Part 3 out of 6
diamonds--very valuable--left here by a lady--a young lady--I want
them back again."
He looked about him helplessly; nevertheless, the shopman, himself a
married man, became at once less commiserating, and more confidential.
"Diamonds!" he repeated. "Let me see--yes, sir--quite so--I think I
recollect. Perhaps you'll step in and speak to our principal. Mind
your hat, if you please, sir--yes, sir--this way, sir."
So saying, he ushered Mr. Stanmore through glass doors into a neat
little room at the back, where sat a bald, smiling personage in sober
attire, something between that of a provincial master of hounds and a
low-church clergyman, whose cool composure, as it struck Dick at the
time, afforded a ludicrous contrast to his own fuss and agitation.
"_My_ name is Rose, sir," said the placid man. "Pray take a seat."
Nobody can "take a seat" under feelings of strong excitement. Dick
grasped the proffered chair by the back.
"Mr. Rose," he began, "what I have to say to you goes no farther."
"O dear, no!--certainly not--Mr. Stanmore, I believe? I hope I see you
well, sir. This is my _private_ room, you understand, sir. Whatever
affairs we transact here are _in_ private. How can I accommodate you,
Mr. Stanmore?" Dick looked so eager, the placid man was persuaded he
must want money.
"There's a young lady," said Dick, plunging at his subject, "who left
her diamonds here last week--quite a young lady--very handsome. Did
she give you her name?"
Mr. Rose smiled and shook his head benevolently. "If any jewels of
value were left with _us_, you may be sure we satisfied ourselves of
the party's name and address. Perhaps I can help you, Mr. Stanmore.
Can you favour me with the date?"
"Yes, I can," answered Dick, "and the name too. It's no use humbugging
about it. Miss Bruce was the lady's name. There! Now she wants her
jewels back again. She's changed her mind."
Mr. Rose took a ledger off the table, and ran his finger down its
columns. "Quite correct, sir," said he, stopping at a particular
entry. "You are acquainted with the circumstances, of course."
Dick nodded, esteeming it little breach of confidence to look as if he
knew all about it.
"There is no difficulty whatever," continued the bland Mr. Rose.
"Happy to oblige Miss Bruce. Happy to oblige _you_. We shall charge a
small sum for commission. Nothing more--O dear, no! Have them cleaned
up? Certainly, sir; and you may depend on their being sent home in
time. At your convenience, Mr. Stanmore. No hurry, sir. You can write
me your cheque for the amount. Perhaps I'd better draw out a little
memorandum. We shall make a mere nominal charge for cleaning."
Dick glanced over the memorandum, including its nominal charge for
cleaning, which, perhaps from ignorance, did not strike him as being
extraordinarily low. He was somewhat startled at the sum total, but
when this gentleman made up his mind, it was not easy to turn him from
an object in view.
The steppers, hardly cool, were hurried straight off to his bankers',
to be driven, after their owner's interview with one of the partners,
back again to the great emporium of their kind at Tattersall's.
A woman who wants to make a sacrifice parts with her jewels, a man
sells his horses. Honour to each, for each offers up what is nearest
and dearest to the heart.
Dick Stanmore lived no more within his income than other people. To
get back these diamonds he would have to raise a considerable sum.
There was nothing else to be done. The hunters must go: nay, the whole
stud, phaeton-horses, hacks, and all. Yet Dick marched into the office
to secure stalls for an early date, with a bright eye and a smiling
face. He was proving, to _himself_, at least, how well he loved her.
The first person he met in the yard was Lord Bearwarden. That
nobleman, though knowing him but slightly, had rather a liking for
Stanmore, cemented by a certain good run they once saw in company,
when each approved of the other's straightforward riding and unusual
forbearance towards hounds.
"There's a nice horse in the boxes," said my lord; "looks very like
your sort, Stanmore, and they say he'll go cheap, though he's quite
"Thanks," answered Dick. "But I'm all the other way. Been taking
stalls. Going to sell."
"Draft?" asked his lordship, who did not waste words.
"All of them," replied the other. "Even the hacks, saddlery, clothing,
in short, the whole plant, and without reserve--going to give it
up--at any rate for a time."
"Sorry for that," replied Bearwarden, adding, courteously, "Can I
offer you a lift? I'm going your way. Indeed, I'm going to call at
your mother's. Shall I find the ladies at home?"
"A little later you will," said honest, unsuspecting Dick, who had not
yet learned the lesson that teaches it is not worth while to trust or
mistrust any of the sex. "They'll be charmed to give you some tea. I'm
off to Croydon to look over my poor screws before they're sold, and
break it to my groom."
"That's a right good fellow," thought Lord Bearwarden, "and not a bad
connection if I was fool enough to marry the dark girl, after all." So
he called out to Dick, who had one foot on the step of his phaeton--
"I say, Stanmore, come and dine with us on the 11th; we've got two or
three hunting fellows, and we can go on together afterwards to your
"All right," said Stanmore, and bowled away in the direction of
Croydon at the rate of fourteen miles an hour. If the horses were
to be sold, people might just as well be made aware of the class of
animal he kept. Though the sacrifice involved was considerable, it
would be wise to lessen it by all judicious means in his power.
_How_ great a sacrifice he scarcely felt till he arrived at his
Dick Stanmore had been fonder of hunting than any other pursuit in the
world, ever since he went out for the first time on a Shetland pony,
and came home with his nose bleeding, at five years old.
The spin and "whizz" of his reel, the rush of a brown mountain stream
with its fringe of silver birch and stunted alder, the white side of a
leaping salmon, and the gasp of that noble fish towed deftly into the
shallows at last, afforded him a natural and unmixed pleasure. He
loved the heather dearly, the wild hillside, the keen pure air, the
steady setters, the flap and cackle of the rising grouse, the ringing
shot that laid him low, born in the purple, and fated there to die.
Nor, when corn-fields were cleared, and partridges, almost as swift as
bullets and as numerous as locusts, were driven to and fro across the
open, was his aim to be foiled by a flight little less rapid than the
shot that arrested it. With a rifle in his hand, a general knowledge
of the surrounding forest, and a couple of gillies, give him the wind
of a royal stag feeding amongst his hinds, and despite the feminine
jealousy and instinctive vigilance of the latter, an hour's stalk
would put the lord of the hills at the mercy of Dick Stanmore. In all
these sports he was a proficient, from all of them he derived a keen
gratification, but fox-hunting was his passion and his delight.
A fine rider, he loved the pursuit so well, and was so interested in
hounds, that he gave his horse every opportunity of carrying him in
front, and as his natural qualities included a good eye, and that
confidence in the immediate future which we call "nerve," he was
seen in difficulties less often than might be expected from his
predilection in favour of "the shortest way."
His horses generally appeared to go pleasantly, and to reciprocate
their rider's confidence, for he certainly seemed to get more work out
of them than his neighbours.
As Mr. Crop, his stud-groom, remarked in the peculiar style of English
affected by that trustworthy but exceedingly impracticable servant--
"Take and put him on a 'arf-bred' 'oss, an' he rides him like a
hangel, nussin' of him, and coaxin' of him, and sendin' of him along,
_beautiful_ for ground, an' uncommon liberal for fences. Take an' put
him on a thoro'-bred 'un, like our Vampire 'oss, and--Lor!"
One secret perhaps of that success in the hunting-field, which, when
well mounted, even Mr. Crop's eloquence was powerless to express but
by an interjection, lay in his master's affection for the animal.
Dick Stanmore dearly loved a horse, as some men do love them, totally
irrespective of any pleasure or advantage to be derived from their
There is a fanciful oriental legend which teaches that when Allah was
engaged in the work of creation, he tempered the lightning with the
south wind, and thus created the horse. Whimsical as is this idea, it
yet suggests the swiftness, the fire, the mettlesome, generous, but
plastic temperament of our favourite quadruped--the only one of
our dumb servants in whose spirit we can rouse at will the utmost
emulation, the keenest desire for the approval of its lord. Even the
countenance of this animal denotes most of the qualities we affect to
esteem in the human race--courage, docility, good-temper, reflection
(for few faces are so thoughtful as that of the horse), gratitude,
benevolence, and, above all, trust. Yes, the full brown eye, large,
and mild, and loving, expresses neither spite, nor suspicion, nor
revenge. It turns on you with the mute unquestioning confidence
of real affection, and you may depend on it under all pressure of
circumstance, in the last extremity of danger or death. Will you say
as much for the bluest eyes that ever sparkled in mirth, or swam in
tears, or shone and deepened under the combined influence of triumph,
belladonna, and war-paint?
I once heard a man affirm that for him there was in every horse's face
the beauty each of us sees in the one woman he adores. This outrageous
position he assumed after a good run, and, indeed, after the dinner
which succeeded it. I will not go quite so far as to agree with him,
but I will say that in generosity, temper, and fidelity, there is
many a woman, and man too, who might well take example from the noble
qualities of the horse.
And now Dick Stanmore was about to offer up half-a-dozen of these
valued servants before the idol he had lately begun to worship, for
whom, indeed, he esteemed no victim too precious, no sacrifice too
Driving into his stable-yard, he threw the reins to a couple of
helpers, and made use of Mr. Crop's arm to assist his descent. That
worthy's face shone with delight. Next to his horses he loved his
master--chiefly, it is fair to say, as an important ingredient without
which there would be no stud.
"I was expectin' of ye, sir," said he, touching an exceedingly
straight-brimmed hat. "Glad to see ye lookin' so well."
To do him justice, Mr. Crop did his duty as if he always _was_
expecting his master.
"Horses all right?" asked Dick, moving towards the stable-door.
"'Osses _is_ 'ealthy, I am thankful to say," replied the groom
gravely, "and lookin', too, pretty nigh as I could wish, now they've
done breakin' with their coats. There's Firetail got a queerish
look--them Northamptonshire 'osses is mostly unsound ones--and the
mare's off leg's filled; and the Vampire 'oss, he's got a bit of a
splent a-comin', but I'll soon frighten that away; an' old Dandybrush,
he's awful, but not wuss nor I counted; and the young un--"
"I'll look 'em over," said Dick, interrupting what threatened to be
a long catalogue. "I came down on purpose. The fact is (take those
horses out and feed them)--the fact is, Crop, I'm going to sell them
all. I'm going to send them up to Tattersall's."
Every groom is more or less a sporting man, and it is the peculiarity
of sporting men to betray astonishment at no eventuality, however
startling; therefore Mr. Crop, doing violence to his feelings, moved
not a muscle of his countenance.
"I'm sorry to part with them, Crop," added Dick, a little put out by
the silence of his retainer, and not knowing exactly what to say next.
"They've carried me very well--I've seen a deal of fun on them--I
don't suppose I shall ever have such good ones--I don't suppose I
shall ever hunt much again."
Mr. Crop began to thaw. "They're _good_ 'osses," he observed
sententiously; "but that's not to say as there isn't good 'osses
elsewheres. In regard of not huntin' there's a many seasons, askin'
your pardon, atween you and me, and I should be sorry to think as I
wasn't goin' huntin', ay, twenty years from now! When is 'em goin' up,
sir?" added he, sinking sentiment and coming to business at once.
