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“tender passion." Looking at my face, you telling," I reply ; and we trudge a hundred I would never imagine the madcap, illogical yards or so in the direction of our respective things I did at that period of my life. There offices, Brown dinning into my ears the merits is a lot of solemn old fogies who go to town in of that “ capital thing” in which I must take the same omnibus with me every morning ; I shares—ought really to be a director—" The often wonder whether they ever did the wild Patent Traction Steam Omnibus Company, things I was guilty of. Now I detest talking in Limited.” an omnibus—a top-of-the-voice dialogue jolted Brown was bent upon that company, and into falsetto—so I frequently amuse myself with he was always boring me to be a director, meditating upon my fellow-passengers. I know but I was doubtful of the principle. А they fancy I am thinking about Consols or i brougham bound from Grosvenor Place to indigo, and such matters ; but no, I fix my : Hyde Park, poled in the transverse current of thoughts on the face of one of them, perhaps I Knightsbridge by an ordinary omnibus is bad know the man in business, and then I picture enough, but athwart a steam omnibus with its his home life ; there he sits in the omnibus, relentless mechanical propulsion, why, the stately, starched, and grand ; there are clerks brougham would be a crushed bandbox in a and business honours grimly awaiting him in moment—and then, last not least, Brown did the city—I wonder whether he snubs and not succeed in convincing me about dividends ; bullies in the household as he does at his office? so before I did anything I checided to talk the or whether that starched pomposity crumbles matter well over with my great chum, Harry away in the majestic presence of madam, his Smith. wife ?
This friend of mine is a young fellow in I dine with one or two of these men at their whom I take the greatest interest, and whom I houses, not that I particularly care for them or try to push as much as I can in business ; he's they for me ; but it is convenient on both sides in and out of my office half a dozen times to be friendly, so I become somewhat acquain- : a day; we are the greatest friends in the world, ted with their home life, and participate in though there is five-and-thirty years or more their conversation, which is “city” transferred difference in our ages. I may as well say who to the dining and drawing room, interlarded he is : he is the son of the lady I loved so well; on the lady's part with Morning Post fashion. both his parents died long ago. I took a fancy Now, though all this is dull enough, it affords to him before I knew who he was ; he is a food for amusing speculation.
nolle, handsome fellow, with his mother's I meet my host Brown in the omnibus. I blue eyes, light hair, fine complexion, and have known Brown for years ; his conversation delicate features; at some moments he becomes has never varied in subject : it becomes a ques- the very image of her, and then I am obliged tion whether he ever did talk on any other mat- to busy myself with my glasses and the ledgers ter than business ; well, admitting that he did, -but I'm getting stupid !
Well, as I said those matters were doubtless not very edifying, before, we two are very intimate, and always or he would talk about them now; they most confide to one another our different business likely consisted of “ life about town” or sport- plans. I asked him what he thought of ing talk, which were discarded when the youth
He hummed and hawed solidified into the business-man.
and did not know what to advise either way. bability my friend did not marry until he Come,”
,” said I, “ to please Brown, I'll take became a business-man, and I am forced into , five-and-twenty shares; no great loss if the thing a curious inquiry as to what he talked about does not pay; but mind you dou’t speculate in when he was courting. It is always held that it, Harry.” love gives a poetic colouring to life, but then “I have taken twenty-five shares myself," the elements in my friend's mind for love to he answered. work upon must have been so very meagre ; " What on earth for ?—you haven't yet nevertheless I fall to and try to construct a love made up your mind whether it is a good thing conversation based upou Consols and shares, exports and imports, indigo, and light French “Why, you sec, Brown asked me.” goods.
“Fiddlesticks! Brown ought to be ashamed I fall into a sort of day-dream over this of himself, leading you into doubtful specuidea, which the conductor at last destroys by lations. I'll take your shares instead of buying the magic word “Bank," and I laugh as I myself.” fumble for the sixpence.
“ But I don't like to sell ; Brown will “What's the joke ?” asks Brown, with his thinksolemn face.
