowledge of evil is kept from you.'
What is this you young folks are talking about?" asked Lady Rockminster, who at this moment made her appearance in the room, having performed, in the mystic retirement of her own apartments, under the hands of her attendant, those elaborate toilette-rites without which the worthy old lady never presented herself to public view. "Mr. Pendennis, you are always coming here."
"It is very pleasant to be here," Arthur said: "and we were talking, when you came in, about my friend Foker, whom I met just now; and who, as your ladyship knows, has succeeded to his father's kingdom."
"He has a very fine property, he has fifteen thousand a-year. He is my cousin. He is a very worthy young man. He must come and see me,' said Lady Rockminster, with a look at Laura.
"He has been engaged for many years past to his cousin, Lady-"
"Lady Ann is a foolish little chit," Lady Rockminster said, with much dignity: " and I have no patience with her. She has outraged every feeling of society. She has broken her father's heart, and thrown away fifteen thousand a-year.
"Thrown away? What has happened?" asked Pen.
"It will be the talk of the town in a day or two; and there is no need why I should keep the secret any longer," said Lady Rockminster, who had written and received a dozen letters on the subject. "I had a letter yesterday from my daughter, who was staying at Drummington until all the world was obliged to go away on account of the frightful catastrophe which happened there. When Mr. Foker came home from Nice, and after the funeral, Lady Ann went down on her knees to her father, said that she never could marry her cousin, that she had contracted another attachment, and that she must die rather than fulfill her contract. Poor Lord Rosherville, who is dreadfully embarrassed, showed his daughter what the state of his affairs was, and that it was necessary that the arrangements should take place; and in fine, we all supposed that she had listened to reason, and intended to comply with the desires of her family. But what has happened-last Thursday she went out after breakfast with her maid, and was married in the very church in Drummington Park to Mr. Hobson, her father's own chaplain and her brother's tutor; a red-haired widower with two children. Poor dear Rosherville is in a dreadful way: he wishes Henry Foker should marry Alice or Barbara; but Alice is marked with the small-pox, and Barbara is ten years older than he is. And, of course, now the young man is his own master, he will think of choosing for himself. The blow on Lady Agnes is very cruel. She is inconsolable. She has the house in Grosvenor Street for her life, and her settlement, which was very handsome. Have you not met her? Yes, she dined one day at Lady Clavering's the first day I saw you, and a very disagreeable young man I thought
you were. But I have formed you. We have formed him, haven't we, Laura? Where is Bluebeard? let him come. That horrid Grindley, the dentist, will keep me in town another week."
To the latter part of her ladyship's speech Arthur gave no ear. He was thinking for whom could Foker be purchasing those trinkets which he was carrying away from the jeweller's? Why did Harry seem anxious to avoid him? Could he be still faithful to the attachment which had agitated him so much, and sent him abroad eighteen months back? Psha! The bracelets and presents were for some of Harry's old friends of the Opera or the French theatre. Rumours from Naples and Paris, rumours such as are borne to club smoking-rooms, had announced that the young man had found distractions; or, precluded from his virtuous attachment, the poor fellow had flung himself back upon his old companions and amusements-not the only man or woman whom society forces into evil, or debars from good not the only victim of the world's selfish and wicked laws.
As a good thing when it is to be done cannot be done too quickly, Laura was anxious that Pen's marriage intentions should be put into execution as speedily as possible, and pressed on his arrangements with rather a feverish anxiety. Why could she not wait? Pen could afford to do so with perfect equanimity, but Laura would hear of no delay. She wrote to Pen; she implored Pen; she used every means to urge expedition. It seemed as if she could have no rest until Arthur's happiness was complete.
She offered herself to dearest Blanche to come and stay at Tunbridge with her when La Rockminster should go on her intended visit to the reigning house of Rockminster; and although the old dowager scolded, and ordered, and commanded, Laura was deaf and disobedient; she must go to Tunbridge; she would go to Tunbridge; she who ordinarily had no will of her own, and complied smilingly with anybody's whim and capriccs, showed the most selfish and obstinate determination in this instance. The dowager lady must nurse
herself in her rheumatism, she must read herself to sleep, if she would not hear her maid, whose voice creaked, and who made sad work of the sentimental passages in the novels-Laura must go, and be with her new sister. In another week, she proposed, with many loves and regards to dear Lady Clavering, to pass some time with dearest Blanche.
