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never heard of such a thing as a Countess without cards! We'll go and order 'em this blessed morning, my love, and have your court of arms upon 'em, you know, and all that. Nothing can be done without cards. And then I'll tell you what we'll do while we're about it. Dear me! now, how strange it never struck me before!-it will be the very thing-my love, we'll order a whole lot of invitation cards at the same time. And then we'll get up a party, and invite all the other nobility in town; all the Duchesses, and all the Marquisses, and all the Earls, and all the foreign ambassadors and their suits. Oh! we'll have such a jolly night of it, my precious!'
'But will my lord like it?'
"There's not the least occasion, my love, to let him know anything about it until they all come, and then, oh! won't it be an agreeable surprise! But let's see who can we get now to manage it all for us? It must be somebody that knows all about it, you know. There's the Captain; but I don't like that Captain: he's always a-sneering and smirking, and going on so, as if we warn't as good as him, and a precious sight better. I can't a-bear such ways!'
"There's Mr. Thorn, ma!' suggested the Countess.
"Ah! he's a nice gentleman. He'd be the one. He knows how to behave hisself. Nobody can conduct theirselves more gentlemanlier than him. He'll manage it for us. I know he will, if I ask him.'
At this moment Stanley was dashing down the street in his cab, with the view of ascertaining the result of the previous night's play; but as, on pulling up, he happened to see a person in livery at the door of the European, he laid the whip into Marmion with so much effect, that the animal, darting off in an instant, left Bob, who had got down with all his wonted alacrity, a considerable distance in the rear before he had time to recover his faculties, the whole of which had been thus unceremoniously upset. Feeling, however, that he had not a single moment to lose, and being, moreover, extremely swift of foot, he, by virtue of making a desperate rush, soon overtook the cab, and re mounted.
'Well,' he exclaimed, 'I should on'y just like to know what's o'clock now! There's something in the weather-glass, safe! As true as I'm alive, I don't know what's come to all the masters. It's my belief they're all a-going stark naked mad. Here's a mess-here's a pickle!' -he added, taking a retrospective view of his clothes-splashed up to the very eyes!-a full hour and arf's brushing; it ain't to be done under. I'm blessed if it ain't enough to aggrawate a bishop. If he didn't mean to stop there at all, what did he make believe to pull up for ?'
That was the point; and while Bob was thus occupied in giving expression to his own private feelings upon it, Stanley's rage was unbounded; for as Venerable Joe was the person whom he saw-but whom Bob in his desperate haste failed to see he leaped at once to the conclusion that the General, having heard of the speculation into which he had entered, had planted him there as a spy.
Such was, however, by no means the fact; and, in order to prove that it was not, it will be highly correct to accompany the venerable gentleman, who, after laughing very heartily at Bob's rapid move
ments, and wondering very naturally what it all meant, was admitted between the outer doors of the European,' when he sent up his name to Mrs. Gills, whom he had had the honour of knowing for a series of years.
Mrs. Gills, on the name being announced, blushed deeply as she repeated it again and again, marvelling who, in the name of all that was gracious, it could be, and bit her lips with due violence as she protested that the singular cognomen of the individual lived not in her memory; still she thought somehow she had heard the name somewhere-but where? Eventually, by a miracle, she recollected that there was a sort of person of that name in the service of General Johnson, a very intimate friend of hers, from whom, she had no doubt on earth, this person had brought some strictly confidential communication. She therefore directed the servant to show the person into the parlour; and, after having explained most lucidly to the Countess how essential to the preservation of dignity it was to repudiate all low connections, descended from the drawing-room with all the severity of aspect and stateliness of deportment at her command.
On entering the room in which the venerable gentleman stood, marvelling greatly at the fact of his being shown into a parlour, Mrs. Gills reared her chin, and bowed with such surpassing grace, that in an instant he felt friendship freezing. He nevertheless approached, and was about to take her hand, which, however, she with a truly icy elegance waved towards a chair, and with an expression of sublimity desired him to be seated.
'Your manners is very cold, Mrs. Gills,' observed the venerable gentleman, who could not but deem all this deeply mysterious. "Have I offended you in anythink?"
'Oh, dear me, no!' replied the lady, tossing her head with a most superb air.
Oh! I thought p'raps I had,' rejoined the venerable gentleman, 'as you seems to be werry much changed. I shouldn't a-called, on'y I 'appened to 'ear that Sophy was married.'