I was rather puzzled to discover why Harry “A bit of nonsense that won't bear the should care so much for Brown; but I hit the i
In all pro
truth at last-Harry was in love with Miss speak much as we drove along. I recollect Fanny Brown.
thinking that Brown ought to be proud of such “My boy,” said I, “I fear this is an uphill a son-in-law. business ; Brown is such an infernally purse- I know that I was very nervous when we proud fellow, he'll never think you rich arrived at Brown's, and I fancy Harry was also. enough.”
There was a look of greater display about the “ Fanny has given her promise to me.” house than a “ family dinner required, for
“ Well, Harry, we'll do our best in the although Brown is as rich as Cresus, he is an affair. Just step round to Brown's office, say essentially mean man, and never makes a I'm too busy to come myself, tell him to put display unless it is advantageous to do so. me down as a director, and say I'll take a Mrs. Brown was in the drawing-room, and hundred shares in the omnibus company." received us with cold stateliness. Her dress
Harry pressed my hand very hard and was a magnificent triumph of cost over taste, hurried off.
and her manner told me in a moment that she “Poor boy," I thought to myself. “I trust had never intended us to be invited. Presently it is not a very serious business; I know Brown in caine Brown and his daughter. Brown was will never let him have his daughter."
very cordial in his manner, only I could see In a quarter of an hour, Harry burst with he did not mean it; he was profusely polite to glce into my office ; Father,"
,” said he,-he Harry, engaging him in eager conversation, sometimes calls me father—“Brown is so which prevented Harry from more than saying pleased ; he's asked us to dine with him to- “How d’ye do?" to Fanny, who sat some way morrow, quite in a friendly way, to talk over apart. She really is a very pretty girl, a the company. I was to be sure and tell you it charming figure, dark hair, dark pensive eyes, was only a family dinner.”
a nose delicately retroussé-I wish I could “We will go by all means, Harry."
describe faces; I can't, I can only say it was a “ You dear good friend !” said he, clasping face that went to your heart and stopped there my haud, “I must tell you all about it.” -the red roses twined in that dark hair, and
“ But I'm very busy, my boy.” I might the misty white dress, it was a pretty sight, as well have tried to stop an express train with even to my old eyes—it must have driven my hands.
Harry half wild to have to listen to this and It was the old story ; fresh and new to that
." instead of talking to her. I enHarry as the words fell from his fluent lips. deavoured to rescue him, but Mrs. Brown kept Bless the lad! he thought his love tale, his me engaged in conversation. experiences, were quite novel, that mortal had Presently, bang bang bang bang! at the never uttered the like before--it was just as if house door. some one were telling me my own love story, In a moment Mrs. Brown's stately aspect word for word, with the names changed. A forsook her, she grew very nervous, and Brown young man with next to nothing had fallen fidgeted about the room in an anxious manner. deeply in love with the daughter of rich parents The Honourable Mrs. Denby and Mr. Denby -they two had sworn eternal fidelity. How were announced. Harry clung to that pledge ! He knew she They appeared to be mother and son, and would be true to him! I looked up at his face, were evidently people of great account, Mr. I saw how hopeful and confident he was-well- and Mrs. Brown being so wonderfully defea-day, years ago I too had been very hopeful, rential in their greeting. I could see Mr. very confident, but
Denby's well-bred lip curl beneath the over“Why, father,” he exclaimed, “how weak whelming attentions of Mrs. Brown ; as for your eyes are.
Brown himself, his head was totally lost-he “ They are not so young as they were, introduced us under wrong names, talked Harry," I replied, glad of the excuse ; “I wildly and at random about the weather, and don't think these glasses quite suit me. So, at last subsided into hopeless silence on a my boy, you haven't said anything to Brown spider chair. yet ?”
