It chanced at that great English festival, at which all London takes a holiday upon Epsom Downs, that a great number of the personages to whom we have been introduced in the course of this history, were assembled to see the Derby. In a comfortable open carriage, which had been brought to the ground by a pair of horses, might be seen Mrs. Bungay, of Paternoster Row, attired like Solomon in all his glory, and having by her side modest Mrs. Shandon, for whom, since the commencement of their acquaintance, the worthy publisher’s lady had maintained a steady friendship. Bungay, having recreated himself with a copious luncheon, was madly shying at the sticks hard by, till the perspiration ran off his bald pate. Shandon was shambling about among the drinking tenants and gipsies: Finucane constant in attendance on the two ladies, to whom gentlemen of their acquaintance, and connected with the publishing house, came up to pay a visit.
Among others, Mr. Archer came up to make her his bow, and told Mrs. Bungay who was on the course. Yonder was the Prime Minister: his lordship had just told him to back Borax for the race; but Archer thought Munmeer the better horse. He pointed out countless dukes and grandees to the delighted Mrs. Bungay. “Look yonder in the Grand Stand,” he said. “There sits the Chinese Ambassador with the Mandarins of his suite, Fou-choo-foo brought me over letters of introduction from the Governor-General of India, my most intimate friend, and I was for some time very kind to him, and he had his chopsticks laid for him at my table whenever he chose to come and dine. But he brought his own cook with him, and — would you believe it, Mrs. Bungay? — one day, when I was out, and the Ambassador was with Mrs. Archer in our garden eating gooseberries, of which the Chinese are passionately fond, the beast of a cook, seeing my wife’s dear little Blenheim spaniel (that we had from the Duke of Marlborough himself, whose ancestor’s life Mrs. Archer’s great-great-grandfather saved at the battle of Malplaquet), seized upon the poor little devil, cut his throat, and skinned him, and served him up stuffed with forced-meat in the second course.”
“Law!” said Mrs. Bungay.
“You may fancy my wife’s agony when she knew what had happened! The cook came screaming upstairs, and told us that she had found poor Fido’s skin in the area, just after we had all of us tasted of the dish! She never would speak to the Ambassador again — never; and, upon my word, he has never been to dine with us since. The Lord Mayor, who did me the honour to dine, liked the dish very much; and, eaten with green peas, it tastes rather like duck.”
“You don’t say so, now!” cried the astonished publisher’s lady.
“Fact, upon my word. Look at that lady in blue, seated by the Ambassador: that is Lady Flamingo, and they say she is going to be married to him, and return to Pekin with his Excellency. She is getting her feet squeezed down on purpose. But she’ll only cripple herself, and will never be able to do it — never. My wife has the smallest foot in England, and wears shoes for a six-years-old child; but what is that to a Chinese lady’s foot, Mrs. Bungay?”
“Who is that carriage as Mr. Pendennis is with, Mr. Archer?” Mrs. Bungay presently asked. “He and Mr. Warrington was here jest now. He’s ‘aughty in his manners, that Mr. Pendennis, and well he may be, for I’m told he keeps tip-top company. ‘As he ‘ad a large fortune left him, Mr. Archer? He’s in black still, I see.”
“Eighteen hundred a year in land, and twenty-two thousand five hundred in the Three-and-a-half per Cents; that’s about it,” said Mr. Archer.
“Law! why, you know everything, Mr. A.!” cried the lady of Paternoster Row.
“I happen to know, because I was called in about poor Mrs. Pendennis’s will,” Mr. Archer replied. “Pendennis’s uncle, the Major, seldom does anything without me; and as he is likely to be extravagant we’ve tied up the property, so that he can’t make ducks and drakes with it. — How do you do, my lord? — Do you know that gentleman, ladies? You have read his speeches in the House; it is Lord Rochester.”
“Lord Fiddlestick,” cried out Finucane, from the box. “Sure it’s Tom Staples, of the Morning Advertiser, Archer.”
