Cashel Byron's Profession
by George Bernard Shaw
Moncrief House, Panley Common. Scholastic establishment for the
sons of gentlemen, etc.
Panley Common, viewed from the back windows of Moncrief House, is a
tract of grass, furze and rushes, stretching away to the western
One wet spring afternoon the sky was full of broken clouds, and the
common was swept by their shadows, between which patches of green and
yellow gorse were bright in the broken sunlight. The hills to the
northward were obscured by a heavy shower, traces of which were drying
off the slates of the school, a square white building, formerly a
gentleman's country-house. In front of it was a well-kept lawn with a
few clipped holly-trees. At the rear, a quarter of an acre of land was
enclosed for the use of the boys. Strollers on the common could hear,
at certain hours, a hubbub of voices and racing footsteps from within
the boundary wall. Sometimes, when the strollers were boys themselves,
they climbed to the coping, and saw on the other side a piece of
common trampled bare and brown, with a few square yards of concrete,
so worn into hollows as to be unfit for its original use as a
ball-alley. Also a long shed, a pump, a door defaced by innumerable
incised inscriptions, the back of the house in much worse repair than
the front, and about fifty boys in tailless jackets and broad,
turned-down collars. When the fifty boys perceived a stranger on the
wall they rushed to the spot with a wild halloo, overwhelmed him with
insult and defiance, and dislodged him by a volley of clods, stones,
lumps of bread, and such other projectiles as were at hand.
On this rainy spring afternoon a brougham stood at the door of
Moncrief House. The coachman, enveloped in a white india-rubber coat,
was bestirring himself a little after the recent shower. Within-doors,
in the drawing-room, Dr. Moncrief was conversing with a stately lady
aged about thirty-five, elegantly dressed, of attractive manner, and
only falling short of absolute beauty in her complexion, which was
deficient in freshness.
"No progress whatever, I am sorry to say," the doctor was
"That is very disappointing," said the lady, contracting her brows.
"It is natural that you should feel disappointed," replied the
doctor. "I would myself earnestly advise you to try the effect of
placing him at some other—" The doctor stopped. The lady's face had
lit up with a wonderful smile, and she had raised her hand with a
bewitching gesture of protest.
"Oh, no, Dr. Moncrief," she said. "I am not disappointed with YOU;
but I am all the more angry with Cashel, because I know that if he
makes no progress with you it must be his own fault. As to taking him
away, that is out of the question. I should not have a moment's peace
if he were out of your care. I will speak to him very seriously about
his conduct before I leave to-day. You will give him another trial,
will you not?"
"Certainly. With the greatest pleasure," exclaimed the doctor,
confusing himself by an inept attempt at gallantry. "He shall stay as
long as you please. But"—here the doctor became grave again—"you
cannot too strongly urge upon him the importance of hard work at the
present time, which may be said to be the turning-point of his career
as a student. He is now nearly seventeen; and he has so little
inclination for study that I doubt whether he could pass the
examination necessary to entering one of the universities. You
probably wish him to take a degree before he chooses a profession."
"Yes, of course," said the lady, vaguely, evidently assenting to
the doctor's remark rather than expressing a conviction of her own.
"What profession would you advise for him? You know so much better
"Hum!" said Dr. Moncrief, puzzled. "That would doubtless depend to
some extent on his own taste—"
"Not at all," said the lady, interrupting him with vivacity. "What
does he know about the world, poor boy? His own taste is sure to be
something ridiculous. Very likely he would want to go on the stage,
"Oh! Then you would not encourage any tendency of that sort?"
"Most decidedly not. I hope he has no such idea."
"Not that I am aware of. He shows so little ambition to excel in
any particular branch that I should say his choice of a profession may
be best determined by his parents. I am, of course, ignorant whether
his relatives possess influence likely to be of use to him. That is
often the chief point to be considered, particularly in cases like
your son's, where no special aptitude manifests itself."
"I am the only relative he ever had, poor fellow," said the lady,
with a pensive smile. Then, seeing an expression of astonishment on
the doctor's face, she added, quickly, "They are all dead."
"However," she continued, "I have no doubt I can make plenty of
interest for him. But it is difficult to get anything nowadays
without passing competitive examinations. He really must work. If he
is lazy he ought to be punished."
The doctor looked perplexed. "The fact is," he said, "your son can
hardly be dealt with as a child any longer. He is still quite a boy
in his habits and ideas; but physically he is rapidly springing up
into a young man. That reminds me of another point on which I will
ask you to speak earnestly to him. I must tell you that he has
attained some distinction among his school-fellows here as an
athlete. Within due bounds I do not discourage bodily exercises: they
are a recognized part of our system. But I am sorry to say that Cashel
has not escaped that tendency to violence which sometimes results from
the possession of unusual strength and dexterity. He actually fought
with one of the village youths in the main street of Panley some
months ago. The matter did not come to my ears immediately; and, when
it did, I allowed it to pass unnoticed, as he had interfered, it
seems, to protect one of the smaller boys. Unfortunately he was guilty
of a much more serious fault a little later. He and a companion of his
had obtained leave from me to walk to Panley Abbey together. I
afterwards found that their real object was to witness a prize-fight
that took place—illegally, of course—on the common. Apart from the
deception practised, I think the taste they betrayed a dangerous one;
and I felt bound to punish them by a severe imposition, and
restriction to the grounds for six weeks. I do not hold, however, that
everything has been done in these cases when a boy has been punished.
I set a high value on a mother's influence for softening the natural
roughness of boys."
"I don't think he minds what I say to him in the least," said the
lady, with a sympathetic air, as if she pitied the doctor in a matter
that chiefly concerned him. "I will speak to him about it, of course.
Fighting is an unbearable habit. His father's people were always
fighting; and they never did any good in the world."
"If you will be so kind. There are just the three points: the
necessity for greater—much greater—application to his studies; a
word to him on the subject of rough habits; and to sound him as to
his choice of a career. I agree with you in not attaching much
importance to his ideas on that subject as yet. Still, even a boyish
fancy may be turned to account in rousing the energies of a lad."
"Quite so," assented the lady. "I will certainly give him a
The doctor looked at her mistrustfully, thinking perhaps that she
herself would be the better for a lecture on her duties as a mother.
But he did not dare to tell her so; indeed, having a prejudice to the
effect that actresses were deficient in natural feeling, he doubted
the use of daring. He also feared that the subject of her son was
beginning to bore her; and, though a doctor of divinity, he was as
reluctant as other men to be found wanting in address by a pretty
woman. So he rang the bell, and bade the servant send Master Cashel
Byron. Presently a door was heard to open below, and a buzz of distant
voices became audible. The doctor fidgeted and tried to think of
something to say, but his invention failed him: he sat in silence
while the inarticulate buzz rose into a shouting of "By-ron!" "Cash!"
the latter cry imitated from the summons usually addressed to cashiers
in haberdashers' shops. Finally there was a piercing yell of
"Mam-ma-a-a-a-ah!" apparently in explanation of the demand for Byron's
attendance in the drawing-room. The doctor reddened. Mrs. Byron
smiled. Then the door below closed, shutting out the tumult, and
footsteps were heard on the stairs.
"Come in," cried the doctor, encouragingly.
Master Cashel Byron entered blushing; made his way awkwardly to his
mother, and kissed the critical expression which was on her upturned
face as she examined his appearance. Being only seventeen, he had not
yet acquired a taste for kissing. He inexpertly gave Mrs. Byron quite
a shock by the collision of their teeth. Conscious of the failure, he
drew himself upright, and tried to hide his hands, which were
exceedingly dirty, in the scanty folds of his jacket. He was a
well-grown youth, with neck and shoulders already strongly formed,
and short auburn hair curling in little rings close to his scalp. He
had blue eyes, and an expression of boyish good-humor, which,
however, did not convey any assurance of good temper.
"How do you do, Cashel?" said Mrs. Byron, in a queenly manner,
after a prolonged look at him.
"Very well, thanks," said he, grinning and avoiding her eye.
"Sit down, Byron," said the doctor. Byron suddenly forgot how to
sit down, and looked irresolutely from one chair to another. The
doctor made a brief excuse, and left the room; much to the relief of
"You have grown greatly, Cashel. And I am afraid you are very
awkward." Cashel colored and looked gloomy.
"I do not know what to do with you," continued Mrs. Byron. "Dr.
Moncrief tells me that you are very idle and rough."
"I am not," said Cashel, sulkily. "It is bec—"
"There is no use in contradicting me in that fashion," said Mrs.
Byron, interrupting him sharply. "I am sure that whatever Dr.
Moncrief says is perfectly true."
"He is always talking like that," said Cashel, plaintively. "I
can't learn Latin and Greek; and I don't see what good they are. I
work as hard as any of the rest—except the regular stews, perhaps. As
to my being rough, that is all because I was out one day with Gully
Molesworth, and we saw a crowd on the common, and when we went to see
what was up it was two men fighting. It wasn't our fault that they
came there to fight."
"Yes; I have no doubt that you have fifty good excuses, Cashel. But
I will not allow any fighting; and you really must work harder. Do
you ever think of how hard I have to work to pay Dr. Moncrief
one hundred and twenty pounds a year for you?"
"I work as hard as I can. Old Moncrief seems to think that a fellow
ought to do nothing else from morning till night but write Latin
verses. Tatham, that the doctor thinks such a genius, does all his
constering from cribs. If I had a crib I could conster as well—very
"You are very idle, Cashel; I am sure of that. It is too provoking
to throw away so much money every year for nothing. Besides, you must
soon be thinking of a profession."
"I shall go into the army," said Cashel. "It is the only profession
for a gentleman."
Mrs. Byron looked at him for a moment as if amazed at his
presumption. But she checked herself and only said, "I am afraid you
will have to choose some less expensive profession than that.
Besides, you would have to pass an examination to enable you to enter
the army; and how can you do that unless you study?"
"Oh, I shall do that all right enough when the time comes."
"Dear, dear! You are beginning to speak so coarsely, Cashel. After
all the pains I took with you at home!"
"I speak the same as other people," he replied, sullenly. "I don't
see the use of being so jolly particular over every syllable. I used
to have to stand no end of chaff about my way of speaking. The
fellows here know all about you, of course."
"All about me?" repeated Mrs. Byron, looking at him curiously.
"All about your being on the stage, I mean," said Cashel. "You
complain of my fighting; but I should have a precious bad time of it
if I didn't lick the chaff out of some of them."
Mrs. Byron smiled doubtfully to herself, and remained silent and
thoughtful for a moment. Then she rose and said, glancing at the
weather, "I must go now, Cashel, before another shower begins. And
do, pray, try to learn something, and to polish your manners a
little. You will have to go to Cambridge soon, you know."
"Cambridge!" exclaimed Cashel, excited. "When, mamma? When?"
"Oh, I don't know. Not yet. As soon as Dr. Moncrief says you are
fit to go."
"That will be long enough," said Cashel, much dejected by this
reply. "He will not turn one hundred and twenty pounds a year out of
doors in a hurry. He kept big Inglis here until he was past twenty.
Look here, mamma; might I go at the end of this half? I feel sure I
should do better at Cambridge than here."
"Nonsense," said Mrs. Byron, decidedly. "I do not expect to have to
take you away from Dr. Moncrief for the next eighteen months at
least, and not then unless you work properly. Now don't grumble,
Cashel; you annoy me exceedingly when you do. I am sorry I mentioned
Cambridge to you."
"I would rather go to some other school, then," said Cashel,
ruefully. "Old Moncrief is so awfully down on me."
"You only want to leave because you are expected to work here; and
that is the very reason I wish you to stay."
Cashel made no reply; but his face darkened ominously.
"I have a word to say to the doctor before I go," she added,
reseating herself. "You may return to your play now. Good-bye,
Cashel." And she again raised her face to be kissed.
"Good-bye," said Cashel, huskily, as he turned toward the door,
pretending that he had not noticed her action.
"Cashel!" she said, with emphatic surprise. "Are you sulky?"
"No," he retorted, angrily. "I haven't said anything. I suppose my
manners are not good enough, I'm very sorry; but I can't help it."
"Very well," said Mrs. Byron, firmly. "You can go, Cashel. I am not
pleased with you."
Cashel walked out of the room and slammed the door. At the foot of
the staircase he was stopped by a boy about a year younger than
himself, who accosted him eagerly.
"How much did she give you?" he whispered.
"Not a halfpenny," replied Cashel, grinding his teeth.
"Oh, I say!" exclaimed the other, much disappointed. "That was
"She's as mean as she can be," said Cashel. "It's all old Monkey's
fault. He has been cramming her with lies about me. But she's just as
bad as he is. I tell you, Gully, I hate my mother."
"Oh, come!" said Gully, shocked. "That's a little too strong, old
chap. But she certainly ought to have stood something."
"I don't know what you intend to do, Gully; but I mean to bolt. If
she thinks I am going to stick here for the next two years she is
jolly much mistaken."
"It would be an awful lark to bolt," said Gully, with a chuckle.
"But," he added, seriously, "if you really mean it, by George, I'll
go too! Wilson has just given me a thousand lines; and I'll be hanged
if I do them."
"Gully," said Cashel, his eyes sparkling, "I should like to see one
of those chaps we saw on the common pitch into the doctor—get him on
the ropes, you know."
Gully's mouth watered. "Yes," he said, breathlessly; "particularly
the fellow they called the Fibber. Just one round would be enough for
the old beggar. Let's come out into the playground; I shall catch it
if I am found here."
That night there was just sufficient light struggling through the
clouds to make Panley Common visible as a black expanse, against the
lightest tone of which a piece of ebony would have appeared pale. Not
a human being was stirring within a mile of Moncrief House, the
chimneys of which, ghostly white on the side next the moon, threw
long shadows on the silver-gray slates. The stillness had just been
broken by the stroke of a quarter past twelve from a distant church
tower, when, from the obscurity of one of these chimney shadows, a
head emerged. It belonged to a boy, whose body presently wriggled
through an open skylight. When his shoulders were through he turned
himself face upward, seized the miniature gable in which the skylight
was set, drew himself completely out, and made his way stealthily down
to the parapet. He was immediately followed by another boy.
The door of Moncrief House was at the left-hand corner of the
front, and was surmounted by a tall porch, the top of which was flat
and could be used as a balcony. A wall, of the same height as the
porch, connected the house front with the boundary wall, and formed
part of the enclosure of a fruit garden which lay at the side of the
house between the lawn and the playground. When the two boys had crept
along the parapet to a point directly above the porch they stopped,
and each lowered a pair of boots to the balcony by means of
fishing-lines. When the boots were safely landed, their owners let
the lines drop and reentered the house by another skylight. A minute
elapsed. Then they reappeared on the top of the porch, having come
out through the window to which it served as a balcony. Here they put
on their boots, and stepped on to the wall of the fruit garden. As
they crawled along it, the hindmost boy whispered.
"I say, Cashy."
"Shut up, will you," replied the other under his breath. "What's
"I should like to have one more go at old mother Moncrief's
pear-tree; that's all."
"There are no pears on it this season, you fool."
"I know. This is the last time we shall go this road, Cashy. Usen't
it to be a lark? Eh?"
"If you don't shut up, it won't be the last time; for you'll be
caught. Now for it."
Cashel had reached the outer wall, and he finished his sentence by
dropping from it to the common. Gully held his breath for some
moments after the noise made by his companion's striking the ground.
Then he demanded in a whisper whether all was right.
"Yes," returned Cashel, impatiently. "Drop as soft as you can."
Gully obeyed; and was so careful lest his descent should shake the
earth and awake the doctor, that his feet shrank from the concussion.
He alighted in a sitting posture, and remained there, looking up at
Cashel with a stunned expression.
"Crikey!" he ejaculated, presently. "That was a buster."
"Get up, I tell you," said Cashel. "I never saw such a jolly ass as
you are. Here, up with you! Have you got your wind back?"
"I should think so. Bet you twopence I'll be first at the cross
roads. I say, let's pull the bell at the front gate and give an awful
yell before we start. They'll never catch us."
"Yes," said Cashel, ironically; "I fancy I see myself doing it, or
you either. Now then. One, two, three, and away."
They ran off together, and reached the cross roads about eight
minutes later; Gully completely out of breath, and Cashel nearly so.
Here, according to their plan, Gully was to take the north road and
run to Scotland, where he felt sure that his uncle's gamekeeper would
hide him. Cashel was to go to sea; where, he argued, he could, if his
affairs became desperate, turn pirate, and achieve eminence in that
profession by adding a chivalrous humanity to the ruder virtues for
which it is already famous.
Cashel waited until Gully had recovered from his race. Then he
"Now, old fellow, we've got to separate."
Gully, thus confronted with the lonely realities of his scheme, did
not like the prospect. After a moment's reflection he exclaimed:
"Damme, old chap, but I'll come with you. Scotland may go and be
But Cashel, being the stronger of the two, was as anxious to get
rid of Gully as Gully was to cling to him. "No," he said; "I'm going
to rough it; and you wouldn't be able for that. You're not strong
enough for a sea life. Why, man, those sailor fellows are as hard as
nails; and even they can hardly stand it."
"Well, then, do you come with me," urged Gully. "My uncle's
gamekeeper won't mind. He's a jolly good sort; and we shall have no
end of shooting."
"That's all very well for you, Gully; but I don't know your uncle;
and I'm not going to put myself under a compliment to his gamekeeper.
Besides, we should run too much risk of being caught if we went
through the country together. Of course I should be only too glad if
we could stick to one another, but it wouldn't do; I feel certain we
should be nabbed. Good-bye."
"But wait a minute," pleaded Gully. "Suppose they do try to catch
us; we shall have a better chance against them if there are two of
"Stuff!" said Cashel. "That's all boyish nonsense. There will be at
least six policemen sent after us; and even if I did my very best, I
could barely lick two if they came on together. And you would hardly
be able for one. Yon just keep moving, and don't go near any railway
station, and you will get to Scotland all safe enough. Look here, we
have wasted five minutes already. I have got my wind now, and I must
be off. Good-bye."
Gully disdained to press his company on Cashel any further.
"Good-bye," he said, mournfully shaking his hand. "Success, old
"Success," echoed Cashel, grasping Gully's hand with a pang of
remorse for leaving him. "I'll write to you as soon as I have
anything to tell you. It may be some months, you know, before I get
He gave Gully a final squeeze, released him, and darted off along
the road leading to Panley Village. Gully looked after him for a
moment, and then ran away Scotlandwards.
Panley Village consisted of a High Street, with an old-fashioned
inn at one end, a modern railway station and bridge at the other, and
a pump and pound midway between. Cashel stood for a while in the
shadow under the bridge before venturing along the broad, moonlit
street. Seeing no one, he stepped out at a brisk walking pace; for he
had by this time reflected that it was not possible to run all the way
to the Spanish main. There was, however, another person stirring in
the village besides Cashel. This was Mr. Wilson, Dr. Moncrief's
professor of mathematics, who was returning from a visit to the
theatre. Mr. Wilson had an impression that theatres were wicked
places, to be visited by respectable men only on rare occasions and by
stealth. The only plays he went openly to witness were those of
Shakespeare; and his favorite was "As You Like It"; Rosalind in tights
having an attraction for him which he missed in Lady Macbeth in
petticoats. On this evening he had seen Rosalind impersonated by a
famous actress, who had come to a neighboring town on a starring tour.
After the performance he had returned to Panley, supped there with a
friend, and was now making his way back to Moncrief House, of which he
had been intrusted with the key. He was in a frame of mind favorable
for the capture of a runaway boy. An habitual delight in being too
clever for his pupils, fostered by frequently overreaching them in
mathematics, was just now stimulated by the effect of a liberal supper
and the roguish consciousness of having been to the play. He saw and
recognized Cashel as he approached the village pound. Understanding
the situation at once, he hid behind the pump, waited until the
unsuspecting truant was passing within arm's-length, and then stepped
out and seized him by the collar of his jacket.
"Well, sir," he said. "What are you doing here at this hour? Eh?"
Cashel, scared and white, looked up at him, and could not answer a
"Come along with me," said Wilson, sternly.
Cashel suffered himself to be led for some twenty yards. Then he
stopped and burst into tears.
"There is no use in my going back," he said, sobbing. "I have never
done any good there. I can't go back."
"Indeed," said Wilson, with magisterial sarcasm. "We shall try to
make you do better in future." And he forced the fugitive to resume
Cashel, bitterly humiliated by his own tears, and exasperated by a
certain cold triumph which his captor evinced on witnessing them, did
not go many steps farther without protest.
"You needn't hold me," he said, angrily; "I can walk without being
held." The master tightened his grasp and pushed his captive forward.
"I won't run away, sir," said Cashel, more humbly, shedding fresh
tears. "Please let me go," he added, in a suffocated voice, trying to
turn his face toward his captor. But Wilson twisted him back again,
and urged him still onward. Cashel cried out passionately, "Let me
go," and struggled to break loose.
"Come, come, Byron," said the master, controlling him with a broad,
strong hand; "none of your nonsense, sir."
Then Cashel suddenly slipped out of his jacket, turned on Wilson,
and struck up at him savagely with his right fist. The master
received the blow just beside the point of his chin; and his eyes
seemed to Cashel roll up and fall back into his head with the shock.
He drooped forward for a moment, and fell in a heap face downward.
Cashel recoiled, wringing his hand to relieve the tingling of his
knuckles, and terrified by the thought that he had committed murder.
But Wilson presently moved and dispelled that misgiving. Some of
Cashel's fury returned as he shook his fist at his prostrate
adversary, and, exclaiming, "YOU won't brag much of having seen me
cry," wrenched the jacket from him with unnecessary violence, and
darted away at full speed.
Mr. Wilson, though he was soon conscious and able to rise, did not
feel disposed to stir for a long time. He began to moan with a dazed
faith that some one would eventually come to him with sympathy and
assistance. Five minutes elapsed, and brought nothing but increased
cold and pain. It occurred to him that if the police found him they
would suppose him to be drunk; also that it was his duty to go to
them and give them the alarm. He rose, and, after a struggle with
dizziness and nausea, concluded that his most pressing duty was to
get to bed, and leave Dr. Moncrief to recapture his ruffianly pupil
as best he could.
Accordingly, at half-past one o'clock, the doctor was roused by a
knocking at his chamber-door, outside which he presently found his
professor of mathematics, bruised, muddy, and apparently inebriated.
Five minutes elapsed before Wilson could get his principal's mind on
the right track. Then the boys were awakened and the roll called.
Byron and Molesworth were reported absent. No one had seen them go;
no one had the least suspicion of how they got out of the house. One
little boy mentioned the skylight; but observing a threatening
expression on the faces of a few of the bigger boys, who were fond of
fruit, he did not press his suggestion, and submitted to be snubbed by
the doctor for having made it. It was nearly three o'clock before the
alarm reached the village, where the authorities tacitly declined to
trouble themselves about it until morning. The doctor, convinced that
the lad had gone to his mother, did not believe that any search was
necessary, and contented himself with writing a note to Mrs. Byron
describing the attack on Mr. Wilson, and expressing regret that no
proposal having for its object the readmission of Master Byron to the
academy could be entertained.
The pursuit was now directed entirely after Molesworth, an it wan
plain, from Mr. Wilson's narrative, that he had separated from Cashel
outside Panley. Information was soon forthcoming. Peasants in all
parts of the country had seen, they said, "a lad that might be him."
The search lasted until five o'clock next afternoon, when it was
rendered superfluous by the appearance of Gully in person, footsore
and repentant. After parting from Cashel and walking two miles, he had
lost heart and turned back. Half way to the cross roads he had
reproached himself with cowardice, and resumed his flight. This time
he placed eight miles betwixt himself and Moncrief House. Then he left
the road to make a short cut through a plantation, and went astray.
After wandering until morning, thinking dejectedly of the story of the
babes in the wood, he saw a woman working in a field, and asked her
the shortest way to Scotland. She had never heard of Scotland; and
when he asked the way to Panley she lost patience and threatened to
set her dog at him. This discouraged him so much that he was afraid to
speak to the other strangers whom he met. Having the sun as a compass,
he oscillated between Scotland and Panley according to the fluctuation
of his courage. At last he yielded to hunger, fatigue, and loneliness,
devoted his remaining energy to the task of getting back to school;
struck the common at last, and hastened to surrender himself to the
doctor, who menaced him with immediate expulsion. Gully was greatly
concerned at having to leave the place he had just run away from, and
earnestly begged the doctor to give him another chance. His prayer was
granted. After a prolonged lecture, the doctor, in consideration of
the facts that Gully had been seduced by the example of a desperate
associate, that he had proved the sincerity of his repentance by
coming back of his own accord, and had not been accessory to the
concussion of the brain from which Mr. Wilson supposed himself to be
suffering, accepted his promise of amendment and gave him a free
pardon. It should be added that Gully kept his promise, and, being now
the oldest pupil, graced his position by becoming a moderately
studious, and, on one occasion, even a sensible lad.
Meanwhile Mrs. Byron, not suspecting the importance of the doctor's
note, and happening to be in a hurry when it arrived, laid it by
unopened, intending to read it at her leisure. She would have
forgotten it altogether but for a second note which came two days
later, requesting some acknowledgment of the previous communication.
On learning the truth she immediately drove to Moncrief House, and
there abused the doctor as he had never been abused in his life
before; after which she begged his pardon, and implored him to assist
her to recover her darling boy. When he suggested that she should
offer a reward for information and capture she indignantly refused to
spend a farthing on the little ingrate; wept and accused herself of
having driven him away by her unkindness; stormed and accused the
doctor of having treated him harshly; and, finally, said that she
would give one hundred pounds to have him back, but that she would
never speak to him again. The doctor promised to undertake the search,
and would have promised anything to get rid of his visitor. A reward
of fifty pounds wag offered. But whether the fear of falling into the
clutches of the law for murderous assault stimulated Cashel to
extraordinary precaution, or whether he had contrived to leave the
country in the four days which elapsed between his flight and the
offer of the reward, the doctor's efforts were unsuccessful; and he
had to confess their failure to Mrs. Byron. She agreeably surprised
him by writing a pleasant letter to the effect that it was very
provoking, and that she could never thank him sufficiently for all the
trouble he had taken. And so the matter dropped.
Long after that generation of scholars had passed away from
Moncrief House, the name of Cashel Byron was remembered there as that
of a hero who, after many fabulous exploits, had licked a master and
bolted to the Spanish Main.
There was at this time in the city of Melbourne, in Australia, a
wooden building, above the door of which was a board inscribed
"GYMNASIUM AND SCHOOL OF ARMS." In the long, narrow entry hung a
framed manuscript which set forth that Ned Skene, ex-champion of
England and the colonies, was to be heard of within daily by
gentlemen desirous of becoming proficient in the art of self-defence.
Also the terms on which Mrs. Skene, assisted by a competent staff of
professors, would give lessons in dancing, deportment, and
One evening a man sat smoking on a common wooden chair outside the
door of this establishment. On the ground beside him were some tin
tacks and a hammer, with which he had just nailed to the doorpost a
card on which was written in a woman's handwriting: "WANTED A MALE
ATTENDANT WHO CAN KEEP ACCOUNTS. INQUIRE WITHIN." The smoker was a
powerful man, with a thick neck that swelled out beneath his broad,
flat ear-lobes. He had small eyes, and large teeth, over which his
lips were slightly parted in a good-humored but cunning smile. His
hair was black and close-cut; his skin indurated; and the bridge of
his nose smashed level with his face. The tip, however, was
uninjured. It was squab and glossy, and, by giving the whole feature
an air of being on the point of expanding to its original shape,
produced a snubbed expression which relieved the otherwise formidable
aspect of the man, and recommended him as probably a modest and
affable fellow when sober and unprovoked. He seemed about fifty years
of age, and was clad in a straw hat and a suit of white linen.
He had just finished his pipe when a youth stopped to read the card
on the doorpost. This youth was attired in a coarse sailor's jersey
and a pair of gray tweed trousers, which he had considerably
"Looking for a job?" inquired the ex-champion of England and the
The youth blushed and replied, "Yes. I should like to get something
Mr. Skene stared at him with stern curiosity. His piofessional
pursuits had familiarized him with the manners and speech of English
gentlemen, and he immediately recognized the shabby sailor lad as one
of that class.
"Perhaps you're a scholar," said the prize-fighter, after a
"I have been at school; but I didn't learn much there," replied the
youth. "I think I could bookkeep by double entry," he added, glancing
at the card.
"Double entry! What's that?"
"It's the way merchants' books are kept. It is called so because
everything is entered twice over."
"Ah!" said Skene, unfavorably impressed by the system; "once is
enough for me. What's your weight?"
"I don't know," said the lad, with a grin.
"Not know your own weight!" exclaimed Skene. "That ain't the way to
get on in life."
"I haven't been weighed since I was in England," said the other,
beginning to get the better of his shyness. "I was eight stone four
then; so you see I am only a light-weight."
"And what do you know about light-weights? Perhaps, being so well
educated, you know how to fight. Eh?"
"I don't think I could fight you," said the youth, with another
Skene chuckled; and the stranger, with boyish communicativeness,
gave him an account of a real fight (meaning, apparently, one between
professional pugilists) which he had seen in England. He went on to
describe how he had himself knocked down a master with one blow when
running away from school. Skene received this sceptically, and
cross-examined the narrator as to the manner and effect of the blow,
with the result of convincing himself that the story was true. At the
end of a quarter of an hour the lad had commended himself so favorably
by his conversation that the champion took him into the gymnasium,
weighed him, measured him, and finally handed him a pair of boxing
gloves and invited him to show what he was made of. The youth, though
impressed by the prize-fighter's attitude with a hopeless sense of the
impossibility of reaching him, rushed boldly at him several times,
knocking his face on each occasion against Skene's left fist, which
seemed to be ubiquitous, and to have the property of imparting the
consistency of iron to padded leather. At last the novice directed a
frantic assault at the champion's nose, rising on his toes in his
excitement as he did so. Skene struck up the blow with his right arm,
and the impetuous youth spun and stumbled away until he fell supine in
a corner, rapping his head smartly on the floor at the same time. He
rose with unabated cheerfulness and offered to continue the combat;
but Skene declined any further exercise just then, and, much pleased
with his novice's game, promised to give him a scientific education
and make a man of him.
The champion now sent for his wife, whom he revered as a
preeminently sensible and well-mannered woman. The newcomer could see
in her only a ridiculous dancing-mistress; but he treated her with
great deference, and thereby improved the favorable opinion which
Skene had already formed of him. He related to her how, after running
away from school, he had made his way to Liverpool, gone to the docks,
and contrived to hide himself on board a ship bound for Australia.
Also how he had suffered severely from hunger and thirst before he
discovered himself; and how, notwithstanding his unpopular position as
stowaway, he had been fairly treated as soon as he had shown that he
was willing to work. And in proof that he was still willing, and had
profited by his maritime experience, he offered to sweep the floor of
the gymnasium then and there. This proposal convinced the Skenes, who
had listened to his story like children listening to a fairy tale,
that he was not too much of a gentleman to do rough work, and it was
presently arranged that he should thenceforth board and lodge with
them, have five shillings a week for pocket-money, and be
man-of-all-work, servant, gymnasium- attendant, clerk, and apprentice
to the ex-champion of England and the colonies.
He soon found his bargain no easy one. The gymnasium was open from
nine in the morning until eleven at night, and the athletic gentlemen
who came there not only ordered him about without ceremony, but varied
the monotony of being set at naught by the invincible Skene by
practising what he taught them on the person of his apprentice, whom
they pounded with great relish, and threw backwards, forwards, and
over their shoulders as though he had been but a senseless effigy,
provided for that purpose. Meanwhile the champion looked on and
laughed, being too lazy to redeem his promise of teaching the novice
to defend himself. The latter, however, watched the lessons which he
saw daily given to others, and, before the end of a month, he so
completely turned the tables on the amateur pugilists of Melbourne
that Skene one day took occasion to remark that he was growing
uncommon clever, but that gentlemen liked to be played easy with, and
that he should be careful not to knock them about too much. Besides
these bodily exertions, he had to keep account of gloves and foils
sold and bought, and of the fees due both to Mr. and Mrs. Skene. This
was the most irksome part of his duty; for he wrote a large, schoolboy
hand, and was not quick at figures. When he at last began to assist
his master in giving lessons the accounts had fallen into arrear, and
Mrs. Skene had to resume her former care of them; a circumstance which
gratified her husband, who regarded it as a fresh triumph of her
superior intelligence. Then a Chinaman was engaged to do the more
menial work of the establishment. "Skene's novice," as he was now
generally called, was elevated to the rank of assistant professor to
the champion, and became a person of some consequence in the
He had been there more than nine months, and had developed from an
active youth into an athletic young man of eighteen, when an
important conversation took place between him and his principal. It
was evening, and the only persons in the gymnasium were Ned Skene,
who sat smoking at his ease with his coat off, and the novice, who
had just come down-stairs from his bedroom, where he had been
preparing for a visit to the theatre.
"Well, my gentleman," said Skene, mockingly; "you're a fancy man,
you are. Gloves too! They're too small for you. Don't you get hittin'
nobody with them on, or you'll mebbe sprain your wrist."
"Not much fear of that," said the novice, looking at his watch,
and, finding that he had some minutes to spare, sitting down opposite
"No," assented the champion. "When you rise to be a regular
professional you won't care to spar with nobody without you're well
paid for it."
"I may say I am in the profession already. You don't call me an
amateur, do you?"
"Oh, no," said Skene, soothingly; "not so bad as that. But mind
you, my boy, I don't call no man a fighting-man what ain't been in the
ring. You're a sparrer, and a clever, pretty sparrer; but sparring
ain't the real thing. Some day, please God, we'll make up a little
match for you, and show what you can do without the gloves."
"I would just as soon have the gloves off as on," said the novice,
a little sulkily.
"That's because you have a heart as big as a lion," said Skene,
patting him on the shoulder. But the novice, who was accustomed to
hear his master pay the same compliment to his patrons whenever they
were seized with fits of boasting (which usually happened when they
got beaten), looked obdurate and said nothing.
"Sam Ducket, of Milltown, was here to-day while you was out giving
Captain Noble his lesson," continued Skene, watching his apprentice's
face cunningly. "Now Sam is a real fighting-man, if you like."
"I don't think much of him. He's a liar, for one thing."
"That's a failing of the profession. I don't mind telling YOU so,"
said Skene, mournfully. Now the novice had found out this for
himself, already. He never, for instance, believed the accounts which
his master gave of the accidents and conspiracies which had led to his
being defeated three times in the ring. However, as Skene had won
fifteen battles, his next remark was undeniable. "Men fight none the
worse for being liars. Sam Ducket bet Ebony Muley in twenty minutes."
"Yes," said the novice, scornfully; "and what is Ebony Muley? A
wretched old nigger nearly sixty years old, who is drunk seven days
in the week, and would sell a fight for a glass of brandy! Ducket
ought to have knocked him out of time in seventy seconds. Ducket has
"Not a bit," said Ned. "But he has lots of game."
"Pshaw! Come, now, Ned; you know as well as I do that that is one
of the stalest commonplaces going. If a fellow knows how to box, they
always say he has science but no pluck. If he doesn't know his right
hand from his left, they say that he isn't clever but that he is full
Skene looked with secret wonder at his pupil, whose powers of
observation and expression sometimes seemed to him almost to rival
those of Mrs. Skene. "Sam was saying something like that to-day," he
remarked. "He says you're only a sparrer, and that you'd fall down
with fright if you was put into a twenty-four-foot ring."
The novice flushed. "I wish I had been here when Sum Ducket said
"Why, what could you ha' done to him?" said Skene, his small eyes
"I'd have punched his head; that's what I could and would have done
"Why, man, he'd eat you."
"He might. And he might eat you too, Ned, if he had salt enough
with you. He talks big because he knows I have no money; and he
pretends he won't strip for less than fifty pounds a side."
"No money!" cried Skene. "I know them as'll make up fifty pound
before twelve to-morrow for any man as I will answer for. There'd be
a start for a young man! Why, my fust fight was for five shillings in
Tott'nam Fields; and proud I was when I won it. I don't want to set
you on to fight a crack like Sam Ducket anyway against your
inclinations; but don't go for to say that money isn't to be had. Let
Ned Skene pint to a young man and say, 'That's the young man as Ned
backs,' and others will come for'ard—ay, crowds of 'em."
The novice hesitated. "Do you think I ought to, Ned?" he said.
"That ain't for me to say," said Skene, doggedly. "I know what I
would ha' said at your age. But perhaps you're right to be cautious.
I tell you the truth, I wouldn't care to see you whipped by the like
of Sam Ducket."
"Will you train me if I challenge him?"
"Will I train you!" echoed Skene, rising with enthusiasm. "Ay will
I train you, and put my money on you, too; and you shall knock
fireworks out of him, my boy, as sure as my name's Ned Skene."
"Then," cried the novice, reddening with excitement, "I'll fight
him. And if I lick him you will have to hand over your belt as
champion of the colonies to me."
"So I will," said Skene, affectionately. "Don't out late; and don't
for your life touch a drop of liquor. You must go into training
This was Cashel Byron's first professional engagement.
Wiltstoken Castle was a square building with circular bastions at
the corners, each bastion terminating skyward in a Turkish minaret.
The southwest face was the front, and was pierced by a Moorish arch
fitted with glass doors, which could be secured on occasion by gates
of fantastically hammered iron. The arch was enshrined by a Palladian
portico, which rose to the roof, and was surmounted by an open
pediment, in the cleft of which stood a black-marble figure of an
Egyptian, erect, and gazing steadfastly at the midday sun. On the
ground beneath was an Italian terrace with two great stone elephants
at the ends of the balustrade. The windows on the upper story were,
like the entrance, Moorish; but the principal ones below were square
bays, mullioned. The castle was considered grand by the illiterate;
but architects and readers of books on architecture condemned it as a
nondescript mixture of styles in the worst possible taste. It stood on
an eminence surrounded by hilly woodland, thirty acres of which were
enclosed as Wiltstoken Park. Half a mile south was the little town of
Wiltstoken, accessible by rail from London in about two hours.
Most of the inhabitants of Wiltstoken were Conservatives. They
stood in awe of the castle; and some of them would at any time have
cut half a dozen of their oldest friends to obtain an invitation to
dinner, or oven a bow in public, from Miss Lydia Carew, its orphan
mistress. This Miss Carew was a remarkable person. She had inherited
the castle and park from her aunt, who had considered her niece's
large fortune in railways and mines incomplete without land. So many
other legacies had Lydia received from kinsfolk who hated poor
relations, that she was now, in her twenty-fifth year, the
independent possessor of an annual income equal to the year's
earnings of five hundred workmen, and under no external compulsion to
do anything in return for it. In addition to the advantage of being a
single woman in unusually easy circumstances, she enjoyed a reputation
for vast learning and exquisite culture. It was said in Wiltstoken
that she knew forty-eight living languages and all dead ones; could
play on every known musical instrument; was an accomplished painter,
and had written poetry. All this might as well have been true as far
as the Wiltstokeners were concerned, since she knew more than they.
She had spent her life travelling with her father, a man of active
mind and bad digestion, with a taste for sociology, science in
general, and the fine arts. On these subjects he had written books, by
which he had earned a considerable reputation as a critic and
philosopher. They were the outcome of much reading, observation of men
and cities, sight-seeing, and theatre-going, of which his daughter had
done her share, and indeed, as she grew more competent and he weaker
and older, more than her share. He had had to combine health-hunting
with pleasure-seeking; and, being very irritable and fastidious, had
schooled her in self-control and endurance by harder lessons than
those which had made her acquainted with the works of Greek and German
philosophers long before she understood the English into which she
When Lydia was in her twenty-first year her father's health failed
seriously. He became more dependent on her; and she anticipated that
he would also become more exacting in his demands on her time. The
contrary occurred. One day, at Naples, she had arranged to go riding
with an English party that was staying there. Shortly before the
appointed hour he asked her to make a translation of a long extract
from Lessing. Lydia, in whom self-questionings as to the justice of
her father's yoke had been for some time stirring, paused
thoughtfully for perhaps two seconds before she consented. Carew said
nothing, but he presently intercepted a servant who was bearing an
apology to the English party, read the note, and went back to his
daughter, who was already busy at Lessing.
"Lydia," he said, with a certain hesitation, which she would have
ascribed to shyness had that been at all credible of her father when
addressing her, "I wish you never to postpone your business to
She looked at him with the vague fear that accompanies a new and
doubtful experience; and he, dissatisfied with his way of putting the
case, added, "It is of greater importance that you should enjoy
yourself for an hour than that my book should be advanced. Far
Lydia, after some consideration, put down her pen and said, "I
shall not enjoy riding if there is anything else left undone."
"I shall not enjoy your writing if your excursion is given up for
it," he said. "I prefer your going."
Lydia obeyed silently. An odd thought struck her that she might end
the matter gracefully by kissing him. But as they were unaccustomed
to make demonstrations of this kind, nothing came of the impulse. She
spent the day on horseback, reconsidered her late rebellious thoughts,
and made the translation in the evening.
Thenceforth Lydia had a growing sense of the power she had
unwittingly been acquiring during her long subordination. Timidly at
first, and more boldly as she became used to dispense with the
parental leading-strings, she began to follow her own bent in
selecting subjects for study, and even to defend certain recent
developments of art against her father's conservatism. He approved of
this independent mental activity on her part, and repeatedly warned
her not to pin her faith more on him than on any other critic. She
once told him that one of her incentives to disagree with him was the
pleasure it gave her to find out ultimately that he was right. He
"That pleases me, Lydia, because I believe you. But such things are
better left unsaid. They seem to belong to the art of pleasing, which
you will perhaps soon be tempted to practise, because it seems to ail
young people easy, well paid, amiable, and a mark of good breeding. In
truth it is vulgar, cowardly, egotistical, and insincere: a virtue in
a shopman; a vice in a free woman. It is better to leave genuine
praise unspoken than to expose yourself to the suspicion of flattery."
Shortly after this, at his desire, she spent a season in London,
and went into English polite society, which she found to be in the
main a temple for the worship of wealth and a market for the sale of
virgins. Having become familiar with both the cult and the trade
elsewhere, she found nothing to interest her except the English
manner of conducting them; and the novelty of this soon wore off. She
was also incommoded by her involuntary power of inspiring affection in
her own sex. Impulsive girls she could keep in awe; but old women,
notably two aunts who had never paid her any attention during her
childhood, now persecuted her with slavish fondness, and tempted her
by mingled entreaties and bribes to desert her father and live with
them for the remainder of their lives. Her reserve fanned their
longing to have her for a pet; and, to escape them, she returned to
the Continent with her father, and ceased to hold any correspondence
with London. Her aunts declared themselves deeply hurt, and Lydia was
held to have treated them very injudiciously; but when they died, and
their wills became public, it was found that they had vied with one
another in enriching her.
When she was twenty-five years old the first startling event of her
life took place. This was the death of her father at Avignon. No
endearments passed between them even on that occasion. She was
sitting opposite to him at the fireside one evening, reading aloud,
when he suddenly said, "My heart has stopped, Lydia. Good-bye!" and
immediately died. She had some difficulty in quelling the tumult that
arose when the bell was answered. The whole household felt bound to be
overwhelmed, and took it rather ill that she seemed neither grateful
to them nor disposed to imitate their behavior.
Carew's relatives agreed that he had made a most unbecoming will.
It was a brief document, dated five years before his death, and was to
the effect that he bequeathed to his dear daughter Lydia all he
possessed. He had, however, left her certain private instructions.
One of these, which excited great indignation in his family, was that
his body should be conveyed to Milan, and there cremated. Having
disposed of her father's remains as he had directed, she came to set
her affairs in order in England, where she inspired much hopeless
passion in the toilers in Lincoln's Inn Fields and Chancery Lane, and
agreeably surprised her solicitors by evincing a capacity for
business, and a patience with the law's delay, that seemed
incompatible with her age and sex. When all was arranged, and she was
once more able to enjoy perfect tranquillity, she returned to Avignon,
and there discharged her last duty to her father. This was to open a
letter she had found in his desk, inscribed by his hand: "For Lydia.
To be read by her at leisure when I and my affairs shall be finally
disposed of." The letter ran thus:
"MY DEAR LYDIA,—I belong to the great company of disappointed men.
But for you, I should now write myself down a failure like the rest.
It is only a few years since it first struck me that although I had
failed in many ambitions with which (having failed) I need not
trouble you now, I had achieved some success as a father. I had no
sooner made this discovery than it began to stick in my thoughts that
you could draw no other conclusion from the course of our life
together than that I have, with entire selfishness, used you
throughout as my mere amanuensis and clerk, and that you are under no
more obligation to me for your attainments than a slave is to his
master for the strength which enforced labor has given to his
muscles. Lest I should leave you suffering from so mischievous and
oppressive an influence as a sense of injustice, I now justify myself
"I have never asked you whether you remember your mother. Had you
at any time broached the subject, I should have spoken quite freely to
you on it; but as some wise instinct led you to avoid it, I was
content to let it rest until circumstances such as the present should
render further reserve unnecessary. If any regret at having known so
little of the woman who gave you birth troubles you, shake it off
without remorse. She was the most disagreeable person I ever knew. I
speak dispassionately. All my bitter personal feeling against her is
as dead while I write as it will be when you read. I have even come to
cherish tenderly certain of her characteristics which you have
inherited, so that I confidently say that I never, since the perishing
of the infatuation in which I married, felt more kindly toward her
than I do now. I made the best, and she the worst, of our union for
six years; and then we parted. I permitted her to give what account of
the separation she pleased, and allowed her about five times as much
money as she had any right to expect. By these means I induced her to
leave me in undisturbed possession of you, whom I had already, as a
measure of precaution, carried off to Belgium. The reason why we never
visited England during her lifetime was that she could, and probably
would, have made my previous conduct and my hostility to popular
religion an excuse for wresting you from me. I need say no more of
her, and am sorry it was necessary to mention her at all.
"I will now tell you what induced me to secure you for myself. It
was not natural affection; I did not love you then, and I knew that
you would be a serious encumbrance to me. But, having brought you
into the world, and then broken through my engagements with your
mother, I felt bound to see that you should not suffer for my
mistake. Gladly would I have persuaded myself that she was (as the
gossips said) the fittest person to have charge of you; but I knew
better, and made up my mind to discharge my responsibility as well as
I could. In course of time you became useful to me; and, as you know,
I made use of you without scruple, but never without regard to your
own advantage. I always kept a secretary to do whatever I considered
mere copyist's work. Much as you did for me, I think I may say with
truth that I never imposed a task of absolutely no educational value
on you. I fear you found the hours you spent over my money affairs
very irksome; but I need not apologize for that now: you must already
know by experience how necessary a knowledge of business is to the
possessor of a large fortune.
"I did not think, when I undertook your education, that I was
laying the foundation of any comfort for myself. For a long time you
were only a good girl, and what ignorant people called a prodigy of
learning. In your circumstances a commonplace child might have been
both. I subsequently came to contemplate your existence with a
pleasure which I never derived from the contemplation of my own. I
have not succeeded, and shall not succeed in expressing the affection
I feel for you, or the triumph with which I find that what I undertook
as a distasteful and thankless duty has rescued my life and labor from
waste. My literary travail, seriously as it has occupied us both, I
now value only for the share it has had in educating you; and you will
be guilty of no disloyalty to me when you come to see that though I
sifted as much sand as most men, I found no gold. I ask you to
remember, then, that I did my duty to you long before it became
pleasurable or even hopeful. And, when you are older and have learned
from your mother's friends how I failed in my duty to her, you will
perhaps give me some credit for having conciliated the world for your
sake by abandoning habits and acquaintances which, whatever others may
have thought of them, did much while they lasted to make life
endurable to me.
"Although your future will not concern me, I often find myself
thinking of it. I fear you will soon find that the world has not yet
provided a place and a sphere of action for wise and well-instructed
women. In my younger days, when the companionship of my fellows was a
necessity to me, I voluntarily set aside my culture, relaxed my
principles, and acquired common tastes, in order to fit myself for
the society of the only men within my reach; for, if I had to live
among bears, I had rather be a bear than a man. Let me warn you
against this. Never attempt to accommodate yourself to the world by
self-degradation. Be patient; and you will enjoy frivolity all the
more because you are not frivolous: much as the world will respect
your knowledge all the more because of its own ignorance.
