Part 2 out of 7
and make you my wife, my dear. In the meantime, and as you are not--give
up nursing young sparks and go home to your mother. Don't roam the roads
at night, and avoid travelling-chariots as you would the devil. Or the
next knight-errant you light upon may prove something ruder
'You are not Captain Berkeley?'
She stared at him, breathing hard. Then, 'I was a fool, and I pay for it
in insult,' she said.
'Be a fool no longer then,' he retorted, his good-humour restored by the
success of his badinage; 'and no man will have the right to insult you,
'I will never give _you_ the right!' she cried with intention.
'It is rather a question of Mr. Dunborough,' he answered, smiling
superior, and flirting his spy-glass to and fro with his fingers. 'Say
the same to him, and--but are you going, my queen? What, without
'I am not a lady, and _noblesse oblige_ does not apply to me,' she
cried. And she closed the door in his face--sharply, yet without noise.
He went down the stairs a step at a time--thinking. 'Now, I wonder where
she got that!' he muttered. '_Noblesse oblige_! And well applied too!'
Again, 'Lord, what beasts we men are!' he thought. 'Insult? I suppose I
did insult her; but I had to do that or kiss her. And she earned it, the
little firebrand!' Then standing and looking along the High--he had
reached the College gates--'D--n Dunborough! She is too good for him!
For a very little--it would be mean, it would be low, it would be cursed
low--but for two pence I would speak to her mother and cheat him. She is
too good to be ruined by that coarse-tongued boaster! Though I suppose
she fancies him. I suppose he is an Adonis to her! Faugh! Tommy, my
lord, and Dunborough! What a crew!'
The good and evil, spleen and patience, which he had displayed in his
interview with the girl rode him still; for at the door of the Mitre he
paused, went in, came out, and paused again. He seemed to be unable to
decide what he would do; but in the end he pursued his way along the
street with a clouded brow, and in five minutes found himself at the
door of the mean house in the court, whence the porter of Pembroke had
gone out night and morning. Here he knocked, and stood. In a moment the
door was opened, but to his astonishment by Mr. Fishwick.
Either the attorney shared his surprise, or had another and more serious
cause for emotion; for his perky face turned red, and his manner as he
stood holding the door half-open, and gaping at the visitor, was that of
a man taken in the act, and thoroughly ashamed of himself. Sir George
might have wondered what was afoot, if he had not espied over the
lawyer's shoulder a round wooden table littered with papers, and
guessed that Mr. Fishwick was doing the widow's business--a theory which
Mr. Fishwick's first words, on recovering himself, bore out.
'I am here--on business,' he said, cringing and rubbing his hands. 'I
don't--I don't think that you can object, Sir George.'
'I?' said Soane, staring at him in astonishment and some contempt. 'My
good man, what has it to do with me? You got my letter?'
'And the draft, Sir George!' Mr. Fishwick bowed low. 'Certainly,
certainly, sir. Too much honoured. Which, as I understood, put an end to
any--I mean it not offensively, honoured sir--to any connection
Sir George nodded. 'I have my own lawyers in London,' he said stiffly.
'I thought I made it clear that I did not need your services further.'
Mr. Fishwick rubbed his hands. 'I have that from your own lips, Sir
George,' he said. 'Mrs. Masterson, my good woman, you heard that?'
Sir George glowered at him. 'Lord, man?' he said. 'Why so much about
nothing? What on earth has this woman to do with it?'
Mr. Fishwick trembled with excitement. 'Mrs. Masterson, you will not
answer,' he stammered.
Sir George first stared, then cursed his impudence; then, remembering
that after all this was not his business, or that on which he had come,
and being one of those obstinates whom opposition but precipitates to
their ends, 'Hark ye, man, stand aside,' he said. 'I did not come here
to talk to you. And do you, my good woman, attend to me a moment. I have
a word to say about your daughter.'
'Not a word! Mrs. Masterson,' the attorney cried his eyes almost
bursting from his head with excitement.
Sir George was thunderstruck. "Is the man an idiot?" he exclaimed,
staring at him. And then, "I'll tell you what it is, Mr. Fishwick, or
whatever your name is--a little more of this, and I shall lay my cane
across your back."
"I am in my duty," the attorney answered, dancing on his feet.
"Then you will suffer in it!" Sir George retorted. "With better men. So
do not try me too far. I am here to say a word to this woman which I
would rather say alone."
"Never," said the attorney, bubbling, "with my good will!"
Soane lost patience at that. "D--n you!" he cried. "Will you be quiet?"
And made a cut at him with his cane. Fortunately the lawyer evaded it
with nimbleness; and having escaped to a safe distance hastened to cry,
"No malice! I bear you no malice, sir!" with so little breath and so
much good-nature that Sir George recovered his balance. "Confound you,
man!" he continued. "Why am I not to speak? I came here to tell this
good woman that if she has a care for this girl the sooner she takes her
from where she is the better! And you cannot let me put a word in."
"You came for that, sir?"
"For what else, fool?"
"I was wrong," said the attorney humbly. "I did not understand. Allow me
to say, sir, that I am entirely of your opinion. The young lady--I mean
she shall be removed to-morrow. It--the whole arrangement is
"Why, you go as fast now as you went slowly before," Sir George said,
observing him curiously.
Mr. Fishwick smiled after a sickly fashion. "I did not understand, sir,"
he said. "But it is most unsuitable, most unsuitable. She shall return
to-morrow at the latest."
Sir George, who had said what he had to say, nodded, grunted, and went
away; feeling that he had performed an unpleasant--and somewhat
doubtful--duty under most adverse circumstances. He could not in the
least comprehend the attorney's strange behaviour; but after some
contemptuous reflection, of which nothing came, he dismissed it as one
of the low things to which he had exposed himself by venturing out of
the charmed circle in which he lived. He hoped that the painful series
was now at an end, stepped into his post-chaise, amid the reverent
salaams of the Mitre, the landlord holding the door; and in a few
minutes had rattled over Folly Bridge, and left Oxford behind him.
ACHILLES AND BRISEIS
The honourable Mr. Dunborough's collapse arising rather from loss of
blood than from an injury to a vital part, he was sufficiently recovered
even on the day after the meeting to appreciate his nurse's presence.
Twice he was heard to chuckle without apparent cause; once he strove,
but failed, to detain her hand; while the feeble winks which from time
to time he bestowed on Mr. Thomasson when her back was towards him were
attributed by that gentleman, who should have known the patient, to
reflections closely connected with her charms.
His rage was great, therefore, when three days after the duel, he awoke,
missed her, and found in her place the senior bedmaker of Magdalen--a
worthy woman, learned in simples and with hands of horn, but far from
beautiful. This good person he saluted with a vigour which proved him
already far on the road to recovery; and when he was tired of swearing,
he wept and threw his nightcap at her. Finally, between one and the
other, and neither availing to bring back his Briseis, he fell into a
fever; which, as he was kept happed up in a box-bed, in a close room,
with every window shut and every draught kept off by stuffy
curtains--such was the fate of sick men then--bade fair to postpone his
recovery to a very distant date.
In this plight he sent one day for Mr. Thomasson, who had the nominal
care of the young gentleman; and the tutor being brought from the club
tavern in the Corn Market which he occasionally condescended to
frequent, the invalid broke to him his resolution.
'See here, Tommy,' he said in a voice weak but vicious. 'You have got to
get her back. I will not be poisoned by this musty old witch
'But if she will not come?' said Mr. Thomasson sadly.
'The little fool threw up the sponge when she came before,' the patient
answered, tossing restlessly. 'And she will come again, with a little
pressure. Lord, I know the women! So should you.'
'She came before because--well, I do not quite know why she came,' Mr.
'Any way, you have got to get her back.'
The tutor remonstrated, 'My dear good man,' he said unctuously, 'you
don't think of my position. I am a man of the world, I know--'
'All of it, my Macaroni!'
'But I cannot be--be mixed up in such a matter as this, my dear sir.'
'All the same, you have got to get her,' was the stubborn answer. 'Or I
write to my lady and tell her you kept mum about my wound. And you will
not like that, my tulip.'
On that point he was right; for if there was a person in the world of
whom Mr. Thomasson stood in especial awe, it was of Lady Dunborough. My
lord, the author of 'Pomaria Britannica' and 'The Elegant Art of
Pomiculture as applied to Landscape Gardening,' was a quantity he could
safely neglect. Beyond his yew-walks and his orchards his lordship was a
cipher. He had proved too respectable even for the peerage; and of late
had cheerfully resigned all his affairs into the hands of his wife,
formerly the Lady Michal M'Intosh, a penniless beauty, with the pride of
a Scotchwoman and the temper of a Hervey. Her enemies said that my lady
had tripped in the merry days of George the Second, and now made up for
past easiness by present hardness. Her friends--but it must be confessed
her ladyship had no friends.
Be that as it might, Mr. Thomasson had refrained from summoning her to
her son's bedside; partly because the surgeons had quickly pronounced
the wound a trifle, much more because the little he had seen of her
ladyship had left him no taste to see more. He knew, however, that the
omission would weigh heavily against him were it known; and as he had
hopes from my lady's aristocratic connections, and need in certain
difficulties of all the aid he could muster, he found the threat not one
to be sneezed at. His laugh betrayed this.
However, he tried to put the best face on the matter. 'You won't do
that,' he said. 'She would spoil sport, my friend. Her ladyship is no
fool, and would not suffer your little amusements.'
'She is no fool,' Mr. Dunborough replied with emphasis. 'As you will
find, Tommy, if she comes to Oxford, and learns certain things. It will
be farewell to your chance of having that milksop of a Marquis for
Now, it was one of Mr. Thomasson's highest ambitions at this time to
have the young Marquis of Carmarthen entrusted to him; and Lady
Dunborough was connected with the family, and, it was said, had interest
there. He was silent.
'You see,' Mr. Dunborough continued, marking with a chuckle the effect
his words had produced, 'you have got to get her.'
Mr. Thomasson did not admit that that was so, but he writhed in his
chair; and presently he took his leave and went away, his plump pale
face gloomy and the crow's feet showing plain at the corners of his
eyes. He had given no promise; but that evening a messenger from the
college requested Mrs. Masterson to attend at his rooms on the
She did not go. At the appointed hour, however, there came a knock on
the tutor's door, and that gentleman, who had sent his servant out of
the way, found Mr. Fishwick on the landing. 'Tut-tut!' said the don with
some brusqueness, his hand still on the door; 'do you want me?' He had
seen the attorney after the duel, and in the confusion attendant on the
injured man's removal; and knew him by sight, but no farther.
'I--hem--I think you wished to see Mrs. Masterson?' was Mr. Fishwick's
answer, and the lawyer, but with all humility, made as if he
The tutor, however, barred the way. 'I wished to see Mrs. Masterson,' he
said drily, and with his coldest air of authority. 'But who are you?'
