« ZurückWeiter »
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 head 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 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 entrée 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 teacups 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, Stoopid and Mr wind called the Maiornan once during
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 were 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.
“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 pecuniary 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 inclosed. 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.