Part 2 out of 13
the favor shown to his boyish brother could never for a moment have
come into his imagination. Lady Royallieu with her last words had left
the little fellow, a child of three years old, in the affection and
the care of Bertie--himself then a boy of twelve or fourteen--and
little as he thought of such things now, the trust of his dying mother
had never been wholly forgotten.
A heavy gloom came now over the Viscount's still handsome aquiline,
saturnine face, as his second son approached up the terrace; Bertie
was too like the cavalry soldier whose form he had last seen standing
against the rose light of a Mediterranean sunset. The soldier had been
dead eight-and-twenty years; but the jealous hate was not dead yet.
Cecile took off his hunting-cap with a courtesy that sat very well on
his habitual languid nonchalance; he never called his father anything
but "Royal"; rarely saw, still less rarely consulted him, and cared
not a straw for his censure or opinion; but he was too thoroughbred by
nature to be able to follow the underbred indecorum of the day which
makes disrespect to old age the fashion. "You sent for me?" he asked,
taking the cigarette out of his mouth.
"No, sir," answered the old lord curtly; "I sent for your brother. The
fools can't take even a message right now, it seems."
"Shouldn't have named us so near alike; it's often a bore!" said
"I didn't name you, sir; your mother named you," answered his father
sharply; the subject irritated him.
"It's of no consequence which!" murmured Cecil, with an expostulatory
wave of his cigar. "We're not even asked whether we like to come into
the world; we can't expect to be asked what we like to be called in
it. Good-day to you, sir."
He turned to move away to the house, but his father stopped him; he
knew that he had been discourteous--a far worse crime in Lord
Royallieu's eyes than to be heartless.
"So you won the Vase yesterday?" he asked pausing in his walk with his
back bowed, but his stern, silver-haired head erect.
"I didn't--the King did."
"That's absurd, sir," said the Viscount, in his resonant and yet
melodious voice. "The finest horse in the world may have his back
broke by bad riding, and a screw has won before now when it's been
finely handled. The finish was tight, wasn't it?"
"Well--rather. I have ridden closer spins, though. The fallows were
Lord Royallieu smiled grimly.
"I know what the Shire 'plow' is like," he said, with a flash of his
falcon eyes over the landscape, where, in the days of his youth, he
had led the first flight so often; George Rex, and Waterford, and the
Berkeleys, and the rest following the rally of his hunting-horn. "You
won much in bets?"
"Very fair, thanks."
"And won't be a shilling richer for it this day next week!" retorted
the Viscount, with a rasping, grating irony; he could not help darting
savage thrusts at this man who looked at him with eyes so cruelly like
Alan Bertie's. "You play 5 pound points, and lay 500 pounds on the odd
trick, I've heard, at your whist in the Clubs--pretty prices for a
"Never bet on the odd trick; spoils the game; makes you sacrifice play
to the trick. We always bet on the game," said Cecil, with gentle
weariness; the sweetness of his temper was proof against his father's
attacks upon his patience.
"No matter what you bet, sir; you live as if you were a Rothschild
while you are a beggar!"
"Wish I were a beggar: fellows always have no end in stock, they say;
and your tailor can't worry you very much when all you have to think
about is an artistic arrangement of tatters!" murmured Bertie, whose
impenetrable serenity was never to be ruffled by his father's
"You will soon have your wish, then," retorted the Viscount, with the
unprovoked and reasonless passion which he vented on everyone, but on
none so much as the son he hated. "You are on a royal road to it. I
live out of the world, but I hear from it sir. I hear that there is
not a man in the Guards--not even Lord Rockingham--who lives at the
rate of imprudence you do; that there is not a man who drives such
costly horses, keeps such costly mistresses, games to such
desperation, fools gold away with such idiocy as you do. You conduct
yourself as if you were a millionaire, sir; and what are you? A pauper
on my bounty, and on your brother Montagu's after me--a pauper with a
tinsel fashion, a gilded beggary, a Queen's commission to cover a
sold-out poverty, a dandy's reputation to stave off a defaulter's
future! A pauper, sir--and a Guardsman!"
The coarse and cruel irony flushed out with wicked, scorching
malignity; lashing and upbraiding the man who was the victim of his
own unwisdom and extravagance.
A slight tinge of color came on his son's face as he heard; but he
gave no sign that he was moved, no sign of impatience or anger. He
lifted his cap again, not in irony, but with a grave respect in his
action that was totally contrary to his whole temperament.
"This sort of talk is very exhausting, very bad style," he said, with
his accustomed gentle murmur. "I will bid you good-morning, my lord."
And he went without another word. Crossing the length of the old-
fashioned Elizabethan terrace, little Berk passed him: he motioned the
lad toward the Viscount. "Royal wants to see you, young one."
The boy nodded and went onward; and, as Bertie turned to enter the low
door that led out to the stables, he saw his father meet the lad--meet
him with a smile that changed the whole character of his face, and
pleasant, kindly words of affectionate welcome; drawing his arm about
Berkeley's shoulder, and looking with pride upon his bright and
More than an old man's preference would be thus won by the young one;
a considerable portion of their mother's fortune, so left that it
could not be dissipated, yet could be willed to which son the Viscount
chose, would go to his brother by this passionate partiality; but
there was not a tinge of jealousy in Cecil; whatever else his faults
he had no mean ones, and the boy was dear to him, by a quite
unconscious, yet unvarying, obedience to his dead mothers' wish.
"Royal hates me as game-birds hate a red dog. Why the deuce, I
wonder?" he thought, with a certain slight touch of pain, despite his
idle philosophies and devil-may-care indifference. "Well--I am good
for nothing, I suppose. Certainly I am not good for much, unless it's
riding and making love."
With which summary of his merits, "Beauty," who felt himself to be a
master in those two arts, but thought himself a bad fellow out of
them, sauntered away to join the Seraph and the rest of his guests;
his father's words pursuing him a little, despite his carelessness,
for they had borne an unwelcome measure of truth.
"Royal can hit hard," his thoughts continued. " 'A pauper and a
Guardsman!' By Jove! It's true enough; but he made me so. They brought
me up as if I had a million coming to me, and turned me out among the
cracks to take my running with the best of them--and they give me just
about what pays my groom's book! Then they wonder that a fellow goes
to the Jews. Where the deuce else can he go?"
And Bertie, whom his gains the day before had not much benefited,
since his play-debts, his young brother's needs, and the Zu-Zu's
insatiate little hands were all stretched ready to devour them without
leaving a sovereign for more serious liabilities, went, for it was
quite early morning, to act the M. F. H. in his fathers' stead at the
meet on the great lawns before the house, for the Royallieu "lady-
pack" were very famous in the Shires, and hunted over the same country
alternate days with the Quorn. They moved off ere long to draw the
Holt Wood, in as open a morning and as strong a scenting wind as ever
favored Melton Pink.
A whimper and "gone away!" soon echoed from Beebyside, and the pack,
not letting the fox hang a second, dashed after him, making straight
for Scraptoft. One of the fastest things up-wind that hounds ever ran
took them straight through the Spinnies, past Hamilton Farm, away
beyond Burkby village, and down into the valley of the Wreake without
a check, where he broke away, was headed, tried earths, and was pulled
down scarce forty minutes from the find. The pack then drew Hungerton
foxhole blank, drew Carver's spinnies without a whimper; and lastly,
drawing the old familiar Billesden Coplow, had a short, quick burst
with a brace of cubs, and returning, settled themselves to a fine dog
fox that was raced an hour-and-half, hunted slowly for fifty minutes,
raced again another hour-and-quarter, sending all the field to their
"second horses"; and after a clipping chase through the cream of the
grass country, nearly saved his brush in the twilight when the scent
was lost in a rushing hailstorm, but had the "little ladies" laid on
again like wildfire, and was killed with the "who-whoop!" ringing far
and away over Glenn Gorse, after a glorious run--thirty miles in and
out--with pace that tired the best of them.
A better day's sport even the Quorn had never had in all its brilliant
annals, and faster things the Melton men themselves had never wanted:
both those who love the "quickest thing you ever knew--thirty minutes
without a check--such a pace!" and care little whether the finale be
"killed" or "broke away," and those of the old fashion, who prefer
"long day, you know, steady as old time; the beauties stuck like wax
through fourteen parishes, as I live; six hours, if it were a minute;
horses dead-beat; positively walked, you know; no end of a day!" but
must have the fatal "who-whoop" as conclusion--both of these, the "new
style and the old," could not but be content with the doings of the
"demoiselles" from start to finish.
Was it likely that Cecil remembered the caustic lash of his father's
ironies while he was lifting Mother of Pearl over the posts and rails,
and sweeping on, with the halloo ringing down the wintry wind as the
grasslands flew beneath him? Was it likely that he recollected the
difficulties that hung above him while he was dashing down the Gorse
happy as a king, with the wild hail driving in his face, and a break
of stormy sunshine just welcoming the gallant few who were landed at
the death, as twilight fell? Was it likely that he could unlearn all
the lessons of his life, and realize in how near a neighborhood he
stood to ruin when he was drinking Regency sherry out of his gold
flask as he crossed the saddle of his second horse, or, smoking, rode
slowly homeward; chatting with the Seraph through the leafless, muddy
lanes in the gloaming?
Scarcely; it is very easy to remember our difficulties when we are
eating and drinking them, so to speak, in bad soups and worse wines in
continental impecuniosity; sleeping on them as rough Australian shake-
downs, or wearing them perpetually in Californian rags and tatters--it
were impossible very well to escape from them then; but it is very
hard to remember them when every touch and shape of life is pleasant
to us--when everything about us is symbolical and redolent of wealth
and ease--when the art of enjoyment is the only one we are called on
to study, and the science of pleasure all we are asked to explore.
It is well-nigh impossible to believe yourself a beggar while you
never want sovereigns for whist; and it would be beyond the powers of
human nature to conceive your ruin irrevocable while you still eat
turbot and terrapin, with a powdered giant behind your chair daily. Up
in his garret a poor wretch knows very well what he is, and realizes
in stern fact the extremities of the last sou, the last shirt, and the
last hope; but in these devil-may-care pleasures--in this pleasant,
reckless, velvet-soft rush down-hill--in this club-palace, with every
luxury that the heart of man can devise and desire, yours to command
at your will--it is hard work, then, to grasp the truth that the
crossing sweeper yonder, in the dust of Pall Mall, is really not more
utterly in the toils of poverty than you are!
"Beauty" was never, in the whole course of his days, virtually or
physically, or even metaphorically, reminded that he was not a
millionaire; much less still was he ever reminded so painfully.
Life petted him, pampered him, caressed him, gifted him, though of
half his gifts he never made use; lodged him like a prince, dined him
like a king, and never recalled to him by a single privation or a
single sensation that he was not as rich a man as his brother-in-arms,
the Seraph, future Duke of Lyonnesse. How could he then bring himself
to understand, as nothing less than truth, the grim and cruel insult
his father had flung at him in that brutally bitter phrase--"A Pauper
and a Guardsman"? If he had ever been near a comprehension of it,
which he never was, he must have ceased to realize it when--pressed to
dine with Lord Guenevere, near whose house the last fox had been
killed, while a groom dashed over to Royallieu for his change of
clothes--he caught a glimpse, as they passed through the hall, of the
ladies taking their preprandial cups of tea in the library, an
enchanting group of lace and silks, of delicate hue and scented hair,
of blond cheeks and brunette tresses, of dark velvets and gossamer
tissue; and when he had changed the scarlet for dinner-dress, went
down among them to be the darling of that charmed circle, to be smiled
on and coquetted with by those soft, languid aristocrats, to be
challenged by the lustrous eyes of his chatelaine and chere amie, to
be spoiled as women will spoil the privileged pet of their drawing
rooms whom they had made "free of the guild," and endowed with a
flirting commission, and acquitted of anything "serious."
