woman, and a woman, may I ask you to refrain from
further comment upon her in my presence ? "
" Certainly of course we didn't know," explains
Vereker, who is a man of some knowledge of the
world outside the radius of English aristocratic soci-
ety. " Pray sit down."
" Perhaps you'll allow me to speak, Vereker,"
scowls the duke, " our answer to you, is this : Mr.
what's his name? " aside to Lord Beyndour.
" I'm blessed if I know," Lord Beyndour answers
with a grin.
" Well, then, our answer to you, sir, is this : We
propose to talk upon any subject we see fit, without
any dictation from you. If you do not like it you
"Retire. Which I most assuredly shall do." And
Allen leaves the table and walks out of the room,
without a voice or hand to stay him.
" Beastly cad ! " exclaims Lord Beyndour, as soon
as the door is shut. " It serves mother right for ask-
ing him here."
" Who is he ? " asks the duke.
" A Yankee friend of Freddy's he picked up on
his journey home."
" It's deuced lucky the servants had left the room,"
remarks Lord Bouverie. " Um ? Eh ? "
ALLEN goes directly to his room. He finds a fire
burning brightly in the grate and candles lighted on his
dressing table. He draws an arm-chair up to the fire,
lights a cigarette, sits down, and tries to think. There
is a feeling of warmth and comfort about the room, an
atmosphere of noiselessness and dried lavender that
fills his brain with a sense of repose, and seems to chide
him for his ill-temper. After all, these people do not
treat him so badly. Perhaps he has been too exacting ?
No, he has not. It has been one insult after another
heaped upon him. Who wants their candles and their
fire? He will blow out the one and extinguish the
other with the water-jug in two minutes. Yet stay.
They don't know that his room is so comfortable. It ->
isn't them he has to thank for it. It is only the work^\P V
of the servants in anticipation of a good tip when he^jN -
goes away. Money, again ! But can one blame them
with their betters setting them the example ? *>
" Now, then, what am I to do ? " he asks himself,
as he breaks his reverie to light a fresh cigarette. " I
can't stay here after this, and I won't, unless some
apology is made to me, arid that isn't a likely thing to
happen. There isn't anything for me to do. None
of them will fight. It's against the law they tell you.
A nice law that enables a man to insult another with
impunity ! They simply shield themselves behind a
law of their own making for their own protection. No
wonder England is become a bear-garden ! Yes, I
must go. The fact of the matter is I ought never to
have come here. I wish I hadn't for many reasons.
I should never have seen her. Not that it can matter
now. Who would have thought her such an arrant
little coquette ? And such a man to oust one ! Is it
true ? Can it be true ? Yes, it must be. Everything
confirms it. What a fool I have been ! I, who have
gone through fire a score of times unsinged. How
lucky I didn't commit myself this morning. And how
I cursed her brother for interrupting me. Poor chap,
I ought to feel deeply grateful to him for it. It was a
narrow escape. What would Fanny and Carrie and
Kittie and Jennie and Lou and Syb and Hattie and
Nellie and Minnie say if they were to hear of it. I
could never live in 'Frisco again."
He smiles to himself at the thought, but his smile
fades away as he studies out some problem imbedded
in the red coals, and his cigarette burns away into a
long, crisp ash between his finger-tips.
" Is it not all a yarn of this Lady Henry Tollemache ?
It is clear what her game is, and she may only have in-
vented it all to serve her own ends. I ought to feel
immensely complimented, of course, but all the same,
! ^6 ARISTOCRACY.
I should like to know for sure. How can I find out ?
Ask her. Tax her with it. But when? My only
chance is to-night, for I must go as early as I can
to-morrow morning. How I hate going down among
them again ! Yet, I suppose I must. Shall I get a
chance to speak to her, with this fellow Jack hanging
about her ? More than likely not. I'll tell you what
I'll do. Yes, that's the way."
He seats himself before the writing-table and writes
Accept my congratulations. I hope you will be happy. I
go to-morrow morning. Oh, how COULD you ? "
" Now, the next thing is, how to get it to her ? It
would require the sleight of hand of a skilled conjuror
to pass it to her before all those eyes. I must find
some way." He folds the sheet and puts it into an
envelope, and has just done so when there is a knock
at the door.
" Please, sir," says one of the footmen, " his lord-
ship sent me up to say as how if you wanted to smoke,
sir, there was a smoking-room. Every one's been
wondering where the smoke came from, sir, and her
ladyship's in a great way about it, sir."
