Rodney Stone

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The hope of england

My uncle drove for some time in silence, but I was conscious that his eye was always coming round to me, and I had an uneasy conviction that he was already beginning to ask himself whether he could make anything of me, or whether he had been betrayed into an indiscretion when he had allowed his sister to persuade him to show her son something of the grand world in which he lived. “You sing, don’t you, nephew?” he asked, suddenly. “Yes, sir, a little.” “A baritone, I should fancy?” “Yes, sir.” “And your mother tells me that you play the fiddle.  These things will be of service to you with the Prince.  Music runs in his family.  Your education has been what you could get at a village school.  Well, you are not examined in Greek roots in polite society, which is lucky for some of us.  It is as well just to have a tag or two of Horace or Virgil: ‘sub tegmine fagi,’ or ‘habet fœnum in cornu,’ which gives a flavour to one’s conversation like the touch of garlic in a salad.  It is not bon ton to be learned, but it is a graceful thing to indicate that you have forgotten a good deal.  Can you write verse?” “I fear not, sir.” “A small book of rhymes may be had for half a crown.  Vers de Société are a great assistance to a young man.  If you have the ladies on your side, it does not matter whom you have against you.  You must learn to open a door, to enter a room, to present a snuff-box, raising the lid with the forefinger of the hand in which you hold it.  You must acquire the bow for a man, with its necessary touch of dignity, and that for a lady, which cannot be too humble, and should still contain the least suspicion of abandon.  You must cultivate a manner with women which shall be deprecating and yet audacious.  Have you any eccentricity?” It made me laugh, the easy way in which he asked the question, as if it were a most natural thing to possess. “You have a pleasant, catching laugh, at all events,” said he.  “But an eccentricity is very bon ton at present, and if you feel any leaning towards one, I should certainly advise you to let it run its course.  Petersham would have remained a mere peer all his life had it not come out that he had a snuff-box for every day in the year, and that he had caught cold through a mistake of his valet, who sent him out on a bitter winter day with a thin Sèvres china box instead of a thick tortoiseshell.  That brought him out of the ruck, you see, and people remember him.  Even some small characteristic, such as having an apricot tart on your sideboard all the year round, or putting your candle out at night by stuffing it under your pillow, serves to separate you from your neighbour.  In my own case, it is my precise judgment upon matter of dress and decorum which has placed me where I am.  I do not profess to follow a law.  I set one.  For example, I am taking you to-day to see the Prince in a nankeen vest.  What do you think will be the consequence of that?” My fears told me that it might be my own very great discomfiture, but I did not say so. “Why, the night coach will carry the news to London.  It will be in Brookes’s and White’s to-morrow morning.  Within, a week St. James’s Street and the Mall will be full of nankeen waistcoats.  A most painful incident happened to me once.  My cravat came undone in the street, and I actually walked from Carlton House to Watier’s in Bruton Street with the two ends hanging loose.  Do you suppose it shook my position?  The same evening there were dozens of young bloods walking the streets of London with their cravats loose.  If I had not rearranged mine there would not be one tied in the whole kingdom now, and a great art would have been prematurely lost.  You have not yet began to practise it?” I confessed that I had not. “You should begin now in your youth.  I will myself teach you the coup d’archet.  By using a few hours in each day, which would otherwise be wasted, you may hope to have excellent cravats in middle life.  The whole knack lies in pointing your chin to the sky, and then arranging your folds by the gradual descent of your lower jaw.” When my uncle spoke like this there was always that dancing, mischievous light in his dark blue eyes, which showed me that this humour of his was a conscious eccentricity, depending, as I believe, upon a natural fastidiousness of taste, but wilfully driven to grotesque lengths for the very reason which made him recommend me also to develop some peculiarity of my own.  When I thought of the way in which he had spoken of his unhappy friend, Lord Avon, upon the evening before, and of the emotion which he showed as he told the horrible story, I was glad to think that there was the heart of a man there, however much it might please him to conceal it. And, as it happened, I was very soon to have another peep at it, for a most unexpected event befell us as we drew up in front of the Crown hotel.  A swarm of ostlers and grooms had rushed out to us, and my uncle, throwing down the reins, gathered Fidelio on his cushion from under the seat. “Ambrose,” he cried, “you may take Fidelio.” But there came no answer.  