The History of Pendennis, by William Makepeace Thackeray

CHAPTER XLVII

Monseigneur s’amuse

The exertions of that last night at Gaunt House had proved almost too much for Major Pendennis; and as soon as he could move his weary old body with safety, he transported himself groaning to Buxton, and sought relief in the healing waters of that place. Parliament broke up. Sir Francis Clavering and family left town, and the affairs which we have just mentioned to the reader were not advanced, in the brief interval of a few days or weeks which have occurred between this and the last chapter. The town was, however, emptied since then.

The season was now come to a conclusion: Pen’s neighbours, the lawyers, were gone upon circuit: and his more fashionable friends had taken their passports for the Continent, or had fled for health or excitement to the Scotch moors. Scarce a man was to be seen in the bow-windows of the Clubs, or on the solitary Pall Mall pavement. The red jackets had disappeared from before the Palace-gate: the tradesmen of St. James’s were abroad taking their pleasure: the tailors had grown mustachios and were gone up the Rhine: the bootmakers were at Ems or Baden, blushing when they met their customers at those places of recreation, or punting beside their creditors at the gambling-tables: the clergymen of St. James’s only preached to half a congregation, in which there was not a single sinner of distinction: the band in Kensington Gardens had shut up their instruments of brass and trumpets of silver: only two or three old flies and chaises crawled by the banks of the Serpentine; and Clarence Bulbul, who was retained in town by his arduous duties as a Treasury clerk, when he took his afternoon ride in Rotten Row, compared its loneliness to the vastness of the Arabian desert and himself to a Bedouin wending his way through that dusty solitude. Warrington stowed away a quantity of Cavendish tobacco in his carpet-bag, and betook himself, as his custom was in the vacation, to his brother’s house in Norfolk. Pen was left alone in chambers for a while, for this man of fashion could not quit the metropolis when he chose always: and was at present detained by the affairs of his newspaper, the Pall Mall Gazette, of, which he acted as the editor and charge d’affaires during the temporary absence of the chief, Captain Shandon, who was with his family at the salutary watering-place of Boulogne-sur-Mer.

Although, as we have seen, Mr. Pen had pronounced himself for years past to be a man perfectly blase and wearied of life, yet the truth is that he was an exceedingly healthy young fellow still: with a fine appetite, which he satisfied with the greatest relish and satisfaction at least once a day; and a constant desire for society, which showed him to be anything but misanthropical. If he could not get a good dinner he sate down to a bad one with perfect contentment; if he could not procure the company of witty or great or beautiful persons, he put up with any society that came to hand; and was perfectly satisfied in a tavern-parlour or on board a Greenwich steamboat, or in a jaunt to Hampstead with Mr. Finucane, his colleague at the Pall Mall Gazette; or in a visit to the summer theatres across the river; or to the Royal Gardens of Vauxhall, where he was on terms of friendship with the great Simpson, and where he shook the principal comic singer of the lovely equestrian of the arena by the hand. And while he could watch the grimaces or the graces of these with a satiric humour that was not deprived of sympathy, he could look on with an eye of kindness at the lookers-on too; at the roystering youth bent upon enjoyment, and here taking it: at the honest parents, with their delighted children laughing and clapping their hands at the show: at the poor outcasts, whose laughter was less innocent though perhaps louder, and who brought their shame and their youth here, to dance and be merry till the dawn at least; and to get bread and drown care. Of this sympathy with all conditions of men Arthur often boasted: said he was pleased to possess it: and that he hoped thus to the last he should retain it. As another man has an ardour for art or music, or natural science, Mr. Pen said that anthropology was his favourite pursuit; and had his eyes always eagerly open to its infinite varieties and beauties: contemplating with an unfailing delight all specimens of it in all places to which he resorted, whether it was the coquetting of a wrinkled dowager in a ballroom, or a high-bred young beauty blushing in her prime there; whether it was a hulking guardsman coaxing a servant-girl in the Park — or innocent little Tommy that was feeding the ducks whilst the nurse listened. And indeed a man whose heart is pretty clean, can indulge in this pursuit with an enjoyment that never ceases, and is only perhaps the more keen because it is secret and has a touch of sadness in it: because he is of his mood and humour lonely, and apart although not alone.