Dearest Blanche wrote instantly in reply to dearest Laura's No. 1, to say with what extreme delight she should welcome her sister: how charming it would be to practise their old duets together, to wander o'er the grassy sward, and amidst the yellowing woods of Penshurst and Southborough! Blanche
counted the hours till she should embrace her dearest friend.
Laura, No. 2, expressed her delight at dearest Blanche's affectionate reply. She hoped that their friendship would never diminish; that the confidence between them would grow in after years; that they should have no secrets from each other; that the aim of the life of each would be to make one person happy.
Blanche, No. 2, followed in two days. "How provoking! Their house was very small, the two spare bed rooms were occupied by that horrid Mrs. Planter and her daughter, who had thought proper to fall ill (she always fell ill in country houses), and she could not, or would not be moved for some days.'
Laura, No. 3. "It was indeed very provoking. L. had hoped to hear one of dearest B.'s dear songs on Friday: but she was the more consoled to wait, because Lady R. was not very well, and liked to be nursed by her. Poor Major Pendennis was very unwell, too, in the same hotel-too unwell even to see Arthur, who was constant in his calls on his uncle. Arthur's heart was full of tenderness and affection. She had known Arthur all her life. She would answer, "-yes, even italics she would answer" for his kindness, his goodness, and his gentleness."
Blanche No. 3. "What is this most surprising, most extraordinary letter from A. P.? What does dearest Laura know about it? What has happened?
MR. AND MRS. SAM HUXTER.
"DEAR BLANCHE," Arthur wrote, "you are always reading and dreaming pretty dramas, and exciting romances in real life, are you now prepared to enact a part of one? And not the pleasantest part, dear Blanche, that in which the heroine takes possession of her father's palace and wealth, and introducing her husband to the loyal retainers and faithful vassals, greets her happy bridegroom with All of this is mine and thine'-but the other character, that of the luckless lady, who suddenly discovers that she is not the Prince's wife, but Claude Melnotte's the beggar's: that of Alnaschar's wife, who comes in just as her husband has kicked over the tray of porcelain which was to be the making of his fortune-But stay, Alnaschar, who kicked down the China was not a married man; he had cast his eye on the Vizier's daughter, and his hopes of her went to the ground with the shattered bowls and tea-cups.
Will you be the Vizier's daughter, and refuse and laugh to scorn Alnaschar, or will you be the Lady of Lyons, and love the penniless Claude Melnotte? I will act that part if you like. I will love you my best in return. I will do my all to make your humble life happy: for humble it will be: at least the odds are against any other conclusion; we shall live and die in a poor prosy humdrum way. There will be no stars and epaulettes for the hero of our story. I shall write one or two more stories, which will presently be forgotten. I shall be called to the Bar, and try to get on in my profession: perhaps some day, if I am very lucky, and work very hard (which is absurd), I may get a colonial appointment, and you may be an Indian
Judge's lady. Meanwhile I shall buy back the Pall Mall Gazette ;' the publishers are tired of it since the death of poor Shandon, and will sell it for a small sum. Warrington will be my right hand, and write it up to a respectable sale. I will introduce you to Mr. Finucane the sub-editor, and I know who in the end will be Mrs. Finucane,a very nice gentle creature, who has lived sweetly through a sad life—and we will jog on I say, and look out for better times, and earn our living decently. You shall have the opera-boxes, and superintend the fashionable intelligence, and break your little heart in the poet's corner. Shall we live over the offices? there are four very good rooms, a kitchen, and a garret for Laura, in Catharine Street in the Strand; or would you like a house in the Waterloo Road?-it would be very pleasant, only there is that halfpenny toll at the Bridge. The boys may go to King's College, mayn't they? Does all this read to you like a joke?
