LADY MILBOROUGH’S DINNER PARTY
Louis Trevelyan went down to his club in Pall Mall, the Acrobats, and there heard a rumour that added to his anger against Colonel Osborne. The Acrobats was a very distinguished club, into which it was now difficult for a young man to find his way, and almost impossible for a man who was no longer young, and therefore known to many. It had been founded some twenty years since with the idea of promoting muscular exercise and gymnastic amusements; but the promoters had become fat and lethargic, and the Acrobats spent their time mostly in playing whist, and in ordering and eating their dinners. There were supposed to be, in some out-of-the-way part of the building, certain poles and sticks and parallel bars with which feats of activity might be practised, but no one ever asked for them now-a-days, and a man, when he became an Acrobat, did so with a view either to the whist or the cook, or possibly to the social excellences of the club. Louis Trevelyan was an Acrobat as was also Colonel Osborne.
‘So old Rowley is coming home,’ said one distinguished Acrobat to another in Trevelyan’s hearing.
‘How the deuce is he managing that? He was here a year ago?’
’Osborne is getting it done. He is to come as a witness for this committee. It must be no end of a lounge for him. It doesn’t count as leave, and he has every shilling paid for him, down to his cab-fares when he goes out to dinner. There’s nothing like having a friend at Court.’
Such was the secrecy of Colonel Osborne’s secret! He had been so chary of having his name mentioned in connection with a political job, that he had found it necessary to impose on his young friend the burden of a secret from her husband, and yet the husband heard the whole story told openly at his club on the same day! There was nothing in the story to anger Trevelyan had he not immediately felt that there must be some plan in the matter between his wife and Colonel Osborne, of which he had been kept ignorant. Hitherto, indeed, his wife, as the reader knows, could not have told him. He had not seen her since the matter had been discussed between her and her friend. But he was angry because he first learned at his club that which he thought he ought to have learned at home. As soon as he reached his house he went at once to his wife’s room, but her maid was with her, and nothing could be said at that moment. He then dressed himself, intending to go to Emily as soon as the girl had left her; but the girl remained—was, as he believed, kept in the room purposely by his wife, so that he should have no moment of private conversation. He went downstairs, therefore, and found Nora standing by the drawing-room fire.
‘So you are dressed first today?’ he said. ’I thought your turn always came last.’
’Emily sent Jenny to me first today because she thought you would be home, and she didn’t go up to dress till the last minute.’