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Title: Piccadilly: A Fragment of Contemporary Biography
Author: Oliphant, Laurence, 1829-1888
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 "Piccadilly: A Fragment of Contemporary Biography" ***

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                              PICCADILLY

                 A FRAGMENT OF CONTEMPORARY BIOGRAPHY

                         BY LAURENCE OLIPHANT


    WITH _EIGHT ILLUSTRATIONS BY RICHARD DOYLE_

    ELEVENTH EDITION

    WILLIAM BLACKWOOD AND SONS
    EDINBURGH AND LONDON
    MDCCCXCII

    _This Work originally appeared in 'Blackwood's Magazine,'
    and has been since revised and altered by the Author._


    "Some make love in poetry,
    And some in--Piccadilly."

    --PRAED.


     "FAITHFUL.--'I say, then, in answer to what Mr Envy hath
     spoken, I never said aught but this, That what rule, or laws,
     or customs, or people, were flat against the Word of God, are
     diametrically opposed to Christianity. If I have said amiss in
     this, convince me of my error, and I am ready here, before you
     all, to make my recantation.'"--BUNYAN'S 'Pilgrim's Progress.'


[Illustration]



PREFACE.


Five years have elapsed since the following pages were penned, and
periodically issued, under an impulse which seemed at the time
irresistible. I found myself unable, by any conscious act of volition,
to control either the plot or the style. Nor from my present point of
view do I particularly admire either the one or the other. At the same
time, I have reason to hope that the republication of this sketch now,
with all its defects, is calculated to do more good than harm to the
society it attempts to delineate.

This conviction must be my apology for again forcing upon the public a
fragment so hostile to it in tone and spirit. I would reiterate the
observation made elsewhere in the work, that none of the characters are
intended to represent any members of society who were then, or are now,
alive.


[Illustration]



CONTENTS.


I. LOVE

II. MADNESS

III. SUICIDE

IV. THE WORLD

V. THE FLESH

VI. THE "----"

CONCLUSION--MORAL



PICCADILLY.



PART I.

LOVE.


    PICCADILLY, _2d February 1865_.

In a window, a few doors from Cambridge House, the following placard
some time since invited, apparently without much effect, the notice of
the passers-by,--"To let, this desirable family mansion," After a
considerable period the "desirable family" seem to have been given up in
despair, and the words vanished from the scene; but the board in the
window, beginning "to let" remained, while the "mansion" itself was
converted upon it into "unfurnished chambers."

As, in the words of that "humble companion," whose life was rendered a
burden to her by my poor dear mother, "Money was not so much an object
as a comfortable home," I did not hesitate to instal myself in the first
floor, which possessed the advantage of a bay-window, with a double sash
to keep out the noise, together with an extensive view of Green Park,
and a sailor without legs perpetually drawing ships upon the opposite
pavement, as a foreground. My friend Lord Grandon, who is an Irish peer
with a limited income, took the floor above, as I was desirous of
securing myself against thumping overhead; moreover, I am extremely fond
of him. When I say that the position which I enjoy socially, is as well
adapted for seeing life as the locality I selected for my residence,
most of my more fashionable readers will intuitively discover who I am;
fortunately, I have no cause to desire to maintain an incognito which
would be impossible, though, perhaps, I ought to explain the motives
which induce me now to bring myself even more prominently before the
public than I have been in the habit of doing.

Sitting in my bay-window the other evening, and reading the 'History of
Civilisation,' by my late lamented friend Mr Buckle, it occurred to me
that I also would write a history of civilisation--after having seen the
world, instead of before doing so, as was the case with that gifted
philosopher. Having for many years past devoted myself to the study of
my fellow-men in all countries, I thought the time had come when I
could, with profit to myself and the world, give it the benefit of my
extended experience and my quick observation. No sooner had I arrived at
this determination, than with characteristic promptitude I proceeded to
put it into execution; and singular though it may appear, it was not
until then that I found myself quite incompetent to carry out the vast
project I had undertaken. The reason was at once apparent--I had seen
and thought too much; and was in the position which my predecessor had
failed to reach, of experimentally discovering that the task was beyond
the human power of accomplishment. Not easily vanquished, I then thought
of subdividing it, and dealing exclusively with a single branch of
civilisation. Mr Thomas Taylor Meadows, thought I, has written a very
elaborate chapter upon the progress of civilisation as regarded from a
Chinese point of view, why should not I look upon it from a purely
Piccadillean?--so I immediately looked at it. The hour 11 P.M.; a long
string of carriages advancing under my windows to Lady Palmerston's;
rain pelting; horses with ears pressed back, wincing under the storm;
coachmen and footmen presenting the crowns of their hats to it; streams
running down their waterproofs, and causing them to glitter in the
gaslight; now and then the flash of a jewel inside the carriages;
nothing visible of the occupants but flounces surging up at the windows,
as if they were made of some delicious creamy substance, and were going
to overflow into the street; policemen in large capes, and if I may be
allowed the expression, "helmetically" sealed from the wet, keeping
order; draggled women on foot "moving" rapidly on. The fine ladies in
their carriages moving on too--but not quite so fast.

This Piccadillean view of the progress of civilisation suggested to me
many serious reflections; among others, that if I intended to go to
Cambridge House myself, the sooner I went to dress the better. Which way
are we moving? I mused, as I made the smallest of white bows immediately
over a pearl stud in my neck. I gave up the "history" of civilisation. I
certainly can't call it "the progress" of civilisation; that does all
very well for Pekin, not for London. Shall I do the Gibbon business, and
call it "the decline and fall" of civilisation?--and I absently thrust
two right-hand gloves into my pocket by mistake, and scrambling across
the wet pavement into my brougham, drove in it the length of the file
and arrived before I had settled this important question.

While Lady Veriphast, having planted me _en tête-à-tête_ in a remote
corner, was entertaining me with her accustomed vivacity, I am conscious
of having gazed into those large swimming eyes with a vacant stare so
utterly at variance with my usual animated expression, that she said at
last, rather pettishly, "What _are_ you thinking about?"

"Civilisation," I said, abruptly.

"You mean Conventionalism," she replied; "have you come to the
conclusion, as I have, that all conventionalism is vanity?"

"No; only that it is 'vexation of spirit;' that is the part that belongs
to us--we leave the 'vanity' to the women."

"Dear me, I never heard you so solemn and profound before. Are you in
love?"

"No," I said; "I am thinking of writing a book, but I don't see my way to
it."

"And the subject is the Conventionalism which you call civilisation.
Well, I don't wonder at your looking vacant. You are not quite up to it,
Lord Frank. Why don't you write a novel?"

"My imagination is too vivid, and would run away with me."

"Nothing else would," she said, laughing; "but if you don't like
fiction, you can always fall back upon fact; be the hero of your own
romance, publish your diary, and call it 'The Experiences of a Product
of the Highest State of Civilisation.' Thus you will be able to write
about civilisation and yourself at the same time, which I am sure you
will like. I want some tea, please; do you know you are rather dull
to-night?" And Lady Veriphast walked me into the middle of the crowd,
and abandoned me abruptly for somebody else, with whom she returned to
her corner, and I went and had tea by myself.

But Lady Veriphast had put me on the right track: why, I thought as I
scrambled back again from my brougham across the wet pavement to my
bay-window, should I not begin at once to write about the civilisation
of the day? 'The Civilisation of the British Isles, as exhibited in
Piccadilly, a Fragment of Contemporaneous Biography,' that would not be
a bad title; people would think, if I called it a biography, it must be
true; here I squared my elbows before a quantity of foolscap, dipped my
pen in the ink, and dashed off the introduction as above.

Next morning I got up and began again as follows: Why should I commit
the ridiculous error of supposing that the incidents of my daily life
are not likely to interest the world at large? Whether I read the diary
of Mr Pepys, or of Lady Morgan--whether I wade through the Journal of Mr
Evelyn, or pleasantly while away an hour with the memoirs of "a Lady of
Quality," I am equally struck with this traditional practice of the
bores and the wits of society, to write at length the records of their
daily life, bottle them carefully up in a series of MS. volumes, and
leave them to their grandchildren to publish, and to posterity to
criticise. Now it has always appeared to me that the whole fun of
writing was to watch the immediate effect produced by one's own literary
genius. If, in addition to this, it is possible to interest the public
in the current events of one's life, what nobler object of ambition
could a man propose to himself? Thus, though the circle of my personal
acquaintances may not be increased, I shall feel my sympathies are
becoming enlarged with each succeeding mark of confidence I bestow upon
the numerous readers to whom I will recount the most intimate relations
of my life. I will tell them of my aspirations and my failures--of my
hopes and fears, of my friends and my enemies. I shall not shrink from
alluding to the state of my affections; and if the still unfulfilled
story of my life becomes involved with the destiny of others, and
entangles itself in an inextricable manner, that is no concern of mine.
I shall do nothing to be ashamed of, or that I can't tell; and if truth
turn out stranger than fiction, so much the better for my readers. It
may be that I shall become the hero of a sensation episode in real life,
for the future looks vague and complicated enough; but it is much better
to make the world my friend before anything serious occurs, than allow
posterity to misjudge my conduct when I am no longer alive to explain
it. Now, at least, I have the satisfaction of knowing that whatever
happens I shall give my version of the story first. Should the daily
tenor of my life be undisturbed, I can always fall back upon the
exciting character of my opinions.

As I write, the magnitude of the task I propose to myself assumes still
larger proportions. I yearn to develop in the world at large those
organs of conscientiousness and benevolence which we all possess but so
few exercise. I invoke the cooperation of my readers in this great work:
I implore them to accompany me step by step in the crusade which I am
about to preach in favour of the sacrifice of self for the public good.
I demand their sympathy in this monthly record of my trials as an
uncompromising exponent of the motives of the day, and I claim their
tender solicitude should I writhe, crushed and mangled by the iron hand
of a social tyranny dexterously concealed in its velvet glove. I will
begin my efforts at reform with the Church; I may then possibly diverge
to the Legislature, and I will mix in the highest circles of society in
the spirit of a missionary. I will endeavour to show everybody up to
everybody else in the spirit of love; and if they end by quarrelling
with each other and with me, I shall at least have the satisfaction of
feeling myself divested of all further responsibility in the matter. In
my present frame of mind apathy would be culpable and weakness a
crime....

Candour compels me to state that when, as I told Lady Veriphast, my
imagination becomes heated, my pen travels with a velocity which fails
to convey any adequate impression of the seething thoughts which course
through my brain. I lose myself in my subject, and become almost
insensible to external sensations; thus it happened that I did not hear
the door open as I was writing the above, and I was totally unconscious
as I was reading fervently aloud the last paragraph, containing those
aspirations which I promised to confide to the public, that I had
already a listener. Judge of my surprise--I may say dismay--when, just
as I had finished, and was biting the end of my pen for a new
inspiration, I heard the voice of Grandon close behind my chair. "Well
done, my dear Frank," he said--and as he has known me from my boyhood,
he can make allowances for my fervent nature. "Your programme is very
complete, but I doubt your being able to carry it out. How, for
instance, do you propose to open the campaign against the Church?"

If there is one quality upon which I pride myself more than another it
is readiness. I certainly had not formed the slightest conception of how
these burning thoughts of mine should be put into execution; but I did
not hesitate a second in my answer. "I shall go down to a bishop and
stay with him in his palace," I replied, promptly.

"Which one?" said Grandon.

I was going to say "Oxbridge," as he is the only one I happen to know;
but, in the first place, I am a little afraid of him; and, in the
second, I am hardly on sufficiently intimate terms with him to venture
to propose myself--so I said, with some effrontery, "Oh, to a colonial
bishop, whom you don't know."

"Nor you either, I suspect," laughed Grandon. "Just at present colonial
bishops are rather scarce articles, and I have never heard of one in
England with a palace, though there are a good many of them dotted about
in snug livings, retaining only their lawn sleeves, either to laugh in
or remind them of the dignity and the hardships of which they did not
die abroad. Their temptations are of a totally different nature from
theirs who are members of the House of Peers, and they must be treated
apart; in fact, you will have to take them with the missionaries and
colonial clergy. I quite agree with you that if there is one thing that
is more urgently needed than a missionary to the ball-room, it is a
missionary to the missionaries; and as you have had so much experience
of their operations abroad, you might become a very useful labourer in
the ecclesiastical vineyard."

I need scarcely say that my heart leaped at the thought; it was a work
for which I felt myself specially qualified. "Why," I have thought,
"should there be a set of men who preach to others, and are never
preached at themselves? Every class and condition of life has its
peculiar snares and temptations, and one class is set apart to point
them out--surely there should be somebody to perform that kind office
for them which they do for others. He who is paid to find out the mote
that is in his brother's eye, and devotes his energies to its discovery,
is of all men the one who requires the most kind and faithful friend to
show him the beam which is in his own. I will be that friend, and charge
nothing for it," thought I.

Grandon saw the flush of enthusiasm which mounted to my brow, and looked
grave.

"My impulsive friend," he said, "this is a very serious subject; we must
beware lest we fall into the error which we blame in others. It is one
thing to see the need of the missionary, it is another to rush headlong
upon the work. However, I am able to offer you an opportunity of
beginning at once, for I have just come to tell you that Dickiefield has
given us a joint invitation to go down to-morrow to Dickiefield, to stay
till Parliament opens; we shall be certain to find a choice assortment
of pagan and theological curiosities in that most agreeable of
country-houses, and you may possibly meet the identical colonial bishop
at whose palace you proposed staying. The three o'clock train lands us
exactly in time for dinner. Will you come?"

"Of course I will. Nothing would justify my neglecting so promising a
vineyard in which to commence my labours;" and I rubbed my hands
enthusiastically, and sat down to write a series of those "consecrated
lies" by means of which dinner engagements, already accepted, are at the
last moment evaded.

    DICKIEFIELD, _4th February_.

The party here consists of old Lady Broadhem, with that very aspiring
young nobleman, her son, the young Earl (old Lord Broadhem died last
year), and his sisters, Ladies Bridget and Ursula Newlyte, neither of
whom I have seen since they emerged from the nursery.

They had all disappeared to dress for dinner, however, and Dickiefield
had not come home from riding, so that when Grandon and I entered the
drawing-room, we found only the deserted apparatus of the afternoon tea,
a Bishop, and a black man--and we had to introduce ourselves. The Bishop
had a beard and an apron, his companion a turban, and such very large
shoes, that it was evident his feet were unused to the confinement. The
Bishop looked stern and determined; perhaps there was just a dash of
worldliness about the twist of his mustache. His companion wore a
subdued and unctuous appearance; his face was shaved; and the whites of
his eyes were very bloodshot and yellow. Neither of them was the least
embarrassed when we were shown in; Grandon and I both were slightly.
"What a comfort that the snow is gone," said I to the Bishop.

"Yes," said his lordship; "the weather is very trying to me, who have
just arrived from the Caribbee Islands."

"I suppose you have accompanied his lordship from the Caribbee Islands,"
said I, turning to the swarthy individual, whom I naturally supposed to
be a specimen convert.

"No," he said; "he had arrived some months since from Bombay."

"Think of staying long in England?" said Grandon.

"That depends upon my prospects at the next general election. I am
looking out for a borough."

"Dear me!" said Grandon; and we all, Bishop included, gazed on him with
astonishment.

"My name is Chundango," he went on. "My parents were both Hindoos.
Before I was converted my other name was Juggonath; now I am John. I
became acquainted with a circle of dear Christian friends in Bombay,
during my connection, as catechist, with the Tabernacle Missionary
Society, was peculiarly favoured in some mercantile transactions into
which I subsequently entered in connection with cotton, and have come to
spend my fortune, and enter public life, in this country. I was just
expressing to our dear friend here," pointing in a patronising way
towards the Bishop, "my regret at finding that he shares in views which
are becoming so prevalent in the Church, and are likely to taint the
Protestantism of Great Britain and part of Ireland."

"Goodness," thought I, "how this complicates matters! which of these two
now stands most in need of my services as a missionary?" As Dickiefield
was lighting me up to my bedroom, I could not resist congratulating him
upon his two guests. "A good specimen of the 'unsound muscular,' the
Bishop," said I.

"Not very," said Dickiefield; "he is not so unsound as he looks, and he
is not unique, like the other. I flatter myself I have under my roof the
only well-authenticated instance of the Hindoo converted millionaire. It
is true he became a 'Government Christian' when he was a poor boy of
fifteen, and began life as a catechist; then he saw a good mercantile
opening, and went into cotton, out of which he has realised an immense
fortune, and now is going into political life in England, which he could
not have done in an unconverted condition. Who ever heard before of a
Bombay man wanting to get into Parliament, and coming home with a _carte
du pays_ all arranged before he started? He advocates extension of the
franchise, ballot, and the Evangelical Alliance, so I thought I would
fasten him on to Broadhem--they'll help to float each other."

"Who else have you got here besides?" I asked.

"Oh, only a petroleum aristocrat from the oil regions of
America--another millionaire. He is a more wonderful instance even than
Chundango, for he was a poor man three months ago, when he 'struck oil.'
You will find him most intelligent, full of information; but you will
look upon him, of course, as the type of the peculiar class to which he
belongs, and not of Americans generally." And my warm-hearted and
eccentric friend, Lord Dickiefield, left me to my meditations and my
toilet.

"I shall probably have to take one of these Broadhem girls in to
dinner," thought I, as I followed the rustle of their crinolines
down-stairs back to the drawing-room. So I ranged myself near the one
with dark hair and blue eyes--I like the combination--to the great
annoyance of Juggonath, who had got so near her for the same purpose
that his great foot was on her dress.

"I beg your pardon, Mr Juggernaut," said I, giving him a slight shove,
"I think you are standing----"

"Chundango, sir, if you please," said he, unconsciously making way for
me, "Juggonath is the name which my poor benighted countrymen----"

"Juggernaut still speaking, as they say in the telegraphic reports from
the House of Commons," I remarked to Lady Ursula, as I carried her off
triumphantly; and the Indian's voice was lost in the hum of the general
movement towards the dining-room.

I have promised not to shrink from alluding to those tender
sensibilities which an ordinary mortal jealously preserves from the
rough contact of his fellow-men; but I am not an ordinary mortal, and I
have no hesitation in saying, that never in my life have I gone through
such a distinct change of feeling in the same period as during the two
hours we sat at that dinner. Deeply versed as I am in every variety of
the sex, married or single, how was I to know that Lady Ursula was as
little like the rest of the species as our Bombay friend was to wealthy
Hindoos generally? What reason had I to suppose that Lady Broadhem's
daughter could possibly be a new type?

Having been tolerably intimate at Broadhem House before she was out, I
knew well the atmosphere which had surrounded her youth, and took it for
granted that she had imbibed the family views.

"Interesting creature, John Chundango, Esq.," said I, for I thought she
had looked grave at the flippancy of my last remark; "he has quite the
appearance of a 'Brand.'"

"A what?" said Lady Ursula, as she looked up and caught him glaring
fixedly at her with his great yellow eyeballs from the other side of the
table.

"Of course I don't mean of the 'whipper-in' of the Liberal party, but of
one rescued from fire. I understand that his great wealth, so far from
having proved a snare to him, has enabled him to join in many companies
for the improvement of Bombay, and that his theological views are quite
unexceptionable."

"If his conversion leads him to avoid discussing either his neighbours
or their theology, Lord Frank, I think he is a person whom we may all
envy."

Is that a hit at her mother or at me? thought I. At Broadhem House,
society and doctrine used to be the only topics of discussion. My fair
friend here has probably had so much of it that she has gone off on
another tack; perhaps she is a "still deep fast" one. As I thought thus,
I ran over in my mind my young-lady categories, as follows:--

           {The wholly worldly
    First, {      and
           {The worldly holy.

In this case the distinction is very fine; but though they are bracketed
together, there is an appreciable difference, which perhaps, some day
when I have time, I shall discuss.

Second, "The still deep fast."

This may seem to be a contradiction in terms; but the fact is, while the
upper surface seems tranquil enough, there is a strong rapid
undercurrent. The danger is, in this case, that you are very apt to go
in what is called a "header." The moment you dive you get caught by the
undercurrent, and the chances are you never rise to the surface again.

Third, "The rippling glancing fast."

This is less fatal, but to my mind not so attractive as the other. The
ripples are produced by quantities of pebbles, which are sure to give
one what is called in America "a rough time." The glancing is only
dangerous to youths in the first stage, and is perfectly innocuous after
one season.

Fourth, "The rushing gushing fast."

This speaks for itself, and may be considered perfectly harmless.

There are only two slows--the "strong-minded blue slow," and the "heavy
slow."

The "strong-minded blue slow" includes every branch of learning. It is
extremely rare, and alarming to the youth of the day. I am rather
partial to it myself.

The "heavy slow" is, alas! too common.

To return to Lady Ursula: not "worldly holy," that was quite clear;
certainly neither of the "slows," I could see that in her eye, to say
nothing of the retort; not "rippling glancing," her eye was not of that
kind either; certainly not "rushing gushing." What remained? Only
"Wholly worldly," or "still deep fast."

These were the thoughts that coursed through my mind as I pondered over
her last remark. I had not forgotten that I had a great work to
accomplish. The missionary spirit was ever burning within me, but it was
necessary to examine the ground before attempting to prepare it for
seed. I'll try her as "still deep," thought I.

"Did you go out much last season?" I said, by way of giving an easy turn
to the conversation.

"No; we have been very little in London, but we are going up this year.
We have always resisted leaving the country, but mamma wants to make a
home for Broadhem."

"Ah! it is his first season, and naturally he will go out a great deal.
Of course you know the three reasons which take men into society in
London," I said, after a pause.

"No, I don't. What are they?"

"Either to find a wife, or to look after one's wife, or to look after
somebody else's."

I was helping myself to potatoes as I made this observation in a tone of
easy indifference; but as she did not immediately answer, I glanced at
her, and was at once overcome with remorse and confusion; her neck and
face were suffused with a glow which produced the immediate effect upon
my sensitive nature of making me feel a brute; her very eyelids trembled
as she kept them steadily lowered: and yet what had I said which I had
not repeatedly said before to both the "slows," one of the "worldlies,"
and all the "fasts"? Even some of the "worldly holies" rather relish
this style of conversation, though I always wait for them to begin it,
for fear of accidents. Fortunately, however much I am moved, I never
lose my presence of mind; so I deliberately upset my champagne-glass
into her plate, and, with the delicacy and tact of a refined nature, so
worded the apologies with, which I overwhelmed her, that she forgave my
first _gaucherie_ in laughing over the second.

She can be nothing now, thought I, but "wholly worldly," but she should
be ticketed, like broadcloth, "superfine;" so I must tread cautiously.

"I hear Lord Broadhem is going to make his political _début_ in a few
days," I remarked, after a pause. "What line does he think of taking?"

"He has not told me exactly what he means to say, as I am afraid we do
not quite agree in what philosophers call 'first principles,'" she
replied, with a smile and a slight sigh.

"Ah!" I said, "I can guess what it is; he is a little too Radical for
you, but you must not mind that; depend upon it, an ambitious young peer
can't do better than ally himself with the Manchester school. They have
plenty of talent, but have failed as yet to make much impression upon
the country for lack of an aristocrat. It is like a bubble company in
the City; they want a nobleman as chairman to give an air of
respectability to the direction. He might perhaps be a prophet without
honour if he remained in his own country, so he is quite right to go to
Manchester. I look upon cotton, backed by Exeter Hall, as so strong a
combination, that they would give an immense start in public life to a
young man with great family prestige, even of small abilities; but as
Broadhem has good natural talents, and is in the Upper House into the
bargain, the move, in a strategical point of view, so far as his future
career is concerned, is perfect."

"I cannot tell you, Lord Frank," said Lady Ursula, "how distressed I am
to hear you talk in this way. As a woman, I suppose I am not competent
to discuss politics; and if Broadhem conscientiously believes in manhood
suffrage and the Low Church, and considers it his duty before God to
lose no opportunity of propagating his opinions, I should be the first
to urge his using all the influence which his name and wealth give him
in what would then become a sacred duty; but the career that you talk
about is not a sacred duty. It is a wretched Will-o'-the-wisp that
tempts men to wade through mire in its pursuit, not the bright star
fixed above them in the heavens to light up their path. I firmly
believe," she went on, as she warmed to her theme, "that that one word
'Career,' has done more to demoralise public men than any other word in
the language. It is one embodiment of that selfishness which we are
taught from our cradles. Boys go to school with strict injunctions if
possible to put self at the top of it. They take the highest honours at
the university purely for the sake of self. How can we expect when they
get into Parliament that they should think of anything but self, until
at last the most conscientious of them is only conscientious by
contrast? Who is there that ever tells them that personal ambition is a
sin the most hateful in the sight of God, the _first_ and not the last
'infirmity of noble minds'? I know you think me foolish and unpractical,
and will tell me mine is an impossible standard; but I don't believe in
impossible standards where public morality is concerned. At all events,
let us make some attempt in an upward direction; and as a first step I
propose to banish from the vocabulary that most pernicious of all words,
'A Career.'"

She stopped, with eyes sparkling and cheeks flushed; by the way, I did
not before remark, for I only now discovered, that she was
lovely--"wholly worldly"--what sacrilege! say rather "barely mortal;"
and I forthwith instituted a new category. My own ideas, thought I,
expressed in feminine language; she is converted already, and stands in
no need of a missionary. Grandon himself could not take higher ground;
as I thought of him I looked up, and found his eyes fixed upon us. "My
friend Grandon would sympathise most cordially in your sentiments," I
said, generously; for I had fallen a victim in preparing the ground; I
had myself tumbled into the pit which I had dug for her; for had I not
endeavoured to entrap her by expressing the most unworthy opinions, in
the hope that by assenting to them she would have furnished me with a
text to preach upon?

"Yes," she replied, in a low tone, and with a slight tremor in her
voice, "I know what Lord Grandon's views are, for he was staying with us
at Broadhem a few weeks ago, and I heard him upon several occasions
discussing the subject with my brother."

"Failed to convert him, though, it would appear," said I, thinking what
a delightful field for missionary operations Broadhem House would be.
"Perhaps I should be more successful. Grandon wants tact. Young men
sometimes require very delicate handling."

"So do young women," said Lady Ursula, laughing. "Will you please look
under the table for my fan?" and away sailed the ladies, leaving me
rather red from having got under the table, and very much in love
indeed.

I was roused from the reverie into which I instantly fell by Dickiefield
telling me to pass the wine, and asking me if I knew my next neighbour.
I looked round and saw a young man with long flaxen hair, blue eyes, and
an unhealthy complexion, dexterously impaling pieces of apple upon his
knife, and conveying them with it to his mouth. "Mr Wog," said
Dickiefield, "let me introduce you to Lord Frank Vanecourt."

"Who did you say, sir?" said Mr Wog, in a strong American accent,
without taking the slightest notice of me.

"Lord Frank Vanecourt," said Dickiefield.

"Lord Frank Vanecourt, sir, how do you do, sir?--proud to make your
acquaintance, sir," said Mr Wog.

"The same to you, sir," said I. "Pray, where were you raised?" I wanted
to show Mr Wog that I was not such a barbarian as he might imagine, and
knew how to ask a civil question or two.

"Well, sir, I'm a Missouri man," he replied. "I was a captain under
Frank Blair, till I was taken bad with chills and fever; then I gave up
the chills and kept the fever--'oil-fever' they call it down to
Pithole--you've heard of Pithole?"

"Yes," I said, I had heard of that magical city.

"Well, just as I struck oil, one of your English lords came over there
for the purpose of what he called 'getting up petroleum' and we were
roommates in the same hotel for some time, and got quite friendly; and
when he saw my new kerosene lamp, and found I was coming to have it
patented in this country, he promised to help me to get up a Patent Lamp
Company, and gave me letters to some of your leading aristocracy; so,
before leaving, I saw the President, and told him I would report on the
state of feeling in your highest circles about our war. We know what it
is in your oppressed classes, but it aint every one has a chance, like
me, of finding out how many copperheads there are among your lords. My
father, sir, you may have heard of by name--Appollonius T. Wog, the
founder, and, I may say, the father of the celebrated 'Pollywog
Convention,' which was named after him, and which unfortunately burst up
just in time to be too late to save our country from bursting up too."

I expressed to Mr Wog my condolences on the premature decease of the
Pollywog Convention, and asked him how long he had been in England, and
whom he had seen.

"Well, sir," he said, "I have only been here a few days, and I have seen
considerable people; but none of them were noblemen, and they are the
class I have to report upon. The Earl of Broadhem, here, is the first
with whom I have conversed, and he informs me that he has just come from
one of your universities, and that the sympathies of the great majority
of your rising youth are entirely with the North."

"You may report to your Government that the British youth of the present
day, hot from the university, are very often prigs."

"Most certainly I will," said Mr Wog; "the last word, however, is one
with which I am not acquainted."

"It is an old English term for profound thinker," I replied.

Mr Wog took out a pocket-book, and made a note; while he was doing so,
he said, with a sly look, "Have you an old English word for 'quite a
fine gurl'?"

"No," I said; "they are a modern invention."

"Well, sir, I can tell you the one that sat 'twixt you and me at dinner
would knock the spots out of some of our 'Sent' Louis belles."

In my then frame of mind the remark caused me such acute pain that I
plunged into a conversation that was going on between Grandon and
Dickiefield on the present state of our relations with Brazil, and took
no further notice of Mr Wog for the rest of the evening; only, as my
readers may possibly hear more of him in society during this season, I
have thought it right to introduce him to them at once.

We all went to hear Broadhem's speech next day, and whatever might have
been our private opinion upon the matter, we all, with the exception of
Grandon and Lady Ursula, warmly congratulated him upon it afterwards.
John Chundango and Joseph Caribbee Islands both made most effective
speeches, but we did not feel the least called upon to congratulate
them: they each alluded with great affection to the heathen and to Lord
Broadhem. Chundango drew a facetious contrast between his lordship and
an effeminate young Eastern prince, which was highly applauded by the
audience that crowded the town-hall of Gullaby; and Joseph made a sort
of grim joke about the probable effect of the "Court of Final Appeal"
upon the theological tenets of the Caribbee Islanders, that made Lady
Broadhem cough disapprobation, and everybody else on the platform feel
uncomfortable. I confess I have rather a weakness for Joseph. He has a
blunt off-hand way of treating the most sacred topics, that you only
find among those who are professionally familiar with the subject. There
is something refreshingly muscular in the way he lounges down to the
smoking-room in an old grey shooting-coat, and lights the short black
meerschaum, which he tells you kept off fever in the Caribbee Islands,
while the smoke loses itself in the depths of his thick beard, which he
is obliged to wear because of his delicate throat. There is a force and
an ease in his mode of dealing with inspiration at such a moment which
you feel must give him an immense ascendancy over the native mind.

He possesses what may be termed a dry ecclesiastical humour, differing
entirely from Chundango's, whose theological fun takes rather the form
of Scriptural riddles, picked up while he was a catechist. Neither he
nor Broadhem smoke, so we had Wog and the Bishop to ourselves for half
an hour before going to bed. "You must come and breakfast with me some
morning in Piccadilly to meet my interesting friend Brother Chrysostom,
my lord," said I.

I always like to give a bishop his title, particularly a missionary
bishop; it is a point of ecclesiastical etiquette about which I have
heard that the propagators of Christianity were very particular.

"If you will allow me, sir, I will join the party," said Mr Wog, before
the Bishop could reply; "and as I don't know where Piccadilly is, I'll
just ask the Bishop to bring me along. There is a good deal of law going
on between your bishops just now," our American friend went on, "and I
should like to know the rights of it. We in our country consider that
your Ecclesiastical Court is a most remarkable institution for a
Christian land. Why sir, law is strictly prohibited in a certain place;
and it seems to me that you might as well talk of a good devil as a
religious court. If it is wrong for a layman to go to law, it must be
wrong for a bishop. What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander;
that proverb holds good in your country as well as mine, don't it?"

"The Ecclesiastical Court is a court of discipline and doctrine rather
than of law," said Dickiefield.

"Well, it's a court anyhow you fix it; and your parsons must be a bad
lot to want a set of lawyers reg'larly trained to keep them in order."

"Perhaps Parson Brownlow would have been the better of a court of some
kind," said the Bishop. "It seems to me that to be a minister of the
Gospel at one moment, a colonel at another, and the Governor of a State
at a third, illustrates the abuses which arise when such courts don't
exist. With us, now, when a man once takes orders, he remains in them
for the rest of his life."

"Even after he has concluded not to obey them, eh?" asked Mr Wog.

"Ah, Mr Wog," I interrupted, "before you return to the oil regions, you
must make yourself acquainted with the enormous advantages connected
with a State Church. You must grasp the idea that it is founded chiefly
upon Acts of Parliament--that the clergy are only a paid branch of the
Civil Service, exercising police functions of a very lofty and important
character. The 'orders' come from the Queen, the 'Articles' are
interpreted by the Privy Council, and 'England expects every clergyman
to do his duty.' As I think some of the late doctrinal decisions of the
judicial committee are questionable, I am drawing up a bill for the
reform of the Protestant religion, and for the addition of a fortieth
article to the existing thirty-nine. If I can carry it through both
Houses of Parliament, all the convocations in Christendom cannot prevent
the nation from accepting it as absolute divine truth; and I shall have
the extreme satisfaction of feeling that I am manufacturing a creed for
the masses, and thus securing a theological progress commensurate with
our educational enlightenment. As long as the law of the land enables a
majority of the Legislature to point out the straight and narrow way to
the archbishops and bishops who have to lead their flocks along it, I
have no fear for the future. It must be a comfort to feel, that if the
worst comes to the worst, you have, as in the House of Commons, to lean
upon 'my lord.'"

But the "dry ecclesiastical humour" of the Bishop, to which I have
referred, did not evidently run in the same channel as mine.

"I don't think," he said, sternly, "that this is either the place or the
mode in which to discuss subjects of so solemn a nature."

"I was only speaking of the system generally," I retorted, "and did not
propose to enter here upon any doctrinal details of a really sacred
character; those I leave to ecclesiastical dignitaries and learned
divines with initials, to ventilate in a sweet Christian spirit in the
columns of the daily press."

But the Bishop had already lit his candle, and with an abrupt "good
night," vanished.

"Really, Frank," said Dickiefield, "it is not fair of you to drive my
guests to bed before they have finished their pipes in that way. What
you say may be perfectly true, but there can be no sort of advantage in
stating it so broadly."

"My dear Dickiefield, how on earth is our friend Wog here to understand
what his southern countryman would call 'our peculiar institution,' if
somebody does not enlighten him? I want him, on his return, to point out
to the President the advantage of substituting a State Church for the
State rights which are so rapidly disappearing." Whereupon we diverged
into American politics; and I asked Grandon an hour later, as we went to
bed, what he thought of my first missionary effort.

"If the effect of your preaching is to drive your listeners away," he
said, laughing, "I am afraid it will not meet with much success."

"It is a disagreeable task, but somebody must do it," I replied, feeling
really discouraged. "It makes me quite sad to look at these poor
wandering shepherds, who really mean to do right, but who are so utterly
bewildered themselves, that they have lost all power of guiding their
flocks without the assistance of lawyers. When did these latter bring
back 'the key of knowledge,' that one of old said they had 'taken away?'
or why are they not as 'blind leaders of the blind' now as they were
then? If I speak harshly, it is because I fancy I see a ditch before
them. I shall feel bound to trouble the Bishop again with a few
practical remarks. There is no knowing whether even he may not be
brought to perceive that you might as well try to extract warmth from an
iceberg as divine inspiration from the State, and that a Church without
inspiration is simply a grate without fire. The clergy may go on
teaching for doctrine the commandments of men, and stand and shiver in a
theology which comes to them filtered through the Privy Council, and
which is as cold and gloomy as the cathedrals in which it is preached.
But the congregations who are crying aloud for light and heat will go
and look for them elsewhere."

"You are a curious compound, Frank," said Grandon; "I never knew a man
whose moods changed so suddenly, or whose modes of thinking were so
spasmodic and extreme; however, I suppose you are intended to be of some
use in the world"--and he looked at me as a philosopher might at a
mosquito.

"By the way, we must leave by the early train to-morrow if we want to
get to town in time for the opening of Parliament."

"I think I shall stay over to-morrow," I answered. "Broadhem is going
up, but the ladies are going to stay two days longer, and the House can
open very well without me; besides, Chundango and the Bishop are going
to stay over Sunday."

"That is an inducement, certainly," said Grandon. "Come, you must have
some other reason!"

"My dear old fellow," said I, putting my hand on Grandon's shoulder, "my
time is come at last. Haven't you remarked what low spirits I have been
in since dinner? I can't bear it for another twenty-four hours! You know
my impulsive sensitive nature. I must know my fate at once from her own
lips."

"Whose own lips?" said Grandon, with his eyes very wide open.

"Lady Ursula's, of course!" I replied. "I knew her very well as a child,
so there is nothing very sudden about it.

"Well, considering you have never seen her since, I don't quite agree
with you," he said, in a deeper tone than usual. "In your own interest,
wait till you know a little more of her."

"Not another day! Good-night!" and I turned from him abruptly.

"I'll put myself out of suspense to-morrow, and keep the public in it
for a month," thought I, as I penned the above for their benefit, after
which I indulged in two hours of troubled sleep.

[Illustration]



PART II.

MADNESS.


    FLITYVILLE, _March 20_.

As the event which I am about to recount forms the turning-point of my
life--unless, indeed, something still more remarkable happens, which I
do not at present foresee, to turn me back again--I do not feel that it
would be either becoming, or indeed possible, for me to maintain that
vein of easy cheerfulness which has characterised my composition
hitherto. What is fun to you, O my reader! may be death to me; and
nothing can be further from my intention than to excite the smallest
tendency to risibility on your part at my misfortunes or trials. You
will already have guessed what these are; but how to recur to those
agonising details, how to present to you the picture of my misery in its
true colours,--nothing but the stern determination to carry out my
original design, and the conscientious conviction that "the story of my
life from month to month" may be made a profitable study to my
fellow-men, could induce me in this cold-blooded way to tear open the
still unhealed wound.

I came down to breakfast rather late on the morning following the events
narrated in the last chapter. Broadhem and Grandon had already vanished
from the scene; so had Mr Wog, who went up to town to see what he called
"the elephant,"--an American expression, signifying "to gain experience
of the world." The phrase originated in an occurrence at a menagerie,
and as upon this occasion Mr Wog applied it to the opening of
Parliament, it was not altogether inappropriate. I found still lingering
over the _debris_ of breakfast my host and hostess, Lady Broadhem and
her daughters, the Bishop and Chundango. The latter appeared to be
having all the talk to himself, and, to give him his due, his
conversation was generally entertaining.

"My dear mother," he was saying, "still unconverted, has buried all my
jewellery in the back verandah. After I had cleared a million sterling,
I divided it into two parts; with one part I bought jewels, of which my
mother is an excellent judge, and the other I put out at interest. Not
forgetting," with an upward glance, "a sum the interest of which I do
not look for here."

"Then, did you give all your jewels to your mother?" asked Lady
Broadhem.

"Oh no; she is only keeping them till I can bestow them upon the woman I
choose for her daughter-in-law."

"Are you looking out for her now?" I asked, somewhat abruptly.

"Yes, my dear friend," said John; "I hope to find in England some
Christian young person as a yoke-mate."

There was a self-satisfied roll of his eye as he said this, which took
away from me all further desire for the bacon and eggs I had just put on
my plate.

"Dear Mr Chundango," said Lady Broadhem, "tell us some of your
adventures as a catechist in the Bombay Ghauts. Did you give up all when
you became one? Was your family noble? and did you undergo much
persecution from them?"

"The Rajah of Sattara is my first cousin," said Chundango, unblushingly;
"but they repudiated me when I became a Christian, and deny the
relationship."

"Are you going up to Convocation?" said Dickiefield to the Bishop, to
divert attention from Chundango's last barefaced assertion. "I hear they
are going to take some further action about the judgment on the 'Essays
and Reviews.'"