"Monday fortnight," answered Dick, entering a loose box, in which
stood a remarkably handsome mare, that neighed at him, and rubbed her
head against his breast.
"I should ha' liked another ten days," replied Crop, for it was an
important part of his system never to accept his master's arrangements
without a protest. "I could ha' got 'em to show as they ought to show
by then. Is the stalls took?"
Dick nodded. He was looking wistfully at the mare, thinking what a
light mouth she had, and how boldly she faced water.
"That leg'll be as clean as my face in a week," observed Mr. Crop
confidently. "She'll fetch a good price, _she_ will. Sir Frederic's
after _her_, I know. There's nothing but tares in there, sir; old
Dandybrush is in the box on the right."
Dick gave the mare a loving pat, and turned sadly into the residence
of old Dandybrush.
That experienced animal greeted him with laid-back ears and a grin, as
though to say, "Here you are again! But I like you best in your red
They had seen many a good gallop together, and rolled over each other
with the utmost good-humour, in every description of soil. To look at
the old horse, even in his summer guise, was to recall the happiest
moments of a sufficiently happy life.
"I'd meant to guv it _him_ pretty sharp," said Crop; "but I'll let him
alone now. He'd 'a carried you, maybe, another season or two, with a
good strong dressin'; but them legs isn't what they _was_. Last
time as I rode of him second horse, I found him different--gettin'
inquisitive at his places--and when they gets inquisitive they soon
begins to get slow. You'll look at the Vampire 'oss, sir, before you
go back to town?"
Now "the Vampire 'oss," as he called him, was an especial favourite
with Mr. Crop. Dick Stanmore had bought him out of training at
Newmarket by his groom's advice, and the highbred animal, being ridden
by an exceedingly good horseman, had turned out a far better hunter
than common--not invariably the case with horses that begin life
on the Heath. Crop took great pride in this purchase, confidently
asserting, and doubtless believing, that England could not produce its
He threw the box-door open with the air of a man who is going to
exhibit a picture of his own painting.
"It's a pity to let him go," said the groom, with a sigh. "Where'll
you get another as can touch him when the ground's deep, like it was
last March? I've had a many to look after, first and last; but such a
kind 'oss to do for in the stable I never see. Why, if you was to
give that 'oss ten feeds of corn a day he'd take an' eat 'em all out
clean--wouldn't leave a hoat! And legs. Them's not legs! them's slips
of gutta-percher an' steel! To be sure he'll fetch a hawful price at
the 'ammer--four 'underd, five 'underd, I shouldn't wonder--why he's
worth all the money to look at. Blessed if you mightn't ride a good
'ack to death only tryin' to find such another!"
Nevertheless, the Vampire horse was condemned to go up with the rest.
Notwithstanding the truth of the groom's protestations, its money
value was exactly the quality that decided the animal's fate.
Driving back to London, Dick's heart bounded to think that in an
hour's time he should meet Miss Bruce again at dinner. How delightful
to be doing all this for her sake, yet to keep the precious secret
safe locked in his own breast, until the moment should come when it
would be judicious to divulge it, making, at the same time, another
confession, of which he hoped the result might be happiness for life.
"I'd do more than that for her," muttered this enthusiastic young
gentleman, while he trotted over Vauxhall Bridge. "I liked my poor
horses better than anything; and that's just the reason I like to part
with them for her sake. My darling, I'd give you the heart out of my
breast, even if I thought you'd tread it under foot and send it back
Had such an anatomical absurdity been reconcilable with the structure
of the human frame, it is possible Miss Bruce might have treated this
important organ in the contumelious manner suggested.
SIXES AND SEVENS
In the meantime, while Dick Stanmore is hugging himself in the warm
atmosphere of hope, while Lord Bearwarden hovers on the brink of a
stream in which he narrowly escaped drowning long ago, while Tom Ryfe
is plunged in depths of anxiety, jealousy, and humiliation that scorch
like liquid fire, Miss Bruce's dark eyes, and winning, wilful ways,
have kindled the torch of mistrust and discord between two people of
whom she has rarely seen the one and never heard of the other.
Mr. Bargrave's chambers in Gray's Inn were at no time more remarkable
for cleanliness than other like apartments in the same locality; but
the dust lies inch-thick now in all places where dust _can_ lie,
because that Dorothea, more moping and tearful than ever, has not the
heart to clean up, no, nor even to wash her own hands and face in the
afternoon as heretofore.
She loves her "Jim," of course, all the more passionately that he
makes her perfectly miserable, neglecting her for days together,
and when they do meet, treating her with an indifference far more
lacerating than any amount of cruelty or open scorn.
Not that he is always good-humoured. On the contrary, "Gentleman Jim,"
as they call him, has lost much of the rollicking, devil-may-care
recklessness that earned his nickname, and is often morose
now--sometimes even fierce and savage to brutality.
The poor woman has had a quarrel with him, not two hours ago,
originating, it is but fair to state, in her own extremely irritating
conduct regarding beer, Jim being anxious to treat his ladye-love with
that fluid for the purpose, as he said, of "drowning unkindness," and
possibly with the further view of quenching an inconvenient curiosity
she has lately indulged about his movements. No man likes to be
watched; and the more reason the woman he is betraying has to doubt
him, the less patience he shows for her anxiety, the less he tolerates
her inquiries, her jealousy, or her reproaches.
Now Dorothea's suspicions, sharpened by affection, have of late grown
extremely wearisome, and Jim has been heard to threaten more than once
that "if so be as she doesn't mend her manners, and live conformable,
he'll take an' hook it, he will, blessed if he won't!"--a dark saying
which sinks deeply and painfully into the forlorn one's heart. When,
therefore, instead of drinking her share, as usual, of a foaming quart
measure containing beer, dashed with something stronger, this
poor thing set it down untasted, and forthwith began to cry, the
cracksman's anger knew no bounds.
"Drop it!" he exclaimed brutally. "You'd best, I tell ye! D'ye think I
want my blessed drink watered with your blessed nonsense? What's come
to ye, ye contrairy devil? I thought I'd larned ye better. I'll see if
I can't larn ye still. Would ye now!"
It was almost a blow,--such a push as is the next thing to actual
violence, and it sent her staggering from the sloppy bar at which
their altercation took place against a bench by the wall, where she
sat down pale and gasping, to the indignation of a slatternly woman
nursing her child, and the concern of an honest coalheaver, who had a
virago of a wife at home.
"Easy, mate!" expostulated that worthy, putting his broad frame
between the happy pair. "Hold on a bit, an' give her a drop when she
comes to. She'd 'a throwed her arms about your neck a while ago, an'
now she'd as soon knife ye as look at ye."
Wild-eyed and pale, Dorothea glared round, as Clytemnestra may have
glared when her hand rested on the fatal axe; but this Holborn
Agamemnon did not seem destined to fall by a woman's blow, inasmuch as
the tide was effectually turned by another woman's interference.
The slatternly lady, shouldering her child, as a soldier does his
firelock, thrust herself eagerly forward.
"Knife him!" she exclaimed, with a most unfeminine execration. "I'd
knife him, precious soon, if it was me, the blessed willen! To take
an' use a woman like that there--a nasty, cowardly, sneakin,' ugly,
Had it not been for the imputation on his beauty, Dorothea might
perhaps have blazed out in open rebellion, or remained passive
in silent sulks; but to hear _her_ Jim, the flash man of a dozen
gin-shops, the beloved of a score of rivals, called "ugly," was
more than flesh and blood could endure. She turned fiercely on her
auxiliary and gave battle at once.
"And who arst _you_ to interfere, mem, if I may wenture to make the
inquiry?" said she, with that polite but spasmodic intonation that
denotes the approaching row. "Keep yerself _to_ yerself, if you
please, mem. And I'll thank ye not to go for to come between me and my
young man, not till you've got a young man of your own, mem; and if
you'd like to walk out, there's the door, mem, and don't you try for
to give _me_ none o' your sauce, for I'm not a-goin' to put up with
The slatternly woman ran her guns out and returned the broadside with
"Door, indeed! you poor whey-faced drab, you dare to say the word door
to _me_, a respectable woman, as Mister Tripes here knows me well, and
have a score against me behind that there wery door as you disgraces,
and as it's _you_ as ought to be t'other side, you ought; for it's out
of the streets as _you_ come, well I knows, an' say another word, and
I'll take that there bonnet off of your head, and chuck it into them
streets and _you_ arter it. O dear! O dear! that ever I should be
spoke to like this here, and my master out o' work a month come
Toosday, and this here gentleman standing by! But I'll set my mark on
ye, if I get six months for it--I will!"
Thus speaking, or rather screaming, and brandishing her baby, as the
gonfalonier waves his gonfalon, the slat-slatternly woman, swelling
into a fury for the nonce, made a dive at Dorothea, which, but for the
interposition of "this here gentleman," as she called the coalheaver,
might have produced considerable mischief. That good man, however,
took a deal of "weathering," as sailors say, and ere either of the
combatants could get round his bulky person, the presence of a
policeman at the door warned them that ordeal by battle had better
be deferred till a more fitting opportunity. They burst into tears,
therefore, simultaneously, and the dispute ended, as such disputes
often do, in a general reconciliation, cemented by the consumption of
much excisable fluid, some of it at the expense of the philanthropic
coalheaver, whose simple faith involved a persuasion that the closest
connection must always be preserved between good-fellowship and beer.
After these potations, it is not surprising that the slatternly woman
should have found herself, baby and all, under the care of the civil
power at a police-station, or that Gentleman Jim and his ladye-love
should have adjourned to sober themselves in the steaming gallery of a
Behold them, then, wedged into a front seat, Dorothea's bonnet hanging
over the rail, Jim's gaudy handkerchief bulging with oranges, both
spectators too absorbed in the action of the piece to realise its
improbabilities, and the woman thoroughly identifying herself with the
character and fortunes of its heroine.
The theatre is small, but the audience if not select are enthusiastic;
the stage is narrow, but affords room for a deal of strutting and
striding about on the part of an overpowering actor in the inevitable
belt and boots of the melodramatic highwayman. The play represents
certain startling passages in the career of one Claude Duval,
formerly a running footman, afterwards--strange anomaly!--a robber on
horseback, distinguished for polite manners and bold riding.
This remarkable person has a wife, devoted to him of course. In the
English drama all wives are good; in the French all are bad, and
people tell you that a play is the reflection of real life. Besides
this dutiful spouse, he cherishes an attachment for a young lady
of high birth and aristocratic (stage) manners. She returns his
tenderness, as it is extremely natural a young person so educated and
brought up would return that of a criminal, who has made an impression
on her heart by shooting her servants, rifling her trunks, and forcing
her to dance a minuet with him on a deserted heath under a harvest
This improbable incident affords a favourite scene, in which
Dorothea's whole soul is absorbed, and to which Jim devotes an earnest
attention, as of one who weighs the verisimilitude of an illustration,
that he may accept the purport of the parable it conveys.
Dead servants (in profusion), struggling horses, the coach upset, and
the harvest moon, are depicted in the back scene, which represents
besides an illimitable heath, and a gibbet in the middle distance: all
this under a glare of light, as indeed it might well be, for the moon
is quite as large as the hind wheel of the coach.