Yes, Pen used to brag and talk in his impetuous way to Warrington. “I was in love so fiercely in my youth, that I have burned out that flame for ever, I think, and if ever I marry, it will be a marriage of reason that I will make, with a well-bred, good-tempered, good-looking person who has a little money, and so forth, that will cushion our carriage in its course through life. As for romance, it is all done; I have spent that out, and am old before my time — I’m proud of it.”

“Stuff!” growled the other, “you fancied you were getting bald the other day, and bragged about it as you do about everything. But you began to use the bear’s-grease pot directly the hairdresser told you; and are scented like a barber ever since.”

“You are Diogenes,” the other answered, “and you want every man to live in a tub like yourself. Violets smell better than stale tobacco, you grizzly old cynic.” But Mr. Pen was blushing whilst he made this reply to his unromantical friend, and indeed cared a great deal more about himself still than such a philosopher perhaps should have done. Indeed, considering that he was careless about the world, Mr. Pen ornamented his person with no small pains in order to make himself agreeable to it, and for a weary pilgrim as he was, wore very tight boots and bright varnish.

It was in this dull season of the year, then, of a shining Friday night in autumn, that Mr. Pendennis, having completed at his newspaper office a brilliant leading article — such as Captain Shandon himself might have written, had the Captain been in good-humour, and inclined to work, which he never would do except under compulsion — that Mr. Arthur Pendennis having written his article, and reviewed it approvingly as it lay before him in its wet proof-sheet at the office of the paper, bethought him that he would cross the water, and regale himself with the fireworks and other amusements of Vauxhall. So he affably put in his pocket the order which admitted “Editor of Pall Mall Gazette and friend” to that place of recreation, and paid with the coin of the realm a sufficient sum to enable him to cross Waterloo Bridge. The walk thence to the Gardens was pleasant, the stars were shining in the skies above, looking down upon the royal property, whence the rockets and Roman candles had not yet ascended to outshine the stars.

Before you enter the enchanted ground, where twenty thousand additional lamps are burned every night as usual, most of us have passed through the black and dreary passage and wickets which hide the splendours of Vauxhall from uninitiated men. In the walls of this passage are two holes strongly illuminated, in the midst of which you see two gentlemen at desks, where they will take either your money as a private individual, or your order of admission if you are provided with that passport to the Gardens. Pen went to exhibit his ticket at the last-named orifice, where, however, a gentleman and two ladies were already in parley before him.

The gentleman, whose hat was very much on one side, and who wore a short and shabby cloak in an excessively smart manner, was crying out in a voice which Pen at once recognised.

“Bedad, sir, if ye doubt me honour, will ye obleege me by stipping out of that box, and ——”

“Lor, Capting!” cried the elder lady.

“Don’t bother me,” said the man in the box.

And ask Mr. Hodgen himself, who’s in the gyardens, to let these leedies pass. Don’t be froightened, me dear madam, I’m not going to quarl with this gintleman, at anyreet before leedies. Will ye go, sir, and desoire Mr. Hodgen (whose orther I keem in with, and he’s me most intemate friend, and I know he’s goan to sing the ‘Body Snatcher’ here to-noight), with Captain Costigan’s compliments, to stip out and let in the leedies — for meself, sir, I’ve seen Vauxhall, and I scawrun any interfayrance on moi account: but for these leedies, one of them has never been there, and of should think ye’d harly take advantage of me misfartune in losing the ticket, to deproive her of her pleasure.”

“It ain’t no use, Captain. I can’t go about your business,” the check-taker said; on which the Captain swore an oath, and the elder lady said, “Lor, ow provokin!”

As for the young one, she looked up at the Captain and said, “Never mind, Captain Costigan, I’m sure I don’t want to go at all. Come away, mamma.” And with this, although she did not want to go at all, her feelings overcame her, and she began to cry.

“Me poor child!” the Captain said. “Can ye see that, sir, and will ye not let this innocent creature in?”