"Yes," said Joseph; "and I see there is a chance of three new sees being
created. I should like to talk over the matter with you. Considering how
seriously my health has suffered in the tropics, and how religiously I
have adhered to my Liberal opinions in politics even in the most trying
climates, it might be worth while----"

"Excuse me for interrupting you, my dear lord," said Dickiefield, "but
the present Government are not so particular about the political as the
theological views of their bishops. When you remember that the Prime
Minister of this country is held morally accountable for the orthodoxy
of its religious tenets, you must at once perceive how essential it is,
not only that he should be profoundly versed in points of Scriptural
doctrine himself, but that he should never appoint a bishop of whose
soundness he is not from personal knowledge thoroughly satisfied."

"I have no objection to talk over the more disputed points with him,"
said the Bishop. "When do you think he could spare a moment?"

"The best plan would be," replied Dickiefield, with a twinkle in his
eye, "to catch him in the lobby of the House some evening when there is
nothing particular going on. What books of reference would you require?"

The Bishop named one, when I interrupted him, for I felt Dickiefield had
not put the case fairly as regarded the first Minister of the Crown.

"It is not the Premier's fault at all," said I; "he may be the most
liberal theologian possible, but he has nothing to do with doctrine;
that lies in the Chancellor's department. As the supreme arbiter in
points of religious belief, and as the largest dispenser of spiritual
patronage in the kingdom, it is evident that the qualifications for a
Lord Chancellor should be not so much his knowledge of law, as his
unblemished moral character and incapacity for perpetrating jobs. He is,
in fact, the principal veterinary surgeon of the ecclesiastical stable,
and any man in orders that he 'warrants sound' cannot be objected to on
the score of orthodoxy. The Prime Minister is just in the same position
as the head of any other department,--whoever passes the competitive
examination he is bound to accept, but may use his own discretion as to
promotion, and, of course, sticks to the traditions of the service. The
fact is, if you go into the Colonial Episcopal line you get over the
heads of a lot of men who are steadily plodding on for home promotion,
and, of course they don't think it fair for an outsider to come back
again, and cut them out of a palace and the patronage attached to it on
the strength of having been a missionary bishop. It is just the same in
the Foreign Office,--if you go out of Europe you get out of the regular
line. However, we shall have the judgment on the Colenso case before
long, and, from the little I know of the question, it is possible you
may find that you are not legally a bishop at all. In that case you will
have what is far better than any interest--a grievance. You can say that
you were tempted to give up a good living to go to the heathen on false
pretences, and they'll have to make it up to you. You could not do
better than apply for one of the appointments attached to some
cathedrals, called 'Peculiars.' I believe that they are very comfortable
and independent. If you will allow me I will write to my solicitor about
one. Lawyers are the men to manage these matters, as they are all in
with each other, and every bishop has one attached to him."

"Thank you, my lord--my observation was addressed to Lord Dickiefield,"
said the Bishop, very stiffly; for there was an absence of that
deference in my tone to which those who love the uppermost seats in the
synagogues are accustomed, but which I reserve for some poor labourers
who will never be heard of in this world.

"Talking of committees," I went on, "how confused the Lord Chancellor
must be between them all. He must be very apt to forget when he is
'sitting' and when he is being 'sat upon.' If he had not the clearest
possible head, he would be proving to the world that Mr E---- was
competent to teach the Zulus theology in spite of the Bishop of Cape
Town, and that he was justified in giving Dr Colenso a large retiring
pension. What with having to quote texts in one committee-room, and
arithmetic in another, and having to explain the law of God, the law of
the land, and his own conduct alternately, it is a miracle that he does
not get a softening of the brain. Depend upon it," said I, turning to
the Bishop, who looked flushed and angry, "that a 'Peculiar' is a much
snugger place than the Woolsack."

"Lord Frank, permit me to say," broke in Lady Broadhem, who had several
times vainly endeavoured to interrupt me, "that your manner of treating
sacred subjects is most disrespectful and irreverent, and that your
allusions to an ecclesiastical stable, 'outsiders,' and other racing
slang, is in the worst possible taste, considering the presence of the
Bishop."

"Lady Broadhem," said I, sternly, "when the money-changers were scourged
out of the Temple there was no want of reverence displayed towards the
service to which it was dedicated; and it seems to me, that to sell 'the
Temple' itself, whether under the name of an 'advowson,' a 'living,' or
a 'cure of souls,' is the very climax of irreverence, not to use a
stronger term; and when the Lord Chancellor brings in an Act for the
purpose of facilitating this traffic in 'souls,' and 'augmenting the
benefices' derived from curing them, I think it is high time, at the
risk of giving offence to my friend the Bishop, and to the
ecclesiastical establishment generally, to speak out. What times have we
fallen upon that the priesthood itself, once an inspiration, has become
a trade?"[1]

[Footnote 1: "Let the Church," says the 'Times,' in a recent leading
article, "increase the number of her good things, and her ranks will be
largely and _worthily_ filled up."]

Lady Broadhem seemed a little cowed by my vehemence, which some might
have thought amounted to rudeness, but would not abandon the field. "The
result," she said, "of impoverishing the Church will be, that you will
only get literates to go into it; as it is, compared with other
professions, it holds out no inducement for young men of family.
Fortunately our own living, being worth £1200 a-year, always secures us
a member of the family, and therefore a gentleman; but if you did away
with them you would not have holier men, but simply worse-bred ones. I
am sure we should not gain by having the Church filled with clergy of
the class of Dissenting preachers."

"I don't think you would, any more than the Pharisees would have gained
by being reduced to the level of the Sadducees; not that I would wish to
use either term offensively towards the conscientious individuals who
were, doubtless, comprised in the above sects in old time, still less as
a reproach to the excellent men who fill the churches and chapels of
this country now; but it has possibly not occurred to them that the
Churchianity of the present day bears as little resemblance to the
Christianity of eighteen hundred years ago, as the latter did to the
worship it came to supersede;" and I felt I had sown seed in the
ecclesiastical vineyard, and would leave it to fructify. "Good fellow,
Frank!" I overheard Dickiefield say, as I left the room; "it is a pity
his head is a little turned!" "Ah," I thought, "something is upside
down; perhaps it is my head, but I rather think it is the world
generally, including always the religious world. It seemed to have taken
a start in the right direction nearly two thousand years ago, and now it
has all slipped back again worse than ever, and is whirling the wrong
way with a rapidity that makes one giddy. I feel more giddy than usual
to-day, somehow," I soliloquised; "and every time I look at Lady Ursula,
I feel exactly as if I had smoked too much. It can't be really that, so
I'll light a cigar and steady my nerves before I come to the tremendous
issue. She is too sensible to mind my smelling of tobacco." These were
the thoughts that passed through my somewhat bewildered brain, as I
stepped out upon the terrace and lit my cigar. So far from my nerves
becoming steadier, however, under the usually soothing influence, I felt
my heart beating more rapidly each time I endeavoured to frame the
sentence upon which was to depend the happiness of my life, until at
last my resolution gave way altogether, and I determined to put upon
paper, in the form of an interrogatory, the momentous question. A glass
door opened from a recess in the drawing-room upon the terrace on which
I was walking, and in it, on my former visits, I had been in the daily
habit of writing my letters. It was a snug retreat, with a fire all to
itself, a charming view, and a _portière_ which separated it or not from
the drawing-room, according to the wish of the occupant. The first
question I had to consider when I put the writing materials before me
was, whether I ought to begin, "Dear Lady Ursula," or, "My dear Lady
Ursula." I should not have entertained the idea of beginning "My dear,"
did I not feel that having known her as a child entitled me to assume a
certain intimacy. However, on further consideration, I adopted the more
distant form, and then my real difficulty began. While looking for an
inspiration at the further end of the avenue which stretched from the
lawn, I became conscious of a figure moving slowly towards me, which I
finally perceived to be that of Lady Broadhem herself. In my then frame
of mind, any escape from my dilemma was a relief, and I instinctively
left the still unwritten note and joined her.

"This is a courageous proceeding, Lady Broadhem; the weather is scarcely
mild enough for strolling."

"I determined to make sure of some exercise," she replied,--"the clouds
look threatening; besides, I have a good deal on my mind, and I can
always think better when I am walking _alone_."

She put a marked emphasis on the last word, I can't imagine why, so I
said, "That is just my case. If you only knew the torture I am enduring,
you would not wonder at my wanting to be alone. As for exercise, it
would not be of the slightest use."

"Dear me," said Lady Broadhem, pulling a little box like a card-case out
of her pocket, "tell me your exact symptoms, and I'll give you some
globules."

"It is not altogether beyond the power of homoeopathy," I said, with a
sigh. "Hahnemann was quite right when he adopted as the motto for his
system, 'Like cures like,' It applies to my complaint exactly. Love will
cure love, but not in homoeopathic doses."

"How very odd! I was thinking the very same thing when you joined me. My
dear girls are of course ever uppermost in my mind, and I really am
troubled about Ursula. I think," she said, looking with a sidelong
glance into my face, "I know who is on the point of declaring himself,"
and she stopped suddenly, as though she had spoken under some
irresistible impulse.

I don't remember having blushed since I first went to school, but if
Lady Broadhem could have seen the colour of my skin under my thick
beard, she would have perceived how just her penetration had been. Still
I was a good deal puzzled at the quickness with which she had made a
discovery I imagined unknown, even to the object of my affections, to
say nothing of the coarseness of her alluding to it to me in that direct
manner. What had I said or done that could have put her on the scent? I
pondered in vain over the mystery. My conduct had been most circumspect
during the few hours I had been in love; nothing but the sagacity with
which the maternal instinct is endowed could account for it.

"Do you think Lady Ursula returns the affection?" said I, timidly.

"Ursula is a dear, well-principled girl, who will make any man who is
fortunate enough to win her happy. I am sure she will be guided by my
wishes in the matter. And now, Lord Frank, I think we have discussed
this subject sufficiently. I have said more, perhaps, than I ought; but
we are such old friends that, although I entirely disagree with your
religious opinions, it has been a relief to me even to say thus much. I
trust my anxieties will soon be at an end;" with which most encouraging
speech Lady Broadhem turned towards the house, leaving me overcome with
rapture and astonishment, slightly tinged with disgust at finding that
the girl I loved was thrown at my head.

I did not delay, when I got back to my recess in the drawing-room, to
tear up with a triumphant gesture my note beginning "Dear," and to
commence another, "My dear Lady Ursula."

"The conversation which I have just had with Lady Broadhem," I went on,
"encourages me to lose no time in writing to you to explain the nature
of those feelings which she seems to have detected almost as soon as
they were called into existence, and which gather strength with such
rapidity that a sentiment akin to self-preservation urges me not to lose
another moment in placing myself and my fortune at your disposal. If I
allude to the latter, it is not because I think such a consideration
would influence you in the smallest degree, but because you may not
suspect, from my economical habits, the extent of my private resources.
I am well aware that my impulsive nature has led me into an apparent
precipitancy in writing thus; but if I cannot flatter myself that the
short time I have passed in your society has sufficed to inspire you
with a reciprocal sentiment, Lady Broadhem's assurance that I may depend
upon your acceding to her wishes in this the most important act of your
life, affords me the strongest encouragement.--Believe me, yours most
faithfully,

    "FRANK VANECOURT."

I have already observed that, when my mind is very deeply absorbed in
composition, I become almost insensible to external influences: thus it
was not until I had finished my letter, and was reading it over, that I
became conscious of sounds in the drawing-room. I was just thinking that
I had got the word "sentiment" twice, and was wondering what I could
substitute for that expressive term, when I suppose I must have
overheard, for I insensibly found myself signing my name "Jewel." Then
came the unmistakable sound of Chundango's voice mentioning the name
dearest to me. "Remember, Lady Ursula," said that regenerate pagan,
"there are very few men who could offer their brides such a collection
of jewels as I can. Think, that although of a different complexion from
yourself, I am of royal blood. You are surely too enlightened and
noble-minded to allow the trivial consideration of colour to influence
you."

"Mr Chundango," said Lady Ursula, and I heard the rustle of her dress as
she rose from her chair, "you really must excuse me from listening to
you any more."

"Stop one moment," said Chundango; and I suspect he tried to get hold of
her hand, for I heard a short quick movement; "I have not made this
proposal without receiving first the sanction of Lady Broadhem."
"Deceitful old hypocrite"; thought I, with suppressed fury. "When I told
her ladyship that I would settle a million's worth of pounds upon you in
jewellery and stock, that my blood was royal, and that all my
aspirations were for social distinction, she said she desired no higher
qualification. 'What, dear Mr Chundango,' she remarked, 'matters the
colour of your skin if your blood is pure? If your jewellery and your
conversion are both genuine, what more could an anxious mother desire
for her beloved daughter?'"

"Spare me, I implore you," said Ursula, in a voice betraying great
agitation. "You don't know the pain you are giving me."

Whether Chundango at this moment fell on his knees, which I don't think
likely, as natives never thus far humble themselves before the sex, or
whether he stumbled over a footstool in trying to prevent her leaving
the room--which is more probable--I could not discover. I merely heard a
heavy sound and then the door open. I think the Indian must have hurt
himself, as the next time I heard his voice it was trembling with
passion.

"Lady Broadhem," he said--for it appears she it was who had entered the
room--"I do not understand Lady Ursula's conduct. I thought obedience to
parents was one of the first precepts of the Christian religion; but
when I tell her your wishes on the subject of our marriage, she forbids
me to speak. I will now leave her in your hands, and I hope I shall
receive her from them in the evening in another and a better frame of
mind;" and Chundango marched solemnly out and banged the door after him.

"What have you done, Ursula?" said Lady Broadhem, in a cold, hard voice.
"I suppose some absurd prejudice about his colour has influenced you in
refusing a fortune that few girls have placed at their feet. He is a man
of remarkable ability; in some lights there is a decided richness in his
hue; and Lord Dickiefield tells me he fully expects to see him some day
Under-Secretary for India, and ultimately perhaps in the Cabinet.
Moreover, he is very lavish, and would take a pride in giving you all
you could possibly want, and in meeting all our wishes. He would be most
useful to Broadhem, whose property, you know, was dreadfully involved by
his father in his young days-in fact, he promised me to pay off £300,000
of the debt upon his personal security, and not ask for any interest for
the first few years. All this you are throwing away for some girlish
fancy for some one else."

Here my heart bounded. "Dear girl," thought I, "she loves me, and I'll
rush in and tell her that I return her passion. Moreover, I will
overwhelm that old woman with confusion for having so grossly deceived
me." A scarcely audible sob from Lady Ursula decided me, and to the
astonishment of mother and daughter I suddenly revealed myself. Lady
Ursula gave a start and a little exclamation, and before I could explain
myself, had hurried from the room. Lady Broadhem confronted me, stern,
defiant, and indignant.

"Is it righteous,--Lady Broadhem----" I began, but she interrupted me.

"My indignation? Yes, Lord Frank, it is."

"No, Lady Broadhem; I did not allude to your indignation, which is
unjustifiable. I was about to express my feelings in language which I
thought might influence you with reference to the deception you have
practised upon me. You gave me to understand only half an hour ago that
you approved of my attachment to your daughter; you implied that that
attachment was returned--indeed, I have just overheard as much from her
own lips; and now you deliberately urge her to ally herself with--the
thought is too horrible!" and I lifted my handkerchief to my eyes to
conceal my unaffected emotion.

"Lord Frank," said Lady Broadhem, calmly, "you had no business to
overhear anything; however, I suppose the state of your feelings must be
your excuse. It seems that we entirely misunderstood each other this
morning. The attachment I then alluded to was the one you have just
heard Mr Chundango declare. I did so, because I thought of asking you to
find out some particulars about him which I am anxious to know. I was
utterly ignorant of your having entertained the same feelings for
Ursula. What settlements are you prepared to make?"

This question was put so abruptly that a mixed feeling of indignation
and contempt completely mastered me. At these moments I possess the
faculty of sublime impertinence.

"I shall make Broadhem a liberal allowance, and settle an annuity upon
yourself, which my solicitor will pay you quarterly. I know the family
is poor; it will give me great pleasure to keep you all."

Lady Broadhem's lips quivered with anger; but the Duke of Dunderhead's
second son, who had inherited all the Flityville property through his
mother, was a fish worth landing, so she controlled her feelings with an
effort of self-possession which commanded my highest admiration, and
said in a gentle tone as she held out her hand with a subdued smile,--

"Forgive the natural anxiety of a mother, Lord Frank, as I forgive you
for that last speech." Here she lifted her eyes and remained silent for
a few moments, then she sighed deeply. She meant me to understand by
this that she had been permitted to overcome her feelings of resentment
towards me, and was now overflowing with Christian charity.

"Dear Lady Broadhem," I replied, affectionately, for I felt
preternaturally intelligent, and ready for the most elaborate maternal
strategy, "how thankful we ought to be that on an occasion of this kind
we can both so thoroughly command our feelings! Believe me, your anxiety
for your daughter's welfare is only equalled by the fervour of my
affection for her. Shall we say £100,000 in stock, and Flityville Park
as a dower-house?"

"What stock, Lord Frank?" asked her ladyship, as she subsided languidly
into a chair; "not Mexicans or Spanish passives, I do most fervently
trust."

"No," said I, maliciously; "nearly all in Confederate and Greek loans."

"Oh!" she ejaculated, with a little scream, as if something had stung
her.

"What is the matter, Lady Broadhem?" and she looked so unhappy and
disconcerted that I had compassion on her. "I was only joking; you need
be under no apprehension as to the securities--they are as sound as your
own theology, and would satisfy the Lord Chancellor quite as well."

"Oh, it was not that! Perhaps some day when you and dear Ursula are
married, I will tell you all about it; for you have my full consent; and
I need not say what an escape I think she has had from that black man.
_Entre nous_, as it is most important you should understand exactly the
situation, I must correct one error into which you have fallen; she is
not in love with you, Lord Frank; you must expect a little opposition at
first; but that will only add zest to the pursuit, and my wishes will be
paramount in the end. The fact is, but this is a profound secret, your
friend Lord Grandon has behaved most improperly in the matter. He came
down on some pretence of instilling his ridiculous notions into
Broadhem, who took a fancy to him when we were all staying at Lady
Mundane's, and I strongly opposed it, as I fancied, even then, he was
paying Ursula too much attention; but she has such influence with
Broadhem that she carried her point, because, she said, her brother
could only get good from him. What exactly passed at Broadhem I don't
know; but I was so angry at the idea of an almost penniless Irish peer
taking advantage of his opportunities as a visitor to entrap my girl's
affections, that I told him I expected some people, and should want his
bedroom. He left within an hour, and Ursula declares he never uttered a
word which warranted this decisive measure; but people can do a good
deal without 'uttering,' as she calls it; and I am quite determined not
to let them see anything of each other during the season. Fortunately
Lord Grandon scarcely ever goes out, and Broadhem, whose eyes are opened
at last, has promised to watch him. Whoever Ursula marries must do
something for Broadhem."

Although I am able to record this speech word for word, I am quite
unable to account for the curious psychological fact, that it has become
engraven on my memory, while, at the time, I was unconscious of
listening to it. The pattern of the carpet, a particular curl of Lady
Broadhem's "front," the fact that the clock struck one, are all stamped
upon the plate of my internal perceptive faculties with the vividness of
a photograph. The vision of happiness which I had conjured up was
changing into a hideous contrast, and reminded me of the Diorama at the
Colosseum in my youth, where a fairy landscape, with a pastoral group at
lunch in the foreground, became gradually converted into a pandemonium
of flames and devils.

I felt borne along by a mighty torrent which was sweeping me from
elysian fields into some fathomless abyss. Love and friendship both
coming down together in one mighty crash, and the only thing left
standing--Lady Broadhem--right in front of me--a very stern reality
indeed. I don't the least know the length of time which elapsed between
the end of her speech and when I returned to consciousness--probably not
many seconds, though it seemed an age. I gasped for breath, so she
kindly came to my relief.

"My dear Lord Frank," she said, "after all it might have been worse.
Supposing that Lord Grandon had not been your friend, or had not had the
absurd Quixotic ideas which I understand he has of the duties of
friendship, he might have given you immense trouble; as it is, I am sure
he has only to know the exact state of the case to retire. I know him
quite well enough for that. I look upon it as providential. Had it been
Mr Chundango, Grandon would most probably have persevered. Now he is
quite capable of doing all he can to help you with Ursula."

I groaned in spirit. How well had Lady Broadhem judged the character of
the man to whom she would not give her daughter!

"I am so glad to think, Lady Broadhem," said I, with a bitter laugh,
"that you do not suspect me of such a ridiculous exaggeration of
sentiment. So far from it, it seems to impart a peculiar piquancy to the
pursuit when success is only possible at the sacrifice of another's
happiness; and when that other is one's oldest friend, there is a
refinement of emotion, a sort of pleasurable pain, which is quite
irresistible. To what element in our nature do you attribute this?"

"To original sin, I am afraid," said Lady Broadhem, looking down, for my
manner seemed to puzzle, and make her nervous.

"Oh, it is not at all 'original,'" said I. "Whatever other merit it
possesses, it can't claim originality--it is the commonest thing in the
world; but I think it is an acquired taste at first--it grows upon you
like caviar or olives. I remember some years ago, in Australia, running
away with the wife of a charming fellow----"

"Oh, Lord Frank, Lord Frank, please stop! Have you repented? and where
is she?"

"No," I said, "I never intend to repent; and I'll tell you where she is
after the marriage."

At this crisis the demon of recklessness which had sustained me, and
prompted the above atrocious falsehood, deserted me suddenly, so I leant
against the mantelpiece and sobbed aloud. I remember deriving a
malicious satisfaction from the idea that Lady Broadhem thought I was
weeping for my imaginary Australian.

"How very dreadful!" said she, when I became somewhat calmer. "We must
forget the past, and try and reform ourselves, mustn't we?" she went on,
caressingly; "but I had no idea that you had passed through a _jeunesse
orageuse_. Do you know, I think men, when they do steady, are always the
better for it."

"Well, I hope Lady Ursula may keep me quiet; nothing else ever has yet.
I suppose you won't expect me to go to church?"

"We'll talk about that after the marriage, to use your own expression,"
replied Lady Broadhem, with a smile.

"Because, you know, I am worse than Grandon as regards orthodoxy. Now,
Chundango is so thoroughly sound, don't you think, after all, that that
is the first consideration?"

"To tell you the truth--but of course I never breathed it to Ursula--I
attach a good deal of importance to colour."

"Ah, I see; you classify us somewhat in this way: first, if you can get
it, rich, orthodox, and white; second, rich, heterdox, and white; third,
rich, orthodox, and black. Now, in my opinion, to attach any importance
whatever to colour is wicked. My objections to Mr Chundango do not apply
to his skin, which is as good as any other, but to his heart, which I am
afraid is black. I prefer a pure heart in a dark skin to a black heart
in a white one," and I looked significantly at her ladyship. "Supposing
that out of friendship for Grandon I should do the absurd thing of
withdrawing my pretensions, what would happen?"

"I should insist upon Ursula's marrying Mr Chundango. I tell you in
confidence, Lord Frank, that pecuniary reasons, which I will explain
more fully at another time, render it absolutely necessary that she
should marry a man with means within the next six months. The credit of
our whole family is at stake; but it is impossible for me to enter into
details now." At this moment the luncheon was announced. I followed Lady
Broadhem mechanically towards the dining-room, but instead of entering
it went up-stairs like one in a dream, and ordered my servant to make
arrangements for my immediate departure. I pulled an arm-chair near my
bedroom fire, and gazed hopelessly into it.

People call me odd. I wonder really whether the conflicts of which my
brain is the occasional arena are fiercer than those of others. I wonder
whether other people's thoughts are as like clouds as mine
are--sometimes, when it is stormy, grouping themselves in wild fantastic
forms; sometimes chasing each other through vacancy, for no apparent
purpose; sometimes melting away in "intense inane;" and again
consolidating themselves, black and lowering, till they burst in a
passionate explosion. What are they doing now? and I tried in vain to
stop the mental kaleidoscope which shifted itself so rapidly that I
could not catch one combination of thought before it was succeeded by
another; but always the same prominent figures dodging madly about the
chambers of my brain--Chundango, Ursula, Lady Broadhem, and Grandon;
Lady Broadhem, Chundango, Grandon, and Ursula--backwards and forwards,
forwards and backwards, like some horrid word that I had to spell in a
game of letters, and could never bring right. Love, friendship, hate,
pity, admiration, treachery--more words to spell, ever combining
wrongly, and never letting me rest, till I thought something must crack
under the strain. Then mockingly came a voice ringing in my ears--Peace,
peace, peace--and I fancied myself lulled to rest in her arms, and I
heard the cooing of doves mingle with the soft murmur of her voice as
she leant wistfully over me, and I revelled in that most fatal of all
nightmares--the nightmare of those who, perishing of hunger and thirst,
die of imaginary banquets. "Sweet illusion," I said, "dear to me as
reality, brood over my troubled spirit, deaden its pain, heal its
wounds, and weave around my being this delicious spell for ever." Then
suddenly, as though my brain had been a magazine into which a spark had
fallen, it blazed up; my hair bristled, and drops stood upon my
forehead, for a great fear had fallen upon me. It had invaded me with
the force of an overwhelming torrent, carrying all before it. It said,
"Whence is the calm that soothes you? Infatuated dreamer, think you it
is the subsiding of the storm, and not rather the lull that precedes it?
Beware of the sleep of the frozen, from which there is no waking." What
was this? was my mind regaining its balance, or was it going to lose it
for ever? Most horrid doubt! the very thought was so much in the scale
on the wrong side. Oh for something to lean upon--some strong stay of
common-sense to support me! I yearned for the practical--some fact on
which to build. "I have got it," I exclaimed suddenly. "There must be
some osseous matter behind my dura mater!" I shall never forget the
consolation which this notion gave me: it relieved me from any further
psychological responsibility, so to speak; I gave up mental analysis. I
attributed the keen susceptibility of my æsthetic nature to this cause,
and accepted it as I would the gout, without a murmur. Still I needed
repose and solitude, so I determined to go to Flityville and arrange my
ideas, no longer alarmed at the confusion in which they were, but with
the steadfast purpose of disentangling them quietly, as I would an
interesting knot. Hitherto I had been tearing at it madly and making it
worse; now I had got the end of the skein--"osseous matter"--and would
soon unravel it. So I descended calmly to the drawing-room.

I found it empty, but it occurred to me I had left my letter to Lady
Ursula in the recess, and in the agitation attending my interview with
Lady Broadhem, had forgotten to go back for it. I pushed back the
_portière_, and saw seated at the writing-table Lady Ursula herself. She
looked pale and nervous, while I felt overwhelmed with confusion and
embarrassment. This was the more trying, as many years have elapsed
since I have experienced any such sensations.

"Oh, you don't happen to have seen a letter lying about anywhere, do
you, Lady Ursula?" said I. "It ought to be under your hand, for I left
it exactly on that spot."

"No," she said; "I found mamma writing here when I came, and she took a
packet of letters away with her; perhaps she put yours among them by
mistake. She will be back from her drive almost immediately."

"I hope so," said I. "I should be sorry to leave without seeing her."

"To leave, Lord Frank! I thought you were going to stay till Monday."
She looked up rather appealingly, I thought, as if my presence would
have been a satisfaction to her under the circumstances; and I saw, as I
returned her steady earnest gaze, that she little guessed the purport of
the missing letter.

At that moment my head began to swim, and the figures to dance about in
my brain again. Chundango and Grandon seemed locked in a death-struggle,
and Ursula, with dishevelled hair, trying to separate them, while Lady
Broadhem, in the background, was clapping her hands and urging them on.
I seemed spinning round the group with such rapidity that I was obliged
to steady myself with one hand against the back of Lady Ursula's chair.

"What's the matter? what's the matter, Lord Frank?" she exclaimed.

"Osseous matter, osseous matter," I murmured mechanically, and it
sounded so like an echo of her words that I am sure she thought me going
mad. Should I throw myself at her feet and tell her all? If she would
only trample upon me and my feelings together, it would be a luxury
compared to the agony of self-control I was inflicting upon myself. If I
could only pour myself out in a torrent of passionate expression, and
wind up with a paroxysm of tears, she was welcome to treat me as a
raving lunatic, but I should be much less likely to become one. But how,
knowing what I did, could I face Grandon afterwards? Before that fatal
conversation with Lady Broadhem, I should have had the satisfaction of
hearing my fate from Lady Ursula herself, and I know that she would have
treated me so tenderly that rejection would have been a thousand times
preferable to this. She would have known then the intensity of my
affection, she would have heard from my own lips the burning words with
which I would have pleaded my cause, and, whatever might have been the
result, would have pitied and felt for me. Now, if I say nothing, and
Lady Broadhem tells her when I am gone that she considers us engaged,
what will Ursula think of me? Again, if Lady Broadhem thinks I am really
going to do what my conscience urges, and sacrifice myself for Grandon,
then, poor girl, she will be sacrificed to Chundango.

Nothing but misery will come out of that double event: if I do what is
right, it will bring misery; if I do what is wrong, it will bring misery
too,--that is one consolation--it makes the straight and narrow path
easier. The only difficulty is, I can't find it--and standing here with
my hand on her chair, my head swimming, and Lady Ursula looking
anxiously up at me, I am not likely to find it.

"Lord Frank, do let me ring the bell and send for a glass of water," she
said at last.

"Thanks, no; the fact is, that letter I have lost causes me the greatest
anxiety, and when I thought what the consequences might be of its going
astray I felt a little faint for a moment."

"Dear me," said Lady Ursula, kindly, "I will make mamma look for it at
once, and I am sure if it is a matter in which my sympathy could be of
any use, you will appreciate my motive in offering it; but I do think in
this world people might be of so much more use to each other than they
are, if they would only trust one another, and believe in the sincerity
of friendship. Although you did try to shock me last night," she said,
with a smile, "I have heard so much of you from Lord Grandon, and know
how kind and good you are, although he says you are too enthusiastic and
too fond of paradoxes, but I assure you I consider you quite an old
friend. You remember, years ago, when I was a little girl, how you used
to gallop about with me on my pony in the park at Broadhem? You won't
think me inquisitive, I am sure, in saying this, but there are moments
sometimes when it is a relief to find a listener to the history of one's
troubles."

"But when, by a curious fatality, that listener is the cause of them
all, these moments are not likely to arrive," I thought, but did not
say. Is it not enough to love a woman to distraction, and be obliged by
every principle of honour to conceal it from her, without her pressing
upon you her sympathy, and inviting your confidence? and the very
tenderness which had prompted her speech rose up against her in judgment
in my mind. So ready with her friendship, too! Should I tell her
bitterly that she was the only being in the whole world whose friendship
could aggravate my misery? Should I congratulate her upon the ingenuity
she had displayed in thus torturing me? or should I revenge myself by
giving her the confidence she asked, and requesting her to advise me how
to act under the circumstances? Then I looked at the gentle earnest
face, and my heart melted. My troubles! Do I not know too well what hers
are? Perhaps it would be a relief to her to hear, that if worse comes to
worst, she can always escape Chundango by falling back upon me. If she
is driven to begging me to offer myself up on her shrine, what a very
willing sacrifice she would find me! As she knows that I must have
overheard what passed between her and Chundango this morning, shall I
make a counter-proposition of mutual confidence, and allude delicately
to that most painful episode! If she is generous enough to forget her
own troubles and think of me, why should not I forget mine and think of
her? The idea of this contradiction in terms struck me as so exquisitely
ludicrous, that I laughed aloud.

"Ha! ha! ha! Lady Ursula, if you only knew what a comic aspect that last
kind speech of yours has given to the whole affair. Don't think me
ungrateful or rude, but--ha! ha! ha!" Here I went off again. "When once
my sense of humour is really touched, I always seem to see the point of
a joke to quite a painful degree. Upon two occasions I have suffered
from fits after punning, and riddles always make me hysterical; but I
assure you, you unconsciously made a joke just now when you asked me to
tell you exactly what I felt, which I shall remember as long as I live,
for it will certainly be the death of me--ha! ha! ha!" But Lady Ursula
had risen from her chair and rung the bell before I had finished my
speech, and I was still laughing when the servant came into the room,
followed by Lady Broadhem and Lady Bridget.

"Dear me," said Lady Broadhem, with her most winning smile, "how very
merry you are!--at least Lord Frank is. You seem a little pale, dear,"
turning to Ursula; "what is the matter?"

"Oh, nothing, mamma. Lord Frank has been looking for a letter in the
recess. You don't happen to have put it up with yours, do you?"

"No, my dear, I think not," said Lady Broadhem, looking through a
bundle. "Who was it to, Lord Frank, if you will pardon my curiosity? I
shall find it more easily if you will give me the address."

"Nobody in particular," said I, "so it does not matter; you can keep it
and read it. It is a riddle; that is what has been amusing us so much.
Lady Ursula has been making such absurd attempts to guess it. Good-bye,
Lady Broadhem. Here is the servant come to say that my fly is at the
door."

"Good gracious! Why, where are you going?" said she, evidently imagining
that her daughter and I had had some thrilling episode, and that I was
going away in a huff, so I determined to mystify her still more.

"Oh, only to Flityville to get everything ready; you know what a state
the place is in. Now," and I looked tenderly into the amazed face of
Lady Ursula, "I shall indeed have an object in putting it in order, and
I shall expect you and Lady Ursula to come some day soon and suggest the
improvements. I have only one request to make before leaving, and I do
so, Lady Ursula, in the presence of your mother and sister; and that is,
that until I see you again, the subject of our conversation just now may
never be alluded to between yourselves. Trust in me, Lady Broadhem," I
said, taking her hand affectionately, "and promise me you will not ask
Lady Ursula what I have just told her; if you do," I whispered, "you
will spoil all," and I looked happy and mysterious. "Do you promise?"

"I do," said Lady Broadhem.

"And now, Lady Ursula," I said, crossing over to her and taking her
hand, "once more good-bye, and"--I went on in so low a tone that it was
impossible for Lady Broadhem to overhear it, but it made her feel sure
that all was arranged between us--"you have got the most terrible secret
of my life. I know I can trust you. You have seen me"--and I formed the
word with my lips rather than uttered it with my breath--"MAD! Hush!"
for Lady Ursula gave a quick exclamation, and almost fainted with alarm;
"I am myself again now. Remember my happiness is in your keeping"--this
out loud for Lady Broadhem's benefit. "I am going to say good-bye to
Lady Dickiefield, and you shall hear from me when I can receive you at
Flityville."

I am endowed with a somewhat remarkable faculty, which I have not been
in the habit of alluding to, partly because my friends think me
ridiculous if I do, and partly because I never could see any use in it,
but I do nevertheless possess the power of seeing in the dark. Not after
the manner of cats--the objects which actually exist--but images which
sometimes appear as the condensations of a white misty-looking
substance, and sometimes take a distinctly bright luminous appearance.
As I gaze into absolute darkness, I first see a cloud, which gradually
seems to solidify into a shape, either of an animal or some definite
object. In the case of the more brilliant image, the appearance is
immediate and evanescent. It comes and goes like a flash, and the
subject is generally significant and beautiful. Perhaps some of my
readers may be familiar with this phenomenon, and may account for it as
being the result of what they call imagination, which is only putting
the difficulty one step back; or may adopt the wiser course which I have
followed, and not endeavour to account for it at all. Whatever be its
origin, the fact remains, and I only advert to it now, as it is the best
illustration I can think of to describe the mental process through which
I passed in the train on my way to Flityville. My mind seemed at first a
white mist--a blank sheet of paper. My interview with Lady Ursula had
produced this effect upon it. Gradually, and quite unconsciously to
myself, so far as any mental effort was concerned, my thoughts seemed to
condense into a definite plan of action; now and then a brilliant idea
would appear like a flash, and vanish sometimes before I could catch it;
but in so far as the complication in which Grandon, Ursula, the Broadhem
family, and myself were concerned, I seemed to see my way, or at all
events to feel sure that my way would be shown to me, if I let my
inspirations guide me. When once one achieves this thorough confidence
in one's inspirations, the journey of life becomes simplified. You never
wonder what is round the next corner, and begin to prepare for unknown
contingencies; but you wait till the corner is turned, and the
contingency arrives, and passively allow your mind to crystallise itself
into a plan of action. At this moment, of course, I have no more notion
what is going to happen to me than you have. Divest your mind, my
friend, that I know anything more of the plot of this story of my life
which you are reading than you do. I positively have not the slightest
idea what either I or any of the ladies and gentlemen to whom I have
introduced you are likely to do, or how it is all going to end. I have
told you the mental process under which I act; and, of course, this is
the mere record of those inspirations. Very often the most unlikely
things occur to me all of a sudden: thus, while my mind was, as it were,
trifling with the events which I have recounted, and throwing them into
a variety of combinations, it flashed upon me in the most irrelevant
manner that I would send £4000 anonymously to the Bishop of London's
fund. In another second the unconscious train of thought which led me to
this determination revealed itself. "Here," said I, "have I been
attacking this poor colonial bishop and the Establishment to which he
belongs, and what have I given him in return? I expose the abuses of his
theological and ecclesiastical system, but I provide him with no remedy.
I fling one big stone at the crystal palace in which Protestantism is
shrivelling away, and another big stone at the crystal palace in which
Catholicism is rotting, and I offer them in exchange the cucumber-frame
under which I am myself squatting uncomfortably. I owe them an apology.
Unfortunately I have not yet found either the man or the body of men who
do not prefer hard cash to an apology--provided, of course, it be
properly proportioned to the susceptibility of their feelings or the
delicacy of their sense of honour. Fairly, now," I asked myself, "if it
was put to the Bench of Bishops, would they consider £5000 sufficient to
compensate the Church for the expressions I made use of to one of their
order?" "More than sufficient," myself replied. "Then we will make it
four thousand." But the whole merit of the action lies in the anonymous,
and so nobody knows till they read this who it was made that munificent
donation. That I should have afterwards changed my mind, and answered
the advertisement of the committee, which appeared in the "agony" column
of the 'Times,' who wanted to know how I wished the money applied, by a
request that it should be paid back to my account at the Bank, does not
affect the question; I merely wished to show the nature of my impulses,
and the readiness with which I act upon them.

Some days elapsed after my arrival at Flityville before I felt moved to
write to Grandon. The fact is, I was writing this record of my trials
for the world in general, and did not know what to say to him in
particular. At length, feeling that I owed him an explanation, I wrote
as follows:--

    "FLITYVILLE, _March 19_.

"You are doubtless surprised, my dear fellow," I began, "at my turning
myself into a hermit at this most inopportune season of the year; but
the fact is, that shortly after you left Dickiefield, I became so deeply
impressed with the responsibility of the great work I had undertaken,
that I perceived that a period of retirement and repose was absolutely
necessary with a view to the elaboration of some system which should
enable me to grapple with the great moral and social questions upon
which I am engaged.

"Diverting my anxious gaze from Christendom generally, I concentrated it
upon my own country, in the hope that I might discover the root of its
disease. Morbid activity of the national brain, utterly deranged action
of the national heart. Those were the symptoms--unmistakable. Proximate
cause also not difficult to arrive at. Due to the noxious influence of
tall chimneys upon broad acres, whereby the commercial effluvium of the
Plutocracy has impregnated the upper atmosphere, and overpowered the
enfeebled and enervated faculties of the aristocracy; lust of gain has
supervened upon love of ease. Hence the utter absence of those noble and
generous impulses which are the true indications of healthy national
life. Expediency has taken the place of principle; conscience has been
crushed out of the system by calculation. The life-blood of the country,
instead of bounding along its veins, creeps sluggishly through them,
till it threatens to stagnate altogether, and congestion becomes
imminent.

