The Project Gutenberg eBook of The Pit Town Coronet: A Family Mystery, Volume 1 (of 3)

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Title: The Pit Town Coronet: A Family Mystery, Volume 1 (of 3)

Author: C. J. Wills

Release date: February 23, 2013 [eBook #42167]

Language: English

Credits: E-text prepared by Robert Cicconetti, Sue Fleming, and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team ( from page images generously made available by Internet Archive/American Libraries (



E-text prepared by Robert Cicconetti, Sue Fleming,
and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team
from page images generously made available by
Internet Archive/American Libraries


Note: Images of the original pages are available through Internet Archive. See

Project Gutenberg has the other two volumes of this work.
Volume II: see
Volume III: see



A Family Mystery.






[The right of translation is reserved and the Dramatic Copyright protected.]





I.In the Rose Garden 1
II.The Croquet Party 26
III.The Village Dorcas 45
IV.Walls End Castle 67
V.At the Pandemonium Club 96
VI.Georgie's Wedding 118
VII.Lord Mayor's Day 138
VIII.At the Castle 161
IX.Anastatia's Courtship 182
X.Rome.—The Ballo Papayani 205
XI.A Meeting in the good Old Style 229
XII.The Villa Lambert 256

[Pg 1]




Big Reginald Haggard had been exceedingly attentive to the elder of two very pretty girls of the name of Warrender. Both families came from the eastern counties. The Warrenders had inhabited The Warren, or at all events the older portion of the house, for nearly four centuries. They were harmless people. They manfully stuck to their ancestral acres of fat Essex land. The present head of the family farmed the greater part of the estate himself, as his fathers had done before him. Many a Warrender had held the rich living of King's Warren, and the parson, whoever he might be, and the [Pg 2] reigning Squire Warrender were always the two greatest men in King's Warren village and parish.

In the rather old-fashioned garden at The Warren sat a young lady, an open book upon her lap; the book was not a novel, it was an argumentative work, a book which dealt with the social problems of the day. But, alas! the book which Georgina Warrender had brought out with the serious intention of reading, for the Warrenders of either sex, though always soft-hearted, were a hard-headed race, lay upside down upon her lap. The fact is that she was weighing a man in the balance, an interesting occupation for a lady, and, alas! finding him a little wanting. Georgie Warrender had received a great deal of attention during the London season. Her people were well-to-do, the ancestral freeholds were unencumbered, her family was eminently respectable and well known, her connections unimpeachable; but Miss Warrender's principal attraction to those [Pg 3] who had the privilege of her acquaintance outside the world of balls, dinner parties and musical evenings, was the sturdy open-heartedness of her character, which often distinguishes well brought-up young ladies who have been reared in an atmosphere at once intelligent and healthy, but not ultra-intellectual. Miss Warrender had no craze. She played and sang sufficiently well, but not well enough to be a terror to the home circle. She drew and sketched, as a pastime, but she had no desire to compete with professional artists, nor was her conversation interlarded with the jargon of the craft. Her reading had been carefully directed by her governess, Miss Hood, who had remained to discharge the onerous duties of chaperon, guide, philosopher, and, above all, friend to Georgie Warrender and her cousin Lucy.

Lucy Warrender was Georgie's cousin on the father's side. Colonel Warrender, as the younger brother, was naturally intended [Pg 4] for the family living of King's Warren. But fiery young George Warrender declined the Church altogether, so he was sent to Hailybury, and then he became a soldier of John Company, and was soon known as Fighting George Warrender, and by dint of following his own bent attained the colonelcy of a native regiment. Then he had a good determined shake at the pagoda tree. And then he made a fool of himself, for just as he had come down to Bombay, having made up his mind to take two years' leave, he was smitten by the blonde beauty of a newly-imported "spin," fresh from the boarding-school; and being an impulsive man, Colonel George Warrender married the little boarding-school miss, and changed his mind about his furlough. Within a year his daughter Lucy was born. And then the cholera came to Bebreabad, swept off Colonel Warrender and his pale-faced child-wife; and the little Lucy, his orphan daughter, came home at once in charge [Pg 5] of an ayah in the Company's ship "Lord Clive." On her arrival Squire Warrender pitied the little misery, as she was called by everybody, and treated her as his own daughter. There was but two years' difference between the girls, and they looked upon each other as sisters. The squire's wife had died within a year of his daughter's birth, so that practically neither of the cousins had ever known a mother's care. Squire Warrender's wife had been a local beauty, and her portrait, which hung in Mr. Warrender's study, represented a loveliness of no common type.

Both the girls rode well, but neither was horsey nor doggy. One of the greatest attractions in everybody's eyes about Georgie Warrender was her openness; she never had a secret from Miss Hood, her father, or her cousin. In fact, secrecy was foreign to her nature. As to her appearance, she was a fine, well-developed, thoroughly English girl, fully justifying the raptures and rhapsodies of her numerous admirers. [Pg 6] But it is not with her appearance that we are at present concerned, but with the subject of her meditations.

That subject was a serious one, for in her pocket was a formal proposal from Reginald Haggard, whom she had known as "Big Reginald Haggard" from her childhood. It is probably an axiom that every English girl, under ordinary circumstances, accepts her first offer; the reason of this is not very manifest, but it is nevertheless a fact, and its being a fact is doubtless one of the causes of the numerous ill-assorted matches that constantly take place. But Miss Warrender, now twenty years of age, had been an exception to the rule. During her first and successful London season, now just over, she had refused three serious offers. The first was from an impecunious young barrister, who had attained some repute in the literary world, and had very nearly killed himself [Pg 7] in the process. Mr. Baliol had admired Miss Warrender, had made careful inquiries as to her father's position, had discovered that the two girls would probably be the old man's heiresses, and had promptly proposed to Georgie. He had been as promptly refused. Mr. Baliol was in no wise disconcerted. He immediately proceeded to dedicate his new novel, "A Woman's Fickle Heart," "to Miss G—— W——, in token of respectful admiration." Baliol scored another success at the circulating libraries, and at once ceased to trouble himself any more about Miss G—— W——.

Georgina's second proposal was of a more serious nature. Young Lord Spunyarn had made her an offer. Lord Spunyarn desired an ornamental wife. To him the ideal Lady Spunyarn was a young person respectably connected, good-tempered, and of prepossessing appearance. Not one iota did Spunyarn care for money, birth or brains; of money he had plenty and to spare: as to birth,[Pg 8] was he not Lord Spunyarn? as to brains, clever women were considered bores by his lordship. The young nobleman liked Georgie Warrender, and he liked her people. Though rejected, rather to his astonishment, it made no difference in his friendship with the family. "It's an awful bore, you know. Unluckily they all know it at the club—I mean that I was going to make you an offer—and I heard that one of the society journals had the announcement of our engagement already in type. You see, I was to have dined here to-morrow. If you don't mind, I'll come all the same." He did come, did full justice to the dinner, sat next to Georgie, whom he took down, and the pair, thoroughly heartwhole, had a great deal to say to each other.

Georgina's next experience was of a more comic character; her conquest was no longer a nobleman, but a "noble." Jones di Monte-Ferrato was a Maltese noble. He possessed certain rights of nobility in the island, his [Pg 9] income was derived from the sale of Maltese oranges; in fact he was the titular head of Jones and Co., the well-known fruit house of Thames Street. In Thames Street, Jones di Monte-Ferrato said nothing about his nobility, he was "our Mr. Jones." But on his visiting cards was a portentous crown, and Jones di Monte-Ferrato habitually wore a coloured boutonnière in his frock coat; being red, this decoration was popularly supposed to be the Legion of Honour: it had been purchased however, and purchased cheaply, from the Pope. Jones' nobility carried him far in Maida Vale and Bayswater. Needless to tell, Miss Warrender would have nothing to say to him.

To say that Georgie Warrender was perfectly heartwhole as she unfolded Haggard's letter, is nothing but the truth. Of course she liked young Haggard, but so did every one. Haggard had enjoyed an extraordinary popularity. Related as he was to the Earl of Pit Town, he was a welcome guest in [Pg 10] the best houses. He had been a dancing man, and could dance well, was exceedingly good-looking, and consequently a catch at the small and earlies and also at more elaborate entertainments. When a very young man he had been a detrimental, having rapidly dissipated his little fortune. Penniless, he went to America; in eight years he returned, well off, as good-looking as ever, and with the possibility, the extremely unlikely possibility, of one day succeeding to the earldom of Pit Town. There are some men who always fall on their feet, some men for whom fortune is never tired of turning up trumps; Haggard was one of these men. When it is said that Haggard was a man of the world in its broadest sense, nothing remains to tell. If he had a religion at all it was the worship of his own dear self. Big Reginald remembered Georgie Warrender as a chit of twelve; he met her again one of the brightest ornaments of London society; he heard her [Pg 11] spoken of there as handsome Miss Warrender; and just as he would have longed for a very valuable hunter to carry his sixteen stone to hounds, so he desired to obtain Georgie's hand; because without doubt she was the handsomest, healthiest, pleasantest and most unexceptionable girl it had ever been his good fortune to come across.

The letter seemed honest enough, it was short and to the point.

"Dear Miss Warrender,

"You will probably not be surprised at my addressing you on a subject important to us both. We have known each other since the time when you were a little girl and I was a big bad boy. I don't trouble you with business matters, but I have spoken to Mr. Warrender and fully satisfied him on that head. It is with his approbation that I ask you to become my wife. I know that the very remote possibility of a coronet will not [Pg 12] weigh with you, but I do think you ought to let it count against my disadvantages. You will get this at breakfast time. I shall ride over about eleven to urge my suit in person; may I hope that your good nature will spare me the negative I doubtless deserve, and that you will give me a chance?

"Yours very affectionately,

"Reginald Haggard."

As Georgie replaced the letter in its envelope she blushed; had Haggard been indifferent to her she would not have hung out this signal of distress. It is impossible to follow the course of reasoning of a woman's mind. Georgie Warrender was no raw girl to be caught by the mere good looks of big Reginald. But first impressions go a great way; she remembered the young fellow in the reckless daring of his first youth; she remembered, too, her feeling of pity when she heard of the prodigal's banishment to a far country to feed the [Pg 13] proverbial swine. Georgie remembered, too, the triumphant return of that prodigal some six months ago. She had been pleased at the prodigal's attentions, and she knew that many girls, of far greater social pretensions than her own, would willingly have accepted the addresses of the bronzed, curly-headed giant with the big moustache. Perhaps she would have been wiser had she taken counsel with Miss Hood, or had she deliberated more calmly. But Georgie was a self-reliant girl. Even now she heard the measured tread of her lover's hack as he trotted up to the hall door of The Warren. She looked at her watch, it wanted five minutes of the hour. Miss Warrender smiled at her lover's excessive punctuality; his impatience boded well she thought.

Another instant and he is striding down the path of the rose garden; a happy look is on his face, though it is slightly pale with suppressed excitement. Georgie Warrender's pink roses attain a damask hue as she [Pg 14] rises to greet him.

Fortune, fickle goddess, still befriends her favourite. There was no outward sign of hesitation or diffidence about Haggard, as he held out his hand to Miss Warrender.

"It's very good of you to see me; I'm afraid I don't deserve it," he said, seating himself beside her on the rustic bench, and, man-like, commencing to bore holes in the gravel with the stout ash-plant which he carried. Youth and maid decorously continued to gaze upon the ground and to critically study their own foot coverings. Haggard was a man who looked well in any dress, but the grey tweed suit which he wore, the artistic bit of red of his loosely-tied sailor's knot, his big grey felt hat, his leggings also of tweed, even his stout but well-made lace-up boots seem to give the young giant the needful halo of romance. This, the usual morning dress [Pg 15] of a young English gentleman in the country, is what is generally selected as the costume of the hero of an Adelphi drama, when that wonderful young man is discovered in his virtuous home prior to the commencement of his numerous sufferings and hair-breadth escapes. As for Georgie, the conventional French muslin set off her faultless figure, a large Leghorn hat protected her delicate complexion from the sun's rays, her magnificent hair was worn in the rather severe Grecian style, but then the big plait at the back was all her own, and the bronze chestnut locks, tightly strained as they were around her head, disclosed the small shell-like ear, that sign of breeding which it is impossible to counterfeit. Probably Georgie Warrender had been right when, as a girl, she had declined to have those pretty ears pierced. If we accept the hypothesis that beauty unadorned is adorned the most, then Georgie in her native loveliness was, indeed, highly [Pg 16] decorated. But she was nervous in this formal tête-à-tête; this showed itself in her heightened colour, which was still maintained, and in the occasional movement of her delicately fashioned little bronze shoes. As Sir John Suckling said long ago:

"Her feet beneath her petticoat,
Like little mice peeped in and out,
As though they feared the light."

The quotation is somewhat hackneyed, perhaps; but it ran through Reginald Haggard's mind, as he prodded his stick into the gravel.

"I'm afraid, Miss Warrender, that I have betrayed you into a tête-à-tête. Your father wished me luck, and told me I should find you here, while your cousin informed me that we should be quite undisturbed. May I hope that you will give me a chance; that possibly, after a time, I may not altogether be indifferent to you, Georgie?" Again the rosy flush mantled on the girl's tell-tale cheek. Haggard continued, "Of course you have seen, dear Georgie, that [Pg 17] I have been very hard hit this season, for a lazy ne'er-do-weel like myself to dance attendance at every entertainment that Miss Warrender graced with her presence, must have made the state of my affections pretty manifest I suppose. We have known each other a long time. I have never done anything mean or dirty that I know of, Georgie. Of course I was a young fool, and kicked up my heels as young fools do. But I think I have had all the nonsense knocked out of me. My roving life in Mexico and my chase after the almighty dollar have sobered me. Can you trust me, Georgie? I'll be good to you, upon my word I will. Good to you and proud of you, if you'll only give me the chance. You are too clever for me to attempt to argue you into it. But, dear Georgie, I love you as I never loved any woman breathing, and not with the mere passing fancy of a boy. I have seen the world and a good deal of life, the gilded and [Pg 18] the seamy sides. Tell me, Georgie. May I hope? Will you give me a chance?"

Georgie looked into his eyes and smiled. He had spoken it trippingly on the tongue, though seemingly spontaneous, it had been well thought out; for Haggard was an actor, a leading gentleman, well experienced in lovers' rôles. It is not meant by this that Haggard was what the old song calls a "star-breasted villain." But Georgie Warrender was not by any means his first love. Haggard looked upon Georgie as a valuable acquisition; from the physical point of view she was the finest, freshest, fairest girl he had come across. And he coveted her as an amateur covets a picture; that it may belong to him, and that others may fruitlessly desire his pearl of great price. True, no sordid consideration influenced Haggard. Can we call this love? Let us be charitable and do so. But we will also be just and qualify. It was love of the nineteenth century, of the society type. [Pg 19]

"You pay me a great compliment, Mr. Haggard, a very undeserved compliment. I cannot pretend to be taken by surprise, for, as you say, your attentions have been very marked. What am I to say to you? With a girl it is a very serious matter; for once we give our hearts, at least some of us, Mr. Haggard, we give them for good and all. A mistake once made, in our case, cannot be set right. Our affections once given away to a man, and perhaps afterwards flung aside, then leave us with nothing to bestow but our miserable selves. Are you quite sure you have made up your mind, and that you won't want to change it?" she said, looking up archly in his face.

But his teeth were set, and the muscles of his massive jaw were working hard, as he gazed intently on the gravel at his feet. It was evidently no laughing matter with Haggard. The muscles of his jaw had worked in a similar way only a week ago, when he stood on the grand stand at Epsom, [Pg 20] and saw the favourite, whom he had backed heavily, almost "collared" on the post; but the favourite had won, and Dark Despair had failed to land the odds of sixty to one laid against him. So had the muscles of Reginald Haggard's jaw worked when he had "bluffed" Don Emmanuel Garcia at the almost historical game of poker, which they had played at Chihuahua. Haggard had only held knave high, about as small a hand as a poker player can hold; he had successfully "bluffed" the Mexican, and won. He is bluffing now, for hearts are trumps at the game that is being played; and we, who look over the cards of both hands, can see that big Reginald's at least is a poor one. Will he win? Of course he will. What chance has Georgie Warrender against so experienced a player? The stakes were Haggard's before he had cut or shuffled the cards.

"Sure, Georgie? of course I'm sure. I may hope, then? I may dare to hope?" [Pg 21]

Wise man as he was, he carried the place by a determined rush. He took her hand in his, the taper little fingers were not withdrawn.

"Georgie, darling, how can I thank you? I am not good at this sort of thing."

If he had not attained perfection in the art of love, it was certainly not for want of practice; for if the truth be told, the big Lothario habitually made love to every pretty woman he met; and if there was no pretty woman, then to the least unprepossessing one of those present. The rest of the conversation went on much as such conversations usually do. Haggard swore eternal constancy. Georgie confessed that she "supposed she did care for him." But this modified sympathy did not satisfy Haggard; he pleaded for something more explicit.

"I have always liked you, Mr. Haggard," she said, for Georgie could not yet bring her [Pg 22]self to address her lover by his Christian name; "but I fear I must seem a very poor creature after all the dashing South-American beauties, to say nothing of the many recognized successes of the past season."

"But you were the success of the past season, Georgie. Everybody knows it. Why, they raved about you. You must know very well that Madame Hortense made a little fortune with the 'Warrender' hat."

"Ah, that was Lucy's idea, not mine, Mr. Haggard."

"A very charming idea, Georgie, but never so charming as when you wore it."

Georgie Warrender rose and made him a low courtesy. "I see you deal in sugared compliments," she said.

He got up and offered his arm.

The hideous and snobbish custom of taking a lady's arm had not then been invented. And to do him justice, even if it had, Haggard was too much of a gentleman to have attempted it. For customs borrowed from the habits [Pg 23] of the demi monde would have been sadly out of place with a girl like Georgie Warrender. With her cousin it might have been different; but with Georgie the thing would have been impossible.

As the extent of his own good luck began to dawn upon Haggard, he felt that the world had indeed gone very well with him; for as he had marched down the walk of the old-fashioned rose garden that morning, for the first time in his life he had felt diffident of success; for the first time in his life he now vowed in his fickle mind to be true to the smiling girl who, in the bright glamour of a first love, hung so confidingly on his arm. Of course he vowed eternal constancy. At lovers' perjuries they say Jove laughs, and well might the whole Olympian chorus have joined in the loud guffaw with which the king of all the gods doubtlessly greeted the protestations of Fortune's favourite. As each drank deep draughts of the subtle [Pg 24] poison from the other's eyes, their glances grew brighter, and they were only awakened from the dream that comes to us all, at least once in our lifetimes, by the imperious clash of the luncheon-bell. Old Mr. Warrender and Lucy appeared upon the lawn, and the broad smile on her father's face and Lucy's merry laugh told the happy pair that they might spare any explanation. Georgie, in the pride of her honest love, disdained to take her hand from the young man's arm. With womanly dignity she advanced to meet her delighted father. He kissed her on the forehead, and then the blushing girl took refuge in her cousin's affectionate embrace.

"Be good to her, my boy," said Squire Warrender, his honest voice a little broken as he thought of the old days of his own too short-lived happiness, and of the proud dead beauty, Georgie's mother. It was a short speech, but it rang in Reginald Haggard's ears for many a year. [Pg 25]

Will he be good to her? He should be. If not good to her, surely Reginald Haggard will be less than a dog.

[Pg 26]



Everybody agreed that the day had been a success. The lawn at The Warren was an ideal croquet-lawn, large, level, and daisyless. It was an old lawn, and was carefully watered. What better place, then, for the local tournament to be fought out upon, than the old lawn at The Warren.

At last the final game has been played. The day had been excessively warm. Everybody was sitting in the shade discussing the claret-cup, the syllabubs, the strawberries and cream, and the home-made confectionery, that were so freely pressed upon the large and rather miscellaneous assemblage which filled the old-fashioned grounds of Diggory Warrender. The owner of this archaic name [Pg 27] we have met for an instant in the preceding chapter. He was a hale old country gentleman, a J.P. for his county, and universally liked. Perhaps there was more of the yeoman than the squire about old Mr. Warrender. Though he farmed many acres, yet he did so at a profit, strange to say. But perhaps this is hardly to be wondered at when it is remembered that the acres were his own, and that consequently there was no rent to pay.

Mr. Warrender, who rather scorned claret-cup, was about to discuss the merits of a foaming tankard of home-brewed ale. The ale was good; perhaps it tasted the better to old Warrender as he drank it from the silver tankard of the time of Charles I., which bore the name and arms of his ancestor, Diggory Warrender, armiger, of that epoch.

"Won't you try some, Lord Spunyarn?" old Warrender said; "It has made me the man I am," and certainly this statement was [Pg 28] a flaming testimonial to the merits of the Warren ale; for old Warrender, who stood six feet in his socks, seemed to be all muscle, while his white and perfect teeth, he being a man of sixty-five, proved that, at all events as yet, physical decay had not set in, in the master of The Warren.

But Lord Spunyarn shook his head as he signed to the butler to give him what he termed a B. and S.

"Beer is too bulky for me, Warrender," said the spindle-shanked nobleman, as he stretched out his shapely but rather shaky hand for the panacea. "I object to bulk, Warrender, on principle; it is my terror of becoming a welterweight that made me go in for athletics. Why, look at my father, and they had to make a hole in the wall to get my grandfather's coffin out of the house. No, Warrender, mind and muscle are my strong points."

And so they were in Lord Spunyarn's own idea. Spunyarn was perpetually in training. He was ever matched against somebody, or against that very [Pg 29] successful competitor, Father Time. But Spunyarn was never "fit," to use a sporting term. Naturally of a weakly constitution, his originally puny form had been carefully educated and developed at the great public school where athletics, "tone," and Latin verse, are the only subjects seriously taught. Spunyarn had failed to catch the "tone," Latin verse was a closed book to him, but he stuck to athletics. The name of Lord Spunyarn was constantly to be seen in the sporting prints, and though Spunyarn pluckily struggled along, coming in last in the foot races, being knocked about in the middle-weight boxing matches (knockings about which, to his credit it must be said, he bore with the patience of a martyr), yet, with all his sufferings, no single trophy as yet adorned Lord Spunyarn's rooms in Jermyn Street.

To-day Spunyarn had been beaten in the croquet tournament, and his partner had put [Pg 30] down their united failure to the presence of Lord Spunyarn, while Spunyarn himself when they were beaten simply remarked, "Great mistake not taking the matutinal B. and S., you know." This hardly consoled the smart young lawyer, his lordship's partner, for his day's loss of time, his hotel bill, and his new and elaborate morning kit; still, he had had the honour of playing with a lord.

But metal more attractive soon compelled Spunyarn's attention, for his eyes fell upon the two pretty Warrender girls as they tripped towards the aged host, both hanging on the willing arms of the new Essex lion, Reggie Haggard.

Big Reginald Haggard was the ideal of the country maiden. He was not hideously beautiful, as it has become the fashion to depict the heroes of modern romance. It may at once be said that Haggard was undeniably good-looking. His long black moustache gave him, in the eyes of the ladies assembled at The Warren, the necessary [Pg 31] romantic air. What is very much to the point in such matters was the fact that he was also extremely well dressed. He had the military neatness without the military swagger, and for the first time in his life Haggard's well-cut clothes were paid for, to the unspeakable pleasure and astonishment of his tailor. For Reginald Haggard, who eight years ago had left the paternal mansion an expatriated black sheep, had returned a man of comparative wealth. Turned loose a mere boy in London, his money had been spent, as young men about town usually spend their money. That young but very fashionable club, the Pandemonium, that club which has an oyster cellar in its basement, which keeps open all night, and at which shilling cigars are de rigueur, had been the cause of most of young Haggard's embarrassments. At the Pandemonium Haggard had made the acquaintance of Captains Spotstroke and Pool, half-pay; that acquaintance had naturally proved expensive. Bets were made [Pg 32] and paid. Haggard was introduced to the bill-discounting fraternity, and had even lunched with the great Hyam Hyams; which fact shows how deep he was in the books of that great connoisseur and money-lender. As a rule Hyams's business lay only with members of the aristocracy, but Reginald Haggard was accepted as a client because he was distantly related to the Earl of Pit Town. Three lives, three good lives, stood between Haggard and the childless earl. There are such things as contingent post-obits. In these precarious commodities the fortune of Mr. Hyam Hyams had been made, under the astute advice of his solicitor, Mr. Morris Israels, of Bloomsbury Square, and it was to these precious securities that his dealings with young Haggard were confined. But at length Hyams would advance no more. Haggard, at an alarming sacrifice, parted with his jewellery, bid his family farewell, and quitted Essex for South America. At the expiration of eight years Haggard returned [Pg 33] as a landed proprietor, the owner of numerous ranches, and of countless flocks and herds. His liabilities in England consisted solely of his debt to Hyam Hyams. This debt, however, was only payable in the rather unlikely contingency of his succeeding to the earldom of Pit Town. Also, much in opposition to the wishes of that respected solicitor, Mr. Morris Israels, a power had been reserved to Reginald Haggard to pay off both the principal and its interest at any time, in the extremely unlikely event of his ever having the money to do so. Such was Haggard's position when he became engaged, as has been narrated, to Georgina, Squire Warrender's handsome daughter, at the end of her first and triumphant London season. It has been noted that among Georgie's numerous and most assiduous admirers had been our friend Spunyarn. He had proposed to and been rejected by Georgie, but they still remained sworn friends.

The two girls, the elder of whom was but [Pg 34] twenty, her cousin being two years younger, presented a striking contrast. Georgie was a remarkably fine girl of the true English type. Three centuries of Warrenders, a family which began as yeomen, but soon took its place in the squirearchy of its county, had transmitted to Georgie that healthy type, that sound physique and that clear complexion, which is seen only in England; and even in England, only among healthy rustics, or the women of those families of the upper class who habitually pass the greater portion of the year out of London. Not that Georgie Warrender was a mere rustic beauty, as her taper hands and tiny feet showed. It takes a good foot to look well in a walking shoe, and even in the trying walking shoe Georgie's foot was unmistakably a good one. Her clear blue eyes were honest and sympathetic; Georgie Warrender looked every one straight in the face, she had evidently nothing to conceal, nothing to be ashamed or afraid of. The two girls had been carefully educated,[Pg 35] the "ologies" having been wisely omitted. Georgie's magnificent chestnut bronze hair was her great attraction. It is needless to say that a lock of it was in Haggard's pocket-book, and that one of Haggard's raven curls was worn in Georgie's locket. The engagement was an open one. There was no self-consciousness about either of the parties. They were both evidently proud of it.

