He went for supper to a tavern which he knew would be visited by none of his friends. He had no wish to share in the drolleries of Garrick as the latter turned Boswell into ridicule to make sport for the company. He knew that Garrick would be at the club in Gerrard street, to which he had been elected only a few days before the production of “She Stoops to Conquer,” and it was not at all unlikely that on this account the club would be a good deal livelier than it usually was even when Richard Burke was wittiest.

While awaiting the modest fare which he had ordered he picked up one of the papers published that evening, and found that it contained a fierce assault upon him for having dared to take the law into his own hands in attempting to punish the scoundrel who had introduced the name of Miss Horneck into his libel upon the author of the comedy about which all the town were talking.

The scurrility of his new assailant produced no impression upon him. He smiled as he read the ungrammatical expression of the indignation which the writer purported to feel at so gross an infringement of the liberty of the press as that of which—according to the writer—the ingenious Dr. Goldsmith was guilty. He did not even fling the paper across the room. He was not dwelling upon his own grievances. In his mind, the worst that could happen to him was not worth a moment's thought compared with the position of the girl whose presence he had just left.

He knew perfectly well—had he not good reason to know?—that the man who had threatened her would keep his threat. He knew of the gross nature of the libels which were published daily upon not merely the most notable persons in society, but also upon ordinary private individuals; and he had a sufficient knowledge of men and women to be aware of the fact that the grossest scandal upon the most innocent person was more eagerly read than any of the other contents of the prints of the day. That was one of the results of the publication of the scurrilities of Junius: the appetite of the people for such piquant fare was whetted, and there was no lack of literary cooks to prepare it. Slander was all that the public demanded. They did not make the brilliancy of Junius one of the conditions of their acceptance of such compositions—all they required was that the libel should have a certain amount of piquancy.

No one was better aware of this fact than Oliver Goldsmith. He knew that Kenrick, who had so frequently libelled him, would pay all the money that he could raise to obtain the letters which the man who called himself Captain Jackson had in his possession; he also knew that there would be no difficulty in finding a publisher for them; and as people were always much more ready to believe evil than good regarding any one—especially a young girl against whom no suspicion had ever been breathed—the result of the publication of the letters would mean practically ruin to the girl who had been innocent enough to write them.

Of course, a man of the world, with money at his hand, would have smiled at the possibility of a question arising as to the attitude to assume in regard to such a scoundrel as Jackson. He would merely inquire what sum the fellow required in exchange for the letters. But Goldsmith was in such matters as innocent as the girl herself. He believed, as she did, that because the man did not make any monetary claim upon her, he was not sordid. He was the more inclined to disregard the question of the possibility of buying the man off, knowing as he did that he should find it impossible to raise a sufficient sum for the purpose; and he believed, with Mary Horneck, that to tell her friends how she was situated would be to forfeit their respect forever.

She had told him that only cunning could prevail against her enemy, and he felt certain that she was right. He would try and be cunning for her sake.

He found great difficulty in making a beginning. He remembered how often in his life, and how easily, he had been imposed upon—how often his friends had entreated him to acquire this talent, since he had certainly not been endowed with it by nature. He remembered how upon some occasions he had endeavoured to take their advice; and he also remembered how, when he thought he had been extremely shrewd, it turned out that he had never been more clearly imposed upon.

He wondered if it was too late to begin again on a more approved system.

He brought his skill as a writer of fiction to bear upon the question (which maybe taken as evidence that he had not yet begun his career of shrewdness).

How, for instance, would he, if the exigencies of his story required it, cause Moses Primrose to develop into a man of resources in worldly wisdom? By what means would he turn Honeywood into a cynical man of the world?

He considered these questions at considerable length, and only when he reached the Temple, returning to his chambers, did he find out that the waiter at the tavern had given him change for a guinea two shillings short, and that half-a-crown of the change was made of pewter. He could not help being amused at his first step towards cunning. He certainly felt no vexation at being made so easy a victim of—he was accustomed to that position.

When he found that the roll of manuscript which he had thrust between the bars of the grate remained as he had left it, only slightly charred at the end which had been the nearer to the hot, though not burning, coals, all thoughts of guile—all his prospects of shrewdness were cast aside. He unfolded the pages and read the verses once more. After all, he had no right to burn them. He felt that they were no longer his property. They either belonged to the world of literature or to Mary Horneck, as—as what? As a token of affection which he bore her? But he had promised Johnson to root out of his heart whatever might remain of that which he had admitted to be foolishness.

Alas! alas! He sat up for hours in his cold rooms thinking, hoping, dreaming his old dream that a day was coming when he might without reproach put those verses into the girl's hand—when, learning the truth, she would understand.