He was the recognized darling and permitted property of the young
married beauties; the unwedded knew he was hopeless for them, and
tacitly left him to the more attractive conquerors, who hardly prized
the Seraph so much as they did Bertie, to sit in their barouches and
opera boxes, ride and drive and yacht with them, conduct a Boccaccio
intrigue through the height of the season, and make them really
believe themselves actually in love while they were at the moors or
down the Nile, and would have given their diamonds to get a new
Lady Guenevere was the last of these, his titled and wedded captors;
and perhaps the most resistless of all of them. Neither of them
believed very much in their attachment, but both of them wore the
masquerade dress to perfection. He had fallen in love with her as much
as he ever fell in love, which was just sufficient to amuse him, and
never enough to disturb him. He let himself be fascinated, not
exerting himself either to resist or advance the affair till he was,
perhaps, a little more entangled with her than it was, according to
his canons, expedient to be; and they had the most enchanting--
Nobody was ever so indiscreet as to call it anything else; and my Lord
was too deeply absorbed in the Alderney beauties that stood knee-deep
in the yellow straw of his farmyard, and the triumphant conquests that
he gained over his brother peers' Shorthorns and Suffolks, to trouble
his head about Cecil's attendance on his beautiful Countess.
They corresponded in Spanish; they had a thousand charming ciphers;
they made the columns of the "Times" and the "Post" play the
unconscious role of medium to appointments; they eclipsed all the
pages of Calderon's or Congreve's comedies in the ingenuities with
which they met, wrote, got invitations together to the same houses,
and arranged signals for mute communication: but there was not the
slightest occasion for it all. It passed the time, however, and went
far to persuade them that they really were in love, and had a mountain
of difficulties and dangers to contend with; it added the "spice to
the sauce," and gave them the "relish of being forbidden." Besides, an
open scandal would have been very shocking to her brilliant ladyship,
and there was nothing on earth, perhaps, of which he would have had a
more lively dread than a "scene"; but his present "friendship" was
delightful, and presented no such dangers, while his fair "friend" was
one of the greatest beauties and the greatest coquettes of her time.
Her smile was honor; her fan was a scepter; her face was perfect; and
her heart never troubled herself or her lovers; if she had a fault,
she was a trifle exacting, but that was not to be wondered at in one
so omnipotent, and her chains, after all, were made of roses.
As she sat in the deep ruddy glow of the library fire, with the light
flickering on her white brow and her violet velvets; as she floated to
the head of her table, with opals shining among her priceless point
laces, and some tropical flower with leaves of glistening gold
crowning her bronze hair; as she glided down in a waltz along the
polished floor, or bent her proud head over ecarte in a musing grace
that made her opponent utterly forget to mark the king or even play
his cards at all; as she talked in the low music of her voice of
European imbrogli, and consols and coupons, for she was a politician
and a speculator, or lapsed into a beautifully tinted study of la
femme incomprise, when time and scene suited, when the stars were very
clear above the terraces without, and the conservatory very solitary,
and a touch of Musset or Owen Meredith chimed in well with the light
and shade of the oleanders and the brown luster of her own eloquent
glance--in all these how superb she was!
And if in truth her bosom only fell with the falling of Shares, and
rose with the rising of Bonds; if her soft shadows were only taken up,
like the purple tinting under her lashes, to embellish her beauty; if
in her heart of hearts she thought Musset a fool, and wondered why
"Lucille" was not written in prose, in her soul far preferring "Le
Follet"; why--it did not matter, that I can see. All great ladies
gamble in stocks nowadays under the rose, and women are for the most
part as cold, clear, hard, and practical as their adorers believe them
the contrary; and a femme incomprise is so charming, when she avows
herself comprehended by you, that you would never risk spoiling the
confidence by hinting a doubt of its truth. If she and Bertie only
played at love; if neither believed much in the other; if each trifled
with a pretty gossamer soufflet of passion much as they trifled with
the soufflets at dinner; if both tried it to trifle away ennui much as
they tried staking a Friedrich d'Or at Baden, this light, surface,
fashionable, philosophic form of a passion they both laughed at, in
its hot and serious follies, suited them admirably. Had it ever
mingled a grain of bitterness in her ladyship's Souchong before
dinner, or given an aroma of bitterness to her lover's Naples punch in
the smoking room, it would have been out of all keeping with
themselves and their world.
Nothing on earth is so pleasant as being a little in love; nothing on
earth so destructive as being too much so; and as Cecil, in the idle
enjoyment of the former gentle luxury, flirted with his liege lady
that night; lying back in the softest of lounging-chairs, with his
dark, dreamy, handsome eyes looking all the eloquence in the world,
and his head drooped till his mustaches were almost touching her
laces, his Queen of Beauty listened with charmed interest, and to look
at him he might have been praying after the poet:
How is it under our control
To love or not to love?
In real truth he was gently murmuring:
"Such a pity that you missed to-day! Hounds found directly; three of
the fastest things I ever knew, one after another; you should have
seen the 'little ladies' head him just above the Gorse! Three hares
crossed us and a fresh fox; some of the pack broke away after the new
scent, but old Bluebell, your pet, held on like death, and most of
them kept after her--you had your doubts about Silver Trumpet's
shoulders; they're not the thing, perhaps, but she ran beautifully all
day, and didn't show a symptom of rioting."
Cecil could, when needed, do the Musset and Meredith style of thing to
perfection, but on the whole he preferred love a la mode; it is so
much easier and less exhausting to tell your mistress of a ringing
run, or a close finish, than to turn perpetual periods on the luster
of her eyes, and the eternity of your devotion.
Nor did it at all interfere with the sincerity of his worship that the
Zu-Zu was at the prettiest little box in the world, in the
neighborhood of Market Harborough, which he had taken for her, and had
been at the meet that day in her little toy trap, with its pair of
snowy ponies and its bright blue liveries that drove so desperately
through his finances, and had ridden his hunter Maraschino with
immense dash and spirit for a young lady who had never done anything
but pirouette till the last six months, and a total and headlong
disregard of "purlers" very reckless in a white-skinned, bright-eyed,
illiterate, avaricious little beauty, whose face was her fortune; and
who most assuredly would have been adored no single moment longer, had
she scarred her fair, tinted cheek with the blackthorn, or started as
a heroine with a broken nose like Fielding's cherished Amelia. The Zu-
Zu might rage, might sulk, might even swear all sorts of naughty
Mabille oaths, most villainously pronounced, at the ascendancy of her
haughty, unapproachable patrician rival--she did do all these things--
but Bertie would not have been the consummate tactician, the perfect
flirt, the skilled and steeled campaigner in the boudoirs that he was,
if he had not been equal to the delicate task of managing both the
peeress and the ballet-dancer with inimitable ability; even when they
placed him in the seemingly difficult dilemma of meeting them both,
with twenty yards between them, on the neutral ground of the gathering
to see the Pytchley or the Tailby throw off--a task he had achieved
with victorious brilliance more than once already this season.
"You drive a team, Beauty--never drive a team," the Seraph had said on
occasion, over a confidential "sherry-peg" in the mornings, meaning by
the metaphor of a team Lady Guenevere, the Zu-Zu, and various other
contemporaries in Bertie's affections. "Nothing on earth so dangerous;
your leader will bolt, or your off-wheeler will turn sulky, or your
young one will passage and make the very deuce of a row; they'll never
go quiet till the end, however clever your hand is on the ribbons.
Now, I'll drive six-in-hand as soon as any man--drove a ten-hander
last year in the Bois--when the team comes out of the stables; but I'm
hanged if I'd risk my neck with managing even a pair of women. Have
one clean out of the shafts before you trot out another!"
To which salutary advice Cecil only gave a laugh, going on his own
ways with the "team" as before, to the despair of his fidus Achates;
the Seraph being a quarry so incessantly pursued by dowager-beaters,
chaperone-keepers, and the whole hunt of the Matrimonial Pack, with
those clever hounds Belle and Fashion ever leading in full cry after
him, that he dreaded the sight of a ballroom meet; and, shunning the
rich preserves of the Salons, ran to earth persistently in the shady
Wood of St. John's, and got--at some little cost and some risk of
trapping, it is true, but still efficiently--preserved from all other
hunters or poachers by the lawless Robin Hoods aux yeux noirs of those
welcome and familiar coverts.
UNDER THE KEEPER'S TREE.
"You're a lad o' wax, my beauty!" cried Mr. Rake enthusiastically,
surveying the hero of the Grand Military with adoring eyes as that
celebrity, without a hair turned or a muscle swollen from his exploit,
was having a dressing down after a gentle exercise. "You've pulled it
off, haven't you? You've cut the work out for 'em! You've shown 'em
what a luster is! Strike me a loser, but what a deal there is in
blood. The littlest pippin that ever threw a leg across the pigskin
knows that in the stables; then why the dickens do the world run
against such a plain fact out of it?"
And Rake gazed with worship at the symmetrical limbs of the champion
of the "First Life," and plunged into speculation on the democratic
tendencies of the age, as clearly contradicted by all the evidences of
the flat and furrow, while Forest King drank a dozen go-downs of
water, and was rewarded for the patience with which he had subdued his
inclination to kick, fret, spring, and break away throughout the
dressing by a full feed thrown into his crib, which Rake watched him,
with adoring gaze, eat to the very last grain.
"You precious one!" soliloquized that philosopher, who loved the horse
with a sort of passion since his victory over the Shires. "You've won
for the gentlemen, my lovely--for your own cracks, my boy!"
And Rake, rendered almost melancholy by his thoughts, went out of the
box to get into saddle and ride off on an errand of his master's to
the Zu-Zu at her tiny hunting-lodge, where the snow-white ponies made
her stud, and where she gave enchanting little hunting-dinners, at
which she sang equally enchanting little hunting-songs, and arrayed
herself, in the Fontainebleau hunting costume, gold-hilted knife and
all, and spent Cecil's winnings for him with a rapidity that
threatened to leave very few of them for the London season. She was
very pretty, sweetly pretty; with hair that wanted no gold powder, the
clearest, sauciest eyes, and the handsomest mouth in the world; but of
grammar she had not a notion, of her aspirates she had never a
recollection, of conversation she had not an idea; of slang she had,
to be sure, a repertoire, but to this was her command of language
limited. She dressed perfectly, but she was a vulgar little soul;
drank everything, from Bass' ale to rum-punch, and from cherry-brandy
to absinthe; thought it the height of wit to stifle you with cayenne
slid into your vanilla ice, and the climax of repartee to cram your
hat full of peach stones and lobster shells; was thoroughly
avaricious, thoroughly insatiate, thoroughly heartless, pillaged with
both hands, and then never had enough; had a coarse good nature when
it cost her nothing, and was "as jolly as a grig," according to her
phraseology, so long as she could stew her pigeons in champagne, drink
wines and liqueurs that were beyond price, take the most dashing trap
in the Park up to Flirtation Corner, and laugh and sing and eat
Richmond dinners, and show herself at the Opera with Bertie or some
other "swell" attached to her, in the very box next to a Duchess.
The Zu-Zu was perfectly happy; and as for the pathetic pictures that
novelists and moralists draw, of vice sighing amid turtle and truffles
for childish innocence in the cottage at home where honeysuckles
blossomed and brown brooks made melody, and passionately grieving on
the purple cushions of a barouche for the time of straw pallets and
untroubled sleep, why--the Zu-Zu would have vaulted herself on the
box-seat of a drag, and told you "to stow all that trash"; her
childish recollections were of a stifling lean-to with the odor of
pigsty and straw-yard, pork for a feast once a week, starvation all
the other six days, kicks, slaps, wrangling, and a general atmosphere
of beer and wash-tubs; she hated her past, and loved her cigar on the
drag. The Zu-Zu is fact; the moralists' pictures are moonshine.
