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Title: "My Novel" — Volume 10
Author: Lytton, Edward Bulwer Lytton, Baron
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 ""My Novel" — Volume 10" ***

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BOOK TENTH.

INITIAL CHAPTER.


UPON THIS FACT,--THAT THE WORLD IS STILL MUCH THE SAME AS IT ALWAYS HAS
BEEN.

It is observed by a very pleasant writer, read nowadays only by the brave
pertinacious few who still struggle hard to rescue from the House of
Pluto the souls of departed authors, jostled and chased as those souls
are by the noisy footsteps of the living,--it is observed by the
admirable Charron, that "judgment and wisdom is not only the best, but
the happiest portion God Almighty hath distributed amongst men; for
though this distribution be made with a very uneven hand, yet nobody
thinks himself stinted or ill-dealt with, but he that hath never so
little is contented in this respect."

And, certainly, the present narrative may serve in notable illustration
of the remark so dryly made by the witty and wise preacher.  For whether
our friend Riccabocca deduce theories for daily life from the great folio
of Machiavelli; or that promising young gentleman, Mr. Randal Leslie,
interpret the power of knowledge into the art of being too knowing for
dull honest folks to cope with him; or acute Dick Avenel push his way up
the social ascent with a blow for those before, and a kick for those
behind him, after the approved fashion of your strong New Man; or Baron
Levy--that cynical impersonation of Gold--compare himself to the Magnetic
Rock in the Arabian tale, to which the nails in every ship that
approaches the influence of the loadstone fly from the planks, and a
shipwreck per day adds its waifs to the Rock,--questionless, at least; it
is, that each of those personages believes that Providence has bestowed
on him an elder son's inheritance of wisdom.  Nor, were we to glance
towards the obscurer paths of life, should we find good Parson Dale deem
himself worse off than the rest of the world in this precious commodity,
--as, indeed, he has signally evinced of late in that shrewd guess of his
touching Professor Moss.  Even plain Squire Hazeldean takes it for
granted that he could teach Audley Egerton a thing or two worth knowing
in politics; Mr. Stirn thinks that there is no branch of useful lore on
which he could not instruct the squire; while Sprott the tinker, with his
bag full of tracts and lucifer matches, regards the whole framework of
modern society, from a rick to a constitution, with the profound disdain
of a revolutionary philosopher.  Considering that every individual thus
brings into the stock of the world so vast a share of intelligence, it
cannot but excite our wonder to find that Oxenstiern is popularly held to
be right when he said, "See, my son, how little wisdom it requires to
govern States,"--that is, Men!  That so many millions of persons, each
with a profound assurance that he is possessed of an exalted sagacity,
should concur in the ascendancy of a few inferior intellects, according
to a few stupid, prosy, matter-of-fact rules as old as the hills, is a
phenomenon very discreditable to the spirit and energy of the aggregate
human species!  It creates no surprise that one sensible watch-dog should
control the movements of a flock of silly grass-eating sheep; but that
two or three silly grass-eating sheep should give the law to whole flocks
of such mighty sensible watch-dogs--/Diavolo!/  Dr. Riecabocca, explain
that, if you can!  And wonderfully strange it is, that notwithstanding
all the march of enlightenment, notwithstanding our progressive
discoveries in the laws of Nature, our railways, steam-engines, animal
magnetism, and electrobiology,--we have never made any improvement that
is generally acknowledged, since men ceased to be troglodytes and nomads,
in the old-fashioned gamut of flats and sharps, which attunes into
irregular social jog-trot all the generations that pass from the cradle
to the grave; still, "/the desire for something have have not/" impels
all the energies that keep us in movement, for good or for ill, according
to the checks or the directions of each favourite desire.

A friend of mine once said to a millionaire, whom he saw forever engaged
in making money which he never seemed to have any pleasure in spending,
"Pray, Mr ----, will you answer me one question: You are said to have two
millions, and you spend L600 a year.  In order to rest and enjoy, what
will content you?"

"A little more," answered the millionaire.  That "little more" is the
mainspring of civilization.  Nobody ever gets it!

"Philus," saith a Latin writer, "was not so rich as Laelius; Laelius was
not so rich as Scipio; Scipio was not so rich as Crassus; and Crassus was
not so rich--as he wished to be!"  If John Bull were once contented,
Manchester might shut up its mills.  It is the "little more" that makes
a mere trifle of the National Debt!--Long life to it!

Still, mend our law-books as we will, one is forced to confess that
knaves are often seen in fine linen, and honest men in the most shabby
old rags; and still, notwithstanding the exceptions, knavery is a very
hazardous game, and honesty, on the whole, by far the best policy.
Still, most of the Ten Commandments remain at the core of all the
Pandects and Institutes that keep our hands off our neighbours' throats,
wives, and pockets; still, every year shows that the parson's maxim--"non
quieta movere "--is as prudent for the health of communities as when
Apollo recommended his votaries not to rake up a fever by stirring the
Lake Camarina; still, people, thank Heaven, decline to reside in
parallelograms, and the surest token that we live under a free government
is when we are governed by persons whom we have a full right to imply, by
our censure and ridicule, are blockheads compared to ourselves!  Stop
that delightful privilege, and, by Jove!  sir, there is neither pleasure
nor honour in being governed at all!  You might as well be--a Frenchman!



CHAPTER II.

The Italian and his friend are closeted together.

"And why have you left your home in  -----shire, and why this new change
of name?"

"Peschiera is in England."

"I know it."

"And bent on discovering me; and, it is said, of stealing from me my
child."

"He has had the assurance to lay wagers that he will win the hand of your
heiress.  I know that too; and therefore I have come to England,--first
to baffle his design--for I do not think your fears altogether
exaggerated,--and next to learn from you how to follow up a clew which,
unless I am too sanguine, may lead to his ruin, and your unconditional
restoration.  Listen to me.  You are aware that, after the skirmish with
Peschiera's armed hirelings sent in search of you, I received a polite
message from the Austrian government, requesting me to leave its Italian
domains.  Now, as I hold it the obvious duty of any foreigner admitted to
the hospitality of a State, to refrain from all participation in its
civil disturbances, so I thought my honour assailed at this intimation,
and went at once to Vienna, to explain to the minister there (to whom I
was personally known), that though I had, as became man to man, aided
to protect a refugee, who had taken shelter under my roof, from the
infuriated soldiers at the command of his private foe, I had not only
not shared in any attempt at revolt, but dissuaded, as far as I could,
my Italian friends from their enterprise; and that because, without
discussing its merits, I believed, as a military man and a cool
spectator, the enterprise could only terminate in fruitless bloodshed.
I was enabled to establish my explanation by satisfactory proof; and my
acquaintance with the minister assumed something of the character of
friendship.  I was then in a position to advocate your cause, and to
state your original reluctance to enter into the plots of the insurgents.
I admitted freely that you had such natural desire for the independence
of your native land, that, had the standard of Italy been boldly hoisted
by its legitimate chiefs, or at the common uprising of its whole people,
you would have been found in the van, amidst the ranks of your
countrymen; but I maintained that you would never have shared in a
conspiracy frantic in itself, and defiled by the lawless schemes and
sordid ambition of its main projectors, had you not been betrayed and
decoyed into it by the misrepresentations and domestic treachery of your
kinsman,--the very man who denounced you.  Unfortunately, of this
statement I had no proof but your own word.  I made, however, so far an
impression in your favour, and, it may be, against the traitor, that your
property was not confiscated to the State, nor handed over, upon the plea
of your civil death, to your kinsman."

