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Title:      Long Odds (1869)
Author:     Marcus Clarke
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Language:   English
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Title:      Long Odds (1869)
Author:     Marcus Clarke





PREFACE.

THIS story was commenced early in the year 1868, for publication in the
COLONIAL MONTHLY--a magazine of which I became at that time proprietor
and editor. In now presenting it to the public in a complete form, I
will take the opportunity of saying a few prefatory words.

In reviewing "Long Odds" from time to time, in its brief notices of the
COLONIAL MONTHLY, the press has frequently blamed the author for laying
the scene in England instead of in Australia. It seems, at first sight,
natural to expect that a story written by a person living in Australia,
published in an Australian periodical, and offered to an Australian
public, should contain description of nothing that was not purely
Australian.

The best Australian novel that has been, and probably will be written,
is "Geoffrey Hamlyn," and any attempt to paint the ordinary squatting
life of the colonies, could not fail to challenge unfavourable
comparison with that admirable story. But I have often thought, and I
daresay other Australian readers have thought also--How would Sam
Buckley get on in England?

My excuse, therefore, in offering to the Australian public a novel in
which the plot, the sympathies, the interest, the moral, are all
English, must be that I have endeavoured to depict, with such skill as
is permitted me, the fortunes of a young Australian in that country
which young Australians still call "Home."

MARCUS CLARKE.
COLLINS STREET, MELBOURNE,
JUNE 8TH, 1869.



[List of Illustrations.

FRONTISPIECE.
THE WOLF AND THE LAMB.
A WEDDING GIFT.
"MY DEAR FELLOW, DO YOU THINK I'M A FOOL?"
"WAYS AND MEANS."
A DUET AND A SOLO.
"THERE WAS ANOTHER WAY YET."
"UNDER THE TORTURE."
"CERTA FUNERA ET LUCTUS."]





Chapter I. Dym-Street, Cavendish-Square.

DYM-STREET, Cavendish-square, was not a pleasant locality. No man with
ten thousand a year, unless he was a misanthrope, a miser, or a
political refugee, would willingly pitch his tent there.

In old days Dym-street had been a fashionable quarter. The long
link-extinguishers fastened over the rusty iron railings, attested that
gay meetings had been held in those dreary old houses; that fair women
had danced there; that Corydon, in a long skirted coat, had handed
Phillis, in hoop and powder, to her sedan, amid a crowd of shouting link
boys, and pushing chairmen.

The glory had departed from it now. The tall houses still remained, but
their dreary, dusty windows, and melancholy, sombre doors, had
desolation written in every pane and every panel. No well hung barouches
stood at its doorsteps. No coachman gorgeous in calves and wig, squared
his fat arms and pulled up his foaming horses, to permit Lady Lavinia or
Lady Florence to recount the triumphs of a drawing-room, or to seek
repose after the fatigues of a ball. To be sure, Lord Ballyragbag's
mansion was situated at one end of the street, but as his lordship was
always either in Paris or Hombourg (his creditors allowed him £200 a
year to keep out of the court), its presence did not confer much
practical honour on the neighbourhood. Dr. Sangrado possessed a funeral
looking establishment close at hand, an establishment termed by the
doctor a "sanatorium," but which, with its black door and stained brass
plate, had the appearance of a huge coffin set up on end.

Mr. Lurcher Demas, the popular (condemnatory) preacher, lived in
Dymstreet, and preached sulphuric sermons in the wooden church next to
the gin palace at the corner. The Hon. and Rev. Vere St. Simeon was
presumed to live there too, but his duties calling him frequently to
visit his uncle the Bishop and his father the Earl, the work of the
parish--not a small one--was performed by Mr. Paul Rendelsham, a haggard
and conscientious curate on £80 a year. Anthony Castcup, the banker,
resided in Dym-street. A rich man was Anthony, but having gout in every
place but his stomach, and being restricted by his doctors to half a
snipe and a pint of champagne per diem, he did not impart much
liveliness to the locality. Miss Lethbridge--a woman of vast wealth it
was reported--lived next door to the banker, and sent tender inquiries
after his health by her apoplectic servant; inquiries which, I grieve to
say, were responded to with ungrateful rumblings and groanings of a
comminatory sort, by the inaccessible Anthony. A struggling barrister,
with a family of fourteen, occupied a house over the way (it was all
that was left to him out of a law suit, which had amused his family for
thirty years); but his wife being delicate and the children given to
infantile ailments, the knocker was eternally enveloped in kid, and the
roadway covered with tan and straw, giving a casual passer-by the idea
that the Great Plague had made a special settlement there, and that the
dead-cart, "loud on the stone and low on the straw," was momentarily
expected.

Dym-street, it will be seen, therefore, was not a pleasant place. Its
principal characteristic was melancholy; its principal articles of
importation were babies; its principal industries were the eating of
toffee and the dropping of shuttlecocks down areas. This last amusement
was a favourite one with the infant inhabitants. The consumption of
shuttlecocks was stupendous, and on a summer's morning the bottoms of
areas would be covered with round pieces of moulting cork, leading a
stranger to believe that some vast flight of birds had passed over
London in the night, and had left the weak and weary behind them.
Dym-street had evidently commenced life like some gay young spendthrift:
had fallen on evil days, and, after a desperate attempt to regain
respectability, given up the idea in despair, and relapsed into utter
destitution and Bohemianism. At the Oxford-street end it was well
enough. 'Twas here where Ballyragbag's mansion reared its stately head.
In the middle, it inclined to the military and sporting interest, having
a barracks (or the back of one) and a "Mews" conspicuously placed. At
the end, it ran into all sorts of extravagancies--cheap photographic
saloons; confectioners (with fly spotted ices in painted deal always in
the window); haberdashers in a chronic state of insolvency; and grocers
with immense tea-pots (bearing "Try our pure teas, 6d," conspicuously
lettered on their sides), hanging in Brobdignagian splendour from the
upper storey. Signs of various trades abounded in the lower end of
Dym-street. Boots, hats, coffee pots and gridirons, creaked in the
blasts of November, and blistered in the suns of June. So many and so
large were these monstrosities, that one might imagine that the Titans
had taken lodgings in the west-end, and having had a family dispute,
were flinging their household furniture out of the windows.

With the Bohemian end of Dym-street, however, we have little to do, and
still less with the aristocratic quarter. It is the middle of the street
that claims our attention.

Respectability is rampant in the middle. By respectability, I mean that
respectability that goes to office at nine in a morning, is clean shaven
and rosy gilled, is married and has children. These respectabilities
were chiefly clerks in east-end government offices, clerks in merchants'
houses, clerks to banking firms, clerks in that vague place the "city;"
clerks, who, as a rule, had incomes of £200 a year, who were slightly
bald, wore creaking boots, and who supplemented their gains by the
letting of portions of their houses to lodgers.

Dym-street middle, was a nest of lodging-houses--some good, some bad,
some indifferent, but all, as far as outward appearances went,
respectable to freezing point. It must not be imagined, however, that
the keepers of them were all clerks. No, some were widows. Your London
lodging-house keeper is invariably a clerk or a widow; and, when Mr.
Cyril Chatteris answered an advertisement in the Times by driving up in
a four-wheeled cab, loaded with luggage, to 75 Dym-street, the door was
opened by a widow.

Mrs. Anastasia Manton was no common woman. She was tall, robust, and
nobly built. Her detractors said that her form inclined to the Dutch
galliot build, but that was calumny. She was the widow--so she
asserted--of a departed coal merchant, who, dying in the odour of
sanctity and the arms of his spouse, left her £2000 in the three per
cents, and a small, brown-eyed daughter.

Deprived of the protecting arm of her departed coal merchant, Mrs.
Manton did not quail. She went instantly into widow's weeds and
furnished lodgings, determined to husband her resources. From all that
Mr. Cyril Chatteris was able to learn, Mrs. Manton had no friends; but,
by dint of economy and perseseverance, she succeeded in saving enough
money to rent a furnished house in Dym-street ("within easy distance of
the parks and places of amusement") and to make a very snug living out
of the lodgers she "did for."

The house was, perhaps, not lively, but it was cheap; and Mr. Cyril
Chatteris, being somewhat slender in purse, was satisfied to live in the
"parlours," and to be waited on by Miss Caroline Manton, the brown-eyed
daughter of his landlady.

Mr. Cyril Chatteris was a young man, with the ostensible profession of a
barrister, but who had no chambers, and no briefs, and very few friends.
He seldom went out, and was occupied in reading and smoking a great
portion of the day, and in smoking and reading a great portion of the
night. In a word, Mr. Cyril Chatteris was a studious young fellow; so,
at least, Mrs. Manton said; and a very quiet young fellow, so the other
lodgers said; and rather a handsome young fellow, so Miss Caroline said.

Caroline Manton was a pretty girl. A girl who looked as if she was
capable of doing something beside simpering, and playing new music in
tolerable time at sight. She was slight, with a good figure, plenty of
wavy brown hair, and large brown eyes. There was not much to attract the
admirer of muscular beauty, but the brown eyes had a fire in them, and
the delicate little nose a piquancy about it, and the brown hair a
tendency to break loose and tumble down in soft masses, that was
tantalizing and fascinating enough. Miss Caroline Manton had very white
hands, very pretty feet, and could talk to a sensible man for ten
minutes without either looking foolish, trying to flirt, or talking
nonsense.

It may be a matter of wonder to the reader that the daughter of a
lodging-house keeper should possess these attractions--the white hands
especially. It must be remembered, however, that Mrs. Manton was no
common woman, and that she brought up her daughter in no common way.
Miss Caroline could sing, for instance. Old Papatacci, who occupied the
drawing-room floor, said that she would sing "peautiful von of these
days," and though her mother permitted her to take up tea-trays, and to
chat for five minutes or so with the lodgers, she never allowed "her
Carry" to soil her pretty hands with housework. It is doubtful indeed if
Miss Caroline would have submitted to such drudgery had her mother
commanded it. For she was not unread in the fascinating pages of the
"London Journal," and had heard how pretty girls of humble birth were
constantly being selected by the aristocracy as wives. Did not Mildred
Mainwaring marry a Duke? and was not poor Lucy the Lone One
rewarded for her perils (chiefly in the balcony-descending and
"Ha-maiden,-you-must-be-mine!" line of business) by the hand of the Earl
of Elsinore, and a dowry (given by Sir Rupert de Burgh) of £50,000 on
her wedding day? Now, Caroline had compared faces with Mildred
Mainwaring, and had come to the conclusion that her own looking-glass
reflected the prettier woman of the two, and she was convinced that she
only wanted the chance to marry a duke in twenty-four hours. When a
young lady, aged seventeen, is convinced of her own powers of
fascination, and has courage enough to use them, she becomes a dangerous
rock ahead to the numberless craft that cruise hither and thither in
that social sea whose shore is matrimony. Men are usually prepared for
coquetries in a woman, but when a little slip of a girl appears they
unbuckle their armour of proof, and ten to one get a sly shaft sent home
up to the feather.

When Mr. Cyril Chatteris first arrived in Dym-street, I am convinced he
had no intention of making love to his landlady's daughter; but as time
wore on, and the silvery laugh, the elegant figure, the pretty
minauderies, and the artful artlessness of Miss Carry became more
marked, he began to watch for her coming, to make excuses for keeping
her waiting, and to venture upon casual and offhand inquiries as to
where she had been, and what she had been doing during the day. In
proportion as the girl saw her success, the more did she force on the
attack, until at last, the lodger began to ask himself seriously if this
state of things could continue.

"I cannot marry the girl!" said Cyril, as he contemplated his slippers
through a cloud of tobacco-smoke after breakfast. "She would--and Kate
too--pshaw--the thing is impossible!" and he fell to thinking.

"Moreover, how to keep her? I have no money, and that old--" he stopped
suddenly. "It's madness to dream of it. Here am I, without a sixpence
beyond a beggarly allowance of two hundred a year, and no hope of
getting more. A quarrel with my father. Oh, confound it, it's
preposterous!" he cried, starting up,--"fall in love with my landlady's
daughter! Why, it would kill old Lady Loughborough if she even dreamt
it."

And the "Parlours" fell to walking up and down, biting his nails,
gnawing his moustache, and smoking violently.

Mrs. Manton was not ignorant of her lodger's predilection for her
daughter. Madam Manton was a woman of remarkable diplomatic ability. As
she frequently remarked over her evening tea, "She could see as far
through a millstone as most people;" and her researches among her
lodger's linen, and her inspection of his gold-topped dressing case, had
led her to the belief that he was of a different stamp to the usual
class of Dym-street lodgers. Though Mr. Cyril Chatteris wore a tweed
shooting-coat, was given to smoking cavendish tobacco, and eschewed
cigars, there was an air about him which forbade the suspicion that he
was of the Bohemian sort.

"Briefless barristers don't have diamond studs, and six dozen shirts to
their backs, as I knows on," would Mrs. Manton say; "and it's my opinion
that Mr. Chatteris needn't live in Dym-street unless he liked. Oh, don't
tell me, Carry. He's got a 'h'air' about him, he has; and if he's a
making love to you, you'd better take care what you're about. He aint a
fool like young Binns, the 'Parlours' aint!"

At which Carry would blush and laugh. To speak truth, the young lady was
more than willing to meet any advances that the "Parlours" might choose
to make, half-way. Cyril Chatteris was a handsome fellow. He was of the
middle height, with good grey eyes, and sound white teeth. Perhaps his
grey eyes had a shifting, uneasy look about them, that made you imagine
that they were not too trustworthy; and his mouth would have been cruel
had it not been for the brown moustache that covered it so gracefully.
But his youth was in his favour. His chin was the worst part of his
face; it was the chin of a vacillating, vain, yet reckless man, who
might have the courage to commit a crime, but not the courage to face
the consequences. Taking him all in all though, Cyril Chatteris was well
enough: he was better looking than most men one meets, and he had a
certain amount of sarcastic cleverness and superficial brilliancy that
made him an amusing companion and an agreeable fellow. Miss Caroline
mentally likened him to Sir Felix Fakeaway, the wicked, clever, dashing
baronet, in the last story in her penny journal, and was enraptured with
his nonchalant ways, his spotless wristbands, and his brown moustache.

It seemed that it would not take much urging to make her as much in love
with him as her mother would wish her to be; and as for "taking care of
what she was about," that was an easy thing to the student of "Mildred
Mainwaring."

Chatteris himself had, I am bound to say, no designs upon the girl. He
might have had them at first, but her artful innocence rendered him
powerless. He was only twenty-two, and had never laid siege to the heart
of a woman like his landlady's daughter.

In point of fact, she was too clever for him. With her mother to back
her, this little minx of seventeen would have been a match for a more
experienced lady-killer than Mr. Cyril Chatteris. In vain he laughed at
her, talked at her, made eyes at her, and chatted with her over the
tea-cups. She was impervious.

The pursuit commenced in jest, was continued in earnest, and at last the
lodger began to get very uneasy about the little coquette that showed
herself for ten minutes or so every day, and would not hear the voice of
the charmer, let him charm never so wisely.

"That booby Binns" that Mrs. Manton spoke of, was also a thorn in the
side of the love-sick lodger. Binns was a grocer's apprentice and
sucking partner. He was a scorbutic youth, with a chin-tuft and a
pretended sarcasm about his face that was irresistibly ludicrous. He was
given to reading poetry, was Binns, and could quote Tennyson and Byron
by the yard. This ingenious youth had been smitten by the charms of
Carry at a trade ball in the neighbourhood. After much tribulation, he
had obtained an introduction to the mother, and was tacitly admitted as
suitor to Miss Manton.

On Sundays Binns would appear at the door, radiant in blue necktie,
black clothes, green gloves, and Blucher boots. To him would issue
Carry, looking bewitchingly pretty, and with the merest glance in the
world at the parlour window where Mr. Chatteris was breakfasting, would
trip off to church.

At first, the elegant lodger laughed at the Binnian flirtation, then he
was annoyed to think that Carry should be seen in company with "that
grocer cad;" then he considered the existence of Binns as a special
insult to himself, and lastly, he determined, "if ever he met her with
the little wretch, to twist his miserable neck."

Binns had much the same feeling with regard to Mr. Cyril Chatteris. With
the instinctive jealousy of a boy, he had picked out the lodger as a
rival to his hopes, and though he had seldom seen him, and never spoken
to him, he hated him with mortal hatred. Binns, like most foolish boys
who are educated above their station, was a "Red-hot Radical, sir." He
would talk for hours about the aristocracy, the rights of MAN (in
terrific vocal capitals), and had a general desire for the blood of all
who looked down upon Binns. One day he ventured to ventilate these views
to Carry, who, being in bad temper, retaliated with such cutting
severity, that the poor little fellow cried over "Locksley Hall" that
night in bed, and looked at his solitary, and as yet virgin, razor with
dreadful emphasis.

One night this scorbutic boy had escorted Carry home from a "tea
drinking" at Mrs. Mack's (a fellow lodging-house keeper), and was
convoying his charge up the street, when he was descried by Mr. Cyril
Chatteris, who had been dining somewhat freely in town. Hastening his
steps, the lodger overtook them.

"Good evening, Carry," says he, raising his hat, and persistently
overlooking the indignant Binns.

"Good evening, Mr. Chatteris," returned the blushing Carry.

"Allow me to have the honour of escorting you home," says Cyril, taking
the hand she had extended to him, and drawing it under his arm.

"And, p--p--pray, sir, who may you be?" cries the slighted Binns, every
pimple on his face glowing with love, pride, and indignation.

"You had better let the boy go home, Carry," said the composed Cyril.

"The boy!" and "Carry!" Could this be borne? All his red-hot Radicalism
cried out against it; and, with desperate intent, the enraged, despised,
and vengeful Binns planted a blow fair upon the brown moustache of his
aristocratic rival.

"Oh! Cyril, Cyril, pray take care!" screams Carry, her long-guarded
secret slipping out.

"Don't be afraid, my darling, I won't hurt the little fool!" was the
reply; and Chatteris, catching the youth by the collar of his best coat,
boxed his ears until his own arms ached.

This was terrible. To be thrashed, Binns did not mind so much. He would
have fought the lover of his mistress with any weapon that could be
named. He would have died in her defence without a murmur; but to have
his ears boxed! As he got slowly up from off the pavement--his ears
tingling, his head swimming, his blue necktie disarranged, his shirt
buttons torn off, and his best black coat ruined for ever, despised
love, furious hate, and all the passions of Collins's ode surging up in
his heart--his red-hot Radicalism dissolved in a flood of tears.

It is not a pleasant spectacle, that of a "red-hot Radical," nineteen
years of age, blubbering over the loss of a girl who only used him as a
stalking horse for other game; so we will drop the curtain for the
present upon Mr.

Robert Binns.

I cannot say that Mr. Cyril Chatteris was perfectly unmoved during the
encounter. If the truth were told, I think that, in his heart of hearts,
he was slightly afraid of his adversary. Bone and muscle are not to be
despised, even though they belong to a grocer's apprentice; and I am not
sure whether, had the combat been prolonged, the plebeian would not have
soundly thrashed the patrician, despite all the presumed blue blood in
his veins. But the attack was too sudden. It was a triumph of mind over
matter, and Cyril felt elated at the result of his brief engagement, and
began to regret that he had used such severe chastisement. Now that the
contest was over, and she had her lover safely by her side, perhaps
Carry felt some pity too, for she said, after some minutes silence,

"I hope you did not hurt him much, Mr. Chatteris."

"I! No!" says Cyril, pluming himself upon his displayed powers. "He'll
be all right in ten minutes." Then, with a touch of the old envy, "You
seem to take great interest in the lout."

"No, Mr. Chatteris," says Carry, "I don't; but--"

"Can't you call me Cyril; you did just now."

Silence and blushes on the part of Carry. Cyril felt that he must say
something. They were close to the Mantonian door.

"Carry, you must have seen that I love you!"

Carry's heart gave a great bound. At last! The prince had come, and she
should ride away with him.

"Oh, Mr. Chatteris!"

"Do you not love me, my darling?"

"I am afraid I do, Cyril, very much," was the reply, given in a tone as
innocent as Eve's before the fall; though, even as the words left her
lips, Carry was thinking of dresses and diamonds, and whether her mother
would live with her when she was married.

When Mrs. Manton opened the door (the "slavey" had gone to fetch beer
for the refection of the two ladies) she was somewhat surprised to see
the slight figure of her elegant lodger, instead of the stumpy, sturdy
one of the faithful Binns; but upon Carry, half weeping, half laughing,
falling into her arms, she understood it all.

"He has proposed for her, then," thought Mrs. Anastasia Manton. Then,
aloud, "God bless you, sir. You've got a treasure in Carry. Come to her
mother, then, my lovely!"

Chatteris turned into his parlour somewhat hastily; but, with all a
mother-in-law's instinctive tyranny, Mrs. Manton followed and embraced
him emphatically, crying,

"God bless you, Cyril, my boy! God bless you!"

The accepted suitor was hardly prepared for this. The daughter he really
loved--for the moment, at all events--but the old, vulgar,
false-fronted, false-toothed mother--Faugh! He could not stand her, he
said, mentally; and Mrs. Manton making preparations to faint upon the
sofa, received such an undeniable scowl from her future son-in-law, that
she changed her mind, and went down stairs instead.

I cannot relate with what female chit-chat and plans for future
aggrandisement the mother and daughter beguiled the night away. I know,
however, that Mr. Cyril Chatteris did not sleep soundly.

"I have done it, by Jove!" said he, "and I must make the best of it."

He thought much how to make the best of it. What would his father say?

"Not that it matters much now," says Cyril to himself, over his fifth
pipe. "He doesn't care whom I marry. But I must tell him, I suppose. Yet
I don't know. He might turn round again perhaps. Shall I marry her
boldly, and take her to Matcham? What could she do among those old
women? A dove in a hawk's nest. And Kate, too!" here his brow
contracted, "I suppose Kate would love her like a sister--oh, of
course!" and he laughed; "and my dear brother Fred, with his dandified
airs! He wouldn't tell stories at mess about her, would he? No--well, I
don't think he would. Fred isn't a bad fellow. He offered to make it all
right with the governor if I'd only--but no, hang it, I've done with all
that." And he rose and paced the carpet.

"It's her education that is the thing. How would she look beside Kate
with her painting and her drawing and her 'ologies' and 'enics?' She
couldn't preside at the table at Matcham--she'd kill old Lady
Loughborough. There's no help for it now, however. I must write and tell
my father."

He wrote five letters, and spoilt them all. One began, "My dear Carry,"
instead of "My dear father," and one he directed "Saville Manton,"
instead of "Saville Chatteris." After the fifth error he threw down the
pen.

"I won't write until I am married, at all events," said he, and went to
bed.



Chapter II. Introduces Several Persons.

"CARNIFEX against the Boko mare for a hundred!" exclaimed Fred
Chatteris, lieutenant in Her Majesty's--Light Dragoons, now quartered at
the garrison (and cathedral) town of Kirkminster. "I'll lay a hundred on
Carnifex, Ponsonby!" The speaker was a young man of five-and-twenty, and
he was sitting at the open window of the mess-room looking on to the
paved square of Kirkminster barracks.

The owner of the "Boko mare" was a sturdy, red-faced man, of middle age,
whose face was tanned and reddened by all sorts of weather and liquor.
Jack Ponsonby--or, to speak by the card, the Hon. John Ponsonby--was a
younger son of the Earl of Desborough, and came of a sporting family.
The Ponsonbys were renowned for their turf achievements, and the Hon.
John had not hitherto belied his race. His sturdy little legs, red,
good-humoured countenance, bushy whiskers, and clear blue eyes, were
known at most race meetings and hunting counties in England. He was
accounted "the hardest rider in the Shires"--no mean fame--and there
were few "sporting men" who would like to try weight of metal with the
major of the --th.

"I'll take you, Fred, old fellow!" he cried out. "I believe in that
little mare." As soon as the old hound had given tongue the pack took up
the cry.

"I'm in with you, Major!"

"Done with you, Chatteris!"

"I don't mind a mild fifty!"

"Five to three in ponies!"

"Don't be so fast, my friends," says the owner of Carnifex (he was
languid in his manner, and given to drawling and clipping his words). "I
won't ride unless there's a field."

"That's easily got," said Haughton, pulling his moustache. "The regiment
is like a training stables."

"I'll put in Jemmy Jessamy, if you won't over-weight him," says little
Toodles (he was the son of a distinguished drysalter in the city).

"Catch weights, of course," responded the Major, taking out his red
betting-book, and calmly booking his bets.

"And Smasher can go too," said Tom Hethrington, who proverbially rode
the worst tempered horses in England. "He's taken to eating his groom,
and wants exercise."

"By Jove!" cries the Major, "we'll make a field-day of it. All the 'fank
and rashion' of Kirkminster. Of course, all your people will come from
Matcham, Chatteris?"

Fred Chatteris nodded, and proceeded to note up the field of horses.
"Where shall we have the course?" said he.

"There's a good line by the race-course. Start from the four-acre field
at Dingley, across the turf to Chalker's Gap, then over the ploughed
land, by Patchley Brook, jump the timber fence into the course, then
home up the straight, and finish at the stand. Lots of stiff hurdles, a
good big water jump, and plenty of stout timber," returned the "hardest,
etc." with glee.

"As you please," said Fred, carelessly. "Carnifex is a glutton at
timber."

"Are we to have three weeks?" asked Toodles.

"Oh, no, run the thing to-morrow!" cries Hethrington, who was anxious
about his man-eater.

"Impossible!"

"Well, Monday then."

"If you fellows are agreeable, I'll run on Wednesday," says the Major.
"Wednesday, by all means," drawled Fred Chatteris, "and we'll all ride
our own horses."

Kirkminster was all agog at the news of the steeplechase. There were
races once a year--"The Kirkminster Handicap," when the "cracks" came
down, and no little money changed hands.

The garrison races, too, took place in the autumn, and perhaps caused
more real fun than the "legitimate business," as the Major called it,
for Kirkminster was not much given to sporting. Sir Valentine Yoicks'
hounds met three times a week at Great Ringston or thereabouts, and were
sturdily followed by the garrison and the farmers. Loamshire was not a
good hunting country, and, had it not been for the garrison, I doubt if
even Sir Val's pack would have flourished. Sir Valentine Yoicks was a
jovial fellow. He drank good wine, rode good horses, and gave liberally
to charities. His nephew, Robert Calverly, or, as he was called, "young
Squire Calverly," was a nephew worthy his uncle. He was not too
intellectual either, but, as his friends declared, "his heart was in the
right place, and he rode as straight as a crow." He was a tall,
sunburnt, English-looking fellow, too, and an immense favourite with all
his lady friends. He was as playfully kind as a young elephant, was Bob
Calverly, and would waltz (in utter disregard of time or tune) for hours
with the plainest girl in the room, if he thought he would please her by
so doing.

I fear, though, that the young squire was not fully at home in ladies'
society. He felt shy, awkward, and ill at ease, when some of the London
belles who visited at Matcham attacked him after dinner. He could sing a
good song among his friends, but was utterly ignorant of the respective
merits of Verdi and Gounod. He never read sensation novels, and was not
as well "up" in the Roman question as could be wished. He did not know
Millais from Tenniel; but he could pick you out any bullock in a
herd--ay, and remember him too. He was not a good hand at croquet
playing, but he could shear one hundred sheep a day, and shear them
clean, which is a matter of difficulty, I can tell you. He had no taste
for water-colour drawings; but he could sit a buckjumper, and drive four
horses down a sidling in a Gipps Land range with any man in Australia.

In point of fact, "Squire Calverly" was not Squire Calverly at all. He
was born in Australia, and had come to England to visit his uncle, old
Yoicks, of the Hall, and to see a little English life before he went
back again.

When Valentine Yoicks was twenty-two, his sister married a farmer on her
brother's estate. Yoicks père, who was alive at that time, was highly
indignant at this; and, considering the honour of the Yoicks family
sullied by the alliance, made the place so hot for poor Calverly, that
the honest yeoman used to declare, almost with tears in his eyes, "He's
a bitter, hard man, the squire is; but maybe it'll come back to him
again."

It never did "come back" though, for Sir Percival Yoicks died with great
complacency at the age of seventy-two, and was buried with exceeding
pomp and glory in the family vault at Ringston.

Calverly went to Australia, and, after some exceedingly rough living,
invested his capital in stock, and (like many another brave fellow
before him) hewed a fortune out of the Australian bush.

With him, however, it concerns us not now. He was wealthy and respected,
had a fine house, and was a power in the State. His sterling good sense
had served him in lieu of more brilliant qualities; and "Old Calverly"
was as well known in Melbourne and Sydney for an honest man and a warm
friend, as his late father-in-law had been in Loamshire for a crusty,
hard-riding, godless old reprobate.

Sir Valentine had always liked his brother-in-law, and when a letter
came from Australia, stating that Mr. Bob Calverly (with a draft for
£3000 in his writing-case) was en route for England, Sir Val opened his
heart and doors right willingly.

Robert Calverly had been home for about six months, and as yet had had
no cause to complain. He was welcome everywhere. At the barracks, at the
county houses, and at the cottages. He was "hail fellow well met" with
everybody. The Major slapped Bob's brawny back, and vowed he was a
"flyer all over." Mr. Frederick Chatteris used to say that he liked
"that Australian fellow, he was such a good natured cub." The young
ladies in Kirkminster declared that he was a "dear good fellow, and had
such nice brown eyes;" while the old ones whispered that he was rich
beyond measure, and "a most desirable match for Fanny," or Laura, or
Jenny, as the case might be.

But Mr. Bob Calverly, late of Ballara Plains, now of the Hall,
Loamshire, was not to be caught easily. He had in good truth a slight
tendresse already. One day Fred Chatteris drove the young Australian
over to his father's at Matcham. Matcham Park was the finest in
Loamshire; Saville Chatteris, Esquire, whilome chargé d' afaires at
Krummelhoff, the proudest old diplomat that ever represented the policy
of England; and his sister, Lady Loughborough, the most enchanting
mauvaise langue in Europe.

Young Calverly, however, did not appreciate these things. He thought the
Park small, Saville Chatteris an oily old humbug, and Lady Loughborough
a scandalous old woman. So much for the effects of English civilisation
on an Australian. But an Australian can appreciate beauty of another
kind as well as any man I know, and when the door opened after luncheon,
and Miss Kate Ffrench walked in, and greeting her cousin with a mock
curtsey, extended to the new comer a small firm hand, saying--"Mr.
Calverly, I suppose; how do you do? I have heard a great deal about
you,"--our Australian blushed to the tips of his sunburnt ears, and
thought he had met the "queen of gods and men" face to face.

Kate Ffrench was the daughter of Laura Chatteris and "Mad Dick Ffrench
of the Blues." Dick Ffrench, who, of course, could not do anything like
anybody else, must needs run away with Miss Laura from Madame Aramanthe
Lacajole's academy, and marry her by stealth. Had he asked permission,
he could have married her in St. George's, Hanover-square, with twenty
bridesmaids, in broad noonday, for Dick Ffrench was a rich man then; but
he took some foolish idea into his handsome bullet-head concerning the
displeasure of Laura's family, and made a runaway match of it. One of
the consequences of this rash act was, that Miss Laura's father, being
at that time Secretary to the Waste-paper Department of the F. O., and
owner of Matcham, considered himself personally insulted, and refused to
see his daughter again.

Captain Richard Ffrench being in the habit of spending about seven times
his income, and borrowing at any rate of interest, speedily came to
grief, and exchanging with curious rapidity into the Line, went out to
India, and was shot there. His widow coming home again, and dying in a
plaintive but noiseless manner in a little lodging-house, near
Kennington Common, the stern parent relented, and adopting little
Kate--then four years old--sent her down to Matcham, where she had lived
ever since. It was to this young lady (seventeen now, and straight as an
arrow) that Bob Calverly had lost his heart.

When Fred told him about the forthcoming steeplechase, he felt an inward
twinge of regret that he had not a horse to enter, for if he prided
himself upon anything in particular, it was his horsemanship.

"I wish I had known before about it," said he, "I would have put
'Stockrider' into it."

"Stockrider" was a colt that Bob had bought in Kirkminster, and named,
it would seem, in fond remembrance of past times at Ballara.

"Oh, it's all right," says the nonchalant Fred. "I'll speak to the major
about it. If you want to go in, you can, of course, but it comes off
to-morrow, you know."

"'Stockrider' is as hard as a nut," says Bob, with a pardonable
colonialism. "I'll run him."

"Just as you like, my boy!" says Fred, admiring his boots. "Half-past
one to-morrow is the time, you know, and we start from the Four-acre
Field at Dingley."



Chapter III. Carnifex.

AT half-past one on the morrow, all Kirkminster was in commotion. There
was to be a ball in the evening, and the hearts of the female population
were fluttering at the prospect of goldshell epaulettes, ices,
champagne, and flirtation. The course was crowded. It had been whispered
that heavy bets were on, and that Mr. Chatteris stood to win or lose
heavily. The regiment were all in it. Everybody that had a horse worthy
the name had entered him, and even little Toodles had elected to ride
his long-legged weedy screw, "Jemmy Jessamy."

The Four-acre Field was full of the sporting world of Kirkminster. Tom
Yellowley, the hunting publican, was there, so was Jack Harris, horse
doctor and coper (Jack wrote R.V.C.S. after his name, and was as big a
scoundrel as any wearing spurs); Larry O'Snaffle, the sporting doctor,
mounted on his trim little grey cob, was ready for the fray; Cleaver,
the butcher, scanned the horses with a knowing eye, and hearing that the
"Major" rode, instantly put a five-pound note upon "Ladybird, by
Chanticleer, out of a Boko mare," as the stud-book called her.

While the horses are saddling, let us take a look round the course.

In the flat, numberless blue coats moved to and fro, and with them the
bright ribbons of the pottery girls, who turned out in great force to
see the "sojers ride." The little brush-covered booths were doing a good
trade. Sergeant Overalls tossed off his pot with Trooper Collarpoint,
and wished "good luck" to the major. Corporal Bridoon walked up and down
the course, offering "pots of heavy" on the success of Carnifex, and
making unpleasant though guarded remarks upon the method in which Cornet
Toodles managed his steed. The rustics were standing about in little
knots, and staring, open-mouthed, at the swaggering moustached dragoons;
while such happy fellows as could claim acquaintance with a trooper,
paraded, arm in arm, with him, and "stood" unlimited beer for his
delectation.

The course ran as we have stated. The last jump was a stiff
post-and-rail fence about half-way down the straight running, and a
little further on, a temporary grand-stand had been erected, and there
the "fank and rashion" of Kirkminster (as the major termed them) were
collected.

It was a pretty sight enough. The rich autumn tints of the trees gave
colour to the landscape, the brilliant flags that marked the course
waved gaily in the light breeze, and the sun shone brightly down upon
the moving motley crowd.

The stand was not much patronised, at least by the magnates of the land.
These preferred the privacy of their carriages. The two fat greys of Sir
Thomas Blunderbore of the Beeches stood stolidly in front of the heavy
chariot wherein the Blunderborian family (a mother and two unusually
ugly daughters) reclined. The Rev. Horace Markham, the foxhunting
rector, reined up his blood-mare to chat with Mrs. Eversley, the pretty
widow of a late squire of his acquaintance. The Champignons of
Kirkminster came out with overpowering splendour. Adelaide Champignon
(rising thirty-three and somewhat faded) wearing a bonnet that seemed
intended for a microscopic slide, so small was it; and Augustus, the
only son of the family, carrying collars and scarf of such portentous
dimensions that he looked like a perambulating Niagara of silk and
linen.

The non-riding portion of the --th occupied a huge drag, the front seat
of which was filled by no less a person than the Colonel himself. Black
Brentwood, of the --th, was a man of note. His life, if written, would
have made the admirer of sensation novels stare. Men told more stories
of Black Brentwood than of any other man in the British army. His name
was mixed up with nearly every scandal of the clubs, but he still held
his head erect, and walked bravely in noonday. His fame at the War
Office was notorious; but it is said that the chief himself, on being
asked by some eager reformer to amend the error of Brentwood's ways,
replied, "Sir, the Colonel of the --th is a soldier. Good morning!"

He looks quiet enough now though, as he leans over the high seat,
talking in subdued tones to Rupert Dacre of the Foreign Office, who
being on a visit to Matcham, has come over to see the race.

As Mr. Rupert Dacre plays a somewhat prominent part in the history which
follows, I will tell you all I know about him.

Rupert Dacre is the only son of Harcourt Dacre, late Secretary for
Colonial Affairs. Harcourt Dacre was a self-made man; that is to say, he
went into Parliament at an early age, and fought his way by sheer hard
work, not unmixed with a little judicious humbug, to the upper ranks of
political life. It was said of him that he never forgot a friend, or
made an enemy. Clever, careful, and well versed in all the sterner
details of redtapeism, he made a position for himself, and died
comparatively wealthy, and reasonably famous. His son followed in his
footsteps. Rupert Dacre was essentially a man of his age. Cool, quiet,
sarcastic, and prudent; he had marked out a course for himself, and
steadily pursued it. The authorities believed in Rupert Dacre. He never
blundered, and had a happy knack of turning the errors of others to
account. Morally, he was without principle, but socially and politically
he was a "safe" man. No esclandre had ever happened to the cautious
Rupert. Without being a whit better than his fellows, he had the
prudence to conceal his vices, and acting always upon the broad
principle of being "all things to all men" (especially to those in
power), he bore the reputation of a man of talent. Connected--by report
at all events--with the leading journals of the day, he was to a certain
extent a power in his own world. He was just brilliant enough to please,
just sarcastic enough to be feared, and just rich enough not to be
envied. He never said the wrong thing in the wrong place, or did the
right thing at the wrong time. His personal appearance was in his
favour. He had just escaped being handsome, and, save for a pair of
bright, sharp eyes, you could not point to any particularly distinctive
feature in his face. He was the essence of refined commonplace, an
artist's proof of the ordinary modern Englishman. Too clever to be a
cipher, and too cautious to be eccentric, he was outwardly the
impersonation of mediocrity; and it was only after you had talked with
him that you found out he was no common specimen of his class. He was a
looking-glass to every man's opinions, and every clever man deemed
himself the first to discover and appreciate his talents. If asked to
name the two cleverest men of the day, each diplomatist would--if
speaking honestly--have said "myself and Rupert Dacre." He kept his
claws sheathed, in order that he might strike the more securely. He did
not hide his talent in a napkin; he lodged it safely, in order that it
might bear interest a hundred-fold.

Saville Chatteris was one of Rupert's many irons, and he had come to
Matcham to keep him as hot as possible.

With this view he strolled over to the Matcham barouche. Saville
Chatteris was in more affable mood than usual. His eldest and favourite
son was to ride the finest horse on the ground, and had every prospect
of winning. Vanity being a weak point in the ex-diplomat's character, he
was pleased at this, and looked forward, with subdued delight, to the
reflected honour which would fall upon him as the father of the hero of
the day. He was standing up in the barouche with race-glass directed to
the white spot that marked the starting post.

"They're getting ready, Kate," said he.

"Can you see Fred, uncle?"

"No--yes--I think I can. Orange and black, isn't he?"

"What is it, aunty? You have the card."

Lady Loughborough, who was leaning back in aristocratic beatitude,
languidly lifted her double-rimmed gold eyeglass to her aged nose, and
perused the "c'rect card" (issued by the Major in the fulness of his
heart), supplied by the ragged Kirkminster Bedouin a few minutes before.

"I can't find it, child," said she, pettishly, at length.

"Permit me! Ah! Lieutenant Frederick Chatteris, orange and black." It
was Rupert who spoke.

"Oh! Mr. Dacre, you have found your way here again!"

"Yes. I have undergone the social penalty of having friends, and have
said all the agreeable things I could invent on short notice. There is a
large assemblage;" and he looked round carelessly.

Lady Loughborough shrugged her shoulders.

"Yes, everybody seems to be here. I saw the banker's people just now,
with a hamper behind the carriage. There are the Champignons, too. I
cannot think of whom that eldest girl reminds me."

"She is not unlike Miss Meutriere, the novelist," says Dacre, putting up
his eyeglass.

"Oh! that terrible woman I met at a conversazione last season." And Lady
Loughborough made a little moue. "She talked geology all the time." "She
is considered a handsome girl, though."

"Do you think so?"

"No, I don't think so. Her face is as highly-coloured as her novels; and
both display the same amount of artistic skill."

"Fie!" said Lady Loughborough, with a pleased smile.

Dacre had made his point, and was too good an actor not to make his exit
while his audience was in good humour. He turned to Kate.

"May I lose a pair of gloves, Miss Ffrench?"

"Twenty pairs if you like," returned Kate, who did not admire him. "You
back Carnifex, of course?"

"The honour of the house, you know."

"I am afraid you will lose," said he. "Ladybird was a good goer when I
sold her to Cy----"

He stopped suddenly, as if he had suddenly entered on forbidden ground,
and eyed the girl narrowly.

Kate had flushed crimson from neck to forehead, and the little hand that
rested on the carriage door clenched itself involuntarily. Her eyes
turned towards Mr. Saville Chatteris, who was still gazing intently into
the distance.

Rupert dropped his voice.

"Pardon me, I had forgotten."

Kate did not speak. There was a murmur around.

"They're off!" cried the Master of Matcham, and handed his glass to his
niece.

They were off in good sooth--the usual steeplechase start. The dapper
little man who acted as starter dropped his flag. Ladybird, held in the
light but firm grasp of the "hardest rider in the shires," sailed away
with a lead. Carnifex, with a leer of his vicious eye, a shake of his
vicious head, and a plunge that tried the arms of Fred Chatteris, dashed
off in his wake. The "man-eater," who had been taking suspicious
backward sniffs at the gallant captain's boots, at last consented to go,
and Hethrington laid himself along little Toodles, determined to cut him
down at all events.

Poor Toodles was a picture. Jemmy Jessamy was making terrific play.
Lashing out his long legs, whisking his long tail, and boring down with
his huge head, he was causing the dry-salter's son to fly up out of the
pigskin every three seconds.

"What shall I do at the fence?" asked Toodles, mentally "What a fool I
am!"

Haughton and his gallant little grey were going steadily on the right,
while Bob Calverly--his knees too high for elegance, but with his hands
well down and his body well back--forced Stockrider out of the ruck with
a wisdom beyond his years. Behind, came the fag end of the field,
whipping and spurring to make up for lost time; while--there being no
clerk of the course, or other judicious official--the whole of sporting
Kirkminster was maddening in the rear.

Tom Yellowley and Jack Harris hurried their spavined horses along,
shouting for their respective favourites; and Dr. O'Snaffle, with a
sharp look around him, gave the little cob his head, and shot off like
an arrow.

A bit of grass land led up to the first fence, giving the horses an
opportunity of getting well into their stride. At it they came, Ladybird
slipping over like water; and Jemmy Jessamy, to Toodles' great surprise,
taking the bit in his teeth, cleared the four-foot rail with a bound
that effectually disposed of his wind for the remainder of the day.
Carnifex was, as Fred termed him, "a glutton at timber," and he nearly
took the fence in his stride. The rest followed safely, for the
maneater, crashing bodily through the rails, had nearly fractured
Hethrington's kneecap, and made room enough for a squadron. They were
all well down to their work by this time, the Major leading, Haughton
creeping up on the grey with calm disregard of everybody. Toodles felt
his heart sink as they came to the next jump. It was a terrific hedge
and ditch--so big a ditch that it was called in the rustic vernacular
"Chalker's Gap"--(Chalker being a defunct farmer, who perished there one
fine hunting morning). At Chalker's Gap, then, the knowing ones were
stationed.

"This 'll show 'em up," said Cleaver the butcher, as he rested his chin
on his ugly hunting crop. "Bravo--good!" he suddenly cried.

Ladybird cleared it beautifully, but, with a cruel cut of the whip, Fred
laid Carnifex alongside, and as Jack Ponsonby dropped into the furrows,
he saw the open nostrils of the dark chestnut close to his saddle-flap.
Hethrington came a "crumpler" into the field, but, with a vicious dig of
the spur, set his horse on his legs again, and caught Haughton in three
strides.

"I'll lay five to two on the Major!" cries a sporting squire.

As he spoke, the blue jacket of Bob Calverly rose and fell with even
motion, as Stockrider, going within himself, cleared the "Gap."

"I'll take yer!" roared Cleaver, smacking his brawny thigh. "Blowed if
the Horstralian won't give 'em trouble yet!"

Here Jemmy Jessamy parted company with his rider; Toodles' gallant steed
rose just high enough to stick in the hedge, and the unhappy cornet lit
on his head in the ploughed land, presenting an artistically
foreshortened view of the soles of his boots to the admiring spectators.

Carnifex now took the lead--Ladybird, carefully piloted by the cool
Major, close on his quarter; Bob Calverly third, evidently biding his
time. Haughton and Hethrington were well on together, the man-eater
enlivening the monotony of the course by playful endeavours to take a
bonne-bouche from the neck of the grey. Two or three fences were
negotiated without accident, and the five horses between whom it was
evident that the race now lay, neared a stiff wall of loose stones,
about three feet broad at the top. Carnifex cleared it in his stride.
The mare topped the wall like a greyhound, but in doing so lost ground,
and Stockrider, with a tremendous rush, and a bound that would have
almost cleared Kirkminster steeple, landed half a length before the
mare. Bob now called on the colt, and Fred, who knew the powers of his
horse, gave a supercilious smile as the Australian, with a cheery laugh,
passed him and took up the running.

The man-eater's chance was gone, for he rolled heavily over his rider,
who had the satisfaction of seeing the splashed girths of the grey fly
over him as that gallant little nag landed safely over his fifth fence.

The "three" were close together, but as yet the gazers on the hill could
see little change in the pace. Two more fences were successfully passed,
and a murmur ran from mouth to mouth as the orange and black drew out to
the front, and neared that terror of the Loamshire hunt, Patchly Brook.
Patchly Brook is not a pleasant thing to be taken fasting on a raw
hunting morning, and even the insouciant Fred felt his heart beat
quicker as he caught the first glimpse of its dark swirling waters, its
rotten banks, and its bad "take off." At it he went, however, hardening
his heart, and, obedient to the sounding lash of the whip, Carnifex,
with a snort and a bound, flew over the brook, merely wetting his hind
hoofs as he landed on the high bank beyond. Loud cheers burst from the
crowd, who now felt certain that the Loamshire man would win. Bob
Calverly was not a length behind the chestnut, but as he neared the
water he could feel Stockrider slackening his pace, and involuntarily
prepared for the expected "prop" that would follow. The colt had never
seen water before, and, despite the example of the chestnut, he would
evidently refuse to jump. Bob turned his head and saw the calm face of
the immovable major close on his quarter. No time was to be lost. With
memories of old "cutting out" days thick upon him, the young Australian
seized the colt by the head, and wheeling him on so small a space, that,
as Ponsonby afterwards declared "a sixpence would have covered it," he
brought him close alongside Ladybird as she rose for the leap. One cut
of the whip--and the astonished Stockrider obeying the natural instincts
of his race, followed the mare and found himself on the other side of
Patchly Brook--a good third, and one fence from the winning post. Here
ended, alas! the fortunes of the gallant grey. That plucky little nag
was baked at last, and his rider might have been seen for a moment
standing in his stirrups and gazing despairingly at the gurgling stream
that rushed past the obstinately-planted forelegs of the best cover-hack
in Loamshire. The excitement was now at its height; and as the horses
neared the last fence the cheers were deafening.

Down the straight they came, Carnifex leading, in full view of the
stand, and the fashionables on the hill.

The last fence was a stiff one--a strong bramble hedge with two stout
rails in the middle of it. Fred never quailed, but, with his eyes fixed,
came steadily on. The cheers were louder as he neared the jump.

"Carnifex wins!"

"I'll lay on Carnifex!"

"Hurrah for the regiment!"

"The Major! the Major!"

The horse--his huge shoulders working, his head down, his eyes
starting--thundered down the course.

"Too fast--too fast!" cried Larry O'Snaffle, who had forced his cob into
the crowd. "Steady, lad--steady!"

But Fred heard not, or if he had he could not have attended. Maddened by
the shouts, and the last "punisher" at the brook, Carnifex had taken the
bit between his teeth, and, with a vicious shake of his ugly head, had
fairly bolted. Fred, exhausted by his previous endeavours, could do
nothing but keep him straight, and, amid a sudden cry from the crowd,
the huge brute rushed into the fence. There was no answering crash of
timber, the rails were too strong, and turning fairly over, Carnifex
fell with a dull thud upon his rider.

Before the crowd could rush in, Bob Calverly had dashed to the front,
topped the fence, closely followed by the mare, and prepared to run for
home. The race was now between two. Those at the other end of the course
were in confusion. Had the chestnut fallen? Where was orange and black?
Those on the hill had seen too plainly.

As the horses flew past, Bob caught a momentary vision of a white eager
face. It was Kate. Unable to resist the temptation, he turned his head,
and the impassible Major seizing the moment, dashed spurs into Ladybird,
and landed the game little mare, who had run straight as a crow from end
to end, a winner by a length.

Down on the course confusion reigned. The crowd hurried like a swarm of
bees to one spot--the last fence. Alas! the riding of the gay lieutenant
of dragoons was over for ever. There was a horrible confused heap of
orange and black and crimson. They pulled the dying horse off him, and
Larry O'Snaffle knelt down by his side.

"Has he fainted?" asked Mr. Saville Chatteris, his white lips quivering.
"He is dead!" said the little doctor, dropping the hand that still
clutched the jewelled whip convulsively.

Mr. Rupert Dacre, standing a little back from the group, and stroking
his long moustache meditatively, murmured,

"Dead, is he? Hum! It can't do me much harm if I telegraph to Cyril."



Chapter IV. In Re Cyril Chatteris.

SAVILLE CHATTERIS, ESQUIRE, of Matcham, Loamshire, and Grosvenor-square,
London, deputy lieutenant for the county, and late ornament of England's
bulwark--her diplomatic service--was proud. His pride was not exactly
pride of birth, of intellect, or of rank; it was that more subtle and
more lasting pride--exaggerated self-respect. He thought that Saville
Chatteris, Esquire, etc., etc., was the most honourable, most generous,
and most accomplished man in Europe.

He had pinned his faith to the sleeve of his party, and as he owed all
the reputation he possessed (apart from that of wealth) to that party,
he determined that he owed it all to his own talents, and that he was
the prop and mainstay of the ultra-Conservatives. This conclusion was
curious, but natural, for men invariably value themselves at the
apparent valuation of their private friends, and the world in general is
apt to take men at the price they set upon themselves.

The Embassy at Krummelhoff was not a rich one, and as Saville Chatteris
occupied the place of ambassador, and used to write lengthy reports of
brilliant no-meaning, and, with the assistance of an unpaid attaché,
would issue a stray passport or two to a stray Briton, he was looked up
to by the English residents. When his father died, Saville was only
forty-two, and from being the oracle of a stupid German town, stepped at
once into six thousand a-year and one of the prettiest estates in
England.

I say six thousand a-year, for old Chatteris of the Wastepaper Office
was an economical fellow, and though a poor fifteen hundred a-year and
an infinity of mortgages was all that his spendthrift uncle had left
him, he had succeeded in his long and prudent life in paying off and
paying in to such an extent that when Masters Frederick and Cyril, aged
thirteen and ten respectively, were forwarded by the Ostend boat, like
two parcels of merchandise, and reached Matcham at seven p.m. on a cold
winter's evening, they voted the Ducal Schloss a dog-kennel compared
with their grandfather's house. Saville Chatteris came home, a widower,
to find his two sons grown to young men, and his grand-niece, Miss Kate
Ffrench, a very charming young woman. His sister, Lady Loughborough
(widow of Viscount Loughborough, whose only excuse for living so long
was that he left his "dearly beloved wife Sybilla" a jointure of one
thousand a-year), came down to keep house for him, and the ball of
fortune rolled merrily.

Mr. Saville Chatteris, however, had one thorn in his side--his son
Cyril. Separated from his children for seven years, and being naturally
cold-blooded, he did not give himself much trouble to conciliate their
affections. Indeed it would appear that Kate Ffrench was more to him
than his own sons. He liked to pet her, and to be petted by her, and
would sit for hours to hear her play or sing to him. With Fred and
Cyril, however, the case was different. They were willing to please at
first, but their father was too haughty to condescend to more than
affability. He had no sympathy with young England or its ways, and would
frown at Fred's slang, and laugh at Cyril's dogmas, until the young men
looked upon him simply as a machine constructed for the purpose of
signing cheques and giving dinners. Of the two, the father preferred
Fred. He had a languid impertinence about him that delighted the old
man, and being, in his own inane way, a favourite with the women, the
ex-diplomat saw, or thought he saw, a reflection of a youthful self in
his eldest son. Fred insisted upon going into the army, and after some
expostulation, a cornetcy in the --th was bought, and Mr. Saville's
mirrored youth shone in all the brilliancy of gold lace and bullion.

Cyril never was liked by his father. The boy had always been of a
studious turn, and when Fred was galloping after the hounds on his rough
pony, or rabbit shooting with the keepers, Cyril would be curled up in
the library, reading poetry, or telling monstrous fairy tales to the
open-eyed little Kate.

Kate and Cyril were great friends. Perhaps the girl, with her warm
heart, her strong imagination, and her artistic tastes, was the only
person in the house who thoroughly understood the effeminate-looking boy
who was called "molly-coddle" by his brother, and treated with contempt
by all the servants.

Not that Cyril would permit insolence. Far from it. He was as vain as
two women and one actress, and would show symptoms of violent passion if
he thought he had been ridiculed. On these occasions he was positively
dangerous, and a large white scar upon the pad-groom's forehead attests,
to this day, the good-will of the blow given by the scissors-armed hand
of "Miss Cyril" to little Dick, the stable helper.

Eliminate all social polish and natural refinement from the boy's
character, and at twelve years of age he was as unpleasant a cub as you
could meet anywhere. Cross him, he hated you; laugh at him, he hated
you; offend his vanity in the slightest degree, and he hated you. Bow
down to the Lilliputian aristocrat, and he despised you; be friendly
with him, and he made use of your kindness with utterly selfish
disregard of your convenience. His first tutor left Matcham because his
life was rendered unbearable by the fiendish insolence of his youngest
pupil, who picked out the sore places in the poor fellow's heart with
the ingenuity of a moral Tortillard. He was expelled from his first
school for stealing books from one of the other boys, and stupendously
lying about it afterwards. He was constantly being flogged at Eton for
insolence and idleness, and, to crown all, his own folly caused him to
leave Oxford three days before the examination, which ought to have
placed his name among the first ten on the list. He was selfish, weak,
vain, and unprincipled; but he was clever enough, and though his talents
were of a superficial order, they were strongly marked. Had he been
brought up with more care, perhaps he might have escaped many a
misfortune; but his vanity made him obstinate, and his unhappy mental
constitution always urged him to be obstinate on the wrong side. But
these faults were invisible on first acquaintance. Cyril Chatteris at
nineteen was a good-looking, effeminate, impudent, and apparently clever
boy. He had a happy knack of appropriating others' conceptions, and
would bring them out clothed in his own words, with such appositeness
and ease that strangers mistook his plagiarisms for genius. He was given
somewhat to poetasting; and plunging, of course, into the depths of the
spasmodic and sensual school, wrote verses which almost made him blush
as he read them. Kate and he used to ramble about together, and talk an
immense amount of nonsense about all sorts of matters.

Kate--like most young girls of strong imaginations and sound
principles--was given to religious enthusiasms, and would weep over
Cyril's delinquencies and exhort him to repentance.

The boy liked this. It was so pleasant to be considered a Corsair, or a
Caesar Borgia, and to be petted and kissed into goodness again, and he
would purposely say "wicked things" to make Kate's violet eyes fill with
tears, and to know that he had pained the thing that loved him best in
the world. By the way, it is curious that there should be pleasure in
paining one we love. It was said once that no delight can be perfect
without sorrow, and that we must pluck red pleasure from the teeth of
pain to taste the full flavour of the wine of life. Cyril must have had
this feeling, for it is certain that at one time of his life he loved
his cousin, and he lifted the cup of bitterness to her lips with a
steady hand and smiling mouth. It was fortunate for these two fools that
they were too young to know their folly. The poetical tendencies are
dangerous things to cultivate. As it was, I fear that when Cyril went to
Oxford, he took his cousin's heart with him.

Old Saville imagined that Fred was the one favoured by his niece. For
Kate was given to riding, and dancing, and flirting, and had the
reputation around Matcham of being rather "fast." She was a strong,
healthy girl, with a natural inclination to exercise her limbs and
breathe pure air.

"Fred is just the man for her," thought Saville, who, nevertheless,
hardly liked the notion of so poor a bride for his son. "She always
talks to Fred, and never says much to the other one."

But the old dandy was wrong. Kate had just arrived at that stage of
womanhood when concealment is more pleasant than confession, and she
only knew that she loved Cyril Chatteris because she was always uneasy
in his presence. When he was away she used to wander about Matcham and
dream of Sir Bevidere, Sir Launcelot, and other heroes of maiden dreams,
half unconscious that they all had white hands and grey eyes, and like
Cyril, were rather wicked than otherwise.

Matcham was a place well suited for such musings. The country around it
was very beautiful. In autumn, when the trees were turning yellow, and
the leaves silently dropping to earth, and rotting in the dark rich
soil; when after a storm that shook the boughs and shrilled over the
fallow lands--when the last footsteps of the rain had departed with a
cool pattering sound, and from grove and coppice went up a fragrance
like music--it was an exquisite pleasure to stroll down the village; and
passing the pool by the church where the ducks were splashing--passing
the blacksmith's with its glowing furnace (like a picture by Rembrandt),
nodding to the homeward-bound cart--its occupants, a yokel and a
rosy-faced child, shaking off the drops of the shower which had reached
them under the grey awning--to turn down by the stile and into the wood
borders. Matcham woods are renowned throughout the country, but I always
think that they are best seen after rain--when the mighty purple black
cloud, the last in the train of the departing storm, slowly melts down
to grey--when the silver beech trunks no longer glisten under the rainy
lights that find their way through the jagged gashes and gaps in the
veil above--when the sun, sinking through golden mists behind the wooded
hill, suddenly asserts his power, and with fierce stabs of crimson rends
the flimsy storm-veil asunder, and flooding with weltering flushes of
green and gold the space above the black tree tops, slowly sinks behind
them. When at last the cloud melts away, the mighty heart of fire that
welled forth such glorious light, stills, and above in the fathomless
aether, above the sea of molten clouds, above the silver strand of
light, above the fleecy grey tresses that the wild wind has blown all
about the sky, in a delicate space of apple-green aether shines the
Evening Star.

The nameless influences of these things affected Kate, and as she
wandered dreamily in the glades and lanes of Matcham, she began to
invest the figure of her absent lover with many graces that did not in
good truth belong to it, and to nourish her passion until it grew almost
beyond her control. Love fed upon autumn tints, glowing skies, sweet
perfumes, and delicate airs, is apt to thrive, and thus it happened that
during Cyril's first term at Oxford Miss Kate Ffrench found out one
afternoon, while walking in the hazel copse, that she loved him very
dearly, and had been counting the hours to the time of his return with
something more than friendly interest.

And Cyril himself? Well, he hardly knew his own mind, he certainly had a
contemptuous affection for his cousin, because she always admitted him
to be right, and looked up to him as a superior being. But he was not
much disturbed by any violence of passion, and went about his usual ways
unconcernedly.

Between you and me, reader, he was not half good enough for her; but
women have always had a happy knack of falling in love with people who
are just exactly unsuited for them, and of persistently ignoring the
existence of the heaven-sent mate who, according to the story-books, is
wandering and waiting somewhere.

About this time, too, Mr. Cyril began to feel his feet strike something
firmer than the shifting sand of youthful dreams, and to think that he
had found his mètier at last. Being up at London one winter he met his
school-fellow, Rupert Dacre (who used to fag him at Eton), and Mr.
Rupert Dacre introduced him to some very queer society indeed. Among the
many people he met at that period was Blister of the Morning Mercury, at
that time a liberal journal. As old Chatteris was ultra-conservative to
the backbone, naturally his son was exactly the opposite, and being
somewhat excited at dinner one night, made such a brilliant and lucid
defence of the Radical party (the ideas, of course, being rechaufés from
some obscure author) that Mr. Blister shifted in his chair and asked his
neighbour "who that young fellow was?"

The neighbour was young also, and not having left college long, was well
posted up in all matters of the kind.

"Oh, that's Chatteris of Christ's. Rather a good man, they say. He is a
quiet fellow, but devilish clever;" and the censor morum helped himself
to claret.

"Ha! Christchurch man is he? Any relation to old Chatteris of the
Foreign Office?"

"Son!"

"Oh!" and Blister moved his chair further down the table.

Some time after this incident, the great struggle over the
Franchise-reform bill began. The Morning Mercury began to be spoken of.
It was unusually brilliant. A series of articles on the Franchise
attracted attention.

The writer was unknown. "They have got some new man," growled the
Conservative editor of the Conservative Evening Herald. "New blood! His
facts are all right, and his style is smart, but there is nothing new in
what he says."

The "new man" was Cyril Chatteris. He was wonderfully proud of his new
found powers, and despatched letter upon letter from Oxford, all of
which appeared in the columns of the Mercury. He came down to Matcham,
and still the writing went on. The Morning Mercury became quite a thorn
in the side of the Government. Not that they cared for fine writing,
style, or logic, but because little items of private news, little hints
as to Government policy, or to the state of Government patronage, would
creep out every now and then, with insidious pertinacity. Mr. Saville
Chatteris, who, as became him, took a great interest in politics, was
pleasantly annoyed about it, and grumbled in a wellbred manner at
breakfast, at the audacity of the people. Saville Chatteris, indeed,
went the length of embodying his views in his next letter to the Earl of
Foozleton, the Prime Minister, an old friend of his.

This was done just at the time when Cyril was on the top wave of
article-writing, and eager and panting for the shore of fame. Foozleton,
though Prime Minister, being somewhat too prone to chatter, replied to
his old friend's letter by another, which set forth in unmistakeable
terms the policy of the Government. This letter was received the day
before Cyril returned to Christchurch; and as that young gentleman went
into the library for the purpose of requesting the paternal machine to
produce a cheque of somewhat larger amount than usual, he saw the letter
of the minister on the table.

I have said that Cyril was utterly unprincipled, and in his present
political frame of mind, the well-known blotch, that was presumed by
courtesy to be Foozleton's signature, was enough to send a thrill
through his heart. It happened that Mr. Saville Chatteris was out, and
that the room was empty.

Under these circumstances, his son walked deliberately to the
writing-table, and with many starts and twitchings at supposed openings
of the door, read the minister's letter through from beginning to end.
The day after, he went back to Oxford to take his degree.

The well-informed neighbour of the editor of the Morning Mercury was not
wrong when he said that Cyril Chatteris was one of the first men of his
year--that is, socially. Chatteris was the idol of a certain set. He
neither rode nor boated. The cricket-ground and the racket-court knew
him not; and he never played practical jokes. But he was supposed by his
friends to be able to do all these things, and to be quiet, because
blasé. It is strange what heroes young men make of each other; and to
hear the conversation of some thirty men at Christchurch, you would
think that the college contained a man who was three Admirable Crichtons
rolled into one. It was said that the quiet-looking effeminate youth
could box, row, and fence with Caunt, the Claspers, or Angelo; that he
wrote essays like Macaulay, poems like Tennyson, vers de societé like
Praed, could play billiards like R----, and was a better classic than
the dean. While the absolute truth was, that he could do a very little
of all these things, but had wit enough to leave off in time. He had
built his reputation on the sand, and was careful that no sidewind of
absolute proof should blow upon it.

In the meantime the political crisis was approaching. The Government was
promising concessions; the Liberals were agitating, and the people's cry
was all against the bill. But the Government declared itself sure of
success. The reckless extension of franchise must be put a stop to, and
if the bill was once passed, their promised concessions might be thought
of. The leading journals attempted to soothe the masses. Such
concessions as were promised by the Ministry were all that could be
expected or required. The people must yield. In vain did Blethers, the
newly-risen "Man of the people," call mob meetings in every town in
England; in vain did the Liberal journals call upon the "people" to rise
and defend their rights; in vain was Hyde Park crammed with the orators
of the "League;" it was evident that the Government was too strong.

Things were at this pass, when on the day appointed for the reading of
the obnoxious measure, a brilliant article appeared in the Morning
Mercury, which, while blinking the question of expediency, stated in the
plainest terms that the Ministry was pledged to pass the measure or
resign, that the promised concessions would never be made, gave an
authoritative sketch of the future policy of the Foozleton Cabinet, and
printed quotations from an alleged "written document in our possession"
which utterly denied all hope of compromise, and challenged the
Government to disprove its assertions. The effect was electrical. The
paper sold nearly a double issue; Foozleton went down to the house as in
a confused dream. He could not reply to the questions asked. His own
party whispered that the blackest treachery had been used somewhere. The
Opposition rushed open mouthed at the "noble lord," and in a trice his
moral character was torn to shreds. The bill was not even read, and at
nine o'clock next morning Foozleton was en route for Castle Slattery,
County Donegal, and all England rang with the news of the resignation of
the Ministry.

Blister was in ecstacies, and wrote a letter to Cyril, couched in the
most complimentary terms; for, of course, you have guessed that it was
the ingenious scoundrelism of that talented young man that had upset the
Ministry. But Foozleton himself was not so pleased. His hopes of
political life were over for ever. He thought for a long time as to how
the writer could have obtained his information (he put out of the
question the letter to Saville Chatteris; the two men had been friends
from boyhood); and, after much cogitation, wrote to the best informed
man in London, Mr. Rupert Dacre:

Castle Slattery.

DEAR DACRE,--How is town? Country very dull. I suppose the news of the
breakdown has put S----and M----in spirits. It is to be regretted for
many reasons. I was thinking of making some changes in your department,
which will now, perhaps, be indefinitely deferred. I see the Chron. did
what it could for us, which was not much. I suppose I thank you for it.
I cannot understand how the Mercury gets its information. Have you any
notion who writes for it?

Yours faithfully,

FOOZLETON.

Rupert Dacre, Esq., F. O.

"Who writes for it?" repeated Mr. Rupert Dacre, as he folded up the
minister's letter carefully. "I suppose you mean who wrote the article
that put you out of place?"

That afternoon Dacre went to the office of the Mercury.

"Ah! Blister, how are you, old fellow? I am going to have a few friends
to dinner, on Friday, at my place. Will you come?"

"With all the pleasure in the world, my dear boy!" returned Blister, who
knew exactly why he was asked. "But I am up to the eyes in work just
now. Close upon six, you know. Letters!"

"So I see," said Rupert, casting a glance at the envelopes that littered
the floor. He saw one with the Oxford postmark, and the well-known "C.
C." in the corner (Cyril had a weakness for initialing his letters).
"Ah! does Master Cyril write for you?" asked he, carelessly picking up
the envelope.

Blister made some nonchalant answer, and the matter dropped.

Three days afterwards the Earl of Foozleton got his reply:

37 Brook-street.

MY DEAR LORD,--Thanks for your kind note. Town is slower than ever.
There is some talk of M----being in the new Cabinet. I sincerely hope
not. It is reported also that R----will not take office after the
esclandre last year at Brighton. He is afraid of the papers. By the way,
that reminds me of your question about the Mercury.

I fancy the "new hand" is a man at Christchurch, named Chatteris, a son
of Saville Chatteris, who, I think, corresponds with you. He is a clever
young fellow, I understand, but not very prudent. Have you read
Bamforth's "Thibet?" Capital book; town all talking of it.

Yours truly,

RUPERT DACRE.

R. H. the Earl of Foozleton.

"D----'Thibet!'" exclaimed the ex-prime minister. "Saville would never
have done such a confoundedly shabby thing, surely. I'll write and ask
him."

The letter, couched in the most delicate terms, was written and sent.

"I give up an old friend's letter to a confounded Radical paper!"
exclaimed Saville Chatteris. "He cannot be in his senses. Yet it looks
strange, I admit. He has more sense than to write to anybody but me in
the strain he did, and at such a time. Could anybody have seen the
letter? I left it in the library, I remember, but no one was there but
Cyril. He has no interest in doing such a thing. I have heard that the
boy scribbles too. But still! Kate, have you ever heard that Cyril wrote
anything?"

"How do you mean, uncle?"

"That he wrote for the papers."

Now Cyril, in the exuberance of his vanity, had told his cousin of his
triumphant entry into literature.

"I believe he has written something in a London paper," said Kate,
blushing.

"Which one?"

"The Morning Mercury."

All his good breeding could scarcely repress the angry exclamation that
rose to the lips of the indignant Mr. Chatteris.

"The infernal young scoundrel! I'll--I'll"

And he rose from the breakfast table hurriedly, to the intense alarm of
Kate, who was ignorant what criminals Radicals were in the eyes of her
respected uncle.

Cyril was on thorns about his degree. Despite the plaudits and flattery
of his friends, he well knew that it was more than probable that he
should be ignominiously "spun," or come out at the very bottom of the
list of heroes.

He meditated illness, sudden breakdown from overwork, or an accident,
which would give him time to repent and coach up for next term.

"I will take my name off the books," said he, "rather than be
'plucked.'"

But what could he do? Go to the bar, or take up journalism as a
profession? Blister was complimentary enough. He was in this undecided
frame of mind, when an indignant letter from his father cut the Gordian
knot. The high-minded old gentleman was cut to the heart at learning
that a son of his should have stooped to such dishonour. To write for a
Radical paper was bad enough; but to read his father's letters, and
basely to make use of information therein contained, was infamous. And
he expressed his opinion in no measured terms.

Cyril felt the disgrace deeply. He did not care one jot for the ethics
of the business; but the being found out was intolerable.

"I wonder who told him? If the story is known, I shall be socially
ruined," thought he.

After twelve hours' calm reflection, however, and a still more
complimentary letter from Blister, he came to the conclusion that his
father could only have guessed at his delinquency.

"Hang it! I'll cut this place, and go in for writing," said he; and
forthwith took his name off the books, to the amazement of all Oxford,
and went down to Matcham.

He was not prepared, though, for his reception. His father was furious
at the sudden termination of his son's career, and informed him that if
he chose to write for Radical journals, he should not do it in his
house, upbraided him with his dishonourable conduct, and finally told
him that he was heir to two hundred pounds a year left him by his
mother--that that sum should be paid quarterly into Coutts's for
him--and that he might take himself off as soon as he pleased.

Cyril, in his overweening vanity, saw nothing but fame before him, and
with a cold parting from Kate, went up to London, entered himself for
the bar, and establishing himself in Dym-street, became a recognised
member of the Mercury staff.

He had been five months in his new abode when the events took place
which I have recorded in the first chapter of this history.

It may seem strange, perhaps, that a man of his tastes should be so
smitten by the charms of a girl like Caroline; but Cyril Chatteris was
weak in character, vain to excess, and prone to succumb to the accidents
of the present.

He did not care to face his old friends. Christchurch in general
believed that some dark mystery had enveloped his sudden departure; and
all sorts of stories were afloat, in which debts, duns, horses, play,
and women, variously figured. So Cyril Chatteris, at twenty-two, found
himself an accredited citizen of Bohemia, and engaged to be married to
his landlady's daughter.



Chapter V. A Wedding Gift.

WHEN Mrs. Manton arose the morning after the proposals of her lodger had
taken place, she arose with a thrill of delight, and while untwisting
her curl papers (she had the most spiral and natural curls in the
world), she thought of the Paradise that was opening before her.

"Of course I shall live with Carry," said she. "Mr. Chatteris must be
rich. It's all very fine to live retired, but when gentlemen get letters
with coronets on the h'envelopes, they must be somethink. I suppose he's
had a quarrel with his family and wants to let it blow over. I'll find
out all about him now at all events. Carry's made a match of it, and no
mistake; but he's a weak-minded feller, and might draw back when he's
cooler. I'll go and talk to him to-day," and so she did.

Cyril had breakfasted in a somewhat curious fashion. Maria Jane, who
brought up the tea things, smiled and giggled in a curious way that
ruffled his nerves considerably. "What did Maria Jane want with his
affairs?" He felt half angry with himself, and gulped down his tea as
though that cheering but uninebriating beverage could drown the distrust
that would keep rising in his throat.

He looked round the room, and made mental comparisons between his "den"
at Christchurch; and then his thoughts flew back to the well-lighted
breakfast room at Matcham, with his prim father at one end of the snowy
table and Kate at the other; Kate! he thought of a scene in the park
last spring, when she----

"Come in!"

A timid knock broke his reverie, and the door opening disclosed Miss
Carry, blushing like a rose, and looking bewitching in her rustling
morning dress. Kate was forgotten in an instant.

"My darling Carry!" and the sordid little room straightway became a
palace.

It may perhaps be doubted by some of you, that Caroline was really in
love with her affianced husband. I think that she was. Remember that she
never had been in love before; that Cyril was handsome, talkative, and
her superior; and also that with most young girls the first one who
talks of love is the first one to awaken it.

For the time she was very happy. Naturally she thought of dresses and
jewels, and other matters, but still she remembered that the young man
at her side was the good genius who was to give her all these fine
things, and she loved him accordingly.

So the pair sat side by side on the sofa, and cooed like turtle-doves.

By and bye Mrs. Manton in imperial splendour of cap ribbons, entered
without knocking.

This little familiarity annoyed Cyril. It was the first tug of the
chain.

"Don't disturb yourself, my dear," says she, seating herself with
ponderous grace in one of the arm-chairs, and then she tittered. Cyril
blushed hot crimson.

"Good morning!" said he, and arose, under pretence of lighting his pipe.
(He could not bear that he should be caught lovemaking.) "Do you object
to my smoking?"

"Not a bit, my boy--I rather like it."

Cyril struck a match angrily. Would nothing move the woman? He scowled
pettishly. The match went out. Carry tripped across the room and lighted
another for him, with a coquettish look.

His brow cleared, and he kissed her on the forehead.

Mrs. Manton looked out of the window and smiled. "She can twist him
round her little finger!" thought she.

Cyril went down to the Mercury office two days afterwards.

"I say, Blister," said he, "I suppose you won't have much doing for a
week or so?"

"Why?"

"Why, I want a holiday. I haven't been very well lately, and--"

"Oh, of course--whenever you like," returned Blister, who rather pitied
the prodigal whom he had helped to ruin; "and, if you want any money,
old fellow--"

"No, thank you. I received my allowance last week, and I have been
economical lately."

Enter Mr. Rupert Dacre.

"Ha, Cyril! You're not looking well."

"No--going to take a holiday for a week or two," says Blister. "Quite
right. I'm going out of town, too."

"Oh, indeed!"

"Down to Loamshire."

Cyril turned away. "I will send you up that matter to-night, Blister,
and shall be back again in a fortnight."

"Wait a minute," says Rupert, "I'm going down the street."

So the two men went out together.

"Have you heard from Matcham, Chatteris?" asked Rupert, after a pause.
"No. I get my interest regularly paid, and that is all I ever hear of
them," returned Cyril, bitterly.

"I am going down there to-morrow."

"Oh! (A pause.) You needn't say that you met me."

DACRE (aside). That means, "I wish you would tell them that you met me."
(Aloud). Oh, no--of course not.

CYRIL. I think I shall go down to Brighton for a day or two. I want some
fresh air.

DACRE (mentally). Brighton in September! I wonder what is the matter
with him. (Aloud.) Yes--a capital place. Fine and breezy just now. Well,
then, you've no messages?

CYRIL. No!--Yes! You might tell Fred, if you see him, that I am all
right, you know. He's at Kirkminster, isn't he?

DACRE. Yes. He wrote to me yesterday, telling me some nonsense about a
garrison steeplechase. I hate racing across country myself.

CYRIL (who is thinking of something else). Yes, of course.

DACRE (suddenly), Hallo! Who's that in the cab?

A hackney cab was preparing to drive up to the kerb. A fat old woman and
pretty young one were inside it. The front seat was loaded with parcels.
They had been shopping, evidently.

"The little one is making signs to you," says Dacre.

Cyril blushed, and looked confused.

"Yes," said he. "A little friend of mine. Excuse me."

"Oh, of course, my dear boy," returned Dacre, with a laugh.

Cyril went across to the cab, opened the door, and got in.

Rupert watched it turn the corner.

"She is a very pretty girl, whoever she is," thought he. "I wonder what
the boy is up to? Brighton in September--hum! Well, I suppose I shall
know by-and-bye. Here, cabby !--Brook-street."

So Mr. Rupert Dacre went his ways to Matcham.

Cyril was fairly in the toils. The two ladies had decided that the
marriage should take place instantly. They wished, indeed, that it
should be a public matter; that numerous bridesmaids should attend; that
a big cake should be made; that Dym-street should be awakened by the
glory of Hymen; that carriages should stand before the Mantonian door;
and that Cyril should be led in triumph at his wife's chariot-wheels.
Carry, indeed, had visions of St. George's, and paragraphs in the
Morning Post. But these dreams were rudely dispelled by Chatteris.

"We will get married as quietly as possible," said he, with an angry
flush rising on his face; and Mrs. Manton, who had found out by this
time that, however weak and pliable her son-in-law might be, he had a
"temper of his own," wisely gave way. She had sense enough to see that
the marriage was too good a thing to be thrown away, and that if she
leant upon the matrimonial reed too heavily, it would break, and pierce
her hand.

Cyril had determined upon his course of action. He would get married
quietly, and go away to Boulogne for a week or so. Then return and work
hard for his bread, and perhaps become a great author. Young men are
always sanguine, and the leader-writer for the Mercury saw no possible
obstacle to his success as a litterateur. Having made his name, he would
return to Matcham, shake off the dust from his literary feet against the
place, and prove that he could live upon his own resources.

Meanwhile Carry was shopping with all the ardour of a youthful Commanche
on his first war-trail. It was extraordinary how many things were
necessary to her now, that had been regarded as utterly useless or
unobtainable before. Cyril danced attendance upon his future bride at
all the shops in Oxford-street. Regent-street "counter-hands" knew him
well, and the cabmen at the stand in Dym-street pricked up their ears
when they saw his figure approaching.

Mr. Paul Rendlesham, the poverty-stricken curate of the Hon. and Rev.
Vere St. Simeon, was the man chosen to perform the ceremony, and the
usual tax upon matrimony--in the shape of a license fee--was paid in due
course.

The eventful day arrived. Carry prayed hard that some of her female
acquaintances might be present to witness her triumph, but the
inexorable Cyril refused.

"You don't love me, Cy-cy-ril," says she.

Cy-cy-ril shrugged his shoulders.

"My darling girl, be reasonable. What do we want with all those
confounded women?"

"Well, but to be married in such a quiet way, with nobody by."

"It appears to me, my dear girl, that you marry me, not your
bridesmaids," says Cyril, with a touch of sarcasm in his tone.

"Oh, Cyril!"

"There, that will do. Upon my word, Carry, you are very unreasonable."
Carry saw that it was no use to quarrel, so she gave up the contest, and
was kissed and consoled.

The wedding took place. One solitary hackney cab was all the splendour
permitted. Mrs. Manton stayed at home to look after the dinner, and
Cyril and Carry went off alone. They were to start for Folkestone that
afternoon, and to return to Dym-street in a fortnight's time.

The ceremony was performed by Mr. Rendlesham, to the edification (it is
to be hoped) of a pew-opener and of those nameless and curious persons
who always attend weddings, and who, sitting in the gallery, nudge each
other furtively and comment on the appearance of the bride.

Carry was weeping, and laughing, and smiling all at once, and Cyril was
rather oppressed than otherwise. He was nervous as to the results of the
step he was taking. All the morning he had felt in a bad humour, and had
he the courage would have run away from his bride altogether. Yet a look
from her was enough to rivet his chains again, and when he passed out of
church with his wife upon his arm, and heard a snuffy old woman say
"what a pretty gal to be sure!" he felt a thrill of pride and pleasure.
They reached home.

The instant the cab stopped the door was opened. Cyril led his wife into
the hall. Mrs. Manton appeared hurriedly, but instead of embracing her
daughter she made straight for Cyril.

"Here's a telegram sent down from the Mercury office," cried she. "The
boy said it was 'immediate.' I hope nothink's wrong, Mr. Chatteris?"
Cyril opened the envelope.

TO CYRIL CHATTERIS,

Mercury Office, Fleet Street.

TO BE FORWARDED.

Steeplechase. Fred injured. Lose no time.

RUPERT DACRE.

He turned pale. A rapid vision flashed before him. A falling horse--his
brother crushed and dying--a funeral--a reconciliation, and a new heir
to Matcham.

A new heir--! His breath came quickly.

"What is it, Cyril darling?"

He looked down upon his wife. Her soft eyes were full of tears, and her
hand trembled. She looked the embodiment of love and pity. The news of
his fortune (for such it seemed to him) was on his lips.

"Lor, Mr. Cyril, what's the matter? Why, you're as pale as a ghost?"

The vulgar accents grated on his ear. He thought of Lady Loughborough
and Kate, and crushed the paper in his hand convulsively. A second
vision--of Mrs. Manton at Matcham--came before him.

"Nothing--nothing!" said he; "only a business matter. I shall have to go
down to the office at once."

