Part 10 out of 12
moreover, enable me to assure him that all the cost and expenditure of his
outfit shall be met in a suitable form?" If, in fact, you give me your
permission to submit such a basis as this, I should leave Athens far
happier than I feel now.'
'The Chamber has already voted the outfit. It is very modest, but it is
enough. Our national resources are at a low ebb. You might, indeed--that
is, if you still wished to plead my cause--you might tell my lord that I
had destined this sum as the fortune of my daughter. I have a daughter, Mr.
Atlee, and at present sojourning in your own country. And though at one
time I was minded to recall her, and take her with me to Turkey, I have
grown to doubt whether it would be a wise policy. Our Greek contingencies
are too many and too sudden to let us project very far in life.'
'Strange enough,' said Atlee thoughtfully, 'you have just--as it were by
mere hazard--struck the one chord in the English nature that will always
respond to the appeal of a home affection. Were I to say, "Do you know why
Kostalergi makes so hard a bargain? It is to endow a daughter. It is the
sole provision he stipulates to make her--Greek statesmen can amass no
fortunes--this hazard will secure the girl's future!" On my life, I cannot
think of one argument that would have equal weight.'
Kostalergi smiled faintly, but did not speak.
'Lord Danesbury never married, but I know with what interest and affection
he follows the fortunes of men who live to secure the happiness of their
children. It is the one plea he could not resist; to be sure he might say,
"Kostalergi told you this, and perhaps at the time he himself believed it;
but how can a man who likes the world and its very costliest pleasures
guard himself against his own habits? Who is to pledge his honour that the
girl will ever be the owner of this sum?"'
'I shall place _that_ beyond a cavil or a question: he shall be himself her
guardian. The money shall not leave his hands till she marries. You have
your own laws, by which a man can charge his estate with the payment of a
certain amount. My lord, if he assents to this, will know how it may be
done. I repeat, I do not desire to touch a drachma of the sum.'
'You interest me immensely. I cannot tell you how intensely I feel
interested in all this. In fact, I shall own to you frankly that you have
at last employed an argument, I do not know how, even if I wished, to
answer. Am I at liberty to state this pretty much as you have told it?'
'Every word of it.'
'Will you go further--will you give me a little line, a memorandum in your
own hand, to show that I do not misstate nor mistake you--that I have your
meaning correctly, and without even a chance of error?'
'I will write it formally and deliberately.'
The bell of the outer door rang at the moment. It was a telegraphic message
to Atlee, to say that the steamer had perfected her repairs and would sail
'You mean to sail with her?' asked the Greek. 'Well, within an hour, you
shall have my packet. Good-bye. I have no doubt we shall hear of each other
'I think I could venture to bet on it,' were Atlee's last words as he
Lord Danesbury had arrived at Bruton Street to confer with certain members
of the Cabinet who remained in town after the session, chiefly to consult
with him. He was accompanied by his niece, Lady Maude, and by Walpole, the
latter continuing to reside under his roof, rather from old habit than from
any strong wish on either side.
Walpole had obtained a short extension of his leave, and employed the
time in endeavouring to make up his mind about a certain letter to Nina
Kostalergi, which he had written nearly fifty times in different versions
and destroyed. Neither his lordship nor his niece ever saw him. They knew
he had a room or two somewhere, a servant was occasionally encountered on
the way to him with a breakfast-tray and an urn; his letters were seen on
the hall-table; but, except these, he gave no signs of life--never appeared
at luncheon or at dinner--and as much dropped out of all memory or interest
as though he had ceased to be.
It was one evening, yet early--scarcely eleven o'clock--as Lord Danesbury's
little party of four Cabinet chiefs had just departed, that he sat at
the drawing-room fire with Lady Maude, chatting over the events of the
evening's conversation, and discussing, as men will do at times, the
characters of their guests.
'It has been nearly as tiresome as a Cabinet Council, Maude!' said he, with
a sigh, 'and not unlike it in one thing--it was almost always the men who
knew least of any matter who discussed it most exhaustively.'
'I conclude you know what you are going out to do, my lord, and do not care
to hear the desultory notions of people who know nothing.'
'Just so. What could a First Lord tell me about those Russian intrigues
in Albania, or is it likely that a Home Secretary is aware of what is
preparing in Montenegro? They get hold of some crotchet in the _Revue des
Deux Mondes_, and assuming it all to be true, they ask defiantly, "How
are you going to deal with that? Why did you not foresee the other?" and
such like. How little they know, as that fellow Atlee says, that a man
evolves his Turkey out of the necessities of his pocket, and captures his
Constantinople to pay for a dinner at the "Frères." What fleets of Russian
gunboats have I seen launched to procure a few bottles of champagne! I
remember a chasse of Kersch, with the café, costing a whole battery of
'Are our own journals more correct?'
'They are more cautious, Maude--far more cautious. Nine days' wonders with
us would be too costly. Nothing must be risked that can affect the funds.
The share-list is too solemn a thing for joking.'
'The Premier was very silent to-night,' said she, after a pause.
'He generally is in company: he looks like a man bored at being obliged to
listen to people saying the things that he knows as well, and could tell
better, than they do.'
'How completely he appears to have forgiven or forgotten the Irish fiasco.'
'Of course he has. An extra blunder in the conduct of Irish affairs is only
like an additional mask in a fancy ball--the whole thing is motley; and
asking for consistency would be like requesting the company to behave like
'And so the mischief has blown over?'
'In a measure it has. The Opposition quarrelled amongst themselves; and
such as were not ready to take office if we were beaten, declined to press
the motion. The irresponsibles went on, as they always do, to their own
destruction. They became violent, and, of course, our people appealed
against the violence, and with such temperate language and good-breeding
that we carried the House with us.'
'I see there was quite a sensation about the word "villain."'
'No; miscreant. It was miscreant--a word very popular in O'Connell's day,
but rather obsolete now. When the Speaker called on the member for an
apology, we had won the day! These rash utterances in debate are the
explosive balls that no one must use in battle; and if we only discover one
in a fellow's pouch, we discredit the whole army.'
'I forget; did they press for a division?'
'No; we stopped them. We agreed to give them a "special committee to
inquire." Of all devices for secrecy invented, I know of none like a
"special committee of inquiry." Whatever people have known beforehand,
their faith will now be shaken in, and every possible or accidental
contingency assume a shape, a size, and a stability beyond all belief. They
have got their committee, and I wish them luck of it! The only men who
could tell them anything will take care not to criminate themselves, and
the report will be a plaintive cry over a country where so few people
can be persuaded to tell the truth, and nobody should seem any worse in
'Cecil certainly did it,' said she, with a certain bitterness. 'I suppose
he did. These young players are always thinking of scoring eight or ten on
a single hazard: one should never back them!'
'Mr. Atlee said there was some female influence at work. He would not tell
what nor whom. Possibly he did not know.'
'I rather suspect he _did_ know. They were people, if I mistake not,
belonging to that Irish castle--Kil--Kil-somebody, or Kil-something.'
'Was Walpole flirting there? was he going to marry one of them?'
'Flirting, I take it, must have been the extent of the folly. Cecil often
said he could not marry Irish. I have known men do it! You are aware,
Maude,' and here he looked with uncommon gravity, 'the penal laws have all
'I was speaking of society, my lord, not the statutes,' said she
resentfully, and half suspicious of a sly jest.
'Had she money?' asked he curtly.
'I cannot tell; I know nothing of these people whatever! I remember
something--it was a newspaper story--of a girl that saved Cecil's life
by throwing herself before him--a very pretty incident it was; but these
things make no figure in a settlement; and a woman may be as bold as Joan
of Arc, and not have sixpence. Atlee says you can always settle the courage
on the younger children.'
'Atlee's an arrant scamp,' said my lord, laughing. 'He should have written
some days since.'
'I suppose he is too late for the borough: the Cradford election comes on
next week?' Though there could not be anything more languidly indifferent
than her voice in this question, a faint pinkish tinge flitted across her
cheek, and left it colourless as before.
'Yes, he has his address out, and there is a sort of committee--certain
licensed-victualler people--to whom he has been promising some especial
Sabbath-breaking that they yearn after. I have not read it.'
'I have; and it is cleverly written, and there is little more radical in
it than we heard this very day at dinner. He tells the electors, "You are
no more bound to the support of an army or a navy, if you do not wish to
fight, than to maintain the College of Surgeons or Physicians, if you
object to take physic." He says, "To tell _me_ that I, with eight shillings
a week, have an equal interest in resisting invasion as your Lord Dido,
with eighty thousand per annum, is simply nonsense. If you," cries he to
one of his supporters, "were to be offered your life by a highwayman on
surrendering some few pence or halfpence you carried in _your_ pocket, you
do not mean to dictate what my Lord Marquis might do, who has got a gold
watch and a pocketful of notes in _his_. And so I say once more, let the
rich pay for the defence of what they value. You and I have nothing worth
fighting for, and we will not fight. Then as to religion--"'
'Oh, spare me his theology! I can almost imagine it, Maude. I had no
conception he was such a Radical.'
'He is not really, my lord; but he tells me that we must all go through
this stage. It is, as he says, like a course of those waters whose benefit
is exactly in proportion to the way they disagree with you at first. He
even said, one evening before he went away, "Take my word for it, Lady
Maude, we shall be burning these apostles of ballot and universal suffrage
in effigy one day; but I intend to go beyond every one else in the
meanwhile, else the rebound will lose half its excellence."'
'What is this?' cried he, as the servant entered with a telegram. 'This is
from Athens, Maude, and in cipher, too. How are we to make it out.'
'Cecil has the key, my lord. It is the diplomatic cipher.'
'Do you think you could find it in his room, Maude? It is possible this
might be imminent.'
'I shall see if he is at home,' said she, rising to ring the bell. The
servant sent to inquire returned, saying that Mr. Walpole had dined abroad,
and not returned since dinner.
