The History of Pendennis, by William Makepeace Thackeray

CHAPTER XIX

Pendennis of Boniface

Our friend Pen was not sorry when his Mentor took leave of the young gentleman on the second day after the arrival of the pair in Oxbridge, and we may be sure that the Major on his part was very glad to have discharged his duty, and to have the duty over. More than three months of precious time had that martyr of a Major given up to his nephew — Was ever selfish man called upon to make a greater sacrifice? Do you know many men or Majors who would do as much? A man will lay down his head, or peril his life for his honour, but let us be shy how we ask him to give up his ease or his heart’s desire. Very few of us can bear that trial. Say, worthy reader, if thou hast peradventure a beard, wouldst thou do as much? I will not say that a woman will not. They are used to it: we take care to accustom them to sacrifices but, my good sir, the amount of self-denial which you have probably exerted through life, when put down to your account elsewhere, will not probably swell the balance on the credit side much. Well, well, there is no use in speaking of such ugly matters, and you are too polite to use a vulgar to quoque. But I wish to state once for all that I greatly admire the Major for his conduct during the past quarter, and think that he has quite a right to be pleased at getting a holiday. Foker and Pen saw him off in the coach, and the former young gentleman gave particular orders to the coachman to take care of that gentleman inside. It pleased the elder Pendennis to have his nephew in the company of a young fellow who would introduce him to the best set of the university. The Major rushed off to London and thence to Cheltenham, from which Watering-place he descended upon some neighbouring great houses, whereof the families were not gone abroad, and where good shooting and company was to be had.

A quarter of the space which custom has awarded to works styled the Serial Nature, has been assigned to the account of one passage in Pen’s career, and it is manifest that the whole of his adventures cannot be treated at a similar length, unless some descendant of the chronicler of Pen’s history should take up the pen at his decease, and continue the narrative for the successors of the present generation of readers. We are not about to go through the young fellow’s academical career with, by any means, a similar minuteness. Alas, the life of such boys does not bear telling altogether. I wish it did. I ask you, does yours? As long as what we call our honour is clear, I suppose your mind is pretty easy. Women are pure, but not men. Women are unselfish, but not men. And I would not wish to say of poor Arthur Pendennis that he was worse than his neighbours, only that his neighbours are bad for the most part. Let us have the candour to own as much at least. Can you point out ten spotless men of your acquaintance? Mine is pretty large, but I can’t find ten saints in the list.

During the first term of Mr. Pen’s academical life, he attended classical and mathematical lectures with tolerable assiduity; but discovering before very long time that he had little taste or genius for the pursuing of the exact sciences, and being perhaps rather annoyed that one or two very vulgar young men, who did not even use straps to their trousers so as to cover the abominably thick and coarse shoes and stockings which they wore, beat him completely in the lecture-room, he gave up his attendance at that course, and announced to his fond parent that he proposed to devote himself exclusively to the cultivation of Greek and Roman Literature.

Mrs. Pendennis was, for her part, quite satisfied that her darling boy should pursue that branch of learning for which he had the greatest inclination; and only besought him not to ruin his health by too much study, for she had heard the most melancholy stories of young students who, by over-fatigue, had brought on brain-fevers and perished untimely in the midst of their university career. And Pen’s health, which was always delicate, was to be regarded, as she justly said, beyond all considerations or vain honours. Pen, although not aware of any lurking disease which was likely to end his life, yet kindly promised his mamma not to sit up reading too late of nights, and stuck to his word in this respect with a great deal more tenacity of resolution than he exhibited upon some other occasions, when perhaps he was a little remiss.

Presently he began too to find that he learned little good in the classical lecture. His fellow-students there were too dull, as in mathematics they were too learned for him. Mr. Buck, the tutor, was no better a scholar than many a fifth-form boy at Grey Friars; might have some stupid humdrum notions about the metre and grammatical construction of a passage of Aeschylus or Aristophanes, but had no more notion of the poetry than Mrs. Binge, his bed-maker; and Pen grew weary of hearing the dull students and tutor blunder through a few lines of a play, which he could read in a tenth part of the time which they gave to it. After all, private reading, as he began to perceive, was the only study which was really profitable to a man; and he announced to his mamma that he should read by himself a great deal more, and in public a great deal less. That excellent woman knew no more about Homer than she did about Algebra, but she was quite contented with Pen’s arrangements regarding his course of studies, and felt perfectly confident that her dear boy would get the place which he merited.

