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been much debated ; we know what a certain
statesman thought of it — but then he was very
bitter against every species of occupation that was
not "improving/^ Musical people, of course, like
to hear the piano going — if the performer under-
stands her art — and there are a number of other
persons who like to be thought musical, even if
they are not, who hold their fingers up, and
whisper '^ Hush ! '' during the performance, and
when it is over exclaim, " Oh, thaiik you ; '^ as if
the notes had been five-pound ones, and they had
pocketed them all. Nor do the rest of the com-
pany much mind it, if the pieces played are not
too long. Old gentlemen will go on with their
gossip much as usual, and old ladies will keep
time with their heads quite cleverly, until they



JOB'S COMFORTER. 123

drop asleep, to be presently awakened by tlie
sudden silence. But if there are any present with
a hidden care, it is curious how often their secret
is disclosed by a few bars of music. They can
no longer laugh or talk, but are left the prey of
the anxiety within, and it comes out in the ex-
pression of their face, and in their very posture.
Those earnest lines —

Dear frieud, whom, grave or gay, we seek,

Heaveu-liolding shrine,
I ope thee, touch thee, hear thee speak,

Aud peace is niiue —

were addressed to his piano^ by a true lover of it ;
and such persons, even when dejected, may be
soothed by its sweet tones ; but that is not the
case with those who have no particular taste for
music. It makes their sad thoughts more gloomy,
while it takes away from them the opportunities
of dissruise. From John Dalton's face the smile
has fallen away like a dropped mask, as he leans
an elbow on the mantelpiece, and listens, or seems
to listen, in the drawing-room at Riverside, to his
daughter's singing. Kitty has a fine voice, which
goes a great way up, and comes a long way down,
and goes on without stopping for breath almost as
long as a camel can go without water. Mr. Holt,
who is turning over her leaves, finds that post no



124 FALLEN- FORTUNES.

sinecure, and being utterly ignorant of music, is
never quite sure wlien slie lias reached the bottom,
of tlie page. Moreover, lie cannot keep liis eyes
from wandering to that statuesque figure by the
fireplace, that looks so cast down even now —
when it has not yet heard the worst, nor even
half the worst, that must needs be told to-night.
Others in the room have their troubles : Jeff,
pretending to be immersed in a book, is frowning
over the top of it at Mr. Holt, who must, he
thinks, be an idiot not to see when a young lady
would rather turn over her leaves for herself ; and
Tony, only enduring the music as a lesser evil
than going to bed, which, as he is well aware,
would be the alternative. The windows are open,
and he would gladly be in the open air, but the
rain is falling, as it often does at Eiverside, so
that that avenue of escape is barred. Mr. Camp-
den has fallen asleep, which is foolish of him, as
he will be all the more wakeful when the time
arrives for his curtain -lecture, when all the wicked-
ness of his afternoon^s expedition will be expatiated
upon over again ; but the rest of the company are
enthralled by the melody. Jenny is lying on the
sofa with her eyes closed, in silent ecstasy, for the
voice and the instrument are both perfection in
their way ; Mrs. Campden and Mary give still



JOB'S COMFORTER. 125

more demonstrative signs of approval; and Mrs.
Dalton has yet an added bliss as tlie motlier of
tlie singer. Every now and tlien, however^ slie
steals a glance at lier liusband_, and then that
look of maternal triumph fades away.

'^ John^ dear, you must, be very tired/^ she
says tenderly, when the little concert is over and
the ladies are retreating : " I hope you will not
have more than one cisfar to-nio:ht.''^

" I had some sleep in the train, and feel dread-
fully lively," he answers, brightening up; "and I
have got some business to discuss with Holt, so I
am afraid I shall not be very early; be sure you
don^t sit up for me, darling.''''

" George," says Mrs. Campden, " you hear that
Mr. Dalton and Mr. Holt have private affairs to
talk about, so that there is no excuse for you
spending half the night in the smoking-room. I
am astonished at your permitting Geoffrey to ac-
company you to such a place at all."

'' I do it as a warning," answers the host ;
*' that he may observe for himself thus early the
pernicious effects of tobacco."

''It is easy to joke upon all subjects; but you
are giving him a taste which is deleterious in itself,
and which in after-lifo he will not be in a position
to gratify."



126 FALLEN FORTUNES.

"Mj dear, lie lias got it already/^ replies Mr.
Campden,, as lie troops off with the other males to
the divan.

