He felt that the result of his interview with Mary was to render more mysterious than ever the question which he had hoped to solve.

He wondered if he was more clumsy of apprehension than other men, as he had come away from her without learning her secret. He was shrewd enough to know that the majority of men to whom he might give a detailed account of his interview with the girl—a detailed account of his observation of her upon the appearance of Captain Jackson first at the Pantheon, then in the green room of Covent Garden—would have no trouble whatever in accounting for her behaviour upon both occasions. He could see the shrugs of the cynical, the head-shakings of those who professed to be vastly grieved.

Ah, they did not know this one girl. They were ready to lump all womankind together and to suppose that it would be impossible for one woman to be swayed by other impulses than were common to womankind generally.

But he knew this girl, and he felt that it was impossible to believe that she was otherwise than good. Nothing would force him to think anything evil regarding her.

“She is not as others,” was the phrase that was in his mind—the thought that was in his heart.

He did not pause to reflect upon the strangeness of the circumstance that when a man wishes to think the best of a woman he says she is not as other women are.

He did not know enough of men and women to be aware of the fact that when a man makes up his mind that a woman is altogether different from other women, he loves that woman.

He felt greatly grieved to think that he had been unable to search out the heart of her mystery; but the more he recalled of the incidents that had occurred upon the two occasions when that man Jackson had been in the same apartment as Mary Horneck, the more convinced he became that the killing of that man would tend to a happy solution of the question which was puzzling him.

After giving this subject all his thought for the next day or two, he went to his friend Baretti, and presented him with tickets for one of the author's nights for “She Stoops to Conquer.” Baretti was a well known personage in the best literary society in London, having consolidated his reputation by the publication of his English and Italian dictionary. He had been Johnson's friend since his first exile from Italy, and it was through his influence Baretti, on the formation of the Royal Academy, had been appointed Secretary for Foreign Correspondence. To Johnson also he owed the more remunerative appointment of Italian tutor at the Thrales'. He had frequently dined with Goldsmith at his chambers.

Baretti expressed himself grateful for the tickets, and complimented the author of the play upon his success.

“If one may measure the success of a play by the amount of envy it creates in the breasts of others, yours is a huge triumph,” said the Italian.

“Yes,” said Goldsmith quickly, “that is just what I wish to have a word with you about. The fact is, Baretti, I am not so good a swordsman as I should be.”

“What,” cried Baretti, smiling as he looked at the man before him, who had certainly not the physique of the ideal swordsman. “What, do you mean to fight your detractors? Take my advice, my friend, let the pen be your weapon if such is your intention. If you are attacked with the pen you should reply with the same weapon, and with it you may be pretty certain of victory.”

“Ah, yes; but there are cases—well, one never knows what may happen, and a man in my position should be prepared for any emergency. I can do a little sword play—enough to enable me to face a moderately good antagonist. A pair of coxcombs insulted me a few days ago and I retorted in a way that I fancy might be thought effective by some people.”

“How did you retort?”

“Well, I warned the passers-by that the pair were pickpockets disguised as gentlemen.”

“Bacchus! An effective retort! And then——”

“Then I turned down a side street and half drew my sword; but, after making a feint of following me, they gave themselves over to a bout of swearing and went on. What I wish is to be directed by you to any compatriot of yours who would give me lessons in fencing. Do you know of any first-rate master of the art in London?”

The Italian could not avoid laughing, Goldsmith spoke so seriously.

“You would like to find a maestro who would be capable of turning you into a first-rate swordsman within the space of a week?”

“Nay, sir, I am not unreasonable; I would give him a fortnight.”

“Better make it five years.”

“Five years?”

“My dear friend, I pray of you not to make me your first victim if I express to you my opinion that you are not the sort of man who can be made a good swordsman. You were born, not made, a poet, and let me tell you that a man must be a born swordsman if he is to take a front place among swordsmen. I am in the same situation as yourself: I am so short-sighted I could make no stand against an antagonist. No, sir, I shall never kill a man.”

He laughed as men laugh who do not understand what fate has in store for them.

“I have made up my mind to have some lessons,” said Goldsmith, “and I know there are no better teachers than your countrymen, Baretti.”

“Psha!” said Baretti. “There are clever fencers in Italy, just as there are in England. But if you have made up your mind to have an Italian teacher, I shall find out one for you and send him to your chambers. If you are wise, however, you will stick to your pen, which you wield with such dexterity, and leave the more harmless weapon to others of coarser fiber than yourself.”

“There are times when it is necessary for the most pacific of men—nay, even an Irishman—to show himself adroit with a sword,” said Goldsmith; “and so I shall be forever grateful to you for your services towards this end.”

He was about to walk away when a thought seemed to strike him.

“You will add to my debt to you if you allow this matter to go no further than ourselves. You can understand that I have no particular wish to place myself at the mercy of Dr. Johnson or Garrick,” said he. “I fancy I can see Garrick's mimicry of a meeting between me and a fencing master.”

“I shall keep it a secret,” laughed Baretti; “but mind, sir, when you run your first man through the vitals you need not ask me to attend the court as a witness as to your pacific character.”

