Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 4/The silver cord - Part 12

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THE SILVER CORD.

BY SHIRLEY BROOKS.



CHAPTER XXIV.

On the day following that of Adair’s interview with Henderson, at which he had extracted the scrap of paper from the reluctant hand of the lady’s maid, Ernest, who had taken up his quarters at the little inn at Versailles, received an unexpected visitor. This was M. Silvain, who presented himself with considerable sternness of manner. The symptom was not lost on the observant Adair, but he had his own reasons for being very little affected by any change of bearing in the usually polite and deferential perfumer.

“Ah, the dear Alphonse!” said Adair, in French, the language in which their subsequent conversation was conducted, and which Ernest Adair spoke with perfect facility.

M. Silvain bowed slightly, upon which Adair rose, mockingly returned an elaborate salute, and then, resuming his seat, proceeded to make a cigarette.

“I wish to be favoured with your attention, Monsieur,” said Silvain, coldly.

“You have it, my good Alphonse. Have you discovered a new hair-dye, or does some confiding victim to your last invention in that line threaten you with the tribunals?”

“I am not here to badiner, Monsieur.”

“Is that a grateful answer, when a friend anticipates your griefs, and prepares to solace them?”

“Before we separate you will need another preparation, M. Adair.”

“For my hair?”

“I forbid you to jest at my profession, Monsieur, or on any other subject at the present moment.”

Diavolo!” said Adair, opening his eyes. “Let us hear more, and shall I order you some absinthe? It is very bad, but you are accustomed to deleterious liquids.”

“I repeat to you, M. Adair, that I forbid jesting.”

“Well, if you will neither be consoled nor treated, the tribune is to you. Speak.”

“I had thought you, M. Adair, with certain drawbacks, for which I know how to make allowances, a man of honour.”

“I swear to you that I have kept your secrets. Nobody has learned from me how you colour the violet pomade. I only refuse to use it.”

“You seek to enrage me, M. Adair, but you have already done so more effectually than by your coarse taunts.”

“Enraged you, Alphonse!—you, the pattern of all that is soft and amiable. Nay, then I am a wretch indeed, and miserable to the lowest extent. De profundis I implore you to tell me my crime; only break it to me gently, knowing the feminine tenderness of my heart.”

“The word is well chosen, M. Adair, by a man who commits a brutal outrage upon a woman.”

“And who has done such a truly shocking thing?”

“You yourself, Monsieur, and in this very apartment.”

“I begin to think, my fabulous Alphonse, that my hospitable offer of refreshment was something more than superfluous, and that you were wise to decline it. I would not presume to dictate, but I think that the interests of our trade may suffer if we indulge too freely in the sensuous pleasures, at least during business hours.”

This was said very indolently, and the punctuation supplied by light puffs of smoke.

“Your insolence, Monsieur, will not deter me from the purpose I have come for,” returned Silvain, who, though pale with anger, preserved much composure of deportment.

“I should be very sorry to deter you from anything, my dear Alphonse,” replied Adair. “I cannot charge myself with habitually keeping you out of mischief. But tipsiness is such an exceedingly objectionable frailty, that a friend’s ardour may be pardoned.”

“A friend, M. Adair. That name is never again to be used between us.”

“Exactly as you please, Alphonse. Perhaps you are right. Real friends need no parade of their affectionate sentiments.”

“In this apartment, M. Adair, you dared to permit yourself, yesterday, to outrage a woman whom you were bound to treat with respect.”

“You are rather a tiresome raconteur, Alphonse. You told me this just now, with a slight deduction. A narrative should advance—and one would think a perfumer understood fiction.”

“It is no fiction, Monsieur. Do you dare to deny having wrenched from a young girl’s hand a certain paper?”

“Suppose I denied it?”

“That would be a fresh insult, because you would charge her with a falsehood of which she is incapable. Do you know that?”

“Indeed, M. Silvain, with all apologies to you, I know of no falsehood of which any female is incapable.”

