Goldsmith followed the direction of her eyes and saw that their object was a man in the uniform of an officer, who was chatting with Mrs. Abingdon. He was a showily handsome man, though his face bore evidence of some dissipated years, and there was an undoubted swagger in his bearing.

Meanwhile Goldsmith watched him. The man caught sight of Miss Horneck and gave a slight start, his jaw falling for an instant—only for an instant, however; then he recovered himself and made an elaborate bow to the girl across the room.

Goldsmith turned to Miss Horneck and perceived that her face had become white; she returned very coldly the man's recognition, and only after the lapse of some seconds. Goldsmith possessed naturally both delicacy of feeling and tact. He did not allow the girl to see that he had been a witness of a rencontre which evidently was painful to her; but he spoke to her sister, who was amusing her husband by a scarcely noticeable imitation of a certain great lady known to both of them; and, professing himself woefully ignorant as to the personnel of the majority of the people who were present, inquired first what was the name of a gentleman wearing a star and talking to a group of apparently interested ladies, and then of the officer whom he had seen make that elaborate bow.

Mrs. Bunbury was able to tell him who was the gentleman with the star, but after glancing casually at the other man, she shook her head.

“I have never seen him before,” she said. “I don't think he can be any one in particular. The people whom we don't know are usually nobodies—until we come to know them.”

“That is quite reasonable,” said he. “It is a distinction to become your friend. It will be remembered in my favour when my efforts as Professor at the Academy are forgotten.”

His last sentence was unheard, for Mrs. Bunbury was giving all her attention to her sister, of whose face she had just caught a glimpse.

“Heavens, child!” she whispered to her, “what is the matter with you?”

“What should be the matter with me?” said Mary. “What, except—oh, this place is stifling! And the managers boasted that it would be cool and well ventilated at all times!”

“My dear girl, you'll be quite right when I take you into the air,” said Bunbury.

“No, no; I do not need to leave the rotunda; I shall be myself in a moment,” said the girl somewhat huskily and spasmodically. “For heaven's sake don't stare so, child,” she added to her sister, making a pitiful attempt to laugh.

“But, my dear——” began Mrs. Bunbury; she was interrupted by Mary.

“Nay,” she cried, “I will not have our mother alarmed, and—well, every one knows what a tongue Mrs. Thrale has. Oh, no; already the faintness has passed away. What should one fear with a doctor in one's company? Come, Dr. Goldsmith, you are a sensible person. You do not make a fuss. Lend me your arm, if you please.”

“With all pleasure in life,” cried Oliver.

He offered her his arm, and she laid her hand upon it. He could feel how greatly she was trembling.

When they had taken a few steps away Mary looked back at her sister and Bunbury and smiled reassuringly at them. Her companion saw that, immediately afterwards, her glance went in the direction of the officer who had bowed to her.

“Take me up to one of the galleries, my dear friend,” she said. “Take me somewhere—some place away from here—any place away from here.”

He brought her to an alcove off one of the galleries where only one sconce with wax candles was alight.

“Why should you tremble, my dear girl?” said he. “What is there to be afraid of? I am your friend—you know that I would die to save you from the least trouble.”

“Trouble? Who said anything about trouble?” she cried. “I am in no trouble—only for the trouble I am giving you, dear Goldsmith. And you did not come in the bloom-tinted coat after all.”

He made no reply to her spasmodic utterances. The long silence was broken only by the playing of the band, following Madame Agujari's song—the hum of voices and laughter from the well-dressed mob in the rotunda and around the galleries.

At last the girl put her hand again upon his arm, saying—

“I wonder what you think of this business, my dear friend—I wonder what you think of your Jessamy Bride.”

“I think nothing but what is good of you, my dear,” said he tenderly. “But if you can tell me of the matter that troubles you, I think I may be able to make you see that it should not be a trouble to you for a moment. Why, what can possibly have happened since we were all so merry in France together?”

“Nothing—nothing has happened—I give you my word upon it,” she said. “Oh, I feel that you are altogether right. I have no cause to be frightened—no cause to be troubled. Why, if it came to fighting, have not I a brother? Ah, I had much better say nothing more. You could not understand—psha! there is nothing to be understood, dear Dr. Goldsmith; girls are foolish creatures.”

“Is it nothing to you that we have been friends so long, dear child?” said he. “Is it not possible for you to let me have your confidence? Think if it be possible, Mary. I am not a wise man where my own affairs are concerned, but I feel that for others—for you, my dear—ah, child, don't you know that if you share a secret trouble with another its poignancy is blunted?”