The Zu-Zu is an openly acknowledged fact, moreover, daily becoming
more prominent in the world, more brilliant, more frankly recognized,
and more omnipotent. Whether this will ultimately prove for the better
or the worse, it would be a bold man who should dare say; there is at
least one thing left to desire in it--i. e., that the synonym of
"Aspasia," which serves so often to designate in journalistic
literature these Free Lances of life, were more suitable in artistic
and intellectual similarity, and that, when the Zu-Zu and her
sisterhood plunge their white arms elbow-deep into so many fortunes,
and rule the world right and left as they do, they could also sound
their H's properly, and knew a little orthography, if they could not
be changed into such queens of grace, of intellect, of sovereign mind
and splendid wit as were their prototypes when she whose name they
debase held her rule in the City of the Violet Crown, and gathered
about her Phidias the divine, haughty and eloquent Antipho, the gay
Crates, the subtle Protagorus, Cratinus so acrid and yet so jovial,
Damon of the silver lyre, and the great poets who are poets for all
time. Author and artist, noble and soldier, court the Zu-Zu order now;
but it must be confessed that the Hellenic idols were of a more
exalted type than are the Hyde Park goddesses!
However, the Zu-Zu was the rage, and spent Bertie's money, when he got
any, just as her willful sovereignty fancied, and Rake rode on now
with his master's note, bearing no very good will to her; for Rake had
very strong prejudices, and none stronger than against these fair
pillagers who went about seeking whom they should devour, and laughing
at the wholesale ruin they wrought while the sentimentalists babbled
in "Social Science" of "pearls lost" and "innocence betrayed."
"A girl that used to eat tripe and red herring in a six-pair pack, and
dance for a shilling a night in gauze, coming it so grand that she'll
only eat asparagus in March, and drink the best Brands with her
truffles! Why, she ain't worth sixpence thrown away on her, unless
it's worth while to hear how hard she can swear at you!" averred Rake,
in his eloquence; and he was undoubtedly right for that matter; but
then--the Zu-Zu was the rage, and if ever she should be sold up, great
ladies would crowd to her sale and buy with eager curiosity at high
prices her most trumpery pots of pomatum, her most flimsy gew-gaws of
Rake had seen a good deal of men and manners, and, in his own opinion
at least, was "up to every dodge on the cross" that this iniquitous
world could unfold. A bright, lithe, animated, vigorous, yellow-
haired, and sturdy fellow; seemingly with a dash of the Celt in him
that made him vivacious and peppery; Mr. Rake polished his wits quite
as much as he polished the tops, and considered himself a philosopher.
Of whose son he was he had not the remotest idea; his earliest
recollections were of the tender mercies of the workhouse; but even
that chill foster-mother, the parish, had not damaged the liveliness
of his temper or the independence of his opinions, and as soon as he
was fifteen Rake had run away and joined a circus; distinguishing
himself there by his genius for standing on his head and tying his
limbs into a porter's knot.
From the circus he migrated successively into the shape of a comic
singer, a tapster, a navvy, a bill-sticker, a guacho in Mexico
(working his passage out), a fireman in New York, a ventriloquist in
Maryland, a vaquero in Spanish California, a lemonade seller in San
Francisco, a revolutionist in the Argentine (without the most distant
idea what he fought for), a boatman on the bay of Mapiri, a blacksmith
in Santarem, a trapper in the Wilderness, and finally, working his
passage home again, took the Queen's shilling in Dublin, and was
drafted into a light-cavalry regiment. With the --th he served half a
dozen years in India; a rough-rider, a splendid fellow in a charge or
a pursuit, with an astonishing power over horses, and the clearest
back-handed sweep of a saber that ever cut down a knot of natives; but
--insubordinate. Do his duty whenever fighting was in question, he did
most zealously; but to kick over the traces at other times was a
temptation that at last became too strong for that lawless lover of
From the moment that he joined the regiment a certain Corporal Warne
and he had conceived an antipathy to one another, which Rake had to
control as he might, and which the Corporal was not above indulging in
every petty piece of tyranny that his rank allowed him to exercise. On
active service Rake was, by instinct, too good a soldier not to manage
to keep the curb on himself tolerably well though he was always
regarded in his troop rather as a hound that will "riot" is regarded
in the pack; but when the --th came back to Brighton and to barracks,
the evil spirit of rebellion began to get a little hotter in him under
th Corporal's "Idees Napoliennes" of justifiable persecution. Warne
indisputably provoked his man in a cold, iron, strictly lawful sort of
manner, moreover, all the more irritating to a temper like Rake's.
"Hanged if I care how the officers come it over me; they're gentlemen,
and it don't try a fellow," would Rake say in confidential moments
over purl and a penn'orth of bird's-eye, his experience in the
Argentine Republic having left him with strongly aristocratic
prejudices; "but when it comes to a duffer like that, that knows no
better than me, what ain't a bit better than me, and what is as clumsy
a duffer about a horse's plates as ever I knew, and would almost let a
young 'un buck him out of his saddle--why, then I do cut up rough, I
ain't denying it; and I don't see what there is in his Stripes to give
him such a license to be aggravating."
With which Rake would blow the froth off his pewter with a puff of
concentrated wrath, and an oath against his non-commissioned officers
that might have let some light in upon the advocates for "promotion
from the ranks," had they been there to take the lesson. At last, in
the leisure of Brighton, the storm broke. Rake had a Scotch hound that
was the pride of his life; his beer-money often going instead to buy
dainties for the dog, who became one of the channels through which
Warne could annoy and thwart him. The dog did no harm, being a fine,
well-bred deerhound; but it pleased the Corporal to consider that it
did, simply because it belonged to Rake, whose popularity in the
corps, owing to his good nature, his good spirits, and his innumerable
tales of American experience and amorous adventures, increased the
jealous dislike which his knack with an unbroken colt and his abundant
stable science had first raised in his superior.
One day in the chargers' stables the hound ran out of a loose box with
a rush to get at Rake, and upset a pailful of warm mash. The Corporal,
who was standing by in harness, hit him over the head with a heavy
whip he had in his hand; infuriated by the pain, the dog flew at him,
tearing his overalls with a fierce crunch of his teeth. "Take the
brute off, and string him up with a halter; I've put up with him too
long!" cried Warne to a couple of privates working near in their
stable dress. Before the words were out of his mouth Rake threw
himself on him with a bound like lightning, and, wrenching the whip
out of his hands, struck him a slashing, stinging blow across his
"Hang my hound, you cur! If you touch a hair of him, I'll double-thong
you within an inch of your life!"
And assuredly he would have kept his word, had he not been made a
prisoner and marched off to the guardroom.
Rake learned the stern necessity of the law, which, for the sake of
morale, must make the soldiers, whose blood is wanted to be like fire
on the field, patient, pulseless, and enduring of every provocation,
cruelty, and insolence in the camp and barrack, as though they were
statues of stone--a needful law, a wise law, an indispensable law,
doubtless, but a very hard law to be obeyed by a man full of life and
all life's passions.
At the court-martial on his mutinous conduct, which followed, many
witnesses brought evidence, on being pressed, to the unpopularity of
Warne in the regiment and to his harshness and his tyranny to Rake.
Many men spoke out what had been chained down in their thoughts for
years; and, in consideration of the provocation received, the
prisoner, who was much liked by the officers, was condemned to six
months' imprisonment for his insubordination and blow to his superior
officer, without being tied up to the triangles. At the court-martial,
Cecil, who chanced to be in Brighton after Goodwood, was present one
day with some other Guardsmen; and the look of Rake, with his
cheerfulness under difficulties, his love for the hound, and his
bright, sunburnt, shrewd, humorous countenance, took his fancy.
"Beauty" was the essence of good nature. Indolent himself, he hated to
see anything or anybody worried; lazy, gentle, wayward, and spoilt by
his own world, he was still never so selfish and philosophic as he
pretended but what he would do a kindness, if one came in his way; it
is not a very great virtue, perhaps, but it is a rare one.
"Poor devil! Struck the other because he wouldn't have his dog hanged.
Well, on my word, I should have done the same in his place, if I could
have got up the pace for so much exertion," murmured Cecil to his
cheroot, careless of the demoralizing tendency of his remarks for the
army in general. Had it occurred in the Guards, and he had "sat" on
the case, Rake would have had one very lenient judge.
As it was, Bertie actually went the lengths of thinking seriously
about the matter; he liked Rake's devotion to his dumb friend, and he
heard of his intense popularity in his troop; he wished to save, if he
could, so fine a fellow from the risks of his turbulent passion and
from the stern fetters of a trying discipline; hence, when Rake found
himself condemned to his cell, he had a message sent him by Bertie's
groom that, when his term of punishment should be over, Mr. Cecil
would buy his discharge from the service and engage him as extra body-
servant, having had a good account of his capabilities; he had taken
the hound to his own kennels.
Now, the fellow had been thoroughly devil-may-care throughout the
whole course of the proceedings, had heard his sentence with sublime
impudence, and had chaffed his sentinels with an utterly reckless
nonchalance; but somehow or other, when that message reached him, a
vivid sense that he was a condemned and disgraced man suddenly flooded
in on him; a passionate gratitude seized him to the young aristocrat
who had thought of him in his destitution and condemnation, who had
even thought of his dog; and Rake the philosophic and undauntable,
could have found it in his heart to kneel down in the dust and kiss
the stirrup-leather when he held it for his new master, so strong was
the loyalty he bore from that moment to Bertie.
Martinets were scandalized at a Life-Guardsman taking as his private
valet a man who had been guilty of such conduct in the Light Cavalry;
but Cecil never troubled his head about what people said; and so
invaluable did Rake speedily become to him that he had kept him about
his person wherever he went from then until now, two years after.
Rake loved his master with a fidelity very rare in these days; he
loved his horses, his dogs, everything that was his, down to his very
rifle and boots; slaved for him cheerfully, and was as proud of the
deer he stalked, of the brace he bagged, of his winnings when the
Household played the Zingari, or his victory when his yacht won the
Cherbourg Cup, as though those successes had been Rake's own.
"My dear Seraph," said Cecil himself once, on this point, to the
Marquis, "if you want generosity, fidelity, and all the rest of the
cardinal what-d'ye-call-'ems--sins, ain't it?--go to a noble-hearted
Scamp; he'll stick to you till he kills himself. If you want to be
cheated, get a Respectable Immaculate; he'll swindle you piously, and
decamp with your Doncaster Vase."
And Rake, who assuredly had been an out-and-out scamp, made good
Bertie's creed; he "stuck to him" devoutly, and no terrier was ever
more alive to an otter than he was to the Guardsman's interests. It
was that very vigilance which made him, as he rode back from the Zu-
Zu's in the twilight, notice what would have escaped any save one who
had been practiced as a trapper in the red Canadian woods; namely, the
head of a man, almost hidden among the heavy, though leafless,
brushwood and the yellow gorse of a spinney which lay on his left in
Royallieu Park. Rake's eyes were telescopic and microscopic; moreover,
they had been trained to know such little signs as a marsh from a hen
harrier in full flight, by the length of wing and tail, and a widgeon
or a coot from a mallard or a teal, by the depth each swam out of the
water. Gray and foggy as it was, and high as was the gorse, Rake
recognized his born-foe Willon.