The seat behind was unoccupied.  Ambrose was gone. We could hardly believe our eyes when we alighted and found that it was really so.  He had most certainly taken his seat there at Friar’s Oak, and from there on we had come without a break as fast as the mares could travel.  Whither, then, could he have vanished to? “He’s fallen off in a fit!” cried my uncle.  “I’d drive back, but the Prince is expecting us.  Where’s the landlord?  Here, Coppinger, send your best man back to Friar’s Oak as fast as his horse can go, to find news of my valet, Ambrose.  See that no pains be spared.  Now, nephew, we shall lunch, and then go up to the Pavilion.” My uncle was much disturbed by the strange loss of his valet, the more so as it was his custom to go through a whole series of washings and changings after even the shortest journey.  For my own part, mindful of my mother’s advice, I carefully brushed the dust from my clothes and made myself as neat as possible.  My heart was down in the soles of my little silver-buckled shoes now that I had the immediate prospect of meeting so great and terrible a person as the Prince of Wales.  I had seen his flaring yellow barouche flying through Friar’s Oak many a time, and had halloaed and waved my hat with the others as it passed, but never in my wildest dreams had it entered my head that I should ever be called upon to look him in the face and answer his questions.  My mother had taught me to regard him with reverence, as one of those whom God had placed to rule over us; but my uncle smiled when I told him of her teaching. “You are old enough to see things as they are, nephew,” said he, “and your knowledge of them is the badge that you are in that inner circle where I mean to place you.  There is no one who knows the Prince better than I do, and there is no one who trusts him less.  A stranger contradiction of qualities was never gathered under one hat.  He is a man who is always in a hurry, and yet has never anything to do.  He fusses about things with which he has no concern, and he neglects every obvious duty.  He is generous to those who have no claim upon him, but he has ruined his tradesmen by refusing to pay his just debts.  He is affectionate to casual acquaintances, but he dislikes his father, loathes his mother, and is not on speaking terms with his wife.  He claims to be the first gentleman of England, but the gentlemen of England have responded by blackballing his friends at their clubs, and by warning him off from Newmarket under suspicion of having tampered with a horse.  He spends his days in uttering noble sentiments, and contradicting them by ignoble actions.  He tells stories of his own doings which are so grotesque that they can only be explained by the madness which runs in his blood.  And yet, with all this, he can be courteous, dignified, and kindly upon occasion, and I have seen an impulsive good-heartedness in the man which has made me overlook faults which come mainly from his being placed in a position which no one upon this earth was ever less fitted to fill.  But this is between ourselves, nephew; and now you will come with me and you will form an opinion for yourself.” It was but a short walk, and yet it took us some time, for my uncle stalked along with great dignity, his lace-bordered handkerchief in one hand, and his cane with the clouded amber head dangling from the other.  Every one that we met seemed to know him, and their hats flew from their heads as we passed.  He took little notice of these greetings, save to give a nod to one, or to slightly raise his forefinger to another.  It chanced, however, that as we turned into the Pavilion Grounds, we met a magnificent team of four coal-black horses, driven by a rough-looking, middle-aged fellow in an old weather-stained cape.  There was nothing that I could see to distinguish him from any professional driver, save that he was chatting very freely with a dainty little woman who was perched on the box beside him. “Halloa, Charlie!  Good drive down?” he cried. My uncle bowed and smiled to the lady. “Broke it at Friar’s Oak,” said he.  “I’ve my light curricle and two new mares - half thorough-bred, half Cleveland bay.” “What d’you think of my team of blacks?” asked the other. “Yes, Sir Charles, what d’you think of them?  Ain’t they damnation smart?” cried the little woman. “Plenty of power.  Good horses for the Sussex clay.  Too thick about the fetlocks for me.  I like to travel.” “Travel!” cried the woman, with extraordinary vehemence.  “Why, what the - ” and she broke into such language as I had never heard from a man’s lips before.  “We’d start with our swingle-bars touching, and we’d have your dinner ordered, cooked, laid, and eaten before you were there to claim it.” “By George, yes, Letty is right!” cried the man.  “D’you start to-morrow?” “Yes, Jack.” “Well, I’ll make you an offer.  Look ye here, Charlie!  I’ll spring my cattle from the Castle Square at quarter before nine.  You can follow as the clock strikes.  I’ve double the horses and double the weight.  