"And no better man, Major, I'm sure," cried Jack enraptured.
"Your friendship, sir, delights me. Your admiration for my girl brings tears to me eyes—tears, sir—manlee tears—and when she leaves me humble home for your own more splendid mansion, I hope she'll keep a place for her poor old father, poor old Jack Costigan."—The Captain suited the action to the word, and his bloodshot eyes were suffused with water, as he addressed the Major.
"Your sentiments do you honour," the other said. "But, Captain Costigan, I can't help smiling at one thing you have just said."
"And what's that, sir?" asked Jack, who was at a too heroic and sentimental pitch to descend from it. You were speaking about our splendid mansion—my sister's house, I mean.
"I mane the park and mansion of Arthur Pendennis, Esquire, of Fairoaks Park, whom I hope to see a Mimber of Parliament for his native town of Clavering, when he is of ege to take that responsible stetion," cried the Captain with much dignity.
The Major smiled as he recognised a shaft of his own bow. It was he who had set Pen upon the idea of sitting in Parliament for the neighbouring borough—and the poor lad had evidently been bragging on the subject to Costigan and the lady of his affections. "Fairoaks Park, my dear sir," he said. "Do you know our history? We are of excessively ancient family certainly, but I began life with scarce enough money to purchase my commission, and my eldest brother was a country apothecary: who made every shilling he died possessed of out of his pestle and mortar."
"I have consented to waive that objection, sir," said Costigan majestically, "in consideration of the known respectability of your family."
"Curse your impudence," thought the Major; but he only smiled and bowed.
"The Costigans, too, have met with misfortunes; and our house of Castle Costigan is by no manes what it was. I have known very honest men apothecaries, sir, and there's some in Dublin that has had the honour of dining at the Lord Leftenant's teeble."
"You are very kind to give us the benefit of your charity," the Major continued: "but permit me to say that is not the question. You spoke just now of my little nephew as heir of Fairoaks Park and I don't know what besides."
"Funded property, I've no doubt, Meejor, and something handsome eventually from yourself."
"My good sir, I tell you the boy is the son of a country apothecary," cried out Major Pendennis; "and that when he comes of age he won't have a shilling."
"Pooh, Major, you're laughing at me," said Mr. Costigan, "me young friend, I make no doubt, is heir to two thousand pounds a year."
"Two thousand fiddlesticks! I beg your pardon, my dear sir; but has the boy been humbugging you?—it is not his habit. Upon my word and honour, as a gentleman and an executor to my brother's will too, he left little more than five hundred a year behind him."
"And with aconomy, a handsome sum of money too, sir," the Captain answered. "Faith, I've known a man drink his clar't, and drive his coach-and-four on five hundred a year and strict aconomy, in Ireland, sir. We'll manage on it, sir—trust Jack Costigan for that."
"My dear Captain Costigan—I give you my word that my brother did not leave a shilling to his son Arthur."
"Are ye joking with me, Meejor Pendennis?" cried Jack Costigan. "Are ye thrifling with the feelings of a father and a gentleman?"
"I am telling you the honest truth," said Major Pendennis. "Every shilling my brother had, he left to his widow: with a partial reversion, it is true, to the boy. But she is a young woman, and may marry if he offends her—or she may outlive him, for she comes of an uncommonly long-lived family. And I ask you, as a gentleman and a man of the world, what allowance can my sister, Mrs. Pendennis, make to her son out of five hundred a year, which is all her fortune,—that shall enable him to maintain himself and your daughter in the rank befitting such an accomplished young lady?"
"Am I to understand, sir, that the young gentleman, your nephew, and whom I have fosthered and cherished as the son of me bosom, is an imposther who has been thrifling with the affections of me beloved child?" exclaimed the General, with an outbreak of wrath.—"Have you yourself been working upon the feelings of the young man's susceptible nature to injuice him to break off an engagement, and with it me adored Emily's heart? Have a care, sir, how you thrifle with the honour of John Costigan. If I thought any mortal man meant to do so, be heavens I'd have his blood, sir—were he old or young."
"Mr. Costigan!" cried out the Major.
"Mr. Costigan can protect his own and his daughter's honour, and will, sir," said the other. "Look at that chest of dthrawers, it contains heaps of letthers that that viper has addressed to that innocent child. There's promises there, sir, enough to fill a bandbox with; and when I have dragged the scoundthrel before the Courts of Law, and shown up his perjury and his dishonour, I have another remedy in yondther mahogany case, sir, which shall set me right, sir, with any individual—ye mark me words, Major Pendennis—with any individual who has counselled your nephew to insult a soldier and a gentleman. What? Me daughter to be jilted, and me grey hairs dishonoured by an apothecary's son. By the laws of Heaven, Sir, I should like to see the man that shall do it."
"I am to understand then that you threaten in the first place to publish the letters of a boy of eighteen to a woman of eight-and-twenty: and afterwards to do me the honour of calling me out," the Major said, still with perfect coolness.
"You have described my intentions with perfect accuracy, Meejor Pendennis," answered the Captain, as he pulled his ragged whiskers over his chin.
"Well, well; these shall be the subjects of future arrangements, but before we come to powder and ball, my good sir,—do have the kindness to think with yourself in what earthly way I have injured you? I have told you that my nephew is dependent upon his mother, who has scarcely more than five hundred a year."
"I have my own opinion of the correctness of that assertion," said the Captain.
"Will you go to my sister's lawyers, Messrs. Tatham here, and satisfy yourself?"
"I decline to meet those gentlemen," said the Captain, with rather a disturbed air. "If it be as you say, I have been athrociously deceived by some one, and on that person I'll be revenged."
"Is it my nephew?" cried the Major, starting up and putting on his hat. "Did he ever tell you that his property was two thousand a year? If he did, I'm mistaken in the boy. To tell lies has not been a habit in our family, Mr. Costigan, and I don't think my brother's son has learned it as yet. Try and consider whether you have not deceived yourself; or adopted extravagant reports from hearsay—As for me, sir, you are at liberty to understand that I am not afraid of all the Costigans in Ireland, and know quite well how to defend myself against any threats from any quarter. I come here as the boy's guardian to protest against a marriage, most absurd and unequal, that cannot but bring poverty and misery with it: and in preventing it I conceive I am quite as much your daughter's friend (who I have no doubt is an honourable young lady) as the friend of my own family: and prevent the marriage I will, sir, by every means in my power. There, I have said my say, sir."
"But I have not said mine, Major Pendennis—and ye shall hear more from me," Mr. Costigan said, with a look of tremendous severity.
"'Sdeath, sir, what do you mean?" the Major asked, turning round on the threshold of the door, and looking the intrepid Costigan in the face.
"Ye said, in the coorse of conversation, that ye were at the George Hotel, I think," Mr. Costigan said in a stately manner. "A friend shall wait upon ye there before ye leave town, sir."
"Let him make haste, Mr. Costigan," cried out the Major, almost beside himself with rage. "I wish you a good morning, sir." And Captain Costigan bowed a magnificent bow of defiance to Major Pendennis over the landing-place as the latter retreated down the stairs.
CHAPTER XII. In which a Shooting Match is proposed
Early mention has been made in this history of Mr. Garbetts, Principal Tragedian, a promising and athletic young actor, of jovial habits and irregular inclinations, between whom and Mr. Costigan there was a considerable intimacy. They were the chief ornaments of the convivial club held at the Magpie Hotel; they helped each other in various bill transactions in which they had been engaged, with the mutual loan of each other's valuable signatures. They were friends, in fine: although Mr. Garbetts seldom called at Costigan's house, being disliked by Miss Fotheringay, of whom in her turn Mrs. Garbetts was considerably jealous. The truth is, that Garbetts had paid his court to Miss Fotheringay and been refused by her, before he offered his hand to Mrs. G. Their history, however, forms no part of our present scheme—suffice it, Mr. Garbetts was called in by Captain Costigan immediately after his daughter and Mr. Bows had quitted the house, as a friend proper to be consulted at the actual juncture. He was a large man, with a loud voice and fierce aspect, who had the finest legs of the whole company, and could break a poker in mere sport across his stalwart arm.
"Run, Tommy," said Mr. Costigan to the little messenger, "and fetch Mr. Garbetts from his lodgings over the tripe shop, ye know, and tell 'em to send two glasses of whisky-and-water, hot, from the Grapes." So Tommy went his way; and presently Mr. Garbetts and the whisky came.
Captain Costigan did not disclose to him the whole of the previous events, of which the reader is in possession; but, with the aid of the spirits-and-water, he composed a letter of a threatening nature to Major Pendennis's address, in which he called upon that gentleman to offer no hindrance to the marriage projected between Mr. Arthur Pendennis and his daughter, Miss Fotheringay, and to fix an early day for its celebration: or, in any other case, to give him the satisfaction which was usual between gentlemen of honour. And should Major Pendennis be disinclined to this alternative, the Captain hinted, that he would force him to accept by the use of a horsewhip, which he should employ upon the Major's person. The precise terms of this letter we cannot give, for reasons which shall be specified presently; but it was, no doubt, couched in the Captain's finest style, and sealed elaborately with the great silver seal of the Costigans—the only bit of the family plate which the Captain possessed.
Garbetts was despatched then with this message and letter; and bidding Heaven bless 'um the General squeezed his ambassador's hand, and saw him depart. Then he took down his venerable and murderous duelling-pistols, with flint locks, that had done the business of many a pretty fellow in Dublin: and having examined these, and seen that they were in a satisfactory condition, he brought from the drawer all Pen's letters and poems which he kept there, and which he always read before he permitted his Emily to enjoy their perusal.
In a score of minutes Garbetts came back with an anxious and crestfallen countenance.
"Ye've seen 'um?" the Captain said.
"Why, yes," said Garbetts.
