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young men, one on each side of her, and each tried to render himself gallant and agreeable.
Foker’s mamma, from her place, surveying her darling boy, was surprised at his vivacity. Harry talked constantly to his fair neighbour about the topics of the day.
“ Seen Taglioni in the Sylphide, Miss Amory ? Bring me that souprame of Volile again, if you please (this was addressed to the attendant near him); very good: can’t think where the souprames come from; what becomes of the legs of the fowls, I wonder ? She’s clipping in the Sylphide, ain’t she ? ” and he began very kindly to hum the pretty air which pervades that prettiest of all ballets, now faded into the past with that most beautiful and gracious of all dancers. Will the young folks ever see anything so charming, anything so classic, anything like Taglioni ?
“ Miss Amory is a sylph herself,” said Mr. Pen.
“What a delightful tenor voice you have, Mr. Foker ! ” said the young lady. “ I am sure you have been well taught. I sing a little myself. I should like to sing with you.”
Pen remembered that words very similar had been addressed to himself by the young lady, and that she had liked to sing with him in former days. And sneering within himself, he wondered with how many other gentlemen she had sung duets since his time? But he did not think fit to put this awkward question aloud: and only said, with the very tenderest air which he could assume, “I should like to hear you sing again, Miss Blanche. I never heard a voice I liked so well as yours, I think.”
“ I thought you liked Laura’s,” said Miss Blanche.
“ Laura’s is a contralto: and that voice is very often out, you know,” Pen said, bitterly. “ I have heard a great deal of music in London,” he continued. “I’m tired of those professional people—they sing too loud—or I have grown too old or too blasé. One grows old very soon in London, Miss Amory. And like all old fellows, I only care for the songs I heard in my youth.”
“ I like English music best. I don’t care for foreign songs much. Get me some saddle of mutton,” said Mr. Foker.
“ I adore English ballads of all things,” said Miss Amory. “ Sing me one of the old songs after dinner, will you?” said Pen, with an imploring voice.
“ Shall I sing you an English song, after dinner ? ” asked the Sylphide, turning to Mr. Foker. “ I will, if you will promise to come up soon: ” and she gave him a perfect broadside of her eyes.
“I’ll come up after dinner, fast enough,” he said simply. “ I don’t care about much wine afterwards—I take my whack at dinner—I mean my share, you know; and when I have had as much as I want, I toddle up to tea. I’m a domestic character, Miss Amory—my habits are simple—and when I’m pleased I’m generally in a good humour, ain’t I, Pen ?—That jelly, if you please—not that one, the other with the cherries inside. How the doose do they get those cherries inside the jellies?” In this way the artless youth prattled on: and Miss Amory listened to him with inexhaustible good humour. When the ladies took their departure for the upper regions, Blanche made the two young men promise faithfully to quit the table soon, and departed with kind glances to each. She dropped her gloves on Foker’s side of the table, and her handkerchief on Pen’s. Each had some little attention paid to him; her politeness to Mr. Foker was perhaps a little more encouraging than her kindness to Arthur: but the benevolent little creature did her best to make both the gentlemen happy. Foker caught her last glance as she rushed out of the door; that bright look passed over Mr. Strong’s broad white waistcoat, and shot straight at Harry Foker’s. The door closed on the charmer: he sate down with a sigh, and swallowed a bumper of claret.
As the dinner at which Pen and his uncle took their places was not one of our grand parties, it had been served at a considerably earlier hour than those ceremonial banquets of the London season, which custom has ordained shall scarcely take place before nine o’clock ; and the company being small, and Miss Blanche, anxious to betake herself to her piano in the drawing-room, giving constant hints to her mother to retreat, —Lady Clavering made that signal very speedily, so that it was quite daylight yet when the ladies reached the upper
5.4.7 ,II—‘I I‘
”A~\lli apartments, from the flower-embroidered balconies of which they could command a view of the two Parks, of the poor couples and children still sauntering in the one, and of the equipages of ladies and the horses of dandies passing through the arch of the other. The sun, in a word, had not set behind the elms of Kensington Gardens, and was still gilding the statue erected by the ladies of England in honour of his Grace the Duke of Wellington, when Lady Clavering and her female friends left the gentlemen drinking wine.
The windows of the dining-room were opened to let in the fresh air, and afforded to the passers-by in the street a pleasant or, perhaps, tantalising view of six gentlemen in white Waistcoats, with a quantity of decanters and a variety of fruits before them—little boys, as they passed and jumped up at the area railings, and took a peep, said to one another, “ Mi hi, Jim, shouldn’t you like to be there, and have a cut of that there pineapple ?”—the horses and carriages of the nobility and gentry passed by, conveying them to Belgravian toilets : the policeman, with clamping feet, patrolled up and down before the mansion: the shades of evening began to fall: the gasman came and lighted the lamps before Sir Francis’s door: the butler entered the dining-room, and illuminated the antique Gothic chandelier over the antique carved oak diningtable : so that from outside the house you looked inwards upon a night scene of feasting and wax candles; and from within you beheld a vision of a calm summer evening, and the wall of Saint J ames’s Park, and the sky above, in which a star or two was just beginning to twinkle.