“The sentiment is worthy of you, M. Adair. But spare yourself the unnecessary trouble. Mademoiselle Matilde has informed me, somewhat reluctantly, of your conduct, and I am here.”

“Well,” said Ernest, emitting a large puff of smoke.

“Had you been the man of honour I had supposed you, this conversation would have been needless.”

“It is.”

“That is false, Monsieur. It would have been needless, for you would at once have made your reparation, and charged me with apology. I do not observe that you are in the slightest hurry to do either.”

“Did you ever observe me in the slightest hurry about anything?”

“Again, I repeat, Monsieur, that I will not be provoked into anger, and I invite you to take the course which is due to the young person you have injured.”

“I have injured nobody, and you are a fool, Alphonse.”

“We shall see, presently, M. Adair.”

“As you please; but I warn you that I was reading something much more pleasant than your conversation, and I may easily be fatigued by a repetition of your absurdities. Have some absinthe, and go away and become tolerable.”

“I may have the misfortune to fatigue you without much conversation, M. Adair. But I prefer to act in the first place with consideration. You deprived Mademoiselle Matilde of a paper.”

“What, again?”

“You will, at once, deposit that paper in my hands, first placing it in this envelope.” And he produced one from his pocket.

“This envelope,” said Adair, affecting to smell it, and then tossing it at Silvain, “is so infernally scented with bad millefleurs that I must protest against touching it again.”

M. Silvain’s eyes sparkled with rage.

“I produce the envelope, Monsieur, because, although I shall return the paper in question to Mademoiselle, I refuse to be thought to have seen the writing upon it, or to have become acquainted with her least secret.”

“Chivalrous Alphonse, worthy to have been christened after Spanish royalty! But your scruples are in excess. There was but one word on the piece of paper, but I half suspect that Mademoiselle’s curious French has made you think there was some allusion to yourself or your calling. Tranquillise your mind. The word was not couper, but coupon.”

“Monsieur, you are a dastard.”

“You should not say that, when I have been bold enough to permit you to shave me. I have had wounds from your awkwardness that testify to my bravery.”

“You may have others, ere long, Monsieur.”

“That is, I think, the third time that you have darkly hinted at some scheme of personal vengeance, my dear Alphonse. You force me also into the bad and dull habit of repetition, and constrain me again to say that you are a fool.”

“Enough, and more than enough, M. Adair.”

“The interview is at an end, then. The fates are merciful.”

“Perhaps not,” said the Frenchman, suddenly rising, and leaving the room, and as hastily returning with a long wooden box, which he placed on the table.

“Ah, now you interest me,” said Adair. “The dialogue was really flagging. Now we have novelty. And what is that box? You have some new invention, after all, only you meditated an amiable surprise for your friend. Come, no more mystification. Is it a monster bottle of home-made Eau de Cologne?”

The Frenchman quietly unlocked the box, took out two small swords, and threw off his coat.

“Eh!” said Ernest Adair, affecting pleasure. “That is charming. Two real swords. Did you buy them a bargain, to be cut up into scissors? Well, any improvement in your French cutlery is to be hailed with ecstacy.”

But while he spoke his eye was vigilant, and his foot firm on the floor, and ready for a spring, should Silvain offer sudden violence.

The Frenchman had no such base intent. He placed the box on a chair, pushed away the table, so as to leave the centre of the room free, and calmly offered Adair his choice of weapons.

For a moment it crossed Ernest’s mind to snatch both, but the next instant he smiled and took one of the swords.

“This looks the prettier handle,” he said, without rising, “but both are very nicely cleaned, and do credit to our crystal scouring powder, breveté. What next?”

“Next, defend yourself, Monsieur,” said Silvain, retiring, and taking up his position in a very determined manner. “The door is behind me,” he added, for the first time letting a taunt escape him.

