Imatges de pÓgina

Zoological Society, such were among the renowned French lion-slayer, the Baron events I could recal as having suggested Bobadil de Bête-Fauve, had, at the last feastful rejoicings. But that to which I moment, accepted an invitation to dine at have now to refer was to be regarded as a Lumpeters' Hall. private and peculiar gathering, almost, in The character of the assembly had underpoint of fact, a corporate family-feed, com- gone a change. Not only had a little rein. prising no more than ninety-five guests, forcement of a hundred and twenty guests selected with discrimination, for the pur- been hastily invited, but a dense mass of pose of testing the merits of a new head- spectators lined the hall

, the passages,

and cook. Thus it had rather the nature of a the ante-chamber, and even frothed over grave and dispassionate deliberation than into the banqueting-room itself, the spaof a dinner, a certain sense of responsibility cious gallery of which was already filled toning down the exuberant mirth that with ladies, whom the chivalrous guild had usually waited on these pleasant assemblies. found it impossible to dream of excluding.

There were to be no speeches, no music. I was late; but dinner had been deferred The usual loyal toasts, no more. Above half an hour. There would be just time all, no ladies. The presence of beauty, to rush into the room, secure my friend's chatting in the gallery, might haply dis- seat, and then deposit my cloak and overtract the attention of the weaker brethren alls in the room devoted to such purposes. from the great object of the meeting.

The former matter was quickly ar. The Lumpeters were particular—and a ranged, and I was darting back, when I was thought conservative-in matters of attire. met by a rush and pressure that almost They themselves, to a man, adhered to the forced me behind an adjacent screen.

The fashion, moribund, but not defunct, of Baron de Bête-Fauve had arrived, and was ankle - buttoned pantaloong, figured - silk being triumphantly marched into the hall. stockings, buckled shoes, expansive white The Baron Bobadil de Bête-Fauve, when waistcoats, and the mighty cravat patro- visible, proved to be a remarkably small nised by his late majesty, the fourth George. gentleman, with intensely black eyes and It was well understood that the adoption moustaches, the latter curling fiercely up of a similar costume on the part of their almost into the former; but my own situaguests would be interpreted by Lumpeters tion demanded all my attention. Withas the most delicate return that could be draw I could not. To sit down in that offered for their hospitality. I, myself, in- highly-attired society in light brown overvariably sported the fancy dress in question. alls, such as might be worn by a stable

On the eventful day I have mentioned, man, was not to be thought of. it happened that I had been detained at idea. Just within the door, near the wall, chambers later than usual, and on reaching but with space to get behind it, stood the home had barely time to dress. While large screen against which I had been doing so, I received an anxious message pressed. Capturing a waiter, I drew him from a friend who was to have accompanied with me into that friendly shelter. me to the banquet, but who, being late, and Here, help, my man. Can't get back. himself a stranger to the guild, begged me Just let me slip off these confoundedto secure for him a seat next my own. hurry, now—- I gasped, and tore the

With increased expedition I finished my buttons loose with lightning speed. toilet, and the dining-hall being but five “ All right, sir.” minutes' walk from my residence, I quickly The waiter was as quick as I, and scarcely buttoned on a pair of rough overalls, threw gave me time to disengage the last button, on my cloak, and hurried to the spot. before he caught away the garment, and

To my astonishment, a crowd, dense and bundling it up, vanished in the crowd. still angmenting, was gathered about the “Eh ! hillo! stop, you! Good Headoor. It was only through the aid of a no-it's impossible! And yet-mercy on friendly policeman that I was enabled to us—what shall I do ?” make my way. “What was the matter?" I A horrible fact had revealed itself. In inquired of Number Nineteen B. The an- making my hurried toilet, I had actually swer, half drowned in the clatter of arriving buttoned on my overalls — omitting my Carriages, sounded something like “ furrin black dress-pantaloons ! swell.” “ Who ?” Number Nineteen for- What was to become of me? Garments, bore to trust his lips with the name; but indeed, were there - garments even too it were him as kills the wild beastesses out ample and obtrusive. I had worn while in Afrikey. It was a more intelligent porter dressing a pair of wide but shortish trousers who presently announced to me that the once used in a Chinese burlesque, written