'I am here on her behalf,' Mr. Fishwick answered, meekly pressing his
hat in his hands.
'On her behalf?' said Mr. Thomasson stiffly. 'Is she ill?'
'No, sir, I do not know that she is ill.'
'Then I do not understand,' Mr. Thomasson answered in his most dignified
tone. 'Are you aware that the woman is in the position of a college
servant, inhabiting a cottage the property of the college? And liable to
be turned out at the college will?'
'It may be so,' said the attorney.
'Then, if you please, what is the meaning of her absence when requested
by one of the Fellows of the college to attend?'
'I am here to represent her,' said Mr. Fishwick.
'Represent her! Represent a college laundress! Pooh! I never heard of
such a thing.'
'But, sir, I am her legal adviser, and--'
'Legal adviser!' Mr. Thomasson retorted, turning purple--he was really
puzzled. 'A bedmaker with a legal adviser! It's the height of impudence!
Begone, sir, and take it from me, that the best advice you can give her
is to attend me within the hour.'
Mr. Fishwick looked rather blue. 'If it has nothing to do with her
property,' he said reluctantly, and as if he had gone too far.
'Property!' said Mr. Thomasson, gasping.
'Or her affairs.'
'Affairs!' the tutor cried. 'I never heard of a bedmaker having
'Well,' said the lawyer doggedly, and with the air of a man goaded into
telling what he wished to conceal, 'she is leaving Oxford. That is
'Oh!' said Mr. Thomasson, falling on a sudden into the minor key. 'And
'And her daughter.'
'That is unfortunate,' the tutor answered, thoughtfully rubbing his
hands. 'The truth is--the girl proved so good a nurse in the case of my
noble friend who was injured the other day--my lord Viscount
Dunborough's son, a most valuable life--that since she absented herself,
he has not made the same progress. And as I am responsible for him--'
'She should never have attended him!' the attorney answered with
'Indeed! And why not, may I ask?' the tutor inquired.
Mr. Fishwick did not answer the question. Instead, 'She would not have
gone to him in the first instance,' he said, 'but that she was under a
'She thought that the duel lay at her door,' the attorney answered; 'and
in that belief was impelled to do what she could to undo the
consequences. Romantic, but a most improper step!'
'Improper!' said the tutor, much ruffled. 'And why, sir?'
'Most improper,' the attorney repeated in a dry, business-like tone. 'I
am instructed that the gentleman had for weeks past paid her attentions
which, his station considered, could scarcely be honourable, and of
which she had more than once expressed her dislike. Under those
circumstances, to expose her to his suit--but no more need be said,' the
attorney added, breaking off and taking a pinch of snuff with great
enjoyment, 'as she is leaving the city.'
Mr. Thomasson had much ado to mask his chagrin under a show of
contemptuous incredulity. 'The wench has too fine a conceit of herself!'
he blurted out. 'Hark you, sir--this is a fable! I wonder you dare to
put it about. A gentleman of the station of my lord Dunborough's son
does not condescend to the gutter!'
'I will convey the remark to my client,' said the attorney, bristling
'Client!' Mr. Thomasson retorted, trembling with rage--for he saw the
advantage he had given the enemy. 'Since when had laundry maids lawyers?
Client! Pho! Begone, sir! You are abusive. I'll have you looked up on
the rolls. I'll have your name taken!'
'I would not talk of names if I were you,' cried Mr. Fishwick, reddening
in his turn with rage. 'Men give a name to what you are doing this
morning, and it is not a pleasant one. It is to be hoped, sir, that Mr.
Dunborough pays you well for your services!'
'You--insolent rascal!' the tutor stammered, losing in a moment all his
dignity and becoming a pale flabby man, with the spite and the terror of
crime in his face. 'You--begone! Begone, sir.'
'Willingly,' said the attorney, swelling with defiance. 'You may tell
your principal that when he means marriage, he may come to us. Not
before. I take my leave, sir. Good morning.' And with that he strutted
out and marched slowly and majestically down the stairs.
He bore off the honours of war. Mr. Thomasson, left among his Titian
copies, his gleaming Venuses, and velvet curtains, was a sorry thing.
The man who preserves a cloak of outward decency has always this
vulnerable spot; strip him, and he sees himself as others see or may see
him, and views his ugliness with griping qualms. Mr. Thomasson bore the
exposure awhile, sitting white and shaking in a chair, seeing himself
and seeing the end, and, like the devils, believing and trembling. Then
he rose and staggered to a little cupboard, the door of which was
adorned with a pretty Greek motto, and a hovering Cupid painted in a
blue sky; whence he filled himself a glass of cordial. A second glass
followed; this restored the colour to his cheeks and the brightness to
his eyes. He shivered; then smacked his lips and began to reflect what
face he should put upon it when he went to report to his pupil.
In deciding that point he made a mistake. Unluckily for himself and
others, in the version which he chose he was careful to include all
matters likely to arouse Dunborough's resentment; in particular he laid
malicious stress upon the attorney's scornful words about a marriage.
This, however--and perhaps the care he took to repeat it--had an
unlooked-for result. Mr. Dunborough began by cursing the rogue's
impudence, and did it with all the heat his best friend could desire.
But, being confined to his room, haunted by the vision of his flame, yet
debarred from any attempt to see her, his mood presently changed; his
heart became as water, and he fell into a maudlin state about her.
Dwelling constantly on memories of his Briseis--whose name, by the way,
was Julia--having her shape and complexion, her gentle touch and her
smile, always in his mind, while he was unable in the body to see so
much as the hem of her gown, Achilles grew weaker in will as he grew
stronger in body. Headstrong and reckless by nature, unaccustomed to
thwart a desire or deny himself a gratification, Mr. Dunborough began to
contemplate paying even the last price for her; and one day, about three
weeks after the duel, dropped a word which frightened Mr. Thomasson.
He was well enough by this time to be up, and was looking through one
window while the tutor lounged in the seat of another. On a sudden
'Lord!' said he, with a laugh that broke off short in the middle. 'What
was the queer catch that fellow sang last night? About a bailiff's
daughter. Well, why not a porter's daughter?'
'Because you are neither young enough, nor old enough, nor mad enough!'
said Mr. Thomasson cynically, supposing the other meant nothing.
'It is she that would be mad,' the young gentleman answered, with a grim
chuckle. 'I should take it out of her sooner or later. And, after all,
she is as good as Lady Macclesfield or Lady Falmouth! As good? She is
better, the saucy baggage! By the Lord, I have a good mind to do it!'
Mr. Thomasson sat dumbfounded. At length, 'You are jesting! You cannot
mean it,' he said.
'If it is marriage or nothing--and, hang her, she is as cold as a church
pillar--I do mean it,' the gentleman answered viciously; 'and so would
you if you were not an old insensible sinner! Think of her ankle, man!
Think of her waist! I never saw a waist to compare with it! Even in the
Havanna! She is a pearl! She is a jewel! She is incomparable!'
'And a porter's daughter!'
'Faugh, I don't believe it.' And he took his oath on the point.
'You make me sick!' Mr. Thomasson said; and meant it. Then, 'My dear
friend, I see how it is,' he continued. 'You have the fever on you
still, or you would not dream of such things.'
'But I do dream of her--every night, confound her!' Mr. Dunborough said;
and he groaned like a love-sick boy. 'Oh, hang it, Tommy,' he continued
plaintively, 'she has a kind of look in her eyes when she is
pleased--that makes you think of dewy mornings when you were a boy and
'It _is_ the fever!' Mr. Thomasson said, with conviction. 'It is heavy
on him still.' Then, more seriously, 'My very dear sir,' he continued,
'do you know that if you had your will you would be miserable within the
''Tis tumult, disorder, 'tis loathing and hate;
Caprice gives it birth, and contempt is its fate!'
'Gad, Tommy!' said Mr. Dunborough, aghast with admiration at the aptness
of the lines. 'That is uncommon clever of you! But I shall do it all the
same,' he continued, in a tone of melancholy foresight. 'I know I shall.
I am a fool, a particular fool. But I shall do it. Marry in haste and
repent at leisure!'
'A porter's daughter become Lady Dunborough!' cried Mr. Thomasson with
'Oh yes, my tulip,' Mr. Dunborough answered with gloomy meaning. 'But
there have been worse. I know what I know. See Collins's Peerage, volume
4, page 242: "Married firstly Sarah, widow of Colonel John Clark, of
Exeter, in the county of Devon"--all a hum, Tommy! If they had said
spinster, of Bridewell, in the county of Middlesex, 'twould have been
as true! I know what I know.'
After that Mr. Thomasson went out of Magdalen, feeling that the world
was turning round with him. If Dunborough were capable of such a step as
this--Dunborough, who had seen life and service, and of whose past he
knew a good deal--where was he to place dependence? How was he to trust
even the worst of his acquaintances? The matter shook the pillars of the
tutor's house, and filled him with honest disgust.
Moreover, it frightened him. In certain circumstances he might have
found his advantage in fostering such a _mesalliance_. But here, not
only had he reason to think himself distasteful to the young lady whose
elevation was in prospect, but he retained too vivid a recollection of
Lady Dunborough to hope that that lady would forget or forgive him!
Moreover, at the present moment he was much straitened for money;
difficulties of long standing were coming to a climax. Venuses and
Titian copies have to be paid for. The tutor, scared by the prospect, to
which he had lately opened his eyes, saw in early preferment or a
wealthy pupil his only way of escape. And in Lady Dunborough lay his
main hope, which a catastrophe of this nature would inevitably shatter.
That evening he sent his servant to learn what he could of the
The man brought word that they had left the town that morning; that the
cottage was closed, and the key had been deposited at the college gates.
'Did you learn their destination?' the tutor asked, trimming his
fingernails with an appearance of indifference.
The servant said he had not; and after adding the common gossip of the
court, that Masterson had left money, and the widow had gone to her own
people, concluded, 'But they were very close after Masterson's death,
and the neighbours saw little of them. There was a lawyer in and out, a
stranger; and it is thought he was to marry the girl, and that that had
set them a bit above their position, sir.'
'That will do,' said the tutor. 'I want to hear no gossip,' And, hiding
his joy, he went off hot-foot to communicate the news to his pupil.
But Mr. Dunborough laughed in his face. 'Pooh!' he said. 'I know where
'You know? Then where are they?' Thomasson asked.
'Ah, my good Tommy, that is telling.'
'Well,' Mr. Thomasson answered, with an assumption of dignity. 'At any
rate they are gone. And you must allow me to say that I am glad of
it--for your sake!'
'That is as may be,' Mr. Dunborough answered. And he took his first
airing in a sedan next day. After that he grew so reticent about his
affairs, and so truculent when the tutor tried to sound him, that Mr.
