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Part 1 Chapter 13 Love Me Love My Dog

Whilst the battle is raging, the old folks and ladies peep over the battlements, to watch the turns of the combat and the behaviour of the knights. To princesses in old days, whose lovely hands were to be bestowed upon the conqueror, it must have been a matter of no small interest to know whether the slim young champion with the lovely eyes on the milk-white steed should vanquish, or the dumpy, elderly, square-shouldered, squinting, carroty whiskerando of a warrior who was laying about him so savagely; and so in this battle, on the issue of which depended the keeping or losing of poor Philip’s inheritance, there were several non-combatants deeply interested. Or suppose we withdraw the chivalrous simile (as, in fact, the conduct and views of certain parties engaged in the matter were anything but what we call chivalrous), and imagine a wily old monkey who engages a cat to take certain chestnuts out of the fire, and pussy putting her paw through the bars, seizing the nut and then dropping it? Jacko is disappointed and angry, shows his sharp teeth, and bites if he dares. When the attorney went down to do battle for Philip’s patrimony, some of those who wanted it were spectators of the fight, and lurking up a tree hard by. When Mr. Bond came forward to try and seize Phil’s chestnuts, there was a wily old monkey who thrust the cat’s paw out, and proposed to gobble up the smoking prize.

If you have ever been at the “Admiral Byng,” you know, my dear madam, that the parlour where the club meets is just behind Mrs. Oves’s bar; so that by lifting up the sash of the window which communicates between the two apartments, that good-natured woman may put her face into the club-room, and actually be one of the society. Sometimes, for company, old Mr. Ridley goes and sits with Mrs. O— in her bar, and reads the paper there. He is slow at his reading. The long words puzzle the worthy gentleman. As he has plenty of time to spare, he does not grudge it to the study of his paper.

On the day when Mr. Bond went to persuade Mrs. Brandon in Thornhaugh Street to claim Dr. Firmin for her husband, and to disinherit poor Philip, a little gentleman wrapt most solemnly and mysteriously in a great cloak appeared at the bar of the “Admiral Byng,” and said in an aristocratic manner, “You have a parlour; show me to it:” and being introduced to the parlour (where there are fine pictures of Oves, and Mrs. O— , and Spotty-nose, their favourite defunct bull-dog), sat down and called for a glass of sherry and a newspaper.

The civil and intelligent potboy of the “Byng” took the party The Advertiser of yesterday (which to-day’s paper was in ‘and); and when the gentleman began to swear over the old paper, Frederick gave it as his opinion to his mistress that the new comer was a harbitrary gent — as, indeed, he was, with the omission, perhaps, of a single letter; a man who bullied everybody who would submit to be bullied. In fact, it was our friend Talbot Twysden, Esq., Commissioner of the Powder and Pomatum Office; and I leave those who know him to say whether he is arbitrary or not.

To him presently came that bland old gentleman, Mr. Bond, who also asked for a parlour and some sherry and water; and this is how Philip and his veracious and astute biographer came to know for a certainty that dear uncle Talbot was the person who wished to — to have Philip’s chestnuts.

Mr. Bond and Mr. Twysden had been scarcely a minute together, when such a storm of imprecations came clattering through the glass-window which communicates with Mrs. Oves’s bar, that I daresay they made the jugs and tumblers clatter on the shelves, and Mr. Ridley, a very modest-spoken man, reading his paper, lay it down with a scared face, and say, “Well, I never.” Nor did he often, I dare to say.

This volley was fired by Talbot Twysden, in consequence of his rage at the news which Mr. Bond brought him.

“Well, Mr. Bond; well, Mr. Bond! What does she say?” he asked of his emissary.

“She will have nothing to do with the business, Mr. Twysden. We can’t touch it; and I don’t see how we can move her. She denies the marriage as much as Firmin does: says she knew it was a mere sham when the ceremony was performed.”

“Sir you didn’t bribe her enough,” shrieked Mr. Twysden. “You have bungled this business; by George, you have, sir.”

“Go and do it yourself, sir, if you are not ashamed to appear in it,” says the lawyer. “You don’t suppose I did it because I liked it; or want to take that poor young fellow’s inheritance from him, as you do?”