"Looked at from what I may term 'externals,' we simply present to the
world at large the ignoble spectacle of a nation of usurers trembling
over our money-bags; looked at from internals, I perceive that we are
suffering from a moral opiate, to the action of which I attribute the
unhappy complaints that I have endeavoured to describe. This pernicious
narcotic has been absorbed by us for hundreds of years unsuspected and
unperceived under the guise of a popular theology. We have become so
steeped in the insane delusion, now many centuries old, that we are a
Christian nation, that I anticipate with dread the reaction which will
take place when men awaken to the true character of the religious
quackery with which they have been duped, and, overlooking in their
frenzy the distinction which exists between ancient and modern
Christianity, will repudiate the former with horror, which, after all,
does not deserve to be condemned, for it has never yet been tried as a
political system in any country. Individuals only profess to be
theoretically governed by it. Nor would it be possible, as society is at
present constituted, for any man to carry out its principles in daily
life. That any statesman would be instantly ruined who should openly
announce that he intended to govern the country on purely Christian
principles, may be made clear to the simplest comprehension. For
instance, imagine our Foreign Minister getting up in the House of
Commons and justifying his last stroke of foreign policy upon the ground
that we should 'love our neighbours better than ourselves, or penning a
despatch to any power that we felt 'persecuted' by blessing it. When do
we even do good to anybody in our national capacity, much less to them
'that hate us'? We certainly pray like Chinamen when we want to
propitiate an angry Deity about the cattle-plague; but who ever heard of
'a form of prayer to be used' for nations 'who despitefully use us.'
Fancy the Chancellor of the Exchequer informing us that instead of
laying up for the nation treasures upon earth, he proposed realising all
that the country possessed and giving it to the poor. Christian
Churchmen and statesmen do not therefore sufficiently believe in the
power and efficacy of the Christian moral code to trust the nation to it
alone. Hence they have invented ecclesiastical organisations and
theological dogmas as anodynes; and the people have been lulled into
security by the singular notion, that if they supported the one and
professed to believe in the other, they were different from either
Mohammedans or Bhuddists. In a word, it is the curse of England that its
intellect can see truths which its heart will not embody. The more I
think of it the more I am disposed to risk the assertion, that if, as is
supposed, the moral code called Christian is divine, it is only not
practicable, literally, by the nation for lack of national heart-faith.
I tell you this in confidence, for I am already considered so wild and
visionary upon all these matters, and so thoroughly unsound, that I
should not like it to be generally known, for fear of its injuring my
political prospects. In the mean time it will very much assist me in
arriving at some of my conclusions, if you will kindly procure for me,
from any leading member of the Legislature, lay or clerical, answers to
the following questions:--

"First, Whether Jonah could possibly have had anything to say to Nineveh
which would not apply with equal force to this Christian
metropolis?--and if so, What?

"Second, Specify the sins which were probably committed in Chorazin or
Bethsaida, but which have not yet been perpetrated in London.

"Third, As statecraft (assisted by priestcraft) consists not in making
the State better but richer, explain why it is easier for a collection
of rich men--called a nation--to be saved, than for a camel to go
through the eye of a needle, but not so easy for one man.

"Fourth, Does the saying that the love of money is the root of all evil
apply to a nation as well as to an individual?--and if not, how does it
happen that the more we accumulate wealth, the more we increase poverty
and misery and crime?

"That is enough for the present. But oh! what a string of questions I
could propound to these stumbling pagans, stupefied by the fatuous
superstition that their country is safer than other countries which have
come to judgment, because they are called by a particular name! Is there
among them all not the faintest consciousness of an impending doom? or
is the potency of the drug such that it is impossible to raise a cry
loud enough to rouse them? Why will they go on vainly trying to solve
the impossible problem of Government, never seeing that whatever system
is introduced is merely a rearrangement of sinners; that voters are like
cards--the more you shuffle them the dirtier they get; and that it is of
no use agitating for a reform in the franchise without first agitating
for a reform in the consciences of those who are to exercise it, and in
the fundamental principles of the policy upon which we are to be
governed.

"Wisely saith the greatest poet of the age, as yet, alas! unknown to
fame:--

    "Reformers fail because they change the letter,
      And not the spirit, of the world's design.
    Tyrant and slave create the scourge and fetter--
      As is the worshipper, will be the shrine.
    The ideal fails, though perfect were the plan,
    World-harmony springs through the perfect man.

    We burn out life in hot impatient striving;
      We dash ourselves against the hostile spears:
    The bale-tree, that our naked hands are riving,
      Unites to crush us. Ere our manhood's years,
    We sow the rifled blossoms of the prime,
    Then fruitlessly are gathered out of time.

    We seek to change souls all unripe for changes;
      We build upon a treacherous human soil
    Of moral quicksand, and the world avenges
      Its crime upon us, while we vainly toil.
    In the black coal-pit of the popular heart
    Rain falls, light kindles, but no flowers upstart.

    Know this! For men of ignoble affection,
      The social scheme that is, were better far
    Than the orbed sun's most exquisite perfection,
      Man needs not heaven till he revolves a star.
    Why seek to win the mad world from its strife?
    Grow perfect in the sanity of life."[2]

[Footnote 2: 'The Great Republic: a Poem of the Sun.' By Thomas Lake
Harris. New York and London: published by the "The Brotherhood of the
New Life."]

"Ah, my dear friend! how often, from my humble seat below the gangway,
have I gazed upon the Treasury Bench, and wondered how it was that right
hon. gentlemen, struggling to retain their dignity by sitting on each
other's knees, did not perceive that the reason why great reforms
perpetually fail is, not because they have not their root in some
radical injustice--not because the despotisms against which they rise
are in themselves right--but because those who attempt to inaugurate new
and better conditions upon the surfaces of society are themselves, for
the most part, desolate, darkened, and chaotic within! I am under the
impression, therefore, that no reform-agitation will ever do good which
is not preceded by an agitation, throughout the length and breadth of
the land, in favour of the introduction, for the first time, of this old
original moral code, not merely into the government of the country, but
into the life of every individual. Unless that is done, and done
speedily, those who are now morally stupefied will die in their torpor,
and the rest who are harmless lunatics will become gibbering and
shrieking demoniacs.--

    Yours affectionately,

    "F. V."

I had become so absorbed by the train of considerations into which I had
been led, that I never thought of mentioning to Grandon the
circumstances which attended my departure from Dickiefield. It was not
until after I had posted my letter that it occurred to me how singular,
considering the last words which passed between us, this silence would
appear. If to be odd has its drawbacks, it also has its advantages; and
I felt that Grandon would be as unable to draw any conclusions from my
silence as from any other erratic act of my life. After all, what could
I have said? It will be time, I thought, to venture upon that very
delicate ground when I get his reply. But this I was destined never to
receive, and the questions I had propounded are likely to remain
unanswered, for on the very next day I received the following telegram
from Lady Broadhem:--

     "Your immediate presence here is absolutely necessary. Delay
     will be fatal.

     "MARY BROADHEM.

     "GROSVENOR SQUARE, _20th March_."


[Illustration]



PART III.

SUICIDE.


PICCADILLY, _April_.

Considering the extent to which I have been digressing, it will be
perhaps desirable, before I plunge again into the stormy current of my
narrative, to define in a few words what, in the language of diplomacy,
is termed "the situation." After I have done so, I shall feel much
obliged if you will kindly "grasp" it. Briefly, it is as follows: I am
telegraphed for in frantic terms by an old lady who is under the firm
impression that I am engaged to be married to her daughter. I am
violently in love with that daughter, but for certain reasons I have
felt it my duty to account for my extraordinary conduct by informing her
confidentially that I have occasional fits of temporary insanity. That
daughter, I am positively assured by her mother, is no less violently
attached to my most dear and intimate friend. My most dear and intimate
friend returns the affection. Mamma threatens that if I do not marry her
daughter, rather than allow my most dear and intimate friend to do so,
she will ally the young lady to an affluent native of Bombay. So much is
known. On the following points I am still in the dark:--

First, What on earth does Lady Broadhem mean by telling me to come
immediately, as delay may be fatal?--to whom? to me or to Lady Ursula,
or herself? My knowledge of her ladyship induces me to incline towards
the latter hypothesis; the suspense is, however, none the less trying.

Second, Does Lady Ursula imagine that I know how she and Grandon feel
towards each other?

Third, Is Grandon under the impression that I have actually proposed and
been accepted by Lady Ursula?

Fourth, Does my conduct occasionally amount to something more than
eccentricity or not?

Fifth--and this was very unpleasant--Shall I find Grandon at our joint
abode? And if so, what shall I say to him?

Sixth, Have Grandon and Lady Ursula met, and did anything pass between
them?

Thank goodness Grandon was at the House. So, after a hurried toilet, I
went on to Grosvenor Square. The young ladies were both out. Lady
Bridget had taken advantage of the _chaperonage_ of a newly-married
rather fast female cousin, to go to a ball. Lady Ursula had gone to a
solitary tea with a crabbed old aunt. Lady Broadhem was in her own
sitting-room, lying on a couch behind a table covered with papers. She
looked wearily up when I entered, and held out a thin hand for me to do
what I liked with. "How good of you to come, dear Frank!" she said. It
was the first time she had ever called me Frank, and I knew she expected
me to acknowledge it by pressing her fingers, so I squeezed them
affectionately. "Broadhem said if I wanted to make sure of you I ought
to have brought Ursula's name into the telegraph, but I told him her
mother's would do as well."

"What does the----" I am afraid I mentally said 'old girl'--"want, I
wonder? It must be really serious, or she would have shammed agitation.
There is something about this oily calm which is rather portentous. Then
she has taken care to have every member of the family out of the house.
What is she ringing the bell for now?"

"Tell Lady Ursula when she comes home that I am engaged particularly,
and will come up and see her in her bedroom before she goes to bed,"
said Lady Broadhem to the servant who answered it.

"Does not Lady Ursula know of my having come to town in answer to your
summons?" I asked.

"No, dear child; why should I inflict my troubles upon her? Even
Broadhem, to whom I was obliged to speak more openly, only suspects the
real state of the case. I have reserved my full confidence for my future
son-in-law."

I lifted up my eyes with a rapturous expression, and played with a
paper-knife. She wanted me to help her on with an obvious remark, which
I declined to make; so, after a pause, she went on, with a deep
sigh,----

"What sad news we keep on getting of those poor dear Confederates,
Frank!"

"Let us hope they will recover," said I, encouragingly.

"Oh, but they do keep on falling so, it is quite dreadful."

"There was no great number of them fell at Wilmington."

"How stupid I am!" she said; "my poor mind gets quite bewildered. I was
thinking of stock, not men; they went down again three more yesterday,
and my broker declines altogether to carry them on from one account to
another any more. I bought at 60, and they have done nothing but go down
ever since. I generally go by Lord Staggerton's advice, and he
recommended me to sell a bear some months ago; but that stupid little
Spiffy Goldtip insisted that it was only a temporary depression, and now
he says how could he know that President Davis would replace Johnston by
Hood."

"Very tiresome of Davis: but you should have employed more than one
broker," I remarked. "Persons of limited capital and speculative
tendencies should operate mysteriously. Your right hand should not know
what your left hand is doing."

"Hush, Frank! you can surely be business-like without being profane. I
was completely in Spiffy's hands; Lady Mundane told me she always let
him do for her, and"--here Lady Broadhem lowered her voice--"I _know_ he
has access to the best sources of information. I used to employ
Staggerton, but he is so selfish that he never told me the best things;
besides which, of course, I was obliged to have him constantly to
dinner; and his great delight was always to say things which were
calculated to shock my religious friends. Moreover, he has lately been
doing more as a promoter of new companies than in buying and selling.
Now Spiffy is so very useful in society, and has so much tact, that
although there are all kinds of stories against him, still I did not
think there was any sufficient reason to shut him out of the house.
There was quite a set made against the poor little man at one
time--worldly people are so hard and uncharitable; so, partly for the
sake of his aunt, Lady Spiffington, who was my dear friend, and partly,
indeed, because Staggerton had really become useless and intolerable, I
put my affairs entirely into Spiffy's hands."

"And the result is?" I asked.

"That I must pay up £27,000 to-morrow," said Lady Broadhem, with the
impenitent sigh of a hardened criminal.

"You should have kept his lordship to act as a check on the Honourable
Spiffington," I said; "but I cannot advise now, unless I know
everything."

A faint tinge suffused Lady Broadhem's cheek as she said, "What more do
you want to know?"

"Exactly what money you possess, and exactly how it is invested."

"I don't see that that is at all necessary. Here is Spiffington's
letter, from which you will see how much I must pay to-morrow; my
assurance that I cannot produce so large a sum at such short notice is
enough."

"You can surely have no difficulty in finding some one who would lend
you the money, provided you were to pay a sufficiently high rate of
interest."

The tinge which had not left Lady Broadhem's cheek deepened as she
answered me, "Frank, it was on no hasty impulse that I telegraphed for
you. I do not feel bound to enter into all the details of my private
affairs, but I do feel that if there is one man in the world upon whom,
at such a crisis, I have a right to rely, it is he to whom I have
promised my daughter, and who professes to be devotedly attached to
her."

"In short, Lady Broadhem," said I, rising and taking up my hat, "you are
willing to part with your daughter to me on condition of my paying a
first instalment of £27,000 down, with the prospect of 'calls' to an
unlimited extent looming in the background. I doubt whether you will
find Chundango prepared to go into such a very hazardous speculation,
but I should recommend you to apply to him."

At that moment I heard Lady Ursula's voice in the hall, and the rustle
of her dress as she went up-stairs. I was on my way to the door, but I
stopped abruptly, and turned upon Lady Broadhem. She was saying
something to which I was not attending, but now was suddenly paralysed
and silenced as I looked at her fixedly. If a glance can convey meaning,
I flatter myself my eyes were not devoid of expression at that moment.
"What!" I thought, "is it reserved for the mother of the girl I love to
make me call her 'a hazardous speculation'?" It is impossible for me to
describe the intensity of the hatred which I felt at this moment for the
woman who had caused me for one second to think of Ursula as a
marketable commodity, who should be offered for purchase to an Oriental
adventurer. The only being I despised more than Lady Broadhem was
myself;--because she chose to take my angel off the pedestal on which I
had placed her and throw her into the dirt, was I calmly to acquiesce in
the proceeding? The storm raging within me seemed gradually to blind me
to external objects; my great love was battling with remorse,
indignation, and despair; and I stood wavering and distracted, looking,
as it were, within for rest and without for comfort, till the light
seemed to leave my eyes, and the fire which had flashed from them for a
moment became suddenly extinguished.

I was recalled to consciousness by an exclamation from Lady Broadhem.
"Heavens, Frank, don't stare so wildly--you quite frighten me! I have
only asked for your advice, and you make use of expressions and fly off
in a manner which nothing but the excitability of your temperament can
excuse. I assure you I am worried enough without having my cares added
to by your unkindness. There, if you want to know the exact state of my
affairs, look through my papers--you will find I am a woman of business;
and I have got an accurate list which I shall be able to explain. Of
course all the more important original documents are at my solicitor's."

I sat moodily down without answering this semi-conciliatory,
semi-plaintive speech. I did not even take the trouble to analyse it. I
felt morally and physically exhausted. The long journey, the suspense,
and this _dénouement_, had prostrated me. I took up the papers Lady
Broadhem offered me, and turned them vacantly over. I read the list, but
failed to attach any meaning to the items over which my gaze listlessly
wandered. I felt that Lady Broadhem was watching me curiously, but every
effort I made to grasp the details before me failed hopelessly. At last
I threw the packet down in despair, and, leaning over the table, clasped
my bursting forehead with my hands.

"Dear Frank," said Lady Broadhem, and for the first time her voice
betrayed signs of genuine emotion, "I know I have been very imprudent,
but I did it all for the best. You can understand now why I hesitated to
tell you everything at first. You don't know how much it has cost me,
and to what means I am obliged to resort to keep up my courage; besides,
I have got into such a habit of concealment that I could not bear that
even you should know the desperate state of our affairs, though I had no
idea that in so short a time you could have unravelled such complicated
accounts and arrived at the terrible result. Perhaps you would like me
to leave you for a few moments. I will go and say good-night to Ursula,
whom I heard going up-stairs just now."

I heard Lady Broadhem leave the room, but did not raise my head, and
indeed only slowly comprehended the purport of her last speech. As it
dawned upon me, the hopelessness of the whole situation seemed to
overwhelm me. Chaos and ruin like gaunt spectres stared me in the face!
What mattered it if the Broadhem family were bankrupt in estate, if I
was to become bankrupt in mind? What matter if they lost all their
worldly possessions? Had I not lost all hope of Ursula since I had heard
of her attachment to Grandon, and with her every generous impulse of my
nature? Why should I save the family, even if I could? Why in this
desert of my existence spend a fortune on an oasis I was forbidden ever
to enter or enjoy? Why should I bring offerings to the shrine at which I
might never worship? The whole temple that enclosed it was tottering.
Instead of helping to prop it up, why not, like Samson, drag it down and
let it bury me in its ruin? I threw myself on the couch from which Lady
Broadhem had risen, and, turning my face to the wall, longed with an
intense desire for an eternal release. At that moment my hand, which I
had thrust under the pillow, came in contact with something hard and
cold. I drew it out, and was startled to find that it was a small vial
labelled "POISON." I am not naturally superstitious, but this immediate
response to my thoughts seemed an indication so direct as to be almost
supernatural. I had hardly framed in definite terms the idea of a
suicide which should at once end my agony, when the means thereto were
actually placed in my very hand. Even had I doubted, the inward sense,
the inspiration to which I trust, and which has never yet failed me,
said, Drink! It even whispered aloud, Drink! From every corner of the
room came soft pleasant murmurs of the same word. Beautiful sirens
floating round me bade me drink. Every thought of moral evil vanished in
connection with this final act. I looked forward with rapture to the
long sleep before me, and with a smile of the most intense and fervent
gratitude I raised the bottle to my lips. I remember thinking at the
moment, "The smile is very important--it shall play upon my lips to the
end. Ursula, I die happy, for my last thought is, that in the spirit I
shall soon revisit thee," and the liquid trickled slowly down my throat.
It was not until I had drained the last drop that I suddenly recognised
the taste. It was the "pick-me-up" I always get at Harris's, the
apothecary in St James's Street, when my fit of nervous exhaustion come
on, but there seemed rather more of the spirituous ingredient in it than
usual. The life-stream began to tingle back through all my fibres--my
miseries took grotesque forms. "Ha! ha! Lady Broadhem! the means you
take to keep up your courage, which you so delicately alluded to just
now, have come in most opportunely. What a fool I was to make mountains
out of molehills, and call the little ills of life miseries! We will
soon see what these little imprudences are the old lady talks of." And I
took up the papers with a hand rapidly becoming steady, and glanced over
them with an eye no longer confused and dim. Oh the pleasure of the
sensation of this gradual recovery of vigour of mind and force of body!

I was engaged in this task, and making the most singular and startling
discoveries, the nature of which I shall shortly disclose, when I heard
Lady Broadhem coming down-stairs. I felt so angry with her for having
been the means of tempting me to commit a great sin, and for the trouble
she was causing me generally, that I followed the first impulse which my
imagination suggested as the best means of revenging myself upon her.
Accordingly, when the door opened, she found me stretched at full length
on the sofa, my form rigid, my face fixed, my eyes staring, my hands
clenched, and my whole attitude as nearly that of a person in a fit as I
had time to make it.

"Gracious, what is the matter?" said she.

My lips seemed with difficulty to form the word "poison."

"Frank, speak to me!" and she seized my hand, which was not so cold as I
could have wished it, but which fell helplessly by my side as she let it
drop.

"Poison!" I this time muttered audibly.

"Where did you get it?" said she, snappishly. For it began to dawn upon
her that I was not poisoned at all, but had discovered her secret. I
turned my thumb languidly in the direction of under the pillow. She
hastily thrust in her hand and pulled out the empty bottle. "You
fool"--she actually used this expression; I have heard other ladies do
the same--"you fool," and she was literally furious, "what did you go
poking under the pillow for? You are no more poisoned than I am; it is a
draught I am obliged to take for nervous depression, and your
imagination has almost frightened you into a fit. I put 'poison' on it
to keep the servants from prying. Come, get up, be a man--do," and Lady
Broadhem gave me her hand, in consideration for my weakness to help
myself up by.

"Dearest Lady Broadhem," said I, pressing it to my lips, "I cannot tell
what comfort you give me. I was just beginning to regret the world I
thought I was about to leave for ever, when your assurance that I have
not taken poison, but a tonic, makes me feel as grateful to you as if
you had saved my life. I confess that, when I found that you considered
your affairs to be so desperate that you had provided the most effectual
mode of escape from them, I envied the superior foresight which you had
displayed, and determined to repair my error. If it is worth dear Lady
Broadhem's while to poison herself, I thought, it is surely worth mine.
But, after all, suicide is a cowardly act either in a man or a woman;
better far face the ills of life with the aid of stimulants, than fly
for refuge in the agony of a financial crisis to the shop of an
apothecary."

"You are an incomprehensible creature, Frank," said Lady Broadhem; "I am
sure I hope for her own sake that Ursula will understand you better than
I do; but as your humours are uncertain, and you seem able to go into
these affairs now, I think we had better not waste any more time; only I
do wish" (with a wistful glance at the bottle) "you would provide
yourself with your own draughts in future."

"How lucky," thought I, as I put on a business-like air, and
methodically began arranging the papers according to their docquets.
"Now, if it had been just the other way, and her ladyship had taken the
draught instead of me, how completely I should have been at her mercy?
Now I am master of the situation."

"'Greek loan, thirty thousand,'" I read, going down the list; "I am
afraid this is rather a losing business. I see they have been already
held over for some months. I suppose some of the £27,000 is to be
absorbed there."

"Yes," said Lady Broadhem; "because if I can carry on for another
fortnight, I have got information which makes it certain I shall recover
on them."

"What is this? five hundred pounds' worth of dollar bonds?" I went on.

"Oh, I only lost a few pounds on them. I bought them at threepence
apiece and sold them at twopence. Spiffy got me to take them off his
hands, and, in fact, made a great favour of it, as he says there is
nothing people make money more surely out of than dollar bonds."

"Bubbs's Eating-house and Cigar Divan Company, Holborn. Well, there is a
strong direction. How do you come by so many shares?"

"Lord Staggerton was one of the promoters, and had them allotted to me,"
said Lady Broadhem. "He also was kind enough to put me into two Turkish
baths, a monster hotel, and a music-hall. You will see that I lost
heavily in the Turkish baths and the hotel, but the music-hall is paying
well. Spiffy says I ought never to stay so long in anything as I do; in
and out again, if it is only half a per cent, is his system; but
Staggerton used to look after my interests, and managed them very
successfully. I am afraid that all my troubles commenced when I
quarrelled with him. He is now promoting two companies which I hear most
highly spoken of, but he says I must take my chance with others about
shares, and he won't advise me in the matter. One is 'The Metropolitan
Crossing-Sweeping Company,' of which he's to be chairman, and the other
is the 'Seaside Bathing-Machine Company.' Spiffy says they will both
fail, because Staggerton has not the means of having them properly
brought out. Bodwinkle won't speak to him, and unless either he or the
Credit Foncier bring a thing out, there is not the least chance of its
taking with the public. They don't so much look at the merits of the
speculation as at the way in which it is put before them; and with this
system of rigging the market, so many people go in like me only to get
out again, that it is becoming more and more difficult every day to
start anything new. Oh dear," said Lady Broadhem, "how exhausted it
always makes me to talk 'City!' I only want to show you that I
understand what I am about, and that if you can only help to tide me
over this crisis, something will surely turn up a prize."

"I know you disapprove of cards, but perhaps you will allow me to
suggest the word 'trump' as being more expressive than 'prize,'" I said.
"Well, now we have got through the companies, what have we here? Why,
Lady Broadhem, you have positively taken no less than seven unfurnished
houses this year. What on earth do you intend to do with them all?"

"My dear Frank, where have you been living for the last few years? Do
with them? Exactly what dozens of smart people, with very little to live
on, do with houses--let them, to be sure. I made £1100 last year in four
houses, and all by adding it on to the premiums. I don't like furnishing
and putting it in the rent. In the first place, one is apt to have
disagreeable squabbles about the furniture, which, however good you give
people, they always say is shabby; and in the second, you get much more
into the hands of the house-agents."

"Well, but," I said, "here is one of the largest houses in London--rent,
unfurnished, £1500 a-year. That is rather hazardous: who do you expect
will take that?"

"Oh, that is the safest speculation of them all," said Lady Broadhem. "I
had an infinity of trouble to get it. Spiffy first suggested the plan to
me, and we found it succeed admirably last year. It was we who brought
out Mrs Gorgon Tompkins and her daughters. She took the house from me at
my own rent on condition that Spiffy managed her balls, and got all the
best people in London to go to them. This year we are going to bring out
the Bodwinkles. It will be much easier, because she is young, and has no
family. He, you know, is a man of immense wealth in the City--in fact,
as I said before, his name is almost essential to the success of any new
company. I told his wife I could have nothing to do with them unless he
came into Parliament, for they are horridly vulgar, and they were bound
to do what they could for themselves before I could think of taking them
up. Lady Mundane positively refused to have anything to do with them,
and, in fact, I live so little in the world, though I keep it up to some
extent for the sake of my girls, that it was quite an accident my
hearing of them. Now, however, he has got into the House of Commons, and
it is arranged that she is to take the house, and Bodwinkle is to help
Spiffy in City matters, on condition that he gets all Lady Mundane's
list to her first party. Poor Spiffy is a little nervous, as Bodwinkle
actually wanted to put it in writing on a stamped paper; but he is so
immensely useful to society, that the least people can do is to be
good-natured on an occasion of this kind."

"No fear of them," said I; "if Bodwinkle is the only man who can launch
a company in the City, no one can compete with Spiffy in launching a
snob in Mayfair. But I thought you never went to balls."

"I never do; but because I do not approve of dancing, there is no reason
why I should not let houses for the purpose. You might as well say a
religious banker ought not to open an account with a theatre, or a good
brewer live by his beer, because some people drink too much of it. If
any one was to leave a gin-palace to me in a legacy, I should not refuse
the rent."

"Any more than you do the interest of your shares in the music-hall. And
now," said I, coolly, gathering up all her papers and putting them in my
pocket, "as it is past one o'clock, and I see you are tired, I will take
these away with me, and let you know to-morrow what I think had better
be done under the circumstances."

"What are you doing, Frank? what an unheard-of proceeding! I insist upon
your leaving my papers here."

"If I do, you must look elsewhere for the money. No, Lady Broadhem"--I
felt that my moral ascendancy was increasing every moment, and that I
should never have such another opportunity of establishing it--"we had
better understand each other clearly. You regard me at this moment in
the light of your future son-in-law, and in that capacity expect me to
extricate you and your family from your financial difficulties. Now I am
quite capable of 'behaving badly,' as the world calls it, at the
shortest notice. I told you at Dickiefield that I was totally without
principle, and we are both trusting to Ursula to reform me. But I will
relinquish the pleasure of paying your debts, and the advantage of being
reformed by your daughter, unless you agree to my terms."

"And they are?" said her ladyship, doggedly.

"First, that from this evening you put the entire management of your
affairs into my hands, and, as a preliminary measure, allow me to take
away these papers, giving me a note to your lawyer authorising him to
follow my instructions in everything; and, secondly, that you never,
under any pretence, enter into any company or speculation of any kind
except with my permission."

A glance of very evil meaning shot across her ladyship's eyes as they
met mine after this speech, but I frightened it away by the savageness
of my gaze, till she was literally obliged to put her hand up to her
forehead. The crisis was exciting me, for Ursula was at stake, and it
was just possible my conditions might be refused; but I felt the
magnetism of my will concentrating itself in my eyes as if they were
burning-glasses. It seemed to dash itself upon the reefs and barriers of
Lady Broadhem's rocky nature; the inner forces of our organisms were
engaged in a decisive struggle for the mastery; but the field of battle
was in her, not in me. I had invaded the enemy's country, and her
frontier was as long and difficult to defend as ours is in Canada. So I
kept on pouring in mesmeric reinforcements, as she sat with her head
bent, and her whole moral being in turmoil. Never before had any man
ventured to dictate to this veteran campaigner. The late Lord had been
accustomed to regard her as infallible, and Broadhem has not yet known
the pleasures of independence. She never had friends who were not
servile, or permitted herself to be contradicted, except by a few
privileged ecclesiastics, and then only in unctuous and deprecatory
tones. That I, of whom the world was accustomed to speak in terms of
compassion, and whom she inwardly despised at this moment, should stand
over her more unyielding and imperious than herself, caused her to
experience a sensation nearly allied to suffocation. I seemed
instinctively to follow the mental processes through which she was
passing, and a certain consciousness that I did so demoralised her. Now,
I felt, she is going to take me to task in a "sweet Christian spirit"
about the state of my soul, and I brought up "will" reinforcements which
I poured down upon her brain through the parting of her front, till she
backed suddenly out of the position, and took up a hostile, I might
almost say an abusive, attitude. Here again I met her with such a shower
of invective, "uttered not, yet comprehended," that after a silent
contest she gave this up too, and finally fell back on the flat
rejection of me and my money altogether. This, I confess, was the
critical moment. She took her hand down when she came to this mental
resolution, and she looked at me, I thought, but it might have been
imagination, demoniacally. What had I to oppose to it? My love for
Ursula? No; that would soften me. My aversion to Lady Broadhem? No; for
it was not so great as hers for me. For a moment I wavered; my will
seemed paralysed; her gaze was becoming fascinating, while mine was
getting clouded, till a mist seemed to conceal her from me altogether.
And now, at the risk of being misunderstood and ridiculed, I feel bound
to describe exactly the most remarkable occurrence of my life. At that
moment I saw distinctly, in the luminous haze which surrounded me, a
fiery cross. I have already said that objects of this kind often
appeared to me in the dark, apropos of nothing; but upon no former
occasion had a lighted room become dim, and a vision manifested itself
within which seemed to answer to the involuntary invocation for
assistance that I made when I found the powers of my own will beginning
utterly to fail me; and, what was still more strange, never before had
any such manifestation effected an immediate revolution in my
sentiments. Up to that moment I had been internally fierce and
overbearing in my resolution to subdue the nature with which I was
contending, and I was actually defeated when I received this
supernatural indication of assistance. Before the dazzling vision had
vanished, it had conveyed its lesson of self-sacrifice, and created
within me a new impulse, under the influence of which I solemnly vowed
that if I triumphed now I should use my victory for the good not only of
those I loved, but of her then sitting before me. The demon of my own
nature, which had evidently been struggling with the demon of hers,
suddenly deserted me, and his place seemed occupied by an angel of
light, furnishing me with the powers of exorcism, which were to be
gained only at the sacrifice of self. My very breath seemed instantly
charged with prayers for her, at the moment I felt she regarded me with
loathing and hate.

An ineffable calm pervaded my whole being. A sense of happiness and
gratitude deprived the consciousness of the conquest which I had gained
of any sentiment of exultation; on the contrary, I felt gentle and
subdued myself--anxious to soothe and comfort her with that consolation
I had just experienced. Ah, Lady Broadhem! at that moment, had I not
been in the presence of a "saint," I should have fallen upon my knees.
Perhaps as it was I might have done so, had she not suddenly leant back
exhausted.

"Frank," she said, "I seem to have been dreaming. I am subject to fits
of violent nervous depression, and the agitation of this scene has
completely overcome me; my brain seems stunned, and all my faculties
have become torpid. I can think of nothing more now, do what you like;
all I want is to go to sleep. If you ring the bell in that corner,
Jenkins will come down. Good-night; I shall see you to-morrow. Take the
papers with you."

I took Lady Broadhem's hand--it was cold and clammy--and held it till
her maid came down. She had already fallen into a half-mesmeric sleep,
but was not conscious of her condition. I saw her safely on her way to
her bedroom on the arm of her maid, and left the house with my pockets
full of papers, more fresh and invigorated than I had felt for weeks. A
new light had indeed dawned upon me. For the first time one of these
"hallucinations," as medical men usually term them, to which I am
subject, had contained a lesson. Not only had I profited from it upon
the spot, but it had suggested to me an entirely new line of conduct in
the great question which most nearly affected my own happiness, and
seemed to guarantee me the strength of will and moral courage which
should enable me to carry it out.

As I walked home, with the piercing March wind cutting me through,
solemn thoughts and earnest aspirations arose within me, and, struggling
into existence amid the wreck that seemed to strew the disturbed
chambers of my brain, came the prayer of an old saint, which, in years
gone by, had fixed itself permanently in some vacant niche of my mind:--

    "Great God! I ask Thee for no meaner pelf,
    Than that I may not disappoint myself,
    That in my actions I may soar as high
    As I can now discern with this clear eye;
    And next in value what Thy kindness lends,
    That I may greatly disappoint my friends,
    Howe'er they think or hope that it might be,
    They may not dream how Thou'st distinguished me;
    That my weak hand may equal my firm faith,
    And my life practise more than my tongue saith;
    That my low conduct may not show,
      Nor my relenting lines,
    That I Thy purpose did not know,
      Or overrated Thy designs."

Time alone will show whether the project I formed under the new
influences which were now controlling me, will ever be realised.

       *       *       *       *       *

There is one point which I have in common with Archimedes,--my most
brilliant inspirations very often come to me in my tub, or while I am
dressing. On the morning following the scene above described, I trusted
to this moment to furnish me with an idea which should enable me to put
my plan into operation, but I sought in vain.

In the first place, though I assumed in the presence of Lady Broadhem a
thorough knowledge of the peculiar description of the transaction in
which she was engaged, I feel bound not to conceal from my readers that
I have made it a rule through life to confine my knowledge of business
strictly to theory, and though I am as thoroughly conversant with the
terms of the Stock Exchange as with the language of the swell mob, I
avoid, in ordinary life, making use either of one or the other. Hence I
have always treated debentures, stock, scrip, coupons, and all the
jargon connected with such money-making and money-losing contrivances,
as pertaining to the abstract science of finance; nor do I ever desire
to know anything of them practically, feeling assured that the
information thus acquired is of a character calculated to exercise an
injurious influence upon the moral nature. I do not for a moment wish to
reflect upon those honest individuals who devote their whole lives to
the acquisition of money and nothing else. Had one of my own ancestors
not done so, I should not now be the millionaire I am, and able to write
thus of the pursuit of wealth. But let no man tell me that the supreme
indifference to it which I entertain, does not place me upon a higher
platform than a gold-hunter can possibly aspire to. When, therefore, I
looked forward to an interview with the Honourable Spiffington Goldtip,
I felt that I incurred a very serious responsibility. Not being versed
in the Capel Court standard of morality, or being in the habit of
treading those delicate lines upon which Spiffy had learnt to balance
himself so gracefully, I might, instead of doing him good, be the means
of encouraging him in that pecuniary scramble which enabled him to gain
a precarious livelihood.

"After all," I thought, "why not hover about the City with one's hands
full of gold, as one used to after dinner at Greenwich, when showers of
copper delighted the ragged crowd beneath, and have the fun of seeing
all the mud-larking Spiffys, fashionable and snobbish, scrambling in
wild confusion, and rolling fraternally over each other in the dirt? If
I can't convert them, if I must be 'done' by them, I will 'do' to them
as I would be 'done' by; and rather than leave them to perish, will
adopt an extreme measure, and keep on suffocating them with the mud they
delight to revel in, till they cry aloud for help. What a pleasure it
would be to wash Spiffy all over afterwards, and start him fresh and
sweet in a new line of life!" As I said before, I was in my tub myself
as I made this appropriate reflection; then my thoughts involuntarily
reverted to Chundango. When I had threatened Lady Broadhem with the
mercenary spirit of that distinguished Oriental, I inwardly doubted
whether, indeed, it were possible for her to propose any pecuniary
sacrifice which he was not prepared to make, in order to gain the
social prize upon which he had set his heart; and I dreaded lest I
should have driven her in despair to have recourse to this "dark"
alternative,--whether, in order to save the Broadhem family from ruin
and disgrace--for I suspected that the papers I had carried away
contained evidence that the one was as possible as the other--Ursula
would accede to the pressure of the family generally, and of her mother
in particular, whose wish none of her children had ever dared to thwart,
was a consideration which caused me acute anxiety. I must prepare myself
shortly for a conversation on the subject with Grandon. What should I
say to him? Granting that the means occasionally justify the end, which
I do not admit, what would be the use of making a false statement either
in the sense that I was, or that I was not, going to marry Ursula? If I
said I was, he would think me a traitor and her a jilt; if I said I was
not, I must go on and tell him that the family would be ruined and
disgraced, or that she must marry Chundango to save it. He would obtain
comfort neither way. He had evidently not seen the Broadhems, and was
therefore sure now to be in blissful ignorance that anything has
happened at all. Better leave him so. If he is convinced that Ursula
loves him, he would never dream of her accepting me. Even had our
acquaintance been longer than it was, before I was so mad as to think of
proposing to her, the best thing I can do is certainly to hold my
tongue; but then, I thought, how will he account for my reserve? what
can he think except that it arises from an unworthy motive?--and I
brushed my hair viciously. At that instant I heard a thump at the door,
and before I could answer, in walked the subject of my meditation.

"Well, my dear old fellow," said Grandon, as he grasped my hand warmly,
"how mysterious and spasmodic you have been in your movements! I was
afraid even now, if I had not invaded the sanctity of your
dressing-room, that you would have slipped through my fingers. I know
you have a great deal to tell me, of interest to us both, and we are too
fast friends to hesitate to confide in each other on any matters which
affect our happiness. True men never have any reticence as between
themselves; they only have recourse to that armour when they happen to
be cursed with false friends." I cannot describe my feelings during this
speech. How on earth was I to avoid reticence? how show him that I loved
and trusted him when I had just been elaborately devising a speech which
should tell him nothing? and I thought of our school and then our
college days--how I never seemed to be like other boys or other men of
my own age--and how when nobody understood me Grandon did, and how when
nobody defended my peculiarities Grandon did--how he protected and
advised me at first out of sheer compassion, until at last I had become
as a younger brother to him. How distressed he was when I gave up
diplomacy, and how anxious during the five years that I was exploring in
the Far West and gold-digging in Australia! and how nothing but his
letters ever induced me to leave the wild reckless life that possessed
such a wonderful charm for me; and how he bore with my wilfulness and
vanity--for the faults of my character at such moments would become
painfully apparent to me; and how now I was going to return it all, by
allowing him to suppose that I had deliberately plotted against his
happiness, and ruthlessly sapped the solid foundations upon which our
life's friendship had been built. He saw these painful thoughts
reflected but too accurately upon my face, for he had been accustomed to
read it for so many years, and he smiled a look of encouragement and
kindliness. "Come," he said, "I will tell you exactly, first, everything
I suspect, and then everything I know, and then what I think about it,
so that you will have as little of the labour of revelation as possible.
First of all, I suspect that you imagine that I had proposed to Lady
Ursula Newlyte before we met the other day at Dickiefield: I need not
say that in that case I should have told you as much upon the evening we
parted; I pledge you my word I have never uttered a syllable to Lady
Ursula from which she could suspect the state of my feelings towards
her, and she has never given me any indication that she returned my
affection; I therefore did not mention myself when you told me your
intention of proposing to her at Dickiefield; I only do so now in
consequence of a letter which I received from Lady Broadhem last night."

"A letter from Lady Broadhem?" said I, aghast.