"How!--I do not understand.  Peschiera has the property?" "He holds the
revenues but of one half upon pleasure, and they would be withdrawn,
could I succeed in establishing the case that exists against him.  I was
forbidden before to mention this to you; the minister, not inexcusably,
submitted you to the probation of unconditional exile.  Your grace might
depend upon your own forbearance from further conspiracies--forgive the
word.  I need not say I was permitted to return to Lombardy.  I found, on
my arrival, that--that your unhappy wife had been to my house, and
exhibited great despair at hearing of my departure."

Riccabocca knit his dark brows, and breathed hard.

"I did not judge it necessary to acquaint you with this circumstance, nor
did it much affect me.  I believed in her guilt--and what could now avail
her remorse, if remorse she felt?  Shortly afterwards, I heard that she
was no more."

"Yes," muttered Riccabocca, "she died in the same year that I left Italy.
It must be a strong reason that can excuse a friend for reminding me even
that she once lived!"

"I come at once to that reason," said L'Estrange, gently.  "This autumn I
was roaming through Switzerland, and, in one of my pedestrian excursions
amidst the mountains, I met with an accident, which confined me for some
days to a sofa at a little inn in an obscure village.  My hostess was an
Italian; and as I had left my servant at a town at some distance, I
required her attention till I could write to him to come to me.  I was
thankful for her cares, and amused by her Italian babble.  We became very
good friends.  She told me she had been servant to a lady of great rank,
who had died in Switzerland; and that, being enriched by the generosity
of her mistress, she had married a Swiss innkeeper, and his people had
become hers.  My servant arrived, and my hostess learned my name, which
she did not know before.  She came into my room greatly agitated.  In
brief, this woman had been servant to your wife.  She had accompanied her
to my villa, and known of her anxiety to see me, as your friend.  The
Government had assigned to your wife your palace at Milan, with a
competent income.  She had refused to accept of either.  Failing to see
me, she had set off towards England, resolved upon seeing yourself; for
the journals had stated that to England you had escaped."

"She dared! shameless!  And see, but a moment before, I had forgotten all
but her grave in a foreign soil,--and these tears had forgiven her,"
murmured the Italian.

"Let them forgive her still," said Harley, with all his exquisite
sweetness of look and tone.  "I resume.  On entering Switzerland your
wife's health, which you know was always delicate, gave way.  To fatigue
and anxiety succeeded fever, and delirium ensued.  She had taken with her
but this one female attendant--the sole one she could trust--on leaving
home.  She suspected Peschiera to have bribed her household.  In the
presence of this woman she raved of her innocence, in accents of terror
and aversion denounced your kinsman, and called on you to vindicate her
name and your own."

"Ravings indeed!  Poor Paulina!" groaned Riccabocca, covering his face
with both hands.

"But in her delirium there were lucid intervals.  In one of these she
rose, in spite of all her servants could do to restrain her, took from
her desk several letters, and reading them over, exclaimed piteously,
'But how to get them to him; whom to trust?  And his friend is gone!'
Then an idea seemed suddenly to flash upon her, for she uttered a joyous
exclamation, sat down, and wrote long and rapidly, enclosed what she
wrote with all the letters, in one packet, which she sealed carefully,
and bade her servant carry to the post, with many injunctions to take it
with her own hand, and pay the charge on it.  'For oh!' said she (I
repeat the words as my informant told them to me),--'for oh! this is my
sole chance to prove to my husband that, though I have erred, I am not
the guilty thing he believes me; the sole chance, too, to redeem my
error, and restore, perhaps, to my husband his country, to my child her
heritage.'  The servant took the letter to the post; and when she
returned, her lady was asleep, with a smile upon her face.  But from that
sleep she woke again delirious, and before the next morning her soul had
fled."  Here Riccabocca lifted one hand from his face and grasped
Harley's arm, as if mutely beseeching him to pause.  The heart of the man
struggled hard with his pride and his philosophy; and it was long before
Harley could lead him to regard the worldly prospects which this last
communication from his wife might open to his ruined fortunes,--not,
indeed, till Riccabocca had persuaded himself, and half persuaded Harley
(for strong, indeed, was all presumption of guilt against the dead), that
his wife's protestations of innocence from all but error had been but
ravings.

"Be this as it may," said Harley, "there seems every reason to suppose
that the letters enclosed were Peschiera's correspondence, and that, if
so, these would establish the proof of his influence over your wife, and
of his perfidious machinations against yourself.  I resolved, before
coming hither, to go round by Vienna.  There I heard, with dismay, that
Peschiera had not only obtained the imperial sanction to demand your
daughter's hand, but had boasted to his profligate circle that he should
succeed; and he was actually on his road to England.  I saw at once that
could this design, by any fraud or artifice, be successful with Violante
(for of your consent, I need not say, I did not dream), the discovery of
the packet, whatever its contents, would be useless; Peschiera's end
would be secured.  I saw also that his success would suffice forever to
clear his name; for his success must imply your consent (it would be to
disgrace your daughter, to assert that she had married without it), and
your consent would be his acquittal.  I saw, too, with alarm, that to all
means for the accomplishment of his project he would be urged by despair;
for his debts are great, and his character nothing but new wealth can
support.  I knew that he was able, bold, determined, and that he had
taken with him a large supply of money borrowed upon usury,--in a word, I
trembled for you both.  I have now seen your daughter, and I tremble no
more.  Accomplished seducer as Peschiera boasts himself, the first look
upon her face so sweet, yet so noble, convinced me that she is proof
against a legion of Peschieras.  Now, then, return we to this all-
important subject,--to this packet.  It never reached you.  Long years
have passed since then.

"Does it exist still?  Into whose hands would it have fallen?

"Try to summon up all your recollections.  The servant could not remember
the name of the person to whom it was addressed; she only insisted that
the name began with a B, that it was directed to England, and that to
England she accordingly paid the postage.  Whom then, with a name that
begins with B, or (in case the servant's memory here mislead her) whom
did you or your wife know, during your visit to England, with sufficient
intimacy to make it probable that she would select such a person for her
confidant?"

"I cannot conceive," said Riccabocca, shaking his head.  "We came to
England shortly after our marriage.  Paulina was affected by the climate.
She spoke not a word of English, and indeed not even French, as might
have been expected from her birth, for her father was poor, and
thoroughly Italian.  She refused all society.  I went, it is true,
somewhat into the London world,--enough to induce me to shrink from
the contrast that my second visit as a beggared refugee would have
made to the reception I met with on my first; but I formed no intimate
friendships.  I recall no one whom she could have written to as intimate
with me."

