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harm, that abattement; it tightens me the heart to see him in that state there, that brave boy! But, mon Dieu! what say, what do ?'
He takes his chin between forefinger and thumb, and ponders, like one of Raphael's Apostles, plus moustache and imperial.
'If one could rouse him, make him forget during a few moments this pain which obsedes him! But it is not here that he will forget it, that poor Djems!'
He thinks a minute, and looks brighter.
'Allons, let us make the essay,' with a pull at the bell.
A word to the waiter, and he presently returns with a pint bottle of best sparkling. Camille marches up to Jim, and assuming a determined mien, such as may have been Cæsar's when he observed that the die was cast,' or Napoleon's when he ordered the charge. of the Old Guard at Waterloo, abstracts his friend's pick-me-up from before him with a masterly whisk and the calmness of decision. Then touches him lightly on his shoulder with the diamond finger to insure his attention, waves it gracefully around him to indicate the subject he proposes to notice, and, with a final tap on his own broad shirt-front, shows in a manner ornate as it is clear the close connection that exists between that subject and himself.
Ah, ça!' he begins diplomatically; know you that I stifle here? It crushes me, this place, do you see? This chamber of a hundred years ago, those gaunt trees that are browning that humid grass with their leaves, the deserted street, the pompous habitués, the waiter-all that crushes me. I begin to bore myself horribly. You also, it crushes you!'
'But I don't see,' interposes Jim with a tired smile, why the fact of your being crushed should justify your taking away my sherryand-bitters in that airy fashion.'
Sherry bittare? Bah!
Look,' producing his
Let us see a
is what is worth all the sherrybittares of the world.
little. Pop! bravo! See how it sparkles! Allons, you do not refuse a glass of Roederer, is it not?'
Jim stretches himself mightily on his chair, yawns, and takes the foaming tumbler.
'Thanks, old man; tell you if it's the right tap.'
Apparently it is, for he disposes of it at a draught.
A la bonne heure!' he ejaculates.
It takes its medicine with good grace, hein? Bravo the medicine!' with a smack of the lips. Ah, the good wine!'
Enter the waiter deferentially, as though he lived in the fear of being instantly kicked out of the room, and hoped, by the passing sweetness of his smile, to defer the performance of that ceremony. When will you please to dine, gentlemen ?'
Dine in an hour,' says Jim gruffly. That'll suit you, eh, Camille ?'
'Suit me, pardi ?' exclaims the little Gaul defiantly. 'Waiter, this evening we go out. We dine at some friends'.' 'If you please, sir;' and the seedy one, sidling out, leaves Jim staring open-mouthed at his mendacious companion.
'Going out! What do you mean?'
But say then, my friend,' taking another pull at his glass, let us change of scene, I pray you of it; for the love of Heaven, let us pass no more evenings like the last. If we were mummies, and this hotel a Pyramid, bon !'
'My dear boy,' cries Jim hotly, 'I should never forgive myself if I thought you stopped in because of me. You know I want quiet, and of course,' with a sigh, here I have it. But you-how often must I beg you to run about and enjoy yourself? I'm sadly wrapped up in myself, or I should have insisted upon your going the rounds.' Camille shrugs his shoulders, and looks upon the Captain with compassion.
'Just Heaven! faut-il être bête? that it is you who are wanting to me? Can I leave you here? Allons done! we go out together.
But do you not understand
Jim laughs at the small man's vivacity.
But what could we do? I really don't feel up to it, old man.' What do ?' insinuatingly. A good dinner, well served, well dégusté, in a first restaurant, a good cigar; and then-why, perhaps we go to distract ourselves a little at the spectacle. What say you of that ?'
A somewhat feeble resistance from Jim.
Voyons, Djems; pour me faire plaisir ?'
Which decides the matter, and sends them up-stairs to dress. A couple of hours more, and in a cabinet particulier of the Amphitryon restaurant sits Monsieur Latour, lingering over the last toothsome mouthful of his glace à la vanille, and radiant with the proud consciousness of a triumph of gastronomic art.
