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“You know," Foker answered, winking at him he would have winked at the Duke of Wellington with just as little scruple. “You know Arthur's a flat,—about women I mean.”
“ He is not the first of us, my dear Mr. Harry," answered the Major. “I have heard something of this—but pray tell me more.”
“Why, sir, you see—it's partly my fault. We went to the
play one night, and Pen was struck all of a heap with Miss Fotheringay-Costigan her real name is an uncommon fine gal she is too; and the next morning I introduced him to the General, as we call her father—a regular old scamp—and such a boy for the whisky-and-water !—and he's gone on being intimate there. And he's fallen in love with her—and I'm blessed if he hasn't proposed to her," Foker said, slapping his hand on the table, until all the dessert began to jingle.
“What! you know it too?" asked the Major.
“Know it! don't I ? and many more too. We were talking about it at mess, yesterday, and chaffing Derby Oaks-until he was as mad as a hatter. Know Sir Derby Oaks ? We dined together, and we went to the play: we were standing at the door smoking, I remember, when you passed in to dinner.”
"I remember Sir Thomas Oaks, his father, before he was a Baronet or a Knight; he lived in Cavendish Square, and was Physician to Queen Charlotte."
“ The young one is making the money spin, I can tell you,” Mr. Foker said.
“And is Sir Derby Oaks,” the Major said, with great delight and anxiety, “another soupirant ? ”
“Another what ? " inquired Mr. Foker.
“Lord bless you! we call him Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and Pen Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. But mind you, nothing wrong! No, no! Miss F. is a deal too wide awake for that, Major Pendennis. She plays one off against the other. What you call two strings to her bow."
“I think you seem tolerably wide awake, too, Mr. Foker,” Penderinis said, laughing.
“Pretty well, thank you, sir-how are you?” Foker replied, imperturbably. “I'm not clever, p'raps : but I am rather downy; and partial friends say I know what's o'clock tolerably well. Can I tell you the time of day in any way ? "
“ Upon my word,” the Major answered, quite delighted, “I think you may be of very great service to me. You are a young man of the world, and with such one likes to deal. And as such I need not inform you that our family is by no means delighted at this absurd intrigue in which Arthur is engaged.”
“I should rather think not," said Mr. Foker. “Connection not eligible. Too much beer drunk on the premises. No Irish need apply. That I take to be your meaning."
The Major said it was, exactly: and he proceeded to examine his new acquaintance regarding the amiable family into which his nephew proposed to enter, and soon got from
the candid witness a number of particulars regarding the House of Costigan.
We must do Mr. Foker the justice to say that he spoke most favourably of Mr. and Miss Costigan's moral character. “You see,” said he, “I think the General is fond of the jovial bowl, and if I wanted to be very certain of my money, it isn't in his pocket I'd invest it—but he has always kept a watchful eye on his daughter, and neither he nor she will stand any. thing but what's honourable. Pen's attentions to her are talked about in the whole Company, and I hear all about them from a young lady who used to be very intimate with her, and with whose family I sometimes take tea in a friendly way. · Miss Rouncy says, Sir Derby Oaks has been hanging about Miss Fotheringay ever since his regiment has been down here; but Pen has come in and cut him out lately, which has made the Baronet so mad, that he has been very near on the point of proposing too. Wish he would; and you'd see which of the two Miss Fotheringay would jump
“I thought as much," the Major said. “You give me a great deal of pleasure, Mr. Foker. I wish I could have seen you before.”
“Didn't like to put in my oar,” replied the other. “Don't speak till I'm asked, when, if there's no objections, I speak pretty freely. Heard your man had been hankering about my servant-didn't know myself what was going on until Miss Fotheringay and Miss Rouncy had the row about the ostrich feathers, when Miss R. told me everything."
“Miss Rouncy, I gather, was the confidante of the other ? " . “Confidant ? I believe you. Why, she's twice as clever a girl as Fotheringay, and literary and that, while Miss Foth can't do much more than read.”
