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[-115-]

CHAPTER XLI.

MR. GREENWOOD.

 ABOUT six o'clock in the evening-ten days after the incident which concluded the preceding chapter, - a handsome cabriolet drove up to the door of a house in Spring Gardens.
    Down jumped the tiger - an urchin not much bigger than a walking stick - and away went the knocker, rat-tat-tat, for upwards of fifteen seconds. A servant in livery opened the door, and an elegantly-dressed gentleman, about six or seven and twenty years of age, alighted from the vehicle.
    This gentleman rushed up stairs to his study, drew forth his cheque-book, wrote an order upon his banker for a thousand pounds, enclosed it in an envelope, and immediately despatched the letter to Lord Tremordyn by one of his numerous domestics. He had that afternoon lost the money to his lordship In some sporting-bet; and, "as it was a debt of honour," he could not possibly think of sitting down to dinner, or even pulling off his boots (which, being fashionable, pinched him excessively) without settling it.
    As soon as he had done this, another servant entered the room, and said, "If you please, sir, Mrs. Mangles has called, and is waiting below to see you. She has been here these three hours, and wishes very much to say a few words to you, sir."
    "What! that bothering upholsterer's wife!" ejaculated the gentleman, in a tone of indignation which would have induced a stranger to believe that he was the most persecuted man in the world. "Why - her husband's account hasn't been owing quite a year yet; and here she is boring from morning to night."
    "Please, sir, she says that her husband is locked up in a spunging-house."
    "Serve him right!"
    "But he is a hard-working sober man —"
    "He shouldn't run into debt."
    "And he has five children."
    "It is really disgusting! these lower orders literally swarm with children!"
    "And if you would only pay a quarter of the money, he would get out to-night."
    "I won't pay a sixpence till January."
    "Then he will be totally ruined, sir, his wife says."
    "Well - he must be ruined, then. Go and turn her out, and send up Lafleur."
    And the fashionable gentleman, who would not owe a debt of honour for half an hour, thought no more of the sum which was due to a tradesman, which had been already owing for nearly a year, and which he could have immediately settled without the slightest inconvenience to himself.
    For this man was rich; and, having got his money in the City (God knows how), had now come to the West End to make the most of it.
    "Lafieur," said the fashionable gentleman to the French valet, "you must dismiss that fellow John to-morrow morning."
    "Yes, sir."
    "He actually had the impertinence to bring me a message from a dun, while I was in a hurry to get dressed for dinner."
    "Indeed, sir - you don't say so sir!" ejaculated the valet, who had as much horror of a dun as an overseer has of a pauper. "Yes, sir - I will dismiss him to-morrow, sir - and without a character too."
    "Do, Lafleur. And now to dress. Are the company come?"
    "Mr. Chichester and Sir Rupert Harborough are in the drawing-room, sir."
    "Oh!" said Mr. Greenwood - for such was the gentleman's name - "very well!"
    Having carelessly perused three or four letters which he found upon his table, he repaired to his dressing-room, where he washed his hands in a silver basin, while the poor upholsterer's wife returned to her husband in the lock-up house, to say that their last hope had failed, and that nothing but a debtor's gaol awaited them. Accordingly, while the poor man was being carried off to Whitecross Street Prison, Mr. Greenwood repaired to his elegantly furnished drawing-room to welcome the guests whom he had invited that day to dinner.
    "My dear Sir Rupert," said Mr. Greenwood, "I am delighted to see you. Chichester, how are you? Where have you both been for the last six months? Scarcely had I the pleasure of forming your acquaintance, when you were off like shots: [-116-] and I have never seen nor heard of you till this morning."
    "Upon my honour, I hardly know what we have been doing - or indeed, what we have not been doing," ejaculated the baronet. "We have been in Paris and Brussels, and enjoyed all the pleasures of the Continent."
    "And we found our way into the good graces of the Parisian ladies, and the purses of their husbands," observed Chichester, with a complacent smile.
    "Ah! ah!" said Mr. Greenwood, laughing. "Trust you both for allowing yourselves to starve in a land of plenty."
    "And so here we are, come back to England quite fresh and ready for new sport," said Chichester. " You see that it is useful to go abroad for a season every now and then. Immediately after I passed through the Insolvents' Court, two years ago, I went to Paris for six months, and came home again with a new reputation, as it were."
    "By the bye, Sir Rupert," exclaimed Mr. - Greenwood, "I lost a cool thousand to your father-in-law this afternoon at Tattersall's."
    "What! does the old lord do things in so spirited a way as that?" cried the baronet.
    "Yes - now and then. I believe you and he are not on very good terms? When I asked him after you a month or two ago, he appeared to evade the conversation."
    "The fact is," said the baronet, "old Lord and Lady Tremordyn pretend that I treat their daughter with neglect - just because I cannot and will not be tied to my wife's apron strings. I did not want to marry her; but Lady Tremordyn intrigued to catch me; and the old lord came down handsome - and so the match was made up."
