Part 1 out of 7
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THE CASTLE INN
STANLEY J. WEYMAN
Author of "A Gentleman of France," "Under the Red Robe,"
"The House of the Wolf," etc.
WALTER APPLETON CLARK
CHAPTER I. A KNIGHT-ERRANT.
CHAPTER II. A MISADVENTURE.
CHAPTER III. TUTOR AND PUPILS--OLD STYLE.
CHAPTER IV. PEEPING TOM OF WALLINGFORD.
CHAPTER V. THE MEETING.
CHAPTER VI. A FISH OUT OF WATER.
CHAPTER VII. ACHILLES AND BRISEIS.
CHAPTER VIII. THE OLD BATH ROAD.
CHAPTER IX. ST. GEORGE AND THE DRAGON.
CHAPTER X. MOTHER AND SON.
CHAPTER XI. DR. ADDINGTON.
CHAPTER XII. JULIA.
CHAPTER XIII. A SPOILED CHILD.
CHAPTER XIV. A GOOD MAN'S DILEMMA.
CHAPTER XV. AMORIS INTEGRATIO.
CHAPTER XVI. THE BLACK FAN.
CHAPTER XVII. MR. FISHWICK, THE ARBITER.
CHAPTER XVIII. THE PURSUIT.
CHAPTER XIX. AN UNWILLING ALLY.
CHAPTER XX. THE EMPTY POST-CHAISE.
CHAPTER XXI. IN THE CARRIAGE.
CHAPTER XXII. FACILIS DESCENSUS.
CHAPTER XXIII. BULLY POMEROY.
CHAPTER XXIV. CUTTING FOR THE QUEEN.
CHAPTER XXV. LORD ALMERIC'S SUIT.
CHAPTER XXVI. BOON COMPANIONS.
CHAPTER XXVII. MR. FISHWICK'S DISCOVERY.
CHAPTER XXVIII. A ROUGH AWAKENING.
CHAPTER XXIX. MR. POMEROY'S PLAN.
CHAPTER XXX. A GREEK GIFT.
CHAPTER XXXI. THE INN AT CHIPPENHAM.
CHAPTER XXXII. CHANCE MEDLEY.
CHAPTER XXXIII. IN THE CARRIAGE.
CHAPTER XXXIV. BAD NEWS.
CHAPTER XXXV. DORMITAT HOMERUS.
CHAPTER XXXVI. THE ATTORNEY SPEAKS.
CHAPTER XXXVII. A HANDSOME ALLOWANCE.
CHAPTER XXXVIII. THE CLERK OF THE LEASES.
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
THE ANSWER WAS A BLINDING FLASH OF LIGHT AND A SHOT.
'TOMMY, WHO IS--THIS--FELLOW?' HE CRIED.
'YOUR LADYSHIP'S MOST HUMBLE SERVANT,' HE SAID.
HE WOULD FALL SILENT IN JULIA'S COMPANY.
'AND DRINK HER, YOU ENVIOUS BEGGARS! DRINK HER!'
ON THE THRESHOLD, ... STOOD MR. DUNBOROUGH.
THE CASTLE INN
About a hundred and thirty years ago, when the third George, whom our
grandfathers knew in his blind dotage, was a young and sturdy
bridegroom; when old Q., whom 1810 found peering from his balcony in
Piccadilly, deaf, toothless, and a skeleton, was that gay and lively
spark, the Earl of March; when _bore_ and _boreish_ were words of _haut
ton_, unknown to the vulgar, and the price of a borough was 5,000_l_.;
when gibbets still served for sign-posts, and railways were not and
highwaymen were--to be more exact, in the early spring of the year 1767,
a travelling chariot-and-four drew up about five in the evening before
the inn at Wheatley Bridge, a short stage from Oxford on the Oxford
road. A gig and a couple of post-chaises, attended by the customary
group of stablemen, topers, and gossips already stood before the house,
but these were quickly deserted in favour of the more important
equipage. The drawers in their aprons trooped out, but the landlord,
foreseeing a rich harvest, was first at the door of the carriage, and
opened it with a bow such as is rarely seen in these days.
'Will your lordship please to alight?' he said.
'No, rascal!' cried one of those within. 'Shut the door!'
'You wish fresh horses, my lord?' the obsequious host replied. 'Of
course. They shall be--'
'We wish nothing,' was the brisk answer. 'D'ye hear? Shut the door, and
go to the devil!'
Puzzled, but obedient, the landlord fell back on the servants, who had
descended from their seat in front and were beating their hands one on
another, for the March evening was chill. 'What is up, gentlemen?'
'Nothing. But we will put something down, by your leave,' they answered.
'Won't they do the same?' He cocked his thumb in the direction of the
'No. You have such an infernal bad road, the dice roll,' was the answer.
'They will finish their game in quiet. That is all. Lord, how your folks
stare! Have they never seen a lord before?'
'Who is it?' the landlord asked eagerly. 'I thought I knew his Grace's
Before the servant could answer or satisfy his inquisitiveness, the door
of the carriage was opened in haste, and the landlord sprang to offer
his shoulder. A tall young man whose shaped riding-coat failed to hide
that which his jewelled hands and small French hat would alone have
betrayed--that he was dressed in the height of fashion--stepped down. A
room and a bottle of your best claret,' he said. 'And bring me ink and
'Immediately, my lord. This way, my lord. Your lordship will perhaps
honour me by dining here?'
'Lord, no! Do you think I want to be poisoned?' was the frank answer.
And looking about him with languid curiosity, the young peer, followed
by a companion, lounged into the house.
The third traveller--for three there were--by a gesture directed the
servant to close the carriage door, and, keeping his seat, gazed
sleepily through the window. The loitering crowd, standing at a
respectful distance, returned his glances with interest, until an empty
post-chaise, approaching from the direction of Oxford, rattled up
noisily and split the group asunder. As the steaming horses stopped
within a few paces of the chariot, the gentleman seated in the latter
saw one of the ostlers go up to the post-chaise and heard him say, 'Soon
'Ay, and I ha' been stopped too,' the postboy answered as he dropped his
'No!' in a tone of surprise. 'Was it Black Jack?'
'Not he. 'Twas a woman!'
A murmur of astonishment greeted the answer. The postboy grinned, and
sitting easily in his pad prepared to enjoy the situation. 'Ay, a
woman!' he said. 'And a rare pair of eyes to that. What do you think she
'The stuff, of course.'
'Not she. Wanted one of them I took'--and he jerked his elbow
contemptuously in the direction whence he had come--'to fight a duel for
her. One of they! Said, was he Mr. Berkeley, and would he risk his life
for a woman.'
The head ostler stared. 'Lord! and who was it he was to fight?' he asked
'She did not say. Her spark maybe, that has jilted her.'
'And would they, Jimmie?'
'They? Shoo! They were Methodists,' the postboy answered contemptuously,
'Scratch wigs and snuff-colour. If she had not been next door to a Bess
of Bedlam and in a main tantrum, she would have seen that. But "Are you
Mr. Berkeley?" she says, all on fire like. And "Will you fight for a
woman?" And when they shrieked out, banged the door on them. But I tell
you she was a pretty piece as you'd wish to see. If she had asked me, I
would not have said no to her.' And he grinned.
The gentleman in the chariot opened a window. 'Where did she stop you,
my man?' he asked idly.
'Half a mile this side of Oxford, your worship,' the postboy answered,
knuckling his forehead. 'Seemed to me, sir, she was a play actress. She
had that sort of way with her.'
The gentleman nodded and closed the window. The night had so far set in
that they had brought out lights; as he sat back, one of these, hung in
the carriage, shone on his features and betrayed that he was smiling. In
this mood his face lost the air of affected refinement--which was then
the mode, and went perfectly with a wig and ruffles--and appeared in its
true cast, plain and strong, yet not uncomely. His features lacked the
insipid regularity which, where all shaved, passed for masculine beauty;
the nose ended largely, the cheek-bones were high, and the chin
projected. But from the risk and even the edge of ugliness it was saved
by a pair of grey eyes, keen, humorous, and kindly, and a smile that
showed the eyes at their best. Of late those eyes had been known to
express weariness and satiety; the man was tiring of the round of costly
follies and aimless amusements in which he passed his life. But at
twenty-six pepper is still hot in the mouth, and Sir George Soane
continued to drink, game, and fribble, though the first pungent flavour
of those delights had vanished, and the things themselves began to
pall upon him.
When he had sat thus ten minutes, smiling at intervals, a stir about the
door announced that his companions were returning. The landlord preceded
them, and was rewarded for his pains with half a guinea; the crowd with
a shower of small silver. The postillions cracked their whips, the
horses started forward, and amid a shrill hurrah my lord's carriage
rolled away from the door.
'Now, who casts?' the peer cried briskly, arranging himself in his
seat. 'George, I'll set you. The old stakes?'
'No, I am done for to-night,' Sir George answered yawning without
'What! crabbed, dear lad?'
'Ay, set Berkeley, my lord. He's a better match for you.'
'And be robbed by the first highwayman we meet? No, no! I told you, if I
was to go down to this damp hole of mine--fancy living a hundred miles
from White's! I should die if I could not game every day--you were to
play with me, and Berkeley was to ensure my purse.'
'He would as soon take it,' Sir George answered languidly, gazing
through the glass.
'Sooner, by--!' cried the third traveller, a saturnine, dark-faced man
of thirty-four or more, who sat with his back to the horses, and toyed
with a pistol that lay on the seat beside him. 'I'm content if your
'Then have at you! Call the main, Colonel. You may be the devil among
the highwaymen--that was Selwyn's joke, was it not?--but I'll see the
colour of your money.'
'Beware of him. He _doved_ March,' Sir George said indifferently.
'He won't strip me,' cried the young lord. 'Five is the main. Five to
four he throws crabs! Will you take, George?'
Soane did not answer, and the two, absorbed in the rattle of the dice
and the turns of their beloved hazard, presently forgot him; his
lordship being the deepest player in London and as fit a successor to
the luckless Lord Mountford as one drop of water to another. Thus left
to himself, and as effectually screened from remark as if he sat alone,
Sir George devoted himself to an eager scrutiny of the night, looking
first through one window and then through the other; in which he
persevered though darkness had fallen so completely that only the hedges
showed in the lamplight, gliding giddily by in endless walls of white.
On a sudden he dropped the glass with an exclamation, and thrust out
'Pull up!' he cried. 'I want to descend.'
The young lord uttered a peevish exclamation. 'What is to do?' he
continued, glancing round; then, instantly returning to the dice, 'if it
is my purse they want, say Berkeley is here. That will scare them. What
are you doing, George?'