If you so much as see me before we cross Westminster Bridge, I’ll pay you a cool hundred.  If not, it’s my money - play or pay.  Is it a match?” “Very good,” said my uncle, and, raising his hat, he led the way into the grounds.  As I followed, I saw the woman take the reins, while the man looked after us, and squirted a jet of tobacco-juice from between his teeth in coachman fashion. “That’s Sir John Lade,” said my uncle, “one of the richest men and best whips in England.  There isn’t a professional on the road that can handle either his tongue or his ribbons better; but his wife, Lady Letty, is his match with the one or the other.” “It was dreadful to hear her,” said I. “Oh, it’s her eccentricity.  We all have them; and she amuses the Prince.  Now, nephew, keep close at my elbow, and have your eyes open and your mouth shut.” Two lines of magnificent red and gold footmen who guarded the door bowed deeply as my uncle and I passed between them, he with his head in the air and a manner as if he entered into his own, whilst I tried to look assured, though my heart was beating thin and fast.  Within there was a high and large hall, ornamented with Eastern decorations, which harmonized with the domes and minarets of the exterior.  A number of people were moving quietly about, forming into groups and whispering to each other.  One of these, a short, burly, red-faced man, full of fuss and self-importance, came hurrying up to my uncle. “I have de goot news, Sir Charles,” said he, sinking his voice as one who speaks of weighty measures.  “Es ist vollendet - dat is, I have it at last thoroughly done.” “Well, serve it hot,” said my uncle, coldly, “and see that the sauces are a little better than when last I dined at Carlton House.” “Ah, mine Gott, you tink I talk of de cuisine.  It is de affair of de Prince dat I speak of.  Dat is one little vol-au-vent dat is worth one hundred tousand pound.  Ten per cent., and double to be repaid when de Royal pappa die.  Alles ist fertig.  Goldshmidt of de Hague have took it up, and de Dutch public has subscribe de money.” “God help the Dutch public!” muttered my uncle, as the fat little man bustled off with his news to some new-comer.  “That’s the Prince’s famous cook, nephew.  He has not his equal in England for a filet sauté aux champignons.  He manages his master’s money affairs.” “The cook!” I exclaimed, in bewilderment. “You look surprised, nephew.” “I should have thought that some respectable banking firm - ” My uncle inclined his lips to my ear. “No respectable house would touch them,” he whispered.  “Ah, Mellish, is the Prince within?” “In the private saloon, Sir Charles,” said the gentleman addressed. “Any one with him?” “Sheridan and Francis.  He said he expected you.” “Then we shall go through.” I followed him through the strangest succession of rooms, full of curious barbaric splendour which impressed me as being very rich and wonderful, though perhaps I should think differently now.  Gold and scarlet in arabesque designs gleamed upon the walls, with gilt dragons and monsters writhing along cornices and out of corners.  Look where I would, on panel or ceiling, a score of mirrors flashed back the picture of the tall, proud, white-faced man, and the youth who walked so demurely at his elbow.  Finally, a footman opened a door, and we found ourselves in the Prince’s own private apartment. Two gentlemen were lounging in a very easy fashion upon luxurious fauteuils at the further end of the room and a third stood between them, his thick, well-formed legs somewhat apart and his hands clasped behind him.  The sun was shining in upon them through a side-window, and I can see the three faces now - one in the dusk, one in the light, and one cut across by the shadow.  Of those at the sides, I recall the reddish nose and dark, flashing eyes of the one, and the hard, austere face of the other, with the high coat-collars and many-wreathed cravats.  These I took in at a glance, but it was upon the man in the centre that my gaze was fixed, for this I knew must be the Prince of Wales. George was then in his forty-first year, and with the help of his tailor and his hairdresser, he might have passed as somewhat less.  The sight of him put me at my ease, for he was a merry-looking man, handsome too in a portly, full-blooded way, with laughing eyes and pouting, sensitive lips.  His nose was turned upwards, which increased the good-humoured effect of his countenance at the expense of its dignity.  His cheeks were pale and sodden, like those of a man who lived too well and took too little exercise.  He was dressed in a single-breasted black coat buttoned up, a pair of leather pantaloons stretched tightly across his broad thighs, polished Hessian boots, and a huge white neckcloth. “Halloa, Tregellis!” he cried, in the cheeriest fashion, as my uncle crossed the threshold, and then suddenly the smile faded from his face, and his eyes gleamed with resentment.  “What the deuce is this?” he shouted, angrily. A thrill of fear passed through me as I thought that it was my appearance which had produced this outburst.  