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At half-past twelve next day Lord Henry Wotton strolled from
Curzon Street over to the Albany to call on his uncle, Lord Fermor,
a genial if somewhat roughmannered old bachelor, whom the
outside world called selfish because it derived no particular benefit
from him, but who was considered generous by Society as he fed
the people who amused him. His father had been our ambassador
at Madrid when Isabella was young, and Prim unthought of, but
had retired from the Diplomatic Service in a capricious moment of
annoyance on not being offered the Embassy at Paris, a post to
which he considered that he was fully entitled by reason of his
birth, his indolence, the good English of his despatches, and his
inordinate passion for pleasure. The son, who had been his father’s
secretary, had resigned along with his chief, somewhat foolishly as
was thought at the time, and on succeeding some months later to
the title, had set himself to the serious study of the great
aristocratic art of doing absolutely nothing. He had two large town
houses, but preferred to live in chambers as it was less trouble, and
took most of his meals at his club. He paid some attention to the
management of his collieries in the Midland counties, excusing
himself for this taint of industry on the ground that the one
advantage of having coal was that it enabled a gentleman to afford
the decency of burning wood on his own hearth. In politics he was
a Tory, except when the Tories were in office, during which period
he roundly abused them for being a pack of Radicals. He was a
hero to his valet, who bullied him, and a terror to most of his
relations, whom he bullied in turn. Only England could have
produced him, and he always said that the country was going to
the dogs. His principles were out of date, but there was a good
deal to be said for his prejudices.

When Lord Henry entered the room, he found his uncle sitting in a
rough shooting coat, smoking a cheroot and grumbling over The
Times. “Well, Harry,” said the old gentleman, “what brings you
out so early? I thought you dandies never got up until two, and
were not visible until five.” “Pure family affection, I assure you,
Uncle George. I want to get something out of you.” “Money, I
suppose,” said Lord Fermor, making a wry face. “Well, sit down
and tell me all about it. Young people, nowadays, imagine that
money is everything.” “Yes,” murmured Lord Henry, settling his
buttonhole in his coat; “and when they grow older they know it.
But I don’t want money. It is only people who pay their bills who
want that, Uncle George, and I never pay mine. Credit is the capital
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