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Title: The Daltons, Volume II (of II) - Or,Three Roads In Life
Author: Lever, Charles James, 1806-1872
Language: English
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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 "The Daltons, Volume II (of II) - Or,Three Roads In Life" ***

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THE DALTONS;

OR,

THREE ROADS IN LIFE.


By Charles Lever.

With Illustrations By Phiz.


In Two Volumes: Volume Two.

Boston:

Little, Brown, And Company.

1904.



THE DALTONS; or, THREE ROADS IN LIFE



CHAPTER I. A MORNING OF MISADVENTURES.

"Well, my Lord, are we to pass the day here," said Count Trouville,
the second of the opposite party, as Norwood returned from a fruitless
search of George Onslow, "or are we to understand that this is the
English mode of settling such matters?"

"I am perfectly ready, Monsieur le Comte, to prove the contrary, so far
as my own poor abilities extend," said Norwood, calmly.

"But your friend has disappeared, sir. You are left alone here."

"Which is, perhaps, the reason of your having dared to insult me,"
rejoined the other; "that being, perhaps, the French custom in such
affairs."

"Come, come, gentlemen," interposed an old cavalry officer, who acted
as second friend to Guilmard, "you must both see that all discussion of
this kind is irregular and unseemly. We have come here this morning for
one specific purpose,----to obtain reparation for a great injury. The
gentleman who should have offered us the amende has suddenly withdrawn
himself. I offer no opinion on the fact that he came out accompanied by
only one friend; we might, perhaps, have devised means to obviate this
difficulty. For his own absence we have no remedy. I would therefore ask
what you have to propose to us in this emergency?"

"A little patience,--nothing more. My friend must have lost his way;
some accident or other has detained him, and I expect to see him here
every instant."

"Shall we say half an hour longer, my Lord?" rejoined the other, taking
out his watch. "That will bring us to eight o'clock."

"Which, considering that our time was named 'sharp six,'" interposed
Trouville, "is a very reasonable 'grace.'"

"Your expression is an impertinence, Monsieur," said Norwood, fiercely.

"And yet I don't intend to apologize for it," said the other, smiling.

"I 'm glad of it, sir. It's the only thing you have said to-day with
either good sense or spirit."

"Enough, quite enough, my Lord," replied the Frenchman, gayly. "'Dans la
bonne société, on ne dit jamais de trop.' Where shall it be, and when?"

"Here, and now," said Norwood, "if I can only find any one who will act
for me."

"Pray, my Lord, don't go in search of him," said Trouville, "or we shall
despair of seeing you here again."

"I will give a bail for my reappearance, sir, that you cannot doubt of,"
cried Norwood, advancing towards the other with his cane elevated.

A perfect burst of horror broke from the Frenchmen at this threat,
and three or four immediately threw themselves between the contending
parties.

"But for this, my Lord," said the old officer, "I should have offered
you my services."

"And I should have declined them, sir," said Norwood, promptly. "The
first peasant I meet with will suffice;" and, so saying, he hurried
from the spot, his heart almost bursting with passion. With many a
malediction of George--with curses deep and cutting on every one whose
misconduct had served to place him in his present position--he took his
way towards the high-road.

"What could have happened?" muttered he; "what confounded fit of
poltroonery has seized him? a fellow that never wanted pluck in his
life! Is it possible that he can have failed now? And this to occur at
the very moment they are beggared! Had they been rich, as they were a
few months back, I'd have made the thing pay. Ay, by Jove! I 'd have
'coined my blood,' as the fellow says in the play, and written a
swingeing check with red ink! And now I have had a bad quarrel, and
nothing to come of it! And so to walk the high-roads in search of some
one who can load a pistol."

A stray peasant or two, jogging along to Florence, a postilion with
return horses, a shabbily dressed curate, or a friar with a sack behind
him, were all that he saw for miles of distance, and he returned
once more to interrogate the calessino driver as to the stranger who
accompanied him from the city.

Any one whose misfortune it may have been to make inquiries from
an Italian vetturino of any fact, no matter how insignificant or
unimportant, will sympathize with Norwood's impatience at the evasive
and distrustful replies that now met his questions. Although the fact
could have no possible concern or interest for him, he prevaricated and
contradicted himself half-a-dozen times over, as to the stranger's age,
country, and appearance, so that, utterly baffled and provoked, the
Viscount turned away and entered the park.

"I, too, shall be reported missing, I suppose," said he, bitterly, as he
walked along a little path that skirted a piece of ornamental water. "By
Jupiter! this is a pleasant morning's work, and must have its reparation
one day or other."

A hearty sneeze suddenly startled him as he spoke; he turned hastily
about, but could see no one, and yet his hearing was not to be deceived!
He searched the spot eagerly; he examined the little boat-shed, the
copse, the underwood,--everything, in fact,--but not a trace of living
being was to be seen; at last a slight rustling sound seemed to issue
from a piece of rustic shell-work, representing a river god reclining
on his urn, and, on approaching, he distinctly detected the glitter of a
pair of eyes within the sockets of the figure.

"Here goes for a brace of balls into him," cried Norwood, adjusting a
cap on his pistol. "A piece of stonework that sneezes is far too like a
man to be trusted."

Scarcely was the threat uttered, when a tremulous scream issued from
within, and a voice, broken with terror, called out,----

"D-don't fire, my Lord. You'll m-m-murder me. I'm Purvis--Sc-Sc-Scroope
Purvis."

"How did you come to be there, then?" asked Norwood, half angrily.

"I 'll tell you when I g-get out!" was the answer; and he disappeared
from the loophole at which he carried on the conversation for some
seconds. Norwood began to fancy that the whole was some mystification of
his brain, for no trace of him was to be had; when he emerged from
the boat-house with his hat stripped of the brim, and his clothes in
tatters, his scratched face and hands attesting that his transit had not
been of the easiest. "It's like a r-r-rat-hole," cried he, puffing for
breath.

"And what the devil brought you there?" asked Norwood, rudely.

"I ca-came out to see the fight!" cried he; "and when you're inside
there you have a view of the whole park, and are quite safe, too."

"Then it was you who drove out in the calessino meant for the doctor?"
said Norwood, with the air of a man who would not brook an equivocation.

"Yes; that was a d-d-dodge of mine to get out here," said he, chuckling.

"Well, Master Purvis," said Norwood, drawing his arm within his own, "if
you can't be the 'doctor,' you shall at least be the 'second.' This is a
dodge of mine; so come along, and no more about it."

"But I ca-can't; I never was--I never could be a se-se-second."

"You shall begin to-day, then, or my name's not Norwood. You've been the
cause of a whole series of mishaps and misfortunes; and, by Jove! if the
penalty were a heavier one, you should pay it."

"I tell you, I n-never saw a duel; I--I never f-fought one; I never will
fight one; I don't even know how they g-go about it."

"You shall learn, sir, that 's all," said Norwood, as he hastened along,
dragging the miserable Purvis at his side.

"But for you, sir," continued he, in a voice thick with passion,--"but
for you, sir, and your inveterate taste for prying into what does not
concern you, we should have experienced no delay nor disappointment this
morning. The consequences are, that I shall have to stand where another
ought to have stood, and take to myself a quarrel in which I have had no
share."

[Illustration: 022]

"H-how is that? Do----do----do tell me all about it!" cried Purvis,
eagerly.

"I 'll tell you nothing, sir, not a syllable. Your personal adventures
on this morning must be the subject of your revelations when you get
back to Florence, if ever you do get back."

"Why, I--I'm----I'm not going to fight anybody," exclaimed he, in
terror.

"No, sir, but _I_ am; and in the event of any disastrous incident,
_your_ position may be unpleasant. If Trouville falls, you 'll have to
make for Lombardy, and cross over into Switzerland; if he shoots me,
you can take my passport; it is _visé_ for the Tyrol. As they know me
at Innsprück, you 'd better keep to the southward,--some of the smaller
places about Botzen, or Brixen."

"But I don't know Bo-Bo-Botzen on the map! and I don't see why I 'm to
sk-sk-skulk about the Continent like a refu-refu-refugee Pole!"

"Take your own time, then; and, perhaps, ten years in a fortress may
make you wiser. It's no affair of mine, you know; and I merely gave you
the advice, as I 'm a little more up to these things than you are."

"But, supposing that I 'll have no-nothing to do with the matter, that I
'll not be present, that I refuse to see--"

"You shall and you must, sir; and if I hear another word of objection
out of your mouth, or if you expose me, by any show of your own
poltroonery, to the ribald insolence of these Frenchmen, by Heaven! I
'll hold your hand in my own when I fire at Count Trouville."

"And I may be mu-mu-murdered!" screamed Purvis. "An innocent man's
bl-blood shed, all for nothing!"

"Bluebeard treated his wives to the same penalty for the same crime,
Master Purvis. And now listen to me, sir, and mark well my words. With
the causes which have led to this affair you have no concern whatever;
your only business here is in the capacity of my second. Be present when
the pistols are loaded; stand by as they step the ground; and, if you
can do no more, try, at least, to look as if you were not going to be
shot at." Neither the counsel nor the tone it was delivered in were very
reassuring; and Purvis went along with his head down and his hands in
his pockets, reflecting on all the "accidents by firearms" he had read
of in the newspapers, together with the more terrible paragraphs about
fatal duels, and criminal proceedings against all concerned in them.

The Frenchmen were seated in the garden, at a table, and smoking their
cigars, as Norwood came up, and, in a few words, explained that a
countryman of his own, whom he had met by chance, would undertake the
duties of his friend.

"I have only to say, gentlemen," he added, "that he has never even
witnessed an affair of this kind; and I have but to address myself to
the loyal good faith of Frenchmen to supply any deficiencies in his
knowledge. Mr. Purvis, Messieurs."

The old Colonel, having courteously saluted him, took him to a short
distance aside, and spoke eagerly for a few minutes; while Norwood,
burning with anxiety and uneasiness, tried to smoke his cigar with every
semblance of unconcern.

"I 'm sure, if you think so," cried Scroope, aloud, "I'm not the m-man
to gainsay the opinion. A miss is as g-g-good as a m-mile; and as he did
n't strike him--"

"Tonnerre de Dieu! sir--strike him!" screamed the old soldier. "Did you
say strike him?"

"No, I didn't--I couldn't have meant that," broke in Purvis. "I meant to
remark that, as there was no mischief done--"

"And who will venture to say that, sir?" interposed the other. "Is it
nothing that a Frenchman should have been menaced?"

"That's a gr-great deal,----a tremendous deal. It's as much as beating
another man; I know that," muttered poor Purvis, deprecatingly.

"Is this a sneer, sir?" asked the Colonel, drawing himself up to his
full height.

"No, no, it ain't; no, upon my soul, I 'm quite serious. I never was less
disposed for a jest in my life."

"You could never have selected a less opportune moment for one, sir,"
rejoined the other, gravely. "Am I to conclude, sir," resumed he, after
a second's interval, "that we have no difference of opinion on this
affair?"

"None whatever. I agree with you in everything you have s-said, and
everything you in-intend to say."

"Your friend will then apologize?" resumed the Colonel.

"He shall,--he must."

"Simply expressing his regret that an unguarded action should have
occasioned a misconception, and that in lifting his arm he neither
intended the gesture as a menace nor an insult. Is n't that your
meaning?"

"Just so; and that if he _had_ struck he would n't have hurt him."

"Feu d'enfer! sir, what _are_ you saying? or do you mean this for a
mockery of us?" screamed the Colonel, in a fit of passion.

"You terrify me so," cried Purvis; "You are so impeimpe-impetuous,
I don't know what I 'm saying."

The Frenchman measured him with a glance of strange meaning. It was
evident that such a character was somewhat new to him, and it required
all his skill and acuteness to comprehend it "Very well, sir," said
he, at last, "I leave the details entirely to yourself; speak to your
friend, arrange the matter between you, and let us finish the affair as
speedily as may be."

"What is all this delay about?" muttered Norwood, angrily, as the
other joined him; "is there any difficulty in stepping twelve or twenty
paces?"

"None; but we've hit upon a b-better plan, and you've only to say that
you 're sorry for it all, that you did n't m-mean anything, and that you
never did b-b-beat a Frenchman, nor will you ever do so in future."

"Why, what do you mean?" asked Norwood, in astonishment.

"That we 'll all go back and lunch at the 'Luna;' for there's no-nothing
to fight about."

Norwood pushed by him contemptuously, and with hurried steps walked up
to where the old Colonel stood. "You are a French officer, sir," said
he, "and I rely upon your honor that, whether from the ignorance or
inaptitude of that gentleman, no blame may attach itself to me in this
business. I have no apology to offer, nor any amende save one."

"Very well, sir, we are ready," said the Colonel. "I will ask one of my
countrymen to act for you, for I see you are in very indifferent hands."

And now, like men who were well accustomed to the task, they set about
the details of the duel; while Purvis, being at full liberty, slipped
from the spot, and retired into the wood.

"You 've won the first fire, my Lord," said a young Frenchman to
Norwood. "The conditions are twelve paces--back to back--to torn at the
word, and fire."

Norwood bowed, and, without speaking, followed the other to the spot
where he was to stand. As he waited thus, pistol in hand, he was
directly opposite to the place wherein Purvis had taken refuge, and who,
seeing Norwood in front of him, with a cocked pistol, and his finger on
the trigger, uttered a scream of terror, and fell flat on the ground.
Before the rest could discover the cause of the outcry, a shout from
outside of "The Police!" "The Gendarmes!" was heard, and Dr. Grounsell
rushed into the garden, followed by several dismounted dragoons. In
an instant all were away. Norwood sprang over a low balcony into a
vineyard; while in various directions the others scampered off, leaving
Purvis alone upon the field.

But too happy to have fallen into the safe keeping of the authorities,
Purvis accepted his captivity with a most placid contentment.

"Where's Captain Onslow? Have you seen him, sir?" whispered Grounsell to
him.

"I have seen everybody, but I don't re-remember anything. It's all a
dr-dr-dream to me."

"There was no duel? They hadn't fought?" asked Grounsell.

"I--I--I think not; pro-pro-probably not," said Purvis, whose faculties
were still very cloudy.

Grounsell turned away from him in disdain, and entered the house. To
all his inquiries from the waiters of the inn the answers were vague and
insufficient, nor could the doctor discover either what had occurred,
or the reasons of the long delay on the ground. Meanwhile the
_Carabinieri_, stimulated by liberal promises of reward, were searching
the park in every quarter, and scouring the country around to arrest the
fugitives; and the peasantry, enlisted in the pursuit, hastened hither
and thither to aid them. Whether really unable to come up with them,
or, as is more probable, concurring in the escape through bribery, the
dragoons returned to the inn after about an hour's absence, without the
capture of a single prisoner.

Grounsell cursed their Italian indolence, and reviled every institution
of their lazy land. How he raved about foreign falsehood and rascality,
and wished for a London detective and a magistrate of Bow Street! Never
did Lord Palmerston so thirst to implant British institutions in a
foreign soil, as did he to teach these "macaroni rascals what a good
police meant." What honest indignation did he not vent upon English
residents abroad, who, for sake of a mild climate and lax morality,
could exchange their native country for the Continent; and at last,
fairly worn out with his denunciations, he sat down on a bench, tired
and exhausted.

"Will you t-t-tell them to let me go?" cried Purvis. "I've done
nothing. I never do anything. My name is Purvis,--Sc-Sc-Scroope
Purvis,--bro-brother to Mrs. Ricketts, of the Villino Zoe."

"Matters which have no possible interest for _me_, sir," growled out
Grounsell; "nor am I a corporal of gendarmes, to give orders for your
liberation."

"But they 'll take me to--to prison!" cried Purvis.

"With all my heart, sir, so that I be not your fellow captive," rejoined
the doctor, angrily, and left the spot; while the police, taking as many
precautions for securing Purvis as though he had been a murderer or a
house-breaker, assisted him into a calèche, and, seated one on either
side of him, with their carbines unslung, set out for Florence.

"They'll take me for Fr-Fr-Fra Diavolo, if I enter the city in this
fashion," cried Purvis; but certainly his rueful expression might have
belied the imputation.

Grounsell sat down upon a grassy bench beside the road, overcome with
fatigue and disappointment. From the hour of his arrival in Florence, he
had not enjoyed one moment of rest. On leaving Lady Hester's chamber he
had betaken himself to Sir Stafford's apartment; and there, till nigh
daybreak, he sat, breaking the sad tidings of ruin to his old friend,
and recounting the terrible story of disasters which were to crush him
into poverty. Thence he hastened to George Onslow's room; but he was
already gone. A few minutes before he had started with Norwood for
Pratolino, and all that remained for Grounsell was to inform the police
of the intended meeting, while he himself, wisely suspecting that
nothing could go forward in Florence unknown to Jekyl, repaired to that
gentleman's residence at once.

Without the ceremony of announcement, Grounsell mounted the stairs, and
opened the door of Jekyl's apartment, just as its owner had commenced
the preparations for his breakfast. There was an almost Spartan
simplicity in the arrangements, which might have made less composed
spirits somewhat abashed and ill at ease. The little wooden platter of
macaroni, the small coffee-pot of discolored hue and dinged proportions,
the bread of Ethiopian complexion, and the bunch of shrivelled grapes
offered a meal irreproachable on the score of either costliness or
epicurism. But Jekyl, far from feeling disconcerted at their exposure to
a stranger's eyes, seemed to behold them with sincere satisfaction, and
with a most courteous smile welcomed the doctor to Florence, and thanked
him for the very polite attention of so early a visit.

"I believe I ought to apologize for the unseasonable hour, sir,"
blundered out Grounsell, who was completely thrown off his balance by
this excessive urbanity; "but the cause must plead for me."

"Any cause which has conferred the honor on me is sure of being
satisfactory. Pray come nearer the table. You 'll find that macaroni
eat better than it looks. The old Duke de Montmartre always recommended
macaroni to be served on wood. His maxim was, 'Keep the "plat d'argent"
for a mayonnaise or a galantine.'"

"Excuse me if I cannot join you, sir. Nothing but a matter of extreme
importance could warrant my present intrusion. I only reached this city
a few hours back, and I find everything at the Mazzarini Palace in
a state of discord and confusion. Some are questions for time and
consideration; others are more immediately pressing. One of these is
this affair of George Onslow's. Who is he about to meet, and for what?"

"His antagonist is a very agreeable young man; quite a gentleman, I
assure you, attached to the French mission here, and related to the
'Morignys,' whom you must have met at 'Madame Parivaux's' formerly."

"Never heard of one of them, sir. But what's the quarrel?"

"It originated, I believe, in some form of disputation,--an
altercation," simpered Jekyl, as he sweetened and sipped his coffee.

"A play transaction,--a gambling affair, eh?"

"I fancy not; Count Guilmard does not play."

"So far, so good," said Grounsell. "Now, sir, how is it to be
arranged?--what settlement can be effected? I speak to you frankly,
perhaps bluntly, Mr. Jekyl, for my nature has few sympathies with
courteous ambiguities. Can this business be accommodated without a
meeting?"

Jekyl shook his head, and gave a soft, plaintive little sigh.

"Is friendly interference out of the question, sir?"

Another shake of the head, and a sigh.

"Is there any law in the country? Can the police do nothing?"

"The frontiers are always easily accessible," simpered Jekyl, as he
stole a look at his watch.

"Ay, to be sure," broke in Grounsell, indignantly; "the very geography
of the Continent assists this profligacy, and five paces over an
imaginary boundary gives immunity in a case of murder! Well, sir, come
along with me to the place of meeting. It is just possible that we may
be of some service even yet."

"Nothing could be more agreeable to me than the opportunity of
cultivating your acquaintance, Dr. Grounsell; but I have already
sent off a few lines to Lord Norwood, to apologize for my absence,--a
previous engagement."

"What! at this hour of the morning, sir!" burst out Grounsell.

"Even at this early hour, doctor, our cares commence," said Jekyl,
blandly.

"Upon this occasion they must give way to duties, then," said Grounsell,
sternly. "The word may sound strangely in your ears, sir, but I use it
advisedly you have been well received and hospitably entertained by
this family. They have shown you many marks of kindness and attention.
Now is the opportunity to make some sort of requital. Come, then, and
see if this young man cannot be rescued from peril."

"You touch my feelings in the very tenderest spot," said Jekyl, softly.
"When gratitude is mentioned, I am a child,--a mere child."

"Be a man, then, for once, sir; put on your hat and accompany me," cried
Grounsell.

"Would you have me break an appointment, doctor?"

"Ay, to be sure I would, sir,--at least, such an appointment as I
suspect yours to be. This may be a case of life or death."

"How very dreadful!" said Jekyl, settling his curls at the glass.
"Pascal compares men to thin glass phials, with an explosive powder
within them, and really one sees the force of the similitude every day;
but Jean Paul improves upon it by saying that we are all burning-glasses
of various degrees of density, so that our passions ignite at different
grades of heat."

"Mine are not very far from the focal distance at this moment," said
Grounsell, with savage energy; "so fetch your hat, sir, at once, or--"

"Unless I prefer a cap, you were going to add," interposed Jekyl, with a
sweet smile.

"We must use speed, sir, or we shall be too late," rejoined the doctor.

"I flatter myself few men understand a rapid toilet better," said Jekyl,
rising from the table; "so if you'll amuse yourself with 'Bell's Life,'
'Punch,' or Jules Janin, for five minutes, I 'm your man."

"I can be company for myself for that space, sir," said the other,
gruffly, and turned to the window; while Jekyl, disappearing behind the
drapery that filled the doorway, was heard humming an opera air from
within.

Grounsell was in no superlative mood of good temper with the world, nor
would he have extended to the section of it he best knew the well-known
eulogy on the "Bayards." "Swindlers," "Rakes," and "Vagabonds" were
about the mildest terms of the vocabulary he kept muttering to himself,
while a grumbling thunder-growl of malediction followed each. The very
aspect of the little chamber seemed to offer food for his anger; the
pretentious style of its decoration jarred and irritated him, and he
felt a wish to smash bronzes and brackets and statues into one common
ruin.

The very visiting-cards which lay scattered over a Sèvres dish offended
him; the names of all that were most distinguished in rank and station,
with here and there some little civility inscribed on the corner,
----"Thanks," "Come, if possible," or "Of course we expect
you,"--showing the social request in which Jekyl stood.

"Ay," muttered he to himself, "here is one that can neither give dinners
nor balls, get places nor pensions nor orders, lend money nor lose
it, and yet the world wants him, and cannot get on without him. The
indolence of profligacy seeks the aid of his stimulating activity, and
the palled appetite of sensualism has to borrow the relish from vice
that gives all its piquancy. Without him as the fly-wheel, the whole
machinery of mischief would stand still. His boast is, that, without a
sou, no millionnaire is richer than he, and that every boon of fortune
is at his beck. He might add, that in his comprehensive view of
wickedness he realizes within himself all the vice of this good capital.
I 'd send such a fellow to the treadmill; I 'd transport him for life;
I 'd sentence him to hunt kangaroos for the rest of his days; I'd--" He
stopped short in his violent tirade; for he suddenly bethought him how
he himself was at that very moment seeking aid and assistance at his
hands; and somewhat abashed by the recollection, he called out, "Mr.
Jekyl, are you ready yet?"

No answer was returned to this question, and Grounsell repeated it in a
louder voice. All was silent, and not even the dulcet sounds of the
air from "Lucia" broke the stillness; and now the doctor, losing all
patience, drew aside the curtain and looked in. The chamber was empty,
and Jekyl was gone! His little portmanteau, and his still
smaller carpet-bag, his hat-case, his canes--every article of his
_personnel_--were away; and while Grounsell stood cursing the "little
rascal," he himself was pleasantly seated opposite Lady Hester and Kate
in the travelling-carriage, and convulsing them with laughter at his
admirable imitation of the poor doctor.

Great as was Grounsel's anger at this trickery, it was still greater
when he discovered that he had been locked in. He quite forgot the
course of time passed in his meditations, and could not believe it
possible that there was sufficient interval to have effected all these
arrangements so speedily.

Too indignant to brook delay, he dashed his foot through the door, and
passed out The noise at once summoned the people of the house to the
spot, and, to Grounsell's surprise, the police officer amongst them,
who, in all the pomp of office, now barred the passage with a drawn
sword.

[Illustration: 032]

"What is it?--what's this?" cried he, in astonishment.

"Effraction by force in case of debt is punishable by the 127th
section of the 'Code,'" said a dirty little man, who, with the air of a
shoeblack, was still a leading member of the Florence "Bar."

"I owe nothing here,----not a farthing, sir; let me pass," cried
Grounsell.

"'Fathers for sons of nonage or over that period, domiciliated in the
same house,'" began the Advocate, reading out of a volune in his hand,
"'are also responsible.'"

"What balderdash, sir! I have no son; I never was married in my life;
and as for this Mr. Jekyl, if you mean to father him on me, I'll resist
to the last drop of my blood."

"'Denunciation and menace, with show of arms or without,'" began the
lawyer again, "'are punishable by fine and imprisonment.'"

Grounsell was now so worked up by fury that he attempted to force a
passage by main strength; but a general brandishing of knives by all
the family, from seven years of age upwards, warned him that the attempt
might be too serious, while a wild chorus of abusive language arose from
various sympathizers who poured in from the street to witness the scene.

A father who would not pay for his own son! an "assassin," who had no
bowels for his kindred; a "Birbante," a "Briccone," and a dozen similar
epithets, rattled on him like hail, till Grounsell, supposing that the
"bite" might be in proportion to the "bark," retreated into a small
chamber, and proposed terms of accommodation. Few men take pleasure
in acquitting their own debts, fewer still like to pay those of their
neighbors, and Grounsell set about the task in anything but a pleasant
manner. There was one redeeming feature, however, in the affair.
Jekyl's schedule could not have extracted a rebuke from the severest
Commissioner of Bankruptcy. His household charges were framed on the
most moderate scale of expenditure. A few crowns for his house-rent,
a few "Pauls" for his eatables, and a few "Grazie" for his washing,
comprised the whole charge of his establishment, and not even Hume would
have sought to cut down the "estimates." Doubtless more than one half of
the demands were unjust and extortionate, and many were perhaps already
acquitted; but as all the rogueries were but homoeopathic iniquities
after all, their doses might be endured with patience. His haste to
conclude the arrangements had, however, a very opposite tendency. The
more yielding he became, the greater grew their exactions, and several
times the treaty threatened to open hostilities again; and at last it
was full an hour after Jekyl's departure that Grounsell escaped from
durance, and was free to follow George Onslow to Pratolino.

With his adventures in the interval the reader is sufficiently
acquainted; and we now come back to that moment where, bewildered and
lost, he sat down upon the bench beside the high-road.



CHAPTER II. A SAD HOUSEHOLD

It was already past noon when Grounsell reached Florence. He was delayed
at the gate by the authorities examining a peasant's cart in front of
him,--a process which appeared to take a most unusual degree of care
and scrutiny,--and thus gave the doctor another occasion for inveighing
against the "stupid ignorance of foreigners, who throw every possible
impediment in the way of traffic and intercourse."

"What have they discovered now?" cried he, testily, as in a crowd of
vehicles, of all sorts and sizes, he was jammed up like a coal-vessel in
the river. "Is the peasant a revolutionary general in disguise? or has
he got Bibles or British cutlery under the straw of his baroccino?"

"No, Eccellenza." (Every one in a passion in Italy is styled Eccellenza,
as an "anodyne.") "It's a sick man, and they don't know what to do with
him."

"Is there a duty on ague or nervous fever?" asked he, angrily.

"They suspect he's dead, Eccellenza; and if so, there's no use in
bringing him into the city, to bring him out again by and by."

"And don't they know if a man be dead or alive?"

"Not when he's a foreigner, Illustrissimo; and such is the case here."

"Ah, very true!" said Grounsell, dryly, as if acquiescing in the truth
of the remark. "Let me have a look at him; perhaps I can assist their
judgment." And with this he descended, and made his way through the
crowd, who, in all the eagerness of curiosity, thronged around the cart
A peasant's great-coat was drawn over the figure and even the face
of the sick man, as he lay at full length on the mat flooring of the
baroccino; and on his chest some pious hand had deposited a rosary and a
wooden crucifix.

Grounsell hastily drew back the covering, and then clutching an arm of
those at either side of him, he uttered a faint cry, for the pale and
deathlike features before him were those of George Onslow. The instincts
of the doctor, however, soon rose above every other feeling, and his
hand seized the wrist and felt for the pulse. Its beatings were slow,
labored, and irregular, denoting the brain as the seat of injury.
Grounsell, therefore, proceeded to examine the head, which, covered with
clogged and matted blood, presented a terrific appearance; yet neither
there nor elsewhere was there any trace of injury by fire-arms. The
history of discovery was soon told. A shepherd had detected the body as
he passed the spot, and, hailing some peasants on their way to Florence,
advised their taking charge of it to the city, where they would be
surely recompensed. The natural suggestion of Grounsel's mind was that,
in making his escape from the gendarmes, Onslow had fallen over a cliff.
To convey him home, and get him to bed, if possible, before Sir Stafford
should hear of the misfortune, was his first care; and in this he
succeeded. It was the time when Sir Stafford usually slept; and
Grounsell was able to examine his patient, and satisfy himself that no
fatal injury was done, long before the old Baronet awoke.

"Sir Stafford wishes to see you, sir; he asked for you repeatedly
to-day," said Proctor.

"Has he heard--does he know anything of this?" said Grounsell, with a
gesture to the bed where George lay.

"Not a word, sir. He was very cheerful all the morning, but wondering
where you could have gone, and what Mister George was doing."

"Now for it, then," muttered Grounsell to himself, as, with clasped
hands and knitted brows, he walked along; his mind suffering the very
same anxieties as had oftentimes beset him on the eve of some painful
operation in his art.

"Well, Grounsell," said the old man, with a smile, as he entered, "is
it to give me a foretaste of my altered condition that you all desert me
to-day? You have never come near me, nor George either, so far as I can
learn."

"We've had a busy morning of it, Stafford," said the doctor, sitting
down on the bed, and laying his finger on the pulse. "You are
better--much better to-day. Your hand is like itself, and your eye is
free from fever."

"I feel it, Gronnsell,--I feel as if, with some twenty years less upon
my back, I could like to begin my tussle with the world, and try issue
with the best."

"You 're young enough, and active enough yet, for what is before you,
Stafford. Yesterday I told you of everything in colors perhaps gloomier
than reality. The papers of to-day are somewhat more cheery in their
tidings. The hurricane may pass over, and leave us still afloat; but
there is another trial for you, my old friend, and you must take heart
to bear it well and manfully."

Sir Stafford sat up in his bed, and, grasping Grounsell by either
shoulder, cried out, "Go on--tell it quickly."

"Be calm, Stafford; be yourself, my old friend," said Grounsell,
terrified at the degree of emotion he had called up. "Your own
courageous spirit will not desert you now."

"I know it," said the old man, as, relaxing his grasp, he fell back upon
the pillow, and then, turning on his face, he uttered a deep groan. "I
know your tidings now," cried he, in a burst of agony. "Oh, Grounsell,
what is all other disgrace compared to this?"

"I am speaking of George--of your son," interposed Gronnsell, hastily,
and seizing with avidity the opportunity to reveal all at once. "He left
this for Pratolino this morning to fight a duel, but by some mischance
has fallen over a cliff, and is severely injured."

"He's dead,--you would tell me he is dead!" said the old man, in a
faint, thrilling whisper.

"Far from it Alive, and like to live, but still sorely crushed and
wounded."

"Oh, God!" cried the old man, in a burst of emotion, "what worldliness
is in my heart when I am thankful for such tidings as this! When it is a
relief to me to know that my child--my only son--lies maimed and broken
on a sick-bed, instead of--instead of--" A gush of tears here broke in
upon his utterance, and he wept bitterly.

Grounsell knew too well the relief such paroxysms afford to interfere
with their course; while, to avoid any recurrence, even in thought,
to the cause, he hurriedly told all that he knew of George's intended
meeting with the Frenchman, and his own share in disturbing the
rendezvous.

Sir Stafford never spoke during this recital. The terrible shock seemed
to have left its stunning influence on his faculties, and he appeared
scarcely able to take in with clearness the details into which the other
entered.

"She's gone to Como, then," were the first words he uttered,----"to
this villa the Prince has lent her?"

"So I understand; and, from what Proctor says, the Russian is going to
marry the Dalton girl."

"Miss Dalton is along with Lady Hester?"

"To be sure; they travel together, and George was to have followed
them."

"Even scandal, Grounsell, can make nothing of this. What say you, man?"

"You may defy it on that score, Stafford. But let us talk of what is
more imminent,----of George."

"I must see him, Grounsell; I must see my poor boy," said he, rising,
and making an effort to get out of bed; but weakness and mental
excitement together overcame him, and he sank back again, fainting and
exhausted. To this a deep, heavy sleep succeeded, and Grounsell stole
away, relieved in mind by having acquitted himself of his painful task,
and free to address his thoughts to other cares.

"Lord Norwood wishes to see you, sir," said a servant to the doctor, as
he at last seated himself for a moment's rest in his chamber; and before
Grounsell could reply, the noble Viscount entered.

"Excuse this abrupt visit, sir; but I have just heard of poor Onslow's
accident Is there any danger in his condition?"

"Great and imminent danger, my Lord."

"By Jove!--sorry for it you don't happen to know how it occurred?"

"A fall, evidently, was the cause; but how incurred, I cannot even
guess."

"In the event of his coming about again, when might we expect to see him
all right,--speaking loosely, of course?"

"Should he recover, it will take a month, or, perhaps, two, before he
convalesces."

"The devil it will! These Frenchmen can't be made to understand the
thing at all; and as Guilmard received a gross personal outrage, he is
perfectly out of his mind at the delay in obtaining satisfaction. What
is to be done?"

"I am a poor adviser in such cases, my Lord; nor do I see that the
matter demands any attention from us whatever."

"Not from _you_, perhaps," said Norwood, insolently; "but I had the
misfortune to go out as his friend! My position is a most painful and
critical one."

"I should suppose that no one will understand how to deal with such
embarrassments better than your Lordship."

"Thanks for the good opinion; the speech I take to be a compliment,
however you meant it. I believe I am not altogether unskilled in such
affairs, and it is precisely because such is the case that I am here
now. Onslow, in other hands than mine, is a ruined man. The story, tell
it how you will, comes to this: that, having gone out to meet a man he
had grossly insulted, he wanders away from the rendezvous, and is found
some hours after at the foot of the cliff, insensible. He may have
fallen, he may have been waylaid,--though everything controverts this
notion; or, lastly, he may have done the act himself. There will be
advocates for each view of the case; but it is essential, for his honor
and reputation, that one story should be authenticated. Now, I am quite
ready to stand godfather to such a version, taking all the consequences,
however serious, on myself."

"This is very kind, very generous, indeed, my Lord," said Grounsell,
suddenly warming into an admiration of one he was always prejudiced
against.

"Oh, I'm a regular John Bull!" said the Viscount, at once assuming the
burden of that canticle, which helped him in all moments of hypocrisy.
"Always stand by the old stock,--nothing like them, sir. The Anglo-Saxon
blood will carry all before it yet; never suffer a rascally foreigner
to put his foot on one of your countrymen. Have him out, sir; parade the
fellow at once: that's my plan."

"I like your spirit!" cried Grounsell, enthusiastically.

"To be sure you do, old cock!" exclaimed Norwood, clapping him
familiarly on the shoulder. "Depend upon it, _I_ 'll pull George through
this. _I_ 'll manage the matter cleverly. There must be no mistake about
it; no room for doubt or equivocation, you know. All straightforward,
open, and manly: John Bull every inch of It That's _my_ notion, at
least,----I hope it's yours?"

"Perfectly,--thoroughly so!"

"Well, then, just hand that note to Sir Stafford." Here he placed a
sealed letter in Grounsell's hand. "Tell him what I've just told you.
Let him fairly understand the whole question, and let me have the
contents this evening at the _café_ in the Santa Trinita,--say about
nine o'clock; not later than that These fellows always gather about that
hour."

"I'll take care of it," said Grounsell.

"All right!" cried Norwood, gayly, as he arose and adjusted the curls
beneath his hat. "My compliments to the old gent, and tell George not to
make himself uneasy. He 's in safe hands. Good-bye."

"Good-bye, my Lord, good-bye," said Grounsell, who, as he looked
after him, felt, as it were, unconsciously recurring to all his former
prejudices and dislikes of the noble Viscount "Those fellows," muttered
he, "are as inexplicable to me as a new malady, of which I neither know
the stages nor the symptoms. The signs I take for those of health may
be precisely the indications of corruption; and what I deem unsound may
turn out to be exactly the opposite." And so be fell into a musing fit,
in which certainly his estimate of Lord Norwood continued steadily
to fall lower and lower the longer he thought of him. "He must be
a rogue!--he must be a scoundrel! Nature makes all its blackguards
plausible, just as poison-berries are always brilliant to look at They
are both intended to be the correctives of rash impressions, and I
was only a fool ever to be deceived by him. Out of this, at all
hazards,--that's the first thing!" muttered Grounsell to himself, as
he walked hastily up and down the room. "The place is like a plague
district, and we must not carry an infected rag away from it! Glorious
Italy, forsooth! There's more true enlightenment, there's a higher
purpose, and a nobler view of life in the humblest English village, than
in the proudest halls of their Eternal City!"

In such pleasant reflections on national character he entered Sir
Stafford's room, and found his friend seated at a table covered with
newly arrived letters; the seals were all unbroken, and the sick man was
turning them over, and gazing at the different handwritings with a sad
and listless apathy.

"I 'm glad you 've come, Grounsell. I have not courage for this," said
he, pointing to the mass of letters before him.

"Begging impostors, one half of them, I 'll be sworn!" said Grounsell,
seating himself to the work. "Was I not right? Here's a Cabinet Minister
suing for your vote on an Irish question, and entreating your speedy
return to England, 'where, he trusts, the object you are both interested
in may be satisfactorily arranged.' Evasive rascal! Could n't he say,
'you shall have the Peerage for your support'? Would n't it be more
frank and more intelligible to declare, 'We take you at your price'?
These," said he, throwing half a dozen contemptuously from him, "are
all from your constituents. The 'independent borough' contains seventy
electors; and if you owned the patronage of the two services, with a
fair share of the public offices and India, you could n't content them.
I 'd tell them fairly, 'I have bought you already; the article is paid
for and sent home. Let us hear no more about it!' This is more cheering.
Shoenhals, of Riga, stands firm, and the Rotterdam house will weather
the gale. That's good news, Onslow!" said he, grasping the old man's
hand. "This is from Calcutta. Prospects are brightening a little in that
quarter, too. Come, come,--there's some blue in the sky. Who knows what
good weather 's in store for us?"

Onslow's lip trembled, and he passed his hand over his eyes without
speaking.

"This is from Como," said Grounsell, half angrily, tossing away a highly
perfumed little three-cornered note.

"Give it to me,----let me see it," said Onslow, eagerly; while with
trembling fingers he adjusted his spectacles to read. Grounsell handed
him the epistle, and walked to the window.

"She's quite well," read Sir Stafford, aloud; "they had delightful
weather on the road, and found Como in full beauty on their arrival."
Grounsell grumbled some angry mutterings between his teeth, and shrugged
up his shoulders disdainfully. "She inquires most kindly after me, and
wishes me to join them there, for Kate Dalton's betrothal."

"Yet she never took the trouble to visit you when living under the same
roof!" cried Grounsell, indignantly.

The old man laid down the letter, and seemed to ponder for some moments.

"What's the amount?--how much is the sum?" asked Grounsell, bluntly.

"The amount!--the sum!----of what?" inquired Sir Stafford.

"I ask, what demand is she making, that it is prefaced thus?"

"By Heaven! if you were not a friend of more than fifty years' standing,
you should never address me as such again," cried Onslow, passionately.
"Has ill-nature so absorbed your faculties that you have not a good
thought or good feeling left you?"

"My stock of them decreases every day,----ay, every hour, Onslow," said
he, with a deeper emotion than he had yet displayed. "It is, indeed,
a sorry compromise, that if age is to make us wiser, it should make us
less amiable, also!"

"You are not angry with me?--not offended, Grounsell?" said Onslow,
grasping his hand in both his own.

"Not a bit of it But, as to temperament, _I_ can no more help _my_
distrust, than _you_ can conquer _your_ credulity, which is a happier
philosophy, after all."

"Then come, read that letter, Grounsell," said Onslow, smiling
pleasantly. "Put your prejudices aside for once, and be just, if not
generous."

Grounsell took the note, and walked to the window to read it. The
note was just what he expected,--a prettily turned inquiry after
her husband's health, interwoven with various little pleasantries of
travelling, incidents of the road, and so forth. The invitation was a
mere suggestion, and Grounsell was half angry at how little there was to
find fault with; for, even to the "Very sincerely yours, Hester Onslow,"
all was as commonplace as need be. Accidentally turning over the page,
however, he found a small slip of silver paper,--a bank check for five
hundred pounds, only wanting Onslow's signature. Grounsell crushed it
convulsively in his palm, and handed the note back to Onslow, without a
word.

"Well, are you convinced?--are you satisfied now?" asked Onslow,
triumphantly.

"I am perfectly so!" said Grounsell, with a deep sigh. "You must write,
and tell her that business requires your immediate presence in England,
and that George's condition will necessitate a return by sea. Caution
her that the Daltons should be consulted about this marriage, which, so
far as I know, they have not been; and I would advise, also, seeing that
there may be some interval before you can write again, that you should
send her a check,--say for five hundred pounds."

"So you _can_ be equitable,-Grounsell," cried the other, joyously.

"And here is a letter from Lord Norwood," said Grounsell, not heeding
the remark, and breaking the seal as he spoke. "Laconic, certainly.
'Let me have the enclosed by this evening.--N.' The enclosed are
five acceptances for two hundred each; the 'value received' being his
Lordship's services in upholding your son's honor. Now here, at least,
Onslow, I 'll have my own way." And, with these words, he seated himself
at a table and wrote:----

     My Lord,--Living in a land where assassination is cheap, and
     even men of small fortune can keep a Bravo, I beg to return
     your Lordship's bills, without submitting them to my friend
     for endorsement, your price being considerably above the
     tariff of the country, and more calculated to your own
     exigencies than the occasion which it was meant to
     remunerate.   I am, yours,

     Paul Grounsell.

"What have you said there, Grounsell? you look so self-satisfied, it can
scarcely be over-civil."

"There,----'To the Viscount Norwood'" said Grounsell, as he sealed and
addressed the note. "We are getting through our work rapidly. In a week,
or even less, if George's symptoms show nothing worse, we shall get
away from this; and even on the sea one feels half as though it were
England."

We need not follow Grounsell through the busy days which ensued, nor
track him in his various negotiations with tradespeople,
bankers, house-agents, and that legionary class which are called
"commissionaires." Enough if we say that, in arranging for the departure
of his friends, his impressions of Italian roguery received many an
additional confirmation; and that, when the last day of their sojourn
arrived, his firm conviction was that none but a millionnaire could
afford to live in this the very cheapest capital of Europe!

And now they are gone! steaming calmly away across the Gulf of Genoa.
They have closed the little episode of their life in Italy, and with
heavy hearts are turning homeward. The great Mazzarini Palace looks sad
and forlorn; nor do we mean to linger much longer on a scene whence the
actors have departed.



CHAPTER III. A LAST SCENE

One last glance at the Mazzarini Palace, and we leave it forever.

Seated in the drawing-room where Lady Hester once held sway, in the
very chair around which swarmed her devoted courtiers and admirers, Mrs.
Ricketts now reclined, pretty much on the same terms, and with probably
some of the same sentiments, as Louis Blanc or his friend Albert might
have experienced on finding themselves domesticated within the Palace of
the Luxembourg. They were, so to say, parallel circumstances. There
had been a great reverse of fortune, an abdication, and a flight. The
sycophants of the day before were the masters now, and none disputed
the pretensions of any bold enough to assume dictation. To be sure, Mrs.
Ricketts's rule, like Ledru Rollings, was but a provisional government;
for already the bills for an approaching sale of everything were
posted over the front of the palace, and Racca Morlache's people were
cataloguing every article with a searching accuracy, very tormenting to
the beholders.

From some confused impression that they were friends of Lady Hester, and
that Mrs. Ricketts's health was in a precarious condition, Sir Stafford
gave orders that they should not be molested in any way, but permitted
to prolong their stay to the latest period compatible with the
arrangement for sale. A sense of gratitude, too, mingled with these
feelings; for Mrs. Ricketts had never ceased to indite euphuistic
notes of inquiry after George himself,--send presents of impracticable
compounds of paste and preserves, together with bottles of mixtures,
lotions, embrocations, and liniments, one tithe of which would have
invalided a regiment Gronnsell, it is true, received these civilities in
a most unworthy spirit; called her "an old humbug," with a very unpolite
expletive annexed to it; and all but hurled the pharmacopoeia at the
head of the messenger. Still, he had other cares too pressing to suffer
his mind to dwell on such trifles; and when Onslow expressed a wish
that the family should not be disturbed in their occupancy, he merely
muttered, "Let them stay and be d-----d;" and thought no more of them.

Now, although the palace was, so to speak, dismantled, the servants
discharged, the horses sent to livery for sale, the mere residence was
convenient for Mrs. Ricketts. It afforded a favorable opportunity for a
general "doing up of the Villino Zoe,"--a moment for which all her late
ingenuity had not been able to provide. It opened a convenient occasion,
too, for supplying her own garden with a very choice collection of
flowers from the Mazzarini,--fuchsias, geraniums, and orchidae, being
far beyond all the inventoriai science of Morlache's men; and lastly, it
conferred the pleasing honor of dating all her despatches to her hundred
correspondents from the Palazzo Mazzarini, where, to oblige her dear
Lady Hester, she was still lingering,----"_Se sacrificando_" as she
delighted to express it, "_Jai doveri dell' amicizia_." To these cares
she had now vowed herself a martyr. The General believed in her sorrows;
Martha would have sworn to them; and not a whit the less sincerely that
she spent hours in secreting tulip roots and hyacinths, while a deeper
scheme was in perpetration,--no less than to substitute a copy of
a Gerard Dow for the original, and thus transmit the genius of the
Ricketts family to a late posterity. Poor Martha would have assisted in
a murder at her bidding, and not had a suspicion of its being a crime!

It was an evening "at home to her few most intimate friends," when
Mrs. Ricketts, using the privilege of an invalid, descended to the
drawing-room in a costume which united an ingenious compromise between
the habit of waking and sleeping. A short tunic, a kind of female
monkey-jacket, of faded yellow satin edged with swansdown, and a cap
of the same material, whose shape was borrowed from that worn by the
beef-eaters, formed the upper portion of a dress to which wide
fur boots, with gold tassels, and a great hanging pocket, like a
sabretasche, gave a false air of a military costume. "It was singular,"
she would remark, with a bland smile, "but very becoming!" Besides, it
suited every clime. She used to come down to breakfast in it at Windsor
Castle. "The Queen liked it;" the Bey of Tripoli loved it; and the
Hospodar of Wallachia had one made for himself exactly from the pattern.
Her guests were the same party we have already introduced to our reader
in the Villino Zoe,--Haggerstone, the Pole, and Foglass being the
privileged few admitted into her august presence, and who came to
make up her whist-table, and offer their respectful homage on her
convalescence.

The Carnival was just over, the dull season of Lent had begun, and the
Rickettses' tea-table was a resource when nothing else offered. Such was
the argument of Haggerstone as he took a cheap dinner with Foglass at
the Luna.

"She 's an infernal bore, sir,--that I know fully as well as you can
inform me; but please to tell me who is n't a bore." Then he added, in a
lower voice, "Certainly it ain't _you!_"

"Yes, yes,----I agree with you," said Foglass; "she has reason to be
sore about the Onslows' treatment."

"I said a bore, sir,--not sore," screamed out Haggerstone.

"Ha!" replied the other, not understanding the correction. "I remember
one day, when Townsend--"

"D----n Townsend!" said Haggerstone.

"No, not Dan,--Tom Townsend. That fellow who was always with Mathews."

"Walk a little quicker, and you may talk as much balderdash as you
please," said the other, buttoning up his coat, and resolving not to pay
the slightest attention to his companion's agreeability.

"Who is here?" asked Haggerstone, as he followed the servant up the
stairs.

"Nobody but Count Petrolaffsky, sir."

"Un Comte à bon compte," muttered Haggerstone to himself, always pleased
when he could be sarcastic, even in soliloquy. "They 'll find it no easy
matter to get a tenant for this house nowadays. Florence is going down,
sir, and will soon be little better than Boulogne-sur-Mer."

"Very pleasant, indeed, for a month in summer," responded Foglass, who
had only caught up the last word. "Do you think of going there?"

"Going there!" shouted out the other, in a voice that made misconception
impossible. "About as soon as I should take lodgings in Wapping for
country air!"

This speech brought them to the door of the drawing-room, into which
Haggerstone now entered, with that peculiar step which struck him as
combining the jaunty slide of a man of fashion with the martial tread of
an old soldier.

"Ha! my old adherents,----all my faithful ones!" sighed Mrs. Ricketts,
giving a hand to each to kiss; and then, in a voice of deep emotion,
she said, "Bless you both! May peace and happiness be beneath your
roof-trees! joy sit beside your hearth!"

Haggerstone reddened a little; for, however alive to the ludicrous in
his neighbors, he was marvellously sensitive as to having a part in the
piece himself.

"You are looking quite yourself again," said he, bluntly.

"The soul, indeed, is unchanged; the spirit--"

"What's become of Purvis?" broke in Haggerstone, who never gave any
quarter to these poetic flights.

"You 'll see him presently. He has been so much fatigued and exhausted
by this horrid police investigation, that he never gets up till late. I
've put him on a course of dandelion and aconite, too; the first effect
of which is always unpleasant."

Leaving Foglass in conclave with the hostess, Haggerstone now approached
the Count, who had for several times performed his toilet operation of
running his hands through his hair, in expectation of being addressed.

"How d'ye do,----any piquet lately?" asked the Colonel, half
cavalierly.

"As if I was tinking of piquet, wid my country in shains! How you can
aske me dat?"

"What did you do with Norwood t'other night?" resumed the other, in a
voice somewhat lower.

"Won four hundred and fifty,--but he no pay!"

"Nor ever will."

"What you say?--not pay me what I wins!"

"Not a sou of it."

"And dis you call English noblemans,--pair d'Angleterre!"

"Hush! Don't be carried away by your feelings. Some men Norwood won't
pay because he does n't know them. There are others he treats the same
way because he _does_ know them,--very equitable, eh?"

The observation seemed more intelligible to the Pole than polite, for he
bit his lip and was silent, while Haggerstone went on,----

"He 's gone, and that, at least, is a point gained; and now that these
Onslows have left this, and that cur Jekyl, we may expect a little
quietness, for a while, at least; but here comes Purvis." And that
worthy individual was led in on Martha's arm, a large green shade over
his eyes, and his face plentifully sprinkled with flour.

"What's the matter with you, man? you 're 'got up' like a ghost in a
melodrama."

"They 've taken all the cuti-cuti-cuti--"

"Call it skin, sir, and go on."

"Sk-skin off my face with a lin-liniment," cried he, "and I could
sc-scream out with pain whenever I speak!"

"Balm of marigolds, with the essential oil of crab-apple," said Martha.
"I made it myself."

"I wish to Hea-Heaven you had tr-tried it, too," whispered he.

"Brother Scroope, you are ungrateful," said Mrs. Ricketts, with the air
of a Judge, charging. "The vicissitudes of temperature, here, require
the use of astringents. The excessive heat of that police-court--"

"By the way, how has that affair ended?" asked Haggerstone.

"I'll tell you," screamed out Purvis, in a burst of eagerness. "They 've
fi-fi-fiued me a hundred and f-f-fifty scadi for being w-where I never
was, and fighting somebody I n-never saw."

"You got off cheaply, sir. I 've known' a man sentenced to the galleys
for less; and with a better character to boot," muttered he to himself.

"Lord Norwood and the rest said that I was a pr-pr-principal, and he
swore that he found me hiding in a cave."

"And did he so?"

"Yes; but it was only out of curi-curi-curi--"

"Curiosity, sir, like other luxuries, must be paid for; and, as you seem
a glutton, your appetite may be expensive to you."

"The mystery remains unsolved as to young Onslow, Colonel?" said Mrs.
Ricketts, half in question.

"I believe not, madam. The explanation is very simple. The gallant
guardsman, having heard of Guilmard's skill, preferred being reported
'missing' to 'killed,' having previously arranged with Norwood to take
his place. The price was, I fancy, a smart one,--some say five thousand,
some call it ten. Whatever the amount, it has not been paid, and Norwood
is furious."

"But the accident?"

"As for that, madam, nothing more natural than to crack your skull when
you lose your head." And Haggerstone drew himself up with the proud
consciousness of his own smartness.

"Then of course the poor young man is ruined?" observed Martha.

"I should say so, madam,--utterly ruined. He may figure on the committee
of a Polish ball, but any other society would of course reject him."
This was said to obtain a sneer at Petrolaffsky, without his being able
to guess why. "I believe I may say, without much fear of contradiction,
that these Onslows were all humbugs! The old banker's wealth, my
lady's refinement, the guardsman's spirit, were all in the same
category,--downright humbugs!"

"How he hates us,--how he detests the aristocracy!" said Mrs. Ricketts,
in a whisper to the Pole.

"And de Dalton----what of her?----is she millionnaire?" asked
Petrolaffsky.

"The father a small shopkeeper in Baden, sir; children's toys,
nut-crackers, and paper-knives being the staple of his riches. Foglass
can tell you all about it. He wants to hear about those Daltons,"
screamed he into the deaf man's ear.

"Poor as Job--has n't sixpence--lives 'three-pair back,' and dines for
a 'zwanziger.' Lame daughter makes something by cutting heads for canes
and umbrellas. He picks up a trifle about the hotels."

"Ach Gott! and I was so near be in loaf wid de sister!" muttered the
Pole.

"She is likely to d-d-do better, Count," cackled in Purvis. "She caught
her Tartar----ha, ha, ha!"

"Midchekoff doesn't mean marriage, sir, depend upon it," said
Haggerstone.

"Martha, leave the room, my dear," said Mrs. Ricketts, bridling. "He
could no more relish a pleasure without a vice than he could dine
without caviare."

"But they are be-be-betrothed," cried Purvis. "I saw a letter with an
account of the ceremony. Midchekoff fitted up a beautiful chapel at his
villa, and there was a Greek priest came sp-epecial from M-M-M-Moscow--"

"I thought you were going to say from the moon, sir; and it would be
almost as plausible," croaked Haggerstone.

"I saw the letter. It was n't shown to me, but I saw it; and it was that
woman from Breslau gave her away."

"What! old Madame Heidendorf? She has assisted at a great many similar
ceremonies before, sir."

"It was the Emperor sent her on purpose," cried Purvis, very angry at
the disparagement of his history.

"In this unbelieving age, sir, I must say that your fresh innocence
is charming; but permit me to tell you that I know old Caroline
Meersburg,--she was sister of the fellow that stole the Archduke
Michael's dress-sword at the Court ball given for his birthday. I
have known her five-and-thirty years. You must have met her, madam, at
Lubetskoy's, when he was minister at Naples, the year after the battle
of Marengo."

"I was wearing trousers with frills to them, and hunting butterflies at
that time," said Mrs. Ricketts, with a great effort at a smile.

"I have n't a doubt of it, madam." And then muttered to himself, "And if
childishness mean youth, she will enjoy a perpetual spring!"

"The ceremony," resumed Purvis, very eager to relate his story, "was
dr-droll enough; they cut off a----a----a lock of her hair and tied it
up with one of his."

"A good wig spoiled!" croaked Haggerstone.

"They then brought a b-b-b----"

"A baby, sir?"

"No, not a b-baby, a b-basin--a silver basin--and they poured water over
both their hands."

"A ceremony by no means in accordance with Russian prejudices," chimed
in Haggerstone. "They know far more of train-oil and bears' fat than of
brown Windsor!"

"Not the higher nobility, Colonel,--not the people of rank," objected
Mrs. Ricketts.

"There are none such, madam. I have lived in intimacy with them all,
from Alexander downwards. You may dress them how you please, but
the Cossack is in the blood. Raw beef and red breeches are more than
instincts with them; and, except the Poles, they are the dirtiest nation
of Europe."

"What you say of Polen?" asked Petrolaffsky.

"That if oil could smooth down the acrimony of politics, you ought to be
a happy people yet, sir."

"And we are a great people dis minet. Haven't we Urednfrskioctsch,
de best general in de world; and Krakouventkay, de greatest poet; and
Vladoritski, de most distinguish pianist?"

"Keep them, sir, with all their consonants; and Heaven give you luck
with them," said Haggerstone, turning away.

"On Tuesday--no, We-Wednesday next, they are to set out for St.
P-P-Petersburg. And when the Emperor's leave is gr-granted, then
Midchekoff is to follow; but not before."

"An de tyrant no grant de leave," said the Pole, gnashing his teeth and
grasping an imaginary dagger in his wrath. "More like he send her to
work in shains, wid my beautiful sisters and my faders."

"He'll have more important matters to think of soon, sir," said
Haggerstone, authoritatively. "Europe is on the eve of a great
convulsion. Some kings and kaisers will accept the Chiltern Hundreds
before the year's out."

"Shall we be safe, Colonel, here? Ought Martha and I--"

"Have no fears, madam; age commands respect, even from Huns and Croats.
And were it otherwise, madam, where would you fly to? France will have
her own troubles, England has the income-tax, and Germany will rake up
some old grievance of the Hohenstaufen, or the Emperor Conrad, and make
it a charge against Prince Metternich and the Diet! It's a very rascally
world altogether, and out of Tattersall's yard I never expect to hear of
honesty or good principles; and, _à propos_ to nothing, let us have some
piquet, Count."

The table was soon got ready, and the players had just seated
themselves, when the sound of carriage-wheels in the court attracted
their attention.

"What can it mean, Scroope? Are you quite certain that you said I
wouldn't receive to-night?"

"Yes; I told them what you b-bade me; that if the Archduke called----"

"There, you need n't repeat it," broke in Mrs. Ricketts, for certain
indications around Haggerstone's mouth showed the sense of ridicule that
was working within him.

"I suppose, madam, you feel somewhat like poor Pauline, when she said
that she was so beset with kings and kaisers she had never a moment left
for good society?"

"You must say positively, Scroope, that I admit no one this evening."

"The Signor Morlache wishes to see you, madam," said a servant. And
close behind him, as he spoke, followed that bland personage, bowing
gracefully to each as he entered.

"Sorry--most sorry--madam, to intrude upon your presence; but the Prince
Midchekoff desires to have a glance at the pictures and decorations
before he goes away from Florence."

"Will you mention to him that to-morrow, in the afternoon, about five
or----"

"He leaves this to-morrow morning, madam; and if you could--"

[Illustration: 056]

But before the Jew could finish his request the door was flung wide, and
the great Midchekoff entered, with his hands in his coat-pockets, and
his glass in one eye. He sauntered into the room with a most profound
unconsciousness that there were people in it. Not a glance did he even
bestow on the living figures of the scene, nor did a trait of his manner
evince any knowledge of their presence. Ranging his eyes over the
walls and the ceilings, he neither noticed the martial attitude of
Haggerstone, nor the graceful undulations by which Mrs. Ricketts was, as
it were, rehearsing a courtesy before him.

"Originals, but all poor things, Morlache," said the Prince. And really
the observation seemed as though uttered of the company rather than the
pictures.

"Mrs. Ricketts has been good enough, your Highness--" began the Jew.

"Give her a Napoleon," said he, listlessly, and turned away.

"My sister, Mrs. Ricketts--Mrs. M-M-Montague Ricketts," began Scroope,
whose habitual timidity gave way under the extremity of provocation.
And the Prince turned slowly round, and surveyed the speaker and the
imposing form that loomed behind him.

"Tell them that I don't mean to keep any establishment here, Morlache."
And with this he strolled on, and passed into another room, while, like
as in a tableau, the others stood speechless with rage and indignation.

"He took you for the housekeeper, ma'am," said Haggerstone, standing up
with his back to the fire----"and a housekeeper out of place!"

"Martha, where's the General? Where is he, I say?" cried Mrs. Ricketts,
furious with passion.

"He went to bed at nine," whispered Martha. "He thought, by rising early
to-morrow, to finish the attack on Utrecht before night."

"You are as great a fool as himself. Scroope, come here. You must follow
that Russian. You must tell him the gross rudeness--"

"I'll be ha-ha-hanged if I do. I 've had enough of rows, for one winter
at least. I 'll not get into another sc-scrape, if I can help it."

"I 'm sorry, madam, that I cannot offer you my services," said
Haggerstone, "but I never meddle in a quarrel which can be made a
subject of ridicule. Mr. Foglass, I 'm certain, has no such scruple."

"The Prince appears a very agreeable man," said the ex-Consul, who, not
having the slightest notion of what was passing, merely followed his
instincts of praising the person of high rank.

"De shains of my enslaved country is on my hands. I 'm tied like one
galérien!" said Petrolaffsky, in a voice guttural with emotion.

"Your pardon once more, madam," said Morlache, slipping into the
chamber, and noiselessly approaching Mrs. Ricketts's chair. "The Prince
will take everything,----pictures, plate, china, and books. I hope
to-morrow, at noon, will not inconvenience you to leave this--"

"To-morrow! Impossible, sir. Perfectly impossible."

"In that case, madam, we must make some arrangement as to rent. His
Highness leaves all to me, and I will endeavor to meet your wishes
in every respect. Shall we say two thousand francs a month for the
present?" Without waiting for any reply, he turned to the Pole, and
whispered, "He 'll take you back again. He wants a chasseur, to send to
St. Petersburg. Come over to me in the morning, about ten. Mr. Foglass,"
cried he, in a loud voice, "when you write to London, will you mention
that the varnish on the Prince's drosky doesn't stand the cold of
Russia, and that they must try some other plan with the barouche? Your
brother is an ingenious fellow, and he 'll hit upon something. Colonel
Haggerstone, the Prince did n't return your call. He says you will
guess the reason when he says that he was in Palermo in a certain year
you know of. I wish the honorable company good-night," said he, bowing
with a deference almost submissive, and backing out of the room as he
spoke.

And with him we also take our leave of them. They were like the chance
passengers we meet on the road of a journey, with whom we converse when
near, and forget when we separate from. Were we not more interested for
the actors than the scenes on which they "strut their hour," we might
yet linger a few moments on the spot so bound up with our memory of Kate
Dalton,----the terrace where she sat, the little orangery where she
loitered of a morning, the window where she read, and dreamed of that
bright future, so much nearer to her grasp than she knew of! There they
were all!--destined to feel new influences and know other footsteps, for
she had left them forever, and gone forth upon her "Path" in life.



CHAPTER IV. A PACKAGE OF LETTERS

It was a bright clear morning in May. A somewhat late spring had
retarded vegetation, and the blossoming fruit-trees now added their
gorgeous beauty to the warmer tints of coming summer. We are once more
in Baden; but how different is it from what we saw it last. The frozen
fountains now plash, and hiss, and sparkle in the sun. The trim alleys
are flanked by the yellow crocus and the daffodil; the spray-like
foliage of the ash is flecking the sunlight on the merry river, along
whose banks the cheering sound of pleasant voices mingles with the
carol of a thousand birds. The windows are open, and gay balconies are
spreading, and orange-trees unfolding their sweetness to the breezy
air. All is life and motion and joy, for the winter is past, and nothing
remains of it save the snow-peaks on some distant mountains, and even
they are glowing in brilliant contrast with the deep blue sky beyond
them.

Lovely as the valley is in summer or autumn, it is only in spring
its perfect beauty appears. The sudden burst of vegetation--the rapid
transition from the frost-bound durance of winter to the life and
lightness of the young season, have a most exciting and exhilarating
effect. This seemed conspicuous enough in the inhabitants as they
chatted merrily in the streets, or met each other with pleasant
greetings. It was the hour of the post arriving, and around the
little window of the office were gathered the chief celebrities of the
village,--the principal hotel-keepers, curious to learn what tidings
their correspondents gave of the prospects of the coming summer.
Everything appeared to smile on that happy moment, for as the various
letters were opened, each had some good news to tell his neighbors,--now
of some great English Lord, now of some Hungarian magnate or Russian
Prince that was to make Baden his residence for the summer. "The Cour de
Bade is all taken," said one; "There will not be a room free in all
the Adler;" "The Swan must refuse the Queen of Naples,"--such were the
rumors that fell from lip to lip as in hearty congratulation they talked
over their good fortune.

One figure only of the assembled group seemed excepted from the general
Joy. He was a large elderly man, who, in a patched and threadbare
surtout, with a coarse scarlet muffler round his throat, appeared either
distrustful of the mild season or unprovided with any change of costume
to enjoy it. Seated on a stone bench in front of the window of the
post-office, with an arm on each knee, and his head bent heavily
forward, he never seemed to notice what went forward, nor hear one
syllable of the joyous recognitions about him.

The crowd at last dispersed, the happy recipients of good news were
turning homewards, and only one or two still lingered around the spot,
when the old man arose and approached the window. There was something
almost of shame in the way he slouched his hat over his eyes as he drew
nigh and knocked timidly at the closed pane.

His summons was unheard, and yet for some time he did not repeat
it,--perhaps he loved better to feed his hope even these short few
moments than again fall back into the dark gloom of his despair! At
last, and with a deep, hollow sigh, he tapped again.

"Have you anything for the name of Dalton,--Peter Dalton?" asked he,
in a voice wherein scarcely an accent revealed the once high-hearted
nature.

"Nothing," was the curt rejoinder. And the window was slammed to with
impatience.

He grasped the iron railing with a convulsive grip, as though a sudden
pang had shot through him, and then, by a great effort, he drew himself
up to his full height; his pale and haggard face grew paler as he
turned it upwards, and his bloodless lips trembled as they muttered some
indistinct syllables; then turning about, he brushed abruptly past the
few who stood around, and walked away.

He had not gone many paces when a boy overtook him, saying, "Come back,
sir; the postmaster has two letters for you."

Dalton looked stealthily at either side, to be sure that the speech was
addressed to him, and, with a fierceness that startled the boy, said,
"You're certain they're for me?"

"Yes, yes; all right,--here they are," cried the postmaster from the
window. "One, a soldier's letter from Munich, and free. The other is a
heavier packet, and costs four florins and twelve kreutzers."

"I must be satisfied with this one, then," said Dalton, "till I go back
for money. I brought no change out with me."

"No matter: you can send it," said the other.

"Maybe it's not so easy as you think," muttered Dalton to himself; while
he added, aloud, "Very well, I'll do so, and thank you." And he clutched
the two letters, and pressed them to his bosom.

With hurried steps he now paced homewards, but, stopping at every
instant, he drew forth the packets to gaze at them, and be certain that
no self-deception was over him, and that his possession was real and
tangible. His gait grew more firm, as he went, and his tread, as he
mounted the stairs, sounded assured and steady.

"You have a letter, father dearest," cried Nelly, as she flung wide the
door. "I saw you crossing the Platz, and I know, from your walk, that
you've got one."

"No, but better, Nelly--I 've two. That's from Frank; and here's Kate's,
and a bulky one--four florins twelve--devil a less."

"Oh, give it to me! Let me hear of her----let me feel beside her once
again!" cried Nelly. And with bursting eagerness she tore open the
envelope, from which two or three sealed notes fell out. "This is from
Lady 'Hester," said she; "and this a hand I do not know, but addressed
to you; and here are bills or money-orders for a large sum. What can all
this mean?"

"Can't you read what she says?" said Dalton, reddening, and suddenly
remembering that Nelly was not aware of his having written to Kate.
"Give it to me; I 'll read it myself." And he snatched the letter from
her fingers. "There's Frank's for you."

"Oh, father, father!" cried Nelly, in a burst of grief, as she tore
open Lady Hester's letter; "it is as I feared. Kate is about to be
married--if she be not already married."

"Without my leave--without asking my consent!" cried Dalton,
passionately. "Am I nobody at all? Am I the head of the family, or am
I not? Is this the way to treat her father? May I never see light, if
I won't have him 'out,' if he was a Prince of the Blood! Oh, the
ungrateful girl! Leave off crying there, and tell me all about it. Read
me her own letter, I say----if God will give me patience to listen to
it."

With a bosom almost bursting, and a lip quivering with emotion, Ellen
began,--

     "La Rocca, Lake of Como.

     Dearest Father and Sister,--Oh that I could throw myself at
     your feet, and poor out all that my heart is full of----
     tell you what I feel and hope and fear, and ask your counsel
     and your blessing. I know not if the last few days be real;
     my poor head is turning amid the scenes I 've passed through
     and the emotions I have felt. I had no friend but Lady
     Hester--no adviser but she! She has been a mother to me--not
     as you would have been, Nelly--not to warn and restrain,
     when perhaps both were needed, but to encourage and feed my
     hopes.   I yielded to her counsels--"

"I don't understand one word of this," cried Dalton, impatiently. "What
did she do?"

Nelly's eyes ran rapidly over the lines without speaking; and then, in a
low but distinct voice, she said,---

"It is as I said; she is betrothed to this great Russian Prince."

"That fellow, they say, owns half Moscow. Fogles told us about him."

"Prince Midchekoff."

"That's the name. Well, it's a fine match,--there's no denying it.
How did it come about? and why didn't he come here and ask my consent?
What's the meaning of doing it all in this hurry?"

"The marriage can only take place in St. Petersburg, and in presence of
the Emperor; and she is merely betrothed, at present, to enable her to
accompany the lady, Madame de Heidendorf, to Russia, where the Prince
will follow in a few weeks."

"That bangs Banagher! Why could n't they get a priest where they are? Be
gorra! they 've scruples about everything but _me!_ _I_ 'm the only one
that's not considered! What the devil is the Emperor to her,--sure _he_
is n't her father? Well, well, go on."

"She would seem to have yielded to persuasion," said Nelly, feelingly.
"The Prince, with all his greatness, appears not to have won her heart.
See how she dwells upon his immense wealth and the splendor of his
position."

"Let us hear about that," cried Dalton, eagerly.

     "My heart is nigh to bursting when I think of you and
     dearest Nelly living with me, in all the enjoyment that
     riches can bestow, nothing denied you that you can fancy,
     and free to indulge every taste and every wish. To know that
     I can at last repay, in some sort, all your affection--that
     poor worthless Kate can minister to your pleasure and your
     comfort--would make me dare a rasher destiny than this. And
     he is so generous, Nelly. The whole of yesterday is like a
     page from the 'Arabian Nights,' as I sat surrounded with
     gorgeous articles of gold and gems--diamonds such as a queen
     might wear, and rubies larger than the glass-drops I used to
     deck my hair with long ago! And yet they tell me I have seen
     nothing as yet, and that the treasures of Vladovitch Palace
     I hear of at every moment are greater than most royal
     houses. Lady Hester is kinder than ever, and the Heidendorf
     also; but she is cold and reserved--too stately for my
     taste--and I cannot overcome my awe of her. Is not this like
     a confession of my unfitness for the station I am to
     occupy?--are not these signs of inferiority? How little Hans
     would stare at the objects of taste and art by which I am
     surrounded and of which I never tire in admiring!

     "There have been great changes in this family since I wrote,
     and some mysterious circumstance is now hanging over them;
     but Lady Hester has not told me anything, nor do I care to
     repeat rumors which reach me through others. I only know
     that Sir Stafford is about to proceed to England as soon as
     Captain Onslow's health will permit; he, poor fellow, met
     with an accident on the day we left Florence, and my maid,
     who sat in the rumble, saw the mishap without knowing or
     suspecting the victim! I have done everything to obtain
     leave to visit you before I set out, or even to see you on
     my way; but Madame de Heidendorf is absolute, and she has
     so much important business in hand--such deep political
     affairs to transact at Vienna and Dresden--that I find it is
     impossible.

     "The Prince has promised to write at once about Frank. He
     says it will be better to obtain his promotion in the
     Austrian service before he enters the Russian, and that this
     shall take place immediately. I could see that on this point
     he was acutely alive to the fact of our humble position;
     but he knows from Lady Hester all about our family, and that
     the Daltons acknowledge nothing superior to them in birth.
     This, however, is always a difficulty to a foreigner; they
     have no idea of untitled nobility; and I saw his chagrin
     the other day when I told him to address papa as plain
     Monsieur. Since yesterday morning I am called Princess; and
     I cannot conceal from you the throb of delight the sound
     still gives me! I often stop to ask myself if this be all a
     dream, and shall I wake beside the fire and see dearest
     Nelly bending over some little group, and Hans with
     wondering eyes staring over her shoulders.

     "The Prince only intends to spend one winter in Russia.
     Madame de Heidendorf says that he will be named Ambassador
     at Paris; but I hope and trust not: I feel too acutely my
     inferiority for such a position. This she laughs at, and
     merely says, 'Nous verrons.' Of course, wherever I am, you
     will both be with me; meanwhile, what would you wish to do?
     I told Monsieur Rubion, the Prince's secretary, that I
     wanted money, and he gave me these bills, so he called them,
     on Baden and Carlsruhe, as easily negotiable in that
     neighborhood; pray, say if they be serviceable. The Prince
     intends to visit you at Baden; and I suppose you will like
     to see him. His manners are perfect, and except a degree of
     constraint in first acquaintance, he is generally thought
     very agreeable. Such preparations as they are making for my
     journey, you 'd fancy I was a queen at the very least All my
     _trousseau_ is to come from Paris direct; and up to this I
     have merely what Madame de H. calls the strictly
     'indispensable;' which, shall I own? contrives to fill two
     large fourgons and a heavy travelling-carriage. Nina is in a
     perfect ecstasy at everything, and is eternally 'draping' me
     in Brussels lace and Chantilly; so that, even while I
     write, these flimsy tissues are floating around me; while
     caskets of jewels and precious gems dazzle my eyes wherever
     I turn them.

     "The whole is like a gorgeous vision; would that it might
     remain ever thus, for I almost tremble to take a step
     further. Are these unworthy fears?   I hope they are."

Nelly paused, and laid down the letter on her knee. "Well, may I never
see grace, if that letter isn't enough to confuse a bench of bishops!"
cried Dalton. "She's marrying the first man in Europe,--be the other who
he will,--and she has as many crotchets and misgivings about it as if it
was little Hans, there, below! And he a Prince! a real Prince!--devil a
doubt of it--that scatters the money about like chaff! Here's an order
at sight for nine hundred gulden; and here's a bill at ten days--a nice
date--for fourteen hundred and eighty-six Prussian dollars; and this
is nearly as much more. Kate, my beauty, I knew you 'd do it! I never
looked at you in your old clogs and the worsted cloak that I did n't
think of the day I 'd see you in satin and velvet! Faix, it's the best
bottle of claret in the Adler I 'll drink your health in this day!
Nelly, who will we ask in to dinner?"

"Don't you think, papa, it were better we should not speak of this--"

"Why, better? Are we ashamed of it?"

"I mean, more prudent as regards ourselves, and more respectful to the
Prince."

"Respectful--to my son-in-law!--that's 'more of it.' Upon my conscience,
I'll have to go to school again in my old days. I know nothing of life
at all, at all! Respect, indeed!"

"I would but suggest, papa, that for Kate's sake--"

"There--there----don't provoke me. I never set my heart on a thing
yet--big or little--that I was n't met with a caution about this, or
a warning about that, till at last I got so tutored and corrected and
trained that, as Billy Morris used to say at whist, 'I dread a good hand
more than a bad one.'"

"Far be it from me, dearest father," said Nelly, smiling, "to throw a
shadow over a bright moment. If it will give you pleasure--"

"Sure I said it would,--sure I told you 't is what I 'd like. A fine
dinner at the 'Schwan;' four gulden a head, without wine; a dozen of
champagne in ice, hock for them that can drink it, and port and Lafitte
for Peter Dalton and men of his own sentiments. There's the programme,
Nelly, and you'll see if I can't fill up the details."

"Well, but we have yet much to do; here are several letters,--here is
Frank's. Let us learn how the dear fellow fares."

Dalton sat down without speaking; there was, indeed, more of resignation
than curiosity in his features, as he crossed his arms and listened.

     "Dearest Nelly,----I only heard a few days ago that my last
     two letters had been stopped; they were not, as they should
     have been, submitted to my captain to read, and hence they
     were arrested and suppressed. This goes by a private hand--a
     friend of mine--a pedler from Donaueschingen--"

"A what?--a pedler is it?" broke in Dalton, angrily.

"Yes, papa; remember that poor Frank is still in the ranks."

"Well, God give me patience with you all!" burst out the old man, in
a torrent of passion. "Does he know that he's a Dalton?--does he feel
blood in his veins? Why the blazes must he seek out a thieving blaguard
with a pack full of damaged cambric to make a friend of? Is this the way
the family's getting up in the world?"

     "Adolf Brawer, by name," read on Nelly, in a low and subdued
     voice. "You will be surprised when I tell you that I owe all
     his kindness and good-nature to you,--yes, to your own dear
     self. On his way through the Tyrol he had bought two wooden
     statuettes,--one a young soldier asleep beside a well; the
     other a girl leaning from a window to hear the bugles of a
     departing regiment Can you guess whose they were? And when
     he came to know that I was the brother of the little N. D.
     that was sculptured, half hid in a corner, and that I was
     the original of the tired, wayworn recruit on the roadside,
     I thought he would have cried with enthusiasm."

"Didn't I often say it?" broke in Dalton, as, wringing his hands in
despair, he paced the room with hasty strides. "Did n't I warn you a
thousand times about them blasted images, and tell you that, sooner or
later, it would get about who made them? Didn't I caution you about the
disgrace you 'd bring on us? The fear of this was over me this many a
day. I had it like a dream on my mind, and I used to say to myself, 'It
will all come out yet.'" #

Nelly covered her face with her apron as these bitter words were spoken;
but not a syllable, nor a sigh, did she reply to them; still, the frail
garment shook with an emotion that showed how intensely she suffered.

"A Virgin sold here, an Angel Gabriel there; now it was Hamlet; another
time Gotz with the iron hand. All the balderdash that ever came into
your head scattered over the world to bring shame on us! And then to
think of Kate!"

"Yes, dearest father, do think of her," cried Nelly, passionately. "She
is, indeed, an honor and a credit to you."

"And so might you have been, too, Nelly," rejoined he, half sorry for
his burst of anger. "I 'm sure I never made any difference between you.
I treated you all alike, God knows." And truly, if an indiscriminating
selfishness could plead for him, the apology was admirable.

"Yes, papa, but Nature was less generous," said Nelly, smiling through
her tears; and she again turned to the letter before her. As if fearful
to revive the unhappy discussion, she passed rapidly over Frank's
account of his friend's ecstasy; nor did she read aloud till she came to
the boy's narrative of his own fortunes.

     "You ask me about Count Stephen, and the answer is a short
     one. I have seen him only once. Our battalion, which was
     stationed at Laybach, only arrived in Vienna about three
     weeks ago, but feeling it a duty to wait on our relative, I
     obtained leave one evening to go and pay my respects. Adolf,
     who knew of my connection with the Field-Marshal, had lent
     me two hundred florins; and this, too, I was anxious to pay
     off,--another reason for this visit.

     "Well, I dressed myself in my best cadet cloth, and silk
     sword-knot,

     Nelly,--none of your 'commissaire' toggery, but all fine and
     smart-looking, as a gentleman-cadet ought to be,--and then
     calling a fiacre, I ordered the man to drive to the
     'Koertnor Thor,' to the Field-Marshal von Auersberg*s
     quarters. I 'm not sure if I did n*t say to my uncle's. Away
     we went gayly, and soon drew up in an old-fashioned
     courtyard, from which a great stair led up four stories
     high, at the top of which the 'Feld'--so they called him--
     resided. This was somewhat of a come-down to my high-flown
     expectations, but nothing to what I felt as the door was
     opened by an old Jager with one leg, instead of, as I looked
     for, a lackey in a grand livery.

     "'What is 't cadet?' said he, in a tone of the coolest
     familiarity.

     "'The Field-Marshal von Auersberg lives here?' said I.

     "He nodded.

     "'I wish to see him.'

     "He shook his head gravely, and scanning me from head to
     foot, said, 'Not at this hour, cadet,----not at this hour.'

     "'Let him see this card,' said I, giving one with my name.
     'I 'm certain he 'll receive me.'

     "I believe if I had presented a pistol at him, the old
     fellow would have been less startled, as he exclaimed, 'A
     cadet with a visiting-card! This would serve you little with
     the Feld, younker,' cried he, handing it back to me; 'he
     likes to see a soldier a soldier.'

     "'Tell him my name, then,' said I, angrily; 'say that his
     grand-nephew, Frank Dalton, has been standing at his door in
     full parley with a servant for ten minutes.'

     "The announcement created little of the astonishment I
     calculated on, and the old soldier merely replied, 'All
     under field-officer's rank come before eight of a morning.
     you cannot expect to have the privilege of an archduke.' He
     was about to close the door in my face as he spoke, but I
     placed my shoulder against it and forced it back, thus
     securing an entrance within the forbidden precincts.

     "'Right about, quick march!' cried he, pointing to the
     door, while his whole frame trembled with passion.

     "'Not till you have delivered my message,' said I, calmly.

     "'Then Bey'm Blitzen I will deliver it, and see how you 'll
     like it,' cried he, as he stumped away down a passage and
     entered a room at the end of it. I could soon hear the sound
     of voices, and for the moment I was almost determined to
     beat a retreat, when suddenly the old Jager came out and
     beckoned me forward. There was a grin of most diabolical
     delight on the old fellow's features as I passed into the
     room and closed the door behind me.

     "As well as I could see in the imperfect light, for it was
     after sunset, the apartment was large and low-ceilinged,
     with bookshelves round the walls, and stands for weapons and
     military equipments here and there through it. At the stove,
     and busily engaged in watching a coffee-pot, sat the Feld
     himself, a loose gray overcoat covering his figure, and
     concealing all of him but two immense jackboots that peeped
     out beneath. He wore a Mütze, a kind of Hungarian cap, and a
     long pipe depended from his mouth, the bowl resting on the
     carpet. The most conspicuous feature of all was, however,
     his enormous moustache, which, white as snow, touched his
     collar-bone at either side.

     "He never spoke a word as I entered, but stared at me
     steadfastly and sternly for full three or four minutes. Half
     abashed by this scrutiny, and indignant besides at the
     reception, I was about to--

[Illustration: 071]

     "'Franz Carl Infantry, third battalion,' said I, instantly
     saluting with my hand.

     "'Your name?'

     "'Frank Dalton.'

     "'Your business?'

     "'To visit my grand-uncle, the Field-Marshal von Auersberg.'

     "'And is it thus, younker,' cried he, rising, and drawing
     himself up to his full height, 'that you dare to present
     yourself before a

     Feldzeugmeister of the Imperial Army?   Have they not
     taught you even the commonest rules of discipline?   Have
     they left you in the native barbarism of your own savage
     country, that you dare, against my orders, present yourself
     before me?'     "'I thought the claim of kindred--' began
     I.

     "'What know I of kindred, sirrah? What have kith and kin
     availed _me?_ I have stood alone in the world. It was not to
     kindred I owed my life on the field of Rosbach; nor was it
     a relative stanched my bleeding wounds at Wagram!'

     "'The name of Dalton--'

     "'I have won a prouder one, sir, and would not be reminded
     by you from what I 've started.   Where 's your character-
     certificate?'

     "'I have not brought it with me, Herr General.    I scarcely
     thought it would be the first question my father's uncle would
     put to me.'

     '"There was prudence in the omission, too, sir,' said he,
     not heeding my remark. 'But I have it here.' And he drew
     from a portfolio on the table a small slip of paper, and
     read: '"Cadet Dalton, second company of the third
     battalion, Franz Carl Regiment.----Smart on service, and
     quick in discipline, but forward and petulant with those
     above him in rank. Disposed to pride himself on birth and
     fortune, and not sufficiently submissive to orders. Twice in
     arrest, once, Kurzgeschlossen." A creditable character, sir!
     Twice in arrest and once in irons! And with this you claim
     kindred with a count of the empire, and an imperial field-
     marshal! On the fifth of last month you entertained a party
     at dinner at the Wilde Man,--most of them men of high rank
     and large fortune. On the eighteenth you drove through Maria
     Tell with a team of four horses, and passed the drawbridge
     and the moat in full gallop. So late as Wednesday last you
     hoisted a green flag on the steeple of the village church,
     on pretence of honoring your father's birthday. I know each
     incident of your career, sir, and have watched you with
     shame and regret. Tell your father, when you write to him,
     that all the favor of my august master would not endure the
     test of two such protégés.   And now, back to your
     quarters.'

     "He motioned me to retire with a gesture, and I fell back,
     almost glad at any cost to escape. I had just reached the
     stair, when the Jager called me back to his presence.

     "'Art an only son?' asked the Count, for the first time
     addressing me in the second person.

     "I bowed.

     "'And hast three sisters?'

     "'Two, Herr General.'

     "'Older or younger than thyself?'

     '"Both older, sir.'

     '"How have they been brought up? Have they learned thrift
     and housecraft, or are they wasteful and reckless, as their
     native country and their name would bespeak them?'

     "'Our humble fortune is the best answer to that question,
     sir.'

     '"It is not, sirrah!' cried he, angrily. 'The spendthrift
     habit survives every remnant of the state that gave it
     birth, and the beggar can be as improvident as the prince.
     Go; thou hast as much to learn of the world as of thy duty.
     Head erect, sir; shoulders back; the right thumb more
     forwards. If the rest of the battalion be like thee, I'll
     give them some work on the Prater ere long.'

     "A haughty wave of his hand now finished our interview, and,
     once outside the door, I descended the stairs, a whole
     flight at every bound, in terror lest anything should induce
     him to recall me.

     "And this is Uncle Stephen, Nelly,--this the great protector
     we used to build our hopes upon, and flatter ourselves would
     be a second father to us!

     "When I came out into the street, I knew not which way to
     turn. I dreaded the very sight of a comrade, lest he should
     ask me about our meeting, what pocket-money he had given me,
     and how soon I should be an officer. It was only when I saw
     Adolf coming towards me that I remembered all about my debt
     to him, of which I had not spoken one word to my uncle. I
     ought to have told him so, frankly. Yes, Nelly, I can hear
     the murmured displeasure with which you read my confession,
     'that I could n't do it.' I was unequal to the effort, and
     could not bring myself to destroy that whole fabric of
     fictitious interest in which I had wrapped myself. What
     would Adolf have thought of me when I said, I have neither
     wealth nor station nor prospect,--as humble a soldier as the
     sentry you see yonder? What would become of that romance of
     life in which we have so often spent hours revelling in a
     brilliant future, every incident of which grew up in our
     united fancies, and seemed to assume reality as we discussed
     it? Where----oh, Nelly! to you I must reveal all----every
     weakness, every littleness of my nature--where would be the
     homage of respect the poor Bursche was wont to show the
     nephew of a field-marshal? No, it was above my strength;
     and so I took his arm, and talked away heedlessly about our
     meeting, avoiding, where I could, all mention of my uncle,
     and but jocularly affecting to think him an original, whose
     strange, old-fashioned manners almost concealed the strong
     traits of family affection.

     "'What of thy promotion, Frank?' asked Adolf.

     "'It will come in its own good time/ said I, carelessly.
     'Nothing causes more dissatisfaction than the rapid
     advancement of cadets of noble family.'

     "'But they could make thee a corporal, at least?'

     "I laughed scornfully at the remark, and merely said, 'They
     may skip over the whole sous-officier grade, and only
     remember me when I'm to be made a lieutenant/

     "'Thou hast grown haughtier, Frank,' said he, half
     reproachfully, 'since thy meeting with the "Feld." Mayhap in
     a day or two thou wilt not like to be seen in company with a
     "Wander-Bursche"?'

     "I was bursting to throw my arms round his neck, and say,
     'Never, whatever fortune have in store for me; thy
     friendship is like a brother's, and can never be forgotten;
     'but Pride--yes, Nelly, the cursed pride against which you
     used to warn me--sealed my lips; and when I spoke, it was
     something so cold, so meaningless, and so unworthy that he
     left me. I know not how! No sooner was I alone, Nelly, than
     I burst into tears. I cried for very shame; and if agony
     could expiate my fault, mine should have done so.    What
     humiliation before my friend could equal that I now felt
     before my own heart! I thought of all your teachings,
     dearest Nelly; of the lessons you gave me over and over
     against this besetting sin of my nature! I thought of our
     home, where poor Hanserl was treated by us as a friend! I
     thought of our last parting, and the words you spoke to me
     in warning against this very pride, ignoble and mean as it
     is; and, oh! what would I have given to have thrown myself
     into Adolfs arms, and told him everything! I have never seen
     him since; he wrote to me a few lines, saying that he
     should pass through Baden on his way to Frankfort, and
     offering to carry a letter for me; but not once did he
     allude to my debt, nor was there the slightest hint of its
     existence. On this I wrote an acknowledgment of the loan,
     and a pressing entreaty that he would come and see me; but
     he pretended one thing and another, affected engagements at
     the only hours I was free, and at last abruptly sent for my
     letter just when I was writing it. I had much more to tell
     you, Nelly, of myself, of the service, and of my daily life
     here; but my thoughts are now disturbed and scattered; and
     I feel, too, how your shame for my short-coming will take
     away interest from what I say. You, Nelly, will have courage
     to be just: tell him all that I have been weak enough to
     conceal; let him know what suffering my unworthy shame has
     cost me; and, above all, that I am not ungrateful.

     "It seems like a dream all that you tell me of Kate. Is she
     still in Italy, and where? Would she write to me? I am
     ashamed to ask the question of herself. They spoke of our
     brigade being sent to Lombardy; but even there I might be
     far away from her; and if near, in the very same city, our
     stations would separate us still more widely. Oh, Nelly! is
     it worth all the success ever ambition the most successful
     won, thus to tear up the ties of family, and make brothers
     and sisters strangers? Would that I were back again with
     you, and dearest Kate, too! I see no future here; the dull
     round of daily discipline, teaching nothing but obedience,
     shuts out speculation and hope! Where are the glorious
     enterprises, the splendid chances I often dreamed of? My
     happiest moments now are recalling the past; the long winter
     evenings beside the hearth, while Hans was reading out to
     us. There are rumors of great changes in the world of Europe;
     but to us they are only the thunderings of a distant
     storm, to break out in what quarter we know not. Oh, Nelly!
     if it should lead to war! if some glorious struggle were to
     break in upon this sluggish apathy!

     "Adolf has sent again for this letter, so I must close it He
     will not, he says, pass through Baden, but will post this in
     Munich--so good-bye, dearest sister. Tell poor papa all that
     you dare to tell of me, and farewell.

     "Frank Dalton.


"When you write it must be under cover to the 'Herr Hauptman von Gauss,
2ten Compagnie, 3 Linien Bataillon, Franz Carl Infanterie.' Don't forget
this long address, nor to add a line to the captain himself, who is a
good-looking fellow, but somewhat conceited.

"I have just heard old Auersberg is to have a command again. I 'm
heartily sorry for it. So much for family influence!"

If the reader's patience has lasted through this long letter of Frank's,
it was more than Peter Dalton's did. For what between his ecstasy at
Kate's good fortune, his own rambling speculations on all that should
follow from it, and, above all, what from the slurring monotonous tone
in which Nelly passed over such portions as she did not wish him to
hear, he grew gradually more abstracted and dreamy, and at last fell off
into a deep and most happy slumber. Not a syllable did he hear of the
old Feld's reception of Frank; nor did he even awake as little Hans
stumped into the room, with a staff in either hand,--aids that, since
his accident, he could never dispense with.

"I heard that you had letters, Fräulein," said he. "Do they bring good
tidings?"

"Some would call them so, Hanserl," said she, with a sigh. "Kate is
about to be married."

Hanserl made no reply, but sat slowly down, and crossed his arms before
him.

"The great Russian Prince Midchekoff, of whom you may have heard."

"I have seen him, Fräulein; he was here in Baden, three years ago."

"Oh, then, tell me, Hanserl, what is he like? Is he young and
frank-looking? Seems he one that should have won a maiden's heart so
suddenly, that----that--"

"No, not that she could n't have written to her sister and asked for
counsel, Fräulein," said Hans, continuing her sentence. "The Prince is
a cold, austere man, proud to his equals, I believe, but familiar enough
to such as me. I remember how he asked me of my life, where I came from,
and how I lived. He seemed curious to hear about the train of thoughts
suggested by living amid objects of such childish interest, and asked
me, 'If I did not often fancy that this mock world around me was the
real one?' 'You are right, Herr Prints,' said I; 'but, after all, here,
at least, we are equals.' 'How so?' said he. 'That _your_ real world
is as great a mockery as mine.' 'Thou are right, dwarf,' said he,
thoughtfully, and fell a-musing. He should not have called me dwarf, for
men know me as Hans Roëckle,--and this is your sister's husband!"

"Is he mild and gentle-mannered?" asked Nelly, eagerly.

"The great are always so, so far as I have seen; none but base
metal rings loudly, maiden. It is part of their pride to counterfeit
humility."

"And his features, Hans?"

"Like one of those portraits in the gallery at Wurtzburg. One who had
passions and a temper for a feudal age, and was condemned to the slavery
of our civilization."

"He is much older than Kate?" asked she again.

"I have seen too few like him even to guess at his age; besides, men
of his stamp begin life with old temperaments, and time wears them but
little."

"Oh, Hanserl, this seems not to promise well. Kate's own nature is
frank, generous, and impulsive; how will it consort with the cold traits
of his?"

"She marries not for happiness, but for ambition, maiden. They who
ascend the mountain-top to look down upon the scene below them, must not
expect the sheltering softness of the valley at their feet. The Fräulein
Kate is beautiful, and she would have the homage that is paid to beauty.
She has chosen her road in life; let us at least hope she knows how to
tread it!"

There was a tone of almost sternness in Hanserl's manner that Nelly well
knew boded deep and intense feeling, and she forebore to question him
further for some time.

"You will leave this, then, Fräulein?" said he at last "You will quit
the humble valley for the great world?"

"I know not, Hanserl, what my father may decide. Kate speaks of our
joining her in Russia; but the long Journey in his infirm state, not
to speak of other reasons, may prevent this. Shall I tell you of Frank?
Here is a long letter from him." And, almost without waiting for his
reply, she read out the greater portion of the epistle.

"I like the old Feld!" cried Hans, enthusiastically. "He would teach the
boy submission, and self-reliance, too,--lessons that, however wide
apart they seem, go ever hand in hand; an old warrior that has trained
his bold nature to habits of obedience in many a year of trial and
injustice, unfriended and alone, with nothing but his stout heart and
good sword to sustain him. I like that Feld, and would gladly pledge him
in a glass of Steinberger!"

"And you shall, my little man," said Dalton, waking up, and catching the
last words of Hanserl's speech. "The old Count was kind to Frank, and
I 'll drink his health this night, with all the honors. Read him the
letter, Nelly. Show him how old Stephen received the boy. That's blood
for you!--a true Dalton!"

Hanserl stared from father to daughter, and back again, without
speaking; while Nelly, blushing deeply, held down her head, without a
word.

"His letter to us was dry enough. But what matter for that? He never
wrote a line,--maybe, did n't speak a word of English for upwards of
forty years. You can't expect a man to have the 'elegant correspondent'
at his fingers' ends after that space of time. But the heart!--that's
the main point, Hans. The heart is in the right place. Read that bit
over again, Nelly; I forget the words he said."

"Oh, no, papa. Hans has Just beard it all, from beginning to end; and
you know we have so much to do. Here's Lady Hester's note, and here's
one from the Prince, still unopened."

"Ay, to be sure. I 'm certain you 'll excuse me, Hans," said Dalton,
putting on his spectacles, while he assumed a manner of condescending
urbanity very puzzling to the poor dwarf. "Why, Nelly dear, this is
French. Give me that note of Lady Hester's, and do you take this. Oh,
by my conscience, I 'm no better off now! The devil such writing as this
ever I seen! It's all 'm's' and 'w's' every bit of it You'll keep them
both for the evening, my dear. Hans will dine with us, and I 'll go out
to look for a bit of fish, and see if I can find another pleasant fellow
to round off the table with us. God be with old Kilmurray M'Mahon, where
I could have had twenty as easy as two, and each of them a good warrant
for four bottles, besides! Is n't it a droll world?" muttered he, as he
took down his hat and descended the stairs. "A good dinner, and only a
cripple for company! Faix! I 'm like the chap in the Bible, that had
to ask the beggars and the blaguards when he could n't get better." And
with this very wise reflection, Peter Dalton hummed a Jig to himself as
he took his way to the fish-market.



CHAPTER V. A HAPPY DAY FOR PETER DALTON

A youthful heir never experienced a more glorious burst of delight on
the morning of his twenty-first birthday, than did Peter Dalton feel
as he sauntered down the principal street of Baden. It was with a
step almost elastic, and his head high, that he went along; not humbly
returning the "Good-day" of the bowing shopkeeper, but condescendingly
calling his worthy creditors--for such nearly all of them were--by their
Christian names, he gave them to believe that he was still, as ever,
their kind and generous patron.

There was scarcely a shop or a stall he did not linger beside for a
minute or two. Everywhere there was something not only which he liked,
but actually needed. Never did wants accumulate so rapidly! With
a comprehensive grasp they extended to every branch of trade and
merchandise,--ranging from jewelry to gin, and taking in all, from fur
slippers to sausages.

His first visit was to Abel Kraus, the banker and moneylender,--a little
den, which often before he had entered with a craven heart and a sinking
spirit; for Abel was a shrewd old Israelite, and seemed to read the very
schedule of a man's debts, in the wrinkles around his mouth. Dalton now
unbarred the half door and stalked in, as if he would carry the place by
storm.

The man of money was munching his breakfast of hard eggs and black
bread,--the regulation full diet of misers in all Germany,--when Peter
cavalierly touched his hat and sat down. Not a word did Abel speak.
No courtesies about the season or the weather, the funds or the
money-market, were worth bestowing on so poor a client; and so he ate
on, scarcely deigning even a glance towards him.

"When you 've done with the garlic, old boy, I 've some work for you,"
said Dalton, crossing his arms pretentiously.

"But what if I do not accept your work? What if I tell you that we shall
have no more dealings together? The two last bills--"

"They'll be paid, Abel,--they'll be paid. Don't put yourself in a
passion. Times is improving,--Ireland 's looking up, man."

"I think she is," muttered the Jew, insolently; "she is looking up like
the beggar that asks for alms yonder."

"Tear and ages!" cried Dalton, with a stroke of his fist upon the
table that made every wooden bowl of gold and silver coin jump and ring
again,--"tear and ages! take care what you say! By the soul in my body,
if you say a syllable against the old country, I 'll smash every stick
in the place, and your own bones, besides! Ye miserable ould heathen!
that has n't a thought above sweating a guinea,--how dare you do it?"

"Why do you come into my counting-house to insult me, saar? Why you come
where no one ask you?"

"Is it waiting for an invitation I'd be, Abel? Is it expecting a card
with ould Kraus's compliments?" said Dalton, laughing. "Sure, isn't the
place open like the fish-market, or the ball-room, or the chapel, or any
place of diversion? There, now; keep your temper, old boy. I tell ye,
there's luck before ye! What d'ye think of that?" And, as he spoke, he
drew forth one of the bills, and handed it across the counter; and then,
after gloating, as it were, over the changed expression of the Jew's
features, he handed a second, and a third.

"These are good papers, Herr von Dalton; no better! The exchange, too,
is in your favor; we are giving--let me see--ten and three-eighths
'Convenzions-Gelt'."

"To the devil I fling your three-eighths!" cried Dalton. "I never forgot
the old song at school that says, 'Fractions drives me mad.'"

"Ah, always droll,----always merry!" cackled out Abel. "How will you
have these moneys?"

"In a bag,----a good strong canvas-bag!"

"Yes, to be sure, in a bag; but I was asking how you 'd have them. I
mean, in what coin,--in what for 'Gelt.'"

"Oh, that's it!" cried Dalton. "Well, give me a little of everything.
Let me have 'Louis' to spend, and 'Gros-chen' to give the beggars.
Bank-notes, too, I like; one feels no regretting parting with the dirty
paper that neither jingles nor shines: and a few crown pieces, Abel; the
ring of them on a table is like a brass band!"

"So you shall,--so you shall, Herr von Dalton. Ha, ha, ha! you are the
only man ever make me laugh!"

"By my conscience, then, it's more than you deserve, Abel; for you've
very often nearly made _me_ cry," said Dalton, with a little sigh over
the past, as he recalled it to his memory.

The Jew did not either heed or hear the remark; for, having put away the
remnant of his frugal breakfast, he now began a very intricate series of
calculations respecting interest and exchange and commission, at which
poor Dalton gazed in a most complete mystification.

"Fourteen hundred and sixty-three, at ten three-eighths,--less cost of
commission; I will not charge you the one per cent--"

"Charge all that's fair, and no favor, old boy."

"I mean that I will not treat the Herr von Dalton like a stranger----"

"I was going to say, treat me like a Christian," said Dalton, laughing;
"but maybe that's the most expensive thing going."

"Always droll,--always have his jest," cackled Abel. "Now there's an
agio on gold, you pay five kreutzers for every Louis."

"By George! I 'll take a ship-load of them at the same price."

"Ha! U mean you pay that over the value," said the Jew.

"Faix! I often promised to pay more," said Dalton, sighing; "and what's
worse, on stamped paper too!"

