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

By William Makepeace Thackeray | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXVII.
CONTAINS SOME BALL-PRACTISING.

UNDER some calico draperies in the shady embrasure of a window, Arthur Pendennis chose to assume a very gloomy and frowning countenance, and to watch Miss Bell dance her first quadrille with Mr. Pynsent for a partner. That gentleman was as solemn and severe as Englishmen are upon such occasions, and walked through the dance as he would have walked up to his pew in church, without a smile upon his face, or allowing any outward circumstance to interfere with his attention to the grave duty in which he was engaged. But Miss Laura' face was beaming with pleasure and good-nature. The lights and the crowd and music excited her. As she spread out her white robes, and performed her part of the dance, smiling and happy, her brown ringlets flowing back over her fair shoulders from her honest rosy face, more than one gentleman in the room admired and looked after her; and Lady Fogey, who had a house in London, and gave herself no small airs of fashion when in the country, asked of Lady Rockminster who the young person was, mentioning a reigning beauty in London whom, in her Ladyship's opinion, Laura was rather like, and pronounced that she would "do."

Lady Rockminster would have been very much surprised if any protégée of hers would not "do," and wondered at Lady Fogey4 s impudence in judging upon the point at all. She surveyed Laura with majestic glances through her eye-glass. She was pleased with the girl's artless looks, and gay innocent manner. Her manner is very good, her Ladyship thought. Her arms are rather red, but that is a defect of her youth. Her ton is far better than that of the little pert Miss Amory, who is dancing opposite to her.

Miss Blanche was, indeed, the vis-à-vis of Miss Laura, and smiled most killingly upon her dearest friend, and nodded to her, and talked to her, when they met during the quadrille evolutions, and patronised her a great deal. Her shoulders were the whitest in the whole room: and they were never easy in her frock for one single instant: nor were her eyes, which rolled about incessantly: nor was her little figure: -- it seemed to say to all the people, "Come and look at me -- not at that pink, healthy, bouncing country lass, Miss Bell, Who scarcely knew how to dance till I taught her. This is the true Parisian manner -- this is the prettiest little foot in the room, and the prettiest little chaussure, too. Look at it, Mr. Pynsent. Look at it, Mr. Pendennis, you who are scowling behind the curtain -- I know you are longing to dance with me."

Laura went on dancing, and keeping an attentive eye upon Mr. Pen in the embrasure of the window. He did not quit that retirement during the first quadrille, nor until the second, when the good-natured Lady Clavering beckoned to him to come up to her to the dais or place of honour where the dowagers were, and whither Pen went, blushing and exceedingly awkward, as most conceited young fellows are. He performed a haughty salutation to Lady Rockminster, who hardly acknowledged his bow, and then went and paid his respects to the widow of the late Amory, who was splendid in diamonds, velvet, lace, feathers, and all sorts of millinery and goldsmith's ware.

Young Mr. Fogey, then in the fifth form at Eton, and ardently expecting his beard and his commission in a dragoon regiment, was the second partner who was honoured with Miss Bell's hand. He was rapt in admiration of that young lady. He thought he had never seen so charming a creature. "I like you much better than the French girl" (for this young gentleman had been dancing with Miss Amory before), he candidly said to her. Laura laughed, and looked more goodhumoured than ever; and in the midst of her laughter caught a sight of Pen, and continued to laugh as he, on his side, continued to look absurdly pompous and

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