But his eyes were gazing past us, and glancing round we saw that a man in a brown coat and scratch wig had followed so closely at our heels, that the footmen had let him pass under the impression that he was of our party.  His face was very red, and the folded blue paper which he carried in his hand shook and crackled in his excitement. “Why, it’s Vuillamy, the furniture man,” cried the Prince.  “What, am I to be dunned in my own private room?  Where’s Mellish?  Where’s Townshend?  What the deuce is Tom Tring doing?” “I wouldn’t have intruded, your Royal Highness, but I must have the money - or even a thousand on account would do.” “Must have it, must you, Vuillamy?  That’s a fine word to use.  I pay my debts in my own time, and I’m not to be bullied.  Turn him out, footman!  Take him away!” “If I don’t get it by Monday, I shall be in your papa’s Bench,” wailed the little man, and as the footman led him out we could hear him, amidst shouts of laughter, still protesting that he would wind up in “papa’s Bench.” “That’s the very place for a furniture man,” said the man with the red nose. “It should be the longest bench in the world, Sherry,” answered the Prince, “for a good many of his subjects will want seats on it.  Very glad to see you back, Tregellis, but you must really be more careful what you bring in upon your skirts.  It was only yesterday that we had an infernal Dutchman here howling about some arrears of interest and the deuce knows what.  ‘My good fellow,’ said I, ‘as long as the Commons starve me, I have to starve you,’ and so the matter ended.” “I think, sir, that the Commons would respond now if the matter were fairly put before them by Charlie Fox or myself,” said Sheridan. The Prince burst out against the Commons with an energy of hatred that one would scarce expect from that chubby, good-humoured face. “Why, curse them!” he cried.  “After all their preaching and throwing my father’s model life, as they called it, in my teeth, they had to pay his debts to the tune of nearly a million, whilst I can’t get a hundred thousand out of them.  And look at all they’ve done for my brothers!  York is Commander-in-Chief.  Clarence is Admiral.  What am I?  Colonel of a damned dragoon regiment under the orders of my own younger brother.  It’s my mother that’s at the bottom of it all.  She always tried to hold me back.  But what’s this you’ve brought, Tregellis, eh?” My uncle put his hand on my sleeve and led me forward. “This is my sister’s son, sir; Rodney Stone by name,” said he.  “He is coming with me to London, and I thought it right to begin by presenting him to your Royal Highness.” “Quite right!  Quite right!” said the Prince, with a good-natured smile, patting me in a friendly way upon the shoulder.  “Is your mother living?” “Yes, sir,” said I. “If you are a good son to her you will never go wrong.  And, mark my words, Mr. Rodney Stone, you should honour the King, love your country, and uphold the glorious British Constitution.” When I thought of the energy with which he had just been cursing the House of Commons, I could scarce keep from smiling, and I saw Sheridan put his hand up to his lips. “You have only to do this, to show a regard for your word, and to keep out of debt in order to insure a happy and respected life.  What is your father, Mr. Stone?  Royal Navy!  Well, it is a glorious service.  I have had a touch of it myself.  Did I ever tell you how we laid aboard the French sloop of war Minerve -hey, Tregellis?” “No, sir,” said my uncle.  Sheridan and Francis exchanged glances behind the Prince’s back. “She was flying her tricolour out there within sight of my pavilion windows.  Never saw such monstrous impudence in my life!  It would take a man of less mettle than me to stand it.  Out I went in my little cock-boat - you know my sixty-ton yawl, Charlie? - with two four-pounders on each side, and a six-pounder in the bows.” “Well, sir!  Well, sir!  And what then, sir?” cried Francis, who appeared to be an irascible, rough-tongued man. “You will permit me to tell the story in my own way, Sir Philip,” said the Prince, with dignity.  “I was about to say that our metal was so light that I give you my word, gentlemen, that I carried my port broadside in one coat pocket, and my starboard in the other.  Up we came to the big Frenchman, took her fire, and scraped the paint off her before we let drive.  But it was no use.  By George, gentlemen, our balls just stuck in her timbers like stones in a mud wall.  She had her nettings up, but we scrambled aboard, and at it we went hammer and anvil.  It was a sharp twenty minutes, but we beat her people down below, made the hatches fast on them, and towed her into Seaham.  Surely you were with us, Sherry?” “I was in London at the time,” said Sheridan, gravely. “You can vouch for it, Francis!” “I can vouch to having heard your Highness tell the story.” “It was a rough little bit of cutlass and pistol work.  But, for my own part, I like the rapier.  It’s a gentleman’s weapon.  You heard of my bout with the Chevalier d’Eon?  I had him at my sword-point for forty minutes at Angelo’s.  