As the Jew grew deeper in his figures, Dalton rambled on about Ireland
and her prospects, for he wished it to be supposed that his present
affluence was the long-expected remittance from his estates. "We 'll
get right yet," muttered he, "if they 'll only give us time; but ye see,
this is the way it is: we're like an overloaded beast that can't pull
his cart through the mud, and then the English comes up, and thrashes
us. By course, we get weaker and weaker--licking and abusing never made
any one strong yet. At last down we come on our knees with a smash.
Well, ye 'd think, then, that anybody with a grain of sense would say,
'Take some of the load off the poor devil's back--ease him a bit tell he
gets strength.' Nothing of the kind. All they do is to tell us that we
ought to be ashamed of ourselves for falling--that every other people
was doing well but ourselves--that it's a way we have of lying down,
just to get somebody to pick us up, and such like. And the blaguard
newspapers raises the cry against us, and devil a thief or a
housebreaker or a highway robber they take, that they don't put him
down in the police reports as a 'hulking Irishman,' or a 'native of the
Emerald Isle.' 'Paddy Fitzsimons, or Peter O'Shea, was brought up this
mornin' for cutting off his wife's head with a trowel.' 'Molly Maguire
was indicted for scraping her baby to death with an oyster-shell.'
That's the best word they have for us! 'Ain't ye the plague of our
lives?' they're always saying. 'Do ye ever give us a moment's peace?'
And why the blazes don't ye send us adrift, then? Why don't ye let us
take our own road? We don't want your company--faix! we never found
it too agreeable. It's come to that now, that it would better be a
Hottentot or a Chinese than an Irishman! Oh dear, oh dear, but we 're
hardly treated!"

"Will you run your eye over that paper, Herr von Dalton, and see if it
be all correct?" said Abel, handing him a very complex-looking array of
figures.

"'T is little the wiser I 'll be when I do," muttered Dalton to himself,
as he put on his spectacles and affected to consider the statement.
"Fourteen hundred and sixty-three----I wish they were pounds, but they
're only florins--and two thousand eight hundred and twenty-one--five
and two is seven and nine is fifteen. No, seven and nine is--I wish
Nelly was here. Bad luck to the multiplication-table. I used to be
licked for it every day when I was a boy, and it's been a curse to me
since I was a man. Seven and nine is fourteen, or thereabouts--a figure
would n't signify much, one way or f other. Interest at three-quarters
for twenty-one days--there I 'm done complete! Out of the four first
rules in Gough I'm a child, and indeed, to tell the truth, I 'm no great
things after subtraction."

"You will perceive that I make the charges for postage, commission,
and other expenses in one sum. This little claim of fifty-eight florins
covers all."

"Well, and reasonable it is, that I must say," cried Dalton, who,
looking at the whole as a lucky windfall, was by no means indisposed to
see others share in the good fortune. "How much is coming to me, Abel?"

"Your total balance is four thousand two hundred and twenty-seven
florins eight kreutzers, Müntze," said Abel, giving the sum a resonance
of voice highly imposing and impressive.

"How many pounds is that now?" asked Peter.

"Something over three hundred and fifty pounds sterling, sir."

"Is it? Faith! a neat little sum. Not but I often got rid of as much of
an evening at blind-hookey, with old Carters, of the 'Queen's Bays.' Ye
don't know Carters? Faix! and ye 'd be the very man he would know, if
ye were in the same neighborhood. I wish he was here to-day; and that
reminds me that I must go over to the market and see what's to be had.
Ye don't happen to know if there's any fish to-day?"

Abel could not answer this important question, but offered to send his
servant to inquire; but Dalton, declining the attention, strolled out
into the street, jingling his Napoleons in his pocket as he went, and
feeling all the importance and self-respect that a well-filled purse
confers on him who has long known the penniless straits of poverty.
He owed something on every side of him; but he could bear to face his
creditors now; he was neither obliged to be occupied with a letter, nor
sunk in a fit of abstraction as he passed them; nay, he was even jocular
and familiar, and ventured to criticise the wares for which, once, he
was almost grateful.

"Send your boy down to the house for some money--ye need n't mind the
bill; but I 'll give you fifty florins. There's a trifle on account. Put
them ten Naps, to my credit; that will wipe off some of our scores; it's
good for forty crowns." Such were the brief sentences that he addressed
to the amazed shopkeepers as he passed along; for Peter, like Louis
Philippe, couldn't bear the sight of an account, and always paid
something in liquidation. It was with great reluctance that he abstained
from inviting each of them to dinner; nothing but his fear of
displeasing Nelly could have restrained him. He would have asked the
whole village if he dared, ay, and made them drunk, too, if they 'd have
let him. "She's so high in her notions," he kept muttering to himself:
"that confounded pride about family, and the like! Well, thank God! I
never had that failing. If I knew we were better than other people, it
never made me unneighborly; I was always free and affable; my worst
enemy could n't say other of me. I 'd like to have these poor devils to
dinner, and give them a skinful for once in their lives, just to drink
Kate's health, and Frank's; they 'd think of the Daltons for many a long
year to come--the good old Dalton blood, that never mixed with the
puddle! What a heavenly day it is! and an elegant fine market. There's a
bit of roasting beef would feed a dozen; and maybe that isn't a
fine trout! Well, well, but them's cauliflowers!. Chickens and
ducks--chickens and ducks--a whole street of them! And there's a wild
turkey--mighty good eating, too! and venison!--ah! but it has n't the
flavor, nor the fat! Faix! and not bad either, a neck of mutton with
onions, if one had a tumbler of whiskey-punch afterwards."

Thus communing with himself, he passed along, totally inattentive to
the solicitations of those who usually supplied the humble wants of his
household, and who now sought to tempt him by morsels whose merits lay
rather in frugality than good cheer.

As Dalton drew near his own door, he heard the sounds of a stranger's
voice from within. Many a time a similar warning had apprised him that
some troublesome dun had gained admittance, and was torturing poor Nelly
with his importunities; and on these occasions Peter was wont, with more
cunning than kindness, to steal noiselessly downstairs again, and wait
till the enemy had evacuated the fortress. Now, however, a change had
come over his fortunes, and with his hat set jauntily on one side, and
his hands stuck carelessly in his pockets, he kicked open the door with
his foot, and entered.

Nelly was seated near the stove, in conversation with a man who, in
evident respect, had taken his place near the door, and from which
he rose to salute Dalton as he came in. The traveller--for such his
"blouse" or travelling-frock showed him to be, as well as the knapsack
and stick at his feet----was a hale, fresh-looking man of about thirty;
his appearance denoting an humble walk in life, but with nothing that
bordered on poverty.

"Herr Brawer, papa,--Adolf Brawer," said Nelly, whispering the last
words, to remind him more quickly of the name.

"Servant, sir," said Dalton, condescendingly; for the profound deference
of the stranger's manner at once suggested to him their relative
conditions.

"I kiss your hand," said Adolf, with the respectful salutation of a
thorough Austrian, while he bowed again with even deeper humility.

"The worthy man who was so kind to Frank, papa," said Nelly, in deep
confusion, as she saw the scrutinizing and almost depreciating look with
which Dalton regarded him.

"Oh, the pedler!" said Dalton, at last, as the remembrance flashed on
him. "This is the pedler, then?"

"Yes, papa. He came out of his way, from Durlach, Just to tell us about
Frank; to say how tall he had grown--taller than himself, he says--and
so good-looking, too. It was so kind in him."

"Oh, very kind, no doubt of it,----very kind indeed!" said Dalton, with
a laugh of most dubious expression. "Did he say nothing of Frank's debt
to him? Has n't that 'I O U' You were talking to me about anything to say
to this visit?"

"He never spoke of it, never alluded to it," cried she, eagerly.

"Maybe he won't be so delicate with me," said Dalton. "Sit down, Mr.
Brawer; make no ceremony here. We 're stopping in this little place till
our house is got ready for us. So you saw Frank, and he's looking well?"

"The finest youth in the regiment. They know him through all Vienna as
the 'Handsome Cadet.'"

"And so gentle-mannered and unaffected," cried Nelly.

"Kind and civil to his inferiors?" said Dalton; "I hope he's that?"

"He condescended to know _me_," said Brawer, "and call me his friend."

"Well, and maybe ye were," said Peter, with a majestic wave of the hand.
"A real born gentleman, as Frank is, may take a beggar off the streets
and be intimate with him. Them's my sentiments. Mark what I say, Mr.
Brawer, and you 'll find, as you go through life, if it is n't true;
good blood may mix with the puddle every day of the year, and not be the
worse of it!"

"Frank is so grateful to you," broke in Nelly, eagerly; "and we are so
grateful for all your kindness to him!"

"What an honor to _me!_ that he should so speak of me!" said the pedler,
feelingly,--"I, who had no claim upon his memory."

"There was a trifle of money between you, I think," said Dalton,
ostentatiously; "have you any notion of what it is?"

"I came not here to collect a debt, Herr von Dalton," said Adolf,
rising, and assuming a look of almost fierceness in his pride.

"Very well, very well; just as you please," said Dalton, carelessly; "it
will come with his other accounts in the half-year; for, no matter how
liberal a man is to his boys, he'll be pestered with bills after
all! There's blaguards will be lending them money, and teachin' them
extravagance, just out of devilment, I believe. I know well how it used
to be with myself when I was in old 'Trinity,' long ago. There was a
little chap of the name of Foley, and, by the same token, a pedler,
too----"

"Oh, papa, he's going away, and you have n't thanked him yet!" cried
Nelly, feelingly.

"What a hurry he's in!" said Dalton, as he watched the eager haste with
which the pedler was now arranging the straps of his knapsack.

"Would you not ask him to stay--to dine with us?" faltered Nelly, in a
low, faint whisper.

"The pedler--to dine?" asked Dalton, with a look of astonishment

"Frank's only friend!" sighed she, mournfully.

"By my conscience, sometimes I don't know if I 'm standing on my head
or my heels," cried Dalton, as he wiped his brows, with a look of utter
bewilderment. "A pedler to dinner! There now--that's it--more haste
worse speed: he's broke that strap in his hurry!"

"Shall I sew it for you?" said Nelly, stooping down and taking out her
needle as she spoke.

"Oh, Fräulein, how good of you!" cried Adolf; and his whole face beamed
with an expression of delight. "How dearly shall I value this old pack
hereafter!"

These last words, scarcely muttered above his breath, were overheard by
Nelly, and a deep blush covered her cheeks as she bent over the work.

"Where's your own maid? Couldn't one of the women do it as well?" cried
Dalton, impatiently. "Ye'd not believe, Mr. Brawer, that we have
the house full of servants this minute; a set of devils feasting and
fattening at one's expense."

"Thanks, Fräulein," said the pedler, as she finished; "You little know
how I shall treasure this hereafter."

"Ask him to stay, papa," whispered Nelly once more.

"Sure he's a pedler!" muttered Dalton, indignantly.

"At least thank him. Tell him you are grateful to him."

"He 'd rather I 'd buy ten yards of damaged calico,--that's the flattery
_he_ 'd understand best," said Dalton, with a grin.

"Farewell, Herr von Dalton. Farewell, Fräulein!" said Adolf. And with a
bow of deep respect he slowly retired from the room, while Nelly turned
to the window to conceal her shame and sorrow together.

"It was this very morning," muttered Dalton, angrily, "when I spoke of
giving a little dinner-party, you did nothing but turn up your nose at
this, that, and t' other. There was nobody good enough, forsooth! There
was Monsieur Ratteau, the 'croupier' of the tables there, a very nice
man, with elegant manners and the finest shirt-studs ever I seen, and
you would n't hear of him."'

Nelly heard little of this reproachful speech, for, sunk in the recess
of the window, she was following with her eyes the retiring figure of
Adolf Brawer. He had just crossed the "Plate," and ere he turned into
a side street he stopped, wheeled round, and made a gesture of farewell
towards the spot where, unseen by him, Nelly was still standing.

"He is gone!" muttered she, half aloud.

"Well, God speed him!" rejoined Dalton, testily. "I never could abide a
pedler."



CHAPTER VI. MADAME DE HEIDENDORF

Kate Dalton's was a heavy heart as, seated beside her new friend, she
whirled along the road to Vienna. The scenery possessed every attraction
of historic interest and beauty. The season was the glorious one of an
Italian spring. There were ancient cities, whose very names were
like spells to memory. There were the spots of earth that Genius has
consecrated to immortality. There were the scenes where Poetry caught
its inspiration, and around which, even yet, the mind-created images of
fancy seem to linger, all to interest, charm, and amuse her, and yet she
passed them without pleasure, almost without notice.

The splendid equipage in which she travelled, the hundred appliances of
ease and luxury around her, the obsequious, almost servile devotion of
her attendants, recalled but one stern fact,--that she had sold
herself for all these things; that for them she had bartered her warm
affections,--her love of father and sister and brother,--the ties of
home and of kindred, even to the Faith at whose altar she had bent her
knees in infancy. She had given all for greatness.

In all her castle-buildings of a future, her own family bad formed
figures in the picture. To render her poor father happy; to surround his
old age with the comforts he pined after; to open to dear Nelly sources
of enjoyment in the pursuit she loved; to afford Frank the means of
associating with his comrades of rank, to mix in that society for which
he longed,--these were her objects, and for them she was willing to pay
dearly. But now she was not to witness the happiness of those she
loved. Already the hard conditions of her contract were to be imposed.
Banishment first, then Isolation; who could say what after?

Her travelling-companion was scarcely well calculated to smooth down the
difficulties of this conflict in her mind. Madame de Heidendorf was the
very reverse of Lady Hester. Without the slightest pretension to good
looks herself, she assumed to despise everything like beauty in
others, constantly associating its possession with the vanity of weak
intellects; she threw a kind of ridicule over these "poor, pretty
things," as she loved to call them, which actually seemed to make beauty
and folly convertible terms. Political intrigue, or, to speak more
fairly, mischief-making in state affairs, was her great and only
passion. By dint of time, patience, considerable cunning, and a very
keen insight into character, she had succeeded in obtaining the intimacy
of many of the first statesmen of Europe. Many had trusted her with the
conduct of little matters which the dignity of diplomacy could not stoop
to. She had negotiated several little transactions, opened the way to
reconciliations, smoothed the road to briberies, and allayed the petty
qualms of struggling morality, where any other than a feminine influence
would have been coarse and indelicate.

As a good monarchist, she was always well received at the Austrian
Court, and in St. Petersburg was accustomed to be treated with peculiar
honor.

By what amount of compensation, or in what shape administered,
Midchekoff had secured her present services, this true history is unable
to record; but that Kate was eminently fortunate, drawing such a prize
in the lottery of life as to enter the world under _her_ auspices, were
facts that she dwelt upon without ceasing.

Frankness and candor are very charming things. They are the very soul of
true friendship, and the spirit of all affectionate interest; but they
can be made very disagreeable elements of mere acquaintanceship. Such
was Madame de Heidendorf s. She freely told Kate, that of all the great
Midchekoff's unaccountable freaks, his intended marriage with herself
was the very strangest; and that to unite his vast fortune and high
position with mere beauty was something almost incredible. There was a
landgravine of Hohenhôckingen, an Archduchess, a _main gauche_ of
the Austrian house itself; there was a granddaughter of the Empress
Catherine, with any of whom she could easily have opened negotiations
for him,--all of them alliances rich in political influences. Indeed,
there was another party,--she was not at liberty to mention the name;
and though, to be sure, she was "blind and almost idiotic," a union with
her would eventually have made him a "Serene Highness." "So you see,
my dear," said she, in winding up, "what you have cost him! Not," added
she, after a few seconds' pause,--"not but I have known such marriages
turn out remarkably well. There was that Prince Adalbert of Bohemia, who
married the singing woman,--what's her name?----that young creature that
made such a sensation at the 'Scala,'--' La Biondina' they called her.
Well, it is true, he only lived with her during the Carnival; but there
she is now, with her handsome house in the Bastey, and the prettiest
equipage in the Prater. I know several similar cases. The Archduke Max
and Prince Ravitzkay,--though, perhaps, not him; for I believe he sent
that poor thing away to the mines."

"His wife----to the mines!" gasped Kate, in terror.

"Don't be frightened, my dear child," said Madame, smiling; "be a good
girl, and you shall have everything you like. Meanwhile, try and unlearn
all those _gaucheries_ you picked up with that strange Lady Hester. It
was a shocking school of manners,--all those eccentric, out-of-the-way
people, who lounged in and lounged out, talking of nothing but each
other, utterly ignorant of the great interests that are at stake in
Europe at this moment Try, therefore, and forget that silly coterie
altogether. When we arrive at Vienna, you will be presented to the
Archduchess Louisa."

"And I shall see dear--dear Frank!" burst out Kate, with an
irrepressible delight.

"And who is Frank, Madame?" said the other, proudly drawing herself up.

"My brother,--my only brother,--who is in the Austrian service."

"Is he on the Emperor's staff?"

"I know nothing of his position, only that he is a cadet."

"A cadet, child! Why, do you know that that means a common soldier,--a
creature that mounts with a musket, or carries a bread-bag over its
shoulder through the streets in a fatigue-jacket?"

"I care nothing for all that. He may be all you say, and twice as
humble, but he is my brother Frank still,--the playfellow with whom I
passed the day when--when I was happy--as I shall never be again!--the
fond, kind brother, whom we were all so proud of."

An expression of scornful compassion on Madame de Heidendorf 's features
at once stopped Kate, and she covered her face with her hands to hide
her shame.

"Madame la Princesse," began the Countess,--for whenever she peculiarly
desired to impress Kate with her duties, she always prefaced the lesson
by her new title,----"the past must be forgotten, or you will find
yourself totally unable to compete with the difficulties of your
station. There is but one way to make the Prince's _mésalliance_
pardonable, which is by as seldom as possible parading its details. If,
then, you insist upon seeing your brother during our stay at Vienna,
it must be in secret you said something, I think, of an old
field-marshal,--a connection?"

"My father's uncle, Madame."

"Very true. Well, your brother can come with some letter or message from
him; or if Nina, your maid, has no objection, he might pass for a lover
of hers."

"Madame!" cried Kate, indignantly.

"I said, if Nina made no objection," said Madame de Heidendorf, as
though answering the indignant exclamation. "But these are matters of
_my_ consideration, Madame,--at least, if I understand the spirit of the
Prince's instructions."

Some such scene as this, usually closing with a similar peroration,
formed the conversation of the road; and hour by hour Kate's courage
fell lower, as she contemplated all that her elevation had cost her. And
what a mockery was it, after all! It was true that she journeyed in a
carriage with all the emblazonry of royalty; that a group of uncovered
lackeys attended her as she descended; that she was ever addressed by a
proud title; a respectful, submissive devotion surrounding her at
every instant But, amid all this, there was not one look, one word of
kindness; nothing of interest or sympathy with her solitary grandeur. It
mattered little that the bars of her cell were of gold; it was a prison
still.

With what eagerness did she turn from the present, with all its
splendor, to think of her former life, when, wandering among the hills
of Baden she had listened to little Hans, or watched dear Nelly, as
the first gleams of her intentions began to manifest themselves on a
sculptured group. With what rapture had she heard passages that seemed
akin to something she had felt but could not express! How had she loved
the changeful effects of light and shade on a landscape where every
tree or rock or cliff was familiar to her! Oh, if she could but be back
again, hopeful, ardent, and trusting, as she once was! Oh, if the brief
past could be but a dream, and she were once more beside her father and
Nelly, knowing nothing of that world which, in so short a space, had
revealed so much before her! Even to those who so lately had supplied
the place of family to her, all were gone, and she was utterly alone.

She did not dare to think of George Onslow. It seemed to her like a
treason to recall his memory; and if his image did rise at times before
her fancy, a burning blush would cover her cheek, and a sense of shame
would send a throb like agony through her heart. The plans and projects
for her future life she heard of without interest; a vague and confused
impression of a long journey, halting here and there to be presented to
certain great and distinguished persons, and finally of her arrival at
St. Petersburg, were all that she knew. That the Prince was to join her
there, and then, with the Emperor's permission, return with her to
the south of Europe,--such were the outlines of a career over which a
sinking heart threw a gloomy shadow.

Madame de Heidendorf was too occupied with her own thoughts to notice
this despondency; besides that, she was incessantly teaching Kate some
one requisite or other of that rigid etiquette which prevailed in the
society she was about to enter; the precise titles by which she was to
address this or that personage; how many courtesies to give here, how
many reverences there,--little educational exercises that were always
accompanied by some warning admonition of their importance to one who,
like herself, had never seen anything like good society, and whose
breaches of good breeding would be certain of being severely commented
on.

"Think of the Prince, Madame," she would say; "think of what he will
suffer when they repeat any of your transgressions. I am afraid there
are many humiliations in store for him. And what a step to take at
such a moment, with these horrible Socialist doctrines abroad,--these
levelling theories of equality, and so forth. I hope his Majesty the
Emperor will pardon him; I hope he will forgive you."

This was a favorite speech of hers, and so often repeated that Kate at
last began to look on herself as a great criminal, and even speculated
on what destiny should befall her if the Emperor proved unmerciful.

These were sorry resources to shorten the weariness on a Journey, and
Kate felt a throb of pleasure--the first she had experienced--when the
towers of St. Stephen, in the far distance, announced the approach to
Vienna.



CHAPTER VII. AT VIENNA.

The gossiping world of Vienna had a new subject for speculation and
interest, as a guard of honor was seen standing at a large palace near
the "Hoff;" and the only information to explain the mystery was that
some great diplomatist had arrived the evening before, and Heaven
knew what wonderful events were in his charge and keeping. A gigantic
"Chasseur," in green and gold, who lounged about the portal, followed by
a great dog,--a "fanghund," whose silver collar was embossed with many
a quartering,--had engaged the attention of a very considerable crowd,
which opened from time to time to permit the passage of some royal
or princely equipage. As they thus fell back, a chance look would
be directed upwards to the windows of the first floor, and there,
passingly, they caught glimpses of one whose beauty soon formed the
theme of every tongue. This was Kate Dalton, who, now rested from the
fatigue of her journey, and dressed in the most becoming fashion, walked
up and down a splendid saloon, watching to catch every sound, or gazing
earnestly from the window to catch any sight that might betoken her
brother's coming. At Madame de Heidendorf's suggestion she had written
a few lines that morning early to the Field-Marshal von Dalton,
entreating, as a great favor, that he would procure leave for Frank to
come to her, and pass as much of his time as possible with her during
her stay in Vienna. The note, brief as it was, cost her some trouble;
she felt that much explanation might be necessary to state her present
position,--even who she was,--and yet this was a subject she had no
heart to enter into. Some expressions of affectionate interest towards
himself would also have been fitting, but she could not find time
for them. Frank, and Frank alone, was in her thoughts, and she left
everything to the old General's ingenuity, as she concluded her note by
subscribing herself, "Your affectionate niece, Kate Dal ton, Affianced
Princesse de Midchekoff."

It was the first time that she had written the words,----the first time
that she had ever impressed that massive seal of many quarterings, so
royal-looking as it seemed. It was, also, the first time she had ever
given an order to one of her servants; and the obsequious bows of the
groom of the chamber, as he withdrew, were all separate and distinct
sensations,--low, but clear knockings of vanity at her heart, to which
every object around contributed its aid. The apartment was splendid;
not in that gorgeous taste of modern decoration of which she had seen so
much already, but in a more stately fashion, recalling the grandeur of
a past age, and exhibiting traces of a long line of princely occupants.
The very portraits along the walls had a proud and haughty bearing, and
the massive chairs glittered in all the blaze of heraldry. If she
looked out, it was the towers of the "Hoff Bourg"--the Home of the
Hapsburgs--met her eye. If she listened, it was the clank of a soldier's
salute broke the stillness; while the dull roll of wheels beneath
the arched gateway told of the tide of visitors who came to pay their
homage.

If Kate's heart had been less bound up with anxiety to see her brother,
the scene beneath her window would have afforded her some interest, as
equipage after equipage succeeded,--now the quiet splendor of a court
chariot, now the more glaring magnificence of a cardinal's carriage.
Here came the lumbering old vehicle of an archhishop, the reverential
salute of the crowd indicating the rank of its occupant Then the quick
"present arms" of the sentry told of some general officer; while, at
intervals, the "turn out" of the whole guard denoted the arrival of a
royal prince. Ambassadors and ministers, chamberlains and chancellors,
the dignitaries of the realm, the "Hautes Charges" of the Court,--all
came in crowds to present their respects to the Gräfin, for by this
brief designation was she known from one end of Europe to the other.

Madame de Heidendorf held a levée, and none would absent themselves from
so interesting an occasion.

It was the eve of a wonderful moment in Europe--it was the little lull
that preceded the most terrific storm that ever overturned thrones and
scattered dynasties--as these illustrious personages were met together,
to interchange compliments, to lisp soft phrases of flattery, and
discuss the high claims of some aspirant for a ribbon or a cross, a "Red
Eagle," or a "Black" one. A few, more far-sighted than the rest, saw the
cloud, not bigger than a man's hand, in the distance. A few could hear
the low rumblings that denoted the brooding hurricane; but even they
thought "the thing would last their time." And thus, with many a
pleasant jest, they chatted over the events of the hour, praised the
wisdom of kings, and laughed to scorn those vulgar teachers whose
democratic theories were just beginning to be whispered about. Some
were young, buoyant, and hopeful, ready to shed the last drop for
the principles they professed; others were old gray-headed men, tried
servants of Monarchy for half a century. But all were like-minded, and
self-gratulation and compliment was the order of the day. Leaving them
thus to such pleasant converse, where the clank of jewelled swords or
the tap of a diamond snuff-box formed the meet accompaniments of the
themes, we turn once more to her in whose fate we are more deeply
interested.

Twice had she rung the bell to ask if the messenger had not returned.
At last he came; but there was "no answer to her note." Her impatience
became extreme. She ordered the servant who carried the note to appear
before her; questioned him closely as to whether he had taken it, and
the reply he had received. A soldier had said, "Gut!" and shut the door.
Poor Kate! It was her first lesson in "soldier laconics," and to say
truly, she did not take it well. The "Princesse de Midchekoff" might
have been treated with more deference. She was passing a mirror as the
thought struck her, and her mien and air gave support to the belief; nor
could she restrain the sense of admiration, half tinged with shame, her
own beauty evoked.

"There is a soldier here, Madame," said a servant, "who has a letter he
will not deliver except into your own hands."

"Admit him--at once," said she, impatiently; and as she spoke the
soldier stepped forward, and drawing himself up, carried his hand to the
salute, while, presenting a letter, he said, "From the Field-Marshal von
Auersberg."

Kate scarcely looked at the bearer, but hastily tore open the
square-shaped epistle.

"You need not wait," said she to the servant; and then turning to the
letter, read,----

     "'Madame la Princesse and beloved Niece,--It was with--to me
     of late years----a rare satisfaction that I read the not the
     less affectionate that they were polite lines you vouchsafed
     to inscribe to me, an old and useless but not forgotten
     servant of an Imperial master. Immediately on perusing the
     aforesaid so-called note, I despatched my adjutant to the
     head-quarters of the Franz Carl, to obtain----no service
     rules to the contrary forbidding, nor any default's punition
     in any wise preventing----a day's furlough for the Cadet von
     Dalton--"

"What regiment is yours?" said Kate, hastily, to the soldier.

"Franz Carl Infanterie, Highness," said the youth, respectfully, using
the title he had heard assumed by the servant.

"Do you know many of your comrades,----among the cadets, I mean?"

"There are but seven in the battalion, Highness, and I know them all."

"Is Von Dalton an acquaintance of yours?"

"I am Von Dalton, Highness," said the youth, while a flush of surprise
and pleasure lighted up his handsome features.

"Frank! Frank!" cried she, springing towards him with open arms; and ere
he could recognize her, clasping him round the neck.

"Is this real? Is this a dream? Are you my own sister Kate?" cried the
boy, almost choked with emotion. "And how are you here? and how thus?"
and he touched the robe of costly velvet as he spoke.

"You shall know all, dear, dear Frank. You shall hear everything when
the joy of this meeting will let me speak."

[Illustration: 099]

"They call you Highness; and how handsome you've grown!"

"Have I, Frank?" said she, pressing him down to a seat beside her,
while, with hands interclasped, they sat gazing on each other.

"I am only beginning to remember you," said he, slowly. "You never used
to wear your hair in long ringlets thus. Even your figure is changed;
you are taller, Kate."

"It is the mere difference of dress, Frank," said she, blushing with
conscious pride.

"No, no; you are quite changed. Even as I sit here beside you, I feel I
know not what of shame at my daring to be so near----"

"So great a lady, you would say, dear Frank," said she, laughing. "Poor
boy, if you knew--" She stopped, and then, throwing her arms around his
neck, went on rapidly: "But, my own dear brother, tell me of yourself:
are you happy; do you like the service; are they kind to you; is Uncle
Stephen as we hoped he should be?"

"My story is soon told, Kate," said he; "I am where I was the day I
entered the army. I should have been made a corporal--"

"A corporal!" cried Kate, laughing.

"A good thing it is, too," said the youth. "No guards to mount, no
fatigue duty, neither night patrol nor watch, and four kreutzers extra
pay."

"Poor dear boy!" cried she, kissing his forehead, while she gazed on him
with a compassionate affection that spoke a whole world of emotion.

"But tell me of yourself, Kate. Why do they call you the Princess?"

"Because I am married, Frank,----that is, I am betrothed, and will soon
be married."

"And when did this occur? Tell me everything," cried he, impatiently.

"You shall know all, dearest Frank. Yoo have heard how Lady Hester
Onslow carried me away with her to Italy. Nelly has told you how we
were living in Florence,--in what splendor and festivity; our palace
frequented by all the great and distinguished of every country,--French
and German, and Spanish and Russian."

"I hate the Russians; but go on," said the boy, hastily.

"But why hate the Russians, Frank?" asked she, reddening as she spoke.

"They are false-hearted and treacherous. See how they have driven the
Circassians into a war, to massacre them; look how they are goading on
the Poles to insurrection. Ay, they say that they have emissaries at
this moment in Hungary on the same errand. I detest them."

"This may be their state policy, Frank; but individually----"

"They are no better; Walstein knows them well."

"And who is Walstein, Frank?"

"The finest fellow in the service; the one I would have wished you
married to, Kate, above all the world. Think of a colonel of hussars at
eight-and-twenty, so handsome, so brave, and such a rider. You shall see
him, Kate!"

"But it's too late, Frank," said she, laughing; "You forget it's too
late!"

"Ah! so it is," sighed the boy, seriously. "I often feared this,"
muttered he, after a pause. "Nelly's letters told me as much, and I said
to myself, 'It will be too late.'"

"Then Nelly has told you all, perhaps?" said she.

"Not everything, nor, indeed, anything at all very distinctly. I could
only make out what seemed to be her own impressions, for they appeared
mere surmises."

"And of what sort were they?" asked Kate, curiously.

"Just what you would suspect from her. Everlasting fears about
temptations and trials, and so forth, continually praying that your
heart might resist all the flatteries about you. The old story about
humility. I thought to myself, 'If the lesson be not more needful to
Kate than to me, she runs no great risk, after all!' for I was also
warned about the seductions of the world! a poor cadet, with a few
kreutzers a day, told not to be a Sybarite! Returning wet through from
a five hours' patrol, to burnish accoutrements in a cold, damp barrack,
and then exhorted against the contamination of low society, when all
around me were cursing the hardships they lived in, and execrating the
slavery of the service!"

"Our dearest Nelly knows so little of the world," said Kate, as she
threw a passing glance at herself in the mirror, and arranged the fall
of a deep fringe of gold lace which was fastened in her hair.

"She knows nothing of it," said the boy, adjusting his sword-knot. "She
thought our hussars wore white dolmans, and carried straight swords like
the cuirassiers."

"And the dear, simple creature asked me, in one of her letters, if I
ever wore wild-flowers in my hair now, as I used to do long ago," said
Kate, stealing another glance at the glass. "Flowers are pretty things
in the head when rubies make the pinks, and the dewdrops are all
diamonds."

Frank looked at her as she said this, and for the first time saw the
proud elation her features assumed when excited by a theme of vanity.

"You are greatly changed, dearest Kate," said he, thoughtfully.

"Is it for the worse, Frank?" said she, half coquettishly.

"Oh! as to beauty, you are a thousand times handsomer," cried the boy,
with enthusiasm. "I know not how, but every expression seems heightened,
every feature more elevated; your air and gesture, your very voice, that
once I thought was music itself, is far sweeter and softer."

"What a flatterer!" said she, patting his cheek.

"But then, Kate," said he, more gravely, "have these fascinations cost
nothing? Is your heart as simple? Are your affections as pure? Ah! you
sigh--and what a heavy sigh, too! Poor, poor Kate!"

And she laid her head upon his shoulder, while the heaving swell of her
bosom told what sorrow the moment was costing her.

"Nelly, then, told you of my betrothal?" whispered she, in a weak, faint
voice.

"No; I knew nothing of that. She told me all about the life you were
leading; the great people with whom you were intimate; and bit by bit,
a hint, some little allusion, would creep out as to the state of your
heart. Perhaps she never meant it, or did not know it; but I remarked,
in reading her letters over and over,--they were the solace of many a
weary hour,--that one name recurred so often in connection with yours,
you must have frequently referred to him yourself, for in each extract
from your letters I saw the name."

"This was strange. It must have been through inadvertence," said she,
musingly. "I thought I had scarcely spoken of him."

"See how your hand told truth, even against your consciousness," said
he, smiling.

Kate made no reply, but sat deep in thought.

"And is he here? When shall I see him?" asked Frank, impatiently.

"No, Frank. He is in Italy; he was detained there by business of
importance. Besides, it is not etiquette that we should travel together.
When the Emperor's permission has been obtained--"

"What Emperor?" asked Frank, in astonishment.

"Our Emperor----the Czar."

"What have you, an English girl born, to do with the Czar?"

"The Prince, my future husband, is his subject."

"Why, there is no end to this mystification," cried the boy,
impatiently. "How can an English soldier be a Russian Prince?"

"I don't understand you, Frank. Prince Midchekoff is a Russian by
birth."

"So that you are married to a Russian," said he, in a voice of deep
emotion, "and all this time I have been fancying my brother-in-law an
Englishman. I thought it was this same George----George Onslow."

A heavy, dull sound startled him as he said this. It was Kate, who had
fallen back, fainting, on the sofa. It was long before, with all Frank's
efforts at restoration, she came to herself; and even when consciousness
returned, tears flowed from her eyes and coursed down her cheeks
copiously, as she lay speechless and motionless.

"My own poor Kate, my poor, dear sister!" were all that Frank could say,
as he held her cold, clammy hand within his own; and, with an almost
breaking heart, gazed on her pale features. It was so like death! "And
might not death be better?" thought he, as he travelled over in his mind
the story, of whose secret he was now possessed. How differently did he
judge all Nelly's counsels _now!_ In what a changed spirit did he think
of that wisdom which, but a few minutes back, he had sneered at! "And
so it is," muttered he. "If we who are born to humble fortunes would
cherish ambition, we must pay for it with our hearts' blood. Nelly was
right; she often said so. Over and over again did she tell me, 'goodness
is the only safe road to greatness.' Oh that one so beautiful as this
should have missed the path!" And, sobbing violently, he kissed her
hand, and watered it with his tears.

"Frank, you are with me,----you 'll not leave me," said she, faintly, as
she opened her eyes and stared in bewilderment around her. "I remember
everything now--everything," said she, with an emphasis on the last
word. "This is Vienna: I recollect all. Ring that bell, Frank: let Nina
come to me, but don't go away; be sure not to go."

Nina soon made her appearance, and with a look of half surprise, half
admiration at the handsome soldier, assisted Kate to arise.

"I'll be back presently, Frank," said she, with a faint smile, and left
the room. And the youth, overcome by emotion, sat down and buried his
face in his hands.



CHAPTER VIII. PRIESTLY COUNSELS

Frank was so full of his own reflections that he almost forgot his
sister's absence; nor did he notice how the time went oyer, when he
heard the sound of voices and the noise of a door closing; and, on
looking up, perceived a handsome man, something short of middle-aged,
who, dressed in the deep black of a priest, wore a species of blue
silk collar, the mark of a religious order. His features were perfectly
regular, and their expression the most bland and courteous it was
possible to imagine. There was a serene dignity, too, in his gait, as
he came forward, that showed how thoroughly at home he felt on the soft
carpet, and in the perfumed atmosphere of a drawing-room.

Bowing twice to Frank, he saluted him with a smile, so gentle and
so winning, that the boy almost felt as if they had been already
acquainted.

"I have come," said the priest, "to pay my respects to the Princesse
de Midchekoff, and, if my eyesight is not playing me false, I have the
honor to recognize her brother."

Frank blushed with pleasure as he bowed an assent.

"May I anticipate the kindness--which your sister would not refuse me,"
continued he, "and introduce myself. You may, perhaps, have heard of the
Abbé D'Esmonde?"

"Repeatedly," cried Frank, taking the proffered hand in his own. "Nelly
spoke of you in almost every letter. You were always so kind to Kate in
Italy."

"How amply am I recompensed, were not the pleasure of knowing
Miss Dalton a sufficient reward in itself. It is rare to find that
combination of excellence which can command all the homage of fashion,
and yet win the approbation of a poor priest."

There was a humility, deep enough to be almost painful, in the tone in
which these words were uttered; but Frank had little time to dwell on
them, for already the Abbé had taken a seat on the sofa beside him, and
was deep in the discussion of all Kate's attractions and merits.

There was a sincerity, an ardor of admiration, chastened only by the
temper of his sacred character, that delighted the boy. If allusion were
made to her beauty, it was only to heighten the praise he bestowed on
her for other gifts, and display the regulated action of a mind proof
against every access of vanity. Her correct judgment, her intuitive
refinement, the extreme delicacy of her sensibilities,--these were
the themes he dwelt upon, and Frank felt that they must be rare gifts
indeed, when the very description of them could be so pleasurable.

From what the Abbé said, so far from her marriage with the great Russian
being a piece of fortune, she had but to choose her position amid the
first houses of Europe.

"It was true," he added, "that the 'Midchekoff's' wealth was like
royalty, and as he united to immense fortune great claims of personal
merit, the alliance had everything to recommend it."

"And this is so?" cried Frank, eagerly. "The Prince is a fine fellow?"

"Generous and munificent to an extent almost fabulous," said D'Esmonde,
who seemed rather to resume his own train of thought than reply to
Frank's question. "The splendor of his life has already canonized a
proverb."

"But his temper--his manner--his disposition?"

"Like all his countrymen, he is reserved, almost cold to strangers; his
intimates, however, talk of him as frankness and candor itself. Even on
political themes, where Russians are usually most guarded, he gives his
opinions freely and manfully, and, strange enough too, with a liberality
which, though common enough in our country, must be very rare indeed in
his."

"That is strange!" said Frank, thoughtfully.

"Yes," said D' Esmonde, dropping into the tone of one who insensibly
poured out his inmost thoughts in soliloquizing,----"Yes, he feels,
what we all do, that this state of things cannot last,--disparity of
condition may become too palpable and too striking. The contrast between
affluence and misery may display itself too offensively! Men may one
day or other refuse to sign a renewal of the bond of servitude, and
then--and then----"

"A civil war, I suppose," cried Frank, quietly; "but the troops will
always give them a lesson."

"Do you think so, my dear young friend?" said the Abbé, affectionately;
"do you not rather think that soldiers will begin to learn that they are
citizens, and that, when forging fetters for others, the metal can be
fashioned into chains for themselves?"

"But they have an oath," said the boy; "they 've sworn to their
allegiance."

"Very true, so they have; but what is the oath?--the one half of the
compact which cannot be supposed binding when the other half be broken.
Let the social policy of a government fail in its great object,----the
happiness of a people; let a whole nation gradually cease to enjoy the
advantages for the sake of which they assumed the responsibilities
and ties of family; let them day-by-day fall lower in the scale of
civilization and comfort, and after surrendering this privilege to-day,
and that to-morrow, at last take their stand on the very verge of the
precipice, with nothing but abject slavery beneath,--what would you say
of the order to charge them with the bayonet, even though the formality
of a recruiting oath should seem to warrant the obedience?"

"I 'd do it; if I was ordered," said Frank, sternly.

"I don't think you would," said D'Esmonde, smiling. "I read your nature
differently. I can trace, even in the flashing of your eye this instant,
the ambition of a bold and energetic spirit, and that when the moment
came you would embrace the losing cause, with all its perils, rather
than stand by tyranny, in all its strength. Besides, remember, this is
not the compact under which you entered the service, although it might,
under certain peculiar circumstances, appeal to your sense of duty. An
army is not--at least it ought not to be--a 'gendarmerie.' Go forth
to battle against the enemies of your country, carry the flag of your
Vaterland into the plains of France, plant the double eagle once more
in the Place da Carrousel,--even aggressive war has its glorious
compensations in deeds of chivalry and heroism----But here is the
Princesse," said the Abbé, rising, and advancing courteously towards
her.

"The Abbé D'Esmonde!" cried Kate, with an expression of delight, as she
held ont her hand, which the priest pressed to his lips with all the
gallantry of a courtier. "How pleasant to see the face of a friend in
this strange land!" said she. "Abbé, this is my brother Frank, of whom
you have heard me talk so often."

"We are acquaintances already," said D'Esmonde, passing his arm within
the soldier's; "and albeit our coats are not of the same color, I think
many of our principles are."

A few moments saw him seated between the brother and sister on the sofa,
recounting the circumstances of his journey, and detailing, for Kate's
amusement, the latest news of Florence.

"Lady Hester is much better in health and spirits, too," said the Abbé;
"the disastrous circumstances of fortune would seem to have taken a
better turn; at least, it is probable that Sir Stafford's losses will
be comparatively slight. I believe her satisfaction on this head arises
entirely from feeling that no imputation of altered position can now be
alleged as the reason for her change of religion."

"And has she done this?" asked Kate, with a degree of anxiety; for she
well knew on what feeble grounds Lady Hester's convictions were usually
built..

"Not publicly; she waits for her arrival at Rome, to make her confession
at the shrine of St. John of Lateran. Her doubts, however, have all been
solved,--her reconciliation is perfect."

"Is she happy? Has she found peace of mind at last?" asked Kate,
timidly.

"On this point I can speak with confidence," said D'Esmonde, warmly;
and at once entered into a description of the pleasurable impulse a new
train of thoughts and impressions had given to the exhausted energies
of a "fine lady's" life. It was so far true, indeed, that for some
days back she had never known a moment of _ennui_. Surrounded by sacred
emblems and a hundred devices of religious association, she appeared to
herself as if acting a little poem of life, wherein a mass of amiable
qualities, of which she knew nothing before, were all developing
themselves before her. And what between meritorious charities, saintly
intercessions, visits to shrines, and decorations of altars, she had
not an instant unoccupied; it was one unceasing round of employment; and
with prayers, bouquets, lamps, confessions, candles, and penances, the
day was even too short for its duties.

The little villa of La Rocca was now a holy edifice. The drawing-room
had become an oratory; a hollow-cheeked "Seminariste," from Como, had
taken the place of the Maestro di Casa. The pages wore a robe like
acolytes, and even Albert Jekyl began to fear that a costume was in
preparation for himself, from certain measurements that he had observed
taken with regard to his figure.

"My time is up," said Frank, hastily, as he arose to go away.

"You are not about to leave me, Frank?" said Kate.

"Yes, I must; my leave was only till four o'clock, as the
Field-Marshal's note might have shown you; but I believe you threw it
into the fire before you finished it."

"Did I, really? I remember nothing of that. But, stay, and I will write
to him. I 'll say that I have detained you."

"But the service, Kate dearest! My sergeant--my over-lieutenant--my
captain--what will they say? I may have to pass three days in irons for
the disobedience."

"Modern chivalry has a dash of the treadmill through it," said
D'Esmonde, sarcastically; and the boy's cheek flushed as he heard it.
The priest, however, had already turned away, and, walking into the
recess of a window, left the brother and sister free to talk unmolested.

"I scarcely like him, Kate," whispered Frank.

"You scarcely know him yet," she said, with a smile. "But when can you
come again to me,--to-morrow^ early?"

"I fear not We have a parade and a field-inspection, and then 'rapport'
at noon."

"Leave it to me, then, dear Frank," said she, kissing him; "I must try
if I cannot succeed with the 'Field' better than you have done."

"There's the recall-bugle," cried the boy, in terror; and, snatching up
his cap, he bounded from the room at once.

"A severe service,--at least, one of rigid discipline," said D'Esmonde,
with a compassionating expression of voice. "It is hard to say whether
it works for good or evil, repressing the development of every generous
impulse, as certainly as it restrains the impetuous passions of youth."

"True," said Kate, pointedly; "there would seem something of priestcraft
in their _régime_. The individual is nothing, the service everything."

"Your simile lacks the great element,--force of resemblance, Madame,"
said D'Esmonde, with a half smile. "The soldier has not, like the
priest, a grand sustaining hope, a glorious object before him. He
knows little or nothing of the cause in which his sword is drawn; his
sympathies may even be against his duty. The very boy who has just left
us,--noble-hearted fellow that he is,--what strange wild notions of
liberty has he imbibed! how opposite are all his speculations to the
stern calls of the duty he has sworn to discharge!"

"And does he dare--"

"Nay, Madame, there was no indiscretion on his part; my humble walk in
life has taught me that if I am excluded from all participation in the
emotions which sway my fellow-men, I may at least study them as they
arise, watch them in their infancy, and trace them to their fruit of
good or evil. Do not fancy, dear lady, that it is behind the grating of
the confessional only that we read men's secrets. As the physician gains
his knowledge of anatomy from the lifeless body, so do we learn the
complex structure of the human heart in the deathlike stillness of the
cell, with the penitent before us. But yet all the knowledge thus gained
is but a step to something further. It is while reading the tangled
story of the heart,--its struggles, its efforts, the striving after good
here, the inevitable fall back to evil there, the poor, weak attempt at
virtue, the vigorous energy of vice,--it is hearing this sad tale from
day to day, learning, in what are called the purest natures, how deep
the well of corruption lies, and that not one generous thought, one
noble aspiration, or one holy desire rises unalloyed by some base
admixture of worldly motive. It is thus armed we go forth into the
world, to fight against the wiles and seductions of life. How can we be
deceived by the blandishments that seduce others? What avail to us those
pretentious displays of self-devotion, those sacrifices of wealth, those
proud acts of munificence which astonish the world, but of whose secret
springs we are conversant? What wonder, then, if I have read the artless
nature of a boy like that, or see in him the springs of an ambition he
knows not of himself? Nay, it would be no rash boast to say that I have
deciphered more complicated inscriptions than those upon his heart I
have traced some upon his sister's!" The last three words he uttered
with a slow and deep enunciation, leaving a pause between each, and
bending on her a look of intense meaning.

Kate's cheek became scarlet, then pale, and a second time she flushed,
till neck and shoulders grew crimson together.

"You have no confidences to make me, my dear, dear child," said
D'Esmonde, as, taking her hand, he pressed her down on a sofa
beside him. "Your faltering lips have nothing to articulate,----no
self-repinings, no sorrows to utter; for I know them all!" He paused for
a few seconds, and then resumed: "Nor have you to fear me as a stern or
a merciless judge. Where there is a sacrifice, there is a blessing!"

Kate held down her head, but her bosom heaved, and her frame trembled
with emotion.

"Your motives," resumed he, "would dignify even a rasher course. I know
the price at which you have bartered happiness,--not your own only, but
another's with it!"

She sobbed violently, and pressed her hands over her face.

"Poor, poor fellow!" cried he, as if borne away by an impulse of candor
that would brook no concealment, "how I grieved to see him, separated,
as we were, by the wide and yawning gulf between us, giving himself
up to the very recklessness of despair, now cursing the heartless
dissipation in which his life was lost, now accusing himself of
golden opportunities neglected, bright moments squandered, petty
misunderstandings exaggerated into dislikes, the passing coldness of the
moment exalted into a studied disdain! We were almost strangers to each
other before,--nay, I half fancied that he kept aloof from me.
Probably,"--here D'Esmonde smiled with a bland dignity,--"probably he
called me a 'Jesuit,'--that name so full of terror to good Protestant
ears; but, on his sick-bed, as he lay suffering and in solitude, his
faculties threw off the deceptive influences of prejudice; he read me
then more justly; he saw that I was his friend. Hours upon hours have we
passed talking of you; the theme seemed to give a spring to an existence
from which, till then, all zest of life had been withdrawn. I never
before saw as much of passion, with a temper so just and so forgiving.
He needed no aid of mine to read your motives truly. 'It is not for
herself that she has done this,' were words that he never ceased to
utter. He knew well the claims that family would make on you, the
heartrending appeals from those you could not but listen to! 'Oh! if I
could but think that she will not forget me; that some memory of me will
still linger in her mind!'--this was his burning prayer, syllabled by
lips parched by the heat of fever; and when I told him to write to
you--"

"To write to me!" cried she, catching his arm, while her cheeks trembled
with intense agony; "You did not give such counsel?"

"Not alone that," said D'Esmonde, calmly, "but promised that I would
myself deliver the letter into your hands. Is martyrdom less glorious
that a cry of agony escapes the victim, or that his limbs writhe as the
flame wraps round them? Is self-sacrifice to be denied the sorrowful
satisfaction to tell its woes? I bade him write because it would be good
for him and for you alike."

She stared eagerly, as if to ask his meaning.

"Good for both," repeated he, slowly. "Love will be, to him, a
guide-star through life, leading him by paths of high and honorable
ambition; to you it will be the consolation of hours that even splendor
will not enliven. Believe me,"----here he raised his voice to a tone
of command and authority,--"believe me that negation is the lot of
all. Happiest they who only suffer in their affections! And what is the
purest of all love? Is it not that the devotee feels for his protecting
saint,--that sense of ever-present care, that consciousness of a
watching, unceasing affection, that neither slumbers nor wearies,
following us in our joy, beside us in our afflictions? Some humble
effigy, some frail representation, is enough to embody this conception;
but its essence lies in the heart of hearts! Such a love as this--pure,
truthful, and enduring--may elevate the humblest life into heroism, and
throw a sun-gleam over the dreariest path of destiny. The holy bond that
unites the grovelling nature below with glory above, has its humble type
on earth in those who, separated by fate, are together in affection. I
bade him write to you a few lines; he was too weak for more; indeed, his
emotion almost made the last impossible. I pressed him, however, to do
it, and pledged myself to place them in your hands; my journey hither
had no other object." As he spoke, he took forth a small sealed packet,
and gave it to Kate, whose hands trembled as she took it.

"I shall spend some days in Vienna," said he, rising to take leave;
"pray let me have a part of each of them with you. I have much to say
to you, and of other matters than those we have now spoken." And kissing
her hand with a respectful devotion, the Abbé withdrew, without ever
once raising his eyes towards her.

Sick with sorrow and humiliation,--for such she acutely felt,----Kate
Dalton rose and retired to her room. "Tell Madame de Heidendorf, Nina,"
said she, "that I feel tired to-day, and beg she will excuse my not
appearing at dinner."

Nina courtesied her obedience, but it was easy to see that the
explanation by no means satisfied her, and that she was determined to
know something more of the origin of her young mistress's indisposition.

"Madame knows that the Archduke is to dine here."

"I know it," said Kate, peevishly, and as if desirous of being left in
quiet.

Nina again courtesied, but in the brilliant flashing of her dark eyes it
was plain to mark the consciousness that some secret was withheld from
her. The _soubrette_ class are instinctive readers of motives; "their
only books are '_ladies_' looks," but they con them to perfection. It
was, then, with a studied pertinacity that Nina proceeded to arrange
drawers and fold dresses, and fifty other similar duties, the discharge
of which she saw was torturing her mistress.

"I should wish to be alone, Nina, and undisturbed," said Kate, at last,
her patience being entirely exhausted.

Nina made her very deepest reverence, and withdrew.

Kate waited for a few seconds, till all sound of her retiring steps had
died away, then arose, and locked the door.

She was alone; the packet which the Abbé had delivered lay on the table
before her; she bent down over it, and wept. The utter misery of sorrow
is only felt where self-reproach mingles with our regrets. All the pangs
of other misfortunes are light in comparison with this. The irrevocable
past was her own work; she knew it, and cried till her very heart seemed
bursting.



CHAPTER IX.  SECRETS OF HEAD AND HEART

I must ask of my reader to leave this chamber, where, overwhelmed by
her sorrows, poor Kate poured out her grief in tears, and follow me to a
small but brilliantly lighted apartment, in which a little party of four
persons was seated, discussing their wine, and enjoying the luxury of
their cigars. Be not surprised when we say that one of the number was a
lady. Madame de Heidendorf, however, puffed her weed with all the zest
of a smoker; the others were the Archduke Ernest, a plain, easy-tempered
looking man, in the gray undress of an Austrian General, the Foreign
Minister, Count Nõrinberg, and our old acquaintance, the Abbé D'Esmonde.

The table, besides the usual ornaments of a handsome dessert, was
covered with letters, journals, and pamphlets, with here and there a
colored print in caricature of some well-known political personage.
Nothing could be more easy and unconstrained than the air and bearing
of the guests. The Archduke sat with his uniform coat unbuttoned, and
resting one leg upon a chair before him. The Minister tossed over
the books, and brushed off the ashes of his cigar against the richly
damasked table-cloth; while even the Abbé seemed to have relaxed the
smooth urbanity of his face into a look of easy enjoyment Up to this
moment the conversation had been general, the principal topics being
the incidents of the world of fashion, the flaws and frivolities, the
mishaps and misadventures of those whose names were familiar to his
Imperial Highness, and in whose vicissitudes he took the most lively
interest. These, and a stray anecdote of the turf in England, were the
only subjects he cared for, hating politics and State affairs with a
most cordial detestation. His presence, however, was a compliment that
the Court always paid "the Countess," and he submitted to his torn of
duty manfully.

Deeply involved in the clouds of his cigar-smoke, and even more
enveloped in the misty regions of his own reveries, he sipped his
wine in silence, and heard nothing of the conversation about him. The
Minister was then perfectly free to discuss the themes most interesting
to him, and learn whatever he could of the state of public opinion in
Italy.

"You are quite right, Abbé," said he, with a sage shake of the head.
"Small concessions, petty glimpses of liberty, only give a zest for
more enlarged privileges. There is nothing like a good flood of popular
anarchy for creating a wholesome disgust to freedom. There must be
excesses!"

"Precisely so, sir," said the Abbé. "There can be no question of an
antidote if there has been no poisoning."

"Ay; but may not this system be pushed too far? Is not his Holiness
already doing so?"

"Some are disposed to think so, but I am not of the number," said
D'Esmonde. "It is necessary that he should himself be convinced that the
system is a bad one; and there is no mode of conviction so palpable as
by a personal experience. Now, this he will soon have. As yet, he does
not see that every step in political freedom is an advance towards the
fatal heresy that never ceases its persecutions of the Church. Not that
our Revolutionists care for Protestantism or the Bible either; but, by
making common cause with those who do, see what a large party in England
becomes interested for their success. The right of judgment conceded in
religious matters, how can you withhold it in political ones? The men
who brave the Church will not tremble before a cabinet. Now the Pope
sees nothing of this; he even mistakes the flatteries offered to himself
for testimonies of attachment to the Faith, and all those kneeling
hypocrites who implore his blessing he fancies are faithful children of
Rome. He must be awakened from this delusion; but yet none save himself
can dispel it He is obstinate and honest."

"If the penalty were to be his own alone, it were not so much matter,"
said the Minister; "but it will cost a revolution."

"Of course it will; but there is time enough to prepare for it."

"The state of the Milanais is far from satisfactory," said the Minister,
gravely.

"I know that; but a revolt of a prison always excuses double irons,"
said D'Esmonde, sarcastically.

"Tell him of Sardinia, Abbé," said Madame de Heidendorf.

"Your real danger is from that quarter," said D'Esmonde. "There is
a growing spirit of independence there,--a serious desire for free
institutions, wide apart from the wild democracy of the rest of Italy.
This is a spirit you cannot crush; but you can do better,--you can
corrupt it Genoa is a hotbed of Socialist doctrine; the wildest
fanaticism of the 'Reds' is there triumphant, and our priests are
manfully aiding the spread of such opinions. They have received orders
to further these notions; and it is thus, and by the excesses consequent
on this, you will succeed in trampling down that moderated liberty which
is the curse that England is destined to disseminate amongst us. It is
easy enough to make an excited people commit an act of indiscretion, and
then, with public opinion on your side--"

"How I detest that phrase!" said Madame de Heidendorf; "it is the lowest
cant of the day."

"The thing it represents is not to be despised, Madame," said the Abbé.

"These are English notions," said she, sneeringly.

"They will be Russian ones yet, depend upon it, Madame."

"I 'd rather know what a few men of vast fortune, like Midchekoff, for
instance, think, than have the suffrages of half the greasy mobs of
Europe."

"By the way," said the Minister, "what is he doing? Is it true that he
is coquetting with Liberals and Fourierists, and all that?"

"For the moment he is," said Madame de Heidendorf; "and two or three of
the popularity-seeking sovereigns have sent him their decorations, and
if he does not behave better he will be ordered home."

"He is of great use in Italy," said the Minister.

"True; but he must not abuse his position."

"He is just vain enough to lend himself to a movement," said D'Esmonde;
"but he shall be watched."

These last words were very significantly uttered.

"You know the Princess, Abbé?" asked the Minister, with a smile; and
another smile, as full of meaning, replied to the question.

"She's pretty, ain't she?" asked the Archduke.

"Beautiful is the word, sir; but if your Imperial Highness would like
to pass judgment personally, I 'll beg of her to come down to the
drawing-room."

"Of all things, most kind of you to make the offer," said he, rising
and arranging his coat and sword-knot into some semblance of propriety,
while Madame de Heidendorf rang the bell, and despatched a messenger to
Kate with the request.

Nina was overjoyed at the commission intrusted to her. Since Kate's
peremptory order, she had not ventured to intrude herself upon her;
but now, armed with a message, she never hesitated about invading the
precincts of that silent chamber, at whose door she often stood in doubt
and speculation.

She tapped gently at the door; there was no answer. A second summons was
alike unreplied to, and Nina bent down her head to listen. There were
long-drawn breathings, like sleep; but a heavy sigh told that the
moments were those of waking sorrow. Cautiously turning the handle
of the door, without noise, she opened it and passed in. The room was
shrouded in a dim half-light, and it was not till after the lapse of
some seconds that Nina could distinguish the form of her young mistress,
as, with her head buried in her hands, she sat before a table on which
lay an open letter.

So absorbed was Kate in grief that she heard nothing, and Nina
approached her, slowly, till at last she stood directly behind her,
fixedly regarding the heaving figure, the dishevelled hair, and the
trembling hands that seemed to clutch with eagerness some object within
their grasp. Kate suddenly started, and pushing back her hair from
her eyes, seemed as if trying to collect her wandering thoughts. Then,
unclasping a case, she placed a miniature before her, and contemplated
it attentively. Nina bent over her till she almost touched her in her
eagerness. Had any one been there to have seen her features at the
moment, they would have perceived the traits of intense and varied
passion, surprise, rage, and jealousy, all struggling for the mastery.
Her dark skin grew almost livid, and her black eyes glowed with anger;
while, with a force like convulsion, she pressed her hands to her heart,
as if to calm its beatings. A sea of stormy passions was warring within
her, and in her changeful expression might be seen the conflict of her
resolves. At last, she appeared to have decided; for with noiseless
steps she gradually retreated toward the door, her eyes all the while
steadily fixed on her mistress.

It seemed to require no slight effort to repress the torrent of rage
within her; for even at the door she stood irresolute for a moment, and
then, softly opening it, withdrew. Once outside, her pent-up passions
found vent, and she sobbed violently. Her mood was, however, more of
anger than of sorrow, and there was an air of almost insolent pride in
the way she now knocked, and then, without waiting for reply, entered
the room.

"Madame de Heidendorf requests that the Princess will appear in the
drawing-room," said she, abruptly, and confronting Kate's look of
confusion with a steadfast stare.

"Say that I am indisposed, Nina,----that I feel tired and unwell," said
Kate, timidly.

"There is an Archduke, Madame."

"What care I for an Archduke, Nina?" said Kate, trying to smile away the
awkwardness of her own disturbed manner.

"I have always believed that great folk liked each other," said Nina,
sarcastically.

"Then I must lack one element of that condition, Nina," said Kate,
good-humoredly; "but pray make my excuses,--say anything you like so
that I may be left in quiet."

"How delightful Madame's reveries must be, when she attaches such value
to them!"

"Can you doubt it, Nina?" replied Kate, with a forced gayety. "A
betrothed bride ought to be happy; you are always telling me so. I hear
of nothing from morn till night but of rich caskets of gems and jewels;
you seem to think that diamonds would throw a lustre over any gloom."

[Illustration: 120]

"And would they not?" cried Nina, passionately "Has not the brow nobler
and higher thoughts when encircled by a coronet like this? Does not
the heart beat with greater transport beneath gems like these?" And she
opened case after case of sparkling jewels as she spoke, and spread them
before Kate, on the table.

"And yet I have learned to look on them calmly," said Kate, with an
expression of proud indifference.

"Does not that dazzle you?" said Nina, holding up a cross of rose
diamonds.

"No!" said Kate, shaking her head.

"Nor that?" cried Nina, displaying a gorgeous necklace.

"Nor even that, Nina."

"Is Madame's heart so steeled against womanly vanities," said Nina,
quickly, while she threw masses of costly articles before her, "that not
one throb, not one flush of pleasure, is called up at sight of these?"

"You see, Nina, that I can look on them calmly."

"Then this, perchance, may move you!" cried Nina; and with a bound
she sprang to the table at which Kate was seated, and, dashing the
handkerchief away, seized the miniature, and held it up.

Kate uttered a shrill cry and fell back fainting. Nina gazed at her for
a second or so with a look of haughty disdain, and sprinkling the pale
features with a few drops of water, she turned away. With calm composure
she replaced each precious gem within its case, laid the miniature once
more beneath the handkerchief, and then left the room.

"Your Princess will not honor us, it seems, with her company," said the
Archduke, half in pique, as the messenger returned with Kate's excuses;
"and yet I looked for her coming to get rid of all the farrago of
politics that you wise folk will insist upon talking."

The Countess and the Minister exchanged most significant glances at
this speech, while D'Esmonde politely assented to the remark, by adding
something about the relaxation necessary to overwrought minds, and the
need that princes should enjoy some repose as well as those of lower
degree. "I can, however, assure your Imperial Highness," said he, "that
this is no caprice of the young Princess. She is really far from well,
and was even unable to receive her own relative this afternoon, the
Count von Dalton."

"What, is old Auersberg a relative of hers?"

"An uncle, or a grand-uncle,--I forget which, sir."

"Then that wild youth in the Franz Carl must be a connection too?"

"The cadet is her brother, sir."

"Indeed! What an extravagant fellow it is! They say that, counting on
being Auersberg's heir, he spends money in every possible fashion; and
as the tradespeople take the succession on trust, his debts are already
considerable. It was only yesterday his colonel spoke to me of sending
him to the Banat, or some such place. His family must be rich, I
suppose?"

"I believe quite the reverse, sir. Poor to indigence. Their entire hope
is on the Count von Auersberg."

"He held a frontier command for many years, and must have saved money.
But will he like to see it in hands like these?"

"I believe--at least so the story goes," said D'Esmonde, dropping his
voice to a whisper, "that the boy's arguments have scarcely assisted his
object in that respect. They say that he told the Count that in times
like these no man's fortune was worth a year's purchase; that when
monarchs were tottering and thrones rocking, it were better to spend
one's means freely than to tempt pillage by hoarding it."

"Are these his notions?" cried the Archduke, in amazement

"Yes; the wildest doctrines of Socialism are his creed,--opinions,
I grieve to say, more widely spread than any one supposes."

"How is this, then? I see the private regimental reports of every corps,
I read the conduct-rolls of almost every company, and yet no hint of
this disaffection has reached me.

"A priest could reveal more than an adjutant, sir," said the Abbé,
smiling. "These youths who fancy themselves neglected,--who think their
claims disregarded,--who, in a word, imagine that some small pretension,
on the score of family, should be the spring of their promotion, are
easily seduced into extravagant ideas about freedom and so forth."

"Austria is scarce the land for such fruit to ripen in," said the
Archduke, laughing. "Let him try France, or the United States."

"Very true, your Highness," chimed in the Abbé; "but such boys ought to
be watched,--their conduct inquired strictly into."

"Or better still, Monsieur l'Abbé," said the Archduke, sternly,
"dismissed the service. I see no profit in retaining amongst us the
seeds of this French malady."

"I believe your Highness takes the true view of the difficulty," said
D'Esmonde, as though reflecting over it. "And yet you will be asked to
make an officer of him in a day or two."

"An officer of this boy, and why, or by whom?"

"The Princess, his sister, will make the request; probably through Von
Auersberg."

"But when I tell the Feld--"

"Ah, your Imperial Highness could not betray a confidence!" said
D'Esmonde. "I have ventured to disclose to you what has come to my
knowledge by means only accessible to myself; I therefore rely on your
Highness not to divulge, however you may use it."

"He shall not continue to wear our cloth; that you may certainly rely
on, Monsieur l'Abbé," said the Archduke, sternly.

"In any case, wait for his sister's departure, sir," said D'Esmonde,
anxiously; "a few days or hours. As soon as this silly old lady has made
up that budget of gossip and scandal she fancies to be political news,
we 'll see her leave this, and then he can be dealt with as you think
proper."

The Archduke made no reply,--not seeming either to assent to or reject
the counsel. "It would break the old Marshal's heart," said he, at last;
"that gallant old soldier would never survive it."

"A treason might, indeed, kill him," said D'Esmonde. "But your Highness
will anticipate exposure by dismissal--dismissal, peremptory and
unexplained."

Again the Archduke was silent, but his lowering brow and dark expression
told that the subject was giving him deep and serious thought. "I paid
no attention to your conversation this evening, Abbé," said be, at last;
"but it struck me, from a chance word here and there, that you suspect
these same 'Liberal' notions are gaining ground."

"Heresies against the Faith, sir, have begotten their natural offspring,
heresies against the State; and Governments do not yet awaken to the
fact that they who scorn the altar will not respect the throne. The
whole force of what are called Liberal institutions has been to weaken
the influence of the clergy; and yet it is precisely on that same
influence you will have to fall back. It is beneath the solemn shadow of
the Church you'll seek your refuge yet!"

"No, no, father," said the Archduke, with a laugh; "we have another
remedy."

"The mitre is stronger than the _mitraille_, after all," said
D'Esmonde, boldly. "Believe me, sir, that the solemn knell that tolls
an excommunication will strike more terror through Christendom than all
your artillery."

Either the remark or the tone in which it was uttered was unpleasing
to the Prince; indeed, all the Abbe's courtesy at times gave way to an
almost impetuous boldness, which royalty never brooks, for he turned
away haughtily, and joined the others at a distant part of the room.

There was something of scorn in the proud look which D'Esmonde gave
after him, and then slipped from the chamber with noiseless step and
disappeared. Inquiring the way to the Princess's apartment, the Abbé
slowly ascended the stairs, pondering deeply as he went. Nina was
passing the corridor at the moment, and, supposing that he had mistaken
the direction, politely asked if she could offer him any guidance.
Scarcely noticing the questioner, he replied,----

"I was looking for the Princesse de Midchekoff's apartments."

"It is here, sir; but she is indisposed."

"If you would say that the Abbé D'Esmonde--"

He had got thus far when, lifting his eyes, his glance fell upon her
features; and then, as if spell-bound, he stood silently gazing at her.
Nina's cheek grew crimson under the stare; but her eyes met his with
unshaken firmness.

"If I were to disbelieve all probabilities," said he, slowly, "I should
say that I see an old friend before me. Are you not the daughter of
Huertos, the Toridor of Seville?"

"Fra Eustace!" said Nina, stepping back and staring steadily at him.

"No longer so, Lola; I am the Abbé D'Esmonde now," said he, while a
faint flush tinged his pale features.

"And I am Nina, the 'Cameriera,'" replied she, scornfully. "See how
unequally fortune has dealt with us!"

D'Esmonde made a sign towards the door, which she at once understood and
answered,----

"Yes, in the service of the Princess."

"This is indeed a strange meeting, Lola."

"Call me Nina," said the girl, flushing, "or I shall remember old times,
and my Spanish blood will little bear such memories."

"Where can we talk together, Nina?"

"Come this way, holy father," said she, with a half-sneering smile. "I
suppose a poor girl may receive her confessor in her chamber."

D'Esmonde walked after her without speaking. While crossing a gallery,
she unlocked a door, and admitted him into a small but neatly furnished
room.

"Dear Lola," said the priest, as, taking her hand, he looked
affectionately at her,--"I must needs call you by the old name,--what
turn of fortune has brought you here?"

"It is a question well becomes you," said the girl, releasing her
hand from his grasp, and drawing herself proudly up. "You cut the bark
adrift, and you wonder that it has become a wreck!"

"How this old warmth of temper recalls the past, and how I love you for
it, as I grieve over it, Lola; but be calm, and tell me everything, just
as you used to tell me years ago."

"Oh, if I had the same pure heart as then!" cried the girl,
passionately. "Oh, if I could but shed tears, as once I did, over each
slight transgression, and not have my spirit seared and hardened, as the
world has made it!"

"We cannot carry the genial freshness of youth into the ripe years of
judgment, Lola. Gifts decay, and others succeed them."

"No more of this casuistry. _You_ are, I see, the same, whatever changes
time may have made in _me_; but I have outlived these trickeries. Tell
me, frankly, what do you want with me?"

"Must there needs be some motive of self-interest in renewing an old
but interrupted friendship, Lola? You remember what we once were to
each other?"

"Oh that I could forget it!----oh that I could wash out the thought, or
even think it but a dream! But how can you recall these memories? If the
sorrow be mine, is not the shame all yours?"

"The shame and the sorrow are alike mine," said D'Es-monde, in a voice
of deep dejection, "_You_ alone, of all the world, were ever able to
shake within me the great resolves that in prayer and devotion I
had formed. For you, Lola, I was, for a space, willing to resign the
greatest cause that ever man engaged in. Ay, for love of _you_, I was
ready to peril everything--even to my soul! Is not this enough for shame
and sorrow too? Is not this humiliation for one who wears the robe that
I do?"

"You were a student in those days," said Nina, with a sneering smile;
"and I never heard you speak of all those dreadful sacrifices. You used
to talk of leaving the college with a light heart. You spoke of the
world as if you were impatient to mingle with it. You planned I know
not how many roads to fortune and advancement. Among other careers,
I remember"--and here she burst into a scornful laugh, that made the
priest's cheek grow crimson with passion----"I remember how you hit upon
one which speaks rather for your ardor than your prudence. Do you forget
that you would be a Toridor,--you whose cheek grew pale and whose
heart sickened as my father's horse lay embowelled in the ring, and who
fainted outright when the bull's horns were driven into the barricade
near you. You a Toridor! A Toridor should have courage!" And as she
spoke, her eyes flashed with the fire of passion.

"Courage!" said the priest, in a voice almost guttural from emotion;
"and is there no other courage than the vulgar defiance of personal
danger,--the quality of the veriest savage and the merest brute in
creation? Is there nothing more exalted in courage than to face bodily
peril? Are all its instincts selfishness? What think you of the courage
of him who, in all the conscious strength of intellect, with powers to
win an upward way amongst the greatest and the highest, can stoop to a
life of poverty and neglect, can give up all that men strive for,--home,
affection, family, citizenship,----content to toil apart and alone,
----to watch, to fast, and pray, and think,----ay, think till the very
brain reels with labor,--and all this for a cause in which he is but a
unit! Courage! Tell me not of courage beside that of him who dares to
shake the strongest thrones, and convulses empires with his word, whose
counsels brave the might of armies, and dare even kings to controvert;
and, greatest of all, the courage that for a cause can risk salvation!
Yes, Lola, he who to save others hazards his own eternity! Have I not
done it?" cried he, carried away by an impetuous rush of feeling. "Have
I not overborne the truth and sustained the falsehood? Have I not
warped the judgments, and clouded the faculties, and misdirected the
aspirations of many who came to me for counsel, knowing that if there
might be evil now there would be good hereafter, and that for present
and passing sorrow there would be a glorious day of rejoicing? To this
end have I spoke Peace to the guilty man and Hope to the hardened! Not
for him, nor for me, but for the countless millions of the Church,--for
the mighty hosts who look to her for succor and consolation! This I call
courage!"

And he drew himself proudly up, and folded his arms on his breast with
an air of haughty composure; while the girl, awed by his manner, and
subdued by the impetuosity of his speech, gazed at him in half fear and
wonderment.

"Tell me of your father, Lola," said D'Esmonde, in a low, soft voice, as
he drew her low seat to his side.

"_He_ was killed at Madrid; he died before the Queen!" said she,
proudly.

"The death of a Toridor!" muttered the priest, mournfully.

"Yes, and Pueblos too,--he is dead!"

"Not the little child that I remember--"

"The same. He grew up to be a fine man; some thought him handsomer than
my father. My mother's family would have made a priest of him, but he
chose the prouder destiny."

"I cannot think of him but as the child,--the little fellow who played
about my knees; dressed like a matador, his long silky hair in a net."

"Oh, do not----do not speak of him," cried the girl, burying her face
between her hands; "my heart will not bear those memories."

The priest's face was lighted up with a malevolent delight as he bent
over her, as if revelling in the thought the emotions could call up.

"Poor little fellow!" said he, as if to himself. "How I remember his
bolero that he danced for me." He stopped, and she sobbed bitterly. "He
said that Lola taught him."

She looked up; the tears were fast coursing along her cheeks, which were
pale as death.

"Eustace," said she, tremulously, "these thoughts will drive me mad; my
brain is reeling even now."

"Let us talk of something else, then," said he. "When did you leave the
'Opera'--and why?"

"How can you ask? you were at Seville at the time. Have you forgotten
that famous, marriage, to which, by your persuasion, I consented; was
this scheme only one of those unhappy events which are to be the seed of
future good?"

The sneer made no impression on the priest, who calmly answered, "Even
so, Lola."

"What do you mean, sir?" cried she, angrily; "to what end am I thus?
Was I so base born and so low? Was my lot in life so ignominious that
I should not have raised my ambition above a fortune like this,--the
waiting-woman of one whose birth is not better than my own?"

"You are right, Lola,----perfectly right; and with patience and prudence
you will be her equal yet. Acton is an English noble--"

"What care I for that?" said she, passionately; "the marriage was a
counterfeit."

"The marriage was a true and valid one."

"And yet you yourself told me it was not binding."

"I had my reasons for the deceit, Lola," said he, persuasively. "You
were deserted and desolate; such widowhood would have brought you to
the grave with sorrow. It were better that you should strive against
misery."

"Even in shame?" asked she, scornfully.

"Even in shame, for the shame would be short-lived; but Lord Norwood is
alive, and you are his wife."

"Lord Norwood! I have heard that name so often," said she, musingly.

"At Florence, of course, he was every night at the Mazzarini Palace; the
same Gerald Acton you remember long ago."

"And he is a lord,--an English noble?"

"And you are an English peeress, Lola. There is not a coronet more safe
upon a titled head than I can make yours,--can and will make," added
he, slowly. "But you must be patient; I must now speak to you, Lola, of
themes in which you can take no interest, and subjects of which you know
nothing. But listen to me attentively, and hear me; for fortune has not
thus thrown us together without a meaning.

"The hour is come, Lola, when heretics and infidels have determined on
an attack of our faith; not as they have hitherto attempted, and with
such signal failure, by the weapons of controversy and discussion, but
by brute force; by the might of millions driven to madness from want
and misgovernment To avert this terrible calamity is now the unceasing
thought of the Church. Some have counselled one thing, some another;
some would go forth to the fight, trusting that, as of old, God
would not forget his people; there are others who deem this course
presumptuous and unwise. The hearts of kings are not as they once
were,--in their confessors' keeping. Our age and manners would send
forth no crusade. The battle must be otherwise contested. You could
not follow me, Lola, were I to tell you either of the perils or their
antidotes. Enough that I say we must have trusty and faithful agents in
every land of Europe, and in every rank in every people. From the secret
whisperings of the Czar to the muttered discontent of the Irish peasant,
we must know them all. To this end have we labored anxiously and eagerly
for some time back, and already have we made great progress. From every
Court of Europe we now receive tidings, and there is not a royal palace
where our interests are unguarded. Some serve us for the glorious cause
itself, some have their own price, some again are in our own hands
from motives of self-interest or terror, but all are alike true. This
Princess--this Dalton--I destined for a duty of the same nature. Married
to a man of Midchekoff's wealth and influence, she might have done
good service, but I scarcely dare to trust her; even at the sacrifice
of herself she might fail me, and, although in my power, I cannot count
upon her. Think, then, of my joy at finding you, one on whose fidelity I
may hazard life itself. You can be all to me, and a thousand times more
than ever she could."

"Your spy," said the girl, steadily, but without the slightest semblance
of anger.

"My friend, my counsellor, my correspondent, Lola."

"And the price?"

"You may name it. If your heart be set on mere worldly distinction, I
will prove your marriage, and although Norwood is not rich, his country
never neglects the class he belongs to. Would you break the tie, the
bond is in my keeping."

"I never loved him," cried she, passionately, "and you knew it. The
marriage was one of those snares on which your mind never ceases to
dwell--"

"If you loved another, Lola--?" said he, interrupting, and then waiting
for her to finish her speech.

"And if I had," burst she forth, "am I credulous enough to fancy that
your word can reconcile every difference of rank and fortune,--that you
can control destiny, and even coerce affection? No, no, Eustace; I have
outlived all that!"

"Then were you wiser when you believed it," said he, gravely. "Now for
his name."

There was a tone of almost commanding influence in which these last few
words were uttered, and his dark full eyes were steadily fixed on her as
he spoke them.

She hesitated to answer, and seemed to reflect.

"I ask no forced confession, Lola," said he, proudly, and rising at the
same time from his seat "In all the unreserve of our old affection, I
told you _my_ secret; _yours_ is with yourself."

"But can you--" She stopped.

"I can, and I will aid you," said he, finishing her sentence.

"There is the name, then!" cried she, as, with a passionate gesture, she
drew a sealed letter from her bosom, and showed him the superscription.

D'Esmonde almost started; but, recovering himself in an instant, he
said,----

"The address is not correct, Lola. It should be thus--" And taking a
pen, he drew it across the last line on the cover, and wrote, instead,
"Dewanpore Barracks, Calcutta." "We must talk together this evening,"
said he, restoring the letter, and, without more, withdrew.



CHAPTER X. D'ESMONDE'S LETTER

It will spare the reader a somewhat lengthy digression if we give him
a peep at an extract from a letter written at this period by the Abbé
D'Esmonde to a friend and fellow priest in Ireland. It was written on
the very evening whose events we have just mentioned, and when fresh
from the scenes of which he speaks.

The name or circumstances of the Abbe's confidant have no interest for
us; nor need we allude to him more particularly than by stating that he
was one who took a prominent part in his country's politics, and was
a well-known agitator, both in print and on the platform. The present
moment might not be inopportune to show the injustice of that sneer so
often passed upon men of this stamp, and which assumes that their whole
lives are spent in the agitation of small and irritating questions of
mere local interest,--the petty intrigues of a village or a hamlet,--and
without knowledge or interest for those greater themes which stir the
heart of all Europe. We must not, however, be led away from our purpose,
but, leaving these inferences to our reader's appreciation, keep to the
sober business of our task.

We have only to premise that D'Esmonde and his friend had been
schoolfellows and college companions, and that the revelations made were
in all the confidence of unbounded trust and security. Neither was the
hazard of a post-office incurred, for the document was forwarded, with
several letters from Rome, by a private hand,--a priest, who twice each
year performed the journey on a similar errand, and--shall we startle
our reader if we add, in a spirit apart from all the caprices of
fiction----still travels on the same mission.

After some apology for the time the epistle would be on the road, seeing
that it should first return to Rome ere it began its journey northward,
D'Ësmonde next alludes to some private and personal matters, and some
individuals of their acquaintance, and then proceeds:----

     "It is not without much inconvenience that I am here at this
     moment, but my presence was necessary to neutralize the
     influence of this troublesome old Countess, and who would
     fain stop, if she could, all these liberal movements ere
     they have developed their true meaning. You can have no idea
     how difficult is this task, nor with what persistent folly
     people go on repeating each other's 'platitudes' about
     'timely checks,' 'scotching the snake,' and so forth. It is
     now upwards of half a century since Europe has seen a real
     political convulsion.

     A new lesson is wanting. I often used to hope that you of
     the West might be able to give it. I had great expectations
     of Chartism at one time. It possessed the due elements of
     mischief in abundance; it was infidel and hungry; but it
     wanted the great requisites,--determination and courage. The
     example must come from the Continent, and, in one respect,
     it is so much the better. Your home disturbers would be
     necessarily the enemies of the Anglican Church, whereas
     _our_ anarchists here are inseparably associated with
     Protestantism. This _coup_ required some cleverness, but we
     at last accomplished it. Ronge's movement of secession gave
     the first opportunity; the Swiss troubles offered the
     second; a little more, and the _Bonnet rouge_ will be the
     symbol of the Protestant faith. Mark the advantage of this;
     see the distrust with which every nation of the Continent
     will regard England and her constitution mongering; look how
     they will be induced to associate her printed cottons with
     her Church, and connect the spread of her trade with the
     treacherous dissemination of her doctrines. So far, so good.
     And then, remember, that to all this anarchy and ruin the
     Church of the true faith alone offers any effectual
     opposition,--the 'Platoon' for the hour of conflict; but to
     the priest must they come to consolidate the shattered
     edifice,--to rebuild the tottering fabric of society. Men do
     not see this yet; and there is but one way to teach it,--a
     tremendous lesson of blood and anarchy. This is in store for
     them, believe me.

     "My great difficulty is to persuade these people to
     patience. They will not wait, as Napoleon did for the
     Prussians, till they were _'en flagrant délit;_' and yet, if
     they do not, the whole experiment goes for nothing. With all
     their hordes of horse, foot, and dragoons, their grape and
     canister, their grenades and rocket-batteries, they have not
     the courage of a poor priest   His Holiness is, however,
     doing better. He has taken the whole _au sérieux_; he has
     brought himself to believe that moderate reforms--what are
     they?--will satisfy the wishes of demagogue ambition, and
     that when he has lashed popular fury into full speed, he can
     check it at will. Of course you guess what will follow, and
     you already see what a busy time is before us. Oh, my dear
     Michel, I can stop here, and, closing my eyes, revel in the
     glorious future that must succeed! I see the struggle before
     me; and know that some good men, mayhap some great ones,
     will fall in it; but in the distance I see the dome of St.
     Peter's rising majestically above the clouds of battle, and
     the countless millions kneeling once more before its altars!

     "I do not clearly understand you about Ireland, although I
     agree in the policy of putting the Protestant rebel in the
     foreground. A conflict ever so brief with the Government
     would be most useful. I have thought a good deal on the
     subject, and am convinced that nothing would awe England
     more than the impression of any foreign assistance being
     given to Irish insurrection, while it would lend to _your_
     loyalty the grand trait of nationality. This is a highly
     important feature. Remark how they are taunting us with
     being ultramontane just now, and think what an answer this
     will be to the sarcasm! I am sure--that is, if you concurred
     with me--I could easily persuade some young fellows in this
     service to join the movement. As officers, and well
     acquainted with military details, they would have a
     formidable effect in English eyes. I have two or three in my
     mind already; one, a brother of my young Princess, that fair
     damsel of whom I spoke in my last letter as my destined
     _chargé d'affaires_ at St. Petersburg,--a very difficult
     post to fill, and one for which I am by no means sure she
     will be adequate. When I reflect on the difficulties
     experienced by us in arriving at truth, we, who have the
     hearts of men so open before us, I am astounded at any
     success that attends a mere secular government. More than
     two thirds of those with whom I live are, so to say, in my
     power,--that is, their reputation and their fortunes; and
     yet I must make them feel this ten times a day to turn them
     to my account. Believe me the Holy Office was right: there
     is an inseparable bond of union between truth and a thumb-
     screw!

     "Tell me if you wish for military aid; substantially, I am
     well aware, it would be worth nothing, but it might assist
     in pushing your patriots, who, I must own, are a cautious
     race, a step further. This Dalton boy is a thorough Austrian
     up to this,--a regular 'God and the Emperor' soldier; but I
     have thrown more stubborn metal into the crucible, and seen
     it come out malleable.

     "You ask about the 'converts;' and I must own that their
     defection is a greater slur on Protestantism than any matter
     of glorification to us.    They are unceasing in their
     exactions, and all fancy that no price is too high for the
     honor of their alliance; not a shovel-hat amongst them who
     does not expect to be a 'monsignore' at least!

     "Some, however, like my friend Lady Hester, are wealthy, and
     in this way reward the trouble they give us. On her security
     I have obtained a loan, not of the sum you wished for, but
     of a smaller amount, the particulars of which I enclose. I
     know not if you will agree with me, but my opinion is, that
     nothing should be expended on the Irish press. Its influence
     is slight, and purely local; reserve all your seductions for
     the heavier metal on the other side of the Channel, and who,
     however ignorantly they talk, are always heard with respect
     and attention.

     "I cannot go over as you propose, nor, if I could, should I
     be of any use to you. You all understand your people, their
     habits and modes of thought, far better than we do, who have
     been fencing with cardinals, and sparring with the sacred
     college, for the last ten or a dozen years. Above all
     things, no precipitation; remember that your grand policy is
     the maintenance of that feverish condition that paralyses
     every effort of English policy. Parade all your grievances;
     but rather to display the submission with which you bear
     them than to pray for their relief. Be touchy only for
     trifles; keep all your martyrdom for great occasions; never
     forget that this time it is your loyalty! is to be rewarded.
     Adieu, my dear Michel. Tell his Grace whatever you think fit
     of these my opinions, and say, also, that he may rely on us
     here for withdrawing or confirming, as he pleases, any
     concessions he may deem proper to grant the English
     Government. We know his difficulties, and will take care not
     to augment them. As to the cardinal's hat, let him have no
     doubts; only beg him to be circumspect, and that this is not
     the time to assume it! If men would but see what a great
     cause we have, and how it is to be won by waiting,--nothing
     more, Michel,----nothing more, believe me, than mere
     waiting!

     "All that you tell me, therefore, about titles and
     dignities, and so forth, is premature. With patience you
     will be enabled to assume all, from which a momentary
     precipitation would infallibly see you repulsed. A few of
     your leading men still cling to the ruinous notion of
     elevating Ireland; for Heaven's sake cease not to combat
     this. It is the Church--the Church alone--for which we
     combat. Her difficulties are enough, without linking her
     fortune to such a sinking destiny! you have many able men
     amongst you, and they ought to see this proposition in its
     true light.

     "You are right--though you only threw it out in jest--about
     the interest I feel for my little Princess and her brother.
     It was the charity of a relative of theirs--a certain Mr.
     Godfrey--that first gave me the entrance into my career.
     He sent me to Louvain as a boy, and thence to Salamanca, and
     afterwards to Borne. He paid liberally for my education, and
     I believe intended, had he lived, to have provided
     handsomely for me. The story has an ugly ending; at least
     the rumors are gloomy ones; and I would rather not revive
     their memory. Here have I fallen into a sad track of
     thought, dear Michel; and now it is past midnight, and all
     is silent about me, and I feel half as if I ought to tell
     you everything, and yet that everything resolves itself into
     nothing; for of my actual knowledge, I possess not one
     single fact

     "Can you conceive the position of a man with a great, a
     glorious future before him,--rewards the very highest his
     wildest ambition ever fancied,--a sphere to exercise powers
     that he feels within, and but needing a field for their
     display? Picture to yourself such a man, and then fancy him
     tortured by one terrible suspicion, one damning doubt,--that
     there is a flaw in his just title to all this; that some day
     or other there may rise up against him--he knows not how or
     whence or why--from the very earth as it were, a voice to
     say, 'you are disowned, disgraced,--you are infamous before
     men!' Such a terrible hell have I carried for years within
     me! Yes, Michel, this ulcer is eating at my very heart, and
     yet it is only like a vision of evil,--some mind-drawn
     picture, carried up from infancy through boyhood, and
     stealing on, year by year, into the prime of life,
     strengthening its ties on me like a malady.

     "You will say this is a diseased imagination,--the fruits of
     an overworked brain, or, not improbably, the result of an
     overwrought vanity, that would seek consolation for failures
     in the dim regions of superstition. It may be so; and yet I
     have found this terror beset me more in the seasons of my
     strength and activity than in those of sickness and
     depression. Could I have given a shape and color to my
     thoughts, I might have whispered them in the confessional,
     and sought some remedy against their pain; but I could not.
     They flash on my waking faculties like the memories of a
     recent dream. I half doubt that they are not real, and look
     around me for the evidences of some change in my condition.
     I tremble at the first footstep that draws near my door,
     lest the new-comer should bring the tidings of my downfall!

     "I was at Borne--a student of the Irish college--when this
     cloud first broke over me. Some letter came from Ireland,--
     some document containing a confession, I believe. I was
     summoned before the superiors, and questioned as to my
     family, of which I knew nothing; and as to my means, of
     which I could tell as little. My attainments at the college
     were inquired into, and a strict scrutiny aa to my conduct;
     but though both were above reproach, not a word of
     commendation escaped them; on the contrary, I overheard,
     amid their whisperings, the terrible word 'degradato!'   You
     can fancy how my heart sank within me at a phrase so
     significant of shame and debasement!

     "I was told the next morning that my patron was dead, and
     that, having no longer the means to support the charges of a
     student, I should become a 'laico;' in other words, a
     species of servant in the college. These were dreadful
     tidings; but they were short of what I feared. There was
     nothing said of 'degradation.' I struggled, however, against
     the hardship of the sentence,--I appealed to my proficiency
     in study, the prizes I had won, the character I bore, and so
     on; but although a few months more would have seen me
     qualified for the priesthood, my prayer was rejected, and I
     was made a 'laico.' Two months afterwards I was sent to the
     convent of 'Espiazione,' at Ancona. Many of my early letters
     have told you the sufferings of that life!--the awful
     punishments of that gloomy prison, where all are
     'degradati,' and where none are to be found save men stained
     with the foulest crimes. I was seventeen months there,----a
     'laico,'--a servant of the meanest class,--no consolation of
     study, no momentary solace in tracing others' thoughts to
     relieve the horrible solitude of my own. Labor--incessant
     debasing labor--my lot from day till dawn.

     "I have no clew to the nature of my guilt I declare solemnly
     before Heaven, as I write these lines, that I am not
     conscious of a crime, save such as the confessional has
     expiated; and yet the ritual of my daily life implied such.
     The offices and litanies I had to repeat, the penances I
     suffered, were those of the 'Espiazione!' I dare not trust
     myself to recall this terrible period,----the only
     rebellious sentiment my heart has ever known sprang from
     that tortured existence. As an humble priest in the wildest
     regions of Alpine snow, as a missionary among the most
     barbarous tribes, I could have braved hardships, want, death
     itself; but as the 'de-gradato,' dragging out life in
     failing strength, with faculties each day weaker, watching
     the ebb of intellect, and wondering how near I was to that
     moping idiocy about me, and whether in that state suffering
     and sorrow slept! Oh, Michel! my hands tremble, and the
     tears blot the paper as I write. Can this ordeal ever work
     for good? The mass sink into incurable insanity,--a few,
     like myself, escape; and how do they come back into the
     world? I speak not of other changes; but what hardness of
     the heart is engendered by extreme suffering, what
     indifference to the miseries of others I How compassionless
     do we become to griefs that are nothing to those we have
     ourselves endured! you know well that mine has not been a
     life of indolence, that I have toiled hard and long in the
     cause of our faith, and yet I have never been able to throw
     off the dreary influence of that conventual existence. In
     the excitement of political intrigue I remember it least; in
     the whirlwind of passions by which men are moved, I can for
     a time forget the cell, the penance, and the chain. I have
     strong resentments, too, Michel. I would make them feel that
     to him they sentenced once to 'degradation' must they now
     come for advice and guidance,--that the poor 'laico' can now
     sit at their councils and direct their acts. There is
     something so glorious in the tyranny of Rome, so high above
     the petty sovereignty of mere kings, soaring beyond the
     bounds of realms and states, crossing Alps and oceans,
     proclaiming its proud edicts in the great cities of Europe,
     declaring its truths in the silent forests of the Far West,
     stirring the heart of the monarch on his throne, thrilling
     the rugged breast of the Indian in his wigwam, that even to
     bear a banner in its ranks is a noble privilege. And now I
     come back to these children, with whose fortunes I feel
     myself--I know not how--bound up. They were related to this
     Mr. Godfrey, and that, perchance, may be the secret link
     which binds us. The girl might have won a grand destiny,--
     she had beauty, grace, fascination, all that men prize in
     these days of ours; but there was no high ambition,--nothing
     beyond the thirst for personal admiration. I watched her
     anxiously and long. There was a weak goodness about her
     heart, too, that gave no promise of self-sacrifice. Such,
     however, as she is, she is mine. As for the boy, I saw him
     yesterday for the first time; but he cannot be a difficult
     conquest. Again I hear you ask me, why can I turn from great
     events and stirring themes to think of these? and again I
     own that I cannot tell you. Power over every one, the
     humblest as the highest, the weakest in purpose and the
     strongest of heart,--power to send forth or to restrain, to
     crush or to exalt,--this is the prize of those who, like you
     and me, walk humbly, that we may reign proudly.

     "And now, dear Michel, good-bye. I have made you a
     confession, and if I have told little, the fault is not
     mine. You know all my sentiments on great events,--my hopes
     and my anticipations. I must leave this to-morrow, or the
     day after, for there is much to do beyond the Alps. If kings
     and kaisers but knew as much as we poor priests, the coming
     would scarce be a merry Christmas with them.

     "Yours, in all truth and brotherhood,

     "Mathew D'Esmonde.

     "Feast of St Pancratras, Hof Thor, Vienna."

It was already daybreak when D'Esmonde finished his letter; but, instead
of retiring to bed, he opened his window, and sat enjoying the fresh air
of the morning. Partly from habit, he opened his book of "offices;" but
his eyes wandered, even from the oft-repeated lines, to the scene before
him,----the spreading glacis,----where already the troops were mustering
for parade. "What a strange thing is courage!" thought he. "I, who feel
my spirit quail at the very rumbling sound of a gun-carriage, haye a
soul to see all Europe convulsed, and every nation in arms, undismayed!"



CHAPTER XI. THE CADET VON DALTON

As Madame de Heidendorf's mornings were always passed in receiving the
visits or answering the letters of her political acquaintances, Kate was
free to spend her hours with Frank, exchanging confidences, and
talking of that dear home from which they were more separated even by
circumstance than by space.

The cadet had obtained leave for the entire day,--an inconceivable favor
in his eyes,--and Kate was seated at her breakfast when he appeared.
When they met the day before, Frank's undivided attention had been drawn
to Kate herself,--the change in her whole air and manner, that graceful
dignity of mien which elevated his regard for her to a species of
worship. Now, however, he had time to be struck with the accessories of
her position,--the gorgeous chamber, the splendid silver of the service,
the rich liveries, everything which bespoke her proud and affluent
condition.

"I almost start back with shame, Kate," said he, "if, in passing these
great mirrors, I catch a glimpse of my humble figure, so unsuited does
it seem to magnificence like this; nor can I help thinking that your
household agrees with me. With all their respectful courtesy, they must
wonder when they look on the brother of their Princess."

"You know well, dearest Frank, that in your service the highest in the
land must pass the ordeal of cadetship."

"Which means half an hour for an archduke, and a forenoon for a serene
highness. Even Walstein took but a week to spring from the ranks to
a lieutenancy; a month later saw him a rittmeister; and already he
commands a regiment."

"What a young soldier to have caught up the complaining cant about slow
promotion!" said Kate, laughing.

"Ten months a cadet, and not even made corporal yet!" sighed Frank. "To
be sure, I might have been, had it not been for the 'stockhaus.'"

"And what may that be, dear Frank?"

"The prison; neither more nor less. When I came here, Kate, the nephew
or grand-nephew of the Feld-Marschall von Auersberg, I thought it became
me to assume something like style in my mode of life. My comrades told
me as much, too; and as I had no difficulty in obtaining credit, I ran
in debt everywhere. I lent to all who asked me, and gave away to many
more. Every one said the Feld would pay one day or other, and I never
confessed how poor we were at home. I know I was wrong there, dearest
Kate; I feel that acutely now; but somehow the deception I began with
others gained even more rapidly on myself. From continually talking of
our Dalton blood, and our high position in our own country, I grew to
believe it all, and fancied that some, at least, of these imaginings
must be real. But, above all, I cherished the hope that promotion would
come at last, and that I should live to be an honored soldier of the
Kaiser.

"In the very midst of all this self-deception, the Feld returns to
Vienna from a tour of inspection, and, instead of sending to see me,
orders my Colonel to his presence. I know not, of course, what passed,
but report alleges that for an hour the old General harangued him in
terms the most bitter and insulting. Now, my dear sister, the wrath
poured out upon a commanding officer does not become diminished as it
descends through the successive grades of rank, and falls at last on the
private. For _my_ misdemeanor the regiment was ordered away from Vienna,
and sent to Laybach, in the very depth of winter too. This could not
help my popularity much among my comrades; and as I was now as destitute
of credit as of means, you may fancy the alteration of my position,--the
black bread of the commissary instead of the refined cookery of the
'Schwan;' the midnight patrol, in rain or snow-drift, in place of
the Joyous carouse of the supper-table; the rude tyranny of a vulgar
sergeant, in lieu of the friendly counsels of an equal; all that is
menial and servile,--and there is enough of both in the service,--heaped
upon me day after day; till, at last, my only hope was in the chance
that I might ultimately imbibe the rude feelings of the peasant-soldier,
and drag out my existence without a wish or a care for better.

"As if to make life less endurable to me, the officers were forbidden
to hold intercourse with me; even such of the cadets as were above the
humbler class were ordered not to associate with me; my turns of duty
were doubled; my punishments for each trifling offence increased; and
there I was, a soldier in dress, a convict in duty, left to think over
all the flattering illusions I had once conceived of the service, its
chivalry, and its fame.

"I wrote to Walstein, telling him that if I could not obtain my freedom
otherwise, I would desert. A copy of my letter, I know not how obtained,
was sent to my Colonel, and I was sentenced to a month's arrest, a week
of which I was to pass in irons. They now made me a rebel in earnest,
and I came out of the 'stockbaus' more insubordinate than I went in. It
would weary, and it would fret you, dearest sister, were I to tell all
the petty schemes I formed of resistance, and all the petty tyrannies
they brought down upon my head; the taunt of my 'gentle blood,' my
'noble origin,' my 'high descent,' being added to every cruelty they
practised, till I was ready to curse the very name that associated me
with this bitterness. They told me that a second desertion was always
punished with death, and that even the attempt was accounted as the act.
I resolved, then, to finish with this dreary existence, and I wrote a
farewell letter to poor Nelly, telling her that, as I was certain of
being taken, these were the last lines I should ever write. In this I
repeated all I have now told you, and a vast deal more, of the hardships
and indignities I had endured; and this, like my former letter, was sent
back to me. Then came three months more of durance, after which I came
out what they deemed a good soldier."

"Subdued at last!" sighed Kate.

"Not a bit of it. Like a Banat charger I had a kick in me, after all
their teaching and training. I found out the lance-corporal of our
company was the man who had discovered my letters. I sent him a
challenge, fought, and wounded him. Here was another offence; and now
the Minister of War was to deal with me himself; and I half fancied they
would be glad to get rid of me. Far from it The 'stockhaus' again, and
short fetters, my wrist to my ankle, were the sovereign remedies for all
misdeeds. In this plight I made my entrance into Vienna."

"Did you never think of Uncle Stephen all this while, Frank,----never
appeal to him?"

"Ay, Kate, and what was worse, _he_ thought of _me_, for he had my
punishment-rolls brought to him; and although from some good-natured
interference they did not forward more than a fourth of my misdeeds,
there was enough to condemn me in his eyes, and he wrote, 'No favor to
this cadet,' on the back of my certificate."

"Poor boy! so friendless and deserted."

"Persecuted by creditors, too," continued Frank, as, excited by the
recital of his sorrows, he paced the room in a transport of anger;
"fellows that never rested till they got me in their books, and now gave
me no peace for payment. Out of three kreutzers a day, Kate,--a penny
English,--I was to discharge all the debts of my extravagance, and live
in style! A Dalton, well born and nurtured, in a position of ignominious
poverty!"

"Not one to aid you?"

"Walstein was away in Bohemia with his regiment; and, perhaps, it
were better so, for I had told him such narratives of our family, such
high-flown stories of our princely possessions, that I could not have
had the courage to face him with an avowal of the opposite. At last I
did make a friend, Kate; at least one poor fellow took an interest in
me, talked to me of home, of you and Nelly; mostly of her, and of her
curious carvings, which he prized almost as much as little Hans used. He
sat with me many an hour under the trees of the Prater, or we strolled
along in the shady alleys of the 'Augarten;' and his companionship
somehow always soothed and comforted me, for he was so stored with book
learning that he could ever bring out something from Uhland or Richter
or Wieland that suited the moment, just as if the poet had one in his
mind when he wrote it. How often have I wished that I was like him,
Kate, and had a mind like his, teeming with its own resources against
sorrow."

"Tell me more of him, Frank dearest; I feel an interest in him already."

"And yet you would scarcely have liked him, if you saw him," said the
boy, with a bashful and hesitating manner.

