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“ Your hand, young man! for ye speak from your heart,” cried the Captain. “ Thank ye, sir ; an old soldier and a fond father thanks ye. She is the finest actress in the world. I’ve seen the Siddons, sir, and the O’Nale—They were great, but what were they compared to Miss Fotheringay ? I do not wish she should ashume her own name while on the stage. Me family, sir, are proud people; and the Costigans of Costiganstown think that an honest man, who has borne Her Majesty’s colours in the Hundtherd and Third, would demean himself, by permitting his daughter to earn her old father’s bread.”
“ There cannot be a more honourable duty, surely,” Pen said.
“Honourable! Bedad, sir, I’d like to see the man who said Jack Costigan would consent to anything dishonourable. I have a heart, sir, though I am poor; I like a man who has a heart. You have: I read it in your honest face and steady eye. And would you believe it,” he added, after a pause, and with a pathetic whisper, “ that that Bingley, who has made his fortune by me child, gives her but two guineas a week : out of which she finds herself in dresses, and which, added to me own small means, makes our all ? ”
’* Now the Captain’s means were so small as to be, it may be said, quite invisible. But nobody knows how the wind is tempered to shorn Irish lambs, and in what marvellous places they find pasture. If Captain Costigan, whom I had the honour to know, would but have told his history, it would have been a great moral story. But he neither would have told it if he could, not could if he would; for the Captain was not only unaccustomed to tell the truth,—he was unable even to think it —and fact and fiction reeled together in his muzzy, whiskified brain.
a,r He began life rather brilliantly with a pair of colours, a fine person and legs, and one of the most beautiful voices in the world. To his latest day he sang, with admirable pathos and humour, those wonderful Irish ballads which are so mirthful and so melancholy: and was always the first himself to cry at their pathos. Poor Cos ! he was at once brave and maudlin, humorous and an idiot; always good-natured, and sometimes almost trustworthy. Up to the last day of his life he would drink with any man, and back any man’s bill: and his end was in a spunging-house, where the sheriff’s officer, who tooli/ him, was fond of him.
In his brief morning of life, Cos formed the delight of regimental messes, and had the honour of singing his songs, bacchanalian and sentimental, at the tables of the most illustrious generals and commanders-in-chief, in the course of which period he drank three times as much claret as was good for him, and spent his doubtful patrimony. What became of him subsequently to his retirement from the army, is no affair of ours. I take it, no foreigner understands the life of an Irish gentleman without money, the way in which he manages to keep afloat—the wind-raising conspiracies in which he engages with heroes as unfortunate as himself—the means by which he contrives, during most days of the week, to get his portion of whisky-and-water : all these are mysteries to us inconceivable : but suffice it to say, that through all the storms of life Jack had floated somehow, and the lamp of his nose had never gone out.
Before he and Pen had had a half-hour’s conversation, the Captain managed to extract a couple of sovereigns from the young gentleman for tickets for his daughter’s benefit, which was to take place speedily ; and was not a bond fide transaction such as that of the last year, when poor Miss Fotheringay had lost fifteen shillings by her venture ; but was an arrangement with the manager, by which the lady was to have the sale of a certain number of tickets, keeping for herself a large portion of the sum for which they were sold.
Pen had but two pounds in his purse, and he handed them over to the Captain for the tickets ; he would have been afraid to offer more lest he should offend the latter’s delicacy. Costigan scrawled him an order for a box, lightly slipped the sovereigns into his waistcoat, and slapped his hand over the place where they lay. They seemed to warm his old sides.
“ Faith, sir,” said he, “ the bullion’s scarcer with me than it used to be, as is the case with many a good fellow. I won six hundtherd of ’em in a single night, sir, when me kind friend, His Royal Highness the Duke of Kent, was in Gibralther.”
Then it was good to see the Captain’s behaviour at breakfast, before the devilled turkey and the mutton chops! His stories poured forth unceasingly, and his spirits rose as he chatted to the young men. When he got a bit of sunshine, the old lazzarone basked in it; he prated about his own afiairs and past splendour, and all the lords, generals, and Lord-Lieutenants he had ever known. He described the death of his darling Bessie, the late Mrs. Costigan, and the challenge he had sent to Captain Shanty Clancy, of the Slashers, for looking rude at Miss Fotheringay as she was on her kyar in the Phaynix ; and then he described how the Captain apologised, gave a dinner at the Kildare Street, where six of them drank twinty-one bottles of claret, &c. He announced that to sit with two such noble and generous young fellows was the happiness and pride of an old soldier’s existence ; and having had a second glass of Curacoa, was so happy that he began to cry. Altogether we should say that the Captain was not a man of much strength of mind, or a very eligible companion for youth ; but there are worse men, holding much better places in life, and more dishonest, who have never committed half so many rogueries as he. They walked out, the Captain holding an arm of each of his dear young friends, and in a maudlin state of contentment. He winked at one or two tradesmen’s shops where, possibly, he owed a bill, as much as to say, “ See the company I’m in—sure I’ll pay you, my boy,”—and they parted finally with Mr. Foker at a billiard-room, where the latter had a particular engagement with some gentlemen of Colonel Swallowtail’s regiment.