In the foreground are grouped, the hero himself, a comic servant with
a red nose and a fiddle, an open trunk, and a young lady in travelling
costume, viz. white satin shoes, paste diamonds, ball-dress, and
lace veil. The tips of her fingers rest in the gloved hand of her
assailant, whose voice comes deep and mellow through the velvet mask
"My preservier!" says the lady, a little inconsequentially, while
her fingers are lifted to the mask and saluted with such a smack as
elicits a "hooray!" from some disrespectful urchin at the back of the
"To presurrve beauty from the jeer of insult, the grasp of vie-olence
is my duty and my prowfession. To adore it is my ree-ligion--and my
fate!" replies the gallant highwayman, contriving with some address
to retain his hold of the lady's hand, though encumbered by spurs, a
sword, pistols, a mask, and an enormous three-cornered hat.
"And this man is proscribed, hunted, in danger, in disgrace!" exclaims
the lady, aside, and therefore loud enough to be heard in the street.
Claude Duval starts. The start of such an actor makes Dorothea jump.
"Perdition!" he shouts, "ye have reminded me of what were well buried
fathom-deep--obliterated--forgotten. Tr'you, lady, 'tis ee-ven so! I
have a compact with my followers--the ransom--"
"Shall be paid right willingly," she answers; and forth-with the comic
servant with the red nose wakes into spasmodic life, winks repeatedly,
and performs a flourish on his "property" fiddle, a little out of tune
with the real instrument in the orchestra at his feet.
"What are they going to do?" asked Dorothea, in great anxiety.
"Hold your noise!" answers Jim, and the action of the piece
It is fortunate, perhaps, that minuets have gone out of fashion, if
they involved such a test of endurance as that in which Claude Duval
and his fair captive now disport themselves with an amount of bodily
exertion it seems real cruelty to encore. His concluding caper shakes
the mask from his partner's face, and the young lady falls, with a
shriek, into his arms, leaving the audience in that happy state of
perplexity, which so enhances the interest of a plot, as to whether
her distress originates in excess of sentiment or deficiency of wind.
"It's beautiful!" whispers Dorothea, refreshing herself with an
orange. "It 'minds me of the first time you and me ever met at
Jim grunts, but his grunt is not that of a contented sleeper, rather
of one who is woke from a dream.
After a tableau like the last, it is natural that Claude Duval should
find a certain want of excitement in the next scene, where he appears
as a respectable householder in the apartments of his lawful spouse.
This lady, leaving a cradle in the background, and advancing to the
footlights, proceeds to hover round her husband, after the manner of
stage wives, with neck protruded and arms spread out, like a woman
who is a little afraid of a wasp or earwig, but wants to catch the
creature all the same. He sits with his back to her, as nobody ever
does sit but a stage husband at home, and punches the floor with his
spur. It is strictly natural that she should sing a faint song with a
slow movement on the spot.
It is perhaps yet more natural that this should provoke him
exceedingly, so he jumps up, reaches a cupboard in two strides,
and pulls out of it his whole paraphernalia, sword, pistols, mask,
three-cornered hat, everything but his horse. Then the wife, from her
knees, informs all whom it may concern, that for the first time in
their happy married life she has learned her husband is a robber, as
they both call it, by "prowfession."
Dorothea's sympathies, womanlike, are with the wife. Jim, whose
interest is centred in the young lady, finds this part of the
performance rather wearisome, and thirsts, to use his own expression,
for "a drain."
Events now succeed each other with startling rapidity. Claude Duval is
seen at Ranelagh, still in his boots, where he makes fierce love to
his young lady, and exchanges snuff-boxes (literally) with a duke.
Next, in a thicket beset by thief-takers, from whom he escapes after
prodigies of valour, aided by the comic servant, and thereafter guided
by that singular domestic to a place of safety, which turns out to
be the young lady's bedroom. Here Jim becomes much excited, fancying
himself for the moment a booted hero, rings, laced-coat, Steinkirk
handkerchief, and all. His dress touches that of his companion, but
instinctively he moves from her as far as the crowded seat will
permit, while Dorothea, all unconscious, looks lovingly in his face.
"She's a bold thing, and I can't abide her," is that lady's comment
on the principal actress. "She ought to think shame of herself, she
ought, acause of his wife at 'ome. But he's a good plucked 'un, isn't
he, Jim? and lady or no lady, that goes a long way with a woman!"
Jim turned his head aside. Brutalised, besotted, depraved, there was
yet in him a spark of that fire which lights men to their doom, and
his eyes filled with tears.
But the thief-takers have Claude Duval by the throat at last; and
there is a scene in court, where the young lady perjures herself
unhesitatingly, and faints once more in the prisoner's arms. In vain.
Claude Duval is sworn to, found guilty, condemned; and the stage is
darkened for a grand finale.
Still gay, still gallant, still impenitent, and still booted, though
in fetters, the highwayman sits in his prison cell, to be visited by
the young lady, who cannot bear to lose her partner, and the wife,
who still clings to her husband. Unlike Macheath, he seems in no way
embarrassed by the position. His wife forgives him, at this supreme
moment, all the sorrow he has caused her, in consideration of some
unexplained past, "gilded," as she expressed it, "by the sunny smiles
of southern France," while the young lady, holding on with great
tenacity to his hand, weeps frantically on her knees.
A clock strikes. It is the hour of execution. Dorothea begins to sob,
and Gentleman Jim clenches his hands. The back of the stage opens to
disclose a street, a crowd, a hangman, and the fatal Tyburn tree.
Faint cheers are heard from the wings. The sheriff enters, bearing
in his hand a reprieve, written apparently on a window-blind. He is
attended by the comic servant, through whose mysterious agency a
pardon has been granted, and who sticks by his fiddle to the last.
Grand tableau: Claude Duval penitent. His wife in his arms. The young
lady conveying in dumb show how platonic has been her attachment,
of which, nevertheless, she seems a little ashamed. The sheriff
benignant; the turnkeys amused; the comic servant, obviously in
liquor, brandishing his fiddlestick, and the orchestra playing "God
save the Queen."
Walking home through the wet streets, under the flashing gaslights,
Dorothea and her companion preserve an ominous silence. Both identify
themselves with the fiction they have lately witnessed: the woman
pondering on Mrs. Duval's sufferings and the eventful reward of that
good lady's constancy and truth; her companion reflecting, not on the
charms of the actress he has lately been applauding, but on another
face which haunts him now, as the wilis and water-sprites haunted
their doomed votaries, and which must ever be as far out of reach as
if it belonged indeed to some such being of another nature; thinking
how a man might well risk imprisonment, transportation, hanging, for
one kind glance of those bright eyes, one smile of those haughty,
scornful lips; and comparing in bitter impatience that exotic beauty
with the humble, homely creature at his side.
She looks up in his face. "Jim," says she timidly, and cowering close
to him the while, "if you was took, and shopped, like him in the long
boots, I'd go to quod with you, if they'd give me leave--I'd go to
death with you, Jim, I would. I'd never forsake you, I wouldn't. I
couldn't, dear,--not if it was ever so!"
He shudders and shrinks from her. "It might come sooner than you think
for," says he, adding brutally enough, "now you _could_ do me a turn
in the witness-box, though I shouldn't wonder but you'd cut out white
like the others. Let's call in here, and take a drop o' gin afore they
The great picture of Thomas the Rhymer, and his Elfin Mistress, goes
on apace. There is, I believe, but one representation in London of
that celebrated prophet, and it is in the possession of his lineal
descendant. Every feature, every shadow on that portrait has Simon
Perkins studied with exceeding diligence and care, marvelling, it must
be confessed, at the taste of the Fairy Queen. The accessories to his
own composition are in rapid progress. Most of the fairies have been
put in, and the gradual change from glamour to disillusion, cunningly
conveyed by a stream of cold grey morning light entering the magic
cavern from realms of upper earth, to deaden the glitter, pale the
colouring, and strip, as it were, the tinsel where it strikes. On
the Rhymer himself our artist has bestowed an infinity of pains,
preserving (no easy task) some resemblance to the original portrait,
while he dresses his conception in the manly form and comely features
indispensable to the situation.
But it is into the fairy queen herself that Simon loves to throw all
the power of his genius, all the resources of his art. To this labour
of love, day after day, he returns with unabated zest, altering,
improving, painting out, adding, taking away, drinking in the while
his model's beauty, as parched and thirsty gardens of Egypt drink
in the overflowing Nile, to return a tenfold harvest of verdure,
luxuriance, and wealth.
She has been sitting to him for three consecutive hours. Truth to
tell, she is tired to death of it--tired of the room, the palette,
the easel, the queen, the rhymer, the little dusky imp in the corner,
whose wings are changing into scales and a tail, almost tired of dear
Simon Perkins himself; who is working contentedly on (how can he?) as
if life contained nothing more than effect and colouring--as if the
reality were not better than the representation after all.
"A quarter of an inch more this way," says the preoccupied artist.
"There is a touch wanting in that shadow under the eye--thanks, dear
Nina. I shall get it at last," and he falls back a step to look at his
work, with his head on one side, as nobody but a painter _can_ look,
so strangely does the expression of face combine impartial criticism
with a satisfaction almost maternal in its intensity.
Before beginning again, his eye rested on his model, and he could not
but mark the air of weariness and dejection she betrayed.
"Why, Nina," said he, "you look quite pale and tired. What a brute I
am! I go painting on and forget how stupid it must be for you, who
mustn't even turn your head to look at my work."
She gave a stretch, and such a yawn! Neither of them very graceful
performances, had the lady been less fair and fascinating, but Nina
looked exceedingly pretty in their perpetration nevertheless.
"Work," she answered. "Do you call that work? Why you've undone
everything you did yesterday, and put about half of it in again. If
you're diligent, and keep on at this pace, you'll finish triumphantly
with a blank canvas, like Penthesilea and her tapestry in my ancient
"Penelope," corrected Simon gently.
"Well, Penelope! It's all the same. I don't suppose any of it's true.
Let's have a peep, Simon. It can't be. Is that really like me?"
The colour had come back to her face, the light to her eye. She was
pleased, flattered, half amused to find herself so beautiful. He
looked from the picture to the original, and with all his enthusiasm
for art awarded the palm to nature.
"It _was_ like you a minute ago," said he, in his grave, gentle tones.
"Or rather, I ought to say you were like _it_. But you change so, that
I am often in despair of catching you, and, somehow, I always seem to
love the last expression best."
There was something in his voice so admiring, so reverential, and yet
so tender, that she glanced quickly, with a kind of surprise, in his
face; that face which to an older woman, who had known suffering and
sorrow, might have been an index of the gentle heart, the noble,
chivalrous character within, which, to this girl, was simply pale
and worn, and not at all handsome, but very dear nevertheless, as
belonging to her kind old Simon, the playmate of her childhood, the
brother, and more than brother, of her youth.
Those encounters are sadly unequal, and very poor fun for the muffled
fighter, in which one keeps the gloves on, while the other's blows are
delivered with the naked fist.