"Some day, I expect and hope, you will marry. You will then have an
opportunity of making an irremediable mistake, against the
possibility of which no advice of mine or subtlety of yours can guard
you. I think you will not easily find a man able to satisfy in you
that desire to be relieved of the responsibility of thinking out and
ordering our course of life that makes us each long for a guide whom
we can thoroughly trust. If you fail, remember that your father, after
suffering a bitter and complete disappointment in his wife, yet came
to regard his marriage as the happiest event in his career. Let me
remind you also, since you are so rich, that it would he a great folly
for you to be jealous of your own income, and to limit your choice of
a husband to those already too rich to marry for money. No vulgar
adventurer will be able to recommend himself to you; and better men
will be at least as much frightened as attracted by your wealth. The
only class against which I need warn you is that to which I myself am
supposed to belong. Never think that a man must prove a suitable and
satisfying friend for you merely because he has read much criticism;
that he must feel the influences of art as you do because he knows and
adopts the classification of names and schools with which you are
familiar; or that because he agrees with your favorite authors he must
necessarily interpret their words to himself as you understand them.
Beware of men who have read more than they have worked, or who love to
read better than to work. Beware of painters, poets, musicians, and
artists of all sorts, except very great artists: beware even of them
as husbands and fathers. Self-satisfied workmen who have learned their
business well, whether they be chancellors of the exchequer or
farmers, I recommend to you as, on the whole, the most tolerable class
of men I have met.
"I shall make no further attempt to advise you. As fast as my
counsels rise to my mind follow reflections that convince me of their
"You may perhaps wonder why I never said to you what I have written
down here. I have tried to do so and failed. If I understand myself
aright, I have written these lines mainly to relieve a craving to
express my affection for you. The awkwardness which an over-civilized
man experiences in admitting that he is something more than an
educated stone prevented me from confusing you by demonstrations of a
kind I had never accustomed you to. Besides, I wish this assurance of
my love—my last word—to reach you when no further commonplaces to
blur the impressiveness of its simple truth are possible.
"I know I have said too much; and I feel that I have not said
enough. But the writing of this letter has been a difficult task.
Practised as I am with my pen, I have never, even in my earliest
efforts, composed with such labor and sense of inadequacy——"
Here the manuscript broke off. The letter had never been finished.
In the month of May, seven years after the flight of the two boys
from Moncrief House, a lady sat in an island of shadow which was made
by a cedar-tree in the midst of a glittering green lawn. She did well
to avoid the sun, for her complexion was as delicately tinted as
mother-of-pearl. She was a small, graceful woman, with sensitive lips
and nostrils, green eyes, with quiet, unarched brows, and ruddy gold
hair, now shaded by a large, untrimmed straw hat. Her dress of Indian
muslin, with half-sleeves terminating at the elbows in wide ruffles,
hardly covered her shoulders, where it was supplemented by a scarf
through which a glimpse of her throat was visible in a nest of soft
Tourkaris lace. She was reading a little ivory-bound volume—a
miniature edition of the second part of Goethe's "Faust."
As the afternoon wore on and the light mellowed, the lady dropped
her book and began to think and dream, unconscious of a prosaic black
object crossing the lawn towards her. This was a young gentleman in a
frock coat. He was dark, and had a long, grave face, with a reserved
expression, but not ill-looking.
"Going so soon, Lucian?" said the lady, looking up as he came into
Lucian looked at her wistfully. His name, as she uttered it, always
stirred him vaguely. He was fond of finding out the reasons of
things, and had long ago decided that this inward stir was due to her
fine pronunciation. His other intimates called him Looshn.
"Yes," he said. "I have arranged everything, and have come to give
an account of my stewardship, and to say good-bye."
He placed a garden-chair near her and sat down. She laid her hands
one on the other in her lap, and composed herself to listen.
"First," he said, "as to the Warren Lodge. It is let for a month
only; so you can allow Mrs. Goff to have it rent free in July if you
still wish to. I hope you will not act so unwisely."
She smiled, and said, "Who are the present tenants? I hear that
they object to the dairymaids and men crossing the elm vista."
"We must not complain of that. It was expressly stipulated when
they took the lodge that the vista should be kept private for them. I
had no idea at that time that you were coming to the castle, or I
should of course have declined such a condition."
"But we do keep it private for them; strangers are not admitted.
Our people pass and repass once a day on their way to and from the
dairy; that is all."
"It seems churlish, Lydia; but this, it appears, is a special
case—a young gentleman, who has come to recruit his health. He needs
daily exercise in the open air; but he cannot bear observation, and he
has only a single attendant with him. Under these circumstances I
agreed that they should have the sole use of the elm vista. In fact,
they are paying more rent than would be reasonable without this
"I hope the young gentleman is not mad."
"I satisfied myself before I let the lodge to him that he would be
a proper tenant," said Lucian, with reproachful gravity. "He was
strongly recommended to me by Lord Worthington, whom I believe to be
a man of honor, notwithstanding his inveterate love of sport. As it
happens, I expressed to him the suspicion you have just suggested.
Worthington vouched for the tenant's sanity, and offered to take the
lodge in his own name and be personally responsible for the good
behavior of this young invalid, who has, I fancy, upset his nerves by
hard reading. Probably some college friend of Worthington's."
"Perhaps so. But I should rather expect a college friend of Lord
Worthington's to be a hard rider or drinker than a hard reader."
"You may be quite at ease, Lydia. I took Lord Worthington at his
word so far as to make the letting to him. I have never seen the real
tenant. But, though I do not even recollect his name, I will venture
to answer for him at second-hand."
"I am quite satisfied, Lucian; and I am greatly obliged to you. I
will give orders that no one shall go to the dairy by way of the
warren. It is natural that he should wish to be out of the world."
"The next point," resumed Lucian, "is more important, as it
concerns you personally. Miss Goff is willing to accept your offer.
And a most unsuitable companion she will be for you!"
"On all accounts. She is younger than you, and therefore cannot
chaperone yon. She has received only an ordinary education, and her
experience of society is derived from local subscription balls. And,
as she is not unattractive, and is considered a beauty in Wiltstoken,
she is self-willed, and will probably take your patronage in bad
"Is she more self-willed than I?"
"You are not self-willed, Lydia; except that you are deaf to
"You mean that I seldom follow it. And so you think I had better
employ a professional companion—a decayed gentlewoman—than save
this young girl from going out as a governess and beginning to decay
"The business of getting a suitable companion, and the pleasure or
duty of relieving poor people, are two different things, Lydia."
"True, Lucian. When will Miss Goff call?"
"This evening. Mind; nothing is settled as yet. If you think better
of it on seeing her you have only to treat her as an ordinary visitor
and the subject will drop. For my own part, I prefer her sister; but
she will not leave Mrs. Goff, who has not yet recovered from the shock
of her husband's death."
Lydia looked reflectively at the little volume in her hand, and
seemed to think out the question of Miss Goff. Presently, with an air
of having made up her mind, she said, "Can you guess which of Goethe's
characters you remind me of when you try to be worldly-wise for my
"When I try—What an extraordinary irrelevance! I have not read
Goethe lately. Mephistopheles, I suppose. But I did not mean to be
"No; not Mephistopheles, but Wagner—with a difference. Wagner
taking Mephistopheles instead of Faust for his model." Seeing by his
face that he did not relish the comparison, she added, "I am paying
you a compliment. Wagner represents a very clever man."
"The saving clause is unnecessary," he said, somewhat
sarcastically. "I know your opinion of me quite well, Lydia."
She looked quickly at him. Detecting the concern in her glance, he
shook his head sadly, saying, "I must go now, Lydia. I leave you in
charge of the housekeeper until Miss Goff arrives."
She gave him her hand, and a dull glow came into his gray jaws as
he took it. Then he buttoned his coat and walked gravely away. As he
went, she watched the sun mirrored in his glossy hat, and drowned in
his respectable coat. She sighed, and took up Goethe again.
But after a little while she began to be tired of sitting still,
and she rose and wandered through the park for nearly an hour, trying
to find the places in which she had played in her childhood during a
visit to her late aunt. She recognized a great toppling Druid's altar
that had formerly reminded her of Mount Sinai threatening to fall on
the head of Christian in "The Pilgrim's Progress." Farther on she saw
and avoided a swamp in which she had once earned a scolding from her
nurse by filling her stockings with mud. Then she found herself in a
long avenue of green turf, running east and west, and apparently
endless. This seemed the most delightful of all her possessions, and
she had begun to plan a pavilion to build near it, when she suddenly
recollected that this must be the elm vista of which the privacy was
so stringently insisted upon, by her invalid tenant at the Warren
Lodge. She fled into the wood at once, and, when she was safe there,
laughed at the oddity of being a trespasser in her own domain. She
made a wide detour in order to avoid intruding a second time;
consequently, after walking for a quarter of an hour, she lost
herself. The trees seemed never ending; she began to think she must
possess a forest as well as a park. At last she saw an opening.
Hastening toward it, she came again into the sunlight, and stopped,
dazzled by an apparition which she at first took to be a beautiful
statue, but presently recognized, with a strange glow of delight, as a
To so mistake a gentleman exercising himself in the open air on a
nineteenth-century afternoon would, under ordinary circumstances,
imply incredible ignorance either of men or statues. But the
circumstances in Miss Carew's case were not ordinary; for the man was
clad in a jersey and knee-breeches of white material, and his bare
arms shone like those of a gladiator. His broad pectoral muscles, in
their white covering, were like slabs of marble. Even his hair, short,
crisp, and curly, seemed like burnished bronze in the evening light.
It came into Lydia's mind that she had disturbed an antique god in his
sylvan haunt. The fancy was only momentary; for she perceived that
there was a third person present; a man impossible to associate with
classic divinity. He looked like a well to do groom, and was
contemplating his companion much as a groom might contemplate an
exceptionally fine horse. He was the first to see Lydia; and his
expression as he did so plainly showed that he regarded her as a most
unwelcome intruder. The statue-man, following his sinister look, saw
her too, but with different feelings; for his lips parted, his color
rose, and he stared at her with undisguised admiration and wonder.
Lydia's first impulse was to turn and fly; her next, to apologize for
her presence. Finally she went away quietly through the trees.
The moment she was out of their sight she increased her pace almost
to a run. The day was too warm for rapid movement, and she soon
stopped and listened. There were the usual woodland sounds; leaves
rustling, grasshoppers chirping, and birds singing; but not a human
voice or footstep. She began to think that the god-like figure was
only the Hermes of Praxiteles, suggested to her by Goethe's classical
Sabbat, and changed by a day-dream into the semblance of a living
reality. The groom must have been one of those incongruities
characteristic of dreams—probably a reminiscence of Lucian's
statement that the tenant of the Warren Lodge had a single male
attendant. It was impossible that this glorious vision of manly
strength and beauty could be substantially a student broken down by
excessive study. That irrational glow of delight, too, was one of the
absurdities of dreamland; otherwise she should have been ashamed of
Lydia made her way back to the castle in some alarm as to the state
of her nerves, but dwelling on her vision with a pleasure that she
would not have ventured to indulge had it concerned a creature of
flesh and blood. Once or twice it recurred to her so vividly that she
asked herself whether it could have been real. But a little reasoning
convinced her that it must have been an hallucination.
"If you please, madam," said one of her staff of domestics, a
native of Wiltstoken, who stood in deep awe of the lady of the castle,
"Miss Goff is waiting for you in the drawing-room."
The drawing-room of the castle was a circular apartment, with a
dome-shaped ceiling broken into gilt ornaments resembling thick
bamboos, which projected vertically downward like stalagmites. The
heavy chandeliers were loaded with flattened brass balls, magnified
fac-similes of which crowned the uprights of the low, broad,
massively-framed chairs, which were covered in leather stamped with
Japanese dragon designs in copper-colored metal. Near the fireplace
was a great bronze bell of Chinese shape, mounted like a mortar on a
black wooden carriage for use as a coal-scuttle. The wall was
decorated with large gold crescents on a ground of light blue.
In this barbaric rotunda Miss Carew found awaiting her a young lady
of twenty-three, with a well-developed, resilient figure, and a clear
complexion, porcelain surfaced, and with a fine red in the cheeks. The
lofty pose of her head expressed an habitual sense of her own
consequence given her by the admiration of the youth of the
neighborhood, which was also, perhaps, the cause of the neatness of
her inexpensive black dress, and of her irreproachable gloves, boots,
and hat. She had been waiting to introduce herself to the lady of the
castle for ten minutes in a state of nervousness that culminated as
"How do you do, Miss Goff, Have I kept you waiting? I was out."
"Not at all," said Miss Goff, with a confused impression that red
hair was aristocratic, and dark brown (the color of her own) vulgar.
She had risen to shake hands, and now, after hesitating a moment to
consider what etiquette required her to do next, resumed her seat.
Miss Carew sat down too, and gazed thoughtfully at her visitor, who
held herself rigidly erect, and, striving to mask her nervousness,
unintentionally looked disdainful.
"Miss Goff," said Lydia, after a silence that made her speech
impressive, "will you come to me on a long visit? In this lonely
place I am greatly in want of a friend and companion of my own age
and position. I think you must be equally so."
Alice Goff was very young, and very determined to accept no credit
that she did not deserve. With the unconscious vanity and conscious
honesty of youth, she proceeded to set Miss Carew right as to her
social position, not considering that the lady of the castle probably
understood it better than she did herself, and indeed thinking it
quite natural that she should be mistaken.
"You are very kind," she replied, stiffly; "but our positions are
quite different, Miss Carew. The fact is that I cannot afford to live
an idle life. We are very poor, and my mother is partly dependent on
"I think you will be able to exert yourself to good purpose if you
come to me," said Lydia, unimpressed. "It is true that I shall give
you very expensive habits; but I will of course enable you to support
"I do not wish to contract expensive habits," said Alice,
reproachfully. "I shall have to content myself with frugal ones
throughout my life."
"Not necessarily. Tell me, frankly: how had you proposed to exert
yourself? As a teacher, was it not?"
Alice flushed, but assented.
"You are not at all fitted for it; and you will end by marrying. As
a teacher you could not marry well. As an idle lady, with expensive
habits, you will marry very well indeed. It is quite an art to know
how to be rich—an indispensable art, if you mean to marry a rich
"I have no intention of marrying," said Alice, loftily. She thought
it time to check this cool aristocrat. "If I come at all I shall come
without any ulterior object."
"That is just what I had hoped. Come without condition, or second
thought of any kind."
"But—" began Alice, and stopped, bewildered by the pace at which
the negotiation was proceeding. She murmured a few words, and waited
for Lydia to proceed. But Lydia had said her say, and evidently
expected a reply, though she seemed assured of having her own way,
whatever Alice's views might be.
"I do not quite understand, Miss Carew. What duties?—what would
you expect of me?"
"A great deal," said Lydia, gravely. "Much more than I should from
a mere professional companion."
"But I am a professional companion," protested Alice.
Alice flushed again, angrily this time. "I did not mean to say—"
"You do not mean to say that you will have nothing to do with me,"
said Lydia, stopping her quietly. "Why are you so scrupulous, Miss
Goff? You will be close to your home, and can return to it at any
moment if you become dissatisfied with your position here."
Fearful that she had disgraced herself by ill manners; loath to be
taken possession of as if her wishes were of no consequence when a
rich lady's whim was to be gratified; suspicious—since she had often
heard gossiping tales of the dishonesty of people in high
positions—lest she should be cheated out of the salary she had come
resolved to demand; and withal unable to defend herself against Miss
Carew, Alice caught at the first excuse that occurred to her.
"I should like a little time to consider," she said.
"Time to accustom yourself to me, is it not? You can have as long
as you plea-"
"Oh, I can let you know tomorrow," interrupted Alice, officiously.
"Thank you. I will send a note to Mrs. Goff to say that she need
not expect you back until tomorrow."
"But I did not mean—I am not prepared to stay," remonstrated
Alice, feeling that she was being entangled in a snare.
"We shall take a walk after dinner, then, and call at your house,
where you can make your preparations. But I think I can supply you
with all you will require."
Alice dared make no further objection. "I am afraid," she
stammered, "you will think me horribly rude; but I am so useless, and
you are so sure to be disappointed, that—that—"
"You are not rude, Miss Goff; but I find you very shy. You want to
run away and hide from new faces and new surroundings." Alice, who
was self-possessed and even overbearing in Wiltstoken society, felt
that she was misunderstood, but did not know how to vindicate
herself. Lydia resumed, "I have formed my habits in the course of my
travels, and so live without ceremony. We dine early—at six."
Alice had dined at two, but did not feel bound to confess it.
"Let me show you your room," said Lydia, rising. "This is a curious
drawingroom," she added, glancing around. "I only use it occasionally
to receive visitors." She looked about her again with some interest,
as if the apartment belonged to some one else, and led the way to a
room on the first floor, furnished as a lady's bed-chamber. "If you
dislike this," she said, "or cannot arrange it to suit you, there are
others, of which you can have your choice. Come to my boudoir when you
"Where is that?" said Alice, anxiously.
"It is—You had better ring for some one to show you. I will send
you my maid."
Alice, even more afraid of the maid than of the mistress, declined
hastily. "I am accustomed to attend to myself, Miss Carew," with
"You will find it more convenient to call me Lydia," said Miss
Carew. "Otherwise you will be supposed to refer to my grandaunt, a
very old lady." She then left the room.
Alice was fond of thinking that she had a womanly taste and touch
in making a room pretty. She was accustomed to survey with pride her
mother's drawing-room, which she had garnished with cheap cretonnes,
Japanese paper fans, and knick-knacks in ornamental pottery. She felt
now that if she slept once in the bed before her, she could never be
content in her mother's house again. All that she had read and
believed of the beauty of cheap and simple ornament, and the vulgarity
of costliness, recurred to her as a hypocritical paraphrase of the
"sour grapes" of the fox in the fable. She pictured to herself with a
shudder the effect of a sixpenny Chinese umbrella in that fireplace, a
cretonne valance to that bed, or chintz curtains to those windows.
There was in the room a series of mirrors consisting of a great glass
in which she could see herself at full length, another framed in the
carved oaken dressing-table, and smaller ones of various shapes fixed
to jointed arms that turned every way. To use them for the first time
was like having eyes in the back of the head. She had never seen
herself from all points of view before. As she gazed, she strove not
to be ashamed of her dress; but even her face and figure, which
usually afforded her unqualified delight, seemed robust and
middle-class in Miss Carew's mirrors.
"After all," she said, seating herself on a chair that was even
more luxurious to rest in than to look at; "putting the lace out of
the question—and my old lace that belongs to mamma is quite as
valuable—her whole dress cannot have cost much more than mine. At
any rate, it is not worth much more, whatever she may have chosen to
pay for it."
But Alice was clever enough to envy Miss Carew her manners more
than her dress. She would not admit to herself that she was not
thoroughly a lady; but she felt that Lydia, in the eye of a stranger,
would answer that description better than she. Still, as far as she
had observed, Miss Carew was exceedingly cool in her proceedings, and
did not take any pains to please those with whom she conversed. Alice
had often made compacts of friendship with young ladies, and had
invited them to call her by her Christian name; but on such occasions
she had always called themn "dear" or "darling," and, while the
friendship lasted (which was often longer than a month, for Alice was
a steadfast girl), had never met them without exchanging an embrace
and a hearty kiss.
"And nothing," she said, springing from the chair as she thought of
this, and speaking very resolutely, "shall tempt me to believe that
there is anything vulgar in sincere affection. I shall be on my guard
against this woman."
Having settled that matter for the present, she resumed her
examination of the apartment, and was more and more attracted by it
as she proceeded. For, thanks to her eminence as a local beauty, she
had not that fear of beautiful and rich things which renders abject
people incapable of associating costliness with comfort. Had the
counterpane of the bed been her own, she would have unhesitatingly
converted it into a ball-dress. There were toilet appliances of which
she had never felt the need, and could only guess the use. She looked
with despair into the two large closets, thinking how poor a show her
three dresses, her ulster, and her few old jackets would make there.
There was also a dressing-room with a marble bath that made
cleanliness a luxury instead of one of the sternest of the virtues, as
it seemed at home. Yet she remarked that though every object was more
or less ornamental, nothing had been placed in the rooms for the sake
of ornament alone. Miss Carew, judged by her domestic arrangements,
was a utilitarian before everything. There was a very handsome chimney
piece; but as there was nothing on the mantel board, Alice made a
faint effort to believe that it was inferior in point of taste to that
in her own bedroom, which was covered with blue cloth, surrounded by
fringe and brass headed nails, and laden with photographs in plush
The striking of the hour reminded her that she had forgotten to
prepare for dinner. Khe hastily took off her hat, washed her hands,
spent another minute among the mirrors, and was summoning courage to
ring the bell, when a doubt occurred to her. Ought she to put on her
gloves before going down or not? This kept her in perplexity for many
seconds. At last she resolved to put her gloves in her pocket, and be
guided as to their further disposal by the example of her hostess.
Then, not daring to hesitate any longer, she rang the bell, and was
presently joined by a French lady of polished manners—Miss Carew's
maid who conducted her to the boudoir, a hexagonal apartment that,
Alice thought, a sultana might have envied. Lydia was there, reading.
Alice noted with relief that she had not changed her dress, and that
she was ungloved.
Miss Goff did not enjoy the dinner. There was a butler who seemed
to have nothing to do but stand at a buffet and watch her. There was
also a swift, noiseless footman who presented himself at her elbow at
intervals and compelled her to choose on the instant between
unfamiliar things to eat and drink. She envied these men their
knowledge of society, and shrank from their criticism. Once, after
taking a piece of asparagus in her hand, she was deeply mortified at
seeing her hostess consume the vegetable with the aid of a knife and
fork; but the footman's back was turned to her just then, and the
butler, oppressed by the heat of the weather, was in a state of
abstraction bordering on slumber. On the whole, by dint of imitating
Miss Oarew, who did not plague her with any hostess-like vigilance,
she came off without discredit to her breeding.
Lydia, on her part, acknowledged no obligation to entertain her
guest by chatting, and enjoyed her thoughts and her dinner in
silence. Alice began to be fascinated by her, and to wonder what she
was thinking about. She fancied that the footman was not quite free
from the same influence. Even the butler might have been meditating
himself to sleep on the subject. Alice felt tempted to offer her a
penny for her thoughts. But she dared not be so familiar as yet. And,
had the offer been made and accepted, butler, footman, and guest would
have been plunged into equal confusion by the explanation, which would
have run thus:
"I saw a vision of the Hermes of Praxiteles in a sylvan haunt
to-day; and I am thinking of that."
Next day Alice accepted Miss Carew's invitation. Lydia, who seemed
to regard all conclusions as foregone when she had once signified her
approval of them, took the acceptance as a matter of course. Alice
thereupon thought fit to remind her that there were other persons to
be considered. So she said, "I should not have hesitated yesterday but
for my mother. It seems so heartless to leave her."
"You have a sister at home, have you not?"
"Yes. But she is not very strong, and my mother requires a great
deal of attention." Alice paused, and added in a lower voice, "She
has never recovered from the shock of my father's death."
"Your father is then not long dead?" said Lydia in her usual tone.
"Only two years," said Alice, coldly. "I hardly know how to tell my
mother that I am going to desert her."
"Go and tell her today, Alice. You need not be afraid of hurting
her. Grief of two years' standing is only a bad habit."
Alice started, outraged. Her mother's grief was sacred to her; and
yet it was by her experience of her mother that she recognized the
truth of Lydia's remark, and felt that it was unanswerable. She
frowned; but the frown was lost: Miss Carew was not looking at her.
Then she rose and went to the door, where she stopped to say,
"You do not know our family circumstances. I will go now and try to
prevail on my mother to let me stay with you."
"Please come back in good time for dinner," said Lydia, unmoved. "I
will introduce you to my cousin Lucian Webber. I have just received a
telegram from him. He is coming down with Lord Worthington. I do not
know whether Lord Worthington will come to dinner or not. He has an
invalid friend at the Warren, and Lucian does not make it clear
whether he is coming to visit him or me. However, it is of no
consequence; Lord Worthington is only a young sportsman. Lucian is a
clever man, and will be an eminent one some day. He is secretary to a
Cabinet Minister, and is very busy; but we shall probably see him
often while the Whitsuntide holidays last. Excuse my keeping you
waiting at the door to hear that long history. Adieu!" She waved her
hand; Alice suddenly felt that it was possible to be very fond of
She spent an unhappy afternoon with her mother. Mrs. Goff had had
the good-fortune to marry a man of whom she was afraid, and who made
himself very disagreeable whenever his house or his children were
neglected in the least particular. Making a virtue of necessity, she
had come to be regarded in Wiltstoken as a model wife and mother. At
last, when a drag ran over Mr. Goff and killed him, she was left
almost penniless, with two daughters on her hands. In this extremity
she took refuge in grief, and did nothing. Her daughters settled
their father's affairs as best they could, moved her into a cheap
house, and procured a strange tenant for that in which they had lived
during many years. Janet, the elder sister, a student by disposition,
employed herself as a teacher of the scientific fashions in modern
female education, rumors of which had already reached Wiltstoken.
Alice was unable to teach mathematics and moral science; but she
formed a dancing-class, and gave lessons in singing and in a language
which she believed to be current in France, but which was not
intelligible to natives of that country travelling through Wiltstoken.
Both sisters were devoted to one another and to their mother. Alice,
who had enjoyed the special affection of her self-indulgent father,
preserved some regard for his memory, though she could not help
wishing that his affection had been strong enough to induce him to
save a provision for her. She was ashamed, too, of the very
recollection of his habit of getting drunk at races, regattas, and
other national festivals, by an accident at one of which he had met
Alice went home from the castle expecting to find the household
divided between joy at her good-fortune and grief at losing her; for
her views of human nature and parental feeling were as yet pure
superstitions. But Mrs. Goff at once became envious of the luxury her
daughter was about to enjoy, and overwhelmed her with accusations of
want of feeling, eagerness to desert her mother, and vain love of
pleasure. Alice, who loved Mrs. Goff so well that she had often told
her as many as five different lies in the course of one afternoon to
spare her some unpleasant truth, and would have scouted as infamous
any suggestion that her parent was more selfish than saintly, soon
burst into tears, declaring that she would not return to the castle,
and that nothing would have induced her to stay there the night before
had she thought that her doing so could give pain at home. This
alarmed Mrs. Goff, who knew by experience that it was easier to drive
Alice upon rash resolves than to shake her in them afterwards. Fear of
incurring blame in Wiltstoken for wantonly opposing her daughter's
obvious interests, and of losing her share of Miss Carew's money and
countenance, got the better of her jealousy. She lectured Alice
severely for her headstrong temper, and commanded her, on her duty not
only to her mother, but also and chiefly to her God, to accept Miss
Carew's offer with thankfulness, and to insist upon a definite salary
as soon as she had, by good behavior, made her society indispensable
at the castle. Alice, dutiful as she was, reduced Mrs. Goff to
entreaties, and even to symptoms of an outburst of violent grief for
the late Mr. Goff, before she consented to obey her. She would wait,
she said, until Janet, who was absent teaching, came in, and promised
to forgive her for staying away the previous night (Mrs. Goff had
falsely represented that Janet had been deeply hurt, and had lain
awake weeping during the small hours of the morning). The mother,
seeing nothing for it but either to get rid of Alice before Janet's
return or to be detected in a spiteful untruth, had to pretend that
Janet was spending the evening with some friends, and to urge the
unkindness of leaving Miss Carew lonely. At last Alice washed away
the traces of her tears and returned to the castle, feeling very
miserable, and trying to comfort herself with the reflection that her
sister had been spared the scene which had just passed.
Lucian Webber had not arrived when she reached the castle. Miss
Carew glanced at her melancholy face as she entered, but asked no
questions. Presently, however, she put down her book, considered for
a moment, and said,
"It is nearly three years since I have had a new dress." Alice
looked up with interest. "Now that I have you to help me to choose, I
think I will be extravagant enough to renew my entire wardrobe. I wish
you would take this opportunity to get some things for yourself. You
will find that my dress-maker, Madame Smith, is to be depended on for
work, though she is expensive and dishonest. When we are tired of
Wiltstoken we will go to Paris, and be millinered there; but in the
meantime we can resort to Madame Smith."
"I cannot afford expensive dresses," said Alice.
"I should not ask you to get them if you could not afford them. I
warned you that I should give you expensive habits."
Alice hesitated. She had a healthy inclination to take whatever she
could get on all occasions; and she had suffered too much from
poverty not to be more thankful for her good-fortune than humiliated
by Miss Carew's bounty. But the thought of being driven, richly
attired, in one of the castle carriages, and meeting Janet trudging
about her daily tasks in cheap black serge and mended gloves, made
Alice feel that she deserved all her mother's reproaches. However, it
was obvious that a refusal would be of no material benefit to Janet,
so she said,
"Really I could not think of imposing on your kindness in this
wholesale fashion. You are too good to me."
"I will write to Madame Smith this evening," said Lydia.
Alice was about to renew her protest more faintly, when a servant
entered and announced Mr. Webber. She stiffened herself to receive
the visitor. Lydia's manner did not alter in the least. Lucian, whose
demeanor resembled Miss Goff's rather than his cousin's, went through
the ceremony of introduction with solemnity, and was received with a
dash of scorn; for Alice, though secretly awe-stricken, bore herself
tyrannically towards men from habit.
In reply to Alice, Mr. Webber thought the day cooler than
yesterday. In reply to Lydia, he admitted that the resolution of which
the leader of the opposition had given notice was tantamount to a vote
of censure on the government. He was confident that ministers would
have a majority. He had no news of any importance. He had made the
journey down with Lord Worthington, who had come to Wiltstoken to see
the invalid at the Warren. He had promised to return with him in the
When they went down to dinner, Alice, profiting by her experience
of the day before, faced the servants with composure, and committed no
solecisms. Unable to take part in the conversation, as she knew
little of literature and nothing of politics, which were the staple
of Lucian's discourse, she sat silent, and reconsidered an old
opinion of hers that it was ridiculous and ill-bred in a lady to
discuss anything that was in the newspapers. She was impressed by
Lucian's cautious and somewhat dogmatic style of conversation, and
concluded that he knew everything. Lydia seemed interested in his
information, but quite indifferent to his opinions.
Towards half-past seven Lydia proposed that they should walk to the
railway station, adding, as a reason for going, that she wished to
make some bets with Lord Worthington. Lucian looked grave at this,
and Alice, to show that she shared his notions of propriety, looked
shocked. Neither demonstration had the slightest effect on Lydia. On
their way to the station he remarked,
"Worthington is afraid of you, Lydia—needlessly, as it seems."
"Because you are so learned, and he so ignorant. He has no culture
save that of the turf. But perhaps you have more sympathy with his
tastes than he supposes."
"I like him because I have not read the books from which he has
borrowed his opinions. Indeed, from their freshness, I should not be
surprised to learn that he had them at first hand from living men, or
even from his own observation of life."
"I may explain to you, Miss Goff," said Lucian, "that Lord
Worthiugton is a young gentleman—"
"Whose calendar is the racing calendar," interposed Lydia, "and who
interests himself in favorites and outsiders much as Lucian does in
prime-ministers and independent radicals. Would you like to go to
Alice answered, as she felt Lucian wished her to answer, that she
had never been to a race, and that she had no desire to go to one.
"You will change your mind in time for next year's meeting. A race
interests every one, which is more than can be said for the opera or
"I have been at the Academy," said Alice, who had made a trip to
"Indeed!" said Lydia. "Were you in the National Gallery?"
"The National Gallery! I think not. I forget."
"I know many persons who never miss an Academy, and who do not know
where the National Gallery is. Did you enjoy the pictures, Alice?"
"Oh, very much indeed."
"You will find Ascot far more amusing."
"Let me warn you," said Lucian to Alice, "that my cousin's pet
caprice is to affect a distaste for art, to which she is passionately
devoted; and for literature, in which she is profoundly read."
"Cousin Lucian," said Lydia, "should you ever be cut off from your
politics, and disappointed in your ambition, you will have an
opportunity of living upon art and literature. Then I shall respect
your opinion of their satisfactoriness as a staff of life. As yet you
have only tried them as a sauce."
"Discontented, as usual," said Lucian.
"Your one idea respecting me, as usual," replied Lydia, patiently,
as they entered the station.
The train, consisting of three carriages and a van, was waiting at
the platform. The engine was humming subduedly, and the driver and
fireman were leaning out; the latter, a young man, eagerly watching
two gentlemen who were standing before the first-class carriage, and
the driver sharing his curiosity in an elderly, preoccupied manner.
One of the persons thus observed was a slight, fair-haired man of
about twenty-five, in the afternoon costume of a metropolitan dandy.
Lydia knew the other the moment she came upon the platform as the
Hermes of the day before, modernized by a straw hat, a canary-colored
scarf, and a suit of a minute black-and-white chess-board pattern,
with a crimson silk handkerchief overflowing the breast pocket of the
coat. His hands were unencumbered by stick or umbrella; he carried
himself smartly, balancing himself so accurately that he seemed to
have no weight; and his expression was self-satisfied and
good-humored. But—! Lydia felt that there was a "but" somewhere—that
he must be something more than a handsome, powerful, and light-hearted
"There is Lord Worthington," she said, indicating the slight
gentleman. "Surely that cannot be his invalid friend with him?"
"That is the man that lives at the Warren," said Alice. "I know his
"Which is certainly not suggestive of a valetudinarian," remarked
Lucian, looking hard at the stranger.
They had now come close to the two, and could hear Lord
Worthington, as he prepared to enter the carriage, saying, "Take care
of yourself, like a good fellow, won't you? Remember! if it lasts a
second over the fifteen minutes, I shall drop five hundred pounds."
Hermes placed his arm round the shoulders of the young lord and
gave him a playful roll. Then he said with good accent and
pronunciation, but with a certain rough quality of voice, and louder
than English gentlemen usually speak, "Your money is as safe as the
mint, my boy."
Evidently, Alice thought, the stranger was an intimate friend of
Lord Worthington. She resolved to be particular in her behavior
before him, if introduced.
"Lord Worthington," said Lydia.
At the sound of her voice he climbed hastily down from the step of
the carriage, and said in some confusion, "How d' do, Miss Carew.
Lovely country and lovely weather—must agree awfully well with you.
Plenty of leisure for study, I hope."
"Thank you; I never study now. Will you make a book for me at
He laughed and shook his head. "I am ashamed of my low tastes," he
said; "but I haven't the heap to distinguish myself in your—Eh?"
Miss Carew was saying in a low voice, "If your friend is my tenant,
introduce him to me."
Lord Worthington hesitated, looked at Lucian, seemed perplexed and
amused at the name time, and at last said,
"You really wish it?"
"Of course," said Lydia. "Is there any reason—"
"Oh, not the least in the world since you wish it," he replied
quickly, his eyes twinkling mischievously as he turned to his
companion who was standing at the carriage door admiring Lydia, and
being himself admired by the stoker. "Mr. Cashel Byron: Miss Carew."
Mr. Cashel Byron raised his straw hat and reddened a little; but,
on the whole, bore himself like an eminent man who was not proud. As,
however, he seemed to have nothing to say for himself, Lord
Worthington hastened to avert silence by resuming the subject of
Ascot. Lydia listened to him, and looked at her new acquaintance. Now
that the constraint of society had banished his former expression of
easy good-humor, there was something formidable in him that gave her
an unaccountable thrill of pleasure. The same impression of latent
danger had occurred, less agreeably, to Lucian, who was affected much
as he might have been by the proximity of a large dog of doubtful
temper. Lydia thought that Mr. Byron did not, at first sight, like her
cousin; for he was looking at him obliquely, as though steadily
The group was broken up by the guard admonishing the gentlemen to
take their seats. Farewells were exchanged; and Lord Worthington
cried, "Take care of yourself," to Cashel Byron, who replied somewhat
impatiently, and with an apprehensive glance at Miss Carew, "All
right! all right! Never you fear, sir." Then the train went off, and
he was left on the platform with the two ladies.
"We are returning to the park, Mr. Cashel Byron," said Lydia.
"So am I," said he. "Perhaps—" Here he broke down, and looked at
Alice to avoid Lydia's eye. Then they went out together.
When they had walked some distance in silence, Alice looking
rigidly before her, recollecting with suspicion that he had just
addressed Lord Worthington as "sir," while Lydia was admiring his
light step and perfect balance, which made him seem like a man of
cork; he said,
"I saw you in the park yesterday, and I thought you were a ghost.
But my trai—my man, I mean—saw you too. I knew by that that you
"Strange!" said Lydia. "I had the same fancy about you."
"What! You had!" he exclaimed, looking at her. While thus unmindful
of his steps, he stumbled, and recovered himself with a stifled oath.
Then he became very red, and remarked that it was a warm evening.
Miss Goff, whom he had addressed, assented. "I hope," she added,
"that you are better."
He looked puzzled. Concluding, after consideration, that she had
referred to his stumble, he said,
"Thank you: I didn't hurt myself."
"Lord Worthington has been telling us about you," said Lydia. He
recoiled, evidently deeply mortified. She hastened to add, "He
mentioned that you had come down here to recruit your health; that is
Cashel's features relaxed into a curious smile. But presently he
became suspicious, and said, anxiously, "He didn't tell you anything
else about me, did he?"
Alice stared at him superciliously. Lydia replied, "No. Nothing
"I thought you might have heard my name somewhere," he persisted.
"Perhaps I have; but I cannot recall in what connection. Why? Do
you know any friend of mine?"
"Oh, no. Only Lord Worthington."
"I conclude then that you are celebrated, and that I have the
misfortune not to know it, Mr. Cashel Byron. Is it so?"
"Not a bit of it," he replied, hastily. "There's no reason why you
should ever have heard of me. I am much obliged to you for your kind
inquiries," he continued, turning to Alice. "I'm quite well now,
thank you. The country has set me right again."
Alice, who was beginning to have her doubts of Mr. Byron, in spite
of his familiarity with Lord Worthington, smiled falsely and drew
herself up a little. He turned away from her, hurt by her manner, and
so ill able to conceal his feelings that Miss Carew, who was watching
him, set him down privately as the most inept dissimulator she had
ever met. He looked at Lydia wistfully, as if trying to read her
thoughts, which now seemed to be with the setting sun, or in some
equally beautiful and mysterious region. But he could see that there
was no reflection of Miss Goff's scorn in her face.
"And so you really took me for a ghost," he said.
"Yes. I thought at first that you were a statue."
"You do not seem flattered by that."
"It is not flattering to be taken for a lump of stone," he replied,
Lydia looked at him thoughtfully. Here was a man whom she had
mistaken for the finest image of manly strength and beauty in the
world; and he was so devoid of artistic culture that he held a statue
to be a distasteful lump of stone.
"I believe I was trespassing then," she said; "but I did so
unintentionally. I had gone astray; for I am comparatively a stranger
here, and cannot find my way about the park yet."
"It didn't matter a bit," said Cashel, impetuously. "Come as often
as you want. Mellish fancies that if any one gets a glimpse of me he
won't get any odds. You see he would like people to think—" Cashel
checked himself, and added, in some confusion, "Mellish is mad;
that's about where it is."
Alice glanced significantly at Lydia. She had already suggested
that madness was the real reason of the seclusion of the tenants at
the Warren. Cashel saw the glance, and intercepted it by turning to
her and saying, with an attempt at conversational ease,
"How do you young ladies amuse yourselves in the country? Do you
play billiards ever?"
"No," said Alice, indignantly. The question, she thought, implied
that she was capable of spending her evenings on the first floor of a
public-house. To her surprise, Lydia remarked,
"I play—a little. I do not care sufficiently for the game to make
myself proficient. You were equipped for lawn-tennis, I think, when I
saw you yesterday. Miss Goff is a celebrated lawn-tennis player. She
vanquished the Australian champion last year."
It seemed that Byron, after all, was something of a courtier; for
he displayed great astonishment at this feat. "The Australian
champion!" he repeated. "And who may HE—Oh! you mean the lawn-tennis
champion. To be sure. Well, Miss Goff, I congratulate you. It is not
every amateur that can brag of having shown a professional to a back
Alice, outraged by the imputation of bragging, and certain that
slang was vulgar, whatever billiards might be, bore herself still
more loftily, and resolved to snub him explicitly if he addressed her
again. But he did not; for they presently came to a narrow iron gate
in the wall of the park, at which Lydia stopped.
"Let me open it for you," said Cashel. She gave him the key, and he
seized one of the bars of the gate with his left hand, and stooped as
though he wanted to look into the keyhole. Yet he opened it smartly
Alice was about to pass in with a cool bow when she saw Miss Carew
offer Cashel her hand. Whatever Lydia did was done so well that it
seemed the right thing to do. He took it timidly and gave it a little
shake, not daring to meet her eyes. Alice put out her hand stiffly.
Cashel immediately stepped forward with his right foot and enveloped
her fingers with the hardest clump of knuckles she had ever felt.
Glancing down at this remarkable fist, she saw that it was discolored
almost to blackness. Then she went in through the gate, followed by
Lydia, who turned to close it behind her. As she pushed, Cashel,
standing outside, grasped a bar and pulled. She at once relinquished
to him the labor of shutting the gate, and smiled her thanks as she
turned away; but in that moment he plucked up courage to look at her.
The sensation of being so looked at was quite novel to her and very
curious. She was even a little out of countenance, but not so much so
as Cashel, who nevertheless could not take his eyes away.
"Do you think," said Alice, as they crossed the orchard, "that that
man is a gentleman?"
"How can I possibly tell? We hardly know him."
"But what do you think? There is always a certain something about a
gentleman that one recognizes by instinct."
"Is there? I have never observed it."
"Have you not?" said Alice, surprised, and beginning uneasily to
fear that her superior perception of gentility was in some way the
effect of her social inferiority to Miss Carew. "I thought one could
"Perhaps so," said Lydia. "For my own part I have found the same
varieties of address in every class. Some people enjoy a native
distinction and grace of manner—"
"That is what I mean," said Alice.
"—but they are seldom ladies and gentlemen; often actors, gypsies,
and Celtic or foreign peasants. Undoubtedly one can make a fair
guess, but not in the case of this Mr. Cashel Byron. Are you curious
"I!" exclaimed Alice, superbly. "Not in the least."
"I am. He interests me. I seldom see anything novel in humanity;
and he is a very singular man."
"I meant," said Alice, crestfallen, "that I take no special
interest in him."
Lydia, not being curious as to the exact degree of Alice's
interest, merely nodded, and continued, "He may, as you suppose, be a
man of humble origin who has seen something of society; or he may be a
gentleman unaccustomed to society. Probably the latter. I feel no
conviction either way."
"But he speaks very roughly; and his slang is disgusting. His hands
are hard and quite black. Did you not notice them?"
"I noticed it all; and I think that if he were a man of low
condition he would be careful not to use slang. Self-made persons are
usually precise in their language; they rarely violate the written
laws of society. Besides, his pronunciation of some words is so
distinct that an idea crossed me once that he might be an actor. But
then it is not uniformly distinct. I am sure that he has some object
or occupation in life: he has not the air of an idler. Yet I have
thought of all the ordinary professions, and he does not fit one of
them. This is perhaps what makes him interesting. He is
"He must have some position. He was very familiar with Lord
"Lord Worthington is a sportsman, and is familiar with all sorts of
"Yes; but surely he would not let a jockey, or anybody of that
class, put his arm round his neck, as we saw Mr. Byron do."
"That is true," said Lydia, thoughtfully. "Still," she added,
clearing her brow and laughing, "I am loath to believe that he is an
"I will tell you what he is," said Alice suddenly. "He is companion
and keeper to the man with whom he lives. Do you recollect his saying
'Mellish is mad'?"
"That is possible," said Lydia. "At all events we have got a topic;
and that is an important home comfort in the country."
Just then they reached the castle. Lydia lingered for a moment on
the terrace. The Gothic chimneys of the Warren Lodge stood up against
the long, crimson cloud into which the sun was sinking. She smiled as
if some quaint idea had occurred to her; raised her eyes for a moment
to the black-marble Egyptian gazing with unwavering eyes into the sky;
and followed Alice in-doors.
Later on, when it was quite dark, Cashel sat in a spacious kitchen
at the lodge, thinking. His companion, who had laid his coat aside,
was at the fire, smoking, and watching a saucepan that simmered
there. He broke the silence by remarking, after a glance at the
clock, "Time to go to roost."
"Time to go to the devil," said Cashel. "I am going out."
"Yes, and get a chill. Not if I know it you don't."
"Well, go to bed yourself, and then you won't know it. I want to
take a walk round the place."
"If you put your foot outside that door to-night Lord Worthington
will lose his five hundred pounds. You can't lick any one in fifteen
minutes if you train on night air. Get licked yourself more likely."
"Will you bet two to one that I don't stay out all night and knock
the Flying Dutchman out of time in the first round afterwards? Eh?"
"Come," said Mellish, coaxingly; "have some common-sense. I'm
advising you for your good."
"Suppose I don't want to be advised for my good. Eh? Hand me over
that lemon. You needn't start a speech; I'm not going to eat it."
"Blest if he ain't rubbing his 'ands with it!" exclaimed Mellish,
after watching him for some moments. "Why, you bloomin' fool, lemon
won't 'arden your 'ands. Ain't I took enough trouble with them?"
"I want to whiten them," said Cashel, impatiently throwing the
lemon under the grate; "but it's no use; I can't go about with my
fists like a nigger's. I'll go up to London to-morrow and buy a pair
"What! Real gloves? Wearin' gloves?"
"You thundering old lunatic," said Cashel, rising and putting on
his hat; "is it likely that I want a pair of mufflers? Perhaps YOU
think you could teach me something with them. Ha! ha! By-the-bye—now
mind this, Mellish—don't let it out down here that I'm a fighting
man. Do you hear?"
"Me let it out!" cried Mellish, indignantly. "Is it likely? Now, I
asts you, Cashel Byron, is it likely?"
"Likely or not, don't do it," said Cashel. "You might get talking
with some of the chaps about the castle stables. They are generous
with their liquor when they can get sporting news for it."
Mellish looked at him reproachfully, and Cashel turned towards the
door. This movement changed the trainer's sense of injury into
anxiety. He renewed his remonstrances as to the folly of venturing
into the night air, and cited many examples of pugilists who had
suffered defeat in consequence of neglecting the counsel of their
trainers. Cashel expressed his disbelief in these anecdotes in brief
and personal terms; and at last Mellish had to content himself with
proposing to limit the duration of the walk to half an hour.
"Perhaps I will come back in half an hour," said Cashel, "and
perhaps I won't."
"Well, look here," said Mellish; "we won't quarrel about a minute
or two; but I feel the want of a walk myself, and I'll come with you."
"I'm d—d if you shall," said Cashel. "Here, let me out; and shut
up. I'm not going further than the park. I have no intention of
making a night of it in the village, which is what you are afraid of.
I know you, you old dodger. If you don't get out of my way I'll seat
you on the fire."
"But duty, Cashel, duty," pleaded Mellish, persuasively. "Every man
oughter do his duty. Consider your duty to your backers."
"Are you going to get out of my way, or must I put you out of it?"
said Cashel, reddening ominously.
Mellish went back to his chair, bowed his head on his hands, and
wept. "I'd sooner be a dog nor a trainer," he exclaimed. "Oh! the
cusseduess of bein' shut up for weeks with a fightin' man! For the
fust two days they're as sweet as treacle; and then their con
trairyness comes out. Their tempers is puffict 'ell."
Cashel, additionally enraged by a sting of remorse, went out and
slammed the door. He made straight towards the castle, and watched
its windows for nearly half an hour, keeping in constant motion so as
to avert a chill. At last an exquisitely toned bell struck the hour
from one of the minarets. To Cashel, accustomed to the coarse jangling
of ordinary English bells, the sound seemed to belong to fairyland. He
went slowly back to the Warren Lodge, and found his trainer standing
at the open door, smoking, and anxiously awaiting his return. Cashel
rebuffed certain conciliatory advances with a haughty reserve more
dignified, but much less acceptable to Mr. Mellish, than his former
profane familiarity, and went contemplatively to bed.
