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Arthur and Major—come, let me see, on the 14th.-—It ain’t one of our grand dinners, Blanche,” she said, looking round at her daughter, who bit her lips and frowned very savagely for a sylphide.
The Major, with a smile and a bow, said he would much rather come to a quiet meeting than to a grand dinner. He had had enough of those large entertainments, and preferred the simplicity of the home circle.
“ I always think a dinner’s the best the second day,” said Lady Clavering, thinking to mend her first speech. “ On the 14th we’ll be quite a snug little party; ” at which second blunder, Miss Blanche clasped her hands in despair, and said, “O Mamma, sous étes incowigible.” Major Pendennis vowed that he liked snug dinners of all things in the world, and confounded her Ladyship’s impudence for daring to ask such a man as him to a second day’s dinner. But he was a man of an economical turn of mind, and bethinking himself that he could throw over these people if anything better should offer, he accepted with the blandest air. As for Pen, he was not a diner-out of thirty years’ standing as yet, and the idea of a fine feast in a fine house was still perfectly welcome to him.
“ What was that pretty little quarrel which engaged itself between your worship and Miss Amory ? ” the Major asked of Pen, as they walked away together. “ I thought you used to be au mieux in that quarter.”
“ Used to be,” answered Pen, with a dandified air, “is a vague phrase regarding a woman. Was and is are two very different terms, sir, as regards women’s hearts especially.”
“ Egad, they change as we do,” cried the elder. “When we took the Cape of Good Hope, I recollect there was a lady who talked of poisoning herself for your humble servant ; and, begad, in three months, she ran away from her husband with somebody else. Don’t get yourself entangled with that Miss Amory. She is forward, affected, and underbred ; and her character is somewhat—never mind what. But don’t think of her: ten thousand pound won’t do for you. What, my good fellow, is ten thousand pound? I would scarcely pay that girl’s milliner’s bill with the interest of the money.”
“ You seem to be a connoisseur in millinery, Uncle,” Pen said.
“ I was, sir, I was,” replied the senior; “ and the old warhorse, you know, never hears the sound of a trumpet, but he begins to he, he l—you understand,”—and he gave a killing though somewhat superannuated leer and bow to a carriage that passed them and entered the Park.
“Lady Catherine Martingale’s carriage,” he said, “mons’ous fine girls the daughters, though, gad, I remember their mother a thousand times handsomer. No, Arthur, my dear fellow, with your person and expectations, you ought to make a good coup in marriage some day or other; and though I wouldn’t have this repeated at Fairoaks, you rogue, ha! ha! a reputation for a little wickedness, and for being an homme dangereux, don’t hurt a young fellow with the women. They like it, sir—they hate a milksop . . . young men must be young men, you know. But for marriage,” continued the veteran moralist, “that is a very different matter. Marry a woman with money. I’ve told you before it is as easy to get a rich wife as a poor one; and a doosed deal more comfortable to sit down to a well-cooked dinner, with your little entrees nicely served, than to have nothing but a damned cold leg of mutton between you and your wife. We shall have a good dinner on the 14th, when we dine with Sir Francis Clavering: stick to that, my boy, in your relations with the family. Cultivate ’em, but keep ’em for dining. No more of your youthful follies and nonsense about love in a cottage.”
“ It must be a cottage with a double coach-house, a cottage of gentility, sir,” said Pen, quoting the hackneyed ballad of the “ Devil’s Walk”: but his uncle did not know that poem (though, perhaps, he might be leading Pen upon the very promenade in question), and went on with his philosophical remarks, very much pleased with the aptness of the pupil to whom he addressed them. Indeed Arthur Pendennis was a clever fellow, who took his colour very readily from his neighbour, and found the adaptation only too easy.
Warrington, the grumbler, growled out that Pen was becoming such a puppy that soon there would be no bearing
him. But the truth is, the young man’s success and dashing manners pleased his elder companion. He liked to see Pen gay and spirited, and brimful of health, and life, and hope; as a man who has long since left off being amused with clown and harlequin, still gets a pleasure in watching a child at a pantomime. Mr. Pen’s former sulkiness disappeared with his better fortune: and he bloomed as the sun began to shine upon him.
IN WHICH COLONEL ALTAMONT APPEARS AND DISAPPEARS.
N the day appointed, Major , Pendennis, who had formed no
_ by, f ‘I‘‘ ‘ aw,‘ better engage" tgtffiiitiaim'‘ ‘; i \ ment, and Ar/ "W" I‘ thur, who de
sired none, arrived together to dine with Sir Francis Clavering. The only tenants of the drawing - room when Pen and his uncle reached it, were Sir Francis and his wife, and our friend Captain Strong, whom Arthur was very glad to see, though the Major looked very sulkily at Strong, being by no means well pleased to sit down to dinner with Clavering’s d— house-steward, as he irreverently called Strong. But Mr. Welbore Welbore, Clavering’s country neighbour and
brother member of Parliament, speedily arriving, Pendennis the elder was somewhat appeased, for Welbore, though perfectly dull, and taking no more part in the conversation at dinner than the footman behind his chair, was a respectable country gentleman of ancient family and seven thousand a year; and the Major felt always at ease in such society. To these were added other persons of note: the Dowager Lady Rockminster, who had her reasons for being well with the Clavering family, and the Lady Agnes Foker, with her son Mr. Harry, our old acquaintance. Mr. Pynsent could not come, his parliamentary duties keeping him at the House, duties which sate upon the two other senators very lightly. Miss Blanche Amory was the last of the company who made her appearance. She was dressed in a killing white silk dress, which displayed her pearly shoulders to the utmost advantage. Foker whispered to Pen, who regarded her with eyes of evident admiration, that he considered her “a stunner.” She chose to be very gracious to Arthur upon this day, and held out her hand most cordially, and talked about dear Fairoaks, and asked for dear Laura and his mother, and said she was longing to go back to the country, and in fact was entirely simple, affectionate, and artless.
Harry Foker thought he had never seen anybody so amiable and delightful. Not accustomed much to the society of ladies, and ordinarily being dumb in their presence, he found that he could speak before Miss Amory, and became uncommonly lively and talkative, even before the dinner was announced and the party descended to the lower rooms. He would have longed to give his arm to the fair Blanche, and conduct her down the broad carpeted stair; but she fell to the lot of Pen upon this occasion, Mr. Foker being appointed to escort Mrs. Welbore Welbore, in consequence of his superior rank as an earl’s grandson.
But though he was separated from the object of his desire during the passage downstairs, the delighted Foker found himself by Miss Amory’s side at the dinner-table, and flattered himself that he had manoeuvred very well in securing that happy place. It may be that the move was not his, but that it was made by another person. Blanche had thus the two