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

By William Makepeace Thackeray | Go to book overview

disinclined to this alternative, the Captain hinted, that he Would force him to accept by the use of a horsewhip which he should employ upon the Major's person. The precise terms Of this letter we cannot give, for reasons which shall be specified presently; but it was, no doubt, couched in the Captain's finest style, and sealed elaborately with the great silver seal of the Costigans-the only bit of the family plate which the Captain possessed.

Garbetts was despatched then with this message and letter; and bidding Heaven bless 'um, the General squeezed his ambassador's hand, and saw him depart. Then he took down his venerable and murderous duelling-pistols, with flint locks, that had done the business of many a pretty fellow in Dublin: and having examined these, and seen that they were in a satisfactory condition, he brought from the drawer all Pen's letters and poems which he kept there, and which he always read before he permitted his Emily to enjoy their perusal.

In a score of minutes Garbetts came back with an anxious and crestfallen countenance.

"Ye've seen 'um?" the Captain said.

"Why, yes," said Garbetts.

"And when is it for?" asked Costigan, trying the lock of one of the ancient pistols, and bringing it to a level with his oi -- as he called that blood-shot orb.

"When is what for?" asked Mr. Garbetts.

"The meeting, my dear fellow!"

"You don't mean to say you mean mortal combat, Captain?" Garbetts said, aghast.

"What the devil else do I mean, Garbetts? -- I want to shoot that man that has trajuiced me honour, or meself dthrop a victim on the sod."

"D ---- if I carry challenges," Mr. Garbetts replied. "I'm a family man, Captain, and will have nothing to do with pistols -- take back your letter;" and, to the surprise and indignation of Captain Costigan, his emissary flung the letter down, with its great sprawling superscription and blotched seal.

"Ye don't mean to say ye saw 'um and didn't give 'um the letter?" cried out the Captain, in a fury.

"I saw him, but I could not have speech with him, Captain," said Mr. Garbetts.

"And why the devil not?" asked the other.

"There was one there I cared not to meet, nor would you," the tragedian answered, in a sepulchral voice. "The minion Tatharn was there, Captain."

"The cowardly scoundthrel!" roared Costigan. "He's frightened, and already going to swear the peace against me."

"I'll have nothing to do with the fighting, mark that," the tragedian doggedly said, "and I wish I'd not seen Tatham neither, nor that bit of ----"

"Hold your tongue, Bob Acres. It's my belief ye're no better than a coward," said Captain Costigan, quoting Sir Lucius O'trigger, which character he bad performed with credit, both off and on the stage, and after some more parley between the couple they separated in not very good humour.

Their colloquy has been here condensed, as the reader knows the main point upon which it turned. But the latter will now see how it is impossible to give a correct account of the letter which the Captain wrote to Major Pendennis, as it was never opened at all by that gentleman.

When Miss Costigan came home from rehearsal, which she did in the company of the faithful Mr. Bows, she found her father pacing up and down their apartment in a great state of agitation, and in the midst of a powerful odour of spiritsand-water, which, as it appeared, bad not succeeded in pacifying his disordered mind. The Pendennis papers were on the table surrounding the empty goblets and now useless teaspoon, which had served to hold and mix the Captain's liquor and his friend's. As Emily entered he seized her in his arms, and cried out,

-72-

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