'My daughter, sir, the Countess of Clarendale, is married,' returned Mrs. Gills, with great dignity.
The venerable gentleman looked amazed. Could he believe it? Could he believe that the same individual Sophy, whom Mrs. Gills tried so extremely hard to plant upon him, was a Countess? He was about to take a comprehensive view of the matter, in order to ascertain whether he could really believe it or not; but Mrs. Gills interposed at the moment an observation, which rendered his imaginative faculties subservient to the influence of straight-forward facts.
'As circumstances is so much changed,'-this was the memorable observation-and as you must in course be aware that there's now a propriety as is proper to be observed, may I inquire your object in honnering us with this visit ?'
'Oh! I on'y merely thought I'd look in to give Sophy-I mean the Countess-joy.'
'Sir,' said the lady, apparently quite shocked at the vulgar idea, 'I'd have you understand that my son-in-law, the noble Earl, ain't a mechanic.'
'Impossible. It ain't because I'm proud, no; but what would the noble Earl say? Why, he'd think it a disgrace to his 'scutcheon.'
'It strikes me forcible,' said the venerable gentleman, who felt rather piqued, that half what you know about 'scutcheons ain't much.'
Well, I'm sure! I'd have you to know I don't tolerate no insolence, and so you needn't come it.'
'Oh! werry well, mum. But I must say, as a hold friend, I didn't expect to be treated in this 'ear upish vay.'
'You may think yourself honnered that I saw you at all. I know I didn't ought to do it; but I beg, sir, that in future we mayn't be troubled by your calling any more.'
Oh! that you may take your hoath on.
But as I remember there's a little trifle atween us of seventeen and sixpence, p'raps it von't be hinconvenient for you to settle without my summonsing on you to the court of requests?'
'I didn't spose he vos. There's wery few noble Hurls as is. I see the Countess? I should like to see her.'
'What do you mean to insiniwate?' cried the lady,-'seventeen and sixpence, or seventeen hundred pound seventeen and sixpence; it's all one to me! I'll discharge the paltry sum, sir, immediate! what do you
Mrs. Gills, being highly indignant, was about to bounce out of the room for her purse, when the folding-doors opened, and the Countess, who had been listening in the adjoining room, appeared.
'Dear ma!' she exclaimed, 'here's a purse: but don't be angry with Mr. Joseph. You know he has always been kind to us, ma.' And she extended her hand to the venerable gentleman, who was about to receive it with the utmost respect, when Mrs. Gills promptly interposed her person, exclaiming,
"My precious! What would the noble Earl say?-what would he think were he to see you shaking hands with a person in livery? Fie! my love, fie! I'm putrified to think that you haven't more respect for your dignity.'
'Well, ma, I'm sure there's no harm in shaking hands.'
There is harm, my love! Gracious! what would the world say? What would be thought of you in high life? Why, you wouldn't be received in good society! Consider!'
'My lady,' said the venerable gentleman,- for though it seems very rum, I am still glad to call you my lady-I vornt at all avare as you'd married a Hurl, or I shoodn't a-come; no, I know my place better; but I s'pose they vos havin' a game vi' me rayther ven they guv me your address, and said they thought I ought to call. Howsever, I'm glad to 'ear of your good fortun, and give you joy, and 'ope you'll always be 'appy; but I must say your mother aint treated me vell; cos under the circumstantials, knowin' her so vell as I have done so long, and bein' alvays werry glad to do all I could to serve her ven she vos but a servant like myself, I do think that if heven you'd become the Queen of Hingland, she oughtn't to be so stuck up.'
During the delivery of this eloquent speech, Mrs. Gills, with excessive hauteur, was counting out the seventeen and sixpence, and having done
so, in due form tendered the amount. But the venerable gentleman disdained to receive it.
No; it ain't
I'll not touch it!' he exclaimed with magnanimity. that as I care for; twenty times the sum don't make no hods to me!' 'But I insist!' cried the lady!
'So you may, mum: but I'd just as soon touch a dose of p'ison.' 'But you shall have it, sir!'
'Not a penny on it: no; I vish you a werry good day, mum. I don't,' he continued, addressing the Countess, mean any disrespect to your ladyship. I voodn't offend you for the vorld; but it's a hold sayin' an' a true un about the beggar on ossback.' And hereupon, feeling much better in consequence of having made this observation, he quitted the house.
'The low-bred creature!' exclaimed Mrs. Gills, as the venerable gentleman departed.
