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CHAPTER XLIX. CONTAINS AT LEAST SIX MORE COURSES AND TWO DESSERTS. THE banker's dinner-party over, we returned to our apartments, I having dropped Major Pendennis at his lodgings, and there, as the custom is amongst most friendly married couples, talked over the company and the dinner. I thought my wife would naturally have liked Sir Barnes Newcome, who was very attentive to her, took her to dinner as the bride, and talked ceaselessly to her during the whole entertainment.
Laura said No-she did not know why-could there be any better reason? There was a tone about Sir Barnes Newcome she did not like-especially in his manner to women.
I remarked that he spoke sharply and in a sneering manner to his wife, and treated one or two remarks which she made as if she was an idiot.
Mrs. Pendennis flung up her head as much as to say, " And so she is." : Mr. Pendennis. What, the wife too, my dear Laura! I should have thought such a pretty, simple, innocent young woman, with just enough good looks to make her pass muster, who is very well bred and not brilliant at all, I should have thought such a one might have secured a sister's approbation.
Mrs. Pendennis. You fancy we are all jealous of one another. No protests of ours can take that notion out of your heads. My dear Pen, I do not intend to try. We are not jealous of mediocrity; we are not patient of it. I daresay we are angry because we see men admire it so. You gentlemen, who pretend to be our betters, give yourselves such airs of protection, and profess such a lofty superiority over us, prove it by quitting the cleverest woman in the room for the first pair of bright eyes and dimpled cheeks that enter. It was those charms which attracted you in Lady Clara, sir.
Pendennis. I think she is very pretty, and very innocent, and artless. Mrs. P. Not very pretty, and perhaps not so very artless.
Pendennis. How can you tell, you wicked woman ? Are you such a profound deceiver yourself, that you can instantly detect artifice in others ? Oh, Laura !
Mrs. P. We can detect all sorts of things. The inferior animals have instincts, you know. (I must say my wife is always very satirical upon this point of the relative rank of the sexes.) One thing I am sure of is, that she is not happy; and oh, Pen! that she does not care much for her little girl.
Pendennis. How do you know that, my dear ?
Mrs. P. We went upstairs to see the child after dinner. It was at my wish. The mother did not offer to go. The child was awake and crying. Lady Clara did not offer to take it. Ethel-Miss Newcome took it, rather to my surprise, for she seems very haughty, and the nurse, who I suppose was at supper, came running up at the noise, and then the poor little thing was quiet.
Pendennis. I remember we heard the music as the dining-room door was open; and Newcome said, " That is what you will have to expect, Pendennis."
Mrs. P. Hush, sir! If my baby cries, I think you must expect me to run out of the room. I liked Miss Newcome after seeing her with the poor little thing. She looked so handsome as she walked with it I I longed to have it myself.
Pendennis. Tout vient à fin, à qui sait. ... ..Mrs. P. Don't be silly. What a dreadful dreadful place this great world of yours is, Arthur; where husbands do not seem to care for their wives; where mothers do not love their children; where children love their nurses best; where men talk what they call gallantry!
Pendennis. What ?
Mrs. P. Yes, such as that dreary, languid, pale, bald, cadaverous leering man whispered to me. Oh, how I dislike him! I am sure he is unkind to his wife. I am sure he has a bad temper; and if there is any excuse for
Pendennis. For what?
Mrs. P. For nothing. But you heard yourself that he had a bad temper, and spoke sneeringly to his wife. What could make her marry him ?
Pendennis. Money, and the desire of papa and mamma. For the same reason Clive's flame, poor Miss Newcome, was brought out today; that vacant seat at her side was for Lord Farintosh, who did not come. And the Marquis not being present, the Baron took his innings. Did you not see how tender he was to her, and how fierce poor Clive looked ?
Mrs. P. Lord Highgate was very attentive to Miss Newcome, was he?
Pendennis. And some years ago, Lord Highgate was breaking his heart about whom do you think? about Lady Clara Pulleyn, our hostess of last night. He was Jack Belsize then, a younger son, plunged over head and ears in debt; and of course there could be no marriage. Clive was present at Baden when a terrible scene took place, and carried off poor Jack to Switzerland and Italy, where he remained till his father died, and he came into the title in which he rejoices. And now he is off with the old love, Laura, and on with the new. Why do you look at me so? Are you thinking that other people have been in love two or three times too ?
Mrs. P. I am thinking that I should not like to live in London, Arthur.
And this was all that Mrs. Laura could be brought to say. When this young woman chooses to be silent, there is no power that can extract a word from her. It is true that she is generally in the right; but that is only the more aggravating. Indeed, what can be more provoking, after a dispute with your wife, than to find it is you, and not she, who has been in the wrong?
Sir Barnes Newcome politely caused us to understand that the entertainment of which we had just partaken was given in honour of the bride. Clive must needs not be outdone in hospitality; and invited us and others to a fine feast at the “Star and Garter” at Richmond, where Mrs. Pendennis was placed at his right hand. I smile as I think how much dining has been already commemorated in these veracious pages; but the story is an everyday record; and does not dining form a certain part of the pleasure and business of every day? It is at that pleasant hour that our sex has the privilege of meeting the other. The morning man and woman alike devote to business; or pass mainly in the company of their own kind. John has his office, Jane her household, her nursery, her milliner, her daughters and their masters. In the country he has his hunting, his fishing, his farming, his letters; she her schools, her poor, hér garden, or what not? Parted through the shining hours, and improving them, let us trust, we come together towards sunset only, we make merry and amuse ourselves. We chat with our pretty neighbour, or survey the young ones sporting; we make love and are jealous; we dance, or obsequiously turn over the leaves of Cecilia's music-book; we play whist, or go to sleep in the arm-chair, according to our ages and conditions. Snooze gently in thy arm-chair, thou easy bald-head! play your whist or read your novel, or talk scandal over your work, ye worthy dowagers and fogies! Meanwhile the young ones frisk about, or dance, or sing, or laugh; or whisper behind curtains in moonlit windows ; or shirk away into the garden, and come back smelling of cigars; nature having made them so to do.
