'To what school did they belong?'
'Nay, I know nothing of the matter,' Saxon answered, 'save that they denied that Gervinus of Nurnberg, whom I guarded in prison, or any other man, could transmute metals.'
'For Gervinus I cannot answer,' said our host, 'but for the possibility of it I can pledge my knightly word. However, of that anon. The time came at last when the second Charles was invited back to his throne, and all of us, from Jeffrey Hudson, the court dwarf, up to my Lord Clarendon, were in high feather at the hope of regaining our own once more. For my own claim, I let it stand for some time, thinking that it would be a more graceful act for the King to help a poor cavalier who had ruined himself for the sake of his family without solicitation on his part. I waited and waited, but no word came, so at last I betook myself to the levee and was duly presented to him. "Ah," said he, greeting me with the cordiality which he could assume so well, "you are, if I mistake not, Sir Jasper Killigrew?" "Nay, your Majesty," I answered, "I am Sir Jacob Clancing, formerly of Snellaby Hall, in Staffordshire;" and with that I reminded him of Worcester fight and of many passages which had occurred to us in common. "Od's fish!" he cried, "how could I be so forgetful! And how are all at Snellaby?" I then explained to him that the Hall had passed out of my hands, and told him in a few words the state to which I had been reduced. His face clouded over and his manner chilled to me at once. "They are all on to me for money and for places," he said, "and truly the Commons are so niggardly to me that I can scarce be generous to others. However, Sir Jacob, we shall see what can be done for thee," and with that he dismissed me. That same night the secretary of my Lord Clarendon came to me, and announced with much form and show that, in consideration of my long devotion and the losses which I had sustained, the King was graciously pleased to make me a lottery cavalier.'
'And pray, sir, what is a lottery cavalier?' I asked.
'It is nothing else than a licensed keeper of a gambling-house. This was his reward to me. I was to be allowed to have a den in the piazza of Covent Garden, and there to decoy the young sparks of the town and fleece them at ombre. To restore my own fortunes I was to ruin others. My honour, my family, my reputation, they were all to weigh for nothing so long as I had the means of bubbling a few fools out of their guineas.'
'I have heard that some of the lottery cavaliers did well,' remarked Saxon reflectively.
'Well or ill, it way no employment for me. I waited upon the King and implored that his bounty would take another form. His only reply was that for one so poor I was strangely fastidious. For weeks I hung about the court--I and other poor cavaliers like myself, watching the royal brothers squandering upon their gaming and their harlots sums which would have restored us to our patrimonies. I have seen Charles put upon one turn of a card as much as would have satisfied the most exacting of us. In the parks of St. James, or in the Gallery at Whitehall, I still endeavoured to keep myself before his eyes, in the hope that some provision would be made for me. At last I received a second message from him. It was that unless I could dress more in the mode he could dispense with my attendance. That was his message to the old broken soldier who had sacrificed health, wealth, position, everything in the service of his father and himself.'
'Shameful!' we cried, all three.
'Can you wonder, then, that I cursed the whole Stuart race, false-hearted, lecherous, and cruel? For the Hall, I could buy it back to-morrow if I chose, but why should I do so when I have no heir?'
'Ho, you have prospered then!' said Decimus Saxon, with one of his shrewd sidelong looks. 'Perhaps you have yourself found out how to convert pots and pans into gold in the way you have spoken of. But that cannot be, for I see iron and brass in this room which would hardly remain there could you convert it to gold.'
'Gold has its uses, and iron has its uses,' said Sir Jacob oracularly. 'The one can never supplant the other.'
'Yet these officers,' I remarked, 'did declare to us that it was but a superstition of the vulgar.'
'Then these officers did show that their knowledge was less than their prejudice.