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

By William Makepeace Thackeray | Go to book overview

frequent gambling-tables, and lose his money to blacklegs, what matters to me? Don't look too curiously into any man's affairs, Pen, my boy; every fellow has some cupboard in his house; begad, which he would not like you and me to peep into. Why should we try, when the rest of the house is open to us? And a devilish good house, too, as you and I know. And if the man of the family is not all one could wish, the women are excellent. The Begum is not over-refined, but as kind a woman as ever lived, and devilish clever too; and as for the little Blanche, you know my opinion about her, you rogue; you know my belief is that she is sweet on you, and would have you for the asking. But you are growing such a great man, that I suppose you won't be content under a Duke's daughter -- hey, sir? I recommend you to ask one of them, and try."

Perhaps Pen was somewhat intoxicated by his success in the world; and it may also have entered into the young man's mind (his uncle's perpetual hints serving not a little to encourage the notion) that Miss Amory was tolerably well disposed to renew the little flirtation which had been carried on in the early days of both of them, by the banks of the rural Brawl. But he was little disposed to marriage, he said, at that moment, and, adopting some of his uncle's worldly tone, spoke rather contemptuously of the institution, and in favour of a bachelor life.

"You are very happy, sir," said he, "and you get on very well alone, and so do I. With a wife at my side, I should lose my place in society; and I don't, for my part, much fancy retiring into the country with a Mrs. Pendennis; or taking my wife into lodgings to be waited upon by the servant-of-all-work. The period of my little illusions is over. You cured me of my first love, who certainly was a fool, and would have had a fool for her husband, and a very sulky discontented husband too if she had taken me. We young fellows live fast, sir; and I feel as old at five-and-twenty as many of the old fo ---- the old bachelors -- whom I see in the bow-window at Bays's. Don't look offended, I only mean that I am blasé about love matters, and that I could no more fan myself into a flame for Miss Amory now, than I could adore Lady Mirabel over again. I wish I could; I rather like Sir Mirabel for his infatuation about her, and think his passion is the most respectable part of his life."

" Sir Charles Mirabel was always a theatrical man, sir," the Major said, annoyed that his nephew should speak flippantly of any person of Sir Charles's rank and station. "He has been occupied with theatricals since his early days. He acted at Carlton House when he was Page to the Prince; -- he has been mixed up with that sort of thing: he could afford to marry whom he chooses: and Lady Mirabel is a most respectable woman, received everywhere -- everywhere, mind. The Duchess of Connaught receives her, Lady Rockminster receives her -- it doesn't become young fellows to speak lightly of people in that station. There's not a more respectable woman in England than Lady Mirabel: -- and the old fogies, as you call them, at Bays's, are some of the first gentlemen in England, of whom you youngsters had best learn a little manners, and a little breeding, and a little modesty." And the Major began to think that Pen was growing exceedingly pert and conceited, and that the world made a great deal too much of him.

The Major's anger amused Pen. He studied his uncle's peculiarities with a constant relish, and was always in a good humour with his worldly old Mentor. "I am a youngster of fifteen years' standing, sir," he said adroitly, "and if you think that we are disrespectful, you should see those of the present generation. A protégé of yours came to breakfast with me the other day. You told me to ask him, and I did it to please you. We had a day's sights together, and dined at the club, and went to the play. He said the wine at the Polyanthus was not so good as Ellis's wine at Richmond, smoked Warrington's cavendish after breakfast, and when I gave him a sovereign as a farewell token, said he had plenty of them, but would take it to show he wasn't proud."

"Did he? -- did you ask young Clavering?" cried the Major, appeased at once

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