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know, Buddle, what I'm worth as well as I do.'
'Well, and what of that?'
'What of that? Why, if Florry marries as I wish, I'll leave her, with the exception of a few small legacies, every penny I've got. I pledge you my sacred word of honour to that. And the husband I've got in my eye for her is young Warriner. There, put that in your pipe and smoke it.'
Accompanying this emphatic and figurative injunction with a hearty slap on the back, old Bolitho left Mr. Buddlecombe to his meditations, which ran pretty much as follows:
'With all his faults, and they are legion-confound him, my back is tingling still!-Joe Bolitho is rich, and his word is his bond. I begin to realise, too, that a pretty, young, unmarried daughter is a very disturbing element in a household. Why, all this will play the very deuce with one's digestive organs. I could never go through another evening like this. I don't know what to do.'
Here the poor gentleman's perplexities were gently interrupted by Mrs. Buddlecombe.
Joshua,' said that lady, in a coaxing wheedling tone of voice, 'any one seeing us together lately would suppose that we were anything but the loving united couple we are in reality. Why is it, Joshua ?'
'Why is it?' repeated Mr. Buddlecombe fiercely. Why, because of the confounded military. They've turned the whole of Puddleton upside down, as I said they would; and you're standing on your head with the rest of the Puddleton population.'
Well, Joshua,' returned Mrs. Buddlecombe affectionately, 'let us heal the breach in the same way it was made-by the military.
Why shouldn't we give Florry to this young Warriner? They have known and loved each other for some time, it appears. What more could we desire? He is clever, good-tempered, brave, handsome, well-born, not badly off, and has expectations.'
Thus driven step by step from any worldly position he might have taken up, Mr. Buddlecombe assumed a moral one.
Georgina, he took me in by a trick unworthy of a man of honour.'
'That was to win me over to his side, Joshua.'
'That makes it none the less a trick, Georgina.'
'Ah, Joshua,' said Mrs. Buddlecombe, placing her cheek against her husband's shoulder and looking archly up into his face, 'do you recollect a certain young man, the soul of honour, who, to win the good opinion of a certain young lady's mother, descended to a trick-a very nasty trick, too -filling his pockets with—'
"Georgina, I did that for love of you,' said Mr. Buddlecombe, hastily cutting short the disagreeable reminiscence of his courtship.
'Well, Joshua, this trickwhich I am bound to say is a much nicer one than the muttonchop stratagem-was all for love of Florry. Ah, Joshua, Joshua, don't you know the old saying, "All's fair in love and war"?'
Thus, by means of the Socratic or catechetical method of argument, Mr. Buddlecombe was driven into a corner from which there was no escape.
In the mean time old Bolitho and Florry were standing at the window in close consultation.
litho said Florence gratefully. 'How can we ever repay you for all this kindness?'
'Nonsense, nonsense,' said old Bolitho, who, like all really truehearted people, disliked to hear his praises hymned. I am doing it all for my own selfish gratification. There's Algy, Florry.'
'Where?' was the eager inquiry, as Mr. Bolitho stealthily drew aside the window-curtain.
'Over there under those trees.' "O yes, I see the end of his cigar!' said Florence rapturously. 'I had no idea the end of a cigar was such a lovely object at night.'
Isn't it?' said old Bolitho, quietly laughing in his sleeve. 'Quite takes the shine out of the "little star," doesn't it?
"Twinkle, twinkle, bright cigar,
That tells us, Algy, where you are."' Here a pantomimic intimation from Mrs. Buddlecombe that she was getting the best of the argument incited Mr. Bolitho to a more active participation in the
'Nothing like taking the bull by the horns. I'll give him the coup de grâce at once,' said the impetuous old gentleman, as he opened the window and dashed through it in quest of Algernon Warriner.
'The enemy's capitulated, my dear boy. Come in and shake your future father-in-law by the hand.'
Throwing away his cigar, Algernon at once obeyed the summons; and in a few moments Mr. Buddlecombe, in a sort of dream, found himself once more confronted by the man, the sight of whom a short time before had meant apoplexy. 'Mr. Buddlecombe,' said the young soldier, in a frank manly way, I beg to offer you my sincerest apologies for the disturbance I created in your household
this evening. My whole defence lies in the old saying, "All's fair in love and war.'
Hardly realising what was transpiring, Mr. Buddlecombenow a passive victim to force of circumstances-allowed his hand to be heartily shaken by the last speaker.
'Dear me, what an effective and affecting tableau ! said the irrepressible old Bolitho. I feel inclined to do the heavy father and shower blessings all round. Hallo, here's this morning's London paper! I'll take refuge in
The hearty old gentleman had barely hidden the light of his fine rubicund countenance behind the paper-a proceeding which might be compared to an eclipse of the sun-when Spigot entered the room, with an air of mystery and so absorbed in the importance of his mission as not to notice Algernon Warriner's presence.