'Wait a minute,' was the answer; and in a twinkling Soane was out, and
was ordering the servant, who had climbed down, to close the door. This
effected, he strode back along the road to a spot where a figure,
cloaked, and hooded, was just visible, lurking on the fringe of the
lamplight. As he approached it, he raised his hat with an exaggeration
'Madam,' he said, 'you asked for me, I believe?'
The woman--for a woman it was, though he could see no more of her than a
pale face, staring set and Gorgon-like from under the hood--did not
answer at once. Then, 'Who are you?' she said.
'Colonel Berkeley,' he answered with assurance, and again saluted her.
'Who killed the highwayman at Hounslow last Christmas?' she cried.
'The same, madam.'
'And shot Farnham Joe at Roehampton?'
'Yes, madam. And much at your service.'
'We shall see,' she answered, her voice savagely dubious. 'At least you
are a gentleman and can use a pistol? But are you willing to risk
something for justice' sake?'
'And the sake of your _beaux yeux_, madam?' he answered, a laugh in his
'You mean it?'
'Prove me,' he answered.
His tone was light; but the woman, who seemed to labour under strong
emotion, either failed to notice this or was content to put up with it.
'Then send on your carriage,' she said.
His jaw fell at that, and had there been light by which to see him he
would have looked foolish. At last, 'Are we to walk?' he said.
'Those are the lights of Oxford,' she answered. 'We shall be there in
'Oh, very well,' he said, 'A moment, if you please.'
She waited while he went to the carriage and told the astonished
servants to leave his baggage at the Mitre; this understood, he put in
his head and announced to his host that he would come on next day. 'Your
lordship must excuse me to-night,' he said.
'What is up?' my lord asked, without raising his eyes or turning his
head. He had taken the box and thrown nicks three times running, at five
guineas the cast; and was in the seventh heaven. 'Ha! five is the main.
Now you are in it, Colonel. What did you say, George? Not coming!
What is it?'
'What! a petticoat?'
'Yes,' Sir George answered, smirking.
'Well, you find 'em in odd places. Take care of yourself. But shut the
door, that is a good fellow. There is a d----d draught.'
Sir George complied, and, nodding to the servants, walked back to the
woman. As he reached her the carriage with its lights whirled away, and
left them in darkness.
Soane wondered if he were not a fool for his pains, and advanced a step
nearer to conviction when the woman with an impatient 'Come!' started
along the road; moving at a smart pace in the direction which the
chariot had taken, and betraying so little shyness or timidity as to
seem unconscious of his company. The neighbourhood of Oxford is low and
flat, and except where a few lights marked the outskirts of the city a
wall of darkness shut them in, permitting nothing to be seen that lay
more than a few paces away. A grey drift of clouds, luminous in
comparison with the gloom about them, moved slowly overhead, and out of
the night the raving of a farm-dog or the creaking of a dry bough came
to the ear with melancholy effect.
The fine gentleman of that day had no taste for the wild, the rugged, or
the lonely. He lived too near the times when those words spelled danger.
He found at Almack's his most romantic scene, at Ranelagh his _terra
incognita_, in the gardens of Versailles his ideal of the charming and
picturesque. Sir George, no exception to the rule, shivered as he looked
round. He began to experience a revulsion of spirits; and to consider
that, for a gentleman who owned Lord Chatham for a patron, and was even
now on his roundabout way to join that minister--for a gentleman whose
fortune, though crippled and impaired, was still tolerable, and who,
where it had suffered, might look with confidence to see it made good at
the public expense--or to what end patrons or ministers?--he began to
reflect, I say, that for such an one to exchange a peer's coach and good
company for a night trudge at a woman's heels was a folly, better
befitting a boy at school than a man of his years. Not that he had ever
been so wild as to contemplate anything serious; or from the first had
entertained the most remote intention of brawling in an unknown cause.
That was an extravagance beyond him; and he doubted if the girl really
had it in her mind. The only adventure he had proposed, when he left
the carriage, was one of gallantry; it was the only adventure then in
vogue. And for that, now the time was come, and the _incognita_ and he
were as much alone as the most ardent lover could wish, he felt
True, the outline of her cloak, and the indications of a slender,
well-formed shape which it permitted to escape, satisfied him that the
postboy had not deceived him; but that his companion was both young and
handsome. And with this and his bargain it was to be supposed he would
be content. But the pure matter-of-factness of the girl's manner, her
silence, and her uncompromising attitude, as she walked by his side,
cooled whatever ardour her beauty and the reflection that he had
jockeyed Berkeley were calculated to arouse; and it was with an effort
that he presently lessened the distance between them.
'Et vera incessu patuit dea!' he said, speaking in the tone between jest
and earnest which he had used before. '"And all the goddess in her step
appears." Which means that you have the prettiest walk in the world, my
dear--but whither are you taking me?'
She went steadily on, not deigning an answer.
'But--my charmer, let us parley,' he remonstrated, striving to maintain
a light tone. 'In a minute we shall be in the town and--'
'I thought that we understood one another,' she answered curtly, still
continuing to walk, and to look straight before her; in which position
her hood, hid her face. 'I am taking you where I want you.'
'Oh, very well,' he said, shrugging his shoulders. But under his breath
he muttered, 'By heaven, I believe that the pretty fool really
thinks--that I am going to fight for her!'
To a man who had supped at White's the night before, and knew his age to
be the _age des philosophes_, it seemed the wildest fancy in the world.
And his distaste grew. But to break off and leave her--at any rate until
he had put it beyond question that she had no underthought--to break off
and leave her after placing himself in a situation so humiliating, was
too much for the pride of a Macaroni. The lines of her head and figure
too, half guessed and half revealed, and wholly light and graceful, had
caught his fancy and created a desire to subjugate her. Reluctantly,
therefore, he continued to walk beside her, over Magdalen Bridge, and
thence by a path which, skirting the city, ran across the low wooded
meadows at the back of Merton.
A little to the right the squat tower of the college loomed against the
lighter rack of clouds, and rising amid the dark lines of trees that
beautify that part of the outskirts, formed a _coup d'oeil_ sufficiently
impressive. Here and there, in such of the chamber windows as looked
over the meadows, lights twinkled cheerfully; emboldened by which, yet
avoiding their scope, pairs of lovers of the commoner class sneaked to
and fro under the trees. Whether the presence of these recalled early
memories which Sir George's fastidiousness found unpalatable, or he felt
his fashion, smirched by the vulgarity of this Venus-walk, his
impatience grew; and was not far from bursting forth when his guide
turned sharply into an alley behind the cathedral, and, after threading
a lane of mean houses, entered a small court.
The place, though poor and narrow, was not squalid. Sir George could see
so much by the light which shone from a window and fell on a group of
five or six persons, who stood about the nearest door and talked in low,
excited voices. He had a good view of one man's face, and read in it
gloom and anger. Then the group made way for the girl, eyeing her, as he
thought, with pity and a sort of deference; and cursing the folly that
had brought him into such a place and situation, wondering what on
earth it all meant or in what it would end, he followed her into
She opened a door on the right-hand side of the narrow passage, and led
the way into a long, low room. For a moment he saw no more than two
lights on a distant table, and kneeling at a chair beside them a woman
with grey dishevelled hair, who seemed to be praying, her face hidden.
Then his gaze, sinking instinctively, fell on a low bed between him and
the woman; and there rested on a white sheet, and on the solemn
outlines--so certain in their rigidity, so unmistakable by human
eyes--of a body laid out for burial.
To be brought up short in an amorous quest by such a sight as that was a
shock alike to Soane's better nature and his worse dignity. The former
moved him to stand silent and abashed, the latter to ask with an
indignant curse why he had been brought to that place. And the latter
lower instinct prevailed. But when he raised his head to put the
question with the necessary spirt of temper, he found that the girl had
left his side and passed to the other hand of the dead; where, the hood
thrown back from her face, she stood looking at him with such a gloomy
fire in her eyes as it needed but a word, a touch, a glance to kindle
into a blaze.
At the moment, however, he thought less of this than of the beauty of
the face which he saw for the first time. It was a southern face, finely
moulded, dark and passionate, full-lipped, yet wide of brow, with a
generous breadth between the eyes. Seldom had he seen a woman more
beautiful; and he stood silent, the words he had been about to speak
dying stillborn on his lips.
Yet she seemed to understand them; she answered them. 'Why have I
brought you here?' she cried, her voice trembling; and she pointed to
the bed. 'Because he is--he was my father. And he lies there. And
because the man who killed him goes free. And I would--I would kill
_him_! Do you hear me? I would kill him!'
Sir George tried to free his mind from the influence of her passion and
her eyes, from the nightmare of the room and the body, and to see things
in a sane light. 'But--my good girl,' he said, slowly and not unkindly,
'I know nothing about it. Nothing. I am a stranger here.'
'For that reason I brought you here,' she retorted.
'But--I cannot interfere,' he answered, shaking his head. 'There is the
law. You must apply to it. The law will punish the man if he has
'But the law will _not_ punish him!' she cried with scorn. 'The law? The
law is your law, the law of the rich. And he'--she pointed to the
bed--'was poor and a servant. And the man who killed him was his master.
So he goes free--of the law!'
'But if he killed him?' Sir George muttered lamely.
'He did!' she cried between her teeth. 'And I would have you kill him!'
He shook his head. 'My good girl,' he said kindly, 'you are distraught.
You are not yourself. Or you would know a gentleman does not do
'A gentleman!' she retorted, her smouldering rage flaming up at last.
'No; but I will tell you what he does. He kills a man to save his purse!
Or his honour! Or for a mis-word at cards! Or the lie given in drink! He
will run a man through in a dark room, with no one to see fair play! But
for drawing his sword to help a woman, or avenge a wrong, a gentleman--a
gentleman does not do these things. It is true! And may--'
'Oh, have done, have done, my dear!' cried a wailing, tearful voice; and
Sir George, almost cowed by the girl's fierce words and the fiercer
execration that was on her lips, hailed the intervention with relief.
The woman whom he had seen on her knees had risen and now approached the
girl, showing a face wrinkled, worn, and plain, but not ignoble; and for
the time lifted above the commonplace by the tears that rained down it.
'Oh, my lovey, have done,' she cried. 'And let the gentleman go. To kill
another will not help him that is dead. Nor us that are left alone!'
'It will not help him!' the girl answered, shrilly and wildly; and her
eyes, leaving Soane, strayed round the room as if she were that moment
awakened and missed some one. 'No! But is he to be murdered, and no one
suffer? Is he to die and no one pay? He who had a smile for us, go in or
out, and never a harsh word or thought; who never did any man wrong or
wished any man ill? Yet he lies there! Oh, mother, mother,' she
continued, her voice broken on a sudden by a tremor of pain, 'we are
alone! We are alone! We shall never see him come in at that door again!'
