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The Money Moon(Chapter2)

2006-08-28 23:13

  Chapter II. How George Bellew sought counsel of his Valet

  The first intimation Bellew received of the futility of his hopes was the following letter which he received one morning as he sat at breakfast in his chambers in St. James Street, W.

  MY DEAR GEORGE——I am writing to tell you that I like you so much that I am quite sure I could never marry you, it would be too ridiculous. Liking, you see George, is not love, is it? Though, personally, I think all that sort of thing went out of fashion with our great-grandmother's hoops, and crinolines. So George, I have decided to marry the Duke of Ryde. The ceremony will take place in three weeks time at St. George's, Hanover Square, and everyone will be there, of course. If you care to come too, so much the better. I won't say that I hope you will forget me, because I don't; but I am sure you will find someone to console you because you are such a dear, good fellow, and so ridiculously rich.

  So good-bye, and best wishes,

  Ever yours most sincerely,

  SYLVIA.

  Now under such circumstances, had Bellew sought oblivion and consolation from bottles, or gone headlong to the devil in any of other numerous ways that are more or less inviting, deluded people would have pitied him, and shaken grave heads over him; for it seems that disappointment (more especially in love) may condone many offences, and cover as many sins as Charity.

  But Bellew, knowing nothing of that latter-day hysteria which wears the disguise, and calls itself "Temperament," and being only a rather ordinary young man, did nothing of the kind. Having lighted his pipe, and read the letter through again, he rang instead for Baxter, his valet.

  Baxter was small, and slight, and dapper as to person, clean-shaven, alert of eye, and soft of movement,——in a word, Baxter was the cream of gentlemen's gentlemen, and the very acme of what a valet should be, from the very precise parting of his glossy hair, to the trim toes of his glossy boots. Baxter as has been said, was his valet, and had been his father's valet, before him, and as to age, might have been thirty, or forty, or fifty, as he stood there beside the table, with one eye-brow raised a trifle higher than the other, waiting for Bellew to speak.

  "Baxter."

  "Sir?"

  "Take a seat."

  "Thank you sir." And Baxter sat down, not too near his master, nor too far off, but exactly at the right, and proper distance.

  "Baxter, I wish to consult with you."

  "As between Master and Servant, sir?"

  "As between man and man, Baxter."

  "Very good, Mr. George, sir!"

  "I should like to hear your opinion, Baxter, as to what is the proper, and most accredited course to adopt when one has been——er——crossed in love?"

  "Why sir," began Baxter, slightly wrinkling his smooth brow, "so far as I can call to mind, the courses usually adopted by despairing lovers, are, in number, four."

  "Name them, Baxter."

  "First, Mr. George, there is what I may term, the Course Retaliatory,——which is Marriage——"

  "Marriage?"

  "With——another party, sir,——on the principle that there are as good fish in the sea as ever came out, and——er——pebbles on beaches, sir; you understand me, sir?"

  "Perfectly, go on."

  "Secondly, there is the Army, sir, I have known of a good many enlistments on account of blighted affections, Mr. George, sir; indeed, the Army is very popular."

  "Ah?" said Bellew, settling the tobacco in his pipe with the aid of the salt-spoon, "Proceed, Baxter."

  "Thirdly, Mr. George, there are those who are content to——to merely disappear."

  "Hum!" said Bellew.

  "And lastly sir, though it is usually the first,——there is dissipation, Mr. George. Drink, sir,——the consolation of bottles, and——"

  "Exactly!" nodded Bellew. "Now Baxter," he pursued, beginning to draw diagrams on the table-cloth with the salt-spoon, "knowing me as you do, what course should you advise me to adopt?"

  "You mean, Mr. George,——speaking as between man and man of course,——you mean that you are in the unfortunate position of being——crossed in your affections, sir?"

  "Also——heart-broken, Baxter."

  "Certainly, sir!"

  "Miss Marchmont marries the Duke of Hyde,——in three weeks, Baxter."

  "Indeed, sir!"

  "You were, I believe, aware of the fact that Miss Marchmont and I were as good as engaged?"

  "I had——hem!——gathered as much, sir."

  "Then——confound it all, Baxter!——why aren't you surprised?"

  "I am quite——over-come, sir!" said Baxter, stooping to recover the salt-spoon which had slipped to the floor.

  "Consequently," pursued Bellew, "I am——er——broken-hearted, as I told you——"

  "Certainly, sir."

  "Crushed, despondent, and utterly hopeless, Baxter, and shall be, henceforth, pursued by the——er——Haunting Spectre of the Might Have Been."

  "Very natural, sir, indeed!"

  "I could have hoped, Baxter, that, having served me so long,——not to mention my father, you would have shown just a——er shade more feeling in the matter."

  "And if you were to ask me,——as between man and man sir,——why I don't show more feeling, then, speaking as the old servant of your respected father, Master George, sir,——I should beg most respectfully to say that regarding the lady in question, her conduct is not in the least surprising, Miss Marchmont being a beauty, and aware of the fact, Master George. Referring to your heart, sir, I am ready to swear that it is not even cracked. And now, sir,——what clothes do you propose to wear this morning?"

  "And pray, why should you be so confident of regarding the——er——condition of my heart?"

  "Because, sir,——speaking as your father's old servant, Master George, I make bold to say that I don't believe that you have ever been in love, or even know what love is, Master George, sir."

  Bellew picked up the salt-spoon, balanced it very carefully upon his finger, and put it down again.

  "Nevertheless," said he, shaking his head, "I can see for myself but the dreary perspective of a hopeless future, Baxter, blasted by the Haunting Spectre of the Might Have Been;——I'll trouble you to push the cigarettes a little nearer."

  "And now, sir," said Baxter, as he rose to strike, and apply the necessary match, "what suit will you wear to-day?"

  "Something in tweeds."

  "Tweeds, sir! surely you forget your appointment with the Lady Cecily Prynne, and her party? Lord Mountclair had me on the telephone, last night——"

  "Also a good, heavy walking-stick, Baxter, and a knap-sack."

  "A knap-sack, sir?"

  "I shall set out on a walking tour——in an hour's time."

  "Certainly, sir,——where to, sir?"

  "I haven't the least idea, Baxter, but I'm going——in an hour. On the whole, of the four courses you describe for one whose life is blighted, whose heart,——I say whose heart, Baxter, is broken,——utterly smashed, and——er——shivered beyond repair, I prefer to disappear——in an hour, Baxter."

  "Shall you drive the touring car, sir, or the new racer?"

  "I shall walk, Baxter, alone,——in an hour."

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