Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: One Of Them
Author: Lever, Charles James, 1806-1872
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "One Of Them" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



ONE OF THEM

By Charles James Lever


With Illustrations By Phiz


Boston: Little, Brown, And Company.

1902.



TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE JAMES WHITESIDE, M.P., ETC., ETC., ETC.

My Dear Whiteside,--Amongst all the friends I can count over in my own
country, and from whom space and the accidents of life have separated,
and may separate me to the last, there is not "One of Them" for whom I
entertain a sincerer regard, united with a higher hope, than yourself;
and it is in my pride to say so openly, that I ask you to accept of this
dedication from

Your attached friend,

CHARLES LEVER.

Spezia, December 90, 1860.



A WORD OF APOLOGY FOR MY TITLE.

Before I begin my story, let me crave my reader's indulgence for a brief
word of explanation, for which I know no better form than a parable.

There is an Eastern tale--I forget exactly where or by whom told--of a
certain poor man, who, being in extreme distress, and sorely puzzled as
to how to eke out a livelihood, bethought him to give out that he was a
great magician, endowed with the most marvellous powers, amongst others,
that of tracing out crime, and detecting the secret history of all
guilty transactions. Day after day did he proclaim to the world his
wonderful gifts, telling his fellow-citizens what a remarkable man was
amongst them, and bidding them thank Destiny for the blessing of his
presence. Now, though the story has not recorded whether their gratitude
was equal to the occasion, we are informed that the Caliph heard of the
great magician, and summoned him to his presence, for it chanced just at
the moment that the royal treasury had been broken into by thieves, and
gems of priceless value carried away.

"Find out these thieves for me," said the Caliph, "or with your own head
pay the penalty of their crime."

"Grant me but forty days, O king," cried he, "and I will bring them all
before you."

So saying, he went away, but was no sooner at home and in the solitude
of his own house than be tore his beard, beat his breast, and, humbling
his head to the ground, cried out,

"Son of a burned father was I, not to be content with poverty and a poor
existence! Why did I ever pretend to gifts that I had not, or dare
to tell men that I possessed powers that were not mine? See to what
vainglory and boastfulness have brought me. In forty days I am to die an
ignominious death!"

Thus grieving and self-accusing, the weary hours passed over, and the
night closed in only to find him in all the anguish of his sorrow; nor
was it the least poignant of his sufferings, as he bethought him that
already one of his forty days was drawing to its close, for in his heart
he had destined this period to enjoyment and self-indulgence.

Now, though aspiring to the fame of a magician, so little learning did
he possess, that it was only by recourse to a contrivance he was able to
reckon the days as they passed, and calculate how much of life remained
to him. The expedient he hit upon was to throw each night into an
olive-jar a single date, by counting which at any time he could know how
many days had elapsed.

While his own conscience smote him bitterly for the foolish deception
he had practised, there were, as it happened, others who had consciences
too, and somewhat more heavily charged than his own. These were the
thieves who had stolen the treasure, and who firmly believed in the
magician's powers. Now, it so chanced that on the very instant he was
about to throw his first date into the jar, one of the robbers had crept
noiselessly to the window, and, peering through the half-closed shutter,
watched what was doing within. Dimly lighted by a single lamp, the
chamber was half shrouded in a mysterious gloom; still, the figure of
a man could be descried, as, with gestures of sorrow and suffering, he
approached a great jar in the middle of the room and bent over it. It
was doubtless an incantation, and the robber gazed with all eagerness;
but what was his terror as he beheld the man drop something into the
jar, exclaiming, as he did so, in a loud voice, "Let Allah be merciful
to us! there is one of them!" With the speed of a guilty heart he
hurried back to his confederates, saying, "I had but placed my eye to
the chink, when he knew that I was there, and cried, 'Ha! there is one
of them!'"

It is not necessary that I should go on to tell how each night a new
thief stole to the window at the same critical moment to witness the
same ceremony, and listen to the same terrible words; as little needful
to record how, when the last evening of all closed in, and the whole
robber band stood trembling without, the magician dropped upon his
knees, and, throwing in the last of his dates, cried out, "There are all
of them!" The application of the story is easy. You, good reader, are
the Caliph,--the mock magician is myself. Our tale will probably, from
time to time, reveal who may be

"One of Them."



ONE OF THEM, Volume I.



CHAPTER I. A PIAZZA AFTER SUNSET

One of the most depressing and languid of all objects is the aspect
of an Italian city in the full noon of a hot summer's day. The massive
buildings, fortress-like and stern, which show no touch of life and
habitation; the glaring streets, un-traversed by a single passer;
the wide piazza, staring vacantly in the broiling sun; the shop doors
closed, all evidencing the season of the siesta, seem all waiting for
the hour when long shadows shall fall over the scorched pavement, and
some air--faint though it be--of coming night recall the population to a
semblance of active existence.

With the air of a heated wayfarer, throwing open his coat to refresh
himself, the city, at last, flings wide jalousie and shutter, and the
half-baked inhabitant strolls forth to taste the "bel fresco." It is
the season when nationalities are seen undisturbed by the presence of
strangers. No travellers are now to be met with; the heavy rumbling of
the travelling-carriage no longer thunders over the massive causeway;
no postilion's whip awakes the echoes of the Piazza; no landlord's bell
summons the eager household to the deep-arched doorway. It is the
People alone are abroad,--that gentle Italian people, quiet-looking,
inoffensive as they are. A sort of languid grace, a kind of dignified
melancholy, pervades their demeanor, not at all unpleasing; and if the
stranger come fresh from the west of Europe, with its busy turmoil and
zeal of money-getting, he cannot but experience a sense of calm and
relief in the aspect of this easily satisfied and simple population.
As the gloom of evening thickens the scene assumes more of life and
movement. Vendors of cooling drinks, iced lemonades, and such-like, move
along with gay flags flaunting over the brilliant urnlike copper that
contains the refreshing beverage. Watermelons, in all the gushing
richness of color, are at every corner, and piles of delicious fruit lie
under the motley glare from many a paper lantern. Along the quays and
bridges, on wide terraces or jutting bastions, wherever a breath of
fresh air can be caught, crowds are seated, quietly enjoying the cool
hour. Not a sound to be heard, save the incessant motion of the fan,
which is, to this season, what is the cicala to the hot hour of noon.
One cannot help feeling struck by the aspect of a people come thus to
blend, like the members of one large family. There they are, of every
age and of every condition, mingling with a sort of familiar kindliness
that seems like a domesticity.

In all this open-air life, with its inseparable equality, one sees the
embers of that old fire which once kindled the Italian heart in the days
of their proud and glorious Republics. They are the descendants of those
who, in the self-same spots, discussed the acts of Doges and Senates,
haughty citizens of states, the haughtiest of all their age--and now--

Whether come by chance or detained by some accident, two English
travellers were seated one evening in front of the Café Doney, at
Florence, in contemplation of such a scene as this, listlessly smoking
their cigars; they conversed occasionally, in that "staccato" style of
conversation known to smokers.

One was an elderly, fine-looking man, of that hale and hearty stamp we
like to think English; the young fellow at his side was so exactly his
counterpart in lineament and feature that none could doubt them to
be father and son. It is true that the snow-white hair of one was
represented by a rich auburn in the other, and the quiet humor that
lurked about the father's mouth was concealed in the son's by a handsome
moustache, most carefully trimmed and curled.

The _café_ behind them was empty, save at a single table, where sat a
tall, gaunt, yellow-cheeked man, counting and recounting a number of
coins the waiter had given him in change, and of whose value he seemed
to entertain misgivings, as he held them up one by one to the light and
examined them closely. In feature he was acute and penetrating, with
a mixture of melancholy and intrepidity peculiarly characteristic; his
hair was long, black, and wave-less, and fell heavily over the collar
of his coat behind; his dress was a suit of coffee-colored brown,--coat,
waistcoat, and trousers; and even to his high-peaked conical hat
the same tint extended. In age, he might have been anything from
two-and-thirty to forty, or upwards.

Attracted by an extraordinary attempt of the stranger to express himself
in Italian to the waiter, the young Englishman turned round, and then as
quickly leaning down towards his father, said, in a subdued voice, "Only
think; there he is again! The Yankee we met at Meurice's, at Spa, Ems,
the Righi, Como, and Heaven knows where besides! There he is talking
Italian, own brother to his French, and with the same success too!"

"Well, well, Charley," said the other, good-humoredly, "it is not from
an Englishman can come the sneer about such blunders. We make sad work
of genders and declensions ourselves; and as for our American, I rather
like him, and am not sorry to meet him again."

"You surely cannot mean that. There's not a fault of his nation that
he does not, in one shape or other, represent; and, in a word, he is a
bore of the first water."

"The accusation of boredom is one of those ugly confessions which ennui
occasionally makes of its own inability to be interested. Now, for my
part, the Yankee does not bore me. He is a sharp, shrewd man, always
eager for information."

"I 'd call him inquisitive," broke in the younger.

"There's an honest earnestness, too, in his manner,--a rough vigor--"

"That recalls stump-oratory, and that sledge-hammer school so popular
'down west.'"

"It is because he is intensely American that I like him, Charley. I
heartily respect the honest zeal with which he tells you that there are
no institutions, no country, no people to be compared with his own."

"To me, the declaration is downright offensive; and I think there is a
wide interval between prejudice and an enlightened patriotism. And when
I hear an American claim for his nation a pre-eminence, not alone
in courage, skill, and inventive genius, but in all the arts of
civilization and refinement, I own I'm at a loss whether to laugh at or
leave him."

"Take my advice, Charley, don't do either; or, if you must do one of
the two, better even the last than the first."

Half stung by the tone of reproof in these words, and half angry with
himself, perhaps, for his own petulance, the young man flung the end of
his cigar away, and walked out into the street. Scarcely, however,
had he done so when the subject of their brief controversy arose,
and approached the Englishman, saying, with a drawling tone and nasal
accent, "How is your health, stranger? I hope I see you pretty well?"

"Quite so, I thank you," said the other cordially, as he moved a chair
towards him.

"You've made a considerable tour of it [pronounced 'tower'] since we
met, I reckon. You were bound to do Lombardy, and the silkworms, and
the rice-fields, and the ancient cities, and the galleries, and
such-like,--and you 've done them?"

The Englishman bowed assent.

"Well, sir, so have I, and it don't pay. No, it don't! It's noways
pleasing to a man with a right sense of human natur' to see a set of
half-starved squalid loafers making a livin' out of old tombs and ruined
churches, with lying stories about martyrs' thumb-nails and saints'
shin-bones. That won't make a people, sir, will it?"

"But you must have seen a great deal to interest you, notwithstanding."

"At Genoa, sir. I like Genoa,--they 're a wide-awake, active set there.
They 've got trade, sir, and they know it."

"The city, I take it, is far more prosperous than pleasant, for
strangers?"

"Well now, sir, that ere remark of yours strikes me as downright narrow,
and, if I might be permitted, I 'd call it mean illiberal. Why should
you or I object to people who prefer their own affairs to the pleasant
task of amusing us?"

"Nay, I only meant to observe that one might find more agreeable
companions than men intently immersed in money-getting."

"Another error, and a downright English error too; for it's one of your
national traits, stranger, always to abuse the very thing that you do
best. What are you as a people but a hard-working, industrious, serious
race, ever striving to do this a little cheaper, and that a little
quicker, so as to beat the foreigner, and with all that you 'll stand
up and say there ain't nothing on this universal globe to be compared to
loafing!"

"I would hope that you have not heard this sentiment from an
Englishman."

"Not in them words, not exactly in them terms, but from the same
platform, stranger. Why, when you want to exalt a man for any great
service to the state, you ain't satisfied with making him a loafer,--for
a lord is just a loafer, and no more nor no less,--but you make his
son a loafer, and all his descendants forever. What would you say to a
fellow that had a fast trotter, able to do his mile, on a fair road, in
two forty-three, who, instead of keeping him in full working condition,
and making him earn his penny, would just turn him out in a paddock to
burst himself with clover, and the same with all his stock, for no other
earthly reason than that they were the best blood and bone to be found
anywhere? There ain't sense or reason in that, stranger, is there?"

"I don't think the parallel applies."

"Maybe not, sir; but you have my meaning; perhaps I piled the metaphor
too high; but as John Jacob Byles says, 'If the charge has hit you, it
don't signify a red cent what the wadding was made of.'"

"I must say I think you are less than just in your estimate of our men
of leisure," said the Englishman, mildly.

"I ain't sure of that, sir; they live too much together, like our people
down South, and that's not the way to get rid of prejudices. They 've
none of that rough-and-tumble with the world as makes men broad-minded
and marciful and forgiving; and they come at last to that wickedest
creed of all, to think themselves the superfine salt of the earth.
Now, there ain't no superfine salt peculiar to any rank or class. Human
natur' is good and bad everywhere,--ay, sir, I 'll go further, I 've
seen good in a Nigger!"

"I'm glad to hear you say so," said the Englishman, repressing, but not
without difficulty, a tendency to smile.

"Yes, sir, there 's good amongst all men,--even the Irish."

"I feel sorry that you should make them an extreme case."

"Well, sir," said he, drawing a long breath, "they're main ugly,--main
ugly, that's a fact Not that they can do _us_ any mischief. Our
constitution is a mill where there's never too much water,--the more
power, the more we grind; and even if the stream do come down somewhat
stocked with snags and other rubbish upon it, the machine is an almighty
smasher, and don't leave one fragment sticking to the other when it gets
a stroke at 'em. Have you never been in the States, stranger?"

"Never. I have often planned such a ramble, but circumstances have
somehow or other always interfered with the accomplishment."

"Well, sir, you 're bound to go there, if only to correct the wrong
impressions of your literary people, who do nothing but slander and
belie us."

"Not latterly, surely. You have nothing to complain of on the part of
our late travellers."

"I won't say that. They don't make such a fuss about chewing and
whittling, and the like, as the first fellows; but they go on a-sneering
about political dishonesty, Yankee sharpness, and trade rogueries, that
ain't noways pleasing,--and, what's more, it ain't fair. But as _I_ say,
sir, go and see for yourself, or, if you can't do that, send your son.
Is n't that young man there your son?"

The young Englishman turned and acknowledged the allusion to himself by
the coldest imaginable bow, and that peculiarly unspeculative stare so
distinctive in his class and station.

"I 'm unreasonable proud to see you again, sir," said the Yankee,
rising.

"Too much honor!" said the other, stiffly.

"No, it ain't,--no honor whatever. It's a fact, though, and that's
better. Yes, sir, I like _you!_"

The young man merely bowed his acknowledgment, and looked even more
haughty than before. It was plain, however, that the American attached
little significance to the disdain of his manner, for he continued in
the same easy, unembarrassed tone,--

"Yes, sir, I was at Lucerne that morning when you flung the boatman into
the lake that tried to prevent your landing out of the boat I saw how
you buckled to your work, and I said to myself, 'There 's good stuff
there, though he looks so uncommon conceited and proud.'"

"Charley is ready enough at that sort of thing," said the father,
laughing heartily; and, indeed, after a moment of struggle to maintain
his gravity, the young man gave way and laughed too.

The American merely looked from one to the other, half sternly, and
as if vainly trying to ascertain the cause of their mirth. The elder
Englishman was quick to see the awkwardness of the moment, and apply a
remedy to it.

"I was amused," said he, good-humoredly, "at the mention of what had
obtained for my son your favorable opinion. I believe that it's only
amongst the Anglo-Saxon races that pugnacity takes place as a virtue."

"Well, sir, if a man has n't got it, it very little matters what other
qualities he possesses. They say courage is a bull-dog's property; but
would any one like to be lower than a bull-dog? Besides, sir, it is what
has made _you_ great, and _us_ greater."

There was a tone of defiance in this speech evidently meant to provoke
a discussion, and the young man turned angrily round to accept the
challenge, when a significant look from his father restrained him.
With a few commonplace observations dexterously thrown out, the old man
contrived to change the channel of conversation, and then, reminded
by his watch of the lateness of the hour, he apologized for a hasty
departure, and took his leave.

"Well, was I right?" said the young man, as he walked along at his
father's side. "Is he not a bore, and the worst of all bores too,--a
quarrelsome one?"

"I 'm not so sure of that, Charley. It was plain he did n't fancy our
laughing so heartily, and wanted an explanation which he saw no means
of asking for; and it was, perhaps, as a sort of reprisal he made that
boastful speech; but I am deeply mistaken if there be not much to like
and respect in that man's nature."

"There may be some grains of gold in the mud of the Arno there, if
any one would spend a life to search for them," said the youth,
contemptuously. And with this ungracious speech the conversation closed,
and they walked on in silence.



CHAPTER II. THE VILLA CAPRINI

It was a few days after the brief scene we have just recorded that the
two Englishmen were seated, after sunset, on a little terraced plateau
in front of an antiquated villa. As they are destined to be intimate
acquaintances of our reader in this tale, let us introduce them by
name,--Sir William Heathcote and his son Charles.

With an adherence to national tastes which are rapidly fading away, they
were enjoying their wine after dinner, and the spot they had selected
for it was well chosen. From the terrace where they sat, a perfect maze
of richly wooded glens could be seen, crossing and recrossing each other
in every direction. From the depths of some arose the light spray of
boiling mountain torrents; others, less wild in character, were marked
by the blue smoke curling up from some humble homestead. Many a zigzag
path of trellis-vines straggled up the hillsides, now half buried in
olives, now emerging in all the grotesque beauty of its own wayward
course. The tall maize and the red lucerne grew luxuriously beneath the
fig and the pomegranate, while here and there the rich soil, rent with
heat, seemed unable to conceal its affluence, and showed the yellow
gourds and the melons bursting up through the fruitful earth. It was
such a scene as at once combined Italian luxuriance with the verdant
freshness of a Tyrol landscape, and of which the little territory that
once called itself the Duchy of Lucca can boast many instances.

As background to the picture, the tall mountains of Carrara, lofty
enough to be called Alps, rose, snow-capped and jagged in the distance,
and upon their summits the last rays of the setting sun now glowed with
the ruddy brilliancy of a carbuncle.

These Italian landscapes win one thoroughly from all other scenery,
after a time. At first they seem hard and stern; there is a want
of soft distances; the eye looks in vain for the blended shadows of
northern landscape, and that rustic character so suggestive of country
life; but in their clear distinctness, their marvellous beauty of
outline, and in that vastness of view imparted by an atmosphere of
cloudless purity, there are charms indisputably great.

As the elder Englishman looked upon this fair picture, he gave a faint
sigh, and said: "I was thinking, Charley, what a mistake we make in life
in not seeking out such spots as these when the world goes well with
us, and we have our minds tuned to enjoyment, instead of coming to them
careworn and weary, and when, at best, they only distract us momentarily
from our griefs."

"And my thought," said the younger, "was, what a blunder it is to come
here at all. This villa life was only endurable by your Italian noble,
who came here once a year to squabble with his 'Fattore' and grind his
peasants. He came to see that they gave him his share of oil and did n't
water his miserable wine; he neither had society nor sport. As to our
English country-house life, what can compare with it!"

"Even that we have over-civilized, making it London in
everything,--London hours, London company, topics, habits, tastes, all
smacking of town life. Who, I ask you, thinks of his country existence,
nowadays, as a period of quietness and tranquil enjoyment? Who goes back
to the shade of his old elms to be with himself or some favorite author
that he feels to like as a dear friend?"

"No; but he goes for famous hunting and the best shooting in Europe,
it being no disparagement to either that he gets back at evening to a
capital dinner and as good company as he 'd find in town."

"May is of _my_ mind," said Sir William, half triumphantly; "she said so
last night."

"And she told me exactly the reverse this morning," said the younger.
"She said the monotony of this place was driving her mad. Scenery, she
remarked, without people, is pretty much what a panorama is, compared to
a play."

"May is a traitress; and here she comes to make confession to which of
us she has been false," said Sir William, gayly, as he arose to place a
chair for the young girl who now came towards them.

"I have heard you both, gentlemen," said she, with a saucy toss of her
head, "and I should like to hear why I should not agree with each and
disagree afterwards, if it so pleased me."

"Oh! if you fall back upon prerogative--" began Sir William.

"I have never quitted it It is in the sovereignty of my woman's will
that I reconcile opinions seemingly adverse, and can enjoy all the
splendors of a capital and all the tameness of a village. I showed you
already how I could appreciate Paris; I mean now to prove how charmed I
can be with the solitudes of Marlia."

"Which says, in plain English," said the young man, "that you don't care
for either."

"Will you condescend to be a little more gallant than my cousin, sir,"
said she, turning to Sir William, "and at least give me credit for
having a mind and knowing it?"

There was a pettish half-seriousness in her tone that made it almost
impossible to say whether she was amused or angry, and to this also the
changeful expression of her beautiful features contributed; for,
though she smiled, her dark gray eyes sparkled like one who invited a
contradiction. In this fleeting trait was the secret of her nature. May
Leslie was one of Fortune's spoiled children,--one of those upon whom
so many graces and good gifts had been lavished that it seemed as though
Fate had exhausted her resources, and left herself no more to bestow.

She had surpassing beauty, youth, health, high spirits, and immense
wealth. By her father's will she had been contracted in marriage with
her distant relative, Charles Heathcote, with the proviso that if, on
attaining the age of nineteen, she felt averse to the match, she should
forfeit a certain estate in Wales which had once belonged to the
Heathcotes, and contained the old residence of that family.

Sir William and his son had been living in the retirement of a little
German capital, when the tidings of this wardship reached them. A number
of unfortunate speculations had driven the baronet into exile from
England, and left him with a pittance barely sufficient to live in the
strictest economy. To this narrow fortune Charles Heathcote had come
back, after serving in a most extravagant Hussar regiment, and taking
his part in an Indian campaign; and the dashing' soldier first heard,
as he lay wounded in the hospital, that he must leave the service, and
retire into obscurity. If it had not been for his strong affection for
his father, Charles would have enlisted as a private soldier, and taken
his chance for future distinction, but he could not desert him at such
a moment, nor separate himself from that share of privation which should
be henceforth borne in common; and so he came back, a bronzed, brave
soldier, true-hearted and daring, and, if a little stern, no more so
than might be deemed natural in one who had met such a heavy reverse on
the very threshold of life.

Father and son were at supper in a little arbor of their garden near
Weimar, when the post brought them the startling news that May Leslie,
who was then at Malta, would be at Paris in a few days, where she
expected to meet them. When Sir William had read through the long letter
of the lawyer, giving an account of the late General Leslie's will, with
its strange condition, he handed it to his son, without a word.

The young man read it eagerly; his color changed once or twice as he
went on, and his face grew harder and sterner ere he finished. "Do you
mean to accept this wardship?" asked he, hurriedly.

"There are certain reasons for which I cannot decline it, Charley," said
the other, mildly. "All my life long I have been Tom Leslie's debtor,
in gratitude, for as noble a sacrifice as ever man made. We were both
suitors to your mother, brother officers at the time, and well received
in her father's house. Leslie, however, was much better looked on than
myself, for I was then but a second son, while he was the heir of a very
large estate. There could not have been a doubt that his advances would
have outweighed mine in a father and mother's estimate, and as he was
madly in love, there seemed-nothing to prevent his success. Finding,
however, in a conversation with your mother, that her affections were
mine, he not only relinquished the place in my favor, but, although most
eager to purchase his troop, suffered me, his junior, to pass over his
head, and thus attain the rank which enabled me to marry. Leslie went to
India, where he married, and we never met again. It was only some
seven or eight months ago I read of his being named governor of a
Mediterranean dependency, and the very next paper mentioned his death,
when about to leave Calcutta."

"It is, then, most probable that, when making this will, he had never
heard of our reverses in fortune?" said the young man.

"It is almost certain he had not, for it is dated the very year of that
panic which ruined me."

"And, just as likely, might never have left such a will, had he known
our altered fortunes?"

"I 'm not so sure of that. At all events, I can answer for it that no
change in our condition would have made Tom Leslie alter the will, if he
had once made it in our favor."

"I have no fancy for the compact, read it how you may," said Charles,
impatiently; "nor can I say which I like least,--the notion of marrying
a woman who is bound to accept me, or accepting a forfeit to release her
from the obligation."

"I own it is--embarrassing," said Sir William, after a moment's
hesitation in choosing a suitable word.

"A downright indignity, I'd call it," said the other, warmly, "and
calculated to make the man odious in the woman's eyes, whichever lot
befell him."

"The wardship must be accepted, at all events," said Sir William,
curtly, as he arose and folded up the letter.

"You are the best judge of that; for if it depended upon _me_"

"Come, come, Charley," said Sir William, in his tone of habitual
kindness, "this life of quiet obscurity and poverty that we lead here
has no terrors for _me_. I have been so long away from England that if I
went back to-morrow I should look in vain for any of my old companions.
I have forgotten the habits and the ways of home, and I have learned to
submit myself to twenty things here which would be hardships elsewhere,
but I don't like to contemplate the same sort of existence for _you_; I
want to speculate on a very different future; and if--if--Nay, you need
not feel so impatient at a mere conjecture."

"Well, to another point," said the young man, hastily. "We have got,
as you have just said, to know that we can live very comfortably and
contentedly here, looking after our celery and seakale, and watching our
silver groschen; are you so very certain that you 'd like to change all
this life, and launch out into an expensive style of living, to suit the
notions of a rich heiress, and, what is worse again, to draw upon _her_
resources to do it?"

"I won't deny that it will cost me severely; but, until we see her
and know her, Charley, until we find out whether she may be one whose
qualities will make our sacrifices easy--"

"Would you accept this charge if she were perfectly portionless, and
without a shilling in the world?"

"If she were Tom Leslie's daughter, do you mean?"

"Ay, any one's daughter?"

"To be sure I would, boy; and if I were only to consult my own feelings
in the matter, I 'd say that I 'd prefer this alternative to the other."

"Then I have no more to say," said the son, as he walked away.

Within a month after this conversation, the little cottage was shut
up, the garden wicket closed with a heavy padlock, and to any chance
inquirer after its late residents, the answer returned was, that their
present address was Place Vendôme, Paris.

"Tell me your company," said the old adage; but, alas! the maxim had
reference to other habits than our present-day ones. With what company
now does not every man mix? Bishops discuss crime and punishment
with ticket-of-leave men; fashionable exquisites visit the resorts of
thieves; "swell people" go to hear madrigals at Covent Garden; and, as
for the Ring, it is equally the table-land to peer and pickpocket. If,
then, you would hazard a guess as to a man's manners nowadays, ask not
his company, but his whereabouts. Run your eye oyer the addresses of
that twice-remanded insolvent, ranging from Norfolk Street, Strand, to
Berkeley Square, with Boulogne-sur-Mer, St John's Wood, Cadiz, the New
Cut, Bermondsey, and the Edgware Road, in the interval, and say if you
cannot, even out of such slight materials, sketch off his biography.

"The style is the man," says the adage; and we might with as much truth
say, "the street is the man." In his locality is written his ways and
means, his manners, his morals, his griefs, joys, and ambitions. We
live in an age prolific in this lesson. Only cast a glance at the daily
sacrifices of those who, to reside within the periphery of greatness,
submit to a crushing rent and a comfortless abode.

Think of him who, to date his note "------ Street, Berkeley Square,"
denies himself honest indulgence, all because the world has come to
believe that certain spots are the "Regions of the Best," and that they
who live there must needs be that grand English ideal,--respectable.

Dear me, what unheard-of sacrifices does it demand of humble fortunes to
be Respectable! what pinching and starving and saving! what self-denial
and what striving! what cheerless little dinner-parties to other
Respectables! what dyeing of black silks and storing of old ostrich
feathers! And how and wherefore have we wandered off in this digression!
Simply to say that Sir William Heathoote and his ward were living in
a splendid quarter of Paris, and after that rambled into Germany, and
thence to Como and down to Rome, very often delighted with their choice
of residence, enjoying much that was enjoyable, but still--shall we own
it?--never finding the exact place they seemed to want, nor exactly the
people with whom they were willing to live in intimacy. They had been at
Baden in the summer, at Como in the late autumn, at Rome in the winter,
at Castellamare in the spring,--everywhere in its season, and
yet somehow--And so they began to try that last resource of bored
people,--places out of the season and places out of common resort,--and
it was thus that they found themselves at Florence in June, and in
Marlia in July.



CHAPTER III. TRAVELLING ACQUAINTANCE

About the same hour of the same evening which we have just chronicled,
a group of persons sat under some spreading chestnut-trees beside a
brawling little rivulet at the Bagni de Lucca. They were travellers,
chance acquaintances thrown together by the accidents of the road, and
entertained for each other those varied sentiments of like and dislike,
those mingled distrusts, suspicions, and beliefs, which, however
unconsciously to ourselves, are part of the education travelling
impresses, and which, when long persevered in, make up that acute but
not always amiable individual we call "an old traveller."

We are not about to present them all to our reader, and will only beg to
introduce to his notice a few of the notabilities then present. _Place
aux dames!_ then; and, first of all, we beg attention to the dark-eyed,
dark-haired, and very delicately featured woman, who, in half-mourning,
and with a pretty but fantastically costumed girl beside her, is working
at an embroidery-frame close to the river. She is a Mrs. Penthony
Morris, the wife or the widow--both opinions prevail--of a Captain
Penthony Morris, killed in a duel, or in India, or alive in the
Marshalsea, or at Baden-Baden, as may be. She is striking-looking,
admirably dressed, has a most beautiful foot, as you may see where
it rests upon the rail of the chair placed in front of her, and is,
altogether, what that very smartly dressed, much-beringed, and essenced
young gentleman near her has already pronounced her, "a stunning fine
woman." He is a Mr. Mosely, one of those unhappy young Londoners whose
family fame is ever destined to eclipse their own gentility, for he is
immediately recognized, and drawlingly do men inquire some twenty times
a day, "Ain't he a son of Trip and Mosely's, those fellows in Bond
Street?" Unhappy Trip and Mosely! why have you rendered yourselves so
great and illustrious? why have your tasteful devices in gauze, your
"sacrifices" in challis, your "last new things in grenadine," made such
celebrity around you, that Tom Mosely, "out for his travels," can no
more escape the shop than if he were languishing at a customer over a
"sweet article in white tarlatan"? In the two comfortable armchairs
side by side sit two indubitable specimens, male and female, of the
Anglo-Saxon family,--Mr. Morgan, that florid man, wiping his polished
bald head, and that fat lady fanning with all her might. Are they not
English? They are "out," and, judging from their recorded experiences,
only dying to be "in" again. "Such a set of cheating, lying, lazy set of
rascals are these Italians! Independence, air; don't talk to me of that
humbug! What they want is English travellers to fleece and English women
to marry." Near to these, at full length, on two chairs, one of which
reclines against a tree at an angle of about forty degrees, sits our
Yankee acquaintance, whom we may as well present by his name, Leonidas
Shaver Quackinboss; he is smoking a "Virginian" about the size of a
marshal's bâton, and occasionally sipping at a "cobbler," which with
much pains he has compounded for his own drinking. Various others of
different ranks and countries are scattered about, and in the centre of
all, at a small table with a lamp, sits a short, burly figure, with a
strange mixture of superciliousness and drollery in his face, as
though there were a perpetual contest in his nature whether he would be
impertinent or amusing. This was Mr. Gorman O'Shea, Member of Parliament
for Inchabogue, and for three weeks a Lord of the Treasury when
O'Connell was king.

[Illustration: 044]

Mr. O'Shea is fond of public speaking. He has a taste for proposing, or
seconding, or returning thanks that verges on a passion, so that even
in a private dinner with a friend he has been known to arise and address
his own companion in a set speech, adorned with all the graces and
flowers of post-prandial eloquence. Upon the present occasion he has
been, to his great delight, deputed to read aloud to the company from
that magic volume by which the Continent is expounded to Englishmen,
and in whose pages they are instructed in everything, from passports
to pictures, and drilled in all the mysteries of money, posting, police
regulations, domes, dinners, and Divine service by a Clergyman of the
Established Church. In a word, he is reciting John Murray.

To understand the drift of the present meeting, we ought to mention
that, in the course of a conversation started that day at the _table
d'hote_ it was suggested that such of the company as felt disposed might
make an excursion to Marlia to visit a celebrated villa there, whose
gardens alone were amongst the great sights of Northern Italy. All had
heard of this charming residence; views of it had been seen in every
print-shop. It had its historical associations from a very early period.
There were chambers where murders had been committed, conspiracies held,
confederates poisoned. King and Kaiser had passed the night there; all
of which were duly and faithfully chronicled in "John," and impressively
recited by Mr. Gorman O'Shea in the richest accents of his native Doric.
"There you have it now," said he, as he closed the volume; "and I will
say, it has n't its equal anywhere for galleries, terraces, carved
architraves, stuccoed ceilings, and frescos, and all the other
balderdash peculiar to these places."

"Oh, Mr. O'Shea, what profanation!" interposed Mrs. Morris; "walls
immortalized by Giotto and Cimabue!"

"Have n't they got stunning names of their own?" broke in Quackinboss.
"That's one of the smallest dodges to secure fame. You must be something
out of the common. There was a fellow up at Syracuse townland, Measles,
North Carolina, and his name was Flay Harris; they called him Flea--"

"That ceiling of the great hall was a work of Guido's, you said?"
inquired Mrs. Morris.

"A pupil of Guido's, a certain Simone Affretti, who afterwards made the
designs for the Twelve Apostles in the window of the chapter-room at
Sienna," read out Mr. O'Shea.

"Who can vouch for one word of all that, sir?" burst in Mr. Morgan, with
a choleric warmth. "Who is to tell me, sir, that you did n't write that,
or Peter Noakes, or John Murray himself, if there be such a man."

"I can vouch for the last," said a pale, gentle-looking young fellow,
who was arranging the flies in a fishing-book under a tree at a little
distance. "If it will relieve you from any embarrassments on the score
of belief, I can assist you so far."

If there was a faint irony in this speech, the mild look of the speaker
and his softened accents made it seem of the very faintest, and so even
the bluff Mr. Morgan himself appeared to acknowledge.

"As you say so, Mr. Layton, I will consent to suppose there is such a
man; not that the fact, in the slightest degree, touches my original
proposition."

"Certainly not, Tom," chimed in Mrs. Morgan, in a thick voice, like one
drowning.

"But if you doubt Guido, you may doubt Raphael, Titian, Michael Angelo,"
burst in Mrs. Morris, with a holy terror in her voice.

"Well, ma'am, I'm capable of all that--and worse."

What that "worse" was there is no saying, though possibly Mr. Mosely
was trying to guess at it in the whisper he ventured to Mrs. Morris, and
which made that lady smile incredulously.

"I now, sir, rise to put the original motion," said O'Shea, assuming
that parliamentary tone which scandal pretended he displayed everywhere
but in the House; "is it the opinion of this committee that we should
all go and visit the Villa Caprini?"

"Are we quite sure it is to be seen?" interposed Mr. Layton; "it may be
occupied, and by persons who have no fancy to receive strangers."

"The observation strikes me as singularly narrow and illiberal, sir,"
burst in Morgan, with warmth. "Are we of the nineteenth century to be
told that any man--I don't care how he calls himself--has a vested right
in the sight or inspection of objects devised and designed and completed
centuries before he was born?"

"Well put, Tom,--remarkably well put," smothered out Mrs. Morgan.

"Will you say, sir," assumed he, thus cheered on to victory,--"will you
say, sir, that if these objects--frescos, bas-reliefs, or whatever
other name you give them--have the humanizing influence you assume
for them,--which, by the way, I am quite ready to dispute at another
opportunity with you or that other young gentleman yonder, whose
simpering sneer would seem to disparage my sentiment--"

"If you mean me, sir," took up Mr. Mosely, "I was n't so much as
attending to one word you said."

"No, Tom, certainly not," burst in Mrs. Morgan, answering with energy
some sudden ejaculated purpose of her wrathy spouse.

"I simply meant to say," interposed Layton, mildly, "that such a
visit as we propose might be objected to, or conceded in a way little
agreeable to ourselves."

"A well-written note, a gracefully worded request, which nobody could
do better than Mr. Alfred Layton--" began Mrs. Morris, when a dissenting
gesture from that gentleman stopped her. "Or, perhaps," continued she,
"Mr. Gorman O'Shea would so far assist our project?"

"My motion is to appear at the bar of the house,--I mean at the
gate-lodge,--sending in our names, with a polite inquiry to know if we
may see the place," said Mr. O'Shea.

"Well, stranger, I stand upon your platform," chimed in Quackinboss; "I
'm in no manner of ways 'posted' up in your Old World doings, but I 'd
say that you 've fixed the question all straight."

"Show-places are show-places; the people who take them know it," blurted
out Mr. Morgan. "Ay, and what's more, they're proud of it."

"They are, Tom," said his wife, authoritatively.

"If you 'd give me one of them a present, for the living in it, I 'd
not take it No, sir, I 'd not," reiterated Morgan, with a fierce energy.
"What is a man in such a case, sir, but a sort of appraiser, a kind of
agent to show off his own furniture, telling you to remark that cornice,
and not to forget that malachite chimney-piece?"

"Very civil of him, certainly," said Layton, in his low, quiet voice,
which at the same time seemed to quiver with a faint irony.

"No, sir, not civil, only boastful; mere purse-pride, nothing more."

"Nothing, Tom,--absolutely nothing."

"What's before the house this evening,--the debate looks animated?"
said a fine bright-eyed boy of about fourteen, who lounged carelessly on
Layton's shoulder as he came up.

"It was a little scheme to visit the Villa Caprini, my Lord," said
Mosely, not sorry to have the opportunity of addressing himself to a
person of title.

"How jolly, eh, Alfred? What say you to the plan?" said the boy,
merrily.

Layton answered something, but in a tone too low to be overheard.

"Oh, as to that," replied the boy, quickly, "if he be an Englishman who
lives there, surely some of us must know him."

"The very remark I was about to make, my Lord," smiled in Mrs. Morris.

"Well, then, we agree to go there; that 's the main thing," said O'Shea.
"Two carriages, I suppose, will hold us; and, as to the time, shall we
say to-morrow?"

To-morrow was unanimously voted by the company, who now set themselves
to plot the details of the expedition, amidst which not the least knotty
was, who were to be the fellow-travellers with Mr. and Mrs. Morgan, a
post of danger assuredly not sought for with any heroic intrepidity,
while an equally eager intrigue was on foot about securing the presence
of the young Marquis of Agincourt and his tutor, Mr. Layton. The ballot,
however, routed all previous machinations, deciding that the young peer
was to travel with the Morgans and Colonel Quackinboss, an announcement
which no deference to the parties themselves could prevent being
received with a blank disappointment, except by Mr. Layton, who simply
said,--

"We shall take care to be in time, Mrs. Morgan." And then, drawing his
pupil's arm within his own, strolled negligently away.



CHAPTER IV. VISITORS

"I foretold all this," said Charles Heathcote, peevishly, as a servant
presented a number of visiting-cards with a polite request from the
owners to be allowed to visit the villa and its gardens. "I often warned
you of the infliction of inhabiting one of these celebrated places,
which our inquisitive countrymen _will_ see and their wives _will_ write
about."

"Who are they, Charley?" said May, gayly. "Let us see if we may not know
some of them."

"Know them. Heaven forbid! Look at the equipages they have come in;
only cast an eye at the two leathern conveniences now before the door,
and say, is it likely that they contain any acquaintances of ours?"

"How hot they look, broiling down there! But who are they, Charley?"

"Mrs. Penthony Morris,--never heard of her; Mr. Algernon
Mosely,--possibly the Bond Street man; Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Rice
Morgan, of Plwmnwrar,--however that be pronounced; Mr. Layton and
friend,--discreet friend, who will not figure by name; Mr. Gorman
O'Shea, by all the powers! and, as I live, our Yankee again!"

"Not Quackinboss, surely?" broke in Sir William, good-humoredly.

"Yes. There he is: 'U. S. A., Colonel Leonidas Shaver Quackinboss;'
and there's the man, too, with his coat on his arm, on that coach-box."

"I'll certainly vote for my Transatlantic friend," said the Baronet,
"and consequently for any party of which he is a member."

"As for me!" cried May,--"I 've quite a curiosity to see him; not
to say that it would be downright churlishness to refuse any of our
countrymen the permission thus asked for."

"Be it so. I only stipulate for not playing cicerone to our amiable
visitors; and the more surely to escape such an indignity, I 'm off
till dinner."

"Let Fenton wait on those gentlemen," said the Baronet, "and go round
with them through the house and the grounds. Order luncheon also to be
ready." There was a little, a very little, irritation, perhaps, in his
voice, but May's pleasant smile quickly dispelled the momentary chagrin,
and his good-humored face was soon itself again.

If I have not trespassed upon my reader's patience by minute
descriptions of the characters I have introduced to him, it is in the
expectation that their traits are such as, lying lightly on the surface,
require little elucidation. Nor do I ask of him to bestow more attention
to their features than he would upon those of travelling acquaintances
with whom it is his fortune to Journey in company for a brief space.

Strange enough, indeed, is that intimacy of travelling acquaintanceship
--familiar without friendship, frank without being cordial. Curious
pictures of life might be made from these groups thrown accidentally
together in a steamboat or railroad, at the gay watering-place, or the
little fishing-village in the bathing-season.

How free is all the intercourse of those who seem to have taken a vow
with themselves never to meet each other again! With what humorous zest
do they enjoy the oddities of this one, or the eccentricities of that,
making up little knots and cliques, to be changed or dissolved within
the day, and actually living on the eventualities of the hour, for
their confidences! The contrasts that would repel in ordinary life, the
disparities that would discourage, have actually invited intimacy;
and people agree to associate, even familiarly, with those whom, in the
recognized order of their daily existence, they would have as coldly
repelled.

There was little to bind those together whom we have represented as
seated under the chestnut-trees at the Bagni de Lucca. They entertained
their suspicions and distrusts and misgivings of each other to a liberal
extent; they wasted no charities in their estimate of each other; and
wherever posed by a difficulty, they did not lend to the interpretation
any undue amount of generosity; nay, they even went further, and argued
from little peculiarities of dress, manner, and demeanor, to the whole
antecedents of him they criticised, and took especial pains in their
moments of confidence to declare that they had only met Mr.------
for the first time at Ems, and never saw Mrs.------ till they were
overtaken by the snow-storm on the Splugen.

Such-like was the company who now, headed by the obsequious butler,
strolled leisurely through the spacious saloons of the Villa Caprini.

Who is there, in this universal vagabondage, has not made one of such
groups? Where is the man that has not strolled, "John Murray" in hand,
along his Dresden, his Venice, or his Rome; staring at ceilings, and
gazing ruefully at time-discolored frescos,--grieved to acknowledge to
his own heart how little he could catch of a connoisseur's enthusiasm
or an antiquarian's fervor,--wondering within himself wherefore he could
not feel like that other man whose raptures he was reading, and with
sore misgivings that some nice sense had been omitted in his nature?
Wonderfully poignant and painful things are these little appeals to an
inner consciousness. How far such sentiments were distributed amongst
those who now lounged and stared through _salon_ and gallery, we must
leave to the reader's own appreciation. They looked pleased, convinced,
and astonished, and, be it confessed, "bored" in turn; they were called
upon to admire much they did not care for, and wonder at many things
which did not astonish them; they were often referred to histories
which they had forgotten, if they ever knew them, and to names of whose
celebrity they were ignorant; and it was with a most honest sense of
relief they saw themselves reach the last room of the suite, where a
few cabinet pictures and some rare carvings in ivory alone claimed their
attention.

"A 'Virgin and Child,' by Murillo," said the guide.

"The ninth 'Virgin and Child,' by all that's holy!" said Mr. O'Shea.
"The ninth we have seen to-day!"

"The blue drapery, ladies and gentlemen," continued the inexorable
describer, "is particularly noticed. It is 'glazed' in a manner only
known to Murillo."

"I 'm glad of it, and I hope the secret died with him," cried Mr.
Morgan. "It looks for all the world like a bathing-dress."

"The child squints. Don't he squint?" exclaimed Mosely.

"Oh, for shame!" cried Mrs. Morris. "Mr. Layton is quite shocked with
your profane criticism."

"I did not hear it, I assure you," said that gentleman, as he arose from
a long and close contemplation of a "St. John," by Salvator.

"'St. John preaching in the Wilderness!'" said Quack-inboss; "too tame
for my taste. He don't seem to roll up his sleeves to the work,--does
he?"

"It's not stump-oratory, surely?" said Layton, with a quiet smile.

"Ain't it, though! Well, stranger, I'm in a considerable unmixed error
if it is not! You'd like to maintain that because a man does n't rise up
from a velvet cushion and lay his hand upon a grand railing, all carved
with grotesque intricacies, all his sentiments must needs be commonplace
and vulgar; but I 'm here to tell you, sir, that you 'd hear grander
things, nobler things, and greater things from a moss-covered old
tree-stump in a western pine-forest, by the mouth of a plain, hardy son
of hard toil, than you've often listened to in what you call your place
in Parliament Now, that's a fact!"

There was that amount of energy in the way these words were uttered
that seemed to say, if carried further, the discussion might become
contentious.

Mr. Layton did not show any disposition to accept the gage of battle,
but turned to seek for his pupil.

"You 're looking for the Marquis, Mr. Layton," asked Mrs. Morris, "ain't
you? I think you'll find him in the shrubberies, for he said all this
only bored him, and he 'd go and look for a cool spot to smoke his
cigar."

"That's what it all comes to," said Morgan, as soon as Layton had left
the room; "that's the whole of it! You pay a fellow--a 'double first'
something or other from Oxford or Cambridge--five hundred a year to go
abroad with your son, and all he teaches him is to choose a cheroot."

"And smoke it, Tom," chimed in Mrs. Morgan.

"There ain't no harm in a weed, sir, I hope?" said Quackinboss. "The
thinkers of this earth are most of 'em smoking men. What do you say,
sir, to Humboldt, Niebuhr, your own Bulwer, and all our people, from
John C. Colhoun to Daniel Webster? When a man puts a cigar between his
lips, he as good as says, 'I 'm a-reflecting,--I 'm not in no ways to
be broke in upon.' It's his own fault, sir, if he does n't think, for he
has in a manner shut the door to keep out intruders."

"Filthy custom!" muttered Mr. Morgan, with a garbled sentence, in which
the word "America" was half audible.

"What's this he's saying about eating,--this Italian fellow?" said Mr.
Mosely, as a servant addressed him in a foreign language.

"It is a polite invitation to a luncheon," said Mrs. Morris, modestly
turning to her fellow-travellers for their decision.

"Do any of us know our host?" asked Mr. OShea. "He is a Sir William
Heathcote."

"There was a director of the Central Trunk line of that name, who failed
for half a million sterling," whispered Morgan; "should n't wonder if it
were he."

"All the more certain to give us a jolly feed, if he be!" chuckled
Mosely. "I vote we accept."

"That of course," said Mrs. Morris.

"Well, I know him, I reckon," drawled out Quackinboss; "and I rayther
suspect you owe this here politeness to _my_ company. Yes, sir!" said
he, half fiercely, to O'Shea, upon whose face a sort of incredulous
smile was breaking,--"yes, sir!"

"Being our own countryman, sir,--an Englishman,--I suspect," said Mr.
Morgan, with warmth, "that the hospitality has been extended to us on
wider grounds."

"But why should we dispute about the matter at all?" mildly remarked
Mrs. Morris. "Let us say yes, and be grateful."

"There's good sense in that," chimed in Mosely, "and I second it."

"Carried with unanimity," said O'Shea, as, turning to the servant, he
muttered something in broken French.

"Well, I'm sure, I never!" mumbled Quackinboss to himself; but what he
meant, or to what new circumstance in his life's experience he alluded,
there is unhappily no explanation in this history; but he followed the
rest with a drooping head and an air of half-melancholy resignation that
was not by any means unusual with him.



CHAPTER V. ACCIDENTS AND THEIR CONSEQUENCES

When the young Marquis had made his escape from sightseeing, and all its
attendant inflictions, he was mainly bent on what he would himself
have called being "very jolly,"--that is to say, going his own way
unmolested, strolling the road he fancied, and following out his own
thoughts. Not that these same thoughts absolutely needed for their
exercise or development any extraordinary advantages of solitude and
retirement. He was no deep-minded sage, revolving worlds to come,--no
poet, in search of the inspiring influence of nature,--no subtle
politician, balancing the good and evil of some nice legislation. He
was simply one of those many thousand England yearly turns out from her
public schools of fine, dashing, free-hearted, careless boys, whose most
marked feature in character is a wholesome horror of all that is mean
or shabby. Less than a year before, he had been a midshipman in her
Majesty's gun-boat "Mosquito;" the death of an elder brother had made
him a Marquis, with the future prospect of several thousands a year.

He had scarcely seen or known his brother, so he grieved very little
for his loss, but he sorrowed sincerely over the change of fortune that
called him from his sea life and companions to an "on-shore" existence,
and instead of the gun-room and its gay guests, gave him the proprieties
of station and the requirements of high rank. One of his guardians
thought he ought to go into the Guards; another advised a university;
both agreed upon a tutor, and Mr. Layton was found, a young man of small
fortune, whose health, injured by over-reading for honors, required
change of scene and rest. They had been companions for a very short
time, but had, as the young Lord would have said, "hit it off" admirably
together; that is to say, partly from a just appreciation of his pupil,
and partly out of a natural indolence of disposition, Layton interfered
very little with him, gave him no troublesome tasks, imposed no actual
studies, but contented himself with a careful watch over the boy's
disposition, a gentle, scarce perceptible correction of his faults,
and an honest zeal to develop any generous trait in his nature, little
mindful of the disappointments his trustfulness must incur. Layton's
theory was that we all become wise too early in life, and that the
world's lessons should not be too soon implanted in a fresh unsuspecting
nature. His system was not destined to be sorely tested in the present
case. Harry Montserrat, Marquis of Agincourt, was a fortunate subject
to illustrate it by. There never was a less suspectful nature; he
was frank, generous, and brave; his faults were those of a hot, fiery
temper, and a disposition to resent, too early and too far, what with a
little patience he might have tolerated or even forgiven.

The fault, however, which Layton was more particularly guardful against,
was a certain over-consciousness of his station and its power, which
gradually began to show itself.

In his first experience of altered fortune he did nothing but regret the
past. It was no compensation to him for his careless sea-life, with all
its pleasant associations, to become of a sudden invested with station,
and treated with what he deemed over-deference. His reefer's jacket was
pleasanter "wear" than his padded frock-coat; the nimble boy who waited
on him in the gun-room he thought a far smarter attendant than his
obsequious valet; and, with all his midshipman's love of money-spending
and squandering, the charm of extravagance was gone when there were
no messmates to partake of it; nor did his well-groomed nag and his
well-dressed tiger suggest one-half the enjoyment he had often felt in a
pony ride over the cliffs of Malta, with some others of his mess, where
falls were rife and tumbles frequent. These, I say, were first thoughts,
but gradually others took their places. The enervation of a life of ease
began soon to show itself, and he felt the power of a certain station.
In the allowance his guardian made him, he had a far greater sum at his
disposal than he ever possessed before; and in the title of his rank he
soon discovered a magic that made the world beneath him very deferential
and very obliging.

"That boy has been very ill brought up, Mr. Layton; it will be your
chief care to instil into him proper notions of the place he is to
occupy one of these days," said an old Earl, one of his guardians,
and who was most eager that every trace of his sea life should be
eradicated.

"Don't let him get spoiled, Layton, because he's a Lord," said the other
guardian, who was an old Admiral. "There's good stuff in the lad, and it
would be a thousand pities it should be corrupted."

Layton did his best to obey each; but the task had its difficulties. As
to the boy himself, the past and the present, the good and the evil,
the frank young middy and the rich lordling, warred and contended in
his nature; nor was it very certain at any moment which would ultimately
gain the mastery. Such, without dwelling more minutely, was he who now
strolled along through shrubbery and parterre, half listless as to the
way, but very happy withal, and very light-hearted.

There was something in the scene that recalled England to his mind.
There were more trees and turf than usually are found in Italian
landscape, and there was, half hidden between hazel and alder, a clear,
bright river, that brawled and fretted over rocks, or deepened into dark
pools, alternately. How the circling eddies of a fast-flowing stream do
appeal to young hearts! what music do they hear in the gushing waters!
what a story is there in that silvery current as it courses along
through waving meadows, or beneath tall mountains, and along some dark
and narrow gorge, emblem of life itself in its light and shade, its
peaceful intervals and its hours of struggle and conflict.

Forcing his way through the brushwood that guarded the banks, the boy
gained a little ledge of rock, against which the current swept with
violence, and then careered onward over a shallow, gravelly bed till
lost in another bend of the stream. Just as Agincourt reached the
rock, he spied a fishing-rod deeply and securely fastened in one of
its fissures, but whose taper point was now bending like a whip, and
springing violently under the struggling effort of a strong fish. He
was nothing of an angler. Of honest "Izaak" and his gentle craft he
absolutely knew nought, and of all the mysteries of hackles and green
drakes he was utterly ignorant; but his sailor instinct could tell him
when a spar was about to break, and this he now saw to be the case. The
strain was great, and every jerk now threatened to snap either line or
rod. He looked hurriedly around him for the fisherman, whose interests
were in such grave peril; but seeing no one near, he endeavored to
withdraw the rod. While he thus struggled, for it was fastened with
care, the efforts of the fish to escape became more and more violent,
and at last, just as the boy had succeeded in his task, a strong spring
from the fish snapped the rod near the tip, and at the same instant
snatched it from the youth's hand into the stream. Without a second's
hesitation, Agincourt dashed into the river, which rose nearly to his
shoulders, and, after a vigorous pursuit, reached the rod, but only as
the fish bad broken the strong gut in two, and made his escape up the
rapid current.

The boy was toilfully clambering up the bank, with the broken rod in his
hand, when a somewhat angry summons in Italian met his ears. It was time
enough, he thought, to look for the speaker when he had gained dry land;
so he patiently fought his way upwards, and at last, out of breath and
exhausted, threw himself full length in the deep grass of the bank.

"I believe I am indebted to you, sir, for my smashed tackle and the
loss of a heavy fish besides?" said Charles Heathcote, as he came up
to where the youth was lying, his voice and manner indicating the anger
that moved him.

"I thought to have saved the rod and caught the fish too," said the
other, half indolently; "but I only got a wet jacket for my pains."

"I rather suspect, young gentleman, you are more conversant with a
measuring-yard than a salmon-rod," said Heathcote, insolently, as he
surveyed the damaged fragments of his tackle.

"What do you mean by that, sir?" cried the boy, springing with a bound
to his feet, and advancing boldly towards his adversary.

"Simply that it 's not exactly the sort of sport you follow in Bond
Street," retorted Heathcote, whose head was full of "Mosely and Trip,"
and felt certain that a scion of that great house was before him.

"You must be a rare snob not to know a gentleman when you see him," said
Agincourt, with an insolent defiance in his look.

"Perhaps I'd be a better judge if I saw him after a good washing," said
Heathcote, who, with one hasty glance at the river, now turned a fierce
eye on the youth.

Agincourt's gun-room experiences had not taught him to decline an
offered battle, and he threw off his cap to show that he was ready and
willing to accept the challenge, when suddenly Layton sprang between
them, crying out, "What's the meaning of all this?"

"The meaning is, that your young friend there has taken the liberty,
first, to smash my fishing-gear, and then to be very insolent to me, and
that I had very serious intentions of sending him to look for the one
and pay forfeit for the other."

"Yes, I broke his rod, and I 'll pay for it, or, if he's a gentleman,
I'll beg his pardon, or fight him," said the boy, in a tone of
ill-repressed anger.

"When there is an evident mistake somewhere," said Layton, gently, "it
only needs a moment of forbearance to set it right."

"Here's how it all happened," broke in the boy, eagerly. And in a few
words he related his chance arrival at the spot, how he had seen the rod
in what he deemed imminent danger, and how with the best intentions he
had interfered to save it.

"I beg you to accept all my excuses for what I have said to you," said
Heathcote, with a frank and manly courtesy. "I am quite ashamed of my
ill-temper, and hope you'll forgive it."

"To be sure I will. But what about the rod,--you can't easily get such
another in these parts?"

The boy looked eagerly at Layton as he spoke. Layton as quickly gave an
admonitory glance of caution, and the youth's instinctive good breeding
understood it.

"I think you came over with a party of friends to see the villa," said
Heathcote, to relieve the awkward pause between them.

"Not friends, exactly; people of our hotel."

Heathcote smiled faintly, and rejoined,--

"Some of our pleasantest acquaintances come of chance intimacies,--don't
you think so?"

"Oh, for the matter of that, they 're jolly enough. There's a wonderful
Londoner, and a rare Yankee, and there's an Irishman would make the
fortune of the Haymarket."

"You must own, Harry, they are all most kind and good-natured to you,"
said Layton, in a tone of mild half-rebuke.

"Well, ain't I just as--what shall I call it?--polite and the like to
them? Ay, Layton, frown away as much as you like, they're a rum lot."

"It is young gentlemen of this age who nowadays are most severe on the
manners and habits of those they chance upon in a journey, not at all
aware that, as the world is all new to them, their criticism may have
for its object things of every-day frequency."

The youth looked somewhat vexed at this reproof, but said nothing.

"I have the same unlucky habit myself," said Heathcote, good-humoredly.
"I pronounce upon people with wonderfully little knowledge of them,
and no great experience of the world neither; and--case in point--your
American acquaintance is exactly one of those I feel the very strongest
antipathy to. We have met at least a dozen times during the winter and
autumn, and the very thought of finding _him_ in a place would decide
_me_ to leave it."

It was not Layton's business to correct what he deemed faulty in this
sentiment; but in the sharp glance he threw towards his pupil, he
seemed to convey his disapproval of it.

"'My Coach,' Mr. Layton, is dying to tell us both we are wrong, sir,"
said the boy; "he likes the 'kernal.'" And this he said with a nasal
twang whose imitation was not to be mistaken.

Though Heathcote laughed at the boy's mimicry, his attention was
more taken by the expression "my Coach," which not only revealed
the relations of tutor and pupil between them, but showed, by its
familiarity, that the youth stood in no great awe of his preceptor.

Perhaps Layton had no fancy for this liberty before a stranger; perhaps
he felt ashamed of the position itself; perhaps he caught something in
Heathcote's quick glance towards him,--whatever it was, he was irritated
and provoked, and angrily bit his lip, without uttering a word.

"Oh, here come the sight-seers! they are doing the grounds, and the
grottos, and the marble fountains," cried the boy, as a large group came
out from a flower-garden and took their way towards an orangery. As they
issued forth, however, Mrs. Morris stopped to caress a very large
St. Bernard dog, who lay chained at the foot of an oak-tree. Charles
Heathcote had not time to warn her of her danger, when the animal sprang
fiercely at her. Had she not fallen suddenly backward, she must have
been fearfully mangled; as it was, she received a severe wound in the
wrist, and, overcome by pain and terror together, sank fainting on the
sward.

For some time the confusion was extreme. Some thought that the dog was
at liberty, and fled away in terror across the park; others averred
that he was--must be--mad, and his bite fatal; a few tried to be useful;
but Quackinboss hurried to the river, and, filling his hat with water,
sprinkled the cold face of the sufferer and washed the wound, carefully
binding it up with his handkerchief in a quick, business-like way, that
showed he was not new to such casualties.

Layton meanwhile took charge of the little girl, whose cries and screams
were heartrending.

"What a regular day of misfortunes, this!" said Agin-court, as he
followed the mournful procession while they carried the still fainting
figure back to the house. "I fancy you 'll not let another batch of
sight-seers into your grounds in a hurry."

"The ill-luck has all befallen our guests," said Heathcote. "Our share
of the mishap is to be associated with so much calamity."

All that care and kindness could provide waited on Mrs. Morris, as she
was carried into the villa and laid on a bed. May Leslie took all upon
herself, and while the doctor was sent for, used such remedies as she
had near. It was at once decided that she should not be removed, and
after some delay the company departed without her; the day that had
dawned so pleasantly thus closing in gloom and sadness, and the party so
bent on amusement returned homeward depressed and dispirited.

[Illustration: 066]

"They 're mean vicious, these Alp dogs, and never to be trusted," said
Quackinboss.

"Heroines will be heroines," said Mrs. Morgan, gruffly.

"Or rather won't be heroines when the occasion comes for it. She fainted
off like a school-girl," growled out Morgan.

"I should think she did!" muttered Mosely, "when she felt the beast's
teeth in her."

"A regular day of misfortunes!" repeated Agincourt.

"And we lost the elegant fine luncheon, too, into the bargain," said
O'Shea. "Every one seemed to think it wouldn't be genteel to eat after
the disaster."

"It is the fate of pleasure parties," said Layton, moodily. And so they
jogged on in silence.

And thus ended a day of pleasure, as many have ended before it.

Assuredly, they who plan picnics are not animated by the spirit of an
actuary. There is a marvellous lack of calculation in their composition,
since, of all species of entertainment, there exists not one so much at
the mercy of accident, so thoroughly dependent for success on everything
going right. Like the Walcheren expedition, the "wind must not only blow
from the right point, but with a certain graduated amount of force."
What elements of sunshine and shade, what combinations of good spirits
and good temper and good taste! what guidance and what moderation, what
genius of direction and what "respect for minorities"! We will not enter
upon the material sources of success, though, indeed, it should be owned
they are generally better looked to, and more cared for, than the moral
ingredients thus massed and commingled.

It was late when the party reached the Bagni, and, wishing each other a
half-cold good-night, separated.

And now, one last peep at the villa, where we have left the sufferer. It
was not until evening that the Heathcotes had so far recovered from the
shock of the morning's disaster and its consequences as to be able to
meet and talk over the events, and the actors in them.

"Well," said Sir William, as they all sat round the tea-table, "what do
you say to my Yankee now? Of all that company, was there one that showed
the same readiness in a difficulty, a quick-witted aptitude to do the
right thing, and at the same time so unobtrusively and quietly that when
everything was over it was hard to say who had done it?"

"I call him charming. I'm in ecstasies with him," said May, whose
exaggerations of praise or censure were usually unbounded.

"I 'm quite ready to own he 'came out' strong in the confusion," said
Charles, half unwillingly; "but it was just the sort of incident that
such a man was sure to figure well in."

"Show me the man who is active and ready-minded in his benevolence, and
I 'll show you one who has not to go far into his heart to search for
generous motives. I maintain it, Quackinboss is a fine fellow!" There
was almost a touch of anger in Sir William's voice as he said these
words, as though he would regard any disparagement of the American as an
offence to himself.

"I think Charley is a little jealous," said May, with a sly malice;
"he evidently wanted to carry the wounded lady himself, when that great
giant interposed, and, seizing the prize, walked away as though he were
only carrying a baby."

"I fancied it was the tutor was disappointed," said Charles; "and the
way he devoted his cares to the little girl, when deprived of the mamma,
convinced me he was the party chiefly interested."

"Which was the tutor?" asked May, hastily. "You don't mean the man with
all the velvet on his coat?"

"No, no; that was Mr. O'Shea, the Irish M.P., who, by the way, paid
_you_ the most persevering attention."

"A hateful creature, insufferably pretentious and impertinent! The tutor
was, then, the pale young man in black?"

"A nice, modest fellow," broke in Sir William; "and a fine boy that
young Marquis of Agincourt. I 'm glad you asked him up here, Charles. He
is to come on Tuesday, is he not?"

"Yes, I said Tuesday, because I can't get my tackle to rights
before that; and I promised to make him a fly-fisher. I owe him the
reparation."

"You included the tutor, of course, in your invitation?" asked his
father.

"No. How stupid! I forgot him altogether."

"Oh! that was too bad," said May.

"Indeed," cried Charles, turning towards her with a look of such
malicious significance that she blushed deeply, and averted her head.

"Let us invite them all up here for Tuesday, May," said Sir William.
"It would be very unfair if they were to carry away only a disagreeable
memory of this visit. Let us try and efface the first unhappy
impression."

"All right," said Charles, "and I'll dash off a few lines to Mr. Layton,
I think his name is, to say that we expect he will favor us with his
company for a few days here. Am I not generosity itself, May?" said he,
in a low whisper, as he passed behind her chair.

A blush still deeper than the first, and a look of offended pride, were
her only answer.

"I must go in search of these good people's cards, for I forget some of
their names," said Charles; "though I believe I remember the important
ones."

This last sally was again directed towards May, but she, apparently, did
not hear it.

"Who knows but your patient upstairs may be well enough to meet her
friends, May?" said Sir William.

"Perhaps so. I can't tell," answered she, vaguely; for she had but heard
him imperfectly, and scarcely knew what she was replying.



CHAPTER VI. THE MEMBER FOR INCHABOGUE

Mr. O'Shea lay in his bed at the Bagni di Lucca. It was late in the
afternoon, and he had not yet risen, being one of those who deem, to
travesty the poet,--

     That the best of all ways
                  To shorten our days
     Is to add a few hours to the night, my dear.

In other words, he was ineffably bored and wearied, sick of the place,
the people, and himself, and only wearing over the time as one might do
the stated term of an imprisonment His agent--Mr. Mahony, the celebrated
Mr. Miles Mahony, who was agent for all the Irish gentlemen of Mr.
O'Shea's politics, and who has either estates very much encumbered,
or no estates at all--had written him that letter, which might be
stereotyped in every agent's office, and sent off indiscriminately by
post, at due intervals, to any of the clients, for there was the same
bead-roll of mishaps and calamities Ireland has been suffering under for
centuries. Take any traveller or guide-book experience of the land, and
it is a record of rain that never ceased. The Deluge was a passing April
shower compared to the national climate. Ask any proprietor, however,
more especially if a farmer, and he would tell you, "We're ruined,
entirely ruined, with the drought,"--perhaps he 'd have called it
"druth." "If the rain doesn't fall before twenty-four hours, there will
be no potatoes, no grass, no straw, the wheat won't fill, the cattle
will be destroyed," and so on; just as if the whole population was not
soaked through like a wet sponge, and the earth a sludge of mud and
swamp, to which Holland seems a sand-bank in comparison! Then came the
runaway tenants, only varied by those who couldn't be induced to "run"
on any terms. There was the usual "agrarian outrage," with the increased
police force quartered on the barony in consequence, and perhaps a
threat of a special commission, with more expense besides. There was the
extract of the judge's charge, saying that he never remembered so "heavy
a calendar," the whole winding up with an urgent appeal to send over
ten or twenty pounds to repair the chapel or the priest's house, or
contribute to some local object, "at your indifference to which there is
very great discontent at this moment."

A pleasant postcript also mentioned that a dissolution of Parliament
was daily expected, and that it would be well you 'd "come home and
look after the borough, where the Tories were working night and day to
increase their influence."

"Bad luck to them for Tories!" muttered he, as he threw the crumpled
document from him. "I 'd have been well off to-day if it was n't for
them. There's no telling the money the contested elections cost me,
while, to make out that I was a patriot, I could n't take a place, but
had to go on voting and voting out of the purity of my motives. It was
an evil hour when I took to politics at all. Joe! Joe!" cried he, aloud,
following up the appeal with a shrill whistle.

"Tear and ages, sure the house isn't on fire!" said a man, rushing into
the room with an air and manner that little indicated the respect due
from a servant to his master; "not to say," added he, "that it's not
dacent or becomin' to whistle after me, as if I was a tarrier or a
bull-dog."

"Hold your prate, will you?" said Mr. O'Shea.

"Why would I? 'Tis humiliated I am before all in the place."

"Will you hold your prate?" muttered his master, in a deeper tone,
while, stretching forth his hand, he seemed in search of any missile to
hurl at his mutinous follower.

"If I do, then, it's undher protest, mind that I put it on record that I
'm only yieldin' to the 'vis magiory.'"

"What o'clock is it?" yawned out O'Shea.

"It wants a trifle of four o'clock."

"And the day,--what's it like?"

"Blazin' hot--hotter than yesterday--'hotter than New Orleens,' Mr.
Quackinbosh says."

"D--n Mr. Quackinbosh, and New Orleens too!" growled out O'Shea.

"With all my heart. He's always laughing at what he calls _my_ Irish, as
if it was n't better than _his_ English."

"Any strangers arrived?"

"Devil a one. Ould Pagnini says he 'll be ruined entirely; there never
was such a set, he says, in the house before,--nothing called for but
the reg'lar meals, and no wine but the drink of the country, that is n't
wine at all."

"He's an insolent scoundrel!"

"He is not He is the dacentest man I seen since I come to Italy."

"Will you hold your prate, or do you want me to kick you downstairs?"

"I do not!" said he, with a stern doggedness that was almost comic.

"Did you order breakfast?"

"I did, when I heard you screech out. 'There he is,' said ould Pan; 'I
wish he 'd be in the same hurry to call for his bill.'"

"Insolent rascal! Did you blacken his eye?"

"I did not"

"What did you do, then?"

"I did nothing."

"What did you say? You're ready enough with a bad tongue when it's not
called for,--what did you say?"

"I said people called for their bills when they were lavin' a house, and
too lucky you 'll be, says I, if he pays it when he calls for it."

This seemed too much for Mr. O'Shea's endurance, for he sprang out of
bed and hurled a heavy old olive-wood inkstand at his follower. Joe,
apparently habituated to such projectiles, speedily ducked his head, and
the missile struck the frame of an old looking-glass, and carried away a
much-ornamented but very frail chandelier at its side.

"There's more of it," said Joe. "Damage to furniture in settin'-room,
forty-six pauls and a half." With this sage reflection, he pushed the
fragments aside with his foot, and then, turning to the door, he took
from the hands of a waiter the tray containing his master's breakfast,
arranging it deliberately before him with the most unbroken tranquillity
of demeanor.

"Did n't you say it was chocolate I'd have instead of coffee?" said
O'Shea, angrily.

"I did not; they grumble enough about sending up anything, and I was n't
goin' to provoke them," said Joe, calmly.

"No letters, I suppose, but this?"

"Sorra one."

"What's going on below?" asked he, in a more lively tone, as though
dismissing an unpleasant theme. "Any one come,--anything doing?"

"Nothing; they 're all off to that villa to spend the day, and not to be
back till late at night."

"Stupid fun, after all; the road is roasting, and the place, when you
get there, not worth the trouble; but they 're so proud of visiting a
baronet, that's the whole secret of it, those vulgar Morgans and that
Yankee fellow."

These mutterings he continued while he went on dressing, and though not
intended to be addressed to Joe, he was in no wise disconcerted when
that free-and-easy individual replied to them.

"'Your master 's not coming with us, I believe,' said Mrs. Morgan to
me. 'I'm sure, however, there must have been a mistake. It 's so strange
that he got no invitation.'

"'But he did, ma'am,' says I; 'he got a card like the rest.'"

"Well done, Joe; a lie never choked you. Go on," cried O'Shea, laughing.

"'But you see, ma'am,' says I, 'my master never goes anywhere in that
kind of promiscuous way. He expects to be called on and trated with
"differince," as becomes a member of Parliament--'

"'For Ireland?' says she.

"'Yes, ma'am,' says I. 'We haven't as many goats there as in other parts
I 'm tould of, nor the females don't ride straddle legs, with men's hats
on thim.'"

"You didn't say that?" burst in O'Shea, with a mock severity.

"I did, and more,--a great deal more. What business was it of hers that
you were not asked to the picnic? What had she to say to it? Why did she
follow me down the street the other morning, and stay watching all
the time I was in at the banker's, and though, when I came out, I made
believe I was stuffin' the bank-notes into my pocket, I saw by the
impudent laugh on her face that she knew I got nothing?"

"By the way, you never told me what Twist and Trover said."

"I did."

"Well, what was it? Tell it again," said O'Shea, angrily.

"Mr. Trover said, 'Of course, whatever your master wants, just step
in there and show it to Mr. Twist;' and Mr. Twist said, 'Are you here
again,' says he, 'after the warnin' I gave you? Go back and tell your
master 't is takin' up his two last bills he ought to be, instead of
passin' more.'

"' Mr. Trover, sir,' says I, 'sent me in.'

"'Well, Mr. Twist sent you out again,' says he, 'and there's your
answer.'

"'Short and sweet,' says I, goin' out, and pretending to be putting up
the notes as I went."

"Did you go down to the other fellow's,--Macapes?"

"I did; but as he seen me coming out of the other place, he only
ballyragged me, and said, 'We only discount for them as has letters of
credit on us.'

"'Well,' says I, 'but who knows that they 're not coming in the post
now?'

"'We 'll wait till we see them,' says he.

"'By my conscience,' says I, 'I hope you 'll not eat your breakfast
till they come.' And so I walked away. Oh dear! is n't it a suspicious
world?"

"It's a rascally world!" broke out O'Shea, with bitterness.

"It is!" assented Joe, with a positive energy there was no gainsaying.

"Is Mr. Layton gone with the rest this morning?"

"He is, and the Marquis. They 're a-horseback on two ponies not worth
fifty shilling apiece."

"And that counter-jumper, Mosely, I'll wager he too thinks himself first
favorite for the heiress."

"Well, then, in the name of all that's lucky, why don't you thry your
own chance?" said Joe, coaxingly.

"Is n't it because I _did_ try that they have left me out of this
invitation? Is n't it because they saw I was like to be the winning
horse that they scratched me out of the race? Is n't it just because
Gorman O'Shea was the man to carry off the prize that they would n't let
me enter the lists?"

"There 's only two more as rich as her in all England," chimed in Joe,
"and one of them will never marry any but the Emperor of Roosia."

"She has money enough!" muttered O'Shea. "And neither father nor mother,
brother, sister, kith or kin," continued Joe, in a tone of exultation
that seemed to say he knew of no such good luck in life as to stand
alone and friendless in the world.

"Those Heathcotes are related to her."

"No more than they are to you. I have it all from Miss Smithers, the
maid. 'We 're as free as air, Mr. Rouse,' says she; 'wherever we have a
"conceit," we can follow it' That's plain talking, anyhow."

"Would you marry Smithers, Joe?" said his master, with a roguish twinkle
in his eye.

"Maybe, if I knew for what; though, by my conscience, she's no beauty!"

"I meant, of course, for a good consideration."

"Not on a bill, though,--money down,--hard money."

"And how much of it?" asked O'Shea, with a knowing look.

"The price of that place at Einsale."

"The 'Trout and Triangle,' Joe?" laughed out his master. "Are you still
yearning after being an innkeeper in your native town?"

"I am just that," replied Joe, solemnly. "'T is what I 'd rather be than
Lord Mayor of Dublin!"

"Well, it is an honorable ambition, no doubt of it. Nothing can be more
reasonable, besides, than a man's desire to fill that station in life
which, to his boyish ideas, seemed high and enviable." This speech Mr.
O'Shea delivered in a tone by which he occasionally turned to rehearse
oratorical effects, and which, by some strange sympathy, always appeared
to please his follower. "Yes, Joe," continued he, "as the poet says,
'The child is father of the man.'"

"You mane the man is father of the child," broke in Joe.

"I do not, booby; I meant what I have said, and what Wordsworth said
before me."

"The more fool he, then. It's nobody's father he 'd be. Arrah! that's
the way you always spoil a fine sintiment with something out of a poet.
Poets and play-actors never helped a man out of a ditch!"

"Will you marry this Smithers, if that be her name?" said O'Shea,
angrily.

"For the place--"

"I mean as much."

"I would, if I was treated--'raysonable,'" said he, pausing for a moment
in search of the precise word he wanted.

Mr. O'Shea sighed heavily; his exchequer contained nothing but promises;
and none knew better than his follower what such pledges were worth.

"It would be the making of you, Joe," said he, after a brief silence,
"if I was to marry this heiress."

"Indeed, it might be," responded the other.

"It would be the grand event of _your_ life, that's what it would be.
What could I not do for you? You might be land-steward; you might be
under-agent, bailiff, driver,--eh?"

"Yes," said Joe, closing his eyes, as if he desired to relish the vision
undisturbed by external distractions.

"I have always treated you as a sort of friend, Joe,--you know that."

"I do, sir. I do, indeed."

"And I mean to prove myself your friend too. It is not the man who has
stuck faithfully by me that I 'd desert. Where's my dressing-gown?"

"She was torn under the arm, and I gave her to be mended; put this
round you," said he, draping a much-befrogged pelisse over his master's
shoulders.

"These are not my slippers, you stupid ass!"

"They are the ould ones. Don't you remember shying one of the others,
yesterday, at the organ-boy, and it fell in the river and was lost?"

Mr. O'Shea's brow darkened as he sat down to his meal. "Tell Pan," said
he, "to send me up some broth and a chop about seven. I must keep the
house to-day, and be indisposed. And do you go over to Lucca, and raise
me a few Naps on my 'rose-amethyst' ring. Three will do; five would be
better, though."

Joe sighed. It was a mission he had so often been charged with and never
came well out of, since his master would invariably insist on hearing
every step of the negotiation, and as unfailingly revenged upon his
envoy all the impertinences to which the treaty gave rise.

"Don't come back with any insolent balderdash about the stone being
false, or having a flaw in it Holditch values it at two hundred and
thirty pounds; and, if it wasn't a family ring, I'd have taken the
money. And, mind you, don't be talking about whose it is,--it 's a
gentleman waiting for his letters--"

"Sure I know," burst in Joe; "his remittances, that ought to be here
every day."

"Just so; and that merely requires a few Naps--"

"To pay his cigars--"

"There's no need of more explanation. Away with you; and tell Bruno
I 'll want a saddle-horse to-morrow, to be here at the door by two
o'clock."

Joe took his departure, and Mr. O'Shea was left to his own meditations.

It may seem a small cause for depression of spirits, but, in truth, it
was always a day of deep humiliation to Mr. O'Shea when his necessities
compelled him to separate himself from that cherished relic, his
great-grandmother's ring. It had been reserved in his family, as a
sort of charm, for generations; his grand-uncle Luke had married on the
strength of it; his own father had flashed it in the eyes of Bath and
Cheltenham, for many a winter, with great success; and he himself had
so significantly pointed out incorrect items in his hotel bills, with
the forefinger that bore it, that landlords had never pressed for
payment, but gone away heart-full of the man who owned such splendor.

It would be a curious subject to inquire how many men have owed their
distinction or success in life to some small adjunct, some adventitious
appendage of this kind; a horse, a picture, a rare bronze, a statue,
a curious manuscript, a fragment of old armor, have made their owners
famous, when they have had the craft to merge their identity in the more
absorbing interest of the wondrous treasure. And thus the man that
owns the winner of the Derby, a great cup carved by Cellini, or a
_chef-d'oeuvre_ of Claude or Turner, may repose upon the fame of
his possession, identified as he is with so much greatness. Oh! ye
possessors of show places, handsome wives, rare gardens, or costly gems,
in what borrowed bravery do ye meet the world! Not that in this happy
category Mr. O'Shea had his niche; no, he was only the owner of a
ring--a rose-amethyst ring--whose purity was perhaps not more above
suspicion than his own. And yet it had done him marvellous service on
more than one occasion. It had astonished the bathers at St. Leonard,
and dazzled the dinner company at Tunbridge Wells; Harrogate had winked
under it, and Malvern gazed at it with awe; and society, so to say, was
divided into those who knew the man from the ring, and those who knew
the ring from the man.



CHAPTER VII. MRS. PENTHONY MORRIS

Our reader has been told how Mrs. Penthony Morris stormed the Villa
Caprini, established herself, child, maid, and Skye terrier within its
walls, and became, ere many days went over, a sort of influence in the
place. It is not in chemistry alone that a single ingredient, minute and
scarce perceptible, can change the property and alter all the quality
of the mass with which it is mingled. Human nature exhibits phenomena
precisely alike, and certain individuals possess the marvellous power
of tingeing the world they mix in, with their own hue and color, and
flavoring society with sweet or bitter, as temper induces them. The
first and most essential quality of such persons is a rapid--an actually
instinctive--appreciation of the characters they meet, even passingly,
in the world's intercourse. They have not to spell out temperaments
slowly and laboriously. To them men's natures are not written in
phonetic signs or dark symbols, but in letters large and legible. They
see, salute, speak with you, and they understand you. Not, perhaps, as
old friends know you, with reference to this or that minute trick of
mind or temper, but, with a far wider range of your character than even
old friends have taken, they know your likes and dislikes, the things
you fear and hope, the weak points you would fortify, and sometimes
the strong ones you would mask,--in a word, for all the purposes of
intercourse, they are able to estimate your strength and weakness, and
all this ere, perhaps, you have noted the accents of their voice or the
color of their eyes.

The lady of whom it is now our business to speak was one of this gifted
class. Whence she came, and how she became such, we are not about to
enter upon. She had had her share of trials, and yet was both young and
good-looking; her good looks in no wise evidencing the vestiges of
any sorrow. Whether a widowed or deserted wife, she bore bereavement
admirably; indeed, so far as one could see, she professed a very rare
ethical philosophy. Her theory was, the world was a very nice world, the
people in it very nice people; life itself a very nice thing; and that
people, generally speaking, only needed their own consent to be very
happy and contented. She had, it is true, some very able adjuncts to
carry out her system. There was scarcely an acquirement that she did not
possess reasonably well; she spoke several languages, sang, rode,
drew, played billiards most gracefully, and could manufacture the most
charming cigarettes that ever were smoked. Some of these are envied
qualities, and suggest envy; but against this she was careful to guard,
and this by a very simple method indeed. In whatever she did, tried, or
attempted, she always asked your advice. She had carefully studied the
effect of the imputed superiority of those who counsel their neighbors,
and she saw in its working one of the most tangible of all human
weaknesses. The tendency to guide and direct others is a very popular
one. Generous people practise it out of their generosity; gentle natures
indulge in the practice in very sympathy. To stern moralists it is an
occasion for the hard lessons they love to inculcate. The young are
pleased with its importance; the old are gratified to exercise their
just prerogative. "Tell me how do you do this;" or, "Teach me how to
correct that;" "What would you advise in _my_ place?" or, "What
reply would you give to that?" are appeals that involve a very subtle
flattery. Every man, and more decisively too, every woman, likes to be
deemed shrewd and worldly-wise. Now, Mrs. Morris had reflected deeply
over this trait, and saw to what good account care and watchfulness
might turn it. He who seeks to be guided by another makes his appeal in
a guise of humility, besides, which is always a flattery, and when this
is done artfully, with every aid from good looks and a graceful
manner, success is rarely wanting; and lastly, it is the only form of
selfishness the world neither resents nor repudiates.

He who comes to you with a perfectly finished tale of his misfortunes,
with "Finis" written on the last volume of his woes, is simply a bore;
whereas he who approaches you while the catastrophe yet hangs impending,
has always an interest attached to him. He may marry the heiress yet,
he may be arrested on that charge of forgery, obtain that Cross of
the Bath, or be shot in that duel; you are at least talking to a man
Fortune has not done with, and this much is something.

Mrs. Morris had been little more than a fortnight domesticated at the
Villa Caprini, where her weakness still detained her, and yet she had
contrived to consult Sir William about her fortune, invested, almost
entirely, in "Peruvians," which her agent, Mr. Halker, had told her were
"excellent;" but whether the people of that name, or the country, or the
celebrated Bark, was the subject of the investment, she really professed
not to know.

To May Leslie she had confided the great secret of her heart,--an
unpublished novel; a story mainly comprised of the sad events of
her own life, and the propriety of giving which to the world was the
disputed question of her existence.

As to Charles, she had consulted him how best to disembarrass herself
of the attentions of Mr. Mosely, who was really become a persecutor.
She owned that in asking his counsel she could not impart to him all the
circumstances which he had a right to be possessed of,--she appealed to
his delicacy not to question her. So that whether wife or widow, he
knew not what she might be, and, in fact, she even made of the obscurity
another subject of his interest, and so involved him in her story that
he could think of nothing else. She managed each of these confidences
with such consummate skill that each believed himself her one sole
trusted friend, depositary of her cares, refuge of her sorrows; and
while thus insinuating herself into a share of their sympathy, she
displayed, as though by mere accident, many of her attractions, and gave
herself an opportunity of showing how interesting she was in her sorrow
and how fascinating in her joy!

The Heathcotes--father, son, and niece--were possessed of a very ample
share of the goods of fortune. They had health, wealth, freedom to live
where and how they liked.

They were well disposed towards each other and towards the world;
inclined to enjoy life, and suited to its enjoyment. But somehow, pretty
much like some mass of complicated machinery, which by default of
some small piece of mechanism--a spring, a screw, or a pinion the
more--stands idle and inert,--all its force useless, all its power
unused, they had no pursuit,--did nothing. Mrs. Morris was exactly
the motive power wanting; and by her agency interests sprang up,
occupations were created, pleasures invented. Without bustle, without
even excitement, the dull routine of the day grew animate; the hours
sped glibly along. Little Clara, too, was no small aid to this change.
In the quiet monotony of a grave household a child's influence is
magical. As the sight of a butterfly out at sea brings up thoughts of
shady alleys and woodbine-covered windows, of "the grass and the flowers
among the grass," so will a child's light step and merry voice throw a
whole flood of sunny associations over the sad-colored quietude of some
old house. Clara was every one's companion and everywhere,--with Charles
as he fished, with May Leslie in the flower-garden, with old Sir
William in the orangery, or looking over pictures beside him in the
long-galleried library.

Mrs. Morris herself was yet too great an invalid for an active life. Her
chair would be wheeled out into the lawn, under the shade of an immense
weeping-ash, and there, during the day, as to some "general staff," came
all the "reports" of what was doing each morning. Newspapers and books
would be littered about her, and even letters brought her to read, from
dear friends, with whose names conversation had made her familiar. A
portion of time was, however, reserved for Clara's lessons, which no
plan or project was ever suffered to invade.

It may seem a somewhat dreary invitation if we ask our readers to assist
at one of these mornings. Pinnock and Mrs. Barbauld and Mangnall are,
perhaps, not the company to their taste, nor will they care to cast up
multiplications, or stumble through the blotted French exercise. Well,
we can only pledge ourselves not to exaggerate the infliction of
these evils. And now to our task. It is about eleven o'clock of a fine
summer's day, in Italy; Mrs. Morris sits at her embroidery-frame, under
the long-branched willow; Clara, at a table near, is drawing, her long
silky curls falling over the paper, and even interfering with her work,
as is shown by an impatient toss of her head, or even a hastier gesture,
as with her hands she flings them back upon her neck.

"It was to Charley I said it, mamma," said she, without lifting her
head, and went on with her work.

"Have I not told you, already, to call him Mr. Charles Heathcote, or Mr.
Heathcote, Clara?"

"But he says he won't have it."

"What an expression,--'won't have it'!"

"Well, I know," cried she, with impatience; and then laughingly said, "I
've forgot, in a hurry, old dear Lindley Murray."

"I beg of you to give up that vile trash of doggerel rhyme. And now what
was it you said to Mr. Heathcote?"

"I told him that I was an only child,--'a violet on a grassy bank, in
sweetness all alone,' as the little book says."

"And then he asked about your papa; if you remembered him?"

"No, mamma."

"He made some mention, some allusion, to papa?"

"Only a little sly remark of how fond he must be of _me_, or _I_ of
_him_."

"And what did you answer?"

"I only wiped my eyes, mamma; and then he seemed so sorry to have given
me pain that he spoke of something else. Like Sir Guyon,--

     "'He talked of roses, lilies, and the rest,
     The shady alley, and the upland swelling;
     Wondered what notes birds warbled in their nest,
     What tales the rippling river then was telling.'"

"And then you left him, and came away?" said her mother.

"Yes, mamma. I said it was my lesson time, and that you were so exact
and so punctual that I did not dare to be late."

"Was it then he asked if mamma had always been your governess, Clara?"

"No; it was May that asked that question. May Leslie has a very pretty
way of pumping, mamma, though you 'd not suspect it She begins with the
usual 'Are you very fond of Italy?' or 'Don't you prefer England?' and
then 'What part of England?'"

Mrs. Morris bit her lip, and colored slightly; and then, laying her work
on her lap, stared steadfastly at the girl, still deeply intent on her
drawing.

"I like them to begin that way," continued Clara. "It costs no trouble
to answer such bungling questions; and whenever they push me closer, I
've an infallible method, mamma,--it never fails."

"What's that?" asked her mother, dryly.

"I just say, as innocently as possible, 'I 'll run and ask mamma; I 'm
certain she 'll be delighted to tell you.' And then, if you only saw
the shame and confusion they get into, saying, 'On no account, Clara
dearest. I had no object in asking. It was mere idle talking,' and so
on. Oh dear! what humiliation all their curiosity costs them!"

"You try to be too shrewd, too cunning, Miss Clara," said her mother,
rebukingly. "It is a knife that often cuts with the handle. Be satisfied
with discovering people's intentions, and don't plume yourself about
the cleverness of finding them out, or else, Clara,"--and here she spoke
more slowly,--"or else, Clara, they will find _you_ out too."

"Oh, surely not, while I continue the thoughtless, guileless little
child mamma has made me," said she. And the tears rose to her eyes, with
an expression of mingled anger and sorrow it was sad to see in one so
young.

"Clara!" cried her mother, in a voice of angry meaning; and then,
suddenly checking herself, she said, in a lower tone, "let there be none
of this."

"Sir William asked me how old I was, mamma."

"And you said--"

"I believed twelve. Is it twelve? I ought to know, mamma, something for
certain, for I was eleven two years ago, and then I have been ten since
that; and when I was your sister, at Brighton, I was thirteen."

"Do you dare--" But ere she said more, the child had buried her head
between her hands, and, by the convulsive motion of her shoulders,
showed that she was sobbing bitterly. The mother continued her work,
unmoved by this emotion. She took occasion, it is true, when lifting up
the ball of worsted which had fallen, to glance furtively towards the
child; but, except by this, bestowed no other notice on her.

"Well," cried the little girl, with a half-wild laugh, as she flung back
her yellow hair, "Anderson says,--

     "'On joy comes grief,--on mirth comes sorrow;
     We laugh to-day, that we may cry to-morrow.'

And I believe one is just as pleasant as the other,--eh, mamma? _You_
ought to know."

"This is one of your naughty days, Clara, and I had hoped we had seen
the last of them," said her mother, in a grave but not severe tone.

"The naughty days are much more like to see the last of _me_," said the
child, half aloud, and with a heavy sigh.

"Clara," said her mother, in the same calm, quiet voice, "I have made
you my friend and my confidante at an age when any other had treated you
with strict discipline and reserve. You have been taught to see life--as
my sad experience revealed it to me, too--too late."

"And for me, too--too soon!" burst in the child, passionately.

"Here 's poor Clara breaking her heart over her exercise," burst in Sir
William, as he came forward, and, stooping over the child, kissed her
twice on the forehead. "Do let me have a favor to-day, and let this be a
holiday."

"Oh, yes, by all means," cried she, eagerly, clapping her hands.

     "The lizard can lie in the sun, and bask
     'Mid the odor of fragrant herbs;
     Little knows he of a wearisome task,
     Or the French irregular verbs.

     "The cicala, too, in the long deep grass,
     All day sings happily,
     And I'd venture to swear
     He has never a care For the odious rule of three.

     "And as for the bee,
     And his industry--"


"Oh, what a rhyme" laughed in Mrs. Morris.

"Oh, let her go on," cried Sir William. "Go on, Clara."

     "And as for the bee,
     And his industry,
     I distrust his toilsome hours,
     For he roves up and down,
     Like a 'man upon town,'
     With a natural taste for flowers.

There, mamma, no more,--not another the whole day long, I promise
you," cried she, as she threw her arms around her neck and kissed her
affectionately.

     "Oh, these doggerel rhymes
     Are like nursery chimes,
     That sang us to sleep long ago.

I declare I'm forgetting already; so I'll go and look for Charley, and
help him to tie greendrakes, and the rest of them."

"What a strange child!" said Sir William, as he looked fondly after her
as she fled across the lawn.

"I have never seen her so thoroughly happy before," said Mrs. Morris,
with a faint sigh. "This lovely place, these delicious gardens, these
charming old woods, the villa itself, so full of objects of interest,
have made up a sort of fairy-tale existence for her which is positive
enchantment. It is, indeed, high time we should tear ourselves away from
fascinations which will leave all life afterwards a very dull affair."

"Oh, that day is very distant, I should hope," said he, with sincere
cordiality; "indeed, my ward and myself were, this very morning,
plotting by what pretext, by what skilful devices, we could induce you
to spend your autumn with us."

Mrs. Morris covered her face, as if to conceal her emotion, but a faint
sob was still audible from beneath her handkerchief. "Oh!" cried she, in
a faint and broken voice, "if you but knew in what a wounded heart you
have poured this balm!--if I could tell--what I cannot tell you--at
least, not yet--No, no, Sir William, we must leave this. I have already
written to my agent about letters for Alexandria and Cairo. You know,"
she added, with a sad smile, "the doctors have sentenced me to Egypt for
the winter."

"These fellows are mere alarmists. Italy is the best climate in the
world, or, rather, it has all the climates in the world; besides, I have
some wonderful counsel to give you about your bonds. I intend that Miss
Clara shall be the great heiress of her day. At all events, you shall
settle it with May." And so, with that dread of a scene, a sort of
terror about everything emotional,--not very unnatural in gentlemen of
a certain time of life, and with strong sanguineous temperaments,--Sir
William hurried away and left her to her own reflections.

Thus alone, Mrs. Morris took a letter from her pocket, and began to
read it. Apparently the document had been perused by her before, for she
passed hastily over the first page, scarcely skimming the lines with
her eye. It was as if to give increased opportunity for judgment on the
contents that she muttered the words as she read them. They ran thus:--

"A month or six weeks back our proposal might have been accepted, so at
least Collier thinks; but he is now in funds, has money in abundance,
and _you_ know _what_ he is at such moments. When Collier went to him at
his lodgings in King Street, he found him in high spirits, boasting that
he occupied the old quarters of the French Emperor,--that he had even
succeeded to his arm-chair and his writing-table. 'A splendid augury,
Tom,' said he, laughing. 'Who knows but I, too, shall be "restored" one
of these days?' After some bantering he stopped suddenly, and said, '
By the way, what the devil brings you here? Is n't it something about
Loo? They say you want to marry her yourself, Collier,--is that true?'
Not heeding C.'s denial, given in all solemnity, he went on to show that
you could be no possible use to Collier,--that he himself could utilize
your abilities, and give your talents a fitting sphere; whereas In
Collier's set you would be utterly lost C. said it was as good as a play
to hear his talk of all the fine things you might have done, and might
yet do, in concert. 'Then there's Clara, too,' cried he, again; 'she
'll make the greatest hit of our day. She can come out for a season at
the Haymarket, and she can marry whoever she likes.' Once in this vein,
it was very hard to bring him back to anything like a bargain. Indeed,
Collier says he would n't hear of any but immense terms,--ridiculed
the notion of your wanting to be free, for mere freedom's sake, and
jocularly said, 'Tell me frankly, whom does _she_ want to marry? or who
wants to marry _her!_ I 'm not an unreasonable fellow if I 'm treated on
"the square."' Collier assured him that you only desired liberty, that
you might take your own road in life. 'Then let her take it, by all
means,' cried he. 'I am not molesting her,--never have molested her,
even when she went so far as to call herself by another name; she need
n't cry out before she's hurt;' and so on. C. at last brought him
to distinct terms, and he said, 'She shall cut the painter for five
thousand; she's worth to me every guinea of it, and I'll not take less.'
Of course, Collier said these were impossible conditions; and then
they talked away about other matters. You know his boastful way, and how
little reliance can be laid on any statement he makes; but certain it
is, Collier came away fully impressed with the flourishing condition
of his present fortune, his intimacy with great people, and his actual
influence with men in power. That this is not entirely fabulous I have
just received a most disagreeable proof. When Collier rose to go away,
he said, 'By the way, you occasionally see Nick Holmes; well, just give
him a hint to set his house in order, for they are going to stop payment
of that Irish pension of his. It appears, from some correspondence
of Lord Cornwallis that has just turned up, Nick's pension was to be
continued for a stated term of years, and that he has been in receipt of
it for the last six years without any right whatever. It is very hard on
Nick,' said he, 'seeing that he sold himself to the devil, not at least
to be his own master in this world. I 'm sorry for the old dog on family
grounds, for he is at least one of my father-in-laws.' I quote his words
as Collier gave them, and to-day I have received a Treasury order to
forward to the Lords a copy of the letter or warrant under which I
received my pension. I mean simply to refer them to my evidence on
Shehan's trial, where my testimony hanged both father and son. If this
incident shows nothing else, it demonstrates the amount of information
he has of what is doing or to be done in Downing Street As to the
pension, I 'm not much afraid; my revelations of 1808 would be worse
than the cost of me in the budget.

"If I find that nothing can be done with Ludlow, I don't think I shall
remain here longer, and the chances are that I shall take a run as far
as Baden, and who says not over the Alps after? Don't be frightened,
dear Loo, we shall meet at the same _table d'hôte_, drink at the same
public spring, bet on the same card at _rouge-et-noir_, and I will never
betray either of us. Of your Heathcotes I can learn next to nothing.
There was a baronet of the name who ruined himself by searches after a
title--an earldom, I believe--and railroad speculations, but he died, or
is supposed to have died, abroad. At all events, your present owners of
the name keep a good house, and treat you handsomely, so that there
can be no great mistake in knowing them. Sufficient for the day is the
evil--as the old saying is; and it is a wise one if we understood how to
apply it.

"I have been twice with Hadson and Reames, but there is nothing to be
done. They say that the town does not care for a wife's book against
her husband; they have the whole story better told, and on oath, in the
Divorce Court. A really slashing volume of a husband against his wife
might, however, take; he could say a number of things would amuse
the public, and have a large sympathy with him. These are Hadson's or
Reames's words, I don't know which, for they always talk together. How
odd that _you_ should have thought of the ballet for Clara just as I
had suggested it! Of course, till free of Ludlow, it is out of the
question. I am sorry to seal and send off such a disagreeable letter,
dear Louisa, but who knows the sad exigencies of this weary world better
than your affectionate father,

"N. Holmes.

"I accidentally heard yesterday that there was actually a Mrs. Penthony
Morris travelling somewhere in Switzerland. Washington Irving, I
believe, once chanced upon a living Ichabod Crane, when he had flattered
himself that the name was his own invention. The complication in the
present case might be embarrassing. So bear it in mind."

"Tant pie pour elle, whoever the other Mrs. Morris may be," said she,
laughing, as she folded up the letter, and half mechanically regarded
the seal. "You ought to change your crest, respectable father mine,"
muttered she; "the wags might say that your portcullis was a gallows."
And then, with a weary sigh, she closed her eyes, and fell a-thinking.

That quiet, tranquil, even-tempered category of mankind, whose present
has few casualties, and whose future is, so far as human foresight can
extend, assured to them, can form not the slightest conception of the
mingled pleasure and pain that chequer the life of "the adventurer." The
man who consents to gamble existence, has all the violent ecstasies of
joy and grief that wait on changeful fortunes.

"Shall I hit upon the right number this time? Will red win once more?
Is the run of luck good or ill, or, it may be, exhausted?" These
are questions ever rising to his mind; and what contrivance, what
preparation, what spirit of exigency do they evoke! Theirs is a
hand-to-hand conflict with Fate; they can subsidize no legions, skulk
behind no parapets; in open field must the war be carried on; and what
a cruel war it becomes when every wound festers into a crime!

This young and pretty woman, on whose fair features not a painful
line was traced, and whose beautifully chiselled mouth smiled with
a semblance of inward peace, was just then revolving thoughts little
flattering to humanity generally. She had, all young as she was, arrived
at the ungracious conclusion that what are called the good are mere
dupes, and that every step in life's ladder only lifts us higher and
higher out of the realm of kindly sympathies and affections. Reading the
great moralist in a version of their own, such people deem all virtue
"vanity," and the struggles and sacrifices it entails, "vexation of
spirit." Let us frankly own that Mrs. Morris did not lose herself in any
world of abstractions; she was eminently practical, and would no more
have thrown away her time in speculations on humanity generally than
would a whist-player, in the crisis of the odd trick, have suffered his
mind to wander away to the manufactory where the cards were made, and
the lives and habits of those who made them.

And now she had to think over Sir William, of whom she was half afraid;
of Charles, whom she but half liked; and of May, whom she half envied.
There were none of them very deep or difficult to read, but she had seen
enough of life to know that many people, like fairy tales, are simple
in perusal, but contain some subtle maxim, some cunning truth, in their
moral. Were these of this order? She could not yet determine; how,
therefore, should we? And so we leave her.



CHAPTER VIII. PORT-NA-WHAPPLE

Although time has not advanced, nor any change of season occurred to
tinge the landscape with colder hues, we are obliged to ask our reader's
company to a scene as unlike the sunny land we have been sojourning in
as possible. It is a little bay on the extreme north coast of Ireland,
closely landlocked by rugged cliffs, whose basalt formation indicates
a sort of half-brotherhood with the famed Causeway. Seen from the tall
precipices above, on a summer's day, when a vertical sunlight would
have fallen on the strip of yellow crescent-like beach along which
white-crested waves slowly came and went, the spot was singularly
beautiful, and the one long, low, white cottage which faced the sea
would have seemed a most enviable abode, so peaceful, so calm it looked.
Closely girt in on three sides by rocky cliffs, whose wild, fantastic
outlines presented every imaginable form, now rising in graceful
pinnacles and minarets, now standing out in all the stern majesty of
some massive fortress or donjon keep, some blue and purple heaths might
be seen clothing the little shelves of rock, and, wherever a deeper
cleft occurred, some tall, broad-leaved ferns; but, except these, no
other vegetation was to be met with. Indeed, the country for miles
around displayed little else than the arid yellowish grass that springs
from light sandy soil, the scant pasturage of mountain sheep. Directly
in front of the bay, and with a distinctness occasionally startling,
might be seen rising up from the sea a mass of stately cliffs, which
seemed like a reflection of the Causeway. This was Staffa, something
more than thirty-odd miles off, but which, in the thin atmosphere of
a calm day, might easily be traced out from the little cove of
Port-na-Whapple.

Port-na-Whapple had once been a noted spot amongst fishermen; the
largest "takes" of salmon--and of the finest fish on the coast--had been
made there. For three or four weeks in the early autumn the little bay
was the scene of a most vigorous activity, the beach covered with rude
huts of branches and boat canvas, the strand crowded with people, all
busily engaged salting, drying, or packing the fish; boats launching, or
standing in, deep-laden with their speckled freight; great fires blazing
in every sheltered nook, where the cares of household were carried on in
common, for the fishermen who frequented the place lived like one large
family. They came from the same village in the neighborhood, and, from
time out of mind, had resorted to this bay as to a spot especially and
distinctively their own. They had so identified themselves with the
place that they were only known as Port-na-Whapple men; a vigorous,
stalwart, sturdy race of fellows were they, too, that none molested or
interfered with willingly.

About forty years before the time we now speak of, a new proprietor had
succeeded to the vast estate, which had once belonged to the Mark-Kers,
and he quickly discovered that the most valuable part of his inheritance
consisted in the fishing royalties of the coast To assert a right
to what nobody ever believed was the actual property of any one in
particular, was not a very easy process. Had the Port-na-Whapple men
been told that the air they breathed, or the salt sea they traversed,
were heritable, they could as readily have believed it, as that any one
should assert his claim to the strip of sandy beach where they and their
fathers before them had fished for ages.

Sir Archibald Beresford, however, was not a man to relinquish a claim he
had once preferred; he had right and parchment on his side, and he cared
very little for prescription, or what he called the prejudices of a
barbarous peasantry. He went vigorously to work, served the trespassers
with due notice to quit, and proceeded against the delinquents at
sessions. For years and years the conflict lasted, with various and
changeful successes. Now, the landlord would seem triumphant, he had
gained his decree, taken ont his execution against the nets, the boats,
and the tackle, but when the hour of enforcing the law arrived, his
bailiffs had been beaten ignominiously from the field, and the fishermen
left in full possession of the territory. Driven to desperation by the
stubborn resistance, Sir Archy determined on a bolder stand. He erected
a cottage on the beach, and established himself there with a strong
garrison of retainers well armed, and prepared to defend their rights.
Port-na-Whapple was at length won, and although some bloody affrays
did occasionally occur between the rival parties, the fishermen were
compelled to abandon the station and seek a livelihood elsewhere.

With a confidence inspired by some years of security, Sir Archy
diminished his garrison, till at length it was his habit to come down to
the bay accompanied by only a single servant. The old feud appeared to
have died out; not, indeed, that the landlord met those signs of respect
from his tenantry which imply good understanding between them; no
welcome met him when he came, no regrets followed him when he departed,
and even few of the country people accorded the courtesy of touching
their hat as they met him passingly on the road. He was a "hard man,"
however, and cared little for such slights. At length--it was a season
when he had exceeded his usual stay at the coast--there came a period of
great distress amongst the fishermen. Day after day the boats went out
and returned empty. It was in vain that they passed days and nights
at sea, venturing far out upon that wild northern ocean,--the most
treacherous in existence,--in vain they explored the bays, more perilous
still than the open sea. Their sole subsistence was derived from the
sea, and what was to be done? Gaunt famine was stamped on many a hardy
face, and strong men dragged their limbs lazily and languidly, as if in
sickness. As Sir Archy had never succeeded in obtaining a tenant for the
royalty of Port-na-Whapple, he amused himself gaffing the salmon, which
he from time to time sent as presents to his friends; and even now, in
this season of dearth, many a well-filled hamper found its way up the
steep cliffs to be despatched to some remote corner of the kingdom.
It was on one of these days that an enormous fish--far too big for
any basket--was carefully encased in a matting, and sent off by the
Coleraine coach, labelled, "The largest ever gaffed at Port-na-Whapple."
Many an eye, half glazed with hunger, saw the fish, and gazed on the
superscription as it was sent into the village, and looks of ominous
meaning were cast over the deep cliffs towards the little cottage below.
The morning after this, while Sir Archibald's servant was at the post
for his letters, a boat rowed into the little cove, and some men, having
thrown out the anchor, waded ashore.

"What brings you here, fellows?" cried Sir Archy, haughtily, as he met
them on the beach.

"We are come to gaff a bigger fish than yours o' yesterday," said the
foremost, striking him on the forehead with the handle of the gaff;
and he passed the spear through his heart while he yet reeled under the
blow.

[Illustration: 092]

Notwithstanding the most active exertions of the Government of the day
and the local magistrature, the authors of the foul deed were never
discovered, and although there could be no doubt they were well known
to a large population, none betrayed them. More strange still, from that
day and hour not a fish was ever taken at Port-na-Whapple!

The property had fallen into Chancery, and, the interests of the
claimants not being very closely guarded, the fishermen were again at
liberty to fish wherever they pleased. The privilege was of no
value; the fish had deserted the spot, and even when they swarmed at
Carrig-a-rede, and all along the shore, not one ever was taken there!
That the place was deemed "uncannie," and that none frequented it, need
not cause any wonder, and so the little cottage fell into ruin, the
boat-house was undermined by the sea and carried away, and even of the
little boat-pier only a few bare piles now remained to mark the place,
when at length there arrived, from Dublin, a doctor to take charge of
the Ball in-tray Dispensary, and, not being able to find a habitable
spot in the village, he was fain to put the old cottage in repair,
little influenced by the superstition that attached to the unholy place.