"And when is it for?" asked Costigan, trying the lock of one of the ancient pistols, and bringing it to a level with his oi—as he called that bloodshot orb.
"When is what for?" asked Mr. Garbetts.
"The meeting, my dear fellow?"
"You don't mean to say, you mean mortal combat, Captain," Garbetts said, aghast.
"What the devil else do I mean, Garbetts?—I want to shoot that man that has trajuiced me honor, or meself dthrop a victim on the sod."
"D—— if I carry challenges," Mr. Garbetts replied. "I'm a family man, Captain, and will have nothing to do with pistols—take back your letter;" and, to the surprise and indignation of Captain Costigan, his emissary flung the letter down, with its great sprawling superscription and blotched seal.
"Ye don't mean to say ye saw 'um and didn't give 'um the letter?" cried out the Captain in a fury.
"I saw him, but I could not have speech with him, Captain," said Mr. Garbetts.
"And why the devil not?" asked the other.
"There was one there I cared not to meet, nor would you," the tragedian answered in a sepulchral voice. "The minion Tatham was there, Captain."
"The cowardly scoundthrel!" roared Costigan. "He's frightened, and already going to swear the peace against me."
"I'll have nothing to do with the fighting, mark that," the tragedian doggedly said, "and I wish I'd not seen Tatham neither, nor that bit of——"
"Hold your tongue, Bob Acres. It's my belief ye're no better than a coward," said Captain Costigan, quoting Sir Lucius O'Trigger, which character he had performed with credit, both off and on the stage, and after some more parley between the couple they separated in not very good humour.
Their colloquy has been here condensed, as the reader knows the main point upon which it turned. But the latter will now see how it is impossible to give a correct account of the letter which the Captain wrote to Major Pendennis, as it was never opened at all by that gentleman.
When Miss Costigan came home from rehearsal, which she did in the company of the faithful Mr. Bows, she found her father pacing up and down their apartment in a great state of agitation, and in the midst of a powerful odour of spirits-and-water, which, as it appeared, had not succeeded in pacifying his disordered mind. The Pendennis papers were on the table surrounding the empty goblets and now useless teaspoon which had served to hold and mix the Captain's liquor and his friend's. As Emily entered he seized her in his arms, and cried out, "Prepare yourself, me child, me blessed child," in a voice of agony, and with eyes brimful of tears.
"Ye're tipsy again, Papa," Miss Fotheringay said, pushing back her sire. "Ye promised me ye wouldn't take spirits before dinner."
"It's to forget me sorrows, me poor girl, that I've taken just a drop," cried the bereaved father—"it's to drown me care that I drain the bowl."
"Your care takes a deal of drowning, Captain dear," said Bows, mimicking his friend's accent; "what has happened? Has that soft-spoken gentleman in the wig been vexing you?"
"The oily miscreant! I'll have his blood!" roared Cos. Miss Milly, it must be premised, had fled to her room out of his embrace, and was taking off her bonnet and shawl there.
"I thought he meant mischief. He was so uncommon civil," the other said. "What has he come to say?"
"O Bows! He has overwhellum'd me," the Captain said. "There's a hellish conspiracy on foot against me poor girl; and it's me opinion that both them Pendennises, nephew and uncle, is two infernal thrators and scoundthrels, who should be conshumed from off the face of the earth."
"What is it? What has happened?" said Mr. Bows, growing rather excited.
Costigan then told him the Major's statement that the young Pendennis had not two thousand, nor two hundred pounds a year; and expressed his fury that he should have permitted such an impostor to coax and wheedle his innocent girl, and that he should have nourished such a viper in his own personal bosom. "I have shaken the reptile from me, however," said Costigan; "and as for his uncle, I'll have such a revenge on that old man, as shall make 'um rue the day he ever insulted a Costigan."
"What do you mean, General?" said Bows.
"I mean to have his life, Bows—his villanous, skulking life, my boy;" and he rapped upon the battered old pistol-case in an ominous and savage manner. Bows had often heard him appeal to that box of death, with which he proposed to sacrifice his enemies; but the Captain did not tell him that he had actually written and sent a challenge to Major Pendennis, and Mr. Bows therefore rather disregarded the pistols in the present instance.
At this juncture Miss Fotheringay returned to the common sitting-room from her private apartment, looking perfectly healthy, happy, and unconcerned, a striking and wholesome contrast to her father, who was in a delirious tremor of grief, anger, and other agitation. She brought in a pair of ex-white satin shoes with her, which she proposed to rub as clean as might be with bread-crumb: intending to go mad with them upon next Tuesday evening in Ophelia, in which character she was to reappear on that night.
She looked at the papers on the table; stopped as if she was going to ask a question, but thought better of it, and going to the cupboard, selected an eligible piece of bread wherewith she might operate on the satin slippers: and afterwards coming back to the table, seated herself there commodiously with the shoes, and then asked her father, in her honest, Irish brogue, "What have ye got them letthers, and pothry, and stuff, of Master Arthur's out for, Pa? Sure ye don't want to be reading over that nonsense."
"O Emilee!" cried the Captain, "that boy whom I loved as the boy of mee bosom is only a scoundthrel, and a deceiver, mee poor girl:" and he looked in the most tragical way at Mr. Bows, opposite; who, in his turn, gazed somewhat anxiously at Miss Costigan.
"He! pooh! Sure the poor lad's as simple as a schoolboy," she said. "All them children write verses and nonsense."
"He's been acting the part of a viper to this fireside, and a traitor in this familee," cried the Captain. "I tell ye he's no better than an impostor."
"What has the poor fellow done, Papa?" asked Emily.
"Done? He has deceived us in the most athrocious manner," Miss Emily's papa said. "He has thrifled with your affections, and outraged my own fine feelings. He has represented himself as a man of property, and it turruns out that he is no betther than a beggar. Haven't I often told ye he had two thousand a year? He's a pauper, I tell ye, Miss Costigan; a depindent upon the bountee of his mother; a good woman, who may marry again, who's likely to live for ever, and who has but five hundred a year. How dar he ask ye to marry into a family which has not the means of providing for ye? Ye've been grossly deceived and put upon, Milly, and it's my belief his old ruffian of an uncle in a wig is in the plot against us."
"That soft old gentleman? What has he been doing, Papa?" continued Emily, still imperturbable.
Costigan informed Milly, that when she was gone, Major Pendennis told him in his double-faced Pall Mall polite manner, that young Arthur had no fortune at all, that the Major had asked him (Costigan) to go to the lawyers ("wherein he knew the scoundthrels have a bill of mine, and I can't meet them," the Captain parenthetically remarked), and see the lad's father's will and finally, that an infernal swindle had been practised upon him by the pair, and that he was resolved either on a marriage, or on the blood of both of them.
Milly looked very grave and thoughtful, rubbing the white satin shoes. "Sure, if he's no money, there's no use marrying him, Papa," she said sententiously.
"Why did the villain say he was a man of prawpertee?" asked Costigan.
"The poor fellow always said he was poor," answered the girl. "'Twas you would have it he was rich, Papa—and made me agree to take him."
"He should have been explicit and told us his income, Milly," answered the father. "A young fellow who rides a blood mare, and makes presents of shawls and bracelets, is an impostor if he has no money;—and as for his uncle, bedad I'll pull off his wig whenever I see 'um. Bows, here, shall take a message to him and tell him so. Either it's a marriage, or he meets me in the field like a man, or I tweak 'um on the nose in front of his hotel or in the gravel walks of Fairoaks Park before all the county, bedad."
"Bedad, you may send somebody else with the message," said Bows, laughing. "I'm a fiddler, not a fighting man, Captain."
"Pooh, you've no spirit, sir," roared the General. "I'll be my own second, if no one will stand by and see me injured. And I'll take my case of pistols and shoot 'um in the Coffee-room of the George."
"And so poor Arthur has no money?" sighed out Miss Costigan, rather plaintively. "Poor lad, he was a good lad too: wild and talking nonsense, with his verses and pothry and that, but a brave, generous boy, and indeed I liked him—and he liked me too," she added, rather softly, and rubbing away at the shoe.
"Why don't you marry him if you like him so?" Mr. Bows said, rather savagely. "He is not more than ten years younger than you are. His mother may relent, and you might go and live and have enough at Fairoaks Park. Why not go and be a lady? I could go on with the fiddle, and the General live on his half-pay. Why don't you marry him? You know he likes you."
"There's others that likes me as well, Bows, that has no money and that's old enough," Miss Milly said sententiously.
"Yes, d—— it," said Bows, with a bitter curse—"that are old enough and poor enough and fools enough for anything."
"There's old fools, and young fools too. You've often said so you silly man," the imperious beauty said, with a conscious glance at the old gentleman. "If Pendennis has not enough money to live upon, it's folly to talk about marrying him: and that's the long and short of it."
"And the boy?" said Mr. Bows. "By Jove! you throw a man away like an old glove, Miss Costigan."
"I don't know what you mean, Bows," said Miss Fotheringay, placidly, rubbing the second shoe. "If he had had half of the two thousand a year that Papa gave him, or the half of that, I would marry him. But what is the good of taking on with a beggar? We're poor enough already. There's no use in my going to live with an old lady that's testy and cross, maybe, and would grudge me every morsel of meat." (Sure, it's near dinner time, and Suky not laid the cloth yet.) "And then," added Miss Costigan quite simply, "suppose there was a family?—why, Papa, we shouldn't be as well off as we are now."
"'Deed, then, you would not, Milly dear," answered the father.
"And there's an end to all the fine talk about Mrs. Arthur Pendennis of Fairoaks Park—the member of Parliament's lady," said Milly, with a laugh. "Pretty carriages and horses we should have to ride!—that you were always talking about, Papa! But it's always the same. If a man looked at me, you fancied he was going to marry me; and if he had a good coat, you fancied he was as rich as Crazes."
