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THAT same evening Mr. Chichester dined with his friend Sir Rupert Harborough,
at the dwelling of the latter in Tavistock Square.
Whenever her husband invited this guest, Lady Cecilia
invariably made it a rule to accept an invitation elsewhere.
The baronet and his friend were therefore alone together.
[-243-] "This is awkward -
very awkward," said Chichester, when the cloth was removed, and the two
gentlemen were occupied with their wine.
"Awkward! I believe you," exclaimed the baronet.
"Upon my honour, that Greenwood ought to be well thrashed!"
"He is an insufferable coxcomb," said
"A conceited humbug," added the baronet.
"A self-sufficient fool," remarked Chichester.
"A consummate scoundrel," cried Sir Rupert.
"So he is," observed Chichester.
"But all this will not pay my bill," continued the
baronet; "and where to obtain six hundred pounds, the deuce take me if I
"No - nor I either," said Chichester; "unless
we get a couple of horses and ride down towards Hounslow upon a venture."
"You never can be serious, Chichester? What! turn
"I was only joking. But do you really think that
Greenwood will press you so hard?"
"He will send the bill to Lord Tremordyn's banker's
to-morrow. Oh! I can assure you he was quite high about it, and pretended to
forget all the circumstances that had led to the transaction. To every word I
said, it was 'I don't recollect.' May the devil take him!"
"And so he has got you completely in his power?"
"And you would like to have your revenge?"
"Of course I should. But what is the use of talking in
this manner? You know very well that I can do him no injury!"
"I am not quite so sure of that," said Chichester.
"What do you mean?" demanded the baronet. "I
can see that there is something in your mind."
"I was only thinking. Suppose we accused him ,of
something that he would not like exposed, and, could not very well refute - an
intrigue with any particular lady, for instance
"Ah! if we could - even though it were with my own wife," exclaimed the
baronet. "And, by the bye, he is very intimate with Lady Cecilia."
"Of course he is," said Chichester drily. "Have you never
noticed that before."
"It never struck me until now," observed the baronet.
"But it has struck me - frequently," added
"And when I think of it," continued Sir Rupert Harborough, "he has
often been here for an hour or two together; for I have gone out and left him
with Lady Cecilia in the drawing-room; and when I have come back, he has been
"Greenwood is not the man to waste his time at a lady's apron-strings
"Chichester - you do not mean
"Oh! no - I mean nothing more than you choose to surmise."
"And what would you have me surmise?"
"I do not suppose," said Chichester, "that you care very much for
"You are well aware of my feelings with regard to her."
"And out of all the money she has had lately - an affluence that you
yourself have noticed more than once - she has never assisted you."
"No - never. And I have often puzzled myself to think whence came those
"You cannot suppose that either Lord or Lady Tremordyn replenish her
"Yes - I have thought so."
"Oh! very well; you know best;" and Chichester sipped his wine with an
affected indifference which was in itself most eloquently significant.
"My dear fellow," said the baronet, after a pause, "I feel convinced
that you have got some plan in your head, or else that you know more than you
choose to say. In either case, Lady Cecilia is concerned, I have told you that I
care not one fig about her - on my honour! Have the kindness. then, to speak
"And then you may be offended," said Chichester.
"How absurd! Speak."
"What if I was to tell you that Lady Cecilia
"Is Greenwood's mistress!"
"The proof! the proof!" ejaculated the baronet.
"I myself saw them in each other's arms."
Sir Rupert Harborough's countenance grew deadly pale, and his lips quivered.
He now revolted from the mere idea of what he had just before wished to be a
"You remember the day that Greenwood called to acquaint us with his
success at Rottenborough in March last?" said Chichester, after a pause.
"You and I had been practising with the dice and cards; and we went out
"I recollect," exclaimed the baronet; " and you returned for the
dice-boxes which you had left behind."
"It was upon that occasion. Greenwood followed me out of the
drawing-room, and gave me a hundred pounds to keep the secret."
