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eligible person upon whom such confidence can be reposed, must be one whose reputation is in my power. This, to a man of your capacity and clear comprehension, is preface enough; and I shall therefore proceed at once to state what I shall require of you. The proofs to which I have alluded, will be given on your part by the skill and the will with which I shall see you conduct yourself on the first occasion that they may be called for."

No hungry dog, waiting with watery mouth for the scraps expected to fall from his master's hand, ever fixed his eye upon that master with sharper eagerness than Mr. Foxcroft now did upon the face of Mr. O'Donagough. You

may well look anxious to listen to me, my good fellow,” resumed the master of the house, with a benignant smile; “ for if I do not greatly miscalculate, a much finer career is at this moment about to open before you, than you can ever have hoped for, during the whole course of your existence. In my younger days, Foxcroft, I was once fortunate enough to pass a season in Paris under very favourable auspices. The wig which it suits me to wear now, my good fellow, may perhaps render it rather difficult for you to believe what a capital good-looking, dashing blade I was, some five-and-twenty years ago. This helped me very greatly. I had one exceedingly serviceable introduction, and the rest of my good fortune grew out of it. In short, I had the entrée to some of the best houses in Paris, by which, as I presume you will conjecture, I do not mean the mansions either of the richest, the highest-born, or the most illustrions, in any of the ordinary and old-fashioned senses of the word. But in its way, the society I was thrown amongst was perfect, and I do not believe that even yet there are many houses in London which receive exactly on the same principle as those of which I speak in Paris. In the first place, high play is here almost entirely confined to the clubs; an exceedingly clumsy way of using an exceedingly good thing. Of the immense advantage and utility of these gambling clubs to society, of course nobody in their senses can doubt; nevertheless, there are many little peculiarities of play among many very fashionable, and highly-distinguished men, which render the variety afforded by meeting quite young players in a private drawing-room extremely convenient and agreeable.

" Of such drawing-rooms, Foxcroft, there are abundance in Paris, and I am determined that there shall at last be one here. How it will answer, of course remains to be proved; but in this, as in every other experiment, almost every thing depends upon the style and manner in which it is made. One essential feature in the scheme, and one, as you will believe, never lost sight of in Paris, is the obtaining by some means or other such a sprinkling of really good company, according to common vulgar parlance I mean, as may act as a decoy, or rather as an authority for the presence of such tyros as are at once, perhaps, the most difficult to lay hold of, and the most valuable when caught. In this respect I am very peculiarly well situated, and, indeed, I question whether without this advantage I should have ever ventured upon the scheme at all. My wife's connexions are, as you know, of a class that renders the presence of any of them a guarantee for the perfect respectability and bon ton of the salon in which they are seen ; and though General Hubert and his family are at this moment abroad, Frederic Stephenson, a much more manageable person, by the way,

than the stiff-backed general, comes to town immediately after Christmas, and will, I feel no doubt, extend to me exactly the sort of protection I want, and that, too, without having the slightest consciousness that he is doing it. There is a certain nobleman, also, an old crony of my wife's, who is already in town, and has promised to visit her. have inquired about him, and find he is the very man for us—sufficiently easy and liberal-minded to go wherever he can be amused, yet not at all permitting himself to drop out of good society. The two men you met here the other day at dinner, are, each of them in his respective way, highly valuable. Armondyle is one of the best and most gentlemanly players in London, and Seymour, as I am told, about the richest quite uncontrolled young man about town. Of course, if I get into the clubs, my list will rapidly increase ; but you must be aware, my good friend, that let me get who I will here, nothing effectual, nothing masterly, can be done without a coadjutor. You understand me.

Are you willing to become such ?" With the air of a hero, about to pledge his untarnished faith to the maintenance of some noble enterprise, Mr. Foxcroft held out his hand, and solemnly received that of O'Donagough in its grasp.

“Let me hold this station near you, my most valued friend,” he said, “and never shall you repent the choice. You have probably perceived something in my manners, and in my character, which has led you to believe I am not altogether unworthy of, or unfitted for, this situation ; and, without unseemly boasting, I may venture to say that you are not deceived. I am conscious that I may have many things against me, but, nevertheless, I am conscious also, that I possess both faculties and qualities, which peculiarly fit me for the task. The outline of your scheme is distinctly clear before me; the filling up must, of course, depend both upon circumstances and your own individual inclinations. You have mentioned Sir Henry Seymour, for instance, and there can be no doubt in the world that he is quite a first-rate man to obtain as a frequenter of your salon. But, between friends, I should have thought that you had other prospects for him. I have a great notion that your beautiful Patty has a fancy for him, and it would be a capital match, O'Donagough. However, that's your concern, not mine. I can have no objection to your throwing open the preserve, as it were, and letting us share and share alike, if you think that a more profitable scheme than the other.”

