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return to us-or find out the reason. But don't-don't hurt his pride, or let him think
“I understand ; leave it to me."
“She is not well, and is nervous always that this is certain -_"
“I understand," he said again. “You will find me a willing and clever ambassador. Leave it to me. I am just going to the train, and shall be home late to-night.”
At Bindley that morning there was quite a clatter of delighted talk and congratulation. Bindley had, indeed, up to this time been a kind of old-fashioned house—“behind the time," and with a bad name through the country, as being the most stupid place going; and this gala was a sort of surprise and delight. This feeling was duly quickened by the indefatigable Woods, who had been, as it were, in the saddle for four and twenty hours. They were like the man in the French theatre, who gets up the claque for his wife, appears on the first tier at the back of a box, with an obstreperous “ Bravo !” and a vigorous fusilade of clapping, then hurries away higher, and repeats his applause. It was impossible to resist the zeal of the Woods; and every one was convinced that this had been an almost national success, and should be in the Times.
Mr. Talbot came down from, and in, the seventh heaven. Already the humdrums of domestic life—the poor rusticity of the women--seemed very tedious and fretting. People ought to take a larger and wholesome view. He seemed to regard them more as a statesman might a nursery and its little commotions, such as Master Jackey's having stolen a pot of jam. But what came back on him oftenest was that true speech of his friend, Mrs. Labouchere, whose kindness and encouragement he should never forget. A generous, clever woman : clever, because she had seized on his true character; generous, because she had the magnanimity to forget the past. It is surprising once a bad step has been taken, how the next impulse is not to palliate its effect, but, with a sort of desperation, to widen the breach. The feeling is, in vulgar phrase, “In for a penny, in for a pound;” and so the Beauty, shutting his eyes, as it were, found it impossible to resist the sweet pressure put upon him, and thought it best to leave things as they were. “ Time enough tomorrow to write to them.'” For, alas ! such was the shape they were taking for him-a sort of “party,” “they," those who were keeping him down in obscurity.
It was a sunshiny winter's morning, and these thoughts came floating on him as he sat in the church, with the whole distinguished party
from Bindley. Did he fancy that the soft glances of the young girls were stealing over the edges of their books to have a secret gaze at the hero of last night? He felt as if it was his home. When he returned he found his way to the “concert hall,” still in the pleasant disorder of last night-chairs disarranged, bills strewn about, music all scattered. There was where he stood and sang. Someone fluttering by stopped and looked in.
“ It was a very pleasant night-something to think of,” said sheit was Mrs. Labouchere.
He answered, with enthusiasm,"O, was it not charming ?”
“But you must stay for Wednesday. There is to be a new programme. You will have to practise. Will you be once more advised by me? Though, indeed, I have no reason to advise. I daresay you think poorly of me for being so forgetful.”
“How ?” he asked. “O, Mrs. Talbot !"
“I have lost my poor husband : she had nearly made me lose him once before. Did she ever tell you the device which she used to shipwreck my happiness ? Not likely, I should think.”
“No, indeed," said the Beauty, looking at her with interest; “but we must forget all that. We must be very intimate in future. Leave it to me. She is very sensible; or even if she is not inclined, you and I are great friends. O yes, we must see a great deal of you."
“O, we must, must we? Are you certain of that ? Take care you are not going beyond your powers. You know you can only speak for one; and as for me, she has reasons for not liking me. She cannot easily forget that, and she will not let you forget it. You must obey, Mr. Talbot.”
She left him with a sort of scornful smile. The Beauty, much put out, determined he would not write that day.
In the evening, just before dinner, a carriage drove up, and his lordship came to look for Mr. Hardman.
“Mr. Hardman,"—O, that he would say • Hardman !” but never would—“your son has come with some papers, and wishes to see you. He seems a nice young fellow. I have asked him to dine with us."
“O dear, no, my lord, no need,” said the other, never relishing the distribution of common blessings to his own family; a protest of which his host took no notice. The father and son met and transacted the business.
Here, you,” said the father, “ you need not be hanging on here. You can't stay on that sort of invitation.”
“But he has made it such a point, father--and I have agreed.”
“Overrunning the place in this way! Better send for all the servants, and quarter my family here at once."
There was other business, too, the youth would like to have introduced, but he saw that the humour his father was in would not admit of it. However, this was a reason to make him yield to what was wished.
He at once sought Mr. Talbot, and found him at the piano by himself “composing." A brilliant idea had struck him : he would like to put it into shape. How charming would it be to have an entirely new song, “composed for the occasion "—and again, “words selected by Mrs. Labouchere ”—the whole “respectfully inscribed to the Lord Bindley.” He was in a fever till he put it in execution. What a surprise and delight for the crowd! Mrs. Labouchere, in her languid, contemptuous way, did select : that is, took down one of the old rose-silk-bound annuals for which our grandfathers paid their guinea cheerfully—“Amulet," "Charm," “ Bijou," and the restand laid her finger at random on one of Milkton Monsey's lyricsthen, alas ! a curly-headed darling, writing with a jewelled pen,
“Yes, his was love sincere and true.”
Young Hardman approached him with an almost tender reverence. He saw him now in quite a different light. He was awe-stricken at the important labours of his future father.