Lucy was in many respects the exact opposite of her cousin. Lucy was a blonde; pretty, rather in the American style. But unlike most American beauties, far from being a mere skeleton in a skin, Lucy was a plump, well-developed specimen of the dreamy blonde. In type she much resembled the descriptions of Madame de Pompadour in her youth, before she had seen and captivated the great-grandson of the Grand Monarque. She was mignonne, no other word will express it. Her strong points were her pink and white complexion, her masses of wavy golden hair, her [Pg 36] dark eyebrows and her magnificent hazel eyes; those dark dreamy eyes in which lurked latent fires. Young as she was, Lucy well knew how to use those eyes, and the way in which she gazed into the face of her cousin's betrothed seemed to detract nothing from his happiness. But in the same way she gazed into Spunyarn's face, it was not mere looking, it was "gazing." So she had gazed into the local general-practitioner's eyes when that poor young man looked at her tongue for the first time. It was Lucy Warrender's burning glance that had temporarily made the village doctor a discontented man, and had caused him to style his mid-day hashed mutton "muck."

In direct contrast, too, to her cousin's, was Lucy's mind. She was not a girl who could be loved by other girls. Save when employed in "gazing" she never looked any one straight in the face. The servants, our stern and acute judges, said that "Miss Lucy wasn't to be trusted, but that Miss Georgie was as [Pg 37] good as gold." As usual, the servants were right.

"Unsuccessful again, Lord Spunyarn," said Lucy, dropping him an ironical courtesy, and making a provoking little moue.

"As usual, and I suppose my own fault, though my last serious failure was certainly not my fault, but entirely due to you, Miss Warrender."

"It was certainly not your lordship's misfortune," smiled the young lady.

Haggard and his fiancée seemed to have a good deal to say to each other, but probably like that of most engaged persons, their conversation was merely childish.

And now the little crowd of players and spectators came to make their adieux. For in the country people still retain the fashion of bidding their hosts good-bye. Nay, more, they are in the habit of even thanking them for their entertainment, and for the pleasure they have received: whereas your fashionable, having had all there is to have,[Pg 38] and eaten and drank of what seemeth unto him good, carefully rejecting the less recherché viands, simply disappears. He was, and is not.

The Warrender girls were surrounded by a cluster of artless maidens; these shook hands and kissed, after the manner of their kind, and as they were more or less intimate with their hostesses. "He is perfect, quite perfect," whispered the rector's romantic sister, as she squeezed Georgie's hand, "but, oh, I do hope that you are sure of his principles, Georgie, dear, for in marriage so much depends, dear, upon principles." As Haggard's only principles were his personal comfort, filliped by the gentle stimulus of frequent flirtations, was Georgie quite right in replying, "Oh, dear Miss Dodd, I am quite sure of his principles?" Gradually the miscellaneous gathering took its departure. No man or male person left the premises without one of Lucy's fatal œillades; each one of the stronger sex, too, received a rather more than necessary pressure of her soft and dimpled hand. Many among the elders, nay, the [Pg 39] patriarchs even, felt their pulses quicken at the unexpected pressure and the sly bright glances; it made them feel, not as if they were smitten with the good looks of Lucy Warrender, but as if she herself had been captivated by the prepossessing appearance and manners of each special victim. That was the art of it.

The dinner that evening at The Warren was a cheerful one; the humours of the day were described with biting satire by the gentle Lucy. She it was who had cruelly incited the stout vicar to elephantine gambols, to the intense disgust and annoyance of his angular wife. Who but Lucy could have caused the coldness between young farmer Wurzel and his affianced bride, Miss Grains, the brewer's daughter? Who but Lucy, as she sat on the shafts of the horse-roller, listening with apparently rapt attention to the lucubrations of young Wurzel on the subject of shorthorns. Perhaps the clasped hands and the ecstatic [Pg 40] look were hardly necessary, for even so interesting a subject as stockbreeding. But Lucy had noted, out of the corner of her watchful eye, the arrival of Miss Grains, indignant and perspiring.

"You'll excuse him, Miss Warrender, it's more thoughtlessness than want of manners; but he oughtn't to be taking up your time like this," cried the brewer's daughter, as she bore off her reluctant prize. To this day nothing will ever persuade the buxom mother of farmer Wurzel's fine young family that her William was not actually audacious enough to propose to Miss Lucy Warrender, and that his attentions were favourably received. So often has poor William Wurzel been twitted on this matter that he has come to look upon himself as a very Lothario, rescued at the right moment.

In the drawing-room things went on much as they always do in country drawing-rooms in the hot weather. The girls sang; Miss Hood, their chaperon, played the inevitable Chopin;[Pg 41] but (as, unlike zoophites, chaperons cannot be cut in two pieces, and yet live) Miss Hood felt it her duty to leave Lucy, and to follow into the verandah Haggard and his fiancée. Perhaps, after all, this may have been rather a relief to the lovers, for they had had a long innings that day, no one having presumed to disturb the numerous têtes-à-tête of the engaged couple.

Squire Warrender sat asleep in his chair, his face covered by a big brown bandanna, so that actually Spunyarn and Lucy were practically alone. But the young lord didn't attempt to renew his attentions to Lucy. In his own mind Spunyarn perhaps felt that he was well out of it. Lucy, a past-mistress in the art of flirtation, was delicious as a friend; as a sweetheart there would have been two sides to the question; but Lucy Warrender as a wife would have been simply appalling and impossible. Lucy's bygone escapade with her uncle's second footman—for failing high game, Lucy Warrender was not above captivating even a second footman—had been carefully [Pg 42] hushed up. It was the cause of the poor young man's receiving a month's wages on the spot and his dismissal. For Miss Hood had detected him in passing a very pink-looking letter to Lucy Warrender. Pinker far than the letter were the face and ears of the guilty domestic, as he placed the intercepted missive in Miss Hood's hands, on her sternly ordering him to do so. Of course the letter was shown to Mr. Warrender; he was very angry under the circumstances. But the letter of the unfortunate Joseph, though it had caused him many agonies in its composition, was comic in the extreme. It was full of what the writer called "pottery;" it was the poor young fellow's first love letter. Alas, it was a mere answer to a letter of Lucy's; she had commenced the correspondence; it was she who had thrown the handkerchief.

Needless to say Lucy was deported at once, and Madame Planchette's, née Jones, finishing establishment in the Champs Elyseés received a fresh pupil. Lucy's minauderies could now [Pg 43] only be practised on her own sex. But even there the girl succeeded in setting the whole house by the ears; and causing the sudden dismissal of the Italian professor, a gifted Piedmontese, with a gigantic head of black curly hair and long but dirty nails. At the end of a year she returned to her uncle's roof, having achieved an intimate acquaintance with French argot; her accent, however, was undeniable. Miss Warrender, too, now added to her already dangerous fascinations the charms of a French manner and a Parisian accent. But her persistent secret studies of the works of Flaubert, Zola and Co. probably had not improved her mind. As soon as Miss Hood left the room, Lucy seized the opportunity, on finding herself thus practically alone with Lord Spunyarn, to give him a rather florid rendering of "C'est dans le nez que ça me chatouille," in which she out-heroded Herod, and was even more piquante and suggestive than Madame Chaumont herself. However, it did Spunyarn at all events no harm, French being a sealed [Pg 44] book to him. The strains of the syren at last woke her uncle, and brought back Miss Hood, who suggested that it was late. And the party broke up at last at her instigation.



[Pg 45]

The big room at King's Warren Parsonage was already fairly well filled. Old Mrs. Wurzel and the buxom but not too well-favoured heiress of the house of Grains were at the head of the table. Old Mrs. Wurzel was a personage in her way; she it was who made the annual contract with the local linen-draper; she it was who, as an adept learned in the art, officiated at the awful ceremony of "cutting-out"; she it was who, with infinite trouble, obtained for the school children those antiquated straw bonnets of a forgotten type, which were the despair of the juvenile village beauties. She herself had worn them in her youth, and they were the proper bonnets for "growing girls." But, alas! Nemesis had arrived; the head coverings worn in [Pg 46] country places thirty years ago had become once more the fashion, and the little maids from school had been voted by Spunyarn "quite smart people." It was Mrs. Wurzel who with her own fair but energetic hands had, with her famous cutting-out scissors, shorn away the luxuriant but obnoxious fringe which Jemima Ann Blogg, the poacher's daughter, had appeared in at the Confirmation. Jemima Ann had violently resisted, but her struggles were in vain; in this case the sheep had not been dumb when in the hands of the shearer: the daughter of the village Radical had returned to her father's roof weeping, but shorn. It is true that old Mrs. Wurzel had reluctantly paid to Blogg the sum of five pounds, under the threat of a summons for assault, but the honest fellow had honourably kept her secret as he had promised, and Mrs. Wurzel's reputation, as the champion of virtue and respectability, had in no way suffered, though she had paid her five pounds for it.[Pg 47]

The vicar's wife, whose principal characteristics were her interest in missionary work and the saliency of her angles, was a mere priestess in the little circle of which old Mrs. Wurzel was the permanent archdruidess. Vicars' wives had come and gone, but all had submitted, some after a brief struggle, to old Mrs. Wurzel's sway. But Mrs. Dodd, the present vicar's wife, retained the precious prerogative of choosing the book to be read at the monthly Dorcas. Mrs. Dodd's choice was invariably the biography of some missionary; and she did her best to carry out the idea that a Dorcas meeting should provide self-mortification for the ladies present, in the shape of coarse work for the fingers and repellent reading for the mind.

The village Dorcas was that happy neutral ground where the various ranks of society met on an equality. Here might be seen the three good-looking and well-educated daughters of the local draper. Nice girls these, but under the baleful shadow, the [Pg 48] bitter blight of trade. For country places are very conservative: the squire looks down on the yeoman, the doctor and the lawyer, all three of whom consider themselves considerably taller in social stature than the tenant farmer, who in his turn will eat no bread and drink no water in the houses of those Rechabites, the tradesmen. All these people, however, join in despising the rich stockbroker who has recently purchased the pretentious place which he calls "The Park;" the gates of which are almost celestial, being of bright gilded iron work. The unfortunate inhabitant of "The Park," notwithstanding his well-appointed barouche and his men in livery, is but a pariah. For not a year ago, till the big corner occurred in Mex. Rails in which he made his pile, little Sleek, of Sleek and Dabbler, of Throgmorton Street, had "been to business" every morning. Sleek now passes his time in good works, he takes a great interest in local affairs, and, unless he flings the whole matter up in a [Pg 49] rage, he may yet become a justice of the peace. Sleek finds it far harder work than fortune-making; but he pursues his Will-o'-the-Wisp with untiring energy. So do we all. It is for this, that Sleek contributes so liberally to the local charities. It is for this, that the two Misses Sleek, clad in shining raiment of needlework, are seated at the big table, pursuing the unromantic occupation of hemming huckaback towels of a more than Spartan coarseness. But something has been already gained by the monthly martyrdom; Mrs. Dodd and her sister-in-law the ethereal Anastatia address them as "dear," and they have a bowing acquaintance, which they energetically attempt to increase, with, the Misses Warrender.

Within this charmed circle the veterinary surgeon's womankind and the grocer's daughters also dare to tread, but they are there merely on sufferance. The line must be drawn somewhere, and the vicar's wife, as did her predecessor, drew it at that man of [Pg 50] blood, the harmless Kubble, the local butcher. He and the rest of those shut out from Paradise sought their enjoyment, and a perhaps more congenial society, at those buttery banquets, the tea meetings of the local Little Bethel. Thus, as in most country places, Dissent was at a premium among the humbler classes, and possibly the continued assertion of their position by the clergy of the State has had a good deal to do with the spread of Dissent in other villages than King's Warren.

There were at least a dozen ladies seated round the big table at the Parsonage. Our friends Lucy and Georgina were among the number, their simple muslins strikingly contrasting with the more elaborate garments of the Misses Sleek. Anastatia Dodd fluttered (it is the only word) round the workers, as they plied their busy needles; she "gave out" the various garments, or portions thereof, of mysterious shape; and as she did so whispered her little word of welcome, her [Pg 51] little chirrup of harmless gossip to each. Mrs. Dodd who sat at the bottom of the table as vice-chairmaness, now opened a thick black book in which various markers of coloured paper had been inserted. "I think we are all here," she said, as she put on her spectacles in a determined manner, and ominously cleared her throat. Nobody disputed this proposition; the hum of conversation ceased.

"I think we left off at the second appendix, which contained letters from the wife of the lamented subject of the biography. I will now continue.


"'July 21st, 18—.

"'Dearest Mary,

"'I received your welcome letter and the boxes of stores. You were quite right when you said that I seemed to be launching out in the matter of outfit. But I suddenly find myself (under Providence) a means of civilization to the poor benighted natives. These unfortunate heathen, [Pg 52] until our arrival, had no sense of propriety. M'Bongo, the great chief of this neighbourhood, paid a ceremonial visit to my husband. Of course we understood that he would wear the court costume of the Kukulokos. I seized the opportunity to watch what I supposed would be a most interesting interview, from behind a curtain. Oh Mary, what was my indignation when I saw the nasty savage enter our dear little morning room! His great shock head of woolly hair was dyed a bright yellow with quicklime, in his ears were a pair of huge ear-rings of massive gold that made my mouth water. (William told me afterwards that they were worth at least fifty pounds). On his head was the second-hand hat of some parvenu's coachman, gold lace, cockade and all. Fancy my horror, dear Mary, my terror, indignation and astonishment, when I perceived that the rest of his costume merely consisted of a thick layer of palm oil, with [Pg 53]which the wretch had covered his disgusting body. I saw no more; I need not say I fainted from the mingled effects of terror, indignation, and astonishment. On coming to, William told me that the courtiers, some twenty in number, wore precisely the same costume, minus the hat and ear-rings.

"'Such, dear Mary, was the degraded condition of M'Bongo and his court on our arrival; but it has been my happy lot (under Providence) to change all this, and my endeavours have not been without even an earthly reward. Only think, Mary, M'Bongo's ear-rings are now my own, my very own. They will reach you by the hands of Mr. Mackenzie, a worldly-minded Scotch merchant, but honest as to earthly things. On no account, dear Mary, in disposing of these priceless treasures, have anything to do with the jewellers, who I am told are extremely dishonest persons. You had better try to sell them to the South Kensington Museum as curios, or at [Pg 54]some fashionable bazaar; or failing these, to some wealthy but unworldly person, who takes an interest in our working in Africa. Do not forget to mention that they are royal ear-rings.'"

Here one of the Miss Sleeks coughed, but the broad grin on her face subsided instantly under the severe look which Mrs. Dodd gave her over her spectacles. After a short pause and a snort of indignation, the vicar's wife continued:

"'I have been the blessed instrument, dear Mary, of a great work in this country. M'Bongo and his whole court are now clothed, I am happy to say, at least to a certain extent. The greater portion of the royal garments have been obtained from me; unfortunately I have been compelled to take payment in cattle and grain. You remember my scarlet rep underskirt, the one I wore so much during our last winter in dear old England; with a little alteration at the waist, to which I have [Pg 55]added a green velvet collar, and an additional placket hole (through which the royal arms are thrust), and wearing my galoshes, M'Bongo attended service here yesterday for the first time. Both garment and galoshes were quite useless to me in this hot country. William was unable to persuade him to remove the cockaded hat, which he, in his benighted way, looks upon as a royal crown; but as my husband's is the only other hat in the country, this does not perhaps much matter. William has thus been happily able to report to the society the approaching conversion of M'Bongo and his imminent civilization. The poor king, however, complains much of the heat, and I am sorry to say only wears these robes on ceremonial occasions. Still it has been a great, great comfort to us both.

"'Yours lovingly,

"'Amelia Rees.'

[Pg 56]

"Many such interesting letters were received from our self-sacrificing countrywoman up to the death of her husband and fellow-worker. The sad end of the mission to King M'Bongo has been narrated in the body of this work. But Mrs. Rees was loth to leave her sphere in Africa, and is now happily married to Alonzo P. Jones, an energetic coloured Baptist minister, of Cape Coast Castle."

There was a universal sigh of relief.

"I wonder whether she wears the ear-rings?" remarked the elder Miss Sleek pertly.

"Perhaps they were the attraction to Alonzo P. Jones," suggested her sister, as she triumphantly folded and smoothed her second completed towel.

"It's always the way with them," sighed Miss Grains, who suffered from a complication of romantic tendency and very tight stays. "It's the money that attracts them, and possibly Mrs. Rees might have [Pg 57] been Mrs. Rees to the end of the chapter, if it hadn't been for the ear-rings and the sale of her old clothes for countless flocks and herds."

"Doubtless Miss Grains speaks from painful experience, my dears," retorted Mrs. Dodd, with a severe look at her victim; "but you may be quite certain that the acquisition of the ear-rings and the sale of the clothes were but the blessed means to an end, a mere spoiling of the Egyptians, that the work might progress."

"In fact, a robbing of Peter to pay Paul," suggested Lucy Warrender, but without raising her eyes from her work.

The needle of the archdruidress broke, as she shook her head viciously at the scoffer. "Ah, my dear, you shouldn't laugh at sacred things," said the elder lady.

"But I don't look upon Mrs. Rees as a sacred thing," cried Lucy, not to be intimidated. [Pg 58]

"A person no one would wish to know," chimed in Miss Sleek.

"Ah, but think how she loved the blacks, and gave herself up to them," cooed the vicaress, in a tone intended at the same time to convey instruction and reproof.

"Nasty thing," retorted Lucy, with biting sarcasm. "I suppose it was because she loved the blacks and gave herself up to them, that she married the energetic negro ranter with the dreadful name."

This proved too much for Mrs. Dodd. "I am surprised and ashamed, Lucy Warrender, at your attempt to depreciate the noble self-immolation of dear Mrs. Jones. Of course it is a great privilege to be married to a clergyman, a very precious privilege, but when he is a negro and a Baptist—hum—I suppose I must say clergyman, then a woman's life must be indeed a martyrdom."

"I suppose he beats her?" asked one [Pg 59] of the draper's daughters of the experienced Mrs. Wurzel.

"I sincerely trust he does," broke in the irreverent Lucy.

Just at this moment the door was hurriedly opened, and the Reverend John Dodd entered the room. He was a stout man, his principal characteristics being an intense pleasure in ladies' society, and an obliviousness of the fact that he was no longer the pale slim young curate of earlier days. A life of almost absolute inactivity, which was forced upon him by his wife's jealousy of the rest of the sex, had rendered the muscular young Dodd of Oriel a perfect Daniel Lambert. Little irreverent boys from the village corners were in the habit of shouting "Jumbo" at the poor vicar. He was accustomed to pursue them, but in vain; a stern chase is proverbially a long chase, and poor Mr. Dodd's futile efforts to capture his persecutors had become a bye-word. But the Reverend John [Pg 60] Dodd's weak point, the red rag to the bull, the bee in his bonnet, was his devotion to the fair sex. Handsome Jack Dodd, as he had been once called, in his undergraduate and curate days, had been accustomed to find his attentions very highly appreciated. The habit grew on him, love-sick maidens sighed, and love-sick maidens wept, but all in vain. Handsome Jack Dodd, a very clerical butterfly, flitted from flower to flower. His admiration was freely, openly, ardently expressed for every variety of female beauty. Was Jack Dodd a flirt? Not a bit of it; he was merely a fancier, just as there are pigeon fanciers and poultry fanciers; so Handsome Jack Dodd was a fancier, an admirer, a worshipper of the entire female sex: that is to say, the select specimens of it. What he could have seen in Canon Drivel's daughter who can say? though, when he married Cecilia Drivel, she was a well-known light of London. She it was who,[Pg 61] in the severity of her classic and rather imperial beauty, had posed to Mahlstick, R.A., for his well-known picture of Judith with the head of Holofernes. Alas! for poor Jack Dodd, he had assisted at the numerous sittings. He it was who had had the honour of sitting (that is to say lying prone on a bedstead of the period) for the headless trunk of Holofernes. To lie prone on a bedstead of any period, and have nothing to do for two mortal hours but gaze on the classic proportions of any lady—for Mahlstick was a strict disciplinarian and discouraged conversation—is enough to seal the fate of any man, even if he were of a less inflammable type than Handsome Jack. Miss Drivel was her father's only daughter, and ambitious; but four seasons, during which she was much admired, but never once received a serious offer, had warned the waning beauty not to neglect her opportunities. Miss Drivel was a lady of no imagination [Pg 62] and strong will; the interest of her father, a notorious pluralist, was very great: Cecilia Drivel was determined to marry Dodd. She did so, and her victim became her obedient slave, and was duly inducted to the fat living of King's Warren. In all things Jack Dodd, as the weaker vessel, yielded to his wife. He had but one drawback in her eyes, he retained his passion, his innocent passion, for the fair sex. At the shrine of beauty he remained a constant and ecstatic worshipper. This was Mrs. Dodd's cross, and she had to bear it. An idle life at King's Warren Parsonage, and frequent dinner parties, for the Reverend John Dodd was a popular man, had caused Handsome Jack to expand into a very Falstaff. Alas, anxiety had had precisely the reverse effect upon the vicar's wife. The once statuesque "Judith" had disappeared, and Mrs. Dodd's characteristics were now high principle and bone.

"Busy as usual, my dear," said the vicar [Pg 63] to his wife, as he proceeded to welcome each member of the female bevy in turn, devoting perhaps a little more time than was necessary to handsome Miss Warrender and her cousin.

Mrs. Dodd closed the thick black book with a slap. "I suppose work is over now for the day; you really should not intrude on our Dorcas, John," she said in a severe tone.

"My dear, it is my duty to encourage my parishioners in good works, nay, it is my pleasure," replied the parson.

"No one doubts it, Mr. Dodd," said the vicaress in an icy manner.

But Mrs. Dodd was evidently in a minority. The ladies crowded round their popular vicar. It is easy to spoil a man, and the Reverend John Dodd had been much spoilt by his parishioners, and seemed to like the process.

And now a whispered conference took place between the Misses Sleek. With [Pg 64] smiles and conscious blushes, the elder sister addressed the vicar. "Oh, dear Mr. Dodd, we do so want you to do us a favour," she faltered.

"Granted, my dear young lady, granted before it is asked."

Mrs. Dodd vainly sought to fix her husband with a freezing look, and gazed appealingly at old Mrs. Wurzel, but that experienced matron had been present at many similar scenes, and was rather amused than otherwise, to watch the discomfiture of the vicar's imperious wife. Mrs. Wurzel's eagle eye detected the little parcel which the younger Miss Sleek hesitatingly attempted to hold towards the vicar. "It is our own work, dear Mr. Dodd," she said, "and we hope, we do hope, we do so hope that you will accept them."

"And wear them too," chimed in her sister.

In an elaborate box, from which Miss Sleek rapidly tore the paper in which it was wrapped, and hurriedly opened, lay a dozen bands of the [Pg 65] latest ecclesiastical fashion.

"Oh ladies, dear ladies, so you equip your faithful knight for the fray; accept my grateful thanks, my very grateful thanks," sighed the vicar.

"So pleased you like them, dear Mr. Dodd," chorused the stockbroker's daughters.

The triumphs of decorative millinery were passed from hand to hand.

"They never made these," muttered old Mrs. Wurzel to herself, as she critically held one up to the light. "The minxes," she inwardly added. Mrs. Wurzel was quite right; they had been supplied, regardless of cost, from Messrs. Rochet and Stole's well-known establishment.

"Ah," purred Lucy Warrender, "the ladies used to arm their knights with their own fair hands in the days of chivalry."

The parson laughed. "And have the [Pg 66] days of chivalry departed, ladies?" he said, protruding his head, much as the unconscious aldermanic turtle is said to protrude his, when awaiting the fatal stroke.

Conny Sleek, the younger and bolder of the two, looked at her sister; the elder girl nodded maliciously.

Conny stepped smilingly forward, and proceeded to affix the band around the vicar's massive throat.

Fat Jack Dodd was in his glory; "Jumbo" was in the seventh heaven of bliss. A smile of beatitude spread over his enormous countenance during the process. But it suddenly disappeared, as a sharp slam of the door announced the sudden departure of his indignant wife, the outraged Cecilia. Will it ever dawn on Mrs. Dodd's mind, that parsons, even married parsons, are but men?



[Pg 67]

Walls End Castle was the seat of John, Earl of Pit Town. It had come into the family through the marriage of a former earl with the heiress of the great Chudleigh family. It was one of England's show places. The great park which surrounded it was one of the most celebrated in all England, celebrated alike for its size and its beauty. The entry to the park was never denied to artists; and they, their easels, and their umbrellas, might be seen at the various well-known "bits" all through the summer and autumn. The boys of the Elizabethan Grammar School had also the privilege of roaming in the park; and time had been when the people of the neighbouring town and the public [Pg 68] generally were admitted; but excursionists had arrived in crowds, they had destroyed the poetry of the place with pieces of greasy newspaper, broken bottles, ham bones, and the remains of their Homeric banquets. They had shouted and whistled in the great picture galleries, they had written their names upon the window panes, they had committed all the innumerable offences that such people do commit; but the final straw which determined the present earl to exclude them, was their having played at the game of Kiss-in-the-ring, one Whit-Monday, directly under the windows of the noble owner. After that memorable day, Lord Pit Town kept his castle and his park to himself.

