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little more careful about your liquor in “but I suppose it would be almost too future."

cruel to take the bottle down-stairs and Lord Arthur made no audible re- hand it to her before them all.” sponse, but, like Galileo, he reserved Then, on a sudden, a brilliant idea the last word for himself. “I believe occurred to him. “ By Jove, I will !” it was curaçoa all the same 1” he mut- he exclaimed aloud. 66 The others tered.

won't like to make any remark, even if

they understand ; but she'll understand CHAPTER II.

fast enough, and I flatter myself that SIR THOMAS CLUTTERBUCK ascend- she won't enjoy her dinner this evened pensively to his bedroom to get ready ing." for dinner, for there were circumstances Mrs. Alston did not at all expect to connected with this imbroglio which enjoy her dinner, inasmuch as she had seemed to him to demand elucidation. made up her mind to partake of that Could it be that Mrs. Alston was in the meal, or some poor substitute for it, in habit of carrying cherry brandy about her own room. Already she had telewith her when she visited her friends ? graphed to London for a further supply

- but he was confident that it was of the incomparable dye, and had sent not so.

a message to Mrs. Longworth to the " Oh no, it must be 'tother woman,” effect that an excruciating attack of he assured himself, "and the scent- neuralgia would prevent her from seewhich ought to be taken to her, by the ing anybody that night or hunting on way — is hers."

the morrow. But what went near to But the bottle which stood upon making her ill in good earnest was a Sir Thomas's dressing-table, and upon dreadful piece of news which reached which he had as yet bestowed only a her from Lord Arthur Fulton, in anhasty glance, did not contain scent. swer to the inquiries which common He picked it up now, and the label humanity had prompted her to make as upon its surface told him in unequivocal to his condition. terms what it did contain. This dis- “I am yet alive, thank you,” ran the covery gave him what Lord Arthur note delivered to her by her maid, would have called “a nasty jar.” He “ notwithstanding the desperate remwhistled and walked away towards the edies which I have had to employ. fire, shaking his head ruefully, and The provoking part of it is that I am murmuring : “I couldn't have believed now almost sure there was no occasion it of her! I've often enough heard for them. What I drank must have people say that the color was unnatural, been Mrs. Naylor's curaçoa; Mrs. but I set that down to envy and jeal- Naylor, I expect, has been awarded a ousy. Ah, well! there's an end of my bottle of veterinary lotion, belonging little romance, and it's lucky for me to Sir Thomas Clutterbuck; and Sir that I've found her out in time. Be- Thomas has got your hair-dye. I am cause, mind you,” added Sir Thomas, awfully sorry ; but I am sure you will addressing space impressively, “a see that I have nothing to reproach woman who will deceive you in one myself with, as I only carried out your way will deceive you in another." instructions to the best of my ability

At Sir Thomas's time of life the dis- and made myself disastrously sick into sipation of a fond illusion is more apt the bargain." to excite wrath than despair, and when When Mrs. Alston had perused this he remembered the many occasions terrible missive, she thought for a moupon which Mrs. Alston had compla- ment of dropping down dead ; but re

1; cently suffered him to tell her how flecting that her demise would distress greatly he admired her wonderful hair, nobody in particular, while it would be the desire to pay her out grew strong productive of doubtful benefit to herwithin hin. " She deserves to be pub- self, she determined upon less heroic licly exposed,” he said to himself;' measures.

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Pinfold," said she to her maid, evening, and now I have just had a “you can pack up again. We shall re- second message, asking for a carriage turn to London to-morrow."

to take her to the station to meet the There was, indeed, nothing else to twelve o'clock train to-morrow. She be done. Sir Thomas, she knew, was declares that she must be at home old-fashioned in his ideas, abhorred when these fits of neuralgia seize her, artificiality, and would never forgive and that they always last a week.”! an innocent deception which had been Sir Thomas's jaw fell. practised upon him, in common with won't let her go!” he expostulated. the rest of the world. The feelings of “Don't — don't let her go until she a gentleman would, she trusted, pre- has seen me !" vent him from divulging her secret; Mrs. Longworth was a kind-hearted but she had no wish to face his re-woman. She surveyed her eager supproaches or listen to his renunciation. pliant with good-natured compassion, The game, so far as Sir Thomas Clut- and then, bending forward, “Do you terbuck was concert

erned, was up, and it know, Sir Thomas,” she answered, in only remained to draw fresh coverts. a low voice, “I think it would be bet

