< previous chapter <  |  THE MYSTERIES OF LONDON  |  > next chapter >


[-30-]

CHAPTER XII.

THE BANK-NOTES.

WHEN Richard left the presence of Diana, after the full confession of her frailty, he hurried home on horseback at a rate which kept pace with his thoughts.
    Upon reaching his dwelling, he retired to his apartment, and sate himself down seriously to consider all that had taken place.
    His eyes were now open to two facts :-in the first instance he saw that he had been giving way to a passion which was dishonourable in respect to the relations existing between its object and another individual - the baronet; and, secondly, he perceived that even if that barrier were removed, Diana was not the being whom be ought to make the partner of his fortunes. He was endowed with feelings and notions of the most scrupulous honour; and he deeply regretted that he should ever have been induced to utter a word or manifest a sentiment towards Diana, which he would have been ashamed for the baronet to become acquainted with. To such an extent did he carry his notions of honour, that if, for instance, he had pledged himself to keep a secret, he would sooner have suffered himself to be put to death than have forfeited his word. Even were a crime communicated to him in confidence, he would not have benefitted society by handing the perpetrator over to justice. He thus fell into an extreme almost as dangerous and fatal as the total absence of moral rectitude.
    If the reader should marvel how a young man possessing such punctilious sentiments, could have so far forgotten himself as to declare his affection to one who stood in the light of a friend's wife,- let it be remembered that he was surprised into a partial avowal of that passion: and that a certain impulse, favoured by a rapid succession of visits, parties, and tte--tte interviews, in which the object thereof was always present, had hurried him forward up to that point when a word was to decide his fate.
    Love is a stream so rapid that be who embarks upon it does not observe that his rude boat crushes the beauteous flowers upon the banks between which it passes:- it is a river whose waters are those of oblivion, in which all other passions, sentiments, and ideas are swallowed up.
    O woman, what power hast thou over the heart of man! Thou wast born a creature of grace and fascination: to whatever clime thou dost belong, neither habit nor costume can deface in thee that natural charm of witchery and love which characterises thee in all the relations of life.
    Richard had not been long alone, when a knock at his door aroused him from the reverie in which he had been plunged; and Mr. Chichester entered the room.
    "My dear Markham," said he, "you must excuse the liberty which I take in thus intruding upon your privacy; but what is the meaning of this? You were to lunch with Harborough to-day, and we were all to dine together in the evening. You called at Diana's; and from what you said upon leaving, she fancied you were coming straight home. So I have galloped all this way after you. You shut yourself up from your friends as if you had a design upon your life."
    [-31-] " I am not well-I am anxious to be alone."
    "But I shall not allow you to remain alone," said Chichester. "If you should feel melancholy what guarantee have I that you will not commit suicide, or do what is nearly as bad - sit down and write sentimental poetry ?"
    "I am not very likely to do either."
    "You must come and join us: the baronet-"
    "I would rather-"
    "I can take no excuse. Order round your chestnut, and let us be off."
    "Well - at all events I must go straight into the City first," said Markham. "I have occasion to call at my guardian's banker."
    "Will you join me at seven precisely this evening, at Harborough's own lodgings in Conduit street? We shall expect you."
    "You may rely upon me," answered Markham, who now suddenly experienced an anxiety for society and bustle. " But who will be there?"
    "Only the baronet, you, I, and Talbot-a partie quarre.
   
