The Suicide Club and Other Stories HTML version

The Suicide Club
Story Of The Young Man With The Cream Tarts
During his residence in London, the accomplished Prince Florizel of Bohemia gained the
affection of all classes by the seduction of his manner and by a well-considered
generosity. He was a remarkable man even by what was known of him; and that was but
a small part of what he actually did. Although of a placid temper in ordinary
circumstances, and accustomed to take the world with as much philosophy as any
ploughman, the Prince of Bohemia was not without a taste for ways of life more
adventurous and eccentric than that to which he was destined by his birth. Now and then,
when he fell into a low humour, when there was no laughable play to witness in any of
the London theatres, and when the season of the year was unsuitable to those field sports
in which he excelled all competitors, he would summon his confidant and Master of the
Horse, Colonel Geraldine, and bid him prepare himself against an evening ramble. The
Master of the Horse was a young officer of a brave and even temerarious disposition. He
greeted the news with delight, and hastened to make ready. Long practice and a varied
acquaintance of life had given him a singular facility in disguise; he could adapt not only
his face and bearing, but his voice and almost his thoughts, to those of any rank,
character, or nation; and in this way he diverted attention from the Prince, and sometimes
gained admission for the pair into strange societies. The civil authorities were never taken
into the secret of these adventures; the imperturbable courage of the one and the ready
invention and chivalrous devotion of the other had brought them through a score of
dangerous passes; and they grew in confidence as time went on.
One evening in March they were driven by a sharp fall of sleet into an Oyster Bar in the
immediate neighbourhood of Leicester Square. Colonel Geraldine was dressed and
painted to represent a person connected with the Press in reduced circumstances; while
the Prince had, as usual, travestied his appearance by the addition of false whiskers and a
pair of large adhesive eyebrows. These lent him a shaggy and weather-beaten air, which,
for one of his urbanity, formed the most impenetrable disguise. Thus equipped, the
commander and his satellite sipped their brandy and soda in security.
The bar was full of guests, male and female; but though more than one of these offered to
fall into talk with our adventurers, none of them promised to grow interesting upon a
nearer acquaintance. There was nothing present but the lees of London and the
commonplace of disrespectability; and the Prince had already fallen to yawning, and was
beginning to grow weary of the whole excursion, when the swing doors were pushed
violently open, and a young man, followed by a couple of commissionaires, entered the
bar. Each of the commissionaires carried a large dish of cream tarts under a cover, which
they at once removed; and the young man made the round of the company, and pressed
these confections upon every one's acceptance with an exaggerated courtesy. Sometimes
his offer was laughingly accepted; sometimes it was firmly, or even harshly, rejected. In