‘Does the Duchess of Dewlap dare to give me the lie?’ said Mr. Beamish.
‘That’s not my title, and you know it,’ she retorted.
‘What’s this?’ the angry beau sang out. ‘What stuff is this you wear?’ He towered and laid hand on a border of lace of her morning dress, tore it furiously and swung a length of it round him: and while the duchess panted and trembled at an outrage that won for her the sympathy of every lady present as well as the championship of the gentlemen, he tossed the lace to the floor and trampled on it, making his big voice intelligible over the uproar: ’Hear what she does! ’Tis a felony! She wears the stuff with Betty Worcester’s yellow starch on it for mock antique! And let who else wears it strip it off before the town shall say we are disgraced— when I tell you that Betty Worcester was hanged at Tyburn yesterday morning for murder!’
There were shrieks.
Hardly had he finished speaking before the assembly began to melt; he stood in the centre like a pole unwinding streamers, amid a confusion of hurrying dresses, the sound and whirl and drift whereof was as that of the autumnal strewn leaves on a wind rising in November. The troops of ladies were off to bereave themselves of their fashionable imitation old lace adornment, which denounced them in some sort abettors and associates of the sanguinary loathed wretch, Mrs. Elizabeth Worcester, their benefactress of the previous day, now hanged and dangling on the gallows-tree.
Those ladies who wore not imitation lace or any lace in the morning, were scarcely displeased with the beau for his exposure of them that did. The gentlemen were confounded by his exhibition of audacious power. The two gentlemen nighest upon violently resenting his brutality to Duchess Susan, led her from the room in company with Chloe.
‘The woman shall fear me to good purpose,’ Mr. Beamish said to himself.
Mr. Camwell was in the ante-room as Chloe passed out behind the two incensed supporters of Duchess Susan.
‘I shall be by the fir-trees on the Mount at eight this evening,’ she said.
‘I will be there,’ he replied.
’Drive Mr. Beamish into the country, that these gentlemen may have time to cool.’
He promised her it should be done.
Close on the hour of her appointment, he stood under the fir-trees, admiring the sunset along the western line of hills, and when Chloe joined him he spoke of the beauty of the scene.
‘Though nothing seems more eloquently to say farewell,’ he added, with a sinking voice.
‘We could say it now, and be friends,’ she answered.
‘Later than now, you think it unlikely that you could forgive me, Chloe.’
‘In truth, sir, you are making it hard for me.’
‘I have stayed here to keep watch; for no pleasure of my own,’ said he.