Your worship,' he confidentially whispered into the civic ear, 'the young gent from the barracks is prowling about the grounds with a cigar or a lighted lantern. We're not sure which, but we rather fancy it's a lantern.'
'Spigot,' said Mr. Buddlecombe, eagerly seizing the opportunity of having some one to let out at.
'Your worship,' said Spigot, putting his head on one side, and listening with a pleasantly expectant expression, which said, as plainly as words, 'His worship's about to compliment me on my vigilance.'
I've travelled about, one way and another, to a considerable extent during my life.'
'You have, indeed, your worship-Ramsgate, Margate, seasonticket to London, and, I believe, a voyage to Boulong.'
But I might go on travelling from this to doomsday without
ever meeting such a blockhead as you are.'
'Certainly not, your worship,' stammered Spigot, shuffling off in great confusion, which was not allayed by first running into Algernon Warriner, and then being run into by old Bolitho, who seemed to have suddenly gone clean out of his mind.
'Hooray! hooray!' cheered Mr. Bolitho, as he strode excitedly about the room, furiously waving the newspaper he held in his hand.
'What's the matter?' asked Mr. Buddlecombe.
'Hooray was all the answer vouchsafed. To think now that I should have been the first to see it!' continued Mr. Bolitho, going up to Algernon with a beaming countenance and outstretched hand. 'Conquering hero, I must really shake your hand once more. No, I mustn't. I should hurt you. I shouldn't be able to moderate my congratulatory transports. I'll kiss Florry instead, and she'll pass it on at her earliest convenience.'
Here a report like the crack of a huntsman's whip intimated, if nothing else did, that the old gentleman had suited the action to the word.
'Yes; but what is it all about, Mr. Bolitho asked Florence. 'Why, listen.'
And here Mr. Bolitho read the following paragraph from the newspaper: 'Her Majesty the Queen has been graciously pleased to confer the recently instituted distinction of the Victoria Cross upon Captain Algernon Fitzmaurice Warriner, of the Queen's Own Fusiliers, for conspicuous gallantry before the enemy in the recent Crimean campaign.'
'O Algy, how proud I am of you exclaimed Florence, with glistening eye and mantling cheek.
"Ah, "None but the brave deserve the fair," said old Bolitho. 'To think now of my being the first to tell you, Warriner, my boy.'
I knew it many days ago, Mr. Bolitho,' said Algernon quietly.
'Knew it many days ago! Bless me, how coolly he takes it! Why didn't you tell us, then?'
Because I had something else to think of,' was the reply, accompanied by a significant glance at Florence.
'Well, I can't take it so coolly, though I didn't win it, hang me if I can! Buddle, you should be proud of your future son-inlaw!'
And here in a paroxysm of excitement Mr. Bolitho actually clapped the newspaper over the head of Puddleton's worshipful Mayor.
Fora few moments manslaughter lowered from every lineament of Mr. Buddlecombe's countenance, as it protruded through a rent in the advertisement-sheet, but the knowledge of his friend's irrepressibility soon led him to the homely conclusion that what cannot be cured must be endured.
'I should have been,' observed Mr. Buddlecombe, so resigned to his fate that he did not even attempt to remove the paper, which adorned his neck something after the fashion of an Elizabethan ruffle, 'I should have been a much greater man than even Mayor of Puddleton if it had not been for Bolitho. I feel that the best energies of my life have been wasted in one long futile effort to shut him up. It is useless to struggle against the inevitable. Let me try and submit with apparent cheerfulness to my sentence of perpetual Bolitho for life. Let me remark, by way of a change, Bolitho, that we were boys together.'
THE London season of 1856, a little later than usual, owing to a general tarrying to witness the entry of the victorious Guards into London, was at its height, and, amongst other important particulars connected with it, Lady Cecilia Warriner, widow of the late Colonel Warriner of the Grenadier Guards, sat on a certain evening at her toilet-table, undergoing the beautifying manipulation of her tire-woman. In plain language Lady Cecilia was having her hair dressed. Regarding the particular style of coiffure at that period my mind is steeped in an ignorance which is venial; for, as Addison remarked, 'there is not so variable a thing in Nature as a lady's headdress ;' and to be posted in the variations of so shifting a fashion is too much to expect from any chronicler except a Boswell or a Pepys. On the toilettable, beside the glass, lay a letter as yet unopened, it having come to hand at a critical stage of the maid's operations, to wit, the concealment of a few rebellious gray hairs which would come to the front. The tell-tales, being at last arranged out of sight, were sufficiently out of mind to allow a cursory consideration of comparative trifles.
