How could I, after having had an adversary like Prince Otto, call upon a fellow such as Edbury to give me reason for his conduct? He rollicked and laughed until my ungovernable impatience brought him to his senses.
’Dash it, you’re a fire-eater, I know, Richmond. We can’t fight in this country; ain’t allowed. And fighting ’s infernal folly. By Jove! If you’re going to tumble down every man who enjoys old Roy, you’ve your work cut out for you. He’s long chalks the best joke out. ’Twixt you and me, he did return thanks. What does it matter what old Duke Fitz does? I give him a lift on his ladder with all my heart. He keeps a capital table. And I’ll be hanged if he hasn’t got the secret of the women. How he does it old Roy! If the lords were ladies they’d vote him premier peer, double quick. And I’ll tell you what, Richmond, I’m thought a devil of a good-tempered fellow for not keeping watch over Courtenay Square. I don’t call it my business to be house dog for a pretty stepmother. But there’s talking and nodding, and oh! leave all that: come in and smoke, and let me set you up; and I’ll shake your hand. Halloa! I’m hailed.’
A lady, grasping the veil across her face, beckoned her hand from a closed carriage below. Edbury ran down to her. I caught sight of ravishing golden locks, reminding me of Mabel Sweetwinter’s hair, and pricking me with a sensation of spite at the sex for their deplorable madness in the choice of favourites. Edbury called me to come to the carriage window. I moved slowly, but the carriage wheeled about and rolled away. I could just see the outline of a head muffled in furs and lace.
‘Queer fish, women!’ he delivered himself of the philosophical ejaculation cloudily. I was not on terms with him to offer any remark upon the one in question. His imperturbable good humour foiled me, and I left him, merely giving him a warning, to which his answer was:
‘Oh! come in and have a bottle of claret.’
Claret or brandy had done its work on him by the time I encountered him some hours later, in the Park. Bramham DeWitt, whom I met in the same neighbourhood, offered me a mount after lunch, advising me to keep near my father as much as I conveniently could; and he being sure to appear in the Park, I went, and heard his name to the right and left of me. He was now, as he said to me once that he should become, ‘the tongue of London.’ I could hardly expect to escape from curious scrutiny myself; I was looked at. Here and there I had to lift my hat and bow. The stultification of one’s feelings and ideas in circumstances which divide and set them at variance is worse than positive pain. The looks shed on me were rather flattering, but I knew that in the background I was felt to be the son of the notorious. Edbury came trotting up to us like a shaken sack, calling, ‘Neigh! any of you seen old Roy?’ Bramham DeWitt, a stiff, fashionable man of fifty, proud of his blood and quick as his cousin Jorian to resent an impertinence, replied: