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Colonel Swallowtail), looked up from the desk where he was perched, with his crutch beside him, and smiled at the enthusiasm of the lad. .1 Those who have only seen Miss Fotheringay in later days, since her marriage and introduction into London life, have little idea how beautiful a creature she was at the time when our friend Pen first set eyes on her. She was of the tallest of women, and at her then age of six-and-twenty—for six-andtwenty she was, though she vows she was only nineteen—in the prime and fullness of her beauty. Her forehead was vast, and her black hair waved over it with a natural ripple, and was confined in shining and voluminous braids at the back of a neck such as you see on the shoulders of the Louvre Venus —that delight of gods and men. Her eyes, when she lifted them up to gaze on you, and ere she dropped their purple deep-fringed lids, shone with tenderness and mystery unfathomable. Love and Genius seemed to look out from them and then retire coyly, as if ashamed to have been seen at the lattice. Who could have had such a commanding brow but a woman of high intellect? She never laughed (indeed her teeth were not good), but a smile of endless tenderness and sweetness played round her beautiful lips, and in the dimples of her cheeks and her lovely chin. Her nose defied description in those days. Her ears were like two little pearl shells, which the earrings she wore (though the handsomest proper-_ ties in the theatre) only.insulted. She was dressed in long flowing robes of black, which she managed and swept to and fro with wonderful grace, and out of the folds of which you only saw her sandals occasionally; they were of rather a large size; but Pen thought them as ravishing as the slippers of Cinderella. But it was her hand and arm that this magnificent creature most excelled in, and somehow you could never see her but through them. They surrounded her. When she folded them over her bosom in resignation; when she dropped them in mute agony, or raised them in superb command; when in sportive gaiety her hands fluttered and waved before her, like—what shall we say ?—like the snowy doves before the chariot of Venus—it was with these arms and hands that she beckoned, repelled, entreated, embraced her admirers
—no single one, for she was armed with her own virtue, and with her father’s valour, whose sword would have leapt from its scabbard at any insult offered to his child—but the whole house; which rose to her, as the phrase was, as she curtseyed and bowed, and charmed it.
Thus she stood for a minute—complete and beautiful—as Pen stared at her. “ I say, Pen, isn’t she a stunner ? ” asked Mr. Foker.
“ Hush! ” Pen said. “ She’s speaking.”
She began her business in a deep sweet voice. Those who
know the play of the “ Stranger” are aware that the remarks made by the various characters are not valuable in themselves, either for their sound sense, their novelty of observation, or their poetic fancy. t Nobody ever talked so. If we meet idiots in life, as will happen, it is a great mercy that they do not use such absurdly fine words. The Stranger’s talk is sham, like the book he reads, and the hair he wears, and the bank he sits on, and the diamond ring he makes play with—but, in the midst of the balderdash, there runs that reality of love, children, and forgiveness of wrong, which will be listened to wherever it is preached, and sets all the world sympathising.
‘1 With what smothered sorrow, with what gushing pathos, Mrs. Haller delivered her part! At first, when as Count Wintersen’s housekeeper, and preparing for his Excellency’s arrival, she has to give orders about the beds and furniture, and the dinner, &c., to be got ready, she did so with the calm agony of despair. ‘But when she could get rid of the stupid servants, and give vent to her feelings to the pit and the house, she overflowed to each individual as if he were her particular confidant, and she was crying out her griefs on his shoulder: the little fiddler in the orchestra (whom she did not seem to watch, though he followed her ceaselessly) twitched, twisted, nodded, pointed about, and when she came to the favourite passage, “ I have a William, too, if he be still alive— Ah, yes, if he be still alive. His little sisters, too! ‘Why, Fancy, dost thou rack me so ? Why dost thou image my poor children fainting in sickness, and crying to—to—their mum-um-other,”—when she came to this passage little Bows
buried his face in his blue cotton handkerchief, after crying out “Bravo.”
All the house was affected. Foker, for his part, taking out a large yellow bandanna, wept piteously. As for Pen, he was gone too far for that. He followed the woman about and about—when she was off the stage, it and the house were blank; the lights and the red officers reeled wildly before his sight. He watched her at the side scene—where she stood waiting to come on the stage, and where her father took off her shawl: when the reconciliation arrived, and she flung herself down on Mr. Bingley’s shoulders, whilst the children clung to their knees, and the Countess (Mrs. Bingley) and Baron Steinforth (performed with great liveliness and spirit by Garbetts,)—while the rest of the characters formed a group round them, Pen’s hot eyes only saw Fotheringay, Fotheringay. The curtain fell upon him like a pall. He did not hear a word of what Bingley said, who came forward to announce the play for the next evening, and who took the tumultuous
applause, as usual, for himself. Pen was not even distinctlyq
aware that the house was calling for Miss Fotheringay, nor did the manager seem to comprehend that anybody else but himself had caused the success of the play. At last he understood it—stepped back with a grin, and presently appeared with Mrs. Haller on his arm. How beautiful she looked! Her hair had fallen down, the officers threw her flowers. She clutched them to her heart. She put back her hair, and smiled all round. Her eyes met Pen’s. Down went the curtain again: and she was gone. Not one note could he hear of the overture which the brass band of the dragoons blew b
kind permission of Colonel Swallowtail. *’
“ She is a crusher, ain’t she now?” Mr. Foker asked of his companion.