One morning Miss Carew sat on the bank of a great pool in the park,
throwing pebbles two by two into the water, and intently watching the
intersection of the circles they made on its calm surface. Alice was
seated on a camp-stool a little way off, sketching the castle, which
appeared on an eminence to the southeast. The woodland rose round them
like the sides of an amphitheatre; but the trees did not extend to the
water's edge, where there was an ample margin of bright greensward and
a narrow belt of gravel, from which Lydia was picking her pebbles.
Presently, hearing a footstep, she looked back, and saw Cashel
Byron standing behind Alice, apparently much interested in her
drawing. He was dressed as she had last seen him, except that he wore
primrose gloves and an Egyptian red scarf. Alice turned, and surveyed
him with haughty surprise; but he made nothing of her looks; and she,
after glancing at Lydia to reassure herself that she was not alone,
bade him good-morning, and resumed her work.
"Queer place," he remarked, after a pause, alluding to the castle.
"Chinese looking, isn't it?"
"It is considered a very fine building," said Alice.
"Oh, hang what it is considered!" said Cashel. "What IS it? That is
the point to look to."
"It is a matter of taste," said Alice, very coldly.
"Mr. Cashel Byron."
Cashel started and hastened to the bank. "How d'ye do, Miss Carew,"
he said. "I didn't see you until you called me." She looked at him;
and he, convicted of a foolish falsehood, quailed. "There is a
splendid view of the castle from here," he continued, to change the
subject. "Miss Goff and I have just been talking about it."
"Yes. Do you admire it?"
"Very much indeed. It is a beautiful place. Every one must
"It is considered kind to praise my house to me, and to ridicule it
to other people. You do not say, 'Hang what it is considered,' now."
Cashel, with an unaccustomed sense of getting the worst of an
encounter, almost lost heart to reply. Then he brightened, and said,
"I can tell you how that is. As far as being a place to sketch, or
for another person to look at, it is Chinese enough. But somehow your
living in it makes a difference. That is what I meant; upon my soul it
Lydia smiled; but he, looking down at her, did not see the smile
because of her coronet of red hair, which seemed to flame in the
sunlight. The obstruction was unsatisfactory to him; he wanted to see
her face. He hesitated, and then sat down on the ground beside her
cautiously, as if getting into a very hot bath.
"I hope you won't mind my sitting here," he said, timidly. "It
seems rude to talk down at you from a height."
She shook her head and threw two more stones into the pool. He
could think of nothing further to say, and as she did not speak, but
gravely watched the circles in the water, he began to stare at them
too; and they sat in silence for some minutes, steadfastly regarding
the waves, she as if there were matter for infinite thought in them,
and he as though the spectacle wholly confounded him. At last she
"Have you ever realized what a vibration is?"
"No," said Cashel, after a blank look at her.
"I am glad to hear you make that admission. Science has reduced
everything nowadays to vibration. Light, sound, sensation—all the
mysteries of nature are either vibrations or interference of
vibrations. There," she said, throwing another pair of pebbles in,
and pointing to the two sets of widening rings as they overlapped one
another; "the twinkling of a star, and the pulsation in a chord of
music, are THAT. But I cannot picture the thing in my own mind. I
wonder whether the hundreds of writers of text-books on physics, who
talk so glibly of vibrations, realize them any better than I do."
"Not a bit of it. Not one of them. Not half so well," said Cashel,
cheerfully, replying to as much of her speech as he understood.
"Perhaps the subject does not interest you," she said, turning to
"On the contrary; I like it of all things," said he, boldly.
"I can hardly say so much for my own interest in it. I am told that
you are a student, Mr. Cashel Byron. What are your favorite
studies?—or rather, since that is generally a hard question to
answer, what are your pursuits?"
Cashel looked doggedly at Lydia, and his color slowly deepened. "I
am a professor," he said.
"A professor of what? I know I should ask of where; but that would
only elicit the name of a college, which would convey no real
information to me."
"I am a professor of science," said Cashel, in a low voice, looking
down at his left fist, which he was balancing in the air before him,
and stealthily hitting his bent knee as if it were another person's
"Physical or moral science?" persisted Lydia.
"Physical science," said Cashel. "But there's more moral science in
it than people think."
"Yes," said Lydia, seriously. "Though I have no real knowledge of
physics, I can appreciate the truth of that. Perhaps all the science
that is not at bottom physical science is only pretentious nescience.
I have read much of physics, and have often been tempted to learn
something of them—to make the experiments with my own hands—to
furnish a laboratory—to wield the scalpel even. For, to master
science thoroughly, I believe one must take one's gloves off. Is that
Cashel looked hard at her. "You never spoke a truer word," he said.
"But you can become a very respectable amateur by working with the
"I never should. The many who believe they are the wiser for
reading accounts of experiments deceive themselves. It is as
impossible to learn science from theory as to gain wisdom from
proverbs. Ah, it is so easy to follow a line of argument, and so
difficult to grasp the facts that underlie it! Our popular lecturers
on physics present us with chains of deductions so highly polished
that it is a luxury to let them slip from end to end through our
fingers. But they leave nothing behind but a vague memory of the
sensation they afforded. Excuse me for talking figuratively. I
perceive that you affect the opposite—a reaction on your part, I
suppose, against tall talk and fine writing. Pray, should I ever carry
out my intention of setting to work in earnest at science, will you
give me some lessons?"
"Well," said Cashel, with a covert grin, "I would rather you came
to me than to another professor; but I don't think it would suit you.
I should like to try my hand on your friend there. She's stronger and
straighter than nine out of ten men."
"You set a high value on physical qualifications then. So do I."
"Only from a practical point of view, mind you," said Cashel,
earnestly. "It isn't right to be always looking at men and women as
you would at horses. If you want to back them in a race or in a
fight, that's one thing; but if you want a friend or a sweetheart,
"Quite so," said Lydia, smiling. "You do not wish to commit
yourself to any warmer feeling towards Miss Goff than a critical
appreciation of her form and condition."
"Just that," said Cashel, satisfied. "YOU understand me, Miss
Carew. There are some people that you might talk to all day, and
they'd be no wiser at the end of it than they were at the beginning.
You're not one of that sort."
"I wonder do we ever succeed really in communicating our thoughts
to one another. A thought must take a new shape to fit itself into a
strange mind. You, Mr. Professor, must have acquired special
experience of the incommunicability of ideas in the course of your
lectures and lessons."
Cashel looked uneasily at the water, and said in a lower voice, "Of
course you may call me just whatever you like; but—if it's all the
same to you—I wish you wouldn't call me professor."
"I have lived so much in countries where professors expect to be
addressed by their titles on all occasions, that I may claim to be
excused for having offended on that point. Thank you for telling me.
But I am to blame for discussing science with you. Lord Worthington
told us that you had come down here expressly to escape from it—to
recruit yourself after an excess of work."
"It doesn't matter," said Cashel.
"I have not done harm enough to be greatly concerned; but I will
not offend again. To change the subject, let us look at Miss Goff's
Miss Carew had hardly uttered this suggestion, when Cashel, in a
business-like manner, and without the slightest air of gallantry,
expertly lifted her and placed her on her feet. This unexpected
attention gave her a shock, followed by a thrill that was not
disagreeable. She turned to him with a faint mantling on her cheeks.
He was looking with contracted brows at the sky, as though occupied
with some calculation.
"Thank you," she said; "but pray do not do that again. It is a
little humiliating to be lifted like a child. You are very strong."
"There is not much strength needed to lift such a feather-weight as
you. Seven stone two, I should judge you to be, about. But there's a
great art in doing these things properly. I have often had to carry
off a man of fourteen stone, resting him all the time as if he was in
"Ah," said Lydia; "I see you have had some hospital practice. I
have often admired the skill with which trained nurses handle their
Cashel made no reply, but, with a sinister grin, followed her to
where Alice sat.
"It is very foolish of me, I know," said Alice, presently; "but I
never can draw when any one is looking at me."
"You fancy that everybody is thinking about how you're doing it,"
said Cashel, encouragingly. "That's always the way with amateurs. But
the truth is that not a soul except yourself is a bit concerned about
it. EX-cuse me," he added, taking up the drawing, and proceeding to
examine it leisurely.
"Please give me my sketch, Mr. Byron," she said, her cheeks red
with anger. Puzzled, he turned to Lydia for an explanation, while
Alice seized the sketch and packed it in her portfolio.
"It is getting rather warm," said Lydia. "Shall we return to the
"I think we had better," said Alice, trembling with resentment as
she walked away quickly, leaving Lydia alone with Cashel, who
"What in thunder have I done?"
"You have made an inconsiderate remark with unmistakable
"I only tried to cheer her up. She must have mistaken what I said."
"I think not. Do you believe that young ladies like to be told that
there is no occasion for them to be ridiculously self-conscious?"
"I say that! I'll take my oath I never said anything of the sort."
"You worded it differently. But you assured her that she need not
object to have her drawing overlooked, as it is of no importance to
"Well, if she takes offence at that she must be a born fool. Some
people can't bear to be told anything. But they soon get all that
thin-skinned nonsense knocked out of them."
"Have you any sisters, Mr. Cashel Byron?"
"Or a mother?"
"I have a mother; but I haven't seen her for years; and I don't
much care if I never see her. It was through her that I came to be
what I am."
"Are you then dissatisfied with your profession?"
"No—I don't mean that. I am always saying stupid things."
"Yes. That comes of your ignorance of a sex accustomed to have its
silliness respected. You will find it hard to keep on good terms with
my friend without some further study of womanly ways."
"As to her, I won't give in that I'm wrong unless I AM wrong. The
truth's the truth."
"Not even to please Miss Goff?"
"Not even to please you. You'd only think the worse of me
"Quite true, and quite right," said Lydia, cordially. "Good-bye,
Mr. Cashel Byron. I must rejoin Miss Goff."
"I suppose you will take her part if she keeps a down on me for
what I said to her."
"What is 'a down'? A grudge?"
"Yes. Something of that sort."
"Colonial, is it not?" pursued Lydia, with the air of a
"Yes; I believe I picked it up in the colonies." Then he added,
sullenly, "I suppose I shouldn't use slang in speaking to you. I beg
"I do not object to it. On the contrary, it interests me. For
example, I have just learned from it that you have been in
"So I have. But are you out with me because I annoyed Miss Goff?"
"By no means. Nevertheless, I sympathize with her annoyance at the
manner, if not the matter, of your rebuke."
"I can't, for the life of me, see what there was in what I said to
raise such a fuss about. I wish you would give me a nudge whenever
you see me making a fool of myself. I will shut up at once and ask no
"So that it will be understood that my nudge means 'Shut up, Mr.
Cashel Byron; you are making a fool of yourself'?"
"Just so. YOU understand me. I told you that before, didn't I?"
"I am afraid," said Lydia, her face bright with laughter, "that I
cannot take charge of your manners until we are a little better
He seemed disappointed. Then his face clouded; and he began, "If
you regard it as a liberty—"
"Of course I regard it as a liberty," she said, neatly interrupting
him. "Is not my own conduct a sufficient charge upon my attention?
Why should I voluntarily assume that of a strong man and learned
professor as well?"
"By Jingo!" exclaimed Cashel, with sudden excitement, "I don't care
what you say to me. You have a way of giving things a turn that makes
it a pleasure to be shut up by you; and if I were a gentleman, as I
ought to be, instead of a poor devil of a professional pug, I would—"
He recollected himself, and turned quite pale. There was a pause.
"Let me remind you," said Lydia, composedly, though she too had
changed color at the beginning of his outburst, "that we are both
wanted elsewhere at present; I by Miss Goff, and you by your servant,
who has been hovering about us and looking at you anxiously for some
Cashel turned fiercely, and saw Mellish standing a little way off,
sulkily watching him. Lydia took the opportunity, and left the place.
As she retreated she could hear that they were at high words together;
but she could not distinguish what they were saying. Fortunately so;
for their language was villainous.
She found Alice in the library, seated bolt upright in a chair that
would have tempted a good-humored person to recline. Lydia sat down
in silence. Alice, presently looking at her, discovered that she was
in a fit of noiseless laughter. The effect, in contrast to her
habitual self-possession, was so strange that Alice almost forgot to
"I am glad to see that it is not hard to amuse you," she said.
Lydia waited to recover herself thoroughly, and then replied, "I
have not laughed so three times in my life. Now, Alice, put aside
your resentment of our neighbor's impudence for the moment, and tell
me what you think of him."
"I have not thought about him at all, I assure you," said Alice,
"Then think about him for a moment to oblige me, and let me know
"Really, you have had much more opportunity of judging than I.
have hardly spoken to him."
Lydia rose patiently and went to the bookcase. "You have a cousin
at one of the universities, have you not?" she said, seeking along the
shelf for a volume.
"Yes," replied Alice, speaking very sweetly to atone for her want
of amiability on the previous subject.
"Then perhaps you know something of university slang?"
"I never allow him to talk slang to me," said Alice, quickly.
"You may dictate modes of expression to a single man, perhaps, but
not to a whole university," said Lydia, with a quiet scorn that
brought unexpected tears to Alice's eyes. "Do you know what a pug
"A pug!" said Alice, vacantly. "No; I have heard of a bulldog—a
proctor's bulldog, but never a pug."
"I must try my slang dictionary," said Lydia, taking down a book
and opening it. "Here it is. 'Pug—a fighting man's idea of the
contracted word to be produced from pugilist.' What an extraordinary
definition! A fighting man's idea of a contraction! Why should a man
have a special idea of a contraction when he is fighting; or why
should he think of such a thing at all under such circumstances?
Perhaps 'fighting man' is slang too. No; it is not given here. Either
I mistook the word, or it has some signification unknown to the
compiler of my dictionary."
"It seems quite plain to me," said Alice. "Pug means pugilist."
"But pugilism is boxing; it is not a profession. I suppose all men
are more or less pugilists. I want a sense of the word in which it
denotes a calling or occupation of some kind. I fancy it means a
demonstrator of anatomy. However, it does not matter."
"Where did you meet with it?"
"Mr. Byron used it just now."
"Do you really like that man?" said Alice, returning to the subject
more humbly than she had quitted it.
"So far, I do not dislike him. He puzzles me. If the roughness of
his manner is an affectation I have never seen one so successful
"Perhaps he does not know any better. His coarseness did not strike
me as being affected at all."
"I should agree with you but for one or two remarks that fell from
him. They showed an insight into the real nature of scientific
knowledge, and an instinctive sense of the truths underlying words,
which I have never met with except in men of considerable culture and
experience. I suspect that his manner is deliberately assumed in
protest against the selfish vanity which is the common source of
social polish. It is partly natural, no doubt. He seems too impatient
to choose his words heedfully. Do you ever go to the theatre?"
"No," said Alice, taken aback by this apparent irrelevance. "My
father disapproved of it. But I was there once. I saw the 'Lady of
"There is a famous actress, Adelaide Gisborne—"
"It was she whom I saw as the Lady of Lyons. She did it
"Did Mr. Byron remind you of her?"
Alice stared incredulously at Lydia. "I do not think there can be
two people in the world less like one another," she said.
"Nor do I," said Lydia, meditatively. "But I think their
dissimilarity owes its emphasis to some lurking likeness. Otherwise
how could he have reminded me of her?" Lydia, as she spoke, sat down
with a troubled expression, as if trying to unravel her thoughts.
"And yet," she added, presently, "my theatrical associations are so
complex that—" A long silence ensued, during which Alice, conscious
of some unusual stir in her patroness, watched her furtively and
wondered what would happen next.
"My mind is exercising itself in spite of me on small and
impertinent matters—a sure symptom of failing mental health. My
presence here is only one of several attempts that I have made to
live idly since my father's death. They have all failed. Work has
become necessary to me. I will go to London tomorrow."
Alice looked up in dismay; for this seemed equivalent to a
dismissal. But her face expressed nothing but polite indifference.
"We shall have time to run through all the follies of the season
before June, when I hope to return here and set to work at a book I
have planned. I must collect the material for it in London. If I
leave town before the season is over, and you are unwilling to come
away with me, I can easily find some one who will take care of you as
long as you please to stay. I wish it were June already!"
Alice preferred Lydia's womanly impatience to her fatalistic calm.
It relieved her sense of inferiority, which familiarity had increased
rather than diminished. Yet she was beginning to persuade herself,
with some success, that the propriety of Lydia's manners was at least
questionable. That morning Miss Carew had not scrupled to ask a man
what his profession was; and this, at least, Alice congratulated
herself on being too well-bred to do. She had quite lost her awe of
the servants, and had begun to address them with an unconscious
haughtiness and a conscious politeness that were making the word
"upstart" common in the servants' hall. Bashville, the footman, had
risked his popularity there by opining that Miss Goff was a fine young
Bashville was in his twenty-fourth year, and stood five feet ten in
his stockings. At the sign of the Green Man in the village he was
known as a fluent orator and keen political debater. In the stables
he was deferred to as an authority on sporting affairs, and an expert
wrestler in the Cornish fashion. The women servants regarded him with
undissembled admiration. They vied with one another in inventing
expressions of delight when he recited before them, which, as he had a
good memory and was fond of poetry, he often did. They were proud to
go out walking with him. But his attentions never gave rise to
jealousy; for it was an open secret in the servants' hall that he
loved his mistress. He had never said anything to that effect, and no
one dared allude to it in his presence, much less rally him on his
weakness; but his passion was well known for all that, and it seemed
by no means so hopeless to the younger members of the domestic staff
as it did to the cook, the butler, and Bashville himself. Miss Carew,
who knew the value of good servants, appreciated her footman's
smartness, and paid him accordingly; but she had no suspicion that she
was waited on by a versatile young student of poetry and public
affairs, distinguished for his gallantry, his personal prowess, his
eloquence, and his influence on local politics.
It was Bashville who now entered the library with a salver, which
he proffered to Alice, saying, "The gentleman is waiting in the round
Alice took the gentleman's card, and read, "Mr. Wallace Parker."
"Oh!" she said, with vexation, glancing at Bashville as if to
divine his impression of the visitor. "My cousin—the one we were
speaking of just now—has come to see me."
"How fortunate!" said Lydia. "He will tell me the meaning of pug.
Ask him to lunch with us."
"You would not care for him," said Alice. "He is not much used to
society. I suppose I had better go and see him."
Miss Carew did not reply, being plainly at a loss to understand how
there could be any doubt about the matter. Alice went to the round
drawing-room, where she found Mr. Parker examining a trophy of Indian
armor, and presenting a back view of a short gentleman in a spruce
blue frock-coat. A new hat and pair of gloves were also visible as he
stood looking upward with his hands behind him. When he turned to
greet Alice lie displayed a face expressive of resolute self-esteem,
with eyes whose watery brightness, together with the bareness of his
temples, from which the hair was worn away, suggested late hours and
either very studious or very dissipated habits. He advanced
confidently, pressed Alice's hand warmly for several seconds, and
placed a chair for her, without noticing the marked coldness with
which she received his attentions.
"I was surprised, Alice," he said, when he had seated himself
opposite to her, "to learn from Aunt Emily that you had come to live
here without consulting me. I—"
"Consult you!" she said, contemptuously, interrupting him. "I never
heard of such a thing! Why should I consult you as to my movements?"
"Well, I should not have used the word consult, particularly to
such an independent little lady as sweet Alice Goff. Still, I think
you might—merely as a matter of form, you know—have informed me of
the step you were taking. The relations that exist between us give me
a right to your confidence."
"What relations, pray?"
"What relations!" he repeated, with reproachful emphasis.
"Yes. What relations?"
He rose, and addressed her with tender solemnity. "Alice," he
began; "I have proposed to you at least six times—"
"And have I accepted you once?"
"Hear me to the end, Alice. I know that you have never explicitly
accepted me; but it has always been understood that my needy
circumstances were the only obstacle to our happiness. We—don't
interrupt me, Alice; you little know what's coming. That obstacle no
longer exists. I have been made second master at Sunbury College,
with three hundred and fifty pounds a year, a house, coals, and gas.
In the course of time I shall undoubtedly succeed to the head
mastership—a splendid position, worth eight hundred pounds a year.
You are now free from the troubles that have pressed so hard upon you
since your father's death; and you can quit at once—now—instantly,
your dependent position here."
"Thank you: I am very comfortable here. I am staying on a visit
with Miss Carew."
Silence ensued; and he sat down slowly. Then she added, "I am
exceedingly glad that you have got something good at last. It must be
a great relief to your poor mother."
"I fancied, Alice—though it may have been only fancy—I fancied
that YOUR mother was colder than usual in her manner this morning. I
hope that the luxuries of this palatial mansion are powerless to
corrupt your heart. I cannot lead you to a castle and place crowds of
liveried servants at your beck and call; but I can make you mistress
of an honorable English home, independent of the bounty of strangers.
You can never be more than a lady, Alice."
"It is very good of you to lecture me, I am sure."
"You might be serious with me," he said, rising in ill-humor, and
walking a little way down the room.
"I think the offer of a man's hand ought to be received with
"Oh! I did not quite understand. I thought we agreed that you are
not to make me that offer every time we meet."
"It was equally understood that the subject was only deferred until
I should be in a position to resume it without binding you to a long
engagement. That time has come now; and I expect a favorable answer
at last. I am entitled to one, considering how patiently I have
waited for it."
"For my part, Wallace, I must say I do not think it wise for you to
think of marrying with only three hundred and fifty pounds a year."
"With a house: remember that; and coals and gas! You are becoming
very prudent, now that you live with Miss Whatshername here. I fear
you no longer love me, Alice."
"I never said I loved you at any time."
"Pshaw! You never said so, perhaps; but you always gave me to
"I did nothing of the sort, Wallace; and I won't have you say so."
"In short," he retorted, bitterly, "you think you will pick up some
swell here who will be a better bargain than I am."
"Wallace! How dare you?"
"You hurt my feelings, Alice, and I speak out. I know how to behave
myself quite as well as those who have the entree here; but when my
entire happiness is at stake I do not stand on punctilio. Therefore,
I insist on a straightforward answer to my fair, honorable proposal."
"Wallace," said Alice, with dignity; "I will not be forced into
giving an answer against my will. I regard you as a cousin."
"I do not wish to be regarded as a cousin. Have I ever regarded you
as a cousin?"
"And do you suppose, Wallace, that I should permit you to call me
by my Christian name, and be as familiar as we have always been
together, if you were not my cousin? If so, you must have a very
strange opinion of me."
"I did not think that luxury could so corrupt—"
"You said that before," said Alice, pettishly. "Do not keep
repeating the same thing over and over; you know it is one of your
bad habits. Will you stay to lunch? Miss Carew told me to ask you."
"Indeed! Miss Carew is very kind. Please inform her that I am
deeply honored, and that I feel quite disturbed at being unable to
accept her patronage."
Alice poised her head disdainfully. "No doubt it amuses you to make
yourself ridiculous," she said; "but I must say I do not see any
occasion for it."
"I am sorry that my behavior is not sufficiently good for you. You
never found any cause to complain of it when our surroundings were
less aristocratic. I am quite ashamed of taking so much of your
valuable time. GOOD-morning."
"Good-morning. But I do not see why you are in such a rage."
"I am not in a rage. I am only grieved to find that you are
corrupted by luxury. I thought your principles were higher.
Good-morning, Miss Goff. I shall not have the pleasure of seeing you
again in this very choice mansion."
"Are you really going, Wallace?" said Alice, rising.
"Yes. Why should I stay?"
She rang the bell, greatly disconcerting him; for he had expected
her to detain him and make advances for a reconciliation. Before they
could exchange more words, Bashville entered.
"Good-bye," said Alice, politely.
"Good-bye," he replied, through his teeth. He walked loftily out,
passing Bashville with marked scorn.
He had left the house, and was descending the terrace steps, when
he was overtaken by the footman, who said, civilly,
"Beg your pardon, sir. You've forgotten this, I think." And he
handed him a walking-stick.
Parker's first idea was that his stick had attracted the man's
attention by the poor figure it made in the castle hall, and that
Bashville was requesting him, with covert superciliousness, to remove
his property. On second thoughts, his self-esteem rejected this
suspicion as too humiliating; but he resolved to show Bashville that
he had a gentleman to deal with. So he took the stick, and instead of
thanking Bashville, handed him five shillings.
Bashville smiled and shook his head. "Oh, no, sir," he said, "thank
you all the same! Those are not my views."
"The more fool you," said Parker, pocketing the coins, and turning
Bashville's countenance changed. "Come, come, sir," he said,
following Parker to the foot of the stops, "fair words deserve fair
words. I am no more a fool than you are. A gentleman should know his
place as well as a servant."
"Oh, go to the devil," muttered Parker, turning very red and
"If you weren't my mistress's guest," said Bashville, looking
menacingly after him, "I'd send you to bed for a week for sending me
to the devil."
Miss Carew remorselessly carried out her intention of going to
London, where she took a house in Regent's Park, to the
disappointment of Alice, who had hoped to live in Mayfair, or at
least in South Kensington. But Lydia set great store by the high
northerly ground and open air of the park; and Alice found almost
perfect happiness in driving through London in a fine carriage and
fine clothes. She liked that better than concerts of classical music,
which she did not particularly relish, or even than the opera, to
which they went often. The theatres pleased her more, though the
amusements there were tamer than she had expected. Society was
delightful to her because it was real London society. She acquired a
mania for dancing; went out every night, and seemed to herself far
more distinguished and attractive than she had ever been in
Wiltstoken, where she had nevertheless held a sufficiently favorable
opinion of her own manners and person.
Lydia did not share all these dissipations. She easily procured
invitations and chaperones for Alice, who wondered why so intelligent
a woman would take the trouble to sit out a stupid concert, and then
go home, just as the real pleasure of the evening was beginning.
One Saturday morning, at breakfast, Lydia said,
"Your late hours begin to interfere with the freshness of your
complexion, Alice. I am getting a little fatigued, myself, with
literary work. I will go to the Crystal Palace to-day, and wander
about the gardens for a while; there is to be a concert in the
afternoon for the benefit of Madame Szczymplica, whose playing you do
not admire. Will you come with me?"
"Of course," said Alice, resolutely dutiful.
"Of choice; not of course," said Lydia. "Are you engaged for
"Sunday? Oh, no. Besides, I consider all my engagements subject to
There was a pause, long enough for this assurance to fall perfectly
flat. Alice bit her lip. Then Lydia said, "Do you know Mrs. Hoskyn?"
"Mrs. Hoskyn who gives Sunday evenings? Shall we go there?" said
Alice, eagerly. "People often ask me whether I have been at one of
them. But I don't know her—though I have seen her. Is she nice?"
"She is a young woman who has read a great deal of art criticism,
and been deeply impressed by it. She has made her house famous by
bringing there all the clever people she meets, and making them so
comfortable that they take care to come again. But she has not,
fortunately for her, allowed her craze for art to get the better of
her common-sense. She married a prosperous man of business, who
probably never read anything but a newspaper since he left school;
and there is probably not a happier pair in England."
"I presume she had sense enough to know that she could not afford
to choose," said Alice, complacently. "She is very ugly."
"Do you think so? She has many admirers, and was, I am told,
engaged to Mr. Herbert, the artist, before she met Mr. Hoskyn. We
shall meet Mr. Herbert there to-morrow, and a number of celebrated
persons besides—his wife, Madame Szczymplica the pianiste, Owen Jack
the composer, Hawkshaw the poet, Conolly the inventor, and others. The
occasion will be a special one, as Herr Abendgasse, a remarkable
German socialist and art critic, is to deliver a lecture on 'The True
in Art.' Be careful, in speaking of him in society, to refer to him as
a sociologist, and not as a socialist. Are you particularly anxious to
hear him lecture?"
"No doubt it will be very interesting," said Alice. "I should not
like to miss the opportunity of going to Mrs. Hoskyn's. People so
often ask me whether I have been there, and whether I know this,
that, and the other celebrated person, that I feel quite embarrassed
by my rustic ignorance."
"Because," pursued Lydia, "I had intended not to go until after the
lecture. Herr Abendgasse is enthusiastic and eloquent, but not
original; and as I have imbibed all his ideas direct from their
inventors, I do not feel called upon to listen to his exposition of
them. So that, unless you are specially interested—"
"Not at all. If he is a socialist I should much rather not listen
to him, particularly on Sunday evening."
So it was arranged that they should go to Mrs. Hoskyn's after the
lecture. Meanwhile they went to Sydenham, where Alice went through
the Crystal Palace with provincial curiosity, and Lydia answered her
questions encyclopedically. In the afternoon there was a concert, at
which a band played several long pieces of music, which Lydia seemed
to enjoy, though she found fault with the performers. Alice, able to
detect neither the faults in the execution nor the beauty of the
music, did as she saw the others do—pretended to be pleased and
applauded decorously. Madame Szczymplica, whom she expected to meet
at Mrs. Hoskyn's, appeared, and played a fantasia for pianoforte and
orchestra by the famous Jack, another of Mrs. Hoskyn's circle. There
was in the programme an analysis of this composition from which Alice
learned that by attentively listening to the adagio she could hear the
angels singing therein. She listened as attentively as she could, but
heard no angels, and was astonished when, at the conclusion of the
fantasia, the audience applauded Madame Szczymplica as if she had made
them hear the music of the spheres. Even Lydia seemed moved, and said,
"Strange, that she is only a woman like the rest of us, with just
the same narrow bounds to her existence, and just the same prosaic
cares—that she will go by train to Victoria, and from thence home in
a common vehicle instead of embarking in a great shell and being drawn
by swans to some enchanted island. Her playing reminds me of myself as
I was when I believed in fairyland, and indeed knew little about any
"They say," said Alice, "that her husband is very jealous, and that
she leads him a terrible life."
"THEY SAY anything that brings gifted people to the level of their
own experience. Doubtless they are right. I have not met Mr. Herbert,
but I have seen his pictures, which suggest that he reads everything
and sees nothing; for they all represent scenes described in some
poem. If one could only find an educated man who had never read a
book, what a delightful companion he would be!"
When the concert was over they did not return directly to town, as
Lydia wished to walk awhile in the gardens. In consequence, when they
left Sydenham, they got into a Waterloo train, and so had to change at
Clapham Junction. It was a fine summer evening, and Alice, though she
thought that it became ladies to hide themselves from the public in
waiting-rooms at railway stations, did not attempt to dissuade Lydia
from walking to and fro at an unfrequented end of the platform, which
terminated in a bank covered with flowers.
"To my mind," said Lydia, "Clapham Junction is one of the prettiest
places about London."
"Indeed!" said Alice, a little maliciously. "I thought that all
artistic people looked on junctions and railway lines as blots on the
"Some of them do," said Lydia; "but they are not the artists of our
generation; and those who take up their cry are no better than
parrots. If every holiday recollection of my youth, every escape from
town to country, be associated with the railway, I must feel towards
it otherwise than did my father, upon whose middle age it came as a
monstrous iron innovation. The locomotive is one of the wonders of
modern childhood. Children crowd upon a bridge to see the train pass
beneath. Little boys strut along the streets puffing and whistling in
imitation of the engine. All that romance, silly as it looks, becomes
sacred in afterlife. Besides, when it is not underground in a foul
London tunnel, a train is a beautiful thing. Its pure, white fleece of
steam harmonizes with every variety of landscape. And its sound! Have
you ever stood on a sea-coast skirted by a railway, and listened as
the train came into hearing in the far distance? At first it can
hardly be distinguished from the noise of the sea; then you recognize
it by its vibration; one moment smothered in a deep cutting, and the
next sent echoing from some hillside. Sometimes it runs smoothly for
many minutes, and then breaks suddenly into a rhythmic clatter, always
changing in distance and intensity. When it comes near, you should get
into a tunnel, and stand there while it passes. I did that once, and
it was like the last page of an overture by Beethoven—thunderingly
impetuous. I cannot conceive how any person can hope to disparage a
train by comparing it with a stage-coach; and I know something of
stage-coaches—or, at least, of diligences. Their effect on the men
employed about them ought to decide the superiority of steam without
further argument. I have never observed an engine-driver who did not
seem an exceptionally intelligent mechanic, while the very writers
and artists who have preserved the memory of the coaching days for us
do not appear to have taken coachmen seriously, or to have regarded
them as responsible and civilized men. Abuse of the railway from a
pastoral point of view is obsolete. There are millions of grown
persons in England to whom the far sound of the train is as pleasantly
suggestive as the piping of a blackbird. Again—is not that Lord
Worthington getting out of the train? Yes, that one, at the third
platform from this. He—"She stopped.
Alice looked, but could see neither Lord Worthington nor the cause
of a subtle but perceptible change in Lydia, who said, quickly,
"He is probably coming to our train. Come to the waiting-room." She
walked swiftly along the platform as she spoke. Alice hurried after
her; and they had but just got into the room, the door of which was
close to the staircase which gave access to the platform, when a
coarse din of men's voices showed that a noisy party were ascending
the steps. Presently a man emerged reeling, and at once began to
execute a drunken dance, and to sing as well as his condition and
musical faculty allowed. Lydia stood near the window of the room and
watched in silence. Alice, following her example, recognized the
drunken dancer as Mellish. He was followed by three men gayly attired
and highly elated, but comparatively sober. After them came Cashel
Byron, showily dressed in a velveteen coat, and tightly-fitting
fawn-colored pantaloons that displayed the muscles of his legs. He
also seemed quite sober; but he was dishevelled, and his left eye
blinked frequently, the adjacent brow and cheek being much yellower
than his natural complexion, which appeared to advantage on the right
side of his face. Walking steadily to Mellish, who was now asking each
of the bystanders in turn to come and drink at his expense, he seized
him by the collar and sternly bade him cease making a fool of himself.
Mellish tried to embrace him.
"My own boy," he exclaimed, affectionately. "He's my little
nonpareil. Cashel Byron again' the world at catch weight. Bob
"You sot," said Cashel, rolling him about until he was giddy as
well as drunk, and then forcing him to sit down on a bench; "one would
think you never saw a mill or won a bet in your life before."
"Steady, Byron," said one of the others. "Here's his lordship."
Lord Worthington was coming up the stairs, apparently the most excited
of the party.
"Fine man!" he cried, patting Cashel on the shoulder. "Splendid
man! You have won a monkey for me to-day; and you shall have your
share of it, old boy."
"I trained him," said Mellish, staggering forward again. "I trained
him. You know me, my lord. You know Bob Mellish. A word with your
lordship in c-confidence. You ask who knows how to make the beef go
and the muscle come. You ask—I ask your lordship's pard'n. What'll
your lordship take?"
"Take care, for Heaven's sake!" exclaimed Lord Worthington,
clutching at him as he reeled backward towards the line. "Don't you
see the train?"
"I know," said Mellish, gravely. "I am all right; no man
more so. I am Bob Mellish. You ask—"
"Here. Come out of this," said one of the party, a powerful man
with a scarred face and crushed nose, grasping Mellish and thrusting
him into the train. "Y'll 'ave to clap a beefsteak on that ogle of
yours, where you napped the Dutchman's auctioneer, Byron. It's got
more yellow paint on it than y'll like to show in church to-morrow."
At this they all gave a roar of laughter, and entered a third-class
carriage. Lydia and Alice had but just time to take their places in
the train before it started.
"Eeally, I must say," said Alice, "that if those were Mr. Cashel
Byron's and Lord Worthington's associates, their tastes are very
"Yes," said Lydia, almost grimly. "I am a fair linguist; but I did
not understand a single sentence of their conversation, though I
heard it all distinctly."
"They were not gentlemen," said Alice. "You say that no one can
tell by a person's appearance whether he is a gentleman or not; but
surely you cannot think that those men are Lord Worthington's
"I do not," said Lydia. "They are ruffians; and Cashel Byron is the
most unmistakable ruffian of them all."
Alice, awestruck, did not venture to speak again until they left
the train at Victoria. There was a crowd outside the carriage in which
Cashel had travelled. They hastened past; but Lydia asked a guard
whether anything was the matter. He replied that a drunken man,
alighting from the train, had fallen down upon the rails, and that,
had the carriage been in motion, he would have been killed. Lydia
thanked her informant, and, as she turned from him, found Bashville
standing before her, touching his hat. She had given him no
instructions to attend. However, she accepted his presence as a
matter of course, and inquired whether the carriage was there.
"No, madam," replied Bashville. "The coachman had no orders."
"Quite right. A hansom, if you please." When he was gone she said
to Alice, "Did you tell Bashville to meet us?"
"Oh, DEAR, no," said Alice. "I should not think of doing such a
"Strange! However, he knows his duties better than I do; so I have
no doubt that he has acted properly. He has been waiting all the
afternoon, I suppose, poor fellow."
"He has nothing else to do," said Alice, carelessly. "Here he is.
He has picked out a capital horse for us, too."
Meanwhile, Mellish had been dragged from beneath the train and
seated on the knee of one of his companions. He was in a stupor, and
had a large lump on his brow. His eye was almost closed. The man with
the crushed nose now showed himself an expert surgeon. While Cashel
supported the patient on the knee of another man, and the rest of the
party kept off the crowd by mingled persuasion and violence, he
produced a lancet and summarily reduced the swelling by lancing it. He
then dressed the puncture neatly with appliances for that purpose
which he carried about him, and shouted in Mellish's ear to rouse him.
But the trainer only groaned, and let his head drop inert on his
breast. More shouting was resorted to, but in vain. Cashel impatiently
expressed an opinion that Mellish was shamming, and declared that he
would not stand there to be fooled with all the evening.
"If he was my pal 'stead o' yours," said the man with the broken
nose, "I'd wake him up fast enough."
"I'll save you the trouble," said Cashel, coolly stooping and
seizing between his teeth the cartilage of the trainer's ear.
"That's the way to do it," said the other, approvingly, as Mellish
screamed and started to his feet. "Now, then. Up with you."
He took Mellish's right arm, Cashel took the left, and they brought
him away between them without paying the least heed to his tears, his
protestations that he was hurt, his plea that he was an old man, or
his bitter demand as to where Cashel would have been at that moment
without his care.
Lord Worthington had taken advantage of this accident to slip away
from his travelling companions and drive alone to his lodgings in
Jermyn Street. He was still greatly excited; and when his valet, an
old retainer with whom he was on familiar terms, brought him a letter
that had arrived during his absence, he asked him four times whether
any one had called, and four times interrupted him by scraps of
information about the splendid day he had had and the luck he was in.
"I bet five hundred even that it would be over in a quarter of an
hour; and then I bet Byron two hundred and fifty to one that it
wouldn't. That's the way to doit; eh, Bedford? Catch Cashel letting
two hundred and fifty slip through his fingers! By George, though,
he's an artful card. At the end of fourteen minutes I thought my five
hundred was corpsed. The Dutchman was full of fight; and Cashel
suddenly turned weak and tried to back out of the rally. You should
have seen the gleam in the Dutchman's eye when he rushed in after
him. He made cock-sure of finishing him straight off."
"Indeed, my lord. Dear me!"
"I should think so: I was taken in by it myself. It was only done
to draw the poor devil. By George, Bedford, you should have seen the
way Cashel put in his right. But you couldn't have seen it; it was
too quick. The Dutchman was asleep on the grass before he knew he'd
been hit. Byron had collected fifteen pounds for him before he came
to. His jaw must feel devilish queer after it. By Jove, Bedford,
Cashel is a perfect wonder. I'd back him for every cent I possess
against any man alive. He makes you feel proud of being an
Bedford looked on with submissive wonder as his master,
transfigured with enthusiasm, went hastily to and fro through the
room, occasionally clinching his fist and smiting an imaginary
Dutchman. The valet at last ventured to remind him that he had
forgotten the letter.
"Oh, hang the letter!" said Lord Worthington. "It's Mrs. Hoskyn's
writing—an invitation, or some such rot. Here; let's see it."
"Campden Hill Road, Saturday.
"My dear Lord Worthington,—I have not forgotten my promise to
obtain for you a near view of the famous Mrs. Herbert—'Madame
Simplicita,' as you call her. She will be with us to-morrow evening;
and we shall be very happy to see you then, if you care to come. At
nine o'clock, Herr Abendgasse, a celebrated German art critic and a
great friend of mine, will read us a paper on 'The True in Art'; but
I will not pay you the compliment of pretending to believe that that
interests you, so you may come at ten or half-past, by which hour all
the serious business of the evening will be over."
"Well, there is nothing like cheek," said Lord Worthington,
breaking off in his perusal. "These women think that because I enjoy
life in a rational way I don't know the back of a picture from the
front, or the inside of a book from the cover. I shall go at nine
"If any of your acquaintances take an interest in art, I will
gladly make them welcome. Could you not bring me a celebrity or two? I
am very anxious to have as good an audience as possible for Herr
Abendgasse. However, as it is, he shall have no reason to complain,
as I flatter myself that I have already secured a very distinguished
assembly. Still, if you can add a second illustrious name to my list,
by all means do so."
"Very good, Mrs. Hoskyn," said Lord Worthington, looking cunningly
at the bewildered Bedford. "You shall have a celebrity—a real
one—none of your mouldy old Germans—if I can only get him to come.
If any of her people don't like him they can tell him so. Eh,
Next evening, Lydia and Alice reached Mrs. Hoskyn's house in
Campden Hill Road a few minutes before ten o'clock. They found Lord
Worthington in the front garden, smoking and chatting with Mr.
Hoskyn. He threw away his cigar and returned to the house with the
two ladies, who observed that he was somewhat flushed with wine. They
went into a parlor to take off their wraps, leaving him at the foot of
the stairs. Presently they heard some one come down and address him
"Worthington. Worthington. He has begun making a speech before the
whole room. He got up the moment old Abendgasse sat down. Why the
deuce did you give him that glass of champagne?"
"Sh-sh-sh! You don't say so! Come with me; and let us try to get
him away quietly."
"Did you hear that?" said Alice. "Something must have happened."
"I hope so," said Lydia. "Ordinarily, the fault in these receptions
is that nothing happens. Do not announce us, if you please," she
added to the servant, as they ascended the stairs. "Since we have
come late, let us spare the feelings of Herr Abendgasse by going in
as quietly as possible."
They had no difficulty in entering unnoticed, for Mrs. Hoskyn
considered obscurity beautiful; and her rooms were but dimly lighted
by two curious lanterns of pink glass, within which were vaporous
flames. In the middle of the larger apartment was a small table
covered with garnet-colored plush, with a reading-desk upon it, and
two candles in silver candlesticks, the light of which, being
brighter than the lanterns, cast strong double shadows from a group
of standing figures about the table. The surrounding space was
crowded with chairs, occupied chiefly by ladies. Behind them, along
the wall, stood a row of men, among whom was Lucian Webber. All were
staring at Cashel Byron, who was making a speech to some bearded and
spectacled gentlemen at the table. Lydia, who had never before seen
him either in evening dress or quite at his ease, was astonished at
his bearing. His eyes were sparkling, his confidence overbore the
company, and his rough voice created the silence it broke. He was in
high good-humor, and marked his periods by the swing of his extended
left arm, while he held his right hand close to his body and
occasionally pointed his remarks by slyly wagging his forefinger.
"—executive power," he was saying as Lydia entered. "That's a very
good expression, gentlemen, and one that I can tell you a lot about.
We have been told that if we want to civilize our neighbors we must
do it mainly by the example of our own lives, by each becoming a
living illustration of the highest culture we know. But what I ask
is, how is anybody to know that you're an illustration of culture.
You can't go about like a sandwich man with a label on your back to
tell all the fine notions you have in your head; and you may be sure
no person will consider your mere appearance preferable to his own.
You want an executive power; that's what you want. Suppose you walked
along the street and saw a man beating a woman, and setting a bad
example to the roughs. Well, you would be bound to set a good example
to them; and, if you're men, you'd like to save the woman; but you
couldn't do it by merely living; for that would be setting the bad
example of passing on and leaving the poor creature to be beaten. What
is it that you need to know then, in order to act up to your fine
ideas? Why, you want to know how to hit him, when to hit him, and
where to hit him; and then you want the nerve to go in and do it.
That's executive power; and that's what's wanted worse than sitting
down and thinking how good you are, which is what this gentleman's
teaching comes to after all. Don't you see? You want executive power
to set an example. If you leave all that to the roughs, it's their
example that will spread, and not yours. And look at the politics of
it. We've heard a good deal about the French to-night. Well, they've
got executive power. They know how to make a barricade, and how to
fight behind it when they've made it. What's the result? Why, the
French, if they only knew what they wanted, could have it to-morrow
for the asking—more's the pity that they don't know. In this country
we can do nothing; and if the lords and the landlords, or any other
collection of nobs, were to drive us into the sea, what could we do
but go? There's a gentleman laughing at me for saying that; but I ask
him what would he do if the police or the soldiers came this evening
and told him to turn out of his comfortable house into the Thames?
Tell 'em he wouldn't vote for their employers at the next election,
perhaps? Or, if that didn't stop them, tell 'em that he'd ask his
friends to do the same? That's a pretty executive power! No,
gentlemen. Don't let yourself be deceived by people that have staked
their money against you. The first thing to learn is how to fight.
There's no use in buying books and pictures unless you know how to
keep them and your own head as well. If that gentleman that laughed
know how to fight, and his neighbors all knew how to fight too, he
wouldn't need to fear police, nor soldiers, nor Russians, nor
Prussians, nor any of the millions of men that may be let loose on him
any day of the week, safe though he thinks himself. But, says you,
let's have a division of labor. Let's not fight for ourselves, but pay
other men to fight for us. That shows how some people, when they get
hold of an idea, will work it to that foolish length that it's
wearisome to listen to them. Fighting is the power of
self-preservation; another man can't do it for you. You might as well
divide the labor of eating your dinner, and pay one fellow to take the
beef, another the beer, and a third the potatoes. But let us put it
for the sake of argument that you do pay others to fight for you.
Suppose some one else pays them higher, and they fight a cross, or
turn openly against you! You'd have only yourself to blame for giving
the executive power to money. And so long as the executive power is
money the poor will be kept out of their corner and fouled against the
ropes; whereas, by what I understand, the German professor wants them
to have their rights. Therefore I say that a man's first duty is to
learn to fight. If he can't do that he can't set an example; he can't
stand up for his own rights or his neighbors'; he can't keep himself
in bodily health; and if he sees the weak ill-used by the strong, the
most he can do is to sneak away and tell the nearest policeman, who
most likely won't turn up until the worst of the mischief is done.
Coming to this lady's drawing-room, and making an illustration of
himself, won't make him feel like a man after that. Let me be
understood, though, gentlemen: I don't intend that you should take
everything I say too exactly—too literally, as it were. If you see a
man beating a woman, I think you should interfere on principle. But
don't expect to be thanked by her for it; and keep your eye on her;
don't let her get behind you. As for him, just give him a good one and
go away. Never stay to get yourself into a street fight; for it's low,
and generally turns out badly for all parties. However, that's only a
bit of practical advice. It doesn't alter the great principle that
you should get an executive power. When you get that, you'll have
courage in you; and, what's more, your courage will be of some use to
you. For though you may have courage by nature, still, if you haven't
executive power as well, your courage will only lead you to stand up
to be beaten by men that have both courage and executive power; and
what good does that do you? People say that you're a game fellow; but
they won't find the stakes for you unless you can win them. You'd far
better put your game in your pocket, and throw up the sponge while you
can see to do it.
"Now, on this subject of game, I've something to say that will ease
the professor's mind on a point that he seemed anxious about. I am no
musician; but I'll just show you how a man that understands one art
understands every art. I made out from the gentleman's remarks that
there is a man in the musical line named Wagner, who is what you might
call a game sort of composer; and that the musical fancy, though they
can't deny that his tunes are first-rate, and that, so to speak, he
wins his fights, yet they try to make out that he wins them in an
outlandish way, and that he has no real science. Now I tell the
gentleman not to mind such talk. As I have just shown you, his game
wouldn't be any use to him without science. He might have beaten a few
second-raters with a rush while he was young; but he wouldn't have
lasted out as he has done unless he was clever as well. You will find
that those that run him down are either jealous, or they are old
stagers that are not used to his style, and think that anything new
must be bad. Just wait a bit, and, take my word for it, they'll turn
right round and swear that his style isn't new at all, and that he
stole it from some one they saw when they were ten years old. History
shows us that that is the way of such fellows in all ages, as the
gentleman said; and he gave you Beethoven as an example. But an
example like that don't go home to you, because there isn't one man in
a million that ever heard of Beethoven. Take a man that everybody has
heard of—Jack Randall! The very same things were said of HIM. After
that, you needn't go to musicians for an example. The truth is, that
there are people in the world with that degree of envy and malice in
them that they can't bear to allow a good man his merits; and when
they have to admit that he can do one thing, they try to make out that
there's something else he can't do. Come: I'll put it to you short and
business-like. This German gentleman, who knows all about music, tells
you that many pretend that this Wagner has game but no science. Well,
I, though I know nothing about music, will bet you twenty-five pounds
that there's others that allow him to be full of science, but say that
he has no game, and that all he does comes from his head, and not from
his heart. I will. I'll bet twenty-five pounds on it, and let the
gentleman of the house be stakeholder, and the German gentleman
referee. Eh? Well, I'm glad to see that there are no takers.
