“Don’t be flattered,” said Edmonson aside, “all this welcome is not for us; the feast is to begin now that we have arrived.” And a cynical smile flashed over his handsome face.
It was hours after this. The high revel had gone on with jest, and laugh, and song, with play, too, and some purses were empty that before had been none too well filled. Through it all Edmonson, the life of the party, kept the control over himself that many had lost. There was no credit due to him for the fact that he could drink more wine without being overcome than any other man there. His face was flushed with it, his eyes somewhat blood-shot and his fair hair disordered as, at last, looking at his opposite neighbor, he nodded to him, leaned across the table and touched glasses with him. Then, “Let us drink this toast standing,” he said, rising as he spoke; and at the movement ten other young men, full of the effrontery of a long carousal, pushed back their chairs noisily and rose, exclaiming in tones varying in degrees of intoxication:
“Yes,” returned the man opposite Edmonson, repeating the pledge that they all without exception would meet one hundred years from that night to pledge each other again.
A shout, more of drunken acquiescence than of comprehension went up in chorus from all but one of the revelers; he held his glass silently a moment, disposed to put it untasted on the table.
“Bulchester’s backing out,” cried Edmonson giving him a scornful glance.
“Oh, ho! Backing out!” echoed nine derisive voices.
“We have made it too hot for him,” called out Edmonson again.
At which remark another shout arose, and the glasses were tossed off with bravado, Bulchester’s also being set down empty.
After this the party broke up boisterously, Edmonson and Bulchester receiving the good wishes of the company for their prosperous voyage.
Leaving the inn, they went out into the night again, in which the October moon veiled in clouds was doing its best to light the streets now almost deserted. Bulchester looked with disapprobation at his smiling companion. It was for the first time in their acquaintance, but the compact into which the earl had so unwillingly entered had sobered him, and was still ringing in his ears, giving him a sort of horror. He said this to Edmonson, who burst out laughing.
“A mere drunken freak, Bul, that counts for nothing. You will be an angel sitting on a cold cloud singing psalms long before that time. I’ll warrant it. You are a good fellow. Don’t bother your brains about such nonsense.”
The third of November, Edmonson and Lord Bulchester sailed from Liverpool in the “Ariel” for Boston.
TWO WHO WOULD EXCHANGE PLACES.