George Augustus Sala.

The Baddington peerage: who won, and who wore it. A story of the best and the worst society online

. (page 14 of 14)
Online LibraryGeorge Augustus SalaThe Baddington peerage: who won, and who wore it. A story of the best and the worst society → online text (page 14 of 14)
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her sake, not yours, and to avoid her being

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brought into trouble, that I kept watch over
your precious life this night, and prevented
that Spanish bravo from sheathing his long
knife in your body."

"And very much obliged to you I am/'
exclaimed the Professor, assuming as much
heartiness into his tone as he could muster.
" Grateful I am, and grateful I mean to be.
There, there, I mean no oflFence," he continued,
seeing that the self-designated " poor devil of
painter," still continued somewhat sullen.
'' Manuelita is an angel, a seraph. I suppose
I'm not the Mr. Right of her affections, and
that she doesn't like me — a great many people
don't like me, fiinnily enough. I hope she
likes you better, my young friend, though I
am monstrously inclined to fancy that the
dragoon has the best chance of it. * With his
long sword, saddle, bridle, whack, fal de ral'
— you remember the song? What! angry
again! Dear, dear! what a gunpowder
magazine it is ! You should be anchored in
the middle of the Mersey, and painted drab to
prevent danger. There, give us your hand.

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and I'll say no more about it, save to ask you
to drink Manuelita's health."

He did not wait for a response to his invita-
tion, but seized the painter's small white hand
in his own brawny palm, clapping the other
meanwhile approvingly on his companion's
shoulder. He had not a wheedling way with
him, Professor Jachimo, not a coaxing way,
not a persuasive way — not, generally, a
pleasant way, 'by any means; but he had a
hearty way — a very hearty way with him —
and that, I entreat you to pardon the tautology,
went a very great way indeed. Naturalists
have observed the same heartiness of manner,
and disinclination to take a denial when on
hospitable thoughts intent, on the part of that
social animal the grisly bear. Professor
Jachimo may have been a grisly bear, very
closely and clearly shaven.

The painter, though quick in temper, was
apparently of a sufficiently placable disposition,
for he returned the Professor's hand-shake as
heartily as need be, and echoed his willingness
to say no more about it. Then the pair went

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amicably enough up the great steps of the
Adelphi, and into the coffee-room of the raam-r
moth haven for travellers.

There was no one in this saloon (it was now
nearly midnightj but an American gentleman

— to judge by his complexion, from the South

— who, having tried to dissipate the ennui of
the evening by a succession of juleps, had re-
sorted to whittling the " Liverpool Albion'^ up
into fine shreds, which was no very difiicult
matter, and had then gone fast askep, with his
slippered feet on the mahogany table, and his
face turned upwards towards heaven and the
coffee-room ceiling, and was probably tran-
quilly dreaming (with a trombone accompani-
ment) of docile niggers with- small appetites,
and abundant cotton crops, himself ruling the
market. There was one waiter — a bald-
headed man, with a highly-respectable appearr
ance, and the tie of whose white neckcloth
would have done honour to any churchwarden

— who was not quite asleep, but was making
desperate effoi^ts to keep awake ; and to divert
his mind, had tortured his erst snowy napkin

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into so many knots and twists, that the most
rational theory that one could form respecting
it was, that he wanted to make a halter of it,
and hang himself forthwith.

The Professor — who was known personally
and by reputation, both by printing types and
engraved portraits, everywhere in general,
and all over Liverpool in particular — had no
difficulty in securing a bed at this aristocratic
hotel: the general distrust as to travellers
without luggage common among hotel-keepers
being in this instance vanquished by the magic
power (of the purse) well known to be possessed
by the renowned Professor Jachimo. The
Magician would have asked his deliverer to take
up his quarters there, too, and did actually hint
at the soft couches and luxurious fare which
the Adelphi afforded to wayfarers; but the
Painter said, with quiet decision, that he lived
close by, that he should be glad to take a glass
of soda and sherry, and that he would then
bid the Professor good night, for that he was
tired out of his life.

The Wizard, whose narrow escape had con-

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tributed, perhaps, to make him hungry, ordered
some supper, of which he partook with great
gusto, strongly but ineffectually pressing his
companion to " do as he did/' AH that he
could persuade him to take was a biscuit and
the effervescing beverage before named. The
Painter sat opposite to him, tapping his fingers
on the table, and glancing at him from time
to time with looks of considerable curiosity.
Professor Jachimo, when the first cravings of
his appetite had been appeased, began to look
with equal curiosity at the friend who had
done him such signal service. Finally, he laid
down his knife and fork, and honoured his
guest with a prolonged stare.

" You will excuse my taking a very great
liberty," he said, '• though perhaps it isn't
so much a liberty; but might I ask you
whether you know my name?"

** I know it well enough," replied the
Painter, with a careless laugh ; " I ought to
know it by this time. It's on every wall, in
every shop-window — ."