“I am obliged by the counsel and the information,” said Adair, still keeping his seat. “But are you sufficiently insane, M. Silvain—and as you repudiate intoxication, observe the ready charity that offers you another excuse—are you sufficiently insane to suppose that I am going to fight a hairdresser about a lady’s-maid?”

“We will not talk, M. Adair. You have long since waived all the considerations of rank, even if I allowed them. You have insulted a young person whom I esteem, Monsieur, therefore, defend yourself.”

He looked so determined, as he spoke, that Ernest thought it prudent to rise, in order to repel any sudden attack, but he did not advance upon his antagonist.

“This is a gentleman’s reward when he condescends to fraternise with canaille,” he said, with calm impertinence.

“Fight, and do not talk,” replied the Frenchman, advancing upon him, with the most evident intention of doing his very worst.

Ernest instinctively fell upon guard—the blades crossed—and M. Silvain’s sword, like that of the Corsair, made fast atonement for its first delay. He attacked Adair with downright fury, and any one thrust which he delivered would, unparried, have worked important change in the subsequent destinies of several persons with whom the reader is acquainted. But Adair, retaining his cigarette between his teeth, coolly parried every lunge, without making a return.

“How long,” he said, as M. Silvain, baffled in a vigorous onslaught, retreated for a moment, and glared vengefully at his antagonist, “how long is this delightful assault of arms to proceed?”

“Until one falls, Monsieur,” cried M. Silvain, anew advancing to the combat. Ernest smiled.

But the most cold-blooded man is roused sooner or later by the persistent efforts of another to do him mortal harm, and, moreover, there is something in the rapid clash of steel that fires the soul of the swordsman. Another desperate effort of Silvain’s to get home, and Ernest had no longer the paper in his teeth, but had set them, and with a very evil eye was keeping deadly watch on that of his enemy. Adair was rapidly forgetting how inexcusably foolish he would be to derange all his schemes for the sake of punishing a petty shopkeeper, and was on the very point of leaving the defensive and lunging his best when the voice of Mary Henderson was heard hastily asking whether Mr. Adair was within.

The sound operated differently on the two men. Adair instantly recalled his better judgment to his aid, and, still watching his enraged antagonist, did not return his thrust. But the voice of his mistress roused the lover to heroism, and he felt that he would have given his own life to let her see her enemy stretched on the floor between them. Thirsting to finish the duel, he rushed at Adair, delivered three or four rapid and desperate lunges, and laid himself open to a thrust that, had Adair pleased, would have speedily ended M. Silvain’s life, love, and woes. But Ernest (as will have been perceived), a practised and skilful fencer, did not so please; but at the instant Mary’s hand was on the door, he suddenly performed one of the feats known in the art; and as the girl entered, she had the satisfaction of seeing her lover, with a wrenched wrist, glaring with anger and discomfiture at Ernest, the sword of Silvain having flown to a distance on the floor.

“And I had forbidden you,” said Mary, reproachfully, to Silvain.

“Forbidden him to give me a fencing lesson, Mademoiselle?” said Adair, as calmly as usual. “That was indeed cruel, for he is so good a master of the sword that I profit greatly by his teaching.”

The girl looked searchingly at her lover, conceiving from the expression of his face and from his being defenceless, that he might have received a hurt, the rather that Silvain was too mortified to speak on the instant.

“He has not stabbed you?” asked Mary, vehemently.

“What a word, Mademoiselle!” said Ernest. “We do not stab, except under very exceptional circumstances. M. Silvain is perfectly unhurt, and I hope will pardon my awkwardness in knocking his sword out of his hand.”

He picked up Silvain’s weapon, and replaced it, with his own, in the box, which he quietly locked.

Meantime Mary was administering, in an under tone, that mixture of reproach, consolation, and affection which woman has ever ready for him whom she loves, and Silvain, with his hand in hers, was almost comforted for his defeat by the unwonted kindness with which his usually rather undemonstrative mistress caressed him.

“But I ordered you not,” she added.

“I thought of you, and could not obey you,” said M. Silvain, tenderly and epigrammatically.

