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Title: Lady Maude's Mania
Author: Fenn, George Manville, 1831-1909
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Lady Maude's Mania" ***

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Lady Maude's Mania, by George Manville Fenn.

________________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________
LADY MAUDE'S MANIA, BY GEORGE MANVILLE FENN.



CHAPTER ONE.

A HIGH FAMILY.

"Con-found those organs!" said the Earl of Barmouth.

"And frustrate their grinders," cried Viscount Diphoos.

"They are such a nuisance, my boy."

"True, oh sire," replied the viscount, who had the heels of his patent
leather shoes on the library chimney-piece of the town mansion in
Portland Place.  He had reached that spot with difficulty, and was
smoking a cigar, to calm his nerves for what he called the operation.

"Tom, my boy."

"Yes, gov'nor."

"If her ladyship faints--"

"If what?" cried the viscount, bringing his heels into the fender with a
crash.

"If--if--don't speak so sharply, my dear Tom; it jars my back, and sets
that confounded gout jigging and tearing at me all up my leg.  I say, if
her ladyship faints when we come back from the church, will you be ready
to catch her.  I'm afraid if I tried I should let her down, and it would
look so bad before the servants."

"Be too heavy for you, eh, gov'nor?" said Tom, grinning, as he mentally
conjured up the scene.

"Yes, my boy, yes.  She has grown so much stouter and heavier, and I
have grown thinner and lighter since--since the happy day twenty-six
years ago when I married her, Tom--when I married her.  Yes, much
stouter since I married her.  How well I remember it all.  Yes: it was
an easterly wind, I recollect, and your poor dear mamma--her ladyship,
Tom--had the toothache very badly.  It made her face swell out on one
side as we went across to Paris, and I had a deal of bother to get the
waiter and chamber-maid to understand what a linseed-meal poultice was.
Very objectionable thing a linseed-meal poultice; I never did like the
smell."

"I should think not," said the son, watching his father seriously, the
old man having a worn look, as if he had been engaged in a severe
struggle with time.

"Peculiarly faint odour about them.  Seems only last night, and now one
girl going to be married--her ladyship looking out for a rich husband
for the other.  Er--er--does my wig look all right, Tom?" he continued,
patting his head as he turned towards a mirror.

The speaker, who was a very thin, highly-dilapidated old gentleman of
sixty-five, heaved a deep sigh, and then bent down to softly rub his
right leg.

"Spiff," replied Viscount Diphoos, a dapper little boyish fellow of
four-and-twenty, most carefully dressed, and looking as if, as really
was the case, he had just been shampooned, scented, and washed by
Monsieur Launay, the French barber.  "I say, gov'nor, that tremendous
sigh don't sound complimentary to your son and heir."

"My dear boy--my dear Tom," said the old man affectionately, as he
toddled up to the back of his son's chair, and stood there patting his
shoulders.  "It isn't that--it isn't that.  I'm very, very proud of my
children.  Bless you, my dear Tom; bless you, my dear boy!  You're a
very good son to me, but I'm--I'm a bit weak this morning about Diana;
and that confounded fellow with his organ playing those melancholy tunes
quite upset me."

"But he has gone now, governor," said Tom.

"Yes, my boy, but--but he'll come back again, he always does.  Grind,
grind, grind, till he seems to me to be grinding me; and I do not like
to swear, Tom, it's setting you such a bad example; but at times I feel
as if I must say damn, or something inside me would go wrong."

"Say it then, gov'nor, I'll forgive you.  There, I have granted you my
indulgence."

"Thank you, Tom; thank you, Diphoos."

"No, no, gov'nor.  Tom!--don't Diphoos me.  I wish that confounded old
wet sponge of a Welsh mountain had been `diffoosed' before it gave me my
name."

"Ye-es, it is ugly, Tom.  But they are family names, you see, Barmouth--
Diphoos.  Very old family the Diphooses.  And now this wedding--but
there, I'm all right now."

"To be sure you are, gov'nor."

"Yes, yes, yes; you are very good to me, Tom.  Bless you, my boy, bless
you."

The weak tears stood in the old man's eyes, and his voice shook as he
spoke.

"Nonsense, gov'nor, nonsense," said Tom, taking one of the thin withered
hands.  "I'm not much good to you; I think more of cigars and billiards
than anything else.  Have a cigar, guv'nor?"

"No, my boy, no thank you; it would make me smell so, and her ladyship
might notice it.  But, my boy, I see everything, though I'm getting a
little old and weak, and don't speak.  You stand between her ladyship
and me very often, Tom, and make matters more easy.  But don't you take
any notice of me, my boy, and don't you think I sighed because I was
unhappy, for--for I'm very proud of you, Tom, I'm deuced proud of you,
my boy; but it does upset me a bit about Diana going.  India's a long
way off, Tom."

"Yes, gov'nor, but old Goole isn't a bad sort.  The old lady wanted a
rich husband for Di, and she has got him.  Di will be quite a Begum out
in India."

"Ye-es, Tom; and I suppose all the female Diphooses marry elderly
husbands and marry well.  I am a bit anxious about Maude, now."

"No good to be.  The old girl will settle all that.  But I say, gov'nor,
what a set of studs!  Come here; one of them's unfastened.  You'll lose
it."

"I hope not, my boy--I hope not," said the old man, anxiously as his son
busied himself over the shirt-front.  "Her ladyship would be so vexed.
She has taken care of them these ten years, and said I had better wear
them to-day."

"Did she?" said Tom, gruffly.  "There: that will do.  Why, you look
quite a buck this morning.  That wig's a regular fizzer.  Old Launay has
touched you up."

"I'm glad I look well, Tom, deuced glad," said the old man, brightening
up with pleasure.  "And you think Goole's a nice fellow?"

"Ye-es," said Tom, "only, hang it all, gov'nor, there's no romance about
it.  They are both so confoundedly cool and matter-of-fact.  Why if I
were going to be married, I should feel all fire and excitement."

"No, my boy, no--oh, no," said the old man sadly; and he shook his head,
glancing nervously at the glass the next moment to see if his wig was
awry.  "You read about that sort of thing in books, but it doesn't often
come off in fashionable life.  I--I--I remember when--when I married her
ladyship, it was all very matter-of-fact and quiet.  And there was that
poultice.  But you will stand by and catch her if she faints, Tom?"

"Oh, she won't faint, gov'nor," said Tom, curling up his lip.

"I--I--I don't know, my boy, I don't know.  She said that very likely
she should.  Mammas do faint, you know, when they are losing their
children.  I feel very faint myself, Tom: this affair upsets me.  I
should like just one glass of port."

"No, no, don't have it, gov'nor; it will go right down into your toe.
Have a brandy and seltzer."

"Thank you, Tom, my boy, I will," said the old man, rubbing his hands,
"I will--I will.  Ring for it, will you, Tom, and let Robbins think it's
for you."

"Why, gov'nor?" cried Tom, staring, as he rang the bell.

"Well, you see, my boy," said the old man, stooping to gently rub his
leg; "after that last visit of the doctor her ladyship told the
servants--told the servants that they were not to let me have anything
but what she ordered."

Tom uttered an angry ejaculation, waited a few moments, leaped from his
chair, and began sawing away furiously at the unanswered bell.

"He's--he's a fine bold young fellow, my son Tom," muttered the old man
to himself as he sat down, and began rubbing his leg; "I dare not ring
the bell like that--like that."

"Look here, gov'nor," cried Tom, passionately, "I won't have it.  I will
not stand by and see you sat upon like this.  Are you the master of this
house or no?"

"Well, Tom, my boy," said the old man, feebly, and with a weak smile
upon his closely shaven face, "I--I--I ought to be."

"Then do, for goodness' sake, take your position.  It hurts me, dad, it
does indeed, to see you humbled so before the servants.  I'll pay proper
respect to her ladyship, and support her in everything that's just, but
when it comes to my old father being made the laughing-stock of every
body in the house, I--I--there, damme, sir, I rebel against it."

As Tom seized the bell again, and dragged at it savagely, the old man
seemed deeply moved.  He tried to speak, but no words would come, and
rising hastily he limped to the window, and stood looking out with
blurred eyes, trying to master his emotion.

"Thank you, Tom," he said, speaking as he looked out of the window.
"But after the doctor's last visit her ladyship told all the servants--
Todd's very particular, you know."

Tom said something about Doctor Todd that sounded condemnatory.

"Yes, my dear boy," said the earl, "but--"

Just then the door opened, and a ponderous-looking butler, carefully
dressed, with his hair brushed up into a brutus on the top of his head,
and every bristle closely scraped from a fat double-chin which reposed
in folds over his stiff white cravat, slowly entered the room.

"Why the devil isn't this bell answered, Robbins?" cried Tom.

"Very sorry, my lord, but I thought--"

"Confound you! how dare you think?  You thought my father rang, and that
you might be as long as you liked."

"Ye-yes, my lord.  I thought his lordship rang."

"Yes, you thought right," cried Tom.  "His lordship rang for some brandy
and seltzer.  Look sharp and get it."

"Yes, my lord, but--"

"Only a very little of the pale brandy in it, Robbins--about a
dessert-spoonful," said the earl, apologetically.

"Fetch the spirit-stand and two bottles of seltzer, Robbins," roared the
young man.  "And look sharp," he added in a tone of voice which sent the
butler off in post-haste.

"That's a flea in his fat old ear," cried the young man, laying his hand
on his father's shoulder.  "And now look here, gov'nor, you would please
me very much if you would stand up for your rights.  You know I'd back
you up."

"Would it please you, Tom?" said the old man, gazing in his son's face,
and patting his shoulder, "Well, I'll--I'll try, Tom, I'll try; but--
but--I'm afraid it's too late."

"Nonsense, gov'nor.  Come, it will make things more comfortable.  Keep
an eye, too, on Maude.  I don't want her to be married off to a
millionaire whether she likes him or no."

"I'll try, my boy, I'll try," said the old man, in a hopeless tone of
voice.  "Her ladyship said--"

"Who's that for, Robbins?" cried a deep masculine-feminine voice outside
the door, just as the jingle of glasses on a silver waiter was heard.

"For Lord Diphoos, my lady," was the reply, in a voice that seemed to
come through a layer of eider down, and the door was thrown open; there
was a tremendous rustling of silk, and Lady Barmouth, a stout, florid,
well-preserved woman of forty-eight, swept into the room.

"Ah, my dear child," she exclaimed in a pensive, theatrical tone of
voice, as she spread her skirts carefully around her, and exhaled a
peculiarly strong scent of eau-de-cologne, "this is a terribly trying
time."

"Awfully," said Tom, shortly.  "That will do, Robbins; I'll open the
seltzer."  Then, as the butler left the room--"Awfully trying--quite a
martyrdom for you, mamma.  Have a brandy and seltzer?"

"My dear child!" exclaimed her ladyship, in a tone of remonstrance, and
leaning one hand upon a chair so as not to disarrange the folds of her
costly moire antique, she tenderly applied the corner of her lace
handkerchief to her lips, and after gazing at it furtively to note a
soft pink stain, she watched her son as he poured a liberal allowance of
pale brandy into a tall engraved glass, skilfully sent the cork flying
from a seltzer bottle, filled up the glass with the sparkling mineral
water, before handing it to his father.

"There, gov'nor," he exclaimed; "try that."

"Tom, my dear child, no, no," cried her ladyship.  "Anthony!  No!
Certainly not."

"Yes, there is too much brandy, my dear boy," said the old gentleman,
hesitating.

"Nonsense!  Rubbish!  You drink that up, gov'nor, like medicine.  You're
unstrung and ready to break down.  Come: have one, mamma."

"My dear child!" began her ladyship, as she darted a severe look at her
husband--"Ah, my darling."

This last was in the most pathetic of tones, for the library door once
more opened, and a very sweet-faced fair-haired girl, in her
bridesmaid's robe of palest blue, and looking flushed of cheek and red
of eye with weeping, led in the bride in her diaphanous veil, just as
she had issued from the hands of Justine Framboise, her ladyship's
Parisian maid, through which veil, and beneath the traditional wreath of
orange-blossoms, shone as charming a face as bridegroom need wish to
see.

"There," exclaimed the bridesmaid in a tone of forced gaiety, "as
Justine says, _ne touches pas_.  You are only to have a peep."

"Maude, you ridiculous child," cried her ladyship, "you have been
crying, and look dreadful, and--there, I declare it is too bad.  You
have been making your sister weep too."

"I couldn't help it, mamma," cried the girl, passionately; and the tears
that had been waiting ready burst out afresh.

"This is too absurd," exclaimed her ladyship, impatiently.  "Maude, you
ridiculous girl: you are destroying that costly dress, and the flowers
will be all rags."

"Yes, why don't you leave off--you two," cried the brother, cynically,
"playing at being fond of one another," while the old man looked
piteously on.

"Oh, Diana, Diana," continued her ladyship, "here have I made for you
the most brilliant match of the season--an enormously wealthy husband,
who literally worships you--"

"I don't believe he cares for her a bit," cried Maude, flushing up,
speaking passionately, and giving a stamp with her little white kid
boot.  "And if I were Di, I wouldn't marry a snuffy old man like that
for anybody.  I'd sooner die."

"Die game, eh?" cried Tom.  "Do you hear, Di?"

"Silence!" exclaimed her ladyship in a tone of authority that seemed to
quell the girl's burst of passion.  "How dare you!"

"Pray don't be cross, mamma," said the bride, quietly.  "She could not
help crying.  The marks will soon pass away."

"They will not," cried her ladyship, angrily.  "Sir Grantley Wilters is
coming, and her nose is as red as a servant girl's, while your eyes are
half swollen up.  After all my pains--after all my anxiety--never was
mother troubled with such thankless children."

"Poor old girl!" said Tom, taking a good sip of brandy-and-seltzer.

"Anthony!" cried her ladyship, "you must not touch her.  You are
crushing her veil and those flowers.  Oh, this is madness."

Madness or not, before she could check the natural action, the earl had
taken his elder daughter in his arms, and kissed her lovingly, patting
and stroking her sweet face, as, regardless of wreath and veil, she
flung her arms round his neck and nestled closely to him.

"Bless you, my darling.  I hope you will like India," he said, "Rather
warm, but they make delicious curries there.  I hope you will be very
very happy;" and the tears trickled down his furrowed countenance as he
spoke.

"I'll try to be, papa dear," she whispered, making an effort to speak
firmly.

"That's right, my dear.  The trains are very comfortable to Brindisi,
and Tom says that Goole isn't such a very bad fellow."

"Anthony, are you quite mad!" cried her ladyship, wringing her hands
till her diamonds crackled.  "Are you all engaged in a conspiracy
against me?  Such a display is perfectly absurd.  The child will not be
fit to be seen at the church."

"Yes, yes, mamma dear," said the girl cheerfully.  "There, there, Maude
will put me straight in a few moments.  Kiss me, dear, and I'll go
upstairs again; it must be nearly time."

For the sake of the dresses of herself and daughter, her ladyship did
not let the bride come too close, but brushed the cheek lightly with her
lips; and then the girl turned to her brother, holding out her hands.

He took them, gazing at her at arm's length with mingled pride and
sorrow.  Then the bridal dress was once more forgotten, and brother and
sister were tightly locked in each other's arms.

Her ladyship uttered a wail of dismay, but it was not heeded, as Tom
said in a low tone--

"Keep up your pecker, Di, old girl.  It's all nonsense about love and
that sort of thing.  It's duty toward your mother, catechism fashion,
and you've done it.  You're sold into bondage, eh?"

"Yes, Tom dear," she said, cheerfully.  "I shall not mind."

"With all Goole's money to play with I should think not."

"I did not mean that, dear," said the girl, gravely.  "I seem to be
going right away from you, but there is Maude; don't let her be married
like I am, Tom."

"What can I do?"

"I don't know; only try to help her and papa.  Be more at home for both
their sakes--and Tryphie's."

Tom started, and looked sharply in his sister's face.

"I will, Di, I will," he said, earnestly.  "I know I've been a reckless
sort of beast, but I will try now."

She smiled her thanks and kissed him again.  Then Lady Maude of the red
eyes and nose, took her sister's hand, coming up like a pretty tug to
tow off some beautiful craft that had been shattered by a storm in her
upper rigging, and bore her off into port for repairs.



CHAPTER TWO.

NO CARDS.

The crossing-sweeper, in a special uniform of rags turned up with mud,
had made liberal use of his broom wherever it was not wanted, and now
stood in front of Lord Barmouth's house in an attitude as if to draw
attention, like a label, to his work--as if in fact morally writing
_fecit_.

Everything had been done to give _eclat_ to the proceedings, while in
addition to the presents which had been on view, fair Italia sent music
to lend a charm to the wedding; for Luigi Malsano, the handsome dark
performer upon the last newly-improved organ, stood at the edge of the
pavement and ground, and smiled--smiled till his fine white teeth
glistened in the midst of his great black beard, and every now and then
took off his soft felt hat, displayed his long black curls, and rolled
his eyes at Dolly Preen, the fair, fresh, country lassie--the young
ladies' maid; for Dolly was looking out of the window in company with
Justine, her ladyship's attendant, to see the return of the carriages,
and the latter exclaimed--

"_Elles sont betes ces choses la_!" and then as Luigi ground and smiled,
and raised his hat, Justine uttered a contemptuous--

"_Canaille_!"

While Dolly Preen sighed and thought the dark Italian very handsome.
She had indulged in the same thought before.

"_Voila_!" exclaimed Mademoiselle Justine, as the carriage with its four
greys dashed up, and after a little manipulation at the side of the
organ, Luigi Malsano rested a well-formed and dirty hand upon the green
baize cover of his instrument, and turned out the old ballad--

"'Tis hard to give the hand where the heart can never be."

For after a great deal of scheming the work of the Countess of Barmouth
was crowned.  She had secured for her daughter a husband in the shape of
the British Resident at the court of the Maharajah of Bistreskin, and to
herself of selfs she had whispered like the revengeful gentleman in the
French romance--

"ÀONEÙ!"

For it was all over.

The carriages had nearly blocked the street, and the crowd had completed
the block.  The church had been well filled by friends and those curious
people who always attend weddings.  The ceremony had been performed by a
dean, assisted by a canon, and an honorary chaplain to Her Majesty.  The
bride looked lovely and calm as a statue, though the six bridesmaids in
pale blue had sobbed softly, and mourned like so many doves, as they
moistened their lace handkerchiefs with a briny dew of pearls, almost as
bright as those of the handsome lockets they wore--all alike, and the
presents of the bridegroom.  They were bouquets of the choicest exotics
inside the church, and without, for the servants were as liberally
supplied as they were with favours; and at last the bridegroom's
barouche with four of Newman's best greys had borne the happy pair back
to the paternal mansion in Portland Place.

There had not been a single hitch, and even her ladyship had held up
with a fine Niobe-like expression upon her noble features all through
the service.  Certainly she had turned faint once at the "I will," but
by the help of strong aromatic salts she had recovered herself, and
smiled sadly round as if to lend sweetness to the flowers.  And now the
large party were back in the drawing-room, and preparing to descend to
the wedding breakfast.

The fashionable pastry-cooks had been ordered to do their best, and this
they had done.  There were more of those ghastly sugar plaster edifices
on the table than usual; more uneatable traps for the unwary; more
hollow mockeries, goodly to the eye, but strange to the taste--
preparations that society considers to be _de rigueur_ at a wedding.
Still in addition there was all that money could procure; fruit and
flowers flourished amidst handsome glass and family plate; the servants
were in new liveries, and with plenty of aides stood ready; for Lady
Barmouth hoped in marrying one daughter to help on the engagement of the
second, saying pensively to herself, "And then I shall feel that I have
not lived in vain."

"I say, how's the leg?" said a severe-looking gentleman present.
"Twinges, eh?  Yes, so I suppose.  Easy with the good things, mind, or
else--you know."

"Yes, yes, twinges, doctor," said his lordship, stooping to have a rub
at the offending, or rather offended and resenting, limb.  "But you are
in such a doosed hurry; you always ask me another question before I've
scarcely had time to answer the first.  I remember, I remember--now,
hang him! look at that.  Confound that Lord Todd!  I wish I was his
doctor for a week or two."

For the family practitioner had passed on to talk to somebody else,
leaving his lordship slowly passing his tongue over his lips, and trying
to add another wrinkle to his forehead, as he wondered whether he could
smuggle in two or three glasses of champagne without being seen by her
ladyship or Doctor Todd.

"Ah, my dear Mr Melton," said the latter, "how are you?"

"Quite well, doctor," said the young man addressed, as he passed his
hand over his crisp golden beard, and smiled pleasantly at the medical
man, whose eyes were playing all over the room, and who now crossed to
where the young bride was standing.

"I say," he exclaimed, "I did not congratulate you in the church.  God
bless you, my dear! may you be very happy.  And only the other day you
were a baby, eh?"

He nodded, smiled, and passed on to where a very elderly-looking fair
young man, elaborately dressed, was talking to a stout mamma--the mother
of two of the bridesmaids.

The withered-looking gentleman, who blinked a good deal, and seemed as
if the light was too strong for him, turned to speak to the doctor as he
approached.

"Well," said the latter--"better?"

"Yas, I think so; yas, doctor, but you know I can't think what ails my
constitution."

"I can," thought the doctor, as he turned away looking sharply round the
room; "luxury, late hours, too much money, and nothing sensible to do.
_Blase_ fool!  Oh, there she is."

He crossed as quickly as the crowded state of the room would allow him
to where Lady Maude was standing, and made her start as he said
sharply--

"I say, when's your turn coming?"

"Never, I hope, doctor," was the reply, as a little hand was placed in
his, "never, if it is to make me so wretched as poor darling Di.  Do say
something kind to her if you have a chance."

"Hum--ha--yes," he said thoughtfully, as he retained the little hand and
seemed to be examining a patient.  "Don't seem bright, eh?"

"Oh, no, doctor," whispered Maude.  "But I'm so glad you've come."

"That's right, my dear; I would come.  So I will when you are married--
the same as I did when you were born," he said to himself.  Then
aloud--"I say, when you marry, my dear, you marry for love."

"I will, doctor," cried the girl with her blue eyes flashing, and just
then Luigi of the organ struck up a languishing waltz.  "But I really am
so glad you've come.  Do talk to papa and cheer him up.  He is so
low-spirited.  Couldn't you give him a tonic?"

"Wish I could," said the doctor.  "Tincture of youth.  No, my dear.  I
can't make the old young.  Glad I've come, eh?  There's my little friend
Tryphie yonder.  But they are going to move, I see."

Her ladyship was still very pensive, and gazed appealingly round from
one to the other of her guests; but her eyes were wonderfully wide open,
and she moved about like a domestic field-marshal determined to carry
out her social campaign with _eclat_.

"Sir Grantley," she said, softening her voice down to a contralto coo as
she laid her fan on the arm of the elderly young man, whose face on one
side was all eye-glass and wrinkles, on the other blank, "will you take
down my daughter?"

"Charmed, I'm shaw," was the hesitating reply, as a puzzled look came
over the baronet's face; "but her husband, don't you know?"

"I mean Lady Maude," said her ladyship, with a winning smile.

"Yes, of course; beg pardon, I'm shaw," said the baronet hastily, and he
crossed the room with her ladyship in a weak-kneed fashion, and
apparently suffering from tight boots.

But it so happened that a flank movement had been set on foot by
Viscount Diphoos.

"Charley, old man," he was saying to the visitor with the fair beard,
who now, as he stood in one of the windows, showed himself to be a fine,
broad-shouldered fellow of about eight or nine and twenty, with a fair
Saxon forehead half-way down to his brows, where it became ruddily
tanned, as if by exposure to the air.  "Charley, old man, go across and
nail Maude at once, or the old lady will be handing her over to that
wretched screw, Wilters.--Have you seen Tryphie?"

"There she is, over in the far corner, talking to the doctor," said the
young man addressed--a bosom friend of the viscount: Charley Melton, the
son of a country gentleman with a very small income and no prospects,
unless a cousin in the navy should kindly leave this world in his
favour, when he would be heir to a title and a goodly domain.

He crossed the room quickly to where Lady Maude was standing, and a
curious, conscious look appeared on the girl's face as he approached.
There was a warm rosy hue in her cheeks as their eyes met, and then,
happy and palpitating, she let her little fingers press very timidly the
strong muscular arm that held them to the side within which beat--beat--
beat, rather faster than usual, Charley Melton's heart, a habit it had
had of late when fortune had thrown him close to his companion.

Her ladyship saw the movement as she was approaching with Sir Grantley
Wilters, and darted an angry look at her daughter and another at her
son.  Then, with her face all smiles, she brought up her light cavalry
and took her son in the flank in his turn.

"So sorry, Sir Grantley," she said sweetly; "we were too late.  Will you
take down my niece?"

"Yas, delighted," said Sir Grantley, screwing the whole of his face up
till it formed a series of concentric circles round his eye-glass.  "But
who is that fellow?"

"Friend of my son," said her ladyship in the most confidential way.
"Very nice manly fellow, and that sort of thing.  Tryphie, my dear, Sir
Grantley Wilters will take you down," she continued, as she stopped
before a little piquante, creamy-skinned girl with large hazel eyes,
abundant dark-brown hair, and a saucy-looking little mouth.  She had a
well-shaped nose, but her face was freckled as liberally as nature could
arrange it without making the markings touch: but all the same she was
remarkably bright and pretty.

"Sold!" muttered Tom, spitefully, as he saw her ladyship beaming upon
him after striking him in his tenderest part.  But he was consoled a
little the next moment as Maude gave him a grateful glance, looking as
happy and bright as Melton himself, while as Tryphie took the proffered
arm of Sir Grantley Wilters, whose face expressed pain above and a smile
below, the sharp little maiden made a _moue_ with her lips expressive of
disgust at her partner, and gave Diphoos a glance which made him feel
decidedly better.

"I don't like that fellow, Tom, my boy," said Lord Barmouth, sidling up
to his son, and bending down for a furtive rub at his leg.  "Damme, Tom,
I don't believe he's forty, and he looks as old as I do.  If her
ladyship means him to marry little Tryphie there, I shan't--shan't
like--like--Damme, it would be too bad."

"Hang it all, gov'nor; don't talk like that," cried Tom, impatiently.

"No, no, certainly not, my boy, certainly not; but I say, Tom, that's a
doosed nice boy that young Charley Melton.  I like the look of him.
He's a manly sort of a fellow.  Your uncle and I were at Eton with his
father years ago.  I say, Tom," he continued, rubbing his leg, "he
wouldn't make a bad match for our Maude.  Yes, yes, my dear; I'm
coming."

"Anthony, for shame!" whispered her ladyship.  "They are all waiting.
Lady Rigby.  I've been looking for you.  Take her down at once."

The earl crossed over to make himself agreeable to Lady Rigby, the stout
mamma; and the hostess took counsel with herself.

"Either would do," she said.  "But Mr Melton's attentions will bring
Sir Grantley to the point."

A few minutes later the guests were seated at the wedding breakfast,
while Dolly Preen again leaned out of the window, having returned there
after attending to the bride, to whom two fresh pocket-handkerchiefs
were supplied.  Luigi of the organ was still below, handsome and smiling
as he scented good things, and he played on as Mistress Preen listened
and thought of love and marriage, and music, and how handsome Italian
men were, and ended by doing as she had done for many weeks, wrapping a
three-penny piece up in many papers and dropping it into Luigi's soft
felt hat.  For how could she offer coppers to such a man as that!

She was not the only one who dreamed of love, for Justine Framboise, her
ladyship's maid, was enjoying a pleasant flirtation with Monsieur Hector
Launay, Coiffeur de Paris, from Upper Gimp Street, Marylebone, a
gentleman whose offices were largely in request in Portland Place, and
who that morning had left his place of business in charge of a boy, so
that he might perform certain capillary conjuring tricks, and then stay
and look in the eyes of the fair Justine--a French young lady, who would
have been a fortune to her father if she had been a dentist's daughter,
so liberally did she show her fine white teeth.

The said flirtation took place upon the stairs, and Perkins, the bride's
new maid, took interest therein, to the neglect of her packing and the
annoyance of Henry, the Resident's man, with whom she was to ride in the
rumble, and then second-class to Paris that day on the honeymoon trip.
For Monsieur Hector, with all the gallantry of the fair city from which
he hailed, had called Perkins, in Henry's hearing, _une demoiselle
charmante_.

"Like his furren imperdence," as Henry said, and then the said Henry had
to go in and stand behind his master's chair.  As soon after three parts
of a bottle of champagne was passed upstairs with a glass by a kindly
disposed waiter, the packing of the newly-married lady went on worse
than ever, and several travelling-cases were left unfastened in the
bedroom.

"I say," whispered Tom, going behind her ladyship's chair, "you are
never going to let the gov'nor speak?"

"Yes, certainly.  He must," said her ladyship in a decisive tone; and
she turned to the guest on her right.

"But he'll break down as sure as a gun," remonstrated the son.

"I have prompted him, and he knows what to say," replied her ladyship.
"Go back to your place."

"Oh, just as you like," grumbled Tom; and he returned to his seat,
determined in his own mind to stand behind his father's chair, and to
prompt him to the best of his ability.

The breakfast went on amidst the pleasant tinkle of glass and plate, the
conversation grew louder, there was the frequent pop of champagne corks,
and the various couples grew too much engrossed to notice what took
place with their neighbours.

"Maude," said Charley Melton at last, "if you were put to the test,
should you give up any one you loved, and accept a comparative stranger
because he could do as that man has done--load you with diamonds?"

She turned her eyes to his with a reproachful look, and the colour
suffused her face.

"No one can hear what I say," he whispered, with his eyes fixed upon his
plate.  "But listen to me.  I feel that it is almost madness, but I love
you very, very dearly.  You know it--you must know it.  Ever since we
met, six months since, you have been my sole thought.  I ought not to
speak, but I cannot keep it back waiting for an opportunity that may
never come.  And if some day I awoke to the fact that I had made no
declaration and another had carried you off, I believe I should go mad.
Give me one word of hope.  I am very poor--terribly poor, but times may
change, and money does not provide all the happiness of life.--Not one
word?  Have I been deceived?  Was I mad to think that you met me these
many times with pleasure?  Give me one word--one look."

"I mustn't," said Lady Maude, colouring.  "Mamma is giving you one."

Charley Melton gave an unintentional kick under the table, touching his
opposite neighbour so hard that he turned reproachfully to the gentleman
at his side.

"Oh, Lady Maude!" groaned Charley in tragic tones.

There was a hearty laugh here at some sally made by the doctor, and
Maude whispered back in a husky voice--

"I dare not look at you;" and he saw that the colour was mounting to her
temples.

"One word then," he whispered, as the conversation waxed louder, but
there was no reply.

"Maude," he said, in a low deep voice, "I will not believe you to be
cold--heartless."

"Oh no," she sighed.

"Then give me one word to tell me that I may hope."

Still no reply, as the lady sat playing with the viands upon her plate;
then her face turned slightly towards him; her long lashes lifted
softly, her eyes rested for a moment upon his, and he drew a long breath
of relief, turning composed and quiet the next moment as he leaned
towards her, saying--

"I never felt what it was to be truly happy until now."

"Nonsense?" said the doctor loudly, after just finishing a _very_
medical story--one he always told after his third glass of champagne, "I
can assure you it is perfectly true.  Good--isn't it?  She really did
elope with her music-master.  Fact,--twins."

Several ladies looked shocked, for Lady Rigby, the stout mamma, an old
patient, had laughed loudly, and then wiped her mouth with her lace
handkerchief as if to take off the smile of which she felt rather
ashamed, for her countenance afterwards looked preternaturally solemn.

The earl had escaped the usual supervision, and he also had partaken of
a glass of champagne or two--or three--and he thoroughly enjoyed the
doctors story.

"It puts me in mind of one," he said, with a chuckle.  "You know it,
doctor.  If the ladies will excuse its being a little indelicate.  Quite
medical though, quite."

"I am quite sure that Lord Barmouth would not say anything shocking,"
said the stout mamma, and she began to utter little dry coughs,
suggestive of mittens, and muffins, and tea.

"Of course not--of course not, I--I--I wouldn't say it--say it on any
consideration," said his lordship, chuckling.  "It--it--was about a
friend of mine who built a house by Primrose Hill, he--he--he!  It's
quite a medical story, doctor, over the railway, you know."

"The old girl will be down upon him directly," thought Tom.

"Capital story," said the doctor, laughing, and glancing sidewise at her
ladyship.  "There'll be an eruption directly," he added to himself.

"He--he--he!" laughed his lordship; "her ladyship never lets me tell
this story, does she, my dears?" he continued, smiling at his daughters,
"but I assure you, ladies, it's very innocent.  I used to go and see him
when he had furnished the place, over the railway, and every now and
then there used to be quite a rumble and quiver when the trains went
through the tunnel!  Why, I said to him, one day--`Why, my dear fellow,
I--I--I' eh?--eh?--eh?  Bless my heart what was it I said to him, Tom?"

"Pain, father," said Diphoos, grinning, for he had noticed the look of
relief that appeared upon the ladies' faces when the hope came that the
dreadful old gentleman had forgotten the story.  There would not have
been much Tom left if their looks had been lightning, for his words set
the old gentleman off again.

"Yes, to be sure: I said to him, `My dear fellow'--just after one of
these rumbling noises made by the train in the tunnel--`my dear boy, you
must call in the doctor, or lay down some more good port wine.'--`Why?'
he said.--`Because,' I replied, `your house always sounds to me as if it
had got a pain in its cellar!'  Eh!  He--he! devilish good that, wasn't
it?"

No one enjoyed that feeble joke as well as the narrator who used to
recollect it about once a year, and try to fire it off; but unless his
son was there to prompt him, it rarely made more than a flash in the
pan.

It was observable that the conversation became very loud just then, and
Charley Melton seized the opportunity to whisper a few words to Lady
Maude--words which deepened the colour on her cheeks.

They were interrupted by the clapping of hands, for just then the host
rose, and Tom stole gently behind him, taking the seat he had vacated,
and preparing himself for the break down he anticipated.

"Ladies and gentlemen," said his lordship, gazing meekly round like a
very old Welsh mutton, "I--I--I, believe me, never rose upon such an
occasion as this, and--er--and--er."

He gazed piteously at her ladyship at the other end of the table, and at
whose instigation, a message having been sent by Robbins the butler, he
had risen.

"I say I have never before risen upon such an occasion as this, but I
hope that my darling child who is about to--to--to--to--eh, what did you
say, Tom my boy."

"Hang it, go on, governor.  Quit your roof--paternal roof," whispered
Tom.

"Quit your paternal roof, will shine--yes, shine in her new sphere as an
ornament to society, as her mother has been before her.  A woman all
love, all gentleness, and sweetness of disposition."

"Oh, hang it governor; draw it mild," whispered Tom.

"Yes, mild," said his lordship, "mild to a fault.  Eh? bless me, what is
the matter?"

It was a favourable opportunity for a display of emotion, and her
ladyship displayed it beautifully for the assembled company to study and
take a lesson in maternal and wifely tenderness.  Her beloved child was
being handed over to the tender mercies of a man--was about to leave her
home--about to be torn away.

Her ladyship burst into an agony of tears--of wild sobbing--for she was
a model of all the virtues; but when virtues were made, nature selected
another pattern and this one was cast aside.

A sympathetic coo ran round the table, tears were shed, and Tom winked
at Charley Melton, who kept his countenance.

Then her ladyship declared that it was "so foolish," and that she was
"quite well now"; and other speeches good and bad were made.  And at
last the bridegroom's carriage was at the door; the bride was handed in;
there was the usual cheering; white satin slippers and showers of rice
were thrown, and the carriage rolled away.  For Lady Barmouth had
achieved one of the objects of her life--a brilliant match for her elder
daughter--leaving her free to execute her plans for Maude.

All had been _en regle_ so far: the hall was filled with company; the
sound of wheels was still to be heard rolling down the broad
thoroughfare: when "I say, look out," whispered Tom to his friend.
"There she goes."

It was a coarse way of expressing himself, but "there" "she" did go--to
wit her ladyship.  Sir Grantley Wilters, whom she hoped some day to call
son, was close at hand.  It was quite time for her maternal feelings to
assert themselves again, and they did, for she sank heavily into the
nearest arms.

They were not her husband's but those of the baronet, most rotten reeds
upon which a lady might lean.  The result was that as Lady Barmouth gave
way, Sir Grantley did the same, and both would have fallen heavily but
for Doctor Todd, who seized the baronet in time, and with extraneous
help her ladyship was placed in the porter's great chair.

"Salts, and a little air: she has only fainted," said the doctor.

By all the rules of family etiquette as observed in the best society,
Maude should have run to her mother's side, and made one in a pathetic
group: but just at the same moment she encountered Charley Melton's
eyes, let her own rest upon them as a singular thrill ran through her,
till she wrenched them away and encountered Sir Grantley Wilters'
eye-glass, and directly after she recalled a promise she had made to
herself.

"Open that door a little," said the doctor--"ajar.  Some fresh air."

Luigi Malsano was back in the street, and the organ struck up once more,
"'Tis hard to give the hand where the heart can never be," while at the
same moment a dismal howl came from the doorstep and a head was thrust
in, to be followed by a body rather out of proportion.

It was only Charley Melton's ugly bull-dog Joby, who had followed his
master to the house, and been waiting on step and in area for the said
master to come.  He had several times made an attempt to enter, but had
been driven back by Robbins the butler, and thought of going back to his
master's chambers, but at last the opportunity had come, and he too
found his way in, for Luigi's music nearly drove him mad.

Meanwhile the Resident's young wife was being carried towards Charing
Cross _en route_ for Brindisi--the Suez Canal--India--right away out of
the country, and out of this story, leaving the stage clear for her
sister's important scene.



CHAPTER THREE.

DOWN IN THE COUNTRY--THE ANGEL.

"I'm afraid you are not serious, Mr Melton," said Lady Barmouth;
shaking her head at him sadly.

"Serious, Lady Barmouth; indeed I am," said Charley Melton, who was
Viscount Diphoos' guest down at the Hurst, Lord Barmouth's seat in
Sussex; "and as to personal matters, my income--"

"Hush, hush! you bad, wicked boy," exclaimed her ladyship; "what do you
take me for?  Just as if the union of two young hearts was to be made a
question of hard cash and settlements, and such mean, wretched, sordid
matters.  I beg you will never utter a word to me again about such
things.  They are shocking to me."

"I am very glad to hear you say so, Lady Barmouth," said Melton, smiling
frankly in her face, as in a gentle heaving billow style, she leaned,
upon his arm, and undulated softly and tapped his fingers with her fan.

"I like to think of my darling Maude as a sweet innocent girl in whose
presence such a sordid thing as money ought never to be mentioned.
There, there, there, they are calling you from the lawn, Charley Melton;
go to them and play and be happy while you have your youth and high
spirits.  How I envy you all sometimes?"

"Your ladyship has made me very happy," said Melton, flushing slightly.

"It is my desire to make all belonging to me happy," replied her
ladyship.  "I have seen Diana, my sweet child, settled, now it is my
desire to see Maude the same.  There, there, go away, for my eyes are
weak with tears, and I feel half hysterical.  Go away, my dear boy, go
away."

"But you will let me see your ladyship to a seat?"

"No, no, no; go away, go away."

"Yo-hoy!" shouted a familiar voice.  "Charley Melton!--_are_ you
coming!"

"Yes, yes, coming," replied Melton, as her ladyship tapped him on the
arm very significantly, and shook her head at him, while her eyes
plaintively gazed at his.  And she said to herself--"Yes, his
expectations, Lady Rigby said, were excellent."

The next moment he was on his way to the croquet lawn, where a gaily
dressed party was engaged in preparing for a little match.

"I never expected it," said the young man to himself; "and either I'm in
luck's way, or her ladyship is not the mercenary creature people say.
She is evidently agreeable, and if she is, I have no fear of Lord
Barmouth, for the old man likes me."

"Come, old fellow," cried Tom, advancing to meet him, with the biggest
croquet mallet over his shoulder that could be found in the trade.
"What have you and the old lady been chatting over?  She hasn't been
dropping any hints about being _de trop_?"

Melton was silent, for he enjoyed the other's interest.

"If she has," cried Tom, "I'll strike: I won't stand it.  It's too
bad;--it's--"

"Gently, gently," said Melton, smiling.  "She has been all that I could
desire, and it is evident that she does not look upon my pretensions to
your sister's hand with disfavour."

"What--disfavour?  Do you mean to say in plain English that the old girl
has not cut up rough about your spooning after Maude?"

"Is that plain English?"

"Never mind.  Go on.  What did she say?"

"Called me her dear boy, and said her sole wish was to see her child
happy."

"Gammon!" said Viscount Diphoos.  "She's kidding you."

"Nonsense!  What a miserable sceptic you are!"

"Yes; I know my dear mamma."

"I merely quote her words," said Melton, coldly.

"Then the old girl's going off her chump," said Tom.  "But there, never
mind; so much the better.  Charley, old man, I give you my consent."

"Thank you," said Melton, smiling.

"Ah, you may laugh, but 'pon my soul I should like you to marry Maudey.
She's the dearest and best girl in the world, and I was afraid the old
girl meant Wilters to have her.  Well, I am glad, old man.  Give us your
fist.  I'm sure Maudey likes you, so go in and win.  Make your hay while
the sun shines, my boy.  Only stow all that now.  It's croquet, so get a
mallet.  You and Maudey are partners, against Tryphie Wilder and me."

He shook hands warmly with his friend, and they went down the path
together.