“It ain’t my business,” cried the doorkeeper, peevishly, out of the illuminated box. And at this minute Arthur came up, and recognising Costigan, said, “Don’t you know me, Captain? Pendennis!” And he took off his hat and made a bow to the two ladies. “Me dear boy! Me dear friend!” cried the Captain, extending towards Pendennis the grasp of friendship; and he rapidly explained to the other what he called “a most unluckee conthratong.” He had an order for Vauxhall, admitting two, from Mr. Hodgen, then within the Gardens, and singing (as he did at the Back Kitchen and the nobility’s concerts, the ‘Body Snatcher,’ the ‘Death of General Wolfe,’ the ‘Banner of Blood,’ and other favourite melodies); and, having this order for the admission of two persons, he thought that it would admit three, and had come accordingly to the Gardens with his friends. But, on his way, Captain Costigan had lost the paper of admission — it was not forthcoming at all; and the leedies must go back again, to the great disappointment of one of them, as Pendennis saw.

Arthur had a great deal of good-nature for everybody, and sympathised with the misfortunes of all sorts of people: how could he refuse his sympathy in such a case as this? He had seen the innocent face as it looked up to the Captain, the appealing look of the girl, the piteous quiver of the mouth, and the final outburst of tears. If it had been his last guinea in the world, he must have paid it to have given the poor little thing pleasure. She turned the sad imploring eyes away directly they lighted upon a stranger, and began to wipe them with her handkerchief. Arthur looked very handsome and kind as he stood before the women, with his hat off, blushing, bowing, generous, a gentleman. “Who are they?” he asked of himself. He thought he had seen the elder lady before.

“If I can be of any service to you, Captain Costigan,” the young man said, “I hope you will command me; is there any difficulty about taking these ladies into the garden? Will you kindly make use of my purse? And — and I have a ticket myself which will admit two — I hope, ma’am, you will permit me?”

The first impulse of the Prince of Fairoaks was to pay for the whole party, and to make away with his newspaper order as poor Costigan had done with his own ticket. But his instinct, and the appearance of the two women, told him that they would be better pleased if he did not give himself the airs of a grand seigneur, and he handed his purse to Costigan, and laughingly pulled out his ticket with one hand, as he offered the other to the elder of the ladies — ladies was not the word — they had bonnets and shawls, and collars and ribbons, and the youngest showed a pretty little foot and boot under her modest grey gown, but his Highness of Fairoaks was courteous to every person who wore a petticoat whatever its texture was, and the humbler the wearer, only the more stately and polite in his demeanour.

“Fanny, take the gentleman’s arm,” the elder said; “Since you will be so very kind — I’ve seen you often come in at our gate, sir, and go in to Captain Strong’s at No. 3.”

Fanny made a little curtsey, and put her hand under Arthur’s arm. It had on a shabby little glove, but it was pretty and small. She was not a child, but she was scarcely a woman as yet; her tears had dried up, and her cheek mantled with youthful blushes, and her eyes glistened with pleasure and gratitude, as she looked up into Arthur’s kind face.

Arthur, in a protecting way, put his other hand upon the little one resting on his arm. “Fanny’s a very pretty little name,” he said, “and so you know me, do you?”

“We keep the lodge, sir, at Shepherd’s Inn,” Fanny said with a curtsey; “and I’ve never been at Vauxhall, sir, and Papa didn’t like me to go — and — and — O— O— law, how beautiful!” She shrank back as she spoke, starting with wonder and delight as she saw the Royal Gardens blaze before her with a hundred million of lamps, with a splendour such as the finest fairy tale, the finest pantomime she had ever witnessed at the theatre, had never realised. Pen was pleased with her pleasure, and pressed to his side the little hand which clung so kindly to him. “What would I not give for a little of this pleasure?” said the blase young man.

“Your purse, Pendennis, me dear boy,” said the Captain’s voice behind him. “Will ye count it? it’s all roight — no — ye thrust in old Jack Costigan (he thrusts me, ye see, madam). Ye’ve been me preserver, Pen (I’ve known um since choildhood, Mrs. Bolton; he’s the proproietor of Fairoaks Castle, and many’s the cooper of clart I’ve dthrunk there with the first nobilitee of his neetive countee) — Mr. Pendennis, ye’ve been me preserver, and of thank ye; me daughtther will thank ye; — Mr. Simpson, your humble servant sir.”

