Edward Layton's Reward
"I could not have believed it!" exclaimed Mrs. Pierce Bradshaw. "I could
not have believed it!" she repeated, over and over again; and she fell
into a fit of abstraction.
Her husband, who had been glancing wearily over a magazine, turning leaf
after leaf without reading, or perhaps seeing even the heading of a
page, at length said, "I could!"
"You have large faith, my dear," observed the lady.
"Fortunately for Selina, I had no faith in him," was the reply.
Mrs. Pierce Bradshaw was not an eloquent person; she never troubled her
husband or any one else with many words; so she only murmured, in a
subdued tone, "Fortunately, indeed!"
"What a fellow he was!" said Mr. P. Bradshaw, as he closed the magazine.
"Do you remember how delighted you were with him the evening of the
tableaux at Lady Westrophe's? There was something so elegant and
dignified in his bearing; so much ease and grace of manner; his address
was perfect—the confidence of a well-bred gentleman, subdued almost,
but not quite, into softness by the timidity of youth. This was thrown
into strong relief by the manners of the young men of the family, whose
habits and voices might have entitled them to take the lead, even now,
in the go-a-head school, which then was hardly in existence—at all
events in England."
"You were quite as much taken with him as I was."
"No, my dear, not quite. Edward Layton was especially suited for the
society of ladies. His tastes and feelings are—or were at that
time—all sincerely refined; he was full of the impulse of talent, which
he never had strength to bring forth: his thoughts were ever wandering,
and he needed perpetual excitement, particularly the excitement of
beauty and music, to bring them and keep them where he was. He was
strongly and strangely moved by excellence of any kind, so that it was
excellence; and the only thing I ever heard him express contempt for was
"I could not have believed it," said Mrs. Pierce Bradshaw again.
"That particular night it was whispered he was engaged to Lelia Medwin.
When she sung, he stood like a young Apollo at her harp, too entranced
to turn over the leaves of music, his eyes overflowing with delight, and
the poor little girl so bewitched by his attentions that she fancied
every whisper a declaration of love."
"Shameful!" said Mrs. Pierce Bradshaw.
"Then her mother showed every one what a lovely sketch he had made of
Lelia's head, adding, that indeed it was too lovely; but then, he was a
"She was a silly woman," observed the lady.
"She would not have been considered so if they had been married,"
replied the gentleman. "Mammas have no mercy on each other in those
delicate manœuvrings. Well, he waltzed with her always; and bent over
her—willow-fashion; looked with her at the moon; and wrote a sonnet
which she took to herself, for it was addressed 'To mine own dear ——;'
and then when, about eight weeks afterwards, we met him at the
déjeúner at Sally Lodge, he was as entranced with Lizzie Grey's guitar
as he had been with Lelia's harp, sketched her little tiger head for her
grandmamma, waltzed with her, bent over her willow-fashion, looked
with her at the moon, and wrote another sonnet, addressed 'To the loved
"Such men——" exclaimed Mrs. Pierce Bradshaw. She did not finish the
sentence, but looked as if such men ought to be exterminated. And so
"There was so much about him that I liked: his fine talents, good
manners, excellent position in society, added to his good nature,
"Good fortune," added Mrs. Pierce Bradshaw.
"No, Mary," said her husband, quietly, "I never was a mammon
worshipper. This occurred, if you remember, before the yellow
pestilence had so completely subverted London, that the very aristocracy
knelt and worshipped the golden calf; and no blame to the calf to
receive the homage, whatever we may say of those who paid it.
"I did not mean that as a reproof, Pierce," replied his wife, most
truly. "I think it quite natural to like young men of fortune—we
could not get on without them, you know; and it would be very
imprudent—very imprudent, indeed—to invite any young man, however
excellent. When we want to get these young girls, our poor nieces, off,
I declare it is quite melancholy. Jane is becoming serious since she
has grown so thin; and I fear the men will think Belle a blue, she has
so taken to the British Museum. Oh, how I wish people would live, and
bring up, and get off their own daughters! Four marriageable nieces,
with such farthing fortunes, are enough to drive any poor aunt
This was the longest speech Mrs. Bradshaw ever made in her life, and she
sighed deeply at its conclusion.