Pen did not know exactly what Foker said, and answered vaguely. He could not tell the other what he felt; he could not have spoken, just then, to any mortal. Besides, Pendennis did not quite know what he felt yet; it was something overwhelming, maddening, delicious; a fever of wild joy and undefined longing.
And now Rowkins and Miss Thackthwaite came on to
von. 1. E 3
dance the favourite double hornpipe, and Foker abandoned himself to the delights of this ballet, just as he had to the tears of the tragedy a few minutes before. Pen did not care for it, or indeed think about the dance, except to remember that that woman was acting with her in the scene where she first came in. It was a mist before his eyes. At the end of the dance he looked at his watch and said it was time for him to go.
“Hang it, stay to see ‘The Bravo of the Battle-Axe,’ ” Foker said; “Bingley’s splendid in it; he wears red tights, and has to carry Mrs. B. over the Pine-bridge of the Cataract, only she’s too heavy. It’s great fun, do stop.”
Pen looked at the bill with one lingering fond hope that Miss Fotheringay’s name might be hidden, somewhere, in the list of the actors of the after-piece, but there was no such name. Go he must. He had a long ride home. ‘He squeezed Foker’s hand. He was choking to speak, but he couldn’t. He quitted the theatre and walked frantically about the town, he knew not how long; then he mounted at the George and rode homewards, and Clavering clock sang out one as he came into the yard at Fairoaks. The lady of the house might have been awake, but she only heard him from the passage outside his room as he dashed into bed and pulled the clothes over his head.
Pen had not been in the habit of passing wakeful nights, so he at once fell off into a sound sleep. Even in later days, and with a great deal of care and other thoughtful matter to keep him awake, a man from long practice or fatigue or resolution begins by going to sleep as usual: and gets a nap in advance of Anxiety. But she soon comes up with him and jogs his shoulder, and says, “ Come, my man, no more of this laziness, you must wake up and have a talk with me.” Then they fall to together in the midnight. Well, whatever might afterwards happen to him, poor little Pen was not come to this state yet; he tumbled into a sound sleep—did not wake until an early hour in the morning, when the rooks began to caw from the little wood beyond his bedroom windows; and —at that very instant and as his eyes started open, the beloved image was in his mind. “My dear boy,” he heard her 8w. “ you were in a sound sleep, and I would not disturb you: but I have been close by your pillow all this while: and I don’t intend that you shall leave me. [I am Love! I bring with me fever and passion: wild longing, maddening desire; restless craving and seeking. Many a long day ere this I heard you calling out for me; and behold now I am come.”
Was Pen frightened at the summons ? Not he. He did not know what was coming: it was all wild pleasure and delight as yet. And as, when three years previously, and on entering the fifth form at the Cistercians, his father had made him a present of a gold watch which the boy took from under his pillow and examined on the instant of waking: for ever rubbing and polishing it up in private and retiring into corners to listen to its ticking: so the young man exulted over his new delight ; felt in his waistcoat pocket to see that it was safe ; wound it up at nights, and at the very first moment of waking hugged it and looked at it.—By the way, that first watch of Pen’s was a showy, ill-manufactured piece: it never went well from the beginning, and was always getting out of order. And after putting it aside into a drawer and forgetting it for some time, he swopped it finally away for a more useful timekeeper.
Pen felt himself to be ever so many years older since yesterday. There was no mistake about it now. He was as much in love as the best hero in the best romance he ever read. He told John to bring his shaving water with the utmost confidence. He dressed himself in some of his finest clothes that morning: and came splendidly down to breakfast, patronising his mother and little Laura, who had been strumming her music lesson for hours before; and who after he had read the prayers (of which he did not heed one single syllable), wondered at his grand appearance, and asked him to tell her what the play was about?
Pen laughed and declined to tell Laura what the play was about. In fact it was quite as well that she should not know. Then she asked him why he had got on his fine pin and beautiful new waistcoat?
Pen blushed, and told his mother that the old schoolfellow with whom he had dined at Chatteris was reading with a tutor