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do it. "I understand you, sir," the Captain says; and Mrs. Stokes, who had slipped away at the ring of the bell (how odd it seemed to Pen to ring the bell!), conies down in her best gown, surrounded by her children. The young ones clamber about Stokes: the boy jumps into an armchair. It was Pen's father's armchair; and Arthur remembers the days when he would as soon have thought of mounting the king's throne as of seating himself in that armchair. He asks Miss Stokes— she is the very image of her mamma—if she can play? He should like to hear a tune on that piano. She plays. He hears the notes of the old piano once more, enfeebled by age, but he does not listen to the player. He is listening to Laura singing as in the days of their youth, and sees his mother bending and beating time over the shoulder of the girl.
The dinner at Fairoaks given in Pen's honour by bis tenant, and at which old Mrs. Stokes, Captain Glanders, Squire Hobnell, and the clergyman and his lady, from Tinckleton, were present, was very stupid and melancholy for Pen, until the waiter from Clavering (who aided the Captain's stable-boy and Mrs. Stokes's butler) whom Pen remembered as a street boy, and who was now indeed barber in that place, dropped a plate over Pen's shoulder, on which Mr. Hobnell (who also employed him) remarked, "I suppose, Hodson, your hands are slippery with bear's-grease. He's always dropping the crockery about, that Hodson is—haw, haw!" On which Hodson blushed, and looked so disconcerted, that Pen burst out laughing; and good-humour and hilarity were the order of the evening. For the second course, there was a hare and partridges top and bottom, and when after the withdrawal of the servants Pen said to the Vicar of Tinckleton, "I think, Mr. Stooks, you should have asked Hodson to cut the hare," the joke was taken instantly by the clergyman, who was followed in the course of a few minutes by Captain Stokes and Glanders, and by Mr. Hobnell, who arrived rather late, but with an immense guffaw.
While Mr. Pen was engaged in the country in the above schemes, it happened that the lady of his choice, if not of his affections, came up to London from the Tunbridge villa bound upon shopping expeditions or important business, and in company of old Mrs. Bonner, her mother's maid, who had lived and quarrelled with Blanche many times since she was an infant, and who now, being about to quit Lady Clavering's service for the hymeneal state, was anxious like a good soul to bestow some token of respectful kindness upon her old and young mistress before she quitted them altogether, to take her post as the wife of Lightfoot, and landlady of the " Clavering Arms."
The honest woman took the benefit of Miss Amory's taste to make the purchase which she intended to offer her Ladyship; and requested the fair Blanche to choose something for herself that should be to her liking, and remind her of her old nurse who had attended her through many a wakeful night, and eventful teething, and childish fever, and who loved her like a child of her own a'most. These purchases were made, and as the nurse insisted on buying an immense Bible for Blanche, the young lady suggested that Bonner should purchase a large "Johnson's Dictionary" for her mamma. Each of the two women might certainly profit by the present made to her.
Then Mrs. Bonner invested money in some bargains in linendrapeiy, which might be useful at the "Clavering Arms," and bought a red and yellow neck-handkerchief, which Blanche could see at once was intended for Mr. Lightfoot. Younger than herself by at least five-and-twenty years, Mrs. Bonner regarded that youth with a fondness at once parental and conjugal, and loved to lavish ornaments on his person, which already glittered with pins, rings, shirt-studs, and chains and seals, purchased at the good creature's expense.
It was in the Strand that Mrs. Bonner made her purchases, aided by Miss Blanche, who liked the fun very well, and when the old lady had bought everything that she desired, and was leaving the shop, Blanche, with a smiling face, and a sweet bow to one of the shopmen, said, "Pray, sir, will you have the kindness to show us the way to Shepherd's Inn."
Shepherd's Inn was but a few score of yards off, Oldcastle Street was close by, the elegant young shopman pointed out the turning which the young lady was to take, and she and her companion walked off together.
"Shepherd's Inn! what can you want in Shepherd's Inn, Miss Blanche?" Bonner inquired. "Mr. Strong lives there. Do you want to go and see the Captain?"
"I should like to see the Captain very well. I like the
Captain; but it is not him I want. I want to see a dear little good girl, who was very kind to—to Mr. Arthur when he was so ill last year, and saved his life almost; and I want to thank her, and ask her if she would like anything. I looked out several of my dresses on purpose this morning, Bonner!" and she looked at Bonner as if she had a right to admiration,