Pen did not come home until after Christmas, a little to the fond mother’s disappointment, and Laura’s, who was longing for him to make a fine snow fortification, such as he had made three winters before. But he was invited to Logwood, Lady Agnes Foker’s, where there were private theatricals, and a gay Christmas party of very fine folks, some of them whom Major Pendennis would on no account have his nephew neglect. However, he stayed at home for the last three weeks of the vacation, and Laura had the opportunity of remarking what a quantity of fine new clothes he brought with him, and his mother admired his improved appearance and manly and decided tone.

He did not come home at Easter; but when he arrived for the long vacation, he brought more smart clothes; appearing in the morning in wonderful shooting jackets, with remarkable buttons; and in the evening in gorgeous velvet waistcoats, with richly-embroidered cravats, and curious linen. And as she pried about his room, she saw, oh, such a beautiful dressing-case, with silver mountings, and a quantity of lovely rings and jewellery. And he had a new French watch and gold chain, in place of the big old chronometer, with its bunch of jingling seals, which had hung from the fob of John Pendennis, and by the second-hand of which the defunct doctor had felt many a patient’s pulse in his time. It was but a few months back Pen had longed for this watch, which he thought the most splendid and august timepiece in the world; and just before he went to college, Helen had taken it out of her trinket-box (where it had remained unwound since the death of her husband) and given it to Pen with a solemn and appropriate little speech respecting his father’s virtues and the proper use of time. This portly and valuable chronometer Pen now pronounced to be out of date, and, indeed, made some comparisons between it and a warming-pan, which Laura thought disrespectful, and he left the watch in a drawer, in the company of soiled primrose gloves, cravats which had gone out of favour, and of that other school watch which has once before been mentioned in this history. Our old friend, Rebecca, Pen pronounced to be no long up to his weight, and swapped her away for another and more powerful horse, for which he had to pay rather a heavy figure. Mr. Pendennis gave the boy the money for the new horse; and Laura cried when Rebecca was fetched away.

Also Pen brought a large box of cigars branded Colorados, Afrancesados, Telescopios, Fudson Oxford Street, or by some such strange titles, and began to consume these not only about the stables and green-houses, where they were very good for Helen’s plants, but in his own study, of which practice his mother did not at first approve. But he was at work upon a prize-poem, he said, and could not compose without his cigar, and quoted the late lamented it Lord Byron’s lines in favour of the custom of smoking. As he was smoking to such good purpose, his mother could not of course refuse permission: in fact, the good soul coming into the room one day in the midst of Pen’s labours (he was consulting a novel which had recently appeared, for the cultivation of the light literature of his own country as well as of foreign nations became every student)— Helen, we say, coming into the room and finding Pen on the sofa at this work, rather than disturb him went for a light-box and his cigar-case to his bedroom which was adjacent, and actually put the cigar into his mouth and lighted the match at which he kindled it. Pen laughed, and kissed his mother’s hand as it hung fondly over the back of the sofa. “Dear old mother,” he said, “if I were to tell you to burn the house down, I think you would do it.” And it is very likely that Mr. Pen was right, and that the foolish woman would have done almost as much for him as he said.

Besides the works of English “light literature” which this diligent student devoured, he brought down boxes of the light literature of the neighbouring country of France: into the leaves of which when Helen dipped, she read such things as caused her to open her eyes with wonder. But Pen showed her that it was not he who made the books, though it was absolutely necessary that he should keep up his French by an acquaintance with the most celebrated writers of the day, and that it was as clearly his duty to read the eminent Paul de Kock, as to study Swift or Moliere. And Mrs. Pendennis yielded with a sigh of perplexity. But Miss Laura was warned off the books, both by his anxious mother, and that rigid moralist Mr. Arthur Pendennis himself, who, however he might be called upon to study every branch of literature in order to form his mind and to perfect his style, would by no means prescribe such a course of reading to a young lady whose business in life was very different.

