He never was more mistaken in his life. The end of it was not to come for many a long day yet.
WHILE the consultation at Doctor Lagarde's was still fresh in the memory of the persons present at it, Chance or Destiny, occupied in sowing the seeds for the harvest of the future, discovered as one of its fit instruments a retired military officer named Major Mulvany.
The Major was a smart little man, who persisted in setting up the appearance of youth as a means of hiding the reality of fifty. Being still a bachelor, and being always ready to make himself agreeable, he was generally popular in the society of women. In the ballroom he was a really welcome addition to the company. The German waltz had then been imported into England little more than three years since. The outcry raised against the dance, by persons ski lled in the discovery of latent impropriety, had not yet lost its influence in certain quarters. Men who could waltz were scarce. The Major had successfully grappled with the difficulties of learning the dance in mature life; and the young ladies rewarded him nobly for the. effort. That is to say, they took the assumption of youth for granted in the palpable presence of fifty.
Knowing everybody and being welcome everywhere, playing a good hand at whist, and having an inexhaustible fancy in the invention of a dinner, Major Mulvany naturally belonged to all the best clubs of his time. Percy Linwood and he constantly met in the billiard-room or at the dinner-table. The Major approved of the easy, handsome, pleasant-tempered young man. "I have lost the first freshness of youth," he used to say, with pathetic resignation, "and I see myself revived, as it were, in Percy. Naturally I like Percy."
About three weeks after the memorable evening at Doctor Lagarde's, the two friends encountered each other on the steps of a club.
"Have you got anything to do to-night?" asked the Major.
"Nothing that I know of," said Percy, "unless I go to the theater."
"Let the theater wait, my boy. My old regiment gives a ball at Woolwich to-night. I have got a ticket to spare; and I know several sweet girls who are going. Some of them waltz, Percy! Gather your rosebuds while you may. Come with me."