The History of Pendennis, by William Makepeace Thackeray

CHAPTER LXIX

In which the Major neither yields his Money nor his Life

Early next morning Pendennis’s shutters were opened by Morgan, who appeared as usual, with a face perfectly grave and respectful, bearing with him the old gentleman’s clothes, cans of water, and elaborate toilet requisites.

“It’s you, is it?” said the old fellow from his bed. “I shan’t take you back again, you understand.”

“I ave not the least wish to be took back agin, Major Pendennis,” Mr. Morgan said, with grave dignity, “nor to serve you nor hany man. But as I wish you to be comftable as long as you stay in my house, I came up to do what’s nessary.” And once more, and for the last time, Mr. James Morgan laid out the silver dressing-case, and strapped the shining razor.

These offices concluded, he addressed himself to the Major with an indescribable solemnity, and said: “Thinkin’ that you would most likely be in want of a respectable pusson, until you suited yourself, I spoke to a young man last night, who is ’ere.”

“Indeed,” said the warrior in the tent-bed.

“He ave lived in the fust famlies, and I can wouch for his respectability.”

“You are monstrous polite,” grinned the old Major. And the truth is, that after the occurrences of the previous evening, Morgan had gone out to his own Club at the Wheel of Fortune, and there finding Frosch, a courier and valet just returned from a foreign tour with young Lord Cubley, and for the present disposable, had represented to Mr. Frosch, that he, Morgan, had “a devil of a blow hup with his own Gov’nor, and was goin’ to retire from the business haltogether, and that if Frosch wanted a tempory job, he might probbly have it by applying in Bury Street.”

“You are very polite,” said the Major, “and your recommendation, I am sure, will have every weight.”

Morgan blushed; he felt his master was ‘a-chaffin’ of him.’ “The man have awaited on you before, sir,” he said with great dignity. “Lord De la Pole, sir, gave him to his nephew young Lord Cubley, and he have been with him on his foring tour, and not wishing to go to Fitzurse Castle, which Frosch’s chest is delicate, and he cannot bear the cold in Scotland, he is free to serve you or not, as you choose.”

“I repeat, sir, that you are exceedingly polite,” said the Major. Come in, Frosch — you will do very well — Mr. Morgan, will you have the great kindness to ——”

“I shall show him what is nessary, sir, and what is customry for you to wish to ave done. Will you please to take breakfast ’ere or at the Club, Major Pendennis?”

“With your kind permission, I will breakfast here, and afterwards we will make our little arrangements.”

“If you please, sir.”

“Will you now oblige me by leaving the room?”

Morgan withdrew; the excessive politeness of his ex-employer made him almost as angry as the Major’s bitterest words. And whilst the old gentleman is making his mysterious toilet, we will also modestly retire.

After breakfast, Major Pendennis and his new aide-de-camp occupied themselves in preparing for their departure. The establishment of the old bachelor was not very complicated. He encumbered himself with no useless wardrobe. A bible (his mother’s), a road book, Pen’s novel (calf elegant), and the Duke of Wellington’s Despatches, with a few prints, maps, and portraits of that illustrious general, and of various sovereigns and consorts of this country, and of the General under whom Major Pendennis had served in India, formed his literary and artistical collection: he was always ready to march at a few hours’ notice, and the cases in which he had brought his property into his lodgings some fifteen years before, were still in the lofts amply sufficient to receive all his goods. These, the young woman who did the work of the house, and who was known by the name of Betty to her mistress, and of “Slavey” to Mr. Morgan, brought down from their resting-place, and obediently dusted and cleaned under the eyes of the terrible Morgan. His demeanour was guarded and solemn; he had spoken no word as yet to Mrs. Brixham respecting his threats of the past night, but he looked as if he would execute them, and the poor widow tremblingly awaited her fate.

Old Pendennis, armed with his cane, superintended the package of his goods and chattels, under the hands of Mr. Frosch, and the Slavey burned such of his papers as he did not care to keep; flung open doors and closets until they were all empty; and now all boxes and chests were closed, except his desk, which was ready to receive the final accounts of Mr. Morgan.

That individual now made his appearance, and brought his books. “As I wish to speak to you in privick, peraps you will ave the kindness to request Frosch to step downstairs,” he said, on entering.

“Bring a couple of cabs, Frosch, if you please — and wait downstairs until I ring for you,” said the Major. Morgan saw Frosch downstairs, watched him go along the street upon his errand, and produced his books and accounts, which were simple and very easily settled.