"Oh, Cyril!"

Cyril was touched by his wife's cry. She clung to him alarmedly.

"Never mind, my dear child. I shall be back soon;" and he pressed his
lips to hers. Had she been alone, he would have told her all, but the
die was cast now.

Carry was in tears. Mrs. Manton took her in her arms.

"Go to the office now, Mr. Chatteris!" she cried.

But Cyril had jumped into the wedding-cab and had driven off.

That night a dirty-faced boy brought a letter to Dym-street, for "Mrs.
Chatteris."

MY DARLING CARRY,--I find that urgent business will take me into the
country for a day or two. It costs me much to leave you at such a time,
but I cannot help it. Do not be alarmed, my darling, I shall be back
soon, and then I will explain it all to you. God bless you, my darling
wife.--Your loving husband,

CYRIL.



Chapter VI. First Links.

THERE-was death in the house!

Most of us, alas! can realise the full meaning of the phrase. It means
that servants step softly, that voices are subdued, that blinds are
drawn down, that the flowers do not smell so sweetly, that the sun does
not shine so brightly, that books seem to have lost their power to
charm, that pictures seem to have lost their colouring; that those
matters that were of such importance yesterday are now without interest;
that we are removed by a great gulf from our passions, joys, and sorrows
of twelve hours back, that a leaden weight is upon our hearts; that a
veil is drawn between us and God's heaven; that all our slighting words,
our unkind actions towards him who was our brother yesterday, rise up
like reproachful phantoms to haunt us for ever, and that--most cruel of
all--the world without is eating and drinking, buying and selling,
marrying and giving in marriage, without a thought for us, or for our
sorrow.

There was death at Matcham. Despite Mr. Saville Chatteris being the most
gentlemanly of mortals, and the staunchest of Conservatives, that
audacious Radical who rides on the pale horse of universal equality had
paid him a visit and taken his son away en croupe.

Poor Fred! He was the last person that should have been so remorselessly
levelled by the keen sickle of the reaper. A gay, good-humoured,
careless fellow, with a tolerable seat on a horse, some success among
silly women of the milliner sort, and a firm belief in his own
abilities--what should he do in that galley where Death and the Lady
throw dice for the souls of men?

He was heir to Matcham, lieutenant in a dragoon regiment, five and
twenty years of age, was killed by a fall from his horse, was buried in
Matcham churchyard, and the passionless tide of life flows on over his
grave without so much as a ripple.

Apart from the natural shock attendant upon his sudden removal nobody
regretted him much. The verdict of the service in general was, "Poor
Fred Chatteris is killed, I see! Horse fell with him at a steeplechase.
Nothing like blood for going across country. Sabretasche, ring for
another 'peg.'" Lady Loughborough shed some natural tears, but wiped
them sooner than usual, and though she kept her room, and affected a low
tone of voice, as suitable to the "sad accident to poor dear Fred," she
was not absolutely overcome with grief. Kate was, physically, the most
affected of anybody. She was so close to him when he fell, had been
brought up with him from childhood, and felt that natural horror of
sudden and violent deaths which all persons of exuberant vitality must
feel; but even she was merely physically grieved. Mr. Saville Chatteris
was chief mourner. He had never discovered how much he had loved his son
till he saw him dead at his feet. He had regarded the young man as a
work of art created by his own hands, and which was to reflect honour
upon the artist. But as the coffin slowly disappeared into the vault, he
felt that it contained much that was left to him of earthly happiness,
and he suffered more than his cold, proud nature would permit him to
express. Cyril had arrived the day after the accident, and in his inmost
heart was the least sorrowful of all the party. Even Mr. Rupert Dacre,
who had been requested by the master of the house to remain until his
surviving son arrived, was more affected at the matter than Cyril; that
is to say, he seemed to be so; for the budding diplomatist was fond of
confessing the soft impeachment of "materialism," and would argue with
his select friends concerning the impossibility of everything he did not
understand, and would avow, with a playful wave of his cigar, "that, for
his part, he saw nothing more in a dead man than a lump of clay, you
know."

On this occasion, however, he found it politic to dismiss these
conclusions, and was as consolatory as his nature permitted him to be.
During the administering of these consolations, he found time to watch
the bearing of the various persons around him, and more especially that
of the new heir.

"He is strangely preoccupied about something," thought Dacre. "He has
got something on his mind, I expect. Debts, perhaps; but that should
give him no uneasiness now. It can't be affection for his brother--for I
don't think that the fellow cared much about him, or anybody else but
himself."

Mr. Rupert Dacre was wrong. It was not himself that Cyril was thinking
of. It was of his wife. Should he tell his father, and risk another
breach of filial and paternal peace? They had been reconciled now, at
least as far as outward seeming went. The old man was frigidly polite to
his returned prodigal, and requested him to issue instructions touching
several domestic matters, a request which Cyril construed into a tacit
recognition of his rights as heir, but as yet no fatted calf had
literally or allegorically been killed.

Kate had witnessed this negative reconciliation in wondering pity. Cyril
appeared so careworn, too. He was unusually silent and distrait.
Everyone but Mr. Rupert Dacre being for the present in mental sackcloth
and ashes, this was permitted to pass unregarded, but the quick eyes of
loving Kate detected at once that her cousin had something else on his
mind beside grief for his brother.

Two days after the funeral, Cyril found he could bear the suspense no
longer. In the first place he longed to see his wife, in the second he
was ill at ease in the gloomy house, and with his prevailing
selfishness, he wished to quit all that reminded him of sorrow or pain.
Then, his father had given him no clue to the course he intended to
pursue with regard to him. "He will never leave me to starve upon two
hundred pounds a year," thought he; but then, what would he wish him to
do? To give up the Mercury, of course. His vanity revolted at the
notion. To come and live at Matcham? Perhaps; but then what should he do
with Carry? To study for the bar in London? That would be feasible
enough; he could then conceal his marriage. Yet, it must be confessed
some time or other. After his father's death? Saville Chatteris was
healthy and vigorous, and might live for years. It would be better to
confess it at once and "have it over." He would do so.

As he turned to go to the library, he met a servant with a tray
containing Lady Loughborough's "afternoon tea," (her ladyship choosing
to keep her apartments during the period of mourning). Instantly a
vision arose before him. Mrs. Manton, in curls and cap-ribbons, rubbing
one fat hand over the other as she curtseyed to her son-in-law's aunt,
was visible in his mind's eye, and he turned back again.

"I will get rid of that villanous old woman, and then I will bring Carry
down here," said he; and, somewhat calmed by this reflection, he walked
out on to the lawn, and lighting a cigar as he went, strolled down
toward the shrubbery.

There had been a shower in the morning, and the watery, grey rain-clouds
were yet hanging over distant Kirkminister; but Matcham woods were in
their glory, rich with autumn tints and bathed in autumn sunset. One
long streak of crimson barred the western sky; but the windows of the
house were all ablaze and reflected light; its many turrets, gables, and
buttresses were distorted with every variety of shadow. The air was
delicate and pure, the birds chirruped and twittered among distant
orchard branches; and with an incessant and melancholy cawing a black
line of rooks flapped heavily homewards athwart the pure golden sky.

The hour and the place were favourable to musing, and Mr. Rupert Dacre
was extended at full length on a bench in the Beech-tree walk, listening
with half-shut eyes to the silvery and intermittent chiming of the
far-off cathedral bells.

"Ah--Cyril!" and the two young men sat down together.

Cyril looked round upon the soft landscape, up into the pure heaven,
down on to the hard and mossy gravel, and then up again into his
companion's face. He saw only the sunset-light reflected there.

"Rupert, I'm going back to London,"--

"You can't go now, my dear boy," said Dacre, with enforced solemnity.

"I cannot stand this sort of thing long. My father won't speak to me,
and the house is like some vast tomb," says Cyril, pettishly kicking a
loose stone with one pendant foot.

"My dear fellow, you must not be too rash. Remember that the unhappy
accident has affected your father deeply."

"I say, Dacre, what made you telegraph to me so quickly?" says
Chatteris, suddenly.

"Merely to let you know at once. Everybody else seemed helpless. What
made you ask such a question!"

"Oh, I don't know," returned the other, whose steady look into that
sunset-lit face had shown him nothing. "It was very kind of you, I'm
sure."

"My dear boy!" says Dacre, deprecatingly. As he spoke, the sun fell
suddenly behind the tree-tops, and the glory faded from his face.

Cyril fancied he saw a sneer there. "Come," said he, with a slight
shudder, "it is getting chill; let us go in."

Rupert Dacre flung the stump of his smouldering cigar gently from him.
It fell into a little pool that the recent rain had left among the
stones, and went out with a sullen hissing sound.

"Give me your arm, my dear fellow," said he, with a most consolatory
smile, "I want to talk to you a little."

"In the first place," began the rising diplomatist--"you will excuse an
old friend who used to fag you at Eton, telling you an unwholesome
truth. You are--well, not a fool--but a man of perverted intellect. You
had a capital career open to you, and you spoilt it all by your
preposterous folly and vanity. Now don't interrupt me--but listen. You
had an excellent chance of honours--at least so they told me--and you
quit Oxford for some reason that I don't want to hear, for it is sure to
be a bad one. You come home here, quarrel with your very worthy and
estimable father, and rush up to London, to make a fortune and a name by
dishing up other people's sentiments in the leading columns of a radical
newspaper. This may be a very fine thing to be able to do, my dear boy,
perhaps it is; but permit me to suggest that the son--the only son" (and
he emphasised the word with eyes as well as voice) "of Mr. Chatteris of
Matcham, ought to do something better. A leader-writer for a paper like
the Mercury is not a man of mark in the annals of his country, my dear
Cyril; and if you want fame, you can get it easier by inventing a patent
pill, or a new method of pickling pork, than by all the leading articles
that ever went to the butter-shop." (They had reached the end of the
walk by this time, and the cynical Mentor paused for a moment to let his
wisdom sink into the ears of his pupil.) "I was speaking to your father
this morning," (Cyril began to listen), "and he seemed in a great
perplexity about your future career. Indeed, he did me the honour to
ask my advice upon the matter"

--"The deuce he did"--thought Telemachus--

"And I have been thinking all the afternoon about it. There can be no
question but that he intends to make you a proper allowance,--that is,
if you behave yourself--but I would not advise you to indulge in any
pranks, or you may get into mischief again. I suppose," continued he,
with a curious glance at his companion, "that you are not in any scrape
just now."

"In any scrape!" Oh, if he only knew! But Cyril said, with an easy
laugh, "None, my dear fellow, that I know of!"

"I am glad to hear it; but if you are, you had better go and tell your
father at once, and begin with a clean bill of health."

Here was a temptation! He would go to his father and tell him all, and
make the best of it. He had half withdrawn his arm from Dacre's, for the
purpose of giving more weight to his declaration, when the other struck
in--

"Marriage, my dear Cyril, is the great sheet anchor of young men! If you
assume the burden of respectability, you must also assume the burden of
matrimony. If you elect to dwell in tents, it does not so much matter;
but to the well-being of a Philistine a wife is absolutely necessary.
For myself, I am unable to afford that luxury at present, but, I trust
that, after some brief space of time, the value of my services to my
country may be more satisfactorily recognised, and I may be enabled to
take to my bosom some skinny person of good blood and aristocratic
connections. I have observed," remarked Mr. Rupert Dacre,
parenthetically, "that leanness and good blood are indispensable for a
rising man's wife--I trust to obtain both. But for you, my dear fellow,
seriously speaking, a much wider field is open. You can choose, with
reservations of course, where you will. Do you prefer money? Seek it
among the chubby heiresses of provincial manufacturing towns; the
simpering daughters of City magnates, or the more dashing progeny of the
lords of the Stock Exchange. Do you desire blood? You can take your
choice of all the vintages in Debrett, and stock your cellar either with
the blushing glories of the Battle-Abbey brand, or the more recent but
perhaps more healthy bottlings of the reign of the First James; indeed,
with the exception of Lady Millicent Lepel, whose parents have been
saving her for nineteen years for the young Duke of Bilboquet, and old
Foozleton's daughter, who is going to marry What's-his-name the
coach-builder, I believe you can have any woman you like. I should
therefore recommend, my dear fellow, that you put off your Bohemian 'old
man' from you, and enduing yourself with the toga virilis of Philistian
respectability, come out as a country gentleman. Life here," continued
Dacre, with an airy wave of his hand toward the fast-darkening
landscape, "is pleasant enough. The recubuns sub tegmine fagi business,
which has been discoursed upon at such length by the poets, is yours for
ever. You will settle down here, hunt a pack of hounds, go to church
twice a day on Sundays, and breed short-horned bullocks. This is, as I
take it, the whole duty of man in his capacity as country gentleman. You
will grow fat and good-tempered; give dinners and drink port wine for
the remainder of your existence. As that preposterous creation of Lord
Lytton remarks in the second act of the most successful and most
claptrap drama of modern times, 'Dost like the picture?"

"No," said Cyril, laughing, "I don't."

"Ah! you have a soul above short-horns. What do you say then to
Parliament? A great field for men of ability. Will you be the darling of
drawing-rooms, the perfumed dandy of Belgravia, the harmless lion of
ambassadors' dinners, the abused one of newspapers, the arbiter of peace
and war, the leader of a political party? No, you will not be that, my
friend, because you have not brains enough for such a career."

"Complimentary," laughed the other.

"Not at all complimentary, but true. We will try another picture. A man
about town. A neat little box at Richmond, a yacht at Cowes, a few acres
in Scotland, a box at the Opera, a string of hunters at Melton. Would
you like to be the glory of the coulisses, the admired of Fanny
Petitpied, the friend of tenors, and the boon companion of tragedians?
Would you like to write for high-class periodicals, and be quoted in
smoking-rooms? Would you like to break the tables at Ems, and to flirt
with Russian princesses at Wiesbaden? Would you like to know all Turf
secrets, and to be one of each stable Vehmgericht in England? Of course
you would. But to be all this you must get into debt about twenty
thousand pounds to start with, and see a little more life than you have
done yet. I think, after all, that the country gentleman is the career.
You can see a little of London society first if you like, and then come
back and marry your cousin, after the fashion of three-volume novels."

"Marry your cousin." The thrust was made at last, and Cyril being off
his guard, the delicate rapier of Rupert Dacre came home to the hilt.

He turned crimson. "You talk nonsense, Dacre," said he half angrily.
"Well," says that gentleman, with a light laugh, "perhaps I do. Let us
go in."

And as they went in, arm in arm, the big house was no longer brilliant
with sunshine, but black and gloomy like the tomb that Cyril had spoken
of, while the landscape looked chill and dreary, and the rising night
wind sobbed and soughed with melancholy cadence among the creaking
branches of the beech-trees.



Chapter VII. Kate.

IT could not be expected that the dinner table at Matcham would be very
brilliant.

Mr. Chatteris sat at one end of it in silence. Even the ceremony of
"dressing" had been dispensed with. Miss Kate Ffrench, in her deep
mourning-dress, looked like Dante's Beatrice, while the two young men
scarcely spoke, save in whispers. There was therefore ample time for Mr.
Cyril to think over his friend's advice. What course should he pursue?
He thought confusedly during the subdued clinking of glass and tapping
of china, upon all the courses that Dacre had suggested, yet found
himself constantly recurring to one sentence--"Come back and marry your
cousin, after the fashion of three-volume novels." He stole a glance at
Kate. She never looked more lovely. Her grief had taken some of the
colour from her cheek, but it had given to her face a delicate purity of
outline that was wanting to it before; and her grey eyes had grown
darker and deeper, and shone with limpid light. Compared to that other
picture in Cyril's heart, she was as a queen to a peasant girl. Carry
was pretty and coquettish, but Kate, with her superb figure, her
delicate hands, her glorious eyes, and her sweet grace of intellect and
breeding, was as much beyond her, as a pure, solitary, shining star is
beyond a penny catherine-wheel, fizzing with pertinacious twirlings upon
a door-lintel.

As Cyril rose to open the door for her, he met her gaze and turned away,
while an involuntary pang went through his heart, as he thought of the
deed that had banished him from her presence for ever.

The master of the house rose immediately after dinner, and Dacre
followed him; while Cyril sat moodily drinking, and picturing all sorts
of shapes and scenes in the glowing fire. "I will write to Carry,"
thought he, "and tell her not to expect me home for a day or two. Poor
little thing, she must be anxious;" and he rose to look for pens and
paper. "My father's in the library, I cannot go there," thought he; and
then remembering that in a little den opening off the hall, and once
dignified by the name of Mr. Fred's study, but which was now a simple
storeroom for guns, dog-whips, fishing-rods, and such like gear, he
should find what he sought, he opened the door. As he lit and turned up
the reading-lamp on the little table, he heard a sob, and, looking up,
saw his cousin. She had flung herself into an arm-chair, and was weeping
bitterly.

"Kate!"

She rose as if to leave the room, but he put his arms round her and led
her back. "What is it, Kate?" said he.

After a moment, the sobs ceased, and Kate, putting his arms away, stood
before him, with one hand resting on the edge of the writing table, and
said, simply,

"Cyril, I am very unhappy."

"Unhappy! Why, dearest?"

"I don't mean about poor Fred, though I" (she nearly broke down here) "I
loved him very dearly; but about you. You are very much changed, Cyril."

"I!"

"Yes. What have you been doing? Why did you quarrel with uncle? and what
has kept you so long in London?"

"Three questions at once, Katy!" returned he, with an attempt at a
laugh, that was belied by his hangdog face. "I have had no quarrel."

"You have quarrelled, because aunt told me so. What was it about?"
"About a foolish thing I did at college, Kate, dear."

"Oh! I thought it was about your writing for the papers."

Cyril's face was out of the lamplight, but he turned crimson.

"Katy, you are a little fool to make so much of nothing. What are my
misdeeds to you?"

"Oh! Cyril, you know that--that" (she grew confused), "that we have been
friends since we were children."

"More than friends, darling," said Cyril, overcome by the love in her
clear eyes.

And he kissed her on the forehead.

She drew closer to him; and, out of the depth of her innocent and but
half-comprehended love, laid her head on his shoulder.

"My darling!" she murmured, "you have some trouble; I know you have.
Will you not tell it to me? We are as brother and sister now."

The pressure of her arms; her sweet breath stirring his hair; her loving
voice, full of comfort; her delicate intonation, and that exquisite halo
of modesty which, even though she was lying on his heart, fenced her
round, and put her leagues from him, thrilled the unhappy boy through,
as, with sudden knowledge, his heart called out to him, "Here is a
woman--beautiful, true, and pure--who loves you, and you have lost her."

For an instant he stood overpowered. He seemed to see his own soul, and
to know how he had deceived himself. The knowledge of his own folly
struck him like a gigantic wave, and left him speechless. Then he
snatched the woman he had lost closer to him, and covered her eyes and
lips, with passionate, burning kisses; then thrusting her from him, with
a bitter cry, he fell into a chair, and clutched at his hair with
despairing hands.

"Cyril, my boy, are you here? Oh! a thousand pardons?"

It was Rupert Dacre; and, as he stood in the lighted doorway looking in
upon the pair, a sneer came into his face.

"She has refused him," thought he.

Cyril sprang up angrily, and, without a word or a look at his cousin,
followed Dacre out.

"What is it?"

"Your father wants to see you in the library, my dear boy."

The silky accents jarred upon the young man's ears. How came this
stranger to be a messenger between father and son? He turned round, as
if to ask the question; but Rupert's hand was upon the lock, and
Rupert's smiling eyes upon his face. His heart failed him, the door
swung noiselessly on its hinges, and the two entered the library
together.

Mr. Saville Chatteris was seated in state at his writing table; and,
with a lofty motion of his white, though wrinkled, hand, seemed to
suggest an audience. His son, however, full of resentful feelings, which
had arisen, he scarcely knew how, walked slowly to the table, and waited
for his sentence. It was the same table whereon he had read the letter
which had made and marred him; and looking up, he saw Dacre, who was
leaning negligently against the fireplace, looking down with an amused
air, as though he was a spectator at an agreeable comedy, and was
waiting for the curtain to draw up.

"I wish to say a few words to you, sir," began the old man.

Rupert Dacre sat down. The comedy had begun.

"You are now my--my heir," said Mr. Saville Chatteris. "I never
expected, when you left me, to see your face again; but--but matters
have turned out differently."

("Very pretty euphuism," thought the spectator, mentally applauding).

"You are now in a different position in life to that which you occupied
a few days ago. I need not recapitulate the cause of your temporary
absence from home."

("Quite like a despatch! Bravo!" said the spectator's eyes).

"I trust that you have learnt some useful lessons while you have been
living on your own resources; and, for my part, I am willing to forget
the disgraceful action of which you have been guilty."

Cyril winced and coloured, but did not move. The spectator rubbed his
leg gently, and seemed to murmur. "Capitally put, but severe, very
severe!"

"I am willing to make you a suitable allowance, until--my--until
I--until you succeed to this property--" (Applause from the
spectator)--"and shall put no restrictions upon your liberty, that is to
say, if you consent to my requirements in other matters."

Cyril bowed. This was better than he expected.

"I have been consulting your friend, Mr. Dacre, who sees more of the
young men of the day than I do," continued Mr. Saville Chatteris, with a
graceful wave towards the deprecating Rupert, "concerning your wishes,
and he is of opinion that you would prefer a London life."

Cyril made a motion of assent.

"I confess that I should prefer that you lived here, but as I have
before explained to you, my only wish is to put you in a proper position
with the world, as Mr. Chatteris of Matcham, regardless of any feelings
I may have towards you as my son."

("A very delicate distinction!" was the mental interjection of the
spectator.)

"You will therefore go up to London with your friend Dacre, who has
promised me to look after you, and in whose discretion and friendship I
place implicit trust."

"You do me great honour, sir," says the spectator--aloud this time.

"I shall allow you eight hundred pounds a year"--(Cyril brightened
up)--"which, with your own property, will be enough for you to live
upon. But if I do this, you must oblige me by giving up your radical
newspapers, and mixing only in the society of gentlemen. Will you
promise this?"

(Telemachus glanced at Mentor, and Mentor's eyes said "Yes!" as plainly
as eyes could speak.)

"Yes, I promise that, sir."

"Well, I will rely upon your word; but mind this, if you break it, you
shall never come here again, until you come as owner." (The old man's
brow flushed as he spoke, but he grew calmer when he saw his son's
composed face.) "And now, Cyril, before you go, I wish to speak to you
on a private matter."

The spectator, as if the play were over, rose, and bowing with easy
grace, left the room.

"I had hoped that your cousin Kate" (Cyril started) "would have been the
wife of my--of your poor brother" (and the father uttered the words
slowly, as though they were bonds to bind him closer to his surviving
son); "but that is all over now. Indeed, perhaps I was wrong, and she
did not love him as I thought she did. I am not rich, Cyril, but the
dearest wish of my heart is to provide for my niece's child. I have
settled some money of my own upon her, and I believe that I have induced
my sister to do the same, but I should not like to see her lose her
home. She may marry" (here he glanced at Cyril); "but should she not, I
would wish you to promise me that she will always find a home here."

"I promise, sir," and Cyril's hand grasped his father's for the first
time since the quarrel.

Saville Chatteris gazed into his son's face, as though he sought for
something there.

"You will be marrying one of these days yourself, Cyril," said he, half
timidly.

Cyril bit his lips. He thought of the Mantonian domestic circle, and
then of Kate. The prize was offered to him, and yet he could not grasp
it. He turned dizzy for an instant and could not speak.

"Ah, well, time enough to think of that," said Saville Chatteris,
dropping his son's hand with a sigh.

Cyril set his teeth, and tried to smile, but the utter hopelessness of
his misery came upon him, and he could not.

"Good night, sir. I will attend to your instructions, and start for
London to-morrow;" and he went out from his father's presence as
miserable a wretch as could be found in the three kingdoms.

Mr. Rupert Dacre was in the smoking-room, solacing himself with brandy
and soda water, and as he lounged with elevated feet, he seemed to be
contemplating the past comedy through the smoke;--indeed, there was an
expression of discontent on his face, as though he wished he had waited
for the afterpiece.

Kate was in her room, wondering, hoping, doubting, and fearing. Did he
love her? He did. Yet no! He left her without a word; but then, of
course, Mr. Dacre came. But those kisses! and she blushed in the
darkness as she remembered them. Those were not the kisses of a brother.
"Oh, Cyril, my darling, my darling, I love you!" How sweet it sounded!

--And Cyril's wife was on her knees in a house in Dym-street, praying
for her absent husband.



Chapter VIII. Mr. Septimus Bland.

WHEN Mr. Robert Binns heard of the marriage of his beloved and his
enemy, he was both sorrowful and indignant. In his vulgar way he loved
Miss Manton, and jealousy and love affect vulgar people quite as much as
they do those of higher rank. The costermonger who curses in rich and
copious Doric at the desertion of Molly Jones, is giving utterance to
the same sentiments as those which Mr. Aubrey Vere de Vere pours forth
when Lady Clara--prompted, perhaps, by a feeling of remorse for the
death of the "peasant boy"--elopes with Auguste Chassemari, to the
infinite grief of all her relatives. Othello and the deceived cat's-meat
man say very much the same things, only the Moor talks poetry, and the
purveyor of horseflesh kabobs remarkably bad prose.

Binns, grocer's assistant and poetaster, was as sore at heart as if he
had been heir to a dukedom, and descended in a direct line from one of
William the Conqueror's desperadoes. He showed his sorrow in a different
way though.

When Lord Lundyfoot was jilted by Miss O'More of Ballymore, his lordship
followed his successful rival to Paris, and shot him through the lungs,
with aristocratic disregard of the sixth commandment. When Hobbs (of
Hobbs and Buffle, cheesemongers, of Fetter-lane) discovered that Miss
Sophronia Gusset (of Laburnum Villas, Highgate), had thrown him over, in
order to marry young Horace Tomkins of the Stock Exchange, he took to
cold brandy-and-water and cigars--a course of treatment which eventually
terminated in Whitecross-street; while MacHirdie, the civil engineer,
brought an action for breach of promise against his treacherous ladye
love, and soothed his wounded feelings by the application of "one
farthing damages."

Binns, however, did none of these things. He wrote poetry--sad stuff
most of it was, too, principally about graves, and billows, and blighted
hopes, and lonely isles--but it relieved Binns. The old woman whose duty
it was to replenish the brown bottle that contained a stump of a quill
pen and some black coagulated mud, presumed to be ink, was astonished at
the quantity of that fluid consumed by the melancholy "assistant." Binns
was writing night and morning. He elaborated rhymes while he was packing
up half-pounds of "moist," and would rush away from the counter at
intervals to commit to paper some more than usually brilliant image.
Even when going round for orders, his grief would pursue him; and while
taking his daily turn at the coffee-mill he would groan in the spirit
and compare himself to Ixion, whose woes had been made known to him
through a burlesque at the Strand Theatre and an odd volume of Smith's
Classical Dictionary.

In the elaboration of his laments, and the attempt to tear this rooted
passion from his heart, he was assisted by a friend.

There were "rooms" over the shop, and in those rooms lived Mr. Septimus
Bland, reporter for the Morning Mercury.

Bland was a tall thin man, with a wiry head of hair, that was always
erect and "parting"-less. He was bony, and cadaverous, had a deep
resonant voice, wrote shorthand to a miracle, quoted Shakspeare and the
poets ad libitum, dressed in rusty black, carried his handkerchief in
his hat, greasy packages of bread and meat in his coat-tail pockets, was
very shortsighted, very unpractical, and the best-hearted, kindest,
inoffensive creature that ever vegetated upon three pounds a week.

Poor Bland began life with a pretty Devonshire wife, and a large stock
of English literature and inexperience. As a natural consequence, he
went to the bad. He fell gradually from the writer in magazines to the
reporter for Sunday papers, then to the picker up of odds and ends for
the "dailies." His style of magazine-writing was too old-fashioned for
the present day--too much like the "Spectator," or an odd page of the
"Rambler." Moreover his wife fell ill; and how could he write articles
when his wife was dying? The publishers, however, did not care about his
wife or anybody's wife; they wanted matter, and if Bland could not
supply it someone else could. Byand-bye his wife died, and then Bland
lived anyhow. He hired a little room in a little street in
Hammersmith--a room littered with books bought secondhand at stalls, and
the walls covered with pictures from the Illustrated London News, pinned
or pasted up. He managed for some time to make enough to pay the rent of
this place, and when he did not succeed in dining with one of his former
friends, would buy himself a chop or steak in some small tavern or
eating-house in the city, where he would sit, after satisfying his
hunger, and think of Johnson and Garrick, Boswell and Savage, and of the
former race of tavern-haunters. Recollecting, perhaps, those happy days
when he came home to his wife, and, after a cheerful dinner and chat,
some play, or poem or novel would be read aloud by that tender voice
that should read no more on earth now; thinking of these things, he
would sit in melancholy meditation; until the greasy waiter, looking
with unfriendly eyes upon the lanky man with the thin face and the rusty
black clothes, who never gave him pence as did the other customers,
would bustle about the table, sweep off imaginary crumbs, and otherwise
hint that it was time for gentlemen who dined for ninepence to seek some
other place to be miserable in.

So Bland would arise, and taking his camlet cloak about him--a cloak
that, like its owner, had seen better days--would sally forth and trudge
through the rain and mud to Hammersmith. On Sundays, he would--if
summer--walk to Bushy Park and rejoice in the song of the birds, and in
the sight of the green trees and sloping lawns.

After his appointment to the Mercury staff, he naturally became
acquainted with many men of decent income and hospitable intentions, and
these occasionally asked him to "take a cut of mutton." These "cuts of
mutton" were the only oäses in his dreary life; and he was unreasonably
happy when he came across them in his pilgrimage. Poor soul, he was like
a child--the moment was all in all to him. There was an instinctive
refinement about the man that expanded under the influence of soft
lights, glittering glass, and snowy cloth. Like many another poor
Bohemian, he found the enforced companions of his poverty harder to bear
than poverty itself.

The thousand and one little inconveniences and vulgarities which beset
the path of a "poor gentleman" galled him to the quick. He could sip a
cup of coffee contentedly enough, if such sipping took place in a
well-lighted room, with gentlemen seated in it; but he could not drink
it with comfort out of a cracked teacup, in a sordid garret, with a
harsh-voiced landlady below stairs clamouring with her red-headed brood.

When dining for ninepence in a comfortable eating-house, he forgot his
tattered garments, his ragged linen, and his lack of shoe-leather; but
at home--where his window looked into a dirty court-yard, and where
coarse sights, coarse words, and humanity with the seamy side outwards,
surrounded him--he felt his burden heavy to bear. He was no Sybarite,
but a man of unhappy sensitiveness, and his lot was cast in very
unpleasant places.

When he came into his fortune of three pounds a week, he left his garret
at Hammersmith and came nearer civilisation. The room over the grocer's
was to let, and as fortune willed it, Bland set up his tent there. He
was quiet and unassuming, kind and good tempered, and an acquaintance--I
had almost written, friendship had sprung up between the literary hack
and the aspiring and love-lorn Binns.

Bland had heard the whole history of the Carry-cum-Chatteris affair, of
course, and would sit for hours listening with sad amusement to the
"assistant's" rhapsodies.

Binns had lurked about Dym-street for a day or two after the ceremony,
in the hope of seeing his lost love once again; and after two days'
prowling, had heard the tidings of Cyril's flight. Bursting with the
news, he hurried home and rushed into his friend's chamber.

"Mr. Bland! Mr. Bland! he's left her!"

"God bless me!--whom?" cries the astonished Bland, laying down his book.

"Carry. That scoundrel has deserted her. He went away the morning of the
wedding, and has never come back."

"Never come back!"

"No; and Mrs. Manton's furious, and She's crying fit to break her heart.
God b-b-bless her!"

"Sit down, my dear Bob. Now, don't go on like that. Bless the boy! Here,
take some water."

And poor Bland bustled about in an agony of soft-heartedness.

"It's some plot--some cowardly plot to deceive her; I know it is. I knew
no good would come of it. What did she want with a swell?" cries the
rejected one, striking the table in his energy of love and despair.
"Perhaps it is a mistake."

"Mistake! Not it; it's no mistake. The coward! He's left her; that's
what he's done."

"But why should he leave her? What is his reason?"

"They said something about a telegram come up from the Mercury office.
Just a blind, I'll be bound."

"From the Mercury office! They would never telegraph from the office.
Perhaps some of his friends want him."

"Friends! He ain't got no friends--I mean any friends. I believe he's
just a swindler and a scoundrel. He's gone and deceived the poor girl.
It serves that old cat right for plotting and contriving. Oh! I hate
her, and him, and everyone. I am the most miserable wretch on earth."

And Binns laid his head on the table, and gave vent to his vulgar
sorrow. "My dear Robert, calm yourself. You are very wrong to go on like
this; you are indeed."

"Oh! it's all very fine for you, Mr. Bland; but when a fellow's heart's
broken, it's--boo-hoo--a hard thing to mend again."

Bland looked down upon the squab figure of the poor lad with pitying
face. After a pause, he laid his hand gently on his shoulder.

"Bob, listen to me a moment."

Bob raised his touzled head.

"What made Miss Manton fall in love with Mr. Chatteris?"

"What! Why, his rings and chains, and scented handkerchiefs, and
niminy-piminy ways, I suppose."

"If you do suppose so, she is not worth thinking about."

"No; it wasn't that," exclaims Binns, with sudden desperate energy of
self-condemnation. "It was because he's a gentleman, and I'm only a cad.
He is clever--curse him--and I ain't; I know that. Why should she love
me, a lout that wears a white apron, and can't talk English? She's an
angel, and I ain't worthy to kiss her shoe leather; but I love her! Oh!
Mr. Bland, I'd die to-morrow if I could save her a moment's pain."

"Then why not make yourself worthy of her?"

"Worthy of another man's wife!"

"I do not speak of that. You say that you love a woman that is above
you; that she despises you because you are less clever and less polished
than the man she has married. She can never be anything to you now; but
you have it in your power to make yourself worthy of her love for all
that. I know Mr. Chatteris. He may be more refined--he can hardly help
being so--but he has not half your natural talents"--Binns gasped--"and
I am sure he has not got your good heart. I do not tell you this to
flatter you, my boy, but because I want to see you make a name in that
world where I have fought so long and failed so often."

"Make a name! The name of Binns!"

"As good as many that shine bright in the list of England's heroes. Your
name is nothing; your person is nothing; it is your heart that the world
wants to see. If you have noble thoughts, earnest aspirations, and
honest faith, the world will not care a jot for your name or birth. No!"
cries Bland, rising, his eyes dilating, and his sonorous voice ringing
through the sordid chamber, "genius is of no nation, of no name, of no
person! It is as the mighty wind that sweeps over the ocean, carrying
good or evil on its wings, men know not whence it comes, but they bow
before its breath. You are a man; speak out a man's thoughts to men, and
they will listen to you. The world is hollow, false, and selfish, but
Genius comes with scorn in his clear eyes, power in his upraised hand,
and heaven's truth upon his lips; and the base world, like a hound that
meets his master, crawls to his kingly feet in mute submission."

There was silence for a moment after this outburst. Bland had dropped
into his chair, and, with eyes fixed upon the fire, seemed to be
thinking of days gone by, when, perhaps, he thought that the mantle of
heaven's messenger had fallen upon his shoulders, and when he had hoped
that the world would crawl to his feet, now, alas! blistered and weary
with tedious travel.

Binns sat meditative; his eyes were sparkling, his chest heaving; the
earnest purpose in his face made one forget his scorbutic cheeks and his
ill-fitting coat. Had Carry seen him then she might not have thought him
so very "vulgar."

At last he spoke.

"How am I to do it?" said he, in a low voice.

Bland roused himself.

"It is not an easy task," said he sadly. "You have much to learn; much
to forget. Fame is not won by dallying or repining. You must work for
her, toil for her, bleed for her; and then, perhaps, just as she
stretches forth the crown, the leaves crumble to dust beneath your
trembling fingers, and the withered wreath drops upon a tomb."

"But how to begin?"

"Work, boy, work. Give up writing, and read. Study men, study life,
study nature. You are young, you have energies, and industry."

"And these!" asked Binns, pointing to a mass of papers--his poems--that
were piled upon a broken chair. "Shall I burn them?"

"No; but put them away and read them six months hence. Poetry is always
the first outbreak of young minds; you were made to be a worker, not a
dreamer. There is poetry in work, lad, if you can find it; ay, more than
in a sonnet to a sunset or a flower. There will be plenty for men to do
in the future. The people are finding out that they are men, not
'masses,' and they who would lead them must prove themselves to be
worthy leaders of men. Go out to them and show them a man's heart; there
are not many such to be seen nowadays. You sit here with your grocer's
apron round your waist, and dream of glorious suns, burning skies,
waving trees, and plashing streams. Turn away your eyes from the
beauties of valley, field, and river, and look into the face of the
careworn, sickly labourer who passes you in the streets. He is
unpleasant to look upon; his coat is ragged, his hands dirty, his face
pale and begrimed with the sweat and dust of his daily fight for bread;
yet I tell you that his life is a poem worthier to write and hear than
all the visions of your heated fancy. It is a poem that, if you can
interpret to men correctly, they will hail you as a poet great as
Æschylus. The poetry of the age is work and usefulness. It walks, runs,
throbs beside and around you. Roll up your apron and go out and seek it;
you will find it ready to your hand; no need to dream of palm islands,
or groves of myrtles. We do not want a poet to teach us that there is
glory in the star, or perfume in the flower; we want a man, with a man's
heart, who can show us the poetry in our own lives and our own nature.
There, I have done. You have made me forget that I am, too, but a
dreamer, though I might have done some service once."

And Bland's voice sank, and his head fell upon his breast.

The scrubby little grocer's apprentice rose softly, and turned to quit
the room. As he reached the door, his friend spoke again, in an altered
tone.

"One word before you go. If, in the future, you make yourself a name and
place, and you find that this man has deceived and abandoned the woman
you love, will you protect and guard her?"

"I will, by----!" said Binns.



Chapter IX. Making Inquiries.

WHEN the dog-cart deposited Dacre and Cyril at the Kirkminster Junction
Railway Station, they found Mr. Robert Calverly walking up and down the
platform, with his brown hands deep in the pockets of his grey
shooting-coat, and a cigar between his lips.

"How do you do, Mr. Dacre!"

"Going up to town, Bob?"

It was a peculiarity of the young Australian's that he was the sort of
man that one involuntarily addresses by his Christian name. There are
some men who are specially constituted to be called by diminutives, and
this was one of them. He was so brown, honest, frank, and impetuous,
that the chances were just fifty to one that you slapped him on the back
after twenty minutes acquaintance, and call him "Bob" ever afterwards.

"Yes," says Bob, "I want to order some things."

"Then we'll all go together. This is Mr. Cyril Chatteris, of Matcham."

After the usual bowing ceremony had been gone through, Bob Calverly took
a prolonged side look at Cyril. This was the man, then, whom Dacre had
hinted that Kate loved. Bob saw nothing loveable in him. The clear cut
features, and the delicate hands were no charms in the Australian's
eyes; and he looked in vain for a certain frankness of eye, and
fearlessness of aspect, that he was wont to find in men whom he called
"friends."

Cyril, however, was remarkably agreeable, and, having preserved a decent
melancholy for some fifty miles, began to brighten up; and, when the
trio got out at Swindleton for incidental refreshments, the talk was
fast and furious.

Bob was enraptured at the barrack life at Kirkminster; and his
Australian impression of the British army not being the best in the
world, he was proportionately inclined to praise the bonhommie, good
fellowship and gentlemanly bearing of the majority of the men in the
--th.

"The best fellows I ever met in my life!" said he, with enthusiasm.

"Yes," returned Dacre. "There is no medium in the service. A man is
either A1 at Lloyd's, or 'snob,' stock, lock, and barrel."

"Well, I've known men who were neither," put in Cyril.

"Possible, but not probable. Are you sure that you really knew them? A
dinner at the 'Rag' or a luncheon at Richmond doesn't make you know a
man you know." Cyril reddened, Mentor was arrogating too much to
himself.

"The 'British soldier,' as you call him, has a fine time of it," put in
Bob, who detected the sting in Dacre's reply, and was anxious to change
the conversation. "He seems to me to live like a fighting cock, with
books, gymnasiums, and all sorts of things."

"Yes," returns the sententious Rupert, shifting his railway rug more
comfortably over his legs. "He lives far too well. The Government makes
a great mistake in pampering up her food for powder. I believe in the
old régime, when the British soldier had his life made such a curse to
him that he fought, like a fiend to get rid of it."

Bob stared aghast, and Rupert having watched the effect produced by his
nonsense upon the unsophisticated one, lit a cigar and smoked in calm
defiance of the by-laws.

"What strange things you say, Rupert," laughs Cyril, "you'll make Mr.
Calverly believe that English government officials are the
hardest-hearted fellows in Europe."

"Or the softest headed."

Bob laughed cheerily. "Chaff away, you fellows, don't mind me. I've
stood plenty of chaff in my life."

"How long have you left Australia?" says Cyril.

"Oh, about twelve months. Wish I was back there again."

"Wish you were back?"

"Yes, I'd rather be riding a good horse after stock over the plains,
than dawdling about London drawing-rooms."

"All you Australian fellows are always talking about 'riding after
stock.' I remember that fellow, Darling Downs, who used to give those
big feeds in Kensington Gore--he was always talking about stock, and
stations, and wild cattle, and bushfires, and riding one hundred miles a
day for six weeks."

"Ah, that sort of thing is very easy to talk," says Bob, "but could he
ride?"

"Oh, yes, he could ride fast enough," says Dacre, "the ugliest seat, and
the lightest hand of any man I knew."

"That's a different thing to sitting a buckjumper."

"Pooh, I'll find you a boy out of any hunting stables in England that
will sit the worst buckjumper ever foaled," says Cyril.

And they went off into a discussion upon the difference between bucking
and plunging, and English and Colonial saddles, and post-and-rail
fences, and grass country, and hunting in the shires, and all the
Australian horse-talk that arises between English riding men and
sojourners from that land of freedom. By and bye the conversation turned
upon other topics, and after a brief description of Bourke-street and a
horse bazaar, Bob waxed eloquent, and entertained them for an hour with
an account of a certain cattle muster on the Warrego, in which he and a
stockman named Dick took a prominent part. Just as he came to the part
where an old bull who, having lagged behind, (the custom of old bulls,)
was about to charge Dick's horse, who had put his foot in a crab hole,
and Dick sprang up, all dusty from earth, and with a tremendous crack of
his stock-whip, challenged his antagonist to "come on," the train ran
into London Bridge station, and the journey was at an end.

"Where do you put up, Bob?" says Dacre.

"At Limmer's."

"You must come and see me, old fellow; 37 Brook-street is my humble
roof."

"Delighted!"

"I tell you what, come up next Wednesday at eight o'clock, and I'll have
a few fellows to meet you."

"I think Ponsonby and Hetherington will be up from Kirkminster on
Thursday."

"Then I'll leave a note for them at the 'Rag,' and we'll fix it for
Friday." "All right, old fellow."

And the Australian departed in a hansom for Limmer's.

"You had better come with me," says Dacre to Cyril. "We will dine
together and talk over matters."

"Thanks, but I want to go up to my old lodgings to-night."

"Oh, to-morrow will do for that."

"Yes, I know--but--No, I think I must go to-night."

"By the way, where are your lodgings? You were so close, when you were
under the paternal cloud, that I never could find out where you lived."

"I! oh, nonsense. I lived in--in--in South Audley-street," says Cyril at
a venture, and the moment he had said it he regretted that he had not
spoken the truth. What did it matter?

"Oh, indeed! Well then, if you won't come, good-bye till Friday. Go down
to the Mercury office, Fleet-street, cabby!"

As Cyril went home, he thought of many things. Of his new prospects, of
his pledge concerning the Radical newspapers, of Carry and Mrs.
Manton--then he thought of Kate. They had parted without an explanation.
She had been taken by surprise at his sudden departure, and though her
wistful eyes had seemed to ask for some reference to those few moments
in the study, he had given none.

"What am I to tell her?" thought he, "and what am I to say to Carry?"

He had not made up his mind upon either point, when the cab drew up at
his wife's house, and he was "at home" once more.

"Good gracious! if it isn't Mr. Cyril!" cried Maria Jane.

Mrs. Manton bustled out. "Oh, so you've come back at last! Upon my word
this is nice goings on. A fortnight away from your wife, and not so much
as a letter."

He put her aside, and went into the parlour.

"Where is she?"

"Where is she? Much you care, I expect. Why, gone down to the Mercury
office to ask after you, Mr. Cyril Chatteris."

"To the Mercury office! She might have waited until I wrote."

"Waited, oh yes! How did we know you were ever coming back again? Wait
indeed!"

Even as she spoke there was a hurried tread in the passage. Carry had
seen the cab draw up at the house, and leaving the arm of a tall thin
man in rusty black who had escorted her home, ran up the steps, pushing
past the portmanteau-laden cabby, burst open the door and flung herself
into her husband's arms.

"Cyril, Cyril, my darling! you have come back again."

"Yes, and a nice time he's been about it," ejaculates the angry mother.
"Oh, Cyril, I have heard all about it at the office. I am so sorry."
"All about what?"

"About your brother's death."

Who could have told her? How did she know? and how much? He grew pale
from anger and fear.

"Your brother's death!" exclaims Mrs. Manton, who seemed to recognise
the fact of Cyril's black clothes for the first time. "Why, that
Lieutenant Chatteris that the newspaper spoke about wasn't your brother,
was he? Carry and me saw the account of the steeplechase in the Tizer,
but we never thought as how it was your brother."

The decisive moment had come at last. He must confess or deny, now or
never. Carry had half withdrawn herself from his arms, and was looking
up into his face in blank amazement. He nerved himself for a bold
stroke. Catching his wife in his arms, he drew himself up and pointed to
the door.

"Will you have the goodness to leave me alone with my wife, Madam."

Mrs. Manton stared, but the shock of the discovery had shaken her
nerves. She had believed Cyril to be "well off," but Mr. Chatteris, the
brother of a lieutenant of dragoons, and the son of a wealthy landed
proprietor, was a very different person to the son-in-law she had
expected. She cast one wrathful amazed look upon the flashing eyes and
outstretched finger of her daughter's husband, and then with a vicious
toss of her cap-ribbons, slammed the door upon her retreating figure,
and the pair were alone together.

"Sit down, my darling," says Cyril, after a moment's pause, "I want to
tell you something."

As Bland was coming down the stairs of the dingy office in Fleet-street
the day after his conversation with Binns, he was struck by the somewhat
unusual appearance of a pretty woman in the freshest of autumn walking
toilets, gazing disconsolately at the numerous doors, stairs, and
windows of that uncomfortable pile of buildings.

"Can I assist you in any way, madam," asked he with a bow.

"Oh yes, sir; if you would be so good as to tell me where I can find Mr.
Chatteris?"

Mr. Chatteris! Bland took another look at the timid figure. Could this
be the "Carry" he had heard so much about.

"Have I the pleasure of speaking to Mrs. Chatteris?"

"Yes," with such a blush that it almost made Bland blush too. "I am
afraid that he is not here," said he, "I will ask though."

It was a curious question to put, but the tall gentleman looked so kind
and good that Carry ventured to put it.

"Do you know where he is, sir?"

"No, my dear; but I will ask if anybody knows."

"He got a telegram from the office a fortnight ago, and he has not come
back since."

This statement tallied strangely with Binns's story, and the shabby
reporter shook his head sorrowfully.

"Wait here one moment, Mrs. Chatteris, and I will go and ask about it."

A hansom cab had just driven up to the door, and Mr. Rupert Dacre
alighting therefrom, had caught the last sentence. Mrs. Chatteris! Did
he hear aright?

Bland had seen the private secretary of Lord Nantwich before, and had
seen him with Cyril too.

"Excuse me, Mr. Dacre, but a lady is here asking for Mr. Chatteris. Do
you know where he is?"

"He came up to town with me this morning. He was obliged to go down into
the country to attend his brother's funeral."

Carry heard, and her suspicions of the past week seemed cruel. "Thank
you, sir," said she to Bland, "I will go home."

"Will you allow me to walk with you, madam?" says Bland.

She looked up into the kindly haggard face and saw nothing but courtesy
and pity there.

"I shall be very glad if you will," said she.

Mr. Rupert Dacre pausing on the stair head, saw the pair go away
together.

"Why that is the little girl I saw Cyril speak to once before! Mrs.
Chatteris--'um? a nom de convenance I suppose. He can't have married
her, surely. What a sly young dog it is. I must find out about 'Mrs.
Chatteris.'"




Chapter X. Mrs. Manton "Sees Her Way."

"CARRY, I want to tell you something!"

He hardly knew, though, how to tell it. It is not a pleasant task--that
of telling the woman you have married that you are ashamed of her
family, if not of herself, and many a better man than Cyril Chatteris
would have felt his eloquence fail him at such a juncture.

He made a bold push for it, however. He had plunged into the flood, and
must sink or swim. His heart half failed him when he looked at his
wife's frightened eyes, where the lovelight had not died--yet.

"Carry, I have done a very foolish thing."

"How?"

"I should have written to my father before I married you."

The little woman pouted. It did seem hard that his first sentence to her
should be one of regret.

"Is he angry with you, dear?"

"He knows nothing."

"Oh, Cyril, have you not told him?"

A vague terror possessed her as she asked the question. A marriage was
not a thing to be concealed.

"Listen to me, darling. The telegram that called me from you"--he kissed
her, Judas-like, at the memory--"contained news of my brother's
accident. He was killed in a steeplechase, and I only reached home to
see him buried. The house was in confusion, and my father was overcome
with grief. What could I do?"

She had not yet arrived at the distrustful stage. In love, one believes
everything. Yet the vague terror was there still.

"But you will tell him, Cyril?"

"Of course. It will be the happiest moment of my life"--how barren the
hackneyed sentiment sounded!--"when I can take you home with me. But,
for a time, it is best that things rest as they are."

She turned her face to his, and kissed him.

"As you please, dear."

"You see, Carry," he stammered, "that--that I am entirely dependent on
my father, and that, if I should give him cause to quarrel with me, I
might be left penniless. So--so our marriage should be--at least it is
best for the present--and--and" (he rushed at the mental fence)--"we
shall not love each other the less, shall we?"

What need for me to write the answer? It was the strongest argument he
had used yet, and was effectual, of course.

"What am I to tell my mother?" she asked, after a pause.

He scarcely knew what to answer.

"Tell her nothing," said he.

"Oh, Cyril!"

"Well, what would you tell her--that I shall be a beggar if my father
hears that I have married her daughter? The reason is a good one, I
admit!" and he laughed bitterly.

"But she must know."

"Well, tell her that I am not the brother of the Lieutenant Chatteris
you spoke of."

"But that would be a lie!"

He looked down upon her crimsoned face. She would not lie for him yet.
The scruple struck him as so feeble a one that he laughed involuntarily.

"You little goose, did you think I meant it? Tell her what you please,
my darling. I do not suppose that she can harm us."

Her lissome fingers, white and slender enough, played with the button of
his coat nervously.

"You know, she thought--she hoped--that you were well off, and that she
could give up keeping lodgings, and come and live with us."

Cyril grew hot with shame and anger. Did she hope so indeed! Her hopes
would be frustrated then. And yet it was natural enough. He married the
girl openly, and the mother, of course, had a claim on him. But the
matter might be "arranged." He had heard of such "arrangements." He had
laughed, with others of his class, at the burdens that other men bore.
He had often given his opinion upon the restraint of marriage, and the
possibility of some pleasant "arrangement" by which one could taste the
sweet without the bitter. At college he had been considered rather a
"man of the world"--a cool, calculating, easymannered materialist, who
snapped social ties like withes; and it was his pride to be considered
so. But now the real, living, actual mother-in-law was before him, large
and irrepressible. How could he deal with her? His wife, too! He loved
her certainly, but it was a love that made him think for a moment that,
had she not been his wife, he could have loved her more. Could the
matter be "arranged?" He might take her away from the mother, and bury
her in some cottage, some villa d'oro, where birds, flowers, trees, and
sunshine should make up for the loss of name and place. Yet, when he
looked at her, he shuddered at his own thoughts. Love's torch was
burning still, and he could not hint at a simulated dishonour.

"If it was not for the mother, we could go and live quietly somewhere,"
he thought. Surely in time he might get rid of her. At present it was
simply impossible.

He rose with a sigh.

"Of course she will live with us, my darling. We must ask her, though,
to put up with poverty, for I am not rich, you know."

Carry laughed. She measured wealth by watch chains, and rings, and
shining boots, and coats by Poole.

"You are rich enough for me, Cyril. We will live as happy as--as--"

"As the Prince and Princess in the fairy tales! But I am an enchanted
Prince, you know, condemned to seem like a monster in my darling's eyes,
because I cannot proclaim her Princess!"

She laid her head on his breast. The action touched him, it was so
tenderly confident.

"God bless you, my darling! I will try and make you happy."

And, for the moment, he believed he meant it.

So the household went on as usual. Mrs. Manton, indignant at the
assumption of her authority, did not appear until breakfast the next
morning; and, when she did appear, acted "la grande dame" with an
affectation of distant politeness, that made Carry blush and Cyril
laugh.

He was in better humour now. Having got over the first difficulty--the
telling his wife--he was prepared to do battle with the mother-in-law.
Moreover, in the halcyon days of marriage, one is apt to look at the
world through rose-tinted glass, and to trust to Fortune for a
settlement of unpleasant matters. He informed Mrs. Manton that he should
take no steps at present with regard to "moving."

"I must look out for a house somewhere," said he; "and, in the meantime,
Carry and I had better stop here."

The Burden bowed haughtily.

"Look here, Mrs. Manton," said he, "don't be annoyed at what I said last
night. I had just returned from a long journey, and was fatigued and
angry.

The lady tossed her head.

"Very well, Mr. Chatteris. If you apologises, that's enough. Though I
must say that, to turn a Lady out of her own Apartments, wasn't
considered manners when I was a gal!"

"My dear madam, I never intended any disrespect"--how the word stuck in
his throat!--"but, you see, that--in fact--that I was tired, and perhaps
wrong and hasty."

"Quite enough, sir! And may I ask where you and my daughter intend to
reside?"

Cyril was getting warm again.

"Reside! why, here, of course! unless you prefer us to go elsewhere."
How he hoped that she would say "Yes!"

"Prefer! My preferences are not to be consulted. I only look to my
child's comfort and happiness. Oh, Mr. Cyril, you'll make her a good
husband, won't you. She's all that's left to me now!"

The red face grew redder, and the eyes seemed about to overflow. How
hideously like her daughter the mother looked.

"I will do my best, of course. But do be reasonable; you know I am not
rich, and must make the best of things for a little time. I have only a
small allowance from my father, and depend in a great measure upon my
own exertions. The fact is, that my father is given to prejudices, and
if he knew that I had married a pers--a lady in your daughter's
position, he would be very much annoyed, and would probably cut off my
allowance altogether."

"But you're the eldest son now?"

"That does not do me any good. The prop--the est--the moneys I may have
are entirely dependent on my father's will. If he quarrels with me I
shall get nothing."

This was the best thing he could have said. Madam Manton was a woman of
the world, and she saw, or thought she saw, the position of things at a
glance.

Cyril was the son of a rich old gentleman, who would "cut him off" with
a shilling if he disobeyed or displeased him. In time he would succeed
to property, and then his wife and mother-in-law would partake of his
luxury. But in the meantime the marriage must be "kept dark." She could
watch over her daughter well enough. No fear that any denial of marriage
should take place while she kept watch and ward. Cyril, too, must be
humoured. If he was tried beyond his power of endurance, he might tell
his father, and so blight his own and his wife's hopes for ever. She
took her cue at once.

"My poor boy! well, you shall not suffer from me. You have married my
Carry out of love, and you shan't suffer for it. No! not if I works my
fingers to the bone!"

The sentiment was excellent, but, as Cyril inwardly remarked, the
grammar was execrable.

"There is no need to do that. I can work for her as well as you can. The
only thing I wish is, that you will keep the fact of our marriage as
quiet as possible."

"Rely on me, my dear boy, rely on me."

Carry, fearful of the result of the interview, had been weeping silently
in another chamber. She heard the parlour door open, and ran to meet her
mother.

"What did he say, mother?"

"Say! What should he say? Ugh, you little fool! Dry your eyes, and go
and talk to him."



Chapter XI. An Afternoon's Stroll.

MR. ROBERT CALVERLY lived in state at Limmer's. He had plenty of money,
and was not chary in the spending of it. To the young Australian, London
and its delights were new and fresh. His previous experience of town
life had been confined to Bourke and Collins streets. He had dined at
the Café, and lounged in at the Royal; he had "done the block" in
Collins-street from three to four; had played billiards, drank sherry
and bitters at Scott's at noonday, looked in at Kirk's, ridden to hounds
with the M.H.C., bet his humble "pony" on the Melbourne Cup, and
believed that the Maribyrnong stud was the finest in the world.

He had played unlimited loo and drank unlimited "whiskyhot" at Hamilton;
and was not ignorant of the charms of whist in a Ballarat railway
carriage. But his knowledge of "fast" life stopped at the unsavoury
casinos of Bourke-street; and the height of his dissipation had been an
oyster supper after the theatre, with the concomitants of parting
porters at early hotels.

He was not much better or much worse than others of his species; and,
apart from a few youthful revels with his bush friends, knew little of
the night side of humanity.

London with its parks, its clubs, its theatres, its dancing-rooms, and
music-halls, seemed a paradise of delight, radiant and full of
splendour. Fleet-street astonished him, and Holborn Hill was a marvel.
He saw more pretty women and fine horses during one hour's lounging
"over the rails," than he could have met with in a month of Victorian
travel; while the multitude of picture galleries, exhibitions,
libraries, and concerts, overwhelmed him.

He partook of the heat and hurry of pleasure seeking, and thrown, a
young and wealthy Adam, into what seemed a new Eden, he was bent on
exploring its beauties to the utmost. Tailors, jewellers, and
job-masters marked him for a prey, and "Mr. Calverly's bell" was ringing
eternally.

Yet, with all his extravagance, he was not plucked so cleanly as many a
pigeon who had been hatched in the sacred dovecote of the "little
village." His natural shrewdness stood him in good stead, and some solid
foundation of sound principle and manly feeling saved his social house
from falling beneath the blasts of evil example and evil communication.

He was not in such bad case as he appeared to be; and though the
original three thousand pounds melted like snow before the fierce heat
of London dissipation, were there not sheep and oxen at Ballara, and
subservient "home agents" enough to minister to his needs?

He had begun, however, to feel the effects of his new mode of life. His
pulse was not so regular. He no longer felt an inclination to rise at
unearthly hours, and to astonish sleepy grooms and drowsy stable-boys by
"clapping the saddle on his mare," and taking constitutional gallops in
the early dawn. He looked upon early rising with distate, and had begun
to order brandies and sodas before breakfast.

Yet he could "see out" any of his friends at a supper or a "beating
round;" and the young attachés and runners-up from Aldershot confessed
with sighs of envy that he always looked fresher than they did after a
night of such amusements.

Mr. Rupert Dacre had taken him under his wing, and, though careful not
to compromise his own reputation by too late hours at unholy places, had
nevertheless showed his protegé as much or more of "life" than he
expected. Dacre assumed the paternal and blasé manner so frequent among
men of his class, and would permit himself to be drawn into a "night's
fun" with the air of a man who sacrifices his personal comfort at the
shrine of friendship. He deprecated all revelry with such grave
philosophy, that the young men regarded it as a personal favour to
themselves if "Dacre" accompanied them; and a youngster, red-eyed and
pale from a desperate struggle with his constitution, would say with a
careless air, but with evident pride, "Dacre and I were at the opera
last night, and went over to Tom's, or Dick's, or Harry's. Stopped up
till three this morning, by Jove! Must have a B. and S." While, to be
admitted to the Eleusinian mysteries of a dinner in Brooke-street was
considered an honour equal to the Golden Fleece, or the Order of the
Garter.

The astute secretary to Lord Nantwich was fully alive to the social
importance of acquaintances, and made a point of never admitting any but
the "best men" to his intimacy.

"Rather slow, some of them, of course," he would say to his cronies,
"but then, you know, they are useful."

"As for youngsters" (by which term the young man included all humanity
below his own age, and some few above it), "they are simply nuisances.
They can't talk, they have no influence, they are always in scrapes, and
always want to borrow money."

He carefully, however, made two exceptions--Bob Calverly and Cyril.
These two came under the category of cat's paws, and he was only waiting
till the chestnuts were nicely browned to make use of their friendship.
He had known Cyril from boyhood, and though he never took much notice of
him while a younger son, he was now a man to be cultivated. Bob
Calverly, too, was a useful fellow. He had money and generosity; and his
uncle kept a very fair house, and a reasonable pack of hounds. Casting
up their virtues upon the credit side of their ledger, Mr. Dacre
honoured them with his friendship.

On Friday afternoon, he came down to Limmer's, and found Bob busily
writing a letter to his father.

"Writing by the mail? Good boy. I just looked in to remind you that we
dine at eight. I am afraid the party will be a little larger than I
expected. I've asked old Quantox, of the 'Isthmian,' and Vanderbank, the
artist. There will be nine or ten of us altogether."

"Is that Quantox the manager?"

"Yes; a most amusing old fellow. He tells the most preposterous stories
you ever heard in your life. By-the-way, how did you get home from
Saltoun's last night?"

"Came home with Welterwate in a hansom, and then went down to Cannon's
and played billiards."

"'I say, young Copperfield, you're going it!' You must take care, Master
Bob."

"Oh, I'm all right."

"Glad to hear it. No, thank you, I won't smoke. I'm just going for a
stroll. I have accomplished my arduous duties for one day."

"You're a lucky fellow, Dacre," says Bob.

"I am the hardest worked and the worst paid secretary in London. Ah,
well! It's destiny, I suppose. Oh, for an Australian sheep-station, with
a London agent! You are the lucky fellow."

"Stations are not what they used to be, my dear fellow."

"Nothing is. Even creditors are worse than in the brave days when I was
twenty-one."

Bob laughed.

"You can't be so very old now."

"'Young in years, but old in care.' Capital sentiment for a modern
melodrama, that! No one would know that it was a plagiarism from Byron."

This remark was lost upon Bob, who laughed nevertheless, as men do when
they don't understand a joke.

"Well, you won't come out? Then good-bye until dinner."

Mr. Dacre was somewhat thoughtful as he walked slowly onwards. Perhaps
it was business that worried him--the thoughts of that pile of unread
letters addressed to "R.H. Lord Nantwich, Sec. Foreign Affairs," which
were so neatly stacked upon his writing-table; or perhaps he was
wondering what the result of the appointment of the Hon. George
Whitecross as Envoy-Extraordinary to the Court of Persia would effect.
The cares of state would sit heavily on the elegant secretary. He
affected the overworked official, and would smile languidly, and pass
his hand wearily across his brow, when office matters were touched upon
in general society.

But it was not the state of Europe, or the policy of the Government that
gave Mr. Dacre cause for uneasiness; his thoughts were busy with his own
private affairs. The righteous Rupert had "expenses." He was not in
debt, but he was spending every shilling of his income. The question of
money had long been an obtrusive one with him.

"If I only had a few thousands a-year more," he would say, "I should be
the luckiest fellow alive. It is strange that men who know how to use
money never get any, and fellows whose only notion of finance is to play
ducks and drakes with sovereigns, always have plenty. I suppose my
venerable godfather, the Bishop of Swillborough, would call it a special
dispensation of Providence!"

He was meditating upon this important question with such intensity of
study, that he trod on the skirt of a lady's dress. His hat was off in
an instant.

The lady turned round at his murmured apology, and Rupert recognised
"Mrs. Chatteris." They were in Oxford-street, and she was going
westward.

"By Jove! the little girl that came to the Mercury after Cyril!--Mrs.
Chatteris, eh?"

He stood gazing at the dainty figure for a few moments, and then slowly
followed it.

At Holles-street he was close behind her, so close, indeed, that she
turned to look at him.

There was no consciousness in her eyes. When at the Mercury office, she
had been too much occupied with the fate of her husband to pay much
attention to the appearance of the rapidly passing Dacre.

He looked at her meaningly.

She coloured and turned away her head.

"Um! I suppose I am mistaken. Yet she can't be the cub's wife. The thing
is absurd."

He fell back a little.

Carry turned down into Dym-street. As she knocked at the door of the
Mantonian domicile, Dacre passed her again.

"No. 75. Looks like a lodging-house! Cyril said he lived in
Audley-street. I suppose this girl is a governess or an actress--yet no,
she can't be the last. I know all the women this side of the water, and
if she was 'over the way' she should be going out, not coming home. It's
past five now. The place is too far west for that. Perhaps she is
'respectable, etc.,' and the young donkey has honourable intentions. I
must find out."

A grocer's shop was at the corner. A cheap grocer's. A shop radiant with
brilliant labels, and enticing scrolls, succulent with butter in kegs,
and sticky with moist sugar in bags; oozing over with honey, and rich in
various and wonderfully compounded "teas." Dacre walked in.

A touzled-headed young man was writing in a sort of wooden cage in a
corner, while another turned a coffee-mill wearily.

"Did you send up those things to No. 75?" asked Mr. Dacre.

"To Mrs. Manton's?" asked the man at the wheel, stopping his turning
delightedly.

"Yes!"

The touzled-headed one in the cage was consulted, and upon hearing the
name "Manton's" left his writing and came forward, scowling at Lord
Nantwich's private secretary with much energy.

The easy demeanour of that gentleman, however, seemed to quiet him, for
he said, civilly enough,

"There has been nothing sent to-day, sir."

"Dear me, it is very strange." (He drew his bow at a venture.) "Mr.
Chatteris told me this morning that he had ordered some smoked tongues
to be sent up."

The touzled-headed youth crimsoned at the mentioned name.

"Mr. Chatteris never comes here," said he roughly.

"Ah, some mistake; lower down the street. Excuse me," and he was gone.
"Who's that swell, Bob?" asked the man at the wheel, resuming his duties
with greater weariness than before.

"I don't know," returned the other; "some of his friends, I suppose."
"Rather a handsome cove, too," returned the weary one; "regular 'out and
outer' I should say."

The "out and outer" smiled pleasantly as he walked briskly home.

"Mrs. Manton, eh? Manton--Manton. Any relation to the gunmaker I wonder?
And Chatteris evidently is known in the neighbourhood--lives at the
house I should say. I wonder if they have room for another lodger?" He
laughed pleasantly at the thought, and, upon reaching Brooke-street, was
so affable and gay, that Harris, his servant, was quite put out of his
humour, and imagined that all sorts of things had happened.




Chapter XII. A Quiet Dinner in Brooke-Street.

WHEN Bob Calverly reached Brooke-street he found a large party
assembled. Ponsonby was there, ruddier than ever; Hethrington, with his
arm still a little stiff from the effects of that "roll over" at the
fence on the memorable steeplechase day; Algernon Pierrepoint, and
Welterwate of the Blues, were there; so was young Danby Miniver of the
F.O., and his chum Lord Augustus Fitz-Frederick; Quantox, the manager of
the Isthmian, and Vanderbank, the artist; Maxwell Hurst, the popular
novelist, chatted with Fleem, the critic; while Cyril Chatteris was deep
in political discussion with Captain Leamington, a Queen's messenger,
and the best compounder of soup à la bisque in Europe.

Dacre was in his element.

"Come along, gentlemen! No ceremony under my Ishmaelitish tent. Dinner
is in the next room. Calverly, you know Ponsonby, of course. Welter,
this is a friend of mine, Mr. Calverly. Pierrepoint, you know Mr.
Calverly's uncle, Sir Valentine Yoicks. Hunts Loamshire. Don't you
remember that great day when you and old Double-thong were alone in the
last field? Hurst, they say that you are going to write something about
Australia in your next novel. Take care, or Calverly will bowl you out
in your facts, old fellow. Harris, soup to Mr. Fleem. That sherry is
part of old Trulliber's stock, Quantox; don't be afraid of it."

"Did you ever taste the Greek wine, fined with milk?" asked Hurst.

"Never. I hate 'fined' wines. I bought some crusted port, once, many
years ago, and a friend of mine analysed a bottle of it, and pronounced
it to be rectified spirit, cognac brandy, rough cider, and sloe juice,
made at a cost of sixteen shillings a gallon."

Calverly looked at the speaker.

It was Quantox, the manager, a man of no particular nation, no
particular accent, no particular relations, and no particular virtues.

"Who is he?" asked Ponsonby.

"Old Quantox. Keeps the best cellar in London, and tells the most
impossible stories. Dacre will draw him out directly."

"The worst wine I ever drank," says Leamington, "is stuff called
Rachenputzer. It's made in Dalmatia, I believe, and they say that the
man who goes to sleep on a bottle of it, must be turned every half-hour,
or the liquid will eat a hole through his side."

"Come, come, Leamington, you're not at the 'Traveller's.'"

"I endeavoured to get a paté de cheval for you; but the recent
improvements in cavalry have caused all the horses to be bought up,"
said Dacre.

"Ah!" 'Was ever Tartar fierce or cruel Upon the strength of water gruel?
But who shall stand his rage and force If first he rides, then eats his
horse!'" quoted Cyril.

"Have you read B's new novel, Chatteris?" asked Fleem, across the table.

"No!"

"He gives a great account of a fox-hunt, in which the hero leaps a brook
thirty feet wide."

"I don't care about B----. So much dialogue and so little description."
"I like dialogue. Look at Dumas."

"And Trollope."

"Look at Dickens. There's description for you!"

"Dickens describes exceptions."

"And Thackeray, generalities."

"There you're wrong," says Fleem. "Thackeray takes the type, I admit;
but God forbid that Becky Sharp is anything but an exception." "Don't
think she is," said Hurst, shortly.

"Everybody has his own opinion about women," said Dacre. "For my part, I
suppose they are necessary evils."

"You young fellows talk nonsense," put in Quantox. "If it wasn't for the
women I might shut up the Isthmian. Do you imagine that the British
public want to see Shakespeare--not they. They want plenty of pink silk
and spangled gauze. Bah! you young men! Give me the hock, Ruper-rte, my
boy!"

"Always the same theme, 'Woman,'" cried Hurst. "Like Goldsmith's bench
beneath the something shade, it seems for whispering age and talking
lovers made."

Quantox frowned. He was hit hard.

"Well, give me Balzac," says Cyril; "he has written the best novel in
the world."

"Gil Blas for me!"

"'Candide' is a wonderful book!"

"There will be a new style soon," said Hurst.

"I am afraid so," said Quantox, maliciously. "The gentle public don't
care for your sporting, tearing, spasmodic books; they have been
overdosed with them. Hurst, here, floods the market."

"What does it matter? It pays!"

"That is the great point, then--only you don't think so, Maxwell, my
dear-r-r boy. You want Fame. Ah, bah! Shtick to the money, my dear
fellow, shtick to the money?"

Hurst laughed.

"Not much to stick to, my dear sir."

"Who is going to Dollington's to-night?" asked Pierrepoint.

Lord Dollington was a nobleman who gave musical parties, at which
Offenbach was worshipped as a deity.

"I am!" exclaimed an unctuous man, with mutton-chop whiskers, by name
Randon, and by profession a flaneur. He had an impediment in his speech,
and was the most impudent man in London. His weakness was a desperate
assertion of frankness. He wore his heart upon his sleeve, and was
constantly inviting daws to peck at it. "I am. I--I like Dollington; I
own it; I--I own, I f-fwankly own I like Dollington. Dacre, my d-dear
fellow, some aromatic mustard. I cannot eat without aromatic m-mustard.
I know it's a trouble to you, but I am t-troublesome; I own it! I
fwankly own I am t-troublesome!"

"Harris, the mustard!"

"Ah!" went on the "frank one." "You may talk what you like about
c-composers; give me Of-Offenbach! I ought to know, for I think I have a
t-taste in m-music. It may be egotistical, I own; but I have a keen
p-perception of the b-beautiful and the t-t-wue. I own it! I f-fwankly
own it! There are few m-men k-keener to appweciate Art than I am. Hurst,
my dear fellow, you know that. I own, I f-fwankly own, that you are
indebted to me. I t-take p-pleasure in being of service to my
f-friends."

"Come to the Isthmian, then!" says Quantox, helping himself to a bird.

"My d-dear Quantox, I cannot stand the Isthmian. V-vewy good in its way,
I own; but my n-nature s-sympathises with the T-t-twue! I own, I
f-fwankly own, I can't st-st-stand your b-bub-burlesques. What's this?
My d-dear D-Dacre, where's the cayenne? Good Ged! ca-cayenne is the soul
of made dishes. I own, I f-fwankly own, I am a judge of cookery. Harris,
give me the cayenne!"

And the shining face distended into a maze of unctuous wrinkles as Mr.
Felix Randon emptied the contents of the peppercastor into his plate.

"Well, I've eaten tobacco and nitron in Gesira, but Randon's 'cayenne'
would kill me," whispered Leamington to Calverly.

Poor Bob was silent. In sporting parlance, he was at least three fields
behind. This talk about Trollope and Dickens, Gesira, Offenbach, and
cookery, bewildered him. He drank off his champagne at a gulp, and
stared at Dacre.

That inimitable host came to the rescue.

"By the way, Bob, how's Stockrider? That near fore-leg all right?" "Just
a little 'puffy,' that's all."

The magic word, 'foreleg' roused Welterwate and Ponsonby.

"Who is going to win the Chester Cup?" asked the former.

"Why, Fly-by-Night, of course!"

"Take your fifteen to three!" cries little Miniver.

"Done!"

"I say, what's become of Windermere? He was too hard hit to recover, I
expect?"

"Not he! He's gone to Swabia to shoot snipe," says Fitz-Frederick. "Are
there no snipe in England, in the name of all that's shootable?"

"Oh! Windermere was always a little queer. He proposed to his father's
cook one day, because he said she looked like a 'Burgomaster's wife
shelling peas,' by Gerard Dow."

"And did she accept?"

"She said that she regretted that she was married already; but, when
dear John died, she would be happy to oblige his lordship."

"I like cooks myself," put in Randon. "I f-fwankly own that, if ever I
marry, I shall m-marry a cook."

"'A ministering angel shall my sister be when thou liest howling,'" says
Hurst.

"Yes, an angel with a stewpan."

"Try that claret, Quantox--a present from Nantwich to his indefatigable
secretary."

"How Dacre manages to do so little for his salary is one of the
mysteries of the Foreign Office."

"Come, come; no scandal about Queen Elizabeth."

"You've no Foreign Office in Victoria, old fellow," says Cyril to
Calverly, laudably wishing to draw him out a little.

"No; we are sadly ignorant of all the amenities of civilisation."

"I knew young Skipp, who went out to Australia years ago," says
Leamington.

"What! old Sir Joshua Skipp, the convict amelioration man's nephew?"
"Yes."

Bob Calverly laughed.

"What is it, Bob?" asked Dacre.

"I remember the fellow. I knew him when I was a boy. Ha, ha! I was
stopping at a station in Narangai, Port Phillip, as the place used to be
called then, and there was a fellow there--poor Jack Briscoe--who got
rather muddled, and, having heard old Sir Joshua's name in connection
with 'convicts,' insisted that Skipp's uncle had been transported. Skipp
was highly indignant, and offered to bet fabulous sums on the event.
Briscoe took him up to three hundred pounds, payable by a draft on the
old gentleman himself; and, being still unconvinced, the matter was
decided by a fight in the stockyard by moonlight, with all the fellows
sitting on the rails smoking."

"How did it end?"

"Oh, Skipp thrashed him after thirteen rounds; and we broke open another
case of brandy to drink to the honour of the family!"

There was a general laugh.

"You must be strange fellows out there!" says Miniver.

"There were some curious things done in the old days," returned Bob,
warming with his subject. "There was a fellow I knew who was Acting
Governor, Sheriff, and Judge of Supreme Court, all at once, at Hobart
Town. He was terribly in debt, and his creditors filed bills to any
extent against him. He heard the case himself, in defiance of all law
and equity; gave 'judgment for the plaintiff;' issued a warrant for his
own arrest, and then made his own house the gaol, and never did any work
for six months."

There was an incredulous chorus.

"I can easily believe it," says Dacre. "Old Grey, who used to be chief
clerk in the 'Colonial,' told me that, when Tiger Dodds was made Sheriff
at Norfolk Island, he used to ride roughshod over everyone. The Governor
gave a picnic on one occasion, and Dodds, being invited, found that
eight men were to be hanged that morning, and he could not go. He had
the fellows brought up before him, and made a pretty little speech, in
which he suggested that, as a day or two could not make much difference
to them, they should be hung on Monday instead of Wednesday, in order
that he might go to the picnic."

"By Jove; what did they say?"

"Well, the story goes that the fellows retired to consult; and that,
after some ten minutes or so, the biggest ruffian, being elected
spokesman, pulled his forelock, and said--'It's werry hard that a man
should lose two days' life, sir; but me and my mates were a talkin' of
it over, and, seein' as how you've always been a good master to us, and
always given a cove a chance, we're willin' to oblige you in any way;
and, if you'll give us a fig of tobacco and a glass o' rum, we don't
mind!'"

"Bravo, Dacre! That is the best story told to night!"

"And every word of it's true."

The careful Harris appearing at this juncture with cigars, smoke was
added to the charms of talk and liquor; and Bob Calverly found himself,
at two in the morning, contemplating the placid face of the sleeping
Welterwate through a misty halo of wine and tobacco. Pierrepoint was
endeavouring to book a "pony" upon Fly-by-Night, but his uncertain
fingers refused to direct the pencil; while Maxwell Hurst was attacking
Cyril Chatteris upon the subject of the variation of species. Dacre,
ever calm and genial, was toying with his fifth cigar and "drawing out"
Quantox, who, with his rubicund face more rubicund than ever, was
telling, with many leers and winks, a somewhat incoherent anecdote
concerning Madame Vestris and the late Duke of Wellington. Fleem had
gone home with Leamington. Ponsonby was tossing Fitz-Frederick for
sovereigns. And Mr. Felix Randon, with increased unctuousness and
difficulty of articulation, was vowing in loud tones "that for his part
he l-l-iked, he owned it, f-f-fwankly ow-owned it--he l-liked these
little rèuni-unions of ch-choice spirits? These w-worshippings at the
shrine of the Bub-beautiful and the Tutterwue!"

Bob roused himself.

"I shall go home!" His legs were a little unsteady too.

"Nonsense," says Pierrepoint. "Nobody ever goes home, sweet home. Do
they, Dacre?

"What is there to do, then, my dear fellow?" asks the bland host, with
his self-sacrificial air.

"Let's go to Charley's, and have a little hazard!" cries Welterwate.
"Good!" says Randon. "I own, I f-f-fwankly own, I like hazard! To
Ch-Charlie's!"

Dacre allowed himself to be drawn into a reluctant consent; and all the
party, except Hurst and Quantox, who went home arm-in-arm, sallied forth
together.



Chapter XIII. "Jacta Est Alea."

SOMEBODY has remarked somewhere, that "if a man only sets himself to
study the weakness of his fellow-creatures, he may live in luxury all
the days of his life."

"Charley Ryle" was an instance of the truth of this statement. He lived
well, kept good horses, subscribed liberally to charities, owned a
charming house at Hampton-court, and was considered a highly respectable
person with a large business in the city. There were some fifty men in
London, however, who did not believe in his respectability. Though he
was personally unknown to most of them, still, the name "Charley Ryle"
was a synonym for that never-palling amusement--that Pierian spring of
delicious excitement, which never runs dry--Play.

Mr. Ryle's "city" was a house in Jermyn-street--a very pleasant house
when you were once inside it, a house where the choicest cigars and
wines were presented free of charge to Mr. Ryle's friends, and where a
little chicken-hazard was occasionally--indeed, almost always--to be
achieved if the "friends" wished it.

The double doors swung open at the entrance of Pierrepoint and Dacre,
and a smiling face having scanned the party through a little wicket, an
inner door opened and admitted them into the sanctum.

"H-here we are!" exclaimed Randon, "The sacred atmosphere of p-play
surrounds us. W-waiter! b-bwing me some ch-cham-pagne and s-s-soda. I
fe-feel in l-luck to-night. I own, I f-fwankly own, I feel in gug-great
l-luck!"

There were only some six men in the place. One a guardsman; one a
younger son, who was losing with the calmness of despair; one a rich
importer of wines; two light cavalry officers; and a white-haired
attaché to the Australian embassy.

A sombre figure was lying on a sofa, smoking cigarettes. He nodded to
Dacre carelessly. The innocent Australian looked at him with interest.
He was of the middle height, of sallow complexion, clean-shaved as to
his cheeks, with a long drooping moustache like that affected by a
mandarin with a taste for dandyism. Hair closely cropped à la
malcontent, lips thin and tightly compressed, and stony blue eyes. He
was dressed in a blue surtout, his shirt front was narrowly frilled, and
he wore no apparent jewellery save a heavy signet ring on the fore
finger of his left hand.

"Who is he?" asked Bob.

