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him more than he had any right to expect for such a trifle as an upset and more to the same purpose.
“ That would be all very well, Gruffy,” replied Sir Henry, “if I had done nothing worse to you than knock you down; but from what I heard I suspect I was the cause of your being robbed somehow. Now, tell me all about it.”
Thus pressed, and having no corner left for his honesty to hide in, Gruffy owned to the particulars of the deposit in his hat, and Sir Henry felt sure he was speaking the truth.
“ You shall be no loser by the transaction," he said, when Gruffy had made an end of his unwilling confession ; “but as a hat is not the safest savings-bank in the world, I'll find some other place for you to keep your money in. Can you do anything about a house, or in a stable ?"
Gruffy pointed to his empty sleeve.
“God bless me!" exclaimed Sir Henry; “I never noticed that before. Poor fellow! so you've only one arm! This is really distressing.”
“I manages werry well, yer onner,” said Gruffy, cheerfully; “my broom's a light 'un; it pretty nigh does all the work of itself; and then, for takin' of letters and such like, one hand's plenty.”
A little more discussion on both sides, and it became clear to Sir Henry Vernon that Gruffy would rather remain as he was than “ better himself” by becoming "domestical”-a position which, with scarcely anything to do, the young baronet was inclined to place him in. They separated, however, on the very best terms, Gruffy's heart being rejoiced by the assurance that as long as Sir Henry lived he should never want a friend.
“And that,” said Gruffy, when he talked the matter over with Mr. Scowcroft—" that's better than all the Con-sols in the world, wotever they is, and all the corn that grows in it into the bargin."
II. SIR HENRY VERNON was one of those young men whom all the world call “ devilish lucky.” He had succeeded to the baronetcy on the sudden death of a cousin, of about the same age as himself. A good estate accompanied the title, but his fortune had been greatly increased by an unlooked-for bequest from an old gentleman with whom he was not in the slightest degree connected, and whom he had not seen since he was a child; to crown his position, he was spoken of as engaged to be married to the beautiful Adelaide Maynard, the eldest daughter of Lord and Lady Hermitage.
The two first of these “lucky” events came off, with the interval of two or three years between them, while Vernon was in the East; and, on his way home to take possession, he had, in Paris, laid the foundation of the third — Lord Hermitage being at that time, with his family, on a visit to the French capital. In Paris, too, he had renewed an old Oxford intimacy with George Musgrave, from whom he had been separated since the day they left the University together: Vernon to join the Embassy at Constantinople, Musgrave to enter the Life Guards.
Of his friend's career, in the interim, Vernon had heard little or nothing, the pursuits of a diplomatist and a fashionable warrior lying somewhat widely apart. He only knew that Musgrave had gone through the usual
military career of the Cavalry Household Brigade, which, for the most part, 'consists in getting a troop and then selling out; but why he had sold out Vernon remained profoundly ignorant. Had he been an habitué of the clubs instead of a wanderer beyond the Bosphorus, the knowledge would speedily have reached him, for Musgrave's fondness for play was no secret in St. James's. He found him, then, a ruined man, according to the usual parlance; “ ruin” signifying, amongst those who are highly connected, only the means of dressing and living no worse than before, with this difference that, instead of drawing upon your own banker, you draw upon another person's, or, to speak without paraphrase, depend upon an allowance from your friends. Musgrave had been hit very hard, but, independently of the gambler's invariable hope of a change of luck that should one day redeem him, he had calculated on the succession to a large property on the death of a very distant relation. · But Mr. Wilbraham, from whom he had expected so much, had his own reasons for leaving him only a couple of hundreds a year, bequeathing the bulk of his fortune to the son of an old friend-Sir Henry Vernon—who, surprised at the legacy, would have been still more surprised had he been aware of the relationship which existed between the testator and Musgrave. But what was known to everybody about town, the fact having been loudly proclaimed by Musgrave on receiving the news of his disappointment, remained a complete secret to Sir Henry Vernon, and when the intimacy between the two was renewed in the faubourg St. Honoré, the latter little thought he had taken to his bosom his deadliest foe.
Musgrave was naturally a proud man, of a bitter, unforgiving spirit, which, under all circumstances save one, would have kept him aloof from his quondam friend. But the sacrifice of his self-esteem, that worst of all moral abasements, taught in the wretched school in which he had long graduated, had made money-getting the only object of his life, and he cared not what were the means he employed to recover that of which, he tried to persuade himself, he had been so unjustly deprived, as well by the sharpers whose dupe he had first been, and then their confederate, as by * the infernal old scoundrel"-50 he called Mr. Wilbraham—who had cut him off with “ such a beggarly pittance.”