(When the two did appear in court it was Goldsmith who had been called as a witness on behalf of Baretti, who stood in the dock charged with the murder of a man.)

He felt very much better after leaving Baretti. He felt that he had taken at least one step on behalf of Mary Horneck. He knew his own nature so imperfectly that he thought if he were to engage in a duel with Captain Jackson and disarm him he would not hesitate to run him through a vital part.

He returned to his chambers and found awaiting him a number of papers containing some flattering notices of his comedy, and lampoons upon Colman for his persistent ill treatment of the play. In fact, the topic of the town was Colman's want of judgment in regard to this matter, and so strongly did the critics and lampooners, malicious as well as genial, express themselves, that the manager found life in London unbearable. He posted off to Bath, but only to find that his tormentors had taken good care that his reputation should precede him thither. His chastisement with whips in London was mild in comparison with his chastisement with scorpions at Bath; and now Goldsmith found waiting for him a letter from the unfortunate man imploring the poet to intercede for him, and get the lampooners to refrain from molesting him further.

If Goldsmith had been in a mood to appreciate a triumph he would have enjoyed reading this letter from the man who had given him so many months of pain. He was not, however, in such a mood. He looked for his triumph in another direction.

After dressing he went to the Mitre for dinner, and found in the tavern several of his friends. Cradock had run up from the country, and with him were Whitefoord and Richard Burke.

He was rather chilled at his reception by the party. They were all clearly ill at ease in his presence for some reason of which he was unaware; and when he began to talk of the criticisms which his play had received, the uneasiness of his friends became more apparent.

He could stand this unaccountable behaviour no longer, and inquired what was the reason of their treating him so coldly.

“You were talking about me just before I entered,” said he: “I always know on entering a room if my friends have been talking about me. Now, may I ask what this admirable party were saying regarding me? Tell it to me in your own way. I don't charge you to be frank with me. Frankness I hold to be an excellent cloak for one's real opinion. Tell me all that you can tell—as simply as you can—without prejudice to your own reputation for oratory, Richard. What is the matter, sir?”

Richard Burke usually was the merriest of the company, and the most fluent. But now he looked down, and the tone was far from persuasive in which he said—

“You may trust—whatever may be spoken, or written, about you, Goldsmith—we are your unalterable friends.”

“Psha, sir!” cried Goldsmith, “don't I know that already? Were you not all my friends in my day of adversity, and do you expect me suddenly to overthrow all my ideas of friendship by assuming that now that I have bettered my position in the world my friends will be less friendly?”

“Goldsmith,” said Steevens, “we received a copy of the London Packet half an hour before you entered. We were discussing the most infamous attack that has ever been made upon a distinguished man of letters.”

“At the risk of being thought a conceited puppy, sir, I suppose I may assume that the distinguished man of letters which the article refers to is none other than myself,” said Goldsmith.

“It is a foul and scurrilous slander upon you, sir,” said Steevens. “It is the most contemptible thing ever penned by that scoundrel Kenrick.”

“Do not annoy yourselves on my account, gentlemen,” said Goldsmith. “You know how little I think of anything that Kenrick may write of me. Once I made him eat his words, and the fit of indigestion that that operation caused him is still manifest in all he writes about me. I tell you that it is out of the power of that cur to cause me any inconvenience. Where is the Packet?

“There is no gain in reading such contemptible stuff,” said Cradock. “Take my advice, Goldsmith, do not seek to become aware of the precise nature of that scoundrel's slanders.”

“Nay, to shirk them would be to suggest that they have the power to sting me,” replied Goldsmith. “And so, sir, let me have the Packet, and you shall see me read the article without blenching. I tell you, Mr. Cradock, no man of letters is deserving of an eulogy who is scared by a detraction.”

“Nay, Goldsmith, but one does not examine under a magnifying glass the garbage that a creature of the kennel flings at one,” said Steevens.

“Come, sirs, I insist,” cried Goldsmith. “Why do I waste time with you?” he added, turning round and going to the door of the room. “I waste time here when I can read the Packet in the bar.”

“Hold, sir,” said Burke. “Here is the thing. If you will read it, you would do well to read it where you will find a dozen hands stretched forth to you in affection and sympathy. Oliver Goldsmith, this is the paper and here are our hands. We look on you as the greatest of English writers—the truest of English poets—the best of Englishmen.”

“You overwhelm me, sir. After this, what does it matter if Kenrick flings himself upon me?”

He took the Packet. It opened automatically, where an imaginary letter to himself, signed “Tom Tickle,” appeared.

He held it up to the light; a smile was at first on his features; he had nerved himself to the ordeal. His friends would not find that he shrank from it—he even smiled, after a manner, as he read the thing—but suddenly his jaw fell, his face became pale. In another second he had crushed the paper between his hands. He crushed it and tore it, and then flung it on the floor and trampled on it. He walked to and fro in the room with bent head. Then he did a strange thing: he removed his sword and placed it in a corner, as if he were going to dine, and, without a word to any of his friends, left the room, carrying with him his cane only.

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