'I'm sure you could find the book, Maude, and it is a small square-shaped
volume, bound in dark Russia leather, marked with F. O. on the cover.'
'I know the look of it well enough; but I do not fancy ransacking Cecil's
'I do not know that I should like to await his return to read my despatch.
I can just make out that it comes from Atlee.'
'I suppose I had better go, then,' said she reluctantly, as she rose and
left the room.
Ordering the butler to precede and show her the way, Lady Maude ascended
to a storey above that she usually inhabited, and found herself in a very
spacious chamber, with an alcove, into which a bed fitted, the remaining
space being arranged like an ordinary sitting-room. There were numerous
chairs and sofas of comfortable form, a well-cushioned ottoman, smelling,
indeed, villainously of tobacco, and a neat writing-table, with a most
luxurious arrangement of shaded wax-lights above it.
A singularly well-executed photograph of a young and very lovely woman,
with masses of loose hair flowing over her neck and shoulders, stood on
a little easel on the desk, and it was, strange enough, with a sense of
actual relief, Maude read the word Titian on the frame. It was a copy of
the great master's picture in the Dresden Gallery, and of which there is a
replica in the Barberini Palace at Rome; but still the portrait had another
memory for Lady Maude, who quickly recalled the girl she had once seen
in a crowded assembly, passing through a murmur of admiration that no
conventionality could repress, and whose marvellous beauty seemed to glow
with the homage it inspired.
Scraps of poetry, copies of verses, changed and blotted couplets, were
scrawled on loose sheets of paper on the desk; but Maude minded none of
these, as she pushed them away to rest her arm on the table, while she sat
gazing on the picture.
The face had so completely absorbed her attention--so, to say, fascinated
her--that when the servant had found the volume he was in search of, and
presented it to her, she merely said, 'Take it to my lord,' and sat still,
with her head resting on her hands, and her eyes fixed on the portrait.
'There may be some resemblance, there may be, at least, what might remind
people of "the Laura "--so was it called; but who will pretend that _she_
carried her head with that swing of lofty pride, or that _her_ look could
rival the blended majesty and womanhood we see here! I do not--I cannot
'What is it, Maude, that you will not or cannot believe?' said a low voice,
and she saw Walpole standing beside her.
'Let me first excuse myself for being here,' said she, blushing. 'I came
in search of that little cipher-book to interpret a despatch that has just
come. When Fenton found it, I was so engrossed by this pretty face that I
have done nothing but gaze at it.'
'And what was it that seemed so incredible as I came in?'
'Simply this, then, that any one should be so beautiful.'
'Titian seems to have solved that point; at least, Vasari tells us this was
a portrait of a lady of the Guicciardini family.'
'I know--I know that,' said she impatiently; 'and we do see faces in
which Titian or Velasquez have stamped nobility and birth as palpably as
they have printed loveliness and expression. And such were these women,
daughters in a long line of the proud Patricians who once ruled Rome.'
'And yet,' said he slowly, 'that portrait has its living counterpart.'
'I am aware of whom you speak: the awkward angular girl we all saw at Rome,
whom young gentlemen called the Tizziana.'
'She is certainly no longer awkward, nor angular, now, if she were once so,
which I do not remember. She is a model of grace and symmetry, and as much
more beautiful than that picture as colour, expression, and movement are
better than a lifeless image.'
'There is the fervour of a lover in your words, Cecil,' said she, smiling
'It is not often I am so forgetful,' muttered he; 'but so it is, our
cousinship has done it all, Maude. One revels in expansiveness with his
own, and I can speak to you as I cannot speak to another.'
'It is a great flattery to me.'
'In fact, I feel that at last I have a sister--a dear and loving spirit
who will give to true friendship those delightful traits of pity and
tenderness, and even forgiveness, of which only the woman's nature can know
Lady Maude rose slowly, without a word. Nothing of heightened colour or
movement of her features indicated anger or indignation, and though Walpole
stood with an affected submissiveness before her, he marked her closely.
'I am sure, Maude,' continued he, 'you must often have wished to have a
'Never so much as at this moment!' said she calmly--and now she had reached
the door. 'If I had had a brother, Cecil Walpole, it is possible I might
have been spared this insult!'
The next moment the door closed, and Walpole was alone.
'I am right, Maude,' said Lord Danesbury as his niece re-entered the
drawing-room. 'This is from Atlee, who is at Athens; but why there I cannot
make out as yet. There are, according to the book, two explanations here.
491 means a white dromedary or the chief clerk, and B + 49 = 12 stands for
our envoy in Greece or a snuffer-dish.'
'Don't you think, my lord, it would be better for you to send this up to
Cecil? He has just come in. He has had much experience of these things.'
'You are quite right, Maude; let Fenton take it up and beg for a speedy
transcript of it. I should like to see it at once!'
While his lordship waited for his despatch, he grumbled away about
everything that occurred to him, and even, at last, about the presence of
the very man, Walpole, who was at that same moment engaged in serving him.
'Stupid fellow,' muttered he, 'why does he ask for extension of his leave?
Staying in town here is only another name for spending money. He'll have to
go out at last; better do it at once!'
'He may have his own reasons, my lord, for delay,' said Maude, rather to
suggest further discussion of the point.
'He may think he has, I've no doubt. These small creatures have always
scores of irons in the fire. So it was when I agreed to go to Ireland.
There were innumerable fine things and clever things he was to do. There
were schemes by which "the Cardinal" was to be cajoled, and the whole Bar
bamboozled. Every one was to have office dangled before his eyes, and to be
treated so confidentially and affectionately, under disappointment, that
even when a man got nothing he would feel he had secured the regard of the
Prime Minister! If I took him out to Turkey to-morrow, he'd never be easy
till he had a plan "to square" the Grand-Vizier, and entrap Gortschakoff or
Miliutin. These men don't know that a clever fellow no more goes in search
of rogueries than a foxhunter looks out for stiff fences. You "take them"
when they lie before you, that's all.' This little burst of indignation
seemed to have the effect on him of a little wholesome exercise, for he
appeared to feel himself better and easier after it.
'Dear me! dear me!' muttered he, 'how pleasant one's life might be if it
were not for the clever fellows! I mean, of course,' added he, after a
second or two, 'the clever fellows who want to impress us with their
Maude would not be entrapped or enticed into what might lead to a
discussion. She never uttered a word, and he was silent.
It was in the perfect stillness that followed that Walpole entered the room
with the telegram in his hand, and advanced to where Lord Danesbury was
'I believe, my lord, I have made out this message in such a shape as
will enable you to divine what it means. It runs thus: "_Athens, 5th, 12
o'clock. Have seen S----, and conferred at length with him. His estimate of
value_" or "_his price_"--for the signs will mean either--"_to my thinking
enormous. His reasonings certainly strong and not easy to rebut_." That may
be possibly rendered, "_demands that might probably be reduced._" "_I leave
to-day, and shall be in England by middle of next week._--ATLEE."'
Walpole looked keenly at the other's face as he read the paper, to mark
what signs of interest and eagerness the tidings might evoke. There was,
however, nothing to be read in those cold and quiet features.
'I am glad he is coming back,' said he at length. 'Let us see: he can reach
Marseilles by Monday, or even Sunday night. I don't see why he should not
be here Wednesday, or Thursday at farthest. By the way, Cecil, tell me
something about our friend--who is he?'
[Illustration: Walpole looked keenly at the other's face as he read the
'Don't know, my lord.'
'Don't know! How came you acquainted with him?'
'Met him at a country-house, where I happened to break my arm, and took
advantage of this young fellow's skill in surgery to engage his services to
carry me to town. There's the whole of it.'
'Is he a surgeon?'
'No, my lord, any more than he is fifty other things, of which he has a
'Has he any means--any private fortune?'
'I suspect not.'
'Who and what are his family? Are there Atlees in Ireland?'
'There may be, my lord. There was an Atlee, a college porter, in Dublin;
but I heard our friend say that they were only distantly related.'
He could not help watching Lady Maude as he said this, and was rejoiced to
see a sudden twitch of her lower lip as if in pain.
'You evidently sent him over to me, then, on a very meagre knowledge of the
man,' said his lordship rebukingly.
'I believe, my lord, I said at the time that I had by me a clever fellow,
who wrote a good hand, could copy correctly, and was sufficient of a
gentleman in his manners to make intercourse with him easy, and not
'A very guarded recommendation,' said Lady Maude, with a smile.
'Was it not, Maude?' continued he, his eyes flashing with triumphant
'_I_ found he could do more than copy a despatch--I found he could write
one. He replied to an article in the _Edinburgh_ on Turkey, and I saw him
write it as I did not know there was another man but myself in England
could have done.'
'Perhaps your lordship had talked over the subject in his presence, or with
'And if I had, sir? and if all his knowledge on a complex question was such
as he could carry away from a random conversation, what a gifted dog he
must be to sift the wheat from the chaff--to strip a question of what were
mere accidental elements, and to test a difficulty by its real qualities.
Atlee is a clever fellow, an able fellow, I assure you. That very telegram
before us is a proof how he can deal with a matter on which instruction
would be impossible.'
'Indeed, my lord!' said Walpole, with well-assumed innocence.
'I am right glad to know he is coming home. He must demolish that writer in
the _Revue des Deux Mondes_ at once--some unprincipled French blackguard,
who has been put up to attack me by Thouvenel!'
Would it have appeased his lordship's wrath to know that the writer of this
defamatory article was no other than Joe Atlee himself, and that the reply
which was to 'demolish it' was more than half-written in his desk at that
'I shall ask,' continued my lord, 'I shall ask him, besides, to write a
paper on Ireland, and that fiasco of yours, Cecil.'
'Much obliged, my lord!'
