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'"Deed, then, he would," said Captain Costigan, who was easily led.
"Papa!" said Miss Milly. — " Ye would n't be for not sending the poor boy his letters back? Them letters and pomes is mine. They were very long, and full of all sorts of nonsense, and Latin, and things I could n't understand the half of; indeed I've not read 'em all; but we 'll send 'em back to him when the proper time comes." And going to a drawer, Miss Fotheringay took out from it a number of the "County Chronicle and Chatteris Champion," in which Pen had written a copy of flaming verses celebrating her appearance in the character of Imogen, and putting by the leaf upon which the poem appeared (for, like ladies of her profession, she kept the favorable printed notices of her performances), she wrapped up Pen's letters, poems, passions, and fancies, and tied them with a piece of string neatly, as she would a parcel of sugar.
Nor was she in the least moved while performing this act. What hours the boy had passed over those papers! What love and longing: what generous faith and manly devotion — what watchful nights and lonely fevers might they tell of! She tied them up like so much grocery, and sat down and made tea afterwards with a perfectly placid and contented heart: while Pen was yearning after her ten miles off: and hugging her image to his soul.
Major Pendennis came away from his interview with Captain Costigan in a state of such concentrated fury as rendered him terrible to approach. "The impudent bog-trotting scamp," he thought, "dare to threaten me I Dare to talk of permitting his damned Costigans to marry with the Pendennises! Send me a challenge! If the fellow can get anything in the shape of a gentleman to carry it, I have the greatest mind in life not to balk him. — Psha! what would people say if I were to go out with a tipsy mountebank, about a row with an actress in a barn!" So when the Major saw Dr. Portman, who asked anxiously regarding the issue of his battle with the dragon, Mr. Pendennis did not care to inform the divine of the General's insolent behavior, but stated that the affair was a very ugly and disagreeable one, and that it was by no means over yet.
He enjoined Doctor and Mrs. Portman to say nothing about the business at Fairoaks; and then he returned to his hotel, where he vented his wrath upon Mr. Morgan his valet, "dammin and cussin upstairs and down-stairs," as that gentleman observed to Mr. Foker's man, in whose company he partook of dinner in the servants' room of the George.
The servant carried the news to his master; and Mr. Foker having finished his breakfast about this time, it being two o'clock in the afternoon, remembered that he was anxious to know the result of the interview between his two friends, and having inquired the number of the Major's sitting-room, went over in his brocade dressing-gown, and knocked for admission.
The Major had some business, as he had stated, respecting a lease of the widow's, about which he was desirous of consulting old Mr. Tatham, the lawyer, who had been his brother's man of business, and who had a branch-office at Clavering, where he and his son attended market and other days three or four in the week. This gentleman and his client were now in consultation when Mr. Foker showed his grand dressing-gown and embroidered skull-cap at Major Pendennis's door.
Seeing the Major engaged with papers and redtape, and an old man with a white head, the modest youth was for drawing back — and said, "Oh, you 're busy — call again another time." But Mr. Pendennis wanted to see him, and begged him, with a smile, to enter: whereupon Mr. Foker took off the embroidered tarboosh or fez (it had been worked by the fondest of mothers) and advanced, bowing to the gentlemen and smiling on them graciously. Mr. Tatham had never seen so splendid an apparition before as this brocaded youth, who seated himself in an arm-chair, spreading out his crimson skirts, and looking with exceeding kindness and frankness on the other two tenants of the room. "You seem to like my dressing-gown, sir," he said to Mr. Tatham. "A pretty thing, is n't it? Neat, but not in the least gaudy. And how do you do? Major Pendennis, sir, and how does the world treat yon?"
There was that in Foker's manner and appearance which would have put an Inquisitor into good-humor,
VOL. II. —12
and it smoothed the wrinkles under Pendennis's head of hair.
"I have had an interview with that Irishman (you may speak before my friend, Mr. Tatham here, who knows all the affairs of the family), and it has not, I own, been very satisfactory. He won't believe that my nephew is poor: he says we are both liars: he did me the honor to hint that I was a coward, as I took leave. And I thought when you knocked at the door, that you might be the gentleman whom I expect with a challenge from Mr. Costigan — that is how the world treats me, Mr. Foker."
"You don't mean that Irishman, the actress's father?" cried Mr. Tatham, who was a Dissenter himself, and did not patronize the drama.
"That Irishman, the actress's father — the very man. Have not you heard what a fool my nephew has made of himself about the girl ?" — and Major Pendennis had to recount the story of his nephew's loves to the lawyer, Mr. Foker coming in with appropriate comments in his usual familiar language.
Tatham was lost in wonder at the narrative. Why had not Mrs. Pendennis married a serious man, he thought — Mr. Tatham was a widower — and kept this unfortunate boy from perdition? As for Miss Costigan, he would say nothing: her profession was sufficient to characterize her. Mr. Foker here interposed to say he had known some uncommon good people in the booths, as he called the Temple of the Muses. Well it might be so, Mr. Tatham hoped so — but the father, Tatham knew personally — a man of the worst character, a wine-bibber and an idler in taverns and billiard-rooms, and a notorious insolvent. "I can understand the reason, Major," he said, "why the fellow would not come to my office to ascertain the truth of the statements which you made him. We have a writ out against him and another disreputable fellow, one of the play-actors, for a bill given to Mr. Skinner of this city, a most respectable Grocer and Wine and Spirit Merchant, and a Member of the Society of Friends. This Costigan came crying to Mr. Skinner, — crying in the shop, sir, — and we have not proceeded against him or the other, as neither were worth powder and shot."
It was whilst Mr. Tatham was engaged in telling his story that a third knock came to the door, and there entered an athletic gentleman in a shabby braided frock, bearing in his hand a letter with a large blotched red seal.
"Can I have the honor of speaking with Major Pendennis in private?" he began — "I have a few words for your ear, sir. I am the bearer of a mission from my friend Captain Costigan," — but here the man with the bass voice paused, faltered, and turned pale — he caught sight of the red and well-remembered face of Mr. Tatham.
"Hullo, Garbetts, speak up!" cried Mr. Foker, delighted.
"Why, bless my soul, it is the other party to the bill!" said Mr. Tatham. "I say, sir; stop I say." But Garbetts, with a face as blank as Macbeth's when Banquo's ghost appears upon him, gasped some inarticulate words, and fled out of the room.
The Major's gravity was entirely upset, and he burst out laughing. So did Mr. Foker, who said, "By Jove, it was a good un." So did the attorney, although by profession a serious man.
"I don't think there 'll be any fight, Major," young Foker said; and began mimicking the tragedian. "If there is, the old gentleman — your name Tatham ? —