Ah ! an

by my friend Skelton for the delectation seated at the board, the friend who shonld of a private circle, and which, being in- have accompanied me at my side. tended for that occasion only, were adorned “You take it coolly, old fellow," rewith devices grotesque and terror-striking, marked the latter. “I fancied that at these represented in colours crimson, green, and dinners punctuality" blue. And these abominable trousers I had “ I take it coolly, very coolly," I replied. brought with me to Lumpeter's Hall ! “And it is for your sake I am doing so.

A chill shot through me as I realised the May I ask you to spare me as much adfull extent of the misadventure. I stag- jacent table-cloth as is compatible with gered back faintly against the wall, and your personal convenience?" endeavoured to collect myself. Glancing “ Table-cloth! Assuredly. But why?" round the corner of the screen, I observed, “ There are reasons, hidden reasons. But with a shudder, that the company were of that hereafter. A glass of wine ?” taking their places, while the ladies in the “My friend is agitated. His manly gallery had risen, en masse, and were di- fingers quiver. Something is amiss with recting so concentrated a fire of eyes upon Charteris,” remarked my companion, in the entrance, where the valiant lion-queller the sepulchral tone he is given to use when had paused to return the salute that greeted chaffing those he loves. him, that to escape had become impossible. Dicky Skelton, who never, so far as it I must remain where I was, till able to is ascertained, had a relative in the world, concert with some compassionate attendant dresses always in the deepest mourning a plan of escape.

He never laughs, outwardly. He is mirth There was the settling murmur and buzz, itself

, within.

He has written burlesques the “ Gentlemen, pray silence. For grace !” by the score. To Skelton is due the evisceand the “Stand still, waiters !” in á voice ration of words that have baffled the skill of authority Grace followed, and the of the most accomplished tormentors of noise of feasting; but the next intelligible the English language. words froze my very soul.

My friend, confide in me,” continued “ Remove that screen !"

Dick, smacking his lips, for the Lumpeter Instinctively I clutched and held it back. Burgundy is not to be tasted every day. There came a violent tug; but there was “You are ill at ease.” too much at stake for a feeble defence, and At the knees. A trifle." I held on with desperate tenacity.

“ To remember one's troubles in such “Quick, now, with that screen !” said the a scene is weak.” voice of authority. “What's the matter ?” “ To forget one's trousers is madness," I

“ There's a gent, be'ind, a-'olding of it whispered, with clenched teeth, in his ear. back," said some officious booby.

“ One's!" ejaculated Skelton, faintly, “Here---you !" I gasped. “Five shil- as he turned upon me a countenance nalings ! Ten! Twenty Five pounds! turally wan and lengthy, but now whitened Fetch-brown overalls ! Forgot trou---- and elongated with real alarm.

“YouLet the screen alone, can't ye?”

don't mean

Do I distinctly under“ Bless my 'eart, sir! 'Ere is a go!” stand

. ?' said a waiter, grinning, but compassionate, “You understand my reason for requirfor he had recognised me, even thus. ing as large a portion of the table-cloth as

“ Take that thing out of the way!" you can conveniently spare.” roared the voice of authority.

“Now this is very noteworthy, yes, it "Must do it, sir,” explained the waiter. is really curious,” remarked Mr. Skelton, “The heatables can't come by. Stop! with more interest than sympathy. “I do There's a wacant seat. 'Taint three steps not remember having ever met with a preoff."

cisely similar situation. A man may, inThat's mine," I groaned.

deed, forget an essential garment. The " 'Ow lucky!

Now just you slip into it mind cannot always be dwelling on these as I shifts the screen, so's to partect you. outward things. But has he no friend? Tuck the table-kiver well into your weskit, Wife, servant, grandmother? Is there no and nobody'll be the wiser. One, two, hand to bar his exit, no tongue to say, three. Hoff you go !”

