The information regarding the affairs of the Clavering family, which Major Pendennis had acquired through Strong, and by his own personal interference as the friend of the house, was such as almost made the old gentleman pause in any plans which he might have once entertained for his nephew’s benefit. To bestow upon Arthur a wife with two such fathers-inlaw, as the two worthies whom the guileless and unfortunate Lady Clavering had drawn in her marriage ventures, was to benefit no man. And though the one, in a manner, neutralised the other, and the appearance of Amory or Altamont in public would be the signal for his instantaneous withdrawal and condign punishment — for the fugitive convict had cut down the officer in charge of him — and a rope would be inevitably his end; if he came again under British authorities; yet, no guardian would like to secure for his ward a wife, whose parent was to be got rid of in such a way; and the old gentleman’s notion always had been that Altamont, with the gallows before his eyes, would assuredly avoid recognition; while, at the same time, by holding the threat of his discovery over Clavering, the latter, who would lose everything by Amory’s appearance, would be a slave in the hands of the person who knew so fatal a secret.
But if the Begum paid Clavering’s debts many times more, her wealth would be expended altogether upon this irreclaimable reprobate; and her heirs, whoever they might be, would succeed but to an emptied treasury; and Miss Amory, instead of bringing her husband a good income and a seat in Parliament, would bring to that individual her person only, and her pedigree with that lamentable note of sus. per coll. at the name of the last male of her line.
There was, however, to the old schemer revolving these things in his mind, another course yet open; the which will appear to the reader who may take the trouble to peruse a conversation, which presently ensued, between Major Pendennis and the honourable Baronet, the Member for Clavering.
When a man, under pecuniary difficulties, disappears from among his usual friends and equals — dives out of sight, as it were, from the flock of birds in which he is accustomed to sail, it is wonderful at what strange and distant nooks he comes up again for breath. I have known a Pall Mall lounger and Rotten Row buck, of no inconsiderable fashion, vanish from amongst his comrades of the Clubs and the Park, and be discovered, very happy and affable, at an eighteenpenny ordinary in Billingsgate: another gentleman, of great learning and wit, when outrunning the constable (were I to say he was a literary man, some critics would vow that I intended to insult the literary profession), once sent me his address at a little public-house called the “Fox under the Hill,” down a most darksome and cavernous archway in the Strand. Such a man, under such misfortunes, may have a house, but he is never in his house; and has an address where letters may be left; but only simpletons go with the hopes of seeing him. — Only a few of the faithful know where he is to be found, and have the clue to his hiding-place. So, after the disputes with his wife, and the misfortunes consequent thereon, to find Sir Francis Clavering at home was impossible. “Ever since I hast him for my book, which is fourteen pound, he don’t come home till three o’clock, and purtends to be asleep when I bring his water of a mornin’, and dodges hout when I’m downstairs,” Mr. Lightfoot remarked to his friend Morgan; and announced that he should go down to my Lady, and be butler there, and marry his old woman. In like manner, after his altercations with Strong, the Baronet did not come near him, and fled to other haunts, out of the reach of the Chevalier’s reproaches; — out of the reach of conscience, if possible, which many of us try to dodge and leave behind us by changes of scene and other fugitive stratagems.
So, though the elder Pendennis, having his own ulterior object, was bent upon seeing Pen’s country neighbour and representative in Parliament, it took the Major no inconsiderable trouble and time before he could get him into such a confidential state and conversation, as were necessary for the ends which the Major had in view. For since the Major had been called in as family friend, and had cognisance of Clavering’s affairs, conjugal and pecuniary, the Baronet avoided him: as he always avoided all his lawyers and agents when there was an account to be rendered, or an affair of business to be discussed between them; and never kept any appointment but when its object was the raising of money. Thus, previous to catching this most shy and timorous bird, the Major made more than one futile attempt to hold him; — on one day it was a most innocent-looking invitation to dinner at Greenwich, to meet a few friends; the Baronet accepted, suspected something, and did not come; leaving the Major (who indeed proposed to represent in himself the body of friends) to eat his whitebait alone:— on another occasion the Major wrote and asked for ten minutes’ talk, and the Baronet instantly acknowledged the note, and made the appointment at four o’clock the next day at Bays’s precisely (he carefully underlined the “precisely”); but though four o’clock came, as in the course of time and destiny it could not do otherwise, no Clavering made his appearance. Indeed, if he had borrowed twenty pounds of Pendennis, he could not have been more timid, or desirous of avoiding the Major; and the latter found that it was one thing to seek a man, and another to find him.