"Yes," he said, "in which she encloses a copy of one of yours containing
a proposal to Lady Ursula, and informs me that you were aware, when you
made it, of the difficulties you might have to encounter through me. She
goes on to say that, whatever may have been her daughter's feelings
towards me at one time, they have completely changed, as she at once
accepted you; and she winds up with the rather unnecessary remark that
this is the less to be regretted by me, as under no circumstances would
I have obtained either her consent or that of Lord Broadhem. And so," my
poor friend went on, but his lips were quivering, and I turned away my
eyes to avoid seeing the effort it cost him--"and so, you see, my dear
Frank, it is all for the best. In the first place, she never loved me. I
have too high an opinion of her to suppose that if she had, she would
have accepted you; in the second, she would never have married me
against her mother's consent--and so, even if she had loved me, we
should have both been miserable; and thirdly, if there is one thing that
could console me under such a blow, it is, that the man she loves, and
the family approve, is my dear old friend, who is far more worthy the
happiness in store for him than I should have been." He put his hand
kindly on my shoulder as his strong voice shook with the force of his
suppressed emotion, and I bowed my head. I felt utterly humiliated by a
magnanimity so noble, and by a tenderness surpassing that of women. I
thanked God at that moment that Lady Ursula did _not_ love me, and I
vowed that Lady Broadhem should bitterly expiate her sins against us
both. Here, then, was the secret of her refusing to acknowledge that she
had stolen my missing letter at Dickiefield, and this was the precious
use she had made of it. The question now was, What was to be done? But
my mind was paralysed--all its strength seemed expended in vowing
vengeance against Lady Broadhem. When I tried to form a sentence of
explanation to Grandon, my brain refused its functions; I felt as if I
were in a net, and that the slightest movement on my part would entangle
me more inextricably in its meshes. The last resolution I had come to
before he entered the room was on no account to tell him anything, and
this resolution had now become an _idée fixe_. I had not clearness of
mind at the moment to decide whether it was right or wrong. I felt that
when my head was clear I had come to the conclusion that it was best, so
I stuck to it now. True, it involved leaving him in the delusion that
Ursula and I were engaged--but was it altogether certain to remain a
delusion? Did Lady Ursula really care for him? I had only Lady
Broadhem's word for it. Again, had I anything better to give him? would
it be a comfort to him to hear the Chundango alternative? These in a
confused way were the thoughts which flitted across my brain in this
moment of doubt and difficulty, so I said nothing. He misinterpreted my
silence, and thought me overwhelmed with remorse at the part I had
played. "Believe me," he said, "I do not think one particle the worse of
you for what you have done; I know how difficult it is to control one's
feelings in moments of passion; and you see you were quite right not to
believe Lady Broadhem when she told you Ursula cared for me."

"I had already written the letter," I stammered out.

"Of course you had: I never supposed you could do the dishonourable
thing of hearing she cared about me first, and writing to her
afterwards, although Lady Broadhem said so. When you did make the
discovery that Lady Ursula's affections were not already engaged, you
were perfectly right to win her if you could. I only bargain that you
ask me to be your best man."

This was a well-meant but such a very unsuccessful attempt at
resignation on Grandon's part, that it touched me to the quick. "My dear
Grandon," I said--and I saw my face in the glass opposite, looking white
and stony with the effort it cost me not to fall upon his neck and cry
like a woman--"I solemnly swear, whatever you may think now, that the
day will come when you will find that I was worthy the privilege of
having been even your friend, I was going to say, Till then, believe me
and trust me; but I need not, for I know that, however unnatural it
seems for me to ask you not to allude again to the subject we have just
been discussing, you will be satisfied that I would not ask it without
having a reason which if you knew you would approve. On my conscience I
believe that I am right in reserving from you my full confidence for the
first time in my life; but do not let the fact of one forbidden topic
alienate us--let it rather act as another link, hidden for the moment,
but which may some day prove the most powerful to bind us together."

Grandon's face lit up with a bright frank smile. "I trust and believe in
you from the bottom of my soul, and you shall bury any subject you like
till it suits you to exhume it. Come, we will go to breakfast, and I
will discourse to you on the political and military expediency of
spending £200,000 on the fortifications of Quebec."

"Well," thought I, as I followed Grandon down-stairs, "for a man who is
yearning to be honest, and to do the right thing by everybody, I have
got into as elaborate a complication of lies as if I were a Russian
diplomatist. First, I have given both Lady Broadhem and Grandon
distinctly to understand that I am at this moment engaged to Ursula,
which I am not; and secondly, I have solemnly assured that young lady
herself that I am conscious of being occasionally mad."

In this tissue of falsehoods, it is poor consolation to think that the
only one in which there may be some foundation of truth is the last.
Supposing I was to go in for dishonesty, perhaps I could not help
telling the truth by the rule of "contraries." I will go and ask the
Honourable Spiffington whether he finds this to be the case, and I
parted from Grandon in the hope of catching that gentleman before he had
betaken himself to his civic haunts. I was too late, and pursued him
east of Temple Bar. Here he frequented sundry "board-rooms" of companies
which by a figure of speech he helped to "direct," and was also to be
found in the neighbourhood of Hercules Passage and the narrow streets
which surround the Stock Exchange, in the little back dens of pet
brokers upon whom he relied for "good things." Spiffy used to collect
political news in fashionable circles all through the night and up to an
early hour of the morning, and then come into the City with it red-hot,
so as to "operate." He was one of the most lively little rabbits to be
found in all that big warren of which the Bank is the centre, and popped
in and out of the different holes with a quickness that made him very
difficult to catch. At last I ran him to a very dingy earth, where he
was pausing, seated on a green baize table over a glass of sherry and a
biscuit, and chaffing a rising young broker who hoped ultimately to be
proposed by Spiffy for the Piccadilly Club. He was trying to establish a
claim thereto now, on the strength of having been at Mrs Gorgon
Tompkins's ball on the previous evening. "It is rather against you than
otherwise," said Spiffy, who was an extremely off-hand little fellow,
and did not interrupt his discourse after he had nodded to me
familiarly; "I can't afford to take you up yet; indeed, what have you
ever done to merit it? and Mrs Gorgon Tompkins has enough to do this
season to keep her own head above water without attempting to float you.
I did what I could for her last night, but she can't expect to go on
with her successes of last year. We had a regular scene at 6 A.M. this
morning, 'in banquet halls deserted'--tears, and all that sort of
thing--nobody present but self, Gorgon, and partner. We took our last
year's list, and compared them with the invitations sent out this year.
The results were painful; only the fag-end of the diplomatic corps had
responded--none of the great European powers present, and our own
Cabinet most slenderly represented. Obliged to resort for young men to
the byways and hedges; no expense spared, and yet the whole affair a
miserable failure."

"Have you tried lobsters boiled in champagne at supper, as a draw?" said
I.

"No," said Spiffy, looking at me with admiration; "I did not know this
sort of thing was in your line, Frank." He had not the least right to
call me Frank; but as everybody, whether they knew him or not, called
him Spiffy, he always anticipated this description of familiarity.

"To tell you the truth, I could pull the Tompkinses through another
season, but I am keeping all my best ideas for the Bodwinkles.
Bodwinkles' first ball is to cost £2000. He wanted me to do it for
£1500, and I should have been able to do it for that if Mrs Bodwinkle
had had any _h_'s; but the _crême, de la crême_ require an absence of
aspirations to be made up to them somehow. Oh, with the extra £500 I can
do it easily," said Spiffy, with an air of self-complacency. "She is a
comparatively young woman, you see, without daughters; that simplifies
matters very much. And then Bodwinkle can be so much more useful to
political men than Gorgon Tompkins; the only fear is that he may commit
himself at a late hour at the supper-table, but I have hit on a notion
which will overcome all these possible _contretemps_."

"What is that?" said I, curiously.

"In confidence, I don't mind telling you, as you are not in the line
yourself; but it is a master-stroke of genius. Like all great ideas, its
merit lies in its simplicity."

"Don't keep us any longer in suspense; I promise not to appropriate it."

"Well," said Spiffy, triumphantly, "I am going to _pay_ the aristocracy
to come!"

"Pay them!" said I, really astounded; "how on earth are you going to get
them to take the money?"

"Ah, that is the secret. Wait till the Bodwinkles' ball. You will see
how delicately I shall contrive it; a great deal more neatly than you do
when you leave your doctor's fee mysteriously wrapped in paper upon his
mantelpiece. I shall no more hurt that high sense of honour, and that
utter absence of anything like snobbism which characterises the best
London Society, than a French cook would offend the nostrils of his
guests with an overpowering odour of garlic; but it is a really grand
idea."

"Worthy of Julius Cæsar, Charlemagne, or the first Napoleon," said I;
"posterity will recognise you as a social giant with a mission, if the
small men and the envious of the present day refuse to do so."

"I don't mind telling you," Spiffy went on, "that the idea first
occurred to me in a Scotch donkey-circus, where I won, as a prize for
entering the show, a red plush waistcoat worth five shillings. The fact
is, Bodwinkle is so anxious to get people, he would go to any expense;
he has even offered me a commission on all the accepted invitations I
send out for him, graduated on a scale proportioned to the rank of the
acceptor. I am afraid it would not be considered quite the right thing
to take it; what do you think?"

"I doubt whether society would stand that. You must bring them to it
gradually. At present, I feel sure they would draw the line at a
'commission.' Apropos of the Bodwinkles, I want to have a little private
conversation with you."

"I am awfully done," said Spiffy. "I never went to bed at all last
night. I got some information about Turkish certificates before I went
to the Tompkinses; then I stayed there till past six, and had to come on
here at ten to turn what I knew to account. However, go ahead; what is
it in? Jones here will do it for you. No need of mystery between us.
'Cosmopolitan district' is the sort of thing I can conscientiously
recommend--I'll tell you why: I went down to the lobby of the House last
night on purpose to hear what the fellows were saying who prowl about
there pushing what my wretched tailor would call 'a little bill' through
Committee. It is becoming a sort of 'ring,' and the favourites last
night were light Cosmopolitans."

"What on earth are they as distinguished from heavy?" I asked.

"Jones, show his lordship the stock-list," said Spiffy, with a swagger.

The investigation of the "list" completely bewildered me. Why a £10
share should be worth £19, and a £100 share worth £99, 10s., in the same
company, was not evident on the face of the document before me, so I
looked into Spiffy's.

"Puzzling, isn't it?" said Spiffy.

"Very," I replied. "Now tell me," and I turned innocently towards Mr
Jones, for Spiffy's expression was secretive and mysterious--"explain to
me how it is that a share upon which only £10 has been paid, should be
so much more valuable than one which has been fully paid up."

"Ask the syndicate," said Jones, looking at Spiffy in a significant way.

I felt quite startled, for I expected to see a group of foreigners
composing this institution walk into the room. It was not until I had
looked again to Spiffy for information, and was met by the single open
eye of that gentleman, that I drew an inference and a very long breath.

"Spiffy," I said, "I am getting stifled--the moral atmosphere of this
place is tainted; take me to the sweetest board-room in the
neighbourhood--I want to speak to you on private business."

"Haven't time," said Spiffy, looking at his watch.

"Not to settle little Lady Broadhem's little affair?" said I, in a
whisper.

Spiffy got uncommonly pale, but recovered himself in a second. "All
right, old fellow;" and he poured a few hurried words in an
incomprehensible dialect into Jones's ear, and led the way to the
Suburban Washing-ground Company's board-room, which was the most minute
apartment of the kind I had ever seen.

I shall not enter into the particulars of what passed between Spiffy and
myself on this occasion. In the first place, it is so dry that it would
bore you; in the second place, it was so complicated, and Spiffy's
explanations seemed to complicate it so much the more, that I could not
make it clear to you if I wished; and, in the last, I do not feel
justified in divulging all Lady Broadhem's money difficulties and
private crises. Suffice it to say, that in the course of our
conversation Spiffy was obliged to confide to me many curious facts
connected with his own line of life, and more especially with the
peculiar functions which he exercised in his capacity of a "syndic,"
under the seal of solemn secrecy. Without the hold over him which this
little insight into his transactions has given me, I should not be able
to report so much of our conversation as I have. Nevertheless I thought
it right to tell him how much of it he would shortly see in print.

"Gracious, Frank," said Spiffy, petrified with alarm, "you don't mean to
say you are going to publish all I told you about the Gorgon Tompkinses
and the Bodwinkles? How am I ever to keep them going if you do? Besides,
there are a number of other fellows in the same line as I am. Just
conceive the injury you will inflict upon society generally--nobody will
thank you. The rich 'middles' who are looking forward to this kind of
advancement will be furious; all of us 'promoters' will hate you, and
'_la haute_' will probably cut you. Why can't you keep quiet, instead of
trying to get yourself and everybody else into hot water?"

"Spiffy," said I, solemnly, "when I devoted myself to 'mission work,' as
they call it in Exeter Hall, I counted the cost, as you will see on
referring back to my first chapter. I am still only at the beginning. I
have a long and heavy task before me; but my only excuse for remaining
in society is that I am labouring for its regeneration."

"You won't remain in it long," said Spiffy, "if you carry on in your
present line. What do you want to do? Eradicate snobbism from the
British breast?--never! We should all, from the highest to the lowest,
perish of inanition without it."

"Society," said I, becoming metaphorical, "is like a fluid which is
pervaded by that ingredient which you call 'snobbism,' the peculiarity
of which is that you find it in equal perfection when it sinks to the
bottom and becomes dregs, and when it rises to the surface and becomes
_crême_--though of course it undergoes some curious chemical changes,
according to its position. However, that is only one of the elements
which pollute what should be a transparent fluid. I am subjecting it
just now to a most minute and careful analysis, and I feel sure I shall
succeed in obtaining an interesting 'precipitate.' I do most earnestly
trust both you and the world at large will profit by my experiments."

"Frank, you are a lunatic," said Spiffy, with a yawn, for I was
beginning to bore him. "I suppose I can't help your publishing what you
like, only you will do yourself more harm than me. Let me know when
society has 'precipitated' you out of it, and I will come and see you.
Nobody else will. Good-bye!"

"He calls me a lunatic," I murmured, as I went down-stairs; "I thought
that I should be most likely to hear the truth by applying to the
Honourable Spiffington."

The same reasons which have compelled me to maintain a certain reserve
in relating my conversation with this gentleman prevent me fully
describing the steps which I am at present taking to arrange Lady
Broadhem's affairs, and which will occupy me during the Easter recess.
Now, thank goodness, I think I see my way to preventing the grand crash
which she feared, but I decline to state the amount of my own fortune
which will be sacrificed in the operation. The great inconvenience of
the whole proceeding is the secrecy which it necessarily involves.
Grandon is under the impression that I am gambling on the Stock
Exchange, and is miserable in consequence, because he fancies I add to
that sin the more serious one of denying it. Lady Ursula, whom I have
avoided seeing alone, but who knows that I am constantly plotting in
secret with her mother, is no doubt beginning to think that I am wicked
as well as mad, and is evidently divided between the secret obligation
of keeping the secret of my insanity, and her dread lest in some way or
other her mother should be the victim of it. Lady Bridget is
unmistakably afraid of me. The other day when I went into the
drawing-room and found her alone, she turned as pale as a sheet, jumped
up, and stammered out something about going to find mamma, and rushed
out of the room. Did I not believe in Ursula as in my own existence, I
could almost fancy she had betrayed me. Then there is Broadhem. He is
utterly puzzled. He knows that I am come to pull the family out of the
mess, and put his own cherished little person into a financially sound
condition; and he is equally well assured that I would not make this
sacrifice without feeling certain of marrying his sister. But, in the
first place, that any man should sacrifice anything, either for his
sister or any other woman, is a mystery to Broadhem; and, in the second,
I strongly suspect that Ursula has said something which makes him very
doubtful whether she is engaged to me or not. Poor girl! I feel for her.
Was ever a daughter and sister before placed in the embarrassing
position of leaving her own mother and brother in the delusion that she
was engaged to be married to a man who had never breathed to her the
subject of his love, much less of matrimony? Then Spiffy and Lady
Broadhem's lawyer both look upon the marriage as settled: how else can
they account for the trouble I am taking, and the liberality I am
displaying? There is something mysterious, moreover, in the terms upon
which I am in the house. Lady Broadhem is beginning to think it
unnatural that I should not care to see more of Ursula; and whenever she
is not quite absorbed with considering her own affairs, is making the
arrangement known among mammas by the expression, "bringing the young
people together"--as if any young people who really cared to be
together, could not bring themselves together without mamma or anybody
else interfering. Fortunately Lady Broadhem is so much more taken up
with her own speculations than with either her daughter's happiness or
mine, that I am always able to give the conversation a City turn when
she broaches the delicate subject of Ursula. How Ursula manages on these
occasions I cannot conceive, but I do my best to prevent Lady Broadhem
talking about me to her, as I always say mysteriously, that if she does,
"it will spoil everything"--an alarming phrase, which produces an
immediate effect. Still it is quite clear that this kind of thing can't
continue long. If I can only keep matters going for a few days more,
they will all be out of town for Easter, and that will give me time to
breathe. As it is, it is impossible to shut my eyes to the fact, that my
best friend is beginning to doubt me--that the girl I love dreads
me--and that the rest of the family, and those sufficiently connected
with it to observe my proceedings, either pity, laugh at, or despise me.
This, however, by no means prevents their using their utmost endeavours
to ruin me. That is the present state of matters. The situation cannot
remain unchanged during the next four weeks. Have I your sympathies,
dear reader? Do you wish me well out of it?



PART IV.

THE WORLD.


    PICCADILLY, _May_.

The great difficulty which I find in this record of my eventful
existence is, that I have too much to say. The sensations of my life
will not distribute themselves properly. It is quite impossible for me
to cram all that I think, say, and do every month into the limited space
at my disposal. Thus I am positively overwhelmed with the brilliant
dialogues, the elevating reflections, and the thrilling incidents, all
of which I desire to relate. No one who has not tried this sort of thing
can imagine the chronological, to say nothing of the crinological,
difficulties in which I find myself. For instance, the incidents which
occupied the whole of my last chapter took place in twenty-four hours,
and yet how could I have left out either the poison-scene, or my
interview with Grandon, or Spiffy's interesting social projects? Much
better have left out the poison-scene, say some of my critical friends.
It was not natural--too grotesque; but is that my fault? If nature has
jammed me into a most unnatural and uncomfortable niche in that single
step which is said to lead from the sublime to the ridiculous, am I
responsible for it? If, instead of taking merely a serio-comic view of
life, like some of my acquaintances, I regard it from a tragic-burlesque
aspect, how can I help it? I did not put my ideas into my own head, nor
invent the extraordinary things that happen to me,--and this is the
reflection which renders me so profoundly indifferent to criticism. I
shall have reviewers finding out that I am inconsistent with myself, and
not true to nature here--as, for instance, when I fell violently in love
with Ursula in one evening; or to the first principles of art there--as
when I wrote to propose to her next morning: as if both art and nature
could not take care of themselves without my bothering my head about
them. Once for all, then, my difficulties do not arise from this source
at all; they are, as I have said before, of the most simple character.
In fact, they resolve themselves into Kant's two great _a priori_ ideas,
time and space. Now I could quite easily run on in the moral reflective
vein to the end of the chapter, but then what should I do with the
conversations which I ought to record, but to which I shall not be able
to do justice, because I am so bound and fettered by the chain of my
narrative? What an idea of weakness it conveys of an author who talks of
"the thread of his narrative!" I even used to feel it when I was in the
diplomatic service, and received a severe "wigging" once for writing in
one of my despatches, "My lord, I have the honour to resume the 'tape'
of my narrative"--so wedded is the Foreign Office to the traditions of
its own peculiar style. I was glad afterwards they kept me to "the
thread," as when I wanted finally to break it I found no difficulty. By
the way, after I have done with society, I am going to take up the
departments of the public service. If I let them alone just now, it is
only because I am so desperately in love, and my love is so desperately
hopeless; and the whole thing is in such a mess, that one mess is
enough. At present I am setting my dwelling-house in order. When that is
done I will go to work to clean out the "offices."

[Illustration]

I may also allude here to another somewhat embarrassing circumstance
which, had I not the good of my fellow-creatures at heart, might
interfere with the progress of my narrative; and this is the morbid
satisfaction which it seems to afford some people to claim for
themselves the credit of being the most disagreeable or unworthy of
those individuals with whom I am at present in contact. They would
pretend, for instance, that there is no such person in society as
Spiffington Goldtip, but that I mean him to represent some one else; and
they take the 'Court Guide,' and find that no Lady Broadhem lives in
Grosvenor Square, so they suppose that she too stands for some one else
who does. Now, if I hear much of this sort of thing I shall stop
altogether. In the first place, neither Spiffy nor Lady Broadhem will
like it; and in the second, it is very disagreeable to me to be supposed
to caricature my acquaintances under false names. The cap is made a
great deal too large to fit any particular individual, so there is no
use in trying it on; but when, perchance, I find groups of people acting
unworthily, I should be falling into the same error for which I blame
the parsonic body of the present day, if I shrank from exposing and
cutting straight into the sores that they are fain to plaster and
conceal. In these days of amateur preaching in theatres and other
unconsecrated buildings, I feel I owe no apology to my clerical brethren
for taking their congregations in hand after they have quite done with
them.

People may call me a "physician" or any other name they like, and tell
me to heal myself; but it is quite clear that a sick physician who needs
rest, and yet devotes all his time and energies to the curing of his
neighbours, is a far more unselfish individual than one who waits to do
it till he is robust. Therefore, if I am caught doing myself the very
things I find fault with in others, "that has nothing at all to do with
it," as Lady Broadhem always says when all her arguments are exhausted.

Those of my readers who have taken an interest in her ladyship's
speculations and in my endeavours to extricate her from her pecuniary
embarrassments, may conceive our feelings upon hearing of the surrender
of General Lee. I regret to say that, in spite of every device which the
experience of Spiffy, of Lady Broadhem's lawyer, and of Lady B. herself
could suggest, her liabilities have increased to such an extent in
consequence of the rapid fall of Confederate stock, that I was obliged
to take advantage of the Easter recess to run over to Ireland to make
arrangements for selling an extremely encumbered estate which I
purchased as a speculation some years ago, but have never before
visited. This trip has given me an opportunity of enabling me thoroughly
to master the Irish question. I need scarcely say how much I was
surprised at the prosperous condition of the peasants of Connemara after
the accounts I had received of them. When I "surveyed" my own estate,
which consists of seven miles of uninterrupted rock, I regarded with
admiration the population who could find the means of subsistence upon
it, and whose rags were frequently of a very superior quality. I also
felt how creditable it was to the British Government, that by a
judicious system of legislation it should succeed in keeping people
comparatively happy and contented, whose principal occupation seemed to
me to consist in wading about the sea-beach looking for sea-weed, and
whose diet was composed of what they found there. That every Irishman I
met should expect me to lament with him the decrease by emigration in
the population of a nation which subsists chiefly on peat and
periwinkles, illustrated in a striking manner the indifference which the
individuals of this singular race have for each other's sufferings; and
it is quite a mistake, therefore, to suppose that absentee landlords,
who are for the most part Irish, live away from their properties because
they are so susceptible to the sight of distress that they cannot bear
to look upon their own tenantry. To an Englishman nothing is more
consoling than to feel that the Irish question is essentially an Irish
question, and that Englishmen have nothing at all to do with it--that
the tenant-right question is one between Irish landlords and Irish
tenants--that the religious question is one between Irish Catholics and
Irish Protestants--and that the reason that no Englishman can understand
them is, because they are Irish, and inverted brains would be necessary
to their comprehension. These considerations impressed themselves
forcibly upon my notice at a meeting of the National League, which I
attended in Dublin, the object of which was to secure the national
independence of Ireland, and to free it from the tyranny of British
rule. One of the speakers made out so strong a case for England, that I
could only account for it by the fact that he was an Irishman arguing
the case of his own country. "How," he asked, "is the English Parliament
to know our grievances, when out of 105 members that we send up to it,
there are not two who are honest? Why is not the O'Donoghue in the chair
to-day? he is the only real patriot, and we can't trust him. Why are the
Irish Protestants not true to themselves and the cause? Why, in fact, is
there not a single man of the smallest position and influence either on
the platform or in the body of the house, except myself, who am a
magistrate of the county of Cork, and therefore unable to advocate those
violent measures by which alone our liberties are to be gained? Is it
because we have got them already? No; but because Irishmen do not care a
farthing about them. Shame on them for their apathy," &c. It was
pleasant to listen to this Irish patriot inveighing against his
countrymen, and finally making England responsible for Irishmen being
what they are. Bless them! my heart warmed towards them as I saw them at
Queenstown trooping on board an emigrant-ship, looking ruddy and
prosperous, bound on the useful errand of propagating Fenianism, of
exhibiting themselves as choice specimens of an oppressed nationality,
and of devoting their brilliant political instincts, their indefatigable
industry, and their judicial calmness, to the service of that country
which is at present in danger of suffering from a determination of blood
to the head in the person of Andy Johnson. If anything can trim that
somewhat crank craft "United States," let us hope that it will be by
taking in Irishmen at the rate of one thousand per week to serve as
ballast; for most certainly the best means of increasing the sailing
qualities of the leaky old tub, "British Constitution," will be by
inducing the ballast aforesaid to throw itself overboard. I was pitching
and rolling abominably between Kingston and Holyhead as I drew this
appropriate nautical parallel, and was not in a mood to relish the
following announcement, which appeared in the pages of a fashionable
organ, that happened to be the first journal I bought in England:--

"We are in a position to state that a marriage is arranged between Lord
Frank Vanecourt, M.P., second son of the late Duke of Dunderhead, and
Lady Ursula Newlyte, eldest daughter of the late Earl of Broadhem."

How I envied "our position," and what a very different one mine was!
However, the notice served its purpose, for it prepared me for what I
should have to encounter in London--the sort of running fire of
congratulation I must expect to undergo all along Piccadilly, down St
James's Street, and along Pall Mall. Should I simper a coy admission, or
storm out an indignant denial? On the whole, the most judicious line
seemed to be to do each alternately. The prospect of puzzling the
gossip-mongers generally almost consoled me for the feeling of extreme
annoyance which I had experienced. "The imbroglio must clear itself at
last," thought I, "but it will be a curious amusement to see how long I
can keep it from doing so;" and I bought an evening paper as I
approached London, by way of distracting my mind. The first news which
thrilled me as I opened it was the announcement of the assassination of
President Lincoln. I am not going to moralise on this event now, and
only allude to it as it affects the story of my own life. It saved me
that evening from the embarrassment I had anticipated; for even when I
went to the Cosmopolitan, I found everybody listening to Mr Wog, so that
nobody cared about my private affairs, and it induced Lady Broadhem to
make a secret expedition into the City of a speculative nature next
morning, as I accidentally discovered from Spiffy. It is not impossible
that the knowledge of this breach of faith on her part may prove a
valuable piece of information to me.

I sauntered into "the Piccadilly" on the following afternoon, armed at
all points, and approached the bay-window, in which I observed Broadhem
and several others seated round the table, with the utmost
_insouciance_. They had evidently just talked my matter over, for my
appearance caused a momentary pause, and then a general chorus of
greeting. Broadhem, with an air of charming _naïveté_ and brotherly
regard, almost rushed into my arms; but his presence restrained that
general expression of frank opinion on the part of the rest of the
company, with reference to my luck, with which the fortunate _fiancé_ is
generally greeted. Still, the characters of my different so-called
"friends," and their forms of congratulation, were amusing to watch.
There was the patronising, rather elderly style--"My dear Vanecourt, I
can't tell you how happy the news has made me. I was just saying to
Broadhem,"--and so on; then the free and easy "Frank, old fellow" and
"slap on the back" style; then the "knowing shot" and "poke in the ribs"
style; then the "feelings too much for me" style--severe pressure of the
hands, and silence, accompanied by upturned eyes; then the "serious
change of state and heavy responsibilities" style. Oh, I know them all,
and am thankful to say the peculiar versatility of my talents enabled me
to give as many different answers as there are styles. I am not such a
fool as not to know exactly what all my friends said of the match behind
my back: "Sharp old woman, Lady Broadhem; she'll make that flat, Frank
Vanecourt, pay all the Broadhem debts;" or, "Odd thing it is that such a
nice girl as Ursula Newlyte should throw herself away on such a maniac
as Frank Vanecourt;" then, "Oh, she'd marry anybody to get away from
such a mother;" again, "I always thought Vanecourt a fool, but I never
supposed he would have deliberately submitted to be bled by the
Broadhems." That is the sort of thing that will go on with variations in
every drawing-room in London for the next few evenings. Now I am
striking out quite a new line to meet the humbug, the hypocrisy, the
scandal, and the ill-nature of which both Ursula and myself are the
subjects. Thus, when Broadhem greeted me in the presence of the company,
after I had received their congratulations with a good deal of ambiguous
embarrassment, I appeared to be a little overcome, and, linking my arm
in that of my future brother-in-law, walked him out of the room. "My
dear Broadhem," said I, "for reasons which it is not necessary for me
now to enter into, but which are connected with the pecuniary
arrangements I am making to put your family matters straight, this
announcement is a most unfortunate occurrence--we must take measures to
contradict it immediately."

"Why," said Broadhem, "if it is the case, as you know it is, I don't see
the harm of announcing it. To tell you the truth, I think it ought to
have been announced sooner, and that you have been putting Ursula lately
in rather a false position, by seeming to avoid her so much in society,
because, you know, it has been talked of for some time past."

"Ah, then, I fancy the announcement was made on your authority," I said.
"It is a pity, as I had made up my mind to postpone the ceremony until I
had not only completed all my arrangements for putting your family
matters square, but could actually see my way towards gradually clearing
off the more pressing liabilities with which the estate is encumbered.
You know what a crotchety fellow I am. Now, my plan is, clear everything
off first, and marry afterwards; and unless you positively contradict
the report of my marriage with your sister, I shall immediately
countermand the instructions under which my lawyers are acting, and take
no further steps whatever in the matter." I felt a malicious pleasure in
watching Broadhem's face during this speech, as I was sure that he had
done his best to spread the report of my marriage with his sister for
fear of my backing out, and escaping from my obligations in respect to
his financial embarrassments. It is only fair to him to state, that
these were none of his own creating--he had been a perfect model of
steadiness all his life. "It will be pleasanter for us both," I went on,
"that the world should never be able to say, after my marriage with your
sister, that you and your mother continue to live upon us. Now, I tell
you fairly, that, for family reasons, this premature announcement
renders it impossible for me to proceed with those arrangements which
must precede my connection with your family."

Broadhem's face grew very long while he listened to this speech. "But,"
he said, "it is not fair to Ursula that everybody should suppose that
you are engaged to her, and refuse to acknowledge it."

"Pray, whose fault is it," said I, "that anybody supposes anything about
it? I have never told a soul that I was engaged to be married, and if
you and your mother choose to go spreading unauthorised reports, you
must take the consequences; but"--and a sudden inspiration flashed upon
me--"I will tell you what I will do, I will be guided entirely by Lady
Ursula's wishes in the matter. If she wishes the report contradicted, I
must insist most peremptorily on both Lady Broadhem and yourself taking
the necessary steps to stop the public gossip; but if she is willing
that the marriage should be announced, I pledge you my word that I will
allow no preconceived plans to influence me, or pecuniary difficulties
to stand in the way, but will do whatever she, your mother, and yourself
wish."

"Very well," said Broadhem, "that sounds fair enough. I'll go and see
Ursula at once."

"Not quite so fast; please take me with you," I said. "As it is a matter
most closely affecting my future happiness, I must be present at the
interview, and so must Lady Broadhem."

"I don't think that is an arrangement which will suit Ursula at all. In
fact, both she and my mother are so incomprehensible and mysterious,
that I am sure they will object to any such meeting. Whenever I have
spoken to my mother about it, she always meets me with, 'For goodness'
sake, don't breathe a word to Ursula, or you will spoil all;' and when,
in defiance of this injunction, I did speak to Ursula, she said, in a
lackadaisical way, that she had no intention of marrying any one at
present; and when I went on to say that in that case she had no business
to accept you, she asked me what reason I had for supposing that she
ever had done so; and when I said, 'the assurance of my mother's ears in
the drawing-room at Dickiefield,' she stared at me with amazement, and
burst into a flood of tears."

"Under these circumstances, don't you think you would have done better
not to meddle in the matter at all?" I remarked. "However, the mischief
is done now, and perhaps the best plan will be for you to bring about a
meeting between your sister and myself. I suppose whatever we arrange
will satisfy you and Lady Broadhem?"

"Well, I don't know," said Broadhem, doubtfully; "she does not seem to
know her own mind, and I don't feel very sure of you. However, you are
master of the situation, and can arrange what you like. My mother is
going to a May meeting at Exeter Hall to-morrow to hear Caribbee Islands
and Chundango hold forth. I know the latter is to call for her at
eleven, so if you will come at half-past, I will take care that you have
an opportunity of seeing Ursula alone."

This conversation took place as we were strolling arm-in-arm down St
James's Street on our way to the House, thereby enabling the groups of
our friends who inspected us from divers club-windows to assert
confidently the truth of the report.

Just as I was parting from Broadhem at the door of the lobby we were
accosted suddenly by Grandon. He looked very pale as he grasped my hand
and nodded to my companion, who walked off towards "another place"
without waiting for a further greeting. "I suppose, now that your
marriage is publicly announced, Frank, it need no longer be a tabooed
subject between us, and that you will receive my congratulations."

My first impulse was to assure him that the announcement was
unauthorised so far as I was concerned, but the prospect of the
impending interview with Ursula restrained me, and I felt completely at
a loss. "Don't you think, Grandon," I said, "that I should have told you
as much as gossip tells the public, had I felt myself entitled to do so?
I only ask you to trust me for another twenty-four hours, and I will
tell you everything."

Grandon looked stern. "You are bound not to allow the report to go one
moment uncontradicted if there is nothing in it; and if there is, you
are now equally bound to acknowledge it."

"Surely," I said, in rather a piqued tone, "Broadhem is as much
interested in the matter as you are, and he is satisfied with my
conduct."

"I tell you fairly I am not," said Grandon. "You will do Lady Ursula a
great injustice, and yourself a great injury, if you persist in a course
which is distinctly dishonourable."

At that moment who should come swaggering across the lobby where we
happened to be standing but Larkington and Dick Helter! "Well, Frank,
when is it to be?" said the latter. "You were determined to take the
world by surprise, and I must congratulate you on your success."

"Thanks," said I, calmly, for I was smarting under Grandon's last words:
"the day is not yet fixed. What between Lady Broadhem's scruples about
Lent and some arrangements I had to make in Ireland, there has been a
good deal of delay, but I think," I went on, with a slight simper, "that
it has nearly come to an end."

"There," said I to Grandon, when they had favoured me with a few
_banalités_, and passed on, "that is explicit enough, surely; will that
satisfy you, or do you like this style better?" and I turned to receive
Bower and Scraper, who generally hunt tufts and scandal in couples, and
were advancing towards us with much _empressement_.

"My dear Lord Frank, charmed to see you; no wonder you are looking
beaming, for you are the luckiest man in London," said Bower.

"How so?" said I, looking unconscious.

"Come, come," said Scraper, and he winked at me respectfully; "we have
known all about it for the last two months. I got it out of Lord
Broadhem very early in the day."

"Then you got a most deliberate and atrocious fabrication, for I suppose
you mean the report of my marriage to his sister, and I beg you will
contradict it most emphatically whenever you hear it," said I, very
stiffly. And I walked on into the House, leaving Grandon more petrified
than the two little toadies I had snubbed. I can generally listen to
Gladstone when he is engaged in keeping the House in suspense over the
results of his arithmetical calculations; but the relative merits of a
reduction of the tax on tea and on malt fell flat on my ears that
evening, and even the consideration of twopence in the pound off the
income-tax failed to exercise that soothing influence on my mind which
it seemed to produce on those around. I looked in vain for Grandon; his
accustomed seat remained empty, and I felt deeply penitent and
miserable. What is there in my nature that prompts me, when I am trying
to act honestly and nobly, to be impracticable and perverse? Grandon
could not know the extent of the complication in which I am involved,
and was right in saying what he did; yet I could no more at the moment
help resenting it as I did, than a man in a passion who is struck can
help returning the blow. Then the fertility and readiness of invention
which the demon of perverseness that haunts me invariably displays,
fairly puzzles me. And you too, I thought, as I looked up and saw little
Scraper whispering eagerly to Dick Helter, who was regarding me with a
bewildered look, quite unconscious that the Chancellor of the Exchequer
had become poetical in regard to rags, and was announcing that we were
about

    "To serve as model for the mighty world,
    And be the fair beginning of a time,"

--"ah," thought I, as I gazed on that brilliant and ingenious orator,
"he is the only man in the House, who, if he was in such a mess as I am,
would find a way out of it."

My first impulse on the following morning, before going to Grosvenor
Square, was to go and apologise to Grandon; and I had an additional
reason for doing so after reading the following paragraph in the
'Morning Post':--

"The Earl and Countess of Whitechapel had the honour of entertaining at
dinner last night the Marquess and Marchioness of Scilly, the Countess
(Dowager) of Broadhem, the Earl of Broadhem and Lady Ursula Newlyte, Mr
and Lady Jane Helter, Lord Grandon, the Honourable Spiffington Goldtip,
and Mr Scraper."

To have made it thoroughly unlucky I ought to have been there as a
thirteenth. As it is, I wonder what conclusion the company in general
arrived at in reference to the affair in which I am so nearly
interested, and I told them off in the order in which they must have
gone in to dinner. The Scillys and Whitechapels paired off; Helter took
down old Lady Broadhem; Broadhem took Lady Jane; Grandon, Lady Ursula;
and Spiffy and Scraper brought up the rear. I pictured the delight with
which Helter would mystify Lady Broadhem, by allowing her to extract
from him what he had heard first from me and then from Scraper, and how
Spiffy and Scraper would each pretend to have the right version of the
story, and be best informed on this important matter. All this was easy
enough, but my imagination failed to suggest what probably passed
between Grandon and Ursula; so I screwed up my courage and determined to
go up to Grandon's room and find out We often used to breakfast
together, and I sent up my servant to tell him to expect me. Under the
circumstances I thought it right to give him the opportunity of refusing
to see me, but I knew him too well to think that he would take advantage
of it.

He was sitting at his writing-table looking pale and haggard, as I
entered, and turned wearily towards me with an air of reserve very
foreign to his nature.

"My dear Grandon," I said, "I have come to apologise to you for my
unjustifiable conduct yesterday, but you cannot conceive the worry and
annoyance to which I have been subject by the impertinent curiosity and
unwarrantable interference of the world in my private affairs. When you
told me I was acting dishonourably, an impulse of petulance made me
forget what was due to Ursula, and answer my inquisitive friends as I
did; but I am on my way to Grosvenor Square now, and will put matters
straight in an hour."

"The mischief is done," said Grandon, gloomily, "and it is not in your
power to undo it. Whatever may have been the motives by which you have
been actuated--and far be it from me to judge them--you have caused an
amount of misery which must last as long as those whom you have chosen
as your victims live."

"I beseech you be more explicit," I said; "what happened last night?--I
insist upon knowing."

"You know perfectly well that as you stand in no nearer relation to Lady
Ursula than I do," and Grandon's voice trembled, while his eye gleamed
for a second with a flash of triumph, "you have no right to insist upon
anything; but I have no objection to tell you that as Lady Ursula was
quite in ignorance of any such report having currency as that which has
now received a certain stamp of authority, by virtue of the conspiracy
into which you seem to have entered with her mother and brother, she was
overwhelmed with confusion at the congratulations which it seems the
ladies heaped upon her after dinner last night, and finally fainted. Of
course all London will be talking of it to-day, as the Helters went away
early on purpose to get to Lady Mundane's before Scraper could arrive
there with his version of the catastrophe."

"Did she tell you she did not care for me, Grandon?" said I, very
humbly.

"She told me to forgive you, and love you as I used to, God help me!"
burst out Grandon, and he covered his face with his hands. "Frank," he
said, "she is an angel of whom neither you nor I is worthy; but oh,
spare her! Don't, for God's sake hold her up to the pity and curiosity
of London. I would do anything on earth she told me; but what spell have
you thrown over her that in spite of your heartless conduct she should
still implore me to love and cherish you? How can I obey her in this
when your acts are so utterly at variance with all that is noble and
honourable? I have at least one cause for gratitude," he continued, in a
calmer tone, "and that is, that the doubt which would force itself upon
me when I vainly tried to account for her conduct in accepting you so
suddenly has been removed."

I had discovered what I wanted, for in spite of every effort to conceal
it, I detected a mixture of jealousy and of triumph in Grandon's last
speech. Ursula, in her moment of agony, had unconsciously allowed him to
perceive that he alone was loved, and had urged him still to love and
cherish me, because as an irresponsible being she had thought me more
than ever in need of sympathy and protection For a moment I wavered in
my resolution. Should I open my heart and give my dearest friend a
confidence which should justify me in his eyes, at the risk of
destroying the project I had formed on that night when, walking home
from my interview with Lady Broadhem, I had determined to devote my
energies to the happiness of others and not of myself? or should I
maintain that flippant, heartless exterior which seemed for the time
necessary to the success of my plans? As usual, my mind made itself up
while I was doubting what to do, and in spite of myself I said jauntily,
"Well, now that you know that she cares about you and not about me, I
suppose you have nothing to do but to return her affection?"