Thus it was that Sir Thomas failed to ter for her not to see you — as you are bring about a dramatic situation which at present. Much better not !” he had designed with much forethought Sir Thomas fell back, with unspoken and self-sacrifice. He was purposely maledictions. The eyes of his fellowthe last to enter the drawing-room be- guests were fixed upon him, and their fore dinner, but the swift glances which countenances expressed neither admihe threw to right and left of him made ration nor respect. In the background, him aware that Mrs. Alston was not Lord Arthur Fulton, the only person among the twenty or thirty persons present who possessed the key to the there assembled. It was “Hamlet” enigma, was doubled up with convulwith the title-rôle omitted, and he was sions of merriment. soon to learn that his own part in the “Oh, it's all very fine for you to play had been undertaken to no pur- laugh, you young jackanapes 1” mutpose.

tered Sir Thomas vindictively ; “but, Upon the rest of the company the thank God l I'm not the only one who effect produced by his appearance was, has made a fool of himself. It will to be sure, all that could have been de- take you all your time to stick to your sired, and even a little more. A sud- saddle to-morrow, I suspect.” den pause in the conversation, followed Lord Arthur, it was true, was feeling by a general gasp, greeted the entrance rather queer and rather feeble ; but he of this dapper little gentleman, whose was young, he had a vigorous constituface exhibited the lines that belonged tion, and, as Jenkinson had foretold to his years, while his hair, eyebrows, would be the case, he was already able and moustache had the golden beauty to look forward to his dinner with of early youth.

pleasurable anticipation. As a matter “Has he gone mad ?” whispered of fact, he did enjoy his dinner very the awestruck Mrs. Longworth to her much indeed, and one reason for his neighbor. “Why, he was as grey as doing so was that nearly the whole a badger two hours ago ! ”

length of the table separated him from But Sir Thomas, having been pre- the fascinating Mrs. Naylor. pared to create a sensation, advanced a simple, innocent creature ; le had imperturbably to his hostess, who, re- still a great deal to learn ; but he was covering her self-possession with an assimilating knowledge by slow degrees effort, proceeded to tell him how very (which is much the best way of growsorry she was that poor Mrs. Alston ing wise), and he began to perceive was suffering agonies from neuralgia. that neither the Mrs. Naylors nor the

6. She sent some time ago to say that Mrs. Alstons of this world are worth a she wouldn't be able to appear this I tenth part of the agitation which they


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manage to stir up. It was perhaps a his tongue. For the presont, it would little ridiculous of him to be shocked be very kind of you if you wouldn't because one lady dyed her hair, while mind talking about anything else.” another was given to indulging in pri- The readiness with which she acvate sips of curaçoa ; still, if he had cepted his word and started a different not been shocked, he might easily have subject won his heart. So, at any rate, become even more ridiculous ; so that he subsequently averred, adding, by he had at least as good cause for self- way of explanation, that it showed congratulation as the rejuvenated Sir Annie Longworth's vast superiority to Thomas, who had quite superfluously the rest of her sex. Lord Arthur Fulconverted himself into an object of ton, it may be mentioned, has now ridicule.

increased in wisdom to such a remarkMiss Longworth, who, as it hap- able extent that he knows what women pened, bad been placed on Lord Ar- are. At least, he is fond of declaring thur's left hand, put an abrupt and solemnly that he does, and there is no somewhat embarrassing question to her denying that he has enjoyed opportuneighbor presently. 'Why did you pities of acquiring the knowledge to laugh at the poor old fellow in that which he lays claim. Possibly, howundisguised way?” she asked. “ He ever, he might have failed to appresaw you, and he didn't like it.”

ciate Miss Longworth at her true value, “I'm sorry if he saw me,” the young had she not been an extremely pretty, man replied ; “but I really couldn't fresh, and natural girl, or had she not help myself. Isn't it enough to make chosen the pursuit of the fox as the anybody laugh ?”

topic most likely to interest him. “I don't think so ; I think it is pain- As it was, she was so completely sucful and disgusting. What could have cessful in interesting him that he made him do such a thing? However, neither did his duty to the elderly lady I am thankful, for his sake, that Mrs. whom he had taken in to dinner, nor Alston hasn't come down, and that she noticed that Mrs. Naylor was scowling is leaving to-morrow.”

menacingly at him across an interven66 Well, yes.