“And now, sir,” said he, having pocketed the cheque which his ex-employer gave him, and signed his name to his book with a flourish, “and now that accounts is closed between us, sir,” he said, “I porpose to speak to you as one man to another”—(Morgan liked the sound of his own voice; and, as an individual, indulged in public speaking whenever he could get an opportunity, at the Club, or the housekeeper’s room)—“and I must tell you, that I’m in possession of certing infamation.”

“And may I inquire of what nature, pray?” asked the Major.

“It’s valuble information, Major Pendennis, as you know very well. I know of a marriage as is no marriage — of a honourable Baronet as is no more married than I am; and which his wife is married to somebody else, as you know too, sir.”

Pendennis at once understood all. “Ha! this accounts for your behaviour. You have been listening at the door, sir, I suppose,” said the Major, looking very haughty; “I forgot to look at the keyhole when I went to that public-house, or I might have suspected what sort of a person was behind it.”

“I may have my schemes as you may have yours, I suppose,” answered Morgan. “I may get my information, and I may act on that information, and I may find that information valuble as anybody else may. A poor servant may have a bit of luck as well as a gentleman, mayn’t he? Don’t you be putting on your aughty looks, sir, and comin’ the aristocrat over me. That’s all gammon with me. I’m an Englishman, I am, and as good as you.”

“To what the devil does this tend, sir? and how does the secret which you have surprised concern me, I should like to know?” asked Major Pendennis, with great majesty.

“How does it concern me, indeed! how grand we are! How does it concern my nephew, I wonder? How does it concern my nephew’s seat in Parlyment: and to subornation of bigamy? How does it concern that? What, are you to be the only man to have a secret, and to trade on it? Why shouldn’t I go halves, Major Pendennis? I’ve found it out too. Look here! I ain’t goin’ to be unreasonable with you. Make it worth my while, and I’ll keep the thing close. Let Mr. Arthur take his seat, and his rich wife, if you like; I don’t want to marry her. But I will have my share, as sure as my name’s James Morgan. And if I don’t ——”

“And if you don’t, sir — what?” Pendennis asked.

“If I don’t, I split, and tell all. I smash Clavering, and have him and his wife up for bigamy — so help me, I will! I smash young Hopeful’s marriage, and I show up you and him as makin’ use of this secret, in order to squeeze a seat in Parlyment out of Sir Francis, and a fortune out of his wife.”

“Mr. Pendennis knows no more of this business than the babe unborn, sir,” cried the Major, aghast. “No more than Lady Clavering, than Miss Amory does.”

“Tell that to the marines, Major,” replied the valet; “that cock won’t fight with me.”

“Do you doubt my word, you villain?”

“No bad language. I don’t care one twopence’a’p’ny whether your word’s true or not. I tell you, I intend this to be a nice little annuity to me, Major: for I have every one of you; and I ain’t such a fool as to let you go. I should say that you might make it five hundred a year to me among you, easy. Pay me down the first quarter now and I’m as mum as a mouse. Just give a note for one twenty-five. There’s your cheque-book on your desk.”

“And there’s this too, you villain,” cried the old gentleman. In the desk to which the valet pointed was a little double-barrelled pistol, which had belonged to Pendennis’s old patron; the Indian commander-inchief, and which had accompanied him in many a campaign. “One more word, you scoundrel and I’ll shoot you, like a mad dog. Stop — by Jove, I’ll do it now. You’ll assault me, will you? You’ll strike at an old man, will you, you lying coward? Kneel down and say your prayers, sir, for by the Lord you shall die.”

The Major’s face glared with rage at his adversary, who looked terrified before him for a moment, and at the next, with a shriek of “Murder!” sprang towards the open window, under which a policeman happened to be on his beat. “Murder! Police!” bellowed Mr. Morgan.

To his surprise, Major Pendennis wheeled away the table and walked to the other window, which was also open. He beckoned the policeman. “Come up. here, policeman,” he said, and then went and placed himself against the door.

“You miserable sneak,” he said to Morgan; “the pistol hasn’t been loaded these fifteen years, as you would have known very well, if you had not been such a coward. That policeman is coming, and I will have him up, and have your trunks searched; I have reason to believe that you are a thief, sir. I know you are. I’ll swear to the things.”

“You gave ’em to me — you gave ’em to me!” cried Morgan.

