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

By William Makepeace Thackeray | Go to book overview

Sir Francis Clavering, Bart. He has pluck and honesty in his way. He will stick to a friend and face an enemy. The other never had courage to do either. And what is it that has put the poor devil under a cloud? He was only a little wild, and signed his father-in-law's name. Many a man has done worse, and come to no wrong, and holds his head up. Clavering does. No, he don't hold his head up: he never did in his best days." And Strong, perhaps, repented him of the falsehood which he had told to the free-handed Colonel, that he was not in want of money: but it was a falsehood on the side of honesty, and the Chevalier could not bring down his stomach to borrow a second time from his outlawed friend. Besides, he could get on. Clavering had promised him some; not that Clavering's promises were much to be believed, but the Chevalier was of a hopeful turn, and trusted in many chances of catching his patron, and waylaying some of those stray remittances and supplies, in the procuring of which for his principal lay Mr. Strong's chief business.

He had grumbled about Altamont's companionship in the Shepherd's Inn chambers; but he found those lodgings more glum now without his partner than with him. The solitary life was not agreeable to his social soul: and he had got into extravagant and luxurious habits too, having a servant at his command to run his errands, to arrange his toilettes, and to cook his meal. It was rather a grand and touching sight now to see the portly and handsome gentleman painting his own boots, and broiling his own mutton-chop. It has been before stated that the Chevalier had a wife, a Spanish lady of Vittoria, who had gone back to her friends, after a few months' union with the Captain, whose head she broke with a dish. Ile began to think whether he should not go back and see his Juanita. The Chevalier was growing melancholy after the departure of his friend the Colonel: or, to use his own picturesque expression, was "down on his luck." These moments of depression and intervals of ill-fortune occur constantly in the lives of heroes. Marius at Minturnae, Charles Edward in the Highlands, Napoleon before Elba: -- what great man has not been called upon to face evil fortune?

From Clavering no supplies were to be had for some time. The five-and-twenty pounds, or "pony," which the exemplary Baronet had received from Mr. Altamont, had fled out of Clavering's keeping as swiftly as many previous ponies. He bad been down the river with a choice party of sporting gents, who dodged the police and landed in Essex, where they put up Billy Bluck to fight Dick the Cabman, whom the Baronet backed, and who had it all his own way for thirteen rounds, when, by an unlucky blow in the windpipe, Billy killed him. "It's always my luck, Strong." Sir Francis said; "the betting was three to one on the Cabman, and I thought myself as sure of thirty pounds as if I had it in my pocket. And dammy, I owe my man Lightfoot fourteen pound now which he's lent and paid for me: and he duns me-the confounded impudent blackguard: and I wish to Heaven I knew any way of getting a bill done, or of screwing a little out of my Lady! I'll give you half, Ned, upon my soul and honour, I'll give you half if you can get anybody to do us a little fifty."

But Ned said sternly that he had given his word of honour, as a gentleman, that be would be no party to any future bill-transactions in which her husband might engage (who had given his word of honour too), and the Chevalier said that he, at least, would keep his word, and would black his own boots all his life rather than break his promise. And what is more, he vowed be would advise Lady Clavering that Sir Francis was about to break his faith towards her, upon the very first hint which he could get that such was Clavering's intention.

Upon this information Sir Francis Clavering, according to his custom, cried and cursed very volubly. He spoke of death as his only resource. He besought and implored his dear Strong, his best friend, his dear old Ned, not to throw him over; and when he quitted his dearest Ned, as he went down the steps of Shep

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