    The baronet did not think of informing his friend that he had stipulated for twenty thousand pounds to pay his debts, ere he would do justice to the young and beautiful creature whom he had seduced, and whose pathetic appeal to her mother has been already laid before the reader in the chapter which treats of the Black Chamber of the General Post Office.
    "Do you know what has become of your old flame Diana Arlington?" inquired Mr. Greenwood of the baronet, after a pause.
    " And was she not your old flame too ?" said Sir Rupert, laughing. "I believe that when you were plain Mr. George Montague, instead of Mr. Montague Greenwood —"
    "Oh! I have assumed the name of Greenwood, remember, because a relation of that name has left me a considerable fortune."
    "Well - that is a very good story to tell the world, but not friends, my dear fellow," said the baronet, coolly. " But we were talking of the Enchantress. I presume she is still under the protection of the Earl of Warrington?"
    "So I understand," replied Greenwood.
    "Well - I must say," continued the baronet, " I always liked Diana; and I dare say we should have been together up to the present moment, if it had not been for that infernal affair of Markham's."
    "Ah! Richard Markham!" ejaculated Mr. Greenwood hastily. "I have heard of him - but never seen him."
    "I and Mr. Chichester were compelled to sacrifice him to save ourselves," observed Harborough.
    "Yes - yes - it was a pity - a great pity," cried Greenwood,  poking the fire violently. 
    "I wonder what has become of that same Markham?" said Chichester.
    "I understand that he lost the greater portion of his property by some unfortunate speculation or. another, but the nature of which I have never- learnt," replied Greenwood.
    "And what about this Steam-Packet Company of which you were speaking this morning ?" inquired Sir Rupert Harborough.
    "The fact is, I have got a certain Italian count in tow, and I intend to make him useful. He is an emigrant from the Grand Duchy of Castelcicala, having been concerned in some treasonable proceedings with Prince Alberto, who is the Grand Duke's nephew, and who has also been compelled to fly to some other country. Be it as it may, this Count Alteroni and I became acquainted; and, in the course of conversation, he observed that a fortune might be made by the establishment of a line of steam-packets between London and Montoni, the capital of Castelicicala. He added that he should be very willing to embark his own capital in such an enterprise. 'How extraordinary!' I immediately exclaimed: 'I had myself entertained the very same idea!' The count was enchanted; and he has already advanced a considerable sum.
    At this moment dinner was announced; and the three gentlemen proceeded to the apartment in which it was served up. The repast consisted of all the luxuries in season, and many out of season: the choicest wines were produced; and justice was done to each and all, while wit and humour flowed as freely, and sparkled as brightly as the juice of the grape itself. The baronet was more affable than ever ;- Mr. Chichester related several amusing anecdotes of midnight sprees, policemen, knockers, station-houses, and magistrates ;- and Mr. Greenwood explained his plans relative to the steam-packets.
    "I should very much like to have you both in the Direction," said Mr. Montague Greenwood,, when he had terminated his elucidations: "but I have learnt that this Richard Markham, of whom we have been talking, is acquainted with the count; and if he saw your names connected with the affair, he would instantly blow upon it. I should, then have the count upon me for the fifteen thousand pounds he has already lodged in my hands."
    "Let us write an anonymous letter to the count, and inform him that Markham has been convicted at the Old Bailey," suggested Chichester.
    "No - no," ejaculated Greenwood emphatically: " you have injured that young man enough already."
    "And what do you care about him?" cried Chichester. "You said just now that you had never seen him."
    " I did - and I repeat the assertion," answered Greenwood; then, in a very serious tone, he added, "and I will beg you both to remember, gentlemen, that if you wish to co-operate with me in any of those speculations which I know so well how to manage, you will leave Mr. Richard Markham alone; for I have certain private reasons for being rather anxious to do him a service than an injury."
    "Well, I will not in any way interfere with your good intentions," said the baronet. 
    "Nor I," observed Chichester.
    "And as it is impossible for you to enter my  Steam-Packet Company," added Mr. Greenwood "I will let you into another good thing which I have in view, and in which a certain banker is concerned. To tell you the real truth, this banker has been insolvent for some time; and if his father had not advanced him about fifty thousand pounds three years ago, he would most undoubtedly have gone to smash. As it [-117-] was, the Lords of the Treasury got hold of his real position, by some means or another - he never could divine how; and they refused a tender which he sent in for a certain money contract - I don't know exactly what. Now his position is more desperate than ever, and he and I are going to do an admirable stroke of business. I will let you both into it."
    We need scarcely remind the reader that the tanker now alluded to was the writer of one of the letters perused by the Examiner's clerks in the Black Chamber.
    The conversation between the three gentlemen was proceeding very comfortably, when a servant entered the room, and, handing his master a card upon a silver tray, said, "This gentleman, sir, requests to be allowed to see you, if perfectly convenient."
