The Claverings, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter 35

Doodles In Mount Street

Captain Clavering and Captain Boodle had, as may be imagined, discussed at great length and with much frequency the results of the former captain’s negotiations with the Russian spy, and it had been declared strongly by the latter captain, and ultimately admitted by the former, that those results were not satisfactory. Seventy pounds had been expended, and, so to say, nothing had been accomplished. It was in vain that Archie, unwilling to have it thought that he had been worsted in diplomacy, argued that with these political personages, and especially with Russian political personages, the ambages were everything — that the preliminaries were in fact the whole, and that when they were arranged, the thing was done. Doodles proved to demonstration that the thing was not done, and that seventy pounds was too much for mere preliminaries. “My dear fellow,” he said, speaking, I fear, with some scorn in his voice, “where are you? That’s what I want to know. Where are you? Just nowhere.” This was true. All that Archie had received from Madam Gordeloup in return for his last payment, was an intimation that no immediate day could be at present named for a renewal of his personal attack upon the countess; but that a day might be named when he should next come to Mount Street — provision, of course, being made that he should come with a due qualification under his glove. Now, the original basis on which Archie was to carry on his suit had been arranged to be this — that Lady Ongar should be made to know that he was there; and the way in which Doodles had illustrated this precept by the artistic and allegorical use of his heel was still fresh in Archie’s memory. The meeting in which they had come to that satisfactory understanding had taken place early in the Spring, and now June was coming on, and the countess certainly did not as yet know that her suitor was there! If anything was to be done by the Russian spy it should be done quickly, and Doodles did not refrain from expressing his opinion that his friend was “putting his foot into it,” and “making a mull of the whole thing.” Now Archie Clavering was a man not eaten up by the vice of self-confidence, but prone rather to lean upon his friends, and anxious for the aid of counsel in difficulty.

“What the devil is a fellow to do?” he asked. “Perhaps I had better give it all up. Everybody says that she is as proud as Lucifer; and, after all, nobody knows what rigs she has been up to.”

But this was by no means the view which Doodles was inclined to take. He was a man who in the field never gave up a race because he was thrown out at the start, having perceived that patience would achieve as much, perhaps, as impetuosity. He had ridden many a waiting race, and had won some of them. He was never so sure of his hand at billiards as when the score was strong against him. “Always fight while there’s any fight left in you,” was a maxim with him. He never surrendered a bet as lost, till the evidence as to the facts was quite conclusive, and had taught himself to regard any chance, be it ever so remote, as a kind of property.

“Never say die,” was his answer to Archie’s remark. “You see, Clavvy, you have still a few good cards, and you can never know what a woman really means till you have popped yourself. As to what she did when she was away, and all that, you see when a woman has got seven thousand a year in her own right, it covers a multitude of sins.”

“Of course, I know that.”

“And why should a fellow be uncharitable? If a man is to believe all that he hears, by George, they’re all much of a muchness. For my part I never believe anything. I always suppose every horse will run to win; and though there may be a cross now and again, that’s the surest line to go upon. D’you understand me now?” Archie said that of course he understood him; but I fancy that Doodles had gone a little too deep for Archie’s intellect.

“I should say, drop this woman, and go at the widow yourself at once.”

“And lose all my seventy pounds for nothing!”

“You’re not soft enough to suppose that you’ll ever get it back again, I hope?” Archie assured his friend that he was not soft enough for any such hope as that, and then the two remained silent for a while, deeply considering the posture of the affair. “I’ll tell you what I’ll do for you,” said Doodles; “and upon my word I think it will be the best thing.”

“And what’s that?”

“I’ll go to this woman myself.”

“What; to Lady Ongar?”

“No; but to the spy, as you call her. Principals are never the best for this kind of work. When a man has to pay the money himself he can never make so good a bargain as another can make for him. That stands to reason. And I can be blunter with her about it than you can; can go straight at it, you know; and you may be sure of this, she won’t get any money from me, unless I get the marbles for it.”

“You’ll take some with you, then?”

“Well, yes; that is, if it’s convenient. We were talking of going two or three hundred pounds, you know, and you’ve only gone seventy as yet. Suppose you hand me over the odd thirty. If she gets it out of me easy, tell me my name isn’t Boodle.”

