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was joined in his abuse by the shrill language and laughter of his partner;—to the interruption of the ball, the terror of poor little Fanny, and the immense indignation of Pen.
Arthur was furious; and not so angry at the quarrel as at the shame attending it. A battle with a fellow like that! A row in a public garden, and with a porter's daughter on his arm! What a position for Arthur Pendennis! He drew poor little Fanny hastily away from the dancers to her mother, and wished that lady, and Costigan, and poor Fanny underground, rather than there, in his companionship, and under his protection.
When Huxter commenced his attack, that free-spoken young gentleman had not seen who was his opponent; and directly he was aware that it was Arthur whom he had insulted, he began to make apologies. "Hold your stoopid tongue, Mary," he said to his partner. "It's an old friend and crony at home. I beg pardon, Pendennis; wasn't aware it was you, old boy." Mr. Huxter had been one of the boys of the Clavering School, who had been present at a combat which has been mentioned in the early part of this story, when young Pen knocked down the biggest champion of the academy, and Huxter knew that it was dangerous to quarrel with Arthur.
His apologies were as odious to the other as his abuse had been. Pen stopped his tipsy remonstrances by telling him to hold his tongue, and desiring him not to use his (Pendennis's) name in that place or any other; and he walked out of the gardens with a titter behind him from the crowd, every one of whom he would have liked to massacre for having been witness to the degrading broil. He walked out of the gardens, quite forgetting poor little Fanny, who came trembling behind him with her mother and the stately Costigan.
He was brought back to himself by a word from the Captain, who touched him on the shoulder just as they were passing the inner gate.
"There's no ray-admittance except ye pay again," the Captain said. "Hadn't I better go back and take the fellow your message?"
Pen burst out laughing. "Take him a message! Do you think I would fight with such a fellow as that?" he asked.
"No, no! Don't, don't!" cried out little Fanny. "How can you be so wicked, Captain Costigan?" The Captain muttered something about honour, and winked knowingly at Pen, but Arthur said gallantly, "No, Fanny, don't be frightened. It was my fault to have danced in such a place. I beg your pardon, to have asked you to dance there." And he gave her his arm once more, and called a cab, and put his three friends into it.
He was about to pay the driver, and to take another carriage for himself, when little Fanny, still alarmed, put her little hand out, and caught him by the coat, and implored him and besought him to come in.
"Will nothing satisfy you," said Pen, in great good humour, "that I am not going back to fight him? Well, I will come home with you. Drive to Shepherd's Inn, Cab." The cab drove to its destination. Arthur was immensely pleased by the girl's solicitude about him: her tender terrors quite made him forget his previous annoyance.
Pen put the ladies into their lodge, having shaken hands kindly with both of them; and the Captain again whispered to him that he would see um in the morning if he was inclined, and take his message to that "scounthrel." But the Captain was in his usual condition when he made the proposal; and Pen was perfectly sure that neither he nor Mr. Huxter, when they awoke, would remember anything about the dispute.
A VISIT OF POLITENESS.
OSTIGAN never roused Pen from his slumbers; there was no hostile message from Mr. Huxter to disturb him; and when Pen woke, it was with a brisker and more lively feeling than ordinarily attends that moment in the day of the tired and blase London man. A city man wakes up to care and consols, and the thoughts of 'Change and the counting-house take possession of him as soon as sleep flies from under his nightcap; a lawyer rouses himself with the early morning to think of the case that will take him all his day to work upon, and the inevitable attorney to whom he has promised his papers ere night. Which of us has not his anxiety instantly present when his eyes are opened, to it and to the world, after his night's sleep? Kind strengthener that enables us to face the day's task with renewed heart! Beautiful ordinance of Providence that creates rest as it awards labour!
Mr. Pendennis's labour, or rather his disposition, was of that sort that his daily occupations did not much interest him, for the excitement of literary composition pretty soon subsides with the hired labourer, and the delight of seeing one's self in print only extends to the first two or three appearances in the magazine or newspaper page. Pegasus put into harness, and obliged to run a stage every day, is as prosaic as any other hack, and won't work without his whip or his feed of corn. So,indeed, Mr. Arthur performed his work at the "Pall Mall Gazette" (and since his success as a novelist with an increased salary), but without the least enthusiasm, doing his best or pretty nearly, and sometimes writing ill and sometimes well. He was a literary hack, naturally fast in pace and brilliant in action.
Neither did society, or that portion which he saw, excite or amuse him overmuch. In spite of his brag and boast to the contrary, he was too young as yet for women's society, which probably can only be had in perfection when a man has ceased to think about his own person, and has given up all designs of being a conqueror of ladies; he was too young to be admitted as an equal amongst men who had made their mark in the world, and of whose conversation he could scarcely as yet expect to be more than a listener. And he was too old for the men of pleasure of his own age; too much a man of pleasure for the men of business; destined in a word to be a good deal alone. Fate awards this lot of solitude to many a man; and many like it from taste, as many without difficulty bear it. Pendennis, in reality, suffered it very equanimously; but in words, and according to his wont, grumbled over it not a little.
"What a nice little artless creature that was," Mr. Pen thought at the very instant of waking after the Vauxhall affair; "what a pretty natural manner she has; how much pleasanter than the minauderies of the young ladies in the ball-rooms!" (and here he recalled to himself some instances, of what he could not help seeing, was the artful simplicity of Miss Blanche, and some of the stupid graces of other young ladies in the polite world); "who could have thought that such a pretty rose could grow in a porter's lodge, or bloom in that dismal old flower-pot of a Shepherd's Inn? So she learns to sing from old Bows? If her singing voice is as sweet as her speaking voice, it must be pretty. I like those low voilees voices. 'What would you like me to call you?' indeed. Poor little Fanny! It went to my heart to adopt the grand air with her, and tell her to call me ' sir.' But we'll have no nonsense of that sort—no Faust and Margaret business for me. That old Bows! So he teaches her to sing, does he? He's a dear old fellow, old Bows: a gentleman in those old clothes: a philosopher, and with a kind heart, too. How good he was to me in the Fotheringay business. He, too, has had his griefs and his sorrows. I must cultivate old Bows. A man ought to see people of all sorts. I am getting tired of genteel society. Besides, there's nobody in town. Yes, I'll go and see Bows, and Costigan too: what a rich character! begad, I'll study him, and put him into a book." In this way our young anthropologist talked with himself; and as Saturday was the holiday of the week, the "Pall Mall Gazette" making its appearance upon that day, and the contributors to that journal having no further calls upon their brains or ink-bottles, Mr. Pendennis determined he would take advantage of his leisure, and pay a visit to Shepherd's Inn—of course to see old Bows.
The truth is, that if Arthur had been the most determined roue and artful Lovelace who ever set about deceiving a young girl, he could hardly have adopted better means for fascinating and overcoming poor little Fanny Bolton than those which he had employed on the previous night. His dandified protecting air, his conceit, generosity, and good humour, the very sense of good and honesty which had enabled him to check the tremulous advances of the young creature, and not to take advantage of that little fluttering sensibility,—his faults and his virtues at once contributed to make her admire him; and if we could peep into Fanny's bed (which she shared in a cupboard, along with those two little sisters to whom we have seen Mr. Costigan administering gingerbread and apples), we should find the poor little maid tossing upon her mattress, to the great disturbance of its other two occupants, and thinking over all the delights and events of that delightful, eventful night, and all the words, looks, and actions of Arthur, its splendid hero. Many novels had Fanny read, in secret and at home, in three volumes and in numbers. Periodical literature