The morning following the disastrous steeple-chase, Mr. Jasper Vermont ordered his car, and then sat down to write to Adrien. He told him that he regretted having to leave the Castle so suddenly, but urgent business required his presence in London, and that he would return to Barminster as soon as possible.
On the appearance of the motor, he took his departure, travelling direct to Jermyn Court, where he stayed to lunch, waited on by the attentive Norgate as though he had been Adrien himself. Then, having filled his cigar-case with his friend’s choicest Cabanas, he strolled through the fashionable parts of the Park.
The loungers and idle men of fashion who usually frequented it at that time of the day knew him well, and nodded with forced smiles of friendship—it was clearly to their interest to be on good, if possible, cordial terms with a man who always had the entree to the innermost circles, and who had won the confidence of a popular favourite like Adrien Leroy.
Those who had not been personally introduced to Jasper, had still heard reports of his position, and looked after him with that half-envious air which says so plainly:
“There goes the kind of prosperous, wealthy man I myself should like to be.”
Mr. Vermont strolled along, his face wreathed in a perpetual smirk of recognition, his hat off half a dozen times a minute, acknowledging the smiling glances accorded to him.
When he had nearly come to Hyde Park Gate, he was confronted by one of the loungers—an old acquaintance of his—whose woe-begone countenance seemed expressive of acute mental distress.
Jasper Vermont recognised him in spite of his altered appearance—usually a very gay one—and stopped him.
“What, Beau!” he exclaimed with seemingly effusive warmth; “you here; whatever have you been doing—committing murder? Or have you married in haste, to repent of it at leisure?”
“Neither, my dear boy,” answered the well-groomed young man—a captain in the “Household” Guards—one of the fastest and most generally liked fellows in town. “Neither, Vermont; but I have just come from the City.”
“City of the Tombs!” drawled Jasper facetiously.
Captain Beaumont laughed, but rather mournfully.
“Yes,” he said, “all my hopes are buried in that beastly place.’ Really, the County Council ought to put a notice over the west side of Temple Bar monument instead of that heraldic beast: ’Abandon hope, all ye who enter here,’”
Mr. Vermont laughed, in his usual quiet way.
“How’s that? The City is good enough in its way. What have they been doing to you; won’t they lend you any more money?”
“Worse even than that,” said the young spend-thrift; “they actually want me to repay all that I owe them already, on short notice, with the usual threats if I fail to comply within their time.”