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explanation that can be given, for instance, of this man and woman just introduced, blame not the relater. Whether they had really anything to do with what occurred, is known only to themselves, and to ONE above, whose eye never slumbers nor sleeps.
The lady and gentleman sat down to breakfast, the latter with a slight bow of courtesy to Mr. Dundyke, who a little moved his chair to give more room. He spoke soon after.
“ If you are not using that newspaper, sir,” pointing to one that lay near Mr. Dundyke, “may I trouble you for it?”
“No use to me, sir,” said the common-councilman, passing the journal. “I understand French pretty well when it's spoke, but am scarcely scholar enough in the language to read it.”
“Ah, indeed,” replied the stranger. “This, however, is German," he continued, as he opened the paper.
« Oh-well—they look sufficiently alike in print," observed the common-councilman, « Slap-up hotel, this seems, sir.”
“Comfortable,” returned the stranger, carelessly. “You are a recent arrival, I think.”
"Got here last night, sir, by the diligence. We are a travelling on pleasure ; taking a holiday.”
“ There's nothing like an occasional holiday, a temporary relaxation from the cares of business," remarked the stranger, scanning covertly Mr. Dundyke; “I often feel so."
“I am delighted to hear you say that, sir,” exclaimed the commoncouncilman, hastily assuming a fact, from the words, which probably the speaker never meant or thought to convey. “I am in business myself, sir, and this is the first holiday from it I have ever took : I gather that you are the same. Nothing so respectable as commercial pursuits : a London merchant, sir, stands as a prince of the world.”
“Respectable and satisfactory both,” joined in the stranger. “What branch of commerce-if you don't deem me impertinent-may you happen to pursue ?”
"I'm a partner in a wholesale tea-house, sir,” cried Mr. Dundyke, flourishing his hand and his ring for the stranger's benefit. “ Our establishment is one of the oldest and wealthiest in Fenchurch-street; known all over the world, sir, and across the seas from here to Chinar; and as respected as it is known.”
“Sir, allow me to shake hands with you,” exclaimed the stranger, warmly. “To be a member of such a house does you honour."
“And I am a common-councilman,” continued Mr. Dundyke, his revelations increasing with his satisfaction, “a rising on fast to be a alderman and Lord Mayor. No paltry dignity that, sir, to be chief magistrate of the city of London, and ride to court in a gold and scarlet dress, and broidered ruffles ! I suspect we have got some lords round about us here,” dropping his voice to a still lower key, “but I'm blest, sir, if I'd change my prospects with any of them.”
"Ah,” chimed in the stranger, casting his deep eyes around, “ young scions with more debts than brains, long pedigrees and short purses, dealers in post obits and the like they can't be put in comparison with a Lord Mayor of London.".
“ And what line are you in, sir?” resumed, after a pause, the gratified alderman in perspective. “From our great city, of course."
The stranger nodded, but, before he answered, he finished his second cotelette, poured out some wine-for his breakfast disdained the more effeminate luxuries of tea and coffee-popped a piece of ice in, and drank it. “ Have you heard of the house of Hardcastle and Co?" he asked, in a tone meant only for Mr. Dundyke's ear.
“ The East India merchants ?" exclaimed the latter.
The stranger nodded again.
“Of course I have heard of them ; who has not ? A firm of incalcu. lable influence, sir: could buy up half London. What of them ?"
"Do you know the partners personally ?”
“Never saw any of them in my life," replied Mr. Dundyke. “They are top-sawyers, they are: a move or two above us humble city teafolks. Perhaps you have the honour of being a clerk in the house, sir?"
“ I am Mr. Hardcastle,” observed the stranger, smiling.
“ God bless my soul, sir !" cried the startled Mr. Dundyke. "I'm sure I beg pardon for my familiarity. But-stop-eh-I thought- "
“ Thought what ?” asked the stranger.
“ That Mr. Hardcastle was an old man. In fact, the impression on my mind was, that he was something like seventy."
“Pooh, my dear sir! your thoughts are running on my uncle. He has been virtually out of the firm these ten years, though his name is still retained as its head. He is just seventy. A hale, hearty man, for his years, he is too, and trots about the grounds of his mansion at Kensington as briskly as one of his own gardeners. But not a word here of who I am,” continued the gentleman, pointing slightly round the room : “I am travelling quietly, you understand, incog., if one may say so; travelling without form or expense, in search of a little peace and quietness. I have not a single attendant with me, nor my wife her maid. Mrs. Hardcastle,” he added, leaning back, the better to introduce his wife.
The lady bowed graciously to Mr. and Mrs. Dundyke, and the former, in his flurry to acknowledge the condescension, managed to upset the coffee-pot.
