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

By William Makepeace Thackeray | Go to book overview

"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 those 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 which 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 drawing-room 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 now, 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 Laura, she 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

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