"I say, old man, Wilters is coming down to-day.  He's been in a fine
taking.  Saw him in London.  Day before yesterday.  Said he'd lost his
diamond locket.  Just as if it mattered to him with all his thousands.
But he's as mean as mean.  I should like to get him in a line at
billiards, and win a lot of money off him.  I will, too, some day.  Now
girls!  Ready?"

They were crossing the closely shaven lawn now to where Maude, looking
very sweet and innocent, stood talking to Tryphie Wilder, and she
coloured with pleasure as the young men advanced.

Soon after the match began, and for ten minutes the two couples played
vigorously and well.  Then the game languished, and the various players
missed their turns, and were soon in a terrible tangle, forgetting their
hoops, so that at last, Tom, who was standing under a hawthorn that was
one blush of pink, was heard by a knowing old thrush, sitting closely
over four blue speckled eggs, to whisper in a low tone--

"Don't be hard on a fellow, Tryphie dear, when you know how fond he is
of you."

The thrush laughed thrushly, and blinked her eyes as she recalled the
troubles of matrimony: how long eggs were hatching, and what a deal of
trouble the little ones were to feed when the weather was dry and worms
were scarce.

Just at the same time too Charley Melton and Maude had come to a
stand-still where a great laburnum poured down a shower of rich golden
drops, through which rained the rays of the sun, broken up into silvery
arrows of light which forced themselves through the girl's fair hair, as
she stood trembling and palpitating that happy June day, while Charley
Melton's words grew deeper and more thrilling in their meaning.

For their theme was love, one that has never seemed tiring to young and
willing ears, though it must be owned that folks do talk, have talked,
and always will talk a great deal of nonsense.

This was in the calm and peaceful days of croquet, before people had
learned to perspire profusely over lawn-tennis as they flew into wild
attitudes and dressed for the popular work.  This was croquet _a la
Watteau_, and in the midst of the absence of play, Lord Barmouth came
slowly down the path, stepped upon the soft lawn as soon as possible,
and, choosing a garden seat in a comfortably shady nook, he sat down and
began to tenderly rub his leg.

"Heigho!" he sighed; "they, they--they say an Englishman's house is his
castle.  If it is, his wife's the elephant--white elephant.  Why--why
don't they go on playing?  Ha, there's Tom starting," he continued,
putting up his glasses.  "I'd give five hundred pounds to be able to
stoop and pick up a ball like that young Charley Melton--a strong,
straight-backed young villain.  And there's my son Tom, too.  How he can
run!  I'd give another five hundred pounds, if I'd got it, to be able to
run across the grass like my son Tom.  It strikes me, yes, damme, it
strikes me that my son Tom's making up to little Tryphie.  Well, and
he's no fool if he does."

The game went on now for a few minutes, and then there was another halt.

"I said so to Tom on the morning of Di's wedding," said the old
gentleman, caressing his leg; "and that Charley Melton is making up to
Maudey, damme that he is, and--and--and--damme, she's smiling at him,
bless her, as sure as I'm a martyr to the gout."

There were a few more strokes, and as many pauses, during which the old
gentleman watched the players in their laurel-sheltered ground with his
double glasses to his eye.

"Let me see, her ladyship said he was one of the Mowbray Meltons, but he
isn't.  He belongs to the poor branch, but I didn't contradict her
ladyship; it makes her angry.  He, he, he, he!  It's--its--it's very
fine to be young and good-looking, and--and--damme, Tom, you young dog,"
he continued, chuckling, "I can see through your tricks.  He's--he's--
he's always knocking Tryphie's ball in amongst the bushes, and then they
have to go out of sight to find it."

The old man chuckled and shook his head till a twinge of the gout made
him wince, when he stooped down and had another rub.

"Why--why--why," he chuckled again directly after, "damme, damme, if
young Charley Melton isn't doing the same.  He has knocked Maudey's ball
in amongst the laurels, and--oh--oh--oh--you wicked young rogues--
they're coming to look for it."

He got up and toddled towards the young couple, patting Maude on the
cheek, and giving Charley Melton a poke in the side.

"I--I--I--see through you both," he said, laughing.  "Won't do--won't
do.  Both as transparent as glass, and I can see your hearts playing
such a tune."

He crossed to another garden seat, and sat down, putting his leg up in a
comfortable position.

"There," said Melton, earnestly.  "You see we have both in our favour.
Your father would not refuse."

"Pray say no more now," said the girl, gazing up in his face.  "It is so
new, it troubles me.  Let us go on playing.  Tom and Tryphie must be
waiting."

"I think not," said Melton, with a quiet smile.  "Maude, love, to-day I
am so happy that it all seems too delightful to be real.  Does it seem
so to you?"

"I hardly know," she replied, turning her eyes to his for a few moments,
and then lowering them; "but somehow I feel sad with it and as if I were
too happy for it to last."

"Then you are happy?" he said, eagerly.

For answer she raised her eyes to his, and the game was resumed, for Tom
and Tryphie came out of the shrubbery with the lost ball.

"Ha, ha, ha!" laughed his lordship.  "Tom's a sad dog--a sad dog.  I was
just like him when I was young."

He glanced to the right and left, and, seeing that he was unobserved,
drew out a d'oyley from his coat-tail pocket, and from within picked out
a slice of tongue and a piece of bread and butter, which he ate with
great gusto, but not without turning his head from side to side like
some ancient sparrow on the look-out for danger.

He wiped his fingers carefully upon his handkerchief, put away the
d'oyley, and smiled to himself.

"That was nice--and refreshing," he said.  "I don't suppose Robbins
would miss it, and mention the fact to her ladyship.  Ah," he continued,
raising his glass once more to his eye, "they are having a nice game
there.  Why, damme, they're all courting like birds in spring-time.  But
Tom's a sad dog.  He, he, he!  I was just like him.  I was a sad dog too
when I was young.  I remember once when I was at Chiswick, at the
Duke's--he--he--he! with Lady Ann Gowerby, I told her there was not a
flower in the whole show to compare with her two lips, and I kissed her
behind the laurestinus--damme, that I did, and--and--he, he, he! the old
woman--the countess--came and caught us."

The old man chuckled over this recollection till he had to wipe the
tears out of his eyes, and then he had a fresh look at the croquet
players.

"Tom, you dog," he said, "the old lady will come and catch you, and
then, he, he, he! there'll be a devil of a row, for she means my little
Tryphie for some one else.  Eh--eh--eh?  What!  Look there now, Maudey
dropped her mallet, and Charley Melton picked it up and kissed her hand.
Well, it's nice," he said, smacking his lips, "I was a devil of a
fellow to squeeze and kiss the little girls' hands when I was a
youngster, but now--"

He bent down to rub his gouty leg, and uttered a low groan as he
continued--

"But they're all going wrong, the silly young lambs; I wish Charley
Melton was well off.  Her ladyship will come over it all like a cloud
directly, for I know--she said so--she means Tryphie for old Bellman,
and Maudey for that Sir Grantley Wilter.  Well, well, well, little
gnats, enjoy your bit of sunshine while you can."

"Now, Charley, are you going on?" shouted Tom in indignant tones, "two
blue plays--two blue plays."

"There's a dog for you," chuckled Lord Barmouth, "any one would think he
had been busy over the game all the time instead of courting Tryphie."

"Coming, Tom," cried Melton; then turning to Maude he whispered,
"Darling, you are mine, come what may--Maude, my love--my love!"

Their eyes met for a few moments, and from that look it was evident that
the work so nearly completed on the morning of the wedding party had now
received the finishing strokes, that the fresh young heart had placed
itself in another's keeping, and that henceforth Charley Melton was lord
of someone's will, and her duty only to obey.

"I ought to go and stop them," said his lordship, sadly, "but making
love without thinking of money used to be nice; but--hallo!" he
exclaimed, as a cold nose touched his hand; and looking down there was
the ugly massive face of a bull-dog gazing up into his.  "Charley
Melton's dog, eh!  Well, you're a very ugly dog, but you seem to like
me.  Eh, eh!" he added, as, after a quiet wag of his tail, Joby smelt at
his lordship's tail pocket.  "So you knew there was a little bit of game
pie in there, did you!"

Joby uttered a low whine.

"Well, so there is, good dog," said his lordship, chuckling as he felt
in his other pocket, and brought out something very unpleasant-looking
crushed up as it was in a piece of paper.

"I'm afraid I have been sitting upon it, my dog," said his lordship,
ruefully, "and the jelly and cold gravy have got into the crust.  But
you will not mind, will you?"

The dog gave a short bark, and evidently did not mind, for he and Lord
Barmouth finished the last morsel of the game pie, and Joby ate the
jelly-smeared paper afterwards as a kind of digestive pill.

"Ah," said his lordship, patting the dog's head.  "I'm glad of that--
good dog then--for I did not know what to do with that piece of paper.
Eh, eh? whom have we here?" he continued, putting up his glasses.  "Her
ladyship and Sir Grantley Wilters.  There, I told you young people that
you were to enjoy your game as you could, for here comes the shadow."

He alluded to Lady Barmouth, who, like the good general she was, had
made her plans, which were rapidly approaching fruition.



CHAPTER FOUR.

CLOUDY.

Lord Barmouth was quite right, for the shadow was coming over the
sunshiny portion of the young people's life in the shape of her
ladyship, who could in turn assume the _role_ of Fate or Fury.

Amongst the company expected at the Hurst was Sir Grantley Wilters, and
for his own reasons he had made a point of coming.  He had arrived that
morning, and, learning from Robbins the butler that Melton was there,
had hastened to obtain a quiet interview with her ladyship.

"Nothing like taking time by the forelock, don't you know," he said to
himself.  "Old girl evidently wants me for a son-in-law, and that fellow
Melton is a doosed sight too attentive.  I can see through it all,
though.  Old girl keeps him here to make play and draw me on.  Artful,
doosed artful, don't you know.  But it don't matter; suits my book.
Time I did marry and settle down.  Maude Diphoos is a doosed handsome
girl, and'll do me credit.  I'll propose at once."

He mused thus in his bedroom, where he gave a few finishing touches to
his morning toilet, and then descending to the drawing-room, he was most
affectionately received by her ladyship, who took his arm, and they
strolled out through the conservatory into the garden.

"Such delightful weather!" said her ladyship, leaning upon his arm more
heavily than was pleasant to a man in tight boots, and rather weak upon
his legs.

"Charming," said Sir Grantley.  "By the way, Lady Barmouth, we are very
great friends, you and I, don't you know."

"Indeed, yes," said her ladyship.  "I always feel disposed to call you
by your Christian name--Grantley--"

"Do," said the baronet, having a little struggle with his eye-glass--a
new one of rather smaller diameter than the last--which he had lost--and
which would not consent to stop in its place--"Do--like it.  Fact is,
Lady Barmouth, I have made up my mind to be married, don't you know."

"You have?  Really!" cried her ladyship.  "I am glad;" and she adroitly
turned their steps down the lilac walk in place of going straight to the
croquet lawn.

"Fact, I assure you," continued Sir Grantley.  "It is only quite lately
that I have seen any one whom I should like to make Lady Wilters; and
now--"

"You are hopelessly in love," said her ladyship; showing him her hundred
guinea set of teeth--patent mineral, and of pearly whiteness, her best
set--down to the false gums.  "Oh, you young people in the days of your
romance.  It is too delightful in spite of its regrets for us who are in
the sere and yellow leaf."

Her ladyship, by the way, was very little older than Sir Grantley, and
art had made her look the younger of the two, especially as, in spite of
the allusions to the yellow leaf, her ladyship's plump skin was powdered
into a state of peach bloom.

"Thanks, much," said Sir Grantley, wincing a little from tight boots,
and greeting with delight their approach to a garden seat.  "Shall we
sit down?"

"Oh, by all means," cried her ladyship; and they took their places under
the lilac which bloomed profusely over their heads.  "And now,"
exclaimed Lady Barmouth, with sparkling eyes and another sweet smile to
show her hundred guinea teeth, while the plump face was covered with
innocent dimples, "tell me, who is the dear girl?"

"Yas," said Sir Grantley, clearing his throat, and feeling decidedly
better, "yas."

He paused, and wiped his heated brow with a scented handkerchief.

"Now this is too bad," said her ladyship, playfully.  "You are teasing
me."

"No, 'pon honour, no," said Sir Grantley.  "Fact is, don't you know, I
feel a kind of nervous shrinking."

"Ah, you young men, you young men," said her ladyship, shaking her head.
"But come: tell me.  Do I know her?"

"Oh, yas," said Sir Grantley.

"To be sure," cried her ladyship, clapping her hands together.  "It's
Lady Mary Mahon.  There, I've found you out."

"No," said Sir Grantley.  "Guess again," and this time he secured the
eye-glass with a good ring of circles round it, which did not add to his
personal appearance.

"Not Lady Mary," mused her ladyship.  "Well, it can't be the wealthy
Miss Parminter?"

"No," said Sir Grantley, calmly; "oh, dear, no."

"Why, of course not; I know, it's the Honourable Grace Leasome."

"N-no," said Sir Grantley, with the most gentlemanly _insouciance_.
"Try again."

"I give it up," said her ladyship, smiling.

"Now, Maude, it's your turn," was heard faintly from the croquet lawn.

"Yas," said Sir Grantley, bowing slightly.  "That is the lady.  My dear
Lady Barmouth, will you allow me humbly and respectfully, don't you
know, to propose for your charming daughter's hand?"

Lady Barmouth sank back in her seat as if struck with horror.

"Anything the matter?" said Sir Grantley, looking puzzled.

"Did--did I understand you aright, Sir Grantley?" faltered her ladyship.

"Aright?  Oh, yas.  Sorry to be so sudden and upset you, but thought you
expected it, don't you know."

"My dear Sir Grantley; my dear young friend," exclaimed her ladyship,
laying her hand in a sympathising fashion upon his arm.  "This is too
painful."

"Well, suppose it is," said Sir Grantley, calmly.  "Just lost one
daughter too--charming girl, Diana--but it must come, Lady Barmouth.
I've been a bit free and got rid of some money, but there's about nine
thou a year left, and then I shall have the Mellish estates by and by!--
another three thou--might settle that on her, don't you know."

"Oh, this is dreadful," panted her ladyship.  "My dear young friend, I
should have been too happy to give my consent, but dear Maude is as good
as engaged to Mr Melton."

"The doose she is," said Sir Grantley, dropping his glass and looking
blankly at his companion.

"Oh, yes," exclaimed her ladyship, applying her scent bottle to her
delicate nostrils.  "I thought you must have seen it."

"Humph! doosid provoking, don't you know," said Sir Grantley, calmly.
"Made up my mind at last, and now too late."

"I am so--so--sorry," sighed her ladyship.

"Can't be helped.  I did mean to propose the week before last, but had
to see my doctor.  Melton, eh?  Doosid poor, isn't he?"

"Oh, really, Sir Grantley, I know nothing about Mr Melton's prospects,
but he is a Mowbray Melton, and a wealthy cousin is childless, and not
likely to many."

"What, Dick Mowbray?  Married last week."

"Mr Melton's cousin?"

"To be sure he did, Lady Barmouth; and besides, Charley Melton is one of
the younger branch.  Poor as Job."

He made as if to rise, but her ladyship laid her hand upon his arm.

"Stop a moment," she exclaimed.  "This is a serious matter, Sir
Grantley, and it must be cleared up."

"Don't say a word about it, please," he replied, with some trepidation.

"I shall not say a word," replied her ladyship; "but you are under a
mistake, Sir Grantley.  Mr Melton has a handsome private income."

"Where from?" replied the baronet.  "His father has not a rap."

"Then he has magnificent expectations."

"Did he tell you this?" said Sir Grantley, screwing his glass very
tightly into his eye.

"N-no," said her ladyship.  "There, I will be frank with you, Sir
Grantley.  You are a gentleman, and I can trust you."

"I hope so," he replied, stiffly.

"The fact is," said her ladyship, "seeing that there was a growing
intimacy between my daughter and Mr Melton, who is the son of an old
Eton schoolfellow of Lord Barmouth, I made some inquiries."

"Yas?" said Sir Grantley.

"And I understood Lord Barmouth to say that he would be a most eligible
_parti_ for our dearest child."

"Oh, indeed," said Sir Grantley, carefully examining the sit of one leg
of his trousers.

Lady Barmouth stared at the speaker, and then shut her scent bottle with
a loud snap.

"If she has deceived me--tricked me over this," thought her ladyship, "I
will never forgive her."

"But has Mr Melton professed this to you?" said Sir Grantley, staring
at the change which had come over his proposed mother-in-law.  For the
sweet smile was gone, and her thin lips were drawn tightly over her
teeth: not a dimple was to be seen, and a couple of dark marks came
beneath her eyes.

"No," she said, shortly; and there was a great deal of acidity in her
tone.  "I must say he has not.  But I must inquire into this.  I trusted
implicitly in what my husband, who knew his father intimately, had said.
Will you join the croquet party, Sir Grantley?" she continued, forcing
back her sweetest smile.

"Yas, oh yas, with pleasure.  Charmed," said Sir Grantley; and they rose
and walked towards the croquet lawn.

"Dear Sir Grantley," said her ladyship, speaking once more with her
accustomed sweetness, "this is a private matter between ourselves.  You
will not let it influence your visit?"

"Not at all."

"I mean, you will not let it shorten your stay?"

"Oh, no--not at all," he replied.  "Charmed to stay, I'm sure.  Shan't
break my heart, don't you know.  Try to bear the disappointment."

Five minutes later her ladyship had left Sir Grantley on the lawn, and
gone off in the direction of Lord Barmouth, who saw her coming and beat
a retreat, but her ladyship cut him off and met him face to face.

"Tryphie," said Tom to his little cousin, "there's a row cooking."

"Yes," she replied, sending her ball with straight aim through a hoop.
"I saw it coming.  I hope it is nothing about Maude; she seems so
happy."

"Hang me if I don't think it is," said Tom.  "I'm going off directly,
for the old girl's started to wig the governor, I'm certain.  I shall go
and back him up after giving my mallet to Wilters.  Don't make me madly
jealous."

"Why not?" she replied, mischievously.

"And be careful not to hit his legs," said Tom.  "They'd break like
reeds.--Wilters, will you take my mallet?  I want to go."

"Charmed, I'm shaw," said Sir Grantley, bowing, and being thus
introduced to the game, while Tom lit a cigarette and slipped away.

Meanwhile Lady Barmouth had captured her husband as he was moving off,
followed closely by Charley Melton's ugly dog, which no sooner saw her
than he lowered his tail, dropped his head, and walked under a clump of
Portugal laurel out of the way.

"Barmouth," said her ladyship, taking him into custody, like a plump
social policeman, "I want to speak to you."

"Certainly, my dear," he said, mildly.  "What is it?"

"About this Mr Charles Melton.  What income has he?"

"Well, my dear," said the old gentleman, "I don't believe he has any
beyond a little allowance from his father, who is very poor."

"And his expectations," said her ladyship, sharply.  "He has great
expectations, has he not?"

"I--I--I don't think he has, my love," said the old man; "but he's a
doosed fine, manly young fellow, and I like him very much indeed."

"But you told me that he had great prospects."

"No, my dear, you said _you_ had heard that he had.  I remember it quite
well."

"Don't be an idiot, Barmouth," exclaimed her ladyship.  "Listen to me."

"Yes, my dear," he said, looking at her nervously, and then stooping to
rub his leg, an act she stopped by giving his hand a smart slap.

"How can you be so offensive," she cried, in a low angry voice; "it is
quite disgusting.  Listen to me."

"Yes, my dear."

"I went to see Lady Merritty about this matter, and Lady Rigby."

"About my gout, my dear?"

"Do you wish to make me angry, Barmouth?"

"No, my dear."

"I went to see her about this young man--this Melton, and Lady Merritty
told me she believed he had most brilliant expectations.  But I'll be
even with her for this.  Oh, it was too bad!"

"What's the matter?" said Tom, joining them.

"Matter!" cried the irate woman.  "Why, evidently to gratify some old
spite, that wretched woman, Lady Merritty, has been palming off upon us
this Mr Melton as a millionaire, and on the strength of it all I have
encouraged him here, and only just now refused an offer made by Sir
Grantley Wilters.  A beggar!  An upstart!"

"Bravo, mother!" cried Tom, enthusiastically.  "So he is, a
contemptible, weak-kneed, supercilious beggar.  I hate him."

"Hate him?" said her ladyship.  "Why, you always made him your greatest
friend."

"What, old Wilters?" cried Tom.

"Stuff!  This Melton," retorted her ladyship.

"Bah!" exclaimed Tom.  "I meant that thin weedy humbug, Wilters."

"And I meant that wretched impostor, Melton," cried her ladyship,
angrily.

"Look here, mother," cried Tom.  "Charley Melton is my friend, and he is
here at your invitation.  Let me tell you this: if you insult him, if I
don't go bang out on the croquet lawn and kick Wilters.  Damme, that I
will."

"He's a brave dashing young fellow, my son Tom," said his lordship to
himself.  "I wish I dared--"

"Barmouth," moaned her ladyship, "help me to the house.  My son, to whom
I should look for support, turns upon his own mother.  Alas, that I
should live to see such a day!"

"Yes, my dear," said Lord Barmouth, in a troubled way, as he offered the
lady his arm.  "Tom, my boy, don't speak so rudely to your mamma," he
continued, looking back, and they moved slowly towards the open
drawing-room window.

As her ladyship left the garden, Joby came slowly up from under the
laurels, and laid his head on Tom's knee, for that gentleman had thrown
himself on a garden seat.

"Hallo, Joby," he said "you here?  I tell you what, old man, if you
would go and stick your teeth into Wilters' calf--Bah! he hasn't got a
calf!--into his leg, and give him hydrophobia, you'd be doing your
master a good turn."

From that hour a gloom came over the scene.  Lady Barmouth was
scrupulously polite, but Charley Melton remarked a change.  There were
no more rides out with Maude; no more pleasant _tete-a-tetes_: all was
smiles carefully iced, and he turned at last to Tom for an explanation.

"I can't understand it," he said; "a few days ago my suit seemed to find
favour in her eyes; now her ladyship seems to ridicule the very idea of
my pretentions."

"Yes," said Tom savagely; and he bit his cigar right in half.

"But why, in heaven's name?"

"Heard you were poor."

"Well, I never pretended otherwise."

"No," said Tom, snappishly; "but I suppose some one else did."

"Who?" cried Melton, angrily.

"Shan't tell," cried Tom; "but mind your eye, my boy, or she'll throw
you over."

"She shall not," cried Melton, firmly, "for though there is no formal
engagement, I hold to your sister, whom I love with all my heart."

That evening Charley Melton was called away to see his father, who had
been taken seriously ill.

"So very sorry," said her ladyship, icily.  "But these calls must be
answered.  Poor Mr Melton, I am so grieved.  Maude, my darling, Sir
Grantley is waiting to play that game of chess with you."

The consequence was, that Charley Melton's farewell to Maude was spoken
with eyes alone, and he left the house feeling that he was doomed never
to enter it again as a staying guest, while the enemy was in the field
ready to sap and mine his dearest hopes.



CHAPTER FIVE.

BACK IN TOWN--THE DEMON.

Lady Maude Diphoos sat in her dressing-room in Portland Place with her
long brown hair let down and spread all around her like some beautiful
garment designed by nature to hide her soft white bust and arms, which
were crossed before her as she gazed in the long dressing-glass draped
with pink muslin.

For the time being that dressing-glass seemed to be a framed picture in
which could be seen the sweet face of a beautiful woman, whose blue eyes
were pensive and full of trouble.  It was the picture of one greatly in
deshabille; but then it was the lady's dressing-room, and there was no
one present but the maid.

The chamber was charmingly furnished, enough showing in the glass to
make an effective background to the picture; and to add to the charm
there was a delicious odour of blended scents that seemed to be exhaled
by the principal flower in the room--she whose picture shone in the
muslin-draped frame.

There is nothing very new, it may be presumed, for a handsome woman to
be seated before her glass with her long hair down, gazing straight
before her into the reflector; but this was an exceptional case, for
Maude Diphoos was looking right into her mirror and could not see
herself.  Sometimes what she saw was Charley Melton, but at the present
moment the face of Dolly Preen, her maid, as that body stood half behind
her chair, brushing away at her mistress' long tresses, which crackled
and sparkled electrically, and dropping upon them certain moist pearls
which she as rapidly brushed away.

Dolly Preen was a pretty, plump, dark girl, with a certain rustic beauty
of her own such as was found sometimes in the sunny village by the
Hurst, from which she had been taken to become young ladies' maid, a
sort of moral pincushion, into which Mademoiselle Justine Framboise, her
ladyship's attendant, stuck venomed verbal pins.

But Dolly did not look pretty in the glass just now, for her nose was
very red, her eyes were swollen up, and as she sniffed, and choked, and
uttered a low sob from time to time, she had more the air of a severely
punished school-girl than a prim young ladies' maid in an aristocratic
family.

Dolly wept and dropped tears on the beautiful soft tangled hair at which
Sir Grantley Wilters had often cast longing glances.  Then she brushed
them off again, and took out her handkerchief to blow her nose--a nose
which took a great deal of blowing, as it was becoming overcharged with
tears.

"Oh, Dolly, Dolly," said her mistress at last, "this is very, very sad."

At this moment through the open window, faintly heard, there floated,
softened by distance, that delicious, now forgotten, but once popular
strain--"I'm a young man from the country, but you don't get over me."

Dorothy Preen, Sussex yeoman's daughter, was a young woman from the
country, and was it because the air seemed _apropos_ that the maiden
suddenly uttered an ejaculation which sounded like _Ow_! and dropping
the ivory-backed brush, plumped herself down upon the carpet, as if
making a nursery cheese, and began to sob as if her heart would break?
Was it the appropriate nature of the air?  No; it was the air producer.

"Oh, Dolly, Dolly, I don't know what to say," said Lady Maude gently, as
she gave her hair a whisk and sent it all flying to one side.  "I don't
want to send you back home."

"No, no, no, my lady, please don't do that," blubbered the girl.

"But her ladyship is thinking very seriously about it, Dolly, and you
see you were found talking to him."

"Ye--ye--yes, my lady."

"But, you foolish girl, don't you understand that he is little better
than a beggar--an Italian mendicant?"

"Ye-ye-yes, my lady."

"Then how can you be so foolish?"

"I--I--I don't know, my lady."

"You, a respectable farmer's daughter, to think of taking up with a low
man who goes about the streets turning the handle of an organ.  Dolly,
Dolly, my poor girl, what does it mean?"

"I--I--I don't know, my lady.  Ow!  I am so miserable."

"Of course you are, my good girl.  There, promise me you'll forget it
all, and I'll speak to her ladyship, and tell her you'll be more
sensible, and get her to let you stay."

"I--I can't, my lady."

"Cannot what?"

"Forget him, my lady."

"Why not?"

"Be-be-because he is so handsome."

"Oh, Dolly, I've no patience with you."

"N-n-no, my lady, because you--you ain't--ain't in love," sobbed the
girl with angry vehemence, as she covered her face with her hands and
rocked herself to and fro.

"For shame, Dolly," cried Maude, with her face flamingly red.  "If a
woman is in love that is no reason for her degrading herself.  I'm
shocked at you."

"Ye-ye-yes, my lady, bu-bu-but you don't know; you--you--you haven't
felt it yet.  Wh-wh-when it comes over you some day, you--you--you'll be
as bad as I am.  Ow! ow! ow!  I'm a wretched, unhappy girl."

"Then rouse yourself and think no more of this fellow.  For shame of
you!"

"I--I can't, my lady.  He--he--he's so handsome, and I've tried ever so
to give him up, but he takes hold of you like."

"Takes hold of you, Dolly?  Oh, for shame!"

"I--I d-d-d-don't mean with his hands, my lady, b-b-but with his great
dark eyes, miss, and--and he fixes you like; and once you're like I am
you're always seeing them, and they're looking right into you, and it
makes you--you--you feel as if you must go where he tells you to, and--
and I can't help it, and I'm a wretched, unhappy girl."

"You are indeed," said Maude with spirit.  "It is degrading in the
extreme.  An organ-grinder--pah!"

"It--it--it don't matter what he is, my lady," sobbed Dolly.  "It's the
man does it.  And--and some day wh-wh-when you feel as I do, miss,
you'll--"

"Silence," cried Lady Maude.  "I'll hear no more such nonsense.  Get up,
you foolish girl, and go on brushing my hair.  You shall think no more
of that wretched creature."

Just at that moment, after a dead silence, an air from _Trovatore_ rang
out from the pavement below, and Dolly, who had picked up the brush,
dropped it again, and stood gazing toward the window with so comical an
expression of grief and despair upon her face that her mistress rose,
and taking her arm gave her a sharp shake.

"You silly girl!" she cried.

"But--but he's so handsome, my lady, I--I can't help it.  Do--do please
send him away."

"Why, the girl's fascinated," thought Maude, whose cheeks were flushed,
and whose heart was increasing its speed as she eagerly twisted up her
hair and confined it behind by a spring band.

"If--if you could send him away, my lady."

"Send him away!  Yes: it is disgraceful," cried Maude, and as if moved
by some strange influence she rapidly made herself presentable and
looked angrily from the window.

There was an indignant look in her eyes, and her lips parted to speak,
but at that moment the mechanical music ceased, and the bearer of the
green baize draped "kist of whustles" looked up, removed his soft hat,
smiled and displayed his teeth as he exclaimed in a rich, mellow voice--

"Ah, signora--ah, bella signora."

Maude Diphoos' head was withdrawn rapidly and her cheeks paled, flushed,
and turned pale again, as she stood gazing at her maid, and wondering
what had possessed her to attempt to do such a thing as dismiss this
man.

"Ah, signora!  Ah, bella signora!" came again from below; and this
seemed to arouse Maude to action, for now she hastily closed the window
and seated herself before the glass.

"Undo my hair and finish brushing it," she said austerely; "and, Dolly,
there is to be no more of this wicked folly."

"No, my lady."

"It is disgraceful.  Mind, I desire that you never look out at this man,
nor speak to him again."

"No, my lady."

"I shall ask her ladyship to look over your error, and mind that
henceforth you are to be a very good girl."

"Yes, my lady."

"There: I need say no more; you are very sorry, are you not?"

"Ye-yes, my lady."

"Then mind, I shall expect you to do credit to my interference, for her
ladyship will be exceedingly angry if anything of this kind occurs
again.  Now, you will try?"

"Ye-yes, my lady," sobbed poor Dolly, "I'll try; but you don't know,
miss, how hard it is.  Some day you may feel as I do, and then you'll be
sorry you scolded me so much."

"Silence, Dolly; I have not scolded you so much.  I have only interfered
to save you from ruin and disgrace."

"Ruin and disgrace, my lady?"

"Yes, you foolish girl.  You could not marry such a man as that.  There,
now go downstairs--no, go to your own room and bathe your eyes before
you go down.  I feel quite ashamed of you."

"Yes, my lady, so do I," sobbed Dolly.  "I'm afraid I'm a very wicked
girl, and father will never forgive me; but I can't help it, and--Ow--
ow--ow!"

"Dolly!  Dolly!  Dolly!  There, do go to your room," cried Maude
impatiently, and the poor girl went sobbing away, leaving her mistress
to sit thinking pensively of what she had said.

Lady Maude Diphoos should have continued dressing, but she sat down by
her mirror with her head resting upon her hand thinking very deeply of
the weak, love-sick girl who had just left the room.  Her thoughts were
strange, and it seemed to her that so soon as she began to picture the
bluff, manly, Saxon countenance of Charley Melton, the dark-eyed,
black-bearded face of the Italian leered at her over his shoulder, and
so surely as she made an effort to drive away the illusion, the face
disappeared from one side to start out again upon the other.

So constant was this to the droning of the organ far below that Maude
shivered, and at last started up, feeling more ready now to sympathise
with the girl than to blame as she hurriedly dressed, and prepared to go
downstairs to join her ladyship in her afternoon drive.

"Are you aware, Maude, that I have been waiting for you some time?"

"No, mamma.  The carriage has not yet come."

"That has nothing whatever to do with it," said her ladyship.  "You have
kept me waiting.  And by the way, Maude, I must request that you do not
return Mr Melton's very particular bows.  I observed that you did
yesterday in the Park, while directly afterwards, when Sir Grantley
Wilters passed, you turned your head the other way."

"Really, mamma, I--"

"That will do, child, I am your mother."

"The carriage is at the door, my lady," said Robbins, entering the room;
and soon afterwards the ladies descended to enter the barouche and enjoy
the air, "gravel grinding," in the regular slow procession by the side
of the Serpentine, where it was not long before Maude caught sight of
Charley Melton, with his ugly bull-dog by his legs.

He bowed, but Lady Barmouth cut him dead.  He bowed again--this time to
Maude, who cut him alive, for her piteous look cut him to the heart; and
as the carriage passed on the remark the young man made concerning her
ladyship was certainly neither refined nor in the best of taste.



CHAPTER SIX.

NOT AT HOME.

For Charley Melton's father was better, hence his presence in town,
where he had sped as soon as he found that the Diphoos family had left
the Hurst, where Lady Barmouth hatched matrimony.

That cut in the Park was unpleasant, but nothing daunted in his
determination not to be thrown over, the young man made his way next day
to Portland Place, eager, anxious, and wondering whether Maude would be
firm, or allow herself to be influenced by her ladyship to his downfall.

Robbins unclosed the door at the great family mansion looking very
severe and uncompromising.  So stern was his countenance, and so stiff
the bristles on his head, that any one with bribery in his heart would
have felt that silver would be an insult.

"Not at home."

He left his card, and called next day.

"Not at home."

He waited two days, and called again.

"Not at home."

Another two days, and another call.  The same answer.

"Not at home."

Charley Melton turned away with his brow knit, and then thought over the
past, and determined that, come what might, he would not be beaten.

The next day he went again, with his dog trotting closely at his heels.
He knocked; the door was opened by Robbins the butler, and to the usual
inquiry, that individual responded as before--

"Not at home, sir."

As Melton left his card and turned to go away, Joby quietly walked in,
crossed the hall, and went upstairs, while his master, who was biting
his lips, turned sharply back and slipped half a sovereign into the
butler's hand.

"Look here, Robbins," he said; "you may trust me; what does this mean?"

The butler glanced behind him, and let the door swing nearly to as he
stood upon the step.

"Fact is, sir, her ladyship said they was never to be at home to you."

A curious smile crossed Melton's lip as he nodded shortly and turned
away, going straight back to his chambers in Duke Street, Saint James's,
and walking impatiently up and down till he was fain to cease from utter
exhaustion, when he flung himself impatiently in his chair, and sat
trying to make plans for the future.

Meanwhile Joby, feeling himself quite at home in the Portland Place
mansion, had walked straight into the dining-room, where the luncheon
was not yet cleared away.  The dog settled himself under the table,
till, hearing a halting step, he had come slowly out to stand watching
Lord Barmouth, who toddled in hastily, and helped himself to three or
four slices of cold ham, which he was in the act of placing in his
pocket as the dog touched him on the leg.

"Eh!  I'm very sorry, Robbins--I--eh?  Oh dear, how you frightened me,
my good dog," he said; "I thought it was the butler."

He was hurrying out when, thinking that perhaps the visitor might also
like a little extra refreshment, he hastily took up a couple of cutlets
and threw them one by one to the dog, who caught them, and seemed to
swallow them with one and the same movement, pill-fashion, for they
disappeared, and Joby waited for more.

"I dare not take any more, my good dog," said his lordship, stooping
down and patting him; and then, feeling that there was nothing more to
be done here, Joby quietly trotted upstairs into the drawing-room, where
Maude was seated alone, with her head resting upon her hand, and the
tears silently stealing down her cheeks.

She uttered a faint cry, for the dog's great blunt muzzle was laid upon
her soft white hand, when, seeing who it was, the poor girl, with a
hysterical sob, threw herself down upon her knees beside the great ugly
brute, flung her arms round his neck, and hugged him to her breast.  "Oh
Joby, Joby, Joby, you dear good dog," she sobbed, "how did you come
here?" and then, with flushed cheeks, and a faint hope in her breast
that the dog's master might be at hand, she paused with her head thrown
back, listening intently.

But there was not a sound to be heard, and she once more caressed the
dog, who, with his head resting upon her shoulder, blinked his great
eyes and licked his black muzzle as if he liked it all amazingly.

Maude sobbed bitterly as she knelt by the dog, and then a thought seemed
to strike her, for she felt its collar, and hesitated; then going to the
table she opened a blotter, seized a sheet of note paper, and began to
write.

At the end of a few moments she stopped though.

"I dare not--I dare not," she sighed.  "It would certainly be found out,
and what would he think of me?  What does he think of me?" she wailed.
"He must believe me not worth a thought.  I will send--just a line."

She wrote a few words, folded the paper up small, and was taking some
silk from her work-basket, when a cough on the stairs made her start and
return to her chair.

"She will see the dog and be so angry," thought Maude, as the rustling
of silk proclaimed the coming of her ladyship, when, to her great joy
Joby uttered a low growl and dived at once beneath the couch, where he
curled himself up completely out of sight.

"Maude," said her ladyship, in an ill-used tone, "you are not looking so
well as you should."

"Indeed, mamma?"

"By no means, child; and as I am speaking to you, I may as well say that
I could not help noticing last night that you were almost rude to Sir
Grantley Wilters.  I must beg that it does not occur again."

"Mamma!"

"There, there, there, that will do," said her ladyship, "not a word.  I
am going out, and I cannot be made nervous by your silly nonsense."

"Indeed, mamma, I--"

"I will not hear excuses," cried her ladyship.  "I tell you I am going
out.  If Sir Grantley Wilters calls, I insist upon your treating him
with proper consideration.  As I have told you, and I repeat it once for
all, that silly flirtation with Mr Melton is quite at an end, and now
we must be serious."

"Serious, mamma!" cried Maude, rising; "I assure you--"

"That will do, child, that will do.  You must let older people think for
you, if you please.  Be silent."

Lady Barmouth sailed out of the room, and with a flush upon her
countenance Maude returned to her work-basket for the silk, starting as
she did so, for something touched her, and there was Joby's great head
with the prominent eyes staring up at her, as if to say, "Are you
ready?"

Folding her note very small, she tied it securely to the inside of the
dog's collar, and then, laying her hands upon his ears, kissed his great
ugly forehead.

"There, good dog, take that to your master," she said.  "Go home."

The dog started up, uttered a low bark, and, as if he understood her
words, made for the door.

"No, no," cried Maude, who repented now that she had gone so far; "come
back, good dog, come back.  What will he think of me?  What shall I do!"

She ran to the door, but the dog had disappeared, and to her horror she
heard the front door open as the carriage wheels stopped at the door.
Trembling with dread she ran to the window and saw that the carriage was
waiting for Lady Barmouth; but what interested her far more was the
sight of Joby trotting across the wide thoroughfare, and evidently
making his way straight off home, where he arrived in due course, and
set to scratching at the door till Charley Melton got up impatiently and
let him in.

"Ah, Joby," he said, carelessly; and then, heedless of the dog--"But
I'll never give her up," he said sharply, as he rose and took an old
pipe from the chimney-piece, which he filled and then sat down.

As he did so, according to custom, Joby laid his head in his master's
hand, Melton pulling the dog's ears, and patting him with one hand,
thinking of something else the while.  His thoughts did not come back,
even when his hand came in contact with the paper which now came off
easily at his touch.

Melton's thoughts were with the writer, and he had a pipe in the other
hand; but his brain suggested to him that he might just as well light
the pipe, incited probably thereto by the touch of the paper which he
began to open out, after putting his meerschaum in his mouth; and he was
then dreamily doubling the note, when his eyes fell upon the characters,
his pipe dropped from his lips and broke upon the floor, as he read with
increasing excitement--

"I am driven to communicate with you like this, for I dare not try to
post a note.  Pray do not think ill of me; I cannot do as I would, and I
am very, very unhappy."

That was all; and Charley Melton read it through again, and then stood
looking puzzled, as if he could not comprehend how he came by the
letter.

"Why, Joby must have stayed behind to-day," he cried, "and--yes--no--of
course--here are the silken threads attached to his collar, and--and--
oh, you jolly old brute!  I'll never repent of giving twenty pounds for
you again."

He patted Joby until the caresses grew too forcible to be pleasant, and
the dog slipped under his master's chair, while the note was read over
and over again, and then carefully placed in a pocket-book and
transferred to the owner's breast--a serious proceeding with a comic
side.

"No, my darling," he said, "I won't think ill of you; and as for you, my
dear Lady Barmouth, all stratagems are good in love and war.  You have
thrown down the glove in casting me off in this cool and insolent
manner; I have taken it up.  If I cannot win her by fair means, I must
by foul."

He walked up and down the room for a few minutes in a state of intense
excitement.

"I can't help the past," he said, half aloud.  "I cannot help what I am,
but win her I must.  I feel now as if I can stop at nothing to gain my
ends, and here is the way open at all events for a time.  Joby, you are
going to prove your master's best friend."



CHAPTER SEVEN.

DOWN BELOW.

"If I had my way," said Mr Robbins, "I'd give orders to the poliss, and
every one of 'em should be took up.  They're so fond of turning handles
that I'd put 'em on the crank.  I'd make 'em grind."

"You have not the taste for the music, M'sieur Robbins," said
Mademoiselle Justine, looking up from her plate at dinner in the
servants' hall, and then glancing side wise at Dolly Preen, who was
cutting her waxy potato up very small and soaking it in gravy, as she
bent down so as not to show her burning face.

"Haven't I, ma'amselle?  P'r'aps not; but I had a brother who could
a'most make a fiddle speak.  I don't call organs music, and I object on
principle to a set of lazy ronies being encouraged about our house."

Dolly's face grew more scarlet, and Mademoiselle Justine's mouth more
tight as a couple of curious little curves played about the corners of
her lips.