Thomasson was at his wits' end to discern what was afoot. For some time,
however, he got no clue. Then, going to Dunborough's rooms one day, he
found them empty, and, bribing the servant, learned that his master had
gone to Wallingford. And the man told him his suspicions. Mr. Thomasson
was aghast; and by that day's post--after much searching of heart and
long pondering into which scale he should throw his weight--he
despatched the following letter to Lady Dunborough:
'HONOURED MADAM,--The peculiar care I have of that distinguished and
excellent gentleman, your son, no less than the profound duty I owe to
my lord and your ladyship, induces me to a step which I cannot regard
without misgiving; since, once known, it must deprive me of the
influence with Mr. Dunborough which I have now the felicity to enjoy,
and which, heightened by the affection he is so good as to bestow on me,
renders his society the most agreeable in the world. Nevertheless, and
though considerations of this sort cannot but have weight with me, I am
not able to be silent, nor allow your honoured repose among the storied
oaks of Papworth to be roughly shattered by a blow that may still be
averted by skill and conduct.
'For particulars, Madam, the young gentleman--I say it with regret--has
of late been drawn into a connection with a girl of low origin and
suitable behaviour, Not that your ladyship is to think me so wanting in
_savoir-faire_ as to trouble your ears with this, were it all; but the
person concerned--who (I need scarcely tell one so familiar with Mr.
Dunborough's amiable disposition) is solely to blame--has the wit to
affect virtue, and by means of this pretence, often resorted to by
creatures of that class, has led my generous but misguided pupil to the
point of matrimony. Your ladyship shudders? Alas! it is so. I have
learned within the hour that he has followed her to Wallingford, whither
she has withdrawn herself, doubtless to augment his passion; I am forced
to conclude that nothing short of your ladyship's presence and advice
can now stay his purpose. In that belief, and with the most profound
regret, I pen these lines; and respectfully awaiting the favour of your
ladyship's commands, which shall ever evoke my instant compliance,
'I have the honour to be while I live, Madam,
Your ladyship's most humble obedient servant,
'_Nota bene_.--I do not commend the advantage of silence in regard to
this communication, this being patent to your ladyship's sagacity.'
THE OLD BATH ROAD
In the year 1757--to go back ten years from the spring with which we are
dealing--the ordinary Englishman was a Balbus despairing of the State.
No phrase was then more common on English lips, or in English ears, than
the statement that the days of England's greatness were numbered, and
were fast running out. Unwitting the wider sphere about to open before
them, men dwelt fondly on the glories of the past. The old babbled of
Marlborough's wars, of the entrance of Prince Eugene into London, of
choirs draped in flags, and steeples reeling giddily for Ramillies and
Blenheim. The young listened, and sighed to think that the day had been,
and was not, when England gave the law to Europe, and John Churchill's
warder set troops moving from Hamburg to the Alps.
On the top of such triumphs, and the famous reign of good Queen Anne,
had ensued forty years of peace, broken only by one inglorious war. The
peace did its work: it settled the dynasty, and filled the purse; but
men, considering it, whispered of effeminacy and degeneracy, and the
like, as men will to the end of time. And when the clouds, long sighted
on the political horizon, began to roll up, they looked fearfully abroad
and doubted and trembled; and doubted and trembled the more because in
home affairs all patriotism, all party-spirit, all thought of things
higher than ribbon or place or pension, seemed to be dead among public
men. The Tories, long deprived of power, and discredited by the taint or
suspicion of Jacobitism, counted for nothing. The Whigs, agreed on all
points of principle, and split into sections, the Ins and Outs, solely
by the fact that all could not enjoy places and pensions at once, the
supply being unequal to the demand--had come to regard politics as
purely a game; a kind of licensed hazard played for titles, orders, and
emoluments, by certain families who had the _entree_ to the public table
by virtue of the part they had played in settling the succession.
Into the midst of this state of things, this world of despondency,
mediocrity, selfishness, and chicanery, and at the precise crisis when
the disasters which attended the opening campaigns of the Seven Years'
War--and particularly the loss of Minorca--seemed to confirm the
gloomiest prognostications of the most hopeless pessimists, came William
Pitt; and in eighteen months changed the face of the world, not for his
generation only, but for ours. Indifferent as an administrator, mediocre
as a financier, passionate, haughty, headstrong, with many of the worst
faults of an orator, he was still a man with ideals--a patriot among
placemen, pure where all were corrupt. And the effect of his touch was
magical. By infusing his own spirit, his own patriotism, his own belief
in his country, and his own belief in himself, into those who worked
with him--ay, and into the better half of England--he wrought a
See, for instance, what Mr. Walpole wrote to Sir Horace Mann in
September, 1757. 'For how many years,' he says, 'have I been telling you
that your country was mad, that your country was undone! It does not
grow wiser, it does not grow more prosperous! ... How do you behave on
these lamentable occasions? Oh, believe me, it is comfortable to have an
island to hide one's head in! ...' Again he writes in the same month,'
'It is time for England to slip her own cables, and float away into some
With these compare a letter dated November, 1759. 'Indeed,' he says to
the same correspondent, 'one is forced to ask every morning what victory
there is, for fear of missing one.' And he wrote with reason. India,
Canada, Belleisle, the Mississippi, the Philippines, the Havanna,
Martinique, Guadaloupe--there was no end to our conquests. Wolfe fell in
the arms of victory, Clive came home the satrap of sovereigns; but day
by day ships sailed in and couriers spurred abroad with the news that a
new world and a nascent empire were ours. Until men's heads reeled and
maps failed them, as they asked each morning 'What new land, to-day?'
Until those who had despaired of England awoke and rubbed their
eyes--awoke to find three nations at her feet, and the dawn of a new and
wider day breaking in the sky.
And what of the minister? They called him the Great Commoner, the
heaven-born statesman; they showered gold boxes upon him; they bore him
through the city, the centre of frantic thousands, to the effacement
even of the sovereign. Where he went all heads were bared; while he
walked the rooms at Bath and drank the water, all stood; his very sedan,
built with a boot to accommodate his gouty foot, was a show followed and
watched wherever it moved. A man he had never seen left him a house and
three thousand pounds a year; this one, that one, the other one,
legacies. In a word, for a year or two he was the idol of the
nation--the first great People's Minister.
Then, the crisis over, the old system lifted its head again; the
mediocrities returned; and, thwarted by envious rivals and a jealous
king, Pitt placed the crown alike on his services and his popularity by
resigning power when he could no longer dictate the policy which he
knew to be right. Nor were events slow to prove his wisdom. The war with
Spain which he would have declared, Spain declared. The treasure fleet
which he would have seized, escaped us. Finally, the peace when it came
redounded to his credit, for in the main it secured his conquests--to
the disgrace of his enemies, since more might have been obtained.
Such was the man who, restored to office and lately created an earl by
the title of Chatham, lay ill at Bath in the spring of '67. The passage
of time, the course of events, the ravages of gout, in a degree the
acceptance of a title, had robbed his popularity of its first gloss. But
his name was still a name to conjure with in England. He was still the
idol of the City. Crowds still ran to see him where he passed. His gaunt
figure racked with gout, his eagle nose, his piercing eyes, were still
England's picture of a minister. His curricle, his troop of servants,
the very state he kept, the ceremony with which he travelled, all
pleased the popular fancy. When it was known that he was well enough to
leave Bath, and would lie a night at the Castle Inn at Marlborough, his
suite requiring twenty rooms, even that great hostelry, then reputed one
of the best, as it was certainly the most splendid in England, and
capable, it was said, of serving a dinner of twenty-four covers on
silver, was in an uproar. The landlord, who knew the tastes of half the
peerage, and which bin Lord Sandwich preferred, and which Mr. Rigby, in
which rooms the Duchess or Lady Betty liked to lie, what Mr. Walpole
took with his supper, and which shades the Princess Amelia preferred for
her card-table--even he, who had taken his glass of wine with a score of
dukes, from Cumberland the Great to Bedford the Little, was put to it;
the notice being short, and the house somewhat full.
Fortunately the Castle Inn, on the road between London and the west,
was a place of call, not of residence. Formerly a favourite residence of
the Seymour family, and built, if tradition does not lie, by a pupil of
Inigo Jones, it stood--and for the house, still stands--in a snug fold
of the downs, at the end of the long High Street of Marlborough; at the
precise point where the route to Salisbury debouches from the Old Bath
Road. A long-fronted, stately mansion of brick, bosomed in trees, and
jealous of its historic past--it had sheltered William of Orange--it
presented to the north and the road, from which it was distant some
hundred yards, a grand pillared portico flanked by projecting wings. At
that portico, and before those long rows of shapely windows, forty
coaches, we are told, changed horses every day. Beside the western wing
of the house a green sugarloaf mound, reputed to be of Druidical origin,
rose above the trees; it was accessible by a steep winding path, and
crowned at the date of this story by a curious summer-house. Travellers
from the west who merely passed on the coach, caught, if they looked
back as they entered the town, a glimpse of groves and lawns laid out by
the best taste of the day, between the southern front and the river. To
these a doorway and a flight of stone steps, corresponding in position
with the portico in the middle of the north front, conducted the
visitor, who, if a man of feeling, was equally surprised and charmed to
find in these shady retreats, stretching to the banks of the Kennet, a
silence and beauty excelled in few noblemen's gardens. In a word, while
the north front of the house hummed with the revolving wheels, and
echoed the chatter of half the fashionable world bound for the Bath or
the great western port of Bristol, the south front reflected the taste
of that Lady Hertford who had made these glades and trim walks her
With all its charms, however, the traveller, as we have said, stayed
there but a night or so. Those in the house, therefore, would move on,
and so room could be made. And so room was made; and two days later, a
little after sunset, amid a spasm of final preparation, and with a great
parade of arrival, the earl's procession, curricle, chariot, coaches,
chaises, and footmen, rolled in from the west. In a trice lights flashed
everywhere, in the road, at the windows, on the mound, among the trees;
the crowd thickened--every place seemed peopled with the Pitt liveries.
Women, vowing that they were cramped to death, called languidly for
chaise-doors to be opened; and men who had already descended, and were
stretching their limbs in the road, ran to open them. This was in the
rear of the procession; in front, where the throng of townsfolk closed
most thickly round the earl's travelling chariot, was a sudden baring of
heads, as the door of the coach was opened. The landlord, bowing lower
than he had ever bowed to the proud Duke of Somerset, offered his
shoulder. And then men waited and bent nearer; and nothing happening,
looked at one another in surprise. Still no one issued; instead,
something which the nearest could not catch was said, and a tall lady,
closely hooded, stepped stiffly out and pointed to the house. On which
the landlord and two or three servants hurried in; and all was
The men were out again in a moment, bearing a great chair, which they
set with nicety at the door of the carriage. This done, the gapers saw
what they had come to see. For an instant, the face that all England
knew and all Europe feared--but blanched, strained, and drawn with
pain--showed in the opening. For a second the crowd was gratified with a
glimpse of a gaunt form, a star and ribbon; then, with a groan heard far
through the awestruck silence, the invalid sank heavily into the chair,
and was borne swiftly and silently into the house.