His lordship during the earlier part of his reign never came near Walls End Castle. The widowed earl travelled continuously in Southern Europe. He travelled, and he collected pictures, statuary, gems, plate, china—nothing came amiss to him [Pg 69]. But John, Earl of Pit Town, was wise in his generation; he remembered that "if you sup with the devil, it is best to use a long spoon." He never purchased without an expert's aid; consequently the immense collection he had gradually accumulated was free from rubbish. Nothing doubtful or "reputed" ever arrived in the huge packing-cases consigned to Walls End Castle. For years his lordship was seldom seen in London, the great house in Grosvenor Square was never opened. When Lord Pit Town was in England, he stayed at Long's Hotel. Friends he had none; his doctor and his courier were the people who saw most of him. But as years rolled on his lordship grew tired of travel, his well-known figure, in the short blue cloak and velvet collar, was seen no more in the great picture galleries of Europe. Lord Pit Town now commenced the work of his life, the building of the new galleries at Walls End Castle. Winter and summer [Pg 70] the little old man, for he was over sixty now, might be seen in the blue cloak, inspecting the growth of the vast galleries with a critical eye. Emilius Wolff, his German architect, was his constant companion. The great Mr. Buskin paid him a yearly visit; on these occasions Dr. Wolff (for Wolff was a doctor of philosophy) joined his lordship and the great art-critic at dinner. At length the great Pit Town collection was housed as it deserved to be. Its principal feature was the picture gallery. This was a vast building of classical design, resembling a Grecian temple. Dr. Wolff was a Berliner, and the tradition of Berlin is that a picture gallery should resemble a Greek temple. The vast galleries were probably among the best in Europe. They were lighted and heated to perfection. But the great galleries had one peculiarity; at irregular intervals along the wall were blank spaces of varying size; in the centre of each space was a label [Pg 71] in his lordship's own writing: on these labels were inscribed the names of various great painters. It was now the only business of the Earl of Pit Town to gradually fill these spaces, each with a representative masterpiece of the artist indicated. Possibly John, Earl of Pit Town, notwithstanding his boundless wealth, could hardly hope to complete such a work in his own lifetime. The great Mr. Abrahams had an unlimited commission to secure at any price, a long list of great works. There was but one condition attached, any purchase must be above suspicion. But even the great Mr. Abrahams, on one notable occasion at least, had been deceived. A new acquisition, purchased from the collection of a wealthy amateur in the Rue Drouot, had arrived at Walls End Castle. A furious controversy concerning this picture had arisen among art critics. Herr Vandenbossche had defended the authenticity of [Pg 72] the work, but old Mr. Creeps had demolished him in an exhaustive article in the Friday Review. Old Mr. Creeps was considerably astonished at receiving an almost affectionate letter from Lord Pit Town. His lordship thanked him for the article, and requested what he termed "the exceeding great pleasure of receiving you here;" the letter was dated from Walls End Castle. Old Mr. Creeps accepted the invitation for a couple of days. On his arrival at the local railway station he was met by his lordship in person. Lord Pit Town, one of the proudest and most exclusive of men, treated old Mr. Creeps with marked deference. At dinner, at which John Buskin and Dr. Wolff were present, conversation ran purely upon art matters. Old Mr. Creeps, the critic, had never enjoyed himself so much; the sitting was prolonged till the small hours. Next day, at noon, the council of four sat in solemn conclave upon Lord Pit Town's latest purchase. Old Mr. Creeps triumphantly [Pg 73] proved his case. Lord Pit Town looked at Mr. Buskin. Mr. Buskin nodded. "Well, Wolff?" remarked his lordship.

"It is onhappy, most onhappy," replied the doctor of philosophy, "but I fear it is drue, too drue."

"What will your lordship do with it?" said old Mr. Creeps.

"You shall see," replied that eminent collector with a smile, as he advanced to the easel on which the doubtful picture stood. His lordship opened his penknife, carefully and quietly he cut the canvas out of the frame, he folded it in half; again he cut it, as though he were cutting up a sheet of brown paper; he repeated the process several times, then, handing the pieces to the German, he merely remarked, "Oblige me by burning these, Wolff."

"They shall make a vamous blaze," said the philosopher, as he left the room to carry out the sentence.

"Would that all collectors could afford to [Pg 74] do the same, Lord Pit Town," remarked John Buskin with a sigh.

"Your lordship has done a noble act," cheerfully cried old Mr. Creeps, as he rubbed his hands. "Of course you will trounce Abrahams. When the artistic world hears of this morning's work, Lord Pit Town, it will know what it owes to England's most distinguished amateur."

"No, no, Mr. Creeps. I must ask you to keep this business a secret; no cheap popularity for me," replied the old lord.

"Cheap!" echoed the critic, as he raised his eyes to the skylight. "Good heavens! he calls it cheap," whispered the old man to John Buskin.

"His lordship is right," was the oracle's oracular reply.

Men said that Lord Pit Town was eccentric. Gossips said that he was mad. Perhaps after all he was only honest according to his lights. Next day [Pg 75] the handsome frame, carefully packed, was returned to Mr. Abrahams; it was duly deducted from his account. But he got his cheque for the price of the picture, and his very liberal commission.

In vain did the artists who frequented Walls End Park attempt to stalk the old nobleman in his lonely walks. They never succeeded in selling him a picture from the easel. "Capital, capital," his lordship would remark with great alacrity, when there was no other way of escape. The eldest Miss Solomonson, the most talented member of that clever Hebrew family—she is great at animals—tried to shoot the wary old lord with her well-known picture of "The Timid Fawn," but she ignominiously failed.

"The old wretch called me 'my dear,' and said he liked my sky, when I hadn't even indicated the sky," she indignantly remarked to her amused father.

Miss Solomonson's masses of jetty hair, and the fire from the glances of her oriental eyes, were said to have melted the stony hearts [Pg 76] even of dealers who were her co-religionists. But with all her advantages Miss Solomonson failed with the old lord, and she abuses him to this day. She had her revenge, however, for in her well-known Academy picture of the following year, "Balaam and his Ass," the angel was represented by a glorified portrait of Miss Solomonson herself, who glared down in an indignant manner upon the terrified and kneeling Balaam. Old Mr. Creeps and the other art-critics chuckled as they recognized the angelic portrait; but they chuckled still more, when they saw that the terrified Balaam was but an ill-natured caricature of John, Earl of Pit Town.

"I'd have done him as the ass, you know, only he was too ugly. I hope he'll like the figures better than the sky this time," snorted the indignant Hebrew maiden.

The curse of the Earl of Pit Town's life was the so-called gallery of old masters in Walls End Castle. He couldn't sell them; he couldn't burn them; he was even compelled to insure them, to his intense disgust. For [Pg 77] when a former lord had inherited Walls End Castle from the Chudleighs, old masters had been the fashion; and the purchaser, delighted with his toy, had made the pictures heirlooms. But the present lord had shut up what to him was a mere chamber of horrors. He and Dr. Wolff had actually composed a catalogue raisonné of the entire collection, in which the fictitious nature of the claims to respect of each monstrous daub was triumphantly demonstrated. The sprawling Rubenses were shown to be but inferior copies, the Paul Veronese was proved a transparent sham, while the great Vandyck, representing the Martyr-King seated on a gigantic grey horse, was demonstrated to be but a wretched replica of a miserable original. There they hung, the old Pit Town heirlooms, grimy with dirt; for as the old lord used to say, "To have cleaned them would have been only to make their natural hideousness still more apparent." Each picture bore a [Pg 78] label, giving a true description of the once-honoured gem. Alas! these veracious tablets cruelly contrasted with the flourishes of the old housekeeper's descriptions.

Two only of his heirlooms had stood the crucial inspections of Lord Pit Town and his experts. These were the great Raphael, and the celebrated portrait of Barbara Chudleigh, the well-known beauty of Charles the Second's time, by Sir Peter Lely. Wicked Bab Chudleigh, as a wood nymph, simpered upon the walls of the new gallery in which the Chudleigh Raphael occupied the post of honour.

We have seen what manner of man John, Earl of Pit Town, was. We have seen how his heirlooms troubled him not a little. We have seen how he passed his life with the faithful Wolff at Walls End Castle, patiently waiting to fill the numerous blanks on the walls of the new galleries, in fact to accomplish his destiny. For if ever there was a born collector, a real collector, to whom the [Pg 79] actual intrinsic value of a painting was absolutely of no importance, it was John, Earl of Pit Town. And this indifference to the value at the hammer of their acquisitions, marks the distinction between the genuine collector or connoisseur and the ruck of the people who buy pictures; the bulk of whom are after all but amateur dealers. When the successful stock-jobber leaves off dealing in shares and takes to art, he merely deals in another more or less intangible security of very fluctuating value. With childlike confidence he follows the advice of some more or less honest dealer. He buys from the easel with a hope of a "rapid rise." Works are knocked down to him at Christie's simply because they are apparently cheap, and he is carrying out the old axiom of his trade, "always buy rubbish." In the same way he is perpetually buying and selling pictures upon the time honoured maxim of Capel Court, "nail your profit, and cut your loss." He will even go so far as to develop a taste [Pg 80] for a particular master in the hope that he may succeed ultimately in making a "corner" in that special security. And the sole dream of such a man is the result in pounds, shillings and pence of the auction that will inevitably take place at his death. The possession of a certain number of valuable works of art confers an amount of distinction upon their proprietor, and Brown, who as Brown is a nobody, becomes a somebody as the owner of the Brown collection. Of this fact Manchester "men" and Liverpool "gentlemen" are well aware. But, as has been seen, a deep gulf divided these amateur dealers from John, Earl of Pit Town.

The old earl's property, the source of his wealth, as from his title the reader will have shrewdly guessed, was in collieries. With the management of these, however, the Earl of Pit Town did not trouble himself. His various agents paid yearly increasing sums into that aristocratic bank in the Strand,[Pg 81] which never allows interest on deposits, which never advises any investment except Consols, and whose clerks from time immemorial have worn white chokers.

For many years it had been the old lord's habit to entertain those members of his family, never exceeding four in number, who were nearest to the title. Twice a year the formal invitation was sent out by the old nobleman to his only son, and to his two nephews. Once in the height of the summer and once at Christmas these invitations were issued. They were never refused, for their recipients looked upon them much in the light of a royal command.

Lord Hetton, the earl's only son, and his heir, was always one of the guests on these occasions; to him it was an exceedingly unpleasant time; for father and son had quarrelled years ago, the old lord having sternly declined to increase his son's very liberal allowance of five thousand a year. A man can do a great deal on five thousand [Pg 82] a year, but not much is left for the annuitant when he is possessed by the idea that, some day or other, it will be his good fortune to win the Derby. In all other things but race-horses, Hetton was a man of frugal mind. For the sake of his stud he had remained a bachelor; for he felt that were he to marry, yet another obstacle would be raised to the attainment of his ambition. Ever since his majority Lord Hetton had annually entered a colt in the great race. His nominations had on two occasions even run into places. Four years ago Hetton's horse had been first favourite, but it was ignominiously beaten. This very year, that rank outsider, Dark Despair, who, starting at sixty to one, had just been beaten on the post, was the property of his persevering, but unlucky, lordship. Twice a year did Lord Hetton present himself at Walls End Castle. He used to walk through the park, and note with pleasure the care that his father bestowed [Pg 83] on the gigantic property. It pleased him to see how well kept was everything about the place. It gratified him to find his opinions deferentially listened to by the steward, and to perceive that year by year the family solicitors treated him with a still greater obsequiousness. But in his heart, he cursed what he called his father's folly, as he looked at the new galleries; and he would have liked to stamp and swear, as at every visit he dutifully admired each new and costly acquisition of the old earl's. He would walk discontentedly up and down the old picture gallery where hung the worthless heirlooms that, in the ordinary course of nature, must one day be his own: and he wondered whether he should ever possess the Golconda contained in the new galleries. Perhaps it was only human nature that caused him to watch, and watch in vain, for any apparent sign of increasing infirmity in the old earl. But he never quarrelled with his father, for on the morning of his [Pg 84] departure from the paternal roof, he was accustomed to receive a very considerable solatium to his wounded feelings, in the shape of a heavy cheque on the bank in the Strand. The amount of this cheque was invariable; it kept Hetton on his good behaviour, and he had learned to look upon it as part of his allowance. On one memorable occasion he had presumed to remonstrate with his father on the enormous cost of his last artistic acquisitions; the earl had merely shrugged his shoulders. That visit had been indignantly remembered by Lord Hetton, for when the venerable connoisseur bade his lordship good-bye, there had been no cheque, though there was no change in his lordship's manner towards his son.

Mr. Haggard, of the Home Office, a faultlessly-dressed gentleman, whose principal characteristic was his brilliant whist, which it was said brought him in a certain but variable income, was the next heir in direct succession; he was the nephew of his lordship, and a childless [Pg 85] bachelor. His presence, also, always graced Walls End Castle at the regulation periods.

Mr. John Haggard, of Ash Priory, the father of big Reginald, was always the third guest. John Haggard, the second nephew of Lord Pit Town, was a J.P. for his county, of the Shakespearian type. He was fond of good living, his eye was severe, and his beard of sober cut. He embodied the law, in his own immediate neighbourhood, to the intense terror of local delinquents. He had meted out stern justice to his own son, when he had banished big Reginald to South America; but he had his virtues. He lived within his means, he entertained his neighbours at rather heavy dinners, he gave his wife and daughters a fortnight in town during the season, and he habitually took the first prize at the county show for black pigs. He never forgot that he was third in succession to the title. He never doubted his capacity, should he ever be called to occupy the [Pg 86] position of a hereditary legislator; and now that his son had returned a considerably wealthier man than he himself was, he chuckled, when in his mind's eye he thought of him as some day bearing the courtesy title of Lord Hetton.

The earl and the doctor of philosophy sat at breakfast in a little oak wainscoted room whose windows commanded a full view of the new galleries. In this little room the galleries had been designed; the windows had looked upon the commencement of the great work. An army of navvies had dug out the earth for the gigantic foundations. Then arose a very forest of scaffold-poles. Two huge steam engines had snorted and puffed for three whole years. A colossal steam "traveller" had ceaselessly carried great blocks of stone and long steel girders from point to point. The clink of the stone-masons' chisels had resounded year after year from morning till night. Then came the carpenters, and the noise of their busy [Pg 87] hammers had been deafening. When not actually on the works, Lord Pit Town had viewed them from the window of his favourite room. But scaffold poles, steam engines and labourers had disappeared; the rubbish had been cleared away, and the huge white block stood out in the clear air; dominating the grey weather-stained gables of Walls End Castle much as Aladdin's palace is said to have dominated the more ancient but less magnificent residence of his father-in-law the Emperor of China. There was an air of spick-and-spanness about the whole thing that annoyed the earl. The new galleries had been finished four whole years, but they still looked painfully fresh.

"I hear that I am to have the pleasure of welcoming another of your lordship's relatives this year," said the doctor of philosophy to the earl.

"Yes; Wolff 'where the carcase is there shall the eagles be gathered together.' I have kept them waiting for some years, and [Pg 88] I don't feel a bit like dying, Wolff. Though I confess I dread Hetton's critical examination. He always looks me over in his stud-groom sort of way. But I suppose, as he is my nearest relative, it is but natural he should be anxious about my health. As for the young fellow, I have never even seen him. My nephew wished to bring him, and he is about to marry. In fact he and his father will be the only married men among my direct heirs."

"And does the young man love art?"

"No. I think his talents are confined to spending money and getting into trouble. But my nephew tells me that he is now going to forswear sack and live cleanly."

"That is what I cannot understand, my lord. I had a cold the other day, a most severe cold. I tell the young man to bring me a cup of sack; he sends to me the butler. I say to him, 'Give me the sack.' He replied to me, 'I cannot do that, sir, it's only his lordship can do that.' What is,[Pg 89] then, this precious drink I read of in my Shakespeare—so precious, that your lordship will not trust him to his butler? And now you tell me that your nephew will drink him no more. I never see your lordship drink him. Has, then, your lordship forsworn him too?"

His lordship laughed as he finished his coffee. "No one drinks sack now-a-days, Wolff, and the quotation was merely figurative; while the other sack the butler talked about was but a vulgarism used by his class. You will never get that either, in my lifetime at least."

"I understand it not. But your grand-nephew, the young man, it pleases you that he shall marry?"

"It is indifferent to me, Wolff; if I can only live to fill the vacant wall spaces in the new galleries, I can seriously say, après moi le déluge. But here comes the first arrival."

One of his lordship's close carriages was [Pg 90] coming up the great chestnut avenue; Lord Hetton was its sole occupant. As the old butler received him in the hall, with the deference due to his master's son, the sporting nobleman laughingly commiserated him.

"We have neither of us any luck, Russell, as usual," he said. "I thought I had a real good thing this time. As usual, I put you on for a fiver, Russell; as usual, it didn't come off." Lord Hetton was of a frugal mind. He was continually presenting innumerable imaginary fivers to little people. He was always putting them on for them at tremendous odds, but the good things never came off, and the recipients of his favours were never informed of his munificence till after the event.

"I most humbly thank your lordship," replied the butler with an air of profound gratitude, as he chuckled in his sleeve. For the old man too was of a sporting turn. He knew all about Dark Despair, and annually he had carefully laid the odds [Pg 91] against Lord Hetton's nomination for the great race.

"The same rooms, I suppose, Russell?"

"Always the same rooms, your lordship."

Lord Hetton mechanically proceeded to his quarters.

On joining the earl, father and son met as if they had parted only the previous day. The pursuits of neither interested the other. Art and horse-flesh were subjects tabooed by mutual consent. A desultory conversation on politics, in which neither took the slightest interest, was a safe neutral ground. It was with a feeling of relief on both sides that the arrival of Mr. Haggard, of the Home Office, was announced. His lordship retired shortly to his study, Hetton and Mr. Haggard betook themselves to the billiard-room.

At dinner the family party was increased by the presence of John Haggard and his son, both of whom were well received by the earl, who now saw his grand-nephew [Pg 92] for the first time. Big Reginald's magnificent physique made its due impression; his father was evidently proud of him, and the old lord congratulated the young man on his approaching marriage.

Reginald Haggard was not diffident, he truckled to no one. He frankly avowed to his grand uncle that he knew nothing of art. When his lordship retired early, as was his custom, the other men adjourned once more to the billiard-room. Big Reginald took their lives at pool, and pocketed their half-crowns in an easy genial way, which almost made losing a pleasure.

During the fortnight in which Lord Pit Town entertained his relatives, nothing occurred to mar the harmony of the meeting. During that fortnight Big Reginald got on friendly terms with everybody.

Nothing seemed to overawe or intimidate the ingenuous youth. He saw with evident pleasure the outward and visible signs of the old earl's immense wealth. As he looked [Pg 93] round upon the priceless collection in the new galleries, as he thought of the old nobleman's huge estates, he remembered that the investment that Mr. Hyam Hyams had made in his own contingent post obits was probably a good one; he prudently determined to pay off the Jew as soon as he should realize his American properties. In his own mind he determined already that, should he ever be his great-uncle's successor, he would distribute the great Pit Town collection to the four winds of heaven. But he made one mental reservation, as he stood before Sir Peter Lely's masterpiece, and gazed on the lovely features and roving eye of "Wicked Bab Chudleigh:" "A monstrous fine girl. Yes, I should stick to her." If Reginald Haggard did come into the estates after all, and did "stick to her," she would be the first one of her sex he had ever stuck to.

Walls End Castle, when the party broke up, returned to its normal state. The earl [Pg 94] and the philosopher continued the even tenour of their ways. Lord Hetton took away his big cheque, which was duly honoured at the old-fashioned bank in the Strand. A cheque for a like amount had been given to Reginald Haggard by the earl. "Buy something for your wife that-is-to-be," he said to his grand-nephew, as he handed him the folded paper. "Warrender was one of my friends years ago, when I had friends," said the old nobleman with a sigh "They are good old-fashioned people the Warrenders, and honest. Don't thank me," he said, as he shook hands with the young fellow. "Of course you will come here with your father in the winter. I shall hope to see the new Mrs. Haggard too," he added. "Good-bye. I shall send you a formal invitation."

When big Reginald told his father of this interview, as they were driving to the station, Justice Haggard did not conceal his satisfaction. "He will outlive all of us, my [Pg 95] boy, Hetton into the bargain. Who knows but you may be one day Earl of Pit Town? Keep in with the old man if you can. His place, as you have seen, is perfect, all but the piggeries. He doesn't go in for pigs though, he goes in for pictures—every man to his taste. I prefer pigs."



[Pg 96] It was Wednesday night; over forty men sat down to the house-dinner at the Pandemonium Club. As usual the dinner was recherché, for the Pandemonium chef enjoyed a world-wide reputation. It is to be feared that the attractions of the house-dinner were not the sole inducement to many of those sitting there. A house-dinner always secured a large party in the card-room afterwards, and though the Pandemonium was a celebrated dining club, it was notoriously also a gambling one. Though the Pandemonium was a gambler's paradise, and many scandals had occurred there, yet the dirty linen had been always washed at home, and the exact details of these affairs had never leaked out. Young Spooner, of the Foreign Office, Sir John Spooner's, the Warwickshire baronet, eldest [Pg 97] son, had certainly left London as fourth secretary to the Teheran Embassy, where he still remained; while Rolls, a briefless barrister, who was fond of backing himself at the whist table, had taken his name off the books, though he had honourably paid his losses, and suddenly accepted the not over-brilliant position of an Assistant-Judgeship on the Gold Coast: pay there was high and promotion rapid, but no one had ever been known to live long enough to take a pension.

Magnums of the driest and most expensive champagne seemed to be the favourite beverage. But the whisters as a rule drank claret, in anticipation of the more serious business that was sure to follow the weekly house-dinner. Captains Spotstroke and Pool were equally careful; the rest of those present drank freely. The elaborate dessert was followed by a general move. Old Sir Peter Growler and Canon Drivel, D.D., retired to the smoke-room, where they retailed their old, but [Pg 98] exceedingly improper anecdotes, to a select circle of the very youngest men. In the billiard-room, pool at half sovereign lives, was commenced, and promised to run into the small hours—a sure harvest for Captains Spotstroke and Pool. In confidence it may be said that Spotstroke's little place in the south of Ireland only existed in his own imagination, his rents being entirely derived from his skill with his cue, and the certain income that he extracted from the very safe little book that he made on most of the great events of the year. A small contingent of the members hurried off to applaud the successful comic opera of the hour.

The card-room attracted its usual habitués, these sat down to whist; and if an unskilled unfortunate joined the fatal tables, he soon had reason to regret his temerity. Pound points were habitually played at the Pandemonium, and as the evening went on, though the points never varied, betting among the [Pg 99] players and the "gallery" usually became extremely heavy. Discussions never arose at the whist tables of this rather fast club, for the players had Cavendish and Pole at their fingers' ends. General Pepper, C.B., had raised his eyes in unfeigned astonishment and horror, when an old Worcestershire baronet, his partner, once made a reference to Hoyle, and professed himself unacquainted with "the Peter." Needless to say, the Worcestershire baronet had returned to his ancestral acres a sadder but a wiser man. He showed his wisdom in giving the Pandemonium card-room a very wide berth for the rest of his days. He subsequently had the good sense to join the comic opera division, and to finish his evenings with the undeniable oysters, for which the Pandemonium is so celebrated. No one was ever seen at this well-known club after lunch time or before dinner, save a few miserable veterans, to whom perpetual whist was a necessity. The bulk of the servants even,[Pg 100] only commenced their daily duties at dusk, while the steward never appeared till the dinner hour; but then he, poor man, had to be to the fore all night, for it was a stern rule in the card-room that I O U's were never seen, the play being always for ready money, in notes and gold. Mr. Levison, the amiable steward (originally from Hamburg), had a very Pactolus ready for the accommodation, for a consideration, of his numerous masters, in his iron safe. Levison's relations think he will cut up well at his death; Levison's relations are right.

It is one in the morning. Though it is in the height of summer the Pandemonium card-room is cool; they burn wax candles here, and gas is absolutely banished from this particular chamber of the club, where fortunes are sometimes lost and won. In most club card-rooms smoking is not permitted, but at the Pandemonium it is the fashion to smoke everywhere. One whist table only is at work; General Pepper and [Pg 101] three old hands of the same kidney are hard at it. The four old men rub their blear old eyes at the conclusion of each deal, and then pull down their faultless cuffs over their eager and bony old hands. The card table profitably occupies some six to eight hours daily of these old fellows' attention. There is not much harm in it after all. Probably none of them are very much the better or very much the worse at the end of the year; their sole ambition is the saving of a game, particularly when there is a good "gallery" to admire their efforts. One dreaded Nemesis awaits these men—the inevitable day when memory will begin to fail, and they shall trump their partner's best card. Or the still more horrible apprehension of dimness of sight; for a pair of wicked old eyes will not last for ever; then the unhappy old player will begin to revoke, and find himself perforce relegated to "bumble-puppy," or to whiskey-and-water and solemn slumbers in the smoke [Pg 102]-room, or, more horrible still, the prolonged society of Sir Peter Growler and Canon Drivel, D.D.

Rule XXXV. of the club states that "Cards, chess and billiards may be played. The sum played for shall not exceed one pound points; no play is permitted after two a.m." Rule XXXVI. says, "No game of hazard shall on any account be played in the club-house." Rule XXXVII. sternly goes on to assert that "any deviation from the last two rules shall be attended with expulsion." Truly good and moral regulations. But these Draconic laws are, unfortunately, a dead letter. Nothing is said in them about bets. As in all clubs, only members enter the card-room; and most of the members come to "flutter," as they term it, and to "flutter" heavily.

In the centre of the room is an oval table; some dozen men are sitting at it; as many more stand behind their chairs. Two many-branched candelabra, holding wax [Pg 103] lights, brilliantly illuminate the game. Young Lamb, who six months ago ran a "tick" for "tuck" at Eton, and trembled coram pædagogo, sits, his eyes bloodshot, as, with nails driven into his palms, he watches, in an anguish of excitement, the movements of the dealer. Young Lamb's big cigar has been out long ago; but he pulls hard at it, wholly unaware of the fact. It is easy enough to distinguish, among those who smoke at least, the more innocent from the habitual gamblers; the cigars of these latter, even at the most exciting crises, are steadily smoked at a uniform rate, while the new hand is continually taking a light, as often blowing sudden vast clouds, or his cigar all unknown to him goes out, as has been described. Your young player, too, sits with his feet tucked tightly under his chair; he never moves them, and consequently suffers much from that hitherto undescribed disease—that awful pain across the knees, which, for want of a better name,[Pg 104] may be called "gamblers' rheumatism." Are you quite sure you have never suffered from this rather common disorder, gentle reader, at least, if you be of the male sex? Perhaps you may remember having occasionally walked home through the rain, utterly cleared out, without even the needful silver for a cab, with a dry throat, and finding out for the first time what "gamblers' rheumatism" really means. If so, it is to be hoped that, wise man as you are, the first attack of this disorder was also your last. But at the Pandemonium matters never went to the extremity of a member suffering the degradation of having to walk home in the rain. Was not kind Mr. Levison ever to the fore, with his neat little rouleaux of sovereigns, and his fat pocket-book full of new and crisp bank-notes? Levison, as he sat at the little table in the corner, on which were writing materials and many packs of new cards, never refused a loan in so many words. "I wouldn't go on if I [Pg 105] were you, sir; the luck's dead against you to-night; I wouldn't go on, indeed I wouldn't." This was his invariable formula. It meant that the astute Hebrew declined to do business on any terms. No one ever argued with Levison; all understood that this particular phrase was final. The unhappy applicant was naturally obliged to temporarily retire from the game, at all events for that night. No man would have been idiot enough to have asked a loan from a fellow player; that would have been quite contrary to the unwritten code of ethics of the Pandemonium Club: fathers have flinty hearts, but no fathers are so proverbially flinty-hearted as the fathers of the card-room.