"What's he up to there?" thought Rake, surveying the place, which was
wild, solitary, and an unlikely place enough for a head groom to be
found in. "If he ain't a rascal, I never seen one; it's my belief he
cheats the stable thick and thin, and gets on Mr. Cecil's mounts to a
good tune--aye, and would nobble 'em as soon as not, if it just suited
his book. That blessed King hates the man; how he lashes his heels at
It was certainly possible that Willon might be passing an idle hour in
potting rabbits, or be otherwise innocently engaged enough; but the
sight of him, there among the gorse, was a sight of suspicion to Rake.
Instantaneous thoughts darted through his mind of tethering his horse,
and making a reconnaissance, safely and unseen, with the science of
stalking brute or man that he had learned of his friends the Sioux.
But second thoughts showed him that was impossible. The horse he was
on was a mere colt, just breaking in, who had barely had so much as a
"dumb jockey" on his back; and stand for a second, the colt would not.
"At any rate, I'll unearth him," thought Rake, with his latent
animosity to the head groom and his vigilant loyalty to Cecil
overruling any scruple as to his right to overlook his foe's
movements; and with a gallop that was muffled on the heathered turf he
dashed straight at the covert, unperceived till he was within ten
paces. Willon started and looked up hastily; he was talking to a
square-built man very quietly dressed in shepherd's plaid, chiefly
remarkable by a red-hued beard and whiskers.
The groom turned pale, and laughed nervously as Rake pulled up with a
"You on that young 'un again? Take care you don't get bucked out o'
saddle in the shape of a cocked-hat."
"I ain't afraid of going to grass, if you are!" retorted Rake
scornfully; boldness was not his enemy's strong point. "Who's your
pal, old fellow?"
"A cousin o' mine, out o' Yorkshire," vouchsafed Mr. Willon, looking
anything but easy, while the cousin aforesaid nodded sulkily on the
"Ah! looks like a Yorkshire tyke," muttered Rake, with a volume of
meaning condensed in these innocent words. "A nice, dry, cheerful sort
of place to meet your cousin in, too; uncommon lively; hope it'll
raise his spirits to see all his cousins a-grinning there; his spirits
don't seem much in sorts now," continued the ruthless inquisitor, with
a glance at the "keeper's tree" by which they stood, in the middle of
dank undergrowth, whose branches were adorned with dead cats, curs,
owls, kestrels, stoats, weasels, and martens. To what issue the
passage of arms might have come it is impossible to say, for at that
moment the colt took matters into his own hands, and bolted with a
rush that even Rake could not pull in till he had had a mile-long
"Something up there," thought that sagacious rough-rider; "if that
red-haired chap ain't a rum lot, I'll eat him. I've seen his face,
too, somewhere; where the deuce was it? Cousin; yes, cousins in Queer
Street, I dare say! Why should he go and meet his 'cousin' out in the
fog there, when, if you took twenty cousins home to the servants'
hall, nobody'd ever say anything? If that Willon ain't as deep as Old
And Rake rode into the stable-yard, thoughtful and intensely
suspicious of the rendezvous under the keeper's tree in the out-lying
coverts. He would have been more so had he guessed that Ben Davis' red
beard and demure attire, with other as efficient disguises, had
prevented even his own keen eyes from penetrating the identity of
Willon's "Cousin" with the welsher he had seen thrust off the course
the day before by his master.
THE END OF A RINGING RUN.
"Tally-ho! is the word, clap spurs and let's follow.
The world has no charm like a rattling view-halloa!"
Is hardly to be denied by anybody in this land of fast bursts and
gallant M. F. H.'s, whether they "ride to hunt," or "hunt to ride," in
the immortal distinction of Assheton Smith's old whip; the latter
class, by the bye, becoming far and away the larger, in these days of
rattling gallops and desperate breathers. Who cares to patter after a
sly old dog fox, that, fat and wary, leads the pack a tedious,
interminable wind, in and out through gorse and spinney, bricks
himself up in a drain, and takes an hour to be dug out, dodges about
till twilight, and makes the hounds pick the scent slowly and
wretchedly over marsh and through water? Who would not give fifty
guineas a second for the glorious thirty minutes of racing that show
steam and steel over fence and fallow in a clipping rush, without a
check from find to finish? So be it ever! The riding that graces the
Shires, that makes Tedworth and Pytchley, the Duke's and the
Fitzwilliam's, household words and "names beloved"--that fills Melton
and Market Harborough, and makes the best flirts of the ballroom
gallop fifteen miles to covert, careless of hail or rain, mire or
slush, mist or cold, so long as it is a fine scenting wind--is the
same riding that sent the Six Hundred down in to the blaze of the
Muscovite guns; that in our fathers' days gave to Grant's Hussars
their swoop, like eagles, on to the rearguard at Morales, and that, in
the grand old East and the rich trackless West, makes exiled
campaigners with high English names seek and win an aristeia of their
own at the head of their wild Irregular Horse, who would charge hell
itself at their bidding.
Now in all the service there was not a man who loved hunting better
than Bertie. Though he was incorrigibly lazy, and inconceivably
effeminate in every one of his habits; though he suggested a portable
lounging-chair as an improvement at battues, so that you might shoot
sitting; drove to every breakfast and garden party in the season in
his brougham with the blinds down lest a grain of dust should touch
him; thought a waltz too exhaustive, and a saunter down Pall Mall too
tiring, and asked to have the end of a novel told him in the clubs,
because it was too much trouble to read on a warm day; though he was
more indolent than any spoiled Creole--"Beauty" never failed to head
the first flight, and adored a hard day cross country, with an east
wind in his eyes and the sleet in his teeth. The only trouble was to
make him get up in time for it.
"Mr. Cecil, sir; if you please, the drag will be round in ten
minutes," said Rake, with a dash of desperation for the seventh time
into his chamber, one fine scenting morning.
"I don't please," answered Cecil sleepily, finishing his cup of
coffee, and reading a novel of La Demirep's.
"The other gentlemen are all down, sir, and you will be too late."
"Not a bit. They must wait for me," yawned Bertie.
Crash came the Seraph's thunder on the panels of the door, and a
strong volume of Turkish through the keyhole: "Beauty, Beauty, are you
"Now, what an inconsequent question!" expostulated Cecil, with
appealing rebuke. "If a fellow were dead, how the devil could he say
he was? Do be logical, Seraph."
"Get up!" cried the Seraph with a deafening rataplan, and a final dash
of his colossal stature into the chamber. "We've all done breakfast;
the traps are coming round; you'll be an hour behind time at the
Bertie lifted his eyes with plaintive resignation from the Demirep's
"I'm really in an interesting chapter: Aglae has just had a marquis
kill his son, and two brothers kill each other in the Bois, about her,
and is on the point of discovering a man she's in love with to be her
own grandfather; the complication is absolutely thrilling," murmured
Beauty, whom nothing could ever "thrill"--not even plunging down the
Matterhorn, losing "long odds in thou' " over the Oaks, or being
sunned in the eyes of the fairest woman of Europe.
The Seraph laughed, and tossed the volume straight to the other end of
"Confound you, Beauty; get up!"
"Never swear, Seraph; not ever so mildly," yawned Cecil, "it's gone
out, you know; only the cads and the clergy can damn one nowadays;
it's such bad style to be so impulsive. Look! You have broken the back
of my Demirep!"
"You deserve to break the King's back over the first cropper," laughed
the Seraph. "Do get up!"
"Bother!" sighed the victim, raising himself with reluctance, while
the Seraph disappeared in a cloud of Turkish.
Neither Bertie's indolence nor his insouciance was assumed; utter
carelessness was his nature, utter impassability was his habit, and he
was truly for the moment loath to leave his bed, his coffee, and his
novel; he must have his leg over the saddle, and feel the strain on
his arms of that "pulling" pace with which the King always went when
once he settled into his stride, before he would really think about
The hunting breakfasts of our forefathers and of our present squires
found no favor with Bertie; a slice of game and a glass of Curacoa
were all he kept the drag waiting to swallow; and the four bays going
at a pelting pace, he and the rest of the Household who were gathered
at Royallieu were by good luck in time for the throw-off of the Quorn,
where the hero o' the Blue Ribbon was dancing impatiently under
Willon's hand, scenting the fresh, keen, sunny air, and knowing as
well what all those bits of scarlet straying in through field and
lane, gate and gap, meant, as well as though the merry notes of the
master's horn were winding over the gorse. The meet was brilliant and
very large; showing such a gathering as only the Melton country can;
and foremost among the crowd of carriages, hacks, and hunters, were
the beautiful roan mare Vivandiere of the Lady Guenevere, mounted by
that exquisite peeress in her violet habit and her tiny velvet hat;
and the pony equipage of the Zu-Zu, all glittering with azure and
silver, leopard rugs, and snowy reins: the breadth of half an acre of
grassland was between them, but the groups of men about them were
tolerably equal for number and for rank.
"Take Zu-Zu off my hands for this morning, Seraph; there's a good
fellow," murmured Cecil, as he swung himself into saddle. The Seraph
gave a leonine growl, sighed, and acquiesced. He detested women in the
hunting-field, but that sweetest tempered giant of the Brigades never
refused anything to anybody--much less to "Beauty."
To an uninitiated mind it would have seemed marvelous and beautiful in
its combination of simplicity and intricacy, to have noted the
delicate tactics with which Bertie conducted himself between his two
claimants--bending to his Countess with a reverent devotion that
assuaged whatever of incensed perception of her unacknowledged rival
might be silently lurking in her proud heart; wheeling up to the pony-
trap under cover of speaking to the men from Egerton Lodge, and
restoring the Zu-Zu from sulkiness, by a propitiatory offer of a
little gold sherry-flash, studded with turquoises, just ordered for
her from Regent Street, which, however, she ungraciously contemned,
because she thought it had only cost twenty guineas; anchoring the
victimized Seraph beside her by an adroit "Ah! by the way, Rock, give
Zu-Zu one of your rose-scented papelitos; she's been wild to smoke
them"; and leaving the Zu-Zu content at securing a future Duke, was
free to canter back and flirt on the offside of Vivandiere, till the
"signal," the "cast," made with consummate craft, the waving of the
white sterns among the brushwood, the tightening of girths, the
throwing away of cigars, the challenge, the whimper, and the "stole
away!" sent the field headlong down the course after as fine a long-
legged greyhound fox as ever carried a brush.
Away he went in a rattling spin, breaking straight at once for the
open, the hounds on the scent like mad: with a tally-ho that thundered
through the cloudless, crisp, cold, glittering noon, the field dashed
off pell-mell; the violet habit of her ladyship, and the azure skirts
of the Zu-Zu foremost of all in the rush through the spinneys while
Cecil on the King, and the Seraph on a magnificent white weight-
carrier, as thoroughbred and colossal as himself, led the way with
them. The scent was hot as death in the spinneys, and the pack raced
till nothing but a good one could live with them; few but good ones,
however, were to be found with the Quorn, and the field held together
superbly over the first fence, and on across the grassland, the game
old fox giving no sign of going to covert, but running straight as a
crow flies, while the pace grew terrific.
"Beats cock-fighting!" cried the Zu-Zu, while her blue skirts
fluttered in the wind, as she lifted Cecil's brown mare, very
cleverly, over a bilberry hedge, and set her little white teeth with a
will on the Seraph's attar-of-rose cigarette. Lady Guenevere heard the
words as Vivandiere rose in the air with the light bound of a roe, and
a slight superb dash of scorn came into her haughty eyes for the
moment; she never seemed to know that "that person" in the azure habit
even existed, but the contempt awoke in her, and shone in her glance,
while she rode on as that fair leader of the Belvoir and Pytchley
alone could ride over the fallows.