"But," persisted Harley, "think again.  Was there no lady well acquainted
with Italian, and with whom, perhaps, for that very reason, your wife
became familiar?"

"Ah, it is true.  There was one old lady of retired habits, but who had
been much in Italy.  Lady--Lady--I remember--Lady Jane Horton."

"Horton--Lady Jane!" exclaimed Harley; "again; thrice in one day!--
is this wound never to scar over?"  Then, noting Riccabocca's look of
surprise, he said, "Excuse me, my friend; I listen to you with renewed
interest.  Lady Jane was a distant relation of my own; she judged me,
perhaps, harshly--and I have some painful associations with her name;
but she was a woman of many virtues.  Your wife knew her?"

"Not, however, intimately; still, better than any one else in London.
But Paulina would not have written to her; she knew that Lady Jane had
died shortly after her own departure from England.  I myself was summoned
back to Italy on pressing business; she was too unwell to journey with me
as rapidly as I was obliged to travel; indeed, illness detained her
several weeks in England.  In this interval she might have made
acquaintances.  Ah, now I see; I guess.  You say the name began with
B.  Paulina, in my absence, engaged a companion,--a Mrs. Bertram.  This
lady accompanied her abroad.  Paulina became excessively attached to her,
she knew Italian so well.  Mrs. Bertram left her on the road, and
returned to England, for some private affairs of her own.  I forget why
or wherefore; if, indeed, I ever asked or learned.  Paulina missed her
sadly, often talked of her, wondered why she never heard from her.  No
doubt it was to this Mrs. Bertram that she wrote!"

"And you don't know the lady's friends, or address?"

"No."

"Nor who recommended her to your wife?"

"No."

"Probably Lady Jane Horton?"

"It may be so.

"Very likely."

"I will follow up this track, slight as it is."

"But if Mrs. Bertram received the communication, how comes it that it
never reached myself--Oh, fool that I am, how should it!  I, who guarded
so carefully my incognito!"

"True.  This your wife could not foresee; she would naturally imagine
that your residence in England would be easily discovered.  But many
years must have passed since your wife lost sight of this Mrs. Bertram,
if their acquaintance was made so soon after your marriage; and now it is
a long time to retrace,--before even your Violante was born."

"Alas! yes.  I lost two fair sons in the interval.  Violante was born to
me as the child of sorrow."

"And to make sorrow lovely!  how beautiful she is!" The father smiled
proudly.

"Where, in the loftiest houses of Europe, find a husband worthy of such a
prize?"

"You forget that I am still an exile, she still dowerless.  You forget
that I am pursued by Peschiera; that I would rather see her a beggar's
wife--than---Pah, the very thought maddens me, it is so foul. /Corpo di
Bacco!/  I have been glad to find her a husband already."

"Already!  Then that young man spoke truly?"

"What young man?"

"Randal Leslie.  How!  You know him?"  Here a brief explanation followed.
Harley heard with attentive ear, and marked vexation, the particulars of
Riccabocca's connection and implied engagement with Leslie.

"There is something very suspicious to me in all this," said he.

"Why should this young man have so sounded me as to Violante's chance of
losing fortune if she married, an Englishman?"

"Did he?  Oh, pooh!  Excuse him.  It was but his natural wish to seem
ignorant of all about me.  He did not know enough of my intimacy with you
to betray my secret."

But he knew enough of it--must have known enough--to have made it right
that he should tell you I was in England.  He does not seem to have done
so."

"No; that is strange--yet scarcely strange; for, when we last met, his
head was full of other things,--love and marriage. /Basta!/ youth will be
youth."

"He has no youth left in him!" exclaimed Harley, passionately.  "I doubt
if he ever had any.  He is one of those men who come into the world with
the pulse of a centenarian.  You and I never shall be as old as he was in
long clothes.  Ah, you may laugh; but I am never wrong in my instincts.
I disliked him at the first,--his eye, his smile, his voice, his very
footstep.  It is madness in you to countenance such a marriage; it may
destroy all chance of your restoration."

"Better that than infringe my word once passed."

"No, no," exclaimed Harley; "your word is not passed, it shall not be
passed.  Nay, never look so piteously at me.  At all events, pause till
we know more of this young man.  If he be worthy of her without a dower,
why, then, let him lose you your heritage.  I should have no more to
say."

"But why lose me my heritage?  There is no law in Austria which can
dictate to a father what husband to choose for his daughter."

"Certainly not.  But you are out of the pale of law itself just at
present; and it would surely be a reason for State policy to withhold
your pardon, and it would be to the loss of that favour with your own
countrymen, which would now make that pardon so popular, if it were known
that the representative of your name were debased by your daughter's
alliance with an English adventurer,--a clerk in a public office.  Oh,
sage in theory, why are you such a simpleton in action?"

Nothing moved by this taunt, Riceabocca rubbed his hands, and then
stretched them comfortably over the fire.

"My friend," said he, "the representation of my name would pass to my
son."

"But you have no son."

"Hush!  I am going to have one; my Jemima informed me of it yesterday
morning; and it was upon that information that I resolved to speak to
Leslie.  Am I a simpleton now?"

"Going to have a son," repeated Harley, looking very bewildered; "how do
you know it is to be a son?"

"Physiologists are agreed," said the sage, positively, "that where the
husband is much older than the wife, and there has been a long interval
without children before she condescends to increase the population of the
world, she (that is, it is at least as nine to four)--she brings into the
world a male.  I consider that point therefore as settled, according to
the calculations of statisticians and the researches of naturalists."

Harley could not help laughing, though he was still angry and disturbed.

"The same man as ever; always the fool of philosophy."

"/Cospetto!/" said Riccabocca.  "I am rather the philosopher of fools.
And talking of that, shall I present you to my Jemima?"

"Yes; but in turn I must present you to one who remembers with gratitude
your kindness, and whom your philosophy, for a wonder, has not ruined.
Some time or other you must explain that to me.  Excuse me for a moment;
I will go for him.

"For him,--for whom?  In my position I must be cautious; and--"

"I will answer for his faith and discretion.  Meanwhile order dinner, and
let me and my friend stay to share it."

"Dinner? /Corpo di Bacco!/---not that Bacchus can help us here.  What
will Jemima say?"

"Henpecked man, settle that with your connubial tyrant.  But dinner it
must be."

I leave the reader to imagine the delight of Leonard at seeing once more
Riccabocca unchanged and Violante so improved, and the kind Jemima too;
and their wonder at him and his history, his books and his fame.  He
narrated his struggles and adventures with a simplicity that removed from
a story so personal the character of egotism.  But when he came to speak
of Helen he was brief and reserved.

Violante would have questioned more closely; but, to Leonard's relief,
Harley interposed.

"You shall see her whom he speaks of before long, and question her
yourself."

With these words, Harley turned the young man's narrative into new
directions; and Leonard's words again flowed freely.  Thus the evening
passed away happily to all save Riccabocca.  For the thought of his dead
wife rose ever and anon before the exile; but when it did, and became too
painful, he crept nearer to Jemima, and looked in her simple face, and
pressed her cordial hand.  And yet the monster had implied to Harley that
his comforter was a fool,--so she was, to love so contemptible a
slanderer of herself and her sex.