'Don't be angry or indignant! A fellow with a neat, light hand like Atlee
can, even under the guise of allegation, do more to clear you than scores
of vulgar apologists. He can, at least, show that what our distinguished
head of the Cabinet calls "the flesh-and-blood argument," has its full
weight with us in our government of Ireland, and that our bitterest enemies
cannot say we have no sympathies with the nation we rule over.'
'I suspect, my lord, that what you have so graciously called _my_ fiasco
is well-nigh forgotten by this time, and wiser policy would say, "Do not
'There's a great policy in saying in "an article" all that could be said in
"a debate," and showing, after all, how little it comes to. Even the feeble
grievance-mongers grow ashamed at retailing the review and the newspapers;
but, what is better still, if the article be smartly written, they are sure
to mistake the peculiarities of style for points in the argument. I have
seen some splendid blunders of that kind when I sat in the Lower House! I
wish Atlee was in Parliament.'
'I am not aware that he can speak, my lord.'
'Neither am I; but I should risk a small bet on it. He is a ready fellow,
and the ready fellows are many-sided--eh, Maude?' Now, though his lordship
only asked for his niece's concurrence in his own sage remark, Walpole
affected to understand it as a direct appeal to her opinion of Atlee, and
said, 'Is that your judgment of this gentleman, Maude?'
'I have no prescription to measure the abilities of such men as Mr. Atlee.'
'You find him pleasant, witty, and agreeable, I hope?' said he, with a
touch of sarcasm.
'Yes, I think so.'
'With an admirable memory and great readiness for an _apropos_?'
'Perhaps he has.'
'As a retailer of an incident they tell me he has no rival.'
'I cannot say.'
'Of course not. I take it the fellow has tact enough not to tell stories
'What is all that you are saying there?' cried his lordship, to whom these
few sentences were an 'aside.'
'Cecil is praising Mr. Atlee, my lord,' said Maude bluntly.
'I did not know I had been, my lord,' said he. 'He belongs to that class of
men who interest me very little.'
'What class may that be?'
'The adventurers, my lord. The fellows who make the campaign of life on the
faith that they shall find their rations in some other man's knapsack.'
'Ha! indeed. Is that our friend's line?'
'Most undoubtedly, my lord. I am ashamed to say that it was entirely my own
fault if you are saddled with the fellow at all.'
'I do not see the infliction--'
'I mean, my lord, that, in a measure, I put him on you without very well
knowing what it was that I did.'
'Have you heard--do you know anything of the man that should inspire
caution or distrust?'
'Well, these are strong words,' muttered he hesitatingly.
But Lady Maude broke in with a passionate tone, 'Don't you see, my lord,
that he does not know anything to this person's disadvantage; that it
is only my cousin's diplomatic reserve--that commendable caution of his
order--suggests his careful conduct? Cecil knows no more of Atlee than we
'Perhaps not so much,' said Walpole, with an impertinent simper.
'_I_ know,' said his lordship, 'that he is a monstrous clever fellow. He
can find you the passage you want or the authority you are seeking for at a
moment; and when he writes, he can be rapid and concise too.'
'He has many rare gifts, my lord,' said Walpole, with the sly air of one
who had said a covert impertinence. 'I am very curious to know what you
mean to do with him.'
'Mean to do with him? Why, what should I mean to do with him?'
'The very point I wish to learn. A protégé, my lord, is a parasitic plant,
and you cannot deprive it of its double instincts--to cling and to climb.'
'How witty my cousin has become since his sojourn in Ireland,' said Maude.
Walpole flushed deeply, and for a moment he seemed about to reply angrily;
but, with an effort, he controlled himself, and turning towards the
timepiece on the chimney, said, 'How late! I could not have believed it was
past one! I hope, my lord, I have made your despatch intelligible?'
'Yes, yes; I think so. Besides, he will be here in a day or two to
'I shall, then, say good-night, my lord. Good-night, Cousin Maude.' But
Lady Maude had already left the room unnoticed.
Once more in his own room, Walpole returned to the task of that letter to
Nina Kostalergi, of which he had made nigh fifty drafts, and not one with
which he was satisfied.
It was not really very easy to do what he wished. He desired to seem a
warm, rapturous, impulsive lover, who had no thought in life--no other hope
or ambition--than the success of his suit. He sought to show that she had
so enraptured and enthralled him that, until she consented to share his
fortunes, he was a man utterly lost to life and life's ambitions; and while
insinuating what a tremendous responsibility she would take on herself if
she should venture by a refusal of him to rob the world of those abilities
that the age could ill spare, he also dimly shadowed the natural pride a
woman ought to feel in knowing that she was asked to be the partner of
such a man, and that one, for whom destiny in all likelihood reserved the
highest rewards of public life, was then, with the full consciousness of
what he was, and what awaited him, ready to share that proud eminence with
her, as a prince might have offered to share his throne.
In spite of himself, in spite of all he could do, it was on this latter
part of his letter his pen ran most freely. He could condense his raptures,
he could control in most praiseworthy fashion all the extravagances of
passion and the imaginative joys of love, but, for the life of him, he
could abate nothing of the triumphant ecstasy that must be the feeling of
the woman who had won him--the passionate delight of her who should be his
wife, and enter life the chosen one of his affection.
It was wonderful how glibly he could insist on this to himself; and
fancying for the moment that he was one of the outer world commenting
on the match, say, 'Yes, let people decry the Walpole class how they
might--they are elegant, they are exclusive, they are fastidious, they are
all that you like to call the spoiled children of Fortune in their wit,
their brilliancy, and their readiness, but they are the only men, the only
men in the world, who marry--we'll not say for "love," for the phrase is
vulgar--but who marry to please themselves! This girl had not a shilling.
As to family, all is said when we say she was a Greek! Is there not
something downright chivalrous in marrying such a woman? Is it the act of a
He walked the room, uttering this question to himself over and over.
Not exactly that he thought disparagingly of worldliness and material
advantages, but he had lashed himself into a false enthusiasm as to
qualities which he thought had some special worshippers of their own,
and whose good opinion might possibly be turned to profit somehow and
somewhere, if he only knew how and where. It was a monstrous fine thing he
was about to do; that he felt. Where was there another man in his position
would take a portionless girl and make her his wife? Cadets and cornets in
light-dragoon regiments did these things: they liked their 'bit of beauty';
and there was a sort of mock-poetry about these creatures that suited that
sort of thing; but for a man who wrote his letters from Brookes's, and
whose dinner invitations included all that was great in town, to stoop to
such an alliance was as bold a defiance as one could throw at a world of
self-seeking and conventionality.
'That Emperor of the French did it,' cried he. 'I cannot recall to my mind
another. He did the very same thing I am going to do. To be sure, he had
the "pull on me" in one point. As he said himself, "_I_ am a parvenu." Now,
_I_ cannot go that far! I must justify my act on other grounds, as I hope
I can do,' cried he, after a pause; while, with head erect and swelling
chest, he went on: 'I felt within me the place I yet should occupy. I
knew--ay, knew--the prize that awaited me, and I asked myself, "Do you see
in any capital of Europe one woman with whom you would like to share
this fortune? Is there one sufficiently gifted and graceful to make her
elevation seem a natural and fitting promotion, and herself appear the
appropriate occupant of the station?"
'She is wonderfully beautiful: there is no doubt of it. Such beauty as they
have never seen here in their lives! Fanciful extravagances in dress, and
atrocious hair-dressing, cannot disfigure her; and by Jove! she has tried
both. And one has only to imagine that woman dressed and "coifféed," as she
might be, to conceive such a triumph as London has not witnessed for the
century! And I do long for such a triumph. If my lord would only invite
us here, were it but for a week! We should be asked to Goreham and the
Bexsmiths'. My lady never omits to invite a great beauty. It's _her_ way to
protest that she is still handsome, and not at all jealous. How are we to
get "asked" to Bruton Street?' asked he over and over, as though the sounds
must secure the answer. 'Maude will never permit it. The unlucky picture
has settled _that_ point. Maude will not suffer her to cross the threshold!
But for the portrait I could bespeak my cousin's favour and indulgence for
a somewhat countrified young girl, dowdy and awkward. I could plead for her
good looks in that _ad misericordiam_ fashion that disarms jealousy and
enlists her generosity for a humble connection she need never see more of!
If I could only persuade Maude that I had done an indiscretion, and that I
knew it, I should be sure of her friendship. Once make her believe that I
have gone clean head over heels into a _mésalliance_, and our honeymoon
here is assured. I wish I had not tormented her about Atlee. I wish
with all my heart I had kept my impertinences to myself, and gone no
further than certain dark hints about what I could say, if I were to be
evil-minded. What rare wisdom it is not to fire away one's last cartridge.
I suppose it is too late now. She'll not forgive me that disparagement
before my uncle; that is, if there be anything between herself and Atlee,
a point which a few minutes will settle when I see them together. It would
not be very difficult to make Atlee regard me as his friend, and as one
ready to aid him in this same ambition. Of course he is prepared to see in
me the enemy of all his plans. What would he not give, or say, or do, to
find me his aider and abettor? Shrewd tactician as the fellow is, he will
know all the value of having an accomplice within the fortress; and it
would be exactly from a man like myself he might be disposed to expect the
most resolute opposition.'
He thought for a long time over this. He turned it over and over in his
mind, canvassing all the various benefits any line of action might promise,
and starting every doubt or objection he could imagine. Nor was the thought
extraneous to his calculations that in forwarding Atlee's suit to Maude he
was exacting the heaviest 'vendetta' for her refusal of himself.
'There is not a woman in Europe,' he exclaimed, 'less fitted to encounter
small means and a small station--to live a life of petty economies, and be
the daily associate of a snob!'