“Why, I am not sure that I should, Foxcroft, if that other were fairly in

my hands to take or to leave; but I doubt it. I know perfectly well that the young fellow has been devilish sweet upon her, and that the poor little soul is over head and ears in love with him; but I strongly suspect that he never thought seriously about her, and that he has only been amusing himself by turning her young head for pure fun, -a suspicion, as you will readily believe, not very likely to make me spare him at the board of green cloth. I have a hold upon him too, upon which it is not necessary to enter now, that I think will keep him effectually within my reach, and, as he will serve me both as a decoy-duck and a pigeon, I mean, remember, in all ways to cultivate his acquaintance, and stand well in his eyes."

“ It shall not be by fault of mine if you do not,” replied the faithful associate; and presently added, with the air of one who was making a very shrewd remark, “ By the way, O'Donagough, that daughter of

yours is a charming creature, and will count for something, you may depend upon it, among the attractions of your drawing-room.

That is exactly what I have been thinking myself, Foxcroft; and to say the truth, I am not altogether sorry that there is no chance of her being caught up by this Sir Henry immediately. She is very handsome-I never saw finer eyes in my life; and when she is a little more used to company, she will tell more in a drawing-room than she does now. I own that I wish her mother was not quite so large,-she would be an exceedingly fine woman still, if it were not for that. Just such a looking woman as she was, when I first knew her, is the very best partner a man can have in such a concern as we have been speaking of. She has a great deal of talent, however, and I have no doubt will do exceedingly well.”

“ There can, indeed, be no doubt of that,” replied Mr. Foxcroft, impressively; “ and now, my dear friend,” he continued, “ let us come to particulars. Let me understand exactly your projects, your expectations, your arrangements. It is impossible to doubt for a moment your liberality; but in a business of this kind it is as absolutely necessary that every thing should be openly expressed between the associates, as that nothing should be openly expressed beyond them. Here is pen and ink. Give me leave to set down from your own lips, precisely the terms on which you propose that we should carry on together this admirably-imagined scheme. Yet imagine not from the phrase, carry on together, that I have any notion of a perfect equality as to the division of what may result from it; nothing like it, I assure you. I am perfectly aware that your stake is greater, not to mention that the merit, all the merit, of originating the plan is your own. I say this, that you may understand at once the fair and gentlemanly feeling with which I am desirous to proceed. And now, my dear O'Donagough, for particulars.”

*

*

While this conversation was going on in the library, a scene almost equally interesting, was passing in the drawing-room. Mr. O'Donagough having learnt, by some means or other, that his lady's former admirer, and what was more important as a trait of character, the magnificent donor of her shell necklace, was in town, proposed, with what she sensibly felt to be a very generous freedom from all narrowminded jealousy, to take some active measures towards the renewal of an acquaintance from which, as she freely confessed, she had derived much pleasure.

“But not for the world, my dear Donny,” she said, on his proposing this, “not for the world would I wish Lord Mucklebury to visit here, if his doing so would give you uneasiness. I will not deny, I never have denied, that at the time we parted, I regretted the unfortunate entanglement abroad, which obliged him to leave me. But subsequent events have, of course, reconciled me to this early disappointment, and I feel that I could see him now, and introduce him to my husband and my child, without experiencing any emotion whatever, beyond what the purest friendship may authorize."

Very well, then, my dear,” Mr. O'Donagough had replied," that being the case, you shall sit down and write a note to him immediately, just saying, you know, that you should like to return your personal thanks for his having so kindly thought of you in the city of the Cæsars,

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or something of that kind, which shall look light and playful ;-you understand ?"

“Oh! perfectly!" she replied, and this light and playful billet pro. duced an answer from the still laughter-loving nobleman, which perfectly satisfied Mr. O'Donagough, and caused a very animating and youthful sort of flutter to pervade the entire frame of his sensitive wife.