"Why not, Frank? His appearance might have been little promising, his
face and figure commonplace--"

"No, no; not that,--not that Adolf was good-looking, with a fine, clear
brow, and a manly, honest face; nor was his manner vulgar,--at least,
for his station. He was a pedler."

"A pedler, Frank," cried Kate, growing scarlet as she spoke.

"Ay, I knew well how you would hear the word," said the boy; "I often
used to fancy my high-bred sister's scorn if she could but have seen the
companion whose arm lay around my neck, and who spoke to me as 'thou.'"

Kate made no answer, but her cheek was crimson, and her lip trembled.

"You and Walstein were never out of my thoughts," continued Frank; "for
I could fancy how each of you would look down upon him."

"Not that, Frank," said she, in confusion; "if he were indeed kind to
you,--if he were a true friend in that time of dreariness and gloom."

"So was he,----with hand and heart and purse. And yet,--confound that
sense of pride, which poisons every generous movement of the heart and
will not let it throb in unison with one of humble fortune!--I never
could get the Dalton out of my head. There it was, with that lumbering
old fabric of an Irish house, our wasteful habits, and our idle
dependants, all going down to ruin together; and instead of despising
myself for this, I only was ashamed--at what, think you?--of my
friendship for a pedler! Many a holiday have I kept my barrack-room
rather than be seen with Adolf in the Volks Garten or the Graben. I
liked to be along with him in the solitude of the Prater, or in our
country walks; but when he asked me to accompany him to the _café_ or
the theatre, Kate, to some ordinary in the Leopoldstadt, or some
wine-cellar on the Danube, I used to feign duty, or actually take a
comrade's guard, to avoid it How meanly you think of me for all this,
Kate! I see, by the flush upon your cheek, what shame the confession has
given you."

Kate's confusion grew almost intolerable; she twice tried to speak, but
the effort was above her strength, and Frank, who mistook her silence
for rebuke, at last went on,----

"You may guess, Kate, from what I have now told you, how much soldiering
has realized all my early hopes and ambitions. I suppose times were
different long ago."

"Of course they were, or Uncle Stephen would not now be a
field-marshal."

As if in echo to her words, at this moment a servant, throwing wide the
door, announced "The Feld" himself. Frank fell back as the old General
advanced into the room, bowing with a courtesy that would have done
honor to a courtier. He was dressed in the uniform of his rank, and wore
all his decorations,--a goodly mass, that covered one entire side of his
coat.

Approaching Kate with a manner of admirably blended affection and
respect, he kissed her hand, and then saluted her on either cheek.
"Forgive me, my dear niece," said be, "if I have not been earlier to pay
my respects, and say welcome to Vienna; but my note will have told you
that I was on duty yesterday with the Emperor."

Kate blushed and bowed, for unhappily she had not read the note through.
Frank's presence had made her forget all but himself. With all the
gallantry of his bygone school, the old Feld proceeded to compliment
Kate on her beauty and grace, expressing in proper phrase his pride at
the possession of such a relative.

"The Empress was the first to tell me of your arrival," said he; "and
nothing could be more gracious than the terms in which she spoke of
you."

With a thrill of pleasure Kate heard these words, and greedily drank in
every syllable he uttered. Not alone her betrothal to the Prince, but
all the circumstances of her future destiny, seemed to be matters of
deep interest to the Court, and poor Kate listened with wonder to the
Feld as he recounted the various speculations her marriage had given
rise to. She little knew within what a narrow circle the sympathies
of royalty are forced to revolve, and how glad they are of anything to
relieve the tedious monotony of existence. One most important question
had already arisen, since the Empress had expressed a wish that the
young Princess should be presented to her; but Madame de Heidendorf
refused her permission, on the ground that she had not yet been
presented at the Court of the Czar. All the difficulties of the two
cases, the arguments for either course, the old General deployed with an
earnestness that if it at first amused, at last deeply interested Kate;
the flattering sense of self-importance giving a consequence to trifles
which, if told of another, she would have smiled at.

"I was desirous of gratifying the Empress before I saw you, my dear
niece," said he, taking her hand; "but you may guess how much greater is
my anxiety now that I have learned to know you. It will be, indeed, a
proud day for the old Field-Marshal when he shall present one of his own
name and family, so gifted and so beautiful. A thorough Dalton!" added
he, gazing on her with rapture.

"How glad am I, sir, to see that all the distinctions your great career
has won have not effaced the memory of our old name and house."

"I have but added to it another as noble as itself," replied he,
haughtily. "Others have given their energies to degrade our ancient
lineage. It is to be your task and mine, Madame la Princesse, to replace
us in our rightful station."

Kate instinctively sought out Frank with her eyes, but could barely
catch a glimpse of his figure within a recess of a window. More than
once the poor cadet had meditated an escape; but as the door was on the
opposite side of the room, he saw discovery would be inevitable. With a
graceful courtesy the old Feld asked after Father and Nelly, expressing
his wish to see and know them, in terms which plainly conveyed to Kate
his utter ignorance of their station and habits.

"As a younger son myself, without the ties of fortune, I may be
permitted to doubt how far the head of a distinguished house has a
right, from any considerations of personal gratification, to reside away
from his country, Madame. I must own that my nephew's conduct in this
respect has not met my approval. I have not felt free to tell him so,
our intercourse being for so many years interrupted; but you will say as
much for me. Let him know that the great names of a nation ought not to
die out in people's memories."

"You are aware, sir," said Kate, timidly, "that papa's means are not
as they once were; circumstances of economy first suggested his coming
abroad."

"A reason that always has appeared to me insufficient," said the
other, sternly. "He could have reduced his establishment at home--fewer
hunters--less splendid banquets."

"Hunters and banquets!" sighed Kate; "how little he knows of us!"

"Here I see nothing but the best fruits of his system," said he, kissing
her hand with gallantry; "no cost could be accounted too much that
aided the attainment of such perfection. I am too old a courtier not
to distinguish between mere native gracefulness and that more polished
elegance which comes of refined intercourse. My niece is worthy to be a
princess! But your brother--"

"Oh! what of dear Frank?" cried she, eagerly.

"Simply this, Madame: habits of wasteful expenditure have unsuited him
to the stern realities of a soldier's life. With his fortune and his
tastes, he should have sought service among those popinjays that English
tailors make lancers or hussars of. He might have won the laurels
that are gathered on Honnslow or St. James's Park; he might have been
distinguished in that barbaric warfare you call an Indian campaign; but
here, in this empire, where soldiering means discipline, self-denial,
hardship, endurance!--I was eight years a cadet, Madame, twelve a
sous-lieutenant. I saw the decoration I should have received given to
another. The Dienst Kreutz I had won was refused me, because I had not
served twenty years; and yet, by accepting these and hundreds like them
as the inevitable necessities of the service, I am what now you see me."

"And if Frank will be but patient--"

"He may be a corporal within a year, Madame," said the Feld, gravely,
and with the air of a man who had advanced a somewhat bold pledge.

"But he must be an officer within a week, sir," said Kate, taking the
General's hand within her own. "I seldom ask favors, and as seldom are
they refused me. The chivalry of Austria will surely suffer no attaint
from one whose distinction it is to be _your_ relative, and a Dalton.
Nay, dear uncle, this is the first, the very first request I have ever
made of you. It would not be meet for me to say, in _your_ presence,
what a guerdon is his name for his good conduct."

"You are too sanguine, Madame. You do not know this boy."

"Every thought of his heart I know,--every hope that sustains him. He
himself has told me all his shortcomings."

"His insubordination?"

"Yes."

"Extravagance?"

"Yes."

"His days of imprisonment?"

"Yes."

"His arrests in irons?"

"All--everything; and what are they, save the boyish excesses of one
who, carried away by high spirits, and buoyed up by the flattering sense
of relationship to a great and distinguished name, has been led on to
follies by the mere native warmth of temperament? It is easy to see how
little he thought of himself, and how much of his uncle!"

The old General shook his head dubiously.

"There, dear uncle," said she, pressing him into a seat before a table
with writing-materials, "take that pen and write."

"Write what, dear child?" said he, with a softness very different from
his usual manner.

"I know nothing of the forms, nor the fitting phrases. All I want is
that Frank should have his sword-knot."

"You have learned the proper word, I see," said he, smiling, while he
balanced the pen doubtingly in his fingers "The Colonel of his regiment
is an imperial prince."

"So much the better, uncle. A Hapsburg will know how to reward a
Dalton."

"So, then, we begin thus," said the old General, whose half-suppressed
smile showed that he was merely jesting with her eagerness: "'Imperial
Highness,--the Cadet von Dalton, whose distinction it is to be the
grand-nephew of a very old soldier, and the brother of a very young
princess--'"

"Nay, surely, this will not do," said Kate.

"'A very young princess," resumed the Feld, as he continued to
write, "'who, confiding in her own captivations and your Highnesses
gallantry--'"

"This is but jesting with me, uncle, and I am serious," said she,
poutingly.

"And am not I serious, too, Madame?" cried he, laying down the pen. "If
I ask promotion for a boy whose whole career has been one infraction of
discipline, whose services are all inscribed in the Provost-Marshal's
return, is it not better that I should press his claims on the merits
of others than dwell upon his own misconduct? My dear child," said
he, affectionately, "there are natures that cannot bear a too sudden
prosperity, as there are individuals who cannot endure too sudden
changes of climate. Our Dalton blood has a little of this same
infirmity. Shall I tell you how I won my first step in the service? I
was at Hohenkirchen when Morea began his celebrated retreat through the
defiles of the Schwartzwald. The company in which I served as a simple
corporal occupied a large farm-house, on an elevated plateau, above the
road to Schweinfurt. We could see for miles along the valley, and
our position was taken up to observe the movement of the enemy, and
immediately report when his advanced guard came in sight. Our orders
also were to hold the place as long as we were able, and delay as much
as possible the enemy's advance; in other words, if we could retard him
by half a day, at the sacrifice of our party, our duty would be well
done. These unpleasant situations arise now and then in war; but one
comfort is, they seldom occur twice to the same man!"

[Illustration: 150]

"The captain who commanded us was an old officer, who had borne his slow
promotion with many a heart-burning, and now resolved, come what might,
to win his grade.

"Without waiting for the enemy, he took a patrol party, and set out to
meet them. We never saw them again! Our lieutenant, alike impatient,
determined on a _reconnaissance_, He had scarcely been gone half an
hour, when a quick rattling of fire-arms told us that he was engaged
with the enemy. One man alone returned to tell us that the rest had
fallen, and that the enemy was approaching in force. The command now
devolved on me. I had been four times passed over in promotion, distinct
acts of service left unnoticed, and my claims as much ignored as if
I was the veriest dolt. I will not pretend to say that I bore these
disappointments without pain; but they taught me one lesson at least,
'that duty is above all consideration of self.' I well knew what was
expected of us, and resolved, if possible, to fulfil it. I prepared at
once for a stout resistance,--a hopeless, of course, but an obstinate
one. Well, I will not imitate the tardiness of the duty by a similar
prolixity. We held the farm for two hours, during which the roof was
twice on fire from the enemy's shells; and when, at length, they stormed
the place, our defence was reduced to eight men, commanded by a corporal
with two shot-wounds in his chest. We were made prisoners, and carried
away to Strasburg, from whence I was exchanged under a cartel, and came
back to my regiment as a lieutenant. Had I merely sought promotion,
Madame, and followed the dictates of ambition and not of duty, I had
perhaps fallen like the others. It was in the very forgetfulness of
myself lay my prosperity and my reward."

Kate's eyes sought out Frank, resolved on one effort more for her
object, but the boy was gone. He had contrived to slip away unseen
during the conversation, and was now waiting at the corner of the
street, impatient for the General's departure, to return to his sister.

"I am to have the honor of dining in your company to-day," said the
Feld, rising to take leave. "Let me hope that my obduracy will not
weaken your regard for one so proud of being your uncle."

"No, uncle," said she, "and chiefly since I do not believe in the
obduracy, and have full faith in the affection."

With every testimony of regard, they now took leave of each other, and
the General retired as Kate betook herself to her own room.

She had scarcely left the apartment when the Archduke entered it. Madame
de Heidendorf had told him that the Princess was there with her uncle,
and he came expressly to see her. "Gone again!" exclaimed he; "am I
never to see this mysterious beauty?" while he threw his eyes around
the room. "What's this addressed to myself here?" added he, as he caught
sight of the paper which the Feld had half written. "To his Imperial
Highness the Archduke Franz Albrecht, commanding the Eleventh Regiment
of Infantry." Rapidly glancing over the few lines, he at once caught
their meaning, and detected the playful spirit in which they were
conceived. "The fair Princess must not be disappointed in her opinion,"
said he, laughingly, as he took up the pen and wrote: "Too happy to
anticipate the unexpressed wish, the Archduke appoints Cadet von Dalton
to a lieutenancy in the Hussars of the Wurtemberg Regiment," and signing
his well-known initials at the foot, he sealed and addressed the paper
to the Princesse de Midchekoff. This done, he left the house, passing
as he went a young cadet, whose military salute he scarcely noticed, nor
knew the anxious heart for whose happiness he had just provided.

Young Frank stood respectfully at the salute as the Prince passed, and
then bounded away to rejoin his sister. The drawing-room, however, was
empty, and it was by mere chance that he saw the letter, on which the
address was scarcely dry. Taking this with him, he hastened to her room.
"A letter for you, Kate," cried he, "and with a royal seal too!"

"Poor Frank!" said she, coming out to meet him. "That I should have such
tidings for you! The Feld is obdurate and unyielding. He fancies that
there is no road to honor save the old track he has trod himself."

"I knew as much, Kate. Had I stayed longer in the room, I could not have
refrained from bursting out to say, 'Hold, sister dearest; not the best
grade in all the service is worth so much solicitation. I 'll carry the
musket while I must, and the day they make me an officer I 'll smash the
sword across my knee and leave them!'"

Kate broke the seal of the packet without answering this passionate
speech, and then, with a cry of joy, exclaimed, "Here it is, Frank! The
Prince himself has given you the rank, and in the hussars too!"

"Let me see it," cried the boy,--"let me see it." And tearing the paper
from her hand, he read it again and again. "I scarce know--I can scarce
believe this real; but a Prince's word--a royal promise, Kate, is surely
sacred."

"Of that there can be no doubt, Frank."

"And I am a hussar and an officer," said he, with a burst of delight
"I'd not change with the kaiser this minute, Kate."

"My dear, dear Frank!" said she, passing her arm around his neck.

"And to owe it all to you, my sweet Kate! If anything could enhance the
pleasure of this piece of fortune, it is this fact. And such a regiment,
Kate,--the Prince Paul's. The turappé all one mass of gold, and the
chako splendid, and their horses the true Hungarian breed,--the native
horse crossed with the Arab! I feel already as if I were in the saddle,
and careering wildly about. Oh, Kate, what glorious news!"

Again and again he embraced her in his ecstasy, and she, hiding her head
upon his shoulder, tried to suppress the burst of emotions which filled
her heart, for she thought at what a price she purchased the power she
wielded.

They sat long with hands close locked beside each other,--neither
speaking,----each travelling his own road of thought; and how wide apart
they lay!



CHAPTER XII. VIENNA.

We cannot afford to linger in Vienna, nor speak of the week--the most
brilliant of all her life--Kate passed there. It was the first burst
of that ambition which had so long taken possession of her, and she saw
herself, at length, in all the pride of her station, and her beauty the
object of a hundred flatteries.

Fêted at the Court, distinguished by the special attentions of the
Princes, most courteously received in all the society of the most
exclusive capital of Europe, the whirl of pleasure and excitement as
effectually precluded thought as it defied reflection. Hitherto she
had seen the world only as a dependant, or at least as something
appertaining to Lady Hester, in whose caprices she was bound to share,
making partnery, as it were, in all her likings and dislikings; but now
she was become the centre around which all these attentions revolved,
and her own will was the directing impulse of every action.

Of all the cities of the Continent, Vienna was most remarkable for
almost instinctively adopting the tone of its Court in respect to a
distinguished visitor. There was something like intuition in the way in
which they guessed the feeling of royalty, and as quickly made it their
own.

The restricted limits of the first society, of course, made this
practicable, as well as the fact that all belonging to it were more or
less engaged in the service of the Emperor. Kate Dalton was now to enjoy
this flattery, and find herself, wherever she went, the special object
of attention.

At the Hof Theatre, where they played her favorite operas; at the great
reviews in the Prater, at the balls of the palace, or the _déjeûners_ of
Schonbrunn, she seemed the occasion of the fête, and to do _her_ honor
all appeared assembled. Carried away by the triumphant delight of
pleasure so associated with power, she either forgot at times the price
at which her greatness had been purchased, or was disposed to still the
beatings of her heart by the thought, "My destiny is chosen; it is too
late to look back." To have grieved over her lot, besides, would have
seemed an utter selfishness, seeing that she was the means of dispensing
such happiness to all her family. Her poor father placed once more
in comfort; Nelly free to follow the dictates of her charming fancy,
without the alloying sense of toil; and dear Frank, in all the
exuberant joy of his promotion, eternally reminding her that she was his
patroness. The quick clatter of his charger's hoofs in the courtyard,
the clank of his sabre as he ran up the stairs, were but the glad
prelude to his daily outpouring of gratitude. Ay, "to be sorry now,
would be but selfish."

Such was the philosophy in which she wrapped herself; and day after day
the feeling gained strength within her. It was true there were moments
when all the sophistry gave way, and her affections flowed full and
strong in the deep channels of her heart. Then, indeed, she saw the
emptiness of all this gorgeous parade,--how little it gave of real
happiness,--how seldom it ever called forth one generous feeling, or one
high desire, and she wished the fates had dealt otherwise with her. At
times she almost longed for the humble home, in all its poverty, with
nothing but Nelly's bright smile and gentle voice to cheer its solitude!
It may have been this conflict----for conflict it was--that gave to her
demeanor a certain calm dignity, which, in the critical estimation
of society, elevated her high above any charge of frivolity or
capriciousness. She was a thought graver, perhaps, than her years; but
the feeling imparted an indescribable grace to one whose beauty was the
very type of brilliancy. After all, these were but passing clouds; nor
did she ever suffer herself to recur to the past, save when wayward
memories would obtrude uncalled for.

At last a letter came from Lady Hester; and although not a long one,
it called up thoughts that all her endeavors could not efface from
recollection. There were, once again, all the old familiar names with
which she used to be so conversant.

Lady Hester, however, was much changed: all the capricious irritability
of the fine lady had given place to a kind of importunate piety. She had
grown "devote," and her life a string of religious observances. After
dwelling complacently on the self-imposed round of her mortifications
and penances, she went on:----

     "D'Esmonde has just returned, and delights me by saying that
     you are quite free from any contagion as to the errors of
     the Greek Church. Of course, outwardly, you must conform;
     even if Midchekoff did not insist, his countrymen would; but
     he says that St. Ursula is the sure resource in such cases,
     and mentions the instance of a nun who took lessons in
     Spanish from the Devil, and, by the aid of the blessed
     Ursula, was nothing the worse.

     "I told Jekyl, who left this on Friday, to send me an image
     of St. Ursula, that I might forward it to you; but the
     careless wretch has sent me a statuette of Fanny Elssler by
     mistake. He discovered his error, however, and has written
     me a most humble letter, mentioning, by the way, that he was
     doing a 'Novena' for penance, and danced the polka all the
     preceding night with a sharp peg in the sole of his foot.
     With all his oddity, there is a great deal to like in him.

     "I have only once heard from the Onslows; their conduct has
     been too shocking; they are not ruined at all, but got up
     the story, I verily believe, just to destroy my nerves. Sir
     S. is living in Ireland, at that place with the horrid name
     your father used to talk of, with Sydney; and George has
     gone to India, a major, I think, in some cavalry regiment.
     At Grounsell's kind suggestion, I have been cut off with a
     miserable allowance of fifteen hundred a year; but even with
     this I am content. St. Brigitta, of Cleves, lived on hard
     peas, and never wore anything but an old sack for the last
     seventeen years of her life; and Célestine has got a
     charming pattern of a capote, _à la_ Cistercine, which, when
     made of white cashmere, will be perfectly simple and very
     becoming. I wear my hair now always in bands, and very low
     on the face. D'Esmonde says I 'm the image of the Madonna of
     Domenichino, which you may remember, I always preferred to
     Raphael's.

     "Cardinal Bruschetti has been spending a few days here, and
     I cannot tell you the charm I have felt in his society,
     contrasted with the frivolous dissipation I have been used
     to.   He is so suave, and so gentle, so persuasive, without
     importunity, and so conciliating withal. Not the least
     austerity about him; but at times actually gay! He quite
     approves of my having kept Fripponi as my cook. 'A change of
     cuisine,' said he, 'involves a change of digestion, a change
     of temperament, and a moral change;' alterations far too
     important to be incurred at once. This is so far pleasant as
     certainly the man is an admirable artist. His Eminence said
     yesterday that the salmi of ortolans was a dish fit for the
     Pope. We drive out, or row, every day, on the lake, and I
     shall be quite lonely when he leaves this. I am curious to
     know if you remember a bust of him in the Vatican. He was,
     and indeed is, a remarkably handsome man; and his leg has
     been modelled I can't say how often. He asks me to whom I am
     writing, and begs you will remember him in your prayers, how
     touchingly simple, is it not?

     "I ventured last night on a bit of importunity, and asked
     his Eminence a favor. That poor dear Jekyl, you know, is
     miserably off. His family, all so wealthy, he says, only
     allow him a few hundreds a year; and with his generous
     habits and wastefulness this must be actual want. Well, I
     asked the Cardinal if there might not be some way of sending
     him out as a missionary--like St. Vincent de Paul. I 'm
     certain he 'd not like the dress nor the bare feet, but he
     'd be so happy with those charming Tonga islanders, who,
     such is their zeal, that they actually give four and five
     scalps for a wax image of the Virgin. His Eminence hinted
     that there might be difficulties, and he'd think of it I

     "Your Prince passed through here on Tuesday, on his way to
     Naples; he wants to see 'La Giovina' dance in that new
     ballet of 'Paradiso.' They say she is perfectly lovely. The
     Prince asked after you, and said something about its not
     being etiquette for him to write to you, or that you should
     write first, or, I really forget what; you know the slurring
     way he has of talking, and how he walks away before he has
     finished. He's worse than ever, I think, or probably it is
     _I_ that have less patience with him now since you are gone!

     "Jekyl told me--in strict confidence, remember--that M. did
     not stand well with his Court, and that there would be
     nothing wonderful in the Czar's refusing his leave for the
     marriage. What you ought to do in that case I cannot
     conceive; a convent, I suppose, would be the only thing.
     After all, it might probably have been as well if you had
     taken poor George. The estate is still a good one, and he
     has some amiable points in his character, and he certainly
     loved you. I never told you the thousand confessions he made
     me, nor his entreaties for my intercession, but there is no
     harm now in letting you hear them. It is, however,
     impossible to say with whom one could live happily!
     George begged of me to send him every letter you wrote to
     me, and of course you can use the knowledge of the fact at
     your discretion.

     "Now, for two little commissions, my dear Kate, and I have
     done. I want you to get me a case of Tokay from the Teleki
     estate--mind, not Pain's, which, his Eminence says, wants
     the oily flavor. Some of the archdukes will manage this for
     you. I 'm certain your long eyelashes have got further than
     this already. The second is to send me a haunch of Bohemian
     venison,--Schwartenschild's, if possible. The Cardinal says
     that fat is become as scarce as true piety, and that a well-
     fed buck is as rare as a good Christian!

     "Are they wearing their corsages pointed at the back?----not
     that I care, dearest, for I am above such vanities, but
     Célestine wishes to know. When you receive the St. Ursula,
     keep her in your own room, and with her face to the west;
     and so good-by, and, with many prayers, believe me,

     "Affectionately yours,

     "THEODOSIA,

     "Late Hester Onslow.

     "Could you, by any chance, send me a good miniature of
     yourself?----perhaps you guess for what purpose.
     Haselquist's oil picture is too large for what I want; and,
     besides, is really not like you. Even with all its
     imperfections his Eminence sits looking at it for hours of
     an evening, and says he can scarcely fancy anything
     lovelier. I do not ask after Madame de H., for I hate the
     woman. His Eminence has told me such things of her! But of
     course you can only make the best of it for the present, and
     get on as well as you can.

     "D'Esmonde tells me that Frank is a fine boy, and very good-
     looking, but fearfully dissipated, but I suppose the service
     is like the Life Guards with us--and what can one expect? _À
     propos_ to this, Norwood has written to me twice some
     inexplicable nonsense about you, which I have not replied
     to. What does he mean by 'treating a flirt like a flounce'
     Jekyl says that the police have stopped his passport, or he
     should have been after you to Vienna. This is quite
     unintelligible to me, and I don't know why I repeat it."


Never did a frivolous letter give more serious thought, nor bring
gloomier reflections, than did this epistle to Kate Dalton. Her mind
dwelt far less on the paragraph which concerned her own future than
on that which spoke of George,--his devoted affection and his enduring
sorrow! And so it was true that he loved her! He had even confided
the avowal to another, and asked for aid and counsel. Why had he then
concealed it from herself? Was the fault hers? Had her own conduct been
the reason? Had her encouragement of any other estranged him, or was the
teaching of the society in which she moved the reason? Poor fellow! how
unfairly had she treated him,----even to that very last incident of
their last meeting!--and now they were to meet no more! No, death itself
could not more effectually separate them than did space and destiny.
Even this she felt to be better, far better, than the chances of renewed
intimacy in the world. Lady Hester had not told her why she had never
divulged her secret; still less to what end she revealed it now, when
the knowledge must be only misery. The mention of Norwood, and the vague
half-threat connected with his name, gave her but little uneasiness,
since her mind had but space for one absorbing thought,--George loved
her! There was the sum of every reflection; and all the world around
her, in its splendor or its brilliancy, the tortuous paths of political
intrigue, the quiet byways of home-affection, the present and the
future, were all as nothing when weighed against this one thought.

If her first impression had been to blame Lady Hester for revealing the
secret, her second was to thank her with her whole heart. She remembered
D'Esmonde, too, and the reasonings by which he accompanied the delivery
of the letter; and she felt that this consciousness was a blessing
of which no vicissitude could rob her,--that come what might of
disappointment or sorrow in life, here, at least, in her heart of
hearts, was one hoarded treasure to compensate for all. If there were
but one to whom she could confide her secret, with whom she could talk
over her sorrow, she thought that she would be contented. To Nelly she
dared not; to Frank she could not speak of it; what, then, of Nina?
Alas! it was no longer a secret to _her!_ Nina had seen the picture,
and although nothing in her manner betrayed the slightest consciousness,
Kate knew her too well not to feel herself in her power.

Nina's demeanor, however, exhibited nothing of insolent triumph; on the
contrary, her manner was gentle, even to submissiveness, and something
almost affectionate seemed to mingle with the feeling in which she
fulfilled her duties. Kate remarked this, and only needed the courage to
take advantage of it At first the very idea of Nina's consciousness
was torture; but day by day this terror grew weaker, till at last she
actually wished that the moment of explanation was over, and that she
could pour out all her griefs before her. "She may have loved unhappily,
herself; and if so, will pity me. In any case, a frank avowal on my part
will show that I knew nothing of his heart, and but little of my own,
till 'too late.' We are never to meet again," and so-and-so; in fact,
with many a casuistry, she satisfied herself that mere memory could
never be a sin,--that there could be nothing very wrong in looking back
as often as the future seemed lowering and gloomy. It is hard to say if
there might not have been some leaven of "pique" in these reasonings.
The Prince, according to Lady Hester, if he had not entirely forgotten,
was already indifferent about her. Some uncertainty of ceremonial
prevented his writing or hearing from her; and at this very moment he
was following out the ordinary life of dissipation which he led before.
Why care for him,----why even endeavor to nourish an affection that
must be blighted in the end? Besides, her marriage was never one of
inclination; Lady Hester had been most frank in explaining the Prince's
appreciation of it As to her own reasons for the step, she knew them too
well.

All that Kate had seen of life in her Florence experiences told her
that such cases were the ordinary events of the world. Few were happily
married,--disparity of age, inequality of condition, incompatible
tempers, and a hundred other causes were ever at work. Lady Hester used
to tell her that nobody was ever satisfied with their "married lot:
the good and right-minded only pined under it; the less scrupulous
proclaimed their dissatisfaction to the world, and asked for sympathy."
These were the two categories that comprehended all her theory. Now Kate
was quite resolved to be one of the former class; but she saw no reason
why she ought not to have one "confidante" of her cares.

With all the force of these persuasions she could not get over the
awkwardness of the confession, and would have given worlds that Nina
herself would take the first step. That simple-minded creature, however,
appeared dead to every hint or suggestion,--she could never see the
drift of any remark, save in its most obvious sense, and actually pushed
Kate's temper to the last entrenchment of patience by pure stupidity.
"Is it possible--can it be that I am deceived--that she has not
recognized the miniature?" thought Kate. "Is my secret still in my own
keeping?"

As this thought struck her, everything appeared to confirm it,--the
girl's manner, devoid of every trait of imperiousness, and actually
humble to servility. "Oh, if I could but be sure of this,--if I could
know that I could bury both my shame and my sorrow together!" In this
vacillating state of suspense--one day all hope and confidence, the
next, terror and dread--she lived on, till the period drew nigh for
their departure from Vienna.

Madame de Heidendorf had delayed beyond her intention, in the hope of
receiving some French news; and Kate eagerly watched the post for some
tidings from home,--for home it still was, in every feeling of her heart

"No letters again, Nina?" said she, despondingly, as the maid entered
the room.

"None, Madame."

"Have your friends forgotten you, Nina, as well as mine appear to have
done?"

"Nina has but few friends, Madame; and still fewer would think of
writing to her!"

"Poor Nina!" said Kate, affectionately; and the blood rushed to the
girl's face at the words, and her eyes flashed with an expression of
sudden passion.

"No pity, Madame,----no pity!" cried she, with a voice full of emotion,
"or I may forget myself,--forget myself and you also!" And with these
words she hurried from the room, without waiting for more. Kate sat
shocked and abashed by the girl's violence, and yet neither daring to
reprove her nor even remonstrate with her. What abject slavery was this
to feel! How mean did she seem to her own heart! What rottenness was
within that gilded splendor by which she was surrounded! Where was the
ambitious envy with which she once looked up to the rich and powerful
now? Where that intense desire to be among the great and the titled? and
with whom would she not have changed conditions, even to Nina herself?

It is not weak of heart and low of courage that one should face
the great journey of life. Its trials and crosses, even to the most
fortunate, demand all that we can summon of hope and of energy. And
yet so was it that she was about to begin the road--the long and dreary
road--before her! As she sat thus musing, a great noise was heard from
the street without. She arose and opened the window. The whole Platz
was crammed with people, eagerly talking and gesticulating. A surging,
waving motion, too, seemed to sway them, and at length she could detect
that they were slowly proceeding onward towards the gate of the city.
The deep roll of a drum then turned her attention, and, in the far
distance, she saw the glancing bayonets of an infantry column as they
advanced.

Military spectacles are of too frequent recurrence in Vienna to create
much surprise or excitement; and yet, evidently, from the looks and
gestures of the people, they were both present here. The band of a
regiment struck up the national hymn of Austria; and as the proud notes
swelled into the air, a dark body of Tyrolese Jâgers poured into the
Platz. Still there was no enthusiasm of the people. They listened to
the loyal sounds in cold apathy. To the Tyrolese succeeded a Grenadier
battalion, after which came a long dense column of infantry of the line,
their knapsacks on their backs, and their bread rations strapped above
them. Behind these was the artillery, the long-tailed black horses
giving a solemn look to the procession, as its clanking sounds fell
mournfully on the ear. From the wide Platz they now moved on, and
passing out of the Körtner gate, defiled into the "Glacis." But a moment
before and that immense space was empty; and now, from every avenue
of the city, troops came pouring in like rivers to the sea. The
black-plumed hunters from Tyrol, the gigantic Croat Grenadiers,
the swarthy Bohemian Cuirassiers, and the white-cloaked dragoons of
Austria,--all were seen advancing and forming as if in battle array.
While Kate's eye ranged eagerly over the field in search of the blue
uniform of the Hungarians, Madame de Heidendorf entered the room with an
open letter in her hand.

"What can this mean?" asked Kate, anxiously. "It is surely not a mere
review?"

"Far from it, Madame," said the Countess, imposingly. "The great drama
is about to begin. News has come that Italy is in open revolt, and fresh
troops are to be despatched thither with all speed. Twelve thousand are
to march today, eight more to-morrow."

"And Frank--"

She stopped, abashed by the disdainful expression of Madame de
Heidendorf s face.

"Your brother's regiment, Madame, will form part of the force, and he
will, of course, contribute the importance of his presence. How happily
constituted must be the mind that can turn from the grand theme of
a whole nation's destiny to the petty fortunes of a corporal or a
sous-lieutenant!"

"And yet so it is," replied Kate, boldly; "dear Frank is nearer to my
heart than all that I see yonder. Oh, yes, Madame," cried she, replying
to the glance of scorn the Countess bestowed, "it is quite true. Mine
is an ignoble spirit. My affections are linked with lowly objects; would
that my ambitions had never risen above them!"

What reply Madame de Heidendorf might have given to this speech, so much
more daring than she had uttered before, there is no knowing, when Frank
burst into the room, and clasped his sister in his arms.

"I have but a moment, Kate, and we are off--off to Italy;" and then,
seeing the Countess, the boy bowed courteously, and apologized for his
abrupt entrance. "Count Stephen has got the command, and placed me on
his staff."

"I hope you may merit this proof of his confidence, sir," said Madame de
Heidendorf, haughtily.

"Frank will be a brave soldier, Madame," broke in Kate. "He is a
Dalton."

"He must be true as well as brave. Fidelity is needed now as much as
valor."

"And who will dare to question mine?" cried Frank; and then, as if
impatient that he should have been led away from a dearer theme, he
placed his arm within Kate's, and drew her towards the window. "I had so
much to say to you, my dearest sister. I have been thinking of nothing
but you--and--and--what you told me. I would break off this match----it
is not too late--you are only betrothed."

"Oh, no, no, Frank; do not give me such counsels. I am pledged in word
and bound in honor. I have taken a solemn vow."

"But you have been deceived,--I know you have; enough that I see such a
woman as that your companion. I tell you again, you must break it off."

"I cannot,--I cannot!"

"Then, by Heaven! I will do it myself. It surely is not for all the
glitter of this state and pomp that you would sell your affections?
These gauds have not corrupted you already? No, no, I read you better
than that Listen to my plan, then,--do not leave this till you hear from
me. If this lady--I do not know her name--insists on your departure, be
as peremptory, and say that you wish to see your family first. You are
not a slave, and cannot be coerced."

"I will hear no more of this, Frank; the very thought is maddening. No,
no, Frank; if you would be my friend, teach me how to fulfil my duty,
my sworn, pledged allegiance; do not seek to shake my faith, nor make me
less resolute in honor."

"It is, then, as I feared," cried he, passionately; "these cursed bribes
_have_ bought you. Oh, it is not thus Nelly would have been won!"

"I know it,--I know it well!" cried she, bursting into tears; "but I
never was like _her_."

"But you were, and you are, dearest," said he, kissing her forehead,
"our own sweet Kate, that we were all so proud of. Oh, forgive me if I
said what could hurt you, for I would pour out my heart's blood to serve
or to save you."

There was a mournful emphasis on the last two words, which bespoke their
deep meaning; and now, locked in each other's arms, they wept bitterly.

"As the Field-Marshal von Auersberg has just ridden into the palace,
his aide-de-camp ought probably to dry his tears and receive him," said
Madame de Heidendorf, as she sailed proudly out of the room.

"You heard that, Kate?----you heard what she said _to me?_ Think, then,
what kindness and sympathy she will feel for _you!_" said the boy, as he
dashed his hand indignantly against his forehead. "Was I not right about
these Russians?"

"Come, Frank, let us go to Uncle Stephen," said Kate, trying to smile
and seem at ease; and hand-in-hand they descended the stairs together.

The drawing-room into which they now entered was filled with officers
of different arms of the service, among whom Count Dalton stood
conspicuous, both from his size and the soldierlike character of a
figure that not even old age seemed able to impair.

"How provoking, my sweet niece," said he, taking Kate's hand between
both his, "now to part, just as I was learning the happiness of knowing
you. Here are all these gentlemen grumbling and complaining about
leaving their homes and families, and yet I 'll wager there is not one
amongst them carries away a heavier heart than I do. Come into this
room, my dear; let us have five minutes together." And Kate took his
arm, while he led her forward. Madame de Heidendorf, meanwhile, seated
herself on a sofa, and summoned the most distinguished officers of the
party to inform her as to all that was going forward.

It was one of her favorite affectations to be deeply versed in military
tactics; not that she acknowledged herself deficient in any art or
science, but soldiering was her strong point. She therefore questioned
and cross-questioned these unhappy gentlemen at great length.

"You have no mortars? Do I hear you aright. Colonel Rabowsky? No
mortars?"

"None, Madame."

"And how, may I ask, do you mean to reduce Milan to ashes?"

This was a very puzzling question; and she repeated it in a still more
commanding tone.

"Perhaps that may not be deemed desirable, Madame," modestly insinuated
another officer.

"Not desirable, sir? you said not desirable. Why, really I shall begin
to fancy I ought to go to school again in military matters. Are you
aware, sir, it's the very centre of these wretches; that it is fed
from Switzerland and Piedmont with all that is infamous in political
doctrine? Milan must be bombarded, sir!"

[Illustration: 166]

The Colonel bowed courteously to an opinion expressed with so much
authority.

"You 'll find, at least, that the Field-Marshal will be of my opinion,"
continued she. "As a military position, it is worth nothing."

"But as a capital city, Madame?" mildly interposed the Colonel.

"The old story," said she, contemptuously. "Women and children!"

"Most legitimate objects of protection, I trust, Madame."

But she turned contemptuously away, as if controversy with such an
adversary was beneath her.

"We have three rocket-batteries, Madame," interposed a staff officer,
desirous of offering himself to her notice.

"I hope you will use them with effect, sir. I envy you the pleasure of
seeing them plunging amidst that vile mob it is the fashion to call the
people nowadays."

"I hope we shall do our duty, Madame," said an old, stern-looking major,
who felt little flattered at this interference.

"I should like to see more chivalry,----more ardent devotion in the
defenders of a monarchy," said the Countess. "I can understand coldness
in the lower classes, but that the well-born and the noble should be
apathetic and slow to move is beyond my comprehension."

"Bey'm Blitzen," retorted the Major, "that is not bad I Here we are
going to shed our blood for the Kaiser, and we are told that it is not
enough, without we are born counts and barons."

"What is it, Heckenstein?" said Count Dalton, as he entered the room and
laid his hand familiarly on the other's shoulder. "I have seldom seen
you look so angry."

But the old soldier turned away without a reply.

"Madame de Heidendorf," said the old General, "I know not what you have
said to offend an old and tried servant of the Emperor,--a soldier of
Wagram and Auster-litz,--a faithful follower, when the fortunes of this
great Empire were at the lowest But, believe me, these are not times to
flout loyalty and despise fidelity."

"The times are worse than I thought them," said the Countess, "when
these principles have infected such men as Count Dalton. I had certainly
hoped that his young relative would have received a very different
lesson at his outset in life, nor can I wonder if such teachings end in
evil. Here is the Archduke. How I wish his Highness had come a little
earlier!"

As she spoke, the Prince entered, with all the careless ease of his
ordinary manner. It was impossible to detect from his countenance
whether he regarded the event as a serious one, or simply one of those
popular commotions which are ever occurring in a large empire.

"I know you are discussing politics, or something akin to them," said
he, laughingly. "Madame de Heidendorf has her 'cabinet countenance' on,
and Auersberg is looking as fierce as a field-marshal ought to do when
contradicted. Come, General, present me to the Princess. It is an honor
I have been long desiring. How tired you must be of all this, Madame!"
said he to Kate. "Such wise people as will not talk gossip,--such
high-minded souls as never will condescend to say a good thing, or hear
one, are insupportable." And, seating himself beside her, he rattled
on about Vienna, its society, and its pleasures, with all the ease and
flippancy of a young fashionable of the day, while, in an attitude of
deep respect, not unmixed with a dash of impatience, stood the old Count
before him.

"What does Auersberg want to tell us?" said the Prince, at last, looking
up at the old General's face.

"To say adieu, your Royal Highness."

"You don't go with the troops, surely?" said the Duke, laughing.

"At the head of my own regiment, your Royal Highness."

"Ah, by the bye, the Auersbergs are in your brigade. Very proper that.
And is this my _protégé?_" said he, taking Frank's arm, and drawing him
forward. "There's your best example, sir. Be only as good a soldier,
and the name of Dalton will be a title of nobility amongst us. Good-bye,
Lieutenant General, farewell. Give that _canaille_ a lesson quickly, and
come back to us as soon as you can."

Kate rose and followed Frank out of the room. For a few seconds they
were closely locked in each other's arms, without speaking. "Oh, Frank
dearest! when are we to meet again,--and how?" cried she, passionately.

"In pride and happiness, too, Kate," said the boy, joyfully. "I have no
fears for the future. But what is this, sister dearest,--gold?"

"Do not refuse me, Frank. It is the only happiness left me."

"But this is the Russian's, Kate."

"No, believe me, it is not Count Stephen has made me his heir; he has
given me all his fortune. Even good luck can come too late!" said she,
with a sigh.

"Do not leave this till I write to you, Kate. I will do so very
soon,--that is, if I can; but these are anxious times. You know,
Kate,"--here the boy whispered, in a voice low and tremulous from
agitation,--"You know, Kate, that I only left the ranks a couple of days
ago. I can tell then, better than all these great folk, what soldiers
think and say; they are not as they used to be. Lead them against the
Frenchman, and they will fight as they have ever fought; but if it be
to fire on their own townsfolk,--to charge through streets where they
lounged along, hand-in-hand with the people, like brothers,--they will
not do it."

"This is very alarming, Frank. Have you told the Count?"

"No; nor would I for worlds. What! betray my comrades, and be called
on before a court-martial to say who said this, and what man said t'
other?"

"But could you not, at least, give him some warning?"

"And be ordered from his presence for the presumption, or told that I
was a rebel at heart, or such tidings had never been uttered by me. The
old Feld would as soon believe that this earth was cut adrift to wander
at hazard through all space, as that treason should lurk behind an
Austrian uniform. It would be an evil hour for him who should dare to
tell him so."

"Oh, Frank, how terrible is all this!"

"And yet do I not despair; nay, Kate, but I am even more hopeful for
it; and, as Walstein says, if the Empire halt so long behind the rest of
Europe, she must one day or other take a race to come up with it."

"And is Walstein a----a----" She stopped.

"No; he's very far from a Democrat or a Republican. He 's too well born
and too rich and too good-looking to be anything but a Monarchist. Oh,
if you but saw him! But, hark! there are the trumpets! Here come the
'Wurtem-burgs;' and there's my charger, Kate. Is he not splendid? A
Banat horse, all bone and sinew."

"How I should like to have been a man and a soldier!" said she, blushing
deeply.

"There, that's Walstein,----that's he with the scarlet dolman!" cried
Frank. "But he 's coming over,----he sees us. No, he's passing on. Did
you see him, Kate?--did you remark him?"

"No, Frank dearest; I see nothing but you, my own fond brother." And she
fell upon his neck, weeping.

"Herr Lieutenant!" said a hussar, with his hand to his cap.

"Yes, I 'm ready,--I 'm coming," cried Frank. And with one long, last
embrace he tore himself away, springing down the stairs in mad haste.

"Madame de Heidendorf is good enough to say she will come and see the
troops defile from the Glacis," said the Archduke to Kate, as, still
overwhelmed with sorrow, she stood where Frank had left her. "Perhaps
you would do us the honor to come also?"

Kate accepted the invitation at once, and hurried to her room for a
bonnet.

"Not that one, Madame la Princesse," said Nina, eagerly; "the yellow
with black lace, rather. The national colors will be a flattery to his
Royal Highness."

"What a coquette you are, Nina!"

"And how irresistible would Madame be were she to condescend to be even
a little of one!" said Nina, smiling.

"Perhaps I may yet," said Kate, half sighing as she spoke; and Nina's
dark eyes sparkled as she heard her. "But what do you mean by coquetry,
Nina?" asked she, after a pause.

"It may mean much, Madame, or very little. With such as I am it may be
a rose-colored ribbon; with Madame la Princesse it may be the smile that
wins royalty. Coquetry, after all, is a mere recognition of admiration.
An old Spanish dramatist says, 'That a glance from bright eyes is like
the hoisting of an ensign to acknowledge a salute.'"

"How you run on, Nina, and how ashamed I feel when I catch myself
afterwards thinking over your words!"

Nina laughed merrily at this confession, while she opened the door
for Kate to pass out. In a moment after, Kate was seated beside the
Archduke, and Madame de Heidendorf followed in another carriage.

The Archduke was neither very good-looking nor agreeable. His manners
were not remarkable for any peculiar elegance, nor was there in his
air and bearing any of that special charm which very often seems the
prerogative of royal personages; and yet it would have been excessively
difficult to persuade Kate of all this as she drove along the streets
crowded with uncovered heads. The clank of the escort that rode at
either side, the quick roll of the drum and the rush out of the guard
to salute as he passed, created a sensation of pleasure in her mind
like the enjoyment of a delighted child. Oh, if Nelly could but see
her now!--if dear old papa were but there to look at her; and
Hanserl--little Hans----that loved the Hapsburg House as he loved the
Patron Saint of his own village!

It was, indeed, worth something to taste of splendor like this! And now
she issued forth into the spacious Glacis, glittering with thousands
of bayonets, and trembling under the tramp of the moving squadrons. The
whole line saluted as he drove slowly past, band after band taking up
the sounds, till the proud hymn of Austria filled the whole air. The
soldiers cheered, too, loud and long, for his Imperial Highness was
beloved by the army, and, like all his house, was a thorough soldier.

"You have never seen our troops under arms before!" said he, with a
proud elation in his look. "They are fine fellows, and faithful as they
are brave." He was about to say more, when the dull roll of a drum
was heard along the line, and the deep-voiced command from regiment to
regiment ran, "Alle nieder zum Gebet," and, at the word, every weapon
was lowered, and every head drooped forward in prayer. Not a sound--not
a whisper--was heard in that mighty host, till, after the expiration of
some minutes, the command once more summoned them to arms. Then came
the word "March!" and with a cheer that made the very air vibrate, the
troops set out for "Italy."



CHAPTER XIII. THE MARCH.

Is there any enthusiasm like that of a young soldier setting forth on
his first campaign? High in heart and hope, what can equal the glorious
picture his fancy draws of fame and honor? Where will his imagination
stop in creating scenes of heroic daring or deeds of noble chivalry? In
such a mood Frank Dalton rode along amongst his comrades, with whom at
once he became the greatest favorite. Explain it how one will, or give
up the problem in despair, but there is no denying the fact, the Irish
character has more of high spirits, more buoyancy, than that of any
continental people. Deriving pleasure or amusement from incidents that
others accept as commonplace, making even the rubs and collisions of
life subservient to his playful humor, the Irishman has resources of
ready wit and brilliant fancy you may seek for in vain amongst Germans,
or Italians, or even Frenchmen.

The contrarieties of nature, the contradictions of character, that
puzzle politicians and drive political economists half crazy, are
delightful elements of social intercourse; and what makes the "nation"
ungovernable very frequently renders the "individual" the most
easy-tempered and manageable man of his set. What a boon was it, then,
to the gloomy, thoughtful Bohemian, to the dreary German, or the fitful,
passionate nature of the wild Hungarian, to chance upon one who had
moods of mind to suit them all, and stories of amusing thought that none
of them possessed! Frank was the delight of the regiment; and whether he
rode in the front or in the rear a group was sure to be gathered round
him, listening with eagerness to his stories, or enjoying the quaint
drollery which every passing object or event was sure to elicit.

Emerging at a bound from the petty annoyances and vexatious cares of his
humble position, with all its harassing of debt and poverty, the boy was
almost wild with delight at his newly won freedom. A thorough Dalton,
he forgot every strait and difficulty he had passed through, and thought
only of the present, or so much of the future as his hopes embellished.
Kate's generosity, too, made him feel rich, and he was not unwilling to
be thought so. That passion for ascendancy, that over-eagerness to make
a fair figure before the world, no matter at what material sacrifice
or at what heavy cost, was bred "in his very bone;" but so inveterately
Irish is it that if the nation should ever be visited by the income-tax,
there is not a man in the land who will not over-estimate his means for
the sake of the boast to the collector!

À wealthy comrade, if he be but free-handed, is sure to be popular on
a march. The fastidiousness that would stand aloof from more formal
attentions gives way here to the chances of the road; and civilities
that would elsewhere imply obligation are now the mere accidents of the
way.

To the honor of the Austrian service be it said, "Tuft-hunting" is not
to be found there. The officers of a regiment embrace representatives of
every class of the Empire, from the haughtiest names of Europe down to
the sons of the humblest peasant; and yet the _camaraderie_ is perfect.
Very probably there is nothing more contributes to this than the absence
of all secrecy as to each man's resources. The prince is known to be
rich; the son of the little burgher, or Amtmann, is equally known to
be poor. Nothing is expected from any above his means, and no disgrace
attaches to narrow fortune. If, therefore, Frank was not surrounded by
shrewd-witted adventurers, eager to make the most of his extravagance,
he was not the less exposed to the flattering acknowledgments his
generous habits evoked, and the vanity that comes of being distinguished
amongst one's fellows. To be sure, this was his father's failing, and
his grandfather's before him! Frank, then, entertained all the officers
of his squadron on the march, practising a hundred little devices and
surprises for them. Now, it was a cold luncheon, laid out in a wood
at noonday; now, it was a smoking supper in a village, where even the
generals were fain to munch "commissary rations." Even the soldiers of
his "Zug" participated in this liberality, and many a flask of wine
was pledged to the health of the young lieutenant. As if to make him
perfectly happy, the old Count, his uncle, was obliged to hurry forward,
and thus Frank was relieved from the constraint of the only one whose
presence could have imposed reserve.

It was in the boundless freedom of this liberty, unchecked by prudence,
unrestrained by fear of consequences, Frank's lavish nature knew
no bounds. He wrote to Vienna for horses of high price; he ordered
carriages and liveries to be sent after him. The very surprise his
extravagance excited was an incense that he gloried in. How many a
generous nature has been wrecked by stupid admiration! how many a true
heart been corrupted by the vulgarity of notoriety!

"What will the Dalton do next?----what has the fellow in his head now?"
were surmises that he never heard without delight, and stimulated him
to new efforts to create astonishment. Ireland, too, so remote from
all their knowledge,--that far-away island,--furnished many a theme for
wonder, and he repeated, with ecstasy, several of his father's stories
of their former greatness and the barbaric splendor in which they lived.
How easy is self-deception, and what a strange cheat is that a man can
practise on himself! But so was it; he actually forgot the long years of
their obscure poverty, all their hard trials and distresses, the penury
of their daily life,--everything!--and could only think of Kate in all
her splendor, and himself in every indulgence of his fancy. And yet he
loved his father and Nelly too,--loved them both dearly. He would have
given worlds that the old man could have seen him as he rode at the head
of his men. He often felt his eyes grow dim as he fancied the burst of
delight it would have caused him. And poor Nelly! how he pictured her
features glowing with admiration, and yet trembling from agitation, for
he thought of all her warnings.

It is a singular fact, that in the short interval before the tremendous
events of the last great European convulsion, the aristocratic influence
seemed at its very highest point. Never in each State of the Continent
were the claims of family more regarded, nor the sway of proud names
more submissively recognized. Like the fever-flush before death, it
deceived many who beheld it! In the eyes of his astonished comrades,
young Dalton perfectly represented this character. Rich, well born,
brave, and eccentric, his seemed indeed an enviable lot in life.
Happy for him if the deception had stopped short with them! Unluckily,
however, it extended to himself, and he at last believed every fiction
that his own brain suggested.

In this wild delirium of the day-dream he rode along through the deep
glens and valleys of the Tyrol, along the banks of the rapid Inn,
through the glorious vale of Meran, and at last gained the great road
which, through Trent and Rovoredo, debouches on the Lago di Guarda. Here
a despatch from Vienna overtook them, with orders that a small party
should be sent off under some officer of intelligence to examine the
condition of the Stelvio Pass, the highest of all the Alpine roads of
Europe, and which, crossing from the South Tyrol, descends directly into
Italy by the Lake of Como.

Although it was still early, fresh snows were said to have fallen on
that elevated road, and it was an important question whether it were
longer practicable for the transit of artillery. Frank was delighted to
be selected for this duty,--a separate command, no matter bow small or
insignificant, had something adventurous and independent about it that
pleased him. There was a dash of peril, too, in the enterprise; for
already the Valteline and the Brianza were said to be overrun by bands
of patriot troops, raising contributions for the war, and compelling
others to take up arms.

Frank's instructions were, however, to examine and report upon the road,
and, avoiding all possible collision with the enemy, either to unite
with any Austrian brigade he could reach, or, if compelled, to retire
upon the Tyrol. Some of his comrades pitied him for being selected for
this lonely duty, others envied; but all regretted his departure,
and with many a warm wish for a speedy meeting, and many a pledge of
affection, they saw him depart on his enterprise.

In the small "Zug" of twenty men under his command, there was a young
Hungarian cadet, who, although of good family and birth, Frank remarked
never to have seen by any chance in society with the officers. Ravitzky
was a handsome, daring-looking fellow, with that expression of mingled
sadness and intrepidity in his face so peculiarly Hungarian. He was the
best horseman in the regiment, and a thorough soldier in his look and
carriage. It had often puzzled Frank why a youth with such advantages
had not been promoted. On the one or two occasions, however, on which he
asked the question, he had received evasive or awkward replies, and
saw that the inquiry was at the least an unpleasant theme among his
comrades.

Frank Dalton was well pleased at the opportunity now offered to know
something more of this young soldier, almost the only one under his
command who could speak any other language than Hungarian. Ravitzky,
however, although perfectly respectful in his manner, was cold and
reserved, showing no desire for an intimacy at which he might be
supposed to have felt proud. Without actually repelling, he seemed
determined to avoid nearer acquaintanceship, and appeared always happier
when he "fell back," to exchange a few guttural words with his comrades,
than when called to "the front," to converse with his officer.

Frank was piqued at all this; he saw that neither his rank, his supposed
wealth, nor his assumed position imposed upon the cadet; and yet these
were the very claims all his brother-officers had acknowledged. Amazed
at this wound to his self-love, he affected to forget him altogether,
or only remember him as one of the soldiers in his command. So far from
seeming displeased, Ravitzky appeared more at his ease than before, and
as if relieved from the worry of attentions that were distasteful to
him. This conduct completed the measure of Frank's indignation, and
he now began actually to hate the youth, on whom he practised all the
possible tyrannies of military discipline. These Ravitzky bore without
seeming to be aware of them, discharging every duty with an exactitude
that made punishment or even reproof impossible.

It is likely that if Frank had not been corrupted by all the adulation
he had so lately received,--if his self-esteem had not been stimulated
into an absurd and overweening vanity, he would have read this youth's
character aright, and have seen in him that very spirit of independence
which once he himself sought to display, albeit by a very different
road! Now, however, he received everything in a false light,--the
reserve was insolence, the coldness was disrespect, the punctuality in
duty a kind of defiance to him. How often he wished he had never taken
him! The very sight of him was now odious to his eyes.

Austrian troops enjoy so much of freedom on a march, that it is
difficult often for the most exacting martinet to seize opportunities
for the small tyrannies of discipline. Frank's ingenuity was now to be
tried in this way, and, it is but fair to confess, not unsuccessfully.
He compelled the men to appear each morning as smart as if on
parade,--their carbines in the bandoleers, and not slung at the
saddle,--he inspected every belt and strap and buckle, and visited even
the slightest infraction with a punishment Ravitzky accepted all this as
the ordinary routine of discipline, and never, even by a look, appeared
to resent it. Tyranny would seem to be one of the most insidious of
all passions, and, if indulged in little things, invariably goes on
extending its influences to greater ones.

At Maltz a new occasion arose for the tormenting influence of this
power, as the military post brought several letters from Vienna, one of
which was addressed to the cadet Ravitzky. It was about a week before
Frank was indignantly complaining to his sister of the shameless
violation of all feeling exhibited in opening and reading every
soldier's letter. He was eloquently warm in defending such humble
rights, and declaimed on the subject with all the impassioned fervor
of an injured man, and yet so corrupting is power, so subtle are the
arguments by which one establishes differences and distinctions, that
now he himself saw nothing strange nor severe in exercising this harsh
rule towards another.

He was out of temper, too, that morning. The trim and orderly appearance
of the men gave no opportunity of a grumble, and he strutted along on
foot in front of his party, only anxious for something to catch at. On
turning suddenly around, he saw Ravitzky with his open letter before
him, reading. This was a slight breach of discipline on a march where
infractions far greater are every day permitted; but it offered another
means of persecution, and he called the cadet imperiously to the front,

"Are you aware, cadet," said he, "of the general order regarding the
letters of all who serve in the ranks?"

"I am, Herr Lieutenant," said the other, flushing deeply, as he saluted
him.

"Then you knew that you were committing a breach of discipline in
opening that letter?"

"As the letter is written in Hungarian, Herr Lieutenant, I felt that to
show it to you could be but a ceremony."

"This explanation may satisfy you, sir; it does not suffice for me. Hand
me your letter."

Ravitzky grew scarlet at the command, and for an instant he seemed as
though about to dispute it; but duty overcame every personal impulse,
and he gave it.

"I see my own name here," cried Frank, as the one word legible to his
eyes caught him. "How is this?"

Ravitzky grew red and pale in a second, and then stood like one
balancing a difficulty in his own mind.

"I ask again, how comes a mention of me in this document?" cried Frank,
angrily.

"The letter, Herr Lieutenant, is from my cousin, who, aware that I was
serving in the same troop with you, offered to make me known to you."

"And who is this cousin with whom I am so intimate?" said Frank,
proudly.

"Count Ernest Walstein," said the other, calmly.

"What, he is your cousin? Are you really related to Walstein?"

The other bowed slightly in assent

"Then how is it, with such family influence, that you remain a cadet?
you have been two years in the service?"

"Nearly four years, Heir Lieutenant," was the quiet reply.

"Well, four years, and still unpromoted; how is that?"

Ravitzky looked as if unable to answer the question, and seemed confused
and uneasy.

"You have always been a good soldier. I see it in your 'character roll;'
there is not one punishment recorded against you."

"Not one!" said the cadet, haughtily.

"There must, then, be some graver reason for passing you over?"

"There may be," said the other, with a careless pride in his manner.

"Which you know?" said Frank, interrogatively.

"Which I guess at," said Ravitzky.

"Here is your letter, cadet," said Frank, banding it back to him. "I see
you will not make a confidant of me, and I will not force a confession."

Ravitzky took the letter, and, saluting with respect, was about to fall
back, when Frank said,----

"I wish you would be frank with me, and explain this mystery."

"You call it mystery, sir?" said the other, in astonishment "You are an
Irishman born, and call this a mystery?"

"And why not? What has my birth to do with it?"

"Simply that it might have taught the explanation. Is it truth, or am
I deceived in believing that your nation is neither well received nor
kindly met by the prouder country with which you are united; and
that, save when you stoop to blush at your nationality, you are never
recognized as claimant for either office or advancement?"

"This may have been the case once to some extent," said Frank,
doubtingly, "but I scarcely think such differences exist now."

"Then you are more fortunate than we," said Ravitzky.

"But I see men of your nation the very highest in military rank,--the
very nearest to the Sovereign?"

"Their's be the shame, then," said Ravitzky. "There are false hearts in
every land."

"This is a puzzle to me I cannot comprehend."

"I 'll tell you how to understand it all, and easily, too, Herr
Lieutenant. Take this letter and forward it to the Council of War;
declare that Cadet Ravitzky acknowledged to yourself that he was a
Hungarian, heart and soul, and, save the eagle on his chako, had nothing
of Austria about him. Add, that a hundred thousand of his countrymen
are ready to assert the same; and see if they will not make _you_ an
Ober-lieutenant, and send me to Moncacs for life." He held out the
letter, as he spoke, for Frank to take, and looked as proudly defiant as
if daring him to the act.

"You cannot suppose I would do this?"

"And yet it is exactly your duty, and what you took a solemn oath to
perform not a week back."

"And if there be such disaffection in the troops, how will they behave
before an enemy?" asked Frank, eagerly.

"As they have always done; ay, even in this very campaign that now
threatens us, where men are about to strike a blow for liberty, you 'll
see our fellows as foremost in the charge as though the cause at stake
was not their own."

"Ravitzky, I wish you had told me nothing of all this."

"And yet you forced the confession from me. I told Walstein, over and
over, that you were not suited for our plans. You rich men have too
much to lose to venture on so bold a game; he thought otherwise, and all
because you were an Irishman!"

"But I have scarcely ever seen Ireland. I know nothing of its grievances
or wrongs."

"I believe they are like our own," said Ravitzky. "They tell me that
your people, like ours, are warm, passionate, and impatient; generous
in their attachments, and terrible in their hatred. If it be so, and if
England be like Austria, there will be the same game to play out there
as here."

Frank grew thoughtful at these words. He recalled all that the Abbé
D'Esmonde had said to him about the rights of a free people and the
duties of citizenship, and canvassed within his own mind the devoirs of
his position; meanwhile Ravitzky had fallen back to the men and taken
his place in the ranks.

"They'll not compromise me before an enemy," thought Frank; "that I may
rely on." And with this trustful assurance he mounted and rode slowly
forward, deeply sunk in thought, and far less pleasantly than was
his wont to be. From all the excitement of his late life, with its
flatteries and fascinations, he now fell into a thoughtful mood, the
deeper that it was so strongly in contrast to what preceded it The
greater interests that now flashed across his mind made him feel the
frivolity of the part he had hitherto played. "Ravitzky is not older
than I am, and yet how differently does _he_ speculate on the future!
_His_ ambitions are above the narrow limits of selfish advancement, and
the glory _he_ aims at is not a mere personal distinction."

This was a dangerous theme, and the longer he dwelt upon it the more
perilous did it become.

The snow lay in deep drifts in many parts of the mountain, and the
progress of the little party became daily slower as they ascended.
Frequently they were obliged to dismount and lead their horses for
miles, and at these times Frank and Ravitzky were always together. It
was intimacy without any feeling of attachment on either side, and yet
they were drawn towards each other by some strange mysterious sympathy.
Their conversation ranged over every topic, from the great events which
menaced Europe to the smallest circumstances of personal history; and in
all Frank found the cadet his superior. It was not alone that his views
were higher, more disinterested, and less selfish, but his judgments
were calmer and better weighed.

"_You_ want to be a count of the Empire, and a grand cross of every
order of Europe," said Ravitzky one day to Frank, at the close of a
rather warm discussion. "_I_ want to see my country free, and live an
humble soldier in the ranks." This bold avowal seemed to separate them
still more widely, and it was plain that each regarded the other with
distrust and reserve. It was after some days of this distance that Frank
endeavored to restore their intimacy by leading Ravitzky to speak of
himself, and at last ventured to ask him how it came that he still
remained a cadet, while others, in every way inferior to him, were made
officers.

"I have refused promotion some half-dozen times over," said the other.
"As a kaiser-cadet, my time of service will expire in a few months
hence; then I shall be free to leave the service. Were I to accept my
grade as an officer, I should have to take an oath of fidelity to the
Emperor, which I would not, and pledge myself to a course that I could
not do."

"Then they probably know the reasons for which you have declined
promotion?"

"Assuredly they can guess them," was the curt reply.

"You are a strange fellow, Ravitzky, and I scarcely understand you."

"And yet there is nothing less a mystery than my conduct or my motives,"
rejoined he, proudly. "My father is a noble, high in the service and
confidence of the Emperor, and although a Magyar by birth, is Austrian
by choice and predilection. My sympathies are with my countrymen. In
obedience to his wishes I have entered this service; in justice to
myself, I mean to quit it when I can with honor."

"And for what, or where?" asked Frank.

"Who knows?" said he, sorrowfully. "Many of our nation have gone over
the seas in search of a new land. Already we are almost as destitute of
a home as the Poles. But why talk of these things, Herr Lieutenant? I
may be led to say that which it would be your duty to report; you ought,
perhaps, as it is, to denounce me. Have no fears; my life would always
be spared; my family's fidelity would save _me_. This is one of the
glorious privileges of birth," cried he, scornfully. "The 'fusillade'
will be the sentence for one of those poor fellows yonder; but you and I
are too well born for justice to reach."

"Assuredly, I 'll not quarrel with the privilege!" said Frank, laughing.

"And yet, if I were as rich and as great as you are," said Ravitzky, "it
is exactly what I should do! With your fortune and your rank you want
nothing from king or kaiser. Who, then, would not strive for the higher
rewards that only a whole nation can confer?"

Frank blushed deeply at the allusion to his supposed wealth, but had not
the courage to refute it. He, however, sought an opportunity to turn the
conversation to other channels, and avoided, for the future, all mention
of every theme of politics or party. The mischief, however, was done. He
brooded forever in secret over all the Hungarian had told him; while
old memories of fresh wrongs, as narrated by his father long ago, kept
recurring and mingling with them, till not only the themes excluded
other thoughts, but that he felt the character of his own ambition
changing, and new and very different hopes succeeding to his former
ones.



CHAPTER XIV. THE SKIRMISH.

At last they reached the summit of the Stelvio, and began the descent of
the mountain; and what a glorious contrast does the southern aspect of
an Alpine range present to the cold barrenness of the north! From the
dreary regions of snow, they came at length to small patches of verdure,
with here and there a stunted pine-tree. Then the larches appeared,
their graceful feathery foliage checkering the sunlight into ten
thousand fanciful shapes; while streams and rivulets bubbled and rippled
on every side,--not icebound as before, but careering along in glad
liberty, and with the pleasant music of falling water. Lower down, the
grass was waving as the wind moved on, and cattle were seen in herds
revelling in the generous pasture, or seeking shelter beneath the deep
chestnut-trees; for, already, even here, the Italian sun was hot. Lower
again came dark groves of olives and trellised vines; long aisles of
leafy shade traversing the mountain in every direction, now curving in
graceful bends, now in bold zigzags, scaling the steep precipices, and
sometimes hanging over cliffs and crags, where not even the boldest hand
would dare to pluck the ruddy bunches.

Beneath them, as they went, the great plain of Lombardy opened to their
view,--that glorious expanse of wood and waving corn, with towns and
villages dotting the surface; while directly below, at their very feet,
as it were, stretched the Lake of Como, its wooded banks reflected in
the waveless water. What a scene of beauty was that fair lake, with its
leafy promontories, its palaces, and its Alpine background, all basking
under the deep blue of an Italian sky; while perfumes of orange groves,
of acacias and magnolias, rose like an incense in the air, and floated
upwards!

Even the hard nature of the wild Hungarian--the rude dweller beside
the dark-rolling Danube or the rapid Theiss--could not survey the
scene unmoved; and, dismounting from their saddles, the hussars moved
stealthily along, as if invading the precincts of some charmed region.
Frank was in no haste to leave so picturesque a spot, and resolved to
halt for the night beneath the shade of some tall chestnut-trees, where
they had sought shelter from the noonday sun. Como was at his feet,
straight down beneath him was the wooded promontory of Bellagio, and
in the distance rose the Swiss Alps, now tinged with the violet hue of
sunset Never was there a scene less likely to suggest thoughts of war
or conflict If the eye turned from the dark woods of the Brianza to the
calm surface of the lake, everything wore the same aspect of peaceful
security. Figures could be seen seated or walking on the terraces of
the villas; gorgeously decked gondolas stole over the bay, their
gold-embroidered ensigns trailing lazily in the water. Equipages and
troops of horsemen wound their way along the leafy lanes; not a sight
nor sound that did not portend ease and enjoyment.

With all Frank's ardor for adventure, he was not sorry at all this. His
orders to fall back, in case he saw signs of a formidable movement, were
too peremptory to be disobeyed, and he would have turned away with great
reluctance from a picture so temptingly inviting. Now there was no need
to think of this. The great dome of the Milan Cathedral showed on the
horizon that he was not thirty miles from the Austrian headquarters,
while all around and about him vouched for perfect quiet and
tranquillity.

Tempted by a bright moonlight and the delicious freshness of the night,
he determined to push on as far as Lecco, where he could halt for the
day, and by another night-march reach Milan. Descending slowly, they
gained the plain before midnight, and now found themselves on that
narrow strip of road which, escarped from the rock, tracks the margin
of the lake for miles. Here Frank learned from a peasant that Lecco was
much too distant to reach before daybreak, and determined to halt at
Varenna, only a few miles off.

This man was the only one they had come up with for several hours, and
both Frank and Ravitzky remarked the alarm and terror he exhibited as he
suddenly found himself in the midst of them.

"Our cloth here," said the cadet, bitterly, "is so allied to thoughts
of tyranny and cruelty, one is not to wonder at the terror of that poor
peasant."

"He said Varenna was about five miles off," said Frank, who did not like
the spirit of the last remark, and wished to change the topic.

"Scarcely so much; but that as the road was newly mended, we should be
obliged to walk our cattle."

"Did you remark the fellow while we were talking,--how his eye wandered
over our party? I could almost swear that I saw him counting our
numbers."

"I did not notice that," said the cadet, with an almost sneering tone.
"I saw that the poor fellow looked stealthily about from side to side,
and seemed most impatient to be off."

"And when he did go," cried Frank, "I could not see what way he took.
His 'Felice notte, Signori,' was scarce uttered when he disappeared."

"He took us for a patrol," remarked the other, carelessly; and whether
it was this tone, or that Frank was piqued at the assumed coolness of
the cadet, he made no further remark, but rode on to the front of
the party. Shortly after this the moon disappeared; and as the road
occasionally passed through long tunnellings in the rock, the way became
totally obscured, so that in places they were obliged to leave the
horses entirely to their own guidance.

"There 's Varenna at last!" said Frank, pointing out some lights, which,
glittering afar off, were reflected in long columns in the water.

"That may still be a couple of miles off," said Ravitzky, "for the
shores of the lake wind greatly hereabouts. But, there! did you not see
a light yonder?--_that_ may be the village." But as he spoke the light
was gone; and although they continued to look towards the spot for
several minutes, it never reappeared.

"They fish by torchlight here," said Ravitzky, "and that may have been
the light; and, by the way, there goes a skiff over the water at a
furious rate!--hear how the fellows ply their oars."

The dark object which now skimmed the waters must have been close under
the rocks while they were speaking; for she suddenly shot out, and in a
few minutes was lost to view.

"Apparently the clink of our sabres has frightened those fellows, too,"
said Frank, laughing, "for they pull like men in haste."

"It's well if it be no worse," said the cadet.

"Partly what I was thinking, myself," said Frank. "We may as well be
cautious here." And he ordered Ravitzky, with two men, to ride forty
paces in advance, while four others, with carbines cocked, were to drop
a similar distance to the rear.

The consciousness that he was assuming a responsibility made Frank
feel anxious and excited, and at the same time he was not without the
irritating sense that attaches to preparations of needless precaution.
From this, however, he was rallied by remarking that Ravitzky seemed
more grave and watchful than usual, carefully examining the road as he
went along, and halting his party at the slightest noise.

"Did you hear or see anything in front?" asked Frank, as he rode up
beside them.

"I have just perceived," said the cadet, "that the boat which half
an hour ago shot ahead and left us, has now returned, and persists in
keeping a little in advance of us. There! you can see her yonder. They
make no noise with their oars, but are evidently bent on watching our
movements."

"We 'll soon see if that be their 'tactic,'" said Frank, and gave the
word to his men "To trot."

For about half a mile the little party rode sharply forwards, the very
pace and the merry clink of the accoutrements seeming to shake off that
suspectful anxiety a slower advance suggests. The men were now ordered
to walk their horses; and just as they obeyed the word, Ravitzky called
out, "See! there she is again. The winding of the bay has given them the
advantage of us, and there they are still in front!"

"After all," rejoined Frank, "it may be mere curiosity. Cavalry, I
suppose, are seldom seen in these parts."

"So much the better," said Ravitzky, "for there is no ground for them to
manouvre, with a mountain on one hand, and a lake on the other. There!
did you see that light? It was a signal of some kind. It was shown
twice; and mark, now! it is acknowledged yonder."

"And where is the boat?"

"Gone."

"Let us push on to Varenna; there must be some open ground near the
village!" cried Frank. "Trot!"

An older soldier than Frank might have felt some anxiety at the position
of a party so utterly defenceless if attacked; perhaps, indeed, his
inexperience was not his worst ally at this moment, and he rode on
boldly, only eager to know what and where was the peril he was called
on to confront Suddenly Ravitzky halted, and called out, "There's a tree
across the road."

Frank rode up, and perceived that a young larch-tree had been placed
across the way, half carelessly, as it seemed, and without any object of
determined opposition.

Two men dismounted by his orders to remove it, and in doing so,
discovered that a number of poles and branches were concealed beside the
rocks, where they lay evidently ready for use.

"They've had a Tyroler at work here," cried an old Corporal of the
Hussars; "they mean to stop us higher up the road, and if we fall back
we 'll find a barricade here in our rear."

"Over with them into the lake," said Frank, "and then forward at once."

Both orders were speedily obeyed, and the party now advanced at a rapid
trot.

They were close to Varenna, and at a spot where the road is closely
hemmed in by rocks on either side, when the sharp bang of a rifle was
heard, and a shrill cry shouted something from the hillside, and
was answered from the lake. Ravitzky had but time to give the word
"Forwards!" when a tremendous fire opened from the vineyards, the
roadside, and the boat. The red flashes showed a numerous enemy; but,
except these, nothing was to be seen. "Forwards, and reserve your fire,
men!" he cried. And they dashed on; but a few paces more found them
breasted against a strong barricade of timber and country carts,
piled up across the way; a little distance behind which rose another
barricade; and here the enemy was thickly posted, as the shattering
volley soon proved.

As Frank stood irresolute what course to take, the Corporal, who
commanded the rear, galloped up to say that all retreat was cut off
in that direction, two heavy wagons being thrown across the road, and
crowds of people occupying every spot to fire from.

"Dismount, and storm the barricade!" cried Frank; and, setting the
example, he sprang from his saddle, and rushed forwards.

There is no peril a Hungarian will not dare if his officer but lead
the way; and now, in face of a tremendous fire at pistol-range, they
clambered up the steep sides, while the balls were rattling like hail
around them.

The Italians, evidently unprepared for this attack, poured in a
volley and fled to the cliffs above the road. Advancing to the second
barricade, Frank quickly gained the top, and sprang down into the road.
Ravitzky, who was ever close behind him, had scarcely gained the height,
when, struck in the shoulder by a ball, he dropped heavily down upon the
ground. The attack had now begun from front, flanks, and rear together,
and a deadly fire poured down upon the hussars without ceasing, while
all attempt at defence was hopeless.

"Open a pass through the barricade," shouted Frank, "and bring up the
horses!" And while some hastened to obey the order, a few others grouped
themselves around Ravitzky, and tried to shelter him as he lay.

"Don't leave me to these fellows, Dalton," cried he, passionately;
"heave me over into the lake rather."

Frank now saw that the poor fellow's cheek was torn with a shot, and
that his left hand was also shattered.

"The fire is too heavy, Herr Lieutenant; the men cannot open a way for
the cattle," whispered the old Corporal.

"What's to be done then?" asked Frank; but the poor Corporal fell dead
at his side as he spoke. The brunt of the conflict was, however, at the
barricades; for, despairing of any prospect of removing the obstacles,
many of the hussars had ridden recklessly at them, and there, entangled
or falling, were shot down remorselessly by the enemy. One alone forced
his way, and with his uniform bloody and in rags dashed up to Frank.

[Illustration: 190]

"Get the cadet up in front of you," whispered Frank; and Ravitzky,
who was now unconscious, was lifted into the saddle; while the hussar,
grasping him with his strong arms, held him against his chest.

"Forward, now," said Frank; on, to the first village, "and see him cared
for."

"But you, Herr Lieutenant,--what's to become of you?"

"I 'll not leave my poor wounded comrades."

"There 's not a living man amongst them," cried the hussar. "Come along
with us, Herr Lieutenant; we may want your help too."

The firing ceased at this moment; and to the wild shouts and din of
conflict there succeeded a dead silence.

"Keep quiet--keep quiet--stand close beneath the rock," whispered Frank;
"here comes the boat." And, with slow and measured stroke, the skiff
neared the shore, about twenty paces from where they stood.

"Pull in boldly," cried a gruff voice, in Italian; "there's nothing to
fear now: neither man nor horse could survive that fire."

"Would that the great struggle could be accomplished so easily!" said a
softer tone, which Frank almost fancied he had heard before.

Lanterns were now seen moving in the space between the barricades; and
crowds pressed down to examine and pillage the dead.

"Have you found the officer's body?" asked he of the soft voice.

"I suspect the party was under a sergeant's command," said another.

"No, no," rejoined the other; "Giuseppe was positive that he saw an
officer."

"See that he has not escaped, then," said the other, eagerly. "The tale
of this night's adventure might be told in two ways at Milan."

"The cadet is dying, sir; his head has fallen back," whispered the
hussar to Frank.

"The lake, Dalton, the lake!" muttered the dying man, as he threw his
arms around Frank's neck. Frank caught him while he was falling, but,
overborne by the weight, reeled back against the rock.

"How many are in the boat?" whispered Frank.

"I see but one man, sir," said the hussar.

"Now for it, then," said Frank; "place him between us on a carbine, and
make for the boat."

With the energy of a newly inspired hope, the men obeyed in an instant;
and, carrying their wounded comrade, moved stealthily along beneath the
shadow of the rock. It was only as they emerged from this, and gained
the little gravelly beach, that their figures could be seen.

"Be quiet now, men, and leave that fellow to me," said Frank, as he
cocked his pistol. The clank of the sabres, however, seemed warning
enough for the crafty Italian, who jumped at once into the lake. With a
rush, the Hungarians sprang into the skiff, while Frank, seizing it by
the prow, pushed boldly out. The plunge and the splash had, meanwhile,
attracted notice, and several hurried down to the beach. Frank had but
time to order his men to lie down, when a crashing volley flew over
them. "Now, to your oars, boys, before they can load again." The
light skiff almost rose out of the water to their vigorous stroke: and
although the balls tore incessantly amongst them, they continued to row
on. Sheets of bright flame flashed across the water, as volley after
volley followed; but the Hungarians were soon out of the reach of the
fire, with no other loss than some slight wounds.

At first it seemed as if some pursuit were intended; but this was soon
abandoned, and the noise of horses and wheels on the road showed that
the multitude were departing land-wise. Frank now bethought him what
was best to be done. If the country were really in open revolt, the only
chance of safety lay in surrendering to something like authority; if
this were a mere partial outbreak, in all likelihood the opposite shores
of the lake would offer a refuge. A single light, like a star, shone in
the far distance, and thither Frank now steered the boat. Ravitsky
lay against his knees, his head on Frank's lap, breathing heavily, and
occasionally muttering to himself, while the men kept time to the oars
with a low, mournful chant, which sounded at least like a death-wail
over their comrade.

The lake opposite Varenna is nearly at its widest part; and it was full
three hours after the occurrence of the skirmish that they drew near
to the light, which they now saw proceeded from a little boat-house
belonging to a villa a short distance from shore. A small harbor, with
several boats at anchor in it, opened on the water's edge, and a
great flight of marble steps led up to a terraced garden, adorned with
fountains and groups of statuary.

Frank saw at once that he had invaded the precincts of one of those
princely villas which the Milanese nobility possess on the lake, and
was uncertain which course to take. His Austrian uniform, he well knew,
would prove a sorry recommendation to their kind offices. For some
time back the breech between the Austrians and the Lombards had gone on
widening, till at length every intercourse had ceased between them; and
even the public places resorted to by the one were sure to be avoided
on that account by the other. Scarcely a day passed without Milan
witnessing some passages of hostility or insolence, and more than one
fatal duel showed how far political dislike had descended into personal
hatred.

To ask for aid and assistance under circumstances such as these, would
have been, as Frank felt, a meanness; to demand it as a right would have
been as insolent a pretension; and yet what was to be done? Ravitzky's
life was in peril; should he, from any scruple whatever, hazard the
chances of saving his poor comrade? "Come what may," thought he, "I'll
claim their succor--theirs be the shame if they refuse it!"

The approach was longer than he suspected, and, as he went along, Frank
had occasion to remark the tasteful elegance of the grounds, and the
costly character of all the embellishments. He saw that he was about
to present himself before one of the "magnates" of the land, and half
prepared himself for a haughty reception. Crossing a little bridge, he
found himself on a grassy plateau, on which a number of windows looked
out; and these now all lay open, while seated within were several
persons enjoying the Italian luxury of a "bel fresco," as the air of the
lake gently stirred the leaves, and carried some faint traces of Alpine
freshness into the plains beneath. A large lamp, covered with a deep
shade, threw a dubious light through the chamber, and gave to the group
all the effect and coloring of a picture.

On an ottoman, supported by pillows, and in an attitude of almost
theatrical elegance, lay a lady, dressed in white, a black veil fastened
in her hair behind, being half drawn across her face. At her feet sat
a young man, with an air of respectful attention; and a little further
off, in an easy-chair, reclined the massive proportions of a priest,
fanning himself with his skull-cap, and seemingly gasping for air.
Behind all, again, was another figure,--a tall man, who, with a cigar in
his mouth, slowly paced the chamber up and down, stopping occasionally
to hear the conversation, but rarely mingling in it.

There was that air of indolent enjoyment and lassitude, that mingled
aspect of splendor and neglect, so characteristically Italian in the
scene, that Frank forgot himself, as he stood still and gazed on the
group, and even listened to the words.

"After all," said the young man, in Italian, "it is better to let them
do the thing in their own way! Catting off a patrol here, shooting
a sentry there, stabbing a general to-day, poisoning a field-marshal
to-morrow, seems to our notions a very petty war, but it makes a country
very untenable in the end!"

"Fuori i barbari! over the Alps with them at any cost!" growled the
priest.

"I agree with you," said the tall man, stopping to brush the cinder from
his cigar, "if you can drive them away in a stand-up fight; and I don't
see why you could not! Numerically, you are about five hundred to one;
physically, you look their equals. You have arms in abundance; you know
the country; you have the wishes of the people--"

"The prayers of the Church," interposed the lady.

"Beati sunt illi qui moriuntur pro patriâ," muttered the padre.

"You and I, father," said the young man, "would like a little of that
beatitude in this world too."

Frank had now heard more than he had desired to hear; and, unhooking
his sabre, he suffered it to clink at his heels as he boldly advanced
towards the windows.

"Who have we there?" cried the tall man, advancing to the terrace, and
challenging the stranger.

Frank replied, in French, that he was an Austrian officer, whose party
had been waylaid near Varenna, and who had made his escape with a
wounded comrade and a few others.

"So the shots we heard came from that quarter?" whispered the youth to
the lady.

She signed to him to be cautious, and the tall man resumed,----

"This is a private villa, sir; and as yet, at least, neither an Austrian
barrack nor an hospital."

"When I tell you, sir," said Frank, with difficulty restraining his
passion, "that my comrade is dying, it may, perhaps, excite other
feelings than those of national animosity."

"You are a Hungarian?" asked the youth.

"What of that?" broke in the padre. "Tutti barbari! tutti barbari!"

Meanwhile the tall man leaned over where the lady sat, and conversed
eagerly with her.

"You have to think how it will look, and how it will tell abroad," said
he, in English. "How shall we persuade the people that we are in their
cause if you make this villa an Austrian refuge?"

She whispered something low in reply, and he rejoined impatiently,----

"These are small considerations; and if we are to be always thinking of
humanity, let us give up the game at once."

"You 'll not refuse my comrade the consolations of his Church, at
least?" said Frank. "I see a reverend father here--"

"And you 'll never see him follow you one step out of this chamber,"
broke in the priest "Ego autem tanquam Burdus, non audiebam," muttered
he, with a wave of his hand.

"But if he be a good Catholic," interposed the youth, half slyly.

"Let them be confounded who seek to do me evil!" said the priest, with a
solemnity that said how deeply he felt for his own safety.

"This discussion is lasting too long," said Frank, impatiently. "I
cannot coerce your humanity, but I can demand as a right that a soldier
of your Emperor shall receive shelter and succor."

"I told you so," said the tall man, still addressing the lady in
English; "first the entreaty,----then the menace."

"And what are we to do?" asked she, anxiously.

"Let them occupy the boat-house; there are beds in the lofts. Jekyl will
see that they have whatever is necessary; and perhaps by to-morrow we
shall get rid of them." Turning towards the youth, he spoke to him for a
few minutes rapidly, and the other replied, "You are right I 'll look
to it." He arose as he spoke, and bowing politely to Frank, pronounced
himself ready to accompany him.

With a few words of apology for his intrusion, as awkwardly uttered as
they were ungraciously received, Frank retired from the chamber, to
retrace his steps to the harbor.

Little as he was disposed to be communicative, Albert Jekyl--for it
was our old acquaintance--contrived to learn, as they went along, every
circumstance of the late encounter.

The pliant Jekyl fully concurred in the indignant epithets of cowards
and assassins bestowed by Frank upon his late assailants, deplored with
him the miserable and mistaken policy of revolt among the people, and
regretted that, as foreigners themselves, they could not offer the
hospitality of the villa to the wounded man without exposing their lives
and fortunes to an Infuriated peasantry.

"What nation do you then belong to?" asked Frank, shrewdly concealing
his knowledge of English.

"We are, so to say, of different countries," said Jekyl, smiling, and
evading the question. "The padre is a Florentine--"

"And the lady?"

"She is a very charming person, and if it were not that she is a little
over-devout, a shade too good, would be the most delightful creature in
existence."

"The tall man is her husband, I conclude."

"No,----not her husband," smiled Jekyl again; "a person you 'll like
much when you see more of him. Short and abrupt, perhaps, at first, but
so kind-hearted and so generous."

"And has the villa got a name?" asked Frank, in a voice of some
impatience at finding how little his companion repaid his frankness.

"It is called La Rocca," said Jekyl. "Had you not been a stranger in
Italy, you would scarcely have asked. It is the most celebrated on the
whole lake."

Frank thought he had heard the name before; but when, where, or how, he
could not remember. Other cares were, besides, too pressing upon him to
make him dwell on the subject, and he willingly addressed himself to the
more urgent duties of the moment.

The boat-house stood in no need of all Jekyl's apologies. Frank had
lodged in many inferior quarters since he had begun soldiering; there
were several excellent bedrooms, and a delightful little _salon_
which looked directly out upon the lake. Ravitzky, too, had rallied
considerably, and his wounds, although formidable from the loss of
blood, showed nothing likely to prove fatal. Jekyl pledged himself to
send a surgeon at once to him; and, adding all kinds of civil speeches
and offers of personal services, at last left the friends together to
exchange confidences.

"What are our hosts like, Dalton?" said the cadet

"_You_ would call them most patriotic, Ravitzky, for they would scarcely
give us shelter. Their only regret seemed that our friends yonder had
not done the work better, and finished off the rest of us."

"It is not pleasant to accept of an ungracious hospitality; but
I suppose that I, at least, shall not trouble them long. There 's
something hot goes on ebbing here that tells of internal bleeding; and
if so, a few hours ought to suffice."

Frank did his best to rally his poor comrade; but the task is a
difficult one with those whose fear of death is small.

"You'll have to write to Milan, Dalton," said he, suddenly.

"I should rather say, to hasten thither at once," said Frank. "I ought
to report myself as soon as possible."

"But you mustn't leave me, Dalton; I cannot part with you. À few hours
is not much to you; to me it is a life long. I want you also to write to
Walstein for me; he 'll take care to tell my mother."

Frank knew well the breach of discipline this compliance would entail,
and that he could scarcely be guilty of a graver offence against duty;
but Ravitzky clung to his wish with such pertinacity, throwing into the
entreaty all the eagerness of a last request, that Frank was obliged to
promise he would remain, and let the result take what shape it might.
While he, therefore, gave orders to his only unwounded comrade to hold
himself in readiness to set out for Milan by daybreak, he proceeded to
write the brief despatch which was to record his disaster. There are few
sadder passages in the life of a young soldier than that in which he has
to convey tidings of his own defeat. Want of success is so linked
and bound up with want of merit, that every line, every word, seems a
self-accusation.

However inevitable a mishap might appear to any witnessing it, a mere
reader of the account might suggest fifty expedients to escape it. He
knew, besides, the soldierlike contempt entertained in the service for
all attacks of undisciplined forces, and how no party, however small, of
"regulars" was esteemed insufficient to cope with a mob of peasants
or villagers. Any contradiction to so acknowledged a theory would be
received with loud reprobation, and, whatever came of it, the most
inevitable result would be the professional ruin of him unlucky enough
to incur such a failure.

"There's an end of the career of the Lieutenant von Dalton," said Frank,
as he concluded the paper. "Neither his uncle, the Field-Marshal, nor
his sister, the Princess, will have favor enough to cover delinquency
like this." It did, indeed, seem a most humiliating avowal, and probably
his own depressed state gave even a sadder coloring to the narrative. He
accompanied this despatch by a few lines to the Count, his grand-uncle,
which, if apologetic, were manly and straightforward; and, while bearing
a high testimony to Ravitzky's conduct, took all the blame of failure to
himself alone.

He would gladly have lain down to rest when this last was completed, but
the cadet pressed eagerly for his services, and the letter to Walstein
must be written at once.

"The surgeon tells me that there is internal bleeding," said he, "and
that, should it return with any degree of violence, all chance of
recovery is hopeless. Let us look the danger boldly in the face, then,
Dalton; and, while I have the time, let me tell Walstein all that I have
learned since we parted. The letter I will confide to your safe keeping
till such time as it can be forwarded without risk of discovery."

"Is there necessity for such precaution?" asked Frank.

"Can you ask me the question?"

"Then how am I to write it?" said he.

"Simply from my dictation," replied the other, calmly. "The sentiments
will not be yours, but mine. The mere act of the pen, for which these
fingers are too weak, can never wound the susceptibility of even _your_
loyalty. You are not satisfied with this?"

Frank shook his head dubiously.

"Then leave me where I am. I ask no companionship, nor friendship
either,--or, if you prefer it, hasten to Milan and denounce me as a
traitor. My character is well enough known not to need corroboration to
your charge; the allegation will never hurt me, and it may serve _you_,
Ay, Herr Lieutenant, it will prove an opportune escape for the
disgrace of this unlucky night. They will forgive you much for such a
disclosure."

Frank's temper would have been insufficient to bear such an insult
as this, had not the words been spoken by one already excited to the
madness of fever, and whose eye now flashed with the wild glare of
mania.

It was long before Frank could calm down the passionate excitement of
the sick man, and fit him for the task he wished to execute; and even
then Ravitzky undertook it in a sullen, resentful spirit that seemed to
say that nothing short of the necessity would have reduced him to such
a confidence. Nor was this all. Pain and nervous irritability together
made him difficult, and occasionally impossible, to understand. The
names of people and places of Hungarian origin Frank in vain endeavored
to spell; the very utmost he could do being to follow the rapid
utterance with which the other at times spoke, and impart something like
consistency to his wild, unconnected story.

That Ravitzky had been employed in secret communications with some of
the Hungarian leaders was plain enough, and that he had held intercourse
with many not yet decided how to act was also apparent. The tangled web
of intrigue was, however, too intricate for faculties laboring as his
were; and what between his own wanderings and Frank's misconceptions,
the document became as mysterious as an oracle. Perhaps Frank was
not sorry for this obscurity; or, perhaps, like the lady who consoled
herself for the indiscretion of keeping a lover's picture by the
assurance that "it was not like him," he felt an equal satisfaction in
thinking that the subject of his manuscript could never throw any light
upon any scheme that ever existed. Now it ran on about the feelings
of the Banat population, and their readiness to take up arms; now it
discussed the fordage #of rivers in Transylvania. Here was an account
of the arms in the arsenal of Arad; there a suggestion how to cut off
Nugent's corps on the Platen See. At times it seemed as if a great Sclav
revolt were in contemplation; at others the cause appeared that of the
Hungarian nobles alone, anxious to regain all the privileges of the old
feudalism. "At all events, it is rebellion," thought Frank; and heartily
glad was he when the task was completed, and everything save the address
appended. It was now sealed, and by Ravitzky's advice deposited within
the linings of Frank's pelisse, till such time as a safe opportunity
might offer of forwarding it to Walstein.

The task occupied some hours; and when it was completed, so tired was
Frank by former exertion and excitement, that he lay down on the floor,
and with his head on the sick man's bed, fell fast asleep. Such had
been his eagerness to finish this lengthy document, that he had never
perceived that he was watched as he wrote, and that from the little
copse beside the window a man had keenly observed him for several hours
long.

Ravitzky, too, fell into a heavy slumber; and now, as both slept, a
noiseless foot crossed the floor, and a man in the dark dress of a
priest drew nigh the bedside. Waiting for some seconds as if to assure
himself of the soundness of their sleep, he bent down and examined their
features. Of the cadet he took little notice; but when his eyes fell
upon Frank's face, pale and exhausted as he lay, he almost started back
with astonishment, and for several minutes he seemed as if trying to
disabuse himself of an illusion. Even the uniform appeared to surprise
him, for he examined its details with the greatest care. As he stood
thus, with the pelisse in his hand, he seemed suddenly to remember
the letter he had seen placed within the lining; and then, as suddenly
drawing out his penknife, he made a small aperture In the seam, and
withdrew the paper. He was about to replace the pelisse upon the bed,
when, by a second thought, as it were, he tore off the envelope of the
letter, and reinserted it within the lining.

A single glance at it appeared to convey the whole tenor of its
contents, and his dark eyes ran over the words with eager haste; then,
turning away, he moved cautiously from the room. Once in the free air
again, he reopened the paper, his sallow features seeming to light up
with a kind of passionate lustre as he traced the lines. "It is not--it
cannot be without a meaning that we are thus forever meeting in life!"
cried he; "these are the secrets by which destiny works its purpose, and
we blindly call them accident! Even the savage knows better, and deems
him an enemy who crosses his path too frequently. Ay, and it will come
to this one day," muttered he, slowly; "he or I,----he or I." Repeating
this over and over, he slowly returned to the villa.



CHAPTER XV. A VILLA AND ITS COMPANY

Having told our readers that the villa was called La Rocca, it is
perhaps needless that we should say that the lady was our old friend
Lady Hester, who, under the spiritual guidance of the Canon of the
Duomo, was now completing her religious education, while Lord Norwood
was fain to escape the importunity of duns and the impertinence of
creditors by a few weeks' retirement in this secluded region. Not that
this was his only inducement. For some time back he had pressed his
claim on various members of his Government for place or employment. He
had in vain represented the indignity of a peer reduced to beggary,
or the scarcely better alternative of play for support He had
tried--unsuccessfully, however--every sort of cajolery, menace, and
flattery, to obtain something; and after successively offering his
services for or against Carlism in Spain, with Russia or against her in
the Caucasus, with twenty minor schemes in Mexico, Sicily, Greece, and
Cuba, he at last determined on making Northern Italy the sphere of his
abilities, wisely calculating that before the game was played out he
should see enough to know what would be the winning side.

An accidental meeting with D'Esmonde, which renewed this old intimacy,
had decided him on taking this step. The Abbé had told him that the
English Government of the day was secretly favorable to the movement;
and although, from the necessities of State policy and the requirements
of treaties, unable to afford any open or avowed assistance, would still
gladly recognize his participation in the struggle, and, in the event of
success, liberally reward him.

"A new kingdom of Upper Italy, with Milan for the capital, and Viscount
Norwood the resident minister plenipotentiary," there was the whole
episode, in three volumes, with its "plot," "catastrophe," and "virtue
rewarded," in appropriate fashion; and as times were bad, neither racing
nor cards profitable, patriotism was the only unexplored resource he
could think of.

Not that my Lord had much faith in the Abbé. Far from it. He thought all
priests were knaves; but he also thought "that he 'll not cheat _me_.
No, no; too wide awake for that He 'll not try that dodge. Knows where
I 've graduated. Remembers too well what school I come of." He was
perfectly candid, too, in this mode of reasoning, calmly telling
D'Esmonde his opinions of himself, and frankly showing that any attempt
at a "jockey" of him must inevitably fail. The Abbé, to do him justice,
took all this candor well,--affected to deem it the mere ebullition of
honest John Bullism; and so they were well met. At times, indeed,
the priest's enthusiasm carried him a little away, and he ventured to
speculate on the glorious career that conversion would open to the noble
Viscount, and the splendid fruits such a change would be certain to
produce. Norwood was, however, too practical for such remote benefits;
and if the Abbé couldn't "make the thing safe," as he styled it, would
not listen to this suggestion. A rich Italian princess,--there were two
or three such prizes in the wheel,--or an infanta of Spain, might solace
many a theological doubt; but Norwood said there was no use in quoting
the "fathers" when he was thinking only of the "daughters."

And the priest wisely seemed to take him at his word. As for Lady
Hester, political intrigue was quite new to her, and, consequently, very
delightful. Since the Cardinal's departure for Rome, she had begun to
weary somehow of the ordinances of her new faith. The canonico but ill
replaced his Eminence. He had none of that velvety smoothness of manner,
that soft and gentle persuasiveness of the dignitary He could neither
smile away a doubt nor resolve a difficulty by a "bon mot" It is
but fair to say that he was no ascetic, that he loved good cheer
and pleasant converse, and was free to let others participate in the
enjoyment. Lady Hester, was, however, too much habituated to such
indulgences to reckon them other than necessaries. D'Esmonde, if he had
had time, might have compensated for all these deficiencies, but he
was far too deeply engaged with other cares, and his air of grave
preoccupation was more suited to awe her Ladyship than suggest ease in
his presence. And now we come to Albert Jekyl,--the last member of this
incongruous family. Nothing was less to his taste than any fanaticism,
whether it took the form of religion or politics. All such extravagances
were sure to interfere with society, impede intercourse, and disturb
that delightful calm of existence wherein vices ripen, and where men of
his stamp gather the harvest.

To overthrow a Government, to disturb the settled foundations of a
State, were, to his thinking, a species of _inconvenance_ that savored
of intense vulgarity; and he classified such anarchists with men who
would like to smash the lamps, tear down the hangings, and destroy the
decorations of a _salon_ in which they were asked to pass the evening,
preferring to sit down amid ruin and wreck rather than eat their supper
at a well-ordered and well-furnished board.

To Jekyl's eyes it was a very nice world as it was, if people would
only let it alone. "A world of bright eyes and soft tresses and white
shoulders, with Donizetti's music and Moët's champagne, was not to
be despised, after all." He had no sympathies, therefore, with these
disturbers; but he was too well bred ever to oppose himself to the
wishes of the company, and so he seemed to concur with what he could not
prevent. He could have wished that the Italians would take a lesson from
the Swiss, who only revolt when there is nothing else to do, and never
take to cutting each other's throats during the season when there are
travellers to be cheated; "but, perhaps," said he, "they will soon
get enough of it, and learn that their genius lies more in ballets and
bonbons than in bombs and rockets."

Of such various hopes and feelings were the party made up who now
awaited D'Esmonde's presence at the supper-table. It was past midnight,
and they had been expecting him with impatience for above an hour back.
Twice had the canonico fallen asleep, and started up with terror at what
he called a "fantasma di fame." Jekyl had eaten sardines and oysters
till he was actually starving. Lady Hester was fidgety and fretful,
as waiting always made her; while Norwood walked from the room to the
terrace, and out upon the grass to listen, uneasy lest any mischance
should have befallen one who was so deeply involved in their
confidences.

"It is but three or four and twenty miles to Milan," muttered Norwood;
"he might easily have been here by this."

"The road is infested with banditti," growled out the padre.

"Banditti!" said Norwood, contemptuously. But whether the sneer was
intended for the cut-throats' courage, or the folly of men who would
expect any booty from a priest, is hard to say; clearly the padre took
it in the latter sense, for he rejoined,----

"Even so, Milordo. When I was curé of Bergamo, they stopped me one night
on the Lecco road. A bishop was on a visit with me, and I had gone up to
Milan to procure some fish for our Friday's dinner. Oimè! what a turbot
it was, and how deliciously it looked at the bottom of the calessino,
with the lobsters keeping guard at either side of it, and a small basket
of Genoa oysters,--those rock beauties that melt in the mouth like
a ripe strawberry! There they were, and I had fallen asleep, and was
dreaming pleasantly. I thought I saw St Cecilia dressing 'filets de sole
aux fines herbes,' and that she was asking me for sweet marjoram, when
suddenly I felt a sharp stick, as it were, in my side; and starting up,
I felt the point--the very point--of a thin stiletto between my ribs.

"'Scusi, padre mio,' said a whining voice, and a great black-bearded
rascal touched his cap to me with one hand, while with the other he held
the dagger close to my side, a comrade all the time covering me with a
blunderbuss on the opposite side of the cart,--'scusi, padre mio,
but we want your pursel' 'Maladetto sia--' 'Don't curse,' said he,
beggingly,--'don't curse, padre, we shall only have to spend more money
in masses; but be quick, out with the "quattrini."'

"'I have nothing but the Church fund for the poor.' said I, angrily.

"'We are the poor, holy father,' whined the rogue.

"'I mean the poor who hate to do evil,' said I.