Mrs. Denby's easy manner lulled the assi“Why, I haven't had a good opportunity, duities of Mrs. Brown, and they sat confidenbut perhaps to-morrow night,” he answered, tially talking on a sofa, whence the murmur of hesitatingly.
a conversation fell on my ears which was It was agreed that Harry should call for me studded with rich words—“Lord, Lady, Earl, at my little bachelor box at Bayswater, and Countess, Duke, Duchess, Court, Queen, that we should go together to Brown's. He feathers, trains, diamonds, carriages, Morning came at the appointed moment; the fellow Post." never looked handsomer in his life; we did not As for that fellow Denby, I took a dislike
to the man at once ; there was a supercilious- attack upon the Danish question, and went ness about him that greatly annoyed me. from thence to diplomacy in general; at last I
Dinner was announced; Brown's head was observed that he began to listen to me with off again.
attention. My opinions are adverse to our To my astonishment I was thrust halfway present system of diplomacy, and I expressed towards the door with Mrs. Denby on my arm; them freely; my sarcastic strictures appeared Harry in the scramble had got hold of Fanny; to amuse Mr. Denby, when suddenly, to my when a false start was declared, the order of surprise, Brown bridled up fiercely in favour the company was changed, and Fanny was of the present system, and in a somewhat assigned to Denby.
hectoring mavner tried to controvert all I said. “ Treat you quite in a friendly way !” said Brown quite puzzled me. I recollected, when Brown, pompously, addressing the company he belonged to the Administrative Reform generally. I was out of patience to hear the Association, that the inefficiency of our diplotalk such nonsense.
a most macy was his pet poiut, but the secret came elaborate dinner ; the table was arranged with out on my appealing to Mr. Denby for his ware of the Copeland or Minton order, charming support. fancies, delicately modelled, crowned with “Well," said that gentleman, speaking flower and fruit superstructures.
in a perfectly unconcerned manner, “I am “Quite in a friendly way, ma'am,” said aware that there are certain anomalies in the Brown, addressing Mrs. Denby specially. I system" could see the smile which Mrs. Denby took “ There !” said I triumphantly to Brown. care to hide from her host ; she was evidently “But," continued he, “ with regard to the a woman of great tact ; in a few minutes gross stupidity, as you are pleased to term it, Brown was talking to her quite at his ease of the persons employed in the diplomatic abont the Stock Exchange.
service, it is scarcely becoming that I should Harry sat between Mrs. Denby and myself, give an opinion either way, having myself had she contrived to draw him into conversation the honour of belonging to that service for -poor boy! I could see he was ill at ease ; many years.” the centre ornament of the table completely Confound the fellow ! I had to stammer shut him out from Fauny, who sat opposite out some stupid apology, which he received with Denby.
with irritating politeness. I declare I was quite angry at the way that I was never so wearied of an affair in my fellow Denby kept on talking to Fanny; I could life, and was quite relieved when the ladies see he completely bored her. I tried to divert his conversation to myself. I spoke to him All this time Brown had been gradually upon every subject I could think of, but he getting quite at his ease. I take it that dinner only vouchsafed polite monosyllables to me, is a great democrat and leveller of distinctions; and still kept on conversing with Fanny, and a participation in the same entrée is a declathen Mrs. Brown attacked me on the flank and ration of that humanity which belongs alike forced me to listen to her.
to great dukes and insignificant commoners. “ Did I know Lord This That ? a very Dinner, at least, had this effect upon Brown; handsome man ! and Lady The Other, such a he became quite at home with Denby, calling beautiful woman! didn't I think so ? and then My boy ! Old fellow !” toasting him as her cousin the Countess of What's-her-name.' future chairman of the Steam Omnibus Com |
I told Mrs. Brown I was not acquainted with pany. I could see that Denby winced under any of these people, but nothing could stop all this, but he was just as polite as his mother. her conversation about fashionable folks; it was " It must be that the man is hard up and positively as if the whole of Burke's Peerage wants to borrow money," I thought ; "that's were fermenting in her head, every other word the meaning, too, of all the attention he has she uttered was a title, and then she would been paying to Brown's daughter.” At last
1 appeal on doubtful points to Mrs. Denby, and Brown grew supremely confidential, and into my surprise Brown himself chimed into the formed us of the cost of all the prominent conversation and talked very glibly of high objects in the room, from the big pine and fine people. Why, I could recollect the time when dessert service on the table, to the black old he sneered at aristocracies and great folks, and masters on the walls. wanted to make short work of the House of At length a move was made for the drawingLords.
