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Part 1 Chapter 8 Will Be Pronounced to Be Cynical by the Bene

Gentle readers will not, I trust, think the worse of their most obedient, humble servant for the confession that I talked to my wife on my return home regarding Philip and his affairs. When I choose to be frank, I hope no man can be more open than myself: when I have a mind to be quiet, no fish can be more mute. I have kept secrets so ineffably, that I have utterly forgotten them, until my memory was refreshed by people who also knew them. But what was the use of hiding this one from the being to whom I open all, or almost all — say all, excepting just one or two — of the closets of this heart? So I say to her, “My love; it is as I suspected. Philip and his cousin Agnes are carrying on together.”

“Is Agnes the pale one, or the very pale one?” asks the joy of my existence.

“No, the elder is Blanche. They are both older than Mr. Firmin: but Blanche is the elder of the two.”

“Well, I am not saying anything malicious, or contrary to the fact, am I, sir?”

No. Only I know by her looks, when another lady’s name is mentioned, whether my wife likes her or not. And I am bound to say, though this statement may meet with a denial, that her countenance does not vouchsafe smiles at the mention of all ladies’ names.

“You don’t go to the house? You and Mrs. Twysden have called on each other, and there the matter has stopped? Oh, I know! It is because poor Talbot brags so about his wine, and gives such abominable stuff, that you have such an un-Christian feeling for him!”

“That is the reason, I daresay,” says the lady.

“No. It is no such thing. Though you do know sherry from port, I believe upon my conscience you do not avoid the Twysdens because they give bad wine. Many others sin in that way, and you forgive them. You like your fellow-creatures better than wine — some fellow-creatures — and you dislike some fellow-creatures worse than medicine. You swallow them, madam. You say nothing, but your looks are dreadful. You make wry faces: and when you have taken them, you want a piece of sweetmeat to take the taste out of your mouth.”

The lady, thus wittily addressed, shrugs her lovely shoulders. My wife exasperates me in many things; in getting up at insane hours to go to early church, for instance; in looking at me in a particular way at dinner, when I am about to eat one of those entrées which Dr. Goodenough declares disagree with me; in nothing more than in that obstinate silence, which she persists in maintaining sometimes when I am abusing people, whom I do not like, whom she does not like, and who abuse me. This reticence makes me wild. What confidence can there be between a man and his wife, if he can’t say to her, “Confound So-and-so, I hate him; “ or, “What a prig What-d’-you-call-em is!” or, “What a bloated aristocrat Thingamy has become, since he got his place!” or what you will?

“No,” I continue, “I know why you hate the Twysdens, Mrs. Pendennis. You hate them because they move in a world which you can only occasionally visit. You envy them because they are hand in glove with the great: because they possess an easy grace, and a frank and noble elegance with which common country people and apothecaries’ sons are not endowed.”

“My dear Arthur, I do think you are ashamed of being an apothecary’s son. You talk about it so often,” says the lady. Which was all very well: but you see she was not answering my remarks about the Twysdens.

“You are right, my dear,” I say then. “I ought not to be censorious, being myself no more virtuous than my neighbour.”

“I know people abuse you, Arthur; but I think you are a very good sort of man,” says the lady, over her little tea-tray.

“And so are the Twysdens very good people — very nice, artless, unselfish, simple, generous, well-bred people. Mr. Twysden is all heart: Twysden’s conversational powers are remarkable and pleasing; and Philip is eminently fortunate in getting one of those charming girls for a wife.”

“I’ve no patience with them,” cries my wife, losing that quality to my great satisfaction: for then I knew I had found the crack in Madam Pendennis’s armour of steel, and had smitten her in a vulnerable little place.

“No patience with them? Quiet, lady-like young women!” I cry.

“Ah,” sighs my wife, “what have they got to give Philip in return for — ”

“In return for his thirty thousand? They will have ten thousand pounds a piece when their mother dies.”

“Oh! I wouldn’t have our boy marry a woman like one of those, not if she had a million. I wouldn’t, my child and my blessing!” (This is addressed to a little darling who happens to be eating sweet cakes, in a high chair, off the little table by his mother’s side, and who, though he certainly used to cry a good deal at the period, shall be a mute personage in this history.)

“You are alluding to Blanche’s little affair with — ”

“No, I am not, sir!”

“How do you know which one I meant, then? — Or that notorious disappointment of Agnes, when Lord Farintosh became a widower? If he wouldn’t, she couldn’t, you know, my dear. And I am sure she tried her best: at least, everybody said so.”

“Ah! I have no patience with the way in which you people of the world treat the most sacred of subjects — the most sacred, sir. Do you hear me? Is a woman’s love to be pledged, and withdrawn every day? Is her faith and purity only to be a matter of barter, and rank, and social consideration? I am sorry, because I don’t wish to see Philip, who is good, and honest, and generous, and true as yet — however great his faults may be — because I don’t wish to see him given up to — Oh! it’s shocking, shocking!”

Given up to what? to anything dreadful in this world, or the next? Don’t imagine that Philip’s relations thought they were doing Phil any harm by condescending to marry him, or themselves any injury. A doctor’s son, indeed! Why, the Twysdens were far better placed in the world than their kinsmen of Old Parr Street; and went to better houses. The year’s levée and drawing-room would have been incomplete without Mr. and Mrs. Twysden. There might be families with higher titles, more wealth, higher positions; but the world did not contain more respectable folks than the Twysdens: of this every one of the family was convinced, from Talbot himself down to his heir. If somebody or some Body of savans would write the history of the harm that has been done in the world by people who believe themselves to be virtuous, what a queer, edifying book it would be, and how poor oppressed rogues might look up! Who burns the Protestants? — the virtuous Catholics to be sure. Who roasts the Catholics? — the virtuous Reformers. Who thinks I am a dangerous character, and avoids me at the club? — the virtuous Squaretoes. Who scorns? who persecutes? who doesn’t forgive? — the virtuous Mrs. Grundy. She remembers her neighbour’s peccadilloes to the third and fourth generation; and, if she finds a certain man fallen in her path, gathers up her affrighted garments with a shriek, for fear the muddy, bleeding w............

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