But it would have ing space of glass and silver and exotbeen rather a joke if Mrs. Alston had ics. The discreditable fact is that he come down, and I'm not sure that the had temporarily forgotten Mrs. Naylaugh would have been upon her side lor's very existence. then."

He was reminded of it when he en“Lord Arthur,” said the girl, mak- tered the drawing-room with the otber ing a half-turn, so to face the men, after spending a merry twenty speaker, “ I believe some horrid prac- minutes over coffee and cigarettes, durtical joke has been played, and I ing which Sir Thomas had not been believe you are at the bottom of it. spared by Mr. Longworth and other old What does it all mean ?

friends. Sir Thomas had behaved very Lord Arthur pulled himself together. well; he had submitted to chaff goodHe could not possibly tell her what it humoredly enoughi, and had declared meant; but he saw that she was dis- that it was no fault of his if his tradespleased at the idea of his having played men were such idiots as to supply him practical jokes upon her parents' with hair-dye instead of hair-wash. guests, and he was unwilling to dis- Only, on leaving the room, he had please her. Therefore he felt entitled whispered, “Now, look here, Fulton;

, to exonerate hiinself by answering : if you don't tell on me, I won't tell on

“I give you my word of honor that I you. Is that a bargain ? And, I say am guiltless. I do know something, - is there any known means of getting but I mustn't explain, and I dare say the confounded stuff off ?” you will hear the truth some day. In- Lord Arthur was still chuckling over deed, you are almost sure to hear it; the memory of this pathetic appeal for Sir Thomas is too infuriated to hold I when he was sobered by an imperative




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gesture on Mrs. Naylor's part. He my own bottle of physic, which seems obeyed the summons with a sinking to have gone astray through his stuheart; for he was a good deal afraid of pidity.” Mrs. Naylor, and it was forcibly borne “ Hadn't you better apply to Mrs. in upon him that there was going to be Alston ? Your property ought to be in trouble.

her hands, oughvit not ?“May I ask," the irate lady began, “I suppose so ; but I don't particuwith ominous calmness, “why you larly care about holding any commuwere so pressing in your entreaties to nication with her.

She is a nasty, me to come down here with you ?ill-natured little cat, and she would be “ Well, I thought you would enjoy a only too glad of

for day with those hounds,” he answered spreading false reports about me. I deprecatingly, “and — and it's a jolly was thinking you might send her a house to stay in, you know. And then message to say that the bottle was there will be the ball."

yours, and that you would thank her to "Oh!— because those were not the give it up.” reasons that you gave at the time. I "Oh, but then she might spread ill

I may enjoy a day with the natured reports about me, you see. hounds, if we get a run, but I can't say That is, if the contents of your bottle that I am much impressed with the are such as to give an air of probability jollity of the company, so far, and as to ill-natured reports.” for the ball — well, I really didn't come “Nonsense! who cares what reports here for the pleasure of seeing you are spread about a man? Now, mind; dance a dozen times with that stick of a I ask this of you as a favor, and I girl.”

think, after the way in which you have “She isn't very likely to give me a behaved since you have been here, the dozen dances,” Lord Arthur returned ; least you can do is to oblige me in such " and I don't know what you mean by a a trille.”

“ And suppose I decline ?" Mrs. Naylor looked as if she would “ If you do,” answered Mrs. Naylor, like very well to tell him one of the making a mistake which, in view of meanings of the word “stick," and certain previous passages between her even to show him one of the purposes and her interlocutor, was not wholly to which that implement may be ap- without excuse, “ you may be very sure plied ; but she only remarked :“I don't that I shall never ask another favor of admire your taste. For the matter of you - or grant you one either." that, I never did admire it very much, She did not, to be sure, know that he and I certainly never admired the out- had first appropriated her liquor and rageous color of Mrs. Alston's hair. I then deprived himself of it by methods presume you are now convinced that I of which the memory still rankled in didn't traduce her when I told you that his mind ; still less could she have beshe dyed it. Sir Thomas Clutterbuck lieved that the discovery of so venial is convinced, at all events, though he a weakness on her part as a liking for was an old goose to imagine that his curaçoa had inspired him with a holy little coup de théâtre had a chance of horror of her. She was, therefore, comcoming off. Of course she wasn't go- pletely taken aback when he jumped ing to show from the moment she to his feet with alacrity, saying : realized that those three bottles had "So be it, then! I'm sorry to apgone wrong.'