"Baron Gablentz, the most reckless and fortunate gambler in Europe. At
Dresden he was the terror of the Adelige-Resource; at the English Club
at St. Petersburg, he and General Tschenyhagen between them cleared poor
Saltash out of fifty thou.; Chabôt trembles when he enters the Kursaal
at Wiesbaden; the croupiers of Hombourg grow pale as they watch him
calmly staking his rouleaux. He was ordered to leave Berlin at the
instance of the old Duke of Schweinwurstel, from whose grand-nephew, the
young Prince William, he won a hundred thousand thalers at a sitting.
Gablentz would not abate a farthing of the debt, and before he left,
obtained a promise that the duke should pay him five thousand thalers
a-year. Don't play with him, my boy! He is too heavy metal for fellows
like you and I."

"What do you say to a little quiet écarté?" asked Leamington.

"When at Rome, I suppose one must follow the Romans. If guinea points
will be enough, I'll play with you," returned Dacre."

"Five pounds on the game?"

"As you please."

And they sat down together at one of the little tables in the first
room. "This way!" cries Ponsonby, pushing open another door.

"Ah! Berry, how goes it?"

"Badly," replied a lad, whose smooth cheeks betokened his youth. "Lost
five hundred pounds just now. Pull up again, I suppose. Seven was the
main. I threw five, and now it's three to two!"

"Going in, Mr. C-Cal-verly?" says Randon. "I own, I f-wankly own, I
c-can't resist the t-t-temptation. In p-ponies, my d-dear Berry!"

"I'm with you!" says Bob, recklessly.

"Anybody else?" cries the ingenuous youth, his blue eyes blazing with
excitement.

Ponsonby and Welterwate went in, of course, while Miniver remarked that
he preferred waiting till he got hold of the "bones" himself. The dice
fell on the table.

"Crabs! by the L-L-Lord Harry!" says Randon. "I f-fwankly own I n-never
s-saw such luck!"

"Give me some sodawater; I shall go home," says Berry, rising. Bob sat
down in his place, and the game went merrily on.

The Australian won all before him. He had never played hazard before,
and it is one of the peculiar charms of that pleasing method of getting
rid of superfluous cash that a novice always wins.

"Why, you are a terrible fellow, Bob," says Miniver, as he handed over
an I.O.U. "You'll clean me out completely!"

"Nine's the main!"

"Eight, by Jove!"

"Here, take the box, Fitz; my luck's turned."

"It will, if you talk like that," said old Grosmith, who was an
inveterate believer in chance.

"My turn? Well, I own, I f-fwankly own, it is hard. Five!"

"Five it is!"

"Th-that's another f-fifty, old boy. T-try again. Seven!"

"I won't bet any more."

"Twelve! Just missed the nick. Why didn't you play, Calverly?"

And then Bob did play, and won, and played again, and lost; and then
won--and then lost with amazing pertinacity. His throat felt dry, and he
called for champagne to cool it, and then somebody in a mist gave him a
"good cigar," and he smoked it; and then it seemed to him that he was
looking on at a play through a fog, and that one of the principal
characters was a Mr. Robert Calverly, who was giving very illegible
I.O.U.'s to everybody. By-and-bye Ponsonby went away, and then Miniver,
and his last recollection was a vision of little Fitz-Frederick writing
a cheque at a side-table, and Randon, after throwing a succession of
mains, rattling the box gaily, and exclaiming, with wonderful flourishes
in the way of articulation, that "He n-n-never s-s-saw any-anything
l-lul-like it. He owow-owned, f-f-f-fuf-fuf-fwankly owned, that he
n-nev-never h-had s-such lul-lul-luck in his life. He owned, f-f-fwankly
owned, he was a b-bu-bold p-player. But still, my d-dear
f-fellow--s-seven again! By Jove; another p-pony! Well, I own, I
f-f-f-fwankly own--" (da capo).

In the meantime Cyril had lost five-and-twenty pounds, and, being less
elated than the others, had determined to lose no more. He found Dacre
piling up a little heap of sovereigns and shillings, and Leamington
looking for his hat in the anteroom. Gablentz had gone, and the room was
heavy with tobacco smoke.

"Where's the Meliboeus of the antipodes?" asked Dacre, looking up. "Hard
at it in the next room. I believe he's lost over a thousand pounds."

"Well, I suppose he can afford it. Young men will be young men, my dear
boy. I hope you have not dipped into the whirlpool of destruction."

"No; I only lost a pony."

"Too much, Cyril; too much. You should be careful, my dear fellow. You
know I am in loco parentis just now, so excuse these humble words of
warning."

"It's all very fine, Rupert, but you come here and win a hatful of
money, and then lecture me for playing hazard."

"Hazard and écarté are two vastly different things. One exercises the
faculties, and sharpens the perceptions; the other only lightens the
pocket." "There's something in that."

"Ha, ha! Come along old fellow, we will go home. I kept the cab waiting,
and can drop you in South Audley-street."

"In Audley-street! what should I want--"

He stopped just in time.

"Or Dym-street, if you prefer it."

"Dym-street!"

"I know all about it, my dear boy. Oh, you're a sly young dog!" "All
about what?" says Cyril.

"About that little friend of yours that we saw in the cab one day."

They had reached the outer door by this time, and Cyril's first impulse
was to hurl his friend into the street. Civilisation asserted her sway,
however.

He took a cigar out of his case, and twisted it between his fingers with
assumed indifference.

"My dear Dacre, what do you mean?"

"I mean, my dear boy, that you have picked up a very pretty little
woman. 'Mrs. Chatteris' does credit to your taste."

Cyril was fairly at bay. His secret was evidently discovered. Should he
deny or confess? Had the two men been alone in the field or wilderness,
instead of standing on the steps of a London house in the grey of early
dawn, with a London cabman within earshot, it might have gone hardly for
Rupert Dacre. Cyril stopped in the act of lighting his cigar, and shot
one glance at his tormentor. The calm eyes were calm as ever, and there
was no pity in the smiling mouth.

"Upon my word, when the little thing called herself Mrs. Chatteris, I
thought it was your wife."

The contempt in his tone was so evident that Cyril blushed.

"My dear fellow, do you think I am a fool?" said he.



Chapter XIV. A Retreat Before Heavy Guns.

THE feelings of Mr. Cyril Chatteris, upon awaking on the morning after
his conversation with Rupert Dacre, were by no means amiable. In the
first place, his head ached, and his tongue felt more like an old file
partially covered with fur than an ordinary organ of speech; in the
second, his mind was nearly as uneasy as his head. Young as he was,
there was quite enough of astuteness in Cyril to go very far towards
supplying the want of actual knowledge of the world, and he could not
disguise from himself that Dacre was not the sort of man to rest
contented with the information he had given him on the subject of the
"little thing" who "called herself Mrs. Chatteris."

What if Dacre had believed his statement, and regarded his affair with
Carry merely as one of those "convenient connections" that club life in
men and milliner's bills in women have rendered so common? Fair as was
Dacre's reputation in the world, Cyril knew well enough that his creed
regarding women was even as that of others, and that he was not likely
to be balked in a chase by any scruples of conscience regarding
poaching. All this was extremely annoying, and in his heart Cyril cursed
the feeling of loving anxiety for his safety that had sent his wife to
the Mercury office.

"Silly little thing," he thought, looking at her as she stood fastening
up her hair with lissome fingers, "just as if she couldn't have waited
patiently for a day or two longer, instead of exposing herself to all
sorts of remarks, and me to all sorts of questions. Master Rupert won't
rest quiet with what I told him, that is certain, and if he should find
out the truth--why then----"

Then what?

"He'll squeeze me!" was his first thought; "just the man to do it." And
then another thought flashed across his mind--a thought that, with all
his callous indifference to others' suffering, sent the blood with a hot
rush to his forehead, and set his teeth firmly between lips tightly
compressed. A thought connected with Dacre's other words; a thought
connected with his young wife, who had so trustingly yielded to his wish
for secresy, and who now--the troublesome brown hair neatly coiled round
her pretty head--turned and faced him. Just as pretty and fascinating as
ever, but with a very perceptible tinge of petulant disappointment on
her features. The eyes looked sad, too, and the long-eyelashes rested on
a cheek more flushed than usual.

Cyril had felt rather angry with her a few moments before, but it was
not easy to be angry long with a face and figure like the one before
him. She might have been "silly" certainly, in going to the office, but
quite as certainly she looked uncommonly pretty now, especially to a
newly made husband, with a slightly sore head, and a strong desire for
petting and soda water.

"Ah Carry!" he said, lifting his head and resting on his elbow, "I'm
afraid I came home rather late last night; but it wasn't my fault. One
never can get away from these semi-literary dinners at anything
approaching to decent hours."

"Early in the morning, you mean, Cyril," replied Carry, the flush
deepening on her cheek. "I sat up for you, oh, ever so long!--and
then--then I----"

The soft eyes filled with tears, and she stopped.

Cyril Chatteris was by no means very tender-hearted, and, like many of
his stamp, rather liked to see women weep over his delinquencies. But
now the signs of grief annoyed him, and he said pettishly,

"Are you going to begin Caudle lectures already, Carry? Isn't it rather
too soon for that sort of thing?"

"I don't want to lecture you at all; but I think that before we have
been married a week, for you to stay out till daylight is very, very
unkind, indeed--cruel, very cru------"

The tears welled up again. Tears, adverbs, and adjectives, the whole
armoury of female anger brought to bear on a man with an increasing
headache, and a decided inclination to bad temper. It was rather too
much. Cyril felt inclined to give in, if only for the sake of peace. But
the petty pride that was one of his chief characteristics forbade him.
Besides, it was a great deal too soon for this sort of lecture, and
Carry should find it so. So he dropped his head back on the pillow, and
turning carelessly round, closed his eyes.

Carry stood by the bed-side a moment in silence, looking down on her
young husband. She was waiting for another word, and a kind one she
hoped, but she waited in vain. Cyril only muttered something about
headache and sleepy, and kept his eyes closed. He looked very handsome,
as he lay thus, even with the angry look on his face. Women are always
sympathetic, too, when headaches are concerned, and the love-light was
still burning in Carry's heart, even as her husband had seen it in her
eyes a short time before. Perhaps, after all, Cyril couldn't help
stopping out. He was very young still, and she knew he had so many
bachelor friends. Wouldn't it be better to say something kind to him,
especially when he felt ill, poor fellow. She didn't want to quarrel so
soon--she would make it up.

Very lightly she placed her soft little hand--the hand that Mrs. Manton,
prudent woman, had never suffered to do any work--upon the feverish
head, and ran her fingers through the clustering hair.

But Cyril only moved impatiently, and appeared to think the pretty hand
rather in the way.

"Does your head ache very much, Cyril?" asked Carry timidly. She was
afraid she had gone a little too far. What if the Fairy Prince were to
turn tyrant on her hands, for want of a little kindness at first?

"Awfully!" replied Cyril, without opening his eyes, "and your lecturing
doesn't improve it."

"Shall I bring you up some tea, dear?" asked Carry, whose knowledge of
the treatment of post-supper cures was limited.

"Now, Carry, this is really too bad!" said Cyril, determined to win the
battle. "First you make my head ache by scolding me, and then you tease
me about tea. I want quiet--that is all--and that you don't seem
disposed to let me enjoy."

Fast into poor Carry's eyes came the hot tears. She had scolded so
little, and Cyril was so cross.

"If you loved me as you have said you do," went on Cyril, feeling that
his victory was nearly won, "you wouldn't commence lecturing me when you
must have seen I was ill. But I suppose you're like the rest of your sex
in the matter of loving. It's very deep affection, indeed, so long as
one pleases you, but it's wondeful how it alters if a check comes."

"Oh! Cyril, Cyril!" sobbed poor Carry, utterly unable to hold out any
longer, and the tears rising hotter than ever. "How can you speak so to
me, when you know I love you more than I can tell; when I have consented
to everything you have asked of me. I know you must stop out late
sometimes; and if I have been cross, won't you forgive me, Cyril----"

Sobs again, his hand tenderly clasped in hers, and her soft kisses on
his fevered forehead.

"Victor!" muttered Cyril, and, taking up the rôle of a high-minded
conqueror, he generously forgave her.

No more scolding from her at any rate, he thought, as Carry ran down
stairs, wiping her eyes, and trying to check her sobs, to look for the
sodawater, that her young husband had told her was the best treatment
for a nervous headache.

Lounging into the small drawing-room late in the afternoon, Cyril felt
that he had asserted his rights, and that Carry at least was pliant
enough for his purposes.

"I can twist her round my finger!" he said to himself, looking
carelessly in the glass, "and that's some consolation."

Consolation wanted a week after marriage! A bad prospect indeed, for the
girl such a man had married.

But clever Cyril had reckoned without his host. Mrs. Manton was not

Carry, and if the truth be told, rather disliked the son-in-law, who had
turned her so coolly out of the rooms. "A proud, stuck-up puppy!" she
had mentally called him, with a contemporary resolve to pay him back as
soon as possible.

"Nice behaviour, indeed," the widow had said to Carry, when sitting up
for Cyril the night before. "First he marries you, and then he wants you
to keep it secret, and then, hafter a few days, he stops out to hall
hours. I should just like to have seen your father trying it on with
me!" It was not very difficult to guess at the consequences to the dear
departed had he tried any such experiment, but Carry only silently
wished that mamma wouldn't drop her "h's," and said aloud that she hoped
she wouldn't speak to Cyril.

"Oh! but I will!" said Mrs. Manton, warming up. "I'll teach him you're
not to be played with. Displease his father, indeed; let 'im look out he
don't displease me by his goings on."

And with this remark, and advice to Carry to go to bed and not make a
fool of herself, Mrs. Manton had gone off herself.

Determined for the fight, however, was the landlady, who had never
allowed a lodger, even a "first floor," to get the better of her, and
before Chatteris had been in the drawing-room five minutes, in she
marched, her face flushed, her front plastered more rigidly down than
ever, and wearing a cap so fearfully and wonderfully made in the way of
lace and ribbons, that Cyril shuddered.

"Good morning, Mrs. Manton," he said, giving the fire a vigorous poke,
and not succeeding in looking so unconcerned as he wished. "A cold
morning, isn't it?"

"Hafternoon, you mean, Mr. Chatteris!" said the lady of the cap, with a
sort of gulp, prophetic of a coming storm. "I 'ope your hearly rising
won't 'urt you, sir?"

No answer from Chatteris, who was now beginning to feel his feet, and
Mrs. Manton went on.

"If you think its hacting honerable, Mr. Chatteris, to marry a young
girl as would be a treasure to a king, to hask 'er to conceal her
marriage for fear of your father's hanger, and then to treat her as you
did last night--hi don't!"

"Your sentiments do you credit, no doubt, Mrs. Manton," said Cyril, in
his easiest manner, and carelessly filling his pipe as he spoke, "but
permit me to ask whether you have considered your right to interfere?"

Mrs. Manton was dumbfoundered. The "parlours" was not so soft, after
all. But he wasn't going to beat her in that way.

"'Ave I a right!" she burst out. "You ask me if I 'ave a right? I've the
right of a mother, who 'as nursed and brought up the poor girl you are
treating so basely. Yes, basely! that's the word, Mr. Cyril Chatteris,
and make the best of it! Gentleman, indeed!"

Another gulp, and a drawing in of the breath for a fresh start.

But Cyril had had enough. Bitterly, oh! how bitterly he felt that he had
been the "fool" he had denied himself to be. But he would be so no
longer. He had married the daughter, not the mother, and he would assert
his position. His face flushed angrily as he listened; and, acting on a
sudden impulse, he sprang to his feet.

Before Mrs. Manton had regained her breath, he had walked to the door,
and flung it open, to find himself face to face with Carry, who was
standing outside the door, the tears still on her face.

"You are come in time, Carry," he said, gently leading her into the
room; "in time to hear what I am going to say to your mother."

"Mrs. Manton," he went on, "I beg you once for all to understand that I
have married your daughter, but not you. You have no right to meddle in
our affairs at all; and as I don't choose to have a repetition of this,
I shall leave the house at once, and take Carry with me. Carry, I shall
be back very soon; have everything ready by the time I return."

He had descended the stairs and was out in the street before Mrs.
Manton's cap ribbons had done trembling.

In less than an hour he was back, and while Mrs. Manton looked on
helplessly, the boxes Carry had packed were placed on a cab, and Cyril
stood in the passage waiting for his wife.

Hot-tempered, vulgar as she was, Mrs. Manton really loved her daughter,
and she felt very much inclined to give in.

"Where is he going to take you to, Carry?" she asked, as Carry flung her
arms round her neck, and sobbed on the breast of the mother who had so
carefully tended her.

"I don't know, he won't tell me."

"Then it's a burning shame," the cap-ribbons trembled more than ever
now, "and I won't stand it."

So she went out to where Chatteris stood in the passage.

"Is this true, Mr. Chatteris; won't you tell me where you're going to
take my Carry?"

"Certainly not!" replied Cyril, coolly.

"Then hunderstand, sir, that I won't allow it, not if you was twenty
Chatterises."

"Very good," said Cyril again, "Carry can remain if she chooses, I will
not."

"Oh, mother!" sobbed the poor girl, "Cyril is my husband. I must go with
him."

"Off course you must," said the angry landlady, "and leave your mother,
see her hinsulted, too, by that puppy. Hi'm ashamed of you, Carry; and
has for 'im, I'll see what 'is father will say to it. I suppose a letter
will reach Mr. Chatteris at Matcham has well as hanywhere helse."

Up in Cyril's soul arose the evil savage spirit that worldly tact had
kept down in his conversation with Dacre. He turned on Mrs. Manton so
quickly and fiercely, and with such a look, that she shrunk back into
her room.

"Write to my father!" he said--"write to him only one line, and see what
comes of it! You are a woman of some experience, Mrs. Manton, and must
have seen a great many similar marriages to mine. Do you think I've been
a fool in this matter? Come, Carry!"

The next moment he had handed his wife into the cab, and, looking at the
dark expression of the face she loved, Carry did not dare to say a word.

"Do you think I am a fool?" The same words he had said to Rupert Dacre,
but by Mrs. Manton they were not so quietly taken. A vague, sickening
fear of some harm to her daughter kept her seated, silent and
thoughtful, before the fire, long after the cab had driven away.

In the course of the evening Mr. Rupert Dacre knocked at the door, and
asked carelessly if Mr. Chatteris was in.

A stout female, with shaking cap-ribbons and a red face, informed him
shortly that Mr. Chatteris had left, and having a natural antipathy to
stout women, cap-ribbons, and red faces, Mr. Rupert Dacre walked away
without asking a single question.

But before he had reached the end of the street he fell into such a fit
of musing as he had not yielded to for some time. "There's more in that
'little thing' mystery than I thought. Surely the fellow can 't have
made a fool of himself after all?"



Chapter XV. Monetary.

MR. ROBERT CALVERLY, in his room at Limmer's on the morning after his
visit to the "quiet little place in Jermyn-street," was also decidedly
uneasy in his mind. As close a calculation as circumstances would permit
showed that he had lost rather more than the "thousand" Cyril had
guessed at, and the loss worried him. Not that it would ruin him by any
means. Old Calverly had taken too good care of his son's welfare for a
"thou" to swamp him. But bush life makes a man as cautious in some
things, as reckless in others; and Bob by no means relished the loss of
a thousand pounds over the green cloth. Gambling was not to his own
taste, he knew that his father hated it, and as he totted down some
hasty figures in his note-book, he mentally resolved not to try that
little game again. However, the money had got to be paid. The question
was, how? His original three thousand had long since gone the way of all
coin. His agents, Messrs, Fleece, Pack, and Co., had already advanced
considerably, and his last letter had brought him no additional
finances. The only plan he could think of was to go down to his agents
again and state his wants. So he dressed himself carefully, took a B.
and S. to steady a rather shaky hand, and was soon rattling in a hansom
towards the city.

Messrs. Fleece, Pack, and Co., the London agents of several Australian
squatters, had large but rather dingy offices in Austin Friars. At the
back of the old Dutch church their clerks toiled from morning to evening
over huge ledgers--fearful mysteries to the uninitiated, terrible books
to the correspondents in arrears. Charles Fleece, Esq., head of the
firm, had been in the business for years, and, from long correspondence,
was nearly as well up in Australian affairs as if he had been there. He
could tell you to a fraction how much the millionaires, Sumner Brothers,
had given for the Bigguoroo Station, on the Lachlan, and how many bills
and promissory notes poor Reckless, the original owner, had signed
before an extra bad season sent him through the Insolvent Court, and his
station to the auction mart. He knew nearly as well as the local manager
when the Bank of Victoria was going to stop the overdraft and put the
screw on to Percy Robinson, and how little chance that gentleman had of
holding out another season. He was not given much to talking of these
matters in his country house; but after dinner in his snug villa at
Twickenham, he could tell a secondhand cattle-muster yarn nearly as well
as the junior partner, Pack, who had been on the Murrumbidgee for years
before he went into the counting-house of the Melbourne branch, and
finally came home as junior partner. A tall, sturdy-looking fellow, was
John Pack, formerly of Eribunderee, broad-chested and sunburnt, with
hands of which three years of London glove-wearing had scarcely
lightened the hue. A sharp, keen man of business, moreover, but withal a
good-natured, well-meaning, and strictly honourable man. Mr. Robert
Calverly's affairs were by no means in bad hands, but of the two
partners, the junior was certainly the most liberal; and if ever the
screw had to be put on, it was generally Mr. Fleece who turned the
handle.

"Mr. Robert Calverly," announced one of the clerks; and Bob was shown
into the office of the junior partner.

"Ah, good morning, Mr. Calverly!" said Pack, offering his hand. "How are
you? Not looking so well as usual. London life not so wholesome as the
bush, eh?"

Bob certainly didn't either feel or look very well, but, like most men,
he didn't like being told of it, so he said, shortly,

"Oh, thanks, I am quite well; but I have a little business to settle
with you. Can you spare me a few minutes?"

"Half-an-hour, if you like. What is it? Any news from the old place? Any
more wool to get rid of?--any golden fleeces?"

"Well, no," said Bob, colouring slightly, "My last letter told me
absolutely nothing. I want to know how my account stands. On the wrong
side, I suppose?"

"Well, I fancy a little that way," was the answer, with a quiet smile.
"Here, Wilson, bring in Mr. Calverly's account."

The account was brought, in, after a delay of about ten minutes, during
which Mr. Pack chatted about all sorts of subjects, from the money
market to the "Two Thousand," and Mr. Bob Calverly paid unusual
attention to his finger nails.

"Hum!" said the junior partner, running his eyes down the paper. "On the
1st, £350; on the 12th, £750; on the 20th, £600; on the--. Here you are,
Mr. Calverly, somewhere about £2000 to the debit."

Bob took the paper, and as he held it in his hand, the eyebrows slightly
contracted over the eyes that read it.

Two thousand to the debit! He had no idea he had spent so much, even
with all the kid gloves from Houbigant's, the pleasant little dinners at
Richmond, the flirtations in the coulisses, the bouquets from Garcia,
and the coats from Poole. Two thousand to the debit, and no letter of
credit from home! Well, it was no good poring over it. The account was
evidently right. The money had been spent, and he wanted more, for even
of "ready" to carry on with he was denuded. There was no remedy for
it--he must be a little more to the debit.

"Mr. Pack," he said at last, putting down the paper on the
writing-table, before which the agent was seated.

"Well, Mr. Calverly, is it all right?"

"Oh yes, it's all right; but the thing is, I want some more money at
once. I'm pretty well cleaned out."

"Hum!" said Mr. Pack, rather drily. "How much do you want?"

"About fifteen hundred," answered Bob, struck with a bright idea that he
must have some ready cash to go on with after the thousand had been
cleared off.

"Fifteen hundred!" Mr. Pack's eyebrows went up a little as he took up
the account, and again ran his eye over it. "Wait a minute, Mr.
Calverly. I will talk to Mr. Fleece about it."

And he left the room.

As the swing-door closed behind the agent, Bob came to the conclusion
that the look-out was not very promising. Pack had hitherto honoured all
his demands without the slightest reference to his partner. This time he
had gone to consult him, and Bob felt very uncomfortable. He had never
been refused money before, and he didn't like the novelty. A few
minutes, and back came Mr. Pack.

"Come into Mr. Fleece's room a minute, Mr. Calverly; he wishes to see
you."

In marched Bob accordingly, his head thrown back a little more than
usual, and a slight additional flush on the cheek, from which London
life was fast wearing the bronze.

Mr. Fleece was standing before the fire, and looked stout, rosy, and
good tempered, but at the same time excessively 'cute. The look-out was
less promising than before.

"Good day, Mr. Calverly," he said, with the kindest possible smile,
holding out a ready hand for Bob's grasp. "Pack tells me you want to see
me. What can I do for you?"

"Confound him," thought Bob. "I didn't want to see him. I wanted to see
the money."

Then aloud,

"I won't keep you very long, Mr. Fleece. Mr. Pack knows what I want--an
advance of fifteen hundred pounds."

Mr. Fleece looked as good-tempered as ever, but said nothing.

"You see," went on Bob, wishing in his heart that Mr. Fleece was a
three-railer, that he might ride over him and settle the matter at once,
"I've been spending a little more money than usual lately, and, till
next mail, am decidedly short."

"Ah! yes," said Mr. Fleece, still good-tempered, but still 'cute, "it's
astonishing how money does go in a London season, Mr. Calverly. Have you
heard from your father this mail, Mr. Calverly?"

"Only a few lines."

"Ah! not much of a correspondent, I suppose; and how was Melbourne
looking when he wrote. Not very promising times for squatters with that
42nd clause of the Land Act. I expect they must find those free
selectors rather a nuisance."

"Confounded nuisance!" replied Bob, whose "down" on a free selector was
equal to his dislike of a "swagman on the wallaby."

"So they must be," went on Mr. Fleece, giving his right hand an
additional warm at the fire, while Pack, with a queer smile, took up the
Argus. "Capital article that about those fellows in 'All the Year
Round.' Did you read it?"

Bob hadn't read it; hadn't read much of anything lately, and said so.
The look-out was more unpromising than ever. Why the deuce couldn't Mr.
Fleece come to the point? Another warm; a few more inquiries about sheep
generally; and, still good-tempered, but still distressingly 'cute, Mr.
Fleece did come to the point.

"Well, Mr. Calverly, I enjoy these little pleasant chats, but business,
you know, business. What can I do for you?"

"What can you do?" said Bob. "Why, I've told you. Let me have fifteen
hundred pounds."

"Fifteen hundred pounds!" said Mr. Fleece. His eyebrows did not go up,
but the left hand came in for a warming this time, and he looked a
little more 'cute than good tempered. "Fifteen hundred! Well, really,
Mr. Calverly, I shouldn't like to refuse you, but, you see----. Pack,
let me look at that account. Two thousand to the debit already, and wool
falling. Lots of scab about too. Did you hear of that affair at Swan
Hill? Twenty thousand sheep not allowed to cross the Murray, although
passed by the New South Wales inspector."

"D----n the scab!" muttered Bob. "No, I didn't."

"Ah! curious affair, Mr. Calverly. Doesn't look very encouraging, that
sort of thing. Nothing from your father, eh?"

"I told you no," said Bob, wishing this time that Mr. Fleece was a
"beast," and he had hold of a branding iron.

"That's just what I told you, Pack," said Mr. Fleece, positively glowing
with good temper, "Mr. Calverly, senior, is very cautious indeed; never
hazards an opinion unless he is sure of it; I expect he can see through
these nasty little political squabbles as well as anyone, though he does
not go in much for meddling with them, eh, Mr. Calverly?"

Bob was a patient fellow enough, but he couldn't stand it any longer.
Mr. Fleece evidently would not come to the point, and so he did it
himself with--

"Mr. Fleece, excuse my asking you for a straightforward answer to my
question. Will you advance me fifteen hundred pounds or not?"

"Well, my dear Mr. Calverly, you know, and your father knows, how
matters are in Australia just now, and really I think--let me see. You
said your father had not sent you any further authority?"

The flush rose deeper than ever to Bob Calverly's cheek. Mr. Fleece
might be very good-tempered, but he was getting rude.

"I must interrupt you again, Mr. Fleece," trying very hard to keep his
temper; "I simply want to know whether you will let me have an advance
of fifteen hundred pounds or not. I told you before I had heard nothing
from my father, but I shall be very happy to give you an order on him
for the money."

"Now, really, Mr. Calverly," replied the senior partner, with a smile
even more beaming than before, as his 'cuteness discovered a loophole
through which his good temper might pass unscathed. "Now, really, you'll
excuse me telling you that our house never meddles with that sort of
business. It's a practice our standing in the city would never permit. I
firmly believe it would ruin our agency if such a thing were known. Now,
do just write to your father, and see what he says on the subject. His
opinion would be most valuable. Fifteen hundred pounds is a trifle, Mr.
Calverly, both to you--I am sure of it--and to us, I believe, but,
really, such a very singular proceeding. I'm surprised, Mr. Calverly.
Pack, just let Mr. Calverly's account be made out and forwarded, in
duplicate, to Melbourne. And now, Mr. Calverly, I'm sure you'll excuse
me. I have a great deal to do. By-thebye, you have never been out to
Twickenham yet. Will you give us the pleasure of your company on Tuesday
next? Mrs. Fleece will be delighted. Pack will meet you; and we can have
a few 'yarns' about the old place," concluded Mr. Fleece, in a perfect
burst of good temper and imaginary old colonialism.

"Thank you," said Bob, very haughtily, and taking up his hat; "I am
engaged, unfortunately. I will write to my father by the next mail, and
see what he thinks of it. Good morning, Mr. Fleece." And, without
offering to shake hands, he bowed to the partners and left the office,
only noticing that Mr. Fleece was looking as good-tempered as ever, and
only hearing a repeated expression of hope that "he would write to his
father, whose opinion was so estimable on all these colonial subjects."

"Hang it, Fleece," said the junior partner, after Bob had left, "why
didn't you let him have the money? Old Calverly is as safe as a church."

"Rather safer than some churches, Pack; but I know my road."

"So you say," was the answer; "but it strikes me you've hit on a short
cut to lose the agency."

"Don't you believe it, my dear fellow," replied the senior, more
goodtemperedly than ever. "Remind me to write to Old Calverly this mail.
He's had rather a hard squeeze himself lately, warm as he is, and it
would not do to let this young one get too deep into our books. He's
been gambling here, I know, and that the governor won't believe in at
all."

Mr. Pack, however, didn't think so, and went into his own room with the
opinion that Bob was a fine young fellow, and that if he had been alone
in the matter, the money should have been paid.

And while the partners talked, Mr. Bob Calverly was being driven rapidly
to Rupert Dacre's office.

"He's not an over and above generous fellow," muttered the Australian as
the hansom rolled along, "but if any fellow can advise another out of a
mess, he's the man."

The cab stopped. Lord Nantwich's private secretary was in.

"All right," said Bob, as he ran up the stairs, and with a wish that he
were a "buckjumper," with Mr. Fleece on his back, he knocked at the door
of Rupert Dacre's room.



Chapter XVI. Ways and Means.

THERE is, as a rule, no greater official dandy than your rising young
diplomatist; that is, in his official surroundings. Looking at them in
the abstract, there is not much apparent dandyism in foolscap paper,
large envelopes marked with the inevitable O.H.M.S., and in the
concomitant red tape. But it is astonishing how much can be got out of
them in the hands of one up to the work, and with the aid of polished
mahogany, green baize, morocco, brightly burning coals, and burnished
fire-irons. And no one understood these things better than the private
secretary of Lord Nantwich.

Preaching, as is the fashion, liberal ideas, no one could have been more
personally aristocratic, more internally strong in his hatred of the
profanum vulgus. So far as his own feelings were concerned, he would
keep them outside the magic ring, till their hearts were cold with
expectant waiting! He had, too, all the impressive manner of conscious
information on points utterly beyond the general public, so earnestly
cultivated by young diplomatists. It came naturally to him, that "I
really-can't-tell-you-anymore" sort of manner, that so many strive in
vain to attain. Perfectly well dressed, in the hands of a tailor whom he
could trust, and who returned the compliment, always selfpossessed and
unruffled, Rubert Dacre was, as Lord Nantwich had often boasted, a jewel
of a private secretary. A man to be trusted with official secrets. A man
to be consulted on occasional knotty points of official bye-play. A man
to be sought after, and when found, made a note of, in any case
requiring delicate diplomatic handling on the part of a subordinate
officer. A man with broad moral shoulders for a superior's faults to
rest upon; and, above all, a man not likely to bring forward his own
merits into undue or premature prominence. A man, in fact, perfectly
willing to play second fiddle until the leader's baton was within his
grasp, but then only too likely to fling it at the çi devanl leader's
head. He looked it all--every bit of it--on the morning after the
dinner, sitting in his private office, with the surroundings of official
dandyism around him in every shape. He had come down to the office at
his usual time. He had done an hour's writing with his usual ease and
rapidity, had sorted and arranged a variety of correspondence, and while
Bob Calverly was being driven to his office, sat back in a comfortable
but intensely official arm-chair, his head resting against the back, and
his hands clasped tightly behind his head. The important part of his
official work was done, and he was thinking. Not so far as outward
appearance went, unpleasantly thinking; those who did not know the man's
real nature might have surmised the reverse, for the eyes were full of
their usual calm indifference, and the mouth as inclined to smile as
ever.

"I wonder," so ran his thoughts, "what, setting aside any romantic
feeling for either of the two women evidently concerned, can be made out
of this Chatteris business. Surely something. Let me take a dioramic, or
rather dramatic, view of the situation and the characters. The first is
striking, and the latter important. Enter first, Mr. Saville Chatteris;
well, well; it requires very little reflection to tell me what sort of a
part his is. Then enter Lieutenant Fred Chatteris, who, however, exit so
soon that he is not worth thinking about. Then enter Mr. Cyril Chatteris
and Mr. Bob Calverly, and about these two I am not half so easy in my
mind, for they are evidently the lovers of the piece. As for the women,
there is Lady Loughborough, dangerous, but perfectly manageable; Kate
Ffrench, charming, but with a tendency to perverted ideas in the
direction of her affections; and, last of all, the soubrette, or
rather--for she is a cut above that--the little thing who so confidingly
calls herself Mrs. Chatteris. By Jove! I knew Master Cyril was a sly dog
enough, but I really didn't think he had the pluck, or the nous either,
for an affair of that kind. Hang me!" muttered the secretary, half
aloud, as one of his hands was unclasped and fell carelessly on his
knee, "if I think he has, even now. She was very confident about it,
too, coming down to his office in that way after him. A sign of intense
conscious innocence or equally intense utter shamelessness, which of the
two remains to be seen. The fellow is no fool; and he must have seen
that the other girl loves him. I thought, when I caught them in the
library, that she had refused him, but I have seen other things since,
and I am inclined to think now that it was nothing of the kind. No, I
don't think Master Cyril would stand a bad chance there at all; and
surely, with such a prize as that in view, he wouldn't run any risk of
getting into a scrape, even with such a pretty girl as the little
claimant to the honour of his name. Honour, indeed!--I'm not a woman,
thank heaven! but I wouldn't if I were one, be his wife for something.
Touching Mr. Bob Calverly, he's in love in that quarter, too, but the
odds are awfully long against him. Of Kate Ffrench, herself, my only
feeling at present is one of curiosity as to her probable fortune. She
is a nice girl, and would do uncommonly well with a little good
training, and that's what neither of the other two are up to giving her.
He's not a bad fellow, the Australian; but not much of a hand, I should
say, at that sort of work. Not, by any means, a bad sort of fellow. Well
in, too;--well in. I wonder whether he would bleed under a judicious
lancet. That last pull into me was a trifle heavier than I thought, and
unless something comes off at Chester, it will be a hard squeeze with
'your obedient servant, Rupert Dacre.'"

A hard squeeze indeed. Harder, perhaps, than anyone, looking at the
self-satisfied, self-reliant face of the young secretary would imagine.
Rupert Dacre was not a man to let Gath and Askelon generally know of his
grievances; but there were one or two among the initiated who could have
told a little about the pencilled mysteries of his last season's
betting-book. There are many men, who, without being known in the ring,
or at the corner, as household words, go in for a good deal of serious
betting; and Rupert Dacre had been one of these. Bell's Life had not,
certainly, chronicled his losses; no "Peeping Tom," or touting "Nimrod,
of the Field", had ever hinted at his having dropped heavily on
anything. But there had been a few bills done by him in the city. Bills
done by a man known to be possessed of no great fortune or expectations;
accepted by men whose names were not--Rupert was wise then--very
prominently before the world, and discounted by other men whose ideas of
lawful interest were tolerably commensurate with their appreciation of
the risk. Bills received, too, at higher rates of interest, some still
unpaid, and with not much hope of cash coming in to take them up.

He was not an extravagant man, by any means, for all his luxurious
lodgings, and perfect dressing; but his income was small, his official
salary moderate, and his expectations almost below zero. What wonder,
then, if he, too, on that morning had his troubles buzzing about his
ears, in spite of his calm eyes, smiling mouth, and easy lounging
attitude. Charley Ryle could have told something about him too. Could
have given some reason, perhaps, for a sudden knitting of the eyebrows,
and tightening of the lip, as the calm eyes fell for a moment on a note
lying on the table, bearing that individual's signature, and addressed
to Rupert Dacre, Esq. He has taken it up in his hand, and we can read it
over his shoulder.

"DEAR SIR."

"Confound his familiarity!" mutters Dacre, as his eye runs over the
letter, "it will be 'dear Dacre' soon, I suppose."

Your renewed bill for £470 falls due on the 3rd of next month. I need
scarcely remind you of the necessity for taking it up, as I have too
much cash out just now to renew again.

Yours faithfully,

CHARLES RYLE.

"Who the deuce can I go to now?" again muttered the secretary, throwing
the letter into the fire, as he heard a rapid footstep coming up the
stairs. I wonder if Cyril--but he's no good unless I can get him under
my thumb. Catch Master Cyril helping anyone unless forced. Perhaps that
Australian fellow might do a trifle. They say he has got lots of money.
Anyhow he drops it readily enough. Suppose we try--"

"Mr. Robert Calverly wishes to see you, sir," said a messenger, quietly
opening the door, and putting in an official head in the most officially
humble manner.

"Show him in," said Dacre, mechanically assisting the destruction of the
letter by a vicious dig at the fire, and the next minute he was shaking
hands with the man to whom he had thought of applying the pecuniary
lancet of friendly bill-backing.

"Ah! Calverly, my dear fellow, how are you? A little seedy after last
night, eh? I don't feel quite the thing myself. That room in
Jermyn-street that we know of is the very devil for gas and headache."

"I am seedy," replied Bob, feeling very nearly as awkward with the
fashionable secretary as he had done with the goodnatured man of
business. He took a chair, however, and tried to look as comfortable as
everything about him.

"I never smoke here myself," went on Dacre, "but that is no reason why
you should not. You will find some fine cigars in that box on the table
behind you. At least they ought to be good; old Nantwich smokes them,
and he is no bad judge."

But Bob declined smoking for once. He was new to borrowing, this young
man, even from his own set, and the feeling that he had come to do
something like it, was very nearly as unpleasant in Westminster as it
had been in Austin Friars.

A second or so more of silence. Both men were thinking of the same
subject, and both looked at the fire, deriving an equal amount of
consolation therefrom. At last Dacre led off.

"Well, Calverly, I'm very glad to see you, but as this is my office, and
not my private house, you will, I am sure, excuse my asking in what way
I can serve you? Surely you can have no political business?
Besides"--with a bland smile--"we don't go in for the 'colonies' here.
The other street for that work. But even there I may be of some use to
you."

Had a colonial appointment been in Rupert Dacre's gift at the moment,
and had his visitor been the possessor of anything approaching to a
decent amount of "ready," who can say that there might not have been a
little case of jobbery to be growled at. These things are done
sometimes, though men still prate of political honesty and fair dealing.
For the moment, indeed, Rupert was half inclined to believe he had made
a good guess at his new friend's object, and his heart beat high. But
only to be undeceived too soon. Only to be baulked at the fence of
circumstances, before which so many "bold riders" have been pounded. Bob
Calverly had no inclination to ask for a colonial appointment, and still
less had he any money to part with just at that moment. He looked at the
fire for a moment again, and saw nothing, looked into the unmoved face
of his diplomatic acquaintance and saw; if possible, less. It was very
clear that the only way to get anything out of Mr. Rupert Dacre was to
ride at him straight. In matters of money, men of fashion are very like
men of business. A trifle harder sometimes; and Bob saw by the
secretary's manner that the best plan was to come to the point at once.
And he did so only in time to prevent a similar move on the part of the
secretary.

"Look here, Dacre," he said, leaning forward in his chair, and speaking
with more emphasis than the town-bred diplomat had been accustomed to,
"I am in a deuce of a mess. Bogged, in fact. Not a regular breakdown, of
course," he went on, as, in spite of all his training, Dacre's face
underwent a sudden phantasmagorian change. "Only a bog for the time; but
it's over the axles, and unless I can get a pull out, I shall be more
inconvenienced than I care to say."

The metaphorical resumé of Mr. Robert Calverly's financial position
would have been certainly more intelligible to a bushman who had, during
his sojourn in the antipodean land of contretemps, "gone in" for
bullock-driving, than it was to the private secretary of Lord Nantwich.
But it was clear enough for that gentleman to understand that the
bleeding of Mr. Robert Calverly was an operation not likely to come off
on that occasion, and that assistance would be asked, instead of
offered. He was equal to the emergency, however, as he always had been.
No one had ever heard of Rupert Dacre as a particularly dashing man in
any particular line, by flood or field; but more than one man had
expressed a decided opinion that Rupert was all there in a pinch. And he
was so now. Another man might have been nonplussed, overpowered, at the
sudden change in the rôle he was called upon to play, but not so with
him. Like lightning, there flashed through his mind all he had heard or
seen in connection with Robert Calverly, his relationship to Sir
Valentine Yoicks, the wealthy landowner of Loamshire, who had been heard
more than once to say that "Bob was as fine a fellow as ever crossed a
horse;" his father's much-talked-of wealth and position in a land where
both had influence, as they have everywhere; his certainty of succeeding
to something more than a good fortune; and last, but not least, the many
ways in which he could be useful to that person most to be considered in
such a case--Mr. Rupert Dacre. The secretary had made up his mind almost
as soon as Calverly had finished speaking, and Bob reaped the benefit of
it. Had the young Australian been a younger son, with nothing in esse or
posse, Dacre would have paused before giving a direct refusal until he
had thoroughly decided that the petitioner could be of no possible use
to him at some time or other. In this case the odds were very long in
favour of the petitioner, and Dacre answered accordingly. Answered with
a slight, very slight, assumption of the blasé and paternal manner that
conduced so strongly to his influence in male society.

"I am very glad, indeed, that you have come to me in this way,
Calverly," he said--"very glad; indeed, I might almost say, flattered.
Now listen, old fellow"--the white hand was laid very gently on the
Australian's knee--"listen, and don't be offended. Is it money you want,
or advice?"

"A little of both," answered Bob, completely made easy by the other's
frankness of tone and manner. "I will tell you exactly how it is."

And in a few words he repeated to Dacre the case he had so
unsuccessfully made out to Mr. Fleece.

Dacre saw it all in a moment. The agent's scruples, Calverly's position,
and how he might turn it to his own ends.

"I could easily ask Sir Valentine for the money," said Bob, "but the old
fellow has been so kind, and, to tell you the truth, Dacre--I dare say
you have heard something of my family history--I don't think my father
would fancy my going to him."

"I can easily understand that," he replied with his airiest diplomatic
smile. "We see so much of that in our line. The fact is, Calverly, you
just want to raise the money for the time, and will be able to set it
all straight out of your next trans-oceanic budget?"

"Just so," replied Bob.

"Well, you have been frank with me, and I will be so with you. I can't
lend you the money myself, for the best of reasons, that I have not got
it."

Bob's face fell. There was just a glimmering of an unpromising look-out
in this instance, too. Rupert saw the fallen countenance in a moment,
and smiled blandly, as he went on,

"What a deliciously Arcadian fellow you are, Calverly. Surely you never
expected that I had fifteen hundred pounds to spare?"

"Candidly speaking, I didn't," said Bob, more truthfully than politely.
"At least, I didn't at first. It was your manner made me think you were
going to offer what after all I had no right to ask. I came here more to
ask your advice than anything else, and my excuse for doing that must be
my utter strangeness in London."

"Of course, my dear fellow"--with a smile more paternally blasé than
ever--"and I am more flattered at your doing that than if you had asked
me for money. I can assure you I am. Money I can't give you--advice I
can. Will you take it?"

"Will I not?"

"Well, then, oh! my Meliboeus of the colonies, listen. It must be known
to you, as well as to most young men--even though their interests and
pursuits are of a pastoral and, therefore, innocent nature,--that men,
like theatres, are often filled with what is technically called
'paper.'"

A metaphor rather beyond Bob, who didn't answer.

"In other words," went on Rupert, "when a man hasn't money, and his
friends are in the same predicament, what can they do?"

"Do a bill, I suppose," replied Calverly, whose inexperience by no means
amounted to positive ignorance.

"Just so. Their joint efforts are applied to the sending up of an aerial
messenger, or, as the city men say, the 'flying of a kite.' That is what
I should suggest to you. I can't lend you what I have not got--money,
but I can and will lend you my name, which I flatter myself will be good
for fifteen hundred pounds."

Flattery, indeed, Mr. Rupert Dacre; that is, unless well backed, as it
was likely to be in the present instance.

To Bob, however, the speaker had uttered the words of truth, and, above
all, of the most generous kindness.

"I'm sure I can't say how much I am obliged to you, old fellow," he
almost stammered, in the excess of his gratitude. "If ever you--if ever
you--"

"Of course," replied the still paternally smiling secretary, "of course,
my dear boy, if ever I want the same, you'll be ready. I knew that
without your saying it. And, now, doesn't it strike you, Calverly, that
the sooner we get over this matter the better?"

"The sooner the better for me," said Bob, his old gaiety coming back to
him. "But where shall we go--to the city?"

"Well, I don't think we'll patronise the city. I always prefer doing
business with the West End when I can. Are there not children of the
lost tribes who have pitched their tents amongst us?"

Bob suddenly stopped himself in his task of pulling on his glove, and
looked at his accommodating acquaintance.

"Children of the lost tribes! You don't mean Jews, Dacre?"

"Well, I don't in this instance. I merely applied the term to
money-lenders generally. But why do you ask? Have you objection to the
financial Hebrew?"

"Yes, I have," said Bob. "I've made a solemn vow never to have anything
to do with them. I wouldn't borrow anything from a Jew under any
circumstances."

"Well, it's lucky for you," answered the secretary, with a sneer he
could not repress, "that I happen to know an accommodating Christian;
for, generally speaking, the proud descendant of Abraham is the only man
who can supply the money on the terms we require it. Are you ready?"

"Quite," said Bob, and they went down stairs.

"Charlie Ryle," of Jermyn street, and Charles Ryle, Esq., of
Hampton-court, were two different persons in one respect at least.
"Charlie Ryle" always took money; Charles Ryle, Esq., lent it, that is
to the initiated.

"It's no good going to Jermyn-street, Bob," said Dacre, as they reached
the street. "I suppose those nags of yours will run us down to
Hampton-court. Is this your cabby? Jump in my boy. Limmer's."

Mr. Bob Calverly's nags were equal to the occasion, and it was not long
before the two gentlemen were shown into Mr. Charles Ryle's "study"--a
handsome, but slightly overfurnished room, with bookcase too evidently
seldom opened, comfortable reading chairs, a most orthodox
writing-table, and a bureau positively redolent of cheque books.

Mr. Charles Ryle made his appearance almost before they had time to look
round the room.

"Ah! Mr. Dacre," he said, "glad to see you, uncommonly. What good wind
blows you here? Too late for luncheon. But not too late for a bottle of
that tipple you tried last time. Allow me to ring the bell."

A pleasant-looking man enough, this ringer of the hospitable bell and
suggester of the exhilarating "tipple;" tall, stout, rubicund, and
cheery-faced, and yet one at whose door lay the ruin of more young
fellows than the good angel of truth would like to count. He had a wife
and children, too--though none of his "city" friends had ever seen
them--was kind in his domestic relations, and even went to church, and
put money in the plate. The clergyman at Hampton-court spoke very well
of Mr. Ryle, and had the most unlimited confidence in the respectability
of his "business in the city." Of the fifty or so who did doubt, none
lived in Hampton-court, and had they done so, they would probably have
soon found excellent reasons for holding their tongues.

The bell was answered, "tipple" was brought, cigars were produced and
lighted. Mr. Ryle's cigars were more than respectable if his business
was not.

"Capital nags those of yours, Mr. Dacre," said the host, in the midst of
a general conversation.

Rupert Dacre was a great deal too 'cute to come to the point at once.

"I wish they were mine, Ryle. Havn't you seen Mr. Calverly driving them
about town?"

Charles Ryle, Esquire, had most certainly seen Mr. Calverly driving them
about town. Charlie Ryle had seen Mr. Calverly in his own rooms in
Jermyn-street. He had heard, too, of Mr. Calverly at Limmer's, and knew
quite as much of the young Australian's position as Rupert was likely to
tell him. He had got up his "business in the city," and his house at
Hampton-court, through that very useful habit of knowing all he could
about everybody.

"Ah, Mr. Calverly's, are they?" he said, with a smile. "Deuced good
steppers, I should say. But I suppose you're too well used to good
cattle, Mr. Calverly, to think them anything very wonderful?"

"Oh, they are good enough," said Bob, who was more anxious to see the
ascension of his kite than to hear the praises of his horses.

"Good enough to take us back to town in time for dinner, old fellow,"
said Dacre; "for I intend to dine with you, and, therefore, Ryle, the
sooner we finish our business with you the better."

"Ah! business," said the man of respectability; "what a head you have
for business, Mr. Dacre. I thought you had come to have a quiet look at
the place, and might stop to dinner."

"Can't, indeed, or should be most happy," answered Rupert, with some
truth, for Ryle's cook was known to be a good one, and his cellar
unimpeachable; but it was not his game that Bob should see too much of
the money-lender. It might weaken his own influence.

"Well, I know you of old, Mr. Dacre," said Ryle; "if you won't you
won't. What can I do for you?"

"Nothing," said Dacre, "for me. For Mr. Calverly you can write a cheque
for fifteen hundred pounds. I will back his bill."

"You will back his bill?" said Ryle, fixing his eyes for a moment full
on Dacre's face, and then as suddenly fixing them on Bob's; "well,
that's very friendly of you, Mr. Dacre, and I am sure I am very glad to
be able to oblige a friend of yours. You won't grumble at the terms, I
suppose? Business is business, you know, Mr. Calverly."

Mr. Ryle's house might not be quite so well established as that of
Messrs. Fleece, Pack & Co., but his way of doing business was, to Bob's
notions, decidedly more agreeable.

"Well, your terms, Ryle; Mr. Calverly and I are rather new in this way.
What are your terms?"

Mr. Ryle's appreciation of Mr. Rupert Dacre's newness was so intense
that he absolutely laughed over it, as he said, quite as good-humouredly
as Mr. Fleece, but with far less apparent 'cuteness,

"Oh, twenty per cent, including commission; that won't break you, Mr.
Calverly, eh?"

Bob thought himself lucky in the extreme, and warmly denied all chance
of any rupture consequent on such a scale of charges.

"Just so! Just so!" went on Mr. Ryle, humming an air from "Il Barbiere,"
as he opened a drawer and rapidly wrote a cheque; "there you are, Mr.
Calverly. Kindly fill up this bill; draw on Mr. Dacre, he will accept,
etcetera, etcetera; and that is over. Three months--twenty per
cent.--Robert Calverly--Rupert Dacre. Right, sir; right as the bank. And
now, gentlemen, another glass."

Bob rose to fill his, and so doing, did not notice a rapid movement by
which Dacre, who had been apparently scribbling carelessly on a piece of
paper, tossed it over to Ryle. Whether by accident or intention, the
paper had a stamp on it. Many gentlemen do scribble carelessly even on
stamped paper, even diplomatic sentences.

The one more glass was finished, fresh cigars were lighted, and the
gentlemen strolled into the porch.

"One moment, Mr. Dacre," said Ryle, as Bob was buttoning up his great
coat; "there is a little matter about a passport for a friend of mine.
Perhaps you will give me a little advice about it."

"Excuse me, Bob," said Dacre, and he and Ryle re-entered the library.

Ryle's manner was completely changed now; so changed that, had Bob seen
it, he might have preferred Mr. Fleece's. His eye was very cold and
keen, and there was no smile on his lip.

"Safe, I suppose, Mr. Dacre?" he said, looking the secretary steadily in
the face.

"You know that as well as I do, Ryle," said Rupert, returning the look,
"or your cheque wouldn't be in his pocket."

"Perhaps not, Mr. Dacre," was the quiet answer. "Is his tether a long
one?"

"Long enough; but I daresay you'll see him again. He is as fond of
horses as you are; and if I were to give him a hint of that dark one
you've been keeping so snug, he would be dropping down here pretty
often. He told me the other day he should like to put in a good thing
for the Chester. Poor beggar! he'll learn better some day, I suppose."

"Under your hands he certainly will, Mr. Dacre; but look here, that
horse is for sale with all his engagements. Perhaps Mr. Calverly might
buy him; it would suit my book to a T if he did."

"Shouldn't wonder," replied Dacre, carelessly. "I'll speak to him about
it. It's as good a thing as he could do; for, to do you justice, Ryle,
you are about as gentle a Philistine as he could hit upon."

"So I am," said Ryle, dryly, leading the way into the hall. "Good-bye,
Mr. Dacre, and"--just as they reached the door,--"Oh! by-the-bye, that
little renewal of yours is all right; and after adding it on to your
note of to-day, I had better hand you this. Good-bye, Mr. Dacre.
Good-bye, Mr. Calverly--a pleasant drive."

Had any one directly offered Mr. Rupert Dacre a commission for bringing
a customer to a money-lender and horse-dealer, a blush might have risen
even to the unaccustomed cheek of the imperturbable diplomatist; for all
that, "this" was a cheque for three hundred pounds.

"Well," said Calverly, "that little matter is over--thanks to your
kindness. As soon as I have squared up for last night, I am off for
Loamshire."



Chapter XVII. Shows the Cloven Foot.

"SHALL you be home to dinner this evening, Cyril?"

Mr. Cyril Chatteris, formerly of Dym-street, and now of Acacia-road, St.
John's Wood, had dined out four nights running, and Carry was getting a
little angry about it. Surely he might be a little more with her,
considering what a lonely life she led. But, as her mother had often
told her, men had no consideration, and Cyril appeared to possess that
manly qualification to a greater extent than his pretty wife fancied.

"Will you be home to dinner this evening, Cyril?" she repeated.

Repeated it to a man who was lounging carelessly back in an arm-chair,
reading a periodical with an intensity that, to a wife not married a
month, was provoking. He looked up to answer, however, in a manner quite
as unsatisfactory as the scene it conveyed.

"Can't say, really; but don't wait for me!"

Poor Carry had got used to this answer now, and so made no reply, but
went away into her little drawing-room, and began, with an uncomfortable
sensation about her throat, to try what consolation might be got out of
a pet canary.

But though a canary is pretty enough, and perhaps interesting enough in
the abstract, there is not much that is consoling in the feeding of it
to a woman who begins to doubt whether she has chosen wisely. The white
fingers were duly pecked at as the sugar was administered; the canary
did his best in the way of a song, but still the canary wasn't her
husband, and Carry felt very lonely indeed. Perhaps, if she were to
play, Cyril might come in and talk to her as he used to do. So she sat
down at the piano--her mother had been so proud of her playing, and so
had Cyril professed to be in the days of their short courtship--and,
with rather unsteady fingers, began a waltz, played it for a few minutes
with no result, changed it to a gallop, then tried a waltz again, and at
last commenced a song, in the middle of which, Cyril put his head in at
the door, and, carelessly saying "good-bye," went back into the passage,
through the garden, and out into the road.

Carry shut the piano, watched her husband as he walked slowly up the
road, tried to play with the canary again, and ended by throwing herself
into an arm-chair, and crying bitterly.

Poor child! Only one month married, and crying bitterly. Naturally
affectionate, her separation from her mother had intensified her
feelings for her husband, and she loved him very dearly indeed. But love
can be tried too far sometimes; and to be neglected one month after
marriage may fairly be called a trial.

And neglected, and to some extent disillusioned, Carry had certainly
been. Just as no man is a hero to his valet de chambre, so a good many
men are by no means heroes to their wives. Cyril Chatteris was eminently
one of these. The first illusion once gone, he was not a man likely to
establish another. Gentlemanly by training, and refined by instinct, his
utter selfishness still stood in the way of that perfect good breeding
founded on a consideration for the feelings of others.

He did not beat Carry, nor was he ever harsh to her. But he was very
often indifferent, occasionally almost rudely so, and he decidedly
neglected her. No woman likes to be left alone from eleven in the
morning of one day till four or five in the morning of the next; and
with Carry this had become a common occurrence. For the first fortnight
or so after their settlement in St. John's Wood, Cyril had been all that
the girl could desire. He had bought her nice dresses, charming
jewellery, a "dear little cottage piano;" and their tiny house was as
prettily furnished a dovecote as two birds would care to coo in. Carry
would play and sing in the evening, or Cyril would read to her. In the
day they would go for long walks or drives into the country, and all
went merrily.

But this soon changed, and the most cruel part of it was that the poor
girl, with the quick tact of her sex, saw the reason for it--her husband
had married beneath him. He felt it, and she could not deny it. In all
that was good, and pure, and kindly, the humbly-born woman was as
superior to the cold, selfish man who had marred her life by marrying
her, even more than he had marred his own--as light is to darkness. But,
intellectually, and in those indescribable little belongings that
breeding alone can teach, the inferiority was on the other side; and the
poor loving heart felt and groaned under the burden that had grown out
of a fancied paradise of love. When Cyril, in one of his confiding
moods, would talk of that world of mind and intellect, to her an unknown
land, the poor little listener, trying hard--oh, so hard!--to appreciate
what she knew to be utterly beyond her, saw, too clearly, that her
husband gradually grew less and less animated, and at last with a smile
of half contemptuous pity, called her "a dear little goose," and took up
a book.

And so there came neglect on one side, pouting and a slight tendency to
scold on the other; more neglect--more scolding--reconciliation,
followed by more neglect; and then, not scolding, but a sorrowful sense
of injured affection, deepening into a feeling that Cyril, with all his
intellectual superiority, could neither understand nor appreciate. His
wife still loved him very dearly, but his neglect had brought about a
habit of reflection, and the wife was beginning to see that, after all,
fairy Princes might turn into tyrants, and that her own position was not
quite so enchanting as she had imagined. To see, too, that it was rather
an anomalous position. In the first days of their marriage, Carry had
imagined that Cyril would, when the honeymoon was over, bring some of
his friends to see her. Not that she cared about seeing any but him; but
the girl had her full share of womanly vanity, and it was only natural
that she should like her husband's friends to see how fortunate he had
been in his choice. But the honeymoon passed over, and no one came near
them. Of his family she had only spoken once to him; and before the dark
look that came into his face as she did so, she had sunk into a silence
on that subject not since broken. She had no female friends either.
Cyril had almost savagely forbidden any correspondence with her mother,
and he had expressly told her not to make any acquaintances in the
neighbourhood.

At first she had thought this hard; but there was something about her
near neighbours that soon made her shrink involuntarily from any attempt
to know them.

There were other things, too, that puzzled her about Cyril. He often
came home, not tipsy exactly, but under the influence of wine; and then
he was neither agreeable nor good-tempered. Once or twice, two, he did
not come home for two days, and then Carry passed her time in alternate
attacks of trembling fear, jealousy, anger, and bitter tears. And still
no friends came to see them; she dared not, for fear of offending the
husband she still loved, write to her mother, and female adviser she had
none. The pretty fairy bower that had looked so charming in the distance
was, in short, a bower of her own fancy. The fairy Prince who had ridden
off with her was too like the false knight who only loved so long as it
pleased him, and then, selecting a fresh favourite, galloped carelessly
away. Like many others, Carry Manton, or, as she was called in the
neighbourhood, Mrs. Carter--that being the name in which Cyril had taken
the house--had made a sad, sad mistake, and was finding it out only too
soon.

Of Cyril Chatteris--Mr. Carter, of St. John's Wood--it can only be said
that he was, certainly as he deserved to be, very uneasy in his mind. He
had reconciled his wife to the change of name and retirement, by
strongly drawn representations of the fearful consequences of his
father's anger, and the frightened girl, unsupported by her mother, had
readily yielded to his wishes. But for all that he lived in a covert
dread of a discovery. Some of his friends might see Carry, and the
affair might leak out. So he engaged bachelor lodgings in the Albany,
and occasionally slept there, taking every care only to go out to St.
John's Wood in the most unpretending manner, and, whenever he could,
after dusk.

He went out, however, with Carry, as little as he could, and soon became
so exacting and disagreeable in this respect that the girl scarcely ever
stirred abroad; and then she drooped, and the fresh check began to look
slightly pale and wan, and Cyril became more nervous than ever. Was this
fear of discovery never to end? Should he take her abroad, or what
should he do? Day by day the worry, the strain on his mind, grew more
and more heavy; and at last, finding that his balance at his banker's
would bear the expense, he determined to take Carry abroad.

This determination made, he came home one evening in a decidedly better
humour, and told Carry--in words and tones so like those she had once
listened to, that they made her cheek glow and her heart flutter--that
he was going to take her on the Continent.

Poor Carry, worn out with loneliness and pining, was delighted at the
chance of a change; and as, leaning on Cyril's arm, she walked round and
round the garden, the fairy Prince seemed to have come back to the bower
he had so long deserted.

"How you shiver, darling!" said Cyril, as they stood by the garden gate.
"Let me get you a shawl."

He had not spoken or acted so considerately for days now; and as she
stood by the gate waiting for him, Carry felt that all her old happiness
was returning.

The sound of horses' feet was heard on the road. She looked up
mechanically. Two gentlemen rode slowly by; one she recognised as the
gentleman who had once trod on her dress, and followed her. He fixed his
eyes on her with the old meaning look; and, as before, she coloured and
turned away.

It might have been thought that Mrs. Manton would have wept and bewailed
herself at her daughter's departure; on the contrary, she was somewhat
elated after the first few days. Women, especially women in the
nineteenth century, are apt to regard the present as all in all; and the
worldly widow comforted herself with the reflection that her dear
Carry--that delicate little bait with which she had angled so
successfully--was safely married to a young man who, though "no fool,"
was easily to be moulded to the will of the conquering wife.

She was not a poetical old lady, this Dym-street lodging-house keeper;
so, though fond and proud of her daughter, she did not neglect her
household duties, in order to weep with picturesque grief in the back
parlour, but set her face resolutely to the task of finding out the
history and prospects of her son-in-law. This was not so easy a matter.
Cyril's friends were not her friends, nor his people her people; she
could not extract information in the course of a morning call, but,
failing access to that modern estrappado, she had another method--an
evening tea.

Mrs. Manton projected a tea party. She would ask Binns and Bland. She
doubted if Bland would come, but Binns she could count on. That poor
youth had been undergoing tortures which seemed to him terrible. Despite
Bland's consolations, which did not in the least console, he could not
tear the image of his love from his plebeian heart. In vain he wrote,
read, and wrapt up sugar. In vain did he think of Chatterton (who
perished in his prime), of Shelley, of Byron. In vain did he attend
working men's meetings, and speak there with such rude eloquence as
nature and the "Enfield Speaker" permitted him. In vain was he made
secretary to a branch of a Working Man's Association, (object, "the
Bloated Aristocrat.") In vain did he assume cynicism and write poetry.
Carry's ghost haunted him; her dark eyes dazzled his waking sight, her
slight form flitted through his nightly visions, her white hands plucked
back his soaring soul, and would not let it soar. So Binns grovelled. He
confessed that he grovelled. Confessed it with much heart sickness and
gnashing of teeth. The sun of his passion melted the wax of his Icarian
wings, and he tumbled to prosaic earth. If you can imagine the feelings
of a poet who cannot write poetry, you can realise Binns' condition. He
agonised to write, but his agonics were in vain; he tossed and tumbled
on his narrow bed, and vowed that he would make the world recognise the
name of Binns--alas! the world went on its worldly way, and Binns
wrapped up his sugar in silence.

When he received Mrs. Manton's invitation, you may be sure that he was
delighted. He should hear about his Love again; he should be able to
scowl and affect indifference, and to nourish his Passion. Binns
revelled in capital letters, and never thought save in heroics. He would
go to the party and be miserable to his heart's content he inwardly
vowed. Perhaps, by some wild chance, the Beloved might be there, and
then--O, bliss!--he could look the other way all the evening.
Self-torment is a luxury to lovers. I have known young men dress
themselves with feverish delight to go to a ball, in order that they
might persistently dance with other damsels than the Adored; indeed, one
young friend of mine who, making three guineas a week and spending ten,
goes through life under the happy delusion that he is earning his bread
by literature, has walked five miles in the rain in order that he might
pass through the room where his love was placed for sale, and pretend
not to see her. Binns was an adept at self-torment, and promised himself
much pleasure from the contemplation of his woe.

When he arrived, however, he was somewhat unpleasantly astonished at
seeing a "swell" lounging on one of Mrs. Manton's uncomfortable
ottomans. He turned to Bland, who was preparing--good genial soul--to
beam gratitude upon his hostess, and was not reassured by the puzzled
expression which suddenly overspread that gentleman's face.

"It's Dacre! What can he want here?"

"I know him," whispered Binns eagerly, as he pulled off his coat in the
passage; "he's a friend of His, Mr. Bland, and he came down to the shop
one day to ask after him."

Mr. Rupert Dacre was in great force evidently. He was faultlessly
dressed in the quietest of purple and fine linen. His social stop was
on, and he was discoursing eloquent music.

"He had just dropped in by the request of his friend Chatteris, to
enquire about a portmanteau. No portmanteau here? Oh! ha, ha! Mistake of
his poor friend--young married men, you know, do forget these things.
Well, never mind," (taking out watch). "He had plenty of time; was
engaged to look in at the French Ambassador's in the course of the
evening, and--what?

"Stop to tea! My dear madam! Delighted--but urgent business; unhappy
private secretaries to ministers, you know--Well, really now, if you
persist, my dear madam."

Mrs. Manton was radiant. The very man for her purpose She was thirsting
for news of her son-in-law, and here was a messenger dropped immediately
at her feet. Moreover, the vista of good society was opening before her.
This bearded gentleman was evidently some one. His conversation showed
it; and she trembled with ecstacy as she heard him accept her invitation
to "tea with us." I think, however, that the fact of the matter was,
that the astute Rupert had started from home that evening with the
express purpose of stopping to tea, and that the otherwise wily widow
had fallen into his snare.

Binns scowled at him; but even Binns, the radical and poet, was not
proof against the consummate ease and genial smiles of the "bloated
aristocrat." "Smiles and small talk are our stock-in-trade, and we have
the cads on the hip there, my boy," would Dacre say. "They may think as
much as they like, but they can't talk, you know." As to Bland, Dacre
overwhelmed him in a moment. "My dear Mr. Bland, we have met before in
public but never in private--permit me to shake hands with you. I assure
you that your name has been known to me longer than you imagine. Ah!
Mrs. Manton, dabblers in literature like myself are forced to
acknowledge--but I won't flatter, my dear sir."

Bland stammered something. He never liked the too genial friend of his
chief, and detected the false ring in his complimentary metal, but what
could he say?

"Mr. Dacre, Mr. Binns--Mr. Binns, Mr. Dacre," exclaimed the widow, in
that double-jointed fashion of introduction which prevails among ladies
of her stamp and education.

"Mr. Binns! Dear me, how strange. I am meeting all the lions to-night.
Pray, my dear madam, is this the Mr. Binns whose speech concerning
'Manhood Suffrage' created such sensation?"

Binns was astonished.

"Oh, we know everything, my dear sir," says Dacre airily. "I had
particulars of the speech the next morning. You are dangerous fellows,
you young democrats--dangerous fellows. Wheales was speaking of you the
other day."

Binns flushed with joy. To be called a "dangerous fellow" by such an
accomplished dandy as the man before him was pleasant to the senses, but
to be told that the great Wheales, the inspired Wheales, the reformed
and reforming Wheales, had spoken of him, was bliss almost too great to
bear, and for an instant the name of Binns seemed to be inscribed on the
blazing scroll of fame, concerning which Bland had discoursed so
eloquently.

The shabby reporter had retired to a corner of the room, and, after
rumpling his hair wildly with his knuckly hands, had subsided into a
discussion upon crochet and Balfe's music, with Miss Perkin, a red-nosed
young lady, who was considered "very genteel" in private circles. Two
more young ladies, one frigid and severely aristocratic, named
Jittlebury; and the other, plump and rosy, with dove-like eyes and
stubby fingers, whose papa taught music in the classic regions of the
Edgeware-road, sat together, and admired Mr. Dacre, the chubby one
tittering at intervals. The tea proceeded merrily. Bland began to thaw,
and talked really well. Dacre flirted outrageously with all the females;
and Binns, having had his life made a burden to him by reason of
buttered toast, and the necessity for "handing" the same, had almost
forgotten his wrongs in listening to his enemy the "swell."

As Dacre had said, "small talk was his stock-in-trade." He rattled away
upon all imaginable subjects, and never once winced when Mrs. Manton
sucked the butter from her fingers, or Miss Jittlebury choked in
attempting to drink her tea in what she considered to be an aristocratic
manner. His stories of the manners and customs of the aristocracy were
delightful, and the exquisite manner in which he described Lord
Chalkstone's flirtation with Lady Emily Sanssou, at once convinced the
party that he was what Miss Jittlebury termed hon famheel with the
British aristocracy. By-and-by, a song was suggested, and Dacre gravely
led the fair Jittlebury to the cracked piano, and bent his graceful
figure over her chair, while that virgin warbled the songs of the
secretary's boyhood, under the happy delusion that she was amusing him.
He bore it all with the most perfect fortitude, and it was not until
Miss J., assisted by Binns, informed the company that she was "going far
away, far away from Porjinnette," that Dacre crossed the room and sat
down on the rickety sofa, which supported the noble form of the widow
Manton.

"And when did you hear last from your daughter, Mrs. Manton?" said he.

The widow was taken aback. She did not like to say that she had never
heard from her daughter since that daughter had been spirited away from
her protecting arms by the infuriate son-in-law; she could not openly
tell him that the very purpose for which she had asked him to stay was
to discover where that daughter was living. She did not like to appear
at a loss for an answer, so she took the usual refuge of a woman--she
lied.

"Last Wednesday," says she.

Dacre, ignorant of all things, was put off his guard by this sudden
reply. "Oh, indeed! Ah! I suppose she comes to see you frequently. St.
John's Wood is within easy walking distance."

Not a muscle of the wary widow's face relaxed as she heard the
intelligence she longed for.

"Yes," she replied; "but Mr. Chatteris is so much occupied with his
literary labours that he seldom goes hout, and he don't like his wife to
travel about alone, which is nateral, more especial as she is a young
thing, which never knew what it is to want a mother's protecting harm,
though of course a husband's is very similar, if not more so."

"Exactly," replied Rupert. "Mr. Chatteris is very hardworked."

"He is, indeed; what with his papers and his money matters, he haint a
moment to hisself, and that's the reason why I see so little of him. Ah!
well--none but a mother knows a mother's feelin's," added she, with a
heavy sigh.

Dacre said, "He supposed not," and fell to thinking. "Chatteris's
literary labours." Then he was writing again. Moreover, the "little
thing" was "Mrs. Chatteris" evidently, or, at all events her mother
thought she was. Strange sort of scrape Master Cyril had got into. He
smiled sweetly as he thought what a great discovery he had made; and, on
the song ceasing, thanked the Jittlebury with such empressement, that
Hope began to flutter in that maiden's gentle breast, and to tell his
flattering tale with whispered hints of St. George's and "Good society."

But the widow had not done with her guest yet.

"Shall we 'ave a game er whist? I know you play Mr. Dacre. Joolier, my
love" (to the chubby one), "git out the cards! Mr. Bland, come and play
a rubber."

Dacre for the moment was overcome. The widow was irresistible, and
before he could frame a decent excuse for departure, he found himself
seated at a very shaky table with the widow as a partner, and "Joolier"
cutting with that lady for the privilege of dealing.

The Mantonian idea of whist was somewhat opposed to that entertained by
Mrs. Sarah Battle. She laughed and talked, and recovered cards, and
marked points which she had no right to mark, and yet played with a
certain boldness and defiance that, when joined to the prudence of
Dacre, proved beyond measure successful. Bland and the unhappy chubby
one, who revoked three times, and trumped poor Bland's trick twice, were
mulet in the sum of four and sixpence each, to Mrs. Manton's great
delight; Dacre behaving "quite the gentleman," and gallantly refusing
"Joolier's" money with a bow and a compliment that made the virginal
ears of the fair Jittlebury tingle with jealousy.

During the progress of the game, however, Dacre elicited that Binns had
been a devoted lover of Carry's ere Chatteris appeared, and that he was
still supposed to be suffering the pangs of despised love. He also found
out that the marriage had taken place quietly, and that Cyril had been
obliged to go down to his brother's funeral on the same day.

"Accounts for the young cub being so melancholy," thought he. "I wonder
what he was about in the library with that Ffrench girl. My supposition
was wrong--he couldn't have proposed to her. Hum! Affairs look
complicated. If that old humbug Chatteris was to discover that his son
had married this girl, he would probably cut him off with the proverbial
shilling. I wonder to whom he'd leave his money. The Ffrench girl, I
suppose. Ah!--he ought to have saved money, too, old Chatteris. I might
do worse, upon my soul. I must confess, however, that for my part, I
much prefer Mrs. Chatteris. Bad taste, perhaps, but, by Jove, the day I
saw her in the garden she looked divine. If I was sure that she wasn't
married, I'd--but no, my wild days are over. I must go in for position,
and all that sort of thing. What a glorious old tartar the mother is! I
have stumbled on strange society. That young donkey, Binns, for example,
and that prosy-headed old blockhead, Bland. Perhaps I might make some
use of Master Binns. He is just the sort of cad who knows all about the
working of these miserable meetings. Mr. Binns!"

Binns bent forward.

"I am going to ask you rather a rude question, but I wish you would let
me have your address. Sometimes we official fellows hear of things
which--you understand--"

Binns did not understand the least in the world, but visions of official
fame and political intrigue rose before him, as he blushed and handed
the smiling secretary a limp card, whereon was printed the address of
his employing grocer.

"Mr. Bland lives with me," he said, as if that fact cast a halo of
intellect round the spot.

"Oh, indeed! Ah! very pleasant. Literary chat, eh? Two congenial minds!
Then, a letter sent to this address will always find you?"

"Always."

"Upon my word, I am very much obliged to you, and now I must really
think of saying good night. It is half-past nine. Really, Mrs. Manton,
your tea has been so excellent, and I have passed such an agreeable
evening, that I had quite forgotten the French Ambassador. I shall
barely have time to get home to dress. Good night, Mrs. Manton, and
thanks for your very pleasant evening."

Before he could quit the room, a ring was heard at the doorbell. "Good
gracious! who can that be?" exclaims the hostess.

Maria Jane, that long suffering domestic, had opened the door, and a
faint scream was heard, as though that young woman had experienced that
affection known among her kind as "a start."

"Lor, mum," cries she, regardless of ceremony in her surprised
eagerness, "it's Miss Carry!"

Miss Carry it was beyond a doubt. Miss Carry in elegant attire, Miss
Carry exquisitely gloved, and delicately booted, but Miss Carry with
agitated mien and closely-drawn veil.

The assembled party could not have been more astonished if a thunderbolt
had fallen in the midst. Mrs. Manton clasped her daughter to her broad
bosom, in wonder-stricken affection. Bland suffered from his
constitutional sympathy with persons in distress, the fair Jittlebury
made preparations for fainting on the shortest notice, Joolier screamed,
and poor Binns felt his heart knock at his ribs as he sank speechlessly
into the nearest chair. Dacre was the only one present who preserved his
equanimity.

"A flutter in the dove-cote, evidently! By Jove, how lovely she looks!"
"What is it, my precious, then?" asks the Manton. "Hush! don't give way,
dear--see all the people."

But Carry was evidently overcome with grief, for she could do nothing
but sob violently.

"Take me away, mother," she whispered.

Dacre came to the rescue.

"You are tired, Mrs. Chatteris, I see. Mrs. Manton, you had better let
your daughter lie down for a little. Her nerves have been shaken by
something or other. Don't speak, my dear madam, I beg. Good night."

As the door closed upon the mother and daughter, escorted by the
sympathising Jittlebury, the genteel Perkin, and the agitated Joolier,
he resumed, in his airiest tones,

"Come, Bland, we had better go. Some little family quarrel, I suppose.
My young friend Chatteris is so hot tempered. Amantium irae, you
know,--amoris integratio. What a lovely night for walking! You're sure
about that address, Mr. Binns? Good night, then," and he was gone.

But not to the French Ambassador's. He turned down the street towards
the north-west part of town, and then suddenly stopped.

"If he had been at home," said he, "he would have stopped her coming.
Now, if Master Cyril is from home at nine in the evening he would not be
home before the small hours. I'll go to the Pegasus; he's sure to be
there."

Bland and Binns wondered much on their homeward way.

"He's been ill-treatin' her, the scoundrel; I know he has!" cries the
ferocious Binns. "D--n him, if I thought he had, I'd murder him!" "My
dear fellow!" expostulates the gentle Bland.

"Oh! it's all right of course. But--well, never mind, I'm a miserable
beggar I know, but I wouldn't strike a woman. It's the act of a mean,
dastardly coward! And yet this man is honoured and respected," continued
the Orator, addressing the street lamps. "He has friends, and wealth,
and home. Curses on the miserable social system that binds men as slaves
to the wheels of the revolving car of Juggernaut!"

Bland laughed, but very gently.

"My dear boy, you talk nonsense, and assume what may be untrue. The car
of Juggernaut doesn't revolve, and you have no proof that Mr. Chatteris
has been ill-treating his wife."

Binns growled, but made no reply.



Chapter XVIII. In which Bob Thinks About Returning to Australia.

THE days lagged drearily at Matcham. A gloom seemed to have fallen on
the old house. The winter sun looked coldly down upon the shivering
trees in the park, and the winter wind wailed round about the quaint
gables, and whirled the withered leaves hither and thither at will.

Saville Chatteris still preserved a decent outward show of dignity, but
his heart was sore within him. It is not a pleasant thing for an old man
who has worshipped Mammon and Society all his life long to find that his
days wax barren and joyless, and that grim death draws nearer and nearer
day by day. Yet the old man was gradually confessing to himself that his
life had been a mistake. He had heaped up for himself no riches of
affection or honour, and the moth and rust of ennui and satiety were
corrupting the sordid treasures of worldly respect that he had toiled
for so long and so earnestly. The death of his firstborn weighed heavy
on him. The good name of the Chatteris family had been the idol of his
life; and his second son had, in his father's eyes, disgraced that good
name for ever.

Cyril Chatteris, whatever he might be to the world, was to his father a
dishonest and dishonoured man. The skeleton had been hidden, it is
true,--had been wrapped up and put away in a doubly-locked closet, and
its ghastly bones covered with the sweet-smelling herbs of repentance
and promise of amendment. But it was there nevertheless.

The accounts of his son's doings had not been cheering. That good
fellow, Dacre, who had been entrusted by Mr. Saville Chatteris with the
task of steering Cyril's bark through the shoals and quicksands of
youth, wrote diligently of his protégé's progress; but the letters were
not satisfactory. They did not report any new crime, or any glaring
dereliction from social virtue, but they were utterly barren of all
positive good news. Cyril had not done any of the things he ought not to
have done, but it seemed from Mr. Dacre's elegantly worded epistles,
that he had left undone many of those things that he ought to have done.

"Cyril seems to have become a determined misanthrope," wrote the kind
secretary. "He is seldom seen in good houses now, and though I am bound
to say, my dear sir, that I have never by any chance heard of him save
as a perfectly gentlemanly, and even rising and clever, young man, still
you, sir, who know the world so well, cannot but feel somewhat annoyed
at your son voluntarily absenting himself from that society which his
father's position, and his own abilities, so well qualify him to
ornament. I have frequently urged upon him the necessity for
establishing his position; but he rejects my advice, and seems, I regret
to say, to lean towards that Bohemian world which destroys so many young
men of promise, and which, though necessary no doubt, is scarcely the
sphere in which your son should move."

This letter, written by Mr. Dacre the morning after an "opera supper,"
at which he had been the presiding genius, was but an echo of many that
were read and deplored over in silence by the late chargé d'afaires at
Krummelhoff. The sun of the Chatteris family threatened to set in
Bohemian midnight, and the heart of its Head was heavy at the prospect.

"If Fred had only lived, this would not happen," said the old man to
himself.

Fred had been all that he could desire--handsome, honourable,
debonnaire, and an ornament to society; moreover, the old man fancied
that the dashing dragoon might have "ranged himself" after a year or so,
and made Kate the partner in such ranging. Now Fred was gone, Cyril was
disgraced, and Kate was losing her good looks.

