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

By William Makepeace Thackeray | Go to book overview

drink, as we mechanically go on repeating it, is stale and bitter, how pure and brilliant was that first sparkling draught of pleasure! -- How the boy rushes at the cup, and with what a wild eagerness he drains it! But old epicures who are cut off from the delights of the table, and are restricted to a poached egg and a glass of water, like to see people with good appetites; and, as the next best thing to being amused at a pantomime one's self is to see one's children enjoy it, I hope there may be no degree of age or experience to which mortal may attain, when he shall become such a glum philosopher, as not to be pleased by the sight of happy youth. Coming back a few weeks since from a brief visit to the old University of Oxbridge, where my friend Mr. Arthur Pendennis passed some period of his life, I made the journey in the railroad by the side of a young fellow at present a student of Saint Boniface. He had got an exeat somehow, and was bent on a day's lark in London: he never stopped rattling and talking from the commencement of the journey until its close (which was a great deal too soon for me, for I never was tired of listening to the honest young fellow's jokes and cheery laughter); and when we arrived at the terminus nothing would satisfy him but a Hansom cab, so that he might get into town the quicker, and plunge into the pleasures awaiting him there. Away the young lad went whirling, with joy lighting up his honest face; and as for the reader's humble servant, having but a small carpet-bag, I got up on the outside of the omnibus, and sate there very contentedly between a Jew-pedlar smoking bad cigars, and a gentleman's servant taking care of a poodle-dog, until we got our fated complement of passengers and boxes, when the coachman drove leisurely away. We weren't in a hurry to get to town. Neither one of us was particularly eager about rushing into that near smoking Babylon, or thought of dining at the Club that night, or dancing at the Casino. Yet a few years more, and my young friend of the railroad will be not a whit more eager.

There were no railroads made when Arthur Pendennis went to the famous University of Oxbridge; but he drove thither in a well-appointed coach, filled inside and out with dons, gownsmen, young freshmen about to enter, and their guardians, who were conducting them to the University. A fat old gentleman, in grey stockings, from the City, who sate by Major Pendennis inside the coach, having his pale-faced son opposite, was frightened beyond measure when he heard that the coach had been driven for a couple of stages by young Mr. Foker, of Saint Boniface College, who was the friend of all men, including coachmen, and could drive as well as Tom Hicks himself. Pen sate on the roof, examining coach, passengers, and country, with great delight and curiosity. His heart jumped with pleasure as the famous University came in view, and the magnificent prospect of venerable towers and pinnacles, tall elms and shining river, spread before him.

Pen had passed a few days with his uncle at the Major's lodgings, in Bury Street, before they set out for Oxbridge. Major Pendennis thought that the lad's wardrobe wanted renewal; and Arthur was by no means averse to any plan which was to bring him new coats and waistcoats. There was no end to the sacrifices which the self-denying uncle made in the youth's behalf. London was awfully lonely. The Pall Mall pavement was deserted; the very red-jackets had gone out of town. There was scarce a face to be seen in the bow-windows of the clubs. The Major conducted his nephew into one or two of those desert mansions, and wrote down the lad's name on the candidate list of one of them; and Arthur's pleasure at this compliment on his guardian's part was excessive. He read in the parchment volume his name and titles, as "Arthur Pendennis, Esquire, of Fairoaks Lodge, _____shire, and Saint Boniface College, Oxbridge; proposed by Major Pendennis, and seconded by Viscount Colchicum," with a thrill of intense gratification. "You will come in for ballot in about three years, by which time you will have taken your degree," the guardian said. Pen longed for the three years to be over, and surveyed the stucco halls, and vast libraries, and drawingrooms, as already his own property. The Major laughed slyly to see the pompous

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