“I have never had consolation except from you,” said the girl. “But this—this—oh, my friend, by what means did you look into a woman's soul to enable you to write those lines—

'When lovely woman stoops to folly,

And finds too late. . . '?”

There was a long pause before he started up, with his hand pressed to his forehead. He looked at her strangely for a moment, and then walked slowly away from her with his head bent. Before he had taken more than a dozen steps, however, he stopped, and, after another moment of indecision, hastened back to her and offered her his hand, saying—

“I am but a man; I can think nothing of you but what is good.”

“Yes,” she said; “it is only a woman who can think everything that is evil about a woman. It is not by men that women are deceived to their own destruction, but by women.”

She sprang to her feet and laid her hand upon his arm once again.

“Let us go away,” she said. “I am sick of this place. There is no corner of it that is not penetrated by the Agujari's singing. Was there ever any singing so detestable? And they pay her fifty guineas a song! I would pay fifty guineas to get out of earshot of the best of her efforts.” Her laugh had a shrill note that caused it to sound very pitiful to the man who heard it.

He spoke no word, but led her tenderly back to where her mother was standing with Burke and her son.

“I do hope that you have not missed Agujari's last song,” said Mrs. Horneck. “We have been entranced with its melody.”

“Oh, no; I have missed no note of it—no note. Was there ever anything so delicious—so liquid-sweet? Is it not time that we went homeward, mother? I do feel a little tired, in spite of the Agujari.”

“At what an admirable period we have arrived in the world's history!” said Burke. “It is the young miss in these days who insists on her mother's keeping good hours. How wise we are all growing!”

“Mary was always a wise little person,” said Mrs. Horneck.

“Wise? Oh, let us go home!” said the girl wearily.

“Dr. Goldsmith will, I am sure, direct our coach to be called,” said her mother.

Goldsmith bowed and pressed his way to the door, where he told the janitor to call for Mrs. Horneck's coach.

He led Mary out of the rotunda, Burke having gone before with the elder lady. Goldsmith did not fail to notice the look of apprehension on the girl's face as her eyes wandered around the crowd in the porch. He could hear the little sigh of relief that she gave after her scrutiny.

The coach had drawn up at the entrance, and the little party went out into the region of flaring links and pitch-scented smoke. While Goldsmith was in the act of helping Mary Horneck up the steps, he was furtively glancing around, and before she had got into a position for seating herself by the side of her mother, he dropped her hand in so clumsy a way that several of the onlookers laughed. Then he retreated, bowing awkwardly, and, to crown his stupidity, he turned round so rapidly and unexpectedly that he ran violently full-tilt against a gentleman in uniform, who was hurrying to the side of the chariot as if to take leave of the ladies.

The crowd roared as the officer lost his footing for a moment and staggered among the loiterers in the porch, not recovering himself until the vehicle had driven away. Even then Goldsmith, with disordered wig, was barring the way to the coach, profusely apologising for his awkwardness.

“Curse you for a lout!” cried the officer.

Goldsmith put his hat on his head.

“Look you, sir!” he said. “I have offered you my humblest apologies for the accident. If you do not choose to accept them, you have but got to say as much and I am at your service. My name is Goldsmith, sir—Oliver Goldsmith—and my friend is Mr. Edmund Burke. I flatter myself that we are both as well known and of as high repute as yourself, whoever you may be.”

The onlookers in the porch laughed, those outside gave an encouraging cheer, while the chairmen and linkmen, who were nearly all Irish, shouted “Well done, your Honour! The little Doctor and Mr. Burke forever!” For both Goldsmith and Burke were as popular with the mob as they were in society.

While Goldsmith stood facing the scowling officer, an elderly gentleman, in the uniform of a general and with his breast covered with orders, stepped out from the side of the porch and shook Oliver by the hand. Then he turned to his opponent, saying—

“Dr. Goldsmith is my friend, sir. If you have any quarrel with him you can let me hear from you. I am General Oglethorpe.”

“Or if it suits you better, sir,” said another gentleman coming to Goldsmith's side, “you can send your friend to my house. My name is Lord Clare.”

“My Lord,” cried the man, bowing with a little swagger, “I have no quarrel with Dr. Goldsmith. He has no warmer admirer than myself. If in the heat of the moment I made use of any expression that one gentleman might not make use of toward another, I ask Dr. Goldsmith's pardon. I have the honour to wish your Lordship good-night.”

He bowed and made his exit.

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