'What the fellow may become at the end of the race--what place he may win
after years of toil and jobbery, I neither know nor care! _She_ will be an
old woman by that time, and will have had space enough in the interval to
mourn over her rejection of me. I shall be a Minister, not impossibly at
some court of the Continent; Atlee, to say the best, an Under-Secretary
of State for something, or a Poor-Law or Education Chief. There will be
just enough of disparity in our stations to fill her woman's heart with
bitterness--the bitterness of having backed the wrong man!
'The unavailing regrets that beset us for not having taken the left-hand
road in life instead of the right are our chief mental resources after
forty, and they tell me that we men only know half the poignancy of these
miserable recollections. Women have a special adaptiveness for this kind of
torture--would seem actually to revel in it.'
He turned once more to his desk, and to the letter. Somehow he could make
nothing of it. All the dangers that he desired to avoid so cramped his
ingenuity that he could say little beyond platitudes; and he thought with
terror of her who was to read them. The scornful contempt with which _she_
would treat such a letter was all before him, and he snatched up the paper
and tore it in pieces.
'It must not be done by writing,' cried he at last. 'Who is to guess for
which of the fifty moods of such a woman a man's letter is to be composed?
What you could say _now_ you dared not have written half an hour ago. What
would have gone far to gain her love yesterday, to-day will show you the
door! It is only by consummate address and skill she can be approached at
all, and without her look and bearing, the inflections of her voice, her
gestures, her "pose," to guide you, it would be utter rashness to risk her
He suddenly bethought him at this moment that he had many things to do
in Ireland ere he left England. He had tradesmen's bills to settle, and
'traps' to be got rid of. 'Traps' included furniture, and books, and
horses, and horse-gear: details which at first he had hoped his friend
Lockwood would have taken off his hands; but Lockwood had only written him
word that a Jew broker from Liverpool would give him forty pounds for his
house effects, and as for 'the screws,' there was nothing but an auction.
Most of us have known at some period or other of our lives what it is to
suffer from the painful disparagement our chattels undergo when they become
objects of sale; but no adverse criticism of your bed or your bookcase,
your ottoman or your arm-chair, can approach the sense of pain inflicted by
the impertinent comments on your horse. Every imputed blemish is a distinct
personality, and you reject the insinuated spavin, or the suggested splint,
as imputations on your honour as a gentleman. In fact, you are pushed into
the pleasant dilemma of either being ignorant as to the defects of your
beast, or wilfully bent on an act of palpable dishonesty. When we remember
that every confession a man makes of his unacquaintance with matters
'horsy' is, in English acceptance, a count in the indictment against his
claim to be thought a gentleman, it is not surprising that there will be
men more ready to hazard their characters than their connoisseurship.
'I'll go over myself to Ireland,' said he at last; 'and a week will do
THOUGHTS ON MARRIAGE
Lockwood was seated at his fireside in his quarters, the Upper Castle Yard,
when Walpole burst in upon him unexpectedly. 'What! you here?' cried the
major. 'Have _you_ the courage to face Ireland again?'
'I see nothing that should prevent my coming here. Ireland certainly cannot
pretend to lay a grievance to my charge.'
'Maybe not. I don't understand these things. I only know what people say in
the clubs and laugh over at dinner-tables.'
'I cannot affect to be very sensitive as to these Celtic criticisms, and I
shall not ask you to recall them.'
'They say that Danesbury got kicked out, all for your blunders!'
'Do they?' said Walpole innocently.
'Yes; and they declare that if old Daney wasn't the most loyal fellow
breathing, he'd have thrown you over, and owned that the whole mess was of
your own brewing, and that he had nothing to do with it.'
'Do they, indeed, say that?'
'That's not half of it, for they have a story about a woman--some woman
you met down at Kilgobbin--who made you sing rebel songs and take a Fenian
pledge, and give your word of honour that Donogan should be let escape.'
'Is that all?'
'Isn't it enough? A man must be a glutton for tomfoolery if he could not be
satisfied with that.'
'Perhaps you never heard that the chief of the Cabinet took a very
different view of my Irish policy.'
'Irish policy?' cried the other, with lifted eyebrows.
'I said Irish policy, and repeat the words. Whatever line of political
action tends to bring legislation into more perfect harmony with the
instincts and impulses of a very peculiar people, it is no presumption to
call a policy.'
'With all my heart. Do you mean to deal with that old Liverpool rascal for
'His offer is almost an insult.'
'Well, you'll be gratified to know he retracts it. He says now he'll only
give £35! And as for the screws, Bobbidge, of the Carbineers, will take
them both for £50.'
'Why, Lightfoot alone is worth the money!'
'Minus the sand-crack.'
'I deny the sand-crack. She was pricked in the shoeing.'
'Of course! I never knew a broken knee that wasn't got by striking the
manger, nor a sand-crack that didn't come of an awkward smith.'
'What a blessing it would be if all the bad reputations in society could be
palliated as pleasantly.'
'Shall I tell Bobbidge you take his offer? He wants an answer at once.'
'My dear major, don't you know that the fellow who says that, simply means
to say: "Don't be too sure that I shall not change my mind." Look out that
you take the ball at the hop!'
'Lucky if it hops at all.'
'Is that your experience of life?' said Walpole inquiringly.
'It is one of them. Will you take £50 for the screws?'
'Yes; and as much more for the break and the dog-cart. I want every rap I
can scrape together, Harry. I'm going out to Guatemala.'
'I heard that.'
'Infernal place; at least, I believe, in climate--reptiles, fevers,
assassination--it stands without a rival.'
'So they tell me.'
'It was the only thing vacant; and they rather affected a difficulty about
'So they do when they send a man to the Gold Coast; and they tell the
newspapers to say what a lucky dog he is.'
'I can stand all that. What really kills me is giving a man the C.B. when
he is just booked for some home of yellow fever.'
'They do that too,' gravely observed the other, who was beginning to feel
the pace of the conversation rather too fast for him. 'Don't you smoke?'
'I'm rather reducing myself to half batta in tobacco. I've thoughts of
'Don't do that.'
'Why? It's not wrong.'
'No, perhaps not; but it's stupid.'
'Come now, old fellow, life out there in the tropics is not so jolly all
alone! Alligators are interesting creatures, and cheetahs are pretty pets;
but a man wants a little companionship of a more tender kind; and a nice
girl who would link her fortunes with one's own, and help one through the
sultry hours, is no bad thing.'
'The nice girl wouldn't go there.'
'I'm not so sure of that. With your great knowledge of life, you must know
that there has been a glut in "the nice-girl" market these years back.
Prime lots are sold for a song occasionally, and first-rate samples sent as
far as Calcutta. The truth is, the fellow who looks like a real buyer may
have the pick of the fair, as they call it here.'
So he ought,' growled out the major.
'The speech is not a gallant one. You are scarcely complimentary to the
'It was you that talked of a woman like a cow, or a sack of corn, not I.'
'I employed an illustration to answer one of your own arguments.'
'Who is she to be?' bluntly asked the major.
'I'll tell you whom I mean to ask, for I have not put the question yet.'
'A long, fine whistle expressed the other's astonishment. 'And are you so
sure she'll say Yes?'
'I have no other assurance than the conviction that a woman might do
'Humph! perhaps she might. I'm not quite certain; but who is she to be?'
'Do you remember a visit we made together to a certain Kilgobbin Castle.'
'To be sure I do. A rum old ruin it was.'
'Do you remember two young ladies we met there?'
'Perfectly. Are you going to marry both of them?'
'My intention is to propose to one, and I imagine I need not tell you
'Naturally, the Irish girl. She saved your life--'
'Pray let me undeceive you in a double error. It is not the Irish girl; nor
did she save my life.'
'Perhaps not; but she risked her own to save yours. You said so yourself at
'We'll not discuss the point now. I hope I feel duly grateful for the
young lady's heroism, though it is not exactly my intention to record my
gratitude in a special license.'
'A very equivocal sort of repayment,' grumbled out Lockwood.
'You are epigrammatic this evening, major.'
'So, then, it's the Greek you mean to marry?'
'It is the Greek I mean to ask.'
'All right. I hope she'll take you. I think, on the whole, you suit each
other. If I were at all disposed to that sort of bondage, I don't know a
girl I'd rather risk the road with than the Irish cousin, Miss Kearney.'
'She is very pretty, exceedingly obliging, and has most winning manners.'
'She is good-tempered, and she is natural--the two best things a woman can
'Why not come down along with me and try your luck?'
'When do you go?'
'By the 10.30 train to-morrow. I shall arrive at Moate by four o'clock, and
reach the castle to dinner.'
'They expect you?'
'Only so far, that I have telegraphed a line to say I'm going down to bid
"Good-bye" before I sail for Guatemala. I don't suspect they know where
that is, but it's enough when they understand it is far away.'
'I'll go with you.'
'Will you really?'
'I will. I'll not say on such an errand as your own, because that requires
a second thought or two; but I'll reconnoitre, Master Cecil, I'll
'I suppose you know there is no money.'
'I should think money most unlikely in such a quarter; and it's better she
should have none than a small fortune. I'm an old whist-player, and when
I play dummy, there's nothing I hate more than to see two or three small
trumps in my partner's hand.'
'I imagine you'll not be distressed in that way here.'
'I've got enough to come through with; that is, the thing can be done if
there be no extravagances.'
'Does one want for more?' cried Walpole theatrically.
'I don't know that. If it were only ask and have, I should like to be
'I have no such ambition. I firmly believe that the moderate limits a man
sets to his daily wants constitute the real liberty of his intellect and
his intellectual nature.'
'Perhaps I've no intellectual nature, then,' growled out Lockwood, 'for I
know how I should like to spend fifteen thousand a year. I suppose I shall
have to live on as many hundreds.'
'It can be done.'
'Perhaps it may. Have another weed?'
'No. I told you already I have begun a tobacco reformation.'
'Does she object to the pipe?'