“I wish justice and the law, sir. If I were wrongfully detaining his property I would give it up. I would be the first to give it up. I desire justice and law, and employ you because you are a law agent. Are you not?”

“And I have been on your errand, and shall send in my bill in due time; and there will be an end of my connection with you as your law agent, Mr. Twysden,” cried the old lawyer.

“You know, sir, how badly Firmin acted to me in the last matter.”

“Faith, sir, if you ask my opinion as a law agent, I don’t think there was much to choose between you. How much is the sherry and water? — keep the change. Sorry I’d no better news to bring you, Mr. T., and as you are dissatisfied, again recommend you to employ another law agent.”

“My good sir, I— ”

“My good sir, I have had other dealings with your family, and am no more going to put up with your highti-tightiness than I would with Lord Ringwood’s , when I was one of his law agents. I am not going to tell Mr. Philip Firmin that his uncle and aunt propose to ease him of his property; but if anybody else does — that good little Mrs. Brandon — or that old goose Mr. Whatdyoucallem, her father — I don’t suppose he will be over well pleased. I am speaking as a gentleman now, not as a law agent. You and your nephew had each a half share of Mr. Philip Firmin’s grand-father’s property, and you wanted it all, that’s the truth, and set a law agent to get it for you; and swore at him because he could not get it from its right owner. And so, sir, I wish you a good morning, and recommend you to take your papers to some other agent, Mr. Twysden.” And with this, exit Mr. Bond. And now, I ask you, if that secret could be kept which was known through a trembling glass-door to Mrs. Oves of the “Admiral Byng,” and to Mr. Ridley, the father of J. J., and the obsequious husband of Mrs. Ridley.? On that very afternoon, at tea-time, Mrs. Ridley was made acquainted by her husband (in his noble and circumlo cutory manner) with the conversation which he had overheard. It was agreed that an embassy should be sent to J. J. on the business, and his advice taken regarding it; and J. J.’s opinion was that the conversation certainly should be reported to Mr. Philip Firmin, who might afterwards act upon it as he should think best.

What? His own aunt, cousins, and uncle agreed in a scheme to overthrow his legitimacy, and deprive him of his grandfather’s inheritance? It seemed impossible. Big with the tremendous news, Philip came to his adviser, Mr. Pendennis, of the Temple, and told him what had occurred on the part of father, uncle, and Little Sister. Her abnegation had been so noble, that you may be sure Philip appreciated it; and a tie of friendship was formed between the young man and the little lady even more close and tender than that which had bound them previously. But the Twysdens, his kinsfolk, to employ a lawyer in order to rob him of his inheritance! — Oh, it was dastardly! Philip bawled and stamped, and thumped his sense of the wrong in his usual energetic manner. As for his cousin Ringwood Twysden, Phil had often entertained a strong desire to wring his neck and pitch him downstairs. As for uncle Talbot: that he is an old pump, that he is a pompous old humbug, and the queerest old sycophant, I grant you; but I couldn’t have believed him guilty of this. And as for the girls — oh, Mrs. Pendennis, you who are good, you who are kind, although you hate them, I know you do — you can’t say, you won’t say, that they were in the conspiracy?

“But suppose Twysden was asking only for what he conceives to be his rights?” asked Mr. Pendennis. “Had your father been married to Mrs. Brandon, you would not have been Dr. Firmin’s legitimate son. Had you not been his legitimate son, you had no right to a half-share of your grandfather’s property. Uncle Talbot acts only the part of honour and justice in the transaction. He is Brutus, and he orders you off to death, with a bleeding heart.”

“And he orders his family out of the way,” roars Phil, “so that they mayn’t be pained by seeing the execution! I see it all now. I wish somebody would send a knife through me at once, and put an end to me. I see it all now. Do you know that for the last week I have been to Beaunash Street, and found nobody? Agnes had the bronchitis, and her mother was attending to her; Blanche came for a minute or two, and was as cool — as cool as I have seen Lady Iceberg be cool to her. Then they must go away for change of air. They have been gone these three days: whilst uncle Talbot and that viper of a Ringwood have been closeted with that nice new friend, Mr. Hunt. O conf — ! I beg your pardon, ma’am; but I know you always allow for the energy of my language.”

