Boswell, who was standing to one side watching—-his eyes full of curiosity and his ears strained to catch by chance a word—the little scene that was being enacted in a corner of the room, took good care that Johnson should be in his charge going home. This walk to Johnson's house necessitated a walk back to his own lodgings in Piccadilly; but this was nothing to Boswell, who had every confidence in his own capability to extract from his great patron some account of the secrets which had been exchanged in the corner.

For once, however, he found himself unable to effect his object—nay, when he began his operations with his accustomed lightness of touch, Johnson turned upon him, saying—

“Sir, I observe what is your aim, and I take this opportunity to tell you that if you make any further references, direct or indirect, to man, woman or child, to the occurrences of this evening, you will cease to be a friend of mine. I have been humiliated sufficiently by a stranger, who had every right to speak as he did, but I refuse to be humiliated by you, sir.”

Boswell expressed himself willing to give the amplest security for his good behaviour. He had great hope of conferring upon his patron a month of inconvenience in making a tour of the west coast of Scotland during the summer.

The others of the party went northward by one of the streets off the Strand into Coventry street, and thence toward Sir Joshua's house in Leicester Square, Burke walking in front with his arm through Goldsmith's, and Garrick some way behind with Reynolds. Goldsmith was very eloquent in his references to the magnanimity of Johnson, who, he said, in spite of the fact that he had been grossly insulted by an impostor calling himself his, Goldsmith's, cousin, had consented to receive the dedication of the new comedy. Burke, who understood the temperament of his countryman, felt that he himself might surpass in eloquence even Oliver Goldsmith if he took for his text the magnanimity of the author of “The Good Natured Man.” He, however, refrained from the attempt to prove to his companion that there were other ways by which a man could gain a reputation for generosity than by permitting the most distinguished writer of the age to dedicate a comedy to him.

Of the other couple Garrick was rattling away in the highest spirits, quite regardless of the position of Reynolds's ear-trumpet. Reynolds was as silent as Burke for a considerable time; but then, stopping at a corner so as to allow Goldsmith and his companion to get out of ear-shot, he laid his hand on Garrick's arm, laughing heartily as he said—

“You are a pretty rascal, David, to play such a trick upon your best friends. You are a pretty rascal, and a great genius, Davy—the greatest genius alive. There never has been such an actor as you, Davy, and there never will be another such.”

“Sir,” said Garrick, with an overdone expression of embarrassment upon his face, every gesture that he made corresponding. “Sir, I protest that you are speaking in parables. I admit the genius, if you insist upon it, but as for the rascality—well, it is possible, I suppose, to be both a great genius and a great rascal; there was our friend Benvenuto, for example, but——”

“Only a combination of genius and rascality could have hit upon such a device as that bow which you made, Davy,” said Reynolds. “It presented before my eyes a long vista of Goldsmiths—all made in the same fashion as our friend on in front, and all striving—-and not unsuccessfully, either—to maintain the family tradition of the Goldsmith bow. And then your imitation of your imitation of the same movement—how did we contain ourselves—Burke and I?”

“You fancy that Burke saw through the Dean, also?” said Garrick.

“I'm convinced that he did.”

“But he will not tell Johnson, I would fain hope.”

“You are very anxious that Johnson should not know how it was he was tricked. But you do not mind how you pain a much more generous man.”

“You mean Goldsmith? Faith, sir, I do mind it greatly. If I were not certain that he would forthwith hasten to tell Johnson, I would go to him and confess all, asking his forgiveness. But he would tell Johnson and never forgive me, so I'll e'en hold my tongue.”

“You will not lose a night's rest through brooding on Goldsmith's pain, David.”

“It was an impulse of the moment that caused me to adopt that device, my friend. Johnson is past all argument, sir. That sickening sycophant, Boswell, may find happiness in being insulted by him, but there are others who think that the Doctor has no more right than any ordinary man to offer an affront to those whom the rest of the world respects.”

“He will allow no one but himself to attack you, Davy.”

“And by my soul, sir, I would rather that he allowed every one else to attack me if he refrained from it himself. Where is the generosity of a man who, with the force and influence of a dozen men, will not allow a bad word to be said about you, but says himself more than the whole dozen could say in as many years? Sir, do the pheasants, which our friend Mr. Bunbury breeds so successfully, regard him as a pattern of generosity because he won't let a dozen of his farmers have a shot at them, but preserves them for his own unerring gun? By the Lord Harry, I would rather, if I were a pheasant, be shot at by the blunderbusses of a dozen yokels than by the fowling-piece of one good marksman, such as Bunbury. On the same principle, I have no particular liking to be preserved to make sport for the heavy broadsides that come from that literary three-decker, Johnson.”

“I have sympathy with your contentions, David; but we all allow your old schoolmaster a license which would be permitted to no one else.”

“That license is not a game license, Sir Joshua; and so I have made up my mind that if he says anything more about the profession of an actor being a degrading-one—about an actor being on the level with a fiddler—nay, one of the puppets of Panton street, I will teach my old schoolmaster a more useful lesson than he ever taught to me. I think it is probable that he is at this very moment pondering upon those plain truths which were told to him by the Dean.”

