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[-111-]

CHAPTER CLXXVI.

THE CLUB-HOUSE.

WE must now transport our readers back to London.
    At about the same time when the events of the two preceding chapters occurred in Castelcicala, others of a scarcely less interesting nature took place in the great metropolis of England.
    It was about three o'clock in the afternoon of one of those dark, misty, dispiriting November days, when the sun is scarcely visible, and sinks early to rest, that half-a-dozen fashionable gentlemen were lounging in the bay-window of a Club-House in St. James's Street.
    They were all dressed in the first style: gold chains festooned over waistcoats of the most recent Parisian fashion; and brilliantly polished boots, without a speck of mud upon them, showed that their owners had not arrived at the Club on foot.
    "What news in the political world, Greenwood?" asked the Marquis of Holmesford.
    "Nothing particular," answered the gentleman appealed to. "Our party is sure to drive the Whigs out next year; and then I shall show the independent and enlightened freemen of Rottenborough that they will acquire some honour through the medium of their representative."
    "I suppose you will do a little good for yourself  eh, Greenwood. "asked the Honourable Augustus Smicksmack  a lieutenant in the Grenadier Guards, and just turned nineteen: "a baronetcy  eh, Green-wood? for that's the rumour, I believe?"
    "Well, I do hope that Fame for once is not far wrong, my dear fellow," answered Mr. Greenwood.
    " And I must beg of you to support my friend the Honourable Gively Starkeley's new Game Bill, which he intends to introduce next session," observed Lord Dunstable  a major in a crack regiment, and whose age was probably one-and-thirty.
    "A new Game Bill!" ejaculated Mr. Greenwood, horror depicted on his countenance. "Surely your friend Starkeley cannot mean to relax the penalties which now exist in respect to poaching?"
    "Quite the reverse," answered Lord Dunstable. "He thinks  as I think  that the present statute is not stringent enough; and he has drawn up a bill  at least, Rumrigg the barrister did for him  making it transportation for life to shoot game without a license, and transportation for fifteen years for looking at a bird or a hare with an unlawful purpose."
    The Bill will receive my most unqualified support, Dunstable," said Mr. Greenwood. "In fact, the laws cannot be too stringent against poachers."
    "Certainly not," observed Colonel Cholmondeley, a gentleman of about three-and-thirty who was one of the group in the Club-House window. "For my part, I consider a murderer or a highwayman to be an estimable character in comparison with a poacher."
    "Decidedly so," exclaimed Lord Dunstable. "A murderer kills his victim  a highwayman robs a person; and the thing is done. The Individuals murdered or plundered alone suffer. But a poacher deprives hundreds of noblemen and gentlemen of their legitimate sport: he preys upon the aristocracy, as it were;  and, by God I'll defend the privileges of the aristocracy with my life!"
    "Oh! certainly  certainly," muttered the Marquis of Holmesford, who, in consequence of swollen gums, had been compelled to lay aside his false teeth for a few days, and was therefore somewhat incomprehensible in his speech. "Always defend the aristocracy! The millions, as they call themselves, are ever ready to assail us: they're jealous of us, you see  because we have carriages and horses, and they have not."
    "And for many other reasons," observed Mr. Greenwood. "But I always know how to serve the scurvy riff-raff. Why, it was but the other day that some thirty or forty of the independent and intelligent electors of Rottenborough assembled together at the Blue Lion in their town, to address a remonstrance to me on my parliamentary conduct, and call upon me to resign."
    "And what did you do?" asked Lord Dunstable.
    "Oh! I knew my men well enough: it was not the first time they had taken this step," continued Greenwood. "My agent down there wrote me up an account of their intentions; and I sent him instructions how to act. The malcontents met; there was a great deal of speechifying; and the tide flowed strong against my interests. The chairman was about to put to the vote a Resolution condemnatory of my conduct, when the landlord entered, and addressed the meeting in this manner:  'Gentlemen, Mr. Greenwood, having heard that it was your intention to assemble here this evening, has conveyed to me his commands to serve up a little supper  poultry, turtle, venison, and other trifles of the same kind, together with as much port and sherry as you can drink. The supper is now ready, gentlemen: you had better partake of it first, and continue your deliberations afterwards."'
    "Capital  excellent!" exclaimed Lord Dunstable.
