Then Geoffrey went.
THE DUCHESS’S BALL
Geoffrey reached Town a little before eleven o’clock that night—a haunted man—haunted for life by a vision of that face still lovely in death, floating alone upon the deep, and companioned only by the screaming mews—or perchance now sinking or sunk to an unfathomable grave. Well might such a vision haunt a man, the man whom alone of all men those cold lips had kissed, and for whose dear sake this dreadful thing was done.
He took a cab directing the driver to go to Bolton Street and to stop at his club as he passed. There might be letters for him there, he thought—something which would distract his mind a little. As it chanced there was a letter, marked “private,” and a telegram; both had been delivered that evening, the porter said, the former about an hour ago by hand.
Idly he opened the telegram—it was from his lawyers: “Your cousin, the child George Bingham, is, as we have just heard, dead. Please call on us early to-morrow morning.”
He started a little, for this meant a good deal to Geoffrey. It meant a baronetcy and eight thousand a year, more or less. How delighted Honoria would be, he thought with a sad smile; the loss of that large income had always been a bitter pill to her, and one which she had made him swallow again and again. Well, there it was. Poor boy, he had always been ailing—an old man’s child!
He put the telegram in his pocket and got into the hansom again. There was a lamp in it and by its light he read the letter. It was from the Prime Minister and ran thus:
“My dear Bingham,—I have not seen you since Monday to thank you for the magnificent speech you made on that night. Allow me to add my congratulations to those of everybody else. As you know, the Under Secretaryship of the Home Office is vacant. On behalf of my colleagues and myself I write to ask if you will consent to fill it for a time, for we do not in any way consider that the post is one commensurate with your abilities. It will, however, serve to give you practical experience of administration, and us the advantage of your great talents to an even larger extent than we now enjoy. For the future, it must of course take care of itself; but, as you know, Sir ——’s health is not all that could be desired, and the other day he told me that it was doubtful if he would be able to carry on the duties of the Attorney-Generalship for very much longer. In view of this contingency I venture to suggest that you would do well to apply for silk as soon as possible. I have spoken to the Lord Chancellor about it, and he says that there will be no difficulty, as although you have only been in active practice for so short a while, you have a good many years’ standing as a barrister. Or if this prospect does not please doubtless some other opening to the Cabinet can be found in time. The fact is, that we cannot in our own interest overlook you for long.”