I returned my thanks to Mr Masterton, and begged that he would convey my grateful acknowledgments to his lordship. As I walked home, I met a Captain Atkinson, a man of very doubtful character, whom, by the advice of Carbonnell, I had always kept at a distance. He had lost a large fortune by gambling, and having been pigeoned, had, as is usual, ended by becoming a rook. He was a fashionable, well-looking man, of good family, suffered in society, for he had found out that it was necessary to hold his position by main force. He was a noted duellist, had killed his three or four men, and a cut direct from any person was, with him, sufficient grounds for sending a friend. Everybody was civil to him, because no one wished to quarrel with him.
“My dear Mr Newland,” said he, offering his hand, “I am delighted to see you; I have heard at the clubs of your misfortune, and there were some free remarks made by some. I have great pleasure in saying that I put an immediate stop to them, by telling them that, if they were repeated in my presence, I should consider it as a personal quarrel.”
Three months before, had I met Captain Atkinson, I should have returned his bow with studied politeness, and have left him; but how changed were my feelings! I took his hand, and shook it warmly.
“My dear sir,” replied I, “I am very much obliged for your kind and considerate conduct; there are more who are inclined to calumniate than to defend.”
“And always will be in this world, Mr Newland; but I have a fellow feeling. I recollect how I was received and flattered when I was introduced as a young man of fortune, and how I was deserted and neglected when I was cleaned out. I know now why they are so civil to me, and I value their civility at just as much as it is worth. Will you accept my arm:—I am going your way”
I could not refuse; but I coloured when I took it, for I felt that I was not adding to my reputation by being seen in his company; and still I felt, that although not adding to my reputation, I was less likely to receive insult, and that the same cause which induced them to be civil to him, would perhaps operate when they found me allied with him. “Be it so,” thought I, “I will, if possible, extort politeness.”
We were strolling down Bond Street, when we met a young man, well known in the fashionable circles, who had dropped my acquaintance, after having been formerly most pressing to obtain it. Atkinson faced him. “Good morning, Mr Oxberry.”
“Good morning, Captain Atkinson,” replied Mr Oxberry.
“I thought you knew my friend Mr Newland?” observed Atkinson, rather fiercely.
“Oh! really—I quite—I beg pardon. Good morning, Mr Newland; you have been long absent. I did not see you at Lady Maelstrom’s last night.”
“No,” replied I, carelessly, “nor will you ever. When you next see her ladyship, ask her, with my compliments, whether she has had another fainting fit.”