Poor Kate! First love is a very pleasant thing for poets to write about,
but it is not so utterly without alloy as they would have us imagine.
The jealousies, the heartburnings, the fevers of expectation, the
sickness of hope deferred, the pleasures and the pains which go to make
up that bitter-sweet that men call love, are pleasant to look back on;
but I question much if, at the time, we are so violently happy as the
poets would have us. Perhaps we remember only the sweet, and forget the
bitter. It may be so; but hopeless love is the only real love after all.
Alas! we burn, we groan, we toss, and cry aloud; we sonnetise, and make
our lives burdens to us for the love of one fair face. Fortune is kind,
perchance; the soft eyes smile upon us alone, the sweet lips murmur love
words for our ears only; and, lo! we find the fruit but ashes in the
mouth; the violet eyes are but common grey after all the exquisite love
songs but childish prattle; and we go down to our deaths with the ghost
of another memory haunting us. We cannot animate the dry bones, our dead
loves will not live for us again; perhaps it is better that they should
not.

Kate was in love. It is a remarkable fact, and one which explains much
human misery, that women have a predilection for forming passionate
attachments to men who are in every way unworthy of them. In some few
instances their love is so violent that it blinds their eyes for longer
than the usual period of married kittenhood; in most cases, however,
they speedily find that their idols are but common clay, and their
"relief must be to loathe them." A marriage such as this must be a house
of bondage indeed; but the women slaves work well, and the social
Pharaoh hardens his heart, and "will not let the people go." What a
curious farce it is that we are playing, and how glad some of us will be
when the curtain falls, and we can wash the paint from our faces and go
Home!

Kate thought she was in love with her cousin. He was in disgrace, she
guessed; in trouble of some kind, she knew; he had told her that he
loved her, and he was unhappy--all excellent reasons for giving her
heart away. Moreover, the beloved object was far away, and this
circumstance invested him with numerous qualities that were not his own,
but belonged properly to Lancelot, and Sterforth, and d'Artagan, and Mr.
Carlyle, and other heroes of these modern days. So Kate loved in
silence, and set up a graven image for herself, and worshipped it duly;
all unwitting that another young man was rapidly fashioning her own
likeness into that of a goddess, and was, in his turn, bowing down
before it.

This young idolator was Mr. Bob Calverly. That young Australian had
commenced to economise, but had not got on with the task as well as he
had expected. He had fulfilled his threat of "cutting the concern," and
had presented himself at the Hall in the character of a sportsman. There
was plenty of fun at sturdy old Sir Val's place in the winter season.
The usual complement of London dandies, eager for the slaughter of game
and the hunting of foxes; the usual complement of pretty girls, who
dressed in the latest fashion of the Rue Bréda, and talked like a
decoction of Shaftesbury and water; the usual mixture of matchmaking
mothers, husband-hunting daughters, "jolly fellows," and "funny
fellows," and "clever fellows," and "fellows who had written books, you
know," and "fellows who travelled, and all that sort of thing;" in fact,
"fellows" of all kinds and species but one. As Ponsonby often declared,
"I like going to Yoicks' place, because you never meet any 'stuck-up
fellows' there, you know," which was true. The Hall was a place for
jollity and revelling--always within the limits of becoming mirth.

Into this genial atmosphere had the young Australian dropped, but he was
not so well disposed to enjoy it as heretofore. In the first place, he
was in debt; not to any great extent certainly, but enough to make him
anxious concerning mails, and economical in personal expenditure. He had
paid off his I.O.U's by the assistance of Dacre and his friend Mr.
Charles Ryle, but he did not quite see how Mr. Charles Ryle himself was
to be paid. The expected remittances had not arrived, and Messrs. Pack
and Fleece were inexorable. So Bob went down to the Hall, and hunted
three times a week, and made all sorts of good resolutions touching
economy, and gambling, and borrowing money. Moreover, for the first time
in his life, he was in love. From the moment when Kate, queenly and
benignant, had swept in from the terrace at Matcham, Mr. Robert Calverly
was in love. He confessed to himself that his love was hopeless, that
such a goddess as Chatteris' cousin would never look upon a rough,
uncouth fellow, like himself--a fellow who was unused to drawing-rooms,
and who always "turned over" music four bars too soon. He remembered how
silent he used to sit on those occasions when he was a guest at Matcham,
and how Lady Loughborough snubbed him; and how the courteous host, after
vainly attempting to discuss the Schleswig-Holstein question, would say,
with a weary smile, "Any more wine? No? Then we will join the ladies."
He remembered how Dacre, that all-accomplished Dacre, had hinted that
Miss French was éprise with her cousin Cyril, and how clever Cyril was,
and how he could talk, and sing, and understood books, and music, and
pictures, and a thousand things of which he, Bob, was ignorant.
Remembering these things, he tormented himself, and burned to do some
deed of might, which would perforce bring the eyes of his ladyelove to
regard him with interest.

Kate was very fond of Bob Calverly. I use the word fond in its most
innocent meaning. She liked the young fellow, who was so bright and
cheerful, and never languid or peevish like some of those "finer
spirits" she had met with. She liked his honest admiration, his
eagerness to oblige, and his blundering good-humoured ways. She was a
quick-witted girl, and saw at a glance that beneath the unpolished
surface of poor Bob lay a heart of gold. But she did not love him--oh!
dear, no! Her heart never beat quicker at his approach, her face never
flushed scarlet at his sudden presence, she was never coquettish with
him, she never sent him on absurd errands; she was never ill at ease
when he was stumbling through his small talk, but nodded and smiled, and
took him by the hand and helped him out of the conversational mire with
good-natured indifference. She was not in love--with anyone but Cyril.

Bob, however, had come to a great determination--he was going to ask
Kate to marry him. This idea which, some three months back, would have
seemed to him so ridiculous, appeared now, by mere force of importunity,
the most natural thing in the world. He had ridden over to Matcham twice
since he had returned, his father's intimacy with Saville Chatteris
gaining him admittance to that house of mourning. He had been received
by Kate on each occasion, and each visit had fed the fire which consumed
him. Cyril was out of the way; his name was never mentioned between
them, and Bob thought that Miss French had forgotten the cynical,
effeminate young man who never wrote or gave sign of his existence.

Cheating himself into this belief, he arose one morning with a fixed
idea. He would go over to Matcham that very morning and--well he would
not exactly promise himself that he would ask her then and there, but if
he saw an opportunity he would take it. He was shilly-shallying on the
brink, you see, but a very little would turn the scale in favour of
jumping in.

It was a hunting breakfast at the Hall, and when Bob appeared in
ordinary costume, loud cries arose.

"Not coming, Bob!" cries Ponsonby, who had performed that hazardous but
well-intentioned feat known as "tooling a fellow over in his drag" the
night before--"why, what's the matter?"

"The loveliest hunting morning this season!"

"Oh, Mr. Calverly, and you promised to look after poor little me. What
shall I do?" and Mrs. Barbara Blackthorn, a timid creature of twelve
stone four, languished at him from beneath the most cunning of
"bell-toppers."

"'Pon my soul, Calverly, it's too bad," says Colonel Brentwood, with a
touch of sarcasm in his tone. "We all looked to you to show us the way."

"Why, Bob, my boy," roars the jovial squire, "miss the best day of the
season! We draw Pakenham Wood to-day!"

Even this powerful attraction seemed powerless for Bob, for, muttering
something about "business at Kirkminster," he proceeded to breakfast
gloomily.

"Our young friend has lost his heart," whispered the gallant major to
his neighbour, Mrs. Eversley, "the prettiest widow in the shire," as her
military admirers termed her.

"Indeed!" Who is the fortunate maiden? I like Mr. Calverly. He is not
like you battered men of the world."

"I am as innocent as a child, my dear madam," said the major, with his
mouth full of pie.

"You're a dreadful man, and I hate you," returned the lady sweetly.
"Answer my question at once."

"I believe that old Chatteris's niece is the young lady."

"Oh, indeed!" cried Mrs. Eversley, tossing her head--Kate had "cut down"
the fair widow gallantly on two or three occasions. "You don't say so!
What fools men are, to be sure. It can't be for her looks, and I know
that she hasn't a penny. Ham? Well, just the minutest atom."

"I shouldn't be at all surprised if Master Bob's 'business' should take
him to Matcham," returned the major, deftly shaving at that luxury.

"You would never be surprised at anything, I know. Oh, you men--you men,
you have no soul."

With which remark the lively widow addressed herself to the ham, and
spoke no more.

The major was right. No sooner had the usual bustle attendant upon
mounting commenced, than Bob stole away, and was soon cantering down the
country road to Matcham. As he felt the springy stride of his horse
under him, his spirits rose, and the prospect didn't seem so desolate as
it had done when he plunged savagely into his icy tub two hours before.

Old Sam, Bob's "own groom" and sworn henchman, watched his master's
retreating figure with interest.

"I wonder whear he be agoin' tew now at that pëace," was his muttered
reflection. "Master Bob dew 'ack wi' an uncommon loose rein, he dew
surelie."

But when Bob saw the leafless woods of Matcham top the hill, he drew
bridle, and even went some two miles out of his way to gain time. At
last he reached the well-known gates, and in another ten minutes his
horse's hoofs crunched the crisp gravel under the house windows.

"Master was in the library," the servant said; "but would Mr. Calverly
walk into the drawing-room?"

Once there, Bob's courage fell again. He tried to take interest in two
heads by Greuze, and a Birket Foster, but failed utterly; and when Miss
Kate appeared, he found nothing better to say in the first five minutes
than a remark touching the weather, which was cold, he said, and his
visit, which was early.

Kate assented to both propositions, and wondered what made the young man
come over at ten o'clock in the morning.

"I thought you would have been at the meet, Mr. Calverly," she said.
"Well, yes, I thought of--but, you see--in fact, I didn't go to-day."

There was a spice of mischief in Kate, and, utterly unsuspecting the
real reason of his visit, she said,

"It is strange that you should absent yourself. What will Mrs. Eversley
say?"

"Mrs. Eversley! I'm sure I don't know."

"What! You haven't quarrelled, have you? I'm afraid you are a flirt, Mr.
Calverly."

This accusation took Bob so fairly aback that he lost his mental
balance. "You, of all people, should not think that, Ka--Miss Ffrench."
Kate blushed, but she would not see the drift of the answer.

"Well, perhaps it is wrong of me to say so, Mr. Calverly, though Cyril
is responsible for the report."

Cyril--always Cyril!

"You are always referring to Mr. Chatteris," said Bob, a little hotly.

Kate blushed deeper this time, but she was not driven to bay yet.

"Of course I am; we are like brother and sister, you know. How is he,
Mr. Calverly? Have you heard? He never writes to us, and the only news I
ever hear are from Mr. Dacre, who corresponds with Mr. Chatteris a great
deal."

"I saw Mr. Dacre in London," says Bob, rushing at the opening. "He seems
to have an easy life of it."

"Oh dear, no," says Kate, shaking her head wisely. "Mr. Dacre is very
hard worked. I wish Cyril only worked half as much. I am afraid he is
too fond of amusement."

Bob was at a non-plus. He couldn't discuss Cyril, so he tapped his boots
with his whip, and asked how Lady Loughborough was.

"My aunt is suffering from one of her nervous headaches."

This was not getting any nearer to the subject.

"I haven't seen you out riding much lately, Miss Ffrench."

"No, I have not been out at all since poor Fred's accident."

Bob immediately cursed himself for being such a brute as to forget, and
stammered something in apology. He then gazed vacantly into space, let
his whip fall, and then picked it up with great deliberation.

"I wonder what makes him so stupid this morning," thought Kate. She took
out her watch. "You'll stop to lunch, Mr. Calverly?"

"No, thanks," cries Bob, starting up. "I must be back by mid-day. In
fact, I just came over to--to see you, and to, in fact--"

Kate had risen alarmedly. Her instinct told her that something was
coming, but she made a brave effort to appear unconcerned.

"Well then, if you can't, good-bye."

Bob was in for it now. He seized the outstretched band and held it
tightly. "I came over this morning to ask if you would marry me, Kate,"
said he, rapidly, with his eyes fixed on the floor.

"Mr. Calverly!"

Bob had found his tongue now.

"I have loved you ever since I saw you, and will never marry anyone but
you. You will not refuse me, Kate. Believe me, I do love you. I know
that I cannot make fine speeches and all that, but I love you sincerely,
and will do all I can to make you happy. Oh! do not refuse me, my
darling--do not--I love you better than anything in this world, and will
love you, please God, till I die."

There--he had said it at last. The words came out of his lips almost
without an effort. It was not a "fine speech;" but it was sincere
enough. Kate, with flaming face, tried to withdraw her hand: but Bob
held it fast. "Oh! Mr. Calverly, I never expected this. I am sorry. I
did not know; believe me, I did not."

"Answer me, my darling," cries Bob, growing bold enough to kiss the
trembling fingers he held.

Kate flashed out on him at once.

"Let go my hand, sir! I cannot marry you! I--I--Oh! please go, Mr.
Calverly; and forget that you have ever spoken to me as you have done."

This was a cool request, and Bob thought so. He dropped the hand he held
and walked to the door, with mingled feelings of shame and anger, and
jealousy, and a faint sense of the ludicrous, and thankfulness that no
one had seen him.

"Good-bye, Miss Ffrench," said he.

Kate bowed her head. Something in the accent of the simple words touched
her, for as the door closed, she sank back on the ottoman and burst into
tears.

Bob rode furiously down the park, and felt that if a fence twenty feet
high was before him he could clear it. She loved Cyril! He felt sure of
it, and she would never marry any one else, and his life would be
miserable, and he would go back to Australia at once, and, "by Jove, the
hounds were running close to him!"

In his present condition of mind he felt ready for anything. He pulled
up and listened. He could hear them distinctly. Greyfriar trembled in
every limb, and pricked his ears furiously. "Steady, lad, steady! By
Jove, here they are! That's old Bellow leading, and Huntsman, and
Hautboy, and Cheerful and Chanter, and Laggard, and Linkman!" Away they
go, three fields to the right. Crash over the hedgerow tumbles the
excited Greyfriar, and Bob, cramming his hat on to his head, fixes his
eyes on the leading hounds, and goes off at score.

The hounds were close to their fox, but the field were far from being
close to the hounds. The first object that met Bob's eager gaze was a
horse's hoof gesticulating wildly from behind a hedgerow immediately in
front of him. There was no time for words, and almost before he could
wink Greyfriar took the bit in his teeth and bounded over an ugly hedge
and ditch, landing on the skirts of a red coat, and dangerously near to
the prostrate form of the major's struggling "second horse."

"Line, sir, line!" cries the major, indignantly; and then recognising
the familiar grey flanks of Bob's favourite hack, wonders "where the
dooce he can have sprung from?"

Whoo-oop! There he goes! The draggled brush sneaks under a rail but two
fences ahead of the hounds, and as Bob looks back and sees nothing but
his uncle's fleabitten roan, and the fluttering skirts of Mrs.
Eversley's habit going "in and out" of a "double" on the extreme left,
he picks up the curb a little tighter and feels that he is in for a good
thing.

The major having recovered his saddle, is "bucketting" Sabretasche by
Candied Peel out of Mountain Maid furiously, and the astute first whip,
who has been riding as if he had a large assortment of spare necks in
the wide pocket of his weatherbeaten "bit-o'-pink," comes alongside from
between a stiff fence and a low bough in that crumpled-up condition
necessary for the preservation of his head under such circumstances.

"Maarnin', sir! Maarnin'!" cries he, in answer to Bob's wildly
flourished hat, and in another ten seconds the game little fox is held
high in air in the centre of the baying and leaping pack.

The major appearing with a broken stirrup-leather and a muddy coat, is
greeted by the delighted Bob, and before the rest of the field can
arrive by highway and byway, the rejected lover is presenting a very
dirty brush to Mrs. Eversley, who has reined up, cool and radiant, by
the side of Sir Val's snorting and exhausted roan.

"The best run of this year," cries the master, delightedly rubbing his
horse's nose. "Mrs. Eversley, you went like a bird--never saw such
riding in my life!"

"Ah! Ponsonby, this is pretty well for the 'Clays." An hour and five
minutes, and as straight as a railroad! Bob, my boy, where did you
spring from? Sly dog, creeping through gates."

Bob disclaimed all such proceedings warmly, and remarked that he was
just coming home when he heard the hounds running, and happened to be in
time for the finish.

The fair widow shook her dainty finger at him rogueishly.

"I know where you have been, you naughty boy. Poor Mrs. Blackthorn was
left to the tender guidance of Colonel Brentwood, who was thrown out at
the brook in consequence. You shameful young Lothario!"

Poor Brentwood! That hard-riding gentleman was indeed bemoaning his hard
fate as he cantered savagely down a dirty lane in company with Mrs.
Barbara.

If Brentwood hated one thing more than another, it was the task of
"leading" a lady through "a quick thing," and when that lady was twelve
stone, under mounted, not pretty, and married to a stupid husband, of
whom she always talked, he may be forgiven if he was somewhat wroth at
the issue of his day's sport.

"What the dooce does the woman want to hunt for?" he murmured, as his
fidgetty thoroughbred plunged and curvetted under the influence of a
succession of handrails, which always caught the too redundant habit of
Blackthorn's better-half. "Why can't she stop at home and look after
that lout of a husband? Thank goodness, here are the squire and the
rest, and I can get a 'weed' with Jack."

But when the happy few that had been "in it" were reached, the widow,
who found Bob very dull and disconsolate, attacked the beau sabreur at
once; and, notwithstanding that she gave him permission to smoke,
irritated him beyond measure by a spirited account of the "splendid
run," and crocodile consolations touching his hard fate at being thrown
out "so very early."

Bob rode on alone; his heart was heavy. He was in no humour for
chit-chat and flirtation. Kate had refused him, and his life was barren.
He wanted to be alone, and think it over. Should he go back to
Australia? He had not answered the question satisfactorily when he had
given Greyfriar over to Sam, with instructions concerning a bran mash
and bandages, nor even when he reached his room, and almost mechanically
opened a note which lay on the table.

Crutched Friars, 15th December.

SIR--We beg to inform you that your note-of-hand for £1500, payable at
Messrs. Coutts and Co., has been returned to us dishonoured, and we have
to request that you will take up the same without delay.

We are, sir, your obedient servants,

Mr. Robert Calverly, The Hall, Loamshire.

GULCH AND SWINDELMANN.

"Confound it!" cried Bob, "it's Ryle's bill. I had forgotten all about
the date. Hang it, this'll never do."

There was yet another letter, which, short as it was, relieved Bob's
feelings much.

DEAR BOB--Got a letter from C. R., complaining about that confounded
acceptance. He says it's out of his hands, and that, if you don't pay,
the holders will prosecute. If you haven't got the money, you had better
look me up, and we'll see what can be done.

In haste, yours,

RUPERT DACRE.

"What a good fellow he is!" said Bob. "I'll go up tomorrow."



Chapter XIX. Liming the Twig.

DACRE was right; Cyril Chatteris had not gone home. He was in the
billiard room of the "Pegasus;" and when Dacre entered that classic
shade, he found him losing rapidly to Randon, who, with his customary
delusion strong upon him, was informing the half dozen men present that
he was "G-g-reat at b-b-billiards; he owned it, fuf-fwankly owned it."

"I say, Dacre, have you heard about the Cardinal?" cries Miniver. "They
say that Ryle's got him."

"Don't believe it."

"Heard so this afternoon. They say that Lundyfoot is smashed; lost a
pot, you know."

"Ah! And so Ryle's got his horse, has he? Well, he's a great clumsy
brute."

"Magnificent shoulders!" says old Martingale, a great "make and shape"
man. "If they run him straight he might do something."

"Lay you fifty to four!" cries Miniver, instantly.

"Well, thank you, no. I don't bet."

Miniver muttered something about "backing opinions," and "surly old
boys."

"Barnestaple, I'll gi-give you a g-game!"

"Let us plunge into the quiet pool," says Barnestaple.

"All r-right. I own I'm rather g-good at p-p-pool. Half-crown lives. I
own, I fuf-fwankly own, I f-feel in f-f-form to-night."

"Cyril," says Dacre, "I want to speak to you."

Cyril was very sulky, and looked so.

"What do you want to speak to me about?"

"Come out of this place, and I'll tell you. Whom do you think I saw
to-night?"

Cyril flushed. He guessed pretty closely.

"How should I know?"

"Your wife."

"My--what!"

"Why, the young lady who is at present Mrs. Chatteris."

"Where did you see her?"

"At her mother's."

At her mother's! How did Dacre know her mother? and what did he do
there? Cyril's heart beat quickly.

"I don't understand you," said he.

"The simplest thing in the world. I went down to Dym-street to take tea
with an old friend of mine, and met your charming little friend."

I have said that the unhappy hero of this story was not a brave man, but
he never felt nearer courage than now. His first impulse was to seize
his smiling enemy by the throat.

"Listen to me, Cyril. I want to know who and what this woman is? I have
taken the trouble to make myself acquainted with her family. It is not
remarkable for blood or breeding."

Cyril winced.

"What business have you to interfere in my affairs?"

"My dear fellow, I am in loco parentis. I am your 'guide, philosopher,
and friend,' you know."

"That will do. I hate that sort of nonsense. I want to know what you
mean."

"Well, I mean to write and tell your father all about this little
affair." "Tell him, then, if you like," says Cyril, driven to bay. "The
woman is nothing to me."

"Now, don't repudiate the mystic tie. She says that she is your wife."
"She lies, then! She is nothing of the kind."

Dacre looked admiringly at the young man, and then said, patronisingly,

"Indeed! Ah! I did not give you credit for so much firmness of purpose.
My dear Cyril, you need not trouble yourself to tell lies to me, because
I know all about it. You married the girl just after you came back from
Matcham."

It was bold play, but it lost him the game.

Cyril breathed freely. He did not really know, then; he only surmised.

"My dear Dacre, what stuff you talk. Do you want to make a penny novel
out of this miserable affair? I have got into a scrape with the girl, I
admit, but you don't think that I would be such a fool as to marry her,
do you?"

Dacre was beaten. With all his astuteness, he had not read the "cub's"
character rightly.

"Well, perhaps I am wrong, old fellow, but I really was afraid that you
had been committing some folly of the kind. Young men, you know, often
do foolish things. Well, she is a pretty little thing enough; but you
must really, 'forswear sack' now, you know. What would papa say?"

Cyril's fingers itched to grasp the collar of his tormentor. That any
man should dare to speak thus to him! He quivered with rage at the
insult. He had admitted to himself long ago that he did not love his
wife, but he felt the shame of his position keenly enough. It must be
borne, however.

"I can't give her up," said he, at length. "So it's no use talking."

"Why not?"

"Well, I can't--that is enough."

"Won't the lady go?"

Cyril blushed. He had an ambition to be considered a roué, and who had
ever heard of a roué who could not get rid of his Burden when he wished
it?

"I don't want her to go yet," said he, and laughed.

"I wish you would let me see this Pearl of Price. I will pay you a call
some day. Now, good night. I am glad, my dear boy, that you have not
made a fool of yourself."

Not made a fool of himself! That was just exactly what he had done. To
marry the girl was bad enough, but to find out that he did not love her
was worse.

The fact was that she wearied him. She was too loving, too easily
moulded, too slavish to please. In the first days of their acquaintance,
when she loved him less, she pleased him more. Now, a word was law to
her, and he was tired of being always obeyed. His warped and selfish
nature could not appreciate the beauty of a woman's love. Had his wife
been passionate, jealous, coquettish, he would have worshipped her; but
this conquest was too easy to tickle his vanity. If a woman crawled to
his feet, he would accept her homage with calm gratification, but he
would not love her. Did he fancy that he loved a woman, and find that
she laughed at him, he would rave about her, and sigh for her. The curse
of satiety had overtaken him early, and only forbidden fruit could
please.

He had quarrelled with Carry that day. She had besought him to make
their marriage public, or at least, to take her away from London. He
refused, of course, and she had cried and implored, and sobbed, until
some cursed sense of the ludicrous affected him, and he laughed at her.
She said nothing, but dried her eyes at once. Strangely enough, that
little action awakened in him some germ of the old tenderness; he tried
to caress her, but she withdrew from his arms. This gave him a new
sensation. The slave rebelled. He would exercise his pleasurable power,
and make her kneel again. But she would not kneel. He was annoyed and
angry, and his vanity was wounded. He would give her a lesson. So he
went down to the Pegasus.

When she heard the door shut she cried, and then waited for him to
return, in order that she might fall on his heart and be forgiven. But
he did not return, and her ardour began to cool. He was cold to her, and
he did not love her, and she had given up everything for him, and this
was not fair; it was not to be borne. The minutes flew, and the house
was lonely, and the piano out of tune, and the music old. There was a
party next door, and she could hear the soft strains of dance music.
Other girls were happy, and she was left alone in shame and misery. Why
did she leave her mother? She would go back again, and then Cyril would
be sorry and come and fetch her. She wrote a little note and tore it up.
He would know where to find her.

When Cyril came home and found his house left unto him desolate, he was
furious. He said to himself that he did not care, and that his wife
would come back again; but still he was startled into something very
like jealousy. Did Carry dare to love anything or anybody better than
himself! He had wearied, he thought, of her soft curved lips, and
languid eyes, and curling tresses; he was tired of tender sighs and warm
kisses and murmured love-words; but the thought that another man might
possess all this was gall and wormwood. Yet he would not go and seek
her. He would not be tamed by a trick like that. Cyril thought he
understood women, and imagined that it was a bad plan to submit. If he
had judged them by a real instead of an imaginary standard, he would
have seen that to submit is often to conquer.

"She will come back again in the morning," he said.

But he was wrong.

When the guests had departed from the Mantonian roof, Carry had a long
"talk" with her mother.

"He doesn't love me, mother dear. I know he doesn't, and I don't like
living as I do. It is not right."

The widow was at first inclined to endorse the proposition, but visions
of parental fury, and commensurate cuttings off of imaginary estates,
rose before her.

She did not rate Master Cyril's diplomatic talents high enough.

"He loves my gal, I know he does, and it's only a bit of a tiff I
suspect," was her inward comment. So she soothed her daughter, and told
her that Cyril was like all other men, and "wanted a little outing now
and then, you know."

"But he will leave me alone all day, mother, and then never speak to me
scarcely."

"Business is business, my dear," was the widow's sage reply; "and you
mustn't expect your husband to be allus danglin' at your heels. Lor! I
wouldn't take any notice of his tempers, not if it was ever so!"

By which ambiguous giving out she endeavoured to cheer the drooping
spirits of the Fairy Prince's bride.

"As to the marriage, my dear, that's all right. Don't you fret about
that."

So Carry was fain to drop off to sleep, sobbingly, with an inward
conviction that she was right, and that her mother did not take the
proper view of the case. But when in the sanctuary of her own chamber,
Mrs. Manton's thoughts assumed a different aspect.

"It can't be that he's a-trying to play the gal false! You'd better take
care, Mister Chatteris, for all your leftenants and Matcham Parks. My
gal's an honest woman's daughter, and she shan't lose her good name
through any trickery of yours, I can tell you. I'll jist inquire about
you, Mr. Cyril Chatteris. I'll jist ask Mr. Dacre about you. He's a
gentleman, he is, and he won't see a poor gal wronged, I know."

So the birds were flying into Rupert Dacre's snare quite charmingly.

That gentleman himself was not aware of this, and was beset with doubts
and fears. He did not know whether he should believe Cyril or not. The
boy spoke so readily and lied so calmly, that even the astute Rupert was
deceived. "He can't have married her; and if he has, why then, it's all
plain sailing," was his muttered commentary as he laid his head on the
pillow.

Next morning, however, he found a letter at the Office, requesting him
to go to Dym-street, and signed in a scratchy hand-writing, "Anastasia
Manton."

"So I'm to be mediator in the quarrel, eh? Well, I shall find out the
rights of the case at all events."

Carry was feverish with excitement, and looked betwitching.

"My daughter, Mrs. Chatteris," says the Manton.

Rupert bowed low, and Carry blushed. She had seen the aristocratic
Rupert before.

After a little chat about the weather, and the town, and Shakspeare and
the musical glasses, the widow intimated that she desired a private
audience, and Carry withdrew.

"Excuse me, my dear madam, but I cannot help congratulating my friend
Chatteris upon his choice. I never saw a more lovely creature than your
daughter."

This was, perhaps, a little too strong for the French Ambassador's, but
it suited Mrs. Manton's more vulgar palate. She bridled with delight,
and forthwith recounted the whole story of the marriage.

Dacre was almost surprised. He had not expected so much deceit in so
young a man. He kept his outward composure, however, and assured the
widow that such matches were far from uncommon, and that rich parents,
as a rule, were hard-hearted and prone to violence.

Mrs. M., whose knowledge of fashionable life had been gained at the
Surrey Theatre, smiled assent, but requested Mr. Dacre's advice.

Mr. Dacre pursed up his lips, and, endeavouring to blend Lord
Chesterfield with Dr. Watts, began.

"Ah, my dear madam, you task my poor powers somewhat severely. I have
the pleasure of knowing Mr. Chatteris's family intimately, and his
father is proud--very proud. Should he suddenly hear of his son's
marriage, he would probably do some injustice, of which he would
afterwards repent. There can be no doubt that your daughter would grace
any sphere, but you see that old people have antipathies and prejudices,
and Lady Loughborough especially is quite of the vieille roche."

This was the first time that the widow had heard of Lady Loughborough,
but she nodded as though Debrett was at her fingers' ends.

"Now, my advice is, that you proceed exactly as you have done. To let my
friend Cyril think that you distrust him would be to beget a certain
estrangement; while to encourage the natural but foolish suspicions of
your charming daughter would be cruel. If you will allow me, my dear
madam, to undertake the office of mediator, so to speak, between these
young people, I think that I can set matters right. I think that the
best thing I can do will be to take Mrs. Chatteris home this very
afternoon. Young men are often proud, and serious family quarrels have
arisen in consequence of a foolish display of pride. I will gradually
break the news to Mr. Saville, and hope that my influence with his son
will produce some good effect. You may rely on me to give you every
intelligence of your daughter, and I beg that you will always consider
me as your friend."

The widow was fairly swamped. She consented, of course, with pride and
pleasure; and Carry was instructed to put on her bonnet and go back with
Mr. Dacre.

The poor child half demurred; but the gentleman had been so polite and
kind, that she almost forgot her former dislike, and was argued into
submission.

The pair started, Dacre remarking that, as the "day was so charming, we
can walk, if Mrs. Chatteris does not mind."

So they walked; and as Dacre looked down upon the trim figure of Cyril's
wife, he began to envy him his good fortune.

"My friend Chatteris is a happy man," said he.

Carry blushed.

"I fear, however, that he does not appreciate the treasure he has
gained." This was going too far. Carry would not hear her Idol scoffed
at. "Sir!"--with a look as much like an insulted Princess as she could
achieve.

"Oh, my dear child" (another start), "your good mother has told me all
about your domestic circle. I know that Master Cyril has not been as
kind as he should have been."

"You have no right to say so," said Carry.

"Pooh!--don't get angry with me, my dear child. I am old enough to be
your father."

Carry laughed, despite her anger. His assumption of vast age was
amusing.

"You don't look so," said she.

"Perhaps not. But my experience,--ah well--" and Dacre finished with a
sigh that might have been heaved by the Corsair himself.

Carry looked up at him with a little awe. Here was one of the Penny
Journal heroes at last. Here was a man with but "one virtue and a
thousand crimes,"--a haughty, handsome, devil-may-care aristocrat. Would
the wolf eat her? The suspense was rather pleasant.

The wolf spoke again, but in very soft tones.

"My dear Mrs. Chatteris, you must forgive me if I appear rude, because I
am entrusted with a very delicate mission."

"Indeed?"

"I have undertaken to make Cyril's peace with his father."

"Oh, Mr. Dacre!"

"Of course, Cyril does not know of this, and you must not tell him. You
promise?"

Carry had all that delicious delusion about community of thoughts, and
absence of concealment, which belongs to newly-wedded wives, and she
said,

"I hardly know. I ought not to keep anything from my husband."

She expected him to argue or to plead: but he was too deeply read in
womankind to be taken in by so shallow an artifice.

"You are quite right," he said; "quite right. A wife should have no
secrets from her husband. So we will drop the subject."

This was hardly fair. Carry pouted and blushed, and looked askance. "You
little silly woman, you are dying to know all about it."

The language might be too free, but the accent was tenderly protective,
and she could not take offence.

"Oh, no, I am not."

"Promise, then, and I will tell you."

She laughed again.

"I promise."

"Ah! well, on second thoughts, I had better not tell you, because you
are sure to let it out."

"Oh dear no! When I say a thing I mean it."

"Delightful! I have found a woman who 'says a thing and means it.' "
"Mr. Dacre, you are very absurd."

"I am, I know; but you make me so."

"I?"

"Yes. Before I saw you--"

Ah! was the wolf going to bite? It was very wrong, Carry admitted; but
she half hoped so.

"You what?"

"I did not believe in such a thing as a constant woman."

"And do you now?"

He looked down upon her with a curious glance.

"I don't know," said he, slowly.

She blushed, and was silent.

They had reached civilization now, and Dacre's hat was in the air each
second.

"Lady Windermere! Ah! there's Jack Walton again. How do, Pakenham?
That's Lord Croftonbury. No, the man with the white hat; and Leamington
and Fitz."

"You seem to know everybody."

"Everybody worth knowing," said Dacre, who had been improvising names
for the last five minutes. "But you are getting tired. Let me put you
into this cab. I will come up to-morrow and see you. Now tell Cyril to
be a good boy, and not to quarrel any more. Goodbye."

He made his exit in the nick of time. He did not want to be seen walking
with so noticeable an unknown as Carry, and he had said quite as much as
he dared. On the whole, he was well satisfied with his morning's work,
and strolled down to his club with a light heart and a good appetite.

As for Carry, she was quite astonished when the cab stopped at the
well-known stuccoed villa, and started when she realised the fact that
her thoughts had not been of her husband but of her husband's friend.



Chapter XX. Wife-Taming.

CYRIL was lying on the sofa in the little drawing-room, with an open
book in his hand, and a cigar between his lips.

"Oh! So you've come back."

"Yes, dear, I have come back; and I am sorry that--"

"Of course. Be kind enough to be quiet now you have come back, because
my head aches."

And he addressed himself to a palpable French novel with assumed gusto.

This was the line of treatment he had determined on. He would not left
his wife see that he had been annoyed at her absence. He would assume
the rôle of a calm man of the world, one whom nothing could offend or
distress.

Carry was taken aback. Very little provocation would have made her rush
into her husband's arms, and weep out her penitence, but her pride took
fire now.

"I am going out for a walk," she said. "I only came in for a moment to
see if you had come home."

"Where are you going?"

Carry laughed.

"You are inquisitive?"

A thought crossed Cyril's mind, but he dismissed it instantly. He would
temporise.

"And, pray, how is dear mamma?"

Carry grew hot and angry, but she kept her passion down.

"'Dear mamma' is very well."

"Ah! I rejoice. Pull down that blind, my love; the sun hurts my eyes.
Thank you. What a treasure a wife is, to be sure!"

"Cyril, you are very unkind to speak like that."

"Unkind! Not at all. One cannot always be billing and cooing, and even
your charming little minauderies grow wearisome at times."

Carry's eyes filled with bitter tears. He was speaking harshly to her,
and he was speaking French, which she did not understand.

"I am very sorry for going away," she said, after a pause.

"So you have remarked before. I regret that you are sorry, my dear love;
but you might easily have avoided any annoyance to yourself by stopping
at home."

"I was angry at something."

Cyril would have given much to know what she had been angry at, but he
would not ask.

"You should learn to control your temper, my dear girl." Puff--puff.
"Young women in civilised spheres of life do not behave like the
heroines of French novels, without some valid reason."

"I don't know anything about French novels, but I had a valid reason.

"I beg your pardon," says this young Petruchio, ignoring the latter part
of the sentence; "I should have said the 'London Journal' perhaps. I had
forgotten that your literary tastes are not very refined."

Carry began to cry. The tormentor went on delightedly.

"Suppose you give us a little exhibition now. Let us see Lady
Bellarmine, or Lucy the Pirate's Daughter. You would do well upon the
stage, my dear. Mrs. Cyril Chatteris, as the 'Deserted Wife,' would look
well on the bills."

"Oh! Cyril, don't. I am not as clever as you are, I know; but you need
not say such cruel things."

The pitiful action of her hands, raised as though to ward off some cruel
blow, touched him, and he had half risen to kiss and forgive her; but he
thought of Dacre, and his "man of the world" model, and refrained.

She went to him, and kissed him.

"Forgive me!"

"I have nothing to forgive. I am only sorry that you were so foolish.
What made you go?"

"I don't know. I was unhappy. I thought that you had deceived me--and--"

She broke down in a passion of sobs.

Cyril was silent. A new idea had possessed him. Though he had denied his
marriage to Dacre, he had never contemplated deceiving his wife. He had
thought himself too closely bound to break his chains. Mrs. Manton was
too wary, and his wife--ah! his wife, he might deceive her, keep her in
ignorance, and perhaps----. A crowd of thoughts rushed upon him, and it
was as though a trap door had opened in his heart, and a flood of light
let in to its dark recesses. He loved Kate Ffrench, and he hated his
wife.

She clung to his knees.

"Oh! Cyril, forgive me. I will always believe what you say. I will never
go away again."

He looked down upon her raised face and streaming eyes. He had conquered
again, and the suppliant was kneeling at his feet. This constant triumph
was wearisome.

"Poor little fool," was his inward reflection, and then he raised and
kissed her.

"There, be a good girl, and dry your eyes, and we will have tea like
domestic persons."

She felt the contempt in the tone, and the expanded flower of wifely
love and obedience shut up its petals. He did not care for her. He
thought her beneath him in intellect and birth, and despised her. Well,
others did not. She was pretty and lady-like, and quite as good as the
well-dressed women she saw in the Park or the Gardens. Men admired
her--gentlemen. Mr. Dacre did. Ah! Mr. Dacre, he would not have been so
unkind.

She did not tell her thoughts to Cyril. In fact, the pair made up their
quarrel, and were quite domestic all the evening--Cyril reading the
"Princess" to his wife, while she buried herself in the cushions of the
ottoman, and wished that he was always in such good humour.



Chapter XXI. Selling and Borrowing.

BOB CALVERLY fulfilled his threat of coming up to town. He was on thorns
about the acceptance, concerning which Messrs. Gulch and Swindelmann had
written, and thought that, unless he succeeded in "taking it up," or
performing some commercial operation of like nature, he would be sued
and imprisoned instantly. Rupert Dacre was his sheet anchor, and he
inwardly vowed that, if he pulled him through the scrape, he would
consider him a friend for life.

Dacre, who was waiting his arrival, received him with empressement. "My
dear Bob, I am so glad to see you. Those confounded fellows--" "Gulch
and Swindelmann!"

"Exactly. Threatened to prosecute, or some nonsense; and as my name is
attached to the document, you see I was uneasy. But, of course, you can
put the thing right at once."

Bob's face fell.

"I am afraid that I can't, my dear fellow. I have not had any
remittances, and I am just as hard up as possible."

"That's bad; but, however, I half expected as much. So I made it my
business to go down to Hampton Court and see Ryle."

"My dear Dacre--"

"Don't thank me. I saw the ruffian, and told him what I believe to be
the state of the case; and he was rather huffy at first, and said that
you--that is we--had promised to pay, and that the bill was out of his
hands, and that money was 'tight,' and so on. But he made me promise to
bring you out if you came up, and that he would see if he could make a
further advance."

"A further advance--can't we renew?"

"Impossible. Gulch and Swindelmann never do that. If we don't pay before
the day after to-morrow, they will 'take steps' as they call it."

"Hang it!" cries Bob, rumpling his hair. "What's to be done?"

"Try and get some more coin from Charley, I suppose. You see, Bob, that
I expected you to put the thing right, and made no provision myself. If
you had only told me before, I might have scraped the money together
somehow, but I can't do it now."

Bob was hit hard. He believed in friendship, and so on, and did not like
to see such a good fellow as Dacre suffer on his account. So, after a
moment's silence, he took up his hat and said,

"Well, I suppose there's no help for it. Let us go and see Ryle."

Mr. Ryle was quite willing to see them; indeed, that wary money-lender
had a little scheme of his own which he intended, if possible, to bring
to a successful issue.

Mr. Charles Ryle was somewhat of a sporting turn. Like most men of his
stamp, the Horse, as a money-making animal, possessed great attractions
for him. He had owned several notable racehorses in his time, and before
he became "respectable" had done a very profitable business on the turf.
It is true that the horses which he was reported to own, won but rarely;
but perhaps their losing was more remunerative. When they did win, they
won as big a thing as they could, and no one professed to be more
astounded than Mr. Ryle himself. He became possessed of his horses in
various ways. Sometimes he bought them at quiet race meetings; sometimes
a trip to the Continent, or the Irish market, would result in an
addition to the stables at Thames Ditton, which were ostensibly owned by
a lean, wispy-looking man, by name Docketer, but which in reality
belonged to Mr. Charles Ryle. Sometimes he bought a "crack" on
commission, as a speculation, and sometimes his horses represented bad
debts.

The Cardinal was one of these last.

Little Miniver was right in his surmise regarding that animal and Lord
Lundyfoot. The Cardinal by Manxman, out of La Grande Duchesse by
Perigord out of Pantinella, dam Lady Lisle by Saunterer, by Sultan out
of Beeswing, had been the property of Lord Lundyfoot, and that nobleman
had been imbued with what he termed "a notion of the horse."
Notwithstanding the poor opinion entertained by the sporting world in
general concerning the Cardinal, his owner had entered him for various
races, and backed him heavily.

The result was in the highest degree unsatisfactory. Though admitted by
"Peeping Tom," and "O.P.Q.," and "X.Y.Z.," and "Scrutator," and "Orange
and Purple," and some other scores of anonymous sporting oracles, to be
"a great sticker through dirt," the Cardinal had stuck effectually in
the "ruck," and up to this time had never won a race. Poor Lundyfoot put
on his money with a tenacity of purpose worthy of a better cause, but in
vain. At last he succumbed to the pressure of fate and creditors, and,
as his croney and companion, Dick Waffles, remarked--"threw up the
sponge, sir; begad, and gave in!" Ryle possessed much "paper" with the
Lundyfootian signature, and after a touching interview with his
lordship, in a private room at Long's, consented to take the Cardinal as
part payment of his debt.

"You've got a 'crack' at last, Charley, my boy," said his lordship, when
the bargain was concluded; "I haven't been lucky with him myself, but if
you mind your p's and q's, by the Lord Harry, sir, he'll make your
fortune yet!"

Up to this time Ryle had not been satisfied with his bargain.

Mr. Docketer ostensibly purchased the much vaunted horse, took him down
to Ditton, and in a fortnight expressed his opinion that "he were the
biggest bullock he ever see!" When pressed for his reasons by Ryle, he
shook his head, and said, "He may be a good useful 'oss through the
clays, Muster Ryle, but as for racin' him, why I'd putt ten stone on
him, and run him tew mile."

Ryle felt dispirited. He had seen the horse run several times, and was
always of opinion that he ought to have got what he went for; and had it
not been for the well-known fact that Lundyfoot always "ran to win,"
would have suspected foul play. But Lundyfoot's stable, like Caesar's
wife, was above suspicion. A few private trials in which light weight
nags, with small boys on their backs, left the "big horse" six lengths
behind, only confirmed Mr. Docketer's judgment, and when that veteran
himself failed to get more than a mile in two minutes out of him, the
Cardinal was condemned as one of Mr. Ryle's failures. But he had taken
the horse with all his engagements, and did not feel inclined to forfeit
just at present.

"Something might be done by judicious puffery, and laying against him
all he could get," said he to Docketer.

Docketer turned his straw end for end, and plunging his hands in his
pockets, looked moodily at the pebbled-yard, and replied,

"You may lay agen him till you're black in the face, and you won't get
your money on then. He's a good feeder, and a sound 'oss, Muster Ryle,
but the best thing you can do with him is to sink his peddygree, and
henter him over the water."

"Won't do, Docketer!" returned Ryle. "That game don't pay now-a-days."
"Then make a hunter of him, he ain't quick enough for a steeplechase."
"Don't see it."

"Well, bust it, then!" exclaimed poor Docketer at length; "crack him up
in the papers, and sell him to a swell."

"I must sell him to somebody, that's clear. But who'll buy him?"

"Buy him! Why, if I had your chances, Muster Ryle, I'd make 'em buy him,
whether they liked him or not. You sell him, sir; get him puffed if you
can, and I'll lay agen him if I pawn my Sunday vestkit."

Ryle laughed, "I see what I can do with him, Docketer," said he, "but
I'm afraid he's a hard bargain."

So the "big horse" was kept at exercise, and Mr. Docketer went up and
down the earth telling people "that he'd got a 'flyer' in his stable, on
the quiet, you know, and was going to see what he could do with him."

But nobody bit. The fish did not rise well at the fly, and some weeks
had passed, and the Cardinal was yet unsold.

When Dacre and Bob reached Hampton Court they were ushered into the
presence of the august Ryle, who was pretending to be immersed in
business.

"Ah! good morning, gentlemen; work follows me out here, you see. When a
man has as many irons in the fire as I have, his life is not a bed of
roses, by any means. Sit down, Mr. Calverly, and take a glass of sherry,
after your drive. What has procured me the pleasure of your company on
such a bleak day as this?"

Bob was a little astonished at this, and looked at Dacre. That
gentleman, more used to the ways of the insidious Ryle, replied,

"Mr. Calverly was anxious about that little bill of his."

"Ah!" said Ryle, holding up a glass of the "old brown" between his
finger and thumb. "Just so; I had forgotten. The fact is that I paid it
away in the course of business, and looked upon it as done with. Help
yourself, Mr. Dacre. Nothing wrong, I hope?"

"Well, the fact is," said Bob, "that there is something wrong. I have
not received any remittances, and I came to ask you if you could advance
me a little more money."

"Dear me, Mr. Calverly, I am sorry to hear that. You see that I am not
in the habit of lending money, and I merely made you a little temporary
advance because you were a friend of Mr. Dacre's; but I really thought
that you would repay me at the end of the month. I am afraid that I must
refuse."

Bob felt his heart sink.

"But I can't take up the bill."

"I am sorry, very sorry. Who are the holders?"

"Gulch and Swindelmann."

"Very nasty firm to have dealings with, Mr. Calverly. I could have
wished that it had been anybody else."

"Now come, Ryle, you must do this for us," says Dacre. "Mr. Calverly is
sure to be 'all right' in another month or so, and will settle matters
satisfactorily."

Ryle looked across at Rupert under the cover of another glass of sherry.
"How much do you want, Mr. Calverly?" said he, "I would be happy to do
anything for you if I could. But--"

"Two thousand," says Dacre, before Bob could speak.

"Two thousand! My dear sir, do you think that I am made of money?"
"Fifteen hundred would do," says Bob.

"Come, Ryle, can't you arrange it? I have no doubt that Mr. Calverly is
not particular to a twenty pound note, but we must have enough to take
up the bill, you know."

"Well," returned Ryle, after a pause, "I know a man who might lend you
some money; but he is rather a peculiar fellow. In fact, he is a
Turfite, and he will be sure to want to put off some horse or another
upon you." Bob laughed.

"I don't mind a horse much, but I must get out of this scrape, by hook
or by crook."

Ryle meditated.

"Look here," said he, "I'll tell you what to do. We'll just drive down
to his place. It is only five miles from this, and I'll introduce you to
him."

Dacre looked askance. "What on earth is he going to do?" he thought. But
Bob had jumped at the proposal. Visions of an infuriated Gulch and an
irate Swindelmann, backed up by actions-at-law and notices in the
newspapers, rose before him.

"Come along then!" he cried. "It's getting late; we'd better go at
once."

While the phaeton, resplendent with silver, and gorgeous with grooms,
was being brought round, Dacre managed to speak to the money lender.
"What are you going to do?" he asked.

"Sell him the Cardinal," returned Mr. Ryle, curtly.



Chapter XXII. The Cardinal.

THE stables were reached, and Docketer came forth. Touching his hat to
Dacre, he inquired what he could do for him.

"The fact is, my dear Mr. Docketer," said Ryle, "that this
gentleman--Mr. Calverly--wants to have a look at the Cardinal."

Then, aside to Bob, "We must humour the fellow a little."

Mr. Docketer produced a key from his Bedford cords and said, "With
pleasure."

The Cardinal was stripped and exhibited. He was a big bay horse, with
immense power behind the saddle, deep chest, fine muscular thighs, and
rather a coarse head. As he stood lazily lifting a leg, and munching
contently at his corn, he looked a tower of strength.

"He's a fine big horse," said Bob.

"Yes, sir; and he's a fine fast 'oss too. That's the 'oss wot can stay
till the day after to-morrow. I never knowed one of his lot cut up soft
yet, and I've seen a good many 'osses in my time. There's a shoulder for
yer! Them's the quarters, Muster Ryle, as you well know! He's one of the
Marquis Lundyfoot's breeding, he is; and a fair upstandin' picter of a
'oss he is."

"Lord Lundyfoot never did much good with him," says Bob, who knew
something about "prices current" in the sporting world.

"Werry likely," returned Mr. Docketer, "werry likely. Cos why? Cos his
lor'ship was allus eaten up with trainers and such like--cos his
lor'ship did'nt know what was a going on in his own stable--cos the 'oss
was pulled; ay, pulled, Muster Dacre! Why, blarm me!" cries Mr.
Docketer, in a sudden burst of fervour. "If he was jist two yeer
younger. I'd henter him for the Darby!"

"Two years make all the difference," says Bob, laughing.

"You're right, sir; you're right! But when a 'oss has make and shape
like that, and don't get fair play, it turns a man agin racin' as a
purfession, blessed if it don't. You should ha' seen him 'spin' with
Cantaloup--you know Cantaloup, Muster Ryle? Blowed if he did'nt walk
away from him, jist like nothin' !--left him as if he'd been a standin'
still, he did; and Cantaloup ain't a bad 'oss neither."

"You don't mean the horse that won the Oaks two years ago?" asked Bob.

"Yes, but I do mean the 'oss as won the Hoaks tew yeer ago. Now come,
sir, you're a gent as knows if a 'oss is a 'oss, I know; jist carst yer
eye over him, and give us your candid opinion."

The Cardinal was led forth, and walked up and down; and Bob did cast his
eye over him, and liked him much.

"Clap a saddle on him, Robert," cries Docketer, seeing that the poison
was working. "He's entered for the Spring, Mr. Ryle, as you knows; but I
don't mind a showin' him to you, gents, has I knows your h'on the
square. There's h'action, there's 'ocks, there's h'everythink!"

As Bob watched the tremendous stride of Lord Lundyfoot's favourite, and
heard a running fire of, "fit as a fiddle!" "quiet as a sheep!" "'andy
as a lady's maid!" "pink as a cherry!" and so on, from Mr. Docketer, he
became impressed with a desire to own such a horse; the light in his
eyes must have said as much, for Ryle whispered to Docketer, "Don't be
afraid of price, Docketer; he'll have him."

Round the paddock went the object of these machinations, his head out,
his tail well carried, his ears cocked, and the heavy bit bringing his
legs well under him at every stride. Seen through the medium of half a
bottle of old brown sherry, and a five mile drive bristling with
horse-talk, he looked, to Bob's eyes, as though Lord Lundyfoot's
encomium on him were correct enough, and when the weazen'd groom brought
him up, with his forelegs on rising ground, and his coat shining like a
star, Bob could not refrain from an exclamation of pleasure.

"Take him in agin," says Docketer, tenderly feeling the forelegs of the
"crack." "Take him in agin. Them coves is allus a spying round, and
there's tew much money on him for my likin'."

Bob ran his hand down the massive forelegs.

"Sound as a bell, ain't 'em?" asked Docketer. "We don't break 'em down
here--we don't; but, lor, you might ride that ere 'oss till his tail
dropped off, and he wouldn't show nothink."

"Come round the stable, gents; and I'll show you what I can. That's
Bambino, that is, wot took all the money from the French nobs; and
that's Blue-light. He's a likely-looking oss, now. 'Ere's a Packtolium
filly. Lot's o' blood she 'as,--and that one in the corner is
Tippetywitchet, by Grimaldi out of Pantaloon's dam."

Bob looked, and saw clearly that none of them were up to "The
Cardinal's" standard, and said so--an expression of opinion which Mr.
Docketer had been waiting for.

"Ah! you're right; you knows a 'oss, you does. But, lor bless yer! He's
too good for us, that's just about it. We don't want no Darby winners
'ere, we don't."

"Why don't you sell him then?" asked Ryle, who had performed the feat of
abusing his own horses with much grace.

"Sell him! Why who'd buy him, arter the way he's been treated? The
public as reads the noospapers thinks he's jest fit for dog's meat, as
you know, Muster Dacre."

Dacre said that he believed that there was a bad impression about the
horse, but he should think that Mr. Docketer could easily sell him if he
wished.

"Don't know," returned Docketer. "I aint a going to let him go under his
vally--not if I loses my last shillin' on him. Tew thousand pounds is
'is figure, Muster Dacre; and if I takes a penny less, may I never lay
my leg over hanythink higher than a donkey. Shut 'em up, Jem! Gen'elmen,
come down to the 'ouse, and 'ave a glass of sherry and a biscuit?"

"I'm afraid it's rather late, Docketer," says Ryle; "but, however, I
don't mind just one glass."

The one glass became four, and then Bob began to wax merry. "Shall I ask
him for the money?" said he to Ryle.

"I'll do it, if you like," said Ryle.

Docketer, who was in the middle of an apocryphal story, concerning a
mare that ought to have won the Liverpool steeplechase, and didn't, was
interrupted by Ryle saying in a confidential tone,

"Mr. Docketer, I want to ask you a favour. The fact is that Mr. Calverly
came out here with me, in order to transact a little business with you."

Docketer was used to this sort of thing from his principal, and
expressed his readiness to be of service.

"Mr. Calverly wants to borrow two thousand."

"Werry okard just now," says Docketer; "werry okard. I've got most of my
money out, and I'm rayther pressed. Tew thousand is a large sum. If it
was a 'oss, now?"--

"Like the Cardinal, eh?" laughed Ryle.

"Yes, he's a magnificent horse," said Bob.

"Not for sech as you, sur--with all respect," says Docketer. "That's a
'oss wot ought ter be the property of a nobleman--he ought. Why he's
engaged knee deep all over England!"

"He needn't break his engagements because he belonged to me," says Bob,
a little nettled.

"Werry true, sur--werry true; but then you see that I've been a puttin'
of my money on 'im, and if he gets into 'ands as don't know 'ow to
'andle 'im, why wot becomes of me?"

"I tell you what!" cries Bob; "I'll give you your price for him, if you
will lend me the two thousand."

Mr. Docketer laughed cheerily.

"Lor, sur; why that 'ud be throwing a good 'oss after bad money! Begging
your pardon, sur.--No. I'll tell you what I'll do, if you're so sweet on
the 'oss, I let you 'ave 'im for tew thousand cash, and that's more than
I'd do for any human bein'--barrin' personal friends."

Two thousand cash was beyond Bob's wildest dreams. "I'll give you a
bill," he said.

"Werry liberal of yer, indeed, sur; but, with all doo respect to a
friend of Mr. Ryle's, I couldn't do nothink but cash with that 'oss."

"Come, Docketer; I tell you what I'll do," cries Ryle. "You lend Mr.
Calverly two thousand, and I'll back his bill for the horse."

"Well, Muster Ryle," said Docketer, who began to see how the land lay;
"it goes agin my heart to refuse you, it does; but I can't let that 'oss
go for less than cash."

"Pooh! nonsense; my name is as good as money in the city."

"Well, look here now," cried the dealer, as though he had hit upon a
capital way of putting things pleasantly. "You give me your bill for
fower thousand pund, and I'll lend Mr. Calverly the money."

"Oh no!" cries Bob; "I couldn't think of such a thing."

"I shall be happy to back anybody's bill, for any reasonable sum," says
Dacre, out of a distant chair.

"I knows you would be, Muster Dacre; you're allus ready to oblige a
friend, you are," and Docketer laughed inwardly as he thought what a
pleasant time the sunburnt young man would have of it. "But I can't do
business like that, gen'elmen; it ain't in my line, and I don't
understand it."

"I'll tell you what it is," says Ryle. "You let Mr. Calverly have the
horse and the money, and I'll back his bill with Mr. Dacre; will that
do?"

After some further demur, Docketer agreed that it would do, and the
requisite document was signed and delivered.

"I'll give Mr. Calverly a cheque, Docketer," says Ryle, "and you can
give me the balance of our account the next time we meet."

Bob thought this rather a curious arrangement, but as, on passing
through the gate, Mr. Ryle took occasion to observe that "he'd known
Docketer for years, and would trust him with untold gold," the simple
minded Australian thought no more.

"What shall I do with the 'oss?" asked the model of trust-worthiness, as
the phaeton dashed up the gravel.

"Keep him until you hear from me," says Bob. "You can give him exercise
as usual."

"That of course, sir," replied Docketer. "I'll look a'ter 'im as if he
was my own."

"Who's that swell, Muster Docketer?" asked the weazen'd groom, as the
phaeton drove off.

"He's a Horstralian, that's what he is. He comes from the country where
yer pick up nuggets in the streets. He'll have to go back agin and pick
up some more, I'm thinking, if he goes on like he's a doin' of! Tew
thousand pound for that old bullock!" he muttered, sotto voce, as he
glanced at the low line of buildings where the unconscious Cardinal was
reposing. "Tew thousand pound! Oh lor, oh lor!" and his soliloquy
terminated in a guffaw, which caused Jem to wonder "what devilment
master had been up tew."

"Here's a cheque, my dear sir, and I wish you success with your new
purchase," said Ryle, when they reached the house. "I shall be very
happy to see you whenever you come down this way."

Bob departed with a light heart, and his good-humour seemed to have
infected Dacre, for he laughed and joked incessantly all the way home.
"I should like to win with that horse!" cried Bob.

"Nothing would delight me more than to see you do so," said Dacre, "but
it's long odds against you?"

"I'll try, by George!"

"Do, my dear fellow! I'll give you every assistance I can!"

"You are a very good fellow, Dacre, upon my word, and I am more obliged
to you that I can tell."

Dacre laughed.

"Bob," said he, "did you ever hear of the story of the man who went all
over the world to look for treasure, and, upon coming home, found it at
his own door?"

"No!" said Bob.

"I'll lend you the book one of these days; it is uncommonly clever and
amusing!"



Chapter XXIII. Political Plots.

WHEN Dacre said that Wheales had "spoken" of the ingenuous Binns, he did
not tell an absolute untruth. The mighty Reformer had spoken of the
sucking Leaguer, but in a very casual and unimpressive manner. The
Branch of the Association to which Binns was secretary was an important
one. It embraced many mechanics and skilled workmen, and was, perhaps,
more intelligent and less bloodthirsty than others of its kind. It is
true that the oratory heard at its meetings was not Demosthenic, but it
was straightforward and to the purpose. The questions agitated were no
useless quibbles upon Cromwell or Magna Charta; they were palpable,
easy, every-day notions about work and wages. Honest men of the better
class put down their names on the subscription list, and came week after
week to hear the Doric eloquence of their brethren. There was much
nonsense talked, of course, and the usual amount of plagiarised
sentimentality about "hearths and homes," and "rights," and "horny
hands," and so on; but the men knew what they meant.

Societies of this kind are the political universities of the people, and
they soon learn to sift the chaff from the wheat of democratic
discussion. If they did not succeed in raising wages or lowering import
duties, they developed their governing instincts, and found out that
they were not beasts of burden merely. Constant organisation is not
without its results; and, if the working men did nothing else, they
learnt that they must sacrifice individual interests to attain a
position as a body.

Putting aside the exquisite pleasure of telling a superior that they
"were as good as he," there is a fascination to men who possess quick
sympathies and little education, fierce prejudices, and feeble reasoning
power, in feeling that though as units they are despised, as a body they
are feared, and that the master who despises the working man, respects
the Working Men's Association.

To guide these men to their impossible goal was Binns's ambition. He was
young, enthusiastic, and not without talent. His eloquence was of that
fiery, youthful sort which is so good to hear, and so silly to read. He
was illogical often, impassioned and earnest always. The great secret in
talking to masses is to let them see that you believe in the sentiments
you deliver; above all, to talk continuously, and to keep your best
argument for the last. Binns was happy in this respect. Though only a
grocer's apprentice, he was gifted with some natural talent, and a
desperate industry, that almost supplied the place of genius. He was
made secretary to the Association, and he made an impression. Men called
him an "uncommon clever feller," and nodded their heads approvingly. He
was listened to with an attention which was not vouchsafed to older
speakers. He was spoken of amongst the heads as a useful man. In a word,
he was just on the edge of the whirlpool.

In the meantime the popular agitation was as noisy as ever. The late
Government had hitherto done nothing towards retrieving their position,
and the Conservative journals began dimly to hint at the horrors of a
Whig ministry. The Radicals were in high glee. Their party was in the
ascendant at last, they thought, and the ark that held the New Moses
fairly launched upon the waters.

The Earl of Foozleton had not recovered the blow dealt by the hand of
Master Cyril. Ministries have been made and marred by lesser men before
now, but the iron had entered into the ex-premier's soul, and he was
bitter against his enemy. To be overthrown by fair means would have been
nothing, but to be ignominiously pulled down from his high estate by the
treachery of a boy at college, was something unprecedented in Lord
Foozleton's political recollections; and he inwardly vowed that, if it
should ever be in his power, he would return the debt with interest.

"This is the age of political adventurers," he would say, in his
confidential moments; "but they play a risky game, and if they lose it
they have no chance to recoup themselves."

There was much talk in "private circles" as to the new ministry. The
"old stagers" averred that it was impossible that the Liberals could
muster strongly enough.

"We must have a compromise," said they. "The 'trimmers' will have it.
Public feeling is all for the 'Rads,' but they can't do it, sir--they
can't do it!"

So thought the private secretary of Lord Nantwich, and so thought,
perhaps, Lord Nantwich himself. That gentleman had long been waiting for
such a chance as this. He stood well with each party, and his policy had
been to "wait." Though the Tories had given him his place, he had not
pledged himself to the Tory party, and he was now prepared "for either
fortune." Careful to a fault, quiet and reserved, he had long passed as
a "man of sound common sense;" and perhaps none but his secretary knew
how little he deserved the position he held. Mr. Rupert Dacre had been
playing for high stakes, and took care to inform himself of the chances
of the game. Lord Nantwich was his trump card, and he was in no hurry to
play him. But he saw an opening now. He had not wasted his time.
Nantwich looked upon him as his right-hand man, and had repeatedly given
him to understand that, were he ever in power, he would not forget him.
In the present condition of things he urged his chief to action.

"We want a moderate man, my lord," he would say--"a man who has friends
on both sides of the House. It is impossible to permit Liberalism to
carry the day, and yet we dare not run the risk of a defeat of the
Conservatives. Foozleton's cabinet has gone to utter wreck, and it is
absurd to attempt to reinstate it, even partially. Why do not you, my
dear lord, take the tide at the flood? The late Government would rather
see you at the head of their successors than anybody else; and the
Liberals would support you against the Tories, because you are pledged
to no extreme measures."

"I am afraid to run the risk--it might end in a fatal rupture with both
parties."

"I think not. Moreover, the 'half-measure' men are numerous, and would
hail your accession to office as a solution of a difficulty which they
are afraid to face. If I might presume to advise your lordship, I would
suggest that you should begin to make advances."

So by degrees it began to be bruited abroad that a third party was in
course of formation. Despite the attacks of the Radical papers, and the
sneers of the haute école, such formation was looked upon with favour;
and Lord Nantwich was spoken of as the Coming Man. In vain did the more
furious of either side murmur of "incapacity," and hint that the late
Secretary for Foreign Affairs was efete and incompetent; he began to be
looked upon as an excellent "stop-gap" by the more moderate and less
sanguine.

The fact was, as Grosmith put it one night at the Pegasus--"Everybody's
afraid of everybody else, and as they can't settle who shall knock
under, they'll go in for compromise."

"The passion for comfort will carry the day, depend on it," said Dacre.
"Most Englishmen are just educated enough to be negative. They like the
people--at a distance; they preach the Gospel--in evening dress and
white kid gloves. We shall establish a Negative party."

"Who will support you?" asked a young disciple of Matthew Arnold, who
drank Maraschino and water, and tempered his unbelief with an infusion
of Fine Arts.

"Why you will! You like to talk about Democracy, but you don't like to
touch it. You prate about Culture, because culture is exceptional. You
are very hard upon Religion as long as the People go to church, but when
'infidelity begins to smell of candle grease,' as Heine says, you vote
it vulgar, and talk about Neo-platonism. You tell the people that they
are fools to suffer in silence, but when they speak, you laugh because
they drop their h's."

"Well, perhaps I do," said the young man, with a smile; "but for all
that, I 'go in' for the 'Masses,' you know;" and with that he rang for a
waiter to give him a book that was lying on the next table.

"Hang the 'masses! '" cries little Figleaf, whose father was a grocer,
and whose grandfather first saw the light of day in a gutter in the
Haymarket--"I hate the 'great unwashed' myself."

"T-they will be tutoo st-st-rong for you y-yet," stammered Randon,
"m-mark my words, D-D-Dacre. I have st-st-studied the signs of the
tut-totimes, and I own, I f-fwankly own that I am well up in
Puppolitical Eccuckcuck--onomy."

Dacre got up to go. "Perhaps, that stammering booby is right," he
muttered, as he walked slowly home. "I have a very great mind to speak
to the scorbutic admirer of Mrs. Chatteris. By the way, that reminds me
I must call upon that little lady. 'Pon my soul, it is a weary
life--this constant plotting and scheming. If I only had plenty of money
and a good position, I'd settle down to be 'good!' But then--I haven't!"

Following out this train of reflection, he wrote a note to Binns, in
which he expressed a wish to see him at the Office.

Binns took the letter to Bland.

Bland hummed and hahed over it, and finally told him that he had better
take care what he was about. "You can't serve two masters you know,"
said he.

"Oh, I'm all right!" cries Binns, with youthful self-confidence. "He
won't get much out of me."

So he went, and was received by the astute secretary in a room littered
with papers, and teeming with officialism.

"Glad to see you, my dear sir. Sit down. I expect our Italian budget in
directly, and we have not much time to talk."

Binns sat on the edge of his chair and said nothing.

"The fact is that I wanted to speak to you. I have taken an interest in
you, Mr. Binns--if you will not feel offended at the expression--and as
we are always on the look out for 'new blood' here, I wished to have a
little conversation."

Binns said that he imagined "new blood" was the last thing sought in the
Foreign Office.

"In the Foreign Office--yes. In political circles--no. In the present
state of affairs, my dear sir, no one can know better than yourself that
extreme anxiety is felt by all parties."

This was vague, but true, and Binns could do nothing but bow assent.

"The formation of a new party is a ticklish thing, you understand, and
we find it impossible to pass over those young men who are--if I may use
the term--the Free-lances of Young England."

Binns grew hot. Was he going to offer him a "place?"

"The old method of 'favouritism' is dying out, and the Government has
discovered that in order to rule the people, it must conciliate the
leaders of the people."

Binns blushed.

"Now you, Mr. Binns, have shown yourself in a marked manner to be one of
our most rising speakers. I do not mean that you have achieved any
success hitherto which is out of the common, but your speeches--which I
hear of regularly--display an amount of consistency which is rare in so
young a man. You know I am much older than you, my dear sir, and may
take liberties."

Binns coughed, and blushed again. The calm, smiling, bearded gentleman,
surrounded with official documents, and sitting--as it seemed--at the
receipt of foreign custom, did appear centuries older, and leagues
higher in social position.

"Now I think, Mr. Binns, and I say it with all due respect to your
private feelings, that you have done wrong in committing yourself to the
Mob. Mobocracy will never prevail in England. Liberalism may. I should
be loth to offend your prejudices, but if I may speak of self-interest
to a disinterested man, I should urge that the Government holds out more
rewards and more hope of political success than any 'Association,'
however powerful."

Binns flushed redder this time. Was the secretary offering him a bribe
to betray his friends? He would be firm, and refuse.

"Do you mean--?"

"I mean nothing at all, my dear sir. I simply throw out a friendly hint
for your future guidance. You may think it strange that I, who possess
the confidence of the Earl of Nantwich, and am--undeservedly, I
admit--of some importance in the political world, should broach these
subjects to you. My dear sir, we do not always confine ourselves to
foreign policy at the Foreign Office--at least, I do not. I am, my dear
sir, like yourself, an aspirant for political honours, and I like to
know that men of my own stamp of thought agree with me."

Binns was paralysed. The compliment was too great, and it fairly choked
him.

"I am very proud--very proud," he stammered, "of your good opinion."

"Oh, pooh--that goes without saying--I am only too glad to have had the
opportunity of expressing my sentiments towards you. I should like to
see you in a better position than you are now, Mr. Binns, as a friend of
a friend of mine--for I believe that Chatteris and yourself are
intimate?"

"W-well, not exactly intimate," said Binns.

"Well, you know each other, at all events; and he has often spoken of
you to me. I wished to point out to you that an opportunity is now
coming which you will do wrong to lose sight of. You should join us, my
dear sir." "How?" cried Binns, in utter astonishment.

"Belong to the new Party--the Party of Young England--the Party that
stands midway between the two extremes of political faction. We have
neither the blind rage of Democracy nor the stolid indifference of the
Aristocracy. We are the Party of Intellect, and our aim is to reconcile
the conflicting elements in the social world, and while placing the
working man on the pedestal of his own integrity and honesty, to make
the culture of the middle classes and the wealth of the upper, combine
to cast out the devils of insouciance and neglect from the body politic.
Do you comprehend?"

Binns did not, of course, the least in the world, but the studied tones,
affected enthusiasm, and carefully-used catch-phrases had caught him,
and he thought that he was listening to a new gospel.

"It is a grand scheme," said he.

"Then you will be with us? But we must not show our cards, you know. We
have a difficult game to play, and must be careful. The English
mechanic, down-trodden for centuries, is incapable of appreciating the
idea of moderation. You yourself can, of course, at once understand the
whole plan of operations, but it will never do to show the Mysteries to
the crowd, you know. Now good-bye. Keep this little conversation a
secret, and we will work in concert."

Binns promised, and bowed, and retired.

He went home upon air. He was accepted--picked out as a recruit for a
new political Party of Culture and Intellect, and goodness knows what
beside. He strove to exactly understand what this Party was to do, but
beyond general philanthropy and "uniting" every one, he could not see
the ultimate result of its operations. His ambition, however, was
attained. He was in politics at last!

As the door closed on his visitor, Dacre threw himself back in his chair
and laughed hugely. "What a consummate ass the fellow is!" he cried.
"Now I'll go and see Mrs. Chatteris."



Chapter XXIV. Rupert Dacre in a New Rôle.

CYRIL was getting weary of his life. He had conquered his wife, and he
was tired of her. He had attempted to write again, but found that he had
not so much to say as formerly. Blister complained that "he was getting
dull," and the young man was fain to acknowledge that the editor's
uncomplimentary statement was correct.

The truth was, that, not having formed any clear opinions about
anything, he was obliged to confine himself to smart generalities, and
smart generalities began to be difficult to discover. He was haunted,
too, by a vision of the pure grey eyes and slender figure of his cousin.

He met Bob Calverly the night after that young man had succeeded in
purchasing the "Cardinal," and Bob Calverly had asked him why he didn't
go down to Matcham. "You might go and have a look at the Hall, you
know," said Bob; "it is getting emptied now, I expect. Come down."

He scarcely liked to leave his wife again, but the temptation was
strong.

"Are you going down?" he asked.

"No," said Bob, wincing. "No--I've got some business in town. The fact
is, that I've bought a horse that I want to pull off at Chester with,
and I must stay here for a bit to see how he gets on."

"A horse! What horse?" asked Cyril, lazily.

"The Cardinal."

Cyril started. "You don't expect to win with him, do you?"

"I hope so," said Bob, cheerily.

"Well, he ruined poor Lundyfoot."

"I know all about that, but I fancy him a little myself. Would you like
to come out and have a look at him?"

Cyril, always alive to the chance of making money, consented, and the
two went out next day together.

The Cardinal was brought out and galloped, and inspected, and put
through a severe course of leg-feeling and rib-punching.

"He's too heavy for my taste," said Cyril, who had a weakness for
"weeds." "Where did you get him?"

"From a man called Docketer."

"Oh!" and Cyril mentally resolved to "put on the pot" against the
Australian's "fancy" without delay.

He did not tell Bob so, however, but contented himself with observing
that "horseflesh was always dangerous to meddle with, and that, for his
part, he didn't care about the turf."

"No, I know you are an intellectual fellow, and all that," said Bob, a
little contemptuously, and the matter dropped.

When Cyril got home he was still thinking about Matcham, and interrupted
his wife's playing after dinner by saying,

"Carry dear, I've been thinking that I ought to go down to see my
father." Carry turned round quickly.

"You are always going away, Cyril," she pouted; and then seeing the
ominous cloud begin to gather on her husband's brow, she added, "but if
you must go, of course, I can't help it."

"Of course you can't, so don't argue--there's a good girl. I shan't be
long away; but they will begin to suspect that something is wrong if I
don't go near them."

"Ah! Cyril, I wish you would tell your father about our marriage." Cyril
rose angrily.

"I can't," he said. "I have told you so before, and it is useless to
harp upon the subject. You have no consideration for my position. I
shall go down to-morrow for a week."

Carry turned round again to the piano, and dashed off a bravura. As she
sang, she could feel something rising and falling on her
bosom--something that rustled faintly. When the door was shut upon her
husband, her fingers wandered mechanically over the keys, and a bright
flush rose in her cheeks. At last she stopped playing altogether, and by
and bye she took the something from her breast. It was a little note,
written in a bold, clear hand, and the seal was yet unbroken.

"I meant to give him this to-night," she said, "but I won't now."

And she opened it. It was very short, and couched in the most ordinary
terms:

MY DEAR MRS. CHATTERIS,--I propose to do myself the honour of calling
upon you to-morrow afternoon, as I have a message from Mrs. Manton. With
kind regards to Cyril,

I am, very faithfully yours,

RUPERT DACRE.

"To-morrow afternoon, and He will be away. I ought not to see him, yet
he says he has a message from mamma. How kind he is, to take so much
trouble about me!"

So she did not tell her husband, and the note was torn up.

The next day was a weary one. Cyril had departed early in the morning,
and Carry was left alone. She wandered about the house and tried to
sing, and tried to read, and looked out of the window, and walked up and
down the little garden, and finally determined to go out. But by the
time she had arrived at this determination it was late in the afternoon;
and, as she still lingered, she heard the wheels of Dacre's cab, and the
next moment Dacre himself entered the drawing-room.

Rupert had come, determined on conquest. He had set his heart upon the
"little woman" of whom he had spoken so disparagingly; and he was not
the man to let a chance escape. The unsuspicious Bob had told him that
it was probable that Cyril would go down to Loamshire, and Dacre had
chosen his opportunity well.

Carry received him coldly enough, but all her self-command could not
prevent a blush when he took her hand.

"How is Cyril?" was his first inquiry.

"My husband has gone down to his father's," said she.

Rupert hugged himself at the thought, but he simply said,

"I am sorry, for I wanted to see him."

"What for?"

"Why, you see that I am in constant correspondence with Mr. Saville
Chatteris, and I fear that, unless Master Cyril takes care, he will get
into a scrape."

Carry bit her lips.

"Can you help him?"

"Yes; but he is so self-willed and headstrong. You must have found that
out."

"Did you not say that you have a message from my mother?"

"Oh! merely an inquiry about you. She is anxious, you know."

Carry was silent. Her married life had taken some of the bloom off the
peach of romance, and she was wise enough to know that Mr. Dacre would
not come down to see her because her mother had been inquiring after
her. "Is that all?"

"No; the fact is, my dear Mrs. Chatteris, I came down because I wanted
to see you."

"To see me?"

"Yes. Did you show my letter to Cyril?"

"I did not."

Dacre could scarcely suppress a smile.

"I am glad of that. He might not have liked my visiting you."

"Why should he not?"

"Because he is ashamed of his marriage."

"Mr. Dacre!"

And she rose hastily.

"Listen to me, my dear madam, for one moment. I am older than you are,
and you will not, I trust, be offended at what I am going to say. I have
known your husband from a boy, and I am sorry to say that I have not
found him as candid with me as I could wish. I have seen you with him
several times, and when I asked him who you were he did not tell me the
truth."

"The truth!"

"He denied that you were his wife."

The blow was cruelly dealt, and it took effect. Poor little Carry burst
into tears. Dacre was by her side in an instant. Her hand was in his,
and before she could prevent him he pressed it to his lips.

"Pardon me for giving you pain, but I must tell you the truth at all
hazards."

"What do you mean, sir?"

She was summing up all her recollection of novelistic lore to aid her in
this strait.

"Rise, sir!" she cried, in a tone that was meant to be tragic, but which
was only absurd.

Dacre did not stir.

"You silly girl! Do you think that I would tell you this if I did not
know it? Ah! believe me, the telling pains me--as much as the hearing
does you."

"Mr. Dacre, you have no right to speak like this to me. If Cyril were
here you would not dare--"

"But he is not here. Do you know where he has gone? To see his cousin."
"His cousin!"

"His cousin, Miss Ffrench. They are engaged to be married--people say.

This was too much. Her tears redoubled. She buried her face in her
hands.

He stood and watched her with an evil smile on his face.

"You may not believe it, but it is true."

"I do not believe it," said she, between her sobs.

"Then I have done. I have told you, because I promised that I would tell
you.

"Promised whom?"

"Myself."

She did not even raise her face to look at him. Her heart was full of
emotions that she dared not analyse. All her fears came thronging to her
heart and knocked for entrance. Her quiet, almost secret marriage; her
seclusion; her husband's strange indifference; his refusal to
acknowledge her as his wife; his change of name; all these things came
up before her, and she trembled.

"But he dare not leave his wife for another woman," she said, at last,
in so low a tone that the ears of the attentive listener almost failed
to catch the words.

"A man who is in love dare do anything."

"Oh! Mr. Dacre, this is not true--say it is not, and I will forgive your
intrusion here. I will forget the words you have dared to speak; only
say it is not true."

He was pitiless.

"It is true. He does not love you, and he has deceived you."

"No, he has not deceived me. He is my husband, even though he does not
love me."

Dacre saw that he must change his tactics.

"You give too much meaning to my words," he said. "I did not say that he
was not your husband. Come, be calm. This infatuation may be only a
passing folly, and he is not perhaps as guilty as I feared. You must
forgive me for speaking to you as I have done. It was for your good,
believe me. You are young and inexperienced. I am neither. I would be
your friend if you will let me. Will you?"

Poor little Carry! she was in a trap. Her own instinct told her that she
should check this sort of conversation; but she was unhappy, and the low
tones were so sweet and--well, she was not well principled, and she was
a woman.

Dacre took her hand in his.

"Good bye," he said. "I will come and see you sometimes, and I will find
out more about this unhappy business. Perhaps we may save him yet."

"I think that the bird is netted," said he to himself, as he stopped to
light a cigar out of eyeshot of the little villa. "I was afraid that I
had frightened her at first. I suppose she is his wife. If so, I have
got the young gentleman in my power. Dear me, what fools boys are, to be
sure!"

With which sage reflection he was so delighted that he gazed
complacently into the sky, and, in consequence, ran against a young man
who was hastening in the opposite direction.

"I beg your pardon, Mr. Dacre!"

It was Binns. He, in his turn, had a surprise; for, as he turned the
corner he saw a girlish figure standing at the window of one of the
cottages, and he recognised his lost love.



Chapter XXV. At Matcham.

CYRIL'S visit was unexpected. He was received somewhat coldly by his
father, but it was not his father that he went to see. It was his
cousin. He was in love with her, and he confessed to himself that he was
in love for the first time. He had married too hastily. He did not love
his wife. She was too simple, too childish. He had made the mistake of
his life, and he admitted it to himself, with inward groanings and
sighings. The sweet eyes of Kate lured him on to his doom, and he forgot
all beside. He knew that he was doing a base and cowardly action, but he
had no strength to resist. He kissed the axe, and was content. Moreover,
Kate seemed colder, and her coldness made him more eager in pursuit of
her. He knew she loved him, and as he roamed aimlessly about the
leafless woods and gloomy glades of Matcham, he cursed himself for his
folly.

He was afraid to remain alone with his cousin, yet he could not resist
the temptation of seeking such opportunities. He would say bitter things
to her, and rail about the uselessness of woman, and the follies of the
age. He would take sudden interest in her music, or her singing, and
then affect to have forgotten all about it when he next met her. He
would ask for a particular song, and then pretend to have forgotten that
he had asked for it. He would go into the room where she was, and then
affect supreme indifference to her presence.

This conduct puzzled her. She dared not refer to his confession of love
for her, and yet she hoped that he might himself refer to it. He dared
not speak to her, and yet longed to take her in his arms and tell her
all.

