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Castlemaine, but nobody dares to be rude to her.
I've seen her at the Star and Garter at Richmond,
at Greenwich, at Brighton, at Ventnor,
in Paris, always quite alone. She's an enigma.
She's a Sphinx."

"Is she demi-monde?" Thus, one Insolent.

"Nobody knows. Nobody ever presumes to
speak to her, and she never was seen to speak
to anybody save her groom and the waiters.
She goes to the Opera; to the theatres; always
quite alone. Upon my word, I think that woman
would turn up at a prize fight: alone. I've seen
her myself at Ascot."

As Tom Fibbs said this, a very tall angular
well-dressed gentleman, with grizzled hair, and
close upon fifty years of age, who had been
sitting in an arm-chair close by, hastily flung
down the Globe he was glancing over, darting a
by no means complimentary look at Mr. Fibbs,
and strode out of the room.

"I think Billy Long must know the Mysterious
Stranger," languidly remarked Fainéant number
one, as the door closed. "He knows all sorts
of monstrous queer people, and he didn't half
seem to like what Fibbs said."

"Very likely. He's a cranky fellow."

"Very rich, isn't he?"

"Disgustingly so. What he wants in parliament
with twenty thousand a year, I can't make
out. He never speaks, and passes most of his
time in the smoking-room."

"Twenty thousand. That's a tremendous
screw for a Catholic baronet."

"Yes: but he was as poor as Job till his
father died. Painted pictures, or went on the
stage, or turned billiard-marker, or did something
low for a living, I'm told; but he's all right now."
As Thomas Fibbs, Esq., member of the
Committee of the United Fogies Club, of the
Turnpike Ticket Commutation Commission (salary
£1500 per annum, hours of business 3 to ½ past 3
P.M., 3 times a week, 3 months in the year), was
selecting his umbrella from the stand about
twenty minutes subsequent to this conversation,
preparatory to looking in at the Burke and Hare
Club, to which he also belongs, and which is
younger and more convivial than the Fogies, he
found Sir William Long, Bart., M.P., in the act
of lighting one of those cigars which he was
almost continually smoking.

"Might I trouble Mr. Fibbs," said the
baronet, in a slow and rather hesitating tone,
"to refrain in promiscuous conversation from
hazarding conjectures as to the identity of a lady
with whom I am acquainted, and who, I can
assure him, is a most respectable and exemplary

"Certainlyoh, certainly, Sir William,"
stammered Fibbs. "I meant no offence. I'm sure I
didn't." And, so saying, he buttoned up his
overcoat, and trotted down the steps of the Fogies
considerably flurried. Sir William Long had
been a member of the club for five years, and
this was the first time he had ever spoken to
Fibbs. That worthy, however, recovered himself
by the time he reached the Burke and Hare
and hinted as mysteriously as mendaciously, that
"Billy Long"—he called him Billyhad told
him all about the Sphinx of Rotten Row.

"No offence," murmured the tall baronet,
as puffing his cigar he strode down Pall-Mall.
"I dare say you didn't mean any. Mischief-makers
never do, and burn down the temple at Ephesus
with the best intentions in the world. Ah,
Lily!" he continued, bitterly, "how long will
you give all these idle tongues some grounds to
tattle? How long will you persist in being
quite alone?"

Still quite alone. Who was this female
Robinson Crusoe? 'Tis a question which I
shall endeavour in the course of the next few
hundred pages to solve.


ONE bright afternoon, in the summer of 1836,
the whole fashionable world of London had
chosen to abandon Hyde Park, Pall-Mall, Regent-
street, and its other habitual resorts, and to
betake itself to the flower-show at Chiswick.

Probably about one per cent of the ladies who
thus patronised the exhibition of the Royal
Horticultural Society cared one doit about the
products collected in the conservatories and the
tents. The Botanical Revival (which owes so
much to Puseyism and the Tracts for the Times)
was then but in its infancy; and, besides, a life
passed in the contemplation of artificial flowers
is not very favourable to the study of real flowers.
People went to this great annual garden crush
less to look at the roses in the pots than at those
on the cheeks of other people; and fuchsias on
their branches were at a discount with them, as
objects of attraction, compared with fuchsias
that grew in white satin bonnets. Yes, ladies,
white satin bonnets were worn in 1836; and for
dresses even that sheeny material had not incurred
the cruel proscription under which it seems to
languish in 1863.

But if one in a hundred among the ladies were
floriculturally inclined, what shall be said of the
gentlemen? Did one in a thousand trouble himself
concerning roses, or fuchsias, or geraniums,
or pelargoniums? It did not much matter.
People went to Chiswick because other people
went to Chiswick. It was the thing, and a very
nice, amusing, and fashionable thing, too.

So all the jobbed horses in London were
spruced up, and currycombed, and polished;
and all the footmen underwent dry cascades
through the medium of the flour-dredger; and
all the grandees in Granductoo stepped into
their carriages, and were wafted rapidly to
Chiswick. What pails of water had been dashed
over plated axles in hay and clover-smelling
mews behind the mansions of the great! What
spun-glass or floss silk wigs had been smoothed
over the crania of ruddy double-chinned coachmen!
What fashionable milliners had sat up all
night to complete the radiant flower-show