He was an elderly man, whose family consisted of his wife and a single
servant, and who, from the day of his first arrival, showed a
decided repugnance to forming acquaintance with any, or holding other
intercourse with his neighbors than what the cares of his profession
required. In person he was tall, and even stately; his features those
of a man once handsome, but now disfigured by two red blotches over the
eyes, and a tremulousness of the nether lip, indications of long
years of dissipation, which his watery eye and shaking hand abundantly
confirmed. Either, too, from a consciousness of his infirmity, or
a shame not less deeply rooted, he never met the eyes of those he
addressed, but turned his gaze either askance or to the ground, giving
him then an expression very different from the look he wore when alone
and unobserved. At such times the face was handsome but haughty, a
character of almost defiant pride in the eye, while the angles of
the mouth were slightly drawn down, as one sees in persons of proud
temperament. A few words will suffice for so much of his history as the
reader need know. Herbert Layton had the proud distinction of being a
Fellow of Trinity College, Dublin, at the age of twenty-one, and, three
years later, won, against many distinguished competitors, the chair
of medicine in the university. His whole academic career had been a
succession of triumphs, and even able men made this excuse for not
obtaining honors, that they were "in Layton's division." His was one of
those rare natures to which acquirements the most diverse and opposite
are easy. The most critical knowledge of the classics was combined in
him with a high-soaring acquaintance with science, and while he carried
away the gold medal for verse composition, the very same week announced
him as prizeman for microscopic researches. And while he thus swept the
college of honors, he was ever foremost in all athletic games and manly
exercises. Indeed, the story goes that the gown in which he won his
fellowship had been hastily thrown over the jacket of the cricketer. If
the blemish served to afflict those who felt the truest friendship for
him, it rather contributed to exaggerate the prestige of his name that
he was haughty and even overbearing in manner; not meanly condescending
to be vain of his successes and the high eminence he had won,--far from
it, no man treated such triumphs with such supercilious levity, boldly
declaring that they were within the reach of all, and that it was a
simple question of application to any,--his proud demeanor had its
source in a certain sense of self-reliance, and a haughty conviction
that the occasion had not come--might never come--to show the world the
great "stuff that was in him;" and thus, many a rumor ran, "Layton is
sorry for having taken to medicine; it can lead to nothing: at the Bar
he must have gained every eminence, entered Parliament, risen Heaven
knows to what or where. Layton cannot conceal his dissatisfaction with a
career of no high rewards." And thus they sought for the explanation of
that demeanor which hurt the pride of many and the sympathy of all.

Partly from the aggressive nature of the passion of self-esteem, never
satisfied if with each day it has not made further inroad, partly,
perhaps, from the estrangement of friends, wearied out by endless
pretensions, Layton at last lived utterly companionless and alone. His
habits of hard work made this the less remarkable; but stories were
soon abroad that he had abandoned himself to drink, and that the hours
believed to be passed in study were in reality spent in debauch and
intoxication. His appearance but unhappily gave some corroboration to
the rumor. He had grown careless in his dress, slouching in his walk;
his pale, thoughtful face was often flushed with a glow exercise never
gives; and his clear bright eye no longer met another's with boldness.
He neglected, besides, all his collegiate duties, his pupils rarely
could obtain sight of him, his class-room was always deserted, a
brief notice "that the Regius Professor was indisposed, and would not
lecture," remaining affixed to the door for the entire session.

While this once great reputation was thus crumbling away, there arose
another, and, the time considered, a far more dangerous imputation. It
was the terrible period of 1807, and men said that Layton was deep in
all the designs of the Emmet party. So completely was the insurrection
limited to men of the very humbler walks in life, so destitute was the
cause of all support from persons of station or influence, that it is
scarcely possible to picture the shock--almost passing belief--of the
world when this report began to gain currency and credit Were the public
to-morrow to learn that some great and trusted political leader was
found out to be secretly in the pay of France or Russia, it would not
excite more incredulous horror than at that day was caused by imputing
rebellious projects to Herbert Layton.

The honor of the University was too deeply involved to suffer such a
charge to be rashly circulated. The board summoned the Regius Professor
to attend before them. He returned his reply to the summons on the back
of a letter constituting him a member of the "United Irishmen," the
great rebel association of the day. As much out of regard to their own
fame, as in pity for a rashness that might have cost him his life, they
destroyed the document and deprived him of his fellowship.

From the day that he wandered forth a ruined, houseless, destitute man,
little is known of him. At long intervals of time, men would say, "Could
that have been poor Herbert, that 'Layton,' taken up by the police for
drunkenness, or accused of some petty crime? Was it he who was charged
with sending threatening letters to this one, or making insolent demands
on that?" Another would say, "I could swear I saw Layton as a witness
in one of those pot-house trials where the course of law proceedings is
made the matter of vulgar jest" Another met him hawking quack medicines
in a remote rural district.

It is not necessary we should follow him through these changes, each
lower than the last in degradation. We arrive by a bound at a period
when he kept a small apothecary's shop in a little village of North
Wales, and where, with seeming reformation of character, he lived
discreetly, and devoted himself assiduously to the education of an only
son.

By dint of immense effort, and sacrifices the most painful, he succeeded
in entering his boy at Cambridge; but in his last year, his means
failing, he had obtained a tutorship for him,--no less a charge than
that of the young Marquis of Agincourt,--an appointment to which his
college tutor had recommended him. Almost immediately after this, a
vacancy occurring in the little village of Ballintray for a dispensary
doctor, Layton applied for the appointment, and obtained it. Few,
indeed, of the electors had ever heard of his name, but all were
astonished at the ample qualifications tendered by one willing to accept
such humble duties. The rector of the parish, Dr. Millar, was, though
his junior, perhaps, the only one well conversant with Layton's story,
for he had been his contemporary at the University.

On the two or three occasions on which they met, Dr. Millar never
evinced by the slightest allusion any knowledge of the other's
antecedents. He even, by adroit reference to English life and habits,
in contradistinction to Irish, seemed to infer that his experiences were
more at home there; and whatever might have been Layton's own secret
promptings, there was nothing in the clergyman's manner to provoke the
slightest constraint or awkwardness.

The reader is now sufficiently informed to accompany us to the
little cottage on the beach of Port-na-Whapple. It is a warm autumnal
afternoon, the air calm and still, but the great sea comes heaving in,
wave swelling after wave, as though moved by a storm. Strange contrast
to that loud thundering ocean the little peaceful cottage, whose blue
smoke rises in a thin, straight column into the air. The door is open,
and a few ducks, with their young brood, are waddling up and down the
blue stone step, as though educating their young in feats of difficulty
and daring. On a coarse wooden perch within the hall sits a very old
gray parrot, so old that his feathers have assumed a sort of half-woolly
look, and his bleared eyes only open at intervals, as though he had seen
quite enough of this world already, and could afford to take it easily.
In the attitude of the head, partially thrown forward and slightly on
one side, there is a mock air of thought and reflection, marvellously
aided by a habit the creature has of muttering to himself such little
broken ends of speech as he possesses. Layton had bought him a great
many years back, having fancied he could detect a resemblance in him
to a once famed vice-provost of Trinity, after whom he called him "Dr.
Barret," a name the bird felt proud of, as well he might, and seemed
even now, in his half dotage, to warm up on hearing it. Through the open
door of a little room adjoining might be seen a very pale, sickly woman,
who coughed almost incessantly as she bent over an embroidery-frame.
Though not much more than middle-aged, her hair was perfectly white, and
deep discolorations--the track of tears for many a day--marked her worn
cheeks.

On the opposite side of the hall, in a small room whose furniture was
an humble truckle-bed, and a few shelves with physic-bottles, the doctor
was engaged at his toilet, if by so pretentious a term we may record the
few preparations he was making to render his every-day appearance more
presentable. As he stood thus in trousers and shirt, his broad chest
and powerful neck exposed, he seemed to testify even yet to the athletic
vigor of one who was known as the best hurler and racket-player of his
day. He had been swimming a long stretch far out to sea, and air and
exercise together had effaced many of those signs of dissipation which
his face usually wore, while in his voice there was a frank boldness
that only came back to him at some rare intervals.

"I can fancy, Grace," cried he, loud enough to be heard across the hall,
"that Millar is quite proud of his condescension. The great rector of
the parish, man of fortune besides, stooping to invite the dispensary
doctor! Twelve hundred per annum associating with eighty! To be sure he
says, 'You will only meet two friends and neighbors of mine,' as though
to intimate, 'I am doing this on the sly; I don't mean to make you a
guest on field-days.'"

She muttered something, speedily interrupted by a cough; and he, not
caring to catch her words, went on:--

"It is a politeness that cuts both ways, and makes _me_ as uncomfortable
as him. This waistcoat has a beggarly account of empty button-holes;
and as for my coat, nothing but a dim candle-light would screen its
deficiencies. I was a fool to accept!" cried he, impatiently.

"Don't go, Tom! don't go!" screamed the parrot, addressing him by a
familiar sobriquet.

"And why not, doctor?" said Layton, laughing at the apropos.

"Don't go! don't go!" repeated the bird.

"Give me your reasons, old boy, and not impossible is it I 'll agree
with you. What do you say, Grace?" added he, advancing to the door of
his room the better to catch her words.

"It is to them the honor is _done_, not to you," said she, faintly, and
as though the speech cost her heavily.

"Very hard to persuade the rector of that,--very hard to convince the
man of silver side-dishes and cut decanters that he is not the patron
of him who dines off Delf and drinks out of pewter. Is this cravat too
ragged, Grace? I think I 'd better wear my black one."

"Yes, the black one," said she, coughing painfully.

"After all, it is no grand occasion,--a little party of four."

"What a swell! what a swell!" shrieked the parrot.

"Ain't I? By Jove," laughed Layton, "the doctor is marvellous in his
remarks to-day."

"There, I have done my best with such scanty 'properties,'" said he, as
he turned away from the glass. "The greatest peril to a shabby man is
the self-imposed obligation to show he is better than he looks. It is an
almost invariable blunder."

She muttered something inaudibly, and, as usual, he went on with his own
thoughts.

"One either assumes a more dictatorial tone, or takes more than his
share of the talk, or is more apt to contradict the great man of the
company,--at least _I_ do."

"Don't go, Tom I don't! don't!" called out Dr. Barret.

"Not go?--after all these splendid preparations!" said Layton, with a
laugh. "After yourself exclaiming, 'What a swell!'"

"It 'll never pay,--never pay,--never pay!" croaked out Poll.

"That I'm sure of, doctor. I never knew one of these politic things that
did; but yet we go on through life practising them in the face of all
their failure, dancing attendance at levées, loitering in antechambers,
all to be remembered by some great man who is just as likely to hate the
sight of us. However, this shall be my last transgression."

The faint female voice muttered some indistinct words about what he
"owed to himself," and the "rightful station that belonged to him;" but
he speedily cut the reflection short as he said: "So long as a man is
poor as I am, he can only hold his head high by total estrangement from
the world. Let him dare to mix with it, and his threadbare coat and
patched shoes will soon convince him that they will extend no equality
to him who comes among them in such beggarly fashion. With what
authority, I ask, can he speak, whose very poverty refutes his
sentiments, and the simple question stands forth unanswerable: 'If this
man knew so much, why is he as we see him?'"

"This is, then, to say that misfortune is never unmerited. Surely you do
not mean that, Herbert?" said she, with an eagerness almost painful.

"It is exactly what I would say,--that for all the purposes of worldly
judgments upon men, there is no easier rule than to assume that they
who fail deserve failure. Richelieu never asked those who sought high
command, 'Are you skilful in the field? are you clever in strategy?'
but' 'Are you lucky?'"

A deep sigh was her only answer.

"I wonder who Millar's fourth man is to be? Colonel Karstairs, I know,
is one; a man of importance to me, Grace," said he, laughing; "a
two-guinea subscriber to the dispensary! How I wish I were in a more
fitting spirit of submissiveness to my betters; and, by ill fortune,
this is one of my rebellious days!"

"Don't go, Tom! Don't go, I say!" yelled out Poll.

"Prophet of evil, and evil prophet, hold your tongue! I will go," said
he, sternly, and as if answering a responsible adviser; and setting his
hat on, with a certain air of dogged defiance, he left the house.

His wife arose, and with feeble steps tottered to the door of the
cottage to look after him. A few steps brought him to the foot of the
cliff, up the steep face of which a zigzag path led upwards for fully
four hundred feet, a narrow track trodden by the bare feet of hardy
mountaineers into some semblance of a pathway, but such as few denizens
of towns would willingly have taken. Layton, however, stepped along like
one whose foot was not new to the heather; nay, the very nature of the
ascent, the bracing air of the sea, and something in the peril itself of
the way, seemed to revive in the man his ancient vigor; and few, seeing
him from the beach below, as he boldly breasted the steep bluff, or
sprang lightly over some fissured chasm, would have deemed him one long
since past the prime of life,--one who had spent more than youth, and
its ambitions, in excess.

At first, the spirit to press onward appeared to possess him entirely;
but ere he reached the half ascent, he turned to look down on the yellow
strip of strand and the little cottage, up to whose very door-sill
now the foam seemed curling. Never before had its isolation seemed so
complete. Not a sail was to be seen seaward, not even a gull broke the
stillness with his cry; a low, mournful plash, with now and then a
rumbling half thunder, as the sea resounded within some rocky cavern,
were the only sounds, and Layton sat down on a mossy ledge, to drink
in the solitude in all its fulness. Amidst thoughts of mingled pain and
pleasure, memories of long-past struggles, college triumphs and college
friendships, came dreary recollections of dark reverses, when the world
seemed to fall back from him, and leave him to isolation. Few had
ever started with more ambitious yearnings,--few with more personal
assurances of success. Whatever he tried he was sure to be told,
"_There_ lies your road, Layton; _that_ is the path will lead you
to high rewards." He had, besides,--strange inexplicable gift,--that
prestige of superiority about him that made men cede the place to him,
as if by prescription. "And what had come of it all?--what had come of
it all?" he cried out aloud, suddenly awaking out of the past to face
the present. "Why have I failed?" asked he wildly of himself. "Is
it that others have passed me in the race? Have my successes been
discovered to have been gained by trick or fraud? Have my acquirements
been pronounced mere pretensions? These, surely, cannot be alleged of
one whose fame can be attested by almost every scientific and literary
journal of the empire. No, no! the explanation is easier,--the poet was
wrong,--Fortune _is_ a Deity, and some men are born to be unlucky."

With a sudden start he arose, and rallied from these musings. He quickly
bethought himself of his engagement, and continued his way upward. When
he reached the tableland at top, it wanted but a few minutes of five
o'clock, and five was the hour for which he was invited, and there
was yet two miles to walk to the Rectory. Any one who has lived for a
considerable space estranged from society and its requirements, will
own to the sense of slavery impressed by a return to the habits of the
world. He will feel that every ordinance is a tyranny, and the necessity
of being dressed for this, or punctual for that, a downright bondage.

Thus chafing and irritable, Layton walked along. Never was man less
disposed to accept hospitality as a polite attention, and more than once
did he halt, irresolute whether he should not retrace his steps towards
home. "No man," thought he, "could get off more cheaply. They would
ascribe it all to my ignorance. What should a poor devil with eighty
pounds a year know of politeness? and when I had said, _I_ had
forgotten the invitation, they would forget _me!_"

Thus self-accusing and self-disparaging, he reached the little avenue
gate, which by a trim gravel walk led up to the parsonage. The neat
lodge, with its rustic porch, all overgrown with a rich japonica,--the
well-kept road, along whose sides two little paved channels conducted
the water,--the flower-plats at intervals in the smooth emerald turf,
were all assurances of care and propriety; and as Layton marked them, he
muttered, "This is one of the lucky ones."

As Layton moved on with laggard step, he halted frequently to mark some
new device or other of ornamental gardening. Now it was a tasteful group
of rock-work, over which gracefully creepers hung in festoons; now it
was a little knot of flowering shrubs, so artfully intermingled as to
seem as though growing from a single stem; now a tiny fishpond could be
descried through the foliage; even the rustic seats, placed at points of
commanding view, seemed to say how much the whole scene had been planned
for enjoyment, and that every tint of foliage, every undulation of the
sward, every distant glimpse caught through a narrow vista, had all been
artfully contrived to yield its share of pleasure.

"I wonder," muttered he, bitterly, to himself,--"I wonder when this
man preaches on a Sunday against wealth and its temptations, reminding
others that out of this world men take nothing, but go out upon their
new pilgrimage naked and poor, does he ever turn a thought to all these
things, so beautiful now, and with that vitality that will make them
beautiful years and years after he himself has become dust? I have
little doubt," added he, hurriedly, "that he says all this, and believes
it too. Here am I, after just as many determinations to eat no man's
salt, nor sit down to any board better than my own,--here I am to-day
creeping like a poor parasite to a great man's table,--ay, he is a great
man to _me!_

"How strange is the casuistry, too, with which humble people like myself
persuade themselves that they go into the world against their will;
that they do so purely from motives of policy, forgetting all the while
how ignoble is the motive they lay claim to.

"The old Roman moralist told us that poverty had no heavier infliction
in its train than that it made men ridiculous, but I tell him he is
wrong. It makes men untrue to themselves, false to their own hearts,
enemies to their own convictions, doing twenty things every day of their
lives that they affect to deem prudent, and know to be contemptible. I
wish my worthy host had left me unnoticed!"

He was at last at the door, and rang the bell with the impatient
boldness of one chafing and angry with himself. There was a short delay,
for the servants were all engaged in the dining-room, and Layton rang
again.

"Dr. Millar at home?" asked he, sternly, of the well-powdered footman
who stood before him.

"Yes, sir; he's at dinner."

"At dinner! I was invited to dinner!"

"I know, sir; and the doctor waited for half an hour beyond the time;
but he has only gone in this moment."

It is just possible, in Layton's then frame of mind, that he had
turned away and left the house, never to re-enter it, when a slight
circumstance determined him to the opposite. This was the footman's
respectful manner as he took the hat from his hand, and threw wide the
door for him to pass onward. Ay, it is ever so! Things too trivial and
insignificant for notice in this life are every hour influencing our
actions and swaying our motives. Men have stormed a breach for a smile,
and gone out in black despair with life just for a cold word or a cold
look. So much more quickly does the heart influence than the head, even
with the very cleverest amongst us.

As Layton entered the dining-room, his host rose to receive him, and,
with a polished courtesy, apologized for having gone to table before his
arrival. "I gave you half an hour, doctor, and I would have given you
longer, but that I am aware a physician is not always master of his
time. Colonel Karstairs you are acquainted with. Let me present you to
Mr. Ogden. Dr. Layton, Mr. Ogden."

There is no manner that so impresses the world with the idea of
self-sufficiency and pretension as that of the bashful man contending
against his own diffidence; and this same timidity, that one would
imagine so easily rubbed off by contact with the world, actually
increases with age, and, however glossed over by an assumed ease and a
seeming indifference, lives to torment its possessor to his last day.
Of this Layton was an unhappy victim, and while imbued with a consummate
self-esteem, he had a painful consciousness of the criticism that his
manner and breeding might call forth. The result of this conflict was to
render him stern, defiant, and even overbearing,--traits which
imparted their character even to his features in first intercourse with
strangers.

"I don't know how Halford managed it," said Mr. Ogden, as he reseated
himself at table, "but I 've heard him say that his professional
engagements never lost him a dinner."

Simple as were these words, they contained a rebuke, and the air of the
man that uttered them did not diminish their significance.

Mr. Ogden was a thin, pale, pock-marked man, with an upstanding head
of gray hair, a very high and retreating forehead, and a long upper
lip,--one of those men in whom the face, disproportionately large for
the head, always gives the impression of a self-sufficient nature.
He had a harsh, sharp voice, with an articulation of a most painful
accuracy, even his commonplaces being enunciated with a sort of distinct
impressiveness, as though to imply that his copper was of more value
than another man's gold. Nor was this altogether a delusion; he had had
a considerable experience of mankind and the world, and had contrived to
pass his bad money on them as excellent coin of the realm. He was--and
it is very distinctive in its mark--one of those men who always live
in a class above their own, and, whatever be the recognition and the
acceptance they have there, are ever regarded by their rightful equals
as something peculiarly privileged and superior.

"My Lord" would have called him a useful man; his friends all described
him as "influential." But he was something greater than either,--he was
a successful man. We are constantly told that the efficiency of our
army is mainly owing to the admirable skill and ability of its petty
officers. That to their unobtrusive diligence, care, and intelligence
we are indebted for all those qualities by which a force is rendered
manageable, and victories are won. Do we not see something very similar
in our Bureaucracy? Is not our Government itself almost entirely in the
hands of "petty officers"? The great minister who rises in his place
in Parliament, the exponent of some grand policy, the author of some
extensive measure, is, after all, little more than the mouthpiece of
some "Mr. Ogden" in Downing Street; some not very brilliant or very
statesmanlike personage, but a man of business habits, every-day
intelligence, and long official traditions,--one of those three or four
men in all England who can say to a minister, "It can't be done," and
yet give no reason why.

The men of this Ogden stamp are, in reality, great influences in a
country like ours, where frequent changes of government require that the
conditions of office should be transmitted through something higher and
more responsible than mere clerks. They are the stokers who keep the
fires alight and the steam up till a new captain comes aboard, and,
though neither commanders nor pilots, they _do_ manage to influence the
course of the ship, by the mere fact that they can diminish the force of
her speed or increase its power without any one being very well aware of
how or wherefore.

Such men as these are great people in that dingy old house, whose frail
props without are more than emblems of what goes on within. Of their
very offices men speak as of the Holy of Holies; places where none
enter fearlessly save secretaries of state, and at whose door inferior
mortals wipe their feet with heart-sinking fear and lowness of spirit,
rehearsing not unfrequently the abject words of submissiveness with
which they are to approach such greatness.

It is curious, therefore, to see one of these men in private life. One
wishes to know how M. Houdin will look without his conjuring-rod, or
what Coriolanus will do in plain clothes; for, after all, he must come
into the world unattended with his belongings, and can no more carry
Downing Street about with him than could Albert Smith carry "China" to a
dinner-party.

And now the soup has been brought back, and the fish, somewhat cold
and mangled, to be sure, has been served to Dr. Layton; the servant
has helped him to an admirable glass of sherry, and the dinner proceeds
pleasantly enough,--not, however, without its casualties. But of these
the next chapter will tell us.



CHAPTER IX. A DINNER AT THE RECTORY

These are men who have specialities for giving admirable "little
dinners," and little dinners are unquestionably the _ne plus ultra_ of
social enjoyment. To accomplish these there are far more requirements
necessary than the world usually wots of. They are not the triumphs of
great houses, with regiments of yellow plush and gold candelabra;
they affect no vast dining-rooms, nor a private band. They are, on the
contrary, the prerogatives of moderate incomes, middle-aged or elderly
hosts, usually bachelors, with small houses, furnished in the perfection
of comfort, without any display, but where everything, from the careful
disposal of a fire-screen to the noiseless gait of the footman, shows
you that a certain supervision and discipline prevail, even though you
never hear an order and rarely see a servant.

Where these people get their cooks, I never could make out! It is easy
enough to understand that fish and soup, your sirloin and your woodcock,
could be well and carefully dressed, but who devised that exquisite
little _entrée_, what genius presided over that dish of macaroni, that
omelette, or that soufflé? Whence, besides, came the infinite taste
of the whole meal, with its few dishes, served in an order of artistic
elegance? And that butler, too,--how quiet, how observant, how noiseless
his ministration; how steady his decanter hand! Where did they find
_him?_ And that pale sherry, and that Chablis, and that exquisite cup of
Mocha? Don't tell me that you or I can have them all as good,--that you
know his wine-merchant, and have the receipt for his coffee. You
might as well tell me you could sing like Mario because you employ
his hairdresser. No, no; they who accomplish these things are peculiar
organizations. They have great gifts of order and system, the nicest
perceptions of taste, considerable refinement, and no small share of
sensuality. They possess a number of high qualities in miniature, and
are, so to say, "great men seen through the wrong end of a telescope."

Of this the Rev. Dr. Millar was a pleasing specimen. With that
consciousness of having done everything possible for your comfort which
makes a good host, he had a racy gratification in quietly watching
your enjoyment. Easily and unobtrusively marking your taste for this
or preference for that, he would contrive that your liking should be
gratified, as though by mere accident, and never let you know yourself a
debtor for the attentions bestowed upon you. It was his pride to have
a perfect establishment: would that all vanity were as harmless and as
pleasurable to others! And now to the dinner, which, in our digression,
we are forgetting.

"Try these cutlets, doctor," interposed the host. "It is a receipt I
brought back with me from Provence; I think you 'll find them good."

"An over-rich, greasy sort of cuisine is the Provençale," remarked
Ogden.

"And yet almost every good cook of France comes from that country," said
Layton.

Ogden raised his large double eye-glass to look at the man who thus
dared to "cap" a remark of his.

"I wish we could get out of the bastard French cookery all the clubs
give us nowadays," said the Colonel. "You neither see a good English
Joint nor a well-dressed entrée."

"An emblem of the alliance," said Layton, "where each nation spoils
something of its own in the effort to be more palatable to its
neighbor."

"Apparently, then, sir, the great statesmen who promoted this policy
are not fortunate enough to enjoy your sanction?" said Ogden, with an
insolent air.

"My sanction is scarcely the word for it They have not, certainly, my
approval."

"I hope you like French wines, though, doctor," said the host, eager to
draw the conversation into some easier channel. "Taste that Sauterne."

"It only wants age to be perfect," said the doctor, sipping. "All these
French white wines require more time than the red."

Ogden again looked through his glass at the dispensary doctor who thus
dared to give Judgment on a question of such connoisseurship; and then,
with the air of one not easily imposed on, said,--

"You have travelled much abroad, perhaps?"

Layton bowed a silent assent

"I think I saw a German diploma amongst the papers you forwarded to our
committee?" said Karstairs.

"Yes, I am a doctor of medicine of Gottingen."

"A university, I verily believe, only known to Englishmen through
Canning's doggerel," said Ogden.

"I trust not, sir. I hope that Blumenbach's name alone would rescue it
from such oblivion."

"I like the Germans, I confess," broke in the Colonel. "I served with
Arentschild's Hanoverians, and never knew better or pleasanter fellows."

"Oh, I by no means undervalue Germans!" said Ogden. "I think we, at
this very moment, owe to them no small gratitude for suggesting to us
the inestimable practice of examination for all public employment."

"In my mind, the greatest humbug of an age of humbug!" said Layton,
fiercely.

"Nay, doctor, you will, I 'm certain, recall your words when I tell
you that my friend here, Mr. Ogden, is one of the most distinguished
promoters of that system."

"The gentleman would confer a far deeper obligation upon me by
sustaining than by withdrawing his thesis," said Ogden, with a sarcastic
smile.

"To undertake the task of sustaining the cause of ignorance against
knowledge," said Layton, quietly, "would be an ungrateful one always.
In the present case, too, it would be like pitting myself against that
gentleman opposite. I decline such an office."

"So, then, you confess that such would be your cause, sir?" said Ogden,
triumphantly.

"No, sir; but it would partake so much the appearance of such a
struggle, that I cannot accept it. What I called a humbug was the
attempt to test men's fitness for the public service by an examination
at which the most incapable might distinguish himself, and the ablest
not pass. The system of examination begot the system of 'grinding,'--a
vulgar term for a more vulgar practice, and a system the most fatal to
all liberal education, limiting study to a question-and-answer formula,
and making acquirements only desirable when within the rubric of a
Government commission. Very different would have been the result if
the diploma of certain recognized educational establishments had been
required as qualification to serve the State; if the law ran, 'You
shall be a graduate of this university, or that college, or possess the
licentiate degree of that school.'"

"Your observations seem, then, rather directed against certain
commissioners than the system they practise?" said Odgen, sarcastically.

"Scarcely, sir. My experience is very limited. I never met but one of
them!"

The Colonel laughed heartily at this speech,--he could n't help it; and
even the host, mortified as he was, gave a half-smile. As for Ogden, his
pale face grew a shade sicklier, and his green eyes more fishy.

"To question the post-office clerk or the landing waiter," continued
Layton, with fresh warmth,--for when excited he could rarely control
himself,--"to test some poor aspirant for eighty pounds per annum in his
knowledge of mathematics or his skill in physical geography, while you
make governors that cannot speak correctly, and vice-governors whose
despatches are the scorn of Downing Street; to proclaim that you want
your tide-waiter to be a moral philosopher, but that the highest offices
in the State may be held by any political partisan active enough,
troublesome enough, and noisy enough to make himself worth purchase;
you demand logarithms and special geometry from a clerk in the Customs,
while you make a mill-owner a cabinet minister on the simple showing of
his persevering; and your commissioners, too,--'Quis custodiet, ipsos
custodes!'"

"You probably, however, submitted to be examined, once on a time, for
your medical degree?" asked Ogden.

"Yes, sir; and that ordeal once passed, I had ample leisure to unlearn
the mass of useless rubbish required of me, and to address myself to the
real cares of my profession. But do you suppose that if it were demanded
of me to subject myself to another examination to hold the humble post I
now fill, that I should have accepted it?"

"I really cannot answer that question," said Ogden, superciliously.

"Then I will, sir. I would not have done so. Eighty pounds a year is a
very attractive bribe, but it may require too costly a sacrifice to win
it."

"The neighborhood is a very poor one," struck in Millar, "and, indeed,
if it had not been for the strenuous exertions of my friend Colonel
Karstairs here, we should never have raised the forty pounds which gives
us the claim for as much more in the presentments."

"And yet you got two hundred and thirty for a regatta in June last!"
said Layton, with a quiet smile.

"The way of the world, doctor; the way of the world! Men are never
stingy in what regards their own amusements!"

"That is the port, doctor; the other is Lafitte," said the rector, as he
saw Layton hesitate about a choice.

And now the talk took a capricious turn, as it will do occasionally,
in those companies where people are old-fashioned enough to "sit" after
dinner, and let the decanter circulate. Even here, however, conversation
could not run smoothly. Ogden launched into the manufacture of wines,
the chemistry of adulterations, and the grape disease, on every one of
which Layton found something to correct him,--some slip or error to
set right,--an annoyance all the more poignant that Karstairs seemed to
enjoy it heartily. From fabricated wines to poisons the transition
was easy, and they began to talk of certain curious trials wherein the
medical testimony formed the turning-point of conviction. Here, again,
Layton was his superior in information, and made the superiority felt.
Of what the most subtle tests consisted, and wherein their fallacy lay,
he was thoroughly master, while his retentive memory supplied a vast
variety of curious and interesting illustration.

Has our reader ever "assisted" at a scene where the great talker of
a company has unexpectedly found himself confronted by some unknown,
undistinguished competitor, who, with the pertinacity of an actual
persecution, will follow him through all the devious windings of an
evening's conversation, ever present to correct, contradict, amend, or
refute? In vain the hunted martyr seeks out some new line of country, or
starts new game; his tormentor is ever close behind him. Ogden wandered
from law to literature. He tried art, scientific discovery, religious
controversy, agriculture, foreign travel, the drama, and field sports;
and Layton followed him through all,--always able to take up the theme
and carry it beyond where the other had halted. If Millar underwent all
the tortures of an unhappy host at this, Karstairs was in ecstasy.
He had been spending a week at the Rectory in Ogden's company, and it
seemed a sort of just retribution now that this dictatorial personage
should have met his persecutor. Layton, always drinking deeply as the
wine came to him, and excited by a sort of conflict which for years back
he had never known, grew more and more daring in his contradictions,
less deferential, and less fearful of offending. Whatever little reserve
he had felt at first, oozed away as the evening advanced. The law of
physics is the rule of morals, and as the swing of the pendulum is
greater in proportion to the retraction, so the bashful man, once
emancipated from his reserve, becomes the most daringly aggressive
to mortals. Not content with refuting, he now ridiculed; his vein of
banter was his richest, and he indulged it in all the easy freedom of
one who defied reprisals. Millar tried once or twice to interpose, and
was at last fain to suggest that, as the decanters came round untouched,
they should adjourn to coffee.

Ogden rose abruptly at the intimation, and, muttering something
inaudible, led the way into the drawing-room.

"You have been too hard upon him, doctor," whispered Karstairs, as he
walked along at Layton's side. "You should be more careful; he is a man
of note on the other side of the Channel; he was a Treasury Lord for
some six months once, and is always in office somewhere. I see you are
rather sorry for this yourself."

"Sorry! I 'm sorry to leave that glorious Madeira, which I know I shall
never taste again," said Lay ton, sternly.

"Are you a smoker, Dr. Layton?" said the host "If so, don't forget this
house gives all a bachelor's privileges. Try these cheroots."

"Liberty Hall!" chimed in the Colonel, with a vacant laugh.

"Not a bad name for your dining-room, Millar," said Ogden, bitterly.

A slight shrug was the parson's answer.

"Is this man a frequent guest here?" he asked again, in a low whisper.

"It is his first time. I need scarcely say, it shall be his last,"
replied Millar, as cautiously.

"I felt for you, Millar. I felt what pain he must have been giving
you, though, for myself, I pledge you my word it was most amusing; his
violence, his presumption, the dictatorial tone in which he affirmed his
opinions, were high comedy. I was half sorry when you proposed coffee."

Under pretence of admiring some curiously carved chessmen, Karstairs had
withdrawn the doctor into a small room adjoining; but, in reality,
his object was the friendly one of suggesting greater caution and more
reserve on his part.

"I don't say," whispered he,--"I don't say that you were n't right, and
he wrong in everything. I know nothing about false quantities in Latin,
or German metaphysics, or early Christian art You may be an authority
in all of them. All I say is, _he_ is a great Government official, and
_you_ are a village doctor."

"That was exactly why I couldn't let slip the opportunity," broke in
Layton. "Let me tell you an incident I once witnessed in my old days
of coach travelling. I was going up from Liverpool to London in the
'Umpire,' that wonderful fast coach that astonished the world by making
the journey in thirty-six hours. I sat behind the coachman, and was
struck by the appearance of the man on the box-seat, who, though it was
the depth of winter, and the day one of cutting sleet and cold wind,
wore no upper coat, or any protection against the weather. He was, as
you may imagine, speedily wet through, and presented in his dripping
and soaked habiliments as sorry a spectacle as need be. In fact, if any
man's external could proclaim want and privation, his did. The signs of
poverty, however, could not screen him from the application of 'Won't
you remember the coachman, sir?' He, with no small difficulty,--for he
was nearly benumbed with cold,--extricated a sixpence from his pocket
and tendered it. The burly driver flung it contemptuously back to him
with insult, and sneeringly asked him how he could dare to seat himself
on the box when he was travelling like a pauper? The traveller never
answered a word; a slight flush, once, indeed, showed how the insult
stung him, but he never uttered a syllable.

"'If I had you down here for five minutes, I 'd teach you as how you
'd set yourself on the box-seat again!' cried coachee, whose passion
seemed only aggravated by the other's submission. Scarcely were the
words spoken, when the dripping traveller began to descend from the
coach. He was soon on the ground, and almost as he touched it the
coachman rushed upon him. It was a hand-to-hand conflict, which,
however, could not have lasted four minutes. The stranger not only
'stopped' every blow of the other, but followed each 'stop' by a
well-sent-in one of his own, dealt with a force that, judging from his
size, seemed miraculous. With closed eyes, a smashed jaw, and a disabled
wrist, the coachman was carried away; while the other, as he drank off
a glass of cold water, simply said, 'If that man wishes to know where to
find me again, tell him to ask for Tom Spring, Crane Alley, Borough
Road!'"

Karstairs followed the anecdote with interest, but, somehow--for he
was not a very brilliant man, though "an excellent officer"--missed the
application. "Capital--excellent--by Jove!" cried he. "I 'd have given a
crown to have seen it."

Layton turned away in half ill-humor.

"And so it was Tom Spring himself?" said the Colonel. "Who 'd have
guessed it?"

Layton made no reply, but began to set the chessmen upon the board at
random.

"Is this another amongst your manifold accomplishments, sir?" asked
Ogden, as he came up to the table.

"I play most games," said Lay ton, carelessly; "but it's only at
billiards that I pretend to any skill."

"I'm a very unworthy antagonist," said Ogden; "but perhaps you will
condescend to a game with me,--at chess, I mean?"

"With pleasure," said Layton, setting the pieces at once. He won the
first move, and just as he was about to begin he stopped, and said, "I
wish I knew your strength."

"The players give me a knight, and generally beat me," said Ogden.

"Oh! I understand. Will you allow me to fetch a cheroot? I move king's
knight's pawn one square." He arose as he spoke, and walked into the
adjoining room.

Ogden moved his queen's pawn.

Layton, from the adjoining room, asked the move, and then said, "King's
bishop to knight's first square;" meanwhile continuing to search for a
cigar to his liking.

"Do you purpose to continue the game without seeing the board?" asked
Ogden, as he bit his lip with impatience.

"Not if you prefer otherwise," said Layton, who now came back to his
place, with his cigar fully lighted.

"You see what an inexorable enemy I have, Millar," said Ogden, with
an affected laugh; "he will not be satisfied unless my defeat be
ignominious."

"Is it so certain to be a defeat, George?" said the rector. "Chess was
always your great game. I remember how the Windsor Club entertained you
on the occasion of your victory over that Swiss player, Eshwald."

"And so you have beaten Eshwald," broke in Layton, hastily. "We must
give no quarter here." And with this he threw away his cigar, and bent
down over the board.

"We shall only disturb them, Karstairs; come along into the
drawing-room, and let us talk parish business," said the rector. "Our
little dinner has scarcely gone off so well as I had expected," said
Millar, when they were alone. "I meant to do our doctor a service,
by asking him to meet Odgen, who has patronage and influence in every
quarter; but I suspect that this evening will be remembered grievously
against him."

"I confess I was highly amused at it all, and not sorry to see your
friend Ogden so sorely baited. You know well what a life he has led us
here for the last week."

"A hard hitter sometimes, to be sure," said the rector, smiling; "but a
well-meaning man, and always ready for a kind action. I wish Layton had
used more moderation,--more deference towards him."

"Your Madeira did it all, Millar. Why did you give the fellow such
insinuating tipple as that old '31 wine?"

"I can't say that I was not forewarned," continued Millar. "I was told,
on his coming down to our neighborhood, to be careful of him. It was
even intimated to me that his ungovernable and overbearing temper had
wrecked his whole fortune in life; for, of course, one can easily
see such a man ought not to be sentenced to the charge of a village
dispensary."

"No matter how clever you are, there must be discipline; that's what
I've always told the youngsters in my regiment."

The rector sighed; it was one of those hopeless little sighs a man
involuntarily heaves when he finds that his companion in a _tête-à-tête_
is always "half an hour behind the coach."

"I intended, besides," resumed Millar, "that Ogden should have
recommended to the Government the establishment of a small hospital down
here; an additional fifty or sixty pounds a year would have been a great
help to Layton."

"And of course he 'll do it, when you ask him," said the hearty Colonel.
"Now that he has seen the man, and had the measure of his capacity, he
'll be all the readier to serve him."

"The cleverest of all my school and college companions sacrificed his
whole career in life by shooting the pheasant a great minister had just
'marked.' He was about to be invited to spend a week at Drayton; but
the invitation never came."

"I protest, Millar, I don't understand that sort of thing."

"Have you never felt, when walking very fast, and eagerly intent upon
some object, that if an urchin crossed your path, or came rudely against
you, it was hard to resist the temptation of giving him a box on the
ear? I don't mean to say that the cases are parallel, but great people
do, somehow, acquire a habit of thinking that the road ought always to
be cleared for _them_, and they will not endure whatever interferes with
their wishes."

"But don't you think if you gave Layton a hint--"

"Is n't that like it? Hear that---"

A loud burst of laughter from the adjoining room cut short the colloquy,
and Layton's voice was heard in a tone of triumph, saying, "I saw your
plan--I even let you follow it up to the last, for I knew you were
checkmated."

"I 'm off my play; I have not touched a chessman these three years,"
said Ogden, pettishly.

"Nor I for three times three years; nor was it ever my favorite game."

"I'm coming to crave a cup of tea from you, Millar," said Ogden,
entering the drawing-room, flushed in the cheek, and with a flurried
manner.

"Who won the game?" asked the Colonel, eagerly.

"Dr. Layton was the conqueror; but I don't regard myself as an ignoble
foe, notwithstanding," said Ogden, with a sort of look of appeal towards
the doctor.

"I 'll give you a bishop and play you for--" He stopped in some
confusion, and then, with an effort at a laugh, added, "I was going to
say fifty pounds, quite forgetting that it was possible you might beat
me."

"And yet, sir, I have the presumption to think that there are things
which I could do fully as well as Dr. Layton."

Layton turned hastily round from the table, where, having half filled a
large glass with brandy, he was about to fill up with soda-water; he set
down the unopened soda-water bottle, and, drinking off the raw spirit at
a draught, said,--

"What are they? Let's hear them, for I take the challenge; these
gentlemen be my witnesses that I accepted the gage before I knew your
weapon." Here he replenished his glass, and this time still higher than
before, and drank it off. "You have, doubtless, your speciality, your
pet subject, art or science, what is it? Or have you more than one?
You're not like the fellow that Scott tells us could only talk of tanned
leather,--eh, Millar, you remember that anecdote?"

The rector started with that sort of spasm that unobtrusive men feel
when first accosted familiarly by those almost strangers to them.

"Better brandy than this I never tasted," said Layton, now filling out a
bumper, while his hand shook so much that he spilled the liquor over
the table; "and, as Tom Warren-dar used to say, as he who gives you
unpleasant advice is bound in honor to lend you money, so he who gives
you light claret, if he be a man of honor, will console you with old
brandy afterwards; and you are a man of honor, Millar, and a man of
conscience, and so is our colonel here,--albeit nothing remarkable in
other respects; and as for that public servant, as he likes to call
himself,--the public servant, if I must be candid,--the public servant
is neither more nor less than--" Here he stretched out his arm to its
full length, to give by the gesture greater emphasis to what he was
about to utter, and then staling half wildly, half insolently around
him, he sank down heavily into a deep armchair, and as his arms dropped
listlessly beside him, fell back insensible.

"I will say that I never felt deeper obligation to a brandy-bottle; it
is the first enjoyable moment of the whole evening," said Ogden, as he
sat down to the tea-table.

In somewhat less than half an hour afterwards, Layton awoke with a sort
of start, and looked wildly and confusedly around him. What or how much
he remembered of the events of the evening, is not possible to say,
as, with a sudden spring to his feet, he took his hat, and with a short
"good-night," left the house, and hurried down the avenue.



CHAPTER X. THE LABORATORY

There was a small closet-like room in Layton's cottage which he had
fitted up, as well as his very narrow means permitted, as a laboratory.
Everything in it was, of course, of the very humblest kind; soda-water
flasks were fashioned into retorts, and even blacking-jars held strange
chemical mixtures. Here, however, he spent most of his time in the
search of some ingredient by which he hoped to arrest the progress of
all spasmodic disease. An accidental benefit he had himself derived from
a certain salt of ammonia had suggested the inquiry, and for years back
this had constituted the main object of all his thoughts. Determined, if
his discovery were to prove a success, it should burst upon the world in
all its completeness, he had never revealed to any one but his son the
object of his studies. Alfred, indeed, was made participator of his
hopes and ambitions; he had seen all the steps of the inquiry, and
understood thoroughly the train of reasoning on which the theory was
based. The young man's patience in investigation and his powers of
calculation were of immense value to his father, and Layton deeply
regretted the absence of the one sole assistant he could or would
confide in. A certain impatience, partly constitutional, partly from
habits of intemperance, had indisposed the old man to those laborious
calculations by which chemical discovery is so frequently accompanied,
and these he threw upon his son, who never deemed any labor too great,
or any investigation too wearisome, if it should save his father
some part of his daily fatigue. It was not for months after Alfred's
departure that Layton could re-enter his study, and resume his old
pursuits. The want of the companionship that cheered him, and the able
help that seconded all his efforts, had so damped his ardor, that he
had, if not abandoned his pursuit, at least deferred its prosecution
indefinitely. At last, however, by a vigorous effort, he resumed his old
labor, and in the interest of his search he soon regained much of his
former ambition for success.

The investigations of chemistry have about them all the fluctuating
fortunes of a deep and subtle game. There are the same vacillations of
good and bad luck; the same tides of hope and fear; the almost certain
prospect of success dashed and darkened by failure; the grief and
disappointment of failure dispelled by glimpses of bright hope. So
many are the disturbing influences, so subtle the causes which derange
experiment, where some infinitesimal excess or deficiency, some minute
accession of heat or cold, some chance adulteration in this or that
ingredient, can vitiate a whole course of inquiry, requiring the labor
of weeks to be all begun again, that the pursuit at length assumes many
of the features of a game, and a game only to be won by securing every
imaginable condition of success.

Perhaps this very character was what imparted to Layton's mind one
of the most stimulating of all interests; at all events, he addressed
himself to his task like one who, baffled and repulsed as he might be,
would still not acknowledge defeat. As well from the indefatigable
ardor he showed, as from the occasional bursts of boastful triumph in
anticipation of a great success in store, his poor ailing wife had
grown to fancy that his pursuit was something akin to those wonderful
researches after the elixir vitae, or the philosopher's stone. She knew
as little of his real object as of the means he employed to attain it,
but she could see the feverish eagerness that daily gained on him, mark
his long hours of intense thought, his days of labor, his nights of
wakefulness, and her fears were that these studies were undermining his
strength and breaking up his vigor.

It was, then, with a grateful joy at her heart she saw him invited to
the Rectory,--admitted once more to the world of his equals, and the
notice of society. She had waited hour by hour for his return home, and
it was already daybreak ere she heard him enter the cottage, and repair
to his own room. Who knows what deep and heartfelt anxieties were hers
as she sought her bed at last? What sorrowful forebodings might not have
oppressed her? What bitter tears have coursed along her worn cheeks? for
his step was short and impatient as he crossed the little hall, and the
heavy slam of his door, and the harsh grating of the lock, told that he
was ruffled and angry. The morning wore on heavily,--drearily to her, as
she watched and waited, and at last she crept noiselessly to the door,
and tapped at it gently.

"Who's there? Come in!" cried he, roughly.

"I came only to ask if you would not have your breakfast," said she,
timidly. "It is already near eleven o'clock."

[Illustration: 120]

"So late, Grace?" said he, with a more kindly accent, as he offered her
a seat. "I don't well know how the time slipped over; not that I was
engaged in anything that interested me,--I do not believe I have done
anything whatever,--no, nothing," muttered he, vaguely, as his wearied
eye ranged over the table.

"You are tired to-day, Herbert, and you need rest," said she, in a soft,
gentle tone. "Let this be a holiday."

"Mine are all holidays now," replied he, with an effort at gayety. Then
suddenly, with an altered voice, he added: "I ought never to have gone
there last night, Grace. I knew well what would come of it. I have no
habits, no temper, no taste, for such associates. What other thoughts
could cross me as I sat there, sipping their claret, than of the cold
poverty that awaited me at home? What pleasure to me could that short
hour of festivity be, when I knew and felt I must come back to this? And
then, the misery, the insult of that state of watchfulness, to see that
none took liberties with me on the score of my humble station."

"But surely, Herbert, there is not any one--"

"I don't know that," broke he in. "He who wears finer linen than you is
often a terrible tyrant, on no higher or better ground. If any man has
been taught that lesson, _I_ have! The world has one easy formula
for its guidance. If you be poor, you must be either incompetent or
improvident, or both; your patched coat and shabby hat are vouchers
for one or the other, and sleek success does not trouble itself to ask
which."

"The name of Herbert Laiton is a sure guarantee against such
depreciation," said she, in a voice tremulous with pride and emotion.

"So it might, if it had not earned a little extra notoriety in police
courts," said he, with a laugh of intense bitterness.

"Tell me of your dinner last night," said she, eager to withdraw him
from the vein she ever dreaded most. "Was your party a pleasant one?"

"Pleasant!--no, the very reverse of pleasant! We had discussion
instead of conversation, and in lieu of those slight differences of
sentiment which flavor talk, we had stubborn contradictions. All _my_
fault, too, Grace. I was in one of _my_ unhappy humors, and actually
forgot I was a dispensary doctor and in the presence of an ex-Treasury
Lord, with great influence and high acquaintances. You can fancy, Grace,
how boldly I dissented from all he said."

"But if you were in the right, Herbert--"

"Which is exactly what I was not; at least, I was quite as often in
the wrong. My amusement was derived from seeing how powerless he was
to expose the fallacies that outraged him. He was stunned by a fire of
blank cartridge, and obliged to retreat before it But now that it's all
over, I may find the amusement a costly one. And then, I drank too much
wine--" She gave a heavy sigh, and turned away to hide her look. "Yes,"
resumed he, with a fierce bitterness in his tone, "the momentary flush
of self-esteem--Dutch courage, though it be--is a marvellous temptation
to a poor, beaten-down, crushed spirit, and wine alone can give it; and
so I drank, and drank on."

"But not to excess," said she, in a half-broken whisper.

"At least to unconsciousness. I know nothing of how or when I quitted
the Rectory, nor how I came down the cliffs and reached this in safety.
The path is dangerous enough at noonday with a steady head and a
cautious foot, and yet last night assuredly I could not boast of
either."

Another and a deeper sigh escaped her, despite her efforts to stifle it.

"Ay, Grace, the doctor was right when he said to me, 'Don't go there.'
How well if I had but taken his advice! I am no longer fit for such
associates. They live lives of easy security,--they have not the cares
and struggles of a daily conflict for existence; we meet, therefore, on
unequal grounds. Their sentiments cost them no more care than the French
roll upon their breakfast-table. They can afford to be wrong as they
can afford debt, but the poor wretch like myself, a bare degree above
starvation, has as little credit with fine folk as with the huckster. I
ought never to have gone there! Leave me now," added he, half sternly;
"let me see if these gases and essences will not make me forget
humanity. No, I do not care for breakfast,--I cannot eat!"

With the same noiseless step she had entered, she now glided softly from
the room, closing the door so gently that it was only when he looked
round that he was aware of being alone. For a moment or two he busied
himself with the objects on the table; he arranged phials and retorts,
he lighted his stove, he stood fanning the charcoal till the red mass
glowed brightly, and then, as though forgetting the pursuit he was
engaged in, he sat down upon a chair, and sank into a dreamy revery.

Another low tap at the door aroused him from his musings, and the low
voice he knew so well gently told him it was his morning to attend the
dispensary, a distance fully three miles off. More than one complaint
had been already made of his irregularity and neglect, and, intending
to pay more attention in future, he had charged his wife to keep him
mindful of his duties.

"You will scarcely reach Ballintray before one o'clock, Herbert," said
she, in her habitually timid tone.

"What if I should not try? What if I throw up the beggarly office at
once? What if I burst through this slavery of patrons and chairmen and
boards? Do you fancy we should starve, Grace?"

"Oh, no, Herbert," cried she, eagerly; "I have no fears for our
future."

"Then your courage is greater than mine," said he, bitterly, and with
one of the sudden changes of humor which often marked him. "Can't you
anticipate how the world would pass sentence on me, the idle debauchee,
who would not earn his livelihood, but must needs forfeit his
subsistence from sheer indolence?--ay, and the world would be right too.
He who breaks stones upon the highroad will not perform his task the
better because he can tell the chemical constituent of every fragment
beneath his hammer. Men want common work from common workmen, and there
are always enough to be found. I'll set out at once."

With this resolve, uttered in a tone she never gainsaid or replied to,
he took his hat and left the cottage.

There is no more aggressive spirit than that of the man who, with the
full consciousness of great powers, sees himself destined to fill some
humble and insignificant station, well knowing the while the inferiority
of those who have conquered the high places in life. Of all the
disqualifying elements of his own character, his unsteadiness, his
want of thrift, perseverance, or conduct, his deficiency in tact or due
courtesy, his stubborn indifference to others,--of all these he will
take no account as he whispers to his heart,

"I passed that fellow at school!--I beat this one at college!--how often
have I helped yonder celebrity with his theme!--how many times have I
written his exercise for that great dignitary!" Oh, what a deep well
of bitterness lies in the nature of one so tried and tortured, and how
cruel is the war that he at last wages with the world, and, worse again,
with his own heart!

Scarcely noticing the salutations of the country people, as they touched
their hats to him on the road, or the more familiar addresses of the
better-to-do farmers as they passed, Layton strode onwards to the little
village where his dispensary stood.

"Yer unco late, docther, this morning," said one, in that rebukeful tone
the northern Irishman never scruples to employ when he thinks he has
just cause of complaint.

"It's na the way to heal folk to keep them waitin' twa hours at a closed
door," said another.

"I'se warrant he's gleb eneuch to call for his siller when it's due to
him," said a third.

"My gran'mither is just gane hame; she would na bide any longer for yer
comin'," said a pert-looking girl, with a saucy toss of her head.

"It's na honest to take people's money and gie naething for it," said an
old white-haired man on crutches; "and I 'll just bring it before the
board."

Layton turned an angry look over the crowd, but never uttered a word.
Pride alone would have prevented him from answering them, had he not the
deeper motive that in his conflict with himself he took little heed of
what they said.

"Where's the key, Sandy?" cried he, impatiently, to an old cripple who
assisted him in the common work of the dispensary.

The man came close and whispered something secretly in his ear.

"And carried the key away, do you say?" asked Layton, eagerly.

"Just so, sir. There was anither wi' him,--a stranger,--and he was mair
angry than his rev'rance, and said, 'What can ye expec'? Is it like that
a man o' his habits could be entrusted with such a charge as this?"

"And Dr. Millar--what did he reply?"

"Na much; he just shook his head this way, and muttered, 'I hoped for
better,--I hoped for better!' I dinna think they 'd have taken away the
key, but that old Jonas Graham kem up at the time, and said, 'It's mair
than a month since we seen him'--yourself he meant--'down here, and them
as has the strength for it would rather gae all the gait to Coleraine
than tak their chance o' him.' For a' that," said Sandy, "I opened
the dispensary door, and was sarvin' out salts and the like, when the
stranger said, 'Is it to a cretur like that the people are to trust
their health? Just turn the key in the door, Millar, and you'll
certainly save some one from being poisoned this morning.' And so
he did, and here we are." And poor Sandy turned a rueful look on the
surrounders as he finished.

"I can't cure you as kings used to cure the evil, long ago, by royal
touch, good people," said Layton, mockingly; "and your guardians, or
governors, or whatever they call themselves, have shut me out of my own
premises. I am a priest cut off from his temple."

"I 'm na come here to ask for charity," said a stout old fellow, who
stood alongside of a shaggy mountain pony; "I 'm able to pay ye for a'
your docther's stuff, and your skill besides."

"Well spoken, and like a man of independence," said Layton. "Let us open
the treaty with a gill of brandy, and you shall tell me your case
while I am sipping it." And with these words he led the way into a
public-house, followed by the farmer, leaving the crowd to disperse when
and how they pleased.

Whatever the nature of those ailments now so confidentially imparted,
they were long enough in narration not only to require one, or two, or
three gills, but a full bottle of strong mountain whiskey, of which
it is but fair to say the farmer took his share. Layton's powers as a
talker were not long in exercise ere they gained their due influence
over his companion. Of the very themes the countryman deemed his own, he
found the doctor knew far more than himself; while by his knowledge of
life and human nature generally, he surprised his listener, who
actually could not tear himself away from one so full of anecdote and
observation.

Partly warned by the lateness of the hour--for already the market was
oyer and the streets deserted--and partly by the thick utterance of his
companion, whose heavy, bloodshot eye and sullen look now evidenced how
deeply he had exceeded, the farmer at last arose to go away.

"You 're not 'flitting.' as you call it hereabouts," said Layton, half
stupidly, "you're not thinking of leaving me alone to my own company,
are you?"

"I maun be thinkin' of home; it's more than twalve miles o' a mountain
that's afore me. There's na anither but yoursel' had made me forget it
a' this while," said the farmer, as he buttoned his coat and prepared
for the road. "Just tell me now what's to pay for the bit o' writin' ye
gav' me."

"You 've had a consultation, my friend,--not a visit, but a regular
consultation. You've not been treated like the outer populace, and only
heard the oracles from afar, but you have been suffered to sit down
beside the augur, to question him, and to drink with him. Pay,--nothing
to pay! I'll cure your boy, there's my word on't. These cases are
specialities with me. Bell used to say, 'Ask Layton to look at that
fellow in such a ward; he's the only one of us understands this sort
of thing. Layton will tell us all about it.' And I 'm Layton! Ay, sir,
this poor, shabby, ill-dressed fellow that you see before you is that
same Herbert Layton; so much for brains and ability to work a man's way
in life! Order another quart of Isla whiskey, man,--that's my fee; at
least it shall be to-day. Tell them to send me pen, ink, and paper, and
not disturb me; tell them, besides--no, nevermind, I'll tell them that!
And now, good-day, my honest fellow. _You_ 've been _my_ physician
to-day as much as _I_ have been _yours_. You have cured a sick
heart--cheated it, at least--out of one paroxysm, and so, a good
journey, and safe home to you. Send me news of your boy, and good-bye."
And his head dropped as he spoke; his arms fell heavily at his sides;
and he appeared to have sunk into a profound sleep. The stupor was but
brief; the farmer was not well out of the village when Layton, calling
for a basin of cold water, plunged his face and part of his head in it,
baring his brawny throat, and bathing it with the refreshing liquid.
As he was thus employed, he caught sight of his face reflected in a
much-cracked mirror over the fireplace, and stood gazing for a few
seconds at his blotched and bloated countenance.

"A year or two left still, belike," muttered he. "Past insuring, but
still seaworthy, or, at least"--and here his voice assumed an intense
mockery in tone,--"at least, capable of more shipwreck!" The sight of
the writing-materials on the table seemed to recall him to something he
had half forgotten, and, after a pause of reflection, he arranged the
paper before him and sat down to write.

With the ease of one to whom composition was familiar, he dashed off
a somewhat long letter; but though he wrote with great rapidity, he
recurred from time to time to the whiskey-bottle, drinking the strong
spirits undiluted, and, to all seeming, unmoved by its potency. "There,"
cried he, as he finished, "I have scuttled my own ship; let's see what
will come of it."

He called for the landlord to give him wax and a seal. Neither were to
be had, and he was fain to put up with a wafer. The letter closed and
addressed, he set out homewards; scarcely, however, beyond the outskirts
of the village, than he turned away from the coast and took the road
towards the Rectory. It was now the early evening, one of those brief
seasons when the wind lulls and a sort of brief calm supervenes in the
boisterous climate of northern Ireland. Along the narrow lane he trod,
tall foxgloves and variegated ferns grew luxuriantly, imparting a
half-shade to a scene usually desolate and bare; and Layton lingered
along it as though its calm seclusion soothed him. At last he found
himself at a low wall, over which a stile led to a little woodland path.
It was the Rectory; who could mistake its trim neatness, the order
and elegance which pervaded all its arrangements? Taking this path, he
walked leisurely onward, till he came to a small flower-garden, into
which three windows opened, their sashes reaching to the ground. While
yet uncertain whether to advance or retire, he heard Ogden's sharp voice
from within the room. His tone was loud, and had the vibration of one
speaking in anger. "Even on your own showing, Millar, another reason for
getting rid of him. _You_ can't be ambitious, I take it, of newspaper
notoriety, or a controversy in the public papers. Now, Layton is the
very man to drag you into such a conflict. Ask for no explanations,
inquire for no reasons, but dismiss him by an act of your board. Your
colonel there is the chairman; he could n't refuse what you insist
upon, and the thing will be done without your prominence in it."

Millar murmured a reply, but Layton turned away without listening to it,
and made for the hall door. "Give this to your master," said he, handing
the letter to the servant, and turned away.

The last flickerings of twilight guided him down the steep path of the
cliff, and, wearied and tired, he reached home.

"What a wearisome day you must have had, Herbert!" said his wife, as she
stooped for the hat and cane he had thrown beside him on sitting down.

"I must n't complain, Grace," said he, with a sad sort of smile. "It is
the last of such fatigues."

"How, or what do you mean?" asked she, eagerly.

"I have given it up. I have resigned my charge of the dispensary. Don't
ask any reasons, girl," broke he in, hastily, "for I scarcely know them
myself. All I can tell you is, it is done."

"I have no doubt you were right, Herbert," began she. "I feel assured--"

"Do you? Then, by Heaven! you have a greater confidence in me than _I_
have in myself. I believe I was more than two parts drunk when I did it,
but doubtless the thought will sober me when I awake to-morrow morning;
till when, I do not mean to think of it."

"You have not eaten, I 'm sure."

"I cannot eat just yet, Grace; give me a cup of tea, and leave me. I
shall be better alone for a while."



CHAPTER XI. A REMITTANCE

"A letter,--a long letter from Alfred," said Layton's wife, as she
knocked at his door on the following morning. "It has been lying
for four days at the office in Coleraine. Only think, Herbert, and I
fretting and fretting over his silence."

"Is he well?" asked he, half gruffly.

"Quite well, and so happy; in the midst of kind friends, and enjoying
himself, as he says he thought impossible when absent from his
home. Pray read it, Herbert. It will do you infinite good to see how
cheerfully he writes."

"No, no; it is enough that I know the boy is well. As to being happy,
it is the affair of an hour, or a day, with the luckiest of us."

"There are so many kind messages to you, and so many anxious inquiries
about the laboratory. But you must read them. And then there is a bank
order he insists upon your having. Poor fellow! the first money he has
ever earned--"

"How much is it, Grace?" asked he, eagerly.

"It is for twenty pounds, Herbert," said she, in a faltering accent,
which, even weak as it was, vibrated with something like reproach.

"Never could it be more welcome," said he, carelessly. "It was
thoughtful, too, of the boy; just as if he had known all that has
happened here." And with this he opened the door, taking hurriedly from
her hand the letter and the money-order. "No; not this. I do not want
his letter," said he, handing it back to her, while he muttered over the
lines of the bank check. "Why did he not say,--or order?" said he, half
angrily. "This necessitates my going to Coleraine myself to receive it.
It seems that I was overrating his thoughtfulness, after all."

"Oh, Herbert!" said she, pressing both her hands over her heart, as
though an acute pain shot through it.

"I meant what I have said," said he, roughly; "he might have bethought
him what are twelve weary miles of road to one like me, as well as that
my clothes are not such as suit appearance in the streets of a town. It
was _not_ thoughtful of him, Grace."

"The poor dear boy's first few pounds; all that he could call his own--"

"I know that," broke he in, harshly; "and in what other way could they
have afforded him a tithe of the pleasure? It was a wise selfishness
suggested the act; that is all you can say of it."

"Oh, but let me read you how gracefully and delicately he has done it,
Herbert; how mindful he was not to wound one sentiment--"

"'Pay to Herbert Layton, Esquire,'" read he, half aloud, and not heeding
her speech. "He ought to have added 'M. D.'; it is as 'the doctor' they
should know me down here. Well, it has come right opportunely, at all
events. I believe I was the owner of some fifteen shillings in the
world."

A deep, tremulous sigh was all her answer.

"Fifteen and ninepence," muttered he, as he counted over the pieces in
his hand. "Great must be the self-reliance of the man who, with such
a sum for all his worldly wealth, insults his patrons and resigns his
office,--eh, Grace?"

There was in his tone a blended mockery and seriousness that he often
used, and which, by the impossibility of answering, always distressed
her greatly.

"It is clear you do not think so," said he, harshly. "It is evident
you take the vulgar view of the incident, and condemn the act as one
dictated by ill temper and mere resentment. The world is always more
merciful than one's own fireside, and the world will justify me."

"When you have satisfied your own conscience, Herbert--"

"I'll take good care to make no such appeal," broke he in. "Besides,"
added he, with a bitter levity, "men like myself have not one, but fifty
consciences. Their after-dinner conscience is not their waking one next
morning; their conscience in the turmoil and bustle of life is not their
conscience as they lie out there on the white rocks, listening to the
lazy plash of the waves. Not to say that, after forty, every man's
conscience grows casuistical,--somewhat the worse for wear, like
himself."

It was one of Layton's pastimes to sport thus with the feelings of his
poor wife, uttering at random sentiments that he well knew must pain her
deeply; and there were days when this spirit of annoyance overbore his
reason and mastered all his self-control.

"What pleasant little sketches Alfred gives of his travelling
acquaintances!" said she, opening the letter, and almost asking to be
invited to read it.

"These things have no value from one as untried in life as he is," broke
he in, rudely. "One only learns to decipher character by the time the
world has become very wearisome. Does he tell you how he likes his task?
How does he fancy bear-leading?"

"He praises Lord Agincourt very much. He calls him a fine, generous boy,
with many most attaching qualities."

"They are nearly all such in that class in very early life, but, as
Swift says, the world is full of promising princes and bad kings."

"Lord Agincourt would appear to be very much attached to Alfred."

"So much the worse; such friendships interfere with the work of tuition,
and they never endure after it is over. To be sure, now and then a tutor
is remembered, and if he has shown himself discreet about his pupil's
misdeeds, reserved as to his shortcomings, and only moderately rebukeful
as to his faults, such virtue is often rewarded with a bishopric What
have we here, Grace? Is not that a row-boat rounding the point yonder,
and heading into the bay?"

So rare an event might well have caused astonishment; for since the
place had been deserted by the fishermen, the landlocked waters of the
little cove had never seen the track of a boat.

"Who can it be?" continued he; "I see a round hat in the stern-sheets.
Look, he is pointing where they are to land him, quite close to our
door here." Stimulated by an irrepressible curiosity, Herbert arose and
walked out; but scarcely had he reached the strand when he was met by
Colonel Karstairs.

"I could n't trust my gouty ankles down that precipice, doctor," cried
he out; "and although anything but a good sailor, I came round here by
water. What a charming spot you have here, when one does reach it!"

"It is pretty; and it is better,--it is solitary," said Lay-ton,
coldly; for somehow he could not avoid connecting the Colonel with a
scene very painful to his memory.

"I don't think I ever saw anything more beautiful," said Karstairs, as
he gazed around him. "The wild, fantastic outlines of those rocks,
the variegated colors of the heath blossom, the golden strand, and the
cottage itself, make up a fairy scene."

"Let me show you the interior, though it dispel the illusion," said
Layton, as he moved towards the door.

"I hope my visit is not inconvenient," said Karstairs, as he entered and
took a seat; "and I hope, besides, when you hear the object of it, you
will, at least, forgive me." He waited for a reply of some sort, but
Layton only bowed his head stiffly, and suffered him to continue: "I
am a sorry diplomatist, doctor, and have not the vaguest idea of how
to approach a point of any difficulty; but what brought me here this
morning was simply this: you sent that letter"--here he drew one from
his pocket, and handed it to Layton--"to our friend the rector."

"Yes; it is my hand, and I left it myself at the parsonage."

"Well, now, Millar has shown it to no one but myself,--indeed, he placed
it in my hands after reading it; consequently, its contents are unknown
save to our two selves; there can, therefore, be no difficulty in your
withdrawing it You must see that the terms you have employed towards him
are not such as--are not civil, I mean; in fact, they are not fair. He
is an excellent fellow, and sincerely your friend, besides. Now, don't
let a bit of temper get the mastery over better feeling, nor do not, out
of a momentary pique, throw up your appointment None of us, nowadays,
can afford to quarrel with his bread-and-butter; and though you are
certainly clever enough and skilful enough not to regard such an humble
place as this, yet, remember, you had a score of competitors when you
looked for it. Not to say that we all only desire to know how to be of
service to you, to make your residence amongst us agreeable, and--and
all that sort of thing, which you can understand far better than I
can say it!" Nor, to do the worthy Colonel justice, was this a
very difficult matter, seeing that, in his extreme confusion and
embarrassment, he stammered and stuttered at every word, while, to
increase his difficulty, the manner of Layton was cold and almost
stately.

"Am I to suppose, sir," said he, at length, "that you are here on the
part of Dr. Millar?"

"No, no; nothing of the kind. Millar knows, of course, the step I have
taken; perhaps he concurs in it; indeed, I 'm sure he does. He is your
sincere well-wisher, doctor,--a man who really wants to be your friend."

"Too much honor," said Layton, haughtily. "Not to say how arduous the
task of him who would protect a man against himself; and such I opine to
be the assumed object here."

"I 'm sure, if I had as much as suspected how you would have taken my
interference," said the Colonel, more hurt by Layton's tone than by his
mere words, "I 'd have spared myself my mission."

"You had no right to have anticipated it, sir. It was very natural for
you to augur favorably of any intervention by a colonel,--a C.B., with
other glorious distinctions--in regard to a poor dispensary doctor,
plodding the world wearily, with a salary less than a butler's. You had
only to look down the cliff, and see the humble cottage where he lived,
to calculate what amount of resistance could such a man offer to any
proposal that promised him bread."

"I must say, I wish you would not mistake me," broke in Karstairs, with
warmth.

"I am not stating anything with reference to you, sir; only with respect
to those judgments the world at large would pronounce upon _me_."

"Am I to conclude, then," said the Colonel, rising, and evidently in
anger,--"am I to conclude, then, that this is your deliberate act, that
you wish to abide by this letter, that you see nothing to recall nor
retract in its contents?"

Layton bowed an assent

"This is too bad--too bad," muttered the Colonel, as he fumbled for
his gloves, and dropped them twice over in his confusion. "I know well
enough where the sting lies: you are angry with Ogden; you suspect that
he has been meddling. Well, it's no affair of mine; you are the best
Judge. Not but a little prudence might have shown you that Ogden was a
dangerous man to offend,--a very dangerous man; but of course you know
best I have only to ask pardon for obtruding my advice unasked, a stupid
act always, but I 'm right sorry for it."

"I am very grateful for the intention, sir," said Layton, with dignity.

"That 's all I can claim," muttered the Colonel, whose confusion
increased every moment. "It was a fool's errand, and ends as it ought.
Good-bye!"

Layton arose and opened the door with a respectful air.

Karstairs offered his hand, and, as he grasped the other's warmly, said,
"I wish you would let me talk this over with your wife, Layton."

The doctor drew haughtily back, and, with a cold stare of astonishment,
said: "I have addressed you by your title, sir; _I_ have mine. At all
events, there is nothing in your station nor in my own to warrant this
familiarity."

"You are quite right,--perfectly right,--and I ask pardon."

It was a liberty never to be repeated, and the bronzed weatherbeaten
face of the old soldier became crimson with shame as he bowed deeply and
passed out.

Layton walked punctiliously at his side till he reached the boat,
neither uttering a word; and thus they parted. Lay-ton stood for a
moment gazing after the boat. Perhaps he thought that Karstairs would
turn his head again towards the shore; perhaps--who knows?--he hoped it
At all events, the old Colonel never once looked back, and the boat soon
rounded the point and was lost to view.

There are men so combative in their natures that their highest enjoyment
is derived from conflict with the world,--men whose self-esteem is never
developed till they see themselves attacking or attacked. Layton was one
of this unhappy number, and it was with a sort of bastard heroism that
he strolled back to the cottage, proud in the thought of how he stood,
alone and friendless, undeterred by the enmity of men of a certain
influence and station.

He was soon in his laboratory and at work, the reaction imparting a
great impulse to his energy. He set to work with unwonted vigor and
determination. Chemical investigation has its good and evil days,--its
periods when all goes well, experiments succeed, tests answer, and
results respond to what was looked for; and others when disturbing
causes intervene, gases escape, and retorts smash. This was one of the
former; and the subtle essence long sought after by Layton, so eagerly
desired, and half despaired of, seemed at last almost within reach. A
certain salt, an ingredient very difficult of preparation, was, however,
wanting to his further progress, and it was necessary that he should
provide himself with it ere he advanced any further. To obtain this
without any adulterating admixture and in all purity was essential to
success; and he determined to set out immediately for Dublin, where he
could himself assist in its preparation.

"What good luck it was, Grace," said he, as he entered the room where
she sat awaiting dinner for him,--"what good luck that the boy should
have sent us this money! I must go up to Dublin to-morrow, and without
it I must have given up the journey."

"To Dublin!" said she, in a half-frightened voice, for she dreaded--not
without reason--the temptations he would be exposed to when accidentally
lifted above his usual poverty.

"Ay, girl; I want a certain 'cyanuret' of which you have never heard,
nor can help me to any knowledge of, but which a Dublin chemist that I
know of will assist me to procure; and with this salt I purpose to
make myself a name and reputation that even Mr. Ogden will not dare
to dispute. I shall, I hope, have discovered what will render
disease painless, and deprive operation of all its old terrors. If my
calculations be just, a new era will dawn upon medical science, and the
physician come to the sick man as a true comforter. My discovery, too,
is no empyric accident for which I can give no reason, nor assign
no cause, but the result of patient investigation, based upon true
knowledge. My appeal will be to the men of science, not to popular
judgments. I ask no favor; I seek no patronage. Herbert Layton would be
little likely to find either; but we shall see if the name will not soar
above both favor and patronage, and rank with the great discoverers, or,
better again, with the great benefactors of mankind."

Vainglorious and presumptuous as this speech was,--uttered, too, in a
tone boastful as the words themselves,--it was the mood which Layton's
wife loved to see him indulge. If for nothing else than it was the
reverse of the sardonic and bitter raillery he often practised,--a
spirit of scoff in which he inveighed against the world and himself,--it
possessed for her an indescribable charm. It represented her husband,
besides, in what she loved to think his true character,--that of a
noble, enthusiastic man, eagerly bent upon benefiting his fellows. To
her thinking, there was nothing of vanity,--no overweening conceit
in all these foreshadowings of future fame; nay, if anything, he
understated the claims he would establish upon the world's gratitude.

With what eager delight, then, did she listen! how enchanting were the
rich tones of his voice as he thus declaimed!

"How it cheers my heart, Herbert, when I hear you speak thus! how bright
everything looks when you throw such sunlight around you!"

"'Is this the debauchee,--is this the fellow we have been reading of in
the reports from Scotland Yard? 'methinks I hear them whispering
to each other. Ay, and that haughty University, ashamed of its old
injustice, will stoop to share the lustre of the man it once expelled."

"Oh, think of the other and the better part of your triumph!" cried she,
eagerly.

"The best part of all will be the vengeance on those who have wronged
me. What will these calumniators say when it is a nation does homage to
my success?"

"There are higher and better rewards than such feelings," said she, half
reproachfully.

"How little you know of it!" said he, in his tone of accustomed
bitterness. "The really high and great rewards of England are given to
wealth, to political intrigue, to legal success. It's your banker, your
orator, or your scheming barrister, who win the great prizes in our
State Lottery. Find out some secret by which life can be restored to the
drowned, convert an atmosphere of pestilence into an air of health and
vigor, discover how an avalanche may be arrested in its fall, and, if
you be an Englishman, you can do nothing better with your knowledge
than sell it to a company, and make it marketable through shareholders.
Philanthropy can be quoted on 'Change like a Welsh tin-mine or a
patent fuel company; and if you could raise the dead, make a 'limited
liability' scheme of it before you tell the world your secret."

"Oh, Herbert, it was not thus you were wont to speak."

"No, Grace," said he, in a tone of gentle, sorrowful meaning; "but there
is no such misanthrope as the man who despises himself." And with this
he hastened to his room and locked the door. It was while carelessly
and recklessly he scattered the harsh words by which he grieved her
most that he now and then struck some chord that vibrated with a pang of
almost anguish within him, uttering aloud some speech which from another
he would have resented with a blow. Still, as the criminal is oftentimes
driven to confess the guilt whose secret burden is too heavy for
his heart, preferring even the execration of mankind to the terrible
isolation of secrecy, so did he feel a sort of melancholy satisfaction
in discovering how humbly and meanly he appeared before himself.

"A poor man's pack is soon made, Grace," said he, with a sad smile,
as he entered the room, where she was busily engaged in the little
preparations for his journey.

"Tom, don't go! don't go! don't!" screamed out the parrot, wildly.

"Only listen to the creature," said he; "he 's at his warnings again. I
wish he would condescend to be more explanatory and less oracular."

She only smiled, without replying.

"Not but he was right once, Grace," said Lay ton, gravely. "You remember
how he counselled me against that visit to the Rectory."

"Don't! don't!" croaked out the bird, in a low, guttural voice.

"You are too dictatorial, doctor, even for a vice-provost. I will go."

"All wrong! all wrong!" croaked the parrot.

"By Jove! he has half shaken my resolution," said Lay-ton, as he sat
down and drew his hand across his brow. "I wish any one would explain
to me why it is that he who has all his life resented advice as insult,
should be the slave of his belief in omens." This was uttered in a
half-soliloquy, and he went on: "I can go back to at least a dozen
events wherein I have had to rue or to rejoice in this faith."

"I too would say, Don't go, Herbert," said she, languidly.

"How foolish all this is!" said be, rising; "don't you know the old
Spanish proverb, Grace, 'Good luck often sends us a message, but very
rarely calls at the door herself?' meaning that we must not ask Fortune
to aid us without our contributing some effort of our own. I will go,
Grace. Yes, I will go. No more auguries, doctor," said he, throwing a
handkerchief playfully over the bird and then withdrawing it,--a measure
that never failed to enforce silence. "This time, at least," said he, "I
mean to be my own oracle."



CHAPTER XII. A FELLOW-TRAVELLER ON THE COACH

The morning was raw, cold, and ungenial, as Layton took his outside seat
on the coach for Dublin. For sake of shelter, being but poorly provided
against ill weather, he had taken the seat behind the coachman, the
place beside him being reserved for a traveller who was to be taken up
outside the town. The individual in question was alluded to more than
once by the driver and the guard as "the Captain," and in the abundance
of fresh hay provided for his feet, and the care taken to keep his seat
dry, there were signs of a certain importance being attached to his
presence. As they gained the foot of a hill, where the road crossed a
small bridge, they found the stranger awaiting them, with his
carpet-bag; he had no other luggage, but in his own person showed
unmistakable evidence of being well prepared for a journey. He was an
elderly man, short, square, and thick-set, with a rosy, cheerful
countenance, and a bright, merry eye. As he took off his hat,
punctiliously returning the coachee's salute, he showed a round, bald
head, fringed around the base by a curly margin of rich brown hair. So
much Layton could mark,--all signs, as he read them, of a jovial
temperament and a healthy constitution; nor did the few words he uttered
detract from the impression: they were frank and cheerful, and their
tone rich and pleasing to the ear.

The stranger's first care on ascending to his place was to share a very
comfortable rug with his neighbor, the civility being done in a way that
would have made refusal almost impossible; his next move was to inquire
if Layton was a smoker, and, even before the answer, came the offer of
a most fragrant cigar. The courtesy of the offered snuff-box amongst
our grandfathers is now replaced by the polite proffer of a cigar, and,
simple as the act of attention is in itself, there are some men who are
perfect masters in the performance. The Captain was of this category;
and although Layton was a cold, proud, off-standing man, such was the
other's tact, that, before they had journeyed twenty miles in company,
an actual intimacy had sprung up between them.

There is no pleasanter companionship to the studious and reading man
than that of a man of life and the world, one whose experience,
drawn entirely from the actual game of life, is full of incident and
adventure. The Captain had travelled a great deal and seen much, and
there was about all his observations the stamp of a mind that had
learned to judge men and things by broader, wider rules than are the
guides of those who live in more narrow spheres.

It was in discoursing on the political condition of Ireland that they
reached the little village of Cookstown, about a mile from which, on a
slight eminence, a neat cottage was observable, the trim laurel hedge
that separated it from the road being remarkable in a country usually
deficient in such foliage.

"A pretty spot," remarked Layton, carelessly, "and, to all seeming,
untenanted."

"Yes, it seems empty," said the other, in the same easy tone.

"There's never been any one livin' there, Captain, since _that_," said
the coachman, turning round on his seat, and addressing the stranger.

"Since what?" asked Layton, abruptly.

"He is alluding to an old story,--a very old story, now," rejoined the
other. "There were two men--a father and son--named Shehan, taken from
that cottage in the year of Emmet's unhappy rebellion, under a charge of
high treason, and hanged."

"I remember the affair perfectly: Curran defended them. If I remember
aright, too, they were convicted on the evidence of a noted informer."

"The circumstance is painfully impressed on my memory, by the fact that
I have the misfortune to bear the same name; and it is by my rank alone
that I am able to avoid being mistaken for him. My name is Holmes."

"To be sure," cried Layton, "Holmes was the name; Curran rendered it
famous on that day."

The coachman had turned round to listen to this conversation, and at its
conclusion touched his hat to the Captain as if in polite acquiescence.

By the time they had reached Castle Blayney, such had been the Captain's
success in ingratiating himself into Lay-ton's good opinion, that the
doctor had accepted his invitation to dinner.

"We shall not dine with the coach travellers," whispered the stranger,
"but at a small house I 'll show you just close by. I have already
ordered my cutlet there, and there will be enough for us both."

Never was speech less boastful; a most admirable hot dinner was ready
as they entered the little parlor, and such a bottle of port as Layton
fancied he had never tasted the equal. By good luck there was ample time
to enjoy these excellent things, as the mail was obliged to await at
this place for an hour or more the arrival of a cross-post A second and
a third brother of the same racy vintage succeeded; and Layton, warmed
by the generous wine, grew open and confidential, not only in speaking
of the past, but also to reveal all his hopes for the future, and the
object of his journey. Though the Captain was nothing less than a man of
science, he could fathom sufficiently the details the other gave to
see that the speaker was no ordinary man, and his discovery no small
invention.

"Ay," said the doctor, as, carried away by the excitement of the wine,
he grew boastful and vain, "you 'll see, sir, that the man who sat
shivering beside you on the outside of the mail without a great-coat to
cover him, will, one of these days, be recognized as amongst the first
of his nation, and along with Hunter and Bell and Brodie will stand the
name of Herbert Layton!"

"You had a very distinguished namesake once, a Fellow of Trinity--"

"Myself, sir, none other. I am the man!" cried he, in a burst of
triumphant pride. "I am--that is, I was--the Regius Professor of
Medicine; I was Gold Medallist in 18--; then Chancellor's Prizeman; the
following year I beat Stack and Naper,--you 've heard of _them_, I
'm sure, on the Fellowship bench; I carried away the Verse prize from
George Wolffe; and now, this day,--ay, sir, this day,--I don't think I
'd have eaten if you had not asked me to dine with you."

"Come, come," said the Captain, pushing the decanter towards him, "there
are good days coming. Even in a moneyed point of view, your discovery is
worth some fifteen or twenty thousand pounds."

"I 'd not sell it for a million; it shall be within the reach of the
humblest peasant in the land the day I have perfected the details. It
shall be for Parliament--the two Houses of the nation--to reward me, or
I 'll never accept a shilling."

"That's a very noble and high-spirited resolve. I like you for it; I
respect you for it," said the Captain, warmly.

"I know well what had been my recognition if I had been born a German or
a Frenchman. It is in England alone scientific discovery brings neither
advancement nor honor. They pension the informer that betrays his
confederates, and they leave the man of intellect to die, as Chatterton
died, of starvation in a garret Is n't that true?"

"Too true,--too true, indeed!" sighed the Captain, mournfully.

"And as to the Ireland of long ago," said Layton, "how much more wise
her present-day rulers are than those who governed her in times past,
and whose great difficulty was to deal with a dominant class, and to
induce them to abate any of the pretensions which years of tried loyalty
would seem to have confirmed into rights! I speak as one who was once a
'United Irishman,'" said he.

Laying down the glass he was raising to his lips, the Captain leaned
across the table and grasped Layton's hand; and although there was
nothing in the gesture which a bystander could have noticed, it seemed
to convey a secret signal, for Layton cried out exultingly,--

"A brother in the cause!"

"You may believe how your frank, outspoken nature has won upon me,"
said he, "when I have confided to you a secret that would, if revealed,
certainly cost me my commission, and might imperil my life; but I will
do more, Layton, I will tell you that our fraternity exists in full
vigor,--not here, but thousands of miles away,--and England will have to
reap in India the wrongs she has sown in Ireland."

"With this I have no sympathy," burst in Layton, boldly. "Our
association--at least, as I understood it--was to elevate and
enfranchise Ireland, not humiliate England. It was well enough for Wolfe
Tone and men of his stamp to take this view, but Nielson and myself were
differently minded, and _we_ deemed that the empire would be but the
greater when all who served it were equals."

Was it that the moment was propitious, was it that Lay-ton's persuasive
power was at its highest, was it that the earnest zeal of the man had
carried conviction with his words? However it happened, the Captain,
after listening to a long and well-reasoned statement, leaned his head
thoughtfully on his hand, and said,--

"I wish I had known you in earlier days, Layton. You have placed these
things before me in a point I have never seen them before, nor do I
believe that there are ten men amongst us who have. Grant me a favor,"
said he, as if a sudden thought had just crossed him.

"What is it?" asked Layton.

"Come and stay a week or two with me at my little cottage at Glasnevin;
I am a bachelor, and live that sort of secluded life that will leave you
ample time for your own pursuits."

"Give me a corner for my glass bottles and a furnace, and I 'm your
man," said Layton, laughingly.

"You shall make a laboratory of anything but the dinner-room," cried
Holmes, shaking hands on the compact, and thus sealing it.

The guard's horn soon after summoned them to their places, and they once
more were on the road.

The men who have long waged a hand-to-hand combat with fortune,
unfriended and uncheered, experience an intense enjoyment when comes
the moment in which they can pour out all their sorrows and their
selfishness into some confiding ear. It is no ordinary pleasure with
them to taste the sympathy of a willing listener. Layton felt all the
ecstasy of such a moment, and he told not alone of himself and his
plans and his hopes, but of his son Alfred,--what high gifts the youth
possessed, and how certain was he, if common justice should be but
accorded to him, to win a great place in the world's estimation.

"The Captain" was an eager listener to all the other said, and never
interrupted, save to throw in some passing word of encouragement, some
cheering exhortation to bear up bravely and courageously.

Layton's heart warmed with the words of encouragement, and he confided
many a secret source of hope that he had never revealed before. He told
how, in the course of his labors, many an unexpected discovery had burst
upon him,--now some great fact applicable to the smelting of metals,
now some new invention available to agriculture. They were subjects, he
owned, he had not pursued to any perfect result, but briefly committed
to some rough notes, reserving them for a time of future leisure.

"And if I cannot convince the world," said he, laughingly, "that they
have neglected and ignored a great genius, I hope, at least, to make
_you_ a convert to that opinion."

"You see those tall elms yonder?" said Holmes, as they drew nigh Dublin.
"Well, screened beneath their shade lies the little cottage I have told
you about. Quiet and obscure enough now, but I 'm greatly mistaken if
it will not one day be remembered as the spot where Herbert Layton lived
when he brought his great discovery to completion."

"Do you really think so?" cried Layton, with a swelling feeling about
the heart as though it would burst his side. "Oh, if I could only come
to feel that hope myself! How it would repay me for all I have gone
through! How it would reconcile me to my own heart!"



CHAPTER XIII. HOW THEY LIVED AT THE VILLA

The Heathcotes had prolonged their stay at Marlia a full month beyond
their first intention. It was now November, and yet they felt most
unwilling to leave it. To be sure, it was the November of Italy in one
of its most favored spots. The trees had scarcely began to shed their
leaves, and were only in that stage of golden and purple transition that
showed the approach of winter. The grass was as green, and the dog-roses
as abundant, as in May; indeed, it was May itself, only wanting the
fireflies and the violets. One most have felt the languor of an Italian
summer, with its closed-shutter existence, its long days of reclusion,
without exercise, without prospect, almost without light, to feel the
intense delight a bright month of November can bring, with its pathways
dry, its rivulets clear, its skies cloudless and blue,--to be able to be
about again, to take a fast canter or a brisk walk, is enjoyment
great as the first glow of convalescence after sickness. Never are the
olive-trees more silvery; never does the leafy fig, or the dark foliage
of the orange, contrast so richly with its golden fruit. To enjoy all
these was reason enough why the Heathcotes should linger there; at
least, they said that was their reason, and they believed it. Layton,
with his pupil, had established himself in the little city of Lucca,
a sort of deserted, God-forgotten old place, with tumble-down palaces,
with strange iron "grilles" and quaint old armorial shields over them;
he said they had gone there to study, and _he_ believed it.

Mr. O'Shea was still a denizen of the Panini Hotel at the Bagni,--from
choice, he said, but _he_ did not believe it; the Morgans had gone back
to Wales; Mr. Mosely to Bond Street; and Quackinboss was off to "do"
his Etruscan cities, the "pottery, and the rest of it;" and so were they
all scattered, Mrs. Penthony Morris and Clara being, however, still at
the villa, only waiting for letters to set out for Egypt. Her visit
had been prolonged by only the very greatest persuasions. "She knew
well--too bitterly did she know--what a blank would life become to her
when she had quitted the dear villa." "What a dreary awaking was in
store for them." "What a sad reverse to poor Clara's bright picture of
existence." "The dear child used to fancy it could be all like this!"
"Better meet the misery at once than wait till they could not
find strength to tear themselves away." Such-like were the sentiments
uttered, sometimes tearfully, sometimes in a sort of playful sadness,
always very gracefully, by the softest of voices, accompanied by the
most downcast of long-fringed eyelids.

"I am sure I don't know how May will manage to live without her," said
Charles, who, be it confessed, was thinking far more of his own
sorrows than his cousin's; while he added, in a tone of well-assumed
indifference, "We shall all miss her!"

"Miss her," broke in Sir William; "by George! her departure would
create a blank in the society of a city, not to speak of a narrow
circle in a remote country-house." As for May herself, she was almost
heart-broken at the thought of separation. It was not alone the winning
graces of her manner, and the numberless captivations she possessed, but
that she had really such a "knowledge of the heart," she had given her
such an insight into her own nature, that, but for her, she had never
acquired; and poor May would shudder at the thought of the ignorance
with which she had been about to commence the voyage of life, until she
had fortunately chanced upon this skilful pilot. But for Mrs. Morris it
was possible, nay, it was almost certain, she should one day or other
have married Charles Heathcote,--united herself to one in every way
unsuited to her, "a good-tempered, easy-natured, indolent creature, with
no high ambitions,--a man to shoot and fish, and play billiards,
and read French novels, but not the soaring intellect, not the high
intelligence, the noble ascendancy of mind, that should win such a heart
as yours, May." How strange it was that she should never before have
recognized in Charles all the blemishes and shortcomings she now
detected in his character! How singular that she had never remarked
how selfish he was, how utterly absorbed in his own pursuits, how little
deference he had for the ways or wishes of others, and then, how abrupt,
almost to rudeness, his manners! To be sure, part of this careless and
easy indifference might be ascribed to a certain sense of security; "he
knows you are betrothed to him, dearest; he is sure you must one day
be his wife, or, very probably, he would be very different,--more of an
ardent suitor, more eager and anxious in his addresses. Ah, there it
is! men are ever so, and yet they expect that we poor creatures are to
accept that half fealty as a full homage, and be content with that small
measure of affection they deign to accord us! That absurd Will has done
it all, dear child. It is one of those contracts men make on parchment,
quite forgetting that there are such things as human affections. You
must marry him, and there's an end of it!"

Now, Charles, on his side, was very fond of his cousin. If he was n't in
love with her, it was because he did n't very well understand what
being in love meant; he had a notion, indeed, that it implied giving up
hunting and coursing, having no dogs, not caring for the Derby, or even
opening "Punch" or smoking a cigar. Well, he could, he believed, submit
to much, perhaps all, of these, but he could n't, at least he did n't
fancy he could, be "spooney." He came to Mrs. Morris with confessions of
this kind, and she undertook to consider his case.

Lastly, there was Sir William to consult her about his son and his ward.
He saw several nice and difficult points in their so-called engagement
which would require the delicate hand of a clever woman; and where
could he find one more to the purpose than Mrs. Penthony Morris?

With a skill all her own, she contrived to have confidential intercourse
almost every day with each of the family. If she wished to see Sir
William, it was only to pretend to write a letter, or look for some
volume in the library, and she was sure to meet him. May was always in
her own drawing-room, or the flower-garden adjoining it; and Charles
passed his day rambling listlessly about the stables and the farm-yard,
or watching the peasants at their work beneath the olive-trees. To
aid her plans, besides, Clara could always be despatched to occupy and
engage the intention of some other. Not indeed, that Clara was as she
used to be. Far from it. The merry, light-hearted, capricious child,
with all her strange and wayward ways, was changed into a thoughtful,
pensive girl, loving to be alone and unnoticed. So far from exhibiting
her former dislike to study, she was now intensely eager for it, passing
whole days and great part of the night at her books. There was about her
that purpose-like intentness that showed a firm resolve to learn. Nor
was it alone in this desire for acquirement that she was changed, but
her whole temper and disposition seemed altered. She had grown more
gentle and more obedient. If her love of praise was not less, she
accepted it with more graceful modesty, and appeared to feel it rather
as a kindness than an acknowledged debt. The whole character of her
looks, too, had altered. In place of the elfin sprightliness of her
ever-laughing eyes, their expression was soft even to sadness; her
voice, that once had the clear ringing of a melodious bell, had grown
low, and with a tender sweetness that gave to each word a peculiar
grace.

"What is the matter with Clara?" said Sir William, as he found himself,
one morning, alone with Mrs. Morris in the library. "She never sings
now, and she does not seem the same happy creature she used to be."

"Can you not detect the cause of this, Sir William?" said her mother,
with a strange sparkle in her eyes.

"I protest I cannot. It is not, surely, that she is unhappy here?"

"No, no, very far from that."

"It cannot be ill health, for she is the very picture of the contrary."

"No, no," said her mother again.

"What can it be?"

"Say, rather, who?" broke in Mrs. Morris, "and I 'll tell you."

"Who, then? Tell me by all means."

"Mr. Layton. Yes, Sir William, this is _his_ doing. I have remarked it
many a day back. You are aware, of course, how sedulously he endeavors
to make himself acceptable in another quarter?"

"What do you mean? What quarter? Surely you do not allude to my ward?"

"You certainly do not intend me to believe that you have not seen this,
Sir William?"

"I declare not only that I have never seen, but never so much as
suspected it. And have _you_ seen it, Mrs. Morris?"

"Ah! Sir William, this is our woman's privilege, though really in the
present case it did not put the faculty to any severe test."

For a moment or two he made no reply, and then said, "And Charles--has
Charles remarked it?"

"I really cannot tell you. His manner is usually so easy and indifferent
about everything, that, whether it comes of not seeing or never caring,
I cannot pretend to guess."

"I asked the young man here, because he was with Lord Agincourt," began
Sir William, who was most eager to offer some apologies to himself for
any supposed indiscretion. "Agincourt's guardian, Lord Sommerville, and
myself have had some unpleasant passages in life, and I wished to show
the boy that towards _him_ I bore no memory of the ills I received from
his uncle. In fact, I was doubly civil and attentive on that account;
but as for Mr. Layton,--isn't that his name?"

"Yes; Alfred Layton."

"Layton came as the lad's tutor,--nothing more. He appeared a pleasing,
inoffensive, well-bred young fellow. But surely, Mrs. Morris, my ward
has given him no encouragement?"

"Encouragement is a strong word, Sir William," said she, smiling archly;
"I believe it is only widows who give encouragement?"

"Well, well," said he, hurriedly, and not caring to smile, for he was in
no jesting mood, "has she appeared to understand his attentions?"

"Even young ladies make no mistakes on that score," said she, in the
same bantering tone.

"And I never to see it!" exclaimed he, as he walked hurriedly to and
fro. "But I ought to have seen it, eh, Mrs. Morris?--I ought to have
seen it. I ought, at least, to have suspected that these fellows are
always on the lookout for such a chance as this. Now I suppose you 'll
laugh at me for the confession, but my attention was entirely engaged by
watching our Irish friend."

"The great O'Shea!" exclaimed Mrs. Morris, laughing.

"And to tell you the truth, I never could exactly satisfy myself
whether he came here to ogle my ward, or win Charley's half-crowns at
billiards."

"I imagine, if you asked him, he 'd say he was in for the 'double
event,'" said she, with a laugh.

"And, then, Mrs. Morris," added he, with a sly smile, "if I must be
candid, I fancied, or thought I fancied, his attentions had another
object."

"Towards me!" said she, calmly, but in an accent as honest, as frank,
and as free from all concern as though speaking of a third person. "Oh,
that is quite true. Mr. Layton also made his little quiet love to me as
college men do it, and I accepted the homage of both, feeling that I
was a sort of lightning-conductor that might rescue the rest of the
building."

Sir William laughed as much at the arch quietness of her manner as her
words. "How blind I have been all this time!" burst he in, angrily,
as he reverted to the subject of his chagrin. "I suppose there's not
another man living would not have seen this but myself."

"No, no," said she, gently; "men are never nice observers in these
matters."

"Well, better late than never, eh, Mrs. Morris? Better to know it even
now. Forewarned,--as the adage says,--eh?"

In these little broken sentences he sought to comfort himself, while
he angled for some consolation from his companion; but she gave him
none,--not a word, nor a look, nor a gesture.

"Of course I shall forbid him the house."

"And make a hero of him from that moment, and a martyr of her," quietly
replied she. "By such a measure as this you would at once convert what
may be possibly a passing flirtation into a case of love."

"So that I am to leave the course free, and give him every opportunity
to prosecute his suit?"

"Not exactly. But do not erect barriers just high enough to be
surmounted. Let him come here just as usual, and I will try if I
cannot entangle him in a little serious flirtation with myself, which
certainly, if it succeed, will wound May's pride, and cure her of any
weakness for him."

Sir William made no reply, but he stared at the speaker with a sort of
humorous astonishment, and somehow her cheek flushed under the look.

"These are womanish artifices, which you men hold cheaply, of course;
but little weapons suit little wars, Sir William, and such are our
campaigns. At all events, count upon my aid till Monday next."

"And why not after?"

"Because the Peninsular and Oriental packet touches at Malta on
Saturday, and Clara and I must be there in time to catch it."

"Oh no; we cannot spare you. In fact, we are decided on detaining you.
May would break up house here and follow you to the Pyramids,--the Upper
Cataracts,--anywhere, in short. But leave us you must not."

She covered her face with her handkerchief, and never spoke, but a
slight motion of her shoulders showed that she was sobbing. "I have been
so uncandid with you all this time," said she, in broken accents. "I
should have told you all,--everything. I ought to have confided to you
the whole sad story of my terrible bereavement and its consequences;
but I could not. No, Sir William, I could not endure the thought of
darkening the sunshine of all the happiness I saw here by the cloud of
my sorrows. When I only saw faces of joy around me, I said to my heart,
'What right have I, in my selfishness, to obtrude here?' And then,
again, I bethought me, 'Would they admit me thus freely to their
hearth and home if they knew the sad, sad story?' In a word," said she,
throwing down the handkerchief, and turning towards him with soft and
tearful eyes, "I could not risk the chance of losing your affection, for
you might have censured, you might have thought me too unforgiving,--too
relentless!"

Here she again bent down her head, and was lost in an access of fresh
afflictions.

Never was an elderly gentleman more puzzled than Sir William. He felt
that he ought to offer consolation, but of what nature or for what
calamity he could n't even guess. It was an awkward case altogether, and
he never fancied awkward cases at any time. Then he had that unchivalric
sentiment that elderly gentlemen occasionally will have,--a sort of half
distrust of "injured women." This was joined to a sense of shame that it
was usually supposed by the world men of his time of life were always
the ready victims of such sympathies. In fact, he disliked the situation
immensely, and could only muster a few commonplace remarks to extricate
himself from it.

[Illustration: 152]

"You'll let me tell you everything; I know you will," said she, looking
bewitchingly soft and tender through her tears.

"Of coarse I will, my dear Mrs. Morris, but not now,--not to-day. You
really are not equal to it at this moment."

"True, I am not!" said she, drying her eyes; "but it is a promise, and
you 'll not forget it."

"You only do me honor in the confidence," said he, kissing her hand.

"A thousand pardons!" cried a rich brogue. And at the same moment the
library door was closed, and the sound of retreating steps was heard
along the corridor.

"That insufferable O'Shea!" exclaimed she. "What will he not say of
us?"



CHAPTER XIV. THE BILLIARD-ROOM

Mr. O'Shea had a very happy knack at billiards. It was an accomplishment
which had stood him more in stead in life than even his eloquence in the
House, his plausibility in the world, or his rose-amethyst ring. That
adventurous category of mankind, who have, as Curran phrased it, "the
title-deeds of their estates under the crown of their hats," must, out
of sheer necessity, cultivate their natural gifts to a higher perfection
than that well-to-do, easy-living class for whom Fortune has provided
"land and beeves," and are obliged to educate hand, eye, and hearing to
an amount of artistic excellence of which others can form no conception.
Now, just as the well-trained singer can modulate his tones, suiting
them to the space around him, or as the orator so pitches his voice as
to meet the ears of his auditory, without any exaggerated effort, so did
the Member for Inch measure out his skill, meting it to the ability of
his adversary with a graduated nicety as delicate as that of a chemist
in apportioning the drops of a precious medicament.

It was something to see him play. There was a sort of lounging
elegance,--a half purpose-like energy, dashed with indolence,--a sense
of power, blended with indifference,--a something that bespoke the
caprice of genius, mingled with a spirit that seemed to whisper that,
after all, "cannons" were only vanity, and "hazards" themselves but
vexation of spirit. He was, though a little past his best years, a
good-looking fellow,--a thought too pluffy, perhaps, and more than a
thought too swaggering and pretentious; but somehow these same
attributes did not detract from the display of certain athletic graces
of which the game admits, for, after all, it was only Antinous fallen a
little into flesh, and seen in his waistcoat.

It was mainly to this accomplishment he owed the invitations he received
to the villa. Charles Heathcote, fully convinced of his own superiority
at the game, was piqued and irritated at the other's success; while Sir
William was, perhaps, not sorry that his son should receive a slight
lesson on the score of his self-esteem, particularly where the price
should not be too costly. The billiard-room thus became each evening
the resort of all in the villa. Thither May Leslie fetched her work, and
Mrs. Morris her crochet needles, and Clara her book; while around
the table itself were met young Heathcote, Lord Agincourt, O'Shea, and
Layton. Of course the stake they played for was a mere trifle,--a
mere nominal prize, rather intended to record victory than reward the
victors,--just as certain taxes are maintained more for statistics than
revenue,--and half-crowns changed hands without costing the loser an
afterthought; so at least the spectators understood, and all but one
believed. Her quiet and practised eye, however, detected in Charles
Heathcote's manner something more significant than the hurt pride of
a beaten player, and saw under all the external show of O'Shea's
indifference a purpose-like energy, little likely to be evoked for a
trifling stake. Under the pretext of marking the game, a duty for which
she had offered her services, she was enabled to watch what went forward
without attracting peculiar notice, and she could perceive how, from
time to time, Charles and O'Shea would exchange a brief word as they
passed,--sometimes a monosyllable, sometimes a nod,--and at such times
the expression of Heathcote's face would denote an increased anxiety and
irritation. It was while thus watching one evening, a chance phrase she
overheard confirmed all her suspicions,--it was while bending down her
head to show some peculiar stitch to May Leslie that she brought her ear
to catch what passed.

"This makes three hundred," whispered Charles.

"And fifty," rejoined O'Shea, as cautiously.

"Nothing of the kind," answered Charles, angrily.

"You 'll find I 'm right," said the other, knocking the balls about to
drown the words. "Are you for another game?" asked he, aloud.

"No; I 've bad enough of it," said Charles, impatiently, as he drew out
his cigar-case,--trying to cover his irritation by searching for a cigar
to his liking.

"I 'm your man, Inch-o'-brogue," broke in Agincourt; for it was by this
impertinent travesty of the name of his borough he usually called him.

"What, isn't the pocket-money all gone yet?" said the other,
contemptuously.

"Not a bit of it, man. Look at that," cried he, drawing forth a long
silk purse, plumply filled. "There's enough to pay off the mortgage on
an Irish estate, I 'm sure!"

While these freedoms were being interchanged, Charles Heathcote had left
the room, and strolled out into the garden. Mrs. Morris, affecting to go
in search of something for her work, took occasion also to go; but no
sooner had she escaped from the room than she followed him.

Why was it, can any one say, that May Leslie bestowed more than ordinary
attention on the game at this moment, evincing an interest in it she had
never shown before? Mr. O'Shea had given the young Marquis immense odds;
but he went further, he played off a hundred little absurdities to
increase the other's chances,--he turned his back to the table,--he
played with his left hand,--he poked the balls without resting his
cue,--he displayed the most marvellous dexterity, accomplishing hazards
that seemed altogether beyond all calculation; for all crafty
and subtle as he was, vanity had got the mastery over him, and his
self-conceit rose higher and higher with every astonished expression
of the pretty girl who watched him. While May could not restrain her
astonishment at his skill, O'Shea's efforts to win her praise redoubled.

"I'll yield to no man in a game of address," said he, boastfully:
"to ride across country, to pull a boat, to shoot, fish, fence, or
swim--There, my noble Marquis, drop your tin into that pocket and begin
another game. I 'll give you eighty-five out of a hundred."

"Is n't he what Quackinboss would call a 'ternal swaggerer, May?" cried
Agincourt.

"He is a most brilliant billiard-player," said May, smiling courteously,
with a glance towards the recess of the window, where Layton was leaning
over Clara's chair and reading out of the book she held in her hand.
"How I wish you would give me some lessons!" added she, still slyly
stealing a look at the window.

"Charmed,--only too happy. You overwhelm me with the honor, Miss Leslie,
and my name is not O'Shea if I do not make you an admirable player, for
I've remarked already you have great correctness of eye."

"Indeed!"

"Astonishing; and with that, a wonderfully steady hand."

"How you flatter me!"

"Flatter? Ah, you little know me, Miss Leslie!" said he, as he passed
before her.

May blushed, for at that moment Layton had lifted his eyes from the book
and turned them full upon her. So steadfastly did he continue to look,
that her cheek grew hotter and redder, and a something like resentment
seemed to possess her; while he, as though suddenly conscious of having
in some degree committed himself, held down his head in deep confusion.

May Leslie arose from her seat, and, with a haughty toss of her head,
drew nigh the table.

"Are you going to join us, May?" cried the boy, merrily.

"I 'm going to take my first lesson, if Mr. O'Shea will permit me,"
said she; but the tone of her voice vibrated less with pleasure than
resentment.

"I 'm at my lessons, too, May," cried Clara, from the window. "Is it not
kind of him to help me?"

"Most kind,--most considerate!" said May, abruptly; and then, throwing
down the cue on the table, she said, "I fancy I have a headache. I hope
you 'll excuse me for the present." And almost ere Mr. O'Shea could
answer, she had left the room. Clara speedily followed her, and for a
minute or two not a word was uttered by the others.

"I move that the house be counted," cried the Member for Inch. "What has
come over them all this evening? Do _you_ know, Layton?"

"Do _I_ know? Know what?" cried Alfred, trying to arouse himself out of
a revery.

"Do you know that Inch-o'-brogue has not left me five shillings out of
my last quarter's allowance?" said the boy.

"You must pay for your education, my lad," said O'Shea. "I did n't
get mine for nothing. Layton there can teach you longs and shorts, to
scribble nonsense-verses, and the like; but for the real science of
life, 'how to do _them_ as has done _you_,' you must come to fellows
like me."

"Yes, there is much truth in _that_," said Layton, who, not having
heard one word the other had spoken, corroborated all of it, out of pure
distraction of mind.

The absurdity was too strong for Agincourt and O'Shea, and they both
laughed out "Come," said O'Shea, slapping Layton on the shoulder, "wake
up, and roll the balls about. I 'll play you your own game, and give you
five-and-twenty odds. There's a sporting offer!"