"She will hate me," he thought. "I dare not tell her;" and then he would
resolve to brave all risks and trust to her love for him. But he dared
not, for his heart told him that she would not hate, but despise him.

So both were miserable, and ate their own hearts silently.

When Kate saw that her lover held aloof, maiden pride came to her
assistance, and she assumed an indifference that she did not feel. She
tried to read her own heart, in vain. She was dimly conscious, though
she told herself twenty times a day that she loved Cyril, that yet that
love was not as perfect as she could wish it. She loved, she thought,
but it was not the love of her dreams, the pure self-sacrificing,
all-sufficient love that she had--like other women--pictured to herself
as the end of her youth and the crowning glory of her womanhood. She
seemed to have had her eyes opened, and to see that Cyril was not the
hero she had made him. He was the same, and yet different. He was the
same graceful, clever, daring boy she had known him; but the light in
his eyes was colder, and his voice was harsher, and the golden halo of
romance with which she had surrounded him had paled its lustre. She
fought against the feeling in vain; the cold, distrait, cynical young
man, was not the Cyril of old times--the Cyril that was enthusiastic and
poetic, and on fire with youth and ambition.

But she said that she loved him, and so she would not listen to these
suspicious promptings.

The days passed on, and no conclusion had been arrived at. Lady
Loughborough drove out, and ate and drank, and was merry. Saville
Chatteris passed his mornings in riding over the estate, and his
evenings in reading in the library. Kate and Cyril were constantly
together, and at last the storm burst.

The day had been dull and cold, and the night had set in with a wild
wind and furious intermittent rain. Cyril was seated in a corner, with
an open book on his knees, gazing into vacancy. Kate was playing strange
snatches of old songs, and singing the while in a low voice, that
nevertheless rang clear and distinct through the silent room.

Cyril raised his eyes and watched her. The graceful pose, the upturned
face, the softly-falling hair, touched his sense of beauty, and he felt
his heart beat quicker. Just then the unconscious girl glided off into
some old silly, childish song about love and youth, and blisses and
kisses, and all the old poetical nonsense that our fathers sang to our
mothers in the days that are dead. Cyril rose, and went to the piano.
She stopped suddenly, and their eyes met.

He took her hand and kissed it. She shuddered.

"Kate, my darling, why are you so cold?"

There was no reply, but the fair head drooped, and the soft clasp of the
fingers tightened. He grew more reckless, and took her in his arms.

She took his hot kisses without a word, but the sudden change from
indifference to love was too much for her, and she burst into tears.

Then the lava-stream broke forth. He poured forth a wild, incoherent
medley of love and passion, and marriage. His fierce lips covered her
hands and hair with kisses, and his own were salt with her tears. She
was terrified at his vehemence, and struggled to be free, but he held
her fast.

"My love, how I have suffered for you! I have longed for you, dreamt of
you, hungered for a touch of your hand, a glance from your eyes. I have
been living a life of torture since I saw you. I have tried to forget
you, but I could not. Kate, my love! Kate, my wife--"

He did not know what he said. He had never checked a thought or a desire
since he knew how to think, and he was borne headlong down the stream of
his own passions.

"Will you not answer me, Kate? Say that you love me--one word, only one.
You love me, dearest, do you not? You will be mine; you will be my wife,
darling? Kate, answer me!"

She could not speak for sobbing, but she turned her face to his and
their lips met. Then she broke from his arms, and he was alone.

The first moment of triumph over, he was stunned. What had he done?
Engaged himself to his cousin, and his wife was yet alive! What should
he do? How escape? He might tell all, but then--then he would be for
ever despised and hated. He would lose his love, and he could not bear
to lose it. His prevailing selfishness made him afraid to retract. His
wife! He thought of her with disgust. All her faults of manner and lack
of breeding rose up before him. She had no virtues--only the loving
him--and he was weary of that. Let her go. He dared not think how, even
with the thrill of Kate's kiss upon his lips. He cursed himself for
marrying her; he cursed her for entrapping him; he cursed all who were
party to the shameful lie he had enacted, when, in the shabby London
church, he promised to love and protect a woman whom he now knew he
hated. Suddenly there came up before him a vision. He remembered how, on
the steps of the gambling-house in Jermyn-street, Dacre had asked him if
he had married the woman who called herself his wife, and how he had
denied that marriage. He remembered, too, how at the time a vague
feeling of jealousy had possessed him. Jealousy! He was not jealous now.

Why should he be bound for life to a woman whom he despised? His eyes
were opened, and he knew that in marrying the soft-eyed, silly little
woman, who had crept into his heart, he had ruined his social prospects
for ever. Cyril Chatteris was not one of those men who could be content
with honesty and honour. His vanity would not allow him to rest
satisfied. He would willingly have married Carry, and set to work to
gain bread for himself and her, if the world would have applauded the
doing; but he could not conceal from himself the fact that his friends
would laugh at him, and that the whole fabric of Don Juanism and
gentlemanly profligacy, which he had been at such pains to raise, would
crumble away to nothingness. He could not bear to have it said that
Cyril Chatteris, the cynical, brilliant, Byronic, experienced Cyril
Chatteris, should have been "caught" by the ill-educated daughter of an
ignorant lodging-housekeeper. He had been a fool, he owned it. He could
never now be the darling of drawing-rooms, the caressed of women, the
cynosure of lady-like virginity. His father would disinherit him, his
relatives would look down on him, and his friends would laugh at him. He
had not the courage, he confessed, to take the woman who had trusted him
to his heart, and defy the world with her. He was a coward--he knew it.
Moreover, he loved Kate. That worldly sentiment of "honour," which the
basest and most reckless libertine possesses, warned him to leave her,
but he was too weak. He refused to look his position in the face. He
would "stand the hazard of the die." All might be well, and even if all
were ill, he cared not. He would not draw back. He had avowed his love,
and his love had been returned. He would run all risks now.

He sat down to think, and in his mind there arose an idea which, as he
thought of it, filled him with fear, and disgust at himself. Yet if his
baseness were unknown to all save himself, he would not be base. The
motto of his life had been--"not to leave undone, but to keep unknown."
"I was jealous of her once," he repeated, "but I am not jealous now."



Chapter XXVI. Principally Amatory.

MR. CALVERLY, stopping in London and spending his newly-made money
regally, found himself an object of interest. That circle of condemned
souls--"the outside betting ring"--had heard of his purchase, and
comment was rife. Greedy men in Newmarket coats and hard impenetrable
hats, were eager for the laying of odds. Small, wispy, insignificant
men, whose stony eyes were sphinx-like in their impenetrability, waxed
loud in their condemnation of Lord Lundyfoot's favourite. The mighty
tide of betting set in with resistless force against Mr. Calverly, and
the Cardinal's market price was startlingly below par. The flimsy
betting lists that were "sent post free for eighteen penny stamps,"
contained his name with a terrible array of figures against the solitary
unit that represented the "points in his favour." He had no friends;
and, as Mr. Docketer sententiously observed, after an ineffectual
attempt to oblige Bob and "put something on" by commission, "The public
won't look at the 'oss, not at no price." His frequent failures had
disgusted the prophets, and they prophesied no more. But Bob was hot
upon victory. He booked bets with a readiness and zeal that was quite
martyr-like. At the clubs which he frequented, "Calverly's horse" had
become a by-word, and the oracles of the turf shrugged their shoulders
as he passed them at Tattersall's.

There was no lack of hawks to pounce upon this innocent pigeon. Even
Welterwate had refused to "lay" any more against the Cardinal. "Calverly
would take bets all day long," exclaimed that ingenuous young man, "and
it ain't right to see a feller put in a hole, you know." Ponsonby had
warned in vain, and Dacre, after pretending to argue, had himself booked
three or four "good things," three or four times over.

The fact was that Bob had an "opinion," and was backing his opinion with
severe conscientiousness. If he won, he would be not only released from
all embarrassments, but be placed considerably on the windy side of
care; if he lost, he would have to pay some five thousand pounds, or
proclaim himself a defaulter. But he comforted himself with the
assurance that he was sure to win. "They don't know what the horse can
do," he said to himself, as on all sides rose the clamour of bookmakers
and the Babel of betting. "He has never been fairly tried yet; and,
unless I am mistaken, he can show them all the way home in a canter."
With which flattering unction laid to his soul, he was impervious to
advice and to irony. Moreover, his rejection by the woman he loved sat
heavily on him. He did not talk about it, or mourn desolately in lonely
places; he did not write poetry, or meditate suicide. He was too proud
to let people see that he was miserable. But he became reckless, and
careless. He was oftener mixed up in the revels of such jeunesse dorée
as he claimed acquaintance with than heretofore. He paid more visits to
the fascinating rooms of his accommodating friend, Mr. Ryle, and had
achieved an entrée behind the scenes of minor theatres, where he would
present bouquets and other matters to ill-educated fourth-rate
actresses, and fancy himself in love with their pert airs and artificial
graces. He became known as a "man upon town," and several gentlemen who
lived by the application of their natural abilities to the science of
whist, began to cultivate the acquaintance of the young fellow, and find
it both agreeable and remunerative. His brown face was growing haggard,
his brown hands white and shaky, and his once springy step languid and
slow. He felt no desire to get rid of any excess of animal vigour by
violent bodily exercise. Mr. Crosschopper, the bullet-headed pugilist
who taught "gents," what he was pleased to call the "noblearter
selfderfense," did not find his pupil so ready to come up again, after
the customary knockings down; and Mr. Wulchur, the dog-fancier,
explained to his sympathising circle that his patron had lost all
interest in dogs, let them rat never so wisely.

Dacre noticed this abandonment to the pleasures of the minute, and was
pleased to be pleasantly jocose thereon.

"Why, Bob, my boy, I believe you're in love!"

"No, I am not," says Bob, with an attempt at a cheerful laugh.

Dacre knocked the ash off his cigar tenderly, and took a long look at
the supine form of his protegé.

"You look very like it. You used to be somewhat of a domestic turn, my
Robert--a man given to admiration of tea-table virtues, and a never
tiring squire of dames. You used to be unpleasantly severe in your moral
code, too; and were quite an Australian John Knox in the way of
denouncing those social amusements that 'sin against the strength of
youth.' Now, you plunge headlong into bachelor gaiety, and eschew the
company of those wise virgins who are keeping their matrimonial lamps so
steadily burning. When a young gentleman of your turn of mind evinces a
sudden dislike to 'lovely woman,' as good society presents her, he must
be in love. Who is she?"

"Nonsense, Dacre."

"Exactly. Nonsense, of course, which, likewise, is the end of all
things. Love is nonsense--so philosophers tell us."

"They have never been in love then," groaned Bob, goaded to admit
something.

"Oh, dear me, yes they have! That is the reason they speak so positively
on the subject. It is painful while it lasts, but one gets over it. In
old days one had time to fall in love with a woman. Now we all live so
fast that I do not believe a man has time to know whom he ought to have
married until his eldest son goes to college. Are you sure that you have
fixed upon the right 'object,' my dear boy? Many young men of your
impressionable temperament fancy themselves in love, and get married;
and then, by Jove, sir, bricks without straw are nothing to it!"

Bob rolled about upon his sofa uneasily. He was eager to make someone
his confidant, yet he did not know how to begin.

"What would you do now, Dacre, if you wanted to marry a girl?" "Marry
her"--said Dacre, with his eyes shut.

"Well--but--hang it--suppose she refused you?"

"Ask her again."

"Suppose she was in love with somebody else?"

"Cut him out."

"But suppose she loved him better?"

"In that improbable case, I should let her alone; because I should feel
convinced that a merciful Providence had intervened to save me from
marrying a woman of bad taste and worse judgment."

Despite his heart-sickness, poor Bob laughed.

"You have got a good idea of your own value," he said.

"My dear boy, I have 'lived my life,' as the German fellow says; and I
have found out that one can marry ninety-nine women out of a hundred, if
one only has pluck and opportunity."

"But suppose a man falls in love with the hundredth?" says Bob.

"That is his misfortune. But even then, judicious manoeuvring may win
her. You fellows are so confoundedly frightened! Women are merely human
beings, my lovesick swain, and they don't mind being made love to as
long as you do it according to their own idea of the tender passion. It
is no use beating about the bush, you know. Why don't you go to your
Beloved and tell her that you insist upon marrying her."

Bob's hair nearly stood on end at this daring proposal.

"My dear Dacre!"

"Of course I don't know the young woman, so I can't advise you as to
your course of action; but you may depend upon it that, with the average
'girl of the period,' a little strength of mind is not out of place.
Women, as a rule, hate bashful suitors."

"Were you ever in love, Dacre?"

"Yes, once; and if I had married the girl I should have been ruined for
life."

"Wouldn't she have you?" asked Bob, who was becoming interested. "Oh,
yes! She would have had me fast enough. She was governess to one of my
sisters--Lady Ellesmere that is now, you know--and I was at college.
Fortunately my father stopped the thing in time, and sent me to
Germany."

"Did you never see her again?"

"She wrote me a letter, all about love and duty, and so on, and forbade
me to try and discover her. Of course I did try; but--contrary to the
usual practice of women--she meant what she said, and left no address."

"Did you never see her again?"

"Yes. She writes books now, and put me into one under the name of
Launcelot Lisle. The critics said the character was 'evidently drawn
from the life.' 'Gad, so it was."

"She must be a clever girl," said Bob.

"Girl! My dear fellow, do you know Miss Meutriére?"

"What! the fat woman with the big eyes?"

"The same. I don't care about her now, you know, and she hates me."
"Then you never could have loved each other," said Bob, positively.
Dacre laughed.

"Hallo! my boy, are you going to moralise? By Jove; perhaps you are
right though. What does it matter? When one reaches fifty a good dinner
is better than all the love in the world."

"Not always!"

Dacre rose and put his hand, not unkindly, upon the young man's
shoulder. Perhaps the conversation had touched some tender chord in that
cynical heart of his, and set it vibrating to the old tune he had so
long forgotten.

"Tell me who the woman is, old fellow. I daresay your case is not
desperate."

"Miss Ffrench," said Bob.

Dacre started. Despite his suspicions, he had not expected that so
sudden a conclusion had been arrived at.

"And did she refuse you?"

"Yes."

"Any reason?"

"No; but" (here he gave a great gulp) "I think that she loves her
cousin." "Hum! She did not say so?"

"No; not in so many words--but--"

And Bob recounted what had passed between himself and Kate.

"So you left her?" said Dacre, when the story was finished. "You did not
go back again, eh?"

"No: but as I shut the door I waited a minute, and I thought I heard a
sob."

Rupert smiled.

"Did you? Ah! well, cheer up, you are not in such bad case after all."'
"Don't you think so?"

"I'll tell you what, old fellow, I will give you one piece of comfort."
"What?"

"This. Kate Ffrench will never marry Cyril Chatteris."

"Why not?"

"Ah! never mind. Will you trust me with your interest in the matter?"
Bob grasped his friend's hand.

"My dear Dacre, of course."

"Come, then, let us go and have dinner. Talking about love always makes
me hungry."



Chapter XXVII. "Bless You, My Children!"

CYRIL'S morning reflections upon the evening's work were not of a
consolatory nature. It is not a pleasant feeling--the sudden waking up
to the consciousness that you are miserable, and Cyril experienced it to
its utmost extent. At first he felt almost inclined to go to his father,
and make a "clean breast" of the matter, but he was not brave enough; so
the curse of indecision overtook him again, and he temporised. He had
half a mind to act a manly part for once in his life, and confess his
misdeeds--to take the consequences, and, if need be, work for the woman
he loved. But the sight of conscious Kate, blushing crimson over the
breakfast cups, put all his good resolutions to flight.

Saville Chatteris was unusually cheerful and condescending.

"Ah, Cyril, good morning! Pray be seated. Kate, my dear, you look quite
enchanting this morning."

This was gall and wormwood. Could she have told him? Impossible. Cyril
said nothing, but sipped his coffee, and crumbled his toast in moody
silence. Kate gave him his coffee-cup, and blushed as her hand met his;
whereat, old Saville, who was not without his own experiences, smiled
paternally, and Cyril winced. He was in for it now--sink or swim.

The fact was this. Kate had gone straight to her bedroom and indulged in
what young ladies term "a good cry," by which she relieved her nervous
system and soaked two pocket-handkerchiefs. Collins, her maid, an astute
and wary damsel, had long suspected the existence of something more than
cousinly affection between the two young people, and had watched the
growing love affair with all the interest that nine-and-thirty takes in
sweetand-twenty.

Kate pleaded headache; Collins recommended eau de cologne, and, during
its administration, took occasion to ask when Mr. Cyril was going to
leave. Kate shut her eyes at that, because she felt that she was
blushing--much as an ostrich puts its head into a hole to hide from its
pursuers. Collins smiled grimly, and went on talking relentlessly.

Kate lost her temper.

"You tire me, Collins; don't chatter so much! There, that will do; you
can go!"

Whereupon Collins went straight to Lady Loughborough, who was reading a
French novel in bed, and told her that she believed that "Mister Cyril
had spoken to Miss Kate."

"Spoken, woman! What do you mean?"

"I mean, yer ladyship, that I believe he's proposed to her. The pore
young lady's put out about something or other; and when I mentioned
Mister Cyril's name accidental, she turned cooloor de rose."

"You're a fool, Collins; leave the room!" said the uncompromising old
lady.

But as soon as the door was shut the French novel went down on the bed,
and Lady Loughborough rang the bell twice. That meant, "send up
Justine."

Justine was a yellow-faced animal from Brussels, and was called
"Ma'amselle." She and Collins were at daggers drawn.

"Tell Miss Ffrench to come here."

So poor Kate, who was sitting on the edge of her bed, dreaming with her
eyes open, had to put on dressing-gown and slippers and patter down the
corridor to her aunt's chamber.

"Sit down, my dear," said Lady Loughborough. "Justine, put some coal on
the fire, and bring up my negus."

"What is it, aunt?"

"Has Cyril asked you to marry him?"

"I--I--oh, aunt--well, he said--yes, he has asked me."

"And what did you say?"

"I didn't say anything."

"Oh! you accepted him then? Well, I'm very glad to hear it, my dear,
though the news quite startled me. Give me some water, my love. Not that
tumbler, you little fool; that's my teeth! Thank you."

And the dowager, who had been termed by Rupert Dacre "a magnificent
ruin," clattered her rings against the glass, and pretended to drink.

"Now, you can go," said she, when obedient Kate had smoothed the
pillows; "and I shall speak to your uncle the first thing in the
morning."

That was all; no love, nor kisses, nor tender words. Sybilla, Dowager
Viscountess of Loughborough, regarded marriage as a mere affair of
barter, and was glad that her niece had sold herself at a good price.

"It will be an excellent thing," she soliloquised. "Cyril will be kept
out of mischief, and settle down; and Kate will have a home.--A little
more sugar in the negus, Justine; you never make it sweet enough."

As she sipped her negus, she was so elated at the prospect of a speedy
settlement of family embarrassments that she determined to write a note
to Saville informing him of the fact, which she did.

"Let Mr. Chatteris have this the first thing to-morrow morning," said
she, and then she read herself quietly to sleep with La vie privée, and
dreamt that she was sixteen and dressing for her first ball.

Saville Chatteris was delighted, but he was also astonished. He had
given up all hopes of a marriage between his son and his niece, and the
intelligence startled him. Of course, the servants'-hall knew every
particular, and Justine, as the confidante of Lady Loughborough, lied
for at least three-quarters of an hour with astounding volubility.

"Cyril, I want to see you a moment," says his father, when Kate had
risen to go--"Come into the library."

Cyril went, with his heart sinking into his boots, and all unconscious
of the grinning faces of John and William, who inter-changed smiles
across the coffee-service.

"So, Cyril, you want to marry Kate, do you?"

"Yes, sir!" says Cyril.

"Ah. Well, my boy, I am very glad to hear it--very glad. It is just what
I wished. It will keep you steady, and, I hope, make you a better man."
Cyril changed his foot.

"You know that I have always taken a very great interest in poor Laura's
child"--he was dropping into his ordinary manner again--"and, as I told
you on the occasion of our last interview, it has been the dearest wish
of my heart to see her happily married. I did think at one time that she
preferred poor Fred--but I was wrong, it seems"--The old man stopped
suddenly--"Are you sure that this is not a passing infatuation--one of
those follies which young men sometimes commit? I never suspected
anything of the kind before."

"I have loved my cousin a long time," says Cyril, "but I did not like to
speak to her. The fact was, sir, that, after my--after I left Oxford, I
was ashamed of myself, and, in fact"--

"I understand, my boy," cries the father; his affection blinding his
diplomatic eyes. "You wanted to atone for the past. Well, well, we'll
say no more about it. I did not hear very good accounts of you from
London, I must confess; but I suppose you were uneasy and anxious. Never
mind. There, go and see Kate"--and, as he pushed his son gently out of
the room, something very like a tear fell on to the old diplomat's
waistcoat.

Cyril was quite overcome. He was not wholly bad, and this sudden display
of undeserved affection was too much for him.

"What a villain I am!" was the first thought--"what a mess I've got
into!" was the second--and selfishness carried the day. "I can manage
somehow!" he cried mentally, as he walked down the passage. "Who knows
what might happen?" and his half-formed thought of the previous night
rose up grimly before him.

Kate was in the sunniest drawing-room in the house, pretending to read,
and when her cousin came in, she rose to meet him.

"My aunt found it out last night, Cyril," said she.

"So I suppose," said he, and kissed her. There was a pause. "We shall
have to wait a little," he said at length. "I must make arrangements for
giving up my rooms in town. I suppose I shall have to live down here."
"No--you need not."

"My father wishes it, I believe."

"I think not," said Kate. "He was talking about you the other night, and
seemed to think that you ought to do something--"

"Do what?"

"Go into parliament, I think he meant."

Cyril opened his eyes. Here was a chance he had not reckoned upon. Here
was a vista of political fame opening before him.

"Go in parliament? I never thought of that. For Kirkminster I suppose?"
"Yes. I think he meant Kirkminster."

"But the Radicals are too strong."

"He seemed to think not."

"Well, perhaps it might be managed. How would you like to be the wife of
a member of Parliament, Katy?"

Kate blushed.

"You ought to do something, you know, Cyril; and uncle does not like the
newspapers."

"No, I know he doesn't. I am tired of them too. Journalism is very
unsatisfactory, Kate."

"But you might be a great author," said Kate, who, woman-like, was
willing to believe her lover all that was brilliant and clever.

Cyril laughed; his vanity was gratified at the presumption.

"I might."

"I am sure you have talent enough. I should like you to be a great
author!"

"Should you, darling? Well, I may be, one of these days."

"I am sure you will, if you will only work."

And they went off into a discussion upon authors, and novels, and
literature.

Cyril forgot his troubles, and thought only of the woman at his side.
She understood him. She was not like Carry, who always praised every
book that her husband liked, merely because he did like it. With this
woman his wife, he thought he might do something really great. He might
settle down, and read, and work, and talk over plans and projects. She
could sympathise with him, for she was clever and well read; not like
the silly girl he had left behind him. How he cursed himself for his
hasty marriage! So the day passed, and Kate was happy. Yet even over her
there seemed to hang some cloud as though thunder was in the air, and
the present calm was but the lull before the storm.

Lady Loughborough appeared in the course of the afternoon, and was
pleased to be gracious.

"I am very glad to hear of your engagement, Cyril," said she. "I am sure
Kate will make you a good wife, and you will give up these horrid
papers, and live like a gentleman. Society has claims upon you, Cyril,
and you cannot ignore them." With which she pressed a kiss upon her
niece's brow (the teeth being in their proper place) and composed
herself upon a sofa with her grandest air.



Chapter XXVIII. Prose and Poetry.

BLAND was writing in his room when Binns came in, and flung himself upon
a chair.

"I've seen her again, to-day," he cried. Bland knew whom he meant.
"Where?"

"In St. John's Wood. She was standing at the window of a house there,
when I passed this afternoon. Oh, Bland, I'm in love with her yet!"
Bland looked up at the boy sadly.

"This is nonsense; you must forget her now."

"I can't, I can't;" and he groaned.

Bland was silent.

"What am I to do, Bland?" cries poor Binns.

"It is no use to advise you, you won't take advice."

"Yes, I will. I have been working hard for months now; but the first
time I saw her, all the old time came back again."

"What about this political business?"

"I met Dacre this afternoon just at the gate. I think he had been to
call there."

Bland started. He had heard enough of Mr. Dacre to know that he was not
the man to call upon a lady living in seclusion in St. John's Wood
without some ulterior purpose in view.

"Did you speak to him?" he asked.

"No; I just passed him. He was lighting his cigar."

"At the gate?"

"Yes; he had just come out. He is a friend of Mr. Chatteris, you know."

"I don't like it," said Bland, shaking his head, mournfully. "I don't
like it."

"Like what?"

"Rupert Dacre visiting at that house."

Binns flushed.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean that he is not the man to be intimate with a young girl like
that." "She is pure as an angel," cries Binns.

"I hope so. But I have heard some queer stories about Mr. Dacre; he is
not the 'model man' he appears to be."

"What have you heard?"

"Never mind. I hear many things which may or may not be true." "You
think then that Dacre is--is--making love to Caroline?" "Heaven forbid
that I should say so, but it is quite probable."

"If I thought so, I would kill him," cries Binns, infuriate; and he rose
and paced the room.

"Nonsense! Kill him! My dear Robert, you are too impulsive. Mr. Dacre is
but an ordinary type of his class."

"He is an aristocrat, and I hate him!"

"Don't be foolish. Aristocrats, as you call them, are very good fellows.
I knew many of them once. I daresay Mr. Dacre thinks he is not doing
much harm."

"Much harm! To seduce another man's wife?"

"Perhaps he does not think that she is his wife?"

"But he must know it. Why, all the world knows it!"

"The world is a large place. Your world is not Mr. Dacre's world. It is
easy to keep these things secret."

"But Cyril was married in open day at the church in Dym street."
"Exactly; but all London does not go to the church in Dym street. Who
were present at the marriage?"

"I don't know; Mrs. Manton, I suppose."

"And then Mr. Chatteris went away, and when he returned he removed his
wife to St. John's Wood. He is away now."

"Where?"

"Down at his father's house in Loamshire."

"How did you hear it?"

"I heard Blister say so; he is an intimate friend of his."

"The editor of the Mercury?"

"Yes. I am afraid that the poor girl has been deceived."

"Deceived! Impossible! He could not have deceived her."

"She lives with him under another name, at all events. He gave a letter
to the messenger to post the other day, directed to Mrs. Carter,
Laburnum Villas, St. John's Wood. Is not that the house?"

Binns began to groan. He had heard and read of profligacy, but he had
never seriously contemplated the fact of a man marrying a young girl,
and deliberately endeavouring to falsify the marriage when he grew tired
of her.

"He cannot be such a villain," he cried at last. "Oh, Carry, Carry, my
love, my darling, they have deceived you! He does not care for you--he
is a villain--a villain--a villain," and so on. You see he was much
moved, this poetical young booby; and his sentiments found voice in
invective.

"I will go to her at once, and find out about this matter. She shall not
be injured. By heaven, if they try that, I'll--I'll--"

"Sit down, for goodness sake," cries poor Bland. "There, there, I am
sorry I spoke. I may be wrong--I must be wrong."

Binns writhed away from the friendly hand.

"No, you are right. I believe you are right. That accounts for it
all--for the secresy and the mystery there has been about her. You
remember the night that we were at Mrs. Manton's? That villain was there
then. That was when he first spoke to me about politics. Curse his
politics! Curse him, and everyone!--her, too! No, no--not her. She is a
victim--a martyr!" and then he groaned again, and dug his fists into his
eyes and blubbered.

Bland got up and lit his meerschaum,--that huge meerschaum, that had
been his solace during many a weary night and day. The poor fellow's
tender heart was sore, and as he sat and puffed, and the wreaths of
smoke curled around his head, he thought of his own wife--that tender
little blossom that had given herself so trustingly to the grim, gaunt,
enthusiastic young man who wanted to be "an author," and who had, after
much sorrow and toil, only succeeded in wrecking her frail little bark
as well as his own among the cruel rocks and relentless billows of
London life. "God help her, poor child!" he sighed.

Binns started up.

"Can we do nothing? Don't sit there like a block of stone, when,
perhaps--Oh, Bland, you don't care for me, or you would help me!" Bland
turned sorrowful eyes upon him.

"Don't say that, my dear boy," he said. "You know I do care for you. But
we can do nothing now."

"Why did you not tell me at first?"

"I did not know of it until yesterday--at least I only suspected. I only
suspect now."

"We had better tell her mother."

"I thought of that; but the result would only be, that the poor child
would be taken somewhere else."

"Then write to his father and tell him that his son is married."

"That might do, but--No, I think that the best thing is to wait and
watch. She is a good girl, I believe----"

"I know she is."

"--And, perhaps, after all, Dacre is really a friend of her's. I think
that the best plan will be, to give Mrs. Manton an inkling that Dacre is
too frequently at the house, and for us to watch him. Cannot you renew
your acquaintance with her?"

"Oh, I can't see her again! Bland, I can't--I daren't."

"You must! Come, be a man! Do not let this hopeless passion unfit you
for a man's work. Besides," says Bland, a touch of gentle sarcasm in his
tone, "you are young--you will forget her--"

"Never," cries Binns--"Never! I have tried, and failed. I shall always
love her."

"You love her now because you can't get her--because she is unhappy and
in sorrow; but you will see other women you will like better, by and
by."

"Don't talk like that, Bland! I can't bear it! I know I'm ugly and
ill-bred, and only half educated, but I know what love means. I can
neither write nor read, nor sleep because of her. It is only when I have
work to do that must be done, that I can forget her. I did forget her
for a little time, but when I saw her again I was as bad as ever. Oh,
Bland, it's terrible! If I take up a book and see her name in it, I
tremble. If I hear her spoken of, I blush. I am a fool, I know, but I
can't help it--boohoo--I--I--can't h-help it!"

"Poor fellow!"

"It is all very well to say 'forget her!' I am a 'cad' I know, but I've
got feelings. She's too good for me, and she's too good for him. Oh, why
was I born?"

Bland could not but smile, but his face was in the shadow. Binns went
on--

"Look here!--if she'd married me, I'd have made her happy. I'd have
worked for her and loved her, and cherished her, and been an honest and
true husband to her. But she wouldn't! No, she was taken in by that
'curled and oiled Assyrian bull,' that scented mass of millinery; and
she's thrown herself away, and made my life miserable. I'll go away to
Australia, or somewhere. I can't live in the same country with her. Oh,
Carry, Carry!"

Bland, whose capricious fancy was tickled at the notion of Cyril being
like a curled and oiled bull of any breed, Assyrian or otherwise, was
smiling, but the last sentence was uttered in so dismal a tone, that his
heart smote him for his selfishness.

"Robert--my dear Robert--do not go on like this. You make me miserable."

Binns sprang up again.

"All right, my dear fellow--all right. I will forget her! I'll work and
write and talk. I'll go to this Dacre, and see what he can do for me.
I'll watch him, and her, and all of them. I'll save her; and then, when
she knows how much I love her, I'll go away, and she shall never see me
more."

Then he began to sing.

"Shall I, wasting in despair, die, because a woman's fair? If she be not
fair for me, what care I--?"

But he broke down.

"Oh! my God, what shall I do? This is killing me!"

And he rushed off into his room.

Bland took up the meerschaum again with a sigh.

"Poor young fellow, he's going through the fire! He does love the girl,
I believe, but he's very young. He'll 'get over it,' as men say. Ah!
well, this is a weary world; 'out of joint,' as Hamlet says. She is not
half good enough for him, and yet he is dying for her. He sobs and sighs
and makes his life miserable, and she is probably trying on a new
bonnet, or fitting a new bracelet. Yet I don't know. Perhaps I am wrong,
and the poor child is really unhappy. I am sure Dacre is at some
villany, and she is romantic and silly. That comes of educating girls
above their stations, or, rather, of not educating them enough. Half
measures are always bad. That was the mistake I made--neither author nor
plagiarist. I was hopeful and young once, like him; but I failed. My own
fault, I suppose, 'like little wanton boys that swim on bladders.'
Heigho! I married young--married for love--and my darling died. Better
so, perhaps! I am old, and grey, and careworn, but the grass on her
grave is always green. Life is very wearisome! A mistake? I don't know;
I begin to doubt everything sometimes. Faith--faith--you can move
mountains! Ah! it is a sad farce to most of us; tears and laughter
mixed--dead-sea fruit. I don't know; there is something noble in living,
in working--something not wholly vulgar in dying with the consciousness
that one has done even such work as God has given me to do. What will be
the end of it all, I wonder? Dust and ashes? Shall I be put between four
boards and annihilated for ever--turned into phosphates and guano--or
shall I get my sins pardoned, and see her again with her pure eyes, an
angel in heaven? All is dark--dark and dreary; 'infants crying for the
light, and with no language but a cry.'" He looked round the room. "This
cannot be the end of it--a coffin in one corner, and the blinds down for
a day; then phosphates! Lord help us all!"

And then the poor old bewildered man knelt down and prayed; and, in the
middle of his prayers, the landlady knocked at the door to tell him that
she wouldn't have the gas burnt at that rate, and that if he wanted to
sit up late he must buy candles for himself.

The sublime and the ridiculous side by side.

He went into Binns's room. The boy was asleep--not poetically, but with
his mouth open. The little table in the corner was loaded with papers.
Poetry.

Bland turned the heap over.

That glorious vision that old Homer had, What time the sound of battle
came to him Over the wind-swept plains of Troy.

"Hum! plagiarism! Tennyson. What's this?"

TO LONGFELLOW'S HYPERION.

Oh! dreamy book, read long ago

In quiet childhood--half forgotten,

Thy memory breathes full soft and low.

"Of course! We have all heard that idea before. Here is something about
the sea."

In the long stillness of the moonless nights, When with a ghastly
glimmer,

Shuddering break the Northern lights. And the blue ice doth shimmer

With a treacherous, ghostly gleam,

And the sheeted icebergs floating along"--

"What is a 'sheeted iceberg?'" TO C--.

I wait for thee, my love,

When daylight fades, and stars are nigh.

"To rhyme with 'sky,' I suppose? Of course!" TO BEATRICE.

"Who's she, I wonder?"

O'er hill and valley the sun has set,
Beatrice; But in yonder garden where last we met
The tender twilight sadly lingers yet, Beatrice!
The roses wax faint with their own perfume.

"Do they?--Ah! he's been reading Tom Moore, I see."

Should worldly cares or griefs my heart be fretting,
Then turn thy dewy lips to mine.
With each delirious kiss a grief forgetting,
I'll drown my cares in Love and Wine!

"Love and Wine! Poor fellow! More blank verse!"

The blushes shuddered o'er her face as fast
As shadowed clouds upon a hill at noon.

"That's nonsense! What's this?"

A mighty Presence, with unwinking eyes, That looks on an eternity of
stars.

"Not so bad that! Here's some prose! 'The Glory of Labour: an Essay on
Working Men's Associations.' The ink hardly black yet."

He shaded the candle with his hand, and turned and looked at the
sleeper. "You've got some stuff in you, I believe, my poor boy; but it
is hard work getting it out--isn't it? In the meantime, we must see how
we can help this poor little girl. If I hear anything more about Mr.
Dacre, I shall see Chatteris myself."

And he went to bed shaking his grizzled head sorrowfully.



Chapter XXIX. Nearing the Brink.

CYRIL had been away three weeks. He could not instantly go back home,
and so he wrote a letter to his wife, telling her that his father was
anxious for him to stop, and he was afraid that if he hurried his
departure he should offend him. The letter concluded with a "God bless
you," and contained a ten-pound note.

Carry pouted at the smallness of the sum. She had begun to be
extravagant. She had begun to order new dresses, and fresh jewellery.
This was a bad sign. Moreover, she always wore her new purchases in the
afternoons when Mr. Dacre called. So she let the ten-pound note flutter
contemptuously to the floor, and threw the letter into the fire.

"Only ten pounds," she said, "and Madame Fouchet has called three times
for her money!" Then a momentary pang smote her, and she snatched the
letter from the coals. "Perhaps he cannot afford more. Poor Cyril!" and
she picked up the note and sighed.

Cyril could not afford more. He was not very extravagant; but chambers
in the Albany, two clubs, and a "separate establishment" in St. John's
Wood, cost money. In point of fact, he was nearly at the end of his
tether, and intended to make his engagement to his cousin an excuse for
asking for more money. He would not return to town yet. Carry was well
enough alone, and he could not leave his cousin. Dacre sent him a letter
brimful of anecdote and scandal, but advising him not to come up yet.
"Nothing to do--nothing to see--I am bored to death."

So far so good; he was happy in the present, and cared not to look
beyond. "Carry can go to her mother if she feels dull," he said, and
thought no more about the matter.

But Carry did not feel dull. She had a daily visitor--Mr. Rupert Dacre.

That gentleman, having once gained admittance under the title of l'ami
du maison, had given up all mention of Cyril's supposed iniquity. He
said that he had been deceived, and that Cyril was merely amusing
himself. "He must find town dull, you know--he has been used to go into
society so much."

This view of the case was not more pleasant for Carry than the other
one. She did not like to be deserted by her husband for another woman;
but to desert her because he was "dull" was not the less painful to talk
of. She was very sorrowful at first, and cried, and sobbed, and vowed
vengeance; then Dacre soothed her, and her vanity would not let her
admit that there was a possibility of her husband leaving her because he
loved another.

Mr. Dacre was kind and attentive, and praised her singing and her
playing, and was everything that Cyril ought to have been. Carry had
taken it into her silly head that she was a "femme incomprise," that she
was not understood. She was right to a certain extent. That she could
not understand her husband's cynicism and wit, and did not care for the
books he cared for, she admitted; but, on the other hand, he did not
appreciate her wealth of sentiment and love, and wounded her tender
little heart twenty times a day by exhibitions of his own selfishness.

She loved him still, but her love was injured and hurt. Mr. Dacre was so
good, and kind, and courteous that her first fear of him had worn off,
and she regarded him as a friend. Dangerous friendship! She did not love
him; she liked him. He pleased her. It flattered her vanity to think
that such a great man as the private secretary of Lord Nantwich appeared
to be, should take more pleasure in her society than in that of the
numerous duchesses and marchionesses with whom she supposed him to be
intimate. So she dressed to please him, and talked her best, and looked
her best, and sang her best for him. She was a different creature in his
presence. Neglect kills women.

When Cyril was yawning over a book, or talking borrowed cynicism which
she did not understand, she was silent, weary, and distraite. When Dacre
was with her, she was lively, piquante, witty even. Her nature expanded
under the genial sun of Rupert's delicate flattery, and she became a
different woman. She was appreciated, she thought, and so she looked her
best, not her worst. But still she did not love Dacre, and he knew it.
Any feeling of the kind that arose in her heart was instantly banished.
She meant no harm. Sometimes she thought that she ought to send him
away, or tell her husband; but then he was so polite and deferential,
and sympathy was so sweet. So she dallied on the brink of destruction,
and there was no warning voice to tell her of her danger.

In the meantime Mr. Dacre pursued his usual avocations. He had much on
his hands, but he was still outwardly calm, languid, and impassive. He
had the happy faculty of being able to devote himself to the affair of
the moment. He could always concentrate his ideas upon the immediate
matter in hand, and when Lord Nantwich talked politics, or dictated
official memoranda, he never found his secretary the less attentive, or
clear sighted; for all that unread letters from creditor, mistress, or
friend, were lying on the table before him. "A time for all things," was
Dacre's motto, and he could banish all unpleasant thoughts until "a more
convenient season." When in the office, he was the secretary upon whose
shoulders presumedly rested all the business of "Foreign Affairs;" when
in the green-room, or his stall at the opera, he was the bland,
well-informed, influential critic; when in the smoking room of the club,
the cynical commentator on men and manners, or the good fellow who would
lose at billiards, or win at écarté with the same easy grace, and
unruffled demeanour--it was only when he was alone that the spectres of
debt, duns, intrigue, and difficulty arose before him.

The pleasant boobies who nodded so carelessly to Rupert, as he passed
them in the "Row" thought that he was the easiest-going, most ordinary
fellow alive, and the beaux sabreurs, whose credit at their Agents was
not so good as heretofore, sighed as they heard his soft laugh, and
watched his calm and placid bearing. "Careful fellow, Dacre!" was the
comment of the gilded youths of fashion,--"Lives his life so easily!"
But could they have known all the thoughts that passed behind that
smooth white brow, they would not have envied him his fortune. At
present he was--he confessed it--"in a deeper hole than ever." As he
mounted his horse for his accustomed "constitutional" on this particular
afternoon, he felt that his outward demeanour was not so gay as of yore.

"If Nantwich fails in this business," he muttered, "I am ruined--bills
innumerable unpaid, fortune and fame staked at one throw. I have been a
fool. I who thought myself so wise. I have had too many irons in the
fire, and if I don't take care I shall burn my fingers. The tide of bill
discounting must ebb one of these days, and then I shall be left high
and dry upon the shore--stranded. This Chatteris affair is foolish--what
can I do with the woman if I get her? I will get her, though; so that
does not matter. If Calverly 'breaks,' I suppose Ryle will come upon me,
and if he does--crash! No fear of that though--at least I hope not. At
all events I have made myself as safe as I can. If the Cardinal wins,
Bob will be in funds; and if he loses--as he most probably will--I shall
win enough to put me straight with Jewry.

If Nantwich forms a party, I shall be provided for; and if he
doesn't--well, I suppose something will turn up. I won't give in without
a struggle. It would be hard if I were beaten, after all my scheming. I
won't think of it. One might manage to squeeze some money out of Master
Cyril," and he laughed pleasantly. "Poor Cyril! Bah, what asses men make
of themselves. Yet I don't know; the love of a pure and virtuous woman
is worth having--so romancers say. Perhaps it is--but then the
difficulty is to find the woman--nowadays one believes in nobody but
one's own mother. Cynical philosophy!--wrong, too, I dare say. Ah me!
virtue is best, I believe, after all--sin becomes so stupid after a
little time.

We say of love--what is it? Of virtue--we but miss it, Of sin--we do but
kiss it,

And it's no longer sin.

Kiss it!--Bah, the paint comes off. When I am rich I will be good;
anybody can be righteous on ten thousand a year. Vogue la galére." And
as he reached the now desolate ladies' mile, he put his horse into a
canter and, Atra Cura, found the motion disagreeable, and dropped
behind.



Chapter XXX. David and Jonathan.

ON his return to Brook-street he found Calverly stretched upon the sofa
listlessly turning over a sporting magazine. The young man was
frequently there now. Having made a confidant, he was eternally
confiding. This was rather a nuisance to Dacre, who did not care about
confidences. He was cordial enough though.

"Hallo, Bob! How are you? Come to dinner? That's right! I saw Ponsonby
in town to-day, and should not be surprised if he dropped in. Nobody at
the clubs--London as dull as ditch water. I've a great mind to go away;
only Nantwich is in such a state of anxiety about the Government that I
scarcely like to ask him.--Harris, take some hot water to my dressing
room, and let us have dinner in half-an-hour.--And how have you been,
old fellow? Have a glass of sherry before feeding time?"

Bob said he would. He drank a good many "sherries" before dinner now.
"By Jove, my boy, what have you been doing? Your hand shakes awfully."

"It's nothing. I was out late last night."

"You are always out late now. You must take care, my dear boy! Why,
you're looking quite ill!"

"Don't mind my looks!" cries Bob, a little pettishly. "Go and dress, old
fellow," and then he buried himself in his magazine.

As Dacre shut the door, he heard the clink of glasses, and when he came
back, the decanter was half empty.

He said nothing, however, and was more affable at dinner than usual.
"There is something on the fellow's mind," he said, "and I'll have it
out of him before the evening's over."

Half way through the first cigar he spoke.

"Why so silent, O Robert that I love? Prithee, why so pale, fond lover?
prithee, why so pale?"

"I'm not pale."

"Then is your state the more gracious. I thought you were. Come, Bob,
what is the matter?"

"I'm a fool!" said Bob, bitterly.

"Your case is not singular; most men are."

"Oh, don't chaff, Dacre; I'm not in the humour for it."

"You wear your rue with a difference. Other men have been in love
besides you."

Bob blushed. "I suppose they have."

"And got over it, as you will."

"No, I never will!"

"Dissipation will soon cure you."

"I've tried it."

"Gambling?"

"Yes--that was better!"

"The only cure. Double-sixes are better than double-harness, and the
Queen of Beauty pales before the Queen of Trumps. I'd rather hold four
by honours than kiss the prettiest woman in Christendom!"

"It doesn't last though."

"What--the kissing?"

"No; the play. One forgets for a time only to remember more bitterly."
"Quite poetical! 'I dream of thee, sweet Madoline!' Eat pork chops for
supper, and then you won't."

"You don't understand me, Dacre."

"Don't I? Oh, yes I do. You feel a silent sorrow here--don't you? An
uneasy sensation about the fourth button of the waist-coat--a tendency
to be miserable--a restlessness, like the white bears at the Zoo! Poor
Robert! Have another cigar? Vive l'amour! cigars and cognac! I prefer
the cigars--and cognac."

"That is French sentiment."

"Like the cognac! Perhaps it is! I hate your British brands!"

Bob lit another Cabana. "I wish you'd be serious, Dacre."

"Serious! My dear boy, the great end and aim of my life is to avoid
being serious. I make Harris read the police reports to me while I
dress, to avoid thinking."

"The police reports?"

"Yes; they always make me laugh. Fancy a poor devil being sentenced to
three years hard labour for stealing a pair of breeches, while Justice
goes in the evening to see a sensation drama, where the plot is stolen
from one author, the dialogue from another, and the 'situations' from a
third; the whole being 'vamped up' by some unhappy young man who never
gets paid because the manager turns insolvent!"

"That is nonsense, Dacre."

Dacre laughed. "Of course it is; I wanted to say something smart, that
is all. Fungaris vice cotis. You are my hone--I sharpen my wit upon you.
Don't you think, now, Bob, that I am a very clever fellow?"

Bob smiled. "I wish you'd show me a way out of my scrape."

"What is it?"

"Well, just this. I've lost money at play; I'm in love, and I'm in
debt." "Is that all? You've been in that state for some time."

"Well, no; it is not all. The fact is, that that horse of mine--I've
been backing him heavily, Dacre."

"So people say."

"And if he loses I shall be ruined."

"No you won't. Men are never ruined at three and twenty."

"I've got more than seven thousand pounds on him."

Dacre did start this time.

"Seven thousand! What on earth have you been thinking of?" "It is a
great deal of money; and it makes me anxious."

"My dear boy, it's madness!"

"I believe in the horse, you know."

"Well, but--" Dacre was about to give vent to his own private opinion
concerning Lord Lundyfoot's favourite, and then recollecting that he
himself had been instrumental in the purchase, changed his tone. "Of
course he's a good horse--better than people think--but it is such a
risk!"

"Nothing venture nothing win!" cries Bob, laughing a little
discordantly.

"Can't you hedge?"

"Of course; but I won't. Not a shilling! Look here, Dacre. I'm getting
reckless. I'll stay here until the summer, and then I'll go back to
Australia. I had thought about it before, and I've made up my mind now.
I'm in love with that girl, and I must forget her. Dissipation won't do;
this life is killing me; a man must be of some good in the world. I'll
go back to Australia and try if the bush will cure me.

"Either cure or kill you. Why, you've got nothing to do up there!" says
Dacre, who did not like to lose so profitable a friend.

"There's always work there. I can go up to new country."

"Oh!

'I will wed some savage woman! She shall rear my dusky race!'

"Is that the programme? Don't be an ass, Bob. You haven't lost the girl
yet."

"Yes I have; she's in love with Chatteris."

"I told you before, my dear boy, that she will never marry him." "Why
not?"

"Family reasons. If you are a sensible man, you will go down to
Loamshire now, and see her again."

"He's there."

"Well, no harm in that. Is he not the 'young hopeful' of the house of
Chatteris--the returned prodigal, for whom the fatted calf was killed?
Of course he's there!"

"I say, Dacre," says Bob, raising himself on his elbow, "what was the
matter with Cyril Chatteris? There was some story about his leaving
Oxford."

"Oh, some youthful peccadillo, I suppose. I never thoroughly understood
the rights of the case myself. Some fellows said it was a woman, others
a dun, others a college scrape. Quien sabe?"

"I heard something about a family difficulty. You know I never liked the
fellow much. He's not my style."

Dacre surveyed the prostrate form of his friend.

"No--I don't suppose he is. Cyril Chatteris is a Quietist."

"A what?"

"A Quietist. A man who adopts the nil admirari motto, and models himself
upon Alcibiades. You've heard of him, I suppose?"

"The Greek fellow who broke statues?" says Bob, whose recollections of
classic lore were somewhat hazy.

"Precisely--and did some other things worth mention. A Grecian Lord
Wharton; the George Villiers of the Acropolis. Not a bad fellow in his
way--but foolish. That Persian business was a mistake. He should have
been the private secretary of Pharnabazus. Instead of which he got
himself shot. The worst use they could put him to."

"I don't understand you."

Dacre laughed. "Well, revenons á notre mouton--to return to Cyril. He
copies the Greek fellow who broke the statues; that is, as far as he
can. It is a weakness of young men of the day. They want to know
everything, without the trouble of learning it, to have done everything
without the trouble of doing it, and to be at twenty-five what other men
were content to think of at fifty. Alcibiades was not democratic enough.
He outraged prejudices--a fatal mistake--and his imitators possess all
his faults, without any of his virtues. 'Earnestness' is the popular
cant now, and the dolce far niente business doesn't go down. Cyril
Chatteris will go to the bad one of these days."

"I hope not."

"Good boy! So do I, of course. Is he not my familiar friend? But he
will. He has got no ballast; and boats without ballast are not safe
craft to sail in. Make your mind easy about him."

"I don't wish him any harm; but I--I--"

"You are in love with Miss Ffrench."

"Yes--I am."

"Well, anything I can do for you, you know, I will do."

"I know you will, old fellow," cries Bob, grasping the white hand which
Dacre extended to him. "Let us drop the subject. Come down to-morrow
with me, and see the 'Cardinal.' I daresay we shall 'pull off' yet."

"Hope you will, my boy; but don't be too rash. It's long odds against
you, remember."

"Yes, in both cases."

"What is the motto? 'Advance Australia,' isn't it? Don't be
down-hearted. Come up here in the morning, and we'll go down and see the
horse. Good night!"

"Poor Bob!" said Dacre, as he flung himself back in his chair when his
friend had departed. "If he only knew as much as I do about Cyril
Chatteris and his belongings! I wonder if it would be worth while
telling him? I think not. Upon my word I've a great mind to run a 'dark
horse,' and marry Miss Kate myself."



Chapter XXXI. In which the Major gets a Little "Information."

A GREY morning, cold and drizzly. The trees by the roadside looked
haggard and unkempt--as though they had been up all night, and did not
feel any the better for it. The clouds were low in the sky, and hung
sulkily about the hedge-rows and bushes; even the wind appeared to have
arisen in a bad humour, for it moaned and groaned, and indulged in
little sniffs and gusts and fretful puffings, as though it had not quite
made up its mind on the subject of blowing. It was not the sort of
morning to entice a lazy man from his bed, and the "pike-keeper," on the
west road, grumbled as he swung back the heavy white gates, to permit
the four-in-hand drag to pass.

The six men who sat behind Mr. Calverly's four greys, appeared to care
little about weather. Swathed in the thickest of great coats, and
smoking the thickest of cigars, Jack Ponsonby defied the world. The
little Major was in the highest of spirits. He had come up to town on a
visit to his agents--which visit had produced satisfactory results, and
meeting Welterwate and Pierrepoint at an advanced hour in the morning,
had heard of the approaching trial, and in order to be present at it sat
up and played whist with Miniver and two men in the Blues. It being his
boast, however, that he was always in "training," he scorned to show any
symptoms of weariness, and assuming a preternatural liveliness, drove
Welterwate to the verge of ill humour by repeatedly accusing him of
somnolence.

"What sleepy beggars you are!" cried the Honourable John. "Why, you are
half asleep now, Welter! Why don't you go in for exercise, and that sort
of thing? Look at me! Hard as iron, sir! Ride for my life to-morrow! You
are all killing yourselves, you young men. There's Algy nodding like a
mandarin, and even Dacre looks sulky."

"I was up rather late last night," says Dacre. "It is all very well for
you idle fellows, but poor men like me must work, you know. There's that
business of Nantwich bothering me."

"Rupert always affects a preposterous amount of work," said Algy
Pierrepoint, who was not quite deficient in comprehension.

"Ah, you fellows don't know what hard work means."

"What do you call 'early parade'?" grumbled Welterwate.

"Early parade!" cries the Major, contemptuously; "listen to that from a
'defender of his country!' There will be no muscle at all in England
shortly, I verily believe."

"We'll send it all to Australia, eh, Bob?"

Bob smiled dimly, but did not reply. They had reached Thames Ditton by
this time, and to his anxiety about the Cardinal, was added the task of
keeping the four greys successfully in the middle of the straggling
narrow street.

"Poor Bob! The cares of horseflesh are upon him! See how grim he looks!"

"Oh, that mine enemy would buy a racehorse!" says Dacre.

"Don't laugh," returned Bob. "The race hasn't been run yet. We'll see
how the nag looks this morning."

"There they are!" cried Ponsonby, whose sharp eyes had espied a group of
black objects clustered under the lee of the low stabling that ran at
the back of Mr. Docketer's house. "We shall see them again at the back
of the road."

"We must be late," said Bob; "and as I didn't tell Docketer that I was
coming, he may start without us. St-t-t! Go on, lads!"

The group at the stables consisted of four persons. Mr. Docketer--whose
attire seemed to consist principally of great coat and corduroys--little
Jemmy Seabright the jockey, Isaac the weazened groom, and no less a
personage than Mr. Charles Ryle himself.

Notwithstanding the early hour, Mr. Ryle was faultlessly dressed. His
thick overcoat was creaseless, his boots were spotless, his dog-skin
gloves apparently just put on, and his face ruddy and shining with good
health. Although he had driven the long-backed trotting mare twelve
miles before his hurried breakfast with Docketer, he looked as though it
was twelve o'clock on High Change, and he was going to complete a
bargain which would put £10,000 into his pocket. Docketer was leaning
against the half-door of the loose box, chewing his customary straw, and
little Jemmy Seabright stood reverentially by the side of Isaac, who was
in charge of the sheeted form of the renowned Cardinal.

"A minute and a half, Docketer!" says Ryle. "Are you sure?"

"Quite, sir," returned that honest fellow. "It started me; it did, I can
tell you; but there, you câ-ant tell wot's in a 'oss. It's disgustin', I
call it."

"Disgusting?" says Ryle, with something very like an oath. "I won't
believe it unless I see it with my own eyes."

"Well, you can easily do that. Jim, go and get out Boadicea, and look
sharp about it."

"How came you never to find it out before, you fool?" asks Ryle.

"Blessed if I know!" says Docketer, savagely taking in more straw. "It
came all of a sudden like. The mare she was a doin' her best, when the
boy gives the old bullock a cut with the whip and yells out at him, and
he jest slipped past her like anythink! I know I never could get no go
out of him when I had him; but that lad was brought up in old
Snuff-box's stable, and knows how to work him, I suppose."

"Old Snuff-box" was the nickname by which Ronald, sixth Earl of
Lundyfoot, Marquess of Mull and Cantire, Baron Rappee in Ireland, and
feudal lord over the broad moors of Strathsneezin, was known on the
democratic Turf.

Ryle whistled.

"Oh, that's it, is it? Well, we must do the best we can. Do you think
the brute can win?"

"No, I don't say that, Muster Ryle, but his chance aint half so bad as
we thort it were."

Ryle ran his eye over the tremendous quarters of the big horse as Isaac
tenderly tightened the surcingle under the clothes and prepared to hoist
the lad to his saddle.

"Come here, Seabright! you've ridden this horse before, havn't you?"
"Yes, sir," says the lad, "I rode him the only time he won a race."

"Ah! I remember. Yes, astonished everybody. How was it he never won
anything else, eh?"

"Don't know, sir; unless it was that they didn't know how to handle him.
You see, sir, I'd been with him ever since he was foaled a'most, and the
horse 'knows me.'"

"Why didn't you ride again, then?" put in Docketer.

"Got a bad fall, larkin' sir, and got the sack for throwing down a
hoss." "Oh; sarve yer right, yer young scamp!"

"Well, sur, I don't say but what it did; but I wor very bad, I wor; hurt
my back, somehow. In fact, if Major Ponsonby hadn't given me a little
light work about his stable, I should ha' starved, I expect."

"Um!" says Ryle. "Well, you do as you're told, and you won't starve
here. Get up and give the horse a spin now with the mare."

"There's horses' feet on the road!" says Docketer. "Bless'd if it aint
Mr. Calverly and a lot of swells in a fower-in-'and! Confound it, we
can't run 'em this morning then."

"Here, I won't be seen about. I'll just slip round by the back of the
house. Don't you tell him, Docketer."

"All right," says the Man-who-could-be-trusted-with-untold-gold; "I
won't tell him, Muster Ryle."

In another moment the ringing of the gate bell, and the clashing of
gravel, announced the arrival of the visitors.

"Hold on a bit, Isaac," says Docketer; "we'll have to wait now, I
suppose. And you, you young beggar," he added, turning to the lad, "none
o' your yellings this mornin', mind. You take it easy, and never mind if
Boadicea beats yer on the post. Do yer understand?"

Jemmy grinned. To a boy who was born at Newmarket, and bred in a racing
stable, such a question was superfluous.

"Good mornin' gentlemen, good mornin'. Didn't expect you this mornin',
Mr. Calverly. How do you do, Mr. Dacre?"

"Well, Docketer, how is the world with you?" said Ponsonby, who boasted
that he knew everybody who had ever owned a racehorse.

"Oh, sur, I can't complain. Trade's pretty good, and ground's pretty
soft." "How is the horse?" asked Bob.

"Fit as a fiddle, sur. Walk him over here, my lad!" The boy obeyed, and,
when he saw Ponsonby, seemed inclined to speak, but, catching the
Major's impassible eye, and seeing no recognition there, contented
himself with jerking his head at Bob.

"Who's this, Docketer?" said Bob.

"He's a new lad, Muster Calverly. T'other one couldn't be trusted. This
'ere boy is smart enough, and knows his work, so I h'engaged him. Don't
yer saw his mouth, yer young vagabond. Woho, boy, then! Steady! Feel his
legs, Major. H'iron, aint 'em? I'm a going to give him a spin with
Boadicea this mornin'."

"Well, you'd better look sharp," says Welterwate, "it's six o'clock
now." "Get up, Isaac, then, and take 'em twice round."

Both the horses seemed pretty well matched. The mare kept close
alongside the Cardinal for all his tremendous strides, and, as they went
past the little group of spectators for the first time, the Major said,

"He's an awfully slow mover, Docketer; those strides of his are
tremendous, but he takes half an hour to do 'em in."

"Bless you, Major Ponsonby, he's only a playin' now; see him by an' by,
when the lad lets him out."

"He looks as if he could 'stay,'" says Pierrepoint.

"Stay! Yes, till the day after to-morrow," returned Docketer, a little
contemptuously.

"Now they're letting 'em out. See! By Jove, he brings his legs under him
well, though. The mare can move along, too."

"Once more, and then run for it!" shouted Docketer, as the two horses
dashed past.

They were close together still, but, at last, Boadicea began to draw
ahead, and improved her distance with every stride.

"It's very strange," said Bob. "I never saw her beat him before."

"He's coming up, now, though," cried Dacre. "Good! By Jove, there's pace
enough!" The boy was standing in his stirrups, and with the Cardinal
well in hand, was coming up every moment. Old Isaac and the mare,
however, were not to be beaten. The big horse passed them once, and
Bob's heart began to beat quicker, but, despite all apparent struggling,
Boadicea gained by inches, and finally passed the white post, against
which Docketer leant, a good half length before the 'crack' that was to
retrieve the young Australian's fortunes.

Bob dashed his glass to the ground.

"He can't be fit, Docketer!" he cried.

"He gives two stone you know, Mister Calverly, and he's a 'orful 'oss to
keep in condition. Blessed if I know what to do with him. Now,
yesterday, for eggsample, he went like clock-work."

Ponsonby had been looking attentively at the "boy," who having
dismounted, was leading the horse to and fro. He lounged toward the
pair. "I've seen you ride before somewhere," he said.

Master James Seabright looked askance.

"Don't you remember Jemmy Seabright, who you took in down at Leamington,
sir, when the--th were quartered there?"

"Oh!" said the major--"Yes, I do. Now look here, my lad," and he glanced
back at the group, "tell me why you didn't pass the mare." Jem shifted
his feet. "I couldn't," he said.

"Oh yes, you could, but you wouldn't."

"'Pon my sivvy, I couldn't; there!" cries the boy with sudden energy. "I
did what I knew, major, s'elp me; but she's werry quick on her feet is
that mare, and it ain't no good with the weight I carry."

The Honourable John looked hard at the shifting blue eyes of the jockey,
but could read nothing there.

"You are an ungrateful little hound," he said, "and a little liar into
the bargain. I saw you pull that horse distinctly, as you turned by the
white gate."

Jem flushed, and seemed about to reply, but Docketer, ever watchful,
stepped up and invited the major to come and "'ave a snack," which
effectually prevented any further conversation.

During breakfast poor Bob was rather cast down, and his spirits were not
raised by the wisdom which circulated around him.

"I always told you, old fellow, that the horse was not the flyer you
took him for," says Welterwate, eager to be also among the prophets.

"I hope you have not got very much on him," says the sympathising
Pierrepoint, who had himself given 15 to 1 (or 5 points below the market
price) the day before.

"You have been 'plunging' a little, Bob, I believe," said Dacre, who was
breakfasting with his usual equanimity. "Now, the best thing you can do
is to hedge for your life when you go back to town."

Bob looked moody. He was terribly disappointed; for, despite Mr.

Docketer's pleasant allusions to weight and condition, he saw, or
thought he saw, that the horse had been easily beaten, and fairly
ridden. As I have said, Robert Calverly prided himself upon his
knowledge of horses and horse-flesh, and it went sorely to his heart to
confess that he had made a mistake. He had half a mind to throw up the
whole thing, scratch the horse, and "retire from the turf." He had not
quite decided, however, when a shock-headed animal, who was half
stable-helper, half body-servant, announced that the "drag was waitin'."

"Good-bye, Docketer," says Bob, as the party went out. "I'll send you a
note in a day or two, and tell you what to do with the horse. I am
afraid that it is not much use letting him start."

This did not suit Mr. Docketer's "book" at all.

"Not let him start, Muster Calverly! You're joking. Why, we've got all
our money on him. The 'oss ain't up to his work now,--but he do take a
lot of trainin', he do. He'll be right enough come next month,
sur--trust me."

"Well," said Bob, "if he don't get better, I shan't let him start," and
he turned away.

Meanwhile the party had established themselves comfortably in their
seats, and looked round for Bob.

"What's keeping the fellow, I wonder," said the major, somewhat sulkily.
He had been out of temper all the morning.

As he spoke he felt something pull the skirt of his coat, and looking
down, saw the slender form of "the boy."

Master James Seabright had mounted upon the high wheel of the phaeton,
and putting his cunning little face close to Ponsonby's coat collar,
delivered himself hurriedly as follows:

"Beg parding, sur, but hearin' inside as how you had money on it, sur,
and remembring wot a kind friend you'd been to me, I jist slipped round
to tell you. You're right, sur, about the pulling. I rode to orders this
morning, and let the mare beat me. It's all right, sur. You tell Mr.
Calverly to keep his spirits up. If I ride the Cardinal, Major Ponsonby,
I'll win with him if they only gives me fair play."

After which he nodded twice to the Honourable, who was somewhat
astonished at the sudden apparition, and seeing Mr. Docketer emerge from
the low doorway of his cottage, jumped from the wheel and was lost to
view.

Ponsonby said nothing until they reached Long's, and then, as he shook
Bob's hand at parting, he said, "Don't you be afraid about your horse,
old fellow. I didn't say anything before those fellows--but he was
pulled this morning; the boy told me so. Docketer is trying to work one
of his 'little games,' I expect--and we must watch him. You put your
money on, old fellow. If you haven't got a flyer, you've got a horse
that's worth a lot more than people think."

"How did you find out about Docketer?" asked Bob, breathlessly.

"Can't stop to tell you now. Come and dine with me to-night at the
'Rag,' and we'll hold council over the matter."



Chapter XXXII. A Losing Game.

BINNS determined to watch over the fortunes of his adored. He was torn
with love, distracted with agony of anxiety. Did she really love her
husband, or was she inclining to the flatteries of Dacre? Much as poor
Binns detested his successful rival, he would, he said to himself, have
been contented had he been sure that the woman he loved was happy. Of
course he would not have been, but, in the present state of things, he
deluded himself into that belief.

Bland advised him to go and see Carry again, but the poor fellow was
afraid.

"I daren't," he said; and perhaps he was wise.

"Love in absence" is a pretty song, but the sentiment is not always
applicable, and Binns thought that the sight of his love would only feed
the flame that consumed him. Nevertheless, in his spare moments, he
walked round about St. John's Wood with great pertinacity. He leant
against lamp-posts and gazed up at windows; he prowled about
gardens--Romeo fashion--and quoted poetry to the moon with desperate
energy. Yet, notwithstanding all this apparent absurdity, he was
practical enough. He had determined upon his course of action. He would
watch and wait, and if he thought that his suspicions were well founded,
he would tell Mrs. Manton of her daughter's danger. As yet he could fix
upon no special incident as a pretext for such a proceeding.

Dacre was frequently at the house, it was true, but he came in the
afternoons, and left at five or six o'clock. Carry went out for walks,
but always returned before dusk. Binns began to think that he had been
too hasty in his conclusions.

The fact was that the cautious Rupert was too wise to force the game.
Cyril was away, and he had the field to himself. There was no hurry.
Besides, the bird was timid, and trembled at the net.

"It would never do to frighten her," thought Dacre. "I nearly made that
mistake once before. I must gain her confidence, then make her a little
afraid of me; praise Cyril for qualities he does not possess, and which
I will affect; soothe her vanity, flatter her; and then, when she does
not know which way to turn, play my grand stroke--Miss Kate Ffrench."

The afternoon of the return from Thames Ditton he went to the house.
Carry was at home, expectant. She had "dressed" for him, and was
gracefully posed upon a sofa when he entered. A fortnight back, she
would have risen, and perhaps blushed a little. She did neither now.

"I have been waiting for you," she said.

"I was detained by business or I should have been here sooner."

And then he began to tell all the scandal he could remember or invent.

It was a theory with Rupert that women like tyranny, and in his
assignations, it was usually the lady who arrived first. With the class
of women with whom he was a favourite, this method of treatment was
highly successful; so he naturally enough fell into the error of
supposing that the "spaniel and walnut-tree" proverb applied to the sex
generally. This by the way. However, in this particular case, his theory
held good, and Carry thought how powerful her attractions must be to
tear from his affairs of State such a magnate as Mr. Rupert Dacre.

She was rejoiced at his arrival. The life she led was very dreary, so
dreary that at times she became low-spirited and hysterical, and would
frighten the two maids by violent fits of passion and tears. She was
fast losing all her illusions, and, instead of happy wedded life, a
barren waste of loveless satiety spread out before her. She was innocent
and experienced, ignorant and wise together. For her there existed two
worlds; one sordid, base, composed of turned dresses, cleaned gloves,
and mean schemes and cares; the other, brilliant, dazzling, set with
diamonds, and glittering with gold--a world lit by wax candles, that
shed their soft glow upon fair women and noble men--a world rustling
with silks and instinct with perfumes--the world of "society."

With the first she was too familiar; of the second she was too ignorant.
She stood upon the debateable ground, midway between Philistia and
Bohemia. She knew nothing of quiet happiness. Her memory served but to
show her the dingy lodging-house, the enforced music lessons, the
hateful round of petty deceit and penny hypoerisy. Her marriage seemed
to have opened heaven to her, but in a very little time the glowing,
perfumed torch lit by love, went out in unsavoury smoulderings and
smokings; her imagination then came to her rescue--or destruction. This
was not Life; her early dreams could not end like this; there must be
something wrong with the matrimonial machinery. Poets and romancers
spoke of another world to that in which she found herself: they told her
of a land where all was fair, and love was immortal, where there were no
jealousies, no bickerings, no heart-burnings, no deceptions. Alas!

A shore like that, my dear, Lies where no man will steer, No maiden
land.

Cyril--the Fairy Prince who was to have worked such wonders--had proved
to be selfish and conceited. Instead of a lover who would cherish,
protect, and advise her, she found a husband cold, satirical, vain, and
heartless. A husband who was ashamed of his wife. There was the sting.
She could have forgiven harsh usage, and violence of anger; but the
evident coldness with which her husband treated her cut her to the
heart.

In this mood Rupert Dacre, rich, courteous, kind, well-bred and, above
all, well informed as to her little story, was acceptable. She could
talk to him, and be advised by him. He was a charming companion, and a
useful friend; moreover, there was just enough danger about the intimacy
to make it exciting. Carry felt the same pleasure as that experienced by
the little gamins, who run along bridge-parapets--there is a chance of
falling off.

But she meant no harm. Unfortunately, it does not always take two people
to make a liaison--harmless or otherwise. Some wit said, that "When
people fall in love, one loves, the other is loved." If the lover
happens to be astute, and in earnest, as was the case with Dacre, the
loved usually gives way to superior strength, and yields.

Dacre opened the ball.

"I wrote to your husband to-day."

"Yes?"

"Not that I had much to say, but I want to find out when he is coming
back. It is strange that he has not written."

"I have received one letter from him. He says that his father would be
annoyed if he returned suddenly."

Dacre did not speak, but his silence was more significant than words.
Carry blushed, and then her fingers tapped the table impatiently. Dacre
got up and crossed to the fireplace.

"And you only received one letter?"

"Only one; but he has been busy, I daresay, and--"

"Yes, I expect he has had his time well occupied."

Carry's fingers beat faster. Her colour went and came.

Dacre sighed.

It was out of pity for her--pity for the neglected wife! All her little
soul was up in arms at once.

"Tell me about this Miss Ffrench," said she.

"There is little to tell. She is a 'cousin.' She was brought up with
him, and I fancy that his father always expected that they would marry."
"Is she pretty?"

"Yes, more than pretty--beautiful."

Carry sat down again, and her eyes filled with slowly-welling tears.

"Oh, it is impossible!" she said at last, in a low voice. "He cannot be
so dishonourable, so cowardly."

"It is not my place to accuse him. I would not have spoken at all, but
for your sake."

"You did it all in kindness, I know," she sobbed.

Dacre smiled, and then crossed the room to where she sat.

"Don't cry!" he said. "My suspicions are foolish: but you asked me, and
I could not help telling you."

But, in exact proportion to his defence of her husband, so did her anger
increase. Dacre knew this. Had he attacked the absent Cyril openly, the
wife would have refused to listen to a syllable. He was too well versed
in woman-nature to make that error.

At last she pretended to be convinced, and he soothed her in quite a
parental manner. This was the sort of game that was played between them
each day; and Carry felt that she was losing at it.

Having calmed her, he began to flatter. Having shown her how brutal the
husband was, he wished to let her see how kind the lover could be.

"I wish you would sing for me," he said. "That last song of yours is
ringing in my ears yet. Come, you must not give way to this feeling of
loneliness; you will lose all your spirits. Your eyes are not so bright
to-day."

Carry laughed and looked full at him. She had fine eyes, and she knew
it. "What song shall I sing?"

"This."

And he picked out a German ballad about a noble heart pining in hopeless
love for some unapproachable princess. She sang, and he affected to let
his thoughts wander, and turned over the leaf with an apologetic start,
as though he too longed for an unattainable woman. He acted very well,
and she could not mistake his meaning.

"Thanks would be mockery," he said, as she rose from the piano. "I am
sorry I asked you to sing."

It was her turn to affect to misunderstand.

"Do you like this better?"

And she dashed off a brilliant piece of Offenbach's champagne-madness.

Dacre watched her with interest. She looked very charming, there could
be no doubt about it, and she played well and artistically. He began to
lose his head a little.

"Brava!" he cried, when the reckless melody came to an end in a final
crash, which made the glass drops in the tiny candelabra ring again.
"Brava! you play magnificently."

"I like Offenbach."

"His music is like yourself--sparkling, delicate, brilliant. Have you
ever seen any of his operas?"

"No; I have not been to a theatre for a long time."

"Ah! there is no opera now unfortunately. This is the dull season."

"Yes, it is very dull."

"You find it so, I am sure. Ah!"

And he started, as if a bright thought had suddenly struck him.

"There is a new burlesque to-night at the Isthmian. Quantox, the
manager, is an old friend of mine, and always has a box at my disposal.
Will you come?"

"Alone! Oh, Mr. Dacre, it would look so strange!"

Dacre laughed merrily.

"Strange! Not at all. No one will see you; no one would know you if they
did see you. If you put up your hood we can go in quite quietly. Come,
it will do you good."

She hesitated. She would like to go. Her life was dull--very dull. There
could not be much harm. A private box, too!

"Could not we take mamma?"

Dacre inwardly shuddered. The idea of Mrs. Manton in a private box at
the Isthmian with the aristocratic Rupert Dacre!

"I am afraid that my ticket only admits two" (palpable lie to anyone but
Carry). "I will give it to your mother if you like; but then it will
look strange, two ladies going alone. Oh, come with me! There is no
occasion to be afraid. I will come for you at seven o'clock. Full
toilette, mind! We will criticise the new piece together."

She consented.



Chapter XXXIII. "There is a Providence That Shapes Our Ends."

MR. SAVILLE CHATTERIS was rejoiced at his son's return to the paths of
virtue. The old diplomat began to dream of future glories, of seats in
parliament, of snug "places," and fat pensions. The neighbouring borough
of Kirkminster--vacant by the death of Wheales's colleague--was open, so
he thought, to his son. Kirkminster was a cathedral and a garrison town,
and, therefore, aristocratic; but it was also a "pottery" town, and,
therefore, democratic. The city was divided against itself. The town
proper was dull and conservative; the town improper was lively and
radical. In the quiet, old-fashioned heavy-mullioned houses that drowsed
under the shade of the Minster, lived the haute noblesse of the place.
The quantity of clerical dignitaries, that clustered like bees around
the cathedral hive, was enormous. Scarcely less great was the crowd of
pious spinsters, and remnants of ancient families, waifs and strays of
Burke and Debrett, washings from the cask of blue blood imported at the
Conquest, who vegetated like fungi in the quiet lanes and alleys that
intersected the Cathedral Close. Lying as it did, obscured by buildings,
and flanked by quaint gardens and mysterious cloisters, the cathedral
itself seemed like a pieuvre, stretching out its long arms in every
direction. You could not take two lingual steps in the Old Town without
treading upon some sensitive ecclesiastical tentacle, that seized you
with resistless grip instantly. Everybody seemed to be connected
mysteriously with the great inert mass that lay in the Cathedral Close.
The deans, and what not, hung on like leeches to the monstrous wen, and
were not to be torn from their hold, save by the administration of the
strongest savouring episcopal salt that could be scraped together. In
the dark lanes and alleys lived antiquated and faded persons, who had
lived for years upon the crumbs from the table of the church. Even Miss
Flittering, the little stay maker, who lived behind a corsage and glass
case, owned a brother who, when he was not robbing nests or breaking
windows, was a chorister, with the most angelic of voices and the
whitest of surplices. The interests of the Old Town were bound up with
those of the cathedral, and the interests of the cathedral were
Conservative in the most mummyfying sense of the word.

But in the New Town the case was widely different. There, a king had
arisen who knew not the Joseph of Vested Rights. Some twenty years
before, an intelligent person from Staffordshire discovered that the
Loamshire clay was remarkably well adapted for the making of pots, and,
by dint of industry and perseverance, established a pottery four miles
from the sacred circle of county and cathedral domesticity. The pottery
trade being a profitable one, this ingenious person from Stafford
flourished, and at the time of which I am writing, was one of the
wealthiest men in the shire. The "potteries," were the great thorn in
the side of Kirminsterian flesh. The pottery hands were vulgar, not to
say noisy and violent. They were free livers, free speakers, and for the
most part, free thinkers. They would not come into the fold of the
cathedral at any price. In vain did the Dean and Chapter pipe, these
unhappy persons sedulously refused to dance to any but the most secular
of secular tunes. The men drank beer and smoked, and swore and fought,
to their hearts' content; the women saved their husbands' earnings if
they could, and the girls wore bright ribbons, and admired the
"military." The "military" was the bond between the Old and New Town.
The barracks were just half way from the hill that led from the
cathedral to the Potteries; and, while the officers were whirling the
daughters of the righteous to the dulcet music of Coote, the soldiers
were drinking pots of heavy at the Flying Wheel or the Workman's Arms,
or disporting themselves in the brightly lighted dancing halls of the
New Town. Indeed, if the truth were told, the little "parties," and
quiet "at homes" of the Dean and Chapter were often deserted for the
more exciting, if less elevating, pleasures of the Royal Kirkminster
Theatre, or the New Town Singing Saloon. The --th was not a moral
regiment--indeed, it could scarcely be expected to be so, with Brentwood
for its colonel--and Ponsonby and Hetherington, together with other
dashing fellows, and 'Queen's hard bargains' were better known by the
pottery folks than they themselves would care to confess.

This was the borough, then, which Saville Chatteris wished his son to
contest, and to contest against no less a person than the mighty Wheales
himself. At present, the prevailing political tone in Kirkminster was
morbidly reformatory. Wheales, barrister-at-law and mouth orator
generally, had defeated Sir Thomas Blunderbore by an overwhelming
majority, and was carried triumphantly into Parliament upon the
shoulders of the mob. But rumours were afloat to the effect that in the
ensuing election Wheales would be worsted; that the wind-bags of that
mighty Agitator had suddenly collapsed, and the Potteries were disgusted
at the shallowness of their representative. Still the old hatred of the
Blunderborian type of candidate would not suffer them to elect the Lord
of the Beeches, and the wily diplomatist hoped that Master Cyril would
slip in, sandwich-wise, between the two opposing forces. "My name will
carry the gentry and the tenantry, and his own Radical nonsense will go
down with the Potteries. He shall go in on moderate liberal principles,
and his connection with the papers will, perhaps, do him more good than
harm."

When the subject was broached to Cyril, he felt rather terrified at the
prospect.

"Contest Kirkminster with Wheales! My dear father, it would be madness."

"Nothing of the kind, sir," returned Saville. "It is always good policy
to fly high at first. If you succeed, people will consider you a very
clever fellow, and if you fail, they will call you either 'plucky' or
'presumptuous;'--for a young man, either phase is complimentary in
political life."

"But the expense?"

"Never mind the expense. The result of a success will amply repay
outlay. Will you consent to stand?"

"Oh, I consent, of course," said Cyril, who would have consented to take
the post of Past Grand Master at a Masonic dinner had his father asked
it.

So Kate was duly told of the approaching struggle, and pretended to be
much interested in blue books, and to know all about the state of the
laws regarding Church Property.

Dacre sending down news of the New Party, Saville suggested that his son
should go up to town, see Dacre, gather from him the plans of the
forthcoming struggle, and proclaim himself an ally of the Mediating
faction. This suited Cyril to a nicety. He would go up to town, see
Dacre, quiet his wife, then return to his love once more.

So he went up with Hetherington, who said that he had received a
mysterious note from Jack Ponsonby, concerning "Calverly's horse, you
know;" and of which it behoved him, Hetherington, to take immediate
cognisance.

When they reached town it was seven o'clock in the evening. Cyril drove
straight to Brooke-street, and Hetherington, who knew the improbability
of meeting the Hon. John after four in the afternoon, went with him, "to
look up old Rupert."

"Old Rupert," unfortunately, was not at home. The grave Harris informed
the two gentlemen that Mr. Dacre had just gone out, and "h'ordered the
cab to be at the Isthmian Theayter at a quarter h'after eleven."

"By Jove!" says Hetherington. "Good idea, Chatty! There's a new
burlesque or something, I saw in the papers. Let's go!"

So they went.



Chapter XXXIV. A Duet and a Solo.

THERE was a crowded house at the lsthmian, although it was not the
fashionable season. The boxes and stalls were overflowing with
well-dressed men and women. All London is not out of town in February,
and the patrons of the Quantoxian Temple of Thespis were not of the
élite of the upper ten thousand. The Isthmian had established itself as
the theatre par excellence for comedy and burlesque. The pieces were
well put upon the stage; the actresses were young, piquantes, and
pretty; the house was well lighted and cheerful; and, above all, the
entrée behind the scenes was difficult of achievement. So it became the
great theatre for young men about town, the special place for "looking
in at" after dinner.

The new burlesque was some travestie of a classical story; something
which gave scope for plenty of pink silk and popular melody; an
unsubstantial meringue of song and dance, a bonbon cracker pettilant
with puns, a midsummer night's dream of pretty faces and short
petticoats.

