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HE Major and Captain Costigan were old soldiers and accustomed to face the enemy, so we may presume that they retained their presence of mind perfectly: but the rest of the party assembled in Cos's sitting-room were, perhaps, a little flurried at Pendennis's apparition. Miss Fotheringay's slow heart began to beat no doubt, for her cheek flushed up with a great healthy blush, as Lieutenant Sir Derby Oaks looked at her with a scowl. The little crooked old man in the window-seat, who had been witnessing the fencing-match between the two gentlemen (whose stamping and jumping had been such as to cause him to give up all attempts to continue writing the theatre music, in the copying of which he had been engaged) looked up eagerly towards the newcomer as the Major of the well-blacked boots entered the apartment,distributing the most graceful bows to everybody present. "Me daughter—me friend, Mr. Bows—me gallant young pupil and friend, I may call 'um, Sir Derby Oaks," said Costigan, splendidly waving his hand, and pointing each of these individuals to the Major's attention. "In one moment, Meejor, I'm your humble servant," and to dash into the little adjoining chamber where he slept, to give a twist to his lank hair with his hair-brush (a wonderful and ancient piece), to tear off his old stock and put on a new one which Emily had constructed for him, and to assume a handsome clean collar, and the new coat which had been ordered upon the occasion of Miss Fotheringay's benefit, was with the still active Costigan the work of a minute.
After him Sir Derby entered, and presently emerged from the same apartment, where he also cased himself in his little shell-jacket, which fitted tightly upon the young officer's big person; and which he and Miss Fotheringay, and poor Pen too, perhaps, admired prodigiously.
Meanwhile conversation was engaged in between the actress and the new-comer; and the usual remarks about the weather had been interchanged before Costigan re-entered in his new "shoot," as he called it.
"I needn't apologoise to ye, Meejor," he said, in his richest and most courteous manner, "for receiving ye in me shirt-sleeves."
"An old soldier can't be better employed than in teaching a young one the use of his sword," answered the Major, gallantly. "I remember in old times hearing that you could use yours pretty well, Captain Costigan."
"What, ye've heard of Jack Costigan, Major!" said the other, greatly.
The Major had, indeed; he had pumped his nephew concerning his new friend, the Irish officer; and said that he perfectly well recollected meeting Mr. Costigan, and hearing him sing at Sir Richard Strachan's table at Walcheren.
At this information, and the bland and cordial manner in which it was conveyed, Bows looked up, entirely puzzled. "But we will talk of these matters another time," the Major continued, perhaps not wishing to commit himself; "it is to Miss Fotheringay that I came to pay my respects to-day:" and he performed another bow for her, so courtly and gracious, that if she had been a duchess he could not have made it more handsome.
"I had heard of your performances from my nephew, madam," the Major said, "who raves about you, as I believe you know pretty well. But Arthur is but a boy, and a wild enthusiastic young fellow, whose opinions one must not take au pied de la lettre; and I confess I was anxious to judge for myself. Permit me to say your performance delighted and astonished me. I have seen our best actresses, and, on my word, I think you surpass them all. You are as majestic as Mrs. Siddons."
"Faith, I always said so," Costigan said, winking at his daughter: "Major, take a chair." Milly rose at this hint, took an unripped satin garment off the only vacant seat, and brought the latter to Major Pendennis with one of her finest curtseys.
"You are as pathetic as Miss O'Neill," he continued, bowing and seating himself; "your snatches of song remind me of Mrs. Jordan in her best time, when we were young men, Captain Costigan; and your manner reminded me of Mars. Did you ever see the Mars, Miss Fotheringay?"
"There was two Mahers in Crow Street," remarked Miss Emily: "Fanny was well enough, but Biddy was no great things."
"Sure, the Major means the god of war, Milly, my dear," interposed the parent.
"It is not that Mars I meant, though Venus, I suppose, may be pardoned for thinking about him;" the Major replied with a smile directed in full to Sir Derby Oaks, who now re-entered in his shell-jacket; but the lady did not understand the words of which he made use, nor did the compliment at all pacify Sir Derby, who, probably, did not understand it either, and at any rate received it with great sulkiness and stiffness; scowling uneasily at Miss Fotheringay, with an expression which seemed to ask what the deuce does this man here?
Major Pendennis was not the least annoyed by the gentleman's ill-humour. On the contrary, it delighted him. "So," thought he, "a rival is in the field;" and he offered up vows that Sir Derby might be, not only a rival, but a winner too, in this love-match in which he and Pen were engaged.
"I fear I interrupted your fencing lesson; but my stay in Chatteris is very short, and I was anxious to make myself known to my old fellow-campaigner Captain Costigan, and to Vol. 1. K 3
see a lady nearer who had charmed me so much from the stage. I was not the only man ipris last night, Miss Fotheringay (if I must call you so, though your own family name is a very ancient and noble one). There was a reverend friend of mine, who went home in raptures with Ophelia; and I saw Sir Derby Oaks fling a bouquet which no actress ever merited better. I should have brought one myself, had I known what I was going to see. Are not those the very flowers in a glass of water on the mantel-piece yonder?"
"I am very fond of flowers," said Miss Fotheringay, with a languishing ogle at Sir Derby Oaks—but the Baronet still scowled sulkily.
"Sweets to the sweet—isn't that the expression of the play?" Major Pendennis asked, bent upon being goodhumoured.
"Ton my life, I don't know. Very likely it is. I ain't much of a literary man," answered Sir Derby.
"Is it possible?" the Major continued, with an air of surprise. "You don't inherit your father's love of letters, then, Sir Derby? He was a remarkably fine scholar, and I had the honour of knowing him very well."
"Indeed," said the other, and gave a sulky wag of his head."He saved my life," continued Pendennis.
"Did he now?" cried Miss Fotheringay, rolling her eyes first upon the Major with surprise, then towards Sir Derby with gratitude —but the latter was proof against those glances; and far from appearing to be pleased that the Apothecary, his father, should have saved Major Pendennis's life, the young man actually looked as if he wished the event had turned the other way.
"My father, I believe, was a very good doctor," the young gentleman said by way of reply. "I'm not in that line myself. I wish you good morning, sir. I've got an appointment—Cos, bye-bye—Miss Fotheringay, good morning." And, in spite of the young lady's imploring looks and appealing smiles, the Dragoon bowed stiffly out of the room, and the clatter of his sabre was heard as he strode down the creaking stair; and the angry tones of his voice as he eursed little Tom Creed, who was disporting in the passage, and whose peg-top Sir Derby kicked away with an oath into the street.
The Major did not smile in the least, though he had every reason to be amused. "Monstrous handsome young man that—as fine a looking soldier as ever I saw," he said to Costigan.
"A credit to the army and to human nature in general," answered Costigan. "A young man of refoined manners, polite affabilitee, and princely fortune. His table is sump