“And now, my dear Alphonse,” said Adair, cheerfully, “let me renew my offer of absinthe. After a fencing-lesson one requires refreshment. What say you, Mademoiselle? You must teach him to take care of himself.”

“And I will,” said Mary, firmly, and leading her lover from the room, whence he certainly did not depart very triumphantly.

“I could have spiked the idiot a dozen times,” said Ernest, “but what would have been the good? And he has spilled the ink over my papers. If I had seen that before, he should have had something in his arm that would have prevented his snapping his scissors for a month to come. He has been in luck, the insolent hair-cutter! I have not seen anything so laughable for many a long day. Peace to your manes, M. Roland, for rendering me so capable of defending my innocent life against frantic barbers!”

 

CHAPTER XXV.

It will easily be supposed by those who have ever had their hearts determinately set upon the attainment of an object, that although it did not enter into the calculation of Mrs. Urquhart that Arthur Lygon would be on his way to Paris without waiting for the morning, he was hastening thither in a few moments from leaving her house. He was, in fact, walking towards the capital at his best speed. The journey is not much to a man in health and with average powers, but to Lygon, under the circumstances, it seemed the merest trifle compared with the delay of a few hours. He walked well, and, though by his exertion of strong will he excluded to the utmost of his ability the thoughts which incessantly pressed upon him, as Abraham drove away the birds that sought to come down to the sacrifice, his sensations, alternating between an agitating hopefulness and a bitter and reproachful distrust, made him regardless both of distance and of the minor incidents of the night.

He reached Paris, just as the beautiful city was lying in the earliest light of the summer morning, but he had no eye for the charming spectacle that rewards the stranger who will at such an hour be astir in the French capital. He made direct for the quarter in which stood the residence of the lady whose card had been given him. The address had been fixed in his mind by a glance, but on taking out the card to be certain as to the number of the house, he perceived that other cards must have lain at angles across it for many a day, as its enamel was partially soiled with dust. But he did not at the moment attach any significance to this little sign, and pushed on for the street designated. It was in the Luxembourg quarter, which he speedily reached. He found the street, he found the house, he found the number, but the last was upon a wall already devoted to the architect, whose destroying workmen (not yet come to that day’s duty) had almost removed the house to which Lygon had been sent.

He had been deceived again.

Almost against hope he made such inquiries as were possible. At first, at that hour, there was no one whom he could consult; but, as the morning wore on, and houses opened, Lygon had the opportunity of ascertaining from respectable evidence that Madame * * * * * had certainly resided at the mansion in question, and was well known, but that, at least six months back, she had sold the place to a celebrated banker, who, as Monsieur could see, was going to rebuild it on a scale of—O, such magnificence! As for Madame, she had gone to Italy.

He said nothing, now, that could have told a stranger that Lygon was wounded, grieved, or angered. The time for such words had passed. He made no sign that could attract the notice of a passer-by. Casually addressed by a workman who asked him for a light, he took out a fusée-box and helped the man to kindle his pipe. A child, toddling after its hurrying mother, fell and bewailed itself, and Arthur Lygon raised it from the ground, and brought it to the woman’s hand. He actually stood still and permitted his eye to range over the architecture of one of the churches, though utterly unaware of what he was doing.

At length, exhausted both in body and mind, he entered the first decent place of refreshment and partook of food. He felt that he hated it, and all else that reminded him of home and comfort; but he forced himself to eat.

Then he went out and walked in the now busy city, sparkling in the sunshine, and as he saw men of his own rank on their way to their duties, he looked curiously in their faces, and wondered whether any one of them had left a wife who had embraced him tenderly, and would, in a few hours, have abandoned his house.

Lygon passed some time—he knew not how long—in the state in which intervals of a stupefied unbelief, of utter rejection of the grim circumstances around us, are broken by fever-fits of intense consciousness and bitter agony. And when these hours of agitation were over, and the brain cleared, and the heart throbbed less violently at the recurrence of the image of Laura, Arthur passed to a worse state—that in which a man resolves to believe the very worst.