"—As Croesus," said Mr. Bows.
"Well, call 'um what ye like. But it's a fact now that Papa has married me these eight years a score of times. Wasn't I to be my Lady Poldoody of Oystherstown Castle? Then there was the Navy Captain at Portsmouth, and the old surgeon at Norwich, and the Methodist preacher here last year, and who knows how many more? Well, I bet a penny, with all your scheming, I shall die Milly Costigan at last. So poor little Arthur has no money? Stop and take dinner, Bows; we've a beautiful beef-steak pudding."
"I wonder whether she is on with Sir Derby Oaks," thought Bows, whose eyes and thoughts were always watching her. "The dodges of women beat all comprehension; and I am sure she wouldn't let the lad off so easily, if she had not some other scheme on hand."
It will have been perceived that Miss Fotheringay, though silent in general, and by no means brilliant as a conversationist, where poetry, literature, or the fine arts were concerned, could talk freely, and with good sense, too, in her own family circle. She cannot justly be called a romantic person: nor were her literary acquirement great: she never opened a Shakspeare from the day she left the stage, nor, indeed, understood it during all the time she adorned the boards: but about a pudding, a piece of needle-work, or her own domestic affairs, she was as good a judge as could be found; and not being misled by a strong imagination or a passionate temper, was better enabled to keep her judgment cool. When, over their dinner, Costigan tried to convince himself and the company, that the Major's statement regarding Pen's finances was unworthy of credit, and a mere ruse upon the old hypocrite's part so as to induce them, on their side, to break off the match, Miss Milly would not, for a moment, admit the possibility of deceit on the side of the adversary: and pointed out clearly that it was her father who had deceived himself, and not poor little Pen who had tried to take them in. As for that poor lad, she said she pitied him with all her heart. And she ate an exceedingly good dinner; to the admiration of Mr. Bows, who had a remarkable regard and contempt for this woman, during and after which repast, the party devised upon the best means of bringing this love-matter to a close. As for Costigan, his idea of tweaking the Major's nose vanished with his supply of after-dinner whisky-and-water; and he was submissive to his daughter, and ready for any plan on which she might decide, in order to meet the crisis which she saw was at hand.
The Captain, who, as long as he had a notion that he was wronged, was eager to face and demolish both Pen and his uncle, perhaps shrank from the idea of meeting the former, and asked "what the juice they were to say to the lad if he remained steady to his engagement, and they broke from theirs?" "What? don't you know how to throw a man over?" said Bows; "ask a woman to tell you?" and Miss Fotheringay showed how this feat was to be done simply enough—nothing was more easy. "Papa writes to Arthur to know what settlements he proposes to make in event of a marriage; and asks what his means are. Arthur writes back and says what he's got, and you'll find it's as the Major says, I'll go bail. Then papa writes, and says it's not enough, and the match had best be at an end."
"And, of course, you enclose a parting line, in which you say you will always regard him as a brother," said Mr. Bows, eyeing her in his scornful way.
"Of course, and so I shall," answered Miss Fotheringay. "He's a most worthy young man, I'm sure. I'll thank ye hand me the salt. Them filberts is beautiful."
"And there will be no noses pulled, Cos, my boy? I'm sorry you're baulked," said Mr. Bows.
"Dad, I suppose not," said Cos, rubbing his own.—"What'll ye do about them letters, and verses, and pomes, Milly, darling?—Ye must send 'em back."
"Wigsby would give a hundred pound for 'em," Bows said, with a sneer.
"'Deed, then, he would," said Captain Costigan, who was easily led.
"Papa!" said Miss Milly.—"Ye wouldn't be for not sending the poor boy his letters back? Them letters and pomes is mine. They were very long, and full of all sorts of nonsense, and Latin, and things I couldn't understand the half of; indeed I've not read 'em all; but we'll send 'em back to him when the proper time comes." And going to a drawer, Miss Fotheringay took out from it a number of the County Chronicle and Chatteris Champion, in which Pen had written a copy of flaming verses celebrating her appearance in the character of Imogen, and putting by the leaf upon which the poem appeared (for, like ladies of her profession, she kept the favourable printed notices of her performances), she wrapped up Pen's letters, poems, passions, and fancies, and tied them with a piece of string neatly, as she would a parcel of sugar.
Nor was she in the least moved while performing this act. What hours the boy had passed over those papers! What love and longing: what generous faith and manly devotion—what watchful nights and lonely fevers might they tell of! She tied them up like so much grocery, and sate down and made tea afterwards with a perfectly placid and contented heart: while Pen was yearning after her ten miles off: and hugging her image to his soul.
CHAPTER XIII. A Crisis
Meanwhile they were wondering at Fairoaks that the Major had not returned. Dr. Portman and his lady, on their way home to Clavering, stopped at Helen's lodge-gate, with a brief note for her from Major Pendennis, in which he said he should remain at Chatteris another day, being anxious to have some talk with Messrs. Tatham, the lawyers, whom he would meet that afternoon; but no mention was made of the transaction in which the writer had been engaged during the morning. Indeed the note was written at the pause after the first part of the engagement, and when the Major had decidedly had the worst of the battle.
Pen did not care somehow to go into the town whilst his uncle was there. He did not like to have to fancy that his guardian might be spying at him from that abominable Dean's grass-plat, whilst he was making love in Miss Costigan's drawing-room; and the pleasures of a walk (a delight which he was very rarely permitted to enjoy) would have been spoiled if he had met the man of the polished boots on that occasion. His modest love could not show in public by any outward signs, except the eyes (with which the poor fellow ogled and gazed violently to be sure), but it was dumb in the presence of third parties; and so much the better, for of all the talk which takes place in this world, that of love-makers is surely, to the uninitiated, the most silly. It is the vocabulary without the key; it is the lamp without the flame. Let the respected reader look or think over some old love-letters that he (or she) has had and forgotten, and try them over again. How blank and meaningless they seem! What glamour of infatuation was it which made that nonsense beautiful? One wonders that such puling and trash could ever have made one happy. And yet there were dates when you kissed those silly letters with rapture—lived upon six absurd lines for a week, and until the reactionary period came, when you were restless and miserable until you got a fresh supply of folly.
That is why we decline to publish any of the letters and verses which Mr. Pen wrote at this period of his life, out of mere regard for the young fellow's character. They are too spooney and wild. Young ladies ought not to be called upon to read them in cold blood. Bide your time, young women; perhaps you will get and write them on your own account soon. Meanwhile we will respect Mr. Pen's first outpourings, and keep them tied up in the newspapers with Miss Fotheringay's string, and sealed with Captain Costigan's great silver seal.
The Major came away from his interview with Captain Costigan in a state of such concentrated fury as rendered him terrible to approach! "The impudent bog-trotting scamp," he thought, "dare to threaten me! Dare to talk of permitting his damned Costigans to marry with the Pendennises! Send me a challenge! If the fellow can get anything in the shape of a gentleman to carry it, I have the greatest mind in life not to baulk him.—Psha! what would people say if I were to go out with a tipsy mountebank, about a row with an actress in a barn!" So when the Major saw Dr. Portman, who asked anxiously regarding the issue of his battle with the dragon, Mr. Pendennis did not care to inform the divine of the General's insolent behaviour, but stated that the affair was a very ugly and disagreeable one, and that it was by no means over yet.
He enjoined Doctor and Mrs. Portman to say nothing about the business at Fairoaks; whither he contented himself with despatching the note we have before mentioned. And then he returned to his hotel, where he vented his wrath upon Mr. Morgan his valet, "dammin and cussin upstairs and downstairs," as that gentleman observed to Mr. Foker's man, in whose company he partook of dinner in the servants' room of the George.
The servant carried the news to his master; and Mr. Foker having finished his breakfast about this time, it being two o'clock in the afternoon, remembered that he was anxious to know the result of the interview between his two friends, and having inquired the number of the Major's sitting-room, went over in his brocade dressing-gown, and knocked for admission.
Major Pendennis had some business, as he had stated, respecting a lease of the widow's, about which he was desirous of consulting old Mr. Tatham, the lawyer, who had been his brother's man of business, and who had a branch-office at Clavering, where he and his son attended market and other days three or four in the week. This gentleman and his client were now in consultation when Mr. Foker showed his grand dressing-gown and embroidered skull-cap at Major Pendennis's door.
Seeing the Major engaged with papers and red-tape, and an old man with a white head, the modest youth was for drawing back—and said, "O, you're busy—call again another time." But Mr. Pendennis wanted to see him, and begged him, with a smile, to enter: whereupon Mr. Foker took off the embroidered tarboosh or fez (it had been worked by the fondest of mothers) and advanced, bowing to the gentlemen and smiling on them graciously. Mr. Tatham had never seen so splendid an apparition before as this brocaded youth, who seated himself in an arm-chair, spreading out his crimson skirts, and looking with exceeding kindness and frankness on the other two tenants of the room. "You seem to like my dressing-gown, sir," he said to Mr. Tatham. "A pretty thing, isn't it? Neat, but not in the least gaudy. And how do you do, Major Pendennis, sir, and how does the world treat you?"
There was that in Foker's manner and appearance which would have put an Inquisitor into good humour, and it smoothed the wrinkles under Pendennis's head of hair.
"I have had an interview with that Irishman (you may speak before my friend, Mr. Tatham here, who knows all the affairs of the family), and it has not, I own, been very satisfactory. He won't believe that my nephew is poor: he says we are both liars: he did me the honour to hint that I was a coward, as I took leave. And I thought when you knocked at the door, that you might be the gentleman whom I expect with a challenge from Mr. Costigan—that is how the world treats me, Mr. Foker."