Miss Algernon was at this time perhaps more attached to Simon Perkins
than to any other creature in the world; that is to say, she did not
happen to like anybody else better. How different from him, to whom
she represented the very essence of that spiritual life which, in
our several ways, we all try to live, which so few of us know how to
attain by postponing its enjoyment for a few short troubled years.
It is probable that, if the painter had thrown down his brush at this
juncture, and asked simply, "Nina, will you be my wife?" she would
have answered, "Thank you kindly, yes, I will!" but although his
judgment told him he was likely to succeed, his finer instincts warned
him that an affirmative would be the sacrifice of her youth, her
illusions, her possible future. Such sacrifice it was far more in
Simon's nature to make than to accept.
"Will she ever know me thoroughly?" he used to think. "Will the time
ever come when I can say to her, 'Nina, I am sure you care for me now,
and therefore I am not afraid to tell you how dearly I loved you all
through'? Such a time would be well worth waiting for, ay, though it
never came for seven years, and seven more to the back of that. Then
I should feel her happiness depended on mine. Now I often think the
prince in the fairy tale will ride past our Putney villa some summer's
day, like Launcelot through the barley sheaves (I'll paint Launcelot
when I've time, with the ripe ears reddened in the sun, and the light
flashing off his harness), ride by and take Nina's heart away with
him, and what will be left for me then? I could bear it! Yes, I could
bear it if I knew she was happy. My darling, my darling! so that you
walk on in joy and triumph, it matters little what becomes of me!"
The sentiment was perhaps overstrained. It is not thus that women are
won. The fruit that drops into people's mouths is usually over-ripe,
and the Sabine maiden would have thought less of her Roman lover,
though doubtless she would have taken the initiative rather than miss
him altogether, had it been necessary to pounce on him in the vineyard
and desire him straightway to carry her home. But the bird of prey
must have its natural victim, and such hearts as our poor generous
painter possessed are destined for the talons and the beak. Ah! those
who value them least win the great prizes in the lottery. Fortune
smiles on the careless player--gold goes to the rich--streams run to
the river, and if you have more mutton than you know what to do with,
be sure that in your folds will be found the poor man's ewe-lamb. Put
a ribbon round her neck, and be kind to her as _he_ was. It is the
least you can do!
"You've taken a deal of pains, Simon," says the sitter, after a long
and well-pleased scrutiny. "Tell me, no flattery now, why should I
be so difficult to paint?" Why, indeed, you saucy innocent coquette!
Perhaps, because, all the while, you are turning the poor artist's
head, and driving pins and needles into his heart.
"I _ought_ to make a good likeness of you," answers Simon rather
sadly. "I'm sure, Nina, I know your face by heart. But I'm determined
to take enormous pains with this picture. It's to be my great work. I
want them to admire it at the Academy. I want all London to come and
look at it. I want the critics, who know nothing, to say it's well
drawn; and the artists, who do know something, to say it's well
treated; and the public to declare my fairy queen is the loveliest,
and the sweetest, and the dearest face they ever beheld. You see I'm
"Yes, I suppose all painters are," replies Miss Algernon, with a
little gasp of relief, accompanied by a little chill of something not
quite unlike disappointment. "But you ought to be tired of working,
and I know I am tired of sitting. Hand me my bonnet, Simon--not upside
down--why that's the top where the rose is, of course! And let's walk
back through the Park. It will be nearly full by this time."
So they walked back through the Park, and it _was_ full--full to
overflowing; nevertheless, amongst all the riders, drivers, sitters,
strollers, and idlers, there appeared neither of the smart-looking
gentlemen who had roused Nina's indignation by bowing to her in the
morning without having the honour of her acquaintance.
THE OFFICERS' MESS
A gigantic sentry of her Majesty's Household Cavalry paces up and down
in front of the officers' quarters at Knightsbridge Barracks some two
hours before watch-setting. It is fortunate that constant use has
rendered him insensible to admiration. Few persons of either sex pass
under his nose without a glance of unqualified approval. They marvel
at his stature, his spurs, his carbine, his overalls, his plumed
helmet, towering high above their heads, and the stupendous
moustaches, on which this gentleman-private prides himself more than
on all the rest of his heroic attributes put together.
Beyond a shade of disciplined weariness, there is no expression
whatever on his handsome face, yet it is to be presumed that the man
has his thoughts too, like another. Is he back in Cumberland amongst
his dales, a stalwart stripling, fishing some lonely stream within the
hills, watching a bout at "knurr-and-spell" across the heather, or
wrestling a fall in friendly rivalry with his cousin, a son of Anak,
tall as himself? Does that purple sunset over Kensington Gardens
remind him of Glaramara and Saddleback? Does that distant roar of
wheels in Piccadilly recall the rush and ripple of the Solway charging
up its tawny sands with the white horses all abreast in a spring-tide?
Perhaps he is wishing he was an officer with no kit to keep in order,
no fatigue-duty to undergo, sitting merrily down to as good a dinner
as luxury can provide, or a guest, of whom he has seen several pass
his post in starched white neckcloths and trim evening clothes.
Perhaps he would not change with any of these, after all, when he
reflects on his own personal advantages, his social standing amongst
his comrades, his keen appreciation and large consumption of beer and
tobacco, with the innumerable conquests he makes amongst maids and
matrons in the middle and lower ranks of life. Such considerations,
however, impress themselves not the least upon his outward visage. A
statue could not look more imperturbable, and he turns his head but
very slightly, with supreme indifference, when peals of laughter,
more joyous than common, are wafted through the open windows of the
mess-room, where some of our friends have fairly embarked on that tide
of good-humour and hilarity which sets in with the second glass of
It is a full mess; the colonel himself sits at dinner, with two or
three friends, old brothers-in-arms, whose soldier-like bearing and
manly faces betray their antecedents, though they may not have worn
a uniform for months. A lately-joined cornet looks at these with a
reverence that I am afraid could be extorted from him by no other
institution on earth. The adjutant and riding-master, making
holiday, are both present--"to the front," as they call it, enjoying
exceedingly the jests and waggeries of their younger comrades. The
orderly-officer, conspicuous by his belt, sits at one end of the long
table. Lord Bearwarden occupies the other, supported on either side by
his two guests, Tom Ryfe and Dick Stanmore. It is the night of Mrs.
Stanmore's ball, and these last-named gentlemen are going there, with
feelings how different, yet with the same object. Dick is full of
confidence, elated and supremely happy. His entertainer experiences a
quiet comfort and _bien-etre_ stealing over him, to which he has long
been a stranger, while Tom Ryfe with every mouthful swallows down some
emotion of jealousy, humiliation, or mistrust. Nevertheless, he is in
the highest spirits of the three.
"I tell you nothing can touch him, my lord, when hounds run," says he,
still harping on the merits of the horse he sold Lord Bearwarden in
the Park. Of course half the party are talking of hunting, the other
half of racing, soldiering, and women. "He'd have been thrown away on
most of the fellows we know. He wants a good man on his back, for if
you keep him fiddling behind, it breaks his heart. I always said you
ought to have him--you or Mr. Stanmore. He's just the sort for both of
you. I'm sorry to hear yours are all coming up at Tattersall's," adds
Tom, with a courteous bow to the opposite guest. "Hope it's only to
make room for some more."
Dick disclaims. "No, indeed," says he, "it's a _bona fide_
sale--without reserve, you know--I am going to give the thing up!"
"Give up hunting!" expostulates a very young subaltern on Dick's left.
"Why, you're not a soldier, are you? What shall you do with yourself?
You have nothing to live for."
Overcome by this reflection, he empties his glass and looks feelingly
in his neighbour's face.
"Are you so fond of it too?" asks Dick with a smile.
"Fond of it! I believe you!" answers the boy. "What is there to be
compared to it?--at least that I've tried, you know. I think the
happiest fellow on earth is a master of fox-hounds, particularly if
he hunts them himself: there's only one thing to beat it, and that's
soldiering. I'd rather command such a regiment as this than be Emperor
of China. Perhaps I shall, too, some day."
The real colonel, sitting opposite, overhears this military sentiment,
and smiles good-humouredly at his zealous junior. "When you _are_ in
command," says he, "I hope you'll be down upon the cornets--they want
a deal of looking up--I'm much too easy with them." The young soldier
laughed and blushed. In his heart he thought the "chief," as he called
him, the very greatest man in the world, offering him that respect
combined with affection which goes so far to constitute the efficiency
of a regiment, hoping hereafter to tread in his footsteps and carry
out his system.
For ten whole minutes he held his tongue--and this was no small effort
of self-restraint--that he might listen to the commanding officer's
conversation with his guests, savouring strongly of professional
interests, as comprising Crimean, Indian, and continental experiences,
all tending to prove that cavalry massed, kept under cover, held well
in hand, and "offered" at the critical moment, was _the_ force to
render success permanent and defeat irretrievable.
When they got into a dissertation on shoeing, with the comparative
merits of "threes" and "sections" at drill, the young man refreshed
himself liberally with champagne, and turned to more congenial
Of this there seemed no lack. The winner of the St. Leger was as
confidently predicted as if the race were already in his owner's
pocket. A match was made between two splendid dandies, called
respectfully by their comrades "Nobby" and "The Dustman," to walk from
Knightsbridge Barracks to Windsor Bridge that day week--the odds being
slightly in favour of "The Dustman," who was a peer of the realm. A
moderate dancer was freely criticised, an exquisite singer approved
with reservation, and the style of fighting practised by our present
champion of the prize-ring unequivocally condemned. Presently a deep
voice made itself heard in more sustained tones than belong to general
conversation, and during a lull it became clear that the adjutant was
relating an anecdote of his own military experience. "It's a wonderful
country," said he, in reply to some previous observation. "I'm not an
Irishman myself, but I've observed that the most conspicuous men
in all nations are pure Irish or of Irish extraction. Look at the
service. Look at the ring--prize-fighters and book-makers. I believe
the Slasher's mother was born in Connaught, and nothing will convince
me but that Deerfoot came from Tipperary--east and west the world's
full of them--they swarm, I'm told, in America, and I can answer for
them in Europe. Did ye ever see a Turk in a vineyard? He's the very
moral of Pat in a potato-garden: the same frieze coat--the same baggy
breeches--the same occasional smoke, every five minutes or so--and the
same rooted aversion to hard work. Go on into India--they're all over
the place. Shall I tell you what happened to myself? We were engaged
on the right of the army, getting it hot and heavy, all the horses
with their heads up, but the men as steady as old Time. I was in the
Lancers then, under Sir Hope. The Sikhs worked their guns beautifully,
and presently we got the word to advance. It wasn't bad ground for
manoeuvring, and we were soon into them. The enemy fought a good
one--those Sikhs always do. There was one fine old white-bearded
patriarch stuck to his gun to the last. His people were all speared
and cut down, but he never gave back an inch. I can see him now,
looking like the pictures of Abraham in my old Sunday-school book. I
thought I'd save him if I could. Our chaps had got their blood up, and
dashed in to finish him with their lances, but I kept them off with
some difficulty, and offered him 'quarter.' I was afraid he wouldn't
understand my language. 'Quarter,' says he, in the richest brogue
you'll hear out of Cork--'quarter! you bloody thieves! will you stick
a countryman, an' a comrade, ye murtherin' villains, like a _boneen_
in a butcher's shop!' He'd have gone on, I dare say, for an hour, but
the men had their lances through him before you could say 'knife.' As
my right-of-threes, himself a Paddy, observed--he was discoorsin'
the devil in less than five minutes. The man was a deserter and a
renegade, so it served him right, but being an Irishman, you see, he
distinguished himself--that's all I mean to infer."
