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

By William Makepeace Thackeray | Go to book overview

the world in London was talking about her husband's disaster, and that the King and Queen and Court of Directors were aware of her unlucky history. She had a good allowance from her father; she had no call to live in England; and she determined to go abroad. Away she went, then, glad to escape the gloomy surveillance of the odious bully, Captain Bragg. People had no objection to receive her at the continental towns where she stopped, and at the various boardinghouses, where she royally paid her way. She called Hackney, Ackney, to be sure (though otherwise she spoke English with a little foreign twang, very curious and not unpleasant); she dressed amazingly; she was conspicuous for her love of eat ing and drinking, and prepared curries and pilaus at every boarding-house which she frequented; but her singularities of language and behaviour only gave a zest to her society, and Mrs. Amory was deservedly popular. She was the most goodnatured, jovial, and generous of women. She was up to any party of pleasure by whomsoever proposed. She brought three times more champagne and fowls and ham to the picnics than any one else. She took endless boxes for the play, and tickets for the masked balls, and gave them away to everybody. She paid the boarding-house people months beforehand; she helped poor shabby mustachioed bucks and dowagers, whose remittances had not arrived, with constant supplies from her purse; and in this way she tramped through Europe, and appeared at Brussels, at Paris, at Milan, at Naples, at Rome, as her fancy led her. News of Amory's death reached her at the latter place, where Captain Clavering was then staying, unable to pay his hotel-bill, as, indeed, was his friend, the Chevalier Strong, and the good-natured widow married the descendant of the ancient house of Clavering -- professing, indeed, no particular grief for the scapegrace of a husband whom she had lost. We have brought her thus up to the present time when she was mistress of Clavering Park, in the midst of which Mr. Pinckney, the celebrated painter, portrayed her with her little boy by her side.

Missy followed her mamma in most of her peregrinations, and so learned a deal of life. She had a governess for some time; and after her mother's second marriage, the benefit of Madame de Caramel's select pension in the Champs Elysées. When the Claverings came to England, she of course came with them. It was only within a few years, after the death of her grandfather, and the birth of her little brother, that she began to understand that her position in life was altered, and that Miss Amory, nobody's daughter, was a very small personage in a house compared with Master Francis Clavering, heir to an ancient baronetcy, and a noble estate. But for little Frank, she would have been an heiress, in spite of her father: and though she knew and cared not much about money, of which she never had any stint, and though she was a romantic little Muse, as we have seen, yet she could not reasonably be grateful to the persons who had so contributed to change her condition: nor, indeed, did she understand what the matter really was, until she had made some further progress, and acquired more accurate knowledge in the world.

But this was clear, that her stepfather was dull and weak: that mamma dropped her H's, and was not refined in manners or appearance; and that little Frank was a spoiled quarrelsome urchin, always having his way, always treading upon her feet, always upsetting his dinner on her dresses, and keeping her out of her inheritance. None of these, as she felt, could comprehend her: and her solitary heart naturally pined for other attachments, and she sought around her where to bestow the precious boon of her unoccupied attention.

This dear girl, then, from want of sympathy, or other cause, made herself so disagreeable at home, and frightened her mother, and bored her stepfather so much, that they were quite as anxious as she could be that she should settle for herself in life; and hence Sir Francis Clavering's desire expressed to his friend, in the last chapter, that Mrs. Strong should die, and that he would take Blanche to himself as a second Mrs. Strong.

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