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all looks from your side;' and, suiting the action to the word, he leapt the railing, and next minute stood on the grass in Kensington.
There is not much difference, I imagine,' remarked the other.
Just this, that I know I had a right to be there, and I have none to be here; that adds a great pleasure to the view. Strange now I knew the Seatons, and it never once entered into my head to pass this boundary.'
'Who were the Seatons?' asked his new acquaintance.
'City people. Wherever there is a fine house, you may be sure a City man lives in it. Did you never hear of the Seatons?'
The gentleman who had come to look on shook his head.
'I have been quite out of the way of hearing about City people,' he said.
'He was not half a bad sort of fellow; but he made an awful smash. Everything came to the hammer-horses, carriages, furniture, pictures, house."
'I see; and who has the house now?'
'Another City man.'
'Will he smash too? asked the other.
'Likely enough. They always think it necessary to do things on such a gigantic scale. However, for the sake of his daughter, I trust his things may not come to the hammer.'
'O, he has a daughter, then?' 'Two; but one especially--the nicest little girl-awfully pretty. Do just come and have a look at her.'
'Thank you, but pretty girls but pretty girls have no interest for me now. What is the name of your host?'
'Moffat Sir John; and if you saw him at this minute, you would say he was longing to be back in
his counting-house, or anywhere rather than in the midst of his guests.'
'Well, I don't know whether he is peculiar in that. Many men, I imagine, never feel less at home than when receiving visitors. How did he get his baronetcy?"
'He is not a baronet-would not be one-has some crotchet about making an eldest son. He won his spurs serving out soup, or some refreshment of that sort, time of the Lancashire famine. People call him a philanthropist. Always feel doubtful about philanthropists myself; always fancy they take precious little out of their own pockets, and dip precious deep into the pockets of their neighbours.'
The gentleman who had been so long absent from the delights of society laughed, and said,
'You seem in a cynical mood -inclined to copy Diogenes in Palace Gardens.'
'And why not?' asked Mr. Lassils. Palace Gardens is as good a place as any other in the metropolis to set up a tub. Lord, if I was a parson, could not I preach sermons about the vanity of vanities I have seen come to naught within a stone's throw of where we are standing!'
'And not being a parson, you deride the follies in which you take a share.'
'Don't hit without the gloves,' answered Mr. Lassils good-humouredly. Look, some of them are coming out to try and catch their deaths of cold. Let us move away a little, or we shall have the whole party in Kensington.'
They passed beyond the shading elm-tree, and then the stranger said, 'Come up to my place and have a glass of wine.'
'All right,' answered Mr. Lassils, murmuring to himself. Well, this is just one of the very funniest
experiences I ever had in London.'
'Your experience cannot have been very large, then,' answered the stranger, who caught the muttered remark, or else life in England presents less variety than I imagined. I do not set myself up for a judge, remember,' he went on, for nearly half my life has been spent abroad.'
'Where?' asked Mr. Lassils. He saw at a glance his companion had not been in any service recognised at the Horse Guards.
'Where?' repeated the other; 'here and there and everywhere, I was going to say; but to be more precise, the United States, California, Australia, New Zealand, India-'
'Lord bless me!' exclaimed Mr. Lassils, looking askance at the man who made this statement. 'Why, it must have taken you all your time.'
'There is plenty of time out of England,' answered the other. "I never knew what it was to be so hurried in any of the places I have named as in London. Here we are; these are my diggings.'
Mr. Lassils looked at the house indicated, and recognised it at once as a place which had until lately been to let furnished.
'Shall I set you an example?' said his new acquaintance, placing a hand on the fencing and vaulting
glad to hear you have no associations with the place.' 'Why?'
'Because I want to believe I am making a good beginning again in England. I do not wish to feel I am walking through rooms where a man has fought with fortune and been worsted.'
As he spoke he unlocked a glass door affording ingress to a small room on the ground floora cosy room, one wherein Rachel Moffat might have thought it possible to live.