And what words shall tell of that agony? Laugh at the attempt, you who have known such an hour. Laugh, and do not desire to be saddened by the picture, feeble as it would be, you who have never loved, or have loved and never known yourselves to have been deceived.

 

A tremendous hand on his shoulder, and the heartiest of voices in his ear, as he crossed for the fiftieth time, it might have been, the bridge near the Place de la Concorde.

“Arthur Lygon in Paris! That’s as things should be.”

He turned to be cordially greeted by Robert Urquhart.

The great, tall, broad Scotsman was delighted, and gave out of his big chest one of those laughs which are rarely heard, and so are the more worth hearing. And Parisians looked up at the sound, which indeed was rather over the heads of most of them, and wondered what was pleasing the genial giant with those insufferably ill-made clothes and vast round hat, and why his blue eyes and white teeth should shine out like that at the sight of the much better dressed and more elegant person whose hand he was clearly trying to wring off. And then they went on their way.

If there was one man on earth whom Arthur would have avoided at that moment, it was the man who was welcoming him so cordially. Without time to consider what course to adopt, without a shadow of preparation for inevitable questions, the answers to which might determine the events of a life, here he was in the irresistible grasp of his friend, the husband of the woman whose history Lygon had so lately learned, of the woman who had enabled Laura to escape from a husband vulgarly deceived by her shameless sister.

But, unless the bridge could have suddenly given way, speaking became a necessity, and Lygon struggled to answer Urquhart, and make inquiries as to the railway accident about which the latter was supposed to be away from Paris.

“O, ay, yon fools? It served them just right, and I wish that a mile had gone down instead of a hundred yards. I was as pleased as Punch, and I just told them so to their faces, before I set the fellows at work. But now then, Arthur, where are you, and how long have you been in this decent city, and is Laura with you—but of course I needn’t ask that of the model husband?”

“No, Laura is not with me,” said Arthur, hastening to deal with this merciless catechism, and almost wishing that the kind good fellow before him would go mad and spring into the river, or be somehow got out of the way before another word could be said.

“No? That’s shabby, and I don’t envy you the scolding you’ll get from Bertha. But perhaps you have seen her, and had your chastising.”

“Yes, I have been to your house—indeed, I left it only last night. I am on my way to England directly.”

“Not exactly, my man, seeing that the way to England is out there,” laughed Robert Urquhart, stretching forth his great arm, and pointing in the given direction. “But that’s purely a low and topographical view of the case. In the moral and social aspect of the question, I am likewise d—d if you are going to England, because we are going to have a long walk and a long crack, and a trifle of creature comfort, and then we’re going to order a jolly dinner at the Traw Frare, of which we will partake in the evening, with befitting thanks to Providence before and after meat. Do you see that, my man?”

“Utterly impossible, my dear Robert. I must get away.”

“You’ll just do nothing of the kind, so it’s no use being an obstinate brute. I hate obstinacy.”

“It is matter of business of extreme importance.”

“Matter of bosh. Hearken unto me. You can’t get to England until night, when it’s too late to be doing any business which decorous Christian men like you, and another who shall be nameless, are likely to undertake, and therefore you may as well leave by the night train, and be at your business early in the morning. Now that is so clear that I’ll not hear another word on it; and now we’ll go and get some lunch, for I will not insult the good breakfast I had three hours ago by pretending I want another. Come along.”

At another time no one would have extricated himself more pleasantly and yet more satisfactorily from an engagement he wished to get rid of than Arthur Lygon. But at this moment he seemed powerless. The commonplace excuses of life did not seem to come to his tongue, and his imagination was far too much exhausted to supply him with any better plea. His condition may be judged when it is added that he actually had an impulse to make a sudden start, and flee away from his unconscious tormentor, who would assuredly have been after him with the speed of an Achilles.

“I am not very well,” said Arthur, “and I had rather not walk.”