There was much in this that was distasteful to Captain Clavering, but at last he submitted, and handed over the thirty pounds to his friend. Then there was considerable doubt whether the ambassador should announce himself by a note, but it was decided at last that his arrival should not be expected. If he did not find the lady at home or disengaged on the first visit, or on the second, he might on the third or the fourth. He was a persistent, patient little man, and assured his friend that he would certainly see Madam Gordeloup before a week had passed over their heads.

On the occasion of his first visit to Mount Street, Sophie Gordeloup was enjoying her retreat in the Isle of Wight. When he called the second time she was in bed, the fatigue of her journey on the previous day — the day on which she had actually risen at seven o’clock in the morning — having oppressed her much. She had returned in the cab alone, and had occupied herself much on the same evening. Now that she was to be parted from her Julie, it was needful that she should be occupied. She wrote a long letter to her brother — much more confidential than her letters to him had lately been — telling him how much she had suffered on his behalf, and describing to him with great energy the perverseness, malignity, and general pigheadedness of her late friend. Then she wrote an anonymous letter to Mrs. Burton, whose name and address she had learned, after having ascertained from Archie the fact of Harry Clavering’s engagement. In this letter she described the wretched wiles by which that horrid woman Lady Ongar was struggling to keep Harry and Miss Burton apart. “It is very bad, but it is true,” said the diligent little woman. “She has been seen in his embrace; I know it.” After that she dressed and went out into society — the society of which she had boasted as being open to her — to the house of some hanger-on of some embassy, and listened, and whispered, and laughed when some old sinner joked with her, and talked poetry to a young man who was foolish and lame, but who had some money, and got a glass of wine and a cake for nothing, and so was very busy; and on her return home calculated that her cab-hire for the evening had been judiciously spent. But her diligence had been so great that when Captain Boodle called the next morning at twelve o’clock she was still in bed. Had she been in dear Paris, or in dearer Vienna, that would have not hindered her from receiving the visit; but in pigheaded London this could not be done; and, therefore, when she had duly scrutinized Captain Boodle’s card, and had learned from the servant that Captain Boodle desired to see herself on very particular business, she made an appointment with him for the following day.

On the following day at the same hour Doodles came and was shown up into her room. He had scrupulously avoided any smartness of apparel, calculating that a Newmarket costume would be, of all dresses, the most efficacious in filling her with an idea of his smartness; whereas Archie had probably injured himself much by his polished leather boots, and general newness of clothing. Doodles, therefore, wore a cut-away coat, a colored shirt with a fogle round his neck, old brown trowsers that fitted very tightly round his legs, and was careful to take no gloves with him. He was a man with a small, bullet head, who wore his hair cut very short, and had no other beard than a slight appendage on his lower chin. He certainly did possess a considerable look of smartness, and when he would knit his brows and nod his head, some men were apt to think that it was not easy to get on the soft side of him.

Sophie on this occasion was not arrayed with that becoming negligence which had graced her appearance when Captain Clavering had called. She knew that a visitor was coming, and the questionably white wrapper had been exchanged for an ordinary dress. This was regretted, rather than otherwise, by Captain Boodle, who had received from Archie a description of the lady’s appearance, and who had been anxious to see the spy in her proper and peculiar habiliments. It must be remembered that Sophie knew nothing of her present visitor, and was altogether unaware that he was in any way connected with Captain Clavering.

“You are Captain Boddle,” she said, looking hard at Doodles as he bowed to her on entering the room.

“Captain Boodle, ma’am; at your service.”

“Oh, Captain Bood-dle; it is English name, I suppose?”

“Certainly, ma’am, certainly. Altogether English, I believe. Our Boodles come out of Warwickshire; small property near Leamington — doosed small, I’m sorry to say.”

She looked at him very hard, and was altogether unable to discover what was the nature or probable mode of life of the young man before her. She had lived much in England, and had known Englishmen of many classes, but she could not remember that she had ever become conversant with such a one as he who was now before her. Was he a gentleman, or might he be a house-breaker? “A doosed small property near Leamington,” she said, repeating the words after him. “Oh!”