Before the close of that day in which Strong’s patron had given the Chevalier the benefit of so many blessings before his face and curses behind his back, Sir Francis Clavering, who had pledged his word and his oath to his wife’s advisers to draw or accept no more bills of exchange, and to be content with the allowance which his victimised wife still awarded him, had managed to sign his respectable name to a piece of stamped paper, which the Baronet’s friend, Mr. Moss Abrams, had carried off, promising to have the bill “done” by a party with whose intimacy Mr. Abrams was favoured. And it chanced that Strong heard of this transaction at the place where the writings had been drawn — in the back-parlour, namely, of Mr. Santiago’s cigar-shop, where the Chevalier was constantly in the habit of spending an hour in the evening.
“He is at his old work again,” Mr. Santiago told his customer. “He and Moss Abrams were in my parlour. Moss sent out my boy for a stamp. It must have been a bill for fifty pound. I heard the Baronet tell Moss to date it two months back. He will pretend that it is an old bill, and that he forgot it when he came to a settlement with his wife the other day. I dare say they will give him some more money now he is clear.” A man who has the habit of putting his unlucky name to “promises to pay” at six months, has the satisfaction of knowing, too, that his affairs are known and canvassed, and his signature handed round among the very worst knaves and rogues of London.
Mr. Santiago’s shop was close by St. James’s Street and Bury Street, where we have had the honour of visiting our friend Major Pendennis in his lodgings. The Major was walking daintily towards his apartment, as Strong, burning with wrath and redolent of Havanna, strode along the same pavement opposite to him.
“Confound these young men: how they poison everything with their smoke,” thought the Major. “Here comes a fellow with mustachios and a cigar. Every fellow who smokes and wears mustachios is a low fellow. Oh! it’s Mr. Strong. — I hope you are well, Mr. Strong?” and the old gentleman, making a dignified bow to the Chevalier, was about to pass into his house; directing towards the lock of the door, with trembling hand, the polished door-key.
We have said that, at the long and weary disputes and conferences regarding the payment of Sir Francis Clavering’s last debts, Strong and Pendennis had both been present as friends and advisers of the Baronet’s unlucky family. Strong stopped and held out his hand to his brother negotiator, and old Pendennis put out towards him a couple of ungracious fingers.
“What is your good news?” said Major Pendennis, patronising the other still further, and condescending to address to him an observation; for old Pendennis had kept such good company all his life, that he vaguely imagined he honoured common men by speaking to them. “Still in town, Mr. Strong? I hope I see you well.”
“My news is bad news, sir,” Strong answered; “it concerns our friends at Tunbridge Wells, and I should like to talk to you about it. Clavering is at his old tricks again, Major Pendennis.”
“Indeed! Pray do me the favour to come into my lodging,” cried the Major with awakened interest; and the pair entered and took possession of his drawing-room. Here seated, Strong unburthened himself of his indignation to the Major, and spoke at large of Clavering’s recklessness and treachery. “No promises will bind him, sir,” he said. “You remember when we met, sir, with my lady’s lawyer, how he wouldn’t be satisfied with giving his honour, but wanted to take his oath on his knees to his wife, and rang the bell for a Bible, and swore perdition on his soul if he ever would give another bill. He has been signing one this very day, sir: and will sign as many more as you please for ready money: and will deceive anybody, his wife or his child, or his old friend, who has backed him a hundred times. Why, there’s a bill of his and mine will be due next week”
“I thought we had paid all.”