"I have done that for some time," he replied, "but you know how
perfectly hopeless our love is; and yet," and his voice deepened and his
face flushed with enthusiasm, "I am happier loving hopelessly and
knowing that I am loved, than I have ever been before. Forgive me,
Frank, but I do not feel for you as I should have done had you behaved
differently. You had no right to let me suppose that she had accepted
you when the subject had never been breathed between you. Your
conscience must tell you that you have acted in an unworthy manner
towards us both."

"Grandon," I said, sententiously, "my conscience works on a system
utterly incomprehensible to an ordinary intelligence, and I am quite
satisfied with it. I will have a metaphysical discussion with you on the
matter on some other occasion. Meantime you think Ursula has decided on
preferring the ruin and disgrace of the Broadhem family to a _mariage de
convenance_ either with me or any one else?"

"I did not know it was a question of disgrace," said Grandon, "and I am
quite sure that Lady Ursula will do the right thing. I would rather not
discuss the subject any further; we shall certainly not agree, and I am
afraid that we might become more widely estranged than I should wish.
Here is breakfast. It was you who last asked me to bury this unhappy
subject, it is my turn now to make the same request. I wish to heaven it
had never arisen between us."

"What a lucky fellow you are!" said I, looking at him with the eye of a
philosopher; "now you would never imagine yourself to be one of the most
enviable men in London, with the most charming of women and the most
devoted of friends ready to sacrifice themselves at your feet--she
_incomprise_, I _incompris_."

"Don't trifle," said Grandon, sternly, interrupting me; "my patience is
not inexhaustible."

"Luckily mine is," said I, with my mouth full of grilled salmon,
"otherwise I should not be the right stuff for a social missionary.
Apropos, you have never asked me what I have been doing in that line;
nor told me what you thought of the long letter I wrote you from
Flityville. Did you get me the answers to those questions?"

"No," he replied, "I must honestly tell you, Frank, that it pains me to
discuss so serious a subject with one who makes so fair and earnest a
pretence of having deep convictions as you do, and whose acts are so
diametrically opposed to them; and now I must be off, for I have a
committee of the House to attend."

"And I a rendezvous of a still more interesting character to keep;" and
as I left Grandon I observed a shade of disgust and disappointment cross
his face at my last speech. I always overdo it, I thought, as I walked
towards Grosvenor Square, but Grandon ought to make allowances for me.
He has known me all my life, but it was reserved for us both to be in
love with the same woman to bring out the strong points in each of us.
Lavater says you never know whether a man is your friend until you have
divided an inheritance with him; but it is a much more ticklish thing to
go halves in a woman's love. Never mind, I will astonish them both yet.
Now then, to begin with her; and I boldly knocked at the door. I found
Broadhem in his own little den.

"It is all right," he said, as I entered; "I have told Ursula you are
coming, and she will see you in the drawing-room."

I had not been for two minutes alone with Lady Ursula since we parted at
Dickiefield; indeed, when it is remembered that my whole intercourse
with her upon that occasion extended over little more than twenty-four
hours, and that we had never been on any other terms since than those of
the most casual acquaintances, the embarrassing nature of the impending
interview presented itself to me in a somewhat unpleasant aspect. Now
that it had come to the point, I could not make up my mind exactly what
to say. I tried to collect my ideas and go over the history of the
events which had resulted in the present predicament. Why was I in the
singular position of having to make a special appointment with a young
lady with whom I was desperately in love, whom I knew but slightly, but
who supposed me to be mad, for the purpose of asking her, first, whether
she considered herself engaged to be married to me or not; and secondly,
if not, whether she would have any objection to the world supposing that
such was the case? Now my readers will remember that the sudden impulse
which induced me in the first instance to delude Lady Broadhem into
believing that Lady Ursula had accepted me, arose from the desire to
save her from the tender mercies of Chundango. Lady Ursula had in fact
owed the repose she had enjoyed for the last two months entirely to her
supposed engagement to me. The moment that is at an end, her fate
becomes miserable. If she will but consider herself drowning, and me the
straw, I shall only be too happy to be clutched. If I cannot propose
myself as a husband, I will at least suggest that she should regard me
in the light of a straw.

I had got thus far when I found myself in her presence. She looked very
pale, and there was an expression of decision about the corners of her
mouth which I had not before remarked. It did not detract from its
sweetness, nor did the slight tremor of the upper lip as she greeted me
detract from its force. It is a great mistake to suppose that a tremor
of the lip denotes weakness; on the contrary, it often arises from a
concentration of nervous energy. I am not quite so sure about a tremor
of the knees. That was what I suffered from at the moment, together with
a very considerable palpitation of the heart. Now the difficulty at such
a moment is to know how to begin. I have often heard men say that when
they have obtained an interview with a great statesman for the purpose
of asking a favour, and he waits for them to begin without helping them
out with a word, they have experienced this difficulty. That arises from
the consciousness that they are sacrificing their self-respect to their
"career." If they would never go near a statesman except when they
wanted to confer a favour upon him, they would have no difficulty in
finding words. Fortunately the great majority of our public _employés_
are not yet hardened beggars like the Neapolitans, and are not, like
them, dead to any sentiment of shame upon these occasions, though it is
to be feared that they will soon become so. The responsibility of
demoralising the servants of the public lies entirely with the heads of
the departments. In proportion as these gentlemen are not ashamed of
sacrificing their subordinates in order to keep themselves in office,
will those subordinates become as unblushing place-hunters as their
masters are place-keepers. Once accustom a man to being a scapegoat, and
you destroy at a blow his respect for himself and for the man who offers
him up. I could become very eloquent upon this subject, if I was not
afraid of keeping Ursula waiting. There are few men who need having
their duties pointed out to them more constantly than Cabinet Ministers.
Attacks in the House of Commons do them no good, as they are generally
the result of party tactics, and spring from as unworthy a motive as
does the defence. Men who have got place do not pay much attention to
attacks from men who want it. Then, as I said before, the Church utterly
ignores its duties in this respect. Who ever heard of a bishop getting
up and pointing out to her Majesty's Ministers the necessity of
considering the interests of the country before their own? It would be
immediately supposed that he was bullying them, because he wanted to be
"translated;" and this would be considered the only excuse for the same
want of "good taste" which I, who am only desirous for their good, am
now displaying. I put it to you, my lords, in all humility, do you ever
get up in your places, not in the House of Peers, but in another House,
and point out to the rulers of the country that no personal
consideration should ever interfere with their doing the right thing at
the right moment? Do you ever explain to the noble lords among whom you
sit, that when a committee is chosen from both sides of the House to
inquire into a simple question of right or wrong, the members of it are
bound to vote upon its merits and according to their consciences, rather
than according to the political parties to which they belong? and do you
ever ask yourselves what you would do in the same circumstances? Do you
ever tell the heads of departments that they are responsible for the
_morale_ which pervades the special services over which they preside?
that the tone of honour, the amount of zeal and of disinterestedness
which subordinates display must depend in a great measure upon the
example set them by their chief? that you can no more expect an
orchestra to play in tune with a leader devoid of a soul for music, than
a department to work well without the soul of honour at its head? Do you
ever tell the leaders of the party with which you "act" that it is
wicked openly to collect funds to give candidates to bribe with at
general elections? Do you ever faithfully tell these great men, that
just in proportion as their position is elevated, so is their power for
good or for evil? and when you see their responsibilities sit lightly
upon them, do you ever take them to task for trifling with the highest
interests of the country, and stifling the consciences of its servants?
If the fact that in your ecclesiastical capacity you are beholden to one
or other of the political parties makes it delicate for you to attack
your opponents, then let the Liberal Episcopacy jealously guard the
honour of the Liberal Cabinets, and the Tory bishops watch over the
public morality of their own side so soon as it shall come into office.

Of course I was not thinking of all this as I entered the drawing-room,
but I had thought it often before, and feel impelled to mention it now.
What I actually did was to blush a good deal, stammer a good deal, and
finally make the unpleasant discovery that that presence of mind which
my readers will ere this have perceived I possess to an eminent degree,
had entirely deserted me. I think this arose from the extreme desire I
felt that Lady Ursula should not at that moment imagine that I was mad.
Perhaps, my reader, it may have happened to you to have to broach the
most delicate of all topics to a young lady who regarded you in the
light of a rather dangerous lunatic, and you can therefore enter into my
feelings. I was not sorry to find myself blushing and stammering, as it
might have the effect of reassuring her, and making her feel that for
the moment at least I was quite harmless.

"I am glad, Lord Frank," she said, observing my confusion, "that you
have given me this opportunity of seeing you, as I am sure you would not
willingly inflict pain, and should you find that you have
unintentionally done so, will make all the reparation in your power."

At this moment I glanced significantly at Broadhem, who left the room.

"Unfortunately it too often happens, Lady Ursula," I said, "that it is
necessary to inflict a temporary pain to avert what might become a
permanent misery."

"I cannot conceive," replied she, "to what permanent misery, as
affecting myself, you can allude, in which your intervention should be
necessary, more especially when exhibited in a form which places me in
such a false position. I need not say that the announcement which I saw
for the first time in a newspaper caused me the greatest annoyance; but
when I found afterwards that my mother, my brother, and even Lord
Grandon, had heard it from your own lips many weeks before, and that in
fact you had given my mother, under a promise that she would not allude
to the subject to me, such a totally erroneous idea of what passed at
our interview at Dickiefield,--when I thought of all this, I could only
account for it by the last revelation you made to me there."

She maintained her self-possession perfectly until she was obliged to
allude to my insanity, then she dropped her eyelids, and the colour for
the first time rushed into her cheeks as she shrank from touching on
this delicate subject. At the moment I almost felt inclined to tell her
that I was as sane as she was, but refrained, partly because I was not
sure of it myself, partly because I did not think she would believe me,
partly because, after all, it might be the best justification I could
offer for my conduct, and partly because I was not quite ready to enter
upon an explanation of the ruse by which I had hoped to save her from
the persecution of her mother to marry Chundango. This suddenly reminded
me of my idea that she was in the position of one drowning. I therefore
said, in a careless way, for the purpose of showing her that her
allusion to my insanity had produced no unfavourable impression upon
me,----

"Lady Ursula, would you have any objection to regarding me in the light
of a straw?"

"A what!" said Lady Ursula, in a tone in which amazement seemed blended
with alarm.

"A straw," I repeated; "I assure you you are drowning, and even an
unworthy being like myself may be of use to you, if you would but
believe it. Remember Chundango's conduct at Dickiefield--remember the
view Lady Broadhem took of it, until I interposed, or as I should more
accurately say, until the current swept me past her--remember that up to
this moment she has never recurred to the subject of Mr Chundango, who,
although he comes to the house constantly, now devotes himself entirely
to Lady Broadhem herself; and, allow me to say it, you owe it all to a
timely straw."

Lady Ursula seemed struck by the graphic way in which I put her position
before her, and remained silent for a few moments. It had evidently
never occurred to her, that I had indirectly been the means of securing
her tranquillity. She little thought it possible that her mother could
have talked her matrimonial prospects over with a comparative stranger
in the mercantile terms which Lady Broadhem had used in our interview at
Dickiefield. And I am well aware that society generally would consider
such conduct on the part of her ladyship coarse and unladylike. It
showed a disregard of _les convenances_ which good society is the first
to resent. Those who have never secretly harboured the designs which
Lady Broadhem in the agony of a financial crisis avowed, might justly
repudiate her conduct; but "conscience does make cowards of us all," and
fashionable mothers will naturally be the first to censure in Lady
Broadhem a practice to which, in a less glaring and obnoxious form, they
are so strongly addicted. If in silvery accents she had confided her
projects to Lady Mundane, the world would have considered it natural and
ladylike enough; the coarseness consisted in her telling them to me. O
generation of slave-owners! why persist in deluding yourselves into the
belief, that so long as you buy and sell your own flesh and blood in a
whisper there is no harm in it?

My gentle critics, I would strongly advise you not to place me on my
defence in these matters; I have every disposition to let you down as
gently as possible, but if you play tricks with the rope, I shall have
to let you down by the run. Why, it was only last year that all the
world went to Mrs Gorgon Tompkins's second ball. They no more cared than
she did, that she had lost one of her daughters early in the season,
just after she had given the first. I remember Spiffy Goldtip taking
public opinion in the club about it, and asking whether an interval of
four months was not enough to satisfy the requirements of society in the
matter, as it would be so sad if, after having made such good social
running before Easter, Mrs Gorgon Tompkins were to lose it all
afterwards through an unfortunate domestic _contretemps_ of this kind.
Now I doubt whether Lady Broadhem could surpass that. However, she is
capable of great feats, and I fully expect she will strike out a new
line soon; there has been a lurking demon in her eye of late which
alarms me. Fortunately I am not yet finally committed, financially. It
is true it has cost me a few thousands, which I shall never see again,
to tide the family over its difficulties thus far, but I can still let
it down with a crash if it suits me.

"Lord Frank," said Lady Ursula, after a pause, "I have already alluded
to the circumstance which has induced me to treat you with a forbearance
which I could not have extended to one whom I regarded as responsible
for conduct unwarrantable towards myself, and certainly not to be
justified by any possible advantage which I might be supposed to derive
from it. I consented to see you now, because I feel sure that when you
know from my own lips that I wish you at once to deny the rumour you
have been the means of originating, I may depend upon your doing so."

"May I ask," I said, with much contrition in my tone, "what explanation
you gave Lady Broadhem on the subject?"

"If you mean," said Lady Ursula, "whether I accounted to mamma for your
conduct as I do to myself--in other words, whether I betrayed your
secret--I have carefully refrained from discussing the subject with her.
Fortunately, after dinner at the Whitechapels' last night, Broadhem told
me that he had seen you, and that you were coming here to-day, so I
assured mamma that she would hear from you the true state of the case;
though, of course, I felt myself bound to let her understand that, owing
to a fact which I was unable to explain, she had been completely misled
by you."

"And what did Lady Broadhem say?" I asked.

"She said that had it not been for a meeting she was obliged to attend
this morning, she would have waited to see you to-day; but that she was
sure I laboured under some strange delusion, and that a few words of
explanation from you would smooth everything."

"Will you allow me to tell you what those few words are?" said I. "Lady
Broadhem little imagines the real state of the case, because she knows
what you do not know, that I am engaged in clearing off her own
pecuniary liabilities, and making arrangements by which the old-standing
claims on the Broadhem estates may be met. You may never have heard how
seriously the family is embarrassed, and how unlucky all Lady Broadhem's
attempts to retrieve its fortunes by speculation have been. I could only
account to her for the pecuniary sacrifices she knows I am making by
allowing her to suppose that I was incurring them for your sake." I
could not resist letting a certain tone of pique penetrate this speech,
and the puzzled and pained expression of Lady Ursula's face afforded me
a sense of momentary gratification, of which I speedily repented. As she
looked at me earnestly, her large blue eyes filled slowly with tears.
"Is she crying because this last speech of mine proves me hopelessly
mad?" thought I; "or does she feel herself in a pecuniary trap, and is
she crying because she does not see her way out of it?" and I felt the
old sensation coming over me, and my head beginning to swim. Why, oh
why, am I denied that method in my madness which it must be such a
comfort to possess? It is just at the critical moment that my osseous
matter invariably plays me a trick. I seemed groping for light and
strength, and mechanically put out my hand; the soft touch of one placed
gently in it thrilled through my nerves with an indescribable current,
and instantaneously the horrid feeling left me, and I emerged from the
momentary torpor into which I had fallen. I don't think Ursula remarked
it, for she said, and her eyes were now overflowing, in a voice of
surpassing sweetness, "Lord Frank, I have discovered your _real_ secret;
it is no longer possible for you to conceal the noble motives which have
actuated you under your pretended----"

"Hush!" I said, interrupting her; "what I did, whether rightly or
wrongly, I did for the best. Now I will be guided by your wishes. What
am I to do?"

"Allow no worldly consideration, however unselfish, either for myself or
those dearest to me, to induce you to swerve from the course which truth
and honour distinctly point out. Whatever may seem to be the
consequences, we are both bound to follow this, and we have but to feel
that, if need be, we are ready to make great sacrifices to receive the
requisite faith and strength. Believe me," she concluded, and her voice
trembled slightly, "whatever happens, I shall feel that you have given
me proofs of a friendship upon which I may depend."

I pressed the hand I still held, and I felt the touch was sacred. "Ah,"
thought I, as I left the room, and was conscious that the gentle
influence of her I had parted from was still resting upon me, "that is
the right kind of spirit-medium. There is a magnetism in that slender
finger which supports and purifies." O my hardened and material readers!
don't suppose that because I know you will laugh at the idea of a
purifying or invigorating magnetism I shall hesitate to write exactly
what I feel on such matters. If I refrain from saying a great deal more,
it is not because I shrink from your ridicule but from your ignorance.
You may not believe that the pearls exist; I honestly admit that they
are not yet in my possession, but I have seen those who own them, and,
unfortunately, also I have seen the animals before whom they have been
cast. And you, my dear young ladies, do not ignore the responsibility
which the influence you are able to exercise over young men imposes upon
you. You need not call it magnetism unless you like, but be sure that
there is that conveyed in a touch or a glance which elevates or degrades
him upon whom it is bestowed, according as you preserve the purity and
simplicity of your inmost natures. If you would only regard yourselves
in the light of female missionaries to that benighted tribe of
lavender-gloved young gentlemen who flutter about you like moths round a
candle, you would send them away glowing and happy, instead of singeing
their wings. If, when these butterflies come to sip, you would give them
honey instead of poison, they would not forsake you as they do now for
the gaudy flowers which are too near you. I know what you have to
contend against--the scheming mothers who bring you up to the
"Daughticultural Show," labelled and decorated, and put up to
competition as likely prize-winners--who deliberately expose you to the
first rush of your first seasons, and mercilessly watch you as you are
swept along by the tearing stream--who see you without compunction cast
away on sandbanks of worldliness, where you remain till you become as
"hard" and as "fast" as those you find stranded there before you. Here
your minds become properly, or rather improperly, opened. You hear, for
the first time, to your astonishment, young men talked of by their
Christian or nick names--their domestic life canvassed, their
eligibility discussed, and the varied personal experiences through which
your "hard and fast" friends have passed, related.

Then, better prepared for the rest of the voyage, you start again, and
venture a little on your own account. What bold swimmers you are
becoming now! How you laugh and defy the rocks and reefs upon which you
are ultimately destined to split! Already you look back with surprise to
the time when almost everything you heard shocked you. What an immense
amount of unnecessary knowledge you have acquired since then, and how
recklessly you display it! Do you think it has softened and elevated
you? Do you think the moral contact which should be life-giving to those
who know you, benefits them?

It is not true, because young men behave heartlessly, that you must
flirt "in self-defence," as you call it. When a warfare of this kind
once begins, it is difficult to fix the responsibility; but if one side
left off, the occupation of the other would be gone. If you want to
revenge yourselves on these fickle youths--_strike!_ as they do in the
manufacturing districts. Conceive the wholesome panic you would cause,
if you combined into "unions" like the working-classes, and every girl
in London bound herself not to flirt for the entire season!

Unless you do something of this kind soon, you will reverse the whole
system of nature. The men will be the candles and you the moths; they
will be the flowers, and you the butterflies. If all the brothers in
London persist in trying to imitate their sisters, and all the sisters
ape their brothers, what a nice confusion we shall arrive at! The reason
I preach to you and not to them now, is, because I think I have a better
chance with the mind of a masculine young woman than with that of a
feminine young man. If you only knew what a comfort it would be to talk
sense instead of that incessant chaff, you would read a little more. I
don't object to your riding in the Park--the abominable constitution of
society makes it almost the only opportunity of seeing and talking to
those you like without being talked about; but you need not rush off for
a drive in the carriage immediately after lunch, just because you are
too restless to stay at home.

First, the Park and young men, then lunch, then Marshall and Snelgrove,
then tea and young men again, then dinner, drums, and balls, and young
men till three A.M. That is the tread-wheel you have chosen to turn
without the smallest profit to yourself or any one else. If I seem to
speak strongly, it is because my heart yearns over you. I belonged once
to the lavender-gloved tribe myself, and though I have long since
abandoned the hunting-grounds of my youth, I would give the world to see
them happy and innocent. Moreover, I know you too well to imagine that I
have written a word which will offend you. Far from it. We shall be
warmer and closer friends ever after; but I am strongly afraid mamma
will disapprove. She will call 'Piccadilly' "highly improper," and say
that it is a book she has not allowed any of "her girls" to read. I
don't want to preach disobedience; but there are modes well known to my
fair young friends of reading books which mamma forbids, and I trust
that they will never read one against her wish which may leave a more
injurious impression upon their minds than 'Piccadilly.'

[Illustration]



PART V.

THE FLESH.


    PICCADILLY, _June_.

Somebody ought to compile a handbook for _débutants_ and _débutantes_,
setting forth the most approved modes of procuring invitations to balls
and parties during the London season. Not only would it be a very
invaluable guide now, but it would be interesting for posterity to refer
to as illustrating the manners and customs of their ancestors, and
accounting for the hereditary taint of snobbism which is probably
destined to characterise in an eminent degree the population of the
British Isles. "En Angleterre," said a cynical Dutch diplomatist,
"numéro deux va chez numéro un, pour s'en glorifier auprès de numéro
trois." Had he gone to the Bodwinkle ball, he would have remarked a
curious inversion of his aphorism, for there it was _numéro un_ who went
down to _numéro deux_. But I must leave it to Van den Bosch (that, I
think, was his name) to discover what there was to boast about to number
three. He was evidently a profound philosopher, but I doubt his getting
to the bottom of this great social problem. To do so he would have to
look at it free from all petty prejudice, recognising its sublime as
well as its ridiculous features. Why did Duchesses struggle to be asked
to Bodwinkle's? I almost think a new phase of snobbism is cropping out,
and the rivalry will be to try, not who can rise highest, but who can
sink lowest, in the social scale. The fashionable world is so _blasé_ of
itself that it has positively become tired of worshipping wealth, unless
its owners possess the charm of extreme vulgarity. Its taste has become
so vitiated by being unnaturally excited and pandered to, that we shall
have to invent some new object of ambition. Why, for instance, should
not a select clique of Oxford Street shopkeepers give a series of
parties which might become the rage for one season? They have only to
get two or three leaders of _ton_ to patronise them at first, and be
very exclusive and select in their invitations afterwards, to insure
success. A year or two ago the thing to do was Cremorne; why not have an
Oxford Street year? The Bodwinkle tendency will result at last in its
being the great ambition of a man's life to get his daughters asked to
"a little music and a few friends" at his bootmaker's.

In Paris, which is becoming rapidly impregnated with this spirit, that
city being in a very receptive condition for everything bad from all
parts of the world--in Paris, I say, they have made a very good start,
as any of my fair friends who have patronised Mr Worth's afternoon
tea-parties in the Rue de la Paix will readily acknowledge. They will
bear testimony to the good taste of the milliner, and I to the bad taste
of his customers. That vain women in the highest circles of Parisian
fashion can, in an eager rivalry to display as much of their backs as
possible, endeavour to obtain the especial patronage of a
man-dressmaker, by accepting his invitations to tea, should be a warning
to you, O gentle English dames! of what you may come to. Why sacrifice
self-respect and propriety to shoulder-straps? Why insist upon it that
there is only one man in the world who knows how to cut out a dress
behind? Supposing he can bring it an inch lower down than anybody
else--if you give that inch, beware of the ell. Why, oh why, advertise
your clothes in the newspapers? Is it not enough to puff your
dinner-parties in the public journals at so much a "notice," without
paying 15s. apiece to your dressmaker to put your names into the
'Morning Post,' coupled with your wearing apparel, every time you go to
Court? If you persist in the practice, let me recommend you, as a
measure of economy, to put in your own advertisements. The press charge
is 10s. 6d.; the dressmaker pockets the other 4s. 6d. Or else be
generous: why keep the whole advertisement to yourself? let the poor
dressmaker put her name in as having furnished the raiment, and she
will, perhaps, let you off the 4s. 6d.; otherwise, you may do it still
cheaper by bills on hoardings--

     IMMENSE ATTRACTION!

     The Marchioness of Scilly will appear at Court on the ----
     inst. Train glacé--poult de soie bouillionée, &c.

I am not sure that to attend the professional social gatherings of a
Parisian "undressmaker" and pay him twenty francs a "look" is not less
objectionable, but this is the British way of worshipping the same idol.
This vein of reflection was suggested to me by Bodwinkle's ball. Talk of
sermons in stones! they are nothing to the sermons contained in drums
and balls.

First, I have already let my readers into the secret history of that
ball. I have told them how Lady Broadhem and Spiffy Goldtip combined
their resources and launched the Bodwinkles in Vanity Fair with a
gorgeous mansion and Lady Mundane's invitation list. To describe all
Spiffy's exertions in the Bodwinkle cause for some days prior to the
ball would be impossible. To tell of the extraordinary suggestions that
Bodwinkle was continually making with reference to the decoration of the
banisters, the arrangements for supper, and the utter ignorance he
displayed throughout of the nature of the enterprise upon which he had
embarked, would occupy more space than I can afford. To give a list of
the guests would be superfluous, as they were very accurately reported
in the columns of the 'Morning Post.' In spite of all Spiffy could do,
Bodwinkle would insist upon inviting a number of his own friends, and
nearly ruined the party irretrievably by allowing one man to bring his
daughters. However, as Mrs B. did not take the slightest notice of them,
and as they knew nobody, they went away early. Nevertheless, as Lady
Veriphast said, "There were all kinds of people that one had never seen
in one's life before." This was the great mistake. People don't yet
humiliate themselves to get invitations to meet people they never saw
before. They may come to that, but at present nothing is worth going to
unless all society wants to go: then anything is. Now Spiffy had so
managed, that by a judicious system of puffing he had excited immense
interest in the Bodwinkle ball--he had been morally bill-sticking it in
all the clubs for weeks past. He had told the most _répandu_ young
dancing men that it would be impossible for him to get them invitations.
If Bodwinkle had been General Tom Thumb, and Spiffy had been Barnum, he
could not have achieved a greater success. He had insisted upon
Bodwinkle having Mrs B. painted by the most fashionable artist and
exhibited in the Academy, where the hanging committee, some of whom were
at the ball afterwards, gave it a good place, and the 'Times' critic
gave it half a column. Until then he had kept her dark. No one had ever
seen Mrs Bodwinkle, except three or four literary men, who discreetly
and mysteriously alluded to her intellect, and a naughty duke, who
indiscreetly and less mysteriously alluded to her charms. People began
to want to make Mrs Bodwinkle's acquaintance some time before the ball,
but she resolutely denied herself. The only men who were let into the
secret were Bower, Scraper, and a few others skilled in the art of
socially advertising. Their principal function consisted in asking every
one of their friends for some time before whether they were going to the
Bodwinkle ball. It oozed out, through Spiffy, that I knew something of
Bodwinkle, and the result was that I was bombarded with requests to
procure invitations. This was the style of note that arrived
incessantly. This is from Mary, Marchioness of Pimlico:--

     "DEAR LORD FRANK,--Lady Mundane tells me that you are one of
     the privileged few who can get invitations to the Bodwinkles'.
     Please exert your interest in my favour. You know this is
     Alice's first season.--Yours truly,

     "MARY PIMLICO."

Here is another one:--

     "DEAR LORD FRANK,--Do _please_ get an invitation for _my very
     great friend_, Amy Rumsort, for the Bodwinkles'. She is most
     anxious to go, _for very particular_ reasons. I will tell you
     them when we meet. Spiffy Goldtip sent mamma mine, but declines
     to come to the front about Amy.--Yours most sincerely, HARRIET
     WYLDE."

"Wild Harrie" is the name by which this young lady is usually known
among her sporting friends. She is a promising _débutante_, and very
properly calls herself "first favourite" of the season.

"Dear me," thought I, as I opened a series of similar epistles, "if I
were the head of a public department, who only recommended honours to be
given to those who applied for them oftenest, and if all these were
meritorious public servants wanting C.B.'s, or gallant soldiers anxious
for Victoria Crosses, they could not beg more pertinaciously and
unblushingly." And I made a list of the petitioners, leaving out those
who had written to me without knowing me, and went to the club, where I
intrusted them to Spiffy, with a peremptory request that he would
distribute the required invitations upon pain of my financial
displeasure.

Spiffy gave me some curious statistics about invitations and the means
employed to obtain them. Three ladies who never asked him to their
parties, and whom he had therefore left out, though all more or less
leaders of the _beau monde_, actually wrote to Mrs Bodwinkle in various
strains--one was a threatening, the other an appealing letter, and the
third assumed that she had been omitted by mistake. Two young gentlemen
had the impertinence, after trying every other mode in vain, actually to
call on Mrs Bodwinkle, and extract invitations from that bewildered
woman, who was too much frightened to refuse them. Bodwinkle was not
idle in the House, and two Liberals and an extreme Radical, all young,
unable to resist temptation, voted against the Government on the promise
of invitations. As for Spiffy, even he was acquiring fresh social
experience, and tells me he can scarcely resist entering upon a
pecuniary _exploitation_ of his position in society. "There is," said
that enterprising and original individual, "so much to be done by a man
of genius. Just look what is open to me in this line,----

"'Families in the country anxious that their sons should be well
_lancés_ in the society of the metropolis, are requested to apply to the
Honourable Spiffington Goldtip. Invitations to the most fashionable
parties obtained at a reasonable amount. Charges moderate for
introductions to Clubs. No charge whatever for introductions to
noblemen.'

"Or in this line,--

"'To Debutantes and Others in want of Chaperonage.--Young ladies whose
mothers are invalids, or are from some cause considered objectionable by
society, or who have only step-mothers, or who are orphans with unkind
or Evangelical relations, or who are unexpectedly at the last moment
deprived of their natural protectors, on applying to the undersigned
will be provided with suitable chaperons. The undersigned begs to notify
that his stock of chaperons will bear the strictest examination as to
character, and have all at one time or other moved in the highest
circles of society. No debutante or young lady whose birth and
antecedents do not entitle her to the same privilege need apply.
SPIFFINGTON GOLDTIP.'

"Then the _pendant_ to this would be,--

"'To Married Women or Widows without Daughters.--Married women, or
widows without daughters, who have either dropped out of society or are
in danger of dropping out, in consequence of there being no special
reason why they should be kept in, and who are capable of undertaking
the duties of chaperon, are requested to apply to the Honourable
Spiffington Goldtip. The Hon. S. G. has a large stock of debutantes, and
other young ladies in want of chaperons, always on hand. The strictest
references given and required.'

"You may laugh," Spiffy went on, "but I assure you the sort of successes
I have in my own line are quite astonishing. Look what a hit I've made
with Wild Harrie--her mother, Lady Wylde, you remember, was her
husband's brother's governess. Well, I said plainly to her, 'You will
ruin that girl's chances if you attempt to force her on society in your
own way. You can't afford to entertain upon the right scale, and you
won't be asked anywhere unless you do, for there is a set going to be
made against Harriet. If you will leave her to me, I know her strong
points, and will see her through the whole business as if she was my own
sister.'" I must here remark _en passant_ that Spiffy is apparently
capable of doing the most unselfish things, and of taking an infinity of
trouble upon himself out of pure good-nature.

"What was your _modus operandi_?" I asked.

"Oh, it was all plain sailing enough. The first thing to provide was a
popular chaperon, and the second a special reputation. Now Harrie is a
wonderful rider, and knows a horse thoroughly. Then she looks like a
high-bred Arab herself, though her mother was a governess, and I felt
sure Dick Helter would fall a victim. So I introduced her to the
Helters. As Lady Jane goes in for safeness, she does not like married
women, and always smiles most kindly upon any girl that pleases her
husband; so I knew if I could get Harrie by her side on the top of
Helter's drag, the next step was a certainty, and that I had secured my
chaperon. The result has fully justified my expectations. Harrie has
secured the box-seat _en permanence_, went down to the Derby on Helter's
drag, and won a pot on the French horse under his judicious advice.
Little Haultort, and all the other men who lost to her, adore her of
course, and all the girls in London hate her; but whenever the mammas
object to asking her on account of 'that horrid Lady Wylde,' I floor all
opposition by saying, 'Oh, Lady Jane Helter will bring her.' I wonder,"
said Spiffy, with a sigh, "when she has made her little game, whether
she will remember to whom she owed it?"

"Now, do you find much ingratitude of this kind?" I asked, inquiringly.

"No," said Spiffy. "I must say on the whole my experience of the world
in this respect is, that it is not so black as it is painted. It is true
that I attribute its gratitude chiefly to laziness. For instance, in my
own case, so long as I hold the position I do in society, people who
insisted upon being ungrateful to me would find it hard work. By the
way, I observe you don't go out as much as you used--how's that?" This
was no business of Spiff's, so I said sublimely, "Because the
aristocracy bore me, and the middle classes grate upon my nerves.--But
about this little girl: she is rather an ally of mine, so you must see
that her friend, Miss Rumsort, has the card."

"It is too bad!" broke out Spiffy. "The way that girl and her married
sister are trying to take the world by storm is intolerable. It does not
matter whether they know the people they apply to or not, it is always
the same story. She pretends she is tremendously in love with Larkington
because he goes everywhere, and her sister looks sentimental, and tries
to work upon your feelings about 'poor Amy,' whose only object in life
is to meet him; but it is all a dodge to get asked. She cares no more
for Larkington than for me. Now, I'll be bound Wild Harrie put something
about _very particular reasons_ in her note to you."

"Well," said I, astonished at Spiffy's penetration, and at the new views
of life he was placing before me, "I must admit that that phrase did
occur."

"Of course it did; why, it is one of the regular forms of 'extorting
invitations under false pretences.' I want the police to interfere, but
it seems, although they are doubtless begging-letters, containing
fraudulent misrepresentations, there is some difficulty about bringing
them within the terms of the Act."

"Never mind--live and let live--send her the invitation. It seems to me,
my dear Spiffy, that you and the Bodwinkles and Miss Rumsort are all in
the same line of life, so you should not be too hard upon her. As a
matter of policy, social adventurers should do what they can for each
other."

Spiffy's face flushed, for if he had lost the conscience, he still
retained the consciousness, of a gentleman, and he felt the reproach.

Just at this moment, Mr Wog, who had been elected an honorary member of
the "Piccadilly," and was standing, unconsciously to us, listening to
our conversation, struck in, and averted the retort which was rising to
Spiffy's lips.

"I guess," he said, turning to Spiffy, for whose talents he evidently
entertained a high admiration, "that I could give you a few hints, from
my own experiences in New York, that might help you in your line of
business. My own, sir, in that city, was quite similar to yours in this.
You operate at night in Mayfair, and by day 'On 'Change.' Well, sir, I
had two spheres of operation, one was on Wall Street, and the other on
Fifth Avenue. In fact, I may say that Wall Street is the broad and
flowery road that leads to Fifth Avenue. The trouble with operators in
this country is, they don't understand how to do things on a large
scale. Now the first thing I did when I went to do business in New York,
was to keep a judge."

"To keep a judge?" said Spiffy with amazement.

"Why, yes. How can you operate freely if you are afraid of the law?
Besides his regular monthly allowance, my judge gets a percentage on
every one of my financial enterprises which are fraudulent according to
the letter of the statute. Then it costs me a good deal to manage to get
all my lawsuits tried in his court. Besides, I have to keep a number of
members of both the Houses of the Legislature at Albany regularly
retained, and to put a big pile on one side for lobby operations at
Washington, to say nothing about keeping the pockets of police and
custom-house officers and other small fry well lined. The press alone
swallows up the fifth of all I make. How do you suppose I could ever
have accomplished my celebrated combination by which I got four large
railroads under my control, and sold a secret issue of twenty millions
of stock for fifteen millions, without ever paying one dime of it to any
of the companies, if I had not stopped the mouths of the lawyers,
politicians, and newspapers with greenbacks? Why, sir, I have ruined
more whole families in one day by one of my financial operations, than
any other man in the United States has in a month; and by the
extraordinary novelty, grandeur, variety, and success of my
undertakings, I have won the admiration, envy, and respect of the
majority of my countrymen."

Spiffy seemed deeply impressed by the superior force and originality of
conception displayed by Mr Wog--no indication of these qualities
appearing on his calm exterior. "Of what nature are your operations in
Fifth Avenue?" he asked.

"Oh, purely social," Mr Wog replied. "You see the aristocracy of New
York require to be approached in a very special way. You can enter into
the ranks of the upper ten, either by becoming a pillar of a fashionable
church, or by driving the fastest trotters and handsomest four-in-hand
teams in Central Park, or by the help of Mr Pink."

"By the help of Mr Pink?" said I, interrogatively.

"Yes. He corresponds to our friend Spiffy here. He is the sexton of St
Grace's, the most fashionable church in New York; and when you have made
your pile, and want to start in fashionable life, and don't know who to
invite, he makes out your list, and puts the invitations to your first
ball in the prayer-books of the congregation. It imparts a sort of odour
of sanctity to our entertainments, which is exceedingly gratifying to
our most refined circles."

"I suppose," said I, "now that your social and financial position are
secured, you will run for Congress."

"Sir," said Mr Wog, sternly, "when I explained to you the nature of my
commercial success, it was to convey to you the idea of my smartness,
not of my meanness. I am not aware of having said anything to lead you
to suppose that I could so far degrade myself as to become a
politician."

"What a comfort it will be," I remarked, "when the rotten old despotisms
of Europe, and the political ambitions that belong to them, shall have
crumbled to the dust, and when we have instead the free and glorious
institutions of the West, which seem to offer nothing to tempt a man
from the ennobling pursuit of hard cash!" But Mr Wog failed to
appreciate the force of my remark, as he was intently endeavouring to
catch the purport of a very private conversation carried on by a group a
few yards off, towards which he gradually edged, in the hope that he
might be able either to acquire or impart some interesting information.

Spiffy looked more humbled and crestfallen than I had ever seen him; but
remembering that he had still a score unsettled, in consequence of the
remark which Mr Wog's arrival had interrupted, he said, maliciously,--

"By the way, what is the real state of the case about you and Lady
Ursula? I don't apologise for asking, as I am sure you must want the
right version to be known both for your sake and hers."

"The right version is simply that I neither am at this moment nor ever
have been engaged to Lady Ursula."

"Then why did you tell Helter you were, and why are you pulling the
family through their difficulties?"

"Because Helter was provoking me almost as much as you are, though I
admit that is no reason why I should not have told the truth. As for the
motives which actuate me in meddling in those pecuniary transactions in
which you and Lady Broadhem are implicated, I am afraid you would not
understand them if I were to attempt to explain them. It is a
complicated business altogether. We shall get through it most
satisfactorily by each minding our own share of it," I said
significantly, and I walked off to a table where Broadhem was writing
letters. I had not seen him since my interview with his sister. He
looked gloomy and discontented, and gave me a cold glance of
recognition. "How are you, Broadhem? I suppose Lady Ursula told you the
result of our conversation," I said in a low tone, and took a chair by
his side.

He nodded sulkily, and showed a disposition to cut me. My last few words
with Spiffy had not left me in a mood to be cut unresistingly, so I said
sharply, "Well, I hope both you and Lady Broadhem will contradict the
perfectly unfounded report you were the means of spreading. I need not
say that I shall do my share, and I trust that you will profit by the
lesson you have received not to interfere in matters of this sort
again."

"I tell you what it is, Frank," said Broadhem, who felt that somehow I
was more to blame than he was, but who was taken aback by my turning the
tables upon him so suddenly; "if it was not that duelling is exploded,
and that it would be against my principles at any rate, I would shoot
you."

"By way of helping to clear your property of its encumbrances," I added.
"Your mother has put everything into my hands, and I can do pretty much
what I please with the whole family."