“Then we’ll ride, which is more dignified and also more retired,” said Urquhart. “But I don’t like to hear you talk of being ill. I thought that, like myself, you left such follies to the women, who are the final cause of those abominable doctors. What’s the matter, my man?”

“Oh, I don’t know. I have been working too hard.”

“That’s a wicked thing to do, and clean contrary to the will of Providence. I am ashamed of you, and likewise of Laura for permitting it. Indeed I believe it must just be her fault, for a more obedient husband, excepting myself, I do not know, and it is her prerogative and privilege to take care of you. Give her a lecture for me.”

“Yes, over-work won’t do.”

“I should think not. But let us go over to yon caffy, and see what the beggars can give us.”

The repast occupied some time, during which Arthur Lygon contrived to parry many home questions, and, by his manner, to impress Urquhart, with an idea that Lygon was really much more ill than he owned himself to be. The good-natured talk of the engineer incessantly wounded Arthur to the heart’s core; but Robert Urquhart not only could not perceive this, but with the affectionate instinct of a kindly Scot, who always finds happiness in speaking of those dear to him, thought that he was rendering Lygon the very best service in attempting to cheer him up by incessant questions about Laura, and her looks, and habits, and remembrances of some of her old bits of playfulness, or naïveté, and other trifles, the like of which, when addressed to the happy, make them happier. But what were they to the unfortunate husband? Then Robert would speak of the children in succession, and know how old each was, and what he or she could do, and whether they resembled Arthur or Laura, and what were their views for the future; and by the time the lunch was over, Lygon was worked to a state which even Adair might have pitied.

Urquhart watched Arthur swallow at a draught a large quantity of a not very weak wine, and the Scotchman shook his head, and said no more until they were seated in an open carriage, whose driver was ordered to take them a long round, and not to fatigue his horse.

“Parley voo Anglay?” was Mr. Urquhart’s demand of the driver. The latter proudly disclaimed the slightest knowledge of the insular tongue.

“So much the better,” said Mr. Urquhart, lighting a cigar about the size of a small umbrella, and tendering a similar club of tobacco to Lygon, who took it rather eagerly. It was a good excuse for much silence, that mighty weed. Again the keen Scotchman watched him, as they drove away towards the Arch of Triumph.

After some minutes, Robert Urquhart, who was as straightforward in his dealings as man should be, said, laying a great hand on Lygon’s,

“Now, my man, there should be no secrets between us.”

No secrets between us, thought Lygon.

And what a secret he, if he chose, could tell the man who was thus addressing him!

“No secrets, I tell you, Arthur. We are a couple of honest men, who have married a couple of honest women, and as they are sisters, we should be brothers. Is that true, Mr. Arthur?”

“I hope so,” said Arthur.

“Very well, that’s confessed. Now, what is your trouble? Because that you are in trouble a man that has both his eyes sharpened by liking, which I take to be the best eye-ointment in the world, can see with half of one of them.”

“I told you I was ill, my dear Robert.”

“You told me, begging your pardon, that which was only true in a sense, as the devil said when the monkey called him cousin, and I know better. You are a plucky fellow, as well as a clever one, and if anything was the matter you would go to one of those d—d doctors, and be cured, and meantime you would hold up your head and look like a man. Now you are all down in the mouth, you don’t eat, you do drink, and instead of smoking that prime weed like a Christian man, you are sucking it to death as if for a wager. There’s something on your mind.”

“You are determined to have it so,” said Arthur, with a faint smile.

“I’m determined to know all about it, my man. And as I know that some men don’t like to break the ice, and I do, I shall just take the liberty of breaking it myself. And if I make a good guess, you’ll answer truthfully.”

“Yes,” said Arthur, with his lips. His heart’s answer need not be set down.

“Done. And you’ll not be offended?”

“What, with you?

“That’s the first decent word you’ve spoken to-day. But I’ll have some more out of you before you’ve done. Now then, how much will see you out of the mess, and ready to snap your fingers at the world, the flesh, and the devil?”