" I'm so awfully sorry. It was very stupid of me.
I quite forgot. Just open the window. And here's
a trifle for your trouble," putting half a sovereign into
the man's palm.
" Yes, sir. Hope no offense, sir. Young master's
orders, sir," says the servant, touching his forehead at
every second word.
" No, no. That's all right. See here. I want a
note delivered unknown to any one in the house. Can
you do it for me ?"
" Yes, sir."
" Mind, it's not so easy as you think. It's for a
''Lady Henry, sir? Not the first time, sir," and
the footman grins.
" Oh, isn't it ? Well, it's not for Lady Henry this
time. It's for Lady Edith. Think you can manage it ? "
" Certain sure I can, sir. If you please, sir he
he beg your pardon, sir. I be keeping company
along with Lady Edith's own maid, sir. I'll get her
to slip it to her young missus, no fear, sir."
" To-night ? "
"Yes, sir, when her ladyship goes to her room."
" All right," and Allen puts another half-sovereign
with the letter into the man's hand.
" Thanky, sir."
" And now, I suppose, I must go down. This con-
founded smoking will be another thing to face. How-
ever, it can't be much worse," and Allen goes down to
the drawing-room. Self-possessed as he is, it takes a
good deal of nerve to open the door and go in. As it
is he stands for a minute or so with his hand on the
door-handle before he can get courage to turn it. He
is received in silence. Lady Oaktorrington is talking
to Lady Bouverie, Lady Mary is telling Augusta Bou-
verie all about her dogs, and Lord Beyndour and Emily
Bouverie are whispering and laughing together on a
distant sofa. Lord Bouverie is fast asleep in an arm-
chair. The others are nowhere to be seen. He walks
over to a table, picks up a photograph-album, and sits
down. As he turns over the pages of princes, dukes,
marquises, and all the grades in the peerage down to
honorables, he catches a scrap now and then of what
his neighbors are saying :
" Yes, I can smell it quite strong," Lady Bouverie
says. " Fancy a young gentleman in our day smoking
in the house ! "
" Ah, yes, but then one so seldom met foreigners,
my dear Lady Bouverie."
This has clearly been said in a loud tone purposely,
for the voices become almost inaudible again.
Presently he hears Lady Mary say :
" Oh, they've gone to the billiard-room," and in
two minutes he is out in the hall on his way there
Lady Edith and Jack are playing against Vereker
He makes straight for Lady Edith, who at the
moment is standing alone just having made a stroke.
She turns very pale as she sees him coming, and, he
thinks, looks annoyed.
" I had no idea you added this to your other ac-
complishments," he says, trying his best to smile and
look at ease.
" No, it's Jack's turn," she says, in answer to Ber-
tie, and then looks at Allen.
" What did you say ? " she asks, with her brows a
" It doesn't matter in the least. I came to say "
"What? what? Don't look like that at me here
before the others."
" I think I shall say good-night, now, as I'm
Bertie looms up along side. " My turn ? " and
Lady Edith goes to the table. She has some wonder-
ful luck considering that her cue shakes as much as it
does, and makes a good break. When at last she
misses and comes back to her former place, Allen is
As Allen turns to go, a different door from that at
which he entered opens, and the Duke of Harborough
comes in fastening a spray of stephanotis in his button-
hole. The doorway is nearer to him than the other,
and in his anxiety to get out of the room as quickly as
possible, Allen makes his exit by it. Instead of in the
hall, as he expected, he finds himself in a narrow ante-
room, the far door of which stands ajar. He walks on
and enters a small, cosy" apartment. In the grate a
fire of glowing coals casts a rosy hue over the room,
the effect being enhanced by a lamp on the table, with a
rose-colored shade. Standing by the fire is Lady Henry
Tollemache. Allen's humor at the moment of leaving
the billiard-room is one which pretty nigh verges on
desperation. Not alone is he now convinced that Lady
Edith's engagement to Jack Bouverie is true, but he
feels like some hunted animal, only too glad to obtain
succor and comfort at the hands of any one. In his
present frame of mind the " any one " in his case is a
very pretty woman, a trifle rouged, perhaps, and made
up as to the eyes ; but in that light, and under those
circumstances, with all the fascinating adjuncts of the
female toilet as it can be expressed in full evening
dress, she seems a veritable houri. She looks up and
greets him with a smile.
