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sharp pang of grief, and a gloomy sympathy—this accounts for her letter of to-day. She will not implicate her father, or divulge his secret; she wishes to let me off from the marriage —and finds a pretext—the generous girl!
"Do you know who Altamont is, sir?" asked Huxter, after the pause during which Pen had been thinking of his own affairs. "Fanny and I have talked him over, and we can't help fancying that it's Mrs. Lightfoot's first husband come to life again, and she who has just married a second. Perhaps Lightfoot won't be very sorry for it," sighed Huxter, looking savagely at Arthur, for the demon of jealousy was still in possession of his soul; and now, and more than ever since his marriage, the poor fellow fancied that Fanny's heart belonged to his rival.
"Let us talk about your affairs," said Pen. "Show me how I can be of any service to you, Huxter. Let me congratulate you on your marriage. I am thankful that Fanny, who is so good, so fascinating, so kind a creature, has found an honest man, and a gentleman who will make her happy. Show me what I can do to help you."
"She thinks you can, sir," said Huxter, accepting Pen's proffered hand, "and I'm very much obliged to you, I'm sure; and that you might talk over my father, and break the business to him, and my mother, who always has her back up about being a clergyman's daughter. Fanny ain't of a good family, I know, and not up to us in breeding and that—but she's a Huxter now."
"The wife takes the husband's rank, of course," said Pen.
"And with a little practice in society," continued Huxter, imbibing his stick, " she'll be as good as any girl in Clavering. You should hear her sing and play on the piano. Did you ever? Old Bows taught her. And she'll do on the stage, if the governor was to throw me over; but I'd rather not have her there. She can't help being a coquette, Mr. Pendennis, she can't help it. Dammy, sir! I'll be bound to say, that two or three of the Bartholomew chaps, that I've brought into my place, are sitting with her now; even Jack Linton, that I took down as my best man, is as bad as the rest, and she will go on singing and making eyes at him. It's what Bows says, if there were twenty men in a room, and one not taking notice of her, she wouldn't be satisfied until the twentieth was at her elbow."
"You should have her mother with her," said Pen, laughing.
"She must keep the lodge. She can't see so much of her family as she used. I can't, you know, sir, go on with that lot. Consider my rank in life," said Huxter, putting a very dirty hand up to his chin.
"Au fait," said Mr. Pen, who was infinitely amused, and concerning whom mutato nomine (and of course concerning nobody else in the world) the fable might have been narrated.
As the two gentlemen were in the midst of this colloquy, another knock came to Pen's door, and his servant presently announced Mr. Bows. The old man followed slowly, his pale face blushing, and his hand trembling somewhat as he took Pen's. He coughed, and wiped his face in his checked cotton pocket-handkerchief, and sate down with his hands on his knees, the sun shining on his bald head. Pen looked at the homely figure with no small sympathy and kindness. This man, too, has had his griefs, and his wounds, Arthur thought. This man, too, has brought his genius and his heart, and laid them at a woman's feet; where she spurned them. The chance of life has gone against him, and the prize is with that creature yonder. Fanny's bridegroom, thus mutely apostrophised, had winked meanwhile with one eye at old Bows, and was driving holes in the floor with the cane which he loved.
"So we have lost, Mr. Bows, and here is the lucky winner," Pen said, looking hard at the old man.
"Here is the lucky winner, sir, as you say."
"I suppose you have come from my place?" asked Huxter, who, having winked at Bows with one eye, now favoured Pen with a wink of the other—a wink which seemed to say, "Infatuated old boy—you understand—over head and ears in love with her—poor old fool!"
"Yes, I have been there ever since you went away. It was Mrs. Sam who sent me after you: who said that she thought you might be doing something stupid—something like yourself, Huxter."
"There's as big fools as I am," growled the young surgeon.
"A few, p'raps," said the old man; "not many, let us trust. Yes, she sent me after you for fear you should offend Mr. Pendennis; and I dare say because she thought you wouldn't give her message to him, and beg him to go and see her; and she knew I would take her errand. Did he tell you that, sir?"
Huxter blushed scarlet, and covered his confusion with an imprecation. Fen laughed! the scene suited his bitter humour more and more.
"I have no doubt Mr. Huxter was going to tell me," Arthur said, "and very much nattered I am sure I shall be to pay my respects to his wife."
"It's in Charterhouse Lane, over the baker's, on the righthand side as you go from St. John's Street," continued Bows, without any pity. "You know Smithfield, Mr. Pendennis? St. John's Street leads into Smithfield. Dr. Johnson has been down the street many a time with ragged shoes, and a bundle of penny-a-lining for the Gent's Magazine. You literary gents are better off now—eh? You ride in your cabs, and wear yellow kid gloves now."