Violante was in a state of blissful excitement; she could not analyze her
own joy.  But her conversation was chiefly with Leonard; and the most
silent of all was Harley.  He sat listening to Leonard's warm yet
unpretending eloquence,--that eloquence which flows so naturally from
genius, when thoroughly at its ease, and not chilled back on itself by
hard, unsympathizing hearers; listened, yet more charmed, to the
sentiments less profound, yet no less earnest,--sentiments so feminine,
yet so noble, with which Violante's fresh virgin heart responded to the
poet's kindling soul.  Those sentiments of hers were so unlike all he
heard in the common world, so akin to himself in his gone youth!
Occasionally--at some high thought of her own, or some lofty line from
Italian song, that she cited with lighted eyes, and in melodious accents
--occasionally he reared his knightly head, and his lip quivered, as if
he had heard the sound of a trumpet.  The inertness of long years was
shaken.  The Heroic, that lay deep beneath all the humours of his
temperament, was reached, appealed to; and stirred within him, rousing up
all the bright associations connected with it, and long dormant.  When he
arose to take leave, surprised at the lateness of the hour, Harley said,
in a tone that bespoke the sincerity of the compliment, "I thank you for
the happiest hours I have known for years."  His eye dwelt on Violante as
he spoke.

But timidity returned to her with his words, at his look; and it was no
longer the inspired muse, but the bashful girl that stood before him.

"And when shall I see you again?" asked Riccabocca, disconsolately,
following his guest to the door.

"When?  Why, of course, to-morrow.  Adieu!  my friend.  No wonder you
have borne your exile so patiently,--with such a child!"

He took Leonard's arm, and walked with him to the inn where he had left
his horse.  Leonard spoke of Violante with enthusiasm.  Harley was
silent.



CHAPTER III.

The next day a somewhat old-fashioned, but exceedingly patrician,
equipage stopped at Riccabocca's garden-gate.  Giacomo, who, from a
bedroom window, had caught sight of its winding towards the house, was
seized with undefinable terror when he beheld it pause before their
walls, and heard the shrill summons at the portal.  He rushed into his
master's presence, and implored him not to stir,--not to allow any one to
give ingress to the enemies the machine might disgorge.  "I have heard,"
said he, "how a town in Italy--I think it was Bologna--was once taken and
given to the sword, by incautiously admitting a wooden horse full of the
troops of Barbarossa and all manner of bombs and Congreve rockets."

"The story is differently told in Virgil," quoth Riccabocca, peeping out
of the window.  "Nevertheless, the machine looks very large and
suspicious; unloose Pompey."

"Father," said Violante, colouring, "it is your friend, Lord L'Estrange;
I hear his voice."

"Are you sure?"

"Quite.  How can I be mistaken?"

"Go, then, Giacomo; but take Pompey with thee,--and give the alarm if we
are deceived."

But Violante was right; and in a few moments Lord L'Estrange was seen
walking up the garden, and giving the arm to two ladies.

"Ah," said Riccabocca, composing his dressing-robe round him, "go, my
child, and summon Jemima.  Man to man; but, for Heaven's sake, woman to
woman."

Harley had brought his mother and Helen, in compliment to the ladies of
his friend's household.

The proud countess knew that she was in the presence of Adversity, and
her salute to Riccabocca was only less respectful than that with which
she would have rendered homage to her sovereign.  But Riccabocca, always
gallant to the sex that he pretended to despise, was not to be outdone in
ceremony; and the bow which replied to the courtesy would have edified
the rising generation, and delighted such surviving relics of the old
Court breeding as may linger yet amidst the gloomy pomp of the Faubourg
St. Germain.  These dues paid to etiquette, the countess briefly
introduced Helen as Miss Digby, and seated herself near the exile.
In a few moments the two elder personages became quite at home with each
other; and, really, perhaps Riccabocca had never, since we have known
him, showed to such advantage as by the side of his polished, but
somewhat formal visitor.  Both had lived so little with our modern, ill-
bred age!  They took out their manners of a former race, with a sort of
pride in airing once more such fine lace and superb brocade.  Riccabocca
gave truce to the shrewd but homely wisdom of his proverbs, perhaps he
remembered that Lord Chesterfield denounces proverbs as vulgar; and gaunt
though his figure, and far from elegant though his dressing-robe, there
was that about him which spoke undeniably of the grand seigneur,--of one
to whom a Marquis de Dangeau would have offered a fauteuil by the side of
the Rohans and Montmorencies.

Meanwhile Helen and Harley seated themselves a little apart, and were
both silent,--the first, from timidity; the second, from abstraction.
At length the door opened, and Harley suddenly sprang to his feet,--
Violante and Jemima entered.  Lady Lansinere's eyes first rested on the
daughter, and she could scarcely refrain from an exclamation of admiring
surprise; but then, when she caught sight of Mrs. Riccabocca's somewhat
humble, yet not obsequious mien,--looking a little shy, a little homely,
yet still thoroughly a gentlewoman (though of your plain, rural kind of
that genus), she turned from the daughter, and with the /savoir vivre/ of
the fine old school, paid her first respects to the wife; respects
literally, for her manner implied respect,--but it was more kind, simple,
and cordial than the respect she had shown to Riccabocca; as the sage
himself had said, here "it was Woman to Woman."  And then she took
Violante's hand in both hers, and gazed on her as if she could not resist
the pleasure of contemplating so much beauty.  "My son," she said softly,
and with a half sigh,--"my son in vain told me not to be surprised.  This
is the first time I have ever known reality exceed description!"

Violante's blush here made her still more beautiful; and as the countess
returned to Riccabocca, she stole gently to Helen's side.

"Miss Digby, my ward," said Harley, pointedly, observing that his mother
had neglected her duty of presenting Helen to the ladies.  He then
reseated himself, and conversed with Mrs. Riccabocca; but his bright,
quick eye glanced over at the two girls.  They were about the same age--
and youth was all that, to the superficial eye, they seemed to have in
common.  A greater contrast could not well be conceived; and, what is
strange, both gained by it.  Violante's brilliant loveliness seemed yet
more dazzling, and Helen's fair, gentle face yet more winning.  Neither
had mixed much with girls of her own age; each took to the other at first
sight.  Violante, as the less shy, began the conversation.

"You are his ward,--Lord L'Estrange's?"

"Yes."

"Perhaps you came with him from Italy?"

"No, not exactly; but I have been in Italy for some years."

"Ah!  you regret--nay, I am foolish--you return to your native land.  But
the skies in Italy are so blue,--here it seems as if Nature wanted
colours."

"Lord L'Estrange says that you were very young when you left Italy; you
remember it well.  He, too, prefers Italy to England."

"He!  Impossible!"

"Why impossible, fair sceptic?" cried Harley, interrupting himself in the
midst of a speech to Jemima.

Violante had not dreamed that she could be overheard--she was speaking
low; but, though visibly embarrassed, she answered distinctly,

"Because in England there is the noblest career for noble minds."