Jeames, with folded legs, leaning against the door-pillar of his master’s abode, looked forth musingly upon the latter tranquil sight: whilst a spectator, clinging to the railings, examined the former scene. Policeman X, passing, gave his attention to neither, but fixed it upon the individual holding by the railings, and gazing into Sir Francis Clavering’s dining-room, where Strong was laughing and talking away, making the conversation for the party.
The man at the railings was very gorgeously attired with chains, jewellery, and waistcoats, which the illumination from the house lighted up to great advantage; his boots were shiny; he had brass buttons to his coat, and large white wristbands over his knuckles; and indeed looked so grand, that X imagined he beheld a member of Parliament, or a person of consideration before him. Whatever his rank, however, the M.P., or person of consideration, was considerably excited by wine; for he lurched and reeled somewhat in his gait, and his hat was cooked over his wild and bloodshot eyes in a manner which no sober hat ever could assume. His copious black hair was evidently surreptitious, and his whiskers of the Tyrian purple.
As Strong’s laughter, following after one of his own gros mots, came ringing out of window, this gentleman without laughed and sniggered in the queerest way likewise, and he slapped his thigh and winked at J eames pensive in the portico, as much as to say, “ Plush,'my boy, isn’t that a good story ? ”
Jeames’s attention had been gradually drawn from the moon in the heavens to this sublunary scene; and he was puzzled and alarmed by the appearance of the man in shiny boots. “A holtercation,” he remarked, afterwards, in the servants’-hall—“a holtercation with a feller in the streets is never no good; and indeed, he was not hired for any such purpose.” So, having surveyed the man for some time, who went on laughing, reeling, nodding his head with tipsy knowingness, Jeames looked out of the portico, and softly called “ Pleaceman,” and beckoned to that officer.
X marched up resolute, with one Berlin glove stuck in his belt-side, and Jeames simply pointed with his index finger to the individual who was laughing against the railings. Not one single word more than “Pleaceman” did he say, but stood there in the calm summer evening, pointing calmly: a grand sight.
X advanced to the individual and said, “Now, sir, will you have the kindness to move hon ? ”
The individual, who was in perfect good humour, did not appear to hear one word which Policeman X uttered, but nodded and waggled his grinning head at Strong, until his hat almost fell from his head over the area railings.
“Now, sir, move on, do you hear?” cries X, in a much more peremptory tone, and he touched the stranger gently with one of the fingers enclosed in the gauntlets of the Berlin woof.
He of the many rings instantly started, or rather staggered back, into what is called an attitude of self-defence, and in that position began the operation which is entitled “squaring,” at Policeman X, and showed himself brave and
warlike, if unsteady. “ Hullo! keep your hands oil‘ a gentle- _
man,” he said, with an oath which need not be repeated.
“Move on out of this,” said X, “and don’t be a blocking up the pavement, staring into gentlemen’s dining-rooms.”
“Not stare—ho, ho,—not stare—that is a good one,” replied the other, with a satiric laugh and sneer. “ Who’s to prevent me from staring, looking at my friends, if I like? Not you, old highlows.”
“ Friends ! I dessay. Move on,” answered X.
“If you touch me, I’ll pitch into you, I will,” roared the other. “I tell you I know ’em all—That’s Sir Francis Clavering, Baronet, M.P.—I know him, and he knows me—and that’s Strong, and that’s the young chap that made the row at the ball. I say, Strong, Strong!”
“It’s that d—— Altamont,” cried Sir Francis within, with a start and a guilty look; and Strong also, with a look of annoyance, got up from the table, and ran out to the intruder.
A gentleman in a white waistcoat, running out from a dining-room bare-headed, a policeman, and an individual decently attired, engaged in almost fisticufi‘s on the pavement, were enough to make a crowd, even in that quiet neighbourhood, at half-past eight o’clock in the evening, and a small mob began to assemble before Sir Francis Clavering’s door. “For God’s sake, come in,” Strong said, seizing his acquaintance’s arm. “ Send for a cab, James, if you please,” he added in an under voice to that domestic; and carrying the excited gentleman out of the street, the outer door was closed upon him, and the small crowd began to move away.
Mr. Strong had intended to convey the stranger into Sir Francis’s private sitting-room, where the hats of the male guests were awaiting them, and having there soothed his friend by bland conversation, to have carried him off as soon