'Well, Djems, my old one,' disengaging the napkin from about his neck, and pushing his cigar-case across the table, do we smoke?'
'I fancy we will,' says Jim, lighting up. Capital dinner you ordered. Je vous en fais mon compliment.'
You think so?' much delighted. I please myself to imagine that the combinations, though perhaps a little risked, were not unpleasing.'
Captain Tregarvan takes the precaution of correcting the hazardous contrasts of the repast with a dash of maraschino.
And now,' from Camille, after an interval of beatitude, 'where
do we go?'
A little maliciously, 'If we went to pass the evening
'H'm!' trying to look as if he was not enjoying himself.
we are here, we may as well stay West for an hour or so, don't you think?'
'But yes'-puff. Let us go to the spectacle,' casting his eye down the evening paper. What do they play? Ah, Variety Theatre-Pall Mall-Aristocratic-Carlton. Say, do we go to the Carlton ?'
New piece, isn't it?' asks Jim. Well, suppose we do.'
And so, when they have struggled into their coats, and paid the bill, and remembered the waiter, they saunter along the crowded street and its glittering shops till they come to the hospitable doors of the Carlton, where they take a final whiff of their Londres under the portico which announces, in letters of flaming crystal, the gigantic success' of The Lion and the Mouse.
Jim takes his ease in his stall at first, and notes with admiration the tasteful decorations of the house, the magnificence of the costumes, the marvellous beauty of the scenery; the audience, too, is brilliant; his companion is amusing; he begins to brighten up himself, and has said one or two neat things. But as the play-an elegant little comedy-extravaganza-goes on, as delicious songs succeed dialogues that coruscate with wit, as touches of bitter satire and poetry tender as love in turn electrify the spectators, he forgets his sad thoughts for the moment-for the moment loses the set look of pain that has lately darkened his face. How he applauds when the handsome prince rescues that fascinating little actress, who, under the name of Blanchefleur, laughs and carols through the piece, till she finally rescues and marries him! How he appreciates the point of each hit at the follies and extravagances of the day! How interested he gets in the story, and how he hopes that the low-born little charmer may get out of her troubles, and be happy at last! And when the climax comes, and the curtain falls, and the Mouse' reappears, to be greeted with an avalanche of bouquets, 'What a stunning evening we have spent! Best thing I ever saw in my life!'
Camille, my infant,' thinks the ex-National Guard, in an interval of Jim's enthusiasm, as they approach the silent streets of the City, thou art a man of resources! It is not bad, the beginning. And for the rest-occupy him the mind, fatigue him the body, during the few days he has still to pass here; cut him short the adieus, administer him a week of Mediterranean, change of scene, hard work, time, and absence-he is cured!'
As they enter the hotel Jim stops at the bar to exchange a word with the well-favoured daughter of the fat old landlady, who has been half asleep, but jumps up, all smiles and blushes, for the stern,
bronzed, military-looking figure, that reminds her so vividly of Roderigo in the Grin and the Groan, or the Sad Senora's Secret.
'O Colonel Trefalden,' she is not very accurate in her nomenclature, there has been a gentleman (Thank you, quite well. Rather sleepy, I'm afraid. Go along with you! What rubbish! as if it could suit me!) Dear me, what was I saying? Oh, of course! A gentleman called for you about ten o'clock, and I told him you were out; but he insisted upon waiting though I begged him to come in the morning because I know well enough when gentlemen once get together there's no telling what time they will be in, is there, O you shameless creatures? But there he is, in the smoking-room, if you wish to see him; asleep, no doubt; though when he came in he looked wide awake enough, I'm sure, and only had a cup of coffee and some dry toast.'
