The History of Pendennis, by William Makepeace Thackeray

CHAPTER L

Or near the Temple Garden

Fashion has long deserted the green and pretty Temple Garden, which in Shakespeare makes York and Lancaster to pluck the innocent white and red roses which became the badges of their bloody wars; and the learned and pleasant writer of the Handbook of London tells us that “the commonest and hardiest kind of rose has long ceased to put forth a bud” in that smoky air. Not many of the present occupiers of the buildings round about the quarter know or care, very likely, whether or not roses grow there, or pass the old gate, except on their way to chambers. The attorneys’ clerks don’t carry flowers in their bags, or posies under their arms, as they run to the counsel’s chambers — the few lawyers who take constitutional walks think very little about York and Lancaster, especially since the railroad business is over. Only antiquarians and literary amateurs care to look at the gardens with much interest, and fancy good Sir Roger de Coverley and Mr. Spectator with his short face pacing up and down the road; or dear Oliver Goldsmith in the summer-house, perhaps meditating about the next ‘Citizen of the World,’ or the new suit that Mr. Filby, the tailor, is fashioning for him, or the dunning letter that Mr. Newbery has sent. Treading heavily on the gravel, and rolling majestically along in a snuff-coloured suit, and a wig that sadly wants the barber’s powder and irons, one sees the Great Doctor step up to him (his Scotch lackey following at the lexicographer’s heels, a little the worse for port wine that they have been taking at the Mitre), and Mr. Johnson asks Mr. Goldsmith to come home and take a dish of tea with Miss Williams. Kind faith of Fancy! Sir Roger and Mr. Spectator are as real to us now as the two doctors and the boozy and faithful Scotchman. The poetical figures live in our memory just as much as the real personages — and as Mr. Arthur Pendennis was of a romantic and literary turn, by no means addicted to the legal pursuits common in the neighbourhood of the place, we may presume that he was cherishing some such poetical reflections as these, when, upon the evening after the events recorded in the last chapter, the young gentleman chose the Temple Gardens as a place for exercise and meditation.

On the Sunday evening the Temple is commonly calm. The chambers are for the most part vacant: the great lawyers are giving grand dinner-parties at their houses in the Belgravian or Tyburnian districts; the agreeable young barristers are absent, attending those parties, and paying their respects to Mr. Kewsy’s excellent claret, or Mr. Justice Ermine’s accomplished daughters the uninvited are partaking of the economic joint and the modest half-pint of wine at the Club, entertaining themselves, and the rest of the company in the Club-room, with Circuit jokes and points of wit and law. Nobody is in chambers at all, except poor Mr. Cockle, who is ill, and whose laundress is making him gruel; or Mr. Toodle, who is an amateur of the flute, and whom you may hear piping solitary from his chambers in the second floor; or young Tiger, the student, from whose open windows comes a great gush of cigar smoke, and at whose door are a quantity of dishes and covers, bearing the insignia of Dicks’ or the Cock. But stop! Whither does Fancy lead us? It is vacation time; and with the exception of Pendennis, nobody is in Chambers at all.