'My dear, my very dear sir, return, reflect. Off it was necessary to go, for he caught Consult, if not prevailing fashions, at least away my defences, but extended the fold- that warmth and comfort as needful to man ing arms of the screen, so as nearly to as his daily food ? Did none do this ?” touch the vacant seat. In that instant, I shook my head, and briefly recounted how I hardly knew, I found myself fairly the cause and manner of my misfortune.

My friend gazed at me sorrowfully: with the baron's reply (in French), and

"So fair above !" he murmured. “ So-counter - proposition of the health of the well, so singular below! Who now, in this ladies, was received with the greatest enbrilliant assembly--graced, as I perceive, thusiasm. with the presence of many beautiful (and The excitement was just settling down, giggling) women-would imagine that you, when— sitting here so well got up, radiant with “ Hallo !” exclaimed Skelton, “what's artificial mirth, are a type of Milton's Sin ?" up, now ? Is any one expected, I wonder?

I replied, curtly, that I accepted the They are putting a big velvet chair next to situation, as he was pleased to term it, with Bête-Fauve. It must be a swell. Can the the calmness that seemed expedient, and Prince of-that having done all that man could do, I “So long as it is not intended for my awaited the decrees of fate, and the arrival humble person,” I replied, with an easy of the waiter, to whom I had offered a smile, “I am perfectlysovereign to smuggle in my overalls, at the “I beg your pardon, Mr. Charteris," first opportune moment.

said the voice of the head-steward, who, Awfully lucky for you, my boy, there's followed by two attendant waiters, had apto be no speech-making!” continued Skel- proached us unobserved. “The chair, sir, ton. "We would have had you on your presents his compliments, and begs you will defenceless legs in no time.”

do him and the Baron de Bête-Fauve the & “ Have you seen the toast-list, gentle- favour to occupy the seat that has been men?” asked a portly member of the placed for you between them.” guild, on my left, as he politely offered a My heart stood still. My hair rose. А card.

chill of horror shot through me. There was a catalogue of at least twenty “ The baron, sir, speaks no English, and toasts, with names appended as proposers; though him and the chair has been hard at and, as proposing that of the guest of the it all dinner, neither of 'em has understood evening, the Baron de Bête-Fauve, “Mr. a word,” said the steward, confidentially. Reginald Charteris !"

“The chair, sir, and the company geneAt the same moment a note was placed rally,” added Mr. Feastful, with poetic in my hand. It was from the chairman. exaggeration, " would 'ail with pleasure

"Oblige us. We know your ready elo- the spectacle of your introduction to the quence. Baron struck with your face and baron. manner. Wishes to hear you speak. Touch “ The baron be" I know not what ap the lions."

I was about to say. My voice faltered. I Snatching out my pencil-case I wrote : had caught a glimpse of the fair occupants “ Throat impracticable. Uvula cut off this of the gallery, leaning over the balustrade morning. Should create more astonishment in their eagerness to examine the favoured than interest if forced upon my legs." individual for whom the chair of state had

I breathed. That peril was averted. My been so ostentatiously prepared, and a vision spirits rose as the merry feast proceeded, of myself marching up the hall, clad in my and I began to see more distinctly the abominable burlesque Chinese trousers, the humorous side of my little misadventure. mark of every eye, almost made me reel in The atmosphere was warm and pleasant. my chair. Why, I had been present at many a dinner I shuddered, strove to speak, conceived in the north where men dined, from pre- a wild thought of diving under the table, ference, without their---that is, in kilts. when, whish! with a lurid, fitful swirl, ont True, I had not exactly a kilt; but, even went the enormous lustre, with all the were I compelled to stand forth from my minor lights following suit. We were in present retirement, the exhibition of knee, total darkness. the publication of calf, would be no greater I will not describe the confusion that than is legally sanctioned within five hun- szcceeded, the screams of laughter from dred miles of this spot.

