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"Why, as for Fanny, she is so taken up with love and Latimers, that she is a most unprincipled correspondent, getting over head and ears in one's debt; but I heard from poor Julia to-day, though I won't tell you what she said of your speech in answer to Lord Nelford's, for it would make you too vain.”
“And did she read it?" said Cheveley, a flush of pleasure suffusing his face as he asked the question.
" That did she ; but I have no time to talk of speeches, even though they be yours; for you see me in a regular fury;"
• Then you manage to conceal it wonderfully,” smiled Cheveley.
“No I don't, nor I don't want to conceal it; oh! if I were but a man! I've always wished this, but I wish it now more than ever.”
“Pray make me your deputy," laughed Cheveley, “ even before I know what services you require of me.”
“A very simple one; nevertheless, one I cannot dele. gate to you, for fear of what a maiden aunt of mine calls the consequences; nothing more or less than to kick or horsewhip that wretch De Clifford.”
A cloud passed over Cheveley's face as he replied, " Why? what can he have done to you ?"
“ To me personally, nothing; but not content with the ill usage of every description he has for years heaped upon that poor injured wife of his, he has had the base falsehood and cowardly meanness, as his own conduct becomes worse, to give out that her temper and extravagance is the cause of their not being together now; and for the few days I have been in town, I have heard nothing else, till my blood actually boils with indignation, especially as it is only in her letter of to-day that Julia mentions having been dunned for a bill of Miss Laura Priest's, the creature he is now living with, whom it appears has dared to take Lady de Clifford's name, being shielded and countenanced on all occasions by that disgrace to human nature, Lord de Clifford's mother. And to think, because he is the tool of the basest political faction that ever existed, that he is to be upheld and supported in the world; and that there is not a human being with sufficient honesty and courage to expose him and vindicate her; oh, it is 100, too bad." " It is too bad,” said Cheveley, leaning his forehead
upon his hand; “but don't you know, that in this, our moral country, private vices are always merged in public virtues; with one man's pet sins, no other man has a right to interfere ; above all, with the treatment of wives, for a wife is a man's own exclusive property, an ambulating chattel, for whose comparative value the law has recently established a tariff; for I read in the police report a few days ago, that a fellow having severely beaten his wife and his donkey on the same day, the worthy magistrate fined him fifteen shillings for the latter outrage, accompanied with a lecture on cruelty to animals; and added another five for the former, but lesser misdemeanour. Poor Lady de Clifford ! her brothers are out of the country; and, unfortunately, other men having no acknowledged right to interfere with her husband's mean persecutions and glaring vices, would only injure her by attempting it. Besides, as I before said, this is a moral country; and as long as men 'speak by the card,' no one ever thinks of testing their words by their actions. And in speeches and political articles, no one utters more sublime sentiments than Lord de Clifford; to say nothing of his having laboured indefatigably in both, to etherealize the Newgate calendar, and prove that vice ceases to be vice when indulged in by superior natures. Now considering how prone all men are to evil, you must confess that the philosophy that would destroy the tolls and barriers established by narrow-minded virtue along the high road of crime, and the sophistry that would macadamize and render it smooth and pleasant, is entitled to the gratitude and applause of the mass of mankind. Hypocrisy, too, next to wealth, is the most powerful lever of life, and this Lord de Clifford possesses in an eminent degree; no one knows better than he does, “qu'il faut hazarder un petit poisson pour prendre un grand ;' and plausibility is the bait that best catches that great Leviathan, public opinion.”
“ Still, I say," replied Mrs. Seymour, “that it is a thousand pities there is no one to unmask this hypocrisy.”
“Why should there be, when it is chiefly exercised against a woman, and that woman a wife ? and, as far as the intercourse between man and man goes, pistolballs and black-balls regulate to a nicety their moral code. Besides, thanks to the Whigs, falsehood and
duplicity no longer lie under the stigma with which prejudice for so many years oppressed them; for nowadays, when men tell the most barefaced lies, they clearly prove to their own, and every one else's satisfaction, that it was only another and more circuitous way of telling the truth; and in political parlance, when one man calls another a liar, a coward, or a blackguard, he explains that he only means to say that the honourable gentleman is the soul of truth, the phenix of valour, and the quintessence of respectability. So much for our English synonymes." ;
“Ah !" sighed Mrs. Seymour, “like all men, you treat the subject lightly, and think we women have nothing to do but silently endure.”
“If you think so," said Cheveley, “ you widely mistake me; for I defy any woman to think so badly, or, at least, worse of my own sex than I do; for I look upon civilized man, giving way to his civilized vices, and exercising to the utmost the brutal power awarded him by those iniquitous laws which he himself has made, as a perfect monster; but, until women think, feel, and act a little more like rational beings than they do at present, I fear their most rniserable and degraded position will never be bettered.”