"Now we'll go to another little point that the gentleman forgot. He
recommended you to LEARN—to make yourselves better and wiser from
day to day. But he didn't tell you why it is that you won't learn, in
spite of his advice. I suppose that, being a foreigner, he was afraid
of hurting your feelings by talking too freely to you. But you're not
so thin-skinned as to take offence at a little plain-speaking, I'll be
bound; so I tell you straight out that the reason you won't learn is
not that you don't want to be clever, or that you are lazier than many
that have learned a great deal, but just because you'd like people to
think that you know everything already—because you're ashamed to be
seen going to school; and you calculate that if you only hold your
tongue and look wise you'll get through life without your ignorance
being found out. But where's the good of lies and pretence? What does
it matter if you get laughed at by a cheeky brat or two for your
awkward beginnings? What's the use of always thinking of how you're
looking, when your sense might tell you that other people are thinking
about their own looks and not about yours? A big boy doesn't look well
on a lower form, certainly, but when he works his way up he'll be glad
he began. I speak to you more particularly because you're Londoners;
and Londoners beat all creation for thinking about themselves.
However, I don't go with the gentleman in everything he said. All this
struggling and striving to make the world better is a great mistake;
not because it isn't a good thing to improve the world if you know how
to do it, but because striving and struggling is the worst way you
could set about doing anything. It gives a man a bad style, and
weakens him. It shows that he don't believe in himself much. When I
heard the professor striving and struggling so earnestly to set you to
work reforming this, that, and the other, I said to myself, 'He's got
himself to persuade as well as his audience. That isn't the language
of conviction.' Whose—"
"Really, sir," said Lucian Webber, who had made his way to the
table, "I think, as you have now addressed us at considerable length,
and as there are other persons present whose opinions probably excite
as much curiosity as yours—" He was interrupted by a, "Hear, hear,"
followed by "No, no," and "Go on," uttered in more subdued tones than
are customary at public meetings, but with more animation than is
usually displayed in drawing-rooms. Cashel, who had been for a moment
somewhat put out, turned to Lucian and said, in a tone intended to
repress, but at the same time humor his impatience, "Don't you be in a
hurry, sir. You shall have your turn presently. Perhaps I may tell you
something you don't know, before I stop." Then he turned again to the
company, and resumed.
"We were talking about effort when this young gentleman took it
upon himself to break the ring. Now, nothing can be what you might
call artistically done if it's done with an effort. If a thing can't
be done light and easy, steady and certain, let it not be done at all.
Sounds strange, doesn't it? But I'll tell you a stranger thing. The
more effort you make, the less effect you produce. A WOULD-BE artist
is no artist at all. I see that in my own profession (never mind what
that profession is just at present, as the ladies might think the
worse of me for it). But in all professions, any work that shows signs
of labor, straining, yearning—as the German gentleman said—or effort
of any kind, is work beyond the man's strength that does it, and
therefore not well done. Perhaps it's beyond his natural strength; but
it is more likely that he was badly taught. Many teachers set their
pupils on to strain, and stretch, so that they get used up, body and
mind, in a few months. Depend upon it, the same thing is true in other
arts. I once taught a fiddler that used to get a hundred guineas for
playing two or three tunes; and he told me that it was just the same
thing with the fiddle—that when you laid a tight hold on your
fiddle-stick, or even set your teeth hard together, you could do
nothing but rasp like the fellows that play in bands for a few
shillings a night."
"How much more of this nonsense must we endure?" said Lucian,
audibly, as Cashel stopped for breath. Cashel turned and looked at
"By Jove!" whispered Lord Worthington to his companion, "that
fellow had better be careful. I wish he would hold his tongue."
"You think it's nonsense, do you?" said Cashel, after a pause. Then
he raised one of the candles, and illuminated a picture that hung on
the wall, "Look at that picture," he said. "You see that fellow in
armor—St. George and the dragon, or whatever he may be. He's jumped
down from his horse to fight the other fellow—that one with his head
in a big helmet, whose horse has tumbled. The lady in the gallery is
half crazy with anxiety for St. George; and well she may be. THERE'S a
posture for a man to fight in! His weight isn't resting on his legs;
one touch of a child's finger would upset him. Look at his neck craned
out in front of him, and his face as flat as a full moon towards his
man, as if he was inviting him to shut up both his eyes with one blow.
You can all see that he's as weak and nervous as a cat, and that he
doesn't know how to fight. And why does he give you that idea? Just
because he's all strain and stretch; because he isn't at his ease;
because he carries the weight of his body as foolishly as one of the
ladies here would carry a hod of bricks; because he isn't safe,
steady, and light on his pins, as he would be if he could forget
himself for a minute, and leave his body to find its proper balance of
its own accord. If the painter of that picture had known his business
he would never have sent his man up to the scratch in such a figure
and condition as that. But you can see with one eye that he didn't
understand—I won't say the principles of fighting, but the universal
principles that I've told you of, that ease and strength, effort and
weakness, go together. Now," added Cashel, again addressing Lucian;
"do you still think that notion of mine nonsense?" And he smacked his
lips with satisfaction; for his criticism of the picture had produced
a marked sensation, and he did not know that this was due to the fact
that the painter, Mr. Adrian Herbert, was present.
Lucian tried to ignore the question; but he found it impossible to
ignore the questioner. "Since you have set the example of expressing
opinions without regard to considerations of common courtesy," he
said, shortly, "I may say that your theory, if it can be called one,
is manifestly absurd."
Cashel, apparently unruffled, but with more deliberation of manner
than before, looked about him as if in search of a fresh
illustration. His glance finally rested on the lecturer's seat, a
capacious crimson damask arm-chair that stood unoccupied at some
distance behind Lucian.
"I see you're no judge of a picture," said he, good-humoredly,
putting down the candle, and stepping in front of Lucian. who
regarded him haughtily, and did not budge. "But just look at it in
this way. Suppose you wanted to hit me the most punishing blow you
possibly could. What would you do? Why, according to your own notion,
you'd make a great effort. 'The more effort the more force,' you'd say
to yourself. 'I'll smash him even if I burst myself in doing it.' And
what would happen then? You'd only cut me and make me angry, besides
exhausting all your strength at one gasp. Whereas, if you took it
easy—like this—" Here he made a light step forward and placed his
open palm gently against the breast of Lncian, who instantly reeled
back as if the piston-rod of a steam-engine had touched him, and
dropped into the chair.
"There!" exclaimed Cashel, standing aside and pointing to him.
"It's like pocketing a billiard-ball!"
A chatter of surprise, amusement, and remonstrance spread through
the rooms; and the company crowded towards the table. Lucian rose,
white with rage, and for a moment entirely lost his self-control.
Fortunately, the effect was to paralyze him; he neither moved nor
spoke, and only betrayed his condition by his pallor and the hatred
in his expression. Presently he felt a touch on his arm and heard his
name pronounced by Lydia. Her voice calmed him. He tried to look at
her, but his vision was disturbed; he saw double; the lights seemed to
dunce before his eyes; and Lord Worthington's voice, saying to Cashel,
"Rather too practical, old fellow," seemed to come from a remote
corner of the room, and yet to be whispered into his ear. He was
moving irresolutely in search of Lydia when his senses and his
resentment were restored by a clap on the shoulder.
"You wouldn't have believed that now, would you?" said Cashel.
"Don't look startled; you've no bones broken. You had your little
joke with me in your own way; and I had mine in MY own way. That's
He stopped; his brave bearing vanished; he became limp and
shamefaced. Lucian, without a word, withdrew with Lydia to the
adjoining apartment, and left him staring after her with wistful eyes
and slackened jaw.
In the meantime Mrs. Hoskyn, an earnest-looking young woman, with
striking dark features and gold spectacles, was looking for Lord
Worthington, who betrayed a consciousness of guilt by attempting to
avoid her. But she cut off his retreat, and confronted him with a
steadfast gaze that compelled him to stand and answer for himself.
"Who is that gentleman whom you introduced to me? I do not
recollect his name."
"I am really awfully sorry, Mrs. Hoskyn. It was too bad of Byron.
But Webber was excessively nasty."
Mrs. Hoskyn, additionally annoyed by apologies which she had not
invited, and which put her in the ignominious position of a
complainant, replied coldly, "Mr. Byron! Thank you; I had forgotten,"
and was turning away when Lydia came up to introduce Alice, and to
explain why she had entered unannounced. Lord Worthington then
returned to the subject of Cashel, hoping to improve his credit by
claiming Lydia's acquaintance with him.
"Did you hear our friend Byron's speech, Miss Carew? Very
characteristic, I thought."
"Very," said Lydia. "I hope Mrs. Hoskyn's guests are all familiar
with his style. Otherwise they must find him a little startling."
"Yes," said Mrs. Hoskyn, beginning to wonder whether Cashel could
be some well-known eccentric genius. "He is very odd. I hope Mr.
Webber is not offended."
"He is the less pleased as he was in the wrong," said Lydia.
"Intolerant refusal to listen to an opponent is a species of violence
that has no business in such a representative nineteenth-century
drawing-room as yours, Mrs. Hoskyn. There was a fitness in rebuking it
by skilled physical violence. Consider the prodigious tact of it, too!
One gentleman knocks another half-way across a crowded room, and yet
no one is scandalized."
"You see, Mrs. Hoskyn, the general verdict is 'Served him right,'"
said Lord Worthington.
"With a rider to the effect that both gentlemen displayed complete
indifference to the comfort of their hostess," said Lydia. "However,
men so rarely sacrifice their manners to their minds that it would be
a pity to blame them. You do not encourage conventionality, Mrs.
"I encourage good manners, though certainly not conventional
"And you think there is a difference?"
"I FEEL that there is a difference," said Mrs. Hoskyn, with
"So do I," said Lydia; "but one can hardly call others to account
for one's own subjective ideas."
Lydia went away to another part of the room without waiting for a
reply. Meanwhile, Cashel stood friendless in the middle of the room,
stared at by most of his neighbors, and spoken to by none. Women
looked at him coldly lest it should be suspected that they were
admiring him; and men regarded him stiffly according to the national
custom. Since his recognition of Lydia, his self-confidence had given
place to a misgiving that he had been making a fool of himself. He
began to feel lonely and abashed; and but for his professional habit
of maintaining a cheerful countenance under adverse circumstances, he
would have hid himself in the darkest corner of the room. He was
getting sullen, and seeking consolation in thoughts of how terribly he
could handle all these distantly-mannered, black-coated gentlemen if
he chose, when Lord Worthington came up to him.
"I had no idea you were such an orator, Byron," he said. "You can
go into the Church when you cut the other trade. Eh?"
"I wasn't brought up to the other trade," said Cashel; "and I know
how to talk to ladies and gentlemen as well as to what you'd suppose
to be my own sort. Don't you be anxious about me, my lord. I know how
to make myself at home."
"Of course, of course," said Lord Worthington, soothingly. "Every
one can see by your manners that you are a gentleman; they recognize
that even in the ring. Otherwise—I know you will excuse my saying
so—I daren't have brought you here."
Cashel shook his head, but was pleased. He thought he hated
flattery; had Lord Worthington told him that he was the best boxer in
England—which he probably was—he would have despised him. But he
wished to believe the false compliment to his manners, and was
therefore perfectly convinced of its sincerity. Lord Worthington
perceived this, and retired, pleased with his own tact, in search of
Mrs. Hoskyn, to claim her promise of an introduction to Madame
Szczymplica, which Mrs. Hoskyn had, by way of punishing him for
Cashel's misdemeanor, privately determined not to redeem.
Cashel began to think he had better go. Lydia was surrounded by men
who were speaking to her in German. He felt his own inability to talk
learnedly even in English; and he had, besides, a conviction that she
was angry with him for upsetting her cousin, who was gravely
conversing with Miss Goff. Suddenly a horrible noise caused a general
start and pause. Mr. Jack, the eminent composer, had opened the
piano-forte, and was illustrating some points in a musical composition
under discussion by making discordant sounds with his voice,
accompanied by a few chords. Cashel laughed aloud in derision as he
made his way towards the door through the crowd, which was now
pressing round the pianoforte at which Madame Szczymplica had just
come to the assistance of Jack. Near the door, and in a corner remote
from the instrument, he came upon Lydia and a middle-aged gentleman,
evidently neither a professor nor an artist.
"Ab'n'gas is a very clever man," the gentleman was saying. "I am
sorry I didn't hear the lecture. But I leave all that to Mary. She
receives the people who enjoy high art up-stairs; and I take the
sensible men down to the garden or the smoking-room, according to the
"What do the sensible women do?" said Lydia.
"They come late," said Mr. Hoskyn, and then laughed at his repartee
until he became aware of the vicinity of Cashel, whose health he
immediately inquired after, shaking his hand warmly and receiving a
numbing grip in return. As soon as he saw that Lydia and Cashel were
acquainted, he slipped away and left them to entertain one another.
"I wonder how he knows me," said Cashel, heartened by her gracious
reception of a nervous bow. "I never saw him before in my life."
"He does not know you," said Lydia, with some sternness. "He is
your host, and therefore concludes that he ought to know you."
"Oh! That was it, was it?" He paused, at a loss for conversation.
She did not help him. At last he added, "I haven't seen you this long
time, Miss Carew."
"It is not very long since I saw you, Mr. Cashel Byron. I saw you
yesterday at some distance from London."
"Oh, Lord!" exclaimed Cashel, "don't say that. You're joking, ain't
"No. Joking, in that sense, does not amuse me."
Cashel looked at her in consternation. "You don't mean to say that
you went to see a—a—Where—when did you see me? You might tell me."
"Certainly. It was at Clapham Junction, at a quarter-past six."
"Was any one with me?"
"Your friend, Mr. Mellish, Lord Worthington, and some other
"Yes. Lord Worthington was there. But where were you?"
"In a waiting-room, close to you."
"I never saw you," said Cashel, growing red as he recalled the
scene. "We must have looked very queer. I had had an accident to my
eye, and Mellish was not sober. Did you think I was in bad company?"
"That was not my business, Mr. Cashel Byron."
"No," said Cashel, with sudden bitterness. "What did YOU care what
company I kept? You're mad with me because I made your cousin look
like a fool, I suppose. That's what's the matter."
Lydia looked around to see that no one was within earshot, and,
speaking in a low tone to remind him that they were not alone, said,
"There is nothing the matter, except that you are a grown-up boy
rather than a man. I am not mad with you because of your attack upon
my cousin; but he is very much annoyed, and so is Mrs. Hoskyn, whose
guest you were bound to respect."
"I knew you'd be down on me. I wouldn't have said a word if I'd
known that you were here," said Cashel, dejectedly. "Lie down and be
walked over; that's what you think I'm fit for. Another man would
have twisted his head off."
"Is it possible that you do not know that gentlemen never twist one
another's heads off in society, no matter how great may be the
"I know nothing," said Cashel with plaintive sullenness.
"Everything I do is wrong. There. Will that satisfy you?"
Lydia looked up at him in doubt. Then, with steady patience, she
added: "Will you answer me a question on your honor?"
He hesitated, fearing that she was going to ask what he was.
"The question is this," she said, observing the hesitation. "Are
you a simpleton, or a man of science pretending to be a simpleton for
the sake of mocking me and my friends?"
"I am not mocking you; honor bright! All that about science was
only a joke—at least, it's not what you call science. I'm a real
simpleton in drawing-room affairs; though I'm clever enough in my own
"Then try to believe that I take no pleasure in making you confess
yourself in the wrong, and that you cannot have a lower opinion of me
than the contrary belief implies."
"That's just where you're mistaken," said Cashel, obstinately. "I
haven't got a low opinion of you at all. There's such a thing as
being too clever."
"You may not know that it is a low opinion. Nevertheless, it is
"Well, have it your own way. I'm wrong again; and you're right."
"So far from being gratified by that, I had rather that we were
both in the right and agreed. Can you understand that?"
"I can't say I do. But I give in to it. What more need you care
"I had rather you understood. Let me try to explain. You think that
I like to be cleverer than other people. You are mistaken. I should
like them all to know whatever I know."
Cashel laughed cunningly, and shook his head. "Don't you make any
mistake about that," he said. "You don't want anybody to be quite as
clever as yourself; it isn't in human nature that you should. You'd
like people to be just clever enough to show you off—to be worth
beating. But you wouldn't like them to be able to beat you. Just
clever enough to know how much cleverer you are; that's about the
Lydia made no further effort to enlighten him. She looked at him
thoughtfully, and said, slowly, "I begin to hold the clew to your
idiosyncrasy. You have attached yourself to the modern doctrine of a
struggle for existence, and look on life as a perpetual combat."
"A fight? Just so. What is life but a fight? The curs forfeit or
get beaten; the rogues sell the fight and lose the confidence of their
backers; the game ones and the clever ones win the stakes, and have
to hand over the lion's share of them to the loafers; and luck plays
the devil with them all in turn. That's not the way they describe
life in books; but that's what it is."
"Oddly put, but perhaps true. Still, is there any need of a
struggle? Is not the world large enough for us all to live peacefully
"YOU may think so, because you were born with a silver spoon in
your mouth. But if you hadn't to fight for that silver spoon, some one
else had; and no doubt he thought it hard that it should be taken
away from him and given to you. I was a snob myself once, and thought
the world was made for me to enjoy myself and order about the poor
fellows whose bread I was eating. But I was left one day where I
couldn't grab any more of their bread, and had to make some for
myself—ay, and some extra for loafers that had the power to make me
pay for what they didn't own. That took the conceit out of me fast
enough. But what do you know about such things?"
"More than you think, perhaps. These are dangerous ideas to take
with you into English society."
"Hmf!" growled Cashel. "They'd be more dangerous if I could give
every man that is robbed of half what he earns twelve lessons—in
"So you can. Publish your lessons. 'Twelve lectures on political
economy, by Cashel Byron.' I will help you to publish them, if you
"Bless your innocence!" said Cashel: "the sort of political economy
I teach can't be learned from a book."
"You have become an enigma again. But yours is not the creed of a
simpleton. You are playing with me—revealing your wisdom from
beneath a veil of infantile guilelessness. I have no more to say."
"May I be shot if I understand you! I never pretended to be
guileless. Come: is it because I raised a laugh against your cousin
that you're so spiteful?"
Lydia looked earnestly and doubtfully at him; and he instinctively
put his head back, as if it were in danger. "You do not understand,
then?" she said. "I will test the genuineness of your stupidity by an
appeal to your obedience."
"Stupidity! Go on."
"But will you obey me, if I lay a command upon you?"
"I will go through fire and water for you."
Lydia blushed faintly, and paused to wonder at the novel sensation
before she resumed. "You had better not apologize to my cousin:
partly because you would only make matters worse; chiefly because he
does not deserve it. But you must make this speech to Mrs. Hoskyn
when you are going: 'I am very sorry I forgot myself'—"
"Sounds like Shakespeare, doesn't it?" observed Cashel.
"Ah! the test has found you out; you are only acting after all. But
that does not alter my opinion that you should apologize."
"All right. I don't know what you mean by testing and acting; and I
only hope you know yourself. But no matter; I'll apologize; a man
like me can afford to. I'll apologize to your cousin, too, if you
"I do not like. But what has that to do with it? I suggest these
things, as you must be aware, for your own sake and not for mine."
"As for my own, I don't care twopence: I do it all for you. I don't
even ask whether there is anything between you and him."
"Would you like to know?" said Lydia, deliberately, after a pause
"Do you mean to say you'll tell me?" he exclaimed. "If you do, I'll
say you're as good as gold."
"Certainly I will tell you. There is an old friendship and
cousinship between us; but we are not engaged, nor at all likely to
be. I tell you so because, if I avoided the question, you would draw
the opposite and false conclusion."
"I am glad of it," said Cashel, unexpectedly becoming very gloomy.
"He isn't man enough for you. But he's your equal, damn him!"
"He is my cousin, and, I believe, my sincere friend. Therefore
please do not damn him."
"I know I shouldn't have said that. But I am only damning my own
"Which will not improve it in the least."
"I know that. You needn't have said it. I wouldn't have said a
thing like that to you, stupid as I am."
"Evidently you suppose me to have meant more than I really did.
However, that does not matter. You are still an enigma to me. Had we
not better try to hear a little of Madame Szczymplica's performance?"
"I'm a pretty plain enigma, I should think," said Cashel,
mournfully. "I would rather have you than any other woman in the
world; but you're too rich and grand for me. If I can't have the
satisfaction of marrying you, I may as well have the satisfaction of
saying I'd like to."
"Hardly a fair way of approaching the subject," said Lydia,
composedly, but with a play of color again in her cheeks. "Allow me
to forbid it unconditionally. I must be plain with you, Mr. Cashel
Byron. I do not know what you are or who you are; and I believe you
have tried to mystify me on both points—"
"And you never shall find out either the one or the other, if I can
help it," put in Cashel; "so that we're in a preciously bad way of
coming to a good understanding."
"True," assented Lydia. "I do not make secrets; I do not keep them;
and I do not respect them. Your humor clashes with my principle."
"You call it a humor!" said Cashel, angrily. "Perhaps you think I
am a duke in disguise. If so, you may think better of it. If you had a
secret, the discovery of which would cause you to be kicked out of
decent society, you would keep it pretty tight. And that through no
fault of your own, mind you; but through downright cowardice and
prejudice in other people."
"There are at least some fears and prejudices common in society
that I do not share," said Lydia, after a moment's reflection. "Should
I ever find out your secret, do not too hastily conclude that you have
forfeited my consideration."
"You are just the last person on earth by whom I want to be found
out. But you'll find out fast enough. Pshaw!" cried Cashel, with a
laugh, "I'm as well known as Trafalgar Square. But I can't bring
myself to tell you; and I hate secrets as much as you do; so let's
drop it and talk about something else."
"We have talked long enough. The music is over, and the people will
return to this room presently, perhaps to ask me who and what is the
stranger who made them such a remarkable speech."
"Just a word. Promise me that you won't ask any of THEM that."
"Promise you! No. I cannot promise that."
"Oh, Lord!" said Cashel, with a groan.
"I have told you that I do not respect secrets. For the present I
will not ask; but I may change my mind. Meanwhile we must not hold
long conversations. I even hope that we shall not meet. There is only
one thing that I am too rich and grand for. That one
Before he could reply she was away from him in the midst of a
number of gentlemen, and in conversation with one of them. Cashel
seemed overwhelmed. But in an instant he recovered himself, and
stepped jauntily before Mrs. Hoskyn, who had just come into his
"I'm going, ma'am," he said. "Thank you for a pleasant evening—I'm
very sorry I forgot myself. Good-night."
Mrs. Hoskyn, naturally frank, felt some vague response within
herself to this address. But, though not usually at a loss for words
in social emergencies, she only looked at him, blushed slightly, and
offered her hand. He took it as if it were a tiny baby's hand and he
afraid of hurting it, gave it a little pinch, and turned to go. Mr.
Adrian Herbert, the painter, was directly in his way, with his back
"If YOU please, sir," said Cashel, taking him gently by the ribs,
and moving him aside. The artist turned indignantly, but Cashel was
passing the doorway. On the stairs he met Lucian and Alice, and
stopped a moment to take leave of them.
"Good-night, Miss Goff," he said. "It's a pleasure to see the
country roses in your cheeks." He lowered his voice as he added, to
Lucian, "Don't you worry yourself over that little trick I showed
you. If any of your friends chafe you about it, tell them that it was
Cashel Byron did it, and ask them whether they think they could have
helped themselves any better than you could. Don't ever let a person
come within distance of yon while you're standing in that silly way on
both your heels. Why, if a man isn't properly planted on his pins, a
broom-handle falling against him will upset him. That's the way of it.
Lucian returned the salutation, mastered by a certain latent
dangerousness in Cashel, suggestive that he might resent a snub by
throwing the offender over the balustrade. As for Alice, she had
entertained a superstitious dread of him ever since Lydia had
pronounced him a ruffian. Both felt relieved when the house door,
closing, shut them out of his reach.
Society was much occupied during Alice's first season in London
with the upshot of an historical event of a common kind. England, a
few years before, had stolen a kingdom from a considerable people in
Africa, and seized the person of its king. The conquest proved
useless, troublesome, and expensive; and after repeated attempts to
settle the country on impracticable plans suggested to the Colonial
Office by a popular historian who had made a trip to Africa, and by
generals who were tired of the primitive remedy of killing the
natives, it appeared that the best course was to release the captive
king and get rid of the unprofitable booty by restoring it to him. In
order, however, that the impression made on him by England's
short-sighted disregard of her neighbor's landmark abroad might be
counteracted by a glimpse of the vastness of her armaments and wealth
at home, it was thought advisable to take him first to London, and
show him the wonders of the town. But when the king arrived, his
freedom from English prepossessions made it difficult to amuse, or
even to impress him. A stranger to the idea that a private man could
own a portion of the earth and make others pay him for permission to
live on it, he was unable to understand why such a prodigiously
wealthy nation should be composed partly of poor and uncomfortable
persons toiling incessantly to create riches, and partly of a class
that confiscated and dissipated the wealth thus produced without
seeming to be at all happier than the unfortunate laborers at whose
expense they existed. He was seized with strange fears, first for his
health, for it seemed to him that the air of London, filthy with
smoke, engendered puniness and dishonesty in those who breathed it;
and eventually for his life, when he learned that kings in Europe were
sometimes shot at by passers-by, there being hardly a monarch there
who had not been so imperilled more than once; that the Queen of
England, though accounted the safest of all, was accustomed to this
variety of pistol practice; and that the autocrat of an empire huge
beyond all other European countries, whose father had been torn
asunder in the streets of his capital, lived surrounded by soldiers
who shot down all strangers that approached him even at his own
summons, and was an object of compassion to the humblest of his
servants. Under these circumstances, the African king was with
difficulty induced to stir out of doors; and he only visited Woolwich
Arsenal—the destructive resources of which were expected to influence
his future behavior in a manner favorable to English supremacy—under
compulsion. At last the Colonial Office, which had charge of him, was
at its wit's end to devise entertainments to keep him in good-humor
until the appointed time for his departure.
On the Tuesday following Mrs. Hoskyn's reception, Lucian Webber
called at his cousin's house in Regent's Park, and said, in the
course of a conversation with the two ladies there,
"The Colonial Office has had an idea. The king, it appears, is
something of an athlete, and is curious to witness what Londoners can
do in that way. So a grand assault-at-arms is to be held for him."
"What is an assault-at-arms?" said Lydia. "I have never been at
one; and the name suggests nothing but an affray with bayonets."
"It is an exhibition of swordsmanship, military drill, gymnastics,
and so forth."
"I will go to that," said Lydia. "Will you come, Alice?"
"Is it usual for ladies to go to such exhibitions?" said Alice,
"On this occasion ladies will go for the sake of seeing the king,"
said Lucian. "The Olympian gymnastic society, which has undertaken
the direction of the part of the assault that is to show off the
prowess of our civilians, expects what they call a flower-show
"Will you come, Lucian?"
"If I can be spared, yes. If not, I will ask Worthington to go with
you. He understands such matters better than I."
"Then let us have him, by all means," said Lydia.
"I cannot see why you are so fond of Lord Worthington," said Alice.
"His manners are good; but there is nothing in him. Besides, he is so
young. I cannot endure his conversation. He has begun to talk about
"He will grow out of his excessive addiction to sport," said
"Indeed," said Lydia. "And what will he grow into?"
"Possibly into a more reasonable man," said Lucian, gravely.
"I hope so," said Lydia; "but I prefer a man who is interested in
sport to a gentleman who is interested in nothing."
"Much might indubitably be said from that point of view. But it is
not necessary that Lord Worthington should waste his energy on
horse-racing. I presume you do not think political life, for which
his position peculiarly fits him, unworthy his attention."
"Party tactics are both exciting and amusing, no doubt. But are
they better than horse-racing? Jockeys and horse-breakers at least
know their business; our legislators do not. Is it pleasant to sit on
a bench—even though it be the treasury bench—and listen to either
absolute nonsense or childish disputes about conclusions that were
foregone in the minds of all sensible men a hundred years ago?"
"You do not understand the duties of a government, Lydia. You never
approach the subject without confirming my opinion that women are
constitutionally incapable of comprehending it."
"It is natural for you to think so, Lucian. The House of Commons is
to you the goal of existence. To me it is only an assemblage of
ill-informed gentlemen who have botched every business they have ever
undertaken, from the first committee of supply down to the last land
act; and who arrogantly assert that I am not good enough to sit with
"Lydia," said Lucian, annoyed; "you know that I respect women in
their own sphere—"
"Then give them another sphere, and perhaps they will earn your
respect in that also. I am sorry to say that men, in THEIR sphere,
have not won my respect. Enough of that for the present. I have to
make some domestic arrangements, which are of more immediate
importance than the conversion of a good politician into a bad
philosopher. Excuse me for five minutes."
She left the room. Lucian sat down and gave his attention to Alice,
who had still enough of her old nervousness to make her straighten
her shoulders and look stately. But he did not object to this; a
little stiffness of manner gratified his taste.
"I hope," he said, "that my cousin has not succeeded in inducing
you to adopt her peculiar views."
"No," said Alice. "Of course her case is quite exceptional—she is
so wonderfully accomplished. In general, I do not think women should
have views. There are certain convictions which every lady holds: for
instance, we know that Roman Catholicism is wrong. But that can hardly
be called a view; indeed it would be wicked to call it so, as it is
one of the highest truths. What I mean is that women should not be
"I understand, and quite agree with you. Lydia is, as you say, an
exceptional case. She has lived much abroad; and her father was a
very singular man. Even the clearest heads, when removed from the
direct influence of English life and thought, contract extraordinary
prejudices. Her father at one time actually attempted to leave a
large farm to the government in trust for the people; but fortunately
he found that it was impossible; no such demise was known to the
English law or practicable by it. He subsequently admitted the folly
of this by securing Lydia's rights as his successor as stringently as
he could. It is almost a pity that such strength of mind and extent of
knowledge should be fortified by the dangerous independence which
great wealth confers. Advantages like these bring with them certain
duties to the class that has produced them—duties to which Lydia is
not merely indifferent, but absolutely hostile."
"I never meddle with her ideas on—on these subjects. I am too
ignorant to understand them. But Miss Carew's generosity to me has
been unparalleled. And she does not seem to know that she is
generous. I owe more to her than I ever can repay. At least," Alice
added, to herself, "I am not ungrateful."
Miss Carew now reappeared, dressed in a long, gray coat and plain
beaver hat, and carrying a roll of writing materials.
"I am going to the British Museum to read," said she.
"To walk!—alone!" said Lucian, looking at her costume.
"Yes. Prevent me from walking, and you deprive me of my health.
Prevent me from going alone where I please and when I please, and you
deprive me of my liberty—tear up Magna Charta, in effect. But I do
not insist upon being alone in this instance. If you can return to
your office by way of Regent's Park and Gower Street without losing
too much time, I shall be glad of your company."
Lucian decorously suppressed his eagerness to comply by looking at
his watch and pretending to consider his engagements. In conclusion,
he said that he should be happy to accompany her.
It was a fine summer afternoon, and there were many people in the
park. Lucian was soon incommoded by the attention his cousin
attracted. In spite of the black beaver, her hair shone like fire in
the sun. Women stared at her with unsympathetic curiosity, and turned
as they passed to examine her attire. Men resorted to various
subterfuges to get a satisfactory look without rudely betraying their
intention. A few stupid youths gaped; and a few impudent ones smiled.
Lucian would gladly have kicked them all, without distinction. He at
last suggested that they should leave the path, and make a short cut
across the green-sward. As they emerged from the shade of the trees he
had a vague impression that the fineness of the weather and the beauty
of the park made the occasion romantic, and that the words by which he
hoped to make the relation between him and his cousin dearer and
closer would be well spoken there. But he immediately began to talk,
in spite of himself, about the cost of maintaining the public parks,
of the particulars of which he happened to have some official
knowledge. Lydia, readily interested by facts of any sort, thought the
subject not a bad one for a casual afternoon conversation, and pursued
it until they left the turf and got into the Euston Road, where the
bustle of traffic silenced them for a while. When they escaped from
the din into the respectable quietude of Gower Street, he suddenly
"It is one of the evils of great wealth in the hands of a woman,
that she can hardly feel sure—" His ideas fled suddenly. He stopped;
but he kept his countenance so well that he had the air of having made
a finished speech, and being perfectly satisfied with it.
"Do you mean that she can never feel sure of the justice of her
title to her riches? That used to trouble me; but it no longer does
"Nonsense!" said Lucian. "I alluded to the disinterestedness of
"That does not trouble me either. Absolutely disinterested friends
I do not seek, as I should only find them among idiots or
somnambulists. As to those whose interests are base, they do not know
how to conceal their motives from me. For the rest, I am not so
unreasonable as to object to a fair account being taken of my wealth
in estimating the value of my friendship."
"Do you not believe in the existence of persons who would like you
just as well if you were poor?"
"Such persons would, merely to bring me nearer to themselves, wish
me to become poor; for which I should not thank them. I set great
store by the esteem my riches command, Lucian. It is the only set-off
I have against the envy they inspire."
"Then you would refuse to believe in the disinterestedness of any
"Who wanted to marry me? On the contrary: I should be the last
person to believe that a man could prefer my money to myself. If he
wore independent, and in a fair way to keep his place in the world
without my help, I should despise him if he hesitated to approach me
for fear of misconstruction. I do not think a man is ever thoroughly
honest until he is superior to that fear. But if he had no
profession, no money, and no aim except to live at my expense, then I
should regard him as an adventurer, and treat him as one—unless I
fell in love with him."
"Unless you fell in love with him!"
"That—assuming that such things really happen—would make a
difference in my feeling, but none in my conduct. I would not marry
an adventurer under any circumstances. I could cure myself of a
misdirected passion, but not of a bad husband."
Lucian said nothing; he walked on with long, irregular steps,
lowering at the pavement as if it were a difficult problem, and
occasionally thrusting at it with his stick. At last he looked up,
"Would you mind prolonging your walk a little by going round
Bedford Square with me? I have something particular to say."
She turned and complied without a word; and they had traversed one
side of the square before he spoke again, in these terms:
"On second thoughts, Lydia, this is neither the proper time nor
place for an important communication. Excuse me for having taken you
out of your way for nothing."
"I do not like this, Lucian. Important communications—in this
case—corrupt good manners. If your intended speech is a sensible
one, the present is as good a time, and Bedford Square as good a
place, as you are likely to find for it. If it is otherwise, confess
that you have decided to leave it unsaid. But do not postpone it.
Reticence is always an error—even on the treasury bench. It is
doubly erroneous in dealing with me; for I have a constitutional
antipathy to it."
"Yes," he said, hurriedly; "but give me one moment—until the
policeman has passed."
The policeman went leisurely by, striking the flags with his heels,
and slapping his palm with a white glove.
"The fact is, Lydia, that—I feel great difficulty—"
"What is the matter?" said Lydia, after waiting in vain for further
particulars. "You have broken down twice in a speech." There was a
pause. Then she looked at him quickly, and added, incredulously, "Are
you going to get married? Is that the secret that ties your practised
"Not unless you take part in the ceremony."
"Very gallant; and in a vein of humor that is new in my experience
of you. But what have you to tell me, Lucian? Frankly, your
hesitation is becoming ridiculous."
"You have certainly not made matters easier for me, Lydia. Perhaps
you have a womanly intuition of my purpose, and are intentionally
"Not the least. I am not good at speculations of that sort. On my
word, if you do not confess quickly, I will hurry away to the
"I cannot find a suitable form of expression," said Lucian, in
painful perplexity. "I am sure you will not attribute any sordid
motive to my—well, to my addresses, though the term seems absurd. I
am too well aware that there is little, from the usual point of view,
to tempt you to unite yourself to me. Still—"
A rapid change in Lydia's face showed him that he had said enough.
"I had not thought of this," she said, after a silence that seemed
long to him. "Our observations are so meaningless until we are given
the thread to string them on! You must think better of this, Lucian.
The relation that at present exists between us is the very best that
our different characters will admit of. Why do you desire to alter
"Because I would make it closer and more permanent. I do not wish
to alter it otherwise."
"You would run some risk of simply destroying it by the method you
propose," said Lydia, with composure. "We could not co-operate. There
are differences of opinion between us amounting to differences of
"Surely you are not serious. Your political opinions, or notions,
are not represented by any party in England; and therefore they are
practically ineffective, and could not clash with mine. And such
differences are not personal matters."
"Such a party might be formed a week after our marriage—will, I
think, be formed a long time before our deaths. In that case I fear
that our difference of opinion would become a very personal matter."
He began to walk more quickly as he replied, "It is too absurd to
set up what you call your opinions as a serious barrier between us.
You have no opinions, Lydia. The impracticable crotchets you are fond
of airing are not recognized in England as sane political
Lydia did not retort. She waited a minute in pensive silence, and
"Why do you not marry Alice Goff?"
"Oh, hang Alice Goff!"
"It is so easy to come at the man beneath the veneer by expertly
chipping at his feelings," said Lydia, laughing. "But I was serious,
Lucian. Alice is energetic, ambitious, and stubbornly upright in
questions of principle. I believe she would assist you steadily at
every step of your career. Besides, she has physical robustness. Our
student-stock needs an infusion of that."
"Many thanks for the suggestion; but I do not happen to want to
marry Miss Goff."
"I invite you to consider it. Yon have not had time yet to form any
"New plans! Then you absolutely refuse me—without a moment's
"Absolutely, Lucian. Does not your instinct warn you that it would
be a mistake for you to marry me?"
"No; I cannot say that it does."
"Then trust to mine, which gives forth no uncertain note on this
question, as your favorite newspapers are fond of saying."
"It is a question of feeling," he said, in a constrained voice.
"Is it?" she replied, with interest. "You have surprised me
somewhat, Lucian. I have never observed any of the extravagances of a
lover in your conduct."
"And you have surprised me very unpleasantly, Lydia. I do not think
now that I ever had much hope of success; but I thought, at least,
that my disillusion would be gently accomplished."
"What! Have I been harsh?"
"I do not complain."
"I was unlucky, Lucian; not malicious. Besides, the artifices by
which friends endeavor to spare one another's feelings are pretty
disloyalties. I am frank with you. Would you have me otherwise?"
"Of course not. I have no right to be offended."
"Not the least. Now add to that formal admission a sincere
assurance that you ARE not offended."
"I assure you I am not," said Lucian, with melancholy resignation.
They had by this time reached Charlotte Street, and Lydia tacitly
concluded the conference by turning towards the museum, and beginning
to talk upon indifferent subjects. At the corner of Russell Street he
got into a cab and drove away, dejectedly acknowledging a smile and
wave of the hand with which Lydia tried to console him. She then went
to the national library, where she forgot Lucian. The effect of the
shock of his proposal was in store for her, but as yet she did not
feel it; and she worked steadily until the library was closed and she
had to leave. As she had been sitting for some hours, and it was still
light, she did not take a cab, and did not even walk straight home.
She had heard of a bookseller in Soho who had for sale a certain
scarce volume which she wanted; and it occurred to her that the
present was a good opportunity to go in search of him. Now, there was
hardly a capital in western Europe that she did not know better than
London. She had an impression that Soho was a region of quiet streets
and squares, like Bloomsbury. Her mistake soon became apparent; but
she felt no uneasiness in the narrow thoroughfares, for she was free
from the common prejudice of her class that poor people are
necessarily ferocious, though she often wondered why they were not so.
She got as far as Great Pulteney Street in safety; but in leaving it
she took a wrong turning and lost herself in a labyrinth of courts
where a few workmen, a great many workmen's wives and mothers, and
innumerable workmen's children were passing the summer evening at
gossip and play. She explained her predicament to one of the women,
who sent a little boy wilh her to guide her. Business being over for
the day, the street to which the boy led her was almost deserted. The
only shop that seemed to be thriving was a public-house, outside which
a few roughs were tossing for pence.
Lydia's guide, having pointed out her way to her, prepared to
return to his playmates. She thanked him, and gave him the smallest
coin in her purse, which happened to be a shilling. He, in a transport
at possessing what was to him a fortune, uttered a piercing yell, and
darted off to show the coin to a covey of small ragamuffins who had
just raced into view round the corner at which the public-house
stood. In his haste he dashed against one of the group outside, a
powerfully built young man, who turned and cursed him. The boy
retorted passionately, and then, overcome by pain, began to cry. When
Lydia came up the child stood whimpering directly in her path; and
she, pitying him, patted him on the head and reminded him of all the
money he had to spend. He seemed comforted, and scraped his eyes with
his knuckles in silence; but the man, who, having received a sharp
kick on the ankle, was stung by Lydia's injustice in according to the
aggressor the sympathy due to himself, walked threateningly up to her
and demanded, with a startling oath, whether HE had offered to do
anything to the boy. And, as he refrained from applying any epithet to
her, he honestly believed that in deference to Lydia's sex and
personal charms, he had expressed himself with studied moderation.
She, not appreciating his forbearance, recoiled, and stepped into the
roadway in order to pass him. Indignant at this attempt to ignore him,
he again placed himself in her path, and was repeating his question
with increased sternness, when a jerk in the pit of his stomach caused
him a severe internal qualm, besides disturbing his equilibrium so
rudely that he narrowly escaped a fall against the curb-stone. When he
recovered himself he saw before him a showily dressed young man, who
accosted him thus:
"Is that the way to talk to a lady, eh? Isn't the street wide
enough for two? Where's your manners?"
"And who are you; and where are you shoving your elbow to?" said
the man, with a surpassing imprecation.
"Come, come," said Cashel Byron, admonitorily. "You'd better keep
your mouth clean if you wish to keep your teeth inside it. Never you
mind who I am."
Lydia, foreseeing an altercation, and alarmed by the threatening
aspect of the man, attempted to hurry away and send a policeman to
Cashel's assistance. But, on turning, she discovered that a crowd had
already gathered, and that she was in the novel position of a
spectator in the inner ring at what promised to be a street fight.
Her attention was recalled to the disputants by a violent
demonstration on the part of her late assailant. Cashel seemed
alarmed; for he hastily retreated a step without regard to the toes
of those behind him, and exclaimed, waving the other off with his
"Now, you just let me alone. I don't want to have anything to say
to you. Go away from me, I tell you."
"You don't want to have nothink to say to me! Oh! And for why?
Because you ain't man enough; that's why. Wot do you mean by coming
and shoving your elbow into a man's bread-basket for, and then
wanting to sneak off? Did you think I'd 'a' bin frightened of your
"Very well," said Cashel, pacifically; "we'll say that I'm not man
enough for you. So that's settled. Are you satisfied?"
But the other, greatly emboldened, declared with many oaths that he
would have Cashel's heart out, and also that of Lydia, to whom he
alluded in coarse terms. The crowd cheered, and called upon him to
"go it." Cashel then said, sullenly,
"Very well. But don't you try to make out afterwards that I forced
a quarrel on you. And now," he added, with a grim change of tone that
made Lydia shudder, and shifted her fears to the account of his
antagonist, "I'll make you wish you'd bit your tongue out before you
said what you did a moment ago. So, take care of yourself."
"Oh, I'll take care of myself," said the man, defiantly. "Put up
Cashel surveyed his antagonist's attitude with unmistakable
disparagement. "You will know when my hands are up by the feel of the
pavement," he said, at last. "Better keep your coat on. You'll fall
The rough expressed his repudiation of this counsel by beginning to
strip energetically. A thrill of delight passed through the crowd.
Those who had bad places pressed forward, and those who formed the
inner ring pressed back to make room for the combatants. Lydia, who
occupied a coveted position close to Cashel, hoped to be hustled out
of the throng; for she was beginning to feel faint and ill. But a
handsome butcher, who had made his way to her side, gallantly swore
that she should not be deprived of her place in the front row, and
bade her not be frightened, assuring her that he would protect her,
and that the fight would be well worth seeing. As he spoke, the mass
of faces before Lydia seemed to give a sudden lurch. To save herself
from falling, she slipped her arm through the butcher's; and he, much
gratified, tucked her close to him, and held her up effectually. His
support was welcome, because it was needed.
Meanwhile, Cashel stood motionless, watching with unrelenting
contempt the movements of his adversary, who rolled up his discolored
shirt-sleeves amid encouraging cries of "Go it, Teddy," "Give it 'im,
Ted," and other more precise suggestions. But Teddy's spirit was
chilled; be advanced with a presentiment that he was courting
destruction. He dared not rush on his foe, whose eye seemed to discern
his impotence. When at last he ventured to strike, the blow fell
short, as Cashel evidently knew it would; for he did not stir. There
was a laugh and a murmur of impatience in the crowd.
"Are you waiting for the copper to come and separate you?" shouted
the butcher. "Come out of your corner and get to work, can't you?"
This reminder that the police might balk him of his prey seemed to
move Cashel. He took a step forward. The excitement of the crowd rose
to a climax; and a little man near Lydia cut a frenzied caper and
screamed, "Go it, Cashel Byron."
At these words Teddy was terror-stricken. He made no attempt to
disguise his condition. "It ain't fair," he exclaimed, retreating as
far as the crowd would permit him. "I give in. Cut it, master; you're
too clever for me." But his comrades, with a pitiless jeer, pushed him
towards Cashel, who advanced remorselessly. Teddy dropped on both
knees. "Wot can a man say more than that he's had enough?" he pleaded.
"Be a Englishman, master; and don't hit a man when he's down."
"Down!" said Cashel. "How long will you stay down if I choose to
have you up?" And, suiting the action to the word, he seized Teddy
with his left hand, lifted him to his feet, threw him into a helpless
position across his knee, and poised his right fist like a hammer over
his upturned face. "Now," he said, "you're not down. What have you to
say for yourself before I knock your face down your throat?"
"Don't do it, gov'nor," gasped Teddy. "I didn't mean no harm. How
was I to know that the young lady was a pal o' yourn?" Here he
struggled a little; and his face assumed a darker hue. "Let go,
master," he cried, almost inarticulately. "You're ch—choking me."
"Pray let him go," said Lydia, disengaging herself from the butcher
and catching Cashel's arm.
Cashel, with a start, relaxed his grasp; and Teddy rolled on the
ground. He went away thrusting his hands iuto his sleeves, and
out-facing his disgrace by a callous grin. Cashel, without speaking,
offered Lydia his arm; and she, seeing that her best course was to
get away from that place with as few words as possible, accepted it,
and then turned and thanked the butcher, who blushed and became
speechless. The little man whose exclamation had interrupted the
combat, now waved his hat, and cried,
"The British Lion forever! Three cheers for Cashel Byron."
Cashel turned upon him curtly, and said, "Don't you make so free
with other people's names, or perhaps you may get into trouble
The little man retreated hastily; hut the crowd responded with
three cheers as Cashel, with Lydia on his arm, withdrew through a lane
of disreputable-looking girls, roughs of Teddy's class, white-aproned
shopmen who had left their counters to see the fight, and a few pale
clerks, who looked with awe at the prize-fighter, and with wonder at
the refined appearance of his companion. The two were followed by a
double file of boys, who, with their eyes fixed earnestly on Cashel,
walked on the footways while he conducted Lydia down the middle of
the narrow street. Not one of them turned a somersault or uttered a
shout. Intent on their hero, they pattered along, coming into
collision with every object that lay in their path. At last Cashel
stopped. They instantly stopped too. He took some bronze coin from
his pocket, rattled it in his hand, and addressed them.
"Boys!" Dead silence. "Do you know what I have to do to keep up my
strength?" The hitherto steadfast eyes wandered uneasily. "I have to
eat a little boy for supper every night, the last thing before to
bed. Now, I haven't quite made up my mind which of you would be the
most to my taste; but if one of you comes a step further, I'll eat
HIM. So, away with you." And he jerked the coin to a considerable
distance. There was a yell and a scramble; and Cashel and Lydia
pursued their way unattended.