“How much?” repeated Arthur.

“Come, come, walk uprightly, and according to your lights, or you’ll be in for something bad. You know what I mean, my man. We’ve been having a bit of a race with the constable, and being young and active, we’ve licked the old fellow, as was natural.”

“What—you think that I am in debt. My dear Robert!”

“I know you are, and there’s an end of that. I suppose you have come over here to be out of the way, while things are being put right, and that Laura is managing that for you. Very sensible, too, and all I ask is to be allowed to put on some more coal, and get the journey done at a wee bit better pace.”

“You have the kindest heart in the world, Robert,” said Lygon, touched.

“I’ve just got nothing of the sort, I am proud to say,” said his brother-in-law. “I would be very sorry to be the biggest fool of my acquaintance. But that’s not the question. Do you mean to let me have the pleasure of helping you?”

“If I wanted such help, I would come to you before any man I know in the world,” said Arthur.

“And you do. For your wife’s sake, Arthur, I think that you are bound to avail yourself of any lawful means of putting matters right. It is not well for a young wife to be left without her husband, and it’s bad for the bairns to be accustomed to see their father away, let alone the cackle of the fools outside, who are sure to have something to say if you give them a chance. You must take a bit of paper, and write an I.O.U. for the amount you need, and before we get to our dinner—which, please God! we’ll make a bit cheerfuller than our lunch—I’ll have got the money for you in English notes. Then we’ll talk about paying back, or else your proud English prelatical stomach will have no digestion. Do you see all that, my man?”

To Lygon, this kindly speech, in which his home, his comfort, his honour, his pride were all cared for by the Scot, suggested a refuge from the immediate pressure upon him—a mode in which he could escape from the slow torture to which he was being exposed. It could do no harm to let Urquhart think that he was right, and to return the money, with an explanatory letter, would be an easier course than the talking down the impression which Robert had formed. At all events, in Lygon’s state of mind it seemed a most desirable loophole.

“I feel all your kindness, Robert.”

“And accept my proposals. Of course you do. That is the only course for a man and a Christian.”

“I don’t feel like either just now.”

“No, but you will by and by. Now I tell you what. Turn over in your own mind, while we drive about in this beast of a carriage, which bumps like the very devil, how much will answer our purpose, and mind you leave a margin for something handsome, which you are bound to buy for Laura for not bringing her to Paris. Turn it over, I say, and while you are doing it, I’ll get through a bit of calculation of my own, which I can do in my head if I am not talked to, and which is for the benefit of my friends those beggars that let my railway down, and be hanged to them. So here goes for a think, my man.”

And with this last touch of consideration the warm-hearted Robert Urquhart ceased to speak, nor did the brothers-in-law exchange another word until they alighted, hours after, at the Palais Royal.

But when Urquhart, at the table of the Trois Frères, pushed a piece of paper across to Lygon, and said “Write,” Arthur felt it impossible to perform that piece of deception. Anything of the kind had always been foreign to his frank nature, and though in the state of wretchedness in which he found himself he might have permitted his friend to insist on deceiving himself, Lygon could not put his hand even to what might have almost been called a pious fraud.

“Robert,” he said, “you are the best fellow in the world——

“That’s not writing,” said Urquhart, impatiently.

“Listen to me. I have been thinking very deeply over a great number of things, and have finally made up my mind what to do. The advancing this money would not remove the weight that is on my mind. But I think it possible that your advice might do so.”

“Try, my man; that can’t harm you.”

“I will. But I assure you, Robert, that I am physically incapable of laying my case before you to-night. I must have some rest. Let everything stand over until to-morrow.”

“I hate that way of going on, because it’s not going on.”

“So do I, but it must be so.”

“Your hand on one thing. You don’t go back to England without giving me your confidence?”

“I promise that.”

“Done. Then we’ll dine ad interim. Garsong. Eecy.”