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use of my Lady paying his bills, and selling her diamonds, and forgiving him? He'll be as bad again next year. The very next chance he has he'll be a cheating of her, and robbing of her; and her money will go to keep a pack of rogues and swindlers—I don't mean you, Captain—you've been a good friend to us enough, bating we wish we'd never set eyes on you."
The Chevalier saw from the words which Mrs. Bonner had let slip regarding the diamonds, that the kind Begum was disposed to relent once more at least, and that there were hopes still for his principal.
"Upon my word, ma'am," he said, with a real feeling of sympathy for Lady Clavering's troubles, and admiration for her untiring good-nature, and with a show of enthusiasm which advanced not a little his graceless patron's cause— "anything you say against Clavering, or Mrs. Bonner here cries out against me, is no better than we deserve, both of us, and it was an unlucky day for you when you 6aw either. He has behaved cruelly to you: and if you were not the most generous and forgiving woman in the world, I know there would be no chance for him. But you can't let the father of your son be a disgraced man, and send little Frank into the world with such a stain upon him. Tie him down; bind him by any promises you like: I vouch for him that he will subscribe them."
"And break 'em," said Mrs. Bonner.
"And keep 'em this time," cried out Strong. "He must keep them. If you could have seen how he wept, ma'am! 'Oh, Strong,' he said to me, 'it's not for myself I feel now: it's for my boy—it's for the best woman in England, whom I have treated basely—I know I have.' He didn't intend to bet upon this race, ma'am—indeed he didn't. He was cheated into it: all the ring was taken in. He thought he might make the bet quite safely, without the least risk. And it will be a lesson to him for all his life long. To see a man cry— Oh, it's dreadful."
"He don't think much of making my dear Missus cry," said Mrs. Bonner—" poor dear soul!—look if he does, Captain."
"If you've the soul of a man, Clavering," Strong said to his principal, when he recounted this scene to him, "you'll keep your promise this time: and, so help me Heaven! if you break word with her, I'll turn against you and tell all."
"What all ?" cried Mr. Francis, to whom his ambassador brought the news back at Short's Hotel, where Strong found the Baronet crying and drinking Curacoa.
"Psha! Do you suppose I am a fool?" burst out Strong. "Do you suppose I could have lived so long in the world, Frank Clavering, without having my eyes about me? You know I have but to speak and you are a beggar to-morrow. And I am not the only man who knows your secret."
"Who else does?" gasped Clavering.
"Old Pendennis does, or I am very much mistaken. He recognised the man the first night he saw him, when he came drunk into your house."
"He knows it, does he?" shrieked out Clavering. "Damn him—kill him."
"You'd like to kill us all, wouldn't you, old boy?" said Strong, with a sneer, puffing his^cigar.
The Baronet dashed his weak hand against his forehead; perhaps the other had interpreted his wish rightly. "Oh, Strong!" he cried, "if I dared, I'd put an end to myself,
for I'm the d est miserable dog in all England. It's that
that makes me so wild and reckless. It's that which makes me take to drink" (and he drank, with a trembling hand, a bumper of his fortifier—the Curacoa), "and to live about with these thieves. I know they're thieves, every one of 'em,
d d thieves. And—and how can I help it ?—and I didn't
know it, you know—and, by Gad, I'm innocent—and until I
saw the d d scoundrel first, I knew no more about it than
the dead—and I'll fly, and I'll go abroad out of the reach of the confounded hells, and I'll bury myself in a forest, by Gad! and hang myself up to a tree—and, oh—I'm the most miserable beggar in all England!" And so with more tears, shrieks, and curses, the impotent wretch vented his grief and deplored his unhappy fate; and in the midst of groans and despair and blasphemy, vowed his miserable repentance.
The honoured proverb which declares that to be an ill wind which blows good to nobody, was verified in the case of Sir Francis Clavering, and another of the occupants of Mr. Strong's chambers in Shepherd's Inn. The man was " good," by a lucky hap, with whom Colonel Altamont made his bet; and on the settling day of the Derby—as Captain Clinker, who was appointed to settle Sir Francis Clavering's book for him (for Lady Clavering, by the advice of Major Pendennis, would not allow the Baronet to liquidate his own money transactions), paid over the notes to the Baronet's many creditors —Colonel Altamont had the satisfaction of receiving the odds of thirty to one in fifties, which he had taken against the winning horse of the day.
