ing to herself. " I shall try, at all events," she tells
" I'm sure I don't wish you joy of the effort," he
says, getting up to go. " Believe me, it will be fruit-
less. I know Lord Henry better than you do. Good-
" What a fool that young man is, to be sure," Lady
Oaktorrington observes, as she seats herself at her
writing-table again. " I had no idea he was so dense."
" Of course, the old gal means to buy him off,"
Montie Vereker remarks, as he calls a hansom and
drives to Lord Henry's chambers in Piccadilly. "It
doesn't take more than half an eye to see that. I'll
just go and give the poor chap the straight tip to make
the figure as high as he can."
" LORD HENRY TOLLEMACHE ! " announces the
butler next morning at 999 Eaton Square, and a fash-
ionably dressed young man walks into the morning-
room where Lady Oaktorrington is seated alone.
Lord Henry is tall, slight, and would be handsome
but for the words dissipation and late hours written in
big letters all over his face, from his dark-encircled
eyes to his puffed-out, twitching under-lip. Lady
Oaktorrington hardly knows him, except by sight, and
has not exchanged a dozen consecutive words with
him in her life.
" Pray be seated," she says, composedly. " I hope
you will pardon my having taken the liberty of asking
you to call here, but I knew of no other way of meet-
ing you without delay, and time is of the utmost im-
portance to consider."
Lord Henry's manners, like those of most of the
young men of the day, are not satin-surfaced.
" Urn," he grunts, putting down his hat, stick, and
gloves on the table among Lady Oaktorrington's
worsteds, and then lying back in an arm-chair and
placing one leg over the other. " I hope you won't
keep me long."
"Not five minutes if we can agree. You know,
I dare say, or can imagine why I wished to see
" Haven't the ghost of an idea," he says, yawning,
and putting up his hand, not to cover his mouth but
to shield his left eye while he winks it.
" That's unfortunate. I shall only have to detain
" Worse luck for me."
" You won't mind my speaking plainly about your
wife ? "
" Not a bit. Say what you like."
"Well, then, I've heard you intend to to "
"Bring a suit for divorce? Yes, I do. I've put
up with Georgina's little playful ways long enough.
She's been playing the fool for five years, now."
"I hear among others you intend to make a
friend of ours a co-respondent ? "
" Who ? Harborough ? "
" Fitzwilliams ? "
" No. Mr. Allen."
"Oh, the Yankee. Yes, I do. And by Jove, I
mean to make him pay up. I like the fellow's cheek,
" I suppose nothing would induce you to leave him
out," and Lady Oaktorrington puts the shadow of a
stress upon " nothing."
Lord Henry looks quickly at her and then away.
" What ! No fear. I expect to get more damages
out of him than all the others put together."
" Then it's a mere matter of money with you? "
" Yes, of course. What else should it be ? You
don't suppose I'm doing it for fun. I hope I'm not
such an ass as that."
" How much do you think you are likely to get ? "
" Don't know. Depends on how many fellows there
are, don't you know," and Lord Henry looks like a
professor of mathematics elucidating a problem in
algebraic equations. " The more there are the more
" I mean from this Mr. Allen. The evidence is not
positive against him."
" Not positive ! I only wish it was so sure against
the others. The jury will give me two thousand pounds
at least, so my lawyer tells me. He says juries are
particularly down upon Americans nowadays."
Lady Oaktorrington elevates her eyebrows at the
sum, but says nothing for a minute or two."
" You would be glad to get even one thousand, I
dare say ? "
" Um. Don't know." He looks at her to see how
much further he'd better go, but only meets a placid,
unreadable expression and a cold, indifferent eye !
" Why ? "
" Because I thought, perhaps " she stops and looks
down at the floor.
" Perhaps, what ? That half a loaf was better than
no bread ? Not when I'm sure of the whole loaf," and
2 2 o ARISTOCRACY.
Lord Henry slaps his glove across the palm of his hand
to emphasize the two last words.
" I think it is rather a case of a bird in hand, et
cetera," says Lady Oaktorrington, calmly. " Now, I'll
tell you what, Lord Henry. Lord Oaktorrington and
myself are most anxious that our names should not be
drawn into a public controversey in the divorce court.
We do not want Ashwynwick made the scene of your
wife's indiscretions. She was our guest at the time,
as was also this Mr. Allen. I suppose the fact that she
was receiving our hospitality would have no weight
with you in abstaining from "
Lord Henry jumps up from his seat, and kicks
down his trousers legs.