A lamp was burning on the table; bookshelves lined the walls; a few comfortable chairs were dispersed about the apartment.
'I can only offer you a choice of the most ordinary wines,' said the host, addressing Mr. Lassils, who looked around him, and really felt as if he was in a dream.
'Port, sherry, claret; there is good brandy here, and people who are judges tell me this whisky may be relied upon.'
'I think I will take some brandy, thank you,' answered the younger man, though I believe I have had as much of Sir John's champagne as is good for me.'
The gentleman from abroad did not make any reply, but looked at him as though the same idea had occurred also to his mind.
'I suppose,' went on Mr. Lassils, as he slowly took his brandy, which he had not drowned with the addition of too much water, 'I may call and see you at some more civilised hour hereafter; that is, I hope you do not want our acquaintance to drop as suddenly as it has begun.'
'I shall be very glad to see you,' answered the other, 'when I come back here again. I am going away for a while; that is, I shall be backwards and forwards occasionally, but not to be relied upon, say, for three months.'
'The way I came, better, quicker. I have no hat, either. Could not well face Sir John's butler without a hat.'
They went down the garden together, shook hands at the bottom of it. Mr. Lassils in a trice was again in Kensington, and running rapidly towards the grounds of Holyrood House, while his late host stood thoughtfully looking after the retreating figure.
'A type of a class, I suppose,' he considered, and a large class too. Well, I suppose there is good in him somewhere, and work too, though appearances are against the supposition; and he strolled slowly back to the house, still followed by the strains of the music, which seemed, like running water, to know no weariness, no cessation.
When he reëntered the room, and was about to remove the brandy to the side table, his eye happened to fall on the card his visitor had laid down.
'Let us see what His name is,' he said. 'Lassils-"C. V. Lassils." Now that is odd; it is very odd indeed.'
EVERY one was out of town ; the season was quite over, and,
VOL. XXXVIII. NO. CCXXIII.
excepting a few millions of toilers and moilers, not a soul remained in London. The upper ten thousand were gone, the lower hundred thousand had followed suit; the camp-followers, who are always hovering where rank and fashion and wealth congregate, had dispersed also-shopkeepers to favourite watering-places; tutors, governesses, teachers of all sorts, to such holiday resorts as it was within their means to compass; there was not a creature left in the great metropolis, not one worth calling, in the language of good society, a human being.
To the uninitiated, the cousins up for the up for the first time from country vicarages and remote towns and quiet villages, London must still have seemed very full indeed; but to the accustomed eye Babylon looked desolate, her streets deserted, her inhabitants departed.
For all the people who make the pageant of fashionable life were absent; none were left save those that line the footways and jostle each other in the horse-road. Dives was gone; clothed in his purple and fine linen, he adorned the West-end no longer; and though Lazarus was left, he had to seek his crumbs in less aristocratic quarters. There were no carriages to be seen, because their owners had betaken themselves abroad, Scotland, the provinces, anywhere, so it were far enough out of London. Streets, squares, places, terraces, presented only long lines of closely-shuttered houses; save in the business thoroughfares therewas no press of pedestrians; there were not many cabs crawling about. or rattling merrily along; railway vans did not seem half so plentiful, the shops looked empty; there was not much doing in the City, save cheating, which there, as elsewhere, goes on in season and out
of season; the heads of great firms were almost all absent; a man, whatever his necessities, could scarcely have collected an account within sound of Bow bells; the dragon and the grasshopper, idly basking in the full blaze of the afternoon sun, looked down on counting-houses where chiefs were not, and where clerks yawned audibly in the City stillness. It was the height of out of the season. A man could not have got together twelve dinner-guests of his own set for love or money.
Palace Gardens followed the prevailing fashion. All the mansions that were not to let' were closely shut up; and even the caretakers of those in the windows of which bills were stuck felt it was scarcely worth while to open the shutters till 'people began to come to town.'