" What a time you have been ? " she says. " I
waited for you in the drawing-room, for ever so long,
and at last thought you were not coming, and had
gone to bed."
Her kind words when every one else is cold and
cruel, is the finishing touch. For the moment, he is
(or feels as though he were, which amounts to pretty
much the same thing) madly in love with her. With-
out a word, he steps forward and grasps her gloved
" Not now," she says, quickly disengaging it, with
a slight reproving frown. " You've not told me what
*' What ? " Allen asks, hazily. " I haven't told you
what ? "
Lady Henry puts her foot impatiently on the floor.
" Oh, you remember what I asked you at dinner."
His face clouds.
" Never mind that now. Don't let us mix such
sordid thoughts "
" But you must tell me at once," she answers, seri-
ously. " I dare not stay here a minute longer. Any
one is likely to come upon us at any moment, and
just fancy what people would say ! "
" Who cares for people ? " says Allen, grandly.
"/do. Oh, no, no, no! You mustn't lock the
door. We should be in a pretty trap then. Fancy
such a thing ! I ought to be awfully angry with you."
She looks really annoyed for a moment, and then says,
with a smile. " I'll forgive you if you tell me." Allen
does not reply. " Will you tell me, or will you not ? "
she asks, impatiently.
" Why do you want to know ? "
" Why do you object to tell me ? "
In the midst of the fascination which spurs him on,
Allen is conscious that he is making a fool of himself.
His better sense tells him this. Yet, manlike, the
glamor is on him, and he does not hesitate.
" Do you wonder that I should want you to like
me only for myself? " he asks, with a hoarse tremu-
lousness in his voice that is such old and well-known
music to Lady Henry's ears that she smiles inwardly
as she looks at him with her most winning pout.
" No. But suppose I should be very mercenary
most women are, you know, though they pretend
they're not you'd have to tell me then, wouldn't
you ? "
" Um ! Yes ; I suppose I should."
Lady Henry's mental powers of perception are
sufficiently keen to let her see in this answer all the
information she wants. Her heart gives a great bound
of joy. She puts the hand she had drawn away on to
his, and says in a soft, cooing voice.
" I do like you so much. How happy I could be
if " She pauses and looks down.
" If what ? " Allen asks, quickly. " You had an-
other husband ? I've "
" No," she answers deliberately, shrugging her
rounded white shoulders. " Marriage makes no dif-
ference, I think, except that it changes one's name.
It's not that." She gives a little sigh and bites her
lips. " I'm in a good deal of trouble about some-
thing. You won't mind if I tell you ? You have
such kind, sympathetic eyes."
" Pray tell me what it is," he says, earnestly.
"Perhaps I may be able to help you out of it."
Her eyes brighten at his words and the smile
comes back to her lips.
"Yes, you could," she says, slowly.
" You could" and she puts a sweetly smiling em-
phasis on the word. " But how can I expect a
" Pray don't call me that," he cries, eagerly. " In
more ways than one the word grates upon me.".
" I won't then, dear oh, what on earth am I say-
ing ! What must you think of me ? "
"Shall I tell you?" Allen exclaims, hotly. "I
will. That you are the most charm "
" Stop ! stop ! I can't hear another word. It's
most awfully unfair. Wait till you hear what I am
going to tell you. Know, then, that I've you are
sure, you won't mind my telling you ? "
" No, no. Quite sure. Do go on."
" Well, then, you must know that " (a long pause be-
ginning with a serious face and tearful downcast eyes,
but ending with a beamingly hopeful upward glance)
" I've I've overdrawn at my banker's. There ! I'm so
awfully ashamed," and she covers her face with her
" Nonsense. Is that all ? " Allen says, gently
taking down her yielding fingers from her eyes.
" That's easily remedied. I shall be only to hap "
"Oh, thank you so very much," she cries, breaking
away from him. " I knew you'd understand about it.
You Americans are so quick to see one's meaning.
Englishmen are so awfully dense, don't you know,
when there's a question of money."
" Are they ? I should hardly have thought so.
But you must tell me how much you "
" Not to night. I'll tell you to-morrow. What's
that ? Voices ? Hush ! "
They listen in silence awhile, but no sound reaches
them save the chimes of the hall clock. " Eleven !
