Hence, Bertie had never felt the want of all that is bought by and represents money, and imbibed a vague, indistinct impression that all these things that made life pleasant came by Nature, and were the natural inheritance and concomitants of anybody born in a decent station, and endowed with a tolerable tact; such a matter-of-fact difficulty as not having gold enough to pay for his own and his stud’s transit to the Shires had very rarely stared him in the face, and when it did he trusted to chance to lift him safely over such a social “yawner,” and rarely trusted in vain.
According to all the canons of his Order he was never excited, never disappointed, never exhilarated, never disturbed; and also, of course, never by any chance embarrassed. “Votre imperturbabilite,” as the Prince de Ligne used to designate La Grande Catherine, would have been an admirable designation for Cecil; he was imperturbable under everything; even when an heiress, with feet as colossal as her fortune, made him a proposal of marriage, and he had to retreat from all the offered honors and threatened horrors, he courteously, but steadily declined them. Nor in more interesting adventures was he less happy in his coolness. When my Lord Regalia, who never knew when he was not wanted, came in inopportunely in a very tender scene of the young Guardsman’s (then but a Cornet) with his handsome Countess, Cecil lifted his long lashes lazily, turning to him a face of the most plait-il? and innocent demureness—or consummate impudence, whichever you like. “We’re playing Solitaire. Interesting game. Queer fix, though, the ball’s in that’s left all alone in the middle, don’t you think?” Lord Regalia felt his own similarity to the “ball in a fix” too keenly to appreciate the interesting character of the amusement, or the coolness of the chief performer in it; but “Beauty’s Solitaire” became a synonym thenceforth among the Household to typify any very tender passages “sotto quartr’ occhi.”
This made his reputation on the town; the ladies called it very wicked, but were charmed by the Richelieu-like impudence all the same, and petted the sinner; and from then till now he had held his own with them; dashing through life very fast, as became the first riding man in the Brigades, but enjoying it very fully, smoothly, and softly; liking the world and being liked by it.
To be sure, in the background there was always that ogre of money, and the beast had a knack of growing bigger and darker every year; but then, on the other hand, Cecil never looked at him—never thought about him—knew, too, that he stood just as much behind the chairs of men whom the world accredited as millionaires, and whenever the ogre gave him a cold grip, that there was for the moment no escaping, washed away the touch of it in a warm, fresh draft of pleasure.
The loose box, and the tabagie.