Read CHAPTER XIV - BRAWLS of Her Season in Bath A Story of Bygone Days, free online book, by Emma Marshall, on

Leslie Travers had received an answer from David when he called at North Parade that day, which had puzzled him not a little.

“Miss Mainwaring could not receive any visitor,” David was commissioned to say.

“Was Miss Mainwaring ill?” Leslie asked.

“No, not that I know of, sir; but these are my orders.”

Surely there was something behind David’s calm exterior, and Leslie turned away dissatisfied.

“She will be at the Assembly to-night,” he thought.  “I must possess my soul in patience till then.”

So he dressed, and went to the Assembly Room, arriving just as Lady Betty stepped out of her chair, in a new primrose-coloured sacque and sea-green brocade petticoat.  Her hair was powdered as usual, and several brilliants flashed as she moved her head in answer to Leslie Travers’s bow.

Where was Griselda?  Lady Betty gave him no chance of asking the question, as she swept past with all the dignity her little person could command, and was soon forgetting her indignation against Griselda and her rejection of Sir Maxwell Danby’s suit, in her own delight in having apparently captured Lord Basingstoke.

Leslie wandered from room to room, and was trying to make up his mind whether to brave all consequences, and boldly go to Lady Betty’s house and inquire for Griselda, when he was met by Mr. Beresford, an acquaintance whom he had made at Mr. Herschel’s house, who told him that he was going to Bristol the next day to play in the orchestra at the rehearsal for “Judas Maccabaeus,” and asking him to accompany him.

“There will be room,” he said, “in the conveyance that is hired.  Post-horses, and a large chariot, are engaged by the Herschels, who are making a pretty fortune by music, and spending it all in those jim-cracks of mirrors and tubes and micrometers.”

“Jim-cracks!” Leslie repeated.  “I could not give them such a name; they are like the steps in the ladder Mr. Herschel is climbing skyward.”

Mr. Beresford laughed.

“I confess I am very well content to let the stars take their course without my interference-I mean without my looking into the matter.  There is enough to do for me to consider my ways down below without star-gazing.  By-the-bye, your star of beauty is not here to-night; has she set behind a cloud?  Here come the two Miss Greenwoods, simpering and putting on fashionable airs which don’t suit them.  Like their gowns, such airs don’t fit.  Fancy their fat old mother asking me what my intentions were!”

Leslie could not help laughing at his friend’s remarks on the various beaux and belles who passed in review before them.

Presently the young man said: 

“Look! did you see that?”

“What?” Leslie Travers asked.

“Sir Maxwell was called out to speak to someone by his valet.  He is brewing mischief, I’ll take my oath.  Let us go into the room next the lobby and find out.”

“I decline to act spy.  You may do so if you like,” Leslie said.

And he turned away towards another part of the room, and began to talk for half an hour to a retiring gentle girl, who, when the “contre danse” was formed, had no partner.  Leslie led her out to take a place in it, and found himself vis-a-vis with Sir Maxwell Danby and one of the most conspicuously dressed ladies who frequented Lady Miller’s reunions at Batheaston.

She was attired in a loose white gown, supposed to be after the Greek pattern, and her arms were bare, the loose sleeves caught up with a large brooch.  She wore her hair in a plain band with a fillet, and cut low on the forehead.  This lady had sat for her portrait to Gainsborough in her youth, now long past, and she had become very stout since those days, when many reigning belles repaired to Gainsborough’s studio in Ainslie’s Belvedere.

She talked in a loud voice, and Leslie’s attention was soon diverted from his companion, as he caught a name dear to him.

“Miss Mainwaring is a beauty, no doubt of that,” the lady said; “but a trifle stiff and heavy in manner.  Why is she absent to-night? You ought to know, Sir Maxwell.”

Sir Maxwell stroked his chin, and said: 

“Perhaps she is better engaged, from all I know.  Miss Mainwaring’s behaviour is a little eccentric.”

“Is there a romance connected with her?  I do love a bit of pretty romance.  You know the on dit is that she is to be Lady Danby?”

“My dear lady,” Sir Maxwell said, “it is not safe to trust to on dits.  From what I have heard, Miss Mainwaring’s tastes lie in a somewhat lower level of society than that in which you, for instance, live and move.  There are, it seems, attractions for Miss Mainwaring in a quarter of the town where we look for actors and actresses, and such-like cattle-that is, supposing that we desire their acquaintance off the stage-which I, for one, do not!”