I must go back to the drawing-room at once. No,
no; you mustn't come with me. That would never
do. I shall go by this door alone and you can re-
turn to the billiard-room by that. Or else you must
wait here till you are sure every one is gone to bed,
and then come out through the drawing-room. Good-
"Just wait one minute," Allen says, in an eager
voice, then stops short, and fumbles with his watch-
" Well, what do you want ? "
" I I can't can't you give me a bit of this ? "
and he touches the bunch of stephanotis in her cor-
" Not for worlds ! " she exclaims, covering the
flowers with both hands. " Another time I will per-
haps but not to-night. Don't ask me."
" I saw the duke with one as he came into the
billiard-room from here a few minutes ago. You
gave him cne."
Her eyes flash for a moment as she mutters some
words of vexation to herself; and Allen has sense
enough left to see he has made an unwary speech.
" Did I ? " she asks, in as careless a tone as she
can command. " I don't remember in the least. But
even if I did which I don't admit, mind that would
be a good reason why you should not want one, also,
wouldn't it ? "
Allen thinks a minute to get her point well into his
head, and then says, rather sulkily and disappointedly :
"Yes. I suppose so."
She turns to go. " One minute more," he says,
recovering some of his usual courage as if by an effort
" I dare say you'll think me foolish, silly."
She shakes her head.
" I'm sure I shan't do that," she whispers, sweetly.
" Why should I ? You are far too kind."
"Well, exacting, any how. I won't ask for the
flower; but I do want something you have worn
something that has touched you."
Half an hour ago he would have quarreled with
his best friend had he predicted such a scene for him
as this with any woman but one. In less than half
an hour hence he will realize the degradation of his
treason and awake from his fleeting and self-enmeshed
enthrallment. He is but a mortal at best, and Nemo
mortalium omnibus horis sapit,
Lady Henry is about to smile contentedly to her-
self behind her fan at his words. They speak such
unconditional surrender to her charms ; such unquali-
fied success in her " plan of campaign." But there is
a look in his eyes which, experienced as she is in
such scenes, fairly frightens her. She takes a step
backward and hurriedly holds her pocket-handker-
chief up to him. " Will this do ? You can give it to
me to-morrow. Now, really, good-night, or I shall
lose my character." She glides quickly away through
the doorway and is gone.
Allen stands waiting a few minutes, the handkerchief
held tightly in his hand. He puts it up to his lips.
It breathes the same delicate perfume which seems to
pervade the atmosphere when she is present, and in
obedience to the influence of the instant he is about to
kiss it, but something tells him not. He rolls it up
quickly, and puts it in his pocket. He feels triumph-
ant, and yet a trifle ashamed when he lets himself
think. But reflection is a mental operation fraught
with too much pain to him just then not to have him
seek relief in physical activity. He can wait no
longer standing idly there, so he retraces his steps
through the anteroom to the billiard-room door. He
hears the click of balls within and hesitates. What if
she be there still ? How can he play the spaniel in
her eyes by coming back? And how can he have
the heart to enter her presence -fresh from such a
scene as that in which he has just played so recreant
a part. His treason is beginning to dawn upon him
already, and he feels as though he could not meet her
eye without a flush of honest shame. Yet, there is no
other way. He must face the ordeal. He opens the
door and to his intense relief finds it is only the duke
and Bertie having a game together. All the others are
gone. He walks quickly through and out by the other
door into the hall, utterly unheeded by the players.
The drawing-room door is standing open. All is
dark and silent within. He lights his candle and
goes up-stairs ; and as he passes through the main cor-
ridor on his way to the bachelors' wing where his room
is, he sees lying on the mat just outside one of the
bedroom-doors a spray of stephanotis. " Hello !
That's a nice way the duke treats her flower, and she
refused me one. I'll have this any how even though
it does come second hand," and he picks it up.
" She'll wonder how I got it when I show it to her
What? Eh? Is this the duke's room? And why,
I left him down in the billiard-room. Faugh ! "
With a face of loathing he flings the flower to the
other end of the corridor.
" MUST you really go ? " Lady Oaktorrington asks,
freezingly, as Allen comes into the breakfast-room next
morning before prayers, ere any other guest is down.
The marchioness always reads prayers for the servants
when her husband is away, and consequently has to be
on hand earlier than other people. " And you won't
stay and have breakfast ? "
" I shall lose my train, if I do, thanks, very much.