The blinds were drawn down in Holyrood House, as though all the family was dead; no cards were left there was no one to leave them; the knocker was silent: no visitor came near to waken the echoes of the spacious hall. In most of the adjoining residences the servants had their friends in to tea, and played croquet on the lawns on Sunday afternoons and evenings; they also asked one or other of their relations to spend a week with them, and occasionally lodged those relations in missus's room or the best guest-chamber.
At Holyrood House, however, such high jinks were not yet in progress. Sir John still lingered in town. As Simonds the butler poetically expressed the fact, 'He is the last rose of summer left blooming alone; and for my part,' added that functionary, 'I wish he was blooming somewhere else. It is too bad; it is, upon my conscience. This is the time when gentlemen of my profession look for a little leisure. I wonder how masters
think their poor servants are to keep their health if they never have an hour's holiday. If it wasn't in the main a good place as places go, I would give notice. I never did live before where the governor remained in town so long out of the season, and I feel it a sort of lowering of my own dignity.'
It was unfortunate, but incapable of remedy. Sir John, who would have felt glad if the whole race of butlers had been swept off the earth, and who as the years rolled by was getting to care less and less for many things to which he once attached some value, went down to the City in the morning and returned from the City in the evening, without offering the slightest explanation or apology for his conduct.
'I had often been told there were things against entering the families of City gents,' confided Simonds to a friend of his; 'but I never knew where the difficulty lay till now.'
What do you mean to do?' asked the other, who was in the poorest of services and on the shortest of board - wages, and who instantly thought what a good thing it would be if he could walk into the vacant place at Holyrood House.
'Well, I hardly know,' was the answer-there had been a sympathetic tone in his friend's voice and an eager twinkle in his hungry eyes which warned Simonds how the land lay. 'I have considered the matter in all its bearings, and think it would scarcely do for me to remonstrate with him. We are new, you see, very new; and he might scarcely take it in the spirit in which it was meant.'
Upon the face of this earth there never existed a man less likely to have taken' anything
of the sort than Sir John Moffat. There is probably no class of people so far removed, so hopelessly removed, from all idea of what is passing in the minds of the lower orders as those who have made, or are making, their money in business.
Sir John could certainly just as easily have read a newly-found batch of hieroglyphics as even imagined the wild dissatisfaction. with which Simonds was regarding his present conduct. If he had known it, nothing about the affair would have struck him as natural or humorous. He could not have entered into the childish desire for change which is an integral part of a servant's nature, as we and our forefathers in our wisdom have moulded the nature of those who minister to our wants. Still less would he have seen anything comical in Mr. Simond's idea of instructing his master.
Humour was a thing which had been quite forgotten at Sir John's birth. The fairy who confers the delightful, if pecuniarily unprofitable, gift of finding something amusing even when the joke is at one's own expense was absent on the occasion in question. He was not so constituted that he could not understand a witticism, though it gave him little enjoyment; but his organisation was such that the funny side of a question never touched and tickled his fancy. Here is one of the compensations of life: the man who can laugh is happier than he who knows how to amass. A successful investment often yields no more pleasure than an opportune mot; the dinner of herbs, if only the grateful anecdote be present to season it withal, seems more delightful than the stalled ox, partaken of in gloomy silence and digested with no
sauce of liveliness or grace or fancy to assist the process.
Sir John, however, it was quite clear, could not stay in town for ever. He had in his own fashion, which was very grave and very distant, at length intimated as much to Mr. Simonds. The next day was to see the 'last of him,' as that most respectable butler intimated to the cook.
'What we ought to have done, Mrs. Larrup,' he said, repeating once again what he had said so often before, was to take a house at the sea-there's great liberty always at the sea, and many opportunities,' by which phrase Mr. Simonds meant perquisites. And it is all along of that old cat, I do believe, we are a-muggering-muggering at the Grand Hotel at Scarborough. It's the first time, as I am given to understand, her ladyship has ever taken up with hotels, and let us hope it will be the last.'