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the Gardens; howbeit, Pen paid a couple of shillings for himself and his partner, and with her hanging close on his arm, scaled the staircase which leads to the firework gallery. The Captain and mamma might have followed them if they liked, but Arthur and Fanny were too busy to look back. People were pushing and squeezing there beside and behind them. One eager individual rushed by Fanny, and elbowed her so, that she fell back with a little cry, upon which, of course,
Arthur caught her adroitly in his arms, and, just for protection, kept her so defended, until they mounted the stair, and took their places.
Poor Foker sate alone on one of the highest benches, his face illuminated by the fireworks, or in their absence by the moon. Arthur saw him, and laughed, but did not occupy himself about his friend much. He was engaged with Fanny. How she wondered! how happy she was! how she cried Oh, oh, oh, as the rockets soared into the air, and showered down in azure, and emerald, and vermilion. As these wonders blazed and disappeared before her, the little girl thrilled and trembled with delight at Arthur's side—her hand was under his arm still, he felt it pressing him as she looked up delighted.
"How beautiful they are, sir!" she cried.
"Don't call me sir, Fanny," Arthur said.
A quick blush rushed up into the girl's face. "What shall I call you?" she said, in a low voice, sweet and tremulous. "What would you wish me to say, sir?"
"Again, Fanny! Well, I forgot; it is best so, my dear," Pendennis said, very kindly and gently. "I may call you Fanny?"
"Oil yes !" she said, and the little hand pressed his arm once more very eagerly, and the girl clung to him so that he could feel her heart beating on his shoulder.
"I may call you Fanny, because you are a young girl, and a good girl, Fanny, and I am an old gentleman. But you mustn't call me anything but sir, or Mr. Pendennis, if you like; for we live in very different stations, Fanny; and don't think I speak unkindly; and—and why do you take your hand away, Fanny? Are you afraid of me? Do you think I would hurt you? Not for all the world, my dear little girl. And—and look how beautiful the moon and stars are, and how calmly they shine when the rockets have gone out, and the noisy wheels have done hissing and blazing. When I came here to-night I did not think I should have had such a pretty little companion to sit by my side, and see these fine fireworks. You must know I live by myself, and work very hard. I write in books and newspapers, Fanny; and I was quite tired out, and expected to sit alone all night; and—don't cry, my dear dear little girl." Here Pen broke out, rapidly putting an end to the calm oration which he had begun to deliver; for the sight of a woman's tears always put his nerves in a quiver, and he began forthwith to coax her and soothe her, and to utter a hundred and twenty little ejaculations of pity and sympathy, which need not be repeated here, because they would be absurd in print. So would a mother's talk to a child be absurd in print; so would a lover's to his bride. That sweet artless poetry bears no translation; and is too subtle for grammarians' clumsy definitions. You have but the same four letters to describe the salute which you perform on your grandmother's forehead, and that which you bestow on the sacred cheek of your mistress; but the same four letters, and not one of them a labial. Do we mean to hint that Mr. Arthur Pendennis made any use of the monosyllable in question? Not so. In the first place, it was dark: the fireworks were over, and nobody could see him; secondly, he was not a man to have this kind of secret, and tell it; thirdly, and lastly, let the honest fellow who has kissed a pretty girl, say what would have been his own conduct in such a delicate juncture?
Well, the truth is, that however you may suspect him, and whatever you would have done under the circumstances, or Mr. Pen would have liked to do, he behaved honestly, and like a man. "I will not play with this little girl's heart," he said within himself, "and forget my own or her honour. She seems to have a great deal of dangerous and rather contagious sensibility, and I am very glad the fireworks are over, and that I can take her back to her mother. Come along, Fanny; mind the steps, and lean on me. Don't stumble, you heedless little thing; this is the way, and there is your mamma at the door."
And there, indeed, Mrs. Bolton was, unquiet in spirit, and grasping her umbrella. She seized Fanny with maternal fierceness and eagerness, and uttered some rapid abuse to the girl in an undertone. The expression in Captain Costigan's eye—standing behind the matron and winking at Pendennis from under his hat—was, I am bound to say, indefinably humorous.