" Do I look daft ? " he asks. " Am I going to
chuck up a lot of money for any such rot as that ? I
didn't want you to ask her to stay with you. It's no
obligation to me. A charming pair you asked to meet
her, too ! Harborough and this Yankee ! I suppose
I'm to blame for that."
" We won't discuss that," Lady Oaktorrington says,
quietly. " Nor waste any more time beating about the
bush. I will be plain. If you leave this Mr. Allen
out of your divorce suit, and not bring us and our
house before the public in such a disreputable light, I
will give you a check for a thousand pounds."
Lord Henry's eyes sparkle.
" Now this minute here is my check-book. Will
you consent? Yes, or no ? "
Lord Henry stops to wonder, just five seconds, if
he can't do better, and then says :
" Ye es. Give us the check."
She inserts the sum in a check already signed, tears
it out of her book, and hands it to Lord Henry.
He takes it, turns it over and back again, examines
it, and scrutinizes it in every part. " Hadn't you bet-
ter cross it ? Ransom, Bouverie & Co. Thanks."
Lady Oaktorrington rings the bell.
" Show Lord Henry Tollemache out, please."
Lord Henry flushes red with anger. His eyes flash
and glitter, and his lips mutter something that sounds
only like a sullen hiss. He raises the check in both
hands, and his fingers and thumbs clutch at the edges
as if he were about to tear it in two. But he doesn't.
He thinks of the piles of blue enveloped " midsummer "
bills that lie upon his table ; he remembers how he has
promised Dolly Vernon of the " Avenue " a Continental
jaunt when the season is over and he recollects the
various and many things that can be done with a thou-
sand pounds, and his rage cools with their contempla-
" By-the-by, Lady Oaktorrington," he says, while
he deposits the check in his waistcoat-pocket, and
slowly draws on and buttons his glove. " Have you
seen the " Morning Post " ? There are some odd mar-
riage announcements worth reading. Ta-ta ! "
ALL London is at the Duchess of Kensington's
ball. That is to say, all London west of Regent Street
and south of Piccadilly, and of that, those only who
are " in the swim " of the highest society.
Kensington House is one of the grandest residences
in Park Lane, and one of the finest town-houses in
London. Yet the crowd is so vast that even the great
wide hall and broad staircase are thronged with people.
The ball-room is the immense picture-gallery of the
mansion, from whose walls the bewigged and beruffed,
the bepowdered, berouged, and bepatched ancestors of
the Molyneuxes (such being the family name of the
Kensington dukedom) in slashed doublets and armor,
short-waisted frocks and bust-displaying gowns, look
down in silence upon the equally decolletd dresses and
somber male evening attire of the present day. Here,
crammed together in standing rows of three and four
deep round the walls, and in a mass of surging, jost-
ling, pushing, elbowing, hustling, and bumping, other-
wise dancing, humanity in the center, are some of the
greatest people in the land.
It is long past twelve, and the Marquis and Mar-
chioness of Oaktorrington and Lady Edith Vesey have
only just arrived from a reception at the Russian
Allen, who has been waiting and watching for them
for the last half-hour, feeling rather a fish out of water
during the tedious operation, meets them in the hall.
" How awfully late you are ! " he says. " I thought
you would never come. They are playing a waltz in
there, so don't waste a minute more out here than you
can help. Let me see your card."
Lady Edith, unaccustomed to such enthusiasm, can
not help showing in her face and voice the irritation
it causes her. People on all sides have stopped con-
versing, or turned their heads from looking elsewhere
to take note of them.
" I wish you wouldn't talk so loud," she sa,ys, irri-
tably. " I suppose you mean my programme," and
she gives it to him.
" I suppose I have the right to take you into the
room, now ? " and he offers his arm.
" Take me into the room ? I don't know what you
mean. Pray put your arm down at once. People
don't go into ball-rooms arm-in-arm in England. At
least, we don't. I must go with mother."
" Come, Edith," her mother says at that moment,
giving Allen a slight bow and smile of recognition.
Lord Oaktorrington, having stopped to speak to
some one in the crowd, the marchioness goes on alone,
followed silently by Lady Edith, Allen making his way
Lady Oaktorrington formally introduces Allen to
her sister, the Duchess of Kensington, whose sole re-
mark is a stiff " How d'ye do ? " and they pass on into
the ball-room to make way for others pressing from be-
hind. They stand among the crowd in silence for a
time. Allen is the first to speak.
