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BELLA-DEMONIA.

[By Seuna Dolaro.]

BOOK IV.

CHAPTER IV. AX AMERICAN CITIZEN.

It was shortly after eight o'clock, and Mr Cincinnatus Q. Briggs sat at his table in the library of his house in Hereford street, busily engaged in writing. From the point of view of the ordinary English novelist, whose knowledge of the American gentleman is bounded on the East by his steamer acquaintance with the travelling salesman and on the Went by the charming stories of Bret Harte, added to the occasional "gun " stories of more or less inventive bar-room loafers, whose daily bread —or, more accurately speaking, whose daily whisky—is obtained by their ability to amuse the crowd, Mr Cincinnatus Q. Briggs was a most disappointing American. His rooms were furnished with the tasteful simplicity of a scholarly traveller's den. The carpets were unsullied by promiscuous expectoration, the walls were decorated with a few proof etchings and here and there & masterpiece in aquarelle; there were no cari catures of colored deacons, nor were there portraits of fast trotters and the whiskers of Mr Vanderbilt to bo seen. With the exception of a small revolver which lay in one of the pigeon-holes of the desk, there was not a "gun " of any kind to be found, the arms and legs of the furniture had not been whittled into fanciful designs under the bowie of their owner, and the paraphernalia of cocktail manufacture were conspicuous by their absence. Mr Briggs laid down his pen, and, leaning back in his chair—which, by-the-bye, he did not tilt upon its hinder legs—took up the letter which he had just completed. "I think that this will do," said he to himself, as he read over hia composition : My dear Mb Saville,—l regret to say that Lord Ailingford refuses to avail himself of the opportunity of flight. He his evidently some strong weapon in reserve. He means to fight; and, unless yours are stronger, I fear my stupid cousin will succeed in ruining her life. He is a clever scoundrel, and has adopted the surest means of making her his defender, by affecting to confide in her all that ia detrimental to him, and so cutting the groand from under everyone else's feet. I send you this as arranged, that you may bring all your batteries to bear at onoe. I expect Lord Arlingford at any moment. Faithfully yours, Cincinnatus Q. Brigci*.

He put this letter into an envelope, and, addressing it to Dick Saville at Claridge's, touched a bell.

" See that this goes at once," said he to the servant who appeared at the sound of the bell and took the letter. Thi3 done the American turned once more to his papers. " Let me see," soliloquised he; " where is that girl's letter ? Ah! here it is. My dear cowin.—You are very kind, but I am quite eld enough to take care of myself.—Yes, quite old enough, but unfortunately, neither ugly nor poor enough. — If I had wanted you to take care of me, I should have married you years ago.— How devilish cruel a woman can be when she thinks fit I—l don't like to say hard things of a woman, but lam sorry to my I cannot sympathise with the lady who was Lord Arlingford's wife—you surprise me, my dear cousin \—and I must take his word before hers— naturally, poor little girl J Um—m. That young woman means business ; we Briggse's generally do. It's lucky for her I came to Europe when I did; otherwise she'd have flung herself away on this fellow to a certainty. But I think, my lord Arlingford, that you have reached the end of your rope, and I'll lay odds that it isn't from any scruple of your own that it doesn't hang you. Well, I came to Europe for excitement, and, egad ! I'm likely to get a genteel sufficiency of it to-night. Thanks to you, my lord, I witnessed the beginning, and am about to witness the end of one of the liveliest sensations that London has known for a good many years." At this point Mr Briggs's soliloquy »-as interrupted by the entrance of a servant announcing Dick Saville. "Mr Saville!" exclaimed Briggs, "delighted to see you. You're early ; but you can't have got my letter yet ?" "Letter?" replied Dick; "what letter? No. I only dropped in on my way to fetch my wife, to ask how things were going on. I dined at the club to try and find out it anything fresh had happened. I've brought the papers for Arlingford to sign ; here they are in duplicate." Mr Briggs took them and glanced over one. •*I think Captain Goddarcl must be a remarkably forgiving man to consider such a reparation sufficient," observed he. "On my side of the water a man in his position would, I fear, fill a man in Arlingford's with leaden bullets, and the jury would differ singularly on the verdict to be returned." "I said something of the sort to him, returned Saville. " But he pointed out to me that there was nothing to be gained, but rather the reverse, from greater pubaicity. All he insists upon is that Arlingford should sign this statutory declaration and leave the country at once." " Do you think that he will do it ?" "I think he will; but one can never be sure of such a blackguard. I shouldn't be very much surprised if at the last moment he didn't turn up." "He told me he would be here at nine o'clock, but I confess I shouldn't be astonished if he weakened at the last moment. I must say, he has reduced the art of bluff to an applied science. When I advised him to give up my cousin, telling him we had the means to compel him to do so, his defiance was superb. I hope for all our sakes that the Baroness Altdorff possesses the power the promises to us* with such effect. I tell you, dealing with him ia no childßplay! 2To, sir!" "Well, I congratulate yott on being quit of him as far an your cousin is co&cerned." "How? quit of bim?" "Yes," replied Saville; "owing to ve:y singular circumstances, he will make no further attempt to marry her." "Is that really so ? And these circumstances are ?" " Eight thousand a year ! Did you ever remark, Mr Briggs, that the greatest scoundrels always get the best kind of love, And that a certain kind of good woman will eUiig to the man she has chosen—in theface of every reason why she should not— with a strength that she would display in no other cause? Well, such a woman ia Lady Arlingford. She insists on going back to him." "No!" "Itis so nevertheless. She has come into LB.DOO a year, and proposes to invest it in Arlingfoid and connubial respectability. This relieves you of all personal anxiety. Lady Arlingford is ready to leave England with him. It only remains for us to see that be signs this document." *' And when will the Baroness—Bbila-De-monia—arrive ?" . "In good time. She is a capricious mystery, that woman, but her power is onormous. She demands that we unquestioningly submit to her instructions to-night. She refuses to tell us what power she holds* over Arlingford, and exacts a meeting with Lady Arlingford before her identity is made known. Altogether, the evening promises to be eventful. By Jove ! it's time I ran round for my wife. Aurevoir. I'll be back inside a quarter of an hour." And Dick Saville left the room.. Ashe did so, the servant entered with a card, whicti Briggs read, an expression of perolexitv" crossing his face. "Cartoret?" he said—"Major Homer Carteret? The name seems somehow familiar, but I can't-place the man." " The gentifiman said he would be much obliged if you eouldsec himfor one moment," said the servant A v v.- » " Well, for one moment—show him up. Major Carteret swung into the room on his best stride. , " I must apologise for calhag at this.uneeemly hour," said he. " You don'iremember me, Mr Briggs. We met at Lord Adjngford's—er—some time ago." "No apology is neeessary," replied Mr Briggs, gravely. "I remember perfectly. Pray be seated. Er—you wished to see "It is by Lord Arlingford's request that I »m here. I came to say that he cannotbe here so soon as he anticipated. Most important business " ~.,,. „, T «• So I expected," interrupted Bngga. "I .think it very judicious—-",