"You don't mean that Irishman, the actress's father?" cried Mr. Tatham, who was a dissenter himself, and did not patronise the drama.
"That Irishman, the actress's father—the very man. Have not you heard what a fool my nephew has made of himself about the girl?"—Mr. Tatham, who never entered the walls of a theatre, had heard nothing: and Major Pendennis had to recount the story of his nephew's loves to the lawyer, Mr. Foker coming in with appropriate comments in his usual familiar language.
Tatham was lost in wonder at the narrative. Why had not Mrs. Pendennis married a serious man, he thought—Mr. Tatham was a widower—and kept this unfortunate boy from perdition? As for Mr. Costigan's daughter, he would say nothing: her profession was sufficient to characterise her. Mr. Foker here interposed to say he had known some uncommon good people in the booths, as he called the Temple of the Muses. Well, it might be so, Mr. Tatham hoped so—but the father, Tatham knew personally—a man of the worst character, a wine-bibber and an idler in taverns and billiard-rooms, and a notorious insolvent. "I can understand the reason, Major," he said, "why the fellow would not come to my office to ascertain the truth of the statements which you made him.—We have a writ out against him and another disreputable fellow, one of the play-actors, for a bill given to Mr. Skinner of this city, a most respectable Grocer and Wine and Spirit Merchant, and a Member of the Society of Friends. This Costigan came crying to Mr. Skinner,—crying in the shop, sir,—and we have not proceeded against him or the other, as neither were worth powder and shot."
It was whilst Mr. Tatham was engaged in telling this story that a third knock came to the door, and there entered an athletic gentleman in a shabby braided frock, bearing in his hand a letter with a large blotched red seal.
"Can I have the honour of speaking with Major Pendennis in private?" he began—"I have a few words for your ear, sir. I am the bearer of a mission from my friend Captain Costigan,"—but here the man with the bass voice paused, faltered, and turned pale—he caught sight of the red and well-remembered face of Mr. Tatham.
"Hullo, Garbetts, speak up!" cried Mr. Foker, delighted.
"Why, bless my soul, it is the other party to the bill!" said Mr. Tatham. "I say, sir; stop I say." But Garbetts, with a face as blank as Macbeth's when Banquo's ghost appears upon him, gasped some inarticulate words, and fled out of the room.
The Major's gravity was also entirely upset, and he burst out laughing. So did Mr. Foker, who said, "By Jove, it was a good 'un." So did the attorney, although by profession a serious man.
"I don't think there'll be any fight, Major," young Foker said; and began mimicking the tragedian. "If there is, the old gentleman—your name Tatham?—very happy to make your acquaintance, Mr. Tatham—may send the bailiffs to separate the men;" and Mr. Tatham promised to do so. The Major was by no means sorry at the ludicrous issue of the quarrel. "It seems to me, sir," he said to Mr. Foker, "that you always arrive to put me into good-humour."
Nor was this the only occasion on which Mr. Foker this day was destined to be of service to the Pendennis family. We have said that he had the entree of Captain Costigan's lodgings, and in the course of the afternoon he thought he would pay the General a visit, and hear from his own lips what had occurred in the conversation, in the morning, with Mr. Pendennis. Captain Costigan was not at home. He had received permission, nay, encouragement from his daughter, to go to the convivial club at the Magpie Hotel, where no doubt he was bragging at that moment of his desire to murder a certain ruffian; for he was not only brave, but he knew it too, and liked to take out his courage, and, as it were, give it an airing in company.
Costigan then was absent, but Miss Fotheringay was at home washing the tea-cups whilst Mr. Bows sate opposite to her.
"Just done breakfast I see—how do?" said Mr. Foker, popping in his little funny head.
"Get out, you funny little man," cried Miss Fotheringay.
"You mean come in, answered the other.—Here we are!" and entering the room he folded his arms and began twirling his head round and round with immense rapidity, like Harlequin in the Pantomime when he first issues from his cocoon or envelope. Miss Fotheringay laughed with all her heart: a wink of Foker's would set her off laughing, when the bitterest joke Bows ever made could not get a smile from her, or the finest of poor Pen's speeches would only puzzle her. At the end of the harlequinade he sank down on one knee and kissed her hand. "You're the drollest little man," she said, and gave him a great good-humoured slap. Pen used to tremble as he kissed her hand. Pen would have died of a slap.
These preliminaries over, the three began to talk; Mr. Foker amused his companions by recounting to them the scene which he had just witnessed of the discomfiture of Mr. Garbetts, by which they learned, for the first time, how far the General had carried his wrath against Major Pendennis. Foker spoke strongly in favour of the Major's character for veracity and honour, and described him as a tip-top swell, moving in the upper-circle of society, who would never submit to any deceit—much more to deceive such a charming young woman as Miss Foth.
He touched delicately upon the delicate marriage question, though he couldn't help showing that he held Pen rather cheap. In fact, he had a perhaps just contempt for Mr. Pen's high-flown sentimentality; his own weakness, as he thought, not lying that way. "I knew it wouldn't do, Miss Foth," said he, nodding his little head. "Couldn't do. Didn't like to put my hand into the bag, but knew it couldn't do. He's too young for you: too green: a deal too green: and he turns out to be poor as Job. Can't have him at no price, can she, Mr. Bo?"
"Indeed he's a nice poor boy," said the Fotheringay rather sadly.
"Poor little beggar," said Bows, with his hands in his pockets, and stealing up a queer look at Miss Fotheringay. Perhaps he thought and wondered at the way in which women play with men, and coax them and win them and drop them.
But Mr. Bows had not the least objection to acknowledge that he thought Miss Fotheringay was perfectly right in giving up Mr. Arthur Pendennis, and that in his idea the match was always an absurd one: and Miss Costigan owned that she thought so herself, only she couldn't send away two thousand a year. "It all comes of believing Papa's silly stories," she said; "faith I'll choose for meself another time"—and very likely the large image of Lieutenant Sir Derby Oaks entered into her mind at that instant.
After praising Major Pendennis, whom Miss Costigan declared to be a proper gentleman entirely, smelling of lavender, and as neat as a pin,—and who was pronounced by Mr. Bows to be the right sort of fellow, though rather too much of an old buck, Mr. Foker suddenly bethought him to ask the pair to come and meet the Major that very evening at dinner at his apartment at the George. "He agreed to dine with me, and I think after the—after the little shindy this morning, in which I must say the General was wrong, it would look kind, you know.—I know the Major fell in love with you, Miss Foth: he said so."
"So she may be Mrs. Pendennis still," Bows said with a sneer—"No, thank you, Mr. F.—I've dined."
"Sure, that was at three o'clock," said Miss Costigan, who had an honest appetite, "and I can't go without you."
"We'll have lobster-salad and champagne," said the little monster, who could not construe a line of Latin, or do a sum beyond the Rule of Three. Now, for lobster-salad and champagne in an honourable manner, Miss Costigan would have gone anywhere—and Major Pendennis actually found himself at seven o'clock seated at a dinner-table in company with Mr. Bows, a professional fiddler, and Miss Costigan, whose father had wanted to blow his brains out a few hours before.
To make the happy meeting complete, Mr. Foker, who knew Costigan's haunts, despatched Stoopid to the club at the Magpie, where the General was in the act of singing a pathetic song, and brought him off to supper. To find his daughter and Bows seated at the board was a surprise indeed—Major Pendennis laughed, and cordially held out his hand, which the General Officer grasped avec effusion as the French say. In fact he was considerably inebriated, and had already been crying over his own song before he joined the little party at the George. He burst into tears more than once, during the entertainment, and called the Major his dearest friend. Stoopid and Mr. Foker walked home with him: the Major gallantly giving his arm to Miss Costigan. He was received with great friendliness when he called the next day, when many civilities passed between the gentlemen. On taking leave he expressed his anxious desire to serve Miss Costigan on any occasion in which he could be useful to her, and he shook hands with Mr. Foker most cordially and gratefully, and said that gentleman had done him the very greatest service.
"All right," said Mr. Foker: and they parted with mutual esteem.
On his return to Fairoaks the next day, Major Pendennis did not say what had happened to him on the previous night, or allude to the company in which he had passed it. But he engaged Mr. Smirke to stop to dinner; and any person accustomed to watch his manner might have remarked that there was something constrained in his hilarity and talkativeness, and that he was unusually gracious and watchful in his communications with his nephew. He gave Pen an emphatic God-bless-you when the lad went to bed; and as they were about to part for the night, he seemed as if he was going to say something to Mrs. Pendennis, but he bethought him that if he spoke he might spoil her night's rest, and allowed her to sleep in peace.
The next morning he was down in the breakfast-room earlier than was his custom, and saluted everybody there with great cordiality. The post used to arrive commonly about the end of this meal. When John, the old servant, entered, and discharged the bag of its letters and papers, the Major looked hard at Pen as the lad got his—Arthur blushed, and put his letter down. He knew the hand, it was that of old Costigan, and he did not care to read it in public. Major Pendennis knew the letter, too. He had put it into the post himself in Chatteris the day before.
He told little Laura to go away, which the child did, having a thorough dislike to him; and as the door closed on her, he took Mrs. Pendennis's hand, and giving her a look full of meaning, pointed to the letter under the newspaper which Pen was pretending to read. "Will you come into the drawing-room?" he said. "I want to speak to you." And she followed him, wondering, into the hall.
"What is it?" she said nervously.
"The affair is at an end," Major Pendennis said. "He has a letter there giving him his dismissal. I dictated it myself yesterday. There are a few lines from the lady, too, bidding him farewell. It is all over."