In the course of this long vacation Mr. Pen drank up the bin of claret which his father had laid in, and of which we have heard the son remark that there was not a headache in a hogshead; and this wine being exhausted, he wrote for a further supply to “his wine merchants,” Messrs. Binney and Latham of Mark Lane, London: from whom, indeed, old Doctor Portman had recommended Pen to get a supply of port and sherry on going to college. “You will have, no doubt, to entertain your young friends at Boniface with wine-parties,” the honest rector had remarked to the lad. “They used to be customary at college in my time, and I would advise you to employ an honest and respectable house in London for your small stock of wine, rather than to have recourse to the Oxbridge tradesmen, whose liquor, if I remember rightly, was both deleterious in quality and exorbitant in price.” And the obedient young gentleman took the Doctor’s advice, and patronised Messrs. Binney and Latham at the rector’s suggestion.

So when he wrote orders for a stock of wine to be sent down to the cellars at Fairoaks, he hinted that Messrs. B. and L. might send in his university account for wine at the same time with the Fairoaks bill. The poor widow was frightened at the amount. But Pen laughed at her old-fashioned views, said that the bill was moderate, that everybody drank claret and champagne now, and, finally, the widow paid, feeling dimly that the expenses of her household were increasing considerably, and that her narrow income would scarce suffice to meet them. But they were only occasional. Pen merely came home for a few weeks at the vacation. Laura and she might pinch when he was gone. In the brief time he was with them, ought they not to make him happy?

Arthur’s own allowances were liberal all this time; indeed, much more so than those of the sons of far more wealthy men. Years before, the thrifty and affectionate John Pendennis, whose darling project it had ever been to give his son a university education, and those advantages of which his own father’s extravagance had deprived him, had begun laying by a store of money which he called Arthur’s Education Fund. Year after year in his book his executors found entries of sums vested as A. E. F., and during the period subsequent to her husband’s decease, and before Pen’s entry at college, the widow had added sundry sums to this fund, so that when Arthur went up to Oxbridge it reached no inconsiderable amount. Let him be liberally allowanced, was Major Pendennis’s maxim. Let him make his first entree into the world as a gentleman, and take his place with men of good rank and station: after giving it to him, it will be his own duty to hold it. There is no such bad policy as stinting a boy — or putting him on a lower allowance than his fellows. Arthur will have to face the world and fight for himself presently. Meanwhile we shall have procured for him good friends, gentlemanly habits, and have him well backed and well trained against the time when the real struggle comes. And these liberal opinions the Major probably advanced both because they were just, and because he was not dealing with his own money.

Thus young Pen, the only son of an estated country gentleman, with a good allowance, and a gentlemanlike bearing and person, looked to be a lad of much more consequence than he was really; and was held by the Oxbridge authorities, tradesmen, and undergraduates, as quite a young buck and member of the aristocracy. His manner was frank, brave, and perhaps a little impertinent, as becomes a high-spirited youth. He was perfectly generous and free-handed with his money, which seemed pretty plentiful. He loved joviality, and had a good voice for a song. Boat-racing had not risen in Pen’s time to the fureur which, as we are given to understand, it has since attained in the university; and riding and tandem-driving were the fashions of the ingenuous youth. Pen rode well to hounds, appeared in pink, as became a young buck, and, not particularly extravagant in equestrian or any other amusement, yet managed to run up a fine bill at Nile’s, the livery-stable keeper, and in a number of other quarters. In fact, this lucky young gentleman had almost every taste to a considerable degree. He was very fond of books of all sorts: Doctor Portman had taught him to like rare editions, and his own taste led him to like beautiful bindings. It was marvellous what tall copies, and gilding, and marbling, and blind-tooling, the booksellers and binders put upon Pen’s bookshelves. He had a very fair taste in matters of art, and a keen relish for prints of a high school — none of your French Opera Dancers, or tawdry Racing Prints, such as had delighted the simple eyes of Mr. Spicer, his predecessor — but your Stranges, and Rembrandt etchings, and Wilkies before the letter, with which his apartments were furnished presently in the most perfect good taste, as was allowed in the university, where this young fellow got no small reputation. We have mentioned that he exhibited a certain partiality for rings, jewellery, and fine raiment of all sorts; and it must be owned that Mr. Pen, during his time at the university, was rather a dressy man, and loved to array himself in splendour. He and his polite friends would dress themselves out with as much care in order to go and dine at each other’s rooms, as other folks would who were going to enslave a mistress. They said he used to wear rings over his kid gloves, which he always denies; but what follies will not youth perpetrate with its own admirable gravity and simplicity? That he took perfumed baths is a truth; and he used to say that he took them after meeting certain men of a very low set in hall.