“Is it?” Archer said, simply. “Well I’m very short-sighted, and upon my word I thought it was Rochester. That gentleman with the double opera-glass (another nod) is Lord John; and the tall man with him, don’t you know him? is Sir James.”
“You know ’em because you see ’em in the House,” growled Finucane.
“I know them because they are kind enough to allow me to call them my most intimate friends,” Archer continued. “Look at the Duke of Hampshire; what a pattern of a fine old English gentleman! He never misses ‘the Derby.’ ‘Archer,’ he said to me only yesterday, ‘I have been at sixty-five Derbies! appeared on the field for the first time on a piebald pony when I was seven years old, with my father, the Prince of Wales, and Colonel Hanger; and only missing two races — one when I had the measles at Eton, and one in the Waterloo year, when I was with my friend Wellington in Flanders.”
“And who is that yellow carriage, with the pink and yellow parasols, that Mr. Pendennis is talking to, and ever so many gentlemen?” asked Mrs. Bungay.
“That is Lady Clavering, of Clavering Park, next estate to my friend Pendennis. That is the young son and heir upon the box; he’s awfully tipsy, the little scamp! and the young lady is Miss Amory, Lady Clavering’s daughter by a first marriage, and uncommonly sweet upon my friend Pendennis; but I’ve reason to think he has his heart fixed elsewhere. You have heard of young Mr. Foker — the great brewer, Foker, you know — he was going to hang himself in consequence of a fatal passion for Miss Amory who refused him, but was cut down just in time by his valet, and is now abroad, under a keeper.”
“How happy that young fellow is!” sighed Mrs. Bungay. “Who’d have thought when he came so quiet and demure to dine with us, three or four years ago, he would turn out such a grand character! Why, I saw his name at Court the other day, and presented by the Marquis of Steyne and all; and in every party of the nobility his name’s down as sure as a gun.”
“I introduced him a good deal when he first came up to town,” Mr. Archer said, “and his uncle, Major Pendennis, did the rest. Hallo! There’s Cobden here, of all men in the world! I must go and speak to him. Good-bye, Mrs. Bungay. Good morning, Mrs. Shandon.”
An hour previous to this time, and at a different part of the course, there might have been seen an old stage-coach, on the battered roof of which a crowd of shabby raffs were stamping and hallooing, as the great event of the day — the Derby race — rushed over the greensward, and by the shouting millions of people assembled to view that magnificent scene. This was Wheeler’s (the Harlequin’s Head) drag, which had brought down a company of choice spirits from Bow Street, with a slap-up luncheon in the boot. As the whirling race flashed by, each of the choice spirits bellowed out the name of the horse or the colours which he thought or he hoped might be foremost. “The Cornet!” “It’s Muffineer!” “It’s blue sleeves!” “Yallow cap! yallow cap! yallow cap!” and so forth, yelled the gentlemen sportsmen during that delicious and thrilling minute before the contest was decided; and as the fluttering signal blew out, showing the number of the famous horse Podasokus as winner of the race, one of the gentlemen on the Harlequin’s Head drag sprang up off the roof, as if he was a pigeon and about to fly away to London or York with the news.
But his elation did not lift him many inches from his standing-place, to which he came down again on the instant, causing the boards of the crazy old coach-roof to crack with the weight of his joy. “Hurray, hurray!” he bawled out, “Podasokus is the horse! Supper for ten, Wheeler, my boy. Ask you all round of course, and damn the expense.”
And the gentlemen on the carriage, the shabby swaggerers, the dubious bucks, said, “Thank you — congratulate you, Colonel; sup with you with pleasure:” and whispered to one another, “The Colonel stands to win fifteen hundred, and he got the odds from a good man, too.”
And each of the shabby bucks and dusky dandies began to eye his neighbour with suspicion, lest that neighbour, taking his advantage, should get the Colonel into a lonely place and borrow money of him. And the winner on Podasokus could not be alone during the whole of that afternoon, so closely did his friends watch him and each other.