" On every tongue that can give utterance

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to the praises of art and the ineffab^lity of
magical paraphernalia/* the Professor modestly
interposed. "You were plain if not com-
plimentary, young man; so I supplied the
sugar-candy at my own cost and charges.
Soap, thank the beneficent stars, is cheap,
although an Excise duty yet weighs heavily
on that useful article. Flummery can always
be got for nothing. Tou are aware of ray
being the celebrated and accomplished Pro-
fessor Jachimo?"

" 1 know who you are well enough," his
interlocutor contented himself with repeating,
though with a slight touch of disdain in his
tone this time.

" And you, my generous preserver? "

"As I told you, a scene-painter at the
Fontenoy Street Theatre."

" Yes ; you were good enough to inform
me of that fact before ; and you wiU not be
offended if I tell you, that my experience led
me to form a notion, on first seeing you,
that you were indeed connected with the
theatrical profession, but more in a musical

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than an artistic point of view. To tell the
truth, I took you for a fiddler."

" I wonder you didn't take me for a horse-
rider — Tve been that and all the others. I
paint now."

''Anything else?"

" Starve."

"I thought so. The Fontenoy Street
Theatre — pretentious 'gaff/ as it is — has
known not the walk of the Treasury -haunting
ghost these eight weeks. A bad look out."

" / find it bad enough, I can tell you."

*' Might I be so bold as to ask your name?
We shall then be quits, so far as preliminary
introductions go."

" What the deuce do you want to know
my name for ? " was the retort, rather fierce
than courteous, of the individual who was
being so cross-questioned. "Pshaw!" he
continued in a milder tone, "what does it
matter ? You may see it in the playbills
any day. New scenery and effects, by
Mr. Leslie. That's my name — Philip Leslie,
at your service, at anybody's service except
his Majesty's."

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" Is that your real name ? "

" That's either a very simple or a very in-
solent question. I shan't answer it."

'' I meant no offence. It's the only gra-
tuitous thing I never take. I can't make
money by it; for I've a large stock of offen-
sive things of my own to give away, always
on hand. You know as well as I do that
in the profession names are as easily picked
up as blackberries off a hedge in September.
My name now," he continued, with a wink
and smile of much significance, '^has not
always been Jachimo."

" What may it have been, then ? "

"Well," the Professor replied, jauntily,
" perhaps Cholmondely, perhaps Howard, per-
haps Percy, perhaps P , perhaps Pop-
kins," he in some confusion added, as if he
wished to correct some mistake he had in-
advertently committed in his system of nomen-

" You may have as many aliases as you
please," his companion wearily returned, " and
I dare say you have been known by a good

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many in the course of your career. But
Leslie — Philip Leslie — is the only name
I ever had or care to have; stay, there is
one other name I should like to change it
for; or rather there is one little prefix I
should like to make to it."

" And that is — "

" The ^ate Philip Leslie!"

"Bah, bah! my young friend," said the
Professor, in a tone of consoling jocularity;
" so young and so sick of life."

" I am sick of it," the Painter said vehe-
mently. " Sick of it — sick of my name, if
my real name be Leslie at all ! "

Why did the Professor — certainly it could
have been by no eflTort of volition — -stretch
forward his head eagerly when he heard this
last remark, and in a voice that betrayed con-
siderable nervous anxiety, say : —

"Your name — your name! Didn't you
tell me you had but one — Leslie?"

"And but one I have — Leslie* Still, I
may have reason to doubt its being my real


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'* What reasons?"

'* The same reasons I may have for doubting
most other things."

" What name do you imagine, then, is pro-
perly yours ? "

** That's ray business," Philip Leslie an-
swered unconcernedly.

"But," the Professor continued, "might
I ask if you have any cause to think that
Leslie is not your real name ? "

"I scarcely know; yet, from time to time,
when I have troubled myself about the matter
at all, I have wondered who I was, what I
was, and how much of the Philip or the
I-.eslie there was in me. I cannot remember
my father at all. I can only recollect my
mother; and I was separated from her at
a very early age, never to meet her again.
My eyes, you see, are blue, but her's were
dark; and I can recall them and her darker
hair, poor soul, now."

The Professor gave a shrug. " I have
talked with five hundred such as he," he
thought. Indeed, most of the people with

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whom Professor Jachimo came in contact,
rejoiced in names that didn't belong to them.
He lived in a " shadowy land, where all things
wear an aspect not their own." Most rogues

Inquisitive Professor ! what business could
it have been of his? May he have been,
perhaps, a man with some engrossing object
of pursuit always before him ? May he have
been a man with a fixed idea, and that fixed
idea the discovery of somebody who bore
a name that didn't beloiig to him, but was
entitled to a name he had never borne?
Who knows?



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Online LibraryGeorge Augustus SalaThe Baddington peerage: who won, and who wore it. A story of the best and the worst society → online text (page 14 of 14)