Numbers of the Colonel's friends were present on the occasion to congratulate him on his luck—all Altamont's own set and the gents who met in the private parlour of the convivial Wheeler, my host of the "Harlequin's Head," came to witness their comrade's good fortune, and would have liked, with a generous sympathy for success, to share in it« "Now was the time," Tom Diver had suggested to the Colonel, "to have up the specie ship that was sunk in the Gulf of Mexico, with the three hundred and eighty thousand dollars on board, besides bars and doubloons." "The Tredyddlums were very low— to be bought for an old song—never was such an opportunity for buying shares," Mr. Keightley insinuated; and Jack Holt pressed forward his tobacco-smuggling scheme, the audacity of which pleased the Colonel more than any other of the speculations proposed to him. Then of the "Harlequin's Head" boys: there was Jack Backstraw, who knew of a pair of horses which the Colonel must buy; Tom Fleet, whose satirical paper, The Swell, wanted but two hundred pounds of capital to be worth a thousand a year to any man—" with such a power and influence, Colonel, you rogue, and the entree of all the green-rooms in London," Tom urged; whilst little Moss Abrams entreated the Colonel not to listen to these absurd fellows with their humbugging speculations, but to invest his money in some good bills which Moss could get for him, and which would return him fifty per cent, as safe as the Bank of England.
Each and all of these worthies came round the Colonel with their various blandishments; but he had courage enough to resist them, and to button up his notes in the pocket of his coat, and go home to Strong, and "sport" the outer door of the chambers. Honest Strong had given his fellow-lodger good advice about all his acquaintances; and though, when pressed, he did not mind frankly taking twenty pounds himself out of the Colonel's winnings, Strong was a great deal too upright to let others cheat him.
He was not a bad fellow when in good fortune, this Altamont. He ordered a smart livery for Grady, and made poor old Costigan shed tears of quickly dried gratitude by giving him a five-pound note after a snug dinner at the Back Kitchen, and he bought a green shawl for Mrs. Bolton, and a yellow one for Fanny: the most brilliant "sacrifices" of a Eegent Street haberdasher's window. And a short time after this, upon her birthday, which happened in the month of June, Miss Amory received from "a friend " a parcel containing an enormous brass-inlaid writing-desk, in which there was a set of amethysts, the most hideous eyes ever looked upon,— a musical snuff-box, and two Keepsakes of the year before last, and accompanied with a couple of gown-pieces of the most astounding colours, the receipt of which goods made the Sylphide laugh and wonder immoderately. Now it is a fact that Colonel Altamont had made a purchase of cigars and French silks from some duffers in Fleet Street about this period; and he was found by Strong in the open AuctionEoom in Cheapside, having invested some money in two desks, several pairs of richly-plated candlesticks, a dinner epergne, and a bagatelle-board. The dinner epergne remained at chambers, and figured at the banquets there, which the Colonel gave pretty freely. It seemed beautiful in his eyes, until Jack Holt said it looked as if it had been taken "in a bill." And Jack Holt certainly knew.
The dinners were pretty frequent at chambers, and Sir Francis Clavering condescended to partake of them constantly. His own house was shut up: the successor of Mirobolant, who had sent in his bills so prematurely, was dismissed by the indignant Lady Clavering: the luxuriance of the establishment was greatly pruned and reduced. One of the large footmen was cashiered, upon which the other gave warning, not liking to serve without his mate, or in a family where on'y one footman was kep'. General and severe economical reforms were practised by the Begum in her whole household, in consequence of the extravagance of which her graceless husband had been guilty. The Major was her Ladyship's friend; Strong on the part of poor Clavering; her Ladyship's lawyer, and the honest Begum herself, executed these reforms with promptitude and severity. After paying the Baronet's debts, the settlement of which occasioned considerable public scandal, and caused the Baronet to sink even lower in the world's estimation than he had been before, Lady Clavering quitted London for Tunbridge Wells in high dudgeon, refusing to see her reprobate husband, whom nobody pitied. Clavering remained in London patiently, by no means anxious to meet his wife's just indignation, and sneaked in and out of the House of Commons, whence he and Captain Raff and Mr. Marker would go to have a game at billiards and a cigar: or showed in the sporting public-houses; or he might be seen lurking about Lincoln's Inn and his lawyers', where the principals kept him for hours waiting, and the clerks winked at each other, as he sate in their office. No wonder that he relished the dinners at Shepherd's Inn, and was perfectly resigned there: resigned? he was so happy nowhere else; he was wretched amongst his equals, who scorned him—but here he was the chief guest at the table, where they continually addressed him with "Yes, Sir Francis," and " No, Sir Francis; " where he told his wretched jokes, and where he quavered his dreary little French song, after Strong had sung his jovial chorus, and honest Costigan had piped his Irish ditties. Such a jolly menage as Strong's, with Grady's Irish stew, and the Chevalier's brew of punch after dinner, would have been welcome to many a better man than Clavering, the solitude of whose great house at home frightened him, where he was attended only by the old woman who kept the house, and his valet who sneered at him.