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

By William Makepeace Thackeray | Go to book overview

Fanny wore an alarmed face, and tried a timid giggle; old Mr. Bows looked as glum as when he fiddled in the orchestra, or played a difficult piece upon the old piano at the Back Kitchen. Pen felt that his story was a failure; his voice sank and dwindled away dismally at the end of it -- flickered, and went out; and it was all dark again. You could hear the ticket-porter, who lolls about Shepherd's Inn, as he passed on the flags under the archway: the clink of his boot-heels was noted by everybody.

"You were coming to see me, sir," Mr. Bows said. "Won't you have the kindness to walk up to my chambers with me? You do them a great honour, I am sure. They are rather high up; but" -- --

"Oh! I live in a garret myself, and Shepherd's Inn is twice as cheerful as Lamb Court," Mr. Pendennis broke in.

"I knew that you had third-floor apartments," Mr. Bows said; "and was going to say -- you will please not take my remark as discourteous -- that the air up three pair of stairs is wholesomer for gentlemen than the air of a potter's lodge."

"Sir!" said Pen, whose candle flamed up again in his wrath, and who was disposed to be as quarrelsome as men are when they are in the wrong. "Will you permit me to choose my society without" -- --

"You were so polite as to say that you were about to honour my 'umble domicile with a visit," Mr. Bows said, with his sad voice. "Shall I show you the way? Mr. Pendennis and I are old friends, Mrs. Bolton -- very old acquaintances; and at the earliest dawn of his life we crossed each other."

The old man pointed towards the door with a trembling finger, and a hat in the other hand, and in an attitude slightly theatrical; so were his words when he spoke somewhat artificial, and chosen from the vocabulary which he had heard all his life from the painted lips of the orators before the stage-lamps. But he was not acting or masquerading, as Pen knew very well, though he was disposed to pooh-pooh the old fellow's melodramatic airs. "Come along, sir," he said, "as you are so very pressing. Mrs. Bolton, I wish you a good day. Good-bye, Miss Fanny; I shall always think of our night at Vauxhall with pleasure: and be sure I will remember the theatre-tickets." And he took her hand, pressed it, was pressed by it, and was gone.

"What a nice young man, to be sure!" cried Mrs. Bolton.

"D'you think so, Ma?" said Fanny.

"I was a-thinkin' who he was like. When I was at the Wells with Mrs. Serle," Mrs. Bolton continued, looking through the window-curtain after Pen, as he went up the court with Bows, -- "there was a young man from the City, that used to come in a tilbry, in a white 'at, the very image of him, ony his whiskers was black, and Mr. P.'s is red."

"Law, Ma! they are a most beautiful hawburn," Fanny said.

"He used to come for Emly Budd, who danced Columbine in 'Arleykin 'Orn. pipe, or the Battle of Navarino,' when Miss De la Bosky was took ill -- a pretty dancer, and a fine stage figure of a woman -- and he was a great sugar-baker in the City, with a country 'ouse at 'Omerton; and he used to drive her in the tilbry down Goswell Street Road; and one day they drove and was married at St. Bartholomew's Church, Smithfield, where they'ad their bands read quite private; and she now keeps her carriage, and I sor her name in the paper as patroness of the Manshing-House Ball for the Wasbywomen's Asylum. And look at Lady Mirabel -- Capting Costigan's daughter -- she was profeshnl, as all very well know." Thus, and more to this purpose, Mrs. Bolton spoke, now peeping through the window-curtain, now cleaning the mugs and plates, and consigning them to their place in the corner cupboard; and finishing her speech as she and Fanny shook out and folded up the dinner-cloth between them, and restored it to its drawer in the table.

-322-

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