"'It grieves us to the soul when we are driven to it!' sighed the
scoundrel; and he gave me a gentle touch with the point of the stiletto.
Dark as it was, I could see the wretch grin as I screamed out.

"'Be quick,' growled out the other, roughly, as he brought the wide
mouth of the trombone close to my face. There was no help for it I had
to give up my little leathern pouch with all my quarter's gatherings.
Many a warning did I give the villains of the ill-luck that followed
sacrilege,--how palsies and blindness and lameness came upon the limbs
of those who robbed the Church. They went on counting the coins without
so much as minding me. At last, when they had fairly divided the booty,
the first fellow said, 'One favor more, holy father, before we part.'

"'Would you take my coat or my cassock?' said I, indignantly.

"'Heaven forbid it!' said he, piously; 'we want only your blessing,
padre mio.'

"'My blessing on thieves and robbers!'

"'Who need it more, holy father?' said he, with another stick of the
point,----'who need it more?'

"I screamed aloud, and the wretches this time laughed outright at my
misery. Meanwhile they both uncovered and knelt down in the road before
me. Oimè! oimè! There was no help for it I had to descend from the
calessino!"

[Illustration: 208]

"And did you bless them, father?" asked Jekyl.

"That did I! for when I tried in the middle of the benediction to slip
in a muttering of 'Confundite ipsos qui quaerunt animam meam,' the
whining rogue popped out his accursed weapon, and cried, 'Take care,
holy father! We only bargain for the blessing.'"

"They left you the fish, however?" said Norwood.

"Not an oyster!" sighed the priest.

"'You would not have us eat flesh on the fast, padre mio!' said the
hypocritical knave. 'Poor fellows like us have no dispensation, nor the
money to buy it' And so they packed up everything, and then, helping me
to my seat, wished me a pleasant journey, and departed."

"I am curious to know if you really forgave them, padre?" said Jekyl,
with an air of serious inquiry.

"Have I not said so!" rejoined the priest, testily.

"Why, you tried to insinuate something that surely was not a blessing,
father."

"And if I did, the fellow detected it. Ah, that rogue must have served
Mass once on a time, or his ears had never been so sharp!"

"Are yours quick enough to say if that be the tramp of a horse?" asked
Norwood, as he listened to the sounds.

"Yes, that is a horse," cried Jekyl.

"Now, then, for the soup," exclaimed the canon. "Ah, yes!" added
he, with a sigh, as he turned to Lady Hester, "these are the
crosses,----these are the trials of life; but they are good for
us,--they are good for us! Poor mortals that we are! Non est sanitas
in carne meâ. Oimè! oimè!" And so moralizing, he gave her his arm as he
reentered the house. In less than a minute later, D'Esmonde galloped up
to the door, and dismounted.

"Has anything occurred?--you are late to-night," asked Norwood, hastily.

"Nothing. The city, however, was in great alarm, and the tocsin was
twice sounded in the churches when I left at ten o'clock; the guards
were doubled at the gates, and mounted patrols making the rounds in
every quarter."

"What was this for?" asked Norwood.

"A mere false alarm,----nothing more. The Austrians are harassed beyond
measure by these frequent calls to arms; and men grumble that they are
mustered twice or thrice during the night without any cause. A petard
exploded in the street, or a church bell rung, is sure to call out the
whole garrison."

"I begin to suspect that our Italian friends will be satisfied with
this, and never go further," said Norwood, contemptuously.

"You are wrong there. It is by the frequency and impunity of these
demonstrations, that they are working up courage for an overt movement
By the time that the Austrians have grown indifferent to such nightly
disturbances, the others will have gained hardihood for a real
outbreak."

"If they only be persuaded that war is assassination on a grand scale,
they might make excellent soldiers," simpered Jekyl; but the others
seemed to take no heed of his pleasantry.

"Have they not fixed a time?" asked Norwood, eagerly; "or is it all left
vague and uncertain as ever?"

"The Swiss are quite ready; we only wait now for the Piedmontese. Genoa
is with us at a word; so are Leghorn and the towns of the Romagna. The
signal once given, there will be such a rising as Italy has not seen for
centuries. England will supply arms, ammunition--"

"All but men," sighed Norwood; "and it is exactly what are wanting."

"And France--"

"Will give her sympathies," broke in Jekyl. "That dear France! that
always says God speed to disturbance and trouble wherever it be."

"What of that Austrian soldier?" said D'Esmonde, who did not quite like
the tone of either of his companions,--"is he better?"

"The surgeon says that he cannot recover," replied Jekyl; "and for that
reason I suspect that he 's in no danger."

"Have you seen the officer to-day?" asked the priest again.

"No," replied Norwood. "Jekyl and I twice endeavored to speak with
him; but he slept half the forenoon, and since that he has been writing
innumerable despatches to headquarters."

"They say at Milan that he 'll be shot for this misadventure," said
D'Esmonde; "that he acted in contravention to his orders, or did
something, I know not what, which will be treated as a grave military
offence."

"The canonico is furious with us for this delay," said Jekyl, laughing,
as he returned from a peep into the _salon_.

The Abbé was, meanwhile, deep in a whispered conversation with Norwood.
"Ay," said the latter, doubtingly, "but it's a serious thing to tamper
with a soldier's fidelity. The Austrians are not the people to suffer
this with impunity."

"How are they to know it?"

"If it fail,--if this young fellow reject our offers, which, as a
Hungarian, it is just as likely that he will do?"

"But he is not a Hungarian. I know him, and all about him."

"And can you answer for his readiness to join us?"

"I cannot go that far; but seeing the position he stands in, what can be
more probable? And, take the worst case: suppose that he refuses, I have
him still!"

"How do you mean?"

"Simply that I have in my hands the means to destroy all his credit, and
peril his very life!" The sudden energy of passion in which he delivered
these words appeared to have escaped him unawares; for, as quickly
recovering his wonted smoothness of tone, he said, "Not that anything
short of the last necessity would drive me to such an alternative."

"May I never have to trust to your tender mercies, Abbé!" said Norwood,
with a laugh, in which there was far more of earnest than of jesting;
"but let us talk of these things after supper." And with the careless
ease of a mere idler, he lounged into the house, followed by the others.

Once seated at supper, the conversation took a general turn, requiring
all the Abbé's skill and Jekyl's tact at times to cover from the
servants who waited the secret meaning of many of those allusions to
politics and party which Lady Hester uttered, in the perfect conviction
that she was talking in riddles. Her indiscretion rendered her, indeed,
a most perilous associate; and in spite of hints, warnings, and signs,
she would rattle on upon the dangerous theme of revolt and insurrection;
the poor devices of deception she employed being but sorry blinds to the
native quickness of Italian shrewdness.

This little fire of cross-purposes sadly perplexed the canonico, who
looked up now and then from his plate with a face of stupid astonishment
at all that went forward.

"You have heard, I suppose, canon," said the Abbé, adroitly addressing
him, "that the city authorities have only granted twelve thousand crowns
for the festival of San Giovanni?"

"Twelve thousand crowns! It will not pay for the throne of the Virgin,"
growled out the canon, "not to speak of the twenty-six angels in
sprigged muslin!"

"There are to be no angels this time. The priests of the Santa Croce are
to walk behind the canopy."

"It will ruin the procession," muttered the canon.

"They certainly look as little like angels as need be," interposed
Jekyl, slyly.

"Sixty lamps and two hundred tapers are a scant allowance," continued
D'Esmonde.

"Darkness,--positive darkness!" ejaculated the canon; "ubi evasit pietas
nostra?--what has become of our ancient faith?"

"The soldier, your reverence, wishes to see you immediately," said a
servant, entering in haste; "he fears that he is sinking fast."

"The heavy dews of the morning are falling--can he not wait till the sun
rises, Giuseppe?"

"You had better see him at once, canon," whispered the Abbé.

"Oimè! oimè!" sighed the priest, "mine is a weary road--'potum meum cum
fletu miscebam,'" added he, finishing off his champagne, "is it far from
this?"

"Only to the boat-house, father," said Lady Hester.

"Per mares et ignos! it's a good half-hour's walk," growled he.

"You can have the pony carriage, father," interposed she.

"He starts at everything by night--don't trust the pony," said Jekyl.

"Well, then, be carried in my chair, father."

"Be it so,--be it so," muttered he. "I yield myself to anything,--'sicut
passer sub tecto,'--I have no will of my own."

"Go along with him, my Lord," whispered D'Esmonde: "the opportunity will
be a good one to see the young officer. While the father talks with the
sick man, you can converse with the friend. See in what frame of mind he
is."

"Does he speak French? for I am but an indifferent German," said
Norwood.

"Yes, French will do," said D'Esmonde, who, after a moment's hesitation
as to whether he should reveal the secret of Frank's country, seemed to
decide on still reserving the knowledge.

"But this could be better done to-morrow," said Norwood.

"To-morrow will be too late," whispered D'Esmonde. "Go now; you shall
know my reasons at your return."

Norwood took little heed of the canonico's attempts at conversation as
they went along. His mind was occupied with other thoughts. The moment
of open revolt was drawing nigh, and now came doubts of D'Esmonde's
sincerity and good faith. It was true that many of the priests were
disposed to the wildest theories of democracy,--they were men of more
than ordinary capacity, with far less than the ordinary share of worldly
advantages. D'Esmonde, however, was not one of these; there was no limit
to which his ambition might not reasonably aspire,--no dignity in his
Church above his legitimate hopes. What benefit could accrue to him from
a great political convulsion? "He'll not be nearer to the Popedom
when the cannon are shaking the Vatican!" Such were the puzzling
considerations that worked within him as he drew near the boat-house.

A figure was seated on the door-sill, with the head buried beneath his
hands, but on hearing the approach of the others be quickly arose and
drew himself up. "You are too late, sir," said he, addressing the priest
sternly; "my poor comrade is no more!"

"Ah me! and they would drag me out in the chill night air," groaned the
canonico.

The cruelty of that must have weighed heavily on his heart.

Frank turned away, and re-entered the house without speaking, while
Norwood followed him in silence. On a low truckle-bed lay the dead
soldier, his manly face calm and tranquil as the cold heart within his
breast. A weather-beaten, bronzed soldier sat at the foot of the bed,
the tears slowly flowing along his cheeks, as his bloodshot eyes were
fixed upon his comrade. It was the first blood that had been shed in the
cause of Italian independence, and Norwood stood thoughtfully staring at
the victim.

"Poor fellow!" said he; "they who gave his death-wound little knew what
sympathy for liberty that jacket covered, nor how truly the Hun is the
brother of the Italian."

"They were assassins and murderers," cried Frank, passionately; "fellows
who attacked us from behind walls and barricades."

"Your reproach only means that they were not soldiers."

"That they were cowards, rather,----rank cowards. The liberty that such
fellows strive for will be well worthy of them! But no more of this,"
cried be, impatiently; "is there a church near, where I can lay his
body,--he was a Catholic?"

"There is a chapel attached to the villa; I will ask permission for what
you require."

"You will confer a favor on me," said Frank, "for I am desirous of
hastening on to Milan at once."

"You will scarcely find your comrades there," said Norwood.

Frank started with surprise, and the other went on,----

"There are rumors of a serious revolt in the city, and some say that the
Imperial troops have retired on the Mantua road."

"They know nothing of Austrian soldiers who say these things," said
Frank, haughtily; "but there is the more need that I should lose no time
here."

"Come, then, I will show you the way to the chapel," said Norwood, who
could not divest himself of a feeling of interest for the young soldier.

Frank spoke a few words in Hungarian to his men, and hastily wrapping
the dead man in his cloak, they placed him on a door, his chako and his
sword at either side of him.

"You will see that he is buried as becomes a brave and a true soldier,"
said Frank, with a faltering accent, as they went along. "This will
defray the cost."

"No, no; there is no need of that," said Norwood, pushing away the
proffered purse. "We'll look to it ourselves."

"Let there be some record of him preserved, too, for his friends' sake.
His name was 'Stanislas Ravitsky.'"

"And may I ask yours?" said Norwood.

"You'll hear of it in the first court-martial return for Milan," said
Frank, bitterly.

"Then why go there?--why hasten to certain ruin?"

"You would say, why not desert?----why not forfeit my honor and my
oath? Because I am a gentleman, sir; and if the explanation be not
intelligible, so much the worse for you."

"I have left him in the chapel," said Norwood to D'Esmonde, a few
minutes after this conversation; "he is kneeling beside the corpse, and
praying. There is nothing to be done with him. It is but time lost to
attempt it."

"So much the worse for _him,_" said D'Esmonde, significantly repeating
the words that Norwood related, while he hastily left the spot and
walked towards the high-road, where now an Austrian picket was standing
beside the horses.

"This is your warrant, sir," said D'Esmonde to the officer, handing him
a paper; "You 'll find the person you seek for in the chapel yonder."

The officer saluted in reply, and ordered his men to mount; while
D'Esmonde, passing into a thick part of the copse, was out of sight in a
moment.



CHAPTER XVI. PETER DALTON ON POLITICS, LAW, AND SOCIALITIES.

We have seen Baden in the dark winter of its discontent--in the
spring-time of its promise--and now we come back to it once more, in the
fall blaze of its noonday splendor. It was the height of the season!
And what a world of dissipation does that phrase embody! What reckless
extravagance, what thoughtless profusion, what systematic vice glossed
over by the lacquer of polished breeding, what beauty which lacks but
innocence to be almost divine! All the attractions of a lovely country,
all the blandishments of wealth, the aids of music and painting, the
odor of flowers, the songs of birds,--all pressed into the service of
voluptuous dissipation, and made to throw a false lustre over a scene
where vice alone predominates.

It was the camp of pleasure, to which all rallied who loved to fight
beneath that banner. And there they were, a mingled host of princes,
ministers, and generals. The spoiled children of fashion, the reckless
adventurer, the bankrupt speculator, the nattered beauty in all the
pride of her loveliness, the tarnished virtue in all the effrontery of
conquest! Strange and incongruous elements of good and evil,--of
all that is honored in heroism, and all that men shrink from with
shame,--there they were met as equals.

As if by some conventional relaxation of all the habits which rule
society, men admitted to their intimacy here those they would have
strenuously avoided elsewhere. Vice, like poverty, seemed to have
annihilated all the distinctions of rank, and the "decorated" noble and
the branded felon sat down to the same board like brethren.

Amid all the gay company of the Cursaal none appeared to have a greater
relish for the glittering pleasures of the scene than a large elderly
man, who, in a coat of jockey cut and a showy waistcoat, sat at the
end of one of the tables,--a post which the obsequious attention of
the waiters proclaimed to be his own distinctively. Within a kind of
ring-fence of bottles and decanters of every shape and size, he looked
the genius of hospitality and dissipation; and it was only necessary
to mark how many a smile was turned on him, how many a soft glance was
directed towards him, to see that he was the centre of all designing
flattery. There was a reckless, unsuspecting jollity in his look that
could not be mistaken; and his loud, hearty laugh bespoke the easy
self-satisfaction of his nature. Like "special envoys," _his_ champagne
bottles were sent hither and thither down the table, and at each instant
a friendly nod or a courteous bow acknowledged his hospitable attention.
At either side of him were seated a knot of his peculiar parasites,
and neither was wit nor beauty wanting to make their society agreeable.
There is a species of mock affection, a false air of attachment in
the homage rendered to such a man as this, that makes the flattery
infinitely more seductive than all the respectful devotion that ever
surrounded a monarch. And so our old friend Peter Dalton--need we to
name him?--felt it. "Barring the glorious burst of a fox-hunting chorus,
or the wild 'hip, hip' of a favorite toast, it was almost as good as
Ireland." Indeed, in some respects, it had rather the advantage over the
dear island.

Peter was intensely Irish, and had all the native relish for high
company, and it was no mean enjoyment that he felt in seeing royal and
serene highnesses at every side of him, and knowing that some of the
great names of Europe were waiting for the very dish that was served
first in honor to himself. There was a glittering splendor, too, in the
gorgeously decorated "Saal," with its frescos, its mirrors, its lustres,
and its bouquets, that captivated him. The very associations which a
more refined critic would have cavilled at had their attractions for
_him_, and he gloried in the noise and uproar. The clink of glasses and
the crash of plates were to his ears the pleasant harmony of a convivial
meeting.

He was in the very height of enjoyment. A few days back he had received
a large remittance from Kate. It came in a letter to Nelly, which he had
not read, nor cared to read. He only knew that she was at St. Petersburg
waiting for Midchekoffs arrival. The money had driven all other thoughts
out of his head, and before Nelly had glanced her eye over half the
first page, he was already away to negotiate the bills with Abel Kraus,
the moneychanger. As for Frank, they had not heard of him for several
months back. Nelly, indeed, had received a few lines from Count Stephen,
but they did not appear to contain anything very interesting, for she
went to her room soon after reading them, and Dalton forgot to ask more
on the subject. His was not a mind to conjure up possible misfortunes.
Always too ready to believe the best, he took the world ever on its
sunniest side, and never would acknowledge a calamity while there was a
loophole of escape from it.

"Why wouldn't she be happy?--What the devil could ail her?----Why
oughtn't he to be well?----Wasn't he as strong as a bull, and not
twenty yet!" Such were the consolations of his philosophy, and he needed
no better.

His flatterers, too, used to insinuate little fragments of news about
the "Princess" and the "Young Count," as they styled Frank, which he
eagerly devoured, and as well as his memory served him, tried to repeat
to Nelly when he returned home of a night. These were enough for him;
and the little sigh with which he tossed off his champagne to their
health was the extent of sorrow the separation cost him.

Now and then, it is true, he wished they were with him; he'd have liked
to show the foreigners "what an Irish girl was;" he would have been
pleased, too, that his handsome boy should have been seen amongst "them
grinning baboons, with hair all over them." He desired this the more,
that Nelly would never venture into public with him, or, if she did,
it was with such evident shame and repugnance that even his selfishness
could not exact the sacrifice. "'T is, maybe, the sight of the dancing
grieves her, and-she lame," was the explanation he gave himself of this
strange turn of mind; and whenever honest Peter had hit upon what he
thought was a reason for anything, he dismissed all further thought
about the matter forever. It was a debt paid, and he felt as if he had
the receipt on his file.

On the day we now speak of he was supremely happy. An Irish peer had
come into the Saal leaning on his arm, and twice called him "Dalton"
across the table. The waiter had apologized to a royal highness for not
having better Johannisberg, as the "Schloss" wine had all been reserved
for the "Count," as Peter was styled. He had won four hundred Napoleons
at roulette before dinner; and a bracelet, that cost a hundred and
twenty, was glittering on a fair wrist beside him, while a murmur of his
name in tones of unquestionable adulation, from all parts of the table,
seemed to fill up the measure of his delight.

"What's them places vacant there?" called he out to the waiter, and
pointing to five chairs turned back to the table in token of being
reserved.

"It was an English family had arrived that morning who bespoke them."

"Faix! then, they 're likely to lose soup and fish," said Peter; "the
'coorses' here wait for no man." And as he spoke the party made their
appearance.

A large elderly lady of imposing mien and stately presence led the way,
followed by a younger and slighter figure; after whom walked a very
feeble old man, of a spare and stooping form; the end being brought up
by a little rosy man, with a twinkling eye and a short jerking limp,
that made him seem rather to dance than walk forward.

"They've ca-ca-carried off the soup already," cried the last-mentioned
personage, as he arranged his napkin before him, "and--and--and, I
fa-fancy, the fish, too."

"Be quiet, Scroope," called out the fat lady; "do be quiet."

"Yes, but we shall have to p-p-pay all the same," cried Scroope.

"There 's good sense in that, anyway," broke in Dalton; "will you take
a glass of champagne with me, sir? you 'll find it cool, and not bad of
its kind."

Mr. Purvis acknowledged the courtesy gracefully, and bowed as he drank.

"Take the ortolans to that lady, Fritz," said Dalton to the waiter; and
Mrs. Ricketts smiled her sweetest gratitude.

"We are dreadfully late," sighed she; "but the dear Princess of
Stauffenschwillingen passed all the morning with us, and we could n't
get away."

"I thought it was the woman about the ro-rope dancing detained you."

"Hush, Scroope--will you be quiet? Martha, dearest, don't venture on
those truffles. My poor child, they would be the death of you." And,
so saying, she drew her companion's plate before herself. "A most
agreeable, gentlemanlike person," muttered she, in a whisper, evidently
intended for Peter's ears. "We must find out who he is. I suppose
you know the Princess, sir? Don't you love her?" said she, addressing
Dalton.

"Faix! if you mean the old lady covered with snuff that comes here to
have her dogs washed at the well, without intending any offence to
you, I do not. To tell you the truth, ma'am, when I was in the habit of
fallin' in love, it was a very different kind of creature that did it!
Ay, ay, 'the days is gone when beauty bright my heart's ease spoilt.'"

"My heart's chain wove,'" smiled and whispered Mrs. Ricketts.

"Just so. It comes to the same thing. Give me the wine, Fritz. Will you
drink a glass of wine with me, sir?"

The invitation was addressed to General Ricketts, who, by dint of
several shoves, pokings, and admonitions, was at last made aware of the
proposition.

"Your father's getting a little the worse for wear, miss," said Dalton
to Martha, who blushed at even the small flattery of the observation.

"The General's services have impaired his constitution," remarked Mrs.
Ricketts, proudly.

"Ay, and to all appearance it was nothing to boast of in the beginning,"
replied Peter, as he surveyed with self-satisfaction his own portly
form.

"Fourteen years in the Hima-Hima-Hima--"

"Himalaya, Scroope,----the Himalaya."

"The highest mountains in the world!" continued Purvis.

"For wet under foot, and a spongy soil that never dries, I'll back the
Galtees against them any day. See, now, you can walk from morning to
night, and be over your head at every step you go."

"Where are they?" inquired Scroope.

"Why, where would they be? In Ireland, to be sure; and here's prosperity
to her, and bad luck to Process-servers, 'Polis,' and Poor-Law
Commissioners!" Dalton drained his glass with solemn energy to his
toast, and looked as though his heart was relieved of a weight by this
outburst of indignation.

"You Irish are so patriotic!" exclaimed Mrs. Ricketts, enthusiastically.

"I believe we are," replied Dalton. "'T is only we 've an odd way of
showing it."

"I remark that they ne-never live in Ireland when they can li-live out
of it," cackled Purvis.

"Well, and why not? Is it by staying at home in the one place people
learns improvements? you might drink whiskey-punch for forty years
and never know the taste of champagne. Potatoes wouldn't teach you the
flavor of truffles. There's nothing like travellin'!"

"Very true," sighed Mrs. Ricketts; "but, as the poet says, 'Where'er I
go, whatever realms I see--"'

"The devil a one you 'll meet as poor as Ireland," broke in Dalton, who
now had thrown himself headlong into a favorite theme. "Other countries
get better, but she gets worse."

"They say it's the po-po----" screamed Scroope.

"The Pope, is it?"

"No; the po-potatoes is the cause of everything."

"They might as well hould their prate, then," broke in Peter, whose
dialect always grew broader when he was excited. "Why don't they tell me
that if I was too poor to buy broadcloth, it would be better for me to
go naked than wear corduroy breeches? Not that I'd mind them,
miss!" said be, turning to Martha, who already was blushing at his
illustration.

"I fear that the evil lies deeper," sighed Mrs. Ricketts.

"You mean the bogs?" asked Dal ton.

"Not exactly, sir; but I allude to those drearier swamps of superstition
and ignorance that overlay the land."

Peter was puzzled, and scratched his ear like a man at a nonplus.

"My sister means the pr-pr-pr--"

"The process-servers?"

"No; the pr-priests--the priests," screamed Purvis.

"Bother!" exclaimed Dalton, with an accent of ineffable disdain. "'T is
much you know about Ireland!"

"You don't agree with me then?" sighed Mrs. Ricketts.

"Indeed I do not. Would you take away the little bit of education out of
a country where there's nothing but ignorance? Would you extinguish the
hopes of heaven amongst them that has nothing but starvation and misery
here? Try it,--just try it. I put humanity out of the question; but just
try it, for the safety's sake! Pat is n't very orderly now, but, faix!
you 'd make a raal devil of him then, entirely!"

"But popery, my dear sir--the confessional--"

"Bother!" said Dalton, with a wave of his hand. "How much you know about
it! 'T is just as they used to talk long ago about drunkenness. Sure,
I remember well when there was all that hue and cry about Irish
gentlemen's habits of dissipation, and the whole time nobody took
anything to hurt his constitution. Well, it's just the same with
confession,--everybody uses his discretion about it. _You_ have your
peccadilloes, and _I_ have my peccadilloes, and that young lady there
has her--Well, I did n't mean to make you blush, miss, but 'tis what I'm
saying, that nobody, barrin' a fool, would be too hard upon himself!"

"So that it ain't con-confession at all," exclaimed Purvis.

"Who told you that?" said Peter, sternly. "Is it nothing to pay
two-and-sixpence in the pound if you were bankrupt to-morrow? Does n't
it show an honest intention, any way?" said he, with a wink.

"Then what are the evils of Ireland?" asked Mrs. Ricketts, with an air
of inquiring interest.

"I 'll tell you, then," said Dalton, slowly, as he filled a capacious
glass with champagne. "It is n't the priests, nor it isn't the potatoes,
nor it isn't the Protestants either, though many respectable people
think so; for you see we had always priests and potatoes, and a
sprinkling of Protestants besides; but the real evil of Ireland--and
there's no man living knows it better than I do--is quite another thing,
and here's what it is." And he stooped down and dropped his voice to a
whisper. "'Tis this: 'tis paying money when you have n't it!" The
grave solemnity of this enunciation did not seem to make it a whit more
intelligible to Mrs. Ricketts, who certainly looked the very type of
amazement. "That's what it is," reiterated Dalton, "paying money when
you have n't it! There's the ruin of Ireland; and, as I said before, who
ought to know better? For you see, when you owe money, and you have n't
it, you must get it how you can. You know what that means; and if you
don't, I 'll tell you. It means mortgages and bond debts; rack-renting
and renewals; breaking up an elegant establishment; selling your horses
at Dycer's; going to the devil entirely; and not only yourself, but all
belonging to you. The tradesmen you dealt with, the country shop where
you bought everything, the tithes, the priests' dues,--not a farthing
left for them."

"But you don't mean to say that people shouldn't p-p-pay their debts?"
screamed Purvis.

"There's a time for everything," replied Dalton. "Shaving oneself is a
mighty useful process, but you wouldn't have a man get up out of his bed
at night to do it? I never was for keeping money,--the worst enemy would
n't say that of me. Spend it freely when you have it; but sure it's not
spending to be paying debts due thirty or forty years back, made by your
great-grandfather?"

"One should be just before being ge-gen-gene-gene----"

"Faix! I'd be both," said Dalton, who with native casuistry only
maintained a discussion for the sake of baffling or mystifying an
adversary. "I'd be just to myself and generous to my friends, them's my
sentiments; and it 's Peter Dalton that says it!"

"Dalton!" repeated Mrs. Ricketts, in a low voice,----"did n't he say
Dalton, Martha?"

"Yea, sister; it was Dalton."

"Did n't you say your name was Da-Da-a-a----"

"No, I didn't!" cried Peter, laughing. "I said Peter Dalton as plain as
a man could speak; and if ever you were in Ireland, you may have heard
the name before now."

"We knew a young lady of that name at Florence."

"Is it Kate,--my daughter Kate?" cried the old man, in ecstasy.

"Yes, she was called Kate," replied Mrs. Ricketts, whose strategic sight
foresaw a world of consequences from the recognition. "What a lovely
creature she was!"

"And you knew Kate?" cried Dalton again, gazing on the group with
intense interest. "But was it my Kate? Perhaps it was n't mine!"

"She was living in the Mazzarini Palace with Lady Hester Onslow."

"That's her,--that's her! Oh, tell me everything you know,--tell me all
you can think of her. She was the light of my eyes for many a year! Is
the old lady sick?" cried he, suddenly; for Mrs. Ricketts had leaned
back in her chair, and covered her face with her handkerchief.

"She 's only overcome," said Martha, as she threw back her own shawl
and prepared for active service; while Scroope, in a burst of generous
anxiety, seized the first decanter near him and filled out a bumper.

"She and yonr da-daughter were like sisters," whispered Scroope to
Dalton.

"The devil they were!" exclaimed Peter, who thought their looks must
have belied the relationship. "Isn't she getting worse?--she's trembling
all over her."

Mrs. Ricketts's state now warranted the most acute sympathy; for she
threw her eyes wildly about, and seemed like one gasping for life.

"Is she here, Martha? Is she near me----can I see her--can I touch
her?" cried she, in accents almost heartrending.

"Yes, yes; you shall see her; she 'll not leave you," said Martha, as if
caressing a child. "We must remove her; we must get her out of this."

"To be sure; yes, of course!" cried Dalton. "There's a room here empty.
It's a tender heart she has, any way;" and, so saying, he arose, and
with the aid of some half-dozen waiters transported the now unconscious
Zoe, chair and all, into a small chamber adjoining the Saal.

"This is her father's hand," murmured Mrs. Ricketts, as she pressed
Dalton's in her own,----"her father's hand."

"Yes, my dear!" said Dalton, returning the pressure, and feeling a
strong desire to blubber, just for sociality's sake.

"If you knew how they loved each other," whispered Martha, while she
busied herself pinning cap-ribbons out of the way of cold applications,
and covering up lace from the damaging influence of restoratives.

"It 's wonderful,--it's wonderful!" exclaimed Peter, whose faculties
were actually confounded by such a rush of sensations and emotions.

"Make him go back to his dinner, Martha; make him go back," sighed the
sick lady, in a half-dreamy voice.

"I couldn't eat a bit; a morsel would choke me this minute," said
Dalton, who could n't bear to be outdone in the refinements of excited
sensibility.

"She must never be contradicted while in this state," said Martha,
confidingly. "All depends on indulgence."

"It's wonderful!" exclaimed Dalton, again,----"downright wonderful!"

"Then, pray go back; she'll be quite well presently," rejoined Martha,
who already, from the contents of a reticule like a carpet-bag, had
metamorphosed the fair Zoe's appearance into all the semblance of a
patient.

"It's wonderful; it beats Banagher!" muttered Peter, as he returned to
the Saal, and resumed his place at the table. The company had already
taken their departure, and except Purvis and the General, only a few
stragglers remained behind.

"Does she often get them?" asked Peter of Purvis.

"Only when her fee-fee-feelings are worked upon; she's so se-sensitive!"

"Too tender a heart," sighed Peter, as he filled his glass, and sighed
over an infirmity that he thought he well knew all the miseries of. "And
her name, if I might make bould?"

"Ricketts,----Mrs. Montague Ricketts. This is Ge-Ge-General Ricketts."
At these words the old man looked op, smiled blandly, and lifted his
glass to his lips.

[Illustration: 228]

"Your good health, and many happy returns to yoo," said Peter, in reply
to the courtesy. "Ricketts,----Ricketts. Well, I 'm sure I heard the
name before."

"In the D-D-Duke's despatches you may have seen it." "No, no, no. I
never read one of them. I heard it here in Baden. Wait, now, and I'll
remember how." Neither the effort at recollection nor the aid of a
bumper seemed satisfactory, for Dalton sat musingly for several minutes
together. "Well, I thought I knew the name," exclaimed he, at last, with
a deep sigh of discomfiture; "'t is runnin' in my head yet; something
about chilblains,----chilblains."

"But the name is R-R-Ricketts," screamed Purvis.

"And so it is," sighed Peter. "My brain is woolgathering. By my
conscience, I have it now, though!" cried he, in wild delight. "I knew I
'd scent it out. It was one Fogles that was here,----a chap with a red
wig, and deaf as a door-nail."

"Foglass, you mean,--Fo-Foglass,----don't you?"

"I always called him Fogies; and I 'm sure it's as good a name as the
other, any day."

"He's so pl-pleasant," chimed in Scroope, who, under the influence of
Dalton's champagne, was now growing convivial,----"he's so agreeable;
always in the highest cir-circles, and dining with no-no-no----"

"With nobs," suggested Peter. "He might do better, and he might do
worse. I 've seen lords that was as great rapscallions as you 'd meet
from this to Kilrush."

"But Foglass was always so excl-exclusive, and held himself so high."

"The higher the better," rejoined Dalton, "even if it was out of one's
reach altogether; for a more tiresome ould crayture I never forgathered
with; and such a bag of stories he had, without a bit of drollery or
fun in one of them. You may think that kind of fellow good company in
England; but, in my poor country, a red herring and a pint of beer would
get you one he could n't howld a candle to. See now, Mister--"

"P-P-Purvis," screamed the other.

"Mister Purvis,--if that's the name,--see, now, 't is n't boasting I am,
for the condition we 're in would n't let any man boast,--but it's what
I 'm saying, the English is a mighty stupid people. They have their
London jokes, and, like London porter, mighty heavy they are, and
bitter, besides; and they have two or three play-actors that makes them
die laughing at the same comicalities every day of the year. They get
used to them as they do the smoke and the noise and the Thames water;
and nothing would persuade them that, because they 're rich, they 're
not agreeable and social and witty. And may I never leave this, but you
'd find cuter notions of life, droller stories, and more fun, under a
dry arch of the Aqueduct of Stoney Batter than if you had the run of
Westminster Hall. Look at the shouts of laughter in the Law Coorts; look
at the loud laughter in the House of Commons! Oh dear! oh dear! it makes
me quite melancholy just to think of it I won't talk of the Parliament,
because it's gone; but take an Irish Coort in Dublin or on the Assizes,
at any trial,--murder, if you like,----and see the fun that goes on:
the judge quizzing the jury, and the counsel quizzing the judge, and
the prisoner quizzing all three. There was poor ould Nor-bury,--rest
his soul!--I remember well how he could n't put on the black cap for
laughing."

"And is ju-justice better administered for all that?" cried Purvis.

"To be sure it is. Isn't the laws made to expose villany, and not let
people be imposed upon? Sure it's not to hang Paddy Blake you want,
but to keep others from following his example. And many 's the time
in Ireland when, what between the blunderin' of the Crown lawyers, the
flaws of the indictment, the conscientious scruples of the jury,--you
know what that means,--and the hurry of the judge to be away to
Harrogate or Tunbridge, a villain gets off. But, instead of going out
with an elegant bran-new character, a bit of a joke--a droll word spoken
during the trial--sticks to him all his life after, till it would
be just as well for him to be hanged at once as be laughed at, from
Pill-Lane to the Lakes of Killarney. Don't I remember well when one of
the Regans--Tim, I think it was--was tried for murder at Tralee;
there was a something or other they could n't convict upon. 'T was his
grandfather's age was put down wrong, or the color of his stepmother's
hair, or the nails in his shoes wasn't described right,----whatever it
was, it was a flaw, as they called it; and a flaw in a brief, like one
in a boiler, leaves everybody in hot water. "Not Guilty," says the jury,
'for we can't agree.'

"''Tis a droll verdict,' says O'Grady, for he was the judge. 'What d' ye
mean?'

"'Most of us is for hanging, my Lord; but more of us would let him off.'

"'What will you do, Mr. Attorney?' says the judge. 'Have you any other
evidence to bring forward?' And the Attorney-General stooped down and
began whispering with the bench. 'Very well,' says the judge, at last,
'we 'll discharge him by proclamation.'

"'Wait a minute, my Lord,' says ould Blethers, who got five guineas for
the defence, and had n't yet opened his mouth. 'Before my respected but
injured client leaves that dock, I call to your Lordship, in the name
and on behalf of British justice,--I appeal to you, by the eternal
principles of our glorious Constitution, that he may go forth into the
world with a reputation unstained and a character unblemished.'

"'Not so fast, Mister Blethers,' says old Grady,----'not so fast I 'm
going over Thieve-na-muck Mountain tonight, and, with the blessing of
God, I 'll keep your unblemished friend where he is till morning.' Now
you see the meaning of what I was telling you. 'T is like tying a kettle
to a dog's tail."

It is not quite clear to us whether Purvis comprehended the story or
appreciated the illustration; but he smiled, and smirked, and looked
satisfied, for Peter's wine was admirable, and iced to perfection.
Indeed, the worthy Scroope, like his sister, was already calculating how
to "improve the occasion," and further cultivate the esteem of one whose
hospitable dispositions were so excellent. It was just at this moment
that Martha glided behind Purvis's chair, and whispered a word in his
ear. Whatever the announcement, it required some repetition before it
became quite palpable to his faculties, and it was only after about five
minutes that his mind seemed to take in all the bearings of the case.

"Oh, I ha-have it!" cried he. "That's it, eh?" And he winked with a
degree of cunning that showed the most timely appreciation of the news.

"Would n't the young lady sit down and take something?" said Dalton,
offering a seat "A glass of sweet wine? They 've elegant Tokay here."

"Thanks, thanks," said Scroope, apologizing for the bashful Martha; "but
she's in a bit of a quandary just now. My sister wishes to return home,
and we cannot remember the name of the hotel."

Dalton took a hearty fit of laughing at the absurdity of the dilemma.

"'T is well," said he, "You were n't Irish. By my conscience! they'd
call that a bull;" and he shook his sides with merriment. "How did you
get here?"

"We walked," said Martha.

"And which way did you come?"

"Can you remember, Scroope?"

"Yes, I can re-re-member that we crossed a little Plate, with a
fountain, and came oyer a wooden bridge, and then down an alley of
li-li-linden-trees."

"To be sure ye did," broke in Dalton; "and the devil a walk of five
minutes ye could take in any direction here without seeing a fountain, a
wooden bridge, and a green lane. 'T is the same whichever way you turn,
whether you were going to church or the gambling-house. Would you know
the name, if you hear it? Was it the Schwan?" Purvis shook his head.
"Nor the Black Eagle?--nor the Cour de Londres?--nor the Russie?--nor
the Zaringer? Nor, in fact, any of the cognate hotels of Baden. Was n't
there a great hall when you entered, with orange-trees all round it,
and little couriers, in goold-lace jackets, smoking and drinking beer?"
Scroope thought he had seen something of that sort "Of course ye did,"
said Dalton, with another burst of laughter. "'Tis the same in every
hotel of the town. There 's a clock that never goes, too, and a
weather-glass always at 'set fair,' and pictures round the walls of all
the wonderful inns in Germany and Switzerland, with coaches-and-four
driving in at full gallop, and ladies on the balconies, and
saddle-horses waiting, and every diversion in life going on, while,
maybe, all the time, the place is dead as Darmstadt."

Scroope recognized the description perfectly, but could give no clew to
its whereabouts.

"Maybe 't is Kaufmayer's. Was it painted yellow outside?"

Scroope thought not. "It hadn't a garden in front?" He couldn't say
positively; but, if so, it was a small garden. "He did n't remark two
dogs in stone beside the door?" No, he had not seen them.

"Then, by the powers!" exclaimed Peter, "I give it up. Nelly's the only
body can make anything out of it."

"And who's Ne-Ne-Nelly?" screamed Purvis.

"My daughter, Miss Dalton," said Peter, haughtily, And as if rebuking
the liberty of the question.

Scroope hastened to apologize, and suddenly remembered how frequently he
had heard of the young lady from her sister, and how eager Mrs. Ricketts
would be to make her Acquaintance.

"There's nothing easier than that same," said Dalton. "Just come with
me to my little place, and take tea with us. Nelly will be right glad
to see them that was kind to her sister, and then we'll try if we can't
find out your inn."

"Can we do this, Martha?" cried Scroope, in seeming Agitation.

"I 'll speak to my sister," mildly replied she.

"Do, then, Miss," said Dalton. "Say 'tis just alone, and in the family
way, and that we have n't more than ten minutes' walk from this; or, we
'll get a coach if she likes."

The very thought of practising hospitality was ecstasy to honest Peter,
who, while Martha retired to consult her sister, ordered in a relay of
bottles to beguile the time.

"I like that little ould man," said he, confidingly, to Purvis, while he
bent a kindly glance on the General. "He doesn't say much, and, maybe,
he hears less; but he takes his glass pleasantly, and he lays it down
when it's empty, with a little sigh. I never knew a bad fellow had that
habit."

Scroope hinted that the General was one of the bright stars of the
British army.

"I did n't care that he took Tippoo Saib, or Bergen-op-Zoom, and that's
a big word,--for a wickeder pair of devils, by all accounts, never
lived,--if he's all right here." And Peter touched the left region
of his brawny chest "If he's good and generous, kind to the poor, and
steady to his friends, I'd be prouder to know him than if he was 'Bony'
or Brian Maguire!"

Scroope assured him that the General's greatness took nothing from the
kindly qualities of his heart; and, indeed, the mild looks of the old
man well corroborated the eulogy; and he and Dalton nodded and drank to
each other with all the signs of a most amicable understanding.

Martha was not long absent. She returned with all manner of
acknowledgments on the part of her sister; but gratitude was so
counterbalanced by delicacy, fears of intrusion were so coupled with
enthusiastic delight, that poor Dalton was quite unable to unravel the
web, and satisfy himself what were her real intentions.

"Is it that she won't come?" said he, in a state of bewilderment.

"Oh, no," said Martha; "she did not mean that."

"Well, then, she is coming," said he, more contentedly.

"She only fears the inconvenience,----the trouble she may give Miss
Dalton,--not to speak of the abruptness of such a visit."

"She does n't know Nelly,--tell her that. She doesn't know Nelly
Dalton," said Peter. "'T is the same girl does n't care for trouble or
inconvenience; just talk to her about Kate and you 'll pay her well for
all she could do for you."

"My sister thinks a carriage would be better, she is so very weak,"
mildly observed Martha.

"Well, we 'll get one in a jiffy. Fritz, my man, send down to the Platz
for a shandradan,--a wagon, I mean. 'T is a droll name for a coach." And
he laughed heartily at the conceit "And now, Mr. Purvis, let us finish
them before we go. The Gen'ral is doing his part like a man. It's
wonderful the nourishment would n't put flesh on him; you could shave
him with his shin bone!" and Dalton stared at the frail figure before
him with all the astonishment a great natural curiosity would create.

"What a kind creature! what a really Irish heart!" sighed Mrs. Ricketts,
as she slowly sailed into the room, and sank into a chair beside Dalton.
"It is like a dream, a delicious dream,--all this is. To be here in
Baden, with my dear Miss Kate Dalton's father,--actually going to drink
tea.----What a thought, Martha! to drink tea with dearest Nelly!"

Peter began to fear that the prospect of such happiness was about to
overwhelm her sensibilities once more; but fortunately, this time, she
became more composed, and discussed the visit with wonderful calm and
self-possession.

The carriage now drove up; and although Dalton would greatly have
preferred a little longer dalliance over the bottle, he politely gave
one arm to Mrs. Ricketts and the other to Martha, issuing forth from the
Cursaal in all the pride of a conqueror.



CHAPTER XVII. NELLY'S TRIALS

While Mr. Dalton is accompanying his guests along the Lichtenthal Alley,
and describing the various objects of interest on either hand, we will
take the opportunity of explaining to our reader why it happened that
honest Peter no longer inhabited the little quiet quarters above the
toyshop.

By Kate's liberality, for some time back he had been most freely
supplied with money. Scarcely a week passed over without a line from
Abel Kraus to say that such or such a sum was placed to his credit; and
Dalton once more revelled in those spendthrift habits that he loved.
At moments, little flashes of prudential resolve would break upon him.
Thoughts of Ireland and of the "old place" would arise, and he would
half determine on some course of economy which might again restore
him to his home and country. But the slightest prospect of immediate
pleasure was sufficient to rout these wise resolves, and Baden was
precisely the spot to suggest such "distractions." There was nothing
Peter so much liked in the life of this watering-place as the facility
with which acquaintance was formed. The stately reserve of English
people was his antipathy, and here he saw that all this was laid aside,
and that people conversed freely with the neighbor that chance had
given, and that even intimacies grew up between those who scarcely knew
each other's names.

Whatever might be thought of these practices by more fastidious critics,
to Peter Dalton they appeared admirable. In his estimation the world was
a great Donnybrook Fair, where everybody came to amuse and be amused.
Grave faces and careworn looks, he thought, should stay at home, and not
disturb the harmony of what he deemed a great convivial gathering.

It may easily be guessed from this what class of persons found access
to his intimacy, and how every smooth-tongued adventurer, every
well-dressed and plausible-looking pretender to fashion, became his
companion. Nothing but honest Peter's ignorance of foreign languages set
any limit to his acquaintance; and, even with this, he had a shake-hands
intimacy with every Chevalier d'Industrie of France and Germany, and a
cigar-lending-and-lighting treaty with every long-haired Pole in Baden.

As he dined every day at the Cursaal, he seldom returned home of
an evening without some three or four chance acquaintances, whom he
presented to Nelly without knowing their names. But they were sure to be
"tip-top chaps," and "up to everything." Not that the latter eulogy was
much of an exaggeration; the majority of them, indeed, well deserving
such a panegyric. If Dalton's long stories about Ireland and its joys or
grievances were very uninteresting to these gentlemen, they found
some compensation in the goodness of his wine and the abundance of his
cigars; and hock and tobacco digested many a story which, without
such adjuncts, would never have found a listener. Play is, however, so
paramount to all else at Baden, that, as the season advanced, even a hot
supper from the "Russie" and an ice-pail full of champagne-flasks could
not attract the company from the fascinations of the gaming-table, and
Peter saw that his choice spirits were deserting him.

"You live so far away," cried one. "Your house is full a mile from the
Cursaal."

"There is such a climb-up to that crib of yours, Dalton," cried another.
"One can't manage it in this hot weather. Why won't you pitch your
tent in the plain? It's like going up the Righi to try and reach your
quarters."

Such and such like were the polite admonitions administered by those who
wanted a convenient lounge for their spare half-hours, and who, while
affecting to think of their friend, were simply consulting what suited
themselves. And is this philosophy confined only to Baden? Is not the
world full of friendships that, like cab-fares, are regulated by
the mile? The man who is half a brother to you while you live on the
Boulevard de Gand, becomes estranged from your bosom when you remove to
the Champs Élysées; and in these days of rapid transport, ten minutes'
walk would separate the most devoted attachments.

Dalton's pride was at first wounded by these remonstrances; but his
second thoughts led him to think them more reasonable, and even elevated
the grumblers in his esteem. "Sure, ain't they the height of the
fashion? Sure, is n't everybody trying to get them? Is it any wonder
they would n't scale a mountain for the sake of a glass of wine?" The
quiet home, so dear to him by many an association; the little window
that looked out upon the Alten Schloss, and beside which Nelly sat with
him each evening; the small garden underneath, where Hans cultivated
his beautiful carnations, and where many a little figure by Nelly's
hand graced some bed or alley,--all became now distasteful. "The stairs
creaked dreadfully; he did n't think they were quite safe. The ceilings
were so low, there was no breathing in the rooms. The hill would be
the death of him; he had pains in his knees for half the night after
he climbed it." Even the bracing air of the mountain, that was his once
boast and pride, was now a "searching, cutting wind, that went through
you like a knife." It was a mean-looking little place, too, over a
toy-shop, "and Hans himself was n't what he used to be."

Alas! there was some truth in this last complaint He was more silent and
more absent in manner than ever; sometimes would pass whole days without
a word, or remain seated in his little garden absorbed in deep thought.
The frequenters of his shop would seek in vain for him; and were it not
for Nelly, who in her father's absence would steal down the stairs
and speak to them, the place would have seemed deserted. On one or
two occasions she had gone so far as to be his deputy, and sold little
articles for him; but her dread of her father's knowing it had made her
ill for half the day after.

It was, then, a dreadful blow to Nelly when her father decided on
leaving the place. Not alone that it was dear by so many memories, but
that its seclusion enabled her to saunter out at will under the shade of
the forest-trees, and roam for hours along the little lanes of the deep
wood. In Hans, too, she took the liveliest interest He had been their
friend when the world went worst with them; his kindness had lightened
many a weary burden, and his wise counsels relieved many a gloomy hour.
It was true that of late he was greatly altered. His books, his favorite
volumes of Uhland and Tieck, were never opened. He never sat, as of
yore, in the garden, burnishing up his quaint old fragments of armor,
or gazing with rapture on his strange amulets against evil. Even to the
little ballads that she sang he seemed inattentive and indifferent, and
would not stop to listen beneath the window as he once did.

His worldly circumstances, too, were declining. He neglected his shop
altogether; he made no excursions, as of old, to Worms or Nuremberg for
new toys. The young generation of purchasers found little they cared for
in his antiquated stores, and, after laughing at the quaint old devices
by which a past age were amused, they left him. It was in vain that
Nelly tried to infuse some interest into the pursuit which once had been
his passion. All the little histories he used to weave around his toys,
the delusions of fancy in which he revelled, were dissipated and gone,
and he seemed like one suddenly awakened from a delicious dream to
the consciousness of some afflicting fact He strenuously avoided the
Daltons, too, and even watched eagerly for moments of their absence
to steal out and walk in the garden. When by chance they did meet, his
manner, instead of its old cordiality, was cold and respectful; and
he, whose eyes once sparkled with delight when spoken to, now stood
uncovered, and with downcast looks, till they went by him.

No wonder, then, if Dalton thought him changed.

"'T is nothing but envy 's killing him, Nelly," said he. "As long as we
were poor like himself, he was happy. It gratified the creature's pride
that we were behind with the rent; and while he was buying them images,
he was a kind of a patron to you; but he can't bear to see us well
off,----that's the secret of it all. 'Tis our prosperity is poison to
him."

To no end did Nelly try to undeceive her father on this head. It was a
corollary to his old theory about "the 'bad dhrop' that was always in
low people." In vain did she remind him of poor Hanserl's well-tried
friendship, and the delicacy of a kindness that in no rank of life could
have been surpassed. Dalton was rooted in his opinion, and opposition
only rendered him more unforgiving.

Quite forgetting the relations which once subsisted between them, he saw
nothing in Hanserl's conduct but black ingratitude. "The little chap,"
he would say, "was never out of the house; we treated him like one of
the family, and look at him now!

"You saw him yourself, Nelly,----you saw him shed tears the other day
when you spoke of the Princess. Was that spite, or not,--tell me that?
He could n't speak for anger when you told him Frank was an officer."

"Oh, how you mistake these signs of emotion, dearest father."

"Of course I do. I know nothing,--I 'm too old; I 'm in my dotage. 'Tis
my daughter Nelly understands the world, and is able to teach me."

"Would that I knew even less of it! Would that I could fall back to the
ignorance of those days when all our world was within these walls!"

"And be cutting the images, I hope, again!" said he, scornfully; "why
don't you wish for that? It was an elegant trade for a young lady of
your name and family! Well, if there's anything drives me mad, it's to
think that all them blasted figures is scattered about the world, and
one does n't know at what minute they 'll turn up against you!"

"Nay, father," said she, smiling sadly; "You once took an interest in
them great as my own."

"It only shows, then, how poverty can break a man's spirit."

Discussions like these, once or twice a week, only confirmed Dalton in
his dislike to his old abode, and Nelly at last saw that all resistance
to his will was hopeless. At last he peremptorily ordered her to give
Hans notice of their intended removal; for he had fixed upon a house in
the Lichtenthal Alley to suit them exactly. It was a villa which had a
few months before been purchased and fitted up by a young French count,
whose gains at the gaming table had been enormous. Scarcely, however,
had he taken possession of his sumptuous abode, than "luck" turned; he
lost everything in the world, and finished his career by suicide. In
a colony of gamblers, where superstition has an overweening influence,
none could be found rash enough to succeed to so ill-omened a
possession; and thus, for nigh half the season, the house continued shut
up and unoccupied. Dalton, whose mind was strongly tinctured with fears
of this kind, yet felt a species of heroism in showing that he was not
to be deterred by the dangers that others avoided; and as Abel Kraus, to
whom the property now belonged, continually assured him "it was just the
house for him," Peter overcame his scruples, and went to see it.

Although of small extent, it was princely in its arrangements. Nothing
that French taste and elegance could supply was wanting, and it was a
perfect specimen of that costly splendor which in our own day rivals
all the gorgeous magnificence of "the Regency." Indeed, it must be
owned that honest Peter thought it far too fine to live in; he trod the
carpets with a nervous fear of crushing the embroidery, and he sat down
on the brocaded sofa with as much terror as though it were glass. How he
was ever to go asleep in a bed where Cupid and angels were sculptured in
such endless profusion, he couldn't imagine; and he actually shrank back
with shame from his own face, as he surveyed it within the silver frame
of a costly toilet-glass.

Such were his impressions as he walked through the rooms with Abel, and
saw, as the covers were removed from lustres and mirrors, some new and
more dazzling object at each moment reveal itself. He listened with
astonishment to the account of the enormous sums lavished on these
sumptuous articles, and heard how twenty, or thirty, or forty thousand
francs had been given for this or that piece of luxury.

What was forty Napoleons a month for such splendor! Kraus was actually
lending him the villa at such a price; and what a surprise for Nelly,
when he should show her the little drawing-room in rose-damask he meant
for herself; and then there was a delightful arbor in the garden to
smoke in; and the whole distance from the Cursaal was not above ten
minutes' walk. Peter's fancy ran over rapidly all the jollifications
such a possession would entail; and if he wished, for his own sake, that
there were less magnificence, he consoled himself by thinking of the
effect it would have upon others. As he remarked to himself, "There 's
many thinks more of the gilding than the gingerbread!"

If Nelly's sorrow at leaving Hanserl's house was deep and sincere, it
became downright misery when she learned to what they were about to
remove. She foresaw the impulse his extravagance would receive from
such a residence, and how all the costliness of decoration would
suggest wasteful outlay. Her father had not of late confided to her
the circumstances of his income. He who once could not change a crown
without consulting her, and calling in her aid to count the pieces and
test their genuineness, would now negotiate the most important dealings
without her knowledge. From his former distrust of Kraus he grew to
believe him the perfection of honesty. There is something so captivating
to a wasteful man in being freely supplied with money,--with receiving
his advances in a spirit of apparent frankness,----that he would find it
impossible to connect such liberality with a mean or interested motive.
Kraus's little back room was then a kind of California, where he could
dig at discretion; and if in an unusual access of prudence honest Peter
would ask, "How do we stand, Abel?" Kraus was sure to be too busy to
look at the books, and would simply reply, "What does it matter? How
much do you want?" From such a dialogue as this Dalton would issue forth
the happiest of men, muttering to himself, how differently the world
would have gone with him if he "had known that little chap thirty or
forty years ago."

Without one gleam of comfort,--with terror on every side,--poor Nelly
took possession of her splendor to pass days of unbroken sorrow. Gloomy
as the unknown future seemed, the tidings she received of Kate and Frank
were still sadder.

From her sister she never heard directly. A few lines from Madame de
Heidendorf, from a country house near St. Petersburg, told her that the
Prince had not succeeded in obtaining the Imperial permission, and that
the marriage was deferred indefinitely. Meanwhile the betrothed Princess
lived a life of strict seclusion as the etiquette required, seeing
none but such members of the royal family as deigned to visit her.
Poor Nelly's heart was nigh to bursting as she thought over her dear
Kate,--the gay and brilliant child, the happy, joyous girl, now pining
away in dreary imprisonment. This image was never out of her mind, and
she would sit hour after hour in tears for her poor sister. What future
happiness, however great it might be, could repay a youth passed in
misery like this? What splendor could efface the impression of this
dreary solitude, away from all who loved and cared for her?

Of Frank, the tidings were worse again. A short and scarcely
intelligible note from Count Stephen informed her that, "although the
court-martial had pronounced a sentence of death, the Emperor, rather
than stain a name distinguished by so many traits of devotion to his
house, had commuted the punishment to imprisonment for life at Moncacs.
There was," he added, "a slight hope that, after some years, even
this might be relaxed, and banishment from the Imperial dominions
substituted. Meanwhile," said the old soldier, "I have retired forever
from a career where, up to this hour, no stain of dishonor attached to
me. The name which I bore so long with distinction is now branded with
shame, and I leave the service to pass the few remaining days of my life
wherever obscurity can best hide my sorrow and my ignominy."

Although Nelly at once answered this afflicting letter, and wrote again
and again to Vienna, to Milan, and to Prague, she never received any
reply, nor could obtain the slightest clew to what the sentence on Frank
referred. To conceal these terrible events from her father was her first
impulse; and although she often accused herself of duplicity for so
doing, she invariably came round to her early determination. To what
end embitter the few moments of ease he had enjoyed for years past? Why
trouble him about what is irremediable, and make him miserable about
those from whom his careless indifference asks nothing and requires
nothing? Time enough when the future looks brighter to speak of the
sorrows of the past!

This task of secrecy was not a difficult one. Dalton's was not a nature
to speculate on possible mischances so much as to hope for impossible
good turns of fortune; and when he knew that Kate had sent him money,
and Frank did not ask for any, the measure of his contentment was
filled. Kate was a Princess, and Frank an officer of hussars; and that
they were as happy as the day was long he would have taken an oath
before any "justice of the quorum," simply because he saw no reason why
they ought not to be so; and when he drank their healths every day after
dinner, and finished a bumper of champagne to their memory, he perfectly
satisfied his conscience that he had discharged every parental duty in
their behalf. His "God bless you, my darling child!" was the extent of
his piety as of his affection; and so he lived in the firm belief that
he had a heart overflowing with good and kind and generous sentiments.
The only unpleasant feelings he had arose for Nelly. Her eyes, that
in spite of all her efforts showed recent tears; her pale face; her
anxious, nervous manner worried and amazed him. "There 's something
strange about that girl," he would say to himself; "she would sing the
whole day long when we hadn't a shilling beyond the price of our dinner;
she was as merry as a lark, cutting out them images till two or three
o'clock of a morning; and now that we have lashings and leavings of
everything, with all manner of diversions about us, there she sits
moping and fretting the whole day." His ingenuity could detect no
explanation for this. "To be sure, she was lame, and it might grieve
her to look at dancing, in which she could take no part But when did she
ever show signs of an envious nature? She was growing old, too,----at
least, she was six or seven-and-twenty,--and no prospect of being
married; but was Nelly the girl to grieve over this? Were not all her
affections and all her hopes home-bound? 'T was n't fretting to be back
in Ireland that she could be!--she knew little of it before she left it."
And thus he was at the end of all his surmises without being nearer the
solution.

We have said enough to show that Nelly's sorrow was not causeless,
and that she had good reason to regret the days of even their hardest
fortune.

"Had we been but contented as we were!" cried she; "had we resisted
ambitions for which we were unfitted, and turned away from 'paths in
life' too steep and too arduous for our strength, we might have been
happy now! Who can say, too, what development of mind and intelligence
should not have come of this life of daily effort and exertion? Frank
would have grown manly, patient, and self-relying; Kate would have been,
as she ever was, the light of our home, making us sharers in all those
gifts of her own bright and happy nature; while even I might have risen
to worthier efforts of skill than those poor failures I have now to
blush for."

Such were the regrets which filled her heart, as she sat many an hour in
solitude, grieving over the past, and yet afraid to face the future.



CHAPTER XVIII. AN ACT OF SETTLEMENT.

Were we disposed to heroics, we might compare Mrs. Ricketts's
sensations, on entering the grounds of the villa, to the feelings
experienced by the ancient Gauls when, from the heights of the Alps,
they gazed down on the fertile plains of Italy. If less colored by the
glorious hues of conquering ambition, they were not the less practical.
She saw that, with her habitual good fortune, she had piloted the
Rickettses' barque into a safe and pleasant anchorage, where she might
at her leisure refit and lay in stores for future voyaging. Already she
knew poor Dalton, as she herself said, from "cover to cover,"--she had
sounded all the shallows and shoals of his nature, and read his vanity,
his vainglorious importance, and his selfish pride, as though they were
printed on his forehead. Were Nelly to be like Kate, the victory, she
thought, could not be very difficult. "Let her have but one predominant
passion, and be it love of admiration, avarice, a taste for dress, for
scandal, or for grand society, it matters not, I'll soon make her my
own."

"This will do, Martha!" whispered she, in Miss Ricketts's ear, as they
drove up the approach.

"I think so," was the low-uttered reply.

"Tell Scroope to be cautious,--very cautious," whispered she once more;
and then turned to Dalton, to expatiate on the beauty of the grounds,
and the exquisite taste displayed in their arrangement.

"It has cost me a mint of money," said Dalton, giving way irresistibly
to his instinct of boastfulness. "Many of those trees you see there came
from Spain and Portugal; and not only the trees, but the earth that's
round them."

"Did you hear that, Martha?" interposed Mrs. Rick-etts. "Mr. Dalton very
wisely remarks that man is of all lands, while the inferior productions
of nature require their native soils as a condition of existence."

"Yes, indeed," said Dalton, fathering the sentiment at once; "'tis only
the blacks that can't bear the cowld. But, after all, maybe they 're not
the same as ourselves."

"I own I never could think them so," smiled Mrs. Rick-etts, as though
the very appearance of Peter Dalton had confirmed the prejudice.

"Faix! I'm glad to hear you say that," said he, delightedly. "Tis many's
the battle Nelly and me has about that very thing. There's the villa,
now--what d' ye think of it?"

"Charming--beautiful--a paradise!"

"Quite a paradise!" echoed Martha.

"'T is a mighty expensive paradise, let me tell you," broke in Peter.
"I've a gardener, and four chaps under him, and sorrow a thing I ever
see them do but cut nosegays and stick little bits of wood in the
ground, with hard names writ on them; that's what they call gardening
here. As for a spade or a hoe, there's not one in the country; they do
everything with a case-knife and watering-pot."

"You amaze me," said Mrs. Ricketts, who was determined on being
instructed in horticulture.

"There's a fellow now, with a bundle of moss-roses for Nelly, and
there's another putting out the parrot's cage under a tree,----that's
the day's work for both of them."

"Are you not happy to think how your ample means diffuse ease and
enjoyment on all round you? Don't tell me that the pleasure you feel is
not perfect ecstasy."

"That's one way of considering it," said Dalton, dubiously, for he was
not quite sure whether he could or could not yield his concurrence.

"But if people did n't la-la-la--"

"Lay abed, you mean," cried Dalton; "that's just what they do; a German
wouldn't ask to awake at all, if it wasn't to light his pipe."

"I meant la-la-labor; if they did n't la-labor the ground, we should all
be starved."

"No political economy, Scroope," cried Mrs. Ricketts; "I will not permit
it. That dreadful science is a passion with him, Mr. Dal ton."

"Is it?" said Peter, confusedly, to whose ears the word "economy" only
suggested notions of saving and sparing. "I can only say," added he,
after a pause, "tastes differ, and I never could abide it at all."

"I was certain of it," resumed Mrs. Ricketts; "but here comes a young
lady towards us,--Miss Dalton, I feel it must be."

The surmise was quite correct. It was Nelly, who, in expectation of
meeting her father, had walked down from the house, and now, seeing a
carriage, stood half irresolute what to do.

"Yes, that's Nelly," cried Dalton, springing down to the ground; "she'll
be off now, for she thinks it's visitors come to see the place."

While Dalton hastened to overtake his daughter, Mrs. Ricketts had time
to descend and shake out all her plumage,--a proceeding of manual
dexterity to which Martha mainly contributed; indeed, it was almost
artistic in its way, for while feathers were disposed to droop here, and
lace taught to fall gracefully there, the fair Zoe assumed the peculiar
mood in which she determined on conquest.

"How do I look, Martha?" said she, bridling up, and then smiling.

"Very sweetly,--quite charming," replied Martha.

"I know that," said the other, pettishly; "but am I maternal,--am I
affectionate?"

"Very maternal,----most affectionate," was the answer.

"You're a fool!" said Mrs. Ricketts, contemptuously; but had barely time
to restore her features to their original blandness, when Nelly came up.
The few words in which her father had announced Mrs. Ricketts spoke
of her as one who had known and been kind to Kate, and Nelly wanted no
stronger recommendation to her esteem.

The quiet, gentle manner of the young girl, the almost humble simplicity
of her dress, at once suggested to Mrs. Ricketts the tone proper for the
occasion, and she decided on being natural; which, to say truth, was
the most remote thing from nature it is well possible to conceive. Poor
Nelly was not, however, a very shrewd critic, and she felt quite happy
to be so much at her ease as they walked along to the house together.

Mrs. Ricketts saw that Kate was the key-note to all her sister's
affection, and therefore talked away of her unceasingly. To have heard
her, one would have thought they had been inseparable, and that Kate had
confided to the dear old lady the most secret thoughts of her heart. The
amiable Zoe did, indeed, contrive to effect this rather by the aid of
an occasional sigh, a tone of lamentation and sorrow, than by direct
assertion; all conveying the impression that she was cut to the heart
about something, but would rather be "brayed in a mortar" than tell
it. Martha's mild and submissive manner won rapidly on Nelly, and she
wondered whether Kate had liked her. In fact, the visitors were all
so very unlike the usual company her father presented to her, she felt
disposed to think the best of them; and even Scroope came in for a share
of her good opinion.

The interior of the villa changed the current of conversation, and now
Mrs. Ricketts felt herself at home examining the rich brocade of the
hangings, the bronzes, and the inlaid tables.

"Lyons silk,----twenty-four francs a metre!" whispered she to Scroope.

"I thought they had n't a s-s-sixpence," observed the other.

"And these things are new, Scroope!--all new!"

"I--I--I was observing that, sister."

"What a creature he is, Scroope!--what a creature!"

"And the daughter, I suspect, is only ha-ha-half-witted."

"Humph!" ejaculated Zoe, as though she did not quite coincide with that
opinion.

The confidential dialogue was broken in upon by Dalton, who, having
dragged the poor General over the terrace and the flower-garden, was now
showing him the inside of the dwelling.

"If I could but see dear Kate here!" sighed Mrs. Ricketts, as she slowly
sank into a downy chair, "I'd fancy this was home. It's all so like
herself,--such graceful elegance, such tasteful splendor."

"It's neat,----I think it's neat," said Dalton, almost bursting with the
effort to repress his delight.

[Illustration: 250]

"Oh, sir, it's princely! It's worthy the great name of its possessor.
Dear Kate often told me of her beautiful home."

"I thought you li-li-lived over a toy-shop? Foglass said you li-lived--"

"So we did while the place was getting ready," said Dalton, flushing.

"Just let me sit here, and watch the rippling of that shining river!"
sighed Mrs. Ricketts, laying her hand on Dalton's, and, by a melting
look, withdrawing him from Scroope's unlucky reminiscence. "If I could
but pass the night here, I feel it would be ecstasy."

"What easier, if it's in earnest you are?" cried Dalton. "We never make
use of this little drawing-room. Nelly will get you a bed put up in five
minutes."

"Is n't that Irish, Scroope?--is n't that what I often told you of
Ireland?" cried Zoe, as her eyes glistened.

"Well, but I'm not joking," resumed Dalton; "small as the place is, we
can make room for you all. We 'll put Miss Martha in Nelly's room, and
the General can have mine; and there's a mighty snug tittle place for
you in the garden."

"Oh, dear, dear, dear Ireland, how I love you!" said Mrs. Ricketts,
closing her eyes, and affecting to talk in her sleep.

"There's worse places," murmured Dalton, who drank in national flattery
as the pleasantest "tipple" after personal. "But say the word, now, and
see if we won't make you comfortable."

"Comfortable!----you mean happy, supremely happy," ejaculated Zoe.

"And there's no inconvenience in it, none whatever," continued Dalton,
who now was breast-high in his plot. "That's a fine thing in this little
town of Baden; you can have everything at a moment's warning, from a
sirloin of beef to a strait-waistcoat."

Now Mrs. Ricketts laughed till her eyes overflowed with tears, at
Dalton's drollery; and Scroope, too, cackled his own peculiar cry; and
the old General chimed in with a faint wheezing sound,--a cross between
the wail of an infant and a death-rattle; in the midst of which Dalton
hurried away to seek Nelly, who was showing the garden to Martha.

"Now, mind me, Scroope," cried Mrs. Ricketts, as soon as they were
alone; "no selfishness, no eternal trouble about your own comfort. We
may probably pass the summer here, and--"

"But I--I----I won't sleep under the stairs, I--I----I promise you,"
cried he, angrily.

"You had a dear little room, with a lovely view, at Noëringen. You are
most ungrateful."

"It was a d-d ear little room, six feet sqnare, and looked ont on a
tannery. My skin would have been leather if I had st-st-stayed another
week in it."

"Martha slept in a wardrobe, and never complained."

"For that matter, I passed two months in a sh-shower-bath," cried
Scroope; "but I--I won't do it a-any more."

To what excesses his rebellious spirit might have carried him it is hard
to say, for Dalton now came up with Nelly, who was no less eager than
her father to offer the hospitalities of the villa. At the hazard of
detracting in the reader's esteem from all this generous liberality, we
feel bound to add that neither Dalton nor his daughter ever speculated
on the lengthened sojourn which Mrs. Ricketts's more prophetic spirit
foreshadowed.

The accidental mistake about the hotel first suggested the offer, which
of course the next day was sure to obviate. And now, as it has so often
been an unpleasant task to record little flaws and frailties of the
Rickettses' nature, let us take the opportunity of mentioning some
traits of an opposite kind, which, even as a "set-off," are not
valueless. Nothing could be more truly amiable than the conduct of the
whole family when the question of their stay had been resolved upon. Had
Scroope been bred a cabinet-maker, he could n't have been handier with
bed-screws, laths, and curtain-rods. Martha, divested of shawl and
bonnet, arranged toilet-tables and looking-glasses like the most
accomplished housemaid; while, reclining in her easy-chair, the fair Zoe
vouchsafed praises on all the efforts around her, and nodded, as Jove
might, on mortal endeavors to conciliate him.

Poor Nelly was in ecstasy at all this goodness; such a united family was
a perfect picture. Nothing seemed to inconvenience them,--nothing went
wrong. There was a delightfully playful spirit in the way they met and
conquered little difficulties, and whenever hard pushed by fate there
was a wonderful reticule of Mrs. Ricketts's which was sure to contain
something to extricate them at once. Since Aladdin's lamp, there never
was such a magical contrivance as that bag; and the Wizard of the North,
who makes pancakes in a gentleman's hat and restores it unstained, and
who, from the narrow limits of a snuff-box, takes out feathers enough
to stuff a pillow-case, would have paled before the less surprising but
more practical resources of the "Rickettses' sack."

Various articles of toilet necessity, from objects peculiar to the
lady's own, down to the General's razors, made their appearance. An
impertinent curiosity might have asked why a lady going to dine at a
public ordinary should have carried about with her such an array
of flannel jackets, cordials, lotions, slippers, hair-brashes, and
nightcaps; but it is more than likely that Mrs. Ricketts would have
smiled at the short-sighted simplicity of the questioner, as she
certainly did at poor Nelly's face of quiet astonishment.

It was a downright pleasure to make sacrifices for people so ready to
accommodate themselves to circumstances, and who seemed to possess a
physical pliancy not inferior to the mental one. The General wanted
no window to shave at. Martha could bestow herself within limits that
seemed impossible to humanity. As for Scroope, he was what French
dramatists call a "grand utility,"--now climbing up ladders to arrange
curtain-rods, now descending to the cellars in search of unknown and
nameless requisites. A shrewd observer might have wondered that such
extensive changes in the economy of a household were effected for the
sake of one night's accommodation; but this thought neither occurred to
Dalton nor his daughter, who were, indeed, too full of admiration for
their guests' ingenuity and readiness, to think of anything else.

As for honest Peter, a house full of company was his delight. As he took
his place that evening at the supper-table, he was supremely happy. Nor
was it wonderful, considering the pleased looks and bland faces that
he saw on each side of him. All his stories were new to his present
audience. Mount Dalton and its doings were an anecdotic mine, of which
they had never explored a single "shaft." The grandeur of his family
was a theme all listened to with interest and respect; and as Mrs.
Ricketts's flattery was well-timed and cleverly administered, and
Scroope's blunders fewer and less impertinent than usual, the evening
was altogether a very pleasant one, and, as the cant is, went off
admirably.

If Nelly had now and then little misgivings about the over-anxiety
to please displayed by Mrs. Ricketts, and a certain exaggerated
appreciation she occasionally bestowed upon her father's "Irishism," she
was far too distrustful of her own judgment not to set down her fears
to ignorance of life and its conventionalities. "It would ill
become _her_," she thought, "to criticise people so well-bred and
so well-mannered." And this modest depreciation of herself saved the
others.

It was thus that the hosts felt towards their guests as they wished them
good-night, and cordially shook hands at parting.

"As agreeable an old lady as ever I met," said Dalton to his daughter;
"and not wanting in good sense either."

"I like Miss Martha greatly," said Nelly. "She is so gently mannered and
so mild, I'm sure Kate was fond of her."

"I like them all but the little chap with the stutter. He seems so
curious about everything."

"They are all so pleased--so satisfied with everything," said Nelly,
enthusiastically.

"And why wouldn't they? There's worse quarters, let me tell you, than
this! It is n't under Peter Dalton's roof that people go to bed hungry.
I wouldn't wonder if they'd pass a day or two with us."

"Do you think so?" said Nelly, scarcely knowing whether to be pleased or
the reverse.

"Well see to-morrow," said Dalton, as he took his candle and began to
climb up the stairs to the room which he was now to occupy instead of
his own chamber, singing, as he went, an old ballad,----

     "The whole Balrothery hunt was there,
           And welcome were they all!
     With two in a bed, and four on the stairs,
           And twelve in the Bachelor's hall!"

Leaving Dalton to con over the stray verses of his once favorite ballad
as he dropped off to sleep, we turn for a moment to the chamber which,
by right of conquest, was held by the fair Zoe, and where, before a
large mirror, she was now seated; while Martha was engaged upon that
wonderful head, whose external machinery was almost as complex as
its internal. Mrs. Ricketts had resolved upon adopting a kind of
materno-protective tone towards Nelly; and the difficulty now was to
hit off a coiffure to sustain that new character. It should combine the
bland with the dignified, and be simple without being severe. There
was something Memnonic in that large old head, from which the gray hair
descended in massive falls, that seemed worthy of better things than a
life of petty schemes and small intrigues; and the patient Martha looked
like one whose submissive nature should have been bent to less ignoble
burdens than the capricious fretfulness of a tiresome old woman. But so
is it every day in life; qualities are but what circumstances make them,
and even great gifts become but sorry aids when put to base uses!

There was another figure in the group, and for him no regrets arise as
to talents misapplied and tastes perverted. Nature had created Scroope
Purvis for one line of character, and he never ventured to walk out of
it. In a large and showy dressing-gown belonging to his host, and a pair
of most capacious slippers from the same wardrobe, Scroope had come
down to assist at a Cabinet Council. He had just performed a voyage of
discovery round the house, having visited every available nook, from
the garret to the cellars, and not omitting the narrow chamber to which
Nelly herself had retired, with whom he kept up an amicable conversation
for several minutes, under pretence of having mistaken his room. Thence
he had paid a visit to old Andy's den; and, after a close scrutiny of
the larder and a peep between the bars at the dairy, came back with the
honest conviction that he had done his duty.

"It's sm-small, sister----it's very small," said he, entering her
chamber.

"It's not smaller than Mrs. Balfour's cottage at the Lakes, and you know
we spent a summer there," said the lady, rebukingly.

"But we had it all to--to ourselves, sister."

"So much the worse. A cook and a cellar are admirable fixtures.--The
curls lower down on the sides, Martha. I don't want to look like Grisi."
There was something comforting in the last assurance, for it would have
sorely tested poor Martha's skill had the wish been the reverse.

"They don't seem to ha-have been long here, sister. The knif eboard in
the scullery has n't been used above a--a few times. I should n't wonder
if old Da-Da-Dalton won the villa at play."

"Fudge!--Fuller on the brow, Martha--more expansive there."

"Is n't the girl vulgar, sister?" asked Scroope.

"Decidedly vulgar, and dressed like a fright!--I thought it was only
you, Martha, that rolled up the back hair like a snail's shell." Martha
blushed, but never spoke. "I suppose she's the same that used to cut the
pipe-heads and the umbrella tops. I remarked that her fingers were all
knotted and hard."

"Her smile is very pleasing," submitted Martha, diffidently.

"It's like her father's laugh,--far too natural for my taste! There's
no refinement, no elegance, in one of your sweet, unmeaning smiles. I
thought I had told you that at least twenty times, Martha. But you have
grown self-willed and self-opinionated of late, and I must say, you
couldn't have a graver fault! Correct it in time, I beseech you."

"I 'll try," said Martha, in a very faint voice.

"If you try, you 'll succeed. Look at your brother. See what he has
become. There's an example might stimulate you."

Another and a far deeper sigh was all Martha's acknowledgment of this
speech.

"He was the same violent, impetuous creature that you are. There, you
need n't tear my hair out by the roots to prove it! He wouldn't brook
the very mildest remonstrance; he was passionate and irrestrainable, and
what I have made him. Oh, you spiteful creature, how you hurt me!"

This cry of pain was not quite causeless, for Martha was trembling
from head to foot, and actually only saved herself from falling by a
mechanical clutch at something like a horse's tail. With many excuses,
and in a voice broken by regrets, she resumed her task with a vigorous
effort for success, while Mrs. Ricketts and Purvis exchanged glances of
supreme contempt.

"I speak to you, Martha," resumed she, "for your own sake. You
cannot see what all the world sees,--the sinful selfishness of your
nature,----a vice, I must say, the less pardonable that you live beneath
the shadow of my counsels!--Scroope, don't creak that chair,--sit upon
that stool there.--Now that we shall probably spend two months here--"

"Here! Do--do you m-mean here?" cried Purvis.

"Of course I mean here, sir. There's nothing in the shape of a lodging
to be had under three or four hundred francs a month. This is a very
sweet place; and when the old gentleman can be induced to take a room in
the town for himself, and that his daughter learns, as she will,--though
certainly not from Martha,--what is due to _me,_ it will be comfortable
and convenient. We'll ask the Princess, too, to spend a week with us;
for who knows, in the present state of politics, to what corner of
Germany we may yet be reduced to fly!"

"How will you m-m-manage with Haggerstone and the rest, when they
arrive, sister?"

"Easily enough. I 'll show them that it's for their advantage that we
are here. It is true that we agreed to take a house together; but every
plan is modified by the events of the campaign. Petrolaffsky will be
content if Mr. Dalton plays piquet; the Colonel will like his claret and
Burgundy; and Foglass will be pleased with the retirement that permits
him to prosecute his attentions to Martha."

Poor Martha blushed crimson at the tone rather, even than the words of
the speech; for, when nothing else offered, it was the practice of Mrs.
Ricketts to insinuate coquetry as among her sister's defects.

"You needn't look so much confused, my dear," resumed the torturer; "I
'm certain it's not the first affair of the kind you've known."

"Oh, sister!" cried Martha, in a voice of almost entreaty.

"Not that I think there would be anything unsuitable in the match; he is
probably fifty-eight or nine,--sixty at most,----and, excepting deafness
and the prosy tendency natural to his time of life, pretty much like
everybody else."

"You know, sister, that _he_ never thought of _me_, nor _I _of _him_."

"I know that I am not in the confidence of either party," said Mrs.
Ricketts, bridling; "and I also know I am sincerely happy that my head
is not crammed with such fiddle-faddle. Before the great event comes
off, however, you will have time to attend to something else, and
therefore I beg you will keep in mind what I am about to say to you.
We are here, Martha," resumed she, with all the solemnity of a
judicial charge,--"we are here by no claims of relationship or previous
friendship. No secret ties of congenial tastes bind us up together. No
common attachment to some other dear creature forms a link between us.
We are here as much by chance as one can venture to call anything in
this unhappy world. Let us, then, show Fortune that we are not unworthy
of her goodness, by neglecting nothing which may strengthen our position
and secure our permanence. In a word, Martha, throw over all your
selfishness'----forget the miserable egotism that besets you, and study
that young girl's character and wishes. She has never been courted in
life--flatter her; she has never been even thought of----show her every
consideration; she is evidently of a thoughtful turn, and nobody can
mope better than yourself. Insinuate yourself day by day into little
household affairs, mingling counsels here and warnings there,--always
on the side of economy,--so that while affecting only to play with the
reins, you'll end by driving the coach."

"I 'm afraid I 've no head for all this, sister."

"Of course you have n't, nor for anything else without _me_ to guide
you. I 'm perfectly aware of that. But you can learn. You can at least
obey!"

"My sister means that you can st-st-struggle against the natural
w-w-wilfulness of your d-disposition," cackled in Purvis.

"I'll do my best," murmured Martha, in a voice of humility.

"Women are so fond of sa-saving," cried Scroope, "You'll always be safe
when you c-c-cut down the estimates."

"Attend to that, Martha," remarked Mrs. Ricketts.

"Find out the price of ch-chickens, and always buy them a kreutzer
cheaper than she has done."

"There is nothing gives such an ascendency in a house as showing that
you can maintain the establishment for fourpence less per quarter," said
Zoe, gravely. "I have known connubial happiness, that has stood the test
of temper and illness for years, wrecked on the small rock of a cook's
bill. Like all wasteful men, you may be sure that this Dalton has many
miserly habits. Learn these, and indulge them. There was that poor
Marquis of Binchley, that never dined without a hundred wax candles in
the room, left all his fortune to a nephew he once found collecting the
sealing-wax from old letters and making it up for fresh use. Reflect
upon this, Martha; and always bear in mind that the vices of mankind
are comparatively uninstructive. It is their foibles, their small
weaknesses, that teach everything."

"When Ha-Ha-Haggerstone comes, and finds no room for him, you 'll
ha-ha-have the devil to pay."

"He shall take it out in dinners, Scroope; and what between drinking
Dalton's wine with him, and abusing him behind his back, you 'll see he
'll be perfectly happy."

"How long do you purpose to st-stay here, sister?" asked Scroope.

"Ask the butterfly how long the rose and the hyacinth will bloom," said
Mrs. Ricketts, pensively; for, by dint of smiling at herself in the
looking-glass, she had come round to that mock poetical vein which ran
through her strange incongruous nature. "And now good-night, dears,"
sighed she. "These are sweet moments, but they are paid for at a price.
Exhausted energies will have repose." She held out her hand to Martha,
who kissed it respectfully, and then waived a graceful adieu to Purvis,
as he retired.

"Sister Zoe has a head for everything," muttered Purvis to Martha.
"There's nothing she's not up to."

"She's very clever indeed!" sighed Martha.

"And this is n't the worst h-hit she has ever made. It was d-deucedly
well done to get in here."

Either Martha did n't concur in the sentiment, or Scroope's satisfaction
did not need any backing, for she made no reply.

"They 've given me a capital room; I fa-fancy Dalton's own, for I found
a heap of old bills and letters in a table-drawer, and something like
a--like a----like a writ"--here he laughed till the tears came at the
drollery of the thought,--"in the pocket of his dressing-gown."

"Good-night," said Martha, softly, as she glided into the little chamber
allotted to her. Poor Martha! Save Nelly's, hers was the saddest heart
beneath that roof. For the first time in all her long years of trial,
a ray of doubt, a flash of infidelity had broken upon her mind, and
the thought of her sister-in-law's infallibility became for a moment
suspected. It was not that abused and outraged submission was goaded
into rebellion; it was dormant reason that was suddenly startled into
a passing wakefulness. It was like one of those fitful gleams of
intelligence which now and then dart across the vacuity of dulled
intellects, and, like such, it was only a meteor-flash, and left no
trace of light behind it. Even in all its briefness the anguish it gave
was intense; it was the delusion of a whole life rent asunder at once,
and the same shock which should convulse the moral world of her thoughts
would rob her of all the pleasantest fancies of her existence. If Zoe
were not all goodness and all genius, what was to become of all the
household gods of the Villino? Titians would moulder away into stained
and smoked panels; "Sèvres" and "Saxe" would fall down to pasteboard and
starch; carved oak and ebony would resolve themselves into leather; and
even the friendship of princes and the devotion of philosophers be only
a mockery, a sham, and a snare!

Poor Martha! Deprived of these illusions, life was but one unceasing
round of toil; while, aided by imagination, she could labor on
unwearied. Without a thought of deception, she gloried in the harmless
frauds to which she contributed, but could n't resist the contagion of
credulity around her. How easily could such a spirit have been moulded
to every good gift, and qualities like these have been made to minister
to comfort and happiness, and the faith that was given to gilt paper,
and glue, and varnish, elevated to all that is highest in the moral and
material world!

And now they were all in slumber beneath that roof,--all save one. Poor
Nelly sat at her window, tearful and sad. In the momentary excitement of
receiving her guests she had forgotten her cares; but now they came back
upon her, coupled with all the fears their wasteful habits could suggest
At times she blamed herself for the tame cowardice which beset her, and
restrained her from every effort to avert the coming evil; and at times
she resigned herself to the gloomy future, with the stern patience
of the Indian who saw his canoe swept along into the rapids above the
cataract. There was not one to turn to for advice or counsel, and the
strength that would have sustained her in any other trial was here
sapped by the dread of giving pain to her father. "It would ill become
_me_ to give him cause for sorrow,--I, that of all his children have
ministered nothing to his pride nor his happiness!" Such was the
estimate she held of herself, and such the reasoning that flowed from
it.



CHAPTER XIX. THE CURSAAL.

The attempt to accommodate a company to which the house was unsuited
would have been a source of painful annoyance to most men. To Peter
Dalton it was unqualified pleasure. The subversion of all previous
arrangements, the total change in the whole order of domesticity, were
his delight The changing of rooms, the being sent to sleep in strange
and inconvenient corners, the hurry-scurry endeavors to find a
substitute for this or a representative for that, the ingenious devices
to conceal a want or to supply a deficiency, afforded him the most
lively amusement; and he went about rubbing his hands, and muttering
that it did his heart good. It was "so like Mount Dalton when he was a
boy."

All Mrs. Ricketts's softest blandishments were so many charms clean
thrown away. His thoughts were centred on himself and his own amiable
qualities, and he revelled in the notion that the world did not contain
another as truly generous and hospitable as Peter Dalton. In accordance
with the singular contradictions of which his character was made up, he
was willing to incur every sacrifice of personal inconvenience, if it
only served to astonish some one, or excite a sensation of surprise
at his good-nature; and while all Nelly's efforts were to conceal the
inconveniences these hospitalities inflicted, Peter was never satisfied
except when the display could reflect honor on himself, and exact
a tribute of flattery from his guests. Nor was he all this time in
ignorance of Mrs. Ricketts's character. With native shrewdness be had at
once detected her as an "old soldier." He saw the practised readiness
of her compliance with everything; he saw the spirit of accommodation
in which she met every plan or project. He knew the precise value of her
softest look or her sweetest smile; and yet he was quite content with
possessing the knowledge, without any desire to profit by it. Like one
who sits down to play with sharpers, and resolves that either the stake
shall be a trifle or the roguery be very limited, he surrendered himself
to the fair Zoe's seductions with this sort of a reservation to guide
him.

If Mrs. Ricketts did not cheat him by her goodness, she took her revenge
by the claims of her grandeur. Her intimacy with great people--the very
greatest--exalted her to the highest place in Dalton's esteem. Honest
Peter knew nothing of the years of toil and pain, the subtle arts, the
deep devices, the slights, the affronts, the stern rebuffs here, the
insolent denials there, by which these acquisitions, precarious as
they were, had been won. He did not know how much of the royalty was
left-handed, nor how much of the nobility was factitious. All he could
see was the gracious salutes wafted to her from coroneted carriages, the
soft smiles wafted from high places, the recognitions bestowed on her in
the promenade, and the gracious nods that met her in the Cursaal.

Mrs. Ricketts was perfect in all the skill of this peculiar game, and
knew how, by the most ostentatious display of respect in public, not
only to exalt the illustrious person--age who deigned to acknowledge
her, but also to attach notice to herself as the individual so highly
favored. What reverential courtesies would she drop before the presence
of some small German "Hochheit," with a gambling-house for a palace, and
a roulette-table for an exchequer! What devotional observances would
she perform in front of the chair of some snuffy old Dowager "Herzogin,"
of an unknown or forgotten principality! How pertinaciously would she
remain standing till some "Durchlaut" was "out of the horizon;" or
how studiously would she retire before the advancing step of some puny
potentate,--a monarch of three huesars and thirty chamberlains! Poor
Peter was but a sorry pupil in this "School of Design." He found it
difficult to associate rank with unwashed faces and unbrushed clothes;
and although he _did_ bow, and flourish his hat, and perform all
the other semblances of respect, he always gave one the idea of
an irreverential Acolyte at the back of a profoundly impressed and
dignified high-priest.

Dalton was far more at his ease when he paraded the rooms with Mrs.
Ricketts on one arm, and Martha on the other, enjoying heartily all the
notice they elicited, and accepting, as honest admiration, the staring
wonderment and surprise their appearance was sure to excite. Mrs.
Ricketts, who had always something geographical about her taste in
dress, had this year leaned towards the Oriental, and accordingly
presented herself before the admiring world of Baden in a richly
spangled muslin turban, and the very shortest of petticoats, beneath
which appeared a pair of ample trousers, whose deep lace frills covered
the feet, and even swept the floor. A paper-knife of silver gilt, made
to resemble a yataghan, and a smelling-bottle, in the counterfeit of
a pistol, glittered at her girdle, which, with the aid of a very well
arched pair of painted eyebrows, made up as presentable a Sultana as one
usually sees in a second-rate theatre. If Dalton's blue coat and tight
nankeen pantaloons----his favorite full-dress costume--did somewhat
destroy the "Bosphorean illusion," as Zoe herself called it, still
more did Martha's plain black silk and straw bonnet,--both types of the
strictly useful, without the slightest taint of extraneous ornament.

Purvis and the General, as they brought up the rear, came also in for
their meed of surprise,--the one lost under a mass of cloaks, shawls,
scarfs, and carpets, and the other moving listlessly along through the
crowded rooms, heedless of the mob and the music, and seeming to follow
his leader with a kind of fatuous instinct utterly destitute of volition
or even of thought A group so singularly costumed, seen every day dining
at the most costly table, ordering whatever was most expensive; the
patrons of the band, and the numerous flower-girls, whose bouquets were
actually strewed beneath their feet, were sure to attract the notice of
the company,--a tribute, it must be owned, which invariably contains a
strong alloy of all that is ill-natured, sarcastic, and depreciating.
Zoe was a European celebrity, known and recognized by every one. The
only difficulty was to learn who the new "victim" was, whence he came,
and what means he possessed. There are few places where inventive genius
more predominates than at Baden, and Dalton was alternately a successful
speculator in railroads, a South American adventurer, a slaver, and a
Carlist agent,----characters for which honest Peter had about as many
requisites as he possessed for Hamlet or Cardinal Wolsey. He seemed to
have abundance of money, however, and played high,--two qualities of no
small request in this favored region. Dalton's gambling tastes were all
originally associated with the turf and its followers. A race in his
eyes was the legitimate subject of a bet; and if anything else could
rival it in interest, it was some piece of personal prowess or skill,
some manly game of strength or activity. To men of this stamp the
wager is merely a pledge to record the sentiments they entertain upon a
particular event. It is not, as gamesters understand it, the whole
sum and substance of the interest. Personal pride, the vainglory of'
success, is the triumph in one case; in the other there is no question
of anything save gain. To this difference may be traced the wide
disparity of feeling exhibited by both in moments of failing fortune.
To one loss comes with all the harassing sensations of defeat; wounded
self-esteem and baffled hope giving poignancy to the failure. To the
other it is a pure question of a moneyed forfeiture, unaccompanied with
a single thought that can hurt the pride of the player. Hence the
wild transports of passion in the one case, and the calm, cold
self-possession in the other.

We need scarcely say to which class Dalton belonged; indeed, so far
as the public play at Baden was concerned, it was the notoriety that
pleased him most. The invariable falling back to make way for him as he
came up; the murmur of his name as he passed on; the comments on what
he would probably do; and, not least of all, the buzz of admiring
astonishment that was sure to arise as he plumped down before him the
great canvas bag full of gold, which the banker's porter had just handed
him!

All the little courtesies of the croupiers, those little official
flatteries which mean so much and so little, were especially reserved
for _him_; and the unlucky player who watched his solitary Napoleon
"raked in" by a yawning, listless croupier, became suddenly aware, by
the increased alacrity of look around him, that a higher interest was
awakened as Peter drew nigh.

The "Count's" chair was ostentatiously placed next the banker's; a store
of cards to mark the chances laid before him. The grave croupier----he
looked like an archdeacon--passed his gold snuff-box across the table;
the smartly wigged and waistcoated one at his side presented the cards
to cut, with some whispered remark that was sure to make Dalton laugh
heartily. The sensation of this _entrée_ was certain to last some
minutes; and even the impatience of the players to resume the game was
a tribute that Dalton accepted as complimentary to the bustle of his
approach.

In accordance with the popular superstition of the play-table, Dalton's
luck was an overmatch for all the skill of more accomplished gamblers;
knowing nothing whatever of the game, only aware when he had won or
lost, by seeing that his stake had doubled or disappeared, he was an
immense winner. Night after night the same fortune attended him, and so
unerringly seemed all his calculations made, that the very caprices of
his play looked like well-studied and deep combinations. If many of
the bystanders were disposed to this opinion, the "bankers" thought
otherwise; they knew that,-in the end, the hour of retribution must
come, and, through all their losses, not only observed every mark of
courteous deference towards him, but by many a bland smile and many a
polite gesture seemed to intimate the pleasure they felt in his good
fortune. This was all that was wanting to fill up the measure of
Dalton's delight.

"There isn't a bit of envy or bad feeling about them chaps," he would
often say; "whether I carry away forty Naps, or four hundred of a night,
they 're just as civil. Faix! he knew many a born gentleman might take a
lesson from them."

So long as he continued to win, Dalton felt comparatively little
interest in play, beyond the notice his presence and his large stakes
were sure to excite. As a game it possessed no hold upon him; and when
he had changed his heaps of glittering gold for notes, he arose to leave
the table, and to forget all that had occurred there as matters of no
possible interest to remember.

Such was no longer the case when fortune turned. Then, and for the first
time, the gambler's passion awoke in his heart, and the sting of
defeat sent its pangs through him. The prying, searching looks of the
by-standers, too, were a dreadful ordeal; for all were curious to see
how he bore his losses, and Dalton was no accomplished gamester who
could lose with all the impassive gravity of seeming indifference. Still
less was he gifted with that philosophy of the play-table that teaches
a timely retreat before adverse fortune. He knew nothing of those sage
maxims by which the regular gambler controls his temper and regulates
his conduct; nor had he learned the art by which good and sterling
qualities, the gifts of noble natures, can be brought into the service
of a low and degrading vice! Dalton, it must be owned, was what is
called "a bad loser,"--that is, he lost his temper with his money; and
the more steadily luck seemed against him the more determinedly did
he "back his fortune." Now doubling, now trebling his stake, he lost
considerable sums; till at last, as the hand of the clock stood within
a few minutes of the closing hour, he emptied the remainder of his bag
upon the table, and, without counting, set it all upon a card.

"Rouge perd et couleur!" cried the banker, and raked in the glittering
heap; and, amid a murmur of half-compassionate astonishment, Peter arose
from the table. Mrs. Ricketts and her suite were all in the ball-room,
but Dalton only remembered them when he had gained the open air. The
terrible shock of his reverse had overwhelmed all his faculties, and
almost stunned him to unconsciousness. At last he bethought him of his
guests; but it was some time before he could summon sufficient composure
of look to go in search of them. He had been so accustomed--to use his
own phrase--"to ride the winner," that he did n't know how to face the
company as a beaten man. He thought of all the glances of impertinent
pity his presence would call forth, and imagined the buzz of remark
and comment every line of his features would give rise to. Poor
Peter!--little knew he that such signs of sympathy are never given to
the very saddest of misfortunes, and that, in such a society, no one
wastes a thought upon his neighbor's reverses, except when they serve as
a guide to himself.

He did, indeed, overhear from time to time little broken sentences
like these: "The old fellow with the white moustache has had a squeeze
'to-night.'" "He caught it heavy and thick." "Must have lost close on a
thousand Naps." "Bank walked into him;" and so on,----comments as free
from any tone of sympathy as the proudest heart could possibly have
asked for. But even these were easier to bear than the little playful
cajoleries of Mrs. Ricketts on his supposed successes.

Knowing him to be a frequent winner, and hearing from Scroope the large
sums he occasionally carried away, she invariably accosted him with
some little jesting rebuke on his "dreadful luck"--that "wicked good
fortune"--that would follow him in everything and everywhere.

Purvis had been a close spectator of all that went on this unlucky
evening, and was actually occupied with his pencil in calculating the
losses when Peter entered the room.

"He had above eighteen or twenty bank-notes of a th-thousand francs,"
cried he, "when he be-be-began the evening. They are all gone now. He
played at least a dozen 'rouleaux' of fifty Naps.; and as to the bag, I
can m-make no guess how m-m-much it held."

"I 'll tell you then, sir," said Peter, good-humoredly, as he just
overheard the last remark. "The bag held three hundred and eighty
Napoleons; and as you 're pretty correct in the other items, you 'll
not be far from the mark by adding about fifty or sixty Naps, for little
bets here and there."

"What coolness, what stoical indifference!" whispered Mrs. Ricketts to
Martha, but loud enough for Dalton to hear. "That is so perfectly
Irish; they can be as impetuous as the Italian, and possess all the
self-restraint and impassive bearing of the Indian warrior."

"But w-w-why did you go on, when luck was a-a-gainst you?"

"Who told me it was against me till I lost all my money?" cried Dalton.
"If the first reverse was to make a man feel beat, it would be a very
cowardly world, Mr. Purvis."

"Intensely Irish!" sighed Mrs. Ricketts.

"Well, maybe it is," broke in Peter, who was not in a mood to accept
anything in a complimentary sense. "Irish it may be; and as you remarked
a minute ago, we're little better than savages--"

"Oh, Mr. Dalton,----dear Mr. Dalton!"

"No matter; I'm not angry, ma'am. The newspapers says as bad,--ay,
worse, every day of the week. But what I 'm observing is, that the man
that could teach me how to keep my money could never have taught me how
to win it You know the old proverb about the 'faint heart, 'Mr. Purvis?"

"Yes; but I----I----I don't want a f-f-fair lady!"

"Faix! I believe you're right there, my little chap," said Peter,
laughing heartily, and at once recovering all his wonted good-humor at
the sound of his own mellow-toned mirth; and in this pleasant mood
he gave an arm to each of his fair companions, and led them into the
supper-room. There was an ostentatious desire for display in the order
Dalton gave that evening to the waiter. It seemed as if he wished to
appear perfectly indifferent about his losses. The table was covered
with a costly profusion that attracted general notice. Wines of the
rarest and most precious vintages stood on the sideboard. Dalton did the
honors with even more than his accustomed gayety. There was a stimulant
in that place at the head of the table; there was some magical influence
in the duty of host that never failed with him. The sense of sway and
power that ambitious minds feel in high and pre-eminent stations were
all his, as he sat at the top of his board; and it must be owned that
with many faults of manner, and many shortcomings on the score of taste,
yet Peter did the honors of his table well and gracefully.

Certain is it Mrs. Ricketts and her friends thought so. Zoe was in
perfect ecstasies at the readiness of his repartees and the endless
variety of his anecdotes. He reminded her at once of Sheridan and "poor
dear Mirabeau," and various other "beaux esprits" she used to live with.
Martha listened to him with sincere pleasure. Purvis grew very tipsy
in the process of his admiration, and the old General, suddenly brought
back to life and memory under the influence of champagne, thought him so
like Jack Trevor, of the Engineers, that he blubbered out, "I think I 'm
listening to Jack. It's poor Trevor over again."

Was it any wonder if in such intoxications Peter forgot all his late
reverses, nor ever remembered them till he had wished his company
good-night, and found himself alone in his own chamber? Pecuniary
difficulties were no new thing to Dalton, and it would not have
interfered with his pleasant dreams that night had the question been one
of those ordinary demands which he well knew how to resist or evade by
many a legal sleight and many an illegal artifice; but here was a debt
of honor. He had given his name, three or four times during the evening,
for large sums, lost on the very instant they were borrowed. These must
be repaid on the next day; but how, he knew not. How he "stood" in Abel
Kraus's books he had not the remotest idea. It might be with a balance,
or it might be with a deficit All he really knew was that he had
latterly drawn largely, and spent freely; and as Abel always smiled and
seemed satisfied, Peter concluded that his affairs needed no surer or
safer evidences of prosperity. To have examined ledgers and day-books
with such palpable proofs of solvency would have been, in his eyes, an
act of as great absurdity as that of a man who would not believe in the
sunshine till he had first consulted the thermometer.

"I must see Abel early to-morrow. Abel will set it all right," were
the conclusions to which he always came back; and if not very clearly
evident how, why, or by what means, still he was quite satisfied that
honest Kraus would extricate him from every difficulty. "The devil go
with it for black and red," said he, as he lay down in his bed. "I 'd
have plenty of cash in my pocket for everything this night, if it was
n't for that same table; and an ugly game it is as ever a man played.
Shuffle and cut; faites your 'jeu'; thirty-four--thirty-three; red
wins--black loses; there's the whole of it; sorrow more on 't except
the sad heart that comes afterwards!" These last words he uttered with a
deep sigh, and then turned his face to the pillow.

He passed a restless, feverish night; the sleep being more harassing
than even his waking moments, disturbed, as it was, by thoughts of
all he had lately gone through. All the tremendous excitement of the
play-table, heightened by the effect of wine, made up a wild chaotic
confusion in his brain, that was almost madness. He awoke repeatedly,
too, eager for daylight, and the time to call upon honest Abel. At these
times he would pace his room up and down, framing the speeches by
which he meant to open the interview. Kraus was familiar with his usual
"pleas." With Ireland and her stereotyped distresses he was thoroughly
conversant. Famine, fever, potato-rot, poor-rates, emigration, and
eviction were themes he could have almost discussed himself; but all he
recognized in them was an urgent demand for money, and an occasion for
driving the very hardest of bargains. The Russian remittances had been
less regular of late; so at least Abel averred, for Dalton neither knew
nor tried to know any details. The dates were frequently inconvenient,
and the places of payment oftentimes remote. Still, Abel was
civil,--nay, almost cordial; and what can any man ask for more than a
smile from his banker!