The steam was on at full pressure, the hounds held close to his brush,
--heads up, sterns down,--running still straight as an arrow over the
open, past coppice and covert, through gorse and spinney, without a
sign of the fox making for shelter. Fence and double, hedge and brook,
soon scattered the field; straying off far and wide, and coming to
grief with lots of "downers," it grew select, and few but the crack
men could keep the hounds in view. "Catch 'em who can," was the one
mot d'ordre, for they were literally racing; the line-hunters never
losing the scent a second, as the fox, taking to dodging, made all the
trouble he could for them through the rides of the woods. Their
working was magnificent, and, heading him, they ran him round and
round in a ring, viewed him for a second, and drove him out of covert
once more into the pastures, while they laid on at a hotter scent and
flew after him like staghounds.
Only half a dozen were up with them now; the pace was tremendous,
though all over grass; here a flight of posts and rails tried the
muscle of the boldest; there a bullfinch yawned behind the blackthorn;
here a big fence towered; there a brook rushed angrily among its
rushes; while the keen, easterly wind blew over the meadows, and the
pack streamed along like the white trail of a plume. Cecil "showed the
way" with the self-same stride and the self-same fencing as had won
him the Vase. Lady Guenevere and the Seraph were running almost even
with him; three of the Household farther down; the Zu-Zu and some
Melton men two meadows off; the rest of the field, nowhere. Fifty-two
minutes had gone by in that splendid running, without a single check,
while the fox raced as gamely and as fast as at the find; the speed
was like lightning past the brown woods, the dark-green pine
plantations, the hedges, bright with scarlet berries; through the
green low-lying grasslands, and the winding drives of coverts, and the
boles of ash-hued beech trunks, whose roots the violets were just
purpling with their blossom; while far away stretched the blue haze of
the distance, and above-head a flight of rooks cawed merrily in the
bright air, soon left far off as the pack swept onward in the most
brilliant thing of the hunting year.
"Water! Take care!" cried Cecil, with a warning wave of his hand as
the hounds, with a splash like a torrent, dashed up to their necks in
a broad, brawling brook that Reynard had swam in first-rate style, and
struggled as best they could after him. It was an awkward bit, with
bad taking-off and a villainous mud-bank for landing; and the water,
thickened and swollen with recent rains, had made all the land that
sloped to it miry and soft as sponge. It was the risk of life and limb
to try it; but all who still viewed the hounds, catching Bertie's
shout of warning, worked their horses up for it, and charged toward it
as hotly as troops charge a square. Forest King was over like a bird;
the winner of the Grand Military was not to be daunted by all the puny
streams of the Shires; the artistic riding of the Countess landed
Vivandiere, with a beautiful clear spring, after him by a couple of
lengths: the Seraph's handsome white hunter, brought up at a headlong
gallop with characteristic careless dash and fine science mingled,
cleared it; but, falling with a mighty crash, gave him a purler on the
opposite side, and was within an inch of striking him dead with his
hoof in frantic struggles to recover. The Seraph, however, was on his
legs with a rapidity marvelous in a six-foot-three son of Anak, picked
up the horse, threw himself into saddle, and dashed off again quick as
lightning, with his scarlet stained all over, and his long fair
mustaches floating in the wind. The Zu-Zu turned Mother of Pearl back
with a fiery French oath; she hated to be "cut down," but she liked
still less to risk her neck; and two of the Household were already
treated to "crackers" that disabled them for the day, while one Melton
man was pitched head foremost into the brook, and another was sitting
dolorously on the bank with his horse's head in his lap, and the poor
brute's spine broken. There were only three of the first riders in
England now alone with the hounds, who, with a cold scent as the fox
led them through the angular corner of a thick pheasant covert, stuck
like wax to the line, and working him out, viewed him once more, for
one wild, breathless, tantalizing second; and through the straggling
street of a little hamlet, and got him out again on the level pasture
and across a fine line of hunting country, with the leafless woods and
the low gates of a park far away to their westward.
"A guinea to a shilling that we kill him," cried the flute-voice of
her brilliant ladyship, as she ran a moment side by side with Forest
King, and flashed her rich eyes on his rider; she had scorned the Zu-
Zu, but on occasion she would use betting slang and racing slang with
the daintiest grace in the world herself, without their polluting her
lips. As though the old fox heard the wager, he swept in a bend round
toward the woods on the right; making, with all the craft and speed
there were in him, for the deep shelter of the boxwood and laurel.
"After him, my beauties, my beauties--if he run there he'll go to
ground and save his brush!" thundered the Seraph, as though he were
hunting his own hounds at Lyonnesse, who knew every tone of his rich
clarion notes as well as they knew every wind of his horn. But the
young ones of the pack saw Reynard's move and his meaning as quickly
as he did; having run fast before, they flew now; the pace was
terrific. Two fences were crossed as though they were paper; the
meadows raced with lightning speed, a ha-ha leaped, a gate cleared
with a crashing jump, and in all the furious excitement of "view,"
they tore down the mile-long length of an avenue, dashed into a flower
garden, and smashing through a gay trellis-work of scarlet creeper,
plunged into the home-paddock and killed with as loud a shout ringing
over the country in the bright, sunny day as ever was echoed by the
ringing cheers of the Shire; Cecil, the Seraph, and her victorious
ladyship alone coming in for the glories of the "finish."
"Never had a faster seventy minutes up-wind," said Lady Guenevere,
looking at the tiny jeweled watch, the size of a sixpence, that was
set in the handle of her whip, as the brush, with all the compliments
customary, was handed to her. She had won twenty before.
The park so unceremoniously entered belonged to a baronet, who, though
he hunted little himself, honored the sport and scorned a vulpecide,
he came out naturally and begged them to lunch. Lady Guenevere refused
to dismount, but consented to take a biscuit and a little Lafitte,
while clarets, liqueurs, and ales, with anything else they wanted,
were brought to her companions. The stragglers strayed in; the M. F.
H. came up just too late; the men, getting down, gathered about the
Countess or lounged on the gray stone steps of the Elizabethan house.
The sun shone brightly on the oriole casements, the antique gables,
the twisted chimneys, all covered with crimson parasites and trailing
ivy; the horses, the scarlet, the pack in the paddock adjacent, the
shrubberies of laurel and araucaria, the sun-tinted terraces, made a
bright and picturesque grouping. Bertie, with his hand on Vivandiere's
pommel, after taking a deep draught of sparkling Rhenish, looked on at
it all with a pleasant sigh of amusement.
"By Jove!" he murmured softly, with a contented smile about his lips,
"that was a ringing run!"
At that very moment, as the words were spoken, a groom approached him
hastily; his young brother, whom he had scarcely seen since the find,
had been thrown and taken home on a hurdle; the injuries were rumored
to be serious.
Bertie's smile faded, he looked very grave; world-spoiled as he was,
reckless in everything, and egotist though he had long been by
profession, he loved the lad.
When he entered the darkened room, with its faint chloroform odor, the
boy lay like one dead, his bright hair scattered on the pillow, his
chest bare, and his right arm broken and splintered. The deathlike
coma was but the result of the chloroform; but Cecil never stayed to
ask or remember that; he was by the couch in a single stride, and
dropped down by it, his head bent on his arms.
"It was my fault. I should have looked to him."
The words were very low; he hated that any should see he could still
be such a fool as to feel. A minute, and he conquered himself; he
rose, and with his hand on the boy's fair tumbled curls, turned calmly
to the medical men who, attached to the household, had been on the
spot at once.
"What is the matter?"
"Fractured arm, contusion; nothing serious, nothing at all, at his
age," replied the surgeon. "When he wakes out of the lethargy he will
tell you so himself, Mr. Cecil."
"You are certain?"--do what he would his voice shook a little; his
hand had not shaken, two days before, when nothing less than ruin or
ransom had hung on his losing or winning the race.
"Perfectly certain," answered the surgeon cheerfully. "He is not
overstrong, to be sure, but the contusions are slight; he will be out
of that bed in a fortnight."
"How did he fall?"
But while they told him he scarcely heard; he was looking at the
handsome Antinous-like form of the lad as it lay stretched helpless
and stricken before him; and he was remembering the death-bed of their
mother, when the only voice he had ever reverenced had whispered, as
she pointed to the little child of three summers: "When you are a man
take care of him, Bertie." How had he fulfilled the injunction? Into
how much brilliantly tinted evil had he not led him--by example, at
The surgeon touched his arm apologetically, after a lengthened
"Your brother will be best unexcited when he comes to himself, sir;
look--his eyes are unclosing now. Could you do me the favor to go to
his lordship? His grief made him perfectly wild--so dangerous to his
life at his age. We could only persuade him to retire, a few minutes
ago, on the plea of Mr. Berkeley's safety. If you could see him----"
Cecil went, mechanically almost, and with a grave, weary depression on
him; he was so unaccustomed to think at all, so utterly unaccustomed
to think painfully, that he scarcely knew what ailed him. Had he had
his old tact about him, he would have known how worse than useless it
would be for him to seek his father in such a moment.
Lord Royallieu was lying back exhausted as Cecil opened the door of
his private apartments, heavily darkened and heavily perfumed; at the
turn of the lock he started up eagerly.
"What news of him?"
"Good news, I hope," said Cecil gently, as he came forward. "The
injuries are not grave, they tell me. I am so sorry that I never
watched his fencing, but--"
The old man had not recognized him till he heard his voice, and he
waved him off with a fierce, contemptuous gesture; the grief for his
favorite's danger, the wild terrors that his fears had conjured up,
his almost frantic agony at the sight of the accident, had lashed him
into passion well-nigh delirious.
"Out of my sight, sir," he said fiercely, his mellow tones quivering
with rage. "I wish to God you had been dead in a ditch before a hair
of my boy's had been touched. You live, and he lies dying there!"
Cecil bowed in silence; the brutality of the words wounded, but they
did not offend him, for he knew his father was in that moment scarce
better than a maniac, and he was touched with the haggard misery upon
the old Peer's face.
"Out of my sight, sir," re-echoed Lord Royallieu as he strode forward,
passion lending vigor to his emaciated frame, while the dignity of his
grand carriage blent with the furious force of his infuriated
blindness. "If you had had the heart of a man, you would have saved
such a child as that from his peril; warned him, watched him, succored
him at least when he fell. Instead of that, you ride on and leave him
to die, if death comes to him! You are safe, you are always safe. You
try to kill yourself with every vice under heaven, and only get more
strength, more grace, more pleasure from it--you are always safe
because I hate you. Yes! I hate you, sir!"
No words can give the force, the malignity, the concentrated meaning
with which the words were hurled out, as the majestic form of the old
Lord towered in the shadow, with his hands outstretched as if in
Cecil heard him in silence, doubting if he could hear aright, while
the bitter phrases scathed and cut like scourges, but he bowed once
more with the manner that was as inseparable from him as his nature.
"Hate is so exhausting; I regret I give you the trouble of it. May I
ask why you favor me with it?"
"You may!" thundered his father, while his hawk's eyes flashed their
glittering fire. "You are like the man I cursed living and curse dead.
You look at me with Alan Bertie's eyes, you speak to me with Alan
Bertie's voice; I loved your mother, I worshiped her; but--you are his
son, not mine!"
The secret doubt, treasured so long, was told at last. The blood
flushed Bertie's face a deep and burning scarlet; he started with an
irrepressible tremor, like a man struck with a shot; he felt like one
suddenly stabbed in the dark by a sure and a cruel hand. The insult
and the amazement of the words seemed to paralyze him for the moment,
the next he recovered himself, and lifted his head with as haughty a
gesture as his father's, his features perfectly composed again, and
sterner than in all his careless, easy life they ever yet had looked.