“But my visit to you, ma’am, has nothing to do with that.”

“Nothing to do with the small property.”

“Nothing in life.”

“Then, Captain Bood-dle, what may it have to do with?”

Hereupon Doodles took a chair, not having been invited to go through that ceremony. According to the theory created in her mind at the instant, this man was not at all like an English captain. Captain is an unfortunate title, somewhat equivalent to the foreign count — unfortunate in this respect, that it is easily adopted by many whose claims to it are very slight. Archie Clavering, with his polished leather boots, had looked like a captain — had come up to her idea of a captain — but this man! The more she regarded him, the stronger in her mind became the idea of the housebreaker.

“My business, ma’am, is of a very delicate nature — of a nature very delicate indeed. But I think that you and I, who understand the world, may soon come to understand each other.”

“Oh, you understand the world. Very well, sir. Go on.”

“Now, ma’am, money is money, you know.”

“And a goose is a goose; but what of that?”

“Yes; a goose is a goose, and some people are not geese. Nobody, ma’am, would think of calling you a goose.”

“I hope not. It would be so uncivil, even an Englishman would not say it. Will you go on?”

“I think you have the pleasure of knowing Lady Ongar?”

“Knowing who?” said Sophie, almost shrieking.

“Lady Ongar.”

During the last day or two Sophie’s mind had been concerned very much with her dear Julie, but had not been concerned at all with the affairs of Captain Clavering, and, therefore, when Lady Ongar’s name was mentioned, her mind went away altogether to the quarrel, and did not once refer itself to the captain. Could it be that this was an attorney, and was it possible that Julie would be mean enough to make claims upon her? Claims might be made for more than those twenty pounds. “And you,” she said, “do you know Lady Ongar?”

“I have not that honor myself.”

“Oh, you have not; and do you want to be introduced?”

“Not exactly — not at present; at some future day I shall hope to have the pleasure. But I am right in believing that she and you are very intimate? Now what are you going to do for my friend Archie Clavering?”

“Oh-h-h!” exclaimed Sophie.

“Yes. What are you going to do for my friend Archie Clavering? Seventy pounds, you know, ma’am, is a smart bit of money!”

“A smart bit of money, is it? That is what you think on your leetle property down in Warwickshire.”

“It isn’t my property, ma’am, at all. It belongs to my uncle.”

“Oh, it is your uncle that has the leetle property. And what had your uncle to do with Lady Ongar? What is your uncle to your friend Archie?”

“Nothing at all, ma’am; nothing on earth.”

“Then why do you tell me all this rigmarole about your uncle and his leetle property, and Warwickshire? What have I to do with your uncle? Sir, I do not understand you — not at all. Nor do I know why I have the honor to see you here, Captain Bood-dle.”

Even Doodles, redoubtable as he was — even he, with all his smartness, felt that he was overcome, and that this woman was too much for him. He was altogether perplexed, as he could not perceive whether in all her tirade about the little property she had really misunderstood him, and had in truth thought that he had been talking about his uncle, or whether the whole thing was cunning on her part. The reader, perhaps, will have a more correct idea of this lady than Captain Boodle had been able to obtain. She had now risen from her sofa, and was standing as though she expected him to go; but he had not as yet opened the budget of his business.

“I am here, ma’am,” said he, “to speak to you about my friend, Captain Clavering.”

“Then you can go back to your friend, and tell him I have nothing to say. And, more than that, Captain Booddle”— the woman intensified the name in a most disgusting manner, with the evident purpose of annoying him; of that he had become quite sure —“more than that, his sending you here is an impertinence. Will you tell him that?”

“No, ma’am, I will not.”

“Perhaps you are his laquais,” continued the inexhaustible Sophie, “and are obliged to come when he send you?”

“I am no man’s laquais, ma’am.”

“If so, I do not blame you; or, perhaps, it is your way to make your love third or fourth hand down in Warwickshire?”

“Damn Warwickshire!” said Doodles, who was put beyond himself.