"Can you?" said Broadhem, with a grim smile. "The only thing that
consoles me in the whole affair is, that you will find that you have got
a little score to settle with my mother. If you knew her as well as I
do, you would not anticipate the interview with pleasure. As for Ursula,
I suppose she knows her own business best, but I don't envy her the life
she is likely to lead either."

"The alarming interview you threaten me with gives me no uneasiness," I
said, "but perhaps it may be as well that you should let Lady Broadhem
know that the fact of my not being engaged to her daughter will not
interfere with the arrangements I am making to put the money matters of
the family right."

"Why! you can't mean that!" said Broadhem, thunderstruck at this
unexpected announcement; and he looked at me with a glance of
affectionate interest. "You must be mad."

"Did your sister tell you so?" I asked.

"Once she did make a mysterious speech, and I really think she meant to
imply something of the sort. However, of course, I am only joking. I
need not say I hope, under the circumstances, it will be long before you
recover your sanity."

"Are you going to the Bodwinkles' to-morrow?" said I, doing a little of
Bower and Scraper's work.

"Good gracious, no! I am bored to death with having to answer the
question. The trouble my mother has taken to get those people
invitations is something amazing. She even wanted me to go, though she
does not approve of balls, and never let me learn to dance."

"Let me introduce you to Miss Geary. You are not too old to begin."

"No," said Broadhem; "I have started on the other tack, and people would
say it was inconsistent; besides, none of the young thinking men of the
day dance, even though they may not be religious. I don't suppose that
there is a single man in the Century dances."

This observation struck me as so preposterous that I could only account
for it by supposing that, for the first time in his life, Broadhem had
condescended to "chaff."

"Not 'a man' in the ideal sense, I daresay; but the boys are not more
backward in this century than in any former one."

"Boys!" said Broadhem, indignantly; "there are no boys in the 'Century;'
the 'Century' is a club that meets twice a-week. I don't go on Sunday
nights myself; but some Thursday night I will take you," and Broadhem
plunged back into the correspondence in which I had interrupted him,
while I strolled home down Piccadilly moralising on--the Century.

I don't frequent balls now, but I went to Bodwinkle's for a variety of
reasons. One was, that I knew I should see everybody, and have an
opportunity of informing the public correctly about my own affairs.
Another, that I should be able to talk over some business matters with
Bodwinkle, at a moment when he might possibly be more pliant than I
usually found him in the City.

Every soul was at Bodwinkle's--coroneted carriages filled the square; a
crowd of draggled men and women formed a line six or eight deep on each
side of the awning, and between them fine ladies hurried across the
pavement, encouraged and complimented by familiar linkmen, and very
particular that the 'Morning Post' reporter, seated at a table in the
hall, should take down their names accurately. The stairs were so
crowded that Bodwinkle, who looked like one of his own footmen, and
stood at the top of them, facing his wife, was red and apoplectic from
pressure. His "lady," as I heard one of his City friends call her, had
achieved the greatest object of her ambition in this life, which
consisted in grinning vacantly, and curtsying perpetually to people she
had never seen in her life before, and every one of whom despised her
for entertaining them.

"Curious idea of the climax of earthly enjoyment," I remarked to Lady
Veriphast, who was so tightly wedged between the banisters and a rather
highly-scented ambassador from Central Asia, that she spoke with
difficulty; "I suppose it must be a pleasure to be at the top of one's
own ladder, like our hostess there, when so many are trying to climb
it."

"Do _not_ philosophise in that ridiculous way; don't you see I am
suffering agonies?" said Lady Veriphast, in a tone of suppressed
anguish. "Pinch this horrid barbarian in front of me or I shall faint."

"Madam," I overheard a well-known voice say in a nasal tone close to me,
"allow me to remark, that for a hand, arm, and wrist, I have not seen
anything since I have been in England like that owned by your daughter
Mary;" and Mr Wog complacently edged himself from the side of Lady
Mundane to that of the daughter he had eulogised, and who audibly asked
Scraper to get between her and that horrid man.

"Just what one deserves for coming to such a place," said Lady Mundane
furiously, who, by the way, had repeatedly asked Wog to her own parties.

"I have often remarked, sir," said Mr Wog, who I think overheard this
observation, turning to me, "that the ladies in your country allow quite
a singular effect to be produced in their hair. If you will cast your
eye down the stair you will observe a young person on the landing, the
parting of whose hair, for the space of one inch on either side, is
black, while the two large bunches on her temples are red. That, sir, is
a phenomenon I have not remarked in my own country."

"Don't you know how it happens?" said that spiteful old Lady Catchpole,
whose eyes twinkled with malice as she explained to Mr Wog that, when
the hair had been thoroughly dyed it could only recover its natural
colour by this slow process, but that usually the effect was concealed
by a _postiche_; and she looked hard at Lady Veriphast, whose hair was
suspiciously _crepé_, and who wished it to be supposed that she blushed
because she was still under the pressure of the Asiatic ambassador.

"What is the exact meaning of the term _postiche_?" asked Mr Wog, who
observed Lady Veriphast's confusion, and whose thirst for information
seemed to increase with his powers of making himself disagreeable; "I
guess it must mean some kind of wig."

"No," said Lady Catchpole; "anything false which is well made up we call
a _postiche_; it need not be exactly a wig."

"Nor yet a Tory," interrupted Wog, with more readiness than I gave him
credit for. "I calculate you should call a Liberal Conservative a
_postiche_. It seems to me the most popular political platform in this
country at your next elections is going to be _postiche_."

"Look, my dear," said Lady Pimlico to Lady

Mundane, "there are the two Frenchwomen," and she directed universal
attention to the last importations from the Continent, Madame la
Princesse de Biaisée à la Queue, and La Baronne de Colté, whose fame had
preceded them from Paris, and who created such a sensation that the
general hum on the stairs increased, and the whole society collected
there audibly criticised the new-comers. "Why, positively the tall one
has got her hair done _en papillon_--I thought it had gone out--I
suppose her face won't bear being _coiffé à la grècque_; and the other
is outrageously painted." This remark was made so loud that both ladies
looked up, but failed to check the running fire of comments which their
dress and appearance suggested.

"They say the Princess makes up for her want of looks by her legs,"
drawled out Larkington to Lady Veriphast; "but I am afraid we shall not
have an opportunity of seeing them to-night, it is so crowded."

"They are not worth looking at; I saw them at a fancy ball in Paris,"
said Lady Veriphast, "and I assure you you would be disappointed. By the
way, have you the least notion who the Bodwinkles are?"

"Not I," replied Larkington. "I did not come here to make their
acquaintance, nor I hope did you."

I think Mrs Bodwinkle heard the speech--for it is customary in good
society to make remarks about one's neighbours in rather a loud tone--as
she coloured a little when she was pointed out to Larkington by the fat
butler as the person to whom he was expected to bow. Poor woman! she
probably thought he would be embarrassed when he found out his
proximity; but Larkington is above any such weakness, and sauntered on
after Lady Veriphast, with whom he has _affichéd_ himself for the last
few weeks, to the great comfort of Veriphast, who has long been desirous
of making his wife share the scandal which has attached to his name for
some time past.

"And it is for this, my dear Mrs Bodwinkle," I thought, "that you have
given up your villa at Clapham, and the friends that respectfully
worshipped at the Bodwinkle shrine, who gazed upon you with reverend
upturned eyes, instead of irreverent upturned noses, like the present
company! Do you think, when you have blazed for a moment and gone out
like a blue-light, that you will know how to find your way in the dark
back to Clapham, or that you will be able to collect your old
congregation? Will not new Bodwinkles have arisen above the suburban
horizon, or will the departed glories of your rapid but bright passage
across the firmament of fashion always secure you an audience who will
gladly listen to your wonderful experiences in the great world, to whom
you will recount the devotion manifested towards you by certain
noblemen, and the slights you received at the hands of certain
noblewomen, and who will stare when you describe the Broadhem-Spiffy
combination which sent you up like a rocket, and the sudden collapse of
that combination which will assuredly bring you down like a stick? Never
mind, Mrs B.; whatever happens, nothing short of a fire can deprive you
of the basket of fashionable cards which will be left upon you during
the season, and which, carefully treasured with your dinner _menus_,
will be a lasting evidence of the reality of that social triumph which
might otherwise seem like the 'baseless fabric of a dream.'"

And this consideration reminds me that I possess middle-class readers,
who may positively doubt the truth of the picture which I am
endeavouring to give them of the society in which Mrs Bodwinkle now
found herself. They will not have the advantage of hearing from the lips
of that good lady these wonderful traits of the manners and customs of
this, to them, mysterious class. And therefore they will fail to see any
particular merit in what they may suppose to be merely a flippant
delineation of a purely ideal state of society. My dear readers, I
should be no more competent to invent a state of society so eccentric in
its habits and constitution as this of London cream, than I should be to
write an account of lion-hunting like the late lamented Jules Gerard.
That was a real strain upon the imaginative and constructive faculties;
I aspire to no such talent, but simply contemplate hyperbolically a
certain phase of contemporary civilisation. If, by way of a little
pastime, I put Mayfair into a fancy dress, it only appears in its true
colours and becomes fancy-fair, with a great deal of show and very
little substance; so I dress it up as it pleases me, but I invent
nothing. I confine myself strictly to the stage properties. You in the
pit or gallery may be too far off to see, but I assure you I have
avoided anything beyond the exaggeration permissible in a caricature. As
I know your imitative faculties, dear middle classes, I can
conscientiously assure you that you may take 'Piccadilly' as a guide
upon which to frame your own society. Take the most successful
costermonger of the neighbourhood and erect him into a Bodwinkle, and
fall down upon your knees before the most opulent pawnbroker of your
parish; and you will feel that you are only performing, on a humble
scale, the same act of worship as those above you.

Lady Jane Helter, followed by Wild Harrie, came up while I was thus
musing. "So, Lord Frank," she said, "you are not to be congratulated
after all? I suppose you heard of our dinner at the Whitechapels'? We
all thought your conduct very incomprehensible. I assure you Lady
Broadhem seemed as much in the dark as the rest of us."

"And you want to be enlightened?" said I. "Well, it has been a social
_canard_ throughout, which I did not at first think worth contradicting.
There must be a certain number every season."

"I am sure we want them more than ever now," said Wild Harrie. "Was
there ever such an utterly flat season? I only went to two balls last
week, and, as they say at 'the corner,' 'there was positively nothing
doing.'"

"It is not the same in every corner," said I; "look opposite," and I
pointed out Larkington and Lady Veriphast snugly ensconced in a recess.

"Poor Amy! I am afraid that won't suit her book," said Wild Harrie. "She
is really devoted to Lord Larkington. I told her to hedge, but she says
she has too much heart. By the way, I want to have a little private
conversation with you. Take me to have a cup of tea, or a quadrille, or
something"--this in rather a low tone, not for Lady Jane's benefit; and
we sidled off through the throng, leaving Lady Jane at the doorway,
which, in the absence of her ladyship, does duty as chaperon.

"Do you know, Lord Frank," said my companion, "that it really was very
kind of you to get me the invitation you did, and that I can appreciate
kindness; can you guess how?"

"By asking me to do something else for you," I said.

"Exactly," she said, laughing; "but this time it will not perhaps be
quite so easy. I want you to get me a card for Lady Broadhem's on
Thursday week."

"For Lady Broadhem's!" said I, astounded. "How on earth did you come to
hear of it? Why, it is a meeting, not a party. A few Christian friends
are going to hear the Bishop of the Caribbee Islands describe the state
of mission-work in his diocese. You would be bored to death."

"Indeed I should not," said Wild Harrie. "I have a brother in India; and
I have heard so much about the heathen. Besides, I want to make Lady
Ursula's acquaintance."

"I really don't think," said I, a good deal puzzled, "that you will find
it a very congenial atmosphere, but I am sure nobody can know Lady
Ursula without deriving benefit, so I should feel too glad to be the
means of making you acquainted; but Lady Jane will never take you."

"Oh, mamma will; you know her brother was a clergyman. Promise. Don't
forget--one for me and one for mamma. Now I must leave you; I quite
forgot I was engaged to little Haultort for this dance, and there he is
hunting for me everywhere," and she dragged me to the spot where that
young gentleman was stroking a fluffy mustache, with an imbecile air.

"Do you call that hunting?" said I; "He must be in chase of ideas."

"Of course he is. Now watch him catch big _idée fixe_," and she placed
herself before him. Poor youth! how he coloured and stammered, as a ray
of intelligence illumined his countenance! "So that is the way you keep
your engagements, Lord Haultort, is it? Well, you have forfeited your
dance"--the ray went out--"but you may take me back to Lady Jane." The
ray came back again; he was sufficiently experienced to know what that
meant, and Lord Haultort disappeared into the next room with his _idée
fixe_ on his arm, and I looked the other way half an hour after, when I
passed the corresponding recess in which Larkington and Lady Veriphast
were still sitting, and saw who were there.

"I wonder what that little girl wants to know the Broadhems for?" I
ruminated, and for some time I was positively fool enough to continue to
wonder.

"I tell you what it is, Goldtip," I overheard Bodwinkle say, "that idea
of yours about giving presents is all humbug; we've got the people here,
what do you want to give them presents for?"

"In the first place," retorted Spiffy, "they will never come again
unless you keep faith with them now, for I have been giving it out
specially that no expense was to be spared; and in the second place, as
you have got all the presents made up in ribbons, &c., what else are you
to do with them? The girls will be terribly disappointed."

Bodwinkle shook his head sulkily, and Spiffy, seeing me, adroitly turned
the conversation. "I was talking over the prospects of the approaching
election, Frank, with Bodwinkle, and telling him how much you could
assist us with your influence in Shuffleborough; it seems to me that he
is likely to be turned out unless your brother-in-law, Sir John Stepton,
will come to the rescue. It would be well worth your while, Bodwinkle,
to let Lady Broadhem's matter stand over until you have made sure of
your seat," said Spiffy, looking significantly at me.

"Oh, certainly," said Bodwinkle, "if you will secure your
brother-in-law's adhesion to our plans. You will find me very amenable
in that unfortunate affair of Lady Broadhem's. I know what an interest
you take in it, and I am sure, for your sake, if not for hers--ahem,"
and Bodwinkle, quite unconscious that he was behaving like a scoundrel,
smiled upon me blandly.

"It seems to me," said I, "that, considering what you owe to Lady
Broadhem," and I looked round the crowded room, "you ought not to be too
hard upon her."

"Ah, well, I must admit that her ladyship and our friend Goldtip here
are doing their best to balance the account; but I have made it a
principle through life never to be satisfied with anything short of my
full money's worth; and I don't even feel now, if you make my election a
certainty, that we shall be more than square."

"What are your other principles besides that of getting your full
money's worth?" said I, with a sneer, that was lost upon Bodwinkle.

"High Tory," he replied, promptly. "None of your Liberal Conservatives
for me this time--that did well enough last election."

"But Stepton is an absolute Radical," said I.

"Exactly: that is why he is so important. You see the fact is--here,
Goldtip, explain our little game; it is all his idea, and he can put it
better than me."

I knew from the bold defiant way in which Spiffy raised his eyes to mine
that his original and unscrupulous genius had conceived a _coup d'état_
of some kind, so I listened curiously.

"I am going to stand for Shuffleborough, and it is I who want Sir John
Stepton's vote and influence," he announced, calmly.

"You!" said I, amazed; "what are you going to stand as? and who is going
to pay your expenses?"

"I am going to stand as an extreme Liberal, and Bodwinkle as a regular
old Tory. He is going to pay my expenses. We are going to strike out an
entirely new line, and have convictions. He can't come the Liberal
Conservative this time, as one of the Liberals who is very popular has
gone in rather extensively for the Moderate Conservatives. So there is
nothing for it but to come forward as an out-and-out Tory, and put me up
as a Radical; by these means we hope to floor both the fellows that are
trying the trimming game. Of course I am not intended to come in--I only
split the party."

"But if you stand, one of the others will retire. Look at what has just
happened at Westminster."

"Then Bodwinkle starts his wife's cousin Tom--why, he is rich enough to
keep all three Liberals in the field to fight him if necessary; and you
are pluck to the backbone, aint you, old fellow?" and Spiffy slapped
Bodwinkle on the back.

"Perhaps you would like to see our addresses," he went on,--"here they
are; I wrote them both. I shall issue mine first, and Bodwinkle's a day
or two after."

"May I take them home to read?" I asked.

"Oh, certainly, and frame your own on their model if you like," said
Spiffy, laughing; "they'll be the neatest thing out in addresses, I
assure you."

"Mr Goldtip, I wish you would exert yourself, instead of talking
politics with Mr B.," said Mrs Bodwinkle, coming up; "there are all
sorts of things to arrange, and I am sure I don't know who is to take
who down to supper;" and Spiffy was carried away upon special service.

"Good-night, Bodwinkle," said I; "your ball is a great success, but I am
an early man, and hot rooms don't suit me. I understand the political
situation thoroughly now, and without pledging myself to anything, will
see what is to be done."

"Of course, all in the most perfect confidence; it would never do for
Stepton to suspect what we were at."

"Oh, it would be absolute ruin. There is just one question I should like
to ask, Can you give me your solemn word that in all this you have no
other motive but the single one of being of use to your country?"

"Eh!" said Bodwinkle, with his eyes rather wide open.

"I repeat," said I, slowly, "Is your only object in getting into
Parliament that you may be of use to the country? or is it that the
country may be of use to you?"

"I must ask you one in return," said Bodwinkle: "Will it depend upon my
answer whether or not you exert yourself in my favour?"

"Entirely," said I.

"Then, my dear Lord Frank," said Bodwinkle, affectionately grasping my
hand, "believe me, that so far as I am concerned, and I can say the same
for Goldtip, our only single desire is to do that which England expects
of every man at such a crisis,--our duty, entirely irrespective of all
personal considerations."

I wrung Bodwinkle's hand warmly (I could have crushed every bone in it),
and threw an expression of tender interest into my glance as I said, "I
wonder, Bodwinkle, how many candidates are actuated by these lofty views
in the coming election; but you must not let yourself be too much
carried away by your Quixotic convictions. Remember, my friend, what you
owe to your party."

"I never forget it," said Bodwinkle, readily. "I have four things to
consider--my country, my party, my family, and my conscience. I begin by
asking my conscience what are the interests of my country. My conscience
replies promptly that my party should be in power. I then ask my
conscience what are the interests of my family, and my conscience
invariably says the same thing. I then ask my conscience whether it has
any political views of its own, and my conscience responds that it is a
mercantile conscience, which has always been absorbed in commerce, and
that takes no interest in abstract politics; so that practically, you
see, I have no difficulty, so far as my conscience is concerned."

"Wog is right," I mused as I walked home--"_postiche_ is everywhere. We
certainly do 'make up' well. I suppose this country never looked more
fair and flourishing in the eyes of the world in general than it does at
this moment. We have made a great _succès_ by means of _postiche_--there
is no denying it. But we shall fall to pieces all of a sudden like old
Lady Pimlico; and the wrinkles will appear before long in the national
cheeks in spite of the rouge. Ah, the taunts we shall have to endure
when the _postiche_ is discovered, from the rivals that have always been
jealous and are still under the prestige of our former charms! Then the
kings of the earth with whom we have lived delicately will turn against
us, for they will remember our greed and our pride and our egotism, in
the days when we sold our virtue for gold, and our honour for a mess of
pottage. Is there no one who will cry aloud in the streets while there
is yet time?--will there not be one man in these coming elections who
will have the courage to tell the people that their senses are so
drugged by prosperity that they are blind to the impending doom, and
that the only way to avert it will be by a policy diametrically opposed
to that which has fascinated the nation for the last few years, because
it has conducted them so pleasantly along those smooth and flowery paths
that lead to destruction? Be sure, oh my countrymen, that for you
collectively, as well as individually, there is a broad and a narrow
way, and that as surely as a nation ignores its duties towards God and
its obligations towards its neighbours, so surely will a swift judgment
overtake it!" I was interrupted by a policeman at this point, who kindly
called my attention to the fact that in my prophetic fervour I had
myself been crying aloud in the streets, and accompanying my
denunciations with appropriate action. "I will throw off a few of these
ideas for the benefit of my constituents, while the sacred fire is still
upon me," thought I, as I stood at my bay-window, and watched the grey
dawn of the June morning breaking over Green Park. Sleep at such a
moment is impossible, and I pulled the addresses of Spiffy and Bodwinkle
from my pocket.

"Gentlemen," says Spiffy to the independent electors of Shuffleborough,
"in soliciting the favour of your suffrages at the approaching general
election, I am aware that I labour under the disadvantage of coming
before you as an untried man, but I ask you all the more confidently on
this account to substitute me for one who has been tried and found
wanting. Still more painfully conscious am I of the fact that I am open
to the charge of causing a fatal split in that Liberal party to which I
have the honour to belong. Gentlemen, I regret to say that in some
instances the members of that party have not been true to the principles
which they profess, and have issued addresses almost identical in the
terms they employ and in the measures they advocate with those of the
Liberal Conservative party. It is no satisfaction to me to be told that
there are as many false Conservatives as there are false Liberals. As a
friend of the people I am opposed to all compromises, and will
unflinchingly expose treachery in the camp. You will find that my
political views are clear and decided.

"Though a member of the Church of England, I am in favour of the total
abolition of Church-rates, as I believe that you will spiritualise the
Church precisely in proportion as you starve it.

"I am in favour of an extension of the franchise to such an extent as
will comprise all the working-classes, and thus pave the way to that
universal suffrage in which I myself shall be included, and for the
first time enjoy the privilege of voting.

"Should I fail to be returned as your member upon this occasion, I shall
be in favour of a redistribution of seats.

"I believe that an era of universal peace is dawning upon the world, and
I am therefore an advocate of the total suppression of our armaments
both by sea and land.

"T think that the Christian spirit displayed in our foreign policy which
has induced us to court national insult for the purpose of setting an
example of forbearance, and which has enabled us humbly but surely to
extend our commercial relations, has procured for us the highest moral
position which has ever yet been accorded to a people. To increase the
wealth of the nation and to foster its Christian spirit, will be
recognised by me as a primary duty, if I am honoured with the high trust
of being your representative in the Commons House of Parliament."

Now comes Bodwinkle's address, written by the versatile author of the
last:--

"GENTLEMEN,--The appearance of a third candidate in the Liberal interest
within the last few days induces me to break the silence which I have up
to this time preserved. I have observed with pain that in many instances
the addresses issued by gentlemen calling themselves Liberal
Conservatives or Conservative Reformers, are of the most subversive
tendency, and entirely opposed to the spirit of that old and enlightened
party to which I have the honour to belong. I repudiate, therefore,
entirely that temporising language which a large number of candidates
calling themselves Conservatives hold, and which it has suited one of my
opponents, who calls himself a Liberal, to adopt. I believe I shall best
recommend myself to this constituency by an honest and unswerving
advocacy of those views which the Tory party of this country have
invariably maintained. More fondly attached, if possible, to the Church
of England than I was upon the occasion when I last addressed you, I am
more than ever convinced that money is the only thing that keeps it
going. I am therefore entirely opposed to the abolition of those rates
which form the foundation of that pillar upon which the State has been
accustomed securely to repose.

"I am opposed to the enfranchisement of the working man, as, in the
probable event of a combination between the labouring classes and the
aristocracy, that middle class to which I have the honour to belong
would cease to direct the destinies of the country. Any lateral measure
of reform, unattended, however, by a vertical movement, which should
exclude this possibility, will have my entire concurrence.

"I am in favour of a measure which shall largely increase the armaments
of the country, and at the same time reduce the cost of their
maintenance.

"I have profound confidence in the policy of the great Conservative
party in their relations with foreign nations. The fact that they have
hitherto declined to define what that policy is, renders it impossible
for me to enter more fully into this subject at present.

"In a word, should you do me the honour to return me as your member, you
will find me Liberal only in my views as to the modes in which money may
be acquired, and Conservative always when there is a question of
expenditure."

It is a grand idea but a great experiment this of having convictions,
which Spiffy has just started, thought I. I have been cursed with them
all my life, but never could turn them to account. Now in this case, for
instance, he is using convictions--_postiche_ convictions certainly--to
get Bodwinkle into Parliament; the result of my convictions is, that if
I express them they will turn me out. A prophet is without honour in his
own country, more especially when the whole constituency has become
sceptical and apathetic. I shall issue an address to the free and
independent electors of Dunderhead. And under the inspiration of the
moment I wrote as follows:--

    "PICCADILLY, _June 20, 1865_.

"GENTLEMEN,--In announcing my intention not to solicit your suffrages at
the approaching general election, I feel that it is due to you that I
should state the reason why I do not again seek the high honour which
you have upon two previous occasions conferred upon me, of representing
you in Parliament. The prosperity of the country is now so great that I
feel it has no further need of my services. In default of any great
question of national importance, the rival political parties are reduced
to the lamentable predicament of having nothing to fight for except
office. As I have never taken the slightest interest in the fortunes of
either party, except as embodying or representing the triumph of certain
principles, the disappearance of those principles, and the difficulty of
distinguishing by their expressed opinions between one party and the
other, renders it quite impossible for me to follow the example of the
candidates on both sides, and to stand upon--nothing! Gentlemen, I have
no doubt that before very long something will turn up for me to stand
upon. I will wait till then. Meantime, I feel that to profess any
decided convictions upon matters either of home or foreign politics at
this juncture would be considered in bad taste, if not impertinent, and
I shall therefore reserve whatever I have to say for a future occasion,
when the exigencies of the country may render it absolutely necessary
that some individual in it should have an opinion."

There, I don't think I need say anything more. I meant to have written
these Dunderheadians something that would have made them remember me
after I was gone; but I am getting sleepy, and they would not have
understood it. I will give £1000 to be applied to the wants of the
municipality instead. "In conclusion," I went on, "I beg to offer a
tribute to the only article of political faith in which you still
believe, and to place £1000 at the disposal of the mayor and
corporation, which, in addition to the money spent in the contest that
my retirement will render inevitable, will, I trust, not only be of
substantial service to the borough, but secure my re-election upon any
future occasion.

    "FRANK VANECOURT."

Good-night, Dunderheadians. If in spite of this you send me a
requisition to stand again, I will decline on a ground simple enough
even for your comprehension--It is too hot!

It was no business of mine, after the explanation which I had had with
Lady Ursula upon the subject of our rumoured engagement, to revert to
the topic with any of her family. If Lady Broadhem was dissatisfied with
the position of affairs, I supposed that I should hear of it quite soon
enough; my only anxiety was about Ursula herself. I trembled for her
domestic peace and comfort. Broadhem's few words about his sister's
happiness under the altered circumstances were very significant, and I
determined therefore to get her ladyship as much in my power as
possible, by exercising to its utmost extent the right which I had wrung
from her of a full control over her pecuniary affairs. If my wealth did
not enable me to purchase my own happiness, it should at least enable me
to secure the happiness of her whom I loved best in the world. I had
never wavered in my resolution somehow or other to effect this great
end, but my plans must of necessity undergo some change now that Lady
Broadhem's eyes were opened to the real state of the case. I was much
puzzled what to do about Grandon. Sometimes I felt a yearning to take
him fully into my confidence and consult with him upon that delicate
topic which touched us both so nearly; but though he was kind and
considerate as ever, there was a constraint about our intercourse of
which we were both painfully conscious. We avoided all allusion to the
Broadhems, and he never called in Grosvenor Square, nor, so far as I
know, had met Lady Ursula since the memorable dinner which had
terminated so disagreeably for us all. Under the circumstances, I had
also thought the wisest, and for many reasons the most proper, course
for me was, to abstain from going there until I should hear from Lady
Broadhem; and although I was anxious to consult her upon many business
matters, I preferred letting them remain in abeyance to courting an
interview which I dreaded. At last I began to think Lady Broadhem's
silence rather ominous. I felt that a thunder-cloud had been gathering
for some time past, and that the sooner it burst the better. I
occasionally found myself walking past the door of the house, and
wondering what was going on inside it. I felt that there would be
something undignified about pumping Broadhem, and yet every time I met
him I experienced an irresistible desire to do so.

At last one day he volunteered a remark, from which I gathered that he
was as anxious for information as I was. "Have you seen my mother
lately?" he began.

"Not for weeks."

"Do you know she is carrying on a lot of things just the same as ever?"

"I don't think that possible," I said; "she could do nothing without my
knowledge."

"She is, though," said Broadhem; "I can't quite make out what is going
on, because, you know, she never condescends to discuss her affairs with
any of us; but I feel certain there is some new scheme afloat."

"Is she kind to your sister?" I asked.

"She is neither kind nor unkind: she is very little at home, and seems
to have lost all interest in her own family. She wants us to believe
that it is the heathen; but I must say that she never used to neglect
her daughters for them, and always said, what so many good people
forget, that the first duty of a Christian woman was to attend to her
own family. I am getting very uneasy," said Broadhem, with a sigh; "I
feel a presentiment that there is some sort of a crash coming; I wish
you would go and see her."

"I did not intend going to her conversazione next week, but as she has
sent me a card I suppose she wants to see me. I will come and hear my
friend Joseph Caribbee Islands hold forth. By the way, I quite forgot I
promised to ask Lady Broadhem for a card for Lady Wylde and her
daughter; will you send one when you get home? You don't know Miss
Wylde, do you?"

"Yes," said Broadhem, and he coloured and looked away; "I have just met
her, and that is all. Did she ask you for the invitation?"

"What! you have met her, and she did not tell you the interest she takes
in missions? I see you are half converted already. Take care, Broadhem;
you are no great catch; but she does not, perhaps, exactly know that,
and all is fish that comes to her net. Nevertheless, don't forget to
send her the invitation;" and I saw the flush of gratified vanity mount
to the brow of Broadhem, and no longer wondered why Wild Harrie had
expressed a wish to make Lady Ursula's acquaintance. Poor Ursula! what
Broadhem had said about his mother's change of manner decided me not to
neglect the opportunity which presented itself of going to her
"meeting," and coming to a distinct understanding with Lady Broadhem
upon the present position of affairs. I had no doubt that that veteran
campaigner had not been idle; and I was afraid, under the circumstances,
that too much time had already been allowed her.

"Do you think Miss Wylde is going down to Ascot?" asked Broadhem, who
had maintained an embarrassed silence during this interval.

"She went down yesterday with the Helters; she stays the week with them
at their cottage," I replied.

"I have never been to Ascot," he said, awkwardly--"in fact I never saw a
race in my life. I think a man, even though he does not approve of
racing, ought to have seen it once--don't you?"

"Certainly," said I, "especially when you can see Wild Harrie at the
same time."

"I say," said Broadhem, and he stopped short.

"Well?"

"I wish to goodness there was some way of going to Ascot without being
seen. I suppose one is sure to come across a lot of men one knows."

"Not if you go and stay with the clergyman of the parish," I said.

"I don't know him. It is not for myself, but I don't think my mother
would like my going."

"Then don't go."

"What an unsatisfactory fellow you are! I shall go and talk over the
matter with Ursula--she always helps me out of my difficulties."

"What does she know about Ascot?" I asked.

"Oh, she does not know about Ascot, but somehow or other she always
tells me what is the best thing to do about everything."

"I suppose, then, you tell her everything?"

"Almost," he said.

"Take my advice, and make a clean breast of it, my dear boy;" and I felt
kindly towards him for the way he spoke about his sister. "Depend upon
it, no half confidences do in such a case. Tell her that I shall come to
you on Thursday of next week;" and I pressed his hand. I had never cared
about him for his own sake, but my heart warmed towards him for hers.

[Illustration]



PART VI.

THE "----."


     PICCADILLY, _July 1_.

I am now about to venture upon the very thinnest ice upon which fool
ever rushed. The fact is, I am morally trembling like an aspen; but
somebody must do it. I have put it off for five months, and tried to
work up my courage by hammering away at the fashionable world, but they
take it like lambs. Dear people, whatever their vices may be, they never
resent criticism. Whether their consciences tell them they are superior
to it, or whether they have not got consciences, I don't know, but, on
the whole, the fashionable world is an easy, good-natured world; but oh,
not so that other world, which is still essentially "the world," and
very necessary to keep unspotted from, though it is thankful that it is
not as that other world is, from which in its humility it takes care to
distinguish itself by the self-applied epithet of "religious." It
grieves me to think of the number of my friends whom I shall pain by
presuming to touch upon this subject, to say nothing of the righteous
indignation I shall call down from those whose function it has been to
give, not take, reproof. The great art of the "worldly-holies"--not, I
believe, deliberately practised, but insensibly acquired--is to confuse
in the minds of the poor dear "wholly-worldlies" the sublime religion
which they profess, with their mode of professing it. So they would have
it to be understood that, when you find fault with their practices, you
are reflecting upon that very religion, the precepts of which they seem
to some utterly to ignore. The "religious world" is no more composed of
exclusively good men and women than the Episcopalian Church is. I will
even venture to go further, and say that the good men and women in it
are a very small minority, judging only from the public performances of
the "worldly-holies" in matters in which humility, sincerity,
self-sacrifice, and toleration, are concerned. And if you want a proof
of it, ask your friends in the religious world if they agree in what I
say of it, and the very few you may find who do, will be that small
minority of whom I speak.

I am perfectly ready to admit that I have no more right to preach to
them than they have to preach to me. I only ask those among them who are
sincere, to believe that I am actuated by the same desire to improve
them that they are to do good to me. It is not merely in their own
interest, but in the interest of their fellow-men, that I venture to
write thus, and to point out to them that, if they "lived the life,"
instead of talking the talk, they might attract instead of repelling
that other world which they condemn. It is not living the life to form a
select and exclusive society, with its vanities and its excitements, and
its scandals and its envyings and jealousies, which keeps itself aloof
from the worldly world, on the ground that it professes and represents a
religion of love. Those who sit in Moses' seat are not on that account
examples of the "life;" on the contrary, "whatsoever they bid you
observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works, for they
say and do not."

Above all, do not confound the Pharisee with the religion, or suppose
that an attack on the one in any way implies irreverence towards the
other. This is a very important distinction to make, as I am about to
describe a religious entertainment at Lady Broadhem's with the religion
left out, which will draw down upon me much odium. There is, in fact, no
stronger proof of the force and despotic power of the Phariseeism of the
present day, than the unpopularity which one incurs by attempting to
expose it. Christians, in the real sense of the term, were always told
to expect persecution and now, as in old time, the quarter from which it
comes is the religious world. It is a hard saying, and one which,
unfortunately, nobody has yet been found worthy to prove; but whenever
he comes into this city of London, who can embody in himself the life
and live it, he will be repudiated by the "worldly holies."

"The Countess of Broadhem requests the pleasure of Lord Frank
Vanecourt's company at a conversazione on Thursday the 22d, at nine
o'clock.

"The Bishop of the Caribbee Islands will give some account of the
mission-work in his diocese."

That was the form of the card; and at nine punctually I responded to the
invitation which it contained.

For the benefit of those of my readers who have never been admitted
within the sacred precincts of the religious world, I should tell them
that there is nothing in their outward appearance to distinguish them
from the other world. The old ladies come in, followed by trains of
daughters, furbelowed and flounced by the same dressmakers who clothe
worldly people; but there is a greater variety of men--the older ones
are often snuffy, and look unwashed. They constantly wear thick boots,
and their black waistcoats are not embroidered, and button higher up,
which gives them a more staid appearance. They are generally pervaded by
an air of complacency and calm superiority, and converse in measured
unctuous accents, checkered by beaming smiles when they are not
contradicted. The youths, on the other hand, present in most cases an
intellectually weak aspect. They are quite as much addicted to flirting
with the young ladies as if they belonged to the other world, but want
that hardihood, not to say impertinence, which characterises the
lavender-gloved tribe who are still heathens. The arrangement of the
room is somewhat that of a private concert, only instead of a piano is a
table, behind which are seated Joseph Caribbee Islands, Chundango, and
several other lay and clerical performers. In the centre of this table
is a vase, which Joseph hopes to see filled with subscriptions before
the proceedings terminate. There is a suspicion, however, that things
may not go off quite smoothly, as a lay member present, who does a good
deal of amateur preaching, intends to take him to task about certain
unsound views which we knew our friend Joseph entertains. I am sorry to
say that some of the young gentlemen leaning in the doorway, where I
stand, anticipate this encounter with apparent satisfaction. Among them
is Broadhem, who has never once taken his eyes off Wild Harrie. That
young lady is more plainly dressed than anybody else in the room. Her
hair is neatly and modestly drawn back. She might have risked a larger
chignon, but she had never been to an entertainment of this kind before,
and did not know how they dressed; her eyes are only now and then
furtively raised, and she takes a quick glance round the room, winding
up with Broadhem; and a twitching at the corners of her mouth makes me
envy Amy Rumsort, who will, no doubt, receive a most graphic and
embellished report of the whole affair. There is a good deal of
murmuring and rustling and getting into places, and a few hardy men
manage to squeeze themselves next the crinoline of their especial
desire, and then they go on whispering and tittering to each other, till
Joseph says in a very loud tone--Ahem!

On which a general silence. It seems as impossible and incongruous for
me to write here what now takes place, as it did at the time to take
part in it. It requires no stretch of imagination on the part of my
readers to divine what movement it was which caused the next general
rustle. Remember that a great proportion of these young ladies were
brought here by their mammas, and in their secret souls would have
rather been at a ball; but their mammas disapproved of balls, and made
them do this instead. Now, tell me, which was most wrong? I knew of one
young lady, at least, whose object in coming was not to do what she was
then doing. How many young men would have been there had there been no
young ladies? and what were they all thinking about now? And as I looked
at the subscription-vase, and listened to the monotonous voice of a
"dear Christian friend" behind it, who had been called upon to open the
proceedings, I thought, Can it be possible that these are those of whom
it is said, "they devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long
prayer"? Can it be possible to put anything into that vase without the
right hand knowing what the left hand is doing, and all the people
seeing both hands? Is not "the trumpet" even now being "sounded" by "the
hypocrites" that they may have "glory of men"? Is there, in fact, any
difference, practically, between kneeling in Lady Broadhem's
drawing-room, by way of an after-dinner entertainment, and loving "to
pray standing in the synagogues, and in the corners of the streets, that
you may be seen of men"? Is there any part of a clergyman's dress called
a phylactery; and if so, when he becomes a bishop, does the hem of it
become broader? and if it was wrong for a priest in Jerusalem, eighteen
hundred years ago, to be called "Rabbi, Rabbi," is it less wrong for one
in London now to be called "My lord, My lord"?

I was thinking how much more usefully Bishop Colenso would have been
employed in pointing out those anomalies in the practice of his
religion, instead of the discrepancies in its records, and what a much
stronger case the Zulu might have made out against Christians if he had
known as much of the countries which they inhabit as I do, when the
rustling again became general, and the monotonous voice ceased.

"Dear Christian friends," began Joseph--and here I may remark that this
epithet is only applied by the worldly-holies to one another--one of the
chief characteristics of those who belong to the religious world being
constantly to talk as though they were a privileged few, a chosen flock,
and as though that new commandment, "that ye love one another," was
applicable only as among themselves, and consisted chiefly in addressing
one another in affectionate and complimentary terms. Even these they
withhold, not merely from the wholly-worldlies, but from those who
differ from them upon all points of doctrine which they assume to be
vital. Hence, by constantly toadying and flattering each other, they
insensibly foster that description of pride which apes humility, and
acquire that air of subdued arrogance which is so displeasing to society
at large. So when Joseph said, "Dear Christian friends," there was
clearly written on the self-satisfied faces of most of the audience,
"that is the least you can say of us," or words to that effect.

Now let me in a little more detail tell who some of these friends were.
The religious world in London being a very large and well-to-do world,
they want religious lawyers, and religious bankers, and religious
doctors; they like to get their wine from somebody who holds sound
views, but I think they cease to be so particular about the principles
of those from whom they get their bonnets.