"Make it to me," broke in Aginoourt.

"So I would, if you weren't pumped out, my noble Marquis."

"And could you really bring yourself to win a boy's pocket-money,--a
mere boy?" said Layton, now suddenly aroused to full consciousness, and
coming so close to O'Shea as to be inaudible to the other.

"Smallest contributions thankfully received, is _my_ motto," said
O'Shea. "Not but, as a matter of education, the youth has gained a
deuced sight more from _me_ than _you!_"

"The reproach is just," said Layton, bitterly. "I _have_ neglected my
trust,--grossly neglected it,--and in nothing more than suffering him to
keep _your_ company."

"Oh! is that your tone?" whispered the other, still lower. "Thank your
stars for it, you never met a man more ready to humor your whim."

"What's the 'Member' plotting?" said Aginoourt, coming up between them.
"Do let _me_ into the plan."

"It is something he wishes to speak to _me_ about tomorrow at eleven
o'clock," said Layton, with a significant look at O'Shea, "and which is
a matter strictly between ourselves."

"All right," said Agincourt, turning back to the table again, while
O'Shea, with a nod of assent, left the room.

"We must set to work vigorously to-morrow, Henry," said Layton, laying
his hand on the boy's shoulder. "You have fallen into idle ways, and the
fault is all my own. For both our sakes, then, let us amend it."

"Whatever you like, Alfred," said the boy, turning on him a look of real
affection; "only never blame yourself if you don't make a genius of me.
I was always a stupid dog!"

"You are a true-hearted English boy," muttered Layton, half to himself,
"and well deserved to have fallen into more careful hands than mine.
Promise me, however, all your efforts to repair the past."

"That I will," said he, grasping the other's hand, and shaking it in
token of his pledge. "But I still think," said he, in a slightly broken
voice, "they might have made a sailor of me; they 'll never make a
scholar!"

"We must get away; we must leave this," said Layton, speaking half to
himself.

"I 'm sorry for it," replied the boy. "I like the old villa, and I like
Sir William and Charley, and the girls too. Ay, and I like that trout
stream under the alders, and that jolly bit of grass land where we
have just put up the hurdles. I say, Layton," added he, with a sigh, "I
wonder when shall we be as happy as we have been here?"

"Who knows?" said Layton, sorrowfully.

"I'm sure _I_ never had such a pleasant time of it in my life. Have
you?"

"_I_--I don't know,--that is, I believe not. I mean--never," stammered
out Layton, in confusion.

"Ha! I fancied as much. I thought you didn't like it as well as _I_
did."

"Why so?" asked Layton, eagerly.

"It was May put it into my head the other morning. She said it was
downright cruelty to make you come out and stop here; that you could
n't, with all your politeness, conceal how much the place bored you!"

"She said this?"

"Yes; and she added that if it were not for Clara, with her German
lessons and her little Venetian barcarolles, you would have been driven
to desperation."

"But you could have told her, Henry, that I delighted in this place;
that I never had passed such happy days as here."

"I did think so when we knew them first, but latterly it seemed to me
that you were somehow sadder and graver than you used to be. You didn't
like to ride with us; you seldom came down to the river; you'd pass all
the morning in the library; and, as May said, you only seemed happy when
you were giving Clara her lesson in German."

"And to whom did May say this?"

"To me and to Clara.

"And Clara,--did she make any answer?"

"Not a word. She got very pale, and seemed as though she would burst out
a-crying. Heaven knows why! Indeed, I 'm not sure the tears were n't in
her eyes, as she hurried away; and it was the only day I ever saw May
Leslie cross."

"I never saw her so," said Layton, half rebukefully.

"Then you didn't see her on that day, that's certain! She snubbed
Charley about his riding, and would n't suffer Mrs. Morris to show her
something that had gone wrong in her embroidery; and when we went down
to the large drawing-room to rehearse our tableau,--that scene you wrote
for us,--she refused to take a part, and said, 'Get Clara; she 'll do it
better!'"

"And it was thus our little theatricals fell to the ground," said
Layton, musingly; "and I never so much as suspected all this!"

"Well," said the boy, with a hesitating manner, "I believe I ought not
to have told you. I 'm sure she never intended I should; but somehow,
after our tiff--"

"And did _you_ quarrel with her?" asked Layton, eagerly.

"Not quarrel, exactly; but it was what our old commander used to call a
false-alarm fire; for I thought her unjust and unfair towards you, and
always glad when she could lay something or other to your charge, and I
said so to her frankly."

"And she?"

"She answered me roundly enough. 'When you are a little older, young
gentleman,' said she, 'you 'll begin to discover that our likings and
dislikings are not always under our own control.' She tried to be very
calm and cool as she said it, but she was as pale as if going to faint
before she finished."

"She said truly," muttered Layton to himself; "our impulses are but the
shadows our vices or virtues throw before them." Then laying his arm
on the boy's shoulder, he led him away, to plan and plot out a future
course of study, and repair all past negligence and idleness.

Ere we leave this scene, let us follow Mrs. Morris, who, having quitted
the house, quickly went in search of Charles Heathcote. There was that
in the vexed and angry look of the young man, as he left the room,
that showed her how easy it would be in such a moment to become his
confidante. Through the traits of his resentment she could read an
impatience that could soon become indiscretion. "Let me only be the
repository of any secret of his mind," muttered she,--"I care not
what,--and I ask nothing more. If there be one door of a house open,--be
it the smallest,--it is enough to enter by."

She had not to go far in her search. There was a small raised terrace at
the end of the garden,--a favorite spot with him,--and thither she had
often herself repaired to enjoy the secret luxury of a cigar; for Mrs.
Morris smoked whenever opportunity permitted that indulgence without
the hazard of forfeiting the good opinion of such as might have held the
practice in disfavor. Now, Charles Heathcote was the only confidant of
this weakness, and the mystery, small as it was, had served to establish
a sort of bond between them.

"I knew I should find you here," said she, stealing noiselessly to his
side, as, leaning over the terrace, he stood deep in thought. "Give me a
cigar."

He took the case slowly from his pocket, and held it towards her in
silence.

"How vastly polite! Choose one for me, sir," said she, pettishly.

"They 're all alike," said he, carelessly, as he drew one from the
number and offered it.

"And now a light," said she, "for I see yours has gone out, without your
knowing it. Pray do mind what you 're doing; you've let the match fall
on my foot. Look there!"

And he did look, and saw the prettiest foot and roundest ankle that ever
Parisian coquetry had done its uttermost to grace; but he only smiled
half languidly, and said, "There's no mischief done--to either of us!"
the last words being muttered to himself. Her sharp ears, however, had
caught them; and had he looked at her then, he would have seen her face
a deep crimson. "Is the play over? Have they left the billiard-room?"
asked he.

"Of course it is over," said she, mockingly. "Sportsmen rarely linger in
the preserves where there is no game."

"What do you think of that same Mr. O'Shea? You rarely mistake people.
Tell me frankly your opinion of him," said he, abruptly.

"He plays billiards far better than _you_," said she, dryly.

"I 'm not talking of his play, I 'm asking what you think of him."

"He's your master at whist, écarté, and piquet. I _think_ he's a better
pistol shot; and he says he rides better."

"I defy him. He's a boastful, conceited fellow. Take his own account,
and you 'll not find his equal anywhere. But still, all this is no
answer to my question."

"Yes, but it is, though. When a man possesses a very wide range of small
accomplishments in a high degree of perfection, I always take it for
granted that he lives by them."

"Just what I thought,--exactly what I suspected," broke he in, angrily.
"I don't know how we ever came to admit him here, as we have. That
passion May has for opening the doors to every one has done it all."

"If people will have a menagerie, they must make up their mind to meet
troublesome animals now and then," said she, dryly.

"And then," resumed he, "the absurdity is, if I say one word, the reply
is, 'Oh, you are so jealous!'"

"Naturally enough!" was the cool remark.

"Naturally enough! And why naturally enough? Is it of such fellows as
Layton or O'Shea I should think of being jealous?"

"I think you might," said she, gravely. "They are, each of them, very
eager to succeed in that about which you show yourself sufficiently
indifferent; and although May is certainly bound by the terms of her
father's will, there are conditions by which she can purchase her
freedom."

"Purchase her freedom! And is that the way she regards her position?"
cried he, trembling with agitation.

"Can you doubt it? Need you do more than ask yourself, How do you look
on your own case? And yet you are not going to bestow a great fortune. I
'm certain that, do what you will, your heart tells you it is a slave's
bargain."

"Did May tell you so?" said he, in a voice thick with passion.

"No."

"Did she ever hint as much?"

"No."

"Do you believe that any one ever dared to say it?"

"As to that, I can't say; the world is very daring, and says a
great many naughty things without much troubling itself about their
correctness."

"It may spare its censure on the present occasion, then."

"Is it that you will not exact her compliance?"

"I will not."

"How well I read you," cried she, catching up his cold and still
reluctant hand between both her own; "how truly I understood your noble,
generous nature! It was but yesterday I was writing about you to a very
dear friend, who had asked me when the marriage was to take place, and
I said: 'If I have any skill in deciphering character, I should say,
Never. Charles Heathcote is not the man to live a pensioner on a wife's
rental; he is far more likely to take service again as a soldier, and
win a glorious name amongst those who are now reconquering India. His
daring spirit chafes against the inglorious idleness of his present
life, and I 'd not wonder any morning to see his place vacant at the
breakfast-table, and to hear he had sailed for Alexandria.'"

"You do me a fuller justice than many who have known me longer," said
he, pensively.

"Because I read you more carefully,--because I considered you without
any disturbing element of self-interest; and if I was now and then angry
at the lethargic indolence of your daily life, I used to correct myself
and say, 'Be patient; his time is coming; and when the hour has once
struck for him, he 'll dally no longer!'"

"And my poor father--"

"Say, rather, your proud father, for he is the man to appreciate your
noble resolution, and feel proud of his son."

"But to leave him--to desert him--"

"It is no eternal separation. In a year or two you will rejoin him,
never to part again. Take my word for it, the consciousness that his son
is accomplishing a high duty will be a strong fund of consolation for
absence. It is to mistake him to suppose that he could look on your
present life without deep regret."

"Ah! is that so?" cried he, with an expression of pain.

"He has never owned as much to me; but I have read it in him, just as I
have read in _you_ that you are not the man to stoop to an ignominious
position to purchase a life of ease and luxury."

"You were right there!" said he, warmly.

"Of course I was. I could not be mistaken."

"You shall not be, at all events," said he, hurriedly. "How cold your
hand is! Let us return to the house." And they walked back in silence to
the door.



CHAPTER XV. MRS. PENTHONY MORRIS AT HER WRITING-TABLE

It was late on that same night,--very late. The villa was all quiet and
noiseless as Mrs. Morris sat at her writing-table, engaged in a very
long letter. The epistle does not in any way enter into our story. It
was to her father, in reply to one she had just received from him, and
solely referred to little family details with which our reader can have
no interest, save in a passing reference to a character already before
him, and of whom she thus wrote:--

"And so your alchemist turns out to be the father of my admirer, Mr.
Alfred Layton. I can sincerely say your part of the family is the more
profitable, for I should find it a very difficult problem to make five
hundred pounds out of mine! Nor can I sufficiently admire the tact
with which you rescued even so much from such a wreck! I esteem your
cleverness the more, since--shall I confess it, dear papa?--I thought
that the man of acids and alkalies would turn out to be the rogue and
you the dupe! Let me hasten, therefore, to make the _amende honorable_,
and compliment you on your new character of chemist.

"In your choice, too, of the mode of disembarrassing yourself of his
company, you showed an admirable wisdom; and you very justly observe,
these are not times when giving a dog a bad name will save the trouble
of hanging him, otherwise an exposure of his treasonable principles
might have sufficed. Far better was the method you selected, while, by
making _him_ out to be mad, you make _yourself_ out to be benevolent.
You have caught, besides, a very popular turn of the public mind at a
lucky conjuncture. There is quite a vogue just now for shutting up
one's mother-in-law, or one's wife, or any other disagreeable domestic
ingredient, on the plea of insanity; and a very clever physician, with
what is called 'an ingenious turn of mind,' will find either madness
or arsenic in any given substance. You will, however, do wisely to come
abroad, for the day will come of a reaction, and 'the lock-up' system
will be converted into the 'let-loose,' and a sort of doomsday arrive
when one will be confronted with very unwelcome acquaintances."

As she had written thus far, a very gentle voice at her door whispered,
"May I come in, dearest?"

"Oh, darling, is it you?" cried Mrs. Morris, throwing a sheet of paper
over her half-written epistle. "I was just writing about you. My sweet
May, I have a dear old godmother down in Devonshire who loves to hear of
those who love _me_; and it is such a pleasure, besides, to write about
those who are happy."

"And you call me one of them, do you?" said the girl, with a deep sigh.

"I call you one who has more of what makes up happiness than any I have
ever known. You are very beautiful,--nay, no blushing, it is a woman
says it; so handsome, May, that it is downright shame of Fortune to have
made you rich too. You should have been left to your beauty, as other
people are left to their great connections, or their talents, or their
Three per Cents; and then you are surrounded by those who love you,
May,--a very commendable thing in a world which has its share of
disagreeable people; and, lastly, to enjoy all these fair gifts, you
have got youth."

"I shall be nineteen on the fourth of next month, Lucy," said the other,
gravely; "and it was just about that very circumstance that I came to
speak to you."

Mrs. Morris knew thoroughly well what the speech portended, but she
looked all innocence and inquiry.

"You are aware, Lucy, what my coming of age brings with it?" said the
girl, half pettishly.

"That you become a great millionnaire, dearest,--a sort of female
Rothschild, with funds and stocks in every land of the earth."

"I was not speaking of money. I was alluding to the necessity of
deciding as to my own fate in life. I told you that by my father's will
I am bound to declare that I accept or reject Charles Heathcote within
six months after my coming of age."

"I do not, I confess, see anything very trying in that, May. I conclude
that you know enough of your own mind to say whether you like him or
not. You are not strangers to each other. You have been domesticated
together--"

"That 's the very difficulty," broke in May. "There has been intimacy
between us, but nothing like affection,--familiarity enough, but no
fondness."

"Perhaps that's not so bad a feature as you deem it," said the other,
dryly. "Such a tame, table-land prospect before marriage may all the
better prepare you for the dull uniformity of wedded life."

May gave a slight sigh, and was silent, while the other continued,--

"Being very rich, dearest, is, of course, a great resource, for you can,
by the mere indulgence of your daily caprices, give yourself a sort of
occupation, and a kind of interest in life."

May sighed again, and more heavily.

"I know this is not what one dreams of, my dear May," resumed she,
"and I can well imagine how reluctant you are to seek happiness in toy
terriers or diamond earrings; but remember what I told you once before
was the great lesson the world taught us, that every joy we compass
in this life is paid for dearly, in some shape or other, and that the
system is one great scheme of compensations, the only wisdom being, to
be sure you have got at last what you have paid for."

"I remember your having said that," said May, thoughtfully.

"Yes; it was in correction of a great mistake you had made, May, when
you were deploring the fate of some one who had contracted an unequal
marriage. It was then that I ventured to tell you that what the world
calls a misalliance is the one sure throw for a happy union."

"But you did n't convince me!" said May, hastily.

"Possibly not. I could not expect you to look on life from the same
sad eminence I have climbed to; still I think you understood me when I
showed you that as air and sunlight are blessings which we enjoy without
an effort, so affection, gained without sacrifice, elicits no high sense
of self-esteem,--none of that self-love which is but the reflex of real
love."

"Charles would, then, according to your theory, be eminently happy
in marrying me, for, to all appearance, the sacrifice would be
considerable," said May, with a half-bitter laugh.

"_My_ theory only applies to _us_ dear May; as for men, they marry from
a variety of motives, all prompted by some one or other feature of their
selfishness: this one for fortune, that for family influence, the other
because he wants a home, and so on."

"And not for love at all?" broke in May.

"Alas! dearest, the man who affords himself the pleasure of being in
love is almost always unable to indulge in any other luxury. It is your
tutor creature, there, like Layton, falls in love!"

May smiled, and turned away her head; but the crimson flush of her
cheek soon spread over her neck, and Mrs. Morris saw it.

"Yes," resumed she, as if reflecting aloud, "love is the one sole
dissipation of these student men, and, so to say, it runs through the
dull-colored woof of their whole after-life, like a single gold thread
glittering here and there at long intervals, and it gives them those
dreamy fits of imaginative bliss which their quiet helpmates trustfully
ascribe to some intellectual triumph. And it is in these the poor curate
forgets his sermon, and the village doctor his patient, thinking of some
moss-rose he had plucked long ago!"

"Do you believe that, Loo?" asked the girl, eagerly.

"I know it, dear; and what's more, it is these very men are the best
of husbands, the kindest and the tenderest. The perfume of an early love
keeps the heart pure for many a long year after. Let us take Layton, for
instance."

"But why Mr. Layton? What do we know about him?"

"Not much, certainly; but enough to illustrate our meaning. It is quite
clear he is desperately in love."

"With whom, pray?" Asked May. And her face became crimson as she spoke.

"With a young lady who cannot speak of him without blushing," said Mrs.
Morris, calmly; and continued: "At first sight it does seem a very
cruel thing to inspire such a man with a hopeless passion, yet, on
second thought, we see what a stream of sunlight this early memory will
throw over the whole bleak landscape of his after-life. You are his
torture now, but you will be his benefactor in many a dark hour of the
dreary pilgrimage before him. There will be touches of tenderness in
that ode he 'll send to the magazine; there will be little spots of
sweet melancholy in that village story; men will never know whence they
found their way into the curate's heart. How little aware are they
that there's a corner there for old memories, embalmed amongst holier
thoughts,--a withered rose-leaf between the pages of a prayer-book!"

May again sighed, and with a tremor in the cadence that was almost a
sob.

"So that," resumed the other, in a more flippant voice, "you can forgive
yourself for your present cruelty, by thinking of all the benefits you
are to bestow hereafter, and all this without robbing your rightful lord
of one affection, one solitary emotion, he has just claim to. And that,
my sweet May, is more than you can do with your worldly wealth, for,
against every check you send your banker, the cashier's book will retain
the record."

"You only confuse me with all this," said May, pettishly. "I came for
counsel."

"And I have given you more,--I have given you consolation. I wish any
one would be as generous with _me!_"

"Oh, you are not angry with me!" cried the girl, earnestly.

"Angry! no, dearest, a passing moment of selfish regret is not anger,
but it is of _you_, not of _me_, I would speak; tell me everything. Has
Charles spoken to you?"

"Not a word. It may be indifference, or it may be that, in a sense of
security about the future, he does not care to trouble himself."

"Nay, scarcely that," said the other, thoughtfully.

"Whatever the cause, you will own it is not very flattering to _me_,"
said she, flushing deeply.

"And Mr. Layton,--is _he_ possessed of the same calm philosophy? Has
he the same trustful reliance on destiny?" said Mrs. Morris, who,
apparently examining the lace border of her handkerchief, yet stole a
passing glance at the other's face.

"How can you ask such a question? What is _he_ to _me_, or _I_ to
_him?_ If he ever thought of me, besides, he must have remembered that the
difference of station between us presents an insurmountable objection."

"As if Love asked for anything better," cried Mrs. Morris, laughingly.
"Why, dearest, the passion thrives on insurmountable objections, just
the way certain fish swallow stones, not for nutriment, but to aid
digestion by a difficulty. If he be the man I take him for, he must hug
an obstacle to his heart as a Heaven-sent gift. Be frank with me, May,"
said she, passing her arm affectionately round her waist; "confess
honestly that he told you as much."

"No; he never said that," muttered she, half reluctantly. "What he said
was that if disparity of condition was the only barrier between us,--if
he were sure, or if he could even hope, that worldly success could open
an avenue to my heart--"

"That he 'd go and be Prime Minister of England next session.

     'If doughty deeds
     My lady please!'

That was his tone, was it? Oh dear! and I fancied the man had something
new or original about him. Truth is, dearest, it is in love as in
war,--there are nothing but the same old weapons to fight with, and we
are lost or won just as our great-great-grandmothers were before us."

"I wish you would be serious, Lucy," said the girl, half rebukefully.

"Don't you know me well enough by this time to perceive that I am never
more thoughtful than in what seems my levity? and this on principle,
too, for in the difficulties of life Fancy will occasionally suggest a
remedy Reason had never hit upon, just as sportsmen will tell you that
a wild, untrained spaniel will often flush a bird a more trained dog had
never 'marked.' And now, to be most serious, you want to choose between
the eligible man who is sure of you, and the most unequal suitor who
despairs of his success. Is not that your case?"

May shook her head dissentingly.

"Well, it is sufficiently near the issue for our purpose. Not so? Come,
then, I 'll put it differently. You are balancing whether to refuse your
fortune to Charles Heathcote or yourself to Alfred Layton; and my advice
is, do both."

May grew very pale, and, after an effort to say something, was silent.

"Yes, dearest, between the man who never pledges to pay and him who
offers a bad promissory note, there is scant choice, and I 'd say, take
neither."

"I know how it will wound my dear old guardian, who loves me like a
daughter," began May. But the other broke in,--

"Oh! there are scores of things one can do in life to oblige one's
friends, but marriage is not one of them. And then, bethink you, May,
how little you have seen of the world; and surely there is a wider
choice before you than between a wearied lounger on half-pay and a poor
tutor."

"Yes; a poor tutor if you will, but of a name and family the equal of my
own," said May, hastily, and with a dash of temper in the words.

"Who says so? Who has told you that?"

"He himself. He told me that though there were some painful
circumstances in his family history he would rather not enter upon,
that, in point of station, he yielded to none in the rank of untitled
gentry. He spoke of his father as a man of the very highest powers."

"Did he tell you what station he occupied at this moment?"

"No. And do you know it?"

"Yes," said Mrs. Morris, gravely.

"Will you not tell me, Lucy?" asked May, eagerly.

"No; there is not any reason that I should. You have just said, 'What
is Mr. Layton to me, or I to him?' and in the face of such a confession
why should I disparage him?"

"So, then, the confession would disparage him?"

"It might."

"This reserve is not very generous towards me, I must say," said the
girl, passionately.

"It is from generosity to you that I maintain it," said the other,
coldly.

"But if I were to tell you that the knowledge interests me deeply; that
by it I may possibly be guided in a most eventful decision?"

"Oh, if you mean to say, 'Alfred Layton has asked me to marry him,
and my reply depends upon what I may learn about his family and their
station '--"

"No, no; I have not said that," burst in May.

"Not said, only implied it. Still, if it be what you desire me to
entertain, I will have no concealments from you."

"I cannot buy your secret by a false pretence, Loo; there is no such
compact as this between Layton and myself. Alfred asked me--"

"Alfred!" said Mrs. Morris, repeating the name after her, and with
such a significance as sent all the color to the girl's cheek and
forehead,--"Alfred! And what did Alfred ask you?"

"I scarcely know what I am saying," cried May, as she covered her face
with her hands.

"Poor child!" cried Mrs. Morris, tenderly, "I can find my way into your
heart without your breaking it. Do not cry, dearest. I know as well all
that he said as if I had overheard him saying it! The world has just its
two kinds of suitors,--the one who offers us marriage in a sort of grand
princely fashion, and the other who, beseechingly proclaiming his utter
unworthiness, asks us to wait,--to wait for an uncle or a stepmother's
death; to wait till he has got this place in the colonies, or that
vicarage in Bleakshire; to wait till he has earned fame and honor, and
Heaven knows what; till, in fact, he shall have won a wreath of laurel
for his brows, and we have attained to a false plait for ours!" She
paused a second or two to see if May would speak, but as she continued
silent, Mrs. Morris went on: "There are few stock subjects people are
more eloquent in condemning than what are called long engagements. There
are some dozen of easy platitudes that every one has by heart on this
theme; and yet, if the truth were to be told, it is the waiting is the
best of it,--the marriage is the mistake! That faint little flickering
hope that lighted us on for years and years is extinguished at the
church door, and never relighted after; so that, May, my advice to you
is, never contract a long engagement until you have made up your mind
not to marry at the end of it! My poor, poor child! why are you sobbing
so bitterly? Surely I have said nothing to cause you sorrow?"

May turned away without speaking, but her heaving shoulders betrayed how
intensely she was weeping.

"May _I_ see him,--may _I_ speak with him, May?" said Mrs. Morris,
drawing her arm affectionately around her waist.

"To what end,--with what view?" said the girl, suddenly and almost
haughtily.

"Now that you ask me in that tone, May, I scarcely know. I suppose I
meant to show him how inconsiderate, how impossible his hopes were; that
there was nothing in his station or prospects that could warrant this
presumption. I suppose I had something of this sort on my mind, but I
own to you now, your haughty glance has completely routed all my wise
resolutions."

"Perhaps you speculated on the influence of that peculiar knowledge of
his family history you appear to be possessed of?" said May, with some
pique.

"Perhaps so," was the dry rejoinder.

"And which you do not mean to confide to _me?_" said the girl, proudly.

"I have not said so. So long as you maintained that Mr. Layton was
to you nothing beyond a mere acquaintance, my secret, as you have so
grandly called it, might very well rest in my own keeping. If, however,
the time were come that he should occupy a very different place in your
regard--"

"Instead of saying 'were come,' Loo, just say, 'If the time might come,"
said May, timidly.

"Well, then, 'if the time _might_ come,' I _might_ tell all that I know
about him."

"But then it might be too late. I mean, that it might come when it could
only grieve, and not guide me."

"Oh, if I thought _that_, you should never know it! Be assured of one
thing, May: no one ever less warred against the inevitable than myself.
When I read, 'No passage this way,' I never hesitate about seeking
another road."

"And I mean to go mine, and without a guide either!" said May, moving
towards the door.

"So I perceived some time back," was the dry reply of Mrs. Morris, as
she busied herself with the papers before her.

"Good-night, dear, and forgive my interruption," said May, opening the
door.

"Good-night, and delightful dreams to you," said Mrs. Morris, in her own
most silvery accents. And May was gone.

The door had not well closed when Mrs. Morris was again, pen in hand,
glancing rapidly over what she had written, to catch up the clew. This
was quickly accomplished, and she wrote away rapidly. It is not "in our
brief" to read that letter; nor would it be "evidence;" enough, then,
that we say it was one of those light, sparkling little epistles which
are thrown off in close confidence, and in which the writer fearlessly
touches any theme that offers. She sketched off the Heathcotes with
a few easy graphic touches, giving a very pleasing portraiture of May
herself, ending with these words:--

"Add to all these attractions a large estate and a considerable sum in
the funds, and then say, dear pa, is not this what Ludlow had so long
been looking for? I am well aware of his pleasant habit of believing
nothing, nor any one, so that you must begin by referring him to
Doctors' Commons, where he can see the will. General Leslie died in
18--, and left Sir William Heathcote sole executor. When fully satisfied
on the money question, you can learn anything further from me that
you wish; one thing only I stipulate for, and that is, to hold no
correspondence myself with L. Of course, like as in everything else,
he'll not put any faith in this resolution; but time will teach him at
last. The negotiation must be confided to your own hands. Do not employ
Collier nor any one else. Be secret, and be speedy, for I plainly
perceive the young lady will marry some one immediately after learning a
disappointment now impending. Remember, my own conditions are: all the
letters, and that we meet as utter strangers. I ask nothing more, I will
accept nothing less. As regards Clara, he cannot, I suspect, make any
difficulty; but that may be a question for ulterior consideration. Clara
is growing up pretty, but has lost all her spirits, and will, in a few
months more, look every day of her real age. I am sadly vexed about this;
but it comes into the long category of the things to be endured."

The letter wound up with some little light and flippant allusions to her
father's complaints about political ingratitude:--

"I really do forget, dear papa, which are our friends; but surely no
party would refuse your application for a moderate employment. The only
creature I know personally amongst them is the Colonial Sec., and he
says, 'They 've left me nothing to give but the bishoprics.'
Better that, perhaps, than nothing, but could you manage to accept
one? _that_ is the question. There is an Irish M.P. here--a certain
O'Shea--who tells me there are a variety of things to give in the West
Indies, with what he calls wonderful pickings--meaning, I suppose,
stealings. Why not look for one of these? I 'll question my friend the
Member more closely, and give you the result.

"It was odd enough, a few months ago, O'S., never suspecting to whom he
was talking, said, 'There was an old fellow in Ireland, a certain Nick
Holmes, could tell more of Government rogueries and rascalities than
any man living; and if I were he, I 'd make them give me the first good
thing vacant, or I 'd speak out.' Dear papa, having made so much out
of silence, is it not worth while to think how much eloquence might be
worth?

"Your affectionate daughter,

"Lucy M."



CHAPTER XVI. A SICK-ROOM

It was a severe night of early winter,--one of those stormy intervals in
which Italy seems to assume all the rigors of some northern land, with
an impetuosity derived from her own more excitable latitude. The rain
beat against the windows with distinct and separate plashes, and the
wind rattled and shook the strong walls with a violence that seemed
irresistible.

In a large old room of a very old palace at Lucca, Alfred Layton walked
to and fro, stopping every now and then to listen to some heightened
effort of the gale without, and then resuming his lonely saunter. There
were two large and richly ornamented fireplaces, and in one of them a
small fire was burning, and close to this stood a table with a shaded
lamp, and by these frail lights a little brightness was shed over this
portion of the vast chamber, while the remainder was shrouded in deep
shadow. As the fitful flashes of the wood-fire shone from time to time
on the walls, little glimpses might be caught of a much-faded tapestry,
representing some scenes from the "Æneid;" but on none of these did
Layton turn an eye nor bestow a thought, for he was deep in sorrowful
reflections of his own,--cares too heavy to admit of any passing
distraction. He was alone, for Agincourt had gone to spend the day
at the "Caprini," whither Alfred would have accompanied him but for
a letter which the morning's post had brought to his hands, and whose
contents had overwhelmed him with sorrow.

It was from his mother, written from a sick-bed, and in a hand that
betokened the most extreme debility. And oh! what intense expression
there is in these weak and wavering lines, wherein the letters seemed to
vibrate still with the tremulous motion of the fevered fingers!--what
a deep significance do we attach to every word thus written! till at
length, possessed of every syllable and every stop, we conjure up the
scene where all was written, and feel as though we heard the hurried
breathing of the sick-room. She had put off writing week after week, but
now could defer no longer. It was upwards of two months since his father
had left her to go to Dublin, and, from the day he went, she had never
heard from him. A paragraph, however, in a morning paper, though not
giving his name, unmistakably alluded to him as one who had grievously
fallen from the high and honorable station he had once occupied, and
spoke of the lamentable reverse that should show such a man in the dock
of a police-court on the charge of insulting and libelling a public
character in a ribald handbill. The prisoner was so hopelessly sunk
in drunkenness, it added, that he was removed from the court, and the
examination postponed.

By selling one by one the little articles of furniture she had, she
contrived, hitherto, to eke out a wretched support, and it was only when
at last these miserable resources had utterly failed her that she was
driven to grieve her son with her sad story. Nor was the least touching
part of her troubles that in which she spoke of her straits to avoid
being considered an object of charity by her neighbors. The very fact
of the rector having overpaid for a few books he had purchased made her
discontinue to send him others, so sensitive had misery made her. And
yet, strangely enough, there did not exist the same repugnance to accept
of little favors and trifling kindnesses from the poor people about
her, of whom she spoke with a deep and affectionate gratitude. Her whole
heart was, however, full of one thought and one hope,--to see her
dear son before she died. It was a last wish, and she felt as though
indulging it had given her the energy which had prolonged her life.
Doubts would cross her mind from time to time if it were possible for
him to come; if he could be so far his own master as to be able to
hasten to her; and even if doing so, he could be yet in time; but all
these would give way before the strength of her hope.

"That I should see you beside my bed,--that you should hold my hand as
I go hence,--will be happiness enough to requite me for much sorrow!"
wrote she. "But if this may not be, and that we are to meet no more
here, never forget that in my last prayer your name was mingled, and
that when I entreated forgiveness for myself, I implored a blessing for
_you!_"

"That letter was written on the Monday before; and where had he been
on that same Monday evening?" asked he of himself. "How had he been
occupied in those same hours when she was writing this? Yes, that
evening he was seated beside May Leslie at the piano, while 'she played
and sang for him. They had been talking of German songwriters, and she
was recalling here and there such snatches of Uhland and Schiller as
she could remember; while Clara, leaning over the back of his chair, was
muttering the words when May forgot them, and in an accent the purest
and truest What a happy hour was that to _him!_ and to _her_ how
wretched, how inexpressibly wretched, as, alone and friendless, she
wrote those faint lines!"

Poor Layton felt very bitterly the thought that, while he was living in
an easy enjoyment of life, his mother, whom he loved dearly, should be
in deep want and suffering.

In the easy carelessness of a disposition inherited from his father, he
had latterly been spending money far too freely. His constant visits
to Marlia required a horse, and then, with all a poor man's dread to be
thought poor, he was ten times more liberal to servants than was called
for, and even too ready to join in whatever involved cost or expense.
Latterly, too, he had lost at play; small sums, to be sure, but they
were the small sums of a small exchequer, and they occurred every day,
for at the game of pool poor Layton's ball was always the first on
the retired list; and the terrible Mr. O'Shea, who observed a sort
of reserve with Charles Heathcote, made no scruple of employing sharp
practice with the tutor.

He emptied the contents of his purse on the table, and found that all
his worldly wealth was a trifle over fifteen pounds, and of this he was
indebted to Charles Heathcote some three or four,--the losses of his
last evening at the "Caprini." What was to be done? A journey to Ireland
would cost fully the double of all he possessed, not to say that, once
there, he would require means. So little was he given to habits of
personal indulgence, that he had nothing--absolutely nothing--to dispose
of save his watch, and that was of little value; a few books, indeed, he
possessed, but their worth, even if he could obtain it, would have been
of no service. With these embarrassing thoughts of his poverty came also
others, scarcely less fraught with difficulty. How should he relieve
himself of his charge of Lord Agincourt? There would be no time to write
to his guardians and receive their reply. He could not leave the boy in
Italy; nor dare he, without the consent of his relatives, take him back
to England. How to meet these difficulties he knew not, and time was
pressing,--every hour of moment to him. Was there one, even one, whose
counsel he could ask, or whose assistance he could bespeak? He ran
over the names of those around him, but against each, in turn, some
insuperable objection presented itself. There possibly had been a time
he might have had recourse to Sir William, frankly owning how he was
circumstanced, and bespeaking his aid for the moment; but of late the
old Baronet's manner towards him had been more cold and reserved than at
first,--studiously courteous, it is true, but a courtesy that excluded
intimacy. As to Charles, they had never been really friendly together,
and yet there was a familiarity between them that made a better
understanding more remote than ever.

While he revolved all these troubles in his head, he walked up and down
his room with the feverish impatience of one to whom rest was torture.
At last, even the house seemed too narrow for his restless spirit, and,
taking his hat, he went out, careless of the swooping rain, nor mindful
of the cold and cutting wind as it swept down from the last spur of the
Apennines. As the chill rain drenched him, there seemed almost a sense
of relief in the substitution of a bodily suffering to the fever that
burned in his brain, and seeking out the bleakest part of the old
ramparts, he stood breasting the storm, which had now increased to a
perfect hurricane.

"The rain cannot beat upon one more friendless and forlorn," muttered
he, as he stood shivering there; the strange fascination of misery
suggesting a sort of bastard heroism to his spirit. "The humblest peasant
in that dreary Campagna has more of sympathy and kindness than I
have. He has those poor as himself and powerless to aid, but willing to
befriend him." There was ever in his days of depression a fierce
revolt in his nature against the position he occupied in the world. The
acceptance on sufferance, the recognition accorded to his pupil
being his only claim to attention, were painful wounds to a haughty
temperament, and, with the ingenuity of a self-tormentor, he ascribed
every reverse he met in life to his false position. He accepted it, no
doubt, to be able to help those who had made such sacrifices for him,
and yet even in this it was a failure. There lay his poor mother, dying
of very want, in actual destitution, and he could not help--could not
even be with her!

Though his wet clothes, now soaked with half-frozen drift, sent a deadly
chill through him, the fever of his blood rendered him unconscious of
it, and his burning brain seemed to defy the storm, while in the wild
raging of the elements he caught up a sort of excitement that sustained
him. For more than two hours he wandered about in that half-frenzied
state, and at length, benumbed and exhausted, he turned homeward. To
his surprise, he perceived, as he drew near, that the windows were all
alight, and a red glow of a large wood-fire sent its mellow glare across
the street; but greater was his astonishment on entering to see the
tall figure of a man stretched at full length on three chairs before the
fire, fast asleep, a carpet-bag and a travelling-cloak beside him.

Never was Layton less disposed to see a stranger and play the host to
any one, and he shook the sleeper's shoulder in a fashion that speedily
awoke him; who, starting up with a bound, cried out, "Well, Britisher,
I must say this is a kinder droll way to welcome a friend."

"Oh, Colonel, is it you?" said Layton. "Pray forgive my rudeness. But
coming in as I did, without expecting any one, wet and somewhat
tired--" He stopped and looked vacantly about him, as though not clearly
remembering where he was.

Quackinboss had, however, been keenly examining him while he spoke, and
marked in his wildly excited eyes and flushed cheeks the signs of some
high excitement "You ain't noways right; you 're wet through and cold,
besides," said he, taking his hand in both his own. "Do you feel ill?"

"Yes; that is--I feel as if--I--had--lost my way," muttered he, with
long pauses between the words.

"There 's nothing like bed and a sound sleep for that," said the other,
gently; while, taking Layton's arm, he led him quietly along towards
the half-open door of his bedroom. Passively surrendering himself to
the other's care, Alfred made no resistance to all he dictated, and,
removing his dripping clothes, he got into bed.

"It is here the most pain is now," said he, placing his palm on his
temple,--"here, and inside my head."

"I wish I could talk to that servant of yours; he don't seem a very
bright sort of creetur, but I could make him of use." With this muttered
remark, Quackinboss walked back into the sitting-room, where Layton's
man was now extinguishing the lights and the fire. "You have to keep
that fire in, I say--fire--great fire--hot water. Understand me?"

"'Strissimo! si," said the Tuscan, bowing courteously.

"Well, then, do you fetch some lemons--lemons. You know lemons, don't
you?"

A shrug was the unhappy reply.

"Lemong--lemong! You know _them?_"

"Limoni! oh si." And he made the sign of squeezing them; and then,
hastening out of the room, he speedily reappeared with lemons and other
necessaries to concoct a drink.

"That's it,--bravo, that's it! Brew it right hot, my worthy fellow,"
said Quackinboss, with a gesture that implied the water was to be boiled
immediately. He now returned to Layton, whom he found sitting up in the
bed, talking rapidly to himself, but with all the distinctness of one
perfectly collected.

"By Marseilles I could reach Paris on Tuesday night, and London
on Wednesday. Isn't there a daily packet for Genoa?" asked he, as
Quackinboss entered.

"Well, I guess there's more than 's good of 'em," drawled out the other;
"ill-found, ill-manned, dirty craft as ever I put foot in!"

"Yes, but they leave every day, don't they?" asked Lay-ton,
impatiently.

"I ain't posted up in their doin's, nor I don't want to, that's a
fact We went ashore with a calm sea and a full moon, coming up from
Civita-Vecchia--"

Layton burst into a laugh at the strange pronunciation,--a wild,
unearthly sort of laugh that ended in a low, faint sigh, after which he
lay back like one exhausted.

[Illustration: 182]

"I 'm a-goin' to take a little blood from you, I am!" said Quackinboss,
producing a lancet which, from its shape and size, seemed more
conversant with horse than human practice.

"I 'll not be bled! How am I to travel a journey of seven, eight, or
ten days and nights, if I 'm bled?" cried the sick man, angrily.

"I 've got to bleed you, and I 'll do it!" said Quackinboss, as, taking
ont his handkerchief, he tore a long strip, like a ribbon, from its
border.

"Francesco--Francesco!" screamed out Layton, wildly, "take this
man away; he has no right to be here. I 'll not endure it Leave
me--go--leave me!" screamed he, angrily.

There was that peculiar something about the look of Quackinboss that
assured Francesco it would be as well not to meddle with him; and, like
all his countrymen, he was quick to read an expression and profit by his
knowledge. Even to the sick man, too, did the influence extend, and the
determinate, purpose-like tone of his manner enforced obedience without
even an effort.

"I was mystery-man for three years among the Choctaws," said he, as he
bound up Layton's arm, "and I 'll yield to no one livin' how to treat
a swamp fever, and that's exactly what you 've got." While the blood
trickled from the open vein he continued to talk on in the same strain.
"I 've seen a red man anoint hisself all over with oil, and set fire to
it, and then another stood by with a great blanket to wrap him up afore
he was more than singed, and it always succeeded in stoppin' the fever.
It brought it out to the surface like. Howsomever, it's only an
Indian's fixin', and I don't like it with a white man. How d' ye feel
now,--better?"

A muttering, dissatisfied sound, but half articulate, seemed to say, "No
better."

"It ain't to be expected yet," said Quackinboss. "Lie down, and be quiet
a bit."

Although the first effect of the bleeding seemed to calm the sufferer
and arrest his fever, the symptoms of the malady came back in full force
afterwards, and, ere day broke, he was raving wildly. At one moment he
fancied he was at work in the laboratory with his father, and he
ran over great calculations of mental arithmetic with a marvellous
volubility; then he was back in his chambers at Trinity, but he could
not find his books; they were gone--lost--no, not lost, he suddenly
remembered that he had sold them--sold them to send a pittance to his
poor sick mother. "It's a sad story, every part of it," whispered he in
Quackinboss's ear, while he clutched him closely with his hands. "It
was a great man was lost, mark you; and in a great shipwreck even the
fragments of the wreck work sad destruction, and, of course, none will
say a word for him. But remember, sir, I am his son, and will not hear
a syllable against him, from you nor any other." From this he abruptly
broke off to speak of O'Shea, and his late altercation with him. "I
waited at home all the morning for him, and at last got a note to say
that he had forgotten to tell me of an appointment he had made to ride
out with Miss Leslie, but he 'll be punctual to the hour to-morrow. So
it's better as it is, Colonel, for you 'll be here, and can act as my
friend,--won't you? Your countrymen understand all these sort of things
so well. And then, if I be called away suddenly to England, don't
tell them," whispered he, mysteriously,--"don't tell them at the villa
whither I 've gone. They know nothing of me nor of my family; never
heard of my ruined father, nor my poor, sick, destitute mother, dying
of actual want,--think of that,--while I was playing the man of fortune
here, affecting every extravagance,--yes, it was you yourself said so;
I overheard you in the garden, asking why or how was it, with such ample
means, I would become a tutor."

It was not alone that these words were uttered in a calm and collected
tone, but they actually recalled to the American a remark he had once
made about Layton. "Well," said he, as if some apology was called for,
"it warn't any business of mine, but I was sorry to see it."

"But you didn't know--you couldn't know," cried the other, eagerly,
"that I had no choice; my health was breaking. I had overworked my head;
I could n't go on. Have you ever tried what it is to read ten hours a
day? Answer me that."

"No; but I've been afoot sixteen out of the twenty-four for weeks
together, on an Indian trail; and that's considerable worse, I take it."

"Who cares for mere fatigue of body?" said Layton, contemptuously.

"And who says it's mere fatigue of body?" rejoined the other, "when
every sense a man has is strained and stretched to breakin', his ear to
the earth, and his eyes rangin' over the swell of the prairies, till
his brain aches with the strong effort; for, mark ye, Choctaws isn't
Pawnees: they 're on you with a swoop, just like a white squall in the
summer time." There is no saying how far Quackinboss, notwithstanding
all his boasted skill in physic, might have been tempted to talk on
about a theme he loved so well, when he was suddenly admonished, by the
expression of Layton's face, that the sick man was utterly unconscious
of all around him. The countenance had assumed that peculiar stern
and stolid gaze which is so markedly the characteristic of an affected
brain.

"There," muttered Quackinboss to himself, "I 've been a-talkin' all this
time to a poor creetur as is ravin' mad; all I 've been doin' is to make
him worse."



CHAPTER XVII. A MASTER AND MAN

Who owns the smart tandem that trips along so flippantly over the
slightly frosted road from the Bagni towards Lucca? What genius, cunning
in horseflesh, put that spicy pair together, perfect matches as they are
in all but color, for the wheeler is a blood chestnut, and the leader
a bright gray, with bone and substance enough for hunters? They have a
sort of lithe and wiry action that reminds one of the Hungarian
breed, and so, indeed, a certain jaunty carriage of the head, and
half wild-looking expression of eye, bespeak them. The high dog-cart,
however, is unmistakably English, as well as the harness, with its
massive mountings and broad straps. What an air of mingled elegance
and solidity pervades the entire! It is, as it were, all that such
an equipage can pretend to compass,--lightness, speed, and a dash of
sporting significance being its chief characteristics.

It is not necessary to present you to the portly gentleman who holds the
ribbons, all encased as he is in box-coats and railway wrappers; you
can still distinguish Mr. O'Shea, and as unmistakably recognize his
man Joe beside him. The morning is sharp, clear, and frosty, but so
perfectly still that the blue smoke of Mr. O'Shea's cigar hangs floating
in the air behind him, as the nimble nags spin along at something
slightly above thirteen miles an hour. Joe, too, solaces himself with
the bland weed, but in more primitive fashion, from a short "dudeen" of
native origin: his hat is pressed down firmly over his brows, and his
hands, even to the wrists, deeply encased in his pockets, for Joe, be it
owned, is less amply supplied with woollen comforts than his master, and
feels the morning sharp.

"Now, I call this a very neat turn-out; the sort of thing a man might
not be ashamed to tool along through any town in Europe," said O'Shea.

"You might show it in Sackville Street!" said Joe, proudly.

"Sackville Street?" rejoined O'Shea, in an accent of contemptuous
derision. "Is there any use, I wonder, in bringing you all over the
world?"

"There is not," said the other, in his most dogged manner.

"If there was," continued O'Shea, "you'd know that Dublin had no place
amongst the great cities of Europe,--that nobody went there,--none so
much as spoke of it. I 'd just as soon talk of Macroom in good society."

"And why would n't you talk of Macroom? What's the shame in it?" asked
the inexorable Joe.

"There would be just the same shame as if I was to bring you along with
me when I was asked out to dinner!"

"You might do worse," was the dry reply.

"I 'm curious to hear how."

"Troth, you might; and easy too," said Joe, sententiously.

These slight passages did not seem to invite conversation, and so, for
above a mile or two, nothing was spoken on either side. At last Mr.
O'Shea said,--

"I think that gray horse has picked up a stone; he goes tenderly near
side."

"He does not; he goes as well as you do," was Joe's answer.

"You're as blind as a bat, or you'd see he goes lame," said O'Shea,
drawing up.

"There, he's thrown it now; it was only a bit of a pebble," said Joe,
as though the victory was still on his side.

"Upon my life, I wonder why I keep you at all," burst out O'Shea,
angrily.

"So do I; and I wonder more why I stay."

"Does it ever occur to you to guess why?"

"No; never."

"It has nothing to say to being well fed, well lodged, well paid, and
well cared for?"

"No; it has not," said Joe, gravely. "The bit I ate, I get how I can;
these is my own clothes, and sorrow sixpence I seen o' your money since
last Christmas."

"Get down,--get down on the road this instant. You shall never sit
another mile beside me."

"I will not get down. Why would I, in a strange counthry, and not a
farthin' in my pocket!"

"Have a civil tongue, then, and don't provoke me to turn you adrift on
the world."

"I don't want to provoke you."

"What beastly stuff is that you are smoking?" said O'Shea, as a whole
cloud from Joe's pipe came wafted across him.

"'Tis n't bastely at all. I took it out of your own bag this morning."

"Not out of the antelope's skin?" asked O'Shea, eagerly.

"Yes; out of the hairy bag with the little hoofs on it."

A loud burst of laughter was O'Shea's reply, and for several seconds he
could not control his mirth.

"Do you know what you're smoking! It's Russian camomile!"

"Maybe it is."

"I got it to make a bitter mixture."

"It's bitther, sure enough, but it has a notion of tobacco too."

O'Shea again laughed out, and longer than before.

"It's just a chance that you were n't poisoned," said he, at last.
"Here--here's a cigar for you, and a real Cuban, too, one that young
Heathcote never fancied would grace your lips."

Joe accepted the boon without acknowledgment; indeed, he scrutinized
the gift with an air of half-depreciation.

"You don't seem to think much of a cigar," said O'Shea, testily.

"When I can get no betther," said Joe, biting off the end.

O'Shea frowned and turned away. It was evident that he had some
difficulty in controlling himself, but he succeeded, and was silent. The
effort, however, could not be sustained very long, and at last he said,
but in a slow and measured tone,--

"Shall I tell you a home-truth, Master Joe?"

"Yes, if you like."

"It is this, then: it is that same ungracious and ungrateful way with
which you, and every one like you in Ireland, receive benefits, disgusts
every stranger."

"Benefits!"

"Yes, benefits,--I said benefits."

"Sure, what's our own isn't benefits," rejoined Joe, calmly.

"Your own? May I ask if the contents of that bag were your own?"

"'T is at the devil I 'm wishin' it now," said Joe, putting his hand on
his stomach. "Tis tearing me to pieces, it is, bad luck to it!"

O'Shea was angry, but such was the rueful expression of Joe's face that
he laughed out again.

"Now he's goin' lame if you like!" cried Joe, with a tone of triumph
that said, "All the mishaps are not on _my_ side."

O'Shea pulled up, and knowing, probably, the utter inutility of
employing Joe at such a moment, got down himself to see what was amiss.

"No, it's the off leg," cried Joe, as his master was carefully examining
the near one.

"I suppose he must have touched the frog on a sharp stone," said O'Shea,
after a long and fruitless exploration.

"I don't think so," said Joe; "'t is more like to be a dizaze of the
bone,--one of thim dizazes of the fetlock that's never cured."

A deeply uttered malediction was O'Shea's answer to the pleasant
prediction.

"I never see one of them recover," resumed Joe, who saw his advantage;
"but the baste will do many a day's slow work--in a cart."

"Hold your prate, and be hanged to you!" muttered O'Shea, as between
anger and stooping, he was threatened with a small apoplexy. "Move them
on gently for a few yards, till I get a look at him."

Joe leisurely moved into his master's place, and bestowed the rug very
comfortably around his legs. This done, with a degree of detail and
delay that seemed almost intended to irritate, he next slowly arranged
the reins in his fingers, and then, with a jerk of his whip-hand,
sending out the lash in a variety of curves, he brought the whipcord
down on the leader with a "nip" that made him plunge, while the wheeler,
understanding the hint, started off at full swing. So sudden and
unexpected was the start, that O'Shea had barely time to spring out of
the way to escape the wheel. Before, indeed, he had thoroughly recovered
his footing, Joe had swept past a short turning of the road, leaving
nothing but a light train of dust to mark his course.

"Stop! pull up! stop! confound you!" cried O'Shea, with other little
expletives that print is not called on to repeat, and then, boiling
with passion, he set off in pursuit. When he had gained the angle of the
road, it was only to catch one look at his equipage as it disappeared in
the distance; the road, dipping suddenly, showed him little more than
a torso of the "faithful Joe," diminishing rapidly to a head, and then
vanishing entirely.

"What a scoundrel! what a rascal!" cried O'Shea, as he wiped his
forehead; and then, with his fist clenched and upraised, "registered a
vow," as Mr. O'Connell used to say, of unlimited vengeance. If this true
history does not record the full measure of the heart-devouring anger
of O'Shea, it is not from any sense of its being undeserved or
unreasonable, for, after all, worthy reader, it might have pushed even
_your_ patience to have been left standing, of a sharp November morning,
on a lonely road, while your carriage was driven off by an insolent
"flunkey."

As he was about midway between the Bagni and the town of Lucca, to which
he was bound, he half hesitated whether to go on or to return. There
was shame in either course,--shame in going back to recount his
misadventure; shame in having to call Joe to a reckoning in Lucca before
a crowd of strangers, and that vile population of the stable-yard, with
which, doubtless, Joe would have achieved popularity before his master
could arrive.

Of a verity the situation was embarrassing, and in his muttered comments
upon it might be read how thoroughly his mind took in every phase of its
difficulty. "How they 'll laugh at me up at the Villa! It will last Sir
William for the winter; he 'll soon hear how I won the trap from his
son, and he 'll be ready with the old saw, 'Ah! ill got, ill gone!'
How young Heathcote will enjoy it; and the widow,--if she be a
widow,--won't she caricature me, as I stand halloaing out after the
runaway rascal? Very hard to get out of all this ridicule without
something serious to cover it. That's the only way to get out of a
laughable adventure; so, Master Layton, it's all the worse for _you_
this morning." In this train of thought was he deeply immersed as a
peasant drove past in his light "calesina." O'Shea quickly hailed the
man, and bargained with him for a seat to Lucca.

Six weary miles of a jolting vehicle did not contribute much to restore
his calm of mind, and it was in a perfect frenzy of anger he walked into
the inn-yard, where he saw his carriage now standing. In the stables his
horses stood, sheeted up, but still dirty and travel-stained. Joe was
absent. "He had been there five minutes ago; he was not an instant
gone; he had never left his horses till now; taken such care
of them,--watered, fed, groomed, and clothed them; he was a
treasure,--there was not his like to be found." These, and suchlike,
were the eulogies universally bestowed by the stable constituency upon
one whom O'Shea was at the same time consigning in every form to the
infernal gods! The grooms and helpers wore a half grin on their faces as
he passed out, and again he muttered, "All the worse for _you_, Layton;
you'll have to pay the reckoning."

He was not long in finding the Barsotti Palace, where Layton lodged; an
old tumble-down place it was, with a grass-grown, mildewed court,
and some fractured statues, green with damp, around it. The porter,
indicating with a gesture of his thumb where the stranger lived, left
O'Shea to plod up the stairs alone.

It was strange enough that it should then have occurred to him, for the
first time, that he had no definite idea about what he was coming for.
Layton and he had, it is true, some words, and Layton had given him
time and place to continue the theme; but in what way? To make Layton
reiterate in cold blood something he might have uttered in anger, and
would probably retract, if called upon courteously,--this would be
very poor policy. While, on the other hand, to permit him to insinuate
anything on the score of his success at play might be even worse again.
It was a case for very nice management, and so O'Shea thought, as, after
arriving at a door bearing Layton's name on a visiting-card, he took
a turn in the lobby to consider his course of proceeding. The more he
thought over it, the more difficult he found it; in fact, at last he saw
it to be one of those cases in which the eventuality alone can decide
the line to take, and so he gave a vigorous pull at the bell, determined
to begin the campaign at once.

The door was not opened immediately, and he repeated his summons still
louder. Scarcely had the rope quitted his hand, however, when a heavy
bolt was drawn back, the door was thrown wide, and a tall athletic man,
in shirt and trousers, stood before him.

"Well, stranger, you arn't much distressed with patience, that's a
fact," said a strongly nasal accent, while the speaker gave a look of
very fierce defiance at the visitor.

"Am I speaking to Colonel Quackinboss?" asked O'Shea, in some surprise.

"Well, sir, if it ain't him, it's some one in _his_ skin, I'm thinkin'."

"My visit was to Mr. Layton," said the other, stiffly. "Is he at home?"

"Yes, sir; but he 's not a-goin' to see you."

"I came here by his appointment."

"That don't change matters a red cent, stranger; and as I said a'ready,
he ain't a-goin' to see you."

"Oh, then I 'm to understand that he has placed himself in _your_ hands?
You assume to act for him?" said O'Shea, stiffly.

"Well, if you like to take it from that platform, I 'll offer no
objection," said Quackinboss, gravely.

"Am I, or am I not, to regard you as a friend on this occasion?" said
O'Shea, authoritatively.

"I 'll tell you a secret, stranger; you 'll not be your own friend
if you don't speak to me in another tone of voice. I ain't used to be
halloaed at, I ain't."

"One thing at a time, sir," said O'Shea. "When I have finished the
business which brought me here, I shall be perfectly at your service."

"Now I call that talkin' reasonable. Step inside, sir, and take a seat,"
said Quackinboss, whose manner was now as calm as possible.

Whatever irritation O'Shea really felt, he contrived to subdue it in
appearance, as he followed the other into the room.

O'Shea was not so deficient in tact that he could not see his best mode
of dealing with the American was to proceed with every courtesy and
deference, and so, as he seated himself opposite him, he mentioned the
reason of his coming there without anything like temper, and stated that
from a slight altercation such a difference arose as required either an
explanation or a meeting.

"He can't go a-shooting with you, stranger; he 's struck down this
morning," said Quackinboss, gravely, as the other finished.

"Do you mean he 's ill?"

"I s'pose I do, when I said he was down, sir."

"This is most unfortunate," broke in O'Shea. "My duties as a public
man require my being in England next week. I hoped to have settled this
little matter before my departure. I see nothing for it but to beg you
will in writing--a few lines will suffice--corroborate the fact of my
having presented myself here, according to appointment, and mention the
sad circumstances by which our intentions, for I believe I may speak of
Mr. Layton's as my own, have been frustrated."

"Well, now, stranger, we are speakin' in confidence here, and I may just
as well observe to you that of all the weapons that fit a man's hands,
the pen is the one I 'm least ready with. I 'm indifferent good with
firearms or a bowie, but a pen, you see, cuts the fingers that hold it
just as often as it hurts the enemy, and I don't like it."

"But surely, where the object is merely to testify to a plain
matter-of-fact--"

"There ain't no such things on the 'arth as plain matters of fact, sir,"
broke in Quackinboss, eagerly. "I've come to the middle period of life,
and I never met one of 'em!"

O'Shea made a slight, very slight movement of impatience at these words;
but the other remarked it, and said,--

"We 'll come to that presently, sir. Let us just post up this account of
Mr. Layton's, first of all."

"I don't think there is anything further to detain me here," said
O'Shea, rising with an air of stiff politeness.

"Won't you take something, sir,--won't you liquor?" asked Quackinboss,
calmly.

"Excuse me; I never do of a morning."

"I 'm sorry for it. I was a-thinkin', maybe you 'd warm up a bit with a
glass of something strong. I was hopin' it's the cold of the day chilled
you!"

"Do you mean this for insult, sir?" said O'Shea. "I ask you, because,
really, your use of the English language is of a kind to warrant the
question."

"That 's where I wanted to see you, sir. You 're coming up to a good
boilin'-point now, stranger," said Quackinboss, with a pleased look.

"Is he mad, is he deranged?" muttered O'Shea, half aloud.

"No, sir. We Western men are little liable to insanity; our lives are
too much abroad and open-air lives for that. It's your thoughtful,
reflective, deep men, as wears a rut in their mind with thinkin'; them
's the fellows goes mad."

O'Shea's stare of astonishment at this speech scarcely seemed to convey
a concurrence in the assertion, and he made a step towards the door.

"If you're a-goin', I've nothing more to say, sir," said Quackinboss.

"I cannot see what there is to detain me here!" said the other, sternly.

"There ain't much, that's a fact," was the cool reply. "There's nothing
remarkable in them bottles; it's new brandy and British gin; and as
for myself, sir, I can only say I must give you a bill payable at
sight,--whenever we may meet again, I mean; for just now this young man
here can't spare me. I 'm his nurse, you see. I hope you understand me?"

"I believe I do."

"Well, that's all right, stranger, and here's my hand on 't" And even
before O'Shea was well aware, the other had taken his hand in his strong
grasp and was shaking it heartily. O'Shea found it very hard not to
laugh outright, but there was a meaning-like determination in the
American's manner that showed it was no moment for mirth.

It was, however, necessary to say something to relieve a very awkward
pause, and so he observed,--

"I hope Mr. Layton's illness is not a serious one. I saw him, as I
thought, perfectly well two days back."

"He's main bad, sir; very sick,--very sick, indeed."

"You have a doctor, I suppose?"

"No, sir. I have some experience myself, and I 'm just a-treatin' him
by what I picked up among people that have very few apothecaries,--the
Mandan Indians."

"Without being particular, I must own I 'd prefer a more civilized
course of physic," said O'Shea, with a faint smile.

"Very likely, stranger; and if you had a dispute, you 'd rather, mayhap,
throw it into a law court, and leave it to three noisy fellows to
quarrel over; while _I_'d look out for two plain fellows, with
horny hands and honest hearts, and say, 'What's the rights o' this,
gentlemen?'"

"I wish you every success, I'm sure," said O'Shea, bowing.

"The same to you, sir," said the other, in a sing-song tone. "Good-bye."

When O'Shea had reached the first landing, he stopped, and, leaning
against the wall, laughed heartily. "I hope I 'll be able to remember
all he said," muttered he, as he fancied himself amusing some choice
company by a personation of the Yankee. "The whole thing was as good as
a play! But," added he, after a pause, "I 'm not sorry it's over, and
that I have done with him!" Very true and heartfelt was this last
reflection of the Member for Inch,--a far more honest recognition than
even the hearty laugh he had just enjoyed,--and then there came an
uneasy afterthought, that asked, "What could he mean by talking of a
long bill, payable at some future opportunity? Surely he can't imagine
that we 're to renew all this if we ever meet again. No, no, Colonel,
your manners and your medicine may be learned amongst the Mandans, but
they won't do here with us!" And so he issued into the street, not quite
reassured, but somewhat more comforted.

So occupied was his mind with the late scene, that he had walked fully
half-way back to his inn ere he bestowed a thought upon Joe. Wise men
were they who suggested that the sentence of a prisoner should not
immediately follow the conclusion of his trial, but ensue after the
interval of some two or three days. In the impulse of a mind fully
charged with a long narrative of guilt there is a force that seeks its
expansion in severity; whereas, in the brief respite of even some hours,
there come doubts and hesitations and regrets and palliations. In a
word, a variety of considerations unadmitted before find entrance now to
the mind, and are suffered to influence it.

Now, though Mr. O' Shea's first and not very unnatural impulse was to
give Joe a sound thrashing and then discharge him, the interval we have
just described moderated considerably the severity of this resolve. In
the first place, although the reader may be astonished at the assertion,
Joe was one very difficult to replace, since, independently of his
aptitude to serve as groom, valet, or cook, he was deeply versed in all
the personal belongings of his master. He had been with him through long
years of difficulty, and aided him in various ways, from corrupting the
virtuous freeholders of Inchabogue to raising an occasional supply on
the rose-amethyst ring. Joe had fought for him and lied for him, with
a zealous devotion not to be forgotten. Not, indeed, that he loved his
master more, but that he liked the world less, and Joe found a
sincere amount of pleasure in seeing how triumphantly their miserable
pretensions swayed and dominated over mankind. And, lastly, he had
another attribute, not to be undervalued in an age like ours,--he had
no wages! It is not to be understood that he served O'Shea out of some
sense of heroic devotion or attachment: no; Joe lived, as they say in
India, on "loot" When times were prosperous,--that is, when billiards
and blind-hookey smiled, and to his master's pockets came home small
Californias of half-crowns and even sovereigns,--Joe prospered also. He
drank boldly and freely from the cup when brimful, but the half-empty
goblet he only sipped at. When seasons of pressure set in, Joe's
existence was maintained by some inscrutable secret of his own; for, be
it known that on O'Shea's arrival at an hotel, his almost first care was
to announce, "You will observe my servant is on board wages; he pays
for himself;" and Joe would corroborate the myth with a bow. Bethink
yourself, good reader, had you been the Member for Inch, it might have
been a question whether to separate from such a follower.

By the fluctuations of O'Shea's fortunes, Joe's whole conduct seemed
moulded. When the world went well with his master, his manner grew
somewhat almost respectful; let the times grow worse, Joe became
indifferent; a shade lower, and he was familiar and insolent; and, by
long habit, O'Shea had come to recognize these changes as part of the
condition of a varying fortune.

Little wonder was it that Joe grew to speak of his master and himself
as one, complaining, as he would, "We never got sixpence out of our
property. 'T is the ruin of us paying that annuity to our mother;" and
so on.

Now, these considerations, and many others like them, weighed deeply on
O'Shea's mind, as he entered the room of the hotel, angry and irritated,
doubtless, but far from decided as to how he should manifest it Indeed,
the deliberation was cut short, for there stood Joe before him.

"I thought I was never to see your face again," said O'Shea, scowling at
him. "How dare you have the insolence to appear before me?"

"Is n't it well for you that I 'm alive? Ain't you lucky that you 're
not answering for my death this minute?" said the other, boldly. "And
if I did n't drive like blazes, would I be here now? Appear before
you, indeed! I'd like to know who you 'd be appearin' before, if I was
murthered with them bitthers you gave me?"

"Lying scoundrel! you think to turn it all off in this manner. You
commit a theft first, and if the offence had killed you, it's no more
than you deserved. Who told you to steal the contents of that bag, sir?"

"The devil, I suppose, for I never felt pain like it,--twistin' and
tearin' and torturin' me as if you had a pinchers in my inside, and were
nippin' me to pieces!"

"I 'm glad of it,--heartily glad of it."

"I know you are,--I know you well. 'T is a corpse you 'd like to see me
this minute."

"So that I never set eyes on you, I don't care what becomes of you."

"That 's enough,--enough said. I 'm goin'."

"Go, and be------!"

"No, I won't. I 'll go and earn my livin'; and I 'll have my carakter,
too,--eleven years last Lady-day; and I 'll be paid back to my own
counthry; and I'll have my wages up to Saturday next; and the docther's
bill, here, for all the stuff I tuk since I came in; and when you are
ready with all this, you can ring for me." And with his hands clasped
over his stomach, and in a half-bent position, Joe shuffled out and left
his master to his own reflections.

The world is full of its strange vicissitudes, and in nothing more
remarkably than the way people are reconciled, ignore the past, and
start afresh in life to incur more disagreements, and set to bickering
again. Great kings and kaisers indulge in this pastime; profound
statesmen and politicians do very little else. What wonder, then, if
the declining sun saw the smart tandem slipping along towards the Bagni,
with the O'Shea and his man sitting side by side in pleasant converse!
They were both smoking, and seemed like men who enjoyed their
picturesque drive, and the inspiriting pace they travelled at.

"When I 'll singe these 'cat hairs' off, and trim him a little about the
head, he 'll look twice as well," said Joe, with his eye on the leader.
"It's a pity to see a collar on him."

"We 'll take him down to Rome, and show him off over the hurdles," said
his master, joyfully.

"I was just thinkin' of that this minute; wasn't that strange now?"

"We 'll have to go, for they 're going to break up house here, and go
off to Rome for the winter."

"How will we settle with Pan?" said Joe, thoughtfully.

"A bill, I suppose."

Joe shook his head doubtingly. "I 'm afraid not."

"Go I will, and go I must," said O'Shea, resolutely. "I 'm not going
to lose the best chance I ever had in life for the sake of a beggarly
innkeeper."

"Why would you? Sure, no one would ask you! For, after all, 't is only
drivin' away, if we 're put to it I don't think he 'd overtake us."

"Not if we went the same pace you did this morning, Joe," said O'Shea,
laughing; and Joe joined pleasantly in the laugh, and the event ceased
to be a grievance from that instant.



CHAPTER XVIII. MRS. MORRIS AS COUNSELLOR

The breakfast at the Villa' Caprini always seemed to recall more of
English daily life and habit than any other event of the day. It was
not only in the luxuriously spread table, and the sideboard arrayed with
that picturesque profusion so redolent of home, but there was that gay
and hearty familiarity so eminently the temper of the hour, and that
pleasant interchange of news and gossip, as each tore the envelope of
his letter, or caught some amusing paragraph in his paper.

Mrs. Penthony Morris had a very wide correspondence, and usually
contributed little scraps of intelligence from various parts of the
Continent. They were generally the doings and sayings of that cognate
world whose names require no introduction, and even those to whom they
are unfamiliar would rather hear in silence than own to the ignorance.
The derelicts of fashion are the staple of small-talk; they are
suggestive of all the little social smartness one hears, and of that
very Brummagem morality which assumes to judge them. In these Mrs.
Morris revelled. No paragraph of the "Morning Post" was too mysteriously
worded for her powers of interpretation; no asterisks could veil a name
from her piercing gaze. Besides, she had fashioned a sort of algebraic
code of life which wonderfully assisted her divination, and being given
an unhappy marriage, she could foretell the separation, or, with the
data of a certain old gentleman's visits to St. John's Wood, could
predict his will with an accuracy that seemed marvellous. As she sat,
surrounded with letters and notes of all sizes, she varied the tone
of her intelligence so artfully as to canvass the suffrage of every
listener. Now it was some piece of court gossip, some "scandal of Queen
Elizabeth," now a curious political intrigue, and now, again, some
dashing exploit of a young soldier in India. But whether it told of
good or evil fortune, of some deeply interesting event or some passing
triviality, her power of narrating it was considerable, as, with a
tact all her own, she selected some one especial individual as chief
listener. After a number of short notices of London, Rome, and Paris,
she tossed over several letters carelessly, saying,--

"I believe I have given you the cream of my correspondence. Stay, here
is something about your old sloop the 'Mosquito,' Lord Agincourt; would
you like to hear of how she attacked the forts at the mouth of the--oh,
how shall I attack it?--the Bhageebhahoo? This is a midshipman's letter,
written the same evening of the action."

Though the question was addressed very pointedly, the boy never heard
it, but sat deeply engaged in deciphering a very jagged handwriting in a
letter before him. It was one of those scratchy, unfinished specimens
of penmanship which are amongst the luxuries persons of condition
occasionally indulge in. Seeing his preoccupation, Mrs. Morris did
not repeat her question, but suffered him to pursue his researches
undisturbed. He had just begun his breakfast when the letter arrived,
and now he ceased to eat anything, but seemed entirely engrossed by his
news. At last he arose abruptly, and left the room.

"I hope Agincourt has not got any bad tidings," said Sir William; "he
seems agitated and uneasy."

"I saw his guardian's name--Sommerville--on the envelope," said Mrs.
Morris. "It is, probably, one of those pleasant epistles which wards
receive quarterly to remind them that even minors have miseries."

The meal did not recover its pleasant tone after this little incident,
and soon after they all scattered through the house and the grounds,
Mrs. Morris setting out for her usual woodland walk, which she took each
morning. A half-glance the boy had given her as he quitted the room at
breakfast-time, induced her to believe that he wanted to consult her
about his letter, and so, as she entered the shrubbery, she was not
surprised to find Lord Agincourt there before her.

"I was just wishing it might be your footstep I heard on the gravel,"
said he, joining her. "May I keep you company?"

"To be sure, provided you don't make love to me, which I never permit in
the forenoon."

"Oh, I have other thoughts in my head," said he, sighing drearily; "and
you are the very one to advise me what to do. Not, indeed, that I have
any choice about that, only how to do it, that's the question."

"When one has the road marked out, it's never very hard to decide on the
mode of the journey," said she. "Tell me what your troubles are."

[Illustration: 202]

"Troubles you may well call them," said he, with a deeper sigh. "There,
read that--if you can read it--for the old Earl does not grow more
legible by being older."

"'Crews Court,'" read she, aloud. "Handsome old abbey it must be," added
she, remarking on a little tinted sketch at the top of the letter.

"Yes, that's a place of mine. I was born there," said the boy, half
proudly.

"It's quite princely."

"It's a fine old thing, and I 'd give it all this minute not to have had
that disagreeable letter."

"'My dear Henry,'" began she, in a low, muttering voice, "'I have heard
with--with'--not abomination--oh no, 'astonishment--with astonishment,
not unmixed with'--it can't be straw--is it straw?--no, it
is 'shame,--not unmixed with shame, that you have so far
forgiven--forgotten'--oh, that's it--'what was done to yourself.'"

"No, 'what was due to yourself,'" interrupted he; "that's a favorite
word of his, and so I know it."

"'To become the--the'--dear me, what can this be with the vigorous G
at the beginning?--'to become'--is it really the Giant?--'to become the
Giant'--"

The boy here burst into a fit of laughing, and, taking the letter from
her, proceeded to read it out.

"I have spelt it all over five times," said he, "and I know it by heart.
'I have heard with astonishment, not unmixed with shame, that you have
so far forgotten what was due to yourself as to become the Guest of one
who for so many years was the political opponent and even personal enemy
of our house. Your ignorance of family history cannot possibly be such
as that you are unaware of the claims once put forward by this same Sir
William Heathcote to your father's peerage, or of the disgraceful law
proceedings instituted to establish his pretensions.' As if I ever heard
a word of all this before! as if I knew or cared a brass button about
the matter!" burst he in. "'Had your tutor'--here comes in my poor
coach for _his_ turn," said Agincourt--"'had your tutor but bestowed
proper attention to the instructions written by my own hand for his
guidance--'We never could read them; we have been at them for hours
together, and all we could make out was, 'Let him study hazard,
roulette, and all other such games;' which rather surprised us, till
we found out it was 'shun,' and not 'study,' and 'only frequent the fast
society of each city he visits,' which was a mistake for 'first.'"

"Certainly the noble Lord has a most ambiguous calligraphy," said she,
smiling; "and Mr. Layton is not so culpable as might be imagined."

"Ah!" cried the boy, laughing, "I wish you had seen Alfred's face on the
day he received our first quarter's remittance, and read out: 'You may
drag on me like a mouse, if you please,' which was intended to be, 'draw
upon me to a like amount, if you please;' and it was three weeks
before we could make that out! But let me go on--where was I? Oh, at
'guidance.' 'Recent information has, however, shown me that nothing
could have been more unfortunate than our choice of this young man, his
father being one of the most dangerous individuals known to the police,
a man familiar with the lowest haunts of crime, a notorious swindler,
and a libeller by profession. In the letter which I send off by this
day's post to your tutor I have enclosed one from his father to myself.
It is not very likely that he will show it to you, as it contains the
most insolent demands for an increase of salary--as some slight,
though inadequate, compensation for an office unbecoming my son's rank,
insulting to his abilities, and even damaging to his acquirements." I
give you this in his own choice language, but there is much more in the
same strain. The man, it would appear, has just come out of a lunatic
asylum, to which place his intemperate habits had brought him; and I
may mention that his first act of gratitude to the benevolent individual
who had undertaken the whole cost of his maintenance there was to
assault him in the open street, and give him a most savage beating.
Captain Hone or Holmes--a distinguished officer, as I am told--is still
confined to his room from the consequences.'"

"How very dreadful!" said Mrs. Morris calmly. "Shocking treatment! for
a distinguished officer too!"

"Dreadful fellow he must be," said the boy. "What a rare fright he must
have given my old guardian! But the end of it all is, I 'm to leave
Alfred, and go back to England at once. I wish I was going to sea again;
I wish I was off thousands of miles away, and not to come home for
years. To part with the kind, good fellow, that was like a brother to
me, this way,--how can I do it? And do you perceive, he has n't one word
to say against Alfred? It's only that he has the misfortune of this
terrible father. And, after all, might not that be any one's lot? You
might have a father you couldn't help being ashamed of."

"Of course," said she; "I can fancy such a case easily enough."

"I know it will nearly kill poor Alfred; he 'll not be able to bear
it. He's as proud as he is clever, and he'll not endure the tone of the
Earl's letter. Who knows what he 'll do? Can _you_ guess?"

"'Not in the least. I imagine that he 'll submit as patiently as he can,
and look out for another situation."

"Ah, there you don't know him!" broke in the boy: "he can't endure
this kind of thing. He only consented to take me because his health was
breaking up from hard reading; he wanted rest and a change of climate.
At first he refused altogether, and only gave way when some of his
college dons over-persuaded him."

She smiled a half-assent, but said nothing.

"Then there's another point," said he, suddenly: "I'm sure his Lordship
has not been very measured in the terms of his letter to him. I can just
fancy the tone of it; and I don't know how poor Alfred is to bear that."

"My dear boy, you'll learn one of these days--and the knowledge will
come not the less soon from your being a Peer--that all the world is
either forbearing or overbearing. You must be wolf or lamb: there's no
help for it."

"Alfred never told me so," said he, sternly.

"It's more than likely that he did not know! There are no men know less
of life than these college creatures; and there lies the great mistake
in selecting such men for tutors for our present-day life and its
accidents. Alexandre Dumas would be a safer guide than Herodotus; and
Thackeray teach you much more than Socrates."

"If I only had in my head one-half of what Alfred knew, I 'd be well
satisfied," said the boy. "Ay, and what's better still, without his
thinking a bit about it."

"And so," said she, musingly, "you are to go back to England?"

"That does not seem quite settled, for he says, in a postscript, that
Sir George Rivers, one of the Cabinet, I believe, has mentioned some
gentleman, a 'member of their party,' now in Italy, and who would
probably consent to take charge of me till some further arrangements
could be come to."

"Hold your chain till a new bear-leader turned up!" said she, laughing.
"Oh dear! I wonder when that wise generations of guardians will come to
know that the real guide for the creatures like you is a woman. Yes,
you ought to be travelling with your governess,--some one whose ladylike
tone and good manners would insensibly instil quietness, reserve, and
reverence in your breeding, correct your bad French, and teach you to
enter or leave a room without seeming to be a housebreaker!"

"I should like to know who does that?" asked he, indignantly.

"Every one of you young Englishmen, whether you come fresh from
Brasenose or the Mess of the Forty-something, you have all of you the
same air of bashful bull-dogs!"

"Oh, come, this is too bad; is this the style of Charles Heathcote, for
instance?"

"Most essentially it is; the only thing is that, the bulldog
element predominating in his nature, he appears the less awkward in
consequence."

"I should like to bear what you 'd say of the O'Shea."

"Oh, Mr. O'Shea is an Irishman, and _their_ ways bear the same relation
to general good breeding that rope-dancing does to waltzing."

"I 'll take good care not to ask you for any description of myself,"
said he, laughingly.

"You are very wrong then, for you should have heard something
excessively nattering," was her reply. "Shall I tell you who your new
protector is to be?" cried she, after a moment's pause; "I have just
guessed it: the O'Shea himself!"

"O'Shea! impossible; how could you imagine such a thing?"

"I'm certain I'm right. He is always talking of his friend Sir George
Rivers--he calls him Rivers,--who is Colonial Secretary, and who is to
make him either Bishop of Barbadoes or a Gold Stick at the Gambria;
and you 'll see if I 'm not correct, and that the wardship of a young
scapegrace lordling is to be the retaining fee of this faithful follower
of his party. Of course, there will be no question of tutorship; in
fact, it would have such an unpleasant resemblance to the farce and Mr.
O'Toole, as to be impossible. You will simply be travelling together. It
will be double harness, but only one horse doing the work!"

"I never can make out whether you 're in jest or in earnest," said he,
pettishly.

"I'm always in earnest when I'm jesting; that's the only clue I can give
you."

"But all this time we have been wandering away from the only thing I
wanted to think of,--how to part with dear Alfred. You have told me
nothing about that."

"These are things which, as the French say, always do themselves, and,
consequently, it is better never to plan or provide for; and, remember,
as a maxim, whenever the current is carrying you the way you want to go,
put in your oar as little as possible. And as to old associations, they
are like old boots: they are very pleasant wear, but they won't last
forever. There now, I have given you quite enough matter to think over:
and so, good-bye."

As Agincourt turned his steps slowly towards the house, he marvelled
with himself what amount of guidance she had given him.



CHAPTER XIX. JOE'S DIPLOMACY

MR. O'Shea's man was not one to put his light under a bushel; so, when
he received at the post-office a very portentous-looking letter, heavily
sealed, and marked "On Her Majesty's Service," he duly stopped the two
or three English loungers he saw about to show them the document, on
pretence of asking if any demand for postage could be made; if it had
not been wrongfully detained; if they thought it had been opened and
read; and so on,--all these inquiries having for their object to inform
the general public that the Member for Inch was in close relation and
correspondence with Downing Street.

In sooth, the letter had as significant an external as any gentleman in
pursuit of a place might have desired. In color, texture, and fashion
there was nothing wanting to its authenticity, and it might, without any
disparagement to its outside, have named Mr. O'Shea a Governor of
the Bahamas, or a Mahogany Commissioner at Ruatan. It was, in fact,
a document that, left negligently in the way, might have made a dun
appeasable, and a creditor patient There were few men it might not in
some degree have imposed on, but of that few the O'Shea himself was one.
He knew well--too well--that it foretold neither place nor employment;
that it was the shell of a very small kernel; nothing more, in short,
than a note from an old friend and schoolfellow, then acting as the
Private Secretary of a Cabinet Minister,--one who, indeed, kept his
friend O'Shea fully informed as to everything that fell vacant,
but, unhappily, accompanied the intelligence with a catalogue of
the applicants, usually something like the list of the Smiths in a
Directory.

So little impatient was O'Shea for the contents, that he had half eaten
his breakfast and looked through "Punch" before he broke the seal.
The enclosure was from the hand of his friend Tom Radwell, but whose
peculiar drollery it was to correspond in the form of a mock despatch.
The note, therefore, though merely containing gossip, was written with
all attention to margin and calligraphy, and even in places affected the
solemn style of the Office. It was headed "Secret and Confidential," and
opened thus:--

"Sir,--By your despatch of the 18th ult, containing four
enclosures,--three protested bills, and your stepmother's I O for 18L.
5s.,--I am induced to believe that no material change has occurred in
the situation of your affairs,--a circumstance the more to be deplored,
inasmuch as her Majesty's Government cannot at this moment, with that
due regard imposed on them for the public service, undertake either to
reconsider your claims, or by an extraordinary exercise of the powers
vested in them by the Act of Teddy the Tiler, chap. 4, sees. 9 and 10,
appoint you in the way and manner you propose. So much, my dear Gorman,
old Rivers declared to me this morning, confidentially adding, I
wish that Irish party would understand that, when we could buy them
altogether in a basket, as in O'Connell's day, the arrangement was
satisfactory; but to have to purchase them separately--each potato by
himself--is a terrible loss of time, and leads to no end of higgling.
Why can't you agree amongst yourselves,--make your bargain, and then
divide the spoils quietly? It is the way your forefathers understood
the law of commonage, and nobody ever grumbled that his neighbor had a
cow or a pig too many! The English of all this is, they don't want you
just now, and they won't have you, for you 're an article that never
kept well, and, even when bonded, your loss by leakage is considerable.

"Every Irishman I ever met makes the same mistake of offering himself
for sale when the commodity is not wanted. If you see muffs and boas in
Regent Street in July, ain't they always ticketed 'a great sacrifice'?
Can't you read the lesson? But so it is with you. You fancy you 'll
induce people to travel a bad road by putting up a turnpike.

"I 'm sorry to say all this to you, but I see plainly politics will not
do any longer as a pursuit. It is not only that all appointments are so
scrutinized nowadays, but that every man's name in a division is weighed
and considered in a fashion that renders a mere majority of less moment
than the fact of how it was composed. If I cannot manage something for
you in the West Indies, you must try Cheltenham.

"Rivers has just sent for me.

"'What of your friend O'Shea? Did n't you tell me he was in the north of
Italy?'

"'Yes,' said I; 'he's getting up the Italian question. He has
accumulated a mass of facts which will astonish the House next session.'

"'Confound his facts!' muttered he. 'Here has been Lord Sommerville with
me, about some young ward of his. I don't well understand what he wants,
or what he wishes me to do; but the drift is, to find some one--a
gentleman, of course--who would take charge of the boy for a short time;
he is a marquis, with large expectations, and one day or other will be a
man of mark.'

"I tried the dignity tone, but old Rivers interrupted me quickly,--

"'Yes, yes, of course. Mere companionship, nothing more. Sound O'Shea
upon it, and let me hear.'

"Here, then, my dear Gorman, is the 'opening' you so long have looked
for; and if _you_ cannot turn such a position to good profit, _who_ can?
Nor are you the man I take you for, if you 're not married into the
family before this day twelvemonth! There is no time to be lost, so
telegraph back at once. A simple 'Yes' will do, if you accept, which I
sincerely hope you will. All the minor arrangements you may safely trust
to _me_."

When Mr. O'Shea had read thus far, he arose, and, walking with head
erect and well thrown-out chest towards the looking-glass, he desired to
"take stock" of his appearance, and to all semblance was not displeased
at the result. He was autumnalizing, it is true; tints were mellowing,
colors more sombre; but, on the whole, there was nothing in the
landscape, viewed at due distance and with suitable light, to indicate
much ravage from Time. Your hard-featured men, like mountains in
scenery, preserve the same appearance unchanged by years. It is your
genial fellow, with mobile features, that suffers so terribly from age.
The plough of Time leaves deep furrows in the arable soil of such faces.
As in those frescos which depend altogether on color, the devastations
of years are awfully felt; when black degenerates into gray, mellow
browns grow a muddy yellow, and the bright touches that "accentuated"
expression are little else than unmeaning blotches! If the Member for
Inch had not travelled far upon the dreary road, I am bound in truth to
own that he had begun the journey. A light, faint silvering showed on
his whiskers, like the first touch of snow on an Alpine fern in October.
The lines that indicated a ready aptitude for fun had deepened, and
grown more marked at the angles at the mouth,--a sad sign of one whose
wit was less genial and more biting than of yore. Then--worst of all--he
had entered upon the pompous lustre wherein men feel an exaggerated
self-importance, imagine that their opinions are formed, and their
character matured. Nothing is so trying as that quarantine period, and
both men and women make more egregious fools of themselves in it than
in all the wild heydey of early youth. Mr. O'Shea, however, was
an Irishman, and, in virtue of the fact, he had a light, jaunty,
semi-careless way with him, which is a soil of electroplate youth, and
looks like the real article, though it won't prove so lasting.

"I must have a look into the Peerage," said he, as he turned to the
bulky volume that records the alliances and the ages of the "upper ten
thousand ":--

"'Lady Maria Augusta Sofronia Montserrat, born '--oh, by the powers,
that won't do!--'born 1804.' Oh, come, after all, it's not so bad; 'died
in '46.--Charlotte Rose Leopoldine, died in infancy.--Henrietta Louisa,
born 1815; married in 1835 to Lord Julius de Raby; again married to
Prince Beerstenshoften von Hahnsmarkt, and widowed same year, 1846.'
I'll put a mark against her. And there's one more, 'Juliana de Vere,
youngest daughter, born '26 '--that's the time of day!--born '26, and
no more said. The paragraph has yet to be filled with, 'Married to the
O'Shea, Member of Parliament for Inchabogue, High Sheriff of Tipperary,
and head of the ancient copt known as O'Meadhlin Shamdoodhlin Naboklish
O'Shea'--I wonder if they 'd put it in--'formerly Kings of Tulloch
Reardhin and Bare-ma-bookle, and all the countries west of the Galtee
Mountains.' If pedigree would do it, O'Shea may call himself first
favorite! And now, Miss Leslie," continued he, aloud, "you have no time
to lose; make your bidding quickly, or the O'Shea will be knocked
down to another purchaser. As Eugene Aram says, 'I 'm equal to either
fortune.'"

"Well," said Joe, entering the room, and approaching his master
confidentially, "is it a place?"

"Nothing of the kind; a friendly letter from a member of the Cabinet,"
replied he, carelessly.

"Devil take them! It isn't friendship we want; it's something to live
on."

"You are a low-minded, mercenary creature," said O'Shea, oratorically.
"Is our happiness in this life, our self-respect, our real worth,
dependent upon the accident of our station, or upon the place we occupy
in the affections of men,--what we possess of their sympathy and love? I
look around me, and what do I see?"

"Sorra bit of me knows," broke in Joe.

Unmindful of the interruption, O'Shea continued: "I see the high places
occupied by the crafty, the subtle, and the scheming."

"I wish we had one of them," muttered Joe.

"I see that humble merit shivers at the door, while insolent pretension
struts proudly in."

"Ay, and more power to him, if he's able," grumbled out the other.

"I see more," said O'Shea, raising his voice, and extending his arm at
full length,--"I see a whole nation,--eight millions of men,--great,
glorious, and gifted,--men whose genius has shed a lustre over the dull
swamp of their oppressors' nature, but who one day, rising from her
ashes--"

"Ah! by my conscience, I knew it was comin'; and I said to myself,
'Here's the phaynix!'"

"Rising from her ashes like the Megatherion of Thebes. Where are you
now, Master Joe?" said he, with an insolent triumph in his look.

"I 'd just as soon have the phaynix," said Joe, doggedly. "Go on."

"How can I go on? How could any man? Demosthenes himself would stand
confused in presence of such vulgar interruptions. It is in such
temperaments as yours men of genius meet their worst repulses. You are
at once the _feræ naturæ_ of humanity, and the pestilential atmosphere
that poisons--that poisons--"

"Oh! there you are 'pounded '! Poisons what?"

"Poisons the pellucid rills which should fertilize the soul of man! I'm
never pounded. O'Connell himself had to confess that he never saw my
equal in graceful imagery and figurative embellishment. 'Listening to
O'Shea,' says he, 'is like watching a juggler with eight balls flying
round and about him. You may think it impossible he 'll be in time, but
never one of them will he fail to catch.' That's what _I_ call oratory.
Why is it, I ask, that, when I rise in the house, you 'd hear a pin
drop?"

"Maybe they steal out on their tiptoes," said Joe, innocently.

"No, sir, they stand hushed, eager, anxious, as were the Greeks of old
to catch the words of Ulysses. I only wish you saw old P------ working
away with his pencil while I 'm speaking."

"Making a picture of you, maybe!"

"You are as insolent as you are ignorant,--one of those who, in the
unregenerate brutality of their coarse nature, repel the attempts of
all who would advocate the popular cause. I have said so over and over
again. If you would constitute yourself the friend of the people, take
care to know nothing of them; neither associate with them, nor mix in
their society: as Tommy Moore said of Ireland, 'It's a beautiful country
to live out of.'"

"And _he_ was a patriot!" said Joe, contemptuously.

"There are no patriots among those who soar above the miserable limits
of a nationality. Genius has no concern with geographies. To think for
the million you must forget the man."

"Say that again. I like the sound of that," cried Joe, admiringly.

"If anything could illustrate the hopelessness of your class and
condition in life," continued O'Shea, "it is yourself. There you are,
daily, hourly associating with one whose sentiments you hear, whose
opinions you learn, whose judgments you record; one eagerly sought
after in society, revered in private, honored in the Senate; and what
have you derived from these unparalleled advantages? What can you say
has been the benefit from these relations?"

"It's hard to say," muttered Joe, "except, maybe, it's made me a
philosopher."

"A philosopher!--you a philosopher!"

"Ay; isn't it philosophy to live without wages, and work without pay?
'Tis from yourself I heerd that the finest thing of all is to despise
money."

"So it is,--so it would be, I mean, if society had not built up that
flimsy card edifice it calls civilization. Put out my blue pelisse with
the Astrachan collar, and my braided vest; I shall want to go over
to the Villa this morning. But, first of all, take this to the
telegraph-office: 'The O'Shea accepts.'"

"Tear and ages! what is it we've got?" asked Joe, eagerly.

"'The O'Shea accepts,'--four words if they charge for the 'O.' Let me
know the cost at once."

"But why don't you tell me where we're going? Is it Jamaica or
Jerusalem?"

"Call your philosophy to your aid, and be anxious for nothing," said
O'Shea, pompously. "Away, lose no more time."

If Joe had been the exponent of his feelings, as he left the room, he
would probably have employed his favorite phrase, and confessed himself
"humiliated." He certainly did feel acutely the indignity that had been
passed upon him. To live on a precarious diet and no pay was bad enough,
but it was unendurable that his master should cease to consult with and
confide in him. Amongst the shipwrecked sufferers on a raft, gradations
of rank soon cease to be remembered, and of all equalizers there is
none like misery! Now, Mr. O'Shea and his man Joe had, so to say, passed
years of life upon a raft. They had been storm-tossed and cast away for
many a day. Indeed, to push the analogy further, they had more than
once drawn lots who should be first devoured; that is to say, they had
tossed up whose watch was to go first to the pawnbroker. Now, was it
fair or reasonable, if his master discovered a sail in the distance, or
a headland on the horizon, that he should conceal the consoling fact,
and leave his fellow-sufferer to mourn on in misery? Joe was deeply
wounded; he was insulted and outraged.

From the pain of his personal wrongs he was suddenly aroused by the
telegraph clerk's demand for thirty francs.

"Thirty francs for four words?"

"You might send twenty for the same sum," was the bland reply.

"Faix, and so we will," said Joe. "Give me a pen and a sheet of paper."

His first inspirations were so full of vengeance that he actually
meditated a distinct refusal of whatever it was had been offered to his
master, and his only doubt was how to convey the insolent negative in
its most outrageous form. His second and wiser thoughts suggested a
little diplomacy; and though both the consideration and the mode
of effectuating it cost no small labor, we shall spare the reader's
patience, and give him the result arrived at after nearly an hour's
exertion, the message transmitted by Joe running thus:--

"Send the fullest particulars about the pay and the name of the place we
're going to.

"O'Shea."

"I don't think there will be many secrets after I see the answer to
that; and see it I will, if I tear it open!" said Joe, sturdily, as he
held his way back to the inn.

A rather warm discussion ensued on the subject of his long absence,
O'Shea remarking that for all the use Joe proved himself he might as
well be without a servant, and Joe rejoining that, for the matter of
pay and treatment, _he_ might be pretty nearly as well off if he had no
master; these polite passages being interchanged while the O'Shea was
busily performing with two hair-brushes, and Joe equally industriously
lacing his master's waistcoat, with an artistic skill that the valet of
a corpulent gentleman alone attains to, as Joe said a hundred times.

"I wonder why I endure you," said O'Shea, as he jauntily settled his hat
on one side of his head, and carefully arranged the hair on the other.

"And you 'll wondher more, when I 'm gone, why I did n't go before," was
Joe's surly rejoinder.

"How did you come by that striped cravat, sir?" asked O'Shea, angrily,
as he caught sight of Joe in front.

"I took it out of the drawer."

"It's mine, then!"

"It was wonst I did n't suppose you 'd wear it after what the widow
woman said of you up at the Villa,--that Mrs. Morris. 'Here 's the
O'Shea,' says she, 'masquerading as a zebra;' as much as to say it was
another baste you was in reality."

"She never dared to be so insolent"

"She did; I heard it myself."

"I don't believe you; I never do believe one word you say."

"That's exactly what I hear whenever I say you 're a man of fine fortune
and good estate; they all cry out, 'What a lying rascal he is!'"

O'Shea made a spring towards the poker, and Joe as rapidly took up a
position behind the dressing-glass.

"Hush!" cried O'Shea, "there's some one at the door."

And a loud summons at the same time confirmed the words. With a ready
instinct Joe speedily recovered himself, and hastened to open it.

"Is your master at home?" asked a voice.

"Oh, Heathcote, is it you?" exclaimed O'Shea; "Just step into the
next room, and I 'll be with you in a second or two. Joe, show Captain
Heathcote into the drawing-room."

"I wondher what's the matter with him?" said Joe, confidentially, as
he came back. "I never see any one look so low."

"So much the better," said O'Shea, merrily; "it's a sign he's coming to
pay money. When a man is about to put you off with a promise, he lounges
in with an easy, devil-may-care look that seems to say, 'It's all one,
old fellow, whether you have an I O or the ready tin.'"

"There's a deal of truth in that," said Joe, approvingly, and with a
look that showed how pleasurable it was to him to hear such words of
wisdom.



CHAPTER XX. A DREARY FORENOON.

O'Shea swaggered into the room where Heathcote was standing to await
him, in the attitude of one who desired to make his visit as brief as
might be.

"How good of you to drive over to this dreary spot," began the Member,
jauntily, "where the blue devils seem to have their especial home. I 'm
hipped and bored here as I never was before. Come, sit down; have you
breakfasted?"

"Three hours ago."

"Take some luncheon, then; a glass of sherry, at least."

"Nothing--thanks--it's too early."

"Won't you have even a weed?" said he, opening a cigar-box.

"I 'm provided," said the other, showing the half of a still lighted
cigar. "I came over this morning, hoping to catch you at home, and make
some sort of settlement about our little transactions together."

"My dear fellow, you surely can't think it makes any matter between
_us_. I hope you know that it is entirely a question for your own
convenience. No man has more experience of what it is to be 'hit hard,'
as they say. When I first came out, I got it. By Jove! did n't I get
it, and at both sides of the head too. It was Mopus's year, when the
Yorkshire Lass ran a dead heat with Skyrocket for the Diddlesworth. I
stood seventeen to one, in thousands! think of that,--seventeen thousand
pounds to one against the filly. It was thought so good a thing that
Naylor--old Jerry, as they used to call him--offered me a clean thousand
to let him take half the wager. But these are old stories now, and they
only bore you; in fact, it was just to show you that every man has his
turn--"

"I own frankly," broke in Heathcote, "I am far too full of selfish cares
to take a proper interest in your story. Just tell me if these figures
are correct?" And he turned to look out for a particular page in a
small book.

"Confound figures! I wish they never were invented. If one only
thinks of all the hearty fellows they 've set by the ears, the close
friendships they have severed, the strong attachments they have broken,
I declare one would be justified in saying it was the devil himself
invented arithmetic."

"I wish he 'd have made it easier when he was about it," said Heathcote.

"Excellent, by Jove!--how good I 'Made it easier'--capital!" cried
O'Shea, laughing with a boisterous jollity that made the room ring. "I
hope I 'll not forget that. I must book that _mot_ of yours."

Heathcote grew crimson with shame, and, in an angry impulse, pitched his
cigar into the fire.

"That's right," broke in O'Shea; "these are far better smoking than your
cheroots; these are Hudson's 'Grand Viziers,' made especially for Abba
Pasha's own smoking."

Heathcote declined coldly, and continued his search through his
note-book.

"It was odd enough," said O'Shea, "just as you came in I was balancing
in my own mind whether I 'd go over to the Villa, or write to you."

"Write to me!" said the other, reddening.

"Don't be scared; it was not to dun you. No; I was meditating whether
it was quite fair of me to take that trap and the nags. _You_ like that
sort of thing; it suits you too. Now, I 'm sobering down into the period
of Park phaetons and George the Fourths: a low step to get in, and a
deep, well-cushioned seat, with plenty of leg room; that's more my
style. As Holditch says, 'The O'Shea wants an armchair upon C springs
and Collinge's patent' Free and easy that, from a rascally coachmaker,
eh?"

"I don't want the horses. I have no use for them. I 'm not quite clear
whether you valued the whole thing at two hundred and fifty or three
hundred and fifty?"

"We said, two fifty," replied O'Shea, in his silkiest of tones.

"Be it so," muttered Heathcote; "I gave two hundred for the chestnut
horse at Tattersall's."

"He was dear,--too dear," was the dry reply.

"Esterhazy called him the best horse he ever bred."

"He shall have him this morning for a hundred and twenty."

"Well, well," burst in Heathcote, "we are not here to dispute about that
I handed you, as well as I remember, eighty and two hundred and thirty
Naps."

"More than that, I think," said O'Shea, thoughtfully, and as if laboring
to recollect clearly.

"I'm certain I'm correct," said Heathcote, haughtily. "I made no other
payments than these two,--eighty and two hundred and thirty."

"What a memory I have, to be sure!" said O'Shea, laughingly. "I remember
now, it was a rouleau of fifty that I paid away to Layton was running in
my head."

Heathcote's lip curled superciliously, but it was only for a second,
and his features were calm as before. "Two thirty and eighty make three
hundred and ten, and three fifty--"

"Two fifty for the trap!" broke in O'Shea.

"Ah! to be sure, two fifty, make altogether five hundred and sixty Naps,
leaving, let me see--ninety-four--sixty-one--one hundred and twelve--"

"A severe night that was. You never won a game!" chimed in O'Shea.

"--One hundred and twelve and seventy, making three hundred and
thirty-seven in all. Am I right?"

"Correct as Cocker, only you have forgotten your walk against time, from
the fish-pond to the ranger's lodge. What was it,--ten Naps, or twenty?"

"Neither. It was five, and I paid it!" was the curt answer.

"Ain't I the stupidest dog that ever sat for a borough?" said O'Shea,
bursting out into one of his boisterous laughs. "Do you know, I'd have
been quite willing to have bet you a cool hundred about that?"

"And you 'd have lost," said Heathcote, dryly.

"Not a doubt of it, and deserved it too," said he, merrily.

"I have brought you here one hundred and fifty," said Heathcote, laying
down three rouleaux on the table, "and, for the remainder, my note at
three months. I hope that may not prove inconvenient?"

"Inconvenient, my boy! never say the word. Not to mention that fortune
may take a turn one of these days, and all this California find its way
back to its own diggings."

"I don't mean to play any more."

"Not play any more! Do you mean to say that, because you have been once
repulsed, you 'll never charge again? Is that your soldier's pluck?"

"There is no question here of my soldier's pluck. I only said I 'd not
play billiards."

"May I ask you one thing? How can you possibly expect to attain
excellence in any pursuit, great or small, when you are so easily
abashed?"

"May I take the same liberty with you, and ask how can it possibly
concern any one but myself that I have taken this resolution?"

"There you have me! a hazard and no mistake! I may be your match at
billiards; but when it comes to repartee, you are the better man,
Heathcote."

Coarse as the flattery was, it was not unpleasing. Indeed, in its very
coarseness there was a sort of mock sincerity, just as the stroke of a
heavy hand on your shoulder is occasionally taken for good fellowship,
though you wince under the blow. Now Heathcote was not only gratified by
his own smartness, but after a moment or two he felt half sorry he had
been so "severe on the poor fellow." He had over-shotted his gun, and
there was really no necessity to rake him so heavily; and so, with a
sort of blundering bashfulness, he said,--

"You 're not offended; you 're not angry with me?"

"Offended! angry! nothing of the kind. I believe I am a peppery sort of
fellow,--at least, down in the West there they say as much of me; but
once a man is my friend,--once that I feel all straight and fair between
us,--he may bowl me over ten times a day, and I 'll never resent it."

There was a pause after this, and Heathcote found his position painfully
awkward. He did not fancy exactly to repudiate the friendship thus
assumed, and he certainly did not like to put his name to the bond;
and so he walked to the window and looked out with that half-hopeless
vacuity bashful men are prone to.

"What's the weather going to do?" said he, carelessly. "More rain?"

"Of course, more rain! Amongst all the humbugs of the day, do you know
of one equal to the humbug of the Italian climate? Where's the blue sky
they rave about?"

"Not there, certainly," said Heathcote, laughing, as he looked up at the
leaden-colored canopy that lowered above them.

"My father used to say," said O'Shea, "that it was all a mistake to talk
about the damp climate of Ireland; the real grievance was, that when it
rained it always rained dirty water!"

The conceit amused Heathcote, and he laughed again.

"There it comes now, and with a will too!" And at the same instant, with
a rushing sound like hail, the rain poured down with such intensity as
to shut out the hills directly in front of the windows.

"You 're caught this time, Heathcote. Make the best of it, like a man,
and resign yourself to eat a mutton-chop here with me at four o'clock;
and if it clears in the evening, I 'll canter back with you."

"No, no, the weather will take up; this is only a shower. They 'll
expect me back to dinner, besides. Confound it, how it does come down!"

"Oh, faith!" said O'Shea, half mournfully, "I don't wonder that you are
less afraid of the rain than a bad dinner."

"No, it's not that,--nothing of the kind," broke in Heathcote,
hurriedly; "at another time I should be delighted! Who ever saw such
rain as that!"

"Look at the river too. See how it is swollen already."

"Ah! I never thought of the mountain torrents," said Heathcote,
suddenly.

"They 'll be coming down like regular cataracts by this time. I defy any
one to cross at Borgo even now. Take my advice, Heathcote, and reconcile
yourself to old Pan's cookery for to-day."

"What time do you dine?"

"What time will suit you? Shall we say four or five?"

"Four, if you'll permit me. Four will do capitally."

"That's all right And now I 'll just step down to Panini myself, and
give him a hint about some Burgundy he has got in the cellar."

Like most men yielding to necessity, Heathcote felt discontented and
irritated, and no sooner was he alone than he began to regret his having
accepted the invitation. What signified a wetting? He was on horseback,
to be sure, but he was well mounted, and it was only twelve miles,--an
hour or an hour and a quarter's sharp canter; and as to the torrents, up
to the girths, perhaps, or a little beyond,--it could scarcely come
to swimming. Thus he argued with himself as he walked to and fro, and
chafed and fretted as he went. It was in this irritated state O'Shea
found him when he came back.

"We 're all right. They 've got a brace of woodcock below stairs,
and some Pistoja mutton; and as I have forbidden oil and all the
grease-pots, we 'll manage to get a morsel to eat."

"I was just thinking how stupid I was to--to--to put you to all this
inconvenience," said he, hastily changing a rudeness into an apology.

"Isn't it a real blessing for me to catch you?" cried O'Shea. "Imagine
me shut up here by myself all day, no one to speak to, nothing to do,
nothing to read but that old volume of the 'Wandering Jew,' that I begin
to know by heart, or, worse again, that speech of mine on the Italian
question, that whenever I 've nearly finished it the villains are sure
to do something or other that destroys all my predictions and ruins my
argument What would have become of me to-day if you had n't dropped in?"

Heathcote apparently did not feel called upon to answer this inquiry,
but walked the room moodily, with his hands in his pockets.

O'Shea gave a little faint sigh,--such a sigh as a weary pedestrian may
give, as, turning the angle of the way, he sees seven miles of straight
road before him, without bend or curve. It was now eleven o'clock, and
five dreary hours were to be passed before dinner-time.

Oh, my good reader, has it been amongst your life's experiences to have
submitted to an ordeal of this kind,--to be caged up of a wet day with
an unwilling guest, whom you are called on to amuse, but know not how
to interest; to feel that you are bound to employ his thoughts, with the
sad consciousness that in every pause of the conversation he is cursing
his hard fate at being in your company; to know that you must deploy
all the resources of your agreeability without even a chance of success,
your very efforts to amuse constituting in themselves a boredom? It is
as great a test of temper as of talent. Poor O'Shea, one cannot but pity
you! To be sure, you are not without little aids to pass time, in
the shape of cards, dice, and such-like. I am not quite sure that a
travelling roulette-table is not somewhere amongst your effects. But of
what use are they all _now?_ None would think of a lecture on anatomy
to a man who had Just suffered amputation.

No, no! play must not be thought of,--it must be most sparingly alluded
to even in conversation,--and so what remains? O'Shea was not without
reminiscences, and he "went into them like a man." He told scenes of
early Trinity College life; gave sketches of his contemporaries, one
or two of them now risen to eminence; he gave anecdotes of Gray's Inn,
where he had eaten his terms; of Templar life, its jollities and its
gravities; of his theatrical experiences, when he wrote the "Drama"
for two weekly periodicals; of his like employ when he reported
prize-fights, boat-races, and pigeon-matches for "Bell's Life." He then
gave a sketch of his entrance into public life, with a picture of an
Irish election, dashed off spiritedly and boldly; but all he could
obtain from his phlegmatic listener was a faint smile at times, and a
low muttering sound, that resolved itself into, "What snobs!"

At last he was in the House, dealing with great names and great events,
which he ingeniously blended up with Bellamy's and the oyster suppers
below stairs; but it was no use,--they, too, were snobs! It was all
snobbery everywhere. Freshmen, Templars, Pugilists, Scullers, County
Electors, and House of Commons celebrities,--all snobs!