Pen and the shabby Captain still walked the street together; the Captain, in his sly way, making inquiries about Mr. Foker’s fortune and station in life. Pen told him how Foker’s father was a celebrated brewer, and his mother was Lady Agnes Milton, Lord Rosherville’s daughter. The Captain broke out into a strain of exaggerated compliment and panegyric about Mr. Foker, whose “ native aristocracie,” he said, “ could be seen with the twinkling of an oi—and only served to adawrun other qualities which he possessed, a foin intellect and a generous heart.”
Pen walked on, listening to his companion’s prate, wonder
ing, amused, and puzzled. It had not as yet entered into the boy’s head to disbelieve any statement that was made to him; and being of a candid nature himself, he took naturally for truth what other people told him. Costigan had never had a better listener, and was highly flattered by the attentiveness and modest bearing of the young man.
So much pleased was he with the young gentleman, so artless, honest, and cheerful did Pen seem to be, that the Captain finally made him an invitation, which he very seldom accorded to young men, and asked Pen if he would do him the fevor to enter his humble abode, which was near at hand, where the Captain would have the honour of inthrojuicing his young friend to his daughter, Miss Fotheringay ?
Pen was so delightfully shocked at this invitation, that he thought he should have dropped from the Captain’s arm at first, and trembled lest the other should discover his emotion. He gasped out a few incoherent words, indicative of the high gratification he should have in being presented to the lady for whose—for whose talents he had conceived such an admiration—such an extreme admiration; and followed the Capta‘m, scarcely knowing whither that gentleman led him. He was going to see her ! He was going to see her! In her was the centre of the universe. She was the kernel of the world for Pen. Yesterday, before he knew her, seemed a period ever so long ago—a revolution was between him and that time, and a new world about to begin.
The Captain conducted his young friend to that quiet little street in Chatteris, called Prior’s Lane, which lies close by Dean’s Green and the canons’ houses, and is overlooked by the enormous towers of the cathedral; there the Captain dwelt modestly in the first floor of a low-gabled house, on the door of which was the brass plate of “ Creed, Tailor and Robe-maker.” Creed was dead, however. His widow was a pew-opener in the cathedral hard by; his eldest son was a little scamp of a choir-boy, who played toss-halfpenny, led his little brothers into mischief, and had a voice as sweet as an angel. A couple of the latter were sitting on the door-step, and they jumped up with great alacrity to meet their lodger, and plunged wildly, and rather to Pen’s surprise, at the swallow-tails of the Captain’s dress-coat; for the truth is, that the good-natured gentleman, when he was in cash, generally brought home an apple, or a piece of gingerbread, for these children. “Whereby the widdy never pressed me for rint when not convanient,” as he remarked afterwards to Pen, winking knowingly, and laying a finger on his nose.
As Pen followed his companion up the creaking old stair, .his knees trembled under him. He could hardly see when he entered, following the Captain, and stood in the room—in her
room. He saw something black before him, and waving as if .
making a curtsey, and heard, but quite indistinctly, Costigan making a speech over him, in which the Captain, with his usual magniloquence, expressed to “me child” his wish to make her known to “his dear and admirable young friend, Mr. Awther Pindinnis, a young gentleman of property in the neighbourhood, a person of refoined moind and emiable manners, a sinsare lover of poethry, and a man possest of a feeling and affectionate heart.”
“It is very fine weather,” Miss Fotheringay said, in an Irish accent, and with a deep rich melancholy voice.
“ Very,” said Mr. Pendennis. In this romantic way their conversation began; and he found himself seated on a chair, and having leisure to look at the young lady.
She looked still handsomer ofi the stage than before the lamps. All her attitudes were naturally grand and majestical. If she went and stood up against the mantelpiece her robe draped itself classically round her; her chin supported itself on her hand, the other lines of her form arranged themselves in full harmonious undulationsI—she looked like a muse in contemplation. If she sate down on a cane-bottomed chair, her arm rounded itself over the back of the seat, her hand seemed as if it ought to have a sceptre put into it, the folds of her dress fell naturally round her in order: all her movements were graceful and imperial. In the morning you could see her hair was blue-black, her complexion of dazzling fairness, with the faintest possible blush flickering, as it were, in her cheek. Her eyes were grey, with prodigious long lashes; and as for her mouth, Mr. Pendennis has given me subsequently to understand, that it was of a staring red