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QUITE ALONE

BOOK THE SECOND: WOMANHOOD.

CHAPTER XLIV. THE PILGRIMS AT RANELAGH

I DON’T know whether they allow strangers
to dine at the P. in these days. I am rather
inclined to think they do not. Ultra exclusiveness
tends in the long run to inhospitality, and
Spaniards, through whose miserably shrivelled
veins creeps the sangre azul, are sometimes
reluctant to share their puchero with the best
recommended stranger, fearful lest he should
have less than ninety-seven quarterings on his
scutcheon.

At all events, they dined outsiders at the P.
twenty years since, and a very agreeable time the
outsiders had of it. This may account for a
certain round table in the Pilgrimscoffee-room
being occupied on a certain evening in the winter
of the sultan’s sojourn in London, by four guests,
only two of whom were free and accepted Pilgrims.

Members first, if you please. There was our
old friend Lord Carlton, much older, but not
much the worse for wear. He had settled down
and grown fat. Need anything more be said?
Well, a little, perhaps. He was married, and
her ladyship modelled wax flowers beautifully,
and illuminated scrolls withThou shalt not
steal,” andThe tongue is an unruly member,”
in gold and colours, for ragged schools, in most
superb style. She was rather too serious to be
the wife of a reformed rake, and was given to
lamenting her destiny, and exclaiming against
the ingratitude of the world, when the juvenile
pickpockets whom she had converted morally to
a state of grace, and physically to be foot-pages,
turned out failures, and absconded with the
spoons; or when the awakened returned transport,
whom she had promoted to be butler, was
detected handing a blue bag containing Lord
Carlton’s court sword (broken short off at the
hilt), a church service bound in purple velvet
and gold, a silver vinaigrette, and fourteen yards
of Valenciennes lace, over the area railings to
Mrs. Fence, of Middlesex-street, late Petticoat-lane,
by condition a widow, and by predilection
pursuing the vocation of receiver of stolen
goods. Lord Carlton, however, went his way,
and her ladyship went hers.

His lordship bought pictures that were not by
Titian, and, in his place in the House, was a
very thorn in the side of the Royal Academicians
and the Trustees of the National Gallery. He
had brought in a bill to abolish whistling in the
streets, and to compel costermongers to say
asparagusinstead ofgrass,” when they
cried that delicious esculent for sale. This
measure had a succès d'estime, for it absolutely
got read a second time, by accident, on a very
hot Goodwood Cup day; and it was only in
committee, and by the advice of a right
reverend prelate, who, as the rumour ran, was a
distinguished amateur of sibilation, and the only
bishop who could dress asparagus with oil and
tarragon vinegar after the recipe of Marie
Antoinette’s Cardinal de Rohan, that his lordship
withdrew the bill, which had fluttered the
Volscians, and dreadfully alarmed the London
butcher-boys and itinerant vegetarians. A good
man was my Lord Carlton, after a tempestuous
youth. He owed a good deal of money, but
he also gave away a good deal; and if Peter
was damnified by his laches, Paul profited by
his liberality. He went to sleep with commendable
regularity at church, at the Opera, in the
Housesave when the whistling and green-stuff
business was afootat the club, in the green-rooms
of the patent theatres, in the committee-room
of the Royal Hospital for Plica Polonica
(that beneficent institution which we owe to the
ever-to-be-lamented Dr. Quackenboss, and at
whose anniversary festivals a royal duke generally
takes the chair), and at the board meetings
of the Elephant Life Assurance Association.
Universally respected and beloved, a D.C.L., and
lord-lieutenant in prospective of his county,
Lord Carlton had probably little to wish for
here below, save a little less gout, and a little
more money to pay off his mortgages with. He
had a literary turn, and had written a stinging
article in a review, showing up would-be
connoisseurs, who gave enormous sums for spurious
Titians; and he was, just now, occupied in
editing the family papers of the Carltons. As
the first lord got his coronet through selling
votes to Sir Robert Walpole, and the second
earned a step in the peerage by selling votes to
Mr. Pitt, and the third had cracked innumerable
bottles with George the Fourth, much, very
much was expected from the Carlton Papers.

And who was the second Pilgrim? Sir
William Long. He was thinner, and paler,
and looked taller, and men said his health