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The Touchstone of Fortune   By: (1856-1913)

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THE TOUCHSTONE OF FORTUNE

Being the Memoir of Baron Clyde, who lived, thrived, and fell in the Doleful Reign of the so called Merry Monarch, Charles II

by

CHARLES MAJOR

Author of When Knighthood Was In Flower , etc.

1912

To My Wife

CHAPTER I

DAUGHTERS AND POVERTY

Goddess Fortune seems to delight in smiling on a man who risks his all, including life, perhaps, on a desperate chance of, say one to one hundred. If her Ladyship frowns and he loses, his friends call him a fool; if he wins, they say he is a lucky devil and are pleased to share his prosperity if he happens to be of a giving disposition. Lucky? No! He has simply minted his courage.

The most remarkable illustration of these truths that has ever come to my knowledge is my friend George Hamilton, the second son in this generation of the illustrious House of Hamilton, Count Anthony being its present head. The younger son was penniless save for the crumbs that fell from his elder brother's table, and Count Anthony was one who kept an eye on the crumbs.

George, who was of an independent nature, accepted Anthony's grudging help reluctantly. Therefore when Charles II was restored to the English throne in 1660, the younger Hamilton, who had been with the king in exile, was glad to assume the duties of Second Gentleman of the Bedchamber in Whitehall Palace. With the pension attached to this office, winnings at cards and other uncertain revenues from disreputable sources, George was enabled to maintain himself at court where debts were not necessarily paid, where honesty and virtue were held in contempt, and where vice of all sorts was not only the daily stock in trade but the daily stock of jest and pleasure, boasting and pride; for what is the use of being wicked if one hides one's light under a bushel?

Hamilton was a favorite with those who knew him well and was respected by those who knew him slightly, not because of his virtues, for they were few, but because he was strikingly handsome in person, moderately quick of wit, generous to an enemy, kind to every one, brave to the point of recklessness, and decent even in vice, if that be possible. He was no better than his friends save in these easy qualities, but while he was as bad in all other respects as his surroundings, the evil in him was due more to environment than to natural tendencies, and the good well, that was his undoing, as this history will show. A man who attempts to 'bout ship morally in too great haste is liable to miss stays and be swamped, for nothing so grates on us as the sudden reformation of our friends, while we remain unregenerate.

But to write Hamilton's history I must begin at the beginning, which in this case happens to be my beginning, and shall conclude with his "hundred to one" venture, which closed his career and mine, at least in England.

The Clydes, of whom I am the present head, have always had great respect for the inevitable and have never permitted the idealization of a hopeless cause to lead them into trouble solely for trouble's sake. So it was that when my father of blessed memory saw that King Charles I and his favorites were determined to wreck the state, themselves, and their friends, he fell ill of the gout at an opportune moment, which made it necessary for him to hasten to Germany to take the cure at the baths.

My revered father was the twenty second Baron Clyde, Edwin by baptism, and I, his namesake, am, or rather was, the twenty third and last baron of our line, having lost my title by reason of entanglement with the desperate fortunes of George Hamilton.

My father had been a staunch supporter of Charles I, not only because Charles was our divinely appointed king, but also because his Majesty was a lovable person in many respects. His misfortunes were the result of bad advice, false philosophy, and a heart too kind. Kindliness in a king is a dangerous virtue, and a royal conscience is like a boil on the elbow, always in the way... Continue reading book >>




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