Alice, or the Mysteries — Book 07

Produced by Dagny; and by David Widger

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Words of dark import gave suspicion birth.—POTTER.


  Luce. Is the wind there?

           That makes for me.

  Isab. Come, I forget a business.

                 Wit without Money.

LORD VARGRAVE’S travelling-carriage was at his door, and he himself was
putting on his greatcoat in his library, when Lord Saxingham entered.

“What! you are going into the country?”

“Yes; I wrote you word,—to see Lisle Court.”

“Ay, true; I had forgot. Somehow or other my memory is not so good as it
was. But, let me see, Lisle Court is in ——-shire. Why, you will pass
within ten miles of C——-.”

“C——-! Shall I? I am not much versed in the geography of
England,—never learned it at school. As for Poland, Kamschatka, Mexico,
Madagascar, or any other place as to which knowledge would be useful, I
have every inch of the way at my finger’s end. But a propos of C——-,
it is the town in which my late uncle made his fortune.”

“Ah, so it is. I recollect you were to have stood for C——-, but gave
it up to Staunch; very handsome in you. Have you any interest there

“I think my ward has some tenants,—a street or two,—one called Richard
Street, and the other Templeton Place. I had intended some weeks ago to
have gone down there, and seen what interest was still left to our
family; but Staunch himself told me that C——- was a sure card.”

“So he thought; but he has been with me this morning in great alarm: he
now thinks he shall be thrown out. A Mr. Winsley, who has a great deal
of interest there, and was a supporter of his, hangs back on account of
the ——- question. This is unlucky, as Staunch is quite with us; and
if he were to rat now it would be most unfortunate.”

“Winsley! Winsley!—my poor uncle’s right-hand man. A great
brewer,—always chairman of the Templeton Committee. I know the name,
though I never saw the man.”

“If you could take C——- in your way?”

“To be sure. Staunch must not be lost. We cannot throw away a single
vote, much more one of such weight,—eighteen stone at the least! I’ll
stop at C——- on pretence of seeing after my ward’s houses, and have a
quiet conference with Mr. Winsley. Hem! Peers must not interfere in
elections, eh? Well, good-by: take care of yourself. I shall be back in
a week, I hope,—perhaps less.”

In a minute more Lord Vargrave and Mr. George Frederick Augustus Howard,
a slim young gentleman of high birth and connections, but who, having, as
a portionless cadet, his own way to make in the world, condescended to be
his lordship’s private secretary, were rattling over the streets the
first stage to C——-.

It was late at night when Lord Vargrave arrived at the head inn of that
grave and respectable cathedral city, in which once Richard Templeton,
Esq.,—saint, banker, and politician,—had exercised his dictatorial
sway. “Sic transit gloria mundi!” As he warmed his hands by the fire in
the large wainscoted apartment into which he was shown, his eye met a
full length engraving of his uncle, with a roll of papers in his
hand,—meant for a parliamentary bill for the turnpike trusts in the
neighbourhood of C——-. The sight brought back his recollections of
that pious and saturnine relation, and insensibly the minister’s thoughts
flew to his death-bed, and to the strange secret which in that last hour
he had revealed to Lumley,—a secret which had done much in deepening
Lord Vargrave’s contempt for the forms and conventionalities of decorous
life. And here it may be mentioned—though in the course of this volume
a penetrating reader may have guessed as much—that, whatever that
secret, it did not refer expressly or exclusively to the late lord’s
singular and ill-assorted marriage. Upon that point much was still left
obscure to arouse Lumley’s curiosity, had he been a man whose curiosity
was very vivacious. But on this he felt but little interest. He knew
enough to believe that no further information could benefit himself
personally; why should he trouble his head with what never would fill his

An audible yawn from the slim secretary roused Lord Vargrave from his

“I envy you, my young friend,” said he, good-humouredly. “It is a
pleasure we lose as we grow older,—that of being sleepy. However, ‘to
bed,’ as Lady Macbeth says. Faith, I don’t wonder the poor devil of a
thane was slow in going to bed with such a tigress. Good-night to you.”


  MA fortune va prendre une face nouvelle.*

            RACINE. Androm., Act i. sc. 1.

* “My fortune is about to take a turn.”

THE next morning Vargrave inquired the way to Mr. Winsley’s, and walked
alone to the house of the brewer. The slim secretary went to inspect the

Mr. Winsley was a little, thickset man, with a civil but blunt
electioneering manner. He started when he heard Lord Vargrave’s name,
and bowed with great stiffness. Vargrave saw at a glance that there was
some cause of grudge in the mind of the worthy man; nor did Mr. Winsley
long hesitate before he cleansed his bosom of its perilous stuff.

“This is an unexpected honour, my lord: I don’t know how to account for

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