« PreviousContinue »
whom they consider fair game, they should therefore be incapable of acting in all other respects with strict honour. As I said before, Thorn, I regret that you ever entered into this speculation; not because this affair has occurred, for that is too paltry to be considered for a moment, but because I conceive that the profits, whatever they may be, will never be commensurate with the trouble it may occasion. As, however, you are in it, I cannot see how you can well call off.'
Nor could Stanley. The disgust with which the heartless proceeding had inspired him was not in the slightest degree diminished; his confidence in the honour of his new associates had not by the arguments of Sir William been to any extent increased; still, jealous of his reputation as a man of spirit, anxious to be deemed by all a high-toned fellow, and therefore dreading the possibility of being suspected of meanness, or even of irresolution, he determined at once to go on with the speculation precisely as if nothing of a disreputable character had occurred.
In pursuance of this determination, he in the course of the day called upon Captain Filcher, whom he found most appropriately engaged in the honourable occupation of fixing an entirely new roulette table, the secret springs of which had been constructed with surpassing ingenuity.
'My dear fellow!' exclaimed the gallant Captain, as Stanley entered, "I am positively too glad to see you. I feared that something queer had occurred, you cut away so abruptly. You should have stopped. Oh! I'd have given the world if you had remained. We kept it up till daylight; and such sport! I thought I should have died. But how came you to leave us so early?'
'I was anxious to get away,' replied Stanley; and I always find that the safest course to adopt in such a case is that of leaving without giving even the slightest intimation.'
'And so it is; but I am nevertheless sorry you started.' Which was perfectly true. The sorrow expressed was entertained very sincerely, and moreover very affectionately, considering that he and a bosom friend had laid a well-conceived plan for fleecing Stanley to a highly respectable extent. But I say, my dear fellow,' he continued, 'those bills, now-I haven't the cash for them yet. It seems strange, but the money market is in such a state. I've been about them this morning. Four-and-twenty bills returned in three days!-that tells a little tale! However, I left them; but if you have any channel, I'll get them out of his hands.' 'I can do nothing with them,' said Stanley.
'Oh! well then, a day or two probably will be of no importance?' 'None whatever.'
'I always like these things to be done at once; but to-morrow, or the next day, I shall be able, no doubt, to get a cheque for the amount.' "That will do quite as well,' replied Stanley. But when do we commence operations?'
"Why, I should say this day week. As far as the play is concerned, you see everything now is nearly ready; but there are rooms to be fitted up for the Countess.'
Will she reside here?'
'Oh! yes; and mamma is to be the comptroller of the household.'
'To-morrow, I hear; and some excellent sport we shall have. Did you ever see anything more admirably managed? Oh! the whole thing was capital!'
Stanley made no observation upon this, but directed his attention to the arrangement of the tables, more with a view of changing the subject than of ascertaining what had been done. The Captain, however, entered into a variety of minute explanations having reference to the course they intended to pursue; and when he had explained all he wished him to know, Stanley left with the understanding that he was to call the next morning for the cheque.
On the following day he accordingly went: but the Captain had been still unsuccessful. He was to have it the next day; and he called the next day, and the next; in short, he continued to call day after day until the time had been fixed for putting down the first five hundred each, as per agreement, when he mortgaged his estate for the two thousand pounds, and regretted that he had not pursued this course at once, without exposing his poverty to the Captain.
Having effected this mortgage, he at once expressed his sorrow to that gallant person that he should have given him so much trouble, and stated, that as he had then sufficient money in his possession, he no longer required the bills to be done.
'I'm glad to hear it,' said the Captain, on receiving this intelligence, although I gave them this morning to a friend of mine who promised to bring me the cash in the course of the day. But as it is, why, they had better be destroyed. I regret exceedingly that I should have been unable to get the thing done without delay; but you know what bill-discounters are.'
'I've never had anything to do with them,' said Stanley; 'but I believe they are not angels.'
Angels!-devils, sir-absolute devils. together and see that they are destroyed.'
However, I'll get the bills
Stanley thanked him, and was satisfied. Scarcely knowing the nature of bills, it never struck him that he himself ought to see them destroyed; and if it had, he possessed too much delicacy to hint that he deemed it essential. That, in his view, would have been a direct imputation upon the honour of the Captain, which he would not have cast, even if he had thought of the possibility of the bills getting into circulation; but the fact is, as the Captain undertook to destroy them, he thought nothing more about the matter.
The time now arrived for making up the first bank to commence with, and they met at their own club, which they had named the European, and put down five hundred pounds each. The Earl and his friends, however, manifested no inconsiderable surprise at the unaccustomed promptitude of the Captain in this particular. They evidently anticipated nothing more substantial from him than an I. O. U., and therefore looked at each other with great significance when, on drawing forth his pocket-book, he put down ten fifties with the air of a man having the power to produce fifty more of the same sort at a moment's notice. It was held to be mysterious obviously by them all, although nothing was said on the subject at the
time. The money was taken, the bank was formed, and the 'European' opened the following night.
Is one which the ladies will appreciate highly.