Helen ran back to the dining-room, her brother following. Pen had jumped at his letter the instant they were gone. He was reading it with a stupefied face. It stated what the Major had said, that Mr. Costigan was most gratified for the kindness with which Arthur had treated his daughter, but that he was only now made aware of Mr. Pendennis's peecupiary circumstances. They were such that marriage was at present out of the question, and considering the great disparity in the age of the two, a future union was impossible. Under these circumstances, and with the deepest regret and esteem for him, Mr. Costigan bade Arthur farewell, and suggested that he should cease visiting, for some time at least, at his house.
A few lines from Miss Costigan were enclosed. She acquiesced in the decision of her Papa. She pointed out that she was many years older than Arthur, and that an engagement was not to be thought of. She would always be grateful for his kindness to her, and hoped to keep his friendship. But at present, and until the pain of the separation should be over, she entreated they should not meet.
Pen read Costigan's letter and its enclosure mechanically, hardly knowing what was before his eyes. He looked up wildly, and saw his mother and uncle regarding him with sad faces. Helen's, indeed, was full of tender maternal anxiety.
"What—what is this?" Pen said. "It's some joke. This is not her writing. This is some servant's writing. Who's playing these tricks upon me?"
"It comes under her father's envelope," the Major said. "Those letters you had before were not in her hand: that is hers."
"How do you know?" said Pen very fiercely.
"I saw her write it," the uncle answered, as the boy started up; and his mother, coming forward, took his hand. He put her away.
"How came you to see her? How came you between me and her? What have I ever done to you that you should—Oh, it's not true! it's not true!"—Pen broke out with a wild execration. "She can't have done it of her own accord. She can't mean it. She's pledged to me. Who has told her lies to break her from me?"
"Lies are not told in the family, Arthur," Major Pendennis replied. "I told her the truth, which was, that you had no money to maintain her, for her foolish father had represented you to be rich. And when she knew how poor you were, she withdrew at once, and without any persuasion of mine. She was quite right. She is ten years older than you are. She is perfectly unfitted to be your wife, and knows it. Look at that handwriting, and ask yourself, is such a woman fitted to be the companion of your mother?"
"I will know from herself if it is true," Arthur said, crumpling up the paper.
"Won't you take my word of honour? Her letters were written by a confidant of hers, who writes better than she can—look here. Here's one from the lady to your friend, Mr. Foker. You have seen her with Miss Costigan, as whose amanuensis she acted"—the Major said, with ever so little of a sneer, and laid down a certain billet which Mr. Foker had given to him.
"It's not that," said Pen, burning with shame and rage. "I suppose what you say is true, sir, but I'll hear it from herself."
"Arthur!" appealed his mother.
"I will see her," said Arthur. "I'll ask her to marry me, once more. I will. No one shall prevent me."
"What, a woman who spells affection with one f? Nonsense, sir. Be a man, and remember that your mother is a lady. She was never made to associate with that tipsy old swindler or his daughter. Be a man and forget her, as she does you."
"Be a man and comfort your mother, my Arthur," Helen said, going and embracing him: and seeing that the pair were greatly moved, Major Pendennis went out of the room and shut the door upon them, wisely judging that they were best alone.
He had won a complete victory. He actually had brought away Pen's letters in his portmanteau from Chatteris: having complimented Mr. Costigan, when he returned them, by giving him the little promissory note which had disquieted himself and Mr. Garbetts; and for which the Major settled with Mr. Tatham.
Pen rushed wildly off to Chatteris that day, but in vain attempted to see Miss Fotheringay, for whom he left a letter, enclosed to her father. The enclosure was returned by Mr. Costigan, who begged that all correspondence might end; and after one or two further attempts of the lad's, the indignant General desired that their acquaintance might cease. He cut Pen in the street. As Arthur and Foker were pacing the Castle walk, one day, they came upon Emily on her father's arm. She passed without any nod of recognition. Foker felt poor Pen trembling on his arm.
His uncle wanted him to travel, to quit the country for a while, and his mother urged him too: for he was growing very ill, and suffered severely. But he refused, and said point-blank he would not go. He would not obey in this instance: and his mother was too fond, and his uncle too wise to force him. Whenever Miss Fotheringay acted, he rode over to the Chatteris Theatre and saw her. One night there were so few people in the house that the Manager returned the money. Pen came home and went to bed at eight o'clock, and had a fever. If this continues, his mother will be going over and fetching the girl, the Major thought, in despair. As for Pen, he thought he should die. We are not going to describe his feelings, or give a dreary journal of his despair and passion. Have not other gentlemen been baulked in love besides Mr. Pen? Yes, indeed: but few die of the malady.
CHAPTER XIV. In which Miss Fotheringay makes a new Engagement
Within a short period of the events above narrated, Mr. Manager Bingley was performing his famous character of 'Rolla,' in 'Pizarro,' to a house so exceedingly thin, that it would appear as if the part of Rolla was by no means such a favourite with the people of Chatteris as it was with the accomplished actor himself. Scarce anybody was in the theatre. Poor Pen had the boxes almost all to himself, and sate there lonely, with bloodshot eyes, leaning over the ledge, and gazing haggardly towards the scene, when Cora came in. When she was not on the stage he saw nothing. Spaniards and Peruvians, processions and battles, priests and virgins of the sun, went in and out, and had their talk, but Arthur took no note of any of them; and only saw Cora whom his soul longed after. He said afterwards that he wondered he had not taken a pistol to shoot her, so mad was he with love, and rage, and despair; and had it not been for his mother at home, to whom he did not speak about his luckless condition, but whose silent sympathy and watchfulness greatly comforted the simple half heart-broken fellow, who knows but he might have done something desperate, and have ended his days prematurely in front of Chatteris gaol? There he sate then, miserable, and gazing at her. And she took no more notice of him than he did of the rest of the house.
The Fotheringay was uncommonly handsome, in a white raiment and leopard skin, with a sun upon her breast, and fine tawdry bracelets on her beautiful glancing arms. She spouted to admiration the few words of her part, and looked it still better. The eyes, which had overthrown Pen's soul, rolled and gleamed as lustrous as ever; but it was not to him that they were directed that night. He did not know to whom, or remark a couple of gentlemen, in the box next to him, upon whom Miss Fotheringay's glances were perpetually shining.
Nor had Pen noticed the extraordinary change which had taken place on the stage a short time after the entry of these two gentlemen into the theatre. There were so few people in the house, that the first act of the play languished entirely, and there had been some question of returning the money, as upon that other unfortunate night when poor Pen had been driven away. The actors were perfectly careless about their parts, and yawned through the dialogue, and talked loud to each other in the intervals. Even Bingley was listless, and Mrs. B. in Elvira spoke under her breath.
How came it that all of a sudden Mrs. Bingley began to raise her voice and bellow like a bull of Bashan? Whence was it that Bingley, flinging off his apathy, darted about the stage and yelled like Dean? Why did Garbetts and Rowkins and Miss Rouncy try, each of them, the force of their charms or graces, and act and swagger and scowl and spout their very loudest at the two gentlemen in box No. 3?
One was a quiet little man in black, with a grey head and a jolly shrewd face—the other was in all respects a splendid and remarkable individual. He was a tall and portly gentleman with a hooked nose and a profusion of curling brown hair and whiskers; his coat was covered with the richest frogs-braiding and velvet. He had under-waistcoats, many splendid rings, jewelled pins and neck-chains. When he took out his yellow pocket-handkerchief with his hand that was cased in white kids, a delightful odour of musk and bergamot was shaken through the house. He was evidently a personage of rank, and it was at him that the little Chatteris company was acting.
He was, in a word, no other than Mr. Dolphin, the great manager from London, accompanied by his faithful friend and secretary Mr. William Minns: without whom he never travelled. He had not been ten minutes in the theatre before his august presence there was perceived by Bingley and the rest: and they all began to act their best and try to engage his attention. Even Miss Fotheringay's dull heart, which was disturbed at nothing, felt perhaps a flutter, when she came in presence of the famous London Impresario. She had not much to do in her part, but to look handsome, and stand in picturesque attitudes encircling her child and she did this work to admiration. In vain the various actors tried to win the favour of the great stage Sultan. Pizarro never got a hand from him. Bingley yelled, and Mrs. Bingley bellowed, and the Manager only took snuff out of his great gold box. It was only in the last scene, when Rolla comes in staggering with the infant (Bingley is not so strong as he was and his fourth son Master Talma Bingley is a monstrous large child for his age)—when Rolla comes staggering with the child to Cora, who rushes forward with a shriek, and says—"O God, there's blood upon him!"—that the London manager clapped his hands, and broke out with an enthusiastic bravo.
Then having concluded his applause, Mr. Dolphin gave his secretary a slap on the shoulder, and said, "By Jove, Billy, she'll do!"
"Who taught her that dodge?" said old Billy, who was a sardonic old gentleman. "I remember her at the Olympic, and hang me if she could say Bo to a goose."
It was little Mr. Bows in the orchestra who had taught her the 'dodge' in question. All the company heard the applause, and, as the curtain went down, came round her and congratulated and hated Miss Fotheringay.
Now Mr. Dolphin's appearance in the remote little Chatteris theatre may be accounted for in this manner. In spite of all his exertions, and the perpetual blazes of triumph, coruscations of talent, victories of good old English comedy, which his play-bills advertised, his theatre (which, if you please, and to injure no present susceptibilities and vested interests, we shall call the Museum Theatre) by no means prospered, and the famous Impresario found himself on the verge of ruin. The great Hubbard had acted legitimate drama for twenty nights, and failed to remunerate anybody but himself: the celebrated Mr. and Mrs. Cawdor had come out in Mr. Rawhead's tragedy, and in their favourite round of pieces, and had not attracted the public. Herr Garbage's lions and tigers had drawn for a little time, until one of the animals had bitten a piece out of the Herr's shoulder; when the Lord Chamberlain interfered, and put a stop to this species of performance: and the grand Lyrical Drama, though brought out with unexampled splendour and success, with Monsieur Poumons as first tenor, and an enormous orchestra, had almost crushed poor Dolphin in its triumphant progress: so that great as his genius and resources were, they seemed to be at an end. He was dragging on his season wretchedly with half salaries, small operas, feeble old comedies, and his ballet company; and everybody was looking out for the day when he should appear in the Gazette.