'I cannot tell you. The fact is, Lockwood, my future and its fortunes are
just as uncertain as your own. This day week will probably have decided the
destiny of each of us.'
'To our success, then!' cried the major, filling both their glasses.
'To our success!' said Walpole, as he drained his, and placed it upside
down on the table.
AT KILGOBBIN CASTLE
The 'Blue Goat' at Moate was destined once more to receive the same
travellers whom we presented to our readers at a very early stage of this
'Not much change here,' cried Lockwood, as he strode into the little
sitting-room and sat down. 'I miss the old fellow's picture, that's all.'
'Ah! by the way,' said Walpole to the landlord, 'you had my Lord
Kilgobbin's portrait up there the last time I came through here.'
'Yes, indeed, sir,' said the man, smoothing down his hair and looking
apologetically. 'But the Goats and my lord, who was the Buck Goat, got into
a little disagreement, and they sent away his picture, and his lordship
retired from the club, and--and--that was the way of it.'
'A heavy blow to your town, I take it,' said the major, as he poured out
'Well, indeed, your honour, I won't say it was. You see, sir, times
is changed in Ireland. We don't care as much as we used about the
"neighbouring gentry," as they called them once; and as for the lord,
there! he doesn't spend a hundred a year in Moate.'
'How is that?'
'They get what they want by rail from Dublin, your honour; and he might as
well not be here at all.'
'Can we have a car to carry us over to the castle?' asked Walpole, who did
not care to hear more of local grievances.
'Sure, isn't my lord's car waiting for you since two o'clock!' said the
host spitefully, for he was not conciliated by a courtesy that was to lose
him a fifteen-shilling fare. 'Not that there's much of a horse between the
shafts, or that old Daly himself is an elegant coachman,' continued the
host; 'but they're ready in the yard when you want them.'
The travellers had no reason to delay them in their present quarters, and
taking their places on the car, set out for the castle.
'I scarcely thought when I last drove this road,' said Walpole, 'that the
next time I was to come should be on such an errand as my present one.'
'Humph!' ejaculated the other. 'Our noble relative that is to be does not
shine in equipage. That beast is dead lame.'
'If we had our deserts, Lockwood, we should be drawn by a team of doves,
with the god Cupid on the box.'
'I'd rather have two posters and a yellow postchaise.'
A drizzling rain that now began to fall interrupted all conversation, and
each sank back into his own thoughts for the rest of the way.
Lord Kilgobbin, with his daughter at his side, watched the car from the
terrace of the castle as it slowly wound its way along the bog road.
'As well as I can see, Kate, there is a man on each side of the car,' said
Kearney, as he handed his field-glass to his daughter.
'Yes, papa, I see there are two travellers.'
'And I don't well know why there should be even one! There was no such
great friendship between us that he need come all this way to bid us
'Considering the mishap that befell him here, it is a mark of good feeling
to desire to see us all once more, don't you think so?'
'May be so,' muttered he drearily. 'At all events, it's not a pleasant
house he's coming to. Young O'Shea there upstairs, just out of a fever; and
old Miss Betty, that may arrive any moment.'
'There's no question of that. She says it would be ten days or a fortnight
before she is equal to the journey.'
'Heaven grant it!--hem--I mean that she'll be strong enough for it by that
time. At all events, if it is the same as to our fine friend, Mr. Walpole,
I wish he'd have taken his leave of us in a letter.'
'It is something new, papa, to see you so inhospitable.'
'But I am not inhospitable, Kitty. Show me the good fellow that would like
to pass an evening with me and think me good company, and he shall have the
best saddle of mutton and the raciest bottle of claret in the house. But
it's only mock-hospitality to be entertaining the man that only comes out
of courtesy and just stays as long as good manners oblige him.'
'I do not know that I should undervalue politeness, especially when it
takes the shape of a recognition.'
'Well, be it so,' sighed he, almost drearily. 'If the young gentleman is
so warmly attached to us all that he cannot tear himself away till he has
embraced us, I suppose there's no help for it. Where is Nina?'
'She was reading to Gorman when I saw her. She had just relieved Dick, who
has gone out for a walk.'
'A jolly house for a visitor to come to!' cried he sarcastically.
'We are not very gay or lively, it is true, papa; but it is not unlikely
that the spirit in which our guest comes here will not need much jollity.'
'I don't take it as a kindness for a man to bring me his depression and his
low spirits. I've always more of my own than I know what to do with. Two
sorrows never made a joy, Kitty.'
'There! they are lighting the lamps,' cried she suddenly. 'I don't think
they can be more than three miles away.'
'Have you rooms ready, if there be two coming?'
'Yes, papa, Mr. Walpole will have his old quarters; and the stag-room is in
readiness if there be another guest.'
'I'd like to have a house as big as the royal barracks, and every room of
it occupied!' cried Kearney, with a mellow ring in his voice. 'They talk
of society and pleasant company; but for real enjoyment there's nothing to
compare with what a man has under his own roof! No claret ever tastes so
good as the decanter he circulates himself. I was low enough half an hour
ago, and now the mere thought of a couple of fellows to dine with me cheers
me up and warms my heart! I'll give them the green seal, Kitty; and I don't
know there's another house in the county could put a bottle of '46 claret
'So you shall, papa. I'll go to the cellar myself and fetch it.'
Kearney hastened to make the moderate toilet he called dressing for dinner,
and was only finished when his old servant informed him that two gentlemen
had arrived and gone up to their rooms.
'I wish it was two dozen had come,' said Kearney, as he descended to the
'It is Major Lockwood, papa,' cried Kate, entering and drawing him into a
window-recess; 'the Major Lockwood that was here before, has come with Mr.
Walpole. I met him in the hall while I had the basket with the wine in my
hand, and he was so cordial and glad to see me you cannot think.'
'He knew that green wax, Kitty. He tasted that "bin" when he was here
'Perhaps so; but he certainly seemed overjoyed at something.'
'Let me see,' muttered he, 'wasn't he the big fellow with the long
'A tall, very good-looking man; dark as a Spaniard, and not unlike one.'
'To be sure, to be sure. I remember him well. He was a capital shot with
the pistol, and he liked his wine. By the way, Nina did not take to him.'
'How do you remember that, papa?' said she archly.
If I don't mistake, she told me so, or she called him a brute, or a savage,
or some one of those things a man is sure to be, when a woman discovers he
will not be her slave.'
Nina entering at the moment cut short all rejoinder, and Kearney came
forward to meet her with his hand out.
'Shake out your lower courses, and let me look at you,' cried he, as he
walked round her admiringly. 'Upon my oath, it's more beautiful than
ever you are! I can guess what a fate is reserved for those dandies from
'Do you like my dress, sir? Is it becoming?' asked she.
'Becoming it is; but I'm not sure whether I like it.'
'And how is that, sir?'
'I don't see how, with all that floating gauze and swelling lace, a man is
to get an arm round you at all--'
'I cannot perceive the necessity, sir,' and the insolent toss of her head,
more forcibly even than her words, resented such a possibility.
When Atlee arrived at Bruton Street, the welcome that met him was almost
cordial. Lord Danesbury--not very demonstrative at any time--received him
with warmth, and Lady Maude gave him her hand with a sort of significant
cordiality that overwhelmed him with delight. The climax of his enjoyment
was, however, reached when Lord Danesbury said to him, 'We are glad to see
you at home again.'
This speech sank deep into his heart, and he never wearied of repeating it
over and over to himself. When he reached his room, where his luggage had
already preceded him, and found his dressing articles laid out, and all the
little cares and attentions which well-trained servants understand awaiting
him, he muttered, with a tremulous sort of ecstasy, 'This is a very
glorious way to come home!'
The rich furniture of the room, the many appliances of luxury and ease
around him, the sense of rest and quiet, so delightful after a journey, all
appealed to him as he threw himself into a deep-cushioned chair. He cried
aloud, 'Home! home! Is this indeed home? What a different thing from that
mean life of privation and penury I have always been associating with this
word--from that perpetual struggle with debt--the miserable conflict that
went on through every day, till not an action, not a thought, remained
untinctured with money, and if a momentary pleasure crossed the path, the
cost of it as certain to tarnish all the enjoyment! Such was the only home
I have ever known, or indeed imagined.'
It is said that the men who have emerged from very humble conditions in
life, and occupy places of eminence or promise, are less overjoyed at this
change of fortune than impressed with a kind of resentment towards the
destiny that once had subjected them to privation. Their feeling is not so
much joy at the present as discontent with the past.
'Why was I not born to all this?' cried Atlee indignantly. 'What is there
in me, or in my nature, that this should be a usurpation? Why was I not
schooled at Eton, and trained at Oxford? Why was I not bred up amongst the
men whose competitor I shall soon find myself? Why have I not their
ways, their instincts, their watchwords, their pastimes, and even their
prejudices, as parts of my very nature? Why am I to learn these late in
life, as a man learns a new language, and never fully catches the sounds or
the niceties? Is there any competitorship I should flinch from, any rivalry
I should fear, if I had but started fair in the race?'
This sense of having been hardly treated by Fortune at the outset, marred
much of his present enjoyment, accompanied as it was by a misgiving that,
do what he might, that early inferiority would cling to him, like some rag
of a garment that he must wear over all his 'braverie,' proclaiming as it
did to the world, 'This is from what I sprung originally.'