"Well, all I can say," said the cook, "is, that he's a very handsome
man."

"Handsome!" exclaimed Robbins, "I don't call a man handsome as can't
shave, and never cuts his greasy hair.  Handsome!  Yah, a low,
macaroni-eating, lazy rony, that's what he is.  There's heaps of 'em
always walking about outside the furren church doors, I've seen 'em
myself."

"But some of 'em's exiles, Mr Robbins," said the stout, amiable-looking
cook.  "I have 'eared as some on 'em's princes in disguise."

"My faith!" ejaculated Mademoiselle Justine, sardonically.

"Yes, ma'amselle, I ayve," said cook, defiantly, "I don't mean Frenchy
exiles, with their coats buttoned up to their chins in Leicester Square,
because they ain't got no washing to put out, but Hightalian exiles."

"Bah!" ejaculated Mademoiselle Justine, "that for you!  What know you?"
and she snapped her fingers.

"Pr'aps a deal more than some people thinks, and I don't like to sit
still and hear poor people sneered at because they are reduced to
music."

"But I don't call that music," said Robbins, contemptuously.

"Don't you, Mr Robbins?--then I do."

At this stage of the proceedings Dolly could bear her feelings no more,
but got up and left the hall to ascend the back stairs to her own room,
and sit down in a corner, and cover her face with her natty apron.

"Pore gell," exclaimed the cook.  "It's too bad."

"What is too bad, Madame Downes?" said Mademoiselle Framboise.

"To go on like that before the pore thing.  She can't help it."

"Bah!" ejaculated the French maid, "it is disgust.  An organ man!  The
child is _affreusement stupide_."

"I have a heart of my own," sighed the cook.

"Yais, but you do not go to throw it to a man like that, Madame Downes."

"Hear, hear!" said the butler, and there was a chorus of approval.

"I say it is disgust--disgrace," continued Mademoiselle Justine.  "The
girl is mad, and should be sent home to the _bon_ papa down in the
country."

"I have a heart of my own," said Mrs Downes again.  "Ah, you needn't
laugh, Mary Ann.  Some people likes footmen next door."

The housemaid addressed tossed her head and exclaimed, "Well, I'm sure!"

"And so am I," replied the cook, regardless of the sneers and smiles of
the rest of the domestics at the table.  "As I said before, I have a
heart of my own, and if some people follow the example of their
betters,"--here Mrs Downes stared very hard at the contemptuous
countenance of the French maid,--"and like the furren element, it's no
business of nobody's."

Madame Justine's eyes flashed.

"Did you make that saying for me, Madame Downes?" she flashed out
viciously.

"Sayings ain't puddens," retorted cook.

"I say, make you that vairy witty jeer for me?" cried Mademoiselle
Justine viciously.

"What I say is," continued the cook, who, having a blunter tongue, stood
on her defence, but heaping up dull verbiage round her position as a
guard against the Frenchwoman's sharp attack, "that a man's a man, and
if he's a furrener it ain't no fault of his.  I should say he's a count
at least, and he's very handsome."

"Counts don't count in this country," said Robbins smiling, and waiting
for the applause of the table.

"Count indeed!" cried Mademoiselle Justine.  "Count you the fork and
spoons, Mr Robbins, and see that these canaille music men come not down
the air--_ree_.  As for that green-goose girl Preen--Bah! she is a
little shild for her mamma to vip and send to bed wizout her
soop--_paire_.  Madame Downes, you are a vairy foolish woman."

Mademoiselle Justine rose from her seat, and made a movement as if to
push back a chair; but she had been seated upon a form which
accommodated half a dozen more domestics, and in consequence she had to
climb out and glide toward the door, through which she passed with a
rustle like that of a cloud of dead leaves swept into a barn.

"You've put ma'amselle out, Mrs Downes," said Robbins with
condescension.

"That's easy enough done, Mr Robbins.  It's her furren blood.  I don't
like young people to be sneered at if they're a bit tender.  I've got a
heart of my own."

"And a very good heart too, Mrs Downes," said the butler.

"Hear, hear," said Joseph the footman.

"Hear, hear, hear, hear, hear!" cried the page-boy, a young gentleman
who lived in a constant state of suppression, and consequently in his
youthful vivacity was always seeking an opportunity to come to the
surface.  This appeared to him to be one.  His chief had paid a
compliment which had been cheered by the said chief's first-lieutenant
Joseph, so Henry, the bearer of three rows of buttons, every one of
which he longed to annex for purposes of play, cried "hear, hear, hear,"
as the footman's echo, and rapped loudly upon the table with the haft of
his knife.

A dead silence fell upon the occupants of the servants' hall, and Henry
longed to take flight; but the butler fixed him as the Ancient Mariner
did the wedding guest, and held him with his glittering eye.

"There, I knowed you'd do it," whispered the footman.  "You're always up
to some of your manoeuvres."

"Henry," said the butler in his most severe tones, and with the look
upon his countenance that he generally reserved for Lord Barmouth, "I
don't know where you were brought up, my good boy, and I don't want to
know, but have the goodness to recollect that you are now in a
nobleman's service, where, as there is no regular steward's room for the
upper servants, you are allowed to take your meals with your superiors.
I have before had occasion to complain of your behaviour, eating with
your knife, breathing all over your plate, and sniffing at the table in
a most disgusting way."

"Hear, hear," said Joseph in a low voice, and the boy thought it
additionally hard that he was to be chidden while his fellow-servant in
livery went free.

Mr Robbins bowed his head graciously to his underling's softly-breathed
piece of adulation, and continued--

"Once for all, my good boy, I must request that if you do not wish to be
sent into the knife place to partake of your meals, you will cease your
low pothouse conduct, and behave yourself properly."

The butler turned away with a dignified air, while Henry screwed up his
face as if about to cry, bent down his head, and began to kick the
footman's legs under the table--a playful piece of impudence that the
lofty servitor did not resent, Master Henry the buttons knowing too much
of things in general appertaining to the pantry; sundry stealings out at
night when other people were in bed, and when returns were made through
the area door, and from good fellowship, for though there was a vast
difference in years and size, Joseph's brain was of much the same
calibre as that of the boy.

"Mrs Downes," said the butler, after clearing his voice with a good
cough, "your sentiments do you credit.  You have a heart of your own,
and what is more, you are English."

"I am, Mr Robbins, I am," said the lady addressed, and she wiped her
eyes.

"Furreners are furreners," continued the butler didactically; "but what
I always will maintain is, that the English are so thoroughly English."

There was a murmur of applause here which warmed the imposing-looking
butler's heart, and he continued--

"Your sentiments do you the greatest of credit, Mrs Downes; but you are
too tender."

"I can't help it, Mr Robbins," said the lady pathetically.

"And I'm sure no one wishes that you should, Mrs Downes, for I say it
boldly so that all may hear,--except the two lady's maids who have left
the hall,--that a better cook, and a kinder fellow-servant never came
into a house."

Another murmur of applause, and the cook sighed, shed two more tears,
and felt, to use her own words, afterward expressed, "all of a fluster."

"Mr Robbins," she began.

"I beg your pardon, madam, I have not finished," said the butler,
smiling.  "I only wished to observe, and I must say it even if I give
offence to your delicate susceptibilities, madam, that that furren
papist fellow with the organ haunts Portland Place like a regular demon,
smiling at weak woman, and taking of her captive, when it's well known
what lives the poor creatures live out Saffron Hill way.  I should feel
as I was not doing my duty toward my fellow creatures if I didn't
protest against such a man having any encouragement here."

"Hear, hear," said the footman again.

"Some impudent person once observed," continued the butler, "that when a
footman married he took a room in a mews for his wife, and furnished it
with a tub and a looking-glass."

"Haw, haw, haw!" laughed the buttons.

"Henry, be silent, or you will have to leave the room," said the butler,
sternly.  "A tub and a looking-glass, I repeat," he added, as he looked
round, "so that his wife might try to get her living by washing, and see
herself starve."

A murmur of approval rose here from every one but the footman, who
looked aggrieved, and kicked Henry beneath the table.

"But what I say is this," continued the butler, "the pore girl who lets
herself be deluded into marrying one of those lazy rony organ men may
have the looking-glass, for Italians is a vain nation; but from what I
know of 'em, the pore wives will never have the tub, let alone the
soap."

The butler smiled, and there was a burst of laughter, which ceased as
the cook took up the defence.

"Maybe," she said, "but what I say is this, as I've said before, I can
feel for a woman in love, for I have a heart of my own."

It was self-evident, for that heart was thoroughly doing its work of
pumping the vital current so energetically, that the blood flushed the
lady's cheeks, rose into her forehead, and was beginning to suffuse her
eyes, which looked angry, when a loud peal at the front door bell acted
as a check to the discussion, Joseph going off to answer the summons as
all arose, and the butler, to finish the debate, exclaimed--

"Mark my words, no good won't come of it if that man's allowed to haunt
this house, and--Well, of all the impudence! there he is again.  I shall
have to call her ladyship's attention to the fact."

For Luigi was slowly grinding out the last new waltz, and it had such an
effect on the more frivolous of the hired servants, that as soon as
their elders had quitted the underground banquetting hall, two of them
clasped each other, and began to spin round the place, proving that
music had charms as well as the man.



CHAPTER EIGHT.

FAMILY MATTERS.

Charley Melton made up his mind that he would behave honourably, and he
called several times more at Portland Place, till it became evident that
there was no prospect of his being admitted.  He saw the carriage twice
in the Park, and bowed, to obtain a cold recognition from her ladyship
the first time, the cut direct from her the second time, and an agonised
look from Maude.

"That's the second time this week," he muttered angrily; "I must end
this."  He stopped short, leaning over the rails and watching the
carriage as it was pulled up, and a fashionably-dressed gentleman went
to the door and stood talking for some considerable time.

"My rival, I suppose.  Sir Grantley Wilters, then, is to be the happy
man?  Here, come along, Joby, it is time to take to stratagem.  I wonder
what has become of Tom?"

The next day a special message was sent to that medical attendant,
Doctor Todd, Lady Barmouth imploring him to come directly, as Maude was
so ill that she was growing uneasy.

"Humph!" said the doctor, "poor girl.  But she must wait her turn."

He hurried through his interviews with his regular patients, and reached
Portland Place just as lunch was going in; but it was put back while
Lady Barmouth took him into the drawing-room, where Maude was seated.

"Ah, my dear!" he exclaimed, in his cheery way.  "Why, I say, what's the
matter?"

He sat talking to her for some little time, wrote a prescription, and
then rose.

"There, Lady Barmouth," he said; "that is all I can do.  Give her change
_and_ peace of mind, and she will soon be well."

"Indeed, doctor," cried her ladyship, "she shall have everything she can
wish for.  As to peace of mind, why what is there to disturb it?  It is
our peace of mind that suffers.  Poor Sir Grantley Wilters is half
distracted about her."

"Is he?" said the doctor, bluntly.  "Why, what has it got to do with
him?"

"Hush, doctor!  Fie!" exclaimed her ladyship, smiling.  "There, you are
making somebody blush.  It is too bad."

Maude darted an indignant glance at her mother, and with flaming cheeks
and eyes full of tears left the room.

"Poor girl, she is so hysterical," said her ladyship.  "Ah, these young
girls, these young girls!  Of course you will stay lunch, doctor?"

"Yes," he said shortly, "I intended to.  I'm precious hungry, and you've
put me out of my usual course."

"I'm so sorry," said her ladyship; "but it was very good of you to
come," as the door opened and the earl came toddling into the room.

"Ah, doctor," he said, "doosed glad to see you.  Did you hear my leg was
threatening again?"

"No," said the doctor, shaking hands.  "We must have a consultation."

"And forbid so many good things, doctor," said her ladyship, with
asperity.

"But, my dear, I--I--I'm pretty nearly starved; it's poverty of blood,
I'm sure."

"Well, come and have a good lunch," said the doctor.  "I'll see that you
have nothing to disagree with you."

"Thank you, doctor, thank you," said the old gentleman, as the gong
began to sound and they went down, Tryphie and Tom coming out of another
room--Maude joining them, looking now quite composed.

"I remember when I was a boy," said Lord Barmouth, suddenly.

"Yes, my love," said her ladyship, stiffly; "but you've told us that
before."

"Have I, my dear?" said his lordship, looking troubled, and then there
was a little pause.

"I may have a glass of hock, may I not, doctor?" said the old man, as
the luncheon went on.

"Eh?  Yes.--I say, what's your name, bring me the hock, some seltzer and
a glass," said the doctor to Robbins.  "Yes, my dear," he continued to
Tryphie, "I would rather any day go to the Tyrol than along the beaten
track through the Alps."

The butler brought the hock and seltzer, and a large tumbler, into which
such a liberal portion of wine was poured that Lady Barmouth looked
horrified, and the old gentleman chuckled and squeezed Maude's hand
under the table.

"Is not that too much, doctor?" whispered her ladyship.

"Eh?  Much? oh no.  Do him good," said the doctor, filling up the glass
with seltzer.  "There, take that to his lordship."

"I say, father," said Tom, giving her ladyship a mocking smile, "I
watched the quantities.  I'll mix your hock for you in future."

The luncheon went on, the doctor chatting merrily, while his lordship
became, under the influence of so strong a dose of medicine, quite
garrulous.

"I say, doctor," he said, chuckling, "did--did you hear that deuced good
story about Lady Grace Moray?"

"No," said the doctor; "what was it?"

"Capital story, and quite true--he he, he!" chuckled the old gentleman.
"She--she--she--begad, she was disappointed of one fellow, and--and--
and, damme if she didn't run off with the butler."

"Barmouth!" exclaimed her ladyship, austerely, "I am glad that the
servants are not in the room."

"It's--it's--it's a fact, my dear," said the old gentleman, wiping his
eyes.  "Bolted with him, she did, and--and--and, damme, I forget how it
all ended.  I say, Tom, my boy, how--how--how the doose did that affair
end?"

"Got married and made a fool of herself," said Tom sharply.

"Do people always make fools of themselves who marry, Tom?" said Tryphie
in a low voice.

"Always," he whispered back, "if they marry people chosen for them in
place of those they love."

"I must request, Barmouth, my dear, that you do not tell such stories as
that.  They are loathsome and repulsive.  Lady Grace Moray comes of a
very low type of family.  Her grandfather married a butterman's
daughter, or something of that kind.  They have no breeding."

"I--I--I think I left my handkerchief in the drawing-room," said his
lordship, rising.

"Why not ring, my love?" said her ladyship.

"No, no, no, I would rather fetch it myself," said his lordship, who
left the room, went up two or three stairs, stopped, listened, and then
toddled back to where, on a tray, the remains of a tongue stood in
company with an empty vegetable dish or two.

There was a great piece, too, of the point quite six inches long lying
detached, for the doctor's arm was vigorous, and he had cut the tongue
quite through.  Such a chance was not offered every day, and it would
not only make a couple or three pleasant snacks when his lordship was
hungry, but it would keep.

He listened: all was still, and, cautiously advancing, he secured the
piece of dry firm tongue.  Then he started as if electrified.  Robbins'
cough was heard on the stairs, and his lordship dabbed the delicacy away
in the handiest place, and turned towards the door as the butler
appeared in the hall.

"What game's he up to now?" said Robbins to himself, as, with his memory
reminding him of the trouble he had had to sponge and brush the tails of
the old gentleman's dress coats, which used to be found matted with
gummy gravies and sauces, so that the pocket linings had had to be
several times replaced, he opened the dining-room door.

"I--I--I think I left my handkerchief upstairs Robbins," said his
lordship humbly; and he toddled in again and retook his place.

The luncheon ended, the party rose and stood chatting about the room,
while the doctor was in earnest conversation with Maude and her
ladyship.

"Nothing at all," he said firmly, "but low spirits from mental causes,
and these are matters for which mothers and fathers must prescribe."

"It's--it's--doosed hard to be so short of money," said his lordship to
himself as he was left alone; and then thinking of the tongue, he tried
to get to the door, but a look from her ladyship sent him back.  "It's--
it's--doosed hard.  I shall have to go to little Tryphie again.  He, he,
he! her ladyship don't know," he chuckled, "I've--I've left her five
thousand in my will, bless her.  I wish she'd buy me some more Bath
buns."

He crossed to where the bright little girl was standing, and she
advanced to him directly.

"Can you lend me another five shillings, Tryphie?" he whispered.

"Yes, uncle," she replied, nodding and smiling.  "I'll get it and put it
under the china dog on the right hand cabinet."

"That's right, my dear; it's--it's--it's so doosed awkward to be so
short, and I don't like to ask her ladyship."

"Well, I must go," said the doctor loudly.  "Good-bye all.  Good-bye, my
dear," he continued to Maude.  Then he pinched Tryphie's cheek, shook
hands with the old man and was gone.

"So clever," sighed her ladyship, "that we look over his rough,
eccentric ways.  I believe that I should not have been here now if it
had not been for his skill."

"Then damn the doctor," said Tom to himself, for he was in a very
unfilial mood.

"Oh, by the way," said the gentleman spoken of, as he came hurriedly
back, sending the door open so that it banged upon a chair, "Lady Maude,
my dear, you are only to take that medicine when you feel low."

As he spoke he hitched on his light overcoat that he had partly donned
in the hall, and then, fishing in one of the pockets for his gloves, he
brought out a piece of tongue.

"Oh, bless my soul!" muttered his lordship; and he toddled towards the
window.

"What the dickens is this?" cried the doctor, holding out his find, and
putting up his double eye-glass.  "Tongue, by jingo!  Is this one of
your tricks, my Lord Tom?"

"No," roared Tom, as he burst out laughing, and followed his father to
the window, where the old gentleman was nervously gazing forth.

"I'm so sorry," said her ladyship, quivering with indignation.  "It must
have been one of the servants, or the cat."

"Well," said the doctor, solemnly, "I'll swear I didn't steal it.  I
might perhaps have pocketed something good, but I hadn't got this coat
on."

"Pray say no more, doctor," said her ladyship.  "Robbins, bring a plate
and take this away."

"Yes, my lady," said the butler, who was waiting in the hall to show the
doctor out; and he made matters worse by advancing with a stately march,
taking a plate and silver fork from the sideboard, removed the piece of
tongue from the doctor's fingers with the fork; and then deftly
thrusting it off with his thumb on to the plate, he marched out with it,
the ladies all bursting into busy conversation to cover his retreat.

Then the doctor went, and a general ascent towards the drawing-room was
commenced, his lordship hanging back, and Tom stopping to try and avert
the storm.

"Such idiotic--such disgraceful proceedings, Barmouth," exclaimed her
ladyship, closing the dining-room door.

"There, that will do, mother," said Tom, quietly.  "Lookers-on see most
of the game."

"What do you mean, sir?" said her ladyship.

"Why this," said Tom, savagely.  "There, don't faint; because if you do
I shan't stop and attend you."

"If I only dared to face her like my son Tom," said his lordship to
himself; "damme, he's as brave as a little lion, my son Tom."

"Sir, your language is most disgraceful," said her ladyship, haughtily.

"That's what all people think when something is said that they don't
like.  Now look here, mother; I don't mean to stand by any more and see
the old man bullied."

"Bless him, I am proud of that boy," thought his lordship.  "Damme, he's
little, but he's a man."

"Diphoos!" cried her ladyship.

"I don't say it was not stupid of the gov'nor to go and take that piece
of tongue, and put it in the wrong pocket."

"But, my dear boy, I--"

"Hold your tongue, gov'nor," cried Tom.  "It was stupid and idiotic of
him perhaps, but not one half so stupid and idiotic as some things I see
done here."

"Tom, I do not know what you mean," cried her ladyship.

"Well, I mean this.  It was idiotic to marry Di to liver-pill Goole, as
they call him; and ten times more idiotic to encourage that racing cad,
Captain Bellman, here; while it was madness to cut Charley Melton
adrift, and try to bring things to an understanding between Maude and
that hospital dummy, Wilters."

"Your language, sir, is frightful," cried her ladyship, whose voice was
rising in spite of herself.  "Hospital dummy!"

"So he is; I could drive my fist right through his tottering carcase.
He's only fit to stuff and put in a glass case as a warning to young
men."

"I wish--I wish--I wish I could pat him on the back," muttered Lord
Barmouth.  "He's brave as a lion."

"Sir Grantley Wilters has my consent to pay his addresses to your
sister," said her ladyship with dignity; "and as for your disgusting
remarks about Captain Bellman, he comes here with my consent to see your
cousin Tryphie, for whom he will be an excellent _parti_."

"_Parti_--funeral party.  An excellent corpse," cried Tom in a rage,
"for, damme, I'll shoot him on his wedding morning before he shall have
her."

"You will have to leave home, sir, and live in chambers," said her
ladyship.  "You grow too low for society."

"What, and let you have your own way here, mother!  No, hang it, that
you shan't.  You may stop my allowance, but I stop here; so don't look
blank, dad."

"Don't speak angrily to your mamma, my dear boy," said Lord Barmouth.

"All right, gov'nor."

"As to your friend and companion, whom you brought to this house, and
who pretended, like an impostor as he is, to have good expectations--"

"He never did anything of the kind," said Tom.  "He always said he
hadn't a rap."

"Such a person ought never to have been brought near your sweet,
pure-minded sisters," continued her ladyship; "I found out that he was
an impostor, and now I hear that he gambles and is in debt."

"Who told you that?" roared Tom.

"Never mind."

"But I insist on knowing."

"Hush, hush, my boy," said his lordship, twitching Tom's coat.

"Be quiet, gov'nor.  Who told you that, mamma?" cried Tom.

"I heard it from good authority," said her ladyship as Lord Barmouth
beat a retreat.

"Then good authority is a confounded liar," cried Tom, as her ladyship
sailed out of the room, and after he had cooled down a little and looked
round, he found his lordship had gone.

Tom went into the cloak-room, where he came upon his father sitting on a
box, busily spreading a biscuit with some mysterious condiment which he
dug out of a pot with a paper-knife.

"Poor old Charley," said Tom, not heeding his father's occupation, "he's
the soul of honour--a regular trump.  Look here, gov'nor," he cried,
turning sharply on the old gentleman and making him jump.

"Don't you bully me too, my dear boy," said the old man, trembling.  "I
can't bear it!"

"I'm not going to bully you, gov'nor," cried Tom, laying his hands on
the old man's shoulders affectionately; "but are you going to stand up
for your rights or are you not?  Look here--that tongue!"

"Yes, my boy, I did take it--I own it.  I thought I might be hungry
to-morrow, I have such a dreadful appetite, my boy."

"Then why not ring and order that pompous old fizzle Robbins to bring
you up something to eat?"

"I daren't, my dear boy, I daren't.  Her ladyship has given such strict
orders to the servants, and I feel so humiliated when they refuse me."

"Of course you do, gov'nor.  Then why don't you go down to the club?"

"I can't Tom, my boy.  There's no credit there, and her ladyship keeps
me so horribly short of money."

"It's too bad; but come, gov'nor.  I'm not afraid of mamma, and I'm not
nearly so big as you are."

"But, my boy," whimpered the old man? with a piteous look upon his face,
"I look bigger than I am, but it isn't all real: there's a deal of
padding, Tom, and that's no good.  That tailor fellow said I must have a
lot of filling out."

He drew out his pocket-handkerchief to wipe away a weak tear, while Tom
looked at him, half sorry, half amused, laughing at length outright as
the poor old man smeared something brown and sticky across his face.

"Why, gov'nor!" he cried reproachfully, as something round and brown and
flat fell upon the carpet.

"It's only a veal cutlet, my son," said the old man, piteously, as he
stooped and picked it up before wiping his face.  "You see I didn't know
then that I should get the piece of tongue."

"Oh, gov'nor, gov'nor!" cried Tom.

"Don't scold me, my dear boy," pleaded the old man.  "I am so padded
out.  There's much less of me when my coat's off.  But I'm nothing to
what your dear mamma is.  Really the way she makes up is a gross
imposture.  If you only knew what I know, Tom, you'd be astonished."

"I know quite enough," growled Tom, "and wouldn't care if she were not
so false inside."

"Don't say that, Tom, my boy.  She's a wonderful woman, and means all
for the best."

"But, my dear old gov'nor," said Tom, "this is all so very weak of you."

"Well, it is, my boy."

"You must pluck up, or we shall be ruined," continued Tom, taking up a
napkin and removing a little tomato sauce from his parent's brow.

"No, my boy--no, my boy, don't say that; but I can't bear to ask her
ladyship for money.  It does make her so cross."

"It isn't pleasant," said Tom; "but there, you go up in the
drawing-room, and watch over Maude like a lion; I don't want to see her
made miserable."

"I will, Tom, my boy, I will."

"And I say, gov'nor, you will stick up?"

"Yes, Tom, my boy, yes," said the old man.  "There, you shall see.
Going out?"

"Yes, gov'nor, I want to hunt out Charley Melton.  I haven't see him for
an age.  He's always away somewhere."

"Give my kind regards, Tom.  He's a fine fellow--Damme, I like Charley.
But I'm afraid he thinks me very weak."

"Nonsense, dad," cried Tom; "but, I say, what's that in your pocket?"

"Oh, nothing, my son, nothing," said the old man, in a confused way, as
Tom pounced upon his pocket and dragged out something in a handkerchief.
"Why bless my soul," he cried, in a surprised tone of voice, as he
raised his glasses to his eyes, "if it isn't a patty."

"Yes, gov'nor, and you've been sitting on it.  Now, I say, old fellow,
that is weak.  Pah! why it smells of eau-de-Cologne from your
handkerchief.  You couldn't eat that."

"I'm afraid I couldn't, my dear boy," said the old gentleman, wrinkling
up his forehead.

"Gov'nor, you're incorrigible," cried Tom.  "Only this morning Joseph
told me in confidence that you had borrowed five shillings of him, and I
had to give it him back, leaving myself without a shilling.  Hang me, if
you do such things as this again, if I don't tell the old lady."

"No, no, my boy, pray don't," said the old gentleman, anxiously, "and
I'll never do so any more."

"Till the very next time," said Tom, sharply.  "Gov'nor, you're afraid
of the servants, and you are always stealing something."

"I--I--I am a little afraid of Robbins," faltered the old man gently;
"and that big footman Joseph rather looks at me; but, Tom, my boy, it
ought not to be stealing for me to take my own things."

"Well, I suppose not, gov'nor; but it really is absurd to see you send a
chicken bone flying across a drawing-room when you take out your
handkerchief and your coat-tails stiff with gravy."

"It is, my son," said the old man, hastily; "but about Charley Melton.
I like him, Tom."

"And so do I, father.--He's my friend, and I'll stick to him too."

He said the latter words in the hall, as he put on his hat and took his
cane, paused to light a very strong cigar of the kind her ladyship
detested to smell in the house, and then, with his hat cocked defiantly
on one side, sallied out, looking so small in Great Portland Place that
he seemed lost.

As the door closed upon him, Lord Barmouth came out of the lavatory, and
met Robbins the butler and a footman coming to clear away the lunch
things.

Lord Barmouth looked up and down, and then took the pompous butler by
the button.

"Robbins," he said, "if her ladyship does not object, I shall not wear
my second dress suit any more."

"Thank you, my lord," said the butler with solemn dignity.

"And, Robbins," added his lordship, in a hurried whisper, "what did you
do with that piece of tongue?"

"Took it down into the kitchen, my lord."

"Ask Mrs Downes to give it back to you, Robbins--for me."

"Yes, my lord."

"Wrap it up in paper, Robbins."

"Yes, my lord."

"And by the way, Robbins," continued the old gentleman, after a sharp
look round, like a sparrow in fear of cats, "could you oblige me with
five pounds?"

"Well really, my lord--you see you owe me--"

"Sixty-five, Robbins."

"And interest, my lord."

"Of course, Robbins, of course; and you shall have it all back; but you
see, Robbins, it is not always easy to lay one's hands on a few pounds
to give to my son.  You know it is quite safe."

"Oh, of course, my lord."

"I don't like to be so situated that I cannot oblige him with a
sovereign now and then."

"Of course not, my lord.  Will your lordship be good enough to write me
an I.O.U.?"

"Certainly, Robbins, certainly.  There--there--that's it.  I.O.U. five
pounds--Barmouth.  Thank you, Robbins; you are a most valuable servant."

"Thank you, my lord."

"I've put you down for something handsome in my will, Robbins, so that
if I should die some day, as I probably shall, you'll burn these
I.O.U.s, Robbins, and pay yourself out of what I've left."

"Certainly, my lord; but suppose--"

"The will is disputed?  Oh no, Robbins, I can do what I like with my
money then, and I shall not be ungrateful."

The old man took the five pounds and went off, chuckling with delight at
being able to supply Tom with a little hard cash next time that
gentleman was short, which would be next day; while the butler said
something to himself which sounded like--

"Poor old magpie.  Well, he ain't a bad sort, and that's more than you
can say of the dragon."



CHAPTER NINE.

LOVE ME, LOVE MY DOG.

There was gravel to be ground in Hyde Park, but Lady Maude declined to
assist in the operation, pleading a bad headache; so Lady Barmouth took
her carriage exercise alone, while his lordship watched till the
barouche had gone, when he went up and sat by his child in the
drawing-room, and talked to her for a time, ending by selecting a
comfortable chair and going off fast asleep.

He had not been unconscious five minutes before Maude heard a bit of a
disturbance, and directly after there was a scratching at the
drawing-room door.

She started and listened, with the colour coming and going in her
cheeks, when the scratching was repeated, and on her opening the door
Joby trotted in, looked at her, gave his tail a wag to the right and a
wag to the left.  When, catching sight of Lord Barmouth, his canine
nature got the better of him, and trotting up to the easy-chair, he
sniffed two or three times at his lordship's pocket, ending by laying
his massive jowl upon the old man's knee.

Maude trembled as she watched the dog, and her face was flaming, but she
dared not move.

The old gentleman half woke up, and realised the fact of the dog being
there, for he put out his thin white hand, and patted the great head,
and rubbed Joby's ears, muttering softly, "Good dog, then; poor old
fellow," and then went off fast asleep.

Joby pushed his head a little farther up, and then had another sniff at
the pocket.  After this, giving his lordship up for a bad job, or roused
to a sense of duty, he trotted over to Maude, laid his head in her lap,
and stared up at her with his great eyes.

It seemed a shame to be so lavish of such sweet kisses, and on a dog's
forehead; but all the same Maude bestowed them there, and the ugly brute
blinked and snuffled and whined softly.  Suddenly a thought seemed to
strike Maude though, and her little fingers began to busy themselves
about the dog's collar, to tremble visibly, and at last with a faint cry
of joy she detached a note folded in a very small compass, and fitted in
a little packet of leather the colour of the dog's skin.

Trembling with eagerness she was about to open it, when the door was
opened, and Robbins entered to announce--

"Sir Grantley Wilters."

Maude turned from crimson to white, and Joby crept slowly under the
couch, resenting an offer made by the butler to drive him out by such a
display of white teeth that the pompous domestic said to himself that
the dog might stay as long as he liked, for it wasn't his place to
interfere.

Sir Grantley's costume was faultless, for he was a fortune to his
tradespeople--the tightest of coats and gloves, the shiniest of boots,
and the choicest of "button-holes," displayed in a tiny glass of water
pinned in the fold of his coat, as he came in, hat and cane in one hand,
and a little toy terrier in the other--one of those unpleasantly
diminutive creatures whose legs seem as if they are not safe, and whose
foreheads and eyes indicate water on the brain.

"Ah, Lady Maude.  Delighted to find you alone," said the baronet,
advancing and extinguishing the dog with his hat, so as to leave his
tightly-gloved hand free to salute the lady.

"I am not alone," said Maude quietly, and she pointed to his lordship's
chair.

"No: to be sure.  Asleep!  Well, I really thought you were alone, don't
you know."

"Papa often comes and sits with me now," said Maude, quietly.

"Very charming of him, very," said Sir Grantley.  "Quite well?"

"Except a headache," said Maude.

"Sorry--very," said the baronet, hunting for his glass, which was now
hanging between his shoulders.  "Bad things headaches, very.  Should go
for a walk."

"I preferred staying at home this afternoon," said Maude.

"Did you, though!  Ah!" said Sir Grantley.  "Sorry about the headache.
Always take brandy and soda for headache I do, don't you know.  By the
way, Lady Maude," he continued, taking his hat off the little dog as if
he were performing a conjuring trick, "I bought this beautiful little
creechaw in Regent Street just now.  Will you accept it from me?"

"Oh, thank you, no," said Maude.  "I'm sure mamma would not approve of
my accepting such a present."

"Oh, yes, I asked her yesterday, don't you know, and she said you'd be
most happy.  Very nice specimen, not often found so small.  May I set it
down?"

"Oh, certainly," said Maude, colouring with annoyance; and evidently
very glad to get rid of the little animal, the baronet set it down and
it began to make a tour of the room.

"Don't be nervous about accepting presents from me," said Sir Grantley,
"because I shall bring you a great many."

"I beg you will not, Sir Grantley," said Maude, flushing.  "You must
really by now be quite sure that such attentions are distasteful to me."

"Not used to them, you know," said the baronet smiling; "but I have her
ladyship's full permission, and we shall understand each other in time.
Old gentleman sleeps well."

"Papa is getting old, and his health is feeble," said Maude, rather
indignantly.

"Yes, very," said the baronet.--"I don't want to be a bore, but I've
said so little to you about our future."

"Our future?"

"Yes; it's all settled.  I proposed down at Hurst, and thought it was
all over; but her ladyship kindly tells me that I may hope."

"Sir Grantley Wilters," cried Maude, rising, "I am not of course
ignorant of what mamma's wishes are, but let me tell you as a gentleman
that this subject is very distasteful to me, and that I can never, never
think otherwise of you than I do now."

"Oh, yes, you will," said Sir Grantley, in a most unruffled manner.
"You are very young, don't you know.  Think differently by and bye.  Bad
job this about poor Melton."

Maude started, and her eyes dilated slightly.

"Thought he was a decent fellow once, but he's regularly going to the
dogs."

"Mr Melton is a friend of mine, Sir Grantley--a very dear friend of
mine," cried Maude, crushing the stiff paper of the note she held in her
hand.

"Say was, my dear Maude," said Sir Grantley, making pokes at the pearl
buttons on his patent leather boots with his walking cane.  "Poor
fellow!  Was all right once, but he's hopelessly gone now."

"I will not believe it," cried Maude indignantly.  "It is cruel and
ungentlemanly of you to try to blacken Mr Melton thus when he is not
present."

"Cruel perhaps, but kind," said Sir Grantley; "ungentlemanly, no."  He
drew himself up slightly, as he spoke.  "Poor beggar, can't help being
poor, you know.  They say--"

"Sir Grantley, I will not believe anything against Mr Melton," cried
Maude with spirit.

"Not till you have proved it, my dear child.  I don't want to pain you,
but I know that the thoughts of Charles Melton have kept you from
listening to me.  Now, my dear Maude, if I were out of the race, you
could not marry a man who is hopelessly in the hands of the Jews.
Couldn't do it, you know; and they do say."

"Sir Grantley Wilters," cried Maude, with her head thrown back, "these
are cruel calumnies.  Mr Charles Melton is a gentleman, and the soul of
honour.  I shall tell him your words."

"I shall be very glad to retract them, and apologise," said the baronet
calmly; and then he busied himself in fixing his glass, for the little
toy terrier had suddenly made a dead set at one end of the couch, where
from beneath the chintz cover there peered out one very large prominent
and peculiar eye, which kept blinking at the terrier in the calmest
manner, its owner never attempting to move in spite of the angry
demonstrations of the newcomer.

At last its demonstrations became so loud that, not seeing the great eye
himself, the baronet rose slowly, drove the terrier into the back
drawing-room and closed the door.

"A little new to the place, don't you know," he said.  "There, I'm going
now; I did not mean to blacken Mr Melton's character, but ask your
brother to inquire.  Sorry for any man to go to the bad.  Gone
regularly.  Good-day."

He took Maude's hand and kissed the tips of her fingers, while she was
too much agitated to resist.  Then backing to the door, he smiled,
kissed his glove, and was gone.

"Oh, this is monstrous!" cried Maude in anguished tones, when she
remembered the note and opened it hastily, to read a few lines full of
manly love and respect; and as she read of her wooer's determination
never to give her up, her heart grew stronger in its faith.

"I knew it was false," she exclaimed, proudly.  "How dare he calumniate
him like that!"

Then going to a writing table, she glanced at her father, saw that he
still slept, and, blushing at her duplicity, she wrote a note, folded it
so that it would go in the tiny leather pocket, and in a low voice
called the dog.

Joby came out directly, and laid his great head in her lap, while the
note was securely placed in its receptacle.

"Now go to your master, good dog," she cried, kissing him once more, and
at the word "master" Joby started to the door and looked back, when
Maude followed and opened it.  The dog trotted downstairs and settled
himself under the porter's chair in the hall till the door was opened.
Then he trotted off to his master's chambers.

Meanwhile, as soon as she had despatched her messenger, Maude seated
herself upon the carpet by her father, and laid her cheek against his
hand.

He opened his eyes directly, saw who it was, and laid his other hand
upon her head.

"Ah, Maude, my pet," he said.  "I have, been sitting here with my eyes
closed."

"Yes, papa.  Did you hear what Sir Grantley Wilters said?"

"No, my child.  Has--has--he been here?"

"Yes, dear."

"Then I suppose I must have been quite asleep."

"Yes, papa--for quite an hour.--Papa, dear."

"Yes, my love."

"I cannot rest happy with any secret from you," said the girl, with
averted head, and her cheeks burning for shame at the clandestine
correspondence she was carrying on.

"That's right, my darling," said the old man, patting the soft fair hair
and smoothing it over her forehead.

"Papa, dear," she continued, after a long pause, during which she fought
hard to nerve herself for what she had to say.

"Yes, my child.  There, you're not afraid of me."

"Oh, no, dear," she cried, drawing his arm around her neck, and holding
his hand with both hers to her throbbing bosom.  "Papa, I'm afraid--"

"Afraid, my dear?"

"Afraid that I love Mr Melton very dearly."

She hid her face upon the withered old hand, and the burning blood
crimsoned her soft white neck at this avowal.

"Well--well--well!  He--he--he!" chuckled the old man.  "I--I--I don't
see anything so very shocking in that, Maude.  Charley Melton is a
doosed fine fellow, and I like him very much indeed."

"Oh, papa, papa," cried Maude joyfully; and she turned, flung her arms
round his neck, and hid her face in his bosom.

"Yes, Maude," he continued.  "He's a gentleman, and a man of honour,
though he's poor like the rest of us."

"Thank God--thank God!" murmured Maude, as the words made her heart
throb with joy.

"His father was a gentleman too and a man of honour, though a bit wild.
He was my junior at Eton.  I like Charley Melton, and though I should
hate the man who tried to rob me of my little pet here, I don't think I
should be very hard on him."

"Yap--yap--yap!" came from the back drawing-room, and the old gentleman
looked inquiringly at his child.

"It is a pet dog," she said contemptuously, "that Sir Grantley Wilters
has brought as a present for me."

"Don't have it, my dear," said the old gentleman, eagerly.  "I wouldn't.
He's a miserable screw of a fellow, that Wilters.  I don't like him,
and her ladyship's always trying to bring him forward.  She'll be
wanting to make him marry you next."

"Didn't you know, papa?" cried Maude.

"Know, my darling?  Know what?"

"He has proposed to mamma for my hand."

"Then--then--then," cried the old man, indignantly, "he--he--he shan't
have it.  If my Maude is to be nurse to any man, she shall be nurse to
me.  He--he don't want a wife."

The old man shook his head angrily, and then patted and caressed the
fair young girl who clung to him for protection.  What his protection
was worth he showed when a carriage stopped at the door, and her
ladyship's trumpet tones were heard soon after on the stairs.

"Maude, my darling," he said, "here's her ladyship.  I--I think I'll
slip off this way down to my study."

He went out by one door, timing himself carefully, as her ladyship came
in at the other, and began praising the "lovely" little pet dog which
Sir Grantley had left, to which the little brute replied by snapping at
her fiercely as she approached her hand.

All the same though it had to make friends with her ladyship, who
adopted it from the next day, Maude stubbornly refusing to have anything
to do with the black and tan specimen of the canine race wrought by the
"fancy" in filigree.



CHAPTER TEN.

LOVE'S MESSENGERS.

"How a young lady as calls herself a young lady can bemean herself by
making a pet of a low-bred, ill-looking dog like that, I can't think,"
said Mr Robbins, laying himself out for a speech in the servants' hall.
"That's a nice enough little tarrier as Sir Grantley Wilters brought,
and she won't have none of it, but leaves it to her ladyship."

"Yes," said the footman, "and a nice mess is made, with sops and milk
and cutlets all over the carpet."

"Joseph," said the butler with dignity, "it is not the place of a young
man like you in livery to find fault with the acts of your superiors.
Servants as do such things never rises to be out of livery."

"Thanky, sir," said Joseph, who, being a young man of a lively
imagination _and_ much whiskers, turned his head, squinted horribly at
an under housemaid, and made her giggle.

"Such a dog as that ugly brute as comes brushing into the house every
time the door is opened is only fit to go with a costermonger or a
butcher."

"Well, I'm sure, Mr Robbins," said the cook, who for reasons of her own
had a weakness for tradesmen in the latter line, "butchers are as good
as butlers any day."

"Perhaps they are, Mrs Downes--perhaps they are not," said the butler
with dignity; "but what I say is, Mr Melton ought to have known better
than ever to have brought such a beast into a gentleman's house."