    "The Count Alteroni!" exclaimed Mr. Greenwood. " What the devil could have brought him to London at this time of night? John - show him into the study - there is a good fire for him; and if that won't warm his heart, perhaps a bottle of Burgundy will."
    The servant left the room; and in a few moments Mr. Greenwood hastened to join the count in the elegant apartment which was denominated "the study."
    "My dear sir, I have to apologise for calling thus late," said the count; "but the truth is that I had a little business which brought me up to town to-day, and in this neighbourhood too; and I thought —" 
    "Pray offer no excuses, my dear count," interrupted Mr. Greenwood. "The truth is, I wished to see you very particularly - upon a matter not alto gather connected with our enterprise —"
    "Indeed," said the count; "you interest me. Pray explain yourself."
    "In the first place, allow me to ask whether the ladies are yet acquainted with the undertaking in which you have embarked?"
    "Yes - I acquainted them with the fact this very morning."
    "And do they approve of it?"
    "They approve of every thing of which I think well, and disapprove of all that I abhor."
    "And do they know that I am the projector and principal in the enterprise?" demanded Greenwood.
    "They are acquainted with every thing," answered the count. "Indeed, they have formed of you the same exalted opinion which I myself entertain. It would be strange if they had not. We met you at the house of Lord Tremordyn; and that nobleman spoke in the highest possible terms of you. But what connection exists between all those questions which you have put to me, and the matter concerning which you desired to see me?"
    "I am not sure chat I ought to explain myself at present, nor to you in the first instance," was the answer, delivered with some embarrassment of manner: "at all events I should wish you to know a little more of me, and to have some reason to thank me for the little service which I shall have the means of rendering you, in enabling you to treble your capital."
    Thp count appeared mystified; and Mr. Greenwood continued:-
    "I had the pleasure of seeing the amiable countess and her lovely daughter many times last summer at the house of Lord Tremordyn; and no one could know the Signora Isabella without being forcibly struck by her personal and mental qualifications. To render myself agreeable to Miss Isabella would be the height of my earthly happiness. You will pardon my presumption; but —"
    Mr. Greenwood ceased, and looked at the count to ascertain the effect which his words had produced. 
    The honourable and open-hearted Italian was not averse to this proposition. He considered his own affairs and prospects in Castelcicala to be so desperate that he was bound to make the best provision he could for his daughter in a free, enlightened, and hospitable nation. Mr. Greenwood was good looking, moving in the best society, well spoken of by a peer of the realm (who, by the way, merely judged of Greenwood's character by the punctuality with which he paid his gambling debts), and evidently immensely rich - his manners were elegant, and his taste refined ;- and, in a word, he might be called a most eligible suitor for the hand of the count's daughter. Not being over-well skilled in affairs of the heart himself, the count had not noticed the attachment which decidedly existed between Isabella and Richard Markham; and it never for a moment struck him that his daughter might manifest the most powerful repugnance to Mr. Greenwood.
    "I have no doubt," said he, after a long pause, "that Isabella will feel highly flattered by your good opinion of her. Indeed, I shall inform her without delay of the manner in which you have expressed yourself."
    "My dear sir," interrupted Greenwood hastily, "in the name of heaven tell the Signora nothing at all about our present conversation. Her delicacy would be offended. Rather give me an opportunity of making myself better known to your daughter."
    "I understand you. Come and pass a week or two with us at Richmond. We have not a soul staying with us at the present moment, Mr Markham, who was our last guest, having returned to his own abode about ten days ago."
    "This is a busy time with me," began Mr. Greenwood; "and I could scarcely spare a week with justice to yourself and my own interests—"
    "True," interrupted the count. "I will bring the ladies up to town at the beginning of the new year. We have a very pressing invitation from the Tremordyns, and I will avail myself of it."
    Mr. Greenwood expressed his gratitude to the count for the favour which his suit thus received; and in a few minutes the Italian noble took his leave, more than ever convinced of the honour, wealth, and business-like habits of Mr. Greenwood.
    "There," said the man of the world, as he once more seated himself at the table in the dining-room, where he had left the baronet and Chichester, "I have not passed the last hour unprofitably. I have not only demanded the hand of the count's lovely daughter, but have also persuaded the count to pay a few weeks' visit to your father-in-law, Lord Tremordyn," he added, addressing Sir Rupert.
    "And what good do you propose by the latter arrangement?" demanded the baronet.
    "I shall get the count's family at a house which Richard Markham stands no chance of visiting: for even if the count asked him to call upon him there, Markham would refuse, because he is sure to have read or heard that you, Sir Rupert, have married Lady Cecilia Huntingfield, and he would be afraid of meeting you at Lord Tremordyn's residence."
    "And why should you be so anxious to separate the count from Markham, since Chichester and I are not to be in the Steam-packet concern?"
    "Because I myself could not, for certain reasons, visit the count's family if I stood the chance of meeting that same Richard Markham."
    Mr. Greenwood then immediately changed the conversation, and pushed the bottle briskly about. 

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