The old woman sobbed helplessly and made no answer; on which the girl,
with a gesture as simple as it was beautiful, drew the grey head to her
shoulder. Then she looked at Sir George. 'Go,' she said; but he saw that
the tears were welling up in her eyes, and that her frame was beginning
to tremble. 'Go! I was not myself--a while ago--when I fetched you. Go,
sir, and leave us.'
Moved by the abrupt change, as well as by her beauty, Sir George
lingered; muttering that perhaps he could help her in another way. But
she shook her head, once and again; and, instinctively respecting the
grief which had found at length its proper vent, he turned and, softly
lifting the latch, went out into the court.
The night air cooled his brow, and recalled him to sober earnest and the
eighteenth century. In the room which he had left, he had marked nothing
out of the common except the girl. The mother, the furniture, the very
bed on which the dead man lay, all were appropriate, and such as he
would expect to find in the house of his under-steward. But the girl?
The girl was gloriously handsome; and as eccentric as she was
beautiful. Sir George's head turned and his eyes glowed as he thought of
her. He considered what a story he could make of it at White's; and he
put up his spying-glass, and looked through it to see if the towers of
the cathedral still overhung the court. 'Gad, sir!' he said aloud,
rehearsing the story, as much to get rid of an unfashionable sensation
he had in his throat as in pure whimsy, 'I was surprised to find that it
was Oxford. It should have been Granada, or Bagdad, or Florence! I give
you my word, the houris that the Montagu saw in the Hammam at Stamboul
were nothing to her!'
The persons through whom he had passed on his way to the door were still
standing before the house. Glancing back when he had reached the mouth
of the court, he saw that they were watching him; and, obeying a sudden
impulse of curiosity, he turned on his heel and signed to the nearest to
come to him. 'Here, my man,' he said, 'a word with you.'
The fellow moved towards him reluctantly, and with suspicion. 'Who is it
lies dead there?' Sir George asked.
'Your honour knows,' the man answered cautiously.
'No, I don't.'
'Then you will be the only one in Oxford that does not,' the fellow
replied, eyeing him oddly.
'Maybe,' Soane answered with impatience. 'Take it so, and answer the
'It is Masterson, that was the porter at Pembroke.'
'Ah! And how did he die?'
'That is asking,' the man answered, looking shiftily about. 'And it is
an ill business, and I want no trouble. Oh, well'--he continued, as Sir
George put something in his hand--'thank your honour, I'll drink your
health. Yes, it is Masterson, poor man, sure enough; and two days ago
he was as well as you or I--saving your presence. He was on the gate
that evening, and there was a supper on one of the staircases: all the
bloods of the College, your honour will understand. About an hour before
midnight the Master sent him to tell the gentlemen he could not sleep
for the noise. After that it is not known just what happened, but the
party had him in and gave him wine; and whether he went then and
returned again when the company were gone is a question. Any way, he was
found in the morning, cold and dead at the foot of the stairs, and his
neck broken. It is said by some a trap was laid for him on the
staircase. And if it was,' the man continued, after a pause, his true
feeling finding sudden vent, 'it is a black shame that the law does not
punish it! But the coroner brought it in an accident.'
Sir George shrugged his shoulders. Then, moved by curiosity and a desire
to learn something about the girl, 'His daughter takes it hardly,'
The man grunted. 'Ah,' he said, 'maybe she has need to. Your honour does
not come from him?'
'From Whom? I come from no one.'
'To be sure, sir, I was forgetting. But, seeing you with her--but there,
you are a stranger.'
Soane would have liked to ask him his meaning, but felt that he had
condescended enough. He bade the man a curt good-night, therefore, and
turning away passed quickly into St. Aldate's Street. Thence it was but
a step to the Mitre, where he found his baggage and servant
In those days distinctions of dress were still clear and unmistakable.
Between the peruke--often forty guineas' worth--the tie-wig, the
scratch, and the man who went content with a little powder, the
intervals were measurable. Ruffles cost five pounds a pair; and velvets
and silks, cut probably in Paris, were morning wear. Moreover, the
dress of the man who lost or won his thousand in a night at Almack's,
and was equally well known at Madame du Deffand's in Paris and at
Holland House, differed as much from the dress of the ordinary
well-to-do gentleman as that again differed from the lawyer's or the
doctor's. The Mitre, therefore, saw in Sir George a very fine gentleman
indeed, set him down to an excellent supper in its best room, and
promised a post-chaise-and-four for the following morning--all with much
bowing and scraping, and much mention of my lord to whose house he would
post. For in those days, if a fine gentleman was a very fine gentleman,
a peer was also a peer. Quite recently they had ventured to hang one;
but with apologies, a landau-and-six, and a silken halter.
Sir George would not have had the least pretension to be the glass of
fashion and the mould of form, which St. James's Street considered him,
if he had failed to give a large share of his thoughts while he supped
to the beautiful woman he had quitted. He knew very well what steps Lord
March or Tom Hervey would take, were either in his place; and though he
had no greater taste for an irregular life than became a man in his
station who was neither a Methodist nor Lord Dartmouth, he allowed his
thoughts to dwell, perhaps longer than was prudent, on the girl's
perfections, and on what might have been were his heart a little harder,
or the not over-rigid rule which he observed a trifle less stringent.
The father was dead. The girl was poor: probably her ideal of a gallant
was a College beau, in second-hand lace and stained linen, drunk on ale
in the forenoon. Was it likely that the fortress would hold out long, or
that the maiden's heart would prove to be more obdurate than Danaee's?
Soane, considering these things and his self-denial, grew irritable over
his Chambertin. He pictured Lord March's friend, the Rena, and found
this girl immeasurably before her. He painted the sensation she would
make and the fashion he could give her, and vowed that she was a Gunning
with sense and wit added; to sum up all, he blamed himself for a saint
and a Scipio. Then, late as it was, he sent for the landlord, and to get
rid of his thoughts, or in pursuance of them, inquired of that worthy if
Mr. Thomasson was in residence at Pembroke.
'Yes, Sir George, he is,' the landlord answered; and asked if he should
send for his reverence.
'No,' Soane commanded. 'If there is a chair to be had, I will go to
'There is one below, at your honour's service. And the men are waiting.'
So Sir George, with the landlord, lighting him and his man attending
with his cloak, descended the stairs in state, entered the sedan, and
was carried off to Pembroke.
TUTOR AND PUPILS--OLD STYLE
Doctor Samuel Johnson, of Johnson's Court, Fleet Street, had at this
time some name in the world; but not to the pitch that persons entering
Pembroke College hastened to pay reverence to the second floor over the
gateway, which he had vacated thirty years earlier--as persons do now.
Their gaze, as a rule, rose no higher than the first-floor oriel, where
the shapely white shoulder of a Parian statue, enhanced by a background
of dark-blue silken hanging, caught the wandering eye. What this lacked
of luxury and mystery was made up--almost to the Medmenham point in the
eyes of the city--by the gleam of girandoles, and the glow, rather felt
than seen, of Titian-copies in Florence frames. Sir George, borne along
in his chair, peered up at this well-known window--well-known, since in
the Oxford of 1767 a man's rooms were furnished if he had tables and
chairs, store of beef and October, an apple-pie and Common Room
port--and seeing the casement brilliantly lighted, smiled a trifle
'The Reverend Frederick is not much changed,' he muttered. 'Lord, what a
beast it was! And how we hazed him! Ah! At home, is he?'--this to the
servant, as the man lifted the head of the chair. 'Yes, I will go up.'
To tell the truth, the Reverend Frederick Thomasson had so keen a scent
for Gold Tufts or aught akin to them, that it would have been strange
if the instinct had not kept him at home; as a magnet, though unseen,
attracts the needle. The same prepossession brought him, as soon as he
heard of his visitor's approach, hurrying to the head of the stairs;
where, if he had had his way, he would have clasped the baronet in his
arms, slobbered over him, after the mode of Paris--for that was a trick
of his--and perhaps even wept on his shoulder. But Soane, who knew his
ways, coolly defeated the manoeuvre by fending him off with his cane;
and the Reverend Frederick was reduced to raising his eyes and hands to
heaven in token of the joy which filled him at the sight of his
'Lord! Sir George, I am inexpressibly happy!' he cried. 'My dear sir, my
very dear sir, welcome to my poor rooms! This is joy indeed! Gaudeamus!
Gaudeamus! To see you once more, fresh from the groves of Arthur's and
the scenes of your triumphs! Pardon me, my dear sir, I must and will
shake you by the hand again!' And succeeding at last in seizing Sir
George's hand, he fondled and patted it in both of his--which were fat
and white--the while with every mark of emotion he led him into
'Gad!' said Sir George, standing and looking round. 'And where is she,
'That old name! What a pleasure it is to hear it!' cried the tutor,
affecting to touch his eyes with the corner of a dainty handkerchief; as
if the gratification he mentioned were too much for his feelings.
'But, seriously, Tommy, where is she?' Soane persisted, still looking
round with a grin.
'My dear Sir George! My honoured friend! But you would always have your
'And, plainly, Tommy, is all this frippery yours?'
'Tut, tut!' Mr. Thomasson remonstrated. 'And no man with a finer taste.
I have heard Mr. Walpole say that with a little training no man would
excel Sir George Soane as a connoisseur. An exquisite eye! A nice
'Now, Tommy, to how many people have you said that?' Sir George
retorted, dropping into a chair, and coolly staring about him. 'But,
there, have done, and tell me about yourself. Who is the last sprig of
nobility you have been training in the way it should grow?'
'The last pupil who honoured me,' the Reverend Frederick answered, 'as
you are so kind as to ask after my poor concerns, Sir George, was my
Lord E----'s son. We went to Paris, Marseilles, Genoa, Florence; visited
the mighty monuments of Rome, and came home by way of Venice, Milan, and
Turin. I treasure the copy of Tintoretto which you see there, and these
bronzes, as memorials of my lord's munificence. I brought them back
'And what did my lord's son bring back?' Sir George asked, cruelly. 'A
'My honoured friend!' Mr. Thomasson remonstrated. 'But your wit was
always mordant--mordant! Too keen for us poor folk!'
'D'ye remember the inn at Cologne, Tommy?' Sir George continued,
mischievously reminiscent. 'And Lord Tony arriving with his charmer? And
you giving up your room to her? And the trick we played you at Calais,
where we passed the little French dancer on you for Madame la Marquise
Mr. Thomasson winced, and a tinge of colour rose in his fat pale face.