At another part of the course you might have seen a vehicle certainly more modest, if not more shabby than that battered coach which had brought down the choice spirits from the Harlequin’s Head; this was cab No. 2002, which had conveyed a gentleman and two ladies from the cabstand in the Strand: whereof one of the ladies, as she sate on the box of the cab enjoying with her mamma and their companion a repast of lobster salad and bitter ale, looked so fresh and pretty that many of the splendid young dandies who were strolling about the course, and enjoying themselves at the noble diversion of Sticks, and talking to the beautifully dressed ladies in the beautiful carriages, on the hill, forsook these fascinations to have a glance at the smiling and rosy-cheeked lass on the cab. The blushes of youth and good-humour mantled on the girl’s cheeks, and played over that fair countenance like the pretty shining cloudlets on the serene sky overhead; the elder lady’s cheek was red too; but that was a permanent mottled rose, deepening only as it received free draughts of pale ale and brandy-and-water, until her face emulated the rich shell of the lobster which she devoured.
The gentleman who escorted these two ladies was most active in attendance upon them: here on the course, as he had been during the previous journey. During the whole of that animated and delightful drive from London, his jokes had never ceased. He spoke up undauntedly to the most awful drags full of the biggest and most solemn guardsmen; as to the humblest donkey-chaise in which Bob the dustman was driving Molly to the race. He had fired astonishing volleys of what is called “chaff” into endless windows as he passed; into lines of grinning girls’ schools; into little regiments of shouting urchins hurraying behind the railings of their Classical and Commercial Academies; into casements whence smiling maid-servants, and nurses tossing babies, or demure old maiden ladies with dissenting countenances, were looking. And the pretty girl in the straw bonnet with pink ribbon, and her mamma the devourer of lobsters, had both agreed that when he was in “spirits” there was nothing like that Mr. Sam. He had crammed the cab with trophies won from the bankrupt proprietors of the Sticks hard by, and with countless pincushions, wooden apples, backy-boxes, Jack-inthe-boxes, and little soldiers. He had brought up a gipsy with a tawny child in her arms to tell the fortunes of the ladies: and the only cloud which momentarily obscured the sunshine of that happy party, was when the teller of fate informed the young lady that had had reason to beware of a fair man, who was false to her: that she had had a bad illness, and that she would find that a man would prove true.
The girl looked very much abashed at this news: her mother and the young man interchanged signs of wonder and intelligence. Perhaps the conjurer had used the same words to a hundred different carriages on that day.
Making his way solitary amongst the crowd and the carriages, and noting, according to his wont, the various circumstances and characters which the animated scene presented, a young friend of ours came suddenly upon cab 2002, and the little group of persons assembled on the outside of the vehicle. As he caught sight of the young lady on the box, she started and turned pale: her mother became redder than ever: the heretofore gay and triumphant Mr. Sam immediately assumed a fierce and suspicious look, and his eyes turned savagely from Fanny Bolton (whom the reader, no doubt, has recognised in the young lady of the cab) to Arthur Pendennis, advancing to meet her.
Arthur, too, looked dark and suspicious on perceiving Mr. Samuel Huxter in company with his old acquaintances: his suspicion was that of alarmed morality, and, I dare say, highly creditable to Mr. Arthur: like the suspicion of Mrs. Lynx, when she sees Mr. Brown and Mrs. Jones talking together, or when she remarks Mrs. Lamb twice or thrice in a handsome opera-box. There may be no harm in the conversation of Mr. B. and Mr. J.: and Mrs. Lamb’s opera-box (though she notoriously can’t afford one) may be honestly come by: but yet a moralist like Mrs. Lynx has a right to the little precautionary fright: and Arthur was no doubt justified in adopting that severe demeanour of his.
Fanny’s heart began to patter violently: Huxter’s fists, plunged into the pockets of his paletot, clenched themselves involuntarily and armed themselves, as it were, in ambush: Mrs. Bolton began to talk with all her might, and with a wonderful volubility: and Lor! she was so ‘apply to see Mr. Pendennis, and how well he was a-lookin’, and we’d been talking’ about Mr. P. only jest before; hadn’t we, Fanny? and if this was the famous Epsom races that they talked so much about, she didn’t care, for her part, if she never saw them again. And how was Major Pendennis, and that kind Mr. Warrington, who brought Mr. P.‘s great kindness to Fanny? and she never would forget it, never: and Mr. Warrington was so tall, he almost broke his ‘ead up against their lodge door. You recollect Mr. Warrington a-knocking’ of his head — don’t you, Fanny?