Dalton was quite at ease upon one point,--Kraus was sure to know nothing
of his late losses at play; in fact, out of his little den wherein he
sat he seemed to be aware of nothing in the whole wide world. A small
"slip," which arrived each morning from Frankfort, told him the current
exchanges of the day. The faces of his clients revealed all the rest But
Dalton was greatly deceived on this point There was not the slightest
incident of Baden with which he was not familiar, nor any occurrence in
its life of dissipation on which he was uninformed. His knowledge was
not the offspring of any taste for scandal, or any liking for the secret
gossiping of society. No; his was a purely practical and professional
information. The archduke who had lost so heavily at "roulette" would
need a loan on the morrow; the count who was about to elope with the
marchioness must have bills on Paris; the colonel who had shot the baron
in a duel could n't escape over the frontier without money. In a word,
every vice and iniquity seemed the tributaries of his trade; and whether
to consummate their wickedness or escape its penalty, men must first
come to Abel Kraus.

To see him crouching behind his little desk, poring over the scattered
fragments of dirty papers, which were his only books, you would never
have suspected that he had a thought above the mystic calculations
before him. Watch him more narrowly, however, and you will perceive that
not a figure can cross the street and approach his door without meeting
a shrewd, quick glance from those dark eyes; while a faint muttering
sound betrays his detection of the visitor's object.

Long, then, before Dalton swaggered up to the moneychanger's den, Abel
knew every circumstance of the previous night, and had actually before
him, on his desk, a correct account of all the sums he had lost at play.
Abel was not unprepared for such tidings. Dalton was precisely the man
to rush headlong into play the moment fortune turned with him, and the
pang of defeat was added to the bitterness of a loss; Abel only wondered
that the reverse had not come earlier. And so he mumbled below his
breath, as with his hat set jauntily on one side, and his hands stuck
carelessly beneath his coat-tails, Dalton came forward.

Peter had so far "got up" his air of easy indifference as to whistle
a tune; but, somehow, as he drew nearer to the door, the sounds waxed
fainter and fainter, and, before he had crossed the threshold, bad sunk
away into the cadence of a heavy sigh. Abel never looked up as the other
entered, but, affecting the deepest preoccupation, went on with his
figures.

"Morrow, Abel," said Dalton, as he threw himself into a chair, and,
removing his hat, began to wipe his forehead with his handkerchief.
"This is a murdering hot day. It's not ten yet, and the sun's roasting!"

"Fine weather for de harvest, Herr von Dalton, but a leetle rain do no
harm."

"Faix! I think not; neither to man nor beast."

Abel grinned at the brawny throat and massive proportions that seemed so
unequal to sustain the heat, but said nothing.

"How's the exchange, Abel?" said Peter; "how's the exchange?"

Now, in justice to our worthy friend Dalton, we must own that he put
this question without having the very remotest idea of its meaning. An
inscription from the tomb of the Pharaohs would have been to the full as
intelligible to him as an abstract from the "City Article." He asked
it as certain "charming women" inquire about the compass on board
ship,--something, in fact, suitable to the time and place, and proper to
be done on like occasions.

"De exchange is very uncertain; de market is up and down," said Abel,
dryly.

"That's bad," said Dalton, gravely,----"that's very bad!"

"De Mongolian loan is de reason," rejoined Abel.

Dalton gave a grunt, that might mean assent or displeasure with that
view of the case, but did not trust himself with more.

"Dey will not take de scrip at eighty-two, and I tink dey are right."

"Faix! I don't doubt but that they are!" chimed in Peter.

"Dey are right, if all be true we hear of de security. It is de mines
of de State dat are hypotheked,--how you call it,--what you say,
'hypotheked'?"

Dalton was completely puzzled now, and could only scratch his ear,--his
invariable symptom of utter discomfiture.

"Tis no matter," cried Abel, with a grating, harsh laugh. "Dey promise,
and no pay; and dat is very bad--ha! ha! ha!"

Now Dalton joined in the laugh, but with as ill a grace as needs be.

"Dey promise, and dey no pay, Herr von Dalton!" repeated the Jew,
with another laugh, as though he could not tear himself away from so
excellent a jest. "Dey borrow, dat dey may make explorations--how you
call dem--wit oder men's money. If dey de win, well! if dey lose--bah!
dey are bankrupt!"

Now, all these allusions were of the most provoking character to poor
Dalton, who could not help feeling a very different sympathy for
the Mongolians from that expressed by Abel Kraus. "Who knows what
difficulties they are in?--maybe they'd pay it if they could," muttered
he, as he slapped his boot with his cane, and fell into a musing fit.

"Dey shall not have one kreutzer of my moneys; I can tell dem dat!" said
Kraus, as he buttoned up the keys of his strong-box, as though suiting
the action to his words.

"Don't put up the keys so soon, Abel!" said Dalton, with an effort at a
laugh. "I want to see the inside of that little iron trunk there."

"You no want money, Herr von Dalton!" exclaimed the other, in amazement.
"You no want money! you draw eight hundred florin on Tuesday; you have
four hundred on Wednesday evening, and seven rouleaux of Napoleons; on
Saturday again I send you twenty thousand franc!"

"All true,--every word of it," said Dalton; "but there's no use telling
a hungry man about the elegant dinner he ate last week! The short of the
matter is, I want cash now."

Kraus appeared to reflect for a few minutes, and then said, "If a leetle
sum will do--"

"Faix! it will not. I want five hundred Naps., at the very least."

Kraus threw down his pen, and stared at him without speaking.

"One would think from your face, Abel, that I was asking for a loan of
the National Debt. I said five hundred Naps.!"

Abel shook his head mournfully, and merely muttered "Ja! ja!" to
himself. "We will look over de account, Herr von Dalton," said he, at
last; "perhaps I am wrong, I no say, I am sure; but I tink--dat is, I
believe--you overdraw very much your credit."

"Well, supposing I did; is it the first time?" said Dalton, angrily.
"Ain't I as good a man now as I was before?"

"You are a very goot man, I know well; a very goot and a very pleasant
man; but you know de old German proverb, 'Das Gut ist nicht Gelt.'"

"I never heard it till now," muttered Peter, sulkily; "but if a robber
in this country put a pistol to your head, he 'd be sure to have a
proverb to justify him! But to come to the point,----can I have the
money?"

"I fear very mush--No!" was the dry response.

"No,--is it?" cried Dalton, starting up from his seat; "did you say no?"

Kraus nodded twice, slowly and deliberately.

"Then bad luck to the rap ever you'll see more of _my_ money," cried
Peter, passionately. "You old Jewish thief, I ought to have known you
long ago; fifty, sixty, seventy per cent I was paying for the use of
my own cash, and every bill I gave as good as the bank paper! Ain't
you ashamed of yourself, tell me that,--ain't you downright ashamed of
yourself?"

"I tink not; I have no occasions for shame," said the other, calmly.

"Faix! I believe you there," retorted Dalton. "Your line of life doesn't
offer many opportunities of blushing. But if I can't bring you to know
shame, maybe I can teach you to feel sorrow. Our dealing is ended from
this day out. Peter Dalton does n't know you more! He never saw you! he
never heard of your name! D'ye mind me now? None of your boasting among
the English here that you have Mr. Dalton's business. If I hear of
your saying it, it's not a contradiction will satisfy me. Understand
me well--it's not to leave a mark of friendship that I 'll come in here
again!"

The fierce tone in which Dalton said these words, and the gesture he
made with a tremendous walking-stick, were certainly well calculated to
excite Abel's terrors, who, opening a little movable pane of the window,
looked out into the street, to assure himself of succor in case of need.

"What's the use of family, rank, or fortune," cried Dalton, indignantly,
as he paced up and down the little shop, in a perfect frenzy of passion,
"if a little dirty Jew, with a face like a rat-terrier, can insult
you? My uncle is one of the first men in Austria, and my daughter's a
Princess; and there's a creature you would't touch with the tongs has
the impudence to--to--to--" Evidently the precise offence did not at
once occur to Dalton's memory, for after several efforts to round
off his phrase--"to outrage me----to outrage me!" he cried, with the
satisfaction of one who had found a missing object.

Meanwhile Abel, who had gradually resumed his courage, was busily
engaged in some deep and intricate calculations, frequently referring
to a number of ill-scrawled scraps of paper on a file before him, not
heeding, if he heard, the storm around him.

"Dere, saar," said he at length, as he pushed a slip of paper towards
Dalton,--"dere, saar; our affairs is closed, as you say. Dere is your
debit,--eighteen hundred and seventy-three florins, 'convenzion money.'
Dere may be leetle charges to be added for commissions and oder tings;
but dat is de chief sum, which you pay now."

There was a sharp emphasis on the last monosyllable that made Dalton
start.

"I'll look over it; I'll compare it with my books at home," said he,
haughtily, as he stuffed the slip of paper into his waistcoat-pocket.

"Den you no pay to-day?" asked Abel.

"Nor to-morrow, nor the day after, nor, maybe, awhile longer," said
Dalton, with a composure he well knew how to feel in like circumstances.

"Very well, den; I will have securities. I will have bail for my moneys
before tree o'clock this day. Dere is de sommation before de Tribunal,
Herr von Dalton." Aud he handed a printed document, stamped with the
official seal of a law court, across the table. "You will see," added
the Jew, with a malicious grin, "dat I was not unprepared for all dis.
Abel Kraus is only an old Jew, but he no let de Gentile cheat him!"

Dalton was stunned by the suddenness of this attack. The coolly planned
game of the other so overmatched all the passionate outbreak of his own
temper that he felt himself mastered at once by his wily antagonist.

"To the devil I fling your summons!" cried he, savagely. "I can't even
read it."

"Your avocat will explain it all. He will tell you dat if you no pay
de moneys herein charged, nor give a goot and sufficient surety dereof
before de Civil Grericht, dis day, dat you will be consign to de prison
of de State at Carlsruhe, dere to remain your 'leben lang,' if so be you
never pay."

"Arrest me for debt the day it's demanded!" cried Dalton, whose
notions of the law's delay were not a little shocked by such peremptory
proceedings.

"It is in criminal as well as in civil Grericht to draw on a banker
beyond your moneys, and no pay, on demand."

"There's justice for you!" cried Dalton, passionately. "Highway robbery,
housebreaking, is decenter. There's some courage, at least, in _them!_
But I wouldn't believe you if you were on your oath. There is n't such a
law in Europe, nor in the East'Ingies'!"

Abel grinned, but never uttered a word.

"So any ould thief, then, can trump up a charge against a man----can
send him off to jail--before he can look around him!"

"If he do make false charge, he can be condem to de galleys," was the
calm reply.

"And what's the use of that?" cried Dalton, in a transport of rage. "Is
n't the galleys as good a life as sitting there? Is n't it as manly a
thing to strain at an oar as to sweat a guinea?"

"I am a burgher of the Grand Duchy," said Abel, boldly; "and if you
defame me, it shall be before witnesses!" And as he spoke he threw wide
the window, so that the passers-by might hear what took place.

Dalton's face became purple; the veins in his forehead swelled like a
thick cordage, and he seemed almost bursting with suppressed passion.
For an instant it was even doubtful if he could master his struggling
wrath. At last he grasped the heavy chair he had been sitting on, and
dashing it down on the ground, broke it into atoms; and then, with
an execration in Irish, the very sound of which rang like a curse, he
strode out of the shop, and hastened down the street.

[Illustration: 278]

Many a group of merry children, many a morning excursionist returning
from his donkey-ride, remarked the large old man, who, muttering and
gesticulating, as he went, strode along the causeway, not heeding nor
noticing those around him. Others made way for him as for one it were
not safe to obstruct, and none ventured a word as he passed by. On he
went, careless of the burning heat and the hot rays of the sun,--against
which already many a jalousie was closed, and many an awning spread,--up
the main street of the town, across the "Plate," and then took his way
up one of the steep and narrow lanes which led towards the upper town.
To see him, nothing could look more purpose-like than his pace and the
manner of his going; and yet he knew nothing of where he walked nor
whither the path led him. A kind of instinct directed his steps into an
old and oft-followed track, but his thoughts were bent on other objects.
He neither saw the half-terrified glances that were turned on him, nor
marked how they who were washing at the fountain ceased their work, as
he passed, to stare at him.

At last he reached the upper town; emerging from which by a steep flight
of narrow stone steps, he gained a little terraced spot of ground,
crossed by two rows of linden-trees, under whose shade he had often sat
of an evening to watch the sunset over the plain. He did not halt here,
but passing across the grassy sward, made for a small low house which
stood at the angle of the terrace. The shutters of the shop-window were
closed, but a low half-door permitted a view of the interior; leaning
over which Dalton remained for several minutes, as if lost in deep
revery.

The silent loneliness of the little shop at first appeared to engross
all his attention, but after a while other thoughts came slowly
flittering through his muddy faculties, and with a deep-drawn sigh he
said,----

"Dear me! but I thought we were living here still! It's droll enough how
one can forget himself! Hans, Hans Roëckle, my man!" cried he, beating
with his stick against the doors as he called out. "Hanserl! Hans, I
say! Well, it's a fine way to keep a shop! How does the creature know
but I'm a lady that would buy half the gimcracks in the place, and he's
not to be found! That's what makes these devils so poor,--they never
mind their business. 'Tis nothing but fun and diversion they think of
the whole day long. There's no teaching them that there's nothing like
indhustry! What makes us the finest people under the sun? Work--nothing
but work! I 'm sure I 'm tired of telling him so! Hans, are you asleep,
Hans Roëckle?" No answer followed this summons, and now Dalton, after
some vain efforts to unbolt the door, strode over it into the shop.
"Faix! I don't wonder that you had n't a lively business," said he,
as he looked around at the half-stocked shelves, over which dust and
cobwebs were spread like a veil. "Sorrow a thing I don't know as well
as I do my gaiters! There's the same soldiers, and that's the woodcutter
with the matches on his back, and there's the little cart Frank mended
for him! Poor Frank, where is he now, I wonder?" Dalton sighed heavily
as he continued to run his eye over the various articles all familiar to
him long ago. "What's become of Hans?" cried he at last, aloud; "if it
was n't an honest place, he would n't have a stick left! To go away and
leave everything at sixes and sevens--well, well, it's wonderful!"

Dalton ascended the stairs--every step of which was well known to
him--to the upper story where he used to live. The door was unfastened,
and the rooms were just as he had left them--even to the little table
at which Nelly used to sit beside the window. Nothing was changed; a
bouquet of faded flowers--the last, perhaps, she had ever plucked in
that garden--stood in a glass in the window-sill; and so like was all
to the well-remembered past, that Dalton almost thought he heard her
footstep on the floor.

"Well, it was a nice little quiet spot, any way!" said he, as he sank
into a chair, and a heavy tear stole slowly along his cheek. "Maybe it
would have been well for me if I never left it! With all our poverty we
spent many a pleasant night beside that hearth, and many's the happy day
we passed in that wood there. To be sure, we were all together, then!
that makes a difference! instead of one here, another there, God knows
when to meet, if ever!

"I used to fret many a time about our being so poor, but I was wrong,
after all, for we divided our troubles amongst us, and that left a small
share for each; but there's Nelly now, pining away--I don't know for
what, but I see it plain enough; and here am I myself with a heavy heart
this day; and sure, who can tell if Kate, great as she is, has n't her
sorrows; and poor Frank, 't is many a hard thing, perhaps, he has to
bear. I believe in reality we were better then!"

He arose, and walked about the room, now stopping before each
well-remembered object, now shaking his head in mournful acquiescence
with some unspoken regret; he went in turn through each chamber, and
then, passing from the room that had been Nelly's, he descended a little
zigzag, rickety stair, by which Hans had contrived to avoid injuring
the gnarled branches of a fig-tree that grew beneath. Dalton now
found himself in the garden; but how unlike what it had been! Once the
perfection of blooming richness and taste,--the beds without a weed, the
gravel trimly raked and shining, bright channels of limpid water running
amid the flowers, and beautiful birds of gay plumage caged beneath the
shady shrubs,--now all was overrun with rank grass and tall weeds; the
fountains were dried up, the flowers trodden down,--even the stately yew
hedge, the massive growth of a century, was broken by the depredations
of the mountain cattle. All was waste, neglect, and desolation.

"I 'd not know the place,--it is not like itself," muttered Dalton,
sorrowfully. "I never saw the like of this before. There's the elegant
fine plants dying for want of care! and the rose-trees rotting just for
want of a little water! To think of how he labored late and early here,
and to see it now! He used to call them carnations his children: there
was one Agnes, and there was another Undine--indeed, I believe that was
a lily; and I think there was a Nelly, too; droll enough to make out
they were Christians! but sure, they did as well; and he watched after
them as close! and ay, and stranger than all, he'd sit and talk to them
for hours. It's a quare world altogether; but maybe it's our own fault
that it's not better; and perhaps we ought to give in more to each
other's notions, and not sneer at whims and fancies when they don't
please ourselves."

It was while thus ruminating, Dalton entered a little arbor, whose
trellised walls and roofs had been one of the triumphs of Hanserl's
skill. Ruin, however, had now fallen on it, and the drooping branches
and straggling tendrils hung mournfully down on all sides, covering the
stone table, and even the floor, with their vegetation. As Dalton stood,
sad and sorrow-struck at this desolation, he perceived the figure of
Hans himself, as, half-hidden by the leaves, he sat in his accustomed
seat. His head was uncovered, but his hair fell in great masses on
either side, and with his long beard, now neglected and untrimmed, gave
him an unusually wild and savage look. A book lay open on his knees,
but his hands were crossed over it, and his eyes were upturned as if in
revery.

Dalton felt half ashamed at accosting him; there was something
ungracious in the way he had quitted the poor dwarfs dwelling; there
had been a degree of estrangement for weeks before between them, and
altogether he knew that he had ill-requited all the unselfish kindness
of the little toy-seller; so that he would gladly have retired without
being noticed, when Hans suddenly turned and saw him.

It was almost with a cry of surprise Hans called out his name.

"This is kind of you, Herr von Dalton. Is the Fräulein--" He stopped
and looked eagerly around.

"No, Hanserl," said Dalton, answering to the half-expressed question,
"Nelly is n't with me; I came up alone. Indeed, to tell the truth, I
found myself here without well knowing why or how. Old habit, I suppose,
led me, for I was thinking of something else."

"They were kind thoughts that guided your steps," said the dwarf, in
accents of deep gratitude, "for I have been lonely of late."

"Why don't you come down and see us, Hanserl? It's not so far off, and
you know Nelly is always glad to see you."

"It is true," said the dwarf, mournfully.

"You were always a good friend to us, Hanserl," said Dalton, taking the
other's hand and pressing it cordially; "and faix! as the world goes,"
added he, sighing, "there 's many a thing easier found than a friend."

"The rich can have all,--even friendship," muttered Hans, slowly.

"I don't know that, Hans; I 'm not so sure you 're right there."

"They buy it," said the dwarf, with a fierce energy, "as they can buy
everything,--the pearl for which the diver hazards life, the gem that
the polisher has grown blind over, the fur for which the hunter has
shed his heart's blood. And yet when they 've got them they have not got
content."

"Ay, that's true," sighed Dalton. "I suppose nobody is satisfied in this
world."

"But they can be if they will but look upward," cried Hans,
enthusiastically; "if they will learn to think humbly of themselves, and
on how slight a claim they possess all the blessings of their lot;
if they will but bethink them that the sun and the flowers, the
ever-rolling sea, and the leafy forest are all their inheritance,--that
for them, as for all, the organ peals through the dim-vaulted aisle
with promises of eternal happiness,--and lastly, that, with all the wild
contentions of men's passions, there is ever gushing up in the human
heart a well of kind and affectionate thoughts; like those springs we
read of, of pure water amid the salt ocean, and which, taken at the
source, are sweet and good to drink from. Men are not so bad by nature;
it is the prizes for which they struggle, the goals they strive for,
corrupt them! Make of this fair earth a gaming-table, and you will have
all the base passions of the gamester around it."

"Bad luck to it for gambling," said Dalton, whose intelligence was just
able to grasp at the illustration; "I wish I 'd never seen a card; and
that reminds me, Hans, that maybe you 'd give me a bit of advice. There
was a run against me last night in that thieving place. The 'red' came
up fourteen times, and I, backing against it every time, sometimes ten,
sometimes twenty,----ay, faix! as high as fifty 'Naps.' you may think
what a squeeze I got! And when I went to old Kraus this morning, this
is what he sticks in my hand instead of a roll of banknotes." With these
words Dalton presented to Hans the printed summons of the "Tribunal."

"A Gerichts-Ruf!" said Hans, with a voice of deep reverence; for he
entertained a most German terror for the law and its authority. "This is
a serious affair."

"I suppose it is," sighed Dalton; "but I hope we 're in a Christian
country, where the law is open?"

Hans nodded, and Peter went on:----

"What I mean is, that nothing can be done in a hurry; that when we have
a man on our side, he can oppose and obstruct, and give delays, picking
a hole here and finding a flaw there; asking for vouchers for this and
proofs for that, and then waiting for witnesses that never come, and
looking for papers that never existed; making Chancery of it, Hans, my
boy,--making Chancery of it."

"Not here,--not with us!" said Hans, gravely. "You must answer to this
charge to-day, and before four o'clock too, or to-morrow there will be
writ of 'contumacy' against you. You have n't got the money?"

"Of course I haven't, nor a ten-pound note towards it."

"Then you must provide security."

"'T is easy said, my little man, but it is not so easy dealing with
human beings as with the little wooden figures in your shop beyond."

"There must be 'good and substantial bail,' as the summons declares;
such as will satisfy the Court," said Hans, who seemed at once to
have become a man of acute worldly perception at sight of this printed
document.

"Security--bail!" exclaimed Dalton. "You might as well ask Robinson
Crusoe who 'd be godfather to his child on the desert island. There's
not a man, woman, or child in the place would give me a meal's meat
There's not a house I could shelter my head in for one night; and see
now," cried he, carried away by an impulse of passionate excitement, "it
is n't by way of disparagement I say it to this little town,--for the
world all over is the same,--the more you give the less you get! Treat
them with champagne and venison; send money to this one, make presents
to that, and the day luck turns with you, the best word they 'll have
for you is, 'He was a wasteful, careless devil; could n't keep it when
he had it; lived always above his means; all hand and mouth.' It's a
kind friend that will vouchsafe as much as 'Poor fellow! I 'm sorry for
him.'"

"And to what end is wealth," cried Hans, boldly, "if it but conduce
to this? Are the friends well chosen who can behave thus? Are the
hospitalities well bestowed that meet such return? or is it not rather
selfishness is paid back in the same base coin that it uttered?"

"For the matter of that," said Dalton, angrily, "I never found that
vulgar people was a bit more grateful than their betters, nor low
manners any warranty for high principles; and when one is to be
shipwrecked it's better to go down in a 'seventy-four' than be drowned
out of a punt in a mill-pond."

"It's past noon already," said Hans, pointing to the son-dial on his
house. "There 's little time to be lost."

"And as little to be gained," muttered Dalton, moodily, as he strolled
out into the garden.

"Let me have this paper," said Hans; "I will see the Herr Kraus myself,
and try if something cannot be done. With time, I suppose, you could
meet this claim?"

"To be sure I could, when my remittances arrive,----when my instalments
are paid up, when my rents come in, when--" He was about to add, "when
luck changes," but he stopped himself just in time.

"There need be no difficulty if you can be certain," said Hans, slowly.

"Certain!--and of what is a man certain in this life?" said Dalton, in
his tone of moralizing. "Was n't I certain of the Corrig-O'Neal estate?
Wasn't I certain of Miles Dalton's property in the funds? Wasn't I
certain that if the Parliament was n't taken away from us that I 'd have
my own price for the boroagh of Knocknascanelera?--and sorrow one of the
three ever came to me. Ay, no later than last night, was n't I certain
that black would come up--"

"When I said certain," broke in Hans, "I meant so far as human
foresight could pledge itself; but I did not speak of the chances of the
play-table. If your expectations of payment rest on these, do not talk
of them as certainties."

"What's my estates for? Where's my landed property?" cried Dalton,
indignantly. "To hear you talk, one would think I was a chevalier of
indhustry, as they call them."

"I ask your pardon, Herr," said Hans, humbly. "It is in no spirit of
idle curiosity that I speak; less still, with any wish to offend you. I
will now see what is best to do. You may leave all in my hands, and by
four o'clock, or five at furthest, you shall hear from me."

"That's sensible,----that's friendly," cried Dalton, shaking the
other's hand warmly, and really feeling the most sincere gratitude for
the kindness.

If there was any act of friendship he particularly prized, it was the
intervention that should relieve him of the anxiety and trouble of
a difficult negotiation, and leave him, thoughtless and careless, to
stroll about, neither thinking of the present nor uneasy for the
future. The moment such an office had devolved upon another, Dalton felt
relieved of all sense of responsibility before his own conscience; and
although the question at issue were his own welfare or ruin, he ceased
to think of it as a personal matter. Like his countryman, who consoled
himself when the house was in flames by thinking "he was only a lodger,"
he actually forgot his own share of peril by reflecting on the other
interests that were at stake. And the same theory that taught him to
leave his soul to his priest's care, and his health to his doctor's,
made him quite satisfied when a friend had charge of his honor or his
fortune.

It was as comfortable a kind of fatalism as need be; and, assuredly, to
have seen Peter's face as he now descended the steps to the lower town,
it would be rash to deny that he was not a sincere believer in his
philosophy. No longer absent in air and clouded in look, he had a smile
and a pleasant word for all who passed him; and now, with a jest for
this one, and a kreutzer for that, he held on his way, with a tail of
beggars and children after him, all attracted by that singular
mesmerism which draws around certain men everything that is vagrant
and idle,--from the cripple at the crossing to the half-starved cur-dog
without an owner.

This gift was, indeed, his; and whatever was penniless and friendless
and houseless seemed to feel they had a claim on Peter Dalton.



CHAPTER XX. THE LAST STAKE OF ALL.

Dalton found his little household on the alert at his return home; for
Mrs. Ricketts had just received an express to inform her that her "two
dearest friends on earth" were to arrive that evening in Baden, and she
was busily engaged in arranging a little fête for their reception.
All that poor Nelly knew of the expected guests was that one was a
distinguished soldier, and the other a no less illustrious diplomatist;
claims which, for the reader's illumination, we beg to remark were
embodied in the persons of Colonel Haggerstone and Mr. Foglass. Most
persons in Mrs. Ricketts's position would have entertained some scruples
about introducing a reinforcement to the already strong garrison of the
villa, and would have been disposed to the more humble but safe policy
enshrined in the adage of "letting well alone." But she had a spirit far
above such small ambitions, and saw that the Dalton hospitalities were
capable of what, in parliamentary phrase, is called a "most extended
application."

By the awestruck air of Nelly, and the overweening delight manifested by
her father, Zoe perceived the imposing effect of great names upon both,
and so successfully did she mystify the description of her two coming
friends, that an uninterested listener might readily have set them down
for the Duke and Prince Metternich, unless, indeed, that the praises she
lavished on them would have seemed even excessive for such greatness.
A triumphal arch was erected half-way up the avenue, over which, in
flowery initials, were to be seen the letters "B." and "P.," symbols to
represent "Bayard" and "Puffendorf;" under which guise Haggerstone and
the Consul were to be represented. Strings of colored lamps were to
be festooned along the approach, over which an Irish harp was to be
exhibited in a transparency, with the very original inscription of "Caed
Mille failtha," in Celtic letters beneath.

The banquet--the word "dinner" was strictly proscribed for that day--was
to be arrayed in the hall, where Dalton was to preside, if possible,
with an Irish crown upon his head, supported by Nelly as the genius of
Irish music; and Zoe herself in a composite character,--half empress,
half prophetess,--a something between Sappho and the Queen of Sheba;
Martha, for the convenience of her various household cares, was to be
costumed as a Tyrolese hostess; and Purvis, in a dress of flesh-colored
web, was to represent Mercury, sent on purpose from above to deliver a
message of welcome to the arriving guests. As for the General, there was
a great doubt whether he ought to be Belisarius or Suwarrow; for, being
nearly as blind as the one and as deaf as the other, his qualifications
were about evenly balanced.

If not insensible to some of the absurdities of this notable project,
Dalton forgot the ridicule in the pleasanter occupation of the bustle,
the movement, and the tumult it occasioned. It did his heart good to see
the lavish waste and profusion that went forward. The kitchen-table, as
it lay spread with fruit, fish, and game, might have made a study for
Schneiders; and honest Peter's face glowed with delight as he surveyed a
scene so suggestive of convivial thoughts and dissipation.

"No doubt of it, Nelly," said he; "but Mother Ricketts has grand
notions! She does the thing like a princess!" The praise was so far
well bestowed that there was something royal in dispensing hospitality
without regarding the cost; while, at the same time, she never
entertained the slightest sentiment of esteem for those in whose favor
it was to be exercised. Among the very few things she feared in this
world was Haggerstone's "tongue," which she herself averred was best
conciliated by giving "occupation to his teeth." The banquet was "got
up" with that object, while it also gave a favorable opportunity of
assuming that unbounded sway in Dalton's household which should set the
question of her supremacy at rest forever.

To this end was poor Martha engaged with puff-paste and jellies and
whip-cream, with wreaths of roses and pyramids of fruit, from dawn
till dusk. To this end was Purvis nearly driven out of his mind by
endeavoring to get off by heart an address in rhyme, the very first
line of which almost carried him off in a fit of coughing,--the word
"Puffendorf" being found nearly as unmanageable to voice as it was
unsuited to verse. While poor Belisarius, stripped of rule and compass,
denied access to water-colors, Indian-ink, or charcoal, spent a most
woful day of weary expectancy.

It was, indeed, an awful scene of trouble, fatigue, and exertion
on every side, adding one more to those million instances where the
preparation for the guest has no possible relation to the degree of
esteem he is held in. For so is it in the world: our best receptions
are decreed to those we care least for; our "friend" is condemned to
the family dinner, while we lavish our fortune on mere acquaintances. In
these days the fatted calf would not have been killed to commemorate the
return of the prodigal, but have been melted down into mock-turtle, to
feast "my Lord" or "Your Grace."

The day wore on, and as the arrangements drew nearer to completion, the
anxieties were turned towards the guests themselves, who were to have
arrived at five o'clock. It was now six, and yet no sign of their
coming! Fully a dozen times had Mrs. Ricketts called Martha from some
household cares by the adjuration, "Sister Anne, sister Anne, seest thou
nobody coming?" Mercury had twice ventured out on the high-road, from
which he was driven back by a posse of hooting and laughing children;
and Dalton himself paced up and down the terrace in a state of nervous
impatience, not a little stimulated by hunger and certain flying visits
he paid to the iced punch, to see if it was keeping cool.

There is, assuredly, little mesmeric relation between the expecting host
and the lingering guest, or we should not witness all that we do of our
friends' unpunctuality in this life. What a want of sympathy between the
feverish impatience of the one and the careless dalliance of the other!
Not that we intend this censure to apply to the case before us, for
Haggerstone had not the very remotest conception of the honors that
awaited him, and jogged along his dusty road with no greater desire
to be at the end of the journey than was fairly justifiable in one who
travelled with German post-horses and Foglass for a companion.

Six o'clock came, and, after another hour of fretful anxiety, it
struck seven. By this time beef had become carbon, and fowls were like
specimens of lava; the fish was reduced to the state of a "purée,"
while everything meant to assume the flinty resistance of ice was calmly
settling down into a fluid existence. Many an architectural device of
poor Martha's genius was doomed to the fate of her other "castles," and
towers and minarets of skilful shape dropped off one by one, like the
hopes of her childhood. All the telegraphic announcements from the
kitchen were of disasters, but Mrs. Ricketts received the tidings with
a Napoleonic calmness; and it was only when warned by the gathering
darkness over Dalton* s brow that she thought it wiser to "give in."

Dalton's ill-humor had, however, a different source from that which she
suspected. It proceeded from the quiet but steady importunity with which
little Hans paced up and down before the door, now appearing before
one window, now before another, totally insensible to the cold
discouragement of Dalton's looks, and evidently bent on paying no
attention to all the signs and signals intended for his guidance.

"Doesn't he see we've company in the house? Has n't the little creature
the sense to know that this is no time to be bothering and teasing about
money? Has he no decency? Has he no respect for his superiors?" Such
were the deep mutterings with which Dalton tried to "blow off the steam"
of his indignation, while with many a gesture and motion he intimated
his anger and impatience. "Faix! he 's like a bailiff out there," cried
he at last, as he issued forth to meet him. Whatever might have been
the first angry impulses of his heart, his second thoughts were far more
gentle and well disposed as he drew near to Hansèrl, who stood cap in
hand, in an attitude of deep and respectful attention.

"They have accepted the bail, Herr von Dalton, and this bond needs but
your signature," said Hans, mildly, as he held forth a paper towards
him.

"Who's the bail? Give me the bond," said Dalton, rapidly; and not
waiting for the answer to his question, "Where's the name to be,
Hanserl?"

"Here, in the space," said the dwarf, dryly.

"That 's soon done, if there's no more wanting," rejoined Peter, with a
laugh. "'T is seldom that writing the same two words cost me so little.
Won't you step in a minute, into the house? I 'd ask you to stop and eat
your dinner, but I know you don't like strangers, and we have company
to-day. Well, well, no offence; another time, maybe, when we 're alone.
He 's as proud as the devil, that little chap," muttered he, as he
turned back within the house; "I never saw one of his kind that was n't
'T is only creatures with humpbacks and bent shins that never believes
they can be wrong in this world; they have a conceit in themselves
that's wonderful! Not that there isn't good in him, too; he's a friendly
soul as ever I seen! There it is, now. Peter Dalton's hand and deed;"
and he surveyed the superscription with considerable satisfaction.
"There it is, Hans, and much good may it do you!" said he, as he
delivered the document with an air of a prince conferring a favor on a
subject.

"You will bear in mind that Abel Kraus is a hard creditor!" said Hans,
who could not help feeling shocked at the easy indifference Dalton
exhibited.

"Well, but haven't we settled with him?" cried Peter, half impatiently.

"So far as surety for his claim goes--"

"Yes, that's what I mean,----he's sure of his money; that's all he
wants. I 'd be the well-off man to-day if _I_ was sure of getting back
all ever I lent! But nobody does, and, what's more, nobody expects it."

"This bond expires in twelve days," added Hans, more than commonly
anxious to suggest some prudential thoughts.

"Twelve days!" exclaimed Peter, who, instead of feeling alarmed at the
shortness of the period, regarded it as so many centuries. "Many's
the change one sees in the world in twelve days. Would n't you take
something,--a glass of Marcobrunner, or a little plain Nantz?"

Hans made no reply, for, with bent-down head and hands crossed on his
bosom, he was deep in thought.

"I 'm saying, that maybe you'd drink a glass of wine, Hans?" repeated
Dalton; but still no answer came. "What dreamy creatures them Germans
are!" muttered Peter.

"And then," exclaimed Hanserl, as if speaking to himself, "it is but
beginning life anew. Good-bye--farewell." And so saying, he touched his
cap courteously, and moved hastily away, while Dalton continued to
look after him with compassionate sorrow, for one so little capable of
directing his path in life. As he re-entered the house, he found Mrs.
Ricketts, abandoning all hopes of her distinguished guests, had just
ordered the dinner; and honest Peter consoled himself for their absence
by observing that they should be twice as jolly by themselves! Had it
depended on himself alone, the sentiment might have had some foundation,
for there was something of almost wild gayety in his manner. All the
vicissitudes of the morning, the painful alternations of hope and
fear,--hope so faint as to be a torture, and fear so dark as to be
almost despair,--had worked him up to a state of extreme excitement.

To add to this, he drank deeply, quaffing off whole goblets of wine, and
seeming to exult in the mad whirlwind of his own reckless jollity. If
the jests he uttered on Scroope's costume, or the other allegorical
fancies of Zoe's brain, were not of the most refined taste, they were at
least heartily applauded by the indulgent public around his board. Mrs.
Ricketts was in perfect ecstasies at the flashes of his "Irish wit;"
and even Martha, fain to take on credit what was so worthily endorsed,
laughed her own meek laugh of approval. As for Purvis, champagne
completed what nature had but begun, and he became perfectly
unintelligible ere dinner was over.

All this while poor Nelly's sufferings were extreme; she saw the
unblushing, shameless adulation of the parasites, and she saw, too, the
more than commonly excited glare in her father's eyes,----the wildness
of fever rather than the passing excitation of wine. In vain, her
imploring, beseeching glances were turned towards him; in vain she
sought, by all her little devices, to withdraw him from the scene of
riotous debauch, or recall him from the excesses of a revel which was an
orgie. In his wild and boastful vein he raved about "home," as he still
called it, and of his family possessions,----at times vaunting of his
wealth and greatness, and then, as suddenly breaking into mad invectives
against the Jews and money-lenders, to whom his necessities had reduced
him.

"A good run of luck over there!" cried he, frantically, and pointing
to the blaze of lamps which now sparkled through the trees before the
Cursaal. "One good night yonder, and Peter Dalton would defy the world.
If you 're a lucky hand, Miss Martha, come over and bet for me. I 'll
make the bank jump for it before I go to bed! I know the secret of it
now. It's changing from color to color ruins everybody. You must be
steady to one,--black or red, whichever it is; stick fast to it. You
lose two, three, maybe six or seven times running; never mind, go on
still. 'T is the same with play as with women, as the old song
says,----

     If they're coy, and won't hear when you say you adore,
     Just squeeze them the tighter and press them the more."

"Isn't that it, Mrs. Ricketts? Ah, baithershin! you never knew that
song. Miss Martha's blushing; and just for that I 'll back 'red' all the
evening; and there's the music beginning already. Here's success to us
all! and, faix! it's a pleasant way to deserve it."

Nelly drew near him as they were leaving the room, and, passing her arm
fondly about him, whispered a few words in his ear.

"And why not this evening?" said he, aloud, and in a rude voice. "Is
it Friday, that it ought to bring bad luck? Why should n't I go this
evening? I can't hear you; speak louder. Ha! ha! ha! Listen to that,
Miss Martha. There's the sensible Nelly for you! She says she had a
dhrame about me last night."

"No, dearest papa; but that it was like a dream to me. All the narrative
seemed so natural,--all the events followed so regularly, and yet I was
awake just as I am now."

[Illustration: 294]

"More shame for you, then. We can't help ourselves what nonsense we
think in our sleep."

"But you'll not go, dearest papa. You'll indulge me for this once, and I
'll promise never to tease you by such follies again."

"Faix! I'll go, sure enough; and, what's more, I'll win five thousand
pounds this night, as sure as my name's Peter. I saw a black cat shaving
himself before a new tin saucepan; and if that isn't luck, I'd like to
know what is. A black cat won the Curragh Stakes for Tom Molly; and it
was an egg saucepan made Dr. Groves gain the twenty thousand pounds in
the lottery. And so, now, may I never leave this room if I'd take two
thousand pounds down for my chances to-night!"

And in all the force of this confidence in fortune, Dalton sallied forth
to the Cursaal. The rooms were more than usually crowded, and it was
with difficulty that, with Mrs. Ricketts on one arm and Martha on the
other, he could force his way to the tables. Once there, however, a
courteous reception awaited him, and the urbane croupier moved his own
august chair to make room for the honored guest. Although the company
was very numerous, the play was as yet but trifling; a stray gold piece
here or there glittered on the board, and in the careless languor of the
bankers, and the unexcited looks of the bystanders, might be read the
fact that none of the well-known frequenters of the place were betting.
Dalton's appearance immediately created a sensation of curiosity.
Several of those present had witnessed his losses on the preceding
night, and were eager to see what course he would now pursue. It was
remarked that he was not accompanied, as heretofore, by that formidable
money-bag which, with ostentatious noise, he used to fling down on
the table before him. Nor did he now produce that worn old leather
pocket-book, whose bursting clasp could scarce contain the roll of
bank-notes within it. He sat with his hands crossed before him, staring
at the table, but to all seeming not noticing the game. At length,
suddenly rousing himself, he leant over and said a few words, in a
whisper, to the croupier, who, in an equally low tone, communicated with
his colleague across the table. A nod and a smile gave the quiet reply;
and Dalton, taking a piece of paper, scrawled a few figures on it with
a pencil, and with a motion so rapid as to be unseen by many of the
bystanders, the banker pushed several "rouleaux" of gold before Dalton,
and went on with the game.

Dalton broke one of the envelopes, and as the glittering pieces fell
out, he moved his fingers through them, as though their very touch was
pleasure. At last, with a kind of nervous impatience, he gathered up a
handful, and without counting, threw them on the table.

"How much?" said the croupier.

"The whole of it!" cried Dalton; and scarcely had he spoken, when he
won.

A murmur of astonishment ran through the room as he suffered the double
stake to remain on the board; which speedily grew into a loader ham
of voices, as the banker proceeded to count out the gains of a second
victory. Affecting an insight into the game and its chances which he did
not possess, Dalton now hesitated and pondered over his bets, increasing
his stake at one moment, diminishing it at another, and assuming all
the practised airs of old and tried gamblers. As though in obedience to
every caprice, the fortune of the game followed him unerringly. If he
lost, it was some mere trifle; when he won, the stake was sure to be
a large one. At length even this affected prudence--this mock
skill--became too slow for him, and he launched out into all his
accustomed recklessness. Not waiting to take in his winnings, he threw
fresh handfuls of gold amongst them, till the bank, trembling for its
safety, more than once had to reduce the stakes he wished to venture.

"They'd give him five hundred Naps, this moment if he 'd cease to play,"
said some one behind Dalton's chair. "There 's nothing the bank dreads
so much as a man with courage to back his luck."

"I 'd wish them a good-night," said another, "if I 'd have made so good
a-thing of it as that old fellow; he has won some thousand Napoleons, I
'm certain."

"_He_ knows better than that," said the former. "This is a 'run' with
him, and he feels it is. He 'll 'break' them before the night's over."

Dalton heard every word of this colloquy, and drank in the surmise as
greedily as did Macbeth the Witches' prophecy.

"He deserves to win, too," resumed the last speaker, "for I never saw a
man play more boldly."

"So much for boldness," cried the other; "he has just risked a fifth
time on the red and lost. See if it be not two hundred 'Naps.'"

The defeat did not dishearten him, for again Dalton covered the board
with gold. As if that moment had been the turning-point of his destiny,
his losses now began, and with all the rapidity of his previous gains.
At first he bore the reverse calmly and patiently; after a while a
slight gesture of impatience, a half-muttered exclamation would escape
him; but when loss followed loss unceasingly, and one immense stake
disappeared after another, Dalton's fingers trembled, and his cheeks
shook like one in ague. His straining bloodshot eyes were fixed on the
play with the intensity of passion, and a convulsive shudder would shake
his massive frame at each new tidings of loss. "Am I never to have luck
again? Is it only to lead me on that I won? Can this go on forever?"
were the low-muttered words which now he syllabled with difficulty, for
already his utterance was thick, and his swollen tongue and flattened
cheeks seemed threatened with paralysis.

His last stake was swept away before him, and Dalton, unable to speak,
stretched forth his arms across the table to arrest the banker's hand.
"A hundred 'Naps,' on the red," cried he, wildly; "no--two hundred--neck
or nothing, I 'll go five--d' ye hear me?--five hundred on the red!"

A short conversation in whispers ensued between the croupiers, after
which one of them spoke a few words to Dalton in a low voice.

"You never said so when I was losing," cried Peter, savagely. "I heard
nothing about the rules of the tables _then_."

"The stake is above our limit, sir; above the limit laid down by law,"
said the chief banker, mildly.

"I don't care for your laws. I lost my money, and I 'll have my
revenge."

"You can make half de stakes in my name, saar," said a long-moustached
and not over-clean-looking personage beside Dalton's chair.

"That will do----thank you," cried Dalton. "Bet two hundred and fifty
for me and I'll stake the rest."

A moment more, and the low voice of the croupier proclaimed that red had
lost!

"What does he say--why won't he speak plainly?" cried Dalton, in a voice
of passionate energy.

"You lose de stake," muttered the man behind him.

"Of course I do; what other luck could I have? Lose--lose--lose!"
said he to himself, in a low, moaning voice. "There they go--the
fools!----betting away as fresh as ever. Why won't they take warning by
_me?_ beggared, rained as it has left me. May I never! if the red isn't
winning every time now!" And, as he spoke, his eyes followed a great
heap of gold which some fortunate gambler just drew in before him. "How
much did he win, then?" cried Dalton; but none replied to a question so
contrary to every etiquette of the table.

"He never counts it," muttered Peter, as he continued to gaze on the
lucky player with a kind of envious admiration. "They say it's best not
to count one's winnings. I don't know what's best; I believe 't is only
the devil knows--for it was _he_ invented the game.--Red, again, the
winner!"

"Why you no back de red?" whispered the man behind his chair.

Dalton started, and was about to give an angry reply, but corrected
himself, and merely stared stupidly at him.

"You win eleven hundred Napoleons if you do go on," said the other,
showing in proof of his assertion the card on which he had marked all
the chances.

"And where 's the money?" cried Dalton, as, with a hissing utterance, he
spoke, and he pointed to the table before him. "Have I Coutts's bank at
my back, or is all Lombard Street in my pocket? 'T is easy to say, go
on! Red again, by Jingo!"

"I tell you dat!" said the other, gravely.

Dalton turned round in his chair, and stared steadfastly at the speaker.
His mind was in that state of wild confusion when every conception,
however vague and fanciful, assumes a certain degree of reality, and
superstitions take on them all the force of warnings. What if his
prompter were the devil himself! was it not exactly what he had often
heard of? He never saw him there before, and certainly appearances were
not much against the hypothesis. He was tall and spare, with a high,
narrow forehead, and a pair of most treacherous-looking black eyes,
that seemed to let nothing escape their vigilance. Unabashed by or
indifferent to Dalton's scrutiny, he went on with his chronicle of
the game, noting down the chances, and only muttering a few words to
himself.

"Nine times red," said he, as he counted the scores.

"Will it go ten?" asked Dalton, with a purposelike energy that showed
his faith in the oracle; but the other never heeded the question.

"Back de red, I say; back de red dis time," whispered he in Dalton's
ear.

"Don't you see that I have no money?" said Dalton, angrily.

"Dey will lend on your name; ask for a hundred Naps. Be quick, be
quick."

Dalton stooped across the table, and whispered the croupier, who
returned a look of doubt and uncertainty. Peter grew more pressing, and
the other bent over, and spoke to his colleague. This time the request
was not met with a smile and a bland bow, and Dalton watched with angry
impatience all the signs of hesitation and deliberation between them.

"Say your banker is closed,--that you must have de moneys," whispered
the dark man.

"Must I wait till the bank is open to-morrow morning," said Dalton, "or
do you mean to give me this trifle?"

"Our rules are strictly opposed to the practice of lending, Count,"
whispered the croupier at his side; "we have already transgressed them
in your favor, and--"

"Oh, don't inconvenience the Count," interposed his colleague. "How much
is it?"

"Say two hundred,--two!" muttered the unknown.

"Two hundred Naps.," cried Dalton, resolutely.

"This will make five hundred and forty to-night, Count."

"And if it was five thousand," said Peter, running his fingers through
the gold with ecstasy, "what matter? There goes fifty on the red."

"Ah, you play too rash," whispered the dark man.

"What business is it of yours? am I your ward?" cried Dalton,
passionately, for the stake was lost in the instant. "Bed, again fifty.
May I never! if I don't believe 'tis _you_ brings me the bad luck," said
Dalton, darting a savage glance at the other, whose impassive face never
betrayed the slightest emotion.

"I no wish to disturb your game, saar," was the meek reply of the dark
man; and with a bow of meek humility he backed through the crowd and
disappeared.

In a moment Dalton felt shocked at his own rudeness, and would have
given worlds to have recalled his words, or even apologized for them;
but other thoughts soon supplanted these, and again his whole heart was
in the game.

"You did n't bet last time," remarked some one near him, "and your
favorite color won."

"No, I was looking about me. I was thinking of something else," replied
he; and he sat fingering the gold pieces as though unwilling to part
with them.

The game went on; luck came and went; the gold glittered and clinked;
the same endless "refrain"----"Faîtes votre jeu, Messieurs," followed
by the same sing-song phrases, continued to roll on, and Dalton sat, now
counting his money, and piling up the pieces into tens or twenties; or,
with his head resting on his hand, deep in serious thought. Twice he
placed a heavy stake upon the table, and recalled it at the very moment
of the game's beginning. Every gesture and action showed the terrible
struggle between hope and fear that went on within him. A red spot
glowed on one cheek, while the other was pale as death, and his lips
from time to time were moved with a short spasmodic jerk, as if some
sudden pain shot through him. At last, with a great effort, he pushed
all the gold into the centre of the table, and cried out, but in a voice
so strange and inarticulate that the words could not be distinguished.

"You said 'rouge,' Count, I think?" asked the croupier.

"I fancy the gentleman said 'noir,'" remarked a bystander.

"Let him declare for himself," observed another.

"But the game has already begun," said the banker.

"So much the worse for the bank," remarked another, laughing, "for it's
easy to see what will win."

"Pray declare your color, sir," said an impatient gambler at Dalton's
side; "the whole table is waiting for you."

Dalton started, and, darting an angry look at the speaker, made an
effort to rise from the table. He failed at first, but grasping the
shoulder of the croupier, he arose to his full height, and stared
around him. All was hushed and still, not a sound was heard, as in that
assembly, torn with so many passions, every eye was turned towards the
gigantic old man, who, with red eyeballs and outstretched hands, seemed
to hurl defiance at them. Backwards and forwards he swayed for a second
or two, and then, with a low, faint cry,--the last wail of a broken
heart,--he fell with a crash upon the table. There he lay, his white
hairs streaming over the gold and silver pieces, and his bony fingers
flattened upon the cards. "A fit!----he's in a fit!" cried some, as they
endeavored to raise him.--"Worse still!" remarked another, and he passed
his hand from the pulse to the heart, "he is dead!"

The hero of a hundred fights, he who has seen death in every shape and
on every field, must yield the palm of indifference to its terrors to
the gambler. All the glorious insanity of a battle, all the reckless
enthusiasm of a storm, even the headlong impetuosity of a charge, cannot
supply the cold apathy of the gambler's heart; and so was it that they
saw in that lifeless form nothing beyond a disagreeable interruption to
their game, and muttered their impatience at the delay in its removal.

"Well," said Mrs. Ricketts, as she sat in an adjoining apartment, "have
you any tidings of our dear 'Amphytrion?'----is he winning to-night?"
The question was addressed to the tall, dark man, who so lately had
been standing behind Dalton's chair, and was our old acquaintance, Count
Petrolaffsky.

"He no win no more, Madame," replied he, solemnly.

"Has he gone away, then?--has he gone home without us?"

"He has gone home, indeed----into the other world," said he, shaking his
head.

"What do you mean, Count? For Heaven's sake, speak intelligibly."

"I mean as I do say, Madame. He play a game as would ruin Rothschild;
always change, and always at de wrong time, and never know when to make
his 'paroli.' Ah, dat is de gran' secret of all play; when you know when
to make your 'paroli' you win de whole world! Well, he is gone now; poor
man, he cannot play no more!"

"Martha--Scroope, do go--learn something--see what has happened."

"Oh, here's the Colonel. Colonel Haggerstone, what is this dreadful news
I hear?"

"Your accomplished friend has taken French leave of you, Madame, and
was in such a hurry to go that he wouldn't wait for another turn of the
cards."

"He ain't d-d-dead?" screamed Purvis.

"I'm very much afraid they insist on burying him tomorrow or next day,
under that impression, sir," said Haggerstone.

"What a terrible event!--how dreadful!" said Martha, feelingly; "and his
poor daughter, who loved him so ardently!"

"That must be thought of," interrupted Mrs. Ricketts, at once roused to
activity by thoughts of self-interest. "Scroope, order the carriage at
once. I must break it to her myself. Have you any particulars for me,
Colonel?"

"None, Madame! If coroners were the fashion here, thay 'd bring in a
verdict of died from backing the wrong color, with a deodand against the
rake!'"

"Yes, it is ver' true, he always play bad," muttered the Pole.

And now the room began to fill with people discussing the late incident
in every possible mood and with every imaginable shade of sentiment. A
few--a very few--dropped some expressions of pity and compassion.
Many preferred to make a display of their own courage by a bantering,
scornful tone, and some only saw in the event how unsuited certain
natures were to contend with the changeful fortunes of high play. These
were, for the most part, Dalton's acquaintances, and who had often told
him--at least, so they now took credit for--that "he had no head
for play." Interspersed with these were little discussions as to the
immediate cause of death, as full of ignorance and as ingenious as
such explanations usually are, all being contemptuously wound up by
Haggerstone's remark, "That death was like matrimony,--very difficult
when wanted, but impossible to escape when you sought to avoid it!" As
this remark had the benefit of causing a blush to poor Martha, he gave
his arm to the ladies, with a sense of gratification that came as near
happiness as anything he could imagine.

"Is Miss Dalton in the drawing-room?" said Mrs. Rick-etts, as with an
air of deep importance she swept through the hall of the villa.

"She's in her room, Madame," said the maid.

"Ask if she will receive me,--if I may speak to her."

The maid went out, and returned with the answer that Miss Dalton was
sleeping.

"Oh, let her sleep!" cried Martha. "Who knows when she will taste such
rest again?"

Mrs. Ricketts bestowed a glance of withering scorn on her sister, and
pushed roughly past her, towards Nelly's chamber. A few minutes after a
wild, shrill shriek was heard through the house, and then all was still.



CHAPTER XXI. NELLY'S SORROWS

Stunned, but not overcome, by the terrible shock, Nelly Dalton sat
beside the bed where the dead man lay in all that stern mockery of calm
so dreadful to look upon. Some candles burned on either side, and threw
a yellowish glare over the bold strong features on which her tears had
fallen, as, with a cold hand clasped in his, she sat and watched him.

With all its frequency, Death never loses its terrors for us! Let a man
be callous as a hard world and a gloomy road in it can make him; let him
drug his mind with every anodyne of infidelity; let him be bereft of all
affection, and walk alone on his life road; there is yet that which can
thrill his heart in the aspect of the lips that are never to move more,
and the eyes that are fixed forever. But what agony of suffering is it
when the lost one has been the link that tied us to life,--the daily
object of our care, the motive of every thought and every action! Such
had been her father to poor Nelly. His wayward, capricious humors, all
his infirmities of temper and body, had called forth those exertions
which made the business of her life, and gave a purpose and direction to
her existence; now repaid by some passing expression of thankfulness or
affection, or, better still, by some transient gleam of hope that he was
stronger in health or better in spirits than his wont; now rallied by
that sense of duty which can ennoble the humblest as it can the greatest
of human efforts, she watched over him as might a mother over an ailing
child. Catching at his allusions to "home," as he still called it, she
used to feed her hopes with thinking that at some distant day they were
to return to their own land again, and pass their last years in tranquil
retirement together; and now hope and duty were alike extinguished.
"The fount that fed the river of her thoughts" was dry, and she was
alone--utterly alone--in the world!

Old Andy, recalled by some curious instinct to a momentary activity,
shuffled about the room, snuffing the candles, or muttering a faint
prayer at the bedside; but she did not notice him any more than the
figure who, in an attitude of deep devotion, knelt at the foot of the
bed. This was Hanserl, who, book in hand, recited the offices with all
the fervent rapidity of a true Catholic. Twice he started and looked up
from his task, disturbed by some noise without; but when it occurred a
third time, he laid his book gently down and stole noiselessly from the
room. Passing rapidly through the little chamber which used to be called
Nelly's drawing-room, he entered the larger dining-room, in which now
three or four ill-dressed men were standing, in the midst of whom was
Abel Kraus in active colloquy with Mr. Purvis. Hanserl made a gesture to
enforce silence, and pointed to the room from whence he had just come.

"Ah!" cried Scroope, eagerly, "You 're a kind of co-co-connection, or
friend, at least, of these people, ain't you? Well, then, speak to this
wo-worthy man, and tell him that he mustn't detain our things here; we
were merely on a visit."

"I will suffer nothing to leave the house till I am paid to the last
kreutzer," said Kraus, sternly; "the law is with me, and I know it."

"Be patient; but, above all, respect the dead," said Hans, solemnly. "It
is not here nor at this time these things should be discussed."

"But we wa-want to go; we have ta-ta-taken our apartments at the
'Russie.' The sight of a funeral and a--a--a hearse, and all that, would
kill my sister."

"Let her pay these moneys, then, and go in peace," said Kraus, holding
forth a handful of papers.

"Not a gr-groschen, not a kreutzer will we pay. It's an infamy, it's a
sh-sh-shameful attempt at robbery. It's as bad as st-stopping a man on
the highway."

"Go on, sir,--go on. You never made a speech which cost you dearer,"
said Kraus, as he took down the words in his pocket-book.

"I--I--I did n't mean that; I did n't say you were a housebreaker."

"Speak lower," said Hans, sternly. "And you, sir; what is this demand?"

"Two thousand francs,----rent of this house; which, with damage to the
furniture and other charges, will make two thousand eight hundred."

"I will pay it," said Hans, stopping him.

"Your credit would be somewhat better, Master Hans, had you not given a
certain bail bond that you know of," said Kraus, sneeringly.

"I have wherewith to meet my debts," said Hans, calmly.

"I will claim my bond within a week; I give you notice of it," said
Kraus.

"You shall be paid to-morrow. Let us be in peace to-night; bethink you
what that room contains."

"He ain't black, is he? I--I would n't look at him for a thousand
pounds," said Purvis, with a shudder.

"If she remain here after noon, to-morrow," said Kraus, in a low voice,
"a new month will have begun."

"To-morrow afternoon; Lord! how close he r-ran it," exclaimed Purvis.

"Once more, I say, be patient," said Hans. "Let these good people go,
you shall lose nothing; I pledge the word of a man who never told
a falsehood. I will pay all. Have some pity, however, for this
orphan,--one who has now neither a home nor a country."

"Yes, yes, he 'll have p-pity; he 's an excellent man is Mr. Kraus.
I shouldn't wonder if we'd come to terms about this vi-villa for
ourselves."

Hans turned a look of anger towards him, and then said: "Go, sir, and
take those that belong to you away also. This place no longer can suit
you nor them. He who lies yonder can be flattered and fawned on no more;
and, as for her, she is above your compassion, if it even lay in your
heart to offer it."

"He ain't quite right here," whispered Purvis to Kraus, as he tapped
his forehead significantly. "They told me that in the town." Kraus moved
away without reply, and Purvis followed him. "He's rich, too, they say,"
added he, in a whisper.

"They'll scarcely say as much this day week," said Kraus, sneeringly;
while, beckoning his people to follow him, he left the house.

No sooner did Mrs. Ricketts learn that her worldly possessions were
safe, and that the harpy clutches of the law could make no seizure among
those curious turbans and wonderful tunics which composed her wardrobe,
than she immediately addressed herself to the active duties of the hour
with a mind at ease, and, while packing her trunks, inadvertently stowed
away such little stray articles as might not be immediately missed, and
might serve hereafter to recall thoughts of "poor dear Miss Dalton," for
so she now preferred to name her.

"Those little box figures, Martha, don't forget them. They of course
don't belong to the house; and Scroope suspects that the bracket for the
hall lamp must have been her carving also."

"I 've p-put away two pencil drawings marked 'N. D.,' and a little
sketch in oil of the Alten Schloss; and I 've my pockets stuffed with
the tulip roots."

"Well thought of, Scroope; and there's a beautiful paper-knife,--poor
thing, she's not likely to want it now. What a sad bereavement! And are
his affairs really so bad?"

"Ov-over head and ears in debt There ain't enough to bury him if the
dwarf does not shell out,--but he will. They say he's in love with
Nelly,--he, he, he!"

"Shocking, quite shocking. Yes, Martha, that telescope is a very good
one. What improvidence, what culpable improvidence!"

"And is she quite friendless?" asked Martha, feelingly.

"Not while she has _our_ protection," said Mrs. Rickett», grandly. "I
've determined 'to take her up.'"

Martha reddened slightly at the phrase, for she knew of some others who
had been so "taken up," and with what small profit to their prosperity.

"Her talents, when aided by _our_ patronage, will always support her,"
said Mrs. Ricketts; "and I mean, when the shock of this calamity
is past, to employ her on a little group for a centrepiece for our
dinner-table. She will, of course, be charmed to have her genius
displayed to such advantage. It will afford us a suitable opportunity of
introducing her name."

"And we shall have the piece of carving for nothing," said Martha, who
innocently believed that she was supplying another argument of equal
delicacy and force.

"You 're an idiot!" said Mrs. Ricketts, angrily; "and I begin to fear
you will never be anything else."

"I 'm quite sure I shall not," muttered the other, with a faint
submissiveness, and continued the task of packing the trunks.

"Take care that you find out her sister's address, Martha. I 'm sadly
in want of some furs; that tippet, I suppose, is only fit for _you_ now,
and my sable muff is like a dog in the mange. The opportunity is a most
favorable one; for when the Princess, as they persist in calling her,
knows that her sister is our dependant, we may make our own terms. It
would be the very ruin of her in St Petersburg to publish such a fact."

"But Miss Dalton will surely write to her herself."

"She can be persuaded, I trust, to the contrary," said Mrs. Ricketts,
knowingly. "She can be shown that such an appeal would, in all
likelihood, wreck her sister's fortunes, that the confession of such a
relationship would utterly destroy her position in that proud capital;
and if she prove obstinate, the letter need not go; you understand that,
at least," added she, with a contemptuous glance that made poor Martha
tremble.

Mrs. Ricketts was now silent, and sat revelling in the various thoughts
that her active mind suggested. Upon the whole, although Dalton's dying
was an inconvenience, there were some compensating circumstances. She
had gained a most useful _protégée_ in Nelly,----one whose talents
might be made of excellent use, and whose humble, unpretending nature
would exact no requital. Again, the season at Baden was nearly over; a
week or two more, at most, was all that remained. The "Villino," which
she had left for the summer to some confiding family, who believed
that Florence was a paradise in July and August, would again be at her
disposal; and, in fact, as she phrased it, "the conjunctures were all
felicitous," and her campaign had not been unfruitful. This latter
fact attested itself in the aspect of her travelling-carriage, with its
"spolia" on the roof, and its various acquired objects under the body.
Pictures, china, plate, coins, brocades, old lace, books, prints,
manuscripts, armor, stained glass, trinkets, and relics of all kinds,
showed that travel with her was no unprofitable occupation, and that
she had realized the grand desideratum of combining pleasure with solid
advantage.

Meanwhile, so ingenious is thorough selfishness, she fancied herself
a benefactor of the whole human race. All the cajoleries she used to
practise, she thought were the amiable overflowings of a kindly nature;
her coarse flatteries she deemed irresistible fascinations; her
duperies even seemed only the triumphs of a mind transcendently rich in
resources, and never for a moment suspected that the false coin she was
uttering could be called in question, though the metal was too base for
imposition. There is no supply without demand, and if the world did not
like such characters there would be none of them. The Rickettses
are, however, a large and an increasing class of society, and, to our
national shame be it said, they are distinctively English in origin. And
now we leave her, little regretting if it be forever; and if we turn
to a darker page in our story, it is, at least, to one wherein our
sympathies are more fairly enlisted.

That long night passed over like a dreary dream, and morning was now
mingling its beams with the glare of the tapers, as Nelly sat beside the
death-bed.

"Come with me, Fräulein! come away from this," said Hanserl, as with a
tearful eye and quivering lip he stood before her.

Nelly shook her head slowly, and for answer turned her gaze on the dead
man.

"You shall come back again; I promise you, you shall come back again,"
said he, softly.

She arose without a word and followed him. They passed through an outer
room, and entered the garden, where Hans, taking her hand, led her to a
seat.

"You will be better here, Fräulein," said he, respectfully; "the air is
fresh and balmy."

"He sat beside me on this bench three nights ago," said she, as if
talking to herself, "and said how he wished I could be with Kate, but
that he could not part with me; and see,--we are parted, and for a
longer separation! Oh, Hanserl! what we would give to recall some of the
past, when death has closed it forever against us!"

"Remember Wieland, Fräulein; he tells us that 'the Impossible is a tree
without fruit or flowers.'"

"And yet my mind will dwell on nothing else. The little thwartings of
his will, the cold compliance which should have been yielded in a better
spirit, the counsels that often only irritated,--how they rise up now,
like stern accusers, before me, and tell me that I failed in my duty."

"Not so, Fräulein, not so," said Hans, reverently.

"But there is worse than that, Hanserl, far worse," said she, trembling.
"To smooth the rough path of life, I descended to deception. I told him
the best when my heart felt the worst. Had he known of Kate's real life,
and had he sorrowed over _her_ fortunes, might not such grief have been
hallowed to him! To have wept over Frank--the poor boy in prison--might
have raised his thoughts to other themes than the dissipation that
surrounded him. All this was _my_ fault I would have his love, and see
the price it has cost me!" She hid her face between her hands, and never
spoke for a long time. And at length she lifted up her eyes, red as they
were with weeping, and with a heavy sigh said, "How far is it to Vienna,
Hanserl?"

"To Vienna, Fräulein! It is a long journey,----more than four hundred
miles. But why do you ask?"

"I was thinking that if I saw Count Stephen--if I could but tell him our
sad story myself--he might intercede for poor Frank, and perhaps obtain
his freedom. His crime can scarcely be beyond the reach of mercy, and
his youth will plead for him. And is it so far away, Hanserl?"

"At the very least; and a costly journey, too."

"But I would go on foot, Hans. Lame as I am, I can walk for miles
without fatigue, and I feel as if the exertion would be a solace to me,
and that my mind, bent upon a good object, could the more easily turn
away from my own desolation. Oh, Hans, think me not selfish that I speak
thus; but thoughts of my own loneliness are so linked with all I have
lost, I cannot separate them. Even the humble duty that I filled gave a
value to my life, without which my worthlessness would have crushed
me; for what could poor lame Nelly be,--I, that had no buoyancy for the
young, no ripe judgment for the old? And yet, in caring for him that is
gone, I found a taste of love and happiness."

"I will go with you, Fräulein; you shall not take this weary road alone.
Heaven knows that, without you, this place would be too dreary for me."

"But your house, Hanserl,--all that you possess,--the fruits of all your
hard industry--"

"Speak not of them," said Hans, reddening. "They who deem me rich are
mistaken. I have speculated ill, I have made bad ventures, and what I
have will but pay my debts, and I will be glad to quit this spot."

"And I," said Nelly, with a voice of deep emotion,--"I cannot say that I
can help you. I know nothing of what may remain to me in this world; my
father never spoke to me latterly of his means, and I may be, for aught
I know, a beggar. Will you see his banker and speak with him?"

"I have done so," said Hans, slowly. "He claims some small sum as due to
him."

"And how am I to pay it?" said Nelly, growing pale. "It is true, I can
labor--"

"Have no care for this, Fräulein. It shall be looked to, and you shall
repay it hereafter."

"Oh, Hanserl, beware!" said she, solemnly; "we are an unfortunate
race to those who help us; my poor father often said so, and even his
superstitions are hallowed to me now."

A gesture from some one within the house called Hans away, and Nelly was
left alone. She sat with her eyes closed and her arms firmly clasped,
deep in her own sad thoughts, when she heard a footstep close by. It was
only Andy, who, with a piece of ragged crape fastened round his arm, was
slowly tottering towards her. His face was flushed, and his eyes wild
and excited, as he continued to mutter and reply to himself,----

"A Dalton; one of the ould stock, and maybe the last of them, too."

"And what is it, Andy?----tell me, what is it?" said she, kindly.

"There's no wake,--there is n't as much as a tenant's child would have!"

"We are almost friendless here, Andy. It is not our own country."

"Ain't they Christians, though? Could n't they keep the corpse company?
Is it four candles and a deal coffin ought to be at a Dalton's burial?"

"And we are poor also," said she, meekly.

"And has n't the poorest respect for the dead?" said he, sternly.
"Wouldn't they sell the cow, or the last pig, out of honor to him
that's gone to glory? I 'll not stay longer in the place; I 'll have my
discharge; I 'll go back to Ireland."

"Poor fellow," said Nelly, taking his hand kindly, and seating him
beside her. "You loved him so! and he loved you, Andy. He loved to
hear you sing your old songs, and tell over the names of his favorite
hounds."

"Bessy and Countess were the sweetest among them," said the old man,
wandering away to old memories of the past, "but Nora was truer than
either." And so he fell into a low mumbling to himself, endeavoring,
as it seemed, to recall the forgotten line of some hunting chant, while
Nelly returned to the house to take her last farewell ere the coffin lid
was closed.



CHAPTER XXII. A LAST ADIEU

The pleasure-seekers of Baden were not likely to be diverted from their
pursuits by such humble calamities as Nelly Dalton's, and the gay world
went on its gay road as merrily as though death or ruin could have no
concern for them. Already the happy groups were gathering before the
Cur-saal. The sounds of music filled the air. Wealth was displaying its
gorgeous attractions, beauty her fascinations, and wit its brilliancy;
and none had a thought for that sad episode which a few hours had half
obliterated from every mind. Under a spreading chestnut-tree, and around
a table sumptuously spread for breakfast, a large party was assembled,
discussing the news of the morning and the plans of pleasure for the
day. Some had but thoughts for the play-table, and could attune their
ears to no other sounds than the clink of the gold and the rake of the
croupier; others chatted of the world of politics and fashion; and a
few, with that love of the picturesque the taste for painting engenders,
were admiring the changeful effects of passing clouds on the landscape,
and pointing out spots of peculiar beauty and sublimity.

"How well the Alten Schloss looks, with that mass of shadow on it,"
remarked a young man to a fair and delicate-looking girl beside him;
"and see how the weeping ash waves over the old walls, like a banner."

"And look!" cried she, "mark that little procession that is slowly
winding up the pathway,--what effect a few figures give to the scene, as
they appear and disappear with each turning of the road. Some pilgrimage
to a holy shrine, I fancy."

"No; it is a funeral. I can mark what Shelley calls the step of the
bearers 'heavy and slow;' and if you listen, you'll catch the sound of
the death-bell."

"It's quite a picture, I declare," said she. "I wish I had brought my
sketch-book."

And so it is ever! The sorrows that are rending some hearts in twain are
but as objects of picturesque effect to others. And even the young and
the tender-minded learn to look on the calamities that touch them not,
as things of mere artistic meaning.

Up that steep road, over rock and rugged stone, brushing between the
tangled briers, or with difficulty being turned around some sharp angle,
was now borne the corpse of him who had so often wended the same path on
his homeward way. Four peasants carried the coffin, which was followed
by Nelly and old Andy; Hans, from a sense of respect, walking behind
them. It was a long and arduous ascent, and they were often obliged to
halt and take breath; and at such times Nelly would kneel down beside
the coffin and pray. The sufferings of the last two days had left deep
traces on her features, which had lost every tinge of color. Her eyes,
too, were deep-set and heavy; but in the elevated expression of her brow
at moments, and the compression of her lips, might be seen the energy of
one who had a firm purpose, and was resolved to carry it through.

"Sit down and rest yourself, Fräulein," said Hans, as he saw that she
faltered in her step. "We are yet far from the top."

"I will rest at the fountain," said she, faintly. "It was a favorite
spot of his." And they moved slowly on once more.

The fountain was a little well, carved in the native rock, around which
some rude seats were also fashioned, the whole sheltered by a thick
roof of foliage, which, even in noonday, cast a deep shadow around, and
effectually screened it from the path that wound along beside it.

Scarcely had the bearers deposited the coffin beside the well, when the
sound of voices was heard as a considerable number of persons descended
the path. Words in French, German, and English showed that the party
consisted of representatives of these nations; but one voice, if once
heard not readily forgotten, towered high above all the rest.

"I cannot offer my arm, madam," cried a sharp, ringing accent, "as the
infernal road will not admit of two abreast; but I can go before and
pilot you."

"Oh, thanks, sir," replied a mild, meek tone; "I can get on very well
indeed. I am only uneasy about my sister."

"I don't suspect that she incurs either much risk or fatigue, madam,"
rejoined the other, "seeing that she is seated in an armchair, and
carried by two of the stoutest fellows in Baden."

"But the exertion, in her weak state--"

"She might make the ascent of Mont Blanc, madam, with the same
appliances; and if you only told her that there were bargains to be had
at the top, I verily believe she would do so."

"You don't think the things were cheap here, Colonel?" said Miss Martha,
who thought by a diversion to draw Haggerstone away from so dangerous a
discussion.

"I am no connoisseur in Dutch dolls, nor Noah's arks, madam, although
modern society presents us with something very like both; but I
concluded that the prices were not exorbitant. I went there myself from
a sense of equity. I once put a bullet into the little rascal's skin,
and I have bought a salad-fork and a nut-crackers in requital."

"It was kindly thought of," sighed Martha, gently.

"They only cost me nine kreutzers, madam," rejoined Haggerstone, who was
more afraid of being thought a dupe than ill-natured, "so that my
sense of generosity did not make a fool of me, as it did with the dwarf
himself."

"How so?"

"Why, in going security for that old Irishman, Dalton. It is to pay this
debt that he has been sold out to-day, and I fancy that Swiss cottages
and barking poodles will realize a very small dividend."

"Oh, Hanserl!" said Nelly, "what do I hear?"

"Hush, Fräulein!" said he, with a gesture to enforce silence. "I will
tell you of these things hereafter."

And now the others passed, and were soon out of hearing.

"Oh, Hanserl!" cried Nelly, bitterly, "how misfortunes crowd upon me!
It was but a moment back I was feeding my mind with the sad consolation
that my griefs were all my own,--that the gloom of my dreary fortune
cast no shadow on another; and now I see that I was wrong. _You_ must
pay the dear penalty of having befriended us!--the fruits of all your
hard years of industry!"

"And you would rob me of their best reward,--the glorious sense of
a generous action?" broke in Hans. "They _were_ years of toil and
privation, and they might have been years of pleasure if avarice and
greed had grown upon me; but I could not become a miser."

"The home you had made your own, lost to you forever!" sighed Nelly.

"It was no longer a home when you left it."

"The well-won provision for old age, Hanserl."

"And has not this event made me young again, and able to brave the
world, were it twice as adverse as ever I found it? Oh, Fräulein, you
know not the heart-bounding ecstasy of him who, from the depths of an
humble station, can rise to do a service to those he looks up to! And
yet it is that thought which now warms my blood, and gives an energy to
my nature that, even in youth, I never felt."

Nelly was silent; and now neither spoke a word, but sat with bent-down
heads, deep sunk in their own reveries. At last she arose, and once more
the sad procession resumed its way. They toiled slowly along till they
reached the little level table-land, where the church stood,--a little
chapel, scarcely larger than a shrine, but long venerated as a holy
spot. Poor Dalton had often spent hours here, gazing on the wide expanse
of plain and mountain and forest that stretched away beneath; and it was
in one of his evening rambles that he had fixed upon the spot where they
should lay him, if he could not "rest his bones with his forefathers."

"Sixty-eight!" muttered the old priest, as he read the inscription on
the coffin-lid; "in the pride and vigor of manhood! Was he noble, that I
see these quarterings painted here?"

"Hush! that is his daughter," whispered Hanserl.

"If he were of noble blood, he should have lain in the chapel and on a
catafalque," muttered the priest.

"The family is noble, but poor," said Hans, in a low whisper.

"A low Mass, without the choir, would not ruin the poorest," said the
priest, who sprinkled the coffin with half impatience, and, mumbling a
few prayers, retired. And now the body was committed to the earth, and
the grave was filled. The last sod was patted down with the shovel; and
Nelly, unable to bear her grief any longer in silence, threw herself on
the spot, and wept bitterly. Hans withdrew, and motioned to the others
to follow him; and none remained but old Andy, who, on his knees and
with clasped hands, seemed to think that he was praying, although all
his attention was directed to a little group of children who stood near,
and whom he awed into reverence by many a threatening gesture.

And thus the long day stole over; and it was only as evening drew nigh
that Nelly could be induced to take her last farewell, and breathe her
last prayer over the grave of her father.



CHAPTER XXIII. THE TYROL JOURNEY.

If our task as story-teller had not other claims on us, we would gladly
linger with Nelly Dalton, as, in company with Hanserl and old Andy, she
wended her slow way through the deep valleys of the Schwartz wald. The
little party might have created astonishment in even more frequented
districts than the primitive tract in which they journeyed, and have
suggested many a puzzling doubt as to what rank or condition they
belonged to. For Andy's convenience Hans had purchased an ass and a
small cart, such as are sometimes used by the travelling beggars of
every land. Seated in this, and in his old hunting-cap and scarlet
coat, the old man fancied it was some pleasure excursion, or that he was
"trundling along" to "cover," as he used to do sixty years ago. Nelly
walked at his side, now roused from her deep musings to reply to some
meaningless question of the old man, or now feeding her sad memories
as she listened to the little snatches of song which occasionally broke
from him. Hanserl formed the rear-guard, making with his redoubted
battle-axe and a most formidable old Turkish pistol, not the least
singular figure in the procession. Their very baggage too had something
strange and incomprehensible to common eyes; for, amidst stray scraps of
old armor, the little remnants of Hanserl's collection, were to be seen
an unfinished figure by Nelly's hand, or the rude beginning of some new
group. Along with these were books and tools, and an infinity of queer
costumes, of the dwarfs own designing, for various seasons of the year.

Still, there was no impertinence in the curiosity that met them. If
Andy's strange equipage and stranger dress might have raised a smile,
Nelly's gentle look and modest air as rapidly checked it, and they who
would have laughed outright at Hanserl's mock-chieftainship were subdued
to a respectful deference by the placid dignity of her who walked before
him. It was in that memorable year whose doings are recorded in our
memory with all the solemn force of History, and all the distinct and
vivid effect of events passing before our own eyes; that era, when
Thrones rocked and tottered, and kings, who seemed destined to transmit
their crowns to unborn generations, became exiles, and cast away, their
state a mockery, and their princely homes given up to pillage; when
the brightest day-dreams of good men became bound up with the wildest
imaginings of the bold and the bad, and the word Freedom comprehended
all that was most glorious in self-devotion, and all that was most
relentless in hate,----in that troubled time, Hanserl wisely sought
out the districts of mountain and crag--the homes of the hunter--in
preference to the more travelled roads, and prudently preferred even
the devious windings of the solitary glens to the thronged and peopled
highways that connected great cities.

His plan was to direct their steps through the Vorarlberg into the
Tyrol, where, in a small village near Meran, his mother still lived.
There, in case of need, Nelly would find a refuge, and, at all events,
could halt while he explored the way to Vienna, and examined how far it
might be safe for her to proceed thither. Even in all her affliction,
out of the depths of a sorrow so devoid of hope, Nelly felt the glorious
influence of the grand scenery through which they travelled. The giant
mountains, snow-capped in early autumn; the boundless forests that
stretched along their sides; the foaming cataracts as they fell in
sheets of hissing water; the tranquil lakes that reflected tower and
cliff and spire; the picturesque village, where life seemed to ripple on
as peacefully as the clear stream before the peasant's door; the song of
the birds, the tolling of the bells, the laugh of the children; the Alp
horn answered from cliff to cliff, and dying away in distant echo,--all
these were realizations of many a girlish hope, when she wished her
father to seek out some secluded village, and pass a life of obscure but
united labor. There was no Quixotism in the fancy. She knew well what
it was to toil and work; to rise early, and go late to rest; to feed on
coarse fare, and be clad in mean attire. All that poverty can inflict
of privation she had tasted, but fearlessly and with a bold heart;
self-reliance elevating her thoughts above every little adverse
incident, and giving to her struggle that character of a task, a holy
and a righteous task, which made at once her life's purpose and reward.

Scarcely a village at which they halted that did not strike her as like
what her mind had often pictured for "their own," and many a quaint old
house, with its carved galleries and latticed porch, she stood to gaze
on, fancying it their home and peopling every spot with the forms of
those she loved. Oh! why had they not chosen this humble road?--why had
their "Paths in Life" separated?--were the bitter reflections which now
filled her eyes with tears and made her bosom heave almost to bursting.
She did not foolishly suppose that the peasant can claim exemption from
the trials and crosses of life, and that sorrow finds no entrance into
remote and unfrequented tracts, but she knew that such burdens would
not be too heavy for their strength, and that, while living a life of
unpretending poverty, they should be free from the slavery of an assumed
position, and able to combat the world fairly and honestly.

Of all lands the Tyrol is best suited to foster such feelings as
these. There is a harmony and a keeping about it that is rarely found
elsewhere. The dwellings of the people, so according with the character
of the scenery; the costumes, the greetings, the songs of the
peasantry; their simple and touching piety; their manners, so happily
blending independence with courtesy, are felt at once as a charm, and
give a color to the enjoyment of every one who sojourns amongst
them. These were the sights and sounds which, better than all the
blandishments of wealth, could soothe poor Nelly's sorrow, and make her
thankful in the midst of her afflictions even to have witnessed them. As
for Hanserl, his excitement grew daily higher as he passed the Arlberg
and drew near the spots he had seen in childhood. Now preparing some
little surprise for Nelly, as they turned the angle of a cliff and gazed
down upon a terrible gorge beneath; now apprising her of some little
shrine where pious wayfarers were wont to halt and pray; now speculating
if the old host of the village inn would be alive, or still remember
him, he went along merrily, occasionally singing some "Alp Lied," or
calling to mind some ancient legend of the scene through which they
journeyed. Above all, however, was his delight at the thought of seeing
his old mother again. No sense of disappointment dashed this pleasure
because he was returning poor and penniless. Home and the "Frau Mutter,"
as he reverently called her, had their hold upon his heart quite
distinct from every accident of fortune. To tell her of all he had seen
in far-away lands,--for Hanserl thought himself a great traveller; to
describe the great Cathedral of Worms, its vaulted aisles and painted
windows, its saintly effigies and deep-toned organ, and the thousands
who could kneel before the high altar! Then, what marvellous relics were
there to describe!--not to speak of the memorable valley at Eschgau,
where "Siegfried slew the Dragon." Poor Hans! the scenes of his youth
had made him young again, and it was the very triumph of his joy when he
could interest Nelly in some story, or make her listen with attention to
the rude verses of some "Tyroler" poem.

Gladly would we linger with them as they went slowly along through the
deep valley of Landech, and, halting a day at the Pontlatzer Brücke,
that Hans might describe the heroic defence of his countrymen against
the French and Bavarian forces, and then, skirting along the Engadine,
came in sight of the great Orteler Spitze,--the highest of the Tyrol
Alps. And now they reached Nauders, and traversing a wild and dreary
mountain tract, where even in autumn the snow is seen in clefts and
crevices of the rock, they gradually gain the crest of the ridge, and
look down at length on glorious Meran with the devotion of the pilgrim
in sight of the Holy City. Hans knelt down and prayed fervently as his
eyes beheld that garden valley with its vine-clad slopes and waving
woods; its silvery river gliding along beneath bright villages and
feudal castles. But soon he saw them no longer, for his eyes swam over
with tears, and he sobbed like a child.

"There, Fräulein, yonder, where you see the river winding to the
southward, you see an old tower,--'the Passayer Turm,' it is called; the
'Fräu Mutter' lives there. I see some one in the garden." And, overcome
by emotion, he hid his face and wept.

Near as they seemed to the end of their journey, it was night ere they
gained the valley at the foot of the mountain. The cottages were closed,
and, except in the town--still about a mile distant--not a light was to
be seen. The Tyrolers are an early race, and retire to rest soon after
dusk. Hanserl, however, wanted no guidance to the way, and trudged along
in front of the cart, following each winding of the track as though he
had gone it but the day before. Except a chance caution about the road,
he never spoke,--his heart was full of "home." The fatigue of a long
day's journey, and the cold of the night air, had made Andy querulous
and discontented, and it was all Nelly could do to answer the fretful
questions and soothe down the irritation of the old man; but Hans heard
nothing of either. At last they reached a little open space formed by a
bend in the river, and came in sight of the old tower, at the foot of
which, and abutting against it, stood a small cottage. A light gleamed
from a little window, and no sooner had Hans seen it than he
exclaimed,----

"Gott sey dank! Fräulein, she is well. That is the Fräu Mutter."

Poor Nelly's lip quivered as she tried to speak, for, humble as it
was, what would she have given to have had even such a "home"? And now,
passing through a little garden, Hans halted, and assisted Andy from the
cart.

"Where are we, at all? Sure this is n't a place to stop the night in!"
cried the old man, querulously.

"Hush, Andy, hush!" whispered Nelly.

"'Tis thieves and vagabonds, maybe, lives here, Miss Nelly," said he, in
a low voice.

"No, Andy, no; it is a kind welcome that awaits us."

"Ayeh!" exclaimed he, "I know betther than that!"

Hans by this time had approached the door and raised the latch,--for in
the Tyrol the night rarely calls for other fastening. Nelly heard
the sharp, clear sound of an old woman's voice above the hum of a
spinning-wheel, and then the glad burst of joy as the mother recognized
her son. Unwilling to interrupt their happiness, Nelly moved away out of
hearing, when Hanserl came running out, followed by the old woman.

"This is the Fräulein, mother," cried he, with a burst of delight; and
the old woman, taking Nelly's hand, kissed it with deep respect.

With native courtesy she welcomed Nelly, and, as she entered her house,
pointed with pride to a Madonna of Nelly's own carving, which stood on a
bracket against the wall.

"You see, Fräulein," said she, "how I have known you for many a day
back; and there is your Saint Christopher, and there the 'Blessed Agnes
at the Well.'" And so was it. The groups and figures which she believed
to have been sold by Hanserl, were all stored up here and treasured
like household gods. "Many a traveller has come here just to see these,"
continued the old peasant-woman, "and many a tempting sum have they
offered if I would sell them, but in all my poverty I did not stoop to
this."

"Frau Mutter, Fräu Mutter," said Hans, rebukingly, and trying to cut
short what he feared might offend Nelly.

"Nay, Hanserl, it is but the truth," said she, firmly; "I will not say
that I did not do more wisely too, for they who came left me always some
little present. Even the poor gave me their blessing, and said that they
were happier when they had prayed before the blessed Agnes." While thus
running on in all the garrulity of old age, she never neglected the
care of receiving her guests with suitable hospitality. Old Andy was
accommodated with a deep straw chair near the stove. The little chamber,
which, for its view upon the Passayer Thai, had been specially devoted
to receive travellers, was got ready for Nelly; and Hans, once more at
home, busied himself in arranging the household and preparing supper.

"You are wondering at all the comforts you find here, Hanserl," said
the old woman, "but see here, this will tell you whence they came;" and,
opening an old ebony cabinet, she took out a large square letter with a
heavy seal. "That reached me on a Christmas-day, Hanserl; the paper was
from the Imperial Chancellerie of Vienna, setting forth that, as the
widow of Hans Roeckle, of Meran, born of Tyrol parents, and married to a
Tyroler, had attained the age of eighty years, and never asked alms, nor
sought for other aid than her own industry, she was now entitled to the
Maria Teresa pension of twelve kreutzers a day for the rest of her life.
I told them," said the old woman, proudly, "that my son had always taken
care to provide for me, and that there were others that might want it
more than I, but the kreis-hauptman said that my refusal would be
an offence to the Kaiser, who had heard of my name from one of the
archduchesses who travelled this way, and who had seen these blessed
images and wished to buy them; so that I was fain to yield, and take, in
thankfulness, what was offered in generosity. You see, Hanserl, how true
is it, the Fräulein has been our good angel; we have never had bad luck
since the Madonna came here!"

Nelly slept soundly that night, and, for the first time since her
calamities, her dreams were happy ones. Lulled by the ripple of the
river beside her window, and the ceaseless murmuring of the old woman's
voice as she sat up talking with her son the whole night long, she
tasted at length the sweets of deep and refreshing sleep. And what a
gorgeous scene burst upon her waking eyes! Around, on every side of
the little plain, rose the great mountains of the Tyrol; some green
and tree-clad to their summits, others snow-capped or hid in the
azure-colored clouds above them. Ancient castles crowned the crags, and
foaming cataracts leaped from each fissured gorge; while below, in the
valley, there lay a garden of rich profusion,--the vine, the olive,
and the waving corn,--with villages and peasant-houses half hid in
the luxuriant verdure. From the lowing cattle beside the river to the
re-echoing horn upon the mountains, there seemed to come greeting and
answer. All was grandeur and sublimity in the scene; but, more striking
than these, was the perfect repose, the deep tranquillity of the
picture. The sounds were all those of peasant labor, the song of the
vine-dresser, the rustling noise of the loaded wagon as it moved through
some narrow and leafy road, the hissing of the sickle through the ripe
corn.

"And yet," said Hanserl, as Nelly stood in silent enjoyment at the
little porch,--"and yet, Fräulein, beyond those great mountains yonder,
there is strife and carnage. Here all is peaceful and happy; but the
whole world of Europe is tempest-torn. Italy is up,--all her people are
in wild revolt; Hungary is in open insurrection. I speak not of other
lands, whose fortunes affect us not, but the great empire of our Kaiser
is convulsed to its very centre. I have just been at Meran, troops are
marching in every hour, and every hour come new messengers to bid them
hasten southward. Over the Stelvio, where you see that dark line yonder,
near the summit of the mountains, on they pour! They say, too, that
Upper Austria is in rebellion, and that the roads from Innspruck are
unsafe to travel. We are safe here, Fräulein, but you must not venture
further. We will try, from some of the officers who pass through, to
glean tidings of the Count, your grand-uncle, and where a letter may
reach him; but bear with this humble shelter for a while, and think it a
home."

If Nelly was disappointed and baffled by this impediment to her journey,
she was not one to pass her time in vague regrets, but at once addressed
herself to the call of new duties with a willing mind and a cheerful
spirit.

Resuming her long-neglected tools, she set to work once more, stimulated
by the new scenes and subjects around her. To the little children who
often formed her "studies," she became the schoolmistress. To the old
who were stricken with sickness or the helplessness of age she used to
read for hours together. Every little pathway led her to some office of
charity or kindness, till the "good Fräulein" became a village byword,
and her name was treasured and her footstep welcomed in every cottage
around.

Her humble dress, her more humble manner, took nothing from the
deference they yielded her. They felt too intensely the inborn
superiority of her nature to think of any equality between them, and
they venerated her with something like devotion. A physician to the
sick, a nurse to the bedridden, a teacher to the ignorant, a blessing
and an example to all, Nelly's hours were but too short for the calls
of her duties, and, in her care for others, she had no time to bestow on
her own sorrows.

As for Hanserl, he worked from daylight to dusk. Already the little
garden, weed-grown and uncared-for before, was as blooming as his former
one at the Alten Schloss. Under Nelly's guidance many a device was
executed that seemed almost miraculous to the simple neighbors; and the
lichen-clad rocks, the waving water-lilies or trellised creepers, which,
in the wild wantonness of nature they had never noticed, now struck
them as the very creations of genius. Even old Andy was not forgotten in
their schemes of happiness; and the old huntsman used to spend hours in
the effort to tame a young fox a peasant had brought him,--a labor not
the less interesting that its progress suffered many a check, and that
many a laugh arose at the backslidings of the pupil.

And now we leave them for a brief season, all occupied and all happy;
nor do we like the fate that calls us away to other and very different
associates.



CHAPTER XXIV. FLORENCE.

It was of a calm but starless night in winter that Florence was
illuminated in honor of a victory over the Austrian troops at Goito.
Never was patriotic ardor higher,--never were stronger the hopes of
Italian independence. From the hour of their retreat from Milan, the
imperial forces had met with little but reverses, and, as day by day
they fell back towards the Tyrol Alps, the hosts of their enemies
swelled and increased around them; and from Genoa to the Adriatic all
Italy was in march to battle. It is not to speculate on the passable
current of events, nor yet to dwell on the causes of that memorable
failure, by which dissentient councils and false faith--the weakness
of good men and the ambition of bad ones--brought rain when there might
have been victory, still less is it to gaze upon the brilliant spectacle
of the rejoicing city, that we are now wending our way along the Arno,
scarcely stopping to notice the thousand stars that glitter on the
Duomo, nor the flickering lines of light which trace out the gigantic
tower of the Palazzo Vecchio. Our theme is more humble than the former,
and far too serious for such dalliance as the latter.

Leaving the crowded streets, resounding with the wild acclamations and
wilder songs of the people, we pass over the Ponte Vecchio, and enter
once again the dark abode of Racca Morlache. Whether from any suspicion
of his unpopularity with the people, or from some secret necessity for
precaution, the door is fastened by many an extra bolt, and more than
one massive chain retains the iron shutters of the window. Perhaps there
is something in this conscious security that has made him so sparing in
his display of external joy, for two dim, discolored lamps were all that
appeared above the door, and these were soon hurled down in contemptuous
anger by the populace, leaving the little building in total darkness.

In easy indifference to such harmless insult, and not heeding the loud
knock which, from stick or stone, the iron shutters resounded under, the
Jew sat at his table in that little chamber beside the Arno, of which
the reader already knows the secret. Several decanters of wine are
before him, and as he sips his glass and smashes his filbert, his air is
that of the very easiest unconcern.

Attempting, but with inferior success, an equal degree of calm, sits the
Abbé D'Esmonde on the opposite side of the table. With all his training,
his calm features betray at moments certain signs of anxiety, and, while
he speaks, you can see that he is listening to the noises in the street
without.

"How I detest that song!" said Morlache, as the full swell of a
deep-voiced chorus filled the air. "I verily believe the Revolution has
not inflicted us with anything more outraging to good taste than the air
of 'Viva Pio Nono.'"

"Always excepting Pio Nono himself," said D'Esmonde, "who is far more
the child than the father of this movement."

"Not bad for a priest to renounce allegiance to his holy master!" said
Racca, laughing.

"You mistake me, Signor Morlache," said D'Esmonde, eagerly. "I spoke
of Pio Nono, the politician,--the rash innovator of time-honored
institutions, the foolish donor of concessions that must be won back at
the price of blood, the man who has been weak enough to head a movement
which he ought to have controlled in secret. How the people shout! I
hear many a voice in accents of no Italian origin."

"Yes, the city is full of Poles and Hungarians."

"It will soon be time to drop the curtain on this act of the drama,
Morlache; enough has been done to show the world the dangerous doctrines
of these fanatics. They who cry 'No property in France,' shout 'No King
in Germany,' 'No Pope in Rome.' The peaceful or well-ordered must be
taught to see in us their safeguard against these men. They must
learn to think the Church the sanctuary it was of old. From all these
convulsions which shatter empires, we are the refuge!"

"But you yourself gave the first impulse to this very movement, Abbé?"

"And wisely and well we did it! Should we have stood passive to watch
the gradual growth of that cursed spirit they miscall independent
judgment,--that rankest heresy that ever corrupted the human heart?
Should we have waited till Protestantism with its Bible had sowed the
seeds of that right of judgment which they proclaim is inherent in all
men? Would it have been safe policy to admit of discussing what was
obligatory to obey, and look on while this enlightenment--as they
blasphemously term it--was arraigning the dogma of the Church as
unblushingly as they questioned the decree of a minister?"

"I perceive," said the Jew, laughing, "You great politicians are not
above taking a lesson from the 'Bourse,' and know the trick of puffing
up a bad scheme to a high premium, prepared to sell out the day before
'the fall.'"

"We had higher and nobler views," said D'Esmonde, proudly. "The men who
will not come to the altars of the Church must be taught her doctrines
before the portals. Our task is to proclaim Rome----eternal Rome--to
Europe!"

"Up to this your success has not been signal," said Morlache, with a
sneer. "This victory at Goito has given fresh vigor to the Republicans.
The Austrians once driven beyond the Alps, Monarchy wilt be short-lived
in Italy."

"And who says that they will be so driven? Who ever dreams of such a
result, save some wild fanatic of Genoa, or some half-informed minister
at London? The King of Naples only waits for the excuse of a Calabrian
disturbance to recall his contingent. The Pope has already issued an
order to Durando not to pass the Po. The Piedmontese themselves are on
the verge of an irreparable quarrel,--the men of Savoy and the north for
Monarchy; the Genoese, wild with their own ancient ideas of a Ligurian
Republic. Is it the Lombards, think you, will conquer Lombardy? or
do you fancy that Florence and Pisa are the nurseries of heroes? No,
Morlache, the game of revolt is played out in Italy; the last trump is
Goito."

"But if, flushed with conquest, the Piedmontese press on to greater
successes?"

"They cannot,--they would not, even if they could," broke in D'Esmonde.
"Is it the Republicans will shed their blood to conquer a kingdom of
Upper Italy for Carlo Alberto? Is it the interest of Rome or Naples to
see such a power in the Peninsula? Will the troops of the Monarchy, on
the other hand, fight for a cause that is to obliterate the throne? No;
believe me, their mutual grudges have been well weighed and estimated.
We never dared this bold policy without seeing clearly that their
interests could never be reconciled.--I think I hear the sound of oars;
yes, he must be coming at last!" D'Esmonde opened the window as he
spoke, and looked out upon the river, which, reflecting along the sides
the gorgeous pageantry of the illumination, was dark as ink in the
middle of the stream. "Not a word of this, Morlache, when he joins us,"
added D'Esmonde.

"_He_ is not in your confidence, then?" asked the other.

"_He?_ Of course he is not! If for no weightier reasons than that he is
English and a Protestant,--two things which, however weak they may prove
either in patriotism or religion, never fail in their hatred of the
Church and her cause. Like one of the Condottieri of old, he has joined
the quarrel because hard knocks are usually associated with booty.
Whenever he finds that he has no stake on the table, he 'll throw down
his cards."

"And the other,--the Russian?"

"He is more difficult to understand; but I hope to know him yet Hush,
the boat is close in; be cautious!" And, so saying, he filled his glass,
and reseated himself in all the seeming ease of careless dalliance. In a
few minutes after, the prow of a light skiff touched the terrace, and a
man stepped out and knocked at the shutter.

"Welcome at last," said D'Esmonde, shaking hands with him. "We had
almost despaired of seeing you to-night you appear to have been favored
with a long audience!"

"Yes, confound it!" cried the other, who, throwing off his
travelling-cloak, showed the figure of Lord Norwood. "We were kept
dangling in an antechamber for nigh an hour. Midchekoff's fault, for
he would not give his name, nor say anything more than that we were two
officers with secret despatches from the camp. The people in waiting
appeared to think the claim a poor one, and came and went, and looked at
us, splashed and dirty as we were; but not, even out of curiosity, did
one ask us what tidings we brought. We might have stayed till now, I
believe, if I had not taken the resolution to follow an old priest--a
bishop, I fancy--who seemed to have the _entrée_ everywhere; and pushing
vigorously after him, I passed through half a dozen ill-lighted rooms,
and at last entered a small drawing-room, where the great man was
seated at piquet with old Cassandroni, the minister. I must say that,
considering the unauthorized style of my approach, nothing could be more
well-bred and urbane than his reception of me. I was blundering out
some kind of apology for my appearance, when he pointed to a chair, and
begged me to be seated. Then, recognizing Midchekoff, who had just come
in, he held out his hand to him. I gave him the despatches, which
he pushed across the table to Cassandroni, as if it were more _his_
'affair;' and then turning to Midchekoff, conversed with him for some
time in a low voice. As it would not have been etiquette to observe him
too closely, I kept my eyes on the minister; and, faith, I must say that
he could scarcely have looked more blank and out of sorts had the news
reported a defeat. I suppose these fellows have a kind of official
reserve which represses every show of feeling; but I own that he folded
up the paper with a degree of composure that quite piqued me.

"'Well, Cassandroni,' said his master, 'what's your news?'

"'Very good news, sir,' said the other, calmly. 'His Majesty has
obtained a signal victory near Goito against a considerable force of the
Imperial army, under the command of Radetzky. The action was long and
fiercely contested; but a successful advance of artillery to the side of
a river, and a most intrepid series of cavalry charges turned the flank
of the enemy, and gained the day. The results do not, however, appear
equal to the moral effect upon the army, for there were few prisoners,
and no guns taken.'

"'That may perhaps be explained,' said I, interrupting; 'for when the
Austrians commenced their movement in retreat--' Just as I got thus far,
I stopped; for I found that the distinguished personage I was addressing
had once more turned to Midchekoff, and was in deep conversation with
him, totally regardless of me and my explanation.

"'You have been wounded, my Lord?' said he, after a moment.

"'A mere scratch, sir,--a poke of a lance,' said I, smarting under the
cool indifference of his manner.

"'I hope you 're not too much fatigued to stop to supper,' said he; but
I arose at the instant, and pleading the excuse of exhaustion and want
of rest, begged to be permitted to retire; and here I am, not having
tasted anything since I left Padua, and not in the very blandest of
tempers, either, at the graciousness of my reception. As for Midchekoff,
he kept his seat as coolly as if he meant to pass his life there. I
hesitated for a second or two, expecting that he would join me; but
not a bit of it He smiled his little quiet smile, as much as to say,
'Good-night,' and so I left him."

"He is probably detained to give some particulars of the engagement,"
said D'Esmonde.

"How can he?--he was never in it; he was writing letters all day at
headquarters, and never came up till seven in the evening, when he rode
down with a smart groom after him, and gave the Duke of Savoy a sandwich
out of a silver case. That will be the only memorable fact he can retail
of the day's fortune."