'Boys, boys!' he said, with an airy gesture. 'You had an uncommon fancy
even then, Sir George, though you were but a year from school! Ah, those
were charming days! Great days!'
'And nights!' said Sir George, lying back in his chair and looking at
the other with eyes half shut, and insolence half veiled. 'Do you
remember the faro bank at Florence, Tommy, and the three hundred livres
you lost to that old harridan, Lady Harrington? Pearls cast before swine
you styled them, I remember.'
'Lord, Sir George!' Mr. Thomasson cried, vastly horrified. 'How can you
say such a thing? Your excellent memory plays you false.'
'It does,' Soane answered, smiling sardonically. 'I remember. It was
seed sown for the harvest, you called it--in your liquor. And that
touches me. Do you mind the night Fitzhugh made you so prodigiously
drunk at Bonn, Tommy? And we put you in the kneading-trough, and the
servants found you and shifted you to the horse-trough? Gad! you would
have died of laughter if you could have seen yourself when we rescued
you, lank and dripping, with your wig like a sponge!'
'It must have been--uncommonly diverting!' the Reverend Frederick
stammered; and he smiled widely, but with a lack of heart. This time
there could be no doubt of the pinkness that overspread his face.
'Diverting? I tell you it would have made old Dartmouth laugh!' Sir
George said, bluntly.
'Ha, ha! Perhaps it would. Perhaps it would. Not that I have the honour
of his lordship's acquaintance.'
'No? Well, he would not suit you, Tommy. I would not seek it.'
The Reverend Frederick looked doubtful, as weighing the possibility of
anything that bore the name of lord being alien from him. From this
reflection, however, he was roused by a new sally on Soane's part. 'But,
crib me! you are very fine to-night, Mr. Thomasson,' he said, staring
about him afresh. 'Ten o'clock, and you are lighted as for a drum! What
The tutor smirked and rubbed his hands. 'Well, I--I was expecting a
visitor, Sir George.'
'Ah, you dog! She is not here, but you are expecting her.'
Mr. Thomasson grinned; the jest flattered him. Nevertheless he hastened
to exonerate himself. 'It is not Venus I am expecting, but Mars,' he
said with a simper. 'The Honourable Mr. Dunborough, son to my Lord
Dunborough, and the same whose meritorious services at the Havanna you,
my dear friend, doubtless remember. He is now cultivating in peace the
gifts which in war--'
'Sufficed to keep him out of danger!' Sir George said bluntly. 'So he is
your last sprig, is he? He should be well seasoned.'
'He is four-and-twenty,' Mr. Thomasson answered, pluming himself and
speaking in his softest tones. 'And the most charming, I assure you, the
most debonair of men. But do I hear a noise?'
'Yes,' said Sir George, listening. 'I hear something.'
Mr. Thomasson rose. 'What--what is it, I wonder?' he said, a trifle
nervously. A dull sound, as of a hive of bees stirred to anger, was
'Devil if I know!' Sir George answered. 'Open the window.'
But the Reverend Frederick, after approaching the window with the
intention of doing so, seemed disinclined to go nearer, and hovered
about it. 'Really,' he said, no longer hiding his discomposure. 'I fear
that it is something--something in the nature of a riot. I fear that
that which I anticipated has happened. If my honourable friend had only
taken my advice and remained here!' And he wrung his hands
'Why, what has he to do with it?' Soane asked, curiously.
'He--he had an accident the other night,' Mr. Thomasson answered. 'A
monstrous nuisance for him. He and his noble friend, Lord Almeric
Doyley, played a little trick on a--on one of the College servants. The
clumsy fellow--it is marvellous how awkward that class of persons
is--fell down the stairs and hurt himself.'
'Somewhat. Indeed--in fact he is dead. And now there is a kind of
feeling about it in the town. I persuaded Mr. Dunborough to take up his
quarters here for the night, but he is so spirited he would dine abroad.
Now I fear, I really fear, he may be in trouble!'
'If it is he they are hooting in St. Aldate's,' Sir George answered
drily, 'I should say he was in trouble! But in my time the gownsmen
would have sallied out and brought him off before this. And given those
yelpers a cracked crown or two!'
The roar of voices in the narrow streets was growing clearer and more
threatening. 'Ye-es?' said the Reverend Frederick, moving about the
room, distracted between his anxiety and his respect for his companion.
'Perhaps so. But there is a monstrous low, vulgar set in College
nowadays; a man of spirit has no chance with them. Yesterday they had
the insolence to break into my noble friend's rooms and throw his
furniture out of window! And, I vow, would have gone on to--but Lord!
this is frightful! What a shocking howling! My dear sir, my very dear
Sir George,' Mr. Thomasson continued, his voice tremulous and his fat
cheeks grown on a sudden loose and flabby, 'do you think that there is
'Danger?' Sir George answered, with cruel relish--he had gone to the
window, and was looking out. 'Well, I should say that Madam Venus there
would certainly have to stand shot. If you are wise you will put out
some of those candles. They are entering the lane now. Gad, Tommy, if
they think your lad of spirit is here, I would not give much for your
Mr. Thomasson, who had hastened to take the advice, and had extinguished
all the candles but one, thus reducing the room to partial darkness,
wrung his hands and moaned for answer. 'Where are the proctors?' he
said. 'Where are the constables? Where are the--Oh, dear, dear, this is
And certainly, even in a man of firmer courage a little trepidation
might have been pardoned. As the unseen crowd, struggling and jostling,
poured from the roadway of St. Aldate's into the narrow confines of
Pembroke Lane, the sound of its hooting gathered sudden volume, and from
an intermittent murmur, as of a remote sea, swelled in a moment into a
roar of menace. And as a mob is capable of deeds from which the members
who compose it would severally shrink, as nothing is so pitiless,
nothing so unreasoning, so in the sound of its voice is a note that
appals all but the hardiest. Soane was no coward. A year before he had
been present at the siege of Bedford House by the Spitalfields weavers,
where swords were drawn and much blood was spilled, while the gentlemen
of the clubs and coffee-houses looked on as at a play; but even he felt
a slackening of the pulse as he listened. And with the Reverend
Frederick it was different. He was not framed for danger. When the
smoking glare of the links which the ringleaders carried began to dance
and flicker on the opposite houses, he looked about him with a wild eye,
and had already taken two steps towards the door, when it opened.
It admitted two men about Sir George's age, or a little younger. One,
after glancing round, passed hurriedly to the window and looked out; the
other sank into the nearest chair, and, fanning himself with his hat,
muttered a querulous oath.
'My dear lord!' cried the Reverend Frederick, hastening to his
side--and it is noteworthy that he forgot even his panic in the old
habit of reverence--'What an escape! To think that a life so valuable as
your lordship's should lie at the mercy of those wretches! I shudder at
the thought of what might have happened.'
'Fan me, Tommy' was the answer. And Lord Almeric, an excessively pale,
excessively thin young man, handed his hat with a gesture of exhaustion
to the obsequious tutor. 'Fan me; that is a good soul. Positively I am
suffocated with the smell of those creatures! Worse than horses, I
assure you. There, again! What a pother about a common fellow! 'Pon
honour, I don't know what the world is coming to!'
'Nor I,' Mr. Thomasson answered, hanging over him with assiduity and
concern on his countenance. 'It is not to be comprehended.'
'No, 'pon honour it is not!' my lord agreed. And then, feeling a little
recovered, 'Dunborough,' he asked, 'what are they doing?'
'Hanging you, my dear fellow!' the other answered from the window, where
he had taken his place within a pace of Soane, but without discovering
him. He spoke in the full boisterous tone of one in perfect health and
spirits, perfectly satisfied with himself, and perfectly heedless
'Oh, I say, you are joking?' my lord answered. 'Hanging me? Oh, ah! I
see. In effigy!'
'And your humble servant,' said Mr. Dunborough. 'I tell you, Tommy, we
had a near run for it. Curse their impudence, they made us sweat. For a
very little I would give the rascals something to howl for.'
Perhaps he meant no more than to put a bold face on it before his
creatures. But unluckily the rabble, which had come provided with a cart
and gallows, a hangman, and a paunchy, red-faced fellow in canonicals,
and which hitherto had busied itself with the mock execution, found
leisure at this moment to look up at the window. Catching sight of the
object of their anger, they vented their rage in a roar of execration,
so much louder than all that had gone before that it brought the
sentence which Mr. Thomasson was uttering to a quavering end. But the
demonstration, far from intimidating Mr. Dunborough, provoked him to
fury. Turning from the sea of brandished hands and upturned faces, he
strode to a table, and in a moment returned. The window was open, he
flung it wider, and stood erect, in full view of the mob.
The sight produced a momentary silence, of which he took advantage.
'Now, you tailors, begone!' he cried harshly. 'To your hovels, and leave
gentlemen to their wine, or it will be the worse for you. Come, march!
We have had enough of your fooling, and are tired of it.'
The answer was a shout of 'Cain!' and 'Murderer!' One voice cried
'Ferrers!' and this caught the fancy of the crowd. In a moment a hundred
were crying, 'Ay, Ferrers! Come down, and we'll Ferrers you!'
He stood a moment irresolute, glaring at them; then something struck and
shattered a pane of the window beside him, and the fetid smell of a bad
egg filled the room. At the sound Mr. Thomasson uttered a cry and shrank
farther into the darkness, while Lord Almeric rose hastily and looked
about for a refuge. But Mr. Dunborough did not flinch.
'D----n you, you rascals, you will have it, will you?' he cried; and in
the darkness a sharp click was heard. He raised his hand. A shriek in
the street below answered the movement; some who stood nearest saw that
he held a pistol and gave the information to others, and there was a
wild rush to escape. But before the hammer dropped, a hand closed on
his, and Soane, crying, 'Are you mad, sir?' dragged him back.
Dunborough had not entertained the least idea that any one stood near
him, and the surprise was as complete as the check. After an instinctive
attempt to wrench away his hand, he stood glaring at the person who held
him. 'Curse you!' he said. 'Who are you? And what do you mean?'
'Not to sit by and see murder done,' Sir George answered firmly.
'To-morrow you will thank me.'
'For the present I'll thank you to release my hand,' the other retorted
in a freezing tone. Nevertheless, Sir George thought that the delay had
sobered him, and complied. 'Much obliged to you,' Dunborough continued.
'Now perhaps you will walk into the next room, where there is a light,
and we can be free from that scum.'
Mr. Thomasson had already set the example of a prudent retreat thither;
and Lord Almeric, with a feeble, 'Lord, this is very surprising! But I
think that the gentleman is right, Dunny,' was hovering in the doorway.