Under the apprehension of punishment, Uncle
G-eorge would sometimes break into what those
who did not know him would deem next kin to
rebellion, but which was, in fact, only that state
of wildness which prompts a man in for a penny
to go in for a pound. There was still a cigar —
which habit would enable him to enjoy — between
him and the curtain-lecture.

The smoking-room at Riverside was a model of
what such a place should be ; it was on the upper
floor, yet not so high up as to inconvenience those
of mature age and impaired digestion who sought
it after dinner ; its windows commanded a glorious
view of hill and river, when to look out was
pleasurable ; and when snugness and warmth were
desirable, it possessed every element of comfort.
It had lounging- chairs, rocking-chairs, conversation-
chairs ; and three sides of the room were lined with
books, bound with great elegance, but all of small
bulk, so as to be easily held in the hand. It was'
said by Mr. Campden^s detractors that his uphol-
sterer had supplied these books with the rest of the
fittings; but that was of small consequence, if he
had not written them ; they were, at all events.



JOB'S GOMFORTEB. 127

far better cliosen than what we find on the book-
shelves of most smoking-rooms, which are but too
often the " Sporting Review/^ in fifty volumes,, and
the old "Gentleman^s Magazine." There was a
sunlight in the ceiling, for use on winter-nights ; but
at present the apartment was lit by shaded lamps,
placed on small round tables.

" Well, as these two gentlemen want to talk busi-
ness, Jeff," said Mr. Campden, as they all lit their
cigars, " you and I will have a turn at billiards."

The billiard-room and the smoking-room com-
municated with one another by double doors, one
of which was of green baize, and through these the
host and his young friend at once disappeared,
leaving Holt and Dalton together. They sat down
opposite to one another, at a table by the open
window, with their legs stretched out before them,
and their coffee by their side ; to all appearance, a
very cosy couple. In front of them rose the crags
of Bleabarrow, just silvered by the rising moon.
For a minute or two nothing broke the silence save
the babble of the river, and the dull and almost
noiseless click of the balls in the next room ; both
men^s faces lay in shadow, but it could be seen
that Dalton was gazing on the scene without, while
Holt^s elbow leaned on the table, and his eyes were
shaded by his hand.



128 FALLBK FORTUNES.

'^ This Bampton business is a devilisb. awkward
one for me^, Holt/^

"Yes, indeed/'

" I fear it will have a bad effect with some of the
doubtful ones. It was so important to appear to
be important just at this crisis. And I spoke so
confidently about the matter at the Board.'''

'^ You had a right to feel confident.''

" Of course I had. If a score of those fellows
had not turned out to be the greatest liars upon
earth — Jenkins and Fuller, for example, voted dead
against me, though I had their written promise. I
have got evidence against Griggs with respect to
Fuller. There never was a clearer case of bribery
in this world."

" You are not thinking of a petition, however,
are you ? "

" Well, no ; that would, under the circumstances,
be sending good money after bad."

" If you unseated Griggs, they would have a shot
at you, you mean ? "

" Perhaps ; though I don't think they would hit
me ; but the fact is, I have got no money to petition
with.''

" The thing stood you in more than you expected,
then ? "

" My good sir, it cost me twice as much — three



JOB'S GOMFOBTEB. 129

times. When it came to the last pinch, neither of
us cared how deeply we were dipped. It was
like being 'pricked' at whist. I could not have
imagined that there was such an excitement in the
thing."

" Many a great family has been crippled for
generations, my dear Dalton, at the same game."

" That is no sort of consolation to me."

" Of course not ; I only meant that you showed
no unusual weakness in putting the pot on ; that
you have nothing, in fact, to reproach yourself
with."

'^ By heavens ! but I have, Holt. It was not
ambition, it is true, that sent me down to Bampton,
but it was a piece of business of a very speculative
kind. I feel that now, when the thing has gone
the wrong way, I do assure you. Mind, I don't
blame you, but I ought never to have risked it."

" Indeed, my dear Dalton, you should not blame
me : my ideas, as you know, by no means coin-
cided with yours upon the matter."

A short sharp laugh broke from Dalton's lips.
" You are not going to say that you always advised
me not to go to Bampton, and prophesied what
would come of it, are you ? "

"Not at all, my good friend. But I protest
against being considered the cause of your calam-

VOL. I. K



130 FALLEN FORTUNES.

ity. For my part, I thouglit your election a cer-
tainty^ and, considering yonr position and prospects,
well worth any reasonable sum. Voila tout.''