Whilst Mrs. Bolton was so discoursing, I wonder how many thousands of thoughts passed through Fanny’s mind, and what dear times, sad struggles, lonely griefs, and subsequent shamefaced consolations were recalled to her? What pangs had the poor little thing, as she thought how much she had loved him, and that she loved him no more? There he stood, about whom she was going to die ten months since, dandified, supercilious, with a black crape to his white hat, and jet buttons in his shirt-front and a pink in his coat, that some one else had probably given him: with the tightest lavender-coloured gloves sewn with black and the smallest of canes. And Mr. Huxter wore no gloves, and great Blucher boots, and smelt very much of tobacco certainly; and looked, oh, it must be owned, he looked as if a bucket of water would do him a great deal of good! All these thoughts, and a myriad of others, rushed through Fanny’s mind as her mamma was delivering herself of her speech, and as the girl, from under her eyes, surveyed Pendennis — surveyed him entirely from head to foot, the circle on his white forehead that his hat left when he lifted it (his beautiful, beautiful hair had grown again), the trinkets at his watch-chain, the ring on his hand under his glove, the neat shining boot, so, so unlike Sam’s high-low! — and after her hand had given a little twittering pressure to the lavender-coloured kid grasp which was held out to it, and after her mother had delivered herself of her speech, all Fanny could find to say was, “This is Mr. Samuel Huxter whom you knew formerly, I believe, sir; Mr. Samuel, you know you knew Mr. Pendennis formerly — and — and, will you take a little refreshment?”
These little words, tremulous and uncoloured as they were, yet were understood by Pendennis in such a manner as to take a great load of suspicion from off his mind — of remorse, perhaps, from his heart. The frown on the countenance of the Prince of Fairoaks disappeared, and a good-natured smile and a knowing twinkle of the eyes illuminated his highness’s countenance. “I am very thirsty,” he said, “and I will be glad to drink your health, Fanny; and I hope Mr. Huxter will pardon me for having been very rude to him the last time we met, and when I was so ill and out of spirits, that indeed I scarcely knew what I said.” And herewith the lavender-coloured Dexter kid-glove was handed out, in token of amity, to Huxter.
The dirty fist in the young surgeon’s pocket was obliged to undoable itself, and come out of its ambush disarmed. The poor fellow himself felt, as he laid it in Pen’s hand, how hot his own was, and how black — it left black marks on Pen’s gloves; he saw them — he would have liked to have clenched it again and dashed it into the other’s good-humoured face; and have seen, there upon that round, with Fanny, with all England looking on, which was the best man — he Sam Huxter of Bartholomew’s, or that grinning dandy.
Pen with ineffable good-humour took a glass — he didn’t mind what it was — he was content to drink after the ladies; and he filled it with frothing lukewarm beer, which he pronounced to be delicious, and which he drank cordially to the health of the party.
As he was drinking and talking on in an engaging manner, a young lady in a shot dove-coloured dress, with a white parasol lined with pink, and the prettiest dove-coloured boots that ever stepped, passed by Pen, leaning on the arm of a stalwart gentleman with a military moustache.
The young lady clenched her little fist, and gave a mischievous side-look as she passed Pen. He of the mustachios burst out into a jolly laugh. He had taken off his hat to the ladies of cab No. 2002. You should have seen Fanny Bolton’s eyes watching after the dove-coloured young lady. Immediately Huxter perceived the direction which they took, they ceased looking after the dove-coloured nymph, and they turned and looked into Sam Huxter’s orbs with the most artless good-humoured expression.
“What a beautiful creature!” Fanny said. “What a lovely dress! Did you remark, Mr. Sam, such little, little hands?”