O'Shea then tried the Turf,--disparagingly, as a great moralist ought.
They were, as he said, a "bad lot;" but he knew them well, and they
"could n't hurt _him_." He had a variety of curious stories about racing
knaveries, and could clear up several mysterious circumstances, which
all the penetration of the "Ring" had never succeeded in solving.
Heathcote, however, was unappeasable; and these, too,--trainers,
jockeys, judges, and gentlemen,--they were all snobs!

It was only two o'clock, and there were two more mortal hours to get
through before dinner. With a bright inspiration he bethought him of
bitter beer. Oh, Bass! ambrosia of the barrack-room, thou nectar of the
do-nothings in this life, how gracefully dost thou deepen dulness into
drowsiness, making stupidity but semi-conscious! What a bond of union
art thou between those who have talked themselves out, and would without
thy consoling froth, become mutually odious! Instead of the torment of
suggestiveness which other drinks inspire, how gloriously lethargic are
all thy influences, how mind-quelling, and how muddling!

There is, besides, a vague notion prevalent with your beer-drinker, that
there is some secret of health in his indulgence,--that he is undergoing
a sort of tonic regimen, something to make him more equal to the ascent
of Mont Blanc, or the defeat of the Zouaves, and he grows in self-esteem
as he sips. It is not the boastful sentiment begotten of champagne, or
the defiant courage of port, but a dogged, resolute, resistant spirit,
stout in its nature and bitter to the last!

And thus they sipped, and smoked, and said little to each other, and the
hours stole over, and the wintry day darkened apace, and, at last, out
of a drowsy nap over the fire, the waiter awoke them, to say dinner was
on the table.

"You were asleep!" said O'Shea, to his companion.

"Yes, 'twas your snoring set me off!" replied Heathcote, stretching
himself, as he walked to the window. "Raining Just as hard as ever!"

"Come along," said the other, gayly. "Let us see what old Fan has done
for us."



CHAPTER XXI. MR. O'SHEA UPON POLITICS, AND THINGS IN GENERAL

It was a most appetizing little dinner that was now set before the
O'Shea and Charles Heathcote. The trout from Castellano and the mutton
from Pistoja were each admirable; and a brace of woodcocks, shot in the
first snowstorm on the Carrara mountains, were served in a fashion that
showed the cook had benefited by English teachings.

"There are worse places than this, after all!" said O'Shea, as he sat
at one side of the fire, Heathcote opposite, and a small table liberally
covered with decanters between them.

"Wonderful Burgundy this," said Heathcote, gazing at his glass in the
light. "What does he call it?"

"He calls it Lafitte. These fellows think all red wines come from the
Bordeaux country. Here it is,--marked seven francs."

"Cheap at double the price. My governor will take every bottle of it."

"Not before I leave, I hope," said O'Shea, laughing. "I trust he 'll
respect what they call vested interests."

"Oh, by the way," said the other, indolently, "you _are_ going?"

"Yes. Our party are getting uneasy, and I am constantly receiving
letters pressing me to return to England."

"Want you in the House, perhaps?" said Heathcote, as he puffed his cigar
in lazy enjoyment.

"Just so. You see, a parliamentary session is a sort of campaign in
which every arm of warfare is needed. You want your great guns for the
grand battles, your dashing cavalry charges for emergencies, and your
light skirmishers to annoy the enemy and disconcert his advance."

"And which are _you?_" asked the other, in a tone of bantering
indifference.

"Well, I 'm what you might call a mounted rifleman,--a dash of the
dragoon with a spice of the sharpshooter."

"Sharp enough, I take it," muttered Heathcote, who bethought him of the
billiard-table, and the wonderful "hazards" O'Shea used to accomplish.

"You understand," resumed the Member, confidentially, "I don't come out
on the Budget, or Reform, or things of that kind; but I lie by till I
hear some one make a blunder or a mistake, no matter how insignificant,
and then I 'm down on him, generally with an anecdote--something he
reminds me of--and for which I 'm sure to have the laugh against him.
It's so easy, besides, to make them laugh; the worst jokes are always
successful in the House of Commons."

"Dull fellows, I suppose?" chimed in Heathcote.

"No, indeed; not that. Go down with six or eight of them to supper, and
you'll say you never met pleasanter company. 'T is being caged up there
all together, saying the same things over and over, that's what destroys
them."

"It must be a bore, I take it?" sighed out Heathcote.

"I'll tell you what it is," said O'Shea, as, in a voice of deepest
confidence, he leaned over the table and spoke,--"I 'll tell you what
it is. Did you ever play the game called Brag, with very little money in
your pocket?"

Heathcote nodded what might mean assent or the opposite.

"That's what Parliament is," resumed O'Shea. "You sit there, night after
night, year after year, wondering within yourself, 'Would it be safe for
me to play this hand? Shall I venture now?' You know well that if you
_do_ back your luck and lose, that it's all up with you forever, so that
it's really a mighty serious thing to risk it. At last, maybe, you take
courage. You think you 've got the cards; it's half-past two o'clock;
the House is thin, and every one is tired and sleepy. Up you get on your
legs to speak. You're not well down again, till a fellow from the back
benches, you thought sound asleep, gets up and tears all you said to
tatters,--destroys your facts, scatters your inferences, and maybe
laughs at your figures of speech."

"Not so pleasant, that," said Heathcote, languidly.

"Pleasant! it's the devil!" said O'Shea, violently; "for you hear the
pen scratching away up in the reporters' gallery, and you know it will
be all over Europe next morning."

"Then why submit to all this?" asked Heathcote, more eagerly.

"Just as I said awhile ago; because you might chance upon a good card,
and 'brag' on it for something worth while. It's all luck."

"Your picture of political life is not fascinating," said Heathcote,
coldly.

"After all, do you know, I like it," resumed O'Shea. "As long as you
've a seat in the House, there's no saying when you might n't be wanted;
and then, when the session's over, and you go down to the country, you
are the terror of all the fellows that never sat in Parliament. If they
say a word about public matters, you put them down at once with a cool
'I assure you, sir, that's not the view we take of it in the House.'"

"I 'd say, 'What's that to _me?_'"

"No, you would n't,--not a bit of it; or, if you did, nobody would mind
you, and for this reason,--it's the _real_ place, after all. Why do you
pay Storr and Mortimer more than another jeweller? Just because you're
sure of the article. There now, that's how it is!"

"There's some one knocking at the door, I think," said Heathcote; but
at the same instant Joe's head appeared inside, with a request to be
admitted. "'T is the telegraph," said he, presenting a packet.

"I have asked for a small thing in Jamaica, some ten or twelve hundred
a year," whispered O'Shea to his friend. "I suppose this is the reply."
And at the same time he threw the portentous envelope carelessly on the
table.

Either Heathcote felt no interest in the subject, or deemed it proper to
seem as indifferent as his host, for he never took any further notice of
the matter, but smoked away as before.

"You need n't wait," said O'Shea to Joe, who still lingered at the
door. "That fellow is bursting with curiosity now," said he, as the
man retired; "he 'd give a year's wages to know what was inside that
envelope."

"Indeed!" sighed ont Heathcote, in a tone that showed how little he
sympathized with such eagerness.

If O'Shea was piqued at this cool show of indifference, he resolved to
surpass it by appearing to forget the theme altogether; and, pushing
the bottle across the table, he said, "Did I ever tell you how it was I
first took to politics?"

"No, I think not," said Heathoote, listlessly.

"Well, it was a chance, and a mere chance; this is the way it happened.
Though I was bred to the Bar, I never did much at the law; some say
that an agreeable man, with a lively turn in conversation, plenty of
anecdote, and a rich fancy, is never a favorite with the attorneys;
the rascals always think that such a man will never make a lawyer, and
though they 'll listen to his good stories by the hour in the Hall,
devil a brief they 'll give him, nor so much as a 'declaration.' Well,
for about five years I walked about in wig and gown, joking and quizzing
and humbugging all the fellows that were getting business, and taking a
circuit now and again, but all to no good; and at last I thought I 'd
give it up, and so my friends advised me, saying, 'Get something under
the Government, Gorman; a snug place with a few hundreds a year, and be
sure take anything that 's offered you to begin with.'

"Now there was a room in Dublin Castle--it's the second down the
corridor off the private stairs--that used to be called the Poker-room.
It may be so still, for anything I know, and for this reason: it was
there all the people expecting places or appointments were accustomed
to wait. It was a fine, airy, comfortable room, with a good carpet,
easy-chairs, and always an excellent fire; and here used to meet
every day of their lives the same twenty or five-and-twenty people, one
occasionally dropping off, and another coming in, but so imperceptibly
and gradually that the gathering at last grew to be a sort of club,
where they sat from about eleven till dark every day, chatting
pleasantly over public and private events. It was thus found necessary
to give it a kind of organization, and so we named for President the
oldest,--that is, the longest expectant of place,--who, by virtue of his
station, occupied the seat next the fire, and alone, of all the members,
possessed the privilege of poking it. The poker was his badge of office;
and the last act of his official life, whenever promotion separated
him from us, was to hand the poker to his successor, with a solemn
dignity of manner and a few parting words.

[Illustration: 233]

I verily believe that most of us got to be so fond of the club that it
was the very reverse of a pleasure when we had to leave it to become,
maybe, a Police Inspector at Skibbereen, Postmaster at Tory Island, or a
Gauger at Innismagee; and so we jogged on, from one Viceroy to another,
very happy and contented. Well, it was the time of a great Marquis,--I
won't say who, but he was the fast friend of O'Connell,--and we all of
us thought that there would be plenty of fine things given away, and
the poker-room was crammed, and I was the President, having ascended the
throne two years and a half before. It was somewhere early in March; a
cold raw day it was. I had scarcely entered the club, than a messenger
bawled out, 'Gorman O'Shea,--Mr. Gorman O'Shea.' 'Here he is,' said I.
'Wanted in the Chief Secretary's office,' said he, 'immediately.' I gave
a knowing wink to the company around the fire, and left the room. Three
mortal hours did I stand in the ante-room below, seeing crowds pass in
and out before I was called in; and then, as I entered, saw a little
wizened, sharp-faced man standing with his back to the fire paring
his nails. He never so much as looked at me, but said in a careless,
muttering sort of way,--

"'You're the gentleman who wishes to go as resident magistrate to
Oackatoro, ain't you?'

"'Well, indeed, sir, I'm not quite sure,' I began.

"'Oh yes, you are,' broke he in. 'I know all about you. Your name has
been favorably mentioned to the office. You are Mr. O'Gorman--'

"'Mr. Gorman O'Shea,' said I, proudly.

"'The same thing, Gorman O'Shea. I remember it now. Your appointment
will be made out: five hundred a year, and a retiring pension after six
years; house, and an allowance for monkeys.'

"'A what?' asked I.

"'The place is much infested with a large species of oorang-outang, and
the governor gives so much per head for destroying them. Mr. Simpson, in
the office, will give you full information. You are to be at your post
by the 1st of August.'

"'Might I make bold to ask where Whackatory is?'

"'Oackatoro, sir,' said he, proudly, 'is the capital of Fighi. I trust I
need not say where that is.'

"'By no means,' said I, modestly; and, muttering my thanks for the
advancement, I backed out, almost deranged to think that I did n't know
where I was going.

"'Where is it? What is it? How much is it, O'Shea?' cried thirty ardent
voices, as I entered the club.

"'It's five hundred a year,' said I, 'without counting the monkeys. It's
a magistrate's place; but may a gooseberry skin make a nightcap for me
if I know where the devil it is!'

"'But you have accepted!' cried they out, all together.

"'I have,' said I. 'I'm to be at Fighi, wherever that is, by the 1st of
August. And now,' said I, turning to the fire, and taking up the poker,
'there is nothing for me to do but resign this sacred symbol of my
office into the hands of my successor.'

"Where's O'Dowd?' shouted out the crowd. And they awoke out of a
pleasant sleep a little old fellow that never missed his day for two
years at the club.

"'Gentlemen,' said I, in a voice trembling with feeling, 'the hour is
come when my destiny is to separate me from you forever; an hour that
is equally full of the past and the future, and has even no small share
of present emotions. If ever there were a human institution devised to
cement together the hearts and affections of men, to bind them into one
indissoluble mass, and blend their instincts into identity, it is the
club we have here. Here we stand, like the departed spirits at the Styx,
waiting for the bark of Charon to ferry us over. To what, however? Is it
to some blessed elysium of a Poor Law Commissioner's place, or is it
to some unknown fate in a distant land, with five hundred a year and an
allowance for monkeys? That's the question, there's the rub! as Hamlet
says.' After dilating at large on this, I turned to O'Dowd. 'To your
hands,' said I, 'I commit this venerable relic: keep it, guard it,
honor it, and preserve it. Remember,' said I, 'that when you stir those
coals it is the symbol of keeping alive in the heart the sparks of an
undying hope; that though they may wet the slack and water the cinders
of our nature, the fire within us will still survive, red, glowing, and
generous. Is n't that as fine, as great, glorious, and free, I ask you?'

"'Who is that fellow that's talking there, with a voice like Lablache?'
asked a big man at the door; and then, as the answer was whispered in
his ear, he said, 'Send him out here to me.'

"Out I went, and found myself face to face with O'Connell.

"'I want a man to stand for Drogheda to-morrow; the gentleman I
expected cannot arrive there possibly before three. Will you address the
electors, and speak till he comes? If he isn't there by half-past three,
you shall be returned!'

"'Done!' said I. And by five o'clock on the following evening Gorman
O'Shea was at the top of the poll and declared Member for Drogheda!
That was, I may say, the first lift I ever got from Fortune. May I
never!" exclaimed O'Shea, half angrily,--"may I never, if he's not
asleep--and snoring! These Saxons beat the world for stupidity."

The Member now suddenly bethought him that it would be a favorable
moment to read his telegram, and so he tore open the envelope, and held
it to the light. It was headed as usual, and addressed in full, showing
that no parsimony defrauded him of his full title. The body of the
despatch was, however, brief enough, and contained only one word,
"Bosh!" It was clear, bold, and unmistakably "Bosh!" Could insolence go
further than that? To send such a message a thousand miles, at the cost
of one pound fourteen and sixpence!

"What the deuce? you've nearly upset the table!" cried Heathcote,
waking suddenly up, as O'Shea with a passionate gesture had thrown one
of the decanters into the other's lap.

"I was asleep, like yourself, I suppose," said the Member, roughly. "I
must say, we are neither of us the very liveliest company."

"It was that yarn of yours about attacking monkeys with a poker, or some
stuff of that kind, set me off," yawned Heathcote, drearily. "I had not
felt the least sleepy till then."

"Here, let us fill our glasses, and drink to the jolly time that is
coming for us," said O'Shea, with all his native recklessness.

"With all my heart; but I wish I could guess from what quarter it's
coming," said Heathcote, despondingly.

If neither felt much disposed to converse, they each drank deeply; and
although scarcely more than a word or two would pass between them, they
sat thus, hour after hour, till it was long past midnight.

It was after a long silence between them that Heathcote said: "I never
tried so hard in my life to get drunk, without success. I find it
won't do, though; I'm just as clearheaded and as low-spirited as when I
started."

"Bosh!" muttered O'Shea, half dreamily.

"It's no such thing!" retorted Heathcote. "At any ordinary time one
bottle of that strong Burgundy would have gone to my head; and see, now
I don't feel it."

"Maybe you 're fretting about something. It's perhaps a weight on your
heart--"

"That's it!" sighed out the other, as though the very avowal were an
inexpressible relief to him.

"Is it for a woman?" asked O'Shea.

The other nodded, and then leaned his head on his hand.

"Upon my conscience, I sometimes think they 're worse than the Jews,"
said the Member, violently; "and there's no being 'up to them.'"

"It's our own fault, then," cried Heathcote; "because we never play
fairly with them."

"Bosh!" muttered O'Shea, again.

"I defy you to deny it," cried he, angrily.

"I 'd like a five-pound note to argue it either way," said O'Shea.

As if offended by the levity of the speech, Heathcote turned away and
said nothing.

"When you get down to Rome, and have some fun over those ox-fences, you
'll forget all about her, whoever she is," said O'Shea.

"I'm for England to-morrow, and for India next week, if they 'll have
me."

"Well, if that's not madness--"

"No, sir, it is not," broke in Heathoote, angrily; "nor will I permit
you or any other man to call it so."

"What I meant was, that when a fellow had _your_ prospects before
him, India ought n't to tempt him, even with the offer of the
Governor-Generalship."

"Forgive me my bad temper, like a good fellow," cried Heathoote,
grasping the other's band; "but, in honest truth, I have no prospects,
no future, and there is not a more hopeless wretch to be found than the
man before you."

O'Shea was very near saying "Bosh!" once more, but he coughed it under.

Like all bashful men who have momentarily given way to impatience,
Charles Heathoote was over eager to obtain his companion's good will,
and so he dashed at once into a full confession of all the difficulties
that beset, and all the cares that surrounded him. O'Shea had never
known accurately, till now, the amount of May Leslie's fortune, nor how
completely she was the mistress of her own fate. Neither had he ever
heard of that strange provision in the will which imposed a forfeit
upon her if unwilling to accept Charles Heathcote as her husband,--a
condition which he shrewdly judged to be the very surest of all ways to
prevent their marriage.

"And so you released her?" cried he, as Heathoote finished his
narrative.

"Released her! No. I never considered that she was bound. How could I?"

"Upon my conscience," muttered the O'Shea, "it is a hard case--a mighty
hard case--to see one's way in; for if, as you say, it's not a worthy
part for a man to compel a girl to be his wife Just because her father
put it in his will, it's very cruel to lose her only because she has a
fine property."

"It is for no such reason," broke in Heathoote, half angrily. "I was
unwilling--I am unwilling--that May Leslie should be bound by a contract
she never shared in.

"That's all balderdash!" cried O'Shea, with energy.

"What do you mean, sir?" retorted the other, passionately.

"What I mean is this," resumed he: "that it's all balder-dash to talk
of the hardship of doing things that we never planned out for ourselves.
Sure, ain't we doing them every moment of our lives? Ain't I doing
something because you contrived it? and ain't you doing something else
because I left it in your way?"

"It comes to this, then, that you 'd marry a girl who did n't care for
you, if the circumstances were such as to oblige her to accept you?"

"Not absolutely,--not unreservedly," replied O'Shea.

"Well, what is the reservation? Let us hear it."

"Her fortune ought to be suitable."

"Oh, this is monstrous!"

"Hear me out before you condemn me. In marriage, as in everything else,
you must take it out in malt or in meal: don't fancy that you 're going
to get love and money too. It's only in novels such luck exists."

"I'm very glad I do not share your sentiments," said Charles, sternly.

"They 're practical, anyway. But now to another point. Here we are,
sitting by the fire in all frankness and candor. Answer me fairly two
questions: Have you given up the race?"

"Yes."

"Well, then, have you any objection if I enter for the stakes myself?"

"You! Do you mean that you would propose for May Leslie?"

"I do; and, what's more, I don't despair of success, either."

An angry flush rose to Heathcote's face, and for a moment it seemed
as if his passion was about to break forth; but he mastered it, and,
rising slowly, said: "If I thought such a thing possible, it would very
soon cure me of _one_ sorrow." After a pause, he added: "As for _me_,
I have no permission to give or to withhold. Go, by all means, and make
your offer. I only ask one thing: it is, that you will honestly tell me
afterwards how it has been received."

"That I pledge my word to. Where do you stop in Paris?"

"At the Windsor."

"Well, you shall have a despatch from me, or see myself there, by
Saturday evening; one or the other I swear to."

"Agreed. I'll not wish you success, for that would be hypocritical, but
I 'll wish you well over it!" And with this speech, uttered in a tone
of jeering sarcasm, Heathcote said good-bye, and departed.



CHAPTER XXII. THE PUBLIC SERVANT ABROAD.

We scarcely thought that the distinguished public servant, Mr. Ogden,
was likely to occupy once more any portion of our readers' attention;
and yet it so fell out that this useful personage, being on the
Continent getting up his Austria and Northern Italy for the coming
session, received a few lines from the Earl of Sommerville, half
mandatory, half entreating, asking him to find out the young Marquis of
Agincourt, and take him back with him to England.

Now the Earl was a great man, for he was father-in-law of a Cabinet
Minister, and related to half the leaders of the party, so that Mr.
Ogden, however little the mission suited his other plans, was fain at
once to accept it, and set out in search of his charge.

We need not follow him in his pursuit through Lombardy and the
Legations, down to Tuscany and Lucca, which latter city he reached at
the close of a cold and dreary day of winter, cheered to him, however,
by the certainty that he had at length come up with the object of his
chase.

It was a habit with Quackinboss, whenever he sent out Layton's servant
on an errand, to leave the house door ajar, that the sick man might not
be disturbed by the loud summons of the bell; and so on the evening in
question was it found by Mr. Ogden, who, after some gentle admonitions
by his knuckles and some preparatory coughs, at last groped his way
into the interior, and eventually entered the spacious sitting-room.
Quackinboss had dined, and was seated at his wine beside an ample
fireplace, with a blazing wood-fire. An old-fashioned screen sheltered
him from the draught of the ill-fitting windows, while a comfortable
buffalo rug was stretched under his feet. The Colonel was in his second
cigar, and in the drowsy mood of its easy enjoyment, when the harsh
accents of Mr. Ogden's voice startled him, by asking, "Can you inform me
if Lord Agincourt lives here?"

"You 're a Britisher now, I expect?" said the Colonel, as he slowly
puffed out a long volume of smoke, but never moved from his seat.

"My question having the precedence, sir, it will be, perhaps, more
regular to answer it first," said Ogden, with a slow pertinacity.

[Illustration: 242]

"Well, I ain't quite sure o' that, stranger." drawled out the other.
"Mine was a sort of an amendment, and so might be put before the
original motion."

The remark chimed in well with the humor of one never indisposed to
word-fencing, and so he deferred to the suggestion, told his name and
his object in coming. "And now, sir," added he, "I hope not to be deemed
indiscreet in asking an equal candor from you."

"You ain't a doctor?" asked Quackinboss.

"No, sir; not a physician, at least."

"That's a pity," said Quackinboss, slowly, as he brushed the ashes
off his cigar. "Help yourself, stranger; that's claret, t'other's the
country wine, and this is cognac,--all three bad o' their kind; but, as
they say here to everything, 'Come si fa, eh? Come si fa!'"

"It is not from any disparagement of your hospitality, sir," said
Ogden, somewhat pompously, "that I am forced to recall you to my first
question."

"Come si fa!" repeated Quackinboss, still ruminating over the philosophy
of that expression, one of the very few he had ever succeeded in
committing to memory.

"Am I to conclude, sir, that you decline giving me the information I
ask?"

"I ain't in a witness-box, stranger. I 'm a-sittin' at my own fireside.
I 'm a-smokin' my Virginian, where I 've a right to, and if _you_ choose
to come in neighborly-like, and take a liquor with me, we 'll talk it
over, whatever it is; but if you think to come Holy Office and the
Inquisition over Shaver Quackinboss, you 've caught the wrong squirrel
by the tail, Britisher, you have!"

"I must say, sir, you have put a most forced and unfair construction
upon a very simple circumstance. I asked you if the Marquis of Agincourt
resided here?"

"And so you ain't a doctor?" said Quackinboss, pensively.

"No, sir; I have already told you as much."

"Bred to the law, belike?"

"I _have_ studied, sir, but not practised as a lawyer."

"Well, now, I expected you was!" said Quackinboss, with an air of
self-satisfaction. "You chaps betray yourselves sooner than any other
class in all creation; as Flay Harris says: 'A lawyer is a fellow won't
drink out of the bung-hole, but must always be for tapping the cask for
himself.' You ain't long in these parts?"

"No, sir; a very short time, indeed," said Ogden, drearily.

"You needn't sigh about it, stranger, though it is main dull in these
diggin's! Here's a people that don't understand human natur'. What I
mean, sir, is, human natur' means goin' ahead; doin' a somewhat your
father and your grandfather never so much as dreamt of. But what are
these critturs about? Jest showin' the great things that was done
centuries before they was born,--what pictures and statues and monuments
their own ancestors could make, and of which they are jest showmen,
nothing more!"

"The Arts are Italy's noblest inheritance," said Ogden, sententionsly.

"That ain't my platform, stranger. Civilization never got anything
from painters or sculptors. They never taught mankind to be truthful or
patient or self-denyin' or charitable. You may look at a bronze Hercules
till you 're black in the face, and it will never make you give a cent
to a lame cripple. I 'll go further again, stranger, and I 'll say that
there ain't anything has thrown so many stumblin'-blocks before
pro-gress as what you call the Arts, for there ain't the equal o' them
to make people idlers. What's all that loafing about galleries, I ask
ye, but the worst of all idling? If you want them sort of emotions, go
to the real article, sir. Look at an hospital, that's more life-like
than Gerard Dow and his dropsical woman,--ay, and may touch your heart,
belike, before you get away."

"Though your conversation interests me much, sir, you will pardon my
observing that I feel myself an intruder."

"No, you ain't; I'm jest in a talkin' humor, and I'd rather have _you_
than that Italian crittur, as don't understand me."

"Even the flattery of your observation, sir, cannot make me forget that
another object claims my attention."

"For I 've remarked," resumed Quackinboss, as if in continuation of his
speech, "that a foreigner that don't know English wearies after a while
in listenin', even though you 're tellin' him very interesting things."

"I perceive, sir," said Ogden, rising, "that I have certainly been
mistaken in the address. I was told that at the Palazzo Barsotti--"

"Well, you 're jest there; that's what they call this ramshackle old
crazy consarn. Their palaces, bein' main like their nobility, would be
all the better for a little washin' and smartenin' up."

"You can perhaps, however, inform me where Lord Agio-court _does_ live?"

"Well, he lives, as I may say, a little promiscuous. If he ain't _here_.
it's because he's _there!_ You understand?"

"I cannot say very confidently that I do understand," said Ogden,
slowly.

"It was well as you was n't a practisin' lawyer, Britisher, for you
ain't smart! that's a fact No, sir; you ain't smart!"

"Your countrymen's estimate of that quality has a high standard, sir,"
said Ogden, haughtily.

"What do you mean by my countrymen?" asked the other, quickly.

"I ventured to presume that you were an American," said Ogden, with a
supercilious smile.

"Well, stranger, you were main right; though darn me con-siderable if
I know how you discovered it. Don't you be a-goin', now that we 're
gettin' friendly together. Set down a bit. Maybe you 'd taste a morsel
of something."

"Excuse me, I have just dined."

"Well, mix a summut in your glass. It's a rare pleasure to me, stranger,
to have a chat with a man as talks like a Christian. I'm tired of 'Come
si fa,'--that's a fact, sir."

"I regret that I cannot profit by your polite invitation," said Ogden,
bowing stiffly. "I had been directed to this house as the residence of
Lord Agincourt and his tutor; and as neither of them live here--"

"Who told you that? There's one of them a-bed in that room there; he's
caught swamp-fever, and it's gone up to the head. He's the tutor,--poor
fellow."

"And the Marquis?"

"The Marquis! he's a small parcel to have such a big direction on him,
ain't he? He's at a villa, a few miles off; but he 'll be over here
to-morrow morning."

"You are quite sure of that?" asked Ogden.

"Yes, sir," said Quackinboss, drinking off his glass, and nodding, in
token of salutation.

"I must beg you to accept my excuses for this intrusion on my part,"
began Ogden.

"Jest set you down there again; there's a point I 'd like to be cleared
up about I 'm sure you 'll not refuse me. Jest set down."

Ogden resumed his seat, although with an air and manner of no small
disinclination.

"No wine, thank you. Excuse me," said he, stiffly, as Quackinboss tried
to fill his glass.

"You remarked awhile ago," said Quackinboss, slowly, and like a man
weighing all his words, "that I was an American born. Now, sir, it ain't
a very likely thing that any man who was ever raised in the States is
goin' to deny it. It ain't, I say, very probable as he 'd say I'm a
Chinese, or a Mexican, or a Spaniard; no, nor a Britisher. Whatever we
do in this life, stranger, one thing, I suppose, is pretty certain,--we
don't say the worst of ourselves. Ain't that your platform, sir?"

"I agree to the general principle."

"Agreein', then, to the gen'ral principle, here's where we go next, for
I ain't a-goin' to let you off, Britisher; I 've got a harpoon in
you now, and I 'll tow you after me into shoal water; see if I don't.
Agreein', as we say, to the gen'ral principle, that no man likes to make
his face blacker than it need be, what good could it do me to say that I
wasn't born a free citizen of the freest country of the universe?"

"I am really at a loss to see how I am interested in this matter. I have
not, besides, that perfect leisure abstract discussion requires. You
will forgive me if I take my leave." He moved hastily towards the door
as he spoke, followed by Quackinboss, whose voice had now assumed the
full tones and the swelling modulations of public oratory.

"That great land, sanctified by the blood of the pilgrim fathers,
and whose proudest boast it is that from the first day, when the
star-spangled banner of Freedom dallied with the wind and scorned the
sun, waving its barred folds over the heads of routed enemies,--to that
glorious consummation, when, from the rugged plains of New England to
the golden groves of Florida--"

"Good-bye, sir,--good-evening," said Ogden, passing out and gaining the
landing-place.

"--One universal shout, floating over the Atlantic waters, proclaimed to
the Old World that the 'Young' was alive and kickin'--"

"Good-night," cried Ogden, from the bottom of the stairs; and
Quackinboss re-entered his chamber and banged the door after him,
muttering something to himself about Lexington and Concord, Columbus and
Quincy Adams.



CHAPTER XXIII. BROKEN TIES

It was a sorrowful morning at the Villa Caprini on the 22d of November.
Agincourt had come to take his last farewell of his kind friends, half
heart-broken that he was not permitted even to see poor Layton before he
went Quackin-bose, however, was obdurate on the point, and would suffer
no one to pass the sick man's door. Mr. Ogden sat in the carriage as the
boy dashed hurriedly into the house to say "Good-bye." Room after room
he searched in vain. No one to be met with. What could it mean?--the
drawing-room, the library, all empty!

"Are they all out, Fenton?" cried he, at last.

"No, my Lord, Sir William was here a moment since, Miss Leslie is in her
room, and Mrs. Morris, I think, is in the garden."

To the garden he hurried off at once, and just caught sight of Mrs.
Morris and Clara, as, side by side, they turned the angle of an alley.

"At last!" cried he, as he came up with them. "At last I have found some
one. Here have I been this half-hour in search of you all, over house
and grounds. Why, what's the matter?--what makes you look so grave?"

"Don't you know?--haven't you heard?" cried Mrs. Morris, with a sigh.

"Heard what?"

"Heard that Charles has gone off,--started for England last night, with
the intention of joining the first regiment ordered for India."

"I wish to Heaven he 'd have taken me with him!" cried the boy, eagerly.

"Very possibly," said she, dryly; "but Charles was certainly to blame
for leaving a home of happiness and affection in this abrupt way. I
don't see how poor Sir William is ever to get over it, not to speak of
leaving May Leslie. I hope, Agincourt, this is not the way you 'll treat
the young lady you 're betrothed to."

"I 'll never get myself into any such scrape, depend on't. Poor
Charley!"

"Why not poor May?" whispered Mrs. Morris.

"Well, poor May, too, if she cared for him; but I don't think she did."

"Oh, what a shame to say so! I 'm afraid you young gentlemen are brought
up in great heresies nowadays, and don't put any faith in love."

Had the boy been an acute observer, he would have marked how little the
careless levity of the remark coincided with the assumed sadness of her
former manner; but he never noticed this.

"Well," broke in the boy, bluntly, "why not marry him, if she cared for
him? I don't suppose you 'll ask me to believe that Charley would have
gone away if she had n't refused him?"

"What a wily serpent it is!" said Mrs. Morris, smiling; "wanting to
wring confidences from me whether I will or no."

"No. I 'll be hanged if I _am_ wily,--am I, Clara?"

What Clara answered was not very distinct, for her face was partly
covered with her handkerchief.

"There, you see Clara is rather an unhappy witness to call to
character. You 'd better come to me for a reputation," said Mrs. Morris,
laughingly.

"It's no matter, I'm going away now," said he, sorrowfully.

"Going away,--where?"

"Going back to England; they 've sent a man to capture me, as if I was a
wild beast, and he's there at the door now,--precious impatient, too, I
promise you, because I 'm keeping the post-horses waiting."

"Oh, make him come in to luncheon. He's a gentleman,--isn't he?"

"I should think he is! A great political swell, too, a something in the
Admiralty, or the Colonies, or wherever it is."

"Well, just take Clara, and she 'll find out May for you, and send your
travelling-companion into the garden here. I'll do the honors to him
till lunch-time." And Mrs. Morris now turned into a shady walk, to
think over what topics she should start for the amusement of the great
official from Downing Street.

If we were going to tell tales of her,--which we are not,--we might
reveal how it happened that she had seen a good deal of such sort of
people, at one era of her life, living in a Blue-Book atmosphere, and
hearing much out of "Hansard." We merely mention the fact; as to the
how, it is not necessary to refer to it. Not more are we bound to say
why she did not retain for such high company what, in French, is called
"the most distinguished consideration,"--why, on the contrary, she
thought and pronounced them the most insupportable of all bores. Our
readers cannot fail to have remarked and appreciated the delicate
reserve we have unvaryingly observed towards this lady,--a respectful
courtesy that no amount of our curiosity could endanger. Now, "charming
women," of whom Mrs. M. was certainly one, have a great fondness for
little occasional displays of their fascinations upon strangers. Whether
it is that they are susceptible of those emotions of vanity that sway
smaller natures, or whether it be merely to keep their fascinations from
rusting by want of exercise, is hard to say; but so is the fact, and
the enjoyment is all the higher when, by any knowledge of a speciality,
they can astonish their chance acquaintance. For what Lord Agincourt had
irreverently styled the "great political swell," she therefore prepared
herself with such memories as some years of life had stored for her.
"He'll wonder," thought she, "where I came by all my Downing Street
slang. I 'll certainly puzzle him with my cant of office." And so
thinking, she walked briskly along in the clear frosty air over
the crisped leaves that strewed the walk, till she beheld a person
approaching from the extreme end of the alley.

The distance between them was yet considerable, and yet how was it that
she seemed to falter in her steps, and suddenly, clasping her heart
with both hands, appeared seized with a sort of convulsion? At the same
instant she threw a terrified glance on every side, and looked like one
prepared for sudden flight To these emotions, more rapid in their course
than it has taken time to describe them, succeeded a cold, determined
calm, in which her features regained their usual expression, though
marked by a paleness like death.

The stranger came slowly forward, examining the trees and flowers as he
passed along, and peering with his double eye-glass to read the names
attached to whatever was rarest. Affecting to be gathering flowers for a
bouquet, she stooped frequently, till the other came near, and then,
as he removed his hat to salute her, she threw back her veil and stood,
silent, before him.

"Madam! madam!" cried he, in a voice of such intense agony as showed
that he was almost choked for utterance. "How is this, madam?" said he,
in a tone of indignant demand. "How is this?"

"I have really no explanation to offer, sir," said she, in a cold, low
voice. "My astonishment is great as your own; this meeting is not of my
seeking. I need scarcely say so much."

"I do not know that!--by Heaven I do not!" cried he, in a passion.

"You are surely forgetting, sir, that we are no longer anything to each
other, and thus forgetting the deference due to me as a stranger?"

"I neither forget nor forgive!" said he, sternly.

"Happily, sir, you will not be called upon to do either. I no longer
bear your name--"

"Oh that you had never borne it!" cried he, in agony.

"There is at least one sentiment we agree in, sir,--would that I never
had!" said she; and a slight--very slight--tremor shook the words as she
spoke them.

"Tell me at once, madam, what do you mean by this surprise? I know all
your skill in _accidents_,--what does this one portend?"

"You are too flattering, sir, believe me," said she, with an easy smile.
"I have plotted nothing,--I have nothing to plot,--at least, in which
you are concerned. The unhappy bond that once united us is loosed
forever; but I do not see that even harsh memories are to suggest bad
manners."

"I am no stranger to your flippancy, madam. You have made me acquainted
with all your merits."

"You were going to say virtues, George,--confess you were?" said she,
coquettishly.

"Gracious mercy, woman! can you dare--"

"My dear Mr. Ogden," broke she in, gently, "I can dare to be that which
you have just told me was impossible for you,--forgetful and forgiving."

"Oh, madam, this is, indeed, generous!" said be, with a bitter mockery.

"Well, sir, it were no bad thing if there were a little generosity
between us. Don't fancy that all the forgiveness should come from _you_;
don't imagine that _I_ am not plaintiff as well as defendant." Then,
suddenly changing her tone to one of easy indifference, she said, "And
so your impression is, sir, that the Cabinet will undergo no change?"

She looked hurriedly round as she spoke, and saw Sir William Heathcote
coming rapidly towards them.

"Sir William, let me present to you Mr. Ogden, a name you must be
familiar with in the debates," said she, introducing them.

"I hope Lord Agincourt has not been correct in telling me that you are
pressed for time, Mr. Ogden. I trust you will give us at least a day."

"Not an hour, not a minute, sir. I mean," added he, ashamed of his
violence, "I have not an instant to spare."

"You 'll scarcely profit by leaving us this morning," resumed Sir
William. "The torrents between this and Massa are all full, and
perfectly impassable."

"Pray accept Sir William's wise counsels, sir," said she, with the
sweetest of all smiles.

A stern look, and a muttered something inaudible, was all his reply.

"What a dreary servitude must political life be, when one cannot bestow
a passing hour upon society!" said she, plaintively.

"Mr. Ogden could tell us that the rewards are worthy of the sacrifices,"
said Sir William, blandly.

"Are they better than the enjoyments of leisure, the delights of
friendship, and the joys of home?" asked she, half earnestly.

"By Heaven, madam!" cried Ogden, and then stopped; when Sir William
broke in,--

"Mrs. Morris is too severe upon public men. They are rarely called on to
make such sacrifices as she speaks of."

While thus talking, they had reached the terrace in front of the house,
where Agincourt was standing between May and Clara, holding a hand of
each.

"Are you ready?" asked Ogden, abruptly.

"Ready; but very sorry to go," said the boy, bluntly.

"May we not offer you some luncheon, Mr. Ogden? You will surely take a
glass of wine with us?"

"Nothing, sir, nothing. Nothing beneath the same roof with this woman,"
muttered he, below his breath; but her quick ears caught the words, and
she whispered,--

"An unkind speech, George,--most unkind!"

While Agincourt was taking his last affectionate farewells of the girls
and Sir William, Mr. Ogden had entered the carriage, and thrown himself
deeply back into a corner. Mrs. Morris, however, leaned over the door,
and looked calmly, steadfastly at him.

"Won't you say good-bye?" said she, softly.

A look of insulting contempt was all his answer.

"Not one kind word at parting? Well, I am better than you; here's my
hand." And she held out her fair and taper fingers towards him.

"Fiend,--not woman!" was his muttered expression as he turned away.

"And a pleasant journey," said she, as if finishing a speech; while
turning, she gave her hand to Agincourt "Yes, to be sure, you may take
a boy's privilege, and give me a kiss at parting," said she; while the
youth, blushing a deep crimson, availed himself of the permission.

"There they go," said Sir William, as the horses rattled down the
avenue; "and a finer boy and a grumpier companion it has rarely been my
lot to meet with. A thousand pardons, my dear Mrs. Morris, if he is a
friend of yours."

"I knew him formerly," said she, coldly. "I can't say I ever liked him."

"I remember his name," said Sir William, in a sort of hesitating way;
"there was some story or other about him,--either his wife ran away, or
he eloped with somebody's wife."

"I 'm sure it must have been the former," said Mrs. Morris, laughing.
"Poor gentleman, he does not give one the impression of a Lothario.
But whom have we here? The O'Shea, I declare! Look to your heart, May
dearest; take my word for it, he never turned out so smartly without
dreams of conquest" Mr. O'Shea cantered up at the same moment, followed
by Joe in a most accurate "get up" as groom, and, dismounting, advanced,
hat in hand, to salute the party.

There are blank days in this life of ours in which even a pleasant
visitor is a bore,--times in which dulness and seclusion are the best
company, and it is anything but a boon to be broken in upon. It was the
O'Shea's evil fortune to have fallen on one of these. It was in vain he
recounted his club gossip about politics and party to Sir William; in
vain he told Mrs. Morris the last touching episode of town scandal; in
vain, even, did he present a fresh bouquet of lily-of-the-valley to May:
each in turn passed him on to the other, till he found himself alone
with Clara, who sat sorrowfully over the German lesson Layton was wont
to help her with.

"What's the matter with you all?" cried he, half angrily, as he walked
the room from end to end. "Has there any misfortune happened?"

"Charley has left us, Agincourt is just gone, the pleasant house is
broken up; is not that enough to make us sad?" said she, sorrowfully.

"If you ever read Tommy Moore, you 'd know it was only another reason to
make the most of the friends that were left behind," said he,
adjusting his cravat at the glass, and giving himself a leer of knowing
recognition. "That's the time of day, Clara!"

She looked at him, somewhat puzzled to know whether he had alluded to
his sentiment, his whiskers, which he was now caressing, or the French
clock on the mantelpiece.

"Is that one of Layton's?" said he, carelessly turning oyer a
water-colored sketch of a Lucchese landscape.

"Yes," said she, replacing it carefully in a portfolio.

"He won't do many more of them, I suspect."

"How so?--why?--what do you mean?" cried she, grasping his arm, while a
death-like paleness spread over her features.

"Just that he's going as fast as he can. What's the mischief! is it
fainting she is?"

With a low, weak sigh, the girl had relaxed her hold, and, staggering
backwards, sunk senseless on the floor. O'Shea tugged violently at the
bell: the servant rushed in, and immediately after Mrs. Morris herself;
but by this time Clara had regained consciousness, and was able to
utter a few words.

"I was telling her of Layton's being so ill," began he, in a whisper, to
Mrs. Morris.

"Of course you were," said she, pettishly. "For an inconvenience or an
indiscretion, what can equal an Irishman?"

The speech was uttered as she led her daughter away, leaving the
luckless O'Shea alone to ruminate over the politeness.

"There it is!" cried he, indignantly. "From the 'Times' down to the
Widow Morris, it's the same story,--the Irish! the Irish!--and it's no
use fighting against it. Smash the Minister in Parliament, and you 'll
be told it was a speech more adapted to an Irish House of Commons; break
the Sikh squares with the bayonet, and the cry is 'Tipperary tactics.'
Isn't it a wonder how we bear it! I ask any man, did he ever hear of
patience like ours?"

It was just as his indignation had reached this crisis that May Leslie
hurriedly came into the room to search for a locket Clara had dropped
when she fainted. While O'Shea assisted her in her search, he bethought
whether the favorable moment had not arrived to venture on the great
question of his own fate. It was true, he was still smarting under a
national disparagement; but the sarcasm gave a sort of reckless energy
to his purpose, and he mattered, "Now, or never, for it!"

"I suppose it was a keepsake," said he, as he peered under the tables
after the missing object.

"I believe so. At least, the poor child attaches great value to it."

"Oh dear!" sighed O'Shea. "If it was an old bodkin that was given me by
one I loved, I 'd go through fire and water to get possession of it."

"Indeed!" said she, smiling at the unwonted energy of the protestation.

"I would," repeated he, more solemnly. "It's not the value of the
thing itself I 'd ever think of. There's the ring was wore by
my great-grandmother Ram, of Ram's Mountain; and thongh it's a
rose-amethyst, worth three hundred guineas, it's only as a family token
it has merit in my eyes."

Now this speech, discursive though it seemed, was artfully intended
by the Honorable Member, for while incidentally throwing out claims to
blood and an ancestry, it cunningly insinuated what logicians call the
_à fortiori_,--how the man who cared so much for his grandmother would
necessarily adore his wife.

"We must give it up, I see," said May. "She has evidently not lost it
here."

"And it was a heart, you say!" sighed the Member.

"Yes, a little golden heart with a ruby clasp."

"Oh dear! And to think that I've lost my own in the self-same spot"

"Yours! Why, had you a locket too?"

"No, my angel!" cried he, passionately, as he clasped her hand, and fell
on his knee before her, "but my heart,--a heart that lies under your
feet this minute! There, don't turn away,--don't! May I never, if I
know what's come over me these two months back! Night or day, it is the
one image is always before me,--one voice always in my ears."

"How tiresome that must be!" said she, laughing merrily. "There,
pray let go my hand; this is only folly, and not in very good taste,
either."

"Folly, you call it? Love is madness, if you like. Out of this spot I
'll never stir till I know my fate. Say the word, and I'm the happiest
man or the most abject creature--You 're laughing again,--I wonder how
you can be so cruel!"

"Really, sir, if I regard your conduct as only absurd, it is a favorable
view of it," said she, angrily.

"Do, darling of my soul! light of my eyes! loadstar of my whole
destiny!--do take a favorable view of it," said he, catching at her last
words.

"I have certainly given you no pretence to make me ridiculous, sir,"
said she, indignantly.

"Ridiculous! ridiculous!" cried he, in utter amazement "Sure it's my
hand I 'm offering you. What were you thinking of?"

"I believe I apprehend you aright, sir, and have only to say, that,
however honored by your proposal, it is one I must decline."

"Would n't you tell me why, darling? Would n't you say your reasons, my
angel? Don't shake your head, my adored creature, but turn this way, and
say, 'Gorman, your affection touches me: I see your love for me; but
I 'm afraid of you: you 're light and fickle and inconstant; you 're
spoiled by flattery among the women, and deference and respect amongst
the men. What can I hope from a nature so pampered?'"

"No, in good truth, Mr. O'Shea, not one of these objections have
occurred to me; my answer was dictated by much narrower and more
selfish considerations. At all events, sir, it is final; and I need
only appeal to your sense of good-breeding never to resume a subject I
have told you is distasteful to me." And with a heightened color, and a
glance which certainly betokened no softness, she turned away and left
him.

"Distasteful! distasteful!" muttered he over her last words. "Women!
women! women! there's no knowing ye--the devil a bit! What you 'd
like, and what you would n't is as great a secret as the philosopher's
stone! Heigho!" sighed he, as he opened his cravat, and drew in a long
breath. "I did n't take a canter like that, these five years, and it has
sent all the blood to my head. I hope she 'll not mention it. I hope she
won't tell it to the widow," muttered he, as he walked to the window
for air. "_She's_ the one would take her own fun out of it. Upon my
conscience, this is mighty like apoplexy," said he, as, sitting down, he
fanned himself with a book.

"Poor Mr. O'Shea!" said a soft voice; and, looking up, he saw Mrs.
Morris, as, leaning over the back of his chair, she bent on him a look
half quizzical and half compassionate. "Poor Mr. O'Shea!"

"Why so? How?" asked he, with an affected Jocularity. "Well," said
she, with a faint sigh, "you 're not the first man has drawn a blank in
the lottery." "I suppose not," muttered he, half sulkily. "Nor will it
prevent you trying your luck another time," said she, in the same tone.

"What did she say? How did she mention it?" whispered he,
confidentially.

"She did n't believe you were serious at first; she thought it a jest.
Why did you fall on your knees? it's never done now, except on the
stage."

"How did I know that?" cried he, peevishly. "One ought to be proposing
every day of the week to keep up with the fashions."

"If you had taken a chair at her side, a little behind hers, so as
not to scrutinize her looks too closely, and stolen your hand gently
forward, as if to touch the embroidery she was at work on, and then, at
last, her hand, letting your voice grow lower and softer at each word,
till the syllables would seem to drop, distilled from your heart--"

"The devil a bit of that I could do at all," cried he, impatiently. "If
I can't make the game off the balls," said he, taking a metaphor from
his billiard experiences, "I 'm good for nothing. But will she come
round? Do you think she'll change?"

"No; I 'm afraid not," said she, shaking her head. "Faix! she might do
worse," said he, resolutely. "Do you know that she might do worse? If
the mortgages was off, O'Shea-Ville is seventeen hundred a year; and,
for family, we beat the county."

"I 've no doubt of it," replied she, calmly. "There was ancestors of
mine hanged by Henry the Second, and one was strangled in prison two
reigns before," said he, proudly. "The O'Sheas was shedding their blood
for Ireland eight centuries ago! Did you ever hear of Mortagh Dhub
O'Shea?"

"Never!" said she, mournfully.

"There it is," sighed he, drearily; "mushrooms is bigger, nowadays,
than oak-trees." And with this dreary reflection he arose and took his
hat.

"Won't you dine here? I'm sure they expect you to stop for dinner," said
she; but whether a certain devilry in her laughing eye made the speech
seem insincere, or that his own distrust prompted it, he said,--

"No, I 'll not stop; I could n't eat a bit if I did."

"Come, come, you mustn't take it to heart in this way," said she,
coaxingly.

"Do you think you could do anything for me?" said he, taking her hand
in his; "for, to tell truth, it's my pride is hurt. As we say in the
House of Commons, now that my name is on the Bill, I 'd like to carry it
through. You understand that feeling?"

"Perhaps I do," said she, doubtfully, while, throwing herself into
a chair, she leaned back, so as to display a little more than was
absolutely and indispensably necessary of a beautifully rounded ankle
and instep. Mr. O'Shea saw it, and marked it. There was no denying she
was pretty,--pretty, too, in those feminine and delicate graces which
have special attractions for men somewhat hackneyed in life, and a
"little shoulder-sore with the collar" of the world. As the Member
gazed at the silky curls of her rich auburn hair, the long fringes
that shadowed her fair cheeks, and the graceful lines of her beautiful
figure, he gave a sigh,--one of those a man inadvertently heaves when
contemplating some rare object in a shop-window, which his means forbid
him to purchase. It was only as he heaved a second and far deeper one,
that she looked up, and with an arch drollery of expression all her own,
said, as if answering him, "Yes, you are quite right; but you know you
could n't afford it."

"What do you mean,--not afford what?" cried he, blushing deeply.

"Nor could I, either," continued she, heedless of his interruption.

"Faith, then," cried he, with energy, "it was just what I was thinking
of."

"But, after all," said she, gravely, "it wouldn't do; privateers must
never sail in company. I believe there's nothing truer than that."

He continued to look at her, with a strange mixture of admiration and
astonishment.

"And so," said she, rising, "let us part good friends, who may hope each
to serve the other one of these days. Is that a bargain?" And she held
out her hand.

"I swear to it!" cried he, pressing his lips to her fingers. "And now
that you know my sentiments--"

"Hush!" cried she, with a gesture of warning, for she heard the voices
of servants in the corridor. "Trust me; and good-bye!"

"One ought always to have an Irishman amongst one's admirers," said she,
as, once more alone, she arranged her ringlets before the glass; "if
there's any fighting to be done, he's sure not to fail you."



CHAPTER XXIV. A DAY IN EARLY SPRING

That twilight of the year called spring, most delightful of all seasons,
is scarcely known in Italy. Winter dies languidly away, and summer
bursts forth at once, and in a few days the trees are clothed in full
foliage, the tall grass is waving, and panting lizards sun themselves on
the rocks over which so lately the mountain torrent was foaming. There
are, however, a few days of transition, and these are inexpressibly
delicious. The balmy air scented with the rose and the violet stirs
gently through the olive-trees, shaking the golden limes amidst the dark
leaves, and carrying away the sweet perfume on its breath; rivulets run
bright and clear through rocky channels, mingling their murmurs with the
early cicala. The acacia sheds its perfume on the breeze,--a breeze so
faint, as though it loved to linger on its way; and so, above, the lazy
clouds hang upon the mountains, or float in fragments out to sea, as day
wears on. What vitality there is in it all!--the rustling leaves,
the falling water, the chirping birds, the softly plashing tide, all
redolent of that happy season,--the year's bright youth.

On such a day as this Alfred Layton strolled languidly through the
grounds of Marlia. Three months of severe illness had worn him to a
shadow, and he walked with the debility of one who had just escaped from
a sick-room. The place was now deserted. The Heathcotes had gone to Rome
for the winter, and the Villa was shut up and untenanted. It had been
a cherished wish of poor Layton to visit the spot as soon as he could
venture abroad; and Quackinboss, the faithful friend who had nursed him
through his whole illness, had that day yielded to his persuasion and
brought him there.

Who could have recognized the young and handsome youth in the
broken-down, feeble, careworn man who now leaned over the palings of a
little flower-garden, and gazed mournfully at a rustic bench beneath a
lime-tree? Ay, there it was, in that very spot, one chapter of his life
was finished. It was there she had refused him! He had no right, it is
true, to have presumed so highly; there was nothing in his position
to warrant such daring; but had she not encouraged him? That was the
question; he believed so, at least. She had seen his devotion to her,
and had not repulsed it. Nay, more, she had suffered him to speak to her
of feelings and emotions, of hopes and fears and ambitions, that only
they are led to speak who talk to willing ears. Was this encouragement,
or was it the compassionate pity of one, to him, so friendless and
alone? May certainly knew that he loved her. She had even resented his
little passing attentions to Mrs. Morris, and was actually jealous of
the hours he bestowed on Clara; and yet, with all this, she had refused
him, and told him not to hope that, even with time, her feeling towards
him should change. "How could it be otherwise?" cried he to himself.
"What was I, to have pretended so highly? Her husband should be able to
offer a station superior to her own. So thought she, too, herself. How
her words ring in my ears even yet: 'I _do_ love rank'! Yes, it was
there, on that spot, she said it. I made confession of my love, and she,
in turn, told me of _hers_; and it was the world, the great and gorgeous
prize, for which men barter everything. And then her cold smile, as
I said, 'What is this same rank you prize so highly; can I not reach
it--win it?' 'I will not waste youth in struggle and conflict,' said
she. 'Ha!' cried I, 'these words are not yours. I heard them one short
week ago. I know your teacher now. It was that false-hearted woman gave
you these precious maxims. It was not thus you spoke or felt when first
I knew you, May.' 'Is it not well,' said she, 'that we have each grown
wiser?' I heard no more. I have no memory for the passionate words I
uttered, the bitter reproaches I dared to make her. We parted in anger,
never to meet again; and then poor Clara, how I hear her faint, soft
voice, as she found me sitting there alone, forsaken, as she asked me,
'May I take these flowers?' and oh! how bitterly she wept as I snatched
them from her hand, and scattered them on the ground, saying, 'They were
not meant for you!' 'Let me have one, dear Alfred,' said she, just then;
and she took up a little jasmine flower from the walk. 'Even that you
despise to give is dear _to me!_ And so I kissed her on the forehead,
and said, 'Good-bye.' Two partings,--never to meet again!" He covered
his face with his hands, and his chest heaved heavily.

"It's main dreary in these diggin's here," cried Quackin-boss, as he
came up with long strides. "I 've been a-lookin' about on every side to
find some one to open the house for us, but there ain't a crittur to be
found. What 's all this about? You haven't been a-cryin', have you?"

Alfred turned away his head without speaking.

"I'll tell you what it is, Layton," said he, earnestly, "there's no
manner of misfortune can befall in life that one need to fret over, but
the death of friends, or sickness; and as these are God's own doin',
it is not for us to say they 're wrong. Cheer up, man; you and I are
a-goin' to fight the world together."

"You have been a true friend to me," said Layton, grasping the other's
hand, while he held his head still averted.

"Well, I mean to, that's a fact; but you must rouse yourself, lad. We're
a-goin' 'cross seas, and amongst fellows that, whatever they do with
their spare time, give none of it to grief. Who ever saw John C. Colhoun
cry? Did any one ever catch Dan Webster in tears?"

"I was n't crying," said Layton; "I was only saddened to see again a
spot where I used to be so happy. I was thinking of bygones."

"I take it bygones is very little use if they don't teach us something
more than to grieve over 'em; and, what's more, Layton,--it sounds
harsh to say it,--but grief, when it's long persisted in, is downright
selfishness, and nothing else."

Layton slipped his arm within the other's to move away, but as he did so
he turned one last look towards the little garden.

"I see it all now," said Quackinboss, as they walked along; "you've been
and met a sweetheart down here once on a time, that's it. She's been
what they call cruel, or she's broke her word to you. Well, I don't
suppose there's one man livin'--of what might be called real men--as has
n't had something of the same experience. Some has it early, some late,
but it's like the measles, it pushes you main hard if you don't take
it when you 're young. There's no bending an old bough,--you must break
it."

There was a deep tone of melancholy in the way the last words were
uttered that made Layton feel his companion was speaking from the heart.

"But it's all our own fault," broke in Quackinboss, quickly; "it all
comes of the way we treat 'em."

"How do you mean?" asked Layton, eagerly.

"I mean," said the other, resolutely, "we treat 'em as reasonable
beings, and they ain't. No, sir, women is like Red-men; they ain't to
be persuaded, or argued with; they 're to be told what is right for
'em, and good for 'em, and that's all. What does all your courting and
coaxing a gal, but make her think herself something better than all
creation? Why, you keep a-tellin' her so all day, and she begins to
believe it at last. Now, how much better and fairer to say to her,
'Here's how it is, miss, you 've got to marry me, that's how it's
fixed.' She 'll understand that."

"But if she says, 'No, I won't'?"

"No, no," said Quackinboss, with a half-bitter smile, "she 'll never
say that to the man as knows how to tell her his mind. And as for that
courtship, it's all a mistake. Why, women won't confess they like a man,
just to keep the game a-movin'. I'm blest if they don't like it better
than marriage."

Layton gave a faint smile, but, faint as it was, Quackinboss perceived
it, and said,--

"Now, don't you go a-persuadin' yourself these are all Yankee notions
and such-like. I'm a-talkin' of human natur', and there ain't many as
knows more of that article than Leonidas Shaver Quackinboss. All you
Old-World folk make one great mistake, and nothing shows so clearly as
how you 're a worn-out race, used up and done for, You live too much
with your emotions and your feelin's. Have you never remarked that when
the tap-root of a tree strikes down too far, it gets into a cold soil?
And from that day for'ard you 'll never see fruit or blossom more.
That's just the very thing you 're a-doin'.You ain't satisfied to be
active and thrivin' and healthful, but you must go a-specu-latin' about
why you are this, and why you ain't t' other. Get work to do, sir, and
do it."

"It is what I intend," said Layton, in a low voice.

"There ain't nothing like labor," said Quackinboss, with energy; "work
keeps the devil out of a man's mind, for somehow there's nothing that
black fellow loves like loafing. And whenever I see a great,
tall, well-whiskered chap leaning over a balcony in a grand silk
dressing-gown, with a gold stitched cap on his head, and he a-yawning,
I say to myself, 'Maybe I don't know _who 's_ at your elbow now;' and
when I see one of our strapping Western fellows, as he has given the
last stroke of his hatchet to a pine-tree, and stands back to let it
fall, wiping the honest sweat from his brow, as his eyes turn upward
over the tree-tops to something higher than them, I say to my heart,
'All right, there; he knows who it was gave him the strength to lay
that sixty-foot stem so low.'"

"You say truly," muttered Layton.

"I know it, sir; I 've been a-loafing myself these last three years,
and I 've run more to seed in that time than in all my previous life;
but I mean to give it up."

"What are your plans?" asked Layton, not sorry to let the conversation
turn away from himself and his own affairs.

"My plans! They are ours, I hope," said Quackinboss. "You're a-coming
out with me to the States, sir. We fixed it all t' other night, I reckon
! I 'm a-goin' to make your fortune; or, better still, to show you how
to make it for yourself."

Layton walked on in moody silence, while Quackinboss, with all the
zealous warmth of conviction, described the triumphs and success he was
to achieve in the New World.

A very few words will suffice to inform our reader of all that he
need know on this subject. During Layton's long convalescence poor
Quackinboss felt his companionable qualities sorely taxed. At first,
indeed, his task was that of consoler, for he had to communicate the
death of Alfred's mother, which occurred in the early days of her
son's illness. The Rector's letter, in conveying the sad tidings, was
everything that kindness and delicacy could dictate, and, with scarcely
a reference to his own share in the benevolence, showed that all care
and attention had waited upon her last hours. The blow, however, was
almost fatal to Layton; and the thought of that forlorn, deserted
death-bed clung to him by day, and filled his dreams by night.

Quackinboss did his utmost, not very skilfully nor very adroitly,
perhaps, but with a hearty sincerity, to combat this depression. He
tried to picture a future of activity and exertion,--a life of sterling
labor. He placed before his companion's eyes the objects and ambitions
men usually deem the worthiest, and endeavored to give them an interest
to him. Met in all his attempts by a dreary, hopeless indifference, the
kind-hearted fellow reflected long and deeply over his next resource;
and so one day, when Layton's recovered strength suggested a hope for
the project, he gave an account of his own neglected youth, how, thrown
when a mere boy upon the world, he had never been able to acquire more
than a smattering of what others learn at school. "I had three books
in the world, sir,--a Bible, Robinson Crusoe, and an old volume of
Wheatson's Algebra. And from a-readin' and readin' of 'em over and over,
I grew to blend 'em all up in my head together. And there was Friday,
just as much a reality to me as Father Abraham; and I thought men kept
all their trade reckoning by simple equations. I felt, in fact, as if
there was no more than these three books in all creation, and out
of them a man had to pick all the wisdom he could. Now, what I 'm
a-thinkin' is that though I 'm too old to go to school, maybe as how you
'd not refuse to give me a helpin' hand, by readin' occasionally out of
those languages I only know by name? Teachin' an old fellow like me
is well-nigh out of the question; but when a man has got a long,
hard-earned experience of human natur', it's a main pleasant thing
to know that oftentimes the thoughts that he is struggling with have
occurred to great minds who know how to utter them; and so many an
impression comes to be corrected, or mayhap confirmed, by those clever
fellows, with their thoughtful heads."

There was one feature in the project which could not but gratify Layton;
it enabled him to show his gratitude for the brotherly affection he
had met with, and he accepted the suggestion at once. The first gleam of
animation that had lighted his eyes for many a day was when planning
out the line of reading he intended them to follow. Taking less eras of
history than some of the great men who had illustrated them, he thought
how such characters would be sure to interest one whose views of life
were eminently practical, and so a great law-giver, a legislator, a
great general, or orator, was each evening selected for their reading.
If it were not out of our track, we might tell here how much Layton
was amused by the strange, shrewd commentaries of his companion on the
characters of a classic age; or how he enjoyed the curious resemblances
Quackinboss would discover between the celebrities of Athens and Rome
and the great men of his own country. And many a time was the reader
interrupted by such exclamations as, "Ay, sir, just what J. Q. Adams
would have said!" or, "That 's the way our John Randolph would have
fixed it!"

But Quackinboss was not satisfied with the pleasure thus afforded to
himself, for, with native instinct, he began to think how all such
stories of knowledge and amusement might be utilized for the benefit of
the possessor.

"You must come to the States, Layton," he would say. "You must let our
people hear these things. They 're a main sharp, wide-awake folk, but
they ain't posted up about Greeks and Romans. Just mind me, now, and
you'll do a fine stroke of work, sir. Give them one of these pleasant
stories out of that fellow there, Herod--Herod--what d'ye call him?"

"Herodotus?"

"Ay, that's he; and then a slice out of one of those slapping speeches
you read to me t' other night. I'm blessed if the fellow did n't lay it
on like Point Dexter himself; and wind up all with what we can't match,
a comic scene from Aristophanes. You see I have his name all correct. I
ain't christened Shaver if you don't fill your hat with Yankee dollars
in every second town of the Union."

Layton burst out into a hearty laugh at what seemed to him a project
so absurd and impossible; but Quackinboss, with increased gravity,
continued,--

"Your British pride, mayhap, is offended by the thought of lecturin'
to us Western folk; but I am here to tell you, sir, that our own first
men--ay, and you 'll not disparage _them_--are a-doin' it every day.
It's not play-actin' I 'm speaking of. They don't go before a crowded
theatre to play mimic with face or look or voice or gesture. They 've
got a something to tell folk that's either ennobling or instructive.
They've got a story of some man, who, without one jot more of natural
advantages than any of those listening there, made himself a name to be
blessed and remembered for ages. They've to show what a thing a strong
will is when united with an honest heart; and how no man, no matter how
humble he be, need despair of being useful to his fellows. They 've got
many a lesson out of history to give a people who are just as ambitious,
just as encroaching, and twice as warlike as the Athenians, about not
neglecting private morality in the search after national greatness.
What is the lecturer but the pioneer to the preacher? In clearing away
ignorance and superstition, ain't he making way for the army of truth
that's coming up? Now I tell you, sir, that ain't a thing to be ashamed
of!"

Layton was silent; not convinced, it is true, but restrained, from
respect for the other's ardor, from venturing on a reply too lightly.
Quackinboss, after a brief pause, went on:--

"Well, it is possible what I said about the profit riled you. Well,
then, don't take the dollars; or take them, and give them, as some
of our Western men do, to some object of public good,--if you 're rich
enough."

"Rich enough! I'm a beggar," broke in Layton, bitterly, "I 'm at this
instant indebted to you for more than, perhaps, years of labor may
enable me to repay."

"I put it all down in a book, sir," said Quackinboss, sternly, "and I
threw it in the fire the first night you read out Homer to me. I said to
myself, 'You are well paid, Shaver, old fellow. You never knew how your
heart could be shaken that way, and what brave feelings were lying there
still, inside of it.'"

"Nay, dear friend, it is not thus I 'm to acquit my debt Even the
moneyed one--"

"I tell you what, Layton," said Quackinboss, rising, and striking the
table with his clenched fist, "there's only one earthly way to part us,
and that is by speaking to me of this. Once, and forever, I say to you,
there's more benefit to a man like me to be your companion for a week,
than for _you_ to have toiled, and fevered, and sweated after gold, as I
have done for thirty hard years."

"Give me a day or two to think over it," said Layton, "and I 'll tell
you my resolve."

"With all my heart! Only, I would ask you not to take my showing of its
goodness, but to reason the thing well out of your own clear head.
Many a just cause is lost by a bad lawyer; remember that" And thus the
discussion ended for the time.

The following morning, when they met at breakfast, Lay-ton took the
other's hand, and said,--

"I 've thought all night of what you 've said, and I accept,--not
without many a misgiving as regards myself, but I accept."

"I'd not take ten thousand dollars for the engagement, sir," said
Quackinboss, as he wrung Lay ton's hand. "No, sir, I 'd not take it, for
even four cities of the Union."

Although thus the project was ratified between them, scarcely a day
passed that Layton did not experience some compunction for his pledge.
Now, it was a repugnance to the sort of enterprise he was about to
engage in, the criticisms to which he was to expose himself, and the
publicity he was to confront; nor could all his companion's sanguine
assurances of success compensate him for his own heartfelt repugnance to
try the ordeal.

"After all," thought he, "failure, with all its pangs of wounded
self-love, will only serve to show Quackinboss how deeply I feel myself
his debtor when I am content to risk so much to repay him."

Such was the bond he had signed, such his struggles to fulfil its
obligations. One only condition he stipulated for,--he wished to go to
Ireland before setting out for the States, to see the last resting-place
of his poor mother ere he quitted his country, perhaps forever. Dr.
Millar, too, had mentioned that a number of letters were amongst the few
relics she had left, and he desired, for many reasons, that these
should not fall into strangers' hands. As for Qnackinboss, he agreed to
everything. Indeed, he thought that as there was no use in reaching the
States before "the fall," they could not do better than ramble about
Ireland, while making some sort of preparation for the coming campaign.

"How sad this place makes me!" said Layton, as they strolled along one
of the leaf-strewn alleys. "I wish I had not come here."

"That's just what I was a-thinkin' myself," said the other. "I remember
coming back all alone once over the Michigan prairie, which I had
travelled about eight months before with a set of hearty companions,
and whenever I 'd come up to one of the spots where our tent used to be
pitched, and could mark the place by the circle of greener grass, with a
burned-up patch where the fire stood, it was all I could do not to burst
out a-cryin' like a child! It's a main cruel thing to go back alone to
where you 've once been happy in, and there 's no forgettin' the misery
of it ever after."

"That's true," said Layton; "the pleasant memories are erased forever.
Let us go."



CHAPTER XXV. BEHIND THE SCENES

It is amongst the prerogatives of an author to inform his reader of many
things which go on "behind the scenes" of life. Let me, therefore,
ask your company, for a brief space, in a small and not ill-furnished
chamber, which, deep in the recesses of back scenes, dressing-rooms,
scaffolding, and machinery, is significantly entitled, by a painted
inscription, "Manager's Room." Though the theatre is a London one,
the house is small. It is one of those West-End speculations which are
occasionally graced by a company of French comedians, a monologist, or
a conjurer. There is all the usual splendor before the curtain, and all
the customary squalor behind. At the present moment--for it is growing
duskish of a November day, and rehearsal is just over--the general
aspect of the place is dreary enough. The box fronts and the lustre
are cased in brown holland, and, though the curtain is up, the
stage presents nothing but a chaotic mass of disjointed scenery and
properties. Tables, chairs, musical instruments, the half of a boat,
a throne, and a guillotine lie littered about, amidst which a ragged
supernumerary wanders, broom in hand, but apparently hopeless of where
or how to begin to reduce the confusion to order.

The manager's room is somewhat more habitable, for there is a good
carpet, warm curtains, and an excellent fire, at which two gentlemen are
seated, whose jocund tones and pleasant faces are certainly, so far as
outward signs go, fair guarantees that the world is not dealing very
hardly with them, nor they themselves much disgusted with the same
world. One of these--the elder, a middle-aged man somewhat inclined to
corpulency, with a florid cheek, and clear, dark eye--is the celebrated
Mr. Hyman Stocmar; celebrated, I say, for who can take up the morning
papers without reading his name and knowing his whereabouts; as thus:
"We are happy to be able to inform our readers that Mr. Stocmar is
perfectly satisfied with his after season at the 'Regent's.' Whatever
other managers may say, Mr. Stocmar can make no complaint of courtly
indifference. Her Majesty has four times within the last month graced
his theatre with her presence. Mr. Stocmar is at Madrid, at Vienna,
at Naples. Mr. Stocmar is in treaty with Signor Urlaccio of Turin, or
Mademoiselle Voltarina of Venice. He has engaged the Lapland voyagers,
sledge-dogs and all, the Choctaw chiefs, or the Californian lecturer,
Boreham, for the coming winter. Let none complain of London in November
so long as Mr. Hyman Stocmar caters for the public taste;" and so on.
To look at Stocmar's bright complexion, his ruddy glow, his well-filled
waistcoat, and his glossy ringlets,--for, though verging on forty, he
has them still "curly,"--you'd scarcely imagine it possible that
his life was passed amongst more toil, confusion, difficulty, and
distraction than would suffice to kill five out of any twenty, and
render the other fifteen deranged. I do not mean alone the worries
inseparable from a theatrical direction,--the fights, the squabbles, the
insufferable pretensions he must bear, the rivalries he must reconcile,
the hates he must conciliate; the terrible existence of coax and bully,
bully and coax, fawn, flatter, trample on, and outrage, which goes on
night and day behind the curtain,--but that his whole life in the world
is exactly a mild counterpart of the same terrible performance; the
great people, his patrons, being fifty times more difficult to deal with
than the whole corps itself,--the dictating dowagers and exacting lords,
the great man who insists upon Mademoiselle So-and-so being engaged, the
great lady who will have no other box than that occupied by the Russian
embassy, the friends of this tenor and the partisans of that, the
classic admirers of grand music, and that larger section who will have
nothing but comic opera, not to mention the very extreme parties who
only care for the ballet, and those who vote the "Traviata" an unclean
thing. What are a lover's perjuries to the lies such a man tells all
day long?--lies only to be reckoned by that machine that records the
revolutions of a screw in a steamer. His whole existence is passed in
promises, excuses, evasions, and explanations; always paying a small
dividend to truth, he barely escapes utter bankruptcy, and by
a plausibility most difficult to distrust, he obtains a kind of
half-credit,--that of one who would keep his word if he could.

By some strange law of compensation, this man, who sees a very dark
side of human nature,--sees it in its low intrigues, unworthy pursuits,
falsehoods, and depravities,--who sees even the "great" in their moods
of meanness,--this man, I say, has the very keenest relish for life, and
especially the life of London. He knows every capital of Europe: Paris,
from the Chaussée d'Antin to the Boulevard Mont-Parnasse; Vienna, from
the Hof to the Volksgarten; Rome, from the Piazza di Spagna to the
Ghetto; and yet he would tell you they are nothing, all of them, to that
area between Pall Mall and the upper gate of Hyde Park. He loves his
clubs, his dinners, his junketings to Richmond or Greenwich, his short
Sunday excursions to the country, generally to some great artiste's
villa near Fulham or Chiswick, and declares to you that it is England
alone offers all these in perfection. Is it any explanation, does
it give any clew to this gentleman's nature, if I say that a certain
aquiline character in his nose, and a peculiar dull lustre in the eye,
recall that race who, with all the odds of a great majority against
them, enjoy a marvellous share of this world's prosperity? Opposite to
him sits one not unworthy--even from externals--of his companionship.
He is a very good-looking fellow, with light brown hair, his beard and
moustaches being matchless in tint and arrangement: he has got large,
full blue eyes, a wide capacious forehead, and that style of head, both
in shape and the way in which it is set on, which indicate a frank,
open, and courageous nature. Were it not for a little over-attention to
dress, there is no "snobbery" about him; but there is a little too much
velvet on his paletot, and his watch trinkets are somewhat in excess,
not to say that the gold head of his cane is ostentatiously large and
striking. This is Captain Ludlow Paten, a man about town, known to and
by everybody, very much asked about in men's circles, but never by any
accident met in ladies' society. By very young men he is eagerly sought
after. It is one of the best things coming of age has in its gift is to
know Paten and be able to ask him to dine. Older ones relish him full as
much; but his great popularity is with a generation beyond that again:
the mediaevals, who walk massively and ride not at all; the florid,
full-cheeked, slightly bald generation, who grace club windows of
a morning and the coulisses at night. These are his "set," _par
excellence_, and he knows them thoroughly. As for himself or his family,
no one knows, nor, indeed, wants to know anything. The men he associates
with chiefly in life are all "cognate numbers," and these are the very
people who never trouble their heads about a chance intruder amongst
them; and although some rumor ran that his father was a porter at the
Home Office, or a tailor at Blackwall, none care a jot on the matter:
they want him; and he could n't be a whit more useful if his veins ran
with all the blood of all the Howards.

There is a story of him, however, which, though I reveal to you, is
not generally known. He was once tried for a murder. It was a case of
poisoning in Jersey, where the victim was a well-known man of the Turf,
and who was murdered by the party he had invited to spend a Christmas
with him. Paten was one of the company, and included in the accusation.
Two were banged; Paten and another, named Collier, acquitted. Paten's
name was Hunt, but he changed it at once, and, going abroad, entered the
Austrian service, where, in eight years, he became a lieutenant. This
was enough for probation and rank, and so he returned to England as
Captain Ludlow Paten. Stocmar, of course, knew the story: there were
half a dozen more, also, who did, but they each and all knew that poor
Paul was innocent; that there was n't a fragment of evidence against him;
that he lost--actually lost--by Hawke's death; that he was carried
tipsy to bed that night two hours before the murder; that he was so
overcome the next morning by his debauch that he was with difficulty
awakened; that the coroner thought him a downright fool, he was so
stunned by the event; in a word, though he changed his name to Paten,
and now wore a tremendous beard, and affected a slightly foreign accent,
these were disguises offered up to the mean prejudices of the world
rather than precautions of common safety and security.

Though thus Paten's friends had passed this bill of indemnity in his
favor, the affair of Jersey was never alluded to, by even his most
intimate amongst them. It was a page of history to be carefully wafered
up till that reckoning when all volumes are ransacked, and no blottings
nor erasures avail! As for himself, who, to look at him, with his bright
countenance, to hear the jocund ring of his merry laugh--who could ever
imagine such a figure in a terrible scene of tragedy? What could such
a man have to do with any of the dark machinations of crime, the
death-struggle, the sack, the silent party that stole across the grass
at midnight, and the fish-pond? Oh, no! rather picture him as one who,
meeting such details in his daily paper, would hastily turn the sheet
to seek for pleasanter matter; and so it was he eschewed these themes in
conversation, and even when some celebrated trial would for the moment
absorb all interest, giving but one topic in almost every circle, Paten
would drop such commonplaces on the subject as showed he cared little or
nothing for the event.

Let us now hear what these two men are talking about, as they sat thus
confidentially over the fire. Stocmar is the chief speaker. He does not
smoke of a morning, because many of his grand acquaintances are averse
to tobacco; as for Paten, the cigar never leaves his lips.

"Well, now for his story!" cried Paten. "I 'm anxious to hear about
him."

"I 'm sorry I can't gratify the curiosity. All I can tell you is where
I found him. It was in Dublin. They had a sort of humble Cremorne
there,--a place little resorted to by the better classes; indeed,
rarely visited save by young subs from the garrison, milliners, and such
other lost sheep; not very wonderful, after all, seeing that the rain
usually contrived to extinguish the fireworks. Having a spare evening on
my hands, I went there, and, to my astonishment, witnessed some of the
most extraordinary displays in fireworks I had ever seen. Whether for
beauty of design, color, and precision, I might declare them unequalled.
'Who's your pyrotechnist?' said I to Barry, the proprietor.

"'I can't spare him, Mr. Stocmar,' said he, 'so I entreat you don't
carry him off from me.'

"'Oh!' cried I, 'it was mere curiosity prompted the question. The man is
well enough here, but he would n't do for us. We have got Giomelli, and
Clari--'

"'Not fit to light a squib for him,' said he, warming up in his
enthusiasm for his man. 'I tell you, sir, that fellow would teach
Giomelli, and every Italian of them all. He's a great man, sir,--a
genius. He was, once on a time, the great Professor of a University; one
of the very first scientific men of the kingdom, and if it was n't for
'--here he made a sign of drinking--'he 'd perhaps be this day sought by
the best in the land.'

"Though interested by all this, I only gave a sort of incredulous laugh
in return, when he went on:--

"'If I was quite sure you 'd not take him away--if you 'd give me your
word of honor for it--I'd just show him to you, and you 'd see--even
tipsy as he's sure to be--if I'm exaggerating.'

"'What is he worth to you, Barry?' said I.

"'He 's worth--not to reckon private engagements for fireworks in
gentlemen's grounds, and the like,--he 's worth from seven to eight
pounds a week.'

"'And you give him--'

"'Well, I don't give him much. It would n't do to give him much; he
has no self-control,--no restraint He'd kill himself,--actually kill
himself.'

"'So that you only give him--'

"'Fourteen shillings a week. Not but that I am making a little fund for
him, and occasionally remitted his wife--he had a wife--a pound or so,
without his knowledge.'

"'Well, he's not too dear at that,' said I. 'Now let me see and speak
with him, Barry, and if I like him, you shall have a fifty-pound note
for him. You know well enough that I needn't pay a sixpence. I have
fellows in my employment would track him out if you were to hide him
in one of his rocket-canisters; so just be reasonable, and take a good
offer.'

"He was not very willing at first, but he yielded after a while, and so
I became the owner of the Professor, for such they called him."

"Had he no other name?"

"Yes; an old parrot, that he had as a pet, called him Tom, and so
we accepted that name; and as Tom, or Professor Tom, he is now known
amongst us."

"Did you find, after all, that you made a good bargain?"

"I never concluded a better, though it has its difficulties; for, as
the Professor is almost an idiot when perfectly sober, and totally
insensible when downright drunk, there is just a short twilight interval
between the two, when his faculties are in good order."

"What can he do at this favorable juncture?"

"What can he not? is the question. Why, it was he arranged all the
scores for the orchestra after the fire, when we had not a scrap left of
the music of the 'Maid of Cashmere.' It was he invented that sunrise, in
the last scene of all, with the clouds rolling down the mountains, and
all the rivulets glittering as the first rays touch them. It was he
wrote the third act of Linton's new comedy; the catastrophe and all were
his. It was he dashed off that splendid critique on Ristori, that set
the town in a blaze; and then he went home and wrote the parody on
'Myrra' for the Strand, all the same night, for I had watered the
brandy, and kept him in the second stage of delirium till morning."

"What a chance! By Jove! Stocmar, you are the only fellow ever picks up
a gem of this water!"

"It's not every man can tell the stone that will pay for the cutting,
Paten, remember that. I 've had to buy this experience of mine dearly
enough."

"Are you not afraid that the others will hear of him, and seduce him by
some tempting offer?"

"I have, in a measure, provided against that contingency. He lives here,
in a small crib, where we once kept a brown bear; and he never ventures
abroad, so that the chances are he will not be discovered."

"How I should like to have a look at him!"

"Nothing easier. Let us see, what o'clock is it? Near five. Well, this
is not an unfavorable moment; he has just finished his dinner, and not
yet begun the evening." Ringing the bell, as he spoke, he gave orders to
a supernumerary to send the Professor to him.

While they waited for his coming, Stocmar continued to give some
further account of his life and habits, the total estrangement from all
companionship in which he lived, his dislike to be addressed, and the
seeming misanthropy that animated him. At last the manager, getting
impatient, rang once more, to ask if he were about to appear.

"Well, sir," said the man, with a sort of unwillingness in his manner,
"he said as much as that he was n't coming; that he had just dined, and
meant to enjoy himself without business for a while."

"Go back and tell him that Mr. Stocmar has something very important to
tell him; that five minutes will be enough.--You see the stuff he's
made of?" said the manager, as the man left the room.

Another, and nearly as long a delay ensued, and at last the dragging
sound of heavy slipshod feet was heard approaching; the door was rudely
opened, and a tall old man, of haggard appearance and in the meanest
rags, entered, and, drawing himself proudly up, stared steadfastly at
Stocmar, without even for an instant noticing the presence of the other.

"I wanted a word,--just one word with you, Professor," began the
manager, in an easy, familiar tone.

"Men do not whistle even for a dog, when he 's at his meals," said the
old man, insolently. "They told you I was at my dinner, did n't they?"

"Sorry to disturb you, Tom; but as two minutes would suffice for all I
had to say--"

"Reason the more to keep it for another occasion," was the stubborn
reply.

"We are too late this time," whispered Stocmar across towards Paten;
"the fellow has been at the whiskey-bottle already."

With that marvellous acuteness of hearing that a brain in its initial
state of excitement is occasionally gifted with, the old man caught the
words, and, as suddenly rendered aware of the presence of a third
party, turned his eyes on Paten. At first the look was a mere stare, but
gradually the expression grew more fixed, and the bleared eyes dilated,
while his whole features became intensely eager. With a shuffling but
hurried step he then moved across the floor, and, coming close up to
where Paten stood, he laid his hands upon his shoulders, and wheeled him
rudely round, till the light of the window fell full upon him.

"Well, old gent," said Paten, laughing, "if we are not old friends, you
treat me very much as though we were."

A strange convulsion, half smile, half grin, passed over the old man's
face, but he never uttered a word, but stood gazing steadily on the
other.

"You are forgetting yourself, Tom," said Stocmar, angrily. "That
gentleman is not an acquaintance of yours."

"And who told _you_ that?" said the old man, insolently. "Ask himself if
we are not."

"I'm afraid I must give it against you, old boy," said Paten,
good-humoredly. "This is the first time I have had the honor to meet
you."

"It is not!" said the old man, with a solemn and even haughty emphasis.

"I could scarcely have forgotten a man of such impressive manners," said
Paten. "Will you kindly remind me of the where and how you imagine us to
have met?"

"I will," said the other, sternly. "You shall hear the where and the
how. The where was in the High Court, at Jersey, on the 18th of January,
in the year 18--; the how, was my being called on to prove the death,
by corrosive sublimate, of Godfrey Hawke. Now, sir, what say you to my
memory,--is it accurate, or not?"

Had not Paten caught hold of a heavy chair, he would have fallen; even
as it was, he swayed forward and backward like a drunken man.

"And you--you were a doctor in those days, it seems," said he, with an
affected laugh, that made his ghastly features appear almost horrible.

"Yes; they accused _me_ of curing folk, just as they charged _you_ with
killing them. Calumnious world that it is,--lets no man escape!"

[Illustration: 280]

"After all, my worthy friend," said Paten, as he drew Himself haughtily
up, and assumed, though by a great effort, his wonted ease of manner,
"you are deceived by some chance resemblance, for I know nothing about
Jersey, and just as little of that interesting little incident you have
alluded to."

"This is even more than you attempted on the trial. You never dreamed
of so bold a stroke as that, there. No, no, Paul Hunt, I know you well:
that's a gift of mine,--drunk or sober, it has stuck to me through
life,--I never forget a face,--never!"

"Come, come, old Tom," said Stocmar, as he drew forth a sherry decanter
and a large glass from a small recess in the wall, "this is not the
kindliest way to welcome an old friend or make a new one. Taste this
sherry, and take the bottle back with you, if you like the flavor."
Stocmar's keen glance met Paten's eyes, and as quickly the other
understood his tactique.

"Good wine, rare wine, if it was n't so cold on the stomach," said the
old man, as he tossed off the second goblet. Already his eyes grew
wild and bloodshot, and his watery lip trembled. "To your good health,
gentlemen both," said he, as he finished the decanter. "I'm proud you
liked that last scene. It will be finer before I 've done with it; for
I intend to make the lava course down the mountain, and be seen fitfully
as the red glow of the eruption lights up the picture."

"With the bay and the fleet all seen in the distance, Tom," broke in
Stocmar.

"Just so, sir; the lurid glare--as the newspaper fellows will call
it--over all. Nothing like Bengal-lights and Roman-candles; they are
the poetry of the modern drama. Ah! sir, no sentiment without nitrate
of potash; no poetry if you have n't phosphorus." And with a drunken
laugh, and a leer of utter vacancy, the old man reeled from the room and
sought his den again.

"Good Heavens, Stocmar! what a misfortune!" cried Paten, as, sick with
terror, he dropped down into a chair.

"Never fret about it, Paul. That fellow will know nothing of what has
passed when he wakes to-morrow. His next drunken bout--and I 'll take
care it shall be a deep one--will let such a flood of Lethe over his
brain that not one single recollection will survive the deluge. You saw
why I produced the decanter?"

"Yes; it was cleverly done, and it worked like magic. But only think,
Stocmar, if any one had chanced to be here--it was pure chance that
there was not--and then--"

"Egad! it might have been as you say," said Stocmar; "there would have
been no stopping the old fellow; and had he but got the very slightest
encouragement, he had been off at score."



CHAPTER XXVI. A DARK REMEMBRANCE

On a sea like glass, and with a faint moonlight streaking the calm
water, the "Vivid," her Majesty's mail-packet, steamed away for Ostend.
There were very few passengers aboard, so that it was clearly from
choice two tall men, wrapped well up in comfortable travelling-cloaks,
continued to walk the deck, till the sandy headlands of Belgium could be
dimly descried through the pinkish gray of the morning. They smoked and
conversed as they paced up and down, talking in low, cautious tones, and
even entirely ceasing to speak when by any chance a passing sailor came
within earshot.

"It is, almost day for day, nine years since I crossed over here," said
one, "and certainly a bleaker future never lay before any man than on
that morning!"

"Was _she_ with you, Ludlow?" asked the other, whose deep voice recalled
the great Mr. Stocmar. "Was _she_ with you?"

"No; she refused to come. There was nothing I did n't do, or threaten
to do, but in vain. I menaced her with every sort of publicity and
exposure. I swore I 'd write the whole story,--giving a likeness of her
from the miniature in my possession; that I 'd give her letters to the
world in fac-simile of her own hand; and that, while the town rang with
the tragedy as the newspapers called it, they should have a dash of
melodrama, or high comedy too, to heighten the interest. All in vain;
she braved everything--defied everything."

"There are women with that sort of masculine temperament--"

"Masculine you call it!" cried the other, scoffingly; "you never made
such a blunder in your life. They are entirely and essentially womanly.
You 'd break twenty men down, smash them like rotten twigs, before you
'd succeed in turning one woman of this stamp from her fixed will. I
'll tell you another thing, too, Stocmar," added he, in a lower voice:
 "they do not fear the world the way men do. Would you believe it?
Collins and myself left the island in a fishing-boat, and she--the
woman--went coolly on board the mail-packet with her maid and child,
and sat down to breakfast with the passengers, one of whom had actually
served on the jury."

"What pluck! I call that pluck."

"It's more like madness than real courage," said the other, peevishly;
and for some minutes they walked on side by side without a word.

"If I remember rightly," said Stocmar, "she was not put on her trial?"

"No; there was a great discussion about it, and many blamed the Crown
lawyers for not including her; but, in truth, there was not a shadow
of evidence to be brought against her. His treatment of her might have
suggested the possibility of any vengeance."

"Was it so cruel?"

"Cruel is no word for it. There was not an insult nor an outrage spared
her. She passed one night in the deep snow in the garden, and was
carried senseless into the house at morning, and only rallied after days
of treatment. He fired at her another time."

"Shot her!"

"Yes, shot her through the shoulder,--sent the bullet through
here,--because she would not write to Ogden a begging letter, entreating
him to assist her with a couple of hundred pounds."

"Oh, that was too gross!" exclaimed Stocmar.

"He told her, 'You 've cost me fifteen hundred in damages, and you may
tell Ogden he shall have you back again for fifty.'"

"And she bore all this?"

"I don't know what you mean by bearing it. She did not stab him. Some
say that Hawke was mad, but I never thought so. He had boastful fits at
times, in which he would vaunt all his villanies, and tell you of the
infamies he had done with this man and that; but they were purely
the emanations of an intense vanity, which left him unable to conceal
anything. Imagine, for instance, his boasting how he had done the
'Globe' office out of ten thousand, insured on his first wife's
life,--drowned when bathing. I heard the story from his own lips, and I
'll never forget his laugh as he said, 'I 'd have been in a hole if Mary
had n't.'"

"That was madness, depend on 't."

"No; I think not. It was partly vanity, for he delighted above all
things to create an effect, and partly a studied plan to exercise an
influence by actual terror, in which he had a considerable success. I
could tell you of a score of men who would not have dared to thwart him;
and it was at last downright desperation drove Tom Towers and Wake
to"--he hesitated, faltered, and, in a weak voice, added,--"to do it!"

"How was it brought about?" whispered Stocmar, cautiously.

Paten took out his cigar-case, selected a cigar with much care, lighted
it, and, after smoking for some seconds, began: "It all happened this
way: we met one night at that singing-place in the Haymarket. Towers,
Wake, Collins, and myself were eating an oyster supper, when Hawke came
in. He had been dining at the 'Rag,' and had won largely at whist from
some young cavalry swells, who had just joined. He was flushed and
excited, but not from drinking, for he said he had not tasted anything
but claret-cup at dinner. 'You're a mangy-looking lot,' said he,
'with your stewed oysters and stout,' as he came up. 'Why, frozen-out
gardeners are fine gentlemen in comparison. Are there no robberies going
on at the Ottoman,--nothing doing down at Grimshaw's?'

"'You 're very bumptious about belonging to the "Rag," Hawke.' said
Towers; 'but they 'll serve you the same trick they did _me_ one of
these days.'

"'No, sir, they 'll never turn _me_ out,' said Hawke, insolently.

"'More fools they, then,' said the other; 'for you can do _ten_ things
for _one_ that I can; and, what's more, you _have_ done them.'

"'And will again, old boy, if that's any comfort to you,' cried Hawke,
finishing off the other's malt. 'Waiter, fetch me some cold oysters, and
score them to these gentlemen,' said he, gayly, taking his place
amongst us. And so we chaffed away, about one thing or another, each one
contributing some lucky or unlucky hit that had befallen him; but Hawke
always bringing up how he had succeeded here, and what he had won there,
and only vexed if any one reminded him that he had been ever 'let in' in
his life.

"'Look here,' cried he, at last; 'ye're an uncommon seedy lot, very much
out at elbows, and so I 'll do you a generous turn. I 'll take ye all
over to my cottage at Jersey for a week, house and grub you, and then
turn you loose on the island, to do your wicked will with it.'

"'We take your offer--we say, Done!' cried Collins.

"'I should think you do! You've been sleeping under the colonnade of the
Haymarket these last three nights,' said he to Collins, 'for want of a
lodging. There's Towers chuckling over the thought of having false keys
to all my locks; and Master Paul, yonder,' said he, grinning at me, 'is
in love with my wife. Don't deny it, man; I broke open her writing-desk
t' other day, and read all your letters to her; but I'm a generous dog;
and, what's better,' added he, with an insolent laugh, 'one as bites,
too--eh, Paul?--don't forget that.'

"'Do you mean the invitation to be real and _bonâ fide?_' growled out
Towers; 'for I 'm in no jesting humor.'

"'I do,' said Hawke, flourishing out a handful of banknotes; 'there's
enough here to feed five tiroes as many blacklegs; and more costly
guests a man can't have.'

"'You'll go, won't you?' said Collins, to me, as we walked home together
afterwards.

"'Well,' said I, doubtingly, 'I don't exactly see my way.'

"'By Jove!' cried he, 'you _are_ afraid of him.'

"'Not a bit,' said I, impatiently. 'I 'm well acquainted with his
boastful habit: he's not so dangerous as he 'd have us to believe.'

"'But will you go?--that's the question,' said he, more eagerly.

"'Why are you so anxious to know?' asked I, again.

"'I 'll be frank with you,' said he, in a low, confidential tone.
'Towers wants to be certain of one thing. Mind, now,' added be, 'I 'm
sworn to secrecy, and I 'm telling you now what I solemnly swore never
to reveal; so don't betray me, Paul. Give me your hand on it.' And I
gave him my hand.

"Even after I had given him this pledge, he seemed to have become
timorous, and for a few minutes he faltered and hesitated, totally
unable to proceed. At last he said, half inquiringly,--

"'At all events, Paul, _you_ cannot like Hawke?'

"'Like him! there is not the man on earth I hate as I hate _him!_'

"'That's exactly what Towers said: "Paul detests him more than we do."'

"The moment Collins said these words the whole thing flashed full upon
me. They were plotting to do for Hawke, and wanted to know how far I
might be trusted in the scheme.

"'Look here, Tom,' said I, confidentially; 'don't tell me anything. I
don't want to be charged with other men's secrets; and, in return, I'll
promise not to pry after them. "Make your little game," as they say at
Ascot, and don't ask whether I'm in the ring or not. Do you understand
me?'

"'I do, perfectly,' said he. 'The only point Towers really wanted to be
sure of is, what of _her?_ What he says is, there's no telling what a
woman will do.'

"' If I were merely to give an opinion,' said I, carelessly, 'I 'd say,
no danger from that quarter; but, mind, it's only an opinion.'

"'Wake says you'd marry her,' said he, bluntly, and with an abruptness
that showed he had at length got courage to say what he wanted.

"'Tom Collins,' said I, seriously, 'let us play fair; don't question
me, and I 'll not question _you_.'

"'But you 'll come along with us?' asked he, eagerly.

"'I 'm not so sure of that, now,' said I; 'but if I do, it's on one only
condition.'

"'And that is--'

"'That I 'm to know nothing, or hear nothing, of whatever you 're about.
I tell you distinctly that I 'll not pry anywhere, but, in return, treat
me as a stranger in whose discretion you cannot trust.'

"'You like sure profits and a safe venture, in fact,' said he,
sneeringly.

"'Say one half of that again, Collins,' said I, 'and I'll cut with the
whole lot of you. I ask no share. I 'd accept no share in your gains
here.'

"'But you 'll not peach on us, Paul?' said he, catching my hand.

"'Never,' said I, 'as long as you are on the square with _me_.'

"After this, he broke out into the wildest abuse of Hawke, making him
out--as it was not hard to do--the greatest villain alive, mingling the
attack with a variety of details of the vast sums he had latterly been
receiving. 'There are,' he said, 'more than two thousand in hard cash
in his hands at this moment, and a number of railway shares and some
Peruvian bonds, part of his first wife's fortune, which he has just
recovered by a lawsuit.' So close and accurate were all these details,
so circumstantial every part of the story, that I perceived the plan
must have been long prepared, and only waiting for a favorable moment
for execution. With this talk he occupied the whole way, till I reached
my lodgings.

"'And now, Paul,' said he, 'before we part, give me your word of honor
once more.'

"'There 's my pledge,' said I, 'and there 's my hand. So long as I hear
nothing, and see nothing, I know nothing.' And we said good-night, and
separated.

"So long as I was talking with Collins," continued Paten,--"so long, in
fact, as I was taking my own side in the discussion,--I did not see any
difficulty in thus holding myself aloof from the scheme, and not taking
any part whatever in the game played out before me; but when I found
myself alone in my room, and began to conjure up an inquest and a trial,
and all the searching details of a cross-examination, I trembled from
head to foot. I remember to this hour how I walked to and fro in my
room, putting questions to myself aloud, and in the tone of an examining
counsel, till my heart sickened with fear; and when at last I lay down,
wearied but not sleepy, on my bed, it was to swear a solemn vow that
nothing on earth should induce me to go over to Jersey.

"The next day I was ill and tired, and I kept my bed, telling my servant
to let no one disturb me on any pretext Towers called, but was not
admitted. Collins came twice, and tried hard to see me, but my man was
firm, so that Tom was fain to write a few words on a card, in pencil:
'H. is ill at Limmer's; but it is only del. tremens, and he will be all
right by Saturday. The boat leaves Blackwall at eleven. Don't fail to be
in time.' This was Thursday. There was no time to lose, if I only knew
what was best to be done. I 'll not weary you with the terrible tale of
that day's tortures; how I thought over every expedient in turn, and in
turn rejected it; now I would go to Hawke, and tell him everything; now
to the Secretary of State at the Home Office; now to Scotland Yard, to
inform the police; then I bethought me of trying to dissuade Towers and
the others from the project; and at last I resolved to make a 'bolt'
of it, and set out for Ireland by the night mail, and lie hid in some
secluded spot till all was over. About four o'clock I got up, and,
throwing on my dressing-gown, I walked to the window. It was a dark,
dull day, with a thin rain falling, and few persons about; but just as
I was turning away from the window I saw a tall, coarse-looking fellow
pass into the oyster-shop opposite, giving a glance up towards me as he
went; the next minute a man in a long camlet cloak left the shop, and
walked down the street; and, muffled though he was from head to foot, I
knew it was Towers.

"I suppose my conscience wasn't all right, for I sank down into a chair
as sick as if I 'd been a month in a fever. I saw they had set a watch
on me, and I knew well the men I had to deal with. If Towers or Wake
so much as suspected me, they 'd make all safe before they ventured
further. I looked out again, and there was the big man, with a dark
blue woollen comforter round his throat, reading the advertisements on a
closed shutter, and then strolling negligently along the street. Though
his hat was pressed down over his eyes, I saw them watching me as he
went; and such was my terror that I fancied they were still gazing at
me after he turned the corner.

"Fully determined now to make my escape, I sat down and wrote a few
lines to Collins, saying that a relation of mine, from whom I had some
small expectations, was taken suddenly ill, and sent for me to come over
and see him, so that I was obliged to start for Ireland by that night's
mail. I never once alluded to Jersey, but concluded with a kindly
message to all friends, and a hasty good-bye.

"Desiring to have my servant out of the way, I despatched him with this
note, and then set about making my own preparations for departure. It
was now later than I suspected, so that I had barely time to pack some
clothes hastily into a carpet-bag, and cautiously descended the stairs
with it in my hand, opened the street door and issued forth. Before
I had, however, gone ten yards from the door, the large man was at
my side, and in a gruff voice offered to carry my bag. I refused as
roughly, and walked on towards the cab-stand. I selected a cab, and said
Euston Square; and as I did so, the big fellow mounted the box and sat
down beside the driver. I saw it was no use, and, affecting to have
forgotten something at my lodgings, I got out, paid the cab, and
returned home. How cowardly! you'd say. No, Stocmar, I knew my men: it
was _not_ cowardly. I knew that, however they might abandon a project or
forego a plan, they would never, never forgive a confederate that tried
to betray them. No, no," muttered he, below his breath; "no man shall
tell me it was cowardice.

"When I saw that there was no way to turn back, I determined to go
forward boldly, and even eagerly, trusting to the course of events to
give me a chance of escape. I wrote to Collins to say that my relative
was better, and should not require me to go over; and, in short, by
eleven o'clock on the appointed Saturday, we all assembled on the deck
of the 'St Helier,' bound for Jersey.

"Never was a jollier party met for an excursion of pleasure,--all but
Hawke himself; he came aboard very ill, and went at once to his berth.
He was in that most pitiable state, the commencing convalescence of
delirium tremens, when all the terrors of a deranged mind still continue
to disturb and distress the recovering intellect. As we went down one
by one to see him, he would scarcely speak, or even notice us. At times,
too, he seemed to have forgotten the circumstance which brought us all
there, and he would mutter to himself, 'It was no good job gathered all
these fellows together. Where can they be going to? What can they be
after?' We had just sat down to dinner, when Towers came laughing into
tie cabin. 'What do you think,' said he to me, 'Hawke has just told
me confidentially? He said, "I 'm not at all easy about that lot on
deck,"--meaning you all. "The devil doesn't muster his men for mere
drill and parade, and the moment I land in the island I 'll tell the
police to have an eye on them."' We laughed heartily at this polite
intention of our host, and joked a good deal over the various
imputations our presence might excite. From this we went on to talk over
what was to be done if Hawke should continue ill, all being agreed
that, having come so far, it would be impossible to forego our projected
pleasure: and at last it was decided that I, by virtue of certain
domestic relations ascribed to me, should enact the host, and do the
honors of the house, and so they filled bumpers to the Regency, and I
promised to be a mild Prince.

"'There's the thing for Godfrey,' said Towers, as some grilled chicken
was handed round; and taking the dish from the waiter, he carried it
himself to Hawke, and remained while he ate it. 'Poor devil!' said he,
as he came back, 'he seems quite soft-hearted about my little attentions
to him. He actually said, "Thank you, old fellow."'"

Perhaps our reader will thank us if we do not follow Paten through a
narrative in which the minutest detail was recorded, nor any, even the
most trivial, incident forgotten, graven as they were on a mind that was
to retain them to the last. All the levities they indulged in during the
voyage,--which was, in fact, little other than an orgie from the hour
they sailed to that they landed, dashed with little gloomy visits to
that darkened sick berth where Hawke lay,--all were remembered, all
chronicled.

The cottage itself--The Hawke's Nest, as it was whimsically called--he
described with all the picturesque ardor of an artist It was truly a
most lovely spot, nestled down in a cleft between the hills, and so shut
in from all wintry influences that the oranges and myrtles overgrew
it as though the soil were Italy. The grounds were of that half-park,
half-garden order, which combines greensward and flowering border, and
masses into one beauteous whole the glories of the forest-tree with the
spray-like elegance of the shrub. There was a little lake, too, with
an island, over whose leafy copper beeches a little Gothic spire
appeared,--an imitation of some richly ornamented shrine in Moorish
Spain. What was it that in this dark story would still attract him to
the scenery of this spot, making him linger and dally in it as though he
could not tear himself away? Why would he loiter in description of some
shady alley, some woodbine-trellised path, as though the scene had no
other memories but those of a blissful bygone? In fact, such was the
sort of fascination the locality seemed to exercise over him, that his
voice grew softer, the words faltered as he spoke them, and once he drew
his hand across his eyes, as though to wipe away a tear.

"Was it not strange, Stocmar," broke he suddenly in, "I was never able
to see her one moment alone? She avoided it in fifty ways! Hawke kept
his room for two days after we arrived, and we scarcely ever saw her,
and when we did, it was hurriedly and passingly. Godfrey, too, he
would send for one of us,--always one, mark you, alone; and after a few
muttering words about his suffering, he 'd be sure to say, 'Can _you_
tell me what has brought them all down here? I can't get it out of my
head that there ain't mischief brewing.' Now each of us in turn had
heard this speech, and we conned it over and over again. 'It's the woman
has put this notion in his head,' said Towers. 'I 'll take my oath it
came from _her_. Look to _that_, Paul Hunt,' said he to me, 'for you
have influence in that quarter.' I retorted angrily to this, and very
high words passed between us; in fact, the altercation went so far
that, when we met at dinner, we never addressed or noticed each other.
I 'll never forget that dinner. Wake seemed to range himself on Towers's
side, and Collins looked half disposed to take mine; everything that
was said by one was sure to be capped by some sharp impertinence
by another, and we sat there interchanging slights and sneers and
half-covert insolences for hours.

"If there had been a steamer for Southampton, I 'd have started next
morning. I told Collins so when I went to my room; but he was much
opposed to this, and said, 'If we draw back now, it must be with Towers
and Wake,--all or none!' We passed nearly the entire night in discussing
the point, and could not agree on it.

"I suppose that Hawke must have heard how ill we all got on together.
There was a little girl--a daughter by his first wife--always in and out
of the room where we were; and though in appearance a mere infant,
the shrewdest, craftiest little sprite I ever beheld. Now this Clara, I
suspect, told Hawke everything that passed. I know for certain that
she was in the flower-garden, outside the window, during a very angry
altercation between Towers and myself, and when I went up afterwards to
see Hawke he knew the whole story.

"What a day that was! I had asked Loo to let me speak a few words with
her alone, and, after great hesitation, she promised to meet me in the
garden in the evening. I had determined on telling her everything. I was
resolved to break with Towers and Wake, and I trusted to her clear head
to advise how best to do it. The greater part of the morning Towers was
up in Hawke's room; he had always an immense influence over Godfrey; he
knew things about him none others had ever heard of, and, when he came
downstairs, he took the doctor--it was your old Professor, that mad
fellow--into the library, and spent full an hour with him. When Towers
came out afterwards, he seemed to have got over his angry feeling
towards me, and, coming up in all seeming frankness, took my arm, and
led me out into the shrubbery.

"'Hawke is sinking rapidly,' said he; 'the doctor says he cannot
possibly recover.'

"'Indeed!' said I, amazed. 'What does he call the malady?'

"'He says it's a break-up,--a general smash,--lungs, liver, brain, all
destroyed; a common complaint with fellows who have lived hard.' He
looked at me steadily, almost fiercely, as he said this, but I seemed
quite insensible to his gaze. 'He 'll not leave _her_ a farthing,' added
he, after a moment.

"'The greater villain he, then,' said I. 'It was for _him_ she ruined
herself.'

"'Yes, yes, that was all true enough once; but _now_, Master Paul,--now
there's another story, you know.'

"'If you mean under the guise of a confidence to renew the insults you
dared to pass upon me yesterday,' said I, 'I tell you at once I 'll not
bear it.'

"'Can't you distinguish between friendship and indifference?' said he,
warmly. 'I don't ask you to trust me with your secrets, but let us talk
like men, not like children. Hawke intends to alter his will to-morrow.
It had been made in her favor; at least, he left her this place here,
and some small thing he had in Wales; he's going to change everything
and leave all to the girl.'

"'It can't be a considerable thing, after all,' said I, peevishly, and
not well knowing what I said.

"'Pardon me,' broke he in; 'he has won far more than any of us
suspected. He has in hard cash above two thou-sand pounds in the house,
a mass of acceptances in good paper, and several bonds of first-rate
men. I went over his papers this morning with him, and saw his book,
too, for the Oaks,--a thing, I suppose, he had never shown to any living
man before. He has let us all in there, Paul; he has, by Jove!
for while telling us to put all upon Jeremy, he 's going to win with
Proserpine!'

"I confess the baseness of this treachery sickened me.

"'"How Paul will storm, and rave, and curse me when he finds it out,"
said he; "but there was no love lost between us." He never liked you,
Hunt,--never.'

"'It's not too late yet,' said I, 'to hedge about and save ourselves.'

"'No, there's time still, especially if _he_ "hops the twig." Now,' said
he, after a long pause, 'if by any chance he were to die to-night, _she_
'd be safe; she'd at least inherit some hundreds a year, and a good deal
of personal property.'