And that time did come.

In the morning he found himself ready to face the question of how to get possession of the letters. No man of his imagination could give his attention to such a matter without having suggested to him many schemes for the attainment of his object. But in the end he was painfully aware that he had contrived nothing that did not involve the risk of a criminal prosecution against himself, and, as a consequence, the discovery of all that Mary Horneck was anxious to hide.

It was not until the afternoon that he came to the conclusion that it would be unwise for him to trust to his own resources in this particular affair. After all, he was but a man; it required the craft of a woman to defeat the wiles of such a demon as he had to deal with.

That he knew to be a wise conclusion to come to. But where was the woman to whom he could go for help? He wanted to find a woman who was accustomed to the wiles of the devil, and he believed that he should have considerable difficulty in finding her.

He was, of course, wrong. He had not been considering this aspect of the question for long before he thought of Mrs. Abington, and in a moment he knew that he had found a woman who could help him if she had a mind to do so. Her acquaintance with wiles he knew to be large and varied, and he liked her.

He liked her so well that he felt sure she would help him—if he made it worth her while; and he thought he saw his way to make it worth her while.

He was so convinced he was on the way to success that he became impatient at the reflection that he could not possibly see Mrs. Abington until the evening. But while he was in this state his servant announced a visitor—one with whom he was not familiar, but who gave his name as Colonel Gwyn.

Full of surprise, he ordered Colonel Gwyn to be shown into the room. He recollected having met him at a dinner at the Reynolds's, and once at the Hornecks' house in Westminster; but why he should pay a visit to Brick Court Goldsmith was at a loss to know. He, however, greeted Colonel Gwyn as if he considered it to be one of the most natural occurrences in the world for him to appear at that particular moment.

“Dr. Goldsmith,” said the visitor when he had seated himself, “you have no doubt every reason to be surprised at my taking the liberty of calling upon you without first communicating with you.”

“Not at all, sir,” said Goldsmith. “'Tis a great compliment you offer to me. Bear in mind that I am sensible of it, sir.”

“You are very kind, sir. Those who have a right to speak on the subject have frequently referred to you as the most generous of men.”

“Oh, sir, I perceive that you have been talking with some persons whose generosity was more noteworthy than their judgment.”

And once again he gave an example of the Goldsmith bow which Garrick had so successfully caricatured.

“Nay, Dr. Goldsmith, if I thought so I would not be here to-day. The fact is, sir, that I—I—i' faith, sir, I scarce know how to tell you how it is I appear before you in this fashion.”

“You do not need to have an excuse, I do assure you, Colonel Gwyn. You are a friend of my best friend—Sir Joshua Reynolds.”

“Yes, sir, and of other friends, too, I would fain hope. In short, Dr. Goldsmith, I am here because I know how highly you stand in the esteem of—of—well, of all the members of the Horneck family.”

It was now Goldsmith's turn to stammer. He was so surprised by the way his visitor introduced the name of the Hor-necks he scarcely knew what reply to make to him.

“I perceive that you are surprised, sir.” said Gwyn.

“No, no—not at all—that is—no, not greatly surprised—only—well, sir, why should you not be a friend of Mrs. Horneck? Her son is like yourself, a soldier,” stammered Goldsmith.

“I have taken the liberty of calling more than once during the past week or two upon the Hornecks, Dr. Goldsmith,” said Gwyn; “but upon no occasion have I been fortunate enough to see Miss Horneck. They told me she was by no means well.”

“And they told you the truth, sir,” said Goldsmith somewhat brusquely.

“You know it then? Miss Horneck is really indisposed? Ah! I feared that they were merely excusing her presence on the ground of illness. I must confess a headache was not specified.”

“Nay, sir, Miss Horneck's relations are not destitute of imagination. But why should you fancy that you were being deceived by them, Colonel Gwyn?”

Colonel Gwyn laughed slightly, not freely.

“I thought that the lady herself might think, perhaps, that I was taking a liberty,” he said somewhat awkwardly.

“Why should she think that, Colonel Gwyn?” asked Goldsmith.

“Well, Dr. Goldsmith, you see—sir, you are, I know, a favoured friend of the lady's—I perceived long ago—nay, it is well known that she regards you with great affection as a—no, not as a father—no, as—as an elder brother, that is it—yes, as an elder brother; and therefore I thought that I would venture to intrude upon you to-day. Sir, to be quite frank with you, I love Miss Horneck, but I hesitate—as I am sure you could understand that any man must—before declaring myself to her. Now, it occurred to me, Dr. Goldsmith, that you might not conceive it to be a gross impertinence on my part if I were to ask you if you knew of the lady's affections being already engaged. I hope you will be frank with me, sir.”