“With all my heart. Damn Warwickshire.” And the horrid woman grinned at him as she repeated his words. “And the leetle property, and the uncle, if you wish it; and the leetle nephew — and the leetle nephew — and the leetle nephew!” She stood over him as she repeated the last words with wondrous rapidity, and grinned at him, and grimaced and shook herself, till Doocites was altogether bewildered. If this was a Russian spy he would avoid such in future, and keep himself for the milder acerbities of Newmarket, and the easier chaff of his club. He looked up into her face at the present moment, striving to think of some words by which he might assist himself. He had as yet performed no part of his mission, but any such performance was now entirely out of the question. The woman had defied him, and had altogether thrown Clavering over board. There was no further question of her services, and therefore he felt himself to be quite entitled to twit her with the payment she had taken.

“And how about my friend’s seventy pounds?” said he.

“How about seventy pounds! a leetle man comes here and tells me he is a Booddle in Warwickshire, and says he has an uncle with a very leetle property, and asks me about seventy pounds! Suppose I ask you how about the policeman, what will you say then?”

“You send for him and you shall hear what I say.”

“No; not to take away such a leetle man as you. I send for a policeman when I am afraid. Booddle in Warwickshire is not a terrible man. Suppose you go to your friend and tell him from me that he have chose a very bad Mercury in his affairs of love — the worst Mercury I ever see. Perhaps the Warwickshire Mercuries are not very good. Can you tell me, Captain Booddle, how they make love down in Warwickshire?”

“And that is all the satisfaction I am to have?”

“Who said you was to have satisfaction? Very little satisfaction I should think you ever have, when you come as a Mercury.”

“My friend means to know something about that seventy pounds.”

“Seventy pounds! If you talk to me any more of seventy pounds, I will fly at your face.” As she spoke this she jumped across at him as though she were really on the point of attacking him with her nails, and he, in dismay, retreated to the door. “You, and your seventy pounds! Oh, you English! What mean mens you are! Oh! a Frenchman would despise to do it. Yes; or a Russian or a Pole. But you — you want it all down in black and white like a butcher’s heel. You know nothing, and understand nothing, and can never speak, and can never hold your tongues. You have no head, but the head of a bull. A bull can break all the china in a shop — dash, smash, crash — all the pretty things gone in a minute! So can an Englishman. Your seventy pounds! You will come again to me for seventy pounds, I think.” In her energy she had acted the bull, and had exhibited her idea of the dashing, the smashing and the crashing, by the motion of her head and the waving of her hands.

“And you decline to say anything about the seventy pounds?” said Doodles, resolving that his courage should not desert him.

Whereupon the divine Sophie laughed. “Ha, ha, ha! I see you have not got on any gloves, Captain Booddle.”

“Gloves; no. I don’t wear gloves.”

“Nor your uncle with the leetle property in Warwickshire? Captain Clavering, he wears a glove. He is a handy man.” Doodles stared at her, understanding nothing of this. “Perhaps it is in your waistcoat pocket,” and she approached him fearlessly, as though she were about to deprive him of his watch.

“I don’t know what you mean,” said he, retreating.

“Ah, you are not a handy man, like my friend the other captain, so you had better go away. Yes; you had better go to Warwickshire. In Warwickshire, I suppose, they make ready for your Michaelmas dinners. You have four months to get fat. Suppose you go away and get fat.”

Doodles understood nothing of her sarcasm, but began to perceive that he might as well take his departure. The woman was probably a lunatic, and his friend Archie had no doubt been grossly deceived when he was sent to her for assistance. He had some faint idea that the seventy pounds might be recovered from such a madwoman, but in the recovery his friend would be exposed, and he saw that the money must be abandoned. At any rate he had not been soft enough to dispose of any more treasure.

“Good morning, ma’am,” he said, very curtly.

“Good morning to you, Captain Booddle. Are you coming again another day?”

“Not that I know of, ma’am.”

“You are very welcome to stay away. I like your friend the better. Tell him to come and be handy with his glove. As for you — suppose you go to the leetle property.”