“O, how d’ye do ?” the Beauty said, fretfully. “Beg pardon, I must finish this phrase.” And he wrote it down on the music paper, first trying the chords. This was the Beauty's fashion of com. position. “I saw them," said the young man, nervously, “ this morning.”
They ?-who? O, yes," said the Beauty, turning to his music paper.
" They were so dreadfully disappointed yesterday; and they had such a splendid present waiting. Miss Olivia saved up her money."
“O, it couldn't be," said the other; “out of the question. One has duties to one's host. They can't understand the thing. One must give and take.”
“Ah, yes, to be sure. But, now, Mr. Talbot, I can go back and tell them you shall be home to-morrow."
“Indeed you cannot. Never was any one so worried. There is another concert on Wednesday, and I must wait.”
“O, you could not! They will be so hurt. I know she will be so anxious-and you promised them, and it will look so like a slight.
You love them, as I know, and would not wound them. I assure you Mrs. Talbot feels very acutely, and," added young Mr. Hardman, artfully, seeing the other's hesitation, “I don't know what she may do."
A vision rose before the alarmed Beauty of her driving up to fetch him. In that case he knew he could make no resistance : not all the Mrs. Laboucheres and Lord Bindleys in the world could save him. But then came the vision of the delightful and entrancing night to be repeated. It was too seductive, and he could not give it up. It was unfair, unreasonable to ask him. He said, suddenly,–
“O, I can't do it, really; and I am glad you have come, as you will see yourself how things stand here. Ladies can't understand. I'm really not a child, to come back to the day and hour, and all that sort of thing. So tell them, please, I'll be back on Thursday. And see here, now, Hardman, you are a reasonable fellow, and see that the thing can't be done-don't you?”
It was a temptation for the young man. A little adhesion here would have forwarded his interests. But he answered,
“Of course, I have no business to interfere ; but I do think they will be much hurt if you do not go back.”
Going out to see after his carriage, he met Lord Bindley. That nobleman, who thought him a cheerful, pleasant fellow, and a strange contrast to his father, took him to show him the place. Towards dinner time, when the young fellow had gone, his lordship was heard asking for “ Talbot.” Aide-de-camp Wood found him speedily. “See here, Talbot,” said his lordship, “we must try and get on
It isn't fair to keep you here, and it mustn't be.” The Beauty was so confounded that he knew not what to answer.
“Mustn't be,” he repeated. “Yes, we must turn you out-send you home to Mrs. Talbot. I'm not about to come between man and wife. And, indeed, if I had known, I shouldn't have kept you even for the other night.”
The Beauty was a gentleman born and bred, and with all his folly had a certain tact.
“By all means, Lord Bindley, since you wish. I was only staying to help your concert. I shall go to-morrow.”
“O, I don't mean that, my dear Talbot, and we are all so much obliged to you. But I think, you know, it would be better on the whole. A great disappointment to us all."
Lord Bindley was himself rather a weak nobleman, as, indeed, his violent taking up of that music might imply. That evening Mrs. Labouchere came to him. “My dear lord,” she said ; “ what is this we hear? You are letting our Beauty go."
"O yes,” said he, with mystery, “it is quite proper, and all that. You see, his wife does not quite like it, and he has been playing truant. It is not right, you know, to keep a husband from his wife.”
“Out of France. Yes. But the poor concert. What a fiasco !"
"A fiasco, eh? No. We shall do famously. Mendelssohn Jackson says he knows of another tenor, far better."
“Of course, a thousand far better. By-the-way, I suppose it was that boy who came with the story; he is in love with our Beauty's daughter. Now, don't you see, my lord? Wheels within wheels. He knew what he was about, that artless, ingenuous youth.”
Even the hint of being taken in is not agreeable. Lord Bindley was put out.
“ Then the concert," she went on; “it is most unfortunate. The country people, the second relay who are coming, will, of course, have the notion that they were to hear a prodigy—a human dying swan-a Rubini for nothing. Their disappointment will be great. He has a nice voice ; but they will magnify him."
His lordship looked irresolute. “It is very annoying and provoking," he said.
Mrs. Labouchere went on.
“He is dying to stay. It is rather absurd the poor creature cannot amuse himself for two or three days, and in this harmless way. It is all very innocent. Bindley will not corrupt him."
Lord Bindley laughed. The other was but a spasmodic emotion; he was sorry afterwards, that he had given way to it. The concert, in his mind, had assumed the dimensions of something grand, and even exhibition-like. The cares of dinner then supervened. After that meal had been transacted, he came up to her and said, “I have a little plan of my own. We shall keep Talbot, and make him sing at the concert."
The lady wondered. Lord Bindley was not accounted a very bright nobleman. This was probably what the Americans would call some foolish scare," and she dismissed it. The Beauty was very gloomy and depressed all that night, as if ordered for execution. His dream was over, his happy furlough gone for ever. oppressed and ill-treated. He was under sentence, as it were. Lord Bindley had always made it a point to be ecclesiastical when he had company, and read prayers on Sunday mellifluously, as though he had been ordained. He took the Beauty aside after these evening offices, and said:
“My dear Talbot, I hope you will stay with us. I make it a point. I tell you what, I am going up to town to
morrow, and shall take