Nature at this time irresistibly impelled Clive Newcome towards love-making. It was pairing-season with him. Mr. Clive was now
some three-and-twenty years old : enough has been said about his good looks, which were in truth sufficient to make him a match for the young lady on whom he had set his heart, and from whom during this entertainment which he gave to my wife, he could never keep his eyes away for three minutes. Laura's did not need to be so keen as they were in order to see what poor Clive's condition was. She did not in the least grudge the young fellow's inattention to herself; or feel hurt that he did not seem to listen when she spoke; she conversed with J. J., her neighbour, who was very modest and agreeable ; while her husband, not so well pleased, had Mrs. Hobson Newcome for his partner during the chief part of the entertainment. Mrs. Hobson and Lady Clara were the matrons who gave the sanction of their presence to this bachelor-party. Neither of their husbands could come to. Clive's little fête; had they not the City and the House of Commons to attend ? My uncle, Major Pendennis, was another of the guests; who for his part found the party was what you young fellows call very slow. Dreading Mrs. Hobson and her powers of conversation, the old gentleman nimbly skipped out of her neighbourhood, and fell by the side of Lord Highgate, to whom the Major was inclined to make himself very pleasant. But Lord Highgate's broad back was turned upon his neighbour, who was forced to tell .stories to Captain Crackthorpe, which had amused dukes and marquises in former days, and were surely quite good enough for any baron in this realm. “ Lord Highgate sweet upon la belle Newcome, is he?" said the testy Major afterwards. “He seemed to me to talk to Lady Clara the whole time. When I awoke in the garden after dinner, as Mrs. Hobson was telling one of her confounded long stories, I found her audience was diminished to one. Crackthorpe, Lord Highgate, and Lady Clara, we had all been sitting there when the bankeress cut in in the midst of a very good story. I was telling them, which entertained them very much,) and never ceased talking till I fell off into a doze. When I roused myself, begad, she was still going on. Crackthorpe was off, smoking a cigar on the terrace: my Lord and Lady Clara were nowhere; and you four, with the little painter, were chatting cozily in another arbour. Behaved himself very well, the little painter. Doosid good dinner Ellis gave us. But as for Highgate being aux soins with la belle Banquière, trust me, my boy, he is .... upon my word, my dear, it seemed to me his thoughts. went quite another way. To be sure, Lady Clara is a belle Banquière too now. He! he! he! How could he say he had no carriage to go home in ? He came down in Crackthorpe's cab, who passed us just now, driving back young What-d'ye-call the painter."
Thus did the Major discourse, as we returned towards the City. I could see in the open carriage which followed 'is (Lady Clara Newcome's) Lord Highgate's white hat, by Clive's on the back seat.
Laura looked at her husband. The same thought may have crossed their minds, though neither uttered it; but although Sir Barnes and Lady Clara Newcome offered us other civilities during our stay in London, no inducements could induce Laura to accept the proffered friendship of that lady. When Lady Clara called, my wife was not at home; when she invited us, Laura pleaded engagements. At first she bestowed on Miss Newcome, too, a share of this haughty dislike, and rejected the advances which that young lady, who professed to like my wife very much, made towards an intimacy. When I appealed to her (for Newcome's house was after all a very pleasant one, and you met the best people there,) my wife looked at me with an expression of something like scorn, and said: “Why don't I like Miss Newcome? of course because I am jealous of her--all women, you know, Arthur, are jealous of such beauties.” I could get for a long while no better explanation than these sneers for my wife's antipathy towards this branch of the Newcome family; but an event came presently which silenced my remonstrances, and showed to me that Laura had judged Barnes and his wife only too well.
Poor Mrs. Hobson Newcome had reason to be sulky, at the neglect which all the Richmond party showed her, for nobody, not even Major Pendennis, as we have seen, would listen to her intellectual conversation; nobody, not even Lord Highgate, would drive back to town in her carriage, though the vehicle was large and empty, and Lady Clara's barouche, in which his lordship chose to take a place, had already three occupants within it :--but in spite of these rebuffs and disappointments the virtuous lady of Bryanston Square was bent upon: being good-natured and hospitable; and I have to record, in the present chapter, yet one more feast of which Mr. and Mrs. Pendennis partook at the expense of the most respectable Newcome family.
Although Mrs. Laura here also appeared, and had the place of honour in her character of bride, I am bound to own my opinion that: Mrs. Hobson only made us the pretext of her party, and that in reality it was given to persons of a much more exalted rank. We were the first to arrive, our good old Major, the most punctual of men, bearing us company. Our hostess was arrayed in unusual state and splendour; her fat neck was ornamented with jewels, rich bracelets decorated her arms, and this Bryanston Square Cornelia had likewise her family jewels distributed round her, priceless male and female Newcome gems, from the King's College youth, with whom we have made a brief acquaintance, and his elder sister, now entering into the world, down to the last little ornament of the nursery, in a prodigious new sashe.. with ringlets hot and crisp from the tongs of a Marylebone hairdresser...