“I really hardly credit what you say; I vow I can’t believe it.  There’s some mistake, Sir Maxwell.”

“I wish I could agree with you,” was the reply; “it is a matter which affects me very deeply.  I do assure you -”

At this moment it was Sir Maxwell’s turn to take the hand of Leslie’s partner, and he repeated in a voice which he meant should reach his ear: 

“Miss Mainwaring, the lady in question, pays daily and nighty visits to these low purlieus.  Charity is made the pretext, of course.”

The dance was over, and the hour for departure drew on.

Leslie Travers watched his opportunity, and lay in wait for Sir Maxwell in one of the lobbies.

He was passing him with a lady on his arm, when Leslie said: 

“A word with you, sir, in private.  I demand an apology for the shameful lies you are circulating.  They are lies, and -”

“Softly, softly, my dear boy; let the presence of a lady be remembered.”

“Oh! pray let us have no high words!” the lady said.  “For mercy’s sake, don’t quarrel, gentlemen!”

“Madam,” Leslie Travers said, in an excited voice, “you have heard the basest slanders uttered against-against one whom I would not name in such company.  Look you, sir,” Leslie said, seizing the velvet sleeve of Sir Maxwell’s coat-“look you, sir; you have been a liar, and you are now a coward.  I will prove it.”

“Come, come, gentlemen; no brawling here,” said the master of the ceremonies, bustling up.  “Settle your matters elsewhere.  A man of honour has his remedy.”

“Precisely!” said Sir Maxwell, who was white with rage.  “Precisely!  And as to you, poor boy-poor insensate boy-I will send my answer to your private residence as befits a gentleman; but I decline to brawl here.  Move off, sir, I say!”

A knot of people had collected, and young Beresford was one.  He took Leslie’s arm, and said: 

“Come away, and cool yourself.”

“I will not cool.  I will throw the lie back in that fellow’s throat; and -”

But Mr. Beresford drew Leslie away; but not before Lady Betty-cloaked and muffled, ready to step into her chair-pressed through the little crowd.

“What is it?  Goodness!  What is amiss, Sir Maxwell?”

“My dear lady, we have a madman to deal with-that’s all.  We will settle our affairs on Claverton Down, as others have done.”

“Oh, mercy! don’t fight a duel; it is too shocking, it’s -”

But Sir Maxwell hurried Lady Betty away, saying in his cold, hard voice, which, however, trembled a little: 

“That poor boy will repent insulting me; but let it not disturb you.”  And then Sir Maxwell resigned Lady Betty to David’s care, and she was soon lost to sight in the recesses of the chair.

The ubiquitous Zach had been on the watch, and had reached North Parade before Lady Betty.

Graves, who, as we know, had been anxiously watching for Lady Betty’s return, and congratulating herself that she had got Griselda safely to her own room before her ladyship arrived, heard Zach’s voice below.

Mrs. Abbott loved news, and thus was ready to pardon the boy’s late return to the little box where he slept below-stairs, dignified with the name of the “butler’s pantry;” and Graves, at the sound of voices, went to the top of the kitchen stairs, and hearing Miss Mainwaring’s name, went down two or three steps.

“Is anything wrong?” she asked.

“Dear bless me, Mrs. Graves, I don’t know!  This boy says he has been waiting for you all these hours down in Crown Alley.”

“That’s an untruth,” said Graves; “but what do I hear him saying about the ladies?”

“There’s been a brawl in the lobby of the Assembly Room, and they say the baronet and young Mr. Travers will fight afore they settle it.”

Graves descended now to the kitchen, and asked with bated breath if Zach was telling the truth now, “for,” she added, “the mouth of them that speak lies shall be stopped.”

Zach’s little eyes twinkled.  He knew he had got his reward, so Mistress Graves might say what she liked.

“Yes,” he whined, “it’s a fine thing to keep a little chap like me, who works hard all day, awaiting in a place like Crown Alley.”

Graves took Zach by the arm and shook him vehemently.

“You weren’t there.  You were gossiping by the Assembly Room door.  What did you hear there?”

Zach made a face, and said: 

“Let go, and I’ll tell you.”  Graves relaxed her hold.  “I heard the young gent tell Sir Maxwell he was a liar, and he’d fight him about Miss Mainwaring.  There! you’ve told me I’m a liar, and I’d like to fight you” quoth Zach savagely.