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given to debt and to drink. But there was not a breath upon the reputation of Miss Fotheringay: her father's courage was reported to have displayed itself on more than one occasion towards persons disposed to treat his daughter with freedom. She never came to the theatre but with her father: in his most inebriated moments, that gentleman kept a watch over her; finally Mr. Morgan, from his own experience, added that he had been to see her hact, and was uncommon delighted with the performance, besides thinking her a most splendid woman.
Mrs. Creed, the pew-opener, confirmed these statements to Doctor Portman, who examined her personally. Mrs. Creed had nothing unfavourable to her lodger to divulge. She saw nobody; only one or two ladies of the theatre. The Captain did intoxicate himself sometimes, and did not always pay his rent regularly, but he did when he had money, or rather Miss Fotheringay did. Since the young gentleman from Clavering had been and took lessons in fencing, one or two more had come from the barracks; Sir Derby Oaks, and his young friend, Mr. Foker, which was often together; and which was always driving over from Baymouth in the tandem. But on the occasions of the lessons, Miss F. was very seldom present, and generally came downstairs to Mrs. Creed's own room.
The Doctor and the Major consulting together as they often did, groaned in spirit over that information. Major Pendennis openly expressed his disappointment; and, I believe, the Divine himself was ill-pleased at not being able to pick a hole in poor Miss Fotheringay's reputation.
Even about Pen himself, Mrs. Creed's reports were desperately favourable. "Whenever he come," Mrs. Creed said, "she always have me or one of the children with her. And Mrs. Creed, marm, says she, if you please marm, you'll on no account leave the room when that young gentleman's here. And many's the time I've seen him a lookin' as if he wished I was away, poor young man: and he took to coming in service time, when I wasn't at home, of course: but she always had one of the boys up if her Pa wasn't at home, or old Mr. Bows with her a teaching of her her lesson, or one of the young ladies of the theayter."
It was all true: whatever encouragements might have been given him before he avowed his passion, the prudence of Miss Emily was prodigious after Pen had declared himself: and the poor fellow chafed against her hopeless reserve.
The Major surveyed the state of things with a sigh. "If it were but a temporary liaison," the excellent man said, "one could bear it. A young fellow must sow his wild oats, and that sort of thing. But a virtuous attachment is the deuce. It comes of the d—d romantic notions boys get from being brought up by women."
"Allow me to say, Major, that you speak a little too like a man of the world," replied the Doctor. "Nothing can be more desirable for Pen than a virtuous attachment for a young lady of his own rank and with a corresponding fortune—this present infatuation, of course, I must deplore as sincerely as you do. If I were his guardian I should command him to give it up."
"The very means, I tell you, to make him marry to-morrow. We have got time from him, that is all, and we must do our best with that."
"I say, Major," said the Doctor, at the end of the conversation in which the above subject was discussed—"I am not, of course, a play-going man—but suppose, I say, we go and see her."
The Major laughed—he had been a fortnight at Fairoaks, and strange to say, had not thought of that. "Well," he said, "why not? After all, it is not my niece, but Miss Fotheringay the actress, and we have as good a right as any other of the public to see her if we pay our money." So upon a day when it was arranged that Pen was to dine at home, and pass the evening with his mother, the two elderly gentlemen drove over to Chatteris in the Doctor's chaise, and there, like a couple of jolly bachelors, dined at the George Inn, before proceeding to the play.
Only two other guests were in the room,—an officer of the regiment quartered at Chatteris, and a young gentleman whom the Doctor thought he had somewhere seen. They left them at their meal, however, and hastened to the theatre. It was "Hamlet" over again. Shakspeare was Article XL. of stout old Doctor Portman's creed, to which he always made a point of testifying publicly at least once in a year.
We have described the play before, and how those who saw Miss Fotheringay perform in Ophelia saw precisely the same thing on one night as on another. Both the elderly gentlemen looked at her with extraordinary interest, thinking how very much young Pen was charmed with her.
"Gad," said the Major, between his teeth, as he surveyed her when she was called forward as usual, and swept her curtsies to the scanty audience, "the young rascal has not made a bad choice."
The Doctor applauded her loudly and loyally. "Upon my word," said he, "she is a very clever actress; and I must say, Major, she is endowed with very considerable personal attractions."
"So that young officer thinks in the stage-box," Major Pendennis answered, and he pointed out to Doctor Portman's attention the young dragoon of the George Coffee-room, who sate in the box in question, and applauded with immense enthusiasm. She looked extremely sweet upon him too, thought the Major: but that's their way—and he shut up his natty opera-glass and pocketed it, as if he wished to see no more that night. Nor did the Doctor, of course, propose to stay for the after-piece, so they rose and left the theatre; the Doctor returning to Mrs. Portman, who was on a visit at the Deanery, and the Major walking home full of thought towards the George, where he had bespoken a bed.
FACING THE ENEMY.
AUNTEEING homewards, Major Pendennis reached the hotel presently, and found Mr. Morgan, his faithful valet, awaiting him at the door, who stopped his master as he was about to take a candle to go to bed, and said, with his usual air of knowing deference, "I think, sir, if you would go into the coffee-room, there's a young gentleman there as you would like to see."
"What, is Mr. Arthur here?" the Major said, in great anger. "No, sir—but his great friend, Mr. Foker, sir. Lady Hagnes Foker's son is here, sir. He's been asleep in the coffee-room since he took his dinner, and has just rung for his coffee, sir. And I think, p'raps, you might like to git into conversation with him," the valet said, opening the coffee-room door.
The Major entered; and there indeed was Mr. Foker, the only occupant of the place. He had intended to go to the play too, but sleep had overtaken him after a copious meal, and he had flung up his legs on the bench, and indulged in a nap instead of the dramatic amusement. The Major was meditating how to address the young man, but the latter prevented him that trouble."Like to look at the evening paper, sir?" said Mr. Foker, who was always communicative and affable; and he took up the Globe from his table, and offered it to the new comer.
"I am very much obliged to you," said the Major, with a grateful bow and smile. "If I don't mistake the family likeness, I have the pleasure of speaking to Mr. Henry Foker, Lady Agnes Foker's son. I have the happiness to name her ladyship among my acquaintances—and you bear, sir, a Rosherville face."
"Hullo! I beg your pardon," Mr. Foker said, "I took you "—he was going to say—" I took you for a commercial gent." But he stopped that phrase. "To whom have I the pleasure of speaking?" he added.
"To a relative of a friend and schoolfellow of yours—Arthur Pendennis, my nephew, who has often spoken to me about you in terms of great regard. I am Major Pendennis, of whom you may have heard him speak. May I take my soda-water at your table? I have had the pleasure of sitting at your grandfather's."
"Sir, you do me proud," said Mr. Foker, with much courtesy. "And so you are Arthur Pendennis's uncle, are you?"
"And guardian," added the Major."He's as good a fellow as ever stepped, sir," said Mr. Foker."I am glad you think so."
"And clever, too—I was always a stupid chap, I was—but you see, sir, I know 'em when they are clever, and like 'em of that sort."
"You show your taste and your modesty, too," said the Major. "I have heard Arthur repeatedly speak of you, and he said your talents were very good."
"I'm not good at the books," Mr. Foker said, wagging his head—" never could manage that—Pendennis could—he used to do half the chaps' verses—and yet you are his guardian; and I hope you will pardon me for saying that I think he's what we call a flat," the candid young gentleman said.
The Major found himself on the instant in the midst of a most interesting and confidential conversation. "And how is Arthur a flat?" he asked, with a smile.