If Pen was magnificent in his courtesy to the ladies, what was his splendour in comparison to Captain Costigan’s bowing here and there, and crying bravo to the singers?

A man, descended like Costigan, from a long line of Hibernian kings, chieftains, and other magnates and sheriffs of the county, had of course too much dignity and self-respect to walk arrum-inarrum (as the Captain phrased it) with a lady who occasionally swept his room out, and cooked his mutton-chops. In the course of their journey from Shepherd’s Inn to Vauxhall Gardens, Captain Costigan had walked by the side of the two ladies, in a patronising and affable manner pointing out to them the edifices worthy of note, and discoorsing, according to his wont, about other cities and countries which he had visited, and the people of rank and fashion with whom he had the honour of an acquaintance. Nor could it be expected, nor, indeed, did Mrs. Bolton expect, that, arrived in the Royal property, and strongly illuminated by the flare of the twenty thousand additional lamps, the Captain could relax from his dignity, and give an arm to a lady who was, in fact, little better than a housekeeper or charwoman.

But Pen, on his part, had no such scruples. Miss Fanny Bolton did not make his bed nor sweep his chambers; and he did not choose to let go his pretty little partner. As for Fanny, her colour heightened, and her bright eyes shone the brighter with pleasure, as she leaned for protection on the arm of such a fine gentleman as Mr. Pen. And she looked at numbers of other ladies in the place, and at scores of other gentlemen under whose protection they were walking here and there; and she thought that her gentleman was handsomer and grander-looking than any other gent in the place. Of course there were votaries of pleasure of all ranks there — rakish young surgeons, fast young clerks and commercialists, occasional dandies of the Guard regiments, and the rest. Old Lord Colchicum was there in attendance upon Mademoiselle Caracoline, who had been riding in the ring; and who talked her native French very loud, and used idiomatic expressions of exceeding strength as she walked about, leaning on the arm of his lordship.

Colchicum was in attendance upon Mademoiselle Carandine, little Tom Tufthunt was in attendance upon Lord Colchicum; and rather pleased, too, with his position. When Don Juan scalles the wall, there’s never a want of a Leporello to hold the ladder. Tom Tufthunt was quite happy to act as friend to the elderly viscount, and to carve the fowl, and to make the salad at supper. When Pen and his young lady met the Viscount’s party, that noble poor only gave Arthur a passing leer of recognition as his lordship’s eyes passed from Pen’s face under the bonnet of Pen’s companion. But Tom Tufthunt wagged his head very good-naturedly at Mr. Arthur, and said, “How are you, old boy?” and looked extremely knowing at the godfather of this history.

“That is the great rider at Astley’s; I have seen her there,” Miss Bolton said, looking after Mademoiselle Caracoline; “and who is that old man? is it not the gentleman in the ring!”

“That is Lord Viscount Colchicum, Miss Fanny,” said Pen with an air of protection. He meant no harm; he was pleased to patronise the young girl, and he was not displeased that she should be so pretty, and that she should be hanging upon his arm, and that yonder elderly Don Juan should have seen her there.

Fanny was very pretty; her eyes were dark and brilliant, her teeth were like little pearls; her mouth was almost as red as Mademoiselle Caracoline’s when the latter had put on her vermilion. And what a difference there was between the one’s voice and the other’s, between the girl’s laugh and the woman’s! It was only very lately, indeed, that Fanny, when looking in the little glass over the Bows-Costigan mantelpiece as she was dusting it had begun to suspect that she was a beauty. But a year ago, she was a clumsy, gawky girl, at whom her father sneered, and of whom the girls at the day-school (Miss Minifer’s, Newcastle Street, Strand; Miss M., the younger sister, took the leading business at the Norwich circuit in 182 —; and she herself had played for two seasons with some credit T. R. E. O., T. R. S. W., until she fell down a trap-door and broke her leg); the girls at Fanny’s school, we say, took no account of her, and thought her a dowdy little creature as long as she remained under Miss Minifer’s instruction. And it was unremarked and almost unseen in the porter’s dark lodge of Shepherd’s Inn, that this little flower bloomed into beauty.

So this young person hung upon Mr. Pen’s arm, and they paced the gardens together, Empty as London was, there were still some two millions of people left lingering about it, and amongst them, one or two of the acquaintances of Mr. Arthur Pendennis.

