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of ballet-girls in an unregenerated state? My dear Frank I have talked myself hoarse; the cant of the day always stirs me up much more than is wise, for we are great fools to trouble ourselves about other people. Give me some of that seltzer. Audit? No, thank you; too heavy for the middle of the day, though time was that I could take it as inordinately as naval men take grog. I took you by surprise, didn't I? I came down last night, and brought Montressor with me. His two-year-old, Girouette, is entered for the Two Thousand, you know, so we're come down beforehand to watch over the bay, and have rabbit-shooting. And now what's the news in Granta? How's my old friend Helena? Not married yet? Poor thing! like Tantalus, she starves with the prizes hanging about her in every direction, and yet she can't manage to catch one. That's what comes of being a flirt."
"Hallo, le fourgon se moque de la pelle!"
"Yes, I flirt; I never deny my métier. But then I don't care to get married, and she does; so that what is amusement for me is a risk for her. It's the best protection for a man and the most dangerous reputation for a woman, to be called a flirt, because nobody ever expects anything serious from them. The women take my bouquets and pretty speeches for what they're worth, and know that I can no more help making love to them than a lurcher can help killing a rat when it sees one; and the men take Helena's sentimentalities and dainty notes for what they're worth, know how many have had fac-similes of them, and would as soon think of offering to her maid as marrying a woman who has tried it on with Fellows, coaches, rectors, freshmen, musty old wranglers, and green young innocents, for ten long years, and who is Helena Jermyn still. Poor Helena! what tender walks and talks she and I used to have by the old Cam yonder, and what vows of fidelity we made to one another under the elms of Neville's Court."
"And why didn't you keep them ?"
"Why, do men ever keep such silly vows, you young goose? not even to charming gantières of thirty with red hair! Why I left Granta, and my letters delightful outlets of the soul-became unutterable bores at last, and happily Helena found the same, and turned her attentions and her baits to little Lord Tufton, of John's, who might have been caught perhaps, coronet and all, if his degree hadn't been given him, and his governor started him off to the Continent out of harm's way. I say, Frank, come over to the Chancery whenever you can, there are lots of rabbits, and Montressor's a capital fellow."
Fane spoke the truth; not only in regard to Montressor and the rabbits, but with respect to his flirting; he was a flirt, and a most desperate and unscrupulous one, too. His greatest fault was his careless and merciless slaughter of the beau sexe, and, strange to say, his very cruelties in this line seemed to give him a singular and favourable aroma for his victims, I suppose on the same principle on which you or I, if we were called out some fine morning on to Wormwood Scrubs, would prefer to fall by the skilful aim of some noted duellist than by the hap-hazard shot of some raw boy. He was a flirt; he loved and left with abominable carelessness, marking his game very eagerly, though not caring a button for it when bagged; and in London drawing-rooms, and Leicestershire hunting-fields, in Longchamp carriages and Venetian balconies, on Rhine steamers and Baden Kursaals, Fane had whispered vows which, if broken oaths do
weigh on people's conscience, ought to have made his life a very path of thorns, instead of the very agreeable and amusing gallop-through existence that it was to him.
What a wine we had that night in my rooms to do honour to Fane! All the men were eager to see him of whom tales were still rife in Brazenbricks, and after whom a ditch he had taken following the Cambridge harriers was still known as Plucky Fane's Leap-a leap which it was a miracle did not end his days then and there. We had a night of it, I can assure you; having a very fair bank balance of my own, I was dependent neither on governors nor local wine-merchants, and I believe to the superiority of my London wines to others' abominable Cambridge Cape and British, I owed a good many of my very fast and firm friends, for at Granta, as in the bigger world, a man's Patrocles clings to him strangely, according as his claret is St. Julien or Château Margaux; and if Achilles, with all his worth, and his heroism, and his intrinsic value, has nothing but bread and cheese to offer, he will get turned over for Amphimachus of the empty head and vacuous heart, if Amphimachus can offer a cordon bleu and Moët's first quality. But in those days one is not censorious or suspicious; we take the good fellowship as it comes, flattering ourselves that it is we and not our tuft that is courted, till, perhaps, the day comes when the bank breaks, or the Jews come down on us, and we turn to our crowd of cordial chums to find them vanished. We are not sceptical in those days, because we have not yet been forced to use our lorgnon, and I can assure you we had such a night of it as not even Brazen bricks, though its walls are providentially thick, and it has had within them wilder larks than any in Granta, had ever heard before, while the punch, and the flip, and the Badminton, and the champagne cup went their rounds, and the sound of our ungodly glee went up into the ears of poor little Stone, the only reading man in Brazenbricks, who gave scientific teas, where, I believe, he absolutely discussed Greek roots and obscure passages with other spirits like himself, over nothing more potent than that pet beverage of vieilles filles and their pet clergymen, which, Mr. Cowper assures us, "cheers," and, we are very sure, never inebriates, save, I fancy, when laundresses make it a vehicle for a less innocuous distillation, to the subsequent destruction of those strongest pleas for marriage-buttons.