Carry was delighted at her daring holiday. Thanks to Dacre's skilful
manipulation of box-keepers, they had reached the little doll's house on
the second tier, which had been for some two years back appropriated to
the especial use of Mr. Rupert Dacre, and his especial friends, without
observation. After the usual preliminary flutter, she composed her
raiment, and looked about her.

The curtain had just risen upon the first piece, a comedietta, in which
Miss Letty Lefanu (she afterwards married Lord Windermere, the defendant
in the great lunacy case), played a brilliant belle Marquise, who
marries a true-hearted spendthrift and becomes dévote.

Carry was not very much interested in the piece. The wit was a little
too fine for her, and though she laughed when the other people laughed,
she was not particularly amused, and longed for the burlesque to begin.
Dacre was tired, too. He had seen the vamped-up French absurdity before,
and he amused himself with leaning back behind the curtain of the box
and watching Carry's face.

She looked her best that night. She was, as Dacre had suggested, en
grande toilette, and her large eyes were dilated with excitement. As she
leant back, and chatted and laughed, Dacre felt proud of her presence.
He was tolerably vain, and he hoped that some one of his friends would
see him. That is, some one of his bachelor friends; for with the
"seniors" Dacre passed for a model of morality. He was in excellent
spirits this evening. He had won a victory. Three weeks back Carry would
have refused point-blank to come with him alone to a theatre. His
careful diplomacy, however, had been successful, and she regarded him as
a friend. He had compromised her now at all events. The ice was broken.
Moreover, reposing snugly in the pocket of his paletôt, was a letter
from Saville Chatteris, which he had received that evening.

"She can't resist such a proof as this," said he; "but I will not use it
until everything else fails."

There was a hum and murmur in the house as the "act-drop" fell. The
occupants of the stalls shifted their seats, in order to bring their
lorgnettes to bear upon the boxes with greater ease. The scuffle of feet
in the galleries sounded like the breaking of a sea upon shingle, and
from the dense pit arose a ceaseless buzzing. Careful matrons produced
bottles of refreshment; bald-headed papas wiped their foreheads with
satisfactory grunts of relief; fast shop-boys went out to drink and
smoke; flirtations were resumed with vigour, and the gilded youth of the
boxes told each other as many lies as they could invent upon short
notice, concerning the actresses in the forthcoming piece.

"And what do you think of Miss Lefanu?" asked Dacre.

"I like her very much," says Carry.

Dacre laughed.

"The stereotyped answer! Did you think she acted well?"

"Don't be satirical, Mr. Dacre! I did like her, really. It must be very
hard work for her."

"Hard work! Not at all. It is only half-past nine, and she goes home for
the evening. When I knew her first, she was a milliner's apprentice at
Weston-super-mare. She was harder worked then."

"It must be a strange life?"

"Whose?"

"An actress's."

"Why strange? It is as much a trade as diplomacy--only it isn't always
so well paid. You have the same idea, I suppose that all people have who
are ignorant of stage customs. You imagine that actors identify
themselves with their parts, and that Ophelia is weeping in the
green-room, because of Hamlet's perfidy--that Lady Macbeth begins to be
dangerous an hour before the curtain rises, and that Juliet is thinking
of her Romeo. Not at all. Ophelia is probably mending her stockings,
Lady Macbeth thinking of little Tommy at home, who has the measles, and
Juliet, who is thirty-five and drinks, is wondering if she shall wear
her old brocade dress in 'Venice Preserved,' to avoid the expense of a
new one."

"Oh! Mr. Dacre, you are in a bad humour this evening I think." "I speak
facts."

"Well, I don't like my romance destroyed."

"I won't destroy it, then. The stage is everything that is delightful."
"No, I don't think that."

"Come, Mrs. Chatteris, let me disabuse your mind of prejudices. There
are but two general opinions about the stage. One held by the young man
of the day, who takes his information out of third-rate novels, written
by men who have never spoken to anything above the rank of a ballet
girl. This class of man thinks that actresses must of necessity be the
proprietors of broughams, poodle-dogs, villas, and millionaires in the
city. This is wrong, The other class believes that the stage is all
poetry and excitement; that actresses live on milk and honey, and are
all exquisitely intellectual. This is equally wrong. The fact is that
the stage is like the world it mimics--a mixture of good and evil, with
the latter unhappily predominating. There is nothing poetical about it."

"There is something fascinating to me in the word, 'actress,'" said
Carry. Rupert laughed. "Romancing again! I have known a great many, and
I have come to one conclusion regarding them."

"What is that?"

"That they are very much like other women!"

"How provoking you are, sir!" but the curtain rose again upon an
exquisite picture of one of the Grecian islands, and Carry's attention
was absorbed at once.

The modern passion for burlesque is significant. It is like the American
greed for sweetmeats, indicative of unhealthy stomachs. The burlesque is
the apotheosis of fooling. It was pleasant in the hands of Planché.
Byron makes it wearisome. It appeals wholly to the senses, the intellect
is left out of the question. But the people like it, and the people pay.
There is the secret. The crities in the boxes condemn it as nonsense,
but they come and see it; the people in the pit think it delightful, and
they pay also. Maxwell Hurst was talking to Fleem (of the Spatterday
Review) upon the subject.

"What abominable nonsense!" said he. "Hark at the stuff that girl is
singing to that lovely little air!"

"The public don't care about words," said Fleem.

"The drama is going to the dogs, nowadays."

"In old times the dramatists used to go there."

"I cannot understand it. I looked in at the----as I came up. 'Othello'
was going on to empty boxes."

"It is the fault of the actors, not the public," said Fleem. "In these
times nobody learns anything. We all live too fast. If the people go to
see 'Othello,' they go to see one character, and, having seen it, they
go away. You never see a play put properly on the stage. Nobody plays
minor parts; they all want to be officers. Thirty years ago you had a
play 'cast;' now it is run up by contract. People cannot be always
seeing Mr. Brown as Hamlet, or Mr. Jones as Othello. They want to see a
play, not a character." "You don't call this a play?"

"Yes I do. All the actors are above the average, but they can play
nothing else. That is what I complain of."

"The thing is easy enough to understand. The public find Shakspeare
badly done, and burlesque well done. They go and see burlesque. Actors
find that they can make more money by singing doggrel at a concert hall
than by learning their profession at a theatre, They go to the concert
hall. The thing will right itself some day."

"I hope it will," said Hurst, as a shower of bouquets marked the
appreciation of the boxes for a "breakdown." "I shall go and smoke."

Despite Mr. Hurst's virtuous indignation, the audience were delighted.
The young men in the stalls applauded furiously. Hetherington was in
raptures.

"By Jove! how good! Bravo! I say, Chatteris, did you see that?
Chatteris, I say!"

But Chatteris paid no attention. His friend turned to look at him. He
was staring with all the power of his glasses into a little box on the
second tier. "What is the matter, Cyril?"

He turned round, and Hetherington could see that his face was deathly
pale.

"I don't feel well," he said. "Let me pass, will you? I shall go home."

But the pair in Dacre's box were so interested in the play that the
confusion caused by his sudden exit was unnoticed by them.

Hetherington seemed a little alarmed at his friend's violent
disappearance, but composed himself again as the rustle of angry silk
subsided. "Just like him," was his muttered reflection. "Always cutting
away mysteriously."

Hetherington, like most of his class, detested anything approaching to a
"scene," and was somewhat sulky at the attention of the audience being
drawn to his immediate neighbourhood. He soon composed himself, however,
and when the curtain fell, walked calmly down to the "Rag," dismissing
all mental comment upon Cyril's sudden illness with the first whiff of
the "choice Trabuco," which soothed his never very active brain.

Dacre took Mrs. Chatteris home to the Evangelical groves,--as in duty
bound, and even accompanied her within doors.

"Well, and how did you enjoy yourself?" he asked, as Carry, flinging off
her opera-cloak, sat down somewhat wearily by the fire.

"Very much," said she, and her eyes glistened. "It was very kind of you
to take me--very kind."

Dacre--who had been revolving many things during the homeward
drive--thought that the auspicious moment had arrived at last. He sat
down in a chair by the side of the sofa, and leant across to her.

"It was not 'kind' at all," he said. "It was selfishness made me take
you." Her cheeks flushed, and she played with the little screen that she
held in her hands, nervously.

"What do you mean?"

He bent his head still lower, and tried to take her hand, but before he
could touch it; the door opened, and raising her eyes, Carry saw her
husband.



Chapter XXXV. Driven to Bay.

WHEN Cyril Chatteris left the theatre, his first impulse was to go
straight home, and there to await his wife. With that desperate intent,
he walked violently up the street. His brain was hot, and his heart
beating furiously. He was of an excitable temperament, and the sight of
the slave, whom he had imagined so patiently awaiting her master's
return, disporting herself in purple and fine linen at a well-lighted
theatre in company with Rupert Dacre, had startled him out of all his
pretended placidity.

Secure in his self-conceit, he had never imagined that his wife would
have eyes for any other man but her lawful lord, and his vanity was
rudely shocked. As he walked, however, his passion began to evaporate.

"I am not going to be jealous, surely!" he laughed; and then the old
thought came back to him again.

Put into words, it would run something in this way:

"I am married to a woman I dislike. I have promised to marry another
woman whom I love. There is only one way to break the bond." What that
way must be, he scarcely dared consider.

"What a fool I was to marry her!" he cried out, in the bitterness of his
soul.

It had begun to rain, and the pavement was wet and shining. Foot
passengers were hurrying home, and the omnibus horses steamed as those
vehicles pulled up jerkily to admit fresh bundles of bedraggled
humanity. But Cyril did not feel the rain. He was too busy thinking. He
walked on in the direction of St. John's Wood mechanically; and the
faster he walked the more perplexed he became. Should he take no notice
of what he had seen, and leave matters to chance? No; he was not so
utterly base as that. He did not love, perhaps; but his pride, his
wounded honour, tingled in every nerve. Those red lips, that supple
figure, that wealth of brown hair, had no charms for him; but the girl
was his wife, and insulted honour joined in chorus with wounded vanity.
What should be his future course he knew not; at present his only care
was to reach home at once. There arose in his mind a half-formed thought
that the opportunity he had so often longed for had come at last, and
that he might discard his wife at once and for ever; but he would not
give the thought words, even to himself. He would see.

The cab was still at the door. The light in the drawing-room was burning
brightly. He unlocked the latch, and entered the hall.

In another instant he had opened the door, and surprised Dacre almost in
the act of raising his wife's hand to his lips.

The sight startled him out of all composure. "You scoundrel!" he cried,
and stepped forward into the room.

Dacre was startled too. The vision of an enraged and injured husband was
farthest from his thoughts. He believed Cyril to be at Matcham. What
should he do? To be balked in the moment of victory was galling enough,
but the position in which he found himself was ridiculous. He rose and
stood by the sofa, an angry flush on his face, but spoke never a word.

Carry--the first impulse of shame and terror over--felt, strange as it
may seem, an impulse of affection to the man who had saved her. Her
husband did love her then after all, and he had not deserted her.

She ran to him, and would have thrown herself on his heart.

But his eyes were looking straight over her at Dacre, and she stopped
midway.

"Cyril!" she cried--"Cyril! will you not speak to me?"

His face was white, and his lips compressed. All his long-felt,
long-concealed hatred for Dacre boiled up in his heart. The sight he had
seen at the door put all his worldly maxims to flight. A red mist was
before his eyes, and something seemed to rise in his throat and choke
him.

Carry was seized with sudden, deadly terror. She had never seen that
look before on human face, but some instinct told her that it meant
Murder. She sank at her husband's feet in extremity of terror.

"Cyril, what do you mean! I meant no harm. I had been--"

He shook off her grasp, and she fell, face downwards, upon the floor.
Another step brought him face to face with Dacre.

"Now sir, explain what you do here?" he said, in a low voice, husky with
intensity of passion.

The interval of respite had been brief, but it had been long enough for
Rupert Dacre to collect his thoughts. He saw one way of escape, and he
availed himself of it.

"I came to tell your wife that her husband had promised to marry another
woman," he said in a low voice.

Cyril's face turned from white to scarlet in an instant, and he raised
his clenched hand to strike.

Dacre caught his arm.

"Silence, you fool!" he hissed. "I have not told her yet. Shall I do so
now?"

The blow was craftily dealt, and it went home.

Cyril Chatteris dropped his eyes.

"Come, get up!" he cried, brutally enough, to the prostrate figure on
the carpet. "I'm not going to hurt you!"

Dacre was master of the situation in an instant. He rang the bell.

"Cyril, my dear fellow, how you startled us all. Allow me, Mrs.

Chatteris! Overcome with joy! Always the same, Chatteris,--always
impetuous and headstrong."

He raised Carry from the ground.

"I have saved you!" he whispered. "Don't be afraid!" then aloud, as the
summoned maid-servant appeared, "Good night, Mrs. Carter. You will be
better in an hour or so; the excitement has been too much for you."

She pressed his hand, and as the door closed, he turned away from the
sofa, where Cyril was sitting, to conceal a smile.

Cyril felt thoroughly beaten, and his rage increased. He was no match
for Dacre, and he felt it. Perhaps, after all, he had wronged his wife.
His father was constantly writing to Dacre, and, perhaps, one of those
letters might have contained the news of his intended marriage. Yet why
should Dacre take the trouble to find out Carry and tell her? He turned
round with a vicious snarl, like a fox at bay.

"What game is this that you are playing?" he asked.

Dacre leant against the mantelpiece in his favourite attitude, and
looked down upon his questioner with easy contempt.

By the way, have you ever remarked, reader, the vast mental superiority
which an erect posture seems to give a conversational adversary?

"Upon my word, Chatteris," he said, "I think that you are the most
disagreeable, unreasonable fellow I have ever met. I have gone out of my
way,--put myself to considerable trouble and inconvenience, to do you a
service, and you rush into the house like the injured husband in one of
your favourite French novels, and enact all sorts of heroics."

Having thrown up his arms, Cyril's only course was to accept the
position with the best grace he could.

"That's nonsense!" said he. "I came home unexpectedly, and--Besides," he
continued, suddenly awaking to the consciousness that the interference
of his friend was perfectly unwarranted--"who told you I was going to be
married?"

Dacre's white hand carelessly strayed to a pocket, and produced a
letter. Cyril recognised his father's handwriting.

"Your father told me. Here is the old gentleman's letter, breathing all
sorts of tender hopes for future amendment. He doesn't know of this
charming little dove-cote, I suppose."

Cyril was not endowed with any great amount of filial affection, but I
suppose no man likes to hear his father laughed at to his face. He rose
angrily, but contented himself with walking up and down the room. "What
business is it of yours?" he said at last.

"Theoretically, none. Practically, a highly-interesting study of human
nature. Look here, Cyril,--I am not of a deeply-religious turn of mind,
but, upon my word, you have been behaving shamefully. Why did you not
trust me at first?"

Cyril laughed bitterly.

"I suppose you think that I am not trustworthy. You are a very
ungrateful boy,--after all I have done for you. However, that is nothing
to the purpose. I promised your father that I would look after you, and
I have kept my word."

"I wish to heaven I had never seen you!"

"Possibly; but having seen me, you must take the consequences. Now,
don't be an impetuous young booby, but let us talk over your future
prospects. What do you intend to do? To go down to Matcham as I
suggested, and marry your cousin after the old programme?"

Cyril looked up sharply. Was it possible that Dacre did not know that he
was married already? He would try and discover.

"Suppose I am?"

"Then the not unnatural question arises--what is to become of the lady
up-stairs?"

"I don't know--and I don't care."

Dacre laughed outright. The obstinacy of his friend amused him. "He
still will persist then in denying the marriage," he thought.

"I have heard and read of young gentlemen like you," he said aloud, "but
I never met one before. You are a perfect paragon of vice, my boy. Why,
you don't mean to deny your marriage, to me, surely?"

Cyril, driven to bay for the last time, grew savage. "Look here,
Dacre--I've had enough of this. I've told you twice before that I am not
married."

"Precisely, and you lied each time. Don't start. I tell lies myself
sometimes--most private secretaries do. But as I happen to know that you
are married, you may as well confess it. You were married to Miss Manton
the same day that I sent you the telegram which announced your brother's
death."

Cyril turned sick with fear. He was discovered, then. His schemes were
at an end. His folly and cowardice had brought him to this pitch. If he
had only accepted his fortune, and told the truth at first, all might
have been well. Now, he was entangled beyond hope of freedom. The blow
stunned him, and he was silent.

"It is a lie!" he burst out at last. "I was never married! The girl
thought so, curse her--but I was not married. Do you hear, Dacre, I was
not married!"

It was Dacre's turn to be puzzled now. This persistency of denial
staggered him. Could there have been some evasion of law of which he
knew nothing? Could the young man have deceived everybody, even the wary
mother-in-law herself? It might be so.

"She is not your wife, then?"

"No."

"Upon your honour!"

"Upon my honour."

Dacre threw himself back in his chair and laughed.

"You are the cleverest scoundrel I know," he said.

Cyril's blood was up again at this fresh insult, but he dared not speak.
"And you really mean to marry Miss Ffrench?"

"Yes."

"My dear boy, I congratulate you. She is a charming girl, and will make
an excellent wife. It is the best thing you could do. Forgive me my
suspicions; but you managed the thing so cleverly that I was deceived."

It was a new sensation to Cyril to be congratulated for successful
villany, and he did not half like the sensation.

"You are going to join our Party, your father tells me," went on Dacre,
in an ordinary tone. "I am very glad of that. I think that we can get
you in for Kirkminster with a little trouble. Upon my word, my dear
fellow, I am so glad to find that you are not as deeply in the mire as I
thought you were."

And the good fellow actually sprang up and shook the boy's hand warmly.

"Of course, when I heard of your engagement, I felt bound--for. Miss
Ffrench's sake--to come and find out the truth of Miss Manton's story. I
am so glad to find that my suspicions were not confirmed. Marrying
beneath one's self is the deadliest of social errors; and although the
little girl is very charming and very accomplished, she is not a fit
wife for a man in your position."

Cyril was in an agony of shame. One moment he felt inclined to tell the
truth, defend his honour, and dash the smiling scoundrel before him to
the earth; the next, the thought of Kate and his father would come
before him, and he could only grind his teeth helplessly.

Dacre took out his watch.

"Nearly two o'clock! I must go. You had better come down to the office
to-morrow, and we will have a chat. Of course this little matter"--he
nodded his head at the piano as the nearest embodiment of
womanhood--"will be entirely between ourselves. It is a sad thing, but
it might have been worse. We must think of some plan to get rid of the
little girl. You can't send her back to her mother, of course?"

Cyril did not speak. He could not. Dacre attributing his silence to a
totally different cause from the real one, went on.

"These affairs are always difficult to settle, but if you are really
tired of the girl--and I suppose you must be--you had better get some
friend to take her off your hands."

The wretched boy on the sofa never moved. He scarcely understood the
meaning of the words. His perceptions were dulled by violence of
restrained passion. He felt Dacre take his hand, and he was dimly
conscious that he murmured some phrase of farewell in answer to the
other's "good night." Then the door shut, and he was alone.

He sat quite still. He did not curse or scream, or indulge in any
impotent ebullition of rage. He had been hit too hard for that. The
memory of his shame weighed upon him like a grave-stone. He felt
degraded in his own eyes. All his vanity and self-conceit had been
crushed out of him, and he sat with his head in his hands, like one who
has just received some heavy blow. At last some purpose began to shape
itself out of this chaos of misery. His thought had been put into words
at last, and after the first horror which its embodiment had induced, he
could bear to look on it calmly. "Get some one to take her off your
hands." Yes, that was the hideous thought that had arisen to him in the
library at Matcham. He shuddered even now at it. But it was his own
idea. It might be done. Such things did happen. Men have kept worse
secrets before now. It was the only way.

He rose, and mechanically extinguishing the lights, went up stairs.

His wife was asleep, her brown hair scattered over the pillow, and her
eyes red with recent tears. There was a phial of laudanum on the little
table by the bed (Carry did not always sleep soundly now), and his
bloodshot eyes wandered from the sleeping face to the printed word upon
the tiny bottle that held the drug. Yes, there was another way yet.

"She might die, perhaps!" he said, half unconsciously.



Chapter XXXVI. Spes Et Proemia In Ambiguo.

THE party of Intellect and Culture, of which Mr. Rupert Dacre was the
secret social exponent, was getting on famously. Intelligent mediocrity
flocked around its banner, and Nantwich saw himself placed silently at
the head of a devoted band of followers. In smoking-rooms and club-rooms
it was the fashion to pooh-pooh the masses and laugh at the Tories; and
the New Party had it all their own way. Dacre saw bright visions of
future place and fame rise daily before him. All seemed rose-coloured,
and he forgot his debts in the expectation of the triumphs that were to
follow the successful issue of Nantwich's scheme. The addition of the
Chatteris interest was also pleasant. Old Saville was a man of some note
among the "fogies," and his son was a very good card to play at
political whist tables, where Conservatism was pre-eminent. The secret
of the famous Mercury article was well kept, at all events by Dacre, and
Cyril himself did not suspect that his friend knew of his delinquency.

The morning after the eventuful interview recorded in the last chapter,
Dacre awoke high in hope and hugely self-complacent. "I came out of that
little scrape last night very well," he thought. "It is lucky that I
preserved my presence of mind. The notion of the letter was a capital
one. I wonder if the fellow is married after all. Upon my word, he
puzzles me. He must have lied. It would have been impossible for him to
have deceived that old she-dragon of a mother-in-law. Moreover, if he
had not been absolutely married, my shot about 'his wife' would not have
told. Now the question is,--which course am I to take. Shall I let this
affair go on, put the boy in for Kirkminster, let him marry his cousin,
and hold my knowledge of the Manton business over his head in terrorem;
or, shall I tell Miss Ffrench the whole story, and give the Australian
fellow a clear stage? I think that the former plan is the best,--or
stay, I might go in and marry the girl myself, put up with Cyril for the
borough, let the story of Foozleton's letter leak out, and so ruin his
chance of success. Mr. Rupert Dacre, M.P. for Kirkminster, and
son-in-law to old Chatteris, leader of the Cultured Party, and ame
damnée of the Prime Minister, would be a very different fellow from the
present Rupert Dacre, private secretary and expectant place-holder. To
be sure, the game is not only risky, but rascally; but then, nowa-days,
we must soil our fingers a little. My position is tolerably desperate,
and I do not much care what I do in the way of gentlemanly wickedness.
However, I must first see that the ground is safe. I think I will go
down to the musty old church in Dym-street, and turn up the register of
my young friend's marriage."

So cogitating he ordered breakfast, and soon was deep in the Times'
leading article.

At the office a card awaited him--a thick, sharp-edged, uncompromising
card--upon which was imprinted the name of "MR. ROBERT BINNS." Dacre
turned the pasteboard over. "Will call again at 3.30," was written in
pencil on the other side.

"When did this come, Davis?"

"Early this morning, sir. Young man left it."

"What the deuce can the fellow want with me?" thought Dacre, as he
settled himself to await the arrival of his "young friend." "However, he
comes in a good hour. I can pump him about the marriage business."

By and by, Nantwich came. Puffily, of course. Nantwich was always in a
nervous tremor now.

"Morning, Dacre--morning! Any letters? No, of course not. Hum!--ah! Seen
the Times? Of course you have. Looks well for us, eh?--looks well! Give
them a tussle for it, eh? What?"

"I think that your lordship's success is certain," said the respectful
secretary.

"Hope so--hope so. Nothing certain in this world; spes et proemia, you
know. What is it--classics getting rusty. Must rub up--rub up."

"Spes et proemia in ambiguo, certa funera et luctus," says Dacre.

"True--true--funera et luctus. That's right; keep up your Latin. Good
for quotations when you are in the House--eh? House likes Latin--eh?
What?"

"By the way, sir, I hear that we are going to have an accession to our
party in a quarter where we least expected it."

"Where's that?"

"Loamshire--Kirkminster."

"Kirkminster! Why, that's Wheales' place--stronghold. My dear Dacre, you
must be mistaken. Who's the man?"

"A son of Saville Chatteris."

"E-e-eh--eh! Well--well--well! Chatteris' son, eh? What!--stop. I
thought he was killed the other day--eh, what?"

"This is the second son, my lord; Cyril Chatteris."

"Oh, indeed! Ah--yes--just so. Smart young man, eh? Clever--talented.
Sound, eh? What?"

"Well," says Dacre, with a smile, "he has not shown any very great
proofs of talent yet; but he is smart enough--a little too smart, in
fact." "Oh--ah! Young men all alike. Must be curbed--eh?--curbed?"
"Exactly. He will take a good deal of curbing, too, I expect.
Kirkminster is a powerful borough, you know, sir."

Lord Nantwich shuffled up and down the room with his hands behind his
back.

"Pity so young a man--large place. Wheales leads those poor devils by
the nose."

Dacre looked on in silence. He knew by the action of his chief that he
was resolving some project in his mind; and on these occasions it was
the custom of the discreet secretary to preserve a judicious silence.

The brain of Lord Nantwich was not very fertile in invention, but it had
a wonderful power of seizing hold of other men's ideas and producing
them as its own. It was busy at the pleasant process now.

"I don't see, Dacre," said the noble lord, a little pettishly, "why you
shouldn't go up for Kirkminster yourself."

"My dear lord!" cries Dacre, in pretended astonishment, "a penniless
fellow like me contest a borough like Kirkminster!"

"Oh! stuff--stuff! Penniless! You know how these things are managed."
"Any course that your lordship thinks proper to suggest I shall consider
myself bound to take."

"Of course--of course--of course!--Just so. I must think over the
matter."

"Does your lordship wish me to contest the place with Chatteris?"

"Two members--two members--eh, what? Go in with him--keep him
down--check--check, eh? Besides, Dacre, two strings to our bow--eh,
what? If they won't have him--have you."

"But he will reckon upon the government support, my lord."

"Well, well, of course. Support both of you--both of you."

Dacre bowed silently. Here was an unlooked for piece of fortune. The
fruit was dropping into his hands almost as soon as he dared to hope for
it. Nantwich shuffled off to the blue-baized door, and stopped midway to
shuffle back again.

"Pottery-people--pottery-people, eh, what?
Democrats--radicals--agitate--Wheales--eh? Perhaps, after all, money
thrown away. What?" "It is the stronghold of Trade-Unionism," said
Dacre.

"True--true--yes. Powerful body. Eh, what? Could you get any information
about the place--people. Eh?"

"I know it pretty well myself. I have a great many friends down about
that quarter."

"Have we got anybody we could send down? Eh?"

Dacre's eye fell upon the thick card lying half-hidden by the official
report of the acting deputy-vice-consul for the Andaman Islands--with
reference to the insolence of an American barque (crew two men and a
boy) in not returning the complimentary salute of the A.-D.-V.-C.'s
newly imported brass cannon--and an idea occurred to him which made him
laugh.

"Yes, my lord. I can send a man down who will give us particular reports
of the state of popular feeling."

"Very well. Only be careful, you know--careful. You understand. Eh?
What?"

"I understand, my lord," and Dacre bowed his patron to the door of his
private room.

Then he sat down to think. He would get rid of Binns. He had several
times met that young gentleman hovering round about the "dove-cote,"
where the dove (soiled or not, he didn't care) had been placed by Cyril.
He was suspicious of Binns. Not that he feared him; he despised the boy
too much for that; but because he wanted no unseemly corse of practical
or poetical interference to come between the wind and his profligate
nobility. As to Cyril himself, he had not decided. He would see how
matters went on. The crisis of his fate was approaching, and the still
bright waters of the lagoon of social and political success shone
temptingly just beyond the foaming and savage breakers through which his
bark was now heavily labouring. His thoughts strayed away into pleasant
places. No more debts or duns, or plottings. Social position: political
success. Both were within his grasp. He had not done so badly after all.
His stormy youth--for it had been stormy, though the world thought it
fair enough--had given him experience.

"Yes," said he, rising, with a smile on his lips, "If I have spent my
money, and got into debt, and put my talents out at hire, I have gained
one thing which is worth all beside--knowledge of human nature!"

Just then the head of Davis was protruded at the doorway, and that
worthy man seeing that Dacre was alone, announced "Mr. Robert Binns."



Chapter XXXVII. Binns to the Rescue!

BINNS was becoming heroic. It is strange how perversely Nature will
sometimes reject the delicate fragments of aristocratic porcelain, and
insist upon hewing her heroes out of rough and uncomely granite.

Poor Binns was not physically cast in an heroic mould. He was small and
pimply. His hair did not fall in that graceful waviness that Art teaches
us to believe is natural. His brow was not broad nor white, nor were his
eyes in the faintest degree unfathomable. He was a very ordinary-looking
young man indeed. But beneath his outer husk, Nature--perverse as
usual--had given him a soul leagues above buttons. He was not handsome,
or even clever, but he had a good heart and a warm imagination.

To achieve success in this world, one of two things is absolutely
necessary,--a good heart, or a good head. By a good heart I do not mean
that preposterous good-natured efflorescence of vanity which tends to
make a man that curse to society--"nobody's enemy but his own,"--but I
mean that quickness of sympathy which leads one human being to
understand the likes and dislikes of another. One must either lead or
drive mankind. Either win them by kindness and quickness of sympathy, or
conquer them by the force of intellect. The former is the more pleasant,
but it is the more dangerous; the latter is the more difficult, but it
is the more effectual. Dacre and Cyril might be taken as types of the
Intellectual party; Binns and Bland as types of the Sympathetic.
Intellect was in the ascendant.

Dacre was a power in his own world, and Cyril had made whatever
reputation he had obtained by his own abilities. Both were absolutely
unscrupulous,--both intellectually egotistical. Poor Bland had made a
sad failure in his vital speculation. He lent small sums of his "talent"
of warm feeling and good nature to any needy friend who came upon the
specious pretence of starvation and misery to ask for it, and the needy
friend not repaying him (needy friends never do), the poor fellow was
wellnigh reduced to beggary. Binns had not done much better. He was
famous after a fashion, but the ungrammatical plaudits of half-washed
working men was not the fame he dreamt of. His sympathies had entangled
him in a love affair which rendered him utterly miserable, and made him
agonise to write poetry, to the neglect of the more solid comforts to be
derived from the prospective partnership in a thriving grocer's shop.
Heart was at the bottom of the tree, and Head at the top; but Head--as
we know--was perhaps after all in a worse case than Heart.

The heart of Binns was attesting its presence with great vehemence. He
was becoming a prey to devouring anxiety. Being young, I have no doubt
that had he seen Carry frequently, his love for her would have worn out.
But absence strengthened his attachment, and the discovery of Cyril's
unkindness made him more ferociously in love than ever. He was
continually hovering about St. John's Wood, and drinking the midnight
(to the detriment of his lungs) in order to watch the house where his
mistress lay. He would come into Bland's room and insist upon dragging
the good-natured fellow out into the street to walk with him. Bland
grumbled a little, but went.

I do not know if I can make you understand the life that these two led
together. They were great cronies. Binns respected Bland; and Bland
liked Binns. The day was prosaic--hum-drum--material--vulgar; the night
was glorious--poetical--imaginative. In the day, Bland was the shabby,
ill-paid reporter, whose only object in life appeared to be the
scribbling of law reports upon flimsy paper, and was looked upon as a
harmless, stupid old fogy, by the smart young fellows who "did" the law
courts for the cheap papers.

In the day, Binns was the aproned assistant, greasy, pimply, and base,
who wrapt up butter and weighed sugar and kept accounts. But as soon as
benignant Night descended, all was changed. At night, Binns was the
orator, the secretary, the poet; Bland, the essayist, the Mentor, the
raconteur.

They would go out together and wander about the gaslit streets, talking
and observing. Binns would give vent to his impassioned soul, in tirades
against wealth and tyranny--would pour out his hopes and loves into his
companion's ear until some opposing force, in the shape of an on-coming
foot passenger, would scatter the "winged words upon the heedless air."

Poor fellows! They both belonged to a class, which is surely of all
classes cursed the heaviest. They were both cursed with the curse of
conscious mediocrity.

Gifted with the faculty of appreciation and imitation, malignant fate
had denied to them the power of originality. They saw the goal, but
could not reach it. The very attributes that urged them to compete with
others in the race for fame, condemned them to the torture of knowing
that they would never emerge from the ruck of fourth-rate intellects.
Bland had gone through the fire, and had settled down to vegetate. He
lived, and was (tolerably) content. But Binns had not yet fully awakened
to the hideous consciousness of his doom. He had written and read, and
read and written, and the effort to evolve his finer thoughts had
pleased him, but when the very power which enabled him to imitate showed
him the inferiority of the imitation, his heart grew sick.

In vain did he strive to follow Bland's advice--given on that memorable
evening when he had promised to protect the woman whom his boyish heart
had picked out for an idol,--to make himself a name and place. All his
efforts were useless, and he was beginning to confess to himself, with
bitter agony of spirit, that upon him, too, had fallen the curse of
mediocrity. He would seek consolation from Bland, who was always willing
to give it, and would comfort himself with the belief that he had not
yet found his metier.

Binns' ambition was to be a poet, and he would quote to Bland for hours.
The kind-hearted reporter had not always the heart to show him his
plagiarisms, and so the soul of the poor boy was comforted; and he would
stray away to other topics--to the power of the working man, to the
elevation of the masses, and to the glory of labour and the dignity of
toil.

It was during one of these conversations that the footsteps of the pair
had wandered towards the usual spot--St. John's Wood. Poor Bland never
remonstrated at the distance, but plodded on patiently. On this
particular evening Binns noticed a cab at the door of the little
cottage. All his heart cried out.

"Look there, Bland! Do you see? A cab. I shall wait."

"Nonsense!" says Bland. "Come along. What do you want to wait for?" "I
want to see who comes out of that house."

"But, my dear Robert, it is nearly two o'clock in the morning!"

Just then the door opened, and Binns, pushing forward, recognised, in
the muffled figure that sprang into the vehicle, his old enemy and
present patron--Mr. Rupert Dacre. He started forward, and would have
spoken, but the cab dashed on.

"I thought so!" he cried, as soon as he could gather breath. "I thought
so! That villain has been there again!"

Bland was silent this time. The evidence was certainly strong enough,
for he believed Cyril to be still in Loamshire.

"What is to be done?" asked Binns, with savage eyes.

They looked up at the house. The lights went out.

"It is no use doing anything now," said Bland. "Let us go home."

"I shall go and see that villain to-morrow," cries Binns. "I'll kill
him; d--n him, I'll kill him!"

"I think that the best thing to do is for me to speak to her mother,"
said Bland.

"You may speak to her mother, but I'll speak to that scoundrel. I'll
write to her husband, too. Her husband! Oh, my God!"

And he began to groan, of course.

Not being acquainted with the fact that private secretaries to ministers
are not always attending to their duties at ten o'clock in the morning,
Binns called too early. Determined in his purpose, however, he had
called again, and marched into Dacre's room eager for combat.



Chapter XXXVIII. Head Against Heart.

DACRE was all smiles.

"Good morning, my dear sir--delighted to see you. I hope that I can be
of some service to you."

The cordiality of the reception was embarrassing, and Binns felt it to
be so.

"I came here to speak to you in private, Mr. Dacre," said he, and
twisted his hat about in his hands.

"We are quite alone--as you see. Pray sit down."

Binns felt his prepared speech deserting him. He waited for the other to
speak.

"Is it anything in connection with political matters?"

"No."

Dacre took out a little pearl-handled penknife and began to pare his
nails. "It is rather--a--a delicate matter," stammered Binns, who did
not know exactly what to say.

Dacre guessed what it was at once. "The young fool has got suspicious of
the Chatteris affair," he thought. "Let us see how he begins."

But poor Binns was in no hurry to begin.

The calm, smiling, self-possessed secretary, seated in state, and
quietly paring his aristocratic nails, was a very different man from the
midnight intriguer who could be seized under a gas-lamp and attacked at
advantage. He shuffled about on his chair.

"I am going to speak to you about--about a very delicate matter," said
he.

"So you said before," returned Dacre, without looking up. "Go on." "I am
a friend--an old friend, of Mrs. Chatteris."

Binns looked for a start or a blush at the mention of the name, but he
saw none.

Dacre smiled sweetly.

"An old friend! Were you children together, then?"

Poor Binns detected the sneer, but he went on bravely.

"I should be very sorry if any harm happened to her, Mr. Dacre."

"So should I indeed--for my friend Chatteris sake. Do you know of
anything wrong then?"

Binns grew red. "I hope not--I only suspect."

Dacre drew his chair closer, with sudden affected interest.

"Good God! what do you mean? She cannot be ill, for I saw her
yesterday."

This frank admission was a good thrust.

"She is well enough, I believe--I hope, but--but--"

"Well, speak out."

"I am afraid that she is not happy."

Dacre shrugged his shoulders.

"My dear sir, that is a matter that I fear we cannot remedy. But as far
as I am able to judge, the young lady is perfectly happy."

Secure in the consciousness of his ability to defeat his adversary, he
did not care to suppress a smile at the thought of Carry's "happiness."
Binns saw it, and was aroused at once.

"Mr. Dacre, you know that is not true."

Dacre got up. "Look here, Mr. Binns," said he, very slowly; "you are
very young and very hot-tempered, and, I think, a little ignorant of the
rules of good society. Take care what you say. I will pardon your
insolence this once, because I believe it arises from a desire to
benefit a friend of yours. Now what is it that you want to say about
Mrs. Chatteris?"

This had the effect of a cold bath upon Binns. He was quite prepared to
quarrel, but he did not understand the cool, deliberative method of
arguing upon questions of feeling, which was affected by men of Dacre's
stamp; and, moreover, his quasi refinement of intellect made him
morbidly fearful of saying or doing vulgar things.

"I did not mean to insult you, sir," he blurted out; "but I am afraid
that Carr--that Mrs. Chatteris is left too much alone."

"You should see her husband upon that point, my good boy," said Dacre,
with a sneer. "What do you come to me for?"

Binns flushed redder.

"Why, because I believe that you want to ruin her! There!" he burst
forth, and rose to his feet, expectant of coming combat.

But Dacre threw himself back in his chair, and laughed hugely. By and
bye he got himself gradually composed.

"You'll excuse my laughing, but, upon my word, the accusation is too
absurd for me to be insulted at it. What put such an idea into your
head?"

"I have seen you constantly at the house with her; and I saw you come
out of the house last night."

Dacre started. How fortunate matters had turned out as they had done!

"Oh, indeed! So you have been playing the spy upon my actions, have you,
Mr. Binns? Creditable occupation, I must say! And upon such evidence as
this you come here and insult me, insult my friend Mr. Chatteris, and
endeavour to blacken the name of a young--"

"Oh, no, no!" cried Binns; "not that! God knows, I never--"

"Now, look here, my young friend; just listen to me a moment. I am
afraid that you are either a very ungrateful boy, or a very silly one. I
have been exerting myself for your benefit because I took a fancy to
you, and you come up to my rooms with an accusation of this sort. With
anybody else I should simply ring the bell, and have him shown
downstairs; but as you are--you say--an old friend or acquaintance of my
friend's wife, I will reply to your very impertinent questions. I have
been a great deal with Mrs. Chatteris, because I am the only one of her
husband's friends who knows of his marriage; and I went to the house
last night to welcome him home. Are you satisfied?"

Binns did not know what to say. To speak truth, he was not satisfied,
but the fact of Cyril's presence disarmed suspicion. He felt bound to
apologise. "I am afraid that I have been too hasty," he said.

"I am afraid that you have indeed," returned Dacre, gravely.

"You are sure that Mr. Chatteris was there last night?"

Dacre got up to ring the bell.

Binns understood the motion, and Heart construed it into the result of
insulted virtue. He began to think that he had done Mr. Rupert Dacre a
gross injustice.

"Oh! sir, I did not mean that; but you can understand me. I did not know
what to think."

Dacre paused a moment with his hand on the bell. The thoughts that ran
through his mind in that brief instant were something to the following
effect:

"This young man is suspicious. He was in love with the young woman
himself I believe once. He is impetuous. Just the sort of young donkey
who would insist upon plunging to the bottom of the affair, and making
everybody uncomfortable. Now if I can read the young gentleman's
character aright, he is warm-hearted and passionate. If I can convince
him that he has done me an injustice, that I am in reality a kind, good,
honourable man, whom he has cut to the soul by his suspicions, he will
be ready to do anything to make amends; I will accept his apologies,
mingle my tears with his, and then send him down to Kirkminster out of
the way."

It was an excellent device, and he determined to put it in practice. His
face assumed a sad expression.

"Mr. Binns," said he, "you have wounded me very deeply. The best of us
are apt to have our actions misconstrued, and heaven knows that I am not
so far removed from error as to be exempt from reproach, but I confess
that in this instance I am very much hurt."

Binns began to grow uneasy.

"Cyril Chatteris is a very dear friend of mine, and I have known his
family for years. That I should be thought capable of such an iniquitous
action as that of which you imagine me guilty, would give me sufficient
pain at any time, but that you should think me capable of betraying the
honour of my intimate friend, who had entrusted his wife to my care, I
confess has somewhat surprised me," and the tender-hearted fellow sank
into a chair, and seemed to struggle with his emotion.

"My dear Mr. Dacre! Sir! I did not mean to wound your feelings, believe
me, but the circumstances of the case, the lateness of the hour; all--"

"Ah, yes," said Dacre. "Yes, perhaps you had reason; but you should not
have been so hasty. However, now that matters are explained.--Well--well!
There, we will say no more about it."

The poetic soul of the young grocer's assistant was touched; he put out
his hand. "You will forgive me, Mr. Dacre?"

Rupert never hesitated at small sacrifices. He took the offered hand,
and wrung it. "Say no more," said he. Then, turning over a mass of
papers on the table, he pretended to look for something. "I had
something to say to you of importance, but this discussion put it out of
my head. Where is the thing? Ah! here." He drew out a letter from a
bundle, labelled private correspondence.

"Mr. Binns, how would you like to go into Parliament?"

"To go into Parliament?"

"Well, not exactly at once, you know, that would be a little premature;
but to put yourself in the way of doing so at some future date."

Binns' heart began to thump. What did this mean? Was he about to realise
his hopes? "I do not understand you," he said.

"Well, listen then. You are not rich, I believe; and you have not much
political interest?" He laughed inwardly as he asked the question.

Binns saw nothing to laugh at. In his own mediocre mind, he thought that
he had a good deal of political interest--that is in the working-man
point of view. He replied, however, in the negative.

"Well then," the other went on, "when a young man has no interest and no
money--what must he do? Attach himself to those who have. You have read
Vivian Grey?"

"Disraeli's book? Yes."

"How would you like to be a Vivian Grey? or, to speak more plainly, a
Benjamin Disraeli?"

"You are laughing at me, Mr. Dacre."

"Not I. 'Adventures are to the adventurous.' I see no reason why you
should not sit in a House which owns John Bright and Benjamin Disraeli
for members."

"But they had money, and power."

"Just so. Other people have money and power, which they don't know how
to use. It is reserved for you and me, Mr. Binns, to use it for them."
Poor Binns swallowed all the flattery like a gudgeon.

Dacre opened the letter he held.

"This was received three days ago from Kirkminster. You know the place?"

"Wheales's borough? Yes."

"Well, Wheales's colleague is dead. We are going to contest Wheales's
borough, and we want a man well acquainted with the working classes,
with the organization of trades unions, and the machinery of working
men's associations, to help us to defeat the selfish policy of this
blatant knave."

"Mr. Dacre--I am not a spy."

"Impetuous again! No, no, I suppose not. I did not ask you to become
one. I want you to assist me though, in the task of putting the working
classes upon their true level. I told you before, the aim of the New
Party is to reconcile the conflicting masses, to bring together the
disjecta membra of society. It is essentially the Party of Mediation.
Now, before we can proceed to attack the enemy we must reconnoitre his
position, and this is a service that requires a man of peculiar talent,
of peculiar experience. You have been working with myself for the
interest of the working man; you know his ways, his temper, his
idiosyncracies. Will you go down for us to Kirkminster?"

Binns did not exactly know what to say. He did not comprehend what was
required of him, but he did not like to confess his ignorance; he was
afraid of acting dishonourably towards the party to which in his own
ideas he had pledged himself, but he did not want to disoblige Dacre.

"What will be my duties?"

"Well, that is a question that I scarcely know how to answer. One thing
I can readily say--that you will have to do nothing dishonourable in any
way."

Binns considered again. Even if he found that his position was a false
one, he could return.

"I will go, Mr. Dacre, if you say that."

Dacre drew the blotting pad closer to him.

"I am glad to hear you say so."

And he began to write.

"But about money?" Binns hazarded. "I can leave the sh--the place where
I am now, if I like; but I could not afford to go there for nothing."
Dacre smiled.

"Of course not," he said. "We will take care of that. If you will take
that note"--and he handed a sealed envelope across the table--"to that
address, to-morrow, you will be put in the way at once." He looked at
the face of the stolid clock on the black-marble mantelshelf. "Now I
must say good morning."

Binns rose.

"I am very much obliged to you for your kindness," said he.

"No kindness at all, my dear sir. I am anxious to do what I can to
advance your interests, despite your bad opinion of me." And he laughed
pleasantly, as if he had quite dismissed from his mind all unpleasant
remembrance. "If you should not like to go, you know, let me hear from
you to-morrow. But I think that you will find that your interests will
be advanced by joining us. Now, good morning once more; and, remember,
the part I have taken in this matter is entirely between ourselves. If
it was known that the private secretary of a Minister affected the
'working classes,' it would never do."

"Good morning, sir," said Binns. "This conversation shall be strictly
private."

As soon as he got outside the door, he looked at the superscription on
the letter which he held in his hand.

"JONAS HUSKINSON, ESQ., 5 NEW-SQUARE, LINCOLN'S INN."

"Parliamentary agent, I suppose," thought he, and began to whistle.

His fortune was made! He was accredited to the Court of Politics! He had
entered the ranks of the chosen. How he longed for the morrow! What a
bright world it was! How he had misjudged Mr. Dacre! What a suspicious
fool he had been and how nobly the "aristocrat" had behaved!

In the meantime, Rupert Dacre was washing his white hands carefully, and
drying them tenderly upon the softest of Turkey towels, and laughing
softly at the recent interview.

"Of all the utter fools I know, that boy is the worst! Poor devil! To
think that he--an uneducated grocer or tallow-chandler, or something of
that kind--can revolutionise Society! Well, he will serve our purpose, I
dare say, and will be kept out of the way."

He looked at himself in the glass, and brushed his beard lovingly.

"You have done a good day's work, my boy," he said. "What an honest,
pure-minded fellow you look! How the accusations of the wicked annoy
you! You deserve some reward after all your sufferings, and you shall
have it. I will take you down to take a quiet cup of tea with Mr. and
Mrs. Chatteris. Poor little Binns! A Benjamin Disraeli, eh?" And the
idea so tickled him, that little Fitz-fethertop, the fourth clerk, who
was in the act of conveying his rickety little person into a Hansom cab,
after the fatigues of the day, said to one of his intimates that
evening, that he was sure that there was something up with the Governor,
for he saw Dacre going home, and the said Dacre "was grinning like a
Cheshire cat, beged, sir."



Chapter XXXIX. Friends in Council.

"TELL me all you know about this fellow Docketer," said Bob to Ponsonby,
when the two were comfortably alone.

"I know that he is a most unmitigated scoundrel," says the major. "The
sort of man, sir, that would sell his mother for a five-pound note."

This description was not very encouraging to poor Bob, who had--so to
speak--put his fortune into his hands.

"But what am I to do?"

"Well," said the Hon. John, puffing at his cigar with irritating
self-complacency, "I don't know, my boy. It appears to me that for a
young man--a colt in fact--you have got yourself into as nice a mess as
the heart of man could devise."

"Shall I take the horse out of his hands?"

The Major deliberated, with his eyes shut, for some moments. "No," said
he, at last. "I wouldn't do that. I know the boy that Docketer has
picked up. As arrant a young villain in the matter of horseflesh as
could be found in all Newmarket, I believe--but grateful. He told me
that the horse was all right. He rode him for Lundy, you know, and I
think that as long as you keep him there, you are pretty safe. Though
you can never tell," he added, ruefully, "never!"

"Then you advise me to say nothing about it?" asked Bob.
"Precisely--keep your eyes open, that is all. By the way, it's hardly a
fair question, but are you in for much?"

"About seven thousand."

He had got used to the sum by this time, and it did not frighten him at
all. Honest Jack Ponsonby started.

"Seven thousand! By Jove, you've put the pot on with a vengeance! Pray,
how much did you give for the brute?"

"Two thousand."

The Honourable's lips formed themselves into whistling shape, but he
stopped short.

"Cash or bill?"

"Well, it was rather a queer transaction," said Bob, rolling in his seat
a little uneasily. "You see, I owed some money."

"Of course--go on."

"And I had got no remittances from home."

"Well?"

"Well--and--well, I went to Dacre to borrow some."

"Did'nt get it, of course?" said the Major, parenthetically nodding to

Slasher of 'Ours,' who, being engaged to be married, and wishing to
write to his ladylove, had crossed the room for a dictionary, to see if
'adore' was spelt with two d's or one.

"Well, no, he hadn't got it, he said. Dacre's a very good fellow, you
know, Ponsonby," added Bob, seeing a suspicious twinkle in the other's
eye, "and I am sure he would have lent it me if he had it to lend."

"But as he had'nt, he sold you a horse, eh?"

"Oh dear, no!" says poor Bob, delightedly. "He took me down to
Ryle's--Charlie Ryle, you know."

"I know," said the Major, and there was a world of significance in his
nod.

"Well, Ryle said he hadn't the money, but that he knew a friend of his,
a betting man in fact, who lent money, and who might let me have what I
wanted."

"How much did you want?"

"Well, I'd borrowed fifteen hundred from him before, and he'd paid the
bill away, you know, and the people were pressing for payment, so I
asked him for two thousand."

"So you'd borrowed fifteen hundred before. Any security?"

"Dacre backed the bill for me, if you mean that."

"Oh! I see. Go on!"

"Well," went on Bob, who began to get a little uneasy at the stolidity
of his friend, "you see, that when we got down to the place and saw the
horse, and I liked him, and the money wasn't forth-coming, and I was in
a fix don't you see, Ryle said that he'd back my bill if I took the
horse, just to humour the fellow, you know."

"What fellow?"

"Why, Docketer."

"What!"

And the Major took his little legs off the chair and nearly swallowed a
mouthful of smoke.

"Why, there's nothing extraordinary in that," says Bob, with an odd
feeling of foolishness coming over him. "I know lots of fellows in
Melbourne lend money like that."

"That's a horse of another colour," said the Honourable. "But go on. How
much did you give the bill for?"

"Four thousands pounds."

"And you got the Cardinal and Ryle's cheque for two thousand, I
suppose!"

"Yes."

"No pictures?"

"No."

"No wine, nor statuettes, nor old curiosities, nor anything of that
sort?" "What do you mean, Ponsonby?"

The Honourable John laughed, Bob grew uneasy.

"It was all right enough," he said. "I did it myself, you know, of my
own free will."

"Yes, that's just the beauty of it!" says the Major, between his
paroxysms.

"You don't think I've been done!" cries Bob. "Because I havn't, you
know; I think I've got my money's worth in the horse."

The Major suddenly became grave.

"Excuse me laughing, Bob, in this unfeeling way, but, upon my soul, you
have been plucked as nicely as any fellow I ever knew; Ryle backs
Dacre's bill--Ryle lends you money--Ryle takes you to Docketer, and
Docketer sells you Ryle's horse."

"Ryle's horse?"

"Yes. Why, everybody knows that Ryle got him from poor old Lundy. I
thought you did too."

Bob shook his head dolefully. He was not very vain, but he had some
share of vanity, and he was put out of conceit with himself; he was also
affectionate and trustful, and he believed in Dacre.

"I see it now," he said, "but I would not have believed it. I know as
much about swindling, and so on, as most fellows, but I never suspected
any of the fellows one meets here."

This was true. Master Bob was no fool. Indeed in the matter of horse
dealing or cattle buying, he was as sharp as most men, but with the
frequenters of the horse-yards he was on his guard. He looked for
nothing but honesty and fair dealing from the well-dressed gentlemanly
men he met in Dacre's society, and least of all, did he suspect the
"good fellow" Dacre himself to have been so treacherous. He hung his
head.

The cheerful Jack saw his confusion, and good humouredly came to the
rescue.

"Never mind, my boy," he said, "most young fellows make mistakes. When
you are as old a stager as I am at this sort of game"--and he nodded his
trim little head at life generally--"you'll find that it isn't all beer
and skittles. Come, don't be down hearted about it. You've wasted a
month or two, and spent some money--that is about all. You boys do rush
your fences so, you know. If you'd only take it easy, you'd get on much
better. Look at me! Hard as nails,--and yet I've been in the service
ever since I left school, and lived the pace all through. But, then, I
do the thing by rule of thumb--tub, and walk, and ride, and don't drink
hot-stopping, and don't smoke before breakfast, don't you see. What's
the consequence? Out of debt,--cheerful as a bird,--and game as a
pebble. You go and play old gooseberry with your constitution, you know,
pitch your liver to Old Harry, and make ducks and drakes of your nervous
system;--why, bless my SOUL, you know, you'll be dead in two-two's! You
will indeed."

And, exhausted by this long and somewhat incoherent speech, the
good-natured little Major drained a fizzing brandy-and-soda at a gulp.

Bob laughed.

"My nervous system's all right, old fellow," said he.

"Not it! You've got an eye like an oyster,--but that doesn't matter now.
Let's see how much you're in for. You owe two thousand, and you've got
seven thousand on the horse--is that it?"

"Yes."

"Well, the two thousand is gone. When's the bill due?"

"Next month."

"Very well. Now what odds have you got about the Cardinal?" "Pretty long
at first, of course; but he's been going up a bit lately."
"Exactly--that's Docketer's doing. What's your average?"

"About 20 to 1, take it all round. I did get 100 to 1 at the beginning,
you know."

"So that if he wins, by any remote chance, you pocket how much? Twenty
sevens is a hundred and forty. Why, by Jove, you'll win a hundred
thousand pounds."

"Yes," says Bob, with a watery smile; "but I am afraid he won't win."

"Then you'd better hedge, my boy. It is no use dropping a pot of money
over the beast, you know. Why, by Jove, sir, you could bring up a small
family virtuously and happily, and settle down, and breed race horses,
upon a hundred thousand pounds!" cries poor Jack (youngest of seven
Desboroughs); "you could indeed, you know."

There was something in the sentence which jarred upon Bob's feelings.
Settle down! He didn't care to settle down, unless with some one who was
not for him, but for Cyril Chatteris. In the pang of the sudden thought
he struck the table with his hand.

"No!" he cried; "I won't! I won't hedge a sixpence. The odds are heavy,
I know, but I'll run the risk; and if I pull off--"

"You'll never bet again, eh?" says the Major. "Don't say that, old
fellow, because you'll break it, you know--you will indeed."

"No, I mean it!" cries Bob, with another blow at an open copy of the
Observer, and old Martinet, who was drinking sangaree and smoking
savagely over the Bombay Times at another table, knitted his bushy
brows, and sulkily wondered "why, in the deevil's name, Poonsonby was
etairnally deesputin' with his racin' freens?"



Chapter XL. A Political Apostle.

MR. JONAS HUSKINSON lived, spider-like, in that web of houses that
surrounds Lincoln's Inn. He was by profession a barrister, and had some
reputation for the drawing of parliamentary bills. He was mysteriously
connected with the Government--that is to say, with the moderate
Conservative Ministry, and was a friend of Lord Nantwich when that
nobleman was Under Secretary years and years ago. He was reputed
wealthy, and lived in Cavendish-square in a big house that smelt of
funerals. He was of the middle height, with a blunt, short nose, bare
temples, thin, closely-shut mouth, and an eye like a pig--deep set,
colourless, and cruel. A staid clerk ushered Binns into the presence of
this great man. He read the letter through twice, and then said,

"Are you a friend of Mr. Dacre?"

"Not exactly," said Binns, who, though vain, was honest. "Mr. Dacre
heard of me through the Working Men's Association."

"Ah!"

"He said that he wished me to join his party, and--"

"Well?"

"Well," said Binns, as near laughing as he dared, as the thought struck
him that that was all Dacre had said, "he told me that you would
explain." "Oh! Are you in any profession?"

Binns flushed a pimply crimson. The hated shop to crush him here again!
"I am going into trade."

"Ah!"

"In fact, I--I--I am about to be made partner in a grocery business."

The little eye twinkled, and Mr. Huskinson meditatively tapped a very
fine front tooth with a paper knife.

"You prefer politics, however?"

"Yes."

There was a silence; and, as poor B inns sat upon the edge of his chair,
he felt like a rabbit in the presence of a boa-constrictor, and that Mr.
Jonas Huskinson was sliming him over with his eye previous to swallowing
him noiselessly. Having apparently expended all his mental saliva, Mr.
Huskinson changed the venue of the paper-knife to the palm of his hand,
and said,

"Mr. Dacre says in this letter that you are ready to go down to
Kirkminster as an agent for the Conservative interest."

"Not exactly the Conservative interest," says Binns.

"What then?"

"Well, the idea was that I should discover the feelings of the working
men about there--that is the pottery people--and see if they were
favourable to the political views of Mr. Dacre."

Mr. Jonas Huskinson stopped the paper-knife suddenly, and said, "I beg
your pardon; of whom?"

"Of Mr. Dacre."

"Oh yes--ah! Pray, go on."

"Well," says Binns, fairly driven to speak out, "I have come to you for
instructions."

Mr. Huskinson struck a hand-bell, which brought the staid clerk to the
door, rigidly, as if his room was a cuckoo clock, and he was the cuckoo.
"Bring me 'K,'" said Mr. Huskinson.

"K" turned out to be a huge ledger, brass bound, and locked.

Mr. Huskinson unlocked it, turned over the leaves with a cat-like
cleanliness, and signalled to Binns to approach.

The first thing that he saw was the word KIRKMINSTER, in large letters,
then a printed description of the town, cut out of some cyclopaedia or
gazetteer; and, last of all, an array of names, with remarks appended,
in a minute handwriting.

"This," said Mr. Huskinson, blowing away a speck of dust from it, "is a
full account of the town of Kirkminster, you see. Pop., 17,000. Man.,
glass, carthenware, cloth, bricks. Rivers, the Kirke, the Axe, and so
on. I have also jotted down, for my private information and guidance,
any little interesting items of news concerning the county families and
the most influential electors in the place. It will be your task, I
imagine, to add to such a scanty store as I have collected."

"I do not quite understand you, sir."

Mr. Huskinson shut up "K" and began to slime.

"You are to go down to Kirkminster, Mr. Binns, to find out all you can
about the feeling of the working population. Do you understand?"

There seemed to be a diplomatic delicacy about such a mission that
fascinated Binns. He would try what he could do, at all events; if he
did not like the mission, he could return.

"I am to report progress to you?"

A smile glimmered on one side of Mr. Huskinson's mouth.

"Not exactly. You will find a committee there already, I expect, and you
will be guided by their directions. All you have to do is to mingle with
the electors, and--"

Binns flushed again. "That is something like a spy," he interrupted.
"Impress upon them the great principles of coalition and temperance."
Binns felt sorry for his haste.

"The object of Mr. Dacre, I expect, is to convince the people that he
means good, not harm. Of course, if you should obtain any important
information--concerning the formation of a clique, for instance, or
anything of that sort--you may write to me. But I shall be down there
myself when the election comes off. You will want money, of course."

He took out a cheque book, and wrote a cheque, and then a letter.

"Here is a cheque for £20, and here is a letter to Mr. Potter, our
agent. He will give you as much more when you want it. If you are
extravagant, you will have to come back again. Elections are not what
they used to be, you know. You can go by the last train to-night, or the
first to-morrow morning, if you like. Good day!" and he handed the
cheque and the letter with an indifferent air, as though he had met
Binns every day for the last ten years, and was going to meet him again
every day for ten more.

Bland was not very sanguine about the wisdom of the proceeding, and
shook his head when Binns told him the result of his expedition.

"It is a great risk," said he, "you will have to give up your
secretaryship, you know."

"I have got somebody to do the work while I am away."

"Yes. But what do you think will be the end of all this?"

"We must leave that to time, you know," says Binns. "I think Mr. Dacre
is an honourable man, and means well."

"I hope he does; but I shall keep an eye upon him for all that."

Binns sighed. "I think we have both been mistaken about Chatteris. It
was my fancy--my jealousy, if you like--that made me suspect all sorts
of things. I think he loves her."

Strange to say, the two minds seemed to have changed places. Binns was
hopeful, and Bland despondent.

However, they shook hands and parted.

"You will let me know if you hear anything?" says Binns.

"Yes, yes; and be careful what you do, my boy."

"Oh, I'll be careful enough!" says Binns, with all the delightful
confidence of youth. "Good-bye, old fellow--good-bye;" and he went off
as though he were already Prime Minister.

When he reached his destination, however, he did not feel so sanguine.

Mr. Potter was a fat-headed man, with an overweening sense of his own
importance. He lived in a staring red brick house in High-street, and
wore all the brass about it polished to dazzlement. He was an attorney
of the stolid sort, and was very proud of his connection with the
Parliamentary Huskinson. The real work of the firm was transacted by
Piper--a little black-visaged man, who never looked you straight in the
face. Potter grew stolid over his chiet's letter, and then sent for
Piper. Piper bit his nails to the quick, and said, "Of course--of
course--of course," like a magpie. All this time Binns was growing
uncomfortable, and thinking about dinner.

"Find out about the public feeling!" says Piper, stealing a vicious side
glance at Binns--"Why, we could have told him that. Eh, Potter?"

Potter's forehead veins grew turgid.

"Mr. Huskinson's reasons are always excellent, Piper," said he. "We will
give the young man every facility."

The young man, whose best coat was cutting him under the arms,
brightened up a little at this.

"You can live at the Angel," said Piper, looking everywhere but at the
person he addressed.

"An excellent coffee-room," said Potter, "and reasonable terms."
"Reasonable terms?" says Piper to the inkstand.

"Oh yes, I think so," says Potter.

So, after Piper had concluded a short interview with the fire-irons on
the subject of the dullness of London at that time of year, Binns rose
to go.

"There will be no business of importance for a week or two," said Mr.
Potter. "But I gather from my friend Mr. Huskinson's letter that he
expects you to be of some service in your secretarial capacity."

Binns felt a little confused. He did not understand all this vague talk,
out of which nothing arose. He had some dim idea that he should find the
task of disseminating the New Political Gospel an entirely different
thing from what he had expected. However, he was wise enough to say
nothing, and went out.



Chapter XLI. Husband and Wife.

YOUNG FITZFEATHERTOP was partially right in his conjectures. Dacre was
on the best possible terms with himself and all the world. Everything
was turning out to his advantage--even Binns. He smiled as he thought
how nicely he had disposed of that ingenuous youth. "I told Huskinson in
my letter to send him down to Potter's people. He will be useful enough,
I dare say; and will be kept from prying into business which does not
concern him. Piper will soon get the working-men's secrets out of
him--if there are any to be got--and then if he becomes trouble-some, I
can always throw him over. I'll get in for that borough. Capital
notion--to go up with my dear Cyril--just as a friend--and then beat
him. What a hound the boy is! He deserves no mercy; he shall get none
either. If the girl is only his mistress, I'll take her from him; and if
she's his wife, I'll marry Miss Ffrench. Perhaps with care I might do
both. How ugly all this would look on paper! Somebody says somewhere
that a true history of a human heart will never be written. That the
best man who ever lived would never dare to put down all his thoughts.
'Gad, I should be sorry to put down some of mine--and yet I don't
suppose I am much worse than other men of my own stamp. It is a question
of temperament after all. So much nervous energy, so much passion; so
much imagination, so much poetry; so much absence of moral restraint, so
much crime. I wonder if that theory would go down. I'll try it on
Chatteris. Fiat experimentum in corpore vili!"

He had reached the Pegasus by this time, where he played two games of
billiards with Figleaf, won both of them, and then dined complacently.
Randon, who sat at the same table, said that "he bub-bub-believed that
ththat young f-f-fellow Chatteris was going up for K-K-K-Kirkminster."

"I have some idea of going up with him," says Dacre quietly.

"I'm sorry for you, I own, I fuf-fuf-fwankly own that I am s-s-sincerely
s - s-sorry f-for you."

"Why so?" asked Figleaf. "I think Dacre's just the man."

"N-n-not at all. D-D-D-acre's a very good secretary, and Fuf-fuf-foreign
Office clerk, I've no doubt, but we want men with l-l-l-lul-liberal
minds in the House."

"My mind is positively oppressed with liberality," says Dacre laughing.
"No, no--Y-you are t-tut-too aristocratic."

"You ought to go into the House yourself, Randon," grunted old Grosmith,
who could not repress the sneer.

"W-well--I ought--I own, I f-f-fwankly own I ought--I am a liberal m
-m-minded m-man. In adv-v-vance of my age. I own it. F-f-fwankly own it.

But then I am lazy, t-t-terribly lazy. T-t-too imaginative. T-t-t-too
f-fine a m-mum-mind. My s-sympathies are with N-nature, sir.
Bub-bub-bub-bub-Boundless Nature, sir! I own--I f-fwankly own, that I
have a p-p-passion for the Bub-bub-beautiful and the
Tut-tut-tutter-true!"

"The thing is a sort of secret just at present," said Dacre, who wished
it known. "So you need not mention it, you know!" They all promised, and
the expectant M.P. mumbled an olive with the pleasant consciousness that
the story of his political advancement would be all over town in
twenty-four hours.

"I wonder if Nantwich will really form a ministry?" said Figleaf. "I am
afraid not," said Dacre. "I hope so, of course."

It was eight o'clock.

"Let us go and see that singing-woman--what's her name?" says Grosmith.

"I have got an engagement," said Dacre.

"I'll c-c-come!" stammered Randon. "I own--I f-fwankly own--I lul-like
the a-b-b-bub-bandon--the--"

"Very nice," says Dacre, "I dare say--"but injurious. Seeing that sort
of thing is like drinking absinthe."

"You'd better come too, Millington," said Grosmith.

"Sir," said Lord Millington, who had been driven from his Naples villa,
by a heartless husband, and dragged to London as co-respondent in a
divorce suit--"I never go to theatres."

"Ah!" said Grosmith, "my morality is not so old-fashioned as your
lordship's!"

Figleaf laughed--he was only a routurier--and thereby made Millington
his deadly enemy for life.

Having thus sown the good seed of report abroad, Dacre turned his steps
towards St. John's Wood.

"I expect that there has been a 'scene' after I left," said he, as he
got fairly settled in the cab.

So there had been, but not of the kind that he imagined.

Carry awoke in the morning, hot, flushed, and heavy. She did not exactly
realise what had taken place at first. There was a weight on her brain,
and a strange taste in her mouth. She felt stupid and heavy, and, with
an impatient movement of her head, as the light fell upon her eyes,
turned round to sleep again. On the instant, however, the remembrance of
the events of the previous night flashed across her, and the shock
awakened her at once. She looked round bewilderedly. Had Cyril or Rupert
(she thought of him as Rupert now) quarrelled? She had dismissed her
maid and listened at the stair head for any sound of angry words, but
she had heard none; and then, unable to bear the suspense, she had taken
the laudanum to make her sleep. She must have taken too much, for her
head ached and her eyes were hot and heavy. Where was Cyril? Her first
impulse was to ring and inquire, but she checked herself. He might have
gone, and then she would have betrayed herself to the household. No, she
must appear unmoved, and unapprehensive. So she dressed, and went down
stairs.

It was twelve o'clock. Cyril was lying on the sofa reading. The door was
half-opened, and she did not disturb him. She paused to look. His face
was white, and drawn, and there were red flushes under his eyes. He was
reading intently. There was something in the bent brows, the compressed
mouth, and the firm set muscles of the cheeks, that frightened her. The
expression of his face seemed to be a shadow of that hideous look which
had stricken the breath and sense out of her the night before.

"Cyril!"

He started up, and, with a strong effort, spoke a welcome.

"Good morning!"

He put the book behind him with one hand, and held out the other to her.
"Cyril, my darling, you are not angry with me, are you? Mr. Dacre was
here quite by accident."

"He explained it all to me after you went away."

She breathed freely again.

"Then you are not angry, dear?"

"Angry! no. You may see Mr. Dacre as often as you like. He is a very old
friend of mine." He turned away as he spoke, to conceal a crimson flush
that would rise in his white face. "In fact, I shall ask him here
frequently. You must be lonely when I am away."

Carry felt a terrible thrill of mingled shame and dread. Guiltless
though she might be of any actual wrong, she yet knew well enough why
her husband's old friend came to visit her. Her woman's instinct had
told her long ago that Dacre loved her. She had played with his
passion--she thought--played with it to soothe her own wounded feelings
and slighted love. Secure in her matronly virtue, she had amused herself
by allowing an enamoured aristocrat to believe that she could be induced
to break her wifely vows and forget her own honour. That was what she
wished to think, but in the bottom of her silly soul, she knew that she
had gone too far, and that another step would precipitate her into the
abyss.

She had really loved her husband once, and it was his indifference that
had piqued her into wrong-doing. If he would love her again, she would
confess all, and forget her momentary folly. Last night, when he had
burst in upon her and her lover, she had been nearly rejoicing at the
discovery, for she thought that it had brought her errant husband to her
feet again. She could have borne all accusations of perfidy; she was
prepared for any paroxysm of jealous rage; but this indifferent
reception frightened her. One of two things--Cyril either knew his
friend's infamy, and cared for his wife so little that he passed that
knowledge over in silence; or he did not know it, and was deceived and
hoodwinked.

"He knew it when he came in," thought Carry. "I saw it in his eyes," and
she shuddered. But the thought was too horrible to be entertained. Dacre
had "explained" so skilfully that he was deceived. A pang of shame
pierced the woman's heart--shame for her husband. He was her husband,
her once idol and hero, the first man she had ever loved, and she felt
that his degradation would be an insult to herself. Her god had fallen
to earth, and the wreaths of love and honour were fast crumbling into
dust, but she yet clung to the pedestal, and as yet had erected no fresh
image there. She felt that she had a part in the honour of the young
man--who, whatever he might be now, had loved her once--and though she
felt glad at her escape, she felt that the shame that had fallen upon
him had fallen upon her also. Had he seemed suspicious, her fear might
have led her to soothe him by lies--as it had an instant since. Had she
seen him hot from an altercation with Dacre, and burning with furious
rage of jealousy, she might have confessed all and loved him once more.
But he was indifferent.

"He must have known," she thought again; and then the horrible baseness
of his conduct if he did know, made her turn sick with disgust and
shame. To deceive a husband was a sort of triumph: to be sold by him was
an infamy. She caught his hand.

"Cyril, I want to speak to you."

Cyril, with averted face, laughed. "Go on," he said, between his shut
teeth.

"Cyril--listen to me. I have been silly--foolish. I have seen Mr. Dacre
too often. I have received him here, alone. I--"

Her husband turned round, and his hand closed upon her's convulsively.
His face was white as paper, and his eyes dilated. She knew what he
could not ask, and fell on her knees.

"I am innocent, Cyril, before God!" she said.

He looked at her, and knew that she spoke the truth. Then same a
revulsion of feeling.

"Don't act," he said. "Of course, you're innocent!" but his voice was
husky and thick.

She bowed her head upon his hand.

"Cyril, do not ask that man here--I am afraid of him!" The voice was
very low and soft, but he heard it, and shuddered.

"You didn't think I was jealous?" said he, with dry lips. "I know Dacre
too well to be jealous."

She raised herself. Her passion had given her perceptive power, and she
detected the false ring in the dastard's voice, and the lie smote her
like a blow.

"Cyril, why do you treat me like this? You are killing me. I always
loved you. You loved me once,--Who has stolen your love away from me? I
know I was beneath you in rank, but you married me of your own free
will, and promised to protect me. You are ashamed of me, perhaps. You
knew what and who I was."

He laughed again.

"Curse you--yes--I did know it."

The blood rushed into her face.

"I see what it is--you hate me. You wish me dead, that you may marry
your cousin."

His first impulse--beast like--was to strike her to the earth; but
civilisation came to his aid, and he stopped. How did she know? Dacre
told her nothing; she only guessed. She thought, perhaps, that he was in
love; she did not dream of marriage. The suddenness of the shock, and
the urgency of the case, gave him the power to dissemble.

"You mean Kate Ffrench, I suppose? Pooh! Why, we were children together.
Look here, Carry, your infernal jealousy and folly will make me hate
you. You cannot see a man but you think he must be in love with you. You
little idiot, do you think that Dacre has got nothing better to do than
make love to you? Go and eat your breakfast, and dry your eyes. Dacre
shall come here as often as he likes: he is a very good fellow, and my
friend."

And as he spoke the last words, he turned away, and left her.

She sat stupidly, poor little woman. All the love was crushed out of
her, and in its place was a dull pain of slighted vanity and
self-respect. She dried her eyes by and bye, and ate something in a
tasteless, indifferent way; and then went about her little household
cares with a hard, fixed look in her eyes, that made the new housemaid
say that she "allus thought missus had a temper of her own, and now she
knowed it."

Cyril went into his little study, locked the door, and flung himself
into a chair. He sat still for an hour; then two large tears welled up
and rolled on to his cheeks. They were the first drops of the storm. He
flung himself full length on the floor and wept, biting his coat sleeve,
with quivering jaws, to prevent himself screaming aloud. He was
prostrated with jealousy, fear and despair. He sprang up and walked
about, and then flung himself down again.

"Oh, that I was dead! Kate--Kate, I cannot give you up; you are my life,
my soul! I am the most miserable animal on earth. I must get rid of her;
I will. I daren't kill her! Murder! My God, I never could do that! She
shall go. 'Take her off my hands,' he said! Yes; that is the way. Oh!
damn him, the villain! I hate him--hate him--hate him!"

Binns was amply revenged.



Chapter XLII. The Beginning of the End.

WHEN Dacre entered the little drawing-room he found it empty.

"I will tell Mrs. Carter that you are here, sir," said the trim little
housemaid, with an almost imperceptible toss of the head. With that
terrible instinct that with women takes the place of logic, she had
divined that it was the wife, not the husband, whom he wished to see.
Rupert sat down upon the ottoman, and looked round the room. All was
familiar to him. The little work-table, the yellow damask chairs, the
bird cage, the piano with its scattered wealth of printed melody. Even
the water-colours on the walls were old friends. " 'Pon my word, it's a
very pretty place," he said, and then he walked across to the piano. The
song he had requested her to sing the evening before, was open on the
music rack, and there was a handkerchief beside it. "She has been
playing it again," thought he, and then he took up the handkerchief. It
was perfumed with some cheap scent, which offended his finer senses.
"Just like your half-bred women," he said, "their taste always fails
them in minor details. However, one can't expect perfection."

Then the door opened, and she came in.

She wore a close fitting high dress of some shimmering
delicately-coloured silk, with no ornaments save a heavy chain of gold
(her husband's first gift) coiled round her slender throat. Her face was
pale, and though her eyes shone with a steady, unusual lustre, there
were dark, bistre shadows underneath them.

"There has been a quarrel, and she has been crying," thought Rupert.
"How do you do, Mr. Dacre," said she. "I--I did not expect you this
evening."

"I thought that I would just look in, to see if you had recovered your
equanimity," said he, with a laugh. "Poor Cyril was quite put out last
night."

She looked fixedly at him. "What did he say to you after I had gone?"
she asked at last.

"Thanked me for taking care of you during his absence."

Carry sat down. "Yes, it was very kind of you. If you had not come to
see me, I should have been left quite alone."

There was sufficient provocation in her tone to almost warrant the
raising of the eyebrows with which he glanced at the door. "Where is
he?"

"I have not seen him since the morning. He is in the study, I think."
"Writing letters?"

"Perhaps," she replied, with assumed indifference, but Dacre saw that
his shot had told, and that her jealous heart had suggested Kate
Ffrench, her unknown rival, as the recipient of any letters that her
husband might choose to write.

Rupert sighed. A very successful sigh. One which he had practised often
upon many women. A sigh which meant, "How cruel! Poor girl! He does not
know her value, and I do."

She got up hastily and went to the piano.

"I have been singing your song again."

"Did you think of me then?"

She raised her eyes and looked at him. There was a hard, defiant meaning
in their steady glance as she replied,

"Yes, I am always thinking of you."

The words were tender enough, but there was no tenderness in the tone.
Had they been spoken by a young girl blushing with radiant shame upon
her lover's breast, they would have been but ordinary love-words,
forgotten as soon as uttered; but, from a married woman's lips, they
meant something more.

Dacre, master of the gamut of shame, comprehended them well. He knew why
the eyes were hard, and why the tone rang false; and as, with a triumph
in his glance that he cared not to conceal, he took his friend's wife in
his arms, he muttered,

"It is not because she loves me, but because she hates him."

At the first touch of his lips she withdrew,--as if appalled at her own
act, from his fierce embrace;--but he caught her hands and forced her to
listen. Not being moved by aught save passion, he was able to choose his
words and frame his sentences to her melodramatic liking.

"You love me then? Oh! I have hoped for this, and yet struggled against
it. Carry, my love, my darling, if you knew what I have suffered when I
saw you chained to that cold, calculating boy! You never could have
loved him. He has no power to touch a heart like yours. Your affection
is too pure, too noble for him to understand. You are a woman fit to
shine in any sphere, and he has condemned you to the obscurity of this
place. He despises you. His conceit makes him ashamed of you."

This was just a little mistake, and as soon as he had uttered the words
he felt it.

She sprang up, crimson with shame.

"Oh, let me go! Rupert--Mr. Dacre, how dare you! Oh! what have I done! I
am ashamed of myself. I hate myself, and you! Let me go!" And she burst
into a passion of tears.

Rupert was rather taken aback. Crying must be stopped at all hazards.
"Hush--hush!" he whispered. "Suppose he was to come in and find you like
this!"

She stopped for a moment, and then all the flood of her great misery
came upon her, and she threw herself upon his breast.

"Oh! Rupert--Rupert, what shall I do? My heart is broken!"

He smiled over her shoulder at the picture which the mirror reflected.
"Don't cry, darling," said he, "but listen. I must speak plainly, for it
is but right that you should know the truth. I cannot marry you." She
gave a little start, and then clung closer.

"I love you--love you more than any woman I have ever known, and I have
known many" (this was a delicate touch that spoke the true artist), "but
I cannot marry you--that is as the world calls marriage; but, if a
lifetime devoted to you--if the love of all my heart can make you forget
that Society prescribes a priest and a prayer-book--you shall forget
it."

She sobbed and quivered in his arms, but spoke no word.

"I am not one of those men who lie to a woman," he went on. "I am
wicked, and careless, and passionate, perhaps, but I am not cruel. You
can never be my wife, Carry."

She shuddered, and then raised her streaming eyes to his.

"I only want to be loved," said she. "Will you love me, Rupert?"
"Always, my darling--always!" he said, and kissed her.

His lips were hot, and their fierce caress frightened her. "Oh, this is
madness!" she cried. But he held her close; and, like a bird in the hand
of the fowler, she fluttered, and lay still.

By and by, he spoke again.

"You must leave this place."

Her eyes were dry now, and her cheeks brilliant with an unholy red.
"Yes, I will leave it, when you wish."

Rupert reflected rapidly. To tell the truth, he had not expected so easy
a triumph, and he was all unprepared.

"I have to go down to Loamshire about my election," he said. "It comes
off in a week. We must wait until then."

The thought of living for a week of treacherous shame with the husband
she was plotting to deceive was too much for her.

"I cannot stay here," she said, with a shudder.

Rupert, calm in his own selfishness, weighed the question. "What can I
do with her?" he thought. "I shall have my hands full during the next
week. It is impossible--she must stop." He threw an artificial passion
into his voice as he replied,

"My darling, Heaven knows that I would take you away at once, but I
cannot. I have many things to settle. I must be at Kirkminster. No, no,
dearest--you must wait."

"It will kill me. I cannot see him every day. I should go mad." He
smiled.

"He will not be here. He will be down with his cousin at Matcham. Did he
not tell you that he also is going up for the borough?"

She shook her head. "He never tells me anything."

"You see you can stop here quite quietly, and you can write to me if you
like. It will only be a week, dearest."

"As you wish," said she.

A door opened in the passage, and they started apart.

Cyril came in. He had known that Dacre was with his wife, and had still
sat on, persistently alone, his hands clenched and his temples beating
heavily. He was tormented with jealousy, and sick with fear. At last he
could bear it no longer. He would go in and see how his horrible scheme
was progressing.

As he opened the drawing-room door, he took in at a glance his wife's
flaming cheeks and dilated eyes. The smiling scoundrel whom he had
chosen as the instrument of his own shameful freedom, held out his hand
with well-bred ease. For one instant a terrible glance of
baffled-beast-like rage shot out from Cyril's haggard eyes. Dacre saw
it, and so did Carry. In another second the mental shutter which had
flown up came down, and his white face resumed its usual expression. He
smiled--a hideous, contorted smile--and took the offered hand.

"He knows it!" thought Carry, and she shuddered with uncontrollable
disgust and loathing.

The fingers that Dacre clasped were clammy and cold, and the shifting
eyes could not meet his own.