"That for your opinion, Mr Robbins," said Mademoiselle Justine,
colouring up and snapping her fingers.  "I know what you think," she
said, speaking in a high-pitched, excited voice.  "You think that a lady
should admire scented men in fine tailor's clothes and flowers, and wiz
zere leetle wretched dogs.  Bah!  Tish!  A woman loves the big and ugly
and ster-r-r-rong.  She can be weak and beautiful herself.  Is it not
so, my friends?  Yes."

Mademoiselle Justine shook her head, tightened her lips, and with
sparkling eyes looked round the table, ending with heightened colour and
patting her little _bottine_ upon the floor.

"Well, that dog's ugly enough anyhow," said Robbins, smiling faintly,
and making a second chin above his cravat.  "As for that Mr Melton--"

"Ah, bah! stop you there," cried Mademoiselle Justine.  "I do not say he
is ugly, but he is big and sterong and has broad shouldaire.  He is all
a man--_tout-a-fait_ all a--quite a man."

There was another sharp burst of nods and jerks at this.

"You think, you, that my young lady will marry this Sir Wilters?  That
for him!  He is a man for the _Maison Dieu_ or the _Invalides_.  He
marry! ha, ha, ha!  I could blow him out myself.  Poof!  He is gone."

Mademoiselle Justine blew some imaginary bit of fluff from her fingers
as she spoke, apparently shook her head into a kind of notch or catch in
the spine, and then sat very upright and very rigid, while the butler
said grace and the party broke up.

Lunch had been over in the dining-room some time, and her ladyship was
going out for a drive.  Maude had again declined, and her ladyship had
smiled, knowing that Sir Grantley Wilters would probably call.  Her
ladyship was wonderfully made up, and looked her best, for Monsieur
Hector Launay from Upper Gimp Street had had an interview with her that
morning.  There had been a consultation on freckles, and a large mole
which troubled her ladyship's chin had been condemned to death, executed
with some peculiar acid, and its funeral performed and mourning arranged
with a piece of black court plaster, which now looked like a beauty spot
upon the lady's chin.

Her gloves, of the sweetest pearl grey, fitted her plump hands to
perfection, and she was quite ready to go out.

"Where is your papa, dear Maude," said her ladyship, stopping to smell a
bouquet.  "Ah me, how sweet!  How kind Sir Grantley is, and what taste
he has in flowers."

"Papa is in the library," said Maude, quietly, and she glanced nervously
towards the door.

"Come then, a sweet," cried her ladyship; "and he shall go and have a
nice ride in the carriage, he shall, and look down and bark at all the
dirty dogs in the road."

As she showed her second best teeth in a large smile, the little terrier
took it to be a challenge of war, and displayed his own pigmy set; but
after a due amount of coaxing, and the gift of a lump of sugar, he
permitted himself to be caught and placed beneath her ladyship's plump
arm, presenting to a spectator who had a side view a little head cocking
out in front, and a little tail cocking out behind--nothing more.

"I shall be back by five, I dare say, Maude.  Where is Tryphie?"

"I am here, aunt, quite ready," said a cheerful voice, and the bright
little girl appeared at the door.

"You are not quite ready: you have only one glove on.  Tryphie, you
might pay some respect to those who find you a home and protection."

The girl coloured slightly but made no answer, only exchanged glances
with Maude, and kissed her hand to her.

"Dear me!" exclaimed her ladyship, "where did I put my _flacon_?  Oh, I
remember."

She marched in a stately manner with the roll of a female beadle, or an
alderman in his gold chain of office, to an Indian cabinet, opened a
drawer and inserted her hand.

"Why, what is this?" she exclaimed, drawing out something whitey brown
and throwing it down with an ejaculation of annoyance.  "Disgusting!"

The toy terrier uttered a sharp yelp of excitement, leaped from her
ladyship's arms on to a table, upsetting a china cup and saucer, bounded
on to the floor and seized that which her ladyship had rejected--to wit,
a savoury-looking chicken bone, and proceeded to denude it of its flesh.

"I declare your papa grows insufferable," cried her ladyship.  "His
brain must be softening.  I shall consult the doctor about him."

Certainly it was very annoying, for her ladyship's pearly grey Parisian
glove had a broad brown smear of osmazome across it, and all due to Lord
Barmouth's magpie-like trick of hiding scraps of food away for future
consumption, in Indian cabinets and china jars, and then forgetting the
_cache_ he had made.

Mademoiselle Justine was summoned, a fresh pair of gloves obtained and
put on with the maid's assistance, by which time the dog had polished
the bone, and probably in his own tongue, being a well-bred animal, said
a grace and blessed Lord Barmouth.  Then he was once more taken up, his
mouth and paws wiped by Justine on one of her ladyship's clean
handkerchiefs; Tryphie nodded a good-bye to her cousin, to whom she had
hardly dared to speak, and then followed her ladyship downstairs.

Maude rose, trembling and in dread lest something she feared should
occur, for her ladyship was later than usual in going out, and this was
a Wednesday, which day was sacred to the canine post.

In fact, as Maude heard the steps of the carriage rattled down with a
great deal of noise--her ladyship encouraged her servants to bang them
down well, for it let the neighbours know she kept a carriage and was
going out--there was a pattering of feet, and as she opened the door,
Joby came trotting in, with his great eyes full of animation, and the
grinning smile in which he indulged a little more broad, for he had
rushed in between the footman's legs nearly upsetting him as the door
was opened, in his eagerness to play postman for his master.

"Good dog, then!" whispered Maude, and then her heart seemed to stand
still, for the carriage did not drive off, there was a rustling of silks
on the stairs, and her ladyship came panting up.

Maude threw herself, colouring vividly, into a _bergere_ chair, and Joby
dived under the couch, not leaving so much as the point of his tail
visible as her ladyship sailed into the room and looked hastily round.

"Maude," she cried, "there is some mystery here.  I insist on knowing
what this means."

There was no reply, but Tryphie came in, and darted a sympathetic glance
at the poor girl, mentally wishing that Tom were at home.

"I--insist upon knowing what this means."

"What, mamma?" said Maude, huskily.

"That dog; where is he?  Mr Melton's hideous wretch.  Here: dog, dog,
dog!" she cried.

She might have called till she was speechless, for Joby would not have
moved.  All the same, though, he was to be stirred, for her ladyship,
now in a towering passion, set down the toy terrier upon a chair, when
it immediately leaped to the carpet, barking furiously, and made a dead
set at the sofa.

"It is yonder!  You have hidden the wretch there!" cried her ladyship,
"and I am certain that that dog has been made the bearer of clandestine
correspondence.  I have read of such things.  But there's an end to it
now, and it is only just and fit--false, abandoned girl!--that it should
be discovered by the faithful little dog of the gentleman who is to-be
your husband.  Good little pet, then, to protect your master's
interests.  Fetch him out, then."

This was rather unwise of her ladyship, but she was excited, and she
excited the little terrier in turn, for he had contented himself up to
this time with snapping and barking furiously at the chintz valance
hanging from the sofa, but keeping about a yard distant, as he leaped up
with all four feet from the carpet at once and came down barking.

Encouraged though by her ladyship he went a little closer, barking and
snarling so furiously that Joby could not contain himself any longer but
softly pushed his short black nose and one eye beneath the chintz, had a
look at the noisy intruder, and then, withdrew once more.

"There!  I knew it," cried her ladyship, angrily.  "Oh, shame on you,
shame, shame!  Good little dog, then!  Drive him out!"

The terrier barked again furiously, and glanced up at her ladyship, who
uttered fresh words of encouragement.

Sir Grantley Wilters gave fifteen guineas for the beast, and another for
his morocco and silver collar!

"Drive him out, then, good little dog!" cried her ladyship, and with a
fierce rush, the terrier ran under the sofa.

There was a sharp bark, a bit of a scuffle, a worrying noise, a loud
yelp cut suddenly in half, and then, frowning severely, Joby crept out
from the foot of the sofa, with the hair about his neck erect, his eyes
glowering, and the limp corpse of the wretched terrier hanging from his
jaws.

It was all plain enough--that invisible tragedy beneath the chintz.  The
enemy had fastened upon one of Joby's cheeks with his keen little teeth,
and made it bleed, when, with a growl, the big dog had shaken his
assailant off, caught him by the back, given him a shake like a rat, and
the terrier's head, four legs, and tail hung down together.  Sir
Grantley Wilters' guineas were represented now by some inanimate skin
and bone.

It was all over!

"Oh, this is dreadful!" cried her ladyship, as, with a cry of horror,
Maude made for the dog.

But no: Joby was amiability itself at times, and well educated; still,
rouse the dog that was in him, and his obstinate breed began to show.
Maude called, but he took no notice, only walked solemnly about the room
with his vanquished enemy pendent from his grinning mouth.

"He'll kill it--he'll kill it," cried her ladyship, wildly, but not
daring to approach; and just then Tom entered the room.  "Oh, Tom, Tom,
quick!"

"What's the row?" cried Tom, "eh?  Oh, I say! ha, ha, ha, ha, ha! what a
jolly lark!" and he slapped his leg and roared with laughter.

"Tom!" shrieked her ladyship.

"That's just about how Charley Melton could serve Wilters," cried Tom,
wiping his eyes.

"For shame, sir!" cried her ladyship.  "Pray, pray save the poor dog."

"What for?" said Tom, grinning, "to be stuffed?"

"Oh, don't say it's dead!" wailed her ladyship.

"I won't, if you don't wish me to say so," said Tom, "but it is as dead
as a door nail.  Here, Joby, Joby," he cried, walking up to the dog.

But there was a low growl and Joby hung his head, glowered, and walked
to the far end of the drawing-room, seeming to take a pleasure in making
his journey as long as he could in and out amongst chairs and tables,
giving Tom, who followed him, significant hints that it would not be
safe to interfere with him at such a time.

"There, let's open the door, and he'll go," said Tom.

"Oh, no, no, Tom," cried her ladyship.  "Sir Grantley's present."

Just then the dog seemed to have satisfied his anger upon his rival, and
crossing the room to where Maude sat trembling in her chair, he dropped
the defunct terrier at her feet, and stood solemnly wagging his stump of
a tail as if asking for praise.

"Ring the bell, Tryphie," cried her ladyship.

"All right," said Tom, forestalling her, and Robbins came up with
stately stride.

"Take this down, Robbins," said her ladyship, with a shudder.

The butler looked ineffably disgusted, but he merely turned upon his
heel, strode out of the room, and returned at the end of a minute or two
with a silver salver and a napkin, picked up the sixteen guineas with
the latter, placed it upon the former, covered it with the damask, and
bore the dead dog solemnly out, Joby following him closely, as if
turning himself into chief mourner, and then seeing the hall door open
trotting slowly out.

"That I should have lived to be the mother of such--"

Her ladyship did not finish her sentence but rose with dilating eyes,
made a sort of heavy rush and bound across the room, pounced upon
something and began eagerly to inspect it, tearing open a little narrow
pocket and extracting a note.

Poor Joby! he did not mean to be so faithless to his trust, but the
excitement consequent upon the attack had made the muscles of his throat
swell to such a degree that his collar fastening had snapped, and the
collar with its valuable missive had fallen upon the carpet, while poor
Maude had sat wondering where it had gone.

"Yes, of course," said her ladyship, sarcastically.  "Well: that trick
is detected," she cried, viciously tearing up the note.  "Letters sent
by a dog, by one of the vilest of the vile; and this, Diphoos, is the
man you called your friend."

"Oh, aunt, pray be silent," cried Tryphie, running to her cousin's side.
"Maude has fainted."



CHAPTER ELEVEN.

THE EXILE.

That morning Monsieur Hector Launay was happy.  He had been to Portland
Place, acted as executioner to the mole upon her ladyship's chin, buried
it beneath the court plaster, been paid his bill, and in going out
squeezed Justine's hand, and--_Ah, oui mes amis_--she had squeezed it
again.

"Yes, yes," he had cried, joyously, as he returned, with the
recollection of Justine's bright eyes making his own sparkle, "encore a
little more of this isle of fogs and rheums and spleen, encore a little
more of the hard cash to be made here, encore a little too much more
wait, and then _cette chere_ Justine and la France--la France--
Tralla-la--Tralla-la--Tralla-la."

From this it will be seen that Monsieur Hector Launay was joyous.  It
was his nature to be joyous, but he suppressed it beneath a solemn mask
as of wax.  He was as immovable as a rule as his own gentleman; that is
to say, the waxen image of his craft which looked down Upper Gimp Street
from the shop window--the gentleman who was married to the handsome lady
with the graceful turn to her neck, who always looked up Upper Gimp
Street from morning till night, saving at such times as Monsieur Hector
Launay hung old copies of the _Figaro_ or _Petit Journal_ before them,
lest the heat of the summer sun should visit their cheeks too roughly.
In fact, a neglect of this on one occasion had resulted in the wax
"giving" a little, and the lady having a slight attack of mumps.

These dwellers in a happy atmosphere behind glass were the acme of
perfection in the dressing of their hair, the lady's being the longest
and the gentleman's the shortest possible to conceive.  So short was the
latter's, in fact, that it might have been used to brush that of the
former; and so occupied were they in gazing up and down the street that
they might have been the spies who furnished Monsieur Hector Launay with
the abundant information he possessed respecting the _elite_ who lived
in a wide circle round his dwelling in that most strange of London
regions--mysterious Marylebone.

He was a slim, genteel, sallow gentleman, polite in the extreme, always
the perfection of cleanliness, and, as Lord Barmouth said, smelling as
if made of scented soap.  His eyes were of the darkest, so was his hair,
which was cut to the pattern in the window.  He had a carefully-waxed
and pointed moustache, but shaved the rest of his face as religiously as
he did that of Lord Barmouth, every morning, passing his hand over the
skin and seeming to be always hunting for one particular bristle, which
evaded him.

It has been said that he might be supposed to have gained his
information about the various people around by means of his two wax
figures, who afterwards communicated their knowledge to him in some
occult way, though the theory might hold water that the thoughts of
people's brains radiated to the ends of their hairs which were often cut
off and remained in the possession of the barber for distillation, sale,
or the fire.

Monsieur Hector Launay, it must be owned, was, though a lover of his
country, not patriotic from a Communist, Imperialist, Royalist, or
Republican point of view.  Friends and compatriots often wanted him to
join in this or that conspiracy.

"No," he would say, "it is ignoble, nor is it pleasant to live here, and
shave and cut and dress, but it is safe.  _Ma foi_, no," he would say,
"I should not like to be guillotined and find myself a head short some
morning; neither should I like to be sent to New Caledonia, to be cooked
by the cannibals of that happy land."

Certainly he had periodic longings sometimes, but they took the form of
_eau sucree_ or a little cup of coffee with Justine at Versailles, on
the Bois de Boulogne: so he waited, stored up knowledge, sang
_chansons_, and invented wonderful washes for the skin or hair.

"Yes," said Monsieur Hector, "I know what is immense.  Ladies place
themselves in my hands, and would I betray their confidence?  Never,
never.  A _coiffeur_ in a good district is the repository of the
grandest secrets of life.  I could write a book, but, _ma foi_, no, I
never betray.  I am a man of trust."

Charley Melton came into his shop that morning for a periodical cut and
shampoo, after sending Joby on his regular mission, and Monsieur Hector
smiled softly to himself as he played with the young man's hair.

"That good dog, monsieur, will he find his way-back?"

"What do you mean?" said Melton sharply.

"Pardon, monsieur, a mere nothing; but I should not trust a dog.  They
suspect yonder."

Melton turned and gazed at him angrily.

"Yes," said Monsieur Hector, "it is a tender subject, but I go so much
that I come to know nearly all."

"What the deuce do you mean?"

"Monsieur forgets that I dress Lady Barmouth's hair; that the Miladi
Maude often goes to the opera with her beautiful fair tresses arranged
in designs of my invention.  But, monsieur, they talk about the dog."

Something very like an imprecation came from the young man's lips, but
he restrained it.

"Monsieur may trust me," said the hairdresser.  "Mademoiselle Justine is
a great friend of mine.  Have you not remarked her likeness to my lady
of wax?  She is exact.  It is she--encore."

"Oh, indeed," said Melton, drily.

"Yes, monsieur; some day we shall return to la France together, to pass
our days in simple happy joys."

"Look here," said Melton, bluntly, "I am an Englishman, and always speak
plainly.  You know all about me--about the house in Portland Place?"

"Everything, monsieur," said the hairdresser, with a smile and a bow.
"Mademoiselle Justine is _desolee_ about the course that affairs have
taken; she speaks to me of Sir Wilter as the enemy.  Pah! she say he is
old, _bete_, he is not at all a man.  We discourse of you, monsieur--we
lovers--and we talk of your love.  We agree ourselves that it is foolish
to trust a dog."

"How the devil did you know that I trusted a dog?" said Melton
furiously.

"_Ma foi_, monsieur is angry.  Why so, with one who would serve him?
Justine loves you--I then love you.  How do I know?"--a shrug
here--"monsieur is _indiscret_.  Justine could not fail to see."

"Confusion!" ejaculated Melton.

"And yet it is so easy, monsieur--a note--a cake of soap--a packet of
bloom--a bottle of scent--it is wrapped up--for Miladi Maude with my
printed card outside--_Voila_! who could suspect?"

"Look here," said Melton, turning sharply round.

"Pardon, monsieur, I use the scissor; there is a little fresh growth
here."

"What do you expect to be paid for this, if I trust you?--and perhaps I
shall not, for it is confoundedly dirty work."

"Pardon, monsieur," cried the Frenchman, laying his hand upon his
breast, "I am a gentleman.  Pay?  Noting.  Have I not told you that
Justine, whom I have the honour to love, adores her young mistress.  She
adores monsieur, and would serve him.  I in my turn adore Mademoiselle
Justine.  I am her slave--I am yours."

"Let's see--Justine?  That is her ladyship's maid?"

"True, monsieur.  But this morning she say to me--`Hector, _mon enfant_,
I'm _desolee_ on the subject of those two children.  Help them, _mon
garcon_, and I will be benefactor.'"

"It is good, I say to her, and I place myself at monsieur's
disposition."

Charles Melton frowned, and Monsieur Hector went on with his shampooing,
till the head between his hands was dried, polished, and finished, when
the hairdresser took up a little ivory brush, and anointed it with some
fragrant preparation to be applied in its turn to the patient's beard,
till the fair hair glistened like gold, and Monsieur Hector fell back
and looked at him in admiration.

"But monsieur is fit now for the arms of a goddess," he exclaimed.
"Does he accept my assistance?"

Melton looked at him for a moment, as he paid the fee usual upon such
occasions, and then said bluntly--

"Monsieur Launay, I am obliged to you, and you mean well.  Doubtless
Mademoiselle Justine means well, and she has my thanks, but I cannot
accept your assistance.  Good mom--Ah, Joby, old fellow."

He drew back into the little room as the dog came hastily in, and placed
his head against his master's leg.

"Why, Joby," exclaimed Melton, in a low excited tone, "where is your
collar?  Blood too!  You have been fighting.  Good heavens! what shall I
do!--If that note is found!--Oh, my poor darling!" he muttered, and he
hurried from the place.



CHAPTER TWELVE.

LA BELLE ALLIANCE.

"It's enough to drive a man to do anything," exclaimed Melton, as he
dashed down the fashionable newspaper he had been reading, where in a
short paragraph he had found that which he told himself would make him
wretched for life.  The paragraph was as follows--

"We understand that an alliance is on the _tapis_ between Sir Grantley
Wilters, of Morley Hall, Shropshire, and Eaton Place, and Lady Maude
Diphoos, daughter of the Earl of Barmouth."

"I seem to be crushed," exclaimed the young man, rising and walking
hastily up and down the room.  "Everything goes wrong with me, and I
believe I am going mad.  Perhaps it is fate," he said, gloomily, "and
how to save that poor girl from wretchedness!  Heigho!  Joby, old
fellow, I wish I could forget the unpleasant things, and then perhaps
there would be some comfort in life.

"Now, what's to be done?" he cried, as his eyes fell again upon the
newspaper.  "I cannot bear this.  Here's a whole month since I have
heard from or seen poor little Maude, for I haven't the heart to try any
more of those clandestine tricks."

He sat down and thought over the past month and its incidents, taking
out and re-reading a note with Lady Barmouth's crest upon it, in which
her ladyship very curtly requested that Mr Melton would refrain from
calling in Portland Place, for after what had occurred she could only
look upon his visits as an insult.  She wrote this at the request of
Lord Barmouth.

"That is a monstrous fib," said Charley Melton, angrily, "for the
amiable little old man was always most friendly.  But what shall I do?
I must see her; I must hear from her.  They are forcing this on with the
poor girl, and it is like blasting her young life.

"Tom!" he ejaculated, after a pause.  "No; he has not answered either of
my last letters.  There is something wrong there."

He sat thinking again.

"Confound it all!  It is so contemptible.  I hate it, but what can I do?
I must send a note through that Frenchman.  Pah! how I loathe this
backstairs work, but what can I do?  I am debarred the front stairs,
which are open to that confounded _roue_ Wilters."

He stamped up and down the room again till there was a knock at the
door.

"Come in," he cried, and a groom entered.

"Please, sir, master's compliments, and--and--I beg your pardon, sir,
he'd be much obliged if you wouldn't stamp up and down the room so.
He's got a bad headache, and you're just over him."

"Was that the message your master sent?" exclaimed Melton, for the groom
was the servant of an acquaintance who had chambers on the floor below.

"Well, sir--no, sir--not exactly, sir," said the man, suppressing an
inclination to smile.

"What did he say then?"

"Please, sir, he said, `Run up and ask Mr Melton if he's going mad,'
and he shied one of his boots at me."

"Tell him yes, raving mad," said Melton savagely; and the man went down.

"It's fate, I suppose," he said at last: "and it seems as if I am to
give her up."

For from that fatal day when the toy terrier had been slain Joby had
stood in the same category as his master--Lady Maude was not at home to
the canine caller, and after many efforts to obtain access to his
mistress, Charley Melton was nearly in despair.

He had tried the post, and his letters had been returned.  He had tried
the servants and mutual friends, but given up both in disgust for
Maude's sake, being unwilling to cause her fresh anxieties and pain.

"It is so confoundedly undignified," he said to himself.  "I can't think
of a plan that is safe.  But never mind, patience--and something will
turn up.  We must wait.  I can get a look at my darling now and then,
and that must do till better days arrive."

But human nature has its bounds of endurance, and after seeing Maude one
day in the Park in company with washed-out, overdressed Sir Grantley
Wilters, Charley Melton could bear it no more.

"What's the good of living in this confounded England," he exclaimed,
"where a man cannot wring his rival's neck or knock out his enemy's
brains without there being a row.  I must do it, there is no other means
that I can see but I'll have one more try first."

He went off straight to Portland Place, and as he came within sight of
the house, to his great delight he caught sight of Maude in the large
covered space with its huge pots of evergreens over the portico.  She
was leaning on the railing and gazing pensively down, and as Charley
Melton drew nearer he found that she was listening to the music of a
loud-toned organ played by a tall, broad-shouldered, swarthy Italian,
who waved his hand and raised his hat, and smiled and bowed till the
lady dropped something white into his extended felt broad brim, in
response to which he kissed his hand, and the lady still looked down.

Charley Melton thought little of it at the moment as he crossed the
road, when just as he was half-way across the broad way Maude raised her
head, saw him, and fled quickly into the house.

"She needn't have been in such a precious hurry," said Melton to
himself; "but never mind, I'll make a big effort to see her this time,
at all events."

He went boldly across the pavement to reach the front door and ring, and
as he did so Luigi Malsano followed him, turning his handle the while.

"Ah, signore!" he whined, as he smiled and showed his white teeth,
"povero Italiano."

"Yes, you handsome scoundrel," said Charley Melton to himself, "I should
like your poverty.  Allowed to come here, and rewarded by her in her
gentle love and kindliness.  What is the scoundrel glaring at?"

For Luigi's eyes seemed to him to emit a peculiarly sinister or baleful
glare that was not pleasant.

"No, no, go away!" said Melton impatiently.

Just then the door opened, and Robbins the pompous appeared.

"Not at home, sir," he said, before he was asked.

"Take my card, Robbins, and ask Lord Barmouth to see me."

"I dursen't, sir; I dursen't indeed," said the butler in a whisper.
"It's more than my place is worth, sir, and his lordship couldn't see
you, he couldn't indeed."

"Why not?"

Robbins "made a face" which was quite expressive enough, for Charley
Melton read it to mean "the dragon wouldn't let him," and with a feeling
of bitterness and rage which nearly tempted him to kick the
organ-grinder into the gutter, he turned and walked away, to go straight
from thence to Upper Gimp Street, where he found the handsome
hairdresser rearranging the costume of his waxen lady dummy.

"Ah, m'sieu; yes, I am quite at liberty.  _Entrez_, m'sieu."

Charley Melton confounded his "Ah, monsieur" with the Italian's "Ah,
signore," and he walked into the saloon, and stood for a few minutes in
silence thinking, while Monsieur Hector suggested hair-cutting,
shampooing, scent, singeing, and other matters connected with his
profession.

"Look here, Mr Launay," he said at last.

"M'sieu, _s'il vous plait_, m'sieu, it is the only pleasant reminder of
my own clime."

"Monsieur Launay then--"

"I am at your service, m'sieu."

"Some time back, when I was here, you were good enough to make me the
offer of your services."

"_Certainement_, m'sieu."

"Monsieur Launay, what you have said is a profound secret between us?
As a French gentleman, I trust to your honour."

"Sare, I am the repository of the secrets of the aristocratic classes."

"Then perhaps I shall trust you."

"And monsieur accepts the offer of my services?"

"I cannot say yet--I will call again."

Charley Melton left the place and went along the street, for he could
get no farther that day.  He felt degraded, and the words choked him;
but Monsieur Launay snatched a copy of _Le Petit Journal_ from over the
head of his gentleman, whose fixed eyes followed the young man as he
went slowly along the pavement with Joby close at his heels.

"_C'est fait_?" exclaimed Monsieur Launay.  "Justine, _mon ange_, I
shall obey you and save Monsieur Melton--_Ma foi_! what a name!  They
will be happy, and then I--Ah, la France--la bel-le," he sang, "at last
I shall return to you a rich man.  Oh, but it was quite plain: he had
sent a note by the dogue, and the boule-dogue had lost it and his
collar.  But what it is to be ingenious--to have of the spirit!  If I
rase and cut hair, I starve myself, but if I make myself of great use to
all around, I grow rich.  Live the secrets!  Justine, you will be mine
at last.

"Aha!--it is good," he continued, "I have another secret to keep...
This is the bureau aux secrets.  He had not remarked the likeness to my
adorable.  It is beautiful, and she was _jalouse_ when I say I love my
lady of wax.  _Cette cherie_.  But, _ma foi_!  I must be busy over my
other affairs; there is the coiffure of the Grande Barmouth to prepare.
Aha, Milady La Grande, you will call _ma cherie bete, chouette_,
stupide, and trouble her poor sweet soul.  Now I shall have my revenge,
and be on ze best of terms as you say all ze time.  La--la--la--la--la--
la.  Par-tir pour la guer-re--la guer-re.  Ces braves soldats."

He sang on in a low tone, and began to comb some of Lady Barmouth's
falsities, and while he combed he smiled, and when Monsieur Hector
smiled he was making plans.

"_Vive les conspirateurs_!" he cried; and then prepared for his
primitive repast.

Being a bachelor at present, he cooked for himself behind a little
screen over a gas-stove; sometimes it was food, sometimes strange
cosmetiques and chemical preparations for beautifying his clients.  This
day it was food preparation, and, manipulated by Monsieur Hector, one
kidney became a wonderful dish, swimming in gravy.  Tiny bits of meat
reappeared brown and appetising: and he was great upon soup, which he
made with half a pint of water, some vegetables, and a disc cut off what
seemed to be so much glue in a sausage skin.

But he lived well upon a small income, and partook of grand salads,
water _souchees_ made of one herring, _biftek-aux-pommes, cafe, eau
sucree_, and cigarette.

One gas-burner cooked, boiled, and stewed, and his cleanliness and
saving ways enabled him to afford his game at billiards; and to pass for
a Parisian of the first water under a political cloud.

"Ah!" he said, as he smoked his one cigarette, "when will he return with
a letter for his beloafed?  Soon.  But stop--what is a letter to a
meeting?  Ha, ha!  I have a plan.  Wait till he come once more, and
then--ha, ha! how la Justine will laugh!  _Vive l'amour_.

"Yes, the ruse, one that your foggy head, ros-bif Anglais could never
devise, but which I, Hector of the sunny France, threw off at once.
Oorai, as we say in thees deesmal country.  _Vive l'amour_.  One--two--
three days; when will he come?  Any veek, and then--_vive l'amour_."



CHAPTER THIRTEEN.

SIR GRANTLEY IS AGITATED.

Lady Barmouth was in great trouble, and resembled more strongly than
ever the heaving billows.  She had been so agitated several times lately
that she had found it necessary to take medicinally red lavender drops,
or else eau de Cologne, the latter by preference for its fragrance.

She was terribly troubled, for matters had not gone so satisfactorily as
she could wish.  There had been a death in Sir Grantley Wilters' family,
and that gentleman had been unwell too, thanks to a fresh medicine man
he had tried.

"And really," said her ladyship, "that ungrateful child Maude does not
show the slightest sympathy."

"Fool if she did," said Tom, who was in the drawing-room.  "What's that
fellow Bellman been here for again?"

"To see Tryphie, of course," said her ladyship.

Tom was about to make some angry reply, when Maude came in with Lord
Barmouth leaning upon her arm, fresh from a walk, and Sir Grantley
Wilters, most carefully got up in deep mourning, following behind with
Tryphie.

"Now I appeal to your ladyship," said Sir Grantley, as soon as the door
was closed.

"There, there, there," said Lord Barmouth, "let me tell it to her
ladyship.  It was all nothing, damme, it was all nothing, and--and--
and," he continued, sitting down to have a rub at his leg, "I won't have
my little girl here troubled about it."

"For Heaven's sake, behave like a gentleman if you can," whispered her
ladyship.

"Yes, yes, yes, my dear, I will, I will," said his lordship, while,
evidently greatly agitated, Maude moved towards the door.

"No, 'pon honour, I must beg of you to stop, Lady Maude," said Sir
Grantley.  "It concerns you so much, don't you know.  Fact is, Lady
Barmouth," he continued, as Maude stood looking very pale before
them--"fact is, we were in the Square walking, when that demmed dog came
slowly up and snatched Lady Maude's handkerchief, and made off before he
could be stopped."

"Well, suppose a dog did," said Tom coming to his sister's rescue; "I
suppose he was a very decent dog, who preferred cleanliness to honesty,
so he stole a pocket handkerchief to wipe his nose."

"He, he, he!" chuckled his lordship; "that's not bad, Tom;" while her
ladyship looked daggers.

"Doosed good--very doosed good," said Sir Grantley, ramming his glass
tightly in his eye, and standing, holding his hat behind him, to keep up
the balance as he bent forward and stared at Tom.  "If it had been
another dog, it wouldn't have mattered, but it was--er--er--er--a very
particular dog."

"Just as I said--over his nose," said Tom.

"It--it--it was Charley Melton's dog," said Lord Barmouth, and Maude's
face became crimson.

"Yes, and that's the dayvle of it," said Sir Grantley, angrily.  "I
don't choose for that fler's dog to come and take such a liberty.  He
was--er--hanging about for some time, and smelling at his lordship's
pocket, here, don't you know, and then he presumed to steal that
handkerchief.  Lady Barmouth, I feel as if I could poison that dog, I
do--damme!"

Just before this Lord Barmouth, who had looked terribly guilty at the
mention of the dog smelling his pocket, drew out his handkerchief to
hide his confusion, and brought forth with it a very brown and sticky
Bath bun, one that his little niece Tryphie had purchased for him.  This
bun fell with a dab upon a little marqueterie table, behind where Sir
Grantley was balancing himself, and, knowing that her ladyship must see
it at the next turn of her head, the old man looked piteously across at
Tryphie, who was nearest, for he dared not go across to pick it up.

Tryphie saw the direction of his gaze, caught sight of the bun and
coloured, when Tom, who was always jealously watching her every look,
followed her eyes, saw the bun sticking to the table, and divined at
once whence it had come.  So nonchalantly crossing the room while Sir
Grantley was delivering his speech, he deftly lifted the bun and let it
glide down softly into the hat the baronet was balancing behind, he
being too excited to notice the difference in weight.

"Really, Sir Grantley, it was very tiresome," said her ladyship.

"He, he, he!" laughed his lordship, putting his handkerchief to his
mouth, and bending down in his chair to laugh with all the enjoyment of
a schoolboy at Tom's monkeyish trick.

"My dear!" exclaimed her ladyship.

"I--I--I was laughing at the con--con--confounded impudence of that
dog," said his lordship, mendaciously; and her ladyship mentally
promised him one of her lectures.

"It was an accident that cannot possibly occur again," continued her
ladyship.  "Maude, my darling, pray go and take off your things.  Sir
Grantley, you will stay lunch?"

"Thanks, no," said the baronet, changing his position, giving his hat a
turn, and flourishing out the Bath bun, which fell upon the carpet
before him.

Her ladyship put up her eye-glass and stared at the bun; Sir Grantley
gave his an extra twist and also stared at the bun, poking at it with
his stick; and Maude and Tryphie escaped from the room.

"Didn't know you were so fond of buns, Wilters," said Tom.  "You should
have them put in a paper bag.  They make your hat lining sticky."

"That's doosed funny, Diphoos," said Sir Grantley.  "Very fond of a
joke.  By the way, the amateurs are going to get up a pantomime next
season.  Won't you join them?  I'll put in a word for you.  Make a
doosed good clown, don't you know.--I think I had him there," said the
baronet to himself.

"I will, if you'll play pantaloon," said Tom sharply.  "You'd look the
part to perfection."

"Yas, doosed good," said Sir Grantley.  "Day, Lady Barmouth; must go.
Day, Lord Barmouth;" and with a short nod at Tom, he left the house.

"Tom," exclaimed her ladyship, "if you insult Sir Grantley any more like
that you shall suffer for it.  If you behave like that, you will be the
means of breaking off a most brilliant match."

"Thanks," said Tom, quietly, as her ladyship was sailing out of the
room.  "You can't make things worse for me."

"Tom, my boy," said his lordship, "you are--are--are--a regular lion,
that you are.  I don't know what I should do without you."

"Fight for yourself, father, I hope," said the viscount, smiling, "I'm
afraid I do more harm than good."

Meanwhile, Sir Grantley Wilters, who had not the slightest thought of
breaking off the match, let Diphoos behave as he would, went to keep a
particular engagement that he had with Monsieur Hector Launay, who was
singing away to himself about "La--Fran-ce--et--la--guer-re," and
standing before a glass with a pair of scissors cutting his black hair
close to his skull.

He was ready on the instant, though, as Sir Grantley entered, showed him
into his private room, and upon the baronet stating his case, to wit,
his uneasiness about his hair, which he said was getting thin on the
crown, gave the most earnest attention to the subject.

"I shouldn't mind so much," said Sir Grantley; "but I'm--er--going to be
mar'd shortly, and I want to look my best."

Monsieur Hector took a magnifying glass from a drawer, and gravely
inspected the crown before him, ending by assuring the baronet that by
the use of certain washes prepared by himself from peculiar and unique
receipts he could restore the hairs that made him slightly thin upon the
crown.

Sir Grantley, in full faith, resigned himself to the coiffeur's hands,
and was sponged and rubbed and scented during a space of about an hour,
when he rose and paid a liberal fee, which made Monsieur Hector smile
and bow.

Then he turned to go, but stopped short at the door and came back.

"Oh, Monsieur Launay, I'm told that you are a great friend of
Mademoiselle Justine, Lady Barmouth's maid."

"I have that honour, monsieur," said the hairdresser, bowing low.

"Ah, yes," said Sir Grantley, hesitating.  "By the way, I am Sir
Grantley Wilters."

"I have heard mademoiselle mention Sir Vilter," said the hairdresser,
bowing.

"Yes, of course," said the baronet.  "Look here, don't you know, I'm
engaged to Lady Maude Diphoos, and I want to save her from pain.  No
spying--_moucharder_--but I should be glad to hear of anything that you
think might interest me.  Mademoiselle Justine will tell you better what
I mean.  Good-day."

"Bah!--Phit!--Pst!  Big John Bull, fool!" cried Monsieur Hector as soon
as he was alone; and he indulged in a peculiar saltatory exercise,
indicative of kicking his client in the chest, and making derisive
gestures with pointed fingers.  "You think I tell you what I know.  Pst!
Grand bete.  Big thin beast.  Cochon.  Peeg!  Come and be shampooed,
and I had you by the nose and tell you noting.  Aha!  Be your spy?  No.
Justine tells me all, and I know so much that my head is full.  But wait
you.  Aha!  Sir Vilter! wait you.  _Vive l'amour_."

He folded the cloth that had been spread over Sir Grantley's shoulders
with a jerk, and was in the act of putting it away, when something
touched his leg, and looking down, it was to see Joby, and directly
after Charley Melton entered the room.



CHAPTER FOURTEEN.

LADY MAUDE'S HAIR COMES OFF.

It was very singular, and showed weakness, but Maude Diphoos, who had
hitherto looked with contempt upon her ladyship's dealings with Monsieur
Hector, laughing at the idea of using washes, powder, and the like, as
pure water made her beautiful fair hair cluster about her clear white
temples, and hang round a neck whose skin put the most cleverly
concocted pearl powder in the shade, now seemed to become somewhat of a
convert to his powers.

Justine confided to her mistress that Miladi Maude's hair was coming off
in great patches, horrifying her ladyship so that she gave Lord Barmouth
no sleep all one night, and the next morning when she drilled the
servants, and inspected them as to smartness of livery, amount of
hairpowder used, and the rest, they confided to one another that the old
girl's temper was not to be borne.

"What would dear Sir Grantley say if he knew?" she exclaimed; and
hurrying to her secret chamber, she rang for Justine, when a long
consultation ensued.

"Cer-tainly, milady, if you like," said the dark Frenchwoman; "but that
is the way to make the servants in the hall talk--they are so low--and
do tattle so.  Then it come to Sir Grantley's groom's ears, and Sir
Grantley's groom tell Sir Vilter, and ze mischief is all made."

"Yes, Justine; but what can I do, my good soul?  I would not care if
they were married; it would not matter a bit.  Now, don't exaggerate,
Justine--great patches do you say?"

Justine tightened her lips and plunged one hand into the pocket of her
apron to draw forth a tuft of soft fair hair and hold it up before her
ladyship.

"Oh, Justine!" she half shrieked, sighing and heaving billowy, "this is
dreadful.  Poor child, she will be nearly bald.  Oh, Justine, whatever
you do, preserve your hair.  I know of a case where a lady of title
became an old maid when she might have had a great establishment, all
through losing her hair."

"I will take the greatest care, milady."

"My drops, Justine, my drops.  This is really too much for my nerves."

Justine hurried to a case, and brought out a _flacon_ of spirits of red
lavender, a goodly portion of which her ladyship took upon lumps of
sugar, sighed, and felt better.

"What is to be done, my good Justine?  It must be a profound secret."

"What more of ease, milady, than for Miladi Maude to go out for ze
health promenade every morning, and call upon Monsieur Hector Launay.  I
tink he might be trusted if he is well pay."

"Oh, no, no," exclaimed her ladyship, sharply.  "I could not trust her;
she is too weak."

"Wis her faithful attendant, milady?"

Her ladyship turned sharply round upon the maid, and gazed full into the
dark shining eyes that met hers without a wink.

"Can I trust you, Justine?" she exclaimed.

"Who knows better than milady?" retorted the maid.  "Is it I who go
below to the servants and betrays all miladi's secrets?  _Ma foi_! no: I
sooner die.  And," she added, nodding sharply, "I know two, tre, many
secret of her ladyship."

"Yes, yes, you do, my good Justine.  It shall be as you say: Monsieur
Launay shall have a very high fee for his pains if he checks it.  A
silly, weak girl; it is nothing but fretting after that nasty, vulgar
wretch and his dog.  Ah, Justine, if ever you become a mother, you will
know what a mother's troubles really are."

Her ladyship rolled in her _fauteuil_ more like the heaving billows than
ever, and shed a couple of tears, either the tears or her breath
smelling strongly of lavender.

"Poor milady!" said the confidential maid, compassionately.  "Then
milady trusts me to see that Miladi Maude goes safely to the
coiffeur's?"

"Oh, yes, Justine, my good soul, I will.  Justine, I shall not wear that
black satin, nor the ruby moire again.  Alas, who would be a mother!  I
have but one idea, Justine, and that is to see my children settled with
good establishments, and they seem to do nothing but rebel against me."

"It is vairy terrible, poor milady."

"Yes, it is dreadful, Justine," said her ladyship who was now shedding
tears copiously.  "Even my son goes against me."

"It is vairy shocking of him, milady," said the sympathetic maid,
holding salts to her mistress' nostrils, and having her hand gratefully
pressed in return.

"Ah, me; I am a great martyr," said her ladyship, sobbing softly, and
growing more confiding.  "I don't know what I should do without you,
Justine.  Every one fights against me."

"Poor, poor milady," cried Justine, sympathetically.

"Does Miss Tryphie ever talk to you about Captain Bellman?"

"She said once he was vairy handsome," said Justine.

"Yes, yes, very, and so well connected, Justine.  They say he has been
rather wild; but a man of birth may make mistakes, Justine; they are
never the serious errors of a plebeian."

"No, milady, never," said the maid.  "Just a few more drops, milady."

"Thanks, Justine, thanks," sighed her ladyship, partaking of some more
lavender upon sugar.  "That Mr Melton never calls now, I think?"