    "Glowiouth  thuperfine  bwilliant!" cried Sir Cherry Bounce, who was one of the group. [-112-]
    "Strike me  but it was uncommon good!" observed Major Dapper, who was also present.
    "Well  what followed?" demanded Colonel Cholmondeley.
    "Yes, do tell us," said Mr. Smicksmack.
    "Oh! the result was simple enough," continued Greenwood. "The free and independent electors of Rottenborough adjourned to the supper-room, gorged and drank till their senses were completely obfuscated, and then passed a vote of confidence in their Member, one gentleman alone not holding up his hand in its favour."
    "What was the reason of that?" inquired the Marquis of Holmesford.
    "Simply because he was dead drunk under the table," answered Greenwood. "And then this fellow had the impudence to write a letter next day to all the newspapers to say that he alone had remained dissentient upon principle!"
    "Pwepothterouth!" loudly exclaimed Sir Cherry Bounce.
    "Hold your tongue, Cherry," said Major Smilax Dapper. "You're a  "
    "A what, Thmilackth?" asked the youthful baronet.
    "A bore-strike me!" replied the major.
    There was a general laugh at the expense of Sir Cherry Bounce, who coloured up to the very roots of his hair.
    "What's become of Harborough, does any one know?" said Lord Dunstable, when the cachinnation was concluded.
    "Gone into the country with his friend Chichester, I believe," replied Greenwood. "Harborough and I have not spoken for a long time; but I heard if him a little while ago."
    "A dreadful thing that was about his wife," observed the Honourable Augustus Smicksmack.
    "I don't think Harborough cared much about it," returned Greenwood. "They had long, led a cat-and-dog kind of a life. The moment Lady Cecilia's suicide reached the ears of Sir Rupert, who was in France at the time, he came over to England, and sold the few things which had belonged to his wife-her trinkets, I mean; for the house in Tavistock Square was a ready-furnished one."
    "And that he gave up, I believe?" said Dunstable.
    "Or rather the landlord took it away from him," answered Greenwood. "That intimacy with Reginald Tracy was a bad business for Lady Cecilia," he continued. "But I had my suspicions of him before the exposure took place. The fact is, I saw him at a masquerade ball one night, at Drury Lane theatre."
    "At a masquerade?" ejaculated Lord Dunstable.
    "Yes. I was dressed as a Greek brigand, and he was attired as a monk."
    The sanctified scoundrel!" said Colonel Cholmondeley, in a tone of deep indignation. "What dishonour he brought upon the cloth! You know my brother the Archdeacon? Well, he's as jovial a fellow as you could wish to meet. Keeps his three mistresses, his horses and hounds, and goes to bed mellow every night of his life. But he does things discreetly."
    "In a proper manner, to be sure," muttered the Marquis of Holmesford. "But, by the by, Greenwood, you once admired my beautiful Georgian."
    "And I often think of her now, my lord," re turned the Member of Parliament.
    "I'll make you a proposal, if you like," continued the Marquis, grinning like an antiquated goat. "I have taken quite a fancy to your bay mare Cleopatra."
    "Yes  'tis a beautiful bit of horse-flesh," remarked Greenwood.
    "Well  my Georgian for your bay mare!" said the Marquis. "Is it a bargain?"
    "A decided bargain," replied Greenwood.
    "But how do you know that the lady will submit to the exchange?" asked Smicksmack, with a smile.
    "I feel convinced that she will offer no objection," answered Greenwood. "It is true that every slave becomes free when once the foot touches the soil of this country, as I once observed to the independent electors of Rottenborough;  but I am sure that she will wear the gold chain that I shall be delighted to throw around her."
    "Well spoken, Greenwood!" cried the Marquis. "Send the bay to my stables in the morning; and fetch away the Georgian when you choose."
    "Greenwood's the man for business," observed Lord Dunstable. "By the by, how did the African Railroad scheme turn out?"
    "Oh! admirably," replied the capitalist. "I cleared my ten thousand by it: so did the Marquis."
    "But I lotht thwee thouthand, though  and a pwethiouth wage I wath in," said Sir Cherry.
    "Because you kept your shares too long, my dear fellow," remarked Greenwood coolly. " No, my good woman  I have nothing for you!"
    These last words were uttered, in a loud tone, and accompanied by a stern shake of the head, to a poor, ragged, shivering creature, who had paused on the pavement outside to solicit alms from the aristocrats assembled at the window.