One of the illustrious patrons of the Museum Theatre, and occupant of the great proscenium-box, was a gentleman whose name has been mentioned in a previous history; that refined patron of the arts, and enlightened lover of music and the drama, the Most Noble the Marquis of Steyne. His lordship's avocations as a statesman prevented him from attending the playhouse very often, or coming very early. But he occasionally appeared at the theatre in time for the ballet, and was always received with the greatest respect by the Manager, from whom he sometimes condescended to receive a visit in his box. It communicated with the stage, and when anything occurred there which particularly pleased him, when a new face made its appearance among the coryphees, or a fair dancer executed a pas with especial grace or agility, Mr. Wenham, Mr. Wagg, or some other aide-de-camp of the noble Marquis, would be commissioned to go behind the scenes, and express the great man's approbation, or make the inquiries which were prompted by his lordship's curiosity, or his interest in the dramatic art. He could not be seen by the audience, for Lord Steyne sate modestly behind a curtain, and looked only towards the stage—but you could know he was in the house, by the glances which all the corps-de-ballet, and all the principal dancers, cast towards his box. I have seen many scores of pairs of eyes (as in the Palm Dance in the ballet of Cook at Otaheite, where no less than a hundred-and-twenty lovely female savages in palm leaves and feather aprons, were made to dance round Floridor as Captain Cook) ogling that box as they performed before it, and have often wondered to remark the presence of mind of Mademoiselle Sauterelle, or Mademoiselle de Bondi (known as la petite Caoutchoue), who, when actually up in the air quivering like so many shuttlecocks, always kept their lovely eyes winking at that box in which the great Steyne sate. Now and then you would hear a harsh voice from behind the curtain cry, "Brava, Brava," or a pair of white gloves wave from it, and begin to applaud. Bondi, or Sauterelle, when they came down to earth, curtsied and smiled, especially to those hands, before they walked up the stage again, panting and happy.
One night this great Prince surrounded by a few choice friends was in his box at the Museum, and they were making such a noise and laughter that the pit was scandalised, and many indignant voices were bawling out silence so loudly, that Wagg wondered the police did not interfere to take the rascals out. Wenham was amusing the party in the box with extracts from a private letter which he had received from Major Pendennis, whose absence in the country at the full London season had been remarked, and of course deplored by his friends.
"The secret is out," said Mr. Wenham, "there's a woman in the case."
"Why, d—— it, Wenham, he's your age," said the gentleman behind the curtain.
"Pour les ames bien nees, l'amour ne compte pas le nombre des annees," said Mr. Wenham, with a gallant air. "For my part, I hope to be a victim till I die, and to break my heart every year of my life." The meaning of which sentence was, "My lord, you need not talk; I'm three years younger than you, and twice as well conserve."
"Wenham, you affect me," said the great man, with one of his usual oaths. "By —— you do. I like to see a fellow preserving all the illusions of youth up to our time of life—and keeping his heart warm as yours is. Hang it, sir, it's a comfort to meet with such a generous, candid creature.—Who's that gal in the second row, with blue ribbons, third from the stage—fine gal. Yes, you and I are sentimentalists. Wagg I don't think so much cares—it's the stomach rather more than the heart with you, eh, Wagg, my boy?"
"I like everything that's good," said Mr. Wagg, generously. "Beauty and Burgundy, Venus and Venison. I don't say that Venus's turtles are to be despised, because they don't cook them at the London Tavern: but—but tell us about old Pendennis, Mr. Wenham," he abruptly concluded—for his joke flagged just then, as he saw that his patron was not listening. In fact, Steyne's glasses were up, and he was examining some object on the stage.
"Yes, I've heard that joke about Venus's turtle and the London Tavern before—you begin to fail, my poor Wagg. If you don't mind I shall be obliged to have a new Jester," Lord Steyne said, laying down his glass. "Go on, Wenham, about old Pendennis."
"Dear Wenham,"—he begins, Mr. Wenham read,—"as you have had my character in your hands for the last three weeks, and no doubt have torn me to shreds, according to your custom, I think you can afford to be good-humoured by way of variety, and to do me a service. It is a delicate matter, entre nous, une affaire de coeur. There is a young friend of mine who is gone wild about a certain Miss Fotheringay, an actress at the theatre here, and I must own to you, as handsome a woman, and, as it appears to me, as good an actress as ever put on rouge. She does Ophelia, Lady Teazle, Mrs. Haller—that sort of thing. Upon my word, she is as splendid as Georges in her best days, and as far as I know, utterly superior to anything we have on our scene. I want a London engagement for her. Can't you get your friend Dolphin to come and see her—to engage her—to take her out of this place? A word from a noble friend of ours (you understand) would be invaluable, and if you could get the Gaunt House interest for me—I will promise anything I can in return for your service—which I shall consider one of the greatest that can be done to me. Do, do this now as a good fellow, which I always said you were: and in return, command yours truly, A. Pendennis."
"It's a clear case," said Mr. Wenham, having read this letter; "old Pendennis is in love."
"And wants to get the woman up to London—evidently," continued Mr. Wagg.
"I should like to see Pendennis on his knees, with the rheumatism," said Mr. Wenham.
"Or accommodating the beloved object with a lock of his hair," said Wagg.
"Stuff." said the great man. "He has relations in the country, hasn't he? He said something about a nephew, whose interest could return a member. It is the nephew's affair, depend on it. The young one is in a scrape. I was myself—when I was in the fifth form at Eton—a market-gardener's daughter—and swore I'd marry her. I was mad about her—poor Polly!"—here he made a pause, and perhaps the past rose up to Lord Steyne, and George Gaunt was a boy again not altogether lost.—"But I say, she must be a fine woman from Pendennis's account. Have in Dolphin, and let us hear if he knows anything of her."
At this Wenham sprang out of the box, passed the servitor who waited at the door communicating with the stage, and who saluted Mr. Wenham with profound respect; and the latter emissary, pushing on and familiar with the place, had no difficulty in finding out the manager, who was employed, as he not unfrequently was, in swearing and cursing the ladies of the corps-de-ballet for not doing their duty.
The oaths died away on Mr. Dolphin's lips, as soon as he saw Mr. Wenham; and he drew off the hand which was clenched in the face of one of the offending coryphees, to grasp that of the new-comer. "How do, Mr. Wenham? How's his lordship to-night? Looks uncommonly well," said the manager smiling, as if he had never been out of temper in his life; and he was only too delighted to follow Lord Steyne's ambassador, and pay his personal respects to that great man.
The visit to Chatteris was the result of their conversation: and Mr. Dolphin wrote to his lordship from that place, and did himself the honour to inform the Marquess of Steyne, that he had seen the lady about whom his lordship had spoken, that he was as much struck by her talents as he was by her personal appearance, and that he had made an engagement with Miss Fotheringay, who would soon have the honour of appearing before a London audience, and his noble and enlightened patron the Marquess of Steyne.
Pen read the announcement of Miss Fotheringay's engagement in the Chatteris paper, where he had so often praised her charms. The Editor made very handsome mention of her talent and beauty, and prophesied her success in the metropolis. Bingley, the manager, began to advertise "The last night of Miss Fotheringay's engagement." Poor Pen and Sir Derby Oaks were very constant at the play: Sir Derby in the stage-box, throwing bouquets and getting glances.—Pen in the almost deserted boxes, haggard, wretched and lonely. Nobody cared whether Miss Fotheringay was going or staying except those two—and perhaps one more, which was Mr. Bows of the orchestra.
He came out of his place one night, and went into the house to the box where Pen was; and he held out his hand to him, and asked him to come and walk. They walked down the street together; and went and sate upon Chatteris bridge in the moonlight, and talked about Her. "We may sit on the same bridge," said he; "we have been in the same boat for a long time. You are not the only man who has made a fool of himself about that woman. And I have less excuse than you, because I am older and know her better. She has no more heart than the stone you are leaning on; and it or you or I might fall into the water, and never come up again, and she wouldn't care. Yes—she would care for me, because she wants me to teach her: and she won't be able to get on without me, and will be forced to send for me from London. But she wouldn't if she didn't want me. She has no heart and no head, and no sense, and no feelings, and no griefs or cares, whatever. I was going to say no pleasures—but the fact is, she does like her dinner, and she is pleased when people admire her."
"And you do?" said Pen, interested out of himself, and wondering at the crabbed homely little old man.
"It's a habit, like taking snuff, or drinking drams," said the other. "I've been taking her these five years, and can't do without her. It was I made her. If she doesn't send for me, I shall follow her: but I know she'll send for me. She wants me. Some day she'll marry, and fling me over, as I do the end of this cigar."
The little flaming spark dropped into the water below, and disappeared; and Pen, as he rode home that night, actually thought about somebody but himself.
CHAPTER XV. The happy Village
Until the enemy had retired altogether from before the place, Major Pendennis was resolved to keep his garrison in Fairoaks. He did not appear to watch Pen's behaviour or to put any restraint on his nephew's actions, but he managed nevertheless to keep the lad constantly under his eye or those of his agents, and young Arthur's comings and goings were quite well known to his vigilant guardian.