Sir George signed to Mr. Dunborough to go first, but he would not, and
Soane, shrugging his shoulders, preceded him.
The room into which they all crowded was no more than a closet,
containing a dusty bureau propped on three legs, a few books, and Mr.
Thomasson's robes, boots, and wig-stand. It was so small that when they
were all in it, they stood perforce close together, and had the air of
persons sheltering from a storm. This nearness, the glare of the lamp on
their faces, and the mean surroundings gave a kind of added force to Mr.
Dunborough's rage. For a moment after entering he could not speak; he
had dined largely, and sat long after dinner; and his face was suffused
with blood. But then, 'Tommy, who is--this--fellow?' he cried, blurting
out the words as if each must be the last.
'Good heavens!' cried the tutor, shocked at the low appellation.' Mr.
Dunborough! Mr. Dunborough! You mistake. My dear sir, my dear friend,
you do not understand. This is Sir George Soane, whose name must be
known to you. Permit me to introduce him.'
'Then take that for a meddler and a coxcomb, Sir George Soane!' cried
the angry man; and quick as thought he struck Sir George, who was at
elbows with him, lightly in the face.
Sir George stepped back, his face crimson. 'You are not sober, sir!' he
'Is not that enough?' cried the other, drowning both Mr. Thomasson's
exclamation of horror and Lord Almeric's protest of, 'Oh, but I say, you
know--' under the volume of his voice. 'You have a sword, sir, and I
presume you know how to use it. If there is not space here, there is a
room below, and I am at your service. You will not wipe that off by
rubbing it,' he added coarsely.
Sir George dropped his hand from his face as if it stung him. 'Mr.
Dunborough,' he said trembling--but it was with passion, 'if I thought
you were sober and would not repent to-morrow what you have done
'You would do fine things,' Dunborough retorted. 'Come, sir, a truce to
your impertinence! You have meddled with me, and you must maintain it.
Must I strike you again?'
'I will not meet you to-night,' Sir George answered firmly. 'I will be
neither Lord Byron nor his victim. These gentlemen will bear me out so
far. For the rest, if you are of the same mind to-morrow, it will be for
me and not for you to ask a meeting.'
'At your service, sir,' Mr. Dunborough said, with a sarcastic bow. 'But
suppose, to save trouble in the morning, we fix time and place now.'
'Eight--in Magdalen Fields,' Soane answered curtly. 'If I do not hear
from you, I am staying at the Mitre Inn. Mr. Thomasson, I bid you
good-night. My lord, your servant.'
And with that, and though Mr. Thomasson, wringing his hands over what
had occurred and the injury to himself that might come of it, attempted
some feeble remonstrances, Sir George bowed sternly, took his hat and
went down. He found his chair at the foot of the stairs, but in
consideration of the crowd he would not use it. The college porters,
indeed, pressed him to wait, and demurred to opening even the wicket.
But he had carried forbearance to the verge, and dreaded the least
appearance of timidity; and, insisting, got his way. The rabble admired
so fine a gentleman, and so resolute a bearing, gave place to him with a
jest, and let him pass unmolested down the lane.
It was well that they did, for he had come to the end of his patience.
One man steps out of a carriage, picks up a handkerchief, and lives to
wear a Crown. Another takes the same step; it lands him in a low
squabble from which he may extricate himself with safety, but scarcely
with an accession of credit. Sir George belonged to the inner circle of
fashion, to which neither rank nor wealth, nor parts, nor power, of
necessity admitted. In the sphere in which he moved, men seldom
quarrelled and as seldom fought. Of easiest habit among themselves, they
left bad manners and the duello to political adventurers and cubbish
peers, or to the gentlemen of the quarter sessions and the local
ordinary. It was with a mighty disgust, therefore, that Sir George
considered alike the predicament into which a caprice had hurried him,
and the insufferable young Hector whom fate had made his antagonist.
They would laugh at White's. They would make a jest of it over the cakes
and fruit at Betty's. Selwyn would turn a quip. And yet the thing was
beyond a joke. He must be a target first and a butt afterwards--if any
afterwards there were.
As he entered the Mitre, sick with chagrin, and telling himself he might
have known that something of this kind would come of stooping to vulgar
company, he bethought him--for the first time in an hour--of the girl.
'Lord!' he said, thinking of her request, her passion, and her splendid
eyes; and he stood. For the _age des philosophes_, destiny seemed to be
taking too large a part in the play. This must be the very man with whom
she had striven to embroil him!
His servant's voice broke in on his thoughts. 'At what hour will your
honour please to be called?' he asked, as he carried off the laced
coat and wig.
Soane stifled a groan. 'Called?' he said. 'At half-past six. Don't
stare, booby! Half-past six, I said. And do you go now, I'll shift for
myself. But first put out my despatch-case, and see there is pen and
ink. It's done? Then be off, and when you come in the morning bring the
landlord and another with you.'
The man lingered. 'Will your honour want horses?' he said.
'I don't know. Yes! No! Well, not until noon. And where is my sword?'
'I was taking it down to clean it, sir.'
'Then don't take it; I will look to it myself. And mind you, call me at
the time I said.'
PEEPING TOM OF WALLINGFORD
To be an attorney-at-law, avid of practice and getting none; to be
called Peeping Tom of Wallingford, in the place where you would fain
trot about busy and respected; to be the sole support of an old mother,
and to be come almost to the toe of the stocking--these circumstances
might seem to indicate an existence and prospects bare, not to say arid.
Eventually they presented themselves in that light to the person most
nearly concerned--by name Mr. Peter Fishwick; and moving him to grasp at
the forlorn hope presented by a vacant stewardship at one of the
colleges, brought him by coach to Oxford. There he spent three days and
his penultimate guineas in canvassing, begging, bowing, and smirking;
and on the fourth, which happened to be the very day of Sir George's
arrival in the city, was duly and handsomely defeated without the honour
of a vote.
Mr. Fishwick had expected no other result; and so far all was well. But
he had a mother, and that mother entertained a fond belief that local
jealousy and nothing else kept down her son in the place of his birth.
She had built high hopes on this expedition; she had thought that the
Oxford gentlemen would be prompt to recognise his merit; and for her
sake the sharp-featured lawyer went back to the Mitre a rueful man. He
had taken a lodging there with intent to dazzle the town, and not
because his means were equal to it; and already the bill weighed upon
him. By nature as cheerful a gossip as ever wore a scratch wig and lived
to be inquisitive, he sat mum through the evening, and barely listened
while the landlord talked big of his guest upstairs, his curricle and
fashion, the sums he lost at White's, and the plate in his
Nevertheless the lawyer would not have been Peter Fishwick if he had not
presently felt the stirrings of curiosity, or, thus incited, failed to
be on the move between the stairs and the landing when Sir George came
in and passed up. The attorney's ears were as sharp as a ferret's nose,
and he was notably long in lighting his humble dip at a candle which by
chance stood outside Sir George's door. Hence it happened that
Soane--who after dismissing his servant had gone for a moment into the
adjacent chamber--heard a slight noise in the room he had left; and,
returning quickly to learn what it was, found no one, but observed the
outer door shake as if some one tried it. His suspicions aroused, he was
still staring at the door when it moved again, opened a very little way,
and before his astonished eyes admitted a small man in a faded black
suit, who, as soon as he had squeezed himself in, stood bowing with a
kind of desperate audacity.
'Hallo!' said Sir George, staring anew. 'What do you want, my man?'
The intruder advanced a pace or two, and nervously crumpled his hat in
his hands. 'If your honour pleases,' he said, a smile feebly
propitiative appearing in his face, 'I shall be glad to be of service
'Of service?' said Sir George, staring in perplexity. 'To me?'
'In the way of my profession,' the little man answered, fixing Sir
George with two eyes as bright as birds'; which eyes somewhat redeemed
his small keen features. 'Your honour was about to make your will.' 'My
will?' Sir George cried, amazed; 'I was about to--' and then in an
outburst of rage, 'and if I was--what the devil business is it of
yours?' he cried. 'And who are you, sir?'
The little man spread out his hands in deprecation. 'I?' he said. 'I am
an attorney, sir, and everybody's business is my business.'
Sir George gasped. 'You are an attorney!' he cried. 'And--and
everybody's business is your business! By God, this is too much!' And
seizing the bell-rope he was about to overwhelm the man of law with a
torrent of abuse, before he had him put out, when the absurdity of the
appeal and perhaps a happy touch in Peter's last answer struck him; he
held his hand, and hesitated. Then, 'What is your name, sir?' he
'Peter Fishwick,' the attorney answered humbly.
'And how the devil did you know--that I wanted to make a will?'
'I was going upstairs,' the lawyer explained. 'And the door was ajar.'
'And you listened?'
'I wanted to hear,' said Peter with simplicity.
'But what did you hear, sir?' Soane retorted, scarcely able to repress a
'I heard your honour tell your servant to lay out pen and paper, and to
bring the landlord and another upstairs when he called you in the
morning. And I heard you bid him leave your sword. And putting two and
two together, respected sir, 'Peter continued manfully,' and knowing
that it is only of a will you need three witnesses, I said to myself,
being an attorney--'
'And everybody's business being your business,' Sir George muttered
'To be sure, sir--it is a will, I said, he is for making. And with your
honour's leave,' Peter concluded with spirit, I'll make it.'
'Confound your impudence,' Sir George answered, and stared at him,
marvelling at the little man's shrewdness.
Peter smiled in a sickly fashion. 'If your honour would but allow me?'
he said. He saw a great chance slipping from him, and his voice was
It moved Sir George to compassion. 'Where is your practice?' he asked
The attorney felt a surprising inclination to candour. 'At Wallingford,'
he said, 'it should be. But--' and there he stopped, shrugging his
shoulders, and leaving the rest unsaid.
'_Can_ you make a will?' Sir George retorted.
'No man better,' said Peter with confidence; and on the instant he drew
a chair to the table, seized the pen, and bent the nib on his thumbnail;
then he said briskly, 'I wait your commands, sir.'
Sir George stared in some embarrassment--he had not expected to be taken
so literally; but, after a moment's hesitation, reflecting that to write
down his wishes with his own hand would give him more trouble, and that
he might as well trust this stranger as that, he accepted the situation.
'Take down what I wish, then,' he said. 'Put it into form afterwards,
and bring it to me when I rise. Can you be secret?'
'Try me,' Peter answered with enthusiasm. 'For a good client I would
bite off my tongue.'
'Very well, then, listen!' Sir George said. And presently, after some
humming and thinking, 'I wish to leave all my real property to the
eldest son of my uncle, Anthony Soane,' he continued.
