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CHAPTER XL.

Is one which Gentlemen will not condemn. As the bank was impoverished every night, notwithstanding immense sums of money were lost by the majority of the players, Stanley soon began to view the speculation as a failure. He thought it strange, that with the chances in favour of the table, and with experienced men for managers, the bank should so constantly lose; and that he did think it strange was not extraordinary, seeing that he was perfectly unconscious of the fact that the projectors of the scheme, through the instrumentality of confederates, were realising fortunes. He knew nothing of the villanous system pursued: he had no idea of knaves being deputed nightly by the two per, sons with whom the speculation originated, to fleece the fair players, and to plunder the bank. He thought that, of course, all was square as far as they were concerned, and yet it struck him as being singular that their spirits should be raised after each night's loss. Instead, however, of thinking of confederacy, false dice, despatching,' and securing,' and thereby attributing all to the true cause, he imbibed the pernicious, soul-enslaving doctrine of Destiny, and madly ascribed all his losses to Fate.

This made him wretched, irascible, and occasionally, although perhaps involuntarily, brutal. He was satisfied with nothing: everything displeased him : trifles, at which before he would have smiled, now inspired him with rage; in his sleep he would constantly start and talk wildly, and when awake, he would fitfully pace the room, with

pursed lips and overhanging brows.

This change poor Amelia perceived with alarm. To her gentle spirit it was a source of deep affliction: it filled her heart with sorrow, and her eyes with scalding tears. She wept bitterly, but in secret : before him she assumed a soft gaiety, and laboured to cheer him; and when she perceived upon his brow a more than usually dark cloud, she in silence caressed him the more.

Days of misery passed; and whenever he returned she would watch his clouded countenance anxiously, in the fond hope of finding his spirit soothed, but in vain : still, fearing it might vex him, she never breathed a syllable having reference to his depression, until, finding her caresses repulsed as an annoyance, she became apprehensive that she herself might be, although unconsciously, the cause.

At first the bare thought of this being possible dreadfully distressed her; but, on reflection, being unable to recollect any single act of hers at all likely to have excited his displeasure, she began to hope that something she had either said or done had been by him misconstrued, feeling convinced that if that were all, she should be able, by removing the misconception, to restore his tranquillity.

Having dwelt upon this for some time, to the exclusion of all other considerations, she resolved to embrace the earliest opportunity of alluding to the subject, and blamed herself for having permitted a mere misapprehension--for that she felt sure it was then-to continue in existence so long.

When this resolution was formed Stanley was absent from home : he had left to meet his partners by appointment, with the view of putting down the fourth and last five hundred each: and as he had

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then made up his mind that the whole was irrevocably lost, he returned more sullen and peevish than ever.

As he entered, Amelia flew as usual to meet him, and when he had passively received her fond welcome, he sunk into a chair in the most listless style, and with a countenance enveloped in gloom.

• I have something, dear, to say to you,' she observed, with a gaiety of expression which contrasted strongly with his dismal aspect,— something, my love, of importance. It is a question, and one which must be answered distinctly too.'

A question ? cried Stanley, peevishly. Well, what is it ?'

Nay, do not be cross, dear Stanley. And yet perhaps I must allow you to be so until you have answered my question, and I have replied.' She then threw her arms round his neck, and while gazing earnestly in his face said, in tones of surpassing sweetness, Have I displeased

Displeased me? Nonsense ; no.'
'Pray, Stanley, tell me. I fear that I have.'
'I do tell you that you have not. Don't annoy me.'

Dear Stanley, do not be unkind! You have been for some time very sad, dear; my heart bleeds to see you. I cannot be happy if you are not so. Indeed, my dearest love, if I have in any way offended

'I tell you again that you have not !!

"Then what is the cause of your sadness? Pray let me know all ? I can bear it, my love; let it be what it may,

I can bear it. Believe me, I can endure with more fortitude the knowledge of the very worst calamity that could befall us than ignorance of the cause of that affliction, which is unhappily so apparent. Do, dear, pray tell me all. Do not keep me longer in suspense. You kindly, fondly let me share your joys,--am I not bound to share your sorrows ? Believe me, dear Stanley, it will to me be an additional joy to know that your confidence in me is unbounded.'

As a rebellious tear glistened in his eye, Stanley kissed her, and pressed her to his heart.

* Bless you!' she continued, as she wiped the tear away: • But I must not see that: anything but that I can bear. But you will tell me, dear, will you not ?'