We saw a good deal of Fane and his friend Montressor, a capital fellow, as he said, who, hating the bother of a London season, had left his baron's proxy with Lord Derby, and come down to watch over Girouette's safety and shoot rabbits with Fane. We saw a good deal of them; either we were lunching and shooting at his box, the Chancery, or they were playing pool, or pulling up the Cam with us; and when we had to turn out and do chapel (that pious infliction of a benighted age that fancies empty forms and rattled-over rituals can draw men nearer Heaven), we used to swear with most unholy envy at those two fellows over at the Chancery striding through the plantations, or dreaming blissfully till their matitudinal coffee woke them, as their fancy happened to dictate.
"This is uncommonly pleasant," said Montressor one morning, when they were lunching in my rooms, after seeing us beat the Christ's Eleven. "I like it immensely; everybody's up in town. We shan't have a single
invitation from that immeasurable bore the County. We've no crinolines to worry us, no pretty little traps to catch us, no terrified papas to be down upon us for our intentions. If we keep out of the glove shopseh, Frank?—we may keep pretty clear of the mouse-traps feminine."
"I agree with you that the County's a good loss," interrupted Fane. "Your county people are always stiff and stiltified; they're so afraid of tumbling down from the altitude of their aristocracy. The Duke or the Marquis, the magnet par excellence, visits them on sufferance, and they on sufferance visit the clergy; and when you have those three orders at the same table, each thinking how much better they are than the one below them, the magnet slighting the commoners, and the commoners patronising the clergy, and the clergy toadying both, and yet very savage in themselves at not being counted in the compagnie d'élite, I leave anybody to imagine whether there is likely to be much fun in that society, or whether any one would go into it for the sake of its entremets, if they could have a grilled devil in quietude at home. I agree with you about the County, Monti, but I don't about the crinolines. You know, if I'd been Adam, I should have been excessively dull with only one Eve; and I couldn't have managed to endure existence at all till she came. I was just thinking that rabbits are all very well, but beaux yeux would be better, and lamenting that I hadn't seen a pretty-looking woman since I left town, an entire week, I vow. Never was so long without a flirtation in my life."
"Comfort yourself, then, Fane," said Calvert, "for Rosalie Rivers is coming to stay with the Jermyns, and she's provocation enough for anything. Besides
"What, The Rivers?" asked Fane, tossing down some audit that had won back its ancient favour in his eyes. "Oh, by Jove! I rather want to see her. I have heard numbers of men talk about her; she's the most deuced coquette going. The Enniskilleners used to be quartered near her place, and she flirted most desperately with every one of them, from the Colonel to little Charley Kingslake, who'd only just joined. Rosalie Rivers, by George! But you began a 'besides,' Calvert. What other godsend may there be coming?"
"Another friend of Helena's- -a new one, I believe-a Mrs. Moidor Fitzcowrie, an Indian widow, handsome as Juno, and rich as Butt's governor; altogether rather a dazzling person by all accounts. It's not much like Helena's usual diplomacy to ask two such charming women to stay with her."
"They'll draw; she can't do that herself now," asserted Jimmy Dashaway; "and she'll die rather than see the Jermyn levees thinly attended."
"Poor Helena! Don't be hard on her, Jimmy. A passé role is a painful one to play; and I don't suppose, if you and I were women, we should like losing our power one whit better than she does, for Heaven knows women haven't a monopoly of personal vanity. Some of us can't laugh at 'em on that score," said Fane, prompted to pity, I suppose, by certain memories of Helena Jermyn, the daughter of the master of Brazen bricks, as she had seemed to him those long ten years before, when the moonlight used to glisten on the elms of Neville's Court, and the nightingales jug-jugged among the glades of King's, and he sang
Italian duets in old Jermyn's pleasant drawing-room, where Miss Helena flirted à son gré while her papa was deep in his "revised translation" of something which was to be an incalculable boon to the world, or at least to that benighted portion of it who couldn't read classics for themselves. "Rosalie Rivers? I've heard of her, too," said Montressor. "She's worth thirty thousand of her own, not to mention what will come to her from her mother. I'm not sure she wasn't pointed out to me in the Ride last season. That's the girl Bertie Lyons went so crazy about. Oh, she's an out-and-out flirt; as bad in her way as you are in yours, Fane."
"Indeed? Well I'm very glad she's coming then, for, en attendant the Two Thousand, one wants some sport a trifle more elating than the rabbits. I don't like coquettes as a rule, though; they're safe to be maniérées; they've one settled style of action, from having opened so many campaigns, and they're like their own ball-room bouquet, uncommonly brilliant to look at, but if you examine it closely you find are only blossoms stuck on wires, and made for show in a set pattern, and which have been so often handled that you'll look in vain for fragrance or natural beauty. However, they'll do for a waltz, and that's all one asks
"A pretty fellow you are," retorted Montressor, "to go satirising coquettes, when you are the most abominable flirt going yourself."