The young officer was exceedingly attentive to an anecdote which, thus
told by its bronzed, war-worn, and soldier-like narrator, possessed
the fascination of romance with the interest of reality.
Lord Bearwarden and his guests had also broken off their conversation
to listen--they returned to the previous subject.
"There are so many people come to town now-a-days," said his lordship,
"that the whole thing spoils itself. Society is broken up into sets,
and even if you belong to the same set, you cannot insure meeting any
particular person at any particular place. Just the same with clubs.
I might hunt you two fellows about all night, from Arthur's to
the Arlington--from the Arlington to White's--from White's to the
Carlton--from the Carlton back to St. James's Street--and never run
into you at all, unless I had the luck to find you drinking gin and
soda at Pratt's." Tom Ryfe, belonging only to the last-named of these
resorts, looked gratified. Dick Stanmore was thinking of something
"Now, to-night," continued Lord Bearwarden, turning to the latter,
"although the ball is in your own step-mother's house, I'll take odds
you don't know three-fourths of the people you'll meet, and yet you've
been as much about London as most of us. Where they come from I can't
think, and they're like the swallows, or the storks, or the woodcocks,
only they're not so welcome. Where they'll go to when the season's
over I neither know nor care."
Tom Ryfe would have given much to feel equally indifferent. Something
like a pang shot through him as he reflected that for him the battle
must be against wind and tide--a fierce struggle, more and more
hopeless, to grasp at something drifting visibly out of reach. He
was not a man, however, to be beat while it was possible to persist.
Believing Dick Stanmore the great obstacle in his way, he watched that
preoccupied gentleman as a cat watches a mouse.
"I don't want to be introduced to any more people," said Dick rather
absently. "In my opinion you can't have too few acquaintances and too
"One ought to know lots of _women_," said Mr. Ryfe, assuming the air
of a fine gentleman, which fitted him, thought Lord Bearwarden, as
ill as his uniform generally fits a civilian. "I mean women of
position--who _give_ things--whom you'd like to be seen talking to in
the Park. As for girls, they're a bore--there's a fresh crop every
season--they're exactly like each other, and you have to dance with
"Confound his impudence!" _thought_ Lord Bearwarden; "does he hope to
impose on _me_ with his half-bred swagger and Brummagem assurance?"
but he only _said_, "I suppose, Tom, you're in great request with
them--all ranks, all sorts, all ages! You fellows have such a pull
over us poor soldiers; you can be improving the time while we're on
Tom looked as if he rather believed he could. But he only _looked_
it. Beneath that confident manner, his heart was sad and sinking. How
bitter he felt against Miss Bruce, and yet he loved her, in his own
way, too, all the while.
"Champagne to Mr. Stanmore!" said his entertainer, beckoning to a
servant. "You're below the mark, Stanmore, and we've a heavy night
before us. You're thinking of your pets at Tattersall's next week.
Cheer up. Their future masters won't be half so hard on them, I'll be
bound. But I wouldn't assist at the sacrifice if I were you. Come
down to the Den with me; we'll troll for pike, and give the clods
a cricket-match. Then we'll dine early, set trimmers, and console
ourselves with claret-cup under affliction."
Dick laughed. Affliction, indeed, and he had never been so happy in
his life! Perhaps that was the reason of his silence, his abstraction.
At this very moment, he thought, Maud might be opening the packet he
made such sacrifices to redeem. He had arranged for her to receive the
diamonds all reset and glittering at the hour she would be dressing
for the ball. He could almost fancy he saw the beautiful face flushed
with delight, the dark eyes filled with tears. Would she press those
jewels to her lips, and murmur broken words of endearment for _him_?
Would she not love him _now_, if, indeed, she had not loved him
before? Horses, forsooth! What were all the horses that ever galloped
compared to one smile of hers? He would have given her his right arm,
his life, if she wanted it. And now, perhaps, he was to obtain his
reward. Who could tell what that very night might bring forth?
Mr. Stanmore's glass remained untasted before him, and Lord Bearwarden
observing that dinner was over, and his guests seemed disinclined to
drink any more wine, proposed an adjournment to the little mess-room
In these days the long sittings that delighted our grandfathers have
completely given way to an early break up, a quiet cigar, and a
general retreat, if not to bed, at least to other scenes and other
society. In ten minutes from the rising of the colonel, Lord
Bearwarden, and half-a-dozen guests, the larger mess-room was cleared
of its inmates, and the smaller one crowded with an exceedingly merry
and rather noisy assemblage.
"Just one cigar," said Lord Bearwarden, handing a huge case to
his friends. "It will steady you nicely for waltzing, and some
eau-de-cologne in my room will take off all the smell afterwards. I
know you dancing swells are very particular."
Both gentlemen laughed, and putting large cigars into their mouths,
accommodated themselves with exceeding goodwill to the arrangement. It
was not in the nature of things that silence should be preserved
under such incentives to conversation as tobacco and soda-water with
something in it, but presently, above other sounds, a young voice was
heard to clamour for a song.
"Let's have a chant!" protested this eager voice; "the night is still
young. We're all musical, and we don't often get the two best pipes in
the regiment to dine here the same day. Come, tune up, old boy. Give
us 'Twisting Jane,' or the 'Gallant Young Hussar.'"
The "old boy" addressed, a large, fine-looking man, holding the
appointment of riding-master, smiled good-humouredly, and shook his
head. "It's too early for the 'Hussar,'" said he, scanning the
fresh beardless face with its clear mirthful eyes. "And it's not an
improving song for young officers neither. I'll try 'Twisting Jane' if
you gentlemen will support me with the chorus;" and in a deep mellow
voice he embarked without more ado on the following barrack-room
I loved a girl, down Windsor way,
When we was lying there,
As soft as silk, as mild as May,
As timid as a hare.
She blushed and smiled, looked down so shy,
And then--looked up again--
My comrades warned me: 'Mind your eye,
With Twisting Jane!'
I wooed her thus, not sure but slow,
To kiss she vowed a crime,--
For she was 'reining back,' you know,
While I was 'marking time.'
'Alas!' I thought, 'these dainty charms
Are not for me, 'tis plain;
Too long she keeps me under arms,
Does Twisting Jane.'
Our corporal-major says to me,
One day before parade,
'She's gammoning you, young chap,' says he,
'Is that there artful jade!
You'll not be long of finding out,
When nothing's left to gain,
How quick the word is "Threes about!"
With Twisting Jane!'
Our corporal-major knows what's what;
I peeped above her blind;
The tea was made--the toast was hot--
She looked so sweet and kind.
My captain in her parlour sat,
It gave me quite a pain,
With coloured clothes, and shining hat,
By Twisting Jane.
The major he came cantering past,
She bustled out to see,--
'O, major! is it you at last?
Step in and take your tea.'
The major halted--winked his eye--
Looked up and down the lane;
And in he went his luck to try
With Twisting Jane.
I waited at 'attention' there,
Thinks I, 'There'll soon be more.'
The colonel's phaeton and pair
Came grinding to the door.
She gave him such a sugary smile,
(Old men is very vain!)
'It's you I looked for all the while,'
Says Twisting Jane,
'I've done with you for good,' I cried,
'You're never on the square;
Fight which you please on either side,
But hang it, lass, fight fair!
I won't be last--I can't be first--
So look for me in vain
When next you're out "upon the burst,"
Miss Twisting Jane!--
When next you're out "upon the burst,"
Miss Twisting Jane!'
"A jolly good song," cried the affable young gentleman who had
instigated the effort, adding, with a quaint glance at the grizzled
visage and towering proportions of the singer, "You're very much
improved, old chap--not so shy, more power, more volume. If you mind
your music, I'll get you a place as a chorister-boy in the Chapel
Royal, after all. You're just the size, and your manner's the very
"Wait till I get _you_ in the school with that new charger," answered
the other, laughing. "I think, gentlemen, it's my call. I'll ask our
adjutant here to give us 'Boots and Saddles,' you all like that game."
Tumblers were arrested in mid-air, cigars taken from smooth or hairy
lips, while all eyes were turned towards the adjutant, a soldier down
to his spurs, who "tuned up," as universally requested, without delay.
BOOTS AND SADDLES.
The ring of a bridle, the stamp of a hoof,
Stars above, and a wind in the tree,--
A bush for a billet,--a rock for a roof,--
Outpost duty's the duty for me!
Listen. A stir in the valley below--
The valley below is with riflemen crammed,
Covering the column and watching the foe--
Trumpet-major!--Sound and be d----d!
Stand to your horses!--It's time to begin--
Boots and Saddles! The Pickets are in!
Though our bivouac-fire has smouldered away,
Yet a bit of good 'baccy shall comfort us well;
When you sleep in your cloak there's no lodging to pay,
And where we shall breakfast the devil can tell!
But the horses were fed, ere the daylight had gone,
There's a slice in the embers--a drop in the can--
Take a suck of it, comrade! and so pass it on,
For a ration of brandy puts heart in a man.
Good liquor is scarce, and to waste it a sin,--
Boots and Saddles! The Pickets are in!
Hark! there's a shot from the crest of the hill!
Look! there's a rocket leaps high in the air.
By the beat of his gallop, that's nearing us still,
That runaway horse has no rider, I'll swear!
There's a jolly light-infantry post on the right,
I hear their bugles--they sound the 'Advance.'
They will tip us a tune that shall wake up the night,
And we're hardly the lads to leave out of the dance.
They're at it already, I'm sure, by the din,--
Boots and Saddles! The Pickets are in!
They don't give us long our divisions to prove--
Short, sharp, and distinct, comes the word of command.
'Have your men in the saddle---Be ready to move--
Keep the squadron together--the horses in hand--'
While a whisper's caught up in the ranks as they form--
A whisper that fain would break out in a cheer--
How the foe is in force, how the work will be warm.
But, steady! the chief gallops up from the rear.
With old 'Death-or-Glory' to fight is to win,
And the Colonel means mischief, I see by his grin.--
Boots and Saddles! The Pickets are in!--
Boots and Saddles! The Pickets are in!
"And it must be 'Boots and Saddles' with us," said Lord Bearwarden to
his guests as the applause subsided and he made a move towards the
door, "otherwise we shall be the 'lads to leave out of the dance'; and
I fancy that would suit none of us to-night."
MRS. STANMORE AT HOME.
Amongst all the magnificent toilettes composed to do honour to the
lady whose card of invitation heads this chapter, none appeared more
variegated in colour, more startling in effect, than that of Miss
Puckers the maid.