“It was Capting Strong,” said Mrs. Bolton: “and who was the young woman, I wonder?”
“A neighbour of mine in the country — Miss ‘Amory,’” Arthur said — “Lady Clavering’s daughter. You’ve seen Sir Francis often in Shepherd’s Inn, Mrs. Bolton.”
As he spoke, Fanny built up a perfect romance in three volumes love — faithlessness — splendid marriage at St. George’s, Hanover Square — broken-hearted maid — and Sam Huxter was not the hero of that story — poor Sam, who by this time had got out an exceedingly rank Cuba cigar, and was smoking it under Fanny’s little nose.
After that confounded prig Pendennis joined and left the party, the sun was less bright to Sam Huxter, the sky less blue — the Sticks had no attraction for him — the bitter beer hot and undrinkable — the world was changed. He had a quantity of peas and a tin pea-shooter in the pocket of the cab for amusement on the homeward route. He didn’t take them out, and forgot their existence until some other wag, on their return from the races, fired a volley into Sam’s sad face; upon which salute, after a few oaths indicative of surprise, he burst into a savage and sardonic laugh.
But Fanny was charming all the way home. She coaxed, and snuggled, and smiled. She laughed pretty laughs; she admired everything; she took out the darling little Jack-inthe-boxes, and was so obliged to Sam. And when they got home, and Mr. Huxter, still with darkness on his countenance, was taking a frigid leave of her — she burst into tears, and said he was a naughty unkind thing.
Upon which, with a burst of emotion almost as emphatic as hers, the young surgeon held the girl in his arms — swore that she was an angel, and that he was a jealous brute; owned that he was unworthy of her, and that he had no right to hate Pendennis; and asked her, implored her, to say once more that she ——
That she what? — The end of the question and Fanny’s answer were pronounced by lips that were so near each other, that no bystander could hear the words. Mrs. Bolton only said, “Come, come, Mr. H. — no nonsense, if you please; and I think you’ve acted like a wicked wretch, and been most uncommon cruel to Fanny, that I do.”
When Arthur left No. 2002, he went to pay his respects to the carriage to which, and to the side of her mamma, the dove-coloured author of Mes Larmes had by this time returned. Indefatigable old Major Pendennis was in waiting upon Lady Clavering, and had occupied the back seat in her carriage; the box being in possession of young Hopeful, under the care of Captain Strong.
A number of dandies, and men of a certain fashion — of military bucks, of young rakes of the public offices, of those who may be styled men’s men rather than ladies’— had come about the carriage during its station on the hill — and had exchanged a word or two with Lady Clavering, and a little talk (a little “chaff,” some of the most elegant of the men styled their conversation) with Miss Amory. They had offered her sportive bets, and exchanged with her all sorts of free-talk and knowing innuendoes. They pointed out to her who was on the course: and the “who” was not always the person a young lady should know.
When Pen came up to Lady Clavering’s carriage, he had to push his way through a crowd of these young bucks who were paying their court to Miss Amory, in order to arrive as near that young lady, who beckoned him by many pretty signals to her side.
“Je lay vue,” she said; “Elle a de bien beaux yeux; vous etes un monster!”
“Why monster?” said Pen, with a laugh; “Hone suit qui mal y peens. My young friend, yonder, is as well protected as any young lady in Christendom. She has her mamma on one side, her pretend on the other. Could any harm happen to a girl between those two?”
“One does not know what may or may not arrive,” said Miss Blanche, in French, “when a girl has the mind, and when she is pursued by a wicked monster like you. Figure to yourself, Major, that I come to find Monsieur, your nephew, near to a cab, by two ladies, and a man, oh, such a man! and who ate lobsters, and who laughed, who laughed!”
“It did not strike me that the man laughed,” Pen said, “And as for lobsters, I thought he would have liked to eat me after the lobsters. He shook hands with me, and gripped me so, that he bruised my glove black-and-blue. He is a young surgeon. He comes from Clavering. Don’t you remember the gilt pestle and mortar in High Street?”
“If he attends you when you are sick,” continued Miss Amory, “he will kill you. He will serve you right; for you are a monster.”