Men looked at one another; but the fact was better than their fears. My
lord, after leaving Bath, had had a fresh attack of the gout; and when
he would be able to proceed on his journey only Dr. Addington, his
physician, whose gold-headed cane, great wig, and starched aspect did
not foster curiosity, could pretend to say. Perhaps Mr. Smith, the
landlord, was as much concerned as any; when he learned the state of the
case, he fell to mental arithmetic with the assistance of his fingers,
and at times looked blank. Counting up the earl and his gentleman, and
his gentleman's gentleman, and his secretary, and his private secretary,
and his physician, and his three friends and their gentlemen, and my
lady and her woman, and the children and nurses, and a crowd of others,
he could not see where to-morrow's travellers were to lie, supposing the
minister remained. However, in the end, he set that aside as a question
for to-morrow; and having seen Mr. Rigby's favourite bin opened (for Dr.
Addington was a connoisseur), and reviewed the cooks dishing up the
belated dinner--which an endless chain of servants carried to the
different apartments--he followed to the principal dining-room, where
the minister's company were assembled; and between the intervals of
carving and seeing that his guests ate to their liking, enjoyed the
conversation, and, when invited, joined in it with tact and
self-respect. As became a host of the old school.
By this time lights blazed in every window of the great mansion; the
open doors emitted a fragrant glow of warmth and welcome; the rattle of
plates and hum of voices could be heard in the road a hundred paces
away. But outside and about the stables the hubbub had somewhat
subsided, the road had grown quiet, and the last townsfolk had
withdrawn, when a little after seven the lamps of a carriage appeared
in the High Street, approaching from the town. It swept round the
church, turned the flank of the house, and in a twinkling drew up before
'Hilloa! House!' cried the postillion. 'House!' And, cracking his whip
on his boot, he looked up at the rows of lighted windows.
A man and a maid who travelled outside climbed down. As the man opened
the carriage door, a servant bustled out of the house. 'Do you want
fresh horses?' said he, in a kind of aside to the footman.
'No--rooms!' the man answered bluntly.
Before the other could reply, 'What is this?' cried a shrewish voice
from the interior of the carriage. 'Hoity toity! This is a nice way of
receiving company! You, fellow, go to your master and say that I
'Say that the Lady Dunborough is here,' an unctuous voice repeated, 'and
requires rooms, dinners, fire, and the best he has. And do you be
The speaker was Mr. Thomasson, or rather Mr. Thomasson plus the
importance which comes of travelling with a viscountess. This, and
perhaps the cramped state of his limbs, made him a little long in
descending. 'Will your ladyship wait? or will you allow me to have the
honour of assisting you to descend?' he continued, shivering slightly
from the cold. To tell the truth, he was not enjoying his honour on
cheap terms. Save the last hour, her ladyship's tongue had gone without
ceasing, and Mr. Thomasson was sorely in need of refreshment.
'Descend? No!' was the tart answer. 'Let the man come! Sho! Times are
changed since I was here last. I had not to wait then, or break my shins
in the dark! Has the impudent fellow gone in?'
He had, but at this came out again, bearing lights before his master.
The host, with the civility which marked landlords in those days--the
halcyon days of inns--hurried down the steps to the carriage. 'Dear me!
Dear me! I am most unhappy!' he exclaimed. 'Had I known your ladyship
was travelling, some arrangement should have been made. I declare, my
lady, I would not have had this happen for twenty pounds! But--'
'But what, man! What is the man mouthing about?' she cried impatiently.
'I am full,' he said, extending his palms to express his despair.' The
Earl of Chatham and his lordship's company travelling from Bath occupy
all the west wing and the greater part of the house; and I have
positively no rooms fit for your ladyship's use. I am grieved,
desolated, to have to say this to a person in your ladyship's position,'
he continued glibly, 'and an esteemed customer, but--' and again he
extended his hands.
'A fig for your desolation!' her ladyship cried rudely. 'It don't help
'But your ladyship sees how it is.'
'I am hanged if I do!' she retorted, and used an expression too coarse
for modern print. 'But I suppose that there is another house, man.'
'Certainly, my lady--several,' the landlord answered, with a gesture of
deprecation. 'But all full. And the accommodation not of a kind to suit
your ladyship's tastes.'
'Then--what are we to do?' she asked with angry shrillness.
'We have fresh horses,' he ventured to suggest. 'The road is good, and
in four hours, or four and a half at the most, your ladyship might be in
Bath, where there is an abundance of good lodgings.'
'Bless the man!' cried the angry peeress. 'Does he think I have a skin
of leather to stand this jolting and shaking? Four hours more! I'll lie
in my carriage first!'
A small rain was beginning to fall, and the night promised to be wet as
well as cold. Mr. Thomasson, who had spent the last hour, while his
companion slept, in visions of the sumptuous dinner, neat wines, and
good beds that awaited him at the Castle Inn, cast a despairing glance
at the doorway, whence issued a fragrance that made his mouth water.
'Oh, positively,' he cried, addressing the landlord, 'something must be
done, my good man. For myself, I can sleep in a chair if her ladyship
can anyway be accommodated.'
'Well,' said the landlord dubiously, 'if her ladyship could allow her
woman to lie with her?'
'Bless the man! Why did you not say that at once?' cried my lady. 'Oh,
she may come!' This last in a voice that promised little comfort for
'And if the reverend gentleman--would put up with a couch below stairs?'
'Yes, yes,' said Mr. Thomasson; but faintly, now it came to the point.
'Then I think I can manage--if your ladyship will not object to sup with
some guests who have just arrived, and are now sitting down? Friends of
Sir George Soane,' the landlord hastened to add, 'whom your ladyship
'Drat the man!--too well!' Lady Dunborough answered, making a wry face.
For by this time she had heard all about the duel. 'He has nearly cost
me dear! But, there--if we must, we must. Let me get my tooth in the
dinner, and I won't stand on my company.' And she proceeded to descend,
and, the landlord going before her, entered the house.
In those days people were not so punctilious in certain directions as
they now are. My lady put off her French hood and travelling cloak in
the lobby of the east wing, gave her piled-up hair a twitch this way and
that, unfastened her fan from her waist, and sailed in to supper, her
maid carrying her gloves and scent-bottle behind her. The tutor, who
wore no gloves, was a little longer. But having washed his hands at a
pump in the scullery, and dried them on a roller-towel--with no sense
that the apparatus was deficient--he tucked his hat under his arm and,
handling his snuff-box, tripped after her as hastily as vanity and an
elegant demeanour permitted.
He found her in the act of joining, with an air of vast condescension, a
party of three; two of whom her stately salute had already frozen in
their places. These two, a slight perky man of middle age, and a
frightened rustic-looking woman in homely black--who, by the way, sat
with her mouth, open and her knife and fork resting points upward on the
table--could do nothing but stare. The third, a handsome girl, very
simply dressed, returned her ladyship's gaze with mingled interest
My lady noticed this, and the girl's elegant air and shape, and set down
the other two for her duenna and her guardian's man of business. Aware
that Sir George Soane had no sister, she scented scandal, and lost not a
moment in opening the trenches.
'And how far have you come to-day, child?' she asked with condescension,
as soon as she had taken her seat.
'From Reading, madam,' the girl answered in a voice low and restrained.
Her manner was somewhat awkward, and she had a shy air, as if her
surroundings were new to her, But Lady Dunborough was more and more
impressed with her beauty, and a natural air of refinement that was not
to be mistaken.
'The roads are insufferably crowded,' said the peeress. 'They are
'I am afraid you suffered some inconvenience,' the girl answered
At that moment Mr. Thomasson entered. He treated the strangers to a
distant bow, and, without looking at them, took his seat with a
nonchalant ease, becoming a man who travelled with viscountesses, and
was at home in the best company. The table had his first hungry glance.
He espied roast and cold, a pair of smoking ducklings just set on, a
dish of trout, a round of beef, a pigeon-pie, and hot rolls. Relieved,
he heaved a sigh of satisfaction.
''Pon honour this is not so bad!' he said. 'It is not what your ladyship
is accustomed to, but at a pinch it will do. It will do!'
He was not unwilling that the strangers should know his companion's
rank, and he stole a glance at them, as he spoke, to see what impression
it made. Alas! the deeper impression was made on himself. For a moment
he stared; the next he sprang to his feet with an oath plain and strong.
'Drat the man!' cried my lady in wrath. He had come near to oversetting
her plate. 'What flea has bitten you now?'
'Do you know--who these people are?' Mr. Thomasson stammered, trembling
with rage; and, resting both hands on the back of his chair, he glared
now at them and now at Lady Dunborough. He could be truculent where he
had nothing to fear; and he was truculent now.
'These people?' my lady drawled in surprise; and she inspected them
through her quizzing-glass as coolly as if they were specimens of a rare
order submitted to her notice. 'Not in the least, my good man. Who are
they? Should I know them?'
But the little man, whose seat happened to be opposite the tutor's, had
risen to his feet by this time; and at that word cut him short. 'Sir!'
he cried in a flutter of agitation. 'Have a care! Have a care what you
say! I am a lawyer, and I warn you that anything defamatory
'Pooh!' said Mr. Thomasson. 'Don't try to browbeat me, sir. These
persons are impostors, Lady Dunborough! Impostors!' he continued. 'In
this house, at any rate. They have no right to be here!'
'You shall pay for this!' shrieked Mr. Fishwick. For he it was.
'I will ring the bell,' the tutor continued in a high tone, 'and have
them removed. They have no more to do with Sir George Soane, whose name
they appear to have taken, than your ladyship has.'
'Have a care! Have a care, sir,' cried the lawyer, trembling.
'Or than I have!' persisted Mr. Thomasson hardily, and with his head in
the air; 'and no right or title to be anywhere but in the servants'
room. That is their proper place. Lady Dunborough,' he continued, his
eyes darting severity at the three culprits, 'are you aware that this
young person whom you have been so kind as to notice is--is--'
'Oh, Gadzooks, man, come to the point!' cried her ladyship, with one eye
on the victuals.
'No, I will not shame her publicly,' said Mr. Thomasson, swelling with
virtuous self-restraint. 'But if your ladyship would honour me with two
Lady Dunborough rose, muttering impatiently; and Mr. Thomasson, with the
air of a just man in a parable, led her a little aside; but so that the
three who remained at the table might still feel that his eye and his
reprehension rested on them. He spoke a few words to her ladyship;
whereon she uttered a faint cry, and stiffened. A moment and she turned
and came back to the table, her face crimson, her headdress nodding.
She looked at the girl, who had just risen to her feet.
'You baggage!' she hissed, 'begone! Out of this house! How dare you sit
in my presence?' And she pointed to the door.
