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

By William Makepeace Thackeray | Go to book overview

Mall pavement. The red jackets had disappeared from before the Palace gate: the tradesmen of St. James's were abroad taking their pleasure: the tailors had grown mustachios and were gone up the Rhine: the bootmakers were at Ems or Baden, blushing when they met their customers at those places of recreation, or punting beside their creditors at the gambling-tables: the clergymen of St. James's only preached to half a congregation, in which there was not a single sinner of distinction: the band in Kensington Gardens had shut up their instruments of brass and trumpets of silver: only two or three old flys and chaises crawled by the banks of the Serpentine, and Clarence Bulbul, who was retained in town by his arduous duties as a Treasury clerk, when he took his afternoon ride in Rotten Row, compared its loneliness to the vastness of the Arabian desert, and himself to a Bedouin wending his way through that dusty solitude. Warrington stowed away a quantity of cavendish tobacco in his carpet-bag, and betook himself, as his custom was in the vacation, to his brother's house in Norfolk. Pen was left alone in chambers for a while, for this man of fashion could not quit the metropolis when he chose always: and was at present detained by the affairs of his newspaper, the Pall Mall Gazette, of which he acted as the editor and chargé d'affaires during the temporary absence of the chief, Captain Shandon, who was with his family at the salutary watering-place of Boulogne-sur-Mer.

Although, as we have seen, Mr. Pen had pronounced himself for years past to be a man perfectly blasé and wearied of life, yet the truth is that he was an exceedingly healthy young fellow still; with a fine appetite, which he satisfied with the greatest relish and satisfaction at least once a day; and a constant desire for society, which showed him to be anything but misanthropical. If he could not get a good dinner he sate down to a bad one with perfect contentment; if he could not procure the company of witty or great or beautiful persons, he put up with any society that came to hand; and was perfectly satisfied in a tavern parlour or on board a Greenwich steamboat, or in a jaunt to Hampstead with Mr. Finucane, his colleague at the Pall Mall Gazette; or in a visit to the summer theatres across the river: or to the Royal Gardens of Vauxhall, where he was on terms of friendship with the great Simpson, and where he shook the principal comic singer or the lovely equestrian of the arena by the hand. And while he could watch the grimaces or graces of these with a satiric humour that was not deprived of sympathy, he could look on with an eye of kindness at the lookers-on too; at the roystering youth bent upon enjoyment, and here taking it: at the honest parents, with their delighted children laughing and clapping their hands at the show: at the poor outcasts, whose laughter was less innocent though perhaps louder, who brought their shame and their youth here, to dance and be merry till the dawn at least; and to get bread and drown care. Of this sympathy with all conditions of men Arthur often boasted: he was pleased to possess it: and said that he hoped thus to the last he should retain it. As another man has an ardour for art or music, or natural science, Mr. Pen said that anthropology was his favourite pursuit; and had his eyes always eagerly open to its infinite varieties and beauties: contemplating with an unfailing delight all specimens of it in all places to which he resorted, whether it was the coquetting of a wrinkled dowager in a ball-room, or a high-bred young beauty blushing in her prime there; whether it was a hulking guardsman coaxing a servant-girl in the Park -- or innocent little Tommy that was feeding the ducks while the nurse listened. And indeed a man, whose heart is pretty clean, can indulge in this pursuit with an enjoyment that never ceases, and is only perhaps the more keen because it is secret and has a touch of sadness in it; because he is of his mood and humour lonely, and apart although not alone.

Yes, Pen used to brag and talk in his impetuous way to Warrington. "I was in love so fiercely in my youth, that I have burned out that flame for ever, I think; and if ever I marry, it will be a marriage of reason that I will make, with a wellbred, good-tempered, good-looking person who has a little money, and so forth,

-309-

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