It was not by any exercise of vanity that Atlee knew he talked better, knew
more, was wittier and more ready-witted than the majority of men of his age
and standing. The consciousness that he could do scores of things _they_
could not do was not enough, tarnished as it was by a misgiving that, by
some secret mystery of breeding, some freemasonry of fashion, he was not
one of them, and that this awkward fact was suspended over him for life, to
arrest his course in the hour of success, and balk him at the very moment
'Till a man's adoption amongst them is ratified by a marriage, he is not
safe,' muttered he. 'Till the fate and future of one of their own is
embarked in the same boat with himself, they'll not grieve over his
Could he but call Lady Maude his wife! Was this possible? There were
classes in which affections went for much, where there was such a thing
as engaging these same affections, and actually pledging all hope of
happiness in life on the faith of such engagements. These, it is true,
were the sentiments that prevailed in humbler walks of life, amongst
those lowly-born people whose births and marriages were not chronicled in
gilt-bound volumes. The Lady Maudes of the world, whatever imprudences
they might permit themselves, certainly never 'fell in love.' Condition
and place in the world were far too serious things to be made the sport of
sentiment. Love was a very proper thing in three-volume novels, and Mr.
Mudie drove a roaring trade in it; but in the well-bred world, immersed in
all its engagements, triple-deep in its projects and promises for pleasure,
where was the time, where the opportunity, for this pleasant fooling?
That luxurious selfishness in which people delight to plan a future life,
and agree to think that they have in themselves what can confront narrow
fortune and difficulty--these had no place in the lives of persons of
fashion! In that coquetry of admiration and flattery which in the language
of slang is called spooning, young persons occasionally got so far
acquainted that they agreed to be married, pretty much as they agreed
to waltz or to polka together; but it was always with the distinct
understanding that they were doing what mammas would approve of, and family
solicitors of good conscience could ratify. No tyrannical sentimentality,
no uncontrollable gush of sympathy, no irresistible convictions about all
future happiness being dependent on one issue, overbore these natures, and
made them insensible to title, and rank, and station, and settlements.
In one word, Atlee, after due consideration, satisfied his mind that,
though a man might gain the affections of the doctor's daughter or the
squire's niece, and so establish him as an element of her happiness that
friends would overlook all differences of fortune, and try to make some
sort of compromise with Fate, all these were unsuited to the sphere in
which Lady Maude moved. It was, indeed, a realm where this coinage did not
circulate. To enable him to address her with any prospect of success, he
should be able to show--ay, and to show argumentatively--that she was, in
listening to him, about to do something eminently prudent and worldly-wise.
She must, in short, be in a position to show her friends and 'society' that
she had not committed herself to anything wilful or foolish--had not been
misled by a sentiment or betrayed by a sympathy; and that the well-bred
questioner who inquired, 'Why did she marry Atlee?' should be met by an
answer satisfactory and convincing.
In the various ways he canvassed the question and revolved it with himself,
there was one consideration which, if I were at all concerned for his
character for gallantry, I should be reluctant to reveal; but as I feel
little interest on this score, I am free to own was this. He remembered
that as Lady Maude was no longer in her first youth, there was reason to
suppose she might listen to addresses now which, some years ago, would have
met scant favour in her eyes.
In the matrimonial Lloyd's, if there were such a body, she would not have
figured A No. 1; and the risks of entering the conjugal state have probably
called for an extra premium. Atlee attached great importance to this fact;
but it was not the less a matter which demanded the greatest delicacy of
treatment. He must know it, and he must not know it. He must see that she
had been the belle of many seasons, and he must pretend to regard her as
fresh to the ways of life, and new to society. He trusted a good deal to
his tact to do this, for while insinuating to her the possible future of
such a man as himself--the high place, and the great rewards which, in all
likelihood, awaited him--there would come an opportune moment to suggest,
that to any one less gifted, less conversant with knowledge of life than
herself, such reasonings could not be addressed.
'It could never be,' cried he aloud; 'to some miss fresh from the
schoolroom and the governess, I could dare to talk a language only
understood by those who have been conversant with high questions, and moved
in the society of thoughtful talkers.'
There is no quality so dangerous to eulogise as experience, and Atlee
thought long over this. One determination or another must speedily be come
to. If there was no likelihood of success with Lady Maude, he must not
lose his chances with the Greek girl. The sum, whatever it might be, which
her father should obtain for his secret papers, would constitute a very
respectable portion. 'I have a stronger reason to fight for liberal terms,'
thought he, 'than the Prince Kostalergi imagines; and, fortunately, that
fine parental trait, that noble desire to make a provision for his child,
stands out so clearly in my brief, I should be a sorry advocate if I could
not employ it.'
In the few words that passed between Lord Danesbury and himself on
arriving, he learned that there was but little chance of winning his
election for the borough. Indeed, he bore the disappointment jauntily and
good-humouredly. That great philosophy of not attaching too much importance
to any one thing in life, sustained him in every venture. 'Bet on the
field--never back the favourite,' was his formula for inculcating the
wisdom of trusting to the general game of life, rather than to any
particular emergency. 'Back the field,' he would say, 'and you must be
unlucky, or you'll come right in the long run.'
They dined that day alone, that is, they were but three at table; and Atlee
enjoyed the unspeakable pleasure of hearing them talk with the freedom
and unconstraint people only indulge in when 'at home.' Lord Danesbury
discussed confidential questions of political importance: told how his
colleagues agreed in this, or differed on that; adverted to the nice points
of temperament which made one man hopeful and that other despondent or
distrustful; he exposed the difficulties they had to meet in the Commons,
and where the Upper House was intractable; and even went so far in his
confidences as to admit where the criticisms of the Press were felt to be
damaging to the administration.
'The real danger of ridicule,' said he, 'is not the pungency of the satire,
it is the facility with which it is remembered and circulated. The man who
reads the strong leader in the _Times_ may have some general impression
of being convinced, but he cannot repeat its arguments or quote its
expressions. The pasquinade or the squib gets a hold on the mind, and in
its very drollery will ensure its being retained there.'
Atlee was not a little gratified to hear that this opinion was delivered
apropos to a short paper of his own, whose witty sarcasms on the Cabinet
were exciting great amusement in town, and much curiosity as to the writer.
'He has not seen "The Whitebait Dinner" yet,' said Lady Maude; 'the
cleverest _jeu d'esprit_ of the day.'
'Ay, or of any day,' broke in Lord Danesbury. 'Even the _Anti-Jacobin_
has nothing better. The notion is this. The Devil happens to be taking a
holiday, and he is in town just at the time of the Ministerial dinner,
and hearing that he is at Claridge's, the Cabinet, ashamed at the little
attention bestowed on a crowned head, ask him down to Greenwich. He
accepts, and to kill an hour--
"He strolled down, of course,
To the Parliament House,
And heard how England stood,
As she has since the Flood,
Without ally or friend to assist her.
But, while every persuasion
Was full of invasion
From Russian or Prussian,
Yet the only discussion
Was, how should a Gentleman marry his sister."'
'Can you remember any more of it, my lord?' asked Atlee, on whose table at
that moment were lying the proof-sheets of the production.
'Maude has it all somewhere. You must find it for him, and let him guess
the writer--if he can.'
'What do the clubs say?' asked Atlee.
'I think they are divided between Orlop and Bouverie. I'm told that the
Garrick people say it's Sankey, a young fellow in F. O.'
'You should see Aunt Jerningham about it, Mr. Atlee--her eagerness is
driving her half mad.'
'Take him out to "Lebanon" on Sunday,' said my lord; and Lady Maude agreed
with a charming grace and courtesy, adding as she left the room, 'So
remember you are engaged for Sunday.'
Atlee bowed as he held the door open for her to pass out, and threw into
his glance what he desired might mean homage and eternal devotion.
'Now then for a little quiet confab,' said my lord. 'Let me hear what you
mean by your telegram. All I could make out was that you found our man.'
'Yes, I found him, and passed several hours in his company.'
'Was the fellow very much out at elbows, as usual?'
'No, my lord--thriving, and likely to thrive. He has just been named envoy
to the Ottoman Court.'
'Bah!' was all the reply his incredulity could permit.
'True, I assure you. Such is the estimation he is held in at Athens,
the Greeks declare he has not his equal. You are aware that his name is
Spiridion Kostalergi, and he claims to be Prince of Delos.'
'With all my heart. Our Hellenic friends never quarrel over their nobility.
There are titles and to spare for every one. Will he give us our papers?'
'Yes; but not without high terms. He declares, in fact, my lord, that you
can no more return to the Bosporus without _him_ than he can go there
'Is the fellow insolent enough to take this ground?'
'That is he. In fact, he presumes to talk as your lordship's colleague, and
hints at the several points in which you may act in concert.'
'It is very Greek all this.'
'His terms are ten thousand pounds in cash, and--'
'There, there, that will do. Why not fifty--why not a hundred thousand?'
'He affects a desire to be moderate, my lord.'
'I hope you withdrew at once after such a proposal? I trust you did not
prolong the interview a moment longer?'
'I arose, indeed, and declared that the mere mention of such terms was like
a refusal to treat at all.'
'And you retired?'
'I gained the door, when he detained me. He has, I must admit, a marvellous
plausibility, for though at first he seemed to rely on the all-importance
of these documents to your lordship--how far they would compromise you
in the past and impede you for the future, how they would impair your
influence, and excite the animosity of many who were freely canvassed and
discussed in them--yet he abandoned all that at the end of our interview,
and restricted himself to the plea that the sum, if a large one, could not
be a serious difficulty to a great English noble, and would be the
crowning fortune of a poor Greek gentleman, who merely desired to secure a
marriage-portion for his only daughter.'
'And you believed this?'
'I so far believed him that I have his pledge in writing that, when he has
your lordship's assurance that you will comply with his terms--and he only
asks that much--he will deposit the papers in the hands of the Minister at
Athens, and constitute your lordship the trustee of the amount in favour of
his daughter, the sum only to be paid on her marriage.'
'How can it possibly concern me that he has a daughter, or why should I
accept such a trust?'
'The proposition had no other meaning than to guarantee the good faith on
which his demand is made.'
'I don't believe in the daughter.'
'That is, that there is one?'
'No. I am persuaded that she has no existence. It is some question of a
mistress or a dependant; and if so, the sentimentality, which would seem to
have appealed so forcibly to you, fails at once.'
