The History of Pendennis: His Fortunes and Misfortunes, His Friends and His Greatest Enemy

By William Makepeace Thackeray | Go to book overview

sex, who prefer littler women. But if she was a Maypole, she had beautiful roses about her head, and it is a fact that many swains were disposed to dance round her. She was ordinarily pale, with a faint rose tinge in her cheeks; but they flushed up in a minute when occasion called, and continued so blushing ever so long, the roses remaining after the emotion had passed away which had summoned those pretty flowers into existence. Her eyes have been described as very large from her earliest childhood, and retained that characteristic in later life. Goodnatured critics (always females) said that she was in the habit of making play with those eyes, and ogling the gentlemen and ladies in her company; but the fact is, that Nature had made them so to shine and to look, and they could no more help so looking and shining than one star can help being brighter than another. It was doubtless to mitigate their brightness that Miss Laura's eyes were provided with two pairs of veils in the shape of the longest and finest black eyelashes, so that, when she closed her eyes, the same people who found fault with those orbs said that she wanted to show her eyelashes off; and, indeed, I dare say that to see her asleep would have been a pretty sight.

As for her complexion, that was nearly as brilliant as Lady Mantrap's, and without the powder which her ladyship uses. Her nose must be left to the reader's imagination: if her mouth was rather large (as Miss Piminy avers, who, but for her known appetite, one would think could not swallow anything larger than a button) everybody allowed that her smile was charming, and showed off a set of pearly teeth, whilst her voice was so low and sweet, that to hear it was like listening to sweet music. Because she is in the habit of wearing very long dresses, people of course say that her feet are not small: but it may be, that they are of the size becoming her figure, and it does not follow, because Mrs. Pincher is always putting her foot out, that all other ladies should be perpetually bringing theirs on the tapis. In fine, Miss Laura Bell, at the age of sixteen, was a sweet young lady. Many thousands of such are to be found, let us hope, in this country, where there is no lack of goodness, and modesty, and purity, and beauty.

Now, Miss Laura, since she had learned to think for herself (and in the past two years her mind and her person had both developed themselves considerably), had only been half pleased with Pen's general conduct and bearing. His letters to his mother at home had become of late very rare and short. It was in vain that the fond widow urged how constant Arthur's occupations and studies were, and how many his engagements. "It is better that he should lose a prize," Laura said, "than forget his mother: and indeed, mamma, I don't see that he gets many prizes. Why doesn't he come home and stay with you, instead of passing his vacations at his great friends' fine houses? There is nobody there will love him half as much as -- as you do." -- "As I do only, Laura," sighed out Mrs. Pendennis. Laura declared stoutly that she did not love Pen a bit when he did not do his duty to his mother: nor would she be convinced by any of Helen's fond arguments, that the boy must make his way in the world; that his uncle was most desirous that Pen should cultivate the acquaintance of persons who were likely to befriend him in life; that men had a thousand ties and calls which women could not understand, and so forth. Perhaps Helen no more believed in these excuses than her adopted daughter did; but she tried to believe that she believed them, and comforted herself with the maternal infatuation. And that is a point whereon, I suppose, many a gentleman has reflected, that, do what we will, we are pretty sure of the woman's love that once has been ours; and that that untiring tenderness and forgiveness never fail us.

Also, there had been that freedom, not to say audacity, in Arthur's latter talk and ways which had shocked and displeased Laura. Not that he ever offended her by rudeness, or addressed to her a word which she ought not to hear, for Mr. Pen was a gentleman, and by nature and education polite to every woman, high and low; but he spoke lightly and laxly of women in general; was less courteous

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