" Are we going to stick here like this all night ? "
he asks, with some impatience in his tone. " Don't
you intend to dance ? "
Before Lady Edith can answer, a small fat man
with a bald head, short reddish beard, heavy droop-
cornered eyes, and a smirking smile, followed by a
couple of other men with brass buttons on their coats,
passes by through the crowd which makes obsequious
way for him, the gentlemen bending their heads, and
the ladies courtesying low.
Allen thinks he recognizes the human impersona-
tion of dozens of photographs and woodcuts he has
seen, but is not sure.
" Who is that swell ! " he asks.
" How rude of you not to bow ! " she says, crossly.
The aristocrat has grown strong within her in this in-
tensity of her own sphere, and she can't keep down a
sense of humiliation which creeps over her at^ the
thought of what seems to her at the moment her mis-
alliance. All about her are dukes and marquises and
earls, duchesses, marchionesses, and countesses by the
score, and lords and ladies by the gross, all of whom
have, as has she, each infinitesimal rule of aristocratic
form and ceremony at their fingers' ends, and with
whom not to be au fait of which would mean social
degradation. And here beside her stands her affianced
husband, a man who is as ignorant of these things as
is a chimney-sweep or a costermonger. She has never
realized before, as she does now, the downward step
she has taken. For the moment she is ashamed of
herself, ashamed of Allen, and her vexation grows as
she reflects upon her position. She almost hates him
for the instant as she looks at him, all unconscious of
her ire, poor fellow, and says, sharply :
" If you can't behave properly, I must beg of you
to leave us. It's fortunate mother didn't see you,
though dozens of others did."
Allen looks at her in amazement.
" I I don't know what you mean," he stam-
" Why didn't you bow to the prince ? I'm so
awfully ashamed of you."
" Was that the Prince of Wales ? How was I to
know ? "
She groans inwardly.
" Fancy marrying a man who doesn't know the
Prince of Wales when he sees him ! " she thinks.
" How can I ever go on with it ? "
<l Ought I to have bowed to him ? " he asks. " I
" Of course you ought."
" O, come, there's no need to make such a fuss
about it," he says, a trifle ruffled at her tone. " How
can I be expected to know these things ? I'm an
American. You seem to forget that."
" I wish I could forget it," she answers, quickly.
" Unfortunately, you give me no chance to do so."
The color comes to his face with a rush, and his
lips compress tight.
" I wonder at myself standing this sort of thing so
humbly," he says, hoarsely, in a low voice. " I wouldn't
from any one else." She does not answer. "As I
seem to annoy you so, perhaps I had better go. Good-
night," and before she can stay him by word or look
he has vanished in the crowd. She would follow him
if she dared, but the very " form " which she has been
invoking for his condemnation forbids. No sooner is
he gone than the inevitable reaction that ever attends
unkindness to those we care for self-reproach and
unavailing regret sets in with mighty force.
" What a fool I am ! " she cries aloud to herself.
" I'm so awfully sorry, now. What could have made
me so unkind ! I believe I have the most ungovern-
able, abominable temper on earth. And how good and
patient he was ! Can I ever make it up with him ? "
" Can I have a glance at your programme, Lady
Edith ? " says Monde Vereker. " I hope you've some-
thing left for me. By Jove ! What ? I'm lucky. Mr.
Allen has positively left one valse free. Oh, I beg your
pardon. I believe I must offer my congratulations,
et cetera, et cetera. Eh ? "
" Thanks very much," Lady Edith answers, look-
ing down at her gloves.
" I'm sure I hope you'll be very happy," he goes
on ; " though to tell you the truth, I'm blessed if you
look so at this moment. What is the matter? "
" Oh, nothing," she says, looking up and forcing
a smile. " Nothing at all."
" I'll back there is, though," he says to himself. " No
wonder, having to marry a cad like that. I'm surprised
at her father and mother. Oh, the curse of gold ! By-
the-by, Lady Oaktorrington. Who do you think I saw
a minute ago? Lady Henry."
" What here ? "
" Fact. Didn't you tell the duchess ? "
" No. I wish I had. I thought every one knew.
So you told me."
" I'm afraid I drew it a trifle too strong if I said
that. You mustn't go too much by what I say. I
sometimes make mistakes you know," and he grins,
elfishly. " By-the-by, you've squared it with Lord
Henry, I hear," he adds, in an undertone.