Amongst them, silent and alone, pale, with his hands in his pockets, and a rueful nod of the head to Arthur as they met, passed Henry Foker, Esq. Young Henry was trying to ease his mind by moving from place to place, and from excitement to excitement. But he thought about Blanche as he sauntered in the dark walks; he thought about Blanche as he looked at the devices of the lamps. He consulted the fortune-teller about her, and was disappointed when that gipsy told him that he was in love with a dark lady who would make him happy; and at the concert, though Mr. Momus sang his most stunning comic songs, and asked his most astonishing riddles, never did a kind smile come to visit Foker’s lips. In fact, he never heard Mr. Momus at all.

Pen and Miss Bolton were hard by listening to the same concert, and the latter remarked, and Pen laughed at Mr. Fokei’s woebegone face.

Fanny asked what it was that made that odd-looking little man so dismal? “I think he is crossed in love!” Pen, said. “Isn’t that enough to make any man dismal, Fanny?” And he looked down at her, splendidly protecting her, like Egmont at Clara in Goethe’s play, or Leicester at Amy in Scott’s novel.

“Crossed in love is he? poor gentleman,” said Fanny with a sigh, and her eyes turned round towards him with no little kindness and pity — but Harry did not see the beautiful dark eyes.

“How dy do, Mr. Pendennis!”— a voice broke in here — it was that of a young man in a large white coat with a red neckcloth, over which a dingy shirt-collar was turned so as to exhibit a dubious neck — with a large pin of bullion or other metal, and an imaginative waistcoat with exceedingly fanciful glass buttons, and trousers that cried with a loud voice, “Come look at me and see how cheap and tawdry I am; my master, what a dirty buck!” and a little stick in one pocket of his coat, and a lady in pink satin on the other arm —“How dy do — Forget me, I dare say? Huxter — Clavering.”

“How do you do, Mr. Huxter,” the Prince of Fairoaks said in his most princely manner —“I hope you are very well.”

“Pretty bobbish, thanky.”— And Mr. Huxter wagged his head. “I say, Pendennis, you’ve been coming it uncommon strong since we had the row at Wapshot’s, don’t you remember. Great author, hay? Go about with the swells. Saw your name in the Morning Post. I suppose you’re too much of a swell to come and have a bit of supper with an old friend? — Charterhouse Lane tomorrow night — some devilish good fellows from Bartholomew’s, and some stunning gin-punch. Here’s my card.” And with this Mr. Huxter released his hand from the pocket where his cane was, and pulling off the top of his card-case with his teeth produced thence a visiting ticket, which he handed to Pen.

“You are exceedingly kind, I am sure,” said Pen: “but I regret that I have an engagement which will take me out of town tomorrow night.” And the Marquis of Fairoaks, wondering that such a creature as this could have the audacity to give him a card, put Mr. Huxter’s card into his waistcoat pocket with a lofty courtesy. Possibly Mr. Samuel Huxter was not aware that there was any great social difference between Mr. Arthur Pendennis and himself. Mr. Huxter’s father was a surgeon and apothecary at Clavering just as Mr. Pendennis’s papa had been a surgeon and apothecary at Bath. But the impudence of some men is beyond all calculation.

“Well, old fellow, never mind,” said Mr. Huxter, who, always frank and familiar, was from vinous excitement even more affable than usual. “If ever you are passing, look up our place, I’m mostly at home Saturdays; and there’s generally a cheese cupboard. Ta, ta. — There’s the bell for the fireworks ringing. Come along, Mary.” And he set off running with the rest of the crowd in the direction of the fireworks.

So did Pen presently, when this agreeable youth was out of sight, begin to run with his little companion; Mrs. Bolton following after them, with Captain Costigan at her side. But the Captain was too majestic and dignified in his movements to run for friend or enemy, and he pursued his course with the usual jaunty swagger which distinguished his steps, so that he and his companion were speedily distanced by Pen and Miss Fanny.