"'There's no chance of _that_, though,' said I, negligently.

"'Who told you so, Paul?' said he, with a cunning cast of his eye.' That
old drunken doctor said he 'd not insure him for twenty-four hours.
A rum old beast he is! Do you know what he said to me awhile ago?
"Captain," said he, "do you know anything about chemistry?" "Nothing
whatever," said I. "Well," said he, with a hiccup,--for he was far gone
in liquor,--"albumen is the antidote to the muriate; and if you want to
give him a longer line, let him have an egg to eat".'"

"Good Heavens! Do you mean that he suspected--"

"He was dead drunk two minutes afterwards, and said that Hawke was dying
of typhus, and that he'd certify under his hand. 'But no matter about
_him_,' said he, impatiently. 'If Hawke goes off to-night, it will be
a good thing for all of us. Here's this imp of a child!' muttered he,
below his breath; 'let us be careful.' And so we parted company, each
taking his own road.

"I walked about the grounds alone all day,--I need not tell you with
what a heavy heart and a loaded conscience, and only came back to
dinner. We were just sitting down to table, when the door opened, and,
like a corpse out of his grave, Hawke stole slowly in, and sat down
amongst us. He never spoke a word, nor looked at any one. I swear to
you, so terrible was the apparition, so ghastly, and so death-like, that
I almost doubted if he were still living.

"'Well done, old boy! there 's nothing will do you such good as a little
cheering up,' cried Towers.

"'_She_'s asleep,' said he, in a low, feeble voice, 'and so I stole down
to eat my last dinner with you.'

"'Not the last for many a year to come,' said Wake, filling his glass.
'The doctor says you are made of iron.'

"'A man of mettle, I suppose,' said he, with a feeble attempt to laugh.

"'There! isn't he quite himself again?' cried Wake. 'By George! he 'll
see us all down yet!'

"'Down where?' said Hawke, solemnly. And the tone and the words struck a
chill over us.

"We did not rally for some time, and when we did, it was with an effort
forced and unnatural. Hawke took something on his plate, but ate none
of it, turning the meat over with his fork in a listless way. His wine,
too, he laid down when half-way to his lips, and then spat it out over
the carpet, saying to himself something inaudible.

"'What's the matter, Godfrey? Don't you like that capital sherry?' said
Towers.

"'No,' said he, in a hollow, sepulchral voice.

"'We have all pronounced it admirable,' went on the other.

"'It burns,--everything burns,' said the sick man.

"I filled him a glass of iced water and handed it to him, and Towers
gave me a look so full of hate and vengeance that my hand nearly let the
tumbler drop.

"'Don't drink cold water, man!' cried Towers, catching his arm; 'that
is the worst thing in the world for you.'

"'It won't poison me, will it?' said Hawke. And he fixed his leaden,
glazy gaze on Towers.

"'What the devil do you mean?' cried he, savagely. 'This is an ugly
jest, sir.'

"The sick man, evidently more startled by the violence of the manner
than by the words themselves, looked from one to the other of us all
round the table.

"'Forgive me, old fellow,' burst in Towers, with an attempt to laugh;
'but the whole of this day, I can't say why or how, but everything
irritates and chafes me. I really believe that we all eat and drink too
well here. We live like fighting-cocks, and, of course, are always ready
for conflict.'

"We all did our best to forget the unpleasant interruption of a few
minutes back, and talked away with a sort of over-eagerness. But Hawke
never spoke; there he sat, turning his glazed, filmy look from one to
the other, as though in vain trying to catch up something of what went
forward. He looked so ill--so fearfully ill, all the while, that it
seemed a shame to sit carousing there around him, and so I whispered to
Collins; but Towers overheard me, and said,

"'All wrong. _You_ don't know what tough material he is made of. This
is the very thing to rally him,--eh, Godfrey?' cried he, louder. 'I
'm telling these fellows that you 'll be all the better for coming down
amongst us, and that when I've made you a brew of that milk-punch you
are so fond of--'

"'It won't burn my throat, will it?' whined out the sick man.

"'Burn your throat! not a bit of it; but warm your blood up, give
energy to your heart, and brace your nerves, so that before the bowl is
finished you 'll sing us "Tom Hall;" or, better still, "That rainy day I
met her,"--

     "That rainy day I met her,
     When she tripped along the street,
     And, with petticoat half lifted,
     Showed a dainty pair of feet."

"'How does it go?' said he, trying to catch the tune.

"A ghastly grin--an expression more horrible than I ever saw on a human
face before--was Hawke's recognition of this appeal to him, and, beating
his fingers feebly on the table, he seemed trying to recall the air.

"'I can't stand this any longer,' whispered Wake to me; 'the man is
dying!'

"'Confound you for a fool!' said Towers, angrily. 'You 'll see what
a change an hour will make in him. I 've got the receipt for that
milk-punch up in my room. I 'll go and fetch it' And with this he arose,
and hastily left the room.

"'Where's Tom?' said the sick man, with a look of painful eagerness.
'Where is he?'

"'He's gone for the receipt of the milk-punch; he's going to make a brew
for you!' said I.

"'But I won't take it I 'll taste nothing more,' said he, with a marked
emphasis. 'I 'll take nothing but what Loo gives me,' muttered he, below
his breath. And we all exchanged significant looks with each other.

"'This will never do,' murmured Wake, in a low voice. 'Say
something--tell a story--but let us keep moving.'

"And Collins began some narrative of his early experiences on the Turf.
The story, like all such, was the old burden of knave and dupe,--the man
who trusted and the man who cheated. None of us paid much attention to
the details, but drank away at our wine, and sent the decanters briskly
round, when suddenly, at the mention of a horse being found dead in his
stall on the morning he was to have run, Hawke broke in with 'Nobbled!
Just like me!'

"Though the words were uttered in a sort of revery, and with a bent-down
head, we all were struck dumb, and gazed ruefully at each other.
'Where's Towers all this time?' said Collins to me, in a whisper. I
looked at my watch, and saw that it was forty-four minutes since he left
the room. I almost started up from my seat with terror, as I thought
what this long absence might portend. Had he actually gone off, leaving
us all to the perils that were surrounding us? Was it that he had gone
to betray us to the law? I could not speak from fear when the door
opened, and he came in and sat down in his place. Though endeavoring to
seem easy and unconcerned, I could mark that he wore an air of triumph
and success that he could not subdue.

"'Here comes the brew,' said he, as the servant brought in a large
smoking bowl of fragrant mixture.

"'I 'll not touch it!' said Hawke, with a resolute tone that startled
us.

"'What! after giving me more than half an hour's trouble in preparing
it,' said Towers. 'Come, old fellow, that is not gracious.'

"'Drink it yourselves!' said Hawke, sulkily.

"'So we will, after we have finished this Burgundy,' said Towers. 'But,
meanwhile, what will _you_ have? It's poor fun to sit herewith an empty
glass.' And he filled him out a goblet of the milk-punch and placed it
before him. 'Here's to the yellow jacket with black sleeves,' said he,
lifting his glass; 'and may we see him the first "round the corner."'

"'First "round the corner!"' chorused the rest of us. And Hawke,
catching up the spirit of the toast, seized his glass and drank it off.

"'Iknew he 'd drink his own colors if he had one leg in the grave!'
said Towers.

"The clock on the mantelpiece struck ten at the moment It was the hour I
was to meet her in the shrubbery; and so, pretending to go in search
of my cigar-case, I slipped away and left them. As I was passing behind
Hawke's chair, he made a gesture to me to come near him. I bent down my
head to him, and he said, 'It won't do this time; she 'll not meet you,
Paul.' These were the last words I ever heard him speak."

When Paten had got thus far, he walked away from his friend, and,
leaning his arm on the bulwark, seemed overwhelmed with the dreary
retrospect He remained thus for a considerable time, and only rallied as
Stocmar, drawing his arm within his, said, "Come, come, this is no fresh
sorrow now. Let me hear the remainder."

"He spoke truly," said he, in a broken voice. "She never came! I walked
the grounds for above an hour and a half, and then I came back towards
the cottage. There was a light in her room, and I whistled to attract
her notice, and threw some gravel against the glass, but she only closed
the shutters, and did not mind me. I cannot tell you how my mind was
racked between the actual terror of the situation and the vague dread of
some unknown evil. What had produced this change in _her?_ Why had
_she_ broken with me? Could it be that Towers had seen her in that long
interval he was absent from the table, and, if so, to what intent? She
always hated and dreaded him; but who could tell what influence such a
man might acquire in a moment of terrible interest? A horrible sense of
jealousy--not the less maddening that it was shadowy and uncertain--now
filled my mind; and--would you believe it?--I thought worse of Towers
for his conduct towards me than for the dreadful plot against Hawke.
Chance led me, as I walked, to the bank of the little lake, where I
stood for some time thinking. Suddenly a splash--too heavy for the
spring of a fish--startled me, and immediately after I heard the sound
of some one forcing his way through the close underwood beside me.
Before I had well rallied from my astonishment, a voice I well knew to
be that of Towers, cried out,--

"'Who 's there?--who are you?'

"I called out, 'Hunt,--Paul Hunt!'

"'And what the devil brings you here, may I ask?' said he, insolently,
but in a tone that showed he had been drinking deeply.

"It was no time to provoke discord; it was a moment that demanded all
we could muster of concession and agreement, and so I simply told how
mere accident had turned my steps in this direction.

"'What if I said I don't believe you, Paul Hunt?' retorted he, savagely.
'What if I said that I see your whole game in this business, and know
every turn and every trick you mean to play us?'

"If you had not drunk so much of Godfrey's Burgundy,' said I, 'you 'd
never have spoken this way to an old friend.'

"'Friend be------!' cried he, savagely. 'I know no friends but the men
who will share danger with you as well as drink out of the same bottle.
Why did you leave us this evening?'

"'I'll be frank with you, Tom,' said I. 'I had made a rendezvous with
Louisa; but she never came.'

"'Why should she?' muttered he, angrily. 'Why should she trust the man
who is false to his pals?'

"'That I have never been,' broke I in. 'Ask Hawke himself. Ask Godfrey,
and he'll tell you whether I have ever dropped a word against you.'

"'No, he would n't,' said he, doggedly.

"'I tell you he would,' cried I. 'Let us go to him this minute.'

"'I 'd rather not, if the choice were given me,' said he, with a horrid
laugh.

"'Do you mean,' cried I, in terror,--'do you mean that it is all over?'

"'All over!' said he, gravely, and as though his clouded faculties were
suddenly cleared. 'Godfrey knows all about it by this time,' muttered
he, half to himself.

"'Would to Heaven we had never come here!' burst I in, for my heart was
breaking with anguish and remorse. 'How did it happen, and where?'

"'In the chair where you last saw him. We thought he had fallen asleep,
and were for having him carried up to bed, when he gave a slight shudder
and woke up again.

"Where's Loo?" cried he, in a weak voice; and then, before we could
answer, he added, "Where 's Hunt?"

"'"Paul was here a moment ago; he 'll be back immediately."

"'He gave a laugh,--such a laugh I hope never to hear again. Cold as he
lies there now, that terrible grin is on his face yet. You 've done it
this time, Tom," said he to me, in a whisper. "What do you mean?" said
I. "Death!" said he; "it's all up with _me,--your_ time is coming."
And he gave a ghastly grin, sighed, and it was over.'

"We both sat down on the damp ground, and never spoke for nigh an hour.
At last Tom said, 'We ought to be back in the house, and trying to make
ourselves useful, Paul.'

"I arose, and walked after him, not knowing well whither I was going.
When we reached the little flower-garden, we could see into the
dining-room. The branch of wax-candles were still lighted, but burnt
down very low. All had left; there was nothing there but the dead man
sitting up in his chair, with his eyes staring, and his chin fallen.
'Craven-hearted scoundrels!' cried Towers. 'The last thing I said was
to call in the servants, and say that their master had fainted; and
see, they have run away out of sheer terror. Ain't these hopeful fellows
to go before the coroner's inquest?' I was trembling from head to foot
all this while, and had to hold Towers by the arm to support myself.
'You are not much better!' said he, savagely. 'Get to bed, and take
a long sleep, man. Lock your door, and open it to none till I come to
you.' I staggered away as well as I could, and reached my room. Once
alone there, I fell on my knees and tried to pray, but I could not. I
could do nothing but cry,--cry, as though my heart would burst; and I
fell off asleep, at last, with my head on the bedside, and never awoke
till the next day at noon. Oh!" cried he, in a tone of anguish, "do
not ask me to recall more of this dreadful story; I'd rather follow the
others to the scaffold, than I 'd live over again that terrible day. But
you know the rest,--the whole world knows it. It was the 'Awful Tragedy
in Jersey' of every newspaper of England; even to the little cottage,
in the print-shop windows, the curiosity of the town was gratified. The
Pulpit employed the theme to illustrate the life of the debauchee;
and the Stage repeated the incidents in a melodrama. With a vindictive
inquisitiveness, too, the Press continued to pry after each of us,
whither we had gone, and what had become of us. I myself, at last,
escaped further scrutiny by the accidental circumstance of a pauper,
called Paul Hunt, having died in a poor-house, furnishing the journalist
who recorded it one more occasion for moral reflection and eloquence.
Collins lived, I know not how or where. She sailed for Australia, but I
believe never went beyond the Cape."

"And you never met her since?"

"Never."

"Nor have you held any correspondence together?"

"None, directly. I have received some messages; one to that purport I
have already told you. Indeed, it was but t' other day that I knew for
certain she was in Europe."

"What was she in appearance,--what style and manner of person?"

"You shall guess before I tell you," said Paten, smiling sadly.

"A dark-eyed, dark-haired woman,--brunette,--tall,--with a commanding
look,--thin lips,--and strongly marked chin."

"Here," said he, approaching the binnacle lantern, and holding out a
miniature he had drawn from his breast,--"here you can recognize the
accuracy of your description."

"But can that be like her?"

"It is herself; even the careless ease of the attitude, the voluptuous
indolence of the 'pose,' is all her own."

"But she is the very type of feminine softness and delicacy. I never saw
eyes more full of gentle meaning, nor a mouth more expressive of womanly
grace."

"There is no flattery in the portrait; nay, it wants the great charm
she excelled in,--that ever changeful look as thoughts of joy or sadness
would flash across her."

"Good Heavens!" cried Stocmar. "How hard it is to connect this
creature, as she looks here, with such a story!"

"Ah, my friend, these have been the cruel ones, from the earliest time
we bear of. The more intensely they are womanly, the more unrelenting
their nature."

"And what do you mean to do, Ludlow? for I own to you I think she is a
hard adversary to cope with."

"I marry her, if she 'll have me."

"Have you? Of course she will."

"She says not; and she generally keeps her word."

"But why should you wish to marry her, Ludlow? You have already told me
that you know nothing of her means, or how she lives; and, certainly,
the memories of the past give small guarantee for the future. As for
myself, I own to you, if there was not another woman--"

"Nay, nay," broke in Paten, "you have never seen her,--never spoken to
her."

"You forget, my dear fellow, that I have passed a life in an atmosphere
of mock fascinations; that tinsel attractions and counterfeit graces
would all fail with me."

"But who says they are factitious?" cried Paten, angrily. "The money
that passes from hand to hand, as current coin, may have some alloy
in its composition a chemist might call base, but it will not serve to
stamp it as fraudulent. I tell you, Stocmar, it is the whole fortune of
a man's life to be associated with such a woman. They can mar or make
you."

"More likely the first," muttered Stocmar. And then added aloud, "And as
to her fortune, you actually know nothing."

"Nothing beyond the fact that there's money somewhere. The girl or she,
I can't say which, has it."

"And of course, in your eyes, it 's like a pool at écarté: you don't
trouble your head who are the contributors?"

"Not very much if I win, Stocmar!" said he, resuming at once all the
wonted ease of his jovial manner.

Stocmar walked the deck in deep thought. The terrible tale he had just
heard, though not new in all its details, had impressed him fearfully,
while at the same time he could not conceive how a man so burdened with
a horrible past could continue either to enjoy the present or speculate
on the future.

At last he said, "And have you no dread of recognition, Ludlow? Is
the danger of being known and addressed by your real name not always
uppermost with you?"

"No, not now. When I first returned to England, after leaving the
Austrian service, I always went about with an uneasy impression upon
me,--a sort of feeling that when men looked at me they were trying to
remember where and when and how they had seen that face before; but up
to this none have ever discovered me, except Dell the detective officer,
whom I met one night at Cremorne, and who whispered me softly, 'Happy to
see you, Mr. Hunt. Have you been long in England?' I affected at first
not to understand him, and, touching his hat politely, he said: 'Well,
sir,--Jos. Dell. If you remember, I was _there_ at the inquest.' I
invited him to share a bottle of wine with me at once, and we
parted like old friends. By the way," added he, "there was that old
pyrotechnist of yours,--that drunken rascal,--_he_ knew me too."

"Well, you 're not likely to be troubled with another recognition from
him, Ludlow."

"How so? Is the fellow dead?"

"No; but I 've shipped him to New York by the 'Persia.' Truby, of the
Bowery Theatre, has taken a three years' lease of him, and of course
cocktails and juleps will shorten even that."

"_That_ is a relief, by Jove!" cried Paten. "I own to you, Stocmar, the
thought of being known by that man lay like a stone on my heart. Had you
any trouble in inducing him to go?"

"Trouble? No. He went on board drunk; he 'll be drunk all the voyage,
and he 'll land in America in the same happy state."

Paten smiled pleasantly at this picture of beatitude, and smoked on.
"There's no doubt about it, Stocmar," said he, sententiously, "we all
of us do make cowards of ourselves quite needlessly, imagining that
the world is full of us, canvassing our characters and scrutinizing our
actions, when the same good world is only thinking of itself and its own
affairs."

"That is true in part, Ludlow. But let us make ourselves foreground
figures, and, take my word for it, we 'll not have to complain of want
of notice."

Paten made a movement of impatience at this speech, that showed how
little he liked the sentiment, and then said,--

"There are the lights of Ostend. What a capital passage we have made!
I can't express to you," said he, with more animation, "what a relief it
is to me to feel myself on the soil of the Continent. I don't know how
it affects others, but to me it seems as if there were greater scope and
a freer room for a man's natural abilities there."

"I suppose you think we are cursed with 'respectability' at home."

"The very thing I mean," said he, gayly; "there's nothing I detest like
it."

"Colonel Paten," cried the steward, collecting his fees.

"Are you Colonel?" asked Stocmar, in a whisper.

"Of coarse I am, and very modest not to be Major-General. But here we
are, inside the harbor already."

Were we free to take a ramble up the Rhine country, and over the Alps to
Como, we might, perhaps, follow the steps of the two travellers we have
here presented to our reader. They were ultimately bound for Italy, but
in no wise tied by time or route. In fact, Mr. Stocmar's object was
to seek out some novelties for the coming season. "Nihil humanum a me
alienum puto" was his maxim. All was acceptable that was attractive.
He catered for the most costly of all publics, and who will insist on
listening to the sweetest voices and looking at the prettiest legs in
Europe. He was on the lookout for both. What Ludlow Paten's object was
the reader may perhaps guess without difficulty, but there was another
"transaction" in his plan not so easily determined. He had heard much
of Clara Hawke,--to give her her true name,--of her personal attractions
and abilities, and he wished Stocmar to see and pronounce upon her.
Although he possessed no pretension to dispose of her whatever, he held
certain letters of her supposed mother in his keeping which gave him a
degree of power which he believed irresistible. Now, there is a sort of
limited liability slavery at this moment recognized in Europe, by which
theatrical managers obtain a lease of human ability, for a certain
period, under nonage, and of which Paten desired to derive profit by
letting Clara out as dancer, singer, comedian, or "figurante," according
to her gifts; and this, too, was a purpose of the present journey.

The painter or the sculptor, in search of his model, has no higher
requirements than those of form and symmetry; he deals solely with
externals, while the impresario most carry his investigations far beyond
the category of personal attractions, and soar into the lofty atmosphere
of intellectual gifts and graces, bearing along with him, at the same
time, a full knowledge of that public for whom he is proceeding; that
fickle, changeful, fanciful public, who sometimes, out of pure
satiety with what is best, begin to long for what is second-rate.
What consummate skill must be his who thus feels the pulse of fashion,
recognizing in its beat the indications of this or that tendency,
whether "society" soars to the classic "Norma," or descends to
the tawdry vulgarisms of the "Traviata"! No man ever accepted more
implicitly than Mr. Stocmar the adage of "Whatever is, is best." The
judgment of the day with him was absolute. The "world" _a toujours
raison_, was his creed. When that world pronounced for music, he cried,
"Long live Verdi!" when it decided for the ballet, his toast was, "Legs
against the field!" Now, at this precise moment, this same world had
taken a torn for mere good looks,--if it be not heresy to say "mere"
to such a thing as beauty,--and had actually grown a little wearied of
roulades and pirouettes; and so Stocmar had come abroad, to see what the
great slave market of Europe could offer him.

Let us suppose them, therefore, pleasantly meandering along through the
Rhineland, while we turn once more to those whom we have left beyond the
Alps.



CHAPTER XXVII. THE FRAGMENT OF A LETTER

The following brief epistle from Mrs. Morris to her father will save
the reader the tedious task of following the Heathcote family through
an uneventful interval, and at the same time bring him to that place and
period in which we wish to see him. It is dated Hôtel d'Italie,
Florence:--

"Dear Papa,--You are not to feel any shock or alarm at the black margin
and wax of this epistle, though its object be to inform you that I am
a widow, Captain Penthony Morris having died some eight months back in
Upper India; but the news has only reached me now. In a word, I have
thought it high time to put an end to this mythical personage, whose
cruel treatment of me I had grown tired of recalling, and, I conclude,
others of listening to. Now, although it may be very hard on you to go
into mourning for the death of one who never lived, yet I must bespeak
your grief, in so far as stationery is concerned, and that you write to
me on the most woe-begone of cream-laid, and with the most sorrow-struck
of seals.

"There was, besides, another and most cogent reason for my being a widow
just now. The Heathcotes are here, on their way to Rome, and, like
all English people, eager to go everywhere, do everything, and
know everybody; the consequence is eternal junketing and daily
dinner-parties. I need not tell you that in such a caravanserai as this
is, some one would surely turn up who should recognize me; so there was
nothing for it but to kill Captain M. and go into crape and seclusion.
As my bereavement is only a sham, I perform the affliction without
difficulty. Our mourning, too, becomes us, and, everything considered,
the incident has spared us much sight-seeing and many odious
acquaintances.

"As it is highly important that I should see and consult you, you
must come out here at once. As the friend and executor of poor 'dear
Penthony,' you can see me freely, and I really want your advice. Do I
understand you aright about Ludlow? If so, the creature is a greater
fool than I thought him. Marrying him is purely out of the question.
Of all compacts, the connubial demands implicit credulity; and if this
poor man's tea were to disagree with him, he 'd be screaming out for
antidotes before the servants, and I conclude that he cannot expect _me_
to believe in _him_. The offer you have made him on my part is a great
and brilliant one, and, for the life of me, I cannot see why he should
hesitate about it, though I, perhaps, suspect it to be this. Like most
fast men,--a very shallow class, after all,--his notion is that life,
like a whist-party, requires an accomplice. Now, I would beg him to
believe this is not the case, and that for two people who can play
their cards so well as we can, it is far better to sit down at separate
tables, where no suspicion of complicity can attach to us. I, at
least, understand what suits my own interest, which is distinctly
and emphatically to have nothing to do with him. You say that he
threatens,--threatens to engulf us both. If he were a woman, the menace
would frighten me, but men are marvellously conservative in their
selfishness, and so I read it as mere threat.

"It is, I will say, no small infliction to carry all this burden of the
past through a present rugged enough with its own difficulties. To
feel that one can be compromised, and, if compromised, ruined at any
moment,--to walk with a half-drawn indictment over one,--to mingle in
a world where each fresh arrival may turn out accuser,--is very, very
wearisome, and I long for security. It is for this reason I have decided
on marrying Sir William instead of his son. The indiscretion of a man
of his age taking a wife of mine will naturally lead to retirement and
reclusion from the world, and we shall seek out some little visited spot
where no awkward memories are like to leave their cards on us. I have
resigned myself to so much in life, that I shall submit to all this with
as good a grace as I have shown in other sacrifices. Of course L. can
spoil this project,--he can upset the boat,--but he ought to remember,
if he does, that he was never a good swimmer. Do try and impress this
upon him; there are usually some flitting moments of every day when he
is capable of understanding a reason. Catch one of these, dear pa, and
profit by it. It is by no means certain that Miss L. would accept him;
but, certainly, smarting as she is under all manner of broken ties, the
moment is favorable, and the stake a large one. Nor is there much time
to lose, for it seems that young Heathcote cannot persuade the Horse
Guards to give him even a 'Cornetcy,' and is in despair how he is to
re-enter the service; the inevitable consequence of which will be a
return home here, and, after a while, a reconciliation. It is only wise
people who ever know that the science of life is opportunity, everything
being possible at some one moment, which, perhaps, never recurs again.

"I scarcely know what to say about Clara. She has lost her spirits,
though gained in looks, and she is a perfect mope, but very pretty
withal. She fancies herself in love with a young college man lately
here, who won all the disposable hearts in the place, and might have had
a share even in mine, if he had asked for it. The greater fool he that
he did not, since he wanted exactly such guidance as I could give to
open the secret door of success to him. By the way, has his father died,
or what has become of him? In turning over some papers t'other day, the
name recurred with some far from pleasant recollections associated with
it. Scientific folk used to tell us that all the constituents of our
mortal bodies became consumed _every_ seven years of life. And why, I
ask, ought we not to start with fresh memories as well as muscles, and
ignore any past beyond that short term of existence? I am perfectly
convinced it is carrying alone bygones, whether of events or people,
that constitutes the greatest ill of life. One so very seldom repents
of having done wrong, and is so very, very sorry to have lost many
opportunities of securing success, that really the past is all sorrow.

"You have forgotten to counsel me about Clara. The alternative lies
between the stage and a convent. Pray say which of the two, in these
changeful times, gives the best promise of permanence; and believe me

"Your affectionate daughter,

"Louisa."



CHAPTER XXVIII. THE O'SHEA AT HIS LODGINGS.

A very brief chapter will suffice to record the doings of two of our
characters, not destined to perform very foreground parts in the present
drama. We mean Mr. O'Shea and Charles Heathcote. They had established
themselves in lodgings in a certain locality called Manchester
Buildings, much favored by some persons who haunt the avenues of "the
House," and are always in search of "our Borough Member." Neither the
aspect of their domicile, nor their style of living, bespoke flourishing
circumstances. O'Shea, indeed, had returned to town in cash, but an
unlucky night at the "Garottoman" had finished him, and he returned to
his lodgings one morning at daybreak two hundred and seventeen pounds
worse than nothing.

Heathcote had not played; nay, he had lived almost penuriously; but
in a few weeks all his resources were nigh exhausted, and no favorable
change had occurred in his fortunes. At the Horse Guards he had been
completely unsuccessful. He had served, it is true, with distinction,
but, as he had quitted the army, he could not expect to be restored to
his former rank, while, by the rules of the service, he was too old to
enter as a subaltern. And thus a trained soldier, who had won fame and
honor in two campaigns, was, at the age of twenty-six, decided to be
superannuated. It was the chance meeting of O'Shea in the street, when
this dilemma was mentioned, that led to their ultimate companionship,
for the Member at once swore to bring the case before the House, and to
make the country ring from end to end with the enormity. Poor Heathcote,
friendless and alone at the moment, caught at the promise, and a few
days afterwards saw them domesticated as chums at No.--, in the locality
already mentioned.

"You 'll have to cram me, Heathcote, with the whole case. I must be able
to make an effective speech, narrating all the great exploits you have
done, with everywhere you have been, before I come to the grievance, and
the motion for 'all the correspondence between Captain Heathcote and
the authorities at the Horse Guards, respecting his application to be
reinstated in the army.' I 'll get a special Tuesday for the motion, and
I 'll have Howley in to second me, and maybe we won't shake the Treasury
benches! for you see the question opens everything that ever was,
or could be, said about the army. It opens Horse Guards cruelty and
irresponsibility, those Bashi-Bazouks that rule the service like
despots; it opens the purchase system from end to end; it opens
the question of promotion by merit; it opens the great problem of
retirement and superannuation. By my conscience! I think I could bring
the Thirty-nine Articles into it, if I was vexed."

The Member for Inch had all that persuasive power a ready tongue and
an unscrupulous temper supply, and speedily convinced the young soldier
that his case would not alone redound to his own advancement but become
a precedent, which should benefit hundreds of others equally badly
treated as himself.

It was while thus conning over the project, O'Shea mentioned, in deepest
confidence, the means of that extraordinary success which, he averred,
had never failed to attend all his efforts in the House, and this was,
that he never ventured on one of his grand displays without a previous
rehearsal at home; that is, he assembled at his own lodgings a supper
company of his most acute and intelligent friends--young barristers,
men engaged on the daily or weekly press--the smart squib-writers and
caricaturists of the day--alive to everything ridiculous, and unsparing
in their criticism; and by these was he judged in a sort of mock
Parliament formed by themselves. To each of these was allotted the
character of some noted speaker in the House, who did his best to
personate the individual by every trait of manner, voice, and action,
while a grave, imposing-looking man, named Doran, was a capital
counterfeit of the "Speaker."

O'Shea explained to Heathcote that the great advantage of this scheme
consisted in the way it secured one against surprises; no possible
interruption being omitted, nor any cavilling objection spared to the
orator. "You'll see," he added, "that after sustaining these assaults,
the attack of the real fellows is only pastime."

The day being fixed on, the company, numbering nigh twenty, assembled,
and Charles Heathcote could not avoid observing that their general air
and appearance were scarcely senatorial. O'Shea assured him gravity
would soon succeed to the supper, and dignity come in with the
whiskey-punch. This was so far borne out that when the cloth was
removed, and a number of glasses and bottles were distributed over
the blackened mahogany, a grave and almost austere bearing was at once
assumed by the meeting. Doran also took his place as Speaker, his cotton
umbrella being laid before him as the mace. The orders of the day were
speedily disposed of, and a few questions as to the supply of potables
satisfactorily answered, when O'Shea arose to bring on the case of the
evening,--a motion "for all the correspondence between the authorities
of the Horse Guards and Captain Heathcote, respecting the application of
the latter to be reinstated in the service."

The Secretary-at-War, a red-faced, pimply man, subeditor of a
Sunday paper, objected to the production of the papers; and a smart
sparring-match ensued, in which O'Shea suffered rather heavily, but at
last came out victorious, being allowed to state the grounds for his
application.

O'Shea began with due solemnity, modestly assuring the House that he
wished the task had fallen to one more competent than himself, and
more conversant with those professional details which would necessarily
occupy a large space in the narrative.

"Surely the honorable member held a commission in the Clare Fencibles."

"Was not the honorable member's father a band-master in the
Fifty-fourth?" cried another.

"To the insolent interruptions which have met me," said O'Shea,
indignantly--

"Order! order!"

"Am I out of order, sir?" asked he of the Speaker.

"Clearly so," replied that functionary. "Every interruption, short of a
knock-down, is parliamentary."

"I bow to the authority of the chair, and I say that the ruffianly
allusions of certain honorable members 'pass by me like the idle wind,
that I regard not.'"

[Illustration: 312]

"Where 's that from? Take you two to one in half-crowns you can't
tell," cried one.

"Done!" "Order! order!" "Spoke!" with cries of "Goon!" here
convulsed the meeting; after which O'Shea resumed his discourse.

"When, sir," said he, "I undertook to bring under the notice of this
House, and consequently before the eyes of the nation, the case of a
distinguished officer, one whose gallant services in the tented field,
whose glorious achievements before the enemy have made his name famous
in all the annals of military distinction, I never anticipated to
have been met by the howls of faction, or the discordant yells of
disappointed and disorderly followers--mere condottieri--of the
contemptible tyrant who now scowls at me from the cross-benches."

Loud cheers of applause followed this burst of indignation.

An animated conversation now ensued as to whether this was strictly
parliamentary; some averring that they "had heard worse," others deeming
it a shade too violent, O'Shea insisting throughout that there never was
a sharp debate in the House without far blacker insinuations, while in
the Irish Parliament such courtesies were continually interchanged, and
very much admired.

"Was n't it Lawrence Parsons who spoke of the 'highly gifted blackguard
on the other side?'" and "Didn't John Toler allude to the 'ignorant and
destitute spendthrift who now sat for the beggarly borough of Athlone?'"
cried two or three advocates of vigorous language.

"There's worse in Homer," said another, settling the question on
classical authority.

The discussion grew warm. What was, and what was not, admissible in
language was eagerly debated; the interchange of opinion, in a great
measure, serving to show that there were few, if any, freedoms of speech
that might not be indulged in. Indeed, Heathcote's astonishment was only
at the amount of endurance exhibited by each in turn, so candid were
the expressions employed, so free from all disguise the depreciatory
sentiments entertained.

In the midst of what had now become a complete uproar, and while one
of the orators, who by dint of lungs had overcome all competitors, was
inveighing against O'Shea as "a traitor to his party, and the scorn of
every true Irishman," a fresh arrival, heated and almost breathless,
rushed into the room.

"It's all over," cried he; "the Government is beaten. The House is to be
dissolved on Wednesday, and the country to go to a general election."

Had a shell fallen on the table, the dispersion could not have been
more instantaneous. Barristers, reporters, borough agents, and
penny-a-liners, all saw their harvest-time before them, and hurried
away to make their engagements; and, in less than a quarter of an hour,
O'Shea was left alone with his companion, Charles Heathcote.

"Here's a shindy!" cried the ex-M. P., "and the devil a chance I have of
getting in again, if I can't raise five hundred pounds."

Heathcote never spoke, but sat ruminating over the news.

"Bad luck to the Cabinet!" muttered O'Shea. "Why would they put that
stupid clause into their Bill? Could n't they wait to smuggle it in on a
committee? Here I am clean ruined and undone, just as I was on the road
to fame and fortune. And I can't even help a friend!" said he, turning
a pitiful look at Heathcote.

"Don't waste a thought about me!" said Heathcote, good-humoredly.

"But I will!" cried O'Shea. "I 'll go down to the Horse Guards myself.
Sure I'm forgetting already," added he, with a sigh, "that we 're all
'out;' and now, for a trifle of five hundred, there's a fine chance
lost as ever man had. You don't know anybody could accommodate one with
a loan,--of course, on suitable terms?"

"Not one,--not one!"

"Or who 'd do it on a bill at three months, with our own names?"

"None!"

"Is n't it hard, I ask,--isn't it cruel,--Just as I was making a figure
in the House? I was the 'rising man of the party,'--so the 'Post' called
me,--and the 'Freeman' said, 'O'Shea has only to be prudent, and his
success is assured.' And wasn't I prudent? Didn't I keep out of the
divisions for half the session? Who's your father's banker, Heathcote?"

"Drummonds, I believe; but I don't know them."

"Murther! but it is hard! five hundred,--only five hundred. A real
true-hearted patriot, fresh for his work, and without engagements, going
for five hundred! I see you feel for me, my dear fellow," cried he,
grasping Heathcote's hand. "I hear what your heart is saying this
minute: 4 O'Shea, old boy, if I had the money, I 'd put it in the palm
of your hand without the scratch of a pen between us.'"

"I 'm not quite so certain I should," muttered the other, half sulkily.

"But I know you better than you know yourself, and I repeat it. You 'd
say, 'Gorman O'Shea, I 'm not the man to see a first-rate fellow lost
for a beggarly five hundred. I 'd rather be able to say one of these
days, "Look at that man on the Woolsack,--or, maybe, Chief Justice in
the Queen's Bench--well, would you believe it? if I hadn't helped him
one morning with a few hundreds, it's maybe in the Serpentine he 'd have
been, instead of up there."' And as we 'd sit over a bottle of hock in
the bay-window at Richmond, you 'd say, 'Does your Lordship remember the
night when you heard the House was up, and you had n't as much as would
pay your fare over to Ireland?'"

"I'm not so certain of _that_, either," was the dry response of
Heathcote.

"And of what _are_ you certain, then?" cried O'Shea, angrily; "for I
begin to believe you trust nothing, nor any one."

"I 'll tell you what I believe, and believe firmly too,--which is, that
a pair of fellows so completely out at elbows as you and myself had
far better break stones on a highroad for a shilling a day than stand
cudgelling their wits how to live upon others."

"That is not my sentiment at all,--_suum cuique_,--stone-breaking to
the hard-handed; men of our stamp, Heathcote, have a right--a vested
right--to a smoother existence."

"Well, time will tell who is right," said Heathcote, carelessly, as he
put on his hat and walked to the door. A half-cold good-bye followed,
and they parted.

Hour after hour he walked the streets, unmindful of a thin misty rain
that fell unceasingly. He was now completely alone in the world, and
there was a sort of melancholy pleasure in the sense of his desolation.
"My poor father!" he would mutter from time to time; "if I could only
think that he would forget me! if I could but bring myself to believe
that after a time he would cease to sorrow for me!" He did not dare to
utter more, nor even to himself declare how valueless he deemed life,
but strolled listlessly onward, till the gray streaks in the murky sky
proclaimed the approach of morning.

Was it with some vague purpose or was it by mere accident that he found
himself standing at last near the barracks at Knightsbridge, around the
gate of which a group of country-looking young fellows was gathered,
while here and there a sergeant was seen to hover, as if speculating on
his prey? It was a time in which more than one young man of station had
enlisted as a private, and the sharp eye of the crimp Boon scanned the
upright stature and well-knit frame of Heathcote.

"Like to be a dragoon, my man?" said he, with an easy, swaggering air.

"I have some thought of it," said the other, coldly.

"You 've served already, I suspect," said the sergeant, in a more
respectful tone.

"For what regiment are you enlisting?" asked Heathcote, coldly,
disregarding the other's inquiry.

"Her Majesty's Bays,--could you ask better? But here's my officer."

Before Heathcote had well heard the words, his name was called out, and
a slight, boyish figure threw his arms about him.

"Charley, how glad I am to see you!" cried he.

"Agincourt!--is this you?" said Heathcote, blushing deeply as he spoke.

"Yes, I have had my own way at last; and I'm going to India too."

"I am not," said Heathcote, bitterly. "They 'll not have me at the Horse
Guards; I am too old, or too something or other for the service, and
there's nothing left me but to enter the ranks."

"Oh, Charley," cried the other, "if you only knew of the breaking heart
you have left behind you!--if you only knew how _she_ loves you!"

Was it that the boyish accents of these few words appealed to
Heathcote's heart with all the simple force of truth?--was it that they
broke in upon his gloom so unexpectedly,--a slanting sun-ray piercing a
dark cloud? But so it is, that he turned away, and drew his hand across
his eyes.

"I was off for a day's hunting down in Leicestershire," said Agincourt.
"I sent the nags away yesterday. Come with me, Charley; we shall be
back again to-morrow, and you 'll see if my old guardian won't set all
straight with the War-Office people for you. Unless," added he, in a
half-whisper, "you choose in the mean while to put your trust in what I
shall tell you, and go back again."

"I only hope that I may do so," said Heathcote, as he wrung the other's
hand warmly, "and I'd bless the hour that led me here this morning."

It was soon arranged between them that Agincourt should drive round by
Heathcote's lodgings and take him up, when he had packed up a few things
for the Journey. O'Shea was so sound asleep that he could scarcely be
awakened to hear his companion say "good-bye." Some vague, indistinct
idea floated before him that Heathcote had fallen upon some good
fortune, and, as he shook his hand, he muttered,--

"Go in and win, old fellow; take all you can get, clear the beggars out,
that's _my_ advice to you." And with these sage counsels he turned on
his pillow, and snored away once more.

"Wasn't that Inch-o'-brogue I heard talking to you?" asked Agincourt.

"Yes. The poor fellow, like myself, is sorely hard up just now."

"My old governor must get him something. We 'll think of him on our
return; so jump in, Charley, or we shall be late for the train."

How contagious was that happy boy's good humor, and how soon did his
light-heartedness impart its own quality to Heathcote's spirits. As
they whirled along through the brisk fresh air of the morning, the youth
recounted all that passed with him since they met,--no very great or
stirring events were they, it is true, but they were _his_,--and they
were his first experiences of dawning manhood; and, oh! let any of us,
now plodding along wearily on the shady side of life, only bethink us
of the joyful sunshine of our youth, when the most commonplace incidents
came upon us with freshness, and we gloried in the thought of having a
"part," an actual character to play, in that grand drama they call the
World.

We would not, if we could, recall his story; we could not hope that our
reader would listen as pleasurably as did Heathcote to it; enough that
we say they never felt the miles go over, nor, till their journey
was ended, had a thought that they were already arrived at their
destination.



CHAPTER XXIX. OLD LETTERS

The little cottage at Port-na-Whapple, to which Alfred Lay-ton had
repaired to collect the last few relics of his poor mother, had so
completely satisfied all his longings for quiet seclusion, that
he lingered on there in a sort of dreamy abstractedness far from
unpleasing. Quackinboss was with him, but never was there a companion
less obtrusive. The honest American delighted in the spot; he was a
fisherman, and soon became acquainted with all the choice places for
the take of salmon, while he oftentimes strolled inland and whipped the
mountain streams with no small success. In fact, the gun, the rod, and a
well-trained greyhound amply supplied all the demands of the household;
and never was there a life less crossed by outward cares than theirs.
Whether the Colonel believed or not that Layton was deeply engaged in
his studies, he affected to think so, and made a point of interfering
as little as possible with the other's time. If by a chance word now
and then he would advert to their projected trip to America, he never
pressed the theme, nor seemed in any way to evince over-eagerness
regarding it. Indeed, with a delicacy of truest refinement, he abstained
from making Layton ever feel himself constrained by the deep obligations
he owed him, so that nothing could be freer than their intercourse; the
only theme of gloom between them being the fate of Layton's father, of
which, notwithstanding all their efforts, they could obtain no tidings.
From the day when he quitted the asylum, and was pronounced "cured,"
nothing was known of him. Dr. Millar had assisted in all their inquiries
with a most friendly interest, and endeavored to induce Alfred to accept
the hospitalities of the vicarage; but this he declined, making weak
health his apology. The vicar, however, did not cease to show his
constant attention, feeling deeply interested in the youth. In nothing
did he evince this sentiment more than the trouble he gave himself to
collect the scattered papers and documents of the old Professor. The old
man--accustomed ever to an existence of emergency--was in the habit of
pledging his private papers and his own writings for small sums here and
there through the country; and thus researches which had cost months
of labor, investigations of deepest import, were oftentimes pawned at a
public for a few shillings. Scarcely a day went over without some record
being brought in by a farmer or a small village tradesman; sometimes
valueless, sometimes of great interest. Now and then they would be
violent and rebellious pasquinades against men in power,--his supposed
enemies,--versified slanders upon imaginary oppressors.

Neither imbued with Alfred's taste nor influenced by the ties of blood,
Quackinboss took a pleasure in poring over these documents which the
young man could not feel. The Professor, to him, seemed the true type
of intellectual power, and he had that bold recklessness of all
consequences which appealed strongly to the Yankee. He was, as he
phrased it, an "all-mighty smasher," and would have been a rare man for
Congress! All Alfred's eagerness to possess himself of his father's
papers was soon exceeded by the zeal of Quackinboss, who, by degrees,
abandoned gun and rod to follow out his new pursuit If he could not
estimate the value of deep scientific calculations and researches, he
was fully alive to the sparkling wit and envenomed satire of the various
attacks upon individuals; and so enamored was he of these effusions,
that many of the verse ones he had committed to memory.

Poor Alfred! what a struggle was his, as Quackinboss would recite
some lines of fearful malignity, asking him, the while "if all English
literature could show such another ''tarnal screamer' as his own parent?
Warn't he a 'right-down scarification'? Did n't he scald the hides of
them old hogs in the House of Lords? Well, I 'm blest if Mr. Clay could
a-done it better!" To the young man's mild suggestions that his father's
fame would rest upon very different labors, Quackinboss would hastily
offer rejoinder, "No, sir, chemicals is all very well, but human natur'
is a grander study than acids and oxides. What goes on in a man's heart
is a main sight harder reading than salts and sediments."

The Colonel had learned in the course of his wanderings that a farmer
who inhabited one of the lone islands off the coast was in possession
of an old writing-desk of the Professor,--the pledge for a loan of three
pounds sterling,--a sum so unusually large as to imply that the property
was estimated as of value. It was some time before the weather admitted
of a visit to the spot, but late of a summer's evening, as Alfred
sat musingly on the door-sill of the cottage, Quackinboss was seen
approaching with an old-fashioned writing-desk under his arm, while he
called out, "Here it is; and without knowin' the con-tents, I 'd not
swap the plunder for a raft of timber!"

If the moment of examining the papers was longed for by the impatient
Quackinboss with an almost feverish anxiety, what was his blank
disappointment at finding that, instead of being the smart squibs
or bitter invectives he delighted in, the whole box was devoted to
documents relating to a curious incident in medical jurisprudence, and
was labelled on the inner side of the lid, "Hawke's case, with all the
tests and other papers."

"This seems to have been a great criminal case," said Alfred, "and it
must have deeply interested my father, for he has actually drawn out a
narrative of the whole event, and has even journalized his share in the
story.

"'Strange scene that I have just left,' wrote he, in a clear, exact
hand. 'A man very ill--seriously, dangerously ill--in one room, and
a party--his guests--all deeply engaged at play in the same house. No
apparent anxiety about his case,--scarcely an inquiry; his wife--if
she be his wife, for I have my misgivings about it--eager and feverish,
following me from place to place, with a sort of irresolute effort to
say something which she has no courage for. Patient worse,--the case a
puzzling one; there is more than delirium tremens here. But what more?
that's the question. Remarkable his anxiety about the sense of
burning in the throat; ever asking, "Is that usual? is it invariable?"
Suspicion, of course, to be looked for; but why does it not extend to
_me_ also? Afraid to drink, though his thirst is excruciating.
Symptoms all worse; pulse irregular; desires to see me alone; his wife,
unwilling, tries by many pretexts to remain; he seems to detect her
plan, and bursts into violent passion, swears at her, and cries out,
"Ain't you satisfied? Don't you see that I 'm dying?"'

"'We have been alone for above an hour. He has told me all; she is not
his wife, but the divorced wife of a well-known man in office. Believes
she intended to leave him; knows, or fancies he knows, her whole
project. Rage and anger have increased the bad symptoms, and made him
much worse. Great anxiety about the fate of his child, a daughter of his
former wife; constantly exclaiming, "They will rob her! they will leave
her a beggar, and I have none to protect her." A violent paroxysm of
pain--agonizing pain--has left him very low.

"'"What name do you give this malady, doctor?" he asks me.

"'"It is a gastric inflammation, but not unaccompanied by other
symptoms."

"'"How brought on?"

"'"No man can trace these affections to primary causes."

"'"I can,--here, at least," breaks he in. "This is poison, and _you_
know it. Come, sir," he cried, "be frank and honest with one whose
moments are to be so few here. Tell me, as you would speak the truth in
your last hour, am I not right?"

"'"I cannot say with certainty. There are things here I am unable to
account for, and there are traits which I cannot refer to any poisonous
agency."

"'"Think over the poisons; you know best. Is it arsenic?"

"'"No, certainly not."

"'"Nor henbane, nor nicotine, nor nitre, nor strychnine,--none of
these?"

"'"None."

"'"How subtle the dogs have been!" muttered he. "What fools they make
of you, with all your science! The commonest money-changer will detect a
spurious shilling, but you, with all your learning, are baffled by every
counterfeit case that meets you. Examine, sir; inquire, investigate
well," he cried; "it is for your honor as a physician not to blunder
here."

"'"Be calm; compose yourself. These moments of passion only waste your
strength."

"'"Let me drink,--no, from the water-jug; they surely have not drugged
_that!_ What are you doing there?"

"'"I was decanting the tea into a small bottle, that I might take it
home and test it."

"'"And so," said he, sighing, "with all your boasted skill, it is only
after death you can pronounce. It is to aid the law, not to help the
living, you come. Be it so. But mind, sir," cried he, with a wild
energy, "they are all in it,--all. Let none escape. And these were my
friends!" said he, with a smile of inexpressible sorrow. "Oh, what
friends are a bad man's friends! You swear to me, doctor, if there has
been foul play it shall be discovered. They shall swing for it Don't
you screen them. No mumbling, sir; your oath,--your solemn sworn oath!
Take those keys and open that drawer there,--no, the second one; fetch
me the papers. This was my will two months ago," said he, tearing open
the seals of an envelope. "You shall see with your own eyes how I meant
by her. You will declare to the world how you read in my own hand that
I had left her everything that was not Clara's by right Call her here;
send for her; let her be present while you read it aloud, and let her
see it burned afterwards."

"'It was long before I could calm him after this paroxysm. At length
he said: "What a guilty conscience will be yours if this crime pass
unpunished!"

"'"If there be a crime, it shall not," said I, firmly.

"'"If it were to do," muttered he, in a low voice, "I 'd rather they 'd
have shot me; these agonies are dreadful, and all this lingering too!
Oh! could you not hasten it now? But not yet!" cried he, wildly. "I
have to tell you about Clara. They may rob her of all here, but she will
be rich after all. There is that great tract in America, in Ohio, called
'Peddar's Clearings;' don't forget the name. Peddar's Clearings, all
hers; it was her mother's fortune. Harvey Winthrop, in Norfolk, has the
titles, and is the guardian when I am dead."'"

"Why, I know that 'ere tract well; there's a cousin of mine, Obadiah B.
Qnackinboss, located there, and there ain't finer buckwheat in all the
West than is grown on that location. But go on, let's hear about this
sick fellow."

"This is an account of chemical tests, all this here," said Alfred,
passing over several leaves of the diary. "It seems to have been
a difficult investigation, but ending at last in the detection of
corrosive sublimate."

"And it killed him?"

"Yes; he died on the third evening after this was written. Here follows
the whole story of the inquest, and a remarkable letter, too, signed 'T.
Towers.' It is addressed to my father, and marked 'Private and Secret':
 'The same hand which delivers you this will put you in possession of
five hundred pounds sterling; and, in return, you will do whatever
is necessary to make all safe. There is no evidence, except yours, of
consequence; and all the phials and bottles have been already disposed
of. Be cautious, and stand fast to yours,--T. T.' On a slip wafered to
this note was written: 'I am without twenty shillings in the world; my
shoes are falling to pieces, and my coat threadbare; but I cannot do
this.' But what have we here?" cried Alfred, as a neatly folded note
with deep black margin met his eyes. It was a short and most gracefully
worded epistle in a lady's hand, thanking Dr. Layton for his unremitting
kindness and perfect delicacy in a season of unexampled suffering. "I
cannot," wrote she, "leave the island, dearly associated as it is with
days of happiness, and now more painfully attached to my heart by
the most terrible of afflictions, without tendering to the kindest of
physicians my last words of gratitude." The whole, conveyed in lines
of strictly conventional use, gave no evidence of anything beyond a due
sense of courtesy, and the rigid observance of a fitting etiquette. It
was very polished in style, and elegant in phraseology; but to have
been written amid such scenes as she then lived in, it seemed a perfect
marvel of unfeeling conduct.

"That 'ere woman riles me con-siderable," said Quackin-boss; "she
doesn't seem to mind, noways, what has happened, and talks of goin' to a
new clearin' quite uncon-sarned like. I ain't afraid of many things,
but I 'm darned extensive if I 'd not be afeard of her! What are you
a-por-ing over there?"

"It is the handwriting. I am certain I have seen it before; but where,
how, and when, I cannot bring to mind."

"How could you, sir? Don't all your womankind write that sort of
up-and-down bristly hand, more like a prickly-pear fence than
a Christian's writin'? It's all of a piece with your Old-World
civilization, which tries to make people alike, as the eggs in a basket;
but they ain't like, for all that No, sir, nor will any fixin' make 'em
so!"

"I have certainly seen it before," muttered Layton to himself.

"I 'm main curious to know how your father found out the 'pyson,'--ain't
it all there?"

"Oh, it was a long and very intricate chemical investigation."

"Did he bile him?"

"Boil him? No," said he, with difficulty restraining a laugh;'
'certainly not."

"Well, they tell me, sir, there ain't no other sure way to discover it.
They always bile 'em in France!"

"I am so puzzled by this hand," muttered Alfred, half aloud.

Quackinboss, equally deep in his own speculations, proceeded to give an
account of the mode of inquiry pursued by Frenchmen of science in cases
of poisoning, which certainly would have astonished M. Orflla, and was
only brought back from this learned disquisition by Layton's questioning
him about "Peddar's Clearings."

"Yes, sir," said he, "it is con-siderable of a tract, and lies between
two rivers. There 's the lines for a new city--Pentacolis--laid down
there; and the chief town, 'Measles,' is a thriving location. My cousin,
O. B. Quackinboss, did n't stump out less than eighty dollars an acre
for his clearin', and there's better land than his there."

"So far as appears, then, this is an extensive property which is spoken
of here?"

"Well, sir, I expect it's a matter of half a million of dollars now,
though, mayhap, twenty thousand bought it fifteen or sixteen years
back."

"I wonder what steps my father took in this affair? I 'll be very
curious to know if he interested himself in the matter; for, with
his indolent habits, it is just as likely that he never moved in it
further."

"A 'tarnal shame, then, for him, sir, when it was for a child left alone
and friendless in the world; and I'm thinkin' indolence ain't the name
to give it."

For a moment an angry impulse to reply stirred Layton's blood, but he
refrained, and said nothing.

"I'll go further," resumed the American, "and I'll say that if your
father did neglect this duty, you are bound to look to it. Ay, sir,
there ain't no ways in this world of getting out of what we owe one to
another. We are most of us ready enough to be 'generous,' but few take
trouble to be 'just.'"

"I believe you are right," said Layton, reflectively.

"I know it, sir,--I know it," said the other, resolutely. "There's a
sort of flattery in doing something more than we are obliged to do which
never comes of doing what is strict fair. Ay," added he, after a moment,
"and I 've seen a man who 'd jump into the sea to save a fellow-creature
as would n't give a cent to a starving beggar on dry land."

"I 'll certainly inquire after this claim, and you 'll help me,
Quackinboss?"

"Yes, sir; and there ain't no honester man in all the States to deal
with than Harvey Winthrop. I was with him the day he cowhided Senator
Jared Boles, of Massachusetts, and when I observed, 'I think you have
given him enough,' he said, 'Well, sir, though I have n't the honor of
knowing _you_, if that be your conscientious opinion, I 'll abstain from
going further;' and he did, and we went into the bar together, and had a
mint julep."

"The trait is worth remembering," said Layton, dryly. "Here's another
reason to cross the Atlantic," cried he, with something of his former
energy of voice and look.

"Here's a great cause to sustain and a problem to work out Shall we go
at once?"

"There's the 'Asia' to sail on Wednesday, and I 'm ready," said
Quackinboss, calmly.

"Wednesday be it, then," cried Layton, with a gayety that showed how the
mere prospect of activity and exertion had already cheered him.



CHAPTER XXX. TWIST, TROVER, AND CO.

They whose notions of a banker are formed on such home models as Overend
and Gurney and Drummond, and the other princes o' that ilk, will be
probably not a little shocked to learn by what inferior dignitaries the
great craft is represented abroad; your English banker in a foreign
city being the most extraordinary agglomeration of all trades it is well
possible to conceive, combining within himself very commonly the duties
of house-agent, wine-merchant, picture-dealer, curiosity-vendor, with
agencies for the sale of india-rubber shoes, Cuban cigars, and cod-liver
oil. He will, at a moment's notice, start you with a whole establishment
from kitchen to stable, and, equally ready to do the honors of this
world or the next, he will present you in society, or embalm you with
every careful direction for your conveyance "homeward." Well judging
that in dealing thus broadly with mankind a variety of tastes and
opinions must be consulted, they usually hunt in couples, one doing the
serious, the other taking the light comedy parts. The one is the grave,
calm, sensible man, with his prudent reserves and his cautious scruples;
the other, a careless dog, who only "discounts" out of fun, and
charges you "commission" in mere pastime and lightness of heart.

Imagine the heavy father and the light rake of comedy conspiring for
some common object, and you have them. Probably the division-of-labor
science never had a happier illustration than is presented by their
agreement. Who, I ask you,--who can escape the double net thus stretched
for his capture? Whatever your taste or temperament, you must surely be
approachable by one or the other of these.

What Trover cannot, Twist will be certain to accomplish; where Twist
fails, there Trover is sovereign. "Ah, you 'll have to ask _my_ partner
about that," is the stereotyped saying of each. It was thus these kings
of Brentford sniffed at the same nosegay, the world, and, sooth to say,
to their manifest self-satisfaction and profit. If the compact worked
well for all the purposes of catching clients, it was more admirable
still in the difficult task of avoiding them. Strange and exceptional
must his station in life be to whom the secret intelligences of Twist
or Trover could not apply. Were we about to dwell on these gentlemen and
their characteristics, we might advert to the curious fact that though
their common system worked so smoothly and successfully, they each
maintained for the other the most disparaging opinion, Twist deeming
Trover a light, thoughtless, inconsiderate creature, Trover returning
the compliment by regarding his partner as a bigoted, low-minded, vulgar
sort of fellow, useful behind the desk, but with no range of speculation
or enterprise about him.

Our present scene is laid at Mr. Trover's villa near Florence. It stands
on the sunny slope of Fiezole, and with a lovely landscape of the Val d'
Arno at its feet. O ye gentles, who love to live at ease, to inhale an
air odorous with the jasmine and the orange-flower,--to gaze on scenes
more beautiful than Claude ever painted,--to enjoy days of cloudless
brightness, and nights gorgeous in starry brilliancy, why do ye not all
come and live at Fiezole? Mr. Trover's villa is now to let, though this
announcement is not inserted as an advertisement. There was a rumor
that it was once Boccaccio's villa. Be that as it may, it was a pretty,
coquettish little place, with a long terrace in front, under which ran
an orangery, a sweet, cool, shady retreat in the hot noon-time, with a
gushing little fountain always rippling and hissing among rock-work. The
garden sloped away steeply. It was a sort of wilderness of flowers
and fruit-trees, little cared for or tended, but beautiful in the wild
luxuriance of its varied foliage, and almost oppressive in its wealth
of perfume. Looking over this garden, and beyond it again, catching the
distant domes of Florence, the tall tower of the Palazzo Vecchio, and
the massive block of the Pitti, was a small but well-proportioned room
whose frescos were carried from wall to ceiling by a gentle arch of the
building, in which were now seated three gentlemen over their dessert.
Mr. Trover's guests were our acquaintances Stocmar and Ludlow Paten. The
banker and the "Impresario" were very old friends; they had done "no
end of shrewd things" together. Paten was a new acquaintance. Introduced
however by Stocmar, he was at once admitted to all the intimacy of
his host, and they sat there, in the free indulgence of confidence,
discussing people, characters, events, and probabilities, as three such
men, long case-hardened with the world's trials, well versed in its
wiles, may be supposed to do. Beneath the great broad surface of this
life of ours, with its apparent impulses and motives, there is another
stratum of hard stern realities, in which selfish motives and interested
actions have their sphere. These gentlemen lived entirely in this layer,
and never condescended to allude to what went on elsewhere. If they took
a very disparaging view of life, it was not so much the admiration they
bestowed on knavery as the hearty contempt they entertained for whatever
was generous or trustful. Oh, how they did laugh at the poor "muffs" who
believed in anything or any one! To listen to them was to declare that
there was not a good trait in the heart, nor an honest sentiment which
had not its origin in folly. And the stupid dog who paid his father's
debts, and the idiot that beggared himself to portion his sisters, and
the wretched creature who was ruined by giving security for his friend,
all figured in a category despised and ridiculed!

"Were they happy in this theory?" you ask, perhaps. It is very hard to
answer the question. They were undoubtedly what is called "jolly;" they
laughed much, and seemed marvellously free from care and anxiety.

"And so, Trover," said Stocmar, as he sipped his claret
luxuriously,--"and so you tell me this is a bad season with you out
here,--few travellers, no residents, and little stirring in the way of
discounts and circular notes."

"Wretched! miserable!" cried the banker. "The people who come out from
England nowadays are mostly small twenty-pounders, looking sharp to the
exchanges, and watching the quotations like money-brokers."

"Where are the fast men all gone to? That is a problem puzzles me much,"
said Paten.

[Illustration: 330]

"They have gone over to Puseyism, and stained glass, and Saint
Winifred's shin-bones, and early Christian art," broke in Stocmar. "I
know them well, and their velvet paletots cut in the mediaeval fashion,
and their hair cut straight over the forehead."

"How slow a place must become with such fellows!" sighed Paten.

"The women are mostly pretty; they dress with a sort of quaint coquetry
very attractive, and they have a kind of demure slyness about them, with
a fascination all its own."

"We have the exact type you describe here at this moment now," said the
banker. "She never goes into society, but steals furtively about
the galleries, making copies of old Giottos, and such-like, and even
penetrating into the monasteries with a special permission from the
Cardinal-Secretary to examine the frescos."

"Is she young? Is she pretty?" asked Stocmar.

"She is both, and a widow, I believe,--at least, her letters come to the
bank addressed Mrs. Penthony Morris."

Paten started, but a slight kick under the table from Stoc-mar recalled
him to caution and self-possession.

"Tell us more about her, Trover; all that you know, in fact."

"Five words will suffice for that. She lives here with the family of
a certain Sir William Heathcote, and apparently exercises no small
influence amongst them; at least, the tradespeople tell me they are
referred to her for everything, and all the letters we get about
transfers of stock, and suchlike, are in _her_ hand."

"You have met her, and spoken with her, I suppose?" asked Stocmar.

"Only once. I waited upon her, at her request, to confer with her
about her daughter, whom she had some intention of placing at the
Conservatoire at Milan, as a preparation for the stage, and some one had
told her that I knew all the details necessary."

"Have you seen the girl?"

"Yes, and heard her sing. Frightened enough she was, poor thing; but
she has a voice like Sontag's, just a sort of mellow, rich tone they run
upon just now, and with a compass equal to Malibran's."

"And her look?"

"Strikingly handsome. She is very young; her mother says nigh sixteen,
but I should guess her at under fifteen certainly. I thought at once
of writing to _you_, Stocmar, when I saw her. I know how eagerly _you_
snatch up such a chance as this; but as you were on your way out, I
deferred to mention her till you came."

"And what counsel did you give her, Trover?"

"I said, 'By all means devote her to the Opera. It is to women, in our
age, what the career of politics is to men, the only royal road to high
ambition.'"

"That is what I tell all my young prime donne," said Stocmar. "I never
fail to remind them that any débutante may live to be a duchess."

"And they believe you?" asked Paten.

"To be sure they do. Why, man, there is an atmosphere of credulity about
a theatre that makes one credit anything, except what is palpably true.
Every manager fancies he is making a fortune; every tenor imagines he is
to marry a princess; and every fiddler in the orchestra firmly believes
in the time when a breathless audience will be listening to _his_
'solo.'"

"I wish, with all my heart, I was on the stage, then," exclaimed Paten.
"I should certainly like to imbibe some of this sanguine spirit."

"You are too old a dram-drinker, Ludlow, to be intoxicated with such
light tipple," said Stocmar. "You have tasted of the real 'tap.'"

"That have I," said he, with a sigh that told how intensely he felt the
words; and then, as if to overcome the sad impression, he asked, "And
the girl, is she to take to the stage?"

"I believe Stocmar will have to decide the point; at least, I told her
mother that he was on his way to Italy, and that his opinion on such a
matter might be deemed final. Our friend here," continued Trover, as he
pointed laughingly to Stocmar,--"our friend here buys up these budding
celebrities just as Anderson would a yearling colt, and, like him too,
would reckon himself well paid if one succeed in twenty."

"Ay, one in fifty, Trover," broke in Stocmar. "It is quite true. Many a
stone does not pay for the cutting; but as we always get the lot cheap,
we can afford to stand the risk."

"She's a strange sort of woman, this Mrs. Morris," said Trover, after
a pause, "for she seems hesitating between the Conservatoire and a
convent."

"Is the girl a Catholic?"

"No; but her mother appears to consider that as a minor circumstance;
in fact, she strikes me as one of those people who, when they determine
to go to a place, are certain to cut out a road for themselves."

"That she is!" exclaimed Paten.

"Oh, then, you are acquainted with her?" cried Trover.

"No, no," said he, hurriedly. "I was merely judging from your
description of her. Such a woman as you have pictured I can imagine,
just as if I had known her all my life."

"I should like to see both mother and daughter," broke in Stocmar.

"I fancy she will have no objection; at least, she said to me, 'You
will not fail to inform me of your friend Mr. Stocmar's arrival here;'
and I promised as much."

"Well, you must arrange our meeting speedily, Trover, for I mean to be
at Naples next week, at Barcelona and Madrid the week after. The worthy
Public, for whose pleasure I provide, will, above all things, have
novelty,--excellence, if you can, but novelty must be procured them."

"Leave it to me, and you shall have an interview tomorrow or the day
after."

A strange telegraphic intelligence seemed to pass from Paten to the
manager, for Stocmar quickly said, "By the way, don't drop any hint that
Paten is with me; he has n't got the best of reputations behind the
scenes, and it would, perhaps, mar all our arrangements to mention him."

Trover put a finger to his lips in sign of secrecy, and said, "You
are right there. She repeatedly questioned me on the score of your own
morality, Stocmar, expressing great misgivings about theatrical folk
generally."

"Take my word for it, then, the lady is a fast one herself," said
Stocmar; "for, like the virtuous Pangloss, she knows what wickedness
is."

"It is deuced hard to say what she is," broke in Trover. "My partner,
Twist, declares she must have been a stockbroker or a notary public.
She knows the whole share-list of Europe, and can quote you the 'price
current' of every security in the Old World or the New; not to say that
she is deeply versed in all the wily relations between the course of
politics and the exchanges, and can surmise, to a nicety, how every
spoken word of a minister can react upon the money-market."

"She cannot have much to do with such interests, I take it," said Paten,
in assumed indifference.

"Not upon her own account, certainly," replied Trover; "but such is
her influence over this old Baronet, that she persuades him to sell out
here, and buy in there, just as the mood inclines her."

"And is he so very rich?" asked Stocmar.

"Twist thinks not; he suspects that the money all belongs to a certain
Miss Leslie, the ward of Sir William, but who came of age a short time
back."

"Now, what may her fortune be?" said Stocmar, in a careless tone; "in
round numbers, I mean, and not caring for a few thousands more or less."

"I have no means of knowing. I can only guess it must be very large. It
was only on Tuesday last she bought in about seven-and-twenty thousand
'Arkansas New Bonds,' and we have an order this morning to transfer
thirty-two thousand more into Illinois 'Sevens.'"

"All going to America!" cried Paten. "Why does she select investment
there?"

"That's the widow's doing. She says that the Old World is going in for
a grand smash. That Louis Napoleon will soon have to throw off the
mask, and either avow himself the head of the democracy, or brave its
vengeance, and that either declaration will be the signal for a great
war. Then she assumes that Austria, pushed hard for means to carry on
the struggle, will lay hands on the Church property of the empire, and
in this way outrage all the nobles whose families were pensioned off on
these resources, thus of necessity throwing herself on the side of
the people. In a word, she looks for revolution, convulsion, and a
wide-spread ruin, and says the Yankees are the only people who will
escape. I know little or nothing of such matters myself, but she sent
Twist home t' other day in such a state of alarm that he telegraphed to
Turin to transfer all his 'Sardinians' into 'New Yorkers,' and has been
seriously thinking of establishing himself in Broadway."

"I wish she 'd favor me with her views about theatrical property," said
Stocmar, with a half sneer, "and what is to become of the Grand Opera in
the grand smash."

"Ask her, and she'll tell you," cried Trover. "You'll never pose her
with a difficulty; she 'll give you a plan for paying off the national
debt, tell you how to recruit the finances of India, conduct the Chinese
war, or oppose French intrigues in Turkey, while she stitches away at
her Berlin work. I give you my word, while she was finishing off the end
of an elephant's snout in brown worsted, t' other day, she restored the
Murats to Naples, gave Sicily to Russia, and sent the Pope, as head of a
convict establishment, to Cayenne."

"Is she a little touched in the upper story?" asked Stoc-mar, laying his
finger on his forehead.

"Twist says not Twist calls her the wiliest serpent he ever saw, but not
mad."

"And now a word about the daughter," cried Stocmar. "What's the girl
like?"

"Pretty,--very pretty; long eyelashes, very regular features, a
beautiful figure; and the richest auburn hair I ever saw, but, with all
that, none of the mother's _esprit_,--no smartness, no brilliancy. In
fact, I should call her a regular mope."

"She is very young, remember," broke in Stocmar.

"That's true; but with such a clever mother, if she really had any
smartness, it would certainly show itself. Now, it is not only that
she displays no evidence of superior mind, but she wears an air of
depression and melancholy that seems like a sort of confession of
her own insufficiency, so Twist says, and Twist is very shrewd as to
character."

"I can answer for it, he's devilish close-fisted as to money," said
Stocmar, laughing.

"I remember," chimed in Trover; "he told me that you came into the bank
with such a swaggering air, and had such a profusion of gold chains,
rings, and watch-trinkets, that he set you down for one of the swell-mob
out on a tour."

"Civil, certainly," said Stocmar, "but as little flattering to his own
perspicuity as to myself. But I'll never forget the paternal tone in
which he whispered me afterwards, 'Whenever you want a discount, Mr.
Stocmar, from a stranger,--an utter stranger,--don't wear an opal pin
set in brilliants; it don't do, I assure you it don't'" Stocmar gave
such a close imitation of the worthy banker's voice and utterance, that
his partner laughed heartily.

"Does he ever give a dinner, Trover?" asked Stocmar.

"Oh yes, he gives one every quarter. Our graver clients, who would not
venture to come up here, dine with him, and he treats them to sirloins
and saddles, with Gordon's sherry and a very fruity port, made
especially, I believe, for men with good balances to their names."

"I should like to be present at one of these festivals." "You have no
chance, Stocmar; he'd as soon think of inviting the _corps de ballet_ to
tea. I myself am never admitted to such celebrations."

"What rogues these fellows are, Ludlow!" said Stocmar. "If you and I
were to treat the world in this fashion, what would be said of us! The
real humbugs of this life are the fellows that play the heavy parts."
And with this reflection, whose image was derived from his theatrical
experiences, he arose, to take his coffee on the terrace.



CHAPTER XXXI. IN THE TOILS

Mrs. Morris gave directions that when a gentleman should call to inquire
for her he should be at once introduced, a brief note from Mr. Trover
having apprised her that Mr. Stocmar had just arrived, and would wait
upon her without further delay. There was not in her air or manner the
slightest trait of inquietude or even impatience; as she sat there,
still stitching away at her Berlin elephant, she seemed an emblem of
calm, peaceful contentedness. Her half-mourning, perhaps, sobered
down somewhat the character of her appearance; but these lilac-colored
ribbons harmonized well with her fair skin, and became her much.

With a tact all her own, she had carefully avoided in the arrangement of
her room any of those little artistic effects which, however successful
with the uninitiated, would be certain of a significant appreciation
from one familiar with stage "get up" and all the suggestive accessories
of the playhouse. "No," thought she,--"no half-open miniatures, no
moss-roses in Bohemian glass--not even a camellia--on my work-table for
Mr. Stocmar." Even Lila, her Italian greyhound, was dismissed from
her accustomed cushion on that morning, lest her presence might argue
effect.

She knew well that such men as Stocmar have a sort of instinctive
appreciation of a locality, and she determined he should have the fewest
possible aids to his interpretation of herself. If, at certain moments,
a terrible dread would cross her mind that this man might know all her
history, who she was, and in what events mixed up, she rallied quickly
from these fears by recalling how safe from all discovery she had lived
for several years back. Indeed, personally, she was scarcely known
at all, her early married life having been passed in almost entire
reclusion; while, later on, her few acquaintances were the mere knot of
men in Hawke's intimacy.

There was also another reflection that supplied its consolation: the
Stocmars of this world are a race familiar with secrets; their whole
existence is passed in hearing and treasuring up stories in which honor,
fame, and all future happiness are often involved; they are a sort of
lay priesthood to the "fast" world, trusted, consulted, and confided in
on all sides. "If he should know me," thought she, "it is only to make a
friend of him, and no danger can come from that quarter." Trover's note
said, "Mr. Stocmar places his services at your feet, too proud if in any
way they can be useful to you;" a mere phrase, after all, which might
mean much or little, as it might be. At the same time she bore in mind
that such men as Stocmar were as little addicted to rash pledges as
Cabinet ministers. Too much harassed and worried by solicitation, they
usually screened themselves in polite generalities, and never incurred
the embarrassment of promising anything, so that, thus viewed, perhaps,
he might be supposed as well-intentioned towards her.

Let us for a moment--a mere moment--turn to Stocmar himself, as he
walked up and down a short garden alley of Trover's garden with Paten by
his side.

"Above all things, remember, Stocmar, believe nothing she tells you, if
she only tell it earnestly. Any little truth she utters will drop out
unconsciously, never with asseveration."

"I'm prepared for that," replied he, curtly.

"She 'll try it on, too, with fifty little feminine tricks and graces;
and although you may fancy you know the whole armory, _pardi!_ she has
weapons you never dreamed of."

"Possibly," was the only rejoinder.

"Once for all," said Paten,--and there was impatience in his tone,--"I
tell you she is a greater actress than any of your tragedy queens behind
the footlights."

"Don't you know what Talleyrand said to the Emperor, Ludlow? 'I think
your Majesty may safely rely upon me for the rogueries.'"

Paten shook his head dissentingly; he was very far from feeling the
combat an equal one.

Stocmar, however, reminded him that his visit was to be a mere
reconnaissance of the enemy, which under no circumstances was to become
a battle. "I am about to wait upon her with reference to a daughter she
has some thoughts of devoting to the stage,--_voilà tout_ I never heard
of _you_ in my life,--never heard of for,--know absolutely nothing of
her history, save by that line in the 'Times' newspaper some six weeks
ago, which recorded the death of Captain Penthony Morris, by fever, in
Upper India."

"That will do; keep to that," cried Paten more cheerfully, as he shook
his friend's hand and said good-bye.

Your shrewd men of the world seldom like to be told that any
circumstance can arise which may put their acuteness to the test; they
rather like to believe themselves always prepared for every call upon
their astuteness. Stocmar therefore set out in a half-irritation, which
it took the three miles of his drive to subdue.

"Mrs. Penthony Morris at home?" asked he of the discreet-looking English
servant whom Sir William's home prejudices justly preferred to the
mongrel and moustachioed domestics of native breed.

"At home for Mr. Stocmar, sir," said the man, half inquiring, as he
bowed deferentially, and then led the way upstairs.

When Stocmar entered the room, he was somewhat disappointed. Whether
it was that he expected to see something more stately, haughty, and
majestic, like Mrs. Siddons herself, or that he counted upon being
received with a certain show of warmth and welcome, but the lady before
him was slight, almost girlish in figure, blushed a little when he
addressed her, and, indeed, seemed to feel the meeting as awkward a
thing as need be.

"I have to thank you very gratefully, sir," began she, "for
condescending to spare me a small portion of time so valuable as yours.
Mr. Trover says your stay here will be very brief."

"Saturday, if I must, Friday, if I can, will be the limit, madam," said
he, coldly.

"Indeed!" exclaimed she. "I was scarcely prepared for so short a visit;
but I am aware how manifold must be your engagements."

"Yes, madam. Even these seasons, which to the world are times of
recreation and amusement, are, in reality, to us periods of active
business occupation. Only yesterday I heard a barytone before breakfast,
listened to the grand chorus in the 'Huguenots' in my bath, while I
decided on the merits of a ballerina as I sat under the hands of my
barber."

"And, I venture to say, liked it all," said she, with an outbreak of
frank enjoyment in his description.

"Upon my life, I believe you are right," said he. "One gets a zest for a
pursuit till everything else appears valueless save the one object; and,
for my own part, I acknowledge I have the same pride in the success of
my new tenor or my prima donna, as though I had my share in the gifts
which secure it."

"I can fancy all that," said she, in a low, soft voice. And then,
stealing a look of half admiration at her visitor, she dropped her eyes
again suddenly, with a slight show of confusion.

"I assure you," continued he, with warmth, "the season I brought out
Cianchettoni, whenever he sang a little huskily I used to tell my
friends I was suffering with a sore-throat."

"What a deal of sympathy it betrays in your nature!" said she, with a
bewitching smile. "And talking of sore-throats, don't sit there in the
draught, but take this chair, here." And she pointed to one at her side.

As Stocmar obeyed, he was struck by the beauty of her profile. It was
singularly regular, and more youthful in expression than her full face
He was so conscious of having looked at her admiringly that he hastened
to cover the awkwardness of the moment by plunging at once into the
question of business. "Trover has informed me, madam," began he, "as to
the circumstances in which my very humble services can be made available
to you. He tells me that you have a daughter--"

"Not a daughter, sir," interrupted she, in a low, confidential voice, "a
niece,--the daughter of a sister now no more."

The agitation the words cost her increased Stocmar's confusion, as
though he had evidently opened a subject of family affliction. Yes, her
handkerchief was to her eyes, and her shoulders heaved convulsively.
"Mr. Stocmar," said she, with an effort which seemed to cost her deeply,
"though we meet for the first time, I am no stranger to your character.
I know your generosity, and your high sense of honor. I am well aware
how persons of the highest station are accustomed to confide in your
integrity, and in that secrecy which is the greatest test of integrity.
I, a poor friendless woman, have no claim to prefer to your regard,
except in the story of my misfortunes, and which, in compassion to
myself, I will spare you. If, however, you are willing to befriend me
on trust,--that is, on the faith that I am one not undeserving of your
generosity, and entitled at some future day to justify my appeal to
it,--if, I say, you be ready and willing for this, say so, and relieve
my intense anxiety; or if--"

"Madam!" broke he in, warmly, "do not agitate yourself any more. I
pledge myself to be your friend."

With a bound she started from her seat, and, seizing his hand, pressed
it to her lips, and then, as though overcome by the boldness of the
action, she covered her face and sobbed bitterly. If Stocmar muttered
some unmeaning commonplaces of comfort and consolation, he was in
reality far more engrossed by contemplating a foot and ankle of
matchless beauty, and which, in a moment so unguarded, had become
accidentally exposed to view.

"I am, then, to regard you as my friend?" said she, trying to smile
through her tears, while she bent on him a look of softest meaning. She
did not, however, prolong a situation so critical, but at once, and
with an impetuosity that bespoke her intense anxiety, burst out into
the story of her actual calamities. Never was there a narrative
more difficult to follow; broken at one moment by bursts of sorrow,
heart-rending regrets, or scarce less poignant expressions of a
resignation that savored of despair. There had been something
very dreadful, and somebody had been terribly cruel, and the
world--cold-hearted and unkind as it is--had been even unkinder than
usual. And then she was too proud to stoop to this or accept that "You
surely would not have wished me to?" cried she, looking into his
eyes very meltingly. And then there was a loss of fortune somehow and
somewhere; a story within a story, like a Chinese puzzle. And there
was more cruelty from the world, and more courage on her part; and then
there were years of such suffering,--years that had so changed her. "Ah!
Mr. Stocmar, you would n't know me if you had seen me in those days!"
Then there came another bewitching glance from beneath her long
eyelashes, as with a half-sigh she said, "You now know it all, and why
my poor Clara must adopt the stage, for I have concealed nothing from
you,--nothing!"

"I am to conclude, then, madam," said he, "that the young lady herself
has chosen this career?"

"Nothing of the kind, my dear Mr. Stocmar. I don't think she ever read
a play in her life; she has certainly never seen one. Of the stage, and
its ambitions and triumphs, she has not the very vaguest notion, nor do
I believe, if she had, would anything in the world induce her to adopt
it."

"This is very strange; I am afraid I scarcely understand you," broke he
in.

"Very probably not, sir; but I will endeavor to explain my meaning. From
the circumstances I narrated to you awhile ago, and from others which
it is unnecessary for me to enter upon, I have arrived at the conclusion
that Clara and I must separate. She has reached an age in which either
her admissions or her inquiries might prove compromising. My object
would therefore be to part with her in such a manner as might exclude
our meeting again, and my plan was to enter her as a pupil at the
Conservatoire, either at Bologna or Milan, having first selected some
one who would assume the office of her guardian, as it were, replacing
me in my authority over her. If her talents and acquirements were such
as to suit the stage, I trusted to the effect of time and the influence
of companionship to reconcile her to the project."

"And may I ask, madam, have you selected the person to whom this
precious treasure is to be confided?--the guardian, I mean."

"I have seen him and spoken with him, sir, but have not yet asked his
acceptance of the trust."

"Shall I be deemed indiscreet if I inquire his name?"

"By no means, sir. He is a gentleman of well-known character and repute,
and he is called--Mr. Stocmar."

"Surely, madam, you cannot mean me?" cried he, with a start.

"No other, sir. Had I the whole range of mankind to choose from, you
would be the man; you embrace within yourself all the conditions the
project requires; you possess all the special knowledge of the subject;
you are a man of the world fully competent to decide what should be
done, and how; you have the character of being one no stranger to
generous motives, and you can combine a noble action with, of course, a
very inadequate but still some personal advantage. This young lady
will, in short, be yours; and if her successes can be inferred from her
abilities, the bribe is not despicable."

"Let us be explicit and clear," said Stocmar, drawing his chair closer
to her, and talking in a dry, businesslike tone. "You mean to constitute
me as the sole guide and director of this young lady, with full power to
direct her studies, and, so to say, arbitrate for her future in life."

"Exactly," was the calm reply.

"And what am I to give in return, madam? What is to be the price of such
an unlooked-for benefit?"

"Secrecy, sir,--inviolable secrecy,--your solemnly sworn pledge that
the compact between us will never be divulged to any, even your dearest
friend. When Clara leaves me, you will bind yourself that she is never
to be traced to me; that no clew shall ever be found to connect us one
with the other. With another name who is to know her?"

Stocmar gazed steadfastly at her. Was it that in a moment of
forgetfulness she had suffered herself to speak too frankly, for her
features had now assumed a look of almost sternness, the very opposite
to their expression hitherto.

"And can you part with your niece so easily as this, madam?" asked he.

"She is not my niece, sir," broke she in, with impetuosity; "we are on
honor here, and so I tell you she is nothing--less than nothing--to
me. An unhappy event--a terrible calamity--bound up our lot for years
together. It is a compact we are each weary of, and I have long told
her that I only await the arrival of her guardian to relieve myself of a
charge which brings no pleasure to either of us."

"You have given me a right to be very candid with you, madam," said
Stocmar. "May I adventure so far as to ask what necessity there can
possibly exist for such a separation as this you now contemplate?"

"You are evidently resolved, sir, to avail yourself of your privilege,"
said she, with a slight irritation of manner; "but when people incur a
debt, they must compound for being dunned. You desire to know why I wish
to part with this girl? I will tell you. I mean to cutoff all connection
with the past; and she belongs to it. I mean to carry with me no
memories of _that_ time; and she is one of them. I mean to disassociate
myself from whatever might suggest a gloomy retrospect; and this her
presence does continually. Perhaps, too, I have other plans,--plans so
personal that your good breeding and good taste would not permit you to
penetrate."

Though the sarcasm in which these last words were uttered was of the
faintest, Stocmar felt it, and blushed slightly as he said: "You do me
but justice, madam. I would not presume so far! Now, as to the question
itself," said he, after a pause, "it is one requiring some time for
thought and reflection."

"Which is what it does not admit of, sir," broke she in. "It was on
Mr. Trover's assurance that you were one of those who at once can trust
themselves to say 'I will,' or 'I will not,' that I determined to see
you. If the suddenness of the demand be the occasion of any momentary
inconvenience as to the expense, I ought to mention that she is entitled
to a few hundred pounds,--less, I think, than five,--which, of course,
could be forthcoming."

"A small consideration, certainly, madam," said he, bowing, "but not to
be overlooked." He arose and walked the room, as though deep in
thought; at last, halting before her chair, and fixing a steady but not
disrespectful gaze on her, he said, "I have but one difficulty in this
affair, madam, but yet it is one which I know not how to surmount."

"State it, sir," said she, calmly.

"It is this, madam: in the most unhappy newness of our acquaintance I
am ignorant of many things which, however anxious to know, I have
no distinct right to ask, so that I stand between the perils of my
ignorance and the greater perils of possible presumption."

"I declare to you frankly, sir, I cannot guess to what you allude. If I
only surmised what these matters were, I might possibly anticipate your
desire to hear them."

"May I dare, then, to be more explicit?" asked he, half timidly.

"It is for you, sir, to decide upon that," said she, with some
haughtiness.

"Well, madam," said he, boldly, "I want to know are you a widow?"

"Yes, sir," said she, with a calm composure.

"Am I, then, to believe that you can act free and uncontrolled, without
fear of any dictation or interference from others?"

"Of course, sir."

"I mean, in short, madam, that none can gainsay any rights you exercise,
or revoke any acts you execute?"

"Really, sir, I cannot fancy any other condition of existence, except it
be to persons confined in an asylum."

"Nay, madam, you are wrong there," said he, smiling; "the life of every
one is a network of obligations and ties, not a whit the less binding
that they are not engrossed on parchment, and attested by three
witnesses; liberty to do this, or to omit that, having always some
penalty as a consequence."

"Oh, sir, spare me these beautiful moralizings, which only confuse my
poor weak woman's head, and just say how they address themselves to me."

"Thus far, madam: that your right over the young lady cannot be
contested nor shared?"

"Certainly not It is with me to decide for her."

"When, with your permission, I have seen her and spoken with her, if
I find that no obstacle presents itself, why then, madam, I accept the
charge--"

"And are her guardian," broke she in. "Remember, it is in that character
that you assume your right over her. I need not tell a person of such
tact as yours how necessary it will be to reply cautiously and guardedly
to all inquiries, from whatever quarter coming, nor how prudent it will
be to take her away at once from this."

"I will make arrangements this very day. I will telegraph to Milan at
once," said he.

"Oh, dear!" sighed she, "what a moment of relief is this, after such a
long, long period of care and anxiety!"

The great sense of relief implied in these words scarcely seemed to have
extended itself to Mr. Stocmar, who walked up and down the room in a
state of the deepest preoccupation.

"I wish sincerely," said he, half in soliloquy,--"I wish sincerely
we had a little more time for deliberation here; that we were not so
hurried; that, in short, we had leisure to examine this project more
fully, and at length."

"My dear Mr. Stocmar," said she, blandly, looking up from the embroidery
that she had just resumed, "life is not a very fascinating thing, taken
at its best; but what a dreary affair it would be if one were to stop
every instant and canvass every possible or impossible eventuality
of the morrow. Do what we will, how plain is it that we can prejudge
nothing, foresee nothing!"

"Reasonable precautions, madam, are surely permissible. I was just
imagining to myself what my position would be if, when this young
lady had developed great dramatic ability and every requirement for
theatrical success, some relative--some fiftieth cousin if you like, but
some one with claim of kindred--should step forward and demand her. What
becomes of all my rights in such a case?"

"Let me put another issue, sir. Let me suppose somebody arriving at
Dover or Folkestone, calling himself Charles Stuart, and averring that,
as the legitimate descendant of that House, he was the rightful King of
England. Do you really believe that her Majesty would immediately
place Windsor at his disposal; or don't you sincerely suppose that the
complicated question would be solved by the nearest policeman?"

"But she might marry, madam?"

"With her guardian's consent, of course," said she, with a demure
coquetry of look and manner. "I trust she has been too well brought up,
Mr. Stocmar, to make any risk of disobedience possible."

"Yes, yes," muttered he, half impatiently, "it's all very well to talk
of guardians' consent; but so long as she can say, 'How did you become
my guardian? What authority made you such? When, where, and by whom
conferred?'--"

"My dear Mr. Stocmar, your ingenuity has conjured up an Equity lawyer
instead of an artless girl not sixteen years of age! Do, pray, explain
to me how, with a mind so prone to anticipate difficulties, and so rife
to coin objections,--how, in the name of all that is wonderful, do you
ever get through the immense mass of complicated affairs your theatrical
life must present? If, before you engage a prima donna, you are obliged
to trace her parentage through three generations back, to scrutinize her
baptismal registry and her mother's marriage certificate, all I can say
is that a prime minister's duties must be light holiday work compared
with the cares of _your_ lot."

"My investigations are not carried exactly so far as you have depicted
them," said he, good-humoredly; "but, surely, I 'm not too exacting if I
say I should like some guarantee."

"I beg your pardon, Mr. Stocmar," said she, interrupting him with a
laugh, "but may I ask if you are married?"

"No, madam. I am a bachelor."

"You probably intend, however, at some future time to change your state.
I'm certain you don't mean to pass all your life in the egotism of
celibacy."

"Possibly not, madam. I will not say that I am beyond the age of being
fascinated or being foolish."

"Just what I mean, sir. Well, surely, in such a contingency, you 'd not
require the lady to give you what you have just called a guarantee that
she 'd not run away from you?"

"My trust in her would be that guarantee, madam."

"Extend the same benevolent sentiment to me, sir. _Trust_ me. I ask for
no more." And she said this with a witchery of look and manner that made
Mr. Stocmar feel very happy and very miserable, twice over, within the
space of a single minute.

Poor Mr. Stocmar, what has become of all your caution, all your craft,
and all the counsels so lately given you? Where are they now? Where is
that armor of distrust in which you were to resist the barbed arrow of
the enchantress? Trust her! It was not to be thought of, and yet it
was exactly the very thing to be done, in spite of all thought and in
defiance of all reason.

And so the "Stocmar" three-decker struck her flag, and the ensign of the
fast frigate floated from her masthead!



CHAPTER XXXII. A DRIVE ROUND THE CASCINE AT FLORENCE

"Here's another note for you, Stocmar," said Paten, half peevishly, as
they both sat at breakfast at the Hôtel d'Italie, and the waiter entered
with a letter. "That's the third from her this morning."

"The second,--only the second, on honor," said he, breaking the seal,
and running his eye over the contents. "It seems she cannot see me
to-day. The Heathcote family are all in grief and confusion; some smash
in America has involved them in heavy loss. Trover, you may remember,
was in a fright about it last night. She'll meet me, however, at the
masked ball to-night, where we can confer together. She's to steal out
unperceived, and I'm to recognize her by a yellow domino with a little
tricolored cross on the sleeve. Don't be jealous, Ludlow, though it does
look suspicious."

"Jealous! I should think not," said the other, insolently.

"Come, come, you 'll not pretend to say she is n't worth it, Ludlow, nor
you 'll not affect to be indifferent to her."

"I wish to Heaven I _was_ indifferent to her; next to having never met
her, it would be the best thing I know of," said he, rising, and walking
the room with hurried steps. "I tell you, Stocmar, if ever there was an
evil destiny, I believe that woman to be mine. I don't think I love her,
I cannot say to my own heart that I do, and yet there she is, mistress
of my fate, to make me or mar me, just as she pleases."

"Which means, simply, that you are madly in love with her," said
Stocmar.

"No such thing; I 'd do far more to injure than to serve her this
minute. If I never closed my eyes last night, it was plotting how to
overreach her,--how I should wreck her whole fortune in life, and leave
her as destitute as I am myself."

"The sentiment is certainly amiable," said Stocmar, smiling.

"I make no pretence to generosity about her," said Paten, sternly; "nor
is it between men like you and myself fine sentiments are bandied."

"Fine sentiments are one thing, master, an unreasonable antipathy is
another," said Stocmar. "And it would certainly be too hard if we were
to pursue with our hatred every woman that could not love us."

"She _did_ love me once,--at least, she said so," broke in Paten.

"Be grateful, therefore, for the past. I know I'd be very much her
debtor for any show of present tenderness, and give it under my hand
never to bear the slightest malice whenever it pleased her to change her
mind."

"By Heaven! Stocmar," cried Paten, passionately, "I begin to believe you
have been playing me false all this time, telling her all about me, and
only thinking of how to advance your own interests with her."

"You wrong me egregiously, then," said Stocmar, calmly. "I am ready to
pledge you my word of honor that I never uttered your name, nor made a
single allusion to you in any way. Will that satisfy you?"

"It ought," muttered he, gloomily; "but suspicions and distrusts spring
up in a mind like mine just as weeds do in a rank soil. Don't be angry
with me, old fellow."

"I 'm not angry with you, Ludlow, except in so far as you wrong
yourself. Why, my dear boy, the pursuit of a foolish spite is like going
after a bad debt. All the mischief you could possibly wish this poor
woman could never repay _you_."

"How can _you_ know that without feeling as I feel?" retorted he,
bitterly. "If I were to show you her letters," began he; and then, as
if ashamed of his ignoble menace, he stopped and was silent.

"Why not think seriously of this heiress she speaks of? I saw her
yesterday as she came back from riding; her carriage was awaiting her at
the Piazza del Popolo, and there was actually a little crowd gathered to
see her alight."

"Is she so handsome, then?" asked he, half listlessly.

"She is beautiful; I doubt if I ever saw as lovely a face or as
graceful a figure."

"I 'll wager my head on't, Loo is handsomer; I 'll engage to thrust my
hand into the fire if Loo's foot is not infinitely more beautiful."

"She has a wonderfully handsome foot, indeed," muttered Stocmar.

"And so you have seen it," said Paten, sarcastically. "I wish you 'd be
frank with me, and say how far the flirtation went between you."

"Not half so far as I wished it, my boy. That's all the satisfaction you
'll get from me."

This was said with a certain irritation of manner that for a while
imposed silence upon each.

"Have you got a cheroot?" asked Paten, after a while; and the other
flung his cigar-case across the table without speaking.

"I ordered that fellow in Geneva to send me two thousand," said Paten,
laughing; "but I begin to suspect he had exactly as many reasons for
not executing the order."

"Marry that girl, Ludlow, and you 'll get your 'bacco, I promise you,"
said Stocmar, gayly.

"That's all easy talking, my good fellow, but these things require time,
opportunity, and pursuit. Now, who's to insure me that they 'd not find
out all about _me_ in the mean while? A woman does n't marry a man with
as little solicitation as she waltzes with him, and people in real life
don't contract matrimony as they do in the third act of a comic opera."

"Faith, as regards obstacles, I back the stage to have the worst of
it," broke in Stocmar. "But whose cab is this in such tremendous
haste,--Trover's? And coming up here too? What's in the wind now?"

He had but finished these words when Trover rushed into the room, his
face pale as death, and his lips colorless.

"What's up?--what's the matter, man?" cried Stocmar.

"Ruin's the matter--a general smash in America--all securities
discredited--bills dishonored--and universal failure."

"So much the worse for the Yankees," said Paten, lighting his cigar
coolly.

A look of anger and insufferable contempt was all Trover's reply.

"Are you deep with them?" asked Stocmar, in a whisper to the banker.

"Over head and ears," muttered the other; "we have been discounting
their paper freely all through the winter, till our drawers are
choke-full of their acceptances, not one of which would now realize a
dollar."

"How did the news come? Are you sure of its being authentic?"

"Too sure; it came in a despatch to Mrs. Morris from London. All the
investments she has been making lately for the Heathcotes are clean
swept away; a matter of sixty thousand pounds not worth as many
penny-pieces."

"The fortune of Miss Leslie?" asked Stocmar.

"Yes; she can stand it, I fancy, but it's a heavy blow too."

"Has she heard the news yet?"

"No, nor Sir William either. The widow cautioned me strictly not to say
a word about it. Of course, it will be all over the city in an hour or
so, from other sources."

"What do you mean to do, then?"

"Twist is trying to convert some of our paper into cash, at a heavy
sacrifice. If he succeed, we can stand it; if not, we must bolt
to-night." He paused for a few seconds, and then, in a lower whisper,
said, "Is n't she game, that widow? What do you think she said? 'This
is mere panic, Trover,' said she; 'it's a Yankee roguery, and nothing
more. If I could command a hundred thousand pounds this minute, I 'd
invest every shilling of it in their paper; and if May Leslie will let
me, you 'll see whether I 'll be true to my word.'"

"It's easy enough to play a bold game on one's neighbor's money," said
Stocmar.

"She'd have the same pluck if it were her own, or I mistake her much.
Has _he_ got any disposable cash?" whispered Trover, with a jerk of his
thumb towards Paten.

"Not a sixpence in the world."

"What a situation!" said Trover, in a whisper, trembling with
agitation. "Oh, there's Heathcote's brougham,--stopping here too! See!
that's Mrs. Morris, giving some directions to the servant. She wants to
see you, I'm sure."

Stocmar, making a sign to Trover to keep Paten in conversation, hurried
from the room just in time to meet the footman in the corridor. It was,
as the banker supposed, a request that Mr. Stocmar would favor her
with "one minute" at the door. She lifted her veil as he came up to the
window of the carriage, and in her sweetest of accents said,--

[Illustration: 358]

"Can you take a turn with me? I want to speak to you."

He was speedily beside her; and away they drove, the coachman having
received orders to make one turn of the Cascine, and back to the hotel.

"I'm deep in affairs this morning, my dear Mr. Stocmar," began she, as
they drove rapidly along, "and have to bespeak your kind aid to
befriend me. You have not seen Clara yet, and consequently are unable
to pronounce upon her merits in any way, but events haye occurred which
require that she should be immediately provided for. Could you, by any
possibility, assume the charge of her to-day,--this evening? I mean, so
far as to convey her to Milan, and place her at the Conservatoire."

"But, my dear Mrs. Morris, there is an arrangement to be
fulfilled,--there is a preliminary to be settled. No young ladies are
received there without certain stipulations made and complied with."

"All have been provided for; she is admitted as the ward of Mr.
Stocmar. Here is the document, and here the amount of the first
half-year's pension."

"'Clara Stocmar,'" read he. "Well, I must say, madam, this is going
rather far."

"You shall not be ashamed of your niece, sir," said she, "or else I
mistake greatly your feeling for her aunt." Oh! Mr. Stocmar, how is
it that all your behind-scene experiences have not hardened you against
such a glance as that which has now set your heart a-beating within that
embroidered waistcoat? "My dear Mr. Stocmar," she went on, "if the world
has taught me any lesson, it has been to know, by an instinct that never
deceives, the men I can dare to confide in. You had not crossed the
room, where I received you, till I felt you to be such. I said to
myself, 'Here is one who will not want to make love to me, who will not
break out into wild rhapsodies of passion and professions, but who
will at once understand that I need his friendship and his counsel, and
that'"--here she dropped her eyes, and, gently suffering her hand to
touch his, muttered, "and that I can estimate their value, and try to
repay it." Poor Mr. Stocmar, your breathing is more flurried than ever.
So agitated, indeed, was he, that it was some seconds ere he became
conscious that she had entered upon a narrative for which she had
bespoken his attention, and whose details he only caught some time
after their commencement. "You thus perceive, sir," said she, "the great
importance of time in this affair. Sir William is confined to his room
with gout, in considerable pain, and, naturally enough, far too much
engrossed by his sufferings to think of anything else; Miss Leslie has
her own preoccupations, and, though the loss of a large sum of money may
not much increase them, the disaster will certainly serve to engage her
attention. This is precisely the moment to get rid of Clara with the
least possible _éclat_; we shall all be in such a state of confusion
that her departure will scarcely be felt or noticed."

"Upon my life, madam," said Stocmar, drawing a long breath, "you
frighten--you actually terrify me; you go to every object you have in
view with such energy and decision, noting every chance circumstance
which favors you, so nicely balancing motives, and weighing
probabilities with such cool accuracy, that I feel how we men are mere
puppets, to be moved about the board at your will."

"And for what is the game played, my dear Mr. Stocmar?" said she, with a
seductive smile. "Is it not to win some one amongst you?"

"Oh, by Jove! if a man could only flatter himself that he held the
right number, the lottery would be glorious sport."

"If the prize be such as you say, is not the chance worth something?"
And these words were uttered with a downcast shyness that made every
syllable of them thrill within him.

"What does she mean?" thought he, in all the flurry of his excited
feelings. "Is she merely playing me off to make use of me, or am I
to believe that she really will--after all? Though I confess to
thirty-eight--I am actually no more than forty-two--only a little bald
and gray in the whiskers, and--confound it, she guesses what is passing
through my head.--What _are_ you laughing at; do, I beg of you, tell me
truly what it is?" cried he, aloud.

"I was thinking of an absurd analogy, Mr. Stocmar; some African
traveller--I'm not sure that it is not Mungo Park--mentions that he used
to estimate the depth of the rivers by throwing stones into them, and
watching the time it took for the air bubbles to come up to the surface.
Now, I was just fancying what a measure of human motives might be
fashioned out of the interval of silence which intervenes between
some new impression and the acknowledgment of it You were gravely and
seriously asking yourself, 'Am I in love with this woman?'"

"I was," said he, solemnly.

"I knew it," said she, laughing. "I knew it."

"And what was the answer--do you know _that_ too?" asked he, almost
sternly.

"Yes, the answer was somewhat in this shape: 'I don't half trust her!'"

They both laughed very joyously after this, Stocmar breaking out into a
second laugh after he had finished.

"Oh! Mr. Stocmar," cried she, suddenly, and with an impetuosity that
seemed beyond her control, "I have no need of a declaration on your
part. I can read what passes in _your_ heart by what I feel in my own.
We have each of us seen that much of life to make us afraid of rash
ventures. We want better security for our investments in affection than
we used to do once on a time, not alone because we have seen so many
failures, but that our disposable capital is less. Come now, be frank,
and tell me one thing,--not that I have a doubt about it, but that I 'd
like to hear it from yourself,--confess honestly, you know who I am and
all about me?"

So sudden and so unexpected was this bold speech, that Stocmar, well
versed as he was in situations of difficulty, felt actually overcome
with confusion; he tried to say something, but could only make an
indistinct muttering, and was silent.

"It required no skill on my part to see it," continued she. "Men so well
acquainted with life as you, such consummate tacticians in the world's
strategies, only make one blunder, but you all of you make _that_:
you always exhibit in some nameless little trait of manner a sense of
ascendancy over the woman you deem in your power. You can't help it.
It's not through tyranny, it's not through insolence,--it is just the
man-nature in you, that's all."

"If you read us truly, you read us harshly too," began he. But she cut
him short, by asking,--

"And who was your informant? Paten, was n't it?"

"Yes, I heard everything from _him_," said he, calmly.

"And my letters--have you read _them_ too?"

"No. I have heard him allude to them, but never saw them."

"So, then, there is some baseness yet left for him," said she, bitterly,
"and I 'm almost sorry for it. Do you know, or will you believe me when
I tell it, that, after a life with many reverses and much to grieve
over, my heaviest heart-sore was ever having known that man?"

"You surely cared for him once?"

"Never, never!" burst she out, violently. "When we met first, I was the
daily victim of more cruelties than might have crushed a dozen women.
His pity was very precious, and I felt towards him as that poor prisoner
we read of felt towards the toad that shared his dungeon. It was one
living thing to sympathize with, and I could not afford to relinquish
it, and so I wrote all manner of things,--love-letters I suppose the
world would call them, though some one or two might perhaps decipher the
mystery of their meaning, and see in them all the misery of a hopeless
woman's heart. No matter, such as they were, they were confessions wrung
out by the rack, and need not have been recorded as calm avowals, still
less treasured up as bonds to be paid off."

"But if you made him love you--"

"Made him love me!" repeated she, with insolent scorn; "how well you
know your friend! But even _he_ never pretended _that_. My letters
in his eyes were I O U's, and no more. Like many a one in distress, I
promised any rate of interest demanded of me; he saw my misery, and
dictated the terms."

"I think you judge him hardly."

"Perhaps so. It is little matter now. The question is, will he give up
these letters, and on what conditions?"

"I think if you were yourself to see him--"

"_I_ to see him! Never, never! There is no consequence I would not
accept rather than meet that man again."

"Are you not taking counsel from passion rather than your real interest
here?"

"I may be; but passion is the stronger. What sum in money do you suppose
he would take? I can command nigh seven hundred pounds. Would that
suffice?"

"I cannot even guess this point; but if you like to confide to me the
negotiation--"

"Is it not in your hands already?" asked she, bluntly. "Have you not
come out here for the purpose?"

"No, on my honor," said he, solemnly; "for once you are mistaken."

"I am sorry for it. I had hoped for a speedier settlement," said
she, coldly. "And so, you really came abroad in search of theatrical
novelties. Oh dear!" sighed she, "Trover said so; and it is _so_
confounding when any one tells the truth!"

She paused, and there was a silence of some minutes. At last she said:
"Clara disposed of, and these letters in my possession, and I should
feel like one saved from shipwreck. Do you think you could promise me
these, Mr. Stocmar?"

"I see no reason to despair of either," said he; "for the first I have
pledged myself, and I will certainly do all in my power for the second."

"You must, then, make me another promise: you must come back here for
my wedding."

"Your wedding!"

"Yes. I am going to marry Sir William Heathcote," said she, sighing
heavily. "His debts prevent him ever returning to England, and
consequently I ran the less risk of being inquired after and traced,
than if I were to go back to that dear land of perquisition and
persecution."

"The world is very small nowadays," muttered Stocmar. "People are known
everywhere."

"So they are," said she, quickly. "But on the Continent, or at least in
Italy, the detectives only give you a nod of recognition; they do
not follow you with a warrant, as they do at home. This makes a great
difference, sir."

"And can you really resign yourself, at _your_ age and with _your_
attractions, to retire from the world?" said he, with a deep
earnestness of manner.

"Not without regret, Mr. Stocmar. I will not pretend it But remember,
what would life be if passed upon a tightrope, always poising, always
balancing, never a moment without the dread of a fall, never a second
without the consciousness that the slightest divergence might be death!
Would you counsel me to face an existence like this? Remember, besides,
that in the world we live in, they who wreck character are not the
calumnious, they are simply the idle,--the men and women who, having
nothing to do, do mischief without knowing. One remarks that nobody in
the room knew that woman with the blue wreath in her hair, and at once
she becomes an object of interest. Some of the men have admired her;
the women have discovered innumerable blemishes in her appearance. She
becomes at once a topic and a theme,--where she goes, what she wears,
whom she speaks to, are all reported, till at length the man who can
give the clew to the mystery and 'tell all about her' is a public
benefactor. At what dinner-party is he not the guest?--what opera-box is
denied him?--where is the coterie so select at which his presence is
not welcome so long as the subject is a fresh one? They tell us that
society, like the Church, must have its 'autos da fé,' but one would
rather not be the victim."

Stocmar gave a sigh that seemed to imply assent.

"And so," said she, with a deeper sigh, "I take a husband, as others
take the veil, for the sake of oblivion."

While she said this, Stocmar's eyes were turned towards her with a most
unfeigned admiration. He felt as he might have done if a great actress
were to relinquish the stage in the climax of her greatest success. He
wished he could summon courage to say, "You shall not do so; there
are grander triumphs before you, and we will share them together;" but
somehow his "nerve" failed him, and he could not utter the words.

"I see what is passing in your heart, Mr. Stocmar," said she,
plaintively. "You are sorry for me,--you pity me,--but you can't help
it. Well, that sympathy will be my comfort many a day hence, when you
will have utterly forgotten me. I will think over it and treasure it
when many a long mile will separate us."

