Beauty himself, with a characteristic philosophy, had a sort of conviction that the German race would set everything square. He stood either to make a very good thing on it or to be very heavily bit. There could be no medium. He never hedged in his life; and as it was almost a practical impossibility that anything the foreign stables could get together would even be able to land within half a dozen lengths of the King. Cecil, always willing to console himself, and invariably too careless to take the chance of adverse accident into account, had come to Baden, and was amusing himself there dropping a Friedrich d’Or on the rouge, flirting in the shady alleys of the Lichtenthal, waltzing Lady Guenevere down the ballroom, playing ecarte with some Serene Highness, supping with the Zu-Zu and her set, and occupying rooms that a Russian Prince had had before him, with all the serenity of a millionaire, as far as memory of money went; with much more than the serenity in other matters of most millionaires, who, finding themselves uncommonly ill at ease in the pot-pourri of monarchs and ministers, of beau-monde and demi-monde, would have given half their newly turned thousands to get rid of the odor of Capel Court and the Bourse, and to attain the calm, negligent assurance, the easy, tranquil insolence, the nonchalance with Princes, and the supremacy among the Free Lances, which they saw and coveted in the indolent Guardsman.
Bertie amused himself. He might be within a day of his ruin, but that was no reason why he should not sip his iced sherbet and laugh with a pretty French actress to-night. His epicurean formulary was the same as old Herrick’s, and he would have paraphrased this poet’s famous quatrain into
Drink a pure claret
while you may,
Your “stiff” is still a-flying;
And he who dines so well to-day
To-morrow may be lying,
Pounced down upon by Jews tout net,
Or outlawed in a French guinguette!
Bertie was a great believer—if the words are not too sonorous and too earnest to be applied to his very inconsequent views upon any and everything—in the philosophy of happy accident. Far as it was in him to have a conviction at all,—which was a thorough-going, serious sort of thing not by any means his “form,”—he had a conviction that the doctrine of “Eat, drink, and enjoy, for to-morrow we die” was a universal panacea. He was reckless to the uttermost stretch of recklessness, all serene and quiet though his pococurantism and his daily manner were; and while subdued to the undeviating monotone and languor of his peculiar set in all his temper and habits, the natural dare-devil in him took out its inborn instincts in a wildly careless and gamester-like imprudence with that most touchy tempered and inconsistent of all coquettes—Fortune.