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

By William Makepeace Thackeray | Go to book overview

Mrs. Pendennis said, with perfect sincerity, that she was exceedingly glad to hear the news: and hoped Mr. Smirke, who was a very kind and amiable man, would have a deserving wife: and when her visitor went away, Helen and her brother talked of the matter with great satisfaction, the kind lady rebuking herself for her haughty behaviour to Mr. Smirke, whom she had avoided of late, instead of being grateful to him for his constant attention to Arthur.

"Gratitude to this kind of people," the Major said, "is very well; but familiarity is out of the question. This gentleman gives his lessons and receives his money like any other master. You are too humble, my good soul. There must be distinctions in ranks, and that sort of thing. I told you before, you were too kind to Mr. Smirke."

But Helen did not think so: and now that Arthur was going away, and she bethought her how very polite Mr. Smirke had been; how he had gone on messages for her; how he had brought books and copied music; how he had taught Laura so many things, and given her so many kind presents, her heart smote her on account of her ingratitude towards the Curate: -- so much so, that when he came down from the study with Pen, and was hankering about the hall previous to his departure, she went out and shook hands with him with rather a blushing face, and begged him to come into her drawing-room, where she said they now never saw him. And as there was to be rather a good dinner that day, she invited Mr. Smirke to partake of it; and we may be sure that he was too happy to accept such a delightful summons.

Eased, by the above report, of all her former doubts and misgivings regarding the Curate, Helen was exceedingly kind and gracious to Mr. Smirke during dinner, redoubling her attentions, perhaps because Major Pendennis was very high and reserved with his nephew's tutor. When Pendennis asked Smirke to drink wine, he addressed him as if he was a sovereign speaking to a petty retainer, in a manner so condescending, that even Pen laughed at it, although quite ready, for his part, to be as conceited as most young men are.

But Smirke did not care for the impertinences of the Major so long as he had his hostess's kind behaviour; and he passed a delightful time by her side at table, exerting all his powers of conversation to please her, talking in a manner both clerical and worldly, about the Fancy Bazaar, and the Great Missionary Meeting, about the last new novel, and the Bishop's excellent sermon -- about the fashionable parties in London, an account of which he read in the newspapers -- in fine, he neglected no art, by which a College divine who has both sprightly and serious talents, a taste for the genteel, an irreproachable conduct, and a susceptible heart, will try and make himself agreeable to the person on whom he has fixed his affections.

Major Pendennis came yawning out of the dining-room very soon after his sister and little Laura had left the apartment. -- "What an insufferable bore that man is, and how he did talk!" the Major said.

"He has been very good to Arthur, who is very fond of him," Mrs. Pendennis said. "I wonder who the Miss Thompson is whom he is going to marry?"

"I always thought the fellow was looking in another direction," said the Major.

"And in what?" asked Mrs. Pendennis quite innocently, -- "towards Myra Portman?"

"Towards Helen Pendennis, if you must know," answered her brotherin-law.

"Towards me! impossible!" Helen said, who knew perfectly well that such had been the case. "His marriage will be a very happy thing. I hope Arthur will not take too much wine."

Now Arthur, flushed with a good deal of pride at the privilege of having the keys of the cellar, and remembering that a very few more dinners would

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