Young Mr. Barlowe took himself very seriously, and he had every right to do so; for a more serious young man was not to be found in business in London. He had been brought up to look upon everything in the world as having an intimate connection with business, and it had always been impressed upon him that business meant the increase of money, and that there was hardly anything in the world worth giving a thought to apart from the increase of money. It never occurred to any of his preceptors to suggest that the advantage of increasing one’s money lay in the splendid possibilities of spending it. The art of making money forms the whole curriculum of a business man’s education; he is supposed to require no instruction in the art of spending it. Thus it is that, by attending only to one side of the question so many business men lead much less interesting lives than they might, if they had it in their power to place themselves under the guidance of a trustworthy professor of the Art of Spending. But no Chair of Spending has yet been provided at any university, nor is there any instructor on this important branch of business education at any of the City schools, hence it is that the sons of so many money-making men turn out spendthrifts. They have been taught only one side of the great money question, and that the less important side into the bargain. In making an honest endeavour to master the other side, usually on the death of a father or a bachelor uncle, both looked on as close-fisted curmudgeons, a good many young men find themselves in difficulties.

Young Mr. Barlowe, on being introduced to the Burney family, through the circumstance of Mrs. Burney’s first husband having done business with Mr. Barlowe the elder, found himself in a strange atmosphere. He had never before imagined the existence of a household where music and plays and books were talked about as if these were the profitable topics of life. Previously he had lived in a house where the only profitable topic was thought to be the Profits. At his father’s table in the Poultry the conversation never travelled beyond the Profits. The likelihood of a rise in the price of gold or silver sometimes induced the father to increase his stock of bullion without delay, and then if the price rose, he could conscientiously charge his customers for the lace at such a rate per ounce as gave him a clear five per cent. extra profit; and it was upon such possibilities that the conversation in the Poultry parlour invariably turned.

And here were these Burneys talking with extraordinary eagerness and vivacity upon such matters as the treatment by a singer named Gabrielli of one of the phrases in a song of Mr. Handel’s, beginning: “Angels ever bright and fair”! For himself, young Mr. Barlowe thought that there was no need for so much repetition in any song. “Angels ever bright and fair, Take, oh take me to your care”—that was the whole thing, as it seemed to him; and when that request had been made once he thought it was quite enough; to repeat it half a dozen times was irritating and really tended to defeat its purpose. Only children in the nursery kept reiterating their requests. But he had heard Dr. Burney and his son-in-law, Esther’s husband, discuss the Gabrielli’s apparently unauthorized pause before the second violins suggested (as it appeared to the younger musician) a whisper of assent floating from the heaven; and all the members of the family except Fanny had taken sides in the controversy, as though a thing like that had any bearing upon the daily life of the City!

Thomas Barlowe was amazed at the childishness of the discussion, and he was particularly struck by the silence of Fanny on this occasion. She was silent, he was sure, because she agreed with him in thinking it ridiculous to waste words over a point that should be relegated to the nursery for settlement.

“They seem pleasant enough people in their way,” he told his mother after his first visit. “But they know nothing of what is going on in the world—the real world, of which the Poultry is the centre. It might be expected that the young man who is a naval officer and has seen the world would know something of the import of the question when I asked him what direction he thought gold would move in; but he only winked and replied, ‘Not across my hawse, I dare swear,’ and the others laughed as if he had said something humorous.”

“Mayhap it was humorous,” suggested his mother gravely.

“It would be sheer ribaldry for anyone to jest upon such a subject as the fluctuations in the price of silver,” said Thomas slowly. “Lieutenant Burney must surely know how serious a matter would be a fall of a fraction of a crown when we have bought heavily in prospect of a rise. But Miss Burney looks to be different from the others of the family. I have told you that while her father, and indeed all the rest, were talking excitedly on that ridiculous point in Mr. Handel’s music, she sat in silence. She is short-sighted, but I noticed more than once that she had her eyes fixed on me, as if she had found something to study in me. She is, I think, a steady, observant young lady. When Mrs. Burney said she hoped that I would visit them again, I think I perceived a sort of interest on Miss Burney’s face as she awaited my answer.”

Thomas had resolved not to frustrate the hopes that Mrs. Burney had expressed as to his paying another visit—as a matter of fact he had come three times, and on every occasion he had devoted himself to Fanny—to be more exact than Mrs. Burney, who had described his attentions in this phrase, he had passed his time subjecting her to a sort of catechism with a view to discover if she would make him the sort of wife that would suit him. It appeared that the result of his inquisition was satisfactory, and that his attentions were gradually becoming intentions; but Mrs. Burney had never gone farther than to comment favourably to Fanny upon the young man’s steadiness, and to suggest that the young woman whom he might choose to be his wife would be fortunate, steady young men with good prospects in the City being far from abundant. She had never gone so far as to ask Fanny if she would accept good fortune coming to her in such a form; though Fanny knew very well that she had asked Esther to sound her on this point.

How far Esther’s mission was accounted successful by their stepmother, Fanny, of course, could not guess; but at any rate Thomas was to pay a visit after dinner, and Fanny felt that it was necessary for her to be discreet. It had been very interesting for her to study Thomas, with the possibility before her of writing a second novel, in which some of his traits of character might be introduced with advantage; but she perceived how there was a likelihood of her course of study being paid for at too high a rate; so she resolved—to be discreet beyond her ordinary exercise of a virtue which she displayed at all times of her life.