Goldsmith looked with curious eyes at the man before him. Colonel Gwyn was a well built man of perhaps a year or two over thirty. He sat upright on his chair—a trifle stiffly, it might be thought by some people, but that was pardonable in a military man. He was also somewhat inclined to be pompous in his manners; but any one could perceive that they were the manners of a gentleman.

Goldsmith looked earnestly at him. Was that the man who was to take Mary Horneck away from him? he asked himself.

He could not speak for some time after his visitor had spoken. At last he gave a little start.

“You should not have come to me, sir,” he said slowly.

“I felt that I was taking a great liberty, sir,” said Gwyn.

“On the contrary, sir, I feel that you have honoured me with your confidence. But—ah, sir, do you fancy that I am the sort of man a lady would seek for a confidant in any matter concerning her heart?”

“I thought it possible that she—Miss Horneck—might have let you know. You are not as other men, Dr. Goldsmith; you are a poet, and so she might naturally feel that you would be interested in a love affair. Poets, all the world knows, sir, have a sort of—well, a sort of vested interest in the love affairs of humanity, so to speak.”

“Yes, sir, that is the decree of Heaven, I suppose, to compensate them for the emptiness in their own hearts to which they must become accustomed. I have heard of childless women becoming the nurses to the children of their happier sisters, and growing as fond of them as if they were their own offspring. It is on the same principle, I suppose, that poets become sympathetically interested in the world of lovers, which is quite apart from the world of letters.”

Goldsmith spoke slowly, looking his visitor in the face. He had no difficulty in perceiving that Colonel Gwyn failed to understand the exact appropriateness of what he had said. Colonel Gwyn himself admitted as much.

“I protest, sir, I scarcely take your meaning,” he said. “But for that matter, I fear that I was scarcely fortunate enough to make myself quite plain to you.”

“Oh, yes,” said Goldsmith, “I think I gathered from your words all that you came hither to learn. Briefly, Colonel Gwyn, you are reluctant to subject yourself to the humiliation of having your suit rejected by the lady, and so you have come hither to try and learn from me what are your chances of success.”

“How admirably you put the matter!” said Gwyn. “And I fancied you did not apprehend the purport of my visit. Well, sir, what chance have I?”

“I cannot tell,” said Goldsmith. “Miss Horneck has never told me that she loved any man.”

“Then I have still a chance?”

“Nay, sir; girls do not usually confide the story of their attachments to their fathers—no, nor to their elder brothers. But if you wish to consider your chances with any lady, Colonel Gwyn, I would venture to advise you to go and stand in front of a looking-glass and ask yourself if you are the manner of man to whom a young lady would be likely to become attached. Add to the effect of your personality—which I think is great, sir—the glamour that surrounds the profession in which you have won distinction, and you will be able to judge for yourself whether your suit would be likely to be refused by the majority of young ladies.”

“You flatter me, Dr. Goldsmith. But, assuming for a moment that there is some force in your words, I protest that they do not reassure me. Miss Horneck, sir, is not the lady to be carried away by the considerations that would prevail in the eyes of others of her sex.”

“You have learned something of Miss Horneck, at any rate, Colonel Gwyn.”

“I think I have, sir. When I think of her, I feel despondent. Does the man exist who would be worthy of her love?”

“He does not, Colonel Gwyn. But that is no reason why she may not love some man. Does a woman only give her love to one who is worthy of it? It is fortunate for men that that is not the way with women.

“It is fortunate; and in that reflection, sir, I find my greatest consolation at the present moment. I am not a bad man, Dr. Goldsmith—not as men go—there is in my lifetime nothing that I have cause to be ashamed of; but, I repeat, when I think of her sweetness, her purity, her tenderness, I am overcome with a sense of my own presumption in aspiring to win her. You think me presumptuous in this matter, I am convinced, sir.”

“I do—I do. I know Mary Horneck.”

“I give you my word that I am better satisfied with your agreement with me in this respect than I should be if you were to flatter me. Allow me to thank you for your great courtesy to me, sir. You have not sent me away without hope, and I trust that I may assume, Dr. Goldsmith, that I have your good wishes in this matter, which I hold to be vital to my happiness.”

“Colonel Gwyn, my wishes—my prayers to Heaven are that Mary Horneck may be happy.”

“And I ask for nothing more, sir. There is my hand on it.”

Oliver Goldsmith took the hand that he but dimly saw stretched out to him.

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