'Right, sir. Child already in existence, I presume? Not that it is
absolutely necessary,' the attorney continued glibly. 'But--'
'I do not know,' said Sir George.
'Ah!' said the lawyer, raising his pen and knitting his brows while he
looked very learnedly into vacancy. 'The child is expected, but you have
not yet heard, sir, that--'
'I know nothing about the child, nor whether there is a child,' Sir
George answered testily. 'My uncle may be dead, unmarried, or alive and
married--what difference does it make?'
'Certainty is very necessary in these things,' Peter replied severely.
The pen in his hand, he became a different man. 'Your uncle, Mr. Anthony
Soane, as I understand, is alive?'
'He disappeared in the Scotch troubles in '45,' Sir George reluctantly
explained, 'was disinherited in favour of my father, sir, and has not
since been heard from.'
The attorney grew rigid with alertness; he was like nothing so much as a
dog, expectant at a rat-hole. 'Attainted?' he said.
'No!' said Sir George.
The attorney collapsed: no rat in the hole. 'Dear me, dear me, what a
sad story!' he said; and then remembering that his client had profited,
'but out of evil--ahem! As I understand, sir, you wish all your real
property, including the capital mansion house and demesne, to go to the
eldest son of your uncle Mr. Anthony Soane in tail, remainder to the
second son in tail, and, failing sons, to daughters--the usual
settlement, in a word, sir.'
'No exceptions, sir.'
'Very good,' the attorney answered with the air of a man satisfied so
far. 'And failing issue of your uncle? To whom then, Sir George?'
'To the Earl of Chatham.'
Mr. Fishwick jumped in his seat; then bowed profoundly.
'Indeed! Indeed! How very interesting!' he murmured under his breath.
'Very remarkable! Very remarkable, and flattering.'
Sir George stooped to explain. 'I have no near relations,' he said
shortly. 'Lord Chatham--he was then Mr. Pitt--was the executor of my
grandfather's will, is connected with me by marriage, and at one time
acted as my guardian.'
Mr. Fishwick licked his lips as if he tasted something very good. This
was business indeed! These were names with a vengeance! His face shone
with satisfaction; he acquired a sudden stiffness of the spine. 'Very
good, sir,' he said. 'Ve--ry good,' he said. 'In fee simple, I
'Precisely. Precisely; no uses or trusts? No. Unnecessary of course.
Then as to personalty, Sir George?'
'A legacy of five hundred guineas to George Augustus Selwyn, Esquire, of
Matson, Gloucestershire. One of the same amount to Sir Charles Bunbury,
Baronet. Five hundred guineas to each of my executors; and to each of
these four a mourning ring.'
'Certainly, sir. All very noble gifts!' And Mr. Fishwick smacked his
For a moment Sir George looked his offence; then seeing that the
attorney's ecstasy was real and unaffected, he smiled. 'To my
land-steward two hundred guineas,' he said; 'to my house-steward one
hundred guineas, to the housekeeper at Estcombe an annuity of twenty
guineas. Ten guineas and a suit of mourning to each of my upper
servants not already mentioned, and the rest of my personalty--'
'After payment of debts and funeral and testamentary expenses,' the
lawyer murmured, writing busily.
Sir George started at the words, and stared thoughtfully before him: he
was silent so long that the lawyer recalled his attention by gently
repeating, 'And the residue, honoured sir?'
'To the Thatched House Society for the relief of small debtors,' Sir
George answered, between a sigh and a smile. And added, 'They will not
gain much by it, poor devils!'
Mr. Fishwick with a rather downcast air noted the bequest. 'And that is
all, sir, I think?' he said with his head on one side. 'Except the
appointment of executors.'
'No,' Sir George answered curtly. 'It is not all. Take this down and be
careful. As to the trust fund of fifty thousand pounds'--the attorney
gasped, and his eyes shone as he seized the pen anew. 'Take this down
carefully, man, I say,' Sir George continued. 'As to the trust fund left
by my grandfather's will to my uncle Anthony Soane or his heirs
conditionally on his or their returning to their allegiance and claiming
it within the space of twenty-one years from the date of his will, the
interest in the meantime to be paid to me for my benefit, and the
principal sum, failing such return, to become mine as fully as if it had
vested in me from the beginning--'
'Ah!' said the attorney, scribbling fast, and with distended cheeks.
'I leave the said fund to go with the land.'
'To go with the land,' the lawyer repeated as he wrote the words. 'Fifty
thousand pounds! Prodigious! Prodigious! Might I ask, sir, the date of
your respected grandfather's will?'
'December, 1746,' Sir George answered.
'The term has then nine months to run?'
'With submission, then it comes to this,' the lawyer answered
thoughtfully, marking off the points with his pen in the air. 'In the
event of--of this will operating--all, or nearly all of your property,
Sir George, goes to your uncle's heirs in tail--if to be found--and
failing issue of his body to my Lord Chatham?'
'Those are my intentions.'
'Precisely, sir,' the lawyer answered, glancing at the clock. 'And they
shall be carried out. But--ahem! Do I understand, sir, that in the event
of a claimant making good his claim before the expiration of the nine
months, you stand to lose this stupendous, this magnificent sum--even in
'I do,' Sir George answered grimly. 'But there will be enough left to
pay your bill.'
Peter stretched out his hands in protest, then, feeling that this was
unprofessional, he seized the pen. 'Will you please to honour me with
the names of the executors, sir?' he said.
'Dr. Addington, of Harley Street.'
'And Mr. Dagge, of Lincoln's Inn Fields, attorney-at-law.'
'It is an honour to be in any way associated with him,' the lawyer
muttered, as he wrote the name with a flourish. 'His lordship's man of
business, I believe. And now you may have your mind at ease, sir,' he
continued. 'I will put this into form before I sleep, and will wait on
you for your signature--shall I say at--'
'At a quarter before eight,' said Soane. 'You will be private?'
'Of course, sir. It is my business to be private. I wish you a very good
The attorney longed to refer to the coming meeting, and to his sincere
hope that his new patron would leave the ground unscathed. But a duel
was so alien from the lawyer's walk in life, that he knew nothing of the
punctilios, and he felt a delicacy. Tamely to wish a man a safe issue
seemed to be a common compliment incommensurate with the occasion; and a
bathos. So, after a moment of hesitation, he gathered up his papers, and
tip-toed out of the room with an absurd exaggeration of respect, and a
heart bounding jubilant under his flapped waistcoat.
Left to himself, Sir George heaved a sigh, and, resting his head on his
hand, stared long and gloomily at the candles. 'Well, better be run
through by this clown,' he muttered after a while, 'than live to put a
pistol to my own head like Mountford and Bland. Or Scarborough, or poor
Bolton. It is not likely, and I wish that little pettifogger had not put
it into my head; but if a cousin were to appear now, or before the time
is up, I should be in Queer Street. Estcombe is dipped: and of the money
I raised, there is no more at the agent's than I have lost in a night at
Quinze! D----n White's and that is all about it. And d----n it, I shall,
and finely, if old Anthony's lad turn up and sweep off the three
thousand a year that is left. Umph, if I am to have a steady hand
to-morrow I must get to bed. What unholy chance brought me into
Sir George awoke next morning, and, after a few lazy moments of
semi-consciousness, remembered what was before him, it is not to be
denied that he felt a chill. He lay awhile, thinking of the past and the
future--or the no future--in a way he seldom thought, and with a
seriousness for which the life he had hitherto led had left him little
time and less inclination.
But he was young; he had a digestion as yet unimpaired, and nerves still
strong; and when he emerged an hour later and, more soberly dressed than
was his wont, proceeded down the High Street towards the Cherwell
Bridge, his spirits were at their normal level. The spring sunshine
which gilded the pinnacles of Magdalen tower, and shone cool and
pleasant on a score of hoary fronts, wrought gaily on him also. The
milksellers and such early folk were abroad, and filled the street with
their cries; he sniffed the fresh air, and smiled at the good humour and
morning faces that everywhere greeted him; and d----d White's anew, and
vowed to live cleanly henceforth, and forswear Pam. In a word, the man
was of such a courage that in his good resolutions he forgot his errand,
and whence they arose; and it was with a start that, as he approached
the gate leading to the college meadows, he marked a chair in waiting,
and beside it Mr. Peter Fishwick, from whom he had parted at the Mitre
ten minutes before.
Soane did not know whether the attorney had preceded him or followed
him: the intrusion was the same, and flushed with annoyance, he strode
to him to mark his sense of it. But Peter, being addressed, wore his
sharpest business air, and was entirely unconscious of offence. 'I have
merely purveyed a surgeon,' he said, indicating a young man who stood
beside him. 'I could not learn that you had provided one, sir.'
'Oh!' Sir George answered, somewhat taken aback, 'this is the
Soane was in the act of saluting the stranger, when a party of two or
three persons came up behind, and had much ado not to jostle them in the
gateway. It consisted of Mr. Dunborough, Lord Almeric, and two other
gentlemen; one of these, an elderly man, who wore black and hair-powder,
and carried a gold-topped cane, had a smug and well-pleased expression,
that indicated his stake in the meeting to be purely altruistic. The two
companies exchanged salutes.
On this followed a little struggle to give precedence at the gate, but
eventually all went through. 'If we turn to the right,' some one
observed, 'there is a convenient place. No, this way, my lord.'
'Oh Lord, I have such a head this morning!' his lordship answered; and
he looked by no means happy. 'I am all of a twitter! It is so confounded
early, too. See here: cannot this be--?'
The gentleman who had spoken before drowned his voice. 'Will this do,
sir?' he said, raising his hat, and addressing Sir George. The party had
reached a smooth glade or lawn encompassed by thick shrubs, and to all
appearance a hundred miles from a street. A fairy-ring of verdure,
glittering with sunlight and dewdrops, and tuneful with the songs of
birds, it seemed a morsel of paradise dropped from the cool blue of
heaven. Sir George felt a momentary tightening of the throat as he
surveyed its pure brilliance, and then a sudden growing anger against
the fool who had brought him thither.
'You have no second?' said the stranger.
'No,' he answered curtly; 'I think we have witnesses enough.'
'Still--if the matter can be accommodated?'
'It can,' Soane answered, standing stiffly before them. 'But only by an
unreserved apology on Mr. Dunborough's part. He struck me. I have no
more to say.'
'I do not offer the apology,' Mr. Dunborough rejoined, with a
horse-laugh. 'So we may as well go on, Jerry. I did not come here
'I have brought pistols,' his second said, disregarding the sneer. 'But
my principal, though the challenged party, is willing to waive the
choice of weapons.'
'Pistols will do for me,' Sir George answered.