“I feel really glad to make your acquaintance,” resumed Mr. Hardcastle, “ for, standing aloof as I have purposely done from the persons of condition staying in the hotel, I had begun to find it confounded slow.”
“Sir, I am sure I'm greatly flattered," said Mr. Dundyke. “Have you been long here, sir?"
“ About three weeks or a month,” replied the gentleman, carelessly. “ We shall soon be thinking of going.”
Mr. Dundyke did indeed feel Aattered, and with reason. For the firm in question was of the very first consideration, and he was overwhelmed with the honour vouchsafed him. “A Lord Mayor might be proud to know him," he exclaimed to his wife, when they got up-stairs from the breakfast. “I hope he'll give me his friendship when I am in the chair."
“I think they have the next room to ours,” observed Mrs. Dundyke. “I saw the lady standing at the door there, this morning, when I was peeping out, wondering which was the way down to breakfast. Is it not singular they should be travelling in this quiet way, without any signs of their wealth about them ?”
Sept.--VOL. CII. NO. CCCCV.
“Not at all singular," said the shrewd common-councilman. « They are so overdone with grandeur at home, these rich merchants, with their servants, and state, and ceremony, that it must be a positive relief to get rid of it altogether for a time, and live like ordinary people. I can understand the feeling very well.”
It was more than Mrs. Dundyke could ; and though, from that morning, the great merchant and his lady took pains to cultivate the intimacy thus formed, she never took to them so cordially as her husband. He, if one may use the old saying in such a sense, fell over head and ears in love with both, but Mrs. Dundyke never could feel quite at home with them. No doubt the sense of her own inferiority of position partly caused this : she felt, if her husband did not, that they were no society, even abroad, for the powerful Mr. and Mrs. Hardcastle. And, in her inmost heart, she did not like the lady. Her attire was ten times as costly and abundant as Mrs. Dundyke's, and she would wear more jewellery at one time than the latter had ever seen in all her life, and that was of course as it should be; but Mrs. Dundyke was apt to take likings and dislikings, and she could not like this lady, try as she would. A loose expression too, implying very loose ideas, would now and then slip from her lips—such an expression that, had Mrs. Dundyke heard from either of her two maid-servants at Brighton, she would have sent the damsel to pack up her boxes there and then. Once, too, she saw her with the most perfect equanimity toss off three parts of a wine-glass of brandy, but she reasoned that it must have been done in mistake for wine.
One morning she happened to be in Mrs. Hardcastle's room, which, it has been mentioned, adjoined her own, when the English waiter entered.
“My master's compliments, madam," he said, “ and he hopes Mr. Hardcastle has some news for him this morning."
The lady's face went crimson, the first time Mrs. Dundyke had seen any colour on it, and she answered, in a haughty tone, that Mr. Hardcastle was not then in—when he was, the man could speak with him.
“For it is now a fortnight, madam, since he has daily promised to- ” : “I have nothing to do with it,” interrupted Mrs. Hardcastle, imperiously, motioning the waiter from the room. “You must address yourself to my husband.” And Mrs. Dundyke wondered what this little scene could mean. With people of less known wealth than the Hardcastles, she might have thought it had reference to the settlement—or non-settlement-of the bill, but that could not happen with them.
“ I want you to do me a favour," exclaimed Mr. Hardcastle, a day or two afterwards, walking straight into the presence of Mr. Dundyke, with some papers in his hand.
The common-councilman jumped up, and placed a chair for the great man, delighted at the thought of being asked to do him a favour.
“ I wrote home some days ago for them to send me a letter of credit on the bankers here. It came this morning, and just see what they have done. Look at the endorsement.”
Mr. Hardcastle tossed as he spoke the letter of credit to Mr. Dundyke. Now the common-councilman, although a shrewd man of business amongst his own chests of tea, knew no more about these foreign letters of credit, their forms, their appearances, or their endorsements, than does a baby in arms. He turned the paper about, looked at it sideways, lengthways, and all ways; and could make out nothing but that it was a sort of cheque for 1001.
“Don't you see the error ?" exclaimed Mr. Hardcastle. “They have made it payable to my uncle, Stephen Hardcastle, instead of to me, or to the firm collectively, which would have been the same. My name's not Stephen, so it would be perfectly useless for me to present it. How the fools came to make such an extraordinary mistake I cannot tell: some one of the junior clerks I suppose, in the pressure of business, managed to give unintelligible orders to the bankers, and so caused the error."
“Dear me !" said Mr. Dundyke.
“Now I want to know if you can let me have this sum. I shall write immediately to get the thing rectified, and if you can accommodate me for a few days, until the needful comes, I will then repay you with many thanks.”