"The cur!" he thought; and such is the strength of habit, that the man
who had deliberately planned the seduction of his friend's wife, felt
himself actually degraded at the thought that that friend did not
interfere.



Chapter XLIII. Under The Torture.

CYRIL walked over to the window to hide his face. There was an
expression in Dacre's eyes that made him cringe with shame. Dacre flung
himself into a chair and played with a book--waiting for what should
come next. Carry was sitting mute where Dacre had left her, staring
straight into space, with bosom heaving. Cyril turned round at last.
"How silent you are!" he said. "Have you been quarrelling?"

There was a sickly smile on his face as he asked the question, and he
looked down as he spoke. Carry turned crimson, and got up from the sofa.
"Shall I play for you, Mr. Dacre?" she asked.

"Oh--if you would!" said Dacre, and he took up some of the music-sheets
that were scattered about the piano.

"What shall we have? The 'Grande Duchesse?'"

"Are you in a reckless mood to-night, then?"

She made no answer, but struck the opening chords defiantly, Cyril came
up and put his hand on his wife's shoulder.

She shrank from the touch, and stopped playing.

"What is the matter?" asked Dacre, ignoring the presence of the husband
altogether.

"I don't feel well," said she. "I shall go, I think. Will you excuse me,
Mr. Dacre?"

"You have a headache?" he asked, tenderly.

"I am sick and ill," she said, pettishly. "Good night!"

"Good night!" said Dacre. "I will call and bid you good-bye before I go
down to Kirkminster," and he gave a meaning glance.

She stopped at the door and looked with a sort of defiant appeal (if I
can use the term) in her eyes.

"I don't like to see people when Cyril is out," she said.

The words were to the friend, but the look was to the husband.

Cyril pressed his uneasy hands together. "You can always see Dacre," he
said, and tried to laugh. "We are old friends, are we not?"

Rupert's lip curled with a contemptuous meaning that he cared not to
conceal.

"We have known each other a long time," he said.

Carry glanced from one to the other, and, without a word, turned round
and left the room.

The two men looked at each other like duellists before they engage.
Cyril's eyes fell first; and then an inexpressible feeling of loathing
and contempt came into the other's face. But he affected a smile.

"The little woman seems indisposed. Have you been unkind to her, you
young rake?"

The tone and words were like the cut of a whip. Cyril writhed under
them. Dacre saw it, and smiled savagely. It seemed to him that he was
wiping out any disgrace which might attach to him as the participator in
Cyril's infamy, by making his accomplice see the full hideousness of the
deed.

"I'll put the matter before him pretty plainly," he thought. "I'll let
the young cub see what I think of him, too."

"Suppose we go and smoke?" he said, aloud. "I want a quiet smoke
somewhere."

Cyril led the way to the little study. The gas was burning, an open
spirit case was on the side-table, and the writing-table was covered
with papers, but the chairs were pushed away from it. Dacre's quick eye
noticed that the furniture was all displaced, so as to leave a clear
passage up and down the room. He remembered an old habit of
Cyril's--that of pacing up and down ("walking the quarter-deck," Kate
used to call it) while thinking. He took a cigar from the box on the
mantelshelf, and flung himself upon the sofa.

"So, you've been thinking it out, have you?" he said.

"What do you mean?" says the other, filling out brandy with a shaking
hand.

"About the woman up stairs. What are you going to do with her? She is
not bad-looking, but a little vulgar. However, she sings and plays well,
and has a lively manner. She might go on the stage."

Cyril lay back in the shadow and glared at him.

"But then, she is timid, and has no experience. I don't believe in your
'inspired novices,' as Quantox calls them. No, I'm afraid the stage
won't do. You must get rid of her somehow, though. This brandy's rather
good. Martell, isn't it? The only way I see, is to get somebody to take
her, and upon my soul I don't know who will. There's Pierrepoint, but
he's going to get married, I hear. Gablentz has got some mysterious
Greek that 'looks like an angel, and talks like poor Poll,' to parody
what's his name, and Randon has a virtuous attachment to a married
woman. I'm afraid that Shetland's too young, and Twistleton's got no
money. Do you get these weeds from Hudson? I don't like 'em so well as
the last you had."

Cyril, gnawing his nails, and grinding his teeth, could endure no more.
He leapt to his feet, with some intention of blows, but the cool, steady
glance of the other disarmed him. He finished the tumbler of brandy at a
gulp.

"What a cold-blooded Devil you are!" he said.

The agony, rage, and impotence of despair in the tone was so great, that
even Dacre felt some pang of pity. It soon passed though.

"You fool!" he said. "Why, you want to get rid of her, don't you!"
"Yes--but----"

"But you don't like the matter put in plain words. I thought that you
didn't care about her any longer."

"I don't care about her; but----"

"Well, hang me if I can understand you. You deliberately seduce a
woman--in a very ingenious, clever way, I admit;--you engage yourself to
be married to a young lady; and you then can't find it in your heart to
part with your mistress. You can't keep two establishments, you know.
You can't marry Miss Ffrench, and keep this woman here."

This dagger was double-edged, and Dacre watched to see the effect of the
stab.

Cyril drew himself bolt upright suddenly, as if he had been shot through
the heart. Why should he suffer this? He loved his cousin better than
any woman, and he shuddered to hear her name upon Dacre's lips.

"Never mind Miss Ffrench!" he cried. "We can leave her name alone, I
suppose?"

"Of course. But, my dear Cyril, while speaking of Miss Ffrench with the
deepest respect, permit me to tell you that there are occasions in life
in which a man must look matters fairly in the face. You have been
living in this fool's paradise so long that you have lost vital energy.
You must give up this girl, and unless you can afford to settle money on
her, and all that, the only way you can do it is in the method I
suggest. A man with your limited income cannot afford to serve God and
Mammon, you know. If you love this girl better than Miss Ffrench, don't
marry. If you marry Miss Ffrench, you must give up this girl. That is
the question you have to decide."

That was the question that Cyril had been attempting to decide, and had
been groaning and cursing, and weeping tears of blood over. It was a
dilemma. He was married to a woman he hated, engaged to a woman he
loved. He had it in his power to get rid of the one, and obtain the
other; but the terrible fact of marriage stared him in the face. Could
he be a party to his own dishonour? He was too cowardly to face the
consequences of his crime. His vanity made him tremble at the act he was
about to do, but his selfishness urged him to commit it. If he only
dared to tell the truth!

"But she is my wife," he sobbed out.

"WHAT?"

The tone revealed a world of shame, infamy, ridicule, in one lightning
flash.

"--In--in the sight of God."

"Stuff and nonsense!" said the other, seemingly relieved from surprise.
"That is the sort of rubbish to talk to milliner girls. The legal view
of the question is the one for you to take. If you don't want this young
woman turning up at the church door, and storming the breakfast-table,
or weeping on the doorstep, you must get rid of her before your marriage
takes place. God bless my soul, why it's done every day! Do you love the
girl?"

"I hate her!" says Cyril, in a smothered voice.

Dacre smiled to himself, and took a refreshing puff at the maligned
cigar.

"Very well, then, get rid of her. If the girl was your wife, I could
understand your scruples; because, to be willing to throw one's wife
into temptation is the act of a despicable scoundrel--"

Their eyes met, and Dacre's glance was meaningly unconscious. Cyril
gripped his chair-arm hard, and set himself to listen.

"No gentleman--no Man, indeed--would do such a thing. Absolutely, you
know, I don't see much difference, because I regard the ceremony of
marriage as a mere legal convenience; but still the world has chosen to
think differently, and popular opinion has always considered the man who
sells his wife as a degraded and infamous hound."

Cyril clenched his hands till the nails bit the flesh. He felt he must
say something.

"One would think that you intended to insinuate that I was selling my
wife," he said.

Dacre laughed.

"No, I don't think that you are so bad as that."

You see it was not his game to disclose how much he did know, because he
would then turn a dereliction--or at worst a social lache--into a crime.
"Because," says Cyril, "I'm not married, you know."

With what a hang-dog look he said it! But it was needful that he should
deny to save his honour, and obtain his end.

"Well now, my dear boy," says Dacre, "what will you do?"

"I don't know," says Cyril, savagely; "I've thought over the thing until
I'm nearly mad. Curse the woman! I wish I had never seen her. Oh, what a
fool I am!"

And he flung his outstretched arms over the table in utter abandonment.
His friend watched him for a minute with a sardonic smile.

"Bad blood all through," he said to himself. "He hasn't got pluck enough
to commit a crime--the cur!" Then aloud,

"Look here, Cyril, your nerves are queer; you've been drinking too much,
I expect. Go to bed quietly, and get a good night's rest. Tell the
little woman that you are going down to Loamshire, and just leave her
alone for another fortnight. The election will be over by that time, and
you will have got the worry of it off your mind. Then we can consult
again about the matter."

Here was a gleam of hope. Here was a chance of temporary escape. Yes, he
would go down to Matcham and see Kate, and look after his election. She
could get on very well alone--he did not care to think how, and he would
be freed from the horrible incubus which weighed upon him. He rose and
dashed the hair out of his eyes.

"Yes, I'll go down to-morrow."

"I shall be down in a day or two myself," said Dacre. "I am going up
with you. Nantwich thought it best, because they will be bound to return
one of us."

Cyril heard, but he didn't pay much attention to the full meaning of the
sentence.

"Good-bye, then," he said, and held out his hand.

But Mr. Dacre was so busy looking for his hat and gloves that he did not
see it, and only nodded an adieu.

Cyril remained standing until he heard the door slam, and then he raised
the hand that Dacre had refused to take, and struck it savagely against
the table by his side, until it was bruised and bloody.



Chapter XLIV. The Calm Before The Storm

KATE was unhappy. It was strange, so she said to herself, that she
should be so, for was she not engaged to be married to her first love,
to her hero, her incarnation of all that was good and clever? But,
somehow or other, it seemed that her hero was less heroic than of yore.
He was not so poetical or so tender. He was, on the contrary, practical
and a little ill-tempered. Poor Kate could not understand it. It seemed
an age ago since she first found out that she loved Cyril; and the weeks
of dull pain and hopeless sorrow which she had lived through when he had
quarrelled with his father and gone, no one knew where, seemed to be
years' distant. From that time he had changed. He was no longer
high-spirited, and brilliant, and witty, but cynical, and selfish and
silent. Yet she had seen no other man she cared for, save, perhaps, that
frank young Australian, who had so startled her by his wooing--and she
had worshipped the image of the boy who had left her to make a name at
college and astonish the world, and would not confess to herself that
such a boy existed no longer, but that in his place was a sullen,
down-looking young man, who was nervously impatient of all save his own
pleasures.

There was a picture of Cyril hanging in one of the breakfast rooms--a
little water-colour, taken when he was a child--and Kate would go in
quietly and look at it, and strive to trace some resemblance to her
lover in the fair, effeminate, golden-haired boy, that, radiant with
youth and health, laughed at her from out his golden frame. But the
attempt was unsuccessful, and she would turn away to check the sigh that
would come, despite all her efforts. To put matters into plain English,
Kate was becoming disenchanted. Her cousin had been away from her so
long that she had not noticed the terrible change that had taken place
in him, until they were once more thrown together, and then the sudden
knowledge frightened her. But she fought bravely against the fear that
was coming over her--fear that she had made a mistake, and did not love
her promised husband after all. Such a thought was treason to her lover,
she said, and put it back horror-stricken; but still it returned again
and again, and she could not repress an unaccountable aversion which
sometimes stole over her when Cyril kissed her lips.

He loved her, she did not doubt that. She could see it in his white
face, that looked so worn lately--in his restless eyes, that followed
her wherever she went--could feel it in his hot kisses, and hear it in
his passionate words. Once, when she was singing some song about lovers
parting or dying, she was surprised to hear a sudden sob from the man
behind her, and to find that his head was bent, and the tears were
rolling down between his thin fingers.

"What is it, Cyril?" she asked.

"I was thinking of losing you, my darling," he cried, and caught her to
his heart with shaking hands.

She was terrified at these fits of passion. There was something
repellant about them. Love should be tender and chaste, not hot and
vehement like this. She asked him once if he had any trouble on his
mind, but his denial was so fierce and suspicious that she shrank back
terrified. Had she possessed a mother, a sister, or a female friend
even, in whom she could have confided, she might have poured out her
doubts and fears, and reasoned them away; but she was alone.

Lady Loughborough was not the sort of confidante that an enthusiastic
girl like Kate would choose, and there were no women-kind of her own age
with whom she could associate. Matcham had always been a lonely house.
It had been more so than ever since the death of the eldest-born.
Saville Chatteris had no sympathy with young people, and Lady
Loughborough was in a chronic state of ill-health;--French novel,
repose, hot negus, and fire in bed-room at all seasons. Consequently
there was not much "society" or companionship for Kate. There were
desperate dinners that took place monthly, at which Saville
diplomatically presided, and to which the county people came. But these
dinners were dull enough; the county people having such wonderfully good
blood, that it seemed to congeal in their veins like attar-of-roses. To
be sure all these people were very good, and well-disposed, and
thoroughly eligible for friendship, but Kate did not care about them.
The daughters of the various Houses round about came to visit her, but
she had no friends among them. So she rode about, and walked about, and
went to Kirkminster with only the old groom for protection, and the
county blood thought her a "strange girl," and a little "fast." However,
that did not matter so much, as "fastness" was fashionable. (Do we not
remember how pleased Lady Oriel's daughter was, at being mistaken in the
Bois for a certain Madlle. Coccodé, who was at that time regnant in the
demi-monde--t hat "one half-world," where "nature seems dead" indeed.
And yet Lady Oriel, and her daughter, too, are the most virtuous of
women.)

The young men who came over from the barracks with Fred were few and far
between, and when they did come, Kate did not see much of them. Colonel
Brentwood she liked well enough, but Saville Chatteris, who had been at
Eton with him, and knew of his little peccadilloes since, did not
encourage the visits of that gallant officer, and Brentwood was too
well-bred to hint at an intrusion. Since Fred had gone, there had been
no one at the house, and Kate was quite alone. So she locked up her
secret in her own heart, and told nobody. But in her girlish mirror the
figure of the rejected Bob Calverly would often rise unbidden and blur
the reflection of the promised lover that should have been singly there.

I do not know if I can make you understand the character of this girl,
reader, as I wish you to understand it. It is a difficult cipher to
read: the more difficult because it looks so simple. I doubt if I can
interpret it to you aright. It needed a little child, they say, to grasp
the divining-rod whose turning fork should write the sought-for oracle
upon the sand. In any hands less pure the wand might flicker, turn, and
shake, but the characters it traced were all uncertain and illegible.
Who can interpret aright the strange riddle of a young girl's heart? In
our fancied wisdom we laugh at the task. Has not our knowledge of Evil
taught us to read womankind? Perhaps; but let us be sure that in gazing
into that fiery furnace of sin, misery, and death, from which we draw
the materials of our wicked wit and cynical wisdom, that our scorched
eyes, dimmed by the tear-compelled glare of the fire, are not rendered
incapable of seeing clearly in that cool, dim twilight that reigns
around the holy altar of a pure woman's soul.

I can tell you no more about Kate than that she was young and pure; that
she loved and doubted, hoped and feared, in a breath. She did not know
her own heart perhaps, poor child; and had thought she had given her
love when she had only given her liking. But as yet she thought in
whispers.

As for Cyril, I think I should not be far wrong if I said that the week
which he spent at Matcham at this time was the happiest of his life. He
was like the wretch who, under the torments of the Inquisition, told the
sneering priest that he "thanked him for making death so sweet." The
very agony of his torture rendered the simple cessation from pain a
pleasure more keen than he had ever yet experienced. He was weak by
nature. With him to be out of sight was to be out of mind; and when he
was free of the detested presence of the woman he hated, he could forget
her; when he was out of the house where Dacre had taunted and jeered at
him, he could forget that he was a liar and a scoundrel. The struggle he
had gone through was too much for him, and his nerves--never very
strong--had given way, and he felt prostrated by a reaction that was
almost pleasurable. The desperate battle with the breakers had only
exhausted him; once carried over the rocks into the deep, still pool, he
let himself sink without an effort. Moreover, he was happy in the
sympathy of his cousin. It mattered not that his mental agony had arisen
from his own vile and detestable cowardice; she did not know that, and
her caresses were as purely sweet as if he had been a saint and hero. He
was as sore at heart with the tumult of his own evil passions as if he
had been the noblest martyr that ever crowned a life of poverty and
persecution by an ignominious and bloody death; and the healing balm of
a good woman's tenderness was as cooling to his burning wounds as if he
had got his hurts fighting in fair field for a righteous cause.

So when he turned his back on the little cottage in St. John's Wood, and
got fairly on his way to the woods and glades of Matcham, to his
respectful tenantry and his promised bride, the burden, if it did not
fall off altogether, grew lighter and less irksome. He was busied too
with election matters. There were speeches to make, and yeomen to call
upon, and friends to influence; and he had no time for misery. His
father was in high glee at the prospect, and made sure of his son's
success.

"Dacre's only here as a blind," said the old man. "He said so, did he?
Of course. A very old and well-known trick. You see, Cyril, that the
Government want the borough, and don't care much who gets it, so long as
it isn't one of the other side. I think we are safe enough. Dacre is an
old friend of the family, and the soul of honour. He has told me himself
that he only came down by Nantwich's request. Sir John Ellesmere (that
married his sister, you know) offered to use his interest for him in
Wurzelshire, but he wouldn't have it."

"He said that he would have been beaten," said Cyril.

"Perhaps he might have been, for old Sir John is getting a little feeble
by this time, and takes rather old-fashioned views of things. (What a
beautful girl Blanche Dacre was when he married her! Only twenty-two; an
excellent match for her, though, poor thing, for she had no fortune.)
However, the offer was made, I know. But that is a matter of no moment.
You are safe as far as regards Dacre. He has his own cards to play. If I
have any knowledge of human nature, sir,"--Here he drew himself up, for
knowledge of human nature was his weak point,--"you will see your friend
Dacre one day in a very high position, very high indeed. He is one of
the cleverest fellows I know. We will have him down here when you have
got in, and he shall drink your health."

This was at the dinner table. Cyril tried hard to retain his composure,
but the quick eyes of Kate detected something amiss.

"I don't like Mr. Dacre," she said.

"Oh, pooh, nonsense, my dear," returned the old gentleman, loftily. "A
most talented, well conducted young man."

"And such an agreeable companion," said Lady Loughborough. "He always
seems to know everything a day before anybody else. Do you remember,
Kate, it was he that first found out that unfortunate marriage of poor
Fairfax's son. What was the creature, a dairymaid, or a cook, or
something of that sort?"

Cyril wished the earth would swallow Lady Loughborough, and frowned
unconsciously.

"I think that he used to invent those stories sometimes," said Kate.
"But I remember the one you mean. But it was Nellie's governess that he
married, aunt, not the cook!" and she laughed merrily.

"Oh, the governess, was it!" said the dowager, indifferently. "It was
something of that sort, I know."

"My dear Sybilla," says old Saville, who was a gentleman to his finger
nails, "Captain Fairfax's wife was a most estimable and admirable
person. She accompanied her husband to India when he exchanged, and was
at Lucknow with him during the mutiny. Bellingham told me that the men
worshipped her and that when she died after the Relief, there was not a
dry eye in the regiment." And the brave old fellow took off a glass of
claret, as if in silent libation to the memory of poor little Lucy
Smith, the drawing-master's daughter, whom dashing, devil-may-care Harry
Fairfax suddenly married out of his sister's school-room, to the
amusement of all London, and the wrath, terror, and amazement of the
whole of his aristocratic connections.

Lady Loughborough turned down the corners of her mouth at the rebuke;
and Cyril felt a knot rise in his throat as the thought flashed across
him that perhaps his father was not so terribly proud after all, and
would not have discarded him altogether had he dared to speak the truth.

But the time was gone by now. He had chosen his course, and would abide
by it.

So the time drew on towards that eventful day which should decide the
fate of Kirkminster.



Chapter XLV. The Earthen Pot.

THE White Hart at Kirkminster was in a bustle. A telegram had come down
from Mr. Rupert Dacre to begin the battle, and the opposition committees
had taken up arms. The late member--a radical manufacturer, who was
Wheales's tool and admirer--had been comfortably buried long ago, and
Wheales and his party had sent down another candidate in his stead. The
new man was a wool-stapler--hard headed, vulgar, and wealthy. If money
could purchase him a seat in the House, he would not spare it.

The Conservative Committee was sitting at the White Hart, with Potter
and Piper in attendance. The Parliamentary Huskinson had sent down word
that the Government would support Mr. Cyril Chatteris, of Matcham, and
that Mr. Rupert Dacre would also stand, to make assurance doubly sure.

"I suppose that Dacre is the man they want," said Piper, when the two
were in consultation.

"I don't think that they care much," says Potter. "But Huskinson says
that we must return one of them. The plan is to divide the interest
until the last minute, and then put in the most popular man."

In the meantime the town was blazing with placards, and volcanic with
eruption of hand-bills. Old Saville paid visits to all the county
interest, and had obtained promises without end. The wool-stapler--by
name Ebenezer Crofts--held his court at the Potter's Arms, in the
New-town, and made dogmatic speeches to the people.

Binns had been set to work to collect facts, and had collected that the
general tone of the pottery-hands was dead against Rupert Dacre. They
were not so antagonistic to Chatteris, because the name was to some
extent familiar to them, and they could say nothing against him save
that he was a gentleman, But the wool-stapler was the favourite. In the
Old-town, of course, Crofts was quite out of the race, and Cyril
Chatteris was the chosen of Respectability. Dacre's chance seemed a poor
one. But Huskinson, who held the electoral strings in his hand, had told
Lord Nantwich that he would return his protegé if he wished it.
Nantwich--cautious ever--said that he thought Mr. Dacre was a safe man,
and that he had claims upon him, but that if the agent saw that
Chatteris would get in without much difficulty to let him do it.

Consequently, when Dacre arrived he did not find his prospects so bright
as he had expected. But Nantwich had promised him that he would not
forget him in any case, and his mind was tolerably easy. The morning
after he had arrived he sent for Binns. Binns was chap-fallen.

"I don't like the work, Mr. Dacre," he said. "It is underhand and
disagreeable."

Dacre, who, being secure of his prey, cared little now for Binns'
interference, said that it was the sort of thing that must be done by
somebody, and that, if he objected, Potter could find someone else. "You
have done all we wanted, I fancy, already," said he. "You say that the
pottery hands don't like me, eh?"

"No--they do not. I have been among them a good deal, and they seem more
inclined for Crofts than anybody."

"Did they know that you had been connected with the Association?" "No,"
said Binns, and blushed a little.

"Well, there is no harm done, you see."

"And no good."

"That remains to be seen. It is the wish of the Government that either
Mr. Chatteris or myself should represent the borough, and if you further
their wishes, I don't suppose they will forget it."

"Mr. Dacre--that looks to me very like a bribe."

Dacre pointed out of the open window into the street, where a knot of
the pottery hands had collected.

"Look at them," he said.

Binns looked. At the opposite corner was a public-house. Some ten men
were gathered round the steps--smoking, lounging, and talking. It was
market day, and the town was full of farmers come to hire, and farm
labourers come to be hired. One of these last was leading a big-boned
blood horse up and down, while Farmer Giles, or Jones, was absorbing
beer at the White Hart bar. The contrast was sufficiently great. The
rustic was a big stout-built animal, with huge boots and brawny
shoulders. He looked the incarnation of solid strength. The pottery men
were shambling, ungainly, sodden-faced fellows, and their attitudes all
betokened laziness and debauchery. Binns was not familiar enough with
the "British Agriculturalist" to rate him at his true value. He saw only
the beery, tobacco-smoking crew on the one hand, and the sturdy holder
of the pawing horse on the other.

"Which do you like the best?" asked Dacre--amusing himself by watching
the other's face. "There are your masses, and here are your people."

The distinction was fallaciously subtle.

"You are a democrat, you say," he went on. "Very well, here is the raw
material--work it up. Which would you rather make ruler or judge over
you?"

"King Log and King Stork?" said the friend of the metaphorical Bland.

"Exactly. You want to get rid of the present system of government, but
you have no other to put in its place.--Fancy being ruled over by that
fellow!" he added, as a pottery-hand staggered across the road, singing
some drunken ditty.

"I don't want him to rule over me, but I want him to know that he has an
interest in the government as well as other people," says Binns,
plucking up courage as the recollection of his oft-made speeches flashed
across him.

"That is what we want to teach him. Do you think that Ebenezer Crofts
will do it?"

"No."

"Do you think that Ebenezer Crofts--the wool-stapler, the
moneygrubber--cares about Hodge yonder? He will promise enough, of
course. What has Wheales done? Excited the people and made himself the
laughing-stock of England. The best friend to the English people is the
aristocrat after all. He can afford to do practical good." Dacre was
getting quite interested in the subject. "If ever the people rise
against the nobility, we'll put them down with the shoeblack-brigade."

Binns did not reply. He felt that all this talk was chaff and dry dust,
but he was unable to say why he felt it to be so. His mediocre intellect
just allowed him to see the disease, but he did not know enough of
political surgery to suggest a remedy.

"The prop of England," said he, "is her peasantry!"

Just then Farmer Giles or Jones came out, burly, breeched, and booted.
He swung himself to saddle, and flung Hodge a sixpence. The coin fell
into the kennel, and the plunging hoofs of the farmer's hunter splashed
the water into Hodge's face. He looked up and down the street, shook a
brawny fist at the retreating figure, and with a bacon-fed curse that
made the ears of the town-bred grocer's lad tingle, picked up the money,
and went straight into the public-house.

Binns turned away from the window, and Dacre laughed softly. "You have
too romantic ideas about the peasantry," he said.

"There must be something wrong somewhere," says poor Binns, vaguely.

"It will take wiser men than you or I to find it out I expect. And now I
must really say good morning. I have to receive a deputation at
half-past eleven, and it is nearly eleven now."

Binns paused with his hand upon the door.

"But--but--what am I to do?" he asked.

The expectant member for Kirkminster shrugged his shoulders.

"Upon my word I don't know. You had better ask Potter; but then you say
that you don't like Potter."

The tone was so careless that Binns felt his heart sink. It was true!
They did not want him any more. He had kicked against the pricks and
must take the consequences. He felt very heart-sick at his hopes of fame
and fortune ending thus; and, almost in spite of himself, made one more
effort to retrieve his position.

"Mr. Potter said something about some 'secretarial' work," said he.

"Indeed. Well, you'd better see Potter then. I shall be very glad to do
all I can for you." Then, seeing the other's crestfallen look, "You see,
Mr. Binns, that politics are a trade as much as anything else. If we
don't want an article, we can't afford to pay for it. You have been very
useful to us up to a certain point, but we have now got beyond that
point--or rather Potter has. I never interfere in these matters of
detail myself; but, as I said before, if my name is of any avail with
Potter----"

B inns got angry.

"You sent me down here yourself, Mr. Dacre."

"Yes, my good sir; but I am not responsible for your proceedings
afterwards. I sent you to Huskinson. Huskinson sent you to Potter.
Potter finds that you have done all that can be done, and of course
cannot employ you farther."

"In some other capacity----?" ventured Binns.

"Well, I'll see Potter if you like," returned the other, a little
impatiently.

And then it suddenly struck him that the young man might be useful in
relieving him of some of the multifarious correspondence which his
position entailed. Moreover, Dacre was not inclined to bruise broken
reeds, and was rather good natured when he could be so without injury to
himself, and poor Binns had been treated somewhat badly.

"I'll tell you what," he said; "you can stop here if you like, and
answer some of my letters for me, and we'll see then what Potter says."

Binns overflowed with gratitude. He would be too happy to do anything
that lay in his power.

Dacre was sure of it, but the deputation was within ten minutes or so,
and Binns could return in the afternoon.

The long, low bar-room was full of people, and the "deputation" were
forcing their way through. They were fat, rosy, sturdy men of the yeoman
sort, and had come to ask some questions about malt or hops, or wheat or
flour. Binns pushed past them, and went out into the street. He wanted
to walk somewhere. To cool his mind in some shady solitude. As he walked
up the flags depression began to fall on him. He felt that he had been
"made use of;" that the unscrupulous Huskinson had employed him to
extract information out of the "pottery people," which could scarcely
have been obtained by other means, and had then calmly let him drift
away with the tide. He did not like the business from the first, but he
had trusted to his own skill and "knowledge of the world" to steer him
safely through all dangers. He blushed again as he remembered how he had
gradually slipped away from virtue. When first he mingled with the
"pottery hands," he had refrained from spying out their secrets and
questioning them as to their intentions; but by-and-bye, as Piper puffed
complaint concerning "no information," "waste of time," and so on, he
had been led into obtaining their confidences and betraying them. He
knew well that the voters in the New Town were noted and marked down,
and that Piper and Potter could pretty well guess how many votes would
be recorded for the pet Government candidate; and he felt a pang of
shame when he remembered that he had himself supplied the information.
And yet there was no acknowledgment of his services. To speak them aloud
was to proclaim his own baseness. Potter and Piper had "used him," and
despised him; and, as for the great Huskinson, he would blow him from
his memory as he had blown away the speck of dust that rested upon the
immaculate pages of his brass-bound ledger. This sort of thing was base,
unmanly, unworthy of a friend of the people and a supporter of the
"working man." He would go back to London, admit his errors, and settle
down to honest work. Better the grocer's shop than this. It was the old
story of the earthen pot.

"I am not clever enough for this sort of thing," said he, bitterly. "I
have been made a fool of, and duped, and laughed at. I'll go back and
tell Dacre that I won't accept his offer;" and the memory of his old
hopes came upon him, and a lump rose in his throat, and his eyes filled
with tears of anger and shame.

He had got out of the town by this time, and was on the country road
that wound far away into the level distance. On the right rose the
cathedral with its clustering parasites of cloister, court, and close.
Beyond and behind its grey, mournful towers, the tall parvenus chimneys
of the New Town smoked and puffed in all the insolence of wealth. The
struggle between Beauty and Utility modelled in stone. The glaring white
houses and hard, jealous villas of the New Town princes dotted the
expanse. The railway viaduct spanned the blackened, sluggish Axe, and
seven times a day the train ran roaring and rattling past the tawdry
poverty and stuccoed cheapness of the New Town tradesmen and hucksters.
Binns turned his face to the left. There the country spread out bright
and fair; the Axe ran murmuring through locks and weirs, swirled black
and gloomy under the branches by Matcham Reach (ghost haunted), and
glided broad and bright past the stately trees and sloping branches of
Matcham Park. As far as the eye could see, the fair levels of the
champaign spread out fat and fertile. A tender, blue wreath of smoke
marked here and there a cottage, and through an opening in the trees the
slight spire of Matcham church sprang upwards to the pure sky. Matcham
Woods rolled away to right and left, and in the midst of their bosky
depths a gleam of sunshine fell upon the sharp gables of the old house
itself.

Binns looked at the fair landscape and sighed. That was his home! There
lay the broad acres of the young man who, like wicked Dives of old
story, had stolen the little ewe-lamb from his poorer brother.

There came the clatter of horses' hoofs behind him, and turning round,
Binns saw his rival of old days. He was riding by the side of a young
girl. The spring breezes had blown back a curl or two from beneath her
hat, and had given a shade of colour to her pale pure cheeks. Cyril was
not speaking to her. His face was white, worn, and haggard, and his eyes
wandered uneasily from side to side. He saw Binns, and started. The
young grocer instinctively raised his hat, and the girl by Cyril's side
bent her fair head--carelessly--as though such salutes were customary
and expected. Cyril flushed, and turned away his face.

Some vague terror seemed to strike the boy. Strangely enough, the sight
of this fair, young unknown brought back to him all the suspicious
terrors, fears, that he had so sedulously banished.

The little cavalcade swept past, and as the back of the following
pad-groom disappeared round a turn of the road, Binns went up to an old
man who was breaking stones under the hedgerow.

"Who is that?" he asked.

The old fellow looked up wonderingly.

"Mr. Cyril Chatteris, of Matcham."

"I know him,--but the young lady?"

"Why, Miss Ffrench--God bless her! Mr. Chatteris's niece. They be
cousins," and he fell to cracking his lumps of granite again, sulkily.

Binns walked slowly homewards. "His cousin." Natural enough that they
should ride out together. Natural enough, too, that Cyril Chatteris
should be at Kirkminster. Yet why was poor Carry left to pine alone and
unfriended? Binns decided that he would write that night to Bland, and
ask that trusty friend's opinion on the matter.



Chapter XLVI. The Blow Falls.

I PASS over a week of election-battling. Elections have been described
so often, that the description wearies, and Kirkminster election
differed little in its details from any other.

Binns, installed as the private secretary, so to speak, of Mr. Rupert
Dacre, had been hard at work. This defection from the ranks of the
"people" had given rise to some little comment among the few who had
noticed that the "young man from London" had originally appeared upon
the scene of strife in a somewhat different character, but such
defections were common enough, and Binns had been too cautious in his
proceedings to make himself noticeable. A few of the leading men in the
New Town party had remarked upon it, but they laid the matter little to
heart, not considering such defection of much moment. Perhaps only Piper
and Potter knew how useful the young man had been, and they kept their
own counsel. The political aspirations of a boy like Binns troubled them
but little, and even the Parliamentary Huskinson, who had come down to
superintend the deploying of his forces, only knew that the protegé of
the pet Government candidate had done his work satisfactorily. He had
been recommended by Dacre as a fit person for such dirty work as had
been needed, and the fact of his now being chief aide-de-camp to his
master, was natural enough. Huskinson was too familiar with the customs
of elections to wonder at any baseness, least of all at such a venial
dereliction from the strict path of honesty as this. He knew that Binns
had been once an employé on the other side, but the boy was young and
insignificant, and might be reasonably supposed to change his opinions
for money or self-interest.

But Binns himself felt degraded and uncomfortable. He knew that he had
sold his party--such as it was--for a shadow of political power; that he
had yielded to the first temptation, and had been false to his own
principles. He was oppressed with shame at what he had done, even though
the real facts were unknown to all save himself. He could never again go
back to his old friends. He would not if he could. In accepting Dacre's
offer, he had severed the tie that bound him to the "working man," and
was now adrift upon a treacherous sea of political intrigue. He knew as
well as possible now, that all his hopes and aspirations were gone for
ever. He knew as well as possible, that, whatever the issue of the
election might be, he would be cast off by the men he had served,
without remorse. His eyes had been opened, and he had realised his true
position. He knew now that his dreams of political success and political
power were simply ridiculous, and that the blandly smiling secretary to
Lord Nantwich had thought so from the first. He had rushed, in his blind
folly and conceit, into the snare that had been laid for him, and Dacre
had worked upon his vanity and ignorance to make him a tool for his own
ends. His first impulse was to go home, and sin no more; to confess his
defeat, and address himself to the real business of life. The shop that
he had despised was the proper place for him, and he would go back
there. But the sight he had seen in the lane had changed his intentions.
He could not tell why, but he felt that some peril was hanging over the
woman whom his plebeian heart still worshipped, and that to remain at
Kirkminster was the only way to help her. Poor Binns! He was only a
grocer's lad; a foolish, vain, half-educated boy, whose mediocre
intellect had been urged on by indiscriminate reading and insufficient
education to attempt tasks beyond it. He was just clever enough to make
him "attempt." The cheap press has given birth to many like him, and
their puny efforts to become great men are more pitiable than ludicrous.
Binns was disillusioned. The events of the last few months had opened
his eyes, and he knew now that, though by study and labour he might
become something greater than nature and fortune had made him, he could
never hope to reach those shining heights of fame and honour, where
walked the elect of the earth. He remembered Bland's wild burst of
despairing eloquence on the night when he had promised to watch over the
safety of his lost love. How far off the time seemed! "Genius is of no
name, of no nation!" True, but the triumphs of genius were not for him.
He was but a foolish boy, puffed up with vain hopes and vain longings,
and his place in the world was among the taught not the teachers. He
would go back and settle down to his drudgery, and forget that he had
ever owned an aspiration higher than the counter. But he would be true
to his promise, he would to the last watch over the wife of his enemy,
and would save her from the toils of sin and shame that some strange
instinct told him were fast closing in around her.

He wrote to Bland to remind him of his promise, and then set himself to
do Dacre's work, with eyes watchful of aught that might throw light on
the mystery he sought to discover.

Mr. Rupert Dacre himself was ill at ease. He was playing a very risky
game, and a false move might be fatal. Up to this point all had gone
well enough. Huskinson had told him that he was sure of the issue of the
contest as far as the Government were concerned.

"They are bound to return one of you," said he. "Crofts has no chance at
all."

"Are you sure?" asked Dacre.

"Quite. I never jump at conclusions."

This was on the evening of the first day, and the votes were as yet all
in favour of the New Town candidate.

"Those people exhaust themselves at first," said the experienced
Huskinson. "I never knew it otherwise. We shall out-vote them
to-morrow."

As he spoke, the noise of shouting and cheering came up from the street
below. Huskinson smiled.

"We don't waste our breath in shouting," he said.

Dacre tried to return the laugh, but the attempt was a failure. He was
harassed and fatigued. This was his first election contest, remember,
and the suspense and excitement was more than enough even for his cool
head and practised assumption of indifference.

"I wish it was over," he said, and helped himself to wine.

Huskinson looked at him from under his bent brows. The agent was a man
of ability. He knew well that, of the two candidates for the honour of
representing Kirkminster in the Conservative interest, the more
talented, the more useful, was the man before him. He knew also that
Rupert Dacre's heart was set upon victory. He was quite familiar enough
with the world to know that the private secretary of his old patron
could not but live up to his income, and perhaps beyond it. But Rupert
had done his work well, and was admitted to have claims upon the
Government; and he knew that if ever Lord Nantwich became premier, the
young man would be fairly started on the road to fortune and power.
Jonas Huskinson was an honest man, and did his duty to his employers
without consideration for personal feelings, or personal friendship, but
he had in his pocket at that moment a letter which Dacre had long
expected, but the contents of which he would have given much to know.

True to his scheme, when he found that Cyril was likely to be returned,
Rupert had brought into play his knowledge of his rival's former
delinquency. "Nantwich has only sent me down here to make sure of the
borough," he thought. "I know the old fox too well to imagine that he
will waste money in election expenses if he thought that Chatteris was
certain of the place, or that his affection for me is so great as to
lead him to oust an eligible man for my sake; but if it gets abroad that
the Conservative candidate is the Radical writer in the Mercury who put
out the Ministry, I think that Master Cyril may go back to Matcham as
soon as he likes, despite his father's friendship with the Government."
But it was not so easy to achieve this with security to himself. Had he
been in direct opposition to Cyril, the thing could have been easily
done, but he was presumed to be but a friendly antagonist, and he had no
wish to quarrel with Saville Chatteris. If the mine was sprung at all,
it must be sprung from a distance, and in secret. It was a very ticklish
thing to attempt, and he had reserved it for his last resource; but his
chance of election had seemed so poor that he had been compelled to fire
his last shot, and if that failed, he would be defeated to a certainty.
He had shot his bolt artfully enough. The Earl of Foozleton was in the
country. To him had Dacre written a carefully considered letter, sent
upon the specious pretence of some political details of town gossip, and
referring briefly enough to his present electioneering business.

"I am in the Conservative interest, of course," he wrote, "as your
lordship knows, and hope to be successful. I think, indeed, that there
is little doubt of that party which your lordship has so long and so
successfully led, coming again into power. The Radicals are working very
hard down here, but Mr. Huskinson thinks that they have little chance,
more especially as there is another Conservative candidate in the
field--a Mr. Cyril Chatteris, a son of Saville Chatteris,--who, I fancy,
stands better with the electors than myself. I frankly confess that
though he is a friend of mine--(by the way, I think I mentioned his name
before to your lordship),--I hope that I may have the good fortune to
beat him. However, I must not forget your lordship's patience in the
consideration of my own interests. The political waifs and strays of
news are very few. I see that," etc., etc., etc.

Of the result of this little bombshell Dacre had heard nothing as yet;
he had almost begun to imagine that Foozleton had forgotten the
intelligence sent to him so long ago. Such, however, was not the case.
The Stop-gap Cabinet that had received Nantwich into its bosom when the
Premier had been so ignominiously cast down, was on its last legs. Some
faint attempts had been made to collect together the shattered fragments
of the old Foozleton Administration, but such a project was seen to be
useless. As I have said, dissatisfaction reigned supreme, and a "New
Ministry" was talked of as if it was a thing of any moment. But the
Conservative party made no sign, and the awful prospect of the
so-long-hinted-at Liberal Ministry seemed close at hand. Nantwich had
resolved to push matters to a crisis. He was tired of holding a
secondary position, and resolved to make a bold stroke for the
Premiership. Dacre's advice had been excellent. The country was tired of
the pottering policy of the recent Government, but was not prepared to
accept an absolute Opposition. It was the precise moment for the Party
of Mediation to strike the blow. There were many difficulties in the
way. It was necessary to soothe the extremes on either side, and it was
not without much secret whipping and spurring that Nantwich got his team
together. Foozleton had been an important item in Dacre's calculation.
He was out of office, and his hopes of the premiership were blighted for
ever. In this strait he would readily fall in with the
Nantwichian scheme, and would bring with him a clientéle, valuable,
strong, and numerous. But he was a bird that required cautious
approaching; Nantwich was only waiting for Foozleton's adherence to give
the signal for the fight, but Foozleton as yet kept carefully aloof. On
the receipt of Dacre's letter, however, he had sought an interview with
Nantwich. "I see your private secretary has resigned and gone up for
Kirkminster," said he. "I suppose you want the borough, eh, Nantwich?"

"Not at all--not at--not at all," says Nantwich. "Another
man--Chatteris,--make sure, that's all, eh?"

"I think that you will make a mistake if you let them return Mr.
Chatteris," said old Foozleton, with his gray eyebrows coming down. "Eh,
what? Why so?"

"I have every reason to believe that he is closely connected with the
Radical interest, and that he has more than once given them very
important information concerning the Government."

The recollection of the Morning Mercury flashed across Nantwich. The
Most Noble Earl wanted a little revenge, did he? He should have it, if
he would pay for it.

"Indeed--indeed--indeed! Eh, eh, eh! You surprise me. Sit down, my lord;
sit down, and let us talk it over."

The result of that conversation, was the letter which now reposed in
Huskinson's pocket-book.

The parliamentary agent looked across the table at Rupert Dacre. "I have
had a letter from Nantwich this morning," he said.

Dacre's heart leapt. "What did he say?" he asked, with an enforced
calmness.

"You're a lucky fellow, Dacre," returned the other. "Read it!" and he
flung across the note.

It was very short.

DEAR H.,--If there is any doubt about Mr. Dacre's return, you can use
the Government interest to secure it.

Yours very truly,

NANTWICH.

Dacre's eyes sparkled. He was successful at last. There was no doubt
about it now. He was as sure of being returned as if he had seen his
name heading the poll on the morrow. He got up with a sigh of relief.
"Well, it's a weight off my mind," he said, "for I was not very
sanguine."

"I congratulate you," says Huskinson, getting up, "and now I must go. We
meet to-morrow," he added, with a smile, "and I can then congratulate
you again."

As he went out, Binns entered with the evening mail. Dacre seized the
packet eagerly. There was a letter from Nantwich, telling him of the
promised support, and also adding that Foozleton had come over to his
views (Dacre noticed, with pardonable pride, that he had written "our
views") and that now all was ripe and ready. Rupert, forgetful of the
presence of his "secretary," got up and paced the room delightedly. All
was done, all was won! He had gained the summit of his hopes. To-morrow
he would be member for Kirkminster, and in a few days his patron would
be Prime Minister of England! Fortune smiled upon him. His eyes turned
again to the table. Binns, who was sorting the letters, had stopped
suddenly and was gazing with flushed face upon a little pink note,
directed in a wavering woman's hand he knew well. Dacre saw the note,
but not the boy's face, and in his present paroxysm of joy forgot all
his fears and suspicions. He took the letter from Binns's unresisting
hand and tore it open, letting the envelope in his eagerness flutter to
the floor. Victory again! Fortune seemed to shower favours on him. The
wretched note, tear-stained and blurred with haste, was another proof of
his invincible powers. He had won all the stakes he played for, and as
he crushed the paper contemptuously in his hand, he laughed aloud.

Binns, watching him from the shadow, could have leapt forth and struck
him to earth for that laugh. Would have done it possibly, but for one
thing. At his feet, shining under the candlelight, lay the bright
envelope, face downwards, and Binns saw, what Dacre in his haste had not
seen, that there was writing on the fly-leaf. He stooped quickly and
picked it up. Dacre had turned again, and his face had resumed its
natural complacency. The table was covered with papers, and he had much
to do. "Sit down, Mr. Binns," he said, "and we will get rid of some of
this writing. I shall have to go up to town tomorrow night, in any
case."

Binns thrust the paper into his breast, and sat with it there, writing
from Dacre's dictation until far into the night. What he wrote he did
not know, the words seemed to form themselves mechanically under his
pen, his thoughts had nothing to do with his fingers. He was writing and
thinking of two very different things. The letter in his breast burnt
him like fire. His thoughts were all of it. What was it? What did it
mean? Were his suspicions confirmed? Had Dacre been playing his friend
false? Did Cyril Chatteris suspect anything? Did he--could he know
anything? Had Dacre spoken truth to him when he had given him that
memorable interview which had resulted in his present appointment? Could
it be that Dacre wished him out of the way, and that he had been
entrapped into leaving his watch and ward? Was this letter the first, or
one of many? Had Dacre written to her before? What did his laugh mean?
Was the letter an innocent one? When could he get away to read it? How
should he act if its contents were evil? Should he be too late? This
went round and round in his brain with desperate persistency. He still
wrote on, however, in a sort of dream. At length the last letter was
written, signed, and sealed, and Dacre dismissed him, with a well-bred
sigh of weariness. The instant he was in his own room, he tore the note
from his breast. The writing was evidently a postscript hurriedly
written as a last repetition of something that had been repeated often
in the letter itself.

You will not forget? Nine o'clock. I shall be waiting--alone.

C. C.

The blow had fallen at last!

He was stupified for a moment, and then he sat down on the little bed,
and forced himself to think. "How could he save her?"



Chapter XLVII. In the Balance.

HUSKINSON was right. He did not waste his breath in shouting. His people
knew well what they had to do, and they did it. Potter raised his
eyebrows when the great man told him that Dacre must be returned, but
Piper simply bowed, and grinned acquiescence.

"I could have wished you had told us a little sooner, sir," he said; but
Potter-frowned him down, and ordered brown sherry.

"Mr. Dacre shall come in," said he. "We were prepared for either
course."

"Quite so," said Huskinson, and the matter was finished out of hand.

But poor old Saville Chatteris was quite ignorant of all this. He
expected that his son would be returned without doubt, and was prepared
to meet Mr. Rupert Dacre with friendly condolence, Cyril himself was not
quite so sanguine. He knew, better than anyone perhaps, the real nature
of the adversary who was so smilingly opposed to him; and, despite all
his father's assurances of victory, felt that the opposition wasn't so
"nominal" as he would have it. However, he put a brave face on the
matter, and chatted hopefully enough as the rosetted horses bore him to
the hustings. After all, what did it matter? The election was but a
secondary thought with him.

As father and son drove rapidly through the crowded streets, the
bystanders cheered and bowed. Saville accepted the incense with
high-bred ease. Cyril smiled too, and graciously waved a benignant
glove. Happy pair!

But on the heart of one of them lay a heavy remembrance--a remembrance
of a dusky church, and a sudden outcoming into bright sunlight--a
remembrance of a little villa and a brief week or so of happiness--and
then of a silly girl, a vulgar mother-in-law, a hated wife--and a
terrible time of agony, cowardice, fear, and love--that had ended in
infamy and shame.

What was the future that lay before him? Here was respect, honour,
triumph, affection, and esteem. The shouting crowd, the plunging horses;
the noise and tumult; the hand-shakings; the congratulations; the
flattery that met him on every side; these were fitting for the heir of
Matcham. The dull lodging-house, the dreary companionship of an unloved
woman, the toil, the poverty, and, above all, the ridicule, were past
and gone. He would not think of it. No, all would be well, all would be
bright and fair. Let him but once get free, and he would live honourably
and virtuously, would forget the past, and, happy in Kate's love, would
make the future yield him the peace that he had missed. Mr. Rupert Dacre
was hopeful also, but his calm face showed nothing. Saville Chatteris
bowed graciously. "They are sure to return one of you," he said. "Of
course," said Rupert, with a smile; "but we can guess who that one will
be," and he glanced towards the door through which his friend had
passed.

Saville looked after his son with admiring eyes. "Well, Dacre," he said,
"we are so well known down here, you know--"

"My dear sir," returned the other, "it was only a precautionary measure.
The Radicals were so strong."

"I quite understand," says Saville, loftily. "But I think that we have
no need to fear. You will dine with me to-night?"

"I am afraid that I must go up to town. In fact, I have made
preparations to leave by the six o'clock train. Defeated candidates, you
know, are always in the way."

Saville bowed in a politely deprecatory manner, and went off to shake
hands with the Dean.

Rupert went off to his own room smiling, and felt so elated, that,
meeting his "private secretary" hurrying down the passage, he stopped
him with some pleasant jest about his labours being now ended--and "'Pon
my word, you look quite knocked up, Mr. Binns!" he added, as he noticed
the boy's red eyes and haggard face; and then Huskinson came up, and the
two went off together.

The White Hart was divided against itself. That is to say, that one
party was devoted to Mr. Dacre, and the other, to Mr. Chatteris. Both
the candidates occupied the same committee-room, and Piper and Potter
were in appearance the abject slaves of both, while Huskinson, flitting
round about, seemed like a respectable guardian angel. But Mr. Rupert
Dacre, living at the place, was the object of an attention which was
denied to Cyril; and, on the other hand, the fact that Cyril was the son
of the great Saville Chatteris of Matcham, invested him with an
importance which Dacre could not achieve. Consequently, though landlord,
landlady, waiters, and chambermaids, were all eminently conservative,
there were waiters specially devoted to the Chatteris interest, and
waiters specially devoted to the Dacre interest. During the last two
days, a room of gloomy magnificence had been set apart for the lord of
Matcham to take his temporary ease, and in that room Saville and Cyril
were at present hidden from the gaze of the curious. As Binns passed the
door, Cyril came out--there was a speech to be made, or something, and
he was going away to make it.

"Can I speak to you, Mr. Chatteris?" asked Binns.

The young man started. Here was another witness against him. He had seen
him in the lane, but had almost forgotten him.

"You!" he said--"What do you do here?"

"I came down about the election."

"Oh!" returns Cyril, at once dismissing his suspicions. "About the
election, eh? Well, what is it?"

Binns looked at the waiter in the Chatteris interest, who was prowling
discreetly about the passage. "Can I speak with you alone?"

A sort of presentiment of evil came over the "heir of Matcham" as he
noticed the set lines about his once despised rival's mouth, and saw how
quickly the plebeian, poetical, silly grocer's lad had grown into a
young man, earnest and determined, and self-possessed.

"What is it about?" he asked again, settling the hot-house flower in his
coat, with an affectation of ease.

Binns leant forward, but the half-closed door was opened again, and
Saville came out hastily. "Come, Cyril my boy, come--we must not keep
these fellows waiting."

Cyril stood a moment irresolute. What could the boy want with him?
Saville looked a little wonderingly from one to the other. "Has this
gentleman any pressing business?" he said.

"No--no!" says Cyril, nervously. "--I'll see you again directly."

And in a few seconds Binns heard the crowd cheer as the pair came into
view.

"When will he be back?" he said to the waiter in the Chatteris interest,
who had been standing with his head on one side, like a meditative
stork. "Can't say, sir--I'm sure, sir. Poll closes at four, sir. Any
message, sir?" "No," says Binns, "no message"--and he went out.

He walked down the streets, away from the crowd that had gathered at the
Town-hall. He could not decide on his course of action. Through the long
night he had tried in vain to think out what he meant to do. Dacre had
basely taken advantage of his friend's confidence, had profited by his
opportunities to instil suspicion into the mind of his friend's wife,
was this very evening to meet that wife in her husband's absence. Yet,
perhaps, it was a harmless meeting. Dacre might have told him the truth,
and he might be the chosen confidant of the marriage. But, then, the
wording of that fatal note. "I shall be alone." Alone. Oh! there was
little room for doubt. Dacre had lied to him, and had betrayed Cyril.
And Cyril? Binns hated him. Hated him with increasing hatred. He knew
now that the love he felt for Cyril's wife was no idle passion. It might
have passed away; indeed, at first, it was but the calf-love of a boy,
smitten by the first pretty face, but it was more than that now. He
understood how it had come to pass that he loved. It was the very fact
that Carry loved another that made him love her so deeply. It was
because he so hated the husband that he so loved the wife. His enforced
absence had led him to invest the figure of Mrs. Manton's daughter with
all the graces his imagination could picture. Had he married her, he
might have been disenchanted, as he had sometimes thought Cyril had
been, but now--now his love, nourished, and fed, and fostered, had grown
beyond his control. Carry might be false to her husband, false to all
the world, but he should always love her. She was, for him, not a woman,
but an ideal. It was for her sake that he worked, for her sake that he
had read and written. "To make yourself worthy of her," Bland had said.
And now that she had fallen, had found out her husband's baseness, or
fickleness, or what not, and was about to bring shame upon
herself--should he shrink from defending her? No. Though he hated Cyril
with all the force that despised love and wounded vanity could lend him,
he would not triumph in her dishonour. He would say to him--"The woman
whom you cajoled from me by false promises and lying words, the woman,
for whom you struck me and insulted me--loves you no more, she is about
to fly with another man, with a man whom you think your friend--but
I--I, Binns the grocer's apprentice, the 'cad,' the despised and
ridiculed--I have come to save her from shame and you from dishonour!"
That would be a noble revenge! And she--she should never know who had
rescued her from the fate which awaits all wives who break their vows;
she should never know that the boy whom she had ridiculed and laughed at
had saved her from a life of shame and infamy, had arrested her on the
very brink of the gulf, and had placed her safe within her husband's
arms again. He would make the concealment of the part he proposed to
play in the business the price of Cyril's silence--if, indeed, any price
were needed--for Cyril would be only too glad to hide from his wife the
knowledge that another besides himself had discovered her intended sin.
He would go to Cyril, then, and tell him of the baseness of his friend
and the weakness of his wife. He would send him back to London, and all
should be explained and atoned for between them. Binns did not doubt but
that Cyril loved his wife, and that their estrangement was the result of
some quarrel or misunderstanding--he had read of such in books--and he
knew well that Carry loved her husband, and would rejoice to have him at
her side again. He judged only from appearances, and did not dream that
the young man, to him so well-bred, so courtly, and so refined, could
have sunk so deep in infamy as to have plotted his own wife's dishonour.
No: he visited all the guilt upon Dacre's head,--Dacre the smooth, the
self-complacent, the lying, treacherous villain. He grew quite romantic
over the thought of his revenge, it was so poetical, so delicate, so
noble. And he hugged himself at the notion that he, the laggard in the
race, the "outsider," the nameless, obscure shop-boy, should hold all
these strings in his hand, and be able to sway the destinies of the men
who had sneered at him--as he willed. Who had sneered at him!--Yes. And
as he walked, he began to think again.

At first--last night, in the dull silence of his shabby chamber, he had
thought of a different course. He had half-proposed to himself to let
matters go as fate would seem to sway them, and to leave Carry to her
destiny; but the remembrance of his love, and of his promise, of her
sweet eyes and soft voice, of all those happy days so far away, before
she was a "lady" and he aught but a poor, ugly boy who loved her;--the
remembrance of Bland, the honest-hearted, rugged expounder of the gospel
of truth and honour;--the remembrance of all that "might have been," had
not the handsome face of the scapegrace son of Saville Chatteris
appeared in the little Dym-street lodging-house, came upon him in the
midst of his plans of vengeance, and made his dull plebeian eyes fill
with tears, and his red, coarse, plebeian hands clench themselves
involuntarily. As he had sat last night upon his truckle-bed in the
poorly-furnished inn bedroom--barren, like all inn rooms, of aught that
spoke of home or comfort--a vision had come up before him. A vision of
himself, respected, honoured, admired perhaps, mixing daily in the
society of men of talent and genius, recognised by them as one of that
band of workers whom they were proud to lead;--a vision of himself an
author, a poet, a politician, a man of the people, a leader of the
people, a Name among men;--a vision of himself coming, going, moving
among this brilliant crowd, cherishing the while in his own heart the
knowledge that, close at hand, in some Home made radiant by love's
light, and adorned with all the nameless graces which the presence of a
pure woman lends to the meanest cottage, there awaited him a loving
heart, whose sweet counsels would cheer and guide him; a gentle breast,
where his head alone might lay down its weight of care; a tender voice,
whose pure accents would bid him hope on and despair not; and a soft
hand, that in his dark hour of trial or weariness would be lifted one
moment from his aching brow to point in simple confidence to Heaven.

This was the vision of what might have been, the vision of what could
never be. Such pure happiness was not for him; he was not worthy of it.
And then in its stead came another vision. Himself again,--poor, vulgar,
debased; sinking day by day, and hour by hour, back into that slough of
coarseness and ignorance from which he had striven to raise himself;
losing, in the grinding misery of his daily cares, all aspirations, all
hopes, all memories; becoming, like he had seen others, pure animals,
eating and drinking, for to-morrow they die; and, far away, that fair
figure he had seen before, happy in a luxurious home, rich in husband's
and children's love, admired, and courted, and caressed. The thought
made him clench those despised hands again. Why should she not be so?
She was worthy of it. He could never hope to give her such a home. And
yet why leave this happiness to another when he might destroy it with a
blow? He could do it. He had but to be silent, and his enemy would be
grovelling at his feet--dishonoured and disgraced, unloved and
despised--as he had been. Why should he deny himself this revenge? It
was fitting that Cyril should suffer. Perhaps even now he was
triumphing.

There came a shouting and a beating of drums and crying. Binns shrank
back into a lane to allow the troop of election rioters to pass. He had
got into some tortuous lanes round about the Cathedral in his wandering,
and a party of men wearing the blue riband badge of the Conservative
interest pinned upon their coats, and flying from their hats, came up
one of the lanes debouching upon the Cathedral square. They were on
their way to the poll evidently. A man whom Binns knew as one of Piper's
most trusted agents was in the midst. A drum was beating and a fife was
playing, while around the main body, leapt and ran, and reeled and
staggered, a ragged, drunken crew swept up from the public-houses and
taverns, and hanging like a tattered fringe upon this gay garment of
electoral privilege. They were going up to vote for him, Binns thought.
What could not money buy? His enemy would be victorious again; he would
be the honoured and respected member for Kirkminster, and a ruler and
judge over all those who, like poor grocers' apprentices, were born to
be oppressed, and ridiculed, and maltreated. All his desire for
vengeance came back again. He would soon pull down the pride of this
haughty aristocrat, who refused to listen to him, and took the good
things of life so easily. He thrust his hand into his breast and felt
the letter there. Here was the barbed arrow that would bring down this
soaring falcon! He would not tell him! Let his dishonour overtake him,
and let him be buried beneath it. He turned to go. But she----? What
would become of her?

He stopped, irresolute; and then--following in the train of the past
procession, whose shoutings and trumpetings grew fainter in the
distance--from under the lee of some old wooden-gabled houses, that
masked the entrance to a poisonous, ill-paved court, staggered a hideous
figure--a thing born of Night--a thing that lurks in dark corners, and
hides itself from God's sunlight in foetid cellars--a thing familiar
with blows, and ready with curses--a terrible, ragged, drunken,
despairing, obscene creature, in whom God's part had long since been
battered out, but who, nevertheless, reeled and staggered, and blinked
with bleared eyes at the unwonted sunlight, and clutched tight some
tattered fragment of a shawl with shaking hand, and crooned some
butt-end of an indecent ballad with swollen, bruise-blackened lips; and
was dirty, and half-naked, and drunk, and a Woman.

There was his answer! To this fate would his evil passion for revenge
bring the pure, fair girl he loved. Oh! better to kill her than that.
Away with his mean and despicable envy of another's happiness! She loved
Cyril;--well, he would give her back to him. He turned quickly, and
walked towards the inn. The shoutings were redoubled, and he could see
the crowd heaving round the Town-hall. It was late. The poll must be
over; perhaps they were declaring it now. He would get speech with the
new member, and would tell him that he must go up to London at once;
must get there before Rupert Dacre could get there, and save his wife
from the fate which awaited her. What a fate! He looked back, and saw
the wretched figure going on across the flags of the Cathedral-close.
The shadow of the huge towers seemed to swallow her up.

"God help her!" cried Binns.

Ay, God help her! Staggering, with some dim recollection of old days,
perhaps, towards the porch, her slip-shod, down-trodden shoe had caught
in some unevenness of the pavement, and she had fallen and struck her
forehead heavily against the cruel iron of the fast-locked Cathedral
gate.



Chapter XLVIII. Retribution.

THE open space in front of the Town-hall was thronged with people.
Pushing, expostulating, threatening, Binns made his way through.
Something important had taken place evidently. Opposite the door the
Chatteris carriage was standing, and the police were vainly endeavouring
to keep a clear passage round it. The mob were shouting and yelling, and
shrieking different names. Boys had climbed up lamp-posts, and were
waving their caps to others below. All eyes were fixed upon the front of
the building, and the crowd gradually surged and pressed up to the
steps. Then the doors opened, and Saville Chatteris, followed by the man
whom Binns sought, walked down the steps amid mingled groans and cheers
and hisses and shouts; and the carriage door was opened, and, amid more
shouting and cheering and hat waving, the horses plunged and started,
and the carriage began to move. How was this? Should he lose him after
all? He made an effort to get free from the pressure; but there was a
sudden silence, and then somebody came out on the balcony and read
something, and there was more cheering and hissing and hooting, and then
Mr. Rupert Dacre, calm, courteous, and well-bred as ever, appeared
behind the somebody with the paper, and bowed easily to the yelling mob
below. What did this mean?

"Who is elected?" he asked of a man in an oilskin cap who stood next
him.

"Dacre, dom him!" said the man. "I'd a rather had t' young squire than
him; but them coves all came up and voted in a body. Bribed, I'll swear!
Yah!"

And he relieved his feelings by a yell.

Dacre had got in, then, after all, and against such overwhelming odds!
And Cyril was beaten; would now be driving back to Matcham, and he could
not get speech with him.

The clock over the Town-hall pointed to five. Nine o'clock, she said.
Then Dacre must go up by the six o'clock train. He only had an hour.

Backwards, desperate, he plunged. He was against the tide now. Men
cursed him and threatened him. He was borne on by sudden shiftings of
the crowd, and had to struggle all the way back again. He was down once,
and nearly trampled, but some burly fellow caught him by the hand, and
dragged him to air again with an oath.

There was a little island, as it were, of open space at one spot, where
a woman had fainted, and where, by dint of shouldering, a little air had
been got for her, and this gave him a great start. He kept his eyes
steadily fixed upon the sign of the White Hart, that swung above the
crowd in the High-street. It was at the White Hart that he should find
Cyril, if he had not gone straight home.

More pushing, more cursing, more shouting and hooting--started by those
around the Town-hall, and taken up by the others without knowing
why--more expostulations, and shrieks, and groans, and a consciousness
through it all that Mr. Rupert Dacre, with a flower in his button-hole,
was bowing, and laying his kid glove on his coat, and neatly turning his
paragraphs, and pointing his witticisms, and that the six o'clock train
would go in three-quarters of an hour.

A desperate struggle at last; the White Hart nearer and nearer: then a
wild shout, and sudden movement of the mass, and a confused gabble. Mr.
Rupert Dacre had taken his paragraphs, and his witticisms, and his
flower, and his kid gloves, into the Town-hall again, and the six
o'clock train went in half an hour.

Another man on the balcony--Mr. Ebenezer Crofts, in a black coat and a
yellow rosette, greeted with terrific cheering and waving of dirty caps.
Then a savage roar for silence, and then a murmurous interval as before,
broken by the same yells, and hoots, and cheers, and hisses. Out of the
crowd at last--torn, dusty, hot, and hatless--sorely bruised and shaken,
but out of it. On the steps of the White Hart, with the Chatteris
carriage still standing there, and the six o'clock train going in twenty
minutes.

Waiters in the Chatteris interest were in the hall; waiters in the
Chatteris interest were in the passage; waiters in the Chatteris
interest were upon the stairs.

"Who'd a thought it?" "Mr. Dacre, too!" "Dear me!" and so on, through
which murmuring Binns pushed his way.

"Now, then, young man, where a' you a' shoving to?" asks an indignant
waiter in the Chatteris interest who guarded the Chatteris door. "I beg
yer pardon, Mr. Binns; I didn't recognise yer," he adds immediately, for
Binns' "master" was now a man to be treated with respect. "Lor' why,
where have yer bin to? Yer coat's torn to ribbons."

"I want to see Mr. Cyril Chatteris at once," cries Binns. "Where is he?"
"He's in there," says the waiter, pointing to the door where Binns had
paused in the morning. "They're all there."

Without stopping to consider what might be included in the "all," Binns
hastily thrust a crumpled card into the man's hand.

"Take him that, and tell him I must see him at once!"

The waiter stared, and then opened the door.

Cyril Chatteris was there, and so was his father, and Kate, and Lady
Loughborough. It would seem that Kate, growing anxious, but nothing
doubting of ultimate triumph, had half teased, half begged the Ruin to
come with her into Kirkminster, and await with congratulations the
successful candidate.

When the state carriage drove up, James, the state coachman, discovered
the face of John, the pad-groom, among the idlers on the steps, and
learnt that "Miss Kate and the old 'un had brought the broom up."
Saville, furious and indignant, and Cyril, savage and silent, had found
the two prepared with congratulations.

"Well, my dear Saville," says Lady Loughborough, "we have come up to
congratulate Cyril, you see!"

"Cyril, dear Cyril!" cried Kate, with sparkling eyes, "I could not stop
at home, but--"

And then she paused.

Cyril flung himself into a chair.

"You might just as well have stopped," he said. "I'm beaten."

"Beaten! Who has got in then?"

"Dacre," says Saville shortly.

"Well, he is an admirable young man!" said the dowager spitefully,
mindful of her rebuke anent the question of Harry Fairfax a few days
before.

"There has been foul play somewhere," says Cyril, nervously rising. "Why
the odds were all in my favour!"

"I suppose we did not take all the precautions we might have done," says
Saville, dignified even in defeat. "I suppose that Dacre acted fairly
enough. He was compelled to stand."

"It's Huskinson's fault!" says Cyril. "He must have known."

"Mr. Huskinson knew the wish of the Government, I suppose," returned
Saville, who looked upon the parliamentary agent much in the same light
as he did upon his butler. "After all, Dacre was Nantwich's secretary,
you know; but if he meant to give him the borough, he might have said
so."

"Mr. Dacre could not have been so treacherous, surely," says innocent
Kate.

Cyril laughed a harsh, grating laugh.

"Oh, yes, he could!"

"I do not think that he did expect it," said the father. "He would have
told me, I think, if he had. You must be mistaken about him, Cyril."
Cyril laughed again.

"Oh, I don't care," he said, with a look through the fast darkening
window into the street below. "I always told you that I should be
beaten. I don't want to have anything to do with them. I'm glad I didn't
wait to speak; it will show them that I don't care."

"I do not think it will," said Saville, gravely. "But that is not of
much moment now."

Kate had stolen over through the fast gathering gloom, and had put her
hand on Cyril's arm caressingly. He took it and kissed the little glove.
What did he care about Kirkminster as long as Kate loved him!

"Never mind, my darling!" she whispered. "You cannot help being beaten,
and you fought honourably, you know."

"Of course," says Cyril.

"You would not--could not do otherwise, I know," said she.

The door opened. "What is it?" says Saville. "A card--Mr. who? What does
he want?"

"Mr. Binns, sir," says the waiter, "wants to see Mr. Cyril, sir."

Cyril's heart gave a sudden leap, and he felt a presentiment of coming
evil. What did the boy want again with him, and at such a time? He would
not see him. "It's nothing of any consequence," he said, in answer to
his father's inquiring tone. "Tell him I can't--"

But Binns, with a terrible consciousness that the six o'clock train was
going in a quarter of an hour, had caught the first word, and was in the
room.

"It is of consequence--great consequence. Mr. Chatteris, will you let me
speak?"

Cyril, seeing in his face now on what subject he wished to speak, and
knowing that Kate was there at his side, within reach of his hand, would
have stopped him, would have taken him into another room, would have
bought his silence somehow, but the attack had been too sudden, and it
had overpowered him. Moreover, all in the room were eager to hear, and
there was not time to invent an excuse. His whitening lips had begun to
frame some faltering sentence about private business, when Saville, all
unconscious, broke in,

"Go on, sir! What have you to say?"

Binns turned from one to the other. This was the father then. Lady
Loughborough he did not know; but there was the girl he had met in the
lane--his cousin. As he looked, he saw her steal out her hand in tender
alarm, and clasp it on the one which rested upon Cyril's arm. He guessed
it all then. The memory of his own love gave him power to read the story
written in that gesture. This was the woman for whom Carry had been
deserted. He would not spare now. He turned upon Cyril with a fierce
suddenness that made Kate draw closer.

"Go back to your wife," he said, "if you wish to keep her your wife!"
Kate gave a cry, and then clung to her lover. Cyril did not move--he had
expected this. As soon as he saw the look the other flung at him, he
knew that the revelation must come, so he determined to face it with a
sort of desperate courage, as he had faced the same revelation before.

"You are mad!" he said. "My wife!"

"Yes, your wife, Caroline Manton, whom you married in Dymstreet before
your brother died, and who lives with you at St. John's Wood as Mrs.
Carter."

Saville Chatteris had bent forward in horror at the word wife, but his
brow cleared a little at the explanation, "Lives with him at St. John's
Wood." He thought he understood the nature of the connection.

"What is this nonsense, Cyril?" he said.

Kate had got back away from him a little now, and was standing listening
with white face and parted lips.

He waved a deprecating hand. "Nothing," he said. "An indiscretion--a
temporary--you understand."

"You lie!" cries Binns. "You are married to her! You know it!"

The old deadly glitter came into Cyril's eyes. He was driven to bay, was
he? Well, they had best not provoke him too far.

"Take care what you say, sir," he said, "or I shall have you put down
stairs. I have had reason to chastise you for your impertinence once
before. I shall do it again, perhaps."

"Really, Cyril, what is all this?" said Lady Loughborough, rising in
great trepidation. "Who is this person?"

Binns, ragged, torn, dusty, and furious, turned round and faced his new
adversary.

"I have come here to save a poor girl from dishonour!" he cried. "I have
come to save that man's wife from infamy! Ha, does that make you wince!"
as Cyril strode forward. "Your wife is going to elope with Rupert Dacre
to-night at nine o'clock, unless you go home and save her."

"Cyril, this is not true? This woman he speaks of is not your wife?" The
words were Kate's.

"My wife! No, dearest, not my wife!" Saville Chatteris had risen. "I
will explain it all to you, sir, to-morrow." (He must gain time;
to-morrow, perhaps, his wife would be far away, and at that thought a
strange jealousy struck him.)

The tone and words made Binns shudder. Though Cyril had neglected his
wife, had denied her even, he had never doubted but that he loved her.
Now, like a flash of lightning, this hideous indifference had lighted up
the whole black gulf of Cyril's heart, and he saw that he had plotted
his wife's dishonour.

"Are you a beast," he cried, "with no touch of sympathy or pity? Can you
plot your own wife's shame, and leave her to her fate without remorse?"

Saville Chatteris, standing strangely erect by the table, said, in a
high, clear voice,

"How do you know this, Mr.--Mr.--Binns?"

Kate looked across at her uncle with fear in her eyes.

Binns dashed his hand into his breast, and held out the fatal letter.
"There," he cried, "do you know that writing? Do you know that writing?"

The sight of the letter made Cyril turn sick. He snatched it, and
staggered to the window. Kate gave a cry.

Mr. Rupert Dacre,

White Hart,

Kirkminster,

Loamshire.

PRIVATE. and in the fly-leaf,

"You will not forget? Nine o'clock. I shall be waiting--alone.

C. C."

At the sight of this tangible proof that his infamy had been successful,
that he had alienated his wife's love from him for ever, and that he was
dishonoured and disgraced, the miserable boy experienced an awful
revulsion of feeling. He stared at the letter in a stupid despair, and
said nothing.

"Do you know it?" says Binns, again. "Do you know it?"

It seemed that the whole room waited for his answer. He slowly raised
his head, and, crumpling the paper in his hand, said,

"Where did you get this?"

"I found it," said Binns, "last night! Quick, you must go--at once--you
will be too late. He goes at six--six, do you hear? six!"

"You will be too late, Cyril," repeated the old man, still erect and
motionless. "You will be too late. Do you hear?"

Cyril dashed the paper to the floor as though he would annihilate it,
and then his haggard eyes wandered from one to the other despairingly.
His sin had found him out at last. Had found him out through the
instrumentality of the very boy whom he had despised, and ridiculed, and
insulted. He had lost the game. Even with all advantages in his favour,
he was beaten at last. All was known now, and he would be scorned and
detested. His own infamy and cowardice had brought him to this pass; his
own treacherous plots had betrayed him. He saw at once that there was no
hope. The story of this unknown, torn, dusty, impassioned boy, hastily
told, unexplained as it was, bore about it the stamp of truth, and his
own momentary pang of jealous weakness had confirmed that story in his
father's eyes. He knew his father's prejudices, and his father's pride.
He knew his father's hatred and detestation of all that was
dishonourable and base. To have disgraced his family by marrying beneath
him was bad enough; but to deny that marriage, to engage himself to his
cousin, and, in order to consummate that engagement, deliberately plot
and assist at the seduction of his own wife, was infamous, unpardonable,
horrible.

His father slowly raised his thin, white hand, and silently, and with
averted face, pointed to the door. Cyril moved towards it, and then, in
sudden abandonment of desperation, turned back.

"Kate!" he said in a broken voice, "Kate! Forgive me!"

Lady Loughborough--woman still through paint and powder--had caught the
girl in her arms, and from that shelter Kate looked back at him. Her
face was colourless, but tearless. Her eyes bright and dilated. At the
sound of his voice she turned her lustrous, scornful glance full upon
him. All the tenderness had gone out of it now. The unhappy wretch,
quivering with shame and rage and fear, read in those pure orbs no sign
of love, no touch of pity.

"Go!" she said, with a sort of shudder. "Go!"

He moved towards her, and would have caught her hand, but for the light
in those terrible eyes. "Kate! It was for your sake!"

She flushed crimson. "For my sake! You did this infamous thing for my
sake! and you dare to tell me so! oh--oh--oh," and she hid her face,
sobbing for the shame of it.

Cyril sprang back in desperate rage of despair.

"So you all look black at me, do you? You all despise me and hate me!
Curse you! and curse her! and him, and all! Ha, ha! You prate to me
about honour and love and duty. Why, I have given them all, all, I tell
you, for that girl there," he pointed to the sobbing Kate, "and she
despises me! I have been a villain--a coward--a liar; I know it. It was
for her sake I did it, and she hates me--spurns me. That is punishment
enough, isn't it?" He stopped a moment to wipe his parched and bleeding
lips with his handkerchief. "You think I havn't suffered. Suffered! Ask
Rupert Dacre; he can tell you. Rupert Dacre, the man of the world, the
clever, pleasant, agreeable, good-hearted Rupert Dacre." (It is
impossible to convey on paper an idea of the wolfish sneer with which he
said it.) "The man of taste and experience, the man that was selected by
my dear father there to look after me, and take care of me, and advise
me; the man who has beaten me at all points; the man who has defeated me
here, and has gone away to take my wife from me. She is my wife!" He
hurled the words in a paroxysm of revengeful fury at the silent Kate.
"She is my wife, and he knew it, and proposed to me that 'he should take
her off my hands;' that was his phrase.

Do you hear me? I let him do it, and when she appealed to me for help
against her own heart and his villany, I laughed at her. And I did this
for your sake--for your sake--for your sake."

Binns, listening appalled at this outpouring of beastlike passion, wiped
the sweat from his forehead. "O, my God!" he said, in that slow,
distinct whisper, which is heavier with anguish than the shrillest
scream.

"Will you go, sir!" said Saville Chatteris, in his clear high voice.

Cyril cowered before the bitter contempt expressed by the motion of the
outstretched hand.

"Let me pass, you young fool!" he snarled at Binns. "You have done a
good day's work! A nice bit of revenge for your beggarly friends to brag
of! Do you know what I mean to do?" He stopped and hissed out the words,
"I am going to London to find this Rupert Dacre, and when I find him I
shall kill him!"

A hideous pause, during which his glittering eyes flashed hate and rage
and despair at them all in one wide sweep, and then the door was burst
open and he was gone.

There was silence for a moment, broken only by the sobs of Kate, and
then the old man lowered his hand stiffly, and turned to Binns.

"I do not remember your name, sir," he said, "but I will tell you
something. Do not be proud, sir. I was proud, and I had two sons. One
died, sir, and the other has disgraced me."

"Saville!" cries his sister, alarmed. "What is it? Are you ill?"

The waiter in the Chatteris interest who had been lurking outside the
door, and had been nearly knocked head over heels by Cyril's sudden
exit, heard a heavy fall in the Chatteris special private apartment, and
came in. The old man was lying on the floor senseless.

As they were taking him away, Binns, silent and terrified at the ruin
which he had wrought, was following, when his eye fell on the crushed
and flattened envelope that lay on the floor. The sight of it revived
all his own misery. He stooped and picked it up. The action was so full
of grief and pity, that Kate stopped.

"You knew her then?" she said.

"Knew her?" cries poor Binns, with an agony that made him almost
sublime, "I LOVED her!"

The door was closed; they were too much occupied with the sick man to
notice him, and he sat there until it grew dark, with the paper before
him, patting and smoothing it, and crying over it.

"You were not to blame, my dear," he said. "You were not to blame."



Chapter XLIX. Long odds.

TEN o'clock at night in the subscription-rooms at Chester.

The smoke suffocating; the noise deafening. Book-makers, racing-men,
noble lords, ruined spendthrifts, rich manufacturers ,--all mixed up in
a wonderful olla podrida. Tobacco-smoke heavy in the air, laughter and
chatter, with an under glow of vigorous betting visible.

"Five to one!--Fifty to five!--In ponies?--No, can't do it, my
lord!--I'll lay against Fly-by-night!--Fifty to five against
Lemon-peel!--How are you, Jack?--Ha, Fitz!--Vell--vell! no m' lord, 'pon
my soulsh, can't do it at the prish!--Well, Windermere, when did you
come back?--Ministry going out?--nonsense! I heard it on the best
authority!--How is la belle Helène?--Och, don't mintion her, the little
vhiper!--Twenty to one!--Give me a light, Tom, will you!--Seen the 'oss
last night!--Sam Dowton came down--lay in a ditch out there by the
castle; rheumatism in his back, and can't walk!--Ha, mon cher Vitz
Vederique, je vais mes gombliments!--How do', Gablentz; broken 'nother
bank?--I'll lay against Andromeda!--What's your figure?--Done with
you?--Haven't the honour of your name, sir.--A modest pony. Smashed
up!--Bolted from college with some woman.--Irish Church must go--As fast
as you can clap your hands.--S'elp me, but I saw it with my own
eyes!--Too much weight--never catch her!--A hundred to two!--Remember me
to the old boy!--Nantwich will do it.--Poor old Snuff-box!--Who's that
man backing the Cardinal?--Calverly--rich Australian.--Ah, gweasy,
gweasy !--Sixty to one, sir: yes, sir, in monkies.--Anything in my way,
my lord?--The neatest leg and foot I ever saw in my life--give you my
honour--danced the Romalis in the market-place--good cigar--stopping at
the Bell--hot grog--broke his neck--Rome--Newmarket--carries two
stone--lost my hat--ècartè in the carriage--Fly-by-night--Lemon-peel--
best run of the season--over the mahogany--chaff--ruined--broken--
done--lose your money--damme, sir, you're on my toes," etc., etc.,--
out of which Babel, Major Ponsonby dragged Bob almost by force.

"Don't plunge any more, my dear boy--don't," cried he, almost
pathetically.

The old Duke of Raikesmere (Regency Raikesmere he was called in the
clubs) who was standing on the steps, cursing the disgusting practice of
tobacco-smoking, looked up with a wicked leer in the corner of his
sodden old eye. "Another booby going to the deuce!" was his muttered
reflection.

"I mean to win, Ponsonby!" cried Bob. "I'm sure that boy can ride him."

"Well, but don't put any more money on now, there's a good fellow.

Leave it till to-morrow, at all events. We will do wha we can. That
fellow of mine is pretty smart, and I don't think that Mr. Docketer
attempted any nonsense with the horse, though both he and Ryle have laid
against him, I know."

"--And Dacre--"

"Yes, but Master Rupert is such a cautious bird that you can't 'fix' him
with anything. He got you to buy the horse, but that is all you can say,
and he only did so to oblige you. If you could prove now that he took
any money from Ryle--"

"He owes Ryle money, I know."