Harley was startled, and replied, with a slight sigh, "At your age I
should have said as you do.  But this England of ours is so crowded with
noble minds that they only jostle each other, and the career is one cloud
of dust."

"So, I have read, seems a battle to a common soldier, but not to the
chief."

"You have read good descriptions of battles, I see."

Mrs. Riccabocca, who thought this remark a taunt upon her step-daughter's
studies, hastened to Violante's relief.

"Her papa made her read the history of Italy, and I believe that is full
of battles."

HARLEY.--"All history is, and all women are fond of war and of warriors.
I wonder why?"

VIOLANTE (turning to Helen, and in a very low voice, resolved that Harley
should not hear this time).--" We can guess why,--can we not?"

HARLEY (hearing every word, as if it had been spoken in St. Paul's
Whispering Gallery).--"If you can guess, Helen, pray tell me."

HELEN (shaking her pretty head, and answering with a livelier smile than
usual).--"But I am not fond of war and warriors."

HARLEY (to Violante).--"Then I must appeal at once to you, self-convicted
Bellona that you are.  Is it from the cruelty natural to the female
disposition?"

VIOLANTE (with a sweet musical laugh). "From two propensities still more
natural to it."

HARLEY.--"YOU puzzle me: what can they be?"

VIOLANTE.--"Pity and admiration; we pity the weak and admire the brave."

Harley inclined his head, and was silent.

Lady Lansmere had suspended her conversation with Riccabocca to listen to
this dialogue.  "Charming!" she cried.

"You have explained what has often perplexed me.  Ah, Harley, I am glad
to see that your satire is foiled: you have no reply to that."

"No; I willingly own myself defeated, too glad to claim the signorina's
pity, since my cavalry sword hangs on the wall, and I can have no longer
a professional pretence to her admiration."

He then rose, and glanced towards the window.  "But I see a more
formidable disputant for my conqueror to encounter is coming into the
field,--one whose profession it is to substitute some other romance for
that of camp and siege."

"Our friend Leonard," said Riccabocca, turning his eye also towards the
window.  "True; as Quevedo says, wittily, 'Ever since there has been so
great a demand for type, there has been much less lead to spare for
cannon-balls.'"

Here Leonard entered.  Harley had sent Lady Lansmere's footman to him
with a note, that prepared him to meet Helen.  As he came into the room,
Harley took him by the hand and led him to Lady Lansmere.

"The friend of whom I spoke.  Welcome him now for my sake, ever after for
his own;" and then, scarcely allowing time for the countess's elegant and
gracious response, he drew Leonard towards Helen.  "Children," said he,
with a touching voice, that thrilled through the hearts of both, "go and
seat yourselves yonder, and talk together of the past.  Signorina, I
invite you to renewed discussion upon the abstruse metaphysical subject
you have started; let us see if we cannot find gentler sources for pity
and admiration than war and warriors."  He took Violante aside to the
window.  "You remember that Leonard, in telling you his history last
night, spoke, you thought, rather too briefly of the little girl who had
been his companion in the rudest time of his trials.  When you would have
questioned more, I interrupted you, and said, 'You should see her
shortly, and question her yourself.'  And now what think you of Helen
Digby?  Hush, speak low.  But her ears are not so sharp as mine."

VIOLANTE.--"Ah!  that is the fair creature whom Leonard called his child-
angel?  What a lovely innocent face!--the angel is there still."

HARLEY (pleased both at the praise and with her who gave it).--"You think
so; and you are right.  Helen is not communicative.  But fine natures are
like fine poems,--a glance at the first two lines suffices for a guess
into the beauty that waits you if you read on."

Violante gazed on Leonard and Helen as they sat apart.  Leonard was the
speaker, Helen the listener; and though the former had, in his narrative
the night before, been indeed brief as to the episode in his life
connected with the orphan, enough had been said to interest Violante in
the pathos of their former position towards each other, and in the
happiness they must feel in their meeting again,--separated for years on
the wide sea of life, now both saved from the storm and shipwreck.  The
tears came into her eyes.  "True," she said, very softly, "there is more
here to move pity and admiration than in--" She paused.

HARLEY.---"Complete the sentence.  Are you ashamed to retract?  Fie on
your pride and obstinacy!"

VIOLANTE.--"No; but even here there have been war and heroism,--the war
of genius with adversity, and heroism in the comforter who shared it and
consoled.  Ah, wherever pity and admiration are both felt, something
nobler than mere sorrow must have gone before: the heroic must exist."

"Helen does not know what the word 'heroic' means," said Harley, rather
sadly; "you must teach her."

"Is it possible," thought he as he spoke, "that a Randal Leslie could
have charmed this grand creature?  No 'Heroic' surely, in that sleek
young placeman.---"Your father," he said aloud, and fixing his eyes on
her face, "sees much, he tells me, of a young man about Leonard's age,
as to date; but I never estimate the age of men by the parish register,
and I should speak of that so-called young man as a contemporary of my
great-grandfather,--I mean Mr. Randal Leslie.  Do you like him?"

"Like him," said Violante, slowly, and as if sounding her own mind,--
"like him--yes."

"Why?" asked Harley, with dry and curt indignation.  "His visits seem to
please my dear father.  Certainly I like him."

"Hum.  He professes to like you, I suppose?"

Violante laughed unsuspiciously.  She had half a mind to reply, "Is that
so strange?"  But her respect for Harley stopped her.  The words would
have seemed to her pert.  "I am told he is clever," resumed Harley.

"Oh, certainly."

"And he is rather handsome.  But I like Leonard's face better."

"Better--that is not the word.  Leonard's face is as that of one who has
gazed so often upon Heaven; and Mr. Leslie's--there is neither sunlight
nor starlight reflected there."

"My dear Violante?" exclaimed Harley, overjoyed; and he pressed her hand.

The blood rushed over the girl's cheek and brow; her hand trembled in
his.  But Harley's familiar exclamation might have come from a father's
lips.

At this moment Helen softly approached them, and looking timidly into her
guardian's face, said, "Leonard's mother is with him: he asks me to call
and see her.  May I?"

"May you!  A pretty notion the signorina must form of your enslaved state
of pupilage, when she hears you ask that question.  Of course you may."

"Will you come with us?"

Harley looked embarrassed.  He thought of the widow's agitation at his
name; of that desire to shun him, which Leonard had confessed, and of
which he thought he divined the cause.  And so divining, he too shrank
from such a meeting.

"Another time, then," said he, after a pause.  Helen looked disappointed,
but said no more.

Violante was surprised at this ungracious answer.  She would have blamed
it as unfeeling in another; but all that Harley did was right in her
eyes.

"Cannot I go with Miss Digby?" said she, "and my mother will go too.  We
both know Mrs. Fairfield.  We shall be so pleased to see her again."

"So be it," said Harley; "I will wait here with your father till you come
back.  Oh, as to my mother, she will excuse the--excuse Madame
Riccabocca, and you too.  See how charmed she is with your father.  I
must stay to watch over the conjugal interests of mine."

But Mrs. Riccabocca had too much good old country breeding to leave the
countess; and Harley was forced himself to appeal to Lady Lansmere.  When
he had explained the case in point, the countess rose and said,

"But I will call myself, with Miss Digby."