'Didn't he leave a card for me ?' inquires Jim, rather bewildered. 'O yes, to be sure, Major Trelarman,' producing the pasteboard. 'It's a Mr. Peter De Murrer, though you'll think me dreadfully rude for reading the name. Such a nice old thing! I'm sure you'll like him if you don't know him already. But I see you do by the expression of your face; so no doubt you'll be only too glad to get rid of me and go to him. Good-night. Don't mention it.' Jim has disappeared down the passage with a hurried excuse, and is heard at the door of the smoking-room.
'What, you going too, Mr. L'Amour ? By-bye!'
To the pleasure of seeing you again, mees.' Gathering an imaginary kiss from his lips, and blowing it off the tips of his fingers towards the fair damsel, Camille also beats a retreat, and disappears after Jim.
And how do you do, my dear Captain Tregarvan? how do you do ?'
The Law advances, slow, stout, and clean-shaven, with both hands extended in welcome.
'Glad to see you, Mr. De Murrer,' returns Jim; hope you're very well. My friend, Monsieur Latour.'
The Law bows as well as its waist will permit.
'Sir, I am happy to make your acquaintance,' seat resumed. 'You see, gentlemen, I have been making myself comfortable in your absence, with the help of this extremely palatable compound and a cigar.' A sip of whisky-toddy, and he proceeds: Nor was I by any means unwilling to avail myself of the soft cushions of that sofa after my tossing to-day in the Malaise boat.'
Jim has given his orders for another relay of refreshers, and is kindling his final pipe.
'Malaise !' he echoes.
'Have you been over to Malaise ?' It evidently is a great surprise to him, for he is affected by the news to the extent of mistaking Camille's hand for the ash-dish,
and carefully depositing thereupon the burning match; a proceeding which elicits a volley of remonstrance and many strange oaths. 'Blue death! my friend; have you by chance the desire of incendiating me ?'
When Camille has satisfied himself that he is in no danger of conflagration, and the night-caps' have made their appearance, Mr. Peter De Murrer proceeds to explain that having business to transact with Jim of a sufficiently important nature, he has been down to Cornwall, back to Warwickshire and Holyoak Lodge, all over London, and finally across to Malaise, to find him; that at the latter place he ascertained the address, and started back immediately, to find himself at the present moment in the Blue Boar smoking-room, and talking to the very man he wants.
By Jove!' says Jim, it must be important business to send you,' with a glance of compassion at the solicitor's portly frame, 'flying all over the shop like this. Perhaps we'd better begin at once. You needn't mind Camille, here; he knows all my affairs, private and otherwise.'
'Hum!' meditatively stroking his smooth cheeks. yet, my dear Captain, I fancy; not just yet. Plenty of timeplenty of time. Besides, if we did not enter upon the subject at all to-night, I have secured a bed here, with the express purpose of being handy—if I may be allowed the expression-in the morning.'
Jim does not answer, does not press for an explanation. Nay, he feels relieved when he hears the worthy lawyer suavely drawing out Latour anent their visit to the Carlton. A horrible dread has just come upon him; his teeth clench involuntarily, his hand trembles with the glass he raises to his lips, as he thinks of Minnie. Is it about her this man has come? Is she ill-in danger? But he says there is time-plenty of time. afraid to speak! If she were—
Great God, if he should be
Ah, no, it cannot be that! Though the Ferrers do not know whether he has yet left Malaise or not, they would have telegraphed, asked for him or his address. And yet the sight of Peter De Murrer makes him think, do what he will, of Minnie. The last time he met him, more than three years ago, he had just transferred that coin to her. This is the man who completed the legal process by which he came to hold it in trust for her. What if something had happened to the money! That might be; was it not taken out of the Three-per-cents and invested in the Mesopotamian Sixes, to increase the little woman's income? He can hardly bear the anxiety, yet he fears the news he may hear.
'What changeable weather we have had lately!' says Peter, putting on a high polish to his bald crown with a red-silk handkerchief. 'It is generally attended, I am pained to observe,' he continues, after an interval, his eyes now upon Jim, now upon his care