“She can write,” said the Major, remembering Pen's breast-pocket.
Foker broke out into a sardonic “He, he! Rouncy writes her letters," he said: “every one of 'em; and since they've quarrelled, she don't know how the deuce to get on. Miss Rouncy is an uncommon pretty hand, whereas the other one makes dreadful work of the writing and spelling when Bows
rite the first letty bad, I dare sapoker replied.«
ain't by. Rouncy's been settin' her copies lately—she writes a beautiful hand, Rouncy does.”
“I suppose you know it pretty well,” said the Major, archly: upon which Mr. Foker winked at him again.
“I would give a great deal to have a specimen of her handwriting,” continued Major Pendennis ; “I dare say you could give me one."
“That would be too bad,” Foker replied. “Miss F.'s writin' ain't so very bad, I dare say; only she got Miss R. to write the first letter, and has gone on ever since. But you mark my word, that till they are friends again the letters will stop.”
“I hope they will never be reconciled,” the Major said with great sincerity. “You must feel, my dear sir, as a man of the world, how fatal to my nephew's prospects in life is this step which he contemplates, and how eager we all must be to free him from this absurd engagement."
“He has come out uncommon strong," said Mr. Foker ; “I have seen his verses; Rouncy copied 'em. And I said to myself when I saw 'em, 'Catch me writin' verses to a woman, —that's all.'"
“He has made a fool of himself, as many a good fellow has before him. How can we make him see his folly, and cure it? I am sure you will give us what aid you can in extricating a generous young man from such a pair of schemers as this father and daughter seem to be. Love on the lady's side is out of the question.”
“Love, indeed ?" Foker said. “If Pen hadn't two thousand a-year when he came of age--"
“If Pen hadn't what ? " cried out the Major in astonishment.
“ Two thousand a-year: hasn't he got two thousand ayear 2—the General says he has."
“My dear friend,” shrieked out the Major, with an eagerness which this gentleman rarely showed, “thank you !thank you !-I begin to see now.—Two thousand a-year ! Why, his mother has but five hundred a-year in the world. She is likely to live to eighty, and Arthur has not a shilling but what she can allow him.”
“ What! he ain't rich then?” Foker asked.
The Major had sunk every shilling he could scrape together on annuity, and of course was going to leave Pen nothing; but he did not tell Foker this. “How much do you think a Major on half-pay can save ?” he asked. “If these people have been looking at him as a fortune, they are utterly mistaken_and—and you have made me the happiest man in the world.”
“Sir to you," said Mr. Foker, politely, and when they parted for the night they shook hands with the greatest cordiality; the younger gentleman promising the elder not to leave Chatteris without a further conversation in the morning. And as the Major went up to his room, and Mr. Foker smoked his cigar against the door pillars of the George, Pen, very likely, ten miles off, was lying in bed kissing the letter from his Emily.
The next morning, before Mr. Foker drove off in his drag, the insinuating Major had actually got a letter of Miss Rouncy's in his own pocket-book. Let it be a lesson to women how they write. And in very high spirits Major Pendennis went to call upon Doctor Portman at the Deanery, and told him what happy discoveries he had made on the previous night. As they sate in confidential conversation in the Dean's oak breakfast parlour they could look across the lawn and see Captain Costigan's window, at which poor Pen had been only too visible some three weeks since. The Doctor was most indignant against Mrs. Creed, the landlady, for her duplicity, in concealing Sir Derby Oaks's constant visits to her lodgers, and threatened to excommunicate her out of the Cathedral. But the wary Major thought that all things were for the best; and, having taken counsel with himself over night, felt himself quite strong enough to go and face Captain Costigan.
“I'm going to fight the dragon,” he said, with a laugh, to Doctor Portman.
“And I shrive you, sir, and bid good fortune go with you," answered the Doctor. Perhaps he and Mrs. Portman and Miss Mira, as they sate with their friend, the Dean's lady, in