pear disobliging, but really I have “Oh, you know, then ?"

enough sins of my own upon my con“I know there is a bottle of embro- science, without undertaking to bear cation, or some other nasty-smelling the burden of other people's. I'm stuff, in my room, to which he is very afraid I must decline toiuterfere, whatwelcome as soon as he likes to send forever the consequences may be.” it. Perhaps he will then restore me With that, he hastily withdrew, and


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Mrs. Naylor had the mortification of with the discomfiture of Mrs. Alston observing that he made straight for and accept her own less conspicuous Annie Longworth. Perhaps she was defeat philosophically. Returning early not far wrong when she muttered de- to Newton Longworth, she sought an spairingly, “Horrid young humbug ! - interview with her hostess, and stated,

, he only wanted a pretext.” And with- with much apparent regret, that she out doubt she was right in concluding had just received a telegram which that she would merely be throwing would necessitate her departure before away valuable time by devoting any

the ball. further ingenuity to the enslavement “Oh, nust you go?exclaimed goodof Lord Arthur Fulton.

natured Mrs. Longworth, in honest Sir Thomas sent the remainder of distress. * This is really becoming a Mrs. Alston's incomparable hair-dye to sauve qui peut ! First Mrs. Alston, and her that evening, with a note upon the now you! I suppose the next thing I composition of which he expended shall hear will be that Sir Thomas Clutmuch labor, and which would have terbuck has decided to desert us. been more telling if it had not been “I shouldn't be surprised,” said quite so tremendously sarcastic. He Mrs. Naylor dryly. himself received his red lotion from And, indeed, before the day was Mrs. Naylor, unaccompanied by any over Sir Thomas justified anticipation note or message, and thus he learnt, by following suit. He came in half an with a certain unholy joy, that young hour before dinner, smothered in mud Fulton had reduced his weight and and quietly triumphant, having demoudiminished his staying powers quite strated to his juniors that he could still needlessly. Thus, also, he was enabled ride as straight as any man of half his to distinguish himself in the hunting- age ; but he was not eager to compete field without fear of calamitous results with the young people in a field where to the mare, and to forget for the time grey hair is heavily handicapped, and being the alteration in his appearance where hair which has been obviously which was dreadfully conspicuous by robbed of that respectable hue places daylight.

its owner under a double disadvantage. Mrs. Naylor, on the other hand, He wished, moreover, to get up to did not distinguish herself that day. London as soon as he could, and conWhether owing to the lack of her ac- sult experts, with a view to the recoycustomed modicum of stimulant, or to ery of his normal aspect. the absence of any special motive for So of the four travellers who had showing what she could do, certain it journeyed down to Newton Longwortlı is that she allowed herself to be together, only one remained in the "stopped” at a brook by Miss Long- house thirty-six hours after their arworth, who rode with far less skill and rival ; and if he did not consider himjudgment, but who had the courage of self an uncommonly lucky fellow, that youth and ignorance ; and shortly after was only because no one ever does that public humiliation she disappeared appreciate unmerited luck. To have from view. Possibly, being a shrewd been set free at a blow from the enwoman, she may have realized that tanglements of two formidable ladies there are contests in which it is useless for both Mrs. Alston and Mrs. Nayto struggle against youth. Ignorance, lor were very formidable, and he was too, is not without its advantages. no match for either of them) — might in

Now, Mrs. Naylor might, had she truth have prompted him to return considered it worth her while to be thanks to his guardian angel ; but he malicious, have enlightened Annie was, for the moment, too much overLongworth's ignorance with respect to come with admiration for Annie LongLord Arthur's career and its episodes ; worth's pluck not to speak of her but, upon the whole, it seemed equally other attractions - to have any room easy and more sensible to rest satisfied ' left in his mind for reflection upon the

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