It was exactly at the time that Mr. O'Donagough was the most earnestly engaged with Mr. Foxcroft in the conversation that has been given above, that Lord Mucklebury made his entrée into the drawingroom of his umquhile Barnaby. His lordship's note in promising this visit, had said, “ Lord Mucklebury will take an early opportunity,” and accordingly Mrs. O'Donagough had sat in state in her fine drawingroom every morning since, from midday to the hour of dinner, attired with a degree of captivating elegance which it had cost her some hours of meditation to devise. Her great object was to look as nearly as possible like what she had been some eighteen years before, when his lordship had made her poor heart leap like a porpoise after a storm, by addressing her as “ Miu Barnabbia !In unfading ringlets, and unfading rouge, she had great confidence, and her eyes too she thought had stood the test of time with almost unfading brightness. But she could not, poor lady! conceal from herself the disagreeable fact that of late years she had become what friends call en bon point, and unfriends, corpulent. She felt, alas ! that she was unwieldly; and that the majestic charpente, which had formerly assisted so largely (a villanous pun of Mr. O'Donagough’s) in obtaining for her the epithet of

a prodigious fine woman,” was become, by the gradual increase of its fleshy clothing, of a size by no means easy to dress gracefully. Of this she was, if not wholly, at least, in a great degree, conscious; and to neutralize the effects of this substantial impediment to beauty, she had for many days been occupied (but, unlike her general habit, silently occupied) on meditating the form and material of the dress in which she should, for the first time, reappear before the eyes of Lord Mucklebury.

The reader need hardly be told at this stage of her history, that Mrs. O'Donagough's mind was one of no common order. If it had been, she would, beyond all question, have had recourse in this emergency to the ordinary and every-way vulgar operation of tight lacing. But Mrs. O’Donagough knew better. She knew perfectly well, that though it may be possible to transfer matter, it is beyond human power to annihilate it, and although under the circumstances she might have been tempted to exclaim,

“Oh! that this too, too solid flesh would melt!" she never for a moment was guilty of the folly of hoping that she might be able to make away with it. With this right-minded conviction fully impressed upon her, she gave herself to the study of her toilet, not with the vain hope of lessening her circumference, but with the rational intention of rendering it as little conspicuous as possible.

“The general outline," thought she, “must be indistinct. A sort of floating maze of drapery ought to envelop such a form as mine, in which the eye cannot justly determine where the natural material ends, and that of the dress begins a sort of vapoury, misty decoration should fall around the shoulders, from among which the still handsome face should appear, like that charming portrait that I made Donny stop to look at the other day, where a beautiful head seemed peeping at us through a cloud.”

Inspired by this idea, the skilful lady set to work, and while Patty and the page were taking their daily exercise round and round the pavement of Berkeley-square, she contrived to fabricate a dress, the capes, sleeves, Aounces, and furbelows of which seemed to wander, and fall, and undulate, and rise again, till, according to her ingenious intention, it would have been difficult for the most accurate eye to detect the points where the lady ended, and her dress began.

It was thus that she received Lord Mucklebury; and had she not been already fully satisfied with the result of her own labours, and convinced that, however enormously large she might be, it was not at all likely that any body would observe it, the sight of his lordship would at once have removed from her mind every feeling of alarm, lest HE, at least, should remark invidiously upon her increased bulk-for he had himself, like Father Philip,“ prospered marvellously" since he had last presented his portly person before the admiring eyes of our heroine.

It was, indeed, evident that he had taken leave of his own shoestrings for ever, by reason of the intervening paunch, while his jocund cheeks spread widely, and unrestrainedly, over the cravat that formerly sustained them. Nevertheless, Mrs. O'Donagough thought him almost as charming as ever ; and when, with both arms put forward to their utmost length, which just enabled the hands to reach beyond the “capon-lined” rotundity of his goodly person, he seized cordially upon each of hers, and, bending himself forward, contrived, notwithstanding all impediments, to salute her cheek, she was unconscious of any alteration, but for the better.

Let it not, however, be supposed for an instant, that Mrs. O'Donagough's feelings were such as Mr. O'Donagough could have disapproved; nothing could be inore cruelly unjust than such a suspicion. It was the noble nature, as well as the noble birth, of the amiable peer, which warmed her heart towards him, and which made her feel, more strongly than ever, the immense advantage of such talents and manners as her own, which had enabled her to secure for years, as she subsequently observed to her husband and daughter, the affectionate attachment of a nobleman, whose early feelings for her were of a kind which rarely produced such an after-growth of admiration and esteem.

“I rejoice, my dear madam," said the peer, “ to see you looking so charmingly after your long absence,-Pel corpo di Bacco !—I hope you have not forgotten your Italian? Pel corpo di Bacco ! you have not lost any thing since we parted last. Nor have you gained too much, no, not an atom too much! You are charming, charming, ever! sempre bellissima !

This is, indeed, a most gratifying favour, my dear lord !" replied the fascinated, and fascinating lady, “ I cannot thank you enough for it! Oh! my lord ! after an expatriation of so many years, it is inexpressibly soothing to a heart like mine, to find that those whom my judgment taught me most to value, and my taste to admire ere I left March.--VOL. LVIII. No. ccxxxi.

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