In Pen’s second year, when Miss Fotheringay made her chief hit in London, and scores of prints were published of her, Pen had one of these hung in his bedroom, and confided to the men of his set how awfully, how wildly, how madly, how passionately, he had loved that woman. He showed them in confidence the verses that he had written to her, and his brow would darken, his eyes roll, his chest heave with emotion as he recalled that fatal period of his life, and described the woes and agonies which he had suffered. The verses were copied out, handed about, sneered at, admired, passed from coterie to coterie. There are few things which elevate a lad in the estimation of his brother boys, more than to have a character for a great and romantic passion. Perhaps there is something noble in it at all times — among very young men it is considered heroic — Pen was pronounced a tremendous fellow. They said he had almost committed suicide: that he had fought a duel with a baronet about her. Freshmen pointed him out to each other. As at the promenade time at two o’clock he swaggered out of college, surrounded by his cronies, he was famous to behold. He was elaborately attired. He would ogle the ladies who came to lionise the university, and passed before him on the arms of happy gownsmen, and give his opinion upon their personal charms, or their toilettes, with the gravity of a critic whose experience entitled him to speak with authority. Men used to say that they had been walking with Pendennis, and were as pleased to be seen in his company as some of us would be if we walked with a duke down Pall Mall. He and the Proctor capped each other as they met, as if they were rival powers, and the men hardly knew which was the greater.

In fact, in the course of his second year, Arthur Pendennis had become one of the men of fashion in the university. It is curious to watch that facile admiration, and simple fidelity of youth. They hang round a leader; and wonder at him, and love him, and imitate him. No generous boy ever lived, I suppose, that has not had some wonderment of admiration for another boy; and Monsieur Pen at Oxbridge had his school, his faithful band of friends and his rivals. When the young men heard at the haberdashers’ shops that Mr. Pendennis, of Boniface, had just ordered a crimson satin-cravat, you would see a couple of dozen crimson satin cravats in Main Street in the course of the week — and Simon, the Jeweller, was known to sell no less than two gross of Pendennis pins, from a pattern which the young gentleman had selected in his shop.

Now if any person with an arithmetical turn of mind will take the trouble to calculate what a sum of money it would cost a young man to indulge freely in all the above propensities which we have said Mr. Pen possessed, it will be seen that a young fellow, with such liberal tastes and amusements, must needs in the course of two or three years spend or owe a very handsome sum of money. We have said our friend Pen had not a calculating turn. No one propensity of his was outrageously extravagant; and it is certain that Paddington’s tailor’s account; Guttlebury’s cook’s bill for dinners; Dillon Tandy’s bill with Finn, the print seller, for Raphael-Morgheus and Landseer proofs, and Wormall’s dealings with Parkton, the great bookseller, for Aldine editions, black-letter folios, and richly illuminated Missals of the XVI. Century; and Snaffle’s or Foker’s score with Nile the horsedealer, were, each and all of them, incomparably greater than any little bills which Mr. Pen might run up with the above-mentioned tradesmen. But Pendennis of Boniface had the advantage over all these young gentlemen, his friends and associates, of a universality of taste: and whereas young Lord Paddington did not care twopence for the most beautiful print, or to look into any gilt frame that had not a mirror within it; and Guttlebury did not mind in the least how he was dressed, and had an aversion for horse exercise, nay a terror of it; and Snaffle never read any printed works but the ‘Racing Calendar’ or ‘Bell’s Life,’ or cared for any manuscript except his greasy little scrawl of a betting-book:— our Catholic-minded young friend occupied himself in every one of the branches of science or pleasure above-mentioned, and distinguished himself tolerably in each.