Perhaps it was solitude, then, which drove Pen into the garden; for although he had never before passed the gate, and had looked rather carelessly at the pretty flower-beds, and the groups of pleased citizens sauntering over the trim lawn and the broad gravel-walks by the river, on this evening it happened, as we have said, that the young gentleman, who had dined alone at a tavern in the neighbourhood of the Temple, took a fancy, as he was returning home to his chambers, to take a little walk in the gardens, and enjoy the fresh evening air, and the sight of the shining Thames. After walking for a brief space, and looking at the many peaceful and happy groups round about him, he grew tired of the exercise, and betook himself to one of the summer-houses which flank either end of the main walk, and there modestly seated himself. What were his cogitations? The evening was delightfully bright and calm; the sky was cloudless; the chimneys on the opposite bank were not smoking; the wharfs warehouses looked rosy in the sunshine, and as clear as if they, too, had washed for the holiday. The steamers rushed rapidly up and down the stream, laden with holiday passengers. The bells of the multitudinous city churches were ringing to evening prayers — such peaceful Sabbath evenings as this Pen may have remembered in his early days, as he paced, with his arm round his mother’s waist, on the terrace before the lawn at home. The sun was lighting up the little Brawl, too, as well as the broad Thames, and sinking downwards majestically behind the Clavering elms, and the tower of the familiar village church. Was it thoughts of these, or the sunset merely, that caused the blush in the young man’s face? He beat time on the bench, to the chorus of the bells without; flicked the dust off his shining boots with his pocket-handkerchief, and starting up, stamped with his foot and said, “No, by Jove, I’ll go home.” And with this resolution, which indicated that some struggle as to the propriety of remaining where he was, or of quitting the garden, had been going on in his mind, he stepped out of the summer-house.

He nearly knocked down two little children, who did not indeed reach much higher than his knee, and were trotting along the gravel-walk, with their long blue shadows slanting towards the east.

One cried out “Oh!” the other began to laugh; and with a knowing little infantile chuckle, said, “Missa Pendennis!” And Arthur, looking down, saw his two little friends of the day before, Mesdemoiselles Ameliar-Ann and Betsy-Jane. He blushed more than ever at seeing them, and seizing the one whom he had nearly upset, jumped her up into the air, and kissed her: at which sudden assault Ameliar-Ann began to cry in great alarm.

This cry brought up instantly two ladies in clean collars and new ribbons, and grand shawls, namely: Mrs. Bolton in a rich scarlet Caledonian Cashmere, and a black silk dress, and Miss F. Bolton with a yellow scarf and a sweet sprigged muslin, and a parasol — quite the lady. Fanny did not say one single word: though; her eyes flashed a welcome, and shone as bright — as bright as the most blazing windows in Paper Buildings. But Mrs. Bolton, after admonishing Betsy-Jane, said, “Lor sir — how very odd that we should meet you year! I ope you ave your ealth well, sir. — Ain’t it odd, Fanny, that we should meet Mr. Pendennis?” What do you mean by sniggering, Mesdames? When young Croesus has been staying at a country-house, have you never, by any singular coincidence, been walking with your Fanny in the shrubberies? Have you and your Fanny never happened to be listening to the band of the Heavies at Brighton, when young De Boots and Captain Padmore came clinking down the Pier? Have you and your darling Frances never chanced to be visiting old widow Wheezy at the cottage on the common, when the young curate has stepped in with a tract adapted to the rheumatism? Do you suppose that, if singular coincidences occur at the Hall, they don’t also happen at the Lodge?

It was a coincidence, no doubt: that was all. In the course of the conversation on the day previous, Mr. Pendennis had merely said, in the simplest way imaginable, and in reply to a question of Miss Bolton, that although some of the courts were gloomy, parts of the Temple were very cheerful and agreeable, especially the chambers looking on the river and around the gardens, and that the gardens were a very pleasant walk on Sunday evenings and frequented by a great number of people — and here, by the merest chance, all our acquaintances met together, just like so many people in genteel life. What could be more artless, good-natured, or natural?

Pen looked very grave, pompous, and dandified. He was unusually smart and brilliant in his costume. His white duck trousers and white hat, his neckcloth of many colours, his light waistcoat, gold chains, and shirt-studs, gave him the air of a prince of the blood at least. How his splendour became his figure! Was anybody ever like him? some one thought. He blushed — how his blushes became him! the same individual said to herself. The children, on seeing him the day before, had been so struck with him, that after he had gone away they had been playing at him. And Ameliar-Ann, sticking her little chubby fingers into the arm-holes of her pinafore, as Pen was wont to do with his waistcoat, had said, “Now, Bessy-Jane, I’ll be Missa Pendennis.” Fanny had laughed till she cried, and smothered her sister with kisses for that feat. How happy, too, she was to see Arthur embracing the child!