ST. GEORGE AND THE DRAGON
The scene presented by the room at this moment was sufficiently
singular. The waiters, drawn to the spot by the fury of my lady's tone,
peered in at the half-opened door, and asking one another what the
fracas was about, thought so; and softly called to others to witness it.
On one side of the table rose Lady Dunborough, grim and venomous; on the
other the girl stood virtually alone--for the elder woman had fallen to
weeping helplessly, and the attorney seemed to be unequal to this new
combatant. Even so, and though her face betrayed trouble and some
irresolution, she did not blench, but faced her accuser with a slowly
rising passion that overcame her shyness.
'Madam,' she said, 'I did not clearly catch your name. Am I right in
supposing that you are Lady Dunborough?'
The peeress swallowed her rage with difficulty. 'Go!' she cried, and
pointed afresh to the door. 'How dare you bandy words with me? Do you
hear me? Go!'
'I am not going at your bidding,' the girl answered slowly. 'Why do you
speak to me like that?' And then, 'You have no right to speak to me in
that way!' she continued, in a flush of indignation.
'You impudent creature!' Lady Dunborough cried. 'You shameless,
abandoned baggage! Who brought you in out of the streets? You, a
kitchen-wench, to be sitting at this table smiling at your betters!
I'll--Ring the bell! Ring the bell, fool!' she continued impetuously,
and scathed Mr. Thomasson with a look. 'Fetch the landlord, and let me
see this impudent hussy thrown out! Ay, madam, I suppose you are here
waiting for my son; but you have caught me instead, and I'll be
'You'll disgrace yourself,' the girl retorted with quiet pride. But she
was very white. 'I know nothing of your son.'
'A fig for the lie, mistress!' cried the old harridan; and added, as was
too much the fashion in those days, a word we cannot print. The Duchess
of Northumberland had the greater name for coarseness; but Lady
Dunborough's tongue was known in town. 'Ay, that smartens you, does it?
'she continued with cruel delight; for the girl had winced as from a
blow. 'But here comes the landlord, and now out you go. Ay, into the
streets, mistress! Hoity-toity, that dirt like you should sit at tables!
Go wash the dishes, slut!'
There was not a waiter who saw the younger woman's shame who did not
long to choke the viscountess. As for the attorney, though he had vague
fears of privilege before his eyes, and was clogged by the sex of the
assailant, he could remain silent no longer.
'My lady,' he cried, in a tone of trembling desperation, 'you will--you
will repent this! You don't know what you are doing. I tell you that
'What is this?' said a quiet voice. It was the landlord's; he spoke as
he pushed his way through the group at the door. 'Has your ladyship some
complaint to make?' he continued civilly, his eye taking in the
scene--even to the elder woman, who through her tears kept muttering,
'Deary, we ought not to have come here! I told him we ought not to come
here!' And then, before her ladyship could reply, 'Is this the
party--that have Sir George Soane's rooms?' he continued, turning to
the nearest servant.
Lady Dunborough answered for the man. 'Ay!' she said, pitiless in her
triumph. 'They are! And know no more of Soane than the hair of my head!
They are a party of fly-by-nights; and for this fine madam, she is a
kitchen dish-washer at Oxford! And the commonest, lowest slut that--'
'Your ladyship has said enough,' the landlord interposed, moved by pity
or the girl's beauty. 'I know already that there has been some mistake
here, and that these persons have no right to the rooms they occupy. Sir
George Soane has alighted within the last few minutes--'
'And knows nothing of them!' my lady cried, clapping her hands in
'That is so,' the landlord answered ominously. Then, turning to the
bewildered attorney, 'For you, sir,' he continued, 'if you have anything
to say, be good enough to speak. On the face of it, this is a dirty
trick you have played me.'
'Trick?' cried the attorney.
'Ay, trick, man. But before I send for the constable--'
'The constable?' shrieked Mr. Fishwick. Truth to tell, it had been his
own idea to storm the splendours of the Castle Inn; and for certain
reasons he had carried it in the teeth of his companions' remonstrances.
Now between the suddenness of the onslaught made on them, the
strangeness of the surroundings, Sir George's inopportune arrival, and
the scornful grins of the servants who thronged the doorway, he was
cowed. For a moment his wonted sharpness deserted him; he faltered and
changed colour. 'I don't know what you mean,' he said. 'I gave--I gave
the name of Soane; and you--you assigned me the rooms. I thought it
particularly civil, sir, and was even troubled about the expense--'
'Is your name Soane?' Mr. Smith asked with blunt-ness; he grew more
suspicious as the other's embarrassment increased.
'No,' Mr. Fishwick admitted reluctantly. 'But this young lady's name--'
Mr. Thomasson stepped forward, grim as fate. 'That is not true,' he said
coldly. 'I am a Fellow of Pembroke College, Oxford, at present in
attendance on her ladyship; and I identify this person'--he pointed to
the girl--'as the daughter of a late servant of the College, and this
woman as her mother. I have no doubt that the last thing they expected
to find in this place was one who knew them.'
The landlord nodded. 'Joe,' he said, turning to a servant, 'fetch the
constable. You will find him at the Falcon.'
'That is talking!' cried my lady, clapping her hands gleefully. 'That is
talking!' And then addressing the girl, 'Now, madam,' she said, 'I'll
have your pride pulled down! If I don't have you in the stocks for this,
tease my back!'
There was a snigger at that, in the background, by the door; and a crush
to get in and see how the rogues took their exposure; for my lady's
shrill voice could be heard in the hall, and half the inn was running to
listen. Mrs. Masterson, who had collapsed at the mention of the
constable, and could now do nothing but moan and weep, and the attorney,
who spluttered vain threats in a voice quavering between fear and
passion evoked little sympathy. But the girl, who through all remained
silent, white, and defiant, who faced all, the fingers of one hand
drumming on the table before her, and her fine eyes brooding scornfully
on the crowd, drew from more than one the compliment of a quicker breath
and a choking throat. She was the handsomest piece they had seen, they
muttered, for many a day--as alien, from the other two as light from
darkness; and it is not in man's nature to see beauty humiliated, and
feel no unpleasant emotion. If there was to be a scene, and she did not
go quietly--in that case more than one in the front rank, who read the
pride in her eyes, wished he were elsewhere.
Suddenly the crowd about the door heaved. It opened slowly, and a voice,
airy and indifferent, was heard remarking, 'Ah! These are the people,
are they? Poor devils! 'Then a pause; and then, in a tone of
unmistakable surprise, 'Hallo!' the newcomer cried as he emerged and
stared at the scene before him. 'What is this?'
The attorney almost fell on his knees. 'Sir George!' he screamed. 'My
dear Sir George! Honoured sir, believe me I am innocent of any
'Tut-tut!' said Sir George, who might have just stepped out of his
dressing-closet instead of his carriage, so perfect was his array, from
the ruffles that fell gracefully over his wrists to the cravat that
supported his chin. 'Tut-tut! Lord, man, what is the meaning of this?'
'We are going to see,' the landlord answered drily, forestalling the
lawyer's reply. 'I have sent for the constable, Sir George.'
'But, Sir George, you'll speak for us?' Mr. Fishwick cried piteously,
cutting the other short in his turn. 'You will speak for us? You know
me. You know that I am a respectable man. Oh, dear me, if this were told
in Wallingford!' he continued; 'and I have a mother aged seventy! It is
a mistake--a pure mistake, as I am prepared to prove. I appeal to you,
sir. Both I and my friends--'
He was stopped on that word; and very strangely. The girl turned on him,
her cheeks scarlet. 'For shame!' she cried with indignation that seemed
to her hearers inexplicable. 'Be silent, will you?'
Sir George stared with the others. 'Oh!' said Lady Dunborough, 'so you
have found your voice, have you, miss--now that there is a
'But--what is it all about?' Sir George asked.
'They took your rooms, sir,' the landlord explained respectfully.
'Pooh! is that all?' Soane answered contemptuously. What moved him he
could not tell; but in his mind he had chosen his side. He did not like
'But they are not,' the landlord objected, 'they are not the persons
they say they are, Sir George.'
'Chut!' said Soane carelessly. 'I know this person, at any rate. He is
respectable enough. I don't understand it at all. Oh, is that you,
Mr. Thomasson had fallen back a pace on Sir George's entrance; but being
recognised he came forward. 'I think that you will acknowledge, my dear
sir,' he said persuasively--and his tone was very different from that
which he had taken ten minutes earlier--'that at any rate--they are not
proper persons to sit down with her ladyship.'
'But why should they sit down with her?' said Sir George the
fashionable, slightly raising his eyebrows.
'Hem--Sir George, this is Lady Dunborough,' replied Mr. Thomasson, not a
Soane's eyes twinkled as he returned the viscountess's glance. But he
bowed profoundly, and with a sweep of his hat that made the rustics
stare. 'Your ladyship's most humble servant,' he said. 'Allow me to hope
that Mr. Dunborough is perfectly recovered. Believe me, I greatly
regretted his mischance.'
But Lady Dunborough was not so foolish as to receive his overtures
according to the letter. She saw plainly that he had chosen his
side--the impertinent fop, with his airs and graces!--and she was not to
be propitiated. 'Pray leave my son's name apart,' she answered, tossing
her head contemptuously. 'After what has happened, sir, I prefer not to
discuss him with you.'
Sir George raised his eyebrows, and bowed as profoundly as before. 'That
is entirely as your ladyship pleases,' he said. Nevertheless he was not
accustomed to be snubbed, and he set a trifle to her account.
'But for that creature,' she continued, trembling with passion, 'I will
not sleep under the same roof with her.'
Sir George simpered. 'I am sorry for that,' he said. 'For I am afraid
that the Falcon in the town is not the stamp of house to suit your
The viscountess gasped. 'I should like to know why you champion her,'
she cried violently. 'I suppose you came here to meet her.'
'Alas, madam, I am not so happy,' he answered--with such blandness that
a servant by the door choked, and had to be hustled out in disgrace.
'But since Miss--er--Masterson is here, I shall be glad to place my
rooms at her--mother's disposal.'
'There are no rooms,' said the landlord. Between the two he was growing
'There are mine,' said Sir George drily.
'But for yourself, Sir George?'
'Oh, never mind me, my good man. I am here to meet Lord Chatham, and
some of his people will accommodate me.'
'Well, of course,' Mr. Smith answered, rubbing his hands dubiously--for
he had sent for the constable--'of course, Sir George--if you wish it.
I did not understand for whom the rooms were ordered, or--or this
unpleasantness would not have arisen.'
'To be sure,' Sir George drawled good-naturedly. 'Give the constable
half-a-crown, Smith, and charge it to me.' And he turned on his heel.