"You may well sigh!" laughed the gentleman; "for the case seems
hopeless. But I was going to say, that as I knew him better, I was
really going to take the young gentleman a little to task on the score
of his philandering. Lelia was really attached to him, and had refused a
very advantageous offer for his sake; but the very next week, at another
house, I found him enchained by a sparkling widow—correcting her
drawings, paying the homage of intelligent silence and sweet smiles to
her wit, leaning his white-gloved hand upon her chair, and looking in
her eyes with his most bewitching softness. The extent of this
flirtation no one could anticipate; but the sudden appearance of Lady
Di' Johnson effected a total change. She drove four-in-hand, and was a
dead shot—the very antipodes of sentiment. We said her laugh would
drive Edward Layton distracted, and her cigarette be his death. But,
no! the magnificence of her tomboyism caught his fancy. He enshrined her
at once as Diana, bayed the moon with hunting-songs, wrote a sonnet to
the chase, and then, with his own hands, twisted it into a cigarette,
with which her ladyship puffed it to the winds of heaven, while
wandering with the Lothario amid a grove of fragrant limes. The miracle
was, that at breakfast the next morning Lady Di' was subdued, voted
driving unfeminine, and asked Edward to take the reins for her after
lunch. You remember we left them there; and I next met him at Killarney,
giving his chestnut locks to the breeze, his arm to the oar, and his
eyes to a lady of blue-stocking celebrity, who, never having had many
lovers, was inclined to make the most of the present one. Circumstances
rendered me acquainted with some facts relating to his 'flirtations,' if
his soft and sentimental ways could be called by such a name. I had seen
poor Lelia at Baden-Baden; and I dare say you can recall what we heard
of another love of his nearer home. Well, I encountered my Hero of
Ladies that very evening, wandering amid the ruined aisles of Mucross
Abbey. I saw that his impressible nature had taken a thoughtful, if not
a religious tone, from the scene. And he commenced the conversation by
declaring, that 'He was a great fool.'"
"Knave, rather," said Mrs. Pierce Bradshaw.
"No," replied her husband; "not a knave, but a singular example of a man
whose feelings and susceptibilities never deepen into
affection—unstable as water—tossed hither and thither for want of
fixed principles, and suffering intensely in his better moods from the
knowledge of the weakness he has not the courage to overcome. I was not
inclined to let him spare himself, and did not contradict his opinion
that he was a 'fool,' but told him he might be what he pleased himself,
as long as he did not make fools of others."
"'I tell every woman I know that I am not a marrying man,' he replied.
"'That,' I said, 'does not signify as long as you act the lover, each
fair one believing you will revoke in her favor.'
"'I give you my honor,' he exclaimed, 'as a man and a gentleman, I never
entertained for twenty-four hours the idea of marrying any woman I ever
"The villain!" exclaimed the lady. "I hope, Pierce, you told him he was
"No; because I knew the uncertainty of his disposition: but I lectured
him fully and honestly, and yet said nothing to him so severe as what he
said of himself. I told him he would certainly be caught in the end by
some unworthy person, and then he would look back with regret and misery
upon the chances he had lost, and the unhappiness he had caused to those
whose only faults had been in believing him true when he was false."
"'Better that,' he answered, 'than marrying when he could not make up
"'Then why play the lover?'
"'He only did so while infatuated—he was certain to find faults where
he imagined perfection.'"
"What assurance!" said Mrs. Pierce Bradshaw.
"'I am sure,' I said, 'Lelia was very charming. Lelia Medwin was an
excellent, amiable little creature, with both good temper and good
"'That was it,' he said: 'only fancy the six-foot-one-and-three-quarters
wedded to bare five feet! The absurdity struck me one night as we were
waltzing and whirling past a looking-glass; I was obliged to bend
double, though I never felt it till I saw it.'"
"Really, I have not patience," observed Mrs. Bradshaw. "And so her
feelings were to be trampled upon because she was not tall enough to
please him! Why did he not think of that before?"