True, circumstances compelled her to wear a high dress, but even
this modest style of costume in the hands of a real artist admits of
marvellous combinations and extraordinary breadth of treatment. Miss
Puckers had disposed about her person as much ribbon, tulle, and cheap
jewelry as might have fitted out a fancy fair. Presiding in a little
breakfast-room off the hall, pinning tickets on short red cloaks,
shaking out skirts of wondrous fabrication, and otherwise assisting
those beautiful guests who constituted the entertainment, she afforded
a sight only equalled by her after-performances in the tea-room,
where, assuming the leadership of a body of handmaidens almost as
smart as herself, she formed, for several waggish and irreverent young
gentlemen, a principal attraction in that favourite place of resort.
A ball is so far like a run with fox-hounds that it is difficult to
specify the precise moment at which the sport begins. Its votaries
gather by twos and threes attired for pursuit; there is a certain
amount of refitting practised, as regards dress and appointments,
while some of the keenest in the chase are nevertheless the latest
arrivals at the place of meeting. Presently are heard a note or two,
a faint flourish, a suggestive prelude. Three or four couples get
cautiously to work, the music swells, the pace increases, ere long the
excitement extends to all within sight or hearing, and a performance
of exceeding speed, spirit, and severity is the result.
Puckers, with her mouth full of pins, is rearranging the dress of
a young lady in her first season, to whom, as to the inexperienced
hunter, that burst of music is simply maddening. She is a well-bred
young lady, however, and keeps her raptures to herself, but is
slightly indignant at the very small notice taken of her by Dick
Stanmore, who rushes into the tiring-room, drops a flurried little
bow, and hurries Puckers off into a corner, totally regardless of the
displeasure with which a calm, cold-looking chaperon regards this
"Did it come in time?" says Dick in a loud agitated whisper. "Did you
run up with it directly? Was she pleased? Did she say anything? Has
she got them on now?"
"Lor, Mr. Stanmore!" exclaims Puckers; "whatever do you mean?"
"Miss Bruce--the diamonds," explains Dick, in a voice that causes two
dandies, recently arrived, to pause in astonishment on the staircase.
"O, the diamonds!" answers Puckers. "Only think, now. Was it _you_,
sir? Well, I never. Why, sir, when Miss Bruce opens the packet, not
half-an-hour ago, the tears comes into her eyes, and she says, 'Well,
this _is_ kind'--them was her very words--'this _is_ kind,' says
she, and pops'em on that moment; for I'd done her hair and all. Go
up-stairs, Mr. Stanmore, and see how she looks in them. I'll wager
she's waiting for Somebody to dance with her this very minute!"
Though it is too often of sadly short duration, every man _has_ his
"good time" for a few blissful seconds during life. Let him not
complain they are so brief. It is something to have at least tasted
the cup, and perhaps it is better to turn with writhing lips from the
bitter drop near the brim than, drinking it fairly out, to find its
sweets pall on the palate, its essence cease to warm the heart and
stimulate the brain.
Dick, hurrying past his mother into the soft, mellow, yet brilliant
radiance of her crowded ball-room, felt for that moment the happiest
man in London.
Miss Bruce was _not_ waiting to dance with him, according to her
maid's prediction, but was performing a waltz in exceeding gravity,
assisted, as Dick could not help observing, with a certain
satisfaction, by the ugliest man in the room. The look she gave him
when their eyes met at last sent this shortsighted young gentleman
up to the seventh heaven. It seemed well worth all the hunters in
Leicestershire, all the diamonds in Golconda! He did the honours of
his step-mother's house, and thanked his own friends for coming, but
all with the vague consciousness of a man in a dream. Presently the
"round" dance came to an end, much to the relief of the ugly man, who
cared, indeed, for ladies as little as ladies cared for him; and
Dick hastened to secure Miss Bruce as a partner for the approaching
"square." She was engaged, of course, six deep, but she put off all
her claimants and took Mr. Stanmore's arm. "He's my cousin, you know,"
said she, with her rare smile, "and cousins don't count; so you're
all merely put back _one_. If you don't like it, you needn't come for
it--_c'est tout simple_!"
Then they took their places, and the dark eyes looked full into his
own. Dick felt he was winning in a canter.
Miss Bruce put her hand on the collar of diamonds round her neck. "I'm
glad you're _not_ my cousin," she said; "I'm glad you're not _really_
a relation. You're far dearer as it is. You're the best friend and
truest gentleman I ever met in my life. Now I sha'n't thank you any
more. Mind your dancing, and set to that gawky woman opposite. Isn't
she badly dressed?"
How could Dick tell? He didn't even know he had a _vis-a-vis_, and the
"gawky woman," as Miss Bruce most unjustly called her, only wondered
anybody could make such blunders in so simple a figure as the _Ete_.
His head was in a whirl. A certain chivalrous instinct warned him that
this was no time, while his idol lay under a heavy obligation, to
press his suit. Yet he could not, for the life of him, help venturing
"I look at nobody but you," he answered, turning pale as men do when
they are in sad earnest. "I should never wish to see any other face
than yours for the rest of my life."
"How tired you'd get of it," said she, with a bright smile; but she
timed her reply so as to embark immediately afterwards on the _Chaine
des Dames_, a measure exceedingly ill calculated for sustained
conversation, and changed the subject directly she returned to his
"Where did you dine?" she asked saucily. "With those wild young men at
the barracks, I suppose. I knew you would: and you did all sorts of
horrid things, drank and smoked--I'm _sure_ you smoked." She put her
laced hand-kerchief laughingly to her nose.
"I dined with Bearwarden," answered honest Dick, "and he's coming on
here directly with a lot of them. My mother will be so pleased--it's
going to be a capital ball."
"I thought Lord Bearwarden never went to balls," replied the young
lady carelessly; but her heart swelled with gratified vanity to think
of the attraction that drew him now to every place where he could hear
her voice and look upon her beauty.
"There he is," was her partner's comment, as his lordship's
head appeared in the doorway. "We'll have one more dance, Miss
Bruce--Maud--before the night is over?"
"As many as you please," was her answer, and still Dick felt he had
the race in hand and was winning in a canter.
People go to balls for pleasure, no doubt, but it must be admitted,
nevertheless, that the pleasure they seek there is of a delusive kind
and lasts but for a few minutes at a time.
Mr. Stanmore's whole happiness was centred in Miss Bruce, yet it was
impossible for him to neglect all his step-mother's guests because of
his infatuation for one, nor would the usages of society's Draconic
laws, that are not to be broken, permit him to haunt that one
presence, which turned to magic a scene otherwise only ludicrous for
an hour or so, and simply wearisome as it went on.
So Dick plunged into the thick of it, and did his duty manfully,
diving at partners right and left, yet, with a certain characteristic
loyalty, selecting the least attractive amongst the ladies for his
attentions. Thus it happened that as the rooms became crowded,
and half the smartest people in London surged and swayed upon the
staircase, he lost sight of the face he loved for a considerable
period, and was able to devote much real energy to the success of his
step-mother's ball, uninfluenced by the distraction of Miss Brace's
This young lady's movements, however, were not unobserved. Puckers,
from her position behind the cups and saucers, enjoyed great
reconnoitring opportunities, which she did not suffer to escape
unimproved--the tea-room, she was aware, held an important place in
the working machinery of society, as a sort of neutral territory,
between the cold civilities of the ball-room and the warmer interests
fostered by juxtaposition in the boudoir, not to mention a wicked
little alcove beyond, with low red velvet seats, and a subdued light
suggestive of whispers and provoking question rather than reply.
Puckers was not easily surprised. In the housekeeper's room she often
thanked her stars for this desirable immunity, and indeed on the
present occasion had furnished a loving couple with tea, whose united
ages would have come hard upon a century, without moving a muscle
of her countenance, albeit there was something ludicrous to
general society in the affectation of concealment with which this
long-recognised attachment had to be carried on. The gentleman was
bald and corpulent. The lady--well, the lady had been a beauty thirty
years ago, and dressed the character still. There was nothing to
prevent their seeing each other every day and all day long, if they
chose, yet they preferred scheming for invitation to the same places,
that they might meet _en evidence_ before the public; and dearly
loved, as now, a retirement into the tea-room, where they could
enact their _role_ of turtle-doves, uninterrupted, yet not entirely
unobserved. Perhaps, after all, this imaginary restraint afforded the
little spice of romance that preserved their attachment from decay.
Puckers, I say, marvelled at these not at all, but she did marvel, and
admitted it, when Miss Bruce, entering the tea-room, was seen to be
attended, not by Mr. Stanmore, but by Lord Bearwarden.
Her dark eyes glittered, and there was an exceedingly becoming flush
on the girl's fair face, usually so pale. Her maid thought she had
never seen Maud look so beautiful, and to judge by the expression of
his countenance, it would appear Lord Bearwarden thought so too. They
had been dancing together, and he seemed to be urging her to dance
with him again. His lordship's manner was more eager than common, and
in his eyes came an anxious expression that only one woman, the one
woman it was so difficult to forget, had ever been able to call into
"Look odd!" he repeated, while he set down her cup and gave her back
the fan he had been holding. "I thought you were above all that, Miss
Bruce, and did what you liked, without respect to the fools who stare
and can't understand."
She drew up her head with a proud gesture peculiar to her. "How do you
know I do like it?" said she haughtily.
He looked hurt, and lowered his voice to a whisper. "Forgive me," he
said, "I have no right to suppose it. I have been presumptuous, and
you are entitled to be unkind. I have monopolised you too much, and
you're--you're bored with me. It's my own fault."
"I never said so," she answered in the same tone; "who is unkind now?"
Then the dark eyes were raised for one moment to look full in his, and
it was all over with Lord Bearwarden.
"You will dance with me again before I go," said he, recovering his
former position with an alacrity that denoted some previous practice.
"I shall ask nobody else--why should I? You know I only came here to
see _you_. One waltz, Miss Bruce--promise?"
"I promise," she answered, and again came into her eyes that smile
which so fascinated her admirers to their cost. "I shall get into
horrid disgrace for it, and so I shall for sitting here so long now.
I'm always doing wrong. However, I'll risk it if you will."
Her manner was playful, almost tender; and Puckers, adding another
large infusion of tea, wondered to see her look so soft and kind.
A crowded waltz was in course of performance, and the tea-room, but
for this preoccupied couple, would have been empty. Two men looked in
as they passed the door, the one hurried on in search of his partner,
the other started, scowled, and turned back amongst the crowd.
Puckers, the lynx-eyed, observing and recognising both, had sufficient
skill in physiognomy to pity Mr. Stanmore and much mistrust Tom Ryfe.
The former, indeed, felt a sharp, keen pang, when he saw the face that
so haunted him in close proximity to another face belonging to one
who, if he should enter for the prize, could not but prove a dangerous
rival. Nevertheless, the man's generous instincts stifled and kept
down so unworthy a suspicion, forcing himself to argue against his own
conviction that, at this very moment, the happiness of his life was
hanging by a thread. He resolved to ignore everything of the kind.