Then Captain Boodle went, and, as soon as he had made his way out into the open street, stood still and looked around him, that by the aspect of things familiar to his eyes he might be made certain that he was in a world with which he was conversant. While in that room with the spy he had ceased to remember that he was in London — his own London, within a mile of his club, within a mile of Tattersall’s. He had been, as it were, removed to some strange world in which the tact, and courage, and acuteness natural to him had not been of avail to him. Madam Gordeloup had opened a new world to him — a new world of which he desired to make no further experience. Gradually he began to understand why he had been desired to prepare himself for Michaelmas eating. Gradually some idea about Archie’s glove glimmered across his brain. A wonderful woman certainly was the Russian spy — a phenomenon which in future years he might perhaps be glad to remember that he had seen in the flesh. The first race-horse which he might ever own and name himself, he would certainly call the Russian Spy. In the meantime, as he slowly walked across Berkeley Square, he acknowledged to himself that she was not mad, and acknowledged also that the less said about that seventy pounds the better. From thence he crossed Piccadilly, and sauntered down St. James’s Street into Pall Mall, revolving in his mind how he would carry himself with Clavvy. He, at any rate, had his ground for triumph. He had parted with no money, and had ascertained by his own wit that no available assistance from that quarter was to be had in the matter which his friend had in hand.

It was some hours after this when the two friends met, and at that time Doodles was up to his eyes in chalk and the profitable delights of pool. But Archie was too intent on his business to pay much regard to his friend’s proper avocation. “Well, Doodles,” he said, hardly waiting till his ambassador had finished his stroke and laid his ball close waxed to one of the cushions. “Well; have you seen her?”

“Oh, yes; I’ve seen her,” said Doodles, seating himself on an exalted bench which ran round the room, while Archie, with anxious eyes, stood before him.

“Well?” said Archie.

“She’s a rum ’un. Thank ’ee, Griggs; you always stand to me like a brick.” This was said to a young lieutenant who had failed to hit the captain’s ball, and now tendered him a shilling with a very bitter look.

“She is queer,” said Archie, “certainly.”

“Queer! By George, I’ll back her for the queerest bit of horseflesh going any way about these diggings. I thought she was mad at first, but I believe she knows what she’s about.”

“She knows what she’s about well enough.. She’s worth all the money if you can only get her to work.”

“Bosh, my dear fellow.”

“Why bosh? What’s up now?”

“Bosh! Bosh! Bosh! Me to play, is it?” Down he went, and not finding a good open for a hazard, again waxed himself to the cushion, to the infinite disgust of Griggs, who did indeed hit the ball this time, but in such a way as to make the loss of another life from Griggs’s original three a matter of certainty. “I don’t think it’s hardly fair,” whispered Griggs to a friend, “a man playing always for safety. It’s not the game I like, and I shan’t play at the same table with Doodles any more.”

“It’s all bosh,” repeated Doodles, coming back to his seat. “She don’t mean to do anything, and never did. I’ve found her out.”

“Found out what?”

“She’s been laughing at you. She got your money out from under your glove, didn’t she?”

“Well, I did put it there.”

“Of course, you did. I knew that I should find out what was what if I once went there. I got it all out of her. But, by George, what a woman she is! She swore at me to my very face.”

“Swore at you! In French, you mean?”

“No; not in French at all, but damned me in downright English. By George, how I did laugh! — me and everybody belonging to me. I’m blessed if she didn’t.”

“There was nothing like that about her when I saw her.”

“You didn’t turn her inside out as I’ve done; but stop half a moment.” Then he descended, chalked away at his cue hastily, pocketed a shilling or two, and returned. “You didn’t turn her inside out as I’ve done. I tell you, Clavvy, there’s nothing to be done there, and there never was. If you’d kept on going yourself she’d have drained you as dry — as dry as that table. There’s your thirty pounds back, and, upon my word, old fellow, you ought to thank me.”

Archie did thank him, and Doodles was not without his triumph. Of the frequent references to Warwickshire which he had been forced to endure, he said nothing, nor yet of the reference to Michaelmas dinners; and, gradually, as he came to talk frequently to Archie of the Russian spy, and perhaps also to one or two others of his more intimate friends, he began to convince himself that he really had wormed the truth out of Madam Gordeloup, and got altogether the better of that lady, in a very wonderful way.

Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 18:43