« ZurückWeiter »
hollyhocks and roses, close to a delightful romantic ivy. covered church, from the pulpit of which Pen would utter the most beautiful sermons ever preached.
While these natural sentiments were waging war and trouble in honest Pen's bosom, it chanced one day that he rode into Chatteris for the purpose of carrying to the County Chronicle a tremendous and thrilling poem for the next week's paper; and putting up his horse, according to custom, at the stables of the George Hotel there, he fell in with an old acquaintance. A grand black tandem, with scarlet wheels, came rattling into the inn yard, as Pen stood there in converse with the ostler about Rebecca ; and the voice of the driver called out, “Hallo, Pendennis, is that you ? ” in a loud patronising manner. Pen had some difficulty in recognising, under the broad-brimmed hat and the vast greatcoats and neckcloths, with which the new comer was habited, the person and figure of his quondam schoolfellow, Mr. Foker.
A year's absence had made no small difference in that gentleman. A youth who had been deservedly whipped a few months previously, and who spent his pocket-money on tarts and hardbake, now appeared before Pen in one of those costumes to which the public consent, which I take to be quite as influential in this respect as “ Johnson's Dictionary," has awarded the title of “Swell.” He had a bulldog between his legs, and in his scarlet shawl neckcloth was a pin representing another bulldog in gold: he wore a fur waistcoat laced over with gold chains; a green cut-away coat with basket buttons, and a white upper-coat ornamented with cheese-plate buttons, on each of which was engraved some stirring incident of the road or the chase ; all of which ornaments set off this young fellow's figure to such advantage, that you would hesitate to say which character in life he most resembled, and whether he was a boxer en goguette, or a coachman in his gala suit.
“Left that place for good, Pendennis ?” Mr. Foker said, descending from his landau and giving Pendennis a finger.
“Yes, this year or more,” Pen said.
Hate the Doctor: hate Towzer, the second master : hate everybody there. Not a fit place for a gentleman."
“Not at all,” said Pen, with an air of the utmost consequence.
“By gad, sir, I sometimes dream, now, that the Doctor's walking into me," Foker continued (and Pen smiled as he thought that he himself had likewise fearful dreams of this nature). “When I think of the diet there, by gad, sir, I wonder how I stood it. Mangy mutton, brutal beef, pudding on Thursdays and Sundays, and that fit to poison you. Just look at my leader—did you ever see a prettier animal ? Drove over from Baymouth. Came the nine mile in two-and-forty minutes. Not bad going, sir.”
“ Are you stopping at Baymouth, Foker ?” Pendennis asked.
“I'm coaching there,” said the other with a nod.
“ What ? ” asked Pen, and in a tone of such wonder, that Foker burst out laughing, and said, “He was blowed if he didn't think Pen was such a flat as not to know what coaching meant.”
“I'm come down with a coach from Oxbridge. A tutor, don't you see, old boy? He's coaching me, and some other men, for the little-go. Me and Spavin have the drag between us. And I thought I'd just tool over, and go to the play. Did you ever see Rowkins do the hornpipe ?” and Mr. Foker began to perform some steps of that popular dance in the inn yard, looking round for the sympathy of his groom and the stablemen.
Pen thought he would like to go to the play too: and could ride home afterwards, as there was a moonlight. So he accepted Foker's invitation to dinner, and the young men entered the inn together, where Mr. Foker stopped at the bar, and called upon Miss Rummer, the landlady's fair daughter, who presided there, to give him a glass of “his mixture.”
Pen and his family had been known at the George ever since they came into the county; and Mr. Pendennis's carriage and horses always put up there when he paid a visit to the county town. The landlady dropped the heir of Fairoaks a very respectful curtsey, and complimented him upon his growth and manly appearance, and asked news of the family at Fairoaks, and of Dr. Portman and the Clavering people, to all of which questions the young gentleman answered with much affability. But he spoke to Mr. and Mrs. Rummer with that sort of good nature with which a young Prince addresses his father's subjects; never dreaming that those bonnes gens were his equals in life.
Mr. Foker's behaviour was quite different. He inquired for Rummer and the cold in his nose, told Mrs. Rummer a riddle, asked Miss Rummer when she would be ready to marry him, and paid his compliments to Miss Brett, the other young lady in the bar, all in a minute of time, and with a liveliness and facetiousness which set all these ladies in a giggle ; and he gave a cluck, expressive of great satisfaction, as he tossed off his mixture, which Miss Rummer prepared and handed to him.