Among the players were the usual club habitués. They are much the same everywhere, the only difference being their clothes. The viveurs at the Pandemonium, in their faultless evening dress; the gommeux at Monte Carlo, in their tall collars [Pg 106] and their shiny boots; the Bohemians, in their tobacco-scented and eccentric garments; or the thieves playing at sixpenny loo in St. Luke's—all these people are at heart the same. But we must not class in this unclean category Lord Spunyarn and his friend Haggard, who were both playing at the big table. Haggard merely played for the excitement, and Spunyarn because it was a lesser bore to play than to look on.

The game was baccarat.

The table is covered with a tightly-stretched green cloth, which is divided by yellow lines into fourteen spaces; two larger ones in the centre of the table are the places of the banker and the croupier; twelve other spaces of a smaller size indicate the seats of the rest of the players, or "punters," as they are technically termed. The table is full, as has been stated: a bank has just been terminated, and the banker retires, having lost the whole amount of his bank. The croupier, who is,[Pg 107] of course, a professional—a bald Frenchman, nominally one of the card-room waiters—looks round the table with the air of an auctioneer. "Fifty pounds—seventy-five—a hundred—two hundred—two hundred and fifty—three hundred; thank you, sir. Mr. Haggard takes the bank, gentlemen, at three hundred pounds."

Haggard rises with a smile, seats himself in the dealer's vacant place, opposite the croupier; he places in front of him a pile of gold and notes. With the rapidity of one of Messrs. Coutts' young men, the French croupier counts the money; he arranges the gold in little piles, and the notes in three little heaps, placing a small paper-weight on each heap. Then the croupier tears open two packets of new cards, flinging the old ones into a waste-paper basket at his side. He invites various players to make the cards; this is done in rather a perfunctory manner. With a sort of huge paper-knife the Frenchman passes the cards to Haggard,[Pg 108] and as he does so, remarks in a clear, but mechanical voice: "Gentlemen, the bank is opened for three hundred pounds." Haggard takes the cards, and, dividing them into two equal parts, rapidly shuffles them, by raising a corner of each parcel simultaneously, and letting the corners slip with a rapid "brrr." Evidently, from the dexterity and precision with which this feat is accomplished, Georgie Warrender's affianced lover is no novice. He hands the cards to his right-hand neighbour, who carefully cuts them; each player puts forth his stake towards the middle of the table, in front of the space allotted him. These stakes are gold only as yet, and no man's venture seems over five pounds. Haggard takes up about a sixth part of the cards. "Gentlemen," cries the croupier, "the game is made." Haggard places a card to the left, for that half of the table; another at his right, for the other half; a third one he takes himself: he repeats the process. The croupier slips the blade of [Pg 109] his huge paper-knife underneath the two cards which are on either side of the dealer, and deposits them, unexposed, with marvellous adroitness, before the punter on either side whose turn it is to play. Court cards and tens count as nothing, the ace as one; should the player make either eight or nine he invariably rests contented, and exhibits it; if below eight, he exercises his fancy or discretion, and takes or refuses a third card. Then Haggard turns up his own hand, doing precisely the same. He has drawn a knave and a six; he takes another card; this turns out to be an ace. "I have seven," he says. The player to his right holds eight, the player to his left has only six—the right side wins, the left side loses. In an instant the croupier, with his huge paper-knife, sweeps up the cards, and, with the rapidity of a conjuring trick, he casts them into a wooden bowl in the middle of the table; then he rapidly sweeps off all the stakes on one side of the table;[Pg 110] with equal celerity he places each man's winnings before the players on the other side. There are no quarrels, and no mistakes. Everybody is terribly polite. And so the game goes on.

Though the amount played for is serious, a good deal of rather bald conversation and chaff goes on. There is a considerable amount of give and take. If any one has lost his temper, as well as his money, he takes good care not to show it; to do so here would be indeed bad form. Young Lamb has already paid several visits to Mr. Levison's little table. Haggard's deal goes on, no very startling coup coming off, but it has been a good bank as yet, for the pile in front of Haggard has increased to nearly six hundred pounds. Young Lamb having gnawed his extinguished cigar till it somewhat resembles a quid, and having consequently swallowed a considerable amount of nicotine, flings it away with a curse. As the last note of his last loan from Levison is swept up by the [Pg 111] remorseless pelle (for so the gigantic paper-knife is technically termed), Lamb gives an order to the waiter, and pays another visit to the smiling little Jew. Their business is rapidly transacted; Lamb redeems some half-dozen I O U's which he had previously given to the steward, hurriedly signs a formal-looking instrument, which is duly witnessed, and stuffs into his breast-pocket a big roll of notes, which he does not even stop to count. "I do hope you'll be careful, sir," remarks the steward to Lamb in an affectionate whisper, and in the tone of an anxious mother to her favourite child. Lamb returns to his seat at the table; he has lost eight hundred pounds already, but the bulgey lump in his breast-pocket is another five thousand pounds. The waiter places by his side a small gueridon on which is a little carafe of green Chartreuse and a liqueur-glass; he also hands to the young fellow a box of big full-flavoured cigars, of the brand of Anselmo del Valle. Lamb fills his case,[Pg 112] and lights this the ne plus ultra of a soothing weed.

"Dutch courage, Lammy, my boy," remarked Spunyarn, as he calmly helps himself to one of the youth's cigars.

"You'd be doing the same, Shirtings, if you'd been hit at this beast of a game as I have."

"Shirtings" was the playful name bestowed on the noble lord, in reference to the well-known fact that the Spunyarn money had been made in a Manchester cotton mill, and with that money it was said that the Spunyarn title had been paid for; the first gentleman in Europe not disdaining such bargains. Lamb swallows a second glass of his panacea. The real fact is that the boy likes it because it is sweet, the after-taste indistinctly resembling the distant memories of the peppermint bull's-eyes of his early youth. But green Chartreuse unhappily is not innocent; it is more than a spirit, it is a powerful drug. Fired by this second draught,[Pg 113] his tired eyes already a ferrety red, his mouth dry with the tobacco, the drink and the excitement, Lamb in a rasping voice shouts, "Banco."

There is a sudden hush. The whist players, who had finished for the evening, hurry to the baccarat table; the other players, some of whom had already staked their money, reluctantly withdraw their various amounts. The croupier announces, intoning as does a high-church curate, "There is seven hundred and forty pounds in the bank, gentlemen."

Lamb with shaking fingers places the required amount in front of him. Haggard, the dealer, apparently unconcerned, continues the game. There is a dead silence. Neither dealer or punter take a third card. The cards are turned. The dealer has an eight and king, the punter a five and three. A tie. The perspiration stands on young Lamb's face; again his cigar goes out. The croupier pushes the seven hundred and forty pounds of the unlucky player a foot nearer to the [Pg 114] bank. The next coup will decide the matter. If Lamb wins, he will get his own money back, if he loses, then his money is gone for good. Again a dead silence, again the cards are dealt; this time the bank wins; there is a loud noise of excited talking, above which rises the monotonous chant of the croupier, "There is fourteen hundred and eighty pounds in the bank, gentlemen."

The wretched young man persistently exercises his right of crying "Banco," and so practically going double or quits each time. But "the cards never forgive," and as a rule Dame Fortune is relentless to the reckless player. Three more coups are played, each of which the banker, that is to say Haggard, wins. At the end of the third coup, Lamb loses, at a single blow, nearly three thousand pounds; he calls the steward to his side, a short whispered conversation takes place. "Five thousand nine hundred and twenty pounds in the bank." Again the young fellow repeats his fatal "Banco," as he stakes a [Pg 115] fresh pile of notes handed to him by the obsequious Jew. Again he loses. Haggard has won, of him alone, eleven thousand pounds. Nobody feels inclined to go on; every one is rather scandalized, for it is apparent to all that the boy has become suddenly, thoroughly intoxicated.

"Damned shame, I call it," growled old General Pepper, who in his heart envied Haggard his luck. "Why, the man's drunk, beastly drunk, sir."

Haggard rises, glaring at old Pepper in a menacing manner. "Am I to regard your remark as any insinuation upon me, General Pepper?" he said fiercely.

"I say it's a damned shame," repeated the veteran.

The hubbub became general. What was to be done? Of course, there would be a scandal, but in the eyes of most men at the Pandemonium Club, Haggard was not to be blamed, he was merely to be envied. Probably the real fact was that the weak young [Pg 116] fellow was suddenly carried off his legs by the repeated draughts of the fiery cordial, the effect of which only became apparent to the on-lookers after the final bet had been made and the game had recommenced. Who shall cast a stone, then, at Haggard? He merely backed his luck, as the saying is. There was nothing unfair about the matter. But the nasty part of the whole thing was, that Haggard had won eleven thousand pounds from a weak-headed boy. The society newspapers for the week alluded to the matter in veiled, but unmistakable terms. And when Haggard announced to his friend Spunyarn his intention of returning to America, to realize his property, on the termination of his wedding tour, the young lord acquiesced in that decision, casually remarking, "It would be as well if you fought shy a bit, you know, old man, for I am heartily sick of being bothered about the baccarat matter, and of looking in the paper to see if that young prig Lamb has [Pg 117] hung himself. Ta ta, you lucky beggar. I shall be to the fore at your diggings to-morrow, in the regulation shiny boots." They parted.

Next day Reginald Haggard was to lead Georgina Warrender to the altar, and Spunyarn's allusion to shiny boots merely referred to the fact that he was to be his friend Haggard's best man.



[Pg 118] In newspaper descriptions of the last moments of celebrated criminals, we constantly read that "the unfortunate man did full justice to a substantial meal;" but nobody ever yet heard of a bridegroom who had any appetite for his breakfast; his own real breakfast is meant, and not the elaborate entertainment which follows close upon the ceremony. Reginald Haggard and his friend, Lord Spunyarn, were the vicar's guests at King's Warren Parsonage, but in vain did Mrs. Dodd press upon Haggard the numerous dainties with which her hospitable board was provided. Haggard was in a state of suppressed excitement, and he couldn't eat a mouthful. They were a cheerful enough party though, and Lord Spunyarn made up [Pg 119] for his friend's deficiencies, for the young nobleman had an almost Homeric appetite. Justice Haggard, Reginald's father, and Lord Hetton, who had passed the night at the "Dun Cow," were present, for the sporting nobleman was supposed to represent the head of the family, his father, Lord Pit Town; and though he looked upon the whole matter as a very great nuisance indeed, still it was a family function at which his presence was a matter of course.

That breakfast at the Parsonage seemed interminable to Haggard, but even clerical breakfasts must have an end, and at length Mrs. Dodd rose, to the general relief of all present. There were yet two mortal hours to get through, and the men of the party sought the cool shades of the vicarage garden.

"Pull yourself together, old man," said Spunyarn to his friend, for Haggard was looking pale and miserable; "you're as sulky as a bear with a sore head. It's [Pg 120] quite unnecessary to pose as a hero of romance. What's up with you, man; boots too tight?"

"I'll be hanged if I can tell you what's up," said his friend, "but this I know, I'm confoundedly depressed."

"Perhaps it's your natural timidity," said the other.

"Don't chaff, Shirtings; you're a very good fellow, you know, but I'm not in a laughing humour."

"Well, you needn't sulk all the same," said Spunyarn; "take my advice and have a glass of brandy."

Justice Haggard looked far more like a bridegroom than his son; the old gentleman, in his blue frock coat, his blue bird's-eye neckerchief, and with a flower in his button-hole, was the picture of health and happiness; while his white hat, which was cocked a little on one side, completed his festal appearance. He gave his son a hearty smack on the back. [Pg 121]

"When I married your mother, Reginald, my boy, I was as jolly as a man could be; why, there's nothing to be alarmed about, unless you've lost the ring, you know; and the ladies wouldn't let you off with that excuse, for there's always the key of the church door in case of an emergency."

Haggard forced a smile.

"The ring's safe enough, father," he said.

"Don't worry him, gentlemen," cried the vicar; "it's only natural. I've had a good deal of experience with bridegrooms; believe me, it's the general symptom. I felt just the same when I was married myself; but it's nothing to preaching one's first sermon. It's all very well for you to talk, Haggard; but I'll be bound we were both just as miserable as our young friend, though we've forgotten all about it now. But here comes my wife with the sacrificial emblems."

There was no compromise about Mrs. Dodd, as she advanced straight to the bride-[Pg 122]groom and proceeded to firmly secure a large white favour to his breast. The rest of the party were soon similarly decorated.

"There's one comfort, we haven't far to go," said Lord Hetton. "I feel we look rather like a parcel of fools."

"At all events, we haven't any time to lose," suggested the vicar, as he looked at his watch; "and, unless we mean to keep the bride waiting, we had better be off."

The whole party passed through the little wicket, crossed the churchyard, which was thronged with the whole population of King's Warren in its Sunday best, and entered the church, and the bridegroom and his friends at once took their place at the altar rails.

If Georgie Warrender had acted with proper decorum, she would have wept upon her father's bosom; but this ill-regulated young person did nothing of the kind. They must have been all very glad to get rid of her at The Warren, for nobody shed [Pg 123] a single tear; there was a great deal of running about; the young person from the West End milliner's, her mouth full of pins, issued innumerable orders in a muffled whisper; and Miss Lucy Warrender and her three fellow bridesmaids appeared completely attired, at least half-a-dozen times, to submit themselves to old Warrender's inspection in the drawing-room quite half-an-hour before the carriages drew up at the door to take them to the church.

Georgie was not sufficiently old-fashioned to be married in a bonnet. Even a plain girl looks well in white, and Georgie was not a plain girl by any means. Of course, according to all proper precedent she ought to have rushed into her father's arms, and with floods of tears have bid him a touching farewell. What she did do, however, as she entered the room, was to rapidly advance and affectionately embrace him, then she stepped back and dropped him a low courtesy. [Pg 124]

"Shall I do, papa?" she said with a loving smile.

"My dear, you're a credit to all of us," said the old gentleman, and her appearance certainly justified the ecstatic looks of Miss Hood, the four bridesmaids, and the young person from the West End.

Georgie was fully conscious of her privileges. No woman can twice in her life dress in white satin and orange blossoms, and if she mars the effect by the regulation tears, it is quite certain that there must be a screw loose somewhere. There was a great deal of tittering, smiling, and blushing; but the squire glanced at the clock, Lucy handed the bridal bouquet to her cousin, then the squire gave his daughter his arm, and, preceded by the bridesmaids, the little procession entered the carriages, and five minutes' drive brought them to the church.

Haggard, when he cast his eyes upon Georgie Warrender, seemed to regain his [Pg 125] composure at once; there must have been a terrible amount of forwardness about this young lady, for according to rule and the pictures in the illustrated papers, her eyes should have been fixed upon the ground; and as the latest etiquette book says, "the bride should only acknowledge the bridegroom's presence by an assumption of shrinking timidity suitable to the occasion." But the bride smiled at Haggard, and so did the vicar, and so did the four bridesmaids.

The Reverend John Dodd didn't take long in tying the knot. The village organist had distinguished himself by his florid rendering of the Wedding March. As Lord Spunyarn gave his arm to Lucy Warrender, he almost felt as if he had been married himself, and that it was a rather pleasant process than otherwise.

"It's rather rough on us, Miss Warrender, having to play second fiddle," he said, while they were standing in the vestry during the signing of the register. [Pg 126]

"Well, we can look upon it as a dress rehearsal, Lord Spunyarn; but we mustn't forget that it is a solemn moment, for I see that Mrs. Dodd is looking this way."

The bells were clashing merrily from the village spire as the party passed out of the church porch. As Haggard handed his wife into the carriage, she appeared still lost to all sense of the proprieties, for she nodded and smiled in every direction at the King's Warren villagers, among whom she had grown up; even poor Blogg, the poacher, and his hoyden daughter, Jemima Ann, were not unnoticed. And the patriarchal blessing of the village veteran, "Master" Jasper, as he was called (who had represented King's Warren on the field of glory some five-and-forty years before, and stood bobbing his palsied head, arrayed in his holiday garment, a linen ephod or smock frock, to which his Waterloo medal was proudly affixed), was given heartily enough. "God bless 'ee, Missy," cried the [Pg 127] old man in the shrill cracked voice of age, as he pressed up to the carriage window.

"Thank you, Jasper," said the girl with a sunny smile. Strange to say, those two words gave the old fellow more pleasure than the thought of the unlimited potations he knew he would enjoy that afternoon at the squire's expense.

The wedding breakfast very much resembled the similar festivities at which most of us have assisted. The usual speeches were made, nobody seemed very much inclined to eat, but everybody's health was drunk; and I think it was rather a relief to all present when young Mrs. Haggard appeared in travelling dress, ready to quit, for the first time in her life, the happy home of her childhood. Then, and then only, did the young person from the West End millinery establishment remove the pins from her mouth, which enabled her to swallow a much needed glass of sherry; and then the squire's voice failed him, and [Pg 128] he saw his daughter rather dimly as he pressed her to his heart for the last time upon the steps. The bridesmaids relieved their feelings by many salutes and much tittering. As the carriage moved off there was a perfect shower of satin slippers, and it wasn't till it got quite out of King's Warren village that the bride was able to leave off bowing and kissing her hand to her numerous well-wishers.

Then the wedding party broke up into little groups in the garden; at first they didn't amalgamate; the men smoked, and came to the universal conclusion that Haggard was a lucky beggar; while the ladies talked over the interesting details of the ceremony. Old Warrender retired to his study in a rather excited frame of mind, excusing himself on the ground of his age.

And now everybody turned out with a feeling of intense relief to witness the rejoicings on the village green. The school [Pg 129] children were there enjoying rustic games in a somewhat half-hearted manner, for they had partaken with the appetites of young boa constrictors of the squire's hospitality, and each of them had a brand new shilling or half-crown in his or her pocket, according to age. A cricket-match was in progress, but the bowling and batting were extremely wild, thanks to The Warren strong beer. But soon the Rev. John Dodd imparted fresh vigour into the proceedings. The youths and maids pulled themselves together on his approach; the more bibulous among the men left the proximity of the big barrels of strong ale, over which the squire's head gardener was presiding. Lovers, who had been promenading arm-in-arm, separated for the moment by mutual consent, the swains touched their forelocks to the vicar, while Phyllis and Chloe smoothed their skirts and courtesied low to Mrs. Dodd as Lady Paramount. But the vicar meant that they should enjoy themselves, and he whispered to the squire, the squire nodded, [Pg 130] and the vicar called loudly for Blogg.

"Where's your father, Jemima Ann?" he said to the poacher's daughter, who, in all the glories of a pink print dress and a much beribboned straw hat, had gone off into a succession of courtesies.

"Please, sir, he's gone to fetch it," she said.

At that moment the sound of a fiddle was heard, and the smiling rascal who played it, stopping his melody for an instant, made a low and sweeping bow, which took in the vicar, the squire and the gentry generally. Then he clapped his fiddle under his chin and without more ado struck up "Bobbing Joan."

"That's right, my man," said the vicar, "you couldn't do better. Now men, now girls."

But not one of them stirred.

"Goodness me!" cried the vicar, and then he forgot himself. Could Mrs. Dodd believe her eyes? Her husband seized Jemima Ann Blogg by the hand. [Pg 131]

"Come, gentlemen, set them a good example," he said, and he commenced to turn Miss Blogg violently round. Before her father had got through another two bars of "Bobbing Joan," every soul on the green had commenced to gyrate, the frown died off Mrs. Dodd's face, as she too began to turn with slow but majestic movements, her hand clasped by old Warrender's, her virtuous waist encircled by his aged though still vigorous arm. Lord Spunyarn pounced upon Lucy Warrender, Lord Hetton seized another bridesmaid, Justice Haggard somehow got possession of a third; every village Jack gripped his Jill, and all the parish of King's Warren, gentle and simple, twirled with one accord to the fine old tune of "Bobbing Joan." Once started there was no stopping them, the fun became fast and furious, and I fancy that it was with some regret that the wedding party itself, having [Pg 132] set the ball a-rolling, retired to the more dignified festivities which awaited them in the great drawing room at The Warren.

It wasn't a large party; they were most of them Warrenders and Haggards, and offshoots and branches of those prolific trees, or people connected with the families from old association or friendship, but there were quite enough of them to fill the big drawing-room. Old Biggs, the family solicitor, who had come down to The Warren the day previously about the settlements, and Blatherwick, of Lincoln's Inn, who had fought him tooth and nail over every item, in the interest of the Haggard family, got their rubber; but both the legal lights had soon declared that it was impossible to play whist with dance music ringing in their ears. The lawyers looked rather sheepishly at each other when they found themselves vis-à-vis in a quadrille, Miss Hood having honoured the one, while Stacey Dodd clung lovingly to the arm of [Pg 133] old Mr. Blatherwick. Of course it was most unprofessional, but they probably kept their indiscretions to themselves, and no doubt charged them to their clients under the head of "sundry attendances." As for the Reverend John Dodd he seemed to be everywhere at once, no one refused the Reverend John. When the youngest and best-looking of the bridesmaids told him that she was danced off her feet the clerical Lothario overpersuaded her in a few seconds, and round they went like a couple of dancing dervishes, being the last to hold the floor.

But even wedding parties must come to an end, though it was midnight before they finally broke up, and at last Justice Haggard and Lord Hetton walked over to their rooms at the "Dun Cow."

"It went off wonderfully well," said Hetton to the Justice.

"Capital, capital," assented the bridegroom's father. "It's a great weight off [Pg 134] my mind, you know, Hetton. Reginald's been an awful anxiety, but he's a lucky beggar, he manages somehow to always turn up trumps."

"Yes," remarked his lordship, "that's been his principal occupation since I've known him."

"Boys will be boys, my dear fellow; he'll sober down now, of course he will. I know I did when I married," said the Justice.

"I'll tell you what it is, Justice. Warrender's daughter is a very plucky girl; if she had known half you and I know, Justice, she would have thought twice about it."

"The reformed rake, cousin, makes proverbially the best husband. Why, 'pon my word," continued the Justice, "when I was a young fellow I was a regular devil."

Lord Hetton blew out a big volume of smoke, and looked at his companion with some curiosity. [Pg 135]

When an old gentleman, in the fulness of his heart, tells you that he's been a regular devil, you are bound to believe him, particularly if he's a Justice of the Peace.

"We were all devils in those days, my dear fellow, but a man outgrows it; he marries, and he lives it down; he takes to a hobby. I did. I can't tell how I drifted into pigs; much in the same way as you drifted into horses, I suppose. You may take my word for it that pigs are far more interesting and far more respectable, though they're expensive, mind you. Yes, they're uncommonly expensive; so are horses for the matter of that," continued the Justice. "Every man has his ideal, you see, Hetton. The perfect pig must ultimately be produced. You mustn't look upon me, you know, as a mere breeder of pigs. I am a benefactor of my species." Here the pair reached the "Dun Cow" and retired to their respective quarters. [Pg 136]

So ended Georgie Warrender's wedding-day. As Lord Hetton had remarked, in engaging herself to Haggard she had done a very plucky thing. Marriage is like Mayonnaise sauce, either a great success or an absolute and entire failure. The materials which are blended together to form a perfect whole are dissimilar and have nothing whatever in common, but once really thoroughly amalgamated the result is very happy. Perhaps the marriage celebrated in King's Warren church may turn out well after all. It is to be feared that like the sauce of sauces in the hands of the inexperienced cook, the result is more than doubtful. Fortunatus, though a good fellow enough, is, like his patroness, notoriously fickle. All we have got to do, however, is to make ourselves as comfortable as possible in our stalls. The overture is over, the curtain is about to rise on the drama of Georgie's married life. We haven't a play bill, and [Pg 137] don't know whether we are to listen to some pretty pastoral, to a long three-act farce, dignified by the title of a comedy, or whether we are to be thrilled with horror by a gruesome drama of intrigue, limelight effect, and blood. We haven't even seen a review of the piece; the footlights go up with a jump, and now the curtain rises. Let us watch the players.



[Pg 138]

It was Lord Mayor's Day. Haggard and his wife sat in the little drawing-room of their bijou house in May Fair. The room was prettily furnished, and Georgie had often accused herself of extravagance. The regulation chairs and tables of the furnished house had been banished from Mrs. Haggard's drawing-room. It had been a pleasure to choose the various tasteful specimens of the upholsterer's art. The nesting faculty is perhaps even more strongly developed in young married ladies than in birds; young Mrs. Haggard was no exception to this rule. Many had been the happy pilgrimages made by Georgie and her lover, for Haggard was her lover still, to the great firm in Pall [Pg 139] Mall and to the world-famed house in Bond Street.

"Pick up what you like, my dear, and make our drawing-room, your drawing room, as pretty as you please; nothing can be good enough in the little kingdom in which my Georgie deigns to reign."

But sugared compliments and furniture-buying cannot go on for ever. A pile of invitations attested the Haggards' popularity. Dance-giving mammas were anxious to secure the success of their entertainments by obtaining the presence of "lovely Mrs. Haggard."

A well-known professional beauty in the heyday of her charms was "sitting-out" at a great ball, the observed of all observers, in a dos-à-dos causeuse with a Royal Highness.

