—— This is some creature of the elements,
Most like your sea-gull. He can wheel and whistle
His screaming song, e’en when the storm is loudest —
Take for his sheeted couch the restless foam
Of the wild wave-crest — slumber in the calm,
And daily with the storm. Yet ’tis a gull,
An arrant gull, with all this.
“And here is to thee,” said the fashionable gallant whom we have described, “honest Tom; and a cup of welcome to thee out of Looby-land. Why, thou hast been so long in the country, that thou hast got a bumpkinly clod-compelling sort of look thyself. That greasy doublet fits thee as if it were thy reserved Sunday’s apparel; and the points seem as if they were stay-laces bought for thy true-love Marjory. I marvel thou canst still relish a ragout. Methinks now, to a stomach bound in such a jacket, eggs and bacon were a diet more conforming.”
“Rally away, my good lord, while wit lasts,” answered his companion; “yours is not the sort of ammunition which will bear much expenditure. Or rather, tell me news from Court, since we have met so opportunely.”
“You would have asked me these an hour ago,” said the lord, “had not your very soul been under Chaubert’s covered dishes. You remembered King’s affairs will keep cool, and entre-mets must be eaten hot.”
“Not so, my lord; I only kept common talk whilst that eavesdropping rascal of a landlord was in the room; so that, now the coast is clear once more, I pray you for news from Court.”
“The Plot is nonsuited,” answered the courtier —“Sir George Wakeman acquitted — the witnesses discredited by the jury — Scroggs, who ranted on one side, is now ranting on t’other.”
“Rat the Plot, Wakeman, witnesses, Papists, and Protestants, all together! Do you think I care for such trash as that? — Till the Plot comes up the Palace backstair, and gets possession of old Rowley’s own imagination, I care not a farthing who believes or disbelieves. I hang by him will bear me out.”
“Well, then,” said the lord, “the next news is Rochester’s disgrace.”
“Disgraced! — How, and for what? The morning I came off he stood as fair as any one.”
“That’s over — the epitaph* has broken his neck — and now he may write one for his own Court favour, for it is dead and buried.”
* The epitaph alluded to is the celebrated epigram made by Rochester on Charles II. It was composed at the King’s request, who nevertheless resented its poignancy.
The lines are well known:—
“Here lies our sovereign lord the King,
Whose word no man relies on,
Who never said a foolish thing,
And never did a wise one.”
“The epitaph!” exclaimed Tom; “why, I was by when it was made; and it passed for an excellent good jest with him whom it was made upon.”
“Ay, so it did amongst ourselves,” answered his companion; “but it got abroad, and had a run like a mill-race. It was in every coffee-house, and in half the diurnals. Grammont translated it into French too; and there is no laughing at so sharp a jest, when it is dinned into your ears on all sides. So disgraced is the author; and but for his Grace of Buckingham, the Court would be as dull as my Lord Chancellor’s wig.”
“Or as the head it covers. — Well, my lord, the fewer at Court, there is the more room for those that can bustle there. But there are two mainstrings of Shaftesbury’s fiddle broken — the Popish Plot fallen into discredit — and Rochester disgraced. Changeful times — but here is to the little man who shall mend them.”
“I apprehend you,” replied his lordship; “and meet your health with my love. Trust me, my lord loves you, and longs for you. — Nay, I have done you reason. — By your leave, the cup is with me. Here is to his buxom Grace of Bucks.”
“As blithe a peer,” said Smith, “as ever turned night to day. Nay, it shall be an overflowing bumper, an you will; and I will drink it super naculum. — And how stands the great Madam?”*
* The Duchess of Portsmouth, Charles II.‘s favourite mistress; very unpopular at the time of the Popish Plot, as well from her religion as her country, being a Frenchwoman and a Catholic.
“Stoutly against all change,” answered the lord —“Little Anthony* can make nought of her.”
* Anthony Ashley Cooper, Earl of Shaftesbury, the politician and intriguer of the period.
