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Once having walked out half a mile, to the Fairoaks' Inn, beyond the Lodge gates, to be in readiness for the Competitor coach, which changed horses there, to take a run for Chatteris, a man on the roof touched his hat to the young gentleman: it was his uncle's man, Mr. Morgan, who was going on a message for his master, and had been took up at the Lodge, as he said. And Mr. Morgan came back by the Rival, too; so that Pen had the pleasure of that domestic's company both ways. Nothing was said at home. The lad seemed to have every decent liberty; and yet he felt himself dimly watched and guarded, and that there were eyes upon him even in the presence of his Dulcinea.
In fact, Pen's suspicions were not unfounded, and his guardian had sent forth to gather all possible information regarding the lad and his interesting young friend. The discreet and ingenious Mr. Morgan, a London confidential valet whose fidelity could be trusted, had been to Chatteris more than once, and made every inquiry regarding the past history and present habits of the captain and his daughter. He delicately cross-examined the waiters, the ostlers, and all the inmates of the bar at the George, and got from them what little they knew respecting the worthy Captain. He was not held in very great regard there, as it appeared. The waiters never saw the color of his money, and were warned not to furnish the poor gentleman with any liquor for which some other party was not responsible. He swaggered sadly about the coffee-room there, consumed a toothpick, and looked over the paper, and if any friend asked him to dinner he stayed.
From the servants of the officers at the barracks Mr. Morgan found that the Captain had so frequently and outrageously inebriated himself there, that Colonel Swallowtail had forbidden him the mess-room. The indefatigable Morgan then put himself in communication with some of the inferior actors at the theatre, and pumped them over their cigars and punch, and all agreed that Costigan was poor, shabby, and given to debt and to drink. But there was not a breath upon the reputation of Miss Fotheringay: her father's courage was reported to have displayed itself on more than one occasion towards persons disposed to treat his daughter with freedom. She never came to the theatre but with her father: in his most inebriated moments, that gentleman kept a watch over her; finally Mr. Morgan, from his own experience, added that he had been to see her hact, and was uncommon delighted with the performance, besides thinking her a most splendid woman. Mrs. Creed, the pew-opener, confirmed these statements to Doctor Portman, who examined her personally. Mrs. Creed had nothing unfavorable to her lodger to divulge. She saw nobody; only one or two ladies of the theatre. The Captain did intoxicate himself sometimes, and did not always pay his rent regularly, but he did when he had money, or rather Miss Fotheringay did. Since the young gentleman from Clavering had been and took lessons in fencing, one or two more had come from the barracks; Sir Derby Oaks, and his young friend, Mr. Foker, which was often together; and which was always driving over from Baymouth in the tandem. But on the occasions of the lessons, Miss F. was very seldom present, and generally came down stairs to Mrs. Creed's own room. The Doctor and the Major consulting together as they often did, groaned in spirit over that informa.
tion. Major Pendennis openly expressed his disappointment; and, I believe, the Divine himself was ill-pleased at not being able to pick a hole in poor Miss Fotheringay's reputation.
Even about Pen himself, Mrs. Creed's reports were desperately favorable. “Whenever he come,” Mrs. Creed said, “she always have me or one of the children with her. And Mrs. Creed, Marm, says she, if you please, Marm, you ʼll on no account leave the room when that young gentleman's here. And many 's the time I've seen him a lookin' as if he wished I was away, poor young man: and he took to coming in service time, when I was n't at home, of course: but she always had one of the boys up if her Pa was n't at home, or old Mr. Bows with her a teaching of her her lesson, or one of the young ladies of the theayter.”
It was all true : whatever encouragements might have been given him before he avowed his passion, the prudence of Miss Emily was prodigious after Pen had declared himself: and the poor fellow chafed against her hopeless reserve.
The Major surveyed the state of things with a sigh. “ If it were but a temporary liaison," the excellent man said, “one could bear it. A young fellow must sow his wild oats, and that sort of thing. But a virtuous attachment is the deuce. It comes of the d-d romantic notions boys get from being brought up by women.”
“ Allow me to say, Major, that you speak a little too like a man of the world,” replied the Doctor. “Nothing can be more desirable for Pen than a virtuous attachment for a young lady of his own rank and with a corresponding fortune — this present infatuation, of course, I must deplore as sincerely as
you do. If I were his guardian I should command him to give it up.” “The very means, I tell you, to make him marry to-morrow. We have got time from him, that is all, and we must do our best with that.” “I say, Major,” said the Doctor, at the end of the conversation in which the above subject was discussed —“I am not, of course, a play-going man — but suppose, I say, we go and see her.” The Major laughed — he had been a fortnight at Fairoaks, and, strange to say, had not thought of that. “Well,” he said, “why not? After all, it is not my niece, but Miss Fotheringay the actress, and we have as good a right as any other of the public to see her if we pay our money.” So upon a day when it was ar. ranged that Pen was to dine at home, and pass the evening with his mother, the two elderly gentlemen drove over to Chatteris in the Doctor's chaise, and there, like a couple of jolly bachelors, dined at the George Inn, before proceeding to the play. Only two other guests were in the room, - an officer of the regiment quartered at Chatteris, and a young gentleman whom the Doctor thought he had somewhere seen. They left them at their meal, how. ever, and hastened to the theatre. It was “Hamlet” over again. Shakspeare was Article XL. of stout old Doctor Portman's creed, to which he always made a point of testifying publicly at least once in a year. We have described the play before, and how those who saw Miss Fotheringay perform in Ophelia saw precisely the same thing on one night as on another. Both the elderly gentlemen looked at her with extraordinary interest, thinking how very much young Pen was charmed with her. “Gad,” said the Major, between his teeth, as he
surveyed her when she was called forward as usual, and swept her curtsies to the scanty audience, “the young rascal has not made a bad choice."
The Doctor applauded her loudly and loyally. “ Upon my word,” said he, “she is a very clever actress; and I must say, Major, she is endowed with very considerable personal attractions.”
“So that young officer thinks in the stage-box," Major Pendennis answered, and he pointed out to Doctor Portman's attention the young dragoon of the George Coffee-room, who sat in the box in question, and applauded with immense enthusiasm. She looked extremely sweet upon him too, thought the Major : but that's their way — and he shut up his natty operaglass and pocketed it as if he wished to see no more that night. Nor did the Doctor, of course, propose to stay for the after-piece, so they rose and left the theatre; the Doctor returning to Mrs. Portman, who was on a visit at the Deanery, and the Major walking home full of thought towards the George, where he had bespoken a bed.