But at this appearance of a happy issue, Lady Dunborough's rage and
chagrin, which had been rising higher and higher with each word of the
dialogue, could no longer be restrained. In an awful voice, and with a
port of such majesty that an ordinary man must have shaken in his shoes
before her towering headdress, 'Am I to understand,' she cried, 'that,
after all that has been said about these persons, you propose to
The landlord looked particularly miserable; luckily he was saved from
the necessity of replying by an unexpected intervention.
'We are much obliged to your ladyship,' the girl behind the table said,
speaking rapidly, but in a voice rather sarcastic than vehement. 'There
were reasons why I thought it impossible that we should accept this
gentleman's offer. But the words you have applied to me, and the spirit
in which your ladyship has dealt with me, make it impossible for us to
withdraw and lie under the--the vile imputations, you have chosen to
cast upon me. For that reason,' she continued with spirit, her face
instinct with indignation, 'I do accept from this gentleman--and with
gratitude--what I would fain refuse. And if it be any matter to your
ladyship, you have only your unmannerly words to thank for it.'
'Ho! ho!' the viscountess cried in affected contempt. 'Are we to be
called in question by creatures like these? You vixen! I spit upon you!'
Mr. Thomasson smiled in a sickly fashion. For one thing, he began to
feel hungry; he had not supped. For another, he wished that he had kept
his mouth shut, or had never left Oxford. With a downcast air, 'I think
it might be better,' he said, 'if your ladyship were to withdraw from
But her ladyship was at that moment as dangerous as a tigress. 'You
think?' she cried. 'You think? I think you are a fool!'
A snigger from the doorway gave point to the words; on which Lady
Dunborough turned wrathfully in that direction. But the prudent landlord
had slipped away, Sir George also had retired, and the servants and
others, concluding the sport was at an end, were fast dispersing. She
saw that redress was not to be had, but that in a moment she would be
left alone with her foes; and though she was bursting with spite, the
prospect had no charms for her. For the time she had failed; nothing she
could say would now alter that. Moreover her ladyship was vaguely
conscious that in the girl, who still stood pitilessly behind the table,
as expecting her to withdraw, she had met her match. The beautiful face
and proud eyes that regarded her so steadfastly had a certain terror for
the battered great lady, who had all to lose in a conflict, and saw
dimly that coarse words had no power to hurt her adversary.
So Lady Dunborough, after a moment's hesitation, determined to yield the
field. Gathering her skirts about her with a last gesture of contempt,
she sailed towards the door, resolved not to demean herself by a single
word. But halfway across the room her resolution, which had nearly cost
her a fit, gave way. She turned, and withering the three travellers with
a glance, 'You--you abandoned creature!' she cried. 'I'll see you in the
stocks yet!' And she swept from the room.
Alas! the girl laughed: and my lady heard her!
Perhaps it was that; perhaps it was the fact that she had not dined,
and was leaving her supper behind her; perhaps it was only a general
exasperation rendered her ladyship deaf. From one cause or another she
lost something which her woman said to her--with no small appearance of
excitement--as they crossed the hall. The maid said it again, but with
no better success; and pressing nearer to say it a third time, when they
were halfway up the stairs, she had the misfortune to step on her
mistress's train. The viscountess turned in a fury, and slapped
'You clumsy slut!' she cried. 'Will that teach you to be more careful?'
The woman shrank away, one side of her face deep red, her eyes
glittering. Doubtless the pain was sharp; and though the thing had
happened before, it had never happened in public. But she suppressed her
feelings, and answered whimpering, 'If your ladyship pleases, I wished
to tell you that Mr. Dunborough is here.'
'Mr. Dunborough? Here?' the viscountess stammered.
'Yes, my lady, I saw him alighting as we passed the door.'
MOTHER AND SON
Lady Dunborough stood, as if turned to stone by the news. In the great
hall below, a throng of servants, the Pitt livery prominent among them,
were hurrying to and fro, with a clatter of dishes and plates, a
ceaseless calling of orders, a buzz of talk, and now and then a wrangle.
But the lobby and staircase of the west wing, on the first floor of
which she stood--and where the great man lay, at the end of a softly
lighted passage, his door guarded by a man and a woman seated motionless
in chairs beside it--were silent by comparison; the bulk of the guests
were still at supper or busy in the east or inferior wing; and my lady
had a moment to think, to trace the consequences of this inopportune
arrival, and to curse, now more bitterly than before, the failure of her
attempt to eject the girl from the house.
However, she was not a woman to lie down to her antagonists, and in the
depth of her stupor she had a thought. Her brow relaxed; she clutched
the maid's arm. 'Quick,' she whispered, 'go and fetch Mr. Thomasson--he
is somewhere below. Bring him here, but do not let Mr. Dunborough see
you as you pass! Quick, woman--run!'
The maid flew on her errand, leaving her mistress to listen and fret on
the stairs, in a state of suspense almost unbearable. She caught her
son's voice in the entrance hall, from which stately arched doorways led
to the side lobbies; but happily he was still at the door, engaged in
railing at a servant; and so far all was well. At any moment, however,
he might stride into the middle of the busy group in the hall; and then
if he saw Thomasson before the tutor had had his lesson, the trick, if
not the game, was lost. Her ladyship, scarcely breathing, hung over the
balustrade, and at length had the satisfaction of seeing Thomasson and
the woman enter the lobby at the foot of the stairs. In a trice the
tutor, looking scared, and a trifle sulky--for he had been taken from
his meat--stood at her side.
Lady Dunborough drew a breath of relief, and by a sign bade the maid
begone. 'You know who is below?' she whispered.
Mr. Thomasson nodded. 'I thought it was what you wished,' he said, with
something in his tone as near mutiny as he dared venture. 'I understood
that your ladyship desired to overtake him and reason with him.'
'But with the girl here?' she muttered. And yet it was true. Before she
had seen this girl, she had fancied the task of turning her son to be
well within her powers. Now she gravely doubted the issue; nay, was
inclined to think all lost if the pair met. She told the tutor this, in
curt phrase; and continued: 'So, do you go down, man, at once, and meet
him at the door; and tell him that I am here--he will discover that for
himself--but that the hussy is not here. Say she is at Bath or--or
anywhere you please.'
Mr. Thomasson hesitated. 'He will see her,' he said.
'Why should he see her?' my lady retorted. 'The house is full. He must
presently go elsewhere. Put him on a false scent, and he will go after
her hot-foot, and not find her. And in a week he will be wiser.'
'It is dangerous,' Mr. Thomasson faltered, his eyes wandering uneasily.
'So am I,' the viscountess answered in a passion. 'And mind you,
Thomasson,' she continued fiercely, 'you have got to side with me now!
Cross me, and you shall have neither the living nor my good word; and
without my word you may whistle for your sucking lord! But do my
bidding, help me to checkmate this baggage, and I'll see you have both.
Why, man, rather than let him marry her, I'd pay you to marry her! I'd
rather pay down a couple of thousand pounds, and the living too. D'ye
hear me? But it won't come to that if you do my bidding.'
Still Mr. Thomasson hesitated, shrinking from the task proposed, not
because he must lie to execute it, but because he must lie to
Dunborough, and would suffer for it, were he found out. On the other
hand, the bribe was large; the red gabled house, set in its little park,
and as good as a squire's, the hundred-acre glebe, the fat tithes and
Easter dues--to say nothing of the promised pupil and freedom from his
money troubles--tempted him sorely. He paused; and while he hesitated he
was lost. For Mr. Dunborough, with the landlord beside him, entered the
side-hall, booted, spurred, and in his horseman's coat; and looked up
and saw the pair at the head of the staircase. His face, gloomy and
discontented before, grew darker. He slapped his muddy boot with his
whip, and, quitting the landlord without ceremony, in three strides was
up the stairs. He did not condescend to Mr. Thomasson, but turned to the
'Well, madam,' he said with a sneer.' Your humble servant. This is an
unforeseen honour! I did not expect to meet you here.'
'I expected to meet _you_,' my lady answered with meaning.
'Glad to give you the pleasure,' he said, sneering again. He was
evidently in the worst of tempers.' May I ask what has set _you_
travelling?' he continued.
'Why, naught but your folly!' the viscountess cried.
'Thank you for nothing, my lady,' he said. 'I suppose your spy
there'--and he scowled at the tutor, whose knees shook under him--'has
set you on this. Well, there is time. I'll settle accounts with him
'Lord, my dear sir,' Mr. Thomasson cried faintly, 'you don't know your
'Don't I? I think I am beginning to find them out,' Mr. Dunborough
answered, slapping his boot ominously, 'and my enemies!' At which the
tutor trembled afresh.
'Never mind him,' quoth my lady. 'Attend to me, Dunborough. Is it a lie,
or is it not, that you are going to disgrace yourself the way I
'Disgrace myself?' cried Mr. Dunborough hotly.
'Ay, disgrace yourself.'
'I'll flay the man that says it!'
'You can't flay me,' her ladyship retorted with corresponding spirit.'
You impudent, good-for-nothing fellow! D'you hear me? You are an
impudent, good-for-nothing fellow, Dunborough, for all your airs and
graces! Come, you don't swagger over me, my lad! And as sure as you do
this that I hear of, you'll smart for it. There are Lorton and
Swanton--my lord can do as he pleases with _them_, and they'll go from
you; and your cousin Meg, ugly and long in the tooth as she is, shall
have them! You may put this beggar's wench in my chair, but you shall
smart for it as long as you live!'
'I'll marry whom I like!' he said.
'Then you'll buy her dear,' cried my lady, ashake with rage.
'Dear or cheap, I'll have her!' he answered, inflamed by opposition and
the discovery that the tutor had betrayed him. 'I shall go to her now!
She is here.'
'That is a lie!' cried Lady Dunborough. 'Lie number one.'
'She is in the house at this moment!' he cried obstinately. 'And I shall
go to her.'
'She is at Bath,' said my lady, unmoved. 'Ask Thomasson, if you do not
'She is not here,' said the tutor with an effort.
'Dunborough, you'll outface the devil when you meet him!' my lady
added--for a closing shot. She knew how to carry the war into the
He glared at her, uncertain what to believe. 'I'll see for myself,' he
said at last; but sullenly, and as if he foresaw a check.
He was in the act of turning to carry out his intention, when Lady
Dunborough, with great presence of mind, called to a servant who was
passing the foot of the stairs. The man came. 'Go and fetch this
gentleman the book,' she said imperiously, 'with the people's names.
Bring it here. I want to see it.'
The man went, and in a moment returned with it. She signed to him to
give it to Mr. Dunborough. 'See for yourself,' she said contemptuously.
She calculated, and very shrewdly, that as the lawyer and his companions
had given the name of Soane and taken possession of Sir George's rooms,
only the name of Soane would appear in the book. And so it turned out.
Mr. Dunborough sought in vain for the name of Masterson or for a party
of three, resembling the one he pursued; he found only the name of Sir
George Soane entered when the rooms were ordered.