If Arthur was red, Fanny, on the contrary, was very worn and pale. Arthur remarked it, and asked kindly why she looked so fatigued.

“I was awake all night,” said Fanny, and began to blush a little.

“I put out her candle, and hordered her to go to sleep and leave off readin,” interposed the fond mother.

“You were reading! And what was it that interested you so?” asked Pen, amused.

“Oh, it’s so beautiful!” said Fanny.

“What?”

“‘Walter Lorraine,’” Fanny sighed out. “How I do hate that Neaera — Neaera — I don’t know the pronunciation. And I love Leonora, and Walter, oh, how dear he is!”

How had Fanny discovered the novel of ‘Walter Lorraine,’ and that Pen was the author? This little person remembered every single word which Mr. Pendennis had spoken on the night previous, and how he wrote in books and newspapers. What books? She was so eager to know, that she had almost a mind to be civil to old Bows, who was suffering under her displeasure since yesterday, but she determined first to make application to Costigan. She began by coaxing the Captain and smiling upon him in her most winning way, as she helped to arrange his dinner and set his humble apartment in order. She was sure his linen wanted mending (and indeed the Captain’s linen-closet contained some curious specimens of manufactured flax and cotton). She would mend his shirts — all his shirts. What horrid holes — what funny holes! She put her little face through one of them, and laughed at the old warrior in the most winning manner. She would have made a funny little picture looking through the holes. Then she daintily removed Costigan’s dinner things, tripping about the room as she had seen the dancers do at the play; and she danced to the Captain’s cupboard, and produced his whisky-bottle, and mixed him a tumbler, and must taste a drop of it — a little drop; and the Captain must sing her one of his songs, his dear songs, and teach it to her. And when he had sung an Irish melody in his rich quavering voice, fancying it was he who was fascinating the little siren, she put her little question about Arthur Pendennis and his novel, and having got an answer, cared for nothing more, but left the Captain at the piano about to sing her another song, and the dinner-tray on the passage, and the shirts on the chair, and ran downstairs quickening her pace as she sped.

Captain Costigan, as he said, was not a litherary cyarkter, nor had he as yet found time to peruse his young friend’s ellygant perfaurumance, though he intended to teak an early opporchunitee of purchasing a cawpee of his work. But he knew the name of Pen’s novel from the fact that Messrs. Finucane, Bludyer, and other frequenters of the Back Kitchen, spoke of Mr. Pendennis (and not all of them with great friendship; for Bludyer called him a confounded coxcomb, and Hoolan wondered that Doolan did not kick him etc.) by the sobriquet of Walter Lorraine — and was hence enabled to give Fanny the information which she required.

“And she went and ast for it at the libery,” Mrs. Bolton said — several liberies — and some ad it and it was bout, and some adn’t it. And one of the liberies as ad it wouldn’t let er ave it without a sovering: and she adn’t one, and she came back a-cryin to me — didn’t you, Fanny? — and I gave her a sovering.”

“And, oh, I was in such a fright lest any one should have come to the libery and took it while I was away,” Fanny said, her cheeks and eyes glowing. “And, oh, I do like it so!”

Arthur was touched by this artless sympathy, immensely flattered and moved by it. “Do you like it?” he said. “If you will come up to my chambers I will — No, I will bring you one — no, I will send you one. Good night. Thank you, Fanny. God bless you. I mustn’t stay with you. Good-bye, good-bye.” And, pressing her hand once, and nodding to her mother and the other children, he strode out of the gardens.

He quickened his pace as he went from them, and ran out of the gate talking to himself. “Dear, dear little thing,” he said — “darling little Fanny! You are worth them all. I wish to heaven Shandon was back. I’d go home to my mother. I mustn’t see her. I won’t. I won’t, so help me ——”

As he was talking thus, and running, the passers-by turning to look at him, he ran against a little old man, and perceived it was Mr. Bows.