"And is your Royal Highness also a worshipper at the shrine of budding bucolic beauty? I mean pretty Mrs. Haggard," said the spoilt darling of society, as with a [Pg 140] little moue she had indicated Georgie, who entered the room on her husband's arm. The good-natured prince glanced carelessly in the direction indicated; his lazy eyes sparkled as he quickly replied in a tone of reproof:

"Pretty is not the word, Mrs. Charmington; if that is the lady you allude to, she is lovely, absolutely lovely, and must count amongst her admirers every member of the human race who has had the happy privilege of beholding her." His Royal Highness rose.

Mrs. Charmington hastened to spread the report that his Royal Highness was seriously smitten.

"Royals ripen early, I suppose; naturally they age as quickly; perhaps his Royal Highness is arriving at a second childhood, and his heart turns to people of the Dolly the Dairymaid type."

But in her first rage Mrs. Charmington had been weak enough to let out that the [Pg 141] prince had called young Mrs. Haggard "lovely." Mrs. Charmington had received her own unsigned patent as a recognized beauty from the discriminating admiration of his Royal Highness. The fiat had gone forth, and Julia Charmington had commenced her reign. The Charmington boot and the Charmington Bouquet were very freely advertised. A reproduction of Mrs. Charmington herself decorated the interior of the omnibuses.

"Why use dangerous cosmetics when Jones' soap retains youth and health for the complexion, and fosters the development of beauty?" Underneath the portrait was a facsimile of Mrs. Charmington's fashionable scrawl, "I owe you so much, so very much. I have never used any other soap than yours. Very faithfully yours, Julia Charmington."

Ill-natured people said that Mrs. Charmington owed a great deal to Messrs. Jones. That the cheque that paid for her well-[Pg 142]known turn-out had been signed by the firm; that they had twice paid her dress-maker's bill, when that terrible person had become importunate; that they had settled the account of Monsieur Alphonse, the great coiffeur; that they had paid her husband's debts. Some of them, more imaginative, declared that Mrs. Charmington was even a sleeping partner in the saponaceous firm. But the ill-natured people were quite wrong; it was not Messrs. Jones who paid Mrs. Charmington's bills. Little Jack Charmington, her husband, had a snug four hundred a year of his own, which quite sufficed for his modest needs. Mrs. Charmington's graceful letter had been written by her in a moment of good nature, and, it may be said in confidence, at the instigation, some eight years ago, of Big Reginald Haggard, who had looked on the whole matter as a joke, and who had, at that stormy period of his career, been very much in Mrs. [Pg 143] Charmington's confidence. The real fact was that Mrs. Charmington kept Messrs. Jones before the public, and those astute advertisers did the same kind office for the lady.

Thus it was that Georgie became "lovely Mrs. Haggard." This is what the writers of serious books pompously call "the secret history of the whole matter."

Georgie now, to her astonishment, found her movements invariably chronicled in the society journals. It rather annoyed her than otherwise, but her husband was pleased, and that was enough for Georgie.

The lazy giant was sprawling on the most comfortable of the sofas; the pair were alone in the dainty little drawing-room. Young Mrs. Haggard's eyes were full of tears. "Won't you take me with you," she sobbed appealingly, "it's only for six months, Reginald?"

"I can't, my darling; it's a beast of a climate, and the mosquitos would eat you up. I shall only be away for six months;[Pg 144] you know I have made up my mind to get rid of the whole bag of tricks. It's quite true the land can't run away, but there are always rows and revolutions and smashes going on; you can't trust anybody. Of course, Georgie, I should like you to go; but think of the risk. It won't wash at all. We'll stay over Christmas here in England. I suppose I must take you down to see the old man, and then we'll go straight off to Rome, and finish the winter there. I'm getting rather bored, you know, Georgie, with the fuss people make in town. It's deuced fine fun for you of course."

The fact was that this excellent husband hated playing second fiddle, and he found, to his astonishment, that young Mrs. Haggard's social success had far eclipsed that of Georgie Warrender. As a good-looking young bachelor, though a detrimental, he had been very popular. As a wealthy parti and a sort of lion he had been the fashion himself the previous season, and to [Pg 145] his own knowledge his curly hair and big moustache had caused a quicker beating of the heart in many a female breast. But as Beauty's husband he felt out of his element. "You lucky beggar!" had been repeated to him so often that he hated the phrase. Of course, he still admired his wife as the handsomest woman he had ever clapped eyes upon; he wasn't even jealous of the great attention that Georgie habitually received. First, because he knew he could trust her implicitly; but secondly, and this was far the more powerful reason, because he was too much a man of the world ever to render himself ridiculous.

"You know we can have rather a jolly time of it in Rome, Georgie," he said. "You must by this time be as heartily sick of the eternal tête-à-tête as I am. I don't mean that," he said, springing to his feet as he noticed that his young wife shuddered and turned pale; "but the fact is, Georgie, I don't want to be pointed at [Pg 146] like poor old Jack Charmington, and I confess, dear," he added with a smile, "that I should like a little more of 'lovely Mrs. Haggard's' society."

A very little crust thrown to the very hungry is always accepted with gratitude. Georgie Haggard brightened up at once. "I suppose I must make the best of it, dear," she said with a pleased smile; "at all events, I shall have you all to myself in Rome."

"Yes; it will be quite a second honey-moon; but I half promised your cousin Lucy that she should join us. It'll be beastly dull for her at The Warren, you see, poor girl; and she doesn't seem to jump at Spunyarn, though he does hang on. Is there any one else in the wind, do you think, Georgie?" he said with some interest.

"No; Lucy seems perfectly heartwhole," replied his wife.

"I often wonder you two hit it off so [Pg 147] well," mused Haggard as he gazed into the blue flames that flickered over the little wood fire, for his wife affected a wood fire as more cheerful. "Why, Lucy has been your only serious competitor this season; I wonder you aren't jealous of each other."

"How can you talk such nonsense, Reginald?" the wife replied with a sunny laugh.

"Then you don't mind her coming with us on the Roman trip?"

It showed that Mrs. Haggard had considerable confidence in her own attractions, as she innocently replied, "If you don't mind, why should I, dear?"

"Well, then it's all settled, old girl; we'll put in the dull time in Italy. Old Pit Town knows lots of good people, and would give us letters, I suppose. In the spring I'll just rush across and polish off the Mexican affair."

His gaze again returned to the fire which smouldered on the hearth. [Pg 148]

There was a silence.

Gradually Haggard raised his eyes; they rested on his wife, they took her in from head to foot, and seemed to appraise each of her numerous points. The husband's countenance was lighted up by a pleased expression.

"By Jove! Georgie," he said, "people are quite right; you are an uncommonly fine woman."

He kissed her.

It was the kiss of proprietorship, similar to the appreciative pat he would have given to a prize dog or a valuable horse that was his own property.

Yes, Georgie loved the man, and looked up at him with wistful, trusting eyes. She was his, body and soul.

But the door opens, and a peal of merry laughter caused Haggard and his wife to subside into seats on either side of the fireplace.

"Oh, Georgie! I'm so sorry you missed it, it's been such fun, and Mr. Sleek has been so [Pg 149] attentive. I really think the two girls thought I was setting my cap at their father. What with the procession outside, and the farce indoors, we've had a delightful morning," cried Lucy Warrender, as she entered the room.

"I fear it was rather a tragedy to poor little Sleek," said Lord Spunyarn, who followed her; "a tiger when a-lashing of his tail was nothing to Sleek. I shall never forget the look he gave me after lunch."

"When inflamed with love and wine, you know," said Lucy pertly. "Behold his scalp."

Lucy triumphantly extended an enormous formal bouquet. Alas, for poor little Sleek! his flowers were carelessly tossed upon the table.

"Oh, they were very confidential, you know," lisped Spunyarn; "I was quite out in the cold."

"Ungrateful man, when you had a window all to yourself, and a smiling Miss Sleek on either side of you, gazing into your eyes. You [Pg 150] neglected your opportunities, Lord Spunyarn. Let me tell you that the daughters of my last conquest are two very pretty girls."

"Not when Miss Warrender is present."

"I rather think you forgot Miss Warrender's presence," retorted the coquette.

"Anyhow, two's company and three isn't, you'll all allow that. How happy could I have been with either were t'other dear charmer away."

"Did they both propose to you, Lord Spunyarn?" said Mrs. Haggard with a smile.

"If I were a vain man I should confess that they rather gave themselves away."

"Much as Hanibal Peter Gray did for love of the beautiful cannibal," said Lucy.

"Oh, they were quite safe in my case, not being a mangeur de cœurs," replied the discreet young nobleman. "But my attention was not sufficiently absorbed by those guileless girls that I failed to perceive the doings of the other couple." [Pg 151]

"You are quite wrong, as usual. Mr. Sleek was merely explaining who the various people were."

"In that case, Miss Warrender, he might at least have given us all the benefit of his information, instead of conveying it in an inaudible whisper to Miss Warrender's private ear. And he needn't have blushed till he looked like a pickled cabbage."

"It's not fair, Lucy," said Mrs. Haggard reprovingly, with an attempt at matronly dignity.

"Well, you know," laughed the girl, "it wasn't my fault. Spunyarn declined to come to the rescue. There I was, practically tête-à-tête with the man; the noise of the crowd drowned my cries and remonstrances. Besides, after the scalp, and the elaborate lunch which was awaiting us in the middle of the room, I felt myself bound to listen to the voice of the charmer. I was cheered, too, by Lord Spunyarn's masterly defeat of Dabbler. Poor Dabbler!" [Pg 152]

"'Pon my word, I didn't know it. When we came in there was a fat man messing with the things on the table. He was dressed like a waiter, and he looked like one—a regular City waiter, you know. He held out his hand. Of course, I gave him my hat and coat. He has no business to dress like a waiter and to hold out his hand."

"Lord Spunyarn, he is a common councilman, and he is going to dine with the Lord Mayor," cried Lucy.

"All the same, he has no business to be dressed like a waiter in the morning, if even he be a common councilman and going to dine with the Lord Mayor. Anyhow, he took the hat and coat, and then, thank heaven, he bolted."

"What's Dabbler to him, or he to Dabbler, that he should weep?" misquoted Georgie's husband, who had enjoyed Dabbler's discomfiture.

"It's all very well for you all to laugh, but Mr. Sleek didn't seem to like it at all. What did he mean by saying that Mr. Dabbler was a warm [Pg 153] man?" asked Lucy.

"Oh, piles of money of course; all the common councilmen have piles of money," said Spunyarn.

"And do they all dress like waiters in the morning, and then dine with the Lord Mayor?"

"Yes. I suppose it's an old City custom, you know. Anyhow they always dine with the Lord Mayor. That's what they die of."

"And now I have something to tell you, Lucy," said Mrs. Haggard. "It's all been decided. After the Christmas festivities at the Castle we are to go to Rome, and we hope you will come too."

Lucy clapped her hands with girlish glee. "Go with you, Georgie dear? Of course I will. How good of you to ask me." The girl was evidently delighted.

"And have you the heart, Miss Warrender, to leave me, Mr. Sleek, and your [Pg 154] other countless admirers, here in England to 'dree our weary weirds alone?'"

And so the idle talk ran on. The Italian trip was discussed, and considerable ignorance of geography was, as is usual, manifested by all present. Lucy expressed her disappointment, on being informed that there were now no brigands in Italy, save those behind the shop counters, or in the choruses of the opera.

A trim maid then brought in the tea equipage, and Georgie did the honours with her usual unaffected grace.

And now Parson Dodd and his sister were announced. The Dodds presented a rather dishevelled appearance. They, too, had seen the Lord Mayor's Show. But the vicar, in a moment of weakness, had yielded to Anastatia's wish to see something of the real Londoner, whom "dear Dickens has described so well," as she had put it.

Great had been her indignation at the want of respect shown to the Reverend [Pg 155] John Dodd's cloth. With horror she had heard her brother addressed by a disreputable costermonger in a mangy fur cap, as "Old pal." And though the Reverend John stood all unmoved in the surging crowd, muscular pillar of the Church that he was, it was only by clutching him very tightly that poor Anastatia preserved herself from annihilation. She had seen the Lord Mayor's Show indeed, but at what a price! The long grey cloak which she wore, a sort of semi-religious garb which Miss Dodd, as a clergyman's sister, affected, had been splashed with mud and creased into a thousand wrinkles. Her maiden feet, which had never felt the sacrilegious touch of the toe of obtrusive appreciation, had been trampled on by an exhilarated London mob. And after several hours of agony, just as the Lord Mayor was actually passing, she had heard and felt a horrid rending, crackling sound, and had almost shrieked into her awe-stricken [Pg 156] brother's ear, "Oh, Jack, I'm gone at the gathers!" What she meant neither the Reverend John Dodd, or any other male person, could ever truly know. But evidently something dreadful had occurred. "Take me back, Jack; take me back to Mrs. Haggard's at once," the poor little woman had pleaded to the parson. He got her into a cab at last, and they had reached the Haggards' house in May Fair, at which, they were stopping for the night. But Georgie Haggard came to the poor lady's rescue; she and her cousin bore her off to her hostess's own quarters, where she detailed her sufferings to their sympathizing ears. Eau de Cologne was duly dabbed upon her temples, strong tea was administered, but at length the wounded feelings of the vicar's sister found vent in a little gentle fit of sobbing, and she was accordingly put to bed.

"What possessed me I can't imagine," said the Reverend Jack to his two male [Pg 157] friends; "we were quite comfortable at first, you know," said poor Jumbo, warm with the remembrance of his numerous humiliations. "I had put Anastatia on a bench; the man made an exceedingly moderate charge of threepence. I gave him sixpence, and strange to say he had no change. I didn't like to be done; the man urged me to occupy one place that was yet vacant; my evil genius prompted me to do so. Alas! I had no sooner stepped upon the frail structure when it suddenly and unaccountably gave way in the middle. I was precipitated to the ground in a sitting posture. Anastatia was fortunately unhurt, but she was much frightened. Those who had paid for the use of the bench demanded their money from me; while the miserable proprietor, who had previously been most respectful, in a truculent manner, and with horrible menaces, claimed a sovereign, and on my declining to comply with his extortionate [Pg 158] demand, he actually offered to fight me, me a clergyman of the Church of England. From a sense of justice, I hastened to remunerate those who had been deprived of their coign of vantage, but, alas! the claimants were innumerable; every man and boy in my vicinity declared that he had paid for a place. The mob cheered me with derisive epithets. The climax was reached when a most offensive policeman in a dictatorial manner ordered me to 'Move on.' The Church of England, in my person, was ordered to 'move on.' I attempted to remonstrate, but I and the proprietor of the broken bench were both suddenly propelled by the Jack in-office into a bye street, and I discovered, to my horror, that I had lost Anastatia. Of course I had to satisfy the ruffian's insolent demands, but I did so under protest. The officer, however, now became more civil, and I, fortunately, with his assistance, was able to rescue my sister from the mob. I will [Pg 159] take another cup of tea, if you please. Thank you, three lumps. I have seen the Lord Mayor's Show, never again will I assist at that degrading spectacle."

In vain did Haggard and Lord Spunyarn attempt to reassure the indignant vicar. Only on the return of Mrs. Haggard and Lucy did the Reverend John Dodd become comparatively tranquil. Under the soothing influence of beauty, however, the vicar forgot his woes.



[Pg 160]

The Haggards were heartily glad to leave town. The nasty scandal at the Pandemonium had been particularly irritating to Haggard personally. "Thank God," he said to himself, "the head of the family will probably never hear of it, unless Hetton should go out of his way to tell him; but I don't think he'd do that, he's not too particular himself, so it would be only a case of the pot calling the kettle, after all. It wasn't my fault. How could I know the young idiot was drugging himself with Chartreuse? I was too much interested in the game. Besides, some one was bound to have his money sooner or later; in fact," pondered the big man, "I've been rather ill-[Pg 161]used, when I come to think of it. It's just my luck."

Just his luck! Yes, it was just his luck; just his luck to squander every farthing he possessed, and to be pitied by everybody when deported to do the best he could for himself. Just his luck to have what the Americans call a "high-old time" in Mexico, to hunt, to shoot, to enjoy the free wild life and absence of restraint in America. Just his luck to thoroughly clear out that wealthy gambler Don Emanuel Garcia, at poker; but then Haggard had all the qualifications for a poker player: he had the very luck which he grumbled at; good temper, for your thoroughly selfish man is far too fond of himself ever to be other than good-tempered; his "cheek" was unlimited, and in the big "flutter" with the Mexican, he had also had good cards. Given good luck, good temper, good "cheek," and good cards, a poker player is always invincible;[Pg 162] so the Americans say, and they ought to know. Just his luck to become the possessor of a large sum of ready cash, when valuable land was going a-begging; just his luck at that precise moment to invest his easily-got winnings in the Mexican ranches and pastures, now worth ten times what they cost him. Just his luck to come home at the right moment to be accepted by the loveliest girl in Essex, a girl whose beauty had now even received the imprimatur of so fastidious a judge as his Royal Highness. Just his luck to be adored by his young wife, and looked upon by her as a king of men; to be clothed in purple and fine raiment, with the possibility of a peerage and the possession of immense wealth in the future. But he was quite right in carping at her, for fortune, like other fickle jades, is more likely to be true if steadily abused.

The two girls, his wife and her cousin, interrupted his soliloquy. The gaieties of [Pg 163] the season had, if possible, rendered Georgie's beauty still more perfect. A succession of recherché entertainments, of concerts, balls and routs, and their attendant late hours and excitement, had given the young wife that almost indefinable stamp of delicate refinement for which we have no word, which is so seldom seen in England, and which the Italians call morbidezza.

But there was no morbidezza about Lucy; she, too, had shone, perhaps with a certain amount of reflected lustre; but she had shone, she had dazzled. When a very young woman is exceedingly good-looking, no prude, and prepared to go any lengths, being at the same time perfectly heartless, she is bound to be a success, and Lucy had been a great success. The Duc de la Houspignolle, the French Ambassador in London, that duke who was so much missed from the cotillions at the Tuileries of his imperial mistress, had pronounced Lucy [Pg 164] pétillante. M. Barbiche, his second secretary, the best valseur of the season, had declared that Miss Warrender was the lightest stepper in town. "She make my heart to beat as it never beat before," said the young diplomatist to his chief; "but she is not distinguished like her cousin, she is a woman. I think her cousin is only a goddess after all. They are cold, these married English. I suppose it is the 'spleen.'"

"You'll get back your roses, old woman, at the Castle," said Haggard to his wife. "I think we've both had about enough of it," said he, as he poured out a brandy and soda. "I'm getting rather sick of seeing my wife twirled round like a teetotum by a succession of well-dressed idiots, while twenty more noodles round me are all saying how very charming she is, and consequently hating and envying me. It's all devilish fine for you girls, but I really think I shall enjoy a fortnight's dulness and the counting of possible chickens which [Pg 165] may never be hatched at Walls End. Anyhow, one will get one's rubber."

"And I shall have two new strings to my bow in the shape of Hetton and his cousin. By-the by, what is Hetton like? One can't judge of a man at a wedding breakfast," said Lucy.

"Oh, horsey; when you say that you say everything."

"I've a good mind to upset all your plans, Reginald, after all," said the girl. "Lady Hetton would look well on my cards. And then I should come in for the Walls End diamonds. By-the-way, are the Walls End diamonds black diamonds?"

"Bother Hetton; you've got about as much chance with him as with the old man, my dear," for it annoyed Haggard to see the slightest cloud to his prospects, even were it no bigger than a man's hand.

"Anyhow, there are two bachelors, Reginald, besides his lordship, who is hardly a bachelor, being, I suppose, wedded to art." [Pg 166]

"Oh! three, my dear; you have forgotten my father; he, too, is aged, but impressionable. If you'll only talk about pigs, Lucy, and manifest an intelligent interest, especially in black ones, you can put my nose out of joint most effectually!"

"I should make a stern stepmother, Reginald."

"Of course, injusta noverca, and all the rest of it, I suppose. I don't know about the sternness, my dear, but I can answer for the crispness."

"Thank you for nothing, Reginald; however, I shall certainly take a dip in the lucky-bag at the Castle."

"By Jove, Lucy! there's Wolff for you."

"And who is Wolff?" asked his wife.

"Wolff, my dear, is the toad-eater. In the old days every great man kept a toad-eater; sometimes his functions were highly paid—Wolff's are, I fancy. A dish of toads of the largest and most repulsive variety used to be offered one by one to the big [Pg 167] man's relatives and guests. A good many would partake of them. It was the toad-eater's office to devour the remainder with apparent gusto."

"Reginald, you're a wretch! and I don't believe a word of it," said Lucy.

Haggard yawned, drained his glass, and they retired to prepare themselves for the journey to Walls End Castle, which was to take place on the morrow.

Lord Pit Town was determined, on this occasion at least, to break through the rule which he had stringently observed since his return to Walls End Castle. For many years no lady had graced the great old house with her presence. It was considerably to Justice Haggard's astonishment that he heard of the invitation to his son and his son's wife. "Hetton won't like it," he muttered to himself, as with the point of his stick he gently titillated the back of one of his favourite black pigs. The animal stood perfectly still, grunting with [Pg 168] suppressed delight. "Hetton will be decidedly savage," mused the old gentleman. "I wonder whether Reginald will get something in the will?" pondered his father, his eyes fixed on the black pig's ears. "He's a lucky beggar, Reginald, a very lucky beggar, and Warrender's daughter is more than he deserves." Few fathers think that any woman is more than their son deserves, particularly when that son is an only son, wealthy, and a possible heir to a peerage; but we may take it that Justice Haggard knew pretty well what his son deserved, and that when he considered Georgie "more than his son deserved," Justice Haggard was probably right. If the prodigal really had his deserts he would still be chewing husks with the Mexican swine—husks which the magnificent specimen of the porcine race who was so delightedly submitting to the caresses of the Justice's stick would doubtlessly have indignantly rejected. "I wonder why," continued the [Pg 169] meditating Justice, "Hetton don't marry?" Perhaps Mademoiselle Zizine, of the French theatre, was the reason—who knows? Hetton didn't go into society, not that society wouldn't have been very glad to receive Lord Hetton, being Lord Hetton, even if he had been a Siamese twin or a Spotted Boy, which he wasn't. But Lord Hetton found that society cost money, and only placed an additional barrier between him and the object of his ambition—the blue ribbon of the turf. Hence when Lord Hetton sought distraction from race meetings and Tattersall's, he found it in the society of Mademoiselle Zizine and her like.

Evidently the question of why Hetton didn't marry perplexed the Justice; he paused in his attentions to the pig; the animal, who was black but comely, missing the accustomed caress, gave a little snort of impatience. "Bother Hetton!" said the Justice, administering a sudden and unexpected prod to that tender but irritable [Pg 170] skin. The injured and indignant animal gave vent to a succession of eldritch screams. The callous Justice passed on to the next stye, immersed in thought.

Great were the preparations at Walls End Castle, and greater still the astonishment of the old housekeeper when she heard that the winter house party was to be graced with the presence of ladies. Not that what were termed the state apartments were in any way disturbed. The old show rooms were left to the mice and ghosts, but the more modern suites were all to be occupied. My lady's own rooms had been allotted to Haggard and his wife. The rather Spartan simplicity of the late Lady Pit Town had made her own rooms sombre, if not grim. It had been a labour of love with the old lord to change all this. The æsthetic gentleman Messrs. Spick and Span, the great upholsterers, had sent down, had been severely snubbed by Dr. Wolff; the upholsterer had submitted elaborate coloured [Pg 171] pictures of his idea, his firm's idea, of what a suite of rooms should be. Part of that idea was sham bric-à-brac, the rest was carte blanche to Messrs. Spick and Span. "We should like," said that well-dressed and self-satisfied individual, "to turn out a job worthy of our house's reputation and that of his lordship. We should suggest that the boudoir be hung with Japanese embroideries; of course, there would be an Aubusson carpet, and we should cover the whole flooring"—which Mr. Veneer contemptuously indicated with his umbrella—"with our patent parquet; probably a mediæval pattern would be the most suitable. We should restore the ceiling and liven up the mouldings with a free use of gold; in fact, my advice in the matter is, that his lordship should place himself entirely in our hands. Of course, money's no object. His lordship cannot do better than to rely upon the taste of our Mr. Spick." [Pg 172]

"I do not think it shall be so, my friend," Wolff had replied. "You will put fresh and pretty papers on the walls. Your hangings must be of chintz, of pretty chintz, and you will put a cheerful carpet on the floor. As for furniture, there is plenty of that here, but the chairs and the sofas you shall provide; one thing only you shall remember—they shall be comfortable. His lordship will sit in every chair; if it is not comfortable it will go back. As for the ceiling you shall not touch him."

Messrs. Spick and Span's representative was wounded in his tenderest point, but his firm carried out the order to the letter. The old lord had sat in each chair and was satisfied. The ceiling, which represented the triumph of Venus, by Verrio, was left untouched. If we were permitted to penetrate the secret mysteries of the bedchamber, we should make the reader's mouth water by telling of the toilet table,[Pg 173] which was stamped "Riesener," and bore the mark, "Meubles de la reine." We should tell of the ormolu mounts of the little table, and how it really once belonged to Marie Antoinette. All the decorative furniture of this suite of rooms had been carefully selected by the old lord from the vast accumulation of such things that Walls End Castle contained. For several weeks he and Dr. Wolff had pottered about the set of rooms that were to be graced by Georgie's presence. When, to Wolff's astonishment, the priceless Meissonier, "The Gray Musketeer," was selected as the one picture to adorn the boudoir, he attempted a remonstrance.

"Nothing can be too good for her, Wolff," said the earl, as he smiled upon the picture.

Other rooms had been set apart for Lucy, but their arrangement had been left to Wolff.

It was evident to the German doctor [Pg 174] that his patron looked forward to his great-niece's visit with pleasure. On the day of her arrival, for the first time in his life, Lord Pit Town failed to visit the new galleries.

At dinner, Hetton himself was surprised at the amount of attention paid to Georgie by the head of the house. Haggard did not attempt to conceal his satisfaction. Lucy Warrender, ever ready for mischief, feigned an intense interest in racing matters, but failed to draw Lord Hetton. That guileless bachelor, Mr. Haggard, of the Home Office, proved more amenable to her fascinations; he knew that he should get his rubber after dinner, and Miss Warrender's conversation helped to while away the time until what was to him the real business of life should commence. As for the Justice he was in the best of humours, he enjoyed his dinner, he enjoyed his wine. But the '34 port was so good that he revoked twice, to the indignation and despair of his unhappy brother and partner.