'Oh!' he said with an execration. 'He is here, is he? Wish you joy of
him, my lady! Very well, I go on. Good night, madam!' The viscountess
knew that opposition would stiffen him. 'Stop!' she cried.
But he was already in the hall, ordering fresh saddle-horses for himself
and his man. My lady heard the order, and stood listening. Mr. Thomasson
heard it, and stood quaking. At any moment the door of the room in which
the girl was supping might open--it was adjacent to the hall--and she
come out, and the two would meet. Nor did the suspense last a moment or
two only. Fresh horses could not be ready in a minute, even in those
times, when day and night post-horses stood harnessed in the stalls.
Even Mr. Dunborough could not be served in a moment. So he roared for a
pint of claret and a crust, sent one servant flying this way, and
another that, hectored up and down the entrance, to the admiration of
the peeping chambermaids; and for a while added much to the bustle. Once
in those minutes the fateful door did open, but it emitted only a
waiter. And in the end, Mr. Dunborough's horses being announced, he
strode out, his spurs ringing on the steps, and the viscountess heard
him clatter away into the night, and drew a deep breath of relief. For a
day or two, at any rate, she was saved. For the time, the machinations
of the creature below stairs were baffled.
It did not occur to Lady Dunborough to ask herself seriously how a girl
in the Mastersons' position came to be in such quarters as the Castle
Inn, and to have a middle-aged and apparently respectable attorney for a
travelling companion. Or, if her ladyship did ask herself those
questions, she was content with the solution, which the tutor out of his
knowledge of human nature had suggested; namely, that the girl, wily as
she was beautiful, knew that a retreat in good order, flanked after the
fashion of her betters by duenna and man of business, doubled her
virtue; and by so much improved her value, and her chance of catching
Mr. Dunborough and a coronet.
There was one in the house, however, who did set himself these riddles,
and was at a loss for an answer. Sir George Soane, supping with Dr.
Addington, the earl's physician, found his attention wander from the
conversation, and more than once came near to stating the problem which
troubled him. The cosy room, in which the two sat, lay at the bottom of
a snug passage leading off the principal corridor of the west wing; and
was as remote from the stir and bustle of the more public part of the
house as the silent movements of Sir George's servant were from the
clumsy haste of the helpers whom the pressure of the moment had
compelled the landlord to call in.
The physician had taken his supper earlier, but was gourmet enough to
follow, now with an approving word, and now with a sigh, the different
stages of Sir George's meal. In public, a starched, dry man, the ideal
of a fashionable London doctor of the severer type, he was in private a
benevolent and easy friend; a judge of port, and one who commended it to
others; and a man of some weight in the political world. In his early
days he had been a mad doctor; and at Batson's he could still disconcert
the impertinent by a shrewd glance, learned and practised among those
With such qualifications, Dr. Addington was not slow to perceive Sir
George's absence of mind; and presuming on old friendship--he had
attended the younger man from boyhood--he began to probe for the cause.
Raising his half-filled glass to the light, and rolling the last
mouthful on his tongue, 'I am afraid,' he said, 'that what I heard in
town was true?'
'What was it?' Soane asked, rousing himself.
'I heard, Sir George, that my Lady Hazard had proved an inconstant
mistress of late?'
'Yes. Hang the jade! And yet--we could not live without her!'
'They are saying that you lost three thousand to my Lord March, the
night before you left town?'
'Indeed? Still--an expensive mistress?'
'Can you direct me to a cheap one?' Sir George said rather crustily.
'No. But doesn't it occur to you a wife with money--might be cheaper?'
the doctor asked with a twinkle in his eye.
Sir George shrugged his shoulders for answer, and turning from the
table--the servant had withdrawn--brushed the crumbs from his breeches,
and sat staring at the lire, his glass in his hand. 'I suppose--it will
come to that presently,' he said, sipping his wine.
'Very soon,' the doctor answered, drily, 'unless I am in error.'
Sir George looked at him. 'Come, doctor!' he said. 'You know something!
What is it?'
'I know that it is town talk that you lost seven thousand last season;
and God knows how many thousands in the three seasons before it!'
'Well, one must live,' Sir George answered lightly.
'But not at that rate.'
'In that state of life, doctor, into which God has been pleased--you
know the rest.'
'In that state of life into which the devil!' retorted the doctor with
heat.' If I thought that my boy would ever grow up to do nothing better
than--than--but there, forgive me. I grow warm when I think of the old
trees, and the old pictures, and the old Halls that you fine gentlemen
at White's squander in a night! Why, I know of a little place in
Oxfordshire, which, were it mine by inheritance--as it is my
brother's--I would not stake against a Canons or a Petworth!'
'And Stavordale would stake it against a bootjack--rather than not play
at all!' Sir George answered complacently.
'The more fool he!' snapped the doctor.
'So I think.'
'So I think,' Sir George answered coolly. 'But one must be in the
'One must be in the Fleet!' the doctor retorted. 'To be in the fashion
you'll ruin yourself! If you have not done it already,' he continued
with something like a groan. 'There, pass the bottle. I have not
patience with you. One of these fine days you will awake to find
yourself in the Rules.'
'Doctor,' Soane answered, returning to his point, 'you know something.'
'You know why my lord sent for me.'
'And what if I do?' Dr. Addington answered, looking thoughtfully through
his wine. 'To tell the truth, I do, Sir George, I do, and I wish I did
not; for the news I have is not of the best. There is a claimant to that
money come forward. I do not know his name or anything about him; but
his lordship thinks seriously of the matter. I am not sure,' the doctor
continued, with his professional air, and as if his patient in the other
room were alone in his mind, 'that the vexation attending it has not
precipitated this attack. I'm not--at all--sure of it. And Lady Chatham
certainly thinks so.'
Sir George was some time silent. Then, with a fair show of indifference,
'And who is the claimant?' he asked.
'That I don't know,' Dr. Addington answered. 'He purports, I suppose, to
be your uncle's heir. But I do know that his attorney has forwarded
copies of documents to his lordship, and that Lord Chatham thinks the
matter of serious import.'
'The worse for me,' said Sir George, forcing a yawn. 'As you say,
doctor, your news is not of the best.'
'Nor, I hope, of the worst,' the physician answered with feeling. 'The
estate is entailed?'
Sir George shook his head. 'No,' he said. 'It is mortgaged. But that is
not the same thing.'
The doctor's face showed genuine distress. 'Ah, my friend, you should
not have done that,' he said reproachfully. 'A property that has been in
the family--why, since--'
'My great-grandfather the stay-maker's time,' Sir George answered
flippantly, as he emptied his glass. 'You know Selwyn's last upon that?
It came by bones, and it is going by bones.'
'God forbid!' said the physician, rubbing his gold-rimmed glasses with
an air of kindly vexation, not unmixed with perplexity. 'If I thought
that my boy would ever come to--to--'
'Buzz the gold-headed cane?' Sir George said gravely. 'Yes, doctor, what
would you do?'
But the physician, instead of answering, looked fixedly at him, nodded,
and turned away. 'You would deceive some, Sir George,' he said quietly,
'but you do not deceive me. When a man who is not jocular by nature
makes two jokes in as many minutes, he is hard hit.'
'Insight?' drawled Sir George lazily. 'Or instinct.'
'Experience among madmen--some would call it,' the doctor retorted with
warmth. 'But it is not. It is what you fine gentlemen at White's have no
part in! Good feeling.'
'Ah!' said Soane; and then a different look came into his face. He
stooped and poked the fire. 'Pardon me, doctor,' he said soberly. 'You
are a good fellow. It is--well, of course, it's a blow. If your news be
true, I stand to lose fifty thousand; and shall be worth about as much
as a Nabob spends yearly on his liveries.'
Dr. Addington, in evident distress, thrust back his wig. 'Is it as bad
as that?' he said. 'Dear, dear, I did not dream of this.'
'Nor I,' Sir George said drily. 'Or I should not have betted with
'And the old house!' the doctor continued, more and more moved. 'I don't
know one more comfortable.'
'You must buy it,' said Soane. 'I have spared the timber, and there is a
little of the old wine left.'
'Dear, dear!' the doctor answered; and his sigh said more than the
words. Apparently it was also more effectual in moving Sir George. He
rose and began to pace the room, choosing a part where his face evaded
the light of the candles that stood in heavy silver sconces on the dark
mahogany. Presently he laughed, but the laugh was mirthless.
'It is quite the Rake's Progress,' he said, pausing before one of
Hogarth's prints which hung on the wall. 'Perhaps I have been a little
less of a fool and a little more of a rogue than my prototype; but the
end is the same. D----n me, I am sorry for the servants, doctor--though
I dare swear that they have robbed me right and left. It is a pity that
clumsy fool, Dunborough, did not get home when he had the chance the
The doctor took snuff, put up his box, filled his glass and emptied it
before he spoke. Then, 'No, no, Sir George, it has not come to that
yet,' he said heartily. 'There is only one thing for it now. They must
do something for you.' And he also rose to his feet, and stood with his
back to the fire, looking at his companion.
'Who?' Soane asked, though he knew very well what the other meant.
'The Government,' said the doctor. 'The mission to Turin is likely to be
vacant by-and-by. Or, if that be too much to ask, a consulship, say at
Genoa or Leghorn, might be found, and serve for a stepping-stone to
Florence. Sir Horace has done well there, and you--'
'Might toady a Grand-duke and bear-lead sucking peers--as well as
another!' Soane answered with a gesture of disgust. 'Ugh, one might as
well be Thomasson and ruin boys. No, doctor, that will not do. I had
sooner hang myself at once, as poor Fanny Braddock did at Bath, or put a
pistol to my head like Bland!'
'God forbid!' said the doctor solemnly.
Sir George shrugged his shoulders, but little by little his face lost
its hardness. 'Yes, God forbid,' he said gently. 'But it is odd. There
is poor Tavistock with a pretty wife and two children, and another
coming; and Woburn and thirty thousand a year to inherit, broke his neck
last week with the hounds; and I, who have nothing to inherit, why
nothing hurts me!'
Dr. Addington disregarded his words.
'They must do something for you at home then,' he said, firmly set on
his benevolent designs. 'In the Mint or the Customs. There should not be
the least difficulty about it. You must speak to his lordship, and it is
not to be supposed that he will refuse.'
Sir George grunted, and might have expressed his doubts, but at that
moment the sound of voices raised in altercation penetrated the room
from the passage. A second later, while the two stood listening,
arrested by the noise, the door was thrown open with such violence that
the candles flickered in the draught. Two persons appeared on the
threshold, the one striving to make his way in, the other to resist
The former was our friend Mr. Fishwick, who having succeeded in pushing
past his antagonist, stared round the room with a mixture of
astonishment and chagrin. 'But--this is _not_ his lordship's room!' he
cried. 'I tell you, I will see his lordship!' he continued. 'I have
business with him, and--' here his gaze alighted on Sir George, and he
Dr. Addington took advantage of the pause. 'Watkins,' he said in an
awful voice, 'what is the meaning of this unmannerly intrusion? And who
is this person?'