Jealousy was a bad beginning for a lover, and after all, if he should
allow himself to be jealous of every man who admired and danced with
Maud, life would be unbearable. How despicable, besides, would she
hold such a sentiment! With her disposition, how would she resent
anything like _espionage or surveillance_! How unworthy it seemed both
of herself and of him! In two minutes he was heartily ashamed of his
momentary discomfiture, and plunged energetically once more into the
duties of the ball-room. Nevertheless, from that moment, the whole
happiness of the evening had faded out for Dick.
There is a light irradiating all such gatherings which is totally
irrespective of gas or wax-candles. It can shed a mellow lustre on
dingy rooms, frayed carpets, and shabby furniture; nay, I have seen
its tender rays impart a rare and spiritual beauty to an old, worn,
long-loved face; but on the other hand, when this magic light is
quenched, or even temporarily shaded, not all the illuminations of a
royal birthday are brilliant enough to dispel the gloom its absence
leaves about the heart.
Mr. Stanmore, though whirling a very handsome young lady through a
waltz, began to think it was not such a good ball after all.
Tom Ryfe, on the other hand, congratulated himself on his tactics in
having obtained an invitation, not without considerable pressure put
upon Miss Bruce, for a gathering of which his social standing hardly
entitled him to form a part. He was now, so to speak, on the very
ground occupied by the enemy, and though he saw defeat imminent, could
at least make his own effort to avert it. After all his misgivings as
regarded Stanmore, it seemed that he had been mistaken, and that Lord
Bearwarden was the rival he ought to dread. In any case but his own,
Mr. Ryfe was a man of the world, quite shrewd enough to have reasoned
that in this duality of admirers there was encouragement and hope. But
Tom had lost his heart, such as it was; and his head, though of much
better material, had naturally gone with it. Like other gamblers, he
determined to follow his ill-luck to the utmost, bring matters to a
crisis, and so know the worst. In all graver affairs of life, it is
doubtless good sense to look a difficulty in the face; but in the
amusements of love and play practised hands leave a considerable
margin for that uncertainty which constitutes the very essence of both
pastimes; and this is why, perhaps, the man in earnest has the worst
chance of winning at either game.
So Tom Ryfe turned back into the crowd, and waited his opportunity for
a few minutes' conversation with Miss Bruce.
It came at last. She had danced through several engagements, the night
was waning, and a few carriages had already been called up. Maud
occupied the extreme end of a bench, from which a party of ladies had
just risen to go away: she had declined to dance, and for the moment
was alone. Tom slipped into the vacant seat by her side, and thus
cut her off from the whole surrounding world. A waltz requiring much
terrific accompaniment of brass instruments pealed out its deafening
strains within ten feet of them, and in no desert island could there
have been less likelihood that their conversation would be overheard.
Miss Bruce looked very happy, and in thorough good-humour. Tom Ryfe
opened the trenches quietly enough.
"You haven't danced with me the whole evening," said he, with only
rather a bitter inflection of voice.
"You never asked me," was the natural rejoinder.
"And I'm not going to ask you, now," proceeded Mr. Ryfe; "you and I,
Miss Bruce, have something more than a mere dancing acquaintance, I
An impatient movement, a slight curl of the lip, was the only answer.
"You may drop an acquaintance when you are tired of him, or a friend
when he gets troublesome. It's done every day. It's very easy, Miss
He spoke in a tone of irony that roused her.
"Not so easy," she answered, with tightening lips, "when people have
no tact--when they are not _gentlemen_."
The taunt went home. The beauty of Mr. Ryfe's face was at no time
in its expression--certainly not now. Miss Bruce, too, seemed well
disposed to fight it out. Obviously it must be war to the knife!
"Did you get my letter?" said he, in low, distinct syllables. "Do you
believe I mean what I say? Do you believe I mean what I _write_?"
She smiled scornfully. A panting couple who stopped just in front of
them imagined they were interrupting a flirtation, and, doing as they
would be done by, twirled on.
"I treat all begging-letters alike," answered Maud, "and make yours no
exception, because they contain threats and abuse into the bargain.
You have chosen the wrong person to try and frighten, Mr. Ryfe. It
only shows how little you understand my character."
He would have caught at a straw even then. "How little chance I have
had of studying it!" he exclaimed. "It is not my fault. Heaven knows
I have been kept in ignorance, uncertainty, suspense, till it almost
drove me mad. Miss Bruce, you have known the worst of me; only the
worst of me, indeed, as yet."
The man was pleading for his life, you see. Was it pitiable, or only
ludicrous, that his voice and manner had to be toned down to the staid
pitch of general conversation, that a fat and happy German was puffing
at a cornet-a-piston within arm's length of him? But for a quiver of
his lip, any bystander might have supposed he was asking Miss Bruce if
he should bring her an ice.
"I have seen enough!" she replied, very resolutely, "and I am
determined to see no more. Mr. Ryfe, if you have no pleasanter
subjects of conversation than yourself and your arrangements, I
will ask you to move for an instant that I may pass and find Mrs.
Lord Bearwarden was at the other end of the room, looking about
apparently for some object of unusual interest. Perhaps Miss Bruce saw
him--as ladies do see people without turning their eyes--and the sight
fortified her resolution.
"Then you defy me!" whispered Tom, in the low suppressed notes that
denote rage, concentrated and intensified for being kept down. "By
heaven, Miss Bruce, you shall repent it! I'll show you up! I'll expose
you! I'll have neither pity nor remorse! You think you've won a heavy
stake, do you? Hooked a big fish, and need only pull him ashore? _He_
sha'n't be deceived! _He_ shall know you for what you are! He shall,
The adjuration with which Mr. Ryfe concluded this little ebullition
was fortunately drowned to all ears but those for which it was
intended by a startling flourish on the cornet-a-piston. Miss Bruce
accepted the challenge readily. "Do your worst!" said she, rising
with a scornful bow, and taking Lord Bearwarden's arm, much to that
gentleman's delight, walked haughtily away.
Perhaps this declaration of open war may have decided her subsequent
conduct; perhaps it was only the result of those circumstances which
form the meshes of a certain web we call Fate. Howbeit, Miss Bruce was
too tired to dance. Miss Bruce would like to sit down in a cool place.
Miss Bruce would not be bored with Lord Bearwarden's companionship,
not for an hour, not for a week--no, not for a lifetime!
Dick Stanmore, taking a lady down to her carriage, saw them sitting
alone in the tea-room, now deserted by Puckers [Illustration: "'O,
Dick!' she said, 'I couldn't help it!'"] and her assistants. His
honest heart turned very sick and cold. Half-an-hour after, passing
the same spot, they were there still; and then, I think, he knew that
he was overtaken by the first misfortune of his life.
Later, when the ball was over, and he had wished Mrs. Stanmore
good-night, he went up to Maud with a grave, kind face.
"We never had our waltz, Miss Bruce," said he; "and--and--there's _a
reason_, isn't there?"
He was white to his very lips. Through all her triumph, she felt a
twinge, far keener than she expected, of compunction and remorse.
"O, Dick!" she said, "I couldn't help it! Lord Bearwarden proposed to
me in that room."
"And you accepted him?" said Dick, trying to steady his voice,
wondering why he felt half suffocated all the time.
"And I accepted him."
"Age about thirty. Height five feet nine inches and a half--fair
complexion--light-grey eyes--small reddish-brown whiskers,
close-trimmed--short dark hair. Speaks fast, in a high key, and has a
habit of drawing out his shirt-sleeves from beneath his cuffs. When
last seen, was dressed in a dark surtout, fancy necktie, black-cloth
waist-coat, Oxford-mixture trousers, and Balmoral boots. Wore a black
hat with maker's name inside--Block and Co., 401 Regent Street.
Whoever will give such information to the authorities as may lead to
the discovery of the above, shall receive--A Reward!"
Such was the placard that afforded a few minutes' speculation for the
few people who had leisure to read it, one fine morning about a week
after Mrs. Stanmore's eventful ball, and towards the close of the
London season; eliciting at the same time criticism not altogether
favourable on the style of composition affected by our excellent
police. The man was missing no doubt, and had been missing for some
days before anxiety, created by his absence, growing into alarm for
his safety, had produced the foregoing advertisement, prompted by
certain affectionate misgivings of Mr. Bargrave, since the lost sheep
was none other than his nephew Tom Ryfe. The old man felt, indeed,
seriously discomposed by the prolonged absence of this the only member
of his family. It was unjustifiable, as he remarked twenty times a
day, unfeeling, unheard-of, unaccountable. He rang for the servants at
his private residence every quarter of an hour or so to learn if the
truant had returned. He questioned the boy at the office sharply and
repeatedly as to orders left with him by Mr. Ryfe before he went away,
only to gather from the answers of this urchin, who would, indeed,
have forgotten any number of such directions, that he looked on the
present period of anxiety in the light of a holiday and festival,
devoutly praying that his taskmaster might never come back again.
Finally in despair poor Bargrave cast himself on the sympathy of
Dorothea, who listened to his bewailings with stolid indifference when
sober, and replied to them by surmises of the wildest improbability
Alas, in common with so many others of her class, the charwoman
took refuge from care in constant inebriety. Her imagination thus
stimulated, pointed, like that of some old Castilian adventurer,
steadily to the west.
"Lor, Mr. Bargrave," she would say, staring helplessly in his face,
and yielding to the genial hiccough which refused to be kept down, "he
be gone to 'Merriky, poor dear, to better hisself, I make no doubt.
Don't ye take on so. It's a weary world, it is; and that's where he be
gone, for sure!"
Yet she knew quite well where he was hidden all the time; and,
inasmuch as she had some regard for her kind old employer, the
knowledge almost drove her mad. Therefore it was that Dorothea,
harassed by conflicting feelings, drowned her sorrows perseveringly in
For a considerable period this poor woman had suffered a mental
torture, the severest, perhaps, to which her sex can be subjected. She
had seen the man she loved--and, though she was only a drudge, and not
by any means a tidy one, she could love very dearly--she had seen, I
say, the man she loved gradually learning to despise her affection,
and to estrange himself from her society. She was a good deal afraid
of "Gentleman Jim"--perhaps she liked him none the less for that--and
dared neither tax him with falsehood nor try to worm out of him the
assurance that she had or had not a rival. Nevertheless, she was
determined to ascertain the cause of her lover's indifference to
herself, and his changed conduct in other relations of life.
Jim had always been somewhat given to the adornment of his person,
affecting that flash and gaudy style of decoration so much in favour
with dog-stealers and men of like dubious professions. Of late,
however, he had adopted, with different tastes and habits, a totally
different costume--when "off duty," as he called it--meaning thereby
release from the fulfilment of some business engagement subject to
penalties affixed by our criminal code. He now draped himself in white
linen, dark-coloured clothes, a tall hat, and such outward marks of
respectability, if not station, going even so far as to invest in kid
gloves and an "umbrellier," as he called that instrument. At first
sight, but for his boots, Jim might almost have been mistaken for a
real gentleman. About this period, too, he left off vulgar liquors,
and shamefully abandoned a short black pipe that had stuck by him
through many ups and downs, substituting for these stimulants a great
deal of brown sherry and certain sad-coloured cigars, demanding strong
lungs and a strong stomach as well. These changes did the forlorn
Dorothea note with increasing anxiety, and, because every woman
becomes keen-sighted and quick-witted where her heart is concerned,
drew from them an augury fatal to her future happiness. After a while,
when the suspense grew intolerable, she resolved on putting a stop to
it by personal inquiry, and with that view, as a preliminary,
kept herself tolerably sober for twenty-four hours, during which
probationary period she instituted a grand "clean up" of his premises;
and so, as she mentally expressed it, "with a cool head and a clean
house and a clear conscience," confronted her employer on the stairs.