I can get a bite in the refreshment-room at the station
that will last me until I get to London. Good-by. I
must thank you for your generous hospitality and
" Oh," is all Lady Oaktorrington can say. To
do her justice she is inwardly ashamed, but dis-
cipline will not let her say so. " Good-by." And
she gives Allen two fingers to shake. He is out in
the hall where the butler and footman are helping
him on with his ulster, when the marchioness fol-
" Oh will you be so good as to send your your
bill, don't you know, for what we owe you for Freddy
to our lawyers, the Messrs. Fairfield and Jenkinson,
Lincoln's Inn Fields, and they will settle it. Allen
does not answer. He dare not trust himself to speak ;
but turns without a word and leaves the house. As he
is stepping into the fly which his friend the footman
has procured for him from Hertford, the latter says to
him. " In the inside breast-pocket of your ulster, sir,
you will find a letter. Thanky sir."
And the fly goes lumbering down the avenue.
Ere the wheels have performed a dozen revolu-
tions Allen has the letter open in his fingers.
I don't know wJiat you mean, it says. If any
one has told you that I am engaged to be married to any
one, it is false. I thi;ik I can guess wJw told you. It is
so like her. If you get this in time, which I hope and
pray you may, I beg and implore you not to go, until I
see you at all events. If not, write to me at Lord Hart-
worths where I am going on Saturday to stay for a week.
The address is Willesden Manor, North Allerton,
Bucks. On no account write to me here.
Allen's first impulse is to stop the fly and go back.
But before he can get the window down, the sober
second thought comes to him and says No. " I
would face the whole lot of them again, and put up
with any fresh indignity they could concoct, for her
sake," he thinks. " I don't care a button for that.
But in the first place, I can think of no possible ex-
cuse to make that would not eventually involve her ;
and in the second, I can not meet that woman again.
Oh, how could I have been such a fool ! When I
think of last night I feel positive degradation."
So he drives on to the station, and in two hours is
walking up the steps of the Hotel Metropole.
At precisely the same moment another fly drives
up to the door at Ashwynwick, and Lord Frederick
Vesey gets out. He goes at once to his mother's
boudoir where he knows he will find her.
" You got my telegram ? " he asks, after the usual
"And acted upon it, I hope."
" To tell you the truth, dear it was so vague, that
I4 8 ARISTOCRACY.
I didn't know what to do. Here it is. Look at it
" Vague ? Can anything be clearer than treat him
civilly ? "
" I dare say. But he is all right, of course, was so
indefinite and unsatisfactory. I knew you had heard
nothing new. And besides other circumstances have
occurred to shake me first, some things Lady Henry
told me, and then something Beyndour and I over-
heard him say himself at dinner about not being
able to afford something or other. After that Lady
Henry asked him outright if he wasn't awfully
" How disgraceful ! "
" and he refused to tell her."
" Poor chap ! I can imagine the sort of life you've
" Then again I expected a letter from you this
morning and you never wrote."
" Where was the good when I was coming myself?
I must go and smooth it over with him as best I can.
Of course, you've been abominably rude to him. I
can see that."
" Why, why, dear, you haven't ascertained that he
is all we thought ? "
" All we thought ? Just wait till you hear. When
I got up to town I went to see the man from the
steamer, and found he had left the night before for
the Continent. I didn't know what to do, When I
suddenly thought I couldn't do better than go and
ask Fairfield's advice. He said the best thing to do
was to write to the English consul at San Francteco.
I told him we couldn't wait all that time five weeks
it wouM take for an answer. So he said then he'd
" Cable, dear ? What's that ? "
" Telegraph. Don't you know there is a tele-
graph-cable to the States."
" I'm sorry to say, dear, I "
" Well, never mind. He said he'd cable at once,
and might get the answer by night. It was tedious
work waiting in town, for London's as empty as it
can be. By-the-by, I met father. At least, I saw him
in a hansom out in St. John's Wood. He didn't see
me. Well, I waited and waited, and thought it safer
to send you the telegram I did, for Fairfield said he
had, he thought, heard the name of Allen in connec-
tion with some enormous American railway transac-
tions on the Stock Exchange. I went to their office
a dozen times at least, but there was no answer.
" How tiresome for you, dear ! "
"At last, about nine o'clock at night, it came.
Fairfield, who'd stayed at his office on purpose, sent it
to me at once. Here it is." Freddy unfolds a long
sheet of paper. " I'll read it :
" 'Philip Allen s father is one of the richest men in
California. Philip is an only child*