“You are now talking so sensibly," said Mrs. Seymour, smiling, “that I could listen to you for ever. But it is very late ; everybody seems to be going, and I suppose we must go too."
So saying, she rose and took Cheveley's arm, who handed her to her carriage, promising he would call upon her the next day.
Upon returning home, he inquired if any one had called, but was answered in the negative. He retired to bed, but not to sleep; for he was severish and overexcited, and, moreover, angry with himself for the self-delusion he had tried to practise in referring his resolution not to fight with Lord de Clifford solely to moral objections, when, after all, the fear of placing another and insurmountable barrier between him and Julia was the strongest, and therefore, perhaps, the real motive from which he acted. Still he had always had fixed and decided opinions on this subject, and thought with Seneca, “ Our fate is at hand, and the very hour that we have set for another man's death may, peradventure, be prevented by our own!"
“ To fight, to bleed, perchance to die!
But fight you must.' Then I'll fight shy.'” “ Ego ero post principia."
Dispeream si tu Pyladi prastare matellam
MARTIAL. . «« Objection !' exclaimed Mrs. Crummles; 'can it be possible ?"
“Oh, I hope not,' cried Miss Snivellicci; 'you surely are not so cruel. Oh, dear me! well, I- to think of that, now, after all one's looking forward to it.'”-Nicholas Nickleby, No. viii., p. 230.
No sooner had Cheveley left Lord de Clifford on the preceding night, than the latter determined to repair to Mr. Frederic Feedwell's chambers, in Lincoln's Inn, and request his services in conveying a challenge to Lord Cheveley; but, as he walked along the Strand, the fumes of the wine evaporated, and he began to think, as he had often thought before when on the eve of fighting a duel (which, however, he had never yet fought), that it was a very foolish business, and that, if he could in any way get out of it, it would be as well.
To be sure, were he quite certain which way the affair would terminate, it might be of service to him with his own party; but then events and wishes are, nine times out of ten, vice versa, and plots, like curses, are generally reversionary. Thus pondering, he found himself in the great square of Lincoln's Inn. As he ascended the steps of Mr. Frederic Feedwell's house, a figure emerged from the next door, which, as it stood under the lamp, Lord de Clifford recognised with an exclama-, tion of “God bless me! Nonplus, is that you ?"
“Ah! how do, my lord? Should have been to see you, but only arrived in town at nine to-night by the Dover mail, and have been ever since here, with my friend Sergeant Puzzlecase, about another lawsuit that rascal Whoson Hatter has got me into; and seventy thousand pounds are not to be let to run away from one without a man looking which way they go. Ladies
well, eh? Miss Fanny married, and all that sort of thing; your brother has got an-ice place in Russia-ha! ha! ha! There's worse in the north, as the proverb says; and how are you, quite bang up to the mark, eh ?"
“I hope I shall be to-morrow,” said Lord de Clifford, “ for I've a duel to fight.”
“A duel! whew ; fair and softly, as lawyers go to heaven. I'll inform against you, 'pon my soul I will; fighting is all nonsense, unless one's paid for it, which one never is in these piping and crying times of peace,' as my friend Shakspeare has it."
Lord de Clifford was much of the major's way of thinking; but still, for the look of the thing, he was obliged to give a decided shake of the head as he replied, “It must be ; so come with me, will you, up to Feedwell's rooms. I want him to be my second.”
“ Well, if you will fight, why don't you get your friend Fonnoir for a second ? for he's long and dismal, like a winter's evening, and the very look of him, I should think, would frighten a man into an apology; but who's your mark, eh?"
"That d-d Tory, Cheveley.”
“My stars and garters! why, I always thought he and you were as thick as mud in December.”
- You thought wrong, then," growled Lord de Clifford, as Mr. Frederic Feedwell's door opened, and he cleared the first flight of stairs, followed at a slower pace by the portly figure of Major Nonplus. It being now - the very witching time of night,” Frederic was in bed, but groaning amain, and tossing to and fro in the nightmare, like a whale on a sandbank. In the midst of the cosmetics on the toilet towered, like a cedar of Lebanon, his Hyperion wig, supported by a block not much thicker than its owner's head. The mirror was so covered with wax as scarcely to leave a bit of the glass visible, thereby proving his Catholic worship of himself, as he was evidently in the habit of lighting tapers before the shrine of his idolatry, and, to judge from appearances, had waxed fonder and fonder of his own image. About a dozen wedding rings, tied together with a piece of blue riband, and as many different locks of hair, much resembling those in hairdressers' shops, “ affichéing” themselves as pupils of the “ Tyrian dye,” with a miniature of himself attached to a hair chain, formed part of the paraphernalia of the dressing-table.