'One shot, at a word. If ineffective, you will take to your swords,' the
second continued; and he pushed back his wig and wiped his forehead, as
if his employment were not altogether to his taste. A duel was a fine
thing--at a distance. He wished, however, that he had some one with whom
to share the responsibility, now it was come to the point; and he cast a
peevish look at Lord Almeric. But his lordship was, as he had candidly
said, 'all of a twitter,' and offered no help.
'I suppose that I am to load,' the unlucky second continued. 'That being
so, you, Sir George, must have the choice of pistols.'
Sir George bowed assent, and, going a little aside, removed his hat,
wig, and cravat; and was about to button his coat to his throat, when he
observed that Mr. Dunborough was stripping to his shirt. Too proud not
to follow the example, though prudence suggested that the white linen
made him a fair mark, he stripped also, and in a trice the two, kicking
off their shoes, moved to the positions assigned to them; and in their
breeches and laced lawn shirts, their throats bare, confronted
'Sir George, have you no one to represent you?' cried the second again,
grown querulous under the burden. His name, it seemed, was Morris. He
was a major in the Oxfordshire Militia.
Soane answered with impatience. 'I have no second,' he said, 'but my
surgeon will be a competent witness.'
'Ah! to be sure!' Major Morris answered, with a sigh of relief. 'That is
so. Then, gentlemen, I shall give the signal by saying One, two, three!
Be good enough to fire together at the word Three! Do you understand?'
'Yes,' said Mr. Dunborough. And 'Yes,' Sir George said more slowly.
'Then, now, be ready! Prepare to fire! One! two! th--'
'Stay!' flashed Mr. Dunborough, while the word still hung in the air.
'You have not given us our pistols,' he continued, with an oath.
'What?' cried the second, staring.
'Man, you have not given us our pistols.'
The major was covered with confusion. 'God bless my soul! I have not!'
he cried; while Lord Almeric giggled hysterically. 'Dear me! dear me! it
is very trying to be alone!' He threw his hat and wig on the grass, and
again wiped his brow, and took up the pistols. 'Sir George? Thank you.
Mr. Dunborough, here is yours.' Then: 'Now, are you ready? Thank you.'
He retreated to his place again. 'Are you ready, gentlemen? Are you
quite ready?' he repeated anxiously, amid a breathless silence. 'One!
Sir George's pistol exploded at the word; the hammer of the other
clicked futile in the pan. The spectators, staring, and expecting to see
one fall, saw Mr. Dunborough start and make a half turn. Before they had
time to draw any conclusion he flung his pistol a dozen paces away, and
cursed his second. 'D----n you, Morris!' he cried shrilly; 'you put no
powder in the pan, you hound! But come on, sir,' he continued,
addressing Sir George, 'I have this left.' And rapidly changing his
sword from his left hand, in which he had hitherto held it, to his
right, he rushed upon his opponent with the utmost fury, as if he would
bear him down by main force.
'Stay!' Sir George cried; and, instead of meeting him, avoided his first
rush by stepping aside two paces. 'Stay, sir,' he repeated; 'I owe you a
shot! Prime afresh. Reload, sir, and--'
But Dunborough, blind and deaf with passion, broke in on him unheeding,
and as if he carried no weapon; and crying furiously, 'Guard yourself!'
plunged his half-shortened sword at the lower part of Sir George's body.
The spectators held their breath and winced; the assault was so sudden,
so determined, that it seemed that nothing could save Sir George from a
thrust thus delivered. He did escape, however, by a bound, quick as a
cat's; but the point of Dunborough's weapon ripped up his breeches on
the hip, the hilt rapped against the bone, and the two men came together
bodily. For a moment they wrestled, and seemed to be going to fight
Then Sir George, his left forearm under the other's chin, flung him
three paces away; and shifting his sword into his right hand--hitherto
he had been unable to change it--he stopped Dunborough's savage rush
with the point, and beat him off and kept him off--parrying his lunges,
and doing his utmost the while to avoid dealing him a fatal wound. Soane
was so much the better swordsman--as was immediately apparent to all
the onlookers--that he no longer feared for himself; all his fears were
for his opponent, the fire and fury of whose attacks he could not
explain to himself, until he found them flagging; and flagging so fast
that he sought a reason. Then Dunborough's point beginning to waver, and
his feet to slip, Sir George's eyes were opened; he discerned a crimson
patch spread and spread on the other's side--where unnoticed Dunborough
had kept his hand--and with a cry for help he sprang forward in time to
catch the falling man in his arms.
As the others ran in, the surgeons quickly and silently, Lord Almeric
more slowly, and with exclamations, Sir George lowered his burden gently
to the ground. The instant it was done, Morris touched his arm and
signed to him to stand back. 'You can do no good, Sir George,' he urged.
'He is in skilful hands. He would have it; it was his own fault. I can
bear witness that you did your best not to touch him.'
'I did not touch him,' Soane muttered.
The second looked his astonishment. 'How?' he said. 'You don't mean to
say that he is not wounded? See there!' And he pointed to the blood
which dyed the shirt. They were cutting the linen away.
'It was the pistol,' Sir George answered.
Major Morris's face fell, and he groaned. 'Good G--d!' he said, staring
before him. 'What a position I am in! I suppose--I suppose, sir, his
pistol was not primed?'
'I am afraid not,' Soane answered.
He was still in his shirt, and bareheaded; but as he spoke one of
several onlookers, whom the clatter of steel had drawn to the spot,
brought his coat and waistcoat, and held them while he put them on.
Another handed his hat and wig, a third brought his shoes and knelt and
buckled them; a fourth his kerchief. All these services he accepted
freely, and was unconscious of them--as unconscious as he was of the
eager deference, the morbid interest, with which they waited on him,
eyed him, and stared at him. His own thoughts, eyes, attention, were
fixed on the group about the fallen man; and when the elder surgeon
glanced over his shoulder, as wanting help, he strode to them.
'If we had a chair here, and could move him at once,' the smug gentleman
whispered, 'I think we might do.'
'I have a chair. It is at the gate,' his colleague answered.
'Have you? A good thought of yours!'
'The credit should lie--with my employer,' the younger man answered in a
low voice. 'It was his thought; here it comes. Sir George, will you be
good enough--' But then, seeing the baronet's look of mute anxiety, he
broke off. 'It is dangerous, but there is hope--fair hope,' he answered.
'Do you, my dear sir, go to your inn, and I will send thither when he is
safely housed. You can do no good here, and your presence may excite him
when he recovers from the swoon.'
Sir George, seeing the wisdom of the advice, nodded assent; and
remarking for the first time the sensation of which he was the centre,
was glad to make the best of his way towards the gates. He had barely
reached them--without shaking off a knot of the more curious, who still
hung on his footsteps--when Lord Almeric, breathless and agitated, came
up with him.
'You are for France, I suppose?' his lordship panted. And then, without
waiting for an answer: 'What would you advise me to do?' he babbled.
'Eh? What do you think? It will be the devil and all for me, you know.'
Sir George looked askance at him, contempt in his eye. 'I cannot advise
you,' he said. 'For my part, my lord, I remain here.'
His lordship was quite taken aback. 'No, you don't?' he said. 'Remain
here!--You don't mean it,'
'I usually mean--what I say,' Soane answered in a tone that he thought
must close the conversation.
But Lord Almeric kept up with him. 'Ay, but will you?' he babbled in
vacuous admiration. 'Will you really stay here? Now that is uncommon
bold of you! I should not have thought of that--of staying here, I mean.
I should go to France till the thing blew over. I don't know that I
shall not do so now. Don't you think I should be wise, Sir George? My
position, you know. It is uncommon low, is a trial, and--'
Sir George halted so abruptly that will-he, nill-he, the other went on a
few paces. 'My lord, you should know your own affairs best,' he said in
a freezing tone. 'And, as I desire to be alone, I wish your lordship a
very good day.'
My lord had never been so much astonished in his life. 'Oh, good
morning,' he said, staring vacantly, 'good morning!' but by the time he
had framed the words, Sir George was a dozen paces away.
It was an age when great ladies wept out of wounded vanity or for a loss
at cards--yet made a show of their children lying in state; when men
entertained the wits and made their wills in company, before they bowed
a graceful exit from the room and life. Doubtless people felt, feared,
hoped, and perspired as they do now, and had their ambitions apart from
Pam and the loo table. Nay, Rousseau was printing. But the 'Nouvelle
Heloise,' though it was beginning to be read, had not yet set the mode
of sensibility, or sent those to rave of nature who all their lives had
known nothing but art. The suppression of feeling, or rather the
cultivation of no feeling, was still the mark of a gentleman; his
maxim; honoured alike at Medmenham and Marly, to enjoy--to enjoy, be the
cost to others what it might.
Bred in such a school, Sir George should have viewed what had happened
with polite indifference, and put himself out no further than was
courteous, or might serve to set him right with a jury, if the worst
came to the worst. But, whether because he was of a kindlier stuff than
the common sort of fashionables, or was too young to be quite spoiled,
he took the thing that had occurred with unexpected heaviness; and,
reaching his inn, hastened to his room to escape alike the curiosity
that dogged him and the sympathy that, for a fine gentleman, is never
far to seek. To do him justice, his anxiety was not for himself, or the
consequences to himself, which at the worst were not likely to exceed a
nominal verdict of manslaughter, and at the best would be an acquittal;
the former had been Lord Byron's lot, the latter Mr. Brown's, and each
had killed his man. Sir George had more _savoir faire_ than to trouble
himself about this; but about his opponent and his fate he felt a
haunting--and, as Lord Almeric would have said, a low--concern that
would let him neither rest nor sit. In particular, when he remembered
the trifle from which all had arisen, he felt remorse and sorrow; which
grew to the point of horror when he recalled the last look which
Dunborough, swooning and helpless, had cast in his face.
In one of these paroxysms he was walking the room when the elder
surgeon, who had attended his opponent to the field, was announced.
Soane still retained so much of his life habit as to show an unmoved
front; the man of the scalpel thought him hard and felt himself
repelled; and though he had come from the sick-room hot-foot and laden
with good news, descended to a profound apology for the intrusion.
'But I thought that you might like to hear, sir,' he continued, nursing
his hat, and speaking as if the matter were of little moment, 'that Mr.
Dunborough is as--as well as can be expected. A serious case--I might
call it a most serious case,' he continued, puffing out his cheeks. 'But
with care--with care I think we may restore him. I cannot say more
'Has the ball been extracted?'
'It has, and so far well. And the chair being on the spot, Sir George,
so that he was moved without a moment's delay--for which I believe we
have to thank Mr.--Mr.--'
'Fishwick,' Soane suggested.