Mr. Stocmar went through another paroxysm of temptation. At last he
said, "I hope this Sir William Heathcote is worthy of you,--I do trust
he loves you."

She held her handkerchief over her face, but her shoulders moved
convulsively for some seconds. Was it grief or laughter? Stocmar
evidently thought the former, for he quickly said, "I have been very
bold,--very indiscreet Pray forgive me."

"Yes, yes, I do forgive you," said she, hurriedly, and with her head
averted. "It was _my_ fault, not _yours_. But here we are at your hotel,
and I have got so much to say to you! Remember we meet to-night at the
ball. You will know me by the cross of ribbon on my sleeve, which, if
you come in domino, you will take off and pin upon your own; this will
be the signal between us."

"I will not forget it," said he, kissing her hand with an air of
devotion as he said "Good-bye!"

"I saw her!" whispered a voice in his ear. He turned; and Paten, whose
face was deeply muffled in a coarse woollen wrapper, was beside him.



CHAPTER XXXIII. SIR WILLIAM IN THE GOUT

SIR William Heathcote in his dressing-room, wrapped up with rugs, and
his foot on a stool, looked as little like a bridegroom as need be. He
was suffering severely from gout, and in all the irritable excitement of
that painful malady.

A mass of unopened letters lay on the table beside him, littered as
it was with physic bottles, pill-boxes, and a small hand-bell. On the
carpet around him lay the newspapers and reviews, newly arrived, but all
indignantly thrown aside, uncared for by one too deeply engaged in his
sufferings to waste a thought upon the interests of the world.

"Not come in yet, Fenton?" cried he, angrily, to his servant. "I 'm
certain you 're mistaken; go and inquire of her maid."

"I have just asked mamselle, sir, and she says her mistress is still out
driving."

"Give me my colchicum; no, the other bottle,--that small phial. But you
can't drop them. There, leave it down, and send Miss Leslie here."

"She is at the Gallery, sir."

"Of course she is," muttered he, angrily, below his breath; "gadding,
like the rest. Is there no one can measure out my medicine? Where's
Miss Clara?"

"She's in the drawing-room, sir."

"Send her here; beg her to do me the favor," cried he, subduing the
irritation of his manner, as he wiped his forehead, and tried to seem
calm and collected.

"Did you want me, grandpapa?" said the young girl, entering, and
addressing him by the title she had one day given him in sportiveness,
and which he liked to be called by.

"Yes," said he, roughly, for his pain was again upon him. "I wanted
any one that would be humane enough to sit with me for a while. Are you
steady enough of hand to drop that medicine for me, child?"

"I think so," said she, smiling gently.

"But you must be certain, or it won't do. I 'd not like to be poisoned,
my good girl. Five-and-twenty drops,--no more."

"I 'll count them, sir, and be most careful," said she, rising, and
taking the bottle.

"Egad, I scarcely fancy trusting you," said he, half peevishly. "A giddy
thing like you would feel little remorse at having overdone the dose."

"Oh, grandpapa!"

"Oh, of course you 'd not do it purposely. But why am I left to such
chances? Why is n't your mother here? There are all my letters,
besides, unread; and they cannot, if need were, be answered by this
post."

"She said that she 'd be obliged to call at the bank this morning, sir,
and was very likely to be delayed there for a considerable time."

"I 'm sure I cannot guess why. It is Trover and Twist 's duty to attend
to her at once. They would not presume to detain _her_, Oh! here comes
the pain again! Why do you irritate me, child, by these remarks? Can't
you see how they distress me?"

"Dear grandpapa, how sorry I am! Let me give you these drops."

"Not for the world! No, no, I 'll not be accessary to my own death. If
it come, it shall come at its own time. There, I am not angry with you,
child; don't get so pale; sit down here, beside me. What's all this
story about your guardian? I heard it so confusedly last night, during
an attack of pain, I can make nothing of it."

"I scarcely know more of it myself, sir. All I do know is that he has
come out from England to take me away with him, and place me, mamma
says, at some Pensionnat."

"No, no; this mustn't be,--this is impossible! You belong to us, dear
Clara. I 'll not permit it Your poor mamma would be heart-broken to lose
you."

Clara turned away, and wiped two large tears from her eyes; her lips
trembled so that she could not utter a word.

"No, no," continued he; "a guardian is all very well, but a mother's
rights are very different,--and such a mother as yours, Clara! Oh! by
Jove! that _was_ a pang! Give me that toast-and-water, child!"

It was with a rude impatience he seized the glass from her hand, and
drank off the contents. "This pain makes one a downright savage, my poor
Clara," said he, patting her cheek, "but old grandpapa will not be such
a bear to-morrow."

"To-morrow, when I'm gone!" muttered she, half dreamily.

"And his name? What is it?"

"Stocmar, sir."

"Stocmar,--Stocmar? never heard of a Stocmar, except that theatrical
fellow near St. James's. Have you seen him, child?"

"No, sir. I was out walking when he called."

"Well, do the same to-morrow," cried he, peevishly, for another twitch
of gout had just crossed him. "It's always so," muttered he; "every
annoyance of life lies in wait for the moment a man is laid up with
gout, just as if the confounded malady were not torture enough by
itself. There's Charley going out as a volunteer to India, for what or
why no one can say. If there had been some insurmountable obstacle to
his marriage with May, he 'd have remained to overcome it; but because
he loves her, and that she likes _him_--By Jove, that was a pang!"
cried he, wiping his forehead, after a terrible moment of pain. "Isn't
it so, Clara?" he resumed. "_You_ know better than any of us that May
never cared for that tutor fellow,--I forget his name; besides, that's
an old story now,--a matter of long ago. But he _will_ go. He says that
even a rash resolve at six-and-twenty is far better than a vain and
hopeless regret at six-and-forty; but I say, let him marry May Leslie,
and he need neither incur one nor the other. And so this guardian's name
is Harris?"

"No, grandpapa, Stocmar."

"Oh, to be sure. I was confounding him with another of those stage
people. And what business has he to carry you off without your mother's
consent?"

"Mamma _does_ consent, sir. She says that my education has been so much
neglected that it is actually indispensable I should study now."

"Education neglected! what nonsense! Do they want to make you a
Professor of the Sorbonne? Why, child, without any wish to make you
vain, you know ten times as much as half the collegiate fellows one
meets, what with languages, and music, and drawing, and all that school
learning of mamma's own teaching. And then that memory of yours, Clara;
why, you seem to me to forget nothing."

"I remember but too well," muttered she to herself.

"What was it you said, child? I did not catch it," said he. And then,
not waiting for her reply, he went on: "And all your high spirits, my
little Clara, where are they gone? And your odd rhymes, that used to
amuse me so? You never make them now."

"They do not cross my mind as they used to do," said she, pensively.

"You vote them childish, perhaps, like your dolls?" said he, smiling.

"No, not that. I wish with all my heart I could go back to the dolls and
the nursery songs. I wish I could live all in the hour before me, making
little dramas of life, with some delightful part for myself in each,
and only to be aroused from the illusion to join a real world Just as
enjoyable."

"But surely, child, you have not reached the land of regrets already?"
said he, fondly drawing her towards him with his arm.

She turned her head away, and drew her hand across her eyes.

"It is very early to begin with sorrow, my dear child," said he,
affectionately. "Let me hope that it's only an April cloud, with the
silver lining already peeping through."

A faint sob broke from her, but she did not speak.

"I 'd ask to be your confidant only in thinking I could serve you,
dearest Clara. Old men like myself get to know a good deal of life
without any study of it."

She made a slight effort to disengage herself from his arm, but he held
her fast; and, after a moment, she leaned her head upon his shoulder and
burst out crying.

At this critical instant the door opened, and Mrs. Morris entered.
Scarcely inside the room, she stood like one spell-bound, unable to move
or speak; her features, flushed by exercise, became pale as death, her
lips actually livid. "Am I indiscreet?" asked she, in a voice scarcely
other than a hiss of passion. "Do I interrupt a confidence, Sir
William?"

"I am not sure that you do," said he, good-humoredly. "Though I was
pressing Clara to accept me as a counsellor, I 'm not quite certain I
was about to succeed."

"Indeed!" said Mrs. Morris, sarcastically. "_My_ theory about young
ladies excludes secrets altogether. It assumes them to be candid and
open-hearted. They who walk openly and on the high-road want little
guidance beyond the dictates of a right purpose. Go to your room, Clara,
and I 'll be with you presently." These latter words were spoken in
perfect calm, and obeyed at once. Mrs. Morris was now alone with Sir
William.

The Baronet felt ill at ease. With a perfect consciousness of honorable
motives, there is an awkwardness in situations which seem to require
explanation, if not excuse, and he waited, in a sort of fidgety
impatience, that she should say something that might enable him to state
what had occurred between Clara and himself.

"I hope you are better than when I left you this morning?" said she,
as she untied her bonnet and seated herself in front of him.

"Scarcely so; these pains recur at every instant, and my nerves are
shattered with irritability."

"I 'm sorry for it, for you have need of all your firmness; bad news has
come from America."

"Bad news? What sort of bad news? Is there a war--"

"A war!" said she, contemptuously. "I wish it _was_ a war! It's far
worse than war. It's general bankruptcy. All the great houses breaking,
and securities utterly valueless."

"Well, bad enough, no doubt, but it does not immediately concern _us_,"
said he, quickly.

"Not concern us! Why, what have we been doing these last months but
buying into this share-market? Have we not invested largely in Kansas
stock, in Iroquois and in Texan bonds?"

Whether he had not originally understood the transfers in which he
had borne his part, or whether the pain of his seizure had effaced all
memory of the events, he now sat bewildered and astounded, like one
suddenly aroused from a deep sleep, to listen to disastrous news.

"But I don't understand," cried he. "I cannot see how all this has
been done. I heard you and Trover discussing it together, and I saw
innumerable colored plans of railroads that were to be, and cities that
must be, and I remember something about lands to be purchased for two
dollars and re-sold for two hundred."

"And, by all that, you have confessed to know everything that _I_ did,"
said she, firmly. "It was explained to you that, instead of muddling
away upon mortgage at home, some thirty or even forty per cent might be
realized in the States. I showed you the road by risking whatever little
fortune I possessed, and you followed. Now we have each of us lost our
money, and there 's the whole story."

"But it's May's money I 've lost!" cried he, with a voice of anguish.

"I don't suppose it matters much to whom it belonged once," said she,
dryly. "The gentlemen into whose hands it falls will scarcely burden
themselves to ask whence it came."

"But I had no right to gamble May Leslie's fortune!" burst he in.

"We have no time for the ethical part of the question at present," said
she, calmly. "Our concern is with how we are to save the most we can. I
have just seen the names of two houses at New York, which, if aided in
time, will be able to stand the torrent, and eventually pay everything.
To save their credit here will require about eighteen thousand pounds.
It is our interest--our only hope, indeed--to rescue them. Could you
induce May to take this step?"

"Induce May to peril another large portion of her fortune!" cried he,
in horror and astonishment.

"Induce her to arrest what might proceed to her ruin," whispered she,
in a low, distinct voice. "If these American securities are forfeited,
there will be no money forthcoming to meet the calls for the Spanish
railroads, no resources to pay the deposit on the concessions in Naples.
You seem to forget how deep our present engagements are. We shall need
above thirty thousand pounds by the 1st of March,--fully as much more
six weeks later."

The old man clasped his hands convulsively, and trembled from head to
foot.

"You know well how ignorant she is of all we have done, all we are
doing," said he, with deep emotion.

"I know well that no one ever labored and worked for _my_ benefit as
I have toiled for _hers_. My endeavor was to triple, quadruple her
fortune, and if unforeseen casualties have arisen to thwart my plans,
I am not deterred by such disasters. I wish I could say as much for
_you_."

The ineffable insolence of her manner as she uttered this taunt, far
from rousing the old man's anger, seemed only to awe and subdue him.

"Yes," continued she, "I am only a woman, and, as a woman, debarred from
all those resorts where information is rife and knowledge attainable;
but even working darkly, blindly, as I must, I have more reliance and
courage than some men that I wot of!"

He seemed for a moment to struggle hard with himself to summon the
spirit to reply to her; for an instant he raised his head haughtily,
but as his eyes met hers they fell suddenly, and he muttered in a
half-broken voice, "I meant all for the best!"

"Well," cried she, after a brief pause, "it is no time for regrets, or
recriminations either. It is surely neither your fault nor mine that the
cotton crop is a failure, or that discounts are high in Broadway. When
May comes in, you must explain to her what has happened, and ask her
leave to sell out her Sardinian stock. It is a small sum, to be sure,
but it will give us a respite for a day or two, and then we shall think
of our next move."

She left the room as she said this, and anything more utterly hopeless
than the old Baronet it would be difficult to imagine. Bewildered and
almost stunned by the difficulties around him, a sort of vague sense of
reliance upon _her_ sustained him so long as she was there. No sooner,
however, had she gone, than this support seemed withdrawn, and he sat,
the very picture of dismay and discomfiture.

The project by which the artful Mrs. Morris had originally seduced him
into speculation was no other than to employ Miss Leslie's fortune as
the means of making advantageous purchases of land in the States, and
of discounting at the high rate of interest so freely given in times of
pressure in the cities of the Union. To suffer a considerable sum to
lie unprofitably yielding three per cent at home, when it might render
thirty by means of a little energy and a little skill, seemed actually
absurd; and not a day used to go over, in which she would not compute,
from the recorded rates of the exchanges, the large gains that might
have been realized, without, as she would say, "the shadow of a shade
of risk." Sir William had once gambled on 'Change and in railroad
speculations the whole of a considerable estate; and the old leaven
of speculation still worked within him. If there be a spirit which no
length of years can efface, no changes of time eradicate, it is the
gamester's reliance upon fortune. Estranged for a long period as he had
lived from all the exciting incidents of enterprise, no sooner was the
picture of gain once more displayed before him than he eagerly embraced
it.

"Ah!" he would say to himself, "if I had but had the advantage of _her_
clear head and shrewd power of calculation long ago, what a man I might
be to-day! That woman's wit of hers puts all mere men's acuteness to the
blush." It is not necessary to say that the softest of blue eyes and the
silkiest of brown hair did not detract very largely from the influences
of her mental superiority; and Sir William was arrived at that precise
lustre in which such fascinations obtain their most undisputed triumphs.

Poets talk of youth as the impressionable age; they rave about its
ardor, its impetuous, uncalculating generosity, and so forth; but for
an act of downright self-forgetting devotion, for that impulsive
spirit that takes no counsel from calm reason, give us an elderly
gentleman,--anything from sixty-four to fourscore. These are the really
ardent and tender lovers,--easy victims, too, of all the wiles that
beset them.

Had any grave notary, or deep plotting man upon 'Change suggested to Sir
William the project of employing his ward's fortune with any view to his
own profit, the chances are that the hint would have been rejected as an
outrage, and the suggester insulted; but the plan came from rosy lips,
whispered by the softest of voices; and even the arithmetic was
jotted down by fingers so taper and so white that he lost sight of the
multiples in his admiration of the calculator. His first experiences,
besides, were all great successes. Kansas scrip went up to a fabulous
premium. When he sold out his Salt Lake Fives, he realized cent per cent
These led him on. That "ardor nummi" which was not new in the days of
the Latin poet, is as rife in _our_ time as it was centuries ago.

Let us also bear in mind that there is something very fascinating to
a man of a naturally active temperament to be recalled, after years of
inglorious leisure, to subjects of deep and stirring interest; he likes
the self-flattery of being equal to such themes, that his judgment
should be as sound, his memory as clear, and his apprehension as ready
as it used to be. Proud man is the old fox-hunter that can charge
his "quickset" at fourscore; but infinitely prouder the old country
gentleman who, at the same age, fancies himself deep in all the
mysteries of finance, and skilled in the crafty lore of the share-market.

And, last of all, he was vexed and irritated by Charley's desertion of
him, and taunted by the tone in which the young man alluded to the widow
and her influence in the family. To be taught caution, or to receive
lessons in worldly craft from one very much our junior, is always a
trial of temper; and so did everything conspire to make him an easy
victim to her machinations.

And May,--what of her? May signed her name when and wherever she was
told, concurred with everything, and, smiling, expressed her gratitude
for all the trouble they were taking on her behalf. Her only impression
throughout was that property was a great source of worry; and what a
fortunate thing it was for her to have met with those who understood its
interests, and could deal with its eventualities! Of her large fortune
she actually knew nothing. Little jests would be bandied, at breakfast
and dinner, about May being the owner of vast tracts in the far West,
territories wide as principalities, with mines here and great forests
there, and so on, and sportive allusions to her one day becoming the
queen of some far-away land beyond the sea. Save in such laughing guise
as this she never approached the theme, nor cared for it.

Between May and Clara a close friendship had grown up. Besides the
tastes that united them, there was another and a very tender bond that
linked their hearts together. They were confidantes. May told Clara that
she really loved Charles Heathcote, and never knew it till they were
separated. She owned that if his careless, half-indifferent way had
piqued her, it was only after she had been taught to resent it. She
had once even regarded it as the type of his manly, independent nature,
which she now believed to be the true version of his character; and then
there was a secret--a real young-lady secret--between them, fastest of
all the bonds that ever bound such hearts together.

May fancied or imagined that young Layton had gone away, trusting that
time was to plead for him, and that absence was to appeal in his behalf.
Perhaps he had said so; perhaps he hoped it; perhaps it was a mere dream
of her own. Who knows these things? In that same court of Cupid fancies
are just as valid as affidavits, and the vaguest illusions quite as much
evidence as testimony taken on oath.

Now, amongst all the sorrows that a young lady loves best to weep over,
there is not one whose ecstasy can compare with the affliction for the
poor fellow who loves her to madness, but whose affection she cannot
return. It is a very strange and curious fact--and fact it is--that this
same tie of a rejected devotion will occasionally exact sacrifices just
as great as the most absorbing passion.

To have gained a man's heart, as it were, in spite of him,--to have
become the depositary of all his hopes, and yet not given him one scrap
of a receipt for his whole investment,--has a wonderful attraction for
the female nature. It is the kind of debt of honor she can appreciate
best of all, and, it must be owned, it is one she knows how to deal with
in a noble and generous spirit To the man so placed with regard to her
she will observe an undying fidelity; she will defend him at any cost;
she will uphold him at any sacrifice. Now, May not only confessed to
Clara that Layton had made her the offer of his heart, but she told
how heavily on her conscience lay the possible--if it were so much as
possible--sin of having given him any encouragement.

"You must write to the poor fellow for me, Clara. You must tell him from
me--from myself, remember--that it would be only a cruelty to suffer him
to cherish hope; that my self-accusings, painful enough now, would be
tortures if I were to deceive him. I'm sure it is better, no matter what
the anguish be, to deal thus honestly and fairly; and you can add that
his noble qualities will be ever dwelt on by me--indeed, you may say by
both of us--with the very deepest interest, and that no higher happiness
could be than to hear of his success in life."

May said this and much more to the same purpose. She professed to feel
for him the most sincere friendship, faintly foreshadowing throughout
that it was not the least demerit on his part his being fascinated by
such attractions as hers, though they were, in reality, not meant to
captivate him.

I cannot exactly say how far Clara gave a faithful transcript of her
friend's feelings, for I never saw but a part of the letter she wrote;
but certainly it is only fair to suppose, from its success, that it was
all May could have desired.

The epistle had followed Layton from an address he had given in Wales
to Dublin, thence to the north of Ireland, and finally overtook him in
Liverpool the night before he sailed for America.

He answered it at once. He tendered all his gratitude for the kind
thoughtfulness that had suggested the letter. He said that such an
evidence of interest was inexpressibly dear to him at a moment when
nothing around or about him was of the cheeriest He declared that, going
to a far-away land, with an uncertain future before him, it was a great
source of encouragement to him to feel that good wishes followed his
steps; that he owned, in a spirit of honest loyalty, that few as were
the months that had intervened, they were enough to convince him of the
immense presumption of his proffer. "You will tell Miss Leslie," wrote
he, "that in the intoxication of all the happiness I lived in at
the villa, I lost head as well as heart It was such an atmosphere of
enjoyment as I had never breathed before,--may never breathe again. I
could not stop to analyze what it was that imparted such ecstasy to
my existence, and, naturally enough, tendered all my homage and all
my devotion to one whose loveliness was so surpassing! If I was ever
unjust enough to accuse her of having encouraged my rash presumption,
let me now entreat her pardon. I see and own my fault."

The letter was very long, but not always very coherent There was about
it a humility that smacked more of wounded pride than submissiveness,
and occasionally a sort of shadowy protest that, while grateful for
proffered friendship, he felt himself no subject for pity or compassion.
To use the phrase of Quackinboss, to whom he read it, "it closed the
account with that firm, and declared no more goods from that store."

But there was a loose slip of paper enclosed, very small, and with only
a few lines written on it. It was to Clara herself. "And so you
have kept the slip of jessamine I gave you on that day,--gave you so
ungraciously too. Keep it still, dear Clara. Keep it in memory of one
who, when he claims it of you, will ask you to recall that hour, and
never again forget it!"

This she did _not_ show to May Leslie; and thus was there one secret
which she treasured in her own heart, alone.



CHAPTER XXXIV. A WARM DISCUSSION

"I knew it,--I could have sworn to it," cried Paten, as he listened to
Stocmar's narrative of his drive with Mrs. Morris. "She has just done
with _you_ as with fifty others. Of course you 'll not believe that you
can be the dupe,--she 'd not dare to throw her net for such a fish as
you. Ay, and land you afterwards, high and dry, as she has done with
scores of fellows as sharp as either of us."

Stocmar sipped his wine, half simpering at the passionate warmth of his
companion, which, not without truth, he ascribed to a sense of jealousy.

"I know her well," continued Paten, with heightened passion. "I have
reason to know her well; and I don't believe that this moment you could
match her for falsehood in all Europe. There is not a solitary spot in
her heart without a snare in it."

"Strange confession this, from a lover," said Stocmar, smiling.

"If you call a lover one that would peril his own life to bring shame
and disgrace on hers, I am such a man."

"It is not more than a week ago you told me, in all seriousness, that
you would marry her, if she 'd have you."

"And I say it again, here and now; and I say more, that if I had the
legal right over her that marriage would give me, I'd make her rue the
day she outraged Ludlow Paten."

"It was Paul Hunt that she slighted, man," said Stocmar, half
sneeringly. "You forget that."

"Is this meant for a threat, Stocmar?"

"Don't be a fool," said the other, carelessly. "What I meant was, that
other times had other interests, and neither she, nor you, nor, for that
matter, I myself, want to live over the past again."

Paten threw his cigar angrily from him, and sat brooding and moody; for
some time nothing was heard between them save the clink of the decanter
as they filled their glasses, and passed the wine.

"Trover's off," mattered Paten, at last.

"Off! Whereto?"

"To Malta, I believe; and then to Egypt--anywhere, in short, till the
storm blows over. This American crash has given them a sharp squeeze."

"I wonder who'll get that Burgundy? I think I never drank such
Chambertin as that he gave us t' other night."

"I'd rather pick up that pair of Hungarian chestnuts. They are the true
'Yucker' breed, with nice straight slinging action."

"His pictures, too, were good."

"And such cigars as the dog had! He told me, I think, he had about
fifteen thousand of those Cubans."

"A vulgar hound!--always boasting of his stable, or his cellar, or his
conservatory! I can't say I feel sorry for him."

"Sorry for him! I should think not. The fellow has had his share of good
fortune, living up there at that glorious villa in luxury. It's only
fair he should take his turn on the shady side of the road."

"These Heathcotes must have got it smartly too from the Yankees. They
invested largely there of late."

"So Trover told me. Almost the last words he said were: 'The man that
marries that girl for an heiress, will find he has got a blind nut Her
whole fortune is swept away.'"

"I wonder is that true."

"I feel certain it is. Trover went into all sorts of figures to show it.
I'm not very much up in arithmetic, and so could n't follow him; but I
gathered that they 'd made their book to lose, no matter how the match
came off. That was to be expected when they trusted such things to a
woman."

Another and a longer pause now ensued between them; at length Paten
broke it abruptly, saying, "And the girl--I mean Clara--what of her?"

"It's all arranged; she is to be Clara Stocmar, and a pensionnaire of
the Conservatoire of Milan within a week."

"Who says so?" asked Paten, defiantly.

"Her mother--well, you know whom I mean by that title--proposed, and I
accepted the arrangement. She may, or may not, have dramatic ability;
like everything else in life, there is a lottery about it. If she really
do show cleverness, she will be a prize just now. If she has no great
turn of speed, as the jocks say, she 'll always do for the Brazils and
Havannah. They never send _us_ their best cigars, and, in return, _we_
only give _them_ our third-rate singers!"

It was evident in this speech that Stocmar was trying, by a jocular
tone, to lead the conversation into some channel less irritating and
disputatious; but Paten's features relaxed nothing of their stern
severity, and he looked dogged and resolute as before.

"I think, Stocmar," said he, at length, "that there is still a word
wanting to that same bargain you speak of. If the girl's talents are to
be made marketable, why should not I stand in for something?"

"You,--you, Ludlow!" cried the other. "In the name of all that is
absurd, what pretext can _you_ have for such a claim?"

"Just this: that I am privy to the robbery, and might peach if not
bought up."

"You know well this is mere blind menace, Ludlow," said the other,
good-humoredly; "and as to letting off squibs, my boy, don't forget
that you live in a powder-magazine."

"And what if I don't care for a blow-up? What if I tell you that I 'd
rather send all sky-high to-morrow than see that woman succeed in all
her schemes, and live to defy me?"

"As to that," said Stocmar, gravely, "the man who neither cares for his
own life or character can always do damage to those of another; there is
no disputing about that."

"Well, I am exactly such a man, and _she_ shall know it." Not a word was
spoken for several minutes, and then Paten resumed, but in a calmer and
more deliberate tone, "Trover has told me everything. I see her whole
scheme. She meant to marry that old Baronet, and has been endeavoring,
by speculating in the share-market, to get some thousands together;
now, as the crash has smashed the money part of the scheme, the chances
are it will have also upset the marriage. Is not that likely?"

"That is more than I can guess," said Stocmar, doubtingly.

"_You_ can guess it, just as _I_ can," said Paten, half angrily. "She's
not the woman to link her fortune with a ruined man. Can't you guess _"
that?_ Stocmar nodded, and Paten went on: "Now, _I_ mean to stand to
win on either event,--that's _my_ book."

"I don't understand you, Paul."

"Call me Ludlow, confound you," said Paten, passionately, "or that
infernal name will slip out some day unawares. What I would say is,
that, if she wishes to be 'My Lady,' she must buy _me_ off first. If she
'll consent to become my wife,--that is the other alternative."

"She'll never do that," said Stocmar, gravely.

"How do you know,--did she tell you so?"

"Certainly not."

"You only know it, then, from your intimate acquaintance with her
sentiments," said he, sneeringly.

"How I know, or why I believe it, is my own affair," said Stocmar, in
some irritation; "but such is my conviction."

"Well, it is not mine," said Paten, filling up his glass, and
drinking it slowly off. "I know her somewhat longer--perhaps somewhat
better--than you do; and if I know anything in her, it is that she
never cherishes a resentment when it costs too high a price."

"You are always the slave of some especial delusion, Ludlow," said
Stocmar, quietly. "You are possessed with the impression that she is
afraid of you. Now, my firm persuasion is, that the man or woman that
can terrify _her_ has yet to be born."

"How she has duped you!" said Paten, insolently.

"That may be," said he. "There is, however, one error I have not fallen
into,--I have not fancied that she is in love with me."

This sally told; for Paten became lividly pale, and he shook from head
to foot with passion. Careful, however, to conceal the deep offence the
speech had given him, he never uttered a word in reply. Stocmar saw his
advantage, and was silent also. At last he spoke, but it was in a tone
so conciliatory and so kindly withal, as to efface, if possible, all
unpleasant memory of the last speech. "I wish you would be guided by
me, Ludlow, in this business. It is not a question for passion or
vindictiveness; and I would simply ask you, Is there not space in the
world for both of you, without any need to cross each other? Must your
hatred of necessity bridge over all distance, and bring you incessantly
into contact? In a word, can you not go your road, and let her go hers,
unmolested?"

"Our roads lie the same way, man. I want to travel with her," cried
Paten.

"But not in spite of her!--not, surely, if she declines your company!"

"Which _you_ assume that she must, and I am as confident that she will
not."

Stocmar made an impertinent gesture at this, which Paten, quickly
perceiving, resented, by asking, in a tone of almost insult, "What do
you mean? Is it so very self-evident that a woman must reject me? Is
that your meaning?"

"Any woman that ever lived would reject the man who pursues her with
a menace. So long as you presume to wield an influence over her by a
threat, your case must be hopeless."

"These are stage and behind-scene notions,--they never were gleaned
from real life. Your theatrical women have little to lose, and it can't
signify much to them whether a story more or less attach to their names.
Threats of exposure would certainly affright them little; but your
woman living in the world, holding her head amongst other women,
criticising their dress, style, and manner,--think of _her_ on the day
that the town gets hold of a scandal about her! Do you mean to tell
_me_ there's any price too high to pay for silencing it?"

"What would you really take for those letters of hers, if she were
disposed to treat for them?"

"I offered them once to old Nick Holmes for two thousand pounds. I 'd
not accept that sum now."

"But where or how could she command such an amount?"

"That 's no affair of mine. I have an article in the market, and I 'm
not bound to trouble myself as to the straits of the purchaser. Look
here, Hyman Stocmar," said he, changing his voice to a lower tone, while
he laid his hand on the other's arm,--"look here. You think me very
vindictive and very malignant in all this, but if you only knew with
what insults she has galled me, what cruel slights she has passed upon
me, you 'd pity rather than condemn me. If she would have permitted
me to see and speak to her,--if I could only be able to appeal to her
myself,--I don't think it would be in vain; and, if I know anything
of myself, I could swear I 'd bear up with the crudest thing she could
utter to me, rather than these open outrages that come conveyed through
others."

"And if that failed, would you engage to restore her letters?--for
some possible sum, I mean, for you know well two thousand is out of
the question. She told me she could command some six or seven hundred
pounds. She said so, believing that I really came to treat with her on
the subject."

Paten shook his head dissentingly, but was silent. At last he said: "She
must have much more than this at her command, Stocmar. Hawke's family
never got one shilling by his death; they never were able to trace
what became of his money, or the securities he held in foreign funds. I
remember how Godfrey used to go on about that girl of his being one day
or other the greatest heiress of her time. Take _my_ word for it, Loo
could make some revelations on this theme. Come," cried he, quickly, as
a sudden thought flashed across him, "I 'll tell you what I 'll do.
You are to meet her this evening at the masked ball. Let me go in your
place. I 'll give you my solemn promise not to abuse the opportunity,
nor make any scandal whatever. It shall be a mere business discussion
between us; so much for so much. If she comes to terms, well. If she
does not agree to what I propose, there's no harm done. As I said
before, there shall be no publicity,--no scene."

"I can't accede to this, Ludlow. It would be a gross breach of faith on
my part," said Stocmar, gravely.

"All your punctilio, I remark, is reserved for _her_ benefit," said
Paten, angrily. "It never occurs to you to remember that _I_ am the
injured person."

"I only think of the question as it displays a man on one side, and a
woman on the other. Long odds in favor of the first, eh?"

"You think so!" said Paten, with a sneer. "By Jove! how well you judge
such matters! I can't help wondering what becomes of all that subtlety
and sharpness you show when dealing with stage folk, when you come to
treat with the world of every-day life. Why, I defy the wiliest serpent
of the ballet to overreach you, and yet you suffer this woman to wind
you round her finger!"

"Well, it is a very pretty finger!" laughed Stocmar.

"Yes, but to have you at her feet in this fashion!"

"And what a beautiful foot too!" cried Stocmar, with enthusiasm.

Something that sounded like a malediction was muttered by Paten as he
arose and walked the room with passionate strides. "Once more, I say,"
cried he, "let me take your place this evening, or else I 'll call on
this old fool,--this Sir William Heathcote,--and give him the whole
story of his bride. I 'm not sure if it's not the issue would give me
most pleasure. I verily believe it would."

"It's a smart price to pay for a bit of malice too!" said Stocmar,
musing. "I must say, there are some other ways in which the money would
yield me as much pleasure."

"Is it a bargain, Stocmar? Do you say yes?" cried Paten, with heightened
excitement.

"I don't see how I can agree to it," broke in the other. "If she
distinctly tells me that she will not meet you--"

"Then she shall, by------!" cried Paten, confirming the determination by
a terrible oath. "Look out now, Stocmar, for a scene," continued he,
"and gratify yourself by the thought it is all your own doing. Had you
accepted my proposal, I 'd have simply gone in your place, made myself
known to her without scandal or exposure, and, in very few words,
declared what my views were, and learned how far she'd concur with them.
You prefer an open rupture before the world. Well, you shall have it!"

Stocmar employed all his most skilful arguments to oppose this coarse.
He showed that, in adopting it, Paten sacrificed every prospect of
self-interest and advantage, and, for the mere indulgence of a cruel
outrage, that he compromised a position of positive benefit. The other,
however, would not yield an inch. The extreme concession that Stocmar,
after a long discussion, could obtain was, that the interview was not to
exceed a few minutes, a quarter of an hour at furthest; that there was
to be no _éclat_ or exposure, so far as he could pledge himself; and
that he would exonerate Stocmar from all the reproach of being a willing
party to the scheme. Even with these stipulations, Stocmar felt far from
being reconciled to the plan, and declared that he could never forgive
himself for his share in it.

"It is your confounded self-esteem is always uppermost in your
thoughts," said Paten, insolently. "Just please to remember you are no
foreground figure in this picture, if you be any figure at all. I
feel full certain _she_ does not want you,--I 'll take my oath _I_
do not,--so leave us to settle our own affairs our own way, and don't
distress yourself because you can't interfere with them."

With this rude speech, uttered in a tone insolent as the words, Paten
arose and left the room. Scarcely had the door closed after him,
however, than he reopened it, and said,--

"Only one word more, Stocmar. No double,--no treachery with me here. I
'll keep my pledge to the very letter; but if you attempt to trick or
to overreach me, I 'll blow up the magazine."

Before Stocmar could reply, he was gone.



CHAPTER XXXV. LOO AND HER FATHER

Mrs. Morris, supposed to be confined to her room with a bad headache,
was engaged in dressing for the masked ball, when a small twisted note
was delivered to her by her maid.

"Is the bearer of this below stairs?" asked she, eagerly. "Show him in
immediately."

The next moment, a short, burly figure, in a travelling-dress, entered,
and, saluting her with a kiss on either cheek, unrolled his woollen
comforter, and displayed the pleasant, jocund features of Mr. Nicholas
Holmes.

"How well you are looking, papa!" said she. "I declare I think you grow
younger!"

"It's the good conscience, I suppose," said he, laughing. "That and a
good digestion help a man very far on his road through life. And how are
you, Loo?"

"As you see," said she, laughingly. "With some of those family gifts you
speak of, I rub on through the world tolerably well."

"You are not in mourning, I perceive. How is that?" asked he, looking at
the amber-colored silk of her dress.

"Not to-night, papa, for I was just dressing for a masked ball at the
Pergola, whither I was about to go on the sly, having given out that I
was suffering from headache, and could not leave my room."

"Fretting over poor Penthony, eh?" cried he, laughing.

"Well, of course that might also be inferred. Not but I have already got
over my violent grief. I am beginning to be what is technically called
'resigned.'"

"Which is, I believe, the stage of looking out for another!" laughed he
again.

She gave a little faint sigh, and went on with her dressing. "And what
news have you for me, papa? What is going on at home?"

"Nothing,--absolutely nothing, dear. You don't care for political news?"

[Illustration: 382]

"Not much. You know I had a surfeit of Downing Street once. By the way,
papa, only think of my meeting George!"

"Ogden,--George Odgen?"

"Yes, it was a strange accident. He came to fetch away a young lad that
happened to be stopping with us, and we met face to face--fortunately,
alone--in the garden."

"Very awkward that!" muttered he.

"So it was; and so he evidently felt it. By the way, how old he has
grown! George can't be more than--let me see--forty-six. Yes, he was
just forty-six on the 8th of August. You 'd guess him fully ten years
older."

"How did he behave? Did he recognize you and address you?"

"Yes; we talked a little,--not pleasantly, though. He evidently is not
forgiving in his nature, and you know he had never much tact,--except
official tact,--and so he was flurried and put out, and right glad to
get away."

"But there was no _éclat_,--no scandal?"

"Of course not. The whole incident did not occupy ten minutes."

"They 've been at me again about my pension,--_his_ doing, I'm sure,"
muttered he,--"asking for a return of services, and such-like rubbish."

"Don't let them worry you, papa; they dare not push you to publicity.
It's like a divorce case, where one of the parties, being respectable,
must submit to any terms imposed."

"Well, that's my own view of it, dear; and so I said, 'Consult the
secret instructions to the Under-Secretary for Ireland for an account of
services rendered by N. H.'"

"You 'll hear no more of it," said she, flippantly. "What of Ludlow?
Where is he?"

"He's here. Don't you know that?"

"Here! Do you mean in Florence?"

"Yes; he came with Stocmar. They are at the same hotel."

"I declare I half suspected it," said she, with a sort of bitter laugh.
"Oh, the cunning Mr. Stocmar, that must needs deceive me!"

"And you have seen him?"

"Yes; I settled about his taking Clara away with him. I want to get rid
of her,--I mean altogether,--and Stocmar is exactly the person to manage
these little incidents of the white slave-market But," added she, with
some irritation, "that was no reason why you should dupe _me_, my good
Mr. Stocmar! particularly at the moment when I had poured all my sorrows
into your confiding breast!"

"He's a very deep fellow, they tell me."

"No, papa, he is not He has that amount of calculation--that putting
this, that, and t' other together, and seeing what they mean--which all
Jews have; but he makes the same blunder that men of small craft are
always making. He is eternally on the search after motives, just as if
fifteen out of every twenty things in this life are not done without any
motive at all!"

"Only in Ireland, Loo,--only in Ireland."

"Nay, papa, in Ireland they do the full twenty," said she, laughing.
"But what has brought Ludlow here? He has certainly not come without a
motive."

"To use some coercion over you, I suspect."

"Probably enough. Those weary letters,--those weary letters!" sighed
she. "Oh, papa dear,--you who were always a man of a clear head and a
subtle brain,--how did you fall into the silly mistake of having your
daughter taught to write? Our nursery-books are crammed with cautious
injunctions,--'Don't play with fire,' &c,--and of the real peril of all
perils not a word of warning is uttered, and nobody says, 'Avoid the
inkstand.'"

"How could you have fallen into such a blunder?" said he, half
peevishly.

"I gave rash pledges, papa, just as a bankrupt gives bad bills. I never
believed I was to be solvent again."

"We must see what can be done, Loo. I know he is very hard up for money
just now; so that probably a few hundreds might do the business."

She shook her head doubtingly, but said nothing.

"A fellow-traveller of mine, unacquainted with him personally, told me
that his bills were seen everywhere about town."

"Who is your companion?"

"An Irishman called O'Shea."

"And is the O'Shea here too?" exclaimed she, laughingly.

"Yes; since he has lost his seat in the House, England has become
too hot for him. And, besides," added he, slyly, "he has told me ill
confidence that if 'the party,' as he calls them, should not give him
something, he knows of a widow somewhere near this might suit him. 'I
don't say that she's rich, mind you,' said he, 'but she's 'cute as a
fox, and would be sure to keep a man's head above water somehow.'"

Mrs. Morris held her handkerchief to her mouth, but the sense of the
ridiculous could not be suppressed, and she laughed out.

"What would I not have given to have heard him, papa!" said she, at last

"Well, it really _was_ good," said he, wiping his eyes; for he, too, had
indulged in a very hearty laugh, particularly when he narrated all the
pains O'Shea had been at to discover who Penthony Morris was, where he
came from, and what fortune he had. "'It was at first all in vain,' said
he, 'but no sooner did I begin to pay fellows to make searches for me,
than I had two, or maybe three Penthony Morrises every morning by the
post; and, what's worse, all alive and hearty!'"

"What did he do under these distressing circumstances?" asked she,
gayly.

"He said he 'd give up the search entirely. 'There 's no such bad
hunting country,' said he, 'as where there's too many foxes, and so I
determined I 'd have no more Penthony Morrises, but just go in for the
widow without any more inquiry.'"

"And have you heard the plan of his campaign?" asked she.

"He has none,--at least, I think not. He trusts to his own attractions
and some encouragement formerly held out to him."

"Indiscreet wretch!" said she, laughing; "not but he told the truth
there. I remember having given him something like what lawyers call a
retainer."

"Such a man might be very troublesome, Loo," said he, cautiously.

"Not a bit of it, papa; he might be very useful, on the contrary.
Indeed, I'm' not quite certain that I have not exactly the very service
on which to employ him."

"Remember, Loo," said he, warmly, "he's a shrewd fellow in _his_ way."

"In _his_ way' he is, but _his_ way is not _mine_," said she, with a
saucy toss of the head. "Have you any idea, papa, of what may be
the sort of place or employment he looks for? Is he ambitious, or has
adversity taught him humility?"

"A good deal depends upon the time of the day when one talks to him.
Of a morning he is usually downcast and depressed; he 'd go out as
a magistrate to the Bahamas or consul to a Poyais republic. Towards
dinner-time he grows more difficult and pretentious; and when he has
got three or four glasses of wine in, he would n't take less than the
Governorship of a colony."

"Then it's of an evening one should see him."

"Nay, I should say not, Loo. I would rather take him at his cheap
moment."

"Quite wrong, papa,--quite wrong. It is when his delusions are strongest
that he will be most easily led. His own vanity will be the most
effectual of all intoxications. But you may leave him to _me_ without
fear or misgiving."

"I suppose so," said he, dryly. And a silence of some minutes ensued.
"Why are you taking such pains about your hair, Loo," asked he, "if you
are going in domino?"

"None can ever tell when or where they must unmask in this same life
of ours, papa," said she, laughingly; "and I have got such a habit of
providing for casualties that I have actually arranged my papers and
letters in the fashion they ought to be found in after my death."

Holmes sighed. The thought of such a thing as death is always unwelcome
to a man with a light auburn wig and a florid complexion, who wants to
cheat Fate into the notion that he is hale and hearty, and who likes to
fancy himself pretty much what he was fifteen or twenty years ago. And
Holmes sighed with a feeling of compassionate sorrow for himself.

"By the way, papa," said she, in a careless, easy tone, "where are you
stopping?"

"At the Hôtel d'Italie, my dear."

"What do you think,--had n't you better come here?"

"I don't exactly know, nor do I precisely see how."

"Leave all that to me, papa. You shall have an invitation,--'Sir William
Heathcote's compliments,' &c,--all in due form, in the course of the
day, and I 'll give directions about your room. You have no servant, I
hope?"

"None."

"So much the better; there is no guarding against the garrulity of that
class, and all the craftiest stratagems of the drawing-room are often
undermined in the servants'-hall. As for yourself, you know that you
represent the late Captain's executor. You were the guardian of poor
dear Penthony, and his oldest friend in the world."

"Knew him since he was so high!" said he, in a voice of mock emotion, as
he held out his extended palm about two feet above the floor.

"That will give you a world of trouble, papa, for you 'll have to
prepare yourself with so much family history, explaining what Morrises
they were, how they were Penthonys, and so on. Sir William will torture
you about genealogies."

"I have a remedy for that, my dear," said he, slyly. "I am most
painfully deaf! No one will maintain a conversation of a quarter of an
hour with me without risking a sore throat; not to say that no one can
put delicate questions in the voice of a boatswain."

"Dear papa, you are always what the French call 'at the level of the
situation,' and your deafness will be charming, for our dear Baronet and
future husband has a most inquisitive turn, and would positively torture
you with interrogatories."

"He 'll be more than mortal if he don't give in, Loo. I gave a Lunacy
Commissioner once a hoarseness that required a course of the waters at
Vichy to cure; not to say that, by answering at cross purposes, one
can disconcert the most zealous inquirer. But now, my dear, that I am in
possession of my hearing, do tell me something about yourself and your
plans."

"I have none, papa,--none," said she, with a faint sigh. "Sir William
Heathcote has, doubtless, many, and into some of them I may perhaps
enter. He intends, for instance, that some time in March I shall be Lady
Heathcote; that we shall go and live--I'm not exactly sure where, though
I know we 're to be perfectly happy, and, not wishing to puzzle him, I
don't ask how."

"I have no doubt you will be happy, Loo," said he, confidently.
"Security, safety, my dear, are great elements of happiness."

"I suppose they are," said she, with another sigh; "and when one has
been a privateer so long, it is pleasant to be enrolled in the regular
navy, even though one should be laid up in ordinary."

"Nay, nay, Loo, no fear of that!"

"On the contrary, papa, every hope of it! The best thing I could ask for
would be oblivion."

"My dear Loo," said he, impressively, "the world has not got one half so
good a memory as you fancy. It is our own foolish timidity--what certain
folk call conscience--that suggests the idea how people are talking
of us, and, like the valet in the comedy, we begin confessing our sins
before we 're accused of them!"

"I know that is _your_ theory, papa," said she, laughing, "and that one
ought always to 'die innocent.'"

"Of course, my dear. It is only the jail chaplain benefits by what is
called 'a full disclosure of the terrible tragedy.'"

"I hear my carriage creeping up quietly to the door," said she,
listening. "Be sure you let me see you early tomorrow. Good-night."



CHAPTER XXXVI. A GRAVE SCENE IN LIGHT COMPANY

Moralists have often found a fruitful theme in the utter barrenness of
all the appliances men employ for their pleasures. What failures follow
them, what weariness, what satiety and heart-sickness! The feast of
Belshazzar everywhere!

To the mere eye nothing could be more splendid, nothing more suggestive
of enjoyment, than the Pergola of Florence when brilliantly lighted
and thronged with a gay and merry company. Character figures in every
variety fancy or caprice could suggest--Turks, Styrians, Highlanders,
Doges, Dervishes, and Devils--abounded, with Pifferari from Calabria,
Muleteers, Matadors, and Conjurers; Boyards from Tobolsk jostled Male
Crusaders, and Demons that might have terrified St. Anthony flitted past
with Sisters of Charity! Strange parody upon the incongruities of
our every-day life, costume serving but to typify the moral
incompatibilities which are ever at work in our actual existence! for
are not the people we see linked together--are not the social groupings
we witness--just as widely separated by every instinct and every
sentiment as are these characters in all their motley? Are the two
yonder, as they sit at the fireside, not as remote from each other as
though centuries had rolled between them? They toil along, it is true,
together; they drag the same harden, but with different hopes and
fears and motives. Bethink you "the friends so linked together" are
like-minded? No, it is all masquerade; and the motley is that same easy
conventionality by which we hope to escape undetected and unknown!

Our business now is not with the mass of this great assemblage; we are
only interested for two persons,--one of whom, a tall figure in a
black domino, leans against a pillar yonder, closely scrutinizing each
new-comer that enters, and eagerly glancing at the sleeve of every
yellow domino that passes.

He has been there from an early hour of the evening, and never left
it since. Many a soft voice has whispered some empty remark on his
impassiveness; more than once a jest-ing sarcasm has been uttered upon
his participation in the gayety around; but he has never replied, but
with folded arms patiently awaited the expected one. At last he is
joined by another, somewhat shorter and stouter, but dressed like him,
who, bending close to his ear, whispers,--

"Why are you standing here,--have you not seen her?"

"No; she has never passed this door."

"She entered by the stage, and has been walking about this hour. I saw
her talking to several, to whom, to judge by their gestures, her remarks
must have been pointed enough; but there she is,--see, she is leaning on
the arm of that Malay chief. Join her; you know the signal."

Paten started suddenly from his lounging attitude, and cleft his way
through the crowd, little heeding the comments his rude persistence
called forth. As he drew nigh where the yellow domino stood, he
hesitated and glanced around him, as though he felt that every eye was
watching him, and only after a moment or so did he seem to remember that
he was disguised. At last he approached her, and, taking her sleeve in
his hand, unpinned the little cross of tricolored ribbon and fastened it
on his own domino. With a light gesture of farewell she quickly
dismissed her cavalier and took his arm.

[Illustration: 392]

As he led her along through the crowd, neither spoke, and it was only at
last, as seemingly baffled to find the spot he sought for, she said,--

"All places are alike here. Let us talk as we walk along."

A gentle pressure on her arm seemed to assent, and she went on:--

"It was only at the last moment that I determined to come here this
evening. You have deceived me. Yes; don't deny it Paten is with you
here, and you never told me."

He muttered something that sounded like apology.

"It was unfair of you," said she, hurriedly, "for I was candid and open
with you; and it was needless, besides, for we are as much apart as if
hundreds of miles separated us. I told you already as much."

"But why not see him? He alone can release you from the bond that ties
you; he may be more generous than you suspect."

"He generous! Who ever called him so?"

"Many who knew him as well as you," cried he, suddenly.

With a bound she disengaged her arm from him, and sprang back.

"Do not touch me; lay so much as a finger on me, and I 'll unmask and
call upon this crowd for protection!" cried she, in a voice trembling
with passion. "I know you now."

"Let me speak with you a few words,--the last I shall ever ask,"
muttered he, "and I promise all you dictate."

"Leave me--leave me at once," said she, in a mere whisper. "If you do
not leave me, I will declare aloud who you are."

"Who _we_ are; don't forget yourself," muttered he.

"For that I care not I am ready."

"For mercy's sake, Loo, do not," cried he, as she lifted her hand
towards the strings of her mask. "I will go. You shall never see me
more. I came here to make the one last reparation I owe you, to give you
up your letters, and say good-bye forever."

"That you never did,--never!" cried she, passionately. "You came
because you thought how, in the presence of this crowd, the terror of
exposure would crush my woman's heart, and make me yield to any terms
you pleased."

"If I swear to you by all that I believe is true--"

"You never did believe; your heart rejected belief. When I said I knew
you, I meant it all: I do know you. I know, besides, that when the
scaffold received one criminal, it left another, and a worse, behind.
For many a year you have made my life a hell. I would not care to go on
thus; all your vengeance and all the scorn of the world would be light
compared to what I wake to meet each morning, and close my eyes to, as I
sleep at night."

"Listen to me, Loo, but for one moment. I do not want to justify myself.
You are not more wretched than I am,--utterly, irretrievably wretched!"

"Where are the letters?" said she, in a low whisper.

"They are here,--in Florence."

"What sum will you take for them?"

"They shall be yours unbought, Loo, if you will but hear me.

"I want the letters; tell me their price."

"The price is simply one meeting--one opportunity to clear myself before
you--to show you how for years my heart has clung to you."

"I cannot buy them at this cost. Tell me how much money you will have
for them."

"It is your wish to outrage, to insult me, then?" muttered he, in a
voice thick with passion.

"Now you are natural; now you are yourself; and now I can speak to you.
Tell me your price."

"Your shame!--your open degradation! The spectacle of your exposure
before all Europe, when it shall have been read in every language and
talked of in every city."

"I have looked for that hour for many a year, Paul Hunt, and its arrival
would be mercy, compared with the daily menace of one like _you_."

"The story of the murder again revived; the life you led, the letters
themselves revealing it; the orphan child robbed of her inheritance; the
imposture of your existence abroad here!--what variety in the scenes!
what diversity in the interests!"

"I am far from rich, but I would pay you liberally, Paul," said she, in
a voice low and collected.

"Cannot you see, woman, that by this language you are wrecking your last
hope of safety?" cried he, insolently. "Is it not plain to you that you
are a fool to insult the hand that can crush you?"

"But I _am_ crushed; I can fall no lower," whispered she, tremulously.

"Oh, dearest Loo, if you would forgive me for the past!"

"I cannot--I cannot!" burst she out, in a voice scarcely above a
whisper. "I have done all I could, but I cannot!"

"If you only knew how I was tempted to it, Loo! If you but heard the
snare that was laid for me!"

A scornful toss of her head was all her answer.

"It is in my consciousness of the wrong I have done you that I seek this
reparation, Loo," said he, eagerly. "When I speak otherwise, it is my
passion gives utterance to the words. My heart is, however, true to
you."

"Will you let me have my letters, and at what cost? I tell you again, I
am not rich, but I will pay largely, liberally here."

"Let me confess it, Loo," said he, in a trembling tone, "these letters
are the one last link between us. It is not for a menace I would keep
them,--so help me Heaven, the hour of _your_ shame would be that of _my_
death,--but I cling to them as the one tie that binds my fate to yours.
I feel that when I surrender them, that tie is broken; that I am nothing
to you; that you would hear my name unmoved, and see me pass without a
notice. Bethink you, then, that you ask me for what alone attaches me to
existence."

"I cannot understand such reasonings," said she, coldly. "These letters
have no other value save the ruin they can work me. If not employed to
that end, they might as well blacken in the fire or moulder into dust
You tell me you are not in search of any vengeance on me, and it is much
to say, for I never injured you, while you have deeply injured _me_.
Why, therefore, not give up what you own to be so useless?"

"For the very reason I have given you, Loo; that, so long as I hold
them, I have my interest in your heart, and you cannot cease to feel
bound up with my destiny."

"And is not this vengeance?" asked she, quietly. "Can you picture to
your mind a revenge more cruel, living on from day to day, and gathering
force from time?"

"But to me there is ever the hope that the past might come back again."

"Never--never!" said she, resolutely. "The man who has corrupted a
woman's heart may own as much of it as can feel love for him; but he who
has held up to shame the dishonor he has provoked must be satisfied with
her loathing and her hate."

"And you tell me that these are my portion?" said he, sternly.

"Your conscience can answer how you have earned them."

They walked along side by side in silence for some time, and at last
she said, "How much better, for both of us, to avoid words of passion or
remembrances of long ago."

"You loved me once, Loo," broke he in, with deep emotion.

"And if I once contracted a debt which I could not pay you now, would
you insult me for my poverty, or persecute me? I do not think so,
Ludlow."

"And when I have given them to you, Loo, and they are in your hands, how
are we to meet again? Are we to be as utter strangers to each other?"
said he, in deep agitation.

"Yes," replied she, "it is as such we must be. There is no hardship in
this; or, if there be, only what one feels in seeing the house he once
lived in occupied by another,--a passing pang, perhaps, but no more."

"How you are changed, Loo!" cried he.

"How silly would it be for the trees to burst out in bud with winter!
and the same folly were it for us not to change as life wears on. Our
spring is past, Ludlow."

"But I could bear all if you were not changed to me," cried he,
passionately.

"Far worse, again. I am changed to myself, so that I do not know
myself," said she.

"I know well how your heart reproaches me for all this, Loo," said he,
sorrowfully; "how you accuse me of being the great misfortune of your
life. Is it not so?"

"Who can answer this better than yourself?" cried she, bitterly.

"And yet, was it not the whole aim and object of my existence to be
otherwise? Did I not venture everything for your love?"

"If you would have me talk with you, speak no more of this. You have it
in your power to do me a great service, or work me a great injury; for
the first, I mean to be more than grateful; that is, I would pay all
I could command; for the last, your recompense must be in the hate you
bear me. Decide which path you will take, and let me face my future as
best I may."

"There is one other alternative, Loo, which you have forgotten."

"What is it?"

"Can you not forgive me?" said he, almost sobbing as he spoke.

"I cannot,--I cannot," said she. "You ask me for more than any human
heart could yield. All that the world can heap upon me of contempt would
be as nothing to what I should feel for myself if I stooped to that.
No, no; follow out your vengeance if it must be, but spare me to my own
heart."

"Do you know the insults you cast upon me?" cried he, savagely. "Are you
aware that it is to my own ears you speak these words?"

"Do not quarrel with me because I deal honestly by you," said she,
firmly. "I will not promise that I cannot pay. Remember, too, Ludlow,
that what I ask of you I do not ask from your generosity. I make no
claim to what I have forfeited all right. I simply demand the price you
set upon a certain article of which to _me_ the possession is more than
life. I make no concealment from you. I own it frankly--openly."

"You want your letters, and never to hear more of _me_!" said he,
sternly.

"What sum will you take for them?" said she, in a slow, whispering
voice.

"You ask what will enable you to set me at defiance forever, Loo! Say it
frankly and fairly. You want to tear your bond and be free."

She did not speak, and he went on,--

"And you can ask this of the man you abhor! you can stoop to solicit him
whom, of all on earth, you hate the most!"

Still she was silent.

"Well," said he, after a lengthened pause, "you shall have them. I
will restore them to you. I have not got them here,--they are in
England,--but I will fetch them. My word on it that I will keep my
pledge. I see," added he, after an interval, in which he expected she
would speak, but was still silent,--"I see how little faith you repose
in a promise. You cannot spare one word of thanks for what you regard as
so uncertain; but I can endure this, for I have borne worse. Once more,
then, I swear to you, you shall have your letters back. I will place
them myself in your hands, and before witnesses too. Remember that,
Loo--before witnesses!" And with these words, uttered with a sort of
savage energy, he turned away from her, and was soon lost in the crowd.

"I have followed you this hour, Loo," said a low voice beside her.

She turned and took the speaker's arm, trembling all over, and scarcely
able to keep from falling.

"Take me away, father,--take me away from this," said she, faintly. "I
feel very ill."

"It was Paten was with you. I could not mistake him," said Holmes. "What
has occurred between you?"

"I will tell you all when I get home," said she, still speaking faintly.
And now they moved through the motley crowd, with sounds of mirth and
words of folly making din around them. Strange discrepant accents to
fall on hearts as full as theirs! "How glad I am to breathe this fresh
cold night air," cried she, as they gained the street. "It was the heat,
the noise, and the confusion overcame me, but I am better now."

"And how have you parted with him?" asked her father, eagerly.

"With a promise that sounds like a threat," said she, in a hollow voice.
"But you shall hear all."



CHAPTER XXXVI. MR. STOCMAR'S VISIT

It was not without trepidation that Mr. Stocmar presented himself,
the morning after the events we have recorded, at the residence of Sir
William Heathcote. His situation was, indeed, embarrassing; for not
only had he broken faith with Mrs. Morris in permitting Paten to take
his place at the ball, but as Paten had started for England that same
night without even communicating with him, Stocmar was completely
puzzled what to do, and how to comport himself.

That she would receive him haughtily, disdainfully even, he was fully
prepared for; that she would reproach him--not very measuredly
too--for his perfidy regarding Paten, he also expected. But even these
difficulties were less than the embarrassment of not knowing how her
meeting with Paten had been conducted, and to what results it had led.
More than once did he stop in the street and deliberate with himself
whether he should not turn back, hasten to his hotel, and leave Florence
without meeting her. Nor was he quite able to say why he resisted this
impulse, nor how it was that, in defiance of all his terrors, he found
himself at length at her door.

The drawing-room into which he was shown was large and splendidly
furnished. A conservatory opened from one end, and at the other a large
folding glass door gave upon a spacious terrace, along which a double
line of orange-trees formed an alley of delicious shade. Scarcely had
Stocmar passed the threshold than a very silvery voice accosted him from
without.

"Oh, do come here, dear Mr. Stocmar, and enjoy the delightful freshness
of this terrace. Let me present a very old friend of my family to
you,--Captain Holmes. He has just returned from India, and can give you
the very latest news of the war." And the gentlemen bowed, and smiled,
and looked silly at each other. "Is not all this very charming, Mr.
Stocmar?--at a season, too, when we should, in our own country, be
gathering round coal-fires and screening ourselves from draughts. I am
very angry with you,--very," whispered she, as she gave him her hand to
kiss, "and I am not at all sure if I mean ever to be friends with you
again."

And poor Mr. Stocmar bowed low and blushed, not through modesty,
indeed, but delight, for he felt like the schoolboy who, dreading to be
punished, hears he is to be rewarded.

"But I _am_ forgiven, am I not?" muttered he.

"Hush! Be cautious," whispered she. "Here comes Sir William Heathcote.
Can't you imagine yourself to have known him long ago?"

The hint was enough; and as the old Baronet held out his hand with his
accustomed warmth, Stocmar began a calculation of how many years had
elapsed since he had first enjoyed the honor of shaking that hand. This
is a sort of arithmetic elderly gentlemen have rather a liking for. It
is suggestive of so many pleasant little platitudes about "long ago,"
with anecdotic memories of poor dear Dick or Harry, that it rarely fails
to interest and amuse. And so they discussed whether it was not in '38
or '39,--whether in spring or in autumn,--if Boulter--"poor Tom," as
they laughingly called him--had not just married the widow at that
time; and, in fact, through the intervention of some mock dates and
imaginary incidents, they became to each other like very old friends.

Those debatable nothings are of great service to Englishmen who meet as
mere acquaintances; they relieve the awkwardness of looking out for a
topic, and they are better than the eternal question of the weather. Sir
William had, besides, a number of people to ask after, and Stocmar knew
everybody, and knew them, too, either by some nickname, or some little
anecdotic clew very amusing to those who have lived long enough in the
world to be interested by the same jokes on the same people,--a time of
life, of course, not ours, dear reader, though we may come to it one
day; and Captain Holmes listened to the reminiscences, and smiled, and
smirked, and "very true'd," to the great enjoyment of the others; while
Mrs. Morris stole noiselessly here and there, cutting camellias for a
bouquet, but not unwatchful of the scene.

"I hope and trust I have been misinformed about your plans here, Mr.
Stocmar," said Sir William, who was so happy to recall the names of
former friends and acquaintances. "You surely do not mean to run away
from us so soon?"

A quick glance from Mrs. Morris telegraphed his reply, and he said,
"I am most unfortunately limited for time. I shall be obliged to leave
immediately."

"A day or two you could surely spare us?" said Heathcote.

Stocmar shook his head with a deploring smile, for another glance, quick
as the former, had given him his instructions.

"I have told you, Sir William, how inexorable he is about Clara; and
although at first I stoutly opposed his reasonings, I am free to own
that he has convinced me his plan is the true one; and as he has made
all the necessary arrangements,--have you not, Mr. Stocmar?--and they
are charming people she will be with,--he raves about them," said
she, in a sort of whisper, while she added, still lower, "and I partly
explained to him my own projected change,--and, in fact, it is better
as it is,--don't you think so?" and thus hurrying Sir William along,--a
process not unlike that by which an energetic rider hustles a lazy horse
through heavy ground,--she at least made him feel grateful that he was
not called upon for any increased exercise of his judgment. And
then Stocmar followed, like another counsel in the same brief,--half
jocularly, to be sure, and like one not required to supply more than
some illustrative arguments. He remarked that young ladies nowadays
were expected to be models of erudition,--downright professors; no
smatterings of French and Italian, no water-color sketches touched up
by the master,--"they must be regular linguists, able to write like
De Sévigné, and interpret Dante." In a word, so much did he improve the
theme, that he made Sir William shudder at the bare thought of being
domesticated with so much loose learning, and thank his stars that he
had been born in a generation before it. Not but the worthy Baronet had
his own secret suspicions that Clara wanted little aid from all their
teachings; his firm belief being that she was the most quick-witted,
gifted creature ever existed, and it was in a sort of triumphant voice
he asked Mrs. Morris, "Has Mr. Stocmar seen her?"

"Not yet," said she, dryly. "Clara is in my room. Mr. Stocmar shall
see her presently; for, as he insists on leaving this to-morrow--"

"To-morrow---to-morrow!" cried Sir William, in amazement.

And then Stocmar, drawing close to Sir William, began confidentially to
impart to him how, partly from over-persuasion of certain great people,
partly because he liked that sort of thing, he had got into theatrical
management. "One must do something. You know," said he, "I hate farming,
never was much of a sportsman, had no turn for politics; and so, by
Jove! I thought I 'd try the stage. I mean, of course, as manager,
director, 'impresario,' or whatever you call it. I need not tell you
it's a costly amusement, so far as expense goes. I might have kept the
best house in town, and the best stables in Leicestershire, for far less
than I have indulged my dramatic tastes; but I like it: it amuses, it
interests me!" And Stocmar drew himself up and stuck his hands into his
waistcoat-pockets, as though to say, "Gaze, and behold a man rich enough
to indulge a costly caprice, and philosophic enough to pay for the
pleasure that rewards him." "Yes, sir," he added, "my last season,
though the Queen took her private box, and all my noble friends stood
stanchly to me, brought me in debt no less than thirteen thousand seven
hundred pounds! That's paying for one's whistle, sir,--eh?" cried he, as
though vain of his own defeat.

"You might have lost it in the funds, and had no pleasure for it," said
Sir William, consolingly.

"The very remark I made, sir. The very thing I said to Lord Snaresby. I
might have been dabbling in those Yankee securities, and got hit just as
hard."

Sir William made a wry face, and turned away. He hoped that Captain
Holmes had not overheard the allusion; but the Captain was deep in
"Galignani," and heard nothing.

"It is this," continued Stocmar, "recalls me so suddenly to England. We
open on the 24th, and I give you my word of honor we have neither tenor,
basso, nor barytone engaged, nor am I quite sure of my prima donna."

"Who ever was?" whispered Mrs. Morris, slyly; and then added aloud,
"Come now, and let me present Clara to you. We'll return presently, Sir
William." And, so saying, she slipped her arm within Stocmar's and led
him away.

"Who is that Captain Holmes?" asked he, as they walked along.

"Oh, a nobody; an old muff."

"Is he deaf, or is it mere pretence?"

"Deaf as a post."

"I know his face perfectly. I 've seen him about town for years back."

"Impossible! He has been collecting revenue, distressing Talookdars,
or Ryots, or whatever they are, in India, these thirty-odd years. It was
some one you mistook for him." She had her hand on the lock of the door
as she said this. She paused before opening it, and said, "Remember, you
are her guardian,--your word is law." And they entered.

Stocmar was certainly not prepared for the appearance of the young girl
who now rose to receive him with all the practised ease of the world.
She was taller, older-looking, and far handsomer than he expected, and,
as Mrs. Morris said, "Your guardian, Clara," she courtesied deeply, and
accepted his salutation at once with deference and reserve.

"I am in the most painful of all positions," began he, with a courteous
smile. "My first step in your acquaintance is as the ungracious herald
of a separation from all you love."

"I have been prepared, sir, for your intentions regarding me," said she,
coldly.

[Illustration: 404]

"Yes, Mr. Stocmar," broke in Mrs. Morris, quickly, "though Clara is
very young, she is thoroughly aware of our circumstances; she knows the
narrowness of our fortune, and the necessity we are under of effort for
our future support. Her own pride and her feeling for me are sufficient
reasons for keeping such matters secret. She is not ignorant of the
world, little as she has seen of it, and she comprehends that our
acceptance with our friends is mainly dependent on our ability to
dispense with their assistance."

"Am I to be a governess, sir?" asked Clara, with a calm which the
deathlike paleness of her face showed to have cost her dearly.

"A governess! a governess!" repeated he, looking at Mrs. Morris for his
cue, for the suddenness of the question had routed all his preparations.
"I think not,--I should hope not; indeed, I am enabled to say, there is
no thought of that."

"If so," continued Clara, in the same calm tone, "I should like to be
with very young children. I am not afraid of being thought menial."

"Clara," broke in Mrs. Morris, harshly, "Mr. Stocmar has already assured
you that he does not contemplate this necessity." She looked towards
him as she spoke, and he at once saw it was his duty to come up to
the rescue, and this he did with one of those efforts all his own.
He launched forth boldly into generalities about education and its
advantages; how, with the development of the mind and the extension of
the resources, came new fields of exercise, fresh realms of conquest.
"None of us, my dear young lady," cried he, "not the worldliest nor the
wisest of us, can ever tell when a particular acquirement will be the
key-stone of our future fortune." He illustrated his theory with copious
instances. "There was Mademoiselle Justemar, whom nobody had ever
imagined to be an artiste, came out as Alice one evening that the prima
donna was ill, and took the whole town by storm. There was that little
creature, Violetta; who ever fancied she could dance till they saw her
as Titania? Every one knew of Giulia Barducci, taken from the chorus, to
be the greatest Norma of the age."

He paused and looked at her, with a stare of triumph in his features;
his expression seemed to say, "What think you of that glorious Paradise
I have led you to look at?"

"It is very encouraging indeed, sir," said Clara, dryly, but with no
semblance of irony,--"very encouraging. There is, then, really no reason
that one day I might not be a rope-dancer."

"Clara," cried Mrs. Morris, severely, "you must curb this habit, if you
will not do better by abandoning it altogether. The spirit of repartee
is the spirit of impertinence."

"I had really hoped, mamma," said she, with an air of simplicity, "that,
as all Mr. Stocmar's illustrations were taken from the stage, I had
caught the spirit of his examples in giving one from the circus."

"I'll be sworn you're fond of riding," cried Stocmar, eager to relieve a
very awkward crisis even by a stupid remark.

"Yes, sir; and I am very clever in training. I know the whole 'Bauchet'
system, and can teach a horse his 'flexions,' and the rest of it.--Well,
but, mamma," broke she in, apologetically, "surely my guardian ought to
be aware of my perfections; and if _you_ won't inform him, _I_ must."

"You perceive, sir," said Mrs. Morris, "that when I spoke of her
flippancy, I was not exaggerating."

"You may rely upon it, Mr. Stocmar," continued Clara, "mamma's
description of me was only justice."

Stocmar laughed, and hoped that the others would have joined him; but
in this he was unhappily disappointed: they were even graver than before;
 Mrs. Morris showing, in her heightened color, a degree of irritation,
while Clara's pale face betrayed no sign of emotion.

"You are to leave this to-morrow, Clara," said Mrs. Morris, coldly.

"Very well, mamma," was the quiet answer.

"You don't seem very eager to know for whither," said Stocmar, smiling.
"Are all places alike to you?"

"Pretty much so, sir," said she, in the same voice.

"You were scarcely prepared for so much philosophy, I 'm sure,
Mr. Stocmar," said Mrs. Morris, sneeringly. "Pray confess yourself
surprised."

"Call it ignorance, mamma, and you'll give it the right name. What do
_I_ know of the world, save from guide and road books? and, from the
little I have gleaned, many a village would be pleasanter to me than
Paris."

"More philosophy, sir. You perceive what a treasure of wisdom is about
to be intrusted to your charge."

"Pray bear that in mind, sir," said Clara, with a light laugh; "and
don't forget that though the casket has such a leaden look, it is all
pure gold."

Never was poor Stocmar so puzzled before. He felt sailing between
two frigates in action, and exposed to the fire of each, though a
non-combatant; nor was it of any use that he hauled down his flag, and
asked for mercy,--they only loaded and banged away again.

"I must say," cried he at last, "that I feel very proud of my ward."

"And I am charmed with my guardian," said she, courtesy-ing, with an air
that implied far more of grace than sincerity in its action.

Mrs. Morris bit her lip, and a small red spot on her cheek glowed like a
flame.

"I have explained fully to Mr. Stocmar, Clara," said she, in a cold,
calm tone, "that from to-morrow forward your allegiance will be
transferred from _me_ to _him_; that with him will rest all
authority and direction over you; that, however interested--naturally
interested--I must continue to feel in your future, _he_, and _he_
alone, must be its arbiter. I repeat this now, in his presence, that
there may be no risk of a misconception."

"Am I to write to you, mamma?" asked the girl, in a voice unmoved as her
own.

"Yes, you will write; that is, I shall expect to hear from you in reply
to my letters. This we will talk over together."

"Am I to correspond with you, sir?" said she, addressing Stocmar in the
same impassive way.

"Oh! by all means. I shall take it as the greatest of favors. I shall be
charmed if you will honor me so far."

"I ask, sir," continued she, "because I may chance to have companions
in the place to which I am going; and, even to satisfy _their_ scruples,
one ought to have some belongings."

There was not the shadow of irritation in the manner in which these
words were spoken; and yet Stocmar heard them with a strange thrill of
pity, and Mrs. Morris grew pale as she listened to them.

"Clara," said Mrs. Morris, gravely, "there are circumstances in our
relations to each other which you will only learn when we have parted. I
have committed them to writing for your own eye alone. They will explain
the urgency of the step I am now taking, as much for _your_ sake as for
_mine_. When you have read and carefully pondered over that paper, you
will be convinced that this separation is of necessity."

Clara bowed her head in assent, but did not speak.

"You will also see, Clara," resumed she, "that it is very far from
likely the old relations between us will ever again be resumed. If we
do meet again,--an event that may or may not happen,--it will be as some
distant cousins,--some who have ties of kindred between them, and no
more."

Clara nodded again, but still in silence.

"You see, sir," said Mrs. Morris, turning towards Stocmar, while her
eyes flashed angrily,--"you see, sir, that I am handing over to your
care a model of obedience,--a young lady who has no will save that of
those in authority over her,--not one rebellious sentiment of affection
or attachment in her nature."

"And who will ever strive to preserve your good opinions, sir, by
persevering in this wise course," said Clara, with a modest courtesy.

If any one could have read Mr. Stocmar's heart at that moment, he would
have detected no very benevolent feelings towards either mother or
daughter, while he sincerely deplored his own fate at being in such
company.

"Don't you think, mamma," said the girl, with an easy smile, "that,
considering how recently we have known this gentleman, we have been
sufficiently explicit and candid before him, and that any pretence of
emotion in his presence would be most unbecoming? He will, I am sure,
forgive us the omission. Won't you, sir?"

Stocmar smiled and bowed, and blushed and looked miserable.

"_You_ have been very candid, at all events, Clara," said Mrs.
Morris; "and Mr. Stocmar--or I mistake him much--must have acquired a
considerable insight into the nature of his charge. Sir William expects
to see you at dinner to-day, Clara," added she, in an easier tone. "He
hopes to be well enough to come to table; and as it will be your last
evening here--"

"So it will," said the girl, quickly; "and I must fetch down Beethoven
with me, and play his favorites for him once more."

Mrs. Morris raised her eyebrows with an expressive look at Stocmar, and
led him from the room. Scarcely had the door closed, when the girl threw
herself, half kneeling, on the sofa, and sobbed as if her very heart was
breaking.



CHAPTER XXXVIII. VERY OUTSPOKEN ON THE WORLD AT LARGE

And there came a next morning to all this. Oh, these same next mornings
of life!--strange leaves in that book of our daily existence, now dark
and black-lettered, now bright in all the glories of golden tracery!
 For so is it, each day is a fresh page to be written "with chalk or
charcoal," as it may be.

Two travelling-carriages took their way from Florence on that
morning,--one for Bologna, with Mr. Stocmar and Clara; the other for
Rome, with the Heathcotes, Captain Holmes having his place in the
rumble. Old soldier that he was, he liked the open-air seat, where he
could smoke his cigar and see the country. Of all those who journeyed
in either, none could vie with him in the air of easy enjoyment that he
wore; and even the smart Swiss maid at his side, though she might have
preferred a younger companion, was fain to own, in her own peculiar
English, that he was full of little bounties (bontés) in her regard. And
when they halted to bait, he was so amiable and full of attentions to
every one, exerting the very smallest vocabulary to provide all that
was needed; never abashed by failure or provoked by ridicule; always
good-tempered, always gay. It was better than colchicum to Sir William
to see the little fat man washing the salad himself at the fountain,
surrounded by all the laughing damsels of the hostel, who jeered him on
every stage of his performance; and even May, whose eyes were red with
crying after Clara, had to laugh at the disasters of his cookery and the
blunders of his Italian. And then he gossiped about with landlords and
postboys, till he knew of every one who had come or was coming; what
carriages, full of Russian Princes, could not get forward for want
of horses, and what vetturinos, full of English, had been robbed of
everything. He had the latest intelligence about Garibaldi, and the
names of the last six Sicilian Dukes shot by the King of Naples. Was
he not up, too, in his John Murray, which he read whenever Mademoiselle
Virginia was asleep, and sold out in retail at every change of
post-horses?

Is it not strange that this is exactly the sort of person one needs on
a journey, and yet is only by the merest accident to be chanced upon?
We never forget the courier, nor the valet, nor the soubrette, but
the really invaluable creature,--the man who learns the name of every
village, the value of all coinage, the spot that yields good wine, the
town where the peaches are fullest of flavor, or the roses richest in
perfume; we leave him to be picked up at hazard, if picked up at all. It
is an unaccountable prejudice that makes the parasite unpopular. For
who is it that relieves life of much of its asperities,--who is it that
provides so unceasingly that our capon should be well roasted and our
temper unruffled,--who, like him, to secure all the available advantages
of the road, and, when disasters _will_ occur, to make them food for
laughter?

How patient, how self-sacrificing, how deferential to caprices and
indulgent to whims is the man whose daily dinner you pay for! If you
would see humanity in holiday attire, look out for one like _him_.
How blandly does he forgive the rascalities of _your_ servants and the
robberies of _your_ tradesmen! No fretfulness about trifles
disfigures the calm serenity of his features. He knows that if the
travelling-carriage be thought heavy, it is only two leaders the more
are required; if the wine be corked, it is but ordering another bottle.
Look at life from his point of view, and it is surprising how little
there is to complain of. It would be too much to say that there was
not occasionally a little acting in all this catholic benevolence and
universal satisfaction, but no more, perhaps, than the fervor of a
lawyer for his client,--that _nisi prius_ enthusiasm marked five guineas
on the brief.

The Captain understood his part like an artist; and through all the
condescending forgiveness he bestowed on the shortcomings of inns and
innkeepers, he suffered, ever half imperceptibly, to peer out the habits
of a man accustomed to the best of everything, who always had been
sedulously served and admirably cared for. His indulgence was thus
generosity, not ignorance, and all irritability in such a presence would
stand rebuked at once.

Sir William declared he had never seen his equal,--such temper, such
tact, such resources in difficulty, such patience under all trials.
May pronounced him charming. He could obtain something eatable in the
veriest desolation, he could extract a laugh out of disasters that
seemed to defy drollery; and, lastly, Mrs. Morris herself averred "that
he was unlike every old Indian she had ever seen, for he seemed not to
know what selfishness meant,--but so, indeed, 'poor Penthony' had
always described him." And here she would wipe her eyes and turn away in
silence.

As they rolled along the road, many a little scheme was devised for
detaining him at Rome, many a little plot laid for making him pass
the carnival with them. Little knew they the while, how, seated in the
rumble close behind, he too revolved the self-same thoughts, asking
himself by what means he could secure so pleasant a harbor of refuge.
Will it not occasionally occur in life that some of those successes on
which we pride ourselves have been in a measure prepared by others,
and that the adversary has helped us to win the game we are so vain of
having scored?

"Well, how do you like them?" said Mrs. Morris, as she smoked her
cigarette at the end of the little garden at Viterbo, after Sir William
and May had said good-night,--"how do you like them, pa?"

"They 're wonderful,--they 're wonderful!" said the Captain, puffing
his weed. "It's a long time since I met anything so fresh as that old
Baronet."

"And with all that," said she, "his great vanity is to think he knows
'the world.'"

"So he may, my dear. I can only say it is n't _your_ world nor _mine_,"
replied he, laughing.

"And yet there is a class in which such men as he are the clever ones,
where their remarks are listened to and their observations treasured,
and where old ladies in turbans and bird-of-paradise feathers pronounce
them 'such well-informed men.' Isn't that the phrase, pa?"

"Yes, that's the phrase. An old article of the 'Quarterly' committed to
memory, some of Dr. Somebody's predictions about the end of the
world, and Solomon's proverbs done into modern English, make a very
well-informed man."

"And a most insupportable bore, besides. After all, papa," said she,
"it is in the landlocked creeks, the little waveless bays, that one must
seek his anchorage, and not in the breezy roadsteads nor the open ocean.
I've thought over the matter a good deal lately, and I believe that to
be the wise choice."

"You are right, Loo," said he; "ease is the great thing,--ease and
security! What settlement can he make?"

"A small one; Just enough to live on. The son would be better in that
respect, but then I should n't like it; and, besides, he would live as
long as myself,--longer, perhaps,--and you know one likes to have a look
forward, though it be ever so far away off."

"Very true,--very true," said he, with a mild sigh. "And this Miss
Leslie," added he, after a while; "she 'll marry, I suppose?"

"Oh yes; her fortune will still be considerable,--at least, I hope so.
That man Trover has taken all the papers away with him, but he 'll turn
up some day or other. At all events, there will be quite enough to get
her a Roman Count or a Sicilian Duke; and as they are usually sent to
the galleys or shot in a few years, the endurance is not prolonged.
These are Trover's cigars, ain't they? I know them well."

"Yes; it was your friend Stocmar filled my case yesterday."

"Another of the would-be shrewd ones!" said she, laughing.

"I did n't fancy him much," said he.

"Nor I, either; he is _such_ a snob. Now, one can't live with a snob,
though one may dine with him, smoke, flirt, ride, and chat with him. Is
it not so?"

"Perfectly true."

"Sir William is not snobbish. It is his one redeeming quality."

"I see that I remarked it the first day we met."

"Oh dear! oh dear!" sighed she, drearily, "what a tame, poor,
commonplace thing life becomes when it is reduced to English cookery
for health, and respectability for morals! I could marry Stocmar if I
pleased, papa."

"Of course you could."

"Or O'Shea,--'the O'Shea,'" said she, with a laugh. "How droll to be the
_she_ of that species! I could have _him_ also."

"Not also, but either, dear," said the Captain, correcting her.

"I meant that, papa," laughed she in, "though, perhaps--perhaps poor Mr.
Ogden might n't see that your objection was called for." And then they
both laughed once more at the droll conceit. "We are to be married on
some day before Lent," said she, after a pause. "I must positively get
an almanac, papa, or I shall make confusion in my dates."

"The Lent begins late this year," remarked he.

"Does it? So much the better, for there is much to be thought of. I
trust to you for the settlements, papa. You will have to be inexorable
on every stage of the proceedings; and as for me, I know nothing of
business,--never did, never could."

"But that is not exactly the character you have figured in here of
late."

"Oh, papa dear," cried she, "do you imagine, if reason or judgment were
to be invoked, that Sir William would ever marry me? Is it not because
he is blind to every inconsistency and every contradiction that the poor
man has decided on this step?"

"Where do you mean to live? Have you any plans on that score?"

"None, except where there are fewest English; the smallest possible
population of red whiskers and red petticoats, and the least admixture
of bad tongues and Balmoral boots. If we cannot find such a spot, then a
city,--a large city, where people have too many resources to be obliged
to amuse themselves with scandal."

"That's true; I have always remarked that where the markets were good,
and fish especially abundant, people were less censorious. In small
localities, where one eats kid every day, the tendency to tear your
neighbor becomes irresistible. I 'm convinced that the bad tongue of
boarding-house people may be ascribed to the bad diet."

"Perfectly true, papa; and when you dine with us, you shall have no
excuse for malevolence. There," said she, throwing away the end of her
cigar, "I can't afford to light another one this evening, I have got
so few of those delicious Cubans. Oh dear," sighed she, "what a strange
destiny is mine! Whenever I enter the marriage state, it must always be
with a connection where there are no small vices, and _I_ fond of them!"

And so saying, she drew her shawl around her, and strolled lazily
towards the house, while the Captain, selecting another cheroot, sat
himself down in a snug spot in the arbor to muse, and meditate, and
moralize after his fashion. Had any one been there to mark him as he
gazed upwards at the starry sky, he might readily have deemed him one
lost in heavenly contemplation, deep in that speculative wisdom that
leaves the frontier of this narrow life far, far behind, and soars to
realms nobler, vaster, grander. But not so were his thoughts; they were
earthy of the earthiest, craft and subtlety crossed and recrossed them,
and in all their complex web not one chord was to be found which could
vibrate with an honest wish or a generous aspiration. There was not,
nevertheless, a ruddier complexion, a brighter eye, a merrier voice, or
a better digestion than his in Christendom.



CHAPTER XXXIX. FROM CLARA

It was just as Alfred Layton stepped into the boat to row out to the
"Asia," bound for New York, that a letter from Clara was placed in his
hands. He read it as they rowed along,--read it twice, thrice over. It
was a strange letter--at least, he thought so--from one so very young.
There was a tone of frankness almost sisterly, but there was, in
alluding to the happy past, a something of tenderness half shadowed
forth that thrilled strangely through his heart. How she seemed to love
those lessons he had once thought she felt to be mere tasks! How many
words he had uttered at random,--words of praise or blame, as it might
be; she had treasured all up, just as she had hoarded the flowers he
had given her. What a wondrous sensation it is to feel that a chance
expression we have used, a few stray words, have been stored up as
precious memories! Is there any flattery like it? What an ecstasy to
feel that we could impart value to the veriest commonplace, and, without
an effort, without even a will, sit enthroned within some other heart!

What wisdom there was in that old fable of the husbandman, who
bequeathed the treasure to his sons to be discovered by carefully
turning over the soil of their land, delving and digging it
industriously! How applicable is the lesson it teaches to what goes on
in our daily lives, where, ever in search of one form of wealth, our
labors lead us to discover some other of which we knew nothing! Little
had Alfred Layton ever suspected that, while seeking to gain May's
affection, he was winning another heart; little knew he that in that
atmosphere of love his deep devotion made, she--scarcely more than a
child--lived and breathed, mingling thoughts of him through all the
efforts of her mind, till he became the mainspring of every ambition
that possessed her. And now he knew it all. Yes, she confessed, as one
never again fated to meet him, that she loved him. "If," wrote she, "it
is inexpressible relief to me to own this, I can do so with less shame
that I ask no return of affection; I give you my heart, as I give that
which has no value, save that I feel it is with you, to go along with
you through all the straits and difficulties of your life, to nourish
hope for your success and sorrow for your failure, but never to meet you
more.... Nor," said she, in another place, "do I disguise from myself
the danger of this confession. They say it is man's nature to despise
the gift which comes unasked,--the unsought heart is but an undesired
realm. Be it so. So long as the thought fills me that _you_ are its
lord, so long as to myself I whisper vows of loyalty, I am not worthless
in my own esteem. I can say, '_He_ would like this; _he_ would praise me
for that; some word of good cheer would aid me here; how joyously _he_
would greet me as I reached this goal!"

"Bravely borne, dear Clara! would requite me for a cruel sacrifice. You
are too generous to deny me this much, and I ask no more. None of us can
be the worse of good wishes, none be less fortunate that daily blessings
are entreated for us. Mine go with you everywhere and always."

These lines, read and re-read so often, weighed heavily on Layton's
heart; and she who wrote them was never for an instant from his
thoughts. At first, sorrow and a sense of self-reproach were his only
sentiments; but gradually another feeling supervened. There is not
anything which supplies to the heart the want of being cared for.
There is that companionship in being loved, without which life is the
dreariest of all solitudes. As we are obliged to refer all our actions
to a standard of right and wrong, so by a like rule all our emotions
must be brought before another court,--the heart that loves us; and he
who has not this appeal is a wretched outlaw! This Layton now began to
feel, and every day strengthened the conviction. The last few lines of
the letter, too, gave an unspeakable interest to the whole. They ran
thus:--

"I know not what change has come over my life, or is to come, but I am
to be separated from my mother, intrusted to a guardian I have never
seen till now, and sent I know not whither. All that I am told is that
our narrow fortune requires I should make an effort for my own support.
I am grateful to the adversity that snatches me from a life of thought
to one of labor. The weariness of work will be far easier to bear than
the repinings of indolence. Self-reproach will be less poignant, too,
when not associated with self-indulgence; and, better than all, a
thousand times better, I shall feel in my toil some similitude to him
whom I love,--feel, when my tired brain seeks rest, some unseen thread
links my weariness to his, and blends our thoughts together in our
dreams, fellow-laborers at least in life, if not lovers!"

When he had read thus far, and was still contemplating the lines, a
small slip, carefully sealed in two places, fell from the letter. It was
inscribed "My Secret." Alfred tore it open eagerly. The contents were
very brief, and ran thus:--

"She whom I had believed to be my mother is not so. She is nothing to
me. I am an orphan. I know nothing of those belonging to me, nor of
myself, any more than that my name is _not_, 'Clara Morris.'"

Layton's first impulse, as he read, was to exclaim, "Thank God, the dear
child has no tie to this woman!" The thought of her being her daughter
was maddening. And then arose the question to his mind, by what link had
they been united hitherto? Mrs. Morris had been ever to him a mysterious
personage, for whom he had invented numberless histories, not always to
her advantage. But why or through what circumstances this girl had been
associated with her fortunes, was a knot he could find no clew to. There
arose, besides, another question, why should this connection now cease,
by what change in condition were they to be separated, and was the
separation to be complete and final? Clara ought to have told him more;
she should have been more explicit. It was unfair to leave him with an
unsolved difficulty which a few words might have set clear. He was half
angry with her for the torture of this uncertainty, and yet--let us own
it--in his secret heart he hugged this mystery as a new interest that
attached him to life. Let a man have ever so little of the gambler in
his nature,--and we have never pictured Layton as amongst that prudent
category,--and there will be still a tendency to weigh the eventualities
of life, as chances inclining now to this side, now to that "I was lucky
in that affair," "I was unfortunate there," are expressions occasionally
heard from those who have never played a card or touched a dice-box. And
where does this same element play such a part as when a cloud of doubt
and obscurity involves the fate of one we love?

For the first few days of the voyage Layton thought of nothing but Clara
and her history, till his mind grew actually confused with conflicting
guesses about her. "I must tell Quackinboss everything. I must ask his
aid to read this mystery, or it will drive me mad," said he, at last.
"He has seen her, too, and liked her." She was the one solitary figure
he had met with at the Villa which seemed to have made a deep impression
upon him; and over and over again the American had alluded to the
"'little gal' with the long eyelashes, who sang so sweetly."

It was not very easy to catch the Colonel in an unoccupied moment.
Ever since the voyage began he was full of engagements. He was an old
Transatlantic voyager, deep in all the arts and appliances by which such
journeys are rendered agreeable. Such men turn up everywhere. On the
Cunard line they organize the whist-parties, the polka on the poop-deck,
the sweepstakes on the ship's log, and the cod-fishing on the banks. On
the overland route it is they who direct where tents are to be pitched,
kids roasted, and Arabs horsewhipped. By a sort of common accord a
degree of command is conceded to them, and their authority is admitted
without dispute. Now and then a rival will contest the crown, and by
his party divide the state; but the community is large enough for such
schism, which, after all, is rarely a serious one. The Pretender, in the
present case, had come on board by the small vessel which took the pilot
away,--a circumstance not without suspicion, and, of course, certain
of obtaining its share of disparaging comments, not the less that the
gentleman's pretensions were considerable, and his manners imposing.
In fact, to use a vulgarism very expressive of the man, "he took on"
immensely. He was very indignant at not finding his servant expecting
him, and actually out of himself on discovering that a whole stateroom
had not been engaged for his accommodation. With all these disappointing
circumstances, it was curious enough how soon he reconciled himself to
his condition, submitting with great good-humor to all the privations of
ordinary mortals; and when, on the third or fourth day of the voyage,
he deigned to say that he had drunk worse Madeira, and that the clam
soup was really worthy of his approval, his popularity was at once
assured. It was really pleasant to witness such condescension, and
so, indeed, every one seemed to feel it. All but one, and that one was
Quackinboss, who, from the first moment, had conceived a strong dislike
against the new arrival, a sentiment he took no pains to conceal or
disguise.

"He's too p'lite,--he 's too civil by half, sir,--especially with the
women folk," said Quackinboss; "they ain't wholesome when they are so
tarnation sweet. As Senator Byles says, 'Bunkum won't make pie-crust,
though it 'll serve to butter a man up.' Them's my own sentiments too,
sir, and I don't like that stranger."

"What can it signify to you, Colonel?" said Layton. "Why need you
trouble your head about who or what he is?"

"I 'll be bound he's one of them as pays his debts with the topsail
sheet, sir. He's run. I 'm as sartain o' that fact as if I seen it.
Whenever I see a party as won't play whist under five-guinea points, or
drink anything cheaper than Moët at four dollars a bottle, I say look
arter that chap, Shaver, and you'll see it's another man's money pays
for him."

"But, after all," remonstrated Layton, "surely you have nothing to do
with him?"

"Well, sir, I 'm not downright convinced on that score. He's a-come from
Florence; he knows all about the Heathcotes and Mrs. Morris, and the
other folk there; and he has either swindled _them_, or they 've been
a-roguing some others. That's _my_ platform, sir, and I'll not change
one plank of it."

"Come, come," said Layton, laughingly, "for the first time in your life
you have suffered a prejudice to override your shrewd good sense. The
man is a snob, and no more."

"Well, sir, I 'd like to ask, could you say worse of him? Ain't a snob
a fellow as wants to be taken for better bred or richer or cleverer or
more influential than he really is? Ain't he a cheat? Ain't he one as
says, 'I ain't like that poor publican yonder, I 'm another guess sort
of crittur, and sit in quite another sort of place?' Jest now, picture
to your own mind how pleasant the world would be if one-fourth, or even
one-tenth, of its inhabitants was fellows of that stamp!"

It was only after two or three turns on the deck that Lay-ton could
subdue the Colonel's indignation sufficiently to make him listen to
him with calm and attention. With a very brief preamble he read Clara's
letter for him, concluding all with the few lines inscribed "My Secret."
"It is about this I want your advice, dear friend," said he. "Tell me
frankly what you think of it all."

Quackinboss was always pleased when asked his advice upon matters which
at first blush might seem out of the range of his usual experiences. It
seemed such a tribute to his general knowledge of life, that it was a
very graceful species of flattery, so that he was really delighted by
this proof of Layton's confidence in his acuteness and his delicacy, and
in the exact proportion of the satisfaction he felt was he disposed to
be diffuse and long-winded.

"This ain't an easy case, sir," began he; "this ain't one of those
measures where a man may say, 'There's the right and there's the wrong
of it;' and it takes a man like Shaver Quackinboss--a man as has seen
snakes with all manner o' spots on 'em--to know what's best to be done."

"So I thought," mildly broke in Layton,--"so I thought."

"There's chaps in this world," continued he, "never sees a difficulty
nowhere; they 'd whittle a hickory stick with the same blade as a piece
of larch timber, sir; ay, and worse, too, never know how they gapped
their knife for the doin' it! You 'd not believe it, perhaps, but
the wiliest cove ever I seen in life was an old chief of the Mandans,
Aï-ha-ha-tha, and his rule was, when you 're on a trail, track it step
by step; never take short cuts. Let us read the girl's letter again."
And he did so carefully, painstakingly, folding it up afterwards with
slow deliberation, while he reflected over the contents.

"I 'in a-thinkin'," said he, at last,--"I 'm a-thinkin' how we might
utilize that stranger there, the fellow as is come from Florence, and
who may possibly have heard something of this girl's history. _He_ don't
take to me; nor, for the matter o' that, do _I_ to _him_. But that don't
signify; there's one platform brings all manner of folk together,--it's
the great leveller in this world,--Play. Ay, sir, your English lord
has no objection to even Uncle Sam's dollars, though he 'd be riled
con-siderable if you asked him to sit down to meals with him. I 'll jest
let this crittur plunder me a bit; I'll flatter him with the notion
that he's too sharp and too spry for the Yankee. He's always goin' about
asking every one, 'Can't they make a game o' brag?' Well, I 'll go in,
sir. _He_ shall have his game, and I'll have mine."

Layton did not certainly feel much confidence in the plan of campaign
thus struck out; but seeing the pleasure Quackin-boss felt in the
display of his acuteness, he offered no objection to the project.

"Yes, sir," continued Quackinboss, as though reflecting aloud, "once
these sort of critturs think a man a flat, they let out all about how
sharp they are themselves; they can't help it; it's part of their
shallow natur' to be boastful. Let us see, now, what it is we want to
find out: first of all, the widow, who she is and whence she came;
then, how she chanced to have the gal with her, and who the gal herself
is, where she was raised, and by whom; and, last of all, what is't
they done with her, how they 've fixed her. Ay, sir," mused he, after a
pause, "as Senator Byles says, 'if I don't draw the badger, I 'd beg the
honorable gentleman to b'lieve that his own claws ain't sharp enough to
do it!' There's the very crittur himself, now, a-smokin'," cried he;
"I'll jest go and ask him for a weed." And, so saying, Quackinboss
crossed the deck and joined the stranger.



CHAPTER XL. QUACKINBOSSIANA

On the morning on which the great steamer glided within the tranquil
waters of Long Island, Quackinboss appeared at Layton's berth, to
announce the fact, as well as report progress with the stranger. "I
was right, sir," said he; "he's been and burnt his fingers on 'Change;
that's the reason he's here. The crittur was in the share-market, and
got his soup too hot! You Britishers seem to have the bright notion
that, when you've been done at home, you 'll be quite sharp enough to do
us here, and so, whenever you make a grand smash in Leadenhall Street,
it's only coming over to Broadway! Well, now, sir, that's considerable
of a mistake; we understand smashing too,--ay, and better than folk in
the old country. Look you here, sir; if I mean to lose my ship on the
banks, or in an ice-drift, or any other way, I don't go and have her
built of strong oak plank and well-seasoned timber, copper-fastened,
and the rest of it; but I run her up with light pine, and cheap fixin's
everywhere. She not only goes to pieces the quicker, but there ain't
none of her found to tell where it happened, and how. That's how it
comes _we_ founder, and there 's no noise made about it; while one of
your chaps goes bumpin' on the rocks for weeks, with fellows up in the
riggin', and life-boats takin' 'em off, and such-like, till the town
talks of nothing else, and all the newspapers are filled with pathetic
incidents, so that the very fellows that calked her seams or wove her
canvas are held up to public reprobation. That's how you do it, sir, and
that's where you 're wrong. When a man builds a cardhouse, he don't want
iron fastenings. I've explained all to that crittur there, and he seems
to take it in wonderful." "Who is he--what is he?" asked Layton.

"His name's Trover; firm, Trover, Twist, and Co., Frankfort and
Florence, bankers, general merchants, rag exporters, commission agents,
doing a bit in the picture line and marble for the American market, and
sole agents for the sale of Huxley's tonic balsam. That's how he is,"
said the Colonel, reading the description from his note-book.

"I never heard of him before."

"He knows you, though,--knew you the moment he came aboard; said you
was tutor to a lord in Italy, and that he cashed you circular notes on
Stanbridge and Sawley. These fellows forget nobody."

"What does he know of the Heathcotes?"

"Pretty nigh everything. He knows that the old Baronet would be for
makin' a fortune out of his ward's money, and has gone and lost a good
slice of it, and that the widow has been doin' a bit of business in
the share-market, in the same profitable fashion,--not but she's a rare
wide-awake 'un, and sees into the 'exchanges' clear enough. As to the
gal, he thinks she sold her--"

"Sold her! What do you mean?" cried Layton, in a voice of horror.

"Jest this, that one of those theatrical fellows as buys singing-people,
and gets 'em taught,--it's all piping-bullfinch work with 'em,--has been
and taken her away; most probably cheap, too, for Trover said she was
n't nowise a rare article; she had a will of her own, and was as likely
to say 'I won't,' as 'I will.'"

"Good heavens! And are things like this suffered,--are they endured in
the age we live in?"

"Yes, sir. You've got all your British sympathies very full about
negroes and 'Uncle Tom's Cabin,' you 're wonderful strong about slavery
and our tyrants down South, and you 've something like fifty thousand
born ladies, called governesses, treated worse than housemaids, and some
ten thousand others condemned to what I won't speak of, that they may
amuse you in your theatres. I can tell you, sir, that the Legrees that
walk St. James's Street and Piccadilly are jest as black-hearted as
the fellows in Georgia or Alabama, though they carry gold-headed
walking-sticks instead of cow-hides."

"But sold her!" reiterated Layton. "Do you mean to say that Clara has
been given over to one of these people to prepare her for the stage?"

"Yes, sir; he says his name's Stocmar,--a real gentleman, he calls him,
with a house at Brompton, and a small yacht at Cowes. They 've rather
good notions about enjoying themselves, these theatre fellows. They get
a very good footing in West End life, too, by supplying countesses to
the nobility."

"No, no!" cried Layton, angrily; "you carry your prejudices against
birth and class beyond reason and justice too."

"Well, I suspect not, sir," said Quackinboss, slowly. "Not to say that
I was n't revilin', but rather a-praisin' 'em, for the supply of so much
beauty to the best face-market in all Europe. If I were to say what's
the finest prerogatives of one of your lords, I know which I 'd name,
sir, and it would n't be wearin' a blue ribbon, and sittin' on a carved
oak bench in what you call the Upper House of Parliament."

"But Clara--what of Clara?" cried Layton, impatiently.

"He suspects that she's at Milan, a sort of female college they have
there, where they take degrees in singin' and dancin'. All I hope is
that the poor child won't learn any of their confounded lazy Italian
notions. There's no people can prosper, sir, when their philosophy
consists in _Come si fa? Come si fa?_ means it's no use to work, it's
no good to strive; the only thing to do in life is to lie down in the
shade and suck oranges. That's the real reason they like Popery, sir,
because they can even go to heaven without trouble, by paying another
man to do the prayin' for 'em. It ain't much trouble to hire a saint,
when it only costs lighting a candle to him. And to tell me that's a
nation wants liberty and free institutions! No man wants liberty, sir,
that won't work for his bread; no man really cares for freedom till he's
ready to earn his livin', for this good reason, that the love of liberty
must grow out of personal independence, as you'll see, sir, when you
take a walk yonder." And he pointed to the tall steeples of New York as
he spoke. But Layton cared little for the discussion of such a theme;
his thoughts had another and a very different direction.

"Poor Clara!" muttered he. "How is she to be rescued from such a
destiny?"

"_I_'d say by the energy and determination of the man who cares for
her," said Quackinboss, boldly. "_Come si fa?_ won't save her, that's
certain."

"Can you learn anything of the poor child's history from this man, or
does he know it?"

"Well, sir," drawled out the Colonel, "that ain't so easy to say.
Whether a man has a partic'lar piece of knowledge in his head, or
whether a quartz rock has a streak of gold inside of it, is things only
to be learned in the one way,--by hammering,--ay, sir, by hammering!
Now, it strikes me this Trover don't like hammering; first of all, the
sight of you here has made him suspicious--"

"Not impossible is it that he may have seen you also, Colonel," broke in
Layton.

"Well, sir," said the other, drawing himself proudly up, "and if he had,
what of it? You don't fancy that _we_ are like the Britishers? You don't
imagine that when we appear in Eu-rope that every one turns round and
whispers, 'That's a gentleman from the United States'? No, sir, it
is the remarkable gift of our people to be cosmopolite. We pass for
Russian, French, Spanish, or Italian, jest as we like, not from our
skill in language, which we do not all possess, so much as a certain
easy imitation of the nat-ive that comes nat'ral to us. Even our Western
people, sir, with very remarkable features of their own, have this
property; and you may put a man from Kentucky down on the Boulevard
de Gand to-morrow, and no one will be able to say he warn't a born
Frenchman!"

"I certainly have not made that observation hitherto," said Layton,
dryly.

"Possibly not, sir, because your national pride is offended by our never
imitating _you!_ No, sir, we never do that!"

"But won't you own that you might find as worthy models in England as in
France or Italy?"

"Not for us, sir,--not for us. Besides, we find ourselves at home on the
Continent; we don't with _you_. The Frenchman is never taxing us
with every little peculiarity of accent or diction; he 's not always
criticising our ways where they differ from his own. Now, your people
do, and, do what we may, sir, they will look on us as what the Chinese
call 'second chop.' Now, to my thinking, we are first chop, sir, and you
are the tea after second watering."

They were now rapidly approaching the only territory in which an
unpleasant feeling was possible between them. Each knew and felt this,
and yet, with a sort of national stubbornness, neither liked to be the
one to recede first. As for Layton, bound as he was by a debt of deep
gratitude to the American, he chafed under the thought of sacrificing
even a particle of his country's honor to the accident of his own
condition, and with a burning cheek and flashing eye he began,--

"There can be no discussion on the matter. Between England and America
there can no more be a question as to supremacy--"

"There, don't say it; stop there," said Quackinboss, mildly. "Don't let
us get warm about it. I may like to sit in a rockin'-chair and smoke
my weed in the parlor; you may prefer to read the 'Times' at the
drawing-room fire; but if we both agree to go out into the street
together, sir, we can whip all cre-ation."

And he seized Layton's hand, and wrung it with an honest warmth that
there was no mistaking.

"And now as to this Mr. Trover," said Layton, after a few minutes. "Are
we likely to learn anything from him?"

"Well, sir," said the Colonel, lazily, "I 'm on his track, and I know
his footmarks so well now that I 'll be sure to detect him if I see
him again. He 's a-goin' South, and so are _we_. He's a-looking out for
land; that's exactly what _we're_ arter!"

"You have dropped no hint about our lecturing scheme?" asked Layton,
eagerly.

"I rayther think not, sir," said the other, half indignant at the bare
suspicion. "We 're two gentlemen on the search after a good location and
a lively water-power. We 've jest heard of one down West, and there's
the whole cargo as per invoice." And he gave a knowing wink and look of
mingled drollery and cunning.

"You are evidently of opinion that this man could be of use to us?" said
Lay ton, who was well aware how fond the American was of acting with a
certain mystery, and who therefore cautiously abstained from any rash
assault upon his confidence.

"Yes, sir, that's _my_ ticket; but I mean to take my own time to lay the
bill on the table. But here comes the small steamers and the boats
for the mails. Listen to that bugle, Britisher. That air is worth all
Mozart. Yes, sir," said he proudly, as he hummed,--

     "There's not a man beneath the moon,
          Nor lives in any land he
     That hasn't heard the pleasant time
          Of Yankee doodle dandy!

     "In coolin' drinks, and clipper ships,
          The Yankee has the way shown!
     On land and sea 't is he that whips
          Old Bull and all creation."

Quackinboss gradually dropped his voice, till at the concluding line the
words sank into an undistinguishable murmur; for now, as it were, on
the threshold of his own door, he felt all the claim of courtesy to the
stranger. Still it was not possible for him to repress the proud delight
he felt in the signs of wealth and prosperity around him.

"There," cried he, with enthusiasm, "there ain't a land in the
universe--that's worth calling a land--has n't a flag flying yonder!
There's every color of bunting, from Lapland to Shanghai, afloat in them
waters, sir; and yet you 'll not have to go back two hundred years, and
where you see the smoke risin' from ten thousand human dwellin's there
was n't one hearth nor one home! The black pine and the hemlock grew
down those grassy slopes where you see them gardens, and the red glare
of the Indian's fire shone out where the lighthouse now points to safety
and welcome! It ain't a despicable race as has done all that! If that
be not the work of a great people, I 'd like to hear what is!" He next
pointed out to Layton the various objects of interest as they presented
themselves to view, commenting on the very different impressions such a
scene of human energy and activity is like to produce than those lands
of Southern Europe from which they had lately come. "You 'll never hear
_Come si fa?_ here, sir," said he, proudly. "If a man can't fix a thing
aright, he 'll not wring his hands and sit down to cry over it, but he
'll go home to think of it at his meals, and as he lies awake o' nights;
and he 'll ask himself again and again, 'If there be a way o' doin'
this, why can't _I_ find it out as well as another?'"

It was the Colonel's belief that out of the principle of equality sprang
an immense amount of that energy which develops itself in inventive
ability; and he dilated on this theory for some time, endeavoring to
show that the subdivision of ranks in the Old World tended largely to
repress the enterprising spirit which leads men into paths previously
untrodden. "That you 'll see, sir, when you come to mix with our people.
And now, a word of advice to you before you begin."

