+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error

was too notorious to admit the son into good
society. The Polite World, it is true, does
not examine a scutcheon with the nice eye of
a herald, nor look upon riches with the stately
contempt of a stoicstill the Polite World has
its family pride and its moral sentiment. It does
not like to be cheatedI mean, in money
mattersand when the son of the man who has
emptied its purse and foreclosed on its acres,
rides by its club windows, hand on haunch,
and head in the air, no lion has a scowl more
awful, no hy├Žna a laugh more dread, than
that same easy, good-tempered, tolerant, polite,
well-bred world which is so pleasant an acquaintance,
so languid a friend, andso remorseless
an enemy. ln short, Louis Grayle claimed the
right to be courtedhe was shunned; to be
admiredhe was loathed. Even his old
college acquaintances were shamed out of knowing
him. Perhaps he could have lived through
all this, had he sought to glide quietly into
position; but he wanted the tact of the well-
bred, and strove to storm his way, not to
steal it. Reduced for companions to needy
parasites, he braved and he shocked all
decorous opinion by that ostentation of excess,
which made Richelieus and Lauzuns the rage.
But then Richelieus and Lauzuns were dukes!
He now very naturally took the Polite World
into hategave it scorn for scorn. He would
ally himself with Democracy; his wealth could
not get him into a club, but it would buy
him into parliament; he could not be a Lauzun,
nor, perhaps, a Mirabeau; but he might
be a Danton. He had plenty of knowledge
and audacity, and with knowledge and
audacity a good hater is sure to be eloquent.
Possibly, then, this poor Louis Grayle might
have made a great figure, left his mark on his
age and his name in history; but in contesting
the borough which he was sure to carry, he had to
face an opponent in a real fine gentleman whom
his father had ruined, cool and high bred, with a
tongue like a rapier, a sneer like an adder. A
quarrel of course; Louis Grayle sent a challenge.
The fine gentleman, known to be no coward
(fine gentlemen never are), was at first disposed
to refuse with contempt. But Grayle had made
himself the idol of the mob; and at a word
from Grayle the fine gentleman might have been
ducked at a pump, or tossed in a blanketthat
would have made him ridiculousto be shot at
is a trifle, to be laughed at is serious. He therefore
condescended to accept the challenge, and
my father was his second.

"It was settled, of course, according to English
custom, that both combatants should fire at
the same time, and by signal. The antagonist
fired at the right moment; his ball grazed Louis
Grayle's temple. Louis Grayle had not fired.
He now seemed to the seconds to take slow and
deliberate aim. They called out to him not to fire
they were rushing to prevent himwhen the
trigger was pulled and his opponent fell dead
on the field. The fight was, therefore,
considered unfair; Louis Grayle was tried for
his life; he did not stand the trial in person.
He escaped to the Continent; hurried on to
some distant uncivilised lands; could not be
traced; reappeared in England no more. The
lawyer who conducted his defence pleaded
skilfully. He argued that the delay in firing was
not intentional, therefore not criminalthe
effect of the stun which the wound in the temple
had occasioned. The judge was a gentleman,
and summed up the evidence so as to direct
the jury to a verdict against the low wretch,
who had murdered a gentleman. But the jurors
were not gentlemen, and Grayle's advocate
had of course excited their sympathy for a son
of the people whom a gentleman had wantonly
insultedthe verdict was manslaughter. But
the sentence emphatically marked the aggravated
nature of the homicidethree years' imprisonment.
Grayle eluded the prison, but he was
a man disgraced and an exile; his ambition
blasted, his career an outlaw's, and his age not
yet twenty-three. My father said that he was
supposed to have changed his name; none knew
what had become of him. And so in his old
age this creature, brilliant and daring, whom if
born under better auspices we might now be all
fawning on, cringing toafter living to old age,
no one knows howdies, murdered at Aleppo,
no one, you say, knows by whom."

"I saw some account of his death in the papers
about three years ago," said one of the party,
"but the name was misspelt, and I had no idea
that it was the same man who had fought the
duel which Mrs. Colonel Poyntz has so graphically
described. I have a vague recollection of
the trial; it took place when I was a boy, more
than forty years since. The affair made a stir at
the time, but was soon forgotten."

"Soon forgotten," said Mrs. Poyntz; "ay,
what is not? Leave your place in the world
for ten minutes, and when you come back somebody
else has taken it: but when you leave the
world for good who remembers that you had ever
a place even in the parish register!"

"Nevertheless," said I, "a great poet has
said, finely and truly,

   The sun of Homer shines upon us still."

"But it does not shine upon Homer; and
learned folks tell me that we know no more
who and what Homer was; if there was ever a
single Homer at all, or rather a whole herd of
Homers, than we know about the man in the
moonif there be one man there, or a million.
Now, my dear Miss Brabazon, it will be very
kind in you to divert our thoughts into channels
less gloomy. Some pretty French air——Dr.
Fenwick, I have something to say to you." She
drew me towards the window. "So, Anne
Ashleigh writes me word that I am not to
mention your engagement. Do you think it quite
prudent to keep it a secret?"

"I do not see how prudence is concerned in
keeping it secret one way or the otherit is a
mere matter of feeling. Most people wish to
abridge, as far as they can, the time in which
their private arrangements are the topic of
public gossip."