“Not that one,” Strong said, blushing. “He asked me not to mention it, and — and — I had half the money for that, Major; And they will be down on me. But I don’t care for it; I’m used to it. It’s Lady Clavering that riles me. It’s a shame that that good-natured woman, who has paid him out of gaol a score of times, should be ruined by his heartlessness. A parcel of bill-stealers boxers, any rascals, get his money; and he don’t scruple to throw an honest fellow over. Would you believe it, sir, he took money of Altamont — you know whom I mean.”
“Indeed? of that singular man, who I think came tipsy once to Sir Francis’s house?” Major Pendennis said, with impenetrable countenance. “Who is Altamont, Mr. Strong?”
“I am sure I don’t know, if you don’t know,” the Chevalier answered, with a look of surprise and suspicion.
“To tell you frankly,” said the Major, “I have my suspicions — I suppose — mind, I only suppose — that in our friend Clavering’s a life — who, between you and me, Captain Strong, we must own about as loose a fish as any in my acquaintance — there are, no doubt, some queer secrets and stories which he would not like to have known: none of us would. And very likely this fellow, who calls himself Altamont, knows some story against Clavering, and has some hold on him, and gets money out of him on the strength of his information. I know some of the best men of the best families in England who are paying through the nose in that way. But their private affairs are no business of mine, Mr. Strong; and it is not to be supposed that because I go and dine with a man, I pry into his secrets, or am answerable for all his past life. And so with our friend Clavering, I am most interested for his wife’s sake, and her daughter’s, who is a most charming creature: and when her ladyship asked me, I looked into her affairs, and tried to set them straight; and shall do so again, you understand, to the best of my humble power and ability, if I can make myself useful. And if I am called upon — you understand, if I am called upon — and — by the way, this Mr. Altamont, Mr. Strong? How is this Mr. Altamont? I believe you are acquainted with him. Is he in town?”
“I don’t know that I am called upon to know where he is, Major Pendennis,” said Strong, rising and taking up his hat in dudgeon, for the Major’s patronising manner and impertinence of caution offended the honest gentleman not a little.
Pendennis’s manner altered at once from a tone of hauteur to one of knowing good-humour. “Ah, Captain Strong, you are cautious too, I see; and quite right, my good sir, quite right. We don’t know what ears walls may have, sir, or to whom we may be talking; and as a man of the world, and an old soldier — an old and distinguished soldier, I have been told, Captain Strong — you know very well that there is no use in throwing away your fire; you may have your ideas, and I may put two and two together and have mine. But there are things which don’t concern him that many a man had better not know, eh, Captain? and which I, for one, won’t know until I have reason for knowing them: and that I believe is your maxim too. With regard to our friend the Baronet, I think with you, it would be most advisable that he should be checked in his imprudent courses; and most strongly reprehend any man’s departure from his word, or any conduct of his which can give any pain to his family, or cause them annoyance in any way. That is my full and frank opinion, and I am sure it is yours.”
“Certainly,” said Mr. Strong, drily.
“I am delighted to hear it; delighted that an old brother soldier should agree with me so fully. And I am exceedingly glad of the lucky meeting which has procured me the good fortune of your visit. Good evening. Thank you. Morgan, show the door to Captain Strong.”
And Strong, preceded by Morgan, took his leave of Major Pendennis; the Chevalier not a little puzzled at the old fellow’s prudence; and the valet, to say the truth, to the full as much perplexed at his master’s reticence. For Mr. Morgan, in his capacity of accomplished valet, moved here and there in a house as silent as a shadow; and, as it so happened, during the latter part of his master’s conversation with his visitor, had been standing very close to the door, and had overheard not a little of the talk between the two gentlemen, and a great deal more than he could understand.
“Who is that Altamont? know anything about him and Strong?” Mr. Morgan asked of Mr. Lightfoot, on the next convenient occasion when they met at the Club.
“Strong’s his man of business, draws the Governor’s bills, and indosses ’em, and does his odd jobs and that; and I suppose Altamont’s in it too,” Mr. Lightfoot replied. “That kite-flying, you know, Mr. M., always takes two or three on ’em to set the paper going. Altamont put the pot on at the Derby, and won a good bit of money. I wish the Governor could get some somewhere, and I could get my book paid up.”