The Major laughed. “We’ll see,” he said; and the guilty valet remembered some fine lawn-fronted shirts — a certain gold-headed cane — an opera-glass, which he had forgotten to bring down, and of which he had assumed the use along with certain articles of his master’s clothes, which the old dandy neither wore nor asked for.

Policeman X entered; followed by the seared Mrs. Brixham and her maid-of-all-work, who had been at the door and found some difficulty in closing it against the street amateurs, who wished to see the row. The Major began instantly to speak.

“I have had occasion to discharge this drunken scoundrel,” he said. “Both last night and this morning he insulted and assaulted me. I am an old man and took up a pistol. You see it is not loaded, and this coward cried out before he was hurt. I am glad you are come. I was charging him with taking my property, and desired to examine his trunks and his room.”

“The velvet cloak you ain’t worn these three years, nor the weskits, and I thought I might take the shirts, and I— I take my hoath I intended to put back the hopera-glass,” roared Morgan, writhing with rage and terror.

“The man acknowledges that he is a thief,” the Major said, calmly. “He has been in my service for years, and I have treated him with every kindness and confidence. We will go upstairs and examine his trunks.”

In those trunks Mr. Morgan had things which he would fain keep from public eyes. Mr. Morgan, the bill-discounter, gave goods as well as money to his customers. He provided young spendthrifts with snuff boxes and pins and jewels and pictures and cigars, and of a very doubtful quality those cigars and jewels and pictures were. Their display at a police-office, the discovery of his occult profession, and the exposure of the Major’s property, which he had appropriated, indeed, rather than stolen — would not have added to the reputation of Mr. Morgan. He looked a piteous image of terror and discomfiture.

“He’ll smash me, will he?” thought the Major. “I’ll crush him now, and finish with him.”

But he paused. He looked at poor Mrs. Brixham’s scared face; and he thought for a moment to himself that the man brought to bay and in prison might make disclosures which had best be kept secret, and that it was best not to deal too fiercely with a desperate man.

“Stop,” he said, “policeman. I’ll speak with this man by himself.”

“Do you give Mr. Morgan in charge?” said the policeman.

“I have brought no charge as yet,” the Major said, with a significant look at his man.

“Thank you, sir,” whispered Morgan, very low.

“Go outside the door, and wait there, policeman, if you please. — Now, Morgan, you have played one game with me, and you have not had the best of it, my good man. No, begad, you’ve not had the best of it, though you had the best hand; and you’ve got to pay, too, now, you scoundrel.”

“Yes, sir,” said the man.

“I’ve only found out, within the last week, the game which you have been driving, you villain. Young De Boots, of the Blues, recognised you as the man who came to barracks, and did business one-third in money, one-third in eau-de-Cologne, and one-third in French prints, you confounded demure old sinner! I didn’t miss anything, or care a straw what you’d taken, you booby; but I took the shot, and it hit — hit the bull’s-eye, begad. Dammy, six, I’m an old campaigner.”

“What do you want with me, sir?”

“I’ll tell you. Your bills, I suppose, you keep about you in that dem’d great leather pocket-book, don’t you? You’ll burn Mrs. Brixham’s bill?”

“Sir, I ain’t a-goin’ to part with my property,” growled the man.

“You lent her sixty pounds five years ago. She and that poor devil of an insurance clerk, her son, have paid you fifty pounds a year ever since; and you have got a bill of sale of her furniture, and her note of hand for a hundred and fifty pounds. She told me so last night. By Jove, sir, you’ve bled that poor woman enough.”

“I won’t give it up,” said Morgan; “If I do I’m ——”

“Policeman!” cried the Major.

“You shall have the bill,” said Morgan. “You’re not going to take money of me, and you a gentleman?”

“I shall want you directly,” said the Major to X, who here entered, and who again withdrew.

“No, my good sir,” the old gentleman continued; “I have not any desire to have further pecuniary transactions with you; but we will draw out a little paper, which you will have the kindness to sign. No, stop! — you shall write it: you have improved immensely in writing of late, and have now a very good hand. You shall sit down and write, if you please — there, at that table — so — let me see — we may as well have the date. Write ‘Bury Street, St. James’s, October 21, 18 —.’”

And Mr. Morgan wrote as he was instructed, and as the pitiless old Major continued:—

“‘I, James Morgan, having come in extreme poverty into the service of Arthur Pendennis, Esquire, of Bury Street, St. James’s, a Major in her Majesty’s service, acknowledge that I received liberal wages and board wages from my employer, during fifteen years.’— You can’t object to that, I am sure,” said the Major.