“Then he shall bring her influence to nought. Hark in thine ear. Thou knowest ——” (Here he whispered so low that Julian could not catch the sound.)
“Know him?” answered the other —“Know Ned of the Island? — To be sure I do.”
“He is the man that shall knot the great fiddle-strings that have snapped. Say I told you so; and thereupon I give thee his health.”
“And thereupon I pledge thee,” said the young nobleman, “which on any other argument I were loath to do — thinking of Ned as somewhat the cut of a villain.”
“Granted, man — granted,” said the other — “a very thorough-paced rascal; but able, my lord, able and necessary; and, in this plan, indispensable. — Pshaw! — This champagne turns stronger as it gets older, I think.”
“Hark, mine honest fellow,” said the courtier; “I would thou wouldst give me some item of all this mystery. Thou hast it, I know; for whom do men entrust but trusty Chiffinch?”
“It is your pleasure to say so, my lord,” answered Smith (whom we shall hereafter call by his real name of Chiffinch) with such drunken gravity, for his speech had become a little altered by his copious libations in the course of the evening — “few men know more, or say less, than I do; and it well becomes my station. Conticuere omnes, as the grammar hath it — all men should learn to hold their tongue.”
“Except with a friend, Tom — except with a friend. Thou wilt never be such a dogbolt as to refuse a hint to a friend? Come, you get too wise and statesman-like for your office. — The ligatures of thy most peasantly jacket there are like to burst with thy secret. Come, undo a button, man; it is for the health of thy constitution — Let out a reef; and let thy chosen friend know what is meditating. Thou knowest I am as true as thyself to little Anthony, if he can but get uppermost.”
“If, thou lordly infidel!” said Chiffinch —“talk’st thou to me of ifs? — There is neither if nor and in the matter. The great Madam shall be pulled a peg down — the great Plot screwed a peg or two up. Thou knowest Ned? — Honest Ned had a brother’s death to revenge.”
“I have heard so,” said the nobleman; “and that his persevering resentment of that injury was one of the few points which seemed to be a sort of heathenish virtue in him.”
“Well,” continued Chiffinch, “in manoeuvring to bring about this revenge, which he hath laboured at many a day, he hath discovered a treasure.”
“What! — In the Isle of Man?” said his companion.
“Assure yourself of it. — She is a creature so lovely, that she needs but be seen to put down every one of the favourites, from Portsmouth and Cleveland down to that threepenny baggage, Mistress Nelly.”
“By my word, Chiffinch,” said my lord, “that is a reinforcement after the fashion of thine own best tactics. But bethink thee, man! To make such a conquest, there wants more than a cherry-cheek and a bright eye — there must be wit — wit, man, and manners, and a little sense besides, to keep influence when it is gotten.”
“Pshaw! will you tell me what goes to this vocation?” said Chiffinch. “Here, pledge me her health in a brimmer. — Nay, you shall do it on knees, too. — Never such a triumphant beauty was seen — I went to church on purpose, for the first time these ten years — Yet I lie, it was not to church neither — it was to chapel.”
“To chapel! — What the devil, is she a Puritan?” exclaimed the other courtier.
“To be sure she is. Do you think I would be accessory to bringing a Papist into favour in these times, when, as my good Lord said in the House, there should not be a Popish manservant, nor a Popish maid-servant, not so much as dog or cat, left to bark or mew about the King!”*
* Such was the extravagance of Shaftesbury’s eloquence.
“But consider, Chiffie, the dislikelihood of her pleasing,” said the noble courtier. —“What! old Rowley, with his wit, and love of wit — his wildness, and love of wildness — he form a league with a silly, scrupulous, unidea’d Puritan! — Not if she were Venus.”
“Thou knowest nought of the matter,” answered Chiffinch. “I tell thee, the fine contrast between the seeming saint and falling sinner will give zest to the old gentleman’s inclination. If I do not know him, who does? — Her health, my lord, on your bare knee, as you would live to be of the bedchamber.”