“Do you think my Lady would pay his debts again?” Morgan asked. “Find out that for me, Lightfoot, and I’ll make it worth your while, my boy.”
* * * * * *
Major Pendennis had often said with a laugh, that his vale Morgan was a much richer man than himself: and, indeed, by long course of careful speculation, this wary and silent attendant had been amassing a considerable sum of money, during the year which he had passed in the Major’s service, where he had made the acquaintance of many other valets of distinction, from whom he had learned the affairs of their principals. When Mr. Arthur came into his property, but not until then, Morgan had surprised the young gentleman, by saying that he had a little sum of money, some fifty or a hundred pound, which he wanted to lay out to advantage; perhaps the gentlemen in the Temple, knowing about affairs and business and that, could help a poor fellow to a good investment? Morgan would be very much obliged to Mr. Arthur, most grateful and obliged indeed, if Arthur could tell him of one. When Arthur laughingly replied, that he knew nothing about money matters, and knew no earthly way of helping Morgan, the latter, with the utmost simplicity, was very grateful, very grateful indeed, to Mr. Arthur, and if Mr. Arthur should want a little money before his rents was paid, perhaps he would kindly remember that his uncle’s old and faithful servant had some as he would like to put out: and be most proud if he could be useful anyways to any of the family.
The Prince of Fairoaks, who was tolerably prudent and had no need of ready money, would as soon have thought of borrowing from his uncle’s servant as of stealing the valet’s pocket-handkerchief, and was on the point of making some haughty reply to Morgan’s offer, but was checked by the humour of the transaction. Morgan a capitalist! Morgan offering to lend to him — The joke was excellent. On the other hand, the man might be quite innocent, and the proposal of money a simple offer of good-will. So Arthur withheld the sarcasm that was rising to his lips, and contented himself by declining Mr. Morgan’s kind proposal. He mentioned the matter to his uncle, however, and congratulated the latter on having such a treasure in his service.
It was then that the Major said that he believed Morgan had been getting devilish rich for a devilish long time; in fact, he had bought the house in Bury Street, in which his master was a lodger and had actually made a considerable sum of money, from his acquaintance with the Clavering family and his knowledge obtained through his master that the Begum would pay all her husband’s debts, by buying up as many of the Baronet’s acceptances as he could raise money to purchase. Of these transactions the Major, however, knew no more than most gentlemen do of their servants, who live with us all our days and are strangers to us, so strong custom is, and so pitiless the distinction between class and class.
“So he offered to lend you money, did he?” the elder Pendennis remarked to his nephew. “He’s a dev’lish sly fellow, and a dev’lish rich fellow; and there’s many a nobleman would like to have such a valet in his service, and borrow from him too. And he ain’t a bit changed, Monsieur Morgan. He does his work just as well as ever — he’s always ready to my bell — steals about the room like a cat — he’s so dev’lishly attached to me, Morgan!”
On the day of Strong’s visit, the Major bethought him of Pen’s story, and that Morgan might help him, and rallied the valet regarding his wealth with that free and insolent way which so high-placed a gentleman might be disposed to adopt towards so unfortunate a creature.
“I hear that you have got some money to invest, Morgan,” said the Major.
“It’s Mr. Arthur has been telling, hang him,” thought the valet.
“I’m glad my place is such a good one.”
“Thank you, sir — I’ve no reason to complain of my place, nor of my master,” replied Morgan, demurely.
“You’re a good fellow: and I believe you are attached to me; and I’m glad you get on well. And I hope you’ll be prudent, and not be taking a public-house or that kind of thing.”
A public-house, thought Morgan — me in a public-house! — the old fool! — Dammy, if I was ten years younger I’d set in Parlyment before I died, that I would. —“No, thank you kindly, sir. I don’t think of the public line, sir. And I’ve got my little savings pretty well put out, sir.”
“You do a little in the discounting way, eh, Morgan?”
“Yes, sir, a very little — I— I beg your pardon, sir — might I be so free as to ask a question ——”
“Speak on, my good fellow,” the elder said, graciously.