"'But there was Lizzy Grey, related to half the aristocracy, with a
voice like an angel.'
"'A vixen,' he said, 'though of exquisite beauty—could have torn my
eyes out for the little attention I paid Mrs. Green.'
"'Little attention!' I repeated; 'more than little.'
"'Her wit was delicious,' he replied; 'but she was a widow! Only fancy
the horror of being compared with 'My dear first husband!'
"'Then your conquest of Lady Di' Johnson! How badly you behaved to her!'
"'She was magnificent on horseback; and her cigarette as fascinating
as the fan of a Madrid belle, or the tournure of a Parisian lady. They
were her two points. But when she relinquished both, I believe in
compliment to me, she became even more commonplace than the most
"The puppy!" muttered the lady: "the dreadful puppy! I could not have
Mr. Bradshaw did not heed the interruption, but continued:
"'And who,' I inquired, 'was the Lady of the Lake? I do not mean of
this lake, for I see her reign is already over—your passion expired
with the third chapter of her novel, which I know she read to you by
moonlight—but the fair Lady of Geneva, whose betrothed called you out?'
"'Her father was a sugar-boiler,' was the quiet reply: 'a sugar-boiler,
or something of the kind. What would my aristocratic mother say to that?
Of course I could have had no serious intention there. Indeed I never
had a serious intention for a whole week.'
"'But, my dear fellow, when presents are given, and letters written, and
locks of hair and vows exchanged——'
"'No, no!' he exclaimed; 'no vows exchanged! I never broke my word to
a woman yet. It was admiration for this or that—respect, esteem,
perhaps a tender bewilderment—mere brotherly love. And in that
particular instance her intended got angry at my civility. I know I was
wrong; and, to confess the truth, I am ashamed of that transaction—it
taught me a lesson; and, but for the confounded vacillation of my taste
and temper, I might perhaps have been a Benedick before this. You may
think it puppyism, if you please; but I am really sorry when I make an
impression, and resolve never to attempt it again: but the next fine
voice, or fine eyes——'
"'Or cigarette,' I suggested; and then I said as much as one man can say
to another, for you know a woman can say much more to a man in the way
of reproof than he would bear from his own sex; but he silenced me very
quickly by regrets and good resolutions. It was after that our little
niece, Selina, made an impression upon him."
"I did not know all you have now told me," expostulated his wife. "I own
I thought it would have been a good match for Selina; and he was
evidently deeply smitten before he knew she was your niece. I managed it
beautifully; but you cut the matter short by offending him."
"There, say no more about it," said the sensible husband; "you thought
your blue-eyed, fair-haired, doll-like favorite, could have enchained a
man who had escaped heart-whole from the toils of the richest and rarest
in the land. It really is fearful to see how women not only tolerate,
but pursue this sort of men. You call them 'villains,' and I know not
what, when you are foiled; but if you succeed, you temper it; they have
been a little wild, to be sure—but then, and then, and then—you really
could not refuse your daughter; and add, "Men are such creatures that
if the world knew but all, he is not worse than others."
"For shame, Pierce! how can you?" said the lady.
"I told him then," continued Mr. Bradshaw, "that he would take 'the
crooked stick at last;' but that he should not add a tress of Selina's
hair to his collection, to be turned over by his wife one of those
days. Of course he was very indignant, and we parted; but I did not
think my prophecy would come true so soon. I have long since given up
speculating how marriages will turn out, for it is quite impossible to
tell. If women could be shut up in a harem, as in the East, a man who
was ashamed of his wife might go into society without her; but for a
refined and well-educated gentleman, as Edward Layton certainly is, to
be united to the widow of a sugar-boiler!—yes, absolutely!—who is an
inch shorter than pretty Lelia and more tiger-headed than Lizzy Grey,
and who declares she hates music, although her dear first husband took
her hoften to the Hopera—who adds deformity to shortness, talks
loudly of the hinfluence of wealth, and compares the presentations at
the Mansion House, that she has seen, to those at St. James's which she
has not yet seen! Verily, Edward Layton has had his reward!"