'That is quite true, my lord; and I cannot pretend to deny the weakness you
accuse me of. There may be no daughter in the question.'
'Ah! You begin to perceive now that you surrendered your convictions too
easily, Atlee. You failed in that element of "restless distrust" that
Talleyrand used to call the temper of the diplomatist.'
'It is not the first time I have had to feel I am your lordship's
'_My_ education was not made in a day, Atlee. It need be no discouragement
to you that you are not as long-sighted as I am. No, no; rely upon it,
there is no daughter in the case.'
'With that conviction, my lord, what is easier than to make your adhesion
to his terms conditional on his truth? You agree, if his statement be in
all respects verified.'
'Which implies that it is of the least consequence to me whether the fellow
has a daughter or not?'
'It is so only as the guarantee of the man's veracity.'
'And shall I give ten thousand pounds to test _that?_'
'No, my lord; but to repossess yourself of what, in very doubtful hands,
might prove a great scandal and a great disaster.'
'Ten thousand pounds! ten thousand pounds!'
'Why not eight--perhaps five? I have not your lordship's great knowledge to
guide me, and I cannot tell when these men really mean to maintain their
ground. From my own very meagre experiences, I should say he was not a very
tractable individual. He sees some promise of better fortune before him,
and like a genuine gambler--as I hear he is--he determines to back his
'Ten thousand pounds!' muttered the other, below his breath.
'As regards the money, my lord, I take it that these same papers were
documents which more or less concerned the public service--they were in no
sense personal, although meant to be private; and, although in my ignorance
I may be mistaken, it seems to me that the fund devoted to secret services
could not be more fittingly appropriated than in acquiring documents whose
publicity could prove a national injury.'
'Totally wrong--utterly wrong. The money could never be paid on such a
pretence--the "Office" would not sanction--no Minister would dare to advise
'Then I come back to my original suggestion. I should give a conditional
acceptance, and treat for a reduction of the amount.'
'You would say five?'
'I opine, my lord, eight would have more chance of success.'
'You are a warm advocate for your client,' said his lordship, laughing; and
though the shot was merely a random one, it went so true to the mark that
Atlee flushed up and became crimson all over. 'Don't mistake me, Atlee,'
said his lordship, in a kindly tone. 'I know thoroughly how _my_ interests,
and only mine, have any claim on your attention. This Greek fellow must be
less than nothing to you. Tell me now frankly, do you believe one word he
has told you? Is he really named as Minister to Turkey?'
'That much I can answer for--he is.'
'What of the daughter--is there a daughter?'
'I suspect there may be. However, the matter admits of an easy proof. He
has given me names and addresses in Ireland of relatives with whom she
is living. Now, I am thoroughly conversant with Ireland, and, by the
indications in my power, I can pledge myself to learn all, not only about
the existence of this person, but of such family circumstances as might
serve to guide you in your resolve. Time is what is most to be thought of
here. Kostalergi requires a prompt answer--first of all, your assurance
that you will support his claim to be received by the Sultan. Well, my
lord, if you refuse, Mouravieff will do it. You know better than me how
impolitic it might be to throw those Turks more into Russian influence--'
'Never mind _that_, Atlee. Don't distress yourself about the political
aspect of the question.'
'I promised a telegraphic line to say, would you or would you not sustain
his nomination. It was to be Yes or No--not more.'
'Say Yes. I'll not split hairs about what Greek best represents his nation.
'I am sure, my lord, you do wisely. He is evidently a man of ability, and,
I suspect, not morally much worse than his countrymen in general.'
'Say Yes; and then'--he mused for some minutes before he continued--'and
then run over to Ireland--learn something, if you can, of this girl, with
whom she is staying, in what position, what guarantees, if any, could be
had for the due employment and destination of a sum of money, in the event
of our agreeing to pay it. Mind, it is simply as a gauge of the fellow's
veracity that this story has any value for us. Daughter or no daughter, is
not of any moment to me; but I want to test the problem--can he tell one
word of truth about anything? You are shrewd enough to see the bearing of
this narrative on all he has told you--where it sustains, where it accuses
'Shall I set out at once, my lord?'
'No. Next week will do. We'll leave him to ruminate over your telegram.
_That_ will show him we have entertained his project; and he is too
practised a hand not to know the value of an opened negotiation. Cradock
and Mellish, and one or two more, wish to talk with you about Turkey.
Graydon, too, has some questions to ask you about Suez. They dine here on
Monday. Tuesday we are to have the Hargraves and Lord Masham, and a couple
of Under-Secretaries of State; and Lady Maude will tell us about Wednesday,
for all these people, Atlee, are coming to meet _you_. The newspapers have
so persistently been keeping you before the world, every one wants to see
Atlee might have told his lordship--but he did not--by what agency it
chanced that his journeys and his jests were so thoroughly known to the
press of every capital in Europe.
Sunday came, and with it the visit to South Kensington, where Aunt
Jerningham lived; and Atlee found himself seated beside Lady Maude in a
fine roomy barouche, whirling along at a pace that our great moralist
himself admits to be amongst the very pleasantest excitements humanity can
'I hope you will add your persuasions to mine, Mr. Atlee, and induce my
uncle to take these horses with him to Turkey. You know Constantinople, and
can say that real carriage-horses cannot be had there.'
'Horses of this size, shape, and action the Sultan himself has not the
'No one is more aware than my lord,' continued she, 'that the measure of an
ambassador's influence is, in a great degree, the style and splendour in
which he represents his country, and that his household, his equipage, his
retinue, and his dinners, should mark distinctly the station he assumes to
occupy. Some caprice of Mr. Walpole's about Arab horses--Arabs of bone and
blood he used to talk of--has taken hold of my uncle's mind, and I half
fear that he may not take the English horses with him.'
'By the way,' said Atlee, half listlessly, 'where _is_ Walpole? What has
become of him?'
'He is in Ireland at this moment.'
'In Ireland! Good heavens! has he not had enough of Ireland?'
'Apparently not. He went over there on Tuesday last.'
'And what can he possibly have to do in Ireland?'
'I should say that _you_ are more likely to furnish the answer to that
question than I. If I'm not much mistaken, his letters are forwarded to the
same country-house where you first made each other's acquaintance.'
'What, Kilgobbin Castle?'
'Yes, it is something Castle, and I think the name you mentioned.'
'And this only puzzles me the more,' added Atlee, pondering. 'His first
visit there, at the time I met him, was a mere accident of travel--a
tourist's curiosity to see an old castle supposed to have some historic
'Were there not some other attractions in the spot?' interrupted she,
'Yes, there was a genial old Irish squire, who did the honours very
handsomely, if a little rudely, and there were two daughters, or a daughter
and a niece, I'm not very clear which, who sang Irish melodies and talked
rebellion to match very amusingly.'
'Were they pretty?'
'Well, perhaps courtesy would say "pretty," but a keener criticism would
dwell on certain awkwardnesses of manner--Walpole called them Irishries.'
'Yes, he confessed to have been amused with the eccentric habits and odd
ways, but he was not sparing of his strictures afterwards.'
'So that there were no "tendernesses?"'
'Oh, I'll not go that far. I rather suspect there were "tendernesses,"
but only such as a fine gentleman permits himself amongst semi-savage
peoples--something that seems to say, "Be as fond of me as you like, and it
is a great privilege you enjoy; and I, on my side, will accord you such of
my affections as I set no particular store by." Just as one throws small
coin to a beggar.'
'Oh, Mr. Atlee!'
'I am ashamed to own that I have seen something of this kind myself.'
'It is not like my cousin Cecil to behave in that fashion.'
'I might say, Lady Maude, that your home experiences of people would prove
a very fallacious guide as to what they might or might not do in a society
of whose ways you know nothing.'
'A man of honour would always be a man of honour.'
'There are men, and men of honour, as there are persons of excellent
principles with delicate moral health, and they--I say it with regret--must
be satisfied to be as respectably conducted as they are able.'
'I don't think you like Cecil,' said she, half-puzzled by his subtlety, but
hitting what she thought to be a 'blot.'
'It is difficult for me to tell his cousin what I should like to say in
answer to this remark.'
'Oh, have no embarrassment on that score. There are very few people less
trammelled by the ties of relationship than we are. Speak out, and if you
want to say anything particularly severe, have no fears of wounding my
'And do you know, Lady Maude,' said he, in a voice of almost confidential
meaning, 'this was the very thing I was dreading? I had at one time a good
deal of Walpole's intimacy--I'll not call it friendship, for somehow there
were certain differences of temperament that separated us continually. We
could commonly agree upon the same things; we could never be one-minded
about the same people. In _my_ experiences, the world is by no means the
cold-hearted and selfish thing _he_ deems it; and yet I suppose, Lady
Maude, if there were to be a verdict given upon us both, nine out of ten
would have fixed on _me_ as the scoffer. Is not this so?'
The artfulness with which he had contrived to make himself and his
character a question of discussion achieved only a half-success, for she
only gave one of her most meaningless smiles as she said, 'I do not know; I
am not quite sure.'
'And yet I am more concerned to learn what _you_ would think on this score
than for the opinion of the whole world.'
Like a man who has taken a leap and found a deep 'drop' on the other side,
he came to a dead halt as he saw the cold and impassive look her features
had assumed. He would have given worlds to recall his speech and stand as
he did before it was uttered; for though she did not say one word, there
was that in her calm and composed expression which reproved all that
savoured of passionate appeal. A now-or-never sort of courage nerved him,
and he went on: 'I know all the presumption of a man like myself daring to
address such words to you, Lady Maude; but do you remember that though all
eyes but one saw only fog-bank in the horizon, Columbus maintained there
was land in the distance; and so say I, "He who would lay his fortunes
at your feet now sees high honours and great rewards awaiting him in the
future. It is with you to say whether these honours become the crowning
glories of a life, or all pursuit of them be valueless!" May I--dare I
'This is Lebanon,' said she; 'at least I think so'; and she held her glass
to her eye. 'Strange caprice, wasn't it, to call her house Lebanon because
of those wretched cedars? Aunt Jerningham is so odd!'