“About Sir Francis Clavering’s paper, sir? Do you think he’s any longer any good, sir? Will my Lady pay on ’em, any more, sir?”
“What, you’ve done something in that business already?”
“Yes, sir, a little,” replied Morgan, dropping down his eyes. And I don’t mind owning, sir, and I hope I may take the liberty of saying, sir, that a little more would make me very comfortable if it turned out as well as the last.”
“Why, how much have you netted by him, in Gad’s name?” asked the Major.
“I’ve done a good bit, sir, at it: that I own, sir. Having some information, and made acquaintance with the fam’ly through your kindness, I put on the pot, sir.”
“You did what?”
“I laid my money on, sir — I got all I could, and borrowed, and bought Sir Francis’s bills; many of ’em had his name, and the gentleman’s as is just gone out, Edward Strong, Esquire, sir: and of course I know of the blow-hup and shindy as is took place in Grosvenor Place, sir: and as I may as well make my money as another, I’d be very much obleeged to you if you’d tell me whether my Lady will come down any more.”
Although Major Pendennis was as much surprised at this intelligence regarding his servant, as if he had heard that Morgan was a disguised Marquis, about to throw off his mask and assume his seat in the House of Peers; and although he was of course indignant at the audacity of the fellow who had dared to grow rich under his nose, and without his cognisance; yet he had a natural admiration for every man who represented money and success, and found himself respecting Morgan, and being rather afraid of that worthy, as the truth began to dawn upon him.
“Well, Morgan,” said he, “I mustn’t ask how rich you are; and the richer the better for your sake, I’m sure. And if I could give you any information that could serve you, I would speedily help you. But frankly, if Lady Clavering asks me whether she shall pay any more of Sir Francis’s debts, I shall advise and I hope she won’t, though I fear she will — and that is all I know. And so you are aware that Sir Francis is beginning again in his — eh — reckless and imprudent course?”
“At his old games, sir — can’t prevent that gentleman. He will do it.”
“Mr. Strong was saying that a Mr. Moss Abrams was the holder of one of Sir Francis Clavering’s notes. Do you know anything of this Mr. Abrams; or the amount of the bill?”
“Don’t know the bill, know Abrams quite well, sir.”
“I wish you would find out about it for me. And I wish you would find out where I can see Sir Francis Clavering, Morgan.”
And Morgan said, “Thank you, sir, yes, sir, I will, sir;” and retired from the room, as he had entered it, with his usual stealthy respect and quiet humility; leaving the Major to muse and wonder over what he had just heard.
The next morning the valet informed Major Pendennis that he had seen Mr. Abrams; what was the amount of the bill that gentleman was desirous to negotiate; and that the Baronet would be sure to be in the back-parlour of the Wheel of Fortune Tavern that day at one o’clock.
To this appointment Sir Francis Clavering was punctual, and as at one o’clock he sate in the parlour of the tavern in question, surrounded by spittoons, Windsor chairs, cheerful prints of boxers, trotting horses, and pedestrians, and the lingering of last night’s tobacco fumes — as the descendant of an ancient line sate in this delectable place accommodated with an old copy of Bell’s Life in London, much blotted with beer, the polite Major Pendennis walked into the apartment.
“So it’s you, old boy?” asked the Baronet, thinking that Mr. Moss Abrams had arrived with the money.
“How do you do, Sir Francis Clavering? I wanted to see you, and followed you here,” said the Major, at sight of whom the other’s countenance fell.
Now that he had his opponent before him, the Major was determined to make a brisk and sudden attack upon him, and went into action at once. “I know,” he continued, “who is the exceedingly disreputable person for whom you took me, Clavering; and the errand which brought you here.”
“It ain’t your business, is it?” asked the Baronet, with a sulky and deprecatory look. “Why are you following me about and taking the command, and meddling in my affairs, Major Pendennis? I’ve never done you any harm, have I? I’ve never had your money. And I don’t choose to be dodged about in this way, and domineered over. I don’t choose it, and I won’t have it. If Lady Clavering has any proposal to make to me, let it be done in the regular way, and through the lawyers. I’d rather not have you.”