“I pledge you most devoutly,” answered his friend. “But you have not told me how the acquaintance is to be made; for you cannot, I think, carry her to Whitehall.”
“Aha, my dear lord, you would have the whole secret! but that I cannot afford — I can spare a friend a peep at my ends, but no one must look on the means by which they are achieved.”— So saying, he shook his drunken head most wisely.
The villainous design which this discourse implied, and which his heart told him was designed against Alice Bridgenorth, stirred Julian so extremely, that he involuntarily shifted his posture, and laid his hand on his sword hilt.
Chiffinch heard a rustling, and broke off, exclaiming, “Hark! — Zounds, something moved — I trust I have told the tale to no ears but thine.”
“I will cut off any which have drunk in but a syllable of thy words,” said the nobleman; and raising a candle, he took a hasty survey of the apartment. Seeing nothing that could incur his menaced resentment, he replaced the light and continued:—“Well, suppose the Belle Louise de Querouaille* shoots from her high station in the firmament, how will you rear up the downfallen Plot again — for without that same Plot, think of it as thou wilt, we have no change of hands — and matters remain as they were, with a Protestant courtezan instead of a Papist — Little Anthony can but little speed without that Plot of his — I believe, in my conscience, he begot it himself.”†
* Charles’s principal mistress en titre. She was created Duchess of Portsmouth.
† Shaftesbury himself is supposed to have said that he knew not who was the inventor of the Plot, but that he himself had all the advantage of the discovery.
“Whoever begot it,” said Chiffinch, “he hath adopted it; and a thriving babe it has been to him. Well, then, though it lies out of my way, I will play Saint Peter again — up with t’other key, and unlock t’other mystery.”
“Now thou speakest like a good fellow; and I will, with my own hands, unwire this fresh flask, to begin a brimmer to the success of thy achievement.”
“Well, then,” continued the communicative Chiffinch, “thou knowest that they have long had a nibbling at the old Countess of Derby. — So Ned was sent down — he owes her an old accompt, thou knowest — with private instructions to possess himself of the island, if he could, by help of some of his old friends. He hath ever kept up spies upon her; and happy man was he, to think his hour of vengeance was come so nigh. But he missed his blow; and the old girl being placed on her guard, was soon in a condition to make Ned smoke for it. Out of the island he came with little advantage for having entered it; when, by some means — for the devil, I think, stands ever his friend — he obtained information concerning a messenger, whom her old Majesty of Man had sent to London to make party in her behalf. Ned stuck himself to this fellow — a raw, half-bred lad, son of an old blundering Cavalier of the old stamp, down in Derbyshire — and so managed the swain, that he brought him to the place where I was waiting, in anxious expectation of the pretty one I told you of. By Saint Anthony, for I will swear by no meaner oath, I stared when I saw this great lout — not that the fellow is so ill-looked neither — I stared like — like — good now, help me to a simile.”
“Like Saint Anthony’s pig, an it were sleek,” said the young lord; “your eyes, Chiffie, have the very blink of one. But what hath all this to do with the Plot? Hold, I have had wine enough.”
“You shall not balk me,” said Chiffinch; and a jingling was heard, as if he were filling his comrade’s glass with a very unsteady hand. “Hey — What the devil is the matter? — I used to carry my glass steady — very steady.”
“Well, but this stranger?”
“Why, he swept at game and ragout as he would at spring beef or summer mutton. Never saw so unnurtured a cub — Knew no more what he ate than an infidel — I cursed him by my gods when I saw Chaubert’s chef-d’ oeuvres glutted down so indifferent a throat. We took the freedom to spice his goblet a little, and ease him of his packet of letters; and the fool went on his way the next morning with a budget artificially filled with grey paper. Ned would have kept him, in hopes to have made a witness of him, but the boy was not of that mettle.”
“How will you prove your letters?” said the courtier.
“La you there, my lord,” said Chiffinch; “one may see with half an eye, for all your laced doublet, that you have been of the family of Furnival’s, before your brother’s death sent you to Court. How prove the letters? — Why, we have but let the sparrow fly with a string round his foot. — We have him again so soon as we list.”