My good girl, what have I to tell you?'

"Do not allow me to be tortured by conjectures. They afflict me, Stanley, far more than a knowledge of the real cause can, let it be what it may

Amelia, rest satisfied with this, that that which vexes me is not of any permanent importance.'

'I thank Heaven for that! And yet if it be not, why do you allow it to torment you thus ? Come, be cheerful, dear Stanley ; it will be such a delight to me to see you smile again; but I cannot be content with this assurance. If I had,' she continued archly, sufficient influence over you, I would insist upon knowing more; but as I have not, I must of course in the tone of a suppliant beg of you to tell me all about it. Come, dear, as a favour? I may be able to assist you. Besides, have I not a right to know? Upon my word, I am anything but sure that I have not. It strikes me that there should be no

secrets between us. I may be wrong ; but I incline, nevertheless, to the belief that a wife absolutely ought to know all that pertains to her husband.'

But even assuming that she ought, would it be wise, would it be kind on the part of a man to suffer his wife to be annoyed by the knowledge of every difficulty he has to encounter?'

He frequently, I apprehend, annoys her far more by withholding that Imowledge. When we see you depressed, and that we can see, my love in an instant, however much you may endeavour to conceal it,—the conjectures which arise in most cases create far more pain than would be induced by an actual knowledge of the facts. When you good creatures keep us thus in darkness, that we may not be afflicted by the troubles you endure, you little think that the kind generous object you have in view is not thereby attained. We are troubled by seeing that you are troubled ; the very fact of your spirits being depressed, depresses ours; and although we endeavour to cheer you when dull, the gaiety we assume is but assumed, dear Stanley, and the assumption of itself costs many a latent pang. But, come, let me prevail upon you. What is the matter? It is true my reputation for ingenuity is not yet established, but a thousand things might be suggested even by me. Stanley, is there anything papa can do for you ? If there be, let me know, there's a dear! Nothing could delight him more than to have it in his power to render you assistance. It would give him, believe me, the purest joy a man can experience. Tell me, dear,—do pray tell me if he can in any way aid you. You know not how he would rejoice in the opportunity; indeed you do not; but be sure that he would serve you with all his soul. Let me name it to him, dear. What is it? Do tell me.'

* Amelia,' said Stanley, regarding her intently, ‘let us change the subject. Let it be sufficient for you to know, that I have felt perhaps far more annoyed than I ought to have felt. The affair will soon be over, and you will then find me as cheerful as ever ; but if you do not wish to annoy me, and I cannot think you do, you will not in any way allude to it again.

Amelia’s lips were thus sealed, and the subject therefore dropped.

CHAPTER XLI.

The Countess of Clarendale's Soiréo Musicale. HAVING explained to Captain Filcher precisely what she wanted, Mrs. Gills had the heartfelt felicity to find that he was prepared to meet her views to a hair. He was in fact, as Stanley had intimated, the very man to carry her conception fully out. He was in raptures with it. Nothing could have delighted him more; and so heartily did he enter into the spirit of the thing, and so promptly did he settle the preliminaries, feeling well convinced that before many days bad expired the club would be completely broken up, and the glorious opportunity thereby lost, that he got cards engraved expressly for the occasion with the Earl's arms thereon emblazoned, and all his plans laid down to absolute perfection, in a space of time almost incredible in point of shortness.

It became, however, essential to the due execution of these plans that the Earl should be temporarily absent; and it happened most conveniently that, having put down his share of the bank, which was doomed to be the last, and just as the Captain had arranged to

get him down to Newmarket, he announced his intention of going to Brighton for a day or two, ostensibly in order to pay a long-promised visit.

For Brighton he therefore started, and no sooner had he left, than the gallant Captain issued the cards. He sent them to all the Ministers, to all the peers and peeresses in town, to all the ambassadors, to all the members of the House of Commons without distinction, to all the Judges and chief members of the Bar and their ladies, to the principal literary men of the day, to the Lord Mayor and the whole Court of Aldermen; in short, he proceeded in such

an exemplary spirit, that no person of distinction in town could complain of being slighted.

It was to be a soirée musicale ; and as such was the case, he patronized the two most fashionable bands, and engaged not only the chief Italian singers, but all the native talent available. His views in that, as indeed in all other respects, were extremely comprehensive; in a word, he was firmly determined to do the whole thing on a scale of magnificence not to be surpassed.