[Pg 175]

The girls sang to the old man at his express desire, and Hetton noticed with a feeling of secret indignation that the antiquated Broadwood grand had been replaced by a magnificent Erard.

The place seemed changed. Lord Pit Town appreciated with mingled pleasure and astonishment the brightening influence of the ladies' presence; the party, if not gay, was at least cheerful; the little leaven had leavened the whole lump. They broke up early, satisfied with themselves and with each other. But Hetton's equanimity was again disturbed in the morning when his lordship actually proposed to drive Mrs. Haggard and her cousin in the park. He retired in disgust to his own quarters, where he consoled himself by the inspection of his betting book and the reading of his trainer's last report. Haggard, of the Home Office, in his own room, with two packs of cards, worked out historical games of whist and studied the coups of Lachapelle and the other great [Pg 176] masters. Dr. Wolff walked aimlessly up and down the new galleries, and stopping before Bab Chudleigh's portrait, soliloquized, as is the manner of his race, "Ah, lovely English woman, you are but a bainted bortrait, but all men admired you because they could not help it; if all they say be true, Madame Jezebel, you were as bad a woman as lived in your bad old days. Gott in Himmel! but you are very like the leetel Warrender lady. God forbid the leetel lady shall have a heart like yours. No, I wrong that innocent English mädchen. But you are both wunderschön. Hein!" And then the doctor continued his perambulations, and in his dreamy way, he pondered on Lucy's seraphic smile, and on her wealth of golden hair. "Such things are not for me," he thought. "I must go on loving the baintings and the bortraits to the end of the chapter," and then he sat down to write a business letter about Fra Filippo Lippi to old Mr. Creeps. Justice Haggard and his son wandered about the [Pg 177] home farm; the father criticized the piggeries, while the son smoked a big cigar and thought of nothing at all.

"Gad! Reginald," said the old man, "there's one thing I can't understand. Pit Town, who looks after most things, neglects these poor beasts in a most shameful way; if ever I came into the title I should make it my first business to pull down the whole range of buildings," here he indicated the piggeries in an indignant manner; "they are a disgrace to the place, sir; the sight of them offends me."

"Well, father, I hope you may, I sincerely hope you may carry out your own ideas here some day," said the dutiful son; "but I don't think the old man cares very much for your hobby, you know."

"Then he neglects his duties, that's all," replied the old gentleman with an indignant snort. "Of course, Pit Town's in the fashion," he continued, "for we hear about nothing but art now-a-days; but I should like to [Pg 178] know where he benefits his race. His ambition is a purely selfish one, while mine is distinctly benevolent. The dream of my life, Reginald, is unrealizable. I know that I can never succeed in producing the being I see in my dreams, a perfectly boneless pig; a sort of animated sausage, where fat and lean shall be deliciously blended in the requisite proportions. I know I strive after the unattainable, but still every year I get nearer and nearer to the goal. When I remember, sir, what black pigs were when I was a boy, and what they are now, thanks to my efforts and those of the noble little band of enthusiasts like myself, I feel that I am leaving a lasting monument behind me. Why, only yesterday, sir, when Dr. Wolff pointed out to me what he called a specimen of George Morland's best manner, I felt what giant strides of progress we have made. There were the pigs of his day, represented as great gaunt bony bristly creatures, wallowing at large, sir, in muck and [Pg 179] mire. We never see such horrors now; and I actually envied Pit Town the possession of that picture. I should like to hang it up, sir, in my piggeries at The Priory, that the world might look upon what the animal was, and in contrasting him with the superb creatures I possess, appreciate what can be done by care, breeding, feeding, and proper selection. The time will come, Reginald, when every English speaking man or woman who puts a piece of pork or bacon into his mouth will bless the name of Haggard. But these are but ambitious dreams, Reginald, never perhaps to be realized."

The party at Walls End Castle, though its elements were decidedly heterogeneous, was a success. Everybody was sorry to go when they left, and their host regretted the departure of his visitors.

"The place seems quite dull without them, Wolff," he remarked. "I think I shall try to see more of my relatives, but we must make up for lost time, Wolff. Why, since [Pg 180] the ladies have been here we have neglected work shamefully."

"It has been a pleasant time, Lord Pit Town, for me, for I love enthusiasm in the young. It has never yet been my fortune to meet with so delightful and innocent a thirst for information as that displayed by the charming Miss Warrender. The soul's confessions of that dear young lady were delightful in their naïve innocence. She has learnt much during her stay here of the canons of true art; it will be to me an ever-to-be-remembered epoch."

The old lord looked up from the great manuscript catalogue raisonné at the German doctor.

"So she made a fool of you too, Wolff, did she?"

"My lord, she respected me too much to attempt to make a fool of me. She, the young neophyte, recognized in me a humble priest of art."

"Ah, Wolff," said the old lord with a look[Pg 181] at the great portrait of Barbara Chudleigh, "there are some women who don't even respect doctors of philosophy."



[Pg 182] The Reverend John Dodd drew back one morning from the breakfast-table with the air of a giant refreshed; his wife stared at him over the silver breakfast-kettle as she had stared at him for the last twenty years. For the last twenty years Mrs. Dodd had wondered at the plenteousness of her husband's breakfasts; she was astonished twenty years ago, and she still stared, an awed woman to the present day. "John," she said, in a severe tone, "it is my duty." Whenever Mrs. Dodd differed from her husband she nailed her colours to the mast; she said it was her duty, and she invariably carried her point. "It's dogged as does it," is not only the maxim of agricultural labourers in remote country districts. It [Pg 183] is the secret of success in every married lady's life; it is the talisman confided to the young wife by her more experienced mother, if she have one, if not her aunt tells her the secret, and it comes to the same thing.

"Well, my dear, if you look upon it in that light there is no more to be said," acquiesced the husband.

"It is my duty, and yours too, John; above all it is Anastatia's. What can cement the natural alliance between the squire and the vicar of the parish, more strongly than the former's union with that vicar's sister? Besides, I have another reason. It is our bounden duty, Jack," here the vicar's wife relapsed into familiarity, as she always did when she meant to carry her point, "our bounden duty to rescue the squire from that designing woman."

"Good gracious, Cecilia, who is Anastatia's rival?" [Pg 184]

"You may not have seen it, John, but I have observed it ever since the girls have been away. Miss Hood means to marry the old man!" This latter sentence was uttered in a sepulchral whisper.

"Nonsense, Cecilia, you're joking."

"Do I ever talk nonsense or joke, Mr. Dodd?" answered the wife in a judicial tone.

"Well, my dear," apologetically rejoined the vicar, "I don't think I ever remember your doing the latter," and he felt much as an unfortunate man would feel who had dared to accuse the Lord Chancellor himself of joking and talking nonsense.

"There can't be a doubt of it. Ever since those girls have gone Miss Hood has called here in The Warren brougham, never on foot or in the pony chair."

"But, my dear, the weather has been wet and cold."

"'Tis not the weather, John, it is that woman's arrogance, her way of preparing [Pg 185] the minds of the neighbourhood for the catastrophe."

"Diggory Warrender, my dear, is no more thinking of marrying again than I am," said the vicar.

"The thought of marrying again, Mr. Dodd," retorted his wife severely, "is constantly occurring to the mind of every married man."

"I assure you it never occurred to mine, my dear."

"John, you're ungrateful," replied his wife, and burst into tears.

"If my thinking of marrying again, my dear, will prove my gratitude to you, I will consider the matter at once," said the vicar of King's Warren, with a dreary smile.

But Canon Drivel's daughter did not deign to answer, she merely rang for prayers. In filed the servants, the two grim housemaids and the parlour maid of portentous plainness, for Mrs. Dodd made [Pg 186] it a rule in her austere household that the abigails should be unattractive. Mrs. Dodd opened the book—her father, the Canon's, well-known book of Family Prayers. Although it was the second Thursday in the month she turned to the portion appointed for the first Wednesday. Alas! her copy of the Canon's work opened almost mechanically at the first Wednesday in the month, for in that Wednesday's selection there was a phrase which was very dear to Mrs. Dodd; it was the following: "And if there be one among us whose heart is yet hard," &c., &c. This was Mrs. Dodd's ultima ratio, the last drop that invariably wore away any resistance on the part of the man who, to her mind, was stony-hearted. When the Reverend John Dodd heard the commencement of that prayer he trembled in his inmost soul; when his wife reached the favourite passage she dwelt on the words with unction; and as the servants filed out of the room he,[Pg 187] who had once been "Handsome Jack Dodd," felt himself a slave.

"I had better speak to Anastatia," said Mrs. Dodd.

"Do as you please, my dear," replied the vicar, "but I don't see how she's to propose to old Warrender, all the same."

"Men don't understand these things," sententiously remarked his wife, as she gave a vicious shake to the missionary box, which was always on the sideboard. Missionary boxes are not seen so often now as they used to be, but this old-fashioned engine of torture was clung to by the vicaress. Rosy-cheeked children had received many a bright sixpence from the vicar, their faces wreathed in smiles; the smiles had faded when Cecilia Dodd had proved to them, by chapter and verse, that the proper place for the bright silver was the drab sarcophagus on the sideboard. Even the vicar's friends, at the termination of their rubber for threepenny [Pg 188] points, dreaded the appearance of the box; they invariably contributed, the more daring among them sighing as they did so.

Anastatia Dodd, on the particular morning in question, had not appeared at breakfast. The fragile little lady was suffering from a cold in her head. She was in bed, perusing in undisturbed comfort a harmless novel. But the novel disappeared under the clothes with amazing celerity as the voice of her sister-in-law demanded admission. The mistress of the house affectionately inquired if she felt equal to a short conversation. In some trepidation Anastatia signified her acquiescence. Her sister-in-law pointed out to her that old Mr. Warrender had been very attentive lately. Anastatia innocently answered that "He was a dear old man."

"Oh, my dear, I am so glad, so very glad, to hear you say so," said Mrs. Dodd.

"But why glad, Cecilia?"

"My love, your brother and I thought [Pg 189] it was so, and that you encouraged him. Has he spoken to you yet? He has said nothing to John."

"Spoken, Cecilia, to me; about what?"

"This is affectation, dear; you can't pretend to be blind to what is apparent to all of us."

"Oh, Cecilia, how can you?" sobbed the vicar's sister, blushing to her ears and burying her face in her pillows.

For forty years Anastatia Dodd had lived in maiden meditation fancy free. True, she had taken a lively interest in all her brother's curates, but it was always a professional interest and purely Platonic. But now she blushed, blushed as she had never blushed before.

What woman is displeased at hearing that she has an admirer? Who among us would fail to believe what we have, perhaps, secretly wished for in our heart of hearts?

That arch Machiavel, the vicar's wife,[Pg 190] did not leave her sister-in-law till she was thoroughly convinced that Diggory Warrender was only waiting a favourable opportunity to make her a formal offer of his hand and heart.

All this was sufficiently exciting to poor Miss Dodd, but what was her horror, her horror mingled with astonishment, when she heard that, like the heroines in the story books, she too had a detested rival. Till now Anastatia Dodd had not known what it was to detest anybody, but her sister-in-law pointed out to her that detestation was her duty; that Miss Hood was but a ravening and roaring lion seeking to devour the old squire, and then to pick his bones. Unconsciously, as she stood by her sister-in-law's bed, Cecilia Dodd assumed the awful pose, the statuesque attitude, of the Judith at the bedside of Holofernes of her former days; her hand, as it grasped the brass ball at the foot of the bed, seemed to be clutching the head of her victim. Poor Anastatia,[Pg 191] as a hare nestles in its form, had almost shrunk beneath the bed-clothes.

"It is your duty, my dear," said Judith, "to rescue this man from the hands of the harpy at The Warren. He has evidently loved you for years, Anastatia; it is your duty; and your brother feels deeply in the matter, more deeply than I do, my dear; we are but weak women, he is a clergyman, and, I regret to add, a man of the world. You must, of course, give Mr. Warrender every encouragement. And do not forget that your brother is the head of the family, the master of this house, a clergyman, and a man of the world. He will not see you wronged."

The vicar's wife left the room and her trembling victim. The voice of duty called her to the kitchen, where her cook patiently awaited her inevitable, and always painful, audience.

In the meanwhile, Squire Warrender and Miss Hood pursued the even tenour of their [Pg 192] ways at The Warren; frequent letters from his daughter, describing the delights of their foreign tour, cheered the old man. All unconsciously, the squire sent his hares and his pheasants to the vicar's wife, his peaches and his flowers to her sister-in-law. In his cracked old voice, he still paid his Grandisonian compliments to the two ladies. He was somewhat surprised perhaps to notice that Miss Dodd was by degrees abandoning her semi-religious garb; and that his visits to the two ladies invariably procured him the pleasure of tête-à-tête interviews with the spinster. He noticed too that the vicar's sister now shook hands with him with an unwonted pressure. One afternoon he actually came home with a button-hole, a white passion flower, which the trembling fingers of Miss Dodd had placed in his coat.

"'Pon my word," he said to Miss Hood, wearing this decoration as they took their habitual cup of tea together, "I really think [Pg 193] that Stacey Dodd gets younger every day."

Miss Hood pricked up her ears. Was the hale old gentleman going to make a fool of himself after all?

Old Mrs. Wurzel and the buxom Miss Grains sat in the little room at the vicarage, which was known to everybody as Mrs. Dodd's own room. The vicar's wife sat before a huge book, in front of her were little piles of copper money. She and her two visitors, and, of course, the vicar ex-officio, formed the committee of the village coal club. After much counting and recounting of the coppers, the total was pronounced correct, and the real work for which the ladies had met was over. The window of the room commanded a view of the lovely old-fashioned garden, which had been the care and pride of many successive vicars of King's Warren. The close-shaven lawn had the inevitable sun dial in its centre. The garden was not at its best, for the trees had [Pg 194] not yet commenced to bud, but it was a fine clear day, and the trim little figure of the vicar's sister was seen briskly pacing up and down the well-kept walks.

"I don't think your sister-in-law seems to care so much for parish work as once she did, Mrs. Dodd," remarked the old lady to the vicar's wife.

"No, poor thing, I fear she has anxieties of her own just now, she seeks solitude a good deal."

"Is there any attachment, dear Mrs. Dodd?" said Mrs. Wurzel with interest.

"Oh, Mrs. Dodd, not an unrequited attachment?" burst forth the brewer's daughter. For that strapping young woman was romantic, and though the course of her own love ran smoothly enough, still she felt a sentimental interest in the woes of others, real or supposed. Her fat red cheeks would quiver with emotion, and be wet with briny tears, over the sorrows of Mr. Trollope's heroines. Fat people are always sentimental,[Pg 195] though they may not seem so, and beneath Miss Grains' tightly-laced corset beat a sympathetic heart. "An unrequited attachment," she repeated, "is so very, very sad."

The vicar's wife answered her reprovingly, "You must not think, Miss Grains, that Mr. Dodd would allow his sister to form such a disgraceful thing as an unrequited attachment."

"Oh, but dear Mrs. Dodd, suppose she couldn't help it," said the artless maiden with a blush and a little sigh.

"No well-brought-up girl would allow herself to do so, my dear, she would have far too much self-respect."

The brewer's daughter blushed deeply, as she thought of the many heroes, real and imaginary, from Marmion down to the last curate but two, for each of whom she herself had felt an unrequited passion, or a more than secret liking. But these hidden passions were before young farmer Wurzel,[Pg 196] in his blue tie and white hat, had proposed to her.

"Well, at all events, Miss Dodd is hardly a girl," she said defiantly.

"Miss Grains," retorted the vicar's wife, "every unmarried woman, even though not in the first bloom of youth, is a 'girl' till she marries. Certainly Stacey Dodd is a 'girl'; and I have known cases, Miss Grains, in my experience, where flighty young ladies, though they may have been temporarily engaged, have remained 'girls' to the end of the chapter."

To this gruesome suggestion Miss Grains made no reply.

Old Mrs. Wurzel turned confidentially to the vicar's wife and said, "Is her engagement generally known?"

"Perhaps," replied the president of the coal club, "it would be premature to speak of it as an engagement, but it is talked of all over the village. I believe there has been an attachment for some years, the [Pg 197] gentleman's attentions are very marked. In fact, I don't think I am betraying her confidence, when I say that the whole village seems to be aware of it. Of course, I mention no names. I should scorn to attempt to precipitate matters. It is a suitable match, I am happy to say, for both parties, but there is an obstacle, my dear; adverse interests are in the field. My sister-in-law is somewhat of a prude. I too was a prude, and I can understand her feelings."

Here Mrs. Wurzel peered at the vicaress with unfeigned surprise.

"It's not quite fair, you know, to Stacey," said Mrs. Dodd.

How was she to tell them, without mentioning his name, that the man who did not come to the point was the old squire himself, and yet she was anxious to do so?

At this moment the austere parlour maid entered the room. "Squire Warrender is in the drawing-room, madam," she announced. Never in her life had the vicar's wife been [Pg 198] guilty of profanity till now, but the opportunity was too golden to be missed.

"Talk of the devil," she said. The four words spoke volumes. Her visitors took their leave, to spread the report over the village and parish of King's Warren.

Mrs. Dodd was a woman who, as we know, did her duty according to her lights. She was determined at all hazards to do her duty now, without flinching, to her sister-in-law, for she had already burnt her ships, and she entered the drawing-room with the deliberate intention of bringing the old squire to the point.

The unsuspecting squire asked for the vicar, after shaking hands with the vicar's wife, and on being informed that his old friend was from home he innocently hoped that the vicar's sister was quite well.

"Ah," said Mrs. Dodd with a sigh, "we're a little concerned about Stacey."

"You should let Pestle see her," replied the sympathizing squire. [Pg 199]

Now Dr. Pestle was the parish doctor, and he deservedly enjoyed the confidence of every soul in King's Warren.

"I fear, squire, hers is not a bodily affection," said Mrs. Dodd with a deep sigh.

"Good Gad! you don't mean to say her mind's giving way?" anxiously demanded the prosaic squire.

"Oh no, we fancy it's an affection of the heart."

"Impossible! at her age. Why she's fifty," emphatically asserted the old gentleman.

"Not fifty, Mr. Warrender; Stacey Dodd is but forty-one."

"You don't say so. I should never have thought it."

The opening of the engagement had egregiously failed. At present the campaign seemed most unpromising. When a gentleman of mature years looks upon a lady as fifty, he can hardly be suspected of designs upon her virgin heart, or of a wish to destroy her peace of mind. Beaten in [Pg 200] her attack on the outposts, Mrs. Dodd changed her strategy with that multiplicity of resource that always distinguishes the greatest generals—she determined at once to carry the war into the enemy's country.

"You must miss the girls very much, squire," she said as she took up a little painted hand-screen, to protect her complexion, on which she lavished much anxious care, from the fierce blaze of the fire. "Yes," she continued, "you must feel it very dull at The Warren now. Quite lonely, I fear."

"No," answered the squire cheerfully, "I have Miss Hood, you know, and we play bezique or backgammon of an evening."

"Ah," replied Mrs. Dodd severely, and horrible visions of those dangerous evenings flashed through the mind of the indignant woman. In her mind's eye she fancied the squire sitting at the backgammon board gazing at Miss Hood's shapely arm and hand, for though Miss Hood was the same [Pg 201] age as her sister-in-law, she still had a very shapely arm and hand.

"Yes," said the squire, "and she reads me the girls' letters; they are a great consolation, for Georgie seems so thoroughly happy."

What more dangerous occupation for a hale old gentleman than to sit and listen by the hour to the written raptures of his daughter on the subject of married bliss, read to him by a lady of prepossessing appearance, by his own fireside, and after having partaken of at least three glasses of old port?

"I suppose," said the vicar's wife with assumed carelessness, "that Miss Hood will be leaving you soon?"

The squire's eye twinkled with suppressed merriment.

"Oh no," he said in a determined tone, "I couldn't afford to lose Miss Hood. For Lucy's sake," he added maliciously.

The lady fanned herself. There are limits [Pg 202] to the endurance of long-suffering woman. Mrs. Dodd felt that she was being trampled on. The sensation was new to her, and unpleasant.

"You appear to cling to her, squire," she said.

"Naturally, naturally," answered the squire, "so do the girls. She has been more than a mother to them."

"Why not make her so in reality?" retorted the exasperated woman, losing her head. Here the fanning became more furious.

"The fact is, Mrs. Dodd," said the squire, "I have been screwing myself up to that point for the last dozen years, but I am close on the age of the patriarchs, and I don't think she'd have me. If you are of a different opinion, Mrs. Dodd, I will reconsider the matter; of course it would be most appropriate. There's no fool like an old fool, I suppose."

Was the seemingly innocent squire referring to himself, or had this abominable old [Pg 203] gentleman the temerity to allude to the wife of the vicar of King's Warren as "an old fool?" Who shall say?

"Do you seriously advise it?" went on her tormentor; "do you think I may dare to hope?"

But the vicar's wife answered him never a word.

He rose to go and shook hands with her in his usual hearty manner. By no outward sign did Mrs. Dodd manifest her indignation, but when the squire had left the room she sank into her chair and burst into tears.

"The serpent!" she ejaculated as she pressed her handkerchief to her streaming eyes.

Not one word did Mrs. Dodd utter for many days to her husband of her momentous conversation with the squire. In a statuesque attitude, she sat, like Marius on the ruins of Carthage, or Patience on a monument smiling at grief.[Pg 204]

And then she thought with horror of the confidence she had made to old Mrs. Wurzel and the brewer's daughter, not an hour before. On a tiré le vin, il faut payer la bouteille.

[Pg 205]



The party had been in Rome three weeks, they had all thoroughly enjoyed themselves, and Georgie Haggard had made no objection whatever to her husband's putting in an appearance at the Ballo Papayani. The great Carnival ball had been for years one of the sights of Rome. Although the red English guide-book merely discreetly remarked that "the scene at Papayani's at Carnival time should on no account be missed," Baedeker and the other foreign mentors devoted whole pages to glowing descriptions of these more than Olympian revels.

An Italian, as a rule, in Carnival time is like an English boy on the fifth of November—he is not happy unless he dresses [Pg 206] up. In this country, we are apt to think when any one dresses himself up, that he is disguising a fool. In Italy, on the contrary, all the world is continually occupied in masquerading in some way or other. Costume balls, in all classes of society, are favourite entertainments. Historical masques, though not got up with the elaborate attention to minute detail which is bestowed upon them by the thoughtful beer-drinking and sausage-devouring German, are yet of very frequent occurrence. Every city, every town, nay every hamlet, in Italy, has its long and glorious history, often written in letters of blood, always deeply engraven on the hearts of the people. The mementoes of a bygone time are cherished by the Italians. Consequently, dressing up in Italy is universal, and even the man who dines upon a penny roll and a quarter of a melon, can afford five centessimi, or one halfpenny, for a paper nose, and it costs him nothing to flour his face and hair. [Pg 207]

Let us take an instance. Ivrea is a little place, a small garrison town, celebrated for its coolness and its cheapness; thither the Piedmontese flock in crowds when the heat of the city is no longer bearable. There is nothing remarkable about the place; it has its opera house, at which ambitious young ladies, principally English and Americans, pupils of the Conservatorio at Milan, make their débuts. Happy garrison, happy sojourners in the little Italian town; they are provided with a succession of interesting, though perhaps undeveloped, prima donnas, who make their little successes or their tiny fiascoes at this nursery of Art. But Ivrea, like all the other Italian towns, has its history, its glorious legend, which is never allowed to die, and the Carnival of Ivrea is the time chosen for representing the story and commemorating the tragic history of the local heroine. In the Middle Ages, Ivrea had its feudal lord. The Count Arduino, as may be fancied from his name, was a bold, bad man; he possessed the [Pg 208] terrible Droit de Seigneur, which he rigorously exacted. The belle of the village was a miller's daughter:

"We never see such maidens now,
Such mill-wheels turn not round."

She was married. No sooner was the ceremony over than the wicked count ordered her to present herself at the castle. The command of the feudal lord could not be disobeyed. Bride and bridegroom, accompanied by the weeping crowd, proceeded to the castle gate. Count Arduino advanced to meet her with a smile, unarmed and unattended. He was but claiming his rights. As he stepped forward to salute her, she presented her cheek to him, and suddenly stabbed him dead at her feet. The mob of relatives and friends wrecked and burned the castle, massacring the retainers to a man. The brave young bride was safely escorted home, where the wedding feast was triumphantly celebrated, and the miller's daughter lived to be the happy mother of many children, and died at a good old age. From [Pg 209] that day the Droit de Seigneur ceased to exist in Ivrea.

This is the origin of the yearly ceremony at the little Italian town. A pretty boy of seven or eight years of age is chosen by each parish. The boys are dressed in fancy costumes and mounted on horses, escorted by the general of the Carnival, who wears a black uniform, and accompanied by his officers, who are clothed in scarlet. During the Carnival the town is under the rule of the general and his officers. The party are received in state by the mayor, the bishop, and the personages of Ivrea. A poetical address is given at each notable's house. On the second day, the children, some eight or ten in number (they are called Abba), on horseback, and escorted by the general and his officers, head a procession, which passes through the town, and which is joined by all the carriages of the place, filled with ladies in gala costume and men in fancy dresses. Everybody dresses up. Then are thrown from windows and [Pg 210] balconies, oranges, flowers, and real confetti, not the chalk coriandoli of Milan, but good eatable sugar-plums. In the evening the little theatre is illuminated regardless of expense, a fabulous sum being expended on extra lamps. Between the acts the Carnival hymn is sung by the whole strength of the company, the Abba children, the general and his officers, who appear upon the stage; and it is a sine quâ non that every one should wear the republican red cap, even the Abba children and the lady artists. The more enthusiastic among the audience, male and female, also sport the red cap of liberty. Secreted in the omnibus box has been seated the prettiest girl in the town. The Mugnaia, as she is called, is carefully arrayed in the costume of the bygone time when the tragedy took place, and now she is escorted by the general of the Carnival to the footlights, a drum and fife band preceding her, the Carnival hymn is sung, vociferously encored and joined in by the audience. The Mugnaia now returns to the box in which she sits in royal state, the observed of all [Pg 211] observers. Of course, she is got up regardless of expense. She, too, wears the little red cap, and, as has been said, has been chosen for her good looks. The opera is concluded, a masked ball follows.

