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His six months' leave not having expired, he determined to remain a week or two in Calcutta before returning to Dum-Dum and duty-guard-mounting, bullock-driving, and fuse-setting; and, having bought a yard of crape for his hat, and discovered that he had a black surtout in very tolerable condition, and of most unexceptionable build, a little creased only for want of resuscitation after a year or two's " snugg lying in the abbey,” one of Welsh and Stalker's bullock-trunks, he mounted the proper mourning for his deceased uncle, and went forth to pay a round of visits. People in India do not consider it necessary to exclude themselves from all society, when they hear of the death of a relative at a distance, unless the relationship be a very near one; and Peregrine, who, as we have said before, neither cared nor pretended to care about his uncle, did not consider it necessary to shut himself up, because Mr. Poggleton, just two months ago, had fretted himself into a watery grave. So two or three days after his arrival in Calcutta, he set forth, in one of Dr. Fitz-simon's carriages, to see all his affectionate friends, who were, we doubt not, as much rejoiced at his return, as they could be at any thing which was not of immediate importance to their own interests.
There was a grand fancy ball on the tapis, and as a matter of course, every body was talking about it. It was the one great subject of conversation--the leading idea in fashionable circles and for once
the besetting apathy of Indian society seemed to have been fairly banished out of doors. After a vast quantity of preparatory discussion and two or three meetings at the town-hall, the important day had just been fixed upon, stewards chosen, preliminaries settled, advertisements published in the morning papers; and, as a consequence of these manifestations on the part of the bachelor community, all the ladies of Calcutta were, of course, in a flurry, and the milliners on the qui vive. Every body was beginning to cogitate profoundly on the great question of what dress was to be worn on this momentous occasion. Books of costumes were in great demand, and Walter Scott's novels were dipped into. The extravagant began to ponder on new velvets, gold lace, and ostrich feathers; whilst the economical were thinking what old dresses they could cut most successfully into costumes, and how they could make the greatest show at the least possible expense. The inquisitive were pretty well engaged in trying to find out how Mrs. This, or Miss That would be dressed, whilst the mysterious were taking as much pains to prevent others from discovering the nature of their contemplated disguise, and looking as important and secret-department-ish as any three days old member of council. Every body, though all in different ways, was full of the fancy ball, and to have talked about any thing else, in society would have been as preposterous as talking to a young mother, just out of her “ month," about any thing else in the world but her sweet, darling, pet of a baba.
“Well, Mr. Pultuney," asked a young lady, at the first house where Peregrine called, “ and what dress are you going in pray? I won't tell any body, I won't indeed, not even mamma.”
“ You must tell me first,” returned Peregrine, “ how you are going, and then I'll think of it perhaps.”
" That's too bad,” said the young lady, pouting, " but I'll find out, if you do not tell me; depend upon it I shall find out.”
" Why," rejoined Peregrine, “ I really make no secret about it, for the fact is that—but pray, tell me Miss Singleton, how you are going to
“Oh ! really I can't ; I have promised not; have I not, mamma?”
Mamma nodded her head and looked mysterious.
“ Well, I can guess, I think,” suggested Peregrine.
" I'm sure you cannot.” “ Shall I try?” “ Yes, by all means--you are sure to fail though.” “ Not at all-you will tell me if I guess right." " I'll think about it,” said the young lady. " Well, then-Amy Robsart!" The young lady was silent. “ Amy Robsart!" repeated Peregrine. The young lady looked at her mamma. "Ah! you see, I knew," continued Peregrine. “ How did you know?" asked the young lady.
“ A little bird told me," replied Peregrine, laughing; but he might have said that he had not lived one-and-twenty years, without knowing that young ladies with light brown hair and fair complexions, are sure to think themselves the very images of Amy Robsart, and to choose the character, with all modesty, to figure in at fancy balls.
The young lady begged Peregrine not to tell any body, and Peregrine, of course, promised that he would not.
“ And how are you going yourself?'' she asked. " It is only fair that you should tell me now."
“Why, I am not going at all,” replied Pere. grine.
“Dear me! not going at all-why not?" asked the young lady's mamma.
Peregrine held out his hat and pointed to the broad crape.
“Oh! I forgot,” said the lady.
At the next house which Peregrine visited, the same question greeted him— "What are you going as?" asked Mrs. Delafosse.
“ As the Earl of Leicester," replied Peregrine.
“ No, are you really-dear me! have you quite made up your mind ?” asked the lady.
“ Yes," said Peregrine, “I have ordered my moustache.”
“But a moustache will do for any dress, " urged Mrs. Delafosse, “ for instance, if you were to go as King Richard the Third.”
“ Thank you," observed Peregrine, bowing.
" Or Edward the Black Prince," continued Mrs. Delafosse, who did not quite know what Peregrine was bowing for; "or, let me see, who was that man I was reading of in the novel the other day?”
“Confucius," suggested Peregrine, slyly. “Ah! very true,” returned the lady. “It confuses us, at least it always does me, there are so many names in those novels—but I think now it was somebody or other in the Last days of Pompey.”
“ Cæsar, perhaps ?”
" Ah! why not go as Julius Cæsar,” continued Mrs. Delafosse;" a very good character indeed. You might wear a helmet you know—just as you do at your Dum-Dum reviews, one of those round things, with the tiger-skin tops to them."
“ But why should I change my mind at all ?" asked Peregrine,“ why not go as the Earl of Leicester?"
“ Because I know somebody else, who is going as the Earl of Leicester.”
“ To your Queen Elizabeth,” observed Peregrine.
" What a man you are! Well, I won't tell you -you will see when the time comes. Do you know how Miss Sweetenham is going? I hear it's to be something very beautiful. You know Miss Sweetenham of course.”
“ A little," returned Peregrine, “ I have danced with her-I know her aunt, and am going to call there."