Lydia had taken advantage of the dispersion of the boys to detach
herself from Cashel's arm. She now said, speaking to him for the
first time since she had interceded for Teddy,
"I am sorry to have given you so much trouble, Mr. Cashel Byron.
Thank you for interfering to protect me; but I was in no real danger.
I would gladly have borne with a few rough words for the sake of
avoiding a disturbance."
"There!" cried Cashel. "I knew it. You'd a deal rather I had minded
my own business and not interfered. You're sorry for the poor fellow
I treated so badly; ain't you now? That's a woman all over."
"I have not said one of these things."
"Well, I don't see what else you mean. It's no pleasure to me to
fight chance men in the streets for nothing: I don't get my living
that way. And now that I have done it for your sake, you as good as
tell me I ought to have kept myself quiet."
"Perhaps I am wrong. I hardly understand what passed. You seemed to
drop from the clouds."
"Aha! You were glad when you found me at your elbow, in spite of
your talk. Come now; weren't you glad to see me?"
"I was—very glad indeed. But by what magic did you so suddenly
subdue that man? And was it necessary to sully your hands by
"It was a satisfaction to me; and it served him right."
"Surely a very poor satisfaction! Did you notice that some one in
the crowd called out your name, and that it seemed to frighten the
"Indeed? Odd, wasn't it? But you were saying that you thought I
dropped from the sky. Why, I had been following you for five minutes
before! What do you think of that? If I may take the liberty of
asking, how did you come to be walking round Soho at such an hour
with a little ragged boy?"
Lydia explained. When she finished, it was nearly dark, and they
had reached Oxford Street, where, like Lucian in Regent's Park that
afternoon, she became conscious that her companion was an object of
curiosity to many of the young men who were lounging in that
"Alice will think that I am lost," she said, making a signal to a
cabman. "Good-bye; and many thanks. I am always at home on Fridays,
and shall be very happy to see you."
She handed him a card. He took it, read it, looked at the back to
see if there was anything written there, and then said, dubiously,
"I suppose there will be a lot of people."
"Yes; you will meet plenty of people."
"Hm! I wish you'd let me see you home now. I won't ask to go any
further than the gate."
Lydia laughed. "You should be very welcome," she said; "but I am
quite safe, thank you. I need not trouble you."
"But suppose the cabman bullies you for double fare," persisted
Cashel. "I have business up in Finchley; and your place is right in
any way there. Upon my soul I have," he added, suspecting that she
doubted him. "I go every Tuesday evening to the St. John's Wood
"I am hungry and in a hurry to got home," said Lydia. "'I must be
gone and live, or stay and die.' Come if you will; but in any case
let us go at once."
She got into the cab, and Cashel followed, making some remark which
she did not quite catch about its being too dark for any one to
recognize him. They spoke little during the drive, which was soon
over. Bashville was standing at the open door as they came to the
house. When Cashel got out the footman looked at him with interest
and some surprise, But when Lydia alighted he was so startled that he
stood open-mouthed, although he was trained to simulate insensibility
to everything except his own business, and to do that as automatically
as possible. Cashel bade Lydia good-bye, and shook hands with her. As
she went into the house, she asked Bashville whether Miss Goff was
within. To her surprise, he paid no attention to her, but stared after
the retreating cab. She repeated the question.
"Madam," he said, recovering himself with a start, "she has asked
for you four times."
Lydia, relieved of a disagreeable suspicion that her usually
faultless footman must be drunk, thanked him and went up-stairs.
One morning a handsome young man, elegantly dressed, presented
himself at Downing Street, and asked to see Mr. Lucian Webber. He
declined to send in a card, and desired to be announced simply as
"Bashville." Lucian ordered him to be admitted at once, and, when he
entered, nodded amiably to him and invited him to sit down.
"I thank you, sir," said Bashville, seating himself. It struck
Lucian then, from a certain strung-up resolution in his visitor's
manner, that he had come on some business of his own, and not, as he
had taken for granted, with a message from his mistress.
"I have come, sir, on my own responsibility this morning. I hope
yon will excuse the liberty."
"Certainly. If I can do anything for you, Bashville, don't be
afraid to ask. But be as brief as you can. I am so busy that every
second I give you will probably be subtracted from my night's rest.
Will ten minutes be enough?"
"More than enough, sir, thank you. I only wish to ask one question.
I own that I am stepping out of my place to ask it; but I'll risk all
that. Does Miss Carew know what the Mr. Cashel Byron is that she
receives every Friday with her other friends?"
"No doubt she does," said Lucian, at once becoming cold in his
manner, and looking severely at Bashville. "What business is that of
"Do YOU know what he is, sir?" said Bashville, returning Lucian's
Lucian changed countenance, and replaced a pen that had slipped
from a rack on his desk. "He is not an acquaintance of mine," he said.
"I only know him as a friend of Lord Worthington's."
"Sir," said Bashville, with sudden vehemence, "he is no more to
Lord Worthington than the racehorse his lordship bets on. I
might as well set up to be a friend of his lordship because I, after
a manner of speaking, know him. Byron is in the ring, sir. A common
Lucian, recalling what had passed at Mrs. Hoskyn's, and Lord
Worthington's sporting habits, believed the assertion at once. But he
made a faint effort to resist conviction. "Are you sure of this,
Bashville?" he said. "Do you know that your statement is a very
"There is no doubt at all about it, sir. Go to any sporting
public-house in London and ask who is the best-known fighting man of
the day, and they'll tell you, Cashel Byron. I know all about him,
sir. Perhaps you have heard tell of Ned Skene, who was champion,
belike, when you were at school."
"I believe I have heard the name."
"Just so, sir. Ned Skene picked up this Cashel Byron in the streets
of Melbourne, where he was a common sailor-boy, and trained him for
the ring. You may have seen his name in the papers, sir. The sporting
ones are full of him; and he was mentioned in the Times a month ago."
"I never read articles on such subjects. I have hardly time to
glance through the ones that concern me."
"That's the way it is with everybody, sir. Miss Carew never thinks
of reading the sporting intelligence in the papers; and so he passes
himself off on her for her equal. He's well known for his wish to be
thought a gentleman, sir, I assure you."
"I have noticed his manner as being odd, certainly."
"Odd, sir! Why, a child might see through him; for he has not the
sense to keep his own secret. Last Friday he was in the library, and
he got looking at the new biographical dictionary that Miss Carew
contributed the article on Spinoza to. And what do you think he said,
sir? 'This is a blessed book,' he says. 'Here's ten pages about
Napoleon Bonaparte, and not one about Jack Randall; as if one fighting
man wasn't as good as another!' I knew by the way the mistress took up
that saying, and drew him out, so to speak, on the subject, that she
didn't know who she had in her house; and then I determined to tell
you, sir. I hope you won't think that I come here behind his back out
of malice against him. All I want is fair play. If I passed myself off
on Miss Carew as a gentleman, I should deserve to be exposed as a
cheat; and when he tries to take advantages that don't belong to him,
I think I have a right to expose him."
"Quite right, quite right," said Lucian, who cared nothing for
Bashville's motives. "I suppose this Byron is a dangerous man to have
any personal unpleasantness with."
"He knows his business, sir. I am a better judge of wrestling than
half of these London professionals; but I never saw the man that
could put a hug on him. Simple as he is, sir, he has a genius for
fighting, and has beaten men of all sizes, weights, and colors.
There's a new man from the black country, named Paradise, who says
he'll beat him; but I won't believe it till I see it."
"Well," said Lucian, rising, "I am much indebted to you, Bashville,
for your information; and I will take care to let Miss Carew know how
"Begging your pardon, sir," said Bashville; "but, if you please,
no. I did not come to recommend myself at the cost of another man; and
perhaps Miss Carew might not think it any great recommendation
neither." Lucian looked quickly at him, and seemed about to speak,
but checked himself. Bashville continued, "If he denies it, you may
call me as a witness, and I will tell him to his face that he
lies—and so I would if he were twice as dangerous; but, except in
that way, I would ask you, sir, as a favor, not to mention my name to
"As you please," said Lucian, taking out his purse. "Perhaps you
are right. However, you shall not have your trouble for nothing."
"I couldn't, really, sir," said Bashville, retreating a step. "You
will agree with me, I'm sure, that this is not a thing that a man
should take payment for. It is a personal matter between me and
Lucian, displeased that a servant should have any personal feelings
on any subject, much more one that concerned his mistress, put back
his purse without comment and said, "Will Miss Carew be at home this
afternoon between three and four?"
"I have not heard of any arrangement to the contrary, sir. I will
telegraph to you if she goes out—if you wish."
"It does not matter. Thank you. Good-morning."
"Good-morning, sir," said Bashville, respectfully, as he withdrew.
Outside the door his manner changed. He put on a pair of primrose
gloves, took up a silver-mounted walking-stick that he had left in
the corridor, and walked from Downing Street into Whitehall. A party
of visitors from the country, who were standing there examining the
buildings, guessed that he was a junior lord of the Treasury.
He waited in vain that afternoon for Lucian to appear at the house
in Regent's Park. There were no callers, and he wore away the time by
endeavoring, with the aid of a library that Miss Carew had placed at
the disposal of her domestics, to unravel the philosophy of Spinoza.
At the end of an hour, feeling satisfied that he had mastered that
author's views, he proceeded to vary the monotony of the long summer's
day by polishing Lydia's plate.
Meanwhile, Lucian was considering how he could best make Lydia not
only repudiate Cashel's acquaintance, but feel thoroughly ashamed of
herself for having encouraged him, and wholesomely mistrustful of her
own judgment for the future. His parliamentary experience had taught
him to provide himself with a few well-arranged, relevant facts before
attempting to influence the opinions of others on any subject. He knew
no more of prize-fighting than that it was a brutal and illegal
practice, akin to cock-fighting, and, like it, generally supposed to
be obsolete. Knowing how prone Lydia was to suspect any received
opinion of being a prejudice, he felt that he must inform himself more
particularly. To Lord Worthington's astonishment, he not only asked
him to dinner next evening, but listened with interest while he
descanted to his heart's content on his favorite topic of the ring.
As the days passed, Bashville became nervous, and sometimes
wondered whether Lydia had met her cousin and heard from him of the
interview at Downing Street. He fancied that her manner towards him
was changed; and he was once or twice on the point of asking the most
sympathetic of the housemaids whether she had noticed it. On
Wednesday his suspense ended. Lucian came, and had a long
conversation with Lydia in the library. Bashville was too honorable
to listen at the door; but he felt a strong temptation to do so, and
almost hoped that the sympathetic housemaid might prove less
scrupulous. But Miss Carew's influence extended farther than her
bodily presence; and Lucian's revelation was made in complete
When he entered the library he looked so serious that she asked him
whether he had neuralgia, from which he occasionally suffered. He
replied with some indignation that he had not, and that he had a
communication of importance to make to her.
"Yes, another," he said, with a sour smile; "but this time it does
not concern myself. May I warn you as to the character of one of your
guests without overstepping my privilege?"
"Certainly. But perhaps you mean Vernet. If so, I am perfectly
aware that he is an exiled Communard."
"I do not mean Monsieur Vernet. You understand, I hope, that I do
not approve of him, nor of your strange fancy for Nihilists, Fenians,
and other doubtful persons; but I think that even you might draw the
line at a prize-fighter."
Lydia lost color, and said, almost inaudibly, "Cashel Byron!"
"Then you KNEW!" exclaimed Lucian, scandalized.
Lydia waited a moment to recover, settled herself quietly in her
chair, and replied, calmly, "I know what you tell me—nothing more.
And now, will you explain to me exactly what a prize-fighter is?"
"He is simply what his name indicates. He is a man who fights for
"So does the captain of a man-of-war. And yet society does not
place them in the same class—at least, I do not think so."
"As if there could be any doubt that society does not! There is no
analogy whatever between the two cases. Let me endeavor to open your
eyes a little, if that be possible, which I am sometimes tempted to
doubt. A prize-fighter is usually a man of naturally ferocious
disposition, who has acquired some reputation among his associates as
a bully; and who, by constantly quarrelling, has acquired some
practice in fighting. On the strength of this reputation he can
generally find some gambler willing to stake a sum of money that he
will vanquish a pugilist of established fame in single combat. Bets
are made between the admirers of the two men; a prize is subscribed
for, each party contributing a share; the combatants are trained as
racehorses, gamecocks, or their like are trained; they meet, and beat
each other as savagely as they can until one or the other is too much
injured to continue the combat. This takes place in the midst of a mob
of such persons as enjoy spectacles of the kind; that is to say, the
vilest blackguards whom a large city can afford to leave at large, and
many whom it cannot. As the prize-money contributed by each side often
amounts to upwards of a thousand pounds, and as a successful pugilist
commands far higher terms for giving tuition in boxing than a tutor at
one of the universities does for coaching, you will see that such a
man, while his youth and luck last, may have plenty of money, and may
even, by aping the manners of the gentlemen whom he teaches, deceive
careless people—especially those who admire eccentricity—as to his
character and position."
"What is his true position? I mean before he becomes a
"Well, he may be a handicraftsman of some kind: a journeyman
butcher, skinner, tailor, or baker. Possibly a soldier, sailor,
policeman, gentleman's servant, or what not? But he is generally a
common laborer. The waterside is prolific of such heroes."
"Do they never come from a higher rank?"
"Never even from the better classes in their own. Broken-down
gentlemen are not likely to succeed at work that needs the strength
and endurance of a bull and the cruelty of a butcher."
"And the end of a prize-fighter. What is that like?"
"He soon has to give up his trade. For, if he be repeatedly beaten,
no one will either bet on him or subscribe to provide him with a
stake. If he is invariably successful, those, if any, who dare fight
him find themselves in a like predicament. In either case his
occupation is gone. If he has saved money he opens a sporting
public-house, where he sells spirits of the worst description to his
old rivals and their associates, and eventually drinks himself to
death or bankruptcy. If, however, he has been improvident or
unfortunate, he begs from his former patrons and gives lessons.
Finally, when the patrons are tired of him and the pupils fail, he
relapses into the laboring class with a ruined constitution, a
disfigured face, a brutalized nature, and a tarnished reputation."
Lydia remained silent so long after this that Lucian's expression
of magisterial severity first deepened, then wavered, and finally gave
way to a sense of injury; for she seemed to have forgotten him. He
was about to protest against this treatment, when she looked at him
again, and said,
"Why did Lord Worthington introduce a man of this class to me?"
"Because you asked him to do so. Probably he thought that if you
chose to make such a request without previous inquiry, you should not
blame him if you found yourself saddled with an undesirable
acquaintance. Recollect that you asked for the introduction on the
platform at Wiltstoken, in the presence of the man himself. Such a
ruffian would be capable of making a disturbance for much less
offence than an explanation and refusal would have given him."
"Lucian," said Lydia, in a tone of gentle admonition, "I asked to
be introduced to my tenant, for whose respectability you had vouched
by letting the Warren Lodge to him." Lucian reddened. "How does Lord
Worthington explain Mr. Byron's appearance at Mrs. Hoskyn's?"
"It was a stupid joke. Mrs. Hoskyn had worried Worthington to bring
some celebrity to her house; and, in revenge, he took his pugilistic
"I do not defend Worthington. But discretion is hardly to be
expected from him."
"He has discretion enough to understand a case of this kind
thoroughly. But let that pass. I have been thinking upon what you
tell me about these singular people, whose existence I hardly knew of
before. Now, Lucian, in the course of my reading I have come upon
denunciations of every race and pursuit under the sun. Very
respectable and well-informed men have held that Jews, Irishmen,
Christians, atheists, lawyers, doctors, politicians, actors, artists,
flesh-eaters, and spirit-drinkers are all of necessity degraded
beings. Such statements can be easily proved by taking a black sheep
from each flock, and holding him up as the type. It is more reasonable
to argue a man's character from the nature of his profession; and yet
even that is very unsafe. War is a cruel business; but soldiers are
not necessarily bloodthirsty and inhuman men. I am not quite satisfied
that a prize-fighter is a violent and dangerous man because he follows
a violent and dangerous profession—I suppose they call it a
Lucian was about to speak; but she interrupted him by continuing,
"And yet that is not what concerns me at present. Have you found
out anything about Mr. Byron personally? Is he an ordinary
representative of his class?"
"No; I should rather think—and hope—that he is a very
extraordinary representative of it. I have traced his history back to
his boyhood, when he was a cabin-boy. Having apparently failed to
recommend himself to his employers in that capacity, he became
errand-boy to a sort of maitre d'armes at Melbourne. Here he
discovered where his genius lay; and he presently appeared in the
ring with an unfortunate young man named Ducket, whose jaw he
fractured. This laid the foundation of his fame. He fought several
battles with unvarying success; but at last he allowed his valor to
get the better of his discretion so far as to kill an Englishman who
contended with him with desperate obstinacy for two hours. I am
informed that the particular blow by which he felled the poor wretch
for the last time is known in pugilistic circles as 'Cashel's
killer,' and that he has attempted to repeat it in all his subsequent
encounters, without, however, achieving the same fatal result. The
failure has doubtless been a severe disappointment to him. He fled
from Australia and reappeared in America, where he resumed his
victorious career, distinguishing himself specially by throwing a
gigantic opponent in some dreadful fashion that these men have, and
laming him for life. He then—"
"Thank you, Lucian," said Lydia rather faintly. "That is quite
enough. Are you sure that it is all true?"
"My authority is Lord Worthington, and a number of newspaper
reports which he showed me. Byron himself will probably be proud to
give you the fullest confirmation of the record. I should add, in
justice to him, that he is looked upon as a model—to pugilists—of
temperance and general good conduct."
"Do you remember my remarking a few days ago, on another subject,
how meaningless our observations are until we are given the right
thread to string them on?"
"Yes," said "Webber, disconcerted by the allusion.
"My acquaintance with this man is a case in point. He has obtruded
his horrible profession upon me every time we have met. I have
actually seen him publicly cheered as a pugilist-hero; and yet, being
off the track, and ignorant of the very existence of such a calling, I
have looked on and seen nothing."
Lydia then narrated her adventure in Soho, and listened with the
perfect patience of indifference to his censure of her imprudence in
going there alone.
"And now, Lydia," he added, "may I ask what you intend to do in
"What would you have me do?"
"Drop his acquaintance at once. Forbid him your house in the most
"A pleasant task!" said Lydia, ironically. "But I will do it—not
so much, perhaps, because he is a prize-fighter, as because he is an
impostor. Now go to the writing-table and draft me a proper letter to
Lucian's face elongated. "I think," he said, "you can do that
better for yourself. It is a delicate sort of thing."
"Yes. It is not so easy as you implied a moment ago. Otherwise I
should not require your assistance. As it is—" She pointed again to
Lucian was not ready with an excuse. He sat down reluctantly, and,
after some consideration, indited the following:
"Miss Carew presents her compliments to Mr. Cashel Byron, and begs
to inform him that she will not be at home during the remainder of
the season as heretofore. She therefore regrets that she cannot have
the pleasure of receiving him on Friday afternoon."
"I think you will find that sufficient," said Lucian.
"Probably," said Lydia, smiling as she read it. "But what shall I
do if he takes offence; calls here, breaks the windows, and beats
Bashville? Were I in his place, that is what such a letter would
provoke me to do."
"He dare not give any trouble. But I will warn the police if you
"By no means. We must not show ourselves inferior to him in
courage, which is, I suppose, his cardinal virtue."
"If you write the note now, I will post it for you."
"No, thank you. I will send it with my other letters."
Lucian would rather have waited; but she would not write while he
was there. So he left, satisfied on the whole with the success of his
mission. When he was gone, she took a pen, endorsed his draft neatly,
placed it in a drawer, and wrote to Cashel thus:
"Dear Mr. Cashel Byron,—I have just discovered your secret. I am
sorry; but you must not come again. Farewell. Yours faithfully,
Lydia kept this note by her until next morning, when she read it
through carefully. She then sent Bashville to the post with it.
Cashel's pupils frequently requested him to hit them hard—not to
play with them—to accustom them to regular, right down, severe
hitting, and no nonsense. He only pretended to comply; for he knew
that a black eye or loosened tooth would be immoderately boasted of
if received in combat with a famous pugilist, and that the sufferer's
friends would make private notes to avoid so rough a professor. But
when Miss Carew's note reached him he made an exception to his
practice in this respect. A young guardsman, whose lesson began
shortly after the post arrived, remarked that Cashel was unusually
distraught. He therefore exhorted his instructor to wake up and pitch
into him in earnest. Immediately he received a blow in the epigastrium
that stretched him almost insensible on the floor. Rising with his
complexion considerably whitened, he recollected an appointment which
would prevent him from finishing his lesson, and withdrew, declaring
in a somewhat shaky voice that that was the sort of bout he really
Cashel did not at first make any profitable use of the leisure thus
earned. He walked to and fro, cursing, and occasionally stopping to
read the letter. His restlessness only increased his agitation. The
arrival of a Frenchman whom he employed to give lessons in fencing
made the place unendurable to him. He changed his attire, went out,
called a cab, and bade the driver, with an oath, drive to Lydia's
house as fast as the horse could go. The man made all the haste he
could, and was presently told impatiently that there was no hurry.
Accustomed to this sort of inconsistency, he was not surprised when,
as they approached the house, he was told not to stop but to drive
slowly past. Then, in obedience to further instructions, he turned
and repassed the door. As he did so a lady appeared for an instant at
a window. Immediately his fare, with a groan of mingled rage and fear,
sprang from the moving vehicle, rushed up the steps of the mansion,
and rang the bell violently. Bashville, faultlessly dressed and
impassibly mannered, opened the door. In reply to Cashel's
half-inarticulate inquiry, he said,
"Miss Carew is not at home."
"You lie," said Cashel, his eyes suddenly dilating. "I saw her."
Bashville reddened, but replied, coolly, "Miss Carew cannot see you
"Go and ask her," returned Cashel sternly, advancing.
Bashville, with compressed lips, seized the door to shut him out;
but Cashel forced it back against him, sent him reeling some paces by
its impact, went in, and shut the door behind him. He had to turn from
Bashville for a moment to do this, and before he could face him again
he was clutched, tripped, and flung down upon the tessellated pavement
of the hall.
When Cashel gave him the lie, and pushed the door against him, the
excitement he had been suppressing since his visit to Lucian
exploded. He had thrown Cashel in Cornish fashion, and now
desperately awaited the upshot.
Cashel got up so rapidly that he seemed to rebound from the flags.
Bashville, involuntarily cowering before his onslaught, just escaped
his right fist, and felt as though his heart had been drawn with it
as it whizzed past his ear. He turned and fled frantically up-stairs,
mistaking for the clatter of pursuit the noise with which Cashel,
overbalanced by his ineffectual blow, stumbled against the banisters.
Lydia was in her boudoir with Alice when Bashville darted in and
locked the door. Alice rose and screamed. Lydia, though startled, and
that less by the unusual action than by the change in a familiar face
which she had never seen influenced by emotion before, sat still and
quietly asked what was the matter. Bashville checked himself for a
moment. Then he spoke unintelligibly, and went to the window, which he
opened. Lydia divined that he was about to call for help to the
"Bashville," she said, authoritatively: "be silent, and close the
window. I will go down-stairs myself."
Bashville then ran to prevent her from unlocking the door; but she
paid no attention to him. He did not dare to oppose her forcibly. He
was beginning to recover from his panic, and to feel the first stings
of shame for having yielded to it.
"Madam," he said: "Byron is below; and he insists on seeing you.
He's dangerous; and he's too strong for me. I have done my best—on
my honor I have. Let me call the police. Stop," he added, as she
opened the door. "If either of us goes, it must be me."
"I will see him in the library," said Lydia, composedly. "Tell him
so; and let him wait there for me—if you can approach him without
running any risk."
"Oh, pray let him call the police," urged Alice. "Don't attempt to
go to that man."
"Nonsense!" said Lydia, good-humoredly. "I am not in the least
afraid. We must not fail in courage when we have a prize-fighter to
Bashville, white, and preventing with difficulty his knees from
knocking together, went down-stairs and found Cashel leaning upon the
balustrade, panting, and looking perplexedly about him as he wiped his
dabbled brow. Bashville approached him with the firmness of a martyr,
halted on the third stair, and said,
"Miss Carew will see you in the library. Come this way, please."
Cashel's lips moved, but no sound came from them; he followed
Bashville in silence. When they entered the library Lydia was already
there. Bashville withdrew without a word. Then Cashel sat down, and,
to her consternation, bent his head on his hand and yielded to an
hysterical convulsion. Before she could resolve how to act he looked
up at her with his face distorted and discolored, and tried to speak.
"Pray be calm," said Lydia. "I am told that you wish to speak to
"I don't wish to speak to you ever again," said Cashel, hoarsely.
"You told your servant to throw me down the steps. That's enough for
Lydia caught from him the tendency to sob which he was struggling
with; but she repressed it, and answered, firmly, "If my servant has
been guilty of the least incivility to you, Mr. Cashel Byron, he has
exceeded his orders."
"It doesn't matter," said Cashel. "He may thank his luck that he
has his head on. If I had planted on him that time—but HE doesn't
matter. Hold on a bit—I can't talk—I shall get my second wind
presently, and then—" Cashel stopped a moment to pant, and then
asked, "Why are you going to give me up?"
Lydia ranged her wits in battle array, and replied,
"Do you remember our conversation at Mrs. Hoskyn's?"
"You admitted then that if the nature of your occupation became
known to me our acquaintance should cease. That has now come to
"That was all very fine talk to excuse my not telling you. But I
find, like many another man when put to the proof, that I didn't mean
it. Who told you I was a fighting man?"
"I had rather not tell you that."
"Aha!" said Cashel, with a triumph that was half choked by the
remnant of his hysteria. "Who is trying to make a secret now, I
should like to know?"
"I do so in this instance because I am afraid to expose a friend to
"And why? He's a man, of course; else you wouldn't be afraid. You
think that I'd go straight off and murder him. Perhaps he told you
that it would come quite natural to a man like me—a ruffian like
me—to smash him up. That comes of being a coward. People run my
profession down; not because there is a bad one or two in it—there's
plenty of bad bishops, if you come to that—but because they're afraid
of us. You may make yourself easy about your friend. I am accustomed
to get well paid for the beatings I give; and your own common-sense
ought to tell you that any one who is used to being paid for a job is
just the last person in the world to do it for nothing."
"I find the contrary to be the case with first-rate artists," said
"Thank you," retorted Cashel, sarcastically. "I ought to make you a
bow for that. I'm glad you acknowledge that it IS an art."
"But," said Lydia seriously, "it seems to me that it is an art
wholly anti-social and retrograde. And I fear that you have forced
this interview on me to no purpose."
"I don't know whether it's anti-social or not. But I think it hard
that I should be put out of decent society when fellows that do far
worse than I are let in. Who did I see here last Friday, the most
honored of your guests? Why, that Frenchman with the gold spectacles.
What do you think I was told when I asked what HIS little game was?
Baking dogs in ovens to see how long a dog could live red hot! I'd
like to catch him doing it to a dog of mine. Ay; and sticking a rat
full of nails to see how much pain a rat could stand. Why, it's just
sickening. Do you think I'd have shaken hands with that chap? If he
hadn't been a guest of yours I'd have given him a notion of how much
pain a Frenchman can stand without any nails in him. And HE'S to be
received and made much of, while I am kicked out! Look at your
relation, the general. What is he but a fighting man, I should like to
know? Isn't it his pride and boast that as long as he is paid so much
a day he'll ask no questions whether a war is fair or unfair, but just
walk out and put thousands of men in the best way to kill and be
killed?—keeping well behind them himself all the time, mind you. Last
year he was up to his chin in the blood of a lot of poor blacks that
were no more a match for his armed men than a feather-weight would be
for me. Bad as I am, I wouldn't attack a feather-weight, or stand by
and see another heavy man do it. Plenty of your friends go
pigeon-shooting to Hurlingham. THERE'S a humane and manly way of
spending a Saturday afternoon! Lord Worthington, that comes to see you
when he likes, though he's too much of a man or too little of a shot
to kill pigeons, thinks nothing of fox-hunting. Do you think foxes
like to be hunted, or that the people that hunt them have such fine
feelings that they can afford to call prize-fighters names? Look at
the men that get killed or lamed every year at steeple-chasing,
fox-hunting, cricket, and foot-ball! Dozens of them! Look at the
thousands killed in battle! Did you ever hear of any one being killed
in the ring? Why, from first to last, during the whole century that
prize-fighting has been going on, there's not been six fatal accidents
at really respectable fights. It's safer than dancing; many a woman
has danced her skirt into the fire and been burned. I once fought a
man who had spoiled his constitution with bad living; and he exhausted
himself so by going on and on long after he was beaten that he died of
it, and nearly finished me, too. If you'd heard the fuss that even the
oldest fighting men made over it you'd have thought that a baby had
died from falling out of its cradle. A good milling does a man more
good than harm. And if all these—dog-bakers, and soldiers, and
pigeon-shooters, and fox-hunters, and the rest of them—are made
welcome here, why am I shut out like a brute beast?"
"Truly I do not know," said Lydia, puzzled; "unless it be that your
colleagues have failed to recommend themselves to society by their
extra-professional conduct as the others have."
"I grant you that fighting men ar'n't gentlemen, as a rule. No more
were painters, or poets, once upon a time. But what I want to know is
this: Supposing a fighting man has as good manners as your friends,
and is as well born, why shouldn't he mix with them and be considered
"The distinction seems arbitrary, I confess. But perhaps the true
remedy would be to exclude the vivisectors and soldiers, instead of
admitting the prize-fighters. Mr. Cashel Byron," added Lydia,
changing her manner, "I cannot discuss this with you. Society has a
prejudice against you. I share it; and I cannot overcome it. Can you
find no nobler occupation than these fierce and horrible encounters
by which you condescend to gain a living?"
"No," said Cashel, flatly. "I can't. That's just where it is."
Lydia looked grave, and said nothing.
"You don't see it?" said Cashel. "Well, I'll just tell you all
about myself, and then leave you to judge. May I sit down while I
talk?" He had risen in the course of his remarks on Lydia's scientific
and military acquaintances.
She pointed to a chair near her. Something in the action brought
color to his cheeks.
"I believe I was the most unfortunate devil of a boy that ever
walked," he began, when he was seated. "My mother was—and is—an
actress, and a tiptop crack in her profession. One of the first
things I remember is sitting on the floor in the corner of a room
where there was a big glass, and she flaring away before it,
attitudinizing and spouting Shakespeare like mad. I was afraid of
her, because she was very particular about my manners and appearance,
and would never let me go near a theatre. I know very little about
either my people or hers; for she boxed my ears one day for asking who
my father was, and I took good care not to ask her again. She was
quite young when I was a child; at first I thought her a sort of
angel—I should have been fond of her, I think, if she had let me. But
she didn't, somehow; and I had to keep my affection for the servants.
I had plenty of variety in that way; for she gave her whole
establishment the sack about once every two months, except a maid who
used to bully her, and gave me nearly all the nursing I ever got. I
believe it was my crying about some housemaid or other who went away
that first set her abusing me for having low tastes—a sort of thing
that used to cut me to the heart, and which she kept up till the very
day I left her for good. We were a precious pair: I sulky and
obstinate, she changeable and hot-tempered. She used to begin
breakfast sometimes by knocking me to the other side of the room with
a slap, and finish it by calling me her darling boy and promising me
all manner of toys and things. I soon gave up trying to please her, or
like her, and became as disagreeable a young imp as you'd ask to see.
My only thought was to get all I could out of her when she was in a
good-humor, and to be sullen and stubborn when she was in a tantrum.
One day a boy in the street threw some mud at me, and I ran in crying
and complained to her. She told me I was a little coward. I haven't
forgiven her for that yet—perhaps because it was one of the few true
things she ever said to me. I was in a state of perpetual aggravation;
and I often wonder that I wasn't soured for life at that time. At last
I got to be such a little fiend that when she hit me I used to guard
off her blows, and look so wicked that I think she got afraid of me.
Then she put me to school, telling me that I had no heart, and telling
the master that I was an ungovernable young brute. So I, like a
little fool, cried at leaving her; and she, like a big one, cried
back again over me—just after telling the master what a bad one I
was, mind you—and off she went, leaving her darling boy and blessed
child howling at his good luck in getting rid of her.
"I was a nice boy to let loose in a school. I could speak as well
as an actor, as far as pronunciation goes; but I could hardly read
words of one syllabile; and as to writing, I couldn't make pothooks
and hangers respectably. To this day, I can no more spell than old
Ned Skene can. What was a worse sort of ignorance was that I had no
idea of fair play. I thought that all servants would be afraid of me,
and that all grown-up people would tyrannize over me. I was afraid of
everybody; afraid that my cowardice would be found out; and as angry
and cruel in my ill-tempers as cowards always are. Now you'll hardly
believe this; but what saved me from going to the bad altogether was
my finding out that I was a good one to fight. The bigger boys were
given to fighting, and used to have mills every Saturday afternoon,
with seconds, bottle-holders, and everything complete, except the
ropes and stakes. We little chaps used to imitate them among ourselves
as best we could. At first, when they made me fight, I shut my eyes
and cried; but for all that I managed to catch the other fellow tight
round the waist and throw him. After that it became a regular joke to
make me fight, for I always cried. But the end of it was that I
learned to keep my eyes open and hit straight. I had no trouble about
fighting then. Somehow, I could tell by instinct when the other fellow
was going to hit me, and I always hit him first. It's the same with me
now in the ring; I know what a man is going to do before he rightly
knows himself. The power that this gave me, civilized me. It made me
cock of the school; and I had to act accordingly. I had enough
good-nature left to keep me from being a bully; and, as cock, I
couldn't be mean or childish. There would be nothing like fighting for
licking boys into shape if every one could be cock; but every one
can't; so I suppose it does more harm than good.
"I should have enjoyed school well enough if I had worked at my
books. But I wouldn't study; and the masters were all down on me as
an idler—though I shouldn't have been like that if they had known
how to teach—I have learned since what teaching is. As to the
holidays, they were the worst part of the year to me. When I was left
at school I was savage at not being let go home; and when I went home
my mother did nothing but find fault with my school-boy manners. I was
getting too big to be cuddled as her darling boy, you understand. In
fact, her treatment of me was just the old game with the affectionate
part left out. It wasn't pleasant, after being cock of the school, to
be made feel like a good-for-nothing little brat tied to her
apron-strings. When she saw that I was learning nothing she sent me to
another school at a place in the north called Panley. I stayed there
until I was seventeen; and then she came one day, and we had a row, as
usual. She said she wouldn't let me leave school until I was nineteen;
and so I settled that question by running away the same night. I got
to Liverpool, where I hid in a ship bound for Australia. When I was
starved out they treated me better than I expected; and I worked hard
enough to earn my passage and my victuals. But when I wad left ashore
in Melbourne I was in a pretty pickle. I knew nobody, and I had no
money. Everything that a man could live by was owned by some one or
other. I walked through the town looking for a place where they might
want a boy to run errands or to clean windows. But somehow I hadn't
the cheek to go into the shops and ask. Two or three times, when I was
on the point of trying, I caught sight of some cad of a shopman, and
made up my mind that I wouldn't be ordered about by HIM, and that
since I had the whole town to choose from I might as well go on to the
next place. At last, quite late in the afternoon, I saw an
advertisement stuck up on a gymnasium, and, while I was reading it, I
got talking to old Ned Skene, the owner, who was smoking at the door.
He took a fancy to me, and offered to have me there as a sort of
lad-of-all-work. I was only too glad to get the chance, and I closed
with him at once. As time went on I became so clever with the gloves
that Ned matched me against a light-weight named Ducket, and bet a lot
of money that I would win. Well, I couldn't disappoint him after his
being so kind to me—Mrs. Skene had made as much of me as if I was her
own son. What could I do but take my bread as it came to me? I was fit
for nothing else. Even if I had been able to write a good hand and
keep accounts I couldn't have brought myself to think that
quill-driving and counting other people's money was a fit employment
for a man. It's not what a man would like to do that he must do in
this world, it's what he CAN do; and the only mortal thing I could do
properly was to fight. There was plenty of money and plenty of honor
and glory among my acquaintances to be got by fighting. So I
challenged Ducket, and knocked him all to pieces in about ten minutes.
I half killed him because I didn't know my own strength and was afraid
of him. I have been at the same work ever since. I was training for a
fight when I was down at Wiltstoken; and Mellish was my trainer. It
came off the day you saw me at Clapham; that was how I came to have a
black eye. Wiltstoken did for me. With all my nerve and science, I'm
no better than a baby at heart; and ever since I found out that my
mother wasn't an angel I have always had a notion that a real angel
would turn up some day. You see, I never cared much for women. Bad as
my mother was as far as being what you might call a parent went, she
had something in her looks and manners that gave me a better idea of
what a nice woman was like than I had of most things; and the girls I
met in Australia and America seemed very small potatoes to me in
comparison with her. Besides, of course they were not ladies. I was
fond of Mrs. Skene because she was good to me; and I made myself
agreeable, for her sake, to the girls that came to see her; but in
reality I couldn't stand them. Mrs. Skene said that they were all
setting their caps at me—women are death on a crack fighter—but the
more they tried it on the less I liked them. It was no go; I could get
on with the men well enough, no matter how common they were; but the
snobbishness of my breed came out with regard to the women. When I saw
you that day at Wiltstoken walk out of the trees and stand looking so
quietly at me and Mellish, and then go back out of sight without a
word, I'm blessed if I didn't think you were the angel come at last.
Then I met you at the railway station and walked with you. You put the
angel out of my head quick enough; for an angel, after all, is only a
shadowy, childish notion—I believe it's all gammon about there being
any in heaven—but you gave me a better idea than mamma of what a
woman should be, and you came up to that idea and went beyond it. I
have been in love with you ever since; and if I can't have you, I
don't care what becomes of me. I know I am a bad lot, and have always
been one; but when I saw you taking pleasure in the society of fellows
just as bad as myself, I didn't see why I should keep away when I was
dying to come. I am no worse than the dog-baker, any how. And hang it,
Miss Lydia, I don't want to brag; but I never fought a cross or struck
a foul blow in my life; and I have never been beaten, though I'm only
a middle-weight, and have stood up with the best fourteen-stone men
in the Colonies, the States, or in England."
Cashel ceased. As he sat eying her wistfully, Lydia, who had been
perfectly still, said musingly,
"Strange! that I should be so much more prejudiced than I knew.
What will you think of me when I tell you that your profession does
not seem half so shocking now that I know you to be the son of an
artist, and not a journeyman butcher or a laborer, as my cousin told
"What!" exclaimed Cashel. "That lantern-jawed fellow told you I was
"I did not mean to betray him; but, as I have already said, I am
bad at keeping secrets. Mr. Lucian Webber is my cousin and friend, and
has done me many services. May I rest assured that he has nothing to
fear from you?"
"He has no right to tell lies about me. He is sweet on you, too: I
twigged that at Wiltstoken. I have a good mind to let him know
whether I am a butcher or not."
"He did not say so. What he told me of you, as far as it went, is
exactly confirmed by what you have said yourself. But I happened to
ask him to what class men of your calling usually belonged; and he
said that they were laborers, butchers, and so forth. Do you resent
"I see plainly enough that you won't let me resent it. I should
like to know what else he said of me. But he was right enough about
the butchers. There are all sorts of blackguards in the ring: there's
no use in denying it. Since it's been made illegal, decent men won't
go into it. But, all the same, it's not the fighting men, but the
betting men, that bring discredit on it. I wish your cousin had held
his confounded tongue."
"I wish you had forestalled him by telling me the truth,"
"I wish I had, now. But what's the use of wishing? I didn't dare
run the chance of losing you. See how soon you forbade me the house
when you did find out."
"It made little difference," said Lydia, gravely.
"You were always friendly to me," said Cashel, plaintively.
"More so than you were to me. You should not have deceived me. And
now I think we had better part. I am glad to know your history; and I
admit that when you embraced your profession you made perhaps the best
choice that society offered you. I do not blame you."
"But you give me the sack. Is that it?"
"What do you propose, Mr. Cashel Byron? Is it to visit my house in
the intervals of battering and maiming butchers and laborers?"
"No, it's not," retorted Cashel. "You're very aggravating. I won't
stay much longer in the ring now, because my luck is too good to
last. I shall have to retire soon, luck or no luck, because no one
can match me. Even now there's nobody except Bill Paradise that
pretends to be able for me; and I'll settle him in September if he
really means business. After that, I'll retire. I expect to be worth
ten thousand pounds then. Ten thousand pounds, I'm told, is the same
as five hundred a year. Well, I suppose, judging from the style you
keep here, that you're worth as much more, besides your place in the
country; so, if you will marry me, we shall have a thousand a year
between us. I don't know much of money matters; but at any rate we
can live like fighting-cocks on that much. That's a straight and
business-like proposal, isn't it?"
"And if I refuse?" said Lydia, with some sternness.
"Then you may have the ten thousand pounds to do what you like
with," said Cashel, despairingly. "It won't matter what becomes of
me. I won't go to the devil for you or any woman if I can help it;
and I—but where's the good of saying IF you refuse. I know I don't
express myself properly; I'm a bad hand at sentimentality; but if I
had as much gab as a poet, I couldn't be any fonder of you, or think
more highly of you."
"But you are mistaken as to the amount of my income."
"That doesn't matter a bit. If you have more, why, the more the
merrier. If you have less, or if you have to give up all your
property when you're married, I will soon make another ten thousand
to supply the loss. Only give me one good word, and, by George, I'll
fight the seven champions of Christendom, one down and t'other come
on, for five thousand a side each. Hang the money!"
"I am richer than you suppose," said Lydia, unmoved. "I cannot tell
you exactly how much I possess; but my income is about forty thousand
"Forty thousand pounds!" ejaculated Cashel.
"Holy Moses! I didn't think the queen had so much as that."
He paused a moment, and became very red. Then, in a voice broken by
mortification, he said, "I see I have been making a fool of myself,"
and took his hat and turned to go.
"It does not follow that you should go at once without a word,"
said Lydia, betraying nervousness for the first time during the
"Oh, that's all rot," said Cashel. "I may be a fool while my eyes
are shut, but I'm sensible enough when they're open. I have no
business here. I wish to the Lord I had stayed in Australia."
"Perhaps it would have been better," said Lydia, troubled. "But
since we have met, it is useless to deplore it; and—Let me remind
you of one thing. You have pointed out to me that I have made friends
of men whose pursuits are no better than yours. I do not wholly admit
that; but there is one respect in which they are on the same footing
as you. They are all, as far as worldly gear is concerned, much poorer
than I. Many of them, I fear, are much poorer than you are."
Cashel looked up quickly with returning hope; but it lasted only a
moment. He shook his head dejectedly.
"I am at least grateful to you," she continued, "because you have
sought me for my own sake, knowing nothing of my wealth."
"I should think not," groaned Cashel. "Your wealth may be a very
fine thing for the other fellows; and I'm glad you have it, for your
own sake. But it's a settler for me. It's knocked me out of time, so
it has. I sha'n't come up again; and the sooner the sponge is chucked
up in my corner, the better. So good-bye."
"Good-bye," said Lydia, almost as pale as he had now become, "since
you will have it so."
"Since the devil will have it so," said Cashel, ruefully. "It's no
use wishing to have it any other way. The luck is against me. I hope,
Miss Carew, that you'll excuse me for making such an ass of myself.
It's all my blessed innocence; I never was taught any better."
"I have no quarrel with you except on the old score of hiding the
truth from me; and that I forgive you—as far as the evil of it
affects me. As for your declaration of attachment to me personally, I
have received many similar ones that have flattered me less. But there
are certain scruples between us. You will not court a woman a
hundred-fold richer than yourself; and I will not entertain a
prize-fighter. My wealth frightens every man who is not a knave; and
your profession frightens every woman who is not a fury."
"Then you—Just tell me this," said Cashel, eagerly. "Suppose I
were a rich swell, and were not a—"
"No," said Lydia, peremptorily interrupting him. "I will suppose
nothing but what is."
Cashel relapsed into melancholy. "If you only hadn't been kind to
me!" he said. "I think the reason I love you so much is that you're
the only person that is not afraid of me. Other people are civil
because they daren't be otherwise to the cock of the ring. It's a
lonely thing to be a champion. You knew nothing about that; and you
knew I was afraid of you; and yet you were as good as gold."
"It is also a lonely thing to be a very rich woman. People are
afraid of my wealth, and of what they call my learning. We two have
at least one experience in common. Now do me a great favor, by going.
We have nothing further to say."
"I'll go in two seconds. But I don't believe much in YOUR being
lonely. That's only fancy."
"Perhaps so. Most feelings of this kind are only fancies."
There was a pause. Then Cashel said,
"I don't feel half so downhearted as I did a minute ago. Are you
sure that you're not angry with me?"
"Quite sure. Pray let me say good-bye."
"And may I never see you again? Never at all?—world without end,
"Never as the famous prize-fighter. But if a day should come when
Mr. Cashel Byron will be something better worthy of his birth and
nature, I will not forget an old friend. Are you satisfied now?"
Cashel's face began to glow, and the roots of his hair to tingle.
"One thing more," he said. "If you meet me by chance in the street
before that, will you give me a look? I don't ask for a regular bow,
but just a look to keep me going?"
"I have no intention of cutting you," said Lydia, gravely. "But do
not place yourself purposely in my way."
"Honor bright, I won't. I'll content myself with walking through
that street in Soho occasionally. Now I'm off; I know you're in a
hurry to be rid of me. So good-b—Stop a bit, though. Perhaps when
that time you spoke of comes, you will be married."
"It is possible; but I am not likely to marry. How many more things
have you to say that you have no right to say?"
"Not one," said Cashel, with a laugh that rang through the house.
"I never was happier in my life, though I'm crying inside all the
time. I'll have a try for you yet. Good-bye. No," he added, turning
from her proffered hand; "I daren't touch it; I should eat you
afterwards." And he ran out of the room.
In the hall was Bashville, pale and determined, waiting there to
rush to the assistance of his mistress at her first summons. He had a
poker concealed at hand. Having just heard a great laugh, and seeing
Cashel come down-stairs in high spirits, he stood stock- still, and
did not know what to think.
"Well, old chap," said Cashel, boisterously, slapping him on the
shoulder, "so you're alive yet. Is there any one in the dining-room?"
"No," said Bashville.
"There's a thick carpet there to fall soft on," said Cashel,
pulling Bashville into the room. "Come along. Now, show me that little
trick of yours again. Come, don't be afraid. Down with me. Take care
you don't knock my head against the fire-irons."
"But be hanged. You were spry enough at it before. Come!"
Bashville, after a moment's hesitation, seized Cashel, who
immediately became grave and attentive, and remained imperturbably so
while Nashville expertly threw him. He sat for a moment thinking on
the hearth-rug before he rose. "I see," he said, then, getting
up. "Now, do it again."
"But it makes such a row," remonstrated Bashville.
"Only once more. There'll be no row this time."
"Well, you ARE an original sort of cove," said Bashville,
complying. But instead of throwing his man, he found himself wedged
into a collar formed by Cashel's arms, the least constriction of which
would have strangled him. Cashel again roared with laughter as he
"That's the way, ain't it?" he said. "You can't catch an old fox
twice in the same trap. Do you know any more falls?"
"I do," said Bashville; "but I really can't show them to you here.
I shall get into trouble on account of the noise."
"You can come down to me whenever you have an evening out," said
Cashel, handing him a card, "to that address, and show me what you
know, and I'll see what I can do with you. There's the making of a
man in you."
"You're very kind," said Bashville, pocketing the card with a grin.
"And now let me give you a word of advice that will be of use to
you as long as you live," said Cashel, impressively. "You did a very
silly thing to-day. You threw a man down—a fighting-man—and then
stood looking at him like a fool, waiting for him to get up and kill
you. If ever you do that again, fall on him as heavily as you can the
instant he's off his legs. Drop your shoulder well into him, and, if
he pulls you over, make play with the back of your head. If he's
altogether too big for you, put your knee on his throat as if by
accident. But, on no account, stand and do nothing. It's flying in the
face of Providence."
Cashel emphasized these counsels by taps of his forefinger on one
of Bashville's buttons. In conclusion, he nodded, opened the
house-door, and walked away in buoyant spirits.
