St. Barbe was not disappointed in his hopes. It was an evening of glorious success for him. He had even the honour of sitting for a time by the side of Mrs. Neuchatel, and being full of good claret, he, as he phrased it, showed his paces; that is to say, delivered himself of some sarcastic paradoxes duly blended with fulsome flattery. Later in the evening, he contrived to be presented both to the ambassador and the cabinet minister, and treated them as if they were demigods; listened to them as if with an admiration which he vainly endeavoured to repress; never spoke except to enforce and illustrate the views which they had condescended to intimate; successfully conveyed to his excellency that he was conversing with an enthusiast for his exalted profession; and to the minister that he had met an ardent sympathiser with his noble career. The ambassador was not dissatisfied with the impression he had made on one of the foreign correspondents of the “Chuck–Farthing,” and the minister flattered himself that both the literary and the graphic representations of himself in “Scaramouch” might possibly for the future be mitigated.
“I have done business to-night,” said St. Barbe to Endymion, towards the close of the evening. “You did not know I had left the old shop? I kept it close. I could stand it no longer. One has energies, sir, though not recognised — at least not recognised much,” he added thoughtfully. “But who knows what may happen? The age of mediocrity is not eternal. You see this thing offered, and I saw an opening. It has come already. You saw the big-wigs all talking to me? I shall go to Paris now with some eclat. I shall invent a new profession; the literary diplomatist. The bore is, I know nothing about foreign politics. My line has been the other way. Never mind; I will read the ‘Debats’ and the ‘Revue des Deux Mondes,’ and make out something. Foreign affairs are all the future, and my views may be as right as anybody else’s; probably more correct, not so conventional. What a fool I was, Ferrars! I was asked to remain here to-night and refused! The truth is, I could not stand those powdered gentlemen, and I should have been under their care. They seem so haughty and supercilious. And yet I was wrong. I spoke to one of them very rudely just now, when he was handing coffee, to show I was not afraid, and he answered me like a seraph. I felt remorse.”
“Well, I have made the acquaintance of Mr. St. Barbe,” said Myra to Endymion. “Strange as he is, he seemed quite familiar to me, and he was so full of himself that he never found me out. I hope some day to know Mr. Trenchard and Mr. Waldershare. Those I look upon as your chief friends.”
On the following afternoon, Adriana, Myra, and Endymion took a long walk together in the forest. The green glades in the autumnal woods were inviting, and sometimes they stood before the vast form of some doddered oak. The air was fresh and the sun was bright. Adriana was always gay and happy in the company of her adored Myra, and her happiness and her gaiety were not diminished by the presence of Myra’s brother. So it was a lively and pleasant walk.
At the end of a long glade they observed a horseman followed by a groom approaching them. Endymion was some little way behind, gathering wild flowers for Adriana. Cantering along, the cavalier soon reached them, and then he suddenly pulled up his horse. It was Colonel Albert.
“You are walking, ladies? Permit me to join you,” and he was by their side. “I delight in forests and in green alleys,” said Colonel Albert. “Two wandering nymphs make the scene perfect.”
“We are not alone,” said Adriana, “but our guardian is picking some wild flowers for us, which we fancied. I think it is time to return. You are going to Hainault, I believe, Colonel Albert, so we can all walk home together.”
So they turned, and Endymion with his graceful offering in a moment met them. Full of his successful quest, he offered with eager triumph the flowers to Adriana, without casting a glance at her new companion.
“Beautiful!” exclaimed Adriana, and she stopped to admire and arrange them. “See, dear Myra, is not this lovely? How superior to anything in our glass-houses!”
Myra took the flower and examined it. Colonel Albert, who was silent, was watching all this time Endymion with intentness, who now looked up and encountered the gaze of the new comer. Their eyes met, their countenances were agitated, they seemed perplexed, and then it seemed that at the same time both extended their hands.
“It is a long time since we met,” said Colonel Albert, and he retained the hand of Endymion with affection. But Endymion, who was apparently much moved, said nothing, or rather only murmured an echo to the remarks of his new friend. And then they all walked on, but Myra fell a little back and made a signal to Endymion to join her.
“You never told me, darling, that you knew Colonel Albert.”
“Colonel Albert!” said Endymion, looking amazed, and then he added, “Who is Colonel Albert?”
“That gentleman before us,” said Myra.
“That is the Count of Otranto, whose fag I was at Eton.”
“The Count of Otranto!”
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:07