The Seraph’s grand wrath poured out fulminations against the wicked-doer whosoever he was, or wheresoever he lurked; and threatened, with a vengeance that would be no empty words, the direst chastisement of the “Club,” of which both his father and himself were stewards, upon the unknown criminal. The Austrian and French nobles, while winners by the event, were scarce in less angered excitement. It seemed to cast the foulest slur upon their honor that, upon foreign ground, the renowned English steeple-chaser should have been tampered with thus; and the fair ladies of either world added the influence of their silver tongues, and were eloquent in the vivacity of their sympathy and resentment with a unanimity women rarely show in savoring defeat, but usually reserve for the fairer opportunity of swaying the censer before success.
Cecil alone, amid it all, was very quiet; he said scarcely a word, nor could the sharpest watcher have detected an alteration in his countenance. Only once, when they talked around him of the investigations of the Club, and of the institution of inquiries to discover the guilty traitor, he looked up with a sudden, dangerous lighting of his soft, dark, hazel eyes, under the womanish length of their lashes: “When you find him, leave him to me.”
The light was gone again in an instant; but those who knew the wild strain that ran in the Royallieu blood knew by it that, despite his gentle temper, a terrible reckoning for the evil done his horse might come some day from the Quietist.
He said little or nothing else, and to the sympathy and indignation expressed for him on all sides he answered with his old, listless calm. But, in truth, he barely knew what was saying or doing about him; he felt like a man stunned and crushed with the violence of some tremendous fall; the excitation, the agitation, the angry amazement around him (growing as near clamor as was possible in those fashionable betting-circles, so free from roughs and almost free from bookmakers), the conflicting opinions clashing here and there—even, indeed, the graceful condolence of the brilliant women—were insupportable to him. He longed to be out of this world which had so well amused him; he longed passionately, for the first time in his life, to be alone.
For he knew that with the failure of Forest King had gone the last plank that saved him from ruin; perhaps the last chance that stood between him and dishonor. He had never looked on it as within the possibilities of hazard that the horse could be defeated; now, little as those about him knew it, an absolute and irremediable disgrace fronted him. For, secure in the issue of the Prix de Dames, and compelled to weight his chances in it very heavily that his winnings might be wide enough to relieve some of the debt-pressure upon him, his losses now were great; and he knew no more how to raise the moneys to meet them than he would have known how to raise the dead.