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

By William Makepeace Thackeray | Go to book overview

dared to interrupt the Major -- few of them could appreciate that melancholy grace and politeness with which Major Pendennis at once acceded to Mr. Bloundell's version of the story, and thanked him for correcting his own error. They stared on the next occasion of meeting, when Bloundell spoke in contemptuous tones of old Pen, said everybody knew old Pen, regular old trencher-man at Gaunt House, notorious old bore, regular old fogey.

Major Pendennis on his side liked Mr. Bloundell not a whit. These sympathies are pretty sure to be mutual among men and women, and if, for my part, some kind friend tells me that such-and-such a man has been abusing me, I am almost sure, on my own side, that I have a misliking to such-and-such a man. We like or dislike each other, as folks like or dislike the odour of certain flowers, or the taste of certain dishes or wines, or certain books. We can't tell why -- but as a general rule, all the reasons in the world will not make us love Dr. Fell, and as sure as we dislike him, we may be sure that he dislikes us.

So the Major said, " Pen, my boy, your dinner went off à merveille; you did the honours very nicely -- you carved well -- I am glad you learned to carve -- it is done on the sideboard now in most good houses, but it is still an important point, and may aid you in middle-life -- young Lord Plinlimmon is a very amiable young man, quite the image of his dear mother (whom I knew as Lady Aquila Brownbill); and Lord Magnus's republicanism will wear off -- it sits prettily enough on a young patrician in early life, though nothing is so loathsome among persons of our rank -- Mr. Broadbent seems to have much eloquence and considerable reading; your friend Foker is always delightful; but your acquaintance, Mr. Bloundell, struck me as in all respects a most ineligible young man."

"Bless my soul, sir, Bloundell-Bloundell!" cried Pen, laughing: "why, sir, he's the most popular man of the University. We elected him of the Barmecides the first week he came up -- had a special meeting on purpose -- he's of an excellent family -- Suffolk Bloundells, descended from Richard's Blondel, bear a harp in chief -- and motto O Mong Roy."

"A man may have a very good coat of arms, and be a tiger, my boy," the Major said, chipping his egg; "that man is a tiger, mark my word -- a low man. I will lay a wager that he left his regiment, which was a good one (for a more respectable man than my friend, Lord Martingale, never sat in a saddle), in bad odour. There is the unmistakable look of slang and bad habits about this Mr. Bloundell. He frequents low gambling-houses and billiard hells, sir, -- he haunts third-rate clubs -- I know he does. I know by his style. I never was mistaken in my man yet. Did you remark the quantity of rings and jewellery he wore? That person has Scamp written on his countenance if any man ever had. Mark my words and avoid him. Let us turn the conversation. The dinner was a leetle too fine, but I don't object to your making a few extra frais when you receive friends. Of course you don't do it often, and only those whom it is your interest to féter. The cutlets were excellent, and the soufflé uncommonly light and good. The third bottle of champagne was not necessary; but you have a good income, and as long as you keep within it, I shall not quarrel with you, my dear boy."

Poor Pen! the worthy uncle little knew how often those dinners took place, while the reckless young Amphitryon delighted to show his hospitality and skill in gourmandise. There is no art than that (so long to learn, so difficult to acquire, so impossible and beyond the means of many unhappy people!) about which boys are more anxious to have an air of knowingness. A taste and knowledge of wines and cookery appears to them to be the sign of an accomplished roué and manly gentleman. I like to see them wink at a glass of claret, as if they had an intimate acquaintance with it, and discuss a salmi -- poor boys -- it is only when they grow old that they know they know nothing of the science, when perhaps their conscience whispers them that the science is in itself little worth, and that a leg of mutton and content is as good as the dinners of pontiffs. But little Pen, in his

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