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THE COXON FUND I " THEY'VE got him for life ! " I said to myself that evening on my way back to the station ; but later, alone in the compartment (from Wimbledon to Waterloo, before the glory of the District Railway), I amended this declaration in the light of the sense that my friends would probably after all not enjoy a monopoly of Mr. Saltram. I won't pretend to have taken his vast measure on that first occasion, but I think I had achieved a glimpse of what the privilege of his acquaintance might mean for many persons in the way of charges accepted . He had been a great experience, and it was this, perhaps, that had put me into the frame of foreseeing how we should all, sooner or later, have the honor of dealing with him as a whole. Whatever impression I then received of the amount of this total, I had a full enough vision of the patience of the Mullvilles. He was staying with them all the winter : Adelaide dropped it in a tone which drew the sting from the temporary. These excellent people might indeed have been content to give the circle of hospitality a diameter of six months ; but if they didn't say that he was stay- 60 THE C0X0N FUND ing for the summer as well, it was only because this was more than they ventured to hope. I remember that at dinner that evening he wore slippers , new and predominantly purple, of some queer carpet-stuff; but the Mulvilles were still in the stage of supposing that he might be snatched from them by higher bidders. At a later time they grew, poor dears, to fear no snatching; but theirs was a fidelity which needed no help from competition to make them proud. Wonderful indeed as, when all was said, you inevitably pronounced Frank Saltram, it was not to be overlooked that the Kent Mulvilles were in their way still more extraordinary : as striking an instance as could easily be encountered of the familiar truth that remarkable men find remarkable conveniences. They had sent for me from Wimbledon to come out and dine, and there had been an implication in Adelaide's note (judged by her notes alone she might have been thought silly) that it was a case in which something momentous was to be determined or done. I had never known them not to be in a " state " about somebody, and I dare say I tried to be droll on this point in accepting their invitation . On finding myself in the presence of their latest revelation I had not at first felt irreverence droop ; and, thank Heaven, I have never been absolutely deprived of that alternative in Mr. Saltram's company. I saw, however (I hasten to declare it), that, compared to this specimen, their other phoenixes had been birds of inconsiderable feather, and THE C0X0N FUND 61 I afterward took credit to myself for not having, even in primal bewilderments, made a mistake about the essence of the man. He had an incomparable gift; I never was blind to it—it dazzles me at present. It dazzles me perhaps even more in remembrance than in fact, for I'm not unaware that for a subject so magnificent the imagination goes to some expense, inserting a jewel here and there or giving a twist to a plume. How the art of portraiture would rejoice in this figure if the art of portraiture had only the canvas ! Nature, in truth, had largely rounded it, and if Memory, hovering about it, sometimes holds her breath, this is because the voice that comes back was really golden. Though the great man was an inmate and didn't dress, he kept dinner on this occasion waiting, and the first words he uttered on coming into the room were a triumphant announcement to Mulville that he had found out something. Not catching the allusion, and gaping doubtless a little at his face, I privately asked Adelaide what he had found out. I shall never forget the look she gave me as she replied, " Every thing ! " She really believed it. At that moment, at any rate, he had found out that the mercy of the Mulvilles was infinite. He had previously of course discovered, as I had myself for that matter, that their dinners were soign'es. Let me not indeed, in saying this, neglect to declare that I shall falsify my counterfeit if I...


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