"True! you produced a hundred pounds immediately afterwards; and you
said that Greenwood had lent you the amount. Why did you never tell me of this
"The deuce! Is it a pleasant thing to communicate to a friend,
Harborough? Besides, it always struck me that the discovery would one day or
another be of some use."
"Of use indeed!" ejaculated the baronet. "And Lady Cecilia is
Greenwood's mistress I Ah! that explains the restoration of her diamonds, as
well as the improved condition of her finances. The false creature!"
"You must admit, Harborough," said Chichester, "that you have
never been over attentive to your wife; and if
"Nonsense, my good fellow," interrupted the baronet sharply. "That
is no excuse for a woman. A man may do what he chooses; but a woman's wife
"Come, come - no moralizing," said Chichester. " It is all your own
fault. Not one woman out of fifty would go wrong, if the husband behaved
properly. But now that I have told you the secret, think what use you can make of
"I cannot see how the circumstance can serve me, without farther proof,"
remarked the baronet. "Al! Lady Cecilia - what duplicity! what deceit!"
"Why not search her drawers - her boxes?" said Chichester. " She is
absent; no one can interrupt you; and perhaps you may find a letter
"Excellent thought!" cried Sir Rupert; and, seizing a candle, he
hurried from the room.
Twenty minutes elapsed, during which Mr. Chichester sate drinking his wine
as comfortably as if he had done a good action, instead of revealing so fearful
a secret to his friend.
At length Sir Rupert Harborough returned to the dining-room.
He was very pale; and there was something [-244-]
ghastly in his countenance, and sinister in the expression of his eyes.
"Well - any news?" inquired Chichester.
"No proof - not a note, not a letter," answered the baronet. "But I
have found something," he added, with an hysterical kind of laugh, "that
will answer my purpose for the moment better still."
"What is that?" asked his friend.
"Lady Cecilia's diamonds and other trinkets - presents,
most likely, from Greenwood - together with ninety pounds in notes and gold."
"Capital!" cried Chichester. " You can now
"Yes - I will pay him his six hundred pounds, renew for the remainder for
three or four months, and then devise some plot to obtain undeniable proof of
his amour with Lady Cecilia., But when I think of that woman, Chichester - not
that she is any thing to me - still she is my wife
"Nonsense! It is fortunate for you that I told you of the affair, or
else you would never have thought of using her property for the purpose of
raising the sum you require."
"Ah! I will be revenged on that Greenwood!" cried Sir Rupert, in whose
mind one idea was upper. most, in spite of his depraved and selfish disposition
" I will have the most signal vengeance upon the seducer of my wife! But
remember, Chichester - I care nothing for her;- still the outrage -
the dishonour - the perfidy! Yes - by God!" he added, dashing his clenched fist
upon the table; "I will be avenged!"
"And in the mean time convert the diamonds and jewels into money," said
Chichester. "It is only seven o'clock; we have plenty of time for the
"Come," cried the baronet, whose manner continued to be excited and
irritable; "I am ready."
The two friends emptied their glasses, and took their departure, the
having carefully secured about his person the booty he had plundered from his
wife. They then bent their steps towards the pawnbroking-establishment of Mr. V, in the Strand.
What a strange type of all the luxury, dissipation, extravagance, profligacy,
misery, ruin, and want, which characterise the various classes of society, is a
pawnbroker's shop! It is the emporium whither go the jewels of the aristocrat,
the clothes of the mechanic, the ornaments of the actress, and the necessaries
of the poor. Genteel profligacy and pining industry seek, at the same place -
one the means for fresh extravagance, the other the wherewith to purchase food
to sustain life. Two broad and direct roads branch off from the pawnbroker's
shop in different directions; the first leading to the gaming-table, the second
to the gin-palace; and then those paths are carried onwards, past those half-way
houses of destruction, and converge to one point, at which they meet at last,
and whose name is Ruin.