Hence young Pen got a prodigious reputation in the university, and was hailed as a sort of Crichton; and as for the English verse prize, in competition for which we have seen him busily engaged at Fairoaks, Jones of Jesus carried it that year certainly, but the undergraduates thought Pen’s a much finer poem, and he had his verses printed at his own expense, and distributed in gilt morocco covers amongst his acquaintance. I found a copy of it lately in a dusty corner of Mr. Pen’s bookcases, and have it before me this minute, bound up in a collection of old Oxbridge tracts, university statutes, prize-poems by successful and unsuccessful candidates, declamations recited in the college chapel, speeches delivered at the Union Debating Society, and inscribed by Arthur with his name and college, Pendennis — Boniface; or presented to him by his affectionate friend Thompson or Jackson, the author. How strange the epigraphs look in those half-boyish hands, and what a thrill the sight of the documents gives one after the lapse of a few lustres! How fate, since that time, has removed some, estranged others, dealt awfully with all! Many a hand is cold that wrote those kindly memorials, and that we pressed in the confident and generous grasp of youthful friendship. What passions our friendships were in those old days, how artless and void of doubt! How the arm you were never tired of having linked in yours under the fair college avenues or by the river side, where it washes Magdalen Gardens, or Christ Church Meadows, or winds by Trinity and King’s, was withdrawn of necessity, when you entered presently the world, and each parted to push and struggle for himself through the great mob on the way through life! Are we the same men now that wrote those inscriptions — that read those poems? that delivered or heard those essays and speeches so simple, so pompous, so ludicrously solemn; parodied so artlessly from books, and spoken with smug chubby faces, and such an admirable aping of wisdom and gravity? Here is the book before me: it is scarcely fifteen years old. Here is Jack moaning with despair and Byronic misanthropy, whose career at the university was one of unmixed milk-punch. Here is Tom’s daring Essay in defence of suicide and of republicanism in general, apropos of the death of Roland and the Girondins — Tom’s, who wears the starchest tie in all the diocese, and would go to Smithfield rather than eat a beefsteak on a Friday in Lent. Here is Bob of the —— Circuit, who has made a fortune in Railroad Committees, and whose dinners are so good — bellowing out with Tancred and Godfrey, “On to the breach, ye soldiers of the cross, Scale the red wall and swim the choking foss. Ye dauntless archers, twang your cross-bows well; On, bill and battle-axe and mangonel! Ply battering-ram and hurtling catapult, Jerusalem is ours — id Deus vult.” After which comes a mellifluous description of the gardens of Sharon and the maids of Salem, and a prophecy that roses shall deck the entire country of Syria, and a speedy reign of peace be established — all in undeniably decasyllabic lines, and the queerest aping of sense and sentiment and poetry. And there are Essays and Poems along with these grave parodies, and boyish exercises (which are at once so frank and false and mirthful, yet, somehow, so mournful) by youthful hands, that shall never write more. Fate has interposed darkly, and the young voices are silent, and the eager brains have ceased to work. This one had genius and a great descent, and seemed to be destined for honours which now are of little worth to him: that had virtue, learning, genius — every faculty and endowment which might secure love, admiration, and worldly fame: an obscure and solitary churchyard contains the grave of many fond hopes, and the pathetic stone which bids them farewell — I saw the sun shining on it in the fall of last year, and heard the sweet village choir raising anthems round about. What boots whether it be Westminster or a little country spire which covers your ashes, or if, a few days sooner or later, the world forgets you?

Amidst these friends, then, and a host more, Pen passed more than two brilliant and happy years of his life. He had his fill of pleasure and popularity. No dinner — or supper-party was complete without him; and Pen’s jovial wit, and Pen’s songs, and dashing courage and frank and manly bearing, charmed all the undergraduates, and even disarmed the tutors who cried out at his idleness, and murmured about his extravagant way of life. Though he became the favourite and leader of young men who were much his superiors in wealth and station, he was much too generous to endeavour to propitiate them by any meanness or cringing on his own part, and would not neglect the humblest man of his acquaintance in order to curry favour with the richest young grandee in the university. His name is still remembered at the Union Debating Club, as one of the brilliant orators of his day. By the way, from having been an ardent Tory in his freshman’s year, his principles took a sudden turn afterwards, and he became a liberal of the most violent order. He avowed himself a Dantonist, and asserted that Louis the Sixteenth was served right. And as for Charles the First, he vowed that he would chop off that monarch’s head with his own right hand were he then in the room at the Union Debating Club, and had Cromwell no other executioner for the traitor. He and Lord Magnus Charters, the Marquis of Runnymede’s son, before-mentioned, were the most truculent republicans of their day.