Lydia, standing year the library window, saw him pass, and observed
how his light, alert step and a certain gamesome assurance of manner
marked him off from a genteelly promenading middle-aged gentleman, a
trudging workman, and a vigorously striding youth who were also
passing by. The iron railings through which she saw him reminded her
of the admirable and dangerous creatures which were passing and
repassing behind iron bars in the park yonder. But she exulted, in
her quiet manner, in the thought that, dangerous as he was, she had
no fear of him. When his cabman had found him and driven him off she
went to her desk, opened a private drawer in it, took out her
falher's last letter, and sat for some time looking at it without
"It would be a strange thing, father," she said, as if he were
actually there to hear her, "if your paragon should turn aside from
her friends, the artists, philosophers, and statesmen, to give
herself to an illiterate prize-fighter. I felt a pang of absolute
despair when he replied to my forty thousand pounds a year with an
She locked up her father, as it were, in the drawer again, and rang
the bell. Bashville appeared, somewhat perturbed.
"If Mr. Byron calls again, admit him if I am at home."
"Begging your pardon, madam, but may I ask has any complaint been
made of me?"
"None." Bashville was reluctantly withdrawing when she added, "Mr.
Byron gave me to understand that you tried to prevent his entrance by
force. You exposed yourself to needless risk by doing so; and you may
make a rule in future that when people are importunate, and will not
go away when asked, they had better come in until you get special
instructions from me. I am not finding fault; on the contrary, I
approve of your determination to carry out your orders; but under
exceptional circumstances you may use your own discretion."
"He shoved the door into my face, and I acted on the impulse of the
moment, madam. I hope you will forgive the liberty I took in locking
the door of the boudoir. He is older and heavier than I am, madam;
and he has the advantage of being a professional. Else I should have
stood my ground."
"I am quite satisfied," said Lydia, a little coldly, as she left
"How long you have been!" cried Alice, almost in hysterics, as
Lydia entered. "Is he gone? What were those dreadful noises? IS
anything the matter?"
"Dancing and late hours are the matter," said Lydia, coolly. "The
season is proving too much for you, Alice."
"It is not the season; it is the man," said Alice, with a sob.
"Indeed? I have been in conversation with the man for more than
half an hour; and Bashville has been in actual combat with him; yet we
are not in hysterics. You have been sitting here at your ease, have
"I am not in hysterics," said Alice, indignantly.
"So much the better," said Lydia, gravely, placing her hand on the
forehead of Alice, who subsided with a sniff.
Mrs. Byron, under her stage name of Adelaide Gisborne, was now, for
the second time in her career, much talked of in London, where she
had boon for many years almost forgotten. The metropolitan managers
of her own generation had found that her success in new parts was
very uncertain; that she was more capricious than the most petted
favorites of the public; and that her invariable reply to a business
proposal was that she detested the stage, and was resolved never to
set foot upon it again. So they had managed to do without her for so
long that the younger London playgoers knew her by reputation only as
an old-fashioned actress who wandered through the provinces palming
herself off on the ignorant inhabitants as a great artist, and boring
them with performances of the plays of Shakespeare. It suited Mrs.
Byron well to travel with the nucleus of a dramatic company from town
to town, staying a fortnight in each, and repeating half a dozen
characters in which she was very effective, and which she knew so well
that she never thought about them except when, as indeed often
happened, she had nothing else to think about. Most of the provincial
populations received her annual visits with enthusiasm. Among them she
found herself more excitingly applauded before the curtain, her
authority more despotic behind it, her expenses smaller, and her gains
greater than in London, for which she accordingly cared as little as
London cared for her. As she grew older she made more money and spent
less. When she complained to Cashel of the cost of his education, she
was rich. Since he had relieved her of that cost she had visited
America, Egypt, India, and the colonies, and had grown constantly
richer. From this great tour she had returned to England on the day
when Cashel added the laurels of the Flying Dutchman to his trophies;
and the next Sunday's paper had its sporting column full of the
prowess of Cashel Byron, and its theatrical column full of the genius
of Adelaide Gisborne. But she never read sporting columns, nor he
The managers who had formerly avoided Mrs. Byron were by this time
dead, bankrupt, or engaged in less hazardous pursuits. One of their
successors had lately restored Shakespeare to popularity as signally
as Cashel had restored the prize ring. He was anxious to produce the
play of "King John," being desirous of appearing as Faulconbridge, a
part for which he was physically unfitted. Though he had no suspicion
of his unfitness, he was awake to the fact that the favorite London
actresses, though admirable in modern comedy, were not mistresses of
what he called, after Sir Walter Scott, the "big bow wow" style
required for the part of Lady Constance in Shakespeare's history. He
knew that he could find in the provinces many veteran players who knew
every gesture and inflection of voice associated by tradition with the
part; but he was afraid that they would remind Londoners of
Richardson's show, and get Faulconbridge laughed at. Then he thought
of Adelaide Gisborne. For some hours after the idea came to him he was
gnawed at by the fear that her performance would throw his into the
shade. But his confidence in his own popularity helped his love of
good acting to prevail; and he made the newly returned actress a
tempting offer, instigating some journalist friends of his at the same
time to lament over the decay of the grand school of acting, and to
invent or republish anecdotes of Mrs. Siddons.
This time Mrs. Byron said nothing about detesting the stage. She
had really detested it once; but by the time she was rich enough to
give up the theatre she had worn that feeling out, and had formed a
habit of acting which was as irksome to shake off as any other habit.
She also found a certain satisfaction in making money with ease and
certainty, and she made so much that at last she began to trifle with
plans of retirement, of playing in Paris, of taking a theatre in
London, and other whims. The chief public glory of her youth had been
a sudden triumph in London on the occasion of her first appearance on
any stage; and she now felt a mind to repeat this and crown her career
where it had begun. So she accepted the manager's offer, and even went
the length of reading the play of "King John" in order to ascertain
what it was all about.
The work of advertisement followed her assent. Portraits of
Adelaide Gisborne were displayed throughout the town. Paragraphs in
the papers mentioned large sums as the cost of mounting the historical
masterpiece of the national bard. All the available seats in the
theatre—except some six or seven hundred in the pit and
gallery—were said to be already disposed of for the first month of
the expected run of the performance. The prime minister promised to
be present on the opening night. Absolute archaeologic accuracy was
promised. Old paintings were compared to ascertain the dresses of the
period. A scene into which the artist had incautiously painted a
pointed arch was condemned as an anachronism. Many noblemen gave the
actor-manager access to their collections of armor and weapons in
order that his accoutrement should exactly counterfeit that of a
Norman baron. Nothing remained doubtful except the quality of the
It happened that one of the most curious documents of the period in
question was a scrap of vellum containing a fragment of a chronicle
of Prince Arthur, with an illuminated portrait of his mother. It had
been purchased for a trifling sum by the late Mr. Carew, and was now
in the possession of Lydia, to whom the actor-manager applied for
leave to inspect it. Leave being readily given, he visited the house
in Regent's Park, which he declared to be an inexhaustible storehouse
of treasure. He deeply regretted, he said, that he could not show the
portrait to Miss Gisborne. Lydia replied that if Miss Gisborne would
come and look at it, she should be very welcome. Two days later, at
noon, Mrs. Byron arrived and found Lydia alone; Alice having contrived
to be out, as she felt that it was better not to meet an actress—one
could never tell what they might have been.
The years that had elapsed since Mrs. Byron's visit to Dr. Moncrief
had left no perceptible trace on her; indeed she looked younger now
than on that occasion, because she had been at the trouble of putting
on an artificial complexion. Her careless refinement of manner was so
different from the studied dignity and anxious courtesy of the
actor-manager, that Lydia could hardly think of them as belonging to
the same profession. Her voice was not her stage voice; it gave a
subtle charm to her most commonplace remarks, and it was as different
as possible from Cashel's rough tones. Yet Lydia was convinced by the
first note of it that she was Cashel's mother. Besides, their eyes
were so like that they might have made an exchange without altering
Mrs. Byron, coming to the point without delay, at once asked to see
the drawing. Lydia brought her to the library, were several
portfolios were ready for inspection. The precious fragment of vellum
"Very interesting, indeed," said Mrs. Byron, throwing it aside
after one glance at it, and turning over some later prints, while
Lydia, amused, looked on in silence. "Ah," she said, presently, "here
is something that will suit me exactly. I shall not trouble to go
through the rest of your collection, thank you. They must do that
robe for me in violet silk. What is your opinion of it, Miss Carew? I
have noticed, from one or two trifles, that your taste is exquisite."
"For what character do you intend the dress?"
"Constance, in 'King John.'"
"But silk was not made in western Europe until three hundred years
after Constance's death. And that drawing is a sketch of Marie de
Medicis by Rubens."
"Never mind," said Mrs. Byron, smoothly. "What does a dress three
hundred years out of date matter when the woman inside it is seven
hundred years out? What can be a greater anachronism than the death
of Prince Arthur three months hence on the stage of the Panopticon
Theatre? I am an artist giving life to a character in romance, I
suppose; certainly not a grown-up child playing at being somebody out
of Mrs. Markham's history of England. I wear whatever becomes me. I
cannot act when I feel dowdy."
"But what will the manager say?"
"I doubt if he will say anything. He will hardly venture to press
on me anything copied from that old parchment. As he will wear a suit
of armor obviously made the other day in Birmingham, why—!" Mrs.
Byron shrugged her shoulders, and did not take sufficient interest in
the manager's opinion to finish her sentence.
"After all, Shakespeare concerned himself very little about such
matters," said Lydia, conversationally.
"No doubt. I seldom read him."
"Is this part of Lady Constance a favorite one of yours?"
"Troublesome, my dear," said Mrs. Byron, absently. "The men look
ridiculous in it; and it does not draw."
"No doubt," said Lydia, watching her face. "But I spoke rather of
your personal feeling towards the character. Do you, for instance,
like portraying maternal tenderness on the stage?"
"Maternal tenderness," said Mrs. Byron with sudden nobleness, "is
far too sacred a thing to be mimicked. Have you any children?"
"No," said Lydia, demurely. "I am not married."
"Of course not. You should get married. Maternity is a liberal
education in itself."
"Do you think that it suits every woman?"
"Undoubtedly. Without exception. Only think, dear Miss Carew, of
the infinite patieuce with which you must tend a child, of the
necessity of seeing with its little eyes and with your own wise ones
at the same time, of bearing without reproach the stabs it innocently
inflicts, of forgiving its hundred little selfishnesses, of living in
continual fear of wounding its exquisite sensitiveness, or rousing its
bitter resentment of injustice and caprice. Think of how you must
watch yourself, check yourself, exercise and develop everything in you
that can help to attract and retain the most jealous love in the
world! Believe me, it is a priceless trial to be a mother. It is a
royal compensation for having been born a woman."
"Nevertheless," said Lydia, "I wish I had been born a man. Since
you seem to have thought deeply into these problems, I will venture to
ask you a question. Do you not think that the acquirement of an art
demanding years of careful self-study and training—such as yours,
for example—is also of great educational value? Almost a sufficient
discipline to make one a good mother?"
"Nonsense!" said Mrs. Byron, decidedly. "People come into the world
ready-made. I went on the stage when I was eighteen, and succeeded at
once. Had I known anything of the world, or been four years older, I
should have been weak, awkward, timid, and flat; it would have taken
me twelve years to crawl to the front. But I was young, passionate,
beautiful, and indeed terrible; for I had run away from home two years
before, and been cruelly deceived. I learned the business of the stage
as easily and thoughtlessly as a child learns a prayer; the rest came
to me by nature. I have seen others spend years in struggling with bad
voices, uncouth figures, and diffidence; besides a dozen defects that
existed only in their imaginations. Their struggles may have educated
them; but had they possessed sufficient genius they would have had
neither struggle nor education. Perhaps that is why geniuses are such
erratic people, and mediocrities so respectable. I grant you that I
was very limited when I first came out; I was absolutely incapable of
comedy. But I never took any trouble about it; and by and by, when I
began to mature a little, and to see the absurdity of most of the
things I had been making a fuss about, comedy came to me unsought, as
romantic tragedy had come before. I suppose it would have come just
the same if I had been laboring to acquire it, except that I would
have attributed its arrival to my own exertions. Most of the
laborious people think they have made themselves what they are—much
as if a child should think it had made itself grow."
"You are the first artist I ever met," said Lydia, "who did not
claim art as the most laborious of all avocations. They all deny the
existence of genius, and attribute everything to work."
"Of course one picks up a great deal from experience; and there is
plenty of work on the stage. But it in my genius which enables me to
pick up things, and to work on the stage instead of in a kitchen or
"You must be very fond of your profession."
"I do not mind it now; I have shrunk to fit it. I began because I
couldn't help myself; and I go on because, being an old woman, I have
nothing else to do. Bless me, how I hated it after the first month! I
must retire soon, now. People are growing weary of me."
"I doubt that. I am bound to assume that you are an old woman,
since you say so; but you must be aware, flattery apart, that you
hardly seem to have reached your prime yet."
"I might be your mother, my dear. I might be a grand mother.
Perhaps I am." There was a plaintive tone in the last sentence; and
Lydia seized the opportunity.
"You spoke of maternity then from experience, Miss Gisborne?"
"I have one son—a son who was sent to me in my eighteenth year."
"I hope he inherits his mother's genius and personal grace."
"I am sure I don't know," said Mrs. Byron, pensively. "He was a
perfect devil. I fear I shock you, Miss Carew; but really I did
everything for him that the most devoted mother could do; and yet he
ran away from me without making a sign of farewell. Little wretch!"
"Boys do cruel things sometimes in a spirit of adventure," said
Lydia, watching her visitor's face narrowly.
"It was not that. It was his temper, which was ungovernable. He was
sulky and vindictive. It is quite impossible to love a sulky child. I
kept him constantly near me when he was a tiny creature; and when he
got too big for that I spent oceans of money on his education. All in
vain! He never showed any feeling towards me except a sense of injury
that no kindness could remove. And he had nothing to complain of.
Never was there a worse son."
Lydia remained silent and grave. Mrs. Byron looked rather beside
her than at her. Suddenly she added,
"My poor, darling Cashel" (Lydia suppressed a start), "what a shame
to talk of you so! You see, I love him in spite of his wickedness."
Mrs. Byron took out her handkerchief, and Lydia for a moment was
alarmed by the prospect of tears. But Miss Gisborne only blew her
nose with perfect composure, and rose to take her leave. Lydia, who,
apart from her interest in Cashel's mother, was attracted and amused
by the woman herself, induced her to stay for luncheon, and presently
discovered from her conversation that she had read much romance of the
Werther sort in her youth, and had, since then, employed her leisure
in reading every book that came in her way without regard to its
quality. Her acquirements were so odd, and her character so
unreasonable, that Lydia, whose knowledge was unusually well
organized, and who was eminently reasonable, concluded that she was a
woman of genius. For Lydia knew the vanity of her own attainments, and
believed herself to be merely a patient and well-taught plodder. Mrs.
Byron happening to be pleased with the house, the luncheon, and
Lydia's intelligent listening, her unaccountable natural charm became
so intensified by her good-humor that Lydia became conscious of it,
and began to wonder what its force might have been if some
influence—that of a lover, for instance—had ever made Mrs. Byron
ecstatically happy. She surprised herself at last in the act of
speculating whether she could ever make Cashel love her as his father
must, for a time at least, have loved her visitor.
When Lydia was alone, she considered whether she was justified in
keeping Mrs. Byron apart from her son. It seemed plain that at
present Cashel was a disgrace to his mother, and had better remain
hidden from her. But if he should for any reason abandon his
ruffianly pursuits, as she had urged him to do, then she could bring
about a meeting between them; and the truant's mother might take
better care of him in the future, besides making him pecuniarily
independent of prize-fighting. This led Lydia to ask what new
profession Cashel could adopt, and what likelihood there was of his
getting on with his mother any better than formerly. No satisfactory
answer was forthcoming. So she went back to the likelihood of his
reforming himself for her sake. On this theme her imagination carried
her so far from all reasonable probability, that she was shaking her
head at her own folly when Bashville appeared and announced Lord
Worthington, who came into the room with Alice. Lydia had not seen him
since her discovery of the true position of the tenant he had
introduced to her, and he was consequently a little afraid to meet
her. To cover his embarrassment, he began to talk quickly on a number
of commonplace topics. But when some time had elapsed, he began to
show signs of fresh uneasiness. He looked at his watch, and said,
"I don't wish to hurry you, ladies; but this affair commences at
"What affair?" said Lydia, who had been privately wondering why he
"The assault-at-arms. King What's-his-name's affair. Webber told me
he had arranged that you should come with me."
"Oh, you have come to take us there. I had forgotten. Did I promise
"Webber said so. He was to have taken you himself; but, failing
that, he promised to do a good thing for me and put me in his place.
He said you particularly wanted to go, hang him!"
Lydia then rose promptly and sent for her carriage. "There is no
hurry," bhe said. "We can drive to St. James's Hall in twelve
"Hut we have to go to Islington, to the Agricultural Hall. There
will be cavalry charges, and all sorts of fun."
"Bless me!" said Lydia. "Will there be any boxing?"
"Yes," said Lord Worthington, reddening, but unabashed. "Lots of
it. It will be by gentlemen, though, except perhaps one bout to show
the old king our professional form."
"Then excuse me while I go for my hat," said Lydia, leaving the
room. Alice had gone some time before to make a complete change in
her dress, as the occasion was one for display of that kind.
"You look awfully fetching, Miss Goff," Lord Worthington said, as
he followed them to the carriage. Alice did not deign to reply, but
tossed her head superbly, and secretly considered whether people
would, on comparison, think her overdressed or Lydia underdressed.
Lord Worthington thought they both looked their best, and reflected
for several seconds on the different styles of different women, and
how what would suit one would not do at all for another. It seemed to
him that Miss Carew's presence made him philosophical.
The Agricultural Hall struck Alice at first sight as an immense
barn round which heaps of old packing-cases had been built into
race-course stands, scantily decorated with red cloth and a few
flags. She was conducted to a front seat in one of these balconies,
which overhung the tan-strewn arena. Just below her were the
palisades, ornamented at intervals with evergreens in tubs, and
pressed against from without by a crowd who had paid a shilling
apiece for the privilege of admission. She remarked that it was
little to the credit of the management that these people should be
placed so close beneath her that she could hear their conversation;
but as Lydia did not seem to share her disgust, she turned her
attention to the fashionable part of the audience. On the opposite
side of the arena the balconies seemed like beds of flowers in bloom,
blacknesses formed here and there by the hats and coats of gentlemen
representing the interspaces of clay. In the midst of the flowers was
a gaudy dais, on which a powerfully-built black gentleman sat in a
raised chair, his majestic impassivity contrasting with the overt
astonishment with which a row of savagely ugly attendant chiefs
grinned and gaped on either side of him.
"What a pity we are not nearer the king!" said Alice. "I can hardly
see the dear old fellow."
"You will find these the best seats for seeing the assault. It will
be all right," said Lord Worthington.
Lydia's attention was caught by something guilty in his manner.
Following a furtive glance of his, she saw in the arena, not far from
her, an enclosure about twenty feet square, made with ropes and
stakes. It was unoccupied, and there were a few chairs, a basin, and
a sponge, near it.
"What is that?" she asked.
"That! Oh, that's the ring."
"It is not a ring. It is square."
"They call it the ring. They have succeeded in squaring the
Here there was a piercing bugle-call, and a troop of cavalry
trotted into the arena. Lydia found it pleasant enough to sit lazily
admiring the horses and men, and comparing the members of the
Olympian Club, who appeared when the soldiers retired, to the marble
gods of Athens, and to the Bacchus or David of Michael Angelo. They
fell short of the Greek statues in refinement, and of the Italian in
impressiveness as they vaulted over a wooden horse, and swung upon
horizontal bars, each cheapening the exploits of his forerunner by
out-doing them. Lord Worthington, who soon grew tired of this,
whispered that when all that rubbish was over, a fellow would cut a
sheep in two with a sword, after which there would be some boxing.
"Do you mean to say," said Lydia, indignantly, "that they are going
to turn a sheep loose and hunt it on horseback with swords?"
Lord Worthington laughed and said yes; but it presently appeared
that by a sheep was meant a lean carcass of mutton. A stalwart
sergeant cut it in half as a climax to slicing lemons, bars of lead,
and silk handkerchiefs; and the audience, accustomed to see much more
disgusting sights in butchers' shops, liberally applauded him.
Two gentlemen of the Olympian Club now entered the enclosure which
Lord Worthington called the ring. After shaking hands with one
another as well as their huge padded gloves permitted, they hugged
themselves with their right arms as if there were some danger of
their stomachs falling out if not held tightly in, and danced round
one another, throwing out and retracting their left fists like pawing
horses. They were both, as Lydia learned from the announcement of
their names and achievements by the master of the ceremonies, amateur
champions. She thought their pawing and dancing ridiculous; and when
they occasionally rushed together and scuffled, she could distinguish
nothing of the leading off, stopping, ducking, countering, guarding,
and getting away to which Lord Worthington enthusiastically invited
her attention, and which elicited alternate jeers and applause from
the shilling audience below. She laughed outright when, at the
expiration of three minutes, the two dropped supine into chairs at
opposite corners of the ring as if they had sustained excessive
fatigue. At the end of a minute, some one hoarsely cried "Time!" and
they rose and repeated their previous performance for three minutes
more. Another minute of rest followed; and then the dancing and pawing
proceeded for four minutes, after which the champions again shook
hands and left the arena.
"And is that all?" said Lydia.
"That's all," said Lord Worthington. "It's the most innocent thing
in the world, and the prettiest."
"It does not strike me as being pretty," said Lydia; "but it seems
as innocent as inanity can make it." Her mind misgave her that she
had ignorantly and unjustly reproached Cashel Byron with ferocity
merely because he practised this harmless exercise.
The show progressed through several phases of skilled violence.
Besides single combats between men armed in various fashions, there
were tilts, tent-peggings, drilling and singlestick practice by
squads of British tars, who were loudly cheered, and more boxing and
vaulting by members of the club. Lydia's attention soon began to
wander from the arena. Looking down at the crowd outside the
palisades, she saw a small man whom she vaguely remembered, though
his face was turned from her. In conversation with him was a powerful
man dressed in a yellow tweed suit and green scarf. He had a coarse,
strong voice, and his companion a shrill, mean one, so that their
remarks could be heard by an attentive listener above the confused
noise of the crowd.
"Do you admire that man?" said Lord Worthington, following Lydia's
"No. Is he anybody in particular?"
"He was a great man once—in the days of the giants. He was
champion of England. He has a special interest for us as the preceptor
of a mutual friend of ours."
"Please name him," said Lydia, intending that the mutual friend
should be named.
"Ned Skene," said Lord Worthington, taking her to mean the man
below. "He has done so well in the colonies that he has indulged
himself and his family with a trip to England. His arrival made quite
a sensation in this country: last week he had a crowded benefit, at
which he sparred with our mutual friend and knocked him about like a
baby. Our mutual behaved very well on the occasion in letting himself
be knocked about. You see he could have killed old Skene if he had
tried in earnest."
"Is that Skene?" said Lydia, looking at him with an earnest
interest that astonished Lord Worthington. "Ah! Now I recognize the
man with him. He is one of my tenants at the Warren Lodge—I believe I
am indebted to you for the introduction."
"Mellish the trainer?" said Lord Worthington, looking a little
foolish. "So it is. What a lovely bay that lancer has!—the second
from the far end."
But Lydia would not look at the lancer's horse. "Paradise!" she
heard Skene exclaim just then with scornful incredulity. "Ain't it
likely?" It occurred to her that if he was alluding to his own chance
of arriving there, it was not likely.
"Less likely things have happened," said Mellish. "I won't say that
Cashel Byron is getting stale; but I will say that his luck is too
good to last; and I know for a fact that he's gone quite melancholy
"Melancholy be blowed!" said Skene. "What should he go melancholy
"Oh, I know," said Mellish, reticently.
"You know a lot," retorted Skene with contempt. "I s'pose you mean
the young 'oman he's always talking to my missis about."
"I mean a young woman that he ain't likely to get. One of the
biggest swells in England—a little un with a face like the inside of
a oyster-shell, that he met down at Wiltstoken, where I trained him to
fight the Flying Dutchman. He went right off his training after he met
her—wouldn't do anything I told him. I made so cock-sure that he'd be
licked that I hedged every penny I had laid on him except twenty pound
that I got a flat to bet agin him down at the fight after I had
changed my mind. Curse that woman! I lost a hundred pound by her."
"And served you right, too, you old stupid. You was wrong then; and
you're wrong now, with your blessed Paradise."
"Paradise has never been licked yet."
"No more has my boy."
"Well, we'll see."
"We'll see! I tell you I've seed for myself. I've seed Billy
Paradise spar; and it ain't fighting, it's ruffianing: that's what it
is. Ruffianing! Why, my old missis has more science."
"Mebbe she has," said Mellish. "But look at the men he's licked
that were chock full of science. Shepstone, clever as he is, only won
a fight from him by claiming a foul, because Billy lost his temper and
spiked him. That's the worst of Billy; he can't keep his feelings in.
But no fine-lady sparrer can stand afore that ugly rush of his. Do you
think he'll care for Cashel's showy long shots? Not he: he'll just
take 'em on that mahogany nut of his, and give him back one o' them
smashers that he settled poor Dick Weeks with."
"I'll lay you any money he don't. If he does, I'll go back into the
ring myself, and bust his head off for it." Here Skene, very angry,
applied several epithets to Paradise, and became so excited that
Mellish had to soothe him by partially retracting his forebodings,
and asking how Cashel had been of late.
"He's not been taking care of himself as he oughter," said Skene,
gloomily. "He's showing the London fashions to the missis and
Fanny—they're here in the three-and-sixpenny seats, among the
swells. Theatres every night; and walks every day to see the queen
drive through the park, or the like. My Fan likes to have him with
her on account of his being such a gentleman: she don't hardly think
her own father not good enough to walk down Piccadilly with. Wants me
to put on a black coat and make a parson of myself. The missis just
idolizes him. She thinks the boy far too good for the young 'oman you
was speaking of, and tells him that she's only letting on not to care
for him to raise her price, just as I used to pretend to be getting
beat, to set the flats betting agin me. The women always made a pet of
him. In Melbourne it was not what I liked for dinner: it was
always what the boy 'ud like, and when it 'ud please him to have it.
I'm blest if I usen't to have to put him up to ask for a thing when I
wanted it myself. And you tell me that that's the lad that's going to
let Billy Paradise lick him, I s'pose. Walker!"
Lydia, with Mrs. Byron's charm fresh upon her, wondered what manner
of woman this Mrs. Skene could be who had supplanted her in the
affections of her son, and yet was no more than a prize-fighter's old
missis. Evidently she was not one to turn a young man from a career in
the ring. Again the theme of Cashel's occupation and the chances of
his quitting it ran away with Lydia's attention. She sat with her eyes
fixed on the arena, without seeing the soldiers, swordsmen, or
athletes who were busy there; her mind wandered further and further
from the place; and the chattering of the people resolved itself into
a distant hum and was forgotten.
Suddenly she saw a dreadful-looking man coming towards her across
the arena. His face had the surface and color of blue granite; his
protruding jaws and retreating forehead were like those of an
orang-outang. She started from her reverie with a shiver, and,
recovering her hearing as well as her vision of external things,
became conscious of an attempt to applaud this apparition by a few
persons below. The man grinned ferociously, placed one hand on a
stake of the ring, and vaulted over the ropes. Lydia now remarked
that, excepting his hideous head and enormous hands and feet, he was
a well-made man, with loins and shoulders that shone in the light,
and gave him an air of great strength and activity.
"Ain't he a picture?" she heard Mellish exclaim, ecstatically.
"There's condition for you!"
"Ah!" said Skene, disparagingly. "But ain't HE the gentleman! Just
look at him. It's like the Prince of Wales walking down Pall Mall."
Lydia, hearing this, looked again, and saw Cashel Byron, exactly as
she had seen him for the first time in the elm vista at Wiltstoken,
approaching the ring with the indifferent air of a man going through
some tedious public ceremony.
"A god coming down to compete with a gladiator," whispered Lord
Worthington, eagerly. "Isn't it, Miss Carew? Apollo and the satyr!
You must admit that our mutual friend is a splendid-looking fellow.
If he could go into society like that, by Jove, the women—"
"Hush," said Lydia, as if his words were intolerable.
Cashel did not vault over the ropes. He stepped through them
languidly, and, rejecting the proffered assistance of a couple of
officious friends, drew on a boxing-glove fastidiously, like an
exquisite preparing for a fashionable promenade. Having thus muffled
his left hand so as to make it useless for the same service to his
right, he dipped his fingers into the other glove, gripped it between
his teeth, and dragged it on with the action of a tiger tearing its
prey. Lydia shuddered again.
"Bob Mellish," said Skene, "I'll lay you twenty to one he stops
that rush that you think so much of. Come: twenty to one!"
Mellish shook his head. Then the master of the ceremonies, pointing
to the men in succession, shouted, "Paradise: a professor. Cashel
Byron: a professor. Time!"
Cashel now looked at Paradise, of whose existence he had not before
seemed to be aware. The two men advanced towards the centre of the
ring, shook hands at arm's-length, cast off each other's grasp
suddenly, fell back a step, and began to move warily round one
another from left to right like a pair of panthers.
"I think they might learn manners from the gentlemen, and shake
hands cordially," said Alice, trying to appear unconcerned, but
oppressed by a vague dread of Cashel.
"That's the traditional manner," said Lord Worthington. "It is done
that way to prevent one from holding the other; pulling him over, and
hitting him with the disengaged hand before he could get loose."
"What abominable treachery!" exclaimed Lydia.
"It's never done, you know," said Lord Worthington, apologetically.
"Only it might be."
Lydia turned away from him, and gave all her attention to the
boxers. Of the two, Paradise shocked her least. He was evidently
nervous and conscious of a screwed-up condition as to his courage;
but his sly grin implied a wild sort of good-humor, and seemed to
promise the spectators that he would show them some fun presently.
Cashel watched his movements with a relentless vigilance and a
sidelong glance in which, to Lydia's apprehension, there was
Suddenly the eyes of Paradise lit up: he lowered his head, made a
rush, balked himself purposely, and darted at Cashel. There was a
sound like the pop of a champagne-cork, after which Cashel was seen
undisturbed in the middle of the ring, and Paradise, flung against
the ropes and trying to grin at his discomfiture, showed his white
teeth through a mask of blood.
"Beautiful!" cried Skene with emotion. "Beautiful! There ain't but
me and my boy in the world can give the upper cut like that! I wish I
could see my old missis's face now! This is nuts to her."
"Let us go away," said Alice.
"That was a very different blow to any that the gentlemen gave,"
said Lydia, without heeding her, to Lord Worthington. "The man is
"It's only his nose," said Lord Worthington. "He's used to it."
Meanwhile Cashel had followed Paradise to the ropes.
"Now he has him," chuckled Skene. "My boy's got him agin the ropes;
and he means to keep him there. Let him rush now, if he can. See what
it is to have a good judgment."
Mellish shook his head again despondently. The remaining minutes of
the round were unhappy ones for Paradise. He struck viciously at his
opponent's ribs; but Cashel stepped back just out of his reach, and
then returned with extraordinary swiftness and dealt him blows from
which, with the ropes behind him, he had no room to retreat, and
which he was too slow to stop or avoid. His attempts to reach his
enemy's face were greatly to the disadvantage of his own; for
Cashel's blows were never so tremendous as when he turned his head
deftly out of harm's way, and met his advancing foe with a counter
hit. He showed no chivalry and no mercy, and revelled in the hardness
of his hitting; his gloves either resounding on Paradise's face or
seeming to go almost through his body. There was little semblance to a
contest: to Lydia there was nothing discernible but a cruel assault by
an irresistible athlete on a helpless victim. The better sort among
the spectators were disgusted by the sight; for, as Paradise bled
profusely, and as his blood besmeared the gloves and the gloves
besmeared the heads and bodies of both combatants, they were soon
stained with it from their waists upward. The managers held a
whispered consultation as to whether the sparring exhibition had not
better be stopped; but they decided to let it proceed on seeing the
African king, who had watched the whole entertainment up to the
present without displaying the least interest, now raise his hands and
clap them with delight.
"Billy don't look half pleased with hisself," observed Mellish, as
the two boxers sat down. "He looks just like he did when he spiked
"What does spiking mean?" said Lydia.
"Treading on a man's foot with spiked boots," replied Lord
Worthington. "Don't be alarmed; they have no spikes in their shoes
to-day. It is not my fault that they do such things, Miss Carew.
Really, you make me feel quite criminal when you look at me in that
Time was now called; and the pugilists, who had, by dint of
sponging, been made somewhat cleaner, rose with mechanical
promptitude at the sound, Cashel had hardly advanced two steps when,
though his adversary seemed far out of his reach, he struck him on
the forehead with such force as to stagger him, and then jumped back
laughing. Paradise rushed forward; but Cashel eluded him, and fled
round the ring, looking back derisively over his shoulder. Paradise
now dropped all pretence of good-humor. With an expression of
reckless ferocity, he dashed at Cashel; endured a startling blow
without flinching, and engaged him at close quarters. For a moment
the falling of their blows reminded Lydia of the rush of raindrops
against a pane in a sudden gust of wind. The next moment Cashel was
away; and Paradise, whose blood was again flowing, was trying to
repeat his manoeuvre, to be met this time by a blow that brought him
upon one knee. He had scarcely risen when Cashel sprang at him; dealt
him four blows with dazzling rapidity; drove him once more against the
ropes; but this time, instead of keeping him there, ran away in the
manner of a child at play. Paradise, with foam as well as blood at his
lips, uttered a howl, and tore off his gloves. There was a shout of
protest from the audience; and Cashel, warned by it, tried to get off
his gloves in turn. But Paradise was upon him before he could
accomplish this, and the two men laid hold of one another amid a great
clamor, Lord Worthington and others rising and excitedly shouting,
"Against the rules! No wrestling!" followed by a roar of indignation
as Paradise was seen to seize Cashel's shoulder in his teeth as they
struggled for the throw. Lydia, for the first time in her life,
screamed. Then she saw Cashel, his face fully as fierce as Paradise's,
get his arm about his neck; lift him as a coal-heaver lifts a sack,
and fling him over his back, heels over head, to the ground, where he
instantly dropped on him with his utmost weight and impetus. The two
were at once separated by a crowd of managers, umpires, policemen, and
others who had rushed towards the ring when Paradise had taken off his
gloves. A distracting wrangle followed. Skene had climbed over the
palisade, and was hurling oaths, threats, and epithets at Paradise,
who, unable to stand without assistance, was trying to lift his leaden
eyelids and realize what had happened to him. A dozen others were
trying to bring him to his senses, remonstrating with him on his
conduct, or trying to pacify Skene. Cashel, on the other side, raged
at the managers, who were reminding him that the rules of
glove-fighting did not allow wrestling and throwing.
"Rules be d—-d," Lydia heard him shouting. "He bit me; and I'll
throw him to—" Then everybody spoke at once; and she could only
conjecture where he would throw him to. He seemed to have no
self-control: Paradise, when he came to himself, behaved better. Lord
Worthington descended into the ring and tried to calm the hubbub; but
Cashel shook his hand fiercely from his arm; menaced a manager who
attempted to call him sternly to order; frantically pounded his
wounded shoulder with his clenched fist, and so outswore and
outwrangled them all, that even Skene began to urge that there had
been enough fuss made. Then Lord Worthington whispered a word more;
and Cashel suddenly subsided, pale and ashamed, and sat down on a
chair in his corner as if to hide himself. Five minutes afterwards, he
stepped out from the crowd with Paradise, and shook hands with him
amid much cheering. Cashel was the humbler of the two. He did not
raise his eyes to the balcony once; and he seemed in a hurry to
retire. But he was intercepted by an officer in uniform, accompanied
by a black chief, who came to conduct him to the dais and present him
to the African king; an honor which he was not permitted to decline.
The king informed him, through an interpreter, that he had been
unspeakably gratified by what he had just witnessed; expressed great
surprise that Cashel, notwithstanding his prowess, was neither in the
army nor in Parliament; and finally offered to provide him with three
handsome wives if he would come out to Africa in his suite. Cashel was
much embarrassed; but he came off with credit, thanks to the
interpreter, who was accustomed to invent appropriate speeches for the
king on public occasions, and was kind enough to invent equally
appropriate ones for Cashel on this.
Meanwhile, Lord Worthington had returned to his place. "It is all
settled now," he said to Lydia. "Byron shut up when I told him his
aristocratic friends were looking at him; and Paradise has been so
bullied that he is crying in a corner down-stairs. He has apologized;
but he still maintains that he can beat our mutual friend without the
gloves; and his backers apparently think so too, for it is understood
that they are to fight in the autumn for a thousand a side."
"To fight! Then he has no intention of giving up his profession?"
"No!" said Lord Worthington, astonished. "Why on earth should he
give it up? Paradise's money is as good as in his pocket. You have
seen what he can do."
"I have seen enough. Alice, I am ready to go as soon as you are."
Early in the following week Miss Carew returned to Wiltstoken. Miss
Goff remained in London to finish the season in charge of a friendly
lady who, having married off all her own daughters, was willing to
set to work again to marry Alice sooner than remain idle.
Alice was more at her ease during the remnant of the London season.
Though she had been proud of her connection with Lydia, she had
always felt eclipsed in her presence; and now that Lydia was gone,
the pride remained and the sense of inferiority was forgotten. Her
freedom emboldened and improved her. She even began to consider her
own judgment a safer guide in the affairs of every day than the
example of her patroness. Had she not been right in declaring Cashel
Byron an ignorant and common man when Lydia, in spite of her warning,
had actually invited him to visit them? And now all the newspapers
were confirming the opinion she had been trying to impress on Lydia
for months past. On the evening of the assault-at-arms, the newsmen
had shouted through the streets, "Disgraceful scene between two
pugilists at Islington in the presence of the African king." Next day
the principal journals commented on the recent attempt to revive the
brutal pastime of prize-fighting; accused the authorities of conniving
at it, and called on them to put it down at once with a strong hand.
"Unless," said a clerical organ, "this plague-spot be rooted out from
our midst, it will no longer be possible for our missionaries to
pretend that England is the fount of the Gospel of Peace." Alice
collected these papers, and forwarded them to Wiltstoken.
On this subject one person at least shared her bias. Whenever she
met Lucian Webber, they talked about Cashel, invariably coming to the
conclusion that though the oddity of his behavior had gratified
Lydia's unfortunate taste for eccentricity, she had never regarded
him with serious interest, and would not now, under any
circumstances, renew her intercourse with him. Lucian found little
solace in these conversations, and generally suffered from a vague
sense of meanness after them. Yet next time they met he would drift
into discussing Cashel over again; and he always rewarded Alice for
the admirable propriety of her views by dancing at least three times
with her when dancing was the business of the evening. The dancing
was still less congenial than the conversation. Lucian, who had at
all times too much of the solemnity of manner for which Frenchmen
reproach Englishmen, danced stiffly and unskilfully. Alice, whose
muscular power and energy were superior to anything of the kind that
Mr. Mellish could artificially produce, longed for swift motion and
violent exercise, and, even with an expert partner, could hardly tame
herself to the quietude of dancing as practised in London. When
waltzing with Lucian she felt as though she were carrying a stick
round the room in the awkward fashion in which Punch carries his
baton. In spite of her impression that he was a man of unusually
correct morals and great political importance, and greatly to be
considered in private life because he was Miss Carew's cousin, it was
hard to spend quarter-hours with him that some of the best dancers in
London asked for.
She began to tire of the subject of Cashel and Lydia. She began to
tire of Lucian's rigidity. She began to tire exceedingly of the
vigilance she had to maintain constantly over her own manners and
principles. Somehow, this vigilance defeated itself; for she one
evening overheard a lady of rank speak of her as a stuck-up country
girl. The remark gave her acute pain: for a week afterwards she did
not utter a word or make a movement in society without first
considering whether it could by any malicious observer be considered
rustic or stuck-up. But the more she strove to attain perfect
propriety of demeanor, the more odious did she seem to herself, and,
she inferred, to others. She longed for Lydia's secret of always
doing the right thing at the right moment, even when defying
precedent. Sometimes she blamed the dulness of the people she met for
her shortcomings. It was impossible not to be stiff with them. When
she chatted with an entertaining man, who made her laugh and forget
herself for a while, she was conscious afterwards of having been at
her best with him. But she saw others who, in stupid society, were
pleasantly at their ease. She began to fear at last that she was
naturally disqualified by her comparatively humble birth from
acquiring the well-bred air for which she envied those among whom she
One day she conceived a doubt whether Lucian was so safe an
authority and example in matters of personal deportment as she had
hitherto unthinkingly believed. He could not dance; his conversation
was priggish; it was impossible to feel at ease when speaking to him.
Was it courageous to stand in awe of his opinion? Was it courageous
to stand in awe of anybody? Alice closed her lips proudly and began to
be defiant. Then a reminiscence, which had never before failed to
rouse indignation in her, made her laugh. She recalled the scandalous
spectacle of Lucian's formal perpendicularity overbalanced and doubled
up into Mrs. Hoskyn's gilded arm-chair in illustration of the
prize-fighter's theory of effort defeating itself. After all, what was
that caressing touch of Cashel's hand in comparison with the
tremendous rataplan he had beaten on the ribs of Paradise? Could it be
true that effort defeated itself—in personal behavior, for instance?
A ray of the truth that underlay Cashel's grotesque experiment was
flickering in her mind as she asked herself that question. She thought
a good deal about it; and one afternoon, when she looked in at four
at-homes in succession, she studied the behavior of the other guests
from a new point of view, comparing the most mannered with the best
mannered, and her recent self with both. The result half convinced her
that she had been occupied during her first London season in
displaying, at great pains, a very unripe self-consciousness—or, as
she phrased it, in making an insufferable fool of herself.
Shortly afterwards, she met Lucian at a cinderella, or
dancing-party concluding at midnight. He came at eleven, and, as
usual, gravely asked whether he might have the pleasure of dancing
with her. This form of address he never varied. To his surprise, she
made some difficulty about granting the favor, and eventually offered
him "the second extra." He bowed. Before he could resume a vertical
position a young man came up, remarked that he thought this was his
turn, and bore Alice away. Lucian smiled indulgently, thinking that
though Alice's manners were wonderfully good, considering her
antecedents, yet she occasionally betrayed a lower tone than that
which he sought to exemplify in his own person.
"I wish you would learn to reverse," said Alice unexpectedly to
him, when they had gone round the room twice to the strains of the
"I DO reverse," he said, taken aback, and a little indignant.
"Everybody does—that way."
This silenced him for a moment. Then he said, slowly, "Perhaps I am
rather out of practice. I am not sure that reversing is quite
desirable. Many people consider it bad form."
When they stopped—Alice was always willing to rest during a waltz
with Lucian—he asked her whether she had heard from Lydia.
"You always ask me that," she replied. "Lydia never writes except
when she has something particular to say, and then only a few lines."
"Precisely. But she might have had something particular to say
since we last met."
"She hasn't had," said Alice, provoked by an almost arch smile from
"She will be glad to hear that I have at last succeeded in
recovering possession of the Warren Lodge from its undesirable
"I thought they went long ago," said Alice, indifferently.
"The men have not been there for a month or more. The difficulty
was to get them to remove their property. However, we are rid of them
now. The only relic of their occupation is a Bible with half the
pages torn out, and the rest scrawled with records of bets, recipes
for sudorific and other medicines, and a mass of unintelligible
memoranda. One inscription, in faded ink, runs, 'To Robert Mellish,
from his affectionate mother, with her sincere hope that he may ever
walk in the ways of this book.' I am afraid that hope was not
"How wicked of him to tear a Bible!" said Alice, seriously. Then
she laughed, and added, "I know I shouldn't; but I can't help it."
"The incident strikes me rather as being pathetic," said Lucian,
who liked to show that he was not deficient in sensibility. "One can
picture the innocent faith of the poor woman in her boy's future, and
"Inscriptions in books are like inscriptions on tombstones," said
Alice, disparagingly. "They don't mean much."
"I am glad that these men have no further excuse for going to
Wiltstoken. It was certainly most unfortunate that Lydia should have
made the acquaintance of one of them."
"So you have said at least fifty times," replied Alice,
deliberately. "I believe you are jealous of that poor boxer."
Lucian became quite red. Alice trembled at her own audacity, but
kept a bold front.
"Really—it's too absurd," he said, betraying his confusion by
assuming a carelessness quite foreign to his normal manner. "In what
way could I possibly be jealous, Miss Goff?"
"That is best known to yourself."
Lucian now saw plainly that there was a change in Alice, and that
he had lost ground with her. The smarting of his wounded vanity
suddenly obliterated his impression that she was, in the main, a
well-conducted and meritorious young woman. But in its place came
another impression that she was a spoiled beauty. And, as he was by
no means fondest of the women whose behavior accorded best with his
notions of propriety, he found, without at once acknowledging to
himself, that the change was not in all respects a change for the
worse. Nevertheless, he could not forgive her last remark, though he
took care not to let her see how it stung him.
"I am afraid I should cut a poor figure in an encounter with my
rival," he said, smiling.
"Call him out and shoot him," said Alice, vivaciously. "Very likely
he does not know how to use a pistol."
He smiled again; but had Alice known how seriously he entertained
her suggestion for some moments before dismissing it as
impracticable, she would not have offered it. Putting a bullet into
Cashel struck him rather as a luxury which he could not afford than
as a crime. Meanwhile, Alice, being now quite satisfied that this Mr.
Webber, on whom she had wasted so much undeserved awe, might be
treated as inconsiderately as she used to treat her beaux at
Wiltstoken, proceeded to amuse herself by torturing him a little.
"It is odd," she said, reflectively, "that a common man like that
should be able to make himself so very attractive to Lydia. It was
not because he was such a fine man; for she does not care in the
least about that. I don't think she would give a second look at the
handsomest man in London, she is so purely intellectual. And yet she
used to delight in talking to him."
"Oh, that is a mistake. Lydia has a certain manner which leads
people to believe that she is deeply interested in the person she
happens to be speaking to; But it is only manner—it means nothing."
"I know that manner of hers perfectly well. But this was something
Lucian shook his head reproachfully. "I cannot jest on so serious a
matter," he said, resolving to make the attempt to re-establish his
dignity with Alice. "I think, Miss Groff, that you perhaps hardly
know how absurd your supposition is. There are not many men of
distinction in Europe with whom my cousin is not personally
acquainted. A very young girl, who had seen little of the world,
might possibly be deceived by the exterior of such a man as Byron. A
woman accustomed to associate with writers, thinkers, artists,
statesmen, and diplomatists could make no such mistake. No doubt the
man's vulgarity and uncouth address amused her for a moment; but—"
"But why did she ask him to come to her Friday afternoons?"
"A mere civility which she extended to him because he assisted her
in some difficulty she got into in the streets."
"She might as well have asked a policeman to come to see her. I
don't believe that was it."
Lucian at that moment hated Alice. "I am sorry you think such a
thing possible," he said. "Shall we resume our waltz?"
Alice was not yet able to bear an implication that she did not
understand society sufficiently to appreciate the distance between
Lydia and Cashel.
"Of course I know it is impossible," she said, in her old manner.
"I did not mean it."
Lucian found some difficulty in gathering from this what she did
mean; and they presently took refuge in waltzing. Subsequently,
Alice, fearing that her new lights had led her too far, drew back a
little; led the conversation to political matters, and expressed her
amazement at the extent and variety of the work he performed in
Downing Street. He accepted her compliments with perfect seriousness;
and she felt satisfied that she had, on the whole, raised herself in
his esteem by her proceedings during the evening. But she was
mistaken. She knew nothing of politics or official work, and he knew
the worthlessness of her pretended admiration of his share in them,
although he felt that it was right that she should revere his powers
from the depths of her ignorance. What stuck like a burr in his mind
was that she thought him small enough to be jealous of the poor boxer,
and found his dancing awkward.
After that dance Alice thought much about Lucian, and also about
the way in which society regulated marriages. Before Miss Carew sent
for her she had often sighed because all the nice men she knew of
moved in circles into which an obscure governess had no chance of
admission. She had received welcome attentions from them occasionally
at subscription balls; but for sustained intimacy and proposals of
marriage she had been dependent on the native youth of Wiltstoken,
whom she looked upon as louts or prigs, and among whom Wallace Parker
had shone pre-eminent as a university man, scholar, and gentleman. And
now that she was a privileged beauty in society which would hardly
tolerate Wallace Parker, she found that the nice men were younger
sons, poor and extravagant, far superior to Lucian Webber as partners
for a waltz, but not to be thought of as partners in domestic economy.
Alice had experienced the troubles of poverty, and had never met with
excellence in men except in poems, which she had long ago been taught
to separate from the possibilities of actual life. She had, therefore,
no conception of any degree of merit in a husband being sufficient to
compensate for slender means of subsistence. She was not base-minded;
nothing could have induced her to marry a man, however rich, whom she
thought wicked. She wanted money; but she wanted more than money; and
here it was that she found supply failing to answer the demand. For
not only were all the handsome, gallant, well-bred men getting deeply
into debt by living beyond smaller incomes than that with which
Wallace Parker had tempted her, but many of those who had inherited
both riches and rank were as inferior to him, both in appearance and
address, as they were in scholarship. No man, possessing both wealth
and amiability, had yet shown the least disposition to fall in love
One bright forenoon in July, Alice, attended by a groom, went to
the park on horseback. The Row looked its best. The freshness of
morning was upon horses and riders; there were not yet any jaded
people lolling supine in carriages, nor discontented spectators
sitting in chairs to envy them. Alice, who was a better horsewoman
than might have been expected from the little practice she had had,
appeared to advantage in the saddle. She had just indulged in a brisk
canter from the Corner to the Serpentine, when she saw a large white
horse approaching with Wallace Parker on its back.
"Ah!" he exclaimed, expertly wheeling his steed and taking off his
hat at the same time with an intentional display of gallantry and
horsemanship. "How are you, Alice?"
"Goodness!" cried Alice, forgetting her manners in her
astonishment. "What brings you here; and where on earth did you get
"I presume, Alice," said Parker, satisfied with the impression he
had made, "that I am here for much the same reason as you are—to
enjoy the morning in proper style. As for Rozinante, I borrowed him.
Is that chestnut yours? Excuse the rudeness of the question."
"No," said Alice, coloring a little. "This seems such an unlikely
place to meet you."
"Oh, no. I always take a turn in the season. But certainly it would
have been a very unlikely place for us to meet a year ago."
So far, Alice felt, she was getting the worst of the conversation.
She changed the subject. "Have you been to Wiltstoken since I last
"Yes. I go there once every week at least."
"Every week! Janet never told me."
Parker implied by a cunning air that he thought he knew the reason
of that; but he said nothing. Alice, piqued, would not condescend to
make inquiries. So he said, presently,
"How is Miss Thingumbob?"
"I do not know any one of that name."
"You know very well whom I mean. Your aristocratic patron, Miss
Alice flushed. "You are very impertinent, Wallace," she said,
grasping her riding-whip. "How dare you call Miss Carew my patron?"
Wallace suddenly became solemn. "I did not know that you objected
to be reminded of all you owe her," he said. "Janet never speaks
ungratefully of her, though she has done nothing for Janet."
"I have not spoken ungratefully," protested Alice, almost in tears.
"I feel sure that you are never tired of speaking ill of me to them
"That shows how little you understand my real character. I always
make excuses for you."
"Excuses for what? What have I done? What do you mean?"
"Oh, I don't mean anything, if you don't. I thought from your
beginning to defend yourself that you felt yourself to be in the
"I did not defend myself; and I won't have you say so, Wallace."
"Always your obedient, humble servant," he replied, with complacent
She pretended not to hear him, and whipped up her horse to a smart
trot. The white steed being no trotter, Parker followed at a
lumbering canter. Alice, possessed by a shamefaced fear that he was
making her ridiculous, soon checked her speed; and the white horse
subsided to a walk, marking its paces by deliberate bobs of its
unfashionably long mane and tail.
"I have something to tell you," said Parker at last.
Alice did not deign to reply.
"I think it better to let you know at once," he continued. "The
fact is, I intend to marry Janet."
"Janet won't," said Alice, promptly, retorting first, and then
reflecting on the intelligence, which surprised her more than it
Parker smiled conceitedly, and said, "I don't think she will raise
any difficulty if you give her to understand that it is all over
"That what is all over?"
"Well, if you prefer it, that there never has been anything between
us. Janet believes that we were engaged. So did a good many other
people until you went into high life."
"I cannot help what people thought."
"And they all know that I, at least, was ready to perform my part
of the engagement honorably."
"Wallace," she said, with a sudden change of tone; "I think we had
better separate. It is not right for me to be riding about the park
with you when I have nobody belonging to me here except a
"Just as you please," he said, coolly, halting. "May I assure Janet
that you wish her to marry me?"
"Most certainly not. I do not wish anyone to marry you, much less
my own sister. I am far inferior to Janet; and she deserves a much
better husband than I do."
"I quite agree with you, though I don't quite see what that has to
do with it. As far as I understand you, you will neither marry me
yourself—mind, I am quite willing to fulfil my engagement still—nor
let any one else have me. Is that so?"
"You may tell Janet," said Alice, vigorously, her face glowing,
"that if we—you and I—were condemned to live forever on a desert
isl—No; I will write to her. That will be the best way.
Parker, hitherto imperturbable, now showed signs of alarm. "I beg,
Alice," he said, "that you will say nothing unfair to her of me. You
cannot with truth say anything bad of me."
"Do you really care for Janet?" said Alice, wavering.
"Of course," he replied, indignantly. "Janet is a very superior
"I have always said so," said Alice, rather angry because some one
else had forestalled her with the meritorious admission. "I will tell
her the simple truth—that there has never been anything between us
except what is between all cousins; and that there never could have
been anything more on my part. I must go now. I don't know what that
man must think of me already."
"I should be sorry to lower you in his esteem," said Parker,
maliciously. "Good-bye, Alice." Uttering the last words in a careless
tone, he again pulled up the white horse's head, raised his hat, and
sped away. It was not true that he was in the habit of riding in the
park every season. He had learned from Janet that Alice was accustomed
to ride there in the forenoon; and he had hired the white horse in
order to meet her on equal terms, feeling that a gentleman on
horseback in the road by the Serpentine could be at no social
disadvantage with any lady, however exalted her associates.
As for Alice, she went home with his reminder that Miss Carew was
her patron rankling in her. The necessity for securing an independent
position seemed to press imminently upon her. And as the sole way of
achieving this was by marriage, she felt for the time willing to marry
any man, without regard to his person, age, or disposition, if only he
could give her a place equal to that of Miss Carew in the world, of
which she had lately acquired the manners and customs.
When the autumn set in, Alice was in Scotland learning to shoot;
and Lydia was at Wiltstoken, preparing her father's letters and
memoirs for publication. She did not write at the castle, all the
rooms in which were either domed, vaulted, gilded, galleried,
three-sided, six-sided, anything except four-sided, or in some way
suggestive of the "Arabian Nights' Entertainments," and out of keeping
with the associations of her father's life. In her search for a
congruous room to work in, the idea of causing a pavilion to be
erected in the elm vista occurred to her. But she had no mind to be
disturbed just then by the presence of a troop of stone-masons,
slaters, and carpenters, nor any time to lose in waiting for the end
of their operations. So she had the Warren Lodge cleansed and lime
washed, and the kitchen transformed into a comfortable library, where,
as she sat facing the door at her writing-table, in the centre of the
room, she could see the elm vista through one window and through
another a tract of wood and meadow land intersected by the high-road
and by a canal, beyond which the prospect ended in a distant green
slope used as a sheep run. The other apartments were used by a couple
of maid-servants, who kept the place well swept and dusted, prepared
Miss Carew's lunch, answered her bell, and went on her errands to the
castle; and, failing any of these employments, sat outside in the sun,
reading novels. When Lydia had worked in this retreat daily for two
months her mind became so full of the old life with her father that
the interruptions of the servants often recalled her to the present
with a shock. On the twelfth of August she was bewildered for a moment
when Phoebe, one of the maids, entered and said,
"If you please, miss, Bashville is wishful to know can he speak to
you a moment?"
Permission being given, Bashville entered. Since his wrestle with
Cashel he had never quite recovered his former imperturbability. His
manner and speech were as smooth and respectful as before, but his
countenance was no longer steadfast; he was on bad terms with the
butler because he had been reproved by him for blushing. On this
occasion he came to beg leave to absent himself during the afternoon.
He seldom asked favors of this kind, and was of course never refused.
"The road is quite thronged to-day," she observed, as he thanked
her. "Do you know why?"
"No, madam," said Bashville, and blushed.
"People begin to shoot on the twelfth," she said; "but I suppose it
cannot have anything to do with that. Is there a race, or a fair, or
any such thing in the neighborhood?"
"Not that I am aware of, madam."
Lydia dipped her pen in the ink and thought no more of the subject.
Bashville returned to the castle, attired himself like a country
gentleman of sporting tastes, and went out to enjoy his holiday.
The forenoon passed away peacefully. There was no sound in the
Warren Lodge except the scratching of Lydia's pen, the ticking of her
favorite skeleton clock, an occasional clatter of crockery from the
kitchen, and the voices of the birds and maids without. The hour for
lunch approached, and Lydia became a little restless. She interrupted
her work to look at the clock, and brushed a speck of dust from its
dial with the feather of her quill. Then she looked absently through
the window along the elm vista, where she had once seen, as she had
thought, a sylvan god. This time she saw a less romantic object—a
policeman. She looked again, incredulously, there he was still, a
black-bearded, helmeted man, making a dark blot in the green
perspective, and surveying the landscape cautiously. Lydia rang the
bell, and bade Phoebe ask the man what he wanted.
The girl soon returned out of breath, with the news that there were
a dozen more constables hiding in the road, and that the one she had
spoken to had given no account of himself, but had asked her how many
gates there were to the park; whether they were always locked, and
whether she had seen many people about. She felt sure that a murder
had been committed somewhere. Lydia shrugged her shoulders, and
ordered luncheon, during which Phoebe gazed eagerly through the
window, and left her mistress to wait on herself.
"Phoebe," said Lydia, when the dishes were removed; "you may go to
the gate lodge, and ask them there what the policemen want. But do
not go any further. Stay. Has Ellen gone to the castle with the
Phoebe reluctantly admitted that Ellen had.
"Well, you need not wait for her to return; but come back as
quickly as you can, in case I should want anybody."
"Directly, miss," said Phoebe, vanishing.
Lydia, left alone, resumed her work leisurely, occasionally pausing
to gaze at the distant woodland, and note with transient curiosity a
flock of sheep on the slope, or a flight of birds above the
tree-tops. Something more startling occurred presently. A man,
apparently half-naked, and carrying a black object under his arm,
darted through a remote glade with the swiftness of a stag, and
disappeared. Lydia concluded that he had been disturbed while bathing
in the canal, and had taken flight with his wardrobe under his arm.
She laughed at the idea, turned to her manuscript again, and wrote on.
Suddenly there was a rustle and a swift footstep without. Then the
latch was violently jerked up, and Cashel Byron rushed in as far as
the threshold, where he stood, stupefied at the presence of Lydia, and
the change in the appearance of the room.
He was himself remarkably changed. He was dressed in a pea-jacket,
which evidently did not belong to him, for it hardly reached his
middle, and the sleeves were so short that his forearms were half
bare, showing that he wore nothing beneath this borrowed garment.
Below it he had on white knee-breeches, with green stains of bruised
grass on them. The breeches were made with a broad ilap in front,
under which, and passing round his waist, was a scarf of crimson
silk. From his knees to his socks, the edges of which had fallen over
his laced boots, his legs were visible, naked, and muscular. On his
face was a mask of sweat, dust, and blood, partly rubbed away in
places by a sponge, the borders of its passage marked by black
streaks. Underneath his left eye was a mound of bluish flesh nearly
as large as a walnut. The jaw below it, and the opposite cheek, were
severely bruised, and his lip was cut through at one corner. He had
no hat; his close-cropped hair was disordered, and his ears were as
though they had been rubbed with coarse sand-paper.
Lydia looked at him for some seconds, and he at her, speechless.
Then she tried to speak, failed, and sunk into her chair.
"I didn't know there was any one here," he said, in a hoarse,
panting whisper. "The police are after me. I have fought for an hour,
and run over a mile, and I'm dead beat—I can go no farther. Let me
hide in the back room, and tell them you haven't seen any one, will
"What have you done?" she said, conquering her weakness with an
effort, and standing up.
"Nothing," he replied, groaning occasionally as he recovered
breath. "Business, that's all."
"Why are the police pursuing you? Why are you in such a dreadful
Cashel seemed alarmed at this. There was a mirror in the lid of a
paper-case on the table. lie took it up and looked at himself
anxiously, but was at once relieved by what he saw. "I'm all right,"
he said. "I'm not marked. That mouse"—he pointed gayly to the lump
under his eye-"will run away to-morrow. I am pretty tidy,
considering. But it's bellows to mend with me at present. Whoosh! My
heart is as big as a bullock's after that run."
"You ask me to shelter you," said Lydia, sternly. "What have you
done? Have you committed murder?"
"No!" exclaimed Cashel, trying to open his eyes widely in his
astonishment, but only succeeding with one, as the other was
gradually closing. "I tell you I have been fighting; and it's
illegal. You don't want to see me in prison, do you? Confound him,"
he added, reverting to her question with sudden wrath; "a
steam-hammer wouldn't kill him. You might as well hit a sack of
nails. And all my money, my time, my training, and my day's trouble
gone for nothing! It's enough to make a man cry."
"Go," said Lydia, with uncontrollable disgust. "And do not let me
see which way you go. How dare you come to me?"
The sponge-marks on Cashel's face grew whiter, and he began, to
pant heavily again. "Very well," he said. "I'll go. There isn't a boy
in your stables that would give me up like that."
As he spoke, he opened the door; but he involuntarily shut it again
immediately. Lydia looked through the window, and saw a crowd of men,
police and others, hurrying along the elm vista. Cashel cast a glance
round, half piteous, half desperate, like a hunted animal. Lydia could
not resist it. "Quick!" she cried, opening one of the inner doors. "Go
in there, and keep quiet—if you can." And, as he sulkily hesitated a
moment, she stamped vehemently. He slunk in submissively. She shut the
door and resumed her place at the writing-table, her heart beating
with a kind of excitement she had not felt since, in her early
childhood, she had kept guilty secrets from her nurse.
There was a tramping without, and a sound of voices. Then two
peremptory raps at the door.
"Come in," said Lydia, more composedly than she was aware of. The
permission was not waited for. Before she ceased speaking a policeman
opened the door and looked quickly round the room. He seemed rather
taken aback by what he saw, and finally touched his helmet to signify
respect for Lydia. He was about to speak, when Phoebe, flushed with
running, pushed past him, put her hand on the door, and pertly asked
what he wanted.
"Come away from the door, Phoebe," said Lydia. "Wait here with me
until I give you leave to go," she added, as the girl moved towards
the inner door. "Now," she said, turning courteously to the
policeman, "what is the matter?"
"I ask your pardon, mum," said the constable, agreeably. "Did you
happen to see any one pass hereabouts lately?"
"Do you mean a man only partly dressed, and carrying a black coat?"
"That's him, miss," said the policeman, greatly interested." Which
way did he go?"
"I will show you where I saw him," said Lydia, quietly rising and
going with the man to the door, outside which she found a crowd of
rustics, and five policemen, having in custody two men, one of whom
was Mellish (without a coat), and the other a hook-nosed man, whose
like Lydia had seen often on race-courses. She pointed out the glade
across which she had seen Cashel run, and felt as if the guilt of the
deception she was practising was wrenching some fibre in her heart
from its natural order. But she spoke with apparent self-possession,
and no shade of suspicion fell on the minds of the police.
Several peasants now came forward, each professing to know exactly
whither Cashel had been making when he crossed the glade. While they
were disputing, many persons resembling the hook-nosed captive in
general appearance sneaked into the crowd and regarded the police
with furtive hostility. Soon after, a second detachment of police
came up, with another prisoner and another crowd, among whom was
"Better go in, mum," said the policeman who had spoken to Lydia
first. "We must keep together, being so few, and he ain't fit for you
to look at."
But Lydia had looked already, and had guessed that the last
prisoner was Paradise, although his countenance was damaged beyond
recognition. His costume was like that of Cashel, except that he was
girt with a blue handkerchief with white spots, and his shoulders
were wrapped in a blanket, through one of the folds of which his
naked ribs could be seen, tinged with every hue that a bad bruise can
assume. A shocking spectacle appeared where his face had formerly
been. A crease and a hole in the midst of a cluster of lumps of raw
flesh indicated the presence of an eye and a mouth; the rest of his
features were indiscernible. He could still see a little, for he moved
his puffed and lacerated hand to arrange his blanket, and demanded
hoarsely, and with greatly impeded articulation, whether the lady
would stand a dram to a poor fighting man wot had done his best for
his backers. On this some one produced a flask, and Mellish
volunteered, provided he were released for a moment, to get the
contents down Paradise's throat. As soon as the brandy had passed his
swollen lips he made a few preliminary sounds, and then shouted,
"He sent for the coppers because he couldn't stand another round. I
am ready to go on."
The policemen bade him hold his tongue, closed round him, and hid
him from Lydia, who, without showing the mingled pity and loathing
with which his condition inspired her, told them to bring him to the
castle, and have him attended to there. She added that the whole
party could obtain refreshment at the same time. The sergeant, who
was very tired and thirsty, wavered in his resolution to continue the
pursuit. Lydia, as usual, treated the matter as settled.
"Bashville," she said, "will you please show them the way, and see
that they are satisfied."
"Some thief has stole my coat," said Mellish, sullenly, to
Bashville. "If you'll lend me one, governor, and these blessed
policemen will be so kind as not to tear it off my back, I'll send it
down to you in a day or two. I'm a respectable man, and have been her
ladyship's tenant here."
"Your pal wants it worse than you," said the sergeant. "If there
was an old coachman's cape or anything to put over him, I would see it
returned safe. I don't want to bring him round the country in a
blanket, like a wild Injin."
"I have a cloak inside," said Bashville. "I'll get it for you." And
before Lydia could devise a pretext for stopping him, he went out,
and she heard him reentering the lodge by the back door. It seemed to
her that a silence fell on the crowd, as if her deceit were already
discovered. Then Mellish, who had been waiting for an opportunity to
protest against the last remark of the policeman, said, angrily,
"Who are you calling my pal? I hope I may be struck dead for a liar
if ever I set my eyes on him in my life before."
Lydia looked at him as a martyr might look at a wretch to whom she
was to be chained. He was doing as she had done—lying. Then
Bashville, having passed through the other rooms, came into the
library by the inner door, with an old livery cloak on his arm.
"Put that on him," he said, "and come along to the castle with me.
You can see the roads for five miles round from the south tower, and
recognize every man on them, through the big telescope. By your
leave, madam, I think Phoebe had better come with us to help."
"Certainly," said Lydia, looking steadfastly at him.
"I'll get clothes at the castle for the man that wants them," he
added, trying to return her gaze, but failing with a blush. "Now
boys. Come along."
"I thank your ladyship," said the sergeant. "We have had a hard
morning of it, and we can do no more at present than drink your
health." He touched his helmet again, and Lydia bowed to him. "Keep
close together, men," he shouted, as the crowd moved off with
"Ah," sneered Mellish, "keep close together like the geese do.
Things has come to a pretty pass when an Englishman is run in for
stopping when he sees a crowd."
"All right," said the sergeant. "I have got that bundle of colored
handkerchiefs you were selling; and I'll find the other man before
you're a day older. It's a pity, seeing how you've behaved so well
and haven't resisted us, that you won't drop a hint of where those
ropes and stakes are hid. I might have a good word at the sessions
for any one who would put me in the way of finding them."
"Ropes and stakes! Fiddlesticks and grandmothers! There weren't no
ropes and stakes. It was only a turn-up—that is, if there was any
fighting at all. I didn't see none; but I s'pose you did. But
then you're clever, and I'm not."
By this time the last straggler of the party had disappeared from
Lydia, who had watched their retreat from the door of the Warren
Lodge. When she turned to go in she saw Cashel cautiously entering
from the room in which he had lain concealed. His excitement had
passed off; he looked cold and anxious, as if a reaction were setting
"Are they all gone?" he said. "That servant of yours is a good
sort. He has promised to bring me some clothes. As for you, you're
better than—What's the matter? Where are you going to?"
Lydia had put on her hat, and was swiftly wrapping herself in a
shawl. Wreaths of rosy color were chasing each other through her
cheeks; and her eyes and nostrils, usually so tranquil, were dilated.
"Won't you speak to me?" he said, irresolutely.
"Just this," she replied, with passion. "Let me never see you
again. The very foundations of my life are loosened: I have told a
lie. I have made my servant—an honorable man—an accomplice in a lie.
We are worse than you; for even your wild-beast's handiwork is a less
evil than the bringing of a falsehood into the world. This is what
has come to me out of our acquaintance. I have given you a
hiding-place. Keep it. I will never enter it again."
Cashel, appalled, shrank back with an expression such as a child
wears when, in trying to steal sweet-meats from a high shelf, it
pulls the whole cupboard down about its ears. He neither spoke nor
stirred as she left the lodge.
Finding herself presently at the castle, she went to her boudoir,
where she found her maid, the French lady, from whose indignant
description of the proceedings below she gathered that the policemen
were being regaled with bread and cheese, and beer; and that the
attendance of a surgeon had been dispensed with, Paradise's wounds
having been dressed skilfully by Mellish. Lydia bade her send
Bashville to the Warren Lodge to see that there were no strangers
loitering about it, and ordered that none of the female servants
should return there until he came back. Then she sat down and tried
not to think. But she could not help thinking; so she submitted and
tried to think the late catastrophe out. An idea that she had
disjointed the whole framework of things by creating a false belief
filled her imagination. The one conviction that she had brought out
of her reading, observing, reflecting, and living was that the
concealment of a truth, with its resultant false beliefs, must
produce mischief, even though the beginning of that mischief might be
as inconceivable as the end. She made no distinction between the
subtlest philosophical misconception and the vulgarest lie. The evil
of Cashel's capture was measurable, the evil of a lie beyond all
measure. She felt none the less assured of that evil because she
could not foresee one bad consequence likely to ensue from what she
had done. Her misgivings pressed heavily upon her; for her father, a
determined sceptic, had taught her his own views, and she was,
therefore, destitute of the consolations which religion has for the
wrongdoer. It was plainly her duty to send for the policeman and
clear up the deception she had practised on him. But this she could
not do. Her will, in spite of her reason, acted in the opposite
direction. And in this paralysis of her moral power she saw the evil
of the lie beginning. She had given it birth, and nature would not
permit her to strangle the monster.
At last her maid returned and informed her that the canaille had
gone away. When she was again alone, she rose and walked slowly to
and fro through the room, forgetting the lapse of time in the
restless activity of her mind, until she was again interrupted, this
time by Bashville.
He was daunted by her tone; for he had never before heard her speak
haughtily to a servant. He did not understand that he had changed
subjectively, and was now her accomplice.
"He's given himself up."
"What do you mean?" she said, with sudden dismay.
"Byron, madam. I brought some clothes to the lodge for him, but
when I got there he was gone. I went round to the gates in search of
him, and found him in the hands of the police. They told me he'd just
given himself up. He wouldn't give any account of himself; and he
looked—well, sullen and beaten down like."
"What will they do with him?" she asked, turning quite pale.
"A man got six weeks' hard labor, last month, for the same offence.
Most probably that's what he'll get. And very little for what's he's
done, as you'd say if you saw him doing it, madam."
"Then," said Lydia, sternly, "it was to see this"—she shrank from
naming it—"this fight, that you asked my permission to go out!"
"Yes, madam, it was," said Bashville, with some bitterness. "I
recognized Lord Worthington and plenty more noblemen and gentlemen
Lydia was about to reply sharply; but she checked herself; and her
usual tranquil manner came back as she said, "That is no reason why
you should have been there."
Bashville's color began to waver, and his voice to need increased
control. "It's in human nature to go to such a thing once," he said;
"but once is enough, at least for me. You'll excuse my mentioning it,
madam; but what with Lord Worthington and the rest of Byron's backers
screaming oaths and abuse at the other man, and the opposite party
doing the same to Byron—well, I may not be a gentleman; but I hope I
can conduct myself like a man, even when I'm losing money."
"Then do not go to such an exhibition again, Bashville. I must not
dictate to you what your amusements shall be; but I do not think you
are likely to benefit yourself by copying Lord Worthington's tastes."
"I copy no lord's tastes," said Bashville, reddening. "You hid the
man that was fighting, Miss Carew. Why do you look down on the man
that was only a bystander?"
Lydia's color rose, too. Her first impulse was to treat this
outburst as rebellion against her authority, and crush it. But her
sense of justice withheld her.
"Would you have had me betray a fugitive who took refuge in my
house, Bashville? YOU did not betray him."
"No," said Bashville, his expression subdued to one of rueful
pride. "When I am beaten by a better man, I have courage enough to get
out of his way and take no mean advantage of him."
Lydia, not understanding, looked inquiringly at him. He made a
gesture as if throwing something from him, and continued recklessly,
"But one way I'm as good as he, and better. A footman is held more
respectable than a prize-fighter. He's told you that he's in love
with you; and if it is to be my last word, I'll tell you that the
ribbon round your neck is more to me than your whole body and soul is
to him or his like. When he took an unfair advantage of me, and
pretended to be a gentleman, I told Mr. Lucian of him, and showed him
up for what he was. But when I found him to-day hiding in the pantry
at the Lodge, I took no advantage of him, though I knew well that if
he'd been no more to you than any other man of his sort, you'd never
have hid him. You know best why he gave himself up to the police after
your seeing his day's work. But I will leave him to his luck. He is
the best man: let the best man win. I am sorry," added Bashville,
recovering his ordinary suave manner with an effort, "to inconvenience
you by a short notice, but I should take it as a particular favor if I
might go this evening."
"You had better," said Lydia, rising quite calmly, and keeping
resolutely away from her the strange emotional result of being
astonished, outraged, and loved at one unlooked-for stroke. "It is
not advisable that you should stay after what you have just—"
"I knew that when I said it," interposed Bashville hastily and
"In going away you will be taking precisely the course that would
be adopted by any gentleman who had spoken to the same effect. I am
not offended by your declaration: I recognize your right to make it.
If you need my testimony to further your future arrangements, I shall
be happy to say that I believe you to be a man of honor."
Bashville bowed, and said in a low voice, very nervously, that he
had no intention of going into service again, but that he should
always be proud of her good opinion.
"You are fitted for better things," she said. "If you embark in any
enterprise requiring larger means than you possess, I will be your
security. I thank you for your invariable courtesy to me in the
discharge of your duties. Good-bye."
She bowed to him and left the room. Bashville, awestruck, returned
her salutation as best he could, and stood motionless after she
disappeared; his mind advancing on tiptoe to grasp what had just
passed. His chief sensation was one of relief. He no longer dared to
fancy himself in love with such a woman. Her sudden consideration for
him as a suitor overwhelmed him with a sense of his unfitness for such
a part. He saw himself as a very young, very humble, and very ignorant
man, whose head had been turned by a pleasant place and a kind
mistress. Wakened from his dream, he stole away to pack his trunk, and
to consider how best to account to his fellow-servants for his
Lydia resumed her work next day with shaken nerves and a longing
for society. Many enthusiastic young ladies of her acquaintance would
have brought her kisses and devotion by the next mail in response to
a telegram; and many more practical people would have taken
considerable pains to make themselves agreeable to her for the sake
of spending the autumn at Wiltstoken Castle. But she knew that they
would only cause her to regret her former solitude. She shrank from
the people who attached themselves to her strength and riches even
when they had not calculated her gain, and were conscious only of
admiration and gratitude. Alice, as a companion, had proved a
failure. She was too young, and too much occupied with the propriety
of her own behavior, to be anything more to Lydia than an occasional
tax upon her patience. Lydia, to her own surprise, thought several
times of Miss Gisborne, and felt tempted to invite her, but was
restrained by mistrust of the impulse to communicate with Cashel's
mother, and reluctance to trace it to its source. Eventually she
resolved to conquer her loneliness, and apply herself with increased
diligence to the memoir of her father. To restore her nerves, she
walked for an hour every day in the neighborhood, and drove out in a
pony carriage, in the evening. Bashville's duties were now fulfilled
by the butler and Phoebe, Lydia being determined to admit no more
young footmen to her service.
One afternoon, returning from one of her daily walks, she found a
stranger on the castle terrace, in conversation with the butler. As
it was warm autumn weather, Lydia was surprised to see a woman
wearing a black silk mantle trimmed with fur, and heavily decorated
with spurious jet beads. However, as the female inhabitants of
Wiltstoken always approached Miss Carew in their best raiment,
without regard to hours or seasons, she concluded that she was about
to be asked for a subscription to a school treat, a temperance
festival, or perhaps a testimonial to one of the Wiltstoken curates.
When she came nearer she saw that the stranger was an elderly
lady—or possibly not a lady—with crimped hair, and ringlets hanging
at each ear in a fashion then long obsolete.
"Here is Miss Carew," said the butler, shortly, as if the old lady
had tried his temper. "You had better talk to her yourself."
At this she seemed fluttered, and made a solemn courtesy. Lydia,
noticing the courtesy and the curls, guessed that her visitor kept a
dancing academy. Yet a certain contradictory hardihood in her frame
and bearing suggested that perhaps she kept a tavern. However, as her
face was, on the whole, an anxious and a good face, and as her
attitude towards the lady of the castle was one of embarrassed
humility, Lydia acknowledged her salutation kindly, and waited for
her to speak.
"I hope you won't consider it a liberty," said the stranger,
tremulously. "I'm Mrs. Skene."
Lydia became ominously grave; and Mrs. Skene reddened a little.
Then she continued, as if repeating a carefully prepared and rehearsed
speech, "It would be esteemed a favor if I might have the honor of a
few words in private with your ladyship."
Lydia looked and felt somewhat stern; but it was not in her nature
to rebuff any one without strong provocation. She invited her visitor
to enter, and led the way to the circular drawing-room, the strange
decorations of which exactly accorded with Mrs. Skene's ideas of
aristocratic splendor. As a professor of deportment and etiquette, the
ex-champion's wife was nervous under the observation of such an expert
as Lydia; but she got safely seated without having made a mistake to
reproach herself with. For, although entering a room seems a simple
matter to many persons, it was to Mrs. Skene an operation governed by
the strict laws of the art she professed, and one so elaborate that
few of her pupils mastered it satisfactorily with less than a month's
practice. Mrs Skene soon dismissed it from her mind. She was too old
to dwell upon such vanities when real anxieties were pressing upon
"Oh, miss," she began, appealingly, "the boy!"
Lydia knew at once who was meant. But she repeated, as if at a
loss, "The boy?" And immediately accused herself of insincerity.
"Our boy, ma'am. Cashel."
"Mrs. Skene!" said Lydia, reproachfully.
Mrs. Skene understood all that Lydia's tone implied. "I know,
ma'am," she pleaded. "I know well. But what could I do but come to
you? Whatever you said to him, it has gone to his heart; and he's
"Pardon me," said Lydia, promptly; "men do not die of such things;
and Mr. Cashel Byron is not so deficient either in robustness of body
or hardness of heart as to be an exception to THAT rule."
"Yes, miss," said Mrs. Skene, sadly. "You are thinking of the
profession. You can't believe he has any feelings because he fights.
Ah, miss, if you only knew them as I do! More tender-hearted men
don't breathe. Cashel is like a young child, his feelings are that
easily touched; and I have known stronger than he to die of broken
hearts only because they were unlucky in their calling. Just think
what a high-spirited young man must feel when a lady calls him a wild
beast. That was a cruel word, miss; it was, indeed."
Lydia was so disconcerted by this attack that she had to pause
awhile before replying. Then she said, "Are you aware, Mrs. Skene,
that my knowledge of Mr. Byron is very slight—that I have not seen
him ten times in my life? Perhaps you do not know the circumstances
in which I last saw him. I was greatly shocked by the injuries he had
inflicted on another man; and I believe I spoke of them as the work of
a wild beast. For your sake, I am sorry I said so; for he has told me
that he regards you as his mother; and—"
"Oh, no! Far from it, miss. I ask your pardon a thousand times for
taking the word out of your mouth; but me and Ned is no more to him
than your housekeeper or governess might be to you. That's what I'm
afraid you don't understand, miss. He's no relation of ours. I do
assure you that he's a gentleman born and bred; and when we go back
to Melbourne next Christmas, it will be just the same as if he had
never known us."
"I hope he will not be so ungrateful as to forget you. He has told
me his history."
"That's more than he ever told me, miss; so you may judge how much
he thinks of you."
A pause followed this. Mrs. Skene felt that the first exchange was
over, and that she had got the better in it.
"Mrs. Skene," said Lydia then, penetratingly; "when you came to pay
me this visit, what object did you propose to yourself? What do you
expect me to do?"
"Well, ma'am," said Mrs. Skene, troubled, "the poor lad has had
crosses lately. There was the disappointment about you—the first
one, I mean—that had been preying on his mind for a long time. Then
there was that exhibition spar at the Agricultural Hall, when
Paradise acted so dishonorable. Cashel heard that you were looking
on; and then he read the shameful way the newspapers wrote of him;
and he thought you'd believe it all. I couldn't get that thought out
of his head. I said to him, over and over again—"
"Excuse me," said Lydia, interrupting. "We had better be frank with
one another. It is useless to assume that he mistook my feeling on
that subject. I WAS shocked by the severity with which he treated his
"But bless you, that's his business," said Mrs. Skone, opening her
eyes widely. "I put it to you, miss," she continued, as if mildly
reprobating some want of principle on Lydia's part, "whether an
honest man shouldn't fulfil his engagements. I assure you that the
pay a respectable professional usually gets for a spar like that is
half a guinea; and that was all Paradise got. But Cashel stood on his
reputation, and wouldn't take less than ten guineas; and he got it,
too. Now many another in his position would have gone into the ring
and fooled away the time pretending to box, and just swindling those
that paid him. But Cashel is as honest and high-minded as a king. You
saw for yourself the trouble he took. He couldn't have spared himself
less if he had been fighting for a thousand a side and the belt,
instead of for a paltry ten guineas. Surely you don't think the worse
of him for his honesty, miss?"
"I confess," said Lydia, laughing in spite of herself, "that your
view of the transaction did not occur to me."
"Of course not, ma'am; no more it wouldn't to any one, without they
were accustomed to know the right and wrong of the profession. Well,
as I was saying, miss, that was a fresh disappointment to him. It
worrited him more than you can imagine. Then came a deal of bother
about the match with Paradise. First Paradise could only get five
hundred pounds; and the boy wouldn't agree for less than a thousand.
I think it's on your account that he's been so particular about the
money of late; for he was never covetous before. Then Mellish was
bent on its coming off down hereabouts; and the poor lad was so
mortal afraid of its getting to your ears, that he wouldn't consent
until they persuaded him you would be in foreign parts in August.
Glad I was when the articles were signed at last, before he was
worrited into his grave. All the time he was training he was longing
for a sight of you; but he went through with it as steady and
faithful as a man could. And he trained beautiful. I saw him on the
morning of the fight; and he was like a shining angel; it would have
done a lady's heart good to look at him. Ned went about like a madman
offering twenty to one on him: if he had lost, we should have been
ruined at this moment. And then to think of the police coming just as
he was finishing Paradise. I cried like a child when I heard of it: I
don't think there was ever anything so cruel. And he could have
finished him quarter of an hour sooner, only he held back to make the
market for Ned." Here Mrs. Skene, overcome, blew her nose before
proceeding. "Then, on the top of that, came what passed betwixt you
and him, and made him give himself up to the police. Lord Worthington
bailed him out; but what with the disgrace and the disappointment, and
his time and money thrown away, and the sting of your words, all
coming together, he was quite broken-hearted. And now he mopes and
frets; and neither me nor Ned nor Fan can get any good of him. They
tell me that he won't be sent to prison; but if he is"—here Mrs.
Skene broke down and began to cry—"it will be the death of him, and
God forgive those that have brought it about."
Sorrow always softened Lydia; but tears hardened her again; she had
no patience with them.
"And the other man?" she said. "Have you heard anything of him? I
suppose he is in some hospital."
"In hospital!" repeated Mrs. Skene, checking her tears in alarm.
"Paradise," replied Lydia, pronouncing the name reluctantly.
"He in hospital! Why, bless your innocence, miss, I saw him
yesterday, looking as well as such an ugly brute could look—not a
mark on him, and he bragging what he would have done to Cashel if the
police hadn't come up. He's a nasty, low fighting man, so he is; and
I'm only sorry that our boy demeaned himself to strip with the like of
him. I hear that Cashel made a perfect picture of him, and that you
saw him. I suppose you were frightened, ma'am, and very naturally,
too, not being used to such sights. I have had my Ned brought home to
me in that state that I have poured brandy into his eye, thinking it
was his mouth; and even Cashel, careful as he is, has been nearly
blind for three days. It is not to be expected that they could have
all the money for nothing. Don't let it prey on your mind, miss. If
you married—I am only supposing it," said Mrs. Skene in soothing
parenthesis as she saw Lydia shrink from the word—"if you were
married to a great surgeon, as you might be without derogation to your
high rank, you'd be ready to faint if you saw him cut off a leg or an
arm, as he would have to do every day for his livelihood; but you'd be
proud of his cleverness in being able to do it. That's how I feel with
regard to Ned. I tell you the truth, ma'am, I shouldn't like to see
him in the ring no more than the lady of an officer in the Guards
would like to see her husband in the field of battle running his sword
into the poor blacks or into the French; but as it's his profession,
and people think so highly of him for it, I make up my mind to it; and
now I take quite an interest in it, particularly as it does nobody any
harm. Not that I would have you think that Ned ever took the arm or
leg off a man: Lord forbid—or Cashel either. Oh, ma'am, I thank you
kindly, and I'm sorry you should have given yourself the trouble."
This referred to the entry of a servant with tea.
"Still," said Lydia, when they were at leisure to resume the
conversation, "I do not quite understand why you have come to me.
Personally you are quite welcome; but in what way did you expect to
relieve Mr. Byron's mind by visiting me? Did he ask you to come?"
"He'd have died first. I came down of my own accord, knowing what
was the matter with him."
"And what then?"
Mrs. Skene looked around to satisfy herself that they were alone.
Then she leaned towards Lydia, and said in an emphatic whisper,
"Why won't you marry him, miss?"
"Because I don't choose, Mrs. Skene," said Lydia, with perfect
"But consider a little, miss. Where will you ever get such another
chance? Only think what a man he is! champion of the world and a
gentleman as well. The two things have never happened before, and
never will again. I have known lots of champions, but they were not
fit company for the like of you. Ned was champion when I married him;
and my family thought that I lowered myself in doing it, although I
was only a professional dancer on the stage. The men in the ring are
common men mostly; and so, though they are the best men in the
kingdom, ladies are cut off from their society. But it has been your
good luck to take the fancy of one that's a gentleman. What more could
a lady desire? Where will you find his equal in health, strength, good
looks, or good manners? As to his character, I can tell you about
that. In Melbourne, as you may suppose, all the girls and women were
breaking their hearts for his sake. I declare to you that I used to
have two or three of them in every evening merely to look at him, and
he, poor innocent lad, taking no more notice of them than if they were
cabbages. He used to be glad to get away from them by going into the
saloon and boxing with the gentlemen; and then they used to peep at
him through the door. They never got a wink from him. You were the
first, Miss Carew; and, believe me, you will be the last. If there had
ever been another he couldn't have kept it from me; because his
disposition is as open as a child's. And his honesty is beyond
everything you can imagine. I have known him to be offered eight
hundred pounds to lose a fight that he could only get two hundred by
winning, not to mention his chance of getting nothing at all if he
lost honestly. You know—for I see you know the world, ma'am—how few
men would be proof against such a temptation. There are men high up in
their profession—so high that you'd as soon suspect the queen on her
throne of selling her country's battles as them—that fight cross on
the sly when it's made worth their while. My Ned is no low
prize-fighter, as is well known; but when he let himself be beat by
that little Killarney Primrose, and went out and bought a horse and
trap next day, what could I think? There, ma'am, I tell you that of my
own husband; and I tell you that Cashel never was beaten, although
times out of mind it would have paid him better to lose than to win,
along of those wicked betting men. Not an angry word have I ever had
from him, nor the sign of liquor have I ever seen on him, except once
on Ned's birthday; and then nothing but fun came out of him in his
cups, when the truth comes out of all men. Oh, do just think how happy
you ought to be, miss, if you would only bring yourself to look at it
in the proper light. A gentleman born and bred, champion of the world,
sober, honest, spotless as the unborn babe, able to take his own part
and yours in any society, and mad in love with you! He thinks you an
angel from heaven and so I am sure you are, miss, in your heart. I do
assure you that my Fan gets quite put out because she thinks he draws
comparisons to her disadvantage. I don't think you can be so hard to
please as to refuse him, miss."
Lydia leaned back in her chair and looked at Mrs. Skene with a
curious expression which soon brightened into an irrepressible smile.
Mrs. Skene smiled very slightly in complaisance, but conveyed by her
serious brow that what she had said was no laughing matter.
"I must take some time to consider all that you have so eloquently
urged," said Lydia. "I am in earnest, Mrs. Skene; you have produced a
great effect upon me. Now let us talk of something else for the
present. Your daughter is quite well, I hope."
"Thank you kindly, ma'am, she enjoys her health."
"And you also?"
"I am as well as can be expected," said Mrs. Skene, too fond of
commiseration to admit that she was perfectly well.
"You must have a rare sense of security," said Lydia, watching her,
"being happily married to so celebrated a—a professor of boxing as
Mr. Skene. Is it not pleasant to have a powerful protector?"
"Ah, miss, you little know," exclaimed Mrs. Skene, falling into the
trap baited by her own grievances, and losing sight of Cashel's
interests. "The fear of his getting into trouble is never off my
mind. Ned is quietness itself until he has a drop of drink in him;
and then he is like the rest—ready to fight the first that provokes
him. And if the police get hold of him he has no chance. There's no
justice for a fighting man. Just let it be said that he's a
professional, and that's enough for the magistrate; away with him to
prison, and good-by to his pupils and his respectability at once.
That's what I live in terror of. And as to being protected, I'd let
myself be robbed fifty times over sooner than say a word to him that
might bring on a quarrel. Many a time when we were driving home of a
night have I overpaid the cabman on the sly, afraid he would grumble
and provoke Ned. It's the drink that does it all. Gentlemen are proud
to be seen speaking with him in public; and they come up one after
another asking what he'll have, until the next thing he knows is that
he's in bed with his boots on, his wrist sprained, and maybe his eye
black, trying to remember what he was doing the night before. What I
suffered the first three years of our marriage none can tell. Then he
took the pledge, and ever since that he's been very good—I haven't
seen him what you could fairly call drunk, not more than three times a
year. It was the blessing of God, and a beating he got from a milkman
in Westminster, that made him ashamed of himself. I kept him to it and
made him emigrate out of the way of his old friends. Since that, there
has been a blessing on him; and we've prospered."
"Is Cashel quarrelsome?"
At the tone of this question Mrs. Skene suddenly realized the
untimeliness of her complaints. "No, no," she protested. "He never
drinks; and as to fighting, if you can believe such a thing, miss, I
don't think he has had a casual turnup three times in his life—not
oftener, at any rate. All he wants is to be married; and then he'll
be steady to his grave. But if he's left adrift now, Lord knows what
will become of him. He'll mope first—he's moping at present—then
he'll drink; then he'll lose his pupils, get out of condition, be
beaten, and—One word from you, miss, would save him. If I might just
"Nothing," said Lydia. "Absolutely nothing. The only assurance I
can give you is that you have softened the hard opinion that I had
formed of some of his actions. But that I should marry Mr. Cashel
Byron is simply the most improbable thing in the world. All questions
of personal inclination apart, the mere improbability is enough in
itself to appal an ordinary woman."
Mrs. Skene did not quite understand this; but she understood
sufficiently for her purpose. She rose to go, shaking her head
despondently, and saying, "I see how it is, ma'am. You think him
beneath you. Your relations wouldn't like it."
"There is no doubt that my relatives would be greatly shocked; and
I am bound to take that into account for—what it is worth."
"We should never trouble you," said Mrs. Skene, lingering. "England
will see the last of us in a month of two."
"That will make no difference to me, except that I shall regret not
being able to have a pleasant chat with you occasionally." This was
not true; but Lydia fancied she was beginning to take a hardened
delight in lying.
Mrs. Skene was not to be consoled by compliments. She again shook
her head. "It is very kind of you to give me good words, miss," she
said; "but if I might have one for the boy you could say what you
liked to me."
Lydia considered far before she replied. At last she said, "I am
sorry I spoke harshly to him, since, driven as he was by
circumstances, I cannot see how he could have acted otherwise than he
did. And I overlooked the economic conditions of his profession. In
short, I am not used to fisticuffs; and what I saw shocked me so much
that I was unreasonable. But," continued Lydia, checking Mrs. Skene's
rising hope with a warning finger, "how, if you tell him this, will
you make him understand that I say so as an act of justice, and not in
the least as a proffer of affection?"
"A crumb of comfort will satisfy him, miss. I'll just tell him that
I've seen you, and that you meant nothing by what you said the other
"Mrs. Skene," said Lydia, interrupting her softly; "tell him
nothing at all as yet. I have made up my mind at last. If he does not
hear from me within a fortnight you may tell him what you please. Can
you wait so long?"
"Of course. Whatever you wish, ma'am. But Mellish's benefit is to
be to-morrow night; and—"
"What have I to do with Mellish or his benefit?"
Mrs. Skene, abashed, murmured apologetically that she was only
wishful that the boy should do himself credit.
"If he is to benefit Mellish by beating somebody, he will not be
behindhand. Remember you are not to mention me for a fortnight. Is
that a bargain?"
"Whatever you wish, ma'am," repeated Mrs. Skene, hardly satisfied.
But Lydia gave her no further comfort; so she begged to take her
leave, expressing a hope that things would turn out to the advantage
of all parties. Then Lydia insisted on her partaking of some solid
refreshment, and afterwards drove her to the railway station in the
pony-carriage. Just before they parted Lydia, suddenly recurring to
their former subject, said,
"Does Mr. Byron ever THINK?"
"Think!" said Mrs. Skene emphatically. "Never. There isn't a more
cheerful lad in existence, miss."
Then Mrs. Skene was carried away to London, wondering whether it
could be quite right for a young lady to live in a gorgeous castle
without any elder of her own sex, and to speak freely and civilly to
her inferiors. When she got home she said nothing of her excursion to
Mr. Skene, in whose disposition valor so entirely took the place of
discretion that he had never been known to keep a secret except as to
the whereabouts of a projected fight. But she sat up late with her
daughter Fanny, tantalizing her by accounts of the splendor of the
castle, and consoling her by describing Miss Carew as a slight
creature with red hair and no figure (Fanny having jet black hair,
fine arms, and being one of Cashel's most proficient pupils).
"All the same, Fan," added Mrs. Skene, as she took her candlestick
at two in the morning, "if it comes off, Cashel will never be master
in his own house."
"I can see that very plain," said Fanny; "but if respectable
professional people are not good enough for him, he will have only
himself to thank if he gets himself looked down upon by empty-headed
Meanwhile, Lydia, on her return to the castle after a long drive
round the country, had attempted to overcome an attack of
restlessness by setting to work on the biography of her father. With
a view to preparing a chapter on his taste in literature she had
lately been examining his favorite books for marked passages. She now
resumed this search, not setting methodically to work, but standing
perched on the library ladder, taking down volume after volume, and
occasionally dipping into the contents for a few pages or so. At this
desultory work the time passed as imperceptibly as the shadows
lengthened. The last book she examined was a volume of poems. There
were no marks in it; but it opened at a page which had evidently lain
open often before. The first words Lydia saw were these:
"What would I give for a heart of flesh to warm me through Instead
of this heart of stone ice-cold whatever I do; Hard and cold and
small, of all hearts the worst of all."
Lydia hastily stepped down from the ladder, and recoiled until she
reached a chair, where she sat and read and reread these lines. The
failing light roused her to action. She replaced the book on the
shelf, and said, as she went to the writing-table, "If such a doubt
as that haunted my father it will haunt me, unless I settle what is
to be my heart's business now and forever. If it be possible for a
child of mine to escape this curse of autovivisection, it must
inherit its immunity from its father, and not from me—from the man
of emotion who never thinks, and not from the woman of introspection,
who cannot help thinking. Be it so."
Before many days had elapsed a letter came for Cashel as he sat
taking tea with the Skene family. When he saw the handwriting, a deep
red color mounted to his temples.
"Oh, Lor'!" said Miss Skene, who sat next him. "Let's read it."
"Go to the dickens," cried Cashel, hastily baffling her as she
snatched at it.
"Don't worrit him, Fan," said Mrs. Skene, tenderly.
"Not for the world, poor dear," said Miss Skene, putting her hand
affectionately on his shoulder. "Let me just peep at the name—to see
who it's from. Do, Cashel, DEAR."
"It's from nobody," said Cashel. "Here, get out. If you don't let
me alone I'll make it warm for you the next time you come to me for a
"Very likely," said Fanny, contemptuously. "Who had the best of it
to-day, I should like to know?"
"Gev' him a hot un on the chin with her right as ever I see,"
observed Skene, with hoarse mirth.
Cashel went away from the table, out of Fanny's reach; and read the
letter, which ran thus:
"Regent's Park. "Dear Mr. Cashel Byron,—I am desirous that you
should meet a lady friend of mine. She will be here at three o'clock
to-morrow afternoon. You would oblige me greatly by calling on me at
There was a long pause, during which there was no sound in the room
except the ticking of the clock and the munching of shrimps by the
"Good news, I hope, Cashel," said Mrs. Skene, at last, tremulously.
"Blow me if I understand it," said Cashel. "Can you make it out?"
And he handed the letter to his adopted mother. Skene ceased eating
to see his wife read, a feat which was to him one of the wonders of
"I think the lady she mentions must be herself," said Mrs. Skene,
after some consideration.
"No," said Cashel, shaking his head. "She always says what she
"Ah," said Skene, cunningly; "but she can't write it though. That's
the worst of writing; no one can't never tell exactly what it means.
I never signed articles yet that there weren't some misunderstanding
about; and articles is the best writing that can be had anywhere."
"You'd better go and see what it means," said Mrs. Skene.
"Right," said Skene. "Go and have it out with her, my boy."
"It is short, and not particularly sweet," said Fanny. "She might
have had the civility to put her crest at the top."
"What would you give to be her?" said Cashel, derisively, catching
the letter as she tossed it disdainfully to him.
"If I was I'd respect myself more than to throw myself at YOUR
"Hush, Fanny," said Mrs. Skene; "you're too sharp. Ned, you
oughtn't to encourage her by laughing."
Next day Cashel rose early, went for a walk, paid extra attention
to his diet, took some exercise with the gloves, had a bath and a rub
down, and presented himself at Regent's Park at three o'clock in
excellent condition. Expecting to see Bashville, he was surprised
when the door was opened by a female servant.
"Miss Carew at home?"
"Yes, sir," said the girl, falling in love with him at first sight.
"Mr. Byron, sir?"
"That's me," said Cashel. "I say, is there any one with her?"
"Only a lady, sir."
"Oh, d—n! Well, it can't be helped. Never say die."
The girl led him then to a door, opened it, and when he entered
shut it softly without announcing him. The room in which he found
himself was a long one, lighted from the roof. The walls were hung
with pictures. At the far end, with their backs towards him, were two
ladies: Lydia, and a woman whose noble carriage and elegant form
would, have raised hopes of beauty in a man less preoccupied than
Cashel. But he, after advancing some distance with his eyes on Lydia,
suddenly changed countenance, stopped, and was actually turning to
fly, when the ladies, hearing his light step, faced about and rooted
him to the spot. As Lydia offered him her hand, her companion, who had
surveyed the visitor first with indifference, and then with
incredulous surprise, exclaimed, with a burst of delighted
recognition, like a child finding a long-lost plaything, "My darling
boy!" And going to Cashel with the grace of a swan, she clasped him
in her arms. In acknowledgment of which he thrust his red,
discomfited face over her shoulder, winked at Lydia with his tongue
in his cheek, and said,
"This is what you may call the voice of nature, and no mistake."
"What a splendid creature you are!" said Mrs. Byron, holding him a
little way from her, the better to admire him. "Do you know how
handsome you are, you wretch?"
"How d'ye do, Miss Carew," said Cashel, breaking loose, and turning
to Lydia. "Never mind her; it's only my mother. At least," he added,
as if correcting himself, "she's my mamma."
"And where have you come from? Where have you been? Do you know
that I have not seen you for seven years, you unnatural boy? Think of
his being my son, Miss Carew. Give me another kiss, my own," she
continued, grasping his arm affectionately.
"What a muscular creature you are!"
"Kiss away as much as you like," said Cashel, struggling with the
old school-boy sullenness as it returned oppressively upon him. "I
suppose you're well. You look right enough."
"Yes," she said, mockingly, beginning to despise him for his
inability to act up to her in this thrilling scene; "I AM right
enough. Your language is as refined as ever. And why do you get your
hair cropped close like that? You must let it grow, and—"
"Now, look here," said Cashel, stopping her hand neatly as she
raised it to rearrange his locks. "You just drop it, or I'll walk out
at that door and you won't see me again for another seven years. You
can either take me as you find me, or let me alone. Absalom and Dan
Mendoza came to grief through wearing their hair long, and I am going
to wear mine short."
Mrs. Byron became a shade colder. "Indeed!" she said. "Just the
same still, Cashel?"
"Just the same, both one and other of us," he replied. "Before you
spoke six words I felt as if we'd parted only yesterday."
"I am rather taken aback by the success of my experiment,"
interposed Lydia. "I invited you purposely to meet one another. The
resemblance between you led me to suspect the truth, and my suspicion
was confirmed by the account Mr. Byron gave me of his adventures."
Mrs. Byron's vanity was touched. "Is he like me?" she said,
scanning his features. He, without heeding her, said to Lydia with
"And was THAT why you sent for me?"
"Are you disappointed?" said Lydia.
"He is not in the least glad to see me," said Mrs. Byron,
plaintively. "He has no heart."
"Now she'll go on for the next hour," said Cashel, looking to
Lydia, obviously because he found it much pleasanter than looking at
his mother. "However, if you don't care, I don't. So, fire away,
"And you think we are really like one another?" said Mrs. Byron,
not heeding him. "Yes; I think we are. There is a certain—Are you
married, Cashel?" with sudden mistrust.
"Ha! ha! ha!" shouted Cashel. "No; but I hope to be, some day," he
added, venturing to glance again at Lydia, who was, however,
attentively observing Mrs. Byron.
"Well, tell me everything about yourself. What are you? Now, I do
hope, Cashel, that you have not gone upon the stage."
"The stage!" said Cashel, contemptuously. "Do I look like it?"
"You certainly do not," said Mrs. Byron, whimsically—"although you
have a certain odious professional air, too. What did you do when you
ran away so scandalously from that stupid school in the north? How do
you earn your living? Or DO you earn it?"
"I suppose I do, unless I am fed by ravens, as Elijah was. What do
you think I was best fitted for by my education and bringing up?
Sweep a crossing, perhaps! When I ran away from Panley, I went to
"A sailor, of all things! You don't look like one. And pray, what
rank have you attained in your profession?"
"The front rank. The top of the tree," said Cashel, shortly.
"Mr. Byron is not at present following the profession of a sailor;
nor has he done so for many years," said Lydia.
Cashel looked at her, half in appeal, half in remonstrance.
"Something very different, indeed," pursued Lydia, with quiet
obstinacy. "And something very startling."
"CAN'T you shut up?" exclaimed Cashel. "I should have expected more
sense from you. What's the use of setting her on to make a fuss and
put me in a rage? I'll go away if you don't stop."
"What is the matter?" said Mrs. Byron. "Have you been doing
anything disgraceful, Cashel?"
"There she goes. I told you so. I keep a gymnasium, that's all.
There's nothing disgraceful in that, I hope."
"A gymnasium?" repeated Mrs. Byron, with imperious disgust. "What
nonsense! You must give up everything of that kind, Cashel. It is
very silly, and very low. You were too ridiculously proud, of course,
to come to me for the means of keeping yourself in a proper position.
I suppose I shall have to provide you with—"
"If I ever take a penny from you, may I—" Cashel caught Lydia's
anxious look, and checked himself. He paused and got away a step, a
cunning smile flickering on his lips. "No," he said; "it's just
playing into your hands to lose temper with you. You think you know
me, and you want to force the fighting. Well, we'll see. Make me
angry now if you can."
"There is not the slightest reason for anger," said Mrs. Byron,
angry herself. "Your temper seems to have become ungovernable—or,
rather, to have remained so; for it was never remarkable for
"No," retorted Cashel, jeering good-humoredly. "Not the slightest
occasion to lose my temper! Not when I am told that I am silly and
low! Why, I think you must fancy that you're talking to your little
Cashel, that blessed child you were so fond of. But you're not.
You're talking—now for a screech, Miss Carew!—to the champion of
Australia, the United States, and England, holder of three silver
belts and one gold one (which you can have to wear in 'King John' if
you think it'll become you); professor of boxing to the nobility and
gentry of St. James's, and common prize-fighter to the whole globe,
without reference to weight or color, for not less than five hundred
pounds a side. That's Cashel Byron."
Mrs. Byron recoiled, astounded. After a pause she said, "Oh,
Cashel, how COULD you?" Then, approaching him again, "Do you mean to
say that you go out and fight those great rough savages?"
"Yes, I do."
"And that you BEAT them?"
"Yes. Ask Miss Carew how Billy Paradise looked after standing
before me for an hour."
"You wonderful boy! What an occupation! And you have done all this
in your own name?"
"Of course I have. I am not ashamed of it. I often wondered whether
you had seen my name in the papers."
"I never read the papers. But you must have heard of my return to
England. Why did you not come to see me?"
"I wasn't quite certain that you would like it," said Cashel,
uneasily, avoiding her eye. "Hullo!" he exclaimed, as he attempted to
refresh himself by another look at Lydia, "she's given us the slip."
"She is quite right to leave us alone together under the
circumstances. And now tell me why my precious boy should doubt that
his own mother wished to see him."
"I don't know why he should," said Cashel, with melancholy
submission to her affection. "But he did."
"How insensible you are! Did you not know that you were always my
cherished darling—my only son?"
Cashel, who was now sitting beside her on an ottoman, groaned and
moved restlessly, but said nothing.
"Are you glad to see me?"
"Yes," said Cashel, dismally, "I suppose I am. I—By Jingo," he
cried, with sudden animation, "perhaps you can give me a lift here. I
never thought of that. I say, mamma; I am in great trouble at present,
and I think you can help me if you will."
Mrs. Byron looked at him satirically. But she said, soothingly, "Of
course I will help you—as far as I am able—my precious one. All I
possess is yours."
Cashel ground his feet on the floor impatiently, and then sprang
up. After an interval, during which he seemed to be swallowing some
indignant protest, he said,
"You may put your mind at rest, once and for all, on the subject of
money. I don't want anything of that sort."
"I am glad you are so independent, Cashel."
"So am I."
"Do, pray, be more amiable."
"I am amiable enough," he cried, desperately, "only you won't
"My treasure," said Mrs. Byron, remorsefully. "What is the matter?"
"Well," said Cashel, somewhat mollified, "it is this. I want to
marry Miss Carew; that's all."
"YOU marry Miss Carew!" Mrs. Byron's tenderness had vanished, and
her tone was shrewd and contemptuous. "Do you know, you silly boy,
"I know all about it," said Cashel, determinedly—"what she is, and
what I am, and the rest of it. And I want to marry her; and, what's
more, I will marry her, if I have to break the neck of every swell in
London first. So you can either help me or not, as you please; but if
you won't, never call me your precious boy any more. Now!"
Mrs. Byron abdicated her dominion there and then forever. She sat
with quite a mild expression for some time in silence. Then she said,
"After all, I do not see why you should not. It would be a very
good match for you."
"Yes; but a deuced bad one for her."
"Really, I do not see that, Cashel. When your uncle dies, I suppose
you will succeed to the Dorsetshire property."
"I the heir to a property! Are you in earnest?"
"Of course. Don't you know who your people are?"
"How could I? You never told me. Do you mean to say that I have an
"Old Bingley Byron? Certainly."
"Well, I AM blowed. But—but—I mean—Supposing he IS my uncle, am
I his lawful heir?"
"Yes. Walford Byron, the only other brother of your father, died
years ago, while you were at Moncrief's; and he had no sons. Bingley
is a bachelor."
"But," said Cashel, cautiously, "won't there be some bother about
"My dearest child, what are you thinking or talking about? Nothing
can be clearer than your title."
"Well," said Cashel, blushing, "a lot of people used to make out
that you weren't married at all."
"What!" exclaimed Mrs. Byron, indignantly. "Oh, they DARE not say
so! Impossible. Why did you not tell me at once?"
"I didn't think about it," said Cashel, hastily excusing himself.
"I was too young to care. It doesn't matter now. My father is dead,
"He died when you were a baby. You have often made me angry with
you, poor little innocent, by reminding me of him. Do not talk of him
"Not if you don't wish. Just one thing, though, mamma. Was he a
"Of course. What a question!"
"Then I am as good as any of the swells that think themselves her
equals? She has a cousin in the government office; a fellow who gives
out that he is the home secretary, and most likely sits in a big chair
in a hall and cheeks the public. Am I as good as he is?"
"You are perfectly well connected by your mother's side, Cashel.
The Byrons are only commoners; but even they are one of the oldest
county families in England."
Cashel began to show signs of excitement. "How much a year are they
worth?" he demanded.
"I do not know how much they are worth now. Your father was always
in difficulties, and so was his father. But Bingley is a miser. Five
thousand a year, perhaps."
"That's an independence. That's enough. She said she couldn't
expect a man to be so thunderingly rich as she is."
"Indeed? Then you have discussed the question with her?"
Cashel was about to speak, when a servant entered to say that Miss
Carew was in the library, and begged that they would come to her as
soon as they were quite disengaged. When the maid withdrew he said,
"I wish you'd go home, mamma, and let me catch her in the library
by herself. Tell me where you live, and I'll come in the evening and
tell you all about it. That is, if you have no objection."
"What objection could I possibly have, dearest one? Are you sure
that you are not spoiling your chance by too much haste? She has no
occasion to hurry, Cashel, and she knows it."
"I am dead certain that now is my time or never. I always know by
instinct when to go in and finish. Here's your mantle."
"In such a hurry to get rid of your poor old mother, Cashel?"
"Oh, bother! you're not old. You won't mind my wanting you to go
for this once, will you?"
She smiled affectionately, put on her mantle, and turned her cheek
towards him to be kissed. The unaccustomed gesture alarmed him; he
retreated a step, and involuntary assumed an attitude of
self-defence, as if the problem before him were a pugilistic one.
Recovering himself immediately, he kissed her, and impatiently
accompanied her to the house door, which he closed softly behind her,
leaving her to walk in search of her carriage alone. Then he stole
up-stairs to the library, where he found Lydia reading.
"She's gone," he said.
Lydia put down her book, looked up at him, saw what was coming,
looked down again to hide a spasm of terror, and said, with a steady
severity that cost her a great effort, "I hope you have not
"Lord bless you, no! We kissed one another like turtle-doves. At
odd moments she wheedles me into feeling fond of her in spite of
myself. She went away because I asked her to."
"And why do you ask my guests to go away?"
"Because I wanted to be alone with you. Don't look as if you didn't
understand. She's told me a whole heap of things about myself that
alter our affairs completely. My birth is all right; I'm heir to a
county family that came over with the Conqueror, and I shall have a
decent income. I can afford to give away weight to old Webber now."
"Well," said Lydia, sternly.
"Well," said Cashel, unabashed, "the only use of all that to me is
that I may marry if I like. No more fighting or teaching now."
"And when you are married, will you be as tender to your wife as
you are to your mother?"
Cashel's elation vanished. "I knew you'd think that," he said. "I
am always the same with her; I can't help it. She makes me look like a
fool, or like a brute. Have I ever been so with you?"
"Yes," said Lydia. "Except," she added, "that you have never shown
absolute dislike to me."
"Ah! EXCEPT! That's a very big except. But I don't dislike her.
Blood is thicker than water, and I have a softness for her; only I
won't put up with her nonsense. But it's different with you. I don't
know how to say it; I'm not good at sentiment—not that there's any
sentiment about it. At least, I don't mean that; but—You're fond of
me in a sort of way, ain't you?"
"Yes; I'm fond of you in a sort of way."
"Well, then," he said, uneasily, "won't you marry me? I'm not such
a fool as you think; and you'll like me better after a while."
Lydia became very pale. "Have you considered," she said, "that
henceforth you will be an idle man, and that I shall always be a busy
woman, preoccupied with the work that may seem very dull to you?"
"I won't be idle. There's lots of things I can do besides boxing.
We'll get on together, never fear. People that are fond of one
another never have any difficulty; and people that hate each other
never have any comfort. I'll be on the lookout to make you happy. You
needn't fear my interrupting your Latin and Greek: I won't expect you
to give up your whole life to me. Why should I? There's reason in
everything. So long as you are mine, and nobody else's, I'll be
content. And I'll be yours and nobody else's. What's the use of
supposing half a dozen accidents that may never happen? Let's sign
reasonable articles, and then take our chance. You have too much
good-nature ever to be nasty."
"It would be a hard bargain," she said, doubtfully; "for you would
have to give up your occupation; and I should give up nothing but my
"I will swear never to fight again; and you needn't swear anything.
If that is not an easy bargain, I don't know what is."
"Easy for me, yes. But for you?"
"Never mind me. You do whatever you like; and I'll do whatever you
like. You have a conscience; so I know that whatever you like will be
the best thing. I have the most science; but you have the most sense.
Lydia looked around, as if for a means of escape. Cashel waited
anxiously. There was a long pause.
"It can't be," he said, pathetically, "that you are afraid of me
because I was a prize-fighter."
"Afraid of you! No: I am afraid of myself; afraid of the future;
afraid FOR you. But my mind is already made up on this subject. When
I brought about this meeting between you and your mother I determined
to marry you if you asked me again."
She stood up, quietly, and waited. The rough hardihood of the ring
fell from him like a garment: he blushed deeply, and did not know
what to do. Nor did she; but without willing it she came a step
closer to him, and turned up her face towards his. He, nearly blind
with confusion, put his arms about her and kissed her. Suddenly she
broke loose from his arms, seized the lapels of his coat tightly in
her hands, and leaned back until she nearly hung from him with all
"Cashel," she said, "we are the silliest lovers in the world, I
believe—we know nothing about it. Are you really fond of me?"
She recovered herself immediately, and made no further
demonstration of the kind. He remained shy, and was so evidently
anxious to go, that she presently asked him to leave her for a while,
though she was surprised to feel a faint pang of disappointment when
On leaving the house he hurried to the address which his mother had
given him: a prodigious building in Westminster, divided into
residential flats, to the seventh floor of which he ascended in a
lift. As he stepped from it he saw Lucian Webber walking away from
him along a corridor. Obeying a sudden impulse, he followed, and
overtook him just as he was entering a room. Lucian, finding that
some one was resisting his attempt to close the door, looked out,
recognized Cashel, turned white, and hastily retreated into the
apartment, where, getting behind a writing-table, he snatched a
revolver from a drawer. Cashel recoiled, amazed and frightened, with
his right arm up as if to ward off a blow.
"Hullo!" he cried. "Drop that d—d thing, will you? If you don't,
I'll shout for help."
"If you approach me I will fire," said Lucian, excitedly. "I will
teach you that your obsolete brutality is powerless against the
weapons science has put into the hands of civilized men. Leave my
apartments. I am not afraid of you; but I do not choose to be
disturbed by your presence."
"Confound your cheek," said Cashel, indignantly; "is that the way
you receive a man who comes to make a friendly call on you?"
"Friendly NOW, doubtless, when you see that I am well protected."
Cashel gave a long whistle. "Oh," he said, "you thought I came to
pitch into you. Ha! ha! And you call that science—to draw a pistol
on a man. But you daren't fire it, and well you know it. You'd better
put it up, or you may let it off without intending to: I never feel
comfortable when I see a fool meddling with firearms. I came to tell
you that I'm going to be married to your cousin. Ain't you glad?"
Lucian's face changed. He believed; but he said, obstinately, "I
don't credit that statement. It is a lie."
This outraged Cashel. "I tell you again," he said, in a menacing
tone, "that your cousin is engaged to me. Now call me a liar, and hit
me in the face, if you dare. Look here," he added, taking a leather
case from his pocket, and extracting from it a bank note, "I'll give
you that twenty-pound note if you will hit me one blow."
Lucian, sick with fury, and half paralyzed by a sensation which he
would not acknowledge as fear, forced himself to come forward. Cashel
thrust out his jaw invitingly, and said, with a sinister grin, "Put it
in straight, governor. Twenty pounds, remember."
At that moment Lucian would have given all his political and social
chances for the courage and skill of a prize-fighter. He could see
only one way to escape the torment of Cashel's jeering and the self-
reproach of a coward. He desperately clenched his fist and struck
out. The blow wasted itself on space; and he stumbled forward against
his adversary, who laughed uproariously, grasped his hand, clapped him
on the back, and exclaimed,
"Well done, my boy. I thought you were going to be mean; but you've
been game, and you're welcome to the stakes. I'll tell Lydia that you
have fought me for twenty pounds and won on your merits. Ain't you
proud of yourself for having had a go at the champion?"
"Sir—" began Lucian. But nothing coherent followed.
"You just sit down for a quarter of an hour, and don't drink
anything, and you'll be all right. When you recover you'll be glad
you showed pluck. So, good-night, for the present—I know how you
feel, and I'll be off. Be sure not to try to settle yourself with
wine; it'll only make you worse. Ta-ta!"
As Cashel withdrew, Lucian collapsed into a chair, shaken by the
revival of passions and jealousies which he had thought as completely
outgrown as the school-boy jackets in which he had formerly
experienced them. He tried to think of some justification of his
anger—some better reason for it than the vulgar taunt of a bully. He
told himself presently that the idea of Lydia marrying such a man had
maddened him to strike. As Cashel had predicted, he was beginning to
plume himself on his pluck. This vein of reflection, warring with his
inner knowledge that he had been driven by fear and hatred into a
paroxysm of wrath against a man to whom he should have set an example
of dignified self-control, produced an exhausting whirl in his
thoughts, which were at once quickened and confused by the nervous
shock of bodily violence, to which he was quite unused. Unable to sit
still, he rose, put on his hat, went out, and drove to the house in
Lydia was in her boudoir, occupied with a book, when he entered. He
was not an acute observer; he could see no change in her. She was as
calm as ever; her eyes were not even fully open, and the touch of her
hand subdued him as it had always done. Though he had never
entertained any hope of possessing her since the day when she had
refused him in Bedford Square, a sense of intolerable loss came upon
him as he saw her for the first time pledged to another—and such
"Lydia," he said, trying to speak vehemently, but failing to shake
off the conventional address of which he had made a second nature, "I
have heard something that has filled me with inexpressible dismay. Is
"The news has travelled fast," she said. "Yes; it is true." She
spoke composedly, and so kindly that he choked in trying to reply.
"Then, Lydia, you are the chief actor in a greater tragedy than I
have ever witnessed on the stage."
"It is strange, is it not?" she said, smiling at his effort to be
"Strange! It is calamitous. I trust I may be allowed to say so. And
you sit there reading as calmly as though nothing had happened."
She handed him the book without a word.
"'Ivanhoe'!" he said. "A novel!"
"Yes. Do you remember once, before you knew me very well, telling
me that Scott's novels were the only ones that you liked to see in the
hands of ladies?"
"No doubt I did. But I cannot talk of literature just—"
"I am not leading you away from what you want to talk about. I was
about to tell you that I came upon 'Ivanhoe' by chance half an hour
ago, when I was searching—I confess it—for something very romantic
to read. Ivanhoe was a prize-fighter—the first half of the book is a
description of a prize-fight. I was wondering whether some romancer of
the twenty-fourth century will hunt out the exploits of my husband,
and present him to the world as a sort of English nineteenth-century
Cyd, with all the glory of antiquity upon his deeds."
Lucian made a gesture of impatience. "I have never been able to
understand," he said, "how it is that a woman of your ability can
habitually dwell on perverse and absurd ideas. Oh, Lydia, is this to
be the end of all your great gifts and attainments? Forgive me if I
touch a painful chord; but this marriage seems to me so unnatural
that I must speak out. Your father made you one of the richest and
best-educated women in the world. Would he approve of what you are
about to do?"
"It almost seems to me that he educated me expressly to some such
end. Whom would you have me marry?"
"Doubtless few men are worthy of you, Lydia. But this man least of
all. Could you not marry a gentleman? If he were even an artist, a
poet, or a man of genius of any kind, I could bear to think of it;
for indeed I am not influenced by class prejudice in the matter. But
a—I will try to say nothing that you must not in justice admit to be
too obvious to be ignored—a man of the lower orders, pursuing a
calling which even the lower orders despise; illiterate, rough,
awaiting at this moment a disgraceful sentence at the hands of the
law! Is it possible that you have considered all these things?"
"Not very deeply; they are not of a kind to concern me much. I can
console you as to one of them. I have always recognized him as a
gentleman, in your sense of the word. He proves to be so—one of
considerable position, in fact. As to his approaching trial, I have
spoken with Lord Worthington about it, and also with the lawyers who
have charge of the case; and they say positively that, owing to
certain proofs not being in the hands of the police, a defence can be
set up that will save him from imprisonment."
"There is no such defence possible," said Lucian, angrily.
"Perhaps not. As far as I understand it, it is rather an
aggravation of the offence than an excuse for it. But if they imprison
him it will make no difference. He can console himself by the
certainty that I will marry him at once when he is released."
Lucian's face lengthened. He abandoned the argument, and said,
blankly, "I cannot suppose that you would allow yourself to be
deceived. If he is a gentleman of position, that of course alters the
"Very little indeed from my point of view. Hardly at all. And now,
worldly cousin Lucian, I have satisfied you that I am not going to
connect you by marriage with a butcher, bricklayer, or other member
of the trades from which Cashel's profession, as you warned me, is
usually recruited. Stop a moment. I am going to do justice to you.
You want to say that my unworldly friend Lucian is far more deeply
concerned at seeing the phoenix of modern culture throw herself away
on a man unworthy of her."
"That IS what I mean to say, except that you put it too modestly.
It is a case of the phoenix, not only of modern culture, but of
natural endowment and of every happy accident of the highest
civilization, throwing herself away on a man specially incapacitated
by his tastes and pursuits from comprehending her or entering the
circle in which she moves."
"Listen to me patiently, Lucian, and I will try to explain the
mystery to you, leaving the rest of the world to misunderstand me as
it pleases. First, you will grant me that even a phoenix must marry
some one in order that she may hand on her torch to her children. Her
best course would be to marry another phoenix; but as she—poor
girl!—cannot appreciate even her own phoenixity, much less that of
another, she must perforce be content with a mere mortal. Who is the
mortal to be? Not her cousin Lucian; for rising young politicians
must have helpful wives, with feminine politics and powers of
visiting and entertaining; a description inapplicable to the phoenix.
Not, as you just now suggested, a man of letters. The phoenix has had
her share of playing helpmeet to a man of letters, and does not care
to repeat that experience. She is sick to death of the morbid
introspection and womanish self-consciousness of poets, novelists, and
their like. As to artists, all the good ones are married; and ever
since the rest have been able to read in hundreds of books that they
are the most gifted and godlike of men, they are become almost as
intolerable as their literary flatterers. No, Lucian, the phoenix has
paid her debt to literature and art by the toil of her childhood. She
will use and enjoy both of them in future as best she can; but she
will never again drudge in their laboratories. You say that she might
at least have married a gentleman. But the gentlemen she knows are
either amateurs of the arts, having the egotism of professional
artists without their ability, or they are men of pleasure, which
means that they are dancers, tennis-players, butchers, and gamblers. I
leave the nonentities out of the question. Now, in the eyes of a
phoenix, a prize-fighter is a hero in comparison with a wretch who
sets a leash of greyhounds upon a hare. Imagine, now, this poor
phoenix meeting with a man who had never been guilty of self-analysis
in his life—who complained when he was annoyed, and exulted when he
was glad, like a child (and unlike a modern man)—who was honest and
brave, strong and beautiful. You open your eyes, Lucian: you do not
do justice to Cashel's good looks. He is twenty-five, and yet there
is not a line in his face. It is neither thoughtful, nor poetic, nor
wearied, nor doubting, nor old, nor self-conscious, as so many of his
contemporaries' faces are—as mine perhaps is. The face of a pagan
god, assured of eternal youth, and absolutely disqualified from
comprehending 'Faust.' Do you understand a word of what I am saying,
"I must confess that I do not. Either you have lost your reason, or
I have. I wish you had never taking to reading 'Faust.'"
"It is my fault. I began an explanation, and rambled off,
womanlike, into praise of my lover. However, I will not attempt to
complete my argument; for if you do not understand me from what I have
already said, the further you follow the wider you will wander. The
truth, in short, is this: I practically believe in the doctrine of
heredity; and as my body is frail and my brain morbidly active, I
think my impulse towards a man strong in body and untroubled in mind
a trustworthy one. You can understand that; it is a plain proposition
in eugenics. But if I tell you that I have chosen this common pugilist
because, after seeing half the culture of Europe, I despaired of
finding a better man, you will only tell me again that I have lost my
"I know that you will do whatever you have made up your mind to
do," said Lucian, desolately.
"And you will make the best of it, will you not?"
"The best or the worst of it does not rest with me. I can only
accept it as inevitable."
"Not at all. You can make the worst of it by behaving distantly to
Cashel; or the best of it by being friendly with him."
Lucian reddened and hesitated. She looked at him, mutely
encouraging him to be generous.
"I had better tell you," he said. "I have seen him since—since—"
Lydia nodded. "I mistook his object in coming into my room as he did,
unannounced. In fact, he almost forced his way in. Some words arose
between us. At last he taunted me beyond endurance, and offered
me—characteristically—twenty pounds to strike him. And I am sorry to
say that I did so."
"You did so! And what followed?"
"I should say rather that I meant to strike him; for he avoided me,
or else I missed my aim. He only gave the money and went away,
evidently with a high opinion of me. He left me with a very low one
"What! He did not retaliate!" exclaimed Lydia, recovering her
color, which had fled. "And you STRUCK him!" she added.
"He did not," replied Lucian, passing by the reproach. "Probably he
despised me too much."
"That is not fair, Lucian. He behaved very well—for a
prize-fighter! Surely you do not grudge him his superiority in the
very art you condemn him for professing."
"I was wrong, Lydia; but I grudged him you. I know I have acted
hastily; and I will apologize to him. I wish matters had fallen out
"They could not have done so; and I believe you will yet
acknowledge that they have arranged themselves very well. And now that
the phoenix is disposed of, I want to read you a letter I have
received from Alice Goff, which throws quite a new light on her
character. I have not seen her since June, and she seems to have
gained three years' mental growth in the interim. Listen to this, for
And so the conversation turned upon Alice.
When Lucian returned to his chambers, he wrote the following note,
which he posted to Cashel Byron before going to bed:
"Dear Sir,—I beg to enclose you a bank-note which you left here
this evening. I feel bound to express my regret for what passed on
that occasion, and to assure you that it proceeded from a
misapprehension of your purpose in calling on me. The nervous
disorder into which the severe mental application and late hours of
the past session have thrown me must be my excuse. I hope to have the
pleasure of meeting you again soon, and offering you personally my
congratulations on your approaching marriage. "I am, dear sir, yours
truly, "Lucian Webber."
In the following month Cashel Byron, William Paradise, and Robert
Mellish appeared in the dock together, the first two for having been
principals in a prize-fight, and Mellish for having acted as bottle-
holder to Paradise. These offences were verbosely described in a long
indictment which had originally included the fourth man who had been
captured, but against whom the grand jury had refused to find a true
bill. The prisoners pleaded not guilty.
The defence was that the fight, the occurrence of which was
admitted, was not a prize-fight, but the outcome of an enmity which
had subsisted between the two men since one of them, at a public
exhibition at Islington, had attacked and bitten the other. In
support of this, it was shown that Byron had occupied a house at
Wiltstoken, and had lived there with Mellish, who had invited
Paradise to spend a holiday with him in the country. This accounted
for the presence of the three men at Wiltstoken on the day in
question. Words had arisen between Byron and Paradise on the subject
of the Islington affair; and they had at last agreed to settle the
dispute in the old English fashion. They had adjourned to a field,
and fought fairly and determinedly until interrupted by the police,
who were misled by appearances into the belief that the affair was a
Prize-fighting was a brutal pastime, Cashel Byron's counsel said;
but a fair, stand-up fight between two unarmed men, though doubtless
technically a breach of the peace, had never been severely dealt with
by a British jury or a British judge; and the case would be amply met
by binding over the prisoners, who were now on the best of terms with
one another, to keep the peace for a reasonable period. The sole
evidence against this view of the case, he argued, was police
evidence; and the police were naturally reluctant to admit that they
had found a mare's nest. In proof that the fight had been
premeditated, and was a prize-fight, they alleged that it had taken
place within an enclosure formed with ropes and stakes. But where
were those ropes and stakes? They were not forthcoming; and he
(counsel) submitted that the reason was not, as had been suggested,
because they had been spirited away, for that was plainly impossible;
but because they had existed only in the excited imagination of the
posse of constables who had arrested the prisoners.
Again, it had been urged that the prisoners were in fighting
costume. But cross-examination had elicited that fighting costume
meant practically no costume at all: the men had simply stripped in
order that their movements might be unembarrassed. It had been proved
that Paradise had been—well, in the traditional costume of Paradise
(roars of laughter) until the police borrowed a blanket to put upon
That the constables had been guilty of gross exaggeration was shown
by their evidence as to the desperate injuries the combatants had
inflicted upon one another. Of Paradise in particular it had been
alleged that his features were obliterated. The jury had before them
in the dock the man whose features had been obliterated only a few
weeks previously. If that were true, where had the prisoner obtained
the unblemished lineaments which he was now, full of health and
good-humor, presenting to them? (Renewed laughter. Paradise grinning
in confusion.) It was said that these terrible injuries, the traces
of which had disappeared so miraculously, were inflicted by the
prisoner Byron, a young gentleman tenderly nurtured, and visibly
inferior in strength and hardihood to his herculean opponent.
Doubtless Byron had been emboldened by his skill in mimic combat to
try conclusions, under the very different conditions of real
fighting, with a man whose massive shoulders and determined cast of
features ought to have convinced him that such an enterprise was
nothing short of desperate. Fortunately the police had interfered
before he had suffered severely for his rashness. Yet it had been
alleged that he had actually worsted Paradise in the
encounter—obliterated his features. That was a fair sample of the
police evidence, which was throughout consistently incredible and at
variance with the dictates of common-sense.
Attention was then drawn to the honorable manner in which Byron had
come forward and given himself up to the police the moment he became
aware that they were in search of him. Paradise would, beyond a
doubt, have adopted the same course had he not been arrested at once,
and that, too, without the least effort at resistance on his part.
That was hardly the line of conduct that would have suggested itself
to two lawless prize-fighters.
An attempt had been made to prejudice the prisoner Byron by the
statement that he was a notorious professional bruiser. But no proof
of that was forthcoming; and if the fact were really notorious there
could be no difficulty in proving it. Such notoriety as Mr. Byron
enjoyed was due, as appeared from the evidence of Lord Worthington
and others, to his approaching marriage to a lady of distinction. Was
it credible that a highly connected gentleman in this enviable
position would engage in a prize-fight, risking disgrace and personal
disfigurement, for a sum of money that could be no object to him, or
for a glory that would appear to all his friends as little better than
The whole of the evidence as to the character of the prisoners went
to show that they were men of unimpeachable integrity and
respectability. An impression unfavorable to Paradise might have been
created by the fact that he was a professional pugilist and a man of
hasty temper; but it had also transpired that he had on several
occasions rendered assistance to the police, thereby employing his
skill and strength in the interests of law and order. As to his
temper, it accounted for the quarrel which the police—knowing his
profession—had mistaken for a prize-fight.
Mellish was a trainer of athletes, and hence the witnesses to his
character were chiefly persons connected with sport; but they were
not the less worthy of credence on that account.
In fine, the charge would have been hard to believe even if
supported by the strongest evidence. But when there was no
evidence—when the police had failed to produce any of the
accessories of a prize-fight—when there were no ropes nor posts—no
written articles—no stakes nor stakeholders—no seconds except the
unfortunate man Mellish, whose mouth was closed by a law which, in
defiance of the obvious interests of justice, forbade a prisoner to
speak and clear himself—nothing, in fact, but the fancies of
constables who had, under cross-examination, not only contradicted one
another, but shown the most complete ignorance (a highly creditable
ignorance) of the nature and conditions of a prize-fight; then counsel
would venture to say confidently that the theory of the prosecution,
ingenious as it was, and ably as it had been put forward, was
absolutely and utterly untenable.
This, and much more argument of equal value, was delivered with
relish by a comparatively young barrister, whose spirits rose as he
felt the truth change and fade while he rearranged its attendant
circumstances. Cashel listened for some time anxiously. He flushed
and looked moody when his marriage was alluded to; but when the whole
defence was unrolled, he was awestruck, and stared at his advocate as
if he half feared that the earth would gape and swallow such a
reckless perverter of patent facts. Even the judge in the city; and
was eventually invited to represent a Dorsetshire constituency in
Parliament in the Radical interest. He was returned by a large
majority; and, having a loud voice and an easy manner, he soon
acquired some reputation both in and out of the House of Commons by
the popularity of his own views, and the extent of his wife's
information, which he retailed at second hand. He made his maiden
speech in the House unabashed the first night he sat there. Indeed, he
was afraid of nothing except burglars, big dogs, doctors, dentists,
and street-crossings. Whenever any accident occurred through any of
these he preserved the newspaper in which it was reported, read it to
Lydia very seriously, and repeated his favorite assertion that the
only place in which a man was safe was the ring. As he objected to
most field sports on the ground of inhumanity, she, fearing that he
would suffer in health and appearance from want of systematic
exercise, suggested that he should resume the practice of boxing with
gloves. But he was lazy in this matter, and had a prejudice that
boxing did not become a married man. His career as a pugilist was
closed by his marriage.
His admiration for his wife survived the ardor of his first love
for her, and she employed all her forethought not to disappoint his
reliance on her judgment. She led a busy life, and wrote some learned
monographs, as well as a work in which she denounced education as
practised in the universities and public schools. Her children
inherited her acuteness and refinement with their father's robustness
and aversion to study. They were precocious and impudent, had no
respect for Cashel, and showed any they had for their mother
principally by running to her when they were in difficulties. She
never punished nor scolded them; but she contrived to make their
misdeeds recoil naturally upon them so inevitably that they soon
acquired a lively moral sense which restrained them much more
effectually than the usual methods of securing order in the nursery.
Cashel treated them kindly for the purpose of conciliating them; and
when Lydia spoke of them to him in private, he seldom said more than
that the imps were too sharp for him, or that he was blest if he
didn't believe that they were born older than their father. Lydia
often thought so too; but the care of this troublesome family had one
advantage for her. It left her little time to think about herself, or
about the fact that when the illusion of her love passed away Cashel
fell in her estimation. But the children were a success; and she soon
came to regard him as one of them. When she had leisure to consider
the matter at all, which seldom occurred, it seemed to her that, on
the whole, she had chosen wisely.
Alice Goff, when she heard of Lydia's projected marriage, saw that
she must return to Wiltstoken, and forget her brief social splendor
as soon as possible. She therefore thanked Miss Carew for her bounty,
and begged to relinquish her post of companion. Lydia assented, but
managed to delay this sacrifice to a sense of duty and necessity until
a day early in winter, when Lucian gave way to a hankering after
smiled once or twice; and when he did so the jurymen grinned, but
recovered their solemnity suddenly when the bench recollected itself
and became grave again. Every one in court knew that the police were
right—that there had been a prize-fight—that the betting on it had
been recorded in all the sporting papers for weeks beforehand—that
Cashel was the most terrible fighting man of the day, and that
Paradise had not dared to propose a renewal of the interrupted
contest. And they listened with admiration and delight while the
advocate proved that these things were incredible and nonsensical.
It remained for the judge to sweep away the defence, or to favor
the prisoners by countenancing it. Fortunately for them, he was an old
man; and could recall, not without regret, a time when the memory of
Cribb and Molyneux was yet green. He began his summing-up by telling
the jury that the police had failed to prove that the fight was a
prize-fight. After that, the public, by indulging in roars of
laughter whenever they could find a pretext for doing so without
being turned out of court, showed that they had ceased to regard the
Finally the jury acquitted Mellish, and found Cashel and Paradise
guilty of a common assault. They were sentenced to two days'
imprisonment, and bound over to keep the peace for twelve months in
sureties of one hundred and fifty pounds each. The sureties were
forthcoming; and as the imprisonment was supposed to date from the
beginning of the sessions, the prisoners were at once released.
Miss Carew, averse to the anomalous relations of courtship, made as
little delay as possible in getting married. Cashel's luck was not
changed by the event. Bingley Byron died three weeks after the
ceremony (which was civic and private); and Cashel had to claim
possession of the property in Dorsetshire, in spite of his expressed
wish that the lawyers would take themselves and the property to the
devil, and allow him to enjoy his honeymoon in peace. The transfer
was not, however, accomplished at once. Owing to his mother's
capricious reluctance to give the necessary information without
reserve, and to the law's delay, his first child was born some time
before his succession was fully established and the doors of his
ancestral hall opened to him. The conclusion of the business was a
great relief to his attorneys, who had been unable to shake his
conviction that the case was clear enough, but that the referee had
been squared. By this he meant that the Lord Chancellor had been
bribed to keep him out of his property.
His marriage proved an unusually happy one. To make up for the loss
of his occupation, he farmed, and lost six thousand pounds by it;
tried gardening with better success; began to meddle in commercial
enterprises, and became director of several trading companies in the
city; and was eventually invited to represent a Dorsetshire
constituency in Parliament in the Radical interest. He was returned
by a large majority; and, having a loud voice and an easy manner, he
soon acquired some reputation both in and out of the House of Commons
by the popularity of his own views, and the extent of his wife's
information, which he retailed at second hand. He made his maiden
speech in the House unabashed the first night he sat there. Indeed, he
was afraid of nothing except burglars, big dogs, doctors, dentists,
and street-crossings. Whenever any accident occurred through any of
these he preserved the newspaper in which it was reported, read it to
Lydia very seriously, and repeated his favorite assertion that the
only place in which a man was safe was the ring. As he objected to
most field sports on the ground of inhumanity, she, fearing that he
would suffer in health and appearance from want of systematic
exercise, suggested that he should resume the practice of boxing with
gloves. But he was lazy in this matter, and had a prejudice that
boxing did not become a married man. His career as a pugilist was
closed by his marriage.
His admiration for his wife survived the ardor of his first love
for her, and she employed all her forethought not to disappoint his
reliance on her judgment. She led a busy life, and wrote some learned
monographs, as well as a work in which she denounced education as
practised in the universities and public schools. Her children
inherited her acuteness and refinement with their father's robustness
and aversion to study. They were precocious and impudent, had no
respect for Cashel, and showed any they had for their mother
principally by running to her when they were in difficulties. She
never punished nor scolded them; but she contrived to make their
misdeeds recoil naturally upon them so inevitably that they soon
acquired a lively moral sense which restrained them much more
effectually than the usual methods of securing order in the nursery.
Cashel treated them kindly for the purpose of conciliating them; and
when Lydia spoke of them to him in private, he seldom said more than
that the imps were too sharp for him, or that he was blest if he
didn't believe that they were born older than their father. Lydia
often thonght so too; but the care of this troublesome family had one
advantage for her. It left her little time to think about herself, or
about the fact that when the illusion of her love passed away Cashel
fell in her estimation. But the children were a success; and she soon
came to regard him as one of them. When she had leisure to consider
the matter at all, which seldom occurred, it seemed to her that, on
the whole, she had chosen wisely.
Alice Goff, when she heard of Lydia's projected marriage, saw that
she must return to Wiltstoken, and forget her brief social splendor
as soon as possible. She therefore thanked Miss Carew for her bounty,
and begged to relinquish her post of companion. Lydia assented, but
managed to delay this sacrifice to a sense of duty and necessity until
a day early in winter, when Lucian gave way to a hankering after
domestic joys that possessed him, and allowed his cousin to persuade
him to offer his hand to Alice. She indignantly refused—not that she
had any reason to complain of him, but because the prospect of
returning to Wiltstoken made her feel ill used, and she could not help
revenging her soreness upon the first person whom she could find a
pretext for attacking. He, lukewarm before, now became eager, and she
was induced to relent without much difficulty. Lucian was supposed to
have made a brilliant match; and, as it proved, he made a fortunate
one. She kept his house, entertained his guests, and took charge of
his social connections so ably that in course of time her invitations
came to be coveted by people who were desirous of moving in good
society. She was even better looking as a matron than she had been as
a girl; and her authority in matters of etiquette inspired nervous
novices with all the terrors she had herself felt when she first
visited Wiltstoken Castle. She invited her brother-in-law and his wife
to dinner twice a year—at midsummer and Easter; but she never
admitted that either Wallace Parker or Cashel Byron were gentlemen,
although she invited the latter freely, notwithstanding the frankness
with which he spoke to strangers after dinner of his former exploits,
without deference to their professions or prejudices. Her respect for
Lydia remained so great that she never complained to her of Cashel
save on one occasion, when he had shown a bishop, whose house had been
recently broken into and robbed, how to break a burglar's back in the
act of grappling with him.
The Skenes returned to Australia and went their way there, as Mrs.
Byron did in England, in the paths they had pursued for years before.
Cashel spoke always of Mrs. Skene as "mother," and of Mrs. Byron as
William Paradise, though admired by the fair sex for his strength,
courage, and fame, was not, like Cashel and Skene, wise or fortunate
enough to get a good wife. He drank so exceedingly that he had but
few sober intervals after his escape from the law. He claimed the
title of champion of England on Cashel's retirement from the ring,
and challenged the world. The world responded in the persons of
sundry young laboring men with a thirst for glory and a taste for
fighting. Paradise fought and prevailed twice. Then he drank while in
training, and was beaten. But by this time the ring had again fallen
into the disrepute from which Cashel's unusual combination of
pugilistic genius with honesty had temporarily raised it; and the
law, again seizing Paradise as he was borne vanquished from the
field, atoned for its former leniency by incarcerating him for six
months. The abstinence thus enforced restored him to health and
vigor; and he achieved another victory before he succeeded in
drinking himself into his former state. This was his last triumph.
With his natural ruffianism complicated by drunkenness, he went
rapidly down the hill into the valley of humiliation. After becoming
noted for his readiness to sell the victories he could no longer win,
he only appeared in the ring to test the capabilities of untried
youths, who beat him to their hearts' content. He became a potman, and
was immediately discharged as an inebriate. He had sunk into beggary
when, hearing in his misery that his former antagonist was contesting
a parliamentary election, he applied to him for alms. Cashel at the
time was in Dorsetshire; but Lydia relieved the destitute wretch,
whose condition was now far worse than it had been at their last
meeting. At his next application, which followed soon, he was
confronted by Cashel, who bullied him fiercely, threatened to break
every bone in his skin if he ever again dared to present himself
before Lydia, flung him five shillings, and bade him be gone. For
Cashel retained for Paradise that contemptuous and ruthless hatred in
which a duly qualified professor holds a quack. Paradise bought a few
pence-worth of food, which he could hardly eat, and spent the rest in
brandy, which he drank as fast as his stomach would endure it. Shortly
afterwards a few sporting papers reported his death, which they
attributed to "consumption, brought on by the terrible injuries
sustained by him in his celebrated fight with Cashel Byron."