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himself with great energy to the object in view, could not get round in time: and, not having the least ear for music, was unaware that his movements were too slow.
So, in the waltz as in the quadrille, Miss Blanche saw that her dear friend Laura had the honors of the dance, and was by no means pleased with the hitter's success. After a couple of turns with the heavy dragoon, she pleaded fatigue, and requested to be led back to her place, near her mamma, to whom Pen was talking: and she asked him why he had not asked her to waltz, and had left her to the mercies of that great odious man in spurs and a red coat?
"I thought spurs and scarlet were the most fascinating objects in the world to young ladies," Pen answered. "I never should have dared to put my black coat in competition with that splendid red jacket."
"You are very unkind and cruel and sulky and naughty," said Miss Amory, with another shrug of the shoulders. "You had better go away. Your cousin is looking at us over Mr. Pynsent's shoulder."
"Will you waltz with me?" said Pen.
"Not this waltz. I can't, having just sent away that great hot Captain Broadfoot. Look at Mr. Pynsent, did you ever see such a creature? But I will dance the next waltz with you, and the quadrille too. I am promised, but I will tell Mr. Poole that I had forgotten my engagement to you."
"Women forget very readily," Pendennis said.
"But they always come back, and are very repentant and sorry for what they 've done," Blanche said. "See, here comes the Poker, and dear Laura leaning on him. How pretty she looks!"
Laura came up, and put out her hand to Pen, to whom Pynsent made a sort of bow, appearing to be not much more graceful than that domestic instrument to which Miss Amory compared him.
But Laura's face was full of kindness. "I am so glad you have come, dear Pen," she said. "I can speak to you now. How is Mamma? The three dances are over, and I am engaged to you for the next, Pen,"
"I have just engaged myself to Miss Amory," said Pen; and Miss Amory nodded her head, and made her usual little curtsy. "I don't intend to give him up, dearest Laura," she said.
"Well, then, he 'll waltz with me, dear Blanche," said the other. "Won't you, Pen?"
"I promised to waltz with Miss Amory."
"Provoking!" said Laura, and making a curtsy in her turn, she went and placed herself under the ample wing of Lady Rockminster.
Pen was delighted with his mischief. The two prettiest girls in the room were quarrelling about him. He flattered himself he had punished Miss Laura. He leaned in a dandified air, with his elbow over the wall, and talked to Blanche; he quizzed unmercifully all the men in the room — the heavy dragoons in their tight jackets—the country dandies in their queer attire — the strange toilets of the ladies. One seemed to have a bird's-nest in her head; another had six pounds of grapes in her hair, besides her false pearls. "It's a coiffure of almonds and raisins," said Pen, "and might be served up for dessert." In a word, he was exceedingly satirical and amusing.
During the quadrille he carried on this kind of conversation with unflinching bitterness and vivacity, and kept Blanche continually laughing, both at his wickedness and jokes, which were good, and also because Laura was again their vis-a-vis, and could see and hear how merry and confidential they were.
"Arthur is charming to-night," she whispered to Laura, across Cornet Perch's shell-jacket, as Pen was performing cavalier seul before them, drawling through that figure with a thumb in the pocket of each waistcoat.
"Who?" said Laura.
"Arthur," answered Blanche, in French. "Oh, it's such a pretty name!" And now the young ladies went over to Pen's side, and Cornet Perch performed a pas seul in his turn. He had no waistcoat pocket to put his hands into, and they looked large and swollen as they hung before him depending from the tight arms in the jacket.
During the interval between the quadrille and the succeeding waltz, Pen did not take any notice of Laura, except to ask her whether her partner, Cornet Perch, was an amusing youth, and whether she liked him so well as her other partner, Mr. Pynsent. Having planted which two daggers in Laura's bosom, Mr. Pendennis proceeded to rattle on with Blanche Amory, and to make jokes good or bad, but which were always loud. Laura was at a loss to account for her cousin's sulky behavior, and ignorant in what she had offended him; however, she was not angry in her turn at Pen's splenetic mood, for she was the most good-natured and forgiving of women, and besides, an exhibition of jealousy on a man's part is not always disagreeable to a lady.
As Pen could not dance with her, she was glad to take up with the active Chevalier Strong, who was a still better performer than Pen; and being very fond of dancing, as every brisk and innocent young girl should be, when the waltz music began she set off,
and chose to enjoy herself with all her heart. Captain Broadfoot on this occasion occupied the floor in conjunction with a lady of proportions scarcely inferior to his own; Miss Roundle, a large young woman in a strawberry-ice colored crape dress, the daughter of the lady with the grapes in her head, whose bunches Pen had admired.
And now taking his time, and with his fair partner Blanche hanging lovingly on the arm which encircled her, Mr. Arthur Pendennis set out upon his waltzing career, and felt, as he whirled round to the music, that he and Blanche were performing very brilliantly indeed. Very likely he looked to see if Miss Bell thought so too; but she did not or would not see him, and was always engaged with her partner Captain Strong. But Pen's triumph was not destined to last long: and it was doomed that poor Blanche was to have yet another discomfiture on that unfortunate night. While she and Pen were whirling round as light and brisk as a couple of opera-dancers, honest Captain Broadfoot and the lady round whose large waist he was clinging, were twisting round very leisurely according to their natures, and indeed were in everybody's way. But they were more in Pendennis's way than in anybody's else, for he and Blanche, whilst executing their rapid gyrations, came bolt up against the heavy dragoon and his lady, and with such force that the centre of gravity was lost by all four of the circumvolving bodies; Captain Broadfoot and Miss Roundle were fairly upset, as was Pen himself, who was less lucky than his partner Miss Amory, who was only thrown upon a bench against a wall.
But Pendennis came fairly down upon the floor, sprawling in the general ruin with Broadfoot and Miss Boondle. The Captain, though heavy, was goodnatured, and was the first to burst out into a loud laugh at his own misfortune, which nobody therefore heeded. But Miss Amory was savage at her mishap; Miss Eoundle placed on her siant, and looking pitifully round, presented an object which very few people could see without laughing; and Pen was furious when he heard the people giggling about him. He was one of those sarcastic young fellows that did not bear a laugh at his own expense, and of all things in the world feared ridicule most .
As he got up Laura and Strong were laughing at him; everybody was laughing; Pynsent and his partner were laughing; and Pen boiled with wrath against the pair, and could have stabbed them both on the spot . He turned away in a fury from them, and began blundering out apologies to Miss Amory. It was the other couple's fault — the woman in pink had done it — Pen hoped Miss Amory was not hurt — would she not have the courage to take another turn?
Miss Amory in a pet said she was very much hurt indeed, and she would not take another turn; and she accepted with great thanks a glass of water which a cavalier, who wore a blue ribbon and a three-pointed star, rushed to fetch for her when he had seen the deplorable accident . She drank the water, smiled upon the bringer gracefully, and turning her white shoulder at Mr. Pen in the most marked and haughty manner, besought the gentleman with the star to conduct her to her mamma; and she held out her hand in order to take his arm.
The man with the star trembled with delight at this mark of her favor; he bowed over her hand, pressed it to his coat fervidly, and looked round him with triumph.