There are reputations of this sort made, quite independent of the collegiate hierarchy, in the republic of gownsmen. A man may be famous in the Honour-lists and entirely unknown to the undergraduates: who elect kings and chieftains of their own, whom they admire and obey, as negro-gangs have private black sovereigns in their own body, to whom they pay an occult obedience, besides that which they publicly profess for their owners and drivers. Among the young ones Pen became famous and popular: not that he did much, but there was a general determination that he could do a great deal if he chose. “Ah, if Pendennis of Boniface would but try,” the men said, “he might do anything.” He was backed for the Greek Ode won by Smith of Trinity; everybody was sure he would have the Latin hexameter prize which Brown of St. John’s, however, carried off, and in this way one university honour after another was lost by him, until, after two or three failures, Mr. Pen ceased to compete. But he got a declamation prize in his own college, and brought home to his mother and Laura at Fairoaks a set of prize-books begilt with the college arms, and so big, well-bound, and magnificent, that these ladies thought there had been no such prize ever given in a college before as this of Pen’s, and that he had won the very largest honour which Oxbridge was capable of awarding.

As vacation after vacation and term after term passed away without the desired news that Pen had sate for any scholarship or won any honour, Doctor Portman grew mightily gloomy in his behaviour towards Arthur, and adopted a sulky grandeur of deportment towards him, which the lad returned by a similar haughtiness. One vacation he did not call upon the Doctor at all, much to his mother’s annoyance, who thought that it was a privilege to enter the Rectory-house at Clavering, and listened to Dr. Portman’s antique jokes and stories, though ever so often repeated, with unfailing veneration. “I cannot stand the Doctor’s patronising air”, Pen said. “He’s too kind to me, a great deal fatherly. I have seen in the world better men than him, and am not going to bore myself by listening to his dull old stories and drinking his stupid old port wine.” The tacit feud between Pen and the Doctor made the widow nervous, so that she too avoided Portman, and was afraid to go to the Rectory when Arthur was at home.

One Sunday in the last long vacation, the wretched boy pushed his rebellious spirit so far as not to go to church, and he was seen at the gate of the Clavering Arms smoking a cigar, in the face of the congregation as it issued from St. Mary’s. There was an awful sensation in the village society, Portman prophesied Pen’s ruin after that, and groaned in spirit over the rebellious young prodigal.

So did Helen tremble in her heart, and little Laura — Laura had grown to be a fine young stripling by this time, graceful and fair, clinging round Helen and worshipping her, with a passionate affection. Both of these women felt that their boy was changed. He was no longer the artless Pen of old days, so brave, so artless, so impetuous, and tender. His face looked careworn and haggard, his voice had a deeper sound, and tones more sarcastic. Care seemed to be pursuing him; but he only laughed when his mother questioned him, and parried her anxious queries with some scornful jest. Nor did he spend much of his vacations at home; he went on visits to one great friend or another, and scared the quiet pair at Fairoaks by stories of great houses whither he had been invited; and by talking of lords without their titles.

Honest Harry Foker, who had been the means of introducing Arthur Pendennis to that set of young men at the university, from whose society and connexions Arthur’s uncle expected that the lad would get so much benefit; who had called for Arthur’s first song at his first supper-party; and who had presented him at the Barmecide Club, where none but the very best men of Oxbridge were admitted (it consisted in Pen’s time of six noblemen, eight gentlemen-pensioners, and twelve of the most select commoners of the university), soon found himself left far behind by the young freshman in the fashionable world of Oxbridge, and being a generous and worthy fellow, without a spark of envy in his composition, was exceedingly pleased at the success of his young protege, and admired Pen quite as much as any of the other youth did. I was he who followed Pen now, and quoted his sayings; learned his songs, and retailed them at minor supper-parties, and was never weary of hearing them from the gifted young poet’s own mouth — for a good deal of the time which Mr. Pen might have employed much more advantageously in the pursuit of the regular scholastic studies, was given up to the composition of secular ballads, which he sang about at parties according to university wont.

