FACING THE ENEMY
SAUNTERING slowly homewards, Major Pendennis reached the George presently, and found Mr. Morgan, his faithful valet, awaiting him at the door of the George Inn, who stopped his master as he was about to take a candle to go to bed, and said, with his usual air of knowing deference, "I think, sir, if you would go into the coffee-room, there's a young gentleman there as you would like to see."
"What, is Mr. Arthur here?" the Major said, in great anger.
"No, sir -- but his great friend, Mr. Foker, sir. Lady Hagnes Foker's son is here, sir. He's been asleep in the coffee-room since he took his dinner, and has just rung for his coffee, sir. And I think, p'raps, you might like to git into conversation with him," the valet said, opening the coffee-room door.
The Major entered; and there indeed was Mr. Foker, the only occupant of the place. He was rubbing his eyes, and sate before a table decorated with empty decanters and relics of dessert. He had intended to go to the play too, but sleep had overtaken him after a copious meal, and he had flung up his legs on the bench, and indulged in a nap instead of the dramatic amusement. The Major was meditating how to address the young man, but the latter prevented him that trouble.
"Like to look at the evening paper, sir?" said Mr. Foker, who was always communicative and affable; and he took up the Globe from his table, and offered it to the new comer.
"I am very much obliged to you," said the Major, with a grateful bow and smile. "If I don't mistake the family likeness, I have the pleasure of speaking to Mr. Henry Foker, Lady Agnes Foker's son. I have the happiness to name her Ladyship among my acquaintances -- and you bear, sir, a Rosherville face."
"Hullo! I beg your pardon," Mr. Foker said, "I took you" -- he was going to say -- "I took you for a commercial gent." But he stopped that phrase. "To whom have I the pleasure of speaking?" he added.
"To a relative of a friend and schoolfellow of yours -- Arthur Pendennis, my nephew, who has often spoken to me about you in terms of great regard. I am Major Pendennis, of whom you may have heard him speak. May I take my soda-water at your table? I have had the pleasure of sitting at your grandfather's."
"Sir, you do me proud," said Mr. Foker, with much courtesy. "And so you are Arthur Pendennis's uncle, are you?"
"And guardian," added the Major.
"He's as good a fellow as ever stepped, sir," said Mr. Foker.
"I am glad you think so."
"And clever, too -- I was always a stupid chap, I was -- but you see, sir, I know 'em when they are clever, and like 'em of that sort."
"You show your taste and your modesty, too," said the Major. "I have heard Arthur repeatedly speak of you, and he said your talents were very good."
"I'm not good at the books," Mr. Foker said, wagging his head -- "never could manage that -- Pendennis could -- he used to do half the chaps' verses -- and yet" -- the young gentleman broke out -- "you are his guardian; and I hope you will pardon me for saying that I think he's what we call a flat," the candid young gentleman said.
The Major found himself on the instant in the midst of a most interesting and confidential conversation. "And how is Arthur a flat?" he asked, with a smile.