'^ Let^s stick to plain ' Englisli/ " answered
Dalton, sharply, " wMcli anybody can perceive is
your mother-tongue."

Mr. Holt's pronunciation of the French language
was imperfect, and the way he threw his hands out
in deprecation of his friend's remarks was certainly
not a good imitation of continental " action ; " but
the reproof seemed unnecessarily severe.

" It is plain that you are out of temper, Dalton,
and therefore unfit to discuss business matters, else
I had something serious to say to you.''

" That is, you have some bad news to com-
municate."

" I am sorry to say I have."

''Well, spare me it to-night, at all events. I
beg your pardon, Holt, if I said anything offensive ;
but the fact is, I hardly know what I say. When
I think of what this infernal election will cost me —
close upon four thousand pounds."

'' What I " exclaimed the other, in horrified
accents.

" Not a penny less, upon my honour ! I say,
when I think of the money I have thus flung away
for nothing, and ivliose money, I feel as though I



JOB'S COMFOBTEB. 131

could blow my brains out — that is, if I have any
brains, which, after such a piece of folly, may
well be doubted. I felt ashamed, when I came
back to-night, to look my own wife and children
in the face/^

"Yet, you were doing what you thought the
best you could for them/^

" No, I wasn't,^^ answered the other, impetuously.
" I was gambling with the money I had stolen from
them, in hopes to get it back again ; just as the
shop -boy does who robs his master's till ; and then,
to make restitution, goes to a betting-office and
backs the loser /^

" Nay, nay ; you stole nothing, and have robbed
nobody, Dalton ; so much, at least, you may comfort
yourself with, under all circumstances. What you
have done was, at worst, an error in judgment.^^

" An error that will bring down those belonging
to me, however,^ ^ went on the other, vehemently,
" fi'om competence, to what, by contrast, they will
feel as poverty. What a dolt, what an idiot, I have
been! To imagine that I was fitted to become a
Leviathan of the City ; that I could make a colossal
fortune by mere wits and common honesty ! ''

"You have been honest enough, Dalton," an-
swered the other, drily ; " and that, as I say, should
always be a comfort to you."

E 2



132 FALLEN FORTUNES.

" Comfort ! How can you talk sucli stuff as that,
when I tell you what has happened. You have
no ties^ no responsibility of your own, or you could
not do it. I tell you, when I have paid this
Bampton bill, I shall have frittered away, from first
to last, three-quarters of my fortune — nay of my
children's fortune. I don't know what your bad
news is, though I suppose it is more trouble about
the Board ; and if I lose my directorship — which
with this fiasco at Bampton, is more than likely
— -I have only one good horse left out of the whole-
string — the Lara. I snatched a look at the paper
yesterday, and found the shares steadily rising.
If that goes on, I may still recoup myself. I am
bound to say you did show good judgment they-e,-
Holt.^^

" To buy, and then to sell out ; that is what I
did."

" I did not know you had sold out ; but, at all
events, you must have made a pretty penny."

"Dalton," said the other gravely, "my bad
news is about the mine.-''

'' The mine ! " exclaimed the other, starting from
his seat, and turning deadly pale. " The Lara f
You don't mean to tell me that anything has
happened to tliat?'^

'^I got this from my clerk this morning," replied



JOB'S COMFORTER. 133

Holt, producing one of tlie little notes, with the
contents of which we are already acquainted, from,
his pocket. ^' Of course, things may not be so bad
as they seem/'

'^Dalton snatched the slip of paper from his
hand, and read aloud: ''Mem. — BrooJcs has cabled
as follows : ' Sell Lavas ; ivhole concern a ])lant.' ^'

" Brooks ! Who is Brooks ? ''

" He is the local agent at St. Jose. The news
is but too true, I fear. Brand is very careful.' '

" Good heavens ! you talk as if I had but fifteen
pounds at stake, instead of fifteen thousand. A
plant ? That means a swindle. Did you hnoiu it
was a swindle, sir ? ''

"I will not answer such a question, Dalton. I
can make every allowance for your excitement,
but I will not submit to insult. I believed in the
mine as much as you yourself did, up to six hours
ago ; and I had at one time almost as much money
in it as you had. I always warned you to be con-
tent with a good premium, and to realise.''

Dalton did not appear to hear him, but kept his
gaze still fixed upon the memorandum, with its
few fatal words. ''Sell Lavas. What does the
man mean by that ? How can I sell them when I
know the scrip is but blank paper ?"