Besides skill at play, and no tenderness of conscience to modify that skill, Musgrave had, he fancied, yet another string to his bow for the retrieval of his fallen fortunes. He had still the remains of a very handsome person—was old in dissipation only, not in years—his connexions were high, and the entrée into some of the best houses was not refused him; why then should he doubt about making an advantageous marriage? Before Sir Henry Vernon's arrival in Paris, he had mixed a good deal in the society of Lord and Lady Hermitage, and had fallen violently in love with Adelaide Maynard, whose fortune, even more than her beauty, rendered her in his eyes a most eligible parti. He had already begun to flatter himself, though upon no better assurance than his own imagination, that he had made some progress in the lady's affections, when Vernon was suddenly thrown in his way.
Musgrave had long yearned for the chance of picking up” some one with plenty of money, whom he might keep all to himself; and he did not neglect the opportunity which now offered. When first the two met, Vernon knew no one in Paris, and he, therefore, willingly acceded to Musgrave's proposal, that they should live together during the time he stayed. Vernon's habits were not gregarious, and Musgrave took very good care that nobody else should “cut in.” He, accordingly, “gave himself up”-as he said—“entirely” to his friend, performed the part of cicerone in the most amiable and disinterested manner, and soon became quite indispensable. However eager to commence operations after the fashion he meditated, Musgrave was careful not to break ground too soon; but as soon as he perceived that Vernon was beginning to weary of the ordinary amusements of the place, he cautiously made his approaches. An accidental circumstance also came to his assistance. One night, as they were entering their hotel, Vernon's foot slipped from the trottoir, and he sprained his ankle. He was consequently obliged to keep his room, and, during his confinement, Musgrave's attention was most devoted. He brought Vernon the newest novels and caricatures, sat and talked with him half the morning; and when he left him for an hour or two, to perform some necessary commission, never returned without a store of anecdote wherewith to enliven the evening.
But the best raconteur in the world may sometimes flag, and a male tête-à-tête-perhaps even a composite one--cannot endure for ever, on conversation alone. In mercy to his friend, therefore, who must be tired, Musgrave said, of hearing his tongue go for ever, what if they were to try and vary the thing a little by a quiet game at écarté. Did Vernon understand the game? No! Well, Musgrave would teach him. It was very simple; any child could learn all about it in the first hand ; you had only to follow one or two very easy rules, which you could not forget when once you had learnt them, and the players were at once on an equality. Not that that signified much, as they should only play for amusement. Neither did they at first, till Sir Henry began almost to tire of beating his master. A bright thought then struck Musgrave. He perceived that Vernon wanted something more to excite him. A small stake would do that; it would create an object. Unless one has some object in this world everything ends in ennui. So a trifling sum was set upon the issue, and the amusement entered upon a new phase.
It was by no stale device of suffering his friend to win in the outset (with the view of suddenly reversing the position), that Musgrave induced Vernon to play. His purpose was to make him like play, as well from the checks which he received as from the advantages he gained.
There would be time enough to make the grand coup when the excitement of gambling had become the necessity of his life. This result seemed of probable attainment, for the cure of the sprain was a tedious process, and nothing appeared to while away the time so pleasantly as écarté. The stakes, of course, increased, and with their increase the fluctuations of the game; but these were so skilfully managed that it was next to impossible to imagine anything like pre-arrangement. At the end of six weeks then—for Vernon's confinement lasted so longthe balance between the two players was almost evenly struck. A slight advantage was, perhaps, on Musgrave's side ; but that went for nothing in his calculation-his real success consisted in having familiarised Vernon with the practice of risking large sums, and finding a pleasure in doing 80. Yet a little longer, and the pear would be ripe.
It happened, at this juncture, on the day Vernon first went out alone after his accident, that he was encountered in the street by an old brother
attaché, with whom he had served in Pera, and who, in the absence of his chief, was chargé d'affaires in Paris. Manners, that was his name, pressed Vernon so earnestly to come to the Embassy, that he consented to dine there the same day, and the acceptance of the invitation led to consequences fatal to the schemes which Musgrave had so artfully contrived, for the Hermitages were of the party, and Vernon found, in Adelaide Maynard, an object that was indeed worthy the dedication of all his thoughts.
Musgrave did not immediately perceive that his prey had escaped him, but ascribed Sir Henry's absence from their usual tête-à-tête dinners, for the first few days, to the desire for variety which was natural after having been shut up so long..
“He will come back of his own accord," thought Musgrave, “and then I shall have him faster than ever; when once he has fairly taken the bait again, I will hook and land him.”