“And poor Goldsmith has been talking so incessantly and so earnestly to Burke, I am convinced that he feels greatly pained as well as puzzled by that inopportune visit of the clergyman who exhibited such striking characteristics of the Goldsmith family.”

“Nay, did I not bear testimony in his favour—declaring that he had never alluded to a relation who was a Dean?”

“Oh, yes; you did your best to place us all at our ease, sir. You were magnanimous, David—as magnanimous as the surgeon who cuts off an arm, plunges the stump into boiling pitch, and then gives the patient a grain or two of opium to make him sleep. But I should not say a word: I have seen you in your best part, Mr. Garrick, and I can give the heartiest commendation to your powers as a comedian, while condemning with equal force the immorality of the whole proceeding.”

They had now arrived at Reynolds's house in Leicester Square, Goldsmith and Burke—the former still talking eagerly—having waited for them to come up.

“Gentlemen,” said Reynolds, “you have all gone out of your accustomed way to leave me at my own door. I insist on your entering to have some refreshment. Mr. Burke, you will not refuse to enter and pronounce an opinion as to the portrait at which I am engaged of the charming Lady Betty Hamilton.”

O matre pulchra filia pulchrior” said Goldsmith; but there was not much aptness in the quotation, the mother of Lady Betty having been the loveliest of the sisters Gunning, who had married first the Duke of Hamilton, and, later, the Duke of Argyll.

Before they had rung the bell the hall door was opened by Sir Joshua's servant, Ralph, and a young man, very elegantly dressed, was shown out by the servant.

He at once recognised Sir Joshua and then Garrick.

“Ah, my dear Sir Joshua,” he cried, “I have to entreat your forgiveness for having taken the liberty of going into your painting-room in your absence.”

“Your Lordship has every claim upon my consideration,” said Sir Joshua. “I cannot doubt which of my poor efforts drew you thither.”

“The fact is, Sir Joshua, I promised her Grace three days ago to see the picture, and as I think it likely that I shall meet her tonight, I made a point of coming hither. The Duchess of Argyll is not easily put aside when she commences to catechise a poor man, sir.”

“I cannot hope, my Lord, that the picture of Lady Betty commended itself to your Lordship's eye,” said Sir Joshua.

“The picture is a beauty, my dear Sir Joshua,” said the young man, but with no great show of ardour. “It pleases me greatly. Your macaw is also a beauty. A capital notion of painting a macaw on a pedestal by the side of the lady, is it not, Mr. Garrick—two birds with the one stone, you know?”

“True, sir,” said Garrick. “Lady Betty is a bird of Paradise.”

“That's as neatly said as if it were part of a play,” said the young man. “Talking of plays, there is going to be a pretty comedy enacted at the Pantheon to-night.”

“Is it not a mask?” said Garrick.

“Nay, finer sport even than that,” laughed the youth. “We are going to do more for the drama in an hour, Mr. Garrick, than you have done in twenty years, sir.”

“At the Pantheon, Lord Stanley?” inquired Garrick.

“Come to the Pantheon and you shall see all that there is to be seen,” cried Lord Stanley. “Who are your friends? Have I had the honour to be acquainted with them?”

“Your Lordship must have met Mr. Burke and Dr. Goldsmith,” said Garrick.

“I have often longed for that privilege,” said Lord Stanley, bowing in reply to the salutation of the others. “Mr. Burke's speech on the Marriage Bill was a fine effort, and Mr. Goldsmith's comedy has always been my favourite. I hear that you are at present engaged upon another, Dr. Goldsmith. That is good news, sir. Oh, 't were a great pity if so distinguished a party missed the sport which is on foot tonight! Let me invite you all to the Pantheon—here are tickets to the show. You will give me a box at your theatre, Garrick, in exchange, on the night when Mr. Goldsmith's new play is produced.”

“Alas, my Lord,” said Garrick, “that privilege will be in the hands of Mr. Col-man.”

“What, at t' other house? Mr. Garrick, I'm ashamed of you. Nevertheless, you will come to the comedy at the Pantheon to-night. I must hasten to act my part. But we shall meet there, I trust.”

He bowed with his hat in his hand to the group, and hastened away with an air of mystery.

“What does he mean?” asked Reynolds.

“That is what I have been asking myself,” replied Garrick. “By heavens, I have it!” he cried after a pause of a few moments. “I have heard rumours of what some of our young bloods swore to do, since the managers of the Pantheon, in an outburst of virtuous indignation at the orgies of Vauxhall and Ranelagh, issued their sheet of regulations prohibiting the entrance of actresses to their rotunda. Lord Conway, I heard, was the leader of the scheme, and it seems that this young Stanley is also one of the plot. Let us hasten to witness the sport. I would not miss being-present for the world.”

“I am not so eager,” said Sir Joshua. “I have my work to engage me early in the morning, and I have lost all interest in such follies as seem to be on foot.”

“I have not, thank heaven!” cried Garrick; “nor has Dr. Goldsmith, I'll swear. As for Burke—well, being a member of Parliament, he is a seasoned rascal; and so good-night to you, good Mr. President.”

“We need a frolic,” cried Goldsmith. “God knows we had a dull enough dinner at the Crown and Anchor.”

“An Irishman and a frolic are like—well, let us say like Lady Betty and your macaw, Sir Joshua,” said Burke. “They go together very naturally.”

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