Cashel Byron's Profession HTML version

Chapter 11
Alice was more at her ease during the remnant of the London season. Though she had
been proud of her connection with Lydia, she had always felt eclipsed in her presence;
and now that Lydia was gone, the pride remained and the sense of inferiority was
forgotten. Her freedom emboldened and improved her. She even began to consider her
own judgment a safer guide in the affairs of every day than the example of her
patroness. Had she not been right in declaring Cashel Byron an ignorant and common
man when Lydia, in spite of her warning, had actually invited him to visit them? And now
all the newspapers were confirming the opinion she had been trying to impress on Lydia
for months past. On the evening of the assault-at-arms, the newsmen had shouted
through the streets, "Disgraceful scene between two pugilists at Islington in the
presence of the African king." Next day the principal journals commented on the recent
attempt to revive the brutal pastime of prize-fighting; accused the authorities of
conniving at it, and called on them to put it down at once with a strong hand. "Unless,"
said a clerical organ, "this plague-spot be rooted out from our midst, it will no longer be
possible for our missionaries to pretend that England is the fount of the Gospel of
Peace." Alice collected these papers, and forwarded them to Wiltstoken.
On this subject one person at least shared her bias. Whenever she met Lucian Webber,
they talked about Cashel, invariably coming to the conclusion that though the oddity of
his behavior had gratified Lydia's unfortunate taste for eccentricity, she had never
regarded him with serious interest, and would not now, under any circumstances, renew
her intercourse with him. Lucian found little solace in these conversations, and generally
suffered from a vague sense of meanness after them. Yet next time they met he would
drift into discussing Cashel over again; and he always rewarded Alice for the admirable
propriety of her views by dancing at least three times with her when dancing was the
business of the evening. The dancing was still less congenial than the conversation.
Lucian, who had at all times too much of the solemnity of manner for which Frenchmen
reproach Englishmen, danced stiffly and unskilfully. Alice, whose muscular power and
energy were superior to anything of the kind that Mr. Mellish could artificially produce,
longed for swift motion and violent exercise, and, even with an expert partner, could
hardly tame herself to the quietude of dancing as practised in London. When waltzing
with Lucian she felt as though she were carrying a stick round the room in the awkward
fashion in which Punch carries his baton. In spite of her impression that he was a man
of unusually correct morals and great political importance, and greatly to be considered
in private life because he was Miss Carew's cousin, it was hard to spend quarter-hours
with him that some of the best dancers in London asked for.
She began to tire of the subject of Cashel and Lydia. She began to tire of Lucian's
rigidity. She began to tire exceedingly of the vigilance she had to maintain constantly
over her own manners and principles. Somehow, this vigilance defeated itself; for she
one evening overheard a lady of rank speak of her as a stuck-up country girl. The
remark gave her acute pain: for a week afterwards she did not utter a word or make a
movement in society without first considering whether it could by any malicious observer