Old Bargrave had of late become very nervous and uneasy. The full
meals, the daily bottle of port, the life of self-indulgence, though
imparting an air of portliness and comfort while everything went well,
had unfitted him sadly for a contest with difficulty or reverse.
Like the fat troop-horse that looks so sightly on parade, a week's
campaigning reduced him to a miserable object--flabby, shrunk,
dispirited, and with a sinking heart at least, if not a sore back.
Dorothea's person blocked up the staircase before him, or he would
have slipped by and locked himself unnoticed in his chambers.
"Can I speak with you, sir?" said the charwoman. "Now, sir, if you
Old Bargrave trembled.
"Certainly, Dorothea, certainly. What is it, my good girl? You've
heard something. They've traced him--they've found him. One minute, my
good girl--one minute, if you please."
He had preceded her through the office to his own inner room, and now,
shaking all over, sat down in his easy-chair, pressing both hands hard
on its arms to steady himself. Dorothea, staring helplessly at the
wall over his head, made a muff of her apron, and curtsied; nothing
"Speak!" gasped the old gentleman convulsively.
"It's my haunt, if you please, sir," said Dorothea, with another
"D----n your aunt!" vociferated Bargrave. "It's my nephew! Have you
heard nothing? I'm hasty, my good girl; I'm anxious. I--I haven't
another relation in the world. Have they told you anything more?"
Dorothea began to cry.
"He be gone to 'Meriker, for sure," she whimpered, trying back on the
old consolatory suggestion; "to better hisself, no doubt. It's me,
sir; that's my haunt. She's wuss this turn. An' if so be as you could
spare me for the day--I've been and cleaned up everythink, and I'd
wipe over that there table and shake the dust out o' them curtains in
five minutes, and----"
"That will do--that will do!" exclaimed the old gentleman, aghast,
as well he might be, at the proposal, since none of the furniture in
question had been subjected to such a process for years, and immediate
suffocation, with intolerable confusion of papers, must have been the
result. "If you want to go and see your aunt, my girl, go, in heaven's
name. I can spare you as long as you like. But you mustn't tidy up
here. No; that would never do. And, Dorothea, if you should hear
anything, come and tell me that instant. Never mind the expense. I'd
give a great deal to know he was safe. Ah, I'd give all I have in the
world to see him back again."
She curtsied and hurried out, leaving Bargrave to immerse himself
in law-papers and correspondence. From sheer force of habit he took
refuge in his daily work at this hour of anxiety and sad distress. In
such sorrows it is well for a man to have disciplined his mind till
it obeys him instinctively, like a managed steed bearing its rider at
will out of the crowd of assailants by whom he is beset.
Dorothea, scrubbing her face with yellow soap till it shone again,
proceeded to array herself in raiment of many colours, and, when got
up to her own satisfaction, scuttled off to a distant part of London,
making use of more than one omnibus in her journey; and so, returning
almost upon her tracks, confronted Gentleman Jim as he emerged from
his usual house of call in the narrow street out of Holborn.
He started, and his face lengthened with obvious disgust.
"What's up now, lass?" said he. "I've business tonight. D'ye mind?
Blessed if my mouth isn't as dry as a cinder-heap. You go home, like
a good gal, and I'll take ye to the theaytre, perhaps, to-morrow. I
haven't a minnit to stop. I didn't ought to be here now."
The promised treat, the hurried manner, above all the affected
kindness of tone, roused her suspicions to the utmost; and Dorothea
was woman enough to feel for the moment that she dared match her wits
against those of her betrayer.
"It's lucky," she answered coolly; "for I've got to be home afore
dark, and they're lighting the lamps now. I've been down to see arter
him, Jim, an' I thought I'd just step round and let you know. I footed
it all the way back, that's why I'm so late now."
She paused and looked steadily in his face.
"Well?" said Jim, turning very pale, while his eyes glared in hers
with a wild horrible meaning.
She answered his look rather than his exclamation.
"He's a trifle better since morning. He don't know nothing yet, nor he
won't neither, not for a while to come. But he ain't a-goin' to die,
Jim--not this turn."
His colour came back, and he laughed brutally. "Blast him! d'ye think
I care?" said he, with a wild flourish of his arm; but added in a
quieter voice, "Perhaps it's as well, lass. Cold meat isn't very handy
to hide, and he's worth more alive than dead. I couldn't hardly keep
from laffin' this mornin' when I saw them bills. I'll stand ye a drop,
lass, if you're dry, but I mustn't stop with ye to drink it."
Dorothea declined this liberal offer.
"Good-night, Jim," said she, and turned coldly away. She had no heart
for a more affectionate farewell; and could their positions have been
reversed he must have detected something strange in this unusual lack
of cordiality. But men are seldom close observers in such matters,
and Jim was full of his own interests, his own projects, his own wild
He watched her round her homeward turn, and then started off at a
quick pace in an opposite direction. With all his cunning he would
never have suspected that Dorothea, whose intellect he considered
little better than an idiot's, could presume to dog his footsteps; and
the contempt he entertained for her--of which she was beginning to be
uncomfortably conscious--no doubt facilitated this unhappy creature's
Overhead the sky was dark and lowering, the air thick as before
thunder; and though the gaslights streamed on every street in London,
it was an evening well suited to watch an unsuspecting person
Dorothea, returning on her footsteps, kept Jim carefully in sight,
walking from twenty to fifty yards behind him, and as much as possible
on the other side of the street. There was no danger of her losing
him. She could have followed that figure--to her the type of
comeliness and manhood--all over the world; but she dreaded, with a
fear that was almost paralysing, the possibility of his turning back
and detecting that he was tracked. "He'd murder me, for sure," thought
Dorothea, trembling in every limb. Nevertheless, the love that is
strong as death, the jealousy that is cruel as the grave, goaded her
to persevere; and so she flitted in his wake with a noiseless step,
wonderfully gliding and ghostlike considering the solidity of her
Jim turned out of Oxford Street to stop at an ill-looking dirty little
house, the door of which seemed to open to him of its own accord. She
spied a small grocer's shop nearly opposite not yet shut up. To dodge
rapidly in and sit down for a few minutes while she cheapened a couple
of ounces of tea, afforded Dorothea an excellent chance of watching
his further movements unseen.
He emerged again almost immediately with a false beard and a pair of
spectacles, carrying a large parcel carefully wrapped in oiled silk;
then, after looking warily up and down the street, turned into the
main thoroughfare for the chase to begin once more.
"He must be dreadful hot, poor Jim!" thought Dorothea, pitying him in
spite of herself for his false beard and heavy parcel, while she wiped
away the drops already beginning to pour off her own forehead.
The night was indeed close and sultry. A light warm air, reeking like
the steam from a cook-shop, breathed in her face, while a low roll of
thunder, nearly lost in the noise of wheels, growled and rumbled among
the distant Surrey hills.
She followed him perseveringly through the more fashionable streets
and squares of London, tolerably silent and deserted now in the
interval between dinner and concert, ball or drum. Here and there
through open windows might be seen a few gentlemen at their wine, or
a lady in evening dress coming out for a gasp of fresh air on the
balcony overhead; but on the pavement below, a policeman under a lamp
or a lady's-maid hurrying on an errand were the only occupants, and
these took no heed of the bearded man with his parcel, nor of the
dirty gaudily-dressed woman who followed like his shadow. So they
turned down Grosvenor Place and through Belgrave Square into one of
the adjoining streets. Here Jim, slackening pace, took his hat off
and wiped his brow. Dorothea, with all her faculties on the stretch,
slipped into a portico at the very moment when he glanced round on
every side to make sure he was not watched. From this hiding-place she
observed him, to her great astonishment, ring boldly at the door of
a large handsome house. That astonishment was increased to see him
admitted without demur by an irreproachable footman, powder, plush,
and all complete. Large drops of rain began to fall, and outside
London, beyond the limits of our several gas companies, it lightened
all round the horizon.
Dorothea crept nearer the house where Jim had disappeared. On the
ground floor, in a dining-room of which the windows stood open for the
heat, she saw his figure within a few yards of her. He was unpacking
his bundle and arranging its contents on the table, where a servant
had placed a lamp when he admitted this unusual visitor. The rain fell
now in good earnest, and not a living creature remained in the street.
Dorothea cowered down by the area railings and watched.
Not for long. The dining-room door opened, and into the lamplight,
like a vision from some world of which poor Dorothea could scarcely
form the vaguest conception, came a pale haughty woman, beautiful
exceedingly, before whom Jim, her own Jim, usually so defiant, seemed
to cower and tremble like a dog. Even in that moment of bewilderment
Dorothea's eye, woman-like, marked the mode in which Miss Bruce's long
black hair was twisted, and missed neither the cut nor texture of her
Jim spread his goods out for inspection. It was obvious that he had
gained admission to the house under the guise of a dealer in rare
silks and Eastern brocades. We, who know everything, know that Mrs.
Stanmore was dozing over her coffee up-stairs, and that this scheme,
too, originated in the fertile brain and determined character of her
"I'll take that shawl, if you please," said Maud, in her cool
authoritative way. "I dare say it's better than it looks. Put it aside
for me. And--you were to ask your own price."
Dorothea, drenched to the skin, felt nevertheless a fire burning
within; for, raising her face to peer above the area railings, she
marked a mute worship in Jim's adoring eyes; she marked the working
of his features, pale, as it seemed, with some new and overpowering
emotion. Could this be Gentleman Jim? She had seen him asleep and
awake, pleased and angry, drunk and sober, but she had never seen that
face before. Through all its agony there rose in her heart a feeling
of anger at such transparent folly--almost of contempt for such
weakness in a man.
His voice came hoarse and thick while he answered--
"Never name it, miss, never name it. I done as you desired, an' a
precious awkward job it were! _He'll tell no tales now!_"
She started. The hand in which she held a small embroidered note-case
trembled visibly; but her voice, though low, was perfectly firm and
"If you exceeded my order," said she, "you have nothing to hope from
my forbearance. I shall be the first to have you punished. I told you
He could scarcely contain his admiration.
"What a plucked 'un!" he muttered; "what a plucked 'un! No, miss," he
added, "you needn't fear. Fear, says I! You never feared nothink in
your life. You needn't think of that 'ere. Me and another party we
worked it off as neat as wax, without noise and without violence.
We've a-trapped him safe, miss, and you've got nothink to do but just
you lift up your hand, and we'll put him back, not a ha'porth the
wuss, on the very spot as we took him from."
She drew a great breath of relief, but suffered not a muscle of her
countenance to betray her feelings.
"It is better so," she observed quietly. "Remember, once for all, when
I give orders they must be obeyed to the letter. I am satisfied with
you, Jim--I think your name is Jim?"