We were joined by Admiral Loftus and Lord Alton. They queried and counterqueried as to passages between my father and the newspapers, my father and the committee of his Club, preserving sufficient consideration for me to avoid the serious matter in all but distant allusions; a point upon which the breeding of Mr. Serjeant Wedderburn was not so accurate a guide to him. An exciting public scandal soon gathers knots of gossips in Clubland. We saw Wedderburn break from a group some way down the pavement and pick up a fresh crumb of amusement at one of the doorsteps. ’Roy Richmond is having his benefit to-day!’ he said, and repeated this and that, half audible to me. For the rest, he pooh-poohed the idea of the Law intervening. His ‘How d’ ye do, Mr. Richmond, how d’ ye do?’ was almost congratulatory. ’I think we meet at your father’s table to-night? It won’t be in the Tower, take my word for it. Oh! the papers! There’s no Act to compel a man to deny what appears in the papers. No such luck as the Tower!—though Littlepitt (Mr. Wedderburn’s nickname for our Premier) would be fool enough for that. He would. If he could turn attention from his Bill, he’d do it. We should have to dine off Boleyn’s block:—coquite horum obsonia he’d say, eh?’’
Jennings espied my father’s carriage, and stepped to speak a word to the footman. He returned, saying, with a puff of his cheeks: ’The Grand Monarque has been sending his state equipage to give the old backbiting cripple Brisby an airing. He is for horse exercise to-day they’ve dropped him in Courtenay Square. There goes Brisby. He’d take the good Samaritan’s shilling to buy a flask of poison for him. He ’ll use Roy’s carriage to fetch and carry for that venomous old woman Kane, I’ll swear.’
‘She’s a male in Scripture,’ said Wedderburn, and this reminded me of an anecdote that reminded him of another, and after telling them, he handed round his hat for the laugh, as my father would have phrased it.
‘Has her ladyship declared war?’ Sir Weeton Slater inquired.
‘No, that’s not her preliminary to wageing it,’ Wedderburn replied. These high-pressure smart talkers had a moment of dulness, and he bethought him that he must run into the Club for letters, and was busy at Westminster, where, if anything fresh occurred between meridian and six o’clock, he should be glad, he said, to have word of it by messenger, that he might not be behind his Age.
The form of humour to express the speed of the world was common, but it struck me as a terrible illustration of my father’s. I had still a sense of pleasure in the thought that these intimates of his were gentlemen who relished and, perhaps, really liked him. They were not parasites; not the kind of men found hanging about vulgar profligates.