Driven from Home/Chapter XXXIV
"There they are now," said the stranger, suddenly pointing out two persons walking slowly along the piazza. "The small man, in the rough suit, and mutton-chop whiskers, is Lord Bedford."
Carl eyed the British nobleman with some curiosity. Evidently Lord Bedford was no dude. His suit was of rough cloth and illfitting. He was barely five feet six inches in height, with features decidedly plain, but with an absence of pretension that was creditable to him, considering that he was really what he purported to be. Stuyvesant walked by his side, nearly a head taller, and of more distinguished bearing, though of plebeian extraction. His manner was exceedingly deferential, and he was praising England and everything English in a fulsome manner.
"Yes, my lord," Carl overheard him say, "I have often thought that society in England is far superior to our American society."
"Thanks, you are very kind," drawled the nobleman, "but really I find things very decent in America, upon my word. I had been reading Dickens's `Notes' before I came over and I expected to find you very uncivilized, and--almost aboriginal; but I assure you I have met some very gentlemanly persons in America, some almost up to our English standard."
"Really, my lord, such a tribute from a man in your position is most gratifying. May I state this on your authority?"
"Yes, I don't mind, but I would rather not get into the papers, don't you know. You are not a--reporter, I hope."
"I hope not," said Mr. Stuyvesant, in a lofty tone. "I am a scion of one of the oldest families in New York. Of course I know that social position is a very different thing here from what it is in England. It must be a gratifying thing to reflect that you are a lord."
"Yes, I suppose so. I never thought much about it."
"I should like so much to be a lord. I care little for money."
"Then, by Jove, you are a remarkable man."
"In comparison with rank, I mean. I would rather be a lord with a thousand pounds a year than a rich merchant with ten times as much."
"You'll find it very inconvenient being a lord on a thousand; you might as well be a beggar."
"I suppose, of course, high rank requires a large rent roll. In fact, a New York gentleman requires more than a trifle to support him. I can't dress on less than two hundred pounds a year."
"Your American tailors are high-priced, then?"
"Those that I employ; we have cheap tailors, of course, but I generally go to Bell."
Mr. Stuyvesant was posing as a gentleman of fashion. Carl, who followed at a little distance behind the pair, was much amused by his remarks, knowing what he did about him.
"I think a little of going to England in a few months," continued Stuyvesant.
"Indeed! You must look me up," said Bedford, carelessly.
"I should, indeed, be delighted," said Stuyvesant, effusively.
"That is, if I am in England. I may be on the Continent, but you can inquire for me at my club--the Piccadilly."
"I shall esteem it a great honor, my lord. I have a penchant for good society. The lower orders are not attractive to me."
"They are sometimes more interesting," said the Englishman; "but do you know, I am surprised to hear an American speak in this way. I thought you were all on a level here in a republic."
"Oh, my lord!" expostulated Stuyvesant, deprecatingly. "You don't think I would associate with shopkeepers and common tradesmen?"
"I don't know. A cousin of mine is interested in a wine business in London. He is a younger son with a small fortune, and draws a very tidy income from his city business."
"But his name doesn't appear on the sign, I infer."
"No, I think not. Then you are not in business, Mr. Stuyvesant?"
"No; I inherited an income from my father. It isn't as large as I could wish, and I have abstained from marrying because I could not maintain the mode of living to which I have been accustomed."
"You should marry a rich girl."
"True! I may do so, since your lordship recommends it. In fact, I have in view a young lady whose father was once lord mayor (I beg pardon, mayor) of New York. Her father is worth a million."
"Well, no, dollars. I should have said two hundred thousand pounds."
"If the girl is willing, it may be a good plan."
"Thank you, my lord. Your advice is very kind."
"The young man seems on very good terms with Lord Bedford," said Carl's companion, whose name was Atwood, with a shade of envy in his voice.
"Yes," said Carl.
"I wish he would introduce me," went on Mr. Atwood.
"I should prefer the introduction of a different man," said Carl.
"Why? He seems to move in good society."
"Without belonging to it."
"Then you know him?"
"Better than I wish I did."
Atwood looked curious.
"I will explain later," said Carl; "now I must go in to breakfast."
"I will go with you."
Though Stuyvesant had glanced at Carl, he did not appear to recognize him, partly, no doubt, because he had no expectation of meeting the boy he had robbed, at Niagara. Besides, his time and attention were so much taken up by his aristocratic acquaintance that he had little notice for anyone else. Carl observed with mingled amusement and vexation that Mr. Stuyvesant wore a new necktie, which he had bought for himself in New York, and which had been in the stolen gripsack.
"If I can find Lord Bedford alone I will put him on his guard," thought Carl. "I shall spoil Mr. Stuyvesant's plans."
After breakfast Carl prepared to go down to the falls.
On the way he overtook Lord Bedford walking in the same direction, and, as it happened, without a companion. Carl quickened his pace, and as he caught up with him, he raised his hat, and said: "Lord Bedford, I believe."
"Yes," answered the Englishman, inquiringly.
"I must apologize for addressing a stranger, but I want to put you on your guard against a young man whom I saw walking with you on the piazza."
"Is he--what do you know of him?" asked Lord Bedford, laying aside his air of indifference.
"I know that he is an adventurer and a thief. I made his acquaintance on a Hudson River steamer, and he walked off with my valise and a small sum of money."
"Is this true?" asked the Englishman, in amazement.
"Quite true. He is wearing one of my neckties at this moment."
"The confounded cad!" ejaculated the Englishman, angrily. "I suppose he intended to rob me."
"I have no doubt of it. That is why I ventured to put you on your guard."
"I am a thousand times obliged to you. Why, the fellow told me he belonged to one of the best families in New York."
"If he does, he doesn't do much credit to the family."
"Quite true! Why, he was praising everything English. He evidently wanted to gain my confidence."
"May I ask where you met him?" asked Carl.
"On the train. He offered me a light. Before I knew it, he was chatting familiarly with me. But his game is spoiled. I will let him know that I see through him and his designs." "Then my object is accomplished," said Carl. "Please excuse my want of ceremony." He turned to leave, but Bedford called him back.
"If you are going to the falls, remain with me," he said. "We shall enjoy it better in company."
"With pleasure. Let me introduce myself as Carl Crawford. I am traveling on business and don't belong to one of the first families."
"I see you will suit me," said the Englishman, smiling.
Just then up came Stuyvesant, panting and breathless. "My lord," he said, "I lost sight of you. If you will allow me I will join you.
"Sir!" said the Englishman, in a freezing voice, "I have not the honor of knowing you."
Stuyvesant was overwhelmed.
"I--I hope I have not offended you, my lord," he said.
"Sir, I have learned your character from this young man."
This called the attention of Stuyvesant to Carl. He flushed as he recognized him
"Mr. Stuyvesant," said Carl, "I must trouble you to return the valise you took from my stateroom, and the pocketbook which you borrowed. My name is Carl Crawford, and my room is 71."
Stuyvesant turned away abruptly. He left the valise at the desk, but Carl never recovered his money.