" Just so ; and especially when everybody else



134 FALLEN FORTUNES.

knows it. But Brooks is Brazil bred, and has a
Brazilian standard of commercial life. It is too
late,, of course^ to do anything of the sort, even
if you would. There have been other telegrams
besides this man^s. I read in the City article of
The Times — it lay within your reach in the drawing-
room to-night, and I trembled lest you should have
cast your eye upon it — that the shares had become
unquotable.^^

"Fifteen thousand pounds/^ groaned the un-
happy Dalton j "and four thousand this week ! Grood
heavens ! they will have nothing to live upon —
my poor, poor darlings ! ^^ It was strange to see
how the loss had stricken him. The lines in his
face seemed to have already deepened, and of the
gay dehonnaire expression that had so characterised
his features, there was nothing left. Holt, too,
was by no means unmoved. His face had paled,
and if there was no pity in his eyes, that may
have been through their incapacity of expression ;
his tones had pity in them as he replied : " They
have a friend in me^ Dalton, please to remember —
if I may venture to say as much. Whatever I can
do ^'

At this moment there was a knock at the
billiard-room door, evidently administered with



JOB'S COMFOBTEPi. 13:



the butt-end of a cue; and Mr. Gampden^s voice
was heard bidding them good-night.

" I won't disturb your confab ; but Vm. off," he
said, rather higubriously, for the time had come
when he must needs suffer avenging fires for the
transgressions of the day.

Dalton waved his hand impatiently ; and Holt,
understanding the gesture, answered for him,
" Good-night .'' He waited a little for his com-
panion's acknowledgment of his offer of friendly
aid, but since the other did not speak, he again
addressed him : " What I wished to say to you,
Dalton, is, that I am a rich man. I got ' a pretty
penny,' as you have suggested, by selling out of
the Lara, as I wish from my heart that you had
done ; and my purse was tolerably well-lined before.
I beg to offer it — to any reasonable extent — at your

disposal ; to assist you, and those dear to you

Nay, I mean no offence "

" There is offence," exclaimed Dalton, vehe-
mently. '^Everything from you is ail offence just
now. One thing only you can do — this moment —
for which I will thank you."

" Consider it as already done ; what is it ?"

"Leave me."

" Holt rose at once. " You will shake hands.



136 FALLEN FORTUNES.

Dalton, at least. Tliougli things liave gone wrong
with you it is not my fault/^

Dalton neither moved nor spoke ; but his eyes
still fixed upon the crags without, looked fierce and
hard.

" You will think better of this as regards myself
to-morrow_, old fellow ; I make every allowance for
your feeling sore with everybody at this moment,
even with a true friend.^^

He threw a sharp glance round the room — the
tables, the mantelpiece, the very book-shelves were
all swept by it. " Thank goodness, there are no
knives about,^^ he murmured; then softly closed
the door, and left the ruined man to his own
thoughts.



CHAPTER IX.



WORMWOOD.



For many minutes after liis companion liad left
the room, John Dalton sat in the same posture^
his hands lying idly before him, and his mind
busy with the past. He had been a fortunate man
all his life — so his friends said ; and up to within a
year or two he had had no reason to disbelieve
them. He had always had enough for his needs,
and for the needs of those he loved, and these
had not been of a simple kind. He had never
been ostentatious, but he had mingled with the
best society, without any outward sign of inferiority
as regarded means, while in other respects he
had stood high in it. His company had been
always sought for, but not as that of a mere
raconteur and dinner -wit, though he had the
name of being such; he had been invited every-
where on equal terms. In such a circle he had
had, of course, no reputation for wealth, but his cir-



138 FALLEN FORTUNES.

cumstances had been more than easy; lie liad had
no lack of servants and carriages ; and if his home
entertainments had not been upon so splendid a
scale as that of most of his acquaintances, they
had been sought after for their intrinsic goodness,
as much as for the genial reputation of the host.
Mrs. Dalton possessed tact, in addition to much
better qualities; and though caring nothing for
such matters herself, had looked after the little
dinners in Cardigan Place with her own eyes,
because she saw that her husband wished them
to be perfect. She had been an ^^ excellent
manager" — but by no means in the sense used
by the compilers of cheap cookery-books. She
had taken care in the first place that things
should be good — the best of their kind ; and after
that — but at a great distance — had made provision
for economy. Her girls had been brought up
sensibly, for the sphere in which they moved,
but in a manner which by no means fitted them
to endure poverty ; and it was poverty — and worse
than poverty, ruin — which their father had brought
upon them. Of course he had not thought such a
catastrophe possible when he had commenced his
speculative career; he would not even have ad-
mitted that he was plunging into speculation ; all
had looked safe and smooth ; nothing had seemed



