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

By William Makepeace Thackeray | Go to book overview

Doolan's, but of the famous Berlin web, were in the passage of Mr. Bungay's house to receive the guests' hats and coats, and bawl their names up the stair. Some of the latter had arrived when the three new visitors made their appearance; but there was only Mrs. Bungay, in red satin and a turban, to represent her own charming sex. She made curtseys to each new-comer as he entered the drawingroom, but her mind was evidently preoccupied by extraneous thoughts. The fact is, Mrs. Bacon's dinner party was disturbing her, and as soon as she had received each individual of her own company, Flora Bungay flew back to the embrasure of the window, whence she could rake the carriages of Emma Bacon's friends as they came rattling up the Row. The sight of Dr. Slocum's large carriage, with the gaunt job-horses, crushed Flora: none but hack-cabs had driven up to her own door on that day.

They were all literary gentlemen, though unknown as yet to Pen. There was Mr. Bole, the real editor of the magazine of which Mr. Wagg was the nominal chief; Mr. Trotter, who, from having broken out on the world as a poet of a tragic and suicidal cast, had now subsided into one of Mr. Bungay's back shops as reader for that gentleman; and Captain Sumph, an ex-beau still about town, and related in some indistinct manner to Literature and the Peerage. He was said to have written a book once, to have been a friend of Lord Byron, to be related to Lord Sumphington; in fact, anecdotes of Byron formed his staple, and he seldom spoke but with the name of that poet or some of his contemporaries in his mouth, as thus: "I remember poor Shelley at school being sent up for good for a copy of verses, every line of which I wrote, by Jove;" or, "I recollect, when I was at Missolonghi with Byron, offering to bet Gamba," and so forth. This gentleman, Pen remarked, was listened to with great attention by Mrs. Bungay; his anecdotes of the aristocracy, of which he was a middle-aged member, delighted the publisher's lady; and he was almost a greater man than the great Mr. Wagg himself in her eyes. Had he but come in his own carriage, Mrs. Bungay would have made her Bungay purchase any given volume from his pen.

Mr. Bungay went about to his guests as they arrived, and did the honours of his house with much cordiality. "How are you, sir? Fine day, sir. Glad to see you year, sir. Flora, my love, let me have the honour of introducing Mr. Warrington to you. Mr. Warrington, Mrs. Bungay; Mr. Pendennis, Mrs. Bungay. Hope you've brought good appetites with you, gentlemen. You, Doolan, I know 'ave, for you've always 'ad a deuce of a twist."

"Lor, Bungay!" said Mrs. Bungay.

"Faith, a man must be hard to please, Bungay, who can't eat a good dinner in this house," Doolan said, and he winked and stroked his lean chops with his large gloves; and made appeals of friendship to Mrs. Bungay, which that honest woman refused with scorn from the timid man. "She couldn't abide that Doolan," she said in confidence to her friends. Indeed, all his flatteries failed to win her.

As they talked, Mrs. Bungay surveying mankind from her window, a magnificent vision of an enormous grey cab-horse appeared, and neared rapidly. A pair of white reins, held by small white gloves, were visible behind it; a face pale, but richly decorated with a chin-tuft, the head of an exiguous groom bobbing over the cab-head -- these bright things were revealed to the delighted Mrs. Bungay. "The Honourable Percy Popjoy's quite punctual, I declare," she said, and sailed to the door to be in waiting at the nobleman's arrival.

"It's Percy Popjoy," said Pen, looking out of the window, and seeing an individual in extremely lacquered boots descend from the swinging cab: and, in fact, it was that young nobleman -- Lord Falconet's eldest son, as we all very well know, who was come to dine with the publisher -- his publisher of the Row.

"He was my fag at Eton," Warrington said. "I ought to have licked him a little more." He and Pen had had some bouts at the Oxbridge Union Debates, in which Pen had had very much the better of Percy: who presently appeared,

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