Fane laughed his clear ringing laugh, with which he had turned off most things from the time that galling lecturing and rustication fell lightly on his shoulders.
"Since I am, is there not greater reason to like my bouquets from the conservatory, and not spoiled by having been tarés by hot-house atmosphere, and touched by others' fingers. I like to have them all my own, and not out of anybody else's bouquetier. Besides, my dearest fellow, in whom, I should like to know, is consistency between preaching and practising required now-a-days? Because I flirt that's no reason I may not denounce it in others; indeed, it is a favourite custom lately to cry Fie! fie! on others for what we do ourselves. It is such a beautiful trick to draw attention from our own short-comings, and if we cry Thief! with all our might, we may take our next neighbour's purse and nobody will possibly suspect us. What capital sherry this is of yours, Frank. What do they charge you a dozen ?"
ROSALIE RIVERS OPENS HER BATTERIES.
THE second day after, all the men in Brazenbricks looked up from coffee and kidneys, Bell's Life, French novels, surreptitious écarté, severe sapping with towels round their foreheads, to ease the headache of last night's wine, or whatever their occupation chanced to be, when the Jermyns' carriages rolled into the gateway, and a lovely figure, with the tiniest feet in the world, and the divinest black hat imaginable, that we recognised as Rosalie Rivers, after whom every Cantab in Granta had gone mad at the last Bachelors', crossed the Quad, with Helena and a stately, splendid creature, whom we rightly conjectured to be Mrs. Moidor Fitzcowrie, and disappeared at old Jermyn's hall door, leaving
every Brazenbricks man in much the same state of darkened despair as the Cummingites must experience when, having screwed up their expectations to the highest possible pitch, they have to let them down again, and wait another year or two for that gentleman's promised spectacle. The day after that was Sunday, and for the first time in our lives we did chapel with pleasure, for there in the stalls opposite sat Mrs. Fitzcowrie, a dashing, imposing-looking woman, with a veritable Cashmere, and bracelets that, Calvert pathetically remarked between the Psalms, would buy the nicest colt in Newmarket. And there, too, sat Rosalie Rivers, chaussée, gantée, and got up altogether à ravir, the most bewitching coquette imaginable, with dark veloutés eyes, a soft fair skin, and a figure the acme of grace, giving us sunny glances over the top of her book, and calculated altogether, as she knew, to turn the head of every Cantab in chapel, and to utterly distract the very small amount of attention Cantabs ever have to bestow on those sing-song rituals that are ding-donged into their ears out of all time and season.
If Rosalie Rivers was a flirt-as report affirmed, and as certainly her practices did not contradict-she had at least plenty of weapons to support her in her métier. She was as daintily lovely as a pastel drawing, and didn't we all crowd round her after service, in reckless forgetfulness or defiance of the broken hearts that have marked her path down the Bachelors' ball-room, and the state of wretchedness, indifference to all earthly comforters, savage consummation of pipes, and frightful quotation of Tennyson, in which her departure had left us, till we were roused, from a sense of devotion to the public good, to lick the conceit out of the Marylebone Eleven. Rosalie was most kindly, or cruelly, impartial; she shook hands with me, she smiled at Jimmy, she chatted with Cavendish, she laughed at Egerton, she gave her primrose-coloured Jouvins to Calvert, and Gore, and Bitter Butts, with identically the same soft glances of her veloutés eyes. I could quite believe that the Enniskilleners had gone down before her, and that Bertie Lyons lost his heart as utterly as Montressor avowed, for Rosalie dearly loved killing and slaying, and, like a child, often broke her toys for the sheer fun of seeing how strong she
The widow, too, was "a deuced fine woman," as Calvert remarked to me during the second lesson; a remarkably fine woman, with an ever-ready fire of small talk, and as easy to approach as widows are with that pleasant pass of" Mrs." before their name, and the dear departed as a useful voucher for their reputations. Calvert was really struck with her, or with that dazzling fortune which those massive bracelets seemed to promise, and as he was a dashing-looking fellow, six feet high, with splendid light whiskers, and that dulcet sound of Honourable before his name, Mrs. Fitzcowrie seemed inclined to be generous to him. Helena Jermyn, now nine-and twenty, still pretty, but passée, affected, and her grey eyes, her thin lips, even the very point of her little aquiline nose, expressive of irritation at her long fruitless hunt after the unattainable, and spite against those who had made better running than herself, did not take exception at Calvert's admiration of the widow, for the Honourable Mortimer hadn't a shilling, as I've said, and was far from a desirable catch any way, but cut up much more rough when she saw us all crowding round Rosalie, especially when Cavendish-who had a splendid property