"Ah, dear Blanche, it is no joke, and I am sober and telling the truth. Our fine day-dreams are gone. Our carriage has whirled out of sight like Cinderella's: our house in Belgravia has been whisked away into the air by a malevolent Genius, and I am no more a member of Parliament than I am a Bishop on his bench in the House of Lords, or a Duke with a garter at his knee. You know pretty well what my property is, and your own little fortune: we may have enough with these two to live in decent comfort to take a cab sometimes when we go out to see our friends, and not to deny ourselves an omnibus when we are tired. But that is all: is that enough for you, my little dainty lady? I doubt sometimes whether you can bear the life I offer you-at least, it is fair that you should know what it will be. If you say, 'Yes, Arthur, I will follow your fate whatever it may be, and be a loyal and loving wife to aid and cheer you'-come to me, dear Blanche, and may God help me so that I may do my duty to you. If not, and you look to a higher station, I must not bar Blanche's fortune-I will stand in the crowd, and see your ladyship go to court when you are presented, and you shall give me a
smile from your chariot window. I saw Lady Mirabel going to the drawingroom last season: the happy husband at her side glittered with stars and cordons. All the flowers in the garden bloomed in the coachman's bosom. Will you have these, and the chariot, or walk on foot and mend your husband's stockings?
"I cannot tell you now-afterwards I might, should the day come when we may have no secrets from one another-what has happened within the last few hours which has changed all my prospects in life but so it is, that I have learned something which forces me to give up the plans which I had formed, and many vain and ambitious hopes in which I had been indulging. I have written and despatched a letter to Sir Francis Clavering, saying that I cannot accept his seat in Parliament until after my marriage; in like manner I cannot and will not accept any larger fortune with you than that which has always belonged to you since your grandfather's death, and the birth of your half-brother. Your good mother is not in the least aware-I hope she never may be of the reasons which force me to this very strange decision. They arise from a painful circumstance, which is attributable to none of our faults; but, having once befallen, they are as fatal and irreparable as that shock which overset honest Alnaschar's porcelain, and shattered all his hopes beyond the power of mending. I write gaily enough, for there is no use in bewailing such a hopeless mischance. We have not drawn the great prize in the lottery, dear Blanche: but I shall be contented enough without it, if you can be so; and I repeat, with all my heart, that I will do my best to make you happy.
"And how, what news shall I give you? My uncle is very unwell, and takes my refusal of the seat in Parliament in sad dudgeon: the scheme was his, poor old gentleman, and he naturally bemoans its failure. But Warrington, Laura, and I had a council of war: they know this awful secret, and back me in my decision. You must love George as you love what is generous and upright and noble; and as for Laurashe must be our Sister, Blanche, our
Saint, our good Angel. With two such friends at home, what need we care for the world without, or who is member for Clavering, or who is asked or not asked to the great balls of the season?"
To this frank communication came back the letter from Blanche to Laura, and one to Pen himself, which perhaps his own letter justified. "You are spoiled by the world," Blanche wrote; you do not love your poor Blanche as she would be loved, or you would not offer thus lightly to take her or to leave her. No, Arthur, you love me not-a man of the world, you have given me your plighted troth, and are ready to redeem it; but that entire affection, that love whole and abiding, where-where is that vision of my youth? I am but a pastime of your life, and I would be its all :-but a fleeting thought, and I would be your whole soul. I would have our two hearts one; but, ah, my Arthur, how lonely yours is how little you give me of it! You speak of our parting with a smile on your lip; of our meeting, and you care not to hasten it! Is life but a disillusion, then, and are the flowers of our garden faded away? I have wept-I have prayed-I have passed sleepless hours→ I have shed bitter, bitter tears over your letter! To you I bring the gushing poesy of my being-the yearnings of the soul that longs to be loved-that pines for love, love, love, beyond all !—that flings itself at your feet, and cries, Love me, Arthur! Your heart beats no quicker at the kneeling appeal of my love!your proud eye is dimmed by no tear of sympathy!-you accept my soul's treasure as though 'twere dross! not the pearls from the unfathomable deeps of affection! not the diamonds from the caverns of the heart. You treat me like a slave, and bid me bow to my master! Is this the guerdon of a free maiden-is this the price of a life's passion? Ah me! when was it otherwise? when did love meet with aught but disappointment? Could I hope (fond fool!) to be the exception to the lot of my race; and lay my fevered brow on a heart that comprehended my own? Foolish girl that I was! One by one, all the flowers of my young life have faded away; and this, the last, the sweetest, the dearest, the