The perpetual recurrence to the word “monster” jarred upon Pen. “She speaks about these matters a great deal too lightly,” he thought. “If I had been a monster, as she calls it, she would have received me just the same. This is not the way in which an English lady should speak or think. Laura would not speak in that way, thank God;” and as he thought so, his own countenance fell.
“Of what are you thinking? Are you going to bouder me at present?” Blanche asked. “Major, scold your mechant nephew. He does not amuse me at all. He is as bete as Captain Crackenbury.”
“What are you saying about me, Miss Amory?” said the guardsman, with a grin. “If it’s anything good, say it in English, for I don’t understand French when it’s spoke so devilish quick.”
“It ain’t anything good, Crack,” said Crackenbury’s fellow, Captain Clinker. “Let’s come away, and don’t spoil sport. They say Pendennis is sweet upon her.”
“I’m told he’s a devilish clever fellow,” sighed Crackenbury. “Lady Violet Lebas says he’s a devilish clever fellow. He wrote a work, or a poem, or something; and he writes those devilish clever things in the — in the papers, you know. Dammy, I wish I was a clever fellow, Clinker.”
“That’s past wishing for, Crack, my boy,” the other said. “I can’t write a good book, but I think I can make a pretty good one on the Derby. What a flat Clavering is! And the Begum! I like that old Begum. She’s worth ten of her daughter. How pleased the old girl was at winning the lottery!”
“Clavering’s safe to pay up, ain’t he?” asked Captain Crackenbury.
“I hope so,” said his friend; and they disappeared, to enjoy themselves among the Sticks.
Before the end of the day’s amusements, many more gentlemen of Lady Clavering’s acquaintance came up to her carriage, and chatted with the party which it contained. The worthy lady was in high spirits and good-humour, laughing and talking according to her wont, and offering refreshments to all her friends, until her ample baskets and bottles were emptied, and her servants and postillions were in such a royal state of excitement as servants and postillions commonly are upon the Derby day.
The Major remarked that some of the visitors to the carriage appeared to look with rather queer and meaning glances towards its owner. “How easily she takes it!” one man whispered to another. “The Begum’s made of money,” the friend replied. “How easily she takes what?” thought old Pendennis. “Has anybody lost any money?” Lady Clavering said she was happy in the morning because Sir Francis had promised her not to bet.
Mr. Welbore, the country neighbour of the Claverings, was passing the carriage, when he was called back by the Begum, who rallied him for wishing to cut her. “Why didn’t he come before? Why didn’t he come to lunch?” Her ladyship was in great delight, she told him — she told everybody, that she had won five pounds in a lottery. As she conveyed this piece of intelligence to him, Mr. Welbore looked so particularly knowing, and withal melancholy, that a dismal apprehension seized upon Major Pendennis. “He would go and look after the horses and those rascals of postillions, who were so long in coming round.” When he came back to the carriage, his usually benign and smirking countenance was obscured by some sorrow. “What is the matter with you now?” the good-natured Begum asked. The Major pretended a headache from the fatigue and sunshine of the day. The carriage wheeled off the course and took its way Londonwards, not the least brilliant equipage in that vast and picturesque procession. The tipsy drivers dashed gallantly over the turf, amidst the admiration of foot-passengers, the ironical cheers of the little donkey-carriages and spring vans, and the loud objurgations of horse-and-chaise men, with whom the reckless post-boys came in contact. The jolly Begum looked the picture of good-humour as she reclined on her splendid cushions; the lovely Sylphide smiled with languid elegance. Many an honest holiday-maker with his family wadded into a tax-cart, many a cheap dandy working his way home on his weary hack, admired that brilliant turn-out, and thought, no doubt, how happy those “swells” must be. Strong sat on the box still, with a lordly voice calling to the post-boys and the crowd. Master Frank had been put inside of the carriage and was asleep there by the side of the Major, dozing away the effects of the constant luncheon and champagne of which he had freely partaken.
