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mother has seen you and admires you beyond measure. She will learn to love you soon: who can do otherwise? She will love you because I do."
"'Deed then, I think you do," said Miss Costigan, perhaps with a sort of pity for Pen.
Think he did! Of course here Mr. Pen went off into a rhapsody which, as we have perfect command over our own feelings, we have no right to overhear. Let the poor boy fling out his simple heart at the woman's feet, and deal gently with him. It is best to love wisely, no doubt: but to love foolishly is better than not to be able to love at all. Some of us can't: and are proud of our impotence too.
At the end of his speech, Pen again kissed the imperial hand with rapture—and I believe it was at this very moment, and while Mrs. Dean and Doctor Portman were engaged in conversation, that young Master Eidley Eoset, her son, pulled his mother by the back of her capacious dress and said—
"I say, ma! look up there "—and he waggled his innocent head. That was, indeed, a view from the Dean's garden such as seldom is seen by Deans—or is written in Chapters. There was poor Pen performing a salute upon the rosy fingers of his charmer, who received the embrace with perfect calmness and good-humour. Master Ridley looked up and grinned, little Miss Rosa looked at her brother, and opened the mouth of astonishment. Mrs. Dean's countenance defied expression, and as for Dr. Portman, when he beheld the scene, and saw his prime favourite and dear pupil Pen, he stood mute with rage and wonder.
Mrs. Haller spied the party below at the same moment, and gave a start and a laugh. "Sure there's somebody in the Dean's garden," she cried out; and withdrew with perfect calmness, whilst Pen darted away with his face glowing like coals. The garden party had re-entered the house when he ventured to look out again. The sickle moon was blazing bright in the heavens then, the stars were glittering, the bell of the cathedral tolling nine, the Dean's guests (all save one, Vol. i. a 3
who had called for his horse Dumpling, and ridden off early) were partaking of tea and buttered cakes in Mrs. Dean's drawing-room—when Pen took leave of Miss Costigan.
Pen arrived at home in due time afterwards, and was going to slip off to bed, for the poor lad was greatly worn and agitated, and his high-strung nerves had been at almost a maddening pitch—when a summons came to him by John the old footman, whose countenance bore a very ominous look, that his mother must see him below.
On this he tied on his neckcloth again, and went downstairs to the drawing-room. There sate not only his mother, but her friend, the Reverend Doctor Portman. Helen's face looked very pale by the light of the lamp—the Doctor's was flushed, on the contrary, and quivering with anger and emotion.
Pen saw at once that there was a crisis, and that there had been a discovery. "Now for it," he thought.
"Where have you been, Arthur?" Helen said in a trembling voice.
"How can you look that—that dear lady, and a Christian clergyman in the face, sir?" bounced out the Doctor, in spite of Helen's pale, appealing looks. "Where has he been? Where his mother's son should have been ashamed to go. For your mother's an angel, sir, an angel. How dare you bring pollution into her house, and make that spotless creature wretched with the thoughts of your crime?"
"Sir!" said Pen.
"Don't deny it, sir," roared the Doctor. "Don't add lies, sir,to your other infamy. I saw you myself, sir. I saw you from the Dean's garden. I saw you kissing the hand of that infernal painted"
"Stop!" Pen said, clapping his fist on the table, till the lamp flickered up and shook; "lama very young man, but you will please to remember that I am a gentleman—I will hear no abuse of that lady."
"Lady, sir!" cried the Doctor, "that a lady—you—you—you stand in your mother's presence and call that—that woman a lady!"—
"In anybody's presence," shouted out Pen. "She is worthy of any place. She is as pure as any woman. She is as good as she is beautiful. If any man but you insulted her, I would tell him what I thought; but as you are my oldest friend, I suppose you have the privilege to doubt of my honour."
"No, no, Pen, dearest Pen !" cried out Helen in an excess of joy. "I told, I told you, Doctor, he was not—not what you thought:" and the tender creature coming trembling forward flung herself on Pen's shoulder.
Pen felt himself a man, and a match for all the Doctors in Doctordom. He was glad this explanation had come. "You saw how beautiful she was," he said to his mother, with a soothing, protecting air, like Hamlet with Gertrude in the play. "I tell you, dear mother, she is as good. When you know her you will say so. She is of all, except you, the simplest, the kindest, the most affectionate of women. Why should she not be on the stage?—She maintains her father by her labour."
"Drunken old reprobate," growled the Doctor, but Pen did not hear or heed.
"If you could see, as I have, how orderly her life is, how pure and pious her whole conduct, you would—as I do—yes, as I do "—(with a savage look at the Doctor)—" spurn the slanderer who dared to do her wrong. Her father was an officer, and distinguished himself in Spain. He was a friend of His Royal Highness the Duke of Kent, and is intimately known to the Duke of Wellington, and some of the first officers of our army. He has met my uncle Arthur at Lord Hill's, he thinks. His own family is one of the most ancient and respectable in Ireland, and indeed is as good as our own. The—the Costigans were kings of Ireland."
"Why, God bless my soul," shrieked out the Doctor, hardly knowing whether to burst with rage or laughter, "you don't mean to say you want to marry her?"
Pen put on his most princely air. "What else, Dr. Portman," he said, "do you suppose would be my desire?"
Utterly foiled in his attack, and knocked down by this sudden lunge of Pen's, the Doctor could only gasp out, "Mrs. Pendennis, ma'am, send for the Major."
"Send for the Major? with all my heart," said Arthur, Prince of Pendennis and Grand Duke of Fairoaks, with a most superb wave of the hand. And the colloquy terminated by the writing of those two letters which were laid on Major Pendennis's breakfast-table, in London, at the commencement of Prince Arthur's most veracious history.