'To be sure--_that_ is so much gained. Which reminds me,' the smug
gentleman continued, 'that Mr. Attorney begged me to convey his duty and
inform you that he had made the needful arrangements and provided bail,
so that you are at liberty to leave, Sir George, at any hour.'
'Ah!' Soane said, marvelling somewhat. 'I shall stay here, nevertheless,
until I hear that Mr. Dunborough is out of danger.'
'An impulse that does you credit, sir,' the surgeon said impressively.
'These affairs, alas! are very greatly to be de--'
'They are d--d inconvenient,' Sir George drawled. 'He is not out of
danger yet, I suppose?'
The surgeon stared and puffed anew. 'Certainly not, sir,' he said.
'Ah! And where have you placed him?'
'The Honourable Mr.--, the sufferer?'
'To be sure! Who else, man?' Soane asked impatiently.
'In some rooms at Magdalen,' the doctor answered, breathing hard. And
then, 'Is it your wish that I should report to you to-morrow, sir?'
'You will oblige me. Thank you. Good-day.'
A FISH OUT OF WATER
Sir George spent a long day in his own company, and heedless that on the
surgeon's authority he passed abroad for a hard man and a dashed
unfeeling fellow, dined on Lord Lyttelton's 'Life of King Henry the
Second,' which was a new book in those days, and the fashion; and supped
on gloom and good resolutions. He proposed to call and inquire after his
antagonist at a decent hour in the morning, and if the report proved
favourable, to go on to Lord----'s in the afternoon.
But his suspense was curtailed, and his inquiries were converted into a
matter of courtesy, by a visit which he received after breakfast from
Mr. Thomasson. A glance at the tutor's smiling, unctuous face was
enough. Mr. Thomasson also had had his dark hour--since to be mixed up
with, a fashionable fracas was one thing, and to lose a valuable and
influential pupil, the apple of his mother's eye, was another; but it
was past, and he gushed over with gratulations.
'My dear Sir George,' he cried, running forward and extending his hands,
'how can I express my thankfulness for your escape? I am told that the
poor dear fellow fought with a fury perfectly superhuman, and had you
given ground must have ran you through a dozen times. Let us be thankful
that the result was otherwise.' And he cast up his eyes.
'I am,' Sir George said, regarding him rather grimly. 'I do not know
that Mr. Dunborough shares the feeling.'
'The dear man!' the tutor answered, not a whit abashed. 'But he is
better. The surgeon has extracted the ball and pronounces him out
'I am glad to hear it,' Soane answered heartily. 'Then, now I can get
'_A volonte_!' cried Mr. Thomasson in his happiest vein. And then with a
roguish air, which some very young men found captivating, but which his
present companion stomached with difficulty, 'I will not say that you
have come off the better, after all, Sir George,' he continued.
'No,' said the tutor roguishly. 'Tut-tut. These young men! They will at
a woman by hook or crook.'
'So?' Sir George said coldly. 'And the latest instance?'
'His Chloe--and a very obdurate, disdainful Chloe at that--has come to
nurse him,' the tutor answered, grinning. 'The prettiest high-stepping
piece you ever saw, Sir George--that I will swear!--and would do you no
discredit in London. It would make your mouth water to see her. But he
could never move her; never was such a prude. Two days ago he thought he
had lost her for good and all--there was that accident, you understand.
And now a little blood lost--and she is at his pillow!'
Sir George reddened at a sudden thought he had. 'And her father
unburied!' he cried, rising to his feet. This Macaroni was human,
Mr. Thomasson stared in astonishment. 'You know?' he said. 'Oh fie, Sir
George, have you been hunting already? Fie! Fie! And all London to
But Sir George simply repeated, 'And her father not buried, man?'
'Yes,' Mr. Thomasson answered with simplicity. 'He was buried this
morning. Oh, that is all right.'
'This morning? And the girl went from that--to Dunborough's bedside?'
Sir George exclaimed in indignation.
'It was a piece of the oddest luck,' Mr. Thomasson answered, smirking,
and not in the least comprehending the other's feeling. 'He was lodged
in Magdalen yesterday; this morning a messenger was despatched to
Pembroke for clothes and such-like for him. The girl's mother has always
nursed in Pembroke, and they sent for her to help. But she was that
minute home from the burial, and would not go. Then up steps the girl
and "I'll go," says she--heaven knows why or what took her, except the
contrariness of woman. However, there she is! D'ye see?' And Mr.
'Tommy,' said Sir George, staring at him, 'I see that you're a d--d
The tutor, easy and smiling, protested. 'Fie, Sir George,' he said.
'What harm is in it? To tend the sick, my dear sir, is a holy office.
And if in this case harm come of it--' and he spread out his hands
'As you know it will,' Sir George cried impulsively.
But Mr. Thomasson shrugged his shoulders. 'On the contrary, I know
nothing,' he answered. 'But--if it does, Mr. Dunborough's position is
such that--hem! Well, we are men of the world, Sir George, and the girl
might do worse.'
Sir George had heard the sentiment before, and without debate or
protest. Now it disgusted him. 'Faugh, man!' he said, rising. 'Have
done! You sicken me. Go and bore Lord Almeric--if he has not gone to
Paris to save his ridiculous skin!'
But Mr. Thomasson, who had borne abuse of himself with Christian
meekness, could not hear that unmoved. 'My dear Sir George, my dear
friend,' he urged very seriously, and with a shocked face, 'you should
not say things like that of his lordship. You really should not! My lord
is a most excellent and--'
'Pure ass!' said Soane with irritation. 'And I wish you would go and
divert him instead of boring me.'
'Dear, dear, Sir George!' Mr. Thomasson wailed. 'But you do not mean it?
And I brought you such good news, as I thought. One might--one really
might suppose that you wished our poor friend the worst.'
'I wish him no worse a friend!' Sir George responded sharply; and then,
heedless of his visitor's protestations and excuses and offers of
assistance, would see him to the door.
It was more easy, however, to be rid of him--the fine gentleman of the
time standing on scant ceremony with his inferiors--than of the
annoyance, the smart, the vexation, his news left behind him. Sir George
was not in love. He would have laughed at the notion. The girl was
absolutely and immeasurably below him; a girl of the people. He had seen
her once only. In reason, therefore--and polite good breeding enforced
the demand--he should have viewed Mr. Dunborough's conquest with easy
indifference, and complimented him with a jest founded on the prowess of
Mars and the smiles of Venus.
But the girl's rare beauty had caught Sir George's fancy; the scene in
which he had taken part with her had captivated an imagination not
easily inveigled. On the top of these impressions had come a period of
good resolutions prescribed by imminent danger; and on the top of that
twenty-four hours of solitude--a thing rare in the life he led. Result,
that Sir George, picturing the girl's fate, her proud, passionate face,
and her future, felt a sting at once selfish and unselfish, a pang at
once generous and vicious. Perhaps at the bottom of his irritation lay
the feeling that if she was to be any man's prey she might be his. But
on the whole his feelings were surprisingly honest; they had their root
in a better nature, that, deep sunk under the surface of breeding and
habit, had been wholesomely stirred by the events of the last few days.
Still, the good and the evil in the man were so far in conflict that,
had he been asked as he walked to Magdalen what he proposed to do should
he get speech with the girl, it is probable he would not have known what
to answer. Courtesy, nay, decency required that he should, inquire after
his antagonist. If he saw the girl--and he had a sneaking desire to see
her--well. If he did not see her--still well; there was an end of a
foolish imbroglio, which had occupied him too long already. In an hour
he could be in his post-chaise, and a mile out of town.
As it chanced, the surgeons in attendance on Dunborough had enjoined
quiet, and forbidden visitors. The staircase on which the rooms lay--a
bare, dusty, unfurnished place--was deserted; and the girl herself
opened the door to him, her finger on her lips. He looked for a blush
and a glance of meaning, a little play of conscious eyes and hands, a
something of remembrance and coquetry; and had his hat ready in his hand
and a smile on his lips. But she had neither smile nor blush for him; on
the contrary, when the dim light that entered the dingy staircase
disclosed who awaited her, she drew back a pace with a look of dislike
'My good girl,' he said, speaking on the spur of the moment--for the
reception took him aback--'what is it? What is the matter?'
She did not answer, but looked at him with solemn eyes, condemning him.
Even so Sir George was not blind to the whiteness of her throat, to the
heavy coils of her dark hair, and the smooth beauty of her brow. And
suddenly he thought he understood; and a chill ran through him. 'My
G--d!' he said, startled; 'he is not dead?'
She closed the door behind her, and stood, her hand on the latch. 'No,
he is not dead,' she said stiffly, voice and look alike repellent. 'But
he has not you to thank for that.'
'How can you come here with that face,' she continued with sudden
passion--and he began to find her eyes intolerable--'and ask for him?
You who--fie, sir! Go home! Go home and thank God that you have not his
blood upon your hands--you--who might to-day be Cain!'
He gasped. 'Good Lord!' he said unaffectedly. And then, 'Why, you are
the girl who yesterday would have me kill him!' he cried with
indignation; 'who came out of town to meet me, brought me in, and would
have matched me with him as coolly as ever sportsman set cock in pit!
Ay, you! And now you blame me! My girl, blame yourself! Call yourself
Cain, if you please!'
'I do,' she said unblenching. 'But I have my excuse. God forgive me none
the less!' Her eyes filled as she said it. 'I had and have my excuse.
But you--a gentleman! What part had you in this? Who were you to kill
your fellow-creature--at the word of a distraught girl?'
Sir George saw his opening and jumped for it viciously. 'I fear you
honour me too much,' he said, in the tone of elaborate politeness, which
was most likely to embarrass a woman in her position. 'Most certainly
you do, if you are really under the impression that I fought Mr.
Dunborough on your account, my girl!'
'Did you not?' she stammered; and the new-born doubt in her eyes
betrayed her trouble.
'Mr. Dunborough struck me, because I would not let him fire on the
crowd,' Sir George explained, blandly raising his quizzing glass, but
not using it. 'That was why I fought him. And that is my excuse. You
see, my dear,' he continued familiarly, 'we have each an excuse. But I
am not a hypocrite.'
'Why do you call me that?' she exclaimed; distress and shame at the
mistake she had made contending with her anger.
'Because, my pretty Methodist,' he answered coolly, 'your hate and your
love are too near neighbours. Cursing and nursing, killing and billing,
come not so nigh one another in my vocabulary. But with women--some
women--it is different.'
Her cheeks burned with shame, but her eyes flashed passion. 'If I were a
lady,' she cried, her voice low but intense, 'you would not dare to
'If you were a lady,' he retorted with easy insolence, 'I would kiss you