the gallery, the scramble and the crash Ha! a sensation. Pray silence," &c. below. Torches gleamed in the doorways Grace. “Non nobis.” Then the usual loyal almost before we knew what had happened, toasts, and we drank prosperity to several and the accident that had occasioned the collateral branches of the reigning house sudden extinction of our light was (the Lampeters were nothing if not loyal), medied within a few minutes. before we arrived at the great toast of the But, when order was restored, one chair evening-the Baron de Bête-Fauve. This stood vacant at that hospitable board! was given by the chairman himself; and, / Whether its occupant had been trampled

rePORT,” &c. &c.

under foot in the disorder, or had vanished “ And are gone,” said Madge. They with the light, was never known. My went off by the express this morning, to private opinion is that, while anxious in my intense relief; for I felt bound, fettered, quiries were being made in the Lumpeters' and as though I could scarcely breathe, Hall, the missing gentleman was warming while they were in the house." his legs at his domestic hearth, sipping his “ You carried out your intention of askgrog, and smiling at the peril he had so ing Sir Geoffry to allow you to keep your narrowly escaped.


“ Yes; he accorded it at once, and no

thing could have worked better. Mr. Vane CASTAWAY.

and his friend were in the house nearly BY THE AUTHOR OF "BLACK SHEEP," "WRECKED IX

four-and-twenty hours, and during the whole of that time they neither of them

caught sight of me." BOOK III.

“ The other man might have seen you CHAPTER V. THE NEXT DAY.

without any danger to yourself, I supMr. DRAGE, smoking a sedative pipe in pose ?" the rectory garden after breakfast the next I am not so sure of that. This Mr. morning, pondering over his strange inter- Delabole is a man who followed us one day view with Philip Vane, and wondering from the theatre at Wexeter, and seemed to when and how he should hear of its result, take particular notice of us. By the way, was startled from his reverie by the clang- what could have brought him to Wexeter ing of the bell, and looking up saw Mrs. at that time, I wonder? It was certainly Pickering at the gate. This visit was not the same man; I recognised his figure.” unexpected, nor, truth to tell, had it been “ Indeed! Then, though unseen yourcontemplated without alarm. The rector self, you managed to see them ?" felt tolerably certain that Mrs. Pickering Scarcely to see them. Some time after would come to tell him how matters had dinner, when it was quite dusk, they went progressed at Wheatcroft, during the stay into the garden to smoke, and strolled up of the strangers from London; but it was and down the little side path leading to by no means certain that he himself might the stables, which is immediately under not have been seen in colloquy with Vane my window. My attention was attracted by some of the servants on the premises, to them by hearing Philip's well-rememor even by the housekeeper herself, and bered short sarcastic laugh. Then I peered that the reason for and the result of that out cautiously once or twice, and perceived colloquy might be demanded of him. To them moving about in the gloom. There was be sure, he argued with himself, he had not light enough for me to see their features, informed Mrs. Pickering of his deter. but I recognised the other man's square, mination of some time or other seeking thick-set figure, and Philip's swinging an interview with her husband on her be- walk." half, and had obtained her consent, how- “You heard Mr. Vane laugh ?" asked the ever unwilling it was given; but he con- rector, somewhat anxiously. “He must fessed to himself that Mrs. Pickering had have been amused; I conclude things must looked upon his declared intention of seek. have been going well.” ing that interview as vague and remote, “ It was by no means that kind of laugh,” and would probably resent his having replied Madge, “but one which I have availed himself of the first opportunity heard too often not to recognise its meanwhich presented itself without further com- ing-short, hard, and sarcastic. Besides, munication with her on the subject. though I could not distinguish the words

There, however, she was at the garden they uttered, I could hear the tone in which gate, and, whatever happened, she must not they spoke, and my impression was that be kept waiting. So Mr. Drage hurried they were using anything but pleasant landown the path and gave her admittance, guage to each other.” bidding her good morning, with that strange “ That looks as though they had not been mixture of earnestness and nervousness able to carry through the business which which always characterised his communi- brought them down here," said the rector. cations with Mrs. Pickering.