    The miserable woman cast one glance of ineffable anguish on Mr. Greenwood, and then hurried away, overwhelmed by the savage determination of his refusal.
    "That poor wretch has been good-looking in her time,' said Mr. Smicksmack. "Although it is nearly dark, I caught sight of her countenance by the light of the lamp."
    "And so did I," whispered Lord Dunstable to Colonel Cholmondeley, whom he drew aside. "Do you know who that was?" he asked in a low and somewhat hoarse tone.
    "No: how the devil, should I?" said the Captain, also sinking his voice-but simply because Dunstable did so.
    "If that poor mendicant were not Lydia Hutchinson," returned the young nobleman," I never was more mistaken in my life. But, my God! how altered!"
    And for a few moments his countenance became Inexpressibly sad.
    "What nonsense to give way to feelings of that kind!" whispered Cholmondeley.
    "But she was once so beautiful!" said Dunstable. "Do you remember the first time we ever met her  in Hyde Park-"
    "I was thinking a deuced deal too much about Adeline Enfield, at that time, to bother myself about Lydia What-'s-her-name," interrupted the colonel impatiently. "Come-it's of no use yielding to maudlin feelings of that kind. Dunstable. We are [-113-] 

all going to dine together presently: and if you wear that kill-joy countenance, I shall wish you at the devil."
    Then the Captain drew the young nobleman back to the group in the window; and in a few minutes the sprightly nature of the conversation banished from Dunstable's mind the unpleasant reminiscences which had been temporarily excited by the sudden appearance of one whom he knew so well!
    In the meantime that miserable female pursued her way down St. James's Street.
    The weather was cold  dreadfully cold: the streets were damp  and she had neither shoes nor stockings!
    An old cotton gown, a wretched rag of a shawl, and a broken straw bonnet, constituted her sole attire.
    Not an article of clothing had she more than those enumerated.
    She had parted with her under garments to obtain the means of subsistence; not even a petticoat had she beneath that thin cotton gown!
    When she stopped for a moment to implore alms at the Club-window, it was the first time she had ever begged. She had not recognised him who had recognised her: but the stern countenance of Greenwood, as he refused her a single penny from his immense wealth, had struck her with despair.
    If the rich would not assist her, how could she hope for succour from the poor!
    She hurried down the street, weak and weary as she was;  but she hurried, with a sort of shuffling pace, because she was cold, and her feet were so benumbed that she could not feel that she had any!
    She passed many a brilliantly lighted shop,  many a superb Club,  many a magnificent hotel, from the underground windows of which emanated the savoury steam of delicious viands:  she beheld cheerful fires, roaring up the chimney. of the kitchens whence those odours came;  but she was starving, shivering, dying, all the same!
    A carriage, with arms emblasoned on the panels, and with horses whose beauty and appointment attracted the gaze of the passengers, was standing opposite to a splendid shawl-warehouse.
    Just as the poor mendicant was passing, a tall [-114-] footman, carrying a gold-headed cane in his hand, pushed her rudely back, exclaiming, "Don't you see that you're in the way?"
    The shivering woman cast a timid look around, and beheld an elderly gentleman handing a lady, much younger than himself, to the carriage above mentioned.
    The blaze of light from the shop window illuminated that portion of the street; and as the elegantly-dressed lady turned her countenance towards her companion, to answer some observation which be made to her, the mendicant caught a full view of her beautiful features.
    A scream escaped from the beggar's lips: then, in the next moment, she rushed towards the door of the carriage, which the gentleman and lady were just entering.
    "Miss Enfield  Adeline!" she exclaimed.
    "What do you want, my good woman!" cried the voice of the nobleman  for such indeed he was.
    "Miss Enfield  I  I am starving!" answered the beggar, clinging to the door.
    "Do you know her, my dear!" asked the nobleman.
    "I  I think she was once a teacher at the school, where  " faltered the beautiful lady, evidently by no means pleased at the recognition.
    'Oh! a teacher!" cried the nobleman. "Ah! It's easy to see what she has come to:"  and he draw up the carriage window violently.
    That was a signal for the coachmen to whip his horses: the fiery animals sprang forward  the carriage moved off with a species of jerk  the poor starving, shivering creature was thrown upon the kerb-stone-and there she lay insensible.