"Who told you?"
" She, herself, just now. She was in great glee over
it, and said she'd like to come and thank you. She
evidently thinks you did it for her sake."
" I hope she'll do nothing of the sort. I should
be very rude to her. Why, Edith, where is Mr.
Allen ? "
" Gone home," says Lady Edith, shrugging her
" Gone home ? " echoes Lady Oaktorrington.
" At least, I suppose so. He said ' good-night,'
and went away."
" I'll bet a fiver he's here still," Vereker whispers
to Lady Oaktorrington. " And I'll back I could tell
exactly where he is at this moment."
" Do you really think you could find him ? " Lady
Oaktorrington asks, anxiously. " Oh, would you, Mr.
Vereker ? And tell him I wish to see him. I should
be so much obliged to you."
" All right," says Vereker, taking his leave. " I
shall be only too glad," he adds to himself, " to show
the fellow up, if I can. She'll have ten thousand pounds
at least. Four hundred a year isn't a bad addition to
In a quarter of an hour he returns.
" Just as I expected," he tells Lady Oaktorrington,
in a whisper. " He's with Lady Henry on the stairs.
Did you ever know such brazen effrontery ? I think
you may safely give me this valse" he says, turning to
Lady Edith. " He won't claim it, you know, if he's
As Allen abruptly leaves the ball-room if his con-
dition of mind and feeling is not quite, it is at least
verging upon, that which he experienced on quitting
the billiard-room at Ashwynwick on the night of his
adventure with Lady Henry Tollemache in the ante-
room. Although he may not be, as he was then, in-
dignant and resentful, he is hurt to the quick, humili-
ated, and disappointed. He feels that it must be quite
impossible that any woman who really cared for him
could treat him so cruelly ; yet his regard for her to
whom he has given the one love of his life has not
abated one jot. He still loves her as he has ever,done
since first he said to himself "She shall be my wife."
But it is with a fixed conviction that she does not care
for him in return. The torture of unrequited love
gnaws at his heart ; and with brows knit and eyes
cast down he leaves her, never daring to look up lest
he should see the old pleading expression in her face,
and be brought to her feet again in unmanly submis-
sion to what he is now satisfied is nothing more than
the heartless acting of a coquette, but which he knows
will conquer him again as it has done before. He has
not taken a dozen paces before he begins to realize
that he is behaving foolishly, if not unmanly. She is
only a woman after all, he argues, and it is unmanly
for a man to take serious offense at what a woman says
or does. He should be above it. Did he follow his
impulse he would return at once. With that intention
he looks back and sees Montie Vereker at her side in
earnest conversation, and she smiling upon him. Man-
like, he contrasts her ungracious treatment of himself
with this, and all the old feelings return with redoubled
force, a shade of resentment mixing itself with them.
" I'm a weak simpleton," he says to himself, as he
pushes on again through the crowd. " If she can smile
upon others, why should not I do likewise ? But I
know no one here. That's where she has the advan-
tage of me. No doubt she knows this, and feels quite
safe in letting me go from her without a word."
He reaches the grand staircase, and his onward
path is checked for the moment by some new arrivals
coming in. While he stands waiting, he feels a sharp
tap on his shoulder from behind, and hears a woman's
voice say :
" Mr. Allen, aren't you going to speak to me ? "
He turns, and sees Lady Henry Tollemache, sitting
on the stairs half a dozen steps u$>, in the act of draw-
ing back her fan over the railing of the banisters.
Every recollection connected with her rushes into
his brain like the shock of an electric battery. His
first impulse is to pretend not to hear, and get away
as quickly as possible. But the incoming tide wedges
him in tight and immovable against the casing of the
stairway, and again her voice reaches him.
" Oh, come, now, I shan't let you treat me so shab-
bily. I insist upon your speaking to me."
His nearest neighbors regard him with looks of
blank surprise. It is becoming almost a scene. He
must answer her if only to avoid one.
" I beg your pardon," he says, with a serious face.
" How do you do ? "
She thrusts out a little white-gloved hand through
the banisters for him to take.
" Do come up here and sit down a moment. There's
room beside me. I have something I particularly wish
to say to you."
The eyes of every one are upon him a man refus-
ing to sit beside a woman at her own request ! That
is how it appears in plain English. Can he, as a man,
as an American, allow such a stain to remain upon his
" I'll come as soon as I can," he says, and edges
round by slow degrees to the lowest step. When there,
for a moment the thought comes to him to dash out
through an opening before him left by the fat figure
of an incoming dowager. He hesitates, and the space
closes up again. It is too late.