"The cause looks well, however," said D'Esmonde, endeavoring to divert
his thoughts into a more agreeable direction.

"Tell me what is the cause, and I will answer you," said Norwood,
sternly. "So far as _I_ see, we are dividing the spoils before we have
hunted down the game."

"You surely have no doubt of the result, my Lord?" replied the other,
eagerly. "The Austrians must relinquish Italy."

"Then who is to take it,--that's the question? Is Lorn-bardy to become
Piedmont, or a Red Republic? or are your brethren of the slouched hat to
step in and portion out the land into snug nurseries for Franciscans
and Ursulines? Egad, I 'd as soon give it up to old Morlache yonder,
and make it a New Jerusalem to educate a young race of moneylenders and
usurers!"

"I wish we had even as much security for our loans," said Morlache,
smiling.

"I hear of nothing but money,----great loans here, immense sums raised
there," cried Norwood; "and yet what becomes of it? The army certainly
has seen none of it. Large arrears of pay are due; and as for us
who serve on the staff, we are actually supporting the very force we
command."

"We are told that large sums have found their way into Austria in shape
of secret service," said D'Esmonde, "and with good result too."

"The very worst of bad policy," broke in Norwood. "Pay your friends
and thrash your enemies. Deserters are bad allies at the best, but are
utterly worthless if they must be paid for desertion. Let them go over
like those Hungarian fellows,--a whole regiment at a time, and bring
both courage and discipline to our ranks! but your rabble of student
sympathizers are good for nothing."

"Success has not made you sanguine, my Lord," said Morlache, smiling.

"I have little to be sanguine about," replied he, roughly. "They have
not spoiled me with good fortune; and even on this very mission that I
have come now, you 'll see it is that Russian fellow will receive all
the reward; and if there be a decoration conferred, it is he, not I,
will obtain it."

"And do you care for such baubles, my Lord?" asked D'Esmonde, in
affected surprise.

"We soldiers like these vanities as women do a new shawl, or your
priests admire a smart new vestment, in which I have seen a fellow
strut as proudly as any coxcomb in the ballet when he had completed his
pirouette. As for myself," continued he, proudly, "I hold these stars
and crosses cheaply enough. I 'd mortgage my 'San Giuseppe' to-morrow if
Morlache would give me twenty Naps, on it."

"The day of richer rewards is not distant, my Lord," said D'Esmonde.
"Lombardy will be our own ere the autumn closes, and then--and then--"

"And then we 'll cut each other's throats for the booty, you were going
to say," burst in Norwood; "but I 'm not one of those who think so,
Abbé. My notion is that Austria is making a waiting race, and quietly
leaving dissension to do amongst _us_ what the snow did for the French
at Moscow."

D'Esmonde's cheek grew pale at this shrewd surmise; but he quickly said,
----

"You mistake them, my Lord. The interests at stake are too heavy for
such a critical policy; Austria dare not risk so hazardous a game."

"The wiseheads are beginning to suspect as much," said Norwood; "and
certainly amongst the prisoners we have taken there is not a trait
of despondency nor even a doubt as to the result of the campaign. The
invariable reply to every question is, the Kaiser will have his own
again,--ay, and this even from the Hungarians. We captured a young
fellow on the afternoon of Goito, who had escaped from prison, and
actually broke his arrest to take his share in the battle. He was in
what Austrians call Stockhaus arrest, and under sentence either of death
or imprisonment for life, for treason. Well, he got out somehow, and
followed his regiment on foot till such time as one of his comrades was
knocked over; then he mounted, and I promise you he knew his work in
the saddle. Twice he charged a half-battery of twelves, and sabred our
gunners where they stood; and when at last we pushed the Austrian column
across the bridge, instead of retreating, as he might, he trusted to
saving himself by the river. It was then his horse was shot under him,
as he descended the bank, and over they both rolled into the stream. I
assure you it was no easy matter to capture him even then, and we took
him under a shower of balls from his comrades, that showed how little
his life was deemed, in comparison with the opportunity of damaging us.
When he was brought in, he was a pitiable object; his forehead was laid
open from a sabre cut, his collar-bone and left arm broken by the fall,
and a gunshot wound in the thigh, which the surgeon affirmed had every
appearance of being received early in the action. He would n't tell us
his name, or anything about his friends, for he wished to have written
to them; the only words he ever uttered were a faint attempt at 'Hurrah
for the Emperor!'"

"And this a Hungarian?" said D'Esmonde, in surprise.

"He might have been a Pole, or a Wallach, for anything I know; but he
was a hussar, and as gallant a fellow as ever I saw."

"What was the uniform, my Lord?" asked the Abbé.

"Light blue, with a green chako,--they call them the regiment of Prince
Paul of Wurtemberg."

"Tell me his probable age, my Lord; and something of his appearance
generally," said D'Esmonde, with increasing earnestness.

"His age I should guess to be two or three and twenty,--not more,
certainly, and possibly even less than that In height he is taller than
I, but slighter. As to face, even with all his scars and bruises, he
looked a handsome fellow, and had a clear blue eye that might have
become an Englishman."

"You did not hear him speak?" asked the priest, with heightening
curiosity.

"Except the few words I have mentioned, he never uttered a syllable. We
learned that he had broken his arrest from one of his comrades; but the
fellow, seeing our anxiety to hear more, immediately grew reserved, and
would tell us nothing. I merely allude to the circumstance to show that
the disaffection we trust to amongst the Hungarians is not universal;
and even when they falter in their allegiance to the State, by some
strange contradiction they preserve their loyalty to the 'Kaiser.'"

"I wish I could learn more about your prisoner, my Lord," said the Abbé,
thoughtfully. "The story has interested me deeply."

"Midchekoff can, perhaps, tell you something, then, for he saw him later
than I did. He accompanied the Duke of Genoa in an inspection of the
prisoners just before we left the camp."

"And you said that he had a fair and Saxon-looking face?" said the Abbé.

"Faith, I 've told you all that I know of him," said Norwood,
impatiently. "He was a brave soldier, and with ten thousand like him on
our side I 'd feel far more at my ease for the result of this campaign
than with the aid of those splendid squadrons they call the 'Speranza d'
Italia'."

"And the Crociati, my Lord, what are _they_ like?" said Morlache,
smiling.

"A horde of robbers; a set of cowardly rascals who have only courage
for cruelty; the outpourings of jails and offcasts of convents; degraded
friars and escaped galley-slaves."

"My Lord, my Lord!" interrupted Morlache, suppressing his laughter with
difficulty, and enjoying to the full this torrent of indignant anger.
"You are surely not describing faithfully the soldiers of the Pope,--the
warriors whose banners have been blessed by the Holy Father?"

"Ask their General, Ferrari, whom they have three times attempted to
murder. Ask _him_ their character," said Norwood, passionately, "if
D'Esmonde himself will not tell you."

"Has it not been the same in every land that ever struck a blow for
liberty?" said the Abbé. "Is it the statesman or the philosopher who
have racked their brains and wasted their faculties in thought for the
good of their fellow-men that have gone forth to battle? or is it not
rather the host of unquiet spirits who infest every country, and who
seek in change the prosperity that others pursue in patient industry?
Some are enthusiastic for freedom, some seek a field of personal
distinction, some are mere freebooters; but whatever they be, the cause
remains the same."

"You may be right,----for all I know you _are_ right," said Norwood,
doggedly; "but, for my own part, I have no fancy to fight shoulder to
shoulder with cut-throats and housebreakers, even though the Church
should have hallowed them with its blessing." Norwood arose as he said
this, And walked impatiently up and down the chamber.

"When do you propose to return to the army, my Lord?" said D'Esmonde,
after a pause.

"I'm not sure; I don't even know if I shall return at all!" said
Norwood, hastily. "I see little profit and less glory in the service!
What say you, Morlache? Have they the kind of credit you would like to
accept for a loan?"

"No, my Lord," said the Jew, laughing; "Lombardy scrip would stand low
in our market. I 'd rather advance my moneys on the faith of your good
friend the Lady Hester Onslow."

Norwood bit his lip and colored, but made no reply.

"She has crossed into Switzerland, has she not?" asked D'Esmonde,
carelessly.

"Gone to England!" said the Viscount, briefly.

"When----how? I never heard of that," said the Abbé. "I have put off
writing to her from day to day, never suspecting that she was about to
quit the Continent."

"Nor did she herself till about a week ago, when Sir Stafford took an
equally unexpected departure for the other world--"

"Sir Stafford dead! Lady Hester a widow!"

"Such is, I believe, the natural course of things for a woman to be when
her husband dies."

"A rich widow, too, I presume, my Lord?" said the Abbé, with a quiet but
subtle glance at Norwood.

"That is more than she knows herself at this moment, I fancy; for
they say that Sir Stafford has involved his bequests with so many
difficulties, and hampered them with such a mass of conditions, that
whether she will be a millionnaire or be actually poor must depend
upon the future. I can answer for one point, however, Abbé," said he,
sarcastically; "neither the Sacred College nor the blessed brethren of
the 'Pace' are like to profit by the banker's economies."

"Indeed, my Lord," said the Abbé, slowly, while a sickly pallor came
over his countenance.

"He has left a certain Dr. Grounsell his executor," continued Norwood;
"and, from all that I can learn, no-man has less taste for painted
windows, stoles, or saints' shin-bones."

"Probably there may be other questions upon which he will prove equally
obdurate," said the Abbé, in a voice only audible to the Viscount "Is
her Ladyship at liberty to marry again?"

"I cannot, I grieve to say, give you any information on that point,"
said Norwood, growing deep red as he spoke.

"As your Lordship is going to England--"

"I didn't say so. I don't remember that I told you that!" cried he,
hastily.

"Pardon me if I made such a palpable mistake; but it ran in my head that
you said something to that purport."

"It won't do, Abbé! it won't do," said Norwood, in a low whisper. "We,
who have graduated at the 'Red House' are just as wide awake as you of
Louvain and St. Omer."

D'Esmonde looked at him with an expression of blank astonishment, and
seemed as if he had not the most vague suspicion as to what the sarcasm
referred.

"When can I have half an hour with you, Morlache?" said the Viscount

"Whenever it suits you, my Lord. What say you to to-morrow morning at
eleven?"

"No, no! let it be later; I must have a ten hours' sleep after all this
fatigue, and the sooner I begin the better."

"Where do you put up, my Lord,--at the Hôtel de l'Arno?" asked the Abbé.

"No; I wish we were there with all my heart; but, to do us honor, they
have given us quarters at the 'Crocetto,' that dreary asylum for stray
archdukes and vagabond grand-duchesses, in the farthest end of the city.
We are surrounded with chamberlains, aides-de-camp, and guards of honor.
The only thing they have forgotten is a cook. So I 'll come and dine
here to-morrow."

"You do me great honor, my Lord. I 'm sure the Abbé D'Esmonde will favor
us with his company also."

"If it be possible, I will," said the Abbé. "Nothing but necessity would
make me relinquish so agreeable a prospect."

"Well, till our next meeting," said the Viscount, yawning, as he put
on his hat "It's too late to expect Midchekoff here to-night, and so
good-bye. The streets are clear by this time, I trust."

"A shrewd fellow, too," said Morlache, looking after him.

"No, Morlache, not a bit of it!" said D'Esmonde. "Such intellects bear
about the same proportion to really clever men as a good swordsman does
to a first-rate operator in surgery. They handle a coarse weapon, and
they deal with coarse antagonists. Employ them in a subtle negotiation
or a knotty problem, and you might as well ask a sergeant of the Blues
to take up the femoral artery. Did you not remark awhile ago that, for
the sake of a sneer, he actually betrayed a secret about Sir Stafford
Onslow's will?"

"And you believe all that to be true?"

"Of course I do. The only question is whether the Irish property, which,
if I remember aright, was settled on Lady Hester at her marriage, can
be fettered by any of these conditions? That alone amounts to some
thousands a year, and would be a most grateful accession to those
much-despised brethren his Lordship alluded to."

"You can learn something about that point to-morrow, when he dines
here."

"He'll not be our guest to-morrow, Morlache. I must continue to
occupy him for a day or two. He shall be invited to dine at court
to-morrow,--the request is a command,--so that you will not see him.
Receive Midchekoff if he calls, for I want to hear what he is about
here; his money requirements will soon give us the clew. And I, too,"
said he, stretching and speaking languidly,--"I, too, would be the
better of some repose; it is now thirty-six hours, Morlache, since I
closed my eyes in sleep. During that space I have written and dictated
and talked and argued, urging on the lukewarm, restraining the rash,
giving confidence to this one, preaching caution to that; and here I am,
at the end of all, with my task as far as ever from completion. Events
march faster than we, do what we will; and as the child never comes
up with the hoop he has set in motion till it has fallen, so we rarely
overtake the circumstances we have created till they have ceased to
be of any value to us. Now, at this precise moment I want to be in
the Vatican, at the camp of Goito, in the council-chamber at
Schönbrunn,--not to speak of a certain humble homestead in a far-away
Irish county; and yet I have nothing for it but to go quietly off to
bed, leaving to fortune--I believe that is as good a name for it as any
other--the course of events which, were I present, I could direct at
will. Napoleon left a great example behind him; he beat his enemies
always by rapidity. Believe me, Morlache, men think very much upon a par
in this same world of ours; the great difference being that some take
five minutes where others take five weeks: the man of minutes is sure to
win."

Just as the Abbé had spoken, Norwood returned, saying,----

"By the way, can either of you tell me if Jekyl is here now?"

"I have not seen him," said Morlache, "which is almost proof that he is
not His first visit is usually to me."

The streets were silent. A few stray lamps yet flickered over the
spacious cupola of the Duomo, and a broken line of light faintly tracked
one angle of the tower of the Piazza Vecchia; but except these last
lingering signs of the late rejoicings, all Florence lay in darkness.

"How quiet is everything!" said Morlache, as he took leave of his guests
at his door.' "The streets are empty already."

"Ay," muttered the Abbé, "the rejoicing, like the victory, was but
short-lived. Do our roads lie the same way, my Lord?" asked he of
Norwood.

"Very seldom, I suspect," replied the Viscount, with a laugh. "_Mine_ is
in this direction."

"And _mine_ lies this way," said D'Esmonde, bowing coldly, but
courteously, as he passed on, and entered the narrow street beyond the
bridge. "You are quite right, my Lord," muttered he to himself; "our
paths in life are very different. _Yours_ may be wider and pleasanter,
but mine, with all its turnings, goes straighter." He paused and
listened for some seconds, till Norwood's steps had died away in the
distance, and then turning back, he followed in the direction the other
had taken.

Norwood walked rapidly along till he came to that small house on the
Arno where Jekyl lived, and stopping in front of it, he threw a handful
of sand against the window. To this signal, twice repeated, no reply was
given to the Viscount He waited a few seconds, and then moved on. The
Abbé stood under the shadow of the tall palaces till the other was out
of sight, and then, approaching the door, gave a long, low whistle.
Within a few seconds the sash was opened, and Jekyl's voice heard,----

"It's you, Abbé. There 's the key. Will you excuse ceremony, and let
yourself in?"

D'Esmonde opened the door at once, and, mounting the stairs, entered
the little chamber in which now Jekyl stood in his dressing-gown and
slippers; and although suddenly roused from sleep, with a smile of
courteous welcome on his diminutive features,----

"I paid no attention to your first signal, Abbé," said he, "scarcely
thinking it could be you."

"Nor was it," said D'Esmonde, seating himself. "It was Lord Norwood, who
doubtless must have had some important reason for disturbing you at this
hour. I waited till he went off before I whistled. When did you arrive?"

"About three hours ago. I came from Lucerne, and was obliged to take
such a zig-zag course, the roads being all blocked up by marching
soldiers, guns, and wagons, that I have been eight days making the
journey of three."

"So, Lady Hester is a widow! Strange, I only heard it an hour ago."

"The post has been interrupted, or you would have known it a week back.
I wrote to you from Zurich. I accompanied her so far on her way to
England, and was to have gone the whole way, too, but she determined to
send me back here."

"Not to settle her affairs in Florence," said D'Esmonde, with a quiet
slyness.

"Rather to look after Lord Norwood's," said Jekyl. "I never could
exactly get to the bottom of the affair; but I suppose there must be
some pledge or promise which, in a rash moment, she has made him, and
that already she repents of."

"How has she been left in the will?" asked D'Esmonde, abruptly.

"Her own words are, 'Infamously treated.' Except a bequest of ten
thousand pounds, nothing beyond the Irish estate settled at the time of
her marriage."

"She will easily get rid of Norwood, then," rejoined the Abbé, with a
smile. "His price is higher."

"I'm not so sure of that," broke in Jekyl; "the noble Viscount's late
speculations have all proved unfortunate, even to his book on Carlo
Alberto. He thinks he has gone wrong in not hedging on Radetzky."

"What does he know of the changes of politics?" said D'Esmonde,
contemptuously. "Let him stick to his stablemen and the crafty youths
of Newmarket, but leave state affairs for other and very different
capacities. Does she care for him, Jekyl? Does she love him?"

"She does, and she does not," said Jekyl, with a languishing air,
which he sometimes assumed when asked for an opinion. "She likes his
fashionable exterior, his easy kind of drawing-room assurance, and,
perhaps not least of all, the tone of impertinent superiority he
displays towards all other men; but she is afraid of him,----afraid
of his temper and his tyrannical humor, and terribly afraid of his
extravagance."

"How amusing it is!" said D'Esmonde, with a yawn. "A minister quits
the cabinet in disgust, and retires into private life forever, when his
first step is to plot his return to power. So your widow is invariably
found weighing the thoughts of her mourning with speculations on a
second husband. Why need she marry again; tell me that?"

"Because she is a widow, perhaps. I know no other reason," lisped out
Jekyl.

"I cannot conceive a greater folly than that of these women, with ample
fortune, sacrificing their independence by marriage. The whole world is
their own, if they but knew it. They command every source of enjoyment
while young, and have all the stereotyped solaces of old age when it
comes upon them; and with poodles, parrots, and parasites, mornings of
scandal and evenings of whist, eke out a very pretty existence."

"Dash the whole with a little religion, Abbé," cried Jekyl, laughing,
"and the picture will be tolerably correct."

"She shall not marry Lord Norwood; that, at least, I can answer for,"
said D'Esmonde, not heeding the other.

"It will be difficult to prevent it, Abbé," said the other, dryly.

"Easier than you think for. Come, Master Jekyl, assume a serious mood
for once, and pay attention to what I am about to say. This line of life
you lead cannot go on forever. Even were your own great gifts to resist
time and its influences, a new generation will spring up with other
wants and requirements, and another race will come who knew not Joseph.
With all your versatility it will be late to study new models, and
acquire a new tongue. Have you speculated, then, I ask you, on this
contingency?"

"I 've some thoughts of a 'monkery,'" lisped out Jekyl; "if the good
folk could only be persuaded to adopt a little cleanliness."

"Would not marriage suit you better; a rich widow, titled,
well-connected, and good-looking, of fashionable habits, and tastes that
resemble your own?"

"There are difficulties in the case," said Jekyl, calmly.

"State them," rejoined the Abbé.

"To begin. There is Lady Hester herself,--for, of course, you mean
_her._"

"I engage to solve all on that head."

"Then there is the Viscount."

"For him, too, I hold myself responsible."

"Lastly, there is Albert Jekyl, who, however admirably he understands
garçon life, might discover that the husband was not among the range of
his characters. As it is, my dear Abbé, I lead a very pretty existence.
I am neither bored nor tormented, I never quarrel with anybody, nor is
the rudest man ever discourteous to me. I possess nothing that any one
envies, except that heaven-born disposition to be pleased, of which
nothing can rob me. I dine well, drive in rich equipages, and, if I
liked, might ride the best horses; have at least a dozen Opera-boxes
ready to receive me, and sweeter smiles to welcome me than would become
me to boast of."

"Well, then, my proposal is to give you all these on a life interest
instead of being a tenant-at-will," broke in D'Esmonde.

"And all this out of pure regard for me?" asked Jekyl, with a sly look.

"As a pure matter of bargain," replied D'Esmonde. "Lady Hester has
advanced large sams to the cause in which I am interested. It would be
difficult, perhaps impossible, to repay them. We still want means, and
that ten thousand pounds' legacy would render us immense service at this
moment. Her income can well spare the sacrifice."

"Yes, yes," said Jekyl, musingly; and then looking fondly at his own
image in the glass, he said, "I shall be a dead bargain, after all."

D'Esmonde bit his lip to repress some movement of impatience, and after
a pause said,----

"This matter does not admit of delay. Circumstances will soon require my
presence in England, and with a strong sum at my command; besides--"

"If I understand you aright," said Jekyl, "You are to conduct the whole
negotiations to a successful end, and that I shall have neither a bill
to endorse, nor a duel to fight, throughout the affair."

"You shall be scathless."

"There is another point," said Jekyl, quickly. "How shall I figure in
the newspapers,--Albert Jekyl, Esquire, of where? Have you thought of
that? I wish I had even an uncle a baronet."

"Pooh, pooh!" said D'Esmonde, impatiently. "You marry into the peerage;
that's quite enough."

"Perhaps you 're right," said Jekyl. "All that enumeration of
family connection----'niece to the Chief Justice of Rembouk,' or
'cousin-german to the Vice-Consul at Gumdalloo'--smacks terribly of
'Moses and Son.'"

"We are agreed, then," said the Abbé, rising.

"I swear," said Jekyl, rising, and throwing out his hand in the attitude
of the well-known picture of the "Marshals." "The step that I am about
to take will throw its gloom over many a dinner-party, and bring sadness
into many a _salon_; but I 'll retire at least with dignity, and, like
Napoleon, I'll write my memoirs."

"So far, then, so good," said D'Esmonde; "now, with your leave, I
throw myself on this sofa and snatch an hour's sleep." And ere Jekyl
had arranged the folds of what he called his "sable pelisse" as a
covering, the Abbé was in deep slumber.



CHAPTER XXV. PRIESTCRAFT.

With less than two hours of sleep, D'Esmonde arose refreshed and ready
for the day. Jekyl was not awake as the priest quitted his quarters,
and, repairing to his own lodgings, dressed himself with more than
usual care. Without any of the foppery of the Abbé, there was a studied
elegance in every detail of his costume, and as he stepped into the
carriage which awaited him, many turned their looks of admiration at the
handsome priest.

"To the Crocetto," said he, and away they went.

It was already so early that few persons were about as they drove into
the court of the palace, and drew up at a private door. Here D'Esmonde
got out and ascended the stairs.

"Ah, Monsignore!" said a young man, somewhat smartly Attired in a
dressing-gown and velvet cap. "He did not return here last night."

"Indeed!" said the Abbé, pondering.

"He dismissed the carriage at the Pitti, so that in all likelihood he
passed the night at the palace."

"Most probably," said D'Esmonde, with a bland smile; And then, with a
courteous "Good-morning," he returned to his carriage.

"Where to, Signore?" asked the driver.

"Towards the Duomo," said he. But scarcely had the man turned the second
corner, than he said, "To the 'Moskova,' Prince Midchekoffs villa."

"We 're turning our back to it, Signore. It's on the hill of Fiesole."

D'Esmonde nodded, but said no more. Although scarcely a league from
the city, the way occupied a considerable time, being one continued and
steep ascent. The Abbé was, however, too deeply engaged with his own
thoughts to bestow attention on the pace they journeyed, or the scene
around. He was far from being insensible to the influence of the
picturesque or the beautiful; but now other and weightier considerations
completely engrossed his mind, nor was he aware how the moments passed
till the carriage came to a stop.

"The Prince is absent, sir, in Lombardy," said a gruff-looking porter
from within the gate.

D'Esmonde descended, and whispered some words between the bars.

"But my orders----my orders!" said the man, in a tone of deference.

"They would be peremptory against any other than _me_," said D'Esmonde,
calmly; and, after a few seconds' pause, the man unlocked the gate, and
the carriage passed in.

"To the back entrance," called out D'Esmonde. And they drove into
a spacious courtyard, where a number of men were engaged in washing
carriages, cleaning horses, and all the other duties of the stable. One
large and cumbrous vehicle, loaded with all the varied "accessories" of
the road, and fortified by many a precaution against the accidents of
the way, stood prominent. It was covered with stains and splashes,
and bore unmistakable evidence of a long Journey. A courier, with
a red-brown beard descending to his breast, was busy in locking and
unlocking the boxes, as if in search of some missing article.

"How heavy the roads are in the north!" said D'Esmonde, addressing him
in German.

The man touched his cap in a half-sullen civility, and muttered an
assent.

"I once made the same journey myself, in winter," resumed the Abbé,
"and I remembered thinking that no man undergoes such real hardship as
a courier. Sixteen, seventeen, ay, twenty days and nights of continued
exposure to cold and snows, and yet obliged to have all his faculties
on full stretch the whole time, to remember every post station, every
bridge and ferry,--the steep mountain passes, where oxen must be
hired,--the frontiers of provinces, where passports are vised."

"Ay, and when the lazy officials will keep you standing in the deep snow
a full hoar at midnight, while they ring every copeck to see it be good
money."

"That's the true and only metal for a coinage," said D'Esmonde, as he
drew forth a gold Napoleon, and placed it in the other's hand. "Take it,
my worthy fellow," said he; "it's part of a debt I owe to every man who
wears the courier's jacket. Had it not been for one of _your_ cloth, I
'd have been drowned at the ford of Ostrovitsch."

"It's the worst ferry in the Empire," said the courier. "The Emperor
himself had a narrow escape there. The raft is one half too small."

"How many days have you taken on the way?" asked D'Esmonde, carelessly

"Twenty-eight--yesterday would have made the twenty-ninth--but we
arrived before noon."

"Twenty-eight days!" repeated D'Esmonde, pondering.

"Ay, and nights too! But remember that Vradskoi Noteki is three hundred
and eighty versts below St. Petersburg."

"I know it well," said D'Esmonde, "and with a heavily loaded carriage
it's a weary road. How did she bear the journey?" said he, in a low,
scarcely uttered whisper.

"Bear it I----better than I did; and, except when scolding the
postilions for not going twelve versts an hour, in deep snow, she
enjoyed herself the entire way."

D'Esmonde gave a knowing look and a smile, as though to say that he
recognized her thoroughly in the description.

"You know her, then?" asked the courier.

"This many a year," replied the Abbé, with a faint sigh.

"She's a rare one," said the man, who grew at each instant more
confidential, "and thinks no more of a gold rouble than many another
would of a copeck. Is it true, as they say, she was once an actress?"

"There are stranger stories than that about her," said D'Esmonde. "But
why has she come alone? How happens it that she is here?"

"That is the secret that none of us can fathom," said the courier. "We
thought there was to have been another, and I believe there is another
in the passport, but it was no affair of mine. I had my orders from the
Prince's own 'intendant,' who bespoke all the relays for the road, and
here we are."

"I will explain all the mystery to you at another time, courier," said
D'Esmonde; "meanwhile, let nothing of what we have been saying escape
you. By the way," added he, half carelessly, "what name did she travel
under?"

"The passport was made out 'Die Gräfin von Dalton;' but she has a
Spanish name, for I heard it once from the intendant."

"Was it Lola de Seviglia?"

"That was it. I remember it well."

"We are very old friends indeed!" said the Abbé; "and now be cautious;
let none know that we have spoken together, and I can serve your fortune
hereafter."

The German scarcely looked quite satisfied with himself for the
confidence he had been unwittingly led into; "but, after all," thought
he, "the priest knew more than I could tell him;" and so he resumed his
search without further thought of the matter.

As for D'Esmonde, his first care was to inquire for Monsieur de Grasse,
the Prince's chief secretary, with whom he remained closeted for nigh
an hour. It will not be necessary to inflict all the detail of that
interview on the reader; enough that we state its substance to have
been a pressing entreaty on the part of D'Esmonde to be admitted to
an audience of the Prince, as firmly resisted by the secretary, whose
orders were not to admit any one, nor, indeed, acknowledge that his
Highness was then there.

"You must wait upon him at the Crocetto, Monsignore," said De Grasse.
"Your presence here will simply cause the dismissal of those who have
admitted you, and yet never advance your own wishes in the least."

"My business is too urgent, sir, to be combated by reasons so weak as
these," replied D'Esmonde; "nor am I much accustomed to the air of an
antechamber."

"You must yet be aware, Monsignore, that the orders of Prince Midchekoff
are absolute in his own house." The secretary dropped his voice almost
to a whisper as he finished this sentence, for he had just overheard
the Prince speaking to some one without, and could detect his step as he
came along the corridor.

With a look of most meaning entreaty he besought the Abbé to keep
silence, while he crept noiselessly over and turned the key. D'Esmonde
uttered an exclamation of anger, and, sweeping past a window, within
which stood a magnificent vase of malachite, he caught the costly object
in the wide folds of his gown, and dashed it to the ground in a thousand
pieces. De Grasse gave a sudden cry of horror, and at the same instant
Midchekoff knocked at the door, and demanded admittance. With faltering
hand the secretary turned the key, and the Prince entered the room,
casting his eyes from D'Esmonde to the floor, where the fragments lay,
and back again to the priest, with a significance that showed how he
interpreted the whole incident. As for the Abbé, he looked as coldly
indifferent to the accident as though it were the veriest trifle he had
destroyed.

"I came to have a few moments' interview with you, Prince," said he,
calmly; "can you so far oblige me?"

"I am entirely at your orders, Monsignore," said the Russian, with a
faint smile. "Allow me to conduct you to a chamber in less disorder than
this one."

The Abbé bowed, and followed him, not seeming to hear the allusion. And
now, passing through a number of rooms, whose gorgeous furniture
was carefully covered, they reached a small chamber opening upon a
conservatory, where a breakfast-table was already spread.

"I will waste neither your time nor my own, Prince, by an apology for
the hour of this visit, nor the place; my business did not admit of
delay--that will excuse me in your eyes."

The Prince gave a cold bow, but never spoke.

D'Esmonde resumed. "I have heard the news from the camp: Lord Norwood
tells me that the Austrians have fallen back, and with a heavy loss
too."

"Not heavy!" said the Russian, with a smile.

"Enough, however, to raise the hopes and strengthen the courage of the
others. Goito was, at least, a victory." A faint shrug of the shoulders
was the only reply the Prince made, and the Abbé went on: "Things are
too critical, Prince, to treat the event slightingly. We cannot answer
either for France or England; still less can we rely on the politicians
of Vienna. A second or a third reverse, and who can say that they will
not treat for a peace, at the cost of half the States of Lombardy. Nay,
sir, I am not speaking without book," added he, more warmly; "I know--I
repeat it----I know that such a negotiation has been entertained,
and that at this moment the Cabinet of England has the matter in its
consideration."

"It may be so," said the Prince, carelessly, as he poured out his
coffee.

"Then there is not a moment to be lost," cried the Abbé, impetuously. "A
cession of the Milanais means a Republic of Upper Italy,--the downfall
of the Popedom,--the rule of infidelity over the Peninsula. Are
_we_--are _you_ prepared for this? Enough has been done to show that
Italian 'unity' is a fiction. Let us complete the lesson by proving that
they cannot meet the Austrian in arms. The present generation, at least,
will not forget the chastisement, if it be but heavy enough."

"We may leave that task to the Imperialists," said the Prince, with a
cold smile.

"I do not think so. I know too much of German sluggishness and apathy.
The reinforcements, that should pour in like a flood, creep lazily
along. The dread of France--the old terror of those wars that once
crushed them--is still uppermost. They know not how far Europe will
permit them to punish a rebellious province; and while they hesitate,
they give time for the growth of that public opinion that will condemn
them."

"Perhaps you are right," said the Russian, as he sipped his coffee
carelessly.

"And if I be," cried D'Esmonde, passionately, "are we to sit tranquilly
here till the ruin overtake us? Will Russia wait till the flame of a
red republic throws its lurid glare over Europe, and even gleam over
the cold waters of the Neva? Is it her wish, or to her benefit, that the
flag of the democrat and the infidel is to float over the Continent?"

"You conjured up the monster yourself, Monsignore. It is for you to
order him back to the depths he came from."

"And we are ready for the task," said the priest. "We fostered this
revolt, because we saw it was better to lop off a diseased limb than to
suffer the gangrene to spread over the entire body; better to cast down
into utter perdition the wild democrats, who but half believed us, than
peril the countless millions of true Catholics. Nay, more, we acted with
your counsel and concurrence. That revolt has already borne its fruits.
Men see no issue to the struggle they are engaged in. The men of
moderation are overborne by the wild clamor of the factionist. Anarchy
is amongst them, and now is our moment to bid the contest cease, and
earn from mankind the glorious epithet of 'peacemaker.' The tide of
victory once turned, see how the mind of Europe will turn with it. Good
wishes are prone to go with the battalions that advance!"

"Good wishes are not too costly a sympathy," said the Russian, coolly.

"It is to that point I am coming, Prince," said the Abbé; "nor have
I intruded myself on your privacy to-day merely to discuss the public
opinion of Europe. The whole of this question lies in a narrow compass.
It is time that this struggle should cease,--it is, at least, time that
the tide of conquest should turn. Were Austria free to use her strength,
we might trust the issue to herself; but she is not, and we must help
her. I hold here the means," said he, placing on the table a heavy
pocket-book crammed with letters. "This," said he, taking up one large
sealed packet, "is an autograph from his Holiness, commanding Durando to
halt at the Po, and under no circumstances to cross the frontier.
This," continued he, showing another, "is to Ghirardi, to grant leave of
absence to all officers who desire to return to their homes. This is to
Krasaletzki, to provide for the disbandment of his legion. The King
of Naples waits but for the signal to recall General Pepe and his
contingent, fifteen thousand strong. And now, Prince, there is but one
other voice in Europe we wait for--the Czar's!"

"His Imperial Majesty has ever wished well to the cause of order," said
the Russian, with a studied calm of manner.

"Away with such trifling as this!" said D'Esmonde, passionately; "nor
do not try to impose on me by those courteous generalities that amuse
cabinets. Russia speaks to Western Europe best by her gold. The 'rouble'
can come where the 'Cossack' cannot! There are men with those armies
that comprehend no other argument----whose swords have their price. Our
treasures are exhausted; the sacred vessels of our altars--the golden
ornaments of our shrines--are gone. You alone can aid us at this moment.
It is no barren generosity, Prince! you are combating your Poles more
cheaply beside the Po and the Adige than on the banks of the Vistula!
you are doing more! you are breaking up those ancient alliances of
Europe whose existence excluded you from continental power! you are
buying your freedom to sit down among the rulers of the Old World, and
accustoming the nations of the West to the voice of the Boyard in their
councils! And, greatest of all, you are crushing into annihilation that
spirit of revolt that now rages like a pestilence. But why do I speak
of these things to one like you? you know full well the terms of the
compact Your own handwriting has confessed it."

Midchekoff gave a slight--a very slight--movement of surprise, but never
spoke.

"Yes," continued D'Esmonde, "I have within that pocket-book at this
moment the receipt of Count Grünenburg, the Austrian Secretary-at-War,
for the second instalment of a loan advanced by Prince Midchekoff to the
Imperial Government. I have a copy of the order in council acknowledging
in terms of gratitude the aid, and recommending that the cross of
St. Stephen should be conferred on the illustrious lender. And, less
gracious than these," added he, with sarcastic bitterness, "I have the
record of the Emperor's scruples about according the first-class order
of the Empire to one whose nobility was but left-handed. Were these to
appear to-morrow in the _Razionale_, is it only your pride as a prince
that would be humbled? Or think you that a single stone would rest upon
another in this gorgeous edifice where we are standing? Who or what
could restrain an infuriated populace from wreaking their vengeance on
the traitor? Who would lift a hand against the pillage of this splendor,
and the desecration of this magnificence? It is not willingly that I
tell you these things, nor had I ever spoken of them if you had but
heard me with fitting attention. I know, too, the price at which they
are uttered. We never can be friends; but that is of small moment Our
cause--ours, I say, for it is yours no less than mine--is above such
consideration."

"How much do you require?" said Midchekoff, as he leaned his arm on the
chimney-piece, and stared calmly at the Abbé.

"Ghirardi and his staff demand two hundred thousand francs; Albizi will
be a cheaper bargain. Marionetti and his force will be surrounded, and
retire from Lombardy on parole of not serving during the campaign,----he
only asks enough to emigrate with. Then, there is the Commissary of
the Crociati,--he is quite ready to become his own paymaster. There
are others of inferior rank and pretensions, with whom I shall treat
personally. The press, particularly of England, will be the difficulty;
but its importance is above all price. The public mind must be brought
back, from its sympathy for a people, to regard the rulers more
favorably. Anarchy and misrule must be displayed in their most glaring
colors. The Crociati will do us good service here; their crimes would
sully a holier crusade than this! But I weary you, sir," said the Abbé,
stopping suddenly, and observing that Midchekoff, instead of seeming to
listen, was busily occupied in writing.

"Morlache holds bills of mine to this amount," said the Prince, showing
a list of several large sums; "he will place them at your disposal
on your giving a receipt for them. This is an order, also, regarding
certain emeralds I have commissioned him to have mounted in gold. He
need not do so, but will dispose of the gems, as I shall not want them."
A very slight flush here colored his cheek, and he paused as if some
bitter thought had crossed his mind.

D'Esmonde's quick eye read the meaning of the expression, and he said,
"Am I to congratulate your Highness on the approach of a certain happy
event?"

"His Majesty has not deigned to accord me the necessary permission," was
the reply.

"Then I will be bold enough to say I congratulate you," cried D'Esmonde.
"Your alliance should be with a royal house, Prince. _Your_ position in
Europe is exceptional; such should be _your_ marriage. Besides, the day
is not very distant when there must come another dissection of the map
of Europe. There will be new principalities, but wanting heads to rule
them. The world is tired of Coburgs, and would gladly see another name
amongst its royalties."

"I am at the disposal of my Emperor," said Midchekoff, coldly; for
whatever effect the flatteries might produce within, neither his words
nor his looks would betray it, and now by his manner he showed that he
wished the interview over.

"Mademoiselle, then, returns to her family?" asked D'Esmonde.

"To the care of the Count von Auersberg."

"The reputation of having attracted your Highness will be a fortune to
her."

"She has refused a settlement of eighty thousand roubles a year."

"A most princely offer!" cried D'Esmonde.

"His Majesty fixed the sum," said Midchekoff, as coolly as though
talking of an indifferent matter.

D'Esmonde now rose to take his leave, but there was a reluctance in his
manner that showed he was unwilling to go. At last he said, "Does your
Highness intend to return to the camp?"

"The day after to-morrow."

"I ask," said the Abbé, "inasmuch as I am hourly in expectation of
hearing from Cardinal Maraffa with reference to a certain decoration
which you should long since have received----"

"Indeed! has his Holiness been pleased to consider me amongst his most
ardent well-wishers?" cried the Prince, interrupting.

"I may be in a position to assure your Highness on that score before
another day elapses. May I hope that you will receive me, even at some
inconvenience, for my time is much occupied just now?"

"Whenever you call, Monsieur l'Abbé," was the prompt reply. "If you will
deign to accept this ring as a souvenir of me, it will also serve to
admit you at all hours and in all places to me."

"Your costly gift, Prince," said D'Esmonde, flushing, "has a greater
value in my eyes than all its lustre can express." And with a most
affectionate leave-taking they parted.

"At what hour is the Prince's carriage ordered?" said the Abbé, as he
passed through the hall.

"For two o'clock precisely, Monsignore. He is to have an audience at the
Pitti."

"To Florence----and with speed!" said D'Esmonde to his coachman; and
away they drove.



CHAPTER XXVI. THE "MOSKOVA."

The Abbé D'Esmonde passed a busy morning. Twice was he closeted with
the President of the Ministry, and once was he received in a lengthy
audience at the "Pitti;" after which he repaired to the house of
Morlache, where he remained till after two o'clock.

"There goes Midchekoff to the Palace," said the Jew, as a handsome
equipage drove past.

"Then it is time for me to be away," said D'Esmonde, rising. "I have
received orders to meet him there. Remember, Morlache, I must have this
sum in gold, ready by the evening; the bills on London can reach me by
post."

"All shall be attended to," said Morlache; and the Abbé entered his
carriage once more, giving orders for the Pitti.

When the carriage had passed the first turning, however, D'Esmonde
appeared to have remembered something that till then had escaped him,
and he desired the man to drive round to the San Gallo gate; thence he
directed his way to the narrow road which traverses the valley of the
Mugello, and winds along for miles at the foot of the hill of Fiesole.
Once outside the city, D'Esmonde urged the man to speed, and they drove
for nigh an hour at a rapid pace.

"There is a footpath somewhere hereabouts leads to Fiesole," said
D'Esmonde, springing out, and casting his eyes around. "I have it Remain
here till I come down. I may be absent for an hour or more; but be sure
to wait for me." And so saying, he passed into a vineyard beside the
road, and was soon lost to view.

The pathway was steep and rugged; but D'Esmonde traversed it with an
active step, scarcely seeming to bestow a thought upon its difficulties,
in the deeper preoccupation of his mind. As little did he notice the
peasant greetings that met him, or hear the kindly accents that bade him
"good-day" as he went. If at intervals he stopped in his career, it was
rather to take breath and to recruit vigor for new efforts, than to look
down upon the gorgeous scene that now lay beneath him. For an instant,
however, his thoughts did stray to the objects in view; and as he beheld
the dark towers of a gloomy castellated building, half hid amongst tall
yew-trees, he muttered,----

"Deeper and darker schemes than mine were once enacted there!--and what
fruits have they borne after all? They who convulsed the age they lived
in have never left an impress to ruffle the future, and, for aught that
we know or feel, the Medici might never have lived. And this," cried he,
aloud, "because theirs was a selfish ambition. There is but one cause
whose interests are eternal,--the Church; that glorious creation which
combines power here with triumph hereafter!" His face, as he uttered
the words, was no bad emblem of the nature within,----a high and noble
brow, lit up by the impress of a great ambition, and, beneath, eyes
of changeful and treacherous meaning; while, lower down again, in
the compressed lips and projecting chin might be read the signs of an
unrelenting spirit. Passing along through many a tortuous path, he at
last reached a small private gate which led into the grounds of the
"Moskova." He had to bethink him for a moment of the way which conducted
to the gardens, but he soon remembered the direction, and walked on.
It was the hour when in Italy the whole face of a country, the busiest
streets of a thronged city, are deserted, and a stillness far more
unbroken than that of midnight prevails. The glowing hours of noonday
had brought the "siesta," and not a laborer was to be seen in the
fields.

D'Esmonde found the garden unlocked, and entered. He knew that by
passing directly onward to the "orangery" he could enter the villa by
a small door, which led into the private apartments of the Prince. This
was, however, locked; but the window lay open, and with a spring he
gained the sill and entered the chamber. He knew it well; it was the
little room appropriated by Midchekoff as his private library, simply
furnished, and connected with a still smaller chamber, where, in an
alcove, a species of divan stood, on which it was the rich man's caprice
at times to pass the night Although certain traces showed that the
Prince had been recently there, no letters nor papers lay about;
there was no sign of haste or negligence, nor was anything left to the
accidents of prying eyes or meddling fingers. D'Esmonde opened the door
which conducted into the corridor, and listened; but all was silent He
then sat down to think. The palace--for such, under the name of villa,
it was--was of immense extent, and he could not expect to ramble many
minutes without chancing upon some of the household. His color came
and went, as, in deep agitation, he conceived in turn every possible
project, for he was one whose mind worked with all the violent throes
of some mighty engine; and even when taking counsel with himself, the
alternate impulses of his reason became painful efforts. At last he made
up his resolve, and, entering the inner chamber, he closed the shutters
and drew the curtains; and then, throwing around his shoulders a richly
lined cloak of sable, he rang the bell loudly and violently. This done,
he lay down upon the divan, which, in the darkness of the recess, was in
complete obscurity. He had barely time to draw the folds of the mantle
about him, when a servant entered, with noiseless step, and stood at
a respectful distance, awaiting what he believed to be his master's
orders.

"Send the Sigñora," muttered D'Esmonde, with the cloak folded across his
mouth, and then turned on his side. The servant bowed and retired.

D'Esmonde started up, and listened to the retiring footfalls, till they
were lost in distance, and then the strong pulsations of his own heart
seemed to mock their measured pace. "Would the stratagem succeed?"
"Would she come, and come alone?" were the questions which he asked
himself, as his clasped hands were clinched, and his lips quivered in
strong emotion. An unbroken stillness succeeded, so long that, to his
aching senses, it seemed like hours of time. At last a heavy door
was heard to bang; another, too,--now voices might be detected in the
distance; then came footsteps, it seemed, as of several people; and,
lastly, these died away, and he could mark the sweeping sounds of a
female dress coming rapidly along the corridor. The door opened and
closed; she was in the library, and appeared to be waiting. D'Esmonde
gave a low, faint cough; and now, hastily passing on, she entered the
inner chamber, and, with cautious steps traversing the darkened space,
she knelt down beside the couch. D'Esmonde's hand lay half uncovered,
and on this now another hand was gently laid. Not a word was uttered by
either; indeed, their very breathings seemed hushed into stillness.

If the secrets of hearts were open to us, what a history, what a
life-long experience lay in those brief moments! and what a conflict
of passion might be read in those two natures! A slight shudder shook
D'Esmonde's frame at the touch of that hand which so often had been
clasped within his own, long, long ago, and he raised it tenderly, and
pressed it to his lips. Then, passing his other arm around her, so as
to prevent escape, he said, but in a voice barely audible, the one word,
"Lola!"

With a violent effort she tried to disengage herself from his grasp;
and although her struggles were great, not a cry, not a syllable escaped
her. "Hear me, Lola," said D'Esmonde; "hear me with patience and with
calm, if not for my sake, for your own."

"Unhand me, then," said she, in a voice which, though low, was uttered
with all the vehemence of strong emotion. "I am not a prisoner beneath
this roof."

"Not a prisoner, say you?" said D'Esmonde, as he locked the door, and
advanced towards her. "Can there be any bondage compared to this? Does
the world know of any slavery so debasing?"

"Dare to utter such words again, and I will call to my aid those who
will hurl you from that window," said she, in the same subdued accents.
"That priestly robe will be but a poor defence here."

"You'd scarcely benefit by the call, Lola," said D'Esmonde, as he stole
one hand within the folds of his robe.

"Would you kill me?" cried she, growing deathly pale.

"Be calm, and hear me," said the priest, as he pressed her down upon
a seat, and took one directly opposite to her. "It never could be my
purpose, Lola, to have come here either to injure or revile you. I may,
indeed, sorrow over the fall of one whose honorable ambitions might have
soared so high; I may grieve for a ruin that was so causeless; but, save
when anguish may wring from me a word of bitterness, I will not hurt
your ears, Lola. I know everything,--all that has happened; yet have I
to learn who counselled you to this flight."

"Here was my adviser,----here!" said she, pressing her hand firmly
against her side. "My heart, bursting and indignant,----my slighted
affection,----my rejected love! you ask me this,----you, who knew how I
loved him."

For some seconds her emotion overcame her, and, as she covered her face
with her hands, she swayed and rocked from side to side, like one in
acute bodily pain.

"I stooped to tell him all,--how I had thought and dreamed of him; how
followed his footsteps; sought out the haunts that he frequented, and
loved to linger in the places where he had been. I told him, too, of one
night when I had even ventured to seek him in his own chamber, and was
nearly detected by another who chanced to be there; my very dress was
torn in my flight. There was no confession too humiliating for my lips
to utter, nor my pen to trace; and what has been the return? But why do
I speak of these things to one whose heart is sealed against affection,
and whose nature rejects the very name of love? you will be a merciless
judge, Eustace!"

[Illustration: 362]

"Go on; let me hear you out, Lola," said the priest, gently.

"The tale is soon told," rejoined she, hurriedly. "My letter reached him
on the eve of a great battle. The army, it appears, had been marching
for weeks, and suddenly came upon the enemy without expecting it. He
told me so much in about as many words, and said that he was passing
what might, perhaps, prove his last hours of life in replying to me.
'Outnumbered and outmanoeuvred, nothing remains but to sell our lives
dearly, and even in our defeat make the name of Englishmen one of terror
to our enemies.' So he wrote, and so I could have read, with a swelling
but not a breaking heart, had he not added that, for my warm affection,
my whole soul's devotion, he had nothing but his friendship to give in
return; that his heart had long since been another's, and that, although
she never could be his, never in all likelihood know of his affection,
he would die with her name upon his lips, her image in his heart. 'It
matters little,' added he, 'in what channel flow the feelings of one,
where to-morrow, in all likelihood, the course will be dried up forever.
Let me, however, with what may be the last lines I shall ever write,
thank you--nay, bless you--for one passage of your letter, and the
thought of which will nerve my heart in the conflict now so near, and
make me meet my last hour with an unbroken spirit.' The mystery of these
words I never could penetrate, nor have I the slightest clew to their
meaning. But why should I care for them? Enough that I am slighted,
despised, and rejected! This letter came to my hands six weeks ago. I at
once wrote to the Prince Midchekoff, telling him that the woman he was
about to marry loved, and was loved, by another; that she entertained no
feeling towards himself but of dread and terror. I told him, too, that
her very beauty would not withstand the inroads of a sorrow that was
corroding her heart He replied to me, and I wrote again. I was now his
confidante, and he told me all,----how that he had addressed a formal
demand to the Emperor for leave to marry, and how he had taken safe
measures to have his prayer rejected. Then came the tidings of the
Czar's refusal to Madame de Heidendorf, and _my_ triumph; for I told
her, and to her face, that once more we were equals. It was then, stung
by this taunt, that she refused to travel with me, refused to accept the
splendid dowry to which her betrothal entitled her, and demanded to be
restored to her family and friends, poor as she had left them. It was
then that I resolved on this bold step. I had long been learning the
falsehood of what are called friends, and how he who would achieve
fortune must trust to himself alone. Midchekoff might not love me, but
there was much in my power to secure his esteem. My head could be as
fertile in schemes as his own. I had seen much and heard more. The
petty plottings of the Heidendorf and the darker counsels of the Abbé
D'Esmonde were all known to me--"

"You did not dare to write my name?" asked the priest, in a slow,
deliberate voice.

"And why should I not?" cried she, haughtily. "Is it fear, or is it
gratitude should hold my hand?"

"You forget the past, Lola, or you had never said these words."

"I remember it but as a troubled dream, which I will not suffer to
darken my waking hours. At last I begin to live, and never till now have
I known the sensation of being above fear."

"You told the Prince, then, of our relations together? You showed him my
letters and your own replies?" said D'Esmonde, as he fixed his dark eyes
upon her.

"All,--all!" said she, with a haughty smile.

"You, perhaps, told him that I had engaged you to write to me of all you
heard or saw at St Petersburg?"

"I said so, in a most unpolished phrase: I called myself a spy."

"You were probably not less candid when designating your friends, Lola,"
said D'Esmonde, with a faint smile. "How, pray, did you name _me_?"

"It was a better word,----one of cutting reproach, believe me," said
she. "I called you a 'priest,' sir; do you think there is another
epithet that can contain as much?"

"In the overflowing of those frank impulses, Lola, of course you spoke
of Norwood,--of Gerald Acton, I mean, as you may remember him better by
that name. You told the Prince of your marriage to this Englishman,--a
marriage solemnized by myself, and of which I retain the written
evidence."

"With the falsehood that for a brief moment imposed upon myself, I would
not stoop to cheat another! No, Eustace, this may be priestcraft. To
outlive a deception, and then employ it; to tremble at a fallacy first,
and to terrorize by means of it after, is excellent Popery, but most
sorry womanhood!"

"Unhappy, wretched creature!" cried D'Esmonde; "where have you learned
these lessons?--who could have taught you this?"

"You,--and you alone, Eustace. In reading _your_ nature I unread my own
faith. In seeing your falsehood, I learned to believe there was no truth
anywhere. I asked myself, what must be the religion if this man be its
interpreter?"

"Hold,----hold!" cried D'Esmonde, passionately. "It is not to such as
you I can render account of my actions, nor lay bare the secret workings
of my heart. Know this much, however, woman, and ponder over it well;
that if a man like me can make shipwreck of his whole nature, crush
his hopes, and blast his budding affections, the cause that exacts
the sacrifice must needs be holy. Bethink you that my goal is not like
_yours_. I have not plotted for a life of inglorious ease. I have not
schemed to win a pampered and voluptuous existence. It is not in a
whirlwind of passionate enjoyment I have placed the haven of my hopes.
you see me--as I have ever been--poor, meanly housed, and meanly fed;
not repining at my lot either, not deeming my condition a hard one. Why
am I thus, then? Are the prizes that worldly men contend for above
_my_ reach? Am I the inferior of those who are carrying away the great
rewards of life? Where is the stain of falsehood in all this?"

"Were I to copy the picture and paint myself in the same colors,"
said Lola,----"were I to show what I have stooped to,--a scoff and
a shame!--how I neither faltered at a crime nor trembled before
exposure----all that I might be--what I now am--"

"The mistress of a Prince!" said D'Esmonde, with a contemptuous smile.

"Was it a prouder fortune when my lover was the serge-clad seminarist of
Salamanca?" said she, laughing scornfully.

"I linked you with a higher destiny, Lola," said D'Esmonde,
deliberately.

"Again you refer to this pretended marriage. But I put no faith in your
words; nor, were they even true, should they turn me from my path."

"At least you should confirm your claim to his name and title," said
D'Esmonde. "The rank you will thus attain will but strengthen your
position in the world; and they who would treat contemptuously the
Toridor's daughter will show every courtesy and deference to the English
peeress."

"I will hazard nothing on your advice, priest!" said she, proudly.
"I know you as one who never counselled without a scheme of personal
advantage. This Acton has injured you. You desire his ruin; or, perhaps,
some deep intrigue awaits myself. It matters not; I will not aid you."

"How you misjudge me, Lola!" said he, sorrowfully. "I meant by this act
to have repaired many an unconscious wrong, and to have vindicated
an affection which the troubled years of life have never been able to
efface. Amidst all the cares of great events, when moments are precious
as days of ordinary existence, I have come to offer you this last
reparation. Think well ere you reject it."

"Not for an instant!" cried she, passionately. "Make weaker minds the
tools of your subtle artifices, and leave _me_ to follow my own career."

"I will obey you," said D'Esmonde, with an air of deep humility. "I ask
but one favor. As this meeting is unknown to all, never speak of it to
Midchekoff. My name need never pass your lips, nor shall my presence
again offend you. Adieu forever!"

Whether some passing pang of remorse shot through her heart, or that a
sudden sense of dread came across her, Lola stood unable to reply; and
it was only as he moved away towards the door that she found strength to
say, "Goodbye."

"Let me touch that hand for the last time, Lola," said he, advancing
towards her.

"No, no,--leave me!" cried she, with a sick shudder, and as though his
very approach suggested peril.

D'Esmonde bowed submissively, and passed out. With slow and measured
steps he traversed the alleys of the garden; but once outside the walls,
he hastened his pace. Descending the mountain with rapid strides, he
gained the road where the carriage waited in less than half an hour.

"To the city!" said he; and, throwing himself back in his seat, drew
down the blinds, while, with folded arms and closed eyes, he tasted of
what habit enabled him at any moment to command,--a refreshing sleep.



CHAPTER XXVII. VALEGGIO.

The little village of Valeggio, near the Lago di Guarda, was fixed upon
as the spot where the commissaries of both armies should meet to arrange
on the exchange of prisoners. It stood at about an equal distance from
their headquarters, and, although a poor and insignificant hamlet, was
conveniently situated for the purpose in hand. Soon after daybreak,
the stirring sounds of marching troops awoke the inhabitants, and a
half-squadron of Piedmontese lancers were seen to ride up the narrow
street, and, dismounting, to picket their horses in the little Piazza
of the market. Shortly after these came an equal number of Hungarian
hussars, "Radetzky's Own," who drew up in the square before the church;
each party seeming carefully to avoid even a momentary contact with the
other. Several country carts and wagons lined the street, for a number
of prisoners had arrived the preceding evening, and taken up their
quarters in the village, who might now be seen projecting their pale
faces and bandaged heads from many a casement, and watching with eager
curiosity all that was going forward. About an hour later, an Austrian
General, with his staff, rode in from the Peschiera road, while, almost
at the very instant, a calèche with four horses dashed up from the
opposite direction, conveying the Piedmontese "Commissary."

So accurately timed was the arrival, that they both drew up at the
door of the little inn together, and as the one dismounted, the other
alighted from his carriage.

The etiquette of precedence, so easily settled in the ordinary course of
events, becomes a matter of some difficulty at certain moments, and
so the two Generals seemed to feel it, as, while desirous of showing
courtesy, each scrupled at what might seem a compromise of his country's
dignity.

The Austrian officer was a very old man, whose soldierlike air and
dignified deportment recalled the warriors of a past century. The other,
who was slighter and younger, exhibited an air of easy unconcern, rather
smacking of courts than camps, and vouching for a greater familiarity
with _salons_ than with soldier life.

They uncovered and bowed respectfully to each other, and then stood,
each waiting, as it were, for the initiative of the other.

"After you, General," said the younger, at length, and with a manner
which most courteously expressed the deference he felt for age.

"I must beg _you_ to go first, sir," replied the Austrian. "I stand here
on the territory of my master, and I see in you all that demands the
deference due to a guest."

The other smiled slightly, but obeyed without a word; and, ascending the
stairs, was followed by the old General into the little chamber destined
for their conference. Slight and trivial as this incident was, it is
worth mention, as indicating the whole tone of the interview,--one
characterized by a proud insistence on one side, and a certain plastic
deference on the other. The Austrian spoke like one who felt authorized
to dictate his terms; while the Piedmontese seemed ready to acquiesce in
and accept whatever was proffered. The letters which accredited them to
each other lay open on the table; but as this preliminary conversation
had not assumed the formal tone of business, neither seemed to know
the name or title of the other. In fact, it appeared like a part of
the necessary etiquette that they were simply to regard each other as
representatives of two powers, neither caring to know or recognize any
personal claims.

Lists of names were produced on both sides. Master-rolls of regiments,
showing the precise ranks of individuals, and their standing in the
service, all arranged with such care and accuracy as to show that
the conference itself was little more than a formality. A case of
brevet-rank, or the accident of a staff appointment, might now and then
call for a remark or an explanation, but, except at these times, the
matter went on in a mere routine fashion; a mark of a pencil sufficing
to break a captivity, and change the whole fate of a fellow-man!

"Our task is soon ended, sir," said the Austrian, rising at last. "It
would seem that officers on both sides prefer death to captivity in this
war."

"The loss has been very great indeed," said the other. "The peculiar
uniform of your officers, so distinct from their men, has much exposed
them."

"They met their fate honorably, at least, sir; they wore the colors of
their Emperor."

"Very true, General," replied the other, "and I will own to you our
surprise at the fact that there have been no desertions, except from
the ranks. The popular impression was, that many of the Hungarians would
have joined the Italian cause. It was even said whole regiments would
have gone over."

"It was a base calumny upon a faithful people and a brave soldiery,"
said the other. "I will not say that such a falsehood may not have
blinded their eyes against their truth in their national struggle,--the
love of country might easily have been used to a base and treacherous
purpose,--but here, in this conflict, not a man will desert the cause of
the Emperor!" The emotion in which he spoke these words was such that he
was obliged to turn away his face to conceal it.

"Your words have found an illustration amongst the number of our wounded
prisoners, General," said the other--"a young fellow who, it was said,
broke his arrest to join the struggle at Goito, but whose name or rank
we never could find out, for, before being taken, he had torn every mark
of his grade from cuff and collar!"

"You know his regiment, perhaps?"

"It is said to be Prince Paul of Würtemberg's."

"What is he like,--what may be his age?" asked the General, hastily.

"To pronounce from appearance, he is a mere boy,--brown-haired and
blue-eyed, and wears no moustache."

"Where is he, sir?" asked the old man, with a suppressed emotion.

"In this very village. He was forwarded here last night by a special
order of the Duke of Savoy, who has taken a deep interest in his fate,
and requested that I should take measures, while restoring him, without
exchange, to mention the signal bravery of his conduct."

"The Duke's conduct is worthy of a soldier Prince!" said the General,
with feeling, "and, in my master's name, I beg to thank him."

"The youth is at the temporary hospital, but knows nothing of these
arrangements for his release. Perhaps the tidings will come more
gratefully to his ears from his own countryman."

"It is kindly spoken, sir. May I have the honor of knowing the name of
one who has made this interview so agreeable by his courtesy?"

"My name at this side of the Alps, General, is Count de Valetta; but I
have another and better known designation, before I pronounce which, I
would gladly enlist in my favor whatever I might of yonr good opinion."

"All this sounds like a riddle to me, Signor Conte," said the General,
"and I am but a plain man, little skilled at unravelling a difficulty."

"I am addressing the General Count von Auersberg," said the other.
"Well, sir, it was hearing that you were the officer selected for this
duty that induced me to ask I might be appointed also. I have been most
anxious to meet you, and, in the accidents of a state of war, knew not
how to compass my object."

The old General bowed politely, and waited, with all patience, for
further enlightenment.

"My desire for this meeting. General, proceeds from my wish to exculpate
myself from what may seem to have been an unqualified wrong done to a
member of your family. I am Prince Alexis Midchekoff."

Auersberg started from his chair at the words, and bent a look of angry
indignation at the speaker,--an expression which the Russian bore with
the very calmest unconcern.

"If I am to resume this explanation," said he, coldly, "it must be when
you have reseated yourself, and will condescend to hear me suitably."

"And who is to be my guarantee, sir, that I am not to listen to an
insult?" cried the old General, passionately. "I see before me the man
who has outraged the honor of my house. You know well, sir, the customs
of your nation, and that you had no right to accept a lady's hand in
betrothal without the permission of your Emperor."

"I was certain to obtain it," was the calm answer.

"So certain that it has been refused,----peremptorily, flatly refused."

"Very true, General. The refusal came at my own especial request. Nay,
sir, I need not tell you these words convey no insulting meaning,--but
hear me patiently, before you pronounce. The facts are briefly these. It
came to my knowledge that this young lady's acceptance of me proceeded
entirely from considerations of fortune,--that she had been greatly
influenced by others, and strongly urged to do that which might, at the
sacrifice of herself, benefit her family. These considerations were not
very flattering to me personally; but I should have overlooked them,
trusting to time and fortune for the result, had I not also learnt that
her affections were bestowed upon another,----a young Englishman,
with whom she had been for some time domesticated, whose picture she
possessed, and from whom she had received letters."

"Am I to take this assertion on trust?" cried the General.

"By no means, sir. This is the picture, and here is one of the letters.
I know not if there have been many others, nor can I say whether she has
replied to them. It was enough for me that I discovered I had no claim
on her affection, and that our marriage would bring only misery on both
sides. To have disclosed these facts before the world would of course
have exculpated me, but have injured _her_. I therefore took what
I deemed a more delicate course, and, by providing for the Imperial
refusal, I solved a difficulty that must otherwise have involved her
in deep reproach." The Prince waited some seconds for the General to
speak; but the old man stood like one stunned and stupefied, unable
to utter a word. At last Midchekoff resumed: "My master fixed a sum of
eighty thousand roubles to which I at once assented, as a settlement on
Mademoiselle de Dalton; but this, I grieve to say, she has peremptorily
rejected."

"Has she----has she done this?" cried the old Count. "Then, by St.
Stephen! she is my own dear child forever; come what may, there is no
disgrace can attach to her."

"I had hoped, sir," said Midchekoff, "that you might have seen this
matter as I did, and that I might have counted on your advocating what
is simply a measure of justice."

"I know little of the extent to which money reparations can atone for
injured feelings or wounded honor. My life has never supplied even a
single lesson on that score. All I see here is, an injury on either
side. _Your_ fault, I think, has been properly expiated; and as for
_hers_, I want no other justification than what you have told me. Now,
where is she? When may I see her?"

"I had given orders for her return to Vienna, with the intention of
placing her under your charge; but some mistake has occurred, and
her departure has been delayed. A second courier has, however, been
despatched, and ere this she will have left St. Petersburg."

"You have acted well throughout, Prince," said the old General, "and
I shall owe you my gratitude for the remainder of my life; not for the
delicacy of your reserve, still less for the generous character of
your intentions, but because you have shown me that this girl has a
highhearted sense of honor, and is a thorough Dalton." The old man's
eyes filled up with tears, and he had to turn away to hide his emotion.

Midchekoff rose to withdraw, affecting to busy himself with the papers
on the table, while Auersberg was recovering his self-possession. This
did not, however, seem an easy task; for the old General, forgetting
everything save Kate, leaned his head on his hands, and was lost in
thought.

The Prince respected his emotion, and withdrew in silence.

So much was the old General von Auersberg absorbed in his interest for
Kate, that he had not a thought to bestow upon the immediate affairs
before him. It was scarcely a few weeks since he had received a few
lines from herself, telling of the Emperor's refusal, and asking for his
advice. It needed all his long-pledged devotion to monarchy to enable
him to read the lines without an outbreak of passion; and his first
impulse was to seek out the man who had so grossly insulted his house,
and challenge him to single combat. Later reflection showed him that
this would be to arraign the conduct of the Emperor, and to call
in question the judgment of a crowned head. While agitated by these
opposite considerations, there came another and scarcely less sad
epistle to his hand; and if the writer was wanting in those claims to
station and rank which had such hold upon his heart, her touching words
and simple style moved him to emotions that for many a year seemed to
have slept within him.

It was Nelly's account of her father's death, told in her own
unpretending words, and addressed to one whom she recognized as the head
of her house. She dwelt with gratitude on the old Count's kindness, and
said how often her father had recurred to the thought of his protection
and guidance to Frank, when the time should come that would leave him
fatherless. It seemed as if up to this point she had written calmly and
collectedly, expressing herself in respectful distance to one so much
above her. No sooner, however, had she penned Frank's name, than all
this reserve gave way before the gushing torrent of her feelings, and
she proceeded:----

     "And oh! sir, is not the hour come when that protection is
     needed? Is not my poor brother a prisoner, charged with a
     terrible offence--no less than treason to his Emperor? You,
     who are yourself a great soldier, can say if such is like to
     be the crime of one well born, generous, and noble as Frank,
     whose heart ever overflowed to all who served him, and who,
     in all the reckless buoyancy of youth, never forgot his
     honor. Crafty and designing men--if such there may have been
     around him--might possibly have thrown their snares over
     him; but no persuasion nor seductions could have made him a
     traitor. 'See what the Kaiser has made Count Stephen!' were
     some of the last lines he ever wrote to me, 'and, perhaps,
     one day, another Dalton will stand as high in the favor of
     his master.' His whole heart and soul were in his soldier
     life. You, sir, were his guide-star, and, thinking of you,
     how could he have dreamed of disloyalty? They tell me that
     in troubled times like these, when many have faltered in
     their allegiance, such accusations are rarely well inquired
     into, and that courts-martial deal peremptorily with the
     prisoners; but you will not suffer mv brother to be thus
     tried and judged.    You will remember that he is a stranger
     in that land, an orphan, a mere boy, too; friendless,--no,
     no, not friendless, forgive me the ungracious word; he who
     bears your name, and carries in his veins your blood, cannot
     be called friendless.. you will say, perhaps, how defend
     him?--how reply to charges which will be made with all the
     force of witness and circumstance? I answer, hear his own
     story of himself; he never told a lie--remember that, Count-
     -from his infancy upwards! we, who lived with and about him,
     know that he never told a lie! If the accusation be just--
     and oh! may God avert this calamity--Frank will say so. He
     will tell how and when and why this poison of disaffection
     entered his heart; he will trace out his days of temptation
     and struggle and fall, without a shadow of concealment; and
     if this sad time is to come, even then do not desert him.
     Bethink you of his boyhood, his warm, ardent nature, burning
     for some field of glorious enterprise, and dazzled by
     visions of personal distinction. How could he judge the
     knotted questions which agitate the deepest minds of great
     thinkers? A mere pretence, a well-painted scene of
     oppression or sufferance, might easily enlist the sympathies
     of a boy whose impulses have more than once made him bestow
     on the passing beggar the little hoardings of weeks. And
     yet, with all these, he is not guilty,--I never can believe
     that he could be! Oh, sir, you know not, as I know, how
     treason in him would be like a living falsehood; how the act
     of disloyalty would be the utter denial of all those dreams
     of future greatness which, over our humble fireside, were
     his world! To serve the Kaiser,--the same gracious master
     who had rewarded and ennobled our great kinsman,--to win
     honors and distinctions that should rival his; to make our
     ancient name hold a high place in the catalogue of
     chivalrous soldiers,--these were Frank's ambitions. If you
     but knew how we, his sisters, weak and timid girls, seeking
     the quiet paths of life, where our insignificance might
     easiest be shrouded,--if you knew how we grew to feel the
     ardor that glowed in his heart, and actually caught up the
     enthusiasm that swelled the young soldier's bosom! you have
     seen the world well and long; and, I ask, is this the clay
     of which traitors are fashioned? Be a father to him, then,
     who has none; and may God let you feel all the happiness a
     child's affection can bestow in return! "We are a sad
     heritage, Sir Count! for I now must plead for another, not
     less a prisoner than my poor brother. Kate is in a durance
     which, if more splendid, is sad as his. The ceremony of
     betrothal--which, if I am rightly told, is a mere
     ceremonial--has consigned her to a distant land and a life
     of dreary seclusion. There is no longer a reason for this.
     The sacrifice that she was willing to make can now confer no
     benefit on him who sleeps in the churchyard. The Prince has
     shown towards her a degree of indifference which will well
     warrant this breach.    There was no affection on either
     side, and it would be but to ratify a falsehood to pledge
     fidelity. You alone have influence to effect this. She will
     hear your counsels, and follow them with respect, and the
     Prince will scarcely oppose what his conduct seems to favor.
     This done, Sir Count, let Kate be your daughter; and oh! in
     all the glory of your great successes, what have you gained
     to compare with this? She loves you already--she has told me
     of the affectionate gentleness of your manner, the charm of
     your chivalrous sentiments, and a nobility marked by every
     word and every gesture. Think, then, of the untaught
     devotion of such a child--your own by blood and adoption--
     loving, tending, and ministering to you. Think of the proud
     beating of your heart as she leans upon your arm, and think
     of the happiness, as she throws around your solitary
     fireside all the charm of a home! How seldom is it that
     generosity doubles itself in its reward, but here it will be
     so. You will be loved, and you will be happy. With two such
     children, guided by your influence and elevated by your
     example, what would be your happiness, and what their
     fortune?"

In all these pleadings for those she loved so dearly, no allusion ever
was made by her to her own condition. A few lines at the very end of the
letter were all that referred to herself. They were couched in words of
much humility, excusing herself for the boldness of the appeal she had
made, and apologizing for the hardihood with which it might be said she
had urged her request.

     "But you will forgive--you have already forgiven me, Sir
     Count," wrote she; "my unlettered style and my trembling
     fingers have shown you that this task must have lain near to
     my heart, or I had not dared to undertake it. My life has
     been spent in a sphere of humble duties and humble
     companionship. How easily, then, may I have transgressed the
     limits of the deference that should separate us! I can but
     answer for my own heart, within which there exists towards
     you but the one feeling of devotion--deep and hopeful.

     "If in your kindness you should ever bestow a thought upon
     me, you will like to know that I am well and happy. Too
     lowly in condition, too rude in manners, to share the
     fortune of those I love so dearly, I would yet delight to
     hear of and from them, to know that they still bear me in
     their affection, and think with fondness on poor lame Nelly.
     Even the blessing of their presence would not repay me for
     the wrong I should do them by my companionship, for I am a
     peasant girl as much from choice as nature. Still, the
     sister's heart throbs strongly within the coarse bodice,
     and, as I sit at my work, Frank and Kate will bear me
     company and cheer my solitary hours.

     "My humble skill is amply sufficient to supply all my wants,
     were they far greater than habit has made them. I live in a
     land dear to me by associations of thought and feeling,
     surrounded by those of a condition like my own, and who love
     and regard me. I am not without my share of duties, too,----
     your kindness would not wish more for me. Farewell, then,
     Sir Count. Your high-hearted nature has taught you to tread
     a lofty path in life, and strive--and with great success--
     for the great rewards of merit. It will be a pleasure to you
     yet to know that in this country of your adoption there are
     humble prizes for humble aspirants, and that one of these
     has fallen to the lot of

     "Nelly Dalton.

     "Any letter addressed 'To the care of Andreas Brennen, Juden
     Gasse, Innspruck,' will reach me safely. I need not say with
     what gratitude I should receive it."


Such were the lines which reached the old Count's hand on the very day
he set out with his detachment for Vienna. Overcome by shame and sorrow
at what he believed to be Frank Dalton's treason, he had demanded of the
Minister of War his own act of retirement from the army, and for some
months had passed a life of privacy in a little village on the Styrian
frontier. The wide-spread disaffection of the Austrian provinces, the
open revolt of Prague, the more than threatening aspect of Hungary, and
the formidable struggle then going on in Lombardy, had called back into
active life almost all the retired servants of the monarchy. To give way
to private grief at such a moment seemed like an act of disloyalty, and,
throwing off every mere personal consideration, the old soldier repaired
to the capital, and presented himself at the levée of the Archduke
Joseph. He was received with enthusiasm. Covered with years as he was,
no man enjoyed more of the confidence and respect of the soldiery, who
regarded him as one tried and proved by the great wars of the Empire,--a
Colonel of Wagram was both a patriarch and a hero. It was of great
consequence, too, at that precise conjuncture, to rally round the throne
all that were distinguished for fealty and devotion. He was immediately
appointed to the command of a division of the army, and ordered to set
out for Italy.

The complicated nature of the politics of the period, the mixture of
just demand and armed menace, the blending up of fair and reasonable
expectations with impracticable or impossible concessions, had so
disturbed the minds of men that few were able, by their own unaided
judgment, to distinguish on which side lay right and justice; nor was
it easy, from the changeful councils of the monarch, to know whether the
loyalty of to-day might not be pronounced treason to-morrow. Many of
the minor movements of the time--even the great struggle of the
Hungarians--originated in a spontaneous burst of devotion to the
Emperor,--to be afterwards converted by the dark and wily policy of an
unscrupulous leader into open rebellion. No wonder, then, if in such
difficult and embarrassing circumstances, many strayed unconsciously
from the paths of duty,--some misled by specious dreams of nationality,
others from sympathy with what they thought the weaker party; and
others, again, by the force of mere companionship or contact. In this
way few families were to be found where one or more had not joined the
patriotic party, and all the ties of affection were weak in comparison
with the headlong force of popular enthusiasm. The old General von
Auersberg knew nothing of these great changes; no news of them had
reached his retirement; so that when he rejoined the army he was shocked
to see how many had fallen away and deserted from the ancient standard
of the Kaiser. Many a high name and many an ancient title were more than
suspected amongst the Hungarian nobility; while in Italy they who most
largely enjoyed the confidence of the Government were to be found in the
ranks of the insurgents.

It might be supposed that these things would have in some degree
reconciled the old Count to the imputed treason of his nephew, and that
he would have found some consolation at least in the generality of the
misfortune. Not so, however. His mind viewed the matter in a different
light. He was willing to concede much to mistaken feelings of
nationality, and to associations with a time of former independence; but
these motives could have no relation to one who came into the service
as he himself and Frank did,--soldiers by the grace and favor of the
Emperor.

The blot this treason left upon his name was then a sore affliction to
one whose whole aim in life had been to transmit an honorable reputation
and an unshaken fidelity behind him. His reasoning was thus: "_We_
have no claims of ancient services to the monarchy to adduce,----_our_
ancestors never proved their devotion to the House of Hapsburg in times
past,--we must be taken for what our own deeds stamp us." With this
decisive judgment he was ready to see Frank delivered before a court,
tried and sentenced, without offering one word in his behalf. "This
done," thought he, "it remains but for me to show that I have made the
only expiation in my power, and paid with my heart's blood for another's
fault."

Such was the resolve with which he crossed the Alps,--a resolve defeated
for the moment by discovering that Frank was no longer a prisoner, but
had made his escape in some unexplained manner on the eventful day of
Goito.

This disappointment, and the still sadder tidings of the Emperor's
withheld permission to Kate's marriage, came to his ears the same
day,--the most sorrowful, perhaps, of his whole life. His honorable fame
as a soldier tarnished, his high ambition for a great alliance dashed by
disappointment, he fell back for consolation upon poor Nelly's letter.
The weak point of his character had ever been a dread of what he called
his Irish cousins; the notion that his successes and supposed wealth
would draw upon him a host of hungry and importunate relatives, eager to
profit by the hard-won honors of his unaided career. And although year
after year rolled on, and no sign was made, nor any token given, that
he was remembered in the land of his forefathers, the terror was still
fresh in his mind; and when at last Peter Dalton's letter reached him,
he read the lines in a torrent of anger,--the accumulation of long years
of anticipation. Nelly's epistle was a complete enigma to him. She was
evidently unprotected, and yet not selfish; she was in the very humblest
circumstances, and never asked for assistance; she was feelingly alive
to every sorrow of her brother and sister, and had not one thought for
her own calamities. What could all this mean?--was it any new phase or
form of supplication, or was it really that there did exist one in the
world whose poverty was above wealth, and whose simple nature was more
exalted than rank or station?

With all these conflicting thoughts, and all the emotions which
succeeded to the various tidings he had heard, the old Count sat
overwhelmed by the cares that pressed upon him; nor was it for some
hours after Midchekoff's departure that he could rally his faculties to
be "up and doing."

The buzz and murmur of voices in an outer room first recalled him
to active thought, and he learned that several officers, recently
exchanged, had come to offer their thanks for his kind intervention. The
duty, which was a mere ceremony, passed over rapidly, and he was once
more alone, when he heard the slow and heavy tread of a foot ascending
the stairs, one by one, stopping at intervals, too, as though the effort
was one of great labor. Like the loud ticking of a clock to the watchful
ears of sickness, there was something in the measured monotony of the
sounds that grated and jarred his irritated nerves, and he called out
harshly:

"Who comes there?"

No answer was returned; and, after a pause of a few seconds, the same
sound recurred.

"Who's there?" cried the old man, louder; and a faint, inaudible attempt
at reply followed.

And now, provoked by the interruption, he arose to see the cause; when
the door slowly opened, and Frank stood before him, pale and bloodless,
with one arm in a sling, and supporting himself on a stick with the
other. His wasted limbs but half filled his clothes; while in his
lustreless eye and quivering lip there seemed the signs of coming death.

With an instinct of kindness, the old General drew out a chair and
pressed the poor boy down upon it. The youth kissed the hand as it
touched him, and then heaved a heavy sigh.

"This exertion was unfit for you, my poor boy," said the Count, kindly.
"They should not have permitted you to leave your bed."

"It was my fault, not theirs, General. I heard that you were about to
leave the village without coming to the hospital, and I thought, as
perhaps----," here his voice faltered, and a gulping fulness of the
throat seemed almost to choke him--"that as, perhaps, we might never
meet again in this world, I ought to make one effort to see you, and
tell you that I am not, nor ever was, a traitor!"

[Illustration: 380]

As though the effort had exhausted all "his strength, his arms dropped
as he said the words; his head fell forward, and he would have fallen to
the ground had not the old General caught him in his arms.

"You are too weak, too ill for all this, my poor fellow." said the
Count, as he held the boy's hand in his own, and gazed affectionately at
him.

"True, ever true," muttered the youth, with half-closed lids.

"I will hear all this when you are better, Frank; when you are strong,
and able to declare it manfully and openly. I will bless you, with my
heart's warmest blessing, for the words that restore us both to fair
fame and honor; but you must not speak more now."

The boy bent his head in token of submission, but never spoke.

"It will be the proudest hour of my life, Frank, when you can throw off
this reproach, and stand forth a thorough Dalton, unshaken in truth and
honor. But, to do this, you must be calm and quiet now,--not speak, nor
even think of these things. You shall remain with me."

Here the boy's tears fell upon the old man's hand. For a second or two
not a word was spoken. At last he went on,----

"Yes; you shall not leave me from this hour. Our fortunes are the same.
With you it remains to show that we are worthy soldiers of our Kaiser."

Frank pressed the old Count's hand upon his heart, as though to call its
very pulses to bear witness to his fealty. This simple action seemed to
have exhausted his last energy, for he now sank back in his chair and
fainted.

The excitement he had gone through appeared to have utterly prostrated
him, for he now lay for hours motionless and unconscious. Except a
heavy sigh at long intervals, he gave no sign of life; and the surgeons,
having exhausted all their resources to stimulate him, gave but faint
hope of his recovery. They who only knew the old Count as the stern
soldier, bold, abrupt, and peremptory, could not conceive by what magic
he had been changed into a mould of almost womanly tenderness. There was
no care he did not bestow on the sick youth. The first surgeons of the
Staff were sent for, and all that skill and affection could suggest were
enlisted in his service. The case, however, was of gloomy presage. It
was the relapse fever after a wound, aggravated by mental causes of deep
influence.

The greatest sympathy was felt for the old Count's position. His
comrades came or sent frequently to him. Kind messages reached him from
quarters wherein once lay all his pride and glory; and a young archduke
came himself to offer his new litter to convey Frank to Verona, where
the Imperial headquarters were stationed. These were the very flatteries
which once Von Auersberg would have prized above all that wealth could
give; these were the kind of recognitions by which he measured his own
career in life, making him to feel where he stood; but now one grief had
so absorbed him he scarcely noticed them. He could not divest his mind,
either, of the thought that the boy's fate was intended as a judgment
on himself for his own cold and ungenerous treatment of him. "I forgot,"
would he say to himself,----"I forgot that he was not a castaway like
myself. I forgot that the youth had been trained up amidst the flow
of affectionate intercourse, loving and beloved, and I compared his
position with my own."

And such was in reality the very error he committed. He believed that by
subjecting Frank to all the hard rubs which once had been his own fate
he was securing the boy's future success; forgetting the while how
widely different were their two natures, and that the affections
which are moulded by habits of family association are very unlike the
temperament of one unfriended and unaided, seeking his fortune with no
other guidance than a bold heart and strong will. The old Count was not
the only one, nor will he be the last, to fall into this mistake; and
it may be as well to take a warning from his error, and learn that for
success in the remote and less trodden paths of life the warm affections
that attach to home and family are sad obstacles.

It was ten days before Frank could be removed, and then he was carried
in a litter, arriving in Verona on the fourth day. From his watchful
cares beside the sick-bed, the old General was now summoned to take part
in the eventful councils of the period. A great and momentous crisis
had arrived, and the whole fate, not only of Austria, but of Europe,
depended on the issue. The successes of the Italian arms had been, up to
this point, if not decisive, at least sufficiently important to make the
result a question of doubt. If the levies contributed by the States of
the Church and Tuscany were insignificant in a warlike point of view,
they were most expressive signs of popular feeling at least. Austria,
besides, was assailed on every flank, with open treason in her capital;
and the troops which might have conquered Lombardy were marching
northward on Prague, or turning eastward towards Hungary. It then became
a grave question whether, even at the cost of the whole Milanais, a
peace should not be at once concluded, and Austria merely stipulate for
certain commercial advantages, and the undisturbed possession of the
Venetian States. If the more dispassionate heads that rule cabinets saw
wisdom in this plan, the warmer and less calculating hearts of soldiers
deemed it a base humiliation. Long accustomed to treat the Italians with
a haughty contempt, they could not endure the thought of recognizing
them as equals, not to say superiors. There were thus two parties in the
Council,----the one eager for a speedy termination of the war, and the
other burning to erase the memory of late defeats, and win back the
fair provinces of their Emperor. To such an extent had this spirit of
discordance at last gone, that the cabinet orders of Vienna were
more than once overruled at headquarters, and the very decrees of
the Government slighted by the commander-in-chief. It was a time of
independent will and personal responsibility; and probably to this
accident is owing the salvation of the Imperial House.

At last, when the sympathies of France and England with the cause of
Italy became more than a mere suspicion, when troops marched southward
towards the Alps, and diplomatic messages traversed Europe, counselling,
in all the ambiguous courtesy of red tape, "wise and reasonable
concessions to the fair demands of a people," the cabinet of Vienna
hastily despatched an envoy to Lombardy, with orders to concert with the
generals, and treat for a peace.

Had a squadron of the enemy dashed through the streets of Verona, they
could not have created one half the dismay that did the arrival of the
calèche which conveyed the Imperial Commissioner. The old Field-Marshal
had just returned from a review of the troops, who, as usual when
he appeared, were wild with enthusiasm, when an officer of his staff
announced the presence of the envoy, and in a low whisper added the
object of his mission. A council was speedily called, and Von Auersberg
specially invited to be present and assist in its deliberations.

The discussion lasted several hours; and, however unshaken in hope and
resolute in will the old Marshals of the Empire, they found themselves
no match in argument for the wily civilian, who, displaying before
them the financial embarrassments of the State, showed that war implied
bankruptcy, and that even victory might mean ruin. The great questions
of Imperial policy, which in their zeal they had overlooked, were
strongly pressed upon them; and that public opinion of Europe, which
they had only fancied a bugbear and a mockery, was represented as the
formidable expression of the great family of mankind, on the conduct of
one of its own members. With all this it was no easy task to reconcile a
bold soldier, at the head of a splendid army, to retire from the field,
to confess himself beaten, and to acknowledge defeat, with an assured
sense of victory in his heart The evening closed in, and still they sat
in debate. Some had exchanged opposition for a dogged and cold silence;
others had modified their views to a kind of half-concession; while a
few rallied round their old chief, with a mistaken determination to
have one more dash at the enemy should the peace be ratified on the day
after. It would seem as if the Commissioner had been fully prepared for
every phase of this opposition. He combated every argument in turn, and
addressed himself with readiness to every objection that was offered. At
last, when in a burst of mortification and anger the old Field-Marshal
arose from the table, and declared that, come what might, it should
never be said that _he_ had lost the provinces of his master, the other
stole close beside him, and whispered a few words in his ear. The old
man started; his rugged, weather-beaten face twitched with a short,
convulsive movement, and he threw himself down into a chair, with a
muttered oath on his lips.

There was now a dead silence in the chamber. Every eye was turned
stealthily towards the old General, by whose counsels they were wont to
be guided; but he never spoke a word, and sat with his hands resting on
his sword-hilt, the rattle of the scabbard against the belt, as it shook
beneath his hand, being the only sound heard.

They are dreadful moments in life when men of high and daring courage
see the trust they have long reposed in bold and vigorous measures
rejected, and in its stead wily and crafty counsels adopted and
followed. This was such a moment; and the old warriors, tried in many a
battle-field, scarcely dared to meet each other's eyes, from very shame
and sorrow. It was just then that the sharp, quick trot of horses
was heard from without, and the jingling sound of bells announced a
post-carriage. Scarcely had it stopped, when an aide-de-camp entered,
and whispered a few words to the Field-Marshal.

"No, no," said the old man, peevishly; "we are marching on to dishonor
fast enough. We want no priestly aid to hasten our steps."

The young officer appeared to hesitate, and still lingered in the
chamber.

"It is your friend, the Abbé, has arrived," said the General, addressing
the Commissioner; "and I have said we can dispense with his arguments.
He can add little to what you have so ably spoken; and if we are to
depose our arms, let it be at the bidding of our Emperor, and not at the
beck of a priest."

"But D'Esmonde must have come from the south," interposed the civilian;
"he may have some tidings worth hearing."

"Let him come in, then," said the Field-Marshal, abruptly; and the
officer retired.

D'Esmonde had scarcely passed the threshold when his quick, keen glance
around the room revealed to him the nature of their gloomy counsels. A
dogged look of submission sat on every face, and the wily priest read in
their fallen countenances all the bitterness of defeat.

The stern coldness of the reception that met him never abashed the Abbé
in the least; and he made his compliments to the principal personages
of the council with a _suave_ dignity the very opposite to their
uncourteous manner. Even when he had completed the little circle of his
attentions, and stood in expectation of a request to be seated, his air
was calm and unembarrassed, although not a word, or even a gesture, gave
the invitation. All felt that this should come from the Field-Marshal
himself, and none dared to usurp the prerogative of his rank. Too deeply
lost in his own brooding thoughts to attend to anything else, the old
General sat still, with his head bent down over the hilt of his sabre.

"His Holiness commissions me to greet you, Herr Feld-Marshal," said the
Abbé, in a low, soft voice, "and to say that those ancient medals you
once spoke of shall be speedily transmitted to your palace at Milan."

"My palace at Milan, sir!" exclaimed the old man, fiercely. "When shall
I see that city again? Ask that gentleman yonder, who has just arrived
from Vienna, what the cabinet counsels are; he will tell you the
glorious tidings that the army will read to-morrow in a general order!"

"I have later news than even _his_!" said the Abbé, coolly seating
himself at the table, and placing a roll of papers before him. "Baron
Brockhausen," said he, addressing the Commissioner, "if I mistake not,
left Vienna on the ninth, reached Innspruck the eleventh, stayed there
till the evening of the thirteenth, and only reached here some hours
ago. The Prime Minister, consequently, was unaware that, on the tenth,
General Durando was recalled by the Pope; that on the evening of the
same day Pepe received a similar order from the King of Naples; that
the Tuscan levies and the Polish legion have been remanded; and that
Piedmont stands alone in the contest, with a disorganized army and
divided counsels. These," said he, pointing to the letters before
him,--"these are copies of the documents I refer to, you will see
from these that the right flank of the Piedmontese army is open and
unprotected; that, except the banditti of Rome and Tuscany, there are no
troops between this and Ferrara; and if the reinforcements that are now
halted in the Tyrol be but hurried down, a great and decisive blow may
be dealt at once."

"Bey'm Blitzen! you ought to have been a general of brigade, priest!"
cried the old Field-Marshal, as he clasped his hand in both his own,
and pressed it with delight. "These are the noblest words I have heard
to-day. Gentlemen," said he, rising, "there is little more for a council
to do. You will return at once to your several brigades. Schrann's eight
battalions of infantry, with two of Feld-Jagers, to hold themselves in
readiness to march to-morrow; the Reuse Hussars to form escort to the
light artillery on the Vicenza road; all the other cavalry to take up
position to the right, towards Peschiera."

"This means a renewal of hostilities, then?" said the Commissioner.

"It means that I will win back the provinces of my Emperor. Let him
dispose of them after as he pleases." And so saying, he left the room,
followed by the other officers.



CHAPTER XXVIII. PLOTS, POLITICS, AND PRIESTCRAFT.

It would conduce but little to the business of our story were we to
follow the changeful fortunes of the war, and trace the current of
events which marked that important campaign. The struggle itself is
already well known; the secret history of the contest has yet to be
written. We have hinted at some of the machinations which provoked the
conflict; we have shown the deep game by which Democracy was urged on
to its own destruction; and, by the triumph of Absolutism, the return
of the Church to her ancient rule provided and secured; we have
vaguely shadowed out the dark wiles by which freedom and anarchy were
inseparably confounded, and the cause of liberty was made to seem the
denial of all religion. It would take us too far away from the humble
track of our tale were we to dwell on this theme, or stop to adduce the
various evidences of the truth of our assumption. We pass on, therefore,
and leave D'Esmonde the task of chronicling some of the results of that
memorable period.

The letter, from which we propose to make some extracts was addressed,
like his former one, to his Irish correspondent, and opened with a kind
of thanksgiving over the glorious events of the preceding few weeks,
wherein victory succeeded victory, and the Austrians once again became
the masters of haughty Milan. We pass over the exulting description
the Abbé gave of the discord and dissension in the Patriotic ranks; the
reckless charges of treachery made against Carlo Alberto himself, for
not undertaking the defence of a city destitute of everything; and the
violent insubordination of the Lombards as the terrible hour of their
retribution drew nigh. We have not space for his graphic narrative of
the King's escape from Milan, protected by an Austrian escort, against
the murderous assaults of fellow-patriots. These facts are all before
the world; nor would it contribute to their better understanding were we
to adduce the partisan zeal with which the priest detailed them.


     "The struggle, you will thus see," wrote he, "is over. The
     blasphemer and the democrat have fallen together, and it
     will take full a century to rally from the humiliation of
     such a defeat. Bethink you, my dear Michel, what that same
     century may make the Church, and how, if we be but vigorous
     and watchful, every breach in the glorious fortress may be
     repaired, every outwork strengthened, every bastion newly
     mounted, and her whole garrison refreshed and invigorated.
     Without a great convulsion like this we were lost! The
     torpor of peace brought with it those habits of thought and
     reflection--the sworn enemies of all faith! As governments
     grew more popular they learned to rely less on _our_ aid.
     The glorious sway of Belief was superseded by direct appeals
     to what they called common sense, and imperceptibly, but
     irrevocably, the world was being Protestantized. Do not
     fancy that my fears have exaggerated this evil. I speak of
     what I know thoroughly and well. Above all, do not mistake
     me, as though I confounded this wide-spread heresy with what
     you see around you in Ireland, those backslidings which you
     so aptly called 'soup conversions.'

     "By Protestantism, I mean something more dangerous than
     Anglicanism, which, by the way, has latterly shown itself
     the very reverse of an enemy. The peril I dread is that
     spirit of examination and inquiry which, emboldened by the
     detection of some trumpery trick, goes on to question the
     great dogma of our religion. And here I must say, that these
     miracles--as they will call them----have been most ill-
     judged and ill-timed. Well adapted as they are to stimulate
     faith and warm zeal in remote and unvisited villages, they
     are serious errors when they aspire to publicity and
     challenge detection. I have done all I could to
     discountenance them; but even in the Vatican, my dear
     Michel, there are men who fancy we are living in the
     sixteenth century. What are you to do with a deafness that
     cannot be aroused by the blast of a steam-engine, and which
     can sleep undisturbed by the thunder of railroads? Well, let
     us be thankful for a little breathing time; the danger from
     these heretics is over for the present. And here I would ask
     of you to mark how the very same result has taken place
     wherever the battle was fought. The Church has been
     triumphant everywhere. Is this accident, my dear friend?
     Was it mere chance that confounded counsels here, and dealt
     out ruin to Ireland also? Why did our policy come to a
     successful issue, here, by a dangerous conflict; and, with
     you, by abstaining from one? Why, because it was truth--
     eternal, immutable truth--for which we struggled. I must say
     that if _our_ game called for more active exertions, and
     perhaps more personal hazards, _yours_ in Ireland was
     admirably devised. There never was a more complete
     catastrophe than that into which you betrayed your Mitchells
     and Meaghers; and does not the blind credulity of such men
     strike you as a special and Divine infliction? I own I think
     so. They were, with all their hot blood, and all the glow of
     their youth, serious thinkers and calm reasoners. They could
     detect the finger of _England_ in every tangled scheme, and
     yet they never saw the shadow of _your_ hand as it shook in
     derision over them. Yes, Michel, the game was most skilfully
     played, and I anticipate largely from it. The curtain thus
     falls upon the first act of the drama; let us set about to
     prepare for its rising. I am far from saying that many
     errors--some of the gravest kind--have not been committed in
     the conduct of this affair. More than one grand opportunity
     has gone by without profit; and even my suggestion about the
     restoration of the States of the Church to their ancient
     limits within the Venetian provinces--a demand which Rome
     has formerly renewed every year since the treaty of Campo
     Formio, and which might now have been pressed with success--
     even this was neglected! But what could be done with a
     runaway Pope and a scattered Consistory? Your letter, my
     dear Michel, is a perfect catechism--all questions! I must
     try a reply to some, at least, of its inquiries. You are
     anxious about the endowment of the Ursulines, and so am I;
     but unfortunately I can tell you little of my progress in
     that direction. Lady Hester Onslow would appear to have
     fallen into an entanglement of some sort with Lord Norwood;
     and although I have in my possession the means of preventing
     a marriage with him, or annulling it, if it should take
     place, yet the very exercise of this power, on my part,
     would as inevitably destroy all my influence over her, and
     be thus a mere piece of profitless malice. This, therefore,
     is a matter of some difficulty, increased, too, by his hasty
     departure from Florence--they say for England; but I have no
     clew to his destination, for he left this on the very day I
     last wrote to you--the day of my visit to the Moskova--in
     which you seem to be so much interested. Strangely enough,
     Michel, both this man and the Russian seemed to feel that
     they were in the toils, and broke away, rather than hazard
     an encounter with me. And they were right, too! For the deep
     game of life, there is no teaching like that of the
     cloister; and if we be not omnipotent, it is owing to our
     weakness of purpose. Hildebrand knew this--Boniface knew it
     also; but we have fallen upon poor successors of these great
     men!    What might not a great Pope be in the age we live
     in!--one whose ambition was commensurate with his mission,
     and who had energy and courage for the task before him! Oh!
     how I felt this, some nights ago, as I sat closeted with our
     present ruler--would you believe it, Michel, he has no
     higher guide or example than the weak and kind-hearted Pius
     the Seventh? To imitate _him_ is the whole rule of his
     faith, and to resemble him, even in his misfortunes, has
     become an ambition. How he strung for me the commonplaces of
     that good man, as though they had been the distilled
     essences of wisdom! Alas! alas! the great heritage of the
     Church has not been won by Quaker Popes.

     "You ask about myself. All goes well. The die is cast; and
     so far, at least, a great point gained. The Austrians saw
     the matter in its true light, and with justice perceived
     that diplomacy is a war of reprisals. How I glory in the
     anticipation of this vengeance upon England, the encourager
     and abettor of all the treason against our Faith! How little
     do they suspect the storm that is gathering around them; how
     tranquilly are they walking over the ground that is to be
     earthquaken! The letters and diplomas are all prepared. The
     Bull itself is ready; to-morrow, if it were opportune, I
     might be proclaimed a prince of the Church and an Archhishop
     of an English see! As in every great event of life the
     moment is everything, the question is now one of time.
     Guardoni--and I look upon him as the shrewdest of the
     cardinals--says, 'Wait! our cause is advancing every day in
     England; every post brings us tidings of desertions to our
     army,--men distinguished in rank, station, or intellect. In
     our controversies we have suffered no defeats, while our
     moderation has gained us many well-wishers; we have a tone
     of general liberality to work upon that is eminently
     favorable to a policy meek, lowly, and unpretending.
     Therefore, I say, Wait; and do not forfeit such advantages
     for the glory of a pageant' Against this it might be urged,
     that the hour is come to proclaim our victory; and that it
     would be a craven policy not to unfurl our banner above the
     walls we have won! I repose less trust in the force of this
     reasoning than in another view of the subject; and it is to
     the ricochet of our shot, Michel, that I look for the damage
     of our enemy. My calculation is this: the bold pretensions
     we advance will arouse the passions of the whole island;
     meetings and addresses and petitions will abound. All the
     rampant insolence of outraged bigotry, all the blatant
     denunciations of insulted protestantism, will burst forth
     like a torrent. We shall be assailed in pamphlets and
     papers; caricatured, hooted, burned in effigy. A wily and
     well-conducted opposition on our part will fan and feed this
     flame. Some amongst us will assume the moderate tone: invoke
     the equality that pertains to every born Briton, and ask for
     the mere undisturbed exercise of our faith.   Others, with
     greater boldness, will adventure sorties against the enemy,
     and thus provoke reply and discussion. To each will be
     assigned his suited task. A laboring for the one great
     object,--to maintain the national fever at a white heat, to
     suffer no interval of calm reflection to come, and to force
     upon the Parliament, by the pressure of outward opinion,
     some severe or at least some galling act of legislation.
     This once accomplished, our game is won, and the great
     schism we have so long worked for effected! It will then be
     the Government on one side and the Church on the other.
     Could you wish for anything better? For myself, I care
     little how the campaign be then conducted; the victory must
     be our own. I have told you again and again there is no such
     policy against England as that of hampering the course of
     her justice. It was O'Connell's secret; he had no other; and
     he never failed till he attempted something higher. First,
     provoke a rash legislation, and then wait for the
     discomfiture that will follow it! With all the boasted
     working of the great constitution, what a mere trifle
     disturbs and disjoints it! Ay, Michel, a rusty nail in the
     cylinder will spoil the play of the piston, although the
     engine be rated at a thousand horse-power. Such a conflict
     with Protestantism is exactly like the effect of a highly
     disciplined army taking the field against a mob. With _us_
     all is preconcerted, prearranged, and planned; with _them_
     everything is impulsive, rash, and ill-advised. This
     glorious prerogative of private judgment becomes a capital
     snare, when measures should be combined and united. Fancy, I
     ask of you,--fancy all the splendid errors of their hot
     enthusiasm; think of the blunders they will commit on
     platform or pulpit; reflect upon the folly and absurdity
     that will fill the columns of the public journals, and all
     the bigoted balderdash the press will groan under! What
     coarse irony, what Billingsgate shall we hear of our Holy
     Church,----her saints, her miracles, and her dogmas,--what
     foul invectives against her pious women and their lives of
     sanctity! And then think of the glorious harvest that will
     follow, as we reply to insult by calm reasonings, to bigotry
     by words of charity and enlightenment, appealing to the
     nation at large for their judgment on which side truth
     should lie,--with intolerance, or with Christian meekness
     and submission?

     "Prepare, then, I say, for the coming day; the great
     campaign is about to open, and neither you nor I, Michel,
     will live to see the end of the battle. On this side the
     Alps, all has happened as we wished. Italian Liberalism is
     crushed and defeated. The Piedmontese are driven back within
     their frontier, their army beaten, and their finances all
     but exhausted, and Austria is again at the head of Northern
     Italy. Rome will now be grander and more glorious than ever.
     No more truckling to Liberalism, no more faith in the false
     prophets of Freedom.   Our gorgeous 'Despotism' will arise
     reinvigorated by its trials, and the Church will proclaim
     herself the Queen of Europe!