"I have known so many brave and good men fail, and so many quacks and impostors succeed, that you mistake me if you think I am puffed up by my own personal good luck, old friend," Arthur said, sadly. "Do you think the prizes of life are carried by the most deserving? and set up that mean test of prosperity for merit? You must feel that you are as good as I. I have never questioned it. It is you that are peevish against the freaks of fortune, and grudge the good luck that befalls others. It's not the first time you have unjustly accused me, Bows."
"Perhaps you are not far wrong, sir," said the old fellow, wiping his bald forehead. "I am thinking about myself and grumbling; most men do when they get on that subject. Here's the fellow that's got the prize in the lottery; here's the fortunate youth."
"I don't know what you are driving at," Huxter said, who had been much puzzled as the above remarks passed between his two companions.
"Perhaps not," said Bows, drily. "Mrs. H. sent me here to look after you, and to see that you brought that little message to Mr. Pendennis, which you didn't, you see, and so she was right. Women always are; they have always a reason for everything. Why, sir," he said, turning round to Pen with a sneer, " she had a reason even for giving me that message. I was sitting with her after you left us, very quiet and comfortable; I was talking away, and she was mending your shirts, when your two young friends, Jack Linton and Bob Blades, looked in from Bartholomew's; and then it was she found out that she had this message to send. You needn't hurry yourself, she don't want you back again; they'll stay these two hours, I dare say."
Huxter arose with great perturbation at this news, and plunged his stick into the pocket of his paletot, and seized his hat.
"You'll come and see us, sir, won't you?" he said to Pen. "You'll talk over the governor, won't you, sir, if I can get out of this place and down to Clavering?"
"You will promise to attend me gratis if ever I fall ill at Fairoaks, will you, Huxter?" Pen said, good-naturedly. "I will do anything I can for you. I will come and see Mrs. Huxter immediately, and we will conspire together about what is to be done."
"I thought that would send him out, sir," Bows said, dropping into his chair again as soon as the young surgeon had quitted the room. "And it's all true, sir—every word of it. She wants you back again, and sends her husband after you. She cajoles everybody, the little devil. She tries it on you, on me, on poor Costigan, on the young chaps from Bartholomew's. She's got a little court of 'em already. And if there's nobody there, she practises on the old German baker iri the shop, or coaxes the black sweeper at the crossing."
"Is she fond of that fellow?" asked Pen.
"There is no accounting for likes and dislikes," Bows answered. "Yes, she is fond of him; and having taken the thing into her head, she would not rest until she married him. They had their banns published at St. Clement's, and nobody heard it or knew any just cause or impediment. And
VOL. II. oa 4
one day she slips out of the porter's lodge and has the business done, and goes off to Gravesend with Lothario; and leaves a note for me to go and explain all things to her ma. Bless you! the old woman knew it as well as I did, though she pretended ignorance. And so she goes, and I'm alone again. I miss her, sir, tripping along that court, and coming for her singing lesson; and I've no heart to look into the porter's lodge now, which looks very empty without her, the little flirting thing. And I go and sit and dangle about her lodgings, like an old fool. She makes 'em very trim and nice, though; gets up all Huxter's shirts and clothes: cooks his little dinner, and sings at her business like a little lark. What's the use of being angry? I lent 'em three pound to go on with: for they haven't got a shilling till the reconciliation, and pa comes down."
When Bows had taken his leave, Pen carried his letter from Blanche, and the news which he had just received, to his usual adviser, Laura. It was wonderful upon how many points Mr. Arthur, who generally followed his own opinion, now wanted another person's counsel. He could hardly so much as choose a waistcoat without referring to Miss Bell: if he wanted to buy a horse he must have Miss Bell's opinion: all which marks of deference tended greatly to the amusement of the shrewd old lady with whom Miss Bell lived, and whose plans regarding her protegee we have indicated.
Arthur produced Blanche's letter then to Laura, and asked her to interpret it. Laura was very much agitated, and puzzled by the contents of the note.
"It seems to me," she said, "as if Blanche is acting very artfully."
"And wishes so to place matters that she may take me or leave me? Is it not so?"
"It is, I am afraid, a kind of duplicity which does not augur well for your future happiness; and is a bad reply to your own candour and honesty, Arthur. Do you know I think, I think—I scarcely like to say what I think," said Laura, with a deep blush; but of course the blushing young lady yielded to her cousin's persuasions, and expressed what her thoughts were. "It looks to me, Arthur, as if there might