room ; the two younger gentlemen had deI was determined, however, not to be parted, and I was about to follow them, when diverted from my resolution of breaking up Brown playfully detained me by the tails of Denby's conversation with Fauny. I based my my coat, and then, as I was such an old friend,
- Do go
he confided to me his plan for marrying his! to write to Brown immediately. When we got daughter to Denby, who was, he told me, old to my cottage I persuaded the boy to come in
I Lord Debtford's nephew, and would succeed to and stop the night. I lighted the candles in the title on the death of the present lord. my little sanctum. Harry sat down at the table “And a peer's name as chairman of a company pen in hand. I took up a book which I pregives such a genuine look to the concern,' tended to read in my arm-chair, but I was chuckled Brown, patting me on the back. watching him all the time. He wrote and tore “Denby has not got a penny, but I am rich up, and wrote again, till the pen trembled in enough to buy a coronet for my daughter." his hand. It came back to me with wonde.iful I could not trust myself to answer him ; I clearness, that night of my life when I had
; was never more agitated in my life than when been engaged in writing a letter of the same I entered the drawing-room. I found that kind. I sympathised in the agitating feverish Fanny was looking at some photographs which anxiety which beset him, for I had experienced Harry was turning over for her, Mrs. Denby it years before. was also looking at the same photographs with “ I cau't tell what to write to Brown ! ” he great attention. I felt that that clever lady exclaimed ; “do try and assist me.” had discovered the real state of affairs. Denby down my book and came close to him. I was engaged in conversation with Mrs. Brown. dictated a sentence which he wrote.
" That's I joined myself to the photograph party, and just what I wanted to say !” he exclaimed. stood racking my head to find something that The words seemed strangely familiar to me; I would entertain Mrs. Denby, and so allow the looked over his shoulder at what he had written. lovers a few words, but my lips were glued to- ' I remembered it in a moment, they were the gether and my head was a great blank. At words of my own letter years ago. last to my relief Brown came up and requested on !” said he, anxiously. It was not the want his daughter to sing; she readily obeyed, and of words that kept me silent—the old words went to the pianoforte accompanied by Harry. were ready enough on my tongue; I was I made a strong effort, and feigned intense puzzling out new thoughts and words; I could enthusiasm for a photograph which was before find no new thoughts, every sentence insensibly Mrs. Denby.
shaped itself to the old form ; he kept urging “Magnificent effect, that doorway!” said I; me to dictate, and in the end there was my old
light and shade wonderful ! the details per- letter rewritten, as it seemed to me, word for fect !” I was watching the lovers all the time word. I spoke; they were making the selection of the It was with sad feelings that I conned over music an excuse for a few words.
that letter to make corrections, Harry looking “Very cleverly executed,” said Mrs. Denby, at it with the young feelings and young eyes in reply to my observations. “I recollect the with which I had looked at my former letter scene perfectly, Venice.” I glanced down at years ago. I suppose it was a tolerably good her, she was not looking at the photograp). letter in its way, because Harry declared it exher eyes were also devoted to the lovers. pressed exactly what he had wished to say. "Frederick,” she exclaimed, addressing her son. “It's all so true, so convincing!” he ex“Mrs. Brown, would you be kind enough to claimed. “ That part where you hint at the allow him? I want him to ask your daughter uncertainty of wealth, the little value of high to sing that favourite song of mine, by Edward worldly position when life is so short-conLear, Tennyson's words, 'Farewell,' I think siderations like those must influence even a man it's called,” and giving her son a significant like Brown !” glance, she took his place beside Mrs. Brown. Well, I could recollect in my day that I had Denby went immediately to the pianoforte. I scanned over and over again that bit of inoraldeclare I was in such a rage, I could almost izing, and its incontestable truth had seemed, to have quarrelled with the man, when Brown my anxious eyes, certain to turn her father's came up and would make me listen to some heart, but the longer I now looked at the words stupid story. At last Harry left the pianoforte through my glasses, the more trite and unsatis. and whispered to me that we had better go, factory did they become. that our remaining was merely a useless distress I told him he must not be too sanguine. to Fanny. We took leave with as good grace “But that part of the letter is so true,” he as possible. I could see triumph in Mrs. urged, with confidence. Denby's grey eyes as I bowed to her, and I saw “Quite true," I replied. " Why there's how intently she watched Fanny as the girl not a man living who would not readily confess hurriedly snatched her hand from Harry's that life was very short, that death makes lingering grasp.
quick ending of social distinctions; but you We agreed that the only thing was for Harry must not think that Brown's readiness to ac
“ Ever yours,
knowledge that proposition will make one jot beyond my mending, Brown had at least heard of difference to his thirst for worldly position a few words of wholesome truth. and wealth."