"No, milady, never.--_Ah, quel mensonge_!" she added to herself.

"And his dog does not come?"

"No, milady, I have not seen it for a month."

"Ah," sighed her ladyship, whose noble bust rose and fell from the
excess of her emotions; "mine is far from a happy life; but go, Justine,
go now: I feel as if I could sleep.  A nap might do me good.  I trust
you, Justine.  You shall have a gold watch and chain the day my daughter
becomes Lady Wilters.  Let her go at once."

"Thank you, dear milady; _merci beaucoup_," cried the Frenchwoman,
bending down and kissing her ladyship's extremely white and beringed
plump hand.

A minute later she was in Maude's room.

"Go!" faltered the girl, trembling.  "No, no, Justine, I cannot--I dare
not."

"How--miladi is timide," said the Frenchwoman, laying her hand upon the
girl's soft tresses.  "Would she have all this fall, so that when Sir
Wilter, your dear husband, would pass his hand through and say, `Ah, _ma
belle ange_, your fair tresses are adorable,' and kiss them, and become
_fou_ with delight as he pass them over his face, would you have them
thin and come out in his fingaire?"

Maude's face was a study as she gazed at the maid while she spoke.  She
shuddered, and her features assumed a look of unutterable loathing.

"Quick, give me my hat and scarf.  I will have a veil."

"You shall, my sweet young lady.  Her ladyship wills that you go often
to save your beautiful hair.  Ah, I would that Monsieur Hector could
attend you himself, but he will be busy.  You must be content wis ze
assistant."

"Justine," said Maude quietly, "do not forget our positions."

"_Ma chere_ young lady, I will not," said the French woman.  "Pardon, I
was foolish.  I do not forrgette.  Miladi will let me put on the tick
veil."

Full of respectful solicitude now, Justine helped her young mistress to
dress, when she again began to tremble.

"Justine, I dare not," she faltered.

"Would miladi prefer to be accompany by her own maid Preen?"

"No, no, Justine," cried Maude, hastily, "I dare not trust her."

"_Ma foi, non_! miladi is right.  She will trust Justine, her ladyship's
confidential maid, who keep her ladyship's secret, and will be so silent
and secret as never was for _cette chere_ young mistress in her big
trouble."

"I will trust you, Justine; I am obliged," sobbed Maude.

"And not trust, ze foolish girl goose who fall in love wis ze
mis-er-rable organ grind.  My faith, it is so foolish, though ze man is
beau."

"Yes, very handsome," sighed Maude, thoughtfully.

"Ah, Justine, I cannot be angry with the poor girl for being in love."

"_Ma foi, non_, miladi, it is our nature to have our weakness there.  I
too, I confess to it all.  Yais."

"You, Justine! you?" cried Maude, staring hard at the dark shining eyes
of the Frenchwoman, who looked too hard to have had a soft sensation in
her life.

"_Oui_, miladi.  It is my secret, and I hide him.  But I too love with a
grand ardour that cannot be what you call him in your tongue."

"Appeased, Justine," sighed Maude.

"_Non, non_, miladi.  Ah, yais, I have him, squench, which can nevaire
be squench."

"Poor Justine!" sighed Maude; and then recovering herself, and shrinking
from being so intimate with her mother's maid.  "But no, no, I could not
go."

"Why not, miladi?" said the wily Frenchwoman.  "Monsieur Hector is a
gentleman that an empress might trust."

"Yes, yes; but--oh, this is dreadful."

"Her ladyship does not think of Sir Wilters' great sorrow if he find my
young lady has lose all her hair," said Justine, smiling as she watched
the effect of her words; and a few minutes after she was attending Maude
on her way to Upper Gimp Street.

The waxen lady had her head turned in the opposite direction, but the
waxen gentleman watched her coming, and looked a combination of the
mysterious and admiring as, closely veiled, Maude walked swiftly by
Justine's side, trembling the while, and feeling certain that every one
she passed knew her errand and was watching her.

Dreading the visit as she did, it was with something like relief that
she stood within the curtained door, face to face with bland, chivalrous
Monsieur Hector, who rose, laid down his three days' old copy of the
_Petit Journal_, and bowed profoundly.

"Miladi will excuse that I do not attend her myself?" he said,
respectfully.  "Monsieur my assistant is at miladi's service."

As Maude bowed, he opened the inner door that led to his private
consulting room, and returned to the front, to indulge for the next two
hours in pleasant converse with Justine.

At last Justine rose to go.

"One instant, my beautiful," whispered Monsieur Hector.  "When do I come
to see La Grande Chouette?"

"Oh, I had forgotten,--to-morrow," said Justine.

"_Cette chere_ picture!" said Hector, taking a photograph from over the
little stove and kissing it, "remains with me for ever.  But stay," he
said, addressing the real instead of the image.  "Behold a little packet
which I prepare for my beautiful--tooth-powder for her beauteous teeth;
scent of the best, but not so sweet as her gentle breath; soap for her
soft skin.  Ah, sweet soap, sweet soap! if I were only you to be pressed
in her hands," he added, kissing it, and then presenting his offerings
to his goddess, who received them like a deity, and held out one hand
for him to kiss, with which he was apparently quite content.

Then he struck a table gong, and evidently conveyed by it due notice to
his assistant that he had devoted sufficient time to the new client, who
shortly after came out, closely veiled, took Justine's arm, and the
waxen lady had one glance at her, while the waxen gentleman looked more
mysterious than ever, as he watched her till she was out of sight.



CHAPTER FIFTEEN.

LADY BARMOUTH RECEIVES INFORMATION.

"Maude, I will not allow it," cried Lady Barmouth, one morning.  "That
wretched organ man is always haunting this house, and you are constantly
giving him money."

"The poor fellow is a foreigner and in distress, and he does no harm,"
said Maude.

"No harm?  He distracts me with his dreadful noise."

"Plays that tune from _Trovatore_ where the fellow's shut up rather
nicely," said his lordship, rubbing his leg.

"Barmouth!"

"Yes, my dear."

"Be quiet.  And mind this, Maude, I have given instructions to the
servants that this dreadful Italian is to be sent away."

"Very well, mamma," said Maude, coldly, "only be fair--send every man
away who comes to the house.  Be consistent in what you do."

"Is the girl mad?" exclaimed Lady Barmouth.  "What does she mean?"

"I mean, mamma," cried Maude, with spirit, "that I will not--I cannot
marry Sir Grantley Wilters."

"Maude, you'll break my heart," cried her ladyship.

"Tom, this is your fault for bringing that wicked young man to the
house."

"What--Wilters?"

"No, no, no, my boy," said his lordship, rubbing his leg.  "Your mamma
means Charley Melton, and I--I--I--damme, I can't understand it all
about him.  I'm sure I--I--I--don't think he's so bad as he's being
painted."

Maude darted a look of gratitude towards him, and then one of reproach
at her brother, who stood biting his nails.

"Barmouth, will you leave that leg alone," cried her ladyship.  "You
give me the creeps; and if you cannot talk sensibly, hold your tongue.
Everybody knows, even Tom, if he would only speak, that this man--pah!
I cannot utter his name--is degraded to the utmost degree; but he has
managed to play upon a foolish girl'os heart, and she is blind to his
wickedness."

"Mamma," cried Maude, "I am not blind; and I will not believe these
calumnies.  Mr Melton never professed to be rich, and I do not believe
he either gambles or drinks."

"Believe them or not, Maude, my word and your papa's are passed to Sir
Grantley Wilters, and you will be his wife.  So no more folly, please."

Maude turned pale, and glanced at Tom, who stood biting his nails, and
then at her father, who grew more wrinkled, and rubbed his leg.  She
then turned to Tryphie, whose look was sympathising, but meant no help.
For poor dependent Tryphie hardly dare say that her soul was her own.
Maude felt that she was alone, and, even in these nineteenth century
times, being as helplessly driven into marriage with a man she detested
as if in the days of old chivalry, when knights and barons patronised
ironmongery for costume, and carried off captive maidens to their
castles to espouse them before shaven friar, or else dispense with his
services.

"Maude," said her ladyship then, "I wished to spare your feelings, and
if you had been less recalcitrant"--that was a word that her ladyship
had been hoarding up for the occasion, and it rather jarred against her
second best set of teeth as she used it; it was such a hard, stony word,
and so threatening to the enamel--"I should have kept this back, but now
I must tell you that for your papa's and my own satisfaction, we have
had inquiries made as to this--this--Mr Melton's character, by an
impartial person, and you shall hear from his lips how misguided you
have been."

Maude turned pale, but, setting her teeth, she threw up her head and
remained defiant and proud.

"After hearing this, I trust that your sense of duty to your parents
will teach you to behave to Sir Grantley Wilters more in accordance with
your relative positions.  He does not complain, but I can often see that
he is wounded by your studied coldness."

"Not he; damned sight too hard."

"Diphoos," said her ladyship, "I had hoped that your visit to purer
atmospheres taken at the expense of your papa would have had a more
refining influence upon you."

"So it has," said Tom, sharply; "but if you keep on making use of that
worn-out cad's name, I must swear, so there."

Her ladyship did not reply, but pointed to the bell, and Lord Barmouth
dropped the hand with which he was about to caress his leg, toddled
across the room and rang, surreptitiously feeling in one of his pockets
directly after to see if something was safe.

Tryphie Wilders crossed to her cousin and took her hand, whispering a
few consolatory words, while her ladyship played the heaving billow a
little as she settled herself in her chair in a most magisterial manner.

"Robbins," said her ladyship, as the butler entered, "has that gentleman
arrived?"

"Been here five minutes, my lady.  He is in his lordship's study."

"Show him up, Robbins, and we are at home to no one until he is gone."

The butler bowed, went out, and returned with a tall, rather ungainly
man in black, who had something of the appearance of a country carpenter
who had taken to preaching.  He had a habit of buttoning his black coat
up tightly, with the consequence that it made a great many wrinkles
round his body, and though he was fully six feet high, you felt that
these wrinkles were caused by a kind of contraction, his body being of
the nature of concertina bellows, and that you might pull him out to a
most amazing extent.

He favoured this conceit, too, by being very cartilaginous in the spine,
and softly pressing his hands to his breast, and bowing and undulating
gently in different directions to the party assembled in the room.

"Hang him!" muttered Tom, scowling at the new comer.  "He looks, as if
he were in training for a spiral spring.  Who the deuce is he?"

"Tom," whispered his lordship, "that man makes me feel queer; get some
brandy and soda in your room after he has gone."

Tom favoured his father with a peculiar wink, and the old gentleman felt
in his pockets once more, to be sure that he had not flung something out
with his handkerchief.

"Mr Irkle, I think?" said her ladyship, blandly.

"Hurkle, my lady," said the new arrival, bowing.  "Hurkle and Slant,
Murley Court, Obun."

"Oban?" said her ladyship; "I thought your place of business was in
town."

"Yes, my lady, Obun, W.C., near top o' Charn-shery Lane."

"Go it, old chap," said Tom; "never mind the H's."

"Tom, be silent."

"All right!"

"I think we need no preliminaries, Mr Hurkle," said her ladyship.
"Perhaps you will favour me by reading a few notes from your diary."

"Thank you, my lady, yes, certainly," said the new arrival, taking out a
large flat pocket-book, and then getting into difficulties with his
gloves and hat, setting the latter down upon a chair and putting the
former in his pocket, then altering his mind, and taking the gloves out
of his pocket, dropping one, and putting the other in his hat, which he
took up and placed under the chair instead of upon it.  Then he had to
pick up the stray glove and put it in his pocket, evidently feeling
uneasy directly after because he had not put it in his hat, but not
liking to make a fresh alteration.

He now coughed behind the pocket-book very respectfully, opened it,
turned over a few leaves, drew out a pencil, and laid it across, so as
not to lose the place, coughed again, and said--

"Your ladyship would like me to begin at the beginning?"

"Certainly, Mr Hurkle," said her ladyship with dignity; and then with
Maude sitting with her eyes half-closed, Tom walking up and down the
room, and Lord Barmouth looking very much troubled and caressing his
leg, the visitor coughed again, and began in a low subdued tone
indicative of the secrecy of his mission.

"`Thursday, twelft.  Called into Lady Barmouth's'"--no mention was made
of Lord Barmouth whatever--"`Portland Place.  Private inquiry.  No
expense to be spared.'"

"I think you may omit all that part, Mr Hurkle," said her ladyship,
graciously.

"Thank you, my lady.  Hem!" said the visitor, going on reading.
"`Decided to take up case myself, Mr Slant being in Paris'--That is the
end of that entry, my lady."

"Thank you," said her ladyship, bowing, and Tom began to whistle softly,
and to wonder what the man would say if he kicked his hat across the
room like a football.

"`Friday, thirteent,'" continued the visitor, turning over a leaf.
"Hem!"  His cough seemed to be brought on by the fact that he was in the
presence of the nobility, and it troubled him slightly as he went
on--"`Melton, Charles, Esquire, 150 Duke Street, Saint James.  Went out
with bull-dog, 10:50, Burlington Arcade, Gardens, Vigo Street, Regent
Street, Portland Place, Upper Gimp Street.  Must have got into house
there.  Missed.  Took up clue in Duke Street 2:30.  Came back.
Admiration Club.  Back home at 11:30,'--That is the second entry, my
lady."

"Thank you, Mr Hurkle--proceed," said her ladyship; and Lord Barmouth
yawned so loudly that her ladyship turned upon him with a portentous
frown.

"`Saturday, fourteent,' Hem!" said Mr Hurkle.  "`Met C.M. in Strand.
Followed to hosier's shop; stayed ten minutes--gloves.  Went west.
Cosmo Club.  Stayed an hour.  Came out.  Walked to Barker's, Jermyn
Street,' Hem!"

Mr Hurkle looked up after coughing apologetically.

"Barker's--notorious gambling house, my lady."

"Bosh!" said Tom.  "Fellows play a friendly game of pool sometimes."

"I must request that you will not interrupt, Lord Diphoos," said her
ladyship, sternly.

"Time to interrupt when I'm called upon to listen to a cock-and-bull
story like this," cried Tom.  "Barker's isn't a notorious gambling
house."

Mr Hurkle raised his eyebrows and then his hand to his lips, and said
"Hem!"

"May I ask how you know?" said her ladyship.

"Been there myself, hundreds of times," said Tom, sturdily.

"Oh!" ejaculated her ladyship; and that "Oh!" was wonderful in the
meaning it expressed.  For it seemed to say, "I thought as much!  That
accounts for the amount of money squandered away!" and her ladyship
gazed at her son from between her half-closed lids as she said aloud,
"Go on, Mr Hurkle, if you please."

"Hem!  `Left Barker's at eleven Pee Hem.  Returned to Duke Street.'
That is the whole of the third entry, my lady."

"Thank you.  Proceed."

"Eleven o'clock, eh?" said Tom.  "Well, very respectable time."

"Be silent, if you please, sir.  Continue, Mr Hurkle."

"`Sunday, fifteent.  Went out at three.  To Barker's, Jermyn Street.'"

"Hum!  Gambling house on a Sunday," said her ladyship, sarcastically.
"Continue, Mr Hurkle."

"Here, shall I finish for you?" cried Tom.  "Went to Barker's, and had a
chop for lunch, read the papers till dinnertime--a wicked wretch, on a
Sunday too; then dined--soup, fish, cutlet, cut, off the joint, pint o'
claret, and on a Sunday.  Is that right, my hawk-eyed detective?"

"No, my lord.  Hem!"

"Will you be silent, Lord Diphoos?" cried her ladyship.

"That is the whole of the fourt entry, my lady."

"And cheap at the money, whatever it is," cried Tom.  "I say," he added,
scornfully, "do you know where I was on Sunday, you sir?"

"Beg pardon, my lord," said Mr Hurkle, undulating.  "You are not on my
list, and I have no client making inquiries about you."

"That's a blessing," said Tom, "for them and for you."

"Pray go on, Mr Hurkle," said her ladyship.  "Lord Diphoos, I must beg
that you do not interrupt."

To address her son as "Lord Diphoos" was in her ladyship's estimation
crushing, but Tom did not seem crushed.

"`Monday, sixteenth Hem!'" said Mr Hurkle.  "`Saw Mr Melton come out,
followed by large-headed bull-dog, short tail, closely-cut ears, one
white leg, and--'"

"Left canine tooth in lower jaw knocked out, and lip torn in a fight,"
cried Tom.  "Enter that, please."

"Lord Diphoos."

"Oh, all right," cried Tom, savagely.  "Here, I say, you sir, get on and
finish.  This grows interesting."

He glanced across to his sister, who was holding Tryphie's hand, her
head erect, lip curling, and a warm flush in her cheeks as she listened
to this diary of her lover's doings.

"That is the fift entry," said Mr Hurkle, glancing from one to the
other; and then, as a dead silence reigned, he went on--

"`Tuesday, seventeent.  Blank.  C.M. did not go out,'--That is the sixt
entry, my lady.

"`Wednesday, eighteent.  Blank.  C.M. did not go out.'--That is the
sevent entry, my lady.

"`Thursday, ninetent.  Watched at Duke Street.  Found C.M. was out.
Waited.  C.M. returned by north of street and met Lord Barmouth.'"

"Eh, what?" exclaimed her ladyship.

"`His lordship entered Duke Street from the south, after stopping some
time to look in picture-dealer's at full-length portrait of a goddess.'"

"Why, governor!" cried Tom.

"Go on, Mr Hurkle, please.  Lord Barmouth, I beg you will not leave the
room."

"Certainly not, my dear," said his lordship, rubbing his leg.

"Proceed, Mr Hurkle," said her ladyship, sternly.

"Hem!  Yes, my lady.  `C.M. and his lordship went together to Regal
Cafe, Regal Street.  Dined there.'"

"Oh!" ejaculated her ladyship, with eyes growing very tight.  "Proceed."

"But I say, you sir," cried Tom, "wasn't I there?"

"No, my lord.  Hem!"

"Wish I had been.  I say, gov'nor, it was shabby of you."

Lord Barmouth squirmed--to use his son's words.

"Go on, Mr Hurkle," said her ladyship, patting the carpet with her
boot, while his lordship rubbed his leg.

"`Long dinner of many courses.  Several kinds of wine, sodas, brandies,
and cigars.  Gentlemen returned to chambers in Duke Street, smoked
cigars till ten; then to Barker's.'"

"Let me see, Lord Barmouth, you said you were unwell last evening?"

"And I was not there," cried Tom.

"That, my lady--hem!" said Mr Hurkle, undulating and threatening to
draw himself out--"carries us up to midnight."

"Yes--yes--yes," cried his lordship, rising in great excitement; "and--
and--and it's, damme, it's too much.  Tom, Tom, my son, if you don't
kick that fellow out of the house, damme, I will, for it's all a piece
of--of confounded humbug.  I won't have it--I didn't order this to be
done--it's--it's--a confounded, damme, it's a cruel insult to me and my
family, and I won't--I won't--Tom, my boy, send that fellow away, or I
shall--damme, I shall kill him."

"Yes, yes, go now," moaned her ladyship.  "I will send to you, Mr
Hurkle."

The private inquirer bowed very low, took up his hat and gloves, and,
replacing his pocket-book without unbuttoning himself, backed out of the
room, as Tom stood with his hands in his pockets, his little waxed
moustache sticking out in two sharp points, and grinding his teeth,
while poor Lord Barmouth limped about the room trembling with
excitement.

"Oh!" moaned her ladyship.  "My salts--my drops, Tryphie; this will be
the death of me."

"Serve you right," said Tom, savagely.  "You brought it on yourself."

"It's--it's too bad.  Little innocent amusement.  Bit o' dinner and
glass o' wine.  Charley Melton is all right."

"Yes," said Lady Barmouth, "a gambler, a _roue_.  But what wonder.  Ah,
me!  Oh, my poor children.  That Melton debauching my husband!"

"And--and--and devilish nice fellow too.  I--I--I--I liked it, and--
and--and I wished that you had been there, Tom."

"Thanke, governor."

"Oh, that I should live to hear all this!"

"You--you ought to have kicked that fellow out, Tom."

"Be silent, Barmouth, be silent.  Tryphie, ring for Justine to help me
to my room.  My heart is nearly broken now," she added, in a tone of
voice that seemed to indicate that it was only holding together by a
little bit of ligament which was ready to go at any moment.  "Maude,
ungrateful girl, you have heard all.  The horrible, dissipated gambler
who is dragging my son into his dreadful vortex, and even spreading his
meshes around your weak father."

"Weak!" cried Lord Barmouth; "not at all."

"I have heard no harm of Mr Melton, mamma," said Maude.  "He--" She
checked herself on the point of saying, "He told me he was going."

"But a gambler, my child--a gambler."

"Who pockets sixpenny lives at pool when he isn't losing," said Tom--"a
wretch, a demon.  Vot a larks!"

"Good game, pool, when your hand is steady.  Yes, my boy, yes," said his
lordship, who was now rapidly calming down, and looking frightened.

"Thank heaven," cried her ladyship, in tragic tones, "civilisation has
introduced the private inquirer.  I know all now, and my course is
clear."

"Know all, eh?" said Tom, "Why, mamma, you've had a splendid pen'orth.
All that about Charley Melton, and the private information about the
governor chucked in."

"`Chucked!'" ejaculated her ladyship, in tones which sounded as if she
were forming an enormous "poster" for a hoarding.  "`Chucked!'  And this
is my expensively-educated son.  Justine, help me to my room."

"Funnee lil mans," said Justine to herself as Tom gave her a peculiar
look.



CHAPTER SIXTEEN.

MUSIC HATH CHARMS.

The private inquiry trouble was cooling down, but there was so much
excitement and trouble at Portland Place, that Maude's hair had to go
untended on one occasion, and Monsieur Hector and his assistant waited
in vain for the lady's coming.  Short as was the distance, Mademoiselle
Justine was unable to run round and say that they need not wait.

For Sir Grantley Wilters was to dine in Portland Place that evening, and
he arrived in good time.

The baronet was quite bright in spirits and youthful in appearance,
having got the better of his late ailment, and Lady Barmouth smiled
pensively at him when she was not watching Lord Barmouth, and seeing if
he was surreptitiously supplied with wine.

Tom dined at home, and was morosely civil, being puzzled how to act
towards his future brother-in-law.

Sir Grantley knew of the trouble between her ladyship and her lord, but
religiously avoided all allusion thereto; he, however, found time and
opportunity to mention to her ladyship the last scandal that he had
heard concerning Melton.

"No?" exclaimed her ladyship, laying her plump hand upon his arm.

"Yas; fact, I assure you," he said.  "I had it from three fellows at the
club, and they were present.  It was at a place in Jermyn street."

"How dreadful!" exclaimed her ladyship in a low tone.

"They are retailing scandal about poor old Charley, Maude," said Tom,
leaning over the back of her chair in the drawing-room.  "You think he's
quite square, eh?"

"If you mean by that, Tom, that I think him an honourable gentleman;
yes, I do," said Maude quietly.

"That's right.  He's fond enough of you to keep him right, so never you
mind what scraggy Wilters says."

Maude did not reply, but her face flushed, and she sat looking proud and
content in her faith.

Meantime her ladyship had been furnished with the last new piece of
gossip regarding the young man who had gone to the bad, and was
supremely happy.

In spite of her ladyship's watchfulness Tom managed that his father
should have a little wine, and the consequence was that he became very
garrulous, making some personal remarks to Sir Grantley about matters of
the past which the baronet wished to be considered too youthful to
remember, and suffering at last from such decided twinges of his old
complaint that he had to leave the table.  Maude at once seized the
excuse to be freed for the rest of the evening from a presence she
detested, and went to attend upon her father, while Tom started to have
a quiet cigar and a game of billiards, leaving her ladyship and Sir
Grantley together to discuss a few more of the preliminaries of the
wedding; Sir Grantley going so far, when he left, as to say that this
was about the pleasantest evening he had had at the house in Portland
Place, "don't you know."

But those below stairs were not above talking at dinner and supper in
the servants' hall, while Mademoiselle Justine sat like a smiling sphinx
and listened, but said nothing.

"For my part," said Robbins, "I think her young ladyship bears it
admirably, as a well-bred lady should.  She's getting to know that
people in the upper classes can't marry as they like, and behaving quite
right."

"Ah, poor girl," said Mrs Downes; "but under that there quiet look who
knows what a volcano is a-busting in her breast.  Ah, I have a heart of
my own."

"It seems to me," said Dolly Preen, who during the past few weeks had
been growing thin and acid consequent upon slighted love, much banter,
the threatened loss of her situation, and genuine feminine jealousy of
Justine, who had been intrusted with the task of accompanying her young
mistress in her walks--"it seems to me that Lady Maude is finding
consolation somewhere."

Justine, who had been sitting _so_ sphinx-like, suddenly flashed into
life.

"You--you lil _bebe_ of a girl, say what you mean," she cried angrily.

"I was not talking of her ladyship, ma'amselle," retorted Dolly, who had
aptly picked up the London ways of her fellows.  "It only seemed to me
that Lady Maude had taken to liking music very much."

"Ah, yes!" said Robbins.  "Miss Preen is right there."

"Some people found fault with me for liking to listen to the organ,"
said Dolly, spitefully, "but nobody says nothing about my betters."

"Lil _bebe_!" ejaculated Justine scornfully.

"Not quite such a little baby as you think for, ma'amselle," retorted
Dolly, tossing her head.  "I'm not blind."

"But you are lil miserable," said Justine, scornfully.  "What can you
see, pray say?"

"Lady Maude giving money to that Italian musician, and listening to him
very often from the balcony."

"Ah," said Mrs Downes, "but it's different there, Miss Preen.  Some one
I know used to look out of the window at the man, Lady Maude looks out
to console herself with the music, and you knows music _hath_ charms."

"See how right is Madame Downes," said Justine, smiling and nodding.
"My faith, Dolly Preen, but how you are _bete_."

"I don't know French," said Dolly, rising, "but I did look in Lady
Maude's dictionary to see what that word meant, and I won't sit here to
be called a beast by a foreigner, so there."

"Lil _bebe_," said Justine, as Dolly moved toward the door.

"One moment, Miss Preen," said the butler, speaking in an elderly,
paternal tone.  "Just you take my advice."

"I don't want anybody's advice, Mr Robbins," said the girl with
asperity.

"Yes, you do, my dear, and what I wanted to say was, don't you talk so
free.  You've had one narrow escape of losing a good situation through
looking weak on Italian lazy ronies, don't go and run another risk by
hinting as a young lady of the highest aristocracy is giving her
attention to such a thing as a black-bearded, plaster image selling man
who grinds tunes in a box, because if you do you'll find yourself
wrong."

"Thank you, Mr Robbins," said Dolly, tartly.  "I only know what I see,
and I'm not afraid to speak my mind, whatever other people may be.  I'm
English, I am, and not French, and if I am from the country, as I said
before, I'm not blind."

Exit Miss Dolly Preen as Justine exclaimed once more, "Lil _bebe_," and
became so sphinx-like that she appeared deep as a knowledge mine.

"Well, such things have happened," said Mrs Downes, sighing.

"Mrs Downes, don't make me blush for you," said the butler, sternly.
"I'm ashamed to sit here and listen to such hints."

"Ah, well, I'll say no more," said the cook, oracularly; "but I have a
heart of my own, and I know what hearts is."

"Trumps," exclaimed the buttons.

"Henery! silence!" cried the butler sternly.  "You go and see to the
things in the pantry.  Mrs Downes, as the oldest servant in her
ladyship's establishment, I have a right to take the lead.  Such remarks
as these are not seemly."

"I only want to say, Mr Robbins," cried the stout lady, with her heart
doing its work well, "that if you check true love in one direction, out
it comes in another.  It will have its way.  There, look at that."

The demon of Portland Place was at the edge of the pavement turning the
handle of his organ, and as a matter of fact, Maude Diphoos stepped
slowly out of the French window in the drawing-room, and stood looking
down at the Italian's swarthy, smiling face.



CHAPTER SEVENTEEN.

LADY BARMOUTH PUTS DOWN HER FOOT.

Lady Maude sat in her dressing-room once more with her back hair down,
listening to the strains of Luigi's organ as it discoursed a delicious
waltz, while Dolly Preen, who was rapidly developing a vicious-looking
mouth, brushed away at the beautiful golden cascade, which rippled quite
to the ground.  The lady's head swerved softly to the rhythm of the
music, and it proved infectious; for though Dolly knew little of
dancing, the music was pleasant to her soul, and she swayed her head and
brushed softly with an accentuated beat at the beginning of every bar.

Just in the middle of the most sostenuto strain, and just as the
ivory-backed brush was descending low, its long bristles dividing the
golden threads, which crackled again in the warm air of that gloriously
sunshiny day, there was a sharp tap at the dressing-room, and her
ladyship entered.

"Ah, just in time," she exclaimed, raising her gold-rimmed eye-glass.
"I wanted to see your hair, Maude."

"My hair, mamma?"

"Yes, child.  Let me see; you went to Monsieur Launay's yesterday?"

"Yes, mamma."

"I have been telling Justine that I shall not go to any further expense
over it.  I have just sent him a cheque for his account, and your head
looks so much better that I think we may be satisfied now."

Maude's cheeks turned scarlet, and so did her temple and neck, but her
beautiful hair made a magnificent veil, and hid her confusion from her
ladyship's view as she examined the parting, drew it away from the
temples and poked it about just at the poll.

"Don't you think, mamma, I had better keep on for a little longer?"

"No," said her ladyship, peremptorily.  "Your hair is in beautiful
condition.  I grudged paying that man; but he has saved your hair, and
he deserves what he has received.  He is very clever."

"I should like to continue a little longer, mamma."

"You'll do nothing of the sort," said her ladyship tartly.  "Your hair
is perfect."

"I must go and say that I am not about to continue his course of
treatment."

"No, you must not.  I shall write to Monsieur Launay myself and tell
him.  I cannot afford these expenses, the demands for money are
dreadful.  I am always spending.  Go away, Preen."

"Yes, my lady," said the little maid, and she "made a face" as she left
the room.

"The preparations for your marriage will be more than I can afford."

"Oh, mamma, must that go on?" cried Maude.

"Now, now, now, Maude, no more of that, please.  I will not have it.
Silence.  The expenses will be terrible, and I shall be very glad when
it is over, and so will you be, and I must say I am pleased to find you
are coming more to your senses.  Oh, that odious wretch.  Go away, do!"

Her ladyship crossed to the window and shut it down with a crash,
deadening the sound of Luigi's minstrelsy as she returned to her
daughter's side.

"Really the expenses of our establishment are maddening.  I have had the
wine merchant's bill in this morning, and it is outrageous.  The man
must be a swindler.  Case after case of dry champagne charged for that I
cannot remember having.  But I must see into it at once; and, yes: I am
quite satisfied there is no need for you to go to the hairdresser's any
more."

Her ladyship gave a quick glance round the room--a glance that took in
everything, the furniture, the davenport at which her daughter wrote,
the books she had been reading, even to the tiny cobweb left by a
careless housemaid in one corner, and then in a very dissatisfied frame
of mind she descended to write to Mr Launay, leaving her daughter
looking speechless with misery, and gazing wildly at the closed window.

"Shall I finish your hair, ma'am?" said a voice which made her start,
for she had not heard the door opened.

"If you like, Dolly," said Maude despairingly; and with a curiously
furtive glance at her mistress, caused by her wonder what her ladyship
had said, the girl went on with her interrupted work till she had done;
and then when certain hooks had been persuaded to enter certain eyes,
and as many buttons to pass through their button-holes, as she could
obtain no further orders, Dolly left the room, and Maude walked to the
window, opened it, and sat down with her elbow on the sill to listen to
the distant strains of music which came from the top end of the place
near Park Crescent, and as she listened the tears stole down her cheeks,
for the fiat must be obeyed.  There would be no more pleasant visits to
the coiffeur's--those little trips which relieved the monotony of her
life so deliciously, and made her better able to bear the coming of Sir
Grantley Wilters.

No more--no more! she was to be a prisoner now till she was to be decked
out with garlands, and sent like a lamb to the sacrifice, and served up
with mint sauce, for Sir Grantley was going to be very rich.  Life was
becoming an empty void with nothing to fill it.  No Charley Melton
allowed to visit; no assistant to arrange her hair--and Monsieur Hector
Launay's aide was so very, very nice.

Maude's sad musings were interrupted by the door being opened quickly,
and the head of Justine thrust in.

"Oh, mademoiselle--_chere_ miladi, have you heard?"

"Yes, Justine.  It is all over."

"All ovaire, miladi? _c'est atroce_, but not ovaire; I will take counsel
wiz M'sieu Hector, and all will be well."

"Justine!  Justine!"

"Coming, milady; I descend directly.  Have a good heart, still yet, and
all shall be well.  _Oui_, milady, I come."

Justine descended, and Maude melted into tears.



CHAPTER EIGHTEEN.

THE CHANCE LOOKS BAD.

That same afternoon Monsieur Hector Launay's assistant entered the
business place hurriedly, followed by Joby, and exclaimed--

"I am rather late.  Has she come?"

"Come, _non_, M'sieu; she comes no more."

"What?"

"I have a letter from my lady in which she say I have done her
daughter's hair so much good that the visits will cease.  I am paid, and
_voila tout_."

"Good heavens!  Does she suspect?"

"_Non_, M'sieu," said the Frenchman, smiling.  "You have been too
capable an assistant, and the occasion has ceased; but I will think, and
M'sieu shall see the lady again.  I will take counsel with Justine, and
we will have a new plan.  I am a Frenchman, and spirituel.  I cannot
live wizout I see _ma chere_ sometimes.  Justine must come, so be of
good hope; we must wait."

Charley Melton walked out of the reception-room, followed by Joby, who
kept looking up at his master in a curious manner, as if half-pitying
and wholly divining his feelings.  There was a curious leer too in one
eye, which seemed to look maliciously at his proprietor, who took the
greatest care that he, Joby, should not form any canine intimacies of a
tender nature, and Joby's leering eye seemed to say, "How do you like
being morally chained up, my boy?"

Charley Melton went homeward, turned, and walked right up to the Euston
Road, where he made for Park Crescent, and then walked straight down
Portland Placc, so as to try and catch a glimpse of his _inamorata_.

He was blessed and yet annoyed, for Maude was at one of the windows with
a book in her hand, apparently reading, but really looking down at
Luigi, the Italian, who was turning the handle of his baize-covered
chest in the most diligent manner, producing sweet sounds according to
taste, and smiling and bowing to the lady.

"Lucky brute!" muttered Charley, as he went by without venturing to
salute.  For as he passed he saw a white packet drop from the window and
fall upon the pavement, where it burst like a shell, scattering bronze
discs in all directions, so that the organ-grinder had hard work to
collect them laden as he was, while the tune he played was broken up
into bits.

"Lucky brute!" sighed Charley Melton again, "allowed to stand upon the
edge of the pavement to gaze up at her, and then paid for so doing.  Ah,
I'd better give it up.  She won't bolt with me.  I seem as if I can get
no help from Tom, and I cannot go there.  Hang it all, I shall do
something desperate before I've done.  She was yielding, but the game's
up now."

Poor Joby in the days which followed was far from happy, for his master
was a great deal away from home, and the dog was shut out often enough
from his rooms as well as from his confidence.

People said that Charley Melton, being crossed in love, was going to the
bad--taking to drink and gambling, and steadily gliding down the slide
up which there is no return; and certainly his habits seemed to indicate
this to be the case, so much so that Joby thought a good deal in his
dense, thick-brained fashion upon the problem that puzzled his head as
well as several wiser ones--a problem that he was to solve though for
himself when the due time came, for Joby could not make out his master.

Time glided on, and Charley Melton's case seemed to grow more and more
hopeless, while Maude appeared to be going melancholy mad, and passed a
great portion of her time gazing dreamily down at the purveyor of tunes
set afloat upon the air by the mechanical working of a large set of
bellows, and the opening and shutting by a toothed barrel of the mouths
of so many graduated pipes.

Everybody was miserable, so it appeared, saving Sir Grantley Wilters,
whose joy approached the weird in the peculiarity of its developments.
He took medicine by the bucketful, so his valet told Mr Robbins in
confidence, "and the way he talks about your young lady is wonderful."

It was wonderful, for in his amatory madness he chuckled and chattered
and praised the lady's charms, and he even went so far at times as to
sing snatches of love songs in a voice that suggested the performances
of a mad--or cracked--clarionet in a hilarious fit, during which it was
suffering from a dry reed.

Love ruled the day at Portland Place, and Sir Grantley came and made it
in the drawing-room as often as he liked, while when she could escape to
the balcony, Maude stood and listened to the strains of _Trovatore_,
and, "poor dear, seemed to get wuss and wuss."

The last was cook's remark, and it was received with a feminine chorus
of "Ah's!"

"Oh, that wretched Italian, why does he persist in coming here?" cried
her ladyship one day.  "Maude, you'll drive me mad if you keep on
encouraging him so."

Maude looked at her mother dreamily and said nothing, but the next time
the man came she wrapped some coppers in a piece of paper, and dropped
them out, to be caught deftly in the soft felt hat.

"Poor fellow," she sighed, "it may make him happy."

"Ah, bella signora," cried Luigi in mellifluous tones, and he ground,
and smiled, and showed his white teeth till the lady retired.

But if there was love-making in Portland Place there was despair in Duke
Street, human and canine, for Joby more than once proved himself to be a
terrible nuisance at the chambers by uttering low snuffling whines upon
the stairs and landings, which, being interpreted, meant, "Why doesn't
master come home?"  But by degrees he smothered his feelings on finding
that an open avowal of his trouble only resulted in boots, boot-jacks,
empty soda-water bottles, and other missiles being flung at him from
open doors, while he was reviled as being a beast.

His retort upon receiving such forcible salutations was very often a
display of his teeth, and so threatening an action in the direction of
legs that he generally caused his assailants to beat a retreat; but at
last he performed the same strategic evolution himself, consequent upon
having to deal with the unknown.  In fact, science conquered him.  He
stood shot, and dodged them bravely.  So clever was he indeed upon this
point, that it was almost impossible to hit him with hair-brush, boot,
or lump of coal; but one day an angry occupant of the chambers, upon
hearing a very long-drawn howl, opened his door suddenly and hurled a
bottle at the dog.

It was this bottle which puzzled Joby, for instead of being empty, it
was full of the water known as soda, highly charged with gas by one
Schweppe, and though it missed the dog, it struck upon a partly filled
coal-scuttle, and exploded with such violence, and so great a scattering
of fragments, that for two days Joby preferred to sleep in the park, and
had a very narrow escape from a dog-stealer, who tried every
blandishment he knew to get the animal to follow him, but without
effect.

Sometimes he would go and hang about the great house in Portland Place,
but there was no admission.  Attempts to glide past or between the legs
of the servants dismally failed; but he had a look or two at Lord
Barmouth, and followed him when he went out, giving sundry sniffs at his
pocket, and more than once coming in for a bone.  But this was very
exceptional, and Joby's was just now a very unsatisfactory and useless
life.

His lordship swore a little softly and in private about the organ, but
ceased as he saw that his daughter took a little interest in the music.

"But it's doosed bad taste, Tom, doosed bad taste, my boy; and dear me,
how I do long for a glass of port."

"Yes, and you'll have to long, governor."

"Yes, my boy.  Seen Charley Melton lately?"

"Yes, looking as if he were going to be hung."

"Did he though, my boy?  What did you say to him?"

"Told him he was a fool."

"Oh, Tom, my boy, you shouldn't have done that.  I hope he don't think
that I'm behaving badly to him.  I'd go and see him, but her ladyship
would be sure to know.  Be civil to him, my boy, for my sake.  His
father was such an old friend."

"Humph, don't seem like it," growled Tom.

"But why did you call him a fool, Tom?"

"For not making a bolt of it with Maudey."

"Oh, no--no--no--no, my boy, that would be very wrong.  But what did he
say?"

"Nothing.  Shook his head and walked off."

"Yes, yes.  Quite right, my boy, quite right.  Charley Melton would not
do anything to degrade our Maudey like that."

"Well, I would if I had a chance," said Tom, "and if I hadn't I'd make
one."



CHAPTER NINETEEN.

TOM AND THE TARTAR.

All the same though, consequent upon thinking so much about his sister,
Tom made very little progress with his own love affairs.

Tryphie Wilder's was not a very pleasant life at Lady Barmouth's.  She
felt that she had been adopted out of charity, and in her bitterness she
would sometimes call herself her ladyship's abuse block, for that lady
would call her "little wretch" in private with as much vigour as there
was sweetness in the "my dear" of public life.  Her ladyship had before
now gone so far as to strike her.  That very day Tryphie had her
revenge, for, going into the drawing-room, she found Tom fast asleep on
the sofa, and snipped off the ends of his moustache, wax and all.  Tom
awoke, and caught and kissed her, and she flew at him, boxed his ears,
and then ran out of the room and upstairs, to strike her hand against
the wall for being so cruel.

The girl's bright spirits and unvarying tenderness to his father, for
whom she was always buying Bath buns or finding snacks, made Tom
desperately in love with her, but he had only received chaff as his
amatory food in return.  Tryphie meantime went on as a sort of upper
servant, with the _entree_ of the drawing-room; and while Justine was
the repository of much that was false in Lady Barmouth, she alone was
admitted to the secrets of her aunt's first and second sets of teeth,
which she had to clean in her own room with the door locked, it being
supposed that it was her ladyship's diamond suite then undergoing a
renovating brush, while poor Tryphie all the time was operating upon
what looked like a ghastly grin without any softening smile given by
overhanging lips.