“I am not come from Lady Clavering,” the Major said, “but of my own accord, to try and remonstrate with you, Clavering, and see if you can be kept from ruin. It is but a month ago that you swore on your honour, and wanted to get a Bible to strengthen the oath, that you would accept no more bills, but content yourself with the allowance which Lady Clavering gives you. All your debts were paid with that proviso, and you have broken it; this Mr. Abrams has a bill of yours for sixty pounds.”
“It’s an old bill. I take my solemn oath it’s an old bill,” shrieked out the Baronet.
“You drew it yesterday, and you dated it three months back purposely. By Gad, Clavering, you sicken me with lies, I can’t help telling you so. I’ve no patience with you, by Gad. You cheat everybody, yourself included. I’ve seen a deal of the world, but I never met your equal at humbugging. It’s my belief you had rather lie than not.”
“Have you come here, you old — old beast, to tempt me to — to pitch into you, and — and knock your old head off?” said the Baronet, with a poisonous look of hatred at the Major.
“What, sir?” shouted out the old Major, rising to his feet and clasping his cane, and looking so fiercely, that the Baronet’s tone instantly changed towards him.
“No, no,” said Clavering, piteously, “I beg your pardon. I didn’t mean to be angry, or say anything unkind, only you’re so damned harsh to me, Major Pendennis. What is it you want of me? Why have you been hunting me so? Do you want money out of me too? By Jove, you know I’ve not got a shilling,”— and so Clavering, according to his custom, passed from a curse into a whimper.
Major Pendennis saw, from the other’s tone, that Clavering knew his secret was in the Major’s hands.
“I’ve no errand from anybody, or no design upon you,” Pendennis said, “but an endeavour, if it’s not too late, to save you and your family from utter ruin, through the infernal recklessness of your courses. I knew your secret ——”
“I didn’t know it when I married her; upon my oath I didn’t know it till the d —— d scoundrel came back and told me himself; and it’s the misery about that which makes me so reckless, Pendennis; indeed it is,” the Baronet cried, clasping his hands.
“I knew your secret from the very first day when I saw Amory come drunk into your dining-room in Grosvenor Place. I never forget faces. I remember that fellow in Sydney a convict, and he remembers me. I know his trial, the date of his marriage, and of his reported death in the bush. I could swear to him. And I know that you are no more married to Lady Clavering than I am. I’ve kept your secret well enough, for I’ve not told a single soul that I know it — not your wife, not yourself till now.”
“Poor Lady C., it would cut her up dreadfully,” whimpered Sir Francis; “and it wasn’t my fault, Major; you know it wasn’t.”
“Rather than allow you to go on ruining her as you do; I will tell her, Clavering, and tell all the world too; that is what I swear I will do, unless I can come to some terms with you, and put some curb on your infernal folly. By play, debt, and extravagance of all kind, you’ve got through half your wife’s fortune, and that of her legitimate heirs, mind — her legitimate heirs. Here it must stop. You can’t live together. You’re not fit to live in a great house like Clavering; and before three years’ more were over would not leave a shilling to carry on. I’ve settled what must be done. You shall have six hundred a year; you shall go abroad and live on that. You must give up Parliament, and get on as well as you can. If you refuse, I give you my word I’ll make the real state of things known tomorrow; I’ll swear to Amory, who, when identified, will go back to the country from whence he came, and will rid the widow of you and himself together. And so that boy of yours loses at once all title to old Spell’s property, and it goes to your wife’s daughter. Ain’t I making myself pretty clearly understood?”
“You wouldn’t be so cruel to that poor boy, would you, Pendennis?” asked the father, pleading piteously; “hang it, think about him. He’s a nice boy: though he’s dev’lish wild, I own he’s dev’lish wild.”
“It’s you who are cruel to him,” said the old moralist. “Why, sir, you’ll ruin him yourself inevitably in three years.”
“Yes, but perhaps I won’t have such dev’lish bad luck, you know; — the luck must turn: and I’ll reform, by Gad, I’ll reform. And if you were to split on me, it would cut up my wife so; you know it would, most infernally.”