He drew his arm within Layton's as he said this, and led him two or
three turns on the deck in silence. The subject was in some sort a
delicate one, and he did not well see how to open it without a certain
risk of offending. "Here's how it is," said he at last. "Our folk isn't
your folk because they speak the same language. In _your_ country, your
station or condition, or whatever you like to call it, answers for you,
and the individual man merges into the class he belongs to. Not so here.
_We_ don't care a red cent about your rank, but we want to know about
you yourself! Now, you strangers mistake all that feeling, and call it
impertinence and curiosity, and such-like; but it ain't anything of
the kind! No, sir. It simply means what sort of knowledge, what art or
science or labor, can you contribute to the common stock? Are you a-come
amongst us to make us wiser or richer or thriftier or godlier; or are
you just a loafer,--a mere loafer? My asking _you_ on a rail-car whence
you come and where you 're a-goin' is no more impertinence than my
inquirin' at a store whether they have got this article or that! I
want to know whether you and I, as we journey together, can profit each
other; whether either of us mayn't have something the other has never
heard afore. He can't have travelled very far in life who has n't picked
up many an improvin' thing from men he didn't know the names on, ay,
and learned many a sound lesson, besides, of patience, or contentment,
forgiveness, and the like; and all that ain't so easy if people won't be
sociable together!"

Layton nodded a sort of assent; and Quackinboss continued, in the same
strain, to point out peculiarities to be observed, and tastes to be
consulted, especially with reference to the national tendency to invite
to "liquor," which he assured Layton by no means required a sense of
thirst on his part to accede to. "You ain't always charmed when you say
you are, in French, sir; and the same spirit of politeness should lead
you to accept a brandy-smash without needing it, or even to drink off a
cocktail when you ain't dry. After all," said he, drawing a long breath,
like one summing up the pith of a discourse, "if you're a-goin' to
pick holes in Yankee coats, to see all manner of things to criticise,
condemn, and sneer at, if you 're satisfied to describe a people by a
few peculiarities which are not pleasin' to you, go ahead and abuse us;
but if you 'll accept honest hospitality, though offered in a way that's
new and strange to you,--if you 'll believe in true worth and genuine
loyalty of character, even though its possessor talk somewhat through
the nose,--then, sir, I say, there ain't no fear that America will
disappoint you, or that you 'll be ill-treated by Americans." With this
speech he turned away to look after his baggage and get ready to go
ashore.



CHAPTER XLI. QUACKINBOSS AT HOME

Though Quackinboss understood thoroughly well that it devolved upon him
to do the honors of his country to the "Britisher," he felt that, in
honest fairness, the stranger ought to be free to form his impressions,
without the bias that would ensue from personal attentions, while he
also believed that American institutions and habits stood in need of no
peculiar favor towards them to assert their own superiority.

"Don't be on the look-out, sir, for Eu-ropean graces," he would say, "in
this country, for the men that have most of 'em ain't our best people;
and don't mistake the eagerness with which everybody will press you to
admire America for any slight towards the old country. We all like her,
sir; and we'd like her better if she wasn't so fond of saying she's
ashamed of us."

These were the sort of warnings and counsels he would drop as he guided
Layton about through the city, pointing out whatever he deemed most
worthy of curiosity, or whatever he conceived might illustrate the
national character. It was chiefly on the wealth of the people, their
untiring industry, and the energy with which they applied themselves to
money-getting, that he laid stress; and he did this with a degree of
insistence that betrayed an uneasy consciousness of how little sympathy
such traits meet with from the passing traveller.

"Mayhap, sir, you 'd rather see 'em loafing?" said he one day in a
moment of impatience, as Layton half confessed that he 'd like to
meet some of the men of leisure. "Well, you 'll have to look 'em up
elsewhere, I expect. I 'll have to take you a run down South for that
sort of cattle,--and that's what I mean to do. Before you go before our
people, sir, as a lecturer, you 'll have to study 'em a little, that's
a fact! When you come to know 'em, you 'll see that it's a folk won't be
put off with chaff when they want buckwheat; and that's jest what your
Eu-ropeans think to do. I will take a trip to the Falls first; I 'd like
to show you that water-power. We start away on Monday next."

Layton was not sorry to leave New York. The sight of that ever busy
multitude, that buzzing hive of restless bees, was only addling to one
who never regarded wealth save as a stage to something farther off. He
was well aware how rash it would be to pronounce upon a people from the
mere accidents of chance intercourse, and he longed to see what might
give him some real insight into the character of the nation. Besides
this, he felt, with all the poignant susceptibility of his nature, that
he was not himself the man to win success amongst them. There was a bold
rough energy, a daring go-ahead spirit, that overbore him wherever he
went. They who had not travelled spoke more confidently of foreign lands
than he who had seen them. Of the very subjects he had made his own by
study, he heard men speak with a confidence he would not have dared
to assume; and lastly, the reserve which serves as a sanctuary to the
bashful man was invaded without scruple by any one who pleased it.

If each day's experience confirmed him in the impression that he was not
one to gain their suffrages, he was especially careful to conceal this
discouraging conviction from Quack-inboss, leaving to time, that great
physician, to provide for the future. Nor was the Colonel himself, be
it owned, without his own misgivings. He saw, to his amazement, that the
qualities which he had so much admired in Layton won no approval from
his countrymen; the gifts, which by reading and reflection he had
cultivated, seemed not to be marketable commodities; there were no
buyers,--none wanted them. Now Quackinboss began to think seriously over
their project, deeply pained as he remembered that it was by his own
enthusiastic description of his countrymen the plan had first met
acceptance. Whether it was that the American mind had undergone
some great change since he had known it, or that foreign travel had
exaggerated, in his estimation, the memory of many things he had left
behind him; but so it was, the Colonel was amazed to discover that with
all the traits of sharp intelligence and activity he recognized in
his countrymen, there were yet some features in the society of the old
continent that he regretted and yearned after. Again and again did he
refer to Italy and their life there; even the things he had so often
condemned now came up, softened by time and distance, as pleasant
memories of an era passed in great enjoyment If any passing trait in the
scenery recalled the classic land, he never failed to remark it, and,
once launched upon the theme, he would talk away for hours of the
olive-woods, the trellised vines, the cottages half hid amidst the
orange-groves, showing how insensibly the luxurious indolence he had
imbibed lingered like a sort of poison in his blood.

"Yes, sir," said he, one day, as with an amount of irritation he
acknowledged the fatal fascination of that land of dreamy inactivity,
"it's _my_ notion that Italy is a pasture where no beast ought to be
turned out that's ever to do any work again. It ain't merely that one
does nothing when he 's there, but he ain't fit for anything when he
leaves it. I know what I 'd have thought of any man that would have said
to me, 'Shaver Quackinboss, you 'll come out of them diggin's lazy and
indolent. You 'll think more of your ease than you ought, and you 'll be
more grateful for being jest left alone to follow your own fancies than
for the best notion of speculation that ever was hit upon.' And that's
exactly what I 've come to! I don't want a fellow to tell me where I can
make thirty or forty thousand dollars; I 've lost all that spring in me
that used to make me rise early and toil late. What I call happiness now
is to sit and smoke with one of your sort of an afternoon, and listen to
stories of chaps that lived long ago, and worked their way on in a world
a precious sight harder to bully than our own. Well now, sir, I say,
that ain't right, and it ain't nat'ral, and, what's more, I ain't
a-goin' to bear it. I mean to be stirrin' and active again, and you 'll
see it."

It was a few days after he had made this resolve that he said to
Layton,--

"Only think who I saw at the bar this morning. That fellow we came over
with in the passage out; he was a-liquoring down there and treating all
the company. He comes up to me, straight on end, and says,--

"'Well, old 'oss, and how do _you_ get on?'

"'Bobbish-like,' says I, for I was minded to be good-humored with him,
and see what I could get out of him about hisself.

"'Where's the young 'un I saw with you aboard?' says he.

"'Well,' said I, 'he ain't very far off, when he's wanted.'

"'That's what he ain't,' said he; 'he ain't wanted nowhere.' When he
said this I saw he was very 'tight,' as we call it,--far gone in liquor,
I mean.

"'Have you found out that same water-power you were arter?' said he.

"'No,' said I. 'It's down West a man must go who has n't a bag full of
dollars. Everything up hereabouts is bought up at ten times its worth.'

"'Well, look sharp after the young 'un,' said he, laughing; 'that's _my_
advice to you. Though you're Yankee, he 'll be too much for you in the
end.' He said this, drinking away all the time, and getting thicker in
his speech at every word.

"'I ain't a man to neglect a warnin',' says I, in a sort of whisper,
'and if _you_ mean friendly by me, speak out.'

"'And ain't that speaking out,' says he, boldly, 'when I say to a fellow
I scarcely know by sight, "Mind your eye; look out for squalls!" I
wonder what more he wants? Does he expect me to lend him money?' said
he, with an insolent laugh.

"'No,' said I, in the same easy way, 'by no manner o' means; and if it's
myself you allude to, I ain't in the vocative case, sir. I 've got in
that old leather pocket-book quite enough for present use.'

"'Watch it well, then; put it under your head o' nights, that's all,'
said he, hiccuping; 'and if you wake up some morning without it, don't
say the fault was Oliver Trover's.' This was a-tellin' me his name,
which I remembered the moment I heard it.

"'You 'll take a brandy-smash or a glass of bitters with _me_ now, sir?'
said I, hopin' to get something more out of him; but he wouldn't have
it. He said, with a half-cunning leer, 'No more liquor, no more liquor,
and no more secrets! If you was to treat me to all in the bar, you 'd
get nothing more out of Noll Trover.'"

"But what does the fellow mean by his insinuations about me?" said
Layton, angrily. "I never knew him, never met him, never so much as
heard of him!"

"What does that signify if he has heard of _you_, and suspects you to
know something about _him?_ He ain't all right, that's clear enough; but
our country is so full of fellows like that, it ain't easy work tracking
'em."

Layton shrugged his shoulders with an indifference, as though to say the
matter did not interest him; but Quackinboss rejoined quickly, "I 've a
notion that it concerns us, sir. I heerd his inquiry about all the lines
down South, and asking if any one knew a certain Harvey Winthrop, down
at Norfolk."

"Winthrop--Winthrop? Where have I heard that name?"

"In that book of your father's,--don't you remember it? It was he was
mentioned as the guardian of that young girl, the daughter of him as was
pisoned at Jersey."

"And is this man Trover in search of Winthrop?" asked Layton, eagerly.

"Well, he's a-lookin' arter him, somehow, that's certain; for when
somebody said, 'Oh, Harvey Winthrop ain't at Norfolk now,' he looked
quite put out and amazed, and muttered something about having made all
his journey for nothing."

"It is strange, indeed, that we should have the same destination, and
stranger still would it be if we should be both on the same errand."

"Well," said Quackin boss, after a long pause, "I've been a-rolling the
log over and over, to see which way to cut it, and at last, I believe, I
've found the right side o' it. You and I must quarrel."

"What do you mean?" asked Layton, in astonishment.

"I mean jest this. I must take up the suspicion that he has about
_you_, and separate from you. It may be to join _him_. He's one of your
Old-World sort, that's always so proud to be reckoned 'cute and smart,
that you 've only to praise his legs to get his leggin's. We'll be as
thick as thieves arter a week's travelling, and I 'll find out all that
he's about. Trust Old Shaver, sir, to get to windward of small craft
like that!"

"I own to you frankly," said Layton, "that I don't fancy using a rogue's
weapons even against a rogue."

"Them's not the sentiments of the men that made laws, sir," said
Quackinboss. "Laws is jest rogues' weapons against rogues. You want to
do something you have n't no right to, and straight away you discover
that some fellow was so wide awake once that he made a statute against
it, ay, and so cleverly too, that he first imagined every different way
you could turn your dodge, and provided for each in turn."

Layton shook his head in dissent, but could not repress a faint smile.

"Ain't it roguery to snare partridges and to catch fish, for the matter
o' that?" said he, with increased warmth. "Wherever a fellow shows
hisself more 'cute than his neighbors, there's sure to be an outcry
'What a rogue he is!'"

"Your theory would be an indictment against all mankind," said Layton.

"No, sir, for _I_ only call him a rogue that turns his sharpness to
bad and selfish ends. Now, that's not the case with him as hunts down
varmint: he's a-doin' a good work, and all the better that he may get
scratched for his pains."

"Well, what is your plan?" said Layton, rather fearful of the length
into which his friend's speculations occasionally betrayed him.

"Here it is, sir," said the Colonel. "I'll come down upon that crittur
at Detroit, where I hear he's a-goin', and flatter him by saying that he
was all right about _you_."

"Indeed!" said Layton, laughing.

"Yes, sir," said the other, gravely. "I'll say to him, 'Stranger, you
_are_ a wide-awake 'un, that's a fact.' He'll rise to _that_, like a
ground-shark to a leg of pork,--see if he don't,--and he 'll go on to
ask about _you_; that will give me the opportunity to give a sketch of
myself, and a more simple, guileless sort of bein' you 've not often
heerd of than I 'll turn out to be. Yes, sir, I 'm one as suspects no
ill of anybody, jest out of the pureness of my own heart. When we get on
to a little more intimacy, I mean to show him twenty thousand dollars
I 've got by me, and ask his advice about investin' 'em. I guess pretty
nigh what he'll say: 'Give 'em over to me.' Well, I 'll take a bit
of time to consider about that. There will be, in consequence, more
intimacy and more friendship atween us: but arter he's seen the money,
he 'll not leave me; human natur' could n't do _that!_"

"Shall I tell you fairly," said Layton, "that I not only don't like your
scheme, but that I think it will not repay you?"

"Well, sir," said Quackinboss, drawing himself up, "whenever you see
_me_ baitin' a rat-trap, I don't expect you 'll say, 'Colonel, ain't
that mean? Ain't _you_ ashamed of yourself to entice that poor varmint
there to his ruin? Why don't you explain to him that if he wants that
morsel of fried bacon, it will cost him pretty dear?'"

"You forget that you're begging the question. You're assuming, all this
time, that this man is a rogue and a cheat."

"I am, sir," said he, firmly, "for it's not at this time o' day Shaver
Quackinboss has to learn life. All the pepperin' and lemon-squeezin' in
the world won't make a toad taste like a terrapin: that crittur's gold
chains don't impose upon _me!_ You remember that he was n't aboard
four-and-twenty hours when I said, 'That sheep's mangy.'"

"Perhaps I like your plan the less because it separates us," said
Layton, who now perceived that the Colonel seemed to smart under
anything that reflected on his acuteness.

"That's jest what galls me too," said he, frankly. "It's been all
sunshine in my life, since we 've been together. All the book-learnin'
you 've got has stolen into your nature so gradually as to make part of
yourself, but what you tell me comes like soft rain over a dry prairie,
and changing the parched soil into something that seems to say, 'I 'm
not so barren, after all, if I only got my turn from fortune.' You 've
shown me one thing, that I often had a glimmerin' of, but never saw
clearly till you pointed it out, that the wisest men that ever lived
felt more distrust of themselves than of their fellows. But we only part
for a while, Layton. In less than a month we 'll meet again, and I hope
to have good news for you by that time."

"Where are we to rendezvous, then?" asked Layton, for he saw how
fruitless would be the attempt at further opposition.

"I'll have the map out this evening, and we 'll fix it," said the
Colonel. "And now leave me to smoke, and think over what's afore us.
There's great thoughts in that bit of twisted 'bacco there, if I only
have the wit to trace 'em. Every man that has had to use his head
in life finds out by the time he's forty what helps him to his best
notions. Bonaparte used to get into a bath to think, Arkwright went to
bed, and my father, Methuselah Grip Quackinboss, said he never was so
bright as standing up to his neck in the mill-race, with the light spray
of the wheel comin' in showers over him. 'I feel,' says he, 'as if I
was one-half Lord Bacon and the other John C. Colhoun.' Now my
brain-polisher is a long Cuban, a shady tree, and a look-out
seaward,--all the better if the only sails in sight be far away."



CHAPTER XLII. A NEW LOCATION

After a great deal of discussion it was agreed between Layton and the
Colonel that they should meet that day month at St. Louis. Layton was to
employ the interval in seeing as much as he could of the country and
the people, and preparing himself to appear before them at the first
favorable opportunity. Indeed, though he did not confess it, he yielded
to the separation the more willingly, because it offered him the
occasion of putting into execution a plan he for some time had been
ruminating over. In some measure from a natural diffidence, and in a
great degree from a morbid dread of disappointing the high expectations
Quackinboss had formed of the success he was to obtain, Layton had long
felt that the presence of his friend would be almost certain to insure
his failure. He could neither venture to essay the same flights before
him, nor could he, if need were, support any coldness or disinclination
of his audience were Quackinboss there to witness it. In fact, he wanted
to disassociate his friend from any pain failure should occasion, and
bear all alone the sorrows of defeat.

Besides this, he felt that, however personally painful the ordeal, he
was bound to face it. He had accepted Quackinboss's assistance under the
distinct pledge that he was to try this career. In its success was he to
find the means of repaying his friend; and so confidently had the
Colonel always talked of that success, it would seem mere wilfulness not
to attempt it.

There is not, perhaps, a more painful position in life than to be
obliged to essay a career to which all one's thoughts and instincts are
opposed; to do something against which self-respect revolts, and yet
meet no sympathy from others,--to be conscious that any backwardness
will be construed into self-indulgence, and disinclination be set down
as indolence. Now this was Alfred Layton's case. He must either risk a
signal failure, or consent to be thought of as one who would rather be a
burden to his friends than make an honorable effort for his own support.
He was already heavily in the Colonel's debt; the thought of this
weighed upon him almost insupportably. It never quitted him for an
instant; and, worse than all, it obtruded through every effort he made
to acquit himself of the obligation; and only they who have experienced
it can know what pain brain labor becomes when it is followed amidst the
cares and anxieties of precarious existence; when the student tries
in vain to concentrate thoughts that _will_ stray away to the miserable
exigencies of his lot, or struggle hopelessly to forget himself and his
condition in the interest of bygone events or unreal incidents. Let none
begrudge him the few flitting moments of triumph he may win, for he has
earned them by many a long hour of hardship!

The sense of his utter loneliness, often depressing and dispiriting, was
now a sort of comfort to him. Looking to nothing but defeat, he was
glad that there was none to share in his sorrows. Of all the world, he
thought poor Clara alone would pity him. Her lot was like his own,--the
same friendlessness, the self-same difficulty. Why should he not have
her sympathy? She would give it freely and with her whole heart. It was
but to tell her, "I am far away and unhappy. I chafe under dependence,
and I know not how to assert my freedom. I would do something, and yet
I know not what it is to be. I distrust myself, and yet there are times
when I feel that one spoken word would give such courage to my heart
that I could go on and hope." Could she speak that word to him? was his
ever present thought. He resolved to try, and accordingly wrote her a
long, long letter. Full of the selfishness of one who loved, he told
her the whole story of his journey, and the plan that led to it. "I
have patience enough for slow toil," said he, "but I do not seek for the
success it brings. I wanted the quick prosperity that one great effort
might secure, and time afterwards to enjoy the humble fortune thus
acquired. With merely enough for life, Clara, I meant to ask you to
share it. Who are as friendlessly alone as we are? Who are so bereft
of what is called home? Say, have you a heart to give me,--when I can
claim it,--and will you give it? I am low and wretched because I feel
unloved. Tell me this is not so, and in the goal before me hope and
energy will come back to me." Broken and scarce coherent at times,
his letter revealed one who loved her ardently, and who wanted but her
pledge to feel himself happy. He pressed eagerly to know of her own
life,--what it was, and whether she was contented. Had she learned
anything of the mystery that surrounded her family, or could she give
him the slightest clew by which he could aid her in the search? He
entreated of her to write to him, even though her letter should not be
the confirmation of all he wished and prayed for.

The very fact of his having written this to Clara seemed to rally his
spirits. It was at least a pledge to his own heart. He had placed a goal
before him, and a hope.

"I am glad to see you look cheerier," said Quackinboss, as they sat
talking over their plans. "The hardest load a man ever carried is a
heavy heart, and it's as true as my name's Shaver, that one gets into
the habit of repinin' and seein' all things black jest as one falls
into any other evil habit. Old Grip Quackinboss said, one day, to Mr.
Jefferson, 'Yes, sir,' says he, 'always hearty, sir,--always cheery.
There 's an old lady as sweeps the crossin' in our street, and I give
her a quarter-dollar to fret for me, for it's a thing I've sworn never
to do for myself.'"

"Well," said Layton, gayly, "you 'll see I 've turned over a new leaf;
and whatever other thoughts you shall find in me, causeless depression
shall not be of the number."

"All right, sir; that's my own platform. Now here's your instructions,
for I 'm a-goin'. I start at seven-forty, by the cars for Buffalo.
That spot down there is our meetin'-place,--St. Louis. It looks mighty
insignificant on the map, there; but you 'll see it's a thrivin'
location, and plenty of business in it. You 'll take your own time about
being there, only be sure to arrive by this day month; and if I be the
man I think myself, I 'll have news to tell you when you come.
This crittur, Trover, knows all about that widow Morris, and the girl,
too,--that Clara,--you was so fond of. If I have to tie him up to a
tree, sir, I 'll have it out of him! There 's five hundred dollars
in that bag. You 'll not need all of it, belike, if you keep clear of
'Poker' and Bully-brag; and I advise you to, sir,--I do," said he,
gravely. "It takes a man to know life, to guess some of the sharp 'uns
in our river steamers. There's no other dangers to warn you of here,
sir. Don't be riled about trifles, and you 'll find yourself very soon
at home with us."

These were his last words of counsel as he shook Layton's hand at
parting. It was with a sad sense of loneliness Lay-ton sat by his window
after Quackinboss had gone. For many a month back he had had no other
friend or companion: ever present to counsel, console, or direct him,
the honest Yankee was still more ready with his purse than his precepts.
Often as they had differed in their opinions, not a hasty word or
disparaging sentiment had ever disturbed their intercourse; and even
the Colonel's most susceptible spot--that which touched upon national
characteristics--never was even casually wounded in the converse.
In fact, each had learned to see with how very little forbearance in
matters of no moment, and with how slight an exercise of deference for
differences of object and situation, English and American could live
together like brothers.

There was but one thought which embittered the relations between them,
in Layton's estimation. It was the sense of that dependence which
destroyed equality. He was satisfied to be deeply the debtor of his
friend, but he could not struggle between what he felt to be a fitting
gratitude, and that resolute determination to assert what he believed
to be true at any cost. He suspected, too,--and the suspicion was a very
painful one,--that the Colonel deemed him indolent and self-indulgent.
The continued reluctance he had evinced to adventure on the scheme for
which they came so far, favored this impression.

As day after day he travelled along, one thought alone occupied him. At
each place he stopped came the questions, Will this suit? Is this the
spot I am in search of? It was strange to mark by what slight and casual
events his mind was influenced. The slightest accident that ruffled him
as he arrived, an insignificant inconvenience, a passing word, the look
of the place, the people, the very aspect of the weather, were each
enough to assure him he had not yet discovered what he sought after.
It was towards the close of his fifth day's ramble that he reached the
small town of Bunkumville. It was a newly settled place, and, like all
such, not over-remarkable for comfort or convenience. The spot had been
originally laid out as the centre of certain lines of railroad, and
intended to have been a place of consequence; but the engineers who had
planned it had somehow incurred disgrace, the project was abandoned, and
instead of a commercial town, rich, populous, and flourishing, it now
presented the aspect of a spot hastily deserted, and left to linger out
an existence of decline and neglect. There were marks enough to denote
the grand projects which were once entertained for the place,--great
areas measured off for squares, spacious streets staked off; here and
there massive "blocks" of building; three or four hotels on a scale of
vast proportion, and an assembly-room worthy of a second-rate city. With
all this, the population was poor-looking and careworn. No stir of trade
or business to be met with. A stray bullock-car stole drearily along
through the deep-rutted streets, or a traveller significantly armed
with rifle and revolver rode by on his own raw-boned horse; but of
the sights and sounds of town life and habits there were none. Of the
hotels, two were closed; the third was partially occupied as a barrack,
by a party of cavalry despatched to repress some Indian outrages on
the frontier. Even the soldiers had contracted some of the wild,
out-of-the-world look of the place, and wore their belts over buckskin
jackets, that smacked more of the prairie than the parade. The public
conveyance which brought Layton to the spot only stopped long enough to
bait the horses and refresh the travellers; and it was to the no
small surprise of the driver that he saw the "Britisher" ask for his
portmanteau, with the intention of halting there. "Well, you ain't
a-goin' to injure your constitution with gayety and late hours,
stranger," said he, as he saw him descend; "that's a fact."

Nor was the sentiment one that Layton could dispute, as, still standing
beside his luggage in the open street, he watched the stage till
it disappeared in the distant pine forest. Two or three lounging,
lazy-looking inhabitants had, meanwhile, come up, and stood looking with
curiosity at the new arrival.

"You ain't a valuator, are you?" asked one, after a long and careful
inspection of him.

"No," said Layton, dryly.

"You 're a-lookin' for a saw-mill, I expect," said another, with a keen
glance as he spoke.

"Nor that, either," was the answer.

"I have it," broke in a third; "you 've got 'notions' in that box,
there, but it won't do down here; we 've got too much bark to hew off
before we come to such fixin's."

"I suspect you are not nearer the mark than your friends, sir," said
Layton, still repressing the slightest show of impatience.

"What'll you lay, stranger, I don't hit it?" cried a tall, thin,
bold-looking fellow, with long hair falling over his neck. "You're a
preacher, ain't you? You're from the New England States, I 'll be bound.
Say I 'm right, sir, for you know I am."

"I must give it against you, sir, also," said Layton, preserving his
gravity with an effort that was not without difficulty. "I do not follow
any one of the avocations you mention; but, in return for your five
questions, may I make bold to ask one? Which is the hotel here?"

"It's yonder," said the tall man, pointing to a large house, handsomely
pillared, and overgrown with the luxuriant foliage of the red acanthus;
"there it is. That's the Temple of Epicurus, as you see it a-written up.
You ain't for speculatin' in that sort, are you?"

"No," said Layton, quietly; "I was merely asking for a house of
entertainment."

"You 're a Britisher, I reckon," said one of the former speakers; "that
's one of _their_ words for meat and drink."

Without waiting for any further discussion of himself, his country, or
his projects, Layton walked towards the hotel. From the two upper tiers
of windows certain portions of military attire, hung out to air or to
dry, undeniably announced a soldierly occupation; cross-belts, overalls,
and great-coats hung gracefully suspended on all sides. Lower down,
there was little evidence of habitation; most of the windows were
closely shuttered, and through such as were open Layton saw large and
lofty rooms, totally destitute of furniture and in part unfinished. The
hall-door opened upon a spacious apartment, at one side of which a bar
had been projected, but the plan had gone no further than a long counter
and some shelves, on which now a few bottles stood in company with three
or four brass candlesticks, a plaster bust, wanting a nose, and some
cooking-utensils. On the counter itself was stretched at full length,
and fast asleep, a short, somewhat robust man, in shirt and trousers,
his deep snoring awaking a sort of moaning echo in the vaulted room. Not
exactly choosing to disturb his slumbers, if avoidable, Layton pushed
his explorations a little further; but though he found a number of
rooms, all open, they were alike empty and unfinished, nor was there a
creature to be met with throughout. There was, then, nothing for it but
to awaken the sleeper, which he proceeded to, at first by gentle, but,
as these failed, by more vigorous means.

"Don't! I say," growled out the man, without opening his eyes, but
seeming bent on continuing his sleep; "I 'll not have it; let me
be,--that's all."

"Are you the landlord of this hotel?" said Layton, with a stout shake by
the shoulder.

"Well, then, here's for it, if you will!" cried the other, springing
up, and throwing himself in an instant into a boxing attitude, while his
eyes glared with a vivid wildness, and his whole face denoted passion.

"I came here for food and lodging, and not for a boxing-match, my
friend," said Layton, mildly.

"And who said I was your friend?" said the other, fiercely: "who told
_you_ that we was raised in the same dig-gin's? and what do you mean,
sir, by disturbin' a gentleman in his bed?"

"You'll scarcely call that bench a bed, I think?" said Layton, in an
accent meant to deprecate all warmth.

"And why not, sir? If you choose to dress yourself like a checker-board,
I 'm not going to dispute whether you have a coat on. It's _my_ bed, and
I like it And now what next?"

"I 'm very sorry to have disturbed you; and if you can only tell me if
there be any other hotel in this place--"

"There ain't; and there never will be, that's more. Els-more's is shut
up; Chute Melchin 's a-blown his brains out; and so would _you_ if you
'd have come here. Don't laugh, or by the everlastin' rattlesnake, I 'll
bowie you!"

[Illustration: 444]

The madly excited look of the man, his staring eyes, retreating
forehead, and restless features made Layton suspect he was insane, and
he would gladly have retired from an interview that promised so little
success; but the other walked deliberately round, and, barring the
passage to the door, stood with his arms crossed before him.

"You think I don't know you, but I do; I heerd of you eight weeks ago; I
knew you was comin', but darm me all blue if you shall have it. Come out
into the orchard; come out, I say, and let's see who's the best man.
_You_ think you 'll come here and make this like the Astor House, don't
ye? and there 'll be five or six hundred every night pressing up to the
bar for bitters and juleps, just because you have the place? But I say
Dan Heron ain't a-goin' to quit; he stands here like old Hickory in the
mud-fort, and says, try and turn me out."

By the time the altercation had reached thus far, Layton saw that a
crowd of some five-and-twenty or thirty persons had assembled outside
the door, and were evidently enjoying the scene with no common zest.
Indeed, their mutter-ings of "Dan 's a-givin' it to him," "Dan 's full
steam up," and so on, showed where their sympathies inclined. Some,
however, more kindly-minded, and moved by the unfriended position of
the stranger, good-naturedly interposed, and, having obtained Layton's
sincere and willing assurance that he never harbored a thought of
becoming proprietor of the Temple, nor had he the very vaguest notion of
settling down at Bunkumville in any capacity, peace was signed, and Mr.
Heron consented to receive him as a guest.

Taking a key from a nail on the wall, Dan Heron preceded him to a small
chamber, where a truckle-bed, a chair, and a basin on the floor formed
the furniture; but he promised a table, and if the stay of the stranger
warranted the trouble, some other "fixin's" in a day or two.

"You can come and eat a bit with me about sun-down," said Dan, doggedly,
as he withdrew, for he was not yet quite satisfied what projects the
stranger nursed in his bosom.

Resolved to make the best of a situation not over-promising, to go with
the humor of his host so far as he could, and even, where possible,
try and derive some amusement from his eccentricities, Layton presented
himself punctually at meal-time. The supper was laid out in a large
kitchen, where an old negress officiated as cook. It was abundant and
savory; there was every imaginable variety of bread, and the display of
dishes was imposing. The circumstance was, however, explained by Heron's
remarking that it was the supper of the officers of the detachment they
were eating, a sudden call to the frontier having that same morning
arrived, and to this lucky accident were they indebted for this
abundance.

An apple-brandy "smash" of Mr. Heron's own devising wound up the meal,
and the two lighted their cigars, and in all the luxurious ease of their
rocking-chairs, enjoyed their post-prandial elysium.

"Them boots of yours is English make," was Mr. Heron's first remark,
after a long pause.

"Yes, London," was the brief reply.

"I 've been there; I don't like it."

Layton muttered some expression of regret at this sentiment; but the
other not heeding went on:--

"I 've seen most parts of the world, but there ain't anything to compare
with this."

Layton was not certain whether it was the supremacy of America he
asserted, or the city of Bunkumville in particular, but he refrained
from inquiring, preferring to let the other continue; nor did he seem
at all unwilling. He went on to give a half-connected account of a
migratory adventurous sort of life at home and abroad. He had been a
cook on shipboard, a gold-digger, an auctioneer, a showman, dealt in
almost every article of commerce, smuggled opium into China and slaves
into New Orleans, and with all his experiences had somehow or other not
hit upon the right road to fortune. Not, indeed, that he distrusted his
star,--far from it He believed himself reserved for great things, and
never felt more certain of being within their reach than at this moment.

"It was I made this city we 're in, sir," said he, proudly. "I built all
that mass yonder,--Briggs Block; I built the house we 're sitting in;
I built that Apollonicon, the music-hall you saw as you came in, and
I lectured there too; and if it were not for an old 'rough' that won't
keep off his bitters early of a mornin', I 'd be this day as rich as
John Jacob Astor: that's what's ruined me, sir. I brought him from
New York with me down here, and there 's nothing from a bird-cage to
a steam-boiler that fellow can't make you when he's sober,--ay, and
describe it too. If you only heerd him talk! Well, he made a telegraph
here, and set two saw-mills a-goin', and made a machine for getting the
salt out of that lake yonder, and then took to manufacturing macaroni
and gunpowder, and some dye-stuff out of oak bark; and what will you
say, stranger, when I tell you that he sold each of these inventions for
less than gave him a week's carouse? And now I have him here, under lock
and key, waiting till he comes to hisself, which he's rather long about
this time."

"Is he ill?" asked Layton.

"Well, you can't say exactly he's all right; he gave hisself an ugly
gash with a case-knife on the neck, and tried to blow hisself up
arter with some combustible stuff, so that he's rather black about the
complexion; and then he's always a-screechin' and yellin' for drink,
but I go in at times with a heavy whip, and he ain't unreasonable then."

"He's mad, in fact," said Layton, gravely.

"I only wish you and I was as sane, stranger," said the other. "There
ain't that place on the globe old Poll, as we call him, could n't make
a livin' in; he's a man as could help a minister with his discourse, or
teach a squaw how to work moccasins. I don't know what _your_ trade is,
but I 'll be bound he knows something about it _you_ never heerd of."

Mr. Heron went on to prove how universally gifted his friend was by
mentioning how, on his first arrival, he gave a course of lectures on a
plan which assuredly might have presented obstacles to many. It was
only when the room was filled, and the public itself consulted, that the
theme of the lecture was determined; so that the speaker was actually
called upon, without a moment for preparation, to expatiate upon any
given subject. Nor was the test less trying that the hearers were plain
practical folk, who usually propounded questions in which they possessed
some knowledge themselves. How to open a new clearing, what treatment
to apply to the bite of the whipsnake, by what contrivance to economize
water in mills, how to tan leather without oak bark,--such and such-like
were the theses placed before him, matters on which the public could
very sufficiently pronounce themselves. Old Poll, it would seem,
had sustained every test, and come through every ordeal of demand
victorious. While the host thus continued to expatiate on this man's
marvellous gifts, Layton fell a-thinking whether this might not be the
very spot he sought for, and this the audience before whom he could
experiment on as a public speaker. It was quite evident that the verdict
could confer little either of distinction or disparagement: success
or failure were, as regarded the future, not important If, however, he
could succeed in interesting them at all,--if he could make the
themes of which they had never so much as heard in any way amusing
or engaging,--it would be a measure of what he might attain with more
favorable hearers. He at once propounded his plan to Mr. Heron, not
confessing, however, that he meditated a first attempt, but speaking as
an old and practised lecturer.

"What can you give 'em, sir? They 're horny-handed and flat-footed folk
down here, but they 'll not take an old hen for a Bucks county chicken,
I tell _you!_"

"I am a little in your friend Poll's line," said Layton, good-humoredly.
"I could talk to them about history, and long ago; what kind of men
ruled amongst Greeks and Romans; what sort of wars they waged; how
they colonized, and what they did with the conquered. If my hearers had
patience for it, I could give them some account of their great orators
and poets."

Heron shook his head dissentingly, and said Poll told 'em all that, and
nobody wanted it, till he came to them chaps they call the gladiators,
and showed how they used to spar and hit out. "Was n't it grand to see
him, with his great chest and strong old arms, describin' all their
movements, and how much they trusted to activity, imitating all from
the wild beast,--not like our boxers, who make fighting a reg'lar man's
combat. You couldn't take up that, could you?"

"I fear not," said Layton, despondingly.

"Well, tell 'em something of the old country in a time near their own.
They 'd like to hear about their greatgrandfathers and grandmothers."

"Would they listen to me if I made Ireland the subject,--Ireland just
before she was incorporated with England, when, with a Parliament of her
own, she had a resident gentry, separate institutions, and strong traits
of individual nationality?"

"Tell 'em about fellows that had strong heads and stout hands, that,
though they mightn't always be right in their opinions, was willing and
ready to fight for 'em. Give 'em a touch of the way they talked in their
House of Parliament; and if you can bring in a story or two, and make
'em laugh,--it ain't a'ways easy to do,--but if you _can_ do it, you may
travel from Cape Cod to the Gulf of Mexico and never change a dollar."

"Here goes, then! I 'll try it!" said Layton, at once determined to
risk the effort. "When can it be?"

"It must be at once, for there 's a number of 'em a-goin' West next
week. Say to-morrow night, seven o'clock. Entrance, twelve cents; first
chairs, five-and-twenty. No smokin' allowed, except between the acts."

"Take all the arrangements on yourself, and give me what you think fair
of our profits," said Layton.

"That's reasonable; no man can say it ain't. What's your name,
stranger?"

"My name is Alfred--But never mind my name; announce me as a Gentleman
from England."

"Who has lectured before the Queen and Napoleon Bonaparte."

"Nay, that I have never done."

"Well, but you might, you know; and if you didn't, the greater loss
theirs."

"Perhaps so; but I can't consent--"

"Just leave them things to me. And now, one hint for yourself: when you
're a-windin' up, dash it all with a little soft sawder, sayin' as how
you 'd rather be addressin' _them_ than the Emperor of Roosia; that the
sight of men as loves liberty, and knows how to keep it, is as good as
Peat's vegetable balsam, that warms the heart without feverin' the
blood; and that wherever you go the 'membrance of the city and its
enlightened citizens will be the same as photographed on your heart;
that there's men here ought to be in Congress, and women fit for queens!
And if you throw in a bit of the star-spangled--you know what--it 'll do
no harm."

Layton only smiled at these counsels, offered, however, in a spirit far
from jesting; and after a little further discussion of the plan, Heron
said, "Oh, if we only could get old Poll bright enough to write the
placards,--that's what he excels in; there ain't his equal for capitals
anywhere."

Though Layton felt very little desire to have the individual referred
to associated with him or his scheme, he trusted to the impossibility of
the alliance, and gave himself no trouble to repudiate it; and after a
while they parted, with a good-night and hope for the morrow.



CHAPTER XLIII. BUNKUMVILLE

"You would n't believe it,--no one would believe it," said Mr. Heron, as
he hastily broke in upon Layton the next morning, deep in preparations
for the coming event "There 's old Poll all spry and right again; he
asked for water to shave himself, an invariable sign with him that he
was a-goin' to try a new course."

Layton, not caring to open again what might bear upon this history,
merely asked some casual question upon the arrangements for the evening;
but Heron rejoined: "I told Poll to do it all. The news seemed to revive
him; and far from, as I half dreaded, any jealousy about another taking
his place, he said, 'This looks like a promise of better things down
here. If our Bunkumville folk will only encourage lecturers to come
amongst them, their tone of thinking and speaking will improve. They 'll
do their daily work in a better spirit, and enjoy their leisure with a
higher zest.'"

"Strange sentiments from one such as you pictured to me last night."

"Lord love ye, that's his way. He beats all the Temperance 'Postles
about condemning drink. He can tell more anecdotes of the mischief it
works, explain better its evil on the health, and the injury it works
in a man's natur', than all the talkers ever came out of the May ne
Convention."

"Which scarcely says much for the force of his convictions," said
Layton, smiling.

"I only wish he heard you say so, Britisher; if he would n't chase
you up a pretty high tree, call _me_ a land crab! I remember well,
one night, how he lectured on that very point and showed that what was
vulgarly called hypocrisy was jest neither more nor less than a diseased
and exaggerated love of approbation,--them's his words; I took 'em down
and showed 'em to him next morning, and all he said was, 'I suppose I
said it arter dinner.'"

"Am I to see your friend and make his acquaintance?" asked Layton.

"Well," said the other, with some hesitation, "I rayther suspect not; he
said as much that he did n't like meeting any one from the old country.
It's my idea that he warn't over well treated there, somehow, though he
won't say it."

"But as one who has never seen him before, and in all likelihood is
never to see him again--"

"No use; whenever he makes up his mind in that quiet way he never
changes, and he said, 'I 'll do all you want, only don't bring me
forward. I have my senses now, and shame is one of 'em!'"

"You increase my desire to see and know this poor fellow."

"Mayhap you're a-thinkin', Britisher, whether, if you could wile him
away from me, you could n't do a good stroke of work with him down
South,--eh? wasn't that it?"

"No, on my word; nothing of the kind. My desire was simply to know if I
could n't serve him where he was, and where he is probably to remain."

"Where he is sartainly to remain, I 'd say, sir,--sar-tainly to remain!
I 'd rayther give up the Temple, ay, and all the fixin's, than I 'd give
up that man. There ain't one spot in creation he ain't fit for. Take him
North, and he 'll beat all the Abolitionists ever talked; bring him down
to the old South State, and hear him how he 'll make out that the Bible
stands by slavery, and that Blacks are to Whites what children are
to their elders,--a sort of folk to be fed, and nourished, and looked
arter, and, maybe, cor-rected a little betimes. Fetch him up to Lowell,
and he 'll teach the factory folk in their own mills; and as to the art
of stump-raisin', rotation of crops in a new soil, fattenin' hogs, and
curin' salmon, jest show me one to compare with him!"

"How sad that such a man should be lost!" said Layton, half to himself.

But the other overheard him, and rejoined: "It's always with some
sentiment of that kind you Britishers work out something for your own
benefit. You never conquer a new territory except to propagate trial
by jury and habeas corpus. Now look out here, for I won't stand you 're
steppin' in 'tween _me_ and old Poll."

It was not enough for Layton to protest that he harbored no such
intentions. Mr. Heron's experiences of mankind had inspired very
different lessons than those of trust and confidence, and he secretly
determined that no opportunity should be given to carry out the treason
he dreaded.

"When the lecturin'-room is a-clean swept out and dusted, the table
placed, and the blackboard with a piece of chalk ahind it, and the bills
a-posted, setting forth what you 're a-goin' to stump out, there ain't
no need for more. If _you_ 've got the stuff in you to amuse our folk,
you 'll see the quarter dollars a-rollin' in, in no time! If they think,
however, that you 're only come here to sell 'em grit for buckwheat,
darm me considerable, but there's lads here would treat you to a
cowhide!"

Layton did not hear this alternative with all the conscious security of
success, not to say that it was a penalty on failure far more severe
and practical than any his fears had ever anticipated. Coldness he was
prepared for, disapprobation he might endure, but he was not ready to
be treated as a cheat and impostor because he had not satisfied the
expectancies of an audience.

"I half regret," said he, "that I should not have learned something
more of your public before making my appearance to them. It may not be,
perhaps, too late."

"Well, I suspect it _is_ too late," said the other, dryly. "They
won't stand folks a-postin' up bills, and then sayin' 'There ain't no
performance.' You 're not in the Hay-market, sir, where you can come
out with a flam about sudden indisposition, and a lie signed by a
'pottecary."

"But if I leave the town?"

"I wouldn't say you mightn't, if you had a bal-loon," said the other,
laughing; "but as to any other way, I defy you!"

Layton was not altogether without the suspicion that Mr. Heron was
trying to play upon his fears, and this was exactly the sort of outrage
that a mind like his would least tolerate. It was, to be sure, a
wild, out-of-the-world kind of place; the people were a rough,
semi-civilized-looking set; public opinion in such a spot _might_ take a
rude form; what they deemed unequal to their expectations, they _might_
construe as a fraud upon their pockets; and if so, and that their
judgment should take the form he hinted at--Still, he was reluctant to
accept this version of the case, and stood deeply pondering what line to
adopt.

"You don't like it, stranger; now that's a fact," said Heron, as he
scanned his features. "You 've been a-think-in', 'Oh, any rubbish I like
will be good enough for these bark-cutters. What should such fellows
know, except about their corn crops and their saw-mills? _I_ needn't
trouble my head about what I talk to 'em.' But now, you see, it ain't
so; you begin to perceive that Jonathan, with his sleeves rolled up
for work, is a smart man, who keeps his brains oiled and his thoughts
polished, like one of Platt's engines, and it won't do to ask him to
make French rolls out of sawdust!"

Layton was still silent, partly employed in reviewing the difficulty
of his position, but even more, perhaps, from chagrin at the tone of
impertinence addressed to him.

"Yes, sir," said Heron, continuing an imaginary dialogue with
himself,--"yes, sir; that's a mistake more than one of your countrymen
has fallen into. As Mr. Clay said, it 's so hard for an Englishman not
to think of us as colonists."

"I 've made up my mind," said Layton, at last "I 'll not lecture."

"Won't you? Then all I can say is, Britisher, look out for a busy
arternoon. I told you what our people was. I warned you that if they
struck work an hour earlier to listen to a preacher, it would fare ill
with him if he wanted the mill to turn without water."

"I repeat, I 'll not lecture, come what may of it," said Layton, firmly.

"Well, it ain't so very hard to guess what _will_ come of it," replied
the other.

"This is all nonsense and folly, sir," said Layton, angrily. "I have
taken no man's money; I have deceived no one. Your people, when I shall
have left this place, will be no worse than when I entered it."

"If that 's your platform, stranger, come out and defend it; we 'll have
a meetin' called, and I promise you a fair hearin'."

"I have no account to render to any. I am not responsible for my conduct
to one of you!" said Layton, angrily. "You're a-beggin' the whole
question, stranger; so jest keep these arguments for the meetin'."

"Meeting! I will attend no meeting! Whatever be your local ways and
habits, you have no right to impose them upon a stranger. I am not one
of you; I will not be one of you."

"That's more of the same sort of reasonin'; but you 'll be chastised,
Britisher, see if you ain't!"

"Let me have some sort of conveyance, or, if need be, a horse. I will
leave this at once. Any expenses I have incurred I am ready to pay. You
hear me?"

"Yes, I hear you, but that ain't enough. You 're bound by them bills, as
you 'll see stickin' up all through the town, to appear this evening and
deliver a lecture before the people of this city--"

"One word for all, I 'll not do it."

"And do you tell me, sir, that when our folk is a-gath-erin' about the
assembly rooms, that they 're to be told to go home ag'in; that the
Britisher has changed his mind, and feels someways as if he didn't like
it?"

"That may be as it can; my determination is fixed. You may lecture
yourself; or you can, perhaps, induce your friend--I forget his name--to
favor the company."

"Well, sir, if old Poll's strength was equal to it, the public would n't
have to regret _you_. It ain't one of _your_ stamp could replace _him_,
that I tell you."

A sudden thought here flashed across Layton's mind, and he hastened to
profit by it.

"Why not ask him to take my place? I am ready, most ready, to requite
his services. Tell him, if you like, that I will pay all the expenses
of the evening, and leave him the receipts. Or say, if he prefer, that
I will give him thirty, forty, ay, fifty dollars, if he will relieve me
from an engagement I have no mind for."

"Well, that does sound a bit reasonable," said the other, slowly;
"though, mayhap, he 'll not think the terms so high. You would n't say
eighty, or a hundred, would you? He 's proud, old Poll, and it's best
not to offend him by a mean offer."

Layton bit his lip impatiently, and walked up and down the room without
speaking.

"Not to say," resumed Heron, "that he's jest out of a sick-bed;
the exertion might give him a relapse. The contingencies is to be
calc'lated, as they say on the railroads."

"If it be only a question between fifty and eighty--"

"That's it,--well spoken. Well, call it a hundred, and I'm off to see if
it can't be done." And without waiting for a reply, Heron hastened out
of the room as he spoke.

Notwithstanding the irritation the incident caused him, Layton could
not, as soon as he found himself alone, avoid laughing at the absurdity
of his situation.

If he never went the full length of believing in the hazardous
consequences Mr. Heron predicted, he at least saw that he must be
prepared for any mark of public disfavor his disappointment might
excite; and it was just possible such censure might assume a very
unpleasant shape. The edicts of Judge Lynch are not always in accordance
with the dignity of the accused, and though this consideration first
forced him to laugh, his second thoughts were far graver. Nor were these
thoughts unmixed with doubts as to what Quackinboss would say of the
matter. Would he condemn the rashness of his first pledge, or the
timidity of his retreat; or would he indignantly blame him for
submission to a menace? In the midst of these considerations, Heron
reentered the room.

"There, sir; it's all signed and sealed. Old Poll's to do the work, and
you 're to be too ill to appear. That will require your stayin' here
till nightfall; but when the folks is at the hall, you can slip through
the town and make for New Lebanon."

"And I am to pay--how much did you say?"

"What you proposed yourself, sir. A hundred dollars."

"At eight o'clock, then, let me have a wagon ready," said Layton, too
much irritated with his own conduct to be moved by anything in that of
his host. He therefore paid little attention to Mr. Heron's account
of all the ingenuity and address it had cost him to induce old Poll
to become his substitute, nor would he listen to one word of the
conversation reported to have passed on that memorable occasion.
What cared he to hear how old Poll looked ten years younger since the
bargain? He was to be dressed like a gentleman; he was to be in full
black; he was to resume all the dignity of the station he had once
held; while he gave the public what he had hitherto resolutely
refused,--some account of himself and his own life. Layton turned away
impatiently at these details; they were all associated with too much
that pained to interest or to please him.

"The matter is concluded now, and let me hear no more of it," said he,
peevishly. "I start at eight." And with this he turned away, leaving no
excuse to his host to remain, or resume an unpalatable subject.

"Your wagon shall be here at the hour, and a smart pair of horses to
bowl you along, sir," said Heron, too well satisfied on the whole to be
annoyed by a passing coldness.



CHAPTER XLIV. THE LECTURER

Alfred Layton's day dragged drearily along, watching and waiting for the
hour of departure. Close prisoner as he was, the time hung heavily on
his hands, without a book or any sort of companionship to beguile its
weariness. He tried various ways to pass the hours; he pondered over
a faintly colored and scarce traceable map on the walls. It represented
America, with all the great western annexations, in that condition of
vague obscurity in which geographers were wont to depict the Arctic
regions. He essayed to journalize his experiences on the road; but he
lost patience in recording the little incidents which composed them. He
endeavored to take counsel with himself about his future; but he lost
heart in the inquiry, as he bethought him how little direction he had
ever given hitherto to his life, and how completely he had been the
sport of accident.

He was vexed and angry with himself. It was the first time he had been
called upon to act by his own guidance for months back, and he had made
innumerable mistakes in the attempt. Had Quackinboss been with him, he
well knew all these blunders had been avoided. This reflection pained
him, just as it has pained many a gifted and accomplished man to think
that life and the world are often more difficult than book-learning.

He was too much out of temper with the town to interest himself in what
went on beneath his windows, and only longed for night, that he might
leave it never to return. At last the day began to wane, the shadows
fell longer across the empty street, some cawing rooks swept over the
tree-tops to their homes in the tall pines, and an occasional wagon
rolled heavily by, with field implements in it,--sign all that the hoars
of labor had drawn to a close. "I shall soon be off," muttered he;
"soon hastening away from a spot whose memory will be a nightmare to
me." In the gray half-light he sat, thinking the thought which has found
its way into so many hearts. What meaning have these little episodes
of loneliness? What are the lessons they are meant to teach? Are they
intended to attach us more closely to those we love, by showing how
wearily life drags on in absence from them; or are they meant as
seasons of repose, in which we may gain strength for fresh efforts?

Mr. Heron broke in upon these musings. He came to say that crowds were
hurrying to the lecture-room, and in a few minutes more Layton might
steal away, and, reaching the outskirts of the town, gain the wagon that
was to convey him to Lebanon.

"You 'll not forget this place, I reckon," said he, as he assisted
Layton to close and fasten up his carpet-bag. "You'll be proud, one of
these days, to say, 'I was there some five-and-twenty, or maybe thirty,
years back. There was only one what you 'd call a first-rate hotel
in the town; it was kept by a certain Dan Heron, the man that made
Bunkumville, who built Briggs Block and the Apollonicon. I knew him.'
Yes, sir, I think I hear you sayin' it."

"I half suspect you are mistaken, my friend," said Lay-ton, peevishly.
"I live in the hope never to hear the name of this place again, as
assuredly I am determined never to speak of it."

"Well, you Britishers can't help envy, that's a fact," said Heron, with
a sigh that showed how deeply he felt this unhappy infirmity. "Take a
glass of something to warm you, and let's be movin'. I'll see you safe
through the town."

Layton thankfully accepted his guidance, and, each taking a share of the
luggage, they set forth into the street. Night was now fast falling,
and they could move along without any danger of detection; but,
besides this, there were few abroad, the unaccustomed attraction of the
lecture-room having drawn nearly all in that direction. Little heeding
the remarks by which Heron beguiled the way, Layton moved on, only
occupied with the thought of how soon he would be miles away from this
unloved spot, when his companion suddenly arrested his attention by
grasping his arm, as he said, "There; did you hear that?"

"Hear what?" asked Layton, impatiently.

"The cheerin', the shoutin'! That's for old Poll. It's the joy of our
folk to see the old boy once more about. It would be well for some of
our public men if they were half as popular in their own States as he is
with the people down here. There it is again!"

Layton was not exactly in the fit humor to sympathize with this success,
and neither the lecturer nor his audience engaged any large share of
his good-will; he, therefore, merely muttered an impatient wish to get
along, while he quickened his own pace in example.

"Well, I never heerd greater applause than that. They 're at it again!"

A wild burst of uproarious enthusiasm at the same moment burst forth and
filled the air.

"There ain't no mockery there, stranger," said Heron; "that ain't like
the cheer the slaves in the Old World greet their kings with, while
the police stands by to make a note of the men as has n't yelled loud
enough." This taunt was wrung from him by the insufferable apathy of
Layton's manner; but even the bitterness of the sneer failed to excite
retort.

"Is this our shortest road?" was all the reply he made.

"No; this will save us something," said Heron, with the quickness of
one inspired by a sudden thought; and at the same instant he turned
into a narrow street on his left.

They walked briskly along for a few minutes without speaking, when,
suddenly turning the angle of the way, they found themselves directly
in front of the assembly-room, from whose three great doors the light
streamed boldly out across the great square before it. The place seemed
densely thronged, and even on the pillars outside persons were grouped,
anxious at this cheap expedient to participate in the pleasure of the
lecture. By this time all was hushed and quiet, and it was evident
by the rapt attention of the audience that all were eagerly bent on
listening to the words of the speaker.

"Why have we come this way?" asked Lay ton, peevishly.

"Jest that you might see that sight yonder, sir," said Heron, calmly;
 "that you might carry away with you the recollection of a set of
hard-worked, horny-handed men, laborin' like Turks for a livin', and yet
ready and willin' to give out of their hard earnin's to listen to one
able to instruct or improve 'em. That's why you come this way, stranger.
Ain't the reason a good one?"

Layton did not reply, but stood watching with deep interest the scene
of silent, rapt attention in the crowded room, from which now not the
slightest sound proceeded. Drawn by an attraction he could not explain,
he slowly mounted the steps and gained a place near the door, but from
which he was unable to catch sight of the lecturer. He was speaking;
but, partly from the distance, and in part from the low tones of his
voice, Layton could not hear his words. Eager to learn by what sort of
appeal an audience like this could be addressed,--curious to mark the
tone by which success was achieved,--he pushed vigorously onward till
he reached one of the columns that supported the roof of the hall, and
which, acting as a conductor, conveyed every syllable to his ears. The
lecturer's voice, artificially raised to reach the limits of the room,
was yet full, strong, and sonorous, and it was managed with all the
skill of a practised speaker. He had opened his address by mentioning
the circumstances which had then brought him before them. He explained
that but from an adverse incident--a passing indisposition--they were on
that night to have heard one of those accomplished speakers who had won
fame and honor in the old country. There was a reserve and delicacy in
the mention of the circumstances by which he became the substitute for
this person that struck Layton forcibly; he was neither prepared for
the sentiment nor the style of the orator; but, besides, there was in
the utterance of certain words, and in an occasional cadence, something
that made his heart beat quicker, and sent a strange thrill through him.

The explanation over, there was a pause,--a pause of silence so perfect
that as the speaker laid down the glass of water he had been drinking,
the sound was heard throughout the room. He now began, his voice low,
his words measured, his manner subdued. Layton could not follow him
throughout, but only catch enough to perceive that he was giving a short
sketch of the relative conditions of England and Ireland antecedent to
the Union. He pictured the one, great, rich, powerful, and intolerant,
with all the conscious pride of its own strength, and the immeasurable
contempt for whatever differed from it; the other, bold, daring,
and defiant, not at all aware of its inability to cope with its more
powerful neighbor in mere force, but reposing an unbounded trust in
its superior quickness, its readiness of resource, its fertility of
invention. He dwelt considerably on those Celtic traits by which he
claimed for Irishmen a superiority in all those casualties of life which
demand promptitude and ready-wittedness.

"The gentleman who was to have occupied this chair tonight," said he,
raising his voice, so as to be heard throughout the room, "would, I
doubt not, have given you a very different portrait, and delivered a
very different judgment. You would at this moment have been listening
to a description of that great old country we are all so proud of,
endeavoring, with all the wise prudence of a careful mother, to train up
a wayward and capricious child in the paths of virtue and obedience. But
you will bear more patiently with me; you will lend me a more favorable
hearing and a kindlier sympathy, for America, too, was a runaway
daughter, and though it was only a Gretna Green match you first made
with Freedom, you have lived to see the marriage solemnized in all form,
and acknowledged by the whole world."

When the cheer which greeted these words had subsided, he went on to
glance at what might possibly have been the theme of the other lecturer:
 "I am told," said he,--"for I never saw him,--that he was a young, a
very young man. But to speak of the scenes to which I am coming, it is
not enough to have read, studied, and reflected. A man should have done
more; he ought to have seen, heard, and acted. These confessions are
bought dearly, for it is at the price of old age I can make them; but is
it not worth old age to have heard Burke in all the majestic grandeur
of his great powers,--to have listened to the scathing whirlwind of
Grattan's passion,--to have sat beneath the gallery when Flood denounced
him, and that terrible duel of intellect took place, far more moving
than the pistol encounter that followed it? Ay, I knew them all! I have
jested with Parsons, laughed with Toler, laughed and wept both with poor
Curran. You may find it difficult to believe that he who now addresses
you should ever have moved in the class to which such men pertained. You
here, whose course of life, sustained by untiring toil and animated by
a spirit of resolute courage, moves ever upward, who are better to-day
than yesterday, and will to-morrow be farther on the road than to-day,
who labor the soil of which your grandchildren will be the proud
possessors, may have some difficulty in tracing a career of continued
descent, and will be slow to imagine how a man could fall from a station
of respectability and regard, and be--such as I am!"

Just as the speaker had uttered these words, a cry, so wild and piercing
as to thrill through every heart, resounded through the building; the
great mass of men seemed to heave and swell like the sea in a storm.
It was one of those marvellous moments in which human emotions seem
whispered from breast to breast, and men are moved by a strange flood of
sympathy; and now the crowd opened, like a cleft wave, to give passage
to a young man, who with a strength that seemed supernatural forced his
way to the front. There was that in his wild, excited look that almost
bespoke insanity, while he struggled to effect his passage.

Astonished by the scene of commotion in front of him, and unable to
divine its cause, the lecturer haughtily asked, "Who comes here to
disturb the order of this meeting?" The answer was quickly rendered,
as, springing over the rail that fenced the stage, Alfred cried out, "My
father! my father!" and, throwing his arms around him, pressed him to
his heart. As for the old man, he stood stunned and speechless for a
moment, and then burst into tears.



CHAPTER XLV. OF BYGONES

Were we at the outset instead of the close of our journey, we could not
help dwelling on the scene the lecture-room presented as the discovery
became whispered throughout the crowd. Our goal is, however, now almost
in sight, and we must not tarry. We will but record one thought, as
we say that they who were accustomed to associate the idea of fine
sympathies with fine clothes and elegance of manner, would have been
astonished at the instinctive delicacy and good breeding of that dense
mass of men. Many were disappointed at the abrupt conclusion of a
great enjoyment, nearly all were moved by intense curiosity to know the
history of those so strangely brought together again, and yet not one
murmured a complaint, not one obtruded a question; but with a few words
of kindly greeting, a good wish, or a blessing, they stole quietly away
and left the spot.

Seated side by side in a room of the inn, old Layton and his son
remained till nigh daybreak. How much had they to ask and answer of
each other! Amidst the flood of questions poured forth, anything like
narrative made but sorry progress; but at length Alfred came to hear
how his father had been duped by a pretended friend, cheated out of
his discovery, robbed of his hard-won success, and then denounced as an
impostor.

"This made me violent, and then they called me mad. A little more of
such persecution and their words might have come true.

"I scarcely yet know to what I am indebted for my liberation. I was a
patient in Swift's Hospital, when one day came the Viceroy to visit
it, and with him came a man I had met before in society, but not over
amicably, nor with such memories as could gratify. 'Who is this?' cried
he, as he saw me at work in the garden. 'I think I remember his face.'
The keeper whispered something, and he replied, 'Ah! indeed!' while he
drew near where I was digging. 'What do you grow here?' asked he of me,
in a half-careless tone. 'Madder,' shouted I, with a yell that made
him start; and then, recovering himself, he hastened off to report the
answer to the Viceroy.

"They both came soon after to where I was. The Viceroy, with that
incaution which makes some people talk before the insane as though they
were deaf, said, in my hearing, 'And so you tell me he was once a Fellow
of Trinity?' 'Yes, my Lord,' said I, assuming the reply, 'a Regius
Professor and a Medallist, now a Madman and a Pauper. The converse is
the gentleman at your side. _He_ began as a fool, and has ended as a
Poor Law Commissioner!' They both turned away, but I cried out, 'Mr.
Ogden, one word with you before you go.' He came back. 'I have been
placed here,' said I, 'at the instance of a man who has robbed me. I am
not mad, but I am friendless. The name of my persecutor is Holmes. He
writes himself Captain Nicholas Holmes--'

"He would not hear another word, but hurried away without answering
me. I know no more than that I was released ten days after,--that I was
turned out in the streets to starve or rob. My first thought was to find
out this man Holmes. To meet and charge him with his conduct towards me,
in some public place, would have been a high vengeance; but I sought
him for weeks in vain, and at last learned he had gone abroad.

"How I lived all that time I cannot tell you; it is all to me now like
a long and terrible dream. I was constantly in the hands of the police,
and rarely a day passed that I had not some angry altercation with the
authorities. I was in one of these one morning, when, half stupefied
with cold and want, I refused to answer further. The magistrate asked,
'Has he any friends? Is there no one who takes any interest in him?'
The constable answered, 'None, your worship; and it is all the better,
he would only heap disgrace on them!'

"It was then, for the first moment of my life, the full measure of all I
had become stood plainly before me. In those few words lay the sentence
passed upon my character. From that hour forth I determined never
to utter my name again. I kept this pledge faithfully, nor was it
difficult; few questioned, none cared for me. I lived--if that be the
word for it--in various ways. I compounded drugs for chemists, corrected
the press for printers, hawked tracts, made auction catalogues, and at
last turned pyrotechnist to a kind of Vauxhall, all the while writing
letters home with small remittances to your mother, who had died when I
was in the madhouse. In a brief interval of leisure I went down to the
North, to learn what I might of her last moments, and to see where
they had laid her. There was a clergyman there who had been kind
and hospitable towards me in better days, and it was to his house I
repaired."

He paused, and for some minutes was silent. At length he said,--

"It is strange, but there are certain passages in my life, not very
remarkable in themselves, that remain distinct and marked out, just as
one sees certain portions of landscape by the glare of lightning flashes
in a thunderstorm, and never forgets them after. Such was my meeting
with this Mr. Millar. He was distributing bread to the poor, with the
assistance of his clerk, on the morning that I came to his door.
The act, charitable and good in itself, he endeavored to render more
profitable by some timely words of caution and advice; he counselled
gratitude towards those who bestowed these bounties, and thrift in their
use. Like all men who have never known want themselves, he denied that
it ever came save through improvidence. He seemed to like the theme, and
dwelt on it with pleasure, the more as the poor sycophants who
received his alms eagerly echoed back concurrence in all that he spoke
disparagingly of themselves. I waited eagerly till he came to a pause,
and then I spoke.

"'Now,' said I, 'let us reverse this medal, and read it on the other
side. Though as poor and wretched as any of those about, I have not
partaken of your bounty, and I have the right to tell you that your
words are untrue, your teaching unsound, and your theory a falsehood. To
men like us, houseless, homeless, and friendless, you may as well preach
good breeding and decorous manners, as talk of providence and thrift.
Want is a disease; it attacks the poor, whose constitutions are exposed
to it; and to lecture us against its inroads is like cautioning us
against cold, by saying "Take care to wear strong boots,--mind that you
take your greatcoat,--be sure that you do not expose yourself to
the night air." You would be shocked, would you not, to address such
sarcastic counsels to such poor, barefoot, ragged creatures as we are?
And yet you are not shocked by enjoining things fifty times more absurd,
five hundred times more difficult. Thrift is the inhabitant of warm
homesteads, where the abundant meal is spread upon the board and the
fire blazes on the hearth. It never lives in the hovel, where the
snowdrift lodges in the chimney and the rain beats upon the bed of
straw!'

"'Who is this fellow?' cried the Rector, outraged at being thus replied
to. 'Where did he come from?'

"'From a life of struggle and hardship,' said I, 'that if _you_ had been
exposed to and confronted with, you had died of starvation, despite all
your wise saws on thrift and providence.'

"'Gracious mercy!' muttered he, 'can this be--' and then he stopped;
and beckoning me to follow him into an inner room, he retired.

"'Do I speak to Dr. Layton?' asked he, curtly, when we were alone.

"'I was that man,' said I. 'I am nothing now.'

"'By what unhappy causes have you come to this?'

"'The lack of that same thrift you were so eloquent about, perhaps. I
was one of those who could write, speak, invent, and discover; but I
was never admitted a brother of the guild of those who save. The world,
however, has always its compensations, and I met thrifty men. Some
of them stole my writings, and some filched my discoveries. They have
prospered, and live to illustrate your pleasant theory. But I have not
come here to make my confessions; I would learn of you certain things
about what was once my home.'

"He was most kind,--he would have been more than kind to me had I let
him; but I would accept of nothing. 'I did not even break bread under
his roof, though I had fasted for a day and a half. He had a few objects
left with him to give me, which I took,--the old pocket-book one of
them,--and then I went away."

The old man's narrative was henceforth one long series of struggles
with fortune. He concealed none of those faults by which he had so often
wrecked his better life. Hating and despising the companionship to which
his reduced condition had brought him, he professed to believe there was
less degradation in drunkenness than in such association. Through all
he said, in fact, there was the old defiant spirit of early days, a
scornful rejection of all assistance, and even, in failure and misery,
a self-reliance that seemed invincible. He had come to America by the
invitation of a theatrical manager, who had failed, leaving him in the
direst necessity and want.

The dawn of day found him still telling of his wayward life, its
sorrows, its struggles, and defeats.



CHAPTER XLVI. THE DOCTOR'S NARRATIVE

Old Layton never questioned his son whither they were going, or for
what, till the third day of their journeying together. Such, indeed, was
the preoccupation of his mind, that he travelled along unmindful of new
places and new people, all his thoughts deeply engaged by one single
theme, Brief as this interval was, what a change had it worked in his
appearance! Instead of the wild and haggard look his features used to
wear, their expression was calm, somewhat stern, perhaps, and such as
might have reminded one who had seen him in youth of the Herbert Layton
of his college days. He had grown more silent, too, and there was in his
manner the same trait of haughty reserve which once distinguished him.
His habits of intemperance were abandoned at once, and without the
slightest reference to motive or intention he gave his son to see that
he had entered on a new course in life.

"Have you told me where we are going, Alfred, and have I forgotten it?"
said he, on the third day of the journey.

"No, father; so many other things occurred to us to talk over that I
never thought of this. It is time, however, I should tell you. We are
going to meet one who would rather make your acquaintance than be the
guest of a king."

The old man smiled with a sort of cold incredulity, and his son went
on to recount how, in collecting the stray papers and journals of the
"Doctor," as they styled him between them, this stranger had come to
conceive the greatest admiration for his bold energy of temperament and
the superior range of his intellect. The egotism, so long dormant in
that degraded nature, revived and warmed up as the youth spoke, and he
listened with proud delight at the story of all the American's devotion
to him.

"He is a man of science, then, Alfred?"

"Nothing of the kind."

"He is, at least, one of those quick-minded fellows who in this stirring
country adapt to their purpose discoveries they have had no share in
making; is he not?"

"Scarcely even that. He is a man of ordinary faculties, many prejudices,
but of a manly honesty of heart I have never seen surpassed."

"Then he is poor," said the old man, sarcastically.

"I know little of his circumstances, but I believe they are ample."

"Take my word for it, boy, they are not," said the other, with a bitter
smile. "Fortune is a thrifty goddess, and where she bestows a generous
nature she takes care it shall have nothing to give away."

"I trust your precept will not apply to this case, at all events. I have
been his pensioner for nigh a year back: I am so still. I had hoped,
indeed, by this project of lecturing--"

"Nay, nay, boy, no success could come of that. Had you been a great name
in your own country, and come here heralded by honors won already, they
would have given you a fair hearing and a generous recompense, but
they will not take as money the unstamped metal; they will not stoop to
accept what the old country sends forth without acknowledgment, as good
enough for _them_. Believe me, this race is prouder than our own, and
it is not by unworthy sneers at them that we shall make them less
vainglorious."

"I scarcely know them, but for the sake of that one man I owe them a
deep affection," said Alfred, warmly.

"I have a scheme for you," said the old man, after a pause; "but we will
talk of it later on. For the present, I want you to aid me in a plan of
my own. Ever since I have been in this country I have endeavored to find
out a person whose name alone was known to me, and with whom I gave a
solemn promise to communicate,--a death-bed promise it was, and given
under no common circumstances. The facts were these:--

"I was once upon a time, when practising as a physician at Jersey, sent
for to attend a patient taken suddenly and dangerously ill. The case was
a most embarrassing one. There were symptoms so incongruous as to reject
the notion of any ordinary disease, and such as might well suggest the
suspicion of poisoning, and yet so skilfully and even patiently had the
scheme been matured, the detection of the poison during life was very
difficult My eagerness in the inquiry was mistaken by the patient for a
feeling of personal kindness towards himself,--an error very familiar
to all medical men in practice. He saw in my unremitting attention and
hourly watching by his bedside the devotion of one like an old friend,
and not the scientific ardor of a student.

"It is just possible that his gratitude was the greater, that the man
was one little likely to conciliate good feeling or draw any sympathy
towards him. He was a hard, cold, selfish fellow, whose life had been
passed amongst the worst classes of play-men, and who rejected utterly
all thought of truth or confidence in his old associates. I mention
this to show how, in a very few days, the accident of my situation
established between us a freedom and a frankness that savored of long
acquaintance.

"In his conversations with me he confessed that his wife had been
divorced from a former husband, and, from circumstances known to him,
he believed she desired his death. He told me of the men to whom in
particular his suspicions attached, and the reasons of the suspicions;
that these men would be irretrievably ruined if his speculations on the
turf were to succeed, and that there was not one of them would not peril
his life to get sight of his book on the coming Derby. I was curious to
ascertain why he should have surrounded himself with men so obviously
his enemies, and he owned it was an act prompted by a sort of dogged
courage, to show them that he did not fear them. Nor was this the only
motive, as he let out by an inadvertence; he cherished the hope of
detecting an intrigue between one of his guests and his wife, as the
means of liberating himself from a tie long distasteful to him.

"One of the party had associated himself with him in this project, and
promised him all his assistance. Here was a web of guilt and treachery,
entangled enough to engage a deep interest! For the man himself, I cared
nothing; there was in his nature that element of low selfishness that
is fatal to all sense of sympathy. His thoughts and speculations ranged
only over suspicions and distrusts, and the only hopes he ever expressed
were for the punishment of his enemies. Scarcely, indeed, did a visit
pass in which he did not compel me to repeat a solemn oath that the
mode of his death should be explored, and his poisoners--if there were
such--be brought to trial. As he drew nigh his last, his sufferings gave
little intervals of rest, and his mind occasionally wandered. Even in
his ravings, however, revenge never left him, and he would break out
into wild rhapsodies in imitation of the details of justice, calling on
the prisoners, and by name, to say whether they would plead guilty
or not; asking them to stand forward, and then reciting with hurried
impetuosity the terms of an indictment for murder. To these there would
succeed a brief space of calm reason, in which he told me that his
daughter--a child by a former wife--was amply provided for, and that
her fortune was so far out of the reach of his enemies that it-lay in
America, where her uncle, her guardian, resided. He gave me his name and
address, and in my pocket-book--this old and much-used pocket-book
that you see--he wrote a few tremulous lines, accrediting me to this
gentleman as the one sole friend beside him in his last struggles. As he
closed the book, he said, 'As you hope to die in peace, swear to me not
to neglect this, nor leave my poor child a beggar.' And I swore it.

"His death took place that night; the inquest followed on the day after.
My suspicions were correct; he had died of corrosive sublimate;
the quantity would have killed a dozen men. There was a trial and
a conviction. One of them, I know, was executed, and, if I remember
aright, sentence of transportation passed on another. The woman,
however, was not implicated, and her reputed lover escaped. My evidence
was so conclusive and so fatal that the prisoners' counsel had no other
resource than to damage my credit by assailing my character, and in his
cross-examination of me he drew forth such details of my former life,
and the vicissitudes of my existence, that I left the witness-table
a ruined man. It was not a very difficult task to represent a life of
poverty as one of ignominy and shame. The next day my acquaintances
passed without recognizing me, and from that hour forth none ever
consulted me. In my indignation at this injustice I connected all who
could have in any way contributed to my misfortune, and this poor orphan
child amongst the rest. Had I never been engaged in that ill-starred
case, my prospects in life had been reasonably fair and hopeful. I was
in sufficient practice, increasing in repute, and likely to succeed,
when this calamitous affair crossed me.

"Patience under unmerited suffering was never amongst my virtues, and
in various ways I assailed those who had attacked me. I ridiculed the
lawyer who had conducted the defence, sneered at his law, exposed
his ignorance of chemistry, and, carried away by that fatal ardor of
acrimony I never knew how to restrain, I more than suggested that, when
he appealed to Heaven in the assertion of his client's innocence, he
held in his possession a written confession of his guilt. For this an
action of libel was brought against me; the damages were assessed at
five hundred pounds, and I spent four years in a jail to acquit the
debt. Judge, then, with what memories I ever referred to that event
of my life. It was, perhaps, the one solitary incident in which I had
resisted a strong temptation. I was offered a large bribe to fail in my
analysis, and yet it cost me all the prosperity it had taken years of
labor to accomplish!

"Imprisonment had not cooled my passion. The first thing which I did
when free was to dramatize the trial for one of those low pot-houses
where Judge and Jury scenes are represented; and so accurately did I
caricature my enemy, the counsel, that he was actually laughed out
of court and ruined. If I could have traced the other actors in the
terrible incident, I would have pursued them with like rancor; but I
could not: they had left England, and gone Heaven knows where or how!
 As to the orphan girl, whose interest I had sworn to watch over, any
care for her now would only have insulted my own misery; my rage was
blind and undiscriminating, and I would not be guided by reason. It was,
therefore, in a spirit of unreflecting vengeance that I never took any
steps regarding her, but preserved, even to this hour, a letter to her
guardian,--it is there, in that pocket-book,--which might perhaps have
vindicated her right to wealth and fortune. 'No,' thought I, 'they have
been _my_ ruin; I will not be the benefactor of one of them!'

"I kept my word; and even when my own personal distresses were greatest,
I would not have raised myself out of want at the price of relinquishing
that revenge. I have lived to think and feel more wisely," said he,
after a pause; "I have lived to learn the great lesson that every mishap
of my life was of my own procuring, and that self-indulgence and a
vindictive spirit are enough to counterbalance tenfold more than all the
abilities I ever possessed. The world will no more confide its interests
to men like me than they will take a tiger for a house-dog. I want to
make some reparation for this wrong, Alfred. I want to seek out this
person I have spoken of, and, if this girl still live, to place her in
possession of her own. You will help me in this, will you not?"

It was not without a burning impatience that young Layton had listened
to his father's narrative; he was eager to tell him that his friend
the Colonel had already addressed himself to the enterprise, all his
interests being engaged by the journals and letters he had collected
when in Ireland. Alfred now, in a few hurried words, related all this,
and told how, at that very hour, Quackinboss was eagerly prosecuting the
inquiry. "He has gone down to Norfolk in search of this Winthrop," said
he.

"He will not find him there," said old Layton. "He left Norfolk, for the
Far West, two years back. He settled at Chicago, but he has not remained
there. So much I have learned, and it is all that is known about him."

"Let us go to Chicago, then," said Alfred.

"It is what I would advise. He is a man of sufficient note and mark to
be easily traced. It is a well-known name, and belongs to a family much
looked up to. These are my credentials, if I should ever chance to come
up with him."

As he spoke, he unclasped a very old and much-worn leather pocket-book,
searching through whose pages he at last found what he sought for. It
was a leaf, scrawled over in a trembling manner, and ran thus: "Consult
the bearer of this, Dr. Layton, about Clara; he is my only friend at
this dreadful hour, and he is to be trusted in all things. Watch well
that they who have murdered _me_ do not rob _her_. He will tell you--"
It concluded thus abruptly, but was signed firmly, "Godfrey Hawke, Nest,
Jersey," with the date; and underneath, "To Harvey Winthrop, Norfolk, D.
S."

"This would be a meagre letter of credit, Alfred, to most men; but
I have heard much of this same Winthrop. All represent him as a
fine-hearted, generous fellow, who has done already much to trace
out his niece, and restore to her what she owns. If we succeed in
discovering him, I mean to offer my services to search out the girl.
I saw, a short time before I left England, one of the men who were
implicated in the murder. I knew him at once. The threat of reviving the
old story of shame will soon place him in my power, if I can but find
him; and through _him_ I am confident we shall trace _her_."

To understand the ardor with which the old man entered upon this
inquiry, one must have known the natures of those men to whom the
interest of such a search has all the captivation of a game. It was, to
his thinking, like some case of subtle analysis, in which the existence
of a certain ingredient was to be tested; it was a problem requiring
all his acuteness to solve, and he addressed himself to the task with
energy and zeal. The young man was not slow to associate himself in
the enterprise; and in his desire for success there mingled generous
thoughts and more kindly sympathies, which assuredly did not detract
from the interest of the pursuit.

The theme engrossed all their thoughts; they discussed it in every
fashion, speculated on it in every shape, pictured to themselves almost
every incident and every stage of the inquiry, imagining the various
obstacles that might arise, and planning how to overcome them. Thus
journeying they arrived at Chicago, but only to learn that Winthrop had
left that city, and was now established farther to the westward, at a
place called Gallina. Without halting or delay they started for Gallina.
The road was a new and a bad one, the horses indifferent, and the stages
unusually long. It was on the fourth evening of the journey that they
arrived at a small log-house on the skirt of a pine wood, at which they
were given to expect fresh horses. They were disappointed, however,
for the horses had already been sent to bring up two travellers from
Gallina, and who had taken the precaution of securing a rapid transit.

"We are here, then, for the night," said old Layton, with a faint sigh,
as he endeavored to resign himself to the delay.

"Here they come!" said the host of the log-hut, as the rattle of a heavy
wagon was heard from the dense wood. "Our sheriff don't let the moss
grow under his feet Listen to the pace he 's coming."

Seated, with his son beside him, on the wooden bench before the door,
the old man watched the arrival of the newcomers. The first to descend
from the wagon was a man somewhat advanced in life, but hale and stout,
with a well-bronzed face, and every semblance of a vigorous health. He
saluted the host cordially, and was received with a sort of deference
only accorded to men of official station. He was followed by a younger
man, but who displayed, as he moved, evident signs of being fatigued by
the journey.

"Come, Seth," said the elder, "let us see what you have got for our
supper, for we must be a-moving briskly."

"Well, sheriff, there ain't much," said the host; "and what there is you
'll have to share with the two gentlemen yonder; they've just come East,
and are waitin' for you to get a morsel to eat."

"Always glad to chance on good company," said the sheriff, saluting
the strangers as he spoke; and while they were interchanging their
greetings, the host laid the table, and made preparation for the meal.
"I must look after my fellow-traveller," said the sheriff; "he seems so
tired and jaded. I half fear he will be unable to go on to-night."

He speedily returned with good tidings of his friend, and soon
afterwards the party took their places at the supper-table.

The sheriff, like his countrymen generally, was frank and outspoken;
he talked freely of the new-settled country, its advantages and its
difficulties, and at last, as the night closed in, he made another visit
to his friend.

"All right, Seth," said he, as he came back; "we shall be able to push
on. Let them 'hitch' the nags as soon as may be, for we 've a long
journey before us."

"You're for the Lakes, I reckon?" said Seth, inquiringly.

"Farther than that."

"Up to Saratoga and the Springs, maybe?"

"Farther still."

"Well, you ain't a-goin' to New York at this time of year, sheriff?"

"That am I, and farther still, Seth; I am going to the old country,
where I have n't been for more than thirty years, and where I never
thought to go again."

"You might visit worse lands, sir," said old Layton, half resentfully.

"You mistook my meaning, stranger," said the other, "if you thought my
words reflected on England. There is only one land I love better."

The honest speech reconciled them at once, and with a hearty shake-hands
and a kindly wished good journey, they separated.

"Did you remark that man who accompanied the sheriff?" said Layton to
his son, as they stood at the door watching the wagon while it drove
away.

"Not particularly," said Alfred.

"Well, I did my best to catch sight of him, but I could not It struck me
that he was less an invalid than one who wanted to escape observation;
he wore his hat slouched over his eyes, and covered his mouth with his
hand when he spoke."

The young man only smiled at what he deemed a mere caprice of suspicion,
and the subject dropped between them. After a while, however, the father
said,--

"What our host has just told me strengthens my impression. The
supposed sick man ate a hearty supper, and drank two glasses of stiff
brandy-and-water.'

"And if he did, can it concern us, father?" said Alfred, smiling.

"Yes, boy, if we were the cause of the sudden indisposition. He was
tired, perhaps, when he arrived, but I saw no signs of more than fatigue
in his movements, and I observed that, at the first glance towards us,
he hurried into the inner room and never reappeared till he left. I
'm not by any means certain that the fellow had not his reasons for
avoiding us."

Rather treating this as the fancy of one whose mind had been long the
prey of harassing distrusts than as founded on calmer reason, Alfred
made no answer, and they separated for the night without recurring to
the subject.

It was late on the following day they reached Gallina. The first
question was, if Harvey Winthrop lived there? "Yes; he is our sheriff,"
was the answer. They both started, and exchanged looks of strange
meaning.

"And he left this yesterday?" asked old Layton.

"Yes, sir. An Englishman came two days back with some startling news for
him,--some say of a great fortune left him somewhere,--and he's off to
England to make out his claim."

Old Layton and his son stood speechless and disconcerted. These were
the two travellers who had passed them at the log-hut, and thus had they
spent some hours, without knowing it, in the company of him they had
been travelling hundreds of miles to discover.

"And his friend knew us, and avoided us, Alfred," said old Layton. "Mark
that fact, boy, and observe that, where there is ground for fear in one
heart, there is reason for hope in some other. We must follow them at
once."



CHAPTER XLVII. A HAPPY ACCIDENT

Having written a hurried letter to Quackinboss acquainting him with
the causes which should prevent him from keeping his rendezvous at St.
Louis, and informing him how he had met with his father, he briefly
mentioned that they were about to return to New York with all speed, in
the hope of coming up with Winthrop before he sailed for England. "Come
what may," he added, "we shall await you there. We long to meet you, and
add your counsels to our own." This letter he addressed to St Louis, and
posted at once.

It was ten days after this they reached New York. Their journey had been
delayed by a series of accidents,--a railroad smash at Detroit amongst
the number; and when they arrived at the capital, it was to learn
that the "Asia" had sailed that very morning for Liverpool, and at the
agent's office they found that Mr. Harvey Winthrop was a passenger, and
with him a certain Mr. Jacob Trover.

"Trover!" repeated Alfred, "he came out in the same ship with us, and it
was in his company Quackinboss went down to the South, fully convinced
that the man was the agent in some secret transaction."

As he stood looking at the name on the agent's list with that
unreasoning steadfastness that in a difficulty often attaches us to the
incident which has first awakened us to a sense of embarrassment, he
heard a well-remembered voice behind him exclaim, "What! sailed this
mornin'? Well, darn me considerable, if that ain't takin' the ropes
of us!" He turned, and it was Quackinboss. After the heartiest of
greetings on both sides, Alfred presented his father to his friend.

"Well, sir," said the Colonel, impressively, "there ain't that man
livin' I want to shake the hand of as I do yours. I know you, sir,
better, mayhap, than that youth beside you. I have studied your
character in your writin's, and I 'm here to say there ain't your
superior, if there be your equal, in your country or mine."

"This opinion will make our intimacy very difficult," said the old
man, smiling. "I can scarcely hope to keep up the delusion, even for
twenty-four hours."

"Yes, sir, you can," replied the Colonel; "jest talk the way you write."

"You have seen this, I suppose?" said Alfred, pointing to the list of
the lately departed passengers, and desirous of engaging his friend in
another theme.

"Yes, and gone with Winthrop too," said the Colonel. "You would n't
believe how he doubled on me, that man Trover. I thought I had him too.
We were a-travellin' together as thick as thieves, a-tellin' each other
all our bygones in life and our plans for the future, and at last as
good as agreed we 'd go partners in a mill that was for sale, about
three miles from Carthage. But he wanted to see the water-power himself,
and so we left the high-road, and set out to visit it. At our arrival,
as we was gettin' out of the wagon, he sprained his ankle, and had to be
helped into the house.

"'I am afraid,' said he, 'there's more mischief than a sprain here; have
you any skill as a surgeon?'

"'Well,' said I, 'I ain't so bad about a fracture or dislo-cashin,
and, what's better, I 've got a note-book with me full of all manner of
receipts for washes and the like.' It was your Journal, Dr. Layton, that
I spoke of. It was, as you may remember, filled with hints about useful
herbs and odd roots, and so on, and there was all about that case of a
man called Hawke as was poisoned at Jersey,--a wonderful trial that had
a great hold upon me, as your son will tell you another time,--but I
did n't think of _that_ at the moment; but turnin' to the part about
sprains, I began to read him what you said: '"You must generally leech
at first," says he,' I began; '"particularly where there is great pain
with swellin'."'

"'Ah! I thought so,' sighed he; 'only how are we to get leeches in a
place like this, and who is to apply them?'

"'I 'll engage to do both within half an hour.' said I; and I put on my
hat and set out.

"Now, I war n't sorry, you see, for the accident. I thought to myself,
'Here's a crittur goin' to be laid up ten days or a fortnight; I'll have
all the care o' him, and it's strange if he won't let out some of his
secrets between whiles. I 'm curious to know what's a-brought him out
here; he's not travellin' like one afraid of being pursued; he goes
about openly and fearlessly, but he's always on the sharp, like a fellow
that had somethin' on his mind, if one could only come at it. If there's
anythin' one can be sure of, it is that a man with a heavy conscience
will try to relieve himself of the load; he's like a fellow always
changin' the ballast of his boat to make her sail lighter, or a crittur
that will be a-movin' his saddle, now on the withers, now on the croup,
but it won't do, never a bit, when there's a sore back underneath.' It
was reflectin' over these things I fell into a sort of dreamy way, and
did n't remember about the leeches for some time. At last I got 'em, and
hastened back to the inn.

"'There's a note for you, sir, at the bar,' said the landlord. I took
it, and read:--

"'Dear Colonel,--Thinking a little fresh air might serve me, I have gone
out for a short drive.--Yours, till we meet again,

"'J. T.'

"Yes, sir, he was off; and worse, too, had carried away with him that
great book with all the writin' in, and that account of Hawke's poison
in'. I started in pursuit as quick as they could get me a wagon hitched,
but I suppose I took the wrong road. I went to Utica, and then turned
north as far as Albany, but I lost him. Better, perhaps, that I did so;
I was riled considerable, and I ain't sure that I mightn't have done
somethin' to be sorry for. Ain't it wonderful how ill one takes anythin'
that reflects on one's skill and craftiness?--just as if such qualities
were great ones; I believe, in my heart, we are readier to resent what
insults our supposed cleverness than what is an outrage on our honesty.
Be that as it may, I never came up with him after, nor heard of him,
till I read his name in that sheet."

"His theft of that book, connected with his companionship with Winthrop,
suggests strongly the thought that his business here is the same as our
own," said the doctor.

"That's the way I reasoned it too," said the Colonel.

"It is not impossible, besides, that he had some suspicion of your
own object in this journey. Did the name of Winthrop ever come up in
conversation between you?"

"Yes. I was once describin' my brother's location down in Ohio,--I
did it a purpose to see if he would show any signs of interest about
Peddar's Clearin's and Holt's Acre,--and then I mentioned, as if by
chance, one Harvey Winthrop.

"'Oh, there was a man of that name in Liverpool once,' said he, 'but he
died about two years gone.'

"'Did he?' said I, lookin' him hard.

"'Yes,' said he,--' of a quinsy.'

"It was as good as a play the way we looked at each other arter this. It
was jest a game of chess, and I said, 'Move,' and he said, 'It ain't me
to move,--it's _your_ turn.' And there we was."

"The fellow was shrewd, then?"

"Yes, sir, arter his fashion."

"We must follow him, that's certain. They will reach Liverpool by the
10th or 12th. When can we sail from this?"

"There's a packet sails on Wednesday next; that's the earliest."

"That must do, then. Let them be active as they may, they will scarcely
have had time for much before we are up with them."

"It's as good as a squirrel-hunt," said Quackinboss. "I 'm darned if
it don't set one's blood a-bilin' out of sheer excitement. What do you
reckon this chap's arter?"

"He has, perhaps, found out this girl, and got her to make over her
claim to this property; or she may have died, and he has put forward
some one to personate her; or it is not improbable he may have arranged
some marriage with himself, or one of his friends, for her."

"Then it ain't anythin' about the murder?" asked the Colonel, half
disappointedly.

"Nothing whatever; that case was disposed of years ago. Whatever guilt
may attach to those who escaped, the law cannot recognize now. They were
acquitted, and they are innocent."

"That may be good law, sir, but it's strange justice. If I owed you a
thousand dollars, and was too poor to pay it, I 'm thinkin' you 'd have
it out of me some fine day when I grew rich enough to discharge the
debt."

Layton shook his head in dissent at the supposed parallel.

"Ain't we always a-talkin' about the fallibility of our reason and the
imperfection of our judgments? And what business have we, then, to say,
'There, come what will tomorrow of evidence or proof, my mind is made
up, and I 'm determined to know nothin' more than I know now'?"

"What say you to the other side of the question,--that of the man
against whom nothing is proven, but who, out of the mere obscurity that
involves a crime, must live and die a criminal, just because there is no
saying what morning may not bring an accusation against him? As a man
who has had to struggle through a whole life against adverse suspicions,
I protest against the doctrine of not proven! The world is too prone
to think the worst to make such a practice anything short of an
insufferable tyranny."

With a delicacy he was never deficient in, Quackinboss respected the
personal application, and made no reply.

"Calumny, too," continued the old man, whose passion was now roused,
"is conducted on the division-of-labor principle. One man contributes so
much, and another adds so much more; some are clever in suggesting the
motive, some indicate the act; others are satisfied with moralizing over
human frailties, and display their skill in showing that the crime was
nothing exceptional, but a mere illustration of the law of original
sin. And all these people, be it borne in mind, are not the bad or the
depraved, but rather persons of reputable lives, safe opinions, and
even good intentions. Only imagine, then, what the weapon becomes when
wielded by the really wicked. I myself was hunted down by honorable
men,--gentlemen all of them, and of great attainments. Has _he_ told you
my story?" said he, pointing to his son.

"Yes, sir; and I only say that it could n't have happened in our country
here."

"To be sure it could," retorted the other, quickly; "the only difference
is, that you have made Lynch law an institution, and we practise it as a
social accident."

Thus chatting, they reached the hotel where they were to lodge till the
packet sailed.

The short interval before their departure passed off agreeably to all.
Quackinboss never wearied at hearing the doctor talk, and led him on to
speak of America, and what he had seen of the people, with an intense
interest.

"Could you live here, sir?" asked Quackinboss, at the close of one of
these discussions.

"It is my intention to live and die here," said the doctor. "I go back
to England now, that this boy may pay off a long load of vengeance for
me. Ay, Alfred, you shall hear my long-cherished plan at once. I want
you to become a fellow of that same University which drove me from its
walls. They were not wrong, perhaps,--at least, I will not now dispute
their right,--but I mean to be more in the right than they were. My
name shall stand upon their records associated with their proudest
achievements, and Layton the scholar, Layton the discoverer, eclipse the
memory of Layton the rebel."

This was the dream of many a year of struggle, defeat, and depression;
and now that it was avowed, it seemed as though his heart were relieved
of a great load of care. As for Alfred, the goal was one to stimulate
all his energies, and he pledged himself fervently to do his utmost to
attain it.

"And I must be with you the day you win," cried Quackinboss, with an
enthusiasm so unusual with him that both Layton and his son turned
their glances towards him, and saw that his eyes were glassy with tears.
Ashamed of his emotion, he started suddenly up, saying, "I'll go and
book our berths for Wednesday next."



CHAPTER XLVIII. AT ROME

Let us now return to some of the actors in our drama who for a while
back have been playing out their parts behind the scenes. The Heathcote
family, consisting of Sir William and his ward, May Leslie, Mrs. Morris
and her late husband's friend, Captain Holmes, were domesticated in a
sumptuous residence near the "Pincian," but neither going out into the
world nor themselves receiving visitors. Sir William's health, much
broken and uncertain as it was, formed the excuse for this reclusion;
but the real reason was the fact, speedily ascertained by the Captain,
and as speedily conveyed to his daughter, that "Society" had already
decided against them, and voted the English family at the Palazzo Balbi
as disfranchised.

Very curious and very subtle things are the passively understood decrees
of those who in each city of Europe call themselves the "World." The
delicate shades by which recognition is separated from exclusion; the
fine tints, perceptible only to the eyes of fashion, by which certain
frailties are relieved from being classed with grave derelictions; the
enduring efficacy of the way in which the smell of the roses will
cling to the broken vase of virtue and rescue its fragments from
dishonor,--are all amongst the strangest and most curious secrets of our
civilization.

Were it not for a certain uniformity in the observances, one might be
disposed to stigmatize as capricious the severity occasionally displayed
here, while a merciful lenity was exhibited there; but a closer
examination will show that some fine discriminating sense is ever at
work, capable of distinguishing between genteel vice and the wickedness
that forgets conventionalities. As in law, so in morals, no man need
criminate himself, but he who does so by an inadvertence is lost. Now
the Heathcotes were rich, and yet lived secluded. The world wanted not
another count in the indictment against them. A hundred stories were
circulated about them. They had come to place the "girl" in a convent
Old Sir William had squandered away all her fortune, and the scheme
now was to induce her to turn Catholic and take the veil. "The old
fool"--the world is complimentary on these occasions--was going to marry
that widow, whom he had picked up at Leamington or Ems or Baden-Baden.
If the Captain had not kept the Hell in the Circus, he was the very
double of the man who had it. At all events, it was better not to have
him in the Club; and so the banker, who was to have proposed, withdrew
him.

It may be imagined that some very palpable and sufficient cause was
at work to induce society thus to stand on the defensive towards these
new-comers. Nothing of the kind. All the evidence against them was
shadowy; all the charges such as denied detail. They were an odd set,
they lived in a strange fashion, they knew nobody; and to accusations
like these even spotless integrity must succumb.

Dressed in a _robe de chambre_ that would have made the fortune of a
French Vaudeville actor, with a gold-tasselled fez, and slippers
to match, the Captain sat, smoking a splendid meerschaum, in a
well-cushioned chair, while his daughter was engaged at her embroidery,
opposite to him. Though it was midwinter, the sun streamed in through
the orange-trees on the terrace, and made a rainbow of the spray that
dashed from the marble fountain. The room itself combined all the
sumptuous luxury we understand by the word "comfort," with the graceful
elegance of a Southern existence. There were flowers and fresh air, and
the song of birds to be enjoyed on the softest of sofas and the best
carpeted of floors.

A large goblet of some amber-colored drink, in which a rock of pure ice
floated, stood at the Captain's elbow, and he sipped and puffed, with
his head thrown well back, in an attitude that to smokers must have some
Elysian ecstasy. Nor was his daughter the least ornamental part of the
situation; a morning dress of white muslin, tastefully trimmed with
sky-blue ribbons, and a rich fall of Brussels lace over her head, making
a very charming picture of the graceful figure that now bent over the
embroidery-frame.

"I tell you it won't do, Loo," said he, removing his pipe, and speaking
in a firm and almost authoritative voice. "I have been thinking a great
deal over it, and you must positively get away from this."

"I know that too," said she, calmly; "and I could have managed it easily
enough but for this promised visit of Charles. He comes through on his
way to Malta, and Sir William would not hear of anything that risked the
chance of seeing him."

"I 'd rather risk that than run the hazards we daily do in this place,"
said he, gravely.

"You forget, papa, that _he_ knows nothing of these hazards. He is eager
to see his son, for what he naturally thinks may be the last time. I 'm
sure I did my best to prevent the meeting. I wrote to Lord Agincourt;
I wrote to Charles himself. I represented all the peril the agitation
might occasion his father, and how seriously the parting might affect
a constitution so impressionable as his, but to no purpose; he coldly
replies, 'Nothing short of my father's refusal to see me shall prevent
my coming to see him,' or 'embrace him,' or--I forget the words, but the
meaning is, that come he will, and that his arrival may be counted on
before the end of the week."

"What stay will he make?"

"He speaks of three or four days at farthest We can learn the limit
easily enough by the time of the P. and O. steamer's sailing. Ask for it
at the banker's."

"I don't call in there now," said he, peevishly. "Since they took down
my name for the Club-ballot, I have not gone to the bank."

She sighed heavily; there was more than one care on her heart, and that
sigh gathered in a whole group of anxieties.

"They have got up all sorts of stories about us; and it is always out
of these false attacks of scandal comes the real assault that storms the
citadel."

She sighed again, but did not speak.

"So long as Heathcote keeps the house and sees nobody, all may go on
well; but let him be about again, able to ramble amongst the galleries
and churches, he is certain to meet some amiable acquaintance, who will
startle him with a few home truths. I tell you again, we are banqueting
over a powder-magazine; and even as to the marriage itself, I don't like
it. Are you aware of the amount he is able to settle? I couldn't believe
my eyes when I read the draft. It is neither more nor less than eight
thousand pounds. Fancy taking such a husband for eight thousand pounds!"

"You scarcely put the case fairly, papa," said she, smiling; "the eight
thousand is the compensation for losing him."

"Are you in love with him, then?" asked he, with a sarcastic twinkle of
the eye.

"I don't think so,--at least, not to desperation."

"It is scarcely for the sake of being 'My Lady.'"

"Oh dear, no; _that_ is a snobbery quite beyond me. Now, I neither marry
for the title, nor the man, nor his money, nor his station; but out
of that mass of motives which to certain women have the force of a
principle. I can explain what I mean, perhaps, by an illustration: Were
you to tell a fashionable physician, in first-rate practice, that if
he got up out of bed at midnight, and drove off two miles to a certain
corner of Regent's Park, where under a particular stone he 'd find a
guinea, it is more than certain he 'd not stir; but if you sent for the
same man to a case of illness, he'd go unhesitatingly, and accept
his guinea as the due recompense of his trouble. This is duty, or
professional instinct, or something else with a fine name, but it's not
gold-seeking. There now, make out my meaning out of my parable, as best
you may. And, after all, papa, I'm not quite sure that I intend to marry
him."

"Why, what do you mean?"

"Oh, pray don't be frightened. I merely meant to say that there was an
eventuality which might rescue me from this necessity. I have told
you nothing about it hitherto, dear papa, because I inherit your own
wholesome dislike to entertaining my friends with what may turn out mere
moonshine. Now, however, that the project has a certain vitality in it,
you shall hear it."

Holmes drew his chair close to her, and, laying down his pipe, prepared
to listen with all attention.

"If I hate anything," said she, half peevishly, "it is to talk of the
bygone, and utter the names of people that I desire never to hear again.
It can't be helped, however; and here goes. After the events in Jersey,
you remember I left the island and came abroad. There were all sorts
of confusion about H.'s affairs. The law had taken possession of his
papers, placed seals on everything, and resisted my application to
remove them, on the vexatious plea that I was not his wife, and could
not administer as such. A long litigation ensued, and at last my
marriage was admitted, and then I took out probate and received a few
thousand pounds, and some little chance property; the bulk of his
fortune was, however, in America, and settled on Clara by a will,
which certain writings showed was in the possession of her uncle, now
nominated to be her guardian, a certain Harvey Winthrop, of Norfolk,
Virginia. I opened a correspondence with him, and suggested the
propriety of leaving Clara with me, as I had always regarded her as my
own child, and hinting at the appropriateness of some allowance for
her maintenance and education. He replied with promptitude and much
kindness, expressed great sympathy for my late loss, and made a very
liberal settlement for Clara.

"All went on peaceably and well for two years, when one morning came
a letter from Winthrop of a most alarming nature. Without any positive
charge, it went on to say that he had, for reasons which his delicacy
would prefer to spare me, decided on himself assuming the guardianship
of his niece, and that if I would kindly come to London, or name any
convenient place on the Continent for our meeting, he would punctually
present himself at the time agreed on. Of course I guessed what had
occurred,--indeed, it had always been a matter of astonishment to me how
long I had been spared; at all events, I determined on resistance. I
wrote back a letter, half sorrow, half indignation; I spoke of the dear
child as all that remained of consolation to my widowed heart; I said
that though it was in his competence to withhold from me the little
pittance which served to relieve some of the pressure of our narrow
means, yet I would not separate myself from my darling child, even
though at the cost of sharing with her a mere sufficiency for support. I
told him, besides, that he should never hear from me more, nor would all
his efforts enable him to trace us. It was then I became Mrs. Penthony
Morris. I suppose Winthrop was sorry for his step; at least, by a
variety of curious advertisements in English papers, he suggested
that some accommodation might be arranged, and entreated me to renew
intercourse with him. There were many reasons why I could not agree to
this. Clara, too, was of great use to me. To a lone woman in the
world, without any definite belongings, a child is invaluable. The
advertisements were continued, and even rewards offered for such
information as might lead to my discovery. All in vain: he never
succeeded in tracing me, and at length gave up the pursuit.

"I must now skip over some years which have no bearing on this incident,
and come to a period comparatively recent, when, in the transaction of
certain purchases of American securities, I came unexpectedly on
the mention of a new railroad line through a district whose name was
familiar to me. I set myself to think where, when, and how I had heard
of this place before, and at last remembered it was from H------, who
used to talk of this property as what would one day make his daughter
a great heiress. My moneyed speculations had led me into much intimacy
here with a banker, Mr. Trover, over whom an accidental discovery gave
me absolute power. It was no less than a forgery he had committed on my
name, and of which, before relinquishing the right to take proceedings
against him, I obtained his full confession in writing. With this tie
over the man, he was my slave; I sent him here and there at my pleasure,
to buy, and sell, and gain information, and so on, and, above all, to
obtain a full account of the value of this American property, where it
lay, and how it was occupied. It was in the midst of these inquiries
came a great financial crash, and my agent was obliged to fly. At first
he went to Malta; he came back, but, after a few weeks, he set out for
the States. He was fully in possession of the circumstances of this
property, and Clara's right to it, and equally so of my determination
that she should never inherit it. We had, on one of the evenings he was
here, a long conversation on the subject, and he cunningly asked me,--

"'How was the property settled in reversion?'

"It was a point I never knew, for I never saw H.'s will.

"'The will was made four years before his death; might he not have made
a later one on his death-bed?--might he not have bequeathed the estate
in reversion to yourself in case she died?--might she not have died?'

"All these he asked, and all of them had been my own unceasing thoughts
for years back. It was a scheme I had planned and brooded over days and
nights long. It was to prepare the road for it that I sent away Clara,
and, under the name of Stocmar, had her inscribed at the Conservatoire
of Milan. Was it that Trover had read my secret thoughts, or had he
merely chanced upon them by mere accident? I did not dare to ask him,
for I felt that by his answer _I_ should be as much in _his_ power as he
was in mine.

"'I have often imagined there might be such a will,' said I; 'there is
no reason to suppose it is not in existence. Could it not be searched
for and found?'

"He understood me at once, and replied,--

"'Have you any of Hawke's handwriting by you?'

"'A quantity,' said I; 'and it is a remarkable hand, very distinctive,
and not hard to imitate,--at least, by any one skilled in such
accomplishments.'

"He blushed a little at the allusion, but laughed it off.

"'The girl could have died last year; she might have been buried,--where
shall we say?' added he, carelessly.

"'At Meisner, in the Tyrol,' said I, catching at the idea that just
struck me, for my maid died in that place, and I had got the regular
certificate of her death and burial from the Syndic, and I showed him
the document.

"'This is admirable,' said he; 'nothing easier than to erase this name
and insert another.'

"'I cannot hear of such a thing, Mr. Trover,' said I; 'nor can I, after
such a proposal, suffer the paper to leave my hands.' And with this I
gave it to him.

"'I could not dream of such an act, madam,' said he, with great
seriousness; 'it would amount to a forgery. Now for one last question,'
said he, after a little interval of silence: 'what would you deem a
suitable reward to the person who should discover this missing will, and
restore this property to the rightful owner? Would twenty per cent on
the value appear to you too much?'

"'I should say that the sum was a high one, but if the individual
acquitted himself with all the integrity and all the delicacy the
situation demanded, never by even an implication involving any one
who trusted him, conducting the transaction to its end on his own
responsibility and by his own unaided devices, why, then, it is more
than probable that I would judge the reward to be insufficient.'

"So much, dear papa, will put you in possession of the treaty then
ratified between us. I was to supply all the funds for present expenses;
Mr. Trover to incur all the perils. He was invested with full powers, in
fact, to qualify himself for Botany Bay; and I promised to forward his
views towards a ticket of leave if the worst were to happen him. It was
a very grave treaty very laughingly and playfully conducted. Trover
had just tact enough for the occasion, and was most jocose wherever the
point was a perilous one. From the letters and papers in my possession,
he found details quite ample enough to give him an insight into the
nature of the property, and also, what he deemed of no small importance,
some knowledge of the character of this Mr. Winthrop, Clara's uncle.
This person appeared to be an easy-tempered, good-natured man, not
difficult to deal with, nor in any way given to suspicion. Trover was
very prompt in his proceedings. On the evening after our conversation he
showed me the draft of Hawke's will, dated at Jersey, about eight days
before his death. It was then, for the first time, I learned that Trover
knew the whole story, and who _I_ was. This rather disconcerted me at
first. There are few things more disconcerting than to find out that
a person who has for a long intercourse never alluded to your past
history, has been all the while fully acquainted with it. The way he
showed his knowledge of the subject was characteristic In pointing out
to me Hawke's signature, he remarked,--

"'I have made the witnesses--Towers, who was executed, and Collier, who,
I have heard, died in Australia.'

