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The Club of Queer Trades Gilbert K. Chesterton

The Painful Fall of a Great Reputation

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"Wimpole!" cried Lord Beaumont, in a sort of ecstasy. "Haven't you heard of the great modern wit? My dear fellow, he has turned conversation, I do not say into an art--for that, perhaps, it always was but into a great art, like the statuary of Michael Angelo--an art of masterpieces. His repartees, my good friend, startle one like a man shot dead. They are final; they are--"

Again there came the hilarious roar from the room, and almost with the very noise of it, a big, panting apoplectic old gentleman came out of the inner house into the hall where we were standing.

"Now, my dear chap," began Lord Beaumont hastily.

"I tell you, Beaumont, I won't stand it," exploded the large old gentleman. "I won't be made game of by a twopenny literary adventurer like that. I won't be made a guy. I won't--"

"Come, come," said Beaumont feverishly. "Let me introduce you. This is Mr Justice Grant--that is, Mr Grant. Basil, I am sure you have heard of Sir Walter Cholmondeliegh."

"Who has not?" asked Grant, and bowed to the worthy old baronet, eyeing him with some curiosity. He was hot and heavy in his momentary anger, but even that could not conceal the noble though opulent outline of his face and body, the florid white hair, the Roman nose, the body stalwart though corpulent, the chin aristocratic though double. He was a magnificent courtly gentleman; so much of a gentleman that he could show an unquestionable weakness of anger without altogether losing dignity; so much of a gentleman that even his faux pas were well-bred.

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"I am distressed beyond expression, Beaumont," he said gruffly, "to fail in respect to these gentlemen, and even more especially to fail in it in your house. But it is not you or they that are in any way concerned, but that flashy half-caste jackanapes--"

At this moment a young man with a twist of red moustache and a sombre air came out of the inner room. He also did not seem to be greatly enjoying the intellectual banquet within.

"I think you remember my friend and secretary, Mr Drummond," said Lord Beaumont, turning to Grant, "even if you only remember him as a schoolboy."

"Perfectly," said the other. Mr Drummond shook hands pleasantly and respectfully, but the cloud was still on his brow. Turning to Sir Walter Cholmondeliegh, he said:

"I was sent by Lady Beaumont to express her hope that you were not going yet, Sir Walter. She says she has scarcely seen anything of you."

The old gentleman, still red in the face, had a temporary internal struggle; then his good manners triumphed, and with a gesture of obeisance and a vague utterance of, "If Lady Beaumont . . . a lady, of course," he followed the young man back into the salon. He had scarcely been deposited there half a minute before another peal of laughter told that he had (in all probability) been scored off again.

"Of course, I can excuse dear old Cholmondeliegh," said Beaumont, as he helped us off with our coats. "He has not the modern mind."

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The Club of Queer Trades
Gilbert K. Chesterton

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