“To be parted from you,” said the old Major, with a sneer; “you know she won’t live with you again.”
“But why can’t Lady C. live abroad, or at Bath, or at Tunbridge, or at the doose, and I go on here?” Clavering continued. “I like being here better than abroad, and I like being in Parliament. It’s dev’lish convenient being in Parliament. There’s very few seats like mine left; and if I gave it to ’em, I should not wonder the ministry would give me an island to govern, or some dev’lish good thing; for you know I’m a gentleman of dev’lish good family, and have a handle to my name, and — and that sort of thing, Major Pendennis. Eh, don’t you see? Don’t you think they’d give me something dev’lish good if I was to play my cards well? And then, you know, I’d save money, and be kept out of the way of the confounded hells and rouge et noir — and — and so I’d rather not give up Parliament, please.” For at one instant to hate and defy a man, at the next to weep before him, and at the next to be perfectly confidential and friendly with him, was not an unusual process with our versatile-minded Baronet.
“As for your seat in Parliament,” the Major said, with something of a blush on his cheek, and a certain tremor, which the other did not see, “you must part with that, Sir Francis Clavering, to — to me.”
“What! are you going into the House, Major Pendennis?”
“No — not I; but my nephew, Arthur, is a very clever fellow and would make a figure there: and when Clavering had two members, his father might very likely have been one; and — and should like Arthur to be there,” the Major said.
“Dammy, does he know it, too?” cried out Clavering.
“Nobody knows anything out of this room,” Pendennis answered; and if you do this favour for me, I hold my tongue. “If not, I’m a man of my word, and will do what I have said.”
“I say, Major,” said Sir Francis, with a peculiarly humble smile “You — You couldn’t get me my first quarter in advance, could you, like the best of fellows? You can do anything with Lady Clavering; and, upon my oath, I’ll take up that bill of Abrams’. The little dam scoundrel, I know he’ll do me in the business — he always does; and if you could do this for me, we’d see, Major.”
“And I think your best plan would be to go down in September to Clavering to shoot, and take my nephew with you, and introduce him. Yes, that will be the best time. And we will try and manage about the advance.” (Arthur may lend him that, thought old Pendennis. Confound him, a seat in Parliament is worth a hundred and fifty pounds.) “And, Clavering, you understand, of course, my nephew knows nothing about this business. You have a mind to retire: he is a Clavering man and a good representative. for the borough; you introduce him, and your people vote for him — you see.”
“When can you get me the hundred and fifty, Major? When shall I come and see you? Will you be at home this evening or tomorrow morning? Will you have anything here? They’ve got some dev’lish good bitters in the bar. I often have a glass of bitters, it sets one up so.”
The old Major would take no refreshment; but rose and took his leave of the Baronet, who walked with him to the door of the Wheel of Fortune, and then strolled into the bar, where he took a glass of gin and bitters with the landlady there: and a gentleman connected with the ring (who boarded at the Wheel of F.) coming in, he and Sir Francis Clavering and the landlord talked about the fights and the news of the sporting world in general; and at length Mr. Moss Abrams arrived with the proceeds of the Baronet’s bill, from which his own handsome commission was deducted, and out of the remainder Sir Francis “stood” a dinner at Greenwich to his distinguished friend, and passed the evening gaily at Vauxhall.
Meanwhile Major Pendennis, calling a cab in Piccadilly, drove to Lamb Court, Temple, where he speedily was closeted with his nephew in deep conversation.
After their talk they parted on very good terms, and it was in consequence of that unreported conversation, whereof the reader nevertheless can pretty well guess the bearing, that Arthur expressed himself as we have heard in the colloquy with Warrington, which is reported in the last chapter.
When a man is tempted to do a tempting thing, he can find a hundred ingenious reasons for gratifying his liking; and Arthur thought very much that he would like to be in Parliament, and that he would like to distinguish himself there, and that he need not care much what side he took, as there was falsehood and truth on every side. And on this and on other matters he thought he would compromise with his conscience, and that Sadduceeism was a very convenient and good-humoured profession of faith.
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