However that may be about trades, the demand is immediately met in all
the professions, and young men starting in life with a "connection" in
the religious world must belong to it if they wish to succeed. This is
another anomaly. In former times it involved stripes, persecution,
poverty, and contumely to be a "Christian," but a "dear Christian
friend" of the present day need be afraid of none of these things. He
would never be called mad for making a profession of the views of the
early Christians; but he would if, with a good religious opening in a
professional point of view, he declined to take advantage of it. Then
look what society it gets you into--you become a sort of brother; and, I
am sorry to say, I know several young men who saw no chance of getting
into the fashionable world, and who took to the other as a good
introduction. In fact there was one standing in the doorway with me, the
son of a solicitor I knew at Dunderhead, who was in the office of his
uncle, who was Lady Broadhem's solicitor. Do you think either he or his
uncle were sincere, or that he would have ever had the slightest chance
of paying attention to Lady Bridget, which he positively had the
presumption to do, if he had not enrolled himself in the band of "dear
Christian friends"? He is a very good hand at the doctrine of love when
the people to be loved are the aristocracy. He has just invited me on
the part of his uncle to a conversazione, at which will be exhibited a
converted Aztec, and at which that Christian solicitor, whose wife is a
fat woman fanning herself in the front row, will positively induce the
great majority of those now here, including a fair sprinkling of persons
with titles, to be present.

Now far be it from me to imply that there are not earnest, sincere, and
to some extent self-sacrificing, professors of the Christian religion,
who I know will persist in mistaking me, and imagine that by writing
this I bring the religion itself into contempt. I say again that those
who bring it into the most contempt are those who profess it most, and
that it is to counteract their prejudicial influence upon society that I
venture to incur their animosity.

I shall not report Joseph's speech at length, still less attempt to
follow Chundango in his unctuous remarks, in the course of which he
lavished flattery upon his audience to an extent even beyond what they
could bear; they swallowed it, however, with tea and ices, which were
handed round, but I got so worked up at last by a smooth-faced man who
was describing what he had gone through for the sake of the heathen,
while he was living luxuriously in one of the most charming little
mission establishments which I have ever visited, that I made the
following remarks:--

"Ladies and Gentlemen,--When I came here this evening nothing was
farther from my purpose than to address you. I cannot allow, however,
the remarks of the Bishop of the Caribbee Islands, of Mr Chundango, or
of the Rev. Mr Beevy, to pass unnoticed.

"The Bishop of the Caribbee Islands, in the course of the very graphic
account which he has given you of the progress of conversion in his
diocese, and of the number of interesting and instructive deathbeds
which he has witnessed, has entered into a calculation by which it would
appear that the average cost of the conversion of a human soul in those
islands is a little over £6. Ladies, you pretend to believe that, but
you don't. It would be impossible for you to sit there with strings of
lost human souls round your necks, and what would keep an infant school
in each ear, if you really believed that you could save a soul for £6.
You come here and listen to gentlemen who give you an account of the
sacrifices they make for the heathen, and of results which do not look
so well on the spot as on paper; and because you throw a pound into that
vase in the presence of the company, you think that you have done
something for them too. 'They may give up all,' you say, 'but we can't
afford to save more than two or three souls per annum.'

"Ladies and gentlemen, as far as my experience goes, you neither of you
as a rule give up anything for the heathen. I cannot, therefore, share
in your wonder at the barren results of your missionary efforts. The
Tabernacle Missionary Society, for instance, offers to a young man of
the lower middles" (Mr Beevy's father was a butcher, so I did not like
to enter more fully into this part of the subject) "the opportunity of
becoming a reverend and a gentleman, and thus advancing a step in
society. It gives him £300 a-year to begin with, £80 a-year more with
his wife, £20 a-year with his first child, and £10 a-year with each
succeeding olive-branch. It educates these free of expense at Holloway,
and it pays an indefinite number of passages between England and the
'mission-field,' according as the health of the family requires it; and
permit me to say that, if to receive between £400 and £500 a-year in a
tolerable climate, with a comfortable house rent-free, and the prospect
of a pension at the end, is to give up all for the heathen, I have
myself made the experiment without personal discomfort. Perhaps I speak
with a certain feeling of bitterness on this subject, for I cannot
forget that upon one occasion while residing among the heathen, a
gentleman who is now present, and who had sacrificed his all for them,
outbid me for a horse at an auction after I had run him up to sixty
guineas. With such a magnificent institution as this for supplying
'purse' and 'scrip,' and for 'taking thought for the morrow' in the way
of pensions, &c., tell me honestly whether you think you deserve real,
not nominal conversions? You have instituted a sort of 'civil service,'
with which 'you compass sea and land to make one proselyte.' You go to
him with a number of bibles, Armstrong guns, drunken sailors, and
unscrupulous traders, a combination which goes to make up what you call
'civilisation,' and you wonder that your converts are actuated by the
same motive which my own Hindoo servant once told me induced him to
leave his own religion, in which he could not venture to get drunk, and
become a Christian.

"Do you think it is the fault of the religion that you don't make
converts, or the fault of the system under which it is propagated? If
you gave up 'the enticing words of man's wisdom,' and tried a little of
'the demonstration of the spirit and of power,' don't you think the
result would be different? If you are only illumined by 'a dim religious
light' yourselves, how do you expect to dissipate the gross darkness of
paganism? You have only got an imitation blaze that warms nobody at
home, and you wonder when you take it abroad that it leaves everybody as
cold and as dead as it finds them.

"My dear Christian friends, in the face of the living contradiction
which we all present in our conduct to the religion we profess, our
missionaries can only convince the heathen of the truth of Christianity
by living the life upon which that religion is based, by means of which
it can alone be powerful, and which is only now not lived by Christians,
because, as was prophesied, there is no 'faith on the earth.' I have
spoken to you faithfully, even harshly, but, believe me, I have done so
in a spirit of love. If you can take it in the same spirit, I shall feel
I have done you a great injustice."

I was so excited while delivering myself of these observations that I
was quite unconscious of the effect I was producing. I remember there
was a deathlike silence, and that when I sat down the gentlemen behind
the table looked flushed and agitated. Mr Beevy first rose to reply to
observations which, he said, reflected upon him personally, no less than
upon the society to which he was proud to say he belonged. He then
explained the circumstances under which he had been induced to give £65
for the horse; and retaliated upon me in language which I will spare my
readers now, as they will see it in the 'Discord,' when that organ of
the "worldly-holies" does me the honour to review this veracious
history. The religious world has a more choice catalogue of epithets for
their enemies than any other section of the community. I need not
therefore suggest "ribald" as appropriate to the present occasion. It
was the term applied to me by the amateur lay-preacher after Mr Beevy
sat down. Finally, the proceedings terminated in some confusion; before
they did, however, I rose again to point out how completely the conduct
of those present had proved my case--either the faults to which I
alluded existed, and there was nothing more to be said; or I had
buffeted them without cause, and they had _not_ "taken it patiently," a
course of conduct quite inexcusable in a meeting composed exclusively of
dear Christian friends. If there is a thing I yearn for, it is the love
of my fellow-men. By making the "worldly-holies" consider me an enemy, I
ought to secure an unusual share of their affection. Remember, now, if
you abuse me for this, it is unchristian; if you leave me alone, you
will be treating me "with the contempt I deserve," and that is
unchristian too; the right thing for you to do is to take the charitable
view, to admit that my motives may be good, even if the means employed
are injudicious. When I am abruptly asked in an omnibus, by an entire
stranger, who may happen to belong to the "straitest sect," the most
solemn question which one man can put to another, I do not resent it. I
believe he is sincerely trying to "awaken me" with a "word in season." I
question the taste, but I respect the motive. Do the same to me, dear
friends. We are all bad, and I am far worse than any of you; but still I
may show how bad the best of us are. By living in a fool's paradise
here, we shall not qualify ourselves for the other one to come. Depend
upon it, we are all a great deal too comfortable to be safe.

"Lord Frank," said Lady Broadhem while Joseph was emptying the vase and
pocketing the contents, and the rest of the world was beginning to
circulate, "had I known that your object in coming here this evening was
to insult my guests, I certainly should not have asked you."

"You do me an injustice, Lady Broadhem," I said. "Nothing was further
from my purpose when I came here this evening than to have said
anything. I supposed by your sending me the card that you wanted to see
me, and came; but my conscience would not allow me to remain silent
under the circumstances."

"Nothing can justify such conduct," said her ladyship, more angry than I
had ever seen her. "I cannot say how truly grateful I am that it is all
at an end between you and Ursula;" and Lady Broadhem shuddered at the
idea of having exhibited myself as I had done, if I had been her
son-in-law.

"It was to show you what an escape you had made, and reconcile you to
the disappointment, that I expressed my sentiments so strongly," I said
maliciously. All my better nature seemed to leave me as I found myself
involved in a fresh encounter with this woman, who certainly possesses
the art of raising my devil beyond any one I ever met.

"I can't talk to you now," said Lady Broadhem, who did not wish to be
too manifestly discovered without her Christian spirit, though there was
not much of it left in anybody in the room. "I see Mr Beevy coming this
way, and to avoid any unpleasantness you had better not stay any longer
just now. Come to-morrow at twelve;" and she intercepted the missionary
as he was advancing towards me with a somewhat truculent air. All this
time I had seen, but not had an opportunity of exchanging a word with
Ursula, who occupied an obscure corner, and seemed anxious to attract as
little notice as possible. I made my way to her now. She looked careworn
and nervous.

"I am afraid your remarks do not seem to have given satisfaction, Lord
Frank," she said; "and if I may venture to say so, I think you might
have said what you did in language less calculated to give offence. I
quite agreed with you in the main, but do you think you will do good by
thrusting truths home with little ceremony?"

"I caught the habit from the class I was attacking, I suppose. They
seldom realise the harm they do by their disagreeable mode of
inculcating precepts they don't practise, and they never get preached
to, though they listen to sermons twice every Sunday."

"But don't you think you fairly lay yourself open to the charge of
presumption in thus taking to task men who have made theology their
study, and in condemning a whole set of people, who, if they
occasionally are indiscreet, are most of them sincere, and certainly do
a great deal of good? Are you sure your own religious opinions are
sufficiently formed to warrant you in commenting so strongly on the
views of others?"

"I don't comment on their views, but on their conduct. While we are not
to judge others, we are also told that by their fruits we shall know
them. It does not require a profound knowledge of the dogmas of a creed
to perceive the effect it has upon those who profess it. Fortunately I
have thought for myself, and have come at last firmly to believe in the
religion, but I should never have done so had I continued to judge of it
by its professors."

"Then you think the form in which Christianity is professed and
practised prejudices the cause of true religion?" said Lady Ursula.

"I have not a doubt of it. Our friends here 'bind heavy burdens and
grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders, but they
themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.' If you will
substitute charitable bazaars for races, oratorios for operas,
conversaziones like this for balls, and otherwise conform to the
'letter' which they have established, they accept you as a brother, but
there is very little difference in the 'spirit' which pervades the
so-called religious, and that which pervades the worldly excitements.
The 'mint, anise, and cummin' are there; but the 'judgment' is
perverted, the 'mercy' limited, and the 'faith' barren. However, we are
getting into rather too theological a discussion, and Broadhem looks as
if he was anxious to interrupt us."

"I think he is quite happy where he is," replied Lady Ursula. "You know
Miss Wylde, whom he got mamma to ask here to-night, don't you?"

"A little. By the way, did he go down to Ascot after all, and did he
tell you the especial motive he had in view?"

"Yes, I recommended him to go, as I think he is too much accustomed to
walk in the groove in which he has always found himself, and as I do not
see much difference, in a matter of that kind, between wanting to go and
going. He came back thoroughly dissatisfied, having failed to do more
than exchange a few words with Miss Wylde, by whom he seems quite
infatuated. Can you tell me something about her?"

I gave Ursula an account of Wild Harrie, based on Spiffy's information,
not very flattering, I am afraid, to that young lady, and wound up with
something about putting Broadhem on his guard.

"I don't quite agree with you there," she replied; "opposition will not
improve matters in his case, and you must forgive me for not taking the
unfavourable view of Miss Wylde's character that you have given me. I
really think Broadhem has, for the first time in his life, fallen in
love, and the best way to take care of him will be to know intimately
the lady of his choice, so I shall interrupt their _tête-à-tête_ with
the view of cultivating Miss Wylde."

"But what will Lady Broadhem say to such an alliance? Miss Wylde has not
got a farthing."

"I don't think he need anticipate any opposition from mamma,--at all
events not just now," said Lady Ursula, with a sigh, and I knew there
was a secret grief which she could not tell hidden in her words. "I am
so glad that Broadhem is above the consideration of money, and has
really allowed himself to be carried away by his feelings, that I feel
quite grateful to Miss Wylde, and inclined to love her already."

"I think they are going to commence operations of some sort again," I
said, as I saw the enemies I love, but who don't return the affection,
ranging themselves behind the table; "part two is about to begin, so I
shall make my escape. Perhaps I shall see you to-morrow; I am coming to
call on Lady Broadhem," and I left Lady Ursula, and had to squeeze past
Broadhem and Wild Harrie. "You seem interested," I said to the latter,
"as you are going to stay."

"I suppose you don't intend to show any more sport, Lord Frank, as you
are going, so the best of the fun is over. I was just telling Lord
Broadhem how I enjoyed that brilliant burst of yours; it was worth
anything to watch the expressions on the countenances of all our friends
here who have 'given up the world,' and who thought they were having it
all their own way till you got up. I want Lord Broadhem to follow your
lead, but it seems he considers himself 'a dear Christian friend.' We
must break him of that, mustn't we? It is a very bad 'form.' I suppose
you don't know what that expression means," Wild Harrie went on, her
eyes dancing with mischief as she turned to Broadhem.

The struggles which that young gentleman's conscience was having with
his affections were manifestly portrayed on his countenance, and Wild
Harrie evidently was amusing herself by shocking his feelings. I must do
her the justice to say that I don't think she could play the hypocrite
if she tried; and I began to hope, as I looked at her frank reckless
face, that her sins were more on the surface than in the heart. "I
suppose you mean a form of worship," said Broadhem; "I wish you would
not talk in this way. Whenever I try to have a little serious
conversation with you, you turn it off with a joke. I must say," he
added, sententiously, "that the style of young ladies' conversation in
the present day is open to great improvement."

"I tell you what, Lord Broadhem," she retorted, "we will put each other
through a course of training; you shall improve my conversation and
'style of going' generally, while I try to bring you into a little
harder condition than you are at present. You have no idea of his
innocence, Lord Frank, considering that he is a rising statesman upon
whom the hopes of the Liberal party are fixed. I asked him just now,
apropos of the speech he threatens us with, 'if he felt fit,' and he
blushed to that degree that I felt quite shy. There was no harm in my
saying that, was there?"

"None that I know of," said I; "but we are attracting general attention
by talking so loud. Good-bye, Miss Wylde. I am afraid I must disturb
you, Broadhem; your sister can't hear where she is, and wants your
place;" and I walked off the young gentleman, to Wild Harrie's disgust,
and saw with satisfaction that Lady Ursula took his vacated seat.

"What a curious thing it is," said Broadhem, "that I should find in Miss
Wylde something which is to me so attractive! I daresay you think it odd
my taking you so much into my confidence; but, except Ursula, I have no
one to whom I can speak openly, and it is such a relief sometimes."

"On these occasions specially," said I.

"Do you know, I think that if I had her all to myself I could cure her
faults, for I am quite alive to them. Don't you think there is something
very fresh and natural about her?"

"Fresh, certainly, in what she would call the 'skittish' sense. As for
the natural part of it, I should require to know her better before
giving my opinion."

"You know," he went on, "she is the last person in the world with whom I
imagined it possible I could have been in love: she says the most
dreadful things sometimes--and I am afraid they amuse me more than they
should; there is no doubt about her being immensely clever, but she is
quite taken up with the world as yet."

"Not more than you are, my dear Broadhem; come and walk home with me:
you will be back in time to put the Wyldes into their carriage, and I
want to speak to you." I led him unresistingly to his coat and hat in
the hall, and braved the stern gaze of a butler who apparently dressed
after Mr Beevy, and who, when I arrived, had smiled blandly upon me as
being 'one of us,' for all the servants in Lady Broadhem's establishment
were guaranteed converted. "No servants, whose principles are not
strictly Evangelical, and who are unable to produce unexceptionable
testimony as to their personal piety, need apply"--that was the form of
the advertisement, and the consequence was, that every menial in the
house had brought a certificate of his or her entire change of heart
from their last place. Lady Broadhem was also very particular about the
theological views of the family they had just left.

The butler frowned severely upon me now, for he had been standing in the
doorway with the curaçoa when I was addressing the meeting, no doubt
sympathising keenly with Mr Beevy (I found out afterwards that Lady
Broadhem was educating his son for the "work"), and said to Broadhem,
"Does her ladyship know you are going away, my lord?"

"No," said Broadhem, with some hesitation; "I don't think she does. I am
coming back again soon."

"I think, my lord, I shall have to let her ladyship know--perhaps your
lordship will wait. James, mind the door." This meant that James was not
to open it.

"Stop, my friend," I said; "your conscience tells you that you should
not be a party to this irregularity on the part of his lordship,--is not
that so?" I asked.

"Yes, my lord," said the butler, rigidly.

"I will accompany you to Lady Broadhem, then, to explain the
circumstances. Be good enough to follow me," and I led the way
up-stairs.

Now it so happens that I have a remarkable faculty of remembering faces,
and I had been conscious for some weeks past of being familiar with the
particularly ill-favoured countenance of Lady Broadhem's butler; but it
was not until now that the circumstances under which I had first seen it
flashed upon me. Not many years have elapsed since I achieved
considerable renown in Australia as an amateur hunter of bushrangers.
The sport exhilarated me, combining, as it did, an exciting physical
with a wholesome moral exercise. I now remembered distinctly having
caught Lady Broadhem's butler with a lasso. Indeed I had good reason not
to forget it, for a shot he fired at me at the moment killed my
favourite horse. That he should have failed to recognise in Lord Frank
Vanecourt the notorious Mr Francis who had been the means of capturing
not only himself, but a good many of his fraternity, was not wonderful.
The discovery tickled me, and restored my good temper, which had been
slightly ruffled.

"What a delightful change you must find it to be in the society of all
these good people after having passed so many years in the bush!" I
said, and my tone of anger suddenly became one of easy familiarity, as I
turned sharply upon him, and, leaning against the banisters,
benevolently scanned his distorted physiognomy. The play of his facial
muscles, and changes of hue, interested me, so I continued--"But I will
venture to say that you have never since paid such attention to any
sermon as you did to mine that Sunday morning when I had you and your
seven friends strapped to eight trees in a semicircle, and concluded my
remarks, you may remember, with a few strokes of 'practical
application.' I should like to hear the story of your escape from
prison."

"Oh, my lord," he groaned, and his teeth chattered and his knees
trembled, "I'm a reformed character--I am indeed. Perhaps if your
lordship would kindly please to walk this way," and he opened a side
door off the landing. "Knowing your lordship's generosity, and your
lordship's interest in the family, and my own unworthiness, your
lordship wouldn't be too hard upon a poor man whose repentance is
genuine, and I could tell your lordship something of the very highest
importance to her ladyship, and to Lady Ursula, and to your lordship,
and to the whole family."

I knew the man to be a clever scoundrel, and saw that he evidently had
some information which might prove of value. A mystery did exist--of
that I had had abundant evidence. Was I justified in refusing to find
the key?--besides, if this man really possessed some secret, could it be
in more dangerous hands? This last consideration decided me, and I
followed the returned convict to a little sanctum of his own, which
opened off the pantry, from which I emerged five minutes later a wiser
if not a better man.

"What a time you have been!" said Broadhem. "I suppose you have been
arguing the point with my mother?"

"No, I left that to Drippings here." I did not know his name, but my
spirits were high, and I gave him the first my imagination suggested.
"You have no idea what a treasure your mother has got in this man. I
assure you there is no knowing what you may not owe to the influence for
good of one devoted Christian servant of this kind--the proof of it is,
as you see, that Lady Broadhem is perfectly willing that you should do
what you like for the rest of the evening. Good-night, Drippings," and I
passed the bewildered James, who evidently thought that both I and the
terrified-looking butler had gone suddenly mad.

"Broadhem," said I, "I have hit upon an entirely new and original idea.
I am thinking of trying it myself, and I want you to try it too."

"Well," said Broadhem, "I am never surprised at anything you say or do;
what is it?"

"It has been suggested to me by what I have seen at your mother's this
evening--and you may depend upon it there is a great deal to be said in
its favour; it is an odd thing it has not occurred to anybody before,
but that leaves all the better opening for you and me."

"Go on," said Broadhem, whose curiosity was getting excited.

"Don't be in a hurry; it is possible you may not like the idea when you
hear it, and under no circumstances must you tell it to anybody."

"All right," said Broadhem, "but I hope it has nothing to do with
companies--I hate dabbling in companies. I believe one does more harm to
one's name by making it common than one gets good through the money one
pockets."

"Well, there is more truth than elegance of expression in that remark:
it needs not have to do with companies unless you like."

"Now, if it has anything to do with politics, I am your man."

"You would make a great _coup_ in politics with it; it is especially
adapted for politics, and has never been tried."

"You don't say so," said Broadhem, delighted; "don't go on making one
guess as if it was a game. Has it anything to do with the suffrage?"

"It has to do with everything," I said; "I don't think I can do it
myself; I made a lamentable failure just now by way of a start," and I
paused suddenly--"Who am I," I thought, "that I should venture to
preach? What act have I done in life which should give weight to my
words?" but the fervour was on me, and I could no more check the burning
thoughts than the trumpet can control the sound it emits.

"Well," he said impatiently.

"LIVE THE LIFE."

"I don't understand you," said Broadhem.

"If you did," I said, "do you suppose I should feel my whole nature
yearning as it is? What better proof could I desire that the life has
yet to be lived than that you don't understand me? Supposing, now, that
you and I actually put into practice what all these friends of your
mother profess, and, instead of judging people who go to plays, or play
croquet on Sunday, or dance, we tried to live the _inner_ life
ourselves. Supposing, in your case, that your own interest never entered
your head in any one thing you undertook; supposing you actually felt
that you had nothing in common with the people around you, and belonged
neither to the world of publicans and sinners, nor to the world of
scribes and Pharisees, but were working on a different plane, in which
self was altogether ignored--that you gave up attempting to steer your
own craft any longer, but put the helm into other hands, and could
complacently watch her drive straight on to the breakers, and make a
deliberate shipwreck of every ambition in life,--don't you think you
would create rather a sensation in the political world? Supposing you
could arrive at the point of being as indifferent to the approval as to
the censure of your fellow-men, of caring as little for the highest
honours which are in their power to bestow now, as for the fame which
posterity might award to you hereafter; supposing that wealth and power
appeared equally contemptible to you for their own sakes, and that you
had no desire connected with this earth except to be used while upon it
for divine ends, and that all the while that this motive was actuating
you, you were striving and working and toiling in the midst of this busy
world, doing exactly what every man round you was doing, but doing it
all from a different motive,--it would be curious to see where you would
land--how you would be abused and misunderstood, and what a perplexity
you would create in the minds of your friends, who would never know
whether you were a profound intriguer or a shallow fool. How much you
would have to suffer, but what a balance there would be to the credit
side! For instance, as you could never be disappointed, you would be the
only free man among slaves. There is not a man or woman of the present
day who is not in chains, either to the religious world or the other, or
to family or friends, and always to self. Now, if we could get rid of
the bonds of self first, we could snap the other fetters like
packthread. What a grand sensation it would be to expand one's chest and
take in a full, free, pure breath, and uplift the hands heavenward that
have been pinioned to our sides, and feel the feeble knees strong and
capable of enabling us to climb upwards! With the sense of perfect
liberty we should lose the sense of fear, no man could make us ashamed,
and the waves of public opinion would dash themselves in vain against
the rock upon which we should then be established. The nations of the
earth are beating the air for freedom, and inventing breech-loaders
wherewith to conquer it, and they know not that the battlefield is self,
and the weapons for the fight not of fleshly make. Have you ever been in
an asylum for idiots, Broadhem?" I asked, abruptly.

"No," he said, timidly.

"Then you are in one now. Look at them; there is the group to which you
belong playing at politics. Look at the imbecile smile of gratified
vanity with which they receive the applause that follows a successful
hit. That poor little boy has just knocked a political tobacco-pipe out
of Aunt Sally's mouth, and he imagines himself covered with a lasting
glory. There is another going to try a jump: he makes a tremendous
effort before he gets to the stick, but balks, and carries it off in his
hand with a grin of triumph. Look, there is a man with a crotchet; he
keeps on perpetually scratching his left ear and his right palm
alternately, and then touching the ground with the tips of his fingers.
He never varies the process. Look at the gluttons who would do nothing
but eat if they were allowed, like men who have just got into office,
and see how spiteful they are, and what faces they make at each other,
and how terribly afraid they are of their masters, and how they cringe
for their favour, and how naughty they are when their backs are turned.
Look, again, at these groups drawing, and carpentering, and gardening,
imagining that they are producing results that are permanently to
benefit mankind; but they are drawing with sticks, and carpentering with
sham tools, and planting stones. And see, there is a fire-balloon going
up; how delighted they all are, and how they clap their hands as the
gaudy piece of tissue-paper inflated with foul gas sails over their
heads. Is there one of the noisy crowd that knows what its end will be
or that thinks of to-morrow? Is there one of them, I wonder, that
suspects he is an idiot? If you find out, Broadhem, that you are not one
of them, they will call you an idiot--be prepared for that. The life of
a sound and sane man in such company cannot be pleasant. Every act of it
must be an enigma to those around him. If he is afraid of them, they
will turn and rend him; if he is fearless, they will hate him, because
'he testifies of the evil.' His life will be a martyrdom, but his spirit
will be free, his senses new-born; and think you he would exchange the
trials and labours which his sanity must entail upon him for the
drivelling pleasures which he has lost? Tell me, Broadhem, what you
think of my idea?"

"It is not altogether new to me, though I did not exactly understand
what you meant at first," said Broadhem, who spoke with more feeling
than I gave him credit for possessing. "I have never heard it put in
such strong language before, but I have seen Ursula practise it, and I
was wondering all the time you were talking whether you did."

"I never have yet," I said. "I began by telling you that the idea only
occurred to me lately in its new form. I had often thought of it as a
speculation. I began by assuming that purely disinterested honesty might
pay, because an original idea well applied generally succeeds; but when
I came to work the thing out, I found that there was a practical
difficulty in the way, and that you could not be unselfish from a
selfish motive a bit more than you could look like a sane man while you
were really still an idiot. And so the fact is, I have talked the notion
out to you as it has been suggested to me, though Drippings nearly drove
it out of my head. I think the reason I felt impelled to do so was, that
had it not been for your sister I should never have thought upon such
subjects as I do now. I know her love for you, and the value of her
influence over you. Even now she is devoting herself to guarding your
interests in the most important step of a man's life, and I seem
instinctively to feel how I can best please her. Don't you think she
agrees in what I have said to-night, and would approve of the
conversation we have had?"

"Yes," said Broadhem. "Do you know you are quite a different sort of
fellow from what I imagined. I always thought that you did not believe
in anything."

"That was because I lived exactly like my neighbours, without adding to
my daily life the sin of professing belief in a religion to which it was
diametrically opposed. Most of the sceptics of the present day are
driven to their opinions by their consciences, which revolt against the
current hypocrisy and glaring inconsistencies that characterise the
profession of the popular theology. As a class I have found them
honester, and in every way better men than modern Christians."

"Do you know why?"

"No," said Broadhem.

"Because modern Christians don't really believe much more than
sceptics--a man's life is the result of his internal, not his external
belief. There can be no life separate from internal belief, and the
lives of men are imperfect because their belief is external. The right
thing believed the right way must inevitably produce the perfect life.
Either, then, the civilised world believes the wrong thing, or it
believes the right thing the wrong way. In other words, faith and
charity are inseparable, and when one is perfect the other is too. That
is what I mean by 'living the life.'"

"According to that, you would make out that nobody rightly believes the
Christian religion who is not perfect; that, you know, is ridiculous,"
said Broadhem.

"That is, nevertheless, exactly what I do mean. To know the doctrine, it
is necessary to do the will. Christians of the present day adopt certain
theological dogmas intellectually and call them their religious belief.
This has a superficial and varying influence upon their lives, for it
consists merely of opinions which are liable to change. The only kind of
faith which is inseparable from life is a divine conviction of truth
imparted to the intellect through the heart, and which becomes as
absolute to the internal conscience as one's existence, and as
impossible of proof. It may be added to, but what has once been thus
accepted can never be changed. Such a faith cannot be selfish, for it
has been derived from the affections, hence the life must be charitable.
But the modern Christian belief, received by an effort of pure reason
directly through the intellect, is not a divine intuition, which, if
embodied, would result in a perfect life and a united Church, but a
theological problem which professors of religion, unlike professors of
mathematics, are at liberty to solve for their own benefit, according to
their own taste, and to quarrel about incessantly, thereby giving
occasion to the thoughtless to scoff, and to the thoughtful to reject
all revelation as 'foolishness'--since it is incapable of demonstration
by the Baconian method,--the only one known to these 'wise and prudent'
philosophers, but one by which, fortunately for them, 'babes' are not
expected to prove their relationship before believing in their mothers."

"Then," said Broadhem, "you actually mean to say that the whole of
Christendom is wanting in this faith?"

"I fear that almost universally they mistake a bare belief for faith.
Their theology thus becomes an _act_ of memory instead of a rule of
life, and Christianity is reduced to a superstition. The only way of
distinguishing superstition from true religion is by an examination of
results. But where are the fruits of modern Christianity? If it be
absolutely true, and all-sufficient for purposes of regeneration, how am
I to account for the singular fact that there is as much wickedness in
London in the year 1865 A.D., as there was in Jerusalem in the year 1
B.C.? If the object of the last revelation was to take the place of the
one before it, and to reform the world, why are the best modern
Christians of my acquaintance no holier than the best modern Jews whom I
have the honour to know?"

"But the object of the last revelation was not to reform the world, but
to save it," he replied.

"Thanks, Broadhem, for having put in rather too epigrammatic a form,
perhaps, to please those who believe it, the most diabolical sophism
that was ever invented to beguile a Church--the doctrine that men can be
saved by opinion without practice: that a man's practice may be bad, and
yet because his faith is good his salvation is sure--that he can, by
such a miserable philosophy as would disgrace the justice of the earth,
escape the just sentence to be passed upon all his deeds. The results of
so fatal a dogma must be a Church that tends to atheism, and that loves
corruption. There is in every heart a something that speaks against
this, and speaks with a burning language that sweeps the invisible
chords of the inmost consciousness, and awakens a torrent of indignant
denial of the shallow sophistry that a man can be saved if his thoughts
and life are bad. If he cherish self-love, and the love of ruling
others, though he intrench the intellect in the midst of all creeds, and
span the reason with all faiths, making a sacred public profession
before all men, he but adds to the heinousness of his crime, and makes
more terrible the fast-coming and final judgment."

Broadhem stopped suddenly in the street as I finished in a somewhat
excited tone, and gasped rather than spoke, "Frank, you literally
astound me. I could never have believed it possible you would have come
out in that line. Are those your own ideas or another's?"

"Another's," I replied, coolly. "I believe they are rather unsound, but
I commend them to your notice, because, if they are not correct,
Christianity will soon cease to exist, even in name; but if they are,
then it contains within it a regenerating power hitherto undeveloped,
whereby the world may be absolutely reformed. I will venture to assert
that Christian nations will make no moral progress so long as they
continue to cherish the pagan superstition that religion consists in
trying to save themselves by virtue of a creed, instead of in trying to
save others by the virtues of a life."

"But that's works," said Broadhem.

"Yes," I repeated, "that's works, but of a kind only possible when
accompanied by intuitive living faith, which I have just endeavoured to
describe. There is a promise that 'greater works than these shall they
do' who 'believe.' Why, I want to know, have these 'works,' greater than
any that were then accomplished, and which would reform the world, never
been attempted? Because people don't believe in the tremendous power of
disinterestedness, and they can't face the severe training which the
perfection of self-sacrifice involves. So one set of 'worldly-holies'
regard all personal discipline as a tempting snare to be avoided, and
entertain a great horror of what they conceitedly term 'their own
merits.' This very superfluous sentiment, combined with a selfish belief
in certain doctrinals (of which they usually do make a merit), is
enough, they imagine--the 'works' will follow; and so they do, and take
the form we have just seen in your mother's drawing-room. Another set
delight in a mild æsthetic sort of training, to be performed in a
particular costume, according to the obsolete ceremonial rules of a
Church 'which is divided against itself,' and their works take the
fatuous form of ecclesiastical high art. Others, again, go to a still
further extreme, and consider discipline not the means but the end.
Hence they go through their drill in seclusion, exclusively for their
own benefit, and their works take the form of scourgings and horse-hair
shirts, and other mortifications of the flesh, which do no good to
themselves nor to anybody else. And then, in strong contrast, are those
who train enough in all conscience with 'gloves,' single-stick, sculls,
and all suchlike appliances, and whose works take the form of tubbing,
volunteering, and a general jovial philanthropy. I am not sure that they
are not the most hopeful set after all; they believe in severe muscular
training as necessary to produce great physical results. Get them to
accept, the possibility of the world's regeneration by a
divinely-directed effort of heroic spiritual discipline on the part of
its inhabitants, and you might convert them from 'physical' into 'moral
force' Christians. They understand the efficacy of 'a long pull, and a
strong pull, and a pull all together;' and they might be shown that the
real place for a 'biceps' is the will, not the arms; and instead of a
body 'as hard as nails,' the chief aim of one's life should be to bring
one's spirit to that condition--'hard,' be it understood, in the sense
of being impervious to the influences which weaken and demoralise
it--hard in its resistance to the tyranny of society, to the claims of
family or friends, and to the force of 'natural' ties, where any of
these things interfere with the 'spiritual' training. It is only by thus
remaining in the world, and yet refusing to concede a jot to it upon any
pretence, however plausible, that it is possible to acquire the internal
isolation and strength of will necessary to the achievement of 'these
greater works.' Depend upon it, the task of performing them is not
hopeless because it seems stupendous. There are spiritual forces now
latent in humanity powerful enough to restore a fallen universe; but
they want to be called into action by fire. They are in a cold fluid
state, and must be turned into stone. Sublime moment! when, conscious of
the Titanic agency within them, and burning with desire to give it
expression, men first unite to embody, and then with irresistible
potency to impart to others that 'Life' which is 'the Light of men.'"

As I was thus speaking, we turned into Piccadilly, and an arm was passed
through mine.

"Why is it," asked Broadhem, "that men are not yet at all conscious of
possessing this spiritual agency?"

"Why is it, ask you?"--and the clear solemn voice of my new companion
startled Broadhem, who had not seen him join me, so that I felt his arm
tremble upon mine. "Ask rather why sects are fierce and intolerant; why
worship is formal and irreverent; why zealots run to fierce frenzies and
react to atheistic chills; why piety is constrained and lifeless, like
antique pictures painted by the old Byzantines upon a golden ground; why
Puseyism tries to whip piety to life with scourges, and starve out sin
with fasts; why the altar is made a stage where Ritualists delight a
gaping crowd, and the pulpit a place where the sleek official drones
away the sleepy hour; why religious books are the dullest; why the
clergyman is looked upon by the millions as a barrel-organ, whom the
sect turns like the wandering Savoyard, unable to evolve a free-born
note. There is but one answer----" and he stopped abruptly.

"What is it?" I said, timidly, for I was overwhelmed by the torrent of
his eloquence.

"We have lost our God! That is why men are unconscious of His force
within them. It is a terrible thing for a nation to lose its God.
History shows that all nations wherein the religious inspiration has
gone down beneath formalism, infidelity, a warlike spirit, an enslaving
spirit, or a trading spirit, have burst like so many gilded bubbles,
most enlarged and gorgeous at the moment of their close. Think of the
old Scripture, 'The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the
nations that forget God.'"

"Who is that?" whispered Broadhem. "I never saw him before."

"I want to be alone with him," I replied. "Good night, Broadhem. You had
better go back now, or you will find your friends gone. Think over what
I have said. Once realise the '_mystery_ of godliness,' and the
martyrdom which it must entail will lose its terrors."

"Let him sacrifice us if He will," said he who had before spoken. "The
true man is but a cannon-shot, rejoicing most of all when the Divine
Artillerist shall send him irresistible and flaming against some foeman
of the race risen from Pandemonium. Man--the true man--is like the
Parthian's arrow, kindling into fiery flames as it leaves the bow.
Man--the true man--is the Spirit-sword, but the sword-arm is moved by
the heart of the Almighty."

Ah Piccadilly! hallowed recollections may attach to those stones worn by
the feet of the busy idiots in this vast asylum, for one sane man has
trodden them, and I listened to the words of wisdom as they dropped from
the lips of one so obscure that his name is still unknown in the land,
but I doubted not who at that moment was the greatest man in Piccadilly.

[Illustration]



CONCLUSION.

MORAL.


    PICCADILLY, _July 15_.

It will be seen by the date at which I am writing this, that I have been
compelled to increase the pace I have been keeping up during the season.
The fact is, my episode, like those of my neighbours, seems likely to be
prematurely concluded by the course of political events, which will no
doubt act prejudicially this year upon the happiness of many interesting
members of society. Towards the close of the London season it is only
natural that everything should culminate; but generally the actors in
the scenes of real life so calculate that the curtain falls just at the
right moment; or rather, that they shall be doing just the right thing
when the curtain falls. The artists insensibly group themselves for the
_grand tableau_. All over the stage episodes are occurring, any one of
which taken separately would make a good sensation finale. There are
wily mothers and desperate daughters throwing with unerring aim their
nets over youths who have become reckless or imbecile. And there are
unprincipled poachers setting snares for the pretty game they hope to
destroy. Look at the poor victims, both male and female, trying to get
disentangled. What a rush, and shuffle, and conflict of feelings and
affections it is! The hearts that for the first time feel they have been
touched as the moment of separation draws near; the "histories" which in
all future time will form the most marked page in his or her life, and
which have begun and ended in the season; the intimacies that have been
formed, and which are to last for ever; those that have been broken; the
fatal friendships which have been cemented this year, and the disastrous
results of which, suspected on neither side, we shall read of in the
newspapers years to come. What a curious picture would be the mind of
London society if we could photograph it in February, and how strangely
different would it be from a photograph of the same subject taken in
July, more especially when, as now, the elections throw everything into
confusion; and little Haultort gets so bewildered, that he encloses, by
mistake, his address to his constituents to Wild Harrie, instead of his
proposal to her, which he has forwarded to his local attorney for
publication in the Liberal organ of that borough which is honoured by
possessing him as a representative!

In these days when good taste requires that our affections should be as
shallow as our convictions, we are puzzled, at a crisis like this, to
know which we love most, our seats or our mistresses. There is a general
disposition on the part of the lavender-gloved tribe to resent the extra
wear and tear of mind suddenly imposed upon them this hot weather. Why
should they unexpectedly be called away from the corners devoted to
_tête-à-têtes_, to stand on hotel balconies, and stammer, in
unintelligible language, their views upon Reform to crowds of free and
independent electors? "For goodness' sake," says Larkington to Lady
Veriphast, "give me some ideas; I've got to go and meet these wretched
constituents of mine, and I had promised myself a much more agreeable
occupation with you at Richmond. Couldn't you get Veriphast to go down?
I should be delighted to retire in his favour; and with his abilities it
is ridiculous his not being in Parliament."

"How absurdly you talk about my persuading Veriphast to do anything? the
only person, as you know, who has any influence over him is Mrs
Loveton," responds her ladyship, with a sigh--arising from dyspepsia.

"I have hit it;" and for a moment Larkington looks animated.
"Squabbleton is close to the coast, and we will make a party, and I will
take you all round in my yacht, the Lovetons and you and Veriphast;
we'll go and do the electioneering business together, and keep the yacht
as a sort of _pied à terre_, or rather _pied à mer_;" and Larkington
chuckled, partly at his joke, and partly at this brilliant solution of
his dilemma.