“Your very umble servant, sir,” said Mr. Bows, making a sarcastic bow, and lifting his old hat from his forehead.

“I wish you a good day,” Arthur answered sulkily. “Don’t let me detain you, or give you the trouble to follow me again. I am in a hurry, sir. Good evening.”

Bows thought Pen had some reason for hurrying to his rooms. “Where are they?” exclaimed the old gentleman. “You know whom I mean. They’re not in your rooms, sir, are they? They told Bolton they were going to church at the Temple, they weren’t there. They are in your chambers: they mustn’t stay in your chambers, Mr. Pendennis.”

“Damn it, sir!” cried out Pendennis, fiercely. “Come and see if they are in my chambers: here’s the court and the door — come in and see.” And Bows, taking off his hat and bowing first, followed the young man.

They were not in Pen’s chambers, as we know. But when the gardens were closed, the two women, who had r had but a melancholy evening’s amusement, walked away sadly with the children, and they entered into Lamb Court, and stood under the lamp-post which cheerfully ornaments the centre of that quadrangle, and looked up to the third floor of the house where Pendennis’s chambers were, and where they saw a light presently kindled. Then this couple of fools went away, the children dragging wearily after them, and returned to Mr. Bolton, who was immersed in rum-and-water at his lodge in Shepherd’s Inn.

Mr. Bows looked round the blank room which the young man occupied, and which had received but very few ornaments or additions since the last time we saw them. Warrington’s old bookcase and battered library, Pen’s writing-table with its litter of papers, presented an aspect cheerless enough. “Will you like to look in the bedrooms, Mr. Bows, and see if my victims are there?” he said bitterly; “or whether I have made away with the little girls, and hid them in the coal-hole?”

“Your word is sufficient, Mr. Pendennis,” the other said in his sad tone. “You say they are not here, and I know they are not. And I hope they never have been here, and never will come.”

“Upon my word, sir, you are very good, to choose my acquaintances for me,” Arthur said, in a haughty tone; “and to suppose that anybody would be the worse for my society. I remember you, and owe you kindness from old times, Mr. Bows; or I should speak more angrily than I do, about a very intolerable sort of persecution to which you seem inclined to subject me. You followed me out of your Inn yesterday, as if you wanted to watch that I shouldn’t steal something.” Here Pen stammered and turned red, directly he had said the words; he felt he had given the other an opening, which Bows instantly took.

“I do think you came to steal something, as you say the words, sir,” Bows said. “Do you mean to say that you came to pay a visit to poor old Bows, the fiddler; or to Mrs. Bolton, at the porter’s lodge? O fie! Such a fine gentleman as Arthur Pendennis, Esquire, doesn’t condescend to walk up to my garret, or to sit in a laundress’s kitchen, but for reasons of his own. And my belief is that you came to steal a pretty girl’s heart away, and to ruin it, and to spurn it afterwards, Mr. Arthur Pendennis. That’s what the world makes of you young dandies, you gentlemen of fashion, you high and mighty aristocrats that trample upon the people. It’s sport to you, but what is it to the poor, think you; the toys of your pleasures, whom you play with and whom you fling into the streets when you are tired? I know your order, sir. I know your selfishness, and your arrogance, and your pride. What does it matter to my lord, that the poor man’s daughter is made miserable, and her family brought to shame? You must have your pleasures, and the people of course must pay for them. What are we made for, but for that? It’s the way with you all — the way with you all, sir.”

Bows was speaking beside the question, and Pen had his advantage here, which he was not sorry to take — not sorry to put off the debate from the point upon which his adversary had first engaged it. Arthur broke out with a sort of laugh, for which he asked Bows’s pardon. “Yes, I am an aristocrat,” he said, “in a palace up three pair of stairs, with a carpet nearly as handsome as yours, Mr. Bows. My life is passed in grinding the people, is it? — in ruining virgins and robbing the poor? My good sir, this is very well in a comedy, where Job Thornberry slaps his breast, and asks my Lord how dare he trample on an honest man and poke out an Englishman’s fireside; but in real life, Mr. Bows, to a man who has to work for his bread as much as you do — how can you talk about aristocrats tyrannising over the people? Have I ever done you a wrong? or assumed airs of superiority over you? Did you not have an early regard for me — in days when we were both of us romantic young fellows, Mr. Bows? Come, don’t be angry with me now, and let us be as good friends as we were before.”