Talbot is really a good fellow at heart, and has taken a great liking to you. Besides, he is the most liberal and generous fellow in existence. He sent a hundred pounds to every hospital in London yesterday morning - his annual donations; and be thinks that no one knows anything about it. He always puts himself down as X. Y. Z in the lists of charitable subscriptions: he is so unostentatious!"
    "Those are admirable traits in his character."
    "They are, indeed. Just now, for instance, he heard of a horrid case of distress. Only conceive a poor man, with nine small children and a wife just ready to present him with a tenth, dragged to Whitecross Street Prison, for a paltry hundred pounds! Talbot instantly called me aside, and said, 'Chichester, my dear fellow, I have not time to attend to any business to-day. There is a five hundred pound note; have the kindness to get it changed for me, and devote a hundred pounds to save the unhappy family.' Those were Talbot's own words," added Mr. Chichester, surveying Richard in a peculiar manner from under his eyebrows.
    "How liberal! how grand! how noble!" exclaimed Richard, forgetting all Mr. Talbot's vulgarity and coarseness, as he listened to these admirable traits of philanthropy. "To be candid with you, I am myself going to the banker's to draw some money; and when I see you this evening, I shall be happy to place twenty pounds in your hands for the use of that poor family."
    "No, my dear fellow, keep your money: the baronet and I shall take care of those poor people."
    "Nay - I insist -"
    "Well - I am sorry now that I told you of the circumstance."
    "And I am very glad."
    "There - you shall have your own way then. But, by the by," added Chichester, a sudden thought appearing to strike him, "you are going into the City, and to your banker's?"
    "Yes. And you?"
    "I am anxious to get back to the West End as hastily as possible," answered Chichester. "You could do me a service, if you would ?"
    "Name it," said Richard.
    "Get this note changed for me in the City," returned Chichester: and as he spoke he drew a Bank of England note for five hundred pounds from his pocket.
    "Oh! certainly," cried Markham ; and he took charge of the note accordingly.
    He and Mr. Chichester then separated. Richard mounted his horse and rode towards the City, while his friend proceeded to the West End.
    At seven o'clock Richard was ushered into Sir Rupert Harborough's drawing-room in Conduit-street, Hanover Square.
    "There!" exclaimed Chichester, who was lounging upon the sofa; "I knew that my melancholy young gentleman would be punctual."
    " Delighted to see you, Markham," said the baronet, pressing his hand with more than usual fervour.
    "How are you, my tulip ?" shouted Talbot. "Why, Chichester said you had the blue devils!"
    "I really felt unequal to society to-day," returned Richard; "and I fancied that a little rest-"
    "A little humbug!" ejaculated Mr. Talbot. "That's all my eye and my elbow, Markham. A dd good bottle of champagne will soon put you to rights. But when I'm ill, what do you think I always take ?"
    "I really can't guess."
    "Why, going to bed I always take a pint of dog's nose. There's nothing like dog's-nose for getting into the system. You must have it in the pewter, you know - and nice and hot: you will then sweat a bucket-full in the course of the night, and get up in the morning as right as a trivet. I can assure you there's nothing like dog's-nose."
    "And pray what is dog's-nose?" enquired Richard.
    "Well, may I be hanged! you are jolly green not to know what dog's-nose is! You take half a pint of the best half-and-half - or you may have ale all alone, if you like - a quartern of blue ruin -"
    " It is a mixture of gin, beer, and sugar," said Mr. Chichester, impatiently.
    "Well, and why couldn't you let me tell the gentleman how to make dog's-nose in my own manner?" asked Talbot, somewhat sulkily. " However, there's nothing better than dog's-nose for the gripes, or wind on the stomach, or the rheumatics. For my part-"
    "Dn your part!" cried the Honourable Arthur Chichester, now absolutely losing all patience.
    Fortunately for all parties, the door was at that moment thrown open, and a valet announced that dinner was served up. Richard took advantage of the haste with which Mr. Talbot rushed downstairs to the dining-room, to slip a bundle of Bank of England notes and a quantity of gold into Chichester's hand, whispering at the same time. "There is your change, together with my twenty pounds for the poor family."
    "Thank you, my boy," said Chichester; and over Markham's shoulder, he exchanged with the baronet a significant glance of satisfaction amounting almost to joy.
    Meantime Mr. Talbot had rushed to his place at the dinner-table, declaring that "he was uncommonly peckish," and began sharpening his two knives one against the other. The baronet took his seat at the top of the table; Mr. Chichester at the bottom ; and Markham sate opposite to Talbot.
    "This soup is unexceptionable," observed Chichester: "I never tasted better save once - and that was at the King of Prussia's table."
    "Ah! I once had dd good pea-soup, I remember, at the Duke of Lambeth's table," ejaculated Mr. Talbot. "But, I say, who the devil's that kicking my unfortunate soft corn?"
    "A glass of wine, Markham?" said Chichester.
   [-32-] "I suppose we'd all better join in," suggested Talbot.
 
 
"I shall be happy to drink wine with you, Mr. Talbot," said the baronet, with a reproving emphasis upon the pronouns.
    "Just as you please," returned the man of charity, who certainly required some virtue or another to cover such a multitude of sins of vulgarity. "I wonder what's coming next. I say, Harborough, you haven't ordered any tripe, have you? I am so fond of tripe. Thefe's nothing like tripe and onions for supper."
    The dinner passed away, and the bottle was circulated pretty freely. Richard regained his good spirits, and offered no objection when Chichester proposed a stroll up Regent's-street with a cigar.
    The baronet and Talbot went together first; and Markham was about to follow, when Chichester drew him back into the dining-room, and said, "Excuse me: but you went to your banker's to-day. If you have much money about you, it is not safe to carry it about the streets of London at night-time."
    "I have fifty-five pounds in gold and fifty pounds in notes," answered Markham.
    "Notes are safe enough," returned Chichester; "but gold is dangerous. Some one would be sure to frisk your purse. Here - I tell you how we can manage it - give me fifty sovereigns, and I will give you a fifty pound note in exchange. I can then lock up the gold in the baronet's writing-desk, the key of which, I see, he has fortunately left in the lock."
    Chichester glanced, as he spoke, to the writing-desk, which stood upon a little table between the windows.
    "I am much obliged to you for the thought," said Richard: "it is very considerate of you."
    He accordingly handed over his purse of gold to his kind friend, and received in exchange a fifty pound note, which Mr. Chichester selected from a huge roll that he took from his pocket.
  
The two gentlemen then hastened to rejoin the baronet and Talbot, whom they overtook in Regent-street.
    They all walked leisurely along towards the Quadrant; and while Talbot engaged Markham in conversation upon some trivial topic or another, Chichester related in a few words to the baronet the particulars of the little pecuniary arrangement which had just taken place.

< previous chapter <  |  THE MYSTERIES OF LONDON  |  > next chapter >