'He persisted that he must see his lordship,' the servant, a sleek,
respectable man in black, answered. 'And rather than have words about it
at his lordship's door--which I would not for twice the likes of him!'
he added with a malevolent glance at the attorney--'I brought him here.
I believe he is mad. I told him it was out of the question, if he was
the king of England or my lord duke. But he would have it that he had an
'So I have!' cried Mr. Fishwick with heat and an excited gesture. 'I
have an appointment with Lord Chatham. I should have been with his
lordship at nine o'clock.'
'An appointment? At this time of night?' Dr. Addington returned with a
freezing mien. 'With Lord Chatham? And who may you please to be, sir,
who claim this privilege?'
'My name is Fishwick, sir, and I am an attorney,' our friend replied.
'A mad attorney?' Dr. Addington answered, affecting to hear him amiss.
'No more mad, sir, than you are!' Mr. Fishwick retorted, kindling at the
insinuation. 'Do you comprehend me, sir? I come by appointment. My lord
has been so good as to send for me, and I defy any one to close his
door on me!'
'Are you aware, sir,' said the doctor, frowning under his wig with the
port of an indignant Jupiter, 'what hour it is? It is ten o'clock.'
'It may be ten o'clock or it may be eleven o'clock,' the attorney
answered doggedly. 'But his lordship has honoured me with a summons, and
see him I must. I insist on seeing him.'
'You may insist or not as you please,' said Dr. Addington
contemptuously. 'You will not see him. Watkins,' he continued, 'what is
this cock-and-bull story of a summons? Has his lordship sent for
'About nine o'clock he said that he would see Sir George Soane if he was
in the house,' Watkins answered. 'I did not know that Sir George was
here, and I sent the message to his apartments by one of the men.'
'Well,' said Dr. Addington in his coldest manner, 'what has that to do
with this gentleman?'
'I think I can tell you,' Sir George said, intervening with a smile.
'His party have the rooms that were reserved for me. And doubtless by an
error the message which was intended for me was delivered to him.'
'Ah!' said Dr. Addington gruffly. 'I understand.'
Alas! poor Mr. Fishwick understood too; and his face, as the truth
dawned on him, was one of the most comical sights ever seen. A nervous,
sanguine man, the attorney had been immensely elated by the honour paid
to him; he had thought his cause won and his fortune made. The downfall
was proportionate: in a second his pomp and importance were gone, and he
stood before them timidly rubbing one hand on another. Yet even in the
ridiculous position in which the mistake placed him--in the wrong and
with all his heroics wasted--he retained a sort of manliness. 'Dear me,
dear me,' he said, his jaw fallen, 'I--Your most humble servant, sir! I
offer a thousand apologies for the intrusion! But having business with
his lordship, and receiving the message,' he continued in a tone of
pathetic regret, 'it was natural I should think it was intended for me.
I can say no more than that I humbly crave pardon for intruding on you,
honourable gentlemen, over your wine.'
Dr. Addington bowed stiffly; he was not the man to forgive a liberty.
But Sir George had a kindly impulse. In spite of himself, he could not
refrain from liking the little man who so strangely haunted his steps.
There was a spare glass on the table. He pushed it and the bottle
towards Mr. Fishwick.
'There is no harm done,' he said kindly. 'A glass of wine with you,
Mr. Fishwick in his surprise and nervousness, dropped his hat, picked
it up, and dropped it again; finally he let it lie while he filled his
glass. His hand shook; he was unaccountably agitated. But he managed to
acquit himself fairly, and with a 'Greatly honoured, Sir George.
Good-night, gentlemen,' he disappeared.
'What is his business with Lord Chatham?' Dr. Addington asked rather
coldly. It was plain that he did not approve of Sir George's
'I have no notion,' Soane answered, yawning. 'But he has got a very
pretty girl with him. Whether she is laying traps for Dunborough--'
'The viscountess's son?'
'Just so--I cannot say. But that is the old harridan's account of it.'
'Is she here too?'
'Lord, yes; and they had no end of a quarrel downstairs. There is a
story about the girl and Dunborough. I'll tell it you some time.'
'I began to think--he was here on your business,' said the doctor.
'He? Oh, no,' Sir George answered without suspicion, and turned to look
for his candlestick. 'I suppose that he is in the case I am in--wants
something and comes to the fountain of honour to get it.'
And bidding the other good-night, he went to bed; not to sleep, but to
lie awake and reckon and calculate, and add a charge here to interest
there, and set both against income, and find nothing remain.
He had sneered at the old home because it had been in his family only so
many generations. But there is this of evil in an old house--it is bad
to live in, but worse to part from. Sir George, straining his eyes in
the darkness, saw the long avenue of elms and the rooks' nests, and the
startled birds circling overhead; and at the end of the vista the wide
doorway, _aed. temp._ Jac. 1--saw it all more lucidly than he had seen
it since the September morning when he traversed it, a boy of fourteen,
with his first gun on his arm. Well, it was gone; but he was Sir George,
macaroni and fashionable, arbiter of elections at White's, and great at
Almack's, more powerful in his sphere than a belted earl! But, then,
that was gone too, with the money--and--and what was left? Sir George
groaned and turned on his pillow and thought of Bland and Fanny
Braddock. He wondered if any one had ever left the Castle by the suicide
door, and, to escape his thoughts, lit a candle and read 'La Belle
Heloise,' which he had in his mail.
It is certain that if Sir George Soane had borne any other name, the
girl, after the conversation which had taken place between them on the
dingy staircase at Oxford, must have hated him. There is a kind of
condescension from man to woman, in which the man says, 'My good girl,
not for me--but do take care of yourself,' which a woman of the least
pride finds to be of all modes of treatment the most shameful and the
most humiliating. The masterful overtures of such a lover as Dunborough,
who would take all by storm, are still natural, though they lack
respect; a woman would be courted, and sometimes would be courted in the
old rough fashion. But, for the other mode of treatment, she may be a
Grizel, or as patient--a short course of that will sharpen not only her
tongue, but her fingernails.
Yet this, or something like it, Julia, who was far from being the most
patient woman in the world, had suffered at Sir George's hands;
believing at the time that he was some one else, or, rather, being
ignorant then and for just an hour afterwards that such a person as Sir
George Soane existed. Enlightened on this point and on some others
connected with it (which a sagacious reader may divine for himself) the
girl's first feeling in face of the astonishing future opening before
her had been one of spiteful exultation. She hated him, and he would
suffer. She hated him with all her heart and strength, and he would
suffer. There were balm and sweet satisfaction in the thought.
But presently, dwelling on the matter, she began to relent. The very
completeness of the revenge which she had in prospect robbed her of her
satisfaction. The man was so dependent on her, so deeply indebted to
her, must suffer so much by reason of her, that the maternal instinct,
which is said to be developed even in half-grown girls, took him under
its protection; and when that scene occurred in the public room of the
Castle Inn and he stood forward to shield her (albeit in an arrogant,
careless, half-insolent way that must have wounded her in other
circumstances), she was not content to forgive him only--with a smile;
but long after her companion had fallen asleep, Julia sat brooding over
the fire, her arms clasped about her knees; now reading the embers with
parted lips and shining eyes, and now sighing gently--for 'la femme
propose, mais Dieu dispose.' And nothing is certain.
After this, it may not have been pure accident that cast her in Sir
George's way when he strolled out of the house next morning. A coach had
come in, and was changing horses before the porch. The passengers were
moving to and fro before the house, grooms and horse-boys were shouting
and hissing, the guard was throwing out parcels. Soane passed through
the bustle, and, strolling to the end of the High Street, saw the girl
seated on a low parapet of the bridge that, near the end of the inn
gardens, carries the Salisbury road over the Kennet. She wore a plain
riding-coat, such as ladies then affected when they travelled and would
avoid their hoops and patches. A little hood covered her hair, which,
undressed and unpowdered, hung in a club behind; and she held up a plain
fan between her complexion and the sun.
Her seat, though quiet and remote from the bustle--for the Salisbury
road is the less frequented of the two roads--was in view of the gates
leading to the Inn; and her extreme beauty, which was that of expression
as well as feature, made her a mark for a dozen furtive eyes, of which
she affected to be unconscious. But as soon as Sir George's gaze fell on
her, her look met his frankly and she smiled; and then again her eyes
dropped and studied the road before her, and she blushed in a way Soane
found enchanting. He had been going into the town, but he turned and
went to her and sat down on the bridge beside her, almost with the air
of an old acquaintance. He opened the conversation by saying that it was
a prodigious fine day; she agreed. That the Downs were uncommonly
healthy; she said the same. And then there was silence.
'Well?' he said after a while; and he looked at her.
'Well?' she answered in the same tone. And she looked at him over the
edge of her fan, her eyes laughing.
'How did you sleep, child?' he asked; while he thought, 'Lord! How
handsome she is!'
'Perfectly, sir,' she answered, 'thanks to your excellency's kindness.'
Her voice as well as her eyes laughed. He stared at her, wondering at
the change in her. 'You are lively this morning,' he said.
'I cannot say the same of you, Sir George,' she answered. 'When you came
out, and before you saw me, your face was as long as a coach-horse's.'
Sir George winced. He knew where his thoughts had been. 'That was before
I saw you, child,' he said. 'In your company--'
'You are scarcely more lively,' she answered saucily. 'Do you flatter
yourself that you are?'
Sir George was astonished. He was aware that the girl lacked neither wit
nor quickness; but hitherto he had found her passionate at one time,
difficult and _farouche_ at another, at no time playful or coquettish.
Here, and this morning, she did not seem to be the same woman. She spoke
with ease, laughed with the heart as well as the lips, met his eyes with
freedom and without embarrassment, countered his sallies with
sportiveness--in a word, carried herself towards him as though she were
an equal; precisely as Lady Betty and the Honourable Fanny carried
themselves. He stared at her.
And she, seeing the look, laughed in pure happiness, knowing what was in
his mind, and knowing her own mind very well. 'I puzzle you?' she said.
'You do,' he answered. 'What are you doing here? And why have you taken
up with that lawyer? And why are you dressed, child--'
'Like this?' she said, rising, and sitting down again. 'You think it is
above my station?'
He shrugged his shoulders, declining to put his views into words;
instead, 'What does it all mean?' he said.
'What do you suppose?' she asked, averting her eyes for the first time.
'Well, of course--you may be here to meet Dunborough,' he answered
bluntly. 'His mother seems to think that he is going to marry you.'
'And what do you think, sir?'
'I?' said Sir George, reverting to the easy, half-insolent tone she
hated. And he tapped his Paris snuff-box and spoke with tantalising
slowness. 'Well, if that be the case, I should advise you to see that