'But you shouldn't go on so, ma,' said the Countess. 'People don't like it.'
'Of what importance to us, child, what such people like, or what they don't like? You must know what is due to your own dignity, my love, or you'll never be fit to be a countess. I declare I'm in such a flustration, I don't know how to contain myself. Oh, I only wish for his sake I'd been a man.'
Before the nerves of this amiable lady had become tranquil, Stanley, having taken an impetuous sweep round the Park, returned with the full determination to enter the club, no matter who might be on the watch. Bob, however, allowed him to make a dead stop before he attempted again to alight, for he felt, and very naturally, that he had had enough running for one day at least.
You look like a scavenger,' said Stanley, as Bob approached Marmion's head. 'Where did you pick up that mud?'
'A pelting arter you, sir, when you made believe to stop here, afore,' replied Bob.
Stanley smiled as he entered the house, and Bob thought that his reply was particularly pointed and severe; and he winked confidentially at Marmion on the door being closed, with the view of intimating to that sagacious animal that that really was his unbiassed opinion. 'It strikes me I shut up his shop then,' he observed. "There's nothing like getting the best of a master. Directly they find out they're wrong, they cuts their sticks with their tails atween their legs, dead beat.'
On entering the principal play-room, Stanley ascertained from one of the attendants that the bank had been on the previous night well nigh broken. He was also informed that the persons who had won had signified their intention of playing that night, when, doubtless, the luck would be changed; and that it was deemed by the highest authorities politic to let a bank lose at first, in order not only to stimulate players, but to inspire due confidence by virtue of its stability being tested.
To this fellow's description of the extraordinary run of luck' which had characterized the play, Stanley listened with the most
marked attention. The prospect seemed cheerless. Two thousand five hundred pounds lost in one night. His high hopes were depressed. It was a 'Bear' account with him: and yet, why should he despair? Had not the Earl himself told him before they commenced that they ought as a matter of course to lose at first? Why then should he feel disappointed? He tried to revive his hopes by looking upon their depression under the circumstances as the mere result of folly; and having learned that his partners in the speculation had appointed to meet at eight, for the purpose of replenishing the bank, he was about to take leave, when he was formally summoned by the Countess and her mamma.
On entering the drawing-room, he was received with unusual parade. Mrs. Gills was particularly fussy, and hoped that he was well, and rang for the cake and wine, and most eloquently laboured to convey to him an idea of the delight she was sure she should derive from an early introduction to Mrs. Thorn. Oh! do bring her with you some day,' she continued, and let us have a quiet cup of tea. It will be so delightful you can't think. I'm sure she's a dear nice lady: I am sure of it, judging from you.'
Stanley smiled, and acknowledged the compliment profoundly, and said all that was necessary to convince Mrs. Gills that he thought her extremely polite.
'And now, Mr. Thorn, I've a secret,' she continued,~'a secret which I don't want anybody to know on but you. I know I can trust you, and I'm sure you'll assist us. The fact is, my daughter, the Countess, and me, is a-thinking of getting up a party, for we finds it very lonely a-mumping here alone. Now, in course you know all about the other nobility, the Dukes, Lords, Wisecounts, Ambassadors, and such like; and, as we have never yet given a jollification, all we want is for you just to put us in the way of it.
'I should think,' returned Stanley, that the Earl would be the more proper person to apply to.'
Oh! but we want to do it unbeknown to him! We want to surprise him! to show him just what we can do. Oh, it will be so glorious! You and Mrs. Thorn must come and meet all the nobility. Oh! we shall have such a frolic!'
Stanley could not help laughing. He thought the conception excessively rich, and one that ought to be carried into immediate execution. Feeling, however, that he was not in a position to enter into the spirit of the thing himself, he advised them to apply to Captain Filcher, whom he described as being perfectly conversant with matters of that description, and who, he doubted not, would be but too happy to aid them.
'But does he know all about the invitation-cards, the etiquettes, and all that?' inquired Mrs. Gills anxiously.
'My firm impression is,' replied Stanley, 'that in a case of this peculiar character you cannot have the aid of a more useful man.'
'Oh, well then, I'm sure I'll apply to him. I'm certain he won't refuse. But do you think he'll keep the thing a secret?'
'I have not the slightest doubt of it,' said Stanley. Nor had he. He believed him to be the very man to carry out the idea to perfection; and, having explained to them how strongly he felt that the Captain would be delighted to serve them in such a merry cause, he received their warmest thanks, and departed.