"So does everybody else, more or less. However, he didn't do the right
thing about it, and all the fellows who heard the story say so."

"By-the-bye, his election comes off at Kirkminster to-morrow," says Bob.

"Yes," returned the other! "great row in the old shop. Poor Fred's
brother is up too, I see. I don't think Dacre has much chance."

Bob didn't reply. The thought of Cyril made him sad.

"Come down and let us have a look at the horse," he said, "It isn't far
to go, and I should like to see all safe."

The old "bullock" was lying down in his stall complacently.

"He's a fine old beggar to sleep," says the Hon. John.

The Cardinal turned a shining eye reproachfully. From what could be seen
of him, as he lay in the fresh straw, with his muscular thighs tucked up
under the clothing, he looked sleepy and stupid enough. Master James
Seabright, with the natural desire to show off a horse that animates the
breast of every jockey, was about to rouse him, but the Major stopped
him.

"Let him alone," he said; "and send Ricketts to me."

After the conversation in which the Hon. John had learnt how his friend
had been dealt with, he had taken the superintendence of matters into
his own hands.

"You leave it all to me, old man," he had affectionately said. "If I
can't win for you--which I don't think likely--I can, at all events, get
you a fair show for your money."

Consequently, the wily Docketer received frequent visits from the Major
at all sorts of odd times, chiefly in the early morning; and just before
the Major returned to barracks, he let drop, in the course of a very
pleasant and agreeable chat, a few recollections of his with reference
to a horse-coping case in Pontefract, some five years before. Docketer
started a little at this, swallowed a glass of the celebrated brown
sherry the wrong way, and, when he was bidding his guest adieu, said,

"You've got a most uncommon memory, Major, you 'ave."

"Yes," said Jack, "I can remember a good deal when I think a little, but
then I never do think. By the way, you can let me know how the horse
gets on, Docketer; I'm interested in him."

"All right, sir," says the other, and wondered if the "boy" had said
anything about the trial.

Jemmy Seabright looked so preposterously innocent when the question was
asked him, that the astute Ryle, who was present at the inquiry, at once
guessed that Ponsonby knew all about it.

"Have you got much money against him, Docketer?" asked he. "Not werry
much."

"Well, I don't know if he can do anything, especially with the weight;
but I wouldn't play any tricks with him if I were you."

Even had Mr. Docketer any such desire--which, to do him justice, he had
not--his plans would have been frustrated, for the Major had sent down
his own groom, who had removed the horse and little Jemmy to Chester
three weeks before the present date.

It was Ricketts, grey-headed, upright, and lantern-jawed, who now
presented himself with a half military salute.

"All right I suppose?" asked his master.

"Right as the mail, sir," says Ricketts, standing in a position which
had some curious blending of the horsey and the soldier-like about it.
"No one troubled 'emselves to come anigh us."

"See what a reputation we've got," says the Major, cheerfully, "they
won't even look at us. Well, Jemmy," to the lad, "you must do your
best."

"Look here, sir!" says the boy, with a strange quiver about his lip,
"you done for me what nobody ever did afore, and I'll win this race for
yer, sir, if I never ride another!"

To which sudden burst, the good-humoured Jack said only, "All right, you
little beggar,--cut away to bed, and don't get smoking."

"Gratitude in a racing-stable!" says Bob, who was becoming cynical, or
trying to become so.

The rigid Ricketts, who was a bit of a philosopher, and subscribed to a
mechanics' institute, only said, with a shake of the head eminently
suggestive of a tight stock, "Human nature's a dam rum thing,
sir--begging your pardon for the oath. It's like 'osses and
Johnnie-raws, sir--bullyin' ain't no use;--you must Rareyfy 'em, if you
want to do any good with 'em." At which curious jumble of drilling and
horse-taming, Bob laughed, to Ricketts's intense disgust.

As they stepped out into the stable-yard, a large drop of rain fell on
the major's glove. Both looked up. The sky was dark and threatening. It
would seem that the clouds had come up out of the valley of the Dee, and
were spreading themselves over the city.

"Bravo!" said the Honourable John,--"that's glorious, if it only lasts!"
"What is?" said Bob, forgetful for a moment.

"Why, the rain, old boy!" cried the other, turning up his coat-collar.
"It'll make the ground too heavy for the light lot, you see if it
don't."

At the subscription rooms, the same gabble was going on. Fly-by-night,
the property of Lord Windermere, was the favourite, at two to one; next
came Lemon-peel, by Citron out of Pomme-descure, one of the many horses
with which poor Count Karateff still came valiantly to the front, at
eight to one. Then Automaton, Andromeda, Tambourine, and Penelope
(pronounced Pennyloap by the Ring) at ten to one, or thereabouts, and a
host at fifty to one, one hundred to six, and odds of any length, among
whom was the despised Cardinal. Welterwate, Pierrepoint, and Miniver
stood to win upon Lemonpeel, while Berry, and his friend Fitz-Frederick
had, as they graphically expressed it, " 'gone a cracker,' on the
favourite, and no mistake." Gablentz had made a book of course, so had
Randon, who, having got well on as soon as the weights were declared,
went about, vowing that "He owned--he fu-fuf-wankly owned he was a lucky
fuf-fuffellow!" Little Figleaf, who prided himself upon his knowledge of
the world, and would have given at least six points over the market
price in order to bet with a duke, had placed his little pot upon
Automaton, a big-boned chestnut of some pretensions, and the numerous
"men," of whom Hetherington and Toodles are fair types, had all "got on"
according to their lights, but not one had deigned to back the unlucky
Cardinal.--Yes one. As the rooms were emptying, a little, pale-faced
Jew, with a nose like a scimitar, and an eye like a snake, said,

"Vly-by-night and Andromeda. Vell now, Muster Ryle, I garn't. I vould if
I gould, but I garn't."

Just then the quick ears of Mr. Charles Ryle caught a distant rumbling
sound, and heard a rapid tapping on the windows.

"I'll take the Cardinal instead of Andromeda then, if you like to give
me five to two, said he."

The Jew booked the bet, and, as he did so, a terrific peal of thunder
rattled overhead, and the storm broke in torrents of hissing rain. "Do
it again?" said Ryle, carelessly.

The Pole looked at him with bright, sharp eyes. "No dank you," he said;
and when Barnet Isaacs, considered the sharpest "leg" in all Jewry,
offered eighty to one against the Cardinal a few moments after, little
Mikhailoffsky opened his blubber-lips and shot him in fifties.



Chapter L. The Chester Cup.

THE eventful day dawned at last. Heavy with clouds and fierce with
raging wind. The good people of Chester, who had looked forward to the
Cup day with immense delight for the last six months, grumbled as they
drew aside their curtains and saw what a raw cold day it was. Many of
them--honest burghers and what not--had not gone on the first day,
preferring to wait for the great event of the year, and these were
proportionately disgusted. The racing and betting fraternity established
in various inns about the city, set to work doggedly hedging against the
favourite, and by eleven o'clock, Automaton had nearly advanced to par.
There was a gleam of bright sunshine about noon which deceived many, and
carriages began to be seen here and there, and many a sober burgher
yielded to his daughter's prayer, and took his chance of a ducking. The
trains poured in their crowds of eager turfites. From London,
Manchester, Birmingham, they thronged to the old grey city.

In Manchester and Liverpool the sun was shining brilliantly, and many
hard, blunt, money-making faces grew harder and more coarse as they were
protruded from the windows of the "1.50 down," or the "12.30 up." The
wild hosts of the Ring, the Pariahs of London Arabia, poured into the
town. Wonderfully waistcoated, ravishingly ringed, with beribbanded
hats, with wild expanses of shirt-front, and stupendous exaggerations of
fashionable attire, the billiard-markers, the Jew speculators, the
'fast' blackguards, the swell-mobsmen, the card-sharpers and
skittle-players, spread themselves out over the course.

Sporting Jewry--puffy-lipped, fat-eyed, greasy, and infamous--betted,
and shrieked, and cursed, and was alternately coarsely impudent and
disgustingly subservient, now licking the mud off the boots of a lord,
and now shaking a dirty fist in the face of some broken down "stag," as
is the fashion of that particular class of Hebrew. From north, south,
east and west, the land sent forth her spies. Few dainty women, fewer
resplendent parties of giggling girls and pleasure-seekers. This was a
matter of business, a matter of trial, a matter of serious earnest. The
bookmakers, clean-shaven and silent, bearded and garrulous, short and
fat, tall and thin, in wide-awakes and bell-toppers, broad brims and
narrow brims, with veils and without veils, all looked upon the coming
race as a serious and awful circumstance. It would decide in a great
measure the probable issue of the next Derby, and it behoved them to be
careful and attentive.

All the sporting world was at Chester, but its wife was for the most
part at home. The wives and daughters of Chesterian magnates in the
grand-stand! the wives and daughters of Chesterian burghers on the
Castle-hill! the wives and daughters of Chesterian lower orders
scattered about promiscuously! but few absolute strangers. Sporting
nobility in great force. Sporting nobility of all species, from the
Marquis of Croxton, pale, upright, grey-whiskered, and gentlemanlike,
down to the young Earl of Sydenham, beardless, blue-eyed, and
baby-faced, who taps his retreating chin incessantly with the silver
ferule of his riding-cane, and cannot spell, and was at Oxford, and is
"on the Turf," spending his fortune as hard as he can in the company of
legs, and lorettes, and fighting-men, and bullies, and swindlers, and
birds of prey of all sorts. His mother, Lady Croydon, who is the leader
of the Low Church Party, refuses to let him enter her doors--and his
uncle, the Bishop of Blunderbury, says he is a "brand," and will not
hear his name mentioned in his presence.

The stand is crowded with half the blue blood in England. Presently, the
rain begins to sprinkle again, and coat-collars are turned up, and at
last it comes down finely, but steadily; and Automaton goes up to par in
less than ten minutes. Sporting nobility defies rain, and walks about
calmly; and Royalty, in a white mackintosh, and smoking a cigar, walks
about also.

The saddling-bell has rung, and the horses take preliminary
leg-stretchers through the drizzle.

"There goes Fly-by-night!" cries Miniver.

"Too light for this weather--ground like a ploughed field," groans
Fitz-Frederick.

"What about Automaton?" says Figleaf, emitting a volume of smoke,--as
the raking chestnut, reaching madly at his bit, cantered down in the
wake of the Favourite.

"Do you stand to win on him?" asked the other.

"About even, in any case," says the cautious nouveau riche.

"Where's Calverly's horse?" asked Welterwate, with his glass at his
eyes. "He is a big brute--he ought to stick through the mud."

"Don't see him," says Miniver, looking round. "Oh yes--here he comes!"

Jemmy Seabright walked Lord Lundyfoot's destroyer slowly up the course,
Bob and the Major standing watching, regardless of the fast falling
rain.

As the horse broke into his swinging canter, and Ponsonby marked his
easy stride, and watched the play of his powerful limbs, his heart rose,
and he struck the young Australian on the shoulder.

"I wouldn't lay long odds against him now!" he said.

"Come on the stand!" says Bob, nervously; "they will start in a minute."
Some delay; some flag-waving, and shifting of colours; then a shout, and
then a momentary hush, with the voices of confident bookmakers down in
the ring heard distinctly.

They're off!

Tambourine leads, with Automaton and Andromeda close behind. The savage
chestnut bores to the front; Andromeda changes her leg, and Sanderson
(Karateff's jockey) drives Lemon-peel level with her in an instant.
Penelope, a vicious light-weighted filly, is leading the field; but the
pace is too good, and in five strides the crimson colours of the
Favourite slide out of the ruck, and a savage roar goes up from the
Ring. Tambourine is shutting up at every stride; Automaton goes past him
like a thunderbolt, with Lemon-peel hard on his quarter. The ruck
lengthens out; and Bob's heart gives a great jump as he sees the
paleblue jacket of Jemmy Seabright emerge out of the mass of colour.

The ground is beginning to tell. Careful Beresford eases the chestnut;
but confident in the Barberini blood, Beamish forces Fly-by-night past
Lemon-peel, and pushes for the lead. Tambourine falls away hopelessly;
Penelope is going lame. The Cardinal sweeps past them both in three
tremendous strides. Little Jemmy sets his teeth, and draws a long
breath, as he sees Andromeda fade away on his left, and feels the black
and orange back of Sanderson coming nearer and nearer.

"I say, Welter," says Berry, dropping his glass, "isn't that Bob's
horse?" "He's forcing the running awfully," says Welter. "He can never
stay at that pace."

But the Beeswing blood was not given to shirking, and the son of Manxman
and Grand-Duchesse never shortened his stride for an instant.
Fly-by-night labours, and Automaton creeps up again.

"Curse the rain!" cries Windermere, between his set teeth.

Cynical Raikesmere, at his elbow, laughs grimly. "You breed 'em too
light," he says,--"like every thing else now-a-days!"

The Cardinal is neck and neck with Lemon-peel. Sanderson lifts his arm
once, twice, thrice; but the ground is softer than ever, and the big
brown horse leaves poor Karateff's colt a length behind.

Mr. Ryle in the top of the stand smiles contentedly, and Mikhailoffsky
rises fifty per cent. in the estimation of the Croesus of Israel.

"He's gaining, Jack--he's gaining!" says Bob in a nervous whisper. Round
the level sweep they come, mud flying in sullen black showers.
"Automaton wins!--Automaton !--I'll lay agin Fly-by-night!--

Automaton !--Automaton!"

Little Figleaf jumped up in his excitement.--He was going to win a 'pot'
after all!

Jemmy Seabright drives in his spurs, and the brave old Beeswing blood
reddens his boot-heels.

There is a roar from the Ring! Automaton twenty strides from the
winning-post slackens his pace, and the crimson jacket is level once
more; but, hard behind, a tower of strength, his mighty chest blackened
by the mud from the heels of the Favourite, thunders the despised
Cardinal.

The Major bit his lips till the blood started.

"What's that horse?--Blue jacket!--Blue jacket!--Automaton
wins!--No!--No!--Fly-by-night!--Fly-by-night! Fifty to one!--Sixty to
one! The blue jacket has it!--The blue jacket!--The Cardinal!--The
Cardinal!--H-a-a-a-a-ah!--S-s-s-s-s-sh--Fly-by-Night!--Automaton!--The
Cardinal!--The Cardinal!"

Neck-and-neck. Whips cracking like pistol shots. The lean head of the
Favourite, with nostrils wide and quivering, passes Beresford's elbow.
An effort--another--shouting--yelling--grassland slipping away under the
feet, like a dirty green riband--all the faces spinning round in one
blurred white mass. The Favourite drops behind; and then Beresford
flings back a cautious glance. A broad muzzle--a savage white-rimmed
eye, and then a big brown neck, gliding past him, with Jemmy Seabright's
little white face above it. His whip rises and falls; he feels
Automaton's convulsive leaps; he hears dimly the savage shouts of the
crowd; two more strides and all will be over!--the brown neck seems
stationary--the winning-post flashes white on his left!

"Automaton wins! No--the Cardinal! The Cardinal! THE CARDINAL!"

"Snatched out of the fire, by G--d!" cries the Major, striking his
gloved hand on the wooden rail in front of him; and Bob Calverly, dizzy,
sick, and trembling with excitement, turned round to the crowd of
enthusiastic faces, heard the running fire of congratulations that met
him on all sides, and awoke to the consciousness that he had won the
biggest stake he had ever played for, and banished his monetary troubles
at once and for ever.

Yes--thanks to Jemmy Seabright's riding, the heavy ground, and what
not--the despised Cardinal, plastered with mud, reeking with sweat,
bloody with spurring, won by a neck; Automaton second; the Favourite a
good third; and poor Karateff's four-year-old nowhere.



Chapter LI. The Other End of the Chain.

THE receipt of Binns' hurried letter had confirmed a suspicion which had
long been shaping itself in the mind of Bland. That poor, good heart was
sorely troubled. Amidst the smoke of his meerschaum he had dimly
discerned a strange picture of impending evil; and he would ponder, in
his lonely room by night, long and earnestly over all the doubts and
fears with which the conduct of the brilliant contributor to the Mercury
had inspired him. This concealment of marriage, this hiding away of a
wife under a false name, was opposed to all Bland's old-fashioned
notions of truth and honour. Yet there were reasons--strong
reasons--reasons rendered familiar by plays, and novels, and stories
innumerable--reasons plausible enough--reasons difficult to dispute--the
old, stale arguments anent family pride and family embarrassment. But
the concealment had lasted long enough, and the echo of society's rumour
of Cyril's "engagement" had reached even the ears of unfashionable and
Bohemian Bland. He was unwilling to credit it. In his love for Binns he
tried to put away such thoughts, and did not care to imagine even for a
moment that any disgrace could come to the girl whom his friend's heart
delighted to honour.

He had gone--so artfully, poor fellow--to the Mantonian residence, and
over many a "tea" had, through the intervals of many a rubber, obtained
full and fair accounts of the marriage and the quarrel. He had given
himself over, bound, into the hands of the Jittlebury and the Perkin,
and with his grey hair wildly rumpled, and his teeth on edge with
nervous irritation, would gravely beat time to the mangled melodies of
those Sirens, and never, by a syllable, betray the torture he was
suffering. He would hand round muffins with an elegance that astonished
himself, would find himself relating anecdotes of such literary lions as
it had been his fortune to meet with,--found himself even, one memorable
evening, actually singing "Barbara Allen," in a high-pitched voice, with
a marvellous embellishment of quavers, and shakes, and trills, and
sudden dashings at high notes, and consequent confusion and shame; would
sit, with the tobacco-fiend gnawing at him for hours, and listen to
long, rambling stories of the widow's vanished youth, and would sternly
repress the savage desire to rush away, tear off his old, ill-fitting
gala coat, and, plunging into his ragged dressing-gown, smoke madly in
all the unfettered freedom of bountiful Bohemia. He endured, with the
patient tenderness that is the nobility of such mediocre hearts as his,
all the clack and chatter, the ungrammatical gabble of sordid cares, and
griefs, and joys; studiously ignored the widow's slips of tongue, and
pardoned with a smile the vanities and follies of all the mock gentility
among which he found himself. He was as courteous to the Jittlebury as
if she had been a duchess; and though his toil-wearied feet had never
trodden the soft carpets that fit the perfumed chambers of the great,
his bow to the blushing Perkin would not have disgraced St. James's. For
the sake of Binns--the enthusiastic boy who had chosen to call him
"friend"--he bore his martyrdom without a murmur; happy if he could hear
such news of the little girl who had so trustingly accepted his escort
through the London streets, as would allay the fears of the poor boy who
loved her.

It seems a small sacrifice, perhaps, to pass a few hours each evening
away from books and thought and smoke. But these were all that made life
endurable to the disappointed, wearied man, who had found the odds too
great against him, and had gone down in the fight. With books and
thought and smoke he could defy his memories, could banish all regrets
of past failures, and smile at all vain dreams of future fame. But with
the new affection that had arisen in a life barren of all save pity
since his young wife died--had arisen the new delight of self-sacrifice,
the sweetest and purest joy in all Love's golden horn.

Bland, in the Mantonian domestic circle, presented a picture that was at
once ludicrous and pitiful. His long, lean, angular figure, clad in
well-brushed black of rigid respectability. His serviceable boots,
pieced here and there, perhaps, but polished to reflective power. His
double-breasted black cloth waistcoat, made after the fashion of a
bygone age--when he was young, and spruce, and handsome, and hopeful.
His serviceable thickness of silken watch-guard, which attached itself
to the fat, old-fashioned, shining, silver watch, that ticked with a
pert and obtrusive noisiness, heard distinctly at a distance of two feet
from his person. His tall collars, uncomfortably respectable as his
coat. His thin hands, that always looked painfully clean and dry. His
finger nails, clipped into filbert shape, and adorned with a carefully
scraped rim of purest white. His scraps of grizzled whisker. His
new-scraped chin and long upper lip. His hollow, cavernous eyes, that
sparkled with a dry humour and honest kindness, for all that was weak
and helpless, and glittered sometimes with an enthusiasm that defied the
crow's-feet round them, and seemed in its genial heat to melt at once
the gathered snows of his sixty winters. The little tricks and habits of
the man. The knack he had of taking off his spectacles to laugh at a
joke of the widow's, and putting them on again upside down. His merry
confusion when told of his mistake; and the unconscious way in which he
did the same thing again ten minutes afterwards. His feeling about for
his pipe when interested in conversation, and awaking blankly to the
knowledge that he was in "ladies' society;" his actually pulling out
that implement of consolation bodily on one occasion, and cramming it
back into the wrong pocket immediately, with profuse blushes. His
harmless stories of harmless junketings and revellings which he related
always with the qualifying remark to the virgin Jittlebury, that "I was
younger then, you know." His unassuming manner. His reverence for the
great past masters in literature. His humble worship of the living great
ones, who were still scoring their names upon the sand of popular fame.
His rotundity of metaphor and Queen Anne stateliness of aphorism. His
multifarious and marvellous knowledge of all that was quaint, and
curious, and recondite, and useless. His outspoken detestation of all
that was base and cowardly and cruel. His manly sympathy for all that
was noble and honest, and his childish delight in all that was pure, and
laughable, and innocent, and mirth-provoking. All these things, with a
thousand other little touches of quaint goodness that cannot be painted
in words, made up a picture that might have moved to laughter or
compelled to tears. A picture which, as I strive to realise it, takes me
back into that strange land, where the pathetic and the ridiculous go
hand in hand--a land thrilling with tearful whispers, murmuring with
tender laughter, and sighing with lost illusions; that land which we
have all trodden in our childhood, which holds yet the mournful ghosts
of our childish hopes, and fears, and faith; that happy, simple,
twilight land, the memory of which, the turning of a sentence, the echo
of a song, the perfume of a flower may bring back to us for a moment,
but out of whose sweet shadow we have passed for ever.

Bland had succeeded in completely gaining the confidence of the widow.
She--good, motherly, vulgar woman--had quickly discovered the true heart
that was hidden by the shabby coat of the newspaper hack; and if her
vulgarities grated occasionally upon the sensitive Bland, and each "h"
that she dropped stuck into him like a pin and made him wince, he
honoured her for her honest struggle with the world, and her love for
her daughter. Out of the fullness of that love, and because she did not
want to see her daughter made unhappy, the widow had respected Cyril's
commands, and had never visited Carry. With the exception of that night,
so long ago now, when the poor child, terrified at her husband's
neglect, and haunted, perhaps, by some dim presentiment of coming evil,
had sought the shelter of her mother's arms, she had not even seen her.
Rupert Dacre, having made good his footing in the St. John's Wood villa,
and learning from Carry that her mother had tacitly consented to be
separated from her, had not repeated his visit to Dym-street, and all
communication between the two places had ceased. Mrs. Manton, confident
in the knowledge that the marriage had been legally performed, and that
Cyril could not repudiate it, was quite innocent of suspicion of wrong.
But the continued concealment began to alarm her, as it had alarmed
Bland.

"At fust it was to be jest temporary--to gain time to h'explain, you
see, Mr. Bland, but now it looks as if he was waitin' for his father's
death. Don't it?"

"It is not right. I cannot think it right," said Bland; but he could
advise no course of action. "That friend of Mr. Chatteris, too, I do not
understand that he should be so often at the house. Robert and myself
have seen him leave,--quite late."

"Yes--but lor, that's nothink! Besides, didn't young Binns go to the
office"--the widow spoke of all places of business indifferently as the
"office"--"and find out that it was all right? Oh, I know my Carry!"

So things had gone on from day to day. Upon the receipt of Binns's
letter, however, Bland, as I have said, was sorely troubled. At last,
after much smoke and cogitation, he resolved that he would inform the
mother, of Binns's suspicions and the rumours of an intended marriage
between Cyril and his cousin, and would beg her to go and see her
daughter herself.

The poor woman wanted but little urging. Hastily putting on her bonnet,
and pinning her shawl with hands that trembled as much with anxiety as
with anger, she took her way to her daughter's house.

"I'll soon get to the bottom of it!" she said. "I'll soon find out what
he's been up to, the villain! My darling! Marry his cousin, indeed! I'll
cousin him!" and so on.

Bland felt himself awfully guilty when he saw the widow's grief, and
began to regret that he had told her. "Perhaps, it is not true after
all. Robert only said that he suspected, you know, and rumour always
exaggerates."

"Poof!--True!--Ho ho!" laughed the widow in ghastly glee. "I don't
believe a word of it."

But she did, for all that, Bland knew.

All that day his conscience smote him for his cruelty, and yet he had a
lurking conviction that the warning was necessary. He hurried to
Dymstreet as quickly as possible that evening, calling there on his way
home. Mrs. Manton had not yet returned. At his lodgings he found a
letter.

DEAR MR. BLAND--Please come up at once. Things is much worse than we
thought. Carry's ill, and I'm all alone here excep the servant.

Yours truly,

ANASTASIA MANTON.

When he read this, he immediately imagined all sorts of horrors; blamed
himself for not having wit enough to see the condition of things before,
and so deeply was he agitated and moved to wrath against himself, that
he struck himself several savage thumps upon the chest and took a
fiendish pleasure in sitting exactly where the draught from the window
of the omnibus that bore him to his destination would cut him most
severely. When he reached the house it was eight o'clock. Mrs. Manton
opened the door.

"It's you, Mr. Bland!" she said. "Thank God you've come! He'll be here
in an hour."

"Who?" asked Bland, alarmed.

"That villain Dacre. You must see him. She's ill. They were killing her
amongst them."

"What do you mean?"

"Come in, and I'll tell you!" said she. "Oh, I thought that you would
never come!"

The widow had taken the villa by storm--rang violently at the
bell--stopped the servant-maid's mouth with a "Oh, stuff and rubbish,
don't talk to me!" and dashed into the little drawingroom like a wounded
lioness. At the sound of her voice, there was a little scream, and then
her daughter had flown down stairs, all crimson, and panting, and
crying, and flung herself into her arms. A silly sight, doubtless; no
grand phrases, nor pretty sentiments; only a poor, distracted, miserable
girl, clinging round her vulgar mother's neck, with sobs, and gasps, and
kisses, and little pats and murmurs, and "Oh, Mother! Mother! It is you!
My dear! My darling! Oh!--oh! Help me! Save me! Take me home! Oh,
mother!"

By-and-bye the terrified woman got her up stairs, and soothed her a
little, and drew the story out of her piecemeal. How her husband had
neglected her and despised her. How Mr. Rupert Dacre came with his soft
voice and protecting manner. How he flattered her vanity and made her
think she loved him. "For I didn't, mother, I didn't!" she cried, in a
sort of terror. How Cyril had gone, and how lonely she had been; and how
Mr. Rupert Dacre had told her that it was for love of Kate Ffrench that
her husband had left her alone so often. How she had gone to the theatre
with him, and how Cyril had returned that night. That she had been
nearly mad. That she used to drink laudanum in order to sleep. That she
used to think of killing herself sometimes. That she would have told
Cyril all, but that when she begged him to forbid the house to Dacre he
had laughed, and told her that Dacre was his friend, and he wished her
to know him; and, "oh, mother!" she said, "I thought then that he knew
what had been passing in my mind, and that he wished to be rid of me.
That he well knew what his friend would have me do, and that he gave him
opportunities of seeing me in order that I might listen to him, and--"

"Why did you not come to me?" says Mrs. Manton, between her sobs of rage
and grief.

"Oh, mother, I daren't; and beside--beside, I began to think that I did
love my husband's friend, and that he loved me and would take care of
me! Oh, mother, don't shrink from me! It was wrong, it was wicked, I
know; but oh, mother, it was so lonely, and I did so want to be loved by
some one!"

She stopped a moment to sob at the recollection of her loneliness. "My
poor dear!" said the mother, and patted her hand caressingly. Carry went
on in a low voice.

"He came again the next night. I was very miserable. I thought that
Cyril didn't love me"--another sob--"and I had made up my mind to leave
him. I told Mr. Dacre that I would go with him. He said that I must
wait; that he had to go down to Kirkminster about his election. Cyril
came in, and I saw that he knew, or had guessed at what had passed. He
did not speak to me, and left me in the morning without a word. I then
thought of coming home, mother, but I was afraid; and one day, when he
had been gone a week or more, and I had heard nothing of him, I wrote to
Mr. Dacre, and told him that I would wait for him to-night, and that if
he came to fetch me I would go with him--"

"To-night!" cries the widow, alarmed.

"Yes, to-night. He is to be here at nine o'clock."

"Oh, Carry!"

"Mother, dear mother, I would not have gone; indeed I would not. I was
mad, I think, when I promised to go; worse than mad when I wrote that
letter. But I would not have gone. I had made up my mind what to do."

"What?" cries the poor woman, in a new terror.

"To--to--have died," says the girl with a shudder. "To have died and
forgotten it all. It's there!" she cried, starting up--"there on the
table behind you! Oh, throw it away! Take it, mother, darling, and throw
it away!"

The widow turned round, and instinct divined the meaning of the broken
sentence. The little bottle was standing in the same place where Cyril
had seen it on the night when he had returned from Matcham. The mother
snatched it and hid it in her bosom.

"Not that, my child, my darling!" she said--"not that--not that!" And
then the two fell into each other's arms again.



Chapter LII. Heart Against Head.

MR. RUPERT DACRE, in a first-class carriage--with his rugs and shawls
and other matters disposed comfortably around him; with an excellent
cigar in his mouth; the soothing sensation produced by the presence of
some very excellent soup and a couple of glasses of capital sherry under
his waistcoat; with the congratulations of Huskinson yet ringing in his
ears; with the pleasing knowledge of the fact that he was now M.P. for a
very influential borough; that he was on his way to meet a pretty woman;
that all his scheming and plotting had succeeded at last; and that his
cynical, selfish policy had carried him over all obstacles--was very
comfortable.

"The humbug that fellows talk about morality!" said he, and laughed
pleasantly. "It is all very well to read about, but practice is quite a
different thing. Here am I, an absolute proof of the virtue of
viciousness. I have been peristently selfish from youth up; have never
spared anybody, or anything; and have lived happily, cheerfully, and
comfortably, up to the ripe age of thirty. At thirty, I am member of
Parliament;--an influential person; known, respected, and admired; and
have not been without my little bonnes fortunes either. This is one of
them,--really, the most pleasant of any, I think. A nice
girl--accomplished--loves me, too--and the wife of an intimate friend!
What could the heart of man desire more? I have been very lucky. My
destiny, I suppose. Kismet! We are the slaves of circumstance," he
added, satirically, "and when one does an infamous action, it is
consolatory to reflect that one is but an instrument in the hands of
Fate!"

It would have been a strange comment upon his theory could he have known
that at the moment the thought shaped itself in his brain, the seven
o'clock express rattled and roared out of Kirkminster station, and that,
flung into a corner of a carriage, with fierce eyes, staring as though
he would pierce the darkness ahead, was Cyril Chatteris, wild with rage,
despair, and hate, borne through the blinding rain and furious
sleet,--borne onwards through the silent night, with glare of red lamps,
and rush and roar of wheels, and shrill shriek of fierce steam; borne
onwards hard on his track with such relentless devouring of space and
savage eagerness of pursuit, as might have belonged to the Avenger of
Blood in the old Jewish days. But he knew nothing, suspected nothing.
All seemed safe and secure, and he smoked and read, and laughed silently
at his own cynical thoughts, and scoffed at all that was good and true,
and hugged himself in his own hideous egotism, and was borne on to the
end that the Fate he worshipped had in store for him.

Springing out at the station, he drove to Brook-street. His plans were
all laid. The little cottage in a certain quiet suburb, tenanted
recently by Mdlle. Aglae, late "tiger" at the Boufées, Paris, was empty,
and thither he would convey his prize.

"I shall have Cyril completely in hand then," he said. "Killing two
birds with one stone one may say. He will marry the charming Kate, and I
shall always have a comfortable home at Matcham Park,--and a sort of
lien, so to speak, on the Matcham treasury. If, on the other hand, the
marriage is broken off, I still keep my Cyril tied by the leg, and can
either put in that Australian booby, or make her Mrs. Rupert Dacre." The
thought of Bob made him speculate a little on the probable issue of the
Chester Cup, which had been decided while his election had been
trembling in the balance at Kirkminster. "I suppose Ryle's horse will be
sure to be beaten. He was at a hundred to one yesterday. Even if he
wins, I can't lose much;--but it's impossible!"

The careful Harris, who had been left behind to look after the house
during Dacre's short absence, stared at the sudden reappearance of his
master.

"Business in town," said Rupert, shortly. "Unpack these things."

Harris, who was quite well bred, had an appointment with a milliner's
apprentice (she thought he was a man of family), and swore inaudibly.
Dacre glanced at the clock on the mantelshelf--(Una and the Lion in
bronze: Rupert cultivated the fine arts). It was half-past eight
o'clock. "Any news?" he asked, hurriedly swallowing a cup of coffee.

"The Cardinal has won the Chester Cup!" says Harris. "Noos came by
telegraph, sir."

"The deuce he has!" cried Rupert, and paused for a moment.

This unexpected reverse seemed like the beginning of disaster. Was his
luck going to desert him, after all? But putting away the unwelcome
thought, he comforted himself with the reflection that he had arranged
in a measure for such a contingency, and that the event which made him a
loser enriched his milch-cow, Bob Calverly. Moreover, the race was not
of much moment with him now. He had won the big stake he had played for.
He was member for Kirkminster, at all events, and his spirits rose
again.

"Anything else?" he asked, with his back to the freshly-lighted fire,
whose cheerful blaze gleamed upon the thousand luxuries which made up
the elegant selfishness of his bachelor-rooms.

"Well, they do say, sir, that the Ministry's going out!" says Harris,
whose evening paper had informed him of the result of the
political-combat at Kirkminster.

Dacre's eyes flashed triumph. He had heard some such rumour, too. He
would go down to the clubs and hear more about it. If the Ministry
resigned, his fortune was made. Nantwich would be Premier, and
he--Rupert Dacre--provided for at once. But he must first take away the
"little woman" whom he had come to meet.

"I may be back to-night, and I may not," he said, putting on his hat and
gloves again. "You can leave the door latched and go to bed if you
like," and then, humming gaily some opera air, he dived into his cab and
drove off.

Harris, watching him from the door, rubbed his careful hands with a
cat-like delight. "So we are a Member of Parliament, are we!" he said,
going up to pick out a perfectly irreproachable shirt from Dacre's
stock; and as, smoking one of Dacre's best cigars, he walked down to
make some excuse to the little milliner, he felt quite Representative
himself.

Ordering the cab to wait at the corner of the street, Dacre gaily opened
the wicket gate of the well-known villa. Lights were burning in the hall
and in the drawing-room.

All was ready; she was evidently waiting for him. So certain was he,
that he did not even pause to notice the trim little parlour maid who
answered his ring, and who seemed eager to speak; but, pushing past her,
he entered the little drawing-room.

No Carry, blushing, palpitating, eager, loving; no unhappy wife
distracted with misery, and maddened with shame; no fresh proof of the
truth of his cynical doctrine--but a thin, tall figure that he knew
well; a haggard face and pair of scornful eyes, before which even his
own bold glance quailed and fell.

"Mr. Bland!" he cried, in utter astonishment.

"Sit down, sir," says Bland, "I have been expecting you."

The blow was tremendous. Discovered!--and by such a miserable as the
shabbiest reporter on his friend's newspaper! It was not often that the
admirable Dacre blushed, but he did on this occasion. He could not reply
for the moment, and the other stood looking at him as he might have
looked at a dog. A moment's pause, however, sufficed him to collect his
thoughts. He had been used to self-control all his life. It was the one
virtue which he had cultivated, and it stood him in good stead now. How
much did this fellow know? Was he a protector or a friend? How had he
found out poor Carry's secret? Perhaps he only suspected it after all.

"Pray, my dear Mr. Bland," he said, slowly pulling off his delicate
gloves finger by finger, "may I ask you for the reason of your presence
here?"

Bland, with one hand on the table and the other in his breast, seemed to
be nerving himself for the contest. "I have come to tell you that your
errand here is known," he said.

"Indeed! You will forgive me, Mr. Bland, if I am inquisitive, but will
you kindly tell me what you believe to be the nature of my 'errand,' as
you are pleased to call it."

"To ruin a poor girl, who never injured you--you scoundrel!" says Bland,
suddenly, turning his face full on him.

Dacre gave a little laugh, and stroked his beard. "My dear sir, what a
mind you must have. Do you think, then, that I am a roaring lion, going
about seeking for victims? Come, Mr. Bland, you are too hard upon me."

The shadow of disgust that crossed the other's face, brought the colour
back again to Rupert's cheeks. "Mr. Dacre," says Bland, speaking over
his head as it were, "There is no need to argue. I know all the story of
your infamy and treachery towards your friend and your friend's wife. I
know that you have come here to-night, at her request, to take her away
from the shelter of her husband's roof."

"And pray how do you know this?" asked Dacre, smoothing his glove on his
knee.

"I know it, that is sufficient."

"Not quite. You appear in a lady's drawing-room, at"--he took out his
watch affectedly--"at half-past nine at night, and tell me some
ridiculous story about 'husbands' roofs.' Does Mr. Cyril Chatteris know
that you are under the shelter of his roof?"

"He does not."

"So I should imagine. 'Roofs' like this," the well-dressed man glanced
round the well-furnished room, "are not usually honoured by such
brilliant literary lights as you appear to be, my friend."

Bland, looking away over his head, said nothing. His silence was so full
of scorn, that Dacre felt compelled to speak.

"Pray who gave you the right to interfere in my affairs?" said he,
rising. "The right!" returned the other. "The right! Who gave you the
right to ruin a woman to serve your own pleasures, you miserable
coward?"

Rupert blanched to the lips at the insult, but stood still. He knew that
any quarrel, any violence, would be useless.

"You appear to be a little silly, my friend. I have not ruined any woman
at present; and if I intend to do so, allow me to remark, that I shall
do so without your interference."

"You are a mean scoundrel!" says Bland, with blazing eyes. "You think
that profligacy makes you admired and liked; you set your passions by
rule, and strike a weekly balance of your iniquities. I know you, and
men like you; miserable imitations of vice; sordid shams of lust and
passion. Your whole lives are a lie, your love is a lie, and your honour
is a lie."

"Don't, my good sir, don't," says the other. "You are wasting excellent
sentiment upon a very unworthy object. Casting your pearls before swine,
I assure you. Keep that rubbish for the penny journals. And tell me,
without any rhetorical flourishes, how it is that I find you here,
instead of the very charming young lady I came to meet?"

He saw that it was all over now. He guessed that by some chance Carry's
flight had been interrupted, and that his chance was gone. He would
revenge himself upon Cyril.

"I was warned of your intentions," says the shabby reporter, "by your
secretary."

"My what?"

"Mr. Binns."

Dacre began to feel ridiculous again. Rupert Dacre, the astute, the
intelligent, the clever, the self-possessed, to be beaten by such an
adversary.

"The little whelp!" he thought. "So he has been spying upon me." The
ridicule of his position and the shame of his defeat came upon him, and
with a sudden fury he leapt to his feet.

"Stand aside," he said, "and let me pass! She sent for me, and I will
see her!"

With a terrible light in his eyes, the old man seized the other by the
wrist with one hand, and forced him nearly to his knees.

"You villanous hound!" he said. "How dare you say you 'will' see her?
Her mother is with her; her mother knows all. The world shall know all
to-morrow. She hates you, detests you, despises you. Do you think there
is no goodness in the world, no virtue in woman, no honesty in man? Take
your hands from my collar! I have struggled with stronger men than you."

Rupert Dacre, white, breathless, trembling, was cowering on one knee at
the feet of the poor old despised Bland, who seemed in that moment, by
his streaming grey hairs, his flashing, scornful eyes, and his grim,
gaunt figure, to be some terrible personification of outraged honesty
and truth.

"Curse you--let me go!" cries baffled Dacre, in a choked voice.

In the height of his passion and anger, Bland shook him like a reed.

"You will see her! You will see her! You miserable scoundrel, have you
no sister whom you love--no mother whom you remember? Have you any place
in your heart that is not wholly blackened and corrupt, that you can
dare to think of thrusting your damnable presence between a mother and
her child? I know the whole history of this poor girl. I know how you
offered up yourself a willing instrument to her coward husband's
baseness. I know it, you dog, I know it. You dare! You! If I was to tell
this story to-morrow, Rupert Dacre, you would be shunned by all the
fools who now admire you. They may be cruel--they may be steeped to the
lips in sin and folly, but not one of them would take your hand again if
they knew what I do!"

He flung him off as he spoke, as if his touch were contamination.

Dacre sprang to his feet, and stood, shaking with mingled passion and
fear, before him. He was beaten; he knew it. The girl had confessed all,
and was now snivelling in her mother's arms. He had been duped by Binns,
a "cad," a fool, whom he thought to have "used" as he pleased, and had
been struck and insulted by a shabby newspaper hack. How London would
laugh if the story got abroad! He thought of the devilish mirth of the
smoking-rooms, and shuddered. One expiring effort he made, as he
smoothed his crushed shirt-cuffs with a hand that would tremble in spite
of all his self-command.

"You are very complimentary--very. But you don't understand these
things. I don't want to disturb the mother's blessing, my good sir. It
is a simple matter of business to me. I am not likely to go into
mourning over my loss. The girl wanted to come, and I was ready to take
her. If she doesn't want to come, well--" And he shrugged his shoulders
with an affectation of the old French manner.

Bland, breathing hard, stood looking at him as one might look at a
strange animal.

"You say that you will tell my friends about this 'affair,' " Dacre went
on. "If you have any respect for the character of your scullerymaid I
should recommend you to do nothing of the kind. Hold your tongue, and I
shall hold mine." He picked up his gloves and commenced to fit them to
his fingers. "After all. I am rather obliged to you. You have done me a
great service. You have given me the hand of Cyril's cousin, and saved
me from a very considerable expense."

Seeing here a contraction about the other's lips, that made him think he
was going to strike him, he drew back instinctively.

"I won't touch you," says Bland, contemptuously. "I am sorry that I did
just now. Go away, and remember that, scoff as you may, there is a God
who sees the hearts of such men as you are, and can punish as well as
pardon."

Dacre stopped at the door, with the old wicked smile--so long the
delight of unfledged cavalry cornets and rising young
attachés--fluttering upon his lips.

"My dear Mr. Bland," he said, "is it possible that a man of your ability
can really believe in such an exploded fallacy as that?"

And then, with an easy bow--defiant to the last--he shut the door and
went out into the night.

Bland--his excitement departed--sinking, all trembling and unnerved,
into a chair, shuddered at the hideous cynicism of the reply. It would
have been a strange commentary upon his theory also, could he have seen,
by any sort of second sight, the haggard figure that the Kirkminster
down-express had just landed upon the edge of the roaring stream of
London night-traffic, and that with fixed purpose--Fury driven--was
coming up through wind and rain, driving furiously through the gaslit,
gleaming streets, hard on the track.



Chapter LIII. Nemesis.

CYRIL CHATTERIS was not a brave man; he was at heart a coward, and he
knew it. He had known it for years past, ever since the day when a boy
struck him at school, and his clenched hand refused to strike back
again. But he had buried the hideous knowledge deep in his own heart,
had put it away and covered it over with all the heaped-up vanities of
his youth. At college, the sang-froid he had cultivated so anxiously,
had become almost a second nature with him. He had gone through the
usual course of quarrels; but his coolness had stood him in good stead,
and his affectation of indifference and ready sarcasm had carried him
through many a wordy war with credit, if not with honour. But though
many hinted that "Chatteris, of Christ's," was not remarkable for pluck
or courage; many more, admiring his ready wit and sharp tongue, decided
that he was of the dainty, French Abbé type, and was too indifferent to
danger even to seek it. A blessed civilization had almost induced the
young man himself to believe in this view of the case, and it was only
when the old barbaric passions of hate and revenge broke the educational
dykes, and flooded his soul with their black and swollen tide, that he
knew how miserably deficient he was in the physical courage which should
belong to a mind like his.

Cyril was utterly wanting in moral fear. He could plan out his baseness
and treachery with ease and calmness. His reasoning was perfect, his
criminal logic hard and unanswerable; he could think out the destruction
of another's hopes or the sudden wresting away of another's life, with
smooth brow and pulse unquickened; but when the imaginative portion of
his mind came into play, he shuddered with terror--the scene which in
the pure, cold light of reason seemed so ordinary and natural, the lurid
glare of his imagination filled with hideous shadows, and steeped in a
misty and terrible gloom, behind which moved indistinct shapes of
vengeance, horror, and death. At the thought of putting his projects
into practice, and acting the part he proposed for himself, these
shifting and unstable phantoms of his brain rose up out of the depths of
his coward heart and terrified him. There was something wanting, he
thought, in his nature. He could have been a tyrant, remorseless and
bloody. He could have heard the cries of the orphaned children of his
victims without the quiver of an eyelid; but his blood would have
chilled, and his hand refused to strike, had he been brought face to
face with the doomed, despairing wretch, and bade plunge the knife into
the bound throat himself. He had analysed his own feelings and motives,
with that terrible power of analysis, which the unrestrained exercise of
evil thought alone confers, and which becomes a very Familiar, at once
aiding to sin and goading to despair. When first the full knowledge of
his love for his cousin and his hatred to his wife had come upon him, he
had sat down in the pride of his intellect and vanity, to examine into
causes, to argue with virtue, to dissect, in fine, his whole soul, and
analyse the poison ere he drank it. But as each succeeding day of this
self examination showed him clearer and clearer how black his own heart
had become; as each step into the awful boundary land that lies between
reason and madness brought him nearer and nearer to a terrible abyss of
blackest guilt, down which he feared even to think of looking, he found
that his old faint scruples of honour and virtue had fled; that he grew
each day more desperate, more despairing, at finding that his own soul
was peopled with lurking shapes of infamy, crime, and guilt, ready to
start into life at his bidding. How he had once longed to break from the
power of the devil he had raised, and to go back again to such virtue as
he had known before his marriage; but it was impossible, his
self-torment drove him on until at last he found himself thrust to the
very edge of that blackest abyss of murder, which is in the inmost soul
of every one of us.

He had the courage that belongs to the worst form of cowardice; the
savage recklessness which makes the hunted wolf turn upon the hounds he
fears and rend them. His mind was put off its balance; the long months
of misery and suspense which he had undergone during the early months of
his marriage; the terrible struggle between shame and hate which had so
nearly prostrated him; the sudden shock of the discovery and ruthless
tearing off of that mask of honour which he had so long worn; the bitter
shame of defeat by such an adversary; the scorn and contempt of the only
creature he had ever loved in the world; the downfall of all his hopes
and expectations, and utter destruction of all he held most dear, had
maddened him. In his savage agony of wounded vanity and baffled sin, he
had but one thought--revenge, sudden, decisive, complete, upon the man
to whom the world would point as his wronger. He had hated Dacre always;
hated him for his ability, his influence among men, his coolness, so
superior to his own, and his mastership in all that intellectual sin,
which he imagined the world rated so highly. He hated him for the
authority which he possessed over him; hated him for his discovery of
the marriage; hated him for his ready acquiescence in his own horrible
plot; and hated him because that plot had been successful. The vanity of
his nature rose up even here. He detested his wife, but the thought that
she loved another was madness. He had purposely flung her in Dacre's
way, and studied, by all the means in his power, to make her yield to
the temptation he offered her; and now she had yielded, he felt that he
would have given the best years of his life to undo what he had done.
But the pity was not for her, it was for himself. His remorse sprang,
not from sorrow at the deed, but at shame of the knowledge of it.

Through the rain and steam, through the night, and through the fog,
through the roar of the London streets, through the whole of his
journey, jibes and laughter seemed ringing in his ears. He seemed to
hear the muttered contempt, and see the looks of scorn which he knew
would greet him. The last lustrous glance of Kate seemed to burn into
his brain. He seemed to see his father's outstretched hand, and to hear
his high voice again. His head was hot, and his temples throbbed; but
his feet were as cold as ice. His hands were clammy with a cold sweat,
and shook with nervous excitement. His lips were parched and cracked. He
could scarcely swallow. His heart leapt and fluttered and beat
furiously; and he could not sit still for two minutes together. All
sorts of wild visions tore through his bursting brain, like the wild
hunt of German story. Visions the most incongruous. Reminiscences of the
old playing fields at Eton, mixed with odds and ends of books that he
had read. Strange stories of blood and lust and crime that made him
shudder, and long-forgotten jokes, that made him laugh. The names on the
shops suggested all sorts of grotesque ideas. The cries of the cabmen
and omnibus drivers were distorted into weird and ominous sounds. The
very letters of the railway company's monogram in his carriage seemed to
have become twisted into a sentence of terrible meaning. He had fallen
asleep for a few seconds during the journey, and had lived a hideous
lifetime of torment in some dream, that made him wake in a cold sweat of
mortal terror. But all these things were indistinct, a moving panorama
behind one picture which never shifted.

Something--some name, or cry, or what not--had called to his mind a grim
story of how one Madame Mazel had a servant named Le Brun, and how Le
Brun had murdered the old woman one windy night, cutting her throat and
cutting her hands, and stabbing her. There had been a picture in the
book where he had read it,--a picture of a tumbled bed, with the
bell-rope hung up high out of reach, and a man going out at the door
looking back fearfully. This picture was before him wherever he turned.
He could not dismiss it. No matter what wild fancies crowded on his
brain, in the midst of them all, steady and immovable, rose the picture
of the mangled woman and the tumbled bed with the bell-rope flung up out
of reach; and against this silent terror the flying shadows of his
thoughts broke and divided, like mists against a ghastly moon.

As he was borne onward through the night and rain, this horror began to
freeze into a thought. He had started with purposes all undefined--with
some idea, perhaps, of saving his wife and redeeming his honour. But in
the whirlwind of his passion of hate and rage, he had begun to lose all
thoughts of affection or of happiness. His hopes had been blasted, his
future hopelessly broken and blackened, he could never look the world in
the face again, and all the emotions of his soul had merged into one
savage greed of revenge upon his destroyer. He scarcely thought of his
wife. She was to him now but a name; and the memory of all that had
passed since that fatal marriage morning seemed as a story told to him
of another, or at best, but as some dimly-remembered event which had
happened to him years ago, and with which his present life had no
concern whatever. His mind was attuned to one key, and was dumb to all
chords but one--revenge. He felt that he must see Dacre, must meet him
face to face, must speak to him, and tell him how he hated him. His
nervous fingers itched to be at his enemy's throat; and yet when his
mind pictured the struggle, the muttered curses, the blows and the
blood, he shuddered and grew sick; and then ever out of his fear grew up
the hideous picture.

But outwardly he was calm enough. He spoke quite quietly, and though his
voice sounded strange in his own ears, it was steady and natural enough.
He remembered afterwards, that of all the faces--porters, ticket-takers,
passengers, cabmen--which he saw that night, he did not remember one. He
moved and spoke as if in a dream,--a dream in which all life was a
dream--the streets, the houses, the carriages, cabs, and people, all
dream-begotten, that through this terrible city of phantoms he--dreaming
also--was driven by some relentless power towards a solitary figure that
had the outward appearance of Rupert Dacre, but was lying on a tumbled
bed, with a bell-rope flung high up out of reach.



Chapter LIV. Certa Funera Et Luctus.

BLAND, sitting by the sinking fire some half-hour, thinking of the
future fate of the poor girl upstairs, who, ignorant of the battle
fought in her behalf, and conscious only of the blessed sense of safety,
had sobbed herself to sleep in her mother's arms, was aroused by a
violent knocking. He opened the door himself, and started when he saw
the figure of Cyril standing on the step, as though it had risen
suddenly out of the black bleak night.

Cyril came into the hall.

"Bland!" he said, in a tone of surprise.

"All is safe!" cries Bland, prompted by some wild hope that Cyril might
be innocent after all, and unconscious of his friend's villany.

Cyril, with eyes wandering from side to side, as if seeking for
something, said, in an indifferent voice, "Where is Rupert Dacre?"

"Gone--thank God!" cries poor honest Bland.

Cyril passed his hand over his face. The tone was enough. He
comprehended at once that by some chance Dacre had been stopped from
carrying out his design--that he was not in the house--that he had
escaped him.

"I want to see him," he said, with that affectation of a distinct
utterance which belongs to a man conscious of partial intoxication. "Do
you know where he is?"

Bland blushed with anger.

"To see him! Do you know why he came here to-night? Good God, can men
have become such scoundrels!"

Cyril did not seem to understand what was meant.

"Can you tell me where Dacre is?" he asked again, with a sort of dim
consciousness in his own mind that he must not say too much, or stop too
long, lest some imperceptible difference in his speech or manner should
betray the secret purpose he clutched close in his breast.

The sight of him, calm, quiet, with hat pulled down over his brows, and
arms pendant and motionless, suggested to the simple Bland no suspicion.
It seemed to him that the inquiry was made in the most friendly spirit,
and his whole gorge rose against it.

"Your accomplice is gone," said he. "You had better follow him. Your
wife--God help her!--is here, and where she is can be no fit place for
you."

He flung open the door again, and pointed out into the dismal night.
Cyril, going out into the darkness without a word, seemed at that moment
to see high up in the watery ray of light--which the hall lamp of the
house he turned his back on for ever, flung into the air before him--the
figure of Le Brun with the knife in his hand--waiting.

At Oxford-street he dismissed the cab that had brought him from the
station, and set out walking through the rain. It seemed to him that he
would reach his destination quicker on foot; that the cab could not go
fast enough, and that he must not shriek or shout to urge the driver to
greater exertion. When he was by himself he could get on faster, and the
exercise would tend to compose his mind. He was quite calm now. He
seemed to be endowed with a sort of supernatural lucidity of intellect
upon one point. As, by dint of constant staring at some bright object,
the eye can recall its form and shape at will with startling
distinctness, but can attentively examine nothing else before which the
shadow of the form so imprinted in the brain does not fall and flicker;
so, by dint of dwelling upon the one thought, Cyril had achieved a sort
of abnormal power of grasping all its details, of tracing it through all
its ramifications, of multiplying himself, so to speak, so that he could
look at it at once from all its different points of vision; but that
thought occupied his mind to the exclusion of all other thoughts, and
the image which had suggested it grew out of his strained vision into as
palpable a form as did the air-drawn dagger of the murderous Thane.

Fast over the wet and shining pavement he walked, and heeded not the
sharp sleet and bursts of driving hail. The stream of human life passed
on each side of him, and he heeded it not; for all he felt of human
sympathy, he might have been the only human soul in all those roaring
streets. He remembered afterwards some few events of that night. He
remembered that he was asked for alms by a beggar crouching round the
corner of some street; that, in turning, he had pushed her into the
kennel, and that, with a sudden, bitter impatience of cold and wet, and
starvation and hustling, she had cursed him. He remembered how he had
stopped at one place--a boarding, behind which some street repairs were
going on--and reading some advertisement, in blue and white (he
remembered the colours distinctly), about a clipper ship to sail for
Melbourne direct, on April the 15th, it had struck him dimly that the
newspaper he had read that morning bore date of the 14th. He remembered
wondering if he could purchase a passage sufficiently early on the
morrow, and if he had enough money. Still moving, as it seemed to him,
through a land of shadows, he went down to the Pegasus Club, and,
hurrying into a writing-room, drew a cheque for fifty pounds, which he
sent with a private note to the steward requesting cash, and for which a
waiter brought him five crisp notes. Then, still moving through shadows,
and hearing all voices indistinctly, he went out into the wet streets
again, swiftly on to his destination.

With one pause. The hideous bed, with its bloody burden and tumbled
sheets, was still present before him; and he thought, with a shudder,
how Madame Mazel had clutched at the knife of the assassin in her death
agony, and was found with hands hacked to the bone. He shuddered as he
thought of the clean, dry steel sucking into the flesh of the old
woman's fingers, and realised the savage struggle in the dark, the wild
reaching for the flung-up bell rope, the quick, desperate stabbing at
the soft, wrinkled throat, and the gasping cries, that were choked in
blood and gore. Le Brun was a clumsy fellow; why did he not strike
suddenly, and without notice? One blow would have ended all. And the
terrible picture of the Murderer looking round affrightedly, with the
knife in his hand, rose up distinct and clear before him.

He stopped at a cutler's shop in Holborn, and asked to see some pruning
knives. The shop was bright and glittering. He remembered afterwards
that a door opening into a room beyond, revealed the cutler's wife,
well-dressed and smiling, sitting by the fire, and that the cutler's
little daughter, rosycheeked and golden-haired, had been disturbed by
his entry in 'a good-night kiss. He liked none of the knives; they were
too crooked. A curved blade was not so convenient. He saw some straight
ones, and out of them picked a stout, buck-handled weapon, with a spring
at the back to prevent its closing on the fingers. The cutler--with
glances towards the little rosy face waiting to be kissed--wrapped it
up, with some remark about the weather; but when Cyril got into the
street he tore off the paper, and thrust his purchase into his breast.
Looking up about this time, as he neared Brook-street, he saw, with some
sort of terror, that all the lights were surrounded by a red ring, and
that the wet pavement was the colour of blood.

The house was silent and dark. He rang and knocked quietly. After some
delay, Harris appeared.

"Mr. Dacre in?"

Mr. Dacre had been in, but had gone out again. Might, perhaps, be back
in an hour or so. It was now eleven o'clock. There was a letter come for
him an hour ago from the 'Ouse. Any particular business? perhaps Mr.
Chatteris would wait?

Mr. Chatteris, speaking in an automaton distinct way--Harris said
afterwards that he thought he had been drinking--would wait; would go up
stairs, he thought, and amuse himself with a book until Mr. Dacre
returned. He knew the room--oh, yes--Harris could go to bed if he liked.

So Harris, who had got wet through in keeping his appointment with the
milliner, conducted his master's friend to his master's room, put some
more coal on the fire, placed the spirit case on the table, suggested
that the water in the little bronze bull could be made hot in a moment
by a hint of the spirit lamp, produced some of his master's best cigars,
and, with a gentle cough, retired, nothing loth, to his couch.

When he had gone, Cyril sat silent and motionless. He was incapable of
reasoning farther. He had arrived at the end of his journey at last. He
had come with but one object, and, until that object was achieved, he
could do nothing. He seemed to possess a dual existence; to have two
minds as it were. The one told him that he was about to commit a crime,
the punishment of which was death, that he could not escape, that by his
visits to St. John's Wood, the club, the cutler's shop, he had
established a train of evidence that would infallibly lead to his
capture. But he felt powerless to resist. It was as though some power,
stronger than his own reason, was urging him on, as if he was the
instrument of some terrible avenging Fate that whipped him along the
bloody track of murder. From thinking upon the thing so long, it had
driven him mad. He was mad for the time being; he knew it. His other
mind, reasoning, reflecting, albeit dully and with difficulty, told him
so. But he could not break the spell that was on him. His brain was
burning. He seemed to feel it throb, not merely at his temples, but at
the crown of his head. It seemed to be a sort of living creature, that
leapt and gasped for breath, and swelled itself as if it would burst his
skull. His hands were hot now, and dry, and quivering with a sort of
electric sensitiveness. His heart beat slowly, with great, sullen
pulsations that throbbed to the very extremity of his body. His eyesight
was failing him, and everything he looked at was crimson. Pushing aside
a large official letter addressed to the man whom he had come to seek,
he drew the knife from his breast, laid it down ready to his hand; then,
sitting amid the books and pictures and statues, the official
despatch-boxes, the pink notes of compliment, the thousand elegancies,
luxuries, and marks of worldly glorification and honour, which made up
the sum of that happiness, to secure which the astute man of the world
had plotted and schemed so assiduously; sitting with the letter which
would give to Dacre the intelligence he had long hoped to hear, lying
side by side with the shining knife, he waited. Waited with his head
sunk on his breast, with one hand clenched on his knee, and the other
playing nervously with the coarse, cruel hilt of the knife. Waited, with
all the events of the past rolling past him like some wild
phantasmagoria, with a weight on his brain, and the red mist ever before
his eyes.

He remembered afterwards how the shutters had been left half open, and
one cold, sullen ray of struggling moonlight pointed in at him like a
finger, and glittered on the bright blade of the murderous steel. Long
afterwards, in the dismal grey shadow of gum-tree trunks; in the bleak
night, when the cry of the plover rose and fell dismally over long
reaches of barren scrub and black morass; in the glare and heat of noon,
when the blazing sun beat down through the shadowless waste of the
Australian forest, he remembered that room and that night. In the murky
silence that reigned around the dull swinging lamp of the outward-bound
ship--labouring with creakings and groanings through the pitiless seas
of the Cape--the ticking of that pretty clock-bauble would sound again
in his ears and make him shudder. Amid the rough, delirious gaiety of
the low dancing-halls and drinking-shops of the golden capital of the
South, some casual sight or sound would bring back to him the luxurious
splendour of that dainty chamber, and strike his brandy-heated blood
cold with sudden terror. In the squalid misery of the "men's hut" in
some far away station, locked in ghastly reaches of mallee, or belted
round with sandy deserts, grim and dangerous; sitting, perhaps, round
the blazing wood-fire, while savage oath and hideous jest and mocking
laugh went round; he would recall the appearance of that room as he had
seen it last; would picture the soft curtains and the delicate colours,
the gleaming statuettes, the rich books, all the wealth of luxe and
splendour that belonged to that world from which he was for ever
banished. But now he felt nothing, saw nothing, heard nothing. In the
heart of that luxury, lapped in the soft glow of the fire, smiled at by
the sweet faces of painter's dreams, surrounded by all that could make
life pleasurable, he waited with the horn handle of the murderous knife
close to his hand.

At last, long past midnight, his quick ears heard the click of the
opened latch. He noiselessly turned out the gas and, clutching the
knife, drew himself up in the darkness ready to strike. In that awful
interval, as he counted the ascending footsteps, he saw the hideous
picture which had haunted him grow up again out of the darkness. The
tumbled bed, the murderer with the knife, and over all, sharp, clear,
distinct, close to his face, the flung-up bell rope dangling--like a
Noose.

Mr. Rupert Dacre had driven off to his club. Once there, in the shining
light, and among the old familiar faces, the bitter rage and shame of
his humiliation wore off. He had felt it though at first. It was as
though some master of fence, prepared to take his stand against all
comers, had been disarmed and defeated by some stripling on whose chin
the beard had not yet grown. He felt, as some brilliant wit of the
salons might have felt, when an unknown provincial abbé or despised butt
of the court had suddenly flashed out upon him with unanswerable
sarcasm. He felt degraded in his own eyes, lowered in his own
self-esteem. He had failed. With all the advantages of position and
intellect, he had failed; he had been beaten in fair fight by a despised
adversary, but this was all. There was no remorse for what he had done,
no pity for the girl whom he had so nearly brought to shame, or the man
whom his insidious plots and selfish scheming had urged to ruin. True to
his creed, he cast away all thought of retribution, and, confident in
himself, moved steadily onward towards his fate, whatever his fate might
be. At the club, he found the old circle brimful of congratulation,
ready with jest and compliment. The Chester Cup was all the theme, and
Randon, who had expressly come down to give the most accurate
information, was revelling in particulars.

"W-w-wonderful! B-b-b-bob's horse! T-t-t-t-tre-m-mendous odds! I
knkn-knew it! I p-preep-pre-d-dicted it! I own, I fuf-fufwankly own, I
am a judge of h-horse flesh," etc.

But over and above this Chester Cup, was the all absorbing topic of the
Ministerial Crisis. The Nantwichian scheme had ripened into something
like fruit at last. That night the blow was to be struck, and all
well-informed London was on tiptoe of expectation. Moral Millington
coming in, wrapped in a multitude of great coats, brought the first
tidings. The Ministry had resigned! Dacre forgot all his losses. His
creed was right after all. Self-interest had carried the day. To-morrow
his patron would be Prime Minister of England, and a glorious vision of
place and power rose before him. What did he care now for Carry's love
or Bland's threats? What did he care for the fulminations of the
righteous? He had chosen that good worldly part, and defied the
sentimentality of canting religionists who averred that it could be
taken from him. So he sat, and smoked, and chatted, unconscious of the
figure waiting in his silent house, listening to the ticking of the
dainty pendule.

Late at night he rose, and, with a last jest on his lips, rose to go.
The smoking-room was laughing with well-bred delight at some last daring
pleasantry--they got a little free in their jesting after midnight--as
he nodded his good night. As he closed the heavy door he heard Grosmith
say, in whispered answer to some question of some novus homo, "The most
rising man in England, sir,--will be Under-Secretary within a week,
sir,--Nantwich's right-hand man;"--and as he heard, the old cynical
smile came back to his lips again.

All the way home he thought of nothing but of his future greatness. He
had won, after all--despite the little crosses and drawbacks. To-morrow
he would be at the summit of his hopes. Not a shadow of coming evil fell
on him, as he gaily mounted the stairs to where the man he had wronged
was waiting. He would see if there were any letters for him. Perhaps
fame and fortune awaited him behind that stained inch of panelled deal!
Striking a match, he opened the door. The first thing that caught his
eye was the large letter on the table. He could distinguish the
well-known character of his chief, even at that distance. His
appointment, beyond doubt! He had won, after all; and here was the stake
he had played for. He stepped into the room with hand outstretched,
eager to grasp the prize. But ere his fingers could close upon it, a
sudden, terrible instinct of a strange presence in the room seized him,
and, without knowing why, he wheeled round to the door. At that
instant--with a low, hoarse cry and knife upraised--the waiting assassin
leapt out upon him, and as the expiring match dropped from his hand, its
blue flickering flame showed him for one single second the white face
and blood-shot eyes of Cyril Chatteris.

Mr. Harris, in the room above, awoke from some pleasant dream of a West
End hotel, of which he was owner--awoke with a start, and in a cold
sweat of deadliest terror. Something had happened, he knew not what. He
had some memory of a cry and a crash as of an overturned table; but
sitting up, listening aghast in the darkness, he heard nothing save the
house-door bang suddenly, and then remembering that Mr. Chatteris had
waited for his master, he rolled the bed-clothes round him, with a
muttered curse at his former fears, and went to sleep again.



Chapter LV. Smoke.

ALL London rang with it. At first in the morning of the morrow it began
to be whispered about in club-rooms; then various persons became
possessed of particular and private information. Old Grosmith, who had
spoken to him last, revelled in momentary fame, and went about
mysteriously sighing. By and by evening papers came out with accounts
more or less incorrect. The matter began to assume proportions, and
take, as it were, a visible shape. The events of the past night took
their place in history as "THE BROOK-STREET TRAGEDY;" and all the little
particulars of the life of the late unknown member for Kirkminster
became familiar facts to thousands of people. The name of Dacre became a
household word, for at least three weeks, all over England. Quiet people
in remote country villages read, with curious interest, the description
of the luxurious room; the handsome furniture, all scattered and bloody;
the torn curtains, and the overturned table. The sensation
newspaper-paragraphists were in high glee, and compared the thing to a
romance in real life, adapted out of a modern novel, a leaf from a
French feuilleton, an act of that "strange drama of vice and jealousy
and crime, which is silently playing all around us"--and so on. Blister
was particularly happy; and the Morning Mercury had a very titillant
leader, in which Edgar A. Poe, the murders in the Rue Morgue, and
l'afaire Cleménceau came in with great effect.

Under the great tobacco-cloud, beneath which the endless flood of talk
seethes and boils, speculation and comment ran furious.

"Young Calverly heard it first," says Welterwate. "The servant came up
to Limmer's and told him. Jack Ponsonby was there, and they both went
down."

"There was some row over that horse, wasn't there?" asked Berry.

"Dacre hadn't behaved very well, I believe; at least, so the fellows
said in the train last night; but that's all over now, poor devil."

"They found a letter from Nantwich on the table," says Miniver, "giving
him an under-secretaryship. He hadn't opened it."

"By Jove!" says little Fitz. "Life's a rum thing, you know. Just as a
fellow's got all he wants, you know, by Jove, he gets murdered! It's
awful, upon my soul!"

"I suppose there's no doubt but that Chatteris did it?"

"None in the world. The Mercury's got the whole thing traced out. But
they won't catch him. He's got over to Paris, or some place, by this
time. Why, he's got a good twelve hours' start!"

"It's an awful thing!" says Millington. "The fellow was here last night,
sir, sitting in that very chair!"

"I can't understand it!" cries old Grosmith. "Damn it, sir, it couldn't
have been about that Kirkminster business?"

Welter shook his head. Other rumours had got about that day--rumours of
some reason stronger than disappointed pride, for the bloody crime.
Rumour became certainty in a few days. At the inquest the whole hideous
story came out. How Cyril Chatteris--the presumed murderer, for whom the
police were hunting high and low, whose description was at all the
shipping offices and police stations in the kingdom--had been secretly
married to the daughter of his lodging-house keeper; how the dead man
had intrigued with his friend's wife; how that intrigue was discovered;
and how Cyril Chatteris had set off to London to redeem his honour; and
how he had followed Dacre home and killed him.

"Justifiable homicide, begad, sir!" moral Millington had said when he
had heard it; and the public seemed to agree with him.

But the fact of Cyril's engagement to his cousin being known, this view
began to be disputed; and by-and-bye it leaked out--in the mysterious
way in which such things do leak out--that the dead man had been urged
on to seduce the wife, in order that the man who had murdered him might
marry another woman.

The search after Cyril grew hotter and hotter, but all in vain. It
seemed that when the door banged behind him on that gusty night, it had
shut him out from the world for ever; that the darkness had swallowed
him up; that the night had hidden him as securely as the cold earth and
the pompous grave-stone had hidden the body of his victim.

By-and-bye the chase grew colder, and the story began to fade from men's
minds. Another fortunate gentleman obtained the patronage of Nantwich,
and matters went on much as usual. But it was strange to see how the
sudden death of Dacre had brought toppling down to the ground all that
edifice of worldly honour which had been erected with such care. It was
as though the keystone of an arch had been suddenly knocked away, and
the whole fabric brought to instant ruin.

The whole wretched story of folly and baseness which I have told in
these pages became at once known to the world. The little drama that had
been played out so quietly between London and Loamshire was familiar to
everybody. It was no longer a story of three private lives,--a social
secret, or mystery, to be hinted and nodded at. It was a Fact, a Crime,
a thing to be writ down and recorded for a precedent. By Dacre's sudden
death, the whole social economy of six lives was changed in an instant.

Mrs. Manton, once so fond and proud of her daughter, hiding with her in
a remote suburb of London under a feigned name, and visited only by
Bland and poor honest Binns;--Sir John Ellesmere, the rich baronet,
cursing hard fate that brought him into connection with a family so
notorious, whimpering and whining at his poor pretty wife for her
relationship to a man whose name had been the sport of vulgar
tongues;--Old Saville Chatteris, broken-down and querulous (refusing to
hear his son's name mentioned, or to recognise his son's wife by word or
deed), shut up in gloomy Matcham--upon which some weird shadow of
Cyril's guilt seemed to have fallen--seeing no one but young Squire
Calverly, who was going back to Australia soon, and who came sometimes
to Matcham, and would try to comfort him in his honest way;--Old
Chatteris, who seemed, as he grew day by day nearer to his end, to awake
to the consciousness of the false standard of greatness he had set up
for himself, and to begin to value honesty and goodness and virtue above
rank and birth,--for he grew very fond of Bob, and would potter about
the grounds, leaning on the young man's stalwart arm, as though he
looked upon him almost as another son;--Kate, too, on the other side of
her uncle, would often look up with pleased smile at Bob's frank face,
and in Bob's honest heart there arose up a hope--which he scarcely dared
breathe even to himself as yet. Upon all these the weight of crime and
sin fell heavily enough; but the world without--the wicked world, for
whose sake the dead man had toiled and plotted, in whose grim service he
had died--thought but little of the matter.

It was but two the less in that pleasant masquerade. Plunge your finger
twice into the ocean, and you will see the place they filled.

While the excitement was at its height,--while the papers teemed with
paragraphs and letters,--while surmise ran mad, and all the hideous
details of the two lives, that had just been blotted out, were familiar
to men's lips,--there was a certain supper party, at which the "world"
was present.

"I hear that it is suspected he's got away to Australia!" said
Leamington.

"I will lay fifty to one that they catch him!" offered Welter.

"What do they do with them here!" asked Aglaë, who affected to be
profoundly ignorant of English customs.

"Hang 'em, my dear!" says Quantox, with a chuckle.

"Oh! Bon! I shall go and see him then!"

"Dear me!" put in a sleek Jew, by name Knippstein, who founded his claim
to recognition in society upon the fact of his "protecting" a Christian
ballet-dancer, "I thought the late lamented Rupert was a friend of
yours!"

"Tais toi, Monsieur, qui paye!" says the girl, in an atrocious Belgian
pâtois. "Je suis mêre de famille Anglaise--Madams Breeeegs!"

The Jew grew angry, but was afraid that Brentwood would laugh if he said
anything, and so contented himself by thinking of a man who owed him
money, and determined to write to his solicitors to press the case.

"I hope the fellow will get away," says good-natured Hethrington. "I
did'nt dislike him, and he had a brother in 'ours.'"

"He was a bad-tempered beggar!" said Fleem.

"Thought himself witty!" said Hurst.

"I believe the fellow was a little cracked!" said a crochetty M.P. who
had a scheme for abolishing the Irish Church by destroying the
Dogger-Bank, and thus spoiling the supply of fish on Fridays.

"Yes, I think the poor devil must have been mad!" says Pierrepoint. "Not
he! Bad blood, sir; bad blood!"

"The other man was worse!"

"Arcades ambo!"

"Well, he has got his 'good deliverance' now, at all events!"

"Nous ferons des crèpes!" says the Belgian, pulling her poodle's ears.
"Well," said Gablentz, with his heavy German accent, "we don't miss
either of 'em much."

"The game of life is too exciting for an empty chair to be long
unfilled. Eh, Gablentz?" says Hurst.

Gablentz smiled at an illustration so exactly after his own heart.
"Quite so."

"Well, lul-l-look here!" cries Randon, in a sudden burst of frankness.
"I fuf-fuf-fwankly own that there w-w-as s-s-something abub-bub-bout 'em
bub-both that I never could gug-get over. My soul s-s-sympathises with
the T-t-twue! I own, I fuf-fwankly own, I never liked 'em!"

"Noble sentiment!" says Brentwood; "but Mademoiselle's best pearl powder
has come off on your coat sleeve."

There was a roar of laughter.

"Hang it!" says Quantox, "let's talk of something else; I'm sick of
these two fellows."



Chapter LVI. Five Years After.

BALLARA PLAINS is, as all the world knows, purchased land, most of it,
and a very pretty property. Since the passing of the Land Bill of 18--,
squatting property in Victoria has depreciated, and the wiseacres who
laughed at old Calverly's son investing his fortune in buying up his
station from the Government were forced to confess that his bargain had
turned out well for himself.

Two hundred thousand acres "purchased land!" The amount made new-comers
open their eyes; made even travelling nobility "seeing the colonies"
stare a little aghast. It was certainly a very fine property. So thought
MacOssian, of Glen Ossian. So thought Tommy Lincoln--whilome shepherd,
now Shepherd King, and owner of Lincoln's Hurst, a huge stone house,
with furniture sent out from England, and tesselated floors, and a snug
little room in one corner for Tommy to smoke his pipe and drink his
battleaxe-brand in comfort. So thought the Daltons, lords of the Wimmera
and rulers over many a mile of scrub, and heath, and rolling
pasture-land. So thought the Maxwells, kings of the westward, whose
broad acres spread out, fertile and fair, from Mount Sturgeon to the new
Kentish Weald that lies round Lake Burrumbeet. Whim and Shafto, the
mining monarchs of golden Ballarat, envied Bob Calverly, and would have
given some considerable portion of their shares in reef and mine, to
hold the position which fortune accorded to the son of old Calverly of
Sydney. Even Mr. Drury, owner of four theatres, proprietor of half
Collins-street and nearly all Bourke-street, the great Drury, whose name
withheld or given could float or sink a "company," acknowledged that the
tall, sunburnt young man was greater than he.

He had settled down now. The story of his Turf success had run from
mouth to mouth in Sydney and Melbourne--as it had done in London--and
had furnished much material for moralising. His friends had heard of him
occasionally from some returned Australian, who had met him at Rome, or
Paris, or Naples. He was spending his money fast, people said. Living
hard, going the pace, and so on. But he had done with it now. He had
settled down. Settled down with his English wife, in his native country,
and had set to work to do good in his generation.

"Why don't you go home, Bob?" Australian circles had said. "If I was in
your place, I wouldn't live anywhere out of Europe."

"Well, I think a man ought to look after his property himself," the
other would say. "Besides, my wife doesn't like England."

And the questioner, who had heard, like all others, some version, more
or less correct, of the crime which had blighted four lives, confessed
that the reason was a sufficient one.

But the story was dying out from men's minds now. It had been the topic
of a week, the wonder of a year; but, as the days rolled on and no fresh
circumstance arose to recall the memory of the deed, it began to fade
from men's minds--began even to lose its power over the immediate
spectators of the tragedy.

Poor old Saville slept beneath his heavy grave-stone in Matcham
churchyard, and his pride slept with him. Lady Loughborough was in
Paris; and Mr. Horace Chatteris, of the Austrian legation--a lean man,
with a consumptive wife and three hectic daughters--reigned at Matcham.
Bob had put his fortune to the test in Lady Loughborough's house in
Bryanstone-square on his return from Norway, and had won it. He knew
that the sad memory of the guilty man weighed sometimes on his wife's
heart, but, strong in his own love, he hoped that other scenes and a new
life, would weaken its influence; but he was never fully satisfied until
one day.

Coming home one evening, riding slowly through the timbered levels that
surrounded the long low house, with its broad verandah, and clustering
grapes, he saw four men carrying something on their shoulders. They had
already reached the back porch, and set down their burden reverently.

Spurring his horse, he topped the hill, and reined up beside the group.

"What is it?" he asked.

"A swagman, sir," said one of the men. "Harry found him in the flat by
the creek, and we brought him up to the house, sir. He seems nigh dead."

The man was slightly made, bearded, and dirty. He was in the last stage
of exhaustion, and lay back on the hurdle where they had placed him,
motionless.

"Harry thinks he's mad, sir," said the man, as Bob dismounted. "He's
been wandering about in the bush, I expect."

Tender-hearted Kate, to whom the news of the strange accident had been
borne, came out hastily, with her three year-old child clinging to her
dress.

At the sound of her voice the miserable creature on the hurdle raised
his touzel'd head suddenly, and with the motion his hat fell off. Kate
gave a cry, and then slowly into the white face rose a crimson flush,
and the wild eyes softened. Bob drew back in sudden terror. It seemed to
him that the face before him was changing into another face--into a face
that he had known well in old days--a face that had been effeminate and
handsome, and admired. A name was on his lips; he would have spoken it
in his sudden terror, but in another instant the light in the eyes had
died out--the momentary glory that some gleam of returning reason, or
memory of lost love, had caused to shine from those haggard features,
paled, and the eyes set into a look of horror, as though at some hideous
picture which had suddenly presented itself to the wretch's vision; and
then, with a quick, upward motion of the hand, as if to ward off a blow,
the ragged figure fell back upon the hurdle, and was in an instant
nothing more than the sordid corpse of some nameless swagman.

Bob turned to his wife. The child, frightened by the sudden fall of the
body, had run to his mother and buried his face in the folds of her
white dress. At his first cry, without a look at the hideous thing that
had once been the man she loved, Kate caught the boy in her arms, as if
to shield him from contamination.

"You know him, darling?" asked Bob, in a low tone.

She shuddered in bending over the child that lay in her arms.

And as she raised her fair head from that pure kiss, the evening sun,
which cast her shadow on the dead man, seemed to shed a glory on her
face.

"But what of Binns and Bland? What of Carry?"

There is a little figure that is known well in sick rooms, in hospital
wards, in prison cells. A quiet, slight figure, with soft brown hair,
and large, brown eyes. She is very tender, and very gentle. They call
her "Sister Caroline."

Binns and Bland? what can I tell you more about them? Shall I tinker at
the unfinished window in Aladdin's tower, and strive to picture what
might have been? Looking forward into the future, I might affect to see
many things,--might tell you how virtue triumphed, and love was
rewarded, in the good old storybook fashion; how, after lapse of years,
poor Binns reaped the reward of his constancy and plebeian valour; how
he did finally make for himself name and place, though not of the
poetical sort he had longed for; and how poor old Bland, sitting by the
cheerful fireside, with his friend's youngest child upon his knee, would
see, in the growing happiness of his friend's useful though humble life,
some sort of recompense for his own wasted youth and lonely middle age;
might, perhaps, sometimes fancy that he discovered, somewhere in the
clouds of his trusty meerschaum, the events of the past shaping
themseves dimly into some sort of pictured allegory, showing how
intellectual sin, though supported by all the advantages of rank and
station and worldly honour, is not always first in the race against
simple faith, and honesty, and truth; how each act, each word, has an
effect either for good or ill upon our future, and will bring forth its
own punishment or its own reward. All this and more I might affect to
know, and from it point the moral which no good book should lack; but I
like not to linger on the stage, a tiresome chorus, now that the actors
have retired.

Poor Binns! Poor Bland!

But every man has a romance once in his life, and the story I have so
lamely told you is theirs.


THE END





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