Two working men have been seen standing at the corner of a street, whispering
together: at length one has taken off his coat, gone to the pawnbroker's, come
out with the proceeds, and accompanied the other to the nearest gin-shop, where
they have remained until all the money raised upon the garment was expended.
Again, during the absence from home of the hard-working mechanic, his
intemperate wife has collected together their few necessaries, carried them to
the pawnbroker's, and spent the few shillings, thus procured, on gin. The thief,
when he has picked a pocket of a watch, finds a ready means of disposing of it at the pawnbroker's. Hundreds
of working-men pledge their
Sunday garments regularly every Monday morning, and redeem them again on
Are pawnbrokers' shops a necessary evil? To some extent they are. They afford
assistance to those whom some pressing urgence suddenly overtakes, or who are
temporarily out of work. But are not the facilities which they thus present to
all classes liable to an abuse more than commensurate with this occasional
advantage? Decidedly. They supply a ready means for drink to those who would
hesitate before they sold their little property out-and-out; for every one who
pawns, under such circumstances, entertains the hope and intention of redeeming the articles again. The enormous interest charged by pawnbrokers crushes
and effectually ruins the poor. We will suppose that a mechanic pledges his best
clothes every Monday morning, and redeems them every Saturday night for wear on
the Sabbath: we will presume that the pawnbroker lends him one pound each time
:- they will
thus be in pawn 313 days in each year, for which year he will pay 3s. 8d. interest,
and 4s 4d. for duplicates - making a total of 8s. Thus he pays 8s. for the
use of his own clothes for 52 days!
If the government were really a paternal one - if it had the welfare of the
industrious community at heart, it would take the system of lending money
upon deposits under its own supervision, and establish institutions similar to
the Mont do Piété in France. Correctly managed, demanding is small interest upon
loans, such institutions would become a blessing :- now the shops of pawnbrokers
are an evil and a curse!
Sir Rupert Harborough entered the pawnbroker's shop by the front door, while
Mr. Chichester awaited him in the Lowther Arcade. The baronet was well known in
that establishment; and he accordingly entered into a friendly and familiar chat
with one of the young men behind the counter.
"That is a very handsome painting," said Sir Rupert, pointing to one
suspended to the wall.
"Yes, sir. It was pledged fifteen months ago for seven pounds, by a young
nobleman who had received it along with fifty pounds in cash the same morning by
way of discount for a thousand pound bill."
"And what do you expect for it? "
"Eighty guineas," answered the young man coolly. " But here is one
much finer than that," continued the pawnbroker's assistant, turning towards
another painting. "That expired a few days ago. It was only pledged for
"And how much have you the conscience to ask for it? "
"One hundred and twenty," whispered the young man.
something peculiar connected with that picture. It belonged to an upholsterer
who was once immensely rich, but who was ruined by giving credit to
the Duke of York."
"To the Duke of York - eh?"
"Oh! yes, sir: we have received in pledge the goods of many, many
tradesmen who were once very wealthy, but who have been reduced to absolute
beggary - starvation - by his late Royal Highness. We call the pillar in Saint
James's Park the COLUMN OF INFAMY."
"Well, it was too bad not to pay his debts before they built that
monument," said the baronet carelessly. "But, come - give me a cool six
hundred for these things."
[-245-] "What! the diamonds again?" exclaimed the
"Oh yes - they come and go, like good and bad fortune -
'pon my honour!" said
"Like the jewels of many others at the West End," added the assistant;
and, having made out the duplicates, he handed Sir Rupert over the sum required.
On the following morning the baronet paid Mr. Greenwood the six hundred
pounds, and gave a new bill for a thousand at four months, for which the
capitalist was generous enough not to charge him any interest.
There was nothing in the baronet's conduct to create a suspicion in Mr.
Greenwood's mind that his intrigue with Lady Cecilia was detected; but when the
transaction was completed, Sir Rupert hastened to consult with his friend
Chichester upon some plan for obtaining positive evidence of that amour.
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