I suppose there is scarcely any man who reads this or any other novel but has been baulked in love some time or the other, by fate and circumstance, by falsehood of women, or his own fault. Let that worthy friend recall his own sensations under the circumstances, and apply them as illustrative of Mr. Pen's anguish. Ah! what weary nights and sickening fevers! Ah! what mad desires dashing up against some rock of obstruction or indifference, and flung back again from the unimpressionable granite! If a list could be made this very night in London of the groans, thoughts, imprecations of tossing lovers, what a catalogue it would be! I wonder what a percentage of the male population of the metropolis will be lying awake at two or three o'clock to-morrow morning, counting the hours as they go by knelling drearily, and rolling from left to right, restless, yearning and heart-sick? What a pang it is! I never knew a man die of love certainly, but I have known a twelve-stone man go down to nine-stone five under a disappointed passion, so that pretty nearly quarter of him may be said to have perished: and that is no small portion. He has come back to his old size subsequently; perhaps is bigger than ever: very likely some new affection has closed round his heart and ribs and made them comfortable, and young Pen is a man who will console himself like the rest of us. We say this lest the ladies should be disposed to deplore him prematurely, or be seriously uneasy with regard to his complaint. His mother was, but what will not a maternal fondness fear or invent? "Depend on it, my dear creature," Major Pendennis would say gallantly to her, "the boy will recover. As soon as we get her out of the country we will take him somewhere, and show him a little life. Meantime make yourself easy about him. Half a fellow's pangs at losing a woman result from vanity more than affection. To be left by a woman is the deuce and all, to be sure; but look how easily we leave 'em."
Mrs. Pendennis did not know. This sort of knowledge had by no means come within the simple lady's scope. Indeed she did not like the subject or to talk of it: her heart had had its own little private misadventure and she had borne up against it and cured it: and perhaps she had not much patience with other folk's passions, except, of course, Arthur's, whose sufferings she made her own, feeling indeed very likely in many of the boy's illnesses and pains a great deal more than Pen himself endured. And she watched him through this present grief with a jealous silent sympathy; although, as we have said, he did not talk to her of his unfortunate condition.
The Major must be allowed to have had not a little merit and forbearance, and to have exhibited a highly creditable degree of family affection. The life at Fairoaks was uncommonly dull to a man who had the entree of half the houses in London, and was in the habit of making his bow in three or four drawing-rooms of a night. A dinner with Doctor Portman or a neighbouring Squire now and then; a dreary rubber at backgammon with the widow, who did her utmost to amuse him; these were the chief of his pleasures. He used to long for the arrival of the bag with the letters, and he read every word of the evening paper. He doctored himself too, assiduously,—a course of quiet living would suit him well, he thought, after the London banquets. He dressed himself laboriously every morning and afternoon: he took regular exercise up and down the terrace walk. Thus with his cane, his toilet, his medicine-chest, his backgammon-box, and his newspaper, this worthy and worldly philosopher fenced himself against ennui; and if he did not improve each shining hour, like the bees by the widow's garden wall, Major Pendennis made one hour after another pass as he could, and rendered his captivity just tolerable. After this period it was remarked that he was fond of bringing round the conversation to the American war, the massacre of Wyoming and the brilliant actions of Saint Lucie, the fact being that he had a couple of volumes of the 'Annual Register' in his bedroom, which he sedulously studied. It is thus a well-regulated man will accommodate himself to circumstances, and show himself calmly superior to fortune.
Pen sometimes took the box at backgammon of a night, or would listen to his mother's simple music of summer evenings—but he was very restless and wretched in spite of all: and has been known to be up before the early daylight even; and down at a carp-pond in Clavering Park, a dreary pool with innumerable whispering rushes and green alders, where a milkmaid drowned herself in the Baronet's grandfather's time, and her ghost was said to walk still. But Pen did not drown himself, as perhaps his mother fancied might be his intention. He liked to go and fish there, and think and think at leisure, as the float quivered in the little eddies of the pond, and the fish flapped about him. If he got a bite he was excited enough: and in this way occasionally brought home carps, tenches, and eels, which the Major cooked in the Continental fashion.
By this pond, and under a tree, which was his favourite resort, Pen composed a number of poems suitable to his circumstances over which verses he blushed in after days, wondering how he could ever have invented such rubbish. And as for the tree, why it is in a hollow of this very tree, where he used to put his tin-box of ground-bait, and other fishing commodities, that he afterwards—but we are advancing matters. Suffice it to say, he wrote poems and relieved himself very much. When a man's grief or passion is at this point, it may be loud, but it is not very severe. When a gentleman is cudgelling his brain to find any rhyme for sorrow, besides borrow and to-morrow, his woes are nearer at an end than he thinks for. So were Pen's. He had his hot and cold fits, his days of sullenness and peevishness, and of blank resignation and despondency, and occasional mad paroxysms of rage and longing, in which fits Rebecca would be saddled and galloped fiercely about the country, or into Chatteris, her rider gesticulating wildly on her back, and astonishing carters and turnpikemen as he passed, crying out the name of the false one.
Mr. Foker became a very frequent and welcome visitor at Fairoaks during this period, where his good spirits and oddities always amused the Major and Pendennis, while they astonished the widow and little Laura not a little. His tandem made a great sensation in Clavering market-place; where he upset a market stall, and cut Mrs. Pybus's poodle over the shaven quarters, and drank a glass of raspberry bitters at the Clavering Arms. All the society in the little place heard who he was, and looked out his name in their Peerages. He was so young, and their books so old, that his name did not appear in many of their volumes; and his mamma, now quite an antiquated lady, figured amongst the progeny of the Earl of Rosherville, as Lady Agnes Milton still. But his name, wealth, and honourable lineage were speedily known about Clavering, where you may be sure that poor Pen's little transaction with the Chatteris actress was also pretty freely discussed.
Looking at the little old town of Clavering St. Mary from the London road as it runs by the lodge at Fairoaks, and seeing the rapid and shining Brawl winding down from the town and skirting the woods of Clavering Park, and the ancient church tower and peaked roofs of the houses rising up amongst trees and old walls, behind which swells a fair background of sunshiny hills that stretch from Clavering westwards towards the sea—the place looks so cheery and comfortable that many a traveller's heart must have yearned towards it from the coach-top, and he must have thought that it was in such a calm friendly nook he would like to shelter at the end of life's struggle. Tom Smith, who used to drive the Alacrity coach, would often point to a tree near the river, from which a fine view of the church and town was commanded, and inform his companion on the box that "Artises come and take hoff the Church from that there tree—It was a Habby once, sir:"—and indeed a pretty view it is, which I recommend to Mr. Stanfield or Mr. Roberts, for their next tour.
Like Constantinople seen from the Bosphorus; like Mrs. Rougemont viewed in her box from the opposite side of the house; like many an object which we pursue in life, and admire before we have attained it; Clavering is rather prettier at a distance than it is on a closer acquaintance. The town so cheerful of aspect a few furlongs off, looks very blank and dreary. Except on market days there is nobody in the streets. The clack of a pair of pattens echoes through half the place, and you may hear the creaking of the rusty old ensign at the Clavering Arms, without being disturbed by any other noise. There has not been a ball in the Assembly Rooms since the Clavering volunteers gave one to their Colonel, the old Sir Francis Clavering; and the stables which once held a great part of that brilliant, but defunct regiment, are now cheerless and empty, except on Thursdays, when the farmers put up there, and their tilted carts and gigs make a feeble show of liveliness in the place, or on Petty Sessions, when the magistrates attend in what used to be the old card-room.
On the south side of the market rises up the church, with its great grey towers, of which the sun illuminates the delicate carving; deepening the shadows of the huge buttresses, and gilding the glittering windows and flaming vanes. The image of the Patroness of the Church was wrenched out of the porch centuries ago: such of the statues of saints as were within reach of stones and hammer at that period of pious demolition, are maimed and headless, and of those who were out of fire, only Doctor Portman knows the names and history, for his curate, Smirke, is not much of an antiquarian, and Mr. Simcoe (husband of the Honourable Mrs. Simcoe), incumbent and architect of the Chapel of Ease in the lower town, thinks them the abomination of desolation.
The Rectory is a stout broad-shouldered brick house, of the reign of Anne. It communicates with the church and market by different gates, and stands at the opening of Yew-tree Lane, where the Grammar School (Rev. —— Wapshot) is; Yew-tree Cottage (Miss Flather); the butchers' slaughtering-house, an old barn or brew-house of the Abbey times, and the Misses Finucane's establishment for young ladies. The two schools had their pews in the loft on each side of the organ, until the Abbey Church getting rather empty, through the falling-off of the congregation, who were inveigled to the Heresy-shop in the lower town, the Doctor induced the Misses Finucane to bring their pretty little flock downstairs; and the young ladies' bonnets make a tolerable show in the rather vacant aisles. Nobody is in the great pew of the Clavering family, except the statues of defunct baronets and their ladies: there is Sir Poyntz Clavering, Knight and Baronet, kneeling in a square beard opposite his wife in a ruff: a very fat lady, the Dame Rebecca Clavering, in alto-relievo, is borne up to Heaven by two little blue-veined angels, who seem to have a severe task—and so forth. How well in after life Pen remembered those effigies, and how often in youth he scanned them as the Doctor was grumbling the sermon from the pulpit, and Smirke's mild head and forehead curl peered over the great prayer-book in the desk!
The Fairoaks folks were constant at the old church; their servants had a pew, so had the Doctor's, so had Wapshot's, and those of Misses Finucane's establishment, three maids and a very nice-looking young man in a livery. The Wapshot Family were numerous and faithful. Glanders and his children regularly came to church: so did one of the apothecaries. Mrs. Pybus went, turn and turn about, to the Low Town church, and to the Abbey: the Charity School and their families of course came; Wapshot's boys made a good cheerful noise, scuffling with their feet as they marched into church and up the organ-loft stair, and blowing their noses a good deal during the service. To be brief, the congregation looked as decent as might be in these bad times. The Abbey Church was furnished with a magnificent screen, and many hatchments and heraldic tombstones. The Doctor spent a great part of his income in beautifying his darling place; he had endowed it with a superb painted window, bought in the Netherlands, and an organ grand enough for a cathedral.