'Now, my precious,' observed Mrs. Gills, addressing the 'Countess,' the morning after the speculation had commenced, 'now your sperits is a little bit tranquil, you know, you must begin to look about you as a lady of title ought, and take care you're not imposed upon, or anything of that because now you are a Countess, my dear, you must do, of course, as Countesses does, and keep up a proper sperit and dignity.' 'Yes, ma,' mildly replied the Countess.
'Nor you mustn't be put off neither, my dear. You must have your own way, as all Countesses has. Insist upon having all you want, and you'll get it.'
'But I have all I want, ma, already.'
'Nonsense, child!-truly ridiculous! Oh! don't tell me! You ought to have a separate carridge, and a box at the opperer, and give a splendid series of parties, and all that, and have all the new novels, and harps, and pianers-'
6 But you know, ma, I never learned to play.'
'What of that? The whole world needn't know it. When you give a soree, you know, or anything of that, engage them to play, my love, as gets their living by it. Countesses never plays in public. Don't you know, my dear, that that's beneath their dignity? Never try to play, and then nobody'll know you can't. There's no occasion to tell the world what you don't know.'
'No, ma, no more there isn't.'
'Very well, then, my dear, then you don't ought to do it.'
'I won't, ma; I'll always make believe that I can play.'
And mind, never suffer them stuck up things of servants to address you as anything but "my lady," or "your ladyship.""Did your ladyship please to ring for me, my lady ?"-" May it please your ladyship," and so on. I'm not sure it don't ought to be "your grace;" but "your ladyship" will do for the present. Be sure and make 'em stick to that; if they don't, ask 'em who they are speaking to with their imperence. Mind that particular. Always keep them gals at a respectable distance: they are sure to take liberties where they can. If you give 'em an inch, they'll take an ell, and you don't ought to do it. Always know what is due your dignity, my precious, and make 'em conduct theirselves in a way as becomes 'em. Look at that low vulgar feller, the porter. The ideor of bringing up the baker's bill in his naked hand, for all the world as if there warnt a piece of plate upon the premises. And then look at that imperent thing, Susan. She's always a-gigling and going on. I see her, although she thinks I don't. What does she mean, I should like to know? Perhaps she thinks the situation ain't good enough for her. I'd give her a month's warning: she don't know her place. I don't think she's much better than she should be, my dear. Look at her curls! What business has a low common housemaid with all them
there curls! Twelve pounds a-year, my love, won't support that. Besides, she don't treat me with proper respect; and I'd have her to know, that although I am not a Countess myself, I'm the mother of a Countess, and that, too, of as good a Countess as any in the kingdom. What does she mean by laughing, and sneering, and opening her ignorant eyes to other servants, when I'm giving 'em the necessary orders? Does she think I'll put up with her low-bred ways? The insolence of such dressed up things is exclusive. Either she or me must quit.'
'Dear ma,' observed the Countess, 'don't drop yourself down to the level of her.'
I drop myself down to her level! No, my love; I think I do know myself better than that comes to. Her level! I don't think I'd go quite so low as that, neither!'
'Well, never mind, ma; I'll give her warning.'
'In course. And very proper. I shall make a woman of sperit of you yet. But that, my darling, isn't all. You mustn't let the noble Earl take no advantage of your innercence; for Earls is but men, and all men in this regard is alike; they'll all impose where they can; and you don't ought to suffer him to do it. Assume enough, my precious. Begin as you mean to go on. There's nothing like striking the iron while it's hot. It saves a world of trouble, my dear. If you wait till a man gets cool, you'll find him very difficult to bend to your own shape; but if you tell him at first what you mean, you 'stablish your dignity, and when he knows what he has to expect, why, he ain't after that disappointed. You take my advice, my love, and insist upon doing what you please; there's nothing like it. A woman ain't a woman of sperit as dont, and 'specially a Countess. You must go out a-patternizing people, particular them foreigners as sings; and give blankets away to the poor in cold weather: it all tells, my love, to make a noise in the world. And when you go a-shopping, make 'em bring the goods out to the carridge, instead of going in; and when you don't want your carridge, have your footman behind you with a long stick, with a large gold nob at the top. Nothing on earth, my dear, looks so respectable as that; and the taller the footman, and the longer the stick is, the better. Besides, you haven't been to court yet; nor I haven't seen your name a single once in the papers! And another thing, the Earl hasn't once introduced you to his family!'
'Oh! ma!' exclaimed the Countess, 'I should tremble like anything, I know, if he was.'
"Tremble! Fiddledede! Why should you tremble? You're as good as them any day in the week.'
'Oh dear, ma! I shiver at the very thought. What I should do when I saw 'em I can't think. I am sure I should turn as pale as a I don't know what.'
'Pale, my precious! What do that signifies? Paint-all Countesses paints-and then nobody'll know whether you turn pale or not.'
'Oh! but I should feel so queer, I know I should.'
Rubbish, my love! What's to make you feel queer? Always look upon people as being beneath you; there's nothing on earth gives such confidence as that. If you look up to them, they'll look down upon you; that's the way people gets over people, my precious. And then there's another thing: where is your cards? I