Indeed, it took something as tremendous as divorce from all forms of smoking for five hours to make an impression on Bertie. He had the most serene insouciance that ever a man was blessed with; in worry he did not believe—he never let it come near him; and beyond a little difficulty sometimes in separating too many entangled rose-chins caught round him at the same time, and the annoyance of a miscalculation on the flat, or the ridge-and-furrow, when a Maldon or Danebury favorite came nowhere, or his book was wrong for the Grand National, Cecil had no cares of any sort or description.
True, the Royallieu Peerage, one of the most ancient and almost one of the most impoverished in the kingdom, could ill afford to maintain its sons in the expensive career on which it had launched them, and the chief there was to spare usually went between the eldest son, a Secretary of Legation in that costly and charming City of Vienna, and the young one, Berkeley, through the old Viscount’s partiality; so that, had Bertie ever gone so far as to study his actual position, he would have probably confessed that it was, to say the least, awkward; but then he never did this, certainly never did it thoroughly. Sometimes he felt himself near the wind when settling-day came, or the Jews appeared utterly impracticable; but, as a rule, things had always trimmed somehow, and though his debts were considerable, and he was literally as penniless as a man can be to stay in the Guards at all, he had never in any shape realized the want of money. He might not be able to raise a guinea to go toward that long-standing account, his army tailor’s bill, and post obits had long ago forestalled the few hundred a year that, under his mother’s settlements, would come to him at the Viscount’s death; but Cecil had never known in his life what it was not to have a first-rate stud, not to live as luxuriously as a duke, not to order the costliest dinners at the clubs, and be among the first to lead all the splendid entertainments and extravagances of the Household; he had never been without his Highland shooting, his Baden gaming, his prize-winning schooner among the R. V. Y. Squadron, his September battues, his Pytchley hunting, his pretty expensive Zu-Zus and other toys, his drag for Epsom and his trap and hack for the Park, his crowd of engagements through the season, and his bevy of fair leaders of the fashion to smile on him, and shower their invitation-cards on him, like a rain of rose-leaves, as one of the “best men.”
“Best,” that is, in the sense of fashion, flirting, waltzing, and general social distinction; in no other sense, for the newest of debutantes knew well that “Beauty,” though the most perfect of flirts, would never be “serious,” and had nothing to be serious with; on which understanding he was allowed by the sex to have the run of their boudoirs and drawing-rooms, much as if he were a little lion-dog; they counted him quite “safe.” He made love to the married women, to be sure; but he was quite certain not to run away with the marriageable daughters.