"I tell you what it is, Tryphie," said Tom one day, as he met her on the
stairs--"but I say, what's that?" and he pointed to a little case which
she tried to conceal.

"Don't ask impertinent questions, sir," was the reply.  "Now then, what
is it?"

"Well, I was going to say--oh, I say, how pretty you look this morning."

"You were not going to say anything of the kind, sir."

"Well then, I was going to say if I am worried much more, I shall hook
it."

"Slang!" cried Tryphie.

"Well, I must slang somebody.  I mustn't swear.  I'm half mad, Tryphie."

"Poor fellow! you have been smoking yourself so."

"Nonsense!" he said, "a fellow must do something to keep off the blues."

"Yes; smoke in bed."

"I shouldn't if I was married.  If I had a wife now--"

"Married!" said Tryphie, "without any money, sir!  What would you do?
Keep a billiard table or open a cigar shop?  I suppose I might sit
behind the counter--"

"Go it," said Tom.  "How down you are on a fellow."

"While my little liege lord wore his elegant shawl-pattern smoking
trousers, dressing-gown and cap, and showed his prowess to customers at
the billiard table."

"Little, eh?" said Tom.  "Well, I am little, but you must have some
little fellows in the world, to sort up with.  We can't all be great
handsome black chaps like Captain Bellman."

"Captain Bellman is not always smoking."

"I don't care, I'm getting reckless.  I own it all: I do go to sleep
with a cigar in my mouth.  I can smoke as many cigars for my size as any
man in London and there are not many men who can beat me at billiards."

"How is the new cue, Tom?" said Tryphie, mockingly.

"All right," he said.  "I tried it last night at the rooms, and played a
game with an uncommonly gentlemanly Frenchman, who made the most
delicious little cigarettes.  I thought I'd met him before.  Who do you
think it was?"

"Don't know, and--"

"Don't care, eh?  Well, it was Launay the barber."

"Tom!"

"Well, I don't care; home's wretched and I'm miserable.  Besides, other
people enjoy seeing me so.  Maude is always going about the house like a
ghost, or listening to that organ man.  She's going mad, I fancy.  Then
Charley Melton has turned out a fool to cave in as he has done, and
Tryphie cuts me--"

"As you deserve."

"That's right, go it.  The governor's miserable, and that mummy Wilters
is always here.  Nice place to stop in.  Perhaps I ought to aim higher
than billiards, and keeping one's cue in a japanned case hanging up in a
public room.  But look at me; hang it, I hardly get a shilling, if I
don't have some fellow at billiards.  What have I to look forward to?"

Tryphie made a movement to continue her way, but Tom spread his hands so
as to stop her descent.

"Will you have the goodness to allow me to pass, Lord Diphoos?" she
said, demurely.

"_Lord_!" he cried, peevishly.

"Very well, then, most spoiled child of the house," said Tryphie,
maliciously, "Master Diphoos."

"You make my life quite miserable, Tryphie, you do, 'pon my honour.
You're the most ungracious--"

"There's pretty language to use to a lady, sir," cried Tryphie, speaking
as if in an angry fit.  "Say I'm the most disgraceful at once, sir."

"Oh, I didn't mean that," said Tom; "I meant ungracious and unyielding."

"Of course, sir.  Pretty words to apply to a lady."

"Bother!" cried Tom.  "I never looked upon you as a lady."

"Thank you, sir," she said, making him a most profound curtsey.

"Well, you know what I mean," grumbled Tom; "I always think of you as
Cousin Tryphie, whom I--there," he whispered, "I will say it--I love
with all my heart."

"Bosh!" exclaimed Tryphie.

"There's pretty language to use to a gentleman," retorted Tom.

"I never look upon you as a gentleman," said Tryphie in her turn; and
she darted a mischievous look at him.

"Thank you, ma'am," said Tom, who was now quite out of heart and temper.
"And so you go on snub, snub, peck, peck, till a fellow feels as if he
would like to make a hole in the water, he's so sick of his life."

"But he only makes a hole in his manners instead," cried Tryphie.

"I say, Tryphie, you know," cried Tom, now appealingly.  "Don't be so
jolly hard on a fellow who loves you as I do.  I can't bear it when you
snub me so.  I say, dear," he continued, taking her hand, "say a kind
word to me."

"Let go my hand, sir, and don't be stupid," she cried.

"Tryphie!"

"Well, Tom!  Now look here, I've got to be so that I can hardly believe
in there being such a thing as sincerity in the world, after what I've
seen in this house: but all the same I do think you mean what you say."

"Thankye, Tryphie; that's the kindest thing you've said to me for
months," said Tom.

"Stop a bit, sir, and listen.  I was going to say--"

"No, don't say any more, dear," cried Tom, imploringly.  "You've said
something kind to me, and I shall go and get fat on that for a month."

"Listen to me, sir," cried Tryphie, unable to repress a smile--"I was
going to say--Do you think I am going to promise to marry an idle,
thoughtless, selfish man, with only two ideas in his head?"

"Two?" said Tom, dolefully.  "No, you're wrong.  I've only got one."

"I say two, sir--cigars and billiards.  Do you think I want to marry a
chimney-pot, or an animated cue?"

"Chimney-pot!  Animated cue!" said Tom, with a groan, as he took off his
little scarlet smoking-cap, and wrung it in his hands as if it were wet.

"Let me see, sir, that you've got some energy in you as well as good
sincere feeling, before you speak to me again, if you please."

"I may speak to you again, then?" cried Tom.

"Of course you may," said Tryphie, tartly.

"And then?" cried Tom.

"Well, then we shall see," replied the sarcastic little lady.

"Energy, eh?" said Tom.  "Well, I will: so now to begin again.  You know
I have been energetic about Maude?"

"Ye-es, pretty well," said Tryphie.  "Not half enough."

"Well, now then, dear--may I say dear?"

"If you please, Lord Diphoos," said Tryphie.  "I can't help it."

"Well, I'm going to be energetic now, and see if I can't do something
for Maude."

"What are you going to do?"

"See Charley Melton and stir him up.  Then I shall stir up the gov'nor
and Maude, and if none of these things do any good I shall have a go at
Wilters."

"Ah," said Tryphie, "now I'm beginning to believe in you, and there is
some hope that I shall not be forced into a marriage with that odious
Captain Bellman."

"Tryphie," whispered Tom, as he stared, "just say that again."

She shook her head.

Tom looked upstairs and then down, saw nobody, and hastily catching the
little maiden in his arms, stole a kiss before she fled, when, giving
his head a satisfied shake, he went down to the hall, saw that his hat
was brushed, and went off to Duke street, in utter ignorance of the fact
that his father had been sitting in the curtained recess on the landing,
where the flowers dwindled in a kind of conservatory, calmly devouring a
piece of Bologna sausage and half a French roll.

"He, he, he," chuckled the old gentleman, "that's how they make love
when they're young.  I was--was--was a devil of a fellow among the
ladies when I was Tom's age; but somehow now I never want to meet her
ladyship on the stairs and kiss her.  I'd--I'd--I'd a doosed deal rather
have a nice piece of chicken, or a bit of tongue."



CHAPTER TWENTY.

TOM EXPRESSES HIS OPINION.

Charley Melton was not at home.

Tom went again.  Not at home.

Three weeks passed before he could meet him, and then it was by accident
at one of the clubs, and during all this time Tryphie had grown colder,
and the wedding-day was approaching.  But at last the two young men
encountered, and Tom went straight to the point, "Hit out," as he termed
it.

"Charley Melton," he said, "are you going to let this cursed marriage
come off?"

"What can I do?" said Charley, lighting a cigar.  "I have tried
everything, and am forbidden the house."

"Why not coax Maudey to come and meet you somewhere?"

"I have tried," said Melton, quietly, "but it is hopeless now."

"Why?"

"Her ladyship never lets your sister go out of her sight."

"Then make a bolt of it, Charley."

"You proposed that before.  Oh, undutiful son."

"There, don't talk like a Turk," said Tom.

"I feel like one, Bismillah!  It is Kismet," said Charley Melton,
grimly.

"Fate's what a man makes himself."

"Yes, but you can't make bricks without straw.  O! my Diphoos," said the
other, mockingly, "I have so little golden straw that her ladyship
refuses to let me make bricks at all, and--There, let the matter slide,
old man."

"By George!" cried Tom, savagely.  "And this is my old friend Charley
Melton!  Where's your spirit?"

"Ah! where indeed."

"I'd shoot Wilters if I were in your case."

"It would be agreeable, but the consequences are so precious unpleasant,
Tom.  I've had one awful drop: I don't want another."

"You're a coward, Charley, big as you are."

"I am, Tom, if it comes to being hung for shooting a baronet dead.  No,
Tom, I love Maude very much, but I am not chivalrous enough to risk the
rope."

"Bah!"

"Yes, if you like, I am willing for the matrimonial noose, but that
prepared for homicides--no: I would rather remain a bachelor."

"Then I cut you henceforth," said Tom, angrily.  "I've done with you."

"No, you haven't, old fellow; some day after Maude is married we shall
be quite brothers again."

"Never."

"Nonsense.  Have a B. and S."

"With you?  No, sir; I have done.  Good-day."

"Good-bye, Tom, for I'm going off shortly."

"And pray where?"

"Italy, I think," said Melton, smiling.

"Won't you stop and see Wilters married?"

"No; I will not.  Have a B. and S., old fellow."

Little Tom looked his friend over from top to toe, and then, with an
ejaculation full of contempt, he stalked out of the club, and went
straight to Portland Place, where the first person he met was Tryphie
alone in the drawing-room.

"Well," she cried, "have you seen Mr Melton?"

"Yes."

"And--"

"And?  Bah! he's a miserable sneak.  I haven't patience with him.  Here,
Tryphie, don't go."

The little maiden made no answer, but sailed out of the room, just as
Lord Barmouth came in.

"Ah, Tom, my boy, any news?"

"Yes, governor--the world's coming to an end."

"Dear me!  Is it, my boy?  I was in hopes that it would have lasted my
time.  But perhaps it's for the best.  Will it stop poor Maudey's
marriage?"

"I hope so, gov'nor.  Here, come along with me."

"Certainly, my boy, certainly; but, by the way, I'm very hungry.  Can we
get something to eat?"

The old man looked very haggard, for his internal wolf was gnawing.

"Come and see, gov'nor."

"Yes, my boy, I will.  But, by the way, have you noticed anything
particular about Maudey?"

"Looks precious miserable."

"Yes, my boy, she does; but I mean about her standing out in the balcony
so much of an evening.  You don't think--"

"Think what, gov'nor?"

"It's--it's--it's a devil of a way down into the area, Tom; and if she
were--"

"To jump over and kill herself?  Pooh! nonsense, old fellow.  Here, come
up to my room."

"I'm--I'm glad to hear you speak with so much confidence," said Lord
Barmouth.  "Yes, certainly, my boy, certainly.  Dear me, I feel very
faint."

Tom took his father's arm, and led the way to his bedroom, where he
placed an easy-chair for the old man, and then stooping down, drew a
case from beneath the bed and a glass or two from a cupboard.

"Why, Tom, my boy--wine?"

"Yes, gov'nor, wine.  Fizz.  Pfungst's dry fruity."

"But up here, Tom!"

"Yes, up here, gov'nor.  A man must have something to take the taste of
this nasty wedding out of his mouth."

"But how came it to be here, Tom?"

"I ordered the wine merchant to send it in, and here it is."

"But does her ladyship know?"

"Skeercely, gov'nor, as the Yankee said."

"But did--did you pay for it yourself, my boy?"

"No; I told 'em to put it down in the bill.  Here, tip that off."

Tom filled a couple of small tumblers, and handed one to his father, who
took it with trembling fingers.

"But really, my boy, this is very reprehensible.  I--I--I--I--as your
father, I feel bound to say--"

"Nothing at all, gov'nor.  Tip it off.  Do you good."

"No, no, Tom, it's champagne, and I--I--really, I--Now if it had been
port."

"Tip it up, gov'nor."

"I shall investigate the whole matter, Robbins," said a strident voice
outside, and the door-handle began to turn.

"Hi!  Stop!  Dressing!" cried Tom, frantically.

"Do not tell untruths, sir," exclaimed her ladyship, sternly, as she
entered without the slightest hesitation.  "Ah, as I expected.  Wait,
till the servants are gone.  Robbins, take down that wine."

"Yes, my lady."

"Not this, you don't," said Tom, seizing the gold-foiled bottle by the
neck.

"You knew that Lord Diphoos was having cases of wine up in his bedroom,
Robbins?"

"No, my lady."

"You brought it up?"

"No, my lady--Joseph."

"Then Joseph knew."

"He said it was cases of modelling clay, my lady."

"That's right," said Tom, "modelling clay.  Try a glass, mamma, to
moisten yours."

"Take away that case."

"Yes, my lady."

Robbins stooped with difficulty, picked up the case, and slowly bore it
out, her ladyship standing in a studied attitude pointing the while.

"Another time," said her ladyship, turning tragically to her son, and
then withering her lord.  "I have too much on my mind at present to
trouble about this domestic mutiny."

"Domestic grandmother," cried Tom.  "There, you needn't make so much
fuss about it.  It was all your fault, mamma."

"My fault, sir?"

"Yes, I was driven to drink by trying to obey you, and being civil to
Wilters.  Hang him, he makes one a regular laughing-stock."

"Explain yourself, sir."

"Well, you gammoned me into going to Hurlingham with your pet poodle."

"My pet poodle!" exclaimed her ladyship.

"Bah! yes, your pet baronet; but never any more.  Hang him, he came
there dressed up like a theatrical super, in grey velvet, and with a
soft hat and a rosette.  I felt so mad that I could have punched his
head, for all the fellows there were sniggering.  But you should have
seen him shoot."

"Sir Grantley told me that he was a very good shot," said her ladyship.

"Oh, he did, did he?" roared Tom.  "Bless his modesty.  Well, I'm going
to tell Maude that when she's married she had better look out, and if
ever she sees her lovely husband take up a gun she had better bolt--out
of town--the seaside--or come home.  She won't be safe if she don't."

Lord Barmouth tittered at this, but his lady looked round at him so
sharply, that he turned it off, and stared stolidly straight before him.

"It was a regular case of fireworks," continued Tom.  "His attitudes
were grand, and he looked as if he were rehearsing something for a
circus.  You should have seen the fellows laugh."

"I sincerely hope that you did not laugh," said her ladyship, sternly.

"Oh, dear, no," said Tom, "not at all.  Didn't even smile."

"I'm very glad of it," said her ladyship.

"Oh, you are?  That's right," said Tom; "but somehow one of the buttons
flew off the front of my coat, and my ribs ached, and I lay back in a
chair in a state of convulsion.  I nearly had a fit."

"Diphoos!" ejaculated her ladyship.

"And when dear Grantley came up he gnashed his teeth at me.  He did,
'pon my word, till I roared again.  I say, gov'nor, it's the funniest
thing out to see him in a passion."

"It seems to me," exclaimed her ladyship, hysterically, "as if the whole
of my family were leagued against me, and determined to try and break
off this match.  From what I can gather, it seems to me, Tom, that you
have grossly insulted Sir Grantley."

"Bosh!" said Tom.  "He made such an ass of himself that I roared with
laughter, and served him right."

"Fresh insults," cried her ladyship; "but I can wait.  At present, as I
before observed, I shall take no steps to check this domestic mutiny on
the part of my husband and my son."

"Mutiny?"

"Yes, sir, I said mutiny; but after Maude is married--then!"

The door closed behind her, and Lord Barmouth looked piteously up at his
little son.

"You have got me into a devil of a scrape, Tom, my boy," he faltered.

"Never mind, gov'nor.  Tip that up.  The old girl left us this."

"But--but it _is_ champagne, Tom."

"All the better, gov'nor.  Here's to you."

Lord Barmouth hesitated for a few moments, and then raised his glass.

"Your health, my dear boy," he said.--"Yes, that's a very nice glass of
wine.  I haven't tasted champagne for a couple of months."

"Then you shall taste it again," said Tom.  "Now, I mean to go it.
Gov'nor, you should come and dine with me to-night, and we'd try and
forget all about old Maude, only I have no money."

"But I have, my boy--ten pounds."

"You have, gov'nor?--Yes so you have."

"Take--take it, my boy."

"But where did you get it, gov'nor?"

"Well--er--never mind that, Tom.  I--er--I borrowed it; but I shall pay
it again some day."

"But, gov'nor--"

"Take the money, Tom, my boy.  You need not mind, and if I can get away
to-night I should like to dine with you."

"Then you shall, old fellow; I'll manage that."

"But her ladyship?"

"Leave it to me, gov'nor."

"And about Charley Melton, Tom, my boy--is there any hope?"

"Not a bit, gov'nor.  He's a poor thing, and not worthy of her."

"Oh, dear, dear, dear," sighed Lord Barmouth.  "But I'm afraid I
couldn't get away."

"You leave it to me, and we'll dine at nine, gov'nor.  Don't take
anything at ours."

"No, Tom, no."

"Now go down."

The old man finished his champagne, thinking of her ladyship's
word--_then_.

After that he went downstairs, and that night, as good as his word, Tom
shuffled him out as soon as the ladies had left the dining-room.

It was easily done, and the door was just being quietly closed as they
stood under the portico, when from just outside and beyond the pillar
there came the sudden burst of music from an organ, as the man who had
been playing changed the tune, and as the pair hurried away they brushed
against the player, who stood by the area railings in his slouched hat
and ragged attire.

"What the--"

"Devil" his lordship was going to say, for something struck him on the
top of his _gibus_ hat.

"Copper," said Tom, as the object fell with a pat on the pavement.
"Come along."

"Yes, halfpence," whispered his lordship, nervously, as he tottered on;
"but I do wish Maudey wouldn't be so free with her money to those
vagabonds.  That scoundrel makes quite an income out of our house."

"Never mind, gov'nor, it won't last long.  Poor girl, the game's nearly
up.  Now for what the Yankees call a good square meal."

"With a drop of port, Tom, my boy."

"Yes; you shall have a whole bottle.  Barker's, Jermyn Street," he cried
to the cabman, who drew up; and then as the cab drove off--"There,
gov'nor, we'll forget home troubles for one night."

"Yes, my boy, we will," said the old man, eagerly.

"I do wish Tryphie wouldn't be so hard again," sighed Tom, "and just too
when she was growing so soft.  Sympathy for Maudey, I suppose."

"What say, Tom, my boy?"

"Thinking aloud, gov'nor."

"What about, Tom?"

"Charley Melton, gov'nor.  He's a regular flat."



CHAPTER TWENTY ONE.

SAD PROCEEDINGS.

All the servants remarked that "the poor dear" from the very first bore
up like a suffering martyr, and then discoursed upon the vanity of human
hopes; and Mrs Downes, who was of a pious turn of mind, and went miles
"per 'bus" on Sundays to be present at religious services in theatres,
said that it was a "vale of tears," and wiped one tear out of her eye,
looked at it, wrapped it up very carefully in her handkerchief, and put
it in her pocket, as if fully aware of the fact that it was a
sympathetic pearl.

"They might well call it the last day," sighed the same lady, for to her
mind it was as if heaven and earth had come together.

"She is _bete_, this woman," said Mademoiselle Justine, who had
descended for hot water; and she stood and purred softly to herself, and
looked so like a cat that she only needed to have squatted down upon a
chair, and begun licking her trim dress, to have completed the likeness.

It was the last day of Maude's girlhood; the next was to see her what
the fashionable gossips would call a happy wife.  The previous fortnight
had been spent in a whirl of busy doings.  Dressmakers had been to and
fro, milliners consulted, Justine and Dolly had been kept up late at
night to see to packing, and so anxious was her ladyship that her child
should look her best that she insisted upon Maude visiting her dentist,
and seeing Dr Todd again and again.  Maude tried to expostulate, but
her ladyship was inexorable, and spared herself no pains.  The
consumption of spirits of red lavender was startling, but she bore up
wonderfully; went with that dear Sir Grantley to the coachmaker's in
Long Acre, and herself selected the new brougham that was one of the
baronet's wedding presents, and declared the horses which she twice over
went into the stable to see were "loves."

Then, too, she aided in the re-decorating of her daughter's new home; in
fact, spared herself in no way to bring about the happy event, while
"that wretched Lord Barmouth prowled about the house doing nothing but
thinking of gluttony."  In fact, she found him one day sitting behind
the curtains in the drawing-room spreading potted tongue upon an
Abernethy biscuit, with a pearl paper-knife, when he ought to have been
helping her, for in these days his lordship's wolf, which constantly
bade him feed, was unusually active.

Perhaps it was a natural instinct similar to that which directs wild
animals to seek certain places at times to lick salt.  At all events,
tongue had a wonderfully attractive effect upon Lord Barmouth: he would
steal or buy tongue in any shape to eat surreptitiously, and evidently
from a natural effort to provide homoeopathically against that from
which he suffered so much.

Tom gave her ladyship a great deal of trouble by his opposition to the
very last, but his efforts were in vain.

"I might perhaps have done more, Maude," he said, "but, hang it all,
what more can I do?  A fellow can't hardly say his soul's his own in
this house.  I've tried all I can to get the governor to take the lead,
but the old woman sits upon him so heavily that he hasn't a chance."

Maude only wept silently and laid her head upon his shoulder.

"There, there, little girl," he said, "cheer up.  It's fashion, and you
mustn't mind.  Old Wilters is very soft after all, and you must take a
leaf out of the old girl's book, and serve him out for it all.  Hang me,
if I were you, if I wouldn't make him pay dearly for all this."

"Hush, Tom, dear Tom.  Pray, pray don't talk about it.  Tom, dear, when
I am gone--"

"There, I say, hang it all, don't talk as if you were going to pop off."

"Listen to me, Tom dear," said Maude, firmly.  "I say when I am gone, be
as kind as you can to poor papa.  I may not be able to speak to you
again."

"All right," said Tom; "but I say, you will try and hold up."

"Yes, Tom dear, yes."

"That's right, old girl, make the best of a bad bargain.  You won't be
much worse off than Diana.  Fashionable martyrs both of you."

"Yes, Tom dear."

"And you will try to be happy?"

"Yes, dear, I'm going to be happy.  But you'll think the best of me,
dear, and take care of poor papa?"

"Of course I will.  The old man will be better off when you are gone.
Her majesty won't be so stingy when she has got you both off her hands,
and married to rich men."

"No, dear.  I will try and cheer up."

"That's right, old girl.  I wish some one would make me happy."  This
was accompanied by a look at Tryphie, who was in the room.

"I don't see how you can expect any lady to make you happy, Tom," said
the little girl, sharply.  "A gentleman who worships two idols, cigars
and billiards, cannot have room for a third love."

"There she goes," said Tom, disconsolately.  "Maude, I've told her I
loved her a score of times, and she pooh-poohs me, and looks down upon
me."

"Of course," said Tryphie, pertly.  "Is it not settled that I am to be
Mrs Captain Bellman?"

"Mrs Captain Bellman!" cried Tom, savagely.  "Look here, Tryphie, I
thought we had settled him, and now you bring him up again like an evil
spirit in a play.  I tell you what it is, if somebody does not shoot
that great moustached scoundrel, I will."

"What, such a handsome, gentlemanly man?" said Tryphie, sarcastically.

"Handsome?  Gentlemanly?  The narrow-minded scoundrel!  Look here,
Tryphie, a man may do worse things than smoke cigars and play billiards.
Damme, I can say I never caused a woman the heartache, or deceived my
friend."

"Are you sure, Tom?" said Tryphie, looking up at him with a melancholy
droll expression upon her countenance.

"Tryphie!" he cried, running to her, and catching her hand.

"Get along, you silly boy," she cried, laughing; and he turned away with
a look of annoyance, but Maude caught his arm.

"Tom, dear," she said, laying her head upon his shoulder, "come what
may, you will always think kindly of me."

"Why of course, my dear," he said, "always.  I shall think of you as the
dearest and best of sisters, who always stuck up for me, and kept
herself poor by lending me--no, hang it, I won't be a humbug--giving me
nearly all her allowance.  Maude, old girl: I'm afraid we young fellows
are terribly selfish beasts.  Look here," he cried, excitedly, to hide
the tears that would come into his eyes, "I tell you what; I can get
half a dozen fellows together who'll help me burke old Wilters if you'll
say the word."

"Don't be foolish, Tom dear," sighed Maude.  "I must go now to papa.  I
want to stay with him all day.  Thank you, dear Tom; be kind to him when
I'm gone."

"That I will, dear," he said; and, embracing him fondly, Maude hurried
away out of the room.

"Tom," said Tryphie, coming behind him as he stood, rather moist of eye,
gazing after her.

"Tryphie," he cried excitedly, facing round, "I feel such a scoundrel;
and as if I ought to put a stop to this cursed marriage.  Here's a set
out: she detests him, that's evident; and if Charley Melton had been a
trump, hang me if he shouldn't have had her.  Curse it all! her
ladyship's too bad.  There, I can't stand it, and must be off.  This
place chokes me--What were you going to say!"

"I was only going to say, Tom," she said, softly, "that I'm very sorry
I've behaved so unkindly to you sometimes, and snubbed you, and been so
spiteful."

"Don't say any more about it, Tryphie," said the little fellow, sadly.
"I'd forgive you a hundred times as much for being so good to the old
man.  Good-bye, Tryphie, I'm off."

"But you'll come back for the wedding, Tom!"

"I'll be there, somethinged if I do," he said.

"What!  See a second sister sold by auction?--Knocked down by my lady to
the highest bidder?  No, that I won't.  I can't, I tell you.  Hang it
all, Tryphie, you chaff me till I feel sore right through sometimes.
I'm a little humbug of a fellow, but I've got some feeling."

"Yes, Tom," said Tryphie, looking at him strangely, though he did not
see it.  "But I was going to say something else to you."

"Well, look sharp then," he said.  "What is it!"

"Only, Tom, that I don't think I ever quite knew you before; and you
have pleased me so by what you said to poor Maude."

"Tryphie!" he cried, with his eyes sparkling.

"Yes, Tom, dear," she said, looking up in his face.  "Don't let aunt
marry me to any one."

"If I do!" he cried, clasping her in his arms, and her pretty little
rosebud of a mouth was turned up to his for the kiss that was placed
there, just as the drawing-room door opened, and her ladyship sailed in
to stand as if petrified.

"Lord Diphoos!  Tryphie!" she cried in a deep contralto.  "What are you
doing?"

"Kissing," said Tom.  "It's done this way," and he imprinted half a
dozen more kisses upon Tryphie's frightened little face before she
struggled from him, and ran out by another door.

"Have the goodness, sir, to ring that bell," said her ladyship, laying
her hand upon her side, and tottering to an easy-chair.  "I cannot talk
to you about your conduct now--your wickedness--your riot and
debauchery--my mind is too full of what is about to take place; but as
you are going away to-day, I must tell you that you can return here no
more until Tryphie is married.  I will not have her head filled full of
wicked nonsense by so unprincipled a young man."

"Yes, I am a very bad one, mother," said Tom, quietly; "but don't make
yourself uncomfortable.  I am not going away."

"Not going away?" shrieked her ladyship.  "Ah, who is that?" she
continued, without turning her head.

"Robbins, my lady."

"Oh, Robbins, send Justine to me."

"Yes, my lady," said the butler, retiring.

"I'm going to stop and see Maude turned off, if old Wilters don't have a
paralytic stroke on his way to church."

"Tom!"

"Well, it's likely enough.  He's only about forty, but he has lived
twice as fast as most fellows ever since he was fifteen, so that he's
quite sixty-five."

"I will not listen to your insults, sir.  As your mother, I should at
least be spared."

"Oh, ah, of course," said Tom, "duty to grey hairs and that sort of
thing--Beg pardon though; I see they are not grey.  I'm going to stop it
all out now, and I shan't go--and what's more, mamma," he cried, nursing
one of his little patent leather shoes as he lolled back, "if you are
cantankerous, hang me if I don't contrive that the governor has the full
run of the wine at the wedding breakfast, there."

"If you dare, Tom!" cried her ladyship.  "Oh, Justine, my drops."

"Yes, milady," said that damsel.  "Ah! bold, bad lil man," she added to
herself, as she glanced at Tom, who very rudely winked at her when she
closed the door after Lord Barmouth, who crept in and went timidly to an
easy-chair.

"Your drops!" said Tom.  "Ha--ha--ha! why don't you take a liqueur of
brandy like a woman, and not drink that stuff."

"Tom," said her ladyship, "you are too coarse.  You will break my heart
before you have done.  Only to think of your conduct," she cried,
glancing at the chair in the farther room, where Lord Barmouth lay
apparently asleep, as being his safest course when there was trouble on
the way, "that too of your dozy, dilatory father, when one of you might
make a position in Parliament, the other a most brilliant match."

"Why, you don't want the old man to take another wife, do you?" said
Tom.  "I say, dad!  Here, I say: wake up."

"Silence, sir, how dare you!" exclaimed his mother.  "You wicked,
offensive boy.  I was, for your benefit, trying to point out to you how
you might gain for yourself a first-rate establishment, when you
interrupted me with your ribald jests."

"Hang the establishment!" said Tom; "any one would think you were always
getting your children into trade.  I shall marry little Tryphie, if
she'll have me.  I'm not going to marry for money.  Pretty sort of a
fellow I look for making a brilliant match, don't I?"

"Oh, Tom, Tom, Tom," said her ladyship, bursting into tears, "you will
break your poor mother's heart."

"Not I," said Tom, cynically; "it's not one of the heart-breaking sort.
But I say, you've made Diana miserable, and Maude half crazy, and now I
hope you are happy.  Tell you what, I shouldn't be at all surprised now
if it's through you that Charley Melton is going to the bad.  If so,
you've done it and no mistake."

"I am surprised that your father allows you to talk to me like this,"
said her ladyship.  "I never knew a son so wanting in respect."

"Dad's asleep; don't wake him," said Tom; "the old man's about tired
out."

A snore from the easy-chair endorsed Tom's words, and he sat smiling at
his mother, knowing from old experience that she would not go away till
he had done criticising her conduct in his rough and ready style.

"I shudder when I think of poor Maude's escape," said her ladyship.
"Nothing could be more disgraceful than that young man's conduct.  He
sees at last though that he cannot marry Maude, and that it would be
little short of a crime, so he--"

"Stands out of it," said Tom.  "Hang me if I would, if any one was to
try to cut in after Tryphie."

"Once for all, Tom," said her ladyship, "I desire that you cease that
nonsensical talk about your cousin.  Tryphie will marry when I select a
husband for her."

"Oh, of course!" said Tom; "but look here--two can play at that game."

"Will you have the goodness to explain what you mean, sir?"

"Yes," said Tom, taking out and counting his money.  "Let me see,--about
two pounds ten, I should say.  I dare say old Wilters would lend me a
fiver, if I asked him."

"Tom," cried her ladyship, excitedly, "if you dared to do such a thing I
should never survive the disgrace.  For my sake don't ask him--at all
events not yet.  There, there," she cried hastily, "there's a five-pound
note.  Now, my dear boy, for your mother's and sister's sake, do not do
anything foolish for twenty-four hours.  Only twenty-four hours, I
implore you."

"Thankye," said Tom, taking the note and crumpling it up, as he stuffed
it into his trousers pocket.  "All right, then: I'll wait twenty-four
hours."

"What--what do you want the money for?" said her ladyship, adopting now
the _tremolo_ stop to play her son, as the _furioso_ had proved so
futile.

"I'm going to buy a revolver," said Tom, kicking up one leg as if he
were dancing a child upon it.

"A revolver, Tom?  You are not going to do anything rash--anything
foolish?"

"What!  Operate on myself?  Not such a fool.  I'd sweep a crossing to
live, not blow my brains out if I were what people call ruined.  I'm
philosopher enough, mother, to know the value of life.  Do you wish to
know what I want that revolver for?"

"Yes," said her ladyship, faintly; "but pray mind that your poor papa
does not get hold of it."

"Oh, yes," said Tom.  "Well, mother, I'm going to stick up a lot of
playing cards in my bedroom, and practice at the spots till I'm a dead
shot."

"Great Heavens, Tom! what for?"

"So as to be able to make it warm for the man who comes after Tryphie.
Ah, Justine, got the drops?  Why, you grow handsomer than ever."

"Go, impudent little man," said Justine, shaking her head at him, and
then running to her ladyship, who was lying back with closed eyes.  "Ah,
poor, dear milady, you are ill."

"My drops, Justine, my drops," sighed her ladyship.  "Ah, Justine, what
comfort you are to me in my sorrows.  My good Justine, never pray to be
a mother;" and she showed her best teeth in a pensive smile of sadness
by way of recompense for the attention.

"_Ma foi_! no, milady, I never will," said Justine, turning very French
for the moment, and her ladyship's drops produced more tears.

Tom "made a face" at the maid while her ladyship's eyes were buried in
her scented handkerchief, and Justine gave him a Parisian smile as he
rose, winked once more, and left the room.

Then Lady Barmouth took up her lament once more.

"Ah!  Justine, when the gangrene of the wounds in my poor heart has been
cicatrised over, I may perhaps breathe forgiveness into the ears of my
children; but now--oh now--"

"Ah, poor milady! what you do suffer," said the sympathising Justine;
"you make me so much to think of that poor Job, only he was a great lord
and not a lady, and you have not the boil."

"My poor Justine," sighed her ladyship, as she smiled patronisingly at
the innocence of her handmaiden, "there are moral and social boils as
well as those external, and when I sit here alone, forsaken by my
children--by my husband--by all who should be dear, left alone to the
tender sympathies of an alien who is all probity and truth--"

"Yes, poor milady, I suffer for you," said Justine.

"Thanks, good Justine, you faithful creature," said her ladyship,
sighing; "I could not exist if it were not for you."

And Justine said to herself maliciously, "I am what that wicked young
man calls a hom-bogues."



CHAPTER TWENTY TWO.

LADY MAUDE GOES MAD.

Meanwhile Maude had sought Lord Barmouth, whom she surprised in a corner
of the library, feeding his wolf and studying the wing of a chicken,
which he was picking with great gusto.  He did not hear her entry, and
he was talking to himself as he lifted up and smelt his
pocket-handkerchief.

"Yes," he muttered; "damme, that's what it is.  I could not make out
what made the chicken taste so queer.  He--he--he! it's eau de Cologne.
He--he--he--_Poulet a la Jean Marie Farina_.  Damme, that'll be a good
thing to say at the next dinner-party, or to-morrow morning.  No," he
said sadly, "not then.  Oh, dear, it's very hard to see them taken away
from me like this, and I must get my strength up a bit.  Who's that?"

"It is only I, papa," said Maude, seating herself on the hearthrug by
his side, as the old man hastily popped the chicken bone out of sight.

"I'm glad to see you, my dear, glad to see you," said Lord Barmouth,
patting her soft glossy head.  "Maude, my pet, I can hardly believe that
you are going away from me to-morrow."

"Pray, pray don't talk of it, dear papa," she faltered.  "I've come to
stay with you and talk to you; and you must tell me what to do, papa."

"Yes, yes, yes, my dear," he said, "I will; and you must be strong, and
brave, and courageous, and not break down.  Her ladyship would be so
upset, you see.  Maudey, my darling, matrimony's a very different sort
of thing to what we used to be taught, and read of in books.  It isn't
sentimental at all, my dear, it's real--all real--doosed real.  There's
a deal of trouble in this world, my darling, especially gout, which you
women escape.  It's very bad, my dear, very bad indeed, sometimes."

Maude's forehead wrinkled as she gazed piteously at her father, for her
heart was full to overflowing, and she longed to confide in him, to lay
bare the secrets of her laden breast; but his feeble ways--his
wanderings--chilled the current that was beating at the flood-gates, and
they remained closed.

"What can I do--what can I do?" she moaned to herself, and laying her
head upon the old man's knee, she drew his arm round her neck, and wept
silently as he chatted on.

"I--I--I remember, my dear, when Lady Susan Spofforth was married, she
was the thinnest girl I ever saw, and they said she hated the match--it
was Lord Barleywood she married--Buck Wood we used to call him at the
club.  Well, next time I saw her, about three years after, I hardly knew
her, she had grown so plump and round.  It's--it's--it's an astonishing
thing, Maudey, how plump some women do get after marriage.  Look at her
ladyship.  Doosed fine woman.  Don't look her age.  Very curious, damme,
yes, it is curious, I've never got fat since I was married.  Do you
know, Maudey, I think I'm thinner than I used to be."

"Do you, papa?" she said, smiling up at him.

"Yes, my dear, I do indeed; but it don't matter much, and I don't think
her ladyship minds.  Let me see, Sir Grantley's coming to dinner to-day,
isn't he, my dear?"

"Yes, papa."

"Ha! yes!  A good dinner's a nice thing when you can enjoy it free and
unfettered, but it's like matrimony, my dear, full of restrictions, and
very disappointing when you come to taste it.  Well, there, there,
there, now we have had our little talk and confidences, we will go
upstairs to the drawing-room.  It will be more cheerful for you."

He rose, taking his child's hand, kissing it tenderly, and holding it
before he drew it through his arm, while Maude sighed gently, and
suffered herself to be led upstairs.

Her ladyship was better, and she smiled with a sweetly pathetic
expression in her countenance as Maude entered with her father, rising,
and crossing to meet them, and kissing her child upon her forehead.

"Bless you, my darling!" she said; "pray be happy in the knowledge that
you are doing your duty.  Go now, Justine."

"Yes, my lady," said that sphinx; and as soon as they were alone her
ladyship continued--

"Yes, in the thought that you are doing your duty.  At your age I too
had my little love romance, but I was forced to marry your poor papa."

"Oh, damn it, my dear!" cried his lordship, looking at his wife aghast;
"I was forced to marry you."

"Barmouth!  That will do!  Maude, my child, I begged Sir Grantley to
come and dine with us _en famille_ this evening."

"Oh, mamma!" cried Maude, "was that wise?"

"Trust me, my dear, for doing what is best," said her ladyship.

There was a great bouquet of flowers on the table, which was littered
with presents from the bridegroom elect, and family friends; but Maude
did not seem to heed them, only the flowers, which she picked up, and as
Lady Barmouth smiled and shook her head at her husband, Maude went and
sat down by the open window, to begin picking the petals to pieces and
shower them down.  Some fell fluttering out into the area; some littered
her dress and the carpet; and some were wafted by the wind to a
distance; but Maude's mind seemed far away, and her little white fingers
performed their task of destroying her present, as her head sank down
lower and lower, bowed down by its weight of care.

It was autumn, and the shades of evening were falling, and so were
Maude's spirits; hence a tear fell from time to time upon the flowers,
to lie amidst the petals like a dew-drop; but they fell faster as her
ladyship uttered an impatient cry, for just then the black-bearded
Italian stopped beneath the window, swung round his organ, and began to
grind out dolefully the _Miserere_ once more and its following melody
from _Trovatore_, the whole performance sounding so depressing in her
nervous state that the poor girl's first inclination was to bury her
face in her hands, and sob as if her heart would break.  She set her
teeth though firmly, glanced back in the room, and then, smiling down at
the handsome simple face beneath her, she threw a sixpence which the man
caught in his soft hat.

"Grazie, signora," said the Italian, smiling and showing his white
teeth.

"Maude, how can you be so foolish?" cried her ladyship.  "You have
encouraged those men about till it's quite dreadful: we never have any
peace."

"Poor fellows!" said Maude, "they seem very glad of a few pence, and
they are far away from home."

"Yes," said her ladyship, "where they ought to be sent back."

"I remember once," said Lord Barmouth, "in the old days when they used
to have moving figures dancing in front of their organs, one of Lady
Betty Lorimer's daughters actually got--he, he, he! carrying on a
clandestine correspondence with one of those handsome vagabonds."

Maude looked at her father in a startled way.

"Barmouth, be silent," cried her ladyship, as the butler entered the
room with a fresh present upon a tray.  "Robbins," she said, "go
downstairs and tell that man that he will be given into custody if he
does not go away directly.  Tell him some one is ill,"--for just then a
fresh strain was ground out in a most doleful fashion, and Maude began
softly humming the air to herself as she gazed down, still in the man's
handsome face.

"Some one ill, my lady?"

"Yes; I am ill.  You should have sent him away without orders."

"I did try to dismiss him, my lady, when he came," said the butler.

"Well, and what did he say?"

"Only smiled, my lady."

"But did you say that the police should be sent to him?"

"Yes, my lady, but he only smiled the more; and then," continued the
butler, lowering his voice as he glanced at where Maude stood outside,
"he pointed up to the drawing-room window here, and wouldn't go.  If you
please, my lady," he continued in an undertone, "he never will go while
Lady Maude gives him money."

"That will do: go away," said her ladyship, sighing; and Lord Barmouth
got up and toddled towards the window to look down and elicit a fresh
series of bows from the Italian, who kept on playing till the window was
closed, when he directed his attention to the area, where a couple of
the maids were looking up at him, ready to giggle and make signs to him
to alter the tune.

Tom came back into the drawing-room just as her ladyship had closed the
window and sent Lord Barmouth back to a chair, where he sat down to rub
his leg.  Tryphie came back a few minutes later to glance timidly at her
aunt, who, however, thought it better to ignore the past for the time
being, fully meaning, though, to take up poor Tryphie's case when her
mind was more free.

"Will you come and see the dress that has just come in?" said Tryphie to
Maude, who was sitting gazing dreamily out of the window.

"No," she said, "no."

"My dear child," cried her ladyship, "pray, pray take a little interest
in your dresses."

"I cannot, mamma," cried Maude, passionately.  "I have not the heart."

"Bah, Maude!" cried Tom, "be a trump, I say.  When you are married and
have got your establishment, I'd jolly soon let some one know who was
mistress then."