But when a week had gone by, and Vernon made no sign; when he declined every proposition for amusement, either out of doors or in ; and when, by his pre-occupation at home, and his eagerness to go forth alone, Vernon made it clear to a much less acute or interested observer than Musgrave that some great change had been wrought in him, the latter set about at once to discover the cause.
To his bitter mortification he found that Vernon was in love, and, worse, that she who had won his heart was the lady whom he had selected as his own prize. He secretly cursed his own folly in having, as he phrased it, given his intended victim “ so much line ;” but he suffered no outward token to show how deeply he felt the blow. He would bide his time : if he could not prevent his friend from following “this new fancy," he might find the means of destroying his hopes, and, that accomplished, he felt sure of getting him once more within his toils and more securely then than ever. So Musgrave stood apart for the present, watching the progress of events, and meditating a deeper revenge on the man who had now for the second time crossed his path.
III. On the evening of the same day that the one-armed crossing-sweeper departed, rejoicing, from the presence of his new patron, Lady Hermitage gave a grand ball at her house in Carlton Gardens. It was the event of the season, and all the fashionable world thronged to it, including Gruffy, who attended, not so much on account of the halo of fashion that surrounded him, as of the utility of his services on the pavement.
A treacherous interval of two fine days, about the middle of July, had deluded the public mind into the belief that summer had come at last, and meant to stay. Lady Hermitage fell into the prevailing error, and resolved upon making her ball as much of a fête champêtre as the garden attached to her house would admit of, and the camp-fever being then at its height, Mr. Edgington's capabilities were put in requisition, and the horticultural space, by dint of marquees and other tented contrivances, was made very nearly to resemble the royal pavilion at Chobham. If you happen to be acquainted with Lady Hermitage, you will know that her garden is not divided from the street by one of those aristocratic brick walls which there is no seeing through, but is separated by an iron railing, lined, on the inside, by such shrubs as London allows to grow. This condition of things does not appear favourable to al fresco party-giving, which, in high life, aims at exclusiveness ; but Lady Hermitage was what is called “popular," and rather liked the idea of sharing her entertainment with the public; not that the outsiders had much, after all, to rejoice in.
Lady Hermitage's “ camp-dansant,” as the fête was called on the invitation cards, would no doubt have been perfect in its way, but for a slight contretemps: the glass fell on the morning of the party, and shortly afterwards the rain fell with it, to the extreme disgust of everybody in London, Gruffy and the cab-driving community of course excepted. Rain, as we have said, was the crossing-sweeper's element, and with even more than his wonted alacrity, he turned out “ for dooty” in Carlton Gardens.
As there is nothing, however, that keeps people away from a first-rate London party in the height of the season, Lady Hermitage was disappointed of scarcely a single guest. Every kind of condolence was naturally expressed and laughed off in the usual way, and except the glimpse you got, as you entered, of a number of dim lamps doing their best to illumine a long vista of striped canvas and Aowering plants, there was nothing to remind you of the nature of the projected entertainment. Lady Hermitage, notwithstanding, was not willing that all the pains she had taken should be utterly thrown away; so the marquees were lit up, and the flowers left to show what might have been had the skies only proved propitious. There the place was, if you liked to take a peep at it; if not, brilliant saloons awaited you, “ with no alloying” damp and rheumatism—the ordinary concomitants of out of doors' amusements in England.
Amongst the “ everybody" present were, of course, the principal personages already mentioned in the course of this narrative, Sir Henry Vernon and Captain Musgrave. They had seen very little of each other since the former became intimate at the Hermitages', but Musgrave having kept his own counsel, no cause existed why Sir Henry should cut his friend, except the simple one that when a man is in love he avoids everybody but the object of his affections. On the other hand, if Musgrave refrained from throwing himself in Vernon's way, he was far from having lost an interest in his proceedings. He knew, through an assured channel, the exact condition in which matters stood with Miss Maynard. They were not quite so far advanced as the world supposed, but, unless some untoward event occurred, there seemed every likelihood that out of the many who sighed, Vernon would be the happy man. It was to get up " the untoward event” that Musgrave secretly laboured.
Sir Henry Vernon was an excellent fellow, but he had in his disposition a spice of that quality without which, they say, true love cannot exist-he could not help being more or less jealous of all who, like himself, pretended to the hand of Miss Maynard. The individual who engrossed the greater part of this feeling was a handsome young Frenchman called the Comte Alexis de Clerval, who numbered Musgrave among his most intimate associates. With a candour which did him honour, Musgrave, in encouraging Clerval to pay his addresses to the young English beauty, told him that any fancy which he might have once entertained for Adelaide Maynard had long since past away, and