    In a moment she was surrounded by a crowd, that formed a circle about her, and stood gazing on the prostrate, motionless form as if the spectacle were very interesting, but by no means calculated to awaken compassionate sympathy.
    Then a huge policeman elbowed him way through the crowd, crying " Move on here!" in a very savage tone, and crushing divers bonnets, besides upsetting sundry small boys in his endeavour to form a passage.
    But at the same moment that he reached the spot where the poor creature was lying, a lady, about six-and-twenty years of age, and well though by no means showily dressed, pressed through the crowd, and immediately bestowed her attention on the mendicant female.
    The lady raised the unfortunate being's head; and then, by the light of the lamp, it was discovered that she had received a wound on the temple, from which the blood was flowing freely.
    "She must be conveyed to the hospital, if she's got any broken bones," said the policeman; "and to the workus if she hasn't."
    "She shall go to neither," observed the lady firmly: "I will take care of her until she is recovered."
    "What  do you know her, mum?" demanded the policeman.
    "No  I never saw her before in my life, to my knowledge," answered the lady. "But I cannot help feeling for a fellow-creature.  especially one of my own sex  in such a position."
    A murmur of approbation arose amongst the crowd.
    "Will you help me to convey the poor creature to the neighbouring surgeon's?" continued the lady, addressing herself to the officer. "See  she opens her eyes  she moves  but, my God! how wan, how thin, how cold she is!"
    The wretched woman was removed to the adjacent establishment of a medical practitioner; and in a short time the benevolent lady had the satisfaction of ascertaining that the wound on the poor creature's forehead was the only injury which she had sustained by the fall.
    "She is more in need of sustenance, madam, than medicine," said the surgeon, when he had bandaged the wound. "I will give her a glass of wine and a morsel of light food."
    This humane proposal was immediately carried into effect  the starving creature would have eaten ravenously; but the surgeon prudently checked her;  and in a short time she was considerably revived.
    She appeared to be about seven or eight and twenty years of age; and possessed the remains of great personal attractions. But her dark eyes were sunken, and their lustre was dimmed with privation: her cheeks were hollow; and her form was little more than mere skin and bone.
    The lady did not ask her if she had any friends, or any home. Such a question would have been a superfluous mockery of one whose appearance was sufficient to convey the sad tale of utter destitution and hopelessness.
    "You shall come with me, my poor creature," whispered the lady, in a kind tone. "I know not who nor what you are; but I am touched to the very heart by your sorrowful condition."
    "Ah! madam, if you knew all  " began the woman, bursting into tears; "if you knew  "
    "I wish to know nothing now," interrupted the lady. "It is sufficient for me that you are in distress."
    The surgeon's boy was despatched for a hackney-coach, into which the invalid was conveyed. The lady then entered it, and directed the driver to take them to her residence, which was in Cannon Street, City.
    "I have known sorrow myself," said the lady, as they proceeded thither; "and, although, thank God! I have never experienced the stings of poverty, I have nevertheless been forced to endure afflictions almost as poignant."
    "Ah! madam," returned the poor woman, "such a heart as yours never ought to be tutored in the ways of unhappiness. But, as you observe, there are other afflictions which may compare with the stings of want!"
    And the unhappy creature wept bitterly.
    The lady endeavoured to console her to the best of her ability; and even in the short conversation which passed between them during the ride from the West End to the City, the invalid gave proofs of a superior understanding and cultivated mind.
    At length they reached Cannon Street, and stopped at a house, the lower portion of which was a stationer's shop. The lady occupied apartments on the first floor.
    "Oh! Mrs. Chichester, how long you have been absent!" exclaimed the mistress of the house, who opened the door. "I really began to be alarmed  "
    "Thanks for your kind consideration," interrupted Viola, with a smile-for the benevolent lady was none other than the neglected and persecuted [-115-] wife of Mr. Chichester. "I have brought home a poor creature, whom I found insensible  dying    in the streets; and I request you to provide a room for her."
    "Ah! my dear lady, what an excellent disposition you possess!" exclaimed the mistress of the house.
    Then she bustled about to help the invalid up stairs; and the poor creature speedily experienced a feeling akin to happiness, when cheered by a comfortable fire and a good meal.
    Mrs. Chichester also supplied her with warm clothes; and a night's rest made her an altered being.
    On the following day she was enabled to narrate her history, which she did in the ensuing manner.    

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