He was one of the best blades in Europe, but I was a little too supple in the wrist for him.  ‘I thank God there was a button on your Highness’s foil,’ said he, when we had finished our breather.  By the way, you’re a bit of a duellist yourself, Tregellis.  How often have you been out?” “I used to go when I needed exercise,” said my uncle, carelessly.  “But I have taken to tennis now instead.  A painful incident happened the last time that I was out, and it sickened me of it.” “You killed your man - ?” “No, no, sir, it was worse than that.  I had a coat that Weston has never equalled.  To say that it fitted me is not to express it.  It was me - like the hide on a horse.  I’ve had sixty from him since, but he could never approach it.  The sit of the collar brought tears into my eyes, sir, when first I saw it; and as to the waist - ” “But the duel, Tregellis!” cried the Prince. “Well, sir, I wore it at the duel, like the thoughtless fool that I was.  It was Major Hunter, of the Guards, with whom I had had a little tracasserie, because I hinted that he should not come into Brookes’s smelling of the stables.  I fired first, and missed.  He fired, and I shrieked in despair.  ‘He’s hit!  A surgeon!  A surgeon!’ they cried.  ‘A tailor!  A tailor!’ said I, for there was a double hole through the tails of my masterpiece.  No, it was past all repair.  You may laugh, sir, but I’ll never see the like of it again.” I had seated myself on a settee in the corner, upon the Prince’s invitation, and very glad I was to remain quiet and unnoticed, listening to the talk of these men.  It was all in the same extravagant vein, garnished with many senseless oaths; but I observed this difference, that, whereas my uncle and Sheridan had something of humour in their exaggeration, Francis tended always to ill-nature, and the Prince to self-glorification.  Finally, the conversation turned to music - I am not sure that my uncle did not artfully bring it there, and the Prince, hearing from him of my tastes, would have it that I should then and there sit down at the wonderful little piano, all inlaid with mother-of-pearl, which stood in the corner, and play him the accompaniment to his song.  It was called, as I remember, “The Briton Conquers but to Save,” and he rolled it out in a very fair bass voice, the others joining in the chorus, and clapping vigorously when he finished. “Bravo, Mr. Stone!” said he.  “You have an excellent touch; and I know what I am talking about when I speak of music.  Cramer, of the Opera, said only the other day that he had rather hand his bâton to me than to any amateur in England.  Halloa, it’s Charlie Fox, by all that’s wonderful!” He had run forward with much warmth, and was shaking the hand of a singular-looking person who had just entered the room.  The new-comer was a stout, square-built man, plainly and almost carelessly dressed, with an uncouth manner and a rolling gait.  His age might have been something over fifty, and his swarthy, harshly-featured face was already deeply lined either by his years or by his excesses.  I have never seen a countenance in which the angel and the devil were more obviously wedded.  Above, was the high, broad forehead of the philosopher, with keen, humorous eyes looking out from under thick, strong brows.  Below, was the heavy jowl of the sensualist curving in a broad crease over his cravat.  That brow was the brow of the public Charles Fox, the thinker, the philanthropist, the man who rallied and led the Liberal party during the twenty most hazardous years of its existence.  That jaw was the jaw of the private Charles Fox, the gambler, the libertine, the drunkard.  Yet to his sins he never added the crowning one of hypocrisy.  His vices were as open as his virtues.  In some quaint freak of Nature, two spirits seemed to have been joined in one body, and the same frame to contain the best and the worst man of his age. “I’ve run down from Chertsey, sir, just to shake you by the hand, and to make sure that the Tories have not carried you off.” “Hang it, Charlie, you know that I sink or swim with my friends!  A Whig I started, and a Whig I shall remain.” I thought that I could read upon Fox’s dark face that he was by no means so confident about the Prince’s principles. “Pitt has been at you, sir, I understand?” “Yes, confound him!  I hate the sight of that sharp-pointed snout of his, which he wants to be ever poking into my affairs.  He and Addington have been boggling about the debts again.  Why, look ye, Charlie, if Pitt held me in contempt he could not behave different.” I gathered from the smile which flitted over Sheridan’s expressive face that this was exactly what Pitt did do.  But straightway they all plunged into politics, varied by the drinking of sweet maraschino, which a footman brought round upon a salver.  The King, the Queen, the Lords, and the Commons were each in succession cursed by the Prince, in spite of the excellent advice which he had given me about the British Constitution. “Why, they allow me so little that I can’t look after my own people.  There are a dozen annuities to old servants and the like, and it’s all I can do to scrape the money together to pay them.  