"'How familiar you are with these names, sir!' said I, curiously.

"'Yes, madam,' said he; 'I edited a well-known weekly newspaper at that
time, and got some marvellous details from a fellow who was on the spot,'

"I assure you, papa, though I am not given to tremors, I shuddered at
having for my accomplice a man that I could not deceive as to my past
life. It was to be such an open game between us that, in surrendering
all the advantages of my womanly arts, I felt I was this man's
slave, and yet he was a poor creature. He had the technical craft
for simulating a handwriting and preparing a false document, but was
miserably weak in providing for all the assaults that must be directed
against its authenticity.

"His plan was, armed with what he called an attested copy of H.'s will,
to set out for America and discover this Mr. Winthrop. Cleverly enough,
he had bethought him of securing this gentleman's co-operation by making
him a considerable inheritor under the will. In fact, he charged the
estate with a very handsome sum in his favor, and calculated on all the
advantages of this bribe; and without knowing it, Mr. Winthrop was to be
'one of us.'

"He sailed in due time, but I heard no more of him; and, indeed, I began
to suspect that the two bank-notes I had given him, of one hundred each,
had been very unprofitably invested, when by this day's post a letter
reaches me to say that success had attended him throughout. By a mere
accidental acquaintance on a railroad, he 'fell in' with--that's his
phrase, which may mean that he stole--some very curious documents
which added to his credit with Winthrop. He describes this gentleman
as exactly what he looked for, and with this advantage, that having
latterly been somewhat unfortunate in speculation, he was the more eager
to repair his fortune by the legacy. He says that only one embarrassing
circumstance occurred, and this was that Winthrop determined at once on
coming over to England, so that the authenticity of the will should be
personally ascertained by him, and all his own proceedings in the matter
be made sure. 'For this purpose,' he writes, 'we shall sail from this
place by the first steamer for Liverpool, where let me have a letter
addressed to the Albion to say where you are to be found. Winthrop's
first object will be to meet you, and you must bethink you well what
place you will deem most suitable for this purpose. Of course the
more secluded and private the better. I have explained to him that so
overwhelmed were you by the terrible event of H.'s death you had never
entered the world since; and, in fact, so averse to anything that might
recall the past that you had never administered to the will, nor assumed
any of your rights to property, and it would be well for him, if he
could, to arouse you out of this deadly lethargy, and call you back to
something like existence. This explained why I had taken the journey out
to America to meet him.' You will perceive, papa, that Mr. Trover knows
how to lie 'with the circumstance,' and is not unitarian in his notions
of falsehood.

"I am far from liking this visit of Mr. Winthrop. I wish from my heart
that his scruples had been less nice, and that he had been satisfied to
eat his cake without inquiring whether every one else had got his share;
but, as he is com-ing, we must make the best of it. And now, what
advice have you to give me? Of course, we cannot suffer him to come
here."

"Certainly not, Loo. We must have out the map, and think it over. Does
Trover tell you what amount the property may be worth?"

"He says that there are three lots. Two have been valued at something
over a million of dollars; the third, if the railroad be carried through
it, will be more valuable still. It is, he says, an immense estate and
in high productiveness. Let us, however, think of our cards, papa, and
not the stake; there is much to provide. I have no certificate of my
marriage with Hawke."

"That must be thought of," said he, musingly.

"Clara, too, must be thought of,--married, if possible, to some one
going abroad,--to Australia or New Zealand. Perhaps O'Shea." And she
burst out a-laughing at the thought.

"Or Paten. I 'd say Ludlow--"

A look of sickly aversion crossed his daughter's face at the suggestion,
and she said,--

"Nothing on earth would induce, me to consent to it."

The Captain might have regarded this as a woman's weakness, but he said
nothing.

"It will be very difficult for me to get away at this moment too," said
she, after a pause. "I don't fancy being absent while young Heathcote is
here. He will be making all manner of inquiries about Clara,--where she
is, with whom, and for what? If I were on the spot, I could suppress
such perquisitions."

"After all, dear Loo, the other is the great event I conclude, if all
goes smoothly about this work, you 'll never dream of the marriage with
Sir William?"

"Perhaps not," said she, roguishly. "I am not so desperately in love as
to do an imprudence. There is, however, much to be thought of, papa.
In a few days more Ludlow is to be back here with my letters, more than
ever necessary at this moment, when any scandal might be fatal. If he
were to know anything of this accession of fortune, his demands would be
insupportable."

"No doubt of that. At the same time, if he merely hears that your
marriage with the Baronet is broken off, he will be more tractable. How
are you to obtain these letters?"

"I don't know," said she, with a stolid look.

"Are you to buy them?"

"I don't know."

"He will scarcely surrender them out of any impulse of generosity?"

"I don't know," said she, again; and over her features there was a
sickly pallor that changed all their expression, and made her look even
years older than she was. He looked at her compassionately, for there
was that in her face that might well have challenged pity.

"But, Loo, dearest," said he, encouragingly, "place the affair in my
hands, and see if I cannot bring it to a good ending."

"He makes it a condition to treat with none but myself, and there is a
cowardice in this of which he knows all the advantage."

"It must be a question of money, after all. It is a matter of figures."

"He would say not. At the very moment of driving his hardest bargain
he would interpose some reference to what he is pleased to call 'his
feelings.' I told him that even Shylock did not insult his victim with a
mock sympathy, nor shed false tears over the pain his knife was about to
inflict."

"It was not the way to conciliate him, Loo."

"Conciliate him! Oh, how you know him!" She pressed her hands over her
face as she spoke, and when she withdrew them the cheeks were scalded
with tears.

"Come, come, Loo, this is scarcely like yourself."

"There, it's over now," said she, smiling, with a half-sad look, as
she pushed her hair back, as though to suffer the cool air to bathe her
forehead. "Oh dear!" sighed she out, "if I only could have foreseen all
the perils before me, I might have borne with George Ogden, and lived
and died what the world calls respectable."

He gave a little sigh too, which might have meant that he agreed with
her, or that the alternative was a hard one, or that respectability was
a very expensive thing for people of small means, or a little of all
three together, which was most probable, since the Captain rarely dealt
in motives that were not sufficiently mixed.

"And now, papa," said she, "use your most ingenious devices to show me
how I am to answer all these engagements, and while I meet Mr. Winthrop
in Switzerland, contrive also to be on guard here, and on outpost duty
with Mr. Ludlow Paten."

"You 'll do it, Loo,--you 'll do it, or nobody else will," said he,
sipping his iced drink, and gazing on her approvingly.

"What would you say to Bregenz for our rendezvous with Winthrop?" said
she, bending over the map. "It is as quiet and forgotten a spot as any I
know of."

"So it is, Loo; and one of the very few where the English never go, or,
at least, never sojourn."

"I wish we could manage to find a small house or a cottage there.
I should like to be what dramatists call 'discovered' in a humbly
furnished chamber, living with my dear old father, venerable in years
and virtues."

"Well, it ought not to be difficult to manage. If you like, I 'll set
off there and make the arrangements. I could start this evening."

"How good of you! Let me think a little over it, and I will decide. It
would be a great comfort to me to have you here when Charles Heathcote
comes. I might need your assistance in many ways, but perhaps--Yes, you
had better go; and a pressing entreaty on your part for me to hasten
to the death-bed of my 'poor aunt' can be the reason for my own hurried
departure. Is it not provoking how many embarrassments press at the same
moment? It is an attack front, rear, and on the flanks."

"You 're equal to it, dear,--you 're equal to it," said he, with the
same glance of encouragement.

"I almost think I should go with you, papa,--take French leave of these
good people, and evacuate the fortress,--if it were not that next week
I expect Ludlow to be back here with the letters, and I cannot neglect
_that_. Can you explain it to me?" cried she, more eagerly,--"there
is not one in this family for whom I entertain the slightest sense of
regard,--they are all less than indifferent to me,--and yet I would
do anything, endure anything, rather than they should learn my true
history, and know all about my past life; and this, too, with the
certainty that we were never to meet again."

"That is pride, Loo,--mere pride."

"No," said she, tremulously, "it is shame. The consciousness that one's
name is never to be uttered but in scorn in those places where once it
was always spoken of in honor,--the thought that the fair fame we had
done so much to build up should be a dreary ruin, is one of the saddest
the heart can feel; for, let the world say what it will, we often give
all our energies to hypocrisy, and throw passion into what we meant to
be mere acting. Well, well, enough of moralizing, now for action. You
will want money for this trip, papa; see if there be enough there." And
she opened her writing-desk, and pushed it towards him.

The Captain took out his double eye-glass, and then, with due
deliberation, proceeded to count over a roll of English notes fresh from
the bank.

"In funds, I see, Loo," said he, smiling.

"It is part of the last three hundred I possess in the world. I drew
it out yesterday, and, as I signed the check, I felt as might a sailor
going over the side as his ship was sinking. Do you know," said she,
hurriedly, "it takes a deal of courage to lead the life I have done."

"No doubt,--no doubt," muttered he, as he went on counting. "Forty-five,
fifty, fifty-five--"

"Take them all, papa; I have no need of them. Before the month ends I
mean to be a millionnaire or 'My Lady.'"

"I hope not the latter, Loo; I hope sincerely not, dearest It would be
a cruel sacrifice, and really for nothing."

"A partnership in an old-established house," said she, with a mocking
laugh, "is always something; but I won't prejudge events, nor throw my
cards on the table till I have lost the game. And _à propos_ to losing
the game, suppose that luck should turn against us,--suppose that we
fail to supply some essential link in this chain of fortune,--suppose
that Trover should change his mind and sell us,--suppose, in short,
anything adverse you please,--what means are remaining to you, papa?
Have you enough to support us in some cheap unfrequented spot at home or
abroad?"

"I could get together about two hundred and forty pounds a year, not
more."

"One could live upon that, could n't one?" asked she.

"Yes, in a fashion. With a number of privations you have never
experienced, self-denial in fifty things you have never known to be
luxuries, with a small house and small habits and small acquaintances,
one could rub through, but no more."

"Oh, how I should like to try it!" cried she, clasping her hands
together. "Oh, what would I not give to pass one year--one entire
year of life--without the ever-present terror of exposure, shame, and
scorn,--to feel that when I lie down to rest at night a knock at the
street door should not throw me into the cold perspiration of ague,
or the coming of the postman set my heart a-throbbing, as though the
missive were a sentence on me! Why cannot I have peace like this?"

"Poverty has no peace, my dear Loo. It is the poorest of all wars, for
it is the pettiest of all objects. It would break my heart to see you
engaged in such a conflict."

And the Captain suffered his eyes to range over the handsome room and
its fine furniture, while his thoughts wandered to a French cook, and
that delicious "Château Margaux" he had tasted yesterday.

Did she read what was passing in his mind, as, with a touch of scorn in
her manner, she said, "Doubtless you know the world better," and left
the room?



CHAPTER XLIX. THE PALAZZO BALBI

The household of the Palazzo Balbi was unusually busy and active. There
was a coming and a parting guest. Sir William himself was far too much
occupied by the thoughts of his son's arrival to bestow much interest
upon the departure of Captain Holmes. Not that this ingenious gentleman
had failed in any of the requirements of his parasitical condition,
nay, he had daily improved the occasion of his presence, and ingratiated
himself considerably in the old Baronet's favor; but it is, happily, the
lot of such people to be always forgotten where the real affections
are in play. They while away a weary day, they palliate the small
irritations of daily life, they suggest devices to cheat ennui, but they
have no share in deeper sentiments; we neither rejoice nor weep with
them.

"Sorry for your friend's illness!"--"Sincerely trust you may find him
better!"--or, "Ah, it is a lady, I forgot; and that we may soon see you
on this side of the Alps again!"--"Charming weather for your journey!
"--"Good-bye, good-bye!"

And with this he shook his hand cordially enough, and forgot him.

"I'm scarcely sorry he's gone," said May, "he was _so_ deaf! And
besides, papa, he was too civil,--too complaisant. I own I had become a
little impatient of his eternal compliments, and the small scraps out of
Shelley and Keats that he adapted to my address."

"All the better for Charley, that," said the old Baronet "You'll
bear his rough frankness with more forgiveness after all this sugary
politeness." He never noticed how this random speech sent the blood to
her cheeks, and made her crimson over face and neck; nor, indeed, had
he much time to bestow on it, for the servant opened the door at the
instant, and announced, "Captain Heathcote." In a moment the son was in
his father's arms. "My boy, my dear boy," was all the old man could
say; and Charles, though determined to maintain the most stoical calm
throughout the whole visit, had to draw his hand across his eyes in
secret.

"How well you look, Charley,--stouter and heavier than when here.
English life and habits have agreed with you, boy."

"Yes, sir. If I can manage to keep my present condition, I 'm in good
working trim for a campaign; and you--tell me of yourself."

"There is little to say on that subject. When men live to my term, about
the utmost they can say is, that they are here."

Though he tried to utter these words in a half-jocular tone, his voice
faltered, and his lips trembled; and as the young man looked, he saw
that his father's face was careworn and sad, and that months had done
the work of years on him since they parted. Charles did his utmost
to treat these signs of sorrow lightly, and spoke cheerfully and even
gayly.

"I'd go with your merry humor, boy, with all my heart, if you were not
about to leave us."

Was it anything in the interests thus touched on, or was it the chance
phrase, "to leave _us_." that made young Heathcote become pale as death
while he asked, "How is May?"

"Well,--quite well; she was here a moment back. I fancied she was in the
room when you came in. I'll send for her."

"No, no; time enough. Let us have a few more minutes together."

In a sort of hurried and not very collected way, he now ran on to talk
of his prospects and the life before him. It was easy to mark how the
assumed slap-dash manner was a mere mask to the bitter pain he felt and
that he knew he was causing. He talked of India as though a few days'
distance,--of the campaign like a hunting-party; the whole thing was a
sort of eccentric ramble, to have its requital in plenty of incident and
adventure. He even assumed all the vulgar slang about "hunting down the
niggers," and coming back loaded with "loot," when the old man threw his
arm around him, and said,--

"But not to me, Charley,--not to _me_."

The chord was touched at last. All the pretended careless ease was gone,
and the young man sobbed aloud as he pressed his father to his breast.
The secret which each wanted to keep to his own heart was out, and now
they must not try any longer a deception.

"And why must it be, Charley? what is the urgent cause for deserting me?
I have more need of you than ever I had. I want your counsel and your
kindness; your very presence--as I feel it this moment--is worth all my
doctors."

"I think you know--I think I told you, I mean--that you are no stranger
to the position I stood in here. You never taught me, father, that
dependence was honorable. It was not amongst your lessons that a life
of inglorious idleness was becoming." As with a faltering and broken
utterance he spoke these words, his confusion grew greater and greater,
for he felt himself on the very verge of a theme that he dreaded to
touch; and at last, with a great effort, he said, "And besides all
this, I had no right to sacrifice another to my selfishness."

"I don't understand you, Charley."

"Maybe not, sir; but I am speaking of what I know for certain. But let
us not go back on these things."

"What are they? Speak out, boy," cried he, more eagerly.

"I see you are not aware of what I thought you knew. You do not seem to
know that May's affections are engaged,--that she has given her heart to
that young college man who was here long ago as Agincourt's tutor. They
have corresponded."

"Corresponded!"

"Yes, I know it all, and she will not deny it,--nor need she, from all
I can learn. He is a fine-hearted fellow, worthy of any girl's love.
Agincourt has told me some noble traits of him, and he deserves all his
good fortune."

"But to think that she should have contracted this engagement without
consulting me,--that she should have written to him--"

"I don't see how you can reproach her, a poor motherless girl. How could
she go to you with her heart full of sorrows and anxieties? She was
making no worldly compact in which she needed your knowledge of life to
guide her."

"It was treachery to us all!" cried the old man, bitterly, for now he
saw to what he owed his son's desertion of him.

"It was none to _me_; so much I will say, father. A stupid compact
would have bound her to her unhappiness, and this she had the courage to
resist."

"And it is for this I am to be forsaken in my old age!" exclaimed he,
in an accent of deep anguish. "I can never forgive her,--never!"

Charles sat down beside him, and, with his arm on the old man's
shoulder, talked to him long in words of truest affection. He recalled
to his mind the circumstances under which May Leslie first came amongst
them, the daughter of his oldest, dearest friend, intrusted to his care,
to become one day his own daughter, if she willed it.

"Would you coerce her to this? Would you profit by the authority you
possess over her to constrain her will? Is it thus you would interpret
the last dying words of your old companion? Do not imagine, father, that
I place these things before you in cold blood or indifference. I have my
share of sorrow in the matter." He was going to say more, but he stopped
himself, and, arising, walked towards the window. "There she is!" cried
he, "on the terrace; I'll go and meet her." And with this he went out.

It is not impossible that the generous enthusiasm into which Charles
Heathcote had worked himself to subdue every selfish feeling about May
enabled him to meet her with less constraint and difficulty. At all
events, he came towards her with a manner so like old friendship that,
though herself confused, she received him with equal cordiality.

[Illustration: 504]

"How like old times, May, is all this!" said he, as, with her arm
within his own, they strolled under a long vine trellis. "If I had not
to remember that next Wednesday I most be at Malta, I could almost fancy
I had never been away. I wonder when we are to meet again? and where,
and how?"

"I'm sure it is not I that can tell you," said she, painfully; for
in the attempt to conceal his emotion his voice had assumed a certain
accent of levity that wounded her deeply.

"The where matters little, May," resumed he; "but the when is much, and
the how still more."

"It is fortunate, then, that this is the only point I can at all answer
for, for I think I can say that we shall meet pretty much as we part."

"What am I to understand by that, May?" asked he, with an eagerness that
forgot all dissimulation.

"How do you find papa looking?" asked she, hurriedly, as a deep blush
covered her face. "Is he as well as you hoped to see him?"

"No," said he, bluntly; "he has grown thin and careworn. Older by ten
years than I expected to find him."

"He has been much fretted of late; independently of being separated from
_you_, he has had many anxieties."

"I have heard something of this; more, indeed, than I like to believe
true. Is it possible, May, that he intends to marry?"

She nodded twice slowly, without speaking.

"And his wife is to be this Mrs. Morris,--this widow that I remember at
Marlia, long ago?"

"And who is now here domesticated with us."

"What do you know of her? What does any one know of her?" asked he,
impatiently.

"Absolutely nothing,--that is, of her history, her family, or her
belongings. Of herself I can only say that she is supreme in this
house; her orders alone are obeyed. I have reason to believe that papa
confides the gravest interests to her charge, and for myself, I obey her
by a sort of instinct."

"But you like her, May?"

"I am too much afraid of her to like her. I was at first greatly
attracted by fascinations perfectly new to me, and by a number of
graceful accomplishments, which certainly lent a great charm to her
society. But after a while I detected, or I fancied that I detected,
that all these attractions were thrown out as lures to amuse and occupy
us, while she was engaged in studying our dispositions and examining
our natures. Added to this, I became aware of the harshness she secretly
bestowed upon poor Clara, whose private lectures were little else than
tortures. This latter completely estranged me from her, and, indeed, was
the first thing which set me at work to consider her character. From the
day when Clara left this--"

"Left this, and for where?" cried he.

"I cannot tell you; we have never heard of her since. She was taken away
by a guardian, a certain Mr. Stocmar, whom papa seemed to know, or at
least thought he had met somewhere, many years ago. It was shortly after
the tidings of Captain Morris's death this gentleman arrived here to
claim her."

"And her mother,--was she willing to part with her?"

"She affected great sorrow--fainted, I think--when she read the letter
that apprised her of the necessity; but from Clara herself I gathered
that the separation was most grateful to her, and that for some secret
cause I did not dare to ask--even had she known to tell--they were not
to meet again for many, many years."

"But all that you tell me is unnatural, May. Is there not some terrible
mystery in this affair? Is there not some shameful scandal beneath it
all?"

A heavy sigh seemed to concur with what he said.

"And can my father mean to marry a woman of whose past life he knows
nothing? Is it with all these circumstances of suspicion around her that
he is willing to share name and fortune with her?"

"As to that, such is her ascendancy over him, that were she to assure
him of the most improbable or impossible of events he 'd not discredit
her. Some secret dread of what you would say or think has delayed the
marriage hitherto; but once you have taken your leave and are fairly
off,--not to return for years,--the event will no longer be deferred."

"Oh, May, how you grieve me! I cannot tell you the misery you have put
into my heart."

"It is out of my own sorrow I have given you to drink," said she,
bitterly. "You are a man, and have a man's career before you, with all
its changeful chances of good or evil; I, as a woman, must trust my
hazard of happiness to a home, and very soon I shall have none."

He tried to speak, but a sense of choking stopped him, and thus, without
a word on either side, they walked along several minutes.

"May," said he, at last, "do you remember the line of the poet,--

     "'Death and absence differ but in name'?"

"I never heard it before; but why do you ask me?"

"I was just thinking that in parting moments like this, as on a
death-bed, one dares to speak of things which from some sense of shame
one had never dared to touch on before. Now, I want to carry away with
me over the seas the thought that your lot in life is assured, and your
happiness, so far as any one's can be, provided for. To know this,
I must force a confidence which you may not wish to accord me; but
bethink you, dear May, that you will never see me more. Will you tell me
if I ask about _him?_"

"About whom?" asked she, in unfeigned astonishment, for never were her
thoughts less directed to Alfred Lay ton.

"May," said he, almost angrily, "refuse me if you will, but let there be
no deceit between us. I spoke of Layton."

"Ask what you please, and I will answer you," said she, boldly.

"He is your lover, is he not? You have engaged yourself to him?"

"No."

"It is the same thing. You are to be his wife, when this, that, or
t'other happens?"

"No."

"In a word, if there be no compact, there is an understanding between
you?"

"Once more, no!" said she, in the same firm voice.

"Will you deny that you have received letters from him, and have written
to him again?"

An angry flush covered the girl's cheek, and her lip trembled. For an
instant it seemed as if an indignant answer would break from her; but
she repressed the impulse, and coolly said, "There is no need to deny
it. I have done both."

"I knew it,--I knew it!" cried he, in a bitter exultation. "You might
have dealt more frankly with me, or might have said, 'I am in no wise
accountable to _you_, I recognize no right in you to question me.' Had
you done this, May, it would have been a warning to me; but to say,
'Ask me freely, I will tell you everything,'--was this fair, was this
honest, was it true-hearted?"

"And yet I meant it for such," said she, sorrowfully. "I may have felt
a passing sense of displeasure that you should have heard from any other
than myself of this correspondence; but even that is passed away, and
I care not to learn from whom you heard it. I have written as many as
three letters to Mr. Layton. This is his last to _me_." She took at the
same moment a letter from her pocket, and handed it towards him.

"I have no presumption to read your correspondence, May Leslie," said
he, red with shame and anger together. "Your asking me to do so implies
a rebuke in having dared to speak on the subject, but it is for the last
time."

"And is it because we are about to part, Charles, that it must be in
anger?" said she; and her voice faltered and her lip trembled. "Of all
your faults, Charles, selfishness was not one, long ago."

"No matter what I was long ago; we have both lived to see great changes
in ourselves."

"Come, let us be friends," said she, taking his hand cordially. "I know
not how it is with you, but never in my life did I need a friend so
much."

"Oh, May, how can I serve you?"

"First read that letter, Charles. Sit down there and read it through,
and I 'll come back to you by the time you 've finished it."

With a sort of dogged determination to sacrifice himself, no matter at
what cost, Charles Heathcote took the letter from her, and turned away
into another alley of the garden.

[Illustration: 506]



CHAPTER L. THREE MET AGAIN

When, on the following morning, Charles Heathcote repaired to the hotel
where he had left his friend Lord Agin-court, he was surprised to hear
the sound of voices and laughter as he drew nigh the room; nor less
astonished was he, on entering, to discover O'Shea seated at the
breakfast-table, and manifestly in the process of enjoying himself. Had
there been time to retire undetected, Heathcote would have done so,
for his head was far too full of matters of deep interest to himself
to desire the presence of a stranger, not to say that he had a
communication to make to his friend both delicate and difficult.
O'Shea's quick glance had, however, caught him at once, and he cried
out, "Here's the very man we wanted to make us complete,--the jolliest
party of three that ever sat down together."

"I scarcely thought to see you in these parts," said Heathcote, with
more of sulk than cordiality in the tone.

"Your delight ought to be all the greater, though, maybe, it is n't!
You look as glum as the morning I won your trap and the two nags."

"By the way, what became of them?" asked Heathcote.

"I sold the chestnut to a young cornet in the Carabineers. He saw me
ride him through all the bonfires in Sackville Street the night the mob
beat the police, and he said he never saw his equal to face fire; and he
was n't far wrong there, for the beast was stone blind."

"And the gray?"

"The gray is here, in Rome, and in top condition; and if I don't take
him over five feet of timber, my name is n't Gorman." A quick wink and
a sly look towards Agincoort conveyed to Heathcote the full meaning of
this speech.

"And you want a high figure for him?" asked he.

"If I sell him,--if I sell him at all; for you see, if the world goes
well with me, and I have a trump or two in my hand, I won't part with
that horse. It's not every day in the week that you chance on a beast
that can carry fifteen stone over a stiff country,--ay, and do it four
days in the fortnight!"

"What's his price?" asked Agincourt.

"Let him tell you," said O'Shea, with a most expressive look at
Heathcote. "He knows him as well or better than I do."

"Yes," said Heathcote, tantalizing him on purpose; "but when a man sets
out by saying, 'I don't want to sell my horse,' of course it means, 'If
you will have him, you must pay a fancy price.'"

If O'Shea's expression could be rendered in words, it might be read
thus: "And if that be the very game I'm playing, ain't you a downright
idiot to spoil it?"

"Well," said Agincourt, after a pause, "I 'm just in the sort of humor
this morning to do an extravagant thing, or a silly one."

"Lucky fellow!" broke in Heathcote, "for O'Shea's the very man to assist
you to your project."

"I am!" said O'Shea, firmly and quickly; "for there's not the man living
has scattered his money more freely than myself. Before I came of age,
when I was just a slip of a boy, about nineteen--"

"Never mind the anecdote, old fellow," said Heathcote, laughingly, as
he laid his hand on the other's shoulder. "Agincourt has just confessed
himself in the frame of mind to be 'done.' Do him, therefore, by all
means. Say a hundred and fifty for the nag, and he 'll give it, and keep
your good story for another roguery."

"Isn't he polite?--isn't he a young man of charming manners and
elegant address?" said O'Shea, with a strange mixture of drollery and
displeasure.

"He's right, at all events," said Agincourt, laughing at the other's
face; "he's right as regards me. I 'll give you a hundred and fifty for
the horse without seeing him."

"Oh, mother of Moses! I wish your guardian was like you."

"Why so? What do you mean?"

"I mean this,--that I wish he 'd buy me, too, without seeing me!" And
then, seeing that by their blank looks they had failed to catch his
meaning, he added, "Is n't he one of the Cabinet now?"

"Yes, he is Colonial Secretary."

"That 's the very fellow I want. He 's giving away things every day, that
any one of them would be the making of me."

"What would you take?"

"Whatever I 'd get. There's my answer, whatever I 'd get I'd be a
Bishop, or a Judge, or a boundary Commissioner, or a Treasurer,--I 'd
like to be that best,--or anything in reason they could offer a man of
good family, and who had a seat in the House."

"I think you might get him something; I'm sure you might," said
Heathcote.

"Well, I can try, at all events. I 'll write to-day."

"Will you really?"

"I give you my word on it I 'll say that, independently of all
personal claims of your own, you 're an intimate and old friend, whose
advancement I will accept as a favor done to myself."

"That's the ticket. But mind no examination,--no going before the
Civil Service chaps. I tell you fairly, I would n't take
the Governor-Generalship of India if I had to go up for the
multiplication-table. I think I see myself sitting trembling before
them, one fellow asking me, 'Who invented "pitch and toss"?' and another
inquiring 'Who was the first man ever took pepper with oysters?'"

"Leave all that to Agincourt," said Heathcote; "he'll explain to his
guardian that you were for several sessions a distinguished member of
the House--"

"'T was I that brought 'crowing' in. I used to crow like a cock when old
Sibthorp got up, and set them all off laughing."

"I 'll mention your public services--"

"And don't say that I 'm hard up. Don't make it appear that it 's
because I 'm out at the elbows I 'm going, but just a whim,--the way
Gladstone went to Greece the other day; that's the real dodge, for they
keep the Scripture in mind up in Downing Street, and it's always the
'poor they send empty away.'"

"And you'll dine with us here, at seven?" said Agin-court, rising from
the table.

"That 's as much as to say, 'Cut your lucky now, Gorman; we don't want
you till dinner-time.'"

"You forget that he has got the letter to write about you," said
Heathcote. "You don't want him to lose a post?"

"And the gray horse?"

"He's mine; I 've bought him."

"I suppose you 've no objection to my taking a canter on him this
morning?"

"Ride him, by all means," said Agincourt, shaking his hand cordially
while he said adieu.

"Why did you ask him to dinner to-day?" said Heathcote, peevishly. "I
wanted you to have come over and dined with us. My father is eager to
see you, and so is May."

"Let us go to tea, then. And how are they?--how is he looking?"

"Broken,--greatly broken. I was shocked beyond measure to see him so
much aged since we met, and his spirits gone,--utterly gone."

"Whence is all this?"

"He says that I deserted him,--that he was forsaken."

"And is he altogether wrong, Charley? Does not conscience prick you on
that score?"

"He says, too, that I have treated May as cruelly and as unjustly;
also, that I have broken up their once happy home. In fact, he lays all
at _my_ door."

"And have you seen _her?_"

"Yes, we had a meeting last night, and a long talk this morning; and,
indeed, it was about that I wanted to speak to you when I found O'Shea
here. Confound the fellow! he has made the thing more difficult than
ever, for I have quite forgotten how I had planned it all."

"Planned it all! Surely there was no need of a plan, Charley, in
anything that you meant to say to _me?_"

"Yes, but there was, though. You have very often piqued me by saying
that I never knew my own mind from one day to another, that you were
always prepared for some change of intention in me, and that nothing
would surprise you less than that I should 'throw you over' the very day
before we were to sail for India."

"Was I very, very unjust, Charley?" said he, kindly.

"_I_ think you were, and for this reason: he who is master of his own
fate, so far as personal freedom and ample fortune can make him, ought
not to judge rashly of the doubts and vacillations and ever changing
purposes of him who has to weigh fifty conflicting influences. The one
sufficiently strong to sway others may easily take his line and follow
it; the other is the slave of any incident of the hour, and must be
content to accept events, and not mould them."

"I read it all, Charley. You 'll not go out?"

"I will not."

Agincourt repressed the smile that was fast gathering on his lips, and,
in a grave and quiet voice, said, "And why?"

"For the very reason you have so often given me. She cares for me;
she has told me so herself, and even asked me not to leave them! I
explained to her that I had given you not only a promise, but a pledge,
that, unless you released me, I was bound in honor to accompany you. She
said, 'Will you leave this part of the matter to _me?_' and I answered,
'No, I'll go frankly to him, and say, "I'm going to break my word
with you: I have to choose between May Leslie and you, and I vote for
her."'"

"What a deal of self-sacrifice it might have saved you, Charley," said
he, laughing, "had you seen this telegram which came when I had sat
down to breakfast." It came from the Horse Guards, sent by some private
friend of Agincourt' s, and was in these words: "The row is over, no
more drafts for India, do not go."

Heathcote read and re-read the paper for several minutes. "So, then,
for once I have luck on my side. My resolve neither wounds a friend nor
hurts my own self-esteem. Of course _you_ 'll not go?"

"Certainly not I 'll not go out to hunt the lame ducks that others have
wounded."

"You 'll let me take this and show it to my father," said Heathcote. "He
shall learn the real reason of my stay hereafter, but for the present
this will serve to make him happy; and poor May, too, will be spared the
pain of thinking that in yielding to her wish I have jeopardized a true
friendship. I can scarcely believe all this happiness real, Agincourt.
After so long a turn of gloom and despondency, I cannot trust myself to
think that fortune means so kindly by me. Were it not for one unhappy
thought,--one only,--I could say I have nothing left to wish for."

"And what is that?--Is it anything in which I can be of service to you?"

"No, my dear fellow; if it were, I'd never have said it was a cause for
sorrow. It is a case, however, equally removed from your help as from
mine. I told you some time back that my father, yielding to a game
of cleverly played intrigue, had determined to marry this widow, Mrs.
Penthony Morris, whom you remember. So long as the question was merely
mooted in gossip, I could not allude to it; but when he wrote himself to
me on the subject, I remonstrated with him as temperately as I was able.
I adverted to their disproportion of age, their dissimilarity of habits;
and, lastly, I spoke out and told him that we knew nothing, any of
us, of this lady, her family, friends, or connections; that though I had
inquired widely, I never met the man who could give me any information
about her, or had ever heard of her husband. I wrote all this, and much
more of the same kind, in the strain of frank confidence a son might
employ towards his father, particularly when they had long lived
together in relations of the dearest and closest affection. I waited
eagerly for his answer. Some weeks went over, and then there came a
letter, not from him, but from her. The whole mischief was out: he had
given her my letter, and said, 'Answer it.' I will show you her
epistle one of these days. It is really clever. There wasn't a word
of reproach,--not an angry syllable in the whole of it She was pained,
fretted, deeply fretted by what I had written, but she acknowledged
that I had, if I liked to indulge them, reasonable grounds for all my
distrusts, though, perhaps, it might have been more generous to oppose
them. At first, she said, she had resolved to satisfy all my doubts by
the names and circumstances of her connections, with every detail of
family history and fortune; but, on second thoughts, her pride revolted
against a step so offensive to personal dignity, and she had made up her
mind to confine these revelations to my father, and then leave his roof
forever. 'Writing,' continued she, 'as I now do, without his knowledge
of what I say,--for, with a generous confidence in me that I regret is
not felt in other quarters, he has refused to read my letter,--I may
tell you that I shall place my change of purpose on such grounds as can
never possibly endanger your future relations with your father. He shall
never suspect, in fact, from anything in my conduct, that my departure
was influenced in the slightest degree by what has fallen from
_you_. The reasons I will give him for my step will refer solely
to circumstances that refer to myself. Go back, therefore, in all
confidence and love, and give your whole affection to one who needs and
who deserves it!

"There was, perhaps, a slight tendency to dilate upon what ought to
constitute my duties and regards; but, on the whole, the letter was
well written and wonderfully dispassionate. I was sorely puzzled how to
answer it, or what course to take, and might have been more so, when my
mind was relieved by a most angry epistle from my father, accusing
me roundly, not only of having wilfully forsaken him, but having
heartlessly insulted the very few who compassionated his lonely lot, and
were even ready to share it.

"This ended our correspondence, and I never wrote again till I mentioned
my approaching departure for India, and offered, if he wished it, to
take Italy on my way and see him once more before I went. To this there
came the kindest answer, entreating me to come and pass as many days as
I could with him. It was all affection, but evidently written in great
depression of mind and spirits. There were three lines of a postscript,
signed 'Louisa,' assuring me that none more anxiously looked forward to
my visit than herself; that she had a pardon to crave of me, and would
far rather sue for it in person than on paper. 'As you _are_ coming,'
said she, 'I will say no more, for when you _do_ come you will both pity
and forgive me.'"

As Heathcote had just finished the last word, the door of the room was
quietly opened, and O'Shea peeped in. "Are you at the letter? for, if
you are, you might as well say, 'Mr. Gorman O'Shea was never violent in
his politics, but one of those who always relied upon the good faith
and good will of England towards his countrymen.' That's a sentence the
Whigs delight in, and I remark it's the sure sign of a good berth."

"Yes, yes, I 'll book it; don't be afraid," said Agincourt, laughing;
and the late member for Inch retired, fully satisfied. "Go on, Charley;
tell me the remainder."

"There is no more to tell; you have heard all. Since I arrived I have
not seen her. She has been for two days confined to bed with a feverish
cold, and, apprehending something contagious, she will not let May visit
her. I believe, however, it is a mere passing illness, and I suppose
that to-morrow or next day we shall meet."

"And _how?_ for that, I own, is a matter would puzzle me considerably."

"It will all depend upon her. She must give the key-note to the concert.
If she please to be very courteous and affable, and all the rest of
it, talk generalities and avoid all questions of real interest, I must
accept that tone, and follow it If she be disposed to enter upon private
and personal details, I have only to be a listener, except she give me
an opportunity to speak out regarding the marriage." "And you will?"

"That I will. I suspect, shrewdly, that she is mistaken about our
circumstances, and confounds May Leslie's means with ours. Now, when
she knows that my father has about five hundred a year in the world for
everything, it is just possible that she may rue her bargain, and cry
'off.'"

"Scarcely, I think," said Agincourt "The marriage would give her station
and place at once, if she wants them."

"What if O'Shea were to supplant Sir William? I half suspect he would
succeed. He hasn't a sixpence. It's exactly his own beat to find some
one willing to support him."

"Well, I 'll back myself to get him a place. I 'll not say it will be
anything very splendid or lucrative, but something he shall have. Come,
Charley, leave this to me. Let O'Shea and myself dine _tête-à-tête_
to-day, and I 'll contrive to sound him on it."

"I mean to aid you so far, for I know my father would take it ill were I
to dine away from home,--on the first day too; but I own I have no great
confidence in your plan, nor any unbounded reliance on your diplomacy."

"No matter, I'll try it; and, to begin, I'll start at once with a letter
to Downing Street I have never asked for anything yet, so I 'll write
like one who cannot contemplate a refusal."

"I wish you success, for all our sakes," said Charles; and left him.


END OF VOL. I.



ONE OF THEM, Volume II.



CHAPTER I. THE LONE VILLA ON THE ÇAMPAGNA.

About half-way between Rome and Albano, and something more than a mile
off the high-road, there stands on a little swell of the Çampagna a
ruined villa, inhabited by a humble family of peasants, who aid their
scanty means of support by showing to strangers the view from the
house-top. It is not, save for its extent, a prospect in any way
remarkable. Rome itself, in the distance, is not seen in its most
imposing aspect, and the Çampagna offers little on which the eye cares
to rest long.

The "Villa of the Four Winds," however, is a place sought by tourists,
and few leave Rome without a visit to it. These are, of course, the
excursions of fine days in the fine season, and never occur during the
dark and gloomy months of midwinter. It was now such a time. The wind
tore across the bleak plain, carrying fitful showers of cold rain,
driving cattle to their shelter, and sending all to seek a refuge within
doors; and yet a carriage was to be seen toiling painfully through the
deep clay of the by-road which led from the main line, and making for
the villa. After many a rugged shake and shock, many a struggling effort
of the weary beasts, and many a halt, it at length reached the little
paved courtyard, and was speedily surrounded by the astonished peasants,
curious to see the traveller whose zeal for the picturesque could bid
defiance to such weather.

As the steps were let down, a lady got out, muffled in a large cloak,
and wearing the hood over her head, and hastily passed into the little
kitchen of the house. Scarcely had she entered, than, throwing off her
cloak, she said, in a gay and easy voice, "I have often promised myself
a visit to the villa when there would be a grand storm to look at Don't
you think that I have hit on the day to keep my pledge?" The speech was
made so frankly that it pleased the hearers, nowise surprised, besides,
at any eccentricity on the part of strangers; and now the family, young
and old, gathered around the visitor, and talked, and questioned, and
admired her dress and her appearance, and told her so, too, with a
pleasant candor not displeasing. They saw she was a stranger, but knew
not from where. Her accent was not Roman; they knew no more; nor did she
give much time for speculating, as she contrived to make herself at home
amongst them by ingratiating herself imperceptibly into the good graces
of each present, from the gray-headed man to whom she discoursed of
cattle and their winter food, to the little toddling infant, who would
insist upon being held upon her lap.

The day went on, and yet never a lull came in the storm that permitted
a visit to the roof to see the lightning that played along the distant
horizon. She betrayed no impatience, however; she laughingly said she
was very comfortable at the fireside, and could afford to wait. She
expected her brother, it is true, to have met her there, and more than
once despatched a messenger to the door to see if he could not descry a
horseman on the high-road. The same answer came always back: nothing to
be seen for miles round.

"Well," said she, good-humoredly, "you must give me a share of your
dinner, for my drive has given me an appetite, and I will still wait
here another hour."

It would have made a pleasing picture as she sat there,--her fair and
beautiful features graced with that indescribable charm of expression
imparted by the wish to please in those who have made the art to please
their study; to have seen her surrounded by those bronzed and seared
and careworn looks, now brightened up by the charm of a spell that had
often worked its power on their superiors; to have marked how delicately
she initiated herself into their little ways, and how marvellously the
captivation of her gentleness spread its influence over them. In their
simple piety they likened her to the image of all that embodies beauty
to their eyes, and murmured to each other that she was like the Madonna.
A cruel interruption to their quiet rapture was now given by the
clattering sound of a horse's feet, and, immediately after, the entrance
of a man drenched to the skin, and dripping from the storm. After a few
hasty words of greeting, the strangers ascended the stairs, and were
shown into a little room, scantily furnished, but from which the view
they were supposed to come for could be obtained.

"What devotion to come out in such weather!" said she, when they were
alone. "It is only an Irishman, and that Irishman the O'Shea, could be
capable of this heroism."

"It's all very nice making fun of a man when he's standing like a soaked
sponge," said he; "but I tell you what, Mrs. Morris, the devil a Saxon
would do it. It's not in them to risk a sore-throat or a pain in the
back for the prettiest woman that ever stepped."

"I have just said so, but not so emphatically, perhaps; and, what is
more, I feel all the force of the homage as I look at you."

"Well, laugh away," said he. "When a woman has pretty teeth or good
legs, she does n't want much provocation to show them. But if we are to
stay any time here, could n't we have a bit of fire?"

"You shall come down to the kitchen presently, and have both food and
fire; for I'm sure there's something left, though we 've just dined."

"Dined?--where?"

"Well, eaten, if you like the word better; and perhaps it is the more
fitting phrase. I took my plate amongst these poor people, and I assure
you there was a carrot soup by no means bad. Sir William's _chef_ would
have probably taken exception to the garlic, which was somewhat in
excess, and there was a fishy flavor, also slightly objectionable. They
called it 'baccala.'"

"Faith, you beat me entirely!" exclaimed O'Shea. "I can't make you out
at all, at all."

"I assure you," resumed she, "it was quite refreshing to dine with
people who ate heartily, and never said an ill word of their neighbors.
I regret very much that you were not of the party."

"Thanks for the politeness, but I don't exactly concur with the regret."

"I see that this wetting has spoiled your temper. It is most unfortunate
for me that the weather should have broken just as I wanted you to be in
the very best of humors, and with the most ardent desire to serve me."

If she began this speech in a light and volatile tone, before she had
finished it her manner was grave and earnest.

"Here I am, ready and willing," said he, quickly. "Only say the word,
and see if I 'm not as good as my promise."

She took two or three turns of the room without speaking; then wheeling
round suddenly, she stood right in front of where he sat, her face pale,
and her whole expression that of one deeply occupied with one purpose.

"I don't believe," said she, in a slow, collected voice, "that there
exists a more painful position than that of a woman who, without what
the world calls a natural, protector, must confront the schemes of a
man with the inferior weapons of her sex, and who yet yearns for the
privilege of setting a life against a life."

"You'd like to be able to fight a duel, then?" asked he, gravely.

"Yes. That my own hand might vindicate my own wrong, I 'd consent freely
to lose it the hour after."

"That must needs have been no slight injury that suggests such a
reparation."

She only nodded in reply.

"It is nothing that the Heathcotes--"

"The Heathcotes!" broke she in, with a scornful smile; "it is not from
such come heavy wrongs. No, no; they are in no wise mixed up in what I
allude to, and if they had been, I would need no help to deal with them.
The injury I speak of occurred long ago,--years before I knew you. I
have told you,"--here she paused, as if for strength to go on,--"I have
told you that I accept your aid, and on your own conditions. Very few
words will suffice to show for what I need it. Before I go further,
however, I would ask you once more, are you ready to meet any and every
peril for my sake? Are you prepared to encounter what may risk even your
life, if called upon? I ask this now, and with the firm assurance that
if you pledge your word you will keep it."

"I give you my solemn oath that I'll stand by you, if it lead me to the
drop before the jail."

She gave a slight shudder. Some old memories had, perhaps, crossed her
at the moment; but she was soon self-possessed again.

"The case is briefly this. And mind," said she, hurriedly, "where I do
not seem to give you full details, or enter into clear explanations, it
is not from inadvertence that I do so, but that I will tell no more
than I wish, nor will I be questioned. The case is this: I was married
unhappily. I lived with a man who outraged and insulted me, and I met
with one who assumed to pity me and take my part. I confided to him my
miseries, the more freely that he had been the witness of the cruelties
I endured. He took advantage of the confidence to make advances to me.
My heart--if I had a heart--would not have been difficult to win. It
was a theft not worth guarding against. Somehow, I cannot say wherefore,
this man was odious to me, more odious than the very tyrant who trampled
on me; but I had sold myself for a vengeance,--yes, as completely as if
the devil had drawn up the bond and I had signed it. My pact with myself
was to be revenged on him, come what might afterwards. I have told you
that I hated this man; but I had no choice. The whole wide world was
there, and not another in it had ever offered to be my defender; nor,
indeed, did he. No, the creature was a coward; he only promised that if
he found me as a waif he would shelter me; he was too cautious to risk
a finger in my cause, and would only claim what none disputed with him.
And I was abject enough to be content with that, to be grateful for it,
to write letters full of more than gratitude, protesting--Oh, spare
me! if even yet I have shame to make me unable to repeat what, in my
madness, I may have said to him. I thought I could go on throughout it
all, but I cannot. The end was, my husband died; yes! he was dead!
and this man--who I know, for I have the proofs, had shown my letters
to my husband--claimed me in marriage; he insisted that I should be his
wife, or meet all the shame and exposure of seeing my letters printed
and circulated through the world, with the story of my life annexed. I
refused, fled from England, concealed myself, changed my name, and did
everything I could to escape discovery; but in vain. He found me out;
he is now upon my track; he will be here--here, at Rome--within the
week, and, with these letters in his hand, repeat his threat, he says,
for the last time, and I believe him." The strength which had sustained
her up to this now gave way, and she sank heavily to the ground, like
one stricken by a fit. It was some time before she rallied; for O'Shea,
fearful of any exposure, had not called others to his aid, but, opening
the window, suffered the rude wind to blow over her face and temples.
"There, there," said she, smiling sadly, "it is but seldom I show so
poor a spirit, but I am somewhat broken of late. Leave me to rest my
head on this chair, and do not lift me from the ground yet. I 'll be
better presently. Have I cut my forehead?"

"It is but a slight scratch. You struck the foot of the table in your
fall."

"There," said she, making a mark with the blood on his wrist, "it is
thus the Arabs register the fidelity of him who is to avenge them. You
will not fail me, will you?"

"Never, by this hand!" cried he, holding it up firmly clenched over his
head.

"It's the Arab's faith, that if he wash away the stain before the depth
of vengeance is acquitted, he is dishonored; there's a rude chivalry in
the notion that I like well." She said this in his ear as he raised her
from the ground and placed her on a chair. "It is time you should know
his name," said she, after a few minutes' pause. "He is called Ludlow
Paten. I believe he is Captain Paten about town."

"I know him by repute. He's a sort of swell at the West-End play clubs.
He is amongst all the fast men."

"Oh, he's fashionable,--he's very fashionable."

"I have heard him talked of scores of times as one of the pleasantest
fellows to be met with."

"I 'm certain of it. I feel assured that he must be a cheerful
companion, and reasonably honest and loyal in his dealings with man. He
is of a class that reserve all their treachery and all their baseness
for where they can be safely practised; and, strange enough, men of
honor know these things,--men of unquestionable honor associate freely
with fellows of this stamp, as if the wrong done to a woman was a venial
offence, if offence at all."

"The way of the world," said OShea, with a half sigh.

"Pleasant philosophy that so easily accounts for every baseness and even
villany by showing that they are popular. But come, let us be practical.
What's to be done here?--what do you suggest?"

"Give me the right to deal with him, and leave the settlement to _me_."

"The right--that is--" She hesitated, flushed up for an instant, and
then grew lividly pale again.

"Yes," said he, taking his place at her side, and leaning an arm on the
back of her chair, "I thought I never saw your equal when you were gay
and light-hearted, and full of spirits; but I like you better, far
better now, and I 'd rather face the world with you than--"

"I don't want to deceive you," said she, hurriedly, and her lips
quivered as she spoke; "but there are things which I cannot tell
you,--things of which I could not speak to any one, least of all to him
who says he is willing to share his fate with me. It is a hard condition
to make, and yet I must make it."

"Put your hand in mine, then, and I 'll take you on any conditions you
like."

"One word more before we close our bargain. It might so happen--it is
far from unlikely--that the circumstances of which I dare not trust
myself to utter a syllable may come to your ears when I am your wife,
when it will be impossible for you to treat them as calumnies, and just
as idle to say that you never heard of them before. How will you act if
such a moment comes?"

"Answer me one plain question first. Is there any man living who has
power over you--except as regards these letters, I mean?"

"None."

"There is, then, no charge of this, that, or t' other?"

"I will answer no more. I have told you fairly that if you take me for
your wife you most be prepared to stand in the breach between me and the
world, and meet whatever assails me as one prepared. Are you ready for
this?"

"I'm not afraid of the danger--"

"So, then, your fears are only for the cause?"

It was with the very faintest touch of scorn these words were spoken;
but he marked it, and reddened over face and forehead.

"When that cause will have become my own, you 'll see that I 'll
hesitate little about defending it."

"That's all that I ask for, all that I wish. This is strange courtship,"
said she, trying to laugh; "but let us carry it through consistently. I
conclude you are not rich; neither am I,--at least, for the present; a
very few weeks, however, will put me in possession of a large property.
It is in land in America. The legal formalities which are necessary will
be completed almost immediately, and my co-heir is now coming over
from the States to meet me, and establish his claim also. These are all
confidences, remember, for I now speak to you freely; and, in the same
spirit that I make them, I ask _you_ to trust me,--to trust me fully and
wholly, with a faith that says, 'I will wait to the end--to the very end!
'"

"Let this be my pledge," said he, taking her hand and kissing it.
"Faith!" said he, after a second or two, "I can scarcely believe in my
good luck. It seems to be every moment so like a dream to think that
you consent to take me; just, too, when I was beginning to feel that
fortune had clean forgotten me. You are not listening to me, not minding
a word I say. What is it, then, you are thinking of?"

"I was plotting," said she, gravely.

"Plotting,--more plotting! Why can't we go along now on the high-road,
without looking for by-paths?"

"Not yet,--not yet awhile. Attend to me, now. It is not likely that we
can meet again very soon. My coming out here to-day was at great risk,
for I am believed to be ill and in bed with a feverish cold. I cannot
venture to repeat this peril, but you shall hear from me. My maid is to
be trusted, and will bring you tidings of me. With to-morrow's post I
hope to learn where Paten is, and when he will be here. You shall learn
both immediately, and be prepared to act on the information. Above all
things, bear in mind that though I hate this man, all my abhorrence of
him is nothing--actually nothing--to my desire to regain my letters.
For them I would forego everything. Had I but these in my possession, I
could wait for vengeance, and wait patiently."

"So that from himself personally you fear nothing?"

"Nothing. He cannot say more of me than is open to all the world to
say--" She stopped, and grew red, for she felt that her impetuosity had
carried her further than she was aware. "Remember once more, then, if
you could buy them, steal them, get them in any way,--I care not how,
that my object is fulfilled,--the day you place them in this hand it is
your own!"

He burst out into some rhapsody of his delight, but checked himself
as suddenly, when he saw that her face had assumed its former look of
preoccupation.

"Plotting again?" asked he, half peevishly.

"I have need to plot," said she, mournfully, as she leaned her head upon
her band; and now there came over her countenance a look of deepest
sorrow. "I grow very weary of all this at times," said she, in a faint
and broken voice; "so weary that I half suspect it were better to throw
the cards down, and say, 'There! I 've lost! What's the stake?' I
believe I could do this. I am convinced I could, if I were certain that
there was one man or one woman on the earth who would give me one word
of pity, or bestow one syllable of compassion for my fall."

"But surely your daughter Clara--"

"Clara is not my daughter; she is nothing to me,--never was, never can
be. We are separated, besides, never to meet again, and I charge you not
to speak of her."

"May I never! if I can see my way at all. It 's out of one mystery into
another. Will you just tell me--"

"Ask me nothing. You have heard from me this day what I have never told
another. But I have confidence in your good faith, and can say, 'If you
rue your bargain, there is yet time to say so,' and you may leave this
as free as when you entered it."

"You never mistook a man more. It's not going back I was thinking of;
but surely I might ask--"

"Once for all, I will not be questioned. There never lived that man or
woman who could thread their way safely through difficulties, if they
waited to have every obstacle canvassed and every possible mystery
explained. You must leave me to my own guidance here; and one of its
first conditions is, not to shake my confidence in myself."

"Won't you even tell me when we 're to be one?"

"What an ardent lover it is!" said she, laughing. "There, fetch me
my shawl, and let me see that you know how to put it properly on
my shoulders. No liberties, sir! and least of all when they crush a
Parisian bonnet. The evening is falling already, and I must set off
homewards."

"Won't you give me a seat in the carriage with you? Surely, you 'd not
see me ride back in such a downpour as that."

"I should think I would. I 'd leave you to go it on foot rather than
commit such an indiscretion. Drive back to Rome with Mr. O'Shea alone!
 What would the world say? What would Sir William Heathcote say, who
expects to make me Lady Heathcote some early day next month?"

"By the way, I heard that story. An old fellow, called Nick Holmes, told
me--"

"What old Nick told you could scarcely be true. There, will you order
the carriage to the door, and give these good people some money? Ain't
you charmed that I give you one of a husband's privileges so early?
Don't dare to answer me; an Irishman never has the discretion to reply
to a liberty as he ought. Is that poor beast yours?" asked she, as they
gained the door, and saw a horse standing, all shivering and wretched,
under a frail shed.

"He was this morning, but I had the good luck to sell him before I took
this ride."

"I must really compliment you," said she, laughing heartily. "A
gentleman who makes love so economically ought to be a model of order
when a husband." And with this she stepped in, and drove away.



CHAPTER II. A DINNER OF TWO

The O'Shea returned to Rome at a "slapping pace." He did his eight miles
of heavy ground within forty minutes. But neither the speed nor the
storm could turn his thoughts from the scene he had just passed through.
It was with truth he said that he could not give credit to the fact of
such good fortune as to believe she would accept him; and yet the more
he reflected on the subject, the more was he puzzled and disconcerted.
When he had last seen her, she refused him,--refused him absolutely
and flatly; she even hinted at a reason that seemed unanswerable, and
suggested that, though they might aid each other as friends, there could
be no copartnership of interests. "What has led her to this change of
mind, Heaven knows. It is no lucky turn of fortune on my side can have
induced it; my prospects were never bleaker. And then," thought he, "of
what nature is this same secret, or rather these secrets, of hers,
for they seem to grow in clusters? What can she have done? or what has
Penthony Morris done? Is he alive? Is he at Norfolk Island? Was he a
forger, or worse? How much does Paten know about her? What power has
he over her besides the possession of these letters? Is Paten Penthony
Morris?" It was thus that his mind went to and fro, like a surging sea,
restless and not advancing. Never was there a man more tortured by his
conjectures. He knew that she might marry Sir William Heathcote if she
liked; why, then, prefer himself to a man of station and fortune? Was
it that he was more likely to enact the vengeance she thirsted for than
the old Baronet? Ay, that was a reasonable calculation. She was right
there, and he 'd bring Master Paten "to book," as sure as his name was
O'Shea. That was the sort of thing he understood as well as any man in
Europe. He had been out scores of times, and knew how to pick a quarrel,
and to aggravate it, and make it perfectly beyond all possibility of
arrangement, as well as any fire-eater of a French line regiment. That
was, perhaps, the reason of the widow's choice of him. If she
married Heathcote, it would be a case for lawyers: a great trial at
Westminster, and a great scandal in the papers. "But with me it will be
all quiet and peaceable. I 'll get back her letters, or I 'll know why."

He next bethought him of her fortune. He wished she had told him more
about it,--how it came to her,--was it by settlement,--was it from the
Morrises? He wished, too, it had not been in America; he was not quite
sure that property there meant anything at all; and, lastly, he brought
to mind that though he had proposed for dozens of women, this was the
only occasion he was not asked what he could secure by settlement, and
how much he would give as pin-money. No, on that score she was delicacy
itself, and he was one to appreciate all the refinement of her reserve.
Indeed, if it came to the old business of searches, and showing titles,
and all the other exposures of the O'Shea family, he felt that he would
rather die a bachelor than encounter them. "She knew how to catch me!
'A row to fight through, and no questions asked about money, O'Shea,'
says she. 'Can you resist temptation like that?'"

As he alighted at the hotel, he saw Agincourt standing at a window, and
evidently laughing at the dripping, mud-stained appearance he presented.

"I hope and trust that was n't the nag I bought this morning," said he
to O'Shea, as he entered the room.

"The very same; and I never saw him in finer heart. If you only
witnessed the way he carried me through those ploughed fields out there!
 He's strong in the loins as a cart-horse."

"I must say that you appear to have ridden him as a friend's horse. He
seemed dead beat, as he was led away."

"He's fresh as a four-year old."

"Well, never mind, go and dress for dinner, for you're half an hour
behind time already."

O'Shea was not sorry to have the excuse, and harried off to make his
toilet.

Freytag was aware that his guest was a "Milor'," and the dinner was very
good, and the wine reasonably so; and the two, as they placed a little
spider-table between them before the fire, seemed fully conscious of all
the enjoyment of the situation.

Agincourt said, "Is not this jolly?" And so it was. And what is there
jollier than to be about sixteen or seventeen years of age, with good
health, good station, and ample means? To be launched into manhood,
too, as a soldier, without one detracting sense of man's troubles and
cares,--to feel that your elders condescend to be your equals, and will
even accept your invitation to dinner!--ay, and more, practise towards
you all those little flatteries and attentions which, however vapid ten
years later, are positive ecstasies now!

But of all its glorious privileges there is not one can compare with the
boundless self-confidence of youth, that implicit faith not alone in
its energy and activity, its fearless contempt for danger, and its
indifference to hardships, but, more strange still, in its superior
sharpness and knowledge of life! Oh dear! are we not shrewd fellows
when we matriculate at Christ Church, or see ourselves gazetted Cornet
in the Horse Guards Purple? Who ever equalled us in all the wiles and
schemes of mankind? Must he not rise early who means to dupe us? Have
we not a registered catalogue of all the knaveries that have ever been
practised on the unsuspecting? Truly have we; and if suspicion were a
safeguard, nothing can harm us.

Now, Agincourt was a fine, true-hearted, generous young fellow,--manly
and straightforward,--but he had imbibed his share of this tendency. He
fancied himself subtle, and imagined that a nice negotiation could not
be intrusted to better hands. Besides this, he was eager to impress
Heath-cote with a high opinion of his skill, and show that even a
regular man of the world like O'Shea was not near a match for him.

"I 'm not going to drink that light claret such an evening as this,"
said O'Shea, pushing away his just-tasted glass. "Let us have something
a shade warmer."

"Ring the bell, and order what you like."

"Here, this will do,--'Clos Vougeot,'" said O'Shea, pointing out to the
waiter the name on the wine carte."

"And if that be a failure, I 'll fall back on brandy-and-water, the
refuge of a man after bad wine, just as disappointed young ladies take
to a convent. If you can drink that little tipple, Agincourt, you 're
right to do it. You 'll come to Burgundy at forty, and to rough port ten
years later; but you 've a wide margin left before that. How old are
you?"

"I shall be seventeen my next birthday," said the other, flushing, and
not wishing to add that there were eleven months and eight days to run
before that event should come off.

"That's a mighty pretty time of life. It gives you a clear four years
for irresponsible follies before you come of age. Then you may fairly
count upon three or four more for legitimate wastefulness, and with a
little, very little, discretion, you never need know a Jew till you're
six-and-twenty."

"I beg your pardon, my good fellow," said the other, coloring, half
angrily; "I've had plenty to do with those gents already. Ask Nathan
whether he has n't whole sheafs of my bills. My guardian only allows me
twelve hundred a year,--a downright shame they call it in the regiment,
and so I wrote him word. In fact, I told him what our Major said, that
with such means as mine I ought to try and manage an exchange into the
Cape Rifles."

"Or a black regiment in the West Indies," chimed in O'Shea, gravely.

"No, confound it, he did n't say that!"

"The Irish Constabulary, too, is a cheap corps. You might stand that."

"I don't mean to try either," said the youth, angrily.

"And what does Nathan charge you?--say for a 'thing' at three months?"

"That all depends upon the state of the money-market," said Agincourt,
with a look of profoundest meaning. "It is entirely a question of the
foreign exchanges, and I study them like a stockbroker. Nathan said one
day, 'It's a thousand pities he's a Peer; there's a fellow with a head
to beat the whole Stock Exchange.'"

"Does he make you pay twenty per cent, or five-and' twenty for short
dates?"

"You don't understand it at all. It's no question of that kind. It's
always a calculation of what gold is worth at Amsterdam, or some other
place, and it's a difference of, maybe, one-eighth that determines the
whole value of a bill."

"I see," said O'Shea, puffing his cigar very slowly. "I have no doubt
that you bought your knowledge on these subjects dearly enough."

"I should think I did! Until I came to understand the thing, I was
always 'outside the ropes,' always borrowing with the 'exchanges against
me,'--you know what I mean?"

"I believe I do," said O'Shea, sighing heavily. "They have been against
me all my life."

"That's just because you never took trouble to study the thing. You
rushed madly into the market whenever you wanted money, and paid
whatever they asked."

"I did indeed! and, what's more, was very grateful if I got it."

"And I know what came of that,--how that ended."

"How?"

"Why, you dipped your estate, gave mortgages, and the rest of it."

O'Shea nodded a full assent.

"Oh, _I_ know the whole story; I 've seen so much of this sort of
thing. Well, old fellow," added he, after a pause, "if I 'd been
acquainted with you ten or fifteen years ago, I could have saved you
from all this ruin."

O'Shea repressed every tendency to a smile, and nodded again.

"I 'd have said to you, 'Don't be in a hurry, watch the market, and
I 'll tell you when to "go in."'"

"Maybe it's not too late yet, so give me a word of friendly advice,"
said O'Shea, with a modest humility. "There are few men want it more."

There was now a pause of several minutes; O'Shea waiting to see how his
bait had taken, and Agincourt revolving in his mind whether this was not
the precise moment for opening his negotiation. At last he said,--

"I wrote that letter I promised you. I said you were an out-and-outer as
to ability, and that they could n't do better than make you a Governor
somewhere, though you 'd not be disgusted with something smaller. I 've
been looking over the vacancies; there's not much open. Could you be a
Mahogany Commissioner at Honduras?"

"Well, so far as having had my legs under that wood for many years with
pleasure to myself and satisfaction to my friends, perhaps I might."

"Do you know what I 'd do if I were you?"

"I have not an idea."

"I 'd marry,--by Jove, I would!--I 'd marry!"

"I 've thought of it half a dozen times," said he, stretching out his
hand for the decanter, and rather desirous of escaping notice; "but,
you see, to marry a woman with money,--and of course it's that you
mean,--there's always the inquiry what you have yourself, where it is,
and what are the charges on it. Now, as you shrewdly guessed awhile ago,
I dipped my estate,--dipped it so deep that I begin to suspect it won't
come up again."

"But look out for a woman that has her fortune at her own disposal."

"And no friends to advise her."

O'Shea's face, as he said this, was so absurdly droll that Agincourt
laughed aloud. "Well, as you observe, no friends to advise her. I
suppose you don't care much for connection,--I mean rank?"

"As for the matter of family, I have enough for as many wives as
Bluebeard, if the law would let me have them."

"Then I fancy I know the thing to suit you. She's a stunning pretty
woman, besides."

"Where is she?"

"At Rome here."

"And who is she?"

"Mrs. Penthony Morris, the handsome widow, that's on a visit to the
Heathcotes. She must have plenty of tin, I can answer for that, for
old Nathan told me she was in all the heavy transfers of South American
shares, and was a buyer for very large amounts."

"Are you sure of that?"

"I can give my word on it. I remember his saying one morning, 'The widow
takes her losses easily; she minds twelve thousand pounds no more than
I would a five-pound note."

"They have a story here that she's going to marry old Heathcote."

"Not true,--I mean, that she won't have him."

"And why? It was clear enough she was playing that game for some time
back."

"I wanted Charley to try his chance," said Agincourt, evading the
question; "but he is spooney on his cousin May, I fancy, and has no
mind to do a prudent thing."

"But how am I to go in?" said O'Shea, timidly. "If she's as rich as you
say, would she listen to a poor out-at-elbows Irish gentleman, with only
his good blood to back him?"

"You 're the man to do it,--the very man."

O'Shea shook his head.

"I say you 'd succeed. I 'd back you against the field."

"Will you make me a bet on it?"

"With all my heart! What shall it be?"

"Lay me a hundred to one, in tens, and I give you my solemn word of
honor I 'll do my very best to lose my wager and win the widow."

"Done! I 'll bet you a thousand pounds to ten; book it, with the date,
and I 'll sign it."

While Agincourt was yet speaking, O'Shea had produced a small note-book,
and was recording the bet. Scarcely had he clasped the little volume
again, when the waiter entered, and handed him a note.

O'Shea read it rapidly, and, finishing off his glass, refilled and drank
it. "I must leave you for half an hour," said he, hastily. "There's a
friend of mine in a bit of a scrape with one of these French officers;
but I 'll be back presently."

"I say, make your man fight. Don't stand any bullying with those
fellows."

O'Shea did not wait for his counsels, but hurried off.

"This way, sir," whispered a man to him, as he passed out into the court
of the hotel; "the carriage is round the corner."

He followed the man, and in a few minutes found himself in a narrow
by-street, where a single carriage was standing. The glass was
quietly let down as he drew near, and a voice he had no difficulty in
recognizing, said, "I have just received a most urgent letter, and
I must leave Rome tomorrow at daybreak, for Germany. I have learned,
besides, that Paten is at Baden. He was on his way here, but stopped to
try his luck at the tables. He has twice broken the bank, and swears he
will not leave till he has succeeded a third time. We all well know how
such pledges finish. But you must set off there at once. Leave to-morrow
night, if you can, and by the time you arrive, or the day after, you 'll
find a letter for you at the post, with my address, and all your future
directions. Do nothing with Paten till you hear; mind that,--nothing. I
have not time for another word, for I am in terror lest my absence from
the house should be discovered. If anything imminent occur, you shall
hear by telegraph."

"Let me drive back with you; I have much to say, much to ask you," said
he, earnestly.

"On no account. There, good-bye; don't forget me."

While he yet held her hand, the word was given to drive on, and his
farewell was lost in the rattling of the wheels over the pavement.

"Well, have you patched it up, or is it a fight?" asked Agincourt when
he entered the room once more.

"You'll keep my secret, I know," said O'Shea, in a whisper. "Don't even
breathe a word to Heathcote, but I 'll have to leave this to-morrow, get
over the nearest frontier, and settle this affair."

"You 'd like some cash, would n't you?--at all events, I am your debtor
for that horse. Do you want more?"

"There, that's enough,--two hundred will do," said O'Shea, taking the
notes from his fingers; "even if I have to make a bolt of it, that will
be ample."

"This looks badly for your wager, O'Shea. It may lose you the widow, I
suspect."

"Who knows?" said O'Shea, laughing. "Circular sailing is sometimes the
short cut on land as well as sea. If you have any good news for me
from Downing Street, I 'll shy you a line to say where to send; and so,
good-bye."

And Agincourt shook his hand cordially, but not without a touch of envy
as he thought of the mission he was engaged in.



CHAPTER III. SOME LAST WORDS

While Agincourt and O'Shea thus sat and conversed together, there was
another fireside which presented a far happier picture, and where old
Sir William sat, with his son and May Leslie, overjoyed to think that
they were brought together again, and to separate no more. Charles had
told them that he had determined never to leave them, and all their
thoughts had gone back to the long, long ago, when they were so united
and so happy. There was, indeed, one theme which none dared to touch.
It was ever and anon uppermost in the mind of each, and yet none had
courage to adventure on it, even in allusion. It was in one of the
awkward pauses which this thought produced that a servant came to say
Mrs. Morris would be glad to see Charles in her room. He had more than
once requested permission to visit her, but somehow now the invitation
had come ill-timed, and he arose with a half impatience to obey it.

During the greater part of that morning Charles Heathcote had employed
himself in imagining by what process of persuasion, what line of
argument, or at what price he could induce the widow herself to break
off the engagement with his father. The guarded silence Sir William had
maintained on the subject since his son's arrival was to some extent an
evidence that he knew his project could not meet approval. Nor was the
old man a stranger to the fact that May Leslie's manner to the widow had
long been marked by reserve and estrangement This, too, increased Sir
William's embarrassment, and left him more isolated and alone. "How
shall I approach such a question and not offend her?" was Charles's
puzzle, as he passed her door. So full was he of the bulletins of her
indisposition, that he almost started as he saw her seated at a table,
writing away rapidly, and looking, to his thinking, as well as he had
ever seen her.

"This is, indeed, a pleasant surprise," said he, as he came forward. "I
was picturing to myself a sick-room and a sufferer, and I find you more
beautiful than ever."

"You surely could n't imagine I 'd have sent for you if I were not
conscious that my paleness became me, and that my dressing-gown was very
pretty. Sit down--no, here--at my side; I have much to say to you, and
not very long to say it. If I had not been actually overwhelmed with
business, real business too, I 'd have sent for you long ago. I could
imagine with very little difficulty what was uppermost in your mind
lately, and how, having determined to remain at home, your thoughts
would never quit one distressing theme,--you know what I mean. Well, I
repeat, I could well estimate all your troubles and difficulties on this
head, and I longed for a few minutes alone with you, when we could speak
freely and candidly to each other, no disguise, no deception on either
side. Shall we be frank with each other?"

"By all means."

"Well, then, you don't like this marriage. Come, apeak out honestly your
mind."

"Why, when I think of the immense disproportion in age; when I see on
one side--"

"Fiddle faddle! if I were seventy, it wouldn't make it better. I tell
you I don't want fine speeches nor delicate evasions; therefore be the
blunt, straightforward fellow you used to be, and say, 'I don't like it
at all.'"

"Well, here goes, I do _not_ like it at all."

"Neither do I," said she, lying back listlessly in her chair, and
looking calmly at him. "I see what is passing in your mind, Charles. I
read your thoughts in their ebb and flow, and they come to this: 'Why
have you taken such consummate pains about an object you would regret to
see accomplished? To what end all your little coquetries and graces, and
so forth?' Well, the question is reasonable enough, and I 'll give you
only one answer. It amused me, and it worried others. It kept poor
May and yourself in a small fever, and I have never through life had
self-command enough to deny myself the pleasure of terrifying people at
small cost, making them fancy they were drowning in two feet of water."

"I hope May is grateful; I am sure I am," said Charles, stiffly.

"Well, if you have not been in the past, I intend you to be so for the
future. I mean to relinquish the great prize I had so nearly won; to
give up the distinguished honor of being your stepmother, with all the
rights and privileges I could have grouped around that station. I mean
to abdicate all my power; to leave the dear Heathcotes to the enjoyment
of such happiness as their virtues and merits cannot fail to secure
them, under the simple condition that they will forget me, or, if that
be more than they can promise, that they will never make me the subject
of their discussions, nor bring up my name, either in praise or blame.
Now understand me aright, Charles," said she, earnestly; "this is no
request prompted by any pique of injured pride or wounded self-love. It
is not uttered in the irritation of one who feels rejected by you. It
is a grave demand, made as the price of an important concession. I exact
that my name be not spoken, or, if uttered by others in your presence,
that it be unacknowledged and unnoticed. It is no idle wish, believe
me; for who are the victims of the world's calumnies so often as the
friendless, whose names call forth no sponsor? They are the outlaws that
any may wound, or even kill, and their sole sanctuary is oblivion."

"I think you judge us harshly," began Charles.

But she stopped him.

"No, far from it I know you all by this time. You are far more
generously minded than your neighbors, but there is one trait attaches
to human nature everywhere. Every one exaggerates any peril he has
passed through, and every man and woman is prone to blacken the
character of those who have frightened them. Come, I 'll not discuss the
matter further. I have all those things to pack up, and some notes to
write before I go."

"Go! Are you going away so soon?"

"To-morrow, at daybreak. I have got tidings of a sick relative, an old
aunt, who was very fond of me long ago, and who wishes to have me near
her. I should like to see May, and, indeed, Sir William, but I believe
it will be better not: I mean that partings are gratuitous sorrows. You
will say all that I wish. You will tell them how it happened that I left
so hurriedly. I 'm not sure," added she, smiling, "that your explanation
will be very lucid or very coherent, but the chances are, none will care
to question you too closely. Of course you will repeat all my gratitude
for the kindness I have met here. I have had some of my happiest days
with you," added she, as if thinking aloud,--"days in which I half
forgot the life of trouble that was to be resumed on the morrow. And,
above all, say," said she, with earnestness, "that; when they have
received my debt of thanks they are to wipe out my name from the ledger,
and remember me no more."

Charles Heathcote was much moved by her words. The very calm she spoke
in had all its effect, and he felt he knew not what of self-accusation
as he thought of her lonely and friendless lot. He could not disabuse
his mind of the thought that it was through offended pride she was
relinquishing the station she had so long striven to attain, and now
held within her very grasp. "She is not the selfish creature I had
deemed her; she is far, far better than I believed. I have mistaken her,
misjudged her. That she has gone through much sorrow is plain; that
there may be in her story incidents which she would grieve to see a town
talk, is also likely; but are not all these reasons the more for our
sympathy and support, and how shall we answer to ourselves, hereafter,
for any show of neglect or harshness towards her?"

While he thus reflected, she had turned to the table and was busy
writing.

"I have just thought of sending a few farewell lines to May," said she,
talking away as her pen ran along the paper. "We all of us mistake
each other in this world; we are valued for what we are not, and deemed
deficient in what we have." She stopped, and then crumpling up the
half-written paper in her hand, said: "No, I'll not write,--at least,
not now. You 'll tell her everything,--ay, Charles, everything!"

Here she fixed her eyes steadfastly on him, as though to look into his
very thoughts. "You and May Leslie will be married, and one of your
subjects of mysterious talk when you 're all alone will be that strange
woman who called herself Mrs. Penthony Morris. What wise guesses and
shrewd conjectures do I fancy you making; how cunningly you 'll put
together fifty things that seem to illustrate her story, and yet have no
bearing upon it; and how cleverly you 'll construct a narrative for her
without one solitary atom of truth. Well, she 'll think of you, too, but
in a different spirit, and she will be happier than I suspect if she do
not often wish to live over again the long summer days and starry nights
at Marlia."

"May is certain to ask me about Clara, where she is, and if we are
likely to see her again."

"And you 'll tell her that as I did not speak of her, your own delicacy
imposed such a reserve that you could not ask these questions.
Good-bye. But that I want to be forgotten, I 'd give you a keepsake.
Good-bye,--and forget me."

She turned away at the last word, and passed into an inner room. Charles
stood for an instant or two irresolute, and then walked slowly away.



CHAPTER IV. FOUND OUT.

Quackinboss and the Laytons came back in due time to England, and
at once hastened to London. They had traced Winthrop and Trover at
Liverpool, and heard of their having left for town, and thither they
followed them in all eagerness. The pursuit had now become a chase, with
all its varying incidents of good or bad fortune. Each took his allotted
part, going out of a morning on his especial beat, and returning late of
an evening to report his success or failure.

Quackinboss frequented all the well-known haunts of his countrymen,
hoping to chance upon some one who had seen Winthrop, or could give
tidings of him. Old Layton--the doctor, as we shall for the remainder
of our brief space call him--was more practical. He made searches for
Hawke's will at Doctors' Commons, and found the transcript of a brief
document irregularly drawn, and disposing of a few thousand pounds, but
not making mention of any American property. He next addressed himself
to that world-known force, so celebrated in all the detection of crime;
he described the men he sought for, and offered rewards for their
discovery, carefully protesting the while that nothing but a vague
suspicion attached to them.

As for Alfred, he tried to take his share in what had such interest
for the others. He made careful notes of the points assigned to him for
investigation; he learned names and addresses, and references to no
end; he labored hard to imbue himself with the zeal of the others,
but it would not do. All his thoughts, hopes, and wishes had another
direction, and he longed impatiently for an opportunity to make his
escape from them, and set out for Italy and discover Clara. His only
clew to her was through Stocmar; but that gentleman was abroad, and not
expected for some days in London. Little did the doctor or Quackinboss
suspect that Alfred's first call on every morning was at the private
entrance of the Regent's Theatre, and his daily question as invariably
the same demand, "When do you expect Mr. Stocmar in town?"

Poor fellow! he was only bored by that tiresome search, and hated every
man, woman, and child concerned in the dismal history; and yet no other
subject was ever discussed, no other theme brought up amongst them.
In vain Alfred tried to turn the conversation upon questions of public
interest; by some curious sympathy they would not be drawn away into
that all-absorbing vortex, and, start from what point they might, they
were certain to arrive at last at the High Court of Jersey.

It was on one evening, as they sat together around the fire, that, by
dint of great perseverance and consummate skill, Alfred had drawn them
away to talk of India and the war there. Anecdotes of personal heroism
succeeded, and for every achievement of our gallant fellows at Lucknow,
Quackinboss steadily quoted some not less daring exploit of the
Mexican war. Thus discussing courage, they came at last to the nice
question,--of its characteristics in different nations, and even in
individuals.

"In cool daring, in confronting peril with perfect collectedness, and
such a degree of self-possession as confers every possible chance
of escape on its possessor, a woman is superior to us all," said the
doctor, who for some time had been silently reflecting. "One case
particularly presents itself to my mind," resumed he. "It was connected
with that memorable trial at Jersey."

Alfred groaned heavily, and pushed back his chair from the group.

"The case was this," continued the old man: "while the police were
eagerly intent on tracing out all who were implicated in the murder,
suspicion being rife on every hand, every letter that passed between the
supposed confederates was opened and read, and a strict watch set over
any who were believed likely to convey messages from one to the other.

"On the evening of the inquest--it was about an hour after dark--the
window of an upper room was gently opened, and a woman's voice called
out to a countryman below, 'Will you earn half a crown, my good man, and
take this note to Dr. Layton's, in the town?' He agreed at once, and the
letter and the bribe were speedily thrown into his hat Little did the
writer suspect it was a policeman in disguise she had charged with her
commission! The fellow hastened off with his prize to the magistrate,
who, having read the note, resealed it, and forwarded it to me. Here it
is. I have shown it to so many that its condition is become very frail,
but it is still readable. It was very brief, and ran thus:--

"Dear Friend,--My misery will plead for me if I thus address you. I have
a favor to ask, and my broken heart tells me you will not refuse me.
I want you to cut me off a lock of my darling's hair. Take it from the
left temple, where it is longest, and bring it to-morrow to his forlorn
widow,

"'Louisa Hawke.'

"From the moment they read that note, the magistrates felt it an outrage
to suspect her. I do not myself mean to implicate her in the great
guilt,--far from it; but here was a bid for sympathy, and put forward
in all the coolness of a deliberate plan; for the policeman himself told
me, years after, that she saw him at Dover, and gave him a sovereign,
saying jocularly, 'I think you look better when dressed as a
countryman.' Now, I call this consummate calculation."

As he was speaking, Quackinboss had drawn near the candles, and was
examining the writing.

"I wonder," said be, "what the fellows who affect to decipher character
in handwriting would say to this? It's all regular and well formed."

"Is it very small? Are the letters minute?--for that, they allege, is
one of the indications of a cruel nature," said Alfred. "They show a
specimen of Lucrezia Borgia's, that almost requires a microscope to read
it."

"No," said Quackinboss; "that's what they call a bold, free hand; the
writing, one would say, of a slapdash gal that was n't a-goin' to count
consequences."

"Let _me_ interpret her," said Alfred, drawing the candles towards him,
and preparing for a very solemn and deliberate judgment "What's this?"
cried he, almost wildly. "I know this hand well; I could swear to it.
You shall see if I cannot."' And, without another word, he arose, and
rushed from the room. Before the doctor or Quackinboss could recover
from their astonishment, Alfred was back again, holding two notes in
his hand. "Come here, both of you, now," cried he, "and tell me, are not
these in the same writing?" They were several short notes,--invitations
or messages from Marlia about riding-parties, signed Louisa Morris.
"What do you say to that? Is that word 'Louisa' written by the same hand
or not?" cried Alfred, trembling from head to foot as he spoke.

[Illustration: 550]

"'Tarnal snakes if it ain't!" broke out Quackinboss; "and our widow
woman was the wife of that murdered fellow Hawke."

"And Clara his daughter!" muttered Alfred, as he covered his face with
his hands to hide his emotion.

"These were written by the same person, that's clear enough," said the
doctor, closely scrutinizing every word and every letter; "there are
marks of identity that cannot be disputed. But who is this widow you
speak of?"

Alfred could only stammer out, "He 'll tell you all," as he pointed to
Quackinboss, for a faintish sick sensation crept over his frame, and he
shook like one in the cold stage of an ague. The American, however, gave
a very calm and connected narrative of their first meeting with Mrs.
Penthony Morris and her supposed daughter at Lucca; how that lady, from
a chance acquaintance with the Heatbcotes, had established an intimacy,
and then a friendship there.

"Describe her to me,--tell me something of her appearance," burst in the
old man with impatience; for as his mind followed the long-sought-for
"trail," his eagerness became beyond his power of control. "Blue eyes,
that might be mistaken for black, or dark hazel, had she not? and the
longest of eyelashes, the mouth full and pouting, but the chin sharply
turned, and firm-looking? Am I right?"

"That are you, and teeth as reg'lar as a row of soldiers."

"Her foot, too, was perfect. It had been modelled scores of times by
sculptors, and there were casts of it with a Roman sandal, or naked on a
plantain-leaf, in her drawing-room. You've seen her foot?"

"It was a grand foot! I _have_ seen it," said the American; "and if I
was one as liked monarchy, I 'd say it might have done for a queen to
stand on in front of a throne."

"What was her voice like?" asked the old man, eagerly.

"Low and soft, with almost a tremor in it when she asked some trifling
favor," said Alfred, now speaking for the first time.

"Herself,--her very self. I know her well, by _that!_" cried the old
man, triumphantly. "I carried those trembling accents in my memory for
many and many a day. Go on, and tell me more of her. Who was this same
Morris,--when, how, and where were they married?"

"We never knew; none of us ever saw him. Some said he was living, and
in China or India. Some called her a widow. The girl Clara was called
hers--"

"No. Clara was Hawke's. She most have been Hawke's daughter by his first
wife, the niece of this Winthrop."

"She's the great heiress, then," broke in Quackinboss; "she's to have
Peddar's Clearings, and the whole of that track beside Grove's River.
There ain't such another fortune in all Ohio."

"And this was poor Clara's secret," said Alfred to Quackinboss, in a
whisper, "when she said, 'I only know that I am an orphan, and that my
name is not Clara Morris.'"

"Do _you_ think, then, sir, that such a rogue as that fellow Trover went
out all the way to the Western States to make out that gal's right to
these territories?" asked Quackinboss, gravely.

"Not a bit of it. He went to rob her, to cheat her, to put forward some
false claim, to substitute some other in her place," cried old Layton.
"Who is to say if he himself be not the man Morris, and the husband of
our fair friend? He may have fifty names, for aught we know, and Morris
be one of them."

"You told me that Clara had been made over to a certain Mr. Stocmar, to
prepare her for the stage." said Alfred to the American. But before he
could reply the doctor broke in,--

"Stocmar,--Hyman Stocmar, of the Regent's?"

"The same. Do you know him, father?"

"That do I, and well too. What of him?"

"It was to his care this young lady was intrusted," said Alfred,
blushing at the very thought of alluding to her.

"If there should be dealings with Stocmar, let them be left to _me_."
said the doctor, firmly. "I will be able to make better terms with him
than either of you."

"I s'pose you're not going to leave a gal that's to have a matter of
a million of dollars to be a stage-player? She ain't need to rant, and
screech, and tear herself to pieces at ten or fifteen dollars a night
and a free benefit."

"First to find her, then to assert her rights," said the doctor.

"How _are_ we to find her?" asked Alfred.

"I will charge myself with that task, but we must be active too," said
the doctor. "I half suspect that I see the whole intrigue,--why this
woman was separated from the young girl, why this fellow Trover was sent
across the Atlantic, and what means that story of the large fortune so
suddenly left to Winthrop."

"I only know him slightly, sir," said Quackinboss, breaking in, "but no
man shall say a word against Harvey P. Winthrop in my hearing."

"You mistake me," rejoined the doctor. "It would be no impugnment of
my honesty that some one bequeathed me an estate,--not that I think the
event a likely one. So far as I can surmise, Winthrop is the only man of
honor amongst them."

"Glad to bear you say so, sir," said the Colonel, gravely. "It's a
great victory over national prejudices when a Britisher gets to say so
much for one of our people. It's the grand compensation you always have
for your inferiority, to call our sharpness roguery."

It was a critical moment now, and it needed all Alfred's readiness and
address to separate two combatants so eager for battle. He succeeded,
however, and, after some commonplace conversation, contrived to carry
his father away, on pretence of an engagement.

"You should have let _me_ smash him," muttered the old man, bitterly,
as he followed him from the room. "You should have given me fifteen
minutes,--ay, ten. I 'd not have asked more than ten to present him with
a finished picture of his model Republican, in dress, manner, morals,
and demeanor. I'd have said, 'Here is what I myself have seen--'"

"And I would have stopped you," broke in Alfred, boldly, "and laid my
hand on Quackinboss's shoulder, and said, 'Here is what I have known of
America. Here is one who, without other tie than a generous pity, nursed
me through the contagion of a fever, and made recovery a blessing to me
by his friendship after,--who shared heart and fortune with me when I
was a beggar in both.'"

"You are right, boy,--you are right. How hard it is to crush the old
rebellious spirit in one's nature, even after we have lived to see the
evil it has worked us!"



CHAPTER V. THE MANAGER'S ROOM AT THE "REGENT'S."

At an early hour the next morning the two Laytons presented themselves
at the private door of the "Regents." Mr. Stocmar had returned that
morning from Paris; he had been to bed for an hour, and was now dressed
and up, but so busily engaged that he had left positive orders to be
denied to all except to a certain high personage in the royal household,
and a noble Lord, whose name he had given to the porter.

"We are not either of these," said the doctor, smiling, "but I am a very
old friend, whom he did not know was in England. I have been scores of
times here with him; and to prove how I know my way through flats
and side-scenes, I 'll just step up to his room without asking you to
conduct me." These pleadings were assisted considerably by the dexterous
insinuation of a sovereign into the man's hand; and Layton passed in,
with his son after him.

True to his word, and not a little to Alfred's astonishment, the doctor
threaded his way through many a dark passage and up many a frail
stair, till he reached the well-known, well-remembered door. He knocked
sharply, but, without waiting for reply, turned the handle and entered.
Stocmar, who stood at the table busily breaking the seals of a vast
heap of letters, turned suddenly around and stared at the strangers with
mingled surprise and displeasure.

"I gave positive orders that I could not receive strangers," said he,
haughtily. "May I ask what is the meaning of this intrusion?"

"You shall know in a few moments, sir," said the old man, deliberately
taking a seat, and motioning to his son to do the same. "My business
could be transacted with yourself alone, and it would be useless
referring me to a secretary or a treasurer. I have come here with my
son--"

"Oh, the old story!" broke in Stocmar. "The young gentleman is
stage-struck; fancies that his Hamlet is better than Kean's or
Macready's; but I have no time for this sort of thing. The golden age
of prodigies is gone by, and, at all events, I have no faith in it. Make
an apothecary of him, clerk in a gas-works, or anything you please, only
don't come here to bother me, you understand; my time is too full for
these negotiations."

"Have you done?" said the old man, fiercely.

"Done with _you_, certainly," said Stocmar, moving towards the bell.

"That you have not. You have not even begun with me yet. I perceive you
do not remember me."

"Remember you! I never saw you before, and I trust most sincerely I may
never have that pleasure again. Anything wrong with the old party
here?" whispered he, as he turned to Alfred, and touched his finger
significantly to his forehead.

"Be quiet, boy!" cried Layton, fiercely, as his son started up to
resent the insolence; "he shall soon learn whether there be or not. Our
time, sir, if not so profitable as yours, has its value for ourselves,
so that I will briefly tell you what I came for. I want the addresses of
two persons of your acquaintance."

"This is beyond endurance. Am I to be the victim of every twaddling old
bore that requires an address? Are you aware, sir, that I don't keep an
agency office?"

With a calm self-possession which amazed his son, the old man quietly
said, "I want this address,--and this." And he handed Stocmar a card
with two names written in pencil.

"Clara Hawke'--and who is Clara Hawke? I never heard of her till now;
and 'Mrs. Hawke' too? My good friend, this is some self-delusion of
yours. Take him away quietly, young gentleman, or my patience will not
stand this any longer. I 'll send for a policeman."

"There is one already in waiting, sir," said old Layton, fiercely, "and
with a warrant for the apprehension of Mr. Hyman Stocmar. Ay, sir, our
laws give many a wide margin to rascality, but slave-dealing is not
legalized on our soil. Keep your laughter for the end, and see whether
it will be so mirthful. Of that crime I mean to accuse you in an open
court, the victim being myself. So, then, I have refreshed your memory
a little; you begin to recognize me now. Ay, sir, it is the professor,
your old slave, stands before you, whom, after having starved and
cheated, you put drunk on board a sailing-ship, and packed off to
America; sold, too, deliberately sold, for a sum of money. Every detail
of this transaction is known to me, and shall be attested by competent
witnesses. My memory is a better one than you suspect. I forget nothing,
even to the day and the hour I last stood in this room. Yes," cried
he, turning to his son and addressing him, "I was summoned here to
be exhibited as a spectacle to a visitor, and who, think you, was the
distinguished friend to whose scrutiny I was to be subjected? He was one
who himself had enjoyed his share of such homage,--he was no less a man
than the famous Paul Hunt, tried at Jersey for the murder of Godfrey
Hawke, and how acquitted the world well knows; and he it was who sat
here, the dear friend of the immaculate Mr. Stocmar,--Mr. Stocmar, the
chosen associate of lords and ladies, the favored guest of half the
great houses in London. Oh, what a scandal and a disgrace is here! You
'd rather face the other charge, with all its consequences, than this
one. Where is your laughter now, Stocmar? Where that jocose humor you
indulged in ten minutes ago?"

"Look here, my good friend," cried Stocmar, suddenly starting up from
his chair, while the great drops of sweat hung on his forehead and
trickled along his pale cheeks; "don't fancy that you can pit yourself
against _me_ before the public. I have station, friends, and patrons in
the highest ranks in England."

"My name of Herbert Layton will suffice for all that I shall ask of it.
When the true history of our connection shall be written and laid before
the world, we shall see which of us comes best out of the ordeal."

"This, then, is a vengeance!" said Stocmar, trembling from head to foot.

"Not if you do not drive me to it. There never were easier terms to
escape a heavy penalty. Give me the address of these persons."

"But I know nothing of them. I have not, amongst my whole acquaintance,
one named Hawke."

The old man made no reply, and looked puzzled and confused. Stocmar saw
his advantage, and hastily added,--

"I am ready to pledge you my oath to this."

"Ask him, then, for the address of Mrs. Penthony Morris, father, and of
the young lady her reputed daughter," interposed Alfred.

"Ay, what say you to this?"

"What I say is, that I am not here to be questioned as to the
whereabouts of every real or imaginary name you can think of."

"Restive again, Stocmar? What, are you so bent on your own ruin that you
will exhaust the patience of one who never could boast too much of
that quality? I tell you that if I leave this room without a full
and explicit answer to my demand,--and in writing, too, in your own
hand,--you'll not see me again except as your prosecutor in a court of
justice. And now, for the last time, where is this woman?"

"She was in Italy; at Rome all the winter," said Stocmar, doggedly.

"I know that. And now?"

"In Germany, I believe."

"That is, you _know_, and the place too. Write it there."

"Before I do so, you 'll give me, under your own hand, a formal release
from this trumpery charge, whose worst consequence would be my appearing
in public to answer it."

"Nothing of the kind; not a line to that effect I 'll keep it over you
till the whole of the business we are engaged in be completed. Ay, sir,
you shall not be exposed to the evil temptation to turn upon me. We have
affairs to settle which will require our meeting with this woman, and as
we live in an age of telegraphs, you shall not be able to warn her that
we are coming; for if you do, I swear to you more solemnly than you
swore awhile back to me, that I 'll bring such disgrace upon your head
that you 'll walk the streets of this city as wretched an object as _I_
was when I slept in that dog-hole behind the fire-engine."

"You 'll do nothing with me by your threats, old man."

"Everything, all I ask, by what my threats can accomplish. Remember,
besides, all that we require of you will only serve to shorten a road
that we are determined to go. You can only help us so far. The rest lies
with ourselves."

"Her address is Gebhardts-Berg, Bregenz," said Stocmar, in a low
muttering voice.

"Write it, sir; write it there," said the doctor, pointing to a sheet of
paper on the table.

"There, is that enough?" said Stocmar, as he wrote the words, and flung
down the pen.

"No, there is yet the other. Where is Clara Hawke?"

"As to her, I may as well tell you she is bound to me by an indenture;
I have been at the charge of her instruction, and can only be repaid by
her successes hereafter--"

"More of the slave market!" broke in the doctor. "But to the question.
Who sold her to you? She had neither father nor mother. With whom did
you make your compact? Bethink you these are points you 'll have to
answer very openly, and with reporters for the daily press amongst the
company who listen to you. Such treaties being made public may lead to
many an awkward disclosure. It were wiser not to provoke them."

"I do not see why I am to incur a positive loss of money--"

"Only for this reason, that as you thought proper to buy without a
title, you may relinquish without compensation. But come, we will deal
with you better than you deserve. If it be, as I believe, this young
lady's lot to inherit a large fortune, I will do my utmost to induce her
to repay you all that you have incurred in her behalf. Will that satisfy
you?"

"It might, if I were not equally certain that you have not the slightest
grounds for the expectation. I know enough of her story to be aware that
there is not one from whom she expects a shilling."

"Every day and hour brings us great surprises; nothing was less looked
for by the great Mr. Stocmar this morning than a visit from me, and yet
it has come to pass."

"And in whose interest, may I ask, are you taking all this trouble?--how
is it incumbent on you to mix yourself up in questions of a family to
which you do not belong, nor are even known to?"

"If I can only fashion to myself a pretext for your question, I would
answer it; but to the matter,--write the address there." And he pointed
to the paper.

Stocmar obeyed, and wrote, "The Conservatoire, at Milan."

"I may warn you," added he, "that Mademoiselle Clara Stocmar, for as
such is she inscribed, will not be given up to you, or to any one save
myself, or by my order."

"I am aware of that, and therefore you will write this order. Mr.
Stocmar, you need not be told by me that the fact of this girl being an
English subject once admitted, the law of this country will take
little heed of the regulations of a musical academy; save yourself this
publicity, and write as I tell you."

Stocmar wrote some hurried lines and signed them. "Will that do?"

"Perfectly," said he, folding up both papers, and placing them in his
pocket. "Now, Mr. Stocmar, thus far has been all business between us.
You have done me a small service, and for it I am willing to forgive
a great wrong; still, it is a fair bargain. Let us see, however, if
we cannot carry our dealings a little further. Here is a case where a
dreadful scandal will be unburied, and one of the most fearful crimes
be brought again before public notice, to herald the narrative of an
infamous fraud. I am far from suspecting or insinuating that you have
had any great part whatever in these transactions, but I know that
when once they have become town talk, Hyman Stocmar will figure as a
prominent name throughout. He will not appear as a murderer or a forger,
it is true, but he will stand forward the intimate friend of the worst
characters in the piece, and have always some small petty share of
complicity to answer for. Is it not worth while to escape such an open
exposure as this? What man--least of all, what man moving where you
do--could court such scandal?"

Stocmar made no answer, but, leaning his head on his hand, seemed lost
in thought.

"I can show you how to avoid it all. I will point ont the way to escape
from the whole difficulty."

"How do you mean?" cried Stocmar, suddenly.

"Leave the knaves and come over to the honest men; or desert the losing
side and back the winner, if you like that better. In plain English,
tell me all you know of this case, and of every one concerned in it.
Give me your honest version of the scheme,--how it has been done and
by whom. You know Trover and Hunt well; say what were their separate
shares. I will not betray your confidence; and if I can, I will reward
it."

"Let your son leave us. I will speak to you alone," said Stocmar, in a
faint whisper.

Alfred, at a signal from his father, stepped quietly away, and they were
alone.

It was late in the afternoon when the doctor arose to take his
departure, and, though somewhat wearied, his look was elated, and his
face glowed with an expression of haughty satisfaction, such as it might
have worn after a collegiate triumph years and years ago.



CHAPTER VI. MR. O'SHEA AT BADEN

Although Mr. O'Shea be not one of the most foreground figures in this
piece, we are obliged to follow his fortunes for a brief space, and at
a moment when our interests would more naturally call us in another
direction. Thus, at a dinner-party, will it occasionally happen that our
attention is engaged on one side, while our sympathies incline to the
other; so, in life, the self-same incident continues to occur. We have
said that he had many a sore misgiving about the enterprise he was
engaged in. He felt that he was walking completely in the dark, and
towards what he knew not. Mrs. Morris was, doubtless, a clever pilot,
but she _might_ mistake the course, she _might_ go wrong in her
soundings, and, lastly, she _might_ chance to be on the shore when the
ship was scuttled. These were dire mistrusts, not to say very ungallant
suspicions, to haunt the heart and the head of a bridegroom; but--alas!
that we must own it--Mr. O'Shea now occupied that equatorial position in
life equally distant from the zones of youth and age, where men are
most worldly, and disposed to take the most practical views of whatever
touches their interests. It was very hard for him to believe that a
woman of such consummate cleverness as the widow had ever written a line
that could compromise her. He took a man's view of the question, and
fancied that a cool head is always cool, and a calculating heart
always alive to its arithmetic. These letters, therefore, most probably
referred to money transactions; they were, in fact, either bills, or
securities, or promises to pay, under circumstances, possibly, not
the pleasantest to make public In such affaire he had always deemed a
compromise the best course; why had she not given him a clearer insight
into his mission? In fact, he was sailing with sealed orders, to be
opened only on reaching a certain latitude. "At all events, I can do
nothing till she writes to me;" and with this grain of comfort he
solaced himself as he went along his road, trying to feel at ease, and
doing his utmost to persuade himself that he was a lucky fellow, and "on
the best thing" that had ever turned up in his life.

It is unpleasant for us to make the confession, but in his heart of
hearts Mr. O'Shea thought of a mode of guiding himself through his
difficulties, which assuredly was little in keeping with the ardor of a
devoted lover. The ex-Member for Inch was a disciple of that sect--not
a very narrow one--which firmly believes that men have a sort of masonic
understanding amongst them always to be true to each other against a
woman, and that out of a tacit compact of mutual protection they will
always stand by each other against the common enemy. If, therefore, he
could make Paten's acquaintance, be intimate with him, and on terms
of confidence, he might learn all the bearings of this case, and very
probably get no inconsiderable insight into the fair widow's life and
belongings.

Amidst a vast conflict of such thoughts as these he rolled along over
the Splügen Alps, down the Via Mala, and arrived at last at Baden. The
season was at its full flood. There were a brace of kings there, and a
whole covey of Serene Highnesses, not to speak of flocks of fashionables
from every land of Europe. There was plenty of gossip,--the gossip
of politics, of play, of private scandal. The well-dressed world was
amusing itself at the top of its bent, and every one speaking ill of his
neighbor to his own heart's content. Whatever, however, may be the
grand event of Europe,--the outbreak of a war, or a revolution, the
dethronement of a king, or the murder of an emperor,--at such places
as these the smallest incident of local origin will far out-top it in
interest; and so, although the world at this moment had a very fair
share of momentous questions at issue, Baden had only tongues and ears
for one, and that was the lucky dog that went on breaking the bank at
rouge-et-noir about twice a week.

Ludlow Paten was the man of the day. Now it was his equipage, his
horses; now it was the company he entertained at dinner yesterday, the
fabulous sum he had given for a diamond ring, the incredible offer he
had made for a ducal palace on the Rhine. Around these and such-like
narratives there floated a sort of atmosphere of an imaginative order:
how he had made an immense wager to win a certain sum by a certain day,
and now only wanted some trifle of ten or twelve thousand pounds to
complete it; how, if he continued to break the bank so many times more,
M. Bennasset, the proprietor, was to give him fifty thousand francs
a year for life to buy him off, with twenty other variations on these
themes as to the future application of the money, some averring it was
to ransom his wife from the Moors, and others, as positively, to pay
off a sum with which he had absconded in his youth from a great
banking-house in London; and, last of all, a select few had revived
the old diabolic contract on his behalf, and were firm in declaring that
after he retired to his room at night he was heard for hours counting
over his gains, and disputing with the Evil One, who always came for his
share of the booty, and rigidly insisted on having it in gold. Now, it
was strange enough that these last, however wild the superstructure of
their belief, had really a small circumstance in their favor, which was
that Paten had been met with three or four times in most unfrequented
places, walking with a man of very wretched appearance and most
forbidding aspect, who covered his face when looked at, and was only to
be caught sight of by stealth. The familiar, as he was now called,
had been seen by so many that all doubt as to his existence was quite
removed.

These were the stories which met O'Shea on his arrival, and which formed
the table-talk of the hotel he dined in; narratives, of course, graced
with all the illustrative powers of those who told them. One fact,
however, impressed itself strongly on his mind,--that with a man so
overwhelmed by the favors of Fortune, any chance of forming acquaintance
casually was out of the question. If he were cleaned out of his last
Napoleon, one could know him readily enough; but to the fellow who can
break the bank at will, archdukes and princes are the only intimates.
His first care was to learn his appearance. Nor had he long to wait; the
vacant chair beside the croupier marked the place reserved for the great
player, whose game alone occupied the attention of the bystanders, and
whose gains and losses were all marked and recorded by an expectant
public "Here he comes! That is he, leaning on the Prince of Tours, the
man with the large beard!" whispered a person in O'Shea's hearing; and
now a full, large man, over-weighty, as it seemed, for his years, pushed
the crowd carelessly aside, and seated himself at the table. The low
murmur that went round showed that the great event of the evening was
about to "come off," and that the terrible conflict of Luck against Luck
was now to be fought out.

More intent upon regarding the man himself than caring to observe his
game, O'Shea stationed himself in a position to watch his features, scan
their whole expression, and mark every varying change impressed
upon them. His experience of the world had made him a tolerable
physiognomist, and he read the man before him reasonably well. "He is
not a clever fellow," thought he, "he is only a resolute one; and, even
as such, not persistent. Still, he will be very hard to deal with; he
distrusts every man." Just as O'Shea was thus summing up to himself,
an exclamation from the crowd startled him. The stranger had lost an
immense "coup;" the accumulation of five successful passes had been
swept away at once, and several minutes were occupied in counting the
enormous pile of Napoleons he had pushed across the table.

The player sat apparently unmoved; his face, so far as beard and
moustache permitted it to be seen, was calm and impassive; but O'Shea
remarked a fidgety uneasiness in his hands, and a fevered impatience
in the way he continued to draw off and on a ring which he wore on his
finger. The game began again, but he did not bet; and murmuring comments
around the room went on, some averring that he was a bad loser, who
never had nerve for his reverses, and others as stoutly maintaining that
he was such a consummate master of himself that he was never carried
away by impulse, but, seeing fortune unfavorable, had firmness enough to
endure his present defeat, and wait for a better moment. Gradually the
interest of the bystanders took some other direction, and Paten was
unobserved, as he sat, to all seeming, inattentive to everything that
went on before him. Suddenly, however, he placed twenty thousand francs
in notes upon the table, and said, "Red." The "Black" won; and he
pushed back his chair, arose, and strolled carelessly into another room.

O'Shea followed him; he saw him chatting away pleasantly with some of
his most illustrious friends, laughingly telling how unfortunate he had
been, and in sportive vein declaring that, from the very fact of her
sex, a man should not trust too much to Fortune. "I 'll go and play
dominoes with the Archduchess of Lindau," said he, laughing; "it will
be a cheap pleasure even if I lose." And he moved off towards a smaller
_salon_, where the more exclusive of the guests were accustomed to
assemble.

Not caring to attract attention by appearing in a company where he was
not known to any, O'Shea sauntered out into the garden, and, tempted
by the fresh night air, sat down. Chilled after a while, he resolved to
take a brisk walk before bed-time, and set out in the avenue which
leads to Lichtenthal. He had plenty to think of, and the time favored
reflection. On and on he went at a smart pace, the activity of mind
suggesting activity of body, and, before he knew it, had strolled some
miles from Baden, and found himself on the rise of the steep ascent
that leads to Eberstein. He was roused, indeed, from his musings by the
passage of a one-horse carriage quite close to him, and which, having
gained a piece of level ground, drew up. The door was quickly opened,
and a man got out; the moonlight was full upon his figure, and O'Shea
saw it was Paten. He looked around for a second or two, and then entered
the wood. O'Shea determined to explore the meaning of the mystery, and,
crossing the low edge, at once followed him. Guided by the light of the
cigar which Paten was smoking, O'Shea tracked him till he perceived him
to come to a halt, and immediately after heard the sound of voices. The
tone was angry and imperious on both sides, and, in intense eagerness,
O'Shea drew nigher and nigher.

"None of your nonsense with me," said a firm and resolute voice. "I know
well how much you believe of such trumpery."

"I tell you again that I do believe it. As certain as I give you money,
so certain am I to lose. Thursday week I gave you five Naps; I lost
that same night seventy thousand francs; on Wednesday last the same
thing; and to-night two thousand Napoleons are gone. You swore to me,
besides, so late as yesterday, that if I gave you twenty Louis, you 'd
leave Baden, to go back to England."

"So I would, but I 've lost it. I went in at roulette, and came out
without sixpence; and I'm sure it was not lending brought bad luck upon
_me_." added he, with a bitter laugh.

"Then may I be cursed in all I do, if I give you another fraction! You
think to terrify me by exposure; but who 'll stand that test best,--the
man who can draw on his banker for five thousand pounds, or the outcast
who can't pay for his dinner? Let the world know the worst of me,
and say the worst of me, I can live without it, and you may die on a
dunghill."

"Well, I 'm glad we 're come to this at last Baden shall know to-morrow
morning the whole story, and you will see how many will sit down at the
same table with you. You 're a fool--you always were a fool--to insult a
man as reek-less as I am. What have I to lose? They can't try _me_ over
again any more than _you_. But you can be shunned and cut by your fine
acquaintances, turned out of clubs, disowned on every hand--"

"Look here, Collier," broke in Paten; "I have heard all that rubbish
fifty times from you, but it does n't terrify me. The man that can live
as I do need never want friends or acquaintances; the starving beggar
it is who has no companionship. Let us start fair to-morrow, as you
threaten, and at the end of the week let us square accounts, and see who
has the best of it."

"I 'll go into the rooms wh