“Now, my dear madam,' said he, having settled this necessary part of the business to the entire satisfaction of Mrs. Gills, Pray what do you intend to give them ?' “Oh! they shall have such a capital hot supper,' replied the lady,

and just as much wine, rum, brandy, and gin, as they like to lay into. There shall be no stint of nothing. And then we'll have some punch; the punch alley Roman, I hear is the nicest; they shall have some of that. And I'll tell you what jints I mean to have. First, for instance, there shall be a tremendious biled round of beef at the top, and another sirline at the bottom; a large plum-pudding in the middle, two saddles of mutton near that, a line of pork, a fillet of veal and ham, a turkey and sassages, lots of mince pies, a goose and apple sarce, carrots, turnips, taters, sparrowgrass, and

every other delicacy in season ; and if they can't manage to make a decent supper off that, why, it will be a strange thing to me.'

• It will be strange,' observed the Captain. 'I should say that they have not had such a supper lately?

• Is there anything else besides that you think we ought to have? Because if there is, you know, Captain, we'll have it.'

*No; I am really unable to suggest anything else. Your arrangements appear to be excellent. You must have enough porter.'

Oh! they shall have lots of that. But what time do you think they'll be here?

Why, I should say that they'll begin to arrive about nine.' “That will do nicely. Oh! won't the Earl be surprised! But you'll excuse me, I know, for I've got a world of business in hand; but if you should think of anything more in the meantime, please tell me.'

The Captain promised faithfully to do so, and Mrs. Gills went about her business.

In less than an hour after that, however, certain of the noble Earl's family called, and on being informed that he was then out of town, the Marchioness, being resolved to have her matter explained, sent her card at once up to the Countess.

On receiving this card, the Countess almost fainted. "Oh, ma!' she cried tremulously, 'I never can go down; I should drop.'

Rubbish, my precious!' exclaimed her mamma. "Why, what have you to fear? She won't eat you. Besides, you're every bit as good as her.'

*Oh! I saw her get out of her carriage. The very look of her was enough. She's such a lady !-oh! Well

, my love, and ain't you a lady? And can't you get out of you carridge? I'll go down myself and see her.'

• Do, ma, pray do.'

"Oh! if she thinks to come any of her stuck-up fine ways over me, she'll find I can give her as good as she sends. I ain't to be frightened don't think it.'

Whereupon she adjusted her comprehensive cap, which was richly embellished with roses and lilies, and having completely satisfied herself that she could look fiercely if occasion should demand a look of fierceness, she tossed her head proudly, and descended. .

"The Countess of Clarendale, observed the Marchioness, who was certainly a most majestic woman, is the lady whom I am anxious to see.'

*The Countess,' returned Mrs. Gill, who tried very laudably to look as tall as possible. “The Countess is rather poorly ; but I am her mother!

This announcement had the effect of almost stunning the Marchioness, who drew back a trifle, and looked at Mrs. Gills with the most intense earnestness of which she was capable ; while two of her sons, by whom she was accompanied, seemed ready to burst into a roar, they enjoyed the thing so highly

It is really very strange,' said the Marchioness, on recovering herself somewhat, that I should not have even heard of my son's marriage until this morning.'

• Well, it is odd he didn't let you know.'
At what church were they married ?'
Oh! it was done here, by special license !'
Indeed! Can I not have the pleasure of seeing the Countess ?

Oh, yes; I'll go and fetch her; but she's such a timid thing, you don't know.'

*Well, this is a start!' exclaimed one of the sons, as Mrs. Gills quitted the room.

He's not married ! cried the other. He's not such a fool.' 'I only hope to Heaven that he is not ! exclaimed the Marchioness. But you hear what she says !'

Oh, I don't care what she says. Depend upon it they are not married. But I long to see what sort of a creature she is. If she be anything like her mamma, she's a beauty!'

While they were thus engaged, Mrs. Gills was endeavouring to prevail upon her precious to come down, and make no bones at all about the matter;' but the Countess was still extremely tremulous.

Oh! ma,' she cried, "I'm fit to faint.' "The ideor!' exclaimed Mrs. Gills. As if you expected she'd gobble you up! I never see such a thing! Pluck up your sperits, and bemean yourself like a Countess as you are.'

Oh! but I feel so frightened, ma.'

What are you got to be frightened on? I'm shocked at you. Why ain't I frightened? A mere common paltry servant would have more sperit. You don't look as if you belonged to the nobility at all!

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