W0B3IW00D. 13&



to be wanting but a little happy audacity to place

a man of liis ability and connections in the very

first rank of '^ business men/^ He had always

despised the class so termed, finding them, as he

generally did, so much slower, duller, and more

ignorant — except upon one or two special subjects,

such as a man of quick intelligence could master

in a week — than himself ; and his failure would

have been galling to him, had there not been a score

of other and more cogent reasons for his bitterness

of spirit. As it was, the injury to his amour ^ropre

was not felt at all, in the agony of his deeper

wounds. His pride — and John Dalton, though such

'^ good company," and " hail fellow, well met^' with

all degrees of men and women, was a very proud

man — was, indeed, humbled to the dust ; but that

was nothing in comparison with the humiliation he

had wrought with those whom — to do him justice

— he had ever loved better than himself. What

would now become of his wife and children ? was

the question which beat importunately at the

door of his brain, but which for the moment he

was shutting out by reminiscences of the past,

hardly less bitter. When and how was it, reflected

he, that he had first been tempted to leave his

former mode of life, and to embark upon this sea

of troubles ? As to who had been his tempter, he



140 FALLEN FORTUNES.

liad no doubt ; but wliere bad be first encountered
bmi ? It was at a dinner to wbicb be bad been
invited by a bacbelor friend — a Guardsman — at
Greenwicb. Tbe company bad been mostly younger
tban bimself, as was often tbe case, for bis wit
and animal spirits recommended bim to tbe young ;
and tbe only one present wbo was bis senior,
or ratber bad appeared to be so, bad been Ricbard
Holt. Tbis man, it was evident, was not of tbe
same class as tbe rest ; and beyond a passing
tbougbt of bow tbe deuce be got tbere, Dalton
would probably not bave troubled bimself about
bim, but for a circumstance tbat took place after
dinner. One of tbe guests, a young man of title,
bad drunk ratber too freely, and over an argument,
in wbicb be was clearly in tbe wrong, witb Holt,
used some contemptuous expression, reflecting upon
bis calling as a stockbroker.

Holt bebaved very well, putting mucb apparent
restraint upon bimself, for bis best's sake; and
Dalton, always generous and impulsive, bad taken
up tbe cudgels for bim, and silenced bis assailant.

"You bave made a friend of tbe best fellow in
England to belp you out of a scrape,^' wbispered
bis entertainer, wben tbe party was breaking up ;
but as Dalton was not in tbe babit of getting into
tbe sort of difficulties to wbicb be knew tbe btber



WORMWOOD. 14.1



alluded, lie saw no reason to congratulate himself
upon the alliance. However, during tlieir drive
home on the drag, it so happened that he found
himself next the stranger, and a good deal of con-
versation took place between them. The topic,
which Dalton himself had introduced in order to
put the other at his ease, was commercial affairs,
with which Holt showed himself thoroughly ac-
quainted. He spoke of his own misfortune in
having been all his life connected with them, which
had produced his wealth, without the power of
enjoying it in the way he desired. ^' I find myself
cut off from society, except that of such young
gentlemen as these," said he, " who make use of my
services without permitting me to pretend to their
friendship." He spoke with a certain mixture of
pride and humility which prepossessed the other
in his favour ; while his references to City matters
inflamed Dalton' s ambition with that idea of ^^ grow-
ing rich beyond the dreams of avarice," from which
much better-balanced minds are not altogether
free.

"With your manners and your connections,
!Mr. Dalton, success would indeed be easy," Holt
had answered, when sounded on this point : " such an
address as yours, if you will permit me to say so''
(a favourite expression of his new friend's), " would



142 FALLEN FORTUNES.



fetcli a very higli price east of Temple Bar; we
are cunning enough^ but witliout the tact tliat
at once persuades and conquers/^ The flattery
was coarse, but, administered after a G-reenwicb
dinner, on the top of a drag, it was not found
fault with ; their acquaintanceship throve apace,
and before they reached town, Dalton discovered
— he never quite knew how — that a certain con-
nection already existed between himself and his
companion, which at once established confidential
relations between them. This bond of union was
that Philip Astor, Dalton^ s half-brother, of whom
we have already spoken. That Astor was not a


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