     "It is an inestimable advantage to have convinced these meek
     and good men here that there is but one road to victory, and
     that all alliance with what are called politicians is but a
     snare and a delusion.

     "The Pope sees this at last, but nothing short of wounded
     pride could have taught him the lesson.

     "Now to your last query, my dear Michel, and I feel all
     gratitude for the warm interest with which you make it.
     What is to be done I know not.   I am utterly ignorant of my
     parentage, even of my birthplace.   In the admission-book of
     Salamanca I stand thus:

     'Samuel Eustace, native of Ireland, aged thirteen years and
     seven months; stipendiary of the second class.' There lies
     my whole history. A certain Mr. Godfrey had paid all the
     expenses of my journey from Louvain, and, up to the period
     of his death, continued to maintain me.   From Louvain I can
     learn nothing.    I was a 'Laic' they believed,----perhaps
     No. 134 or 137--they do not know which; and these are but
     sorry facts from which to derive the baptismal registry of a
     future cardinal. And yet something must be done, and
     speedily too. On the question of birth the Sacred College is
     peremptory. You will say that there ought to be no
     difficulty in devising a genealogy where there are no
     adverse claims to conflict; and if I could go over to
     Ireland, perhaps the matter might be easy enough. At this
     moment, however, my presence here is all-essential, while I
     am not without a hope that accident may afford me a clew to
     what I seek. A few days ago I was sent for from Malgherra to
     attend the dying bed of a young officer, whose illness had
     so completely disordered his brain that he forgot every word
     of the foreign language he was accustomed to speak, and
     could only understand or reply in his native English.
     Although I had other and more pressing cases to attend to,
     the order coming from an archduke made obedience imperative,
     and so I hastened over to Verona, where the sick youth lay.
     Conceive my surprise, Michel, to discover that he was the
     same Dalton,--the boy whom I have so often adverted to, as
     eternally crossing my path in life,--the relative of that
     Godfrey who was my early patron. I have already confessed to
     you, Michel, that I felt towards this youth in a way for
     which my calmest reason could render no account. Gamblers
     have often told me of certain antipathies they have
     experienced, and that the mere presence of an individual--
     one totally unknown to them, perhaps--has been so ominous of
     ill-luck that they dare not risk a bet while he remained in
     the room. I know you will say that men who pass their lives
     in the alternation of hope and fear become the slaves of
     every shadow that crosses the imagination, and that they are
     sorry pilots to trust to. So they are, Michel; they art
     meanly minded, they are sordid, and they are low; their
     thoughts never soar above the card or the hazard table; they
     are dead to all emotions of family and affection; the very
     events that are convulsing the world are less audible to
     their ears than the ring of the dice-box; and yet, with all
     this--would you believe it?--they are deep in the mysteries
     of portents. Their intense study of what we call chance has
     taught them to combine and arrange and discipline every atom
     and accident that can influence an event. They have their
     days of good and evil fortune, and they have their agencies
     that sway them to this side or to that. Chemistry shows us
     that substances that resemble metals are decomposed by the
     influence of light alone,--do not, then, despise the working
     of that gleam that darts from a human eye and penetrates
     within the very recesses of your brain.

     "Be the theory true or false, the phenomena exercise a deep
     influence over me, and I have never ceased to regard this
     boy as one inextricably interwoven with myself and my own
     fortunes; I felt a degree of dread at his contact, which all
     my conscious superiority of mind and intellect could not
     allay. In vain have I endeavored to reason myself out of
     these delusions, but in the realm of imagination reason is
     inoperative; as well might a painter try to commit to his
     palette the fleeting colors of the rainbow. Shall I own to
     you that in moments of illness or depression this terror
     magnified itself to giant proportions, and a thousand wild
     and incongruous fancies would fill my mind? I bethought me
     of involving him in such difficulty that he would no longer
     be at large; as a prisoner or an exile, I should never see
     him more. Every snare I tried was a failure; the temptations
     that were most adapted to his nature he resisted; the wiles
     I threw around him he escaped from. Was there not a fate in
     all this? Assuredly there was and is, Michel. I cannot tell
     you the relief of mind I should feel if this boy had shared
     the fate of your patriots, and that the great sea was to
     roll between him and Europe forever. Twenty times a day I
     think of Dirk Hatteraick's expression with respect to Brown:
     'That boy has been a rock ahead of me all through life;' and
     be assured that the characters of fiction are often powerful
     teachers.

     "And now to my narrative. The same note which requested my
     visit at Verona begged of me, if I possibly could accomplish
     it, to provide some English person who should sit up with
     the sick youth and nurse him. I was not sorry to receive
     this commission; I wished to learn more about this boy than
     the confessional at such a time could teach; and could I
     only find a suitable agent, this would not be difficult.
     Chance favored me strangely enough. Amongst the prisoners
     taken at Ancona I found an Irish fellow, who, it appears,
     had taken service in the Piedmontese navy. He had been some
     years in America and the West Indies, and from the scattered
     remarks that he let fall, I perceived that he was a man of
     shrewd and not over-scrupulous nature. He comprehended me in
     an instant; and, although I was most guarded in giving my
     instructions, the fellow read my intentions at once. This
     shrewdness might, in other circumstances, have its
     inconveniences, but here it gave me no alarm. I was the
     means of his liberation, and were he troublesome, I could
     consign him to the prison again,--to the galleys, if needed.
     In company with this respectable ally, I set out for the
     headquarters. On my arrival I waited on the Count von
     Auersberg, in whose house the sick boy lay. This old man,
     who is Irish by birth, is more Austrian in nature than the
     members of the House of Hapsburg.

     I found him fully convinced that the white-coated legions
     had reconquered Lombardy by their own unaided valor, and I
     left him in the same pleasant delusion. It appeared that a
     certain Count von Walstein was enabled to clear young
     Dalton's character from all taint of treason, by exhibiting,
     in his own correspondence, some letters and documents that
     related to the events detailed in Frank's writing, and of
     which he could have had no possible knowledge. This avowal
     may be a serious thing for Walstein, but rescues the young
     Dalton at once, and proves that he was merely the writer of
     Ravitzky's sentiments; so that here, again, Michel, he
     escapes. Is not this more than strange?

     "It was not without anxiety that I passed the threshold of
     the sick-chamber; but happily it was darkened, and I soon
     saw that the sick youth could never recognize me, were his
     senses even unclouded. He lay motionless, and I thought
     insensible; but after I spoke to him he rallied a little,
     and asked after his father and his sisters. He had not yet
     heard that his father was dead; and it was affecting to hear
     the attempt he made to vindicate his honor, and show that he
     had never been disloyal. By degrees I brought him to talk of
     himself. He saw that he was dying, and had no fears of
     death; but there seemed as if his conscience was burdened by
     some heavy weight, less like guilt than the clew to some
     strange and dark affair. The revelation--if it deserved the
     name, for it was made in broken sentences--now uttered with
     rapid vehemence, now scarcely audible----was of the vaguest
     kind. You may imagine, however, the interest I felt in the
     narrative as the name Godfrey passed his lips. To know my
     anxiety to trace some tie of family to these Godfreys. They
     were gentry of ancient blood and good name, and would amply
     satisfy the demands of the Sacred College; so that when the
     boy spoke of Godfrey, I listened with intense curiosity;
     but--shall I own it?--all my practised skill, all my science
     of the sick-bed, was unable to tell me what were the
     utterings of an unclouded intellect, and what the wild
     fitful fancies of fever. I know, for I have repeatedly heard
     it from his sister's lips, that this youth has never been in
     Ireland, and yet he spoke of the peculiar scenery of a
     certain spot just as if he had traversed it yesterday. Mind,
     that I am carefully distinguishing between what might be the
     impression left by often hearing of a scene from others, and
     that which results from personal observation. His was
     altogether of the latter kind. As, for instance, when
     describing a garden, he mentioned how the wind wafted the
     branches of a weeping ash across a window, so as to confuse
     the scene that went on within; and then he shuddered
     terribly, and, with a low sigh, exclaimed, 'The light went
     out _after_ that.' These are not ravings, Michel. This boy
     knows something of that dark mystery I have more than once
     alluded to in my letters. Could it be that his own father
     was in some way implicated in the affair? Bear in mind how
     he came to live abroad, and never returned to Ireland. From
     all I can learn, the old Dalton was a bold and reckless
     character, that would scarcely have stopped at anything.
     Assuredly, the son's conscience is heavily burdened! Now,
     there is an easy way to test the truth or fallacy of all
     this; and herein you must aid me, Michel. I have carefully
     noted every word the boy spoke; I have treasured every
     syllable that fell from him. If his description of the scene
     be correct, the mystery may be unravelled. This you can
     speedily ascertain by visiting the spot. It is not more than
     twenty miles from you, and about three or four, I believe,
     from the little village of Inistioge; it is called Corrig-
     O'Neal,--a place of some importance once, but now, as I
     hear, a ruin. Go thither, Michel, and tell me correctly all
     these several points. First, does the character of the river
     scenery suddenly change at this spot, and, from an aspect of
     rich and leafy beauty, exhibit only dark and barren
     mountains without a tree or a shrub? Is the old manor-house
     itself only a short distance from the stream, and backed by
     these same gloomy mountains? The house itself, if unaltered,
     should be high-peaked in roof, with tall, narrow windows,
     and a long terrace in front; an imitation, in fact, of an
     old French château. These, as you will see, are such facts
     as might have been heard from another; but now I come to
     some less likely to have been so learned.

     "From this boy's wanderings, I collect that there is a
     woodland path through these grounds, skirting the river in
     some places, and carried along the mountain-side by a track
     escarped in the rock itself. If this ever existed, its
     traces will still be visible. I am most curious to know this
     fact. I can see the profound impression it has made on the
     youth's mind, by the various ways in which he recurs to it,
     and the deep emotion it always evokes. At times, indeed, his
     revelations grow into something like actual descriptions of
     an event he had witnessed; as, for instance, last night he
     started from his sleep, his brow all covered with
     perspiration, and his eyes glaring wildly. 'Hush!' he cried;
     'hush! He is crossing the garden, now; there he is at the
     door; lie still--lie still.' I tried to induce him to talk
     on, but he shuddered timidly, and merely said, 'It's all
     over, he has strewn leaves over the spot, let us go away.'
     you will perhaps say that I attach undue importance to what
     may be the mere outpourings of a fevered intellect, but
     there is an intensity in the feeling which accompanies them,
     and, moreover, there is a persistence in the way he always
     comes back to them, that are not like the transient terrors
     that haunt distracted minds. No, Michel, there is a mystery,
     and a dreadful one, connected with this vision. Remember!
     that the secret of Godfrey's death has never been cleared
     up; the breach which separated him from these Daltons was
     then at its widest. Dalton's character you are familiar
     with; and, although abroad at that time, who can say what
     agencies may not have worked for him? Give your serious
     consideration to these facts, and tell me what you think.
     You know me too well and too long to suppose that I am
     actuated by motives of mere curiosity, or simply the desire
     to trace the history of a crime. I own to you, that with all
     my horror of blood, I scarcely grieve as I witness the
     fruitless attempts of English justice to search out the
     story of a murder. I feel a sort of satisfaction at the
     combat between Saxon dulness and Celtic craft--between the
     brute force of the conqueror and the subtle intelligence of
     the conquered--that tells me of a time to come when these
     relations shall be reversed. Acquit me, therefore, of any
     undue zeal for the observance of laws that only remind me of
     our slavery. However clear and limpid the stream may look, I
     never forget that its source was in foulness! I am impelled
     here by a force that my reason cannot account for. My
     boyhood was, in some manner, bound up with this Godfrey's
     fate. I was fatherless when he died! could he have been my
     father? This thought continually recurs to me! Such a
     discovery would be of great value to me just now; the
     question of legitimacy would be easily got over, as I seek
     for none of the benefits of succession. I only want what
     will satisfy the Sacred College. My dear Michel, I commit
     all this to your care and industry; give me your aid and
     your advice. Should it happen that Dalton was involved in
     the affair, the secret might have its value. This old field-
     marshal's pride of name and family could be turned to good
     account.

     "I must tell you that since I have overheard this boy's
     ravings, I have studiously avoided introducing my Irish
     _protégé_ into the sickroom. My friend, Paul Meekins, might
     be a most inconvenient confidant, and so I shall keep him
     under my own eye till some opportunity occurs to dispose of
     him. He tells me that his present tastes are all
     ecclesiastical.   Do you want a sacristan? if so, he would
     be your man. There is no such trusty subordinate as the
     fellow with what the French call 'a dark antecedent;' and
     this I suspect to be his case.

     "I have well wearied you, my dear friend, and yet have I not
     told you half of what I feel on this strange matter. I am
     little given to tremble at shadows, and still there are
     terrors over me that I cannot shake off. Write to me, then,
     at once; tell me all that you see, all that you can hear.
     Observe well the localities; it will be curious if the boy
     be correct. Mark particularly if there be a spot of rising
     ground from which the garden is visible, and the windows
     that look into it, and see if there be a door out of the
     garden at this point.   I could almost map out the scene
     from his description.

     "I have done, and now, I scarcely know whether I should feel
     more relief of heart to know that all this youth has said
     were fever wanderings, or words of solemn meaning. It is
     strange how tranquilly I can move through the great events
     of life, and yet how much a thing like this can shake my
     nerve; but I suppose it is ever so, and that we are great or
     little as the occasion makes us.

     "I have just heard that Lady Hester Onslow has gone over to
     Ireland. She will probably be at Corrig-O'Neal. If so, you
     can present yourself to her as my old and intimate friend,
     and this will afford you an opportunity of examining the
     scene at leisure. I enclose you a few lines to serve as an
     introduction. Adieu, my dear friend.

     "You have often sighed over the obscurity of your position,
     and the unambitious life of a parish priest. Believe me, and
     from my heart I say it, I would willingly exchange all the
     rewards I have won, all that I could ever hope to win, for
     one week--one short week--of such calm quiet as breathes
     under the thatched roof of your little cottage.

     "I leave this for Vienna to-morrow, to thank the minister;
     and with good reason, too, since without his assistance the
     Pope would have shrunk from the bold policy. Thence I go to
     Rome; but within a fortnight I shall be back in Florence,
     where I hope to hear from you. If all goes well, we shall
     meet soon.--Yours, in much affection,

     Mathew D'Esmonde."


As the Abbé finished this letter, he turned to look at a short note,
which, having opened and scanned over, he had thrown on the table beside
him. It was from Albert Jekyl, who wrote to inform him that Lord Norwood
had just arrived in Florence from Ireland, where he had left Lady
Hester; that so far as he, Jekyl, could make out, the Viscount had made
an offer of marriage, and been accepted.

     "It will be for you, my dear Abbé," added he, "to ascertain
     this fact positively, as, independently of the long journey
     at this inclement season, it would be a very serious injury
     to me were it known that I advanced pretensions that were
     not responded to. He who has never failed must not risk a
     defeat. Pray lose no time in investigating this affair, for
     Florence is filling fast, and my future plans will depend on
     your reply."


The priest bestowed little attention on the small gossipry that filled
up the page. His eye, however, caught the name of Midchekoff, and he
read,----

     "The Prince returned last Tuesday to the Moskova, but no one
     has seen him, nor has any one been admitted within the
     gates. Of course there are a hundred rumors as to the why
     and the wherefore,----some alleging that he has received
     orders of 'réclusion,' as they call it, from home, the
     Emperor not being quite satisfied with his political
     campaign; some, that he has taken up a grudge against the
     court here, and shows his spleen in this fashion. But what
     shallow reason would this be for a hermit life? and what
     legitimate ground of complaint have not we, who, so to say,
     possess a vested interest in his truffles and ortolans and
     dry champagne? I assure you that such conduct rouses all the
     democracy of my nature, and I write these lines with a red
     silk cap on my head. After all, the real good he effected
     was a kind of reflected light. He crushed little people, and
     ground down all their puny efforts at balls, dinners, and
     _déjeuners_. He shamed into modest insignificance such a
     world of snobbery, and threw an air of ridicule over 'small
     early partyism' and 'family dinners.' What a world of
     dyspepsia has he thus averted,----what heartburns and
     heartburnings!  Oh, little people! little people! ye are a
     very dreadful generation, for ye muddy the waters of
     society, so that no man can drink thereof.

     "Politically, we are calm and reactionary; and whether it be
     thrashing has done it, I know not, but some of the Tuscans
     are 'Black and Yellow' already. Not that the dear Austrians
     promise to make Florence better or pleasanter. They mix
     badly with our population. It is as if you threw a spoonful
     of 'sauerkraut' into your 'potage à la reine!'  Besides, the
     Italians are like the Chinese,----unchanged and
     unchangeable,--and they detest the advent of all strangers
     who would interfere with their own little, soft, sleepy, and
     enervating code of wickedness.

     "Pray send me three lines, just to say----Is it to be or
     not to be? Rose, the tailor, is persecuting me about a
     mocha-brown, for a wedding garment, which certainly would
     harmonize well with the prevailing tints of my hair and
     eyebrows, but I am too prudent a diplomatist to incur
     'extraordinaires' till I be sure of 'my mission.' Therefore
     write at once, for such is my confidence in your skill and
     ability that I only wait your mandate to launch into kid
     gloves and lacquered leather, quite regardless of expense.

     "Yours, most devotedly,

     "Albert JEKYL.


     "I open this to say that Morlache was seen going to the
     Moskora last night with two caskets of jewels. Will this
     fact throw any light on the mysterious seclusion?"

These last two lines D'Esmonde read over several times; and then,
crashing the note in his hand, he threw it into the fire. Within an hour
after he was on his way to Florence.



CHAPTER XXIX. A SECRET AND A SNARE.

As we draw near to the end of our voyage, we feel all the difficulty of
collecting the scattered vessels of our convoy; and while signalizing
the "clippers" to shorten sail, we are calling on the heavy sailers to
crowd "all their canvas."

The main interest of our story would keep us beside Frank Dalton,
whose fate seemed daily to vacillate,----now threatening gloomily, now
rallying into all the brightness of hope. By slow and cautious journeys
the old Count proceeded to remove him to Vienna, where he expected soon
to-be joined by Kate. Leaving them, then, to pursue their road by steps
far too slow for our impatience, we hasten along with D'Esmonde, as,
with all the speed he could accomplish, he made for Florence.

Occasionally he tried to amuse himself and divert his thoughts by
conversing with Meekins, who accompanied him; but although the man's
shrewdness was above the common, and his knowledge of the world very
considerable, D'Esmonde quickly saw that a thick cloak of reserve
covered the real man on all occasions, and that his true nature lay many
a fathom deep below that smooth surface. The devout respect which he
felt for the Abbé might, perhaps, have increased this reserve; for
Meekins was an Irish peasant, and never forgot the deference due to a
priest.

Accustomed to read men at sight, D'Esmonde would give himself no trouble
in deciphering a page which promised little to reward the labor; and
so, after a while, he left his companion to occupy the "box," while he
himself followed his own thoughts alone and undisturbed. Now and then
he would be aroused from his deep reveries by remarking the reverential
piety of the peasants as they passed some holy shrine or some
consecrated altar. Then, indeed, Meekins displayed a fervor so unlike
the careless indifference of the native, that D'Esmonde was led to
reflect upon the difference of their natures, and speculate on how far
this devotion of character was innate in the Irishman, or merely the
result of circumstances.

There was an expression of eager, almost painful meaning, too, in the
man's face as he muttered his prayers, that struck the keen eyes of the
Abbé; and he could not avoid saying to himself, "That fellow has a load
upon his heart. Fear, and not hope, is the mainspring of his devotions."
At another moment D'Esmonde might have studied the case as a
philosopher studies a problem,--merely for the exercise it may give his
faculties,--but his own cares were too pressing and too numerous for
more than a passing notice.

The night was falling as they gained the crest of the mountain
over Florence; D'Esmonde stopped the carriage on the hill above the
"Moskova," and gazed steadily for some moments on the spot. The villa,
partly shrouded in trees, was brilliantly illuminated; the lights
gleamed and sparkled through the foliage, and, as he listened, the sound
of rich music came floating on the air.

"This looks little like seclusion," thought he. "These are signs of some
great festivity." As he drew up to the gate, however, he found it closed
and locked. Not a carriage was to be seen. Even the usual lamps were
unlighted, and all appeared deserted and unoccupied. D'Esmonde stood
for a few seconds buried in thought; his emotion was deep and heartfelt;
for, as he grasped the iron bars of the gate, his strong frame shook and
trembled. "True--true!" muttered he to himself in an accent of almost
bursting agony,--"I could not have given thee this, Lola, and for this
alone hadst thou any heart!" He leaned his face against the gate,
and sobbed heavily. "What poison," cried he, in a voice of
bitterness,--"what poison there must be in unholy passion, when it can
move a heart like mine, after years and years of time! To think that not
all the glory of a great cause, all the pride of successful ambition,
striving for rewards the very highest,--all that I possess of power and
influence,--all, all should give way to the grief for a half-forgotten,
unreturned love! How poor a thing the heart is, when we fancy its
desires to be noblest and highest!"

This burst of passionate grief over, he slowly returned to the carriage
and pursued his way to Florence; and, entering the city, he drove for
the house of Racca Morlache. The Jew was not at home, but was to return
by eleven o'clock, at which hour he had ordered supper for a guest and
himself. D'Esmonde lay down on a sofa, and fell asleep. Wearied as he
was, his watchfulness soon detected the approach of footsteps; and,
as he listened, he heard the voice of a stranger in colloquy with the
servant. The door opened at the same time, and Lord Norwood entered.
D'Esmonde only waited for the servant to retire, when he sprang forward
to salute him.

"Oh! I thought you were at the camp, or at Vienna, or somewhere to the
north'ard," said the Viscount, coolly.

"I was so, my Lord; and there I should have remained, if a pressing duty
had not recalled me to Florence."

"You have always so many irons in the fire, Abbé, that it requires some
skill to keep them all hot."

"You are right, my Lord; some skill, and some practice too."

"And do you never burn your fingers?" said the other, sarcastically.

"Very rarely, my Lord; for when I meddle with fire, I generally make use
of my friends' hands."

"By Jove, it's not a bad plan!" cried the Viscount, laughing; for,
as the priest well knew, he had a most lively appreciation for every
species of knavery, and entertained real respect for all who practised
it. "You _are_ a very downy cove, Master D'Esmonde," said he, gazing at
him; "and you 'd have made a very shining figure on the Turf, had your
fortune thrown you in that direction."

"Perhaps so, my Lord," said the Abbé, carelessly. "My own notion is,
that fair natural gifts are equal to any exigencies ever demanded of us;
and that the man of average talent, if he have only energy and a strong
will, has no superior to dread."

"That may do well enough," said Norwood, rising and pacing the
room,--"that may do well enough in the common occurrences of life, but
it won't do on the Turf, Abbé. The fellows are too artful for you there.
There are too many dodges and tricks and windings. No, no, believe
me; nothing has a chance in racing matters, without perfect and safe
'information;' you know what that means."

"It is precisely the same thing in the world at large," said D'Esmonde.
"The very cleverest men rush into embarrassments and involve themselves
in difficulties for which there is no issue, simply for want of what you
call 'information.' Even yourself, my Lord," said he, dropping his voice
to a low and distinct whisper,--"even yourself may discover that you owe
safety to a Popish priest."

"How do you mean? What do you allude to?" cried Norwood, eagerly.

"Sit down here, my Lord. Give me a patient hearing for a few minutes. We
have fortunately a moment of unbroken confidence now; let us profit by
it."

Norwood seated himself beside the priest, without speaking, and, folding
his arms, prepared to hear him calmly.

"My Lord Norwood," said the Abbé, "I will not torture you by any
prolixity, nor will I waste your time by any appeal to your forgiveness.
If my own conduct in the affair I am about to relate should not meet
your approval, it is enough that I have satisfied my own conscience."

"Go on--go on," said Norwood, in a tone of almost sarcasm; "I see that
you have injured me, let me hear how and where."

"You shall hear both, my Lord, and briefly too. I have only to invoke
your memory, and the story is told. You remember being at Salamanca,
in the year 18----? you remember, too, a certain ballerina of the Grand
Opera? You had seen her first at Seville--"

"Yes----; yes," broke in Norwood, reddening deeply; "I know what you
mean--the girl was my mistress."

"Stay, my Lord. Do not dishonor yourself; she was your wife,--legally
and formally married to you,--the registry of the act is in existence,
and the priest who performed the ceremony now stands before you."

"By Heaven!" said Norwood, springing to his feet,

"You are a bold fellow to dare this game with _me!_ and to try it in
such a place as this!"

"Ay, my Lord, the river rolls dark and silently beside us," said
D'Esmonde, calmly; "and the Arno has covered up many a more dreadful
deed; but I have no fears,--not one. I am unarmed, in strength I am
certainly not your equal, and yet, I repeat it, my heart assures me that
I stand in no peril."

For an instant Norwood seemed to hesitate how to act. The great veins of
his face and forehead became swollen and knotted, and he breathed with
the rushing sound of severe, restrained passion. At last, as if to guard
himself against any sudden impulse of anger, he walked round and seated
himself at the opposite side of the table.

D'Esmonde resumed as calmly as before: "Yes, my Lord, Lola took care
that everything should be regular and in form; and the names of
Gerald Acton and Lola de Seviglia are inscribed on the records of the
Collegiate Chapel. Two of the witnesses are still living; one of them,
then a poor boy carrying messages for the convent, is now captain in the
Pope's Guard."

"Come, come,----enough of this," cried Norwood, impatiently. "I see
the drift of it all. When the Church interposes her kind offices, the
question resolves itself always into money. How much--how much?"

"You mistake greatly, my Lord; but your error does not offend me. I know
too well how men of _your_ form of belief regard men of _mine!_ I am
not here either to combat a prejudice, or assert a right. I tell you,
therefore, calmly and dispassionately, that no demand is made upon you.
There is no siege laid against you, in person or in purse."

"Then how does the matter concern me, if this girl be alive?--and even
of that I have my doubts--"

"You need have none," said D'Esmonde, interruptingly. "Lady
Norwood-----"

"Stop! By Heaven! if you dare to give her that name, I'll not answer for
myself."

"I call her as she styles herself,----as she is called by all around
her. Yes, my Lord, the shame is as open as gossip and malevolence can
make it. The foreigner is but too glad when he can involve an English
name and title in a reproach that we are prone to cast upon him. A
peeress is a high mark for scandal! Who stoops to ask how or when or
where she became this? Who interposes a charitable word of explanation
or of incredulity? From what you know of life, on what side, think you,
will lie the ingenuity and craft? Whether will the evidence preponderate
to prove her your wife or to exonerate _you?_ At all events, how will
the matter read in England? I speak not of your ruined hopes of an
alliance befitting your high station. _This_ is beyond repairing! But
are you ready to meet the shame and ignominy of the story? Nothing is
too base, nothing too infamous, for an imputation. Will any one, I ask
of you--will any one assert that you are ignorant of all this? Would any
one believe who heard it? Will not the tale be rather circulated with
all its notes and comments? Will not men fill up every blank by the
devices of their own bad ingenuity? Will not some assert that you are a
partner in your own infamy, and that your fingers have touched the price
of your shame?"

"Stop!" cried Norwood. "Another word--one syllable more like this--and,
by the Heaven above us, your lips will never move again!"

"It would be a sorry recompense for my devotion to you, my Lord," said
the Abbé, with a profound sigh.

"Devotion!" repeated Norwood, in a voice of insulting sarcasm; "as if
I were to be tricked by this! Keep these artifices for some trembling
devotee, some bedridden or palsied worshipper of saintly relics and holy
legerdemain; I 'm not the stuff for such deceptions!"

"And yet, my Lord, what possible benefit can accrue to myself from this
ungracious task? With all your ingenuity, what personal gain can result
to me?"

"What care I for your motives, sir?" responded Norwood, fiercely. "I
only know that you had never incurred so critical a hazard without an
object. You either seek to exert a menace over me, or to be revenged on
_her_."

"Alas, my Lord, I see how little hope I should have of vindicating
myself before you. Your estimate of the Papists suggests nothing above
craft and dishonesty. You will not believe that human affections, love
of country, and all the other associations of a home, are strong in
hearts that beat beneath the serge frock of the priest. Still less do
you know the great working principle of our Faith,--the law which binds
us, for every unjust act we have done in life, to make an expiation in
this world. For many a year has my conscience been burdened with this
offence. But for my weak compliance with your request, I should never
have performed this ceremony. Had _I_ been firm, _you_ had been saved.
Nay, in my eagerness to serve you, I only worked your ruin; for, on
confessing to my Superior what I had done, he at once took measures to
ratify the act of marriage, and my rank as a deacon took date from the
day before the ceremony." D'Esmonde seemed not to notice the gesture of
indignation with which Norwood heard these words, but he went on: "It
is, then, to make some requital for this wrong, that I now risk all that
your anger may inflict upon me."

"Where is this woman?" cried Norwood, savagely, and as if impatient at a
vindication for which he felt no interest. "Where is she?"

"She is here, my Lord," said the other, meekly.

"Here? How do you mean? Not in this house?"

"I mean that she is now in Florence."

"What, living openly here?--calling herself by my name?"

"She lives in all the splendor of immense wealth, and as openly as the
protection of Prince Midchekoff----"

"Midchekoff----Midchekoff, did you say?" cried Norwood, in a burst of
passion.

"Yes, my Lord. The haughty Russian exults in the insult that this offers
to the proudest aristocracy of Europe. This is the vengeance he exacts
for the cold disdain he experienced in London, and all that reserve that
met his attempts in English society."

"How came she here?--who sent for her?--who devised this scheme? Tell me
the whole truth, for, by Heaven, if I see you equivocate, you'll never
quit this chamber living!"

"I' ll tell you everything, truthfully and fairly," said the Abbé, with
calm dignity; and now in a few words he traced Nina's life, from the
time of her residence under Lady Hester's roof, to the moment of her
return to Florence. He omitted nothing; neither her intimacy with Jekyl
nor her passion for George Onslow. Even to the incident of the torn
dress on the night of the flight, he told all.

Norwood listened with the stern collectedness of one who had nerved
himself for a great effort. Although the blood spurted from his
compressed lips, and the nails of his fingers were buried in his hands,
he uttered never a word. At last, when D'Esmonde paused, he said,----

"And _you_ knew all this?"

"Nothing whatever of it I never chanced to see her at Florence, nor had
I the slightest suspicion of her presence there."

"Lady Hester knew it? Miss Dalton knew it?"

"I suspect not at that time."

"They know it _now_, then?"

"Who does not? Is not Florence ringing with the story? When has scandal
fallen upon such material for its malevolence? Such _dramatis personæ_
as a prince, an English peer, and his peeress, are not of every day's
good fortune!"

"Be cautious how you harp on this theme, priest. In your good zeal to
hammer the metal soft you may chance to crush your own finger."

"I must be frank with you, my Lord, whatever the hazard. He would be a
sorry surgeon who, after giving his patient all the agony of the knife,
stopped short, and left the malady unextirpated."

"Come now, D'Esmonde," said Norwood, as with a strong grasp he drew the
other down on the sofa beside him, "_You_ have your debt to acquit in
this matter as well as myself. I do not seek to know how or why or
upon whom. Your priestly craft need not be called into exercise. I
want nothing of your secrets; I only ask your counsel. That much in our
common cause you cannot refuse me. What shall I do in this affair? No
cant, no hypocritical affectation of Christian forgiveness, none of that
hackneyed advice that you dole out to your devotees; speak freely, and
like a man of the world. What is to be done here?"

"If the marriage admitted of dispute or denial, I should say disavow
it," said the priest "It is too late for this."

"Go on. What next?"

"Then comes the difficulty. To assert your own honor, you must begin by
a recognition of her as your wife. This looks rash, but I see no other
course. You cannot call Midchekoff to a reckoning on any other grounds.
Then comes the question, is such a woman worth fighting for? or must the
only consideration be the fact that she bears your name, and that she is
the Viscountess Norwood in every society she can enter? How is this to
be borne? The stricter code of England rejects such claimants altogether
from its circle; but on the Continent they are everywhere. Will it be
possible for you to live under this open shame?"

"Your advice is, then,----shoot him!" said Norwood; and he bent his eyes
fixedly on the priest as he spoke. "It is my own notion, also. If the
choice were open to me, D'Esmonde, I 'd rather have exacted the payment
of this debt from Onslow; I hated the fellow from my very heart. Not
that I owe this Russian any good will. We have more than once been on
the verge of a quarrel. It was not my fault if it went no further.
They say, too, that he has no taste for these things. If so, one must
stimulate his appetite, that's all!--eh, D'Esmonde? _Your_ countrymen
seldom need such provocations?"

"We have our faults, my Lord; but this is scarcely amongst their
number."

"You're right, D'Esmonde," said the other, pursuing his former line
of thought. "It's no petty penalty to exact from a fellow with fifty
thousand a year! I almost fancy I should have been a coward myself at
such a price!"

"You 'll have some difficulty in obtaining access to him, my Lord,"
remarked the Abbé. "He lives in strict privacy, and refuses admission to
every one."

"But a letter will reach him?"

"It may, or it may not; besides, it may come to hand, and yet never be
acknowledged."

"What is to be done, then?"

"I 'll think over it, before we separate. I 'll try and suggest
something. But here comes Morlache; and now be cautious. Not a word to
show that you are ill at ease." The warning was scarcely spoken, when
the Jew entered.

Morlache knew D'Esmonde too well to be surprised at seeing him anywhere
or at any moment He saluted him, therefore, as though they had met the
very day before, and the party sat down to supper, in all the seeming
ease of unburdened minds.

They chatted over the politics of Italy, and the change that had come
over Florence since the last time they had sat together in that chamber.

"It was a noisy scene, that night," said Morlache; "but the streets are
quiet enough now."

"Quiet as a corpse," said Norwood, sternly. "You had no other nostrum
for tranquillity but to extinguish life."

"What you regard as death, my Lord," said the Abbé, "is only a trance.
Italy will rise grander and more powerful than ever. One element alone
has survived through all the convulsive throes, and all the changing
fortunes of this land,--the Papacy. The terrible wars of rival cities
and states, the more bloody conquests of ambitious houses, leave not a
trace behind them; but Rome holds on her proud way, and, like the great
river of the poet, 'Labitur et labetur in omne volubilis oevum. '"

"To which I beg, in a less classical quotation, to rejoin, 'Confound
your politics,'" cried Norwood, laughing. "Come, Morlache, let us
turn to a humbler theme. Who have you got here; who are coming for the
winter?"

"Say, rather, my Lord, who are going away; for there is a general flight
from Florence. All what hotel folk call good families are hastening off
to Rome and Naples."

"What's the meaning of this, then?"

"It is not very difficult, perhaps, to explain," said the Jew; "luxuries
are only the creations of mere circumstance. The rarity of one land
may be the very satiety of another; and the iced-punch that tastes so
exquisite at Calcutta would be but sorry tipple at Coppermine River.
Hence you will see, my Lord, that the English who come here for
wickedness find the place too bad for them. There is no zest to their
vice; they shock nobody, they outrage nothing,--in fact, they are only
as bad as their neighbors."

"I suppose it's neither better nor worse than I remember it these dozen
years and more?" said Norwood.

"Probably not, my Lord, in fact; but, in outward appearance, it has
assuredly degenerated. People behave badly everywhere, but this is the
only city in Europe where it is deemed right to do so."

"Since when have you taken up the trade of moralist, Master Morlache?"
said Norwood, with a sneer.

"I 'll answer that question," broke in D'Esmonde. "Since the exchange on
England has fallen to forty-three and a half, Morlache sees his clients
diminish, and is consequently as angry with vice as he had been with its
opposite, if the same result had come to pass."

"I own," said the Jew, with a sneer, "the present order of things is far
more profitable to the confessional than to the _comptoir_."

"That's the truth, I've no doubt of it," broke in Norwood, laughing. "A
low tariff has given a great impulse to the trade of wickedness."

"Taking your own illustration, my Lord, we are 'Protectionists,'" said
D'Esmonde; "whereas you Protestants are the 'Free-traders' in vice."

"A plague on both your houses, say I," cried Norwood, yawning.
"So, then, Morlache, neither you nor I would find this a desirable
residence?"

"I fear it will not repay either of us, my Lord," said the Jew, with a
sly look.

"The world is growing wonderfully wide awake," said Norwood. "When I
entered life, any fellow with a neat hand at billiards, a fair knowledge
of _écarté_ or short whist, good whiskers, and a well-cut waistcoat,
might have eked out a pretty existence without any risk, and very little
exertion. But see what the march of intelligence has done! There 's
not an Eton boy, not an unfledged 'sub' in a marching regiment, not an
unpaid attaché at a small court could n't compete with you now in any of
these high acquirements. I do not fret myself usually about what is to
come after _my_ time; but I really wonder how the next generation will
get on at all."

"Civilization moves like the pendulum, my Lord," said D'Esmonde; "the
next swing will be retrograde. And, by the way, that reminds me of
Russia, and Russia of Prince Midchekoff. Is it true that he is recalled,
Morlache?"

"Not that I know. That report is always circulated when there are no
dinners at the villa. Just as Marshal Soult is said to have won or lost
the battle of Toulouse according to the momentary estimation he is held
in."

"You'll hear for certain, my Lord," said D'Esmonde, addressing Norwood;
"You are going up there to-night?"

Norwood muttered an assent, and waited to see how this sally was to end.

"Ah! you are going there to-night," repeated Morlache, in some surprise.
"Are _you_ one of the privileged, then?"

"Of course he is," interposed D'Esmonde, authoritatively.

"Will you do me a very great favor, then, my Lord?" said Morlache,
----"which is to take charge of this small casket. I promised to take
it myself; but it is so late now, and I am so wearied, that I shall feel
much bound to you for the service."

"You can easily acquit the debt of obligation, Morlache," said
D'Esmonde; "for my Lord was just asking me, before you came in, if he
could take the liberty of begging the loan of your carriage to take him
up to the Moskova. You are aware that it would not be quite proper to
take a hired carriage, just now, up to the villa; that, as the Prince
affects to be absent----"

"To be sure," broke in Morlache. "I am but too happy to accommodate your
Lordship. Your precaution was both delicate and well thought of. Indeed,
I greatly doubt that they would admit a fiacre at all."

"I suppose I should have had to walk from the gate," said Norwood, who
now saw the gist of the Abbé's stratagem.

"Morlache's old gray is a passport that requires no _visa_," said
D'Esmonde. "You 'll meet neither let nor hindrance with him in front of
you. You may parody the great statesman's peroration, and say, 'Where
the King cannot enter, he can.' Such is it to be a banker's horse!"

Norwood heard little or nothing of this remark. Deeply sunk in his own
thoughts, he arose abruptly from the table.

"You are not going away, my Lord? You are surely not deserting that
flask of Marcobrunner that we have only tasted?"

But Norwood never heard the words, and continued to follow his own train
of reflection. Then, bending over D'Esmonde, he said, "In case we should
require to cross the frontier at Lavenza, must we have passports?"

"Nothing of the kind. There is no police, no inquiry whatever."

"Good-bye, then. If you should not hear _from_, you will hear _of_ me,
Abbé. There are a few things which, in the event of accident, I will
jot down in writing. You 'll look to them for me. Good-evening, or
good-morning,--I scarcely know which." And, with all the habitual
indolence of his lounging manner, he departed.

D'Esmonde stood for a few seconds silent, and then said, "Is the noble
Viscount deep in your books?"

"Deeper than I wish him to be," said the Jew.

"Have no fears on that account. He 'll soon acquit all his debts," said
the other. "Good-night, Morlache." And with this abrupt leave-taking he
withdrew.



CHAPTER XXX. A SAD EXIT.

The French Secretary of Legation was just going to bed as his servant
handed him a card from Lord Norwood, with a few words scribbled in
pencil.

"Yes, by all means. Tell my Lord to come in," said he; and Norwood
entered.

"You remember an old pledge you once made me," said the Viscount,
smiling. "I have come to claim it."

"_Diantre!_ the case must be pressing that would not wait till
daylight."

"So it is; and so you will agree with me in thinking it when I tell you
all," said Norwood. "The first point is, may I reckon upon you?"

"Of course; my word is sacred."

"Secondly, have you pistols that you can depend upon? Mine have been
stopped at Milan by the police."

"They are Jacquard's best," said the Frenchman; "and in _your_ hand
ought not to disgrace their maker."

"Dress, then, and come along with me. This affair must be disposed of
quickly."

"I'm at your orders," said the Frenchman, gayly. "I suppose you will be
kind enough to tell me something more as we go along."

Norwood nodded an assent, and sat down before the fire and crossed his
arms on his breast.

"Was it a quarrel at play?" asked the Frenchman, after an interval of
silence.

"No!" was the abrupt reply.

"All the better. It is the only affair of this kind I cannot endure. Is
there a woman in it?"

"Yes."

"Ah! I perceive," said the other, with a laugh. "A married woman?"

"Yes."

"And who is this happy husband, this time?" asked he, flippantly.

"I am," replied Norwood, in a low and solemn voice.

"_You! you!_ I never thought--never suspected _you_ of being married,
Norwood. Pray be a little more explicit. Let me hear the whole story."

"Later on, not now. I want to think of something else at this moment Are
your pistols fine in the trigger?"

"Excessively so; a fly would almost suffice to move them. Is he
English?"

"No."

"Not a countryman of my own, I hope?"

"No. It is Midchekoff, the Russian."

"_Diantre!_ what a mark to shoot at! But they tell me that he never does
go out,--that he refuses this kind of thing."

"He shall not do so this time," said Norwood, with a vehement energy of
manner.

"Well, I 'm ready now; but I must say that I should like to hear
something of what we are about."

"There will be ample time for all as we go along. We shall drive to the
villa. It is necessary to obtain an interview with himself. This done,
I will give the provocation, showing that you are ready and in waiting;
there can be no delay."

"But he will need a friend?"

"He must take one of his secretaries,----his valet if he prefer it I 'll
give no time for evasive negotiation."

"I cannot be a party to an affair like this, Norwood. Whatever the wrong
you seek to avenge, this is not the mode to do it."

"Say so at once, then," said Norwood, rising. "Tell me that you gave a
rash promise, and are sorry for it Better the refusal now than when it
be too late to retract."

"You mistake me; I have no wish to unsay one single word I ever spoke to
you. I only ask for such an explanation as I have a right to demand."

"You shall know everything; pray spare me telling it twice over. There
is no use in opening one's wound till he comes to the surgeon. Enough
now, that I tell you this man owes me a full and fair reparation for a
great wrong; I am equally determined on exacting it. If this does not
satisfy you, step into the carriage and you shall hear the whole story.
I can tell it, perhaps, when we are rattling along over the stones in
the dark." And so saying, he sat down and leaned his head on the table,
as though he would not be disturbed. The Frenchman went on with
his dressing, rapidly; and at last, pronouncing himself ready, they
descended the stairs together in silence, and entered the carriage.

As they drove on, Norwood never spoke; and his companion, respecting
perhaps the occasion of his silence, did not utter a word. At last they
arrived at the summit of the hill, and looked down upon the city, over
which the gray tints of coming day were breaking. The great Duomo and
the Palazzo Vecchio lay in massive shadow, and it was only at intervals
along the Arno that a flickering gleam of cold light fell. The scene, in
all its calm and stillness, was grand and solemn.

"How unlike the Florence of sun and bright sky, how unlike the brilliant
city of dissipation and pleasure!" said Norwood; "and so it is with
individuals: we are just what light and shadow make us! Now listen to
me." He then related the whole story of his first meeting with Lola,
down to the moment of D'Esmonde's revelation. "I know well," said he,
"there may be a dozen ways to look on the affair besides that which I
have chosen. I might dispute the marriage; I might disavow the whole
proceeding; I might, naturally enough, leave such a woman to her
fate,--she never could be anything to _me_; but I cannot relinquish the
opportunity of a reckoning with this Russian. The insolence of his
wealth gives all the venom to this outrage, and I 'll shoot him! All the
splendor of his riches can avail him but little now. And, except some
more gold upon his coffin, and a richer pall to cover it, he has no
advantage over me, ruined and beggared as I am. As to my scores with the
world at large, I am about quits. _They_ cheated _me_ when I was a
young, unsuspecting boy, trusting and believing every one. _I_ repaid
_them_, as my own time came. Men understand this thoroughly, but women
never do. The moment you cease to be _their_ dupe, they hate you. As to
my debts, they gave me little trouble when living, they 're not likely
to disturb my rest in the churchyard; and as for friends, there is not
one alive to whom I could send a last word of affection; and yet--you'll
scarcely believe it--with all this I 'd like to live; although if you
ask me why, I couldn't tell it Perhaps it is this," cried he, after a
pause; "the yelping pack that cried me down in my absence will do so now
without fear or restraint The stories of me that once were whispered
will now be told aloud. Slander and calumny can go abroad without a
dread of consequences. But even that is a poor thing to live for!"

The Frenchman's philosophy had taught him but few sympathies with
such gloomy ideas, and he tried in every way to rally his friend; but
Norwood's mind was full of very different sorrows from those he had
dwelt upon. It was the canker of a disappointed, abortive life was
eating into his heart A fair fortune squandered, a noble name tarnished,
a high position sacrificed, and now an ignominious quarrel to close his
career,--these were the reflections which, far more embittering than all
his words, now tortured and agonized him.

"Come," said he, suddenly, "we had better move forward. It is getting
nigh daybreak, and our Prince will soon be retiring to his room."

They now drove rapidly on for some time, and at last reached the gate,
where the porter, at once recognizing Mor-lache's carriage and livery,
admitted them without a word.

"You 'll have to wait for me here, Count," said Norwood, when they
stopped at the door. "I 'll contrive not to keep you long; but this part
of the matter I must do alone." The bell had scarcely done ringing when
the door was opened. "The Prince is still at table?" said Norwood, half
in assertion, half in inquiry; and then, with a gesture to the servant
to show the way, he overawed all scruples about admitting him. "Is he
alone?" said the Viscount, as they went along.

"No, sir. The Countess is with him."

"Say that a person on most pressing business is here, and must speak
with him at once."

"The Prince always requires the name, sir. I dare not address him
without it."

"Say that I am come from Morlache's,----that I have something to
deliver into his own hands."

Norwood placed the casket on the table as he spoke. The servant retired,
and speedily returned, requesting Norwood to follow him. As the door was
flung open, Norwood heard voices; he stopped and hesitated. Either an
impulse of passion or some change of purpose worked within him; for,
as he stood, he grasped the edge of the door, and swayed to and fro for
some seconds.

"Let him come out,--let him come here," cried he, in a loud voice.

A low murmur of persons speaking was heard within, and suddenly the
rustling sound of a female dress was followed by the bang of a door; and
then Norwood entered, and, closing the door, locked it behind him.

The grating sound of the key made the Russian turn his head suddenly
around, and his eyes met Norwood's.

"What! my Lord Norwood!" cried he, in amazement. "They never told me--"

"If they had, in all likelihood I should not have been admitted," was
the stern reply.

"I must own it is an honor for which I was scarcely prepared, my Lord,"
said the other.

"You never spoke more truly, sir," said Norwood. "Men like yourself
fancy that their solvency in matters of money implies as much in all the
various relations of life, and that, as they know not what a dun means,
they are to enjoy an equal immunity from every demand of honor."

"As you are evidently speaking under some strange misapprehension, my
Lord, I hesitate about accepting your words in any offensive sense."

"You said you were unprepared for my visit, sir, and I believe you,
as you will be, doubtless, unprepared for the object of it Prince
Midchekoff, I have come here to request your company across the
Tuscan frontier; the matter is of sufficient importance to warrant the
inconvenience. You will take any or as many of your household as you
please, but you shall accompany me from this spot Come, sir, your air of
easy indifference is for once mistimed. You see before you a man whose
utmost effort can scarcely repress the passion that stirs within him.
Neither your coolness nor your cowardice--for the quality goes by either
name--can avail you here. I must and I will have reparation."

"Until I am aware of the injury,--until you tell me how or in what I
have wronged you--"

"How shall I teach you a lesson of honor; sir," cried Norwood, boiling
over with rage, "so that you may comprehend, even for a moment, the
feeling of a gentleman? You cannot affect ignorance as to who and what
is the woman that sat there. You need not drive me to the indignity of
calling her my wife! You know it well, and you knew all the disgrace you
were heaping on a class who rejected your intimacy. None of this mock
surprise, sir! If you compel me to it, I 'll fling open that door, call
all your household around you, and before them I 'll insult you, so that
even your serf-blood will rebel against the outrage."

"This is madness,----downright insanity, my Lord," said Midchekoff,
rising and moving towards the bell.

"Not so, sir," said Norwood, interposing. "My passion is now mastered.
You shall not escape on that pretence. There are my pistols; only one of
them is loaded; take your choice, for I see that outside of this room I
shall seek in vain for satisfaction."

"This would be a murder."

"It shall be, by Heaven, if you delay!" cried Norwood. "I have the right
and the will to shoot you like a dog. If there be no honor, is there
not even some manhood in your heart? Take your weapon; you hesitate
still,--take that, then!" And he struck him with his open hand across
the face.

[Illustration: 419]

Midchekoff snatched the pistol convulsively, and, placing the muzzle on
Norwood's breast, fired. With a wild cry he staggered and fell dead upon
the floor. The Prince flung open the door, and rang the bell violently.
In a moment the room was filled with servants. "Send Jocasse here,"
said Midchekoff; and his chief secretary entered in all haste and
trepidation. "This is an affair for the police, Jocasse," said the
Prince, coolly. "Send for the brigadier, and let him come to my room."

"Suicide shows a great _manque de savoir vivre_," said Haggerstone, as
the news of the event was circulated through Florence. And the _mot_
survived the memory of its victim.



CHAPTER XXXI. THE SUMMONS.

They who only knew Vienna in its days of splendor and magnificence could
scarcely have recognized that city as it appeared on the conclusion of
the great revolt which had just convulsed the Empire. The great walls
were riddled with shot and shell; vast breaches in them opened out a
view of even more dreadful ruin within; streets choked up with fallen
houses, and wide squares encumbered with blocks of masonry and blackened
timbers. The terrible traces of barricade struggles still remained; but
more significant than all these was the downcast, sorrow-struck look of
a population once known as the gayest and most light-hearted of Europe.

The air of suffering and poverty extended to everything. No signs of the
once luxury and wealth of that rich nobility. Not an equipage was to
be seen! The passing and repassing of troops gave the only movement
observable in the streets. Strong guards and patrols marched past, with
all the precaution and preparation of a state of war. The dragoons sat
in their saddles, carbine in hand, as if but waiting for a signal to
engage; while, in the half-defiant stare of the populace might be read
the spirit of men who had not yet resigned themselves to defeat.

Most of the shops were closed, and, even of those still open, the
display of wares was scanty and miserable; rather seeming as if the
effort were made to conciliate the favor of the Government than with
any hope of gain. The cafés were deserted, except by the military; and
they--far from indulging the jocund mirth and laughter which was their
wont--were now serious and anxious-looking, regarding the passers-by
with a distrustful glance, and seeming as though they felt that the
interval was less peace than an armistice.

Cannon were in position on the Stephan's Platz and the Graben, and the
gunners stood ready, as if on parade. Officers of the staff, too, and
orderlies rode hastily to and fro, showing that no rash reliance was
placed on the quietude of the capital, and that the hour of conflict, if
it were to come, should not find them unprepared. In vain the stranger
might have sought for that more than feudal splendor which once was the
type of this brilliant city! The gorgeous liveries of the Bohemian,
or the more tasteful grandeur of the Magyar noble were no longer to be
seen. The varied costumes of the Banat and the Wallach, which gave such
character to many a rude equipage, the barbaric finery, which recalled
the old struggles with the Crescent, which marked the rank of some
border chieftain, was gone. Vienna presented nothing but its troops of
soldiers, and its mournful, sad-looking population, moving listlessly
about, or standing in groups to gaze on the disastrous ruins of their
once proud city.

The "Ambassador Street," where formerly the armorial shields of every
reigning house of Europe were wont to be displayed, was now almost
untenanted.

With some the Imperial Government was at open war; with others
estrangement and coldness prevailed; while some, again, were represented
by officials of inferior rank,--all signs of troubled and precarious
times, when kings no longer knew what future awaited them!

It was here, formerly, that the most brilliant society of the capital
was to be found; here, every night, the carriages were seen to throng,
and the whole street glow with the glare of light from brilliant
_salons_, or the red flame of the torches borne by the running footmen.
The proud aristocracy of every land here met; and names that recalled
the great achievements of generals and statesmen were heard in every
announcement that resounded along those corridors. But a few of these
palaces were now occupied; and for the most part were the quarters of
the generals of the army. In front of one of the largest, at whose
gate two sentinels stood, the street was littered with straw; while the
closed shutters and drawn curtains showed that sickness and suffering
were busy within. The frequent arrivals, and the passing and repassing
of messengers evinced the interest the sufferer's fate excited; and
amongst those who dismounted at the corner of the street, and with
cautious steps approached the door, more than one member of the Imperial
house was to be seen. He whose fortune inspired all these tokens of
regard was no great or illustrious general, no proud and distinguished
statesman; he was simply a young officer of hussars,--a gallant
soldier, whose fidelity had been proved under the most trying
circumstances,----our old acquaintance, Frank Dalton. Relapse after
relapse had reduced his strength to the very verge of debility, and each
day threatened to be his last Worn down by pain and suffering, the young
soldier bore a look of calm and even happy meaning. His character for
loyalty had been not only vindicated by his blood; but, through the
aid of Walstein, it was shown that he could have known nothing of the
conspiracy with which he was charged. Thus re-established in fair fame,
he saw himself the object of every care that affection could bestow.
The old Count seldom quitted him; Kate never left his bedside. Every
attention of kindness, every suggestion of love was bestowed upon him;
and a sick-bed was made the scene of more touching happiness than he had
ever known in the proudest hours of his health and vigor. Could he
have seen his dear Nelly beside him, he had no more to wish for! To die
without pressing her to his heart, without acknowledging all that
he owed to her good counsels, was now his only sorrow; and if in the
stillness of the sick-room tears would flow heavily along his cheek, and
drop, one by one, on his pillow, this was their secret source.

The Count had himself written to Nelly. Kate, too, had despatched a
letter, telling of Frank's dangerous condition, and entreating her
presence; but no reply had been returned, and they already began to fear
that some mishap had occurred, and were obliged to frame all manner
of excuses for her absence. Meanwhile, as his strength declined, his
impatience increased; and his first question, as day broke, and his last
at night, were, "What tidings of Nelly?" All his faults and errors lay
like a load upon his heart, till he could pour out the confession to
his dear sister. The post-hour of each morning was a moment of intense
anxiety to him; and the blank look which met his eager glance was the
signal for a depression that weighed down his heart during the day. From
long dwelling on this source of sorrow, his mind grew painfully acute
as to all that bore upon it; and sometimes he fancied that his uncle and
Kate knew some dreadful fact of poor Nelly, and feared to communicate
it. More than once had it occurred to him that she was dead,--that she
had sunk, broken-hearted and deserted. He did not dare to whisper this
suspicion, but he tried to insinuate his fears about her in a hundred
ways. To his sickly fancy their frankness seemed dissimulation, and
the very grief they displayed he read as the misery of an unrevealed
calamity.

Kate, with all a woman's quickness, saw what was passing in his mind,
and tried her utmost to combat it; but all in vain. To no purpose did
she open her whole heart before him, telling of her own sad history and
its disappointments. In vain did she point to a bright future, when,
strong and in spirits, Frank should accompany her in search of Nelly,
through every glen and valley of the Tyrol. The impression of some
concealment was more powerful than all these, and he but heard them as
tales invented to amuse a sick-bed. The morbid sensibility of illness
gave a significance to every trivial incident, and Kate dared not
whisper in his presence, nor even exchange a look with another, without
exciting a whole flood of doubt and suspicion in his mind.

To allay, so far as might be, these disordered terrors, they assumed
the utmost frankness in all intercourse with him, and even took pains to
exhibit an undisguised freedom on every occasion.

The letters which arrived by each morning's post were always opened in
his presence, and his prying, eager glances showed that the precaution
was not unneeded.

"What is that?" cried he, suddenly, as Kate, after reading the address
of a letter, hastily threw it on the table, and covered it with others.
"Let me see that, Kate. Who is it for?"

"It bears your name," said she, anxiously, "and has an Irish postmark;
but the hand is not known to me."

The youth took the letter in his hand, and sat gazing on it for some
minutes together.

"No," said he, at length, "I do not remember to have seen the writing
before. Read it, Kate."

She broke the seal, and at once exclaimed, "It is from Dr. Grounsell,
Frank,--a very dear and kind friend."

She ran her eyes rapidly over the lines as she spoke, and twice her
color came and went, and her hand trembled as it held the paper.

"You have bad news for me?" said the boy, with a slow, but firm
utterance; "but so that it be not of Nelly, I can bear anything!"

"It is not of Nelly," said Kate, in a tremulous voice.

"Then let me hear it," said he, calmly.

She tried to read, but the effort was beyond her strength; and although
her lips moved, no sound issued from them. At last she gained sufficient
strength to say, "It would agitate you too much, my dear brother, to
hear this now. Let us wait for a day or two, till you are stronger, and
better able to think about it."

"I have told you already, that if it be not of Nelly, I can hear it with
indifference. Read on, then, Kate."

"The meaning of it is this, Frank," cried she, hastily. "There was a
fearful crime committed some years back in Ireland,--a relative of ours,
named Godfrey, was murdered."

"Yes--yes--I know it. Go on," said he, eagerly.

"The circumstances have never come to light, and now, it would appear,
some efforts are being made to connect our name with this dreadful act;
and--and--in fact, Frank, Dr. Grounsell wishes to learn from you where
we were residing at the period in question; and if you be possessed of
any letters or papers which could show the relations existing between
our family and Mr. Godfrey."

"You must let me read this for myself, Kate," said Frank, calmly, taking
the letter from her hands; "and now leave me for a while."

With trembling steps and a sinking heart the young girl retired, to pass
hours of intense anxiety in her chamber. At last came a servant to say
that her brother desired to see her.

"I must set out for Ireland, Kate," said the sick youth, as he arose
from his chair.

"For Ireland!" cried she, gazing with terror at his wasted and worn
figure.

"A long journey, dearest, but I shall have strength for it, if you 'll
be my companion!"

"Never to leave you, Frank," cried she; and fell sobbing into his arms.



CHAPTER XXXII. INISTIOGE.

Rich as Ireland is in picturesque river scenery, we know nothing
more beautiful than the valley through which the Nore flows between
Thomastown and New Ross. The gently sloping meadows, backed by deep
woods, and dotted with cheerful farm-houses, gradually give way to a
bolder landscape as you descend the stream and enter a dark gorge, whose
high beetling sides throw their solemn shade over the river, receding at
last to form a kind of amphitheatre wherein stands the little village of
Inistioge.

More like a continental than an Irish hamlet, the cottages are built
around a wide open space planted with tall elms and traversed by many
a footpath; and here, of a summer night, are to be seen the villagers
seated or strolling about in pleasant converse,--a scene of rural peace
and happiness such as rarely is to be met with in our land of trial and
struggle. Did our time or space admit of it, we would gladly loiter in
that pleasant spot, gazing from that graceful bridge on the ivy-clad
towers, the tall and stately abbey, or the rich woods of that proud
demesne, which in every tint of foliage encircles the picture.

That "vale and winding river" were scenes of some of our boyhood's
happiest hours, and even years--those stern teachers--have not
obliterated the memory! Our task is not, however, with these
recollections, and we would now ask our reader to stand with us beneath
the shadow of the tall elms, while the little village is locked in
slumber.

It is past midnight,----all is still and tranquil; a faint moonlight
flickers through the leaves, and plays a fitful gleam upon the river.
One man alone is abroad, and he is seen to traverse the bridge with
uncertain steps, stopping at moments as if to listen, and then resuming
his solitary watch. A light, the only one in the village, twinkles
from a window of the little inn, and the door lies open, for in his
impatience he has quitted his chamber to walk abroad in the night air.
As the hours wear on, his anxiety seems to increase, and he starts and
pauses at every sound of the wind through the trees, and every cadence
of the rushing river. At last he hears the tramp of a horse,--he
bends down to listen,--it comes nearer and nearer, and in his feverish
impatience he hastens in the direction of the coming noise.

"Is that you, Michel?" he cries, in an eager accent.

"Yes, D'Esmonde, it is!" replies a voice; and the next moment the
horseman has dismounted at his side.

"What have I not suffered since you left this, Michel!" said D'Esmonde,
as he rested his forehead on the other's shoulder. "There is not an
image of terror my mind has not conjured up. Shame, ignominy, ruin, were
all before me; and had you stayed much longer away, my brain could not
have borne it."

"But, D'Esmonde, my friend--"

"Nay, nay, do not reason with me; what I feel--what I suffer--has no
relation to the calm influences of reason. I alone can pilot myself
through the rocks and quicksands of this channel. Tell me of your
mission--how has it fared?"

"Less well than I hoped for," said the other, slowly.

"I thought as much," replied D'Esmonde, in a tone of deep dejection.
"You saw him?"

"Yes, our interview lasted nigh an hour. He received me coldly,
but courteously, and entered into the question with a kind of calm
acquiescence that at first gave me good encouragement."

"To end in disappointment!" cried D'Esmonde, bitterly; and the other
made no reply. "Go on, Michel," said the Abbé, after a pause; "tell me
all."

"I began," resumed the other, "by a brief reference to Godfrey's murder,
and the impenetrable mystery in which, up to this hour, it would appear
to be veiled. I related all that you had told me of the relationship
between him and the Daltons, and the causes which had broken off their
friendship. With these he seemed conversant, though I am unable to say
whether he knew more or less than what I was communicating. I dwelt as
long and as forcibly as I deemed safe on the character and habits of old
Dalton, hinting at his reckless, unprincipled career, and the wild and
lawless notions he entertained on every subject. To my great surprise,
and I confess to my discomfiture, he stopped me short by saying,----

"'You would imply, then, that he was the guilty man.'

"'You go too fast, Mr. Grounsell,' said I, calmly; 'I have come to
confer and take counsel with you, not to form rash or hasty notions on a
matter of such deep gravity. If the circumstances I shall lay before you
possess the same importance in your eyes that they do in mine, it may
be that your own conclusions will be even more than suspicious.' I
then entered upon the story of Meekins, and how a comrade of his, an
Irishman, called Noonan, confessed to him that he was the murderer of
Mr. Godfrey; that he had never known him, nor had any intercourse with
him; but was employed for the act by old Dalton, who was then residing
at Bruges. This Noonan, who was possessed of several letters of
Dalton's, had joined a Genoese vessel, fitted out for the slave-trade,
and was killed in action. Meekins had frequent conversations with him
on the subject of the murder, and, although a stranger from another
country, knew every detail of the scene and locality perfectly from
description.

"'Meekins is still living?' asked Dr. Grounsell.

"'Living, and now here,' replied I; at which he gave a start of
surprise, and, I think, of alarm.

"'Is he ready to substantiate his statement on oath?' said he.

"'That he could do so, I have no doubt,' replied I; 'that he will, or
that he ought, is perhaps a matter for calm reflection.'

"'How do you mean?' said he, hastily. 'If what he alleges be true, can
there be any hesitation as to its publicity?'

"'On that there may be grave doubts, sir,' said I. 'They whom the law
could have held responsible are already gone before another judgment
seat. Their guilt or innocence has been proven where deception or error
exist not! It is only their blameless descendants that could now pay
the penalty of their crime; and it may well be matter for consideration
whether they should be exposed to the world's shame, to expiate that
wherein they had no share----'

"'Do you yourself believe this man's story?' asked he, abruptly.

"'I see no reason to discredit it,' was my answer. 'There are moments
when doubt is more difficult than belief, and this is one of them. He
has never varied in his narrative,--he tells it to-day as he told it
yesterday,--he details family circumstances that defy invention, and
mentions events and incidents that all tally with facts.'

"'Where was he himself at the time of the murder?'

"'In South America,' he says. 'He had joined one of those patriot
expeditions which sailed from Ireland to join Bolivar.'

"'This he can prove, of course?' observed he, shrewdly.

"'I conclude he can,' replied I; 'it never occurred to me to question
it.'

"There was an interval after this, in which neither of us spoke; at last
he said, 'May I ask how you became acquainted with this man--Meekins?'

"'Through a brother clergyman, who was the means of saving his life
abroad.'

"'And the intention is,' rejoined he, in a slow and deliberate voice,
'that we should, while believing this man's statement, keep it secret?
Would not that amount to a very grave offence,--the compromise of a
felony?'

"I hesitated as he said this, not knowing well which way the discussion
might turn; at last I replied, 'Meekins might refuse his evidence,--he
might deny that he had ever made these revelations.'

"'In other words,' said he, 'he prefers to sell his testimony for a
better price than a court of justice would pay for it.'

"'You do not suppose that I could be a party to----'

"'Nay, nay,' cried he, interrupting me, 'not on such grounds as these;
but I can well conceive your feeling strongly interested for the
blameless and unhappy children. The only question is, how far such
sympathies can be indulged against the direct claims of justice.'

"There was a dispassionate calmness in the tone he spoke this, that
disarmed my suspicions, D'Esmonde; and it was only when I had left him
and was on my way back here, that I perceived what may, perhaps, have
been a very great error; for I at once proceeded to lay before him the
course I would counsel, and how, by the employment of a very moderate
sum, this fellow could be induced to emigrate to America, never to
return. After pushing this view with all the force I could, I at last
avowed, as if driven to the confession, that another motive had also its
weight with me, which was, that my friend and brother priest--the same
who rescued Meekins from his fate--was the natural son of Mr. Godfrey,
educated and brought up at his cost, and maintained till the period of
his death with every requisite of rank and station; that Meekins knew
this fact, and would publish it to the world, if provoked to it, and
that thus my friend's position at the court of Rome would be utterly
ruined.

"'He is a Monsignore, then?" asked Grounsell.

'"He is,' replied I, 'and may even yet be more than that.'"

"This was rash, Michel,--this was all imprudence," said D'Esmonde, with
a heavy sigh. "Go on; what said he then?"

"He waited while I told him that we sought for no advantages on the
score of this relationship; that we preferred no claims whatever against
the estate of Mr. Godfrey; that we only sought to bury in oblivion a
great crime, and to prevent the publicity of a great shame.

"'It is your belief, then,' said he, staring me fully in the face, 'that
Dalton was guilty?'

"'From what is before me,' replied I, 'it is hard to reject that
conclusion.'

"'And that this was an act of pure revenge?'

"'Less that, perhaps, than the hope of succeeding to the property
by some will of early date; at least, such is the version Meekins's
informant gave him.'

"'Ay, ay,' said he, 'that would constitute a motive, of course. Your
advice is, then, that we should make terms with this fellow? Is this
also your friend's counsel?'

"'I scarcely can tell you,' replied I 'My friend is not in any sense a
worldly man. His whole thoughts are centred in the cause he serves,
and he could only see good or evil in its working on the Church. If his
cousins--'

"'His cousins!'

"'Yes, the Daltons--for they are such----deem this the fitting course,
he is ready to adopt it. If they counsel differently, I can almost
answer for his compliance.'

"'You can give me time to communicate with Dalton? He is at Vienna.'

"'Yes, if you agree with me in this view of the case, and think that
such will be Dalton's opinion also; otherwise it will be difficult
to secure this fellow's secrecy much longer. He knows that he is in
possession of a deeply important fact; he feels the impunity of his
own position; and to-morrow or next day he may threaten this, that, or
other. In fact, he believes that Lady Hester Onslow herself has no title
to the estate, if he were disposed to reveal all he knows.'

"'Can I see him?' asked Grounsell.

"' Of course you can; but it would be useless. He would affect an utter
ignorance of everything, and deny all knowledge of what we have been
talking.'

"'You will give me some hours to think over this?' asked he, after a
pause.

"'I had rather that you could come to a quicker resolve,' said I; 'the
fellow's manner is menacing and obtrusive. I have perhaps too long
delayed this visit to you; and should he suspect that we are hesitating,
he may go before a magistrate, and make his deposition before we are
aware of it.'

"'You shall hear from me this evening, sir. Where shall I address my
note?'

"'The Rev. Michel Cahill--the Inn, at Inistioge,' replied I. And so we
parted."

"We must leave this at once, Michel," said D'Esmonde, after a brief
interval of silence. "Grounsell may possibly come over here himself. He
must not see me; still less must he meet with Meekins. We have gone too
fast here,--much too fast."

"But you told me that we had not a moment to lose."

"Nor have we, Michel; but it is as great an error to overrun your game
as to lag behind the scent. I distrust this doctor."

"So do I, D'Esmonde. But what can he do?"

"We must quit this place," said the other, not heeding the question.
"There is a small wayside public, called the 'Rore,' about five miles
away. We can wait there for a day, at least I almost wish that we had
never embarked in this, Michel," said he, thoughtfully. "I am seldom
faint-hearted, but I feel I know not what of coming peril. You know well
that this fellow Meekins is not to be depended on. When he drinks, he
would reveal any and everything. I myself cannot determine whether to
credit or reject his testimony. His insolence at one moment, his
slavish, abject terror at another, puzzle and confound me."

"You have been too long an absentee from Ireland, D'Esmonde, or they
would present no difficulties to your judgment. At every visit I make to
our county jail I meet with the self-same natures, torn, as it were,
by opposite influences,--the passions of this world, and the terrors of
that to come."

"Without the confessional, who could read them!" exclaimed D'Esmonde.

"How true that is!" cried the other. "What false interpretations, what
mistaken views, are taken of them! And so is it,--we, who alone know the
channel, are never to be the pilots!"

"Say not so," broke in D'Esmonde, proudly. "We are, and we shall be!
Ours will be the guidance, not alone of them, but of those who rule
them. Distrust what you will, Michel, be faint-hearted how you may, but
never despair of the glorious Church. Her triumph is already assured.
Look at Austria, at Spain, at all Northern Italy. Look at Protestant
Prussia, trembling for the fate of her Rhine provinces. Look at England
herself, vacillating between the game of conciliation and the perils
of her unlimited bigotry. Where are we not victorious? Ours is the only
despotism that ever smote two-handed,--crushing a monarchy here, and
a people there,--proclaiming divine right, or asserting the human
inheritance of freedom! Whose banner but ours ever bore the double
insignia of rule and obedience?--ours, the great Faith, equal to every
condition of mankind and to every age and every people? Never, never
despair of it!"

D'Esmonde sat down, and covered his face with his hands; and when he
arose, his pale features and bloodless lips showed the strong reaction
from a paroxysm of intense passion.

"Let us leave this, Michel," said he, in a broken voice. "The little
inn I speak of is not too distant for a walk, and if we start at once we
shall reach it before daybreak. While you awake Meekins, and arrange
all within, I will stroll slowly on before." And, thus saying, D'Esmonde
moved away, leaving the others to follow.

D'Esmonde was more than commonly thoughtful, even to depression. He had
been but a few days in Ireland, but every hour of that time had revealed
some new disappointment to him. There was all that he could wish of
religious zeal, there was devotion and faith without limit amongst the
people; but there was no unity of action, no combination of purpose,
amongst those who led them. Discursive and rash efforts of individuals
were suffered to disturb well-laid measures and reveal long-meditated
plans. Vain and frivolous controversies in newspapers, petty wars of
petty localities, wasted energies, and distracted counsels. There
was none of that organization, that stern discipline, which at Rome
regulated every step, and ordained every movement of their mighty host.
"This," muttered he to himself, "is an army without field-officers.
Their guerilla notions must be henceforth exchanged for habits of
military obedience. Little think they that their future General is now
the solitary pedestrian of a lonely road at midnight." The recurrence
to himself and his own fortunes was one of those spells which seemed to
possess an almost magical influence over him. From long dwelling on the
theme, he had grown to believe that he was destined by Heaven for
the advancement, if not the actual triumph, of the great cause of the
Church; and that he, whose origin was obscure and ignoble, could now sit
down at the council of the Princes of the Faith, and be heard, as one
whose words were commands, was always sufficient evidence that he
was reserved by fate for high achievements. Under the spell of this
conviction he soon rallied from his late dejection, and his uplifted
head and proud gait now showed the ambitious workings of his heart.
"Ay," cried he, aloud, "the first Prince of the Church who for above a
century has dared them to defiance! _That_ is a proud thought, and well
may nerve the spirit that conceives it to courageous action."



CHAPTER XXXIII. THE MANOR-HOUSE OF CORRIG-O'NEAL.

While we leave, for a brief space, the Abbé D'Esmonde to pursue his
road, we turn once more to the peaceful scene wherein we found him.
Mayhap there be in this dalliance something of that fond regret, that
sorrowful lingering with which a traveller halts to look down upon a
view he may never see again! Yes, dear reader, we already feel that
the hour of our separation draws nigh, when we shall no more be
fellow-journeyers, and we would fain loiter on this pleasant spot, to
tarry even a few moments longer in your company.

Passing downwards beneath that graceful bridge, which with a rare
felicity seems to heighten, and not to impair, the effect of the scene,
the river glides along between the rich wooded hills of a handsome
demesne, and where, with the most consummate taste, every tint of
foliage and every character of verdure has been cultivated to heighten
the charm of the landscape. The spray-like larch, the wide-leaved
sycamore, the solemn pine, the silver-trunked birch, all blending
their various hues into one harmonious whole,--the very perfection of a
woodland picture. As if reluctant to leave so fair a scene, the stream
winds and turns in a hundred bendings--now forming little embayments
among the jutting rocks, and now, listlessly loitering, it dallies with
the gnarled trunks of some giant beech that bends into the flood.

Emerging from these embowering woods, the river enters a new and totally
different tract of country,--the hills, bare of trees, are higher,
almost mountainous in character, with outlines fantastic and rugged.
These, it is said, were once wooded too; they present, however, little
remains of forest, save here and there a low oak scrub. The sudden
change from the leafy groves, ringing with many a "wood note wild," to
the dreary silence of the dark region, is complete as you approach the
foot of a tall mountain, at whose base the river seems arrested, and
is in reality obliged by a sudden bend to seek another channel. This
is Corrig-O'Neal; and here, in a little amphitheatre, surrounded by
mountains of lesser size, stood the ancient manor of which mention has
been more than once made in these pages.

It is but a short time back and there stood there an ancient house,
whose character, half quaint, half noble, might have made it seem a
French château; the tall, high-pitched roof, pierced with many a window;
the richly ornamented chimneys, the long terrace, with its grotesque
statues, and the intricate traceries of the old gate itself, all
evidencing a taste not native to our land. The very stiff and formal
avenue of lime-trees that led direct to the door had reference to a
style of landscape-gardening more consonant with foreign notions, even
without the fountains, which, with various strange groups of allegorical
meaning, threw their tiny jets among the drooping flowers. At the back
of the house lay a large garden, or rather what constituted both garden
and orchard; for although near the windows trim flower-beds and neatly
gravelled walks were seen, with rare and blossoming plants, as you
advanced, the turf usurped the place of the cultivated ground, and the
apple, the pear, and the damson formed a dense, almost impenetrable
shade.

Even on the brightest day in spring, when the light played and danced
upon the shining river, with blossoming cherry-trees, and yellow
crocuses in the grass, and fair soft daffodils along the water's edge,
smiling like timid beauties, when the gay May-fly skimmed the rippling
stream, and the strong trout splashed up to seize him,--even then, with
life and light and motion all around, there was an air of sadness on
this spot,--a dreary gloom, that fell upon the spirits less like sudden
grief than as the memory of some old and almost forgotten sorrow. The
frowning aspect of that stern mountain, which gave its name to the
place, and which, in its rugged front, showed little touch of time or
season, seemed to impress a mournful character on the scene. However it
was, few passed the spot without feeling its influence, nor is it likely
that now, when scarcely a trace of its once inhabited home remains, its
aspect is more cheering.

In a dark wainscoted room of this gloomy abode, and on a raw and dreary
day, our old acquaintance, Lady Hester, sat, vainly endeavoring between
the fire and the screen to keep herself warm, while shawls, muffs, and
mantles were heaped in most picturesque confusion around her. A French
novel and a Blenheim spaniel lay at her feet, a scarce-begun piece of
embroidery stood at one side of her, and an untasted cup of coffee on a
small table at the other. Pale, and perhaps seeming still more so from
the effect of her deep mourning, she lay back in her chair, and, with
half-closed lids and folded arms, appeared as if courting sleep--or at
least unconsciousness.

She had lain thus for above half an hour, when a slight rustling
noise--a sound so slight as to be scarcely audible----caught her
attention, and, without raising her head, she asked in a faint tone,----

"Is there any one there?"

"Yes, my Lady. It is Lisa," replied her maid, coming stealthily forward,
till she stood close behind her chair. "Put some of that thing----peat,
turf, or whatever it is----on the fire, child. Has the post arrived?"

"No, my Lady; they say that the floods have detained the mails, and that
they will be fully twelve hours late."

"Of course they will," sighed she; "and if there should be anything for
_me_, they will be carried away."

"I hope not, my Lady."

"What's the use of your hoping about it, child? or, if you must hope,
let it be for something worth while. Hope that we may get away from this
miserable place,----that we may once more visit a land where there
are sunshine and flowers, and live where it repays one for the bore of
life."

"I 'm sure I do hope it with all my heart, my Lady."

"Of course you do, child. Even you must feel the barbarism of this
wretched country. Have those things arrived from Dublin yet?"

"Yes, my Lady; but you never could wear them. The bonnet is a great
unwieldy thing, nearly as big and quite as heavy as a Life-Guardsman's
helmet; and the mantle is precisely like a hearth-rug with sleeves to
it. They are specially commended to your Ladyship's notice, as being all
of Irish manufacture."

"What need to say so?" sighed Lady Hester. "Does not every lock on every
door, every scissors that will not cut, every tongs that will not hold,
every parasol that turns upside down, every carriage that jolts, and
every shoe that pinches you, proclaim its nationality?"

"Dr. Grounsell says, my Lady, that all the fault lies in the wealthier
classes, who prefer everything to native industry."

"Dr. Grounsell's a fool, Lisa. Nothing shall ever persuade me that
Valenciennes and Brussels are not preferable to that ornament for
fireplaces and fauteuils called Limerick lace, and Genoa velvet a
more becoming wear than the O'Connell frieze. But have done with this
discussion; you have already put me out of temper by the mention of that
odious man's name."

"I at least saved your Ladyship from seeing him this morning."

"How so? Has he been here?"

"Twice already, my Lady; and threatens another visit He says that he has
something very important to communicate, and his pockets were stuffed
with papers."

"Oh, dear me! how I dread him and his parchments! Those terrible details
by which people discover how little is bequeathed to them, and how
securely it is tied up against every possibility of enjoying it. I 'd
rather be a negro slave on a coffee plantation than a widow with what is
called a 'high-principled trustee' over my fortune."

"There he comes again, my Lady; see how fast he is galloping up the
avenue."

"Why will that pony never stumble? Amiable and worthy folk break their
necks every day of the week,--fathers of families and unbeneficed
clergymen. Assurance companies should certainly deal lightly with crusty
old bachelors and disagreeable people, for they bear charmed lives."

"Am I to admit him, my Lady?" asked the maid, moving towards the door.

"Yes--no--I really cannot--but perhaps I must. It is only putting off
the evil day. Yes, Lisa, let him come in; but mind that you tell him I
am very poorly--that I have had a wretched night, and am quite unfit
for any unpleasant news, or, indeed, for anything like what he calls
business. Oh dear! oh dear! the very thought of parchment will make me
hate sheep to the last hour of my life; and I have come to detest the
very sight of my own name, from signing 'Hester Onslow' so often."

It must be said, there was at least no hypocrisy in her Ladyship's
lamentations; if the cause of them was not all-sufficient, the effects
were to the full what she averred, and she was, or believed herself to
be, the most miserable of women. Sir Stafford's will had bequeathed
to her his Irish property, on the condition of her residing upon it at
least six months every two years, a clause whose cruelty she--with
or without reason we know not--attributed to the suggestion of Dr.
Grounsell. To secure eighteen months of unlimited liberty, she was
undergoing her captivity in what, it must be acknowledged, was a spirit
the reverse of that the testator intended. So far from taking any
interest in the country, its people, or its prospects, she only saw
in it a dreary imprisonment, saddened by bad weather, bad spirits, and
solitude. Nor were her griefs all causeless. Her position was greatly
fallen from the possession of a fortune almost without bounds to the
changeful vicissitudes of an Irish property. Norwood's dreadful death,
wrapped in all the mystery which involved it, shocked her deeply,
although, in reality, the event relieved her from a bondage she had long
felt to be insupportable; and lastly, the Romanism in which she had,
so to say, invested all her "loose capital" of zeal and enthusiasm,
had become a terrible disappointment. The gorgeous splendor of Italian
Popery found a miserable representative in Irish Catholicism. The meanly
built Irish chapel, with its humble congregation, was a sorry exchange
for the architectural grandeur and costly assemblage gathered within the
Duomo of Florence, or beneath the fretted roof of "St. John of Lateran."

In all the sublimity of pealing music, of full-toned choirs, of incense
floating up into realms of dim distance, there were but the nasal
sing-song of a parish priest, and the discordant twang of a dirty
acolyte! And what an interval separated their vulgar manners of the
village curate from the polished addresses of the Roman cardinal! How
unlike the blended pretension and cringing slavery of the one was to
the high-bred bearing and courtly urbanity of the other. A visit from
"Father John" was an actual infliction. To receive his Eminence was not
only an honor but a sincere pleasure. Who, like him, to discuss every
topic of the world and its fashionable inhabitants, touching every
incident with a suave mellowness of remark that, like the light through
a stained-glass window, warmed, while it softened, that which it fell
upon? Who could throw over the frailties of fashion such a graceful
cloak of meek forgiveness, that it seemed actually worth while to sin
to be pardoned with such affection? All the pomp and circumstance of
Romanism, as seen in its own capital, associated with rank, splendor,
high dignity, and names illustrious in story, form a strong contrast
to its vulgar pretensions in Ireland. It is so essentially allied to
ceremonial and display, that when these degenerate into poverty and
meanness, the effect produced is always bordering on the ludicrous.
Such, at least, became the feeling of Lady Hester as she witnessed those
travesties of grandeur, the originals of which had left her awe-stricken
and amazed.

Shorn of fortune, deprived of all the illusions which her newly adopted
creed had thrown around her, uncheered by that crowd of flatterers which
used to form her circle, is it any wonder if her spirits and her temper
gave way, and that she fancied herself the very type of misery and
desertion? The last solace of such minds is in the pity they bestow upon
themselves; and here she certainly excelled, and upon no occasion more
forcibly than when receiving a visit from Dr. Grounsell.

"Dr. Grounsell, my Lady," said a servant; and, at the words, that
gentleman entered.

A heavy greatcoat, with numerous capes, a low-crowned glazed hat, and a
pair of old-fashioned "Hessians," into which his trousers were tucked,
showed that he had not stooped to any artifices of toilet to win favor
with her Ladyship. As she bowed slightly to him, she lifted her glass to
her eye, and then dropped it suddenly with a gentle simper, as though to
say that another glance would have perilled her gravity.

"Winter has set in early, madam," said he, approaching the fire, "and
with unusual severity. The poor are great sufferers this year."

"I 'm sure I agree with you," sighed Lady Hester. "I never endured such
cold before!"

"I spoke of the 'poor,' madam," retorted he, abruptly.

"Well, sir, has any one a better right to respond in their name than I
have? Look around you, see where I am living, and how, and then answer
me!"

"Madam," said Grounsell, sternly, and fixing his eyes steadily on her as
he spoke, "I have ridden for two hours of this morning over part of that
tract which is your estate. I have visited more than a dozen--I will not
call them houses, but hovels. There was fever in some, ague in others,
and want, utter want, in all; and yet I never heard one of the sufferers
select himself as the special mark of misfortune, but rather allude to
his misery as part of that common calamity to which flesh is heir. 'God
help the poor!' was the prayer, and they would have felt ashamed to have
invoked the blessing on themselves alone."

"I must say that if you have been to see people with typhus, and perhaps
small-pox, it shows very little consideration to come and visit _me_
immediately after, sir."

Grounsell's face grew purple, but with a great effort he repressed the
reply that was on his lips, and was silent.

"Of course, then, these poor creatures can pay nothing, sir?"

"Nothing, madam."

"Che bella cosa! an Irish property!" cried she, with a scornful laugh;
"and if I mistake not, sir, it was to your kind intervention and
influence that I am indebted for this singular mark of my husband's
affection?"

"Quite true, madam. I had supposed it to be possible----Just
possible--that, by connecting your personal interest with duties, you
might be reclaimed from a life of frivolity and idleness to an existence
of active and happy utility, and this without any flattering estimate of
your qualities, madam."

"Oh, sir, this is a very needless protest," said she, bowing and
smiling.

"I repeat, madam, that, without any flattering estimate of your
qualities, I saw quite enough to convince me that kindness and
benevolence were just as easy to you as their opposites."

"Why, you have become a courtier, sir," said she, with a smile of sly
malice.

"I 'm sorry for it, madam; I 'd as soon be mistaken for a hairdresser
or a dancing-master. But to return. Whether I was correct or not in my
theory would appear to be of little moment; another, and more pressing
view of the case, usurping all our interests, which is no less, madam,
than your actual right and title to this estate at all."

Lady Hester leaned forward in her chair as he said this, and in a low
but unshaken voice replied, "Do I understand you aright, sir, that the
title to this property is contested?"

"Not yet, madam; there is no claim set up as yet; but there is every
likelihood that there will be such. Rumors have gradually grown into
open discussions; threatening notices have been sent to me by post, and
stories which at first I had deemed vague and valueless have assumed a
degree of importance from the details by which they were accompanied. In
fact, madam, without any clew to the nature or direct drift of the plot,
I can yet see that a formidable scheme is being contrived, the great
agent of which is to be menace."

"Oh dear, what a relief it would be to me were I quite certain of all
this!" exclaimed Lady Hester, with a deep sigh.

"What a relief? Did you say what a relief, madam?" cried Grounsell, in
amazement.

"Yes, sir, that was precisely the word I used."

"Then I must have blundered most confoundedly, madam, in my effort to
explain myself. I was endeavoring to show you that your claim to the
estate might be disputed!"

"Very well, sir, I perfectly understood you."

"You did, eh? you perceive that you might possibly lose the property,
and you acquiesce calmly--"

"Nay, more, sir; I rejoice sincerely at the very thought of it."

"Well, then, upon my----eh? May the devil--I beg pardon, madam, but
this is really such a riddle to me that I must confess my inability to
unravel it."

"Shall I aid you, sir?" said Lady Hester, with an easy smile on her
features. "When bequeathing this estate to me, Sir Stafford expressly
provided, that if from any political convulsion Ireland should be
separated from her union with Great Britain, or if by course of law a
substantial claim was established to the property by another, that I
should be recompensed for the loss by an income of equal amount derived
from the estate of his son, George Onslow, at whose discretion it lay
to allocate any portion of his inheritance he deemed suitable for the
purpose."

"All true, madam, quite true," broke in Grounsell; "and the
Solicitor-General's opinion is that the provision is perfectly
nugatory,--not worth sixpence. It has not one single tie of obligation,
and, from its vagueness, is totally inoperative."

"In law, sir, it may be all that you say," replied Lady Hester, calmly;
"but I have yet to learn that this is the appeal to which Captain Onslow
would submit it."

Grounsell stared at her; and for the first time in all his life he
thought her handsome. That his own features revealed the admiration
he felt was also plain enough, and Lady Hester was very far from being
insensible to the tribute.

"So that, madam," cried he, at length, "You prefer insecurity to
certainty."

"Say rather, sir, that I have more confidence in the honorable
sentiments of an English gentleman than I have in the solvency of a poor
and wretched peasantry. Up to this very hour I have known nothing except
the claims upon myself. I don't like the climate; and I am certain the
neighbors do not like me,--in fact, I have neither the youth nor the
enterprise suited to a new country."

"Why, good heavens, madam, it isn't New Zealand we're in!" cried
Grounsell, angrily.

"Perhaps not," sighed she, languidly; "but it is just as strange to
_me_."

"I see, madam," said Grounsell, rising, "my plan was a bad one. A wing
in the Borghese Palace, a spacious apartment of the Corsini, on the
Arno, or even the first floor of the Moncenigo, at Venice, would have
been a happier choice than a gloomy old mansion on the banks of an Irish
river."

"Oh, do not speak of it, sir!" cried she, enthusiastically. "Do not
remind me of starry skies and the deep blue Adriatic in this land of
cloud and fog, where even the rain is 'dirty water.' Pray make the very
weakest defence of my claim to this inheritance. I only ask to march out
with my baggage, and do not even stipulate for the honors of war. Let me
have George's address."

"You 'll not need it, madam; he will be here within a few days. He has
been promoted to a majority for his conduct in the field, and returns to
England covered with praise and honors."

"What delightful news, Dr. Grounsell; you are actually charming this
morning!" The doctor bowed stiffly at the compliment, and she went
on: "I often thought that you could be amiable if you would only let
yourself; but, like the Cardinal Gualterino, you took up the character
of Bear, and 'Bear' you would be at all times and seasons; and then
those horrid coats, that you would persist in wearing,--how you ever got
them of that odious brown, I can't think; they must have dyed the wool
to order,--not but that I think your shoes were worst of all."

Grounsell understood too well the wordy absurdity with which her
Ladyship, on the least excitement, was accustomed to launch forth,
quite forgetful of all the impertinence into which it betrayed her. He
therefore neither interposed a remark, nor seemed in any way conscious
of her observation; but coldly waiting till she had concluded, he said,
----

"Some other of your Ladyship's friends are also expected in this
neighborhood,--the Daltons!"

"What--my dear Kate?"

"Yes; Miss Kate Dalton, accompanied by her brother and uncle. I have
just been to order apartments for them in the hotel at Kilkenny."

"But they must come here. I shall insist upon it, doctor. This is a
point on which I will accept no refusal."

"The occasion which calls them to Ireland, madam, and of which you shall
hear all, hereafter, would totally preclude such an arrangement."

"More mystery, sir?" exclaimed she.

"Another side of the same one, madam," rejoined he, dryly.

"What delightful news, to think I shall see my dearest Kate again! I
am dying to know all about Russia, and if the ladies do wear pearls
in morning toilette, and whether turquoises are only seen in fans and
parasol handles. What splendor she must have seen!"

"Humph!" said Grounsell, with a short shrug of the shoulders.

"Oh, I know you despise all these things, and you hate caviare. Then I
want to know about the Prince; why the match was broken off; and from
what cause she refused that great settlement,--some thousand roubles.
How much is a rouble, by the way, doctor?"

"I really cannot tell you, madam," said he, bluntly, who saw that she
was once more "wide a-field."

"She'll tell me all herself, and everything about Russia. I want to hear
about the knout, and the malachite, and that queer habit of gambling
before dinner is announced. I 'm sure I should like St Petersburg. And
the brother, what is he like?"

"I only know, madam, that he is a great invalid, not yet recovered from
his wounds!"

"How interesting! He was in the patriot army, was he not?"

"He fought for the Emperor, madam; pray make no mistake in that sense."

"Oh dear! how difficult it is to remember all these things; and yet I
knew it perfectly when I was at Florence,--all about the Kaiser-Jagers,
and the Crociati, and the Croats, and the rest of them. It was the
Crociati, or the Croats--I forget which--eat little children. It 's
perfectly true; Guardarelli, when he was a prisoner, saw an infant
roasting for Radetzky's own table."

"I would beg of you, madam, not to mention this fact to the
Field-Marshal, Miss Kate Dalton's uncle."

"Oh, of course not; and I trust he will not expect that we could provide
him with such delicacies here. Now, doctor, how shall we amuse these
people? what can we do?"

"Remember, first of all, madam, that their visit to Ireland is not an
excursion of pleasure----"

"Oh, I can perfectly conceive _that!_" interrupted she, with a look of
irony.

"I was about to remark that an affair of deep importance was the cause
of their journey--"

"More business!" broke she in again. "After all, then, I suppose I am
not much more miserable than the rest of the world. Everybody would seem
to have what you call 'affairs of importance.'"

"Upon my word, madam, you have made me totally forget _mine_, then,"
said Grounsell, jumping up from his seat, and looking at his watch. "I
came here prepared to make certain explanations, and ask your opinion
on certain points. It is now two o'clock, and I have not even opened the
matter in hand."

Lady Hester laughed heartily at his distress, and continued to enjoy her
mirth as he packed up his scattered papers, buttoned his greatcoat, and
hurried away, without even the ceremony of a leave-taking.



CHAPTER XXXIV. "THE RORE."

D'Esmonde and his friend Michel sat beside the fire in a small parlor
of the wayside public-house called "The Rore." They were both thoughtful
and silent, and in their moody looks might be read the signs of brooding
care. As for the Abbé, anxiety seemed to have worn him like sickness;
for his jaws were sunk and hollow, while around his eyes deep circles of
a dusky purple were strongly marked.

It was not without reason that they were thus moved; since Meekins, who
hitherto rarely or never ventured abroad, had, on that morning, gone
to the fair of Graigue, a village some few miles away, where he was
recognized by a farmer----an old man named Lenahan--as the steward of
the late Mr. Godfrey. It was to no purpose that he assumed all the airs
of a stranger to the country, and asked various questions about the
gentry and the people. The old farmer watched him long and closely, and
went home fully satisfied that he had seen Black Sam,--the popular name
by which he was known on the estate. In his capacity of bailiff, Black
Sam had been most unpopular in the country. Many hardships were traced
to his counsels; and it was currently believed that Mr. Godfrey would
never have proceeded harshly against a tenant except under his advice.
This character, together with his mysterious disappearance after the
murder, were quite sufficient, in peasant estimation, to connect him
with the crime; and no sooner had Lenahan communicated his discovery
to his friends, than they, one and all, counselled him to go up to the
doctor--as Grounsell was called on the property--and ask his advice.

The moment Grounsell heard that the suspected man called himself
Meekins, he issued a warrant for his arrest; and so promptly was it
executed that he was taken on that very evening as he was returning to
"The Rore." The tidings only reached the little inn after nightfall, and
it was in gloomy confabulation over them that the two priests were now
seated. The countryman who had brought the news was present when the
police arrested Sam, and was twice called back into the parlor as
D'Esmonde questioned him on the circumstance.

It was after a long interval of silence that the Abbé for the third time
summoned the peasant before him.

"You have not told me under what name they arrested him. Was it
Meekins?"

"The Sergeant said, 'you call yourself Meekins, my good man?' and the
other said, 'Why not?' 'Oh, no reason in life,' says the Sergeant; 'but
you must come with us,--that 's all.' 'Have you a warrant for what you
're doing?' says he. 'Ay,' says the polis; 'you broke yer bail----'"

"Yes, yes," broke in D'Esmonde, "You mentioned all that already. And
Meekins showed no fear on being taken?"

"No more than your Reverence does this minute. Indeed, I never see a man
take it so easy. 'Mind what you 're doing,' says he; 'for, though I 'm a
poor man, I have strong friends that won't see me wronged.' And then he
said something about one 'Father Matthew;' but whether it was you, or
that other clergyman there, I don't know."

"They took him to Thomastown?"

"No, your Reverence,--to Kilkenny."

"That will do, my good man," said D'Esmonde, with a nod of his head;
and then, as the door closed behind him, added, "You see, Michel, I was
right in my fears of this doctor. The evasive terms of his note, too,
confirmed my suspicions,--that 'desire for further time in a matter of
such great difficulty.' We have thrown him on the scent, and he is now
in full cry after the game. Shame upon us!--shame! that such as he can
foil us at our own weapons. I see his plan clearly enough. He is either
in possession of some secret fact of this man's early life, which can be
employed as a menace to extort a confession from him, or he is about to
work on him by bribery. Now, as to the former, I am perfectly at ease.
What I, with every agency of the Church, have failed to elicit, I can
safely defy the layman's craft to detect. As to the effect of a bribe, I
am far from being so certain."

"And in either case the result concerns you but little," said Cahill.
"The fellow has nothing in his power against _you_."

"Nothing," said D'Esmonde. "I never left myself in the hands of such
as he! It will, of course, be disagreeable to me that our intercourse
should be made public. The Orange press will know how to connect our
intimacy with a thousand schemes and subtleties that I never dreamed of;
and, more offensive still, the assumed relationship to Mr. Godfrey will
afford a fruitful theme for sneer and sarcasm. I foresee it all, my good
Michel; and, worst of all, I perceive how this publicity will mar higher
and nobler objects. The Sacred College will never make a prince of the
Church of one whose name has been sullied by the slang of journalism.
These are the dangers to be averted here. You must contrive to see this
man at once,--to assure him of our interest and protection, if he be
but discreet and careful. He may safely deny all knowledge of the
circumstances to which we alluded. We are the only persons to whom
he made these revelations. He has only to assume an ignorance of
everything. Impress this upon him, Michel; for if they can involve him
in a narrative, be it ever so slight or vague, these lawyers exercise a
kind of magic power in what is called cross-examination, and can detect
a secret fact by tests as fine as those by which the chemist discovers
a grain of poison. Would that I could see him myself! but this might be
imprudent."

[Illustration: 452]

"Trust all to me, D'Esmonde; and believe me, that with men like him
habit has taught me better how to deal than you, with all your higher
skill, could accomplish. I will contrive to see him to-night, or early
to-morrow. The under-turnkey was from my own parish, and I can make my
visit as if to _him._"

"How humiliating is it," cried D'Esmonde, rising and pacing the
room,--"how humiliating to think that incidents like these are to sway
and influence us in our road through life; but so it is, the great
faults that men commit are less dangerous than are imprudent intimacies
and ill-judged associations. It is not on the high bluff or the bold
headland that the craft is shipwrecked, but on some small sunken
rock,--some miserable reef beneath the waves! Could we but be 'penny
wise' in morals, Michel, how rich we should be in knowledge of life! I
never needed this fellow,--never wanted his aid in any way! The unhappy
mention of Godfrey's name--the spell that in some shape or other has
worked on my heart through life--first gave him an interest in my eyes;
and so, bit by bit, I have come to be associated with him, till--would
you believe it?--I cannot separate myself from him. Has it ever occurred
to you, Michel, that the Evil One sometimes works his ends by infusing
into the nature of some chance intimate that species of temptation by
which courageous men are so easily seduced,--I mean that love of
hazard, that playing with fire, so intoxicating in its excitement? I am
convinced that to _me_ no bait could be so irresistible. Tell me that
the earth is mined, and you invest it with a charm that all the verdure
of 'Araby the Blest' could never give it! I love to handle steel when
the lightning is playing; not, mark me, from any contempt of life, far
less in any spirit of blasphemous defiance, but simply for the glorious
sentiment of peril. Be assured that when all other excitements pall upon
the mind, this one survives in all its plenitude, and, as the poet says
of avarice, becomes a good 'old gentlemanly vice.'"

"You will come along with me, D'Esmonde?" said the other, whose thoughts
were concentrated on the business before him.

"Yes, Michel, I am as yet unknown here; and it may be, too, that this
Meekins might wish to see me. We must take good care, while we avoid
any public notice, that this fellow should not think himself deserted by
us."

"The very point on which I was reflecting, D'Esmonde. We can talk over
this as we go along."

As the two priests affected to be engaged on a kind of mission to
collect subscriptions for some sacred purpose, their appearance or
departure excited no feeling of astonishment, and the landlord of "The
Bore" saw them prepare to set out without expressing the least surprise.
The little "low-backed car," the common conveyance of the people at
fair and market, was soon at the door; and, seated in this, and well
protected against the weather by rugs and blankets, they began their
journey.

"This is but a sorry substitute for the scarlet-panelled coach of the
Cardinal, D'Esmonde," said his companion, smiling.

A low, faint sigh was all the answer the other made, and so they went
their way in silence.

The day broke drearily and sad-looking; a thin, cold rain was falling,
and, from the leaden sky above to the damp earth beneath, all was gloomy
and depressing. The peasantry they passed on the road were poor-looking
and meanly clad; the houses on the wayside were all miserable to
a degree; and while his companion slept, D'Esmonde was deep in his
contemplation of these signs of poverty.

"No," said he, at last, as if summing up the passing reflections in
his own mind, "this country is not ripe for the great changes we are
preparing. The gorgeous splendor of the Church would but mock this
misery. The rich robe of the Cardinal would be but an insult to the
ragged coat of the peasant. England must be our field. Ireland must be
content with a missionary priesthood. Italy, indeed, has poverty, but
there is an intoxication in the life of that land which defies it. The
sun, the sky, the blue water, the vineyards, the groves of olive, and
the fig--the lightheadedness that comes of an existence where no fears
invade--no gloomy to-morrow has ever threatened. These are the elements
to baffle all the cares of narrow fortune, and hence the gifts which
make men true believers! In climates such as this men brood and think
and ponder. Uncheered from without, they turn within, and then come
doubts and hesitations,--the fatal craving to know that which they may
not! Of a truth these regions of the north are but ill suited to our
glorious faith, and Protestantism must shun the sun as she does the
light of reason itself."

"What! are you preaching, D'Esmonde?" cried his friend, waking up at
the energetic tone of the Abbe's voice. "Do you fancy yourself in the
pulpit? But here we are, close to the town. We had better dismount now,
and proceed on foot."

Having dismissed their humble equipage, the two friends walked briskly
along, and entered the city, which, even at this early hour, was filling
for its weekly market.