Perhaps Arthur forgot, or perhaps he did not choose to remember, that the elder couple had no money in their pockets, as had been proved by their adventure at the entrance of the Gardens; howbeit, Pen paid a couple of shillings for himself and his partner, and with her hanging close on his arm, scaled the staircase which leads to the firework gallery. The Captain and mamma might have followed them if they liked, but Arthur and Fanny were too busy to look back. People were pushing and squeezing there beside and behind them. One eager individual rushed by Fanny, and elbowed her so, that she fell back with a little cry, upon which, of course, Arthur caught her adroitly in his arms, and, just for protection, kept her so defended, until they mounted the stair, and took their places.

Poor Foker sate alone on one of the highest benches, his face illuminated by the fireworks, or in their absence by the moon. Arthur saw him, and laughed, but did not occupy himself about his friend much. He was engaged with Fanny. How she wondered! how happy she was! how she cried O, O, O, as the rockets soared into the air, and showered down in azure, and emerald, and vermilion! As these wonders blazed and disappeared before her, the little girl thrilled and trembled with delight at Arthur’s side — her hand was under his arm still, he felt it pressing him as she looked up delighted.

“How beautiful they are, sir!” she cried.

“Don’t call me sir, Fanny,” Arthur said.

A quick blush rushed up into the girl’s face. “What shall I call you?” she said, in a low voice, sweet and tremulous. “What would you wish me to say, sir?”

“Again, Fanny! Well, I forgot; it is best so, my dear,” Pendennis said, very kindly and gently. “I may call you Fanny?”

“Oh yes!” she said, and the little hand pressed his arm once more very eagerly, and the girl clung to him so that he could feel her heart beating on his shoulder.

“I may call you Fanny, because you are a young girl, and a good girl, Fanny, and I am an old gentleman. But you mustn’t call me anything but sir, or Mr. Pendennis, if you like; for we live in very different stations, Fanny; and don’t think I speak unkindly; and — and why do you take your hand away, Fanny? Are you afraid of me? Do you think I would hurt you? Not for all the world, my dear little girl. And — and look how beautiful the moon and stars are, and how calmly they shine when the rockets have gone out, and the noisy wheels have done hissing and blazing. When I came here to-night I did not think I should have had such a pretty little companion to sit by my side, and see these fine fireworks. You must know I live by myself, and work very hard. I write in books and newspapers, Fanny; and I quite tired out, and was expected to sit alone all night; and — don’t cry, my dear, dear, little girl.” Here Pen broke out, rapidly putting an end to the calm oration which he had begun to deliver; for the sight of a woman’s tears always put his nerves in a quiver, and he began forthwith to coax her and soothe her, and to utter a hundred and twenty little ejaculations of pity and sympathy, which need not be repeated here, because they would be absurd in print. So would a mother’s talk to a child be absurd in print; so would a lover’s to his bride. That sweet artless poetry bears no translation; and is too subtle for grammarians’ clumsy definitions. You have but the same four letters to describe the salute which you perform on your grandmother’s forehead, and that which you bestow on the sacred cheek of your mistress; but the same four letters, and not one of them a labial. Do we mean to hint that r. Arthur Pendennis made any use of the monosyllable in question? Not so. In the first place, it was dark: the fireworks were over, and nobody could see him; secondly, he was not a man to have this kind of secret, and tell it; thirdly and lastly, let the honest fellow who has kissed a pretty girl, say what would have been his own conduct in such a delicate juncture?

Well, the truth is, that however you may suspect him, and whatever you would have done under the circumstances, or Mr. Pen would have liked to do, he behaved honestly, and like a man. “I will not play with this little girl’s heart,” he said within himself, “and forget my own or her honour. She seems to have a great deal of dangerous and rather contagious sensibility, and I am very glad the fireworks are over, and that I can take her back to her mother. Come along, Fanny; mind the steps, and lean on me. Don’t stumble, you heedless little thing; this is the way, and there is your mamma at the door.”

And there, indeed, Mrs. Bolton was, unquiet in spirit, and grasping her umbrella. She seized Fanny with maternal fierceness and eagerness, and uttered some rapid abuse to the girl in an undertone. The expression in Captain Costigan’s eye — standing behind the matron and winking at Pendennis from under his hat — was, I am bound to say, indefinably humorous.