" Pardon me, Mr Briggs," interrupted the major, in turn, "you are mistaken. The business that detains Lord Arlingford is as unexpected as it is urgent—so urgent that he was unable to keep his appointment with me at the club ; he sent me a line asking me particularly to come here at once, fearing that you might misconstrue his absence. Erghem ! lam very glad to have this opportunity of talking over this unhappy affair. I saw Lady Arlingford yesterday afternoon, and after we had discussed the matter she decided to make Arlingford an offer which I shall advise him to accept." " May I ask if the offer concerns me in any way ?" observed Mr Briggs. " Most certainly. Her ladyship's ofler will cause Lord Arlingford to resign Miss Briggs's hand. Erghem ! I have always had a great regard for Lady Arlingford, and it is her wish to re-marry her ex-hus-band." " I have heard something of this a few moments ago." " She looks upon it as the right thing to do for the child's sake, and, though I don't profess to be better than my neighbor, I must say that I agree with her." And the major inflated his chest till he looked like a police sergeant. " I believe," said Mr Briggs, drily, " that the amount of Lady Arliugford's income through the recent death of her aunt is now LB,OOO a year. Am I not accurate, Major Carteret ?"

"Quite; but " " As Lord Arlingford's friend," pursued the American, in the same tone, "you understand, of course, that on the interview of to-night depends his personal liberty, and, consequentlv," his ability to accept his late wife's offer."

" His liberty ?" " He will have to make full confession of his share in the conspiracy by which Captain Goddard was ruined. Er—please be seated. We shall spare Lady Arlingford as much as possible, but Captain Goddard's vindication is the first consideration. Frankly, if he refuses we shall convict him—and his accomplices—of conspiracy and criminal libel. Er— please be seated. I have been drawn into this matter by my cousin's unfortunate infatuation of Lord Arlingford." *' Mr Briggs," replied the Major, " I—l feel it is only due to myself to say that though I am, as you observe, Lord Arlingford's friend, I am deeply grieved at the part he took in that unfortunate business." " I expected as much, aud I am sure you are. Your good feeling in the matter simplifies a request lam about to make. Er —we are perfectly prepared to do without your testimony against him, but it might hasten matters co have it. How much do you want for it ?" Mr Briggs leaned back complacently as Major Carteret sprang to his feet "Sir!" shouted he, " how dare you? l—er_er Five hundred pounds." " Please be seated."

The major sat down. "You shall have that amount to-night after the meeting. For the present, good evening. You will be back in half an hour, if you please." " Certainly," replied the warrior, and, taking his hat, he took with it his departure. Mr Briggs looked after him for a moment, his head slightly on one side. Then ho carefully selected a cigarette, which he thoughtfully lit. Then, walking to the fireplace to deposit the match, he slowly winked at himself in the pier glass.

(To be continued.)

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Permanent link to this item

https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ESD18890921.2.32.11

Bibliographic details

BELLA-DEMONIA., Evening Star, Issue 8018, 21 September 1889, Supplement

Word Count
1,948

BELLA-DEMONIA. Evening Star, Issue 8018, 21 September 1889, Supplement

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