"No," said Harley, gravely, but in a whisper.  "No; I would rather not.
I will explain later."

"Then," said the countess aloud, after a glance of surprise at her son,
"I must insist on your performing this visit, my dear madam, and you,
Signorina.  In truth, I have something to say confidentially to--"

"To me," interrupted Riccabocca.  "Ah, Madame la Comtesse, you restore me
to five-and-twenty.  Go, quick, O jealous and injured wife; go, both of
you, quick; and you, too, Harley."

"Nay," said Lady Lansmere, in the same tone, "Harley must stay, for my
design is not at present upon destroying your matrimonial happiness,
whatever it may be later.  It is a design so innocent that my son will be
a partner in it."

Here the countess put her lips to Harley's ear, and whispered.  He
received her communication in attentive silence; but when she had done,
pressed her hand, and bowed his head, as if in assent to a proposal.

In a few minutes the three ladies and Leonard were on their road to the
neighbouring cottage.

Violante, with her usual delicate intuition, thought that Leonard and
Helen must have much to say to each other; and (ignorant, as Leonard
himself was, of Helen's engagement to Harley) began already, in the
romance natural to her age, to predict for them happy and united days in
the future.  So she took her stepmother's arm, and left Helen and Leonard
to follow.

"I wonder," she said musingly, "how Miss Digby became Lord L'Estrange's
ward.  I hope she is not very rich, nor very high-born."

"La, my love," said the good Jemima, "that is not like you; you are not
envious of her, poor girl?"

"Envious!  Dear mamma, what a word!  But don't you think Leonard and Miss
Digby seem born for each other?  And then the recollections of their
childhood--the thoughts of childhood are so deep, and its memories so
strangely soft!" The long lashes drooped over Violante's musing eyes as
she spoke.  "And therefore," she said, after a pause,--"therefore I hoped
that Miss Digby might not be very rich nor very high-born."

"I understand you now, Violante," exclaimed Jemima, her own early passion
for match-making instantly returning to her; "for as Leonard, however
clever and distinguished, is still the son of Mark Fairfield the
carpenter, it would spoil all if--Miss Digby was, as you say, rich and
high-born.  I agree with you,--a very pretty match, a very pretty match,
indeed.  I wish dear--Mrs. Dale were here now,--she is so clever in
settling such matters."

Meanwhile Leonard and Helen walked side by side a few paces in the rear.
He had not offered her his arm.  They had been silent hitherto since they
left Riccabocca's house.

Helen now spoke first.  In similar cases it is generally the woman, be
she ever so timid, who does speak first.  And here Helen was the bolder;
for Leonard did not disguise from himself the nature of his feelings, and
Helen was engaged to another, and her pure heart was fortified by the
trust reposed in it.

"And have you ever heard more of the good Dr. Morgan, who had powders
against sorrow, and who meant to be so kind to us,--though," she added,
colouring, "we did not think so then?"

"He took my child-angel from me," said Leonard, with visible emotion;
"and if she had not returned, where and what should I be now?  But I have
forgiven him.  No, I have never met him since."

"And that terrible Mr. Burley?"

"Poor, poor Burley!  He, too, is vanished out of my present life.  I have
made many inquiries after him; all I can hear is that he went abroad,
supposed as a correspondent to some journal.  I should like so much to
see him again, now that perhaps I could help him as he helped me."

"Helped you--ah!"

Leonard smiled with a beating heart, as he saw again the dear prudent,
warning look, and involuntarily drew closer to Helen.  She seemed more
restored to him and to her former self.

"Helped me much by his instructions; more, perhaps, by his very faults.
You cannot guess, Helen,--I beg pardon, Miss Digby, but I forgot that we
are no longer children,--you cannot guess how much we men, and more than
all, perhaps, we writers whose task it is to unravel the web of human
actions, owe even to our own past errors; and if we learned nothing by
the errors of others, we should be dull indeed.  We must know where the
roads divide, and have marked where they lead to, before we can erect our
sign-post; and books are the sign-posts in human life."

"Books!  and I have not yet read yours.  And Lord L'Estrange tells me you
are famous now.  Yet you remember me still,--the poor orphan child, whom
you first saw weeping at her father's grave, and with whom you burdened
your own young life, over-burdened already.  No, still call me Helen--you
must always be to me a brother!  Lord L'Estrange feels that; he said so
to me when he told me that we were to meet again.  He is so generous, so
noble.  Brother!" cried Helen, suddenly, and extending her hand, with a
sweet but sublime look in her gentle face,--"brother, we will never
forfeit his esteem; we will both do our best to repay him!  Will we not?
--say so!"

Leonard felt overpowered by contending and unanalyzed emotions.  Touched
almost to tears by the affectionate address, thrilled by the hand that
pressed his own, and yet with a vague fear, a consciousness that
something more than the words themselves was implied,--something that
checked all hope.  And this word "brother," once so precious and so dear,
why did he shrink from it now; why could he not too say the sweet word
"sister"?

"She is above me now and evermore!" he thought mournfully; and the tones
of his voice, when he spoke again, were changed.  The appeal to renewed
intimacy but made him more distant, and to that appeal itself he made no
direct answer; for Mrs. Riccabocca, now turning round, and pointing to
the cottage which came in view, with its picturesque gable-ends, cried
out,

"But is that your house, Leonard?  I never saw anything so pretty."

"You do not remember it then," said Leonard to Helen, in accents of
melancholy reproach,--"there where I saw you last?  I doubted whether to
keep it exactly as it was, and I said, '--No!  the association is not
changed because we try to surround it with whatever beauty we can create;
the dearer the association, the more the Beautiful becomes to it
natural.'  Perhaps you don't understand this,--perhaps it is only we poor
poets who do."

"I understand it," said Helen, gently.  She looked wistfully at the
cottage.

"So changed!  I have so often pictured it to myself, never, never like
this; yet I loved it, commonplace as it was to my recollection; and the
garret, and the tree in the carpenter's yard."

She did not give these thoughts utterance.  And they now entered the
garden.



CHAPTER IV.

Mrs. Fairfield was a proud woman when she received Mrs. Riccabocca and
Violante in her grand house; for a grand house to her was that cottage to
which her boy Lenny had brought her home.  Proud, indeed, ever was Widow
Fairfield; but she thought then in her secret heart, that if ever she
could receive in the drawing-room of that grand house the great Mrs.
Hazeldean, who had so lectured her for refusing to live any longer in the
humble, tenement rented of the squire, the cup of human bliss would be
filled, and she could content edly die of the pride of it.  She did not
much notice Helen,--her attention was too absorbed by the ladies who
renewed their old acquaintance with her, and she carried them all over
the house, yea, into the very kitchen; and so, somehow or other, there
was a short time when Helen and Leonard found themselves alone.  It was
in the study.  Helen had unconsciously seated herself in Leonard's own
chair, and she was gazing with anxious and wistful interest on the
scattered papers, looking so disorderly (though, in truth, in that
disorder there was method, but method only known to the owner), and at
the venerable well-worn books, in all languages, lying on the floor, on
the chairs--anywhere.  I must confess that Helen's first tidy womanlike
idea was a great desire to arrange the litter.  "Poor Leonard," she
thought to herself, "the rest of the house so neat, but no one to take
care of his own room and of him!"