"You lie, and you know you lie. My mother was pure as the angels.
Henceforth you can be only to me a slanderer who has dared to taint
the one name holy in my sight."
And without another word, he turned and went out of the chamber. Yet,
as the door closed, old habit was so strong on him that, even in his
hot and bitter pain, and his bewildered sense of sudden outrage, he
almost smiled at himself. "It is a mania; he does not know what he
says," he thought. "How could I be so melodramatic? We were like two
men at the Porte St. Martin. Inflated language is such bad form!"
But the cruel stroke had not struck the less closely home, and gentle
though his nature was, beyond all forgiveness from him was the
dishonor of his mother's memory.
AFTER A RICHMOND DINNER.
It was the height of the season, and the duties of the Household were
proportionately and insupportably heavy. The Brigades were fairly
worked to death, and the Indian service, in the heat of the Afghan
war, was never more onerous than the campaigns that claimed the Guards
from Derby to Ducal.
Escorts to Levees, guards of honor to Drawing rooms, or field-days in
the Park and the Scrubs, were but the least portion of it. Far more
severe, and still less to be shirked, were the morning exercise in the
Ride; the daily parade in the Lady's Mile; the reconnaissances from
club windows, the vedettes at Flirtation Corner; the long campaigns at
mess-breakfasts, with the study of dice and baccarat tactics, and the
fortifications of Strasburg pate against the invasions of Chartreuse
and Chambertin; the breathless, steady charges of Belgravian
staircases when a fashionable drum beat the rataplan; the skirmishes
with sharpshooters of the bright-eyed Irregular Lancers; the foraging
duty when fair commanders wanted ices or strawberries at garden
parties; the ball-practice at Hornsey Handicaps; the terrible risk of
crossing the enemy's lines, and being made to surrender as prisoners
of war at the jails of St. George's, or of St. Paul's, Knightsbridge;
the constant inspections of the Flying Battalions of the Ballet, and
the pickets afterward in the Wood of St. John; the anxieties of the
Club commissariats, and the close vigilance over the mess wines; the
fatigue duty of ballrooms, and the continual unharnessing consequent
on the clause in the Regulations never to wear the same gloves twice;
all these, without counting the close battles of the Corner and the
unremitting requirements of the Turf, worked the First Life and the
rest of the Brigades, Horse and Foot, so hard and incessantly that
some almost thought of changing into the dreary depot of St.
Stephen's; and one mutinous Coldstreamer was even rash enough and
false enough to his colors to meditate deserting to the enemy's camp,
and giving himself up at St. George's--"because a fellow once hanged
is let alone, you know!"
The Household were very hard pressed through the season--a crowded and
brilliant one; and Cecil was in request most of all. Bertie, somehow
or other, was the fashion--marvelous and indefinable word, that gives
a more powerful crown than thrones, blood, beauty, or intellect can
ever bestow. And no list was "the thing" without his name; no
reception, no garden party, no opera-box, or private concert, or rose-
shadowed boudoir, fashionably affiche without being visited by him.
How he, in especial, had got his reputation it would have been hard to
say, unless it were that he dressed a shade more perfectly than
anyone, and with such inimitable carelessness in the perfection, too,
and had an almost unattainable matchlessness in the sangfroid of his
soft, languid insolence, and incredible, though ever gentle,
effrontery. However gained, he had it; and his beautiful hack Sahara,
his mail-phaeton with two blood grays dancing in impatience over the
stones, or his little dark-green brougham for night-work, were, one or
another of them, always seen from two in the day till four or five in
the dawn about the park or the town.
And yet this season, while he made a prima donna by a bravissima,
introduced a new tie by an evening's wear, gave a cook the cordon with
his praise, and rendered a fresh-invented liqueur the rage by his
recommendation, Bertie knew very well that he was ruined.
The breach between his father and himself was irrevocable. He had left
Royallieu as soon as his guests had quitted it and young Berkeley was
out of all danger. He had long known he could look for no help from
the old lord, or from his elder brother, the heir; and now every
chance of it was hopelessly closed; nothing but the whim or the will
of those who held his floating paper, and the tradesmen who had his
name on their books at compound interest of the heaviest, stood
between him and the fatal hour when he must "send in his papers to
sell," and be "nowhere" in the great race of life.
He knew that a season, a month, a day, might be the only respite left
him, the only pause for him, 'twixt his glittering luxurious world and
the fiat of outlawry and exile. He knew that the Jews might be down on
him any night that he sat at the Guards' mess, flirted with foreign
princesses, or laughed at the gossamer gossip of the town over iced
drinks in the clubs. His liabilities were tremendous, his resources
totally exhausted; but such was the latent recklessness of the
careless Royallieu blood, and such the languid devil-may-care of his
training and his temper, that the knowledge scarcely ever seriously
disturbed his enjoyment of the moment. Somehow, he never realized it.
If any weatherwise had told the Lisbon people of the coming of the
great earthquake, do you think they could have brought themselves to
realize that midnight darkness, that yawning desolation which were
nigh, while the sun was still so bright and the sea so tranquil, and
the bloom so sweet on purple pomegranate and amber grape, and the
scarlet of odorous flowers, and the blush of a girl's kiss-warmed
A sentimental metaphor with which to compare the difficulties of a
dandy of the Household, because his "stiff" was floating about in too
many directions at too many high figures, and he had hardly enough
till next pay-day came round to purchase the bouquets he sent and meet
the club-fees that were due! But, after all, may it not well be
doubted if a sharp shock and a second's blindness, and a sudden sweep
down under the walls of the Cathedral or the waters of the Tagus, were
not, on the whole, a quicker and pleasanter mode of extinction than
that social earthquake--"gone to the bad with a crash"? And the
Lisbonites did not more disbelieve in, and dream less of their coming
ruin than Cecil did his, while he was doing the season, with
engagements enough in a night to spread over a month, the best known
horses in the town, a dozen rose-notes sent to his clubs or his
lodgings in a day, and the newest thing in soups, colts, beauties,
neckties, perfumes, tobaccos, or square dances waiting his dictum to
become the fashion.
"How you do go on with those women, Beauty," growled the Seraph, one
day after a morning of fearful hard work consequent on having played
the Foot Guards at Lord's, and, in an unwary moment, having allowed
himself to be decoyed afterward to a private concert, and very nearly
proposed to in consequence, during a Symphony in A; an impending
terror from which he could hardly restore himself of his jeopardized
safety. "You're horribly imprudent!"
"Not a bit of it," rejoined Beauty serenely. "That is the superior
wisdom and beautiful simplicity of making love to your neighbor's wife
--she can't marry you!"
"But she may get you into the D. C.," mused the Seraph, who had gloomy
personal recollection of having been twice through that phase of law
and life, and of having been enormously mulcted in damages because he
was a Duke in future, and because, as he piteously observed on the
occasion, "You couldn't make that fellow Cresswell see that it was
they ran away with me each time!"
"Oh, everybody goes through the D. C. somehow or other," answered
Cecil, with philosophy. "It's like the Church, the Commons, and the
Gallows, you know--one of the popular Institutions."
"And it's the only Law Court where the robber cuts a better figure
than the robbed," laughed the Seraph; consoling himself that he had
escaped the future chance of showing in the latter class of marital
defrauded, by shying that proposal during the Symphony in A, on which
his thoughts ran, as the thoughts of one who has just escaped from an
Alpine crevasse run on the past abyss in which he had been so nearly
lost forever. "I say, Beauty, were you ever near doing anything
serious--asking anybody to marry you, eh? I suppose you have been--
they do make such awful hard running on one" and the poor hunted
Seraph stretched his magnificent limbs with the sigh of a martyred
"I was once--only once!"
"Ah, by Jove! And what saved you?"
The Seraph lifted himself a little, with a sort of pitying,
sympathizing curiosity toward a fellow-sufferer.
"Well, I'll tell you," said Bertie, with a sigh as of a man who hated
long sentences, and who was about to plunge into a painful past. "It's
ages ago; day I was at a Drawing room; year Blue Ruin won the
Clearwell for Royal, I think. Wedged up there, in that poking place, I
saw such a face--the deuce, it almost makes me feel enthusiastic now.
She was just out--an angel with a train! She had delicious eyes--like
a spaniel's you know--a cheek like this peach, and lips like that
strawberry there, on the top of your ice. She looked at me, and I was
in love! I knew who she was--Irish lord's daughter--girl I could have
had for the asking; and I vow that I thought I would ask her--I
actually was as far gone as that; I actually said to myself, I'd hang
about her a week or two, and then propose. You'll hardly believe it,
but I did. Watched her presented; such grace, such a smile, such a
divine lift of the lashes. I was really in love, and with a girl who
would marry me! I was never so near a fatal thing in my life----"
"Well?" asked the Seraph, pausing to listen till he let the ice in his
sherry-cobbler melt away. When you have been so near breaking your
neck down the Matrimonial Matterhorn, it is painfully interesting to
hear how your friend escaped the same risks of descent.
"Well," resumed Bertie, "I was very near it. I did nothing but watch
her; she saw me, and I felt she was as flattered and as touched as she
ought to be. She blushed most enchantingly; just enough, you know; she
was conscious I followed her; I contrived to get close to her as she
passed out, so close that I could see those exquisite eyes lighten and
gleam, those exquisite lips part with a sigh, that beautiful face beam
with the sunshine of a radiant smile. It was the dawn of love I had
taught her! I pressed nearer and nearer, and I caught her soft whisper
as she leaned to her mother: 'Mamma, I'm so hungry! I could eat a
whole chicken!' The sigh, the smile, the blush, the light, were for
her dinner--not for me! The spell was broken forever. A girl whom I
had looked at could think of wings and merry-thoughts and white sauce!
I have never been near a proposal again."
The Seraph, with the clarion roll of his gay laughter, flung a hautboy
"Hang you, Beauty! If I didn't think you were going to tell one how
you really got out of a serious thing; it is so awfully difficult to
keep clear of them nowadays. Those before-dinner teas are only just so
many new traps! What became of her--eh?"
"She married a Scotch laird and became socially extinct, somewhere
among the Hebrides. Served her right," murmured Cecil sententiously.
"Only think what she lost just through hungering for a chicken; if I
hadn't proposed for her,--for one hardly keeps the screw up to such
self-sacrifice as that when one is cool the next morning,--I would
have made her the fashion!"
With which masterly description in one phrase of all he could have
done for the ill-starred debutante who had been hungry in the wrong
place, Cecil lounged out of the club to drive with half a dozen of his
set to a water-party--a Bacchanalian water-party, with the Zu-Zu and
her sisters for the Naiads and the Household for their Tritons.
A water-party whose water element apparently consisted in driving down
to Richmond, dining at nine, being three hours over the courses,
contributing seven guineas apiece for the repast, listening to the
songs of the Café Alcazar, reproduced with matchless elan by a pretty
French actress, being pelted with brandy cherries by the Zu-Zu, seeing
their best cigars thrown away half-smoked by pretty pillagers, and
driving back again to town in the soft, starry night, with the gay
rhythms ringing from the box-seat as the leaders dashed along in a
stretching gallop down the Kew Road. It certainly had no other more
aquatic feature in it save a little drifting about for twenty minutes
before dining, in toy boats and punts, as the sun was setting, while
Laura Lelas, the brunette actress, sang a barcarolle.
"Venice, and her people, only born to bloom and droop."