“Why, thou art turned a very Machiavel, Chiffinch,” said his friend. “But how if the youth proved restive? — I have heard these Peak men have hot heads and hard hands.”
“Trouble not yourself — that was cared for, my lord,” said Chiffinch — “his pistols might bark, but they could not bite.”
“Most exquisite Chiffinch, thou art turned micher as well as padder — Canst both rob a man and kidnap him!”
“Micher and padder — what terms be these?” said Chiffinch. “Methinks these are sounds to lug out upon. You will have me angry to the degree of falling foul — robber and kidnapper!”
“You mistake verb for noun-substantive,” replied his lordship; “I said rob and kidnap — a man may do either once and away without being professional.”
“But not without spilling a little foolish noble blood, or some such red-coloured gear,” said Chiffinch, starting up.
“Oh yes,” said his lordship; “all this may be without these dire consequences, and as you will find tomorrow, when you return to England; for at present you are in the land of Champagne, Chiffie; and that you may continue so, I drink thee this parting cup to line thy nightcap.”
“I do not refuse your pledge,” said Chiffinch; “but I drink to thee in dudgeon and in hostility — It is cup of wrath, and a gage of battle. To-morrow, by dawn, I will have thee at point of fox, wert thou the last of the Savilles. — What the devil! think you I fear you because you are a lord?”
“Not so, Chiffinch,” answered his companion. “I know thou fearest nothing but beans and bacon, washed down with bumpkin-like beer. — Adieu, sweet Chiffinch — to bed — Chiffinch — to bed.”
So saying, he lifted a candle, and left the apartment. And Chiffinch, whom the last draught had nearly overpowered, had just strength enough left to do the same, muttering, as he staggered out, “Yes, he shall answer it. — Dawn of day? D— n me — It is come already — Yonder’s the dawn — No, d — n me, ’tis the fire glancing on the cursed red lattice — It is the smell of the brandy in this cursed room — It could not be the wine — Well, old Rowley shall send me no more errands to the country again — Steady, steady.”
So saying, he reeled out of the apartment, leaving Peveril to think over the extraordinary conversation he had just heard.
The name of Chiffinch, the well-known minister of Charles’s pleasures, was nearly allied to the part which he seemed about to play in the present intrigue; but that Christian, whom he had always supposed a Puritan as strict as his brother-inlaw, Bridgenorth, should be associated with him in a plot so infamous, seemed alike unnatural and monstrous. The near relationship might blind Bridgenorth, and warrant him in confiding his daughter to such a man’s charge; but what a wretch he must be, that could coolly meditate such an ignominious abuse of his trust! In doubt whether he could credit for a moment the tale which Chiffinch had revealed, he hastily examined his packet, and found that the sealskin case in which it had been wrapt up, now only contained an equal quantity of waste paper. If he had wanted farther confirmation, the failure of the shot which he fired at Bridgenorth, and of which the wadding only struck him, showed that his arms had been tampered with. He examined the pistol which still remained charged, and found that the ball had been drawn. “May I perish,” said he to himself, “amid these villainous intrigues, but thou shalt be more surely loaded, and to better purpose! The contents of these papers may undo my benefactress — their having been found on me, may ruin my father — that I have been the bearer of them, may cost, in these fiery times, my own life — that I care least for — they form a branch of the scheme laid against the honour and happiness of a creature so innocent, that it is almost sin to think of her within the neighbourhood of such infamous knaves. I will recover the letters at all risks — But how? — that is to be thought on. — Lance is stout and trusty; and when a bold deed is once resolved upon, there never yet lacked the means of executing it.”
His host now entered, with an apology for his long absence; and after providing Peveril with some refreshments, invited him to accept, for his night-quarters, the accommodation of a remote hayloft, which he was to share with his comrade; professing, at the same time, he could hardly have afforded them this courtesy, but out of deference to the exquisite talents of Lance Outram, as assistant at the tap; where, indeed, it seems probable that he, as well as the admiring landlord, did that evening contrive to drink nearly as much liquor as they drew.