'A letter from Algernon,' murmured her ladyship, as she glanced at the post-mark. Poor dear boy, what a dreadful place to be quartered in! Puddleton! The very name communicates a shudder to one's frame. I am dreadfully anxious to hear how he is getting on amongst the barbarians.'
Notwithstanding this 'dreadful anxiety,' however, the 'poor dear boy's' letter lay intact until the finishing touch had been given to Lady Cecilia's toilette, and then, as her fan and gloves were laid
before her, she felt sufficiently at liberty to open the envelope.
Now all this does not mean that Lady Cecilia Warriner cared little for her son. It only means she cared rather less for him than for the pomps and vanities of this world, and she might easily have done that and yet cared a great deal, which in truth she did. Furthermore, it must be added, in justice to her, that she had seen him since his return from the Crimea, he having proceeded to town on three days' leave for the express purpose of seeing his mother very soon after the triumphal entry of his regiment into Puddleton. Moreover, if ever vanity was excusable in a woman-and what woman has ever lived free from it?-Lady Cecilia had ample excuse for being vain. She seemed to possess the perennial beauty of Ninon de Ï'Enclos. Now, in the forty-third year of her age, and twenty-fifth of her reign, her beauty, though of a different order, commanded as much admiration as in girlhood. London seasons, more than the lapse of Nature's seasons, had paled her cheeks. But what of that? The lily is as lovely as the rose. A few gray hairs now mingled with the auburn, but was not Froisette, the French maid, equal to that emergency? And even if she was not so at all times, is not silver more chaste than gold?
Having said thus much of Lady Cecilia Warriner, the reader will readily understand that she still commanded a host of admirers at her feet. The senior on the list was old Sir Tripton Madingley, who had worshipped at her shrine for rather more than a quarter of a century. To be sure, he had paid court to lesser goddesses, and even married one; but Lady Cecilia had always occupied the highest niche in his temple of beauty
Having perused her son's letter, gathered up her fan and gloves, and given one last approving glance at the mirror, this favoured daughter of Eve departed on her evening round of gaiety. Of course she was not going to waste all her magnificence on one entertainment. She dined at Carlton House Terrace, listened to some music in Park-lane, and finally put in an appearance at a ball in Belgrave-square. It was at this last scene that she encountered her old friend and ardent admirer Sir Tripton Madingley. The old beau had been a lady's man, a trifler, all his days. Had he been antedated to the middle ages, his equipment for life's campaign would have been mainly comprised in a pouncet-box, a guitar, and a ladder of ropes. The number of women to whom he had individually addressed the assurance, 'You are the only one I ever truly loved,' would have defied his own power of computation, even with the aid of the most perfect system of mnemonics yet devised.
There was, however, one to whom this remark had been uttered with truth; and that singular person was Lady Cecilia. And when she had refused him for the sake of Charlie Warriner, then the reputed handsomest man in the Household Brigade, the discarded lover-as discarded lovers often do had gone straightway and madly married some one else. There had been, however, this much of method in his madness, that the lady to whom he had offered his hand, if not his heart with it, had been, like the illfated heiress in the late gifted Mr. Robson's tragic lay, the only child of a rich merchant,' with a very large fortune in silver and gold.' Within a few years of the marriage--not a particularly hap
py one for the lady-the wealthy heiress had died, leaving her husband, as the expression goes, a pledge of their mutual affection. The pledge was now, at the period of this narrative-the major narrative, not this minor one-a young lady just introduced, and one of the largest prizes in the female matrimonial market. In her case there would be no tedious waiting for dead men's shoes. Her maternal and mercantile relatives had, in a very businesslike manner, protected the bulk of her mother's fortune from Sir Tripton's somewhat squandering hands; and, at twenty-one years of age, Agatha Madingley-such was her name- -would become sole mistress of a vast accumulation.
Lady Cecilia had not long graced the ball with her dignified presence, when she was joined by Sir Tripton as she sat apart from the throng of dancers.
'How well Agatha is looking to-night!' she remarked, after a while, as a tall graceful girl passed at a little distance on the arm of her late partner in the dance.
'Yes, she is improving, decidedly improving,' said Sir Tripton.
'Algernon is coming up tomorrow for a few days,' continued Lady Cecilia, with a certain significance.
'Ah, indeed!' was the response, in tones which betokened that this was by no means the first time the speakers had conversationally coupled the two young people together.
'Yes, I heard from him this evening, just before I left home.'
'Comes up to-morrow, eh? repeated Sir Tripton meditatively. 'Then our little plot thickens with the appearance of the hero on the scene.'
'Yes; at all events it must be thick enough for the two principal actors not to see through it at