"Where be all those
Dear dead women, with such hair too; what's become of all the gold
Used to hang and brush their bosoms? I feel chilly and grown old;"
It did not set Cecil thinking, however, after Browning's fashion,
because, in the first place, it was a canon with him never to think at
all; in the second, if put to it he would have averred that he knew
nothing of Venice, except that it was a musty old bore of a place,
where they worried you about visas and luggage and all that, chloride
of lim'd you if you came from the East, and couldn't give you a mount
if it were ever so; and, in the third, instead of longing for the dear
dead women, he was entirely contented with the lovely living ones who
were at that moment puffing the smoke of his scented cigarettes into
his eyes, making him eat lobster drowned in Chablis, or pelting him
As they left the Star and Garter, Laura Lelas, mounted on Cecil's box-
seat, remembered she had dropped her cashmere in the dining room. A
cashmere is a Parisian's soul, idol, and fetich; servants could not
find it; Cecil, who, to do him this justice, was always as courteous
to a comedienne as to a countess, went himself. Passing the open
window of another room, he recognized the face of his little brother
among a set of young Civil Service fellows, attaches, and cornets.
They had no women with them; but they had brought what was perhaps
worse--dice for hazard--and were turning the unconscious Star and
Garter unto an impromptu Crockford's over their wine.
Little Berk's pretty face was very flushed; his lips were set tight,
his eyes were glittering; the boy had the gambler's passion of the
Royallieu blood in its hottest intensity. He was playing with a
terrible eagerness that went to Bertie's heart with the same sort of
pang of remorse with which he had looked on him when he had been
thrown like dead on his bed at home.
Cecil stopped and leaned over the open window.
"Ah, young one, I did not know you were here. We are going home; will
you come?" he asked, with a careless nod to the rest of the young
Berkeley looked up with a wayward, irritated annoyance.
"No, I can't," he said irritably; "don't you see we are playing,
"I see," answered Cecil, with a dash of gravity, almost of sadness in
him, as he leaned farther over the windowsill with his cigar in his
"Come away," he whispered kindly, as he almost touched the boy, who
chanced to be close to the casement. "Hazard is the very deuce for
anybody; and you know Royal hates it. Come with us, Berk; there's a
capital set here, and I'm going to half a dozen good houses to-night,
when we get back. I'll take you with me. Come! you like waltzing, and
all that sort of thing, you know."
The lad shook himself peevishly; a sullen cloud over his fair,
picturesque, boyish face.
"Let me alone before the fellows," he muttered impatiently. "I won't
come, I tell you."
Cecil shrugged his shoulders, left the window, found the Lelas'
cashmere, and sauntered back to the drags without any more
expostulation. The sweetness of his temper could never be annoyed, but
also he never troubled himself to utter useless words. Moreover, he
had never been in is life much in earnest about anything; it was not
"A pretty fellow I am to turn preacher, when I have sins enough on my
own shoulders for twenty," he thought; as he shook the ribbons and
started the leaders off to the gay music of Laura Lelas' champagne-
The thoughts that had crossed his mind when he had looked on his
brother's inanimate form had not been wholly forgotten since; he felt
something like self-accusation whenever he saw, in some gray summer
dawn, as he had seen now, the boy's bright face, haggard and pale with
the premature miseries of the gamester, or heard his half-piteous,
half-querulous lamentations over his losses; and he would essay, with
all the consummate tact the world had taught him, to persuade him from
his recklessness, and warn him of the consequences. But little Berk,
though he loved his elder after a fashion, was wayward, selfish, and
unstable as water. He would be very sorry sometimes, very repentant,
and would promise anything under the sun; but five minutes afterward
he would go his own way just the same, and be as irritably resentful
of interference as a proud, spoiled, still-childish temper can be. And
Cecil--the last man in the world to turn mentor--would light a
cheroot, as he did to-night, and forget all about it. The boy would be
right enough when he had had his swing, he thought. Bertie's
philosophy was the essence of laissez-faire.
He would have defied a Manfred, or an Aylmer of Aylmer's Field, to be
long pursued by remorse or care if he drank the right cru and lived in
the right set. "If it be very severe," he would say, "it may give him
a pang once a twelvemonth--say the morning after a whitebait dinner.
Repentance is generally the fruit of indigestion, and contrition may
generally be traced to too many truffles or olives."
Cecil had no time or space for thought; he never thought; would not
have thought seriously, for a kingdom. A novel, idly skimmed over in
bed, was the extent of his literature; he never bored himself by
reading the papers, he heard the news earlier than they told it; and
as he lived, he was too constantly supplied from the world about him
with amusement and variety to have to do anything beyond letting
himself be amused; quietly fanned, as it were, with the lulling punka
of social pleasure, without even the trouble of pulling the strings.
He had naturally considerable talents, and an almost dangerous
facility in them; but he might have been as brainless as a mollusk,
for any exertion he gave his brain.
"If I were a professional diner-out, you know, I'd use such wits as I
have: but why should I now?" he said on one occasion, when a fair lady
reproached him with this inertia. "The best style is only just to say
yes or no--and be bored even in saying that--and a very comfortable
style it is, too. You get amused without the trouble of opening your
"But if everybody were equally monosyllabic, how then? You would not
get amused," suggested his interrogator, a brilliant Parisienne.
"Well--everybody is, pretty nearly," said Bertie; "but there are
always a lot of fellows who give their wits to get their dinners--
social rockets, you know--who will always fire themselves off to
sparkle instead of you, if you give them a white ball at the clubs, or
get them a card for good houses. It saves you so much trouble; it is
such a bore to have to talk."
He went that night, as he had said, to half a dozen good houses,
midnight receptions, and after-midnight waltzes; making his bow in a
Cabinet Minister's vestibule, and taking up the thread of the same
flirtation at three different balls; showing himself for a moment at a
Premier's At-home, and looking eminently graceful and pre-eminently
weary in an ambassadress' drawing room, and winding up the series by a
dainty little supper in the gray of the morning, with a sparkling
party of French actresses, as bright as the bubbles of their own
When he went upstairs to his own bedroom, in Piccadilly, about five
o'clock, therefore, he was both sleepy and tired, and lamented to that
cherished and ever-discreet confidant, a cheroot, the brutal demands
of the Service; which would drag him off, in five hours' time, without
the slightest regard to his feelings, to take share in the hot, heavy,
dusty, searching work of a field-day up at the Scrubs.
"Here--get me to perch as quick as you can, Rake," he murmured,
dropping into an armchair; astonished that Rake did not answer, he saw
standing by him instead the boy Berkeley. Surprise was a weakness of
raw inexperience that Cecil never felt; his gazette as Commander-in-
Chief, or the presence of the Wandering Jew in his lodgings would
never have excited it in him. In the first place, he would have merely
lifted his eyebrows and said, "Be a fearful bore!" in the second he
would have done the same, and murmured, "Queer old cad!"
Surprised, therefore, he was not, at the boy's untimely apparition;
but his eyes dwelt on him with a mild wonder, while his lips dropped
but one word:
Amber-Amulet was a colt of the most marvelous promise at the Royallieu
establishment, looked on to win the next Clearwell, Guineas, and Derby
as a certainty. An accident to the young chestnut was the only thing
that suggested itself as of possibly sufficient importance to make his
brother wait for him at five o'clock on a June morning.
Berkeley looked up confusedly, impatiently:
"You are never thinking but of horses or women," he said peevishly;
"there may be others things in the world, surely."
"Indisputably there are other things in the world, dear boy; but none
so much to my taste," said Cecil composedly, stretching himself with a
yawn. "With every regard to hospitality and the charms of your
society, might I hint that five o'clock in the morning is not
precisely the most suitable hour for social visits and ethical
"For God's sake, be serious, Bertie! I am the most miserable wretch in
Cecil opened his closed eyes, with the sleepy indifference vanished
from them, and a look of genuine and affectionate concern on the
serene insouciance of his face.
"Ah! you would stay and play that chicken hazard," he thought, but he
was not one who would have reminded the boy of his own advice and its
rejection; he looked at him in silence a moment, then raised himself
with a sigh.
"Dear boy, why didn't you sleep upon it? I never think of disagreeable
things till they wake me with my coffee; then I take them up with the
cup and put them down with it. You don't know how well it answers; it
disposes of them wonderfully."
The boy lifted his head with a quick, reproachful anger, and in the
gaslight his cheeks were flushed, his eyes full of tears.
"How brutal you are, Bertie! I tell you I am ruined, and you care no
more than if you were a stone. You only think of yourself; you only
live for yourself!"
He had forgotten the money that had been tossed to him off that very
table the day before the Grand Military; he had forgotten the debts
that had been paid for him out of the winnings of that very race.
There is a childish, wayward, wailing temper, which never counts
benefits received save as title-deeds by which to demand others. Cecil
looked at him with just a shadow of regret, not reproachful enough to
be rebuke, in his glance, but did not defend himself in any way
against the boyish, passionate accusation, nor recall his own past
gifts into remembrance.
" 'Brutal'! What a word, little one. Nobody's brutal now; you never
see that form nowadays. Come, what is the worst this time?"
Berkeley looked sullenly down on the table where his elbows leaned;
scattering the rose-notes, the French novels, the cigarettes, and the
gold essence-bottles with which it was strewn; there was something
dogged yet agitated, half-insolent yet half-timidly irresolute, upon
him, that was new there.
"The worst is soon told," he said huskily, and his teeth chattered
together slightly, as though with cold, as he spoke. "I lost two
hundred to-night; I must pay it, or be disgraced forever; I have not a
farthing; I cannot get the money for my life; no Jews will lend to me,
I am under age; and--and"--his voice sank lower and grew more defiant,
for he knew that the sole thing forbidden him peremptorily by both his
father and his brothers was the thing he had now to tell--"and--I
borrowed three ponies of Granville Lee yesterday, as he came from the
Corner with a lot of banknotes after settling-day. I told him I would
pay them to-morrow; I made sure I should have won to-night."
The piteous unreason of the born gamester, who clings so madly to the
belief that luck must come to him, and sets on that belief as though a
bank were his to lose his gold from, was never more utterly spoken in
all its folly, in all its pitiable optimism, than now in the boy's
Bertie started from his chair, his sleepy languor dissipated; on his
face the look that had come there when Lord Royallieu had dishonored
his mother's name. In his code there was one shameless piece of utter
and unmentionable degradation--it was to borrow of a friend.
"You will bring some disgrace on us before you die, Berkeley," he
said, with a keener inflection of pain and contempt than had ever been
in his voice. "Have you no common knowledge of honor?"
The lad flushed under the lash of the words, but it was a flush of
anger rather than of shame; he did not lift his eyes, but gazed
sullenly down on the yellow paper of a Paris romance he was irritably
"You are severe enough," he said gloomily, and yet insolently. "Are
you such a mirror of honor yourself? I suppose my debts, at the worst,
are about one-fifth of yours."
For a moment even the sweetness of Cecil's temper almost gave way. Be
his debts what they would, there was not one among them to his
friends, or one for which the law could not seize him. He was silent;
he did not wish to have a scene of discussion with one who was but a
child to him; moreover, it was his nature to abhor scenes of any sort,
and to avert even a dispute, at any cost.
He came back and sat down without any change of expression, putting
his cheroot in his mouth.
"Tres cher, you are not courteous," he said wearily; "but it may be
that you are right. I am not a good one for you to copy from in
anything except the fit of my coats; I don't think I ever told you I
was. I am not altogether so satisfied with myself as to suggest myself
as a model for anything, unless it were to stand in a tailor's window
in Bond Street to show the muffs how to dress. That isn't the point,
though; you say you want near 300 pounds by to-morrow--to-day rather.
I can suggest nothing except to take the morning mail to the Shires,
and ask Royal straight out; he never refuses you."