"Tom, your language is disgraceful," cried her ladyship.  "It is as low
and disrespectful as that of the people in the street."

"I wish your treatment of your children were half as good.  Here's every
shilling a fellow wants screwed out, till I feel as if I should like to
enlist; and as for Maudey here, you've treated her as if she were a
piece of sculpture, to be sold to the highest bidder.  I suppose she has
not got a heart."

"Lord Barmouth!" exclaimed her ladyship, faintly, as she lay back in her
chair, and lavishly used her smelling-salts, "if one of my brothers had
spoken to dear mamma as that boy speaks to me, dear papa would have
felled him to the earth."

"There you are, gov'nor, there's your chance," said Tom, grinning.
"Come and knock me down, but don't bruise your knuckles, for my head's
as hard as iron."

Lord Barmouth took out his pocket-handkerchief, and wiped his hands upon
it, not noticing that it was stained with gravy, gazing in a troubled
way from wife to son, and back, and then crossed to the former to say
something in a whisper, to which her ladyship replied--

"Pshaw."

"Thank you, Tom," whispered Tryphie, as he went to the window where she
stood.  "I did not think you could stand up so bravely for your sister,
and be so true."

"Didn't you?" said Tom, sulkily.  "It's a good job I can be true, for I
don't believe there's a spark of truth anywhere else in the world.  If
Charley had had the spirit of a fly, he'd have come and walked her off.
Hang it all!  I'm mad and savage.  Pretty sort of a husband you've got
for her.  Pretty sort of a brother-in-law to have!  I'm ashamed of him.
I'm only a little one, and nothing to boast of, but he's no better than
a pantaloon.  Truth indeed!  There isn't such a thing in the world."

"Oh, Tom!" whispered Tryphie.

"More there isn't," cried Tom.  "Pretty brother-in-law indeed!"

"Maude," exclaimed her ladyship, "I think you might have a word to say
on behalf of your intended husband."

The girl glanced at her in a stony way, and turned once more to the
window, where she had been looking out with Tryphie, listening with
aching heart to the encounter between mother and son.

"Such a brilliant match as I have made," cried her ladyship, harping on
her old string.  "And such opposition as I have from the girl who owes
me so much."

"Indeed, mamma, I have yielded everything.  You are having your own way
entirely," said Maude passionately.

"Have I not saved you from throwing yourself away upon a disreputable
creature?" sobbed her ladyship.

"Tryphie," whispered Maude, "I cannot bear this.  It is dreadful.  I
feel as if I should go mad."

"He saw plainly enough," whined her ladyship, "that it could not be--
that it would have been a complete _misalliance_."

"This is unbearable," whispered Maude, clasping her cousin's hand, which
pressed hers warmly and encouragingly, as they stood in the window
recess, half screened by the heavy curtains.

"Try not to listen, dear," whispered Tryphie.

"It nearly maddens me.  I feel as if I could do anything wicked and
desperate."

"Oh, hush, hush, dear," whispered Tryphie; and Lady Barmouth maundered
on in tones asking for sympathy, as she set herself up as the suffering
ill-used mother whom no one tried to comfort in her distress.

"Saved you as I did from a life of misery," continued her ladyship,
whimpering.  "Oh, dear! oh, dear! how children strive to throw
themselves away."

Maude moaned, and held her hand to her side.

"Are you ill, dear?" whispered Tryphie.

"No, no," was the reply.  "It is past now--past."

"I shall be sorry when you are gone, Maude," said her father simply.

"Oh, papa, papa," she cried, running to him and throwing her arms round
his neck; for the tenderly-spoken sympathetic words brought the tears to
her eyes.  Then, unable to bear it, she turned to leave the room, but
just then the door opened and the butler announced Sir Grantley Wilters.

"Ah, how do!" he said in a high-pitched voice, saluting all in turn, and
bending low over Maude's hand.  "Thought I'd come soon, don't you know,
_sans ceremonie_, eh, mamma!" he said with a smile to Lady Barmouth, and
then gave his glass a screw, and brought it to bear on all present.

"I am so glad," said her ladyship; "so is Maude; but don't take any
notice," she whispered.  "Poor child, she is _distrait_, and seems cold.
So deeply attached to Lord Barmouth.  Ready to break her heart at
leaving him."

"Yas, oh, yas," said Sir Grantley; and he took his seat beside Maude.

"Tryphie," said Tom, "I can't help it.  I must be off.  This fellow
makes me ill.  May I go?"

She gave him a nod of intelligence, and he said something about being
ready for dinner, and left the room to go out, take a hansom, and bowl
down to one of the clubs, where he was soon so busily engaged in a game
of pool that he forgot all about the dinner.

Very shortly after, Maude rose, bowed to Sir Grantley, and left the room
with Tryphie, when the baronet crossed to Lady Barmouth's side, and was
soon engaged in a most interesting conversation, whose murmur sent Lord
Barmouth into a pleasant slumber, out of sight in a lounging chair,
where he was quite forgotten, when her ladyship suggested that Sir
Grantley should go with her to her boudoir to see the last new presents
sent in for Maude.

"And you would like to wash your hands, too, before dinner," said her
ladyship.  "We will not trouble about dressing to-night."

Sir Grantley opened the door, and the old gentleman was left alone to
wake up about a quarter of an hour later to find it was dark, and sit up
rubbing his leg.

"Oh, damme, my leg," he said, softly.  "Where--where are they all gone?
Why it's--it's past dinnertime," he said, looking at his watch by the
dim light.  "I shall be doosed glad when everybody's married and--and--
and--why the doose doesn't the dressing-bell ring?  Heigh--oh--ha--hum!"
he added, yawning.  "There's--there's--there's another of those
abominable organs.  I--I--I wish that all the set of them were at the
bottom of the sea, for I lie at night with all their tunes coming back
again, and seeming to grind themselves to fit the pains in my leg.  Poor
girl! she was always encouraging the fellows.  Why dear me!  Damme,
haven't I got a single sixpence left to give him, to go away.  No, that
I haven't," he continued fumbling, "not a sou.  She--she--she does keep
me short," he muttered, opening the French window and looking out.  "Oh,
he's done playing now, so I shan't want the money.  Why eh--eh--eh?
Why--he--he, he! the fellow's talking to one of the maids.  He--he--he!
Hi--hi--hi!  They will do it.  I--I--I was a devil of a fellow amongst
the girls when I was a young man; but now--oh, dear, oh dear! this wind
seems to give me tortures, that it does."

He closed the window, but stood looking out.

"You'd better take care, you two, that my lady don't catch you, or
there'll be such a devil of a row.  He's--he's going down into the area.
Well, well, well, I shan't tell tales.  He--he--he!  Hi--hi--hi!" he
chuckled, sitting down and nursing his leg.  "I remember when I was
about twenty, and Dick Jerrard and I--he's Lord Marrowby now, and a
sober judge!--when we got over the wall at a boarding-school to see
pretty Miss Vulliamy.  Oh, dear, dear, dear, those were days.  They
preach and talk a deal now about being wicked, but it was very nice.  I
used to be a devil of a wicked fellow when I was young, and--and flirted
terribly, while lately I've been as good as gold, and, damme, I haven't
been half so happy."

He stopped rubbing his leg for a while.

"Everything's at sixes and sevens, damme, that it is.  I'm nearly
famished, that I am.  If it hadn't been for that bit of chicken I should
have been quite starved.  Her ladyship's too bad, that she is.  Cold
boiled sole, rice pudding, and half a glass of hock in a tumbler of
water.  I can't stand it, that I can't.  Damme, I'll make a good dinner
to-night, that I will, if I die for it.  I'll--I'll--I'll, damme, I'll
kick over the traces for once in a way.  Tom will help me, I know.  He's
a good boy, Tom is, and he'll see that I have a glass of port, and--
damme, where's Maude and her ladyship, and why isn't dinner ready? and--
eh--what?--what the devil's that.  There's something wrong."

For at that moment a piercing shriek rang through the house, and there
was the sound of a heavy fall upon the floor.



CHAPTER TWENTY THREE.

TOM DIPHOOS STAYS OUT LATE.

"Half thought I should have seen Charley Melton here; perhaps he has
started for Italy after all," said Tom, who had gone straight to
Barker's and engaged in a game of pool.  "Might have stirred him up, but
he don't seem to mind it a bit.  Well, no wonder, seeing how he was
treated."

"Red upon white; yellow's your player," said the marker, and Tom went up
to make the stroke required of him; then he turned once more to glance
at the table next to him, and watched two or three of the bets made.

"Past ten," he said to himself, glancing at his watch.  "That's getting
back to dinner.  Never mind, I'm not the party wanted by her ladyship.
Charley must have known she was to be married to-morrow.  I liked him
too," he said, gazing at the players.  "He's a big, strong,
noble-looking fellow.  Ah, well!  I suppose that's because I'm little.
One mustn't go by outside appearances.  Perhaps it's all for the best."

Just then a friend proposed that they should drop in at one of the
theatres and see the new burlesque; and after a little hesitation Tom
consented to go.  After this a kidney had to be eaten at a tavern; so
that it was one o'clock when he reached home, to find the lights
burning, and a cluster of servants in the hall.

"Hallo, Robbins, what's up?  House on fire?" he cried, as the butler
admitted him, looking very solemn and troubled.

"No, my lord.  Oh, dear no."

"Don't be an old image.  What is it?  Sir Grantley had a fit?"

"My young lady, my lord," said the butler in a solemn, mysterious
whisper.

"Not ill--not ill?" cried Tom, excitedly.

"No, my lord," said the butler, "not ill, but--"

"Confound you, you great pump.  Speak out," cried Tom, angrily.

"Gone, my lord--been missing hours.  Her ladyship has been having fit
after fit, and his lordship is 'most beside himself."

"Bolted!" exclaimed Tom; and, running into the dining-room, he threw
himself into a chair and laughed till his sides ached.

"Poor Wilters! oh, Lord, what a game!  Cut!--skimmed!"

He got up, and stamped round the room in the very ecstasy of delight,
"The little smug hypocrite!" he said.  "That's why she was so sanctified
and sad to-day.  Well, bless her, I like her pluck.  Sold, my lady,
sold!"

He suddenly woke up to the fact that he ought to go upstairs, and,
turning serious, he walked into the hall.

"Where's her ladyship, Robbins?" he asked.

"Upstairs, my lord."

"Where's Sir Grantley?"

"Went out, my lord, about ten, to find that tail, straight man, sir, as
came--Mr Hurkle."

"And he hasn't found him?"

"No, my lord, I s'pose not."

"Good job too," said Tom, shortly, and running upstairs he entered the
drawing-room so suddenly that her ladyship, who was lying upon a sofa,
being fanned by Tryphie, began to shriek.

"There, don't make that row, mother," said Tom, coarsely.  "Hang it all,
what a smell of lavender!"

"Is that you, Tom?" sobbed her ladyship, as Justine came in with a
bottle of hot water to apply to her mistress' feet.

"I suppose so, unless I was changed at my birth," he said, laughing at
Tryphie, and then giving his father a free-and-easy nod.  "Spirits and
water--internal and ex."

"Oh, my boy, your wicked, wicked sister!" sobbed her ladyship.

"Serve you right," said Tom.

"Such a wanton disgrace to her family."

"Of course," said Tom.

"I shall never get over it."

"Shouldn't have tried to make the poor girl marry a man that she did not
care a curse for."

"Oh, but, Tom, Tom!" sobbed Tryphie, "this is too dreadful."

"Stuff!" cried Tom.  "I'll be bound to say that you were in the secret."

"Indeed, no," cried Tryphie, reproachfully.  "I did not know a word.  I
had left her in her room, as I thought, to dress, and when I went to
fetch her because dinner was waiting she was gone."

"Tell him, Justine, for mercy's sake tell him," wailed her ladyship.

"Yes, poor milady, I will," said the Frenchwoman.  "Miss Tryphie knocked
many time, and I ascend the stairs then, and she say she begin to be
alarmed that mademoiselle was ill.  We enter then togezzer, and we
find--"

"Nothing," said Tom, coolly.

"Oh, no, monsieur, all her beautiful dresses, ze trousseau magnifique,
lying about the room, but she is not there.  Then I recollect that I see
somebody pass down ze stair, in a black cloak and veil, but I take no
notice then, though I think now it must have been my young lady."

"But you knew she was going," said Tom, gazing straight into her eyes,
which only shone a little brighter, for they did not shrink.

"I know, monsieur?" she replied.  "I know, I come straight to tell
milady of ze outrage against ze honour of her family.  _Parole
d'honneur_ no, I know nozing as ze lil _bebe_ which come not to be
born."

This was said at a tremendous pace, and with a very strong French
accent, for, as Mademoiselle Justine grew excited, so did she forget her
good English, and began to return towards the language of the land of
her birth.

"What's been done?" said Tom, shortly.

"Aunt sent directly for Mr Hurkle, and then Sir Grantley went after him
as well."

"Curse Mr Hurkle," cried Tom, and he hurried out of the room, and
dashed, two steps at a time, downstairs, and nearly tumbled over one of
the footmen, who looked quite scared.

"You're always in the way," cried Tom, savagely, and he dashed into the
library, where he found Lord Barmouth busy with trembling hands
examining a very old pair of flintlock duelling pistols.

"Hallo, dad!" cried Tom, "none of that.  You're not tired of life?"

"No, no, my son," said the old gentleman; "damme, no, Tom, though it
does get very hard sometimes.  Tom, my boy, I'm going to find him out
and shoot him."

Tom slammed down the lid of the case, and pushed the old gentleman
unresistingly back into an easy-chair.

"Now, look here, gov'nor, let's talk sense," he cried.

"Yes, my dear boy, I--I--I'm doosed glad you've come.  We will--we
will."

"It's true then, gov'nor, that poor Maude has bolted?"

"Well, yes, my boy, I don't think there's a doubt about it."

"Then that's all your fault, gov'nor," said Tom.

"My dear boy, don't you turn upon me and bully me too.  I--I--I've lost
my poor little girl, and I--I--I can't bear much.  It's such a disgrace.
I know I ought to have stood up for her more, Tom, my boy, but her
ladyship is so very strong-minded, you know."

"Yes, I know," said Tom.  "She was too much for both of us, gov'nor.
Well, it's no use to fret about it that I see.  The little filly's taken
the bit in her teeth, topped the hedge, and away she's gone.  And she so
sly over it too!"

"She was very sorry to go, Tom, I'm sure.  She was in such trouble
to-day."

"Yes," said Tom, quietly, "we ought to have suspected something.  How
about old Wilters?"

"He's nearly mad, my boy.  He has--has--has been running round--round
the drawing-room like--like--like--"

"A cat on hot bricks, father."

"Yes, my son.  He's furious--he's going to kill him."

"Yes, of course," said Tom, grinning.  "I should like to see him do it."

"But--but--but, Tom, my boy, don't take it quite so coolly."

"Why not, father?  Hallo? who's this, eh?  Oh, of course," he said,
"here are the women now."

For her ladyship came in leaning upon Tryphie's arm, to immediately
shriek and fall back in a chair.

"Oh, Tom! oh, Tom," she cried, "I shall never survive.  The disgrace--
the disgrace."

"Nonsense.  Here, father, Tryphie, Maude has gone off with Charley
Melton, I suppose?"

"No, no, no!" shrieked her ladyship.  "Oh, horror, horror, horror!"

"Tryphie, cork her mouth with a handkerchief, or they'll hear her across
the street.  Here, father, what's the row.  Charley Melton, eh?"

"No--no--no, my dear boy," stammered Lord Barmouth, "I--I--I--damme,
though her ladyship's here, I say it in her presence, I wish she had.
It's too dreadful to tell."

"My God, father!" cried Tom, excitedly, as he turned pale, and the cold
sweat stood upon his forehead, for like a flash came upon him the
recollection of his sister's words that day, and brought up such a
picture of horror before his eyes, that he trembled like a leaf.  "Don't
say--don't tell me--"

He could not finish, but stood panting, and gazing at the
horror-stricken face of his mother.

"No, my boy, I won't if you don't want me to," said the old man, feebly;
"but it's--it's--such a terrible disgrace."

"Father," faltered Tom, in a hoarse whisper, "has she--has she drowned
herself?"

"Oh, no, my boy, no--no--no," cried the old man, with the tears
streaming down his cheeks.  "She has eloped under disgraceful
circumstances."

"Not with one of the servants, father?" cried Tom.

"No, no, my boy, worse than that."

"Hang it, father," cried Tom, savagely, "there is no worse, without she
has gone off with a sweep."

"Yes, yes, my boy," cried the old man.  "She has gone off with an
organ-grinder and a monkey!"

"Which?" roared Tom, seizing the poker; "it isn't murder to kill an
ape."

"No, no, my boy, it's the organ man.  I saw him from the window
to-night.  I don't think there was a monkey."

Tom threw the poker into the fire-place with a crash, and stared blankly
at his mother.

"Oh, Tom! oh, Tom!" she cried, hysterically, "the disgrace!--the
disgrace!--the disgrace!"

"I--I--I don't know what to do," cried Lord Barmouth.  "I can never
stand it.  It will be all the talk of the clubs.  It's--it's--it's--"

"It's all damned nonsense, father!" cried Tom; "my sister isn't such a
fool."



CHAPTER TWENTY FOUR.

TOM ASSUMES COMMAND.

Ten minutes after Tom was busy trying to obtain some further
information, after seeing his father comfortably settled down in the
study with a good cigar and a pint bottle of port.

"May--may I have 'em, Tom, my boy?" he asked.

"Yes, yes, old gentleman," said Tom.  "Mamma really is ill now, and
won't interfere, and if it gives you a few twinges of the gout, hang it
all, it will be a counter irritant."

This was after Lady Barmouth had been assisted off to bed.

"Hold up, my little lassie," Tom said, pressing Tryphie's hand.  "Hang
me if you aren't the only one left with a head upon your shoulders.  You
must help me all you can."

"I will, Tom," she said, returning the pressure; and he felt that any
one else's pretensions from that moment were cast to the winds.

"One moment," whispered Tom, as Lady Barmouth was moaning on the stairs,
half-way up the first flight of which she was seated, with her head
resting on Justine's shoulder.  "You think there's no mistake--Maude has
bolted?"

"Yes, I have been to her room, and she has taken her little Russia bag."

"But you don't believe this absurd nonsense that they have got hold of?"

"I can't, Tom," she said; "but she has been very strange in her ways for
some time past."

"Enough to make her," said Tom.  "The old lady would drive me mad if she
had her own way with me.  There, be off and get her upstairs to bed
while I see what's to be done."

Tryphie went up, and Tom entered the dining-room, developing an amount
of firmness and authority that startled the butler into a state of
abnormal activity.

"Now, Robbins," he said, "look here: of course you know this absurd
statement that has been going round the house, and that it's all
nonsense."

"Well, my lord," said, the butler, "Lady Maude has encouraged that sort
of man about the place lately."

"Confound you for a big pompous, out-of-livery fool!" cried Tom,
bringing his hand down with a crash upon the table.  "There, fetch all
the servants in, quick."

Robbins stared, and felt disposed to give notice to leave upon the spot,
but Tom's way mastered him, and, feeling "all of a work," as he confided
afterwards to the cook, he hurried out, and soon after the whole staff
was assembled in the dining-room, Justine having been fetched from her
ladyship's side.

"Now then," cried Tom, opening his informal court.  "Who knows anything
about this?"

"Please, m'lord," said Henry, the snub-nosed little foot page, florid
with buttons, and fat from stolen sweets, "I see a man playing the organ
outside to-night."

"So you did yesterday, and the day before."

"Yes, m'lord," said the boy, eagerly; "and I heard somebody go out."

"Did you?" said Tom, politely.  "Now, look here, my boy!  If you dare to
open that mouth of yours and get chattering to people this monstrous
piece of nonsense, I'll--I'll, hang me, I'll cut your ears off."

The boy ducked and held one arm up, as if he expected to be attacked at
once, and ended by taking refuge behind his best friend and greatest
enemy--to wit, the cook.

"Speak, some of you, will you?" cried Tom.  "Did any one see my sister
go out?"

"If you please, my lord," said the housemaid, "if I may make so bold--"

"Yes," said Tom, with sarcastic politeness, "you may make so bold.  Now
go on."

"Well, I'm sure," muttered the woman.  "Well, my lord, I was going
upstairs to-night, and I heard my young mistress sobbing bitterly in her
room."

"Well," said Tom, "and you stopped to listen."

"Which I wouldn't bemean myself to do anything of the kind," said the
woman with a toss of the head; "but certainly she was crying, and soon
after I was a-leaning out of the second floor window, it being very 'ot
indoors, as we've been a good deal 'arrissed lately by her ladyship."

"Go on," cried Tom, impatiently.

"Which I am, my lord, as fast as I can," cried the woman; "and there was
that tall handsome Italian gentleman, as cook thinks is a furrin'
nobleman in disguise, playing on his hinstrument."

"Yes," said Tom, sarcastically.

"And all of a sudden he stops, and I see him go into the portico."

"Oh, yes, of course," said Tom.

"And then there was a lot of whispering."

"Yes, yes," said Tom; "oh, yes, of course."

"And that's all, my lord, only my young mistress wasn't in the room when
I came back."

"Now then, all of you," cried Tom, "once for all, this absurd rumour is
one of the most ridiculous--What's that you say?" he cried sharply, as
he heard a whisper.

"I was saying to Ma'amselle Justine that my young lady was always
encouraging them men about, my lord," said the housemaid, "and that if
I'd been one of the spying sort I might have seen her."

"Poor thing," said the cook, loudly.  "She has been drove to it.  I have
a heart of my own."

"Silence!" roared Tom.  "How dare you?  Here, has any one else got
anything to say?  You?  Oh yes, you are my sister's maid."

"Yes, my lord," said Dolly Preen, spitefully.

"Well, what do you know?"

"I know that my mistress was always listening at first to that dreadful
Italian," said Dolly.

"No, no--you, you," cried Justine.

"I fought against it, and mastered it," said Dolly proudly; "Lady Maude
found it too much, I suppose."

"Well, I never!" ejaculated Mrs Downes.

"Go on," cried Tom.

"And then she got to dropping notes to him out of the window, my lord."

"It isn't true," cried Tom.  "Woman, you ought to be turned out of the
house."

"Oh, it's true, though," said Mrs Downes.

"Silence, you silly old meat murdress," raged Tom.

"Meat what?" cried the cook.  "There are times, my lord, when one must
speak.  I've seen a deal in my time, and there's no doubt about it.
We're all very sorry for you, but we all knows that my young lady's been
drove to go away with that dark young man."

"It is not true," said a sharp voice; and Justine stepped forward to the
table, with her dark eyes flashing, her white teeth set, so that she cut
the words as they came through, and in her excitement and championship
of her young mistress becoming exceedingly French.  "I say it is not
true.  You _canaille_ you, vis your silly talk about ze organiste.  It
is all a lie--a great lie to say such vicked, cruel thing of my dear
young lady.  Ah, bah! that for you all," she cried, snapping her
fingers, "you big silly fool, all the whole.  What, my young mistress go
to degrade herself vis one evasion, _comme ca_!  She could it not do.
Sare, I am angry--it make me _folle_ to hear you talk.  I say it is not
true."

"Damme, you're a trump, Justine," cried Tom, excitedly, as he caught her
hand and wrung it.  "You are right.  She would not degrade herself like
that."

"They are so _stupide_."

"Yes," cried Tom; "and mind this--any one who dares to put about such a
disgraceful scandal--hallo! who's this?"

There was a loud ring just then, and the butler looked in a scared way
at Tom.

"Well, go and open it," he said.

The next minute there were voices and steps heard in the hall, and
directly after Sir Grantley Wilters came in, followed by a policeman,
and a ragged, dirty looking little man, whose toes peeped out in rows
from his boots, and who held in his hand a very battered brimless hat,
which he kept rubbing when he was not engaged in pulling his forelock to
first one servant and then another.

"Oh, here you are," said Tom, sharply, as the baronet advanced.  "She's
gone off with Melton, hasn't she?"

"N-no," said the bridegroom elect, dejectedly.  "I believe it's as they
say."

"Then you're a bigger fool than I took you for," said Tom, sharply.
"Now then, what do you know about it?" he cried to the policeman.  "But
stop a moment.  Here, the whole pack of you, clear out.  And mind this--
Mademoiselle Justine is right.  Thank you, Justine.  Go to her ladyship
now.  I shan't forget this."

The Frenchwoman bowed and smiled, and drew her skirts aside as she swept
out of the room, while the rest of the servants shuffled out in an
awkward fashion, as if every one was eager not to be the last.

"Now then," cried Tom to the policeman, as the baronet went to the
chimney-piece to rest his head upon his hand, "why are you come?"

"This gentleman, sir," said the constable, nodding his head at Sir
Grantley, "asked me to take up the case.  Been investigating, and I've
got some evidence."

"What is it?" cried Tom.

The constable led the way into the hall, where there was a rush, for the
servants had been standing gazing at something near the door.

"Well?" said Tom.

"Thought I'd take a look round, sir," said the constable, "to see if
there was anything in the way of a clue, and I found this."

He pointed to an oblong chest, covered with green baize, and with a
couple of broad leather straps across it.

"Well, it's an organ," said Tom.

"Yes, sir," said the constable nodding.  "That's just about what it is."

Tom stared at the man, and the man stared at Tom, and then they returned
to the dining-room.

"Where was it?" said Tom shortly.

"Just underneath the area steps, sir, close agin the dust-bin," said the
constable.

"Ought to have been in it," cried Tom, sharply.  "Now, who's this
fellow?"

The ragged man, who had been standing on one leg with the foot of the
other against his knee, looking like a dilapidated crane, put his foot
down and began to make tugs at his hair.

"Beg parding, sir, on'y a poor man, sir.  Been pickin' up a job or two,
fetching up kebs and kerridges, sir--party, sir, over at three 'undred
and nine, sir.  I was a waitin' about afore the swells began to come,
when I sees a big tall man a-hangin' about, lookin' as if there was
something on, so I goes into the doorway lower down and watches on him."

"Had he got an organ with him?" said Tom excitedly.

"I heerd one a-playin' just before, sir, and then I see him a-leaning
agin the hairy railings, and arter a bit he seemed to chuck somethin' up
agin the winder and then walks off."

"Well, go on, my man," said Tom, eagerly.

"Then I didn't think no more on it, sir, till all at once I sees a
hansom come up and stop at the corner, and this same chap gets out, and
that made me feel wild-like and take notice, 'cause it seemed as if I
ought to have looked out sharper, and got the job."

"All right; go on," cried Tom.

"Well, sir, then he goes away and the keb waits and he walks by this
here house, and begins whistling this chune as I've often heerd them
orgin grinders play."

The man sucked in his cheeks, and whistled three or four bars of the
prison song in _Trovatore_.

"Then, as I kep my hye on him, I sees the front door open quietly, and a
lady come out in a long cloak; and she seemed as if she was a-goin' to
faint away, but he kitches her tight, and half runs her along to wheer
the keb was a-standin', and I was ready for him this time, holding my
arm over the wheel so as to keep the lady's dress outer the mud."

"Yes, yes," cried Tom, for the man, who had kept on polishing his hat,
dropped it and picked it up hastily, to begin repolishing it.

"Well, sir, she was a-cryin' like one o'clock--in highsteriks like--and
he says something to her in a furren languidge, and then, as she gets in
he says, `Take keer,' he says, called her by her name, like."

"Name?  What name?" cried Tom, eagerly.

"Well, you see, gov'nor, it sounded like Bella Meer, or Mee-her.  `Take
keer; Bella Mee-her,' he says just like that."

"Bella mia," muttered Tom.

"Yes, sir, that's it, sir; that were the young lady's name; and then he
jumps in, and I shoves down the apron, and he pokes the trap-door open,
and away they goes down the Place like one o'clock."

"Well?" said Tom.

"That's about all, gov'nor," said the man, looking into his dilapidated
hat, and then lifting and peeping inside the lining, as if he expected
to find some more there.

"No, it ain't," said the constable, "come now.  He give you something,
didn't he?"

"Well, s'pose he did," said the man, sulkily; "that ain't got nothing to
do with it, 'ave it?  The gent don't want to rob a pore man of his 'ard
earnin's, do he?"

"What did he give you, my man?" said Tom, eagerly, "There, there, show
me.  Not that it matters."

"Yes, sir, excuse me, but it does matter," said the constable.  "Now
then, out with it."

The man thrust his hand very unwillingly into his pocket, and brought
out what looked like a small shilling, which was eagerly snatched by
Tom.

"Vittoria Emanuele--Lira.  Why, constable, it's an Italian piece!"

"That's so, sir," said the constable.

"There, be off with you; there's half a crown for you," said Tom.
"Constable," he cried, as the latter closed the door on the walking
rag-bag, "quick, not a moment to be lost.  That cabman's number, and as
soon as you can."

"Right, sir; that's first job," said the constable.  "You'll be here?"

"Yes, till you come back.  Spare no expense to get that number."

The constable was off almost before the words had left his lips, and as
the door closed Tom turned to Sir Grantley, who still stood with his
head leaning upon his hand.

"Now then," he said, "what are you going to do?"

"Don't know," was the reply.

"It looks bad," said Tom, "but I won't believe it yet."

"No--poor girl," said the baronet, sadly--"I'm beginning to think she
didn't care for me, don't you know."

Tom stared at him wonderingly.

"Are you going to help me run them down?"

"Yas--no--I don't know," said the baronet.  "I suppose I ought to shoot
that fellow--Belgium or somewhere--if there is a fellow.  But I don't
think there is."

"You don't?" said Tom.

"No," said the baronet, slowly.

"But you heard?  She must have gone off with somebody.  You know what
the people think.  If it is so, she must be saved at all costs."

"Yas--of course," said the baronet, slowly; "but--don't think it.  Poor
girl, she was a lady--she couldn't stoop to it--no--couldn't--she'd
sooner have married me."

"Wilters," said Tom, holding out his hand and speaking huskily, "thank
you for that.  We never liked one another, and I've been a confounded
cad to you sometimes; but--but--you--you're a gentleman, Wilters, a true
gentleman."

They shook hands in silence, and then Tom said eagerly--

"You'll come with me?"

"Yas--no," said the baronet, quietly.  "It's best not.  All been a
mistake, poor girl.  I've been thinking about it all, and it wasn't
likely she'd care for me.  Lady Barmouth is very flattering and kind;
but I've driven your sister away.--I think I'll go home now."

"Perhaps you are right," said Tom, quietly.

"It's very awkward," continued the baronet, "things have gone so far.
But I ought to have known better.  Could you--a soda and brandy, Tom--
this has shaken me a bit--I'm rather faint."

The cellaret was open, stimulants having been fetched from it for her
ladyship's use, and Tom hastily poured out some spirit into one of the
glasses on the sideboard, and handed it to the baronet.

"Thanks," he said--"better now; I think I'll go home;" and bowing
quietly to Tom, he slowly left the house.



CHAPTER TWENTY FIVE.

IN PURSUIT.

"Poor old Wilters," said Tom, as he heard the door close.  "I didn't
think he was such a thorough gentleman.  But this won't do."

He was so wound up by the excitement, and the feeling that everything
now depended upon him that he seemed to forget that there was such a
thing as fatigue.

"Now, gov'nor," he said, hurrying into the library, where the old man
had finished his port and cigar, and then laid his head upon his hand to
sit and think of the little fair-haired girl who had played about his
knees, and who had, as it were, been driven from him, to go--whither?
who could tell?

"Eh? yes, Tom," said the old man.

"Quick as lightning, father.  Clean linen and socks, brush and shaving
tackle in a small bag, and we're off--pursuit."

"Pursuit, Tom, eh?  Do you mean me?"

"Yes, you, of course," said Tom.

"Hadn't--hadn't her ladyship better go, Tom?" said his lordship, feebly.

"Hang it, no, father.  You and I go together."

"But--but--but, Tom," faltered the old man; and there was a lingering
look of hope in his pathetic face; "it isn't so bad as I thought, is
it?"

"I don't know, father, 'pon my soul, I can't say, really.  We'll see.
Poor Maude has been driven to this mad step by her ladyship, and it is
possible--mind, I only say possible--that she may have preferred to
accompany--no, damn it all, I'm as mad as she is, even Wilters don't
believe it.  Father, no! no!! no!!!  Wilters is right--my sister would
not stoop to take such a step.  She is a true lady."

"Yes, Tom, God bless her, she is," faltered the old man, "and I shall--
shall about break my heart if I'm to lose my darling."

"Come, father, come, father," cried the young man huskily.  "This is no
time for tears, you must act.  Yes, and in future too.  You see what
giving way to her ladyship has done."

"Yes, yes, my son," said the old man.  "I'll rebel--I'll strike for
freedom."

Tom smiled sadly as he gazed at his father; and then he rang the bell,
which was responded to promptly by Robbins.

"Send up and ask her ladyship if she can see us.  Then put a change of
linen in one valise for his lordship and myself."

The butler bowed, and returned at the end of five minutes to say that
her ladyship was sitting up in her dressing-room if they would come.

Her ladyship looked really ill as she sat there, tended by Tryphie and
Justine, and the latter moved towards the door.

"You need not go, Justine," said Tom, quietly, and the Frenchwoman's
eyes sparkled at this token of confidence as she resumed her seat at her
ladyship's side.

Tom marked the change in his mother, and he was ready to condole with
her, but she swept his kind intentions to the winds by exclaiming--

"Oh, Tom, I can never show my face in society again.  Such a brilliant
match too.  My heart is broken."

"Poor old lady!" said Tom, bursting into a sarcastic fit in his rage at
her selfishness and utter disregard of the fate of her child.  "But we
want some money to go in search."

"Money?" cried her ladyship.  "Search?  Not a penny.  The wicked
creature.  And to-morrow.  Such a brilliant match.  Oh, that wicked
girl!"

"No, no," said Tom, "it was to be to-day.  But don't fret, _mia cara
madre_, as we say in Italian.  It is only a change.  A fine handsome
son-in-law, Italian too.  You ought to be proud of him."

"Tom!" cried her ladyship.

"Oh, milord Thomas, it is not so," cried Justine, shaking her head.

"Oh yes," cried Tom, sarcastically.  "Such a nice change.  You adore
music, mamma, and the signor can attend your reunions with his
instrument."

"Tom, you are killing me.  Oh, that I was ever a mother."

"It will be grand," cried Tom, rubbing his hands.  "Maude can sing too,
and take a turn at the handle when the signor gets tired."

"Take what money you want, Tom," sobbed her ladyship, and she handed her
keys.

Tom smiled grimly, took the keys, and did take what money he wanted--all
there was--from a small cabinet on a side table.

"Where--where are you going?" sighed her ladyship.

"Where!" said Tom, "everywhere.  To bring poor Maude home."

"No, no, Tom, impossible--impossible," cried her ladyship.

"We'll see about that," said Tom.  "Now, father, come along;" and the
couple descended to the dining-room.

"Here, Robbins," cried the young man, as the butler came to answer the
bell, "what time is it?"

"Harpus four, my lord," said the butler, who looked haggard and in want
of a shave.

"Humph!  Well, look here, we've gone on to Scotland Yard if that
policeman returns."

"Yes, my lord."

"And then--well, never mind about then.  Here, go up and ask Miss Wilder
to come and speak to me, and send Joseph for a cab.  Not gone to bed,
has he?"

"No, sir; they're all having a cup o' coffee in the kitchen, sir."

"Trust 'em, just the time when they'd like a feed," growled Tom.
"There: Miss Wilder.  Look sharp."

Five minutes after Tom stood at the door holding Tryphie's hand, while
his father went slowly down to the cab.

"Good-bye, little one," he said.

"But, Tom, what are you going to do?"

"I'm going to bring my sister back, and then--"

"And then, Tom dear," whispered Tryphie, throwing her arms about his
neck--"There, do you believe I care for you now?"

"My little pet," he whispered hoarsely, and rushed away just as Mr
Hurkle came up undulating, and looking more like a pulled out concertina
than ever.

"Sorry I've been so long, sir," he panted; "but I understand I am
required to--"

"Go to the devil," cried Tom, brushing past him; and as the daylight was
growing broader the cab drove into Great Scotland Yard, where there was
a certain conversation, and wires were set to work, after which there
was an adjournment for breakfast to an hotel at Charing Cross.

"Are--are we going in pursuit, my dear boy?" said his lordship, feebly.

"Yes, certainly, and in earnest."

"When, my dear Tom?"

"Now directly, father," said the young man sternly.  "The poor girl has
been driven mad by her mother's cruelty; and in a wild fit of
infatuation she has preferred to share the fortunes of this handsome
foreign vagabond to marrying a worn-out _roue_."

"But, my dear Tom, it is impossible."

"Look here, father," said the young man, "the poor girl's future is at
stake.  She has been cruelly treated.  Our behaviour to Charley Melton
was simply disgusting--one day he was worshipped, supposed to have
money; the next he was forbidden the house, because he was poor.  As for
Maude's feelings--of course, poor girl, as a young lady of fashion, she
ought to have had none.  I hope mamma is satisfied with her new
son-in-law."

"But--but where are we going?"

"Don't know yet," said the young man, harshly.  "To Paris certain--
probably to Italy.  Maybe, though," he said, with a bitter laugh, "only
as far as the padrone's at Saffron Hill."

By the time father and son had made a very poor breakfast, a sergeant
was ushered in by the waiter.

"We've got the cabman, sir."

"Well, where did he take them?"

"Charing Cross station, sir."

"Of course," said Tom--"they would just catch the night train for the
tidal boat.  Come along, father."

"Too soon for the train yet, sir," said the sergeant; "but I dare say
they'll have been stopped at Folkestone or Dover, unless it was a dodge,
and they haven't left town."

"You see to that," said Tom; "I'll go on to Folkestone."

"Right, sir," and in due time the pair--father and son--were in pursuit,
with the wheels of the fast train seeming always to grind out a tune
such as is played by an organ whose handle is turned by a dark-eyed,
olive-skinned Italian; while when the engine stopped, instead of calling
out the name of the station, the men seemed to whine--"Ah, signora--ah,
bella signora," and in his irritation Tom lit a cigar, and yelled forth
the word condemnation in its most abbreviated form.



CHAPTER TWENTY SIX.

ON THE TRACK.

Telegram--

  "From Barmouth, Folkestone, to Lady Barmouth, 999 Portland Place,
  London.

  "No news as yet."

This was the first sent during the chase.

  "From Barmouth, Beurice's, Paris, to Lady Barmouth, 999 Portland
  Place, London.

  "No news as yet."

Fresh messages were despatched at intervals of twelve hours, and in
addition Tom sent long letters to "My dearest Tryphie."

But all the same he was in a state of feverish excitement, while Lord
Barmouth was reduced to imbecile helplessness, but ready to obey his son
to the very letter, and trotting about after him through Paris like a
faithful dog.  They had been most unfortunate in their quest: they had
succeeded in tracing the fugitives to Paris, and there they had been at
fault.  Twenty times over Viscount Diphoos had declared that they must
have gone on somewhere; but the police said no, it was impossible.  And
so they went on wearily searching Paris, until his lordship declared his
heel to be so sore that he could go no farther.

"They must have left Paris," vowed Viscount Diphoos in one of the
bureaux.

"But, monsieur, it is not possible.  Our cordon of spies is too perfect.
No, my faith, they are still here.  Have patience, monsieur, and you
shall see."

So the chief at each bureau; and so the days passed on, till the young
man felt almost maddened and rabid with despair.  These were the
descriptions--"Young lady, fair, brown hair, blue eyes, pale, rather
thin face, tall and graceful; her companion, a tall, swarthy Italian,
with black curly hair and beard."  But descriptions were all in vain,
and when, regularly fagged out, Viscount Diphoos sat at his hotel,
smoking his cigar, he would let it go out, and then heedless sit on,
nibbling and gnawing at the end till he had bitten it to pieces, and
still no ideas came.

"I'll shoot the scoundrel, that I will," he muttered aloud one evening.

"No, don't do that, Tom," said Lord Barmouth, feebly.  "But don't you
think we had better go home?"

"No," said Tom, snappishly; "I don't, sir.  Let's see what to-morrow
brings forth."

"Letters for messieurs," said a waiter, handing some correspondence from
London; but there was no news worthy of note.

"Here, stop a minute, _garcon_," said Tom, drawing a note and his
sister's photograph from his pocket-book.  "Look here, this is an
English five-pound note."

"Oh, yais, monsieur, I know--_billet de banc_?"

"And this is the carte of a lady we wish to find in Paris, you
understand?"

The man nodded his closely cropped head, smiled, and, after a long look
at the carte, left the room.

"You seem to pin a good deal of faith to five-pound notes, Tom," said
Lord Barmouth.

"Yes," said his son, shortly.  "Like 'em here."

The next day he sent for the waiter, but was informed that the man had
gone out for a holiday.

"I thought so," said Tom, enthusiastically, as soon as they were alone.
"That fellow will go and see all the waiters he knows at the different
hotels, and find out what we want."

Viscount Diphoos was quite right.  About ten o'clock that evening the
waiter entered, and beckoned to them, mysteriously--

"Alaright," he said, "ze leddee is trouvee.  I have ze fiacre at ze
door."

Tom leaped from his chair, and was going alone, but Lord Barmouth
persisted in accompanying him, and together they were driven to a quiet
hotel in the Rue de l'Arcade, near the Madeleine.

"You think you have found the lady?" queried Tom.

"Oh, yais m'sieu; and ze milord vis she."

"Bravo!" cried Tom, "a big black-bearded, Italian scoundrel!"

"Scoundrail, vot is you call scoundrail, sare?"

"There, there, never mind," said Viscount Diphoos--"a big, black-bearded
Italian!"