But Lance was a seasoned vessel, on whom liquor made no lasting impression; so that when Peveril awaked that trusty follower at dawn, he found him cool enough to comprehend and enter into the design which he expressed, of recovering the letters which had been abstracted from his person.
Having considered the whole matter with much attention, Lance shrugged, grinned, and scratched his head; and at length manfully expressed his resolution. “Well, my naunt speaks truth in her old saw ——
‘He that serves Peveril maunna be slack,
Neither for weather, nor yet for wrack.’
And then again, my good dame was wont to say, that whenever Peveril was in a broil, Outram was in a stew; so I will never bear a base mind, but even hold a part with you as my fathers have done with yours, for four generations, whatever more.”
“Spoken like a most gallant Outram,” said Julian; “and were we but rid of that puppy lord and his retinue, we two could easily deal with the other three.”
“Two Londoners and a Frenchman?” said Lance — “I would take them in mine own hand. And as for my Lord Saville, as they call him, I heard word last night that he and all his men of gilded gingerbread — that looked at an honest fellow like me, as if they were the ore and I the dross — are all to be off this morning to some races, or such-like junketings, about Tutbury. It was that brought him down here, where he met this other civet-cat by accident.”
In truth, even as Lance spoke, a trampling was heard of horses in the yard; and from the hatch of their hayloft they beheld Lord Saville’s attendants mustered, and ready to set out as soon as he could make his appearance.
“So ho, Master Jeremy,” said one of the fellows, to a sort of principal attendant, who just came out of the house, “methinks the wine has proved a sleeping cup to my lord this morning.”
“No,” answered Jeremy, “he hath been up before light writing letters for London; and to punish thy irreverence, thou, Jonathan, shalt be the man to ride back with them.”
“And so to miss the race?” said Jonathan sulkily; “I thank you for this good turn, good Master Jeremy; and hang me if I forget it.”
Farther discussion was cut short by the appearance of the young nobleman, who, as he came out of the inn, said to Jeremy, “These be the letters. Let one of the knaves ride to London for life and death, and deliver them as directed; and the rest of them get to horse and follow me.”
Jeremy gave Jonathan the packet with a malicious smile; and the disappointed groom turned his horse’s head sullenly towards London, while Lord Saville, and the rest of his retinue, rode briskly off in an opposite direction, pursued by the benedictions of the host and his family, who stood bowing and courtesying at the door, in gratitude, doubtless, for the receipt of an unconscionable reckoning.
It was full three hours after their departure, that Chiffinch lounged into the room in which they had supped, in a brocade nightgown, and green velvet cap, turned up with the most costly Brussels lace. He seemed but half awake; and it was with drowsy voice that he called for a cup of cold small beer. His manner and appearance were those of a man who had wrestled hard with Bacchus on the preceding evening, and had scarce recovered the effects of his contest with the jolly god. Lance, instructed by his master to watch the motions of the courtier, officiously attended with the cooling beverage he called for, pleading, as an excuse to the landlord, his wish to see a Londoner in his morning-gown and cap.
No sooner had Chiffinch taken his morning draught, than he inquired after Lord Saville.
“His lordship was mounted and away by peep of dawn,” was Lance’s reply.
“What the devil!” exclaimed Chiffinch; “why, this is scarce civil. — What! off for the races with his whole retinue?”
“All but one,” replied Lance, “whom his lordship sent back to London with letters.”
“To London with letters!” said Chiffinch. “Why, I am for London, and could have saved his express a labour. — But stop — hold — I begin to recollect — d —— n, can I have blabbed? — I have — I have — I remember it all now — I have blabbed; and to the very weasel of the Court, who sucks the yelk out of every man’s secret. Furies and fire — that my afternoons should ruin my mornings thus! — I must turn boon companion and good fellow in my cups — and have my confidences and my quarrels — my friends and my enemies, with a plague to me, as if any one could do a man much good or harm but his own self. His messenger must be stopped, though — I will put a spoke in his wheel. — Hark ye, drawer-fellow — call my groom hither — call Tom Beacon.”