D'Esmonde took up his quarters at once at a small inn close by the
castle gate, and the priest Cahill immediately proceeded to the jail.
He found no difficulty in obtaining access to his acquaintance the
under-turnkey, but, to his disappointment, all approach to Meekins was
strictly interdicted. "The magistrates were here," said the
turnkey, "till past midnight with him, and that English agent of the
Corrig-O'Neal estate was along with them. What took place, I cannot even
guess, for it was done in secret. I only overheard one of the gentlemen
remark, as he passed out, 'That fellow is too deep for us all; we 'll
make nothing of him.'"

Cahill questioned the man closely as to what the arrest related, and
whether he had heard of any allegation against Meekins; but he knew
nothing whatever, save that he had broken his bail some years before.
The strictest watch was enjoined over the prisoner, and all intercourse
from without rigidly denied. To the priest's inquiries about Meekins
himself, the turnkey replied by saying that he had never seen any man
with fewer signs of fear or trepidation. "Whatever they have against
him," added he, "he's either innocent, or he defies them to prove him
guilty."

Cahill's entreaties were all insufficient to make the turnkey disobey
his orders. Indeed, he showed that the matter was one of as much
difficulty as danger, the chief jailer being specially interested in the
case by some observation of one of the justices.

"You can at least carry a message for me?" said the priest, at last.

"It's just as much as I dare do," replied the other.

"You incur no risk whatever so far," continued Cahill "The poor man is
my sacristan, and I am deeply interested for him. I only heard of his
being arrested last night, and you see I 've lost no time in coming to
see after him. Tell him this. Tell him that I was here at daybreak, and
that I 'll do my best to get leave to speak with him daring the day.
Tell him, moreover, that, if I shouldn't succeed in this, not to be
down-hearted, for that we--a friend of mine and myself----will not
desert him nor see him wronged. And, above all, tell him to say nothing
whatever to the magistrates. Mind me well,--not a syllable of any kind."

"I mistake him greatly," said the turnkey, "or he 's the man to take a
hint quick enough, particularly if it's for his own benefit."

"And so it is,--his own, and no other's," rejoined the priest. "If he
but follow this advice, I 'll answer for his being liberated before the
week ends. Say, also, that I 'd send him some money, but that it might
draw suspicion on him; and for the present it is better to be cautious."

Before Cahill left the prison, he reiterated all his injunctions as to
caution, and the turnkey faithfully pledged himself to enforce them on
the prisoner.

"I will come again this evening," said the priest, "and you can tell me
what he says; for, as he has no friend but myself, I must not forsake
him."

As Cahill gained the street, a heavy travelling-carriage, whose
lumbering build bespoke a foreign origin, passed by with four posters,
and, sweeping across the market-place, drew up at the chief inn of the
town. The priest, in idle curiosity, mingled with the lounging crowd
that immediately gathered around the strange-looking equipage, where
appliances for strength and comfort seemed blended, in total disregard
to all facilities for motion. A bustling courier, with all the
officiousness of his craft, speedily opened the door and banged down
the steps, and a very tall old man, in what appeared to be an undress
military frock, descended, and then assisted a young lady to alight.
This done, they both gave their arm to a young man, whose wasted form
and uncertain step bespoke long and severe illness. Supporting him at
either side, they assisted him up the steps into the hall, while the
bystanders amused themselves in criticising the foreigners, for such
their look and dress declared them.

"The ould fellow with a white beard over his lip is a Roosian or a
Proosian," cried one, who aspired to no small skill in continental
nationalities.

"Faix! the daughter takes the shine out of them all," cried another.
"She's a fine crayture!"

"The brother was a handsome man before he had that sickness," observed a
third. "'Tis no use of his legs he has!"

[Illustration: 459]

These frank commentaries on the new arrivals were suddenly interrupted
by the appearance of the old man on the steps of the hall door, where he
stood gazing down the street, and totally unconscious of the notice he
was attracting.

"What's that building yonder?" cried he, to the waiter at his side, and
his accent, as he spoke, betrayed a foreign tongue. "The Town Hall!--ah,
to be sure, I remember it now; and, if I be not much mistaken, there
is----at least there was--an old rickety stair to a great loft overhead,
where a strange fellow lived, who made masks for the theatre--what's
this his name was?" The bystanders listened to these reminiscences in
silent astonishment, but unable to supply the missing clew to memory.
"Are none of you old enough to remember Jack Ruth, the huntsman?" cried
he, aloud.

"I have heard my father talk of him," said a middle-aged man, "if it was
the same that galloped down the mountain of Corrig-O'Neal and swam the
river at the foot of it."

"The very man," broke in the stranger. "Two of the dogs, but not a
man, dared to follow! I have seen some bold feats since that day, but I
scarcely think I have ever witnessed a more dashing exploit. If old Jack
has left any of his name and race behind him," said he, turning to the
waiter, "say that there's one here would like to see him;" and with this
he re-entered the inn.

"Who is this gentleman that knows the country so well?" asked the
priest..

"Count Dalton von Auersberg, sir," replied the courier. "His whole
thoughts are about Ireland now, though I believe he has not been here
for upwards of sixty years."

"Dalton!" muttered the priest to himself; "what can have brought them to
Ireland? D'Esmonde must be told of this at once!" And he pushed through
the crowd and hastened back to the little inn.

The Abbé was engaged in writing as Cahill entered the room.

"Have you seen him, Michel?" cried he, eagerly, as he raised his head'
from the table.

"No. Admission is strictly denied--"

"I thought it would be so--I suspected what the game would be. This
Grounsell means to turn the tables, and practise upon _us_ the menace
that was meant for _him_. I foresee all that he intends, but I'll foil
him! I have written here to Wallace, the Queen's Counsel, to come down
here at once. This charge against old Dalton, in hands like his, may
become a most formidable accusation."

"I have not told you that these Daltons have arrived here--"

"What! Of whom do you speak?"

"The old Count von Dalton, with a niece and nephew."

D'Esmonde sprang from his seat, stood for some seconds, stood still and
silent.

"This is certain, Michel? you know this to be true?"

"I saw the old General myself, and heard him talk with the waiter."

"The combat will, then, be a close one," muttered D'Esmonde. "Grounsell
has done this, and it shall cost them dearly. Mark me, Michel--all that
the rack and the thumb-screw were to our ancestors, the system of
a modern trial realizes in our day. There never was a torture, the
invention of man's cruelty, as terrible as cross-examination! I care
not that this Dalton should have been as innocent as you are of this
crime,--it matters little if his guiltlessness appear from the very
outset. Give me but two days of searching inquiry into his life, his
habits, and his ways. Let me follow him to his fireside, in his poverty,
and lay bare all the little straits and contrivances by which he eked
out existence, and maintained a fair exterior. Let me show them to the
world, as I can show them, with penury within, and pretension without
These disclosures cannot be suppressed as irrelevant,--they are the
alleged motives of the crime. The family that sacrifices a child to a
hateful alliance----that sells to Austrian bondage the blood of an only
son--and consigns to menial labor a maimed and sickly girl, might well
have gone a step further in crime."

"D'Esmonde! D'Esmonde!" cried the other, as he pressed him down into a
seat, and took his hand between his own, "these are not words of calm
reason, but the outpourings of passion." The Abbé made no answer, but
his chest heaved and fell, and his breath came with a rushing sound,
while his eyes glared like the orbs of a wild animal.

"You are right, Michel," said he at last, with a faint sigh. "This was
a paroxysm of that hate which, stronger than all my reason, has actuated
me through life. Again and again have I told you that towards these
Daltons I bear a kind of instinctive aversion. These antipathies are
not to be combated,--there are brave men who will shudder if they see a
spider. I have seen a courageous spirit quail before a worm. These are
not caprices, to be laughed at,--they are indications full of pregnant
meaning, could we but read them aright. How my temples throb!--my head
seems splitting. Now leave me, Michel, for a while, and I will try to
take some rest."



CHAPTER XXXV. A TALK OVER BYGONES

It was with a burst of joy that Lady Hester heard the Daltons had
arrived. In the wearisome monotony of her daily life, anything to do,
anywhere to go, any one to see, would have been esteemed boons of great
price; what delight, then, was it to meet those with whom she could
converse of "bygone times" and other lands!--"that dear Kate," whom she
really liked as well as it was in her nature to love anything, from whom
she now anticipated so much of that gossip, technically called "news,"
and into whose confiding heart she longed to pour out her own private
woes!

The meeting was indeed affectionate on both sides; and, as Lady Hester
was in her most gracious of moods, Frank thought her the very type of
amiability, and the old Count pronounced her manners fit for the high
ordeal of Vienna itself. Perhaps our reader will be grateful if we leave
to his imagination all the changeful moods of grief and joy, surprise,
regret, and ecstasy, with which her Ladyship questioned and listened
to Kate Dalton's stories; throwing out, from time to time, little
reflections of her own, as though incidentally, to show how much wiser
years had made her. There are people who ever regard the misfortunes of
others as mere key-notes to elicit their own sufferings; and thus, when
Kate spoke of Russia, Lady Hester quoted Ireland. Frank's sufferings
reminded her of her own "nerves;" and poor Nelly's unknown fate was
precisely "the condition of obscurity to which Sir Stafford's cruel will
had consigned herself."

Kate's mind was very far from being at ease, and yet it was with no mean
pleasure she found herself seated beside Lady Hester, talking over the
past with all that varying emotion which themes of pleasure and sadness
call up. Who has not enjoyed the delight of such moments, when, living
again bygone days, we laugh or sigh over incidents wherein once as
actors we had moved and felt? If time has dimmed our perceptions of
pleasure, it has also softened down resentments and allayed asperities.
We can afford to forgive so much, and we feel, also, so confident of
others' forgiveness, and if regrets do steal over us that these things
have passed away forever, there yet lurks the flattering thought that we
have grown wiser than we then were. So is it the autobiographies of the
fireside are pleasant histories, whose vanities are all pardonable, and
whose trifling is never ungraceful! Memory throws such a softened light
on the picture, that even bores become sufferable, and we extract a
passing laugh from the most tiresome of our quondam "afflictives."

Had her Ladyship been less occupied with herself and her own emotions,
she could not have failed to notice the agitation under which Kate
suffered at many of her chance remarks. The levity, too, with which she
discussed her betrothal to Midchekoff almost offended her. The truth
was, Kate had half forgotten the reckless, unthinking style of her
friend's conversation, and it required a little practice and training to
grow accustomed to it again.

"Yes, my dear," she went on, "I have had such trouble to persuade people
that it was no marriage at all, but a kind of engagement; and when that
horrid Emperor would n't give his consent, of course there was an end
of it you may be sure, my sweet child, I never believed one syllable of
that vile creature's story about George's picture; but somehow it
has got abroad, and that odious Heidendorf goes about repeating it
everywhere. I knew well that you never cared for poor dear George!
Indeed, I told him as much when he was quite full of admiration for you.
It is so stupid in men! their vanity makes them always believe that,
if they persist--just persevere--in their attachment, the woman will
at last succumb. Now, _we_ have a better sense of these things, and
actually adore the man that shows indifference to us,--at least, I am
sure that I do. Such letters as the poor boy keeps writing about you!
And about five months ago, when he was so badly wounded, and did not
expect to recover, he actually made his will, and left you all he had
in the world. Oh dear!" said she, with a heavy sigh, "they have generous
moments, these men, but they never last; and, by the way, I must ask
your advice--though I already guess what it will be--about a
certain friend of ours, who has had what I really must call the
presumption--for, after all, Kate, I think you 'll agree with me it is a
very great presumption,----is it not, dear?"

"Until you tell me a little more," replied Kate, with a sigh, "I can
scarcely answer."

"Well, it's Mr. Jekyl--you remember, that little man that used to be so
useful at Florence; not but he has very pretty manners, and a great deal
of tact in society. His letters, too, are inimitably droll. I'll show
you some of them."

"Oh! then you are in correspondence with him?" said Kate, slyly.

"Yes; that is, he writes _to me_--and I--I sometimes send _him_ a short
note. In fact, it was the Abbé D'Esmonde induced me to think of it at
all; and I was bored here, and so unhappy, and so lonely."

"I perceive," said Kate; "but I trust that there is nothing
positive,----nothing like an engagement?"

"And why, dear?--whence these cautious scruples?" said Lady Hester,
almost peevishly.

"Simply because he is very unworthy of you," said Kate, bluntly, and
blushing deep at her own hardihood.

"Oh, I'm quite sure of that," said Lady Hester, casting down her eyes.
"I know--I feel that I am mistaken and misunderstood. The world has
always judged me unfairly! you alone, dearest, ever comprehended me; and
even you could not guess of what I am capable! If you were to read my
journal--if you were just to see what sufferings I have gone through!
And then that terrible shock! though, I must say, D'Esmonde's mode of
communicating it was delicacy itself. A very strange man that Abbé
is, Kate. He now and then talks in a way that makes one suspect his
affections are or have been engaged."

"I always believed him too deeply immersed in other cares."

"Oh, what a short-sighted judgment, child! These are the minds that
always feel most! I know this by myself--daring the last two years
especially! When I think what I have gone through! The fate, not
alone of Italy, but of Europe, of the world, I may say, discussed
and determined at our fireside! Yes, Kate, I assure you, so it was.
D'Esmonde referred many points to me, saying 'that the keener perception
of a female mind must be our pilot here.' Of course, I felt all the
responsibility, but never, never was I agitated. How often have I
held the destiny of the Imperial House in my hands! How little do they
suspect what they owe to my forbearance! But these are not themes to
interest you, dearest, and, of course, your prejudices are all Austrian.
I must say, Kate, 'the uncle' is charming! Just that kind of dear old
creature so graceful for a young woman to lean upon; and I love his
long white moustache! His French, too, is admirable,----that Madame
de Sévigné turn of expression, so unlike modern flippancy, and so
respectful to women!"

"I hope you like Frank!" said Kate, with artless eagerness in her look.

"He 's wonderfully good-looking without seeming to know it; but, of
course, one cannot expect that to last, Kate."

"Oh! you cannot think how handsome he was before this illness; and then
he is so gentle and affectionate."

"There--there, child, you must not make me fall in love with him, for
you know all my sympathies are Italian; and, having embroidered that
beautiful banner for the 'Legion of Hope'--pretty name, is it not?--I
never could tolerate the 'Barbari.'"

"Pray do not call them such to my uncle," said Kate, smiling.

"Never fear, dearest. I 'm in the habit of meeting all kinds of horrid
people without ever offending a prejudice; and, besides, I am bent on
making a conquest of 'Mon Oncle;' he is precisely the species of adorer
I like best. I hope he does not take snuff."

Kate laughed, as she shook her head in sign of negative.

From this Lady Hester diverged to all manner of reflections about the
future,--as to whether she ought or ought not to know Midchekoff when
she met him; if the villa of La Rocca were really Kate's, or hers, or
the property of somebody else; who was Jekyl's father, or if he ever had
such an appendage; in what part of the Tyrol Nelly was then sojourning;
was it possible she was married to the dwarf, and ashamed to confess
it?--and a vast variety of similar speculations, equally marked by
a bold indifference as to probability, and a total disregard to the
feelings of her companion. Kate was, then, far from displeased when a
messenger came to say that the General was alone in the drawing-room,
and would esteem it a favor if the ladies would join him.

"How do you mean, alone?" asked Lady Hester. "Where is Mr. Dalton?"

"Dr. Grounsell came for him, my Lady, and took him away in a carriage."

"Poor Frank, he is quite unequal to such fatigue," exclaimed Kate.

"It is like that horrid doctor. His cruelties to me have been something
incredible; at the same time, there's not a creature on my estate he
does not sympathize with! you 'll see how it will be, dearest; he'll
take your dear brother somewhere where there's a fever, or perhaps the
plague--for I believe they have it here; and in his delicate state
he's sure to catch it and die! Mark my words, dearest Kate, and see if
they'll not come true." And with this reassuring speech she slipped her
arm within her companion's and moved out of the room.

It may be conjectured that it was not without weighty reasons Grounsell
induced Frank, weary and exhausted as he was, to leave his home and
accompany him on a cold and dreary night to the city jail. Although
declining to enter upon the question before a third party, no sooner
were they alone together than the doctor proceeded to an explanation.
Meekins, who it appeared showed the greatest indifference at first, had,
as the day wore on, grown restless and impatient. This irritability was
increased by the want of his accustomed stimulant of drink, in which,
latterly, he had indulged freely, and it was in such a mood he asked for
pen and paper, and wrote a few lines to request that young Mr. Dalton
would visit him. Grounsell, who made a point to watch the prisoner from
hour to hour, no sooner heard this, than he hastened off to the inn with
the intelligence.

"There is not a moment to be lost," said he. "This fellow, from all that
I can learn, is but the tool of others, who are bent on bringing before
the world the whole story of this terrible crime. A priest, named
Cahill, and who for some time back has been loitering about the
neighborhood, was at the jail this morning before daybreak. Later on, he
posted a letter for Dublin, the address of which I was enabled to see.
It was to the eminent lawyer in criminal cases, Mr. Wallace.

"That some great attack is in preparation, I have, then, no doubt; the
only question is, whether the object be to extort money by threats of
publicity, or is there some deep feeling of revenge against your name
and family?

"The jailer, who is in my interest, gives me the most accurate detail
of the prisoner's conduct, and, although I am fully prepared to expect
every species of duplicity and deceit from a fellow of this stamp, yet
it is not impossible that, seeing himself to a certain extent in our
power, he may be disposed to desert to our ranks.

"He asks you to come alone, and of course you must comply. Whatever be
the subject of his revelations, be most guarded in the way you receive
them. Avow utter ignorance of everything, and give him reasons to
suppose that your great object here is to prevent the exposure and
disgrace of a public trial. This may make him demand higher terms; but
at the same time he will be thrown upon fuller explanations to warrant
them. In fact, you must temper your manner between a conscious power
over the fellow, and an amicable desire to treat with him.

"He has heard, within the last half-hour, that he has been recognized
here by a former acquaintance, whose account of him includes many
circumstances of deep suspicion. It may have been this fact has induced
him to write to you. This you will easily discover in his manner. But
here we are at the gates, and once more, I say, be cautions and guarded
in everything.

"Well, Mr. Gray," said Grounsell to the jailer, "You see we have
not delayed very long. Ill as he is, Mr. Dalton has accepted this
invitation."

"And he has done well, sir," replied the Jailer. "The man's bearing
is greatly changed since morning; some panic has evidently seized him.
There's no saying how long this temper may last; but you are quite right
to profit by it while there is yet time."

"Is he low and depressed, then?"

"Terribly so, sir. He asked a while ago if any one had called to see
him. Of course we guessed whom he meant, and said that a priest had been
at the jail that morning, but only to learn the charge under which he
was apprehended. He was much mortified on being told that the priest
neither expressed a wish to see nor speak with him."

Grounsell gave a significant glance towards Frank, who now followed the
jailer to the prisoner's cell.

"He's crying, sir; don't you hear him?" whispered the jailer to Frank,
as they stood outside the door. "You could n't have a more favorable
moment." And, thus saying, he rattled the heavy bunch of keys, in order
to give the prisoner token of his approach; and then, throwing open the
door, called out, "Here's the gentleman you asked for, Meekins; see that
you don't keep him long in this cold place, for he is not very well."

Frank had but time to reach the little settle on which he sat down, when
the door was closed, and he was alone with the prisoner.



CHAPTER XXXVI. THE JAIL.

Frank Dalton was in no wise prepared for the quiet and easy
self-possession with which Meekins, after asking pardon for the liberty
of his note, took a seat in front of him. Smoothing down his short and
glossy black hair with his hand, he seemed to wait for Frank to open the
conversation; and while there was nothing of insolence in his manner,
there was an assured calmness, far more distressing to a young and
nervous invalid.

"You wished to see me, Meekins," said Frank, at last. "What can I do for
you?"

The man bent slightly forward on his chair, and, fixing his keen
and penetrating eyes, continued steadily to stare at him for several
seconds.

"You 're too young and too generous to have a double in you," said
he, after a long pause, in which it seemed as if he were scanning the
other's nature; "and before we say any more, just tell me one thing. Did
any one advise you to come here to-night?"

"Yes," said Frank, boldly.

"It was that doctor; the man they call the agent,--wasn't it?"

"Yes," replied the youth, in the same tone.

"Now, what has he against _me?_--what charge does he lay to me?"

"I know nothing about it," said Frank; "but if our interview is only to
consist in an examination of myself, the sooner it ends the better."

"Don't you see what I'm at, sir?--don't you perceive that I only want to
know your honor's feeling towards me, and whether what I 'm to say is
to be laid up in your heart, or taken down in writing and made into an
indictment."

"My feeling towards you is easily told. If you be an honest man, and
have any need of me, I 'll stand by you; if you be not an honest
man, but the dishonesty only affects myself and my interests, show me
anything that can warrant it, and I 'm ready to forgive you."

The prisoner hung down his head, and for some minutes seemed deeply
immersed in reflection.

"Mr. Dalton," said he, drawing his chair closer to the bed, "I 'll make
this business very short, and we need n't be wasting our time talking
over what is honesty and what is roguery,--things every man has his own
notions about, and that depend far more upon what he has in his pocket
than what he feels in his heart I can do _you_ a good turn; _you_ can do
_me_ another. The service I can render you will make you a rich man, and
put you at the head of your family, where you ought to be. All I ask
in return is a free discharge from this jail, and money enough to go
to America. There never was a better bargain for you! As for myself, I
could make more of my secret if I liked; more, both in money--and--and
in other ways."

As he said these last few words, his cheek grew scarlet and his eyes
seemed to glisten.

"I scarcely understand you," said Frank. "Do you mean--"

"I 'll tell you what I mean, and so plainly that you can't mistake me.
I 'll make you what you have good right to be,----the 'Dalton of
Corrig-O'Neal,' the ould place, that was in your mother's family for
hundreds of years back. It is n't taking service in a foreign land you
need be, but an Irish gentleman, living on his own lawful estate."

"And for this you ask--"

"Just what I told you,--an open door and two hundred pounds down," said
the fellow, with a rough boldness that was close on insolence. "I've
told you already that if I only wanted a good bargain there 's others
would give more; but that's not what I 'm looking for. I 'm an old man,"
added he, in a softened voice, "and who knows when I may be called away
to the long account!" Then suddenly, as it were correcting himself for a
weak admission, he went on, more firmly, "That's neither here nor
there; the matter is just this: Will you pay the trifle I ask, for three
thousand a year, if it is n't more?"

"I must first of all consult with some friend--"

"There! that's enough. You 've said it now! Mr. Dalton, I 've done with
you forever," said the fellow, rising and walking to the window.

"You have not heard me out," said Frank, calmly. "It may be that I have
no right to make such a compact; it may be that by such a bargain I
should be compromising the just claims of the law, not to vindicate my
own rights alone, but to seek an expiation for a dreadful murder!"

"I tell you again, sir," said the fellow, with the same sternness as
before,----"I tell you again, sir, that I've done with you forever. The
devil a day you 'll ever pass under that same roof of Corrig-O'Neal as
the master of it; and if you wish me to swear it, by the great----"

"Stop!" cried Frank, authoritatively. "You have either told me too
much or too little, my good man; do not let your passion hurry you into
greater peril."

"What do you mean by that?" cried the other, turning fiercely round, and
bending over the back of the chair, with a look of menace. "What do you
mean by too much or too little?"

"This has lasted quite long enough," said Frank, rising slowly from
the bed. "I foresee little benefit to either of us from protracting it
further."

"You think you have me now, Mr. Dalton," said Meekins, with a sardonic
grin, as he placed his back against the door of the cell. "You think you
know enough, now, as if I wasn't joking all the while. Sure what do I
know of your family or your estate except what another man told me?
Sure I've no power to get back your property for you. I 'm a poor man,
without a friend in the world,"--here his voice trembled and his cheek
grew paler; "it is n't thinking of this life I am at all, but what's
before me in the next!"

"Let me pass out," said Frank, calmly.

"Of course I will, sir; I won't hinder you," said the other, but still
not moving from the spot. "You said awhile ago that I told you too much
or too little. Just tell me what that means before you go."

"Move aside, sir," said Frank, sternly.

"Not till you answer my question. Don't think you're back with your
white-coated slaves again, where a man can be flogged to death for a
look! I 'm your equal here, though I am in prison. Maybe, if you provoke
me to it, I 'd show myself more than your equal!" There was a menace
in the tone of these last words that could not be mistaken, and Frank
quickly lifted his hand to his breast; but, quick as was the gesture,
the other was too speedy for him, and caught his arm before he could
seize the pistol. Just at this critical moment the key was heard to turn
in the lock, and the heavy door was slowly opened. "There, take my arm,
sir," said Meekins, slipping his hand beneath Frank's; "You 're far too
weak to walk alone."



CHAPTER XXXVII. A FENCING-MATCH.

"You came in time,--in the very nick, Mr. Gray," said Frank, with a
quiet smile. "My friend here and I had said all that we had to say to
each other."

"Maybe you'd come again; maybe you'd give me five minutes another time?"
whispered Meekins, submissively, in Frank's ear.

"I think not," said Frank, with an easy significance in his look;
"perhaps, on reflection, you'll find that I have come once too often!"
And with these words he left the cell, and, in silent meditation,
returned to his companion.

"The fellow's voice was loud and menacing when I came to the door," said
Gray, as they walked along.

"Yes, he grew excited just at that moment; he is evidently a passionate
man," was Frank's reply; and he relapsed into his former reserve.

Grounsell, who at first waited with most exemplary patience for Frank
to narrate the substance of his interview, at last grew weary of his
reserve, and asked him what had occurred between them.

Frank paid no attention to the question, but sat with his head resting
on his hand, and evidently deep in thought. At last he said slowly,----

"Can you tell me the exact date of Mr. Godfrey's murder?"

"To the day,--almost to the hour," replied Grounsell. Taking out his
pocket-book, he read, "It was on a Friday, the 11th of November, in the
year 18----."

"Great God!" cried Frank, grasping the other's arm, while his whole
frame shook with a strong convulsion. "Was it, then, on that night?"

"Yes," said the other, "the murder took place at night. The body, when
discovered the next morning, was perfectly cold."

"Then that was it!" cried Frank, wildly. "It was then----when the
light was put out----when he crossed the garden----when he opened the
wicket--"

A burst of hysteric laughter broke from him, and muttering, "I saw it,
----I saw it all," he fell back fainting into Grounsell's arms.

All the doctor's care and judicious treatment were insufficient to
recall the youth to himself. His nervous system, shattered and broken by
long illness, was evidently unequal to the burden of the emotions he was
suffering under, and before he reached the hotel his mind was wandering
away in all the incoherency of actual madness.

Next to the unhappy youth himself, Grounsell's case was the most
pitiable. Unable to account for the terrible consequences of the scene
whose events were a secret to himself, he felt all the responsibility
of a calamity he had been instrumental in producing. From Frank it was
utterly hopeless to look for any explanation; already his brain was
filled with wild images of war and battle, mingled with broken memories
of a scene which none around his bed could recognize. In his distraction
Grounsell hurried to the jail to see and interrogate Meekins. Agitated
and distracted as he was, all his prudent reserve and calm forethought
were completely forgotten. He saw himself the cause of a dreadful
affliction, and already cured in his heart the wiles and snares in
which he was engaged. "If this boy's reason be lost forever, I, and I
only, am in fault," he went on repeating as he drove in mad haste back
to the prison.

In a few and scarcely coherent words he explained to Gray his wish to
see the prisoner, and although apprised that he had already gone to
rest, he persisted strongly, and was at length admitted into his cell.

Meekins started at the sound of the opening door, and called out
gruffly, "Who's there?"

"It's your friend," said Grounsell, who had already determined on any
sacrifice of his policy which should give him the hope of aiding Frank.

"My friend!" said Meekins, with a dry laugh. "Since when, sir?"

"Since I have begun to believe I may have wronged you, Meekins," said
Grounsell, seating himself at the bedside.

"I see, sir," rejoined the other, slowly; "I see it all. Mr. Dalton has
told you what passed between us, and you are wiser than he was."

"He has not told me everything, Meekins,--at least, not so fully and
clearly as I wish. I want you, therefore, to go over it all again for
me, omitting nothing that was said on either side."

"Ay," said the prisoner, dryly, "I see. Now, what did Mr. Dalton say to
you? I 'm curious to know; I 'd like to hear how he spoke of me."

"As of one who was well disposed to serve him, Meekins," said Grounsell,
hesitatingly, and in some confusion.

"Yes, to be sure," said the fellow, with a keen glance beneath his
gathering brows. "And he told you, too, that we parted good friends,--at
least, as much so as a poor man like myself could be to a born gentleman
like him."

"That he did," cried Grounsell, eagerly; "and young Mr. Dalton is not
the man to think the worse of your friendship because you are not his
equal in rank."

"I see,--I believe I see it all," said Meekins, with the same
sententious slowness as before. "Now look, doctor," added he, fixing
a cold and steady stare on the other's features, "it is late in the
night,--not far from twelve o'clock,--and I ask you, would n't it be
better for you to be asleep in your bed, and leave me to rest quietly in
mine, rather than be fencing--ay, fencing here--with one another, trying
who is the deepest? Just answer me that, sir."

"You want to offend me," said Grounsell, rising.

"No, sir; but it would be offending yourself to suppose that it was
worth your while to deceive the like of me,--a poor, helpless man,
without a friend in the world."

"I own I don't understand you, Meekins," said Grounsell, reseating
himself.

"There's nothing so easy, sir, if you want to do it If Mr. Dalton told
you what passed between us to-night, you know what advice you gave him;
and if he did not tell you, faix! neither will I--that's all. _He_ knows
what I have in my power. He was fool enough not to take me at my word.
Maybe I would n't be in the same mind again."

"Come, come," said Grounsell, good-humoredly, "this is not spoken like
yourself. It can be no object with you to injure a young gentleman who
never harmed you; and if, in serving him, you can serve yourself, the
part will be both more sensible and more honorable."

"Well, then," said Meekins, calmly, "I _can_ serve him; and now comes
the other question, 'What will he do for _me?_'"

"What do you require from him?"

"To leave this place at once,--before morning," said the other,
earnestly. "I don't want to see them that might make me change my mind;
to be on board of a ship at Waterford, and away out of Ireland forever,
with three hundred pounds,--I said two, but I 'll want three,--and for
that--for that "--here he hesitated some seconds,--"for that I 'll do
what I promised."

"And this business will never be spoken of more."

"Eh! what?" cried Meekins, starting.

"I mean that when your terms are complied with, what security have we
that you 'll not disclose this secret hereafter?"

Meekins slowly repeated the other's words twice over to himself, as if
to weigh every syllable of them, and then a sudden flashing of his dark
eyes showed that he had caught what he suspected was their meaning.

"Exactly so; I was coming to that," cried he. "We 'll take an oath on
the Gospel,--Mr. Frank Dalton and myself,--that never, while there's
breath in our bodies, will we ever speak to man or mortal about this
matter. I know a born gentleman would n't perjure himself, and, as for
me, I 'll swear in any way, and before any one, that your two selves
appoint."

"Then there's this priest," said Grounsell, doubtingly. "You have
already told him a great deal about this business."

"If he has n't me to the fore to prove what I said, _he_ can do nothing;
and as to the will, he never heard of it."

"The will!" exclaimed Grounsell, with an involuntary burst of surprise;
and, brief as it was, it yet revealed a whole world of dissimulation to
the acute mind of the prisoner.

"So, doctor," said the fellow, slowly, "I was right after all. You
_were_ only fencing with me."

"What do you mean?" cried Grounsell.

"I mean just this: that young Dalton never told you one word that passed
between us; that you came here to pump me, and find out all I knew;
that, cute as you are, there 's them that's equal to you, and that you
'll go back as wise as you came."

"What's the meaning of this change, Meekins?"

"It well becomes you, a gentleman, and a justice of the peace, to come
to the cell of a prisoner, in the dead of the night, and try to worm
out of him what you want for evidence. Won't it be a fine thing to tell
before a jury the offers you made me this night! Now, mind me, doctor,
and pay attention to my words. This is twice you tried to trick me, for
it was you sent that young man here. We 've done with each other now;
and may the flesh rot off my bones, like a bit of burned leather, if I
ever trust you again!"

There was an insolent defiance in the way these words were uttered, that
told Grounsell all hope of negotiation was gone; and the unhappy doctor
sat overwhelmed by the weight of his own incapacity and unskilfulness.

"There, now, sir, leave me alone. To-morrow I 'll find out if a man
is to be treated in this way. If I 'm not discharged out of this jail
before nine o'clock, _I_ 'll know why, and _you 'll_ never forget it,
the longest day you live."

Crestfallen and dispirited, Grounsell retired from the cell and returned
to the inn.



CHAPTER XXXVIII. A STEP IN VAIN.

Grounsell lost no time in summoning to his aid Mr. Hipsley, one of
the leading members of the Irish bar; but while he awaited his coming,
difficulties gathered around him from every side. Lenahan, the old
farmer, who was at first so positive about the identity of the prisoner,
began to express some doubts and hesitations on the subject "It was so
many years back since he had seen him, that it was possible he might
be mistaken;" and, in fact, he laid far more stress on the fashion of a
certain fustian jacket that the man used to wear than on any marks and
signs of personal resemblance.

The bold defiance of Meekins, and his insolent threats to expose the
Daltons to the world, assailed the poor doctor in various ways; and
although far from feeling insensible to the shame of figuring on a
trial, as having terrorized over a prisoner, the greater ruin that
impended on his friends absorbed all his sorrows.

Had he been the evil genius of the family, he could scarcely have
attained a greater degree of unpopularity. Frank's illness--for since
the night at the jail his mind had not ceased to wander--was, in Kate's
estimation, solely attributable to Grounsell's interference, all the
more unpardonable because inexplicable. Lady Hester regarded him as
the disturber of all social relations, who, for some private ends, was
involving everybody in lawsuits; and the old Count had most natural
misgivings about a man who, having assumed the sole direction of a
delicate affair, now confessed himself utterly unable to see the way
before him.

To such an extent had mortification and defeat reduced the unhappy
doctor, that when Hipsley arrived he was quite unable to give anything
like a coherent statement of the case, or lay before the astute lawyer
the points whereon he desired guidance and direction. Meanwhile the
enemy were in a state of active and most menacing preparation. Meekins,
discharged from jail, was living at an inn in the town, surrounded by a
strong staff of barristers, whose rank and standing plainly showed that
abundant pecuniary resources supplied every agency of battle.

Numerous witnesses were said to have been summoned to give their
evidence, and the rumor ran that the most ardent votary of private
scandal would be satiated with the tales and traits of domestic life the
investigation would expose to the world.

Hipsley, who with practised tact soon saw the game about to be played,
in vain asked Grounsell for some explanation of its meaning. There was a
degree of malignity in all the proceedings which could only be accounted
for on the supposition of a long-nourished revenge. How was he to
understand this? Alas! poor Grounsell knew nothing, and remembered
nothing. Stray fragments of conversation and scattered passages of
bygone scenes were jumbled up incoherently in his brain, and it was easy
to perceive that a very little was wanting to reduce his mind to the
helpless condition of Frank Dalton's.

The charge of a conspiracy to murder his relative, brought against a
gentleman of fortune and position, was an accusation well calculated to
excite the most painful feelings of public curiosity, and such was now
openly avowed to be the allegation about to be brought to issue; and,
however repugnant to credulity the bare assertion might appear at first,
the rumor was artfully associated with a strong array of threatening
circumstances. Every trivial coldness or misunderstanding between Dalton
and his brother-in-law, Godfrey, were now remembered and revived.
All the harsh phrases by which old Peter used to speak of the other's
character and conduct--Dalton's constant use of the expression, "What's
the use of his money; will he ever enjoy it?"--was now cited as but too
significant of a dreadful purpose; and, in a word, the public, with
a casuistry which we often see, was rather pleased to credit what it
flattered its own ingenuity to combine and arrange. Dalton was well
known to have been a passionate, headstrong man, violent in his
resentments, although ready to forgive and forget injuries the moment
after. This temper, and his departure for the Continent, from which
he never returned, were all the substantial facts on which the whole
superstructure was raised.

If Hipsley saw that the array of evidence was far from bringing guilt
home to Dalton, he also perceived that the exposure alone would be a
terrible blow to the suffering family. The very nature of the attack
evinced a deep and hidden vengeance. To avert this dreadful infliction
seemed, then, his first duty, and he endeavored by every means in his
power to ascertain who was the great instigator of the proceeding, in
which it was easy to see Meekins was but a subordinate. The name of
Father Cahill had twice or thrice been mentioned by Grounsell, but with
a vagueness of which little advantage could be taken. Still, even with
so faint a clew, Hipsley was fain to be content, and after several days'
ineffectual search, he at last discovered that this priest, in company
with another, was residing at the little inn of "The Rore."

Having communicated his plan to the old General, who but half assented
to the idea of negotiating with the enemy, Hipsley set out for
"The Rore," after a long day of fatiguing labor. "An inaccurate and
insufficient indictment," repeated the lawyer to himself; "the old and
hackneyed resource to balk the prurient curiosity of the public, and cut
off the scent when the gossiping pack are in full cry,--this is all
that we have now left to us. We must go into court; the only thing is to
leave it as soon as we are able."

It was not till he was within half a mile of the little inn that Hipsley
saw all the difficulty of what he was engaged in; for in what way or on
what pretext was he to address Cahill in the matter, or by what right
connect him with the proceedings? The hardihood by which he had often
suggested to a witness what he wanted to elicit, stood his part now, and
he boldly passed the threshold, and asked for Father Cahill. Mistaking
him for the chief counsel on the other side, the landlord bowed
obsequiously, and, without further parley, introduced him into the room
where D'Esmonde and Cahill were then sitting.

"I see, gentlemen," said Hipsley, bowing politely to each, "that I
am not the person you expected; but may I be permitted to enjoy an
advantage which good fortune has given me, and ask of you a few moments'
conversation? I am the counsel engaged by Mr. Dalton, in the case which
on Tuesday next is to be brought to trial; and having learned from Mr.
Grounsell that I might communicate with you in all freedom and candor,
I have come to see if something cannot be done to rescue the honor of
a family from the shame of publicity, and the obloquy that attends the
exposure of a criminal court."

D'Esmonde took up a book as Hipsley began this address, and affected to
be too deeply engaged in his reading to pay the least attention to what
went forward; while Cahill remained standing, as if to intimate to the
stranger the propriety of a very brief interruption.

"You must have mistaken the person you are addressing, sir," said the
priest, calmly. "My name is Cahill."

"Precisely, sir; and to the Reverend Mr. Cahill I desire to speak. It is
about ten days or a fortnight since you called on Dr. Grounsell with
a proposition for the settlement of this affair. I am not sufficiently
conversant with the details of what passed to say on which side the
obstacle stood,--whether _he_ was indisposed to concede enough, or that
_you_ demanded too much. I only know that the negotiation was abortive,
and it is now with the hope of resuming the discussion--"

"Too late, sir,--too late," said the priest, peremptorily, while a very
slight but decisive motion of D'Esmonde's brows gave him encouragement
to be bold. "I did, it is true, take the step you allude to; a variety
of considerations had their influence over me. I felt interested about
the poor man Meekins, and was naturally anxious to screen from
the consequences of shame a very old and honored family of the
country--" Here he hesitated, for a warning glance from the Abbé
recalled him to caution.

"And you were about to allude to that more delicate part of the affair
which relates to Mr. Godfrey's son, sir?" interposed Hipsley, while
by an unmistakable gesture he showed his consciousness of D'Esmonde's
presence.

"I find, sir," said Cahill, coldly, "that we are gradually involving
ourselves in the very discussion I have already declined to engage in.
It is not here, nor by us, this cause must be determined. It would be
hard to persuade me that you should even counsel an interference with
the course of public justice."

"You are quite right, sir, in your estimate of me," said Hipsley,
bowing; "nor should I do so if I saw anything in this case but needless
exposure and great cruelty towards those who must necessarily be
guiltless, without one single good end obtained, except you could so
deem the gratification of public scandal by the harrowing tale of family
misfortune. Bear with me one moment more," said he, as a gesture of
impatience from Cahill showed that he wished an end of the interview.
"I will concede what I have no right to concede, and what I am in a
position to refute thoroughly,----the guilt of the party implicated;
upon whom will the punishment fall? on the aged uncle, a brave and
honored soldier, without the shadow of stain on his fair fame; on a
young and beautiful girl, whose life has already compassed more real
sorrow than old men like myself have ever known in all their career; and
on a youth, now stretched upon his sick-bed, and for whom humanity would
rather wish death itself than to come back into a world he must shrink
from with shame."

"'_Filius peccatoris exardebit in crimine patris_,'----the son of the
sinful man shall burn out in his father's shame! "--said D'Esmonde,
reading aloud from the volume in his hand.

Hipsley almost started at the solemnity with which these awful words
were uttered, and stood for a few seconds gazing on the pale and
thoughtful face which was still bent over the book.

"My mission has then failed!" said the lawyer, regretfully. "I am sorry
it should be so."

A cold bow was the only reply Cahill returned to this speech, and the
other slowly withdrew, and took his way back to Kilkenny, the solemn and
terrible denunciation still ringing in his ears as he went.



CHAPTER XXXIX. THE COURT-HOUSE OF KILKENNY.

The character of crime in Ireland has preserved for some years back a
most terrible consistency. The story of every murder is the same.
The same secret vengeance; the same imputed wrong; the same dreadful
sentence issued from a dark and bloody tribunal; the victim alone is
changed, but all the rest is unaltered; and we read, over and over
again, of the last agonies on the high-road and in the noonday, till,
sated and wearied, we grow into a terrible indifference as to guilt, and
talk of the "wild justice of the people" as though amongst the natural
causes which shorten human life. If this be so, and to its truth we
call to witness those who in every neighborhood have seen some fearful
event--happening, as it were, at their very doors--deplored today,
almost forgotten to-morrow; and while such is the case, the public mind
is painfully sensitive as to the details of any guilt attended with
new and unaccustomed agencies. In fact, with all the terrible catalogue
before us,' we should be far from inferring a great degree of guiltiness
to a people in whom we see infinitely more of misguided energies and
depraved passions than of that nature whose sordid incentives to
crime constitute the bad of other countries. We are not, in this, the
apologist for murder. God forbid that we should ever be supposed to
palliate, by even a word, those brutal assassinations which make every
man blush to call himself an Irishman! We would only be understood as
saying that these crimes, dark, fearful, and frequent as they are, do
not argue the same hopeless debasement of our population as the less
organized guilt of other countries; and inasmuch as the vengeance even
of the savage is a nobler instinct than the highwayman's passion for
gain, so we cherish a hope that the time is not distant when the peasant
shall tear out of his heart the damnable delusion of vindication by
blood, when he will learn a manly fortitude under calamity, a generous
trust in those above him, and, better again, a freeman's consciousness
that the law will vindicate him against injury, and that we live in
an age when the great are powerless to do wrong, unless when their
inhumanity be screened behind the darker shadow of the murder that
avenges it! Then, indeed, we have no sympathy for all the sufferings of
want, or all the miseries of fever; then, we forget the dreary hovel,
the famished children, the palsy of age, and the hopeless cry of
starving infancy,--we have neither eyes nor ears but for the sights and
sounds of murder!

We have said that amidst all the frequency of crime there is no country
of Europe where any case of guilt accompanied by new agencies or
attended by any unusual circumstances is sure to excite so great and
widespread interest. The very fact of an accusation involving any one in
rank above the starving cottier is looked upon as almost incredible,
and far from feeling sensibility dulled by the ordinary recurrence of
bloodshed, the crime becomes associated in our minds with but one class,
and as originating in one theme.

We have gradually been led away by these thoughts from the remark which
first suggested them, and now we turn again to the fact, that the city
of Kilkenny became a scene of the most intense anxiety as the morning
of that eventful trial dawned. Visitors poured in from the neighboring
counties, and even from Dublin. The case had been widely commented on
by the press; and although with every reserve as regarded the accused, a
most painful impression against old Mr. Dalton had spread on all sides.
Most of his own contemporaries had died; of the few who remained,
they were very old men, fast sinking into imbecility, and only vaguely
recollecting "Wild Peter" as one who would have stopped at nothing. The
new generation, then, received the impressions of the man thus unjustly;
nor were their opinions more lenient that they lived in an age which no
longer tolerated the excesses of the one that preceded it. Gossip, too,
had circulated its innumerable incidents on all the personages of this
strange drama; and from the venerable Count Stephen down to the informer
Meekins, every character was now before the world.

That the Daltons had come hundreds of miles, and had offered immense
sums of money to suppress the exposure, was among the commonest rumors
of the time, and that the failure of this attempt was now the cause of
the young man's illness and probable death. Meekins's character received
many commentaries and explanations. Some alleged that he was animated by
an old grudge against the family, never to be forgiven. Others said that
it was to some incident of the war abroad that he owed his hatred to
young Dalton; and, lastly, it was rumored that, having some connection
with the conspiracy, he was anxious to wipe his conscience of the guilt
before he took on him the orders of some lay society, whose vows he
professed. All these mysterious and shadowy circumstances tended to
heighten the interest of the coming event, and the city was crowded
in every part by strangers, who not only filled the Court-house, but
thronged the street in front, and even occupied the windows and roofs of
the opposite houses.

From daylight the seats were taken in the galleries of the Court; the
most distinguished of the neighboring gentry were all gathered there,
while in the seats behind the bench were ranged several members of the
peerage, who had travelled long distances to be present. To the left of
the presiding judge sat Count Stephen, calm, stern, and motionless, as
if on parade. If many of the ceremonials of the court and the general
aspect of the assemblage were new and strange to his eyes, nothing in
his bearing or manner bespoke surprise or astonishment. As little, too,
did he seem aware of the gaze of that crowded assembly, who, until the
interest of the trial called their attention away, never ceased to stare
steadfastly at him.

At the corner of the gallery facing the jury-box D'Esmonde and Cahill
were seated. The Abbé, dressed with peculiar care, and wearing the blue
silk collar of an order over his white cravat, was recognized by the
crowd beneath as a personage of rank and consideration, which, indeed,
his exalted and handsome features appeared well to corroborate. He
sustained the strong stare of the assemblage with a calm but haughty
self-possession, like one well accustomed to the public eye, and who
felt no shrinking from the gaze of a multitude. Already the rumor ran
that he was an official high in the household of the Pope, and many
strange conjectures were hazarded on the meaning of his presence at the
trial.

To all the buzz of voices, and the swaying, surging motion of a vast
crowd, there succeeded a dead silence and tranquillity, when the judges
took their seats on the bench. The ordinary details were all gone
through with accustomed formality, the jury sworn, and the indictment
read aloud by the clerk of the crown, whose rapid enunciation and
monotonous voice took nothing from the novelty of the statement that was
yet to be made by counsel. At length Mr. Wallace rose, and now curiosity
was excited to the utmost. In slow and measured phrase he began by
bespeaking the patient and careful attention of the jury to the case
before them. He told them that it was a rare event in the annals of
criminal law to arraign one who was already gone before the greatest of
all tribunals; but that such cases had occurred, and it was deemed of
great importance, not alone to the cause of truth and justice, that
these investigations should be made, but that a strong moral might be
read, in the remarkable train of incidents by which these discoveries
were elicited, and men were taught to see the hand of Providence in
events which, to unthinking minds, had seemed purely accidental and
fortuitous. After dwelling for some time on this theme, he went on to
state the great difficulty and embarrassment of his own position, called
upon as he was to arraign less the guilty man than his blameless and
innocent descendants, and to ask for the penalties of the law on those
who had not themselves transgressed it.

"I do not merely speak here," said he, "of the open shame and disgrace
the course of this trial will proclaim--I do not simply allude to the
painful exposure you will be obliged to witness--I speak of the heavy
condemnation with which the law of public opinion visits the family of
a felon, making all contact with them a reproach, and denying them even
its sympathy. These would be weighty considerations if the course of
justice had not far higher and more important claims, not the least
among which is the assertion to the world at large that guilt is never
expiated without punishment, and that the law is inflexible in its
denunciation of crime."

He then entered upon a narrative of the case, beginning with an account
of the Dalton family, and the marriage which connected them with the
Godfreys. He described most minutely the traits of character which
separated the two men and rendered them uncompanionable one to the
other. Of Godfrey he spoke calmly and without exaggeration; but when
his task concerned Peter Dalton, he drew the picture of a reckless,
passionate, and unprincipled man, in the strongest colors, reminding the
jury that it was all-important to carry with them through the case this
view of his character, as explaining and even justifying many of the
acts he was charged with. "You will," said he, "perceive much to blame
in him, but also much to pity, and even where you condemn deeply, you
will deplore the unhappy combination of events which perverted what may
have been a noble nature, and degraded by crime what was meant to have
adorned virtue! From the evidence I shall produce before you will be
seen the nature of the intimacy between these two men, so strikingly
unlike in every trait of character, and although this be but the
testimony of one who heard it himself from another, we shall find a
strong corroboration of all in the consistency of the narrative and the
occasional allusion to facts provable from other sources. We shall
then show you how the inordinate demands of Dalton, stimulated by the
necessity of his circumstances, led to a breach with his brother-in-law,
and subsequently to his departure for the Continent; and, lastly,
we mean to place before you the extraordinary revelation made to the
witness Meekins, by his comrade William Noonan, who, while incriminating
himself, exhibited Dalton as the contriver of the scheme by which the
murder was effected.

"It would be manifestly impossible, in a case like this, when from the
very outset the greatest secrecy was observed and over whose mystery
years have accumulated clouds of difficulty, to afford that clear and
precise line of evidence which in a recent event might naturally be
looked for. But you will learn enough, and more than enough, to
satisfy your minds on every point Meekins shall be subjected to any
cross-examination my learned brother may desire, and I only ask for him
so much of your confidence as a plain unvarying statement warrants. He
is a stranger in this country; and although it has been rumored,
from his resemblance to a man formerly known here, that he has been
recognized, we shall show you that for upwards of thirty years he has
been in foreign countries, and while he understands that his parents
were originally from the south of Ireland, he believes himself to have
been born in America. These facts will at once disabuse your minds
of the suspicion that he can have been actuated by any malicious or
revengeful feelings towards the Daltons. We shall, also, show that the
most strenuous efforts have been made to suppress his testimony; and
while it may be painful to exhibit one charged with the administration
of justice as having plotted to subvert or distort it, we shall
produce on the witness-table the individual who himself made these very
overtures of corruption."

A long and minute narrative followed--every step of the conspiracy was
detailed--from the first communication of Dalton with Noonan, to the
fatal moment of the murder. Noonan's own subsequent confession to
Meekins was then related, and lastly the singular accident by which
Meekins came in contact with the Abbé d'Esmonde, and was led to a
revelation of the whole occurrence. The lawyer at last sat down, and
as he did so, a low murmuring sound ran through the crowded assemblage,
whose mournful cadence bespoke the painful acquiescence in the statement
they had heard. More than one eager and sympathizing look was turned to
where the old Count sat; but his calm, stern features were passive
and immovable as ever; and although he listened with attention to the
address of the advocate, not a semblance of emotion could be detected in
his manner.

Meekins was now called to the witness-box, and as he made his way
through the crowd, and ascended the table, the most intense curiosity
to see him was displayed. Well dressed, and with a manner of decent and
respectful quietude, he slowly mounted the stairs, and saluted the
bench and jury. Although an old man, he was hale and stout-looking,
his massive broad forehead and clear gray eye showing a character of
temperament well able to offer resistance to time.

There was an apparent frankness and simplicity about him that favorably
impressed the court, and he gave his evidence with that blended
confidence and caution which never fails to have its effect on a jury.
He owned, too, that he once speculated on using the secret for his own
advantage, and extorting a considerable sum from old Dalton's fears, but
that on second thoughts he had decided on abandoning this notion, and
resolved to let the mystery die with him. The accidental circumstance of
meeting with the Abbé D'Esmonde, at Venice, changed this determination,
and it was while under the religious teachings of this good priest that
he came to the conviction of his sad duty. His evidence occupied several
hours, and it was late in the afternoon when the cross-examination
began.

Nothing within the reach of a crafty lawyer was left undone. All that
practised skill and penetration could accomplish was exhibited, but the
testimony was unshaken in every important point; and save when pushing
the witness as to his own early life and habits, not a single admission
could be extorted to his discredit. But even here his careless easy
manner rescued him; and when he alleged that he never very well knew
where he was born, or who were his parents, nor had he any very great
misgivings about having served on board a slaver, and "even worse," the
jury only smiled at what seemed the frank indifference of an old sailor.
Noonan had given him a few scraps of Mr. Dalton's writing. He had lost
most of them, he said; but of those which remained, although unsigned,
the authenticity was easily established. Old Peter's handwriting was
familiar to many, and several witnesses swore to their being genuine. In
other respects, they were of little importance. One alone bore any real
significance, and it was the concluding passage of a letter, and ran
thus: "So that if I 'm driven to it at last, Godfrey himself is more to
blame than _me_." Vague as this menacing sentence was, it bore too home
upon the allegations of the witness not to produce a strong effect,
nor could any dexterity of the counsel succeed in obliterating its
impression.

Seeing that the counsel for the prosecution had not elicited the
testimony he promised, respecting the attempted subornation of Meekins,
the defence rashly adventured upon that dangerous ground, and too late
discovered his error, for the witness detailed various conversations
between Grounsell and himself, and gave with terrible effect a scene
that he swore had occurred between young Dalton and him in the jail.
It was in vain to remind the jury that he who alone could refute this
evidence was stretched on a bed of sickness. The effect was already
made.

When questioned as to the reasons Dalton might have had for conspiring
against his brother-in-law, he confessed that Noonan only knew that
Godfrey had refused him all assistance, and that he believed that after
his death he, Dalton, would inherit the property. His own impression
was, however, that it was more vengeance than anything else. The Daltons
were living in great poverty abroad; there was scarcely a privation
which they had not experienced; and the embittering stings of their
misery were adduced as the mainspring of old Peter's guilt. This
allusion to the private life of the Dalton family was eagerly seized on
by Mr. Wallace, who now "begged to ascertain certain facts on a subject
which, but for his learned brother's initiative, he would have shrunk
from exhibiting in open court." Meekins could, of course, but give such
details as he had learned from Noonan, but they all described a life
of suffering and meanness,--their contrivances and their straits;
their frequent change of place, as debt accumulated over them; their
borrowings and their bills; and, lastly, the boastful pretexts they
constantly brought forward on the rank of their uncle, Count Dalton, as
a guarantee of their solvency and respectability. So unexpected was the
transition to the mention of this name, that the whole assembly suddenly
turned their eyes to where the old General sat, mute and stern; but the
look he returned might well have abashed them, so haughty and daring was
its insolence.

Apparently to show the knowledge possessed by the witness on matters of
private detail,--but, in reality, to afford an occasion for dilating on
a painful subject,--the whole history of the family was raked up, and
all the sad story of Nelly's toil and Kate's menial duties paraded
in open court, wound up, at last, with what was called young Frank's
enlistment "as a common soldier of the Austrian army."

The greater interests of the trial were all forgotten in these materials
for gossip, and the curiosity of the listeners was excited to its
highest pitch when he came to tell of that mingled misery and ambition,
that pride of name, and shameless disregard of duty, which he described
as characterizing them; nor was the craving appetite for scandal half
appeased when the court interrupted the examination, and declared that
it was irrelevant and purposeless.

Meekins at last descended from the table, and Michel Lenahan was called
up. The important fact he had so resolutely sworn to some weeks before
he had already shown a disinclination to confirm, and all that he could
now be brought to admit was, that he had believed Meekins was his old
acquaintance, Black Sam; but the years that had elapsed since he saw him
before, change of dress, and the effect of time on each of them, might
well shake a better memory than his own.

"Jimmy Morris might know him again, my Lord," said he, "for he never
forgot anybody,----but _he_ is n't to the fore."

"I have the happiness to say that he is," said Hipeley. "He has arrived
from Cove, here, this morning. Call James Morris, crier;" and soon
after, a very diminutive old man, with a contracted leg, mounted the
table. He was speedily sworn, and his examination commenced. After a
few questions as to his trade,--he was a tailor,--and where he had
lived latterly, he was asked whether he remembered, amongst his former
acquaintance, a certain bailiff on the Corrig-O'Neal estate, commonly
called Black Sam?

"By coorse I do," said he; "he was always making mischief between Mr.
Godfrey and ould Peter."

"You have not been asked that question, sir." interposed Wallace.

"No, but he shall be by-and-by," cried Hipsley. "Tell me, now, what kind
of a man was this same Black Sam?"

"As cruel a man as ever you seen."

"That is not exactly what I am asking. I want to hear what he was like."

"He was like the greatest villain--"

"I mean, was he short or tall; was he a big man and a strong man, or was
he a little fellow like you or _me?_"

"Devil a bit like either of us. He 'd bate us both with one hand,--ay,
and that fellow there with the wig that's laughing at us, into the
bargain."

"So, then, he was large and powerful?"

"Yes, that he was."

"Had he anything remarkable about his appearance,----anything that might
easily distinguish him from other men?"

"Tis, maybe, his eyes you mane?"

"What about his eyes, then?"

"They could be lookin' at ye when ye 'd aware they were only lookin' at
the ground; and he 'd a thrick of stopping himself when he was laughing
hearty by drawing the back of his hand over his mouth, this way."

As the witness accompanied these words by a gesture, a low murmur
of astonishment ran through the court, for more than once during the
morning Meekins had been seen to perform the very act described.

"You would probably be able to know him again if you saw him."

"That I would."

"Look around you, now, and tell me if you see him here. No, no, he's
not in the jury-box; still less likely it is that you 'd find him on the
bench."

The witness, neither heeding the remark nor the laughter which followed
it, slowly rose and looked around him.

"Move a little to one side, if ye plase," said he to a member of the
inner bar. "Yes, that's him." And he pointed to Meekins, who, with
crossed arms and lowering frown, stood still and immovable.

The bystanders all fell back at the same instant, and now he remained
isolated in the midst of that crowded scene, every eye bent upon him.

"You 're wearing well, Sam," said the witness, addressing him
familiarly. "Maybe it's the black wig you 'ye on; but you don't look a
day oulder than when I seen you last."

This speech excited the most intense astonishment in the court, and many
now perceived, for the first time, that Meekins did not wear his own
hair.

"Are you positive, then, that this man is Black Sam?"

"I am."

"Are you prepared to swear to it on your solemn oath, taking all the
consequences false evidence will bring down upon you?"

"I am."

"You are quite certain that it's no accidental resemblance, but that
this is the very identical man you knew long ago?"

"I'm certain sure. I'd know him among a thousand; and, be the same
token, he has a mark of a cut on the crown of his head, three inches
long. See, now, if I 'm not right."

Meekins was now ordered to mount the witness-table, and remove his wig.
He was about to say something, but Wallace stopped him and whispered a
few words in his ear.

"I would beg to observe," said the lawyer, "that if an old cicatrix is
to be the essential token of recognition, few men who have lived the
adventurous life of Meekins will escape calumny."

"'T is a mark like the letter V," said Jimmy; "for it was ould Peter
himself gave it him, one night, with a brass candlestick. There it is!"
cried he, triumphantly; "did n't I tell true?"

The crowded galleries creaked under the pressure of the eager
spectators, who now bent forward and gazed on this strong proof of
identification.

"Is there any other mark by which you could remember him?"

"Sure, I know every fayture in his face,--what more d'ye want?"

"Now, when did you see him last,--I mean before this day?"

"The last time I seen him was the mornin' he was taken up."

"How do you mean' taken up'?"

"Taken up by the polis."

"Taken by the police,----for what?"

"About the murder, to be sure."

A thrill of horror pervaded the court as these words were spoken, and
Meekins, whose impassive face had never changed before, became now pale
as death.

"Tell the jury what you saw on the morning you speak of."

"I was at home, work in', when the polis passed by. They asked me where
Black Sam lived; 'Up the road,' says I."

"How far is your house from his?"

"About fifty perches, your honor, in the same boreen, but higher up."

"So that, in going from Mr. Godfrey's to his own home, Sam must have
passed your door?"

"Yes, sir."

"This he did every day,--two or three times,--did n't he?"

"He did, sir."

"Did you usually speak to each other as he went by?"

"Yes, sir; we always would say, 'God save you,' or the like."

"How was he dressed on these occasions?"

"The way he was always dressed,----how would he be?"

"That's exactly what I 'm asking you."

"Faix! he had his coat and breeches, like any other man."

"I see. He had his coat and breeches, like any other man; now, what
color was his coat?"

"It was gray, sir,----blue-gray. I know it well."

"How do you come to know it well?"

"Bekase my own boy, Ned, sir, bought one off the same piece before he
'listed, and I couldn't forget it."

"Where were you the day after the murder, when the policemen came to
take Sam Eustace?"

"I was sitting at my own door, smoking a pipe, and I see the polis
comin', and so I went in and shut the door."

"What was that for? You had no reason to fear them."

"Ayeh!--who knows?--the polis is terrible!"

"Well, after that?"

"Well, when I heard them pass, I opened the door, and then I saw enough.
They were standing at Sam's house; one of them talking to Sam, and the
other two rummaging about, sticking poles into the thatch, and tumbling
oyer the turf in the stack.

"'Isn't this a pretty business?' says Sam, calling out to me. 'The polis
is come to take me off to prison because some one murdered the master.'
'Well, his soul's in glory, anyhow,' says I, and I shut the doore."

"And saw nothing more?"

"Only the polis lading Sam down the boreen betune them."

"He made no resistance, then?"

"Not a bit; he went as quiet as a child. When he was going by the doore,
I remember he said to one of the polis, 'Would it be plazing to ye to
help me wid my coat; for I cut my finger yesterday?'"

"Did n't I say it was with a reaping-hook?" cried Meekins, who, in
all the earnestness of anxiety, followed every word that fell from the
witness.

His counsel sprang to his feet, and pulled him back by the arm; but not
before the unguarded syllables had been heard by every one around. Such
was the sensation now produced, that for several minutes the proceedings
were interrupted, while the counsel conferred in low whispers together,
and all seemed thunderstruck and amazed. Twice Meekins stood forward to
address the court, but on each occasion he was restrained by the counsel
beside him; and it was only by the use of menaces that Wallace succeeded
in enforcing silence on him. "When the moment of cross-examination
arrives," said he to the jury, "I hope to explain every portion of this
seeming difficulty. Have you any further questions to ask the witness?"

"A great many more," said Hipsley. "Now, Morris, attend to me. Sam asked
the police to assist him, as he had cut his hand with a reaping-hook?"

"He did, indeed, sir," said the witness; "and a dreadful cut it was. It
was hard for him to get his hand into the sleeve of the jacket."

"I perceive; he had difficulty in putting on the jacket, but the
policemen helped him?"

"They did, sir; and one of them was hurting him, and Sam called out,
'Take care, take care. It's better to cut the ould sleeve; it's not
worth much, now.'"

"And did they cut it?"

"They did, sir; they ripped it up all the way to the elbow."

"That was a pity, was n't it, to rip up a fine frieze coat like that?"

"Oh, it was n't his coat at all, sir. It was only a flannel jacket he
had for working in."

"So, then, he did not wear the blue-gray frieze like your son's when he
went to jail?"

"No, sir. He wore a jacket."

"Now, why was that?"

"Sorry one o' me knows; but I remember he didn't wear it."

"Did n't I say that I left my coat at the bog, and that I was ashamed
to go in the ould jacket?" screamed out Meekins, whose earnestness was
above all control.

"If this go on, it is impossible that I can continue to conduct this
case, my Lord," said Wallace. "While no attempt has been made to refute
one tittle of the great facts I have mentioned, a system of trick has
been resorted to, by which my client's credit is sought to be impugned.
What care I if he was known by a hundred nicknames? He has told the
court already that he has lived a life of reckless adventure; that he
has sailed under every flag and in every kind of enterprise. Mayhap,
amid his varied characters, he has played that of a land bailiff; nor is
it very strange that he should not wish to parade before the world the
fact of his being arrested, even under a false accusation; for he was
discharged, as he has just told you, two days after."

A large bundle, carefully sealed, was now carried into the court, and
deposited before Mr. Hipsley, who, after a few seconds' consultation
with Grounsell, rose, and addressed the court,----

"My learned friend complains of being surprised; he will, perhaps, have
a better right to be so in a few moments hence. I now demand that this
man be consigned to the dock. These affidavits are all regular, my Lord,
and the evidence I purpose to lay before you will very soon confirm
them."

The judge briefly scanned the papers before him; and, by a gesture, the
command was issued, and Meekins, who never uttered a word, was conducted
within the dock.

"I will merely ask the witness two or three questions more," added
Hipsley, turning towards the jailer, who alone, of all the assembly,
looked on without any wonderment.

"Now, witness, when did you see the prisoner wear the blue-gray coat?
After the death of Mr. Godfrey, I mean."

"I never seen him wear it again," was the answer.

"How could ye?" cried Meekins, in a hoarse voice. "How could ye? I
sailed for America the day after I was set at liberty."

"Be silent, sir," said the prisoner's counsel, who, suffering greatly
from the injury of these interruptions, now assumed a look of angry
impatience; while, with the craft of his calling, he began already to
suspect that a mine was about to be sprung beneath him.

"You have told us," said Hipsley,--and, as he spoke, his words came
with an impressive slowness that made them fall deep into every
heart around,--"You have told us that the coat worn habitually by the
prisoner, up to the day of Mr. Godfrey's murder, you never saw on him
after that day. Is that true?"

"It is, sir."

"You have also said that this coat----part of a piece from which your
son had a coat----was of a peculiar color?"

"It was, sir; and more than that, they had both the same cut, only Sam's
had horn buttons, and my son's was metal."

"Do you think, then, from the circumstances you have just mentioned,
that you could know that coat if you were to see it again?"

A pause followed, and the witness, instead of answering, sat with his
eyes fixed upon the dock, where the prisoner, with both hands grasping
the iron spikes, stood, his glaring eyeballs riveted upon the old man's
face, with an expression of earnestness and terror actually horrible to
witness.

"Look at me, Morris," said Hipsley, "and answer my question. Would you
know this coat again?"

"That is, would you swear to it?" interposed the opposite counsel.

"I believe I would, sir," was the answer.

"You must be sure, my good man. Belief is too vague for us here," said
the prisoner's lawyer.

[Illustration: 498]

"Is this it?" said the solicitor, as, breaking the seals of the parcel
before him, he held up a coat, which, ragged and eaten by worms, seemed
of a far darker color than that described by witness.

The old man took it in his hands and examined it over carefully,
inspecting with all the minute curiosity of age every portion of the
garment The suspense at this moment was terrible; not a syllable was
spoken; not a breath stirred; nothing but the long-drawn respirations
of the prisoner, who, still leaning on the iron railing of the dock,
watched the old man's motions with the most harrowing intensity.

"Let me see it on him," said the witness, at last

"Prisoner, put on that coat," said the judge.

Meekins tried to smile as he proceeded to obey; but the effort was
too much, and the features became fixed into one rigid expression,
resembling the look of hysteric laughter.

"Well, do you know me now?" cried he, in a voice whose every accent rang
with a tone of intimidation and defiance.

"I do," said the witness, boldly. "I 'll swear to that coat, my Lord,
and I 'll prove I 'm right. It was the same stuffing put into both
collars; and if I 'm telling you the truth, it 's a piece of ould
corduroy is in that one there."

The very grave was not more still than the court as the officer of the
jail, taking off the coat, ripped up the collar, and held up in his hand
a small piece of tarnished corduroy.

"My Lord! my Lord! will you let a poor man's life be swore away--"

"Silence, sir,--be still, I say," cried the prisoner's counsel, who
saw the irremediable injury of these passionate appeals. "I am here to
conduct your defence, and I will not be interfered with. Your Lordship
will admit that this proceeding has all the character of surprise. We
were perfectly unprepared for the line my learned friend has taken--"

"Permit me to interrupt the counsel, my Lord. I need scarcely appeal to
this court to vindicate me against any imputation such as the learned
gentleman opposite would apply to me. Your Lordship's venerable
predecessors on that bench have more than once borne witness to
the fairness and even the lenity of the manner in which the crown
prosecutions have been conducted. Any attempt to surprise, any effort to
entrap a prisoner, would be as unworthy of us as it would be impossible
in a court over which you preside. The testimony which the witness has
just given, the extraordinary light his evidence has just shown, was
only made available to ourselves by one of those circumstances in which
we see a manifestation of the terrible judgment of God upon him who
sheds the blood of his fellow-man. Yes, my Lord, if any case can merit
the designation of Providential intervention, it is this one. Every step
of this singular history is marked by this awful characteristic. It is
the nephew of the murdered man by whom the first trace of crime has been
detected. It is by him that we have been enabled to bring the prisoner
into that dock. It is by him that a revelation has been made which,
had it not occurred in our own day and under our own eyes, we should be
disposed to class amongst the creations of fiction. The learned counsel
has told you that these articles of clothing have been produced here by
surprise. This affidavit is the shortest answer to that suspicion. From
this you will see that, early this morning, young Mr. Dalton requested
that two magistrates of the city should be brought to his bedside, to
take down the details of an important declaration. The fever which for
several days back had oppressed him, had abated for the time, and he
was, although weak and low, calm and collected in all his faculties. It
was then, with remarkable accuracy, and in a manner totally free from
agitation, that he made the following singular revelation." The counsel
then recited, at more length than would suit our reader's patience
to follow, the story of Frank's visit to Ireland when a boy, and his
accidental presence in the grounds of Corrig-O'Neal on the very night
of the murder. "At first the magistrates were disposed to regard
this revelation as the mere dream of an erring intellect; but when he
described every feature of the locality, and the most intricate details
of scenery, their opinion was changed; and when at last he designated
the exact spot where he had seen a large bundle buried, it only needed
that this should be confirmed to establish the strict truth of all
he alleged. With every care and precaution Against deception, the
magistrates proceeded to visit the place. They were accompanied by
several persons of character and station, in presence of whom the
examination was made. So accurate was the narrative, that they found the
spot without difficulty, and, on digging down about two feet, they
came upon the articles which you now see before you. These, without any
examination, they at once sealed up in presence of the witnesses, and
here for the first time have they been displayed to view."

As the counsel had reached thus far, the fall of a heavy body resounded
through the court, and the cry was raised that the prisoner had been
seized with a fit.

"No, my Lord," exclaimed the lawyer; "fatigue and weariness alone
have produced this effect. My unhappy client is no more proof against
exhaustion than against slander."

"My Lord! my Lord!" cried the prisoner, as, holding by the spikes of the
dock, he leaned forwards over it, "can't I get justice? Is it my coat--"

"Sit down, sir," said his counsel, angrily; "leave this to _me_."

"What do you care what becomes of me?" cried the other, rudely. "Where's
Father Cahill? Where's----" At this instant his eyes met those of
D'Esmonde, as, seated in the gallery immediately above him, he watched
the proceedings with an agonizing interest only second to the prisoner's
own. "Oh, look what you've brought me to!" cried he, in an accent of
heart-broken misery; "oh, see where I'm standing now!"

The utterance of these words sent a thrill through the court, and the
judge was obliged to remind the prisoner that he was but endangering his
own safety by these rash interruptions.

"Sure I know it, my Lord; sure I feel it," cried he, sobbing; "but what
help have I? Is there no one to stand by me? You're looking for marks
of blood, ain't ye?" screamed he to the jury, who were now examining the
coat and cap with great attention. "And there it is now,--there it is!"
cried he, wildly, as his eyes detected a folded paper that one of
the jurymen had just taken from the coat-pocket "What could I get by
it?--sure the will could n't do me any harm."

"This _is_ a will, my Lord," said the foreman, handing the document down
to the bench. "It is dated, too, on the very-night before Mr. Godfrey's
death."

The judge quickly scanned the contents, and then passed it over to Mr.
Hipsley, who, glancing his eyes over it, exclaimed, "If we wanted any
further evidence to exculpate the memory of Mr. Dalton, it is here.
By this will, signed, sealed, and witnessed in all form, Mr. Godfrey
bequeathed to his brother-in-law his whole estate of Corrig-O'Neal, and,
with the exception of some trifling legacies, names him heir to all he
is possessed of."

"Let me out of this,--leave me free!" shouted the prisoner, whose
eyeballs now glared with the red glow of madness. "What brought me into
your schemes and plots?--why did I ever come here? Oh, my Lord, don't
see a poor man come to harm that has no friends. Bad luck to them here
and hereafter, the same Daltons! It was ould Peter turned me out upon
the world, and Godfrey was no better. Oh, my Lord! oh, gentlemen! if ye
knew what druv me to it,--but I did n't do it,--I never said I did. I'll
die innocent!"

These words were uttered with a wild volubility, and, when over, the
prisoner crouched down in the dock, and buried his face in his hands.
From that instant he never spoke a word. The trial was prolonged till
late into the night; a commission was sworn and sent to the inn, to
examine young Dalton and interrogate him on every point. All that skill
and address could do were exerted by the counsel for the defence; but,
as the case proceeded, the various facts only tended to strengthen and
corroborate each other, and long before the jury retired their verdict
was certain.

"Guilty, my Lord!" And, well known and anticipated as the words were,
they were heard in all that solemn awe their terrible import conveys.

The words seemed to rouse the prisoner from his state; for, as if with
a convulsive effort, he sprang to his legs, and advanced to the front
of the dock. To the dreadful question of the Judge, as to what he had to
say, why sentence of death should not be pronounced upon him, he made
no answer; and his wild gaze and astonished features showed an almost
unconsciousness of all around him. From this state of stupor he soon
rallied, and, grasping the iron spikes with his hands, he protruded his
head and shoulders over the dock, while he carried his eyes over the
assembled crowd, till at last they lighted on the spot where Cahill and
D'Esmonde were seated,--the former pale and anxious-looking, the latter
with his head buried in his hands. The prisoner nodded with an insolent
air of familiarity to the priest, and muttered a few broken words in
Irish. Again was the terrible demand made by the Judge; and now the
prisoner turned his face towards the bench, and stood as if reflecting
on his reply.

"Go on," cried he at last, in a tone of rude defiance; and the judge,
in all the passionless dignity of his high station, calmly reviewed the
evidence in the case, and gave his full concurrence to the verdict of
the jury.

"I cannot conclude," said he, solemnly, "without adverting to that
extraordinary combination of events by which this crime, after a long
lapse of years, has been brought home to its guilty author. The evidence
you have heard to-day from Mr. Dalton--the singular corroboration of
each particular stated by him in the very existence of the will, which
so strongly refutes the motive alleged against the late Mr. Dalton--were
all necessary links of the great chain of proof; and yet all these might
have existed in vain were it not for another agency, too eventful to
be called an accident; I allude to the circumstance by which this man
became acquainted with one who was himself peculiarly interested in an
fathoming the mystery of this murder; I mean the Abbé D'Esmonde. The
name of this gentleman has been more than once alluded to in this trial;
but he has not been brought before you, nor was there any need that he
should be. Now the Abbé, so far from connecting the prisoner with
the crime, believed him to be the agency by which it might have been
fastened on others; and to this end he devoted himself with every zeal
to the inquiry. Here, then, amidst all the remarkable coincidences of
this case, we find the very strangest of all; for this same Abbé,--the
accidental means of rescuing the prisoner from death at Venice, and who
is the chief agent in now bringing him to punishment here,--this Abbé is
himself the natural son of the late Mr. Godfrey. Sent when a mere boy to
St. Omer and Louvain to be educated for the Roman Catholic priesthood,
he was afterwards transferred to Salamanca, where he graduated, and took
deacon's orders. Without any other clew to his parentage than the vague
lines of admission in the conventual registry, the checks for money
signed and forwarded by Mr. Godfrey, this gentleman had risen by his
great talents to a high and conspicuous station before he addressed
himself to the search after his family. I have no right to pursue this
theme further; nor had I alluded to it at all, save as illustrating
in so remarkable a manner that direct and unmistakable impress of the
working of Providence in this case, showing how, amidst all the strange
chaos of a time of revolution and anarchy, when governments were
crumbling, and nations rending asunder, this one blood-spot--the foul
deed of murder----should cry aloud for retribution, and, by a succession
of the least likely incidents, bring the guilty man to justice."

After a careful review of all the testimony against the prisoner, the
conclusiveness of which left no room for a doubt, he told him to abandon
all hope of a pardon in this world, concluding, in the terrible words of
the law, by the sentence of death,----

"You, Samuel Eustace, will be taken from the bar of this court to
the place from whence you came, the jail, and thence to the place of
execution, there to be hung by the neck till you are dead--"

"Can I see my priest,----may the priest come to me?" cried the prisoner,
fiercely; for not even the appalling solemnity of the moment could
repress the savage energy of his nature.

"Miserable man," said the judge, in a faltering accent, "I beseech you
to employ well the few minutes that remain to you in this world, and
carry not into the next that spirit of defiance by which you would brave
an earthly judgment-seat. And may God have mercy on your soul!"



CHAPTER XL. THE RETRIBUTION.

The sudden flash of intelligence by which young Frank was enabled to
connect the almost forgotten incidents of boyhood with the date and
the other circumstances of the murder, had very nearly proved fatal to
himself. His brain was little able to resist the influence of all these
conflicting emotions; and for some days his faculties wandered away in
the wildest and most incoherent fancies. It was only on the very morning
of the trial that he became self-possessed and collected. Then it was
that he could calmly remember every detail of that fatal night, and see
their bearing on the mysterious subject of the trial. At first Grounsell
listened to his story as a mere raving; but when Frank described with
minute accuracy the appearance of the spot--the old orchard, the stone
stair that descended into the garden, and the little door which opened
into the wood,--he became eagerly excited; and, anxious to proceed with
every guarantee of caution, he summoned two other magistrates to the
bedside to hear the narrative. We have already seen the event which
followed that revelation, and by which the guilt of the murderer was
established.

From hour to hour, as the trial proceeded, Frank received tidings from
the court-house. The excitement, far from injuring, seemed to rally and
re-invigorate him; and although the painful exposure of their domestic
circumstances was cautiously slurred over to his ears, it was plain to
see the indignant passion with which he heard of Nelly and Kate being
dragged before the public eye. It was, indeed, a day of deep and
terrible emotion, and when evening came he sank into the heavy sleep
of actual exhaustion. While nothing was heard in the sick-room save the
long-drawn breathings of the sleeper, the drawing-rooms of the hotel
were crowded with the gentry of the neighborhood, all eager to see and
welcome the Dalton's home again. If the old were pleased to meet with
the veteran Count Stephen, the younger were no less delighted with even
such casual glimpses as they caught of Kate, in the few moments she
could spare from her brother's bedside. As for Lady Hester, such a
torrent of sensations, such a perfect avalanche of emotion, was perfect
ecstasy; perhaps not the least agreeable feeling being the assurance
that she no longer possessed any right or title to Corrig-O'Neal, and
was literally unprovided for in the world.

"One detests things by halves," said she; "but to be utterly ruined is
quite charming."

The country visitors were not a little surprised at the unfeigned
sincerity of her enjoyment, and still more, perhaps, at the warm
cordiality of her manner towards them,--she who, till now, had declined
all proffers of acquaintanceship, and seemed determined to shun them.

Consigning to her care all the duties of receiving the crowd of
visitors, which old Count Stephen was but too happy to see, Kate only
ventured for a few minutes at a time to enter the drawing-room. It was
while hastening back from one of these brief intervals that she heard
her name spoken in a low but distinct voice. She turned round, and saw a
man, closely enveloped in a large cloak, beside her.

"It is I, Miss Dalton,--the Abbé D'Esmonde," said he. "May I speak with
your brother?"

Kate could hardly answer him from terror. All the scenes in which she
had seen him figure rose before her view, and the man was, to her eyes,
the very embodiment of peril.

"My brother is too ill, sir, to receive you," said she. "In a few days
hence--"

"It will then be too late, Miss Dalton," said he, mournfully. "The very
seconds as they pass, now, are as days to one who stands on the brink of
eternity."

"Is there anything which I could communicate to him myself? for I am
fearful of what might agitate or excite him."

"If it most be so," said he, sighing, and as if speaking to himself.
"But could you not trust me to say a few words? I will be most
cautious."

"If, then,' to-morrow--"

"To-morrow! It must be now,--at this very instant!" cried he, eagerly.
"The life of one who is unfit to go hence depends upon it." Then, taking
her hand, he continued: "I have drawn up a few lines, in shape of a
petition for mercy to this wretched man. They must be in London by
to-morrow night, to permit of a reprieve before Saturday. Your brother's
signature is all-essential. For this I wished to see him, and to know
if he has any acquaintanceship with persons in power which could aid the
project. You see how short the time is; all depends upon minutes.
The Secretary of State can suspend the execution, and in the delay a
commutation of the sentence may be obtained."

"Oh, give it to me!" cried she, eagerly. And, snatching the paper from
his hands, she hurried into the chamber.

Frank Dalton was awake, but in all the languor of great debility. He
scarcely listened to his sister, till he heard her pronounce the name of
the Abbé D'Esmonde.

"Is he here, Kate?--is he here?" cried he, eagerly.

"Yes, and most anxious to see and speak with you."

"Then let him come in, Kate. Nay, nay, it will not agitate me."

Kate noiselessly retired, and, beckoning the Abbé to come forward, she
left the room, and closed the door.

D'Esmonde approached the sick-bed with a cautious, almost timid air, and
seated himself on a chair, without speaking.

"So, then, we are cousins, I find," said Frank, stretching out his
wasted hand towards him. "They tell me you are a Godfrey, Abbé?"

D'Esmonde pressed his hand in token of assent, but did not utter a word.

"I have no wish--I do not know if I have the right----to stand between
you and your father's inheritance. If I am destined to arise from this
sick-bed, the world is open to me, and I am not afraid to encounter it.
Let us be friends, then, D'Esmonde, in all candor and frankness."

"Willingly,--most willingly. There need be but one rivalry between us,"
said D*Esmonde, with a voice of deep feeling,--"in the struggle who
shall best serve the other. Had we known of this before; had I suspected
how our efforts might have been combined and united; had I but imagined
you as my ally, and not my--But these are too exciting themes to talk
upon. You are not equal to them."

"Not so; it is in such moments that I feel a touch of health and vigor
once again. Go on, I beseech you."

"I will speak of that which more immediately concerns us," said the
Abbé. "This wretched man stands for execution on Saturday. Let us try
to save him. His guilt must have already had its expiation in years
of remorse and suffering. Here is a petition I have drawn up to the
Secretary of State. It has been signed by several of the jury who
tried the cause. We want your name also to it Such a commutation as may
sentence him to exile is all that we pray for."

"Give me the pen; I 'll sign it at once."

"There,--in that space," said the' Abbé, pointing with his finger. "How
your hand trembles! This cannot be like your usual writing."

"Let me confirm it by my seal, then. You'll find it on the table
yonder."

D'Esmonde melted the wax, and stood beside him, while the youth pressed
down the seal.

"Even that," said the Abbé, "might be disputed. There 's some one
passing in the corridor; let him hear you acknowledge it as your act and
hand." And, so saying, he hastened to the door, and made a sign to the
waiter to come in. "Mr. Dalton desires you to witness his signature,"
said he to the man.

"I acknowledge this as mine," said Frank, already half exhausted by the
unaccustomed exertion.

"Your name, there, as witnessing it," whispered D'Esmonde; and the
waiter added his signature.

"Have you hope of success, Abbé?" said Frank, faintly.

"Hope never fails me," replied D'Esmonde, in a voice of bold and
assured tone. "It is the only capital that humble men like myself
possess; but we can draw upon it without limit. The fate of riches is
often ruins, but there is no bankruptcy in hope. Time presses now," said
he, as if suddenly remembering himself; "I must see to this at once.
When may I come again?"

"Whenever you like. I have much to say to you. I cannot tell you now how
strangely you are mixed up in my fancy--it is but fancy, after all--with
several scenes of terrible interest."

"What!--how do you mean?" said D'Esmonde, turning hastily about

"I scarcely know where to begin, or how to separate truth from its
counterfeit Your image is before me, at times and in places where you
could not have been. Ay, even in the very crash and tumult of battle, as
I remember once at Varenna, beside the Lake of Como. I could have sworn
to have seen you cheering on the peasants to the attack."

"What strange tricks imagination will play upon us!" broke in D'Ësmonde;
but his voice faltered, and his pale cheek grew paler as he said the
words.

"Then, again, in the Babli Palace at Milan, where I was brought as
a prisoner, I saw you leave the council-chamber arm-in-arm with an
Austrian Archduke. When I say I saw you, I mean as I now see you
here,--more palpable to my eyes than when you sat beside my sick-bed at
Verona."

"Dreams,----dreams," said D'Esmonde. "Such illusions bespeak a mind
broken by sickness. Forget them, Dalton, if you would train your
thoughts to higher uses." And, so saying, in a tone of pride, the Abbé
bowed, and passed out.

As D'Esmonde passed out into the street, Cahill joined him.

"Well," cried the latter, "is it done?"

"Yes, Michel," was the answer; "signed, and sealed, and witnessed in
all form. By this document I am recognized as a member of his family,
inheriting that which I shall never claim. No," cried he, with
exultation of voice and manner, "I want none of their possessions; I ask
but to be accounted of their race and name; and yet the time may come
when these conditions shall be reversed, and they who would scarcely own
me to-day may plot and scheme to trace our relationship. Now for Rome.
To-night--this very night--I set out. With this evidence of my station
and fortune there can be no longer any obstacle. The struggle is past;
now to enjoy the victory!"

"You will see him before you go, D'Esmonde? A few minutes is all he
asks."

"Why should I? What bond is there between us now? The tie is loosened
forever; besides, he deceived us, Michel,----deceived us in everything."

"Be it so," said the other; "but remember that it is the last prayer of
one under sentence of death,--the last wish of one who will soon have
passed away hence."

"Why should I go to hear the agonizing entreaties for a mercy that
cannot be granted,--the harrowing remorse of a guilty nature?"

"Do not refuse him, D'Esmonde. He clings to this object with a fixed
purpose that turns his mind from every thought that should become the
hour. In vain I speak to him of the short interval between him and
the grave. He neither hears nor heeds me. His only question is, 'Is he
coming,----will he come tome?'"

"To lose minutes, when every one of them is priceless, to waste emotions
when my heart is already racked and tortured,----why should I do this?"
cried D'Esmonde, peevishly.

"Do not refuse me, D'Esmonde," said Cahill, passionately. "I despair
of recalling the miserable man to the thought of his eternal peril till
this wish be satisfied."

"Be it so, then," said the Abbé, proudly; and he walked along beside his
friend in silence.

They traversed the streets without a word spoken. Already D'Esmonde
had assumed an air of reserve which seemed to mark the distance between
himself and his companion; the thoughtful gravity of his look savored no
less of pride than reflection. In such wise did Cahill read his manner,
and by a cautious deference appear to accept the new conditions of their
intimacy.

"The prisoner has not uttered a word since you were here, sir," said
the jailer, as they entered the gate. "He shows the greatest anxiety
whenever the door opens; but, as if disappointed at not seeing whom he
expected, relapses at once into his silent reserve."

"You see that he still expects you," whispered Cahill to the Abbé; and
the other assented with a faint nod of the head.

"No, sir; this way," said the jailer; "he is now in the condemned cell."
And, so saying, he led the way along the corridor.

By the faint light of a small lamp, fixed high up in the wall, they
could just detect the figure of a man, as he sat crouched on the low
settle-bed, his head resting on his arms as they were crossed over his
knees. He never moved as the grating sound of the heavy door jarred on
the stillness, but sat still and motionless.

"The Abbé D'Esmonde has come to see you, Eustace," said the jailer,
tapping him on the shoulder. "Wake up, man, and speak to him."

The prisoner lifted his head and made an effort to say something; but
though his lips moved, there came no sounds from them. At last, with
an effort that was almost convulsive, he pointed to the door, and said,
"Alone--alone!"

"He wants to speak with you alone, sir," whispered the jailer, "and so
we will retire."

D'Esmonde could not see them leave the cell without a sense of
fear,--less the dread of any personal injury than the strange terror
so inseparable to any close communion with one convicted of a dreadful
crime,--and he actually shuddered as the massive door was banged to.

"You are cold, sir!" said the prisoner, in a hollow, sepulchral voice.

"No, it was not cold!" replied D'Esmonde.

"I can guess what it was, then!" said the other, with an energy to which
passion seemed to contribute. "But I 'll not keep you long here. Sit
down, sir. You must sit beside me, for there is no other seat than the
settle-bed. But there is nobody here to see the great Abbé D'Esmonde
side by side with a murderer."

"Wretched man," said D'Esmonde, passionately, "by what fatality did you
rush upon your fate? Why did you ever return to this country?"

"It is to tell you that--ay, that very thing--I asked you to come here
to-night," said the prisoner, with a firm, full voice. "I came here
for _you_--just so--for _you yourself_, There, there," continued he,
naughtily, "don't look as if I wanted to trick you. Is it here. Is it
now, that a lie would sarve me? Listen to me, and don't stop me, for I
want to turn my thoughts to something else when this is off my heart.
Listen to me. Very soon after you saved me at Venice, I knew all about
you; who you were, and what you were planning,--ay, deep as you thought
yourself, I read every scheme in you, and opened every letter you wrote
or received. You don't believe me. Shall I give you a proof? Did you
accept eight bills for money Morlache the Jew sent you, from Florence,
in March last? Did Cardinal Antinori write to say that the Bull that
named you cardinal must have your birth set forth as noble? Did the
Austrian Field-Marshal send you the cross of St. Joseph, and did you not
return it, as to wear it would unmask you to the Italians?"

"What if all this were true?" said D'Esmonde, proudly. "Is it to one
like you I am to render account for my actions? What is it to you if--"

"What is it to _me?_" cried the other, fiercely,----"what is it to me?
Isn't it everything? Isn't it what brought me here, and what in three
days more will bring me to the gallows? I tell you again, I saw what you
were bent on, and I knew you 'd succeed,--ay, that I did. If it was good
blood you wanted to be a cardinal, I was the only one could help you."

"You knew the secret of my birth, then?" cried D'Esmonde, in deep
earnestness. "You could prove my descent from the Godfreys?"

"No! but I could destroy the only evidence against it," said the other,
in a deep, guttural voice. "I could tear out of the parish registry the
only leaf that could betray you; and it was for that I came back here;
and it was for that I 'm now here. And I did do it. I broke into the
vestry of the chapel at midnight, and I tore out the page, and I have
it here, in my hand, this minute. There was a copy of this same paper
at the college at Louvain, but I stole that, too; for I went as porter
there, just to get an opportunity to take it,--that one I destroyed."

"But whence this interest in my fortunes?" said D'Esmonde, half proudly,
for he was still slow to believe all that he heard.

"The paper will tell you that," said the other, slowly unfolding it, and
flattening it out on his knee. "This is the certificate of your baptism!
Wait--stop a minute," cried he, catching D'Esmonde's arm, as, in his
impatience, he tried to seize the paper. "This piece of paper is the
proof of who you are, and, moreover, the only proof that will soon exist
to show it."

"Give it to me--let me see it!" cried D'Esmonde, eagerly. "Why have you
withheld till this time what might have spared me anxious days and weary
nights; and by what right have you mixed yourself up with my fortunes?"

"By what right is it--by what right?" cried the other, in a voice which
passion rendered harsh and discordant. "Is that what you want to know?"
And, as he spoke, he bent down and fixed his eyes on the Abbé with a
stern stare. "You want to know what right I have," said he, and his face
became almost convulsed with passion. "There's my right--read that!"
cried he, holding out the paper before D'Esmonde's eyes. "There's your
birth proved and certified: 'Matthew, son of Samuel and Mary Eustace,
of Ballykinnon, baptized by me this 10th day of April, 18----. Joseph
Barry, P.P.' There's the copy of your admission into the convent, and
here's the superior's receipt for the first quarter's payment as a
probationer. Do you know who you are now? or do you still ask me what
right I have to meddle in your affairs?"

"And you--and you--you--" cried D'Esmonde, gasping.

"I am your father. Ay, you can hear the words here, and needn't start
at the sound of them. We're in the condemned cell of a jail, and
nobody near us. You are my son. Mr. Godfrey paid for you as a student
till--till--But it's all over now. I never meant you to know the truth;
but a lie would n't serve you any longer. Oh, Matthew, Matthew!" cried
he--and of a sudden his voice changed, and softened to accents of almost
choking sorrow--"haven't you one word for me?--one word of affection for
him that you brought to this, and who forgives you for it?--one word,
even to call me your own father?" He fell at the other's feet, and
clasped his arms around his knees as he spoke, but the appeal was
unheard.

[Illustration: 514]

Pale as a corpse, with his head slightly thrown forward, and his eyes
wildly staring before him, D'Esmonde sat, perfectly motionless. At last
the muscles of his mouth fashioned themselves into a ghastly smile,
a look of mockery so dreadful to gaze upon that the prisoner,
terror-stricken at the sight, rushed to the door, and beat loudly
against it, as he screamed for help. It was opened on the instant, and
the Jailer, followed by two others, entered.

"He's ill; his reverence is taken bad," said the old man, while he
trembled from head to foot with agitation.

"What's this paper? What is he clutching in his hands?" cried the
jailer.

D'Esmonde started at the words. For the first time a gleam of
intelligence shot over his features, and as suddenly he bent a look of
withering hate on the speaker; and then, with a passionate vehemence
that told of a frantic brain, he tore the paper into fragments, and,
with a wild yell, as if of triumph, he fell senseless on the ground.
When they lifted him up, his features were calm, but passionless, his
eye was vacant, and his lips slightly parted. An expression of weariness
and exhaustion, rather than of actual pain, pervaded the face. He never
spoke again. The lamp of intellect was extinguished forever, and not
even a flicker or a spark remained to cheer the darkness within him.
Hopeless and helpless idiotcy was ever after the lot of one whose mind,
once stored with the most lofty ambitions, never scrupled, at any cost,
to attain its object. And he whose proud aspirings soared to the very
grandest of earthly prizes, who gave his counsel among princes, now
lives on, bereft of mind and intelligence, without consciousness of the
past, or a hope for the future.



CHAPTER XLI. THE END

With the sad episode which closes our last chapter we would fain let
fall the curtain on this history. Very few words will now suffice to
complete the narrative of those with whom we have so long sojourned. The
discovery which revealed the murder of Mr. Godfrey restored Frank Dalton
to the home and fortune of his family; and although the trying scenes
through which he had passed made deep and dangerous inroads on his
health, youth and hope, and the watchful care of Kate, restored him;
and, after the lapse of some weeks, he was enabled to be about once
more, recalling to the recollection of many the handsome figure and
manly bearing of his father.

For many a year before, Corrig-O'Neal had not seen such a party beneath
its roof, nor had those gloomy old walls echoed to such sounds as now
were heard within them. In addition to Lady Hester, George Onslow, now
a colonel, was the guest of the Daltons. Scarcely arrived in England,
he quitted London at the moment when the tidings of his gallant
achievements had made him the hero of the day, and hurried to see _her_
who, through every change of his fortunes, had been the dearest object
of his heart.

What tender reproaches, what heart-warm confessions, did those old woods
hear, as, side by side, the lovers walked along, revealing the secret
sorrows of the past, and recalling each incident which once had cheered
with hope or shadowed with despair. But it is not in such company we
would play the "eavesdropper," nor watch for the changeful blushes of
that soft cheek where tears of joy and grief are mingled. Neither would
we care to accompany Grounsell, as with deeds and bonds, codicils and
conveyances, he actually hunted poor Frank from place to place, urgently
impressing on him the necessity for those "business habits," the
sad neglect of which had been the ruin of all the Daltons. As little
inducement is there to follow Lady Hester, whose restless activity
was interfering with every one and everything, taking the most lively
Interest in the property the very moment it ceased to be her own, and
devoted to all the charities which no longer could lay claim to being
duties.

Pleasanter, perhaps, would it be to follow the old Count, as he
sauntered alone for hours, trying to trace out in the long-forgotten
scenes the stories of his boyhood. What pleasant reveries they
were!--what glorious compensations for all the tumultuous passages of an
eventful life! And so he felt them! And so he recognized with grateful
heart the happy destiny which had befallen him, to close his days where
he had begun them--in the midst of his own--loving and beloved.

And yet with such scenes and emotions we must not dally. Story-tellers,
like Mother Carey's chickens, have no sympathies with sunny skies and
soft airs,--their province is amidst the hurricane and the storm. In
truth, too, it is the very essence of tranquil enjoyment that it must be
left to the imagination of each to conceive.

But one care weighed on all, and that was the absence of poor Nelly.
Why was she not amongst them, to see their happiness, and heighten its
enjoyment by all the benevolence of her kindly nature? It was true
they were relieved of all anxiety regarding her by a letter which had
followed them from Vienna, and which told how she had arrived in that
city a few days after they had left it.

     "I stood," she said, "looking at the great palace where they
     told me Count Stephen lived, and could not bring myself to
     think it was not a dream that such as _I_ should have
     business there!

     "I sat down on the steps of a church in front of it, and
     gazed for hours long at the great door through which you
     must have passed so often, and the windows which doubtless
     you stood at--perhaps thinking of poor Nelly! At last came
     Hanserl to say that he had obtained leave to see the palace;
     and oh, how my heart beat at the words,--for there was pride
     as well as humiliation in the thought,--and so we went in,
     and, crossing the great court, ascended the wide staircase.
     How beautiful it all was, those marble statues,--the rich
     frescos of the ceilings,--the gorgeous lamps, all emblazoned
     with armorial emblems; and yet I thought less of these than
     the polished steps which your feet had trodden, and which I
     could have kissed for your sake.

     "I had not imagined so much magnificence. You will smile,
     perhaps, at my simplicity, but so did not that kind old
     soldier with the wooden leg, who took such pains to show us
     everything. He was evidently pleased to witness our admiring
     wonder, and actually laughed at Hanserl's enthusiasm for all
     those bright scimitars and shields of Turkish make, the
     horse-tailed banners, and other emblems of Austrian victory;
     while I stole away silently into a little chamber all hung
     with blue damask, over the mantelpiece of which was a
     portrait of our own dear Frank. How I felt that the room was
     yours, Kate,--how my heart told me each object you had
     touched,--and how they all became to my delighted senses
     like precious relics, revealing stores of affection laid up
     in your bosom, and showing a wealth of love I was not
     conscious of till then. Oh, no, dearest sister, I never
     knew, till then, how things without life themselves can be
     the links between beating hearts! I looked everywhere for a
     portrait of yourself, and it was only by asking the old
     corporal that I succeeded in finding it. 'The Gräfin's
     picture is in the Field-Marshal's own room,' said he, with
     pride, and led the way towards it. Oh, Kate, how beautiful--
     nay, it is Nelly, your own stern Nelly, who never flattered
     you herself nor could bear others to do so--it is Nelly, the
     same Nelly, unchanged, save in being less trustful, less
     impulsive, less forgiving than you knew her, and _she_ tells
     you that at sight of such loveliness she stood wonderstruck
     and fascinated. Had you been really then before me, such as
     the picture represented, I had not dared to approach you;
     there was that of nobility and grandeur that had appalled my
     poor peasant heart, unused to the glitter of diamonds and
     the queenly air of high-born beauty; but, as I gazed on the
     likeness, long and steadily, this expression faded away,
     and, as though the lineaments were changing, I thought the
     eyes grew softer; they seemed to moisten, the lips trembled,
     the bosom heaved and fell, and it was you-----you! as I
     had pressed you to my heart a thousand times--my own! my
     own! I know not what foolish words I may have uttered, nor
     to what excess my rapture carried me, but I was weeping
     bitterly as they led me away,--ay, bitterly, Kate; for such
     ecstasy as I felt finds its true vent in sorrow! But now I
     am happy once more,--happy that I have seen you and dear
     Frank,--happy that each of us in life has trodden the path
     that best became him! and so I came away, with many a
     lingering look, and many a backward glance, at what I was
     never to see again.

     "Here, in my mountain home, once more I can sit, alone,
     and think of you for days. You wander through all my
     thoughts, the characters of endless stories, in every
     imaginable vicissitude, and with every change of fortune;
     but throughout all, Kate--good and beautiful--truthful too,
     as you ever were. There, my tears have blotted out what I
     tried to say, nor dare I trust myself with more. My school
     children are already coming through the vineyard; I hear
     their song,--it was your own long ago:----

     'Da sind die Täge lang gennch, Da sind die Nachte milde.'

     "Good-bye, good-bye, my sister--my dear sister.

     "N. D. Meran."


"Oh, let us hasten thither at once!" cried Kate, in rapture. "Oh, dear
uncle, let us away to Meran."

"Not till after Tuesday, Kate," whispered George, passionately; and the
words covered her cheeks with blushes as she heard them.

The reader knows now all that we care to tell him. Time was when
story-tellers wound up with a kind wish that, "if they were not happy,
that you and I may be." Nor am I quite certain that we are wiser in our
vocation than when those words were in vogue.

We are not vain enough to suppose that we have inspired an interest for
any of those characters who have supported the minor parts of our drama.
Should such good fortune have happily attended us, let us say, once for
all, that Messrs. Haggerstone, Jekyl, and Purvis yet survive; that the
Ricketts family are in excellent health, autograph gathering and duke
courting, poetizing and painting, and pilfering, with all the ardor of
youth, untouched by years and unrestrained by conscience. Lady Hester,
too, is again living abroad, and, after trying three new changes
of religion, is in treaty with a Heidelberg professor for a
"spick-and-span" new faith, which will transcend everything hitherto
known, and make even Mormonism ashamed of itself.

As for Prince Midchekoff, he and my Lady Norwood are the delight of
a foreign city which shall be nameless, and their receptions nightly
crowded by all the fashionable celebrities and distinguished visitors of
that favored region.

THE END.





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