As if he divined her thought, Leonard smiled and said, "It would be a
cruel kindness to the spider, if the gentlest band in the world tried to
set its cobweb to rights."

HELEN.--"You were not quite so bad in the old days."

LEONARD.--"Yet even then you were obliged to take care of the money.  I
have more books now, and more money.  My present housekeeper lets me take
care of the books, but she is less indulgent as to the money."

HELEN (archly).--"Are you as absent as ever?"

LEONARD.--"Much more so, I fear.  The habit is incorrigible,
Miss Digby--"

HELEN.--"Not Miss Digby; sister, if you like."

LEONARD (evading the word that implied so forbidden an affinity).--
"Helen, will you grant me a favour?  Your eyes and your smile say 'yes.'
Will you lay aside, for one minute, your shawl and bonnet?  What! can you
be surprised that I ask it?  Can you not understand that I wish for one
minute to think that you are at home again under this roof?"

Helen cast down her eyes, and seemed troubled; then she raised them, with
a soft angelic candour in their dovelike blue, and, as if in shelter from
all thoughts of more warm affection, again murmured "brother," and did as
he asked her.

So there she sat, amongst the dull books, by his table, near the open
window, her fair hair parted on her forehead, looking so good, so calm,
so happy!  Leonard wondered at his own self-command.  His heart yearned
to her with such inexpressible love, his lips so longed to murmur, "Ah,
as now so could it be forever!  Is the home too mean?"  But that word
"brother" was as a talisman between her and him.  Yet she looked so at
home--perhaps so at home she felt!---more certainly than she had yet
learned to do in that stiff stately house in which she was soon to have a
daughter's rights.  Was she suddenly made aware of this, that she so
suddenly arose, and with a look of alarm and distress on her face.

"But--we are keeping Lady Lansmere too long," she said falteringly.  "We
must go now," and she hastily took up her shawl and bonnet.

Just then Mrs. Fairfield entered with the visitors, and began making
excuses for inattention to Miss Digby, whose identity with Leonard's
child-angel she had not yet learned.

Helen received these apologies with her usual sweetness.  "Nay," she
said, "your son and I are such old friends, how could you stand on
ceremony with me?"

"Old friends!" Mrs. Fairfield stared amazed, and then surveyed the fair
speaker more curiously than she had yet done.  "Pretty, nice-spoken
thing," thought the widow; "as nice-spoken as Miss Violante, and humbler-
looking like,--though, as to dress, I never see anything so elegant out
of a picter."

Helen now appropriated Mrs. Riccabocca's arm; and, after a kind leave-
taking with the widow, the ladies returned towards Riccabocca's house.

Mrs. Fairfield, however, ran after them with Leonard's hat and gloves,
which he had forgotten.

"'Deed, boy," she said, kindly, yet scoldingly, "but there'd be no more
fine books, if the Lord had not fixed your head on your shoulders.  You
would not think it, marm," she added to Mrs. Riccabocca, "but sin' he has
left you, he's not the 'cute lad he was; very helpless at times, marm!"

Helen could not resist turning round, and looking at Leonard, with a sly
smile.

The widow saw the smile, and catching Leonard by the arm, whispered,
"But where before have you seen that pretty young lady?  Old friends!"

"Ah, Mother," said Leonard, sadly, "it is a long tale; you have heard the
beginning, who can guess the end?" and he escaped.  But Helen still
leaned on the arm of Mrs. Riccabocca, and, in the walk back, it seemed to
Leonard as if the winter had re-settled in the sky.

Yet he was by the side of Violante, and she spoke to him with such praise
of Helen!  Alas! it is not always so sweet as folks say to hear the
praises of one we love.  Sometimes those praises seem to ask ironically,
"And what right hast thou to hope because thou lovest?  All love her."



CHAPTER V.

No sooner had Lady Lansmere found herself alone with Riccabocca and
Harley than she laid her hand on the exile's arm, and, addressing him by
a title she had not before given him, and from which he appeared to
shrink nervously, said, "Harley, in bringing me to visit you, was forced
to reveal to me your incognito, for I should have discovered it.  You may
not remember me, in spite of your gallantry; but I mixed more in the
world than I do now, during your first visit to England, and once sat
next to you at dinner at Carlton House.  Nay, no compliments, but listen
to me.  Harley tells me you have cause for some alarm respecting the
designs of an audacious and unprincipled adventurer, I may call him; for
adventurers are of all ranks.  Suffer your daughter to come to me on a
visit, as long as you please.  With me, at least, she will be safe; and
if you, too, and the--"

"Stop, my dear madam," interrupted Riccabocca, with great vivacity; "your
kindness overpowers me.  I thank you most gratefully for your invitation
to my child; but--"

"Nay," in his turn interrupted Harley, "no buts.  I was not aware of my
mother's intention when she entered this room.  But since she whispered
it to me, I have reflected on it, and am convinced that it is but a
prudent precaution.  Your retreat is known to Mr. Leslie, he is known to
Peschiera.  Grant that no indiscretion of Mr. Leslie's betray the secret;
still I have reason to believe that the count guesses Randal's
acquaintance with you.  Audley Egerton this morning told me he had
gathered that, not from the young man himself, but from questions put to
himself by Madame di Negra; and Peschiera might and would set spies to
track Leslie to every house that he visits,--might and would, still more
naturally, set spies to track myself.  Were this man an Englishman, I
should laugh at his machinations; but he is an Italian, and has been a
conspirator.  What he could do I know not; but an assassin can penetrate
into a camp, and a traitor can creep through closed walls to one's
hearth.  With my mother, Violante must be safe; that you cannot oppose.
And why not come yourself?"

Riccabocca had no reply to these arguments, so far as they affected
Violante; indeed, they awakened the almost superstitious terror with
which he regarded his enemy, and he consented at once that Violante
should accept the invitation proffered.  But he refused it for himself
and Jemima.

"To say truth," said he, simply, "I made a secret vow, on re-entering
England, that I would associate with none who knew the rank I had
formerly held in my own land.  I felt that all my philosophy was needed
to reconcile and habituate myself to my altered circumstances.  In order
to find in my present existence, however humble, those blessings which
make all life noble,--dignity and peace,--it was necessary for poor, weak
human nature wholly to dismiss the past.  It would unsettle me sadly,
could I come to your house, renew awhile, in your kindness and respect--
nay, in the very atmosphere of your society--the sense of what I have
been; and then (should the more than doubtful chance of recall from my
exile fail me) to awake, and find myself for the rest of life what I am.
And though, were I alone, I might trust myself perhaps to the danger, yet
my wife: she is happy and contented now; would she be so, if you had once
spoiled her for the simple position of Dr. Riccabocca's wife?  Should I
not have to listen to regrets and hopes and fears that would prick sharp
through my thin cloak of philosophy?  Even as it is, since in a moment of
weakness I confided my secret to her, I have had 'my rank' thrown at me,
--with a careless hand, it is true, but it hits hard nevertheless.  No
stone hurts like one taken from the ruins of one's own home; and the
grander the home, why, the heavier the stone!  Protect, dear madam,
protect my daughter, since her father doubts his own power to do so.
But--ask no more."

