The History of Pendennis: His Fortunes and Misfortunes, His Friends and His Greatest Enemy

By William Makepeace Thackeray | Go to book overview

attempts to continue writing the theatre music, in the copying of which he had been engaged), looked up eagerly towards the new-comer as the Major of the wellblacked boots entered the apartment, distributing the most graceful bows to everybody present.

"Me daughter-me friend, Mr. Bows -- me gallant young pupil and friend, I may call 'um, Sir Derby Oaks," said Costigan, splendidly waving his hand, and pointing each of these individuals to the Major's attention. "In one moment, Meejor, I'm your humble servant," and to dash into the little adjoining chamber, where be slept, to give a twist to his lank hair with his hair-brush (a wonderful and ancient piece), to tear off his old stock and put on a new one which Emily had constructed for him, and to assume a handsome clean collar, and the new coat which had been ordered upon the occasion of Miss Fotheringay's benefit, was with the still active Costigan the work of a minute.

After him Sir Derby entered, and presently emerged from the same apartment, where he also cased himself in his little shell-jacket, which fitted tightly upon the young officer's big person; and which he and Miss Fotheringay, and poor Pen too, perhaps, admired prodigiously.

Meanwhile conversation was engaged between the actress and the new-comer; and the usual remarks about the weather had been interchanged before Costigan re-entered in his new "shoot," as he called it.

"I needn't apologoise to ye, Meejor," he said, in his richest and most courteous manner, "for receiving ye in me shirt-sleeves."

"An old soldier can't be better employed than in teaching a young one the use of his sword," answered the Major gallantly. "I remember in old times hearing that you could use yours pretty well, Captain Costigan."

"What, ye've heard of Jack Costigan, Major!" said the other, greatly.

The Major had, indeed; he had pumped his nephew concerning his new friend, the Irish officer; and whether he had no other knowledge of the Captain than what he had thus gained, or whether he actually remembered him, we cannot say. But Major Pendennis was a person of honour and undoubted veracity, and said that he perfectly well recollected meeting Mr. Costigan, and hearing him sing at Sir Richard Strachan's table at Walcheren.

At this information, and the bland and cordial manner in which it was conveyed, Bows looked up, entirely puzzled. "But we will talk of these matters another time," the Major continued, perhaps not wishing to commit himself; "it is to Miss Fotheringay that I came to pay my respects to-day:" and he performed another bow for her, so courtly and gracious, that if she had been a duchess he could not have made it more handsome.

"I had heard of your performances from my nephew, madam," the Major said, "who raves about you, as I believe you know pretty well. But Arthur is but a boy, and a wild enthusiastic young fellow, whose opinions one must not take au pied de la lettre; and I confess I was anxious to judge for myself. Permit me to say your performance delighted and astonished me. I have seen our best actresses, and, on my word, I think you surpass them all. You are as majestic as Mrs. Siddons."

"Faith, I always said so," Costigan said, winking at his daughter; "Major, take a chair." Milly rose at this hint, took an unripped satin garment off the only vacant seat, and brought the latter to Major Pendennis with one of her finest curtseys.

"You are as pathetic as Miss O'Neill," he continued, bowing and seating himself; "your snatches of song remind me of Mrs. Jordan in her best time, when we were young men, Captain Costigan; and your manner reminded me of Mars. Did you ever see the Mars, Miss Fotheringay?"

"There was two Mahers in Crow Street," remarked Miss Emily: " Fanny was well enough, but Biddy was no great things."

-66-

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