However, my” - he pulled himself up and coughed in a consequential way - “my financial agent has arranged for a loan, repayable upon the King’s death.  This liqueur isn’t good for either of us, Charlie.  We’re both getting monstrous stout.” “I can’t get any exercise for the gout,” said Fox. “I am blooded fifty ounces a month, but the more I take the more I make.  You wouldn’t think, to look at us, Tregellis, that we could do what we have done.  We’ve had some days and nights together, Charlie!” Fox smiled and shook his head. “You remember how we posted to Newmarket before the races.  We took a public coach, Tregellis, clapped the postillions into the rumble, and jumped on to their places.  Charlie rode the leader and I the wheeler.  One fellow wouldn’t let us through his turnpike, and Charlie hopped off and had his coat off in a minute.  The fellow thought he had to do with a fighting man, and soon cleared the way for us.” “By the way, sir, speaking of fighting men, I give a supper to the Fancy at the Waggon and Horses on Friday next,” said my uncle.  “If you should chance to be in town, they would think it a great honour if you should condescend to look in upon us.” “I’ve not seen a fight since I saw Tom Tyne, the tailor, kill Earl fourteen years ago.  I swore off then, and you know me as a man of my word, Tregellis.  Of course, I’ve been at the ringside incog. many a time, but never as the Prince of Wales.” “We should be vastly honoured if you would come incog. to our supper, sir.” “Well, well, Sherry, make a note of it.  We’ll be at Carlton House on Friday.  The Prince can’t come, you know, Tregellis, but you might reserve a chair for the Earl of Chester.” “Sir, we shall be proud to see the Earl of Chester there,” said my uncle. “By the way, Tregellis,” said Fox, “there’s some rumour about your having a sporting bet with Sir Lothian Hume.  What’s the truth of it?” “Only a small matter of a couple of thous to a thou, he giving the odds.  He has a fancy to this new Gloucester man, Crab Wilson, and I’m to find a man to beat him.  Anything under twenty or over thirty-five, at or about thirteen stone.” “You take Charlie Fox’s advice, then,” cried the Prince.  “When it comes to handicapping a horse, playing a hand, matching a cock, or picking a man, he has the best judgment in England.  Now, Charlie, whom have we upon the list who can beat Crab Wilson, of Gloucester?” I was amazed at the interest and knowledge which all these great people showed about the ring, for they not only had the deeds of the principal men of the time - Belcher, Mendoza, Jackson, or Dutch Sam - at their fingers’ ends, but there was no fighting man so obscure that they did not know the details of his deeds and prospects.  The old ones and then the young were discussed - their weight, their gameness, their hitting power, and their constitution.  Who, as he saw Sheridan and Fox eagerly arguing as to whether Caleb Baldwin, the Westminster costermonger, could hold his own with Isaac Bittoon, the Jew, would have guessed that the one was the deepest political philosopher in Europe, and that the other would be remembered as the author of the wittiest comedy and of the finest speech of his generation? The name of Champion Harrison came very early into the discussion, and Fox, who had a high idea of Crab Wilson’s powers, was of opinion that my uncle’s only chance lay in the veteran taking the field again.  “He may be slow on his pins, but he fights with his head, and he hits like the kick of a horse.  When he finished Black Baruk the man flew across the outer ring as well as the inner, and fell among the spectators.  If he isn’t absolutely stale, Tregellis, he is your best chance.” My uncle shrugged his shoulders. “If poor Avon were here we might do something with him, for he was Harrison’s first patron, and the man was devoted to him.  But his wife is too strong for me.  And now, sir, I must leave you, for I have had the misfortune to-day to lose the best valet in England, and I must make inquiry for him.  I thank your Royal Highness for your kindness in receiving my nephew in so gracious a fashion.” “Till Friday, then,” said the Prince, holding out his hand.  “I have to go up to town in any case, for there is a poor devil of an East India Company’s officer who has written to me in his distress.  If I can raise a few hundreds, I shall see him and set things right for him.  Now, Mr. Stone, you have your life before you, and I hope it will be one which your uncle may be proud of.  You will honour the King, and show respect for the Constitution, Mr. Stone.  And, hark ye, you will avoid debt, and bear in mind that your honour is a sacred thing.” So I carried away a last impression of his sensual, good-humoured face, his high cravat, and his broad leather thighs.  Again we passed the strange rooms, the gilded monsters, and the gorgeous footmen, and it was with relief that I found myself out in the open air once more, with the broad blue sea in front of us, and the fresh evening breeze upon our faces.

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