And so, while all the world is trying to reconcile their pleasure with
what they are pleased to term their duty, being always the duty they owe
to themselves, my thoughts are diverted into a very different channel. I
am beginning daily to feel, while in the world, that I am less of it.
Already I have cut myself off from the one great source of interest
which Parliament afforded me, and I have not succeeded in my love as a
compensation--that is why Larkington's arrangement to secure both seemed
a sort of mockery of my misery. For it was impossible to resist the
occasional fits of depression which reduced my mind to the condition of
white paper, and the world to that of a doll stuffed with sawdust. I was
suffering in this manner the day following the evening entertainment at
Lady Broadhem's, which I have already described. The interview which
impended inspired me with vague terrors. The night before I had looked
forward to it with positive enjoyment. There is no greater bore than to
get up morally and physically unhinged, upon the very day that you
expect an unusual strain upon your faculties. The days it does not
matter, you feel up to anything; but nature too often perversely deserts
you at the most critical moment.

Now, upon the morning in question it was necessary as a preliminary
measure for me to go into the City and acquire some information
essential to the success of my interview with Lady Broadhem, but before
starting I was anxious to gain a few particulars from Grandon, the
knowledge of which would materially aid me in disentangling the
complicated skein of our joint affairs. I therefore looked in upon him
for a moment _en passant_.

"I went to Lady Broadhem's last night, Grandon," I said, "and I have
reasons for wishing to know whether you have had any communication with
the family lately. I think the time is coming when I shall be able to
explain much of my conduct which I can well understand has perplexed and
distressed you."

"It would be a relief to me to feel that there was no more mystery
between us," he replied. "You have certainly at last most effectually
contradicted the report you were the means of originating, but the
reparation was tardy, and should never have been rendered necessary.
However, there is no use in recurring to the past; but I am entitled to
ask what your object is in making your present inquiries?"

"I am to see Lady Broadhem this afternoon," I said, "and I wish to be
prepared on all points. I heard something last night which may influence
your future far more seriously than mine; and it is in fact in your
interests, and not in my own, that I wish to be well informed."

"What do you want to know?"

"I want to know whether you have ever actually proposed to Lady Ursula,
and, if so, what was the result?"

"Frank," said Grandon, "after what has passed you are pushing my
confidence in you, and my friendship for you, to their utmost limits, in
expecting me to answer you in this matter. Still I cannot believe your
motives to be unworthy, though they may be unintentionally perverted;
nor do I think that it is in your power to affect the position of
affairs either for good or harm. The fact is, then, that Lady Ursula
does know precisely the state of my feelings towards her, and I feel
that, though there may be insuperable obstacles to our union at present,
she would never consent to yield to any pressure exercised by her mother
in favour of another."

"In other words, the situation is unchanged, for I think I knew as much
as that before. Have you never spoken to Lady Broadhem directly on the
subject?"

"No," said Grandon--"never."

"I think," said I, "the time is coming when you will be able to do so
with advantage. I cannot tell you more now, but this afternoon I shall
hope to retrieve myself in your estimation by being the bearer of some
good news. By the way, what are you going to do about your
election?--they say your prospects are getting cloudy."

"Say rather utterly obscured," he replied. "You know the borough I sit
for is in Lord Scilly's pocket, and he says I have not sufficiently
stuck to my party. They have never forgiven me for understanding the
Schleswig-Holstein question; and Scilly has extracted a promise from his
new nominee that he is never to inform himself upon any question of
foreign politics. The Government is so weak in this department that they
are more afraid of their own _enfants terribles_ than they are of the
Opposition, which is not saying much for the latter."

"Who is Scilly's new nominee?" I asked.

"No less a person than our old friend Chundango," he replied. "It seems
Lady Broadhem put pressure upon his lordship in his favour, and he at
last consented, though I suspect it was with a bad grace."

"Well, I don't think the Government need be afraid of Chundango on
foreign policy, though he probably knows as much as the others."

It required no little effort to reach Bodwinkle's office at 10 A.M. I
found that great millionaire in a peculiarly amiable frame of mind.
Though two or three of his neighbours had been smashing around him, his
superior foresight had enabled him to escape the calamities which had
overtaken them; and he was sitting chuckling in that rather dingy alley,
from the recesses of which he had dug his fortune, when I entered.

"Ah, Lord Frank," he said, affably; "come to give me some of your
valuable advice and assistance in my election affairs, I feel sure.
Don't forget your promise about Stepton. I have already given the
necessary instructions about that matter of Lady Broadhem's; there is
nothing going to be done about it for the present."

"It is just with reference to Lady Broadhem's affairs that I have come
to consult you," I said. "You have a pretty extensive Indian connection,
I think?"

"Rather," said Bodwinkle, in a tone which meant to imply gigantic.

"Now I have reason to believe that her ladyship is interested in some
Bombay houses, and I shall be able to throw some light upon her affairs
which may be of use to us both, if you will give me the benefit of a
little of that exclusive information with reference to cotton and those
who are embarked in its trade which I know you possess."

Bodwinkle was loath at first to let me into those mysteries which he
speedily revealed to me on my explaining more fully my reasons for
requiring to know them, and I jumped into a hansom and drove off to
Grosvenor Square, planning a little plot which I completed ere I
arrived, and the construction of which had acted as beneficially upon my
nerves as one of Lady Broadhem's own "pick-me-ups." Drippings let me in,
and his countenance wore an expression of anxious consciousness. As he
led the way up-stairs he whispered, "I trust, my lord, that under the
circumstances your lordship will not betray me--my own livelihood, not
to say that of my wife and little ones, depends upon my keeping this
place; and I would not have mentioned what had come to my knowledge with
respect to her ladyship if it had not been that, knowing the interest
your lordship takes in the family, and more especially when I come to
consider Lady Ursula----"

"Hold your tongue," I interrupted, angrily. "If you wish me to reduce
you and your family to beggary, dare to open your lips to me again
unless you're spoken to." I felt savage with him for ruffling my temper
at the moment when I desired to have my faculties completely under
control; and as my readers will have perceived, though my intentions are
always excellent, my course is occasionally, under any unusual strain,
erratic.

I never saw Lady Broadhem looking better. One or two wrinkles were
positively missing altogether, and an expression of cheerful benevolence
seemed to play about the corners of her mouth. She greeted me with an
_empressement_ totally at variance with the terms on which we had parted
upon the previous evening. I must say that, when Lady Broadhem chooses,
there is nobody of my acquaintance whose manner is more attractive, and
whose conversation is more agreeable. She had been a _belle_ in her day,
and had achieved some renown among the "wholly-worldlies" when she first
married the late lord. Her "history," connected chiefly with another
lord of that period, is not yet altogether forgotten. The end of it was,
that the world looked coldly upon her ladyship for a few seasons, and
she scrambled with some difficulty into the society of the
"worldly-holies," among whom she has ever since remained. There are
occasions when a certain amount of coquetry of manner betrays the
existence of some of those "devil's leavings" which she is still engaged
in sacrificing. Had it not been for the information I had derived from
Drippings, her cordial reception and unembarrassed manner would have
puzzled me. As it was, I felt assured by the indications they furnished,
that the butler had told me the truth.

"My dear Lady Broadhem," I said, with enthusiasm, "how well you are
looking! I am sure you must have some charming news to tell me. Is some
near and wealthy relation dead, or what?"

"For shame, Frank! what a satirical creature you are! Do you know I only
discovered lately that irony was your strong point? I am positively
beginning to be afraid of you."

"Come now," I said, "own frankly, what you have to tell me to-day makes
you feel more afraid of me than you ever did before."

Lady Broadhem blushed--yes, actually blushed. It was not the flush of
anger which I had often seen dye her cheeks, or of shame, which I never
did; but it was a blush of maiden consciousness, if I may so express it,
though it is occasionally to be observed in widows. It mounted slowly
and suffused her whole neck and face, even unto the roots of her hair;
it was a blush of that kind which I have seen technically described by a
German philosopher as a "rhythm of exquisite sweetness."

The effect of this hardened old lady indulging in a rhythm of this
description struck me as so ludicrous that I was compelled to resort to
my pocket-handkerchief and pretend to sneeze behind it. At the same
moment Lady Broadhem resorted to hers, and applied it with equal
sincerity to her eyes. "Dear Frank," she said, and sobbed. "Dear Lady
Broadhem," I responded, and nearly choked with suppressed laughter, for
I knew what was coming.

"All my money difficulties are at an end at last, and if I am affected,
it is that I feel I am not worthy of the happiness that is in store for
me," and she lifted up her eyes, in which real tears were actually
glistening, and said, "What have I done to deserve it?"

"Well, really," I replied, "if you ask me that question honestly, I must
wait till I know what 'it' is; perhaps you would have been better
without--'it.'"

"I assure you, Frank, one of the uppermost feelings in my mind is that
of relief. I fully appreciate the warm-hearted generosity which has
prompted you to take so much interest in my affairs; but when it was all
over between you and Ursula, my conscience would not allow me to let you
make pecuniary sacrifices on so large a scale for my sake. When Broadhem
told me that you had determined to persevere in your munificence,
notwithstanding Ursula's most inexplicable conduct, I made up my mind at
once to adopt a course which, I am happy to say, not merely my sense of
propriety but my feelings told me was the right one. I must therefore
relieve you from all further anxiety about my business matters. You
have, I think, still got some papers of mine, which you may return to
me; and I will see that my solicitor not only releases you from any
engagements which you may have entered into for me, but will repay those
sums which you have so kindly advanced on my account already."

There was a tone of triumph pervading this speech which clearly meant,
"Now we are quits. I don't forget the time when you drank my
'pick-me-up' first, and biologised me afterwards. And this is my
revenge."

I must say I looked at Lady Broadhem with a certain feeling of
admiration. She was a woman made up of "forces." Last night passionate
and intemperate under the influence of the society she had called round
her: to-day calm and wily, using her advantages of situation with a
judgment and a moderation worthy of a great strategist. She is only
arrogant and insolent in the hour of disaster; but she can conquer
magnanimously. I assumed an air of the deepest regret and
disappointment. "Of course, Lady Broadhem, any change in your
circumstances which makes you independent, even of your friends, must be
agreeable to you; but I cannot say how deeply disappointed I feel that
my labour of love is over, and that I shall no longer have the pleasure
of spending my resources in a cause so precious to me." The last words
almost stuck in my throat; but I wanted to overdo it, to see the effect.

"My dear Frank," she said, laughing, and her eyes would have twinkled
had they not become too watery from age, "I shall never make you out; I
am so stupid at reading character, and I suppose so dull altogether,
that sometimes I am not sure when you're joking and when you are in
earnest. Now I want you seriously to answer me truly one question, not
as people of the world, you know, making pledges to each other, but as
old friends, as we are, who may dispense with mystery." She held out her
hand with an air of charming candour. "Tell me," she said, as she
pressed mine,--"tell me honestly, what could possibly have been your
motive in being prepared to go on sacrificing your fortune for me when
you had no chance of Ursula?"

"Tell me honestly, Lady Broadhem," I said, and pressed her hand in
return, "how you are going to render yourself independent of my
assistance hence-forward, and I will tell you the motives which have
actuated me in proffering it."

"It is only just settled, and I have not even told it yet either to
Broadhem or my daughters. I am quite prepared for the sensation it will
make when it is known, and the ill-natured things people will say of me;
but my mind is made up, and we are told to expect persecution. I am
going to be married to Mr Chundango!"

Lady Broadhem evidently expected to stun me with this announcement, but
as I had already been prepared for it by Drippings on the occasion of
our first private interview, which the reader will remember, I received
it with perfect equanimity.

"I had no conception," her ladyship went on, "of the sterling worth and
noble character of that man until I had an opportunity of observing it
closely. The munificence of his liberality, and the good uses to which
he applies his enormous wealth, the cultivation of his mind, the
excellence of his principles, and the perfect harmony of feeling upon
religious subjects which exists between us, all convince me that I shall
best consult my own happiness and the interests of my dear children by
uniting my fate to his. I suppose you know Lord Scilly is going to put
him into Parliament for the Scilly boroughs instead of Lord Grandon?"

"No one could congratulate you more sincerely than I do, Lady Broadhem,"
I said. "I can conceive no greater happiness than an alliance in which
that perfect harmony of thought and feeling you describe reigns
paramount; and now it is my turn to tell you why I have acted the part
which seems so incomprehensible to you. Grandon is, as you know, my
dearest friend, but he is poor. Ursula cares for him more, if possible,
than I do. And I need not tell you that my own attachment to your
daughter is the strongest sentiment of my nature. Now, I determined to
prove the depth of my affection for these two people by making them both
happy, and when all my arrangements were completed I intended to make a
final stipulation with you, that you should give your consent to their
marriage, and that I should play the part of a bountiful prince in the
Arabian Nights, and that we should all live happy ever after."

"A very pretty little plot indeed," said Lady Broadhem, with a sneer.
"You are too good and disinterested for this planet, Frank. So you
thought you could coerce me into giving my consent to a marriage I never
have approved, and never shall?"

"Don't be too sure of that," I said, and I allowed the faintest tinge of
insolence to appear in my manner, for the sentiments and the sneer that
accompanied it both irritated me, and I felt that we were morally
drawing our revolvers, and looking at the caps.

"Why not? What do you mean?" she said, sharply. "Who do you suppose is
to dictate to me upon such a subject? Ursula will be very well off, and
I shall take care that she marries suitably."

"I don't know where she is to get her money from," I said, calmly.

"You need give yourself no anxiety about her for the future, I assure
you. Mr Chundango has been most liberal in his arrangements about both
my girls."

"But, unfortunately, it is not in Mr Chundango's power to make any such
arrangements," I retorted. "I am sure nothing will alter your feelings
towards a man you really love, and that your own personal conduct will
not be influenced by the fact that Mr Chundango is a beggar. You could
go back to India with him, you know, and make a home for him in a
bungalow in the Bombay Ghauts."

Lady Broadhem's face had become rigid and stony; so had my whole nature.
I did not feel a particle of compassion or of triumph. I was cold, hard,
and judicial. Her hour was come, and I had to pass the sentence. "Yes,"
I said, "there is no doubt about it. I got it from Bodwinkle this
moment. The Bombay mail arrived last night, and you know the way
everything has been crashing there through speculations in Back Bay
shares, cotton, &c. Well, the great Parsee house of Burstupjee Cockabhoy
has come down with a grand crash, and all our friend Chundango's jewels
in the back verandah, added to everything else he possesses in the
world, will fail to meet his liabilities. Terrible thing, isn't it? but
we must bear up, you know."

But Lady Broadhem had done bearing up some time ago, and had sunk gently
back on the couch, in a dead faint. As there was not the slightest sham
about it, I rang the bell for Jenkins, and felt under the pillow for the
"pick-me-up," which I failed to make her swallow; so I slapped the soles
of her feet with her shoes, till her maid arrived, followed by
Drippings, who, I suspect, had spent some portion of his time in the
neighbourhood of the keyhole.

"I will go and look for Lady Ursula," I said; "where shall I find her?"

"In her own 'boudwore,'" said Jenkins--"first door on the right, at the
top of the stairs," and I left Lady Broadhem being ministered to with
sal-volatile, and went in search of her daughter.

Lady Ursula was writing, and as she looked up I saw the traces of tears
upon her cheeks, though she smiled as she frankly gave me her hand. "I
half expected you, Lord Frank, as I knew you were to call on mamma
to-day, and I thought you would not leave without seeing me; but I
expected to have been sent for. Don't you know that this is very sacred
ground, and that the privilege of treading upon it is accorded to very
few?"

"I have that to tell you," I said, gravely, "which I can only talk of
privately. I have left Lady Broadhem down-stairs, and it is the result
of my interview with her that I want to communicate to you. Do you know
that she contemplated taking a very serious step?"

I did not know how to approach the subject, and felt embarrassed now
that I found myself obliged to explain to a daughter that her mother was
going to marry the man that daughter had rejected, as an act of revenge.

"No," said Lady Ursula. "I have suspected by her preoccupied manner for
many days past that mamma had decided upon something, but I have shrunk
from speaking to her of her own plans. Indeed she seemed to have avoided
me in a way which she never did before."

"Before telling you what she intended doing, I must premise that she has
quite abandoned the idea; therefore don't let yourself be distressed by
what might have been, but won't be now."

I risked this assertion as, though Lady Broadhem had not told me that
she had abandoned the idea, and was at that moment in a dead faint, I
felt certain that her first impulse on "coming to" would be to abandon
it. "Well," said Lady Ursula, with her lip trembling and her eye cast
down, "if you think it right that you should tell me, do so; remember
she is my mother."

"It was nothing so very dreadful after all," I said, and tried to
reassure her by a careless manner--for I saw how much she dreaded the
unknown.

"The fact is, Lady Broadhem has been driven to despair by the family
embarrassments, and we must make allowances for her under the
circumstances. Then perhaps she was under the influence of pique. At all
events, she has made up her mind to accept a proposal which Mr Chundango
had the audacity to make."

Lady Ursula raised her eyes in a bewildered way to mine. It was evident
that she had failed even now to comprehend me. What business, I thought,
had I to come up here after all? It is a piece of impertinence in me;
and I trembled at my rashness. What will she think? I shall shock her,
and ruin myself in her estimation irretrievably; and I wished myself
back again, slapping the soles of Lady Broadhem's feet; but Lady
Broadhem was already making use of those very soles, and was marching
up-stairs at that identical moment; for before I could find words to
explain my meaning more fully to Lady Ursula, and while I was yet
doubting whether I should not back out of the whole subject, in stalked
her ladyship, very white, with lips compressed, and an expression on her
face which so terrified Ursula that she forgot my speech in the
amazement and alarm which her mother's aspect caused her. "What are you
doing in my daughter's private sitting-room, Lord Frank?" said Lady
Broadhem, between her teeth.

"I came to tell her of your sudden illness, and explain the cause of
it," I replied, calmly.

"And have you done so?" and I saw how much depended on my answer by the
nervous way in which Lady Broadhem clenched her hand to control her
emotion: she has given me a good many _mauvais quarts d'heures_, I
thought--I will give her one now.

"I was just telling Lady Ursula," I said, "that Mr Chundango had
positively had the impudence to propose to you"--Lady Broadhem gave a
sort of suppressed scream--"when you came in."

"Then you did not tell her what he proposed?" she said.

"No, I leave that to you," I said, maliciously.

"My dear Ursula, I would not tell you, because I know you do not approve
of speculations, and I feel myself that they are questionable, if not
actually sinful. My dear child, I did it for the best; Chundango wanted
me to join him in one of his Indian speculations, and proposed to me
to"--Lady Broadhem paused, coloured, looked me full in the face, and
then said slowly--"to unite my resources to his. Fortunately, Lord Frank
has just discovered in time that he is a bankrupt, so of course all
partnership arrangements between us are at an end, and I am most
thankful for the lesson. You know I promised you once before that I
would give up trying to retrieve my own fortunes by commercial
speculation, even of the most legitimate description; and now, my dear
Frank, and you, my sweet child, forgive me for having even thought of
yielding to this temptation. You must have seen how much it has weighed
upon me, Ursula dear, for some time past; but let us be thankful that I
have been saved from it," and the handkerchief was again called into
requisition.

Well done, Lady Broadhem! that was a triumph of white-lying, and the
best piece of acting you have done in my presence; it so touched Lady
Ursula that she threw herself on her mother's neck.

"Never mind, mamma; I know that whatever you do is out of love for us;
but indeed we don't want to be rich. Broadhem has no expensive tastes,
and I would only be too glad to get away from London. Let us let the
house, and take a little cottage somewhere in the country,--we shall be
so much happier;" and Lady Ursula nestled herself on her mother's cheek,
little dreaming that she had nearly had Chundango for a father-in-law,
and evidently much relieved at finding that this dreadful intelligence,
for which I was preparing her, was not some horrid crime, but only
another money affair. As I looked at the mother and daughter, clasped in
each other's arms, and pictured to myself the thoughts that were hidden
in those hearts now palpitating against each other, I felt that it would
almost be a righteous act to tear them asunder for ever.

Never mind, you have given me a hold over you that I shall turn to
account; that lie was dexterously worded, and evidenced infinite
presence of mind; but you will have first to throw over Chundango, and
then to shut his mouth, and then you will have to shut mine, and finally
to shut Drippings his mouth. Oh, my dear Lady Broadhem, what a very
slimy and disagreeable course you have marked out for yourself!

"Mr Chundango is in the drawing-room, my lady," said Drippings,
appearing at the door at this critical juncture; and he took a survey of
the group as one who should say within himself, "Here is some new start
which I am not yet up to, but which I soon shall be," and he waited at
the door to observe the effect of his intelligence.

"I shall be down immediately," said Lady Broadhem, coldly; and Drippings
vanished. "Perhaps, under the circumstances, you had better leave Mr
Chundango to my tender mercies," I said, significantly. "There can be no
reason why you should _ever_ see him again." I emphasised the word
"ever" purposely, and assumed a tone of authority under which Lady
Broadhem winced. Our eyes met for a moment, and then I looked at her
nose, and I am sure she read my thought, which was "I must keep it on
the grindstone," for she sighed and acquiesced.

"How do, my dear Mr Chundango?" said I, gaily, to the Oriental, who
seemed rather taken aback when he saw me enter the drawing-room instead
of Lady Broadhem, and whose lips got paler than was altogether
consistent with their usual colour. "I must congratulate you on the
prospect of becoming a legislator. I hear Lord Scilly is going to put
you in for his boroughs."

"Yes," said Chundango, affectedly. "His lordship has been good enough to
press them upon me, but I have determined not to go in as any man's
nominee. The fact is, I wanted to ask Lady Broadhem's advice upon that
very matter, and have come here expressly to do so."

"She is not very well, and has deputed me to consult with you instead.
Come," I said, confidentially. "What is it all about? I shall be too
glad to assist you."

The puzzled expression of Chundango's face at this moment was a study:
"Has Lady Broadhem told him everything or not?--How much does he
know?--What line shall I take?" and he stroked his chin doubtfully.

"Come, out with it," I said, sharply; "I haven't time to stand here all
day waiting till you decide how much you will tell me and how much you
won't." Now this is the kind of speech which disturbs a native more than
any other, but which would be inexcusable in polite society. I had lived
too much in the East to be trammelled with the conventionalities of
Europe, and my friend felt as much, for he cringed at once after the
manner of his race.

"I have no intention of deceiving you," he said. "I don't know whether
Lady Broadhem has told you that we are to be united in matrimony?"

"Yes," I said, "she has."

"Well, I want to make arrangements by which the ceremony may be
accomplished without delay, for I feel the suspense is trying. Might I
ask you to find out the earliest moment which would suit her
convenience? I need not say that I hope you will be present."

"I suppose you would prefer it, if possible, before the arrival of the
next mail from Bombay?" I said.

Chundango, who is by no means deficient in intelligence, saw at a glance
that it was useless to attempt to deceive me. "I see that you know," he
said, meekly, "the terrible misfortune by which I have been overtaken,
through no fault of my own. I am quite sure it will not affect Lady
Broadhem's resolution."

"I am quite sure it will," I said; "and the fact is, as she did not want
a scene, she sent me down to give you to understand that everything is
at an end between you. You look surprised," I went on, for Chundango was
not yet so familiar with the customs of polite society, as to believe
such heartless conduct on the part of Lady Broadhem possible; "but I
assure you this is the usual form among ladies in London. I am well
aware no Hindoo woman would have done it; but you must remember, Mr
Chundango, that you are in a Christian and a civilised country, where
money is essential to make the pot boil--not in a tropical heathen land
where a pocket-handkerchief is sufficient for clothing, and a few
plantains for sustenance. We don't keep our hearts in a state of nature
in this country a bit more than our bodies--it would not be considered
proper; you'll soon get over it"--but Chundango's eyes were gleaming
with revenge.

"Ah!" he said, drawing his breath with a sibilant sound, "everybody in
London shall hear how I have got over it."

"Nobody would believe you, and you would only be laughed at. Lady
Broadhem would flatly deny it. We always do deny those little episodes.
My good innocent Chundango, how much you have to learn, and how simple
and guileless they are in your native country to what we are here! No,
no! come with me; I will do the best for everybody, and send you back to
your mother dutiful and repentant--you had no business ever to desert
her;" and I rang the bell.

"Tell Lady Broadhem," I said to Drippings, "that I have gone with Mr
Chundango into the City, and will call again to-morrow." I took
Chundango straight to Bodwinkle's, and found the millionaire in close
confabulation with Spiffy Goldtip. Between them was the address to the
electors of Shuffleborough, with which my readers are already familiar.

"We must alter it slightly," said Spiffy as I entered.

"What! haven't you issued it yet?" I asked.

"No," he said; "we were just going to send it out to-day."

"Then I am in time to stop you. Your address, Spiffy, so outraged
Stepton, that he has determined to stand himself, and neither you nor
Bodwinkle have a chance; so I would advise you to keep that document
back," I said, turning to Bodwinkle, who looked dumbfounded and
crestfallen.

"A nice mess you have got me into between you," he said, sulkily gazing
at us both.

"Spiffy has, but my turn has yet to come. Bodwinkle, I think you know
more of Mr Chundango's affairs than any one else; in fact, I suppose you
have what the tradesmen call 'a little account' between you. He wishes
to say a few words confidentially to you, while I want to have a moment
alone with Spiffy."

"You know all about him?" I said, nodding towards Chundango.

"Collapsed, hasn't he?" said Spiffy.

"Yes," I said, "but it won't be known for a day or two. At present he is
Lord Scilly's nominee. Bodwinkle wants a borough. He may either ignore
his last programme, as it is not yet issued, and adopt Scilly's
political views, or, if he is too conscientious, when Chundango retires
at the last moment, he may snatch the seat. All that is your affair--you
know Scilly and Bodwinkle both better than I do. Now I have reasons for
wanting Chundango shipped back at once to Bombay, and for wishing to
close this long-standing affair of Lady Broadhem's with Bodwinkle. Make
the best terms you can for Chundango, and see what Bodwinkle is disposed
to do in the other matter; and let me know the result to-morrow. Keep
Chundango here now to refer to. Good-bye, Bodwinkle," I called out;
"Spiffy has got some good news to give you, but be merciful to our
friend here," and I passed my arm through Chundango's and drew him to a
corner. "Now, look here," I said, in a whisper, "if you will bury the
recollection of what has passed between you and Lady Broadhem, and never
breathe a word of it even in your dreams, I will get Bodwinkle to start
you again in Bombay, but you must go back at once and stay there. Now
you may stay here, for you will be wanted." I saw Spiffy meantime
imparting to Bodwinkle his projects for turning to account the new
prospects I had been the means of opening out to him.

"Dear me," I thought, as I for the second time that day threaded my way
westwards from the City, "all this is unravelling itself very neatly,
considering how much dirt is mixed up in it, but it is not quite far
enough advanced to be communicated to Grandon." The fact is, I had a
sort of suspicion that he would not altogether approve of my mode of
carrying my point, even when my only desire was to secure his and
Ursula's happiness. No, I thought; he would have scruples, and object,
and bother. I won't tell him anything till it is all done; but I must
tell him something, as I promised him some good news to-day, and he is
waiting at home on purpose.

"Well, old fellow, I think I have got a borough for you, after all. It
stupidly did not occur to me before, but you are just the man for the
constituency."

"I thought you had been to Lady Broadhem's, and were to bring me back
some good news," said Grandon, with a disappointed air.

"So I have," I replied, "but I am bound to secrecy for another
twenty-four hours; meantime, listen! I am going to retire from
Dunderhead. I wrote my address a few days ago, but did not send it. They
are therefore quite unprepared. I will retire to-morrow; the nomination
is to be in two or three days; and what with the suddenness of the
affair and my influence, your return is certain."

"You going to retire!" said Grandon, astounded. "Why, you never told me
of this. When did you make up your mind?"

"It made itself up, as it always does," I said, laughing. "It never puts
me in the painful position of having to decide, but takes its own line
at once. I am going to America by the next steamer." Now, when I tell my
readers that when I began to talk to Grandon I had no intention whatever
of going to America, they will be able to form some idea, if they have
not done so already, of what a funny mind mine is. It came upon me with
the irresistible force of an inspiration, and from that moment I was
morally booked and bound at all hazards to go.

Grandon knew me so well that he was less surprised than he might have
been, and only sighed deeply. He felt at that moment that there was
something hopelessly wrong about me. He had been so often encouraged by
a certain steadiness which I maintained for some time, and which led him
to think me changed, and so often disappointed; for when he least
expected it I broke the slender fetters of common-sense and
conventionalism, which he and society between them had woven round me,
and went off at a tangent.

"Never mind, old fellow," I said, laughing, "there is no use sighing
over me. I have pleasures and satisfactions arising from within that I
should not have if I was like everybody else. Now, for instance:"--and
the eagerness and turmoil which my new project excited within me seemed
to reduce every other consideration to insignificance, for I began to
feel conscious that, somehow or other, though I had often been in
America before, this time it was to be to me a newer world than ever.

"Are you going alone?" said Grandon; for I had not finished my sentence.

"No," I said; and I guessed who my companion was to be, though no words
had been exchanged between us.

"Who IS going with you?" he asked, wonderingly, for my manner struck
him, and I scarcely heard his question, so wrapt at that instance seemed
all my faculties. I think I fell asleep and dreamt, but I can't recall
exactly what I seemed to see. Grandon was shaking me, I thought, in the
most heartless manner, and I told him as much when I opened my eyes. The
fact was, I was a little knocked up with excitement; but I would not go
and lie down till he promised me to stand for Dunderhead. Then I went to
bed, and did not get up till the lamps were being lighted in Piccadilly.

The result of such irregular hours was that I was in bed next morning
when Spiffy Goldtip knocked at my bedroom-door. He had worked very hard
in Lady Broadhem's interest, and explained to me the scheme which he had
arranged with Bodwinkle, by means of which, at a very considerable
sacrifice of my own capital, I could start Lady Broadhem and her son
afresh in the world, on a very limited income, but devoid of
encumbrances of a threatening or embarrassing nature. I would far rather
have invested the same amount in securing a larger income to Grandon and
Ursula, if they were ever destined to be united; but I knew that, in the
first place, nothing would induce them to take it from me; and in the
second, that I could only even now hope to extort Lady Broadhem's
consent to the match by the prospect I was enabled to hold out to her of
a period of financial repose. After all, my own wants were moderate, and
£15,000 a-year satisfied them as well as £20,000.

"We accomplished great things yesterday," said Spiffy, rubbing his hands
gleefully, for he had himself benefited by the settlement above alluded
to. "When I showed Bodwinkle that we could make the Scilly boroughs a
certainty, he behaved like a gentleman, and our friend Chundango is to
go out to Bombay by the next mail, under more favourable conditions than
he could have possibly expected. Of course I shall retire from
contesting Shuffleborough to the more congenial atmosphere of Homburg.
Heigho!" sighed Spiffy, "I have gone through a good deal of wear and
tear this season, and want to recruit."

I got rid of Spiffy as soon as I had heard what he had to say, and I was
so satisfied with his intelligence that I determined at once to see
Grandon, and to take him with me to Lady Broadhem's. "Grandon," I said,
abruptly entering his room, "I want you to come with me at once to
Grosvenor Square."

"Did Lady Broadhem tell you to ask me?" He looked up with such a sad,
wistful gaze as he said this, that my heart melted towards him, for I
felt I had spoken roughly; so I drew a chair close to him, and, sitting
by his side, placed my arm in his as we did in the old school-days.

"My dear old fellow, the moment is come for you to prove your friendship
by trusting me thoroughly. I know how rudely Lady Broadhem has always
behaved to you whenever you have met--I know how my conduct has
perplexed and grieved you. Well, now, I have come to ask you to forgive
us both."

"I have nothing to forgive; but it would be an utter want of taste in me
to go there unless she expects me, and wishes to see me, and I can
hardly hope that," he said, with a forced smile.

For a moment I doubted whether I dared to risk it, but I had placed Lady
Broadhem in a position upon which I could venture a good deal, and I
longed for the triumph and gratification of enjoying the success of my
own handiwork. It would be a triumph full of alloy, but I wanted to see
how much I could achieve and--bear; so my hesitation vanished.

"I will take the responsibility on myself," I said; "and believe me, I
would not urge it if I was not perfectly certain that I was doing what
is right. Remember how many times I have blindly followed your advice. I
only ask you this once to follow mine, and secure your own happiness."

The temptation was too strong, and Grandon yielded; but it was with a
reluctant, doubtful step that he approached the door he had not this
year ventured to enter. It was opened by Drippings, and I took the
opportunity of having a little private conversation with him in the
hall, in the course of which it was arranged that he should exchange her
ladyship's service for mine, and accompany me to America: the truth is,
I proposed settling him there, and making him send for his wife and
family. He knew too much of Lady Broadhem's affairs to be at all a
desirable domestic either to herself or to her friends in this country.

"Lady Broadhem is in her own sitting-room, my lord," said Drippings;
"shall I show your lordship up to her?"

"No; if there is nobody in the drawing-room, take us there first. Now,
Grandon, I will send for you when you are wanted; keep quiet, and don't
get impatient;" and I left him and knocked at Lady Broadhem's door.

The events of the last twenty-four hours had told upon her, and the old
wrinkles had come back, with several new ones. She was at that critical
age when a great grief or anxiety can make an elderly person antiquated
in a night--just as hair will turn grey in a few hours. She put out her
hand without speaking, but with an expression of resignation which
seemed to say, "I acknowledge myself beaten; be a brute or anything else
you like; trample upon me, pray--I am down without the possibility of
retaliating, but you will get very little sport out of me; badger me if
you like, I don't mean to show fight." All this I read in her face as
plainly as if she had said it; and I thought this a moment when
generosity on the part of the victor will prove one to be a true
strategist; and no one will appreciate it more than Lady Broadhem. With
great gentleness, and without allowing a shade of self-satisfaction to
cross my face or to penetrate my tones, I told her how I had propitiated
Bodwinkle, banished Chundango, provided for Drippings, and succeeded at
last in placing her affairs generally on a sound footing.

"Your genius will never be appreciated by the world, Frank," she said,
smiling half ironically, half sadly.

"I am quite aware of that," I replied; "nor will this record of my
experiences in it--except by you and one or two others who know how true
it is. And now, Lady Broadhem, you know the wish which is nearest my
heart, but which I don't venture to put in words,"--and I held out my
hand.

"Yes," she said--and I saw the slender nostril dilate with the effort it
cost her to yield the point upon which she had been so long
inflexible--"you want my consent to Ursula's marriage with Grandon. I
give it."

"Wait a minute; I should like Lady Ursula to be present," I said; for
even now I did not feel that I could trust the old lady thoroughly, and
I rang the bell. It was delightful to see how submissively Lady Broadhem
sent for Lady Ursula, and how kindly she greeted both son and daughter
as they entered, for Broadhem accompanied his sister.

"I have sent for you, my dear," she said, "to tell you how much we owe
to our kind friend here, who has completely relieved my mind from all
those anxieties which have been weighing upon it for the last few years,
by his noble and generous conduct. Ursula, dear, you will never know
really how much you owe him, for he has shown me that I have not done my
duty to you as a mother;" and Lady Broadhem's voice trembled. "Upon my
word," I thought, "I do believe the old woman is sincere;" and I looked
at her fixedly. The tears were filling her eyes. Now pray heaven that we
have got to heart at last--it is like sinking a well in a thirsty
desert, and coming on water. Yes, there they are welling out, honest
large drops, chasing each other to the point of her nose. Oh, my dear
Lady Broadhem, I am beginning to love you, and my eyes are beginning to
swim too; and before she knew where she was, I threw my arms round her
neck and kissed her--an example which was rapidly followed both by
Ursula and Broadhem, and which so overcame their mother that she buried
her face in a pillow and sobbed out--in tears that might at first have
been bitter, but were assuredly sweet and refreshing at last--her
repentance. I don't think Broadhem had any very definite idea why he
wept, beyond a feeling of sympathy with his mother, and the fact, which
I afterwards heard, that Wild Harrie had taken Spiffy's advice, and
refused him; so he mingled his tears with hers, but Lady Ursula's eyes
were dry and supernaturally brilliant. As I gazed on the group, my own
heart seemed to swell to bursting. I do really believe and trust that
Lady Broadhem will give up the worldly-holies, and become a pious good
woman; and that those talents and that force of character which she
possesses may be dedicated to a higher service than they have heretofore
been. If I have been the humble instrument of working the change, the
sooner I send Grandon here and vanish myself from the scene, the better,
or I shall become vain and conceited, I thought; and I rose from my
seat.

"Good-bye, Lady Broadhem," I said, "you will not see me again. I am
going to America in three days, and must go to Flityville to-morrow; but
I never thought I could have bid you all farewell and felt so happy at
the prospect of parting;" and I threw one yearning glance on Ursula in
spite of myself. "Your happiness is secured, I do most firmly believe,"
I said to her; "and as for you," and I laid my hand on Broadhem's
shoulder, "remember the experiment I proposed to you the other night,
and try it;" and I was moving off when Ursula seized my hand, and almost
dragged me back to her mother's side. She lifted up her eyes like one
inspired, and the radiancy of her expression seemed to dazzle and blind
me. Then she knelt down, and I knelt by her side, while her mother lay
before us, her whole frame heaving with convulsive sobs, and Broadhem
stood by wondering and awestruck. I can't repeat that prayer here, but
there was a power in those gentle accents which stilled the stormy
elements, as the waves of the sea were once stilled before; and when the
thrilling voice ceased there was a great calm, and we knew that a change
had been affected in that place. Then the floodgates were opened which
had been to that moment barred, and Lady Ursula threw herself on her
mother's bosom, and wept tears of gratitude, and I stole silently away
to the drawing-room, and led Grandon by the hand, without uttering a
word, to that room into which a new atmosphere had descended, and a new
breath had called into existence a new nature. He started back on the
threshold at the picture before him. Lady Broadhem, apparently scarcely
conscious, clasped in the arms of her weeping daughter; and
Broadhem--poor Broadhem--bewildered at the sight of the strong woman he
had dreaded and worshipped thus suddenly breaking down, was sitting on a
footstool at his mother's side, holding one of her hands, helplessly.

"Good God! Frank," said Grandon, in a whisper, for neither Lady Broadhem
nor her daughter saw us, "what have you been doing?"

"Beginning the work which is left for you to finish;" and I gently
disengaged one of Lady Ursula's hands, and drew it towards me. "On you,"
I said to her solemnly, "has been bestowed a great gift; use it as you
have done, and may he share it with you, and support you in the lifelong
trial it must involve, and in the ridicule to which you will both be
exposed. For myself, I go to seek it where I am told I shall alone find
it." I placed her hand in Grandon's, kissed her mother on the forehead,
and hurried from the room. Then the strain on my nervous system suddenly
relaxed. I am conscious of Drippings helping me into a cab, and going
with me to Piccadilly, and of one coming in and finding me stretched on
my bed, and of his lifting me from it by a single touch, just as
Drippings was going off in quest of the doctor. It was he who had met me
that night when I was walking with Broadhem, but his name I am unable to
divulge. "Stay here, my friend," he said to Drippings, "and pack your
master's things: there is no need for the doctor; I will take him to
America." And my heart leaped within me, for its predictions were
verified, and the path lay clear before me.

And now, on this last night in England, as I pen the last lines of this
record of my life during the six months that are past, and look back to
the spirit in which it was begun, and examine the influences which
impelled me to write as I have, I see that I too have undergone a
change, and that the time has come when, if I wished, I can no more
descant as heretofore on the faults and foibles of the day. Among those
who have read me there may be some who have so well understood, that
they will see why this is so. If in what I have said I have hurt the
feelings of any man or woman in my desire to expose the vices of society
at large, they will be of those who have failed to detect why I have
said thus much, and needs must stop here; but none the less earnestly
would I assure them that it has been against my will and intention to
wound any one. As I began because I could not help it, so I end because
I am obliged. My task is done. The seed which I found in my hand, such
as it was, I have sown. Whether it rots and dies in the ground, or
springs up and brings forth fruit, is a matter in which I cannot, and
ought not, to have the smallest personal interest.


THE END.





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