" How slow you are ! " comes the voice again to
him, and the people still look. There is nothing else
for him, so up he ^goes, receiving many ill glances
and muttered imprecations from the couples he dis-
lodges in his passage.
" I've been so anxious to see you," she says in a
low, whispering voice, as he sits down beside her, " to
thank you for "
" Pray don't refer to that," he says, quickly, and
he feels his temples grow hot. " I should like to for-
get about all that."
"AM?" and she gives him a half-closed eyelid
He would like to say, emphatically, "Yes," but he
knows he will feel like a prig if he does, and certainly
be thought one by her. He can't stand that. So he
looks at her, and shakes his head. She is looking her
best. Her gown of light blue satin fits her like a glove
about her creamy shoulders and small waist ; diamonds
sparkle on her soft and undulating neck, on her white,
rounded arms, and in her hair. One little blue satin
foot, with an inch of open-work stocking over the
arched instep, peeps out from beneath her short skirt,
and a subtle perfume, as from a jasmine -covered
bower on a moonlight night in June, exhales itself from
her person, and lulls the senses into a delicious repose.
Allen is conscious of the charm that takes possession
of him, and, being only a man after all, he is glad he
" Oh, by the by, I must con "
Allen puts his fingers on his lips :
" Not now, please."
"What! Another forbidden subject? What are
we to talk about ? "
"Anything," he says. "Tell me who all these
dreary people are. You know everybody."
" Dreary people ? " she echoes. " Don't you know
that those are some of the smartest people in the king-
dom ? "
"Are they? I shouldn't have thought it. They
look so painfully unhappy, so stiff and formal and
subdued. Are all balls in England so so depressed
as this ? "
"Aren't American balls like this? " she asks.
" I should be sorry for them if they were," he tells
her. " We may not have such grand people at them,
but there is a life and spirit, a lightness and airiness,
of jollity, geniality, and bonhommie about an American
ball that I do not notice here. Your balls are like
everything else that is aristocratic. They are suffused
by such an atmosphere of repression and restraint that
Nature can not draw breath at them."
" I like jolly, cheerful people," she says, brighten-
ing up. " I'm sure I should like America. Don't you
think I should get on there ? "
" I have no doubt about it. I should think you
would get on anywhere."
" Thanks," she smiles. " It does one good to be
" But tell me who all these people are," Allen says,
thinking it safer to check the drift the conversation
has taken at once. " I'm most anxious to know."
"Shall I ? Very well, then, let us begin."
A second little blue satin foot joins the first, and,
resting itself caressingly upon it, shows three inches
more of stocking about a trim and slender ankle.
" Do you see that tall, handsome, well-preserved,
Frenchy woman ? " Lady Henry begins. " The one
in crimson satin and a tiara of diamonds. She was a
beauty once though you'd hardly think so. She's the
Duchess of Liverpool. I'll wager Marly is not far
off. Yes, there he is going up to her now. Look !
That thin, long-faced, man with a red beard and a
funny straight nose. You must know who he is, surely,
if you've been in the House of Commons."
" Do you mean Lord Marlington ? "
" Yes, of course you know the scandal about him
and the duchess ?"
" No, I don't."
" Oh, no one ever thinks of inviting one without
the other to stay anywhere. He won't go without her
or she without him. Like love birds, isn't it ? "
" Hasn't she got a husband ? " asks Allen.
" Yes ; I'll show him to you presently. I saw him
not five minutes ago."
" Is that he near her ? "
" Near her ? No, indeed. That's the last place
you'd find his Grace. Oh, there he is talking to Char-
lie Beresford. You know his curly brown hair and
dancing eye, of course."
" Yes, I've seen him. Is that fat, red-faced man
with the white hair and beard, the duke ? "
" Yes ; that's his Grace of Liverpool."
" He doesn't look as though he cared much."
" Nor does he. Funny, isn't it?"
" It's rather too serious to be funny," says Allen,
thoughtfully. " There would be some shooting over
it in California. The lowest man in America wouldn't
put up with what one of your highest appears to enjoy
in England. It's marvelous to me."
*' But, you see, we don't go in for shooting about
things as you do in America. We get damages in the
divorce court. Make the other chap pay up, don't
" Treat it as a mere matter of money," says Allen.