Lance obeyed; but failed not, when he had introduced the domestic, to remain in the apartment, in order to hear what should pass betwixt him and his master.
“Hark ye, Tom,” said Chiffinch, “here are five pieces for you.”
“What’s to be done now, I trow?” said Tom, without even the ceremony of returning thanks, which he was probably well aware would not be received even in part payment of the debt he was incurring.
“Mount your fleet nag, Tom — ride like the devil — overtake the groom whom Lord Saville despatched to London this morning — lame his horse — break his bones — fill him as drunk as the Baltic sea; or do whatever may best and most effectively stop his journey. — Why does the lout stand there without answering me? Dost understand me?”
“Why, ay, Master Chiffinch,” said Tom; “and so I am thinking doth this honest man here, who need not have heard quite so much of your counsel, an it had been your will.”
“I am bewitched this morning,” said Chiffinch to himself, “or else the champagne runs in my head still. My brain has become the very lowlands of Holland — a gill-cup would inundate it — Hark thee, fellow,” he added, addressing Lance, “keep my counsel — there is a wager betwixt Lord Saville and me, which of us shall first have a letter in London. Here is to drink my health, and bring luck on my side. Say nothing of it; but help Tom to his nag. — Tom, ere thou startest come for thy credentials — I will give thee a letter to the Duke of Bucks, that may be evidence thou wert first in town.”
Tom Beacon ducked and exited; and Lance, after having made some show of helping him to horse, ran back to tell his master the joyful intelligence, that a lucky accident had abated Chiffinch’s party to their own number.
Peveril immediately ordered his horses to be got ready; and, so soon as Tom Beacon was despatched towards London, on a rapid trot, had the satisfaction to observe Chiffinch, with his favourite Chaubert, mount to pursue the same journey, though at a more moderate rate. He permitted them to attain such a distance, that they might be dogged without suspicion; then paid his reckoning, mounted his horse, and followed, keeping his men carefully in view, until he should come to a place proper for the enterprise which he meditated.
It had been Peveril’s intention, that when they came to some solitary part of the road, they should gradually mend their pace, until they overtook Chaubert — that Lance Outram should then drop behind, in order to assail the man of spits and stoves, while he himself, spurring onwards, should grapple with Chiffinch. But this scheme presupposed that the master and servant should travel in the usual manner — the latter riding a few yards behind the former. Whereas, such and so interesting were the subjects of discussion betwixt Chiffinch and the French cook, that, without heeding the rules of etiquette, they rode on together, amicably abreast, carrying on a conversation on the mysteries of the table, which the ancient Comus, or a modern gastronome, might have listened to with pleasure. It was therefore necessary to venture on them both at once.
For this purpose, when they saw a long tract of road before them, unvaried by the least appearance of man, beast, or human habitation, they began to mend their pace, that they might come up to Chiffinch, without giving him any alarm, by a sudden and suspicious increase of haste. In this manner they lessened the distance which separated them till they were within about twenty yards, when Peveril, afraid that Chiffinch might recognise him at a nearer approach, and so trust to his horse’s heels, made Lance the signal to charge.
At the sudden increase of their speed, and the noise with which it was necessarily attended, Chiffinch looked around, but had time to do no more, for Lance, who had pricked his pony (which was much more speedy than Julian’s horse) into full gallop, pushed, without ceremony, betwixt the courtier and his attendant; and ere Chaubert had time for more than one exclamation, he upset both horse and Frenchman — morbleu! thrilling from his tongue as he rolled on the ground amongst the various articles of his occupation, which, escaping from the budget in which he bore them, lay tumbled upon the highway in strange disorder; while Lance, springing from his palfrey, commanded his foeman to be still, under no less a penalty than that of death, if he attempted to rise.