It was so much so, that Pen could not refrain from bursting into a laugh. "You should have taken my arm, Mrs. Bolton," he said, offering it. "I am very glad to bring Miss Fanny back quite safe to you. We thought you would- have followed us up into the gallery. We enjoyed the fireworks, didn't we?"
"Oh yes!" said Miss Fanny, with rather a demure look.
"And the bouquet was magnificent," said Pen. "And it is ten hours since I had anything to eat, ladies; and I wish you would permit me to invite you to supper."
"'Dad," said Costigan, "I'd loike a snack tu; only I forgawt me purse, or I should have invoited these leedies to a colleetion."
Mrs. Bolton with considerable asperity said, She 'ad an 'eadache, and would much rather go 'ome.
"A lobster salad is the best thing in the world for a headache," Pen said gallantly, "and a glass of wine I'm sure will do you good. Come, Mrs. Bolton, be kind to me and oblige me. I shan't have the heart to sup without you, and upon my word I have had no dinner. Give me your arm: give me the umbrella. Costigan, I'm sure you'll take care of Miss Fanny; and I shall think Mrs. Bolton angry with me, unless she will favour me with her society. And we will all sup quietly, and go back in a cab together."
The cab, the lobster salad, the frank and good-humoured look of Pendennis, as he smilingly invited the worthy matron, subdued her suspicions and her anger. Since he would be so obliging, she thought she could take a little bit of lobster, and so they all marched away to a box; and Costigan called for a waither with such a loud and belligerent voice, as caused one of those officials instantly to run to him.
The carte was examined on the wall, and Fanny was asked to choose her favourite dish; upon which the young creature said she was fond of lobster too, but also owned to a partiality for raspberry-tart. This delicacy was provided by Pen, and a bottle of the most frisky champagne was moreover ordered for the delight of the ladies. Little Fanny drank this;—what other sweet intoxication had she not drunk in the course of the night?
When the supper, which was very brisk and gay, was over, and Captain Costigan and Mrs. Bolton had partaken of some of the rack punch that is so fragrant at Vauxhall, the bill was called and discharged by Pen with great generosity,—" loike a foin young English gentleman of th' olden toime, be Jove," Costigan enthusiastically remarked. And as, when they went out of the box, he stepped forward and gave Mrs. Bolton his arm, Fanny fell to Pen's lot, and the young people walked away in high good-humour together, in the wake of their seniors.
The champagne and the rack punch, though taken in moderation by all persons, except perhaps poor Cos, who lurched ever so little in his gait, had set them in high spirits and good humour, so that Fanny began to skip and move her brisk little feet in time to the band, which was playing waltzes and galops for the dancers. As they came up to the dancing, the music and Fanny's feet seemed to go quicker togethershe seemed to spring, as if naturally, from the ground, and as if she required repression to keep her there.
"Shouldn't you like a turn?" said the Prince of Fair oaks. "What fun it would be! Mrs. Bolton, ma'am, do let me take her once round." Upon which Mr. Costigan said, "Off wid you!" and Mrs. Bolton not refusing (indeed, she was an old war-horse, and would have liked, at the trumpet's sound, to have entered the arena herself), Fanny's shawl was off her back in a minute, and she and Arthur were whirling round in a waltz in the midst of a great deal of queer, but exceedingly joyful company.
Pen had no mishap this time with little Fanny, as he had with Miss Blanche in old days,—at least, there was no mishap of his making. The pair danced away with great agility and contentment,—first a waltz, then a galop, then a waltz again, until, in the second waltz, they were bumped by another couple who had joined the Terpsichorean choir. This was Mr. Huxter and his pink satin young friend, of whom we have already had a glimpse.
Mr. Huxter very probably had been also partaking of supper, for he was even more excited now than at the time when he had previously claimed Pen's acquaintance; and, having run against Arthur and his partner, and nearly knocked them down, this amiable gentleman of course began to abuse the people whom he had injured, and broke out into a volley of slang against the unoffending couple.
"Now then, stoopid! Don't keep the ground if you can't dance, old Slow Coach!" the young surgeon roared out (using, at the same time, other expressions far more emphatic), and