“I should like to see that Little Sister, Mr. Firmin. She has not been selfish, or had any scheme but for your good,” remarks my wife.

“A little angel who drops her h’s — a little heart, so good and tender that I melt as I think of it,” says Philip, drawing his big hand over his eyes. “What have men done to get the love of some women? We don’t earn it; we don’t deserve it, perhaps. We don’t return it. They bestow it on us. I have given nothing back for all this love and kindness, but I look a little like my father of old days, for whom — for whom she had an attachment. And see now how she would die to serve me! You are wonderful, women are! your fidelities and your ficklenesses alike marvellous. What can any woman have found to adore in the doctor? Do you think my father could ever have been adorable, Mrs. Pendennis? And yet I have heard my poor mother say she was obliged to marry him. She knew it was a bad match, but she couldn’t resist it. In what was my father so irresistible? He is not to my taste. Between ourselves, I think he is a — well, never mind what.”

“I think we had best not mind what,” says my wife, with a smile.

“Quite right — quite right; only I blurt out everything that is on my mind. Can’t keep it in,” cries Phil, gnawing his mustachios. “If my fortune depended on my silence I should be a beggar, that’s the fact. And, you see, if you had such a father as mine, you yourself would find it rather difficult to hold your tongue about him. But now, tell me: this ordering away of the girls and aunt Twysden, whilst the little attack upon my property is being carried on — isn’t it queer?”

“The question is at an end,” said Mr. Pendennis. “You are restored to your atavis regibus and ancestral honours. Now that uncle Twysden can’t get the property without you, have courage, my boy — he may take it, along with the encumbrance.”

Poor Phil had not known — but some of us, who are pretty clear-sighted when our noble selves are not concerned, had perceived that Philip’s dear aunt was playing fast and loose with the lad, and when his back was turned was encouraging a richer suitor for her daughter.

Hand on heart I can say of my wife, that she meddles with her neighbours as little as any person I ever knew; but when treacheries in love affairs are in question, she fires up at once, and would persecute to death almost the heartless male or female criminal who would break love’s sacred laws. The idea of a man or woman trifling with that holy compact awakens in her a flame of indignation. In curtain confidences (of which let me not vulgarize the arcana), she had given me her mind about some of Miss Twysden’s behaviour with that odious blackamoor, as she chose to call Captain Woolcomb, who, I own, had a very slight tinge of complexion; and when, quoting the words of Hamlet regarding his father and, mother, I asked, “Could she on this fair mountain leave to feed, and batten on this Moor?” Mrs. Pendennis cried out that this matter was all too serious for jest, and wondered how her husband could make word-plays about it. Perhaps she has not the exquisite sense of humour possessed by some folks; or is it that she has more reverence? In her creed, if not in her church, marriage is a sacrament; and the fond believer never speaks of it without awe.

Now, as she expects both parties to the marriage engagement to keep that compact holy, she no more understands trifling with it than she could comprehend laughing and joking in a church. She has no patience with flirtations as they are called. “Don’t tell me, sir,” says the enthusiast, “a light word between a man and a married woman ought not to be permitted.” And this is why she is harder on the woman than the man, in cases where such dismal matters happen to fall under discussion. A look, a word from a woman, she says, will check a libertine thought or word in a man; and these cases might be stopped at once if the woman but showed the slightest resolution. She is thus more angry (I am only mentioning the peculiarities, not defending the ethics of this individual moralist) — she is, I say, more angrily disposed towards the woman than the man in such delicate cases; and, I am afraid, considers that women are for the most part only victims because they choose to be so.

Now, we had happened during this season to be at several entertainments, routs, and so forth, where poor Phil, owing to his unhappy Bohemian preferences and love of tobacco, was not present — and where we saw Miss Agnes Twysden carrying on such a game with the tawny Woolcomb, as set Mrs. Laura in a tremor of indignation. What though Agnes’s blue-eyed mamma sat near her blue-eyed daughter and kept her keen clear o............

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