“But, dear me, sir !” exclaimed Mr. Dundyke, -"not but what I should be proud to do anything for you that I could, in my poor wayyou don't suppose I have got a hundred pound here ? Nor the half ! nor the quarter of it!"
Mr. Hardcastle carelessly hummed a tune, and played with his glittering cable watch-chain.
“I should not like to offer you what I have got, sir," continued the common-councilman, “ but I am sure if you took it as no offence, and it would be of any temporary use to you "
6. Oh, thank you! No, it's not that," interrupted the merchant. “Less than the hundred pounds would not be worth the trouble of borrowing. You have nothing like that sum, you say ?”
Out came Mr. Dundyke's purse and pocket-book. He counted over his store, and found that, English and French money combined, he possessed twenty-two pounds, eleven shillings. The twenty pounds, notes and gold, he pushed towards Mr. Hardcastle, the odd money he returned to his pocket. “You are quite welcome, sir, for a few days, if you will condescend to make use of it.”
“I feel extremely obliged to you," observed Mr. Hardcastle, “and am half inclined to avail myself of your politeness. The fact is, Dundyke,” he continued, confidentially, “my wife has been spending money wholesale, this last week-falling in love with a lot of useless jewellery, when she has got a cart-load of it at home. I let her have what money she wanted, counting on my speedy remittances, and, upon my word, I am nearly drained. I will write you an acknowledgment.”
« Oh no, no, sir, pray don't trouble to do that,” cried the confiding common-councilman, “your word would be your bond all over the world. And Mr. Hardcastle laughed pleasantly, as he gathered up the money and retired.
“I want five francs, please,” said Mrs. Dundyke to her husband, coming in soon afterwards.
“Five francs! What for?"
“ To pay our washing bill. It comes to four francs something, so far as I can make out their French figures." “I don't know that you can have it, Mrs. D.”
“But why ?” inquired the lady, meekly.
“I have just lent most of my spare cash to Mr. Hardcastle, ma'am. He received a hundred pound this morning from England, but there was a stupid error in endorsing the cheque, and he can't touch the money till it has been back home to be rectified.”
The information set Mrs. Dundyke thinking. She had just returned from a walk, and it was in coming up the stairs that a chambermaid had met her and given her the washing-bill. Not being accustomed to French writing and accounts, she could not readily puzzle it out, and, bill in hand, had knocked at Mrs. Hardcastle's door, intending to crave that lady's assistance. Mr. Hardcastle opened it only a little way.
• Is Mrs. Hardcastle at leisure, if you please, sir?” she asked.
“ No; she's not in. I'll send her to you when she comes,” was his reply, as he re-closed the door. And yet Mrs. Dundyke was almost certain she saw the tip of Mrs. Hardcastle's gown, as if she were sitting in the room on the right, the door opening to the left. And she also saw distinctly the person who had been once pointed out to her as the landlord of the hotel. He was standing at the table, counting moneyma note or two, it looked, and a little gold. There was food in this to employ Mrs. Dundyke's thoughts, now she knew, or supposed, that very money was her husband's. A sudden doubt whether all was right-she has declared it many times since-flashed across her mind. But it left her as soon as thought: left her ashamed of doubting such people as the Hardcastles, even for a moment. She remained thinking, though.
“ I know these foreign posts are uncertain," she observed, arousing herself, “ and at best it will take, I suppose, ten days before Mr. Hardcastle's remittance can reach him : suppose it should not come when he expects, or that there should be another mistake in it ?”
ac Well, ma'am ?"
“ Why—as we cannot afford to remain on here an indefinite period, waiting, I was thinking it might be better for you to write home for more money yourself, and make certain.”
“ Just leave me to manage ny own business, ma'am, will you : I am capable, I hope," was the common-councilman's ungracious answer. Nevertheless, he adopted his wife's suggestion, though not until some days had elapsed.
II. Mr. and Mrs. Hardcastle continued all grace and smiles, pressing their champagne upon Mr. Dundyke and his wife at dinner, and hiring carriages, in which all the four drove out together. The common-councilman was rapidly overcoming his repugnance to a table-d'hôte, but the sumptuous one served in the hotel was very different from those he had been frightened with on his journey, and in the second week of his stay his wife had to let out all his waistcoats. The little excursions in the country he cared less for, but he did not disapprove of them, as they were taken at Mr. Hardcastle's cost. The lovely country about Geneva was driven over again and again : Ferney, Coppet, the houses of Madame de Staël and Voltaire, all were visited, not much, it is to be feared, to the edification of the common-councilman. Thus three weeks, from the time of their first arrival, passed rapidly away, and Mr. Dundyke and his wife