But in spite of organ and window, in consequence of the latter very likely, which had come out of a Papistical place of worship and was blazoned all over with idolatry, Clavering New Church prospered scandalously in the teeth of Orthodoxy; and many of the Doctor's congregation deserted to Mr. Simcoe and the honourable woman his wife. Their efforts had thinned the very Ebenezer hard by them, which building before Simcoe's advent used to be so full, that you could see the backs of the congregation squeezing out of the arched windows thereof. Mr. Simcoe's tracts fluttered into the doors of all the Doctor's cottages, and were taken as greedily as honest Mrs. Portman's soup, with the quality of which the graceless people found fault. With the folks at the Ribbon Factory situated by the weir on the Brawl side, and round which the Low Town had grown, Orthodoxy could make no way at all. Quiet Miss Myra was put out of court by impetuous Mrs. Simcoe and her female aides-de-camp. Ah, it was a hard burthen for the Doctor's lady to bear, to behold her husband's congregation dwindling away; to give the precedence on the few occasions when they met to a notorious low-churchman's wife who was the daughter of an Irish Peer; to know that there was a party in Clavering, their own town of Clavering, on which her Doctor spent a great deal more than his professional income, who held him up to odium because he played a rubber at whist; and pronounced him to be a Heathen because he went to the play. In her grief she besought him to give up the play and the rubber,—indeed they could scarcely get a table now, so dreadful was the outcry against the sport,—but the Doctor declared that he would do what he thought right, and what the great and good George the Third did (whose Chaplain he had been): and as for giving up whist because those silly folks cried out against it, he would play dummy to the end of his days with his wife and Myra, rather than yield to their despicable persecutions.
Of the two families, owners of the Factory (which had spoiled the Brawl as a trout-stream and brought all the mischief into the town), the senior partner, Mr. Rolt, went to Ebenezer; the junior, Mr. Barker, to the New Church. In a word, people quarrelled in this little place a great deal more than neighbours do in London; and in the Book Club, which the prudent and conciliating Pendennis had set up, and which ought to have been a neutral territory, they bickered so much that nobody scarcely was ever seen in the reading-room, except Smirke, who, though he kept up a faint amity with the Simcoe faction, had still a taste for magazines and light worldly literature; and old Glanders, whose white head and grizzly moustache might be seen at the window; and of course, little Mrs. Pybus, who looked at everybody's letters as the Post brought them (for the Clavering Reading-room, as every one knows, used to be held at Baker's Library, London Street, formerly Hog Lane), and read every advertisement in the paper.
It may be imagined how great a sensation was created in this amiable little community when the news reached it of Mr. Pen's love-passages at Chatteris. It was carried from house to house, and formed the subject of talk at high-church, low-church, and no-church tables; it was canvassed by the Misses Finucane and their teachers, and very likely debated by the young ladies in the dormitories for what we know; Wapshot's big boys had their version of the story, and eyed Pen curiously as he sate in his pew at church, or raised the finger of scorn at him as he passed through Chatteris. They always hated him and called him Lord Pendennis, because he did not wear corduroys as they did, and rode a horse, and gave himself the airs of a buck.
And if the truth must be told, it was Mrs. Portman herself who was the chief narrator of the story of Pen's loves. Whatever tales this candid woman heard, she was sure to impart them to her neighbours; and after she had been put into possession of Pen's secret by the little scandal at Chatteris, poor Doctor Portman knew that it would next day be about the parish of which he was the Rector. And so indeed it was; the whole society there had the legend—at the news-room, at the milliner's, at the shoe-shop, and the general warehouse at the corner of the market; at Mrs. Pybus's, at the Glanders's, at the Honourable Mrs. Simcoe's soiree, at the Factory; nay, through the mill itself the tale was current in a few hours, and young Arthur Pendennis's madness was in every mouth.
All Dr. Portman's acquaintances barked out upon him when he walked the street the next day. The poor divine knew that his Betsy was the author of the rumour, and groaned in spirit. Well, well,—it must have come in a day or two, and it was as well that the town should have the real story. What the Clavering folks thought of Mrs. Pendennis for spoiling her son, and of that precocious young rascal of an Arthur for daring to propose to a play-actress, need not be told here. If pride exists amongst any folks in our country, and assuredly we have enough of it, there is no pride more deep-seated than that of twopenny old gentlewomen in small towns. "Gracious goodness," the cry was, "how infatuated the mother is about that pert and headstrong boy who gives himself the airs of a lord on his blood-horse, and for whom our society is not good enough, and who would marry an odious painted actress off a booth, where very likely he wants to rant himself. If dear good Mr. Pendennis had been alive this scandal would never have happened."
No more it would, very likely, nor should we have been occupied in narrating Pen's history. It was true that he gave himself airs to the Clavering folks. Naturally haughty and frank, their cackle and small talk and small dignities bored him, and he showed a contempt which he could not conceal. The Doctor and the Curate were the only people Pen cared for in the place—even Mrs. Portman shared in the general distrust of him, and of his mother, the widow, who kept herself aloof from the village society, and was sneered at accordingly, because she tried, forsooth, to keep her head up with the great County families. She, indeed! Mrs. Barker at the Factory has four times the butcher's meat that goes up to Fairoaks, with all their fine airs.
Etc. etc. etc.: let the reader fill up these details according to his liking and experience of village scandal. They will suffice to show how it was that a good woman occupied solely in doing her duty to her neighbour and her children, and an honest, brave lad, impetuous, and full of good, and wishing well to every mortal alive found enemies and detractors amongst people to whom they were superior, and to whom they had never done anything like harm. The Clavering curs were yelping all round the house of Fairoaks, and delighted to pull Pen down.
Doctor Portman and Smirke were both cautious of informing the widow of the constant outbreak of calumny which was pursuing poor Pen, though Glanders, who was a friend of the house, kept him au courant. It may be imagined what his indignation was: was there any man in the village whom he could call to account? Presently some wags began to chalk up 'Fotheringay for ever!' and other sarcastic allusions to late transactions, at Fairoaks' gate. Another brought a large playbill from Chatteris, and wafered it there one night. On one occasion Pen, riding through the Lower Town, fancied he heard the Factory boys jeer him; and finally going through the Doctor's gate into the churchyard, where some of Wapshot's boys were lounging, the biggest of them, a young gentleman about twenty years of age, son of a neighbouring small Squire, who lived in the doubtful capacity of parlour-boarder with Mr. Wapshot, flung himself into a theatrical attitude near a newly-made grave, and began repeating Hamlet's verses over Ophelia, with a hideous leer at Pen. The young fellow was so enraged that he rushed at Hobnell Major with a shriek very much resembling an oath, cut him furiously across the face with the riding-whip which he carried, flung it away, calling upon the cowardly villain to defend himself, and in another minute knocked the bewildered young ruffian into the grave which was just waiting for a different lodger.
Then with his fists clenched, and his face quivering with passion and indignation, he roared out to Mr. Hobnell's gaping companions, to know if any of the blackguards would come on? But they held back with a growl, and retreated as Doctor Portman came up to his wicket, and Mr. Hobnell, with his nose and lip bleeding piteously, emerged from the grave.
Pen, looking death and defiance at the lads, who retreated towards' their side of the churchyard, walked back again through the Doctor's wicket, and was interrogated by that gentleman. The young fellow was so agitated he could scarcely speak. His voice broke into a sob as he answered. "The ——— coward insulted me, sir," he said; and the Doctor passed over the oath, and respected the emotion of the honest suffering young heart.
Pendennis the elder, who like a real man of the world had a proper and constant dread of the opinion of his neighbour, was prodigiously annoyed by the absurd little tempest which was blowing in Chatteris, and tossing about Master Pen's reputation. Doctor Portman and Captain Glanders had to support the charges of the whole Chatteris society against the young reprobate, who was looked upon as a monster of crime. Pen did not say anything about the churchyard scuffle at home; but went over to Baymouth, and took counsel with his friend Harry Foker, Esq., who drove over his drag presently to the Clavering Arms, whence he sent Stoopid with a note to Thomas Hobnell, Esq., at the Rev. J. Wapshot's, and a civil message to ask when he should wait upon that gentleman.
Stoopid brought back word that the note had been opened by Mr. Hobnell, and read to half a dozen of the big boys, on whom it seemed to make a great impression; and that after consulting together, and laughing, Mr. Hobnell said he would send an answer "arter arternoon school, which the bell was a-ringing: and Mr. Wapshot he came out in his Master's gownd." Stoopid was learned in academical costume, having attended Mr. Foker at St. Boniface.
Mr. Foker went out to see the curiosities of Clavering meanwhile; but not having a taste for architecture, Doctor Portman's fine church did not engage his attention much and he pronounced the tower to be as mouldy as an old Stilton cheese. He walked down the street and looked at the few shops there; he saw Captain Glanders at the window of the Reading-room, and having taken a good stare at that gentleman, he wagged his head at him in token of satisfaction; he inquired the price of meat at the butcher's with an air of the greatest interest, and asked "when was next killing day?" he flattened his little nose against Madame Fribsby's window to see if haply there was a pretty workwoman in her premises; but there was no face more comely than the doll's or dummy's wearing the French cap in the window, only that of Madame Fribsby herself, dimly visible in the parlour, reading a novel. That object was not of sufficient interest to keep Mr. Foker very long in contemplation, and so having exhausted the town and the inn stables, in which there were no cattle, save the single old pair of posters that earned a scanty livelihood by transporting the gentry round about to the county dinners, Mr. Foker was giving himself up to ennui entirely, when a messenger from Mr. Hobnell was at length announced.