I must say that Harry behaved admirably He looked at me with mixed surprise and under the circumstances ; I made him come sadness.
and stay at my house. He was very silent “No, no, my boy,” I continued ; “logic is and thoughtful, we were neither of us inclined very pretty, but it don't rule men's lives. for much talking, and when he did speak it However, we may just as well chance the letter, was not about his love affair. I had not been only I don't want you to build too hopefully quite myself for the last month or so, and I upon its effect.”
declared that my doctor had recommended me So the letter was sent to Brown ; Harry a change to the German baths, for I was anxious gave me Brown's answer to read a day or two to get him away from London.
He readily after in my office. I read the result I had consented to be my companion, and we began feared in his countenance, he was striving to be to make arrangements for our tour. But so very calm and self-possessed. Well, Brown's Harry, after all, was not destined to be my reply was very like the answer I had received companion on the continent this year. Three years ago ; I suppose in these love matters days after my interview with Brown, Harry there is a set of stereotyped forms supplied to burst into my room with a letter; he could not men's minds which they use and modify at utter a word; he thrust the letter into iny their need. I thought to myself whether it hand, it ran thus :would be any use for me to see Brown, and before I could determine whether it would be “DEAR HARRY,—Papa and mamma have any use or not, I was off.
consented to our marriage ; come this evening. It happened I was the very man Brown wanted to see, he had been on the point of
“ FANNY BROWN.” sending for me, he had wished to have a talk about the Company; he had made an appoint- Harry declared it was Fanny's writing : for ment with Denby, who would be with us in a the moment I almost thought it must be some few minutes. That man's name started me on wretched hoax. Harry did go to the Browns my subject at once. I scarcely recollect the in the evening; Mr. and Mrs. Brown were very details of our conversation, I was so greatly polite, though cold, but the marriage was excited ; I believe in my desire to move him I agreed to. recounted my own history, my early love and I can safely affirm I was never more puzzled disappointinent; how it had cankered my in
life than to discover the reason why the existence, the sorrow which had attended her Browns had given their consent. I apologised marriage with the man she disliked. Brown to Brown for the warmth of my language ; he stared at me with surprise in his stolid face. was very polite, but cold, so was Mrs. Brown; “You,” said he, “you, such a plain, practical, 'their manner was just the same to Harry, and business-man, I could not have believed it!” they evidently wished us both at the bottom of Brown was not to be changed. I promised to
Harry, generous-like, would have it give Harry money, declared I would treat him that my conversation with Brown, or perhaps as my son, but all in vain ; and then I found a second reading of the letter, had touched their I was talking in the strain of my letter about 'hearts ; but this solution was not satisfactory to the vanity of wealth. I told him that we were We went the day before the wedding to both of us old, and I asked him if we were not dine at Brown's with the lawyer. I am a sure to die in a few years ?”
trustee and so forth in the matter, and I had “Certainly,” he replied, with solemnity; ' to sign a mass of parchment, which took the “whenever God wills."
lawyer a good half hour to mumble over, the And then I asked him what was the worth, 1 purport of which appeared to be that everybody for the last few years of our lives, nf feasting had assigned their property to somebody else, great folks who did not care twopence for us, and that somebody, I could not discover who, and figuring at the tail of the list in the was regularly to pay the dividends half-yearly “ Morning Post ?”
to nobody. I protest I should have had some Of course he took care to evade the answer, doubts about putting my signature to such a and this greatly provoked my anger, which was confused heap of words had not Brown's lawyer very absurd, considering what I had said on who happens to be my lawyer too, clearly exthe subject to Harry; but a man can't be per- plained to me in five minutes at his office fectly consistent at all times. 1 abruptly took what it afterwards took him half an hour to leave of Brown, ruffled in temper, yet comforted mystify. in the conviction that if Harry's case
Harry was to sleep at my cottage that night,