“Those days were very different,” Mr. Bows answered; “and Mr. Arthur Pendennis was an honest, impetuous young fellow then; rather selfish and conceited, perhaps, but honest. He liked you then, because you were ready to ruin yourself for a woman.”

“And now, sir?” Arthur asked.

“And now times are changed, and you want a woman to ruin herself for you,” Bows answered. “I know this child, sir. I’ve always said this lot was hanging over her. She has heated her little brain with novels, until her whole thoughts are about love and lovers, and she scarcely sees that she treads on a kitchen floor. I have taught the little thing. She is full of many talents and winning ways, I grant you. I am fond of the girl, sir. I’m a lonely old man; I lead a life that I don’t like, among boon companions, who make me melancholy. I have but this child that I care for. Have pity upon me, and don’t take her away from me, Mr. Pendennis — don’t take her away.”

The old man’s voice broke as he spoke. Its accents touched Pen, much more than the menacing or sarcastic tone which Bows had commenced by adopting.

“Indeed,” said he, kindly, “you do me a wrong if you fancy I intend one to poor little Fanny. I never saw her till Friday night. It was the merest chance that our friend Costigan threw her into my way. I have no intentions regarding her — that is ——”

“That is, you know very well that she is a foolish girl, and her mother a foolish woman — that is, you meet her in the Temple Gardens, and of course without previous concert — that is, that when I found her yesterday reading the book you’ve wrote, she scorned me,” Bows said. “What am I good for but to be laughed at? a deformed old fellow like me; an old fiddler, that wears a threadbare coat, and gets his bread by playing tunes at an ale-house? You are a fine gentleman, you are. You wear scent in your handkerchief, and a ring on your finger. You go to dine with great people. Who ever gives a crust to old Bows? And yet I might have been as good a man as the best of you. I might have been a man of genius, if I had had the chance; ay, and have lived with the master-spirits of the land. But everything hads ailed with me. I’d ambition once, and wrote plays, poems, music — nobody would give me a hearing. I never loved a woman, but she laughed at me; and here I am in my old age alone — alone! Don’t take this girl from me, Mr. Pendennis, I say again. Leave her with me a little longer. She was like a child to me till yesterday. Why did you step in, and made her to mock my deformity and old age?”

“I am guiltless of that, at least,” Arthur said, with something of a sigh. “Upon my word of honour, I wish I had never seen the girl. My calling is not seduction, Mr. Bows. I did not imagine that I had made an impression on poor Fanny, until — until to-night. And then, sir, I was sorry, and was flying from my temptation, as you came upon me. And,” he added, with a glow upon his cheek, which, in the gathering darkness, his companion could not see, and with an audible tremor in his voice, “I do not mind telling you, sir, that on this Sabbath evening, as the church bells were ringing, I thought of my own home, and of women angelically pure and good, who dwell there; and I was running hither as I met you, that I might avoid the danger which beset me, and ask strength of God Almighty to do my duty.”

After these words from Arthur a silence ensued, and when the conversation was resumed by his guest, the latter spoke in a tone which was much more gentle and friendly. And on taking farewell of Pen, Bows asked leave to shake hands with him, and with a very warm and affectionate greeting on both sides, apologised to Arthur for having mistaken him, and paid him some compliments which caused the young man to squeeze his old friend’s hand heartily again. And as they parted at Pen’s door, Arthur said he had given a promise, and he hoped and trusted that Mr. Bows might rely on it?

“Amen to that prayer,” said Mr. Bows, and went slowly down the stair.

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