So Thomas came to the house in St. Martin’s Street while tea was being served in the drawing-room, to the accompaniment of a duet on the piano—Dr. Burney had quickly perceived the merits of this new instrument over that of the harpsichord—between Susan and her father. Very close to the instrument, pressing the receiver of his ear-trumpet to the woodwork of the case, sat Sir Joshua Reynolds, while his sister—a lady of middle age who was gradually relinquishing the idea that she, too, could paint portraits—was suffering Mrs. Burney to explain to her the advantages of Lynn over London as a place of residence for people anxious to economize.

Fanny was at the table where the teapot and urn were being drawn on, and close to her sat her brother James, with a volume like an account-book lying face down on the table while he drank his tea.

The progress of the duet was not arrested by the entrance of young Mr. Barlowe, but he looked in the direction of the instrument when he had shaken hands with Mrs. Burney and bowed to Miss Reynolds. It was obvious that he was mystified by seeing Sir Joshua’s ear-trumpet pressed against the sound-conducting case of the piano. He was still looking at it with curious eyes while he greeted Fanny with the concentrated politeness of the Poultry.

Lieutenant Burney roused himself from his lolling attitude when he saw the puzzled look on the young man’s face, and he obligingly endeavoured to explain away the mystery.

“’Tis no wonder that you are amazed, Mr. Barlowe,” he said in a whisper. “I own that when it was first brought to my notice I thought it extraordinary. A marvellous instrument, is it not, that is played by the ear instead of by the mouth? And yet you must own that some of the notes it produces are very fine—much more delicate than could be produced by any other means.”

“I do not profess to be a judge of music, sir,” said Thomas; “but I know what pleases me.” Fanny wondered how often she had heard that same boast—the attempt of complete ignorance to be accredited with the virtue of frankness. “Yes, I own that I consider the music monstrous pretty; but with the ear—that is what puzzles me: it seems a simple trumpet, such as is blown by the mouth.”

“Pray do not let my father hear you say that, Mr. Barlowe,” whispered James. “That instrument is his fondest. You know that he has written a ‘History of Music’?”

“All the world knows that, sir,” replied Thomas gallantly. “I have not yet found time to read it myself, but—”

“Neither have I, sir; but I understand that that instrument which seems new to such simpletons as you and I is really as ancient as the pyramids of Egypt—nay, more so, for my father discovered in his researches that this was the identical form of the first instrument made by Tubal Cain himself.”

“Is’t possible? In our Family Bible there is a picture of Tubal Cain, but he is depicted blowing through a conch shell.”

“A shell! Ah! such was the ignorance of the world on these matters before my father wrote his History. But he has managed to clear up many points upon which complete ignorance or very erroneous opinions prevailed. It is not generally known, for instance, that Tubal had his second name given to him by reason of his habitually murdering every musical piece that he attempted to play.”

“But he was the inventor, was he not?”

“Quite true, Mr. Barlowe. But that fact, you must admit, only made his offence the more flagrant. So the inscriptions on the rocks assert; and there are some sensible people nowadays who believe that Tubal’s second and very suggestive name should be coupled with the names of many more recent performers on musical instruments.”

“You do not allude to the gentleman who is playing that new instrument—I mean that very ancient instrument—by the side of Dr. Burney?”

“Oh, surely not. That gentleman is one of the most notable performers of our age, Mr. Barlowe. I ask you plainly, sir, have you ever seen, even at a raree show, a musician who could play an instrument with his ear and produce such a good effect? You can easily believe that a vast amount of ingenuity is needed to produce even the simplest sound in that way.”

“If I had not it demonstrated before my eyes I should not believe it possible. I protest, sir, that the effect is very pretty. Is’t not so, Miss Burney?”

The young man turned to Fanny, who was doing her best to refrain from an outburst of laughter; she could not trust herself to put her cup of tea to her lips while her brother was continuing his fooling. She thought that it was scarcely good manners of him to play such a jest upon a visitor, though she knew the ward-room code of manners which her naval brother had acquired was very liberal on such points. She was about to give Mr. Barlowe a hint of the truth of Sir Joshua’s ear-trumpet, but James, perceiving her intention, defeated it by saying in a tone above a whisper:

“Cain—we mentioned Cain, did we not, Mr. Barlowe? Oh, yes; and it must have occurred to you how strangely customs have altered during the past ten years—how strongly opposed people are to-day to principles that were accepted without demur so recently as in our own boyhood. You take my meaning, sir?”

Mr. Barlowe did not look as if he quite grasped Lieutenant Burney’s drift, and Fanny felt it incumbent on her to prevent further fooling (as he thought she would) by remarking:

“My brother means, Mr. Barlowe, that ’tis remarkable how many changes are being made in many ways—but what he had in his mind was, of course, in respect to the forte-piano—on which my father and sister are playing a duet: only a few years ago no one thought to improve upon the harpsichord; and yet my father asserts that in a short time the harpsichord will be no more than a curiosity—that the forte-piano—or as we simply call it now, the piano, will take its place in every household. That is what you meant, was it not, James?”

“I was thinking of Cain and his profession—Cain, the good old murderer, rather than of Tubal Cain, who was perhaps equally criminal in inventing the liveliest source of human torture,” replied James gravely. “Yes, I was thinking—suggested by the mention of Cain—how strange people nowadays would regard my father’s intentions regarding my future when he assumed that I should have the best chance for cultivating my bent, which he had early recognized in me, by sending me, before it became too late, to be educated for the profession to an accomplished murderer.”

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