It was so much so, that Pen could not refrain from bursting into a laugh. “You should have taken my arm, Mrs. Bolton,” he said, offering it. “I am very glad to bring Miss Fanny back quite safe to you. We thought you would have followed us up into the gallery. We enjoyed the fireworks, didn’t we?”

“Oh yes!” said Miss Fanny, with rather a demure look.

“And the bouquet was magnificent,” said Pen. “And it is ten hours since I had anything to eat, ladies; and I wish you would permit me to invite you to supper.”

“Dad,” said Costigan, “I’d loike a snack to; only I forgawt me purse, or I should have invoited these leedies to a collection.”

Mrs. Bolton with considerable asperity said, She ad an eadache, and would much rather go ome.

“A lobster salad is the best thing in the world for a headache,” Pen said gallantly, “and a glass of wine I’m sure will do you good. Come, Mrs. Bolton, be kind to me and oblige me. I shan’t have the heart to sup without you, and upon my word I have had no dinner. Give me your arm: give me the umbrella. Costigan, I’m sure you’ll take care of Miss Fanny; and I shall think Mrs. Bolton angry with me, unless she will favour me with her society. And we will all sup quietly, and go back in a cab together.”

The cab, the lobster salad, the frank and good-humoured look of Pendennis, as he smilingly invited the worthy matron, subdued her suspicions and her anger. Since he would be so obliging, she thought she could take a little bit of lobster, and so they all marched away to a box; and Costigan called for a waither with such a loud and belligerent voice, as caused one of those officials instantly to run to him.

The carte was examined on the wall, and Fanny was asked to choose her favourite dish; upon which the young creature said she was fond of lobster, too, but also owned to a partiality for raspberry tart. This delicacy was provided by Pen, and a bottle of the most frisky champagne was moreover ordered for the delight of the ladies. Little Fanny drank this; — what other sweet intoxication had she not drunk in the course of the night?

When the supper, which was very brisk and gay, was over, and Captain Costigan and Mrs. Bolton had partaken of some of the rack-punch that is so fragrant at Vauxhall, the bill was called and discharged by Pen with great generosity — “loike a foin young English gentleman of th’ olden toime, be Jove,” Costigan enthusiastically remarked. And as, when they went out of the box, he stepped forward and gave Mrs. Bolton his arm, Fanny fell to Pen’s lot, and the young people walked away in high good-humour together, in the wake of their seniors.

The champagne and the rack-punch, though taken in moderation by all persons, except perhaps poor Cos, who lurched ever so little in his gait, had set them in high spirits and good-humour, so that Fanny began to skip and move her brisk little feet in time to the band, which was playing waltzes and galops for the dancers. As they came up to the dancing, the music and Fanny’s feet seemed to go quicker together — she seemed to spring, as if naturally, from the ground, and as if she required repression to keep her there.

“Shouldn’t you like a turn?” said the Prince of Fairoaks. “What fun it would be! Mrs. Bolton, ma’am, do let me take her once round.” Upon which Mr. Costigan said, “Off wid you!” and Mrs. Bolton not refusing (indeed, she was an old war-horse, and would have liked, at the trumpet’s sound, to have entered the arena herself), Fanny’s shawl was off her back in a minute, and she and Arthur were whirling round in a waltz in the midst of a great deal of queer, but exceedingly joyful company.

Pen had no mishap this time with little Fanny, as he had with Miss Blanche in old days — at least, there was no mishap of his making. The pair danced away with great agility and contentment — first a waltz, then a galop, then a waltz again, until, in the second waltz, they were bumped by another couple who had joined the Terpsichorean choir. This was Mr. Huxter and his pink satin young friend, of whom we have already had a glimpse.

Mr. Huxter very probably had been also partaking of supper, for he was even more excited now than at the time when he had previously claimed Pen’s acquaintance; and, having run against Arthur and his partner, and nearly knocked them down, this amiable gentleman of course began to abuse the people whom he had injured, and broke out into a volley of slang against the unoffending couple. “Now then, stoopid! Don’t keep the ground if you can’t dance, old Slow Coach!” the young surgeon roared out (using, at the same time, other expressions far more emphatic), and 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 remonstrance, 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 padon 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.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/t/thackeray/william_makepeace/pendennis/chapter47.html

Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 19:07