“I do not fancy matters went quite as Well, now tell me about your guests,” smoothly as they anticipated," said Madge. said he, after the ordinary salutation. "They "I spoke to Sir Geoffry just before coming arrived according to promise. They stayed out. He told me he had informed those with you, and

gentlemen that he was not prepared to give

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them a final and decisive answer at once, Mr. Drage said no more. He felt quite but that he would write to them in the certain that if Philip Vane were to hear of course of a few days.”

his wife's interference in his business pro“ Deliberation on such a matter in a ject, all hopes of the repentance and reman of Sir Geoffry's temperament does formation which his last words seemed to not argue well for the success of those convey were at an end. And Mr. Drage speculating gentry,” said the rector. “One believed in the possibility of his arguments would scarcely imagine that a man by having produced a salutary effect. “The nature so impulsive would be inclined to man's manner was so real,” he said to himdeliberate over even matters of business.” self. “He was evidently touched.”

“I think that in this instance, at all Meanwhile Madge, making the best of events, the result of his deliberations will her way home, was wondering what the be to prohibit his friend from embarking rector could bave meant by his allusion to in the project which Mr. Vane and his the possibility of Philip Vane's being incompanion came here to advocate,” said duced, by any means other than threatened Madge. “I cannot tell you by what means, exposure, to give up the project on which but a curious iece of information relative his heart was fixed. Although Mr. Drage to this very affair has fallen into my hands. had talked vaguely about seeking an interI shall lay it before Sir Geoffry prior to view in which he would warn Philip of the his writing his decision, and I have no iniquity of the course he was pursuing, and doubt of the way in which it will influence of the danger which awaited him if he perhim."

sisted in it, Madge had no notion that the “I hope there is no chance of-of your quiet, nervous invalid would have had the husband hearing of the part which you courage to carry his plan into effect. What propose to take in this matter ?" said the he had said arose from that simplicity and rector, nervously.

want of knowledge of the world, which she "Not the least chance in the world, I had often remarked in him. Madge did should imagine," said Madge. “But sup- not rightly estimate the depth of the mine pose he were to hear of it, what then ?" of love in that honest heart. Since the time

" It might induce him to be more bitter when she had told him of the impossibility against you."

of her ever being more to him than a friend, "Nothing could render him more bitter the rector had carefully abstained from any against me than the knowledge - if he exhibition of his feeling for her, and she ever acquired it—that I had explained to his imagined that it had died away, or at least future wife the impossibility of his legal had given place to that merely brotherly marriage with her.”

regard which she was able and willing to "No, but-suppose he should give up accept. that project and repent, the knowledge of When she reached Wheatcroft she found this interference on your part might aggra- Sir Geoffry engaged in his favourite occuvate him against you, and prevent his doing pation of superintending the gardeners, the justice which he otherwise would." and driving them to desperation by the

“Give up that project and repent! Philip conflicting suggestions which he made, and Vane repenting and doing justice! My dear impossible orders which he desired carried Mr. Drage, what can you be thinking of ? out. The old general looked up as she You have only heard of Mr. Vane through approached, and at once advanced to meet me; and either my descriptive or your appre

her. ciative powers must be poor indeed, if you “Good morning, Mrs. Pickering," he could think that such a man could be led said. “You were early astir this morning. to give up any project from which he is to I went to your room after breakfast, but derive great benefit and comfort. How- found you already flown. So I came out ever, we need not discuss this matter any here to give a few directions as to the farther ; there cannot be the slightest im- manner in which I wish this compound laid plied connexion between me and the answer out by next summer. There is nothing which Sir Geoffry will send on this matter which refreshes me so much after muddling of business. As Mr. Vane has passed my head with complicated details of busitwenty-four hours under the same roof with ness, as to undertako a little landscape me in complete ignorance of my proximity, gardening, in which, I flatter myself, I he cannot imagine me to be in collusion have excellent taste." with his opponent; and even if Mrs. Ben- Madge, to whom the gardeners were dixen were to tell him of my visit to her, she constantly appealing when hopelessly incould not give him any clue to my abode.” | volved by their master's contradictory in

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