“During fifteen years,” wrote Morgan.

“‘In which time, by my own care and prudence,’” the dictator resumed, “‘I have managed to amass sufficient money to purchase the house in which my master resides, and, besides, to effect other savings. Amongst other persons from whom I have had money, I may mention my present tenant, Mrs. Brixham, who, in consideration of sixty pounds advanced by me five years since, has paid back to me the sum of two hundred and fifty pounds sterling, besides giving me a note of hand for one hundred and twenty pounds, which I restore to her at the desire of my late master, Major Arthur Pendennis, and therewith free her furniture, of which I had a bill of sale.’— Have you written?”

“I think if this pistol was loaded, I’d blow your brains out,” said Morgan.

“No, you wouldn’t. You have too great a respect for your valuable life, my good man,” the Major answered. “Let us go on and begin a new sentence.

“‘And having, in return for my master’s kindness, stolen his property from him, which I acknowledge to be now upstairs in my trunks; and having uttered falsehoods regarding his and other honourable families, I do hereby, in consideration of his clemency to me, express my regret for uttering these falsehoods, and for stealing his property; and declare that I am not worthy of belief, and that I hope’— yes, begad —‘that I hope to amend for the future. Signed, James Morgan.’”

“I’m d —— d if I sign it,” said Morgan.

“My good man, it will happen to you, whether you sign or no, begad,” said the old fellow, chuckling at his own wit “There, I shall not use this, you understand, unless — unless I am compelled to do so. Mrs. Brixham, and our friend the policeman, will witness it, I dare say, without reading it: and I will give the old lady back her note of hand, and say, which you will confirm, that she and you are quits. I see there is Frosch come back with the cab for my trunks; I shall go to an hotel. — You may come in now, policeman; Mr. Morgan and I have arranged our little dispute. If Mrs. Brixham will sign this paper, and you, policeman, will do so, I shall be very much obliged to you both. Mrs. Brixham, you and your worthy landlord, Mr. Morgan, are quits. I wish you joy of him. Let Frosch come and pack the rest of the things.”

Frosch, aided by the Slavey, under the calm superintendence of Mr. Morgan, carried Major Pendennis’s boxes to the cabs in waiting; and Mrs. Brixham, when her persecutor was not by, came and asked a Heaven’s blessing upon the Major, her preserver, and the best and quietest and kindest of lodgers. And having given her a finger to shake, which the humble lady received with a curtsey, and over which she was ready to make a speech full of tears, the Major cut short that valedictory oration, and walked out of the house to the hotel in Jermyn Street, which was not many steps from Morgan’s door.

That individual, looking forth from the parlour-window, discharged anything but blessings at his parting guest; but the stout old boy could afford not to be frightened at Mr. Morgan, and flung him a look of great contempt and humour as he strutted away with his cane.

Major Pendennis had not quitted his house of Bury Street many hours, and Mr. Morgan was enjoying his otium in a dignified manner, surveying the evening fog, and smoking a cigar, on the door-steps, when Arthur Pendennis, Esq., the hero of this history, made his appearance at the well-known door.

“My uncle out, I suppose, Morgan?” he said to the functionary; knowing full well that to smoke was treason, in the presence of the Major.

“Major Pendennis is hout, sir,” said Morgan, with gravity, bowing, but not touching the elegant cap which he wore. “Major Pendennis have left this ouse today, sir, and I have no longer the honour of being in his service, sir.”

“Indeed, and where is he?”

“I believe he ave taken tempory lodgings at Cox’s otel, in Jummin Street,” said Mr. Morgan; and added, after a pause, “Are you in town for some time, pray, sir? Are you in Chambers? I should like to have the honour of waiting on you there: and would be thankful if you would favour me with a quarter of an hour.”

“Do you want my uncle to take you back?” asked Arthur, insolent and good-natured.

“I want no such thing; I’d see him ——” The man glared at him for a minute, but he stopped. “No, sir, thank you,” he said in a softer voice; “it’s only with you that I wish to speak, on some business which concerns you; and perhaps you would favour me by walking into my house.”

“If it is but for a minute or two, I will listen to you, Morgan,” said Arthur; and thought to himself, “I suppose the fellow wants me to patronise him;” and he entered the house. A card was already in the front windows, proclaiming that apartments were to be let; and having introduced Mr. Pendennis into the dining-room, and offered him a chair, Mr. Morgan took one himself, and proceeded to convey some information to him, of which the reader has already had cognisance.

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