Before Chiffinch could avenge his trusty follower’s downfall, his own bridle was seized by Julian, who presented a pistol with the other hand, and commanded him to stand or die.
Chiffinch, though effeminate, was no coward. He stood still as commanded, and said, with firmness, “Rogue, you have taken me at surprise. If you are highwaymen, there is my purse. Do us no bodily harm, and spare the budget of spices and sauces.”
“Look you, Master Chiffinch,” said Peveril, “this is no time for dallying. I am no highwayman, but a man of honour. Give me back that packet which you stole from me the other night; or, by all that is good, I will send a brace of balls through you, and search for it at leisure.”
“What night? — What packet?” answered Chiffinch, confused; yet willing to protract the time for the chance of assistance, or to put Peveril off his guard. “I know nothing of what you mean. If you are a man of honour, let me draw my sword, and I will do you right, as a gentleman should do to another.”
“Dishonourable rascal!” said Peveril, “you escape not in this manner. You plundered me when you had me at odds; and I am not the fool to let my advantage escape, now that my turn is come. Yield up the packet; and then, if you will, I will fight you on equal terms. But first,” he reiterated, “yield up the packet, or I will instantly send you where the tenor of your life will be hard to answer for.”
The tone of Peveril’s voice, the fierceness of his eye, and the manner in which he held the loaded weapon, within a hand’s-breadth of Chiffinch’s head, convinced the last there was neither room for compromise, nor time for trifling. He thrust his hand into a side pocket of his cloak, and with visible reluctance, produced those papers and despatches with which Julian had been entrusted by the Countess of Derby.
“They are five in number,” said Julian; “and you have given me only four. Your life depends on full restitution.”
“It escaped from my hand,” said Chiffinch, producing the missing document —“There it is. Now, sir, your pleasure is fulfilled, unless,” he added sulkily, “you design either murder or farther robbery.”
“Base wretch!” said Peveril, withdrawing his pistol, yet keeping a watchful eye on Chiffinch’s motions, “thou art unworthy any honest man’s sword; and yet, if you dare draw your own, as you proposed but now, I am willing to give you a chance upon fair equality of terms.”
“Equality!” said Chiffinch sneeringly; “yes, a proper equality — sword and pistol against single rapier, and two men upon one, for Chaubert is no fighter. No sir; I shall seek amends upon some more fitting occasion, and with more equal weapons.”
“By backbiting, or by poison, base pander!” said Julian; “these are thy means of vengeance. But mark me — I know your vile purpose respecting a lady who is too worthy that her name should be uttered in such a worthless ear. Thou hast done me one injury, and thou see’st I have repaid it. But prosecute this farther villainy, and be assured I will put thee to death like a foul reptile, whose very slaver is fatal to humanity. Rely upon this, as if Machiavel had sworn it; for so surely as you keep your purpose, so surely will I prosecute my revenge. — Follow me, Lance, and leave him to think on what I have told him.”
Lance had, after the first shock, sustained a very easy part in this recontre; for all he had to do, was to point the butt of his whip, in the manner of a gun, at the intimidated Frenchman, who, lying on his back, and gazing at random on the skies, had as little the power or purpose of resistance, as any pig which had ever come under his own slaughter-knife.
Summoned by his master from the easy duty of guarding such an unresisting prisoner, Lance remounted his horse, and they both rode off, leaving their discomfited antagonists to console themselves for their misadventure as they best could. But consolation was hard to come by in the circumstances. The French artist had to lament the dispersion of his spices, and the destruction of his magazine of sauces — an enchanter despoiled of his magic wand and talisman, could scarce have been in more desperate extremity. Chiffinch had to mourn the downfall of his intrigue, and its premature discovery. “To this fellow, at least,” he thought, “I can have bragged none — here my evil genius alone has betrayed me. With this infernal discovery, which may cost me so dear on all hands, champagne had nought to do. If there be a flask left unbroken, I will drink it after dinner, and try if it may not even yet suggest some scheme of redemption and of revenge.”
With this manly resolution, he prosecuted his journey to London.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00