The Major was revolving in his mind meanwhile the news the receipt of which had made him so grave. “If Sir Francis Clavering goes on in this way,” Pendennis the elder thought, “this little tipsy rascal will be as bankrupt as his father and grandfather before him. The Begum’s fortune can’t stand such drains upon it: no fortune can stand them: she has paid his debts half a dozen times already. A few years more of the turf, and a few coups like this, will ruin her.”
“Don’t you think we could get up races at Clavering, mamma?” Miss Amory asked. “Yes, we must have them there again. There were races there in the old times, the good old times. It’s a national amusement, you know: and we could have a Clavering ball: and we might have dances for the tenantry, and rustic sports in the park — Oh, it would be charming.”
“Capital fun,” said mamma. “Wouldn’t it, Major?”
“The turf is a very expensive amusement, my dear lady,” Major Pendennis answered, with such a rueful face, that the Begum rallied him, and asked laughingly whether he had lost money on the race?
After a slumber of about an hour and a half, the heir of the house began to exhibit symptoms of wakefulness, stretching his youthful arms over the Major’s face, and kicking his sister’s knees as she sate opposite to him. When the amiable youth was quite restored to consciousness, he began a sprightly conversation.
“I say, Ma,” he said, “I’ve gone and done it this time, I have.”
“What have you gone and done, Franky dear?” asked Mamma.
“How much is seventeen half-crowns? Two pound and half-a crown, ain’t it? I drew Borax in our lottery, but I bought Podasokus and Man-milliner of Leggat minor for two open tarts and a bottle of ginger-beer.”
“You little wicked gambling creature, how dare you begin so soon?” cried Miss Amory.
“Hold your tongue, if you please. Who ever asked your leave, miss?” the brother said. “And I say, Ma ——”
“Well, Franky dear?”
“You’ll tip me all the same, you know, when I go back ——” and here he broke out into a laugh. “I say, Ma, shall I tell you something?”
The Begum expressed her desire to hear this something, and her son and heir continued:
“When me and Strong was down at the grand stand after the race, and I was talking to Leggat minor, who was there with his governor, I saw Pa look as savage as a bear. And I say, Ma, Leggat minor told me that he heard his governor say that Pa had lost seven thousand backing the favourite. I’ll never back the favourite when I’m of age. No, no — hang me if I do: leave me alone, Strong, will you?”
“Captain Strong! Captain Strong! is this true?” cried out the unfortunate Begum. “Has Sir Francis been betting again? He promised me he wouldn’t. He gave me his word of honour he wouldn’t.”
Strong, from his place on the box, had overheard the end of young Clavering’s communication, and was trying in vain to stop his unlucky tongue.
“I’m afraid it’s true, ma’am,” he said, turning round, “I deplore the loss as much as you can. He promised me as he promised you; but the play is too strong for him! he can’t refrain from it.”
Lady Clavering at this sad news burst into a fit of tears. She deplored her wretched fate as the most miserable of women, she declared she would separate, and pay no more debts for the ungrateful man. She narrated with tearful volubility a score of stories only too authentic, which showed how her husband had deceived, and how constantly she had befriended him: and in this melancholy condition, whilst young Hopeful was thinking about the two guineas which he himself had won; and the Major revolving, in his darkened mind, whether certain plans which he had been forming had better not be abandoned; the splendid carriage drove up at length to the Begum’s house in Grosvenor Place; the idlers and boys lingering about the place to witness, according to public wont, the close of the Derby Day, cheering the carriage as it drew up, and envying the happy folks who descended from it.
“And it’s for the son of this man that I am made a beggar!” Blanche said, quivering with anger, as she walked upstairs leaning on the Major’s arm — “for this cheat — for this blackleg — for this liar — for this robber of women.”
“Calm yourself, my dear Miss Blanche,” the old gentleman said; “I pray calm yourself. You have been hardly treated, most unjustly. But remember that you have always a friend in me, and trust to an old fellow who will try and serve you.”
And the young lady, and the heir of the hopeful house of Clavering, having retired to their beds, the remaining three of the Epsom party remained for some time in deep consultation.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00