'There is a crowd of carriages here,' said Atlee, endeavouring to speak
'It is her day; she likes to receive on Sundays, as she says she escapes
the bishops. By the way, did you tell me you were an old friend of hers, or
did I dream it?'
'I'm afraid it was the vision revealed it?'
'Because, if so, I must not take you in. She has a rule against all
presentations on Sundays--they are only her intimates she receives on that
day. We shall have to return as we came.'
'Not for worlds. Pray let me not prove an embarrassment. You can make your
visit, and I will go back on foot. Indeed, I should like a walk.'
'On no account! Take the carriage, and send it back for me. I shall remain
here till afternoon tea.'
'Thanks, but I hold to my walk.'
'It is a charming day, and I'm sure a walk will be delightful.'
'Am I to suppose, Lady Maude,' said he, in a low voice, as he assisted her
to alight, 'that you will deign me a more formal answer at another time to
the words I ventured to address you? May I live in the hope that I shall
yet regard this day as the most fortunate of my life?'
'It is wonderful weather for November--an English November, too. Pray let
me assure you that you need not make yourself uneasy about what you were
speaking of. I shall not mention it to any one, least of all to "my lord";
and as for myself, it shall be as completely forgotten as though it had
never been uttered.'
And she held out her hand with a sort of cordial frankness that actually
said, 'There, you are forgiven! Is there any record of generosity like
Atlee bowed low and resignedly over that gloved hand, which he felt he was
touching for the last time, and turned away with a rush of thoughts through
his brain, in which certainly the pleasantest were not the predominating
He did not dine that day at Bruton Street, and only returned about ten
o'clock, when he knew he should find Lord Danesbury in his study.
'I have determined, my lord,' said he, with somewhat of decision in his
tone that savoured of a challenge, 'to go over to Ireland by the morning
Too much engrossed by his own thoughts to notice the other's manner, Lord
Danesbury merely turned from the papers before him to say, 'Ah, indeed!
it would be very well done. We were talking about that, were we not,
yesterday? What was it?'
'The Greek--Kostalergi's daughter, my lord?'
'To be sure. You are incredulous about her, ain't you?'
'On the contrary, my lord, I opine that the fellow has told us the truth. I
believe he has a daughter, and destines this money to be her dowry.'
'With all my heart; I do not see how it should concern me. If I am to pay
the money, it matters very little to me whether he invests it in a Greek
husband or the Double Zero--speculations, I take it, pretty much alike.
Have you sent a telegram?'
'I have, my lord. I have engaged your lordship's word that you are willing
'Just so; it is exactly what I am! Willing to treat, willing to hear
argument, and reply with my own, why I should give more for anything than
it is worth.'
'We need not discuss further what we can only regard from one point of
view, and that our own.'
Lord Danesbury started. The altered tone and manner struck him now for the
first time, and he threw his spectacles on the table and stared at the
speaker with astonishment.
'There is another point, my lord,' continued Atlee, with unbroken calm,
'that I should like to ask your lordship's judgment upon, as I shall in
a few hours be in Ireland, where the question will present itself. There
was some time ago in Ireland a case brought under your lordship's notice
of a very gallant resistance made by a family against an armed party who
attacked a house, and your lordship was graciously pleased to say that some
recognition should be offered to one of the sons--something to show how the
Government regarded and approved his spirited conduct.'
'I know, I know; but I am no longer the Viceroy.'
'I am aware of that, my lord, nor is your successor appointed; but any
suggestion or wish of your lordship's would be accepted by the Lords
Justices with great deference, all the more in payment of a debt. If, then,
your lordship would recommend this young man for the first vacancy in the
constabulary, or some place in the Customs, it would satisfy a most natural
expectation, and, at the same time, evidence your lordship's interest for
the country you so late ruled over.'
'There is nothing more pernicious than forestalling other people's
patronage, Atlee. Not but if this thing was to be done for yourself--'
'Pardon me, my lord, I do not desire anything for myself.'
'Well, be it so. Take this to the Chancellor or the
Commander-in-Chief'--and he scribbled a few hasty lines as he talked--'and
say what you can in support of it. If they give you something good, I shall
be heartily glad of it, and I wish you years to enjoy it.'
Atlee only smiled at the warmth of interest for him which was linked with
such a shortness of memory; but was too much wounded in his pride to reply.
And now, as he saw that his lordship had replaced his glasses and resumed
his work, he walked noiselessly to the door and withdrew.
THE SAUNTER IN TOWN
As Atlee sauntered along towards Downing Street, whence he purposed to
despatch his telegram to Greece, he thought a good deal of his late
interview with Lord Danesbury. There was much in it that pleased him. He
had so far succeeded in _re_ Kostalergi, that the case was not scouted out
of court; the matter, at least, was to be entertained, and even that was
something. The fascination of a scheme to be developed, an intrigue to be
worked out, had for his peculiar nature a charm little short of ecstasy.
The demand upon his resources for craft and skill, concealment and
duplicity, was only second in his estimation to the delight he felt at
measuring his intellect with some other, and seeing whether, in the game of
subtlety, he had his master.
Next to this, but not without a long interval, was the pleasure he felt at
the terms in which Lord Danesbury spoke of him. No orator accustomed to
hold an assembly enthralled by his eloquence--no actor habituated to sway
the passions of a crowded theatre--is more susceptible to the promptings of
personal vanity than your 'practised talker.' The man who devotes himself
to be a 'success' in conversation glories more in his triumphs, and sets a
greater value on his gifts, than any other I know of.
That men of mark and station desired to meet him--that men whose position
secured to them the advantage of associating with the pleasantest people
and the freshest minds--men who commanded, so to say, the best talking in
society--wished to confer with and to hear _him_, was an intense flattery,
and he actually longed for the occasion of display. He had learned a good
deal since he had left Ireland. He had less of that fluency which Irishmen
cultivate, seldom ventured on an epigram, never on an anecdote, was
guardedly circumspect as to statements of fact, and, on the whole, liked to
understate his case, and affect distrust of his own opinion. Though there
was not one of these which were not more or less restrictions on him,
he could be brilliant and witty when occasion served, and there was an
incisive neatness in his repartee in which he had no equal. Some of those
he was to meet were well known amongst the most agreeable people of
society, and he rejoiced that at least, if he were to be put upon his
trial, he should be judged by his peers.
With all these flattering prospects, was it not strange that his lordship
never dropped a word, nor even a hint, as to his personal career? He had
told him, indeed, that he could not hope for success at Cradford, and
laughingly said, 'You have left Odger miles behind you in your Radicalism.
Up to this, we have had no Parliament in England sufficiently advanced
for your opinions.' On the whole, however, if not followed up--which Lord
Danesbury strongly objected to its being--he said there was no great harm
in a young man making his first advances in political life by something
startling. They are only fireworks, it is true; the great requisite is,
that they be brilliant, and do not go out with a smoke and a bad smell!
Beyond this, he had told him nothing. Was he minded to take him out to
Turkey, and as what? He had already explained to him that the old days
in which a clever fellow could be drafted at once into a secretaryship
of embassy were gone by; that though a parliamentary title was held to
supersede all others, whether in the case of a man or a landed estate, it
was all-essential to be in the House for _that_, and that a diplomatist,
like a sweep, must begin when he is little.
'As his private secretary,' thought he, 'the position is at once fatal to
all my hopes with regard to Lady Maude.' There was not a woman living more
certain to measure a man's pretensions by his station. 'Hitherto I have not
been "classed." I might be anybody, or go anywhere. My wide capabilities
seemed to say that if I descended to do small things, it would be quite as
easy for me to do great ones; and though I copied despatches, they would
have been rather better if I had drafted them also.'
Lady Maude knew this. She knew the esteem in which her uncle held him. She
knew how that uncle, shrewd man of the world as he was, valued the sort of
qualities he saw in him, and could, better than most men, decide how far
such gifts were marketable, and what price they brought to their possessor.
'And yet,' cried he, 'they don't know one-half of me! What would they say
if they knew that it was I wrote the great paper on Turkish Finance in the
_Mémorial Diplomatique_, and the review of it in the _Quarterly_; that
it was I who exposed the miserable compromise of Thiers with Gambetta in
the _Débuts_, and defended him in the _Daily News_; that the hysterical
scream of the _Kreuz Zeitung_, and the severe article on Bismarck in the
_Fortnightly_, were both mine; and that at this moment I am urging in the
_Pike_ how the Fenian prisoners must be amnestied, and showing in a London
review that if they are liberated, Mr. Gladstone should be attainted for
high treason? I should like well to let them know all this; and I'm not
sure I would not risk all the consequences to do it.'
And then he as suddenly bethought him how little account men of letters
were held in by the Lady Maudes of this world; what a humble place they
assigned them socially; and how small they estimated their chances of
'It is the unrealism of literature as a career strikes them; and they
cannot see how men are to assure themselves of the _quoi vivre_ by
providing what so few want, and even they could exist without.'
It was in a reverie of this fashion he walked the streets, as little
cognisant of the crowd around him as if he were sauntering along some
rippling stream in a mountain gorge.
A DARKENED KOOM
The 'comatose' state, to use the language of the doctors, into which
Gorman O'Shea had fallen, had continued so long as to excite the greatest
apprehensions of his friends; for although not amounting to complete
insensibility, it left him so apathetic and indifferent to everything and
every one, that the girls Kate and Nina, in pure despair, had given up
reading or talking to him, and passed their hours of 'watching' in perfect
silence in the half-darkened room.
The stern immobility of his pale features, the glassy and meaningless stare