Next day, at seven a.m., in every parish the bride who was last married proceeds in procession to the Piazza of that parish, and with a mallet she indicates the place for the annual scarlo, or bonfire. She is accompanied by her husband. The object of these scarli is to manifest the popular exultation at the annihilation of feudal tyranny. The pair now return home, preceded by a drum and fife band, and escorted by an enthusiastic crowd singing songs of liberty at the full pitch of their voices.

At two o'clock, the general of the Carnival opens the public ball with the Mugnaia. This is held in the Piazza Carlo Alberto, which is the largest square in the town. The orchestra is placed in the centre of the square. Then there is a procession headed by the Mugnaia,[Pg 212] seated on a scarlet velvet throne, and borne in a gilded car; then comes a military band, then the carriages filled with shouting masqueraders and ladies in elaborate toilettes; flowers, sweets, and oranges, are thrown with amazing prodigality as before. In the evening, again the opera, again the masquerade. Next day the procession takes place again, and there is a public ball in the square till ten, then the Abba of each parish solemnly applies the light to his appointed scarlo. When the last scarlo is burned out a funeral march is played and all disperse to their homes. It may be mentioned that the scarlo is not literally a bonfire in our sense of the word, but what we should call a Venetian mast, bound with furze and inflammable material, decorated with gaudy ribbons and surmounted by a flag.

It is not likely that the inhabitants of Ivrea, who thus commemorate her heroic deed, will ever forget their Mugnaia.

But we have wandered away from Papayani's, where the door was surrounded [Pg 213] by an enthusiastic crowd of the poorer among the gay pleasure-seekers of the Carnival. It was a rather trying thing for the arrivals as they stepped from their carriages and passed into the building through a double line of sarcastic or appreciative critics six deep. A quiet brougham draws up at the entrance, the door is flung open by a ragged masker, with an enormous paper nose, in a tattered pierrot costume. As he opens the door he bows to the ground with an exaggerated humility; and Haggard, in his faultless evening dress, steps out, with a frown upon his face, his big form towering above the puny Italian crowd as though he were a king of men in a horde of pigmies. He hands a lady out; her pale blue silk domino hides her effectually from the inquisitive gaze of the crowd. Her tiny gloved hand clutches Haggard's arm as he hurries her into the building, which is one blaze of light, and from which issue sounds of gay music and of the [Pg 214] rhythmic tramp of thousands of dancing feet. The lady is discreetly masked, but though her personal identity is thoroughly disguised, she does not escape a fire of compliment from the appreciative ragamuffins on the pavement. "Ah! che ragazza bellisima." "Che figlia incomparabile." And as an antithesis to this flowery Italian praise, said one British 'Arry to another British 'Arry in the crowd, "Did you see her ankles, George? Do you know who that lady is?" Certainly the white satin dress of the Watteau costume that the lady whom Haggard was escorting wore, disclosed an undeniable instep, and 'Arry's favourable criticism was not undeserved. "I know one thing," said his friend, "there was no humbug in the single stone brilliants she wore as ear-rings." The pair disappeared among the glittering and gaily-dressed crowd that thronged the portico.

M. Barbiche, formerly of the French Embassy to the Court of St. James's, his eye-glass tightly screwed into one of his wicked little eyes, was [Pg 215] lolling against one of the pillars of the foyer. He was criticizing the arrivals to Lord Spunyarn, who yawned by his side, evidently thinking the whole affair a bore.

"Our Haggard, my friend, is what you call an old fox, I fear. Who was the charming girl in the blue domino he was dancing with? I failed to recognize her. She is no habitué here. He intrigues me, this Haggard of ours."

"Pooh!" replied the philosophic lord, as he drove an unusually large volume of cigarette smoke through both nostrils; "some milliner's apprentice probably, got up regardless of expense."

"No, my friend, the shepherdess was too well chausée for that; besides, her mask hides her face too well. Your milliner would not be so farouche as to hide her face, unless, ma foi, she had perchance a bad complexion; but our Haggard is too [Pg 216] great a connoisseur for that. However, he shall introduce me to this mystery, and we shall see."

"I wouldn't try if I were you, Barbiche."

"And why not, my friend? Why not, if you please? Is this Haggard, this English Adonis of yours, with the manners of a prize-fighter, is he to croquer all to himself all the pretty girls of Rome? Is it not enough that he shall have the prettiest wife in Rome? No, I wrong that angel, the most beautiful and the most virtuous of her sex. Is it not enough that this man shall every morning sit down to breakfast with the lovely Mees Lucy? Ah! when I think of Mees Lucy, I remember myself once more, and I think of those happy days in the Quartier Latin, before my uncle does me the honour to die, and I embark myself in the diplomatic career. I study your language in your Dickens, in your Thackeray; at last I attain proficiency. You see it for yourself, no Englishman [Pg 217] ever shall suspect me, when we shall converse, of being other than a Briton. It is the same thing with the charming Mees Lucy. I, a Frenchman, feel my heart beat in sympathy with hers; she is to me a compatriote. We speak to each other as I used to speak to Cascadette in those old happy times. Vlan ça y est. This Haggard of yours he shall have his most beautiful wife, her most lovely cousin, but what shall he want with this little shepherdess in the blue domino. Bah," said the indignant man as he stamps his foot and settles himself down into his enormous collar, "I say he shall introduce me. Think you, my friend, that I fear this 'la-out?' No, I am of the first force, my Shirtings, at the savate."

"What's that?" said Lord Spunyarn stolidly.

"My friend, nous autres, we do not box like you, but we use the savate. Behold, then, what is the savate." And here M. Barbiche suddenly threw himself into the [Pg 218] attitude of an enraged and aggressive monkey. "A ruffian, he strike me, P-r-r-r-r-r," and here M. Barbiche sprang suddenly high in air, and with one adroit and well-directed kick knocked off the hat of the astonished Spunyarn.

In the tohu bohu at Papayani's this singular action of M. Barbiche excited not the slightest surprise; he simply received a vociferous round of applause from the bystanders in his immediate neighbourhood. Excited by the success of his achievement, Barbiche for the moment forgot the Embassy, the Duc de la Houspignolle, and the proprieties; he had been wound up by Papayani's music, and by more than one glass of Papayani's champagne. The Frenchman became for the moment once more Le petit Furibon, the darling of the Closerie de Lilas, the champion of the Quartier Latin, the Elisha upon whose worthy shoulders had descended the mantle of the prophet, the vanished Caouchouc. [Pg 219]

At this moment the strains of Arditi's immortal waltz, "Il Bacio," resounded through the place. The head of M. Barbiche kept time to the music, and he regarded the dancers with a scrutinizing gaze; his eye evidently sought Haggard and the mysterious shepherdess. As the ring of maskers which surrounded the space set apart for the dancers thinned, as numerous couples joined in the waltz, the watchful Frenchman was rewarded. "La voila, mon ami," he said, for Barbiche, when excited, forgot the English of which he was so proud.

Directly opposite Lord Spunyarn and his French friend stood Haggard and his shepherdess. She nestled at his side, clinging to his arm and gazing up into his eyes. The hood of the pale blue silk domino was now thrown back, disclosing a magnificent head of powdered hair; the complexion of the lady's neck and shoulders was dazzling, and evidently natural; her rounded arms [Pg 220] had more of the Venus than the Juno about them; her figure, as she gazed up into Haggard's face, was seen to be perfection. The little foot beat time to the music of the waltz. But a black silk mask with a heavy fall of lace hid every feature, save a rounded chin and a pair of magnificent eyes, which seemed to be pleading to Haggard, and the shell-like ears in which blazed the diamond solitaires which had attracted the attention of the British "'Arry" in the street.

Haggard's face was suddenly lit up with pleasure, his arm slipped round the little waist, the left hand of the shepherdess was confidingly placed on the shoulder of her champion; they started and joined the numerous pairs whirling round to the music of "Il Bacio." Soon the couple excited attention, of which both seemed to be wholly unaware. Haggard, though he was a married man, was still a good dancer, and even here in a foreign ball-room, where, as a rule, the dancing Englishman is [Pg 221] an object of ridicule, he distinguished himself. For Haggard, unlike most of the dancers present (at all events those of the male sex), was perfectly sober; not that the proverbially moderate Italians had exceeded in the use of their light but notoriously nasty wines, but an Italian easily becomes intoxicated, exalted, exhilarated, beside himself under the combined influences of a Carnival ball, the lights, the perfumes, the music, the dancing, and above all the eyes of his inamorata. Can we blame Petrarch for being cheerful when Laura smiles? But no Italian present was in so exalted a state as M. Barbiche of the French Embassy, once so well known as Le petit Furibon, of the Latin Quarter.

As the pairs gradually dropped out, Haggard and his partner became the cynosure of every eye. In vain did Pasquino whirl his Contadina with the ruddled cheeks, varying his saltatory gymnastics with an occasional scream; in vain did young Mr. Simon E. Brown, that very rough diamond from New York city, who had [Pg 222] come to Europe for polish, and was undergoing the process (in the costume of one of the Wise Men of Gotham who went to sea in a bowl) at the hands of the Signorina Esperanza, of the Scala, or any of the motley crew, attempt to attract the public gaze: every eye was riveted with admiration on the shepherdess, that is to say, every male eye; the female organs of vision turned from her in disgust, to admire or criticize her partner, and in the end to feel dissatisfied with their own peculiar victims. For if the masked shepherdess turned the heads of most of those present, Haggard was undeniably the best-looking man in the vast arena. But even the strength of a muscular English dancing man must give way at length to the power of an Italian waltz played fast at past midnight. As for his partner, I believe she could have gone on for ever, but she had perceived that they were attracting attention; she discreetly drew the hood of her pale blue silk domino over her head and hid herself in the recesses [Pg 223] of that mysterious garment. As ill luck would have it, the pair pulled up close to the excited Furibon.

"Ah, mon vieux," cried the Frenchman, advancing with extended hands, "you have rejoiced our eyes. Ah, gredin," whispered Furibon, as he indiscreetly poked his friend in the ribs.

"Ta ta, old man, I must be off," replied Haggard with a frown, as the shepherdess clung in evident trepidation to his arm. "For God's sake, Shirtings, take him away, or there'll be a row," muttered Haggard to his friend below his breath, his white teeth showing beneath his black moustache in a menacing manner.

The crowd of revellers was thick around them. Barbiche was, as we know, a gentleman, but our ideas of courtesy are not a Frenchman's, and, as has been said before, he had ceased to be Mr. Barbiche the viveur, for the moment he was Furibon, the daring Furibon of former days. [Pg 224]

"Saperlotte," he hissed, and his out-stretched hand touched the pale blue domino on the shoulder.

The domino shrank as to avoid him.


With one cruel but well-aimed blow Haggard smote the Frenchman in the mouth, and down he went among the feet of the crowd of indignant maskers.

"Look to him, Spunyarn," cried Haggard, as he hustled his way through the crowd, and in an instant disappeared, bearing in his arms the fainting form of the shepherdess.

Væ victis, alas for poor Furibon, where was his boasted skill as a kicker? Why had he not sprung high in air and delivered his unexpected assault? We must say of the savate respectfully, as our Gallic neighbours said of the Balaclava charge, c'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas la guerre. Seated on the floor, the unfortunate Frenchman presented a piteous appearance, as he shed mingled tears of pain and rage, tore his hair, and wiped his cut lip. "Insolente birbone!" "Bestia!" [Pg 225] "Cane!" Such were the cries of the dancers on seeing the blow struck, but they were levelled not so much at the assailant as at his victim. In the eyes of the bystanders, Haggard was evidently looked upon as the protector of beauty in distress. But as Valour bore off fainting Beauty, and made his suddenly triumphant exit, everybody's attention was directed to the unhappy Furibon. A gentleman tearing his hair, in the eyes of Italians, is a common, interesting, and dignified object. The cause of this performance is usually romantic, time and place generally appropriate, but Italians do not tear their hair at masked balls. As everywhere else, a foreigner in distress in Rome is looked upon as a grotesque object, and poor Barbiche was no exception to the rule. At first he sat and wept, now he sat and swore, but all the time he tore hard at his hair. Haggard had disappeared with the celerity of a harlequin who jumps through a trap. [Pg 226]

Lord Spunyarn was somewhat bewildered; he, as a boxer, as an amateur though unsuccessful athlete, knew what a good knock-down blow was; he had seen them delivered, with varying degrees of energy, force, and viciousness, but never in all his lordship's experience till now had he seen a master-stroke which combined all the above qualities in the superlative degree. At last he got poor Furibon upon his legs. The Frenchman carefully felt his front teeth, doubtful if they were still there, then he ceased to swear and to mutter in his own tongue; he ceased to be Furibon, he became once more the correct M. Barbiche of the French Embassy.

"Milor, you have seen the insult. Monsieur Haggard takes advantage of his physique, of his brutal boxing skill, to maim me, perhaps, Mon Dieu, for life, and to render me an object of contempt and ridicule to these grimacing apes," here he glowered at the laughing crowd.

"But, my dear boy, it was your own fault,[Pg 227] you know; what did you want to lay hands on the domino for?"

"In that there is nothing, Lord Spunyarn. Black dominoes, pink dominoes, blue dominoes. Bah! they are but public property, milor, but I shall teach this Don Quixote a lesson, this chivalrous protector of dominoes. Yes," he added solemnly, as he crossed himself, "please God."

Lord Spunyarn shook his head. There seemed no other way out of it; the Frenchman had been struck, the insult was in a public place; an apology or arrangement was impossible. Spunyarn was well aware that Barbiche was by no means an antagonist to be despised. He had been a journalist, a career which in France may enable a man to attain the highest positions; from journalism he had drifted into diplomacy, as French journalists sometimes do. This was after his accession to the fortune of a deceased uncle. Of course, he was skilled with the small-sword, as all French journalists are bound to [Pg 228] be; his reputation with the pistol was equally deadly.

"I shall send my friend to him in the morning," said M. Barbiche calmly, as leaning on Lord Spunyarn's arm he left the ball-room. "I suppose you will act for him?"

"Don't know, I'm sure. I'm not up to these things, but I don't see why you should shoot each other over it."

The Frenchman shrugged his shoulders as he stepped into his perfectly-appointed but funereal-looking little brougham. As he drove home he meditated on his wrongs, and in his heart of hearts he swore that four-and-twenty hours should not elapse ere the insult should be avenged by his own skilful hand.

[Pg 229]



Lord Spunyarn woke with a very bad headache indeed, the morning after the ball at Papayani's. He hurried to commence his dressing, for his valet on awakening him had presented a thin and varnished card, bearing a portentous coronet and the name of the Comte de Kerguel. The man told him that the visitor had come on business of the most urgent nature. What his business was, Spunyarn was well aware. Knowing that, next to getting married, a Frenchman looks upon the delivery of a hostile message, as the most important, pleasant, and serious event of life; Spunyarn wisely dressed himself with care and deliberation. When he entered his sitting-room M. de Kerguel rose and profoundly saluted him.

[Pg 230]

"Milor Spunyarn. I have the honour of addressing him?"

"Yes, it's quite right, that's me Please be seated."

The Frenchman sat himself down bolt upright.

"I suppose, Lord Spunyarn, that my visit is not unexpected. I had the honour to call upon your friend Monsieur Haggard, to demand satisfaction from him on the part of my friend, Monsieur Barbiche. You, I believe, were present at the whole affair. Monsieur Haggard has referred me to you as his friend."

Spunyarn bowed, stretched out his long legs towards the fire, and opening his cigarette case offered it to Monsieur de Kerguel.

"Won't you smoke?" he said.

A French gentleman in a new frock coat, on the most serious of all missions, the bearer of a hostile message to a man he has never met in his life before, is asked to smoke!

[Pg 231]

A crowd of strange thoughts passed through his mind. Are these Englishmen cowards? He drew himself up more stiffly than before, as he declined the offer.

"Have you breakfasted?" said his hospitable lordship, ignoring the gesture.

"Lord Spunyarn," replied the Frenchman, "I come to you this morning purely as the emissary of my insulted friend; not to accept of your kindness, or to trespass on your hospitality."

"Oh, of course I understand that; but you see we English don't fight duels as a rule. Of course I should be sorry to balk you, but can't it be arranged?"

"Lord Spunyarn, you are aware that my friend was struck. In my country, no gentleman receives a blow without avenging it. Least of all a journalist or a diplomate. My friend Monsieur Barbiche was one, and is the other. In speaking of arrangement, milor, I would suggest that we are wasting time."

"But I don't quite see that," persisted Spunyarn, strong in his idea [Pg 232] that the man who fights a duel is a fool. "You see there was a lady in the matter, and your friend insulted her. Why man, he actually touched her, I saw him do it."

"Milor, ladies who go to masked balls are accustomed to such marks of attention. What my friend did was but a condescension on his part. But there was a blow struck, milor. Besides this, Monsieur Haggard has referred me to his friend Lord Spunyarn, I suppose with a definite purpose, and not with the intention of causing me to listen to, shall we say homilies, from his lordship."

"The whole affair's a beastly nuisance. I don't understand these things, but I will try to settle the matter."

"Milor, the matter admits of no settlement," said the Breton menacingly, rising from his chair.

"I tell you plainly, Monsieur de Kerguel, it is very much against the grain that I [Pg 233] have anything to do with the matter. Unfortunately, as you say, I was present, and I tell you that our friend Barbiche behaved like a lunatic. Why he kicked my hat off, and I don't want to call him out."

Monsieur de Kerguel smiled. "If your lordship is in any way aggrieved by my friend's conduct, you have your remedy."

"Oh, I could have had my remedy last night; if I had felt aggrieved, as you call it, I should have done exactly what Haggard did—I should have punched his head, you know."

"Milor, no man of whatever nationality, as you happily express it, 'punches the head' of a French gentleman with impunity, unless peradventure," said de Kerguel with an insolent smile, "he is a coward as well as a boxer."

"Do sit down," said Lord Spunyarn imperturbably. "He's no coward," and taking from his pocket a note, he handed it to the Frenchman. [Pg 234]

The letter was short but emphatic.

"Dear Shirtings,

"That ass Barbiche will send a friend to you asking for a meeting. Agree to anything he wishes and oblige


"R. Haggard."

The Frenchman read the letter, reseated himself, and with a bow handed back the note.

"I was precipitate, Milor. All this is very irregular; but we advance, though slowly."

"Yes, I suppose we do, worse luck. I'll tell you what I'll do. Old Pepper is stopping in this hotel; there seems to be nothing else for it, I'll send for him," said his lordship with a sigh, and he rang the bell.

The waiter who answered it was directed to present his lordship's compliments to [Pg 235] General Pepper, and to request his immediate presence.

The Indian warrior had just breakfasted, and entered the room in a few minutes. He was introduced to the Frenchman; a few words from Lord Spunyarn sufficiently explained the matter.

"I understand then, Monsieur de Kerguel," said the general, "that we are the challenged party. As such we are entitled to a choice of weapons?"

Monsieur de Kerguel bowed. "Assuredly, Monsieur le Général," he replied.

"You will excuse us then for an instant?" said he, as he motioned Spunyarn to the window. "This is a beastly affair, your lordship. It won't admit of arrangement. Do you know if the Frenchman is best at swords or pistols?"

"Can't say, I'm sure," replied his lordship; "probably he's a dab at both. I know he was a newspaper man. They all are fighting men." [Pg 236]

"It's most unfortunate for our man; they'll have to fight. Is Haggard any good at either?"

"I don't think he can shoot, at least not in a regulation affair. I know he can use a revolver, and he is very good at single-stick."

"It's a heavy responsibility," replied the general seriously. "If it had been arranged for this morning at dawn we might have had a chance with the pistols, for perhaps the Frenchman's hand would have been unsteady. I suppose it was a good knock-down blow?"

"A regular snorter!" said his lordship with enthusiasm.

"Most unfortunate. Well, we must try our luck with a regulation sabre; they can't well refuse it; ours is the stronger and bigger man. I don't think there's any room for doubt, eh? But it's a precious nuisance. Man's got his wife here too. It's sure to be in the papers. Beastly nuisance; we shall [Pg 237] all have to clear out, for I suppose it won't be a mere matter of scratches. It must come off at once too, or we shall be suspected of shirking. I think that's the only course," said the general as he pulled down his wristbands.

"I'm afraid so," said his lordship.

They rejoined the Frenchman.

"Monsieur de Kerguel," said the general, seating himself, "we have elected to choose sabres, regulation sabres; you have no objection, I suppose?"

"Sir, the weapon is unusual. As you are doubtless aware, between civilians the small-sword, the rapier and the pistol are what are usually employed. The sabre is unusual, and as a rule only employed in settling the little differences of officers of cavalry."

"Monsieur de Kerguel, his lordship and I are here in the interests of our friend Haggard. You are possibly unaware that among English gentlemen the duel has ceased to be a means in these degenerate days of [Pg 238] settling disputes. Unfortunately our principal has directed us in writing to agree to your wishes; and his lordship here has, somewhat indiscreetly, I must remark, taken you into his confidence. As he has done so, sir," said the general, "and bearing in mind that we are in a foreign country, and that unfortunately a blow has been struck, we feel ourselves reluctantly compelled to accept the proposed meeting. It is therefore our duty, sir, to protect our principal, and we cannot consent to abate one jot or tittle of our rights. Should you decline the weapon proposed no meeting can evidently take place," here the general gave a little sigh; "Lord Spunyarn is of the same opinion. It is then for you to accept or refuse; in the latter case the matter must definitely end here."

The Frenchman paused and thought.

"Unfortunately, gentlemen," he replied, "my principal has left me no choice; he naturally declines any apology——" [Pg 239]

"You will please to observe. Monsieur de Kerguel, that we have offered none," interrupted the general; "in our humble opinion the original insult, as well as the challenge, comes from you, and we cannot deviate from our position. We decline to modify our terms in any way. And I would respectfully suggest that this interview must definitely terminate the matter one way or the other. I would remark," fiercely added the general, "that neither we nor our principal are to be cajoled or intimidated."

"It shall be as you say, general. Nothing remains then, I think, for us but to name a time and place. The weapons, the most unusual weapons, we are reluctantly compelled to accept under protest. Have you any suggestion to offer, general?"

"None whatever, sir. One party shall provide a surgeon, the other a pair of ordinary cavalry sabres. You as a resident in this infernal hole can doubtless suggest a suitable spot for the meeting. Of course [Pg 240] you will be provided with a second friend. As to time, the sooner the better. We then, if it suits you, will bring a pair of regulation sabres. You, perhaps, will bring a doctor who will act for both men. Perhaps you will also oblige us by naming the time and place of meeting."

"Gentlemen, the mill at St. Stefano is only four miles off; it is secluded; we shall not be disturbed. You know the place? Five o'clock will, I think, suit us all? Is it agreed?"

The general bowed.

"Gentlemen, I have the honour to salute you," said Monsieur de Kerguel with a profound obeisance.

The general rang the bell, and Monsieur Barbiche's friend took his leave.

"Thank God!" piously exclaimed the general. "I had him there; Haggard is the bigger and more powerful man, of that there is no doubt. It shall not be my fault if they don't settle their differences with the [Pg 241] longest and heaviest pair of regulation sabres to be had in Rome for love or money. It's quite against the rule, you know, but you say our man is good at single-stick, so he may have the luck to smash him or cut him down before the Frenchman spits him, as he is bound to do if he gets the chance. And I'll tell you what it is, my lord, I'll take a glass of curaçao, for I'm dry with talking."

The curaçao was duly brought, and certainly the general deserved it. The experienced warrior had perceived that De Kerguel was bent on mischief, and by his own coyness he had succeeded in beguiling the Frenchman into accepting a weapon of the use of which his principal was probably totally ignorant. The men would then theoretically meet on an equality. But a cavalry sabre is a big and comparatively awkward weapon, and supposing that both were equally unskilled in its use, Haggard, as the taller and stronger man, would certainly have the advantage. Besides [Pg 242] this the old general meant it, when he had stated his design to provide a specially heavy pair of weapons.

In his great anxiety to secure a meeting at any price, De Kerguel had been compelled to accept the general's ultimatum with regard to weapons, "these or none;" but he knew that his principal thirsted for blood, so he gave way, and it seemed to him at the time that the trifling matter of providing the weapons was of little moment. But ere he reached his friend's hotel he felt that he had been caught napping.

Barbiche was extended upon a couch. A huge piece of black court plaister hid the wound on his swollen lip, a cup of tisane stood upon the table. He was dabbing his forehead with toilet vinegar. His head was bound with a scarlet and yellow silk handkerchief which he wore after the manner of a nightcap, as is the custom of his country. As his friend entered he sprang to his feet.

[Pg 243]

"Have you arranged it, De Kerguel? Will he meet me, or are these Englishmen brave only with their fists?"

"Do not excite yourself, Emile; you will have need of all your skill, of all your courage."

"He will come, then, this protector of the demi-monde, this model moral English husband. Say, is it sword or pistols, De Kerguel?"

"Ah! my poor Barbiche, I fear that I have, as our American friends say, 'given you away.'"

"You don't mean to say that the coward has apologized? This was no case for an apology, De Kerguel, as you know."

"I wish it had been," said his friend; "unfortunately you are to fight."

Barbiche instantly threw himself into a Napoleonic attitude. Under such circumstances a Frenchman always feels himself a hero, and invariably unconsciously assumes the favourite pose of the Little Corporal.

[Pg 244]

"Yes, you are to fight, my poor friend, but with cavalry sabres."

Barbiche suddenly buried his face in his hands, and exclaimed in a broken voice, "Oh, my mother!"

When a Frenchman is in a very deep hole indeed, he always apostrophizes his mother; on ordinary occasions he thinks little enough about her.

"Kerguel," he cried at length, looking up reproachfully at his friend, "you must have been mad. The sabre, as you know, is only used among cavalry officers; the pistol or the small-sword are the arms of gentlemen."

"And also of journalists, my friend. Of that the rusé old general, our man's friend, was unfortunately too well aware. You had tied me down too tightly, my Barbiche; my instructions were to obtain a meeting at any price. It was the choice of Hobson, that or none."