The waiter shrugged his shoulders.

"Zere is no beard, m'sieu, and ye zhentlemans is not black.  He is vite;
oh, oui, yais, he is vite."

"Another disappointment," growled Tom.

"M'sieu say, ze _billet de banc_ if I find ze lady.  I not know noting
at all of the black shentailman."

They were already in the hall, where they were encountered by one of the
_garcons_ of the establishment, whose scruples about introducing them to
the private rooms of the gentleman and lady staying there were hushed
with a sovereign.

"Pray take care, my dear boy," said Lord Barmouth; "don't be violent."

"We must get her away, father, at any cost," said Viscount Diphoos,
sternly.  "What I want you to do is this--take charge of Maude, and get
her to our hotel.  Never mind me.  I shall have the police to back me if
the Italian scoundrel proves nasty."

"But mind that he has no knife, my dear boy.  Foreigners are dangerous."

"If he attempts such a thing, dad, I'll shoot him like a dog," exclaimed
the young man, hotly.

And then the door was thrown open, and they entered.

The room was empty, and upon the proprietor being consulted, it was
announced that the gentleman and lady had left that evening by the Lyons
mail.

Telegraph communication failed.



CHAPTER TWENTY SEVEN.

AN ENCOUNTER.

Sunny Italy, the home of music.

The sun was shining as it can shine in Naples, but the courtyard of the
Hotel di Sevril was pleasantly shady, for there was a piazza all round,
and in the centre a cool and sparkling fountain played in its marble
basin, while evergreen trees spread dark tracery on the white pavement.

In one of the shadiest and coolest spots sat Maude, daughter of The Earl
of Barmouth, looking exceedingly pretty, though there was a certain
languid air, undoubtedly caused by the warmth of the climate, which
seemed to make her listless and disposed to neglect the work which lay
in her lap, and lean back in the lounging chair, which creaked sharply
at every movement.

"I do wish he would come back," she said softly, and as she spoke her
eyes lit up with an intense look of happiness, and a sweet smile played
about her lips.  "But he will not leave me alone long."

Here she made a pretence of working, but ceased directly.

"I wonder what they are all doing at home.  How dear Tryphie is, and
papa, and darling Tom.  Will Tom marry Tryphie?  Yes, he is so
determined, he will be sure to.  Heigho!  I shall be so glad when we are
forgiven, and Tom and he are friends.  I can feel sure about papa, but
Tom can be so stern and sharp."

There was no allusion made to Lady Barmouth, for she seemed to have
dropped out of her daughter's thoughts, but Sir Grantley Wilters was
remembered with a shudder, which was cleared away by the coming of a
smiling waiter.

"Would the signore and signora dine at the _table-d'hote_?"

Maude hesitated for a few moments, moved by monetary considerations, and
then said--"Yes.  Has the signore returned?"

"No, signora," said the waiter, and he bowed and went back into the old
palazzo.

"I wanted to go to a cheap hotel," said Maude, dreamily, and with a
happy smile upon her face--somewhat inane, it is true, for it was the
young married lady's smile--"but he said his _cara bella sposa_ must
have everything of the best.  Oh, my darling! my darling! how he loves
me.  Poor?  What is poverty?  I grow more proud of him every day.  What
do we want with society?  Ah, how I hate it.  Give me poverty and love.
Oh, come back, my darling, come back.  That's what my heart keeps
beating whenever he is away."

It was certainly a very pleasant kind of poverty, in a sunny land with a
delicious view of the bay, and a good _table-d'hote_; and a loving
husband; and as Maude, the young wife, dreamed and adored her husband in
his absence, she smiled and showed her white teeth till a sound of
voices made her start and listen.

"Oh, how I do tremble every time any one fresh comes to the hotel.  I
always fancy it is Sir Grantley Wilters come to fetch me back.  But he
dare not try to claim me now, for I am another's.  But what are we to do
when the money is all gone?"

She thought dreamily, but in a most untroubled fashion.

"I can sing," she said at last, "so can he, and he plays admirably.  Ah,
well, there's time enough to think of that when the money is all gone.
Let me be happy now after all that weary misery, but I must write home.
There, I'll go and do it now before he returns.--Oh!"

She had risen to go, but sank back trembling and half-fainting in her
seat as a pallid, weary-looking, washed-out elderly gentleman tottered
out of the house into the piazza, and dropped into a chair just in front
of the door.

"Oh, dear! oh, dear!" he sighed, as he let his walking-stick fall
clattering down.  "How tired out I do feel."

"Oh!" sighed Maude, as she saw that her only means of exit was barred.

"I with--I wish--damme, I wish I was back at home with my legs under my
own table, and--and--and a good glass of port before me.  Hang that
Robbins, a confounded scoundrel; I--I--I know I shall finish by breaking
his head.  Four days before I left England I asked him to put one single
bottle of the '20 port in my dressing-room with the cork drawn, and he
threw her ladyship at my head, and, damme, I didn't get a drop.  And my
own port--a whole bin of it--my own port--my own port.  Hah! how
comfortable a chair is when you're tired.  He was a good fellow who
first invented chairs."

He shuffled himself down, and lay right back.

"Shall I never find my little girl?" he sighed.

"What shall I do?" murmured Maude.  "Why isn't he here?"

"I'm not fit to come hunting organ men all over the continent,"
continued the old gentleman; "but Tom insisted, you see.  Oh, my poor
leg!  It's worse here than it was in town."

He rubbed his leg slowly, and Maude made a movement as if to go to his
side, but something seemed to hold her back.

"Tom is sure to be near," she thought, "and they must not meet yet.  Tom
would not forgive him.  If I could only get away and warn him."

"Why don't Tom come and order something to eat?  I'm starving.  Oh,
dear: London to Paris--Paris to Baden--Baden to Nice--Nice to Genoa, and
now on here to Naples.  Poor Tom, he seems to grow more furious the more
we don't find them.  Oh, hang the girl!" he added aloud.

Maude started, and had hard work to suppress a sob.

"They'll separate us; they'll drag me away," she sighed.

"No, no, no, I will not say that," cried Lord Barmouth, aloud.  "I am
hungry, and it makes me cross.  My poor leg!  I should like to find my
poor darling," he said, piteously.  "Bless her! bless her! she was a
good girl to me."

"Oh! oh! oh!" sobbed Maude, hysterically, for she could contain herself
no longer.

"Eh! eh! eh!" ejaculated Lord Barmouth.  "What the deuce!  A lady in
distress.  Doosed fine woman too," he added, raising his glass as he
tottered to his feet.  "I was a devil of a fellow among the ladies when
I was a youngster.  Can I, madam--suppose she don't understand English--
can I, madam, be of any service?  What, Maudey, my darling?  Is it you
at last?"

"Oh, papa! papa!"

There was a burst of sobbing and embracing, ended by the old man seating
himself in Maude's chair, and the girl sinking at his feet.

"And--and--and I've--I've found you at last then, my dear, or have you
found me?  Is--is it really you?"

"Yes, yes, yes, my own dear darling father," sobbed Maude.

"Yes, it is--it is," he cried, fondling her and drawing her to his
breast, till he seemed to recollect something.

"But, damme--damme--damme--"

"Oh, don't--don't swear at me, papa darling!"

"But--but I must, my dear.  Here have I been searching all over Europe
for you, and now I have found you."

"Kiss me, papa dear," sobbed Maude.

"Yes, yes, my darling, and I am so glad to see you again; but what a
devil of a wicked girl you have been to bolt."

"Oh, but, papa darling, I couldn't--I couldn't marry that man."

"Well, well, well," chuckled Lord Barmouth, "he was a miserable screw
for a girl like you.  But I--I hear that he's going to shoot him first
time he sees him."

"Oh, papa!  Then they must never meet."

"But--but I'm not saying what I meant to say--all I'd got ready for you,
Maudey.  How dare you disgrace your family like that?"

"Don't--don't blame me, papa darling.  You don't know what I suffered
before I consented to go."

"But, you know--"

"Oh, papa, don't blame your poor girl, who loves you so very dearly."

"But--but it's such a doose of a come down, my darling.  It's--it's--
it's ten times worse than any case I know."

"Papa, for shame!" cried Maude, indignantly.

"Now--now--now, don't you begin to bully me, Maudey my dear.  I get so
much of that at home."

"Then you will forgive me, dear?" said Maude, nestling up to the poor
weak old man.

"But--but I oughtn't, Maudey, I oughtn't, you know," he said, caressing
her.

"But you will, dear, and you'll come and stay with us often.  We are so
happy."

"Are so--so happy!" said the old man, with a look of perplexity on his
countenance.

"Yes, dear.  He loves me so, and--oh, papa, I do love him.  You will
come?  Never mind what mamma and Tom say."

"But Tom is like a madman about it, Maudey.  He says he'll have you back
if he dies for it."

"Oh, papa!"

"Yes, my pet, he's in a devil of a rage, and it comes out dreadfully
every time he grows tired."

"Then _they_ must not meet either."

"No, my dear, I suppose it would be best not," said the old man; "but--
but do you know, Maudey, I feel as if I was between those two confounded
stools in the proverb, and--and I know I shall come to the ground.
But--but where--where did you get married?"

"At a little church, papa dear, close to Holborn."

"Of course," groaned the old man to himself.  "Close to Saffron Hill, I
suppose."

"I don't know the street, papa dear."

"That's right, my pet.  I mean that's wrong.  I--I--really, Maudey my
pet, I'm so upset with the travelling, and now with finding you, that
I--I hardly know what I ought to say."

"Say you forgive your own little girl, dear, and that you will love my
own darling husband as if he were your son."

"But--but, Maudey, my dear, I don't feel as if I could.  You see when a
poor man like that--I wish Tom would come."

"Tom!" cried Maude, springing up and turning pale.

"Yes, yes, he's coming to join me, my pet.  Would you like to see him
now, or--or--or wait a bit till he isn't so furious?"

"Oh, papa dear, I dare not meet him.  They would quarrel, and what shall
I do?  We must escape--"

"But are you staying in this hotel?"

"Yes, papa dear."

"That's--that's doosed awkward, my pet, for I shouldn't like there to be
a row."

"No, no, pa dear.  Don't say a word to Tom, or there will be a horrible
scene."

"But, my pet, we've come on purpose to find you, and now you're going
away."

"Only for a time, dear," cried Maude, embracing the old man frantically.
"Don't, don't tell Tom."

"But I feel as if I must, my darling.  Tom is so angry, and we've spent
such a lot of money trying to find you.  It would have paid for no end
of good dinners at the club."

"Yes, yes, but we will escape directly, and Tom will never know."

"But what's the good of my finding you, my darling, if you are going to
bolt again directly?"

"Only to wait till Tom has cooled down, dear."

"Well, well, I suppose I must promise."

"My own darling papa," cried Maude, kissing him.  "I'll write to you
soon, dear; and as soon as Tom is quiet and has forgiven us, we shall
all be as happy as the day is long."

She kissed him again quickly on either cheek, and then, before he could
even make up his mind to stay her, she had hurried into the hotel,
leaving her father scratching his head and setting his dark wig all
awry.



CHAPTER TWENTY EIGHT.

THE REINFORCEMENT.

"This--this is a pretty devil of a state of affairs," muttered the old
man.  "How can a man in my position make friends with a confounded
fellow who goes about turning a handle in the street?  The girl's mad--
mad as can be, and--Ah, Tom, my boy."

"Hallo, governor," said that personage, sharply.  "What's the matter?"

"Doosed tired, my boy."

"Why, you look as if you'd seen the chap who drew what's-his-name's
curtains in the dead of night."

"Do I--do I, my boy?" stammered the old man; and then to himself, "I
feel sure he'll find me out."

"Get up, and you shall have a feed, and a glass of good honest wine.
That's the thing to brace you up, dad."

"Yes--yes, my son.  I--I feel--feel as if I'd give anything for a glass
of good wine."

"Come along."

"I know he'll find me out," said his lordship to himself.

"I say, gov'nor," cried Tom, "here's a go."

"Have--have you found them," said the old man, starting.

"Wait a bit.  Perhaps I have.  But I say, I've found telegrams waiting
to say that the old lady is on the way to meet us here."

"Here, Tom, my boy?"

"Yes, gov'nor, here, in Naples."

"But--but don't you think we had better go on at once?"

"What with you so tired?" said Tom with a twinkle in his eyes.

"I--I don't think I'm quite so tired as I was, Tom, my boy," said the
old man nervously.  "After a glass of wine or two, I--I think I could
manage to go on again."

"But don't you understand?  The _mater_ is coming here with Tryphie and
Justine."

"Then--then I think we had better get on, Tom, my boy--away from here.
Her ladyship would hinder us, and stop us from finding Maude.  Let's go
on to Rome or Constantinople, only let's be _off_ at once."

Tom laughed silently.

"No, father," he said, "I think we'll go no further.  I'm going to have
a thorough good look round, and from hints I have heard, I think we are
once more on their track; but if they are not here we'll go back home,
for I'm sick of all this journeying.  Poor girl, she has chosen her
lot."

"Yes--yes, Tom, my boy," said the old man dolefully.

"And I've done my duty as a brother to try and find her."

"Yes, Tom, my boy, you have--you have."

"Some day she'll wake up out of her mad dream, and come back to us, and
then, no matter what is said, she must find a home."

"Of course, my boy, of course."

"Poor girl!  It's all our fault, governor.  If we had been firm she
might have married Charley Melton."

"Eh," said Lord Barmouth, "Charley Melton?  Yes, my boy, I wish she had.
I--I wonder whether she has gone," thought the old man.  "Oh dear me,
I'm very tired."

"Did you speak, gov'nor?" said Tom.

"Yes, my boy, I said I was very tired."

"Then come along and let's feed.  We'll have a bottle of that red wine,
and enjoy ourselves till the old lady comes, and then, governor--"

"You think we shan't enjoy ourselves any more, Tom?"

"What do you think?"

"Well, my boy, I hardly know what to say.  Her ladyship is very
particular, but then, you see, my boy, she studies my health more than I
do and I've no doubt it is quite right."

"I dare say it is, dad, but come along."

"Yes, my boy, yes," said Lord Barmouth, taking his son's arm; "but
really, Tom, I begin to wish I was back within reach of my club.

"Oh, dear! oh, dear!" he added _sotto voce_, "I wonder whether they have
gone."

"What say, governor?"

"Nothing, my boy, nothing.  Talking to myself."

"Bad habit, gov'nor."

"Yes, my boy, yes," he said in acquiescence.  But bad as was the habit,
he kept on, as he told himself that he hoped Maudey had gone, and yet he
hoped she had not; and he kept on getting deeper and deeper into a bog
of bewilderment, till he found himself seated at a little table opposite
his son, listening to the gurgling of wine in a glass, and that brought
him back from his maze of troubled thought at once.

"What--what could have induced her ladyship to come out here?" he said,
with a piteous expression upon his countenance.

"Old game," said Tom gruffly--"to look after us."

"I--I--I should be sorry to speak disrespectfully of her ladyship," said
Lord Barmouth, now under the influence of his third glass of wine,
"but--but I'm afraid there'll be no more peace now, Tom, my boy."

At that moment a waiter entered.

"Visitors for milor," he said.

"Here they are, governor.  Now comes the tug of war."

For at that moment her ladyship entered and tottered to a seat, wiping
her brow, and making signs to Tryphie, who half supported her, for her
salts.  That young lady had to turn to Justine, who was supposed to be
carrying the bag, but who in turn had to take it from Robbins, who
looked as if he had been in a bath, and had dressed himself without a
prior reference to a towel.  For his fat face was covered with drops and
runlets, and his grey hair hung wetly upon his brow.  The
smelling-bottle was, however, found, and her ladyship took a long
inhalation, and said, "Hah!"



CHAPTER TWENTY NINE.

ON THE BRINK.

"I've found you then at last," said her ladyship, recovering fast.
"Robbins, go and tell that wretched Italian porter creature I will not
pay him another penny.  No, say _soldi_, or _scudi_, which you like.
It's a gross imposition."

"Yes, my lady."

"Justine," continued her ladyship, "you understand the language?"

"No, my lady, not Italian."

"Then speak to him in French, it will impress the man.  Go and see that
Robbins is not imposed upon.  Now, Robbins, mind and be firm.  This is
not London."

"No, milady."

"And don't lose any more luggage."

"No, my lady," said Robbins; and he left the room with Justine.

"Luggage, indeed," he growled; "all this row about a sandwich-box, and
she left it in the rack herself."

"Nevaire mind her, Rob--bain," said Justine; "take him coolly."

"Take _him_ coolly.  Yes, ma'amselle, I can the governor; but her
ladyship."

"Ah, yais, she is a womans.  But see me, I do not complain; I am drag
all ovaire Europe by her ladyship, who have rob me of my loaf till I
return and see him once again.  I do not complain."

In the coffee-room her ladyship button-holed Lord Barmouth directly, and
then took Tom's seat at the table, while that gentleman grasped
Tryphie's hand.

"Oh, Tom," she said, "what news?"

"You've both come," he said shortly.  "Is that all you have to say?"

"All?  Ah, Tom dear, if you only knew how much."

This was accompanied by so pleasant a pressure of the hand that Tom's
acidity began to evaporate in gas, and he turned to help his father, who
was giving way under a vigorous attack.  For as he approached the table
her ladyship exclaimed, with a warning motion of her index finger--

"Now, Barmouth, your gout is much worse."

"Ye-yes, my dear," said his lordship, "I'm--I'm afraid it is."

"Of course!  You've been taking port wine recklessly."

"No, no, really, my dear: the port is so horribly bad that--"

"Then you've had Burgundy."

"Well--well, yes, a little, my dear."

"I knew it!  What's this?" cried her ladyship, seizing the bottle on the
table.  "Burgundy, of course."

"No, Barolo," said Tom.  "Regular physic for gout, isn't it, gov'nor.
Take another glass."

"Shall I, my boy?" said the old man, hesitating.

"Of course," cried Tom, pouring one out, which his lordship eagerly
drank.

"Tom!" ejaculated her ladyship, whose breath seemed to be taken away by
the daring displayed.

"Physic," said Tom, sharply.

"Have you secured rooms for us?"

"Of course not.  Only just knew you were coming."

"Then ring for the landlord; I shall now continue the search myself.  I
have been much to blame in leaving it in other hands so long.  But a
weak woman--"

"Who is?" said Tom, innocently.

"I am, sir," replied her ladyship.  "I was not aware, when I entrusted
the search to my husband and son, that it was to be made an excuse for a
pleasant and expensive continental tour, with no results whatever but
the shrinking of a good balance at the bank, and a fit of gout?"

"Oh, bosh!" ejaculated Tom.

"No more gadding about; no more Burgundy and strong drinks.  I mean to
find that wretched girl myself; the authorities shall intervene, and I
will do my duty as a mother."

"What shall you do?"

"Place her in a madhouse as sure as I stand here."

"Then you will not," said Tom, "for you're sitting."

"Reserve your ribald jestings, sir, till we return to town."

"All right," cried Tom; "then let me speak in a downright manner, my
dear mother.  You can do just as you please, but I am now on the scent,
which I shall keep to myself; and I tell you this, old lady, I will not
have Maude--whatever her faults--ill-used."

"Hear, hear!" cried Lord Barmouth; but then he had had four glasses of
wine.

"Barmouth!"

"_Yes_--yes, my dear."

"Oh, what language, and to a mother!"

"There, there, stop that," cried Tom.  "We are not at home, but at an
hotel, and the people won't understand tragic amateur acting."

"Tryphie, my child," cried her ladyship, after giving her son an
annihilating look, "come with me to our own apartments.  Lord Barmouth,
summon the waiter, or no, come with me.  Tryphie, you can ring and order
_dejeuner_, I wish to speak to these people in the hotel.  I think I can
obtain some information here."

Lord Barmouth cast a despairing look at his son, and followed her
ladyship into the hall, while Tom had just seized the opportunity, and
Tryphie at the same moment, to embrace her in spite of a certain amount
of resistance, when there was a loud "Oh!" and he turned to find that
Charley Melton had entered the room.

"You here, Charley!  Why, my dear old chap!"

They shook hands warmly, Tryphie following suit, and the pretty little
face flushed with pleasure and confusion.

"Why, Charley, you here!" cried Tom.  "Stop, I know; you need not say a
word."

"You know?"

"Yes.  How long have you been on the continent?  Stop, you need not
answer.  Ever since my sister eloped."

The young man bowed his head.

"And you've been after her all the time."

Melton bowed again.

"Then it was doosed good of you, Charley; but I don't see what we are to
do, old man.  It's very horrible for all of us, but I can't see what is
to be done.  I came out with the intention of dragging her home, but if
the poor girl is infatuated with the fellow our cause is lost."

"What do you propose doing then?" said Melton, hoarsely.

"Seeing her, and letting her know that when she likes to return home
there is a place for her, either there or with me.  That's all."

"And you mean to let her stay with this--this scoundrel."

"Yes, Charley; I suppose he is her husband.  We can do nothing."

"Have you any suspicion of where she is?"

"Yes, old man.  In this town, and I have set a waiter to work to bring
me news.  They're ten times better than detectives.  But it's very good
of you, Charley, and I'm sorry I abused you so."

"You have been abusing me, then?" said Melton with an amused look.

"Yes, for giving up so easily," said Tom.  "Oh, here's my man.  I
suppose," he added hastily, as the hotel waiter entered, "some one for
me."

"Yes, milor, the head waiter from the Vesuvio."

"Show him in.  Now, Charley, there'll be news."

"All right, get it then," said Melton, and he walked to the window,
while Tom turned to face a little dark Italian, with a face suggestive
of his being developed from a shaven rat.

The interview was short and decisive, and accompanied by much
gesticulation, terminating in a chinking of coin as the man left.

"There, old fellow," cried Tom, excitedly, "I've done more than you
have.  I've run them to earth."

"You have?  They are in Naples?"

"They are _here_!" cried Tom, excitedly.  "In this very hotel, where
I've been drawn by a sort of filial--no, that's not it--fraternal
magnetic attraction, and now."

"Stop," cried Melton.  "I thought you were not going to interfere."

"That's what I thought," said Tom, "a little while ago; but hang it all,
now I am under the same roof with the scoundrel who deluded my poor
sister away, curse his Italian blood, I'll strangle him."

"But you must be wrong, Tom; such a man as you suspect would not stay in
an hotel like this.  What do you say, Miss Wilder?"

"I say," cried Tryphie, with a malicious look, "that there seems to be
some mistake."

"Tryphie--Tryphie, my child!" came from without.

"Coming, aunt," said the girl, rising.

"Not a word to the old girl, Tryphie," cried Tom.

"Not tell her?"

"Not a word.  There, I beg of you."

"Very well," she said with another peculiar look and tripped out of the
room.

"That's better," cried Tom.  "Now come along."

"Where are you going?"

"To _dieci otto_.  That's where the man said they were--not _they_, he
said she was alone now.  Come on: I'll get her away, and if he comes to
claim her, why then, damn him!"

"No violence, Tom, for your sister's sake.  He may be there.  Let me go
and see her."

"You?  Not me, my boy.  Why, I might mark the scoundrel, but you would
kill him."

"No," said Melton, thoughtfully, "I don't think I should do that to the
man she loved."

"You're a good fellow, Charley.  There, I'll go.  I haven't hunted them
all this time to give up at the last.  Don't hinder me, old chap."

"But look here, there has been _expose_ enough.  Had it not all better
be settled quietly?"

"But you can't settle matters quietly with an organ-grinder, Charley.
Look here, my plan is simple.  I'll get Maude away, then it's a question
of pounds, shillings, and pence."

"In any case then, from respect to your sister, let the affair be
arranged quietly."

"Very well," said Tom, sulkily.

"You will let me go first--say, to prepare her for your coming?"

"No.  I'll go."

"You do not wish to inflict pain upon the poor girl?"

"No.  I want her home again, and free from this degrading tie."

"But suppose--"

"No, no--don't say that, Charley, old fellow.  You couldn't look over
it.  Impossible now, old chap.  Poor Maudey, she'll have to be like a
widow to her very end.  There: we shall have the old woman here
directly."

"Then you'll let me go and prepare your sister?"

"No; it's my business, sir.  I'll do it myself."

"But you'll forgive her, Tom?"

"Perhaps.  Now leave me alone.  Stop, where's _dieci otto_?"

"Ask the waiter," said Melton, coldly, and he left the room.

"He needn't have turned rusty," grumbled Tom, crossing to reach the
bell: but at that moment her ladyship came in, hurriedly followed by
Tryphie and Lord Barmouth.

"No, no, my dear," said Lord Barmouth, who seemed to have been strung up
to resistance by some stirring news, and at a glance Tom saw that her
ladyship knew as much as he.

"Silence, Barmouth.  Tryphie, ring the bell.  I suppose there are police
of some kind in a benighted place like this.  What number did he say,
Tryphie, _dieci otto_?"

"Yes, aunt dear, eighteen," said Tryphie, whose face was working and
eyes twinkling in a peculiarly malicious manner.

"Eighteen!  That will do," cried Tom.  "Here, governor, come with me."

"Tom! stop!  Barmouth, I forbid--"

Her ladyship did not finish her speech, but hurried to the door,
followed by her niece--the door through which her husband had passed,
followed by her son.



CHAPTER THIRTY.

LIGHT ON THE SCENE.

First floor only.  _Dieci otto_--a door in a corridor whose rooms looked
out upon the tranquil sea.

A lady and gentleman started from their seats as the couple rushed in;
and in a moment Viscount Diphoos had seen that they were right--that he
was in the presence of his sister and the man with whom she had eloped.
He saw too in the same rapid glance why they had been so long off the
scent.  For there was no black curly hair, no long black beard, but all
was brown, and flashed as it were with gold.

This was all seen as the young man literally hurled himself upon the
tall, sturdy man, who rose to meet him, and in a twinkling they had one
another by the throat.

"Take her away, father, quick, quick," cried Tom; and the next moment,
in choking tones--"No, stop!" as he loosed his hold, staggered back to a
chair, and uttered a shriek.

Wounded?  Stabbed by the treacherous Italian?

Oh, no; it was a shriek of the laughter with which his frame was
convulsed, as he rolled from side to side, while Lord Barmouth stared
from one to the other.

"Tom, my son--are you hurt?"

"Hurt!" shrieked Tom, in inarticulate tones.  "Sold--sold--sold!"

"But what does it mean?" stammered Lord Barmouth.

"Mean!" shrieked Tom--"why, that that confounded old humbug Charley has
stolen a march on us.--Charley, old fellow, God bless you--I never felt
so happy in my life.  Here, Maudey, give us a kiss."

Before the young man had commenced hugging his sister, Charley Melton
had moved to the door, closed and locked it against the inquiring looks
of waiters, and taking Maude's hand in his he then asked Lord Barmouth
in a few manly words to forgive him and his wife their clandestine
proceedings.

"Forgive you, Charley," cried the viscount, "of course he will--won't
you, dad?"

"Well--well--yes, my boy, I think so," said his lordship feebly, as he
shook his new son-in-law's hand.  "I think I'm very glad, for I never
liked that Sir Reginald."

"Grantley, father--Grantley Wilters," cried Tom.

"To be sure, my boy; yes, of course, Sir Grantley."

"But why the dickens didn't you write to us, and let us know?"

"Well, we were going to write every day," said Charley, with a peculiar
look at Maude; "but we could never agree as to whose duty it was.  We
should have written though."

"But--but--I think you ought to have written, Charley Melton.  You see
I've been very anxious about my darling Maude."

"It was very cruel, papa dear; but really I did mean to write, soon."

"I'm very glad of that," said Lord Barmouth; "for really, Maude, my
darling, you have frightened me so.  I shall have a horrible fit of the
gout after this."

"Never mind, dad; stop and have it here, and Maudey and I will nurse
you--won't we, old girl?" cried Tom.  "For gout at home just now would
be awful.  Oh!" he shrieked, once more going off into convulsions,
"won't the old girl be mad!"

"Yes, my dears," said Lord Barmouth, shaking away very heartily at
Charley Melton's hands, "I'm afraid she'll be very cross.  But do you
know, I fancy I've caught a bit o' cold."

"Never mind, father, we're going to catch it hot," said Tom.

"Yes, my boy; but--but I feel a little deaf, and my head is rather
thick."

"Never mind, old fellow, we've found her."

"Yes, my boy, yes, we've found her; but do you know I feel rather
confused and puzzled.  I--I thought our Maude had gone off with that
handsome looking scoundrel who played the organ outside our house."

"Well, so she did," cried Tom; "I see it all now.  Here he is, dad."

"No, no, my boy; don't be so foolish.  I want to know why it's Charley
Melton, and not that Italian fellow?"

"Why, governor, can't you see through it?"

"No, my boy.  It's all a puzzle to me."

"Nonsense, dad, Charley made a postman of that organ-grinder.  Now do
you twig?"

"And--and a post-office of the organ?  I think I am beginning to see."

"What was I to do?" said the young husband, appealingly.  "I had been
abroad, and tried to forget her, but it was of no use.  I was forbidden
the house, and at last I learned that this marriage was to come off.  I
dared not trust the servants, so I practised this ruse.  But there, it's
all over now.  You forgive me, sir, do you not?"

"Well, yes, my boy," said Lord Barmouth, who was sitting fondling his
daughter's hand.  "I think you are quite right.  I should have done the
same, for I was a devil of a--Don't fidget, Maude, my darling.  I'll
talk her ladyship round."

"She'd rather it had been the organ-grinder," choked and coughed
Viscount Diphoos, while his sister, blushing and happy, kept shaking her
finger at his mirthful face.

"But I will talk her round," said Lord Barmouth, rather pompously, to
the infinite risk of sending his son once more off into convulsions.

"But I say, Charley," cried Tom, who kept showing his delight by
slapping his brother-in-law on the back; "I want to know one thing
though; did the signore come that night to fetch Maude, and leave his
organ in the area?"

"No, of course not," cried Charley, eagerly; "I bought the organ, and
came myself."

"With the organ?"

"For this time only on any stage."

"As they say in the play-bills," cried Tom.  "Hooray!"

At that moment the door was tried, and then shaken by her ladyship, who
had been waiting till the first part of the storm was over, after which
she ascended with Tryphie, whose face wore a peculiarly mocking look as
she stood behind her aunt.

"Open this door," cried Lady Barmouth.

A dead silence fell upon the group.

"Oh, papa!" cried Maude.

"Yes, my dear," said his lordship, looking round for a way of escape.
"I--I--I think it is her ladyship."

"Not much doubt about it," said Tom.  "Now, Charley, old chap, take your
header and get out of your misery."

"Yes," said Charley, "I suppose I must get it over."

"Open this door!" cried Lady Barmouth, shaking it furiously.

"It isn't a hanging matter," said Tom, laughing.

"No," said Charley, rather uneasily, "it isn't a hanging matter."

"And her ladyship can't undo it."

"No," said Charley firmly, as he crossed the room to where the door was
being shaken violently, "her ladyship cannot undo it."

"Would--would you like to take hold of my hand, Maudey, my dear?" said
Lord Barmouth in a faltering voice.

"Yes, papa, dear; and you will intercede for my dear husband," said the
young wife, clinging to him affectionately.

"I will, my dear, I will.  I feel as brave as a lion now.  I--I--oh,
here she is."

"What is the meaning of all this?" cried her ladyship, staring round at
the scene, as Tryphie rushed at Maude, kissed her, and then at Charley
Melton, and jumped up and kissed him.

"I always fancied that's how it was," she whispered.

"What's the meaning of it?" cried Tom.  "Why, we've found them.  Here,
allow me to take round the hat for the coppers; or will you do it now,
Maude?"

"I repeat," cried Lady Barmouth, "what is the meaning of this?  Mr
Melton, what are you doing here?"

"Asking your ladyship's pardon for myself and my dear wife," said
Charley, taking Maude's hand.

"Wife?  Then!  You!  Oh, Maude, you wicked, wicked girl!"

"But, my dear," said Lord Barmouth.

"Silence!" cried her ladyship, "Maude, you have utterly broken my heart,
and--"

"Don't you believe it, Maudey," said Tom, grinning.  "She's only saying
that to keep up appearances."

"Tom!"

"All right! but you know you are.  There, Charley, old boy, kiss your
dear mother.  Come, gov'nor, say Bless you, my children!"

"Certainly, my dear boy," said the old man, earnestly.  "Bless you
indeed, my dear children.  Charley Melton, you can't tell how glad I am,
my boy."

"Barmouth!"

"Yes, my love, but I can't help it.  I do feel very glad; but oh, you
young dog, to come playing us a trick like that!"

"Barmouth!"

"There, hang it all, mother," cried Tom, "what's the good of holding
out.  You've behaved very nicely, but, as we say in refined circles--I
mean rings--it's quite time you threw up the sponge."

"Mamma, dear, I would sooner have died than marry Sir Grantley."

"Such a cruel _ruse_," sobbed her ladyship, in hystero-tragic tones.
"Maude!  Maude!"

"Don't blame her, dearest mother," said Tom, in mock-heroic style, "it
was the troubadour.  _Il trovatore_! and his playing was magnificent.
It would have won the heart of a female saint, or charmed a nun from her
cell, let alone our Maude."

"Justine, my drops, my drops."

"She caves in!  Charley, old chap, you may kiss her now," cried Tom,
"she won't bite.  There, take him to your heart, old lady; and I say,
mamma, some day if you do faint, Charley could carry you to a sofa:
Grantley Wilters would have doubled up like a two-foot rule."

"I can never show my face in society again," said her ladyship, "never,
Mr Melton."

"What!" cried Tom, who grinned with delight as he saw his mother seated
upon a couch between Charley and Maude.  "What? why, it'll be no end of
a game.  It's all right, Maudey; you've won."

"Ah," sighed her ladyship, "let Justine bring my drops."

"Drops be hanged!  Champagne," cried Tom.  "Here, ring the bell,
gov'nor; no _table-d'hote_ to-day, mamma's going to order a wedding
dinner--a screamer."

"No, no, Tom!"

"Yes, yes, my dear mother."

Her ladyship sighed, smiled, ordered the dinner, and Lord Barmouth
rubbed his leg.

"Tom, my boy," he whispered, "you really are a wonder."

"Am I, gov'nor?  Then you tell Tryphie so, and back me up, for I mean,
as the old song says, `to marry she.'"

"Do you, my boy?"

"Yes, gov'nor.  Do you consent?"

"Certainly, my dear boy, certainly.  When is it to be?"

"Barmouth," said her ladyship in her deep contralto, "would you be kind
enough to ring for Justine?"



CHAPTER THIRTY ONE.

TOM PICKS A BONE.

"Stop a moment," said Tom, who had slipped out and intercepted the
French maid in the corridor.  "Here, I've got a bone to pick with you."

"No, no, Milor Thomas, nevaire now," cried Justine, "_pas de petites
soupers_.  I am engage."

"Engaged, are you?  What, to be married?"

"Yes, milor, to be married."

"Then good luck to you, ma'amselle.  But I say, you are a nice one, you
are."

"I do you not understand, sir."

"Not understand?" cried Tom, catching her by the wrist.  "None of your
nonsense.  Come now, you were in the secret."

"Sir, I will never divulge the secret of her ladyship; no, not even to
milor."

"Get out!"

"You loose my arm, milor.  Her ladyship wait for me."

"So do I," said Tom.  "Hang her ladyship's hair-dye and all her other
secrets; I mean about the organ--Mr Melton.  Ah, you're a nice one,
Justine."

"Milor, you think I know about that tair-rible affaire?" cried Justine
very Frenchly.

"Yes, and so you did."

"Faith of a woman, sir; it is not ter-r-rue," cried Justine, excitedly.

"Gammon!  Come, Justine, the game's up, and I know you were at the
bottom of it all."

"_Non--non--non--non--non--non_," cried Justine, shaking her head quite
dangerously.

"_Oui--oui--oui--oui--oui_," said Tom.  "Now come, confess."

"And you go tell her ladyship, you bad, weeked lil man."

"Not I.  I'm only too glad things have turned out so right."

"You deed not like Sir Viltaire?"

"Like him!"

"You will not tell her ladyship, I confess," said Justine in a
mysterious, whisper.  "You will not what you English call ze peach."

"Peach? not I, old girl.  Come, you did know?"

Justine screwed up her eyes, and made her mouth a tight line as she
laughed silently.

"Then you put Mr Melton up to the dodge?"

"_Parole d'honneur_, no, Milor Tom.  Ze plot was hatch by Monsieur
Shairlie himself.  I say noding about ze hair come out," she added to
herself.

"Well, all I can say is, that Charley Melton was a plucky one.  And you
knew this all the time?"

"Yes, milor."

"You're a deep one, Justine."

"I love ze secret, monsieur, and I cannot bear to see Miladi Maude
soffaire."

"So you helped, eh?"

"Faith of a woman, no, sare; I only look on, and see and say noding at
all."

"By George, Justine, you've been a trump! and I'll give you a ring for
this."

"Then give me dat one now, sare," said Justine, sharply, as she pointed
to the signet on Tom's finger.

"But that's too big and ugly for you, my girl.  It is a gentleman's
ring."

"_Ma foi_, Milor Thomas, do I not tell you I have a gentleman?"

"Then you're going to marry old waxworks."

"No, no, sare, I go to be Madame Launay when we return; and if Milor Tom
do require my help--a thank you, ze ring is _charmant_--you shall say to
me, `Justine, her ladyship go to marry _la belle_ Ma'amselle Tryphie to
Sir Viltaire,' I am at your sairvice, for I am the guardian of her
ladyship's secret, but _vive l'amour_."

"_Vive l'amour_, Justine," cried Tom, giving her a kiss.

"Bad, weeked lil mans.  But I forgive you.  I go to her ladyship.  _Au
revoir_."

"Charley, old fellow," said Viscount Diphoos before they parted for the
night, "hang me if I don't stick to that organ, and have it on a stand
in my room; and so long as I am at home, every time the old girl gets in
one of her tantrums, I'll go and turn the handle till she comes and
makes a truce."

Viscount Diphoos did not kep his word about that organ, being at the
time in profound ignorance of the fact, that two days after he left
town, and while the house was still in a state of turmoil, an Italian
gentleman with very dark eyes, very black beard, and a smile that
reached from one ear-ring to the other, called for the organ that had
been left in the area; slinking down to the kitchen door, and wheedling
the page a little.  That young gentleman thought it rather fun to put
the strap over his shoulder, and carry the instrument to the door, when
it was borne off, and, in truth, entirely forgotten by all concerned.

But on the return to town her ladyship seemed to recover her elasticity
somewhat, and Tom began to find that he was to have a fight yet to win
his game.

"Seems precious hard," he said, "and perhaps I shall have to make my
plans, but no organ, thank you--the accordion, white mice, or guinea
pigs would be more in my line."

Just in the worst time of his trouble he called upon Monsieur Hector one
morning, to have his weary brain relieved by a course of hair-cutting,
and the refreshing shampoo.

Monsieur Hector was delicacy itself in his manipulations, and as
delicate in his diplomacy.

"Ah bah!" he said, "what is cutting and shaving and dressing the hair?
It is not by them that I must live and save for _ma chere_ Justine.  Why
was I not in the bureau of the police?  I am a great student of life--a
very receptacle for the secrets of the aristocracy."

"Monsieur suffers," he said, softly, as he held Tom's head, lathered all
over with soap; "I am troubled to see monsieur look in such bad health."

"Bother!" said Tom.

Monsieur Hector waited a few moments until the shampooing should begin
to soften down some of the hard crystals of brain trouble from which Tom
was suffering, and then he tried again.

"I trust milady recovers herself from the dreadful shock."

Tom screwed his soapy head round, to stare in the bland, unruffled
countenance of Monsieur Hector, who bowed, and gently returned his
client's head to its proper position.

"What the deuce do you know about my lady's shock?" growled Tom.

"Monsieur forgets that I am the confidential attendant of the family,"
said Monsieur Hector with dignity.

"So I did, and of Mademoiselle Justine too.  But I smell a rat.  You
hatch plots here."

"Aha, monsieur knows?"

"Yes," said Tom, "I know.  Could you manage me an organ if I wanted to
go to play to a lady--say in Portland Place?"

Monsieur Hector smiled and tripped to a drawer, out of which he took a
black wig and full beard to match.

"If monsieur will entrust himself to my care, I will in ten minutes
change his complexion and his appearance so that her ladyship should not
know him."

"And find me an organ?"

"A thousand, if monsieur wishes," said the Frenchman.  "I am at his
service when he say."

"Then give me a clean towel;" said Tom, "my left ear is bunged up with
soap.

"I'll come if ever I want your help," he added as he ran a covered
finger through the intricate mazes of his ear.

"I am to monsieur," said the Frenchman, bowing.

But Tom had no occasion to proceed to musical extremities, for as time
went on, and no suitable match offered itself for Tryphie, her ladyship
gave way.

"I never could have believed it, Tom, my boy," said his lordship one
night at the club, "you always do get the better of her ladyship.  This
is a doosed nice glass of port."

"Yes, gov'nor, have another."

"Eh?  Well, I will just one, Tom, in honour of your wedding, Tom, and--
damn the gout, eh?"

"To be sure, gov'nor."

"Bless little Tryphie," continued the old man; "she never had much
money, but she lent me all she had when I was short, and she's down for
a thousand times as much in my will.  Her ladyship can't touch that;
and--"

Just then an organ sounded in the square, and his lordship stopped his
ears.

"No, no, gov'nor, it's only music, and I like that.  Here's Maude," he
said, filling his glass, "and may she never be more mad."

"Yes, my dear boy, our darling Maude!"

"And never," continued the viscount, "find a worse strait waistcoat than
her husband's arms."





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