It had been as well for Arthur if the honest Foker had remained for some time at college, for, with all his vivacity, he was a prudent young man, and often curbed Pen’s propensity to extravagance: but Foker’s collegiate career did not last very long after Arthur’s entrance at Boniface. Repeated differences with the university authorities caused Mr. Foker to quit Oxbridge in an untimely manner. He would persist in attending races on the neighbouring Hungerford Heath, in spite of the injunctions of his academic superiors. He never could be got to frequent the chapel of the college with that regularity of piety which Alma Mater demands from her children; tandems, which are abominations in the eyes of the heads and tutors, were Foker’s greatest delight, and so reckless was his driving and frequent the accidents and upsets out of his drag, that Pen called taking a drive with him taking the “Diversions of Purley;” finally, having a dinner-party at his rooms to entertain some friends from London, nothing would satisfy Mr. Foker but painting Mr. Buck’s door vermilion, in which freak he was caught by the proctors; and although young Black Strap, the celebrated negro fighter, who was one of Mr. Foker’s distinguished guests, and was holding the can of paint while the young artist operated on the door, knocked down two of the proctor’s attendants and performed prodigies of valour, yet these feats rather injured than served Foker, whom the proctor knew very well and who was taken with the brush in his hand, and who was summarily convened and sent down from the university.

The tutor wrote a very kind and feeling letter to Lady Agnes on the subject, stating that everybody was fond of the youth; that he never meant harm to any mortal creature; that he for his own part would have been delighted to pardon the harmless little boyish frolic, had not its unhappy publicity rendered it impossible to look the freak over, and breathing the most fervent wishes for the young fellow’s welfare — wishes no doubt sincere, for Foker, as we know, came of a noble family on his mother’s side, and on the other was heir to a great number of thousand pounds a year.

“It don’t matter,” said Foker, talking over the matter with Pen — “a little sooner or a little later, what is the odds? I should have been plucked for my little-go again, I know I should — that Latin I cannot screw into my head, and my mamma’s anguish would have broke out next term. The Governor will blow like an old grampus, I know he will — well, we must stop till he gets his wind again. I shall probably go abroad and improve my mind with foreign travel. Yes, parly-voo’s the ticket. It’ly, and that sort of thing. I’ll go to Paris and learn to dance and complete my education. But it’s not me I’m anxious about, Pen. As long as people drink beer I don’t care — it’s about you I’m doubtful, my boy. You’re going too fast, and can’t keep up the pace, I tell you. It’s not the fifty you owe me — pay it or not when you like — but it’s the every-day pace, and I tell you it will kill you. You’re livin’ as if there was no end to the money in the stockin’ at home. You oughtn’t to give dinners, you ought to eat ’em. Fellows are glad to have you. You oughtn’t to owe horse bills, you ought to ride other chaps’ nags. You know no more about betting than I do about Algebra: the chaps will win your money as sure as you sport it. Hang me if you are not trying everything. I saw you sit down to ecarte last week at Trumpington’s, and taking your turn with the bones after Ringwood’s supper. They’ll beat you at it, Pen, my boy, even if they play on the square, which. I don’t say they don’t, nor which I don’t say they do, mind. But I won’t play with ’em. You’re no match for ’em. You ain’t up to their weight. It’s like little Black Strap standing up to Tom Spring — the Black’s a pretty fighter but, Law bless you, his arm ain’t long enough to touch Tom — and I tell you, you’re going it with fellers beyond your weight. Look here — If you’ll promise me never to bet nor touch a box nor a card, I’ll let you off the two ponies.”

But Pen, laughingly, said, “that though it wasn’t convenient to him to pay the two ponies at that moment, he by no means wished to be let off any just debts he owed;” and he and Foker parted, not without many dark forebodings on the latter’s part with regard to his friend, who Harry thought was travelling speedily on the road to ruin.

“One must do at Rome as Rome does,” Pen said, in a dandified manner, jingling some sovereigns in his waistcoat-pocket. “A little quiet play at ecarte can’t hurt a man who plays pretty well — I came away fourteen sovereigns richer from Ringwood’s supper, and, gad! I wanted the money.” — And he walked off, after having taken leave of poor Foker, who went away without any beat of drum, or offer to drive the coach out of Oxbridge, to superintend a little dinner which he was going to give at his own rooms in Boniface, about which dinners, the cook of the college, who had a great respect for Mr. Pendennis, always took especial pains for his young favourite.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/t/thackeray/william_makepeace/pendennis/chapter19.html

Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 19:07