Barbiche placed his hand to his swollen lip. [Pg 245]

"And you were right, my friend. Let us embrace."

They did so with effusion.

De Kerguel explained all the arrangements to his principal. Then they drove to the nearest cavalry barrack, where they had acquaintances; and that excellent fencer, Monsieur Barbiche, received an hour's lesson in the use of the sabre from the maître d'armes. But he found the weapon unwieldy, and he returned to his hotel a sadder man than he left it.

Old General Pepper ate his lunch with considerable relish. He was sick and tired of Rome, its churches, its ruins, and its priests. He longed, with an ardent longing, for that paradise of retired military men, "the sweet shady side of Pall Mall;" he longed, too, for the whist tables at the Pandemonium, and his so-called friends at that establishment. He felt that if he only got safely across the frontier he would be one of the lions of the season; for he was certain that the business he was bent upon [Pg 246] that afternoon would be no child's play. He himself was no particular friend of Haggard's; but he was proud of having done his best for his man. "After all," said he to himself, "it's six of one, and half-a-dozen of the other. It's lucky for Haggard that Spunyarn sent for me, or that cursed Frenchman would have had his life to a certainty, for the friend meant fighting; I could see it in his eye."

Such thoughts as these passed through the worthy officer's mind as he carefully packed his portmanteau. Then he paid his bill. "Now," he soliloquized, "this is what I call being sacrificed. Of one of these fellows I know absolutely nothing, and precious little of the other. But in the cause of honour I shall probably have to run half across Europe, and the worst of it is, at my own expense."

Then the general started out to secure the longest and heaviest pair of cavalry sabres he could find in Rome. [Pg 247]

Haggard was equally active. He informed his wife and her cousin that they must leave Rome at once; the convenient excuse of an outbreak of cholera in the city was a sufficiently valid one for the ladies. By two o'clock Mrs. Haggard and Lucy, their maid Hephzibah, and Haggard's useful and polyglot valet, a Swiss, named Capt, were en route for Geneva.

"Business, my dear, will detain me here till over to-morrow," said Haggard, as he embraced his pretty wife upon the platform; "but, please God, I shall see you then." Perhaps his voice faltered a little, as the possibility flashed through his mind that perchance, in this world, he might never gaze again into those loving, trustful eyes. One more kiss at the carriage-window and the train started, for even Italian trains must start at last. Haggard stood gazing after the disappearing carriages. Then he lit a big cigar and went back to his hotel. Then, as a good man of business,[Pg 248] he made his will. It was short and to the point. He left everything he had in the world to his dear wife, Georgina Haggard. He rang for a couple of waiters, who duly witnessed it. And then from his pocket-book he took a little packet of tissue-paper. In it was a magnificent lock of hair. Alas, its colour was other than the deep chestnut bronze of Georgie Haggard's. He twined it round his finger, smoothing its glossy threads, and then he carefully dropped it into the hottest part of the wood fire which smouldered on the hearth. It curled and twisted in the embers as if it had been a living thing; a puff of smoke, a pungent odour, and it was gone. Haggard flung himself upon the sofa, and then he slept the dreamless sleep of a little child.

Punctually as the clock struck five, Monsieur Barbiche's faultless brougham and high-stepping horse drew up at the old mill, the only building which remained of the ancient village of St. Stefano. The place [Pg 249] was well chosen. There was not a soul about. Barbiche, his face still very pale, dressed in spotless black, in his button-hole the red ribbon, so dear to every Frenchman's heart, and accompanied by his friend De Kerguel, stepped out. They were followed by a little dried-up Italian army surgeon, who carried under his arm an ominous-looking black case. They made for the miller's orchard at once.

They were not destined to be kept in suspense, for Haggard and his party had preceded them. All three Englishmen, Haggard, the general and Lord Spunyarn, were attired in ordinary walking dress; the general and Spunyarn advanced to meet De Kerguel. Barbiche and the surgeon remained a little apart.

"Gentlemen," said De Kerguel, as he courteously raised his hat, "we owe you an apology."

General Pepper's ruddy face assumed a purple hue. "Did these fellows mean to [Pg 250] cry off after all?" But he was soon reassured.

"We have thought it better," said the Frenchman with a smile, "to avoid mixing up any one else in this unfortunate affair. Hence, gentlemen, we have dispensed with the usual second témoin. Dr. Battista, of the Papal Zouaves, is present. We had better perhaps lose no time."

"Be good enough," said the general, "to look at these." And from under his blue military cloak, which lay upon the ground, he drew a pair of regulation sabres, perhaps a little exceeding the ordinary length. They were heavy, murderous-looking weapons.

"I cannot object, gentlemen," said the Frenchman, as he carefully measured them and weighed them in either hand. "But——" here he eloquently shrugged his shoulders.

The expectant adversaries lost no time. They divested themselves of their coats and vests, and, bare-headed, each advanced to receive his weapon.

[Pg 251]

The general traced two lines on the dusty earth, about eight feet apart. Barbiche and Haggard took their places. The old general stood between them, but a little to one side; he held his stick, with the point raised a little from the ground, ready to dash aside the blades the instant that blood should be drawn.

"En garde, messieurs," exclaimed De Kerguel.

Both men put themselves at once on the defensive: their blades crossed, but the attitudes were different and characteristic. Barbiche, drawing himself up to his full height, raised his left arm while standing face to face with his adversary, brought the point of his weapon close to his finger tips in salute, and then fell at once into the regulation position of the French fencing schools—the right foot well forward, both knees considerably bent, the left arm high in air, the elbow at a right angle. He kept his sword pointed at the [Pg 252] eyes of his adversary; but he never rested for an instant. He evidently meant business. Haggard, on the contrary, assumed a totally different posture. His left arm was behind his back, the hand clenched, the right leg perfectly straight. He held the sabre lower, but the point was kept unwaveringly at the chest of his enemy; his teeth were set. On his face was that quasi-good-humoured smile, which is alike assumed by the British boxer and the British ballet-girl when exhibiting their arts.

The Frenchman's blade scintillated in the setting sun around Haggard's more stiffly held weapon. As it grated against it, first on one side then on the other, Barbiche made pass after pass, feint after feint at his impassive adversary. Suddenly he sprang forward with cat-like agility, his left hand touching the ground, and he made a rapid pass from below upwards at the Englishman; his point passed dangerously near his ribs. It was the well-known extension [Pg 253] en seconde; a favourite trick among Parisian swordsmen of the Romantic school. The attempt failed, and was followed by a rapid succession of miscellaneous thrusts and passes in bewildering variety. The Frenchman never withdrew his blade; but his very anxiety to make a hit was defeating itself. Such tactics with the light rapier or small-sword are doubtless correct; but Barbiche forgot the weight of his weapon, and the muscles of his arm were already beginning to tire.

As that experienced swordsman, General Pepper, standing with stick extended, viewed the fight, it seemed to him that Haggard, by remaining purely on the defensive, ran a considerable risk, but that was Haggard's business. Perhaps after all his principal meant to take a flesh wound, and so end the matter. "But," thought the general to himself, "he'll find out his mistake, if that dancing devil gets in one of his vicious thrusts." Spunyarn looked [Pg 254] on, and the perspiration streamed from his face. De Kerguel was no less excited, but he preserved a calm exterior.

More than two minutes had now elapsed since the combat had first commenced. These things take longer to tell than to do. Suddenly, in an instant, Barbiche made a furious lunge at his opponent; the Englishman parried it with ease, dropping his point lower than usual. As if blind to the consequences, the Frenchman rushed forward with a short sharp cry, his sword passed across Haggard's chest without touching him, but poor Barbiche had literally impaled himself on his adversary's extended weapon. His sabre dropped from his hand. He flung both his arms high in air, giving one bitter shriek. His face assumed the expression of one enduring intense torture, and then was calm again. The body, for he was dead, slipped off Haggard's sword in a heap at his feet. Haggard flung his weapon to [Pg 255] the ground, and all four men crowded round the corpse.

"He is stone dead," said the surgeon.

There was a solemn silence.

"Save yourselves, gentlemen," at length cried De Kerguel. "I will see to my unfortunate friend. It was his own fault and mine," he said with a sigh.

The Englishmen saluted. Haggard resumed his garments, and they hurried from the field, unobserved and unmolested.

Next morning Rome rang with the affair; by noon all three Englishmen were safely over the frontier.

[Pg 256]



Twenty-four hours at a Genevese hotel were got through by Georgie and her cousin without difficulty.

"I do think," said Lucy, "that Reginald might have brought us here himself. I confess that a tête-à-tête of two women is dull; when they are almost sisters, as a rule it's duller still; though the dulness is frequently enlivened by a pitched battle. Georgie, why are you not of a pugnacious disposition? My fingers literally itch to box some one's ears; as for Hephzibah, I've no patience with her."

"I noticed that you had set her crying again, Lucy, for about the tenth time to-day."

"And serve her right, she's over head [Pg 257] and ears in love with that priceless jewel, your husband's man; it's as plain as the nose on her face, and there's no doubt of the plainness of that. I know the symptoms, they are unmistakable: they always are, among the ministering classes. He was Capt before, now it's 'Mr. Capt' here and 'Mr. Capt' there. Mistering is always the first sign, Georgie. No, I've no patience with her at all. It appears he gave her a thermometer about a week ago; she has carried this thing about in her pocket ever since; the mercury has got separated, and she passes her whole time in weeping and shaking the horrid thing, and trying to get it back again. Now I ask you, Georgie, just look at her."

A mirror, turned towards an open door, disclosed the lovelorn Hephzibah in the next room. Her proceedings were sufficiently grotesque. In her hand she held a small ornamental thermometer; she would shake it violently in the air, she would then [Pg 258] regard it intently with a puzzled expression, then she would shake her head and proceed to furiously agitate it once more. Failing in her purpose, she wept bitterly.

Good-natured as Georgina was, she could not resist a smile.

"Hephzibah, you fool, come here," cried Lucy.

The maid at once secreted the thermometer in her bosom.

"Why do you hide the nasty thing?" said Lucy.

"Oh, miss, I'm ashamed."

"And what are you crying for?"

"Please, miss, because of the omen."

"What do you mean?" said Georgina; "do calm yourself, Hephzibah."

"Oh, miss, only look," cried the girl, as she took the scientific love-token from its hiding place; "the quicksilver have separated, never to be re-united, and isn't that an omen, miss?" Here the maid shook the thermometer with redoubled fury.

[Pg 259]

"You stupid creature, so you believe in all that nonsense, do you?"

"I may be stupid, Miss Lucy, but I've never known a sign or omen fail. Didn't the cook at The Warren, miss, predict, with coffee grounds, that I should be engaged to a foreign gentleman, but that some one younger and more beautiful would prove a jealous rival? Here I am engaged, miss, or as good, to Mr. Capt; and I know what this omen means. You may laugh, miss, but it's a very serious thing."

"I shouldn't wonder at all, Hephzibah; the hotel prospectus says there are no less than fifty chambermaids here. Perhaps even fifty jealous rivals."

"Mr. Capt don't demean himself to chambermaids, Miss Lucy," retorted the abigail with angry scorn.

"Oh, I've no doubt Capt is ambitious; perhaps he looks higher. Perhaps I shall be your rival, Hephzibah." [Pg 260]

"You wouldn't have the heart to do it, miss," said the girl in all seriousness.

Mrs. Haggard gave her cousin a reproving glance, but Lucy imperturbably continued:

"Well, Hephzibah," she said, "I think you may consider yourself safe from me, at least; but I'll help you if you'll let me."

Ladies don't wink, they only imperceptibly droop their eyelids, but the glance that Lucy gave her cousin was terribly like a wink, and brimming over with malice.

"Yes," she went on. "Light that candle, you stupid creature; now hold your thermometer close to the flame; we shall soon see what the omen is worth."

The maid did as she was bid, and carefully watched the tube.

"Well, are the separated fates getting any nearer?" inquired the young mistress with affected solicitude.

"Oh, miss, they are coming together gradually, but very slowly, miss." [Pg 261]

"Get the thing nearer to the candle, then."

Poor Hephzibah obeyed; she little suspected the heartless trick played at her expense.

"Oh, miss," she delightedly exclaimed, "they'll join in another instant."

Bang went the fragile bulb, as it splintered into a thousand atoms, and the mercury shot in sparkling globules over the table.

Lucy's ringing laugh resounded through the room.

But the matter was no joke to Hephzibah, her pale lips became colourless; she pressed her hand to her heart with a gesture full of anguish, recovered herself with difficulty, gave forth a few short sharp sobs, cast an almost menacing look upon her younger mistress, then turned and rushed from the room.

"How could you have the heart to tease her so?" said Georgie with honest indignation. "I'm ashamed of you, Lucy; you've no right to trifle with [Pg 262] her feelings."

"Trifle with her fiddlesticks," laughed the girl.

But a knock at the door interrupted them; the discreet Capt entered, bearing a telegram upon a salver.

Mrs. Haggard, to whom the envelope was addressed, tore it open with some anxiety; her face assumed a pleased expression.

"Order a carriage at once, Capt," she said.

The valet withdrew to execute the command.

The telegram was from Haggard; it was as follows:

"Spunyarn and I are on the road, and shall reach Geneva by last train. You had better go to the Villa Lambert and arrange for taking up our quarters there, if you like the place. All well—H."

Georgie handed the paper to her cousin, the latter clapped her hands with glee. In [Pg 263] a woman's life there is nothing more delightful than arranging a home, though it be but a temporary one.

The girls hurried to prepare for their drive. And Mrs. Haggard, after attempting to soothe the wounded feelings of her maid, directed her to accompany them.

With Capt on the box, the young wife and her cousin, and their still ruffled attendant, started on the lovely drive along the margin of the lake for the villa which Haggard had secured, should it meet with their mutual approval, as a home for his wife and cousin during his short projected necessary absence in America.

As seen from the lake the Villa Lambert, which stood quite alone, gave one the idea of the place a poet would choose for his meditations. The villa and its terrace were built of white stone, but a large portion of the walls was covered with ivy. The house itself was embedded in a thickly-wooded garden where the trees were just [Pg 264] budding into leaf. Privacy was evidently what had been aimed at in the arrangement of the place. On looking at it one would instinctively say, here is rest. A large porte cochère, which had evidently been long unused, was the chief entrance to the place, and a small wicket, pierced by a grille, and surmounted by a big bell in an iron cage, was the only other means of getting into the garden. The active Capt descended, and seizing the substantial handle rang loudly. The bark of a dog was the only answer, but after repeating the summons several times, the trap in the wicket opened and disclosed the surly face of an old Savoyard. The gifted Capt addressed the old man in numerous dialects, but no answering smile of intelligence illuminated the sulky wooden face; the barred aperture was closed with an angry slam, and Capt instantly recommenced his solo upon the bell. Again the trap opened and a weather-beaten crone answered his [Pg 265] summons; at length the door itself was unbarred, and Mr. Capt hastened to assist his mistresses to alight. He explained to them that the guardians of the villa were a Savoyard and his wife, and that the man was probably deaf, but that the woman had expressed her readiness to show them over the house and grounds.

The garden was full of trees and thick with evergreen shrubs; the walls covered, as they are in most gardens on the Continent, with carefully trained espaliers, many of which were already white with blossom, which promised an abundant crop. Huge clumps of narcissus gave out their heavy odour; it was too early for other flowers, save the China roses and fuchsias, whose bright colours enlivened the place. The beds were bordered, as in many foreign gardens, by pieces of plank painted a bright blue; the paths, so different from our hard trim English gravel walks, were loose shingle, which had been carefully [Pg 266] raked. A goat, chained to a peg, grazed on the unmown lawn; the house itself was jealously shut up, storm blinds and jalousies covering every window.

The uncommunicative old gardener continued his interrupted vocation; his wife, quitting the party and entering the house by a back door, suddenly flung open the windows of the drawing-room, and so admitted the visitors.

There is always an air of discomfort about a furnished house, a kind of grim bareness that suggests an asylum or a prison, rather than a home; and in foreign furnished houses this is specially apparent: there are the regulation amount of chairs and tables it is true; if there are any ornaments they are always either damaged or in bad taste: they generally combine both qualities. It was so at the Villa Lambert; but everything was spotlessly clean, everything was scrupulously cared for; the chairs stood ranged against the [Pg 267] wall in a melancholy manner, cruel Philistine-looking chairs and guiltless of cushions. There were two hard formal-looking couches, with straight backs and spider legs. There was a sort of creepy look about the whole place.

"I wonder where the last proprietor hung himself, dear?" whispered Lucy in her cousin's ear.

But from the rather dismal salon they passed into a more cheerful room. As the old housekeeper opened the shutters one by one streams of strong sunlight entered the place; the floor was inlaid wood, the walls were panelled to the ceiling, and elaborately carved; the ceiling itself was of polished wood, beautifully veined; the furniture was of oak, heavy and substantial; attempt at ornament there was none, nor was ornament needed, for from the windows of this room one looked out straight over the blue waters of the lake. The cheerful sound of music came from [Pg 268] the deck of a big saloon steamer, bearing its crowd of noisy tourists. On the opposite shore, at Villeneuve, were the wooded grounds of the hotel Byron; Chillon, a white spot in the turquoise sea, was plainly visible to the right. The cousins stepped to the open windows and descended the flight of stairs that led from the centre one; it brought them to a little terrace which overhung the lake.

Lucy clapped her hands with delight, her more staid cousin was rapt in pleased astonishment. In an instant the thousand and one well-known descriptions ran through her mind, and she thought of the impassioned picture of the palace on the Como lake, which Claude Melnotte had poured into Pauline's delighted ear. Ought she not to be happy? Was not her handsome husband the very ideal Claude?

Both girls were enthusiastic; they spent a long afternoon determining this, arranging that. But spring evenings in Switzerland are chilly; [Pg 269] Capt suggested their return to the hotel. They reluctantly bade farewell to the little villa; but during all the long drive back they talked of nothing but the furnishing of the various rooms, the things that must be had, the things they could not do without. All this was argued pro and con.; colours were vital matters, fashion equally important; but not one thought did the ladies give themselves as to the cost. Happy girls, they were quite right; money in such a case as this was no object. Lucky are they who have not to count the cost, these are the people who are the real privileged classes; it's easy enough not to count the cost at all, in fact it's like a pleasant dream, a dream which has an unpleasant awakening at the shrill sounds of the piper who has to be paid.

The girls sat up till midnight, at which time Haggard and his friend were due from Rome. They were both travel-worn [Pg 270] and had not much to tell. Their business in Rome had been transacted. No, they were not hungry; they had dined in the sleeping-car.

The next day, as gently as possible, Haggard broke to his wife the fact that it was incumbent upon him to start at once for his American property. The blow came not unexpectedly, and Georgie made the best of it. But the husband stayed a couple of days in Geneva; there were papers to sign in reference to the little villa, a pair of ponies had to be bought; and the numerous little matters of business to settle, which somehow or other it falls invariably to the lot of man to transact.

The parting came at last; it took place on the platform of the station. There is among women always a melancholy satisfaction in seeing the very last of the beloved object. Georgie was no exception to the rule. Spunyarn, who was to accompany his friend, at a discreet distance was [Pg 271] laughing and chatting merrily with the younger girl. True that at one time there had been rumours of an attachment between the pair; we, who are behind the scenes, know that both were perfectly heartwhole.

"Will the train never start, Lord Spunyarn? I'm afraid all this will upset my cousin; these partings are dreadful things after all."

"Think what my feelings must be, Miss Warrender. I, who have been congratulated by my friends over and over again in reference to my supposed good luck, and who will have now to face the fire of their chaff at my cruel rejection."

"Your lordship seems to bear it bravely enough."

"With profoundest equanimity, Miss Warrender. I leave the lady who has rejected me, in maiden meditation fancy free, at least, I suppose so; that thought is balm to my wounded soul. Hope, they say, springs [Pg 272] eternal in the human breast. Miss Warrender may yet change her mind."

"She will not fail to let you know by telegram should that unlikely event occur, Lord Spunyarn."

"I'm afraid you've destroyed my future peace of mind. I now shall never hear a double knock with equanimity; depend upon it our time has not yet come."

"Yours has at all events, Lord Spunyarn, for if you don't get in you will certainly be left behind."

"Good-bye, then, Miss Warrender; parting is such sweet sorrow, I e'en could say good-bye until to-morrow."

"Now that is very sweet of you. I little thought you were Romeo still."

"Now and ever, Miss Warrender," said the young man with mock passion, as they laughingly shook hands, and he hastened to enter the carriage. "One thing I have forgotten, though," he said, "don't let your cousin see the Society papers." [Pg 273]

The parting between Haggard and his wife was necessarily what such partings usually are: it was painful to both; it would not be amusing to the reader.

Georgie's eyes were full of tears as her husband embraced her for the last time. He only tore himself from her reluctant arms as the final whistle sounded from the engine. As the train slowly moved from the platform, the girls walked hurriedly along for a few yards. Haggard leant from the window, waving his hand; his wife gazed after the vanishing train, standing like Niobe, dissolved in tears.

Even Haggard, case-hardened as he was, didn't light his cigar for full twenty minutes.

That evening Lucy Warrender obtained with some difficulty a copy of 'The Sphere;' this is what she read there:

"Seldom indeed now-a-days do Englishmen fight duels. In this they are wise, for with us the man who fights a duel receives no [Pg 274] sympathy, and what is more unpleasant, generally becomes an object of ridicule. Sometimes, however, a duel is unavoidable. We understand that this was the case in the late unfortunate affair at Rome. The provocation was given by the man who fell. M. Barbiche was well known in London society. As usual, the cause of the quarrel was a lady. A correspondent in Rome, upon whose information we can rely, informs us that a blow was struck by Mr. R—— H——, but only after the grossest provocation. The meeting took place within twenty-four hours; unfortunately the result was fatal. The survivor and the seconds of both parties crossed the frontier at once, but one of the friends of the deceased took the precaution to draw up a procès verbal of the affair before he left, and transmitted it to the authorities. Society in Rome has been stirred to its foundations, for both the parties were well known. The weapons were sabres. We understand that the seconds of Mr. R—— H——, a well-known sporting [Pg 275] nobleman and General C——, are, as well as their principal, members of the P——m Club. General C—— is now in England."

To Lucy Warrender, who now heard of the matter for the first time, these initials were no enigma. The cause of Haggard's mysterious detention in Rome, and of their own sudden flitting, became at once clear to her. "It was very thoughtful of Spunyarn," she said to herself; "he was quite right, Georgie certainly shouldn't see this."

The careful Lucy took every precaution. The consequences of the incident at Papayani's ball remained a secret to the young wife.

The ladies were glad of the temporary excitement of their move to the Villa Lambert, which they made the day after the departure of the two men. And now commenced a life of seclusion and retirement, which both of them enjoyed from its very [Pg 276] novelty. The old quiet life that they had led at The Warren seemed to recommence once more. They gardened, they drove out, they rowed and sailed upon the lake, but they declined all acquaintances. The life was monotonous enough and devoid of incident.

Hephzibah Wallis had recovered her spirits, her Swiss lover was more attentive than ever; he escorted her on a Sunday evening to the Protestant place of worship, and though she didn't understand a word, Hephzibah enjoyed the service. In the mysterious rite of "walking out" going to church together forms an important factor; it is the outward and visible sign of "keeping company;" it is the inevitable step to being "asked in church," a kind of probationary period, a sort of trial trip. Mr. Capt was more loquacious than the British man-servant, under similar circumstances, would be. He was never tired of drawing out Miss Wallis on the subject of her young mistresses. The [Pg 277] juvenile escapades of the younger of them were to him a source of endless amusement; he heard all that his inamorata had to tell, nay his interest was so great in her artless narratives that he would make her repeat them over and over again. The Swiss soon found out that in Hephzibah he was dealing with a truthful girl; for the tale, though oft repeated, never varied. What girl has any secret from the man she loves? Hephzibah Wallis formed no exception to the rule. But it never dawned on her, at least not then, that she was being "pumped." She put down Mr. Capt's complaisance to his interest in her; and though, as servants will, she at times asked him questions about his master, she merely admired him the more when they were dexterously parried, for the confidential valet, in regard to Haggard, ever remained discretion itself.

Great was Georgie's delight when she got the first letter from her husband. Till now they had never been separated; is it to be [Pg 278] wondered at, then, that she locked herself up with the treasure? After the usual protestations and the regulation amount of sentiment, sentiment which, hackneyed though it was, brought ready tears of pleasure into the young wife's eyes, Haggard announced his immediate departure by the mail steamer. "I'm off to-morrow, Georgie," he said, "for I find life in London without you perfectly unbearable. I am hastening my departure that we may the sooner meet again," here followed several sentences of the usual thing. The fact was that Haggard found himself once more a sort of lion in spite of himself, but he also detected a rather chilling reception in many quarters; he was most gushingly received by the least reputable of his lady acquaintances. Mrs. Charmington, in a long tête-à-tête with which she had favoured him, had called him "her hero." But Mrs. Charmington was already on the wane, and as he had no wish to be her hero now he rather fought shy of her. At the Pandemonium he was as popular [Pg 279] as ever, rather more so in fact; for since the baccarat affair, particularly as he was away, he had acted as a sort of scapegoat for the sins of the many. It was rather a nuisance, too, to find that wherever he went he excited a considerable amount of attention. Even when seated in the stalls of his favourite theatres, those temples where the sacred lamp of burlesque is so carefully tended, it was annoying to find the glances of all those airily-costumed and magnificently-developed females, who are known as the Lotties and the Totties, concentrated on himself.

He had received no invitation to go down to The Warren, but his father the Justice had written him in no measured terms.

"I had thought," he said, "that by this time you would have got tired of making an ass of yourself; you'd better give old Warrender a wide berth; he is furious."

All these things then tended to make a long stay in town distasteful to Haggard, so he went down to Southampton, took his [Pg 280] passage for Mexico in that magnificent steam-ship, the "Capua," and he started, feeling himself an ill-used man.




Transcriber's Note:

Most of the apparent printers' errors have been retained. A few have been changed, including those listed below.

Page 221 Petrach is now Petrarch and
Page 224 Miugled is now mingled.

This cover for mobile versions is placed in the public domain.