“Have a drop,” said he to Pen. “Give the young one a glass, R., and score it up to yours truly."
Poor Pen took a glass, and everybody laughed at the face which he made as he put it down--Gin, bitters, and some other cordial, was the compound with which Mr. Foker was so delighted as to call it by the name of Foker's own. As Pen choked, sputtered, and made faces, the other took occasion to remark to Mr. Rummer that the young fellow was green, very green, but that he would soon form him; and then they proceeded to order dinner—which Mr. Foker determined should consist of turtle and venison; cautioning the landlady to be very particular about icing the wine.
Then Messrs. Foker and Pen strolled down the High Street together—the former having a cigar in his mouth, which he had drawn out of a case almost as big as a portmanteau. He went in to replenish it at Mr. Lewis's, and talked to that gentleman for a while, sitting down on the counter : he then looked in at the fruiterer's, to see the pretty girl there: then they passed the County Chronicle office, for which Pen had his packet ready, in the shape of “Lines to Thyrza," but poor Pen did not like to put the letter into the editor's box while walking in company with such a fine gentleman as Mr. Foker. They met heavy dragoons of the regiment always quartered at Chatteris; and stopped and talked about the Baymouth balls, and what a pretty girl was Miss Brown, and what a dem fine woman Mrs. Jones was. It was in vain that Pen recalled to his own mind how stupid Foker used to be at school-how he could scarcely read, how he was not cleanly in his person, and notorious for his blunders and dullness. Mr. Foker was not much more refined now than in his school days: and yet Pen felt a secret pride in strutting down High Street with a young fellow who owned tandems, talked to officers, and ordered turtle and champagne for dinner. He listened, and with respect too, to Mr. Foker's accounts of what the men did at the University of which Mr. F. was an ornament, and encountered a long series of stories about boat-racing, bumping, College grassplats, and milk-punch-and began to wish to go up himself to College to a place where there were such manly pleasures and enjoyments. Farmer Gurnett, who lives close by Fairoaks, riding by at this minute and touching his hat to Pen, the latter stopped him, and sent a message to his mother to say that he had met with an old schoolfellow, and should dine in Chatteris.
The two young gentlemen continued their walk, and were passing round the Cathedral Yard, where they could hear the music of the afternoon service (a music which always exceedingly affected Pen), but whither Mr. Foker came for the purpose of inspecting the nursery maids who frequent the Elms Walk there, and here they strolled until with a final burst of music the small congregation was played out.
Old Doctor Portman was one of the few who came from the venerable gate. Spying Pen, he came and shook him by the hand, and eyed with wonder Pen’s friend, from whose mouth and cigar clouds of fragrance issued, which curled round the Doctor's honest face and shovel hat.
“An old schoolfellow of mine, Mr. Foker,” said Pen. The Doctor said “H'm:” and scowled at the cigar. He did not mind a pipe in his study, but the cigar was an abomination to the worthy gentleman.
“I came up on Bishop's business,” the Doctor said. “We'll ride home, Arthur, if you like ?”.
“I—I'm engaged to my friend here," Pen answered.
“ His mother knows he's out, sir,” Mr. Foker remarked : “ don't she, Pendennis ? "
“But that does not prove that he had not better come home with me,” the Doctor growled, and he walked off with great dignity.
“Old boy don't like the weed, I suppose," Foker said. “Ha! who's here 2–here's the General, and Bingley, the manager. How do, Cos? How do, Bingley ?”.
“How does my worthy and gallant young Foker ?” said the gentleman addressed as the General; and who wore a shabby military cape with a mangy collar, and a hat cocked very much over one eye.
“Trust you are very well, my very dear sir,” said the other gentleman, “and that the Theatre Royal will have the honour of your patronage to-night. We perform The Stranger,' in which your humble servant will — "
“ Can't stand you in tights and Hessians, Bingley," young Mr. Foker said. On which the General, with the Irish accent, said, “But I think ye'll like Miss Fotheringay, in Mrs. Haller, or me name's not Jack Costigan."
Pen looked at these individuals with the greatest interest. He had never seen an actor before; and he saw Dr. Portman's red face looking over the Doctor's shoulder, as he retreated from the Cathedral Yard, evidently quite dissatisfied with the acquaintances into whose hands Pen had fallen.
Perhaps it would have been much better for him had he taken the parson's advice and company home. But which of us knows his fate?