Berkeley looked at him with a bewildered terror that banished at a
stroke his sullen defiance; he was irresolute as a girl, and keenly
moved by fear.
"I would rather cut my throat," he said, with a wild exaggeration that
was but the literal reflection of the trepidation on him; "as I live I
would! I have had so much from him lately--you don't know how much--
and now of all times, when they threaten to foreclose the mortgage on
"What? Foreclose what?"
"The mortgage!" answered Berkeley impatiently; to his childish egotism
it seemed cruel and intolerable that any extremities should be
considered save his own. "You know the lands are mortgaged as deeply
as Monti and the entail would allow them. They threatened to
foreclose--I think that's the word--and Royal has had God knows what
work to stave them off. I no more dare face him, and ask him for a
sovereign now than I dare ask him to give me the gold plate off the
Cecil listened gravely; it cut him more keenly than he showed to learn
the evils and the ruin that so closely menaced his house; and to find
how entirely his father's morbid mania against him severed him from
all the interests and all the confidence of his family, and left him
ignorant of matters even so nearly touching him as these.
"Your intelligence is not cheerful, little one," he said, with a
languid stretch of his limbs; it was his nature to glide off painful
subjects. "And--I really am sleepy! You think there is no hope Royal
would help you?"
"I tell you I will shoot myself through the brain rather than ask
Bertie moved restlessly in the soft depths of his lounging-chair; he
shunned worry, loathed it, escaped it at every portal, and here it
came to him just when he wanted to go to sleep. He could not divest
himself of the feeling that, had his own career been different,--less
extravagant, less dissipated, less indolently spendthrift,--he might
have exercised a better influence, and his brother's young life might
have been more prudently launched upon the world. He felt, too, with a
sharper pang than he had ever felt it for himself, the brilliant
beggary in which he lived, the utter inability he had to raise even
the sum that the boy now needed; a sum so trifling, in his set, and
with his habits, that he had betted it over and over again in a
clubroom, on a single game of whist. It cut him with a bitter,
impatient pain; he was as generous as the winds, and there is no trial
keener to such a temper than the poverty that paralyzes its power to
"It is no use to give you false hopes, young one," he said gently. "I
can do nothing! You ought to know me by this time; and if you do, you
know too that if the money was mine it would be yours at a word--if
you don't, no matter! Frankly, Berk, I am all down-hill; my bills may
be called in any moment; when they are I must send in my papers to
sell, and cut the country, if my duns don't catch me before, which
they probably will; in which event I shall be to all intents and
purposes--dead. This is not lively conversation, but you will do me
the justice to say that it was not I who introduced it. Only--one word
for all, my boy; understand this: if I could help you I would, cost
what it might, but as matters stand--I cannot."
And with that Cecil puffed a great cloud of smoke to envelope him; the
subject was painful, the denial wounded him by whom it had to be given
full as much as it could wound him whom it refused. Berkeley heard it
in silence; his head still hung down, his color changing, his hands
nervously playing with the bouquet-bottles, shutting and opening their
"No--yes--I know," he said hurriedly; "I have no right to expect it,
and have been behaving like a cur, and--and--all that, I know. But--
there is one way you could save me, Bertie, if it isn't too much for a
fellow to ask."
"I can't say I see the way, little one," said Cecil, with a sigh.
"What is it?"
"Why--look here. You see I'm not of age; my signature is of no use;
they won't take it; else I could get money in no time on what must
come to me when Royal dies; though 'tisn't enough to make the Jews
'melt' at a risk. Now--now--look here. I can't see that there could be
any harm in it. You are such chums with Lord Rockingham, and he's as
rich as all the Jews put together. What could there be in it if you
just asked him to lend you a monkey for me? He'd do it in a minute,
because he'd give his head away to you--they all say so--and he'll
never miss it. Now, Bertie--will you?"
In his boyish incoherence and its disjointed inelegance the appeal was
panted out rather than spoken; and while his head drooped and the hot
color burned in his face, he darted a swift look at his brother, so
full of dread and misery that it pierced Cecil to the quick as he rose
from his chair and paced the room, flinging his cheroot aside; the
look disarmed the reply that was on his lips, but his face grew dark.
"What you ask is impossible," he said briefly. "If I did such a thing
as that, I should deserve to be hounded out of the Guards to-morrow."
The boy's face grew more sullen, more haggard, more evil, as he still
bent his eyes on the table, his glance not meeting his brother's.
"You speak as if it would be a crime," he muttered savagely, with a
plaintive moan of pain in the tone; he thought himself cruelly dealt
with and unjustly punished.
"It would be the trick of a swindler, and it would be the shame of a
gentleman," said Cecil, as briefly still. "That is answer enough."
"Then you will not do it?"
"I have replied already."
There was that in the tone, and in the look with which he paused
before the table, that Berkeley had never heard or seen in him before;
something that made the supple, childish, petulant, cowardly nature of
the boy shrink and be silenced; something for a single instant of the
haughty and untamable temper of the Royallieu blood that awoke in the
too feminine softness and sweetness of Cecil's disposition.
"You said that you would aid me at any cost, and now that I ask you so
wretched a trifle, you treat me as if I were a scoundrel," he moaned
passionately. "The Seraph would give you the money at a word. It is
your pride--nothing but pride. Much pride is worth to us who are
"If we are penniless beggars, by what right should we borrow of other
"You are wonderfully scrupulous, all of a sudden!"
Cecil shrugged his shoulders slightly and began to smoke again. He did
not attempt to push the argument. His character was too indolent to
defend itself against aspersion, and horror of a quarrelsome scene far
greater than his heed of misconstruction.
"You are a brute to me!" went on the lad, with his querulous and
bitter passion rising almost to tears like a woman's. "You pretend you
can refuse me nothing; and the moment I ask you the smallest thing you
turn on me, and speak as if I were the greatest blackguard on earth.
You'll let me go to the bad to-morrow rather than bend your pride to
save me; you live like a Duke, and don't care if I should die in a
debtor's prison! You only brag about 'honor' when you want to get out
of helping a fellow; and if I were to cut my throat to-night you would
only shrug your shoulders, and sneer at my death in the clubroom, with
a jest picked out of your cursed French novels!"
"Melodramatic, and scarcely correct," murmured Bertie.
The ingratitude to himself touched him indeed but little; he was not
given to making much of anything that was due to himself--partly
through carelessness, partly through generosity; but the absence in
his brother of that delicate, intangible, indescribable sensitive-
nerve which men call Honor, an absence that had never struck on him so
vividly as it did to-night, troubled him, surprised him, oppressed
There is no science that can supply this defect to the temperament
created without it; it may be taught a counterfeit, but it will never
own a reality.
"Little one, you are heated, and don't know what you say," he began
very gently, a few moments later, as he leaned forward and looked
straight in the boy's eyes. "Don't be down about this; you will pull
through, never fear. Listen to me; go down to Royal, and tell him all
frankly. I know him better than you; he will be savage for a second,
but he would sell every stick and stone on the land for your sake; he
will see you safe through this. Only bear one thing in mind--tell him
all. No half measures, no half confidences; tell him the worst, and
ask his help. You will not come back without it."
Berkeley listened; his eyes shunning his brother's, the red color
darker on his face.
"Do as I say," said Cecil, very gently still. "Tell him, if you like,
that it is through following my follies that you have come to grief;
he will be sure to pity you then."
There was a smile, a little sad, on his lips, as he said the last
words, but it passed at once as he added:
"Do your hear me? will you go?"
"If you want me--yes."
"On your word, now?"
"On my word."
There was an impatience in the answer, a feverish eagerness in the way
he assented that might have made the consent rather a means to evade
the pressure than a genuine pledge to follow the advice; that darker,
more evil, more defiant look was still upon his face, sweeping its
youth away and leaving in its stead a wavering shadow. He rose with a
sudden movement; his tumbled hair, his disordered attire, his
bloodshot eyes, his haggard look of sleeplessness and excitement in
strange contrast with the easy perfection of Cecil's dress and the
calm languor of his attitude. The boy was very young, and was not
seasoned to his life and acclimatized to his ruin, like his elder
brother. He looked at him with a certain petulant envy; the envy of
every young fellow for a man of the world. "I beg your pardon for
keeping you up, Bertie," he said huskily. "Good-night."
Cecil gave a little yawn.
"Dear boy, it would have been better if you could have come in with
the coffee. Never be impulsive; don't do a bit of good, and is such
He spoke lightly, serenely; both because such was as much his nature
as it was to breathe, and because his heart was heavy that he had to
send away the young one without help, though he knew that the course
he had made him adopt would serve him more permanently in the end. But
he leaned his hand a second on Berk's shoulder, while for one single
moment in his life he grew serious.
"You must know I could not do what you asked; I could not meet any man
in the Guards face to face if I sunk myself and sunk them so low.
Can't you see that, little one?"
There was a wistfulness in the last words; he would gladly have
believed that his brother had at length some perception of his
"You say so, and that is enough," said the boy pettishly; "I cannot
understand that I asked anything so dreadful; but I suppose you have
too many needs of your own to have any resources left for mine."
Cecil shrugged his shoulders slightly again, and let him go. But he
could not altogether banish a pang of pain at his heart, less even for
his brother's ingratitude than at his callousness to all those finer,
better instincts of which honor is the concrete name.
For the moment, thought--grave, weary, and darkened--fell on him; he
had passed through what he would have suffered any amount of
misconstruction to escape--a disagreeable scene; he had been as unable
as though he were a Commissionaire in the streets to advance a step to
succor the necessities for which his help had been asked; and he was
forced, despite all his will, to look for the first time blankly in
the face the ruin that awaited him. There was no other name for it: it
would be ruin complete and wholly inevitable. His signature would have
been accepted no more by any bill-discounter in London; he had
forestalled all, to the uttermost farthing; his debts pressed heavier
every day; he could have no power to avert the crash that must in a
few weeks, or at most a few months, fall upon him. And to him an utter
blankness and darkness lay beyond.
Barred out from the only life he knew, the only life that seemed to
him endurable or worth the living; severed from all the pleasures,
pursuits, habits, and luxuries of long custom; deprived of all that
had become to him as second nature from childhood; sold up, penniless,
driven out from all that he had known as the very necessities of
existence; his very name forgotten in the world of which he was now
the darling; a man without a career, without a hope, without a refuge
--he could not realize that this was what awaited him then; this was
the fate that must within so short a space be his. Life had gone so
smoothly with him, and his world was a world from whose surface every
distasteful thought was so habitually excluded, that he could no more
understand this desolation lying in wait for him than one in the
fullness and elasticity of health can believe the doom that tells him
he will be a dead man before the sun has set.
As he sat there, with the gas of the mirror branches glancing on the
gold and silver hilts of the crossed swords above the fireplace, and
the smoke of his cheroot curling among the pile of invitation cards to
all the best houses in town, Cecil could not bring himself to believe
that things were really come to this pass with him. It is so hard for
a man who has the magnificence of the fashionable clubs open to him
day and night to beat into his brain the truth that in six months
hence he may be lying in the debtors' prison at Baden; it is so
difficult for a man who has had no greater care on his mind than to
plan the courtesies of a Guards' Ball or of a yacht's summer-day
banquet, to absolutely conceive the fact that in a year's time he will
thank God if he have a few francs left to pay for a wretched dinner in
a miserable estaminet in a foreign bathing-place.
"It mayn't come to that," he thought; "something may happen. If I
could get my troop now, that would stave off the Jews; or, if I should
win some heavy pots on the Prix de Dames, things would swim on again.
I must win; the King will be as fit as in the Shires, and there will
only be the French horses between us and an absolute 'walk over.'