Riccabocca was immovable here; and the matter was settled as he decided,
it being agreed that Violante should be still styled but the daughter of
Dr. Riccabocca.

"And now, one word more," said Harley.  "Do not confide to Mr. Leslie
these arrangements; do not let him know where Violante is placed,--at
least, until I authorize such confidence in him.  It is sufficient excuse
that it is no use to know unless he called to see her, and his movements,
as I said before, may be watched.  You can give the same reason to
suspend his visits to yourself.  Suffer me, meanwhile, to mature my
judgment on this young man.  In the meanwhile, also, I think that I shall
have means of ascertaining the real nature of Peschiera's schemes.  His
sister has sought to know me; I will give her the occasion.  I have heard
some things of her in my last residence abroad, which make me believe
that she cannot be wholly the count's tool in any schemes nakedly
villanous; that she has some finer qualities in her than I once supposed;
and that she can be won from his influence.  It is a state of war; we
will carry it into the enemy's camp.  You will promise me, then, to
refrain from all further confidence in Mr. Leslie?"

"For the present, yes," said Riccabocca, reluctantly.

"Do not even say that you have seen me, unless he first tell you that I
am in England, and wish to learn your residence.  I will give him full
occasion to do so.  Pish! don't hesitate; you know your own proverb--

             "'Boccha chiusa, ed occhio aperto
               Non fece mai nissun deserto.'

"The closed mouth and the open eye,' etc."

"That's very true," said the doctor, much struck.  "Very true.  'In
boccha chiusa non c'entrano mosche.'  One can't swallow flies if one
keeps one's mouth shut.  /Corpo di Bacco!/ that's very true indeed."



CHAPTER VI.

Violante and Jemima were both greatly surprised, as the reader may
suppose, when they heard, on their return, the arrangements already made
for the former.  The countess insisted on taking her at once, and
Riccabocca briefly said, "Certainly, the sooner the better."  Violante
was stunned and bewildered.  Jemima hastened to make up a little bundle
of things necessary, with many a woman's sigh that the poor wardrobe
contained so few things befitting.  But among the clothes she slipped a
purse, containing the savings of months, perhaps of years, and with it a
few affectionate lines, begging Violante to ask the countess to buy her
all that was proper for her father's child.  There is always something
hurried and uncomfortable in the abrupt and unexpected withdrawal of any
member from a quiet household.  The small party broke into still smaller
knots.  Violante hung on her father, and listened vaguely to his not very
lucid explanations.  The countess approached Leonard, and, according to
the usual mode with persons of quality addressing young authors,
complimented him highly on the books she had not read, but which her son
assured her were so remarkable.  She was a little anxious to know where
Harley had first met with Mr. Oran, whom he called his friend; but she
was too highbred to inquire, or to express any wonder that rank should be
friends with genius.  She took it for granted that they had formed their
acquaintance abroad.

Harley conversed with Helen.--"You are not sorry that Violante is coming
to us?  She will be just such a companion for you as I could desire; of
your own years too."

HELEN (ingenuously).--"It is hard to think I am not younger than she is."

HARLEY.--"Why, my dear Helen?"

HELEN.--"She is so brilliant.  She talks so beautifully.  And I--"

HARLEY.--"And you want but the habit of talking, to do justice to your
own beautiful thoughts."

Helen looked at him gratefully, but shook her head.  It was a common
trick of hers, and always when she was praised.

At last the preparations were made, the farewell was said, Violante was
in the carriage by Lady Lansmere's side.  Slowly moved on the stately
equipage with its four horses and trim postilions, heraldic badges on
their shoulders, in the style rarely seen in the neighbourhood of the
metropolis, and now fast vanishing even amidst distant counties.

Riccabocca, Jemima, and Jackeymo continued to gaze after it from the
gate.

"She is gone," said Jackeymo, brushing his eyes with his coat-sleeve.
"But it is a load off one's mind."

"And another load on one's heart," murmured Riccabocca.  "Don't cry,
Jemima; it may be bad for you, and bad for him that is to come.  It is
astonishing how the humours of the mother may affect the unborn.  I
should not like to have a son who has a more than usual propensity to
tears."

The poor philosopher tried to smile; but it was a bad attempt.  He went
slowly in, and shut himself with his books.  But he could not read.  His
whole mind was unsettled.  And though, like all parents, he had been
anxious to rid himself of a beloved daughter for life, now that she was
gone but for a while, a string seemed broken in the Music of Home.



CHAPTER VII.

The evening of the same day, as Egerton, who was to entertain a large
party at dinner, was changing his dress, Harley walked into his room.

Egerton dismissed his valet by a sign, and continued his toilet.

"Excuse me, my dear Harley, I have only ten minutes to give you.  I
expect one of the royal dukes, and punctuality is the stern virtue of men
of business, and the graceful courtesy of princes."

Harley had usually a jest for his friend's aphorisms; but he had none
now.  He laid his hand kindly on Egerton's shoulder.  "Before I speak of
my business, tell me how you are,--better?"

"Better,--nay, I am always well.  Pooh!  I may look a little tired,--
years of toil will tell on the countenance.  But that matters little:
the period of life has passed with me when one cares how one looks in the
glass."

As he spoke, Egerton completed his dress, and came to the hearth,
standing there, erect and dignified as usual, still far handsomer than
many a younger man, and with a form that seemed to have ample vigour to
support for many a year the sad and glorious burden of power.

"So now to your business, Harley."

"In the first place, I want you to present me, at the earliest
opportunity, to Madame di Negra.  You say she wished to know me."

"Are you serious?"

"Yes."

"Well, then, she receives this evening.  I did not mean to go; but when
my party breaks up--"

"You can call for me at The Travellers.  Do!"

"Next, you knew Lady Jane Horton better even than I did, at least in the
last year of her life."  Harley sighed, and Egerton turned and stirred
the fire.

"Pray, did you ever see at her house, or hear her speak of, a Mrs.
Bertram?"

"Of whom?" said Egerton, in a hollow voice, his face still turned towards
the fire.

"A Mrs. Bertram; but heavens!  my dear fellow, what is the matter?  Are
you ill?"

"A spasm at the heart, that is all; don't ring, I shall be better
presently; go on talking.  Mrs.--why do you ask?"

"Why?  I have hardly time to explain; but I am, as I told you, resolved
on righting my old Italian friend, if Heaven will help me, as it ever
does help the just when they bestir themselves; and this Mrs. Bertram is
mixed up in my friend's affairs."

"His!  How is that possible?"

Harley rapidly and succinctly explained.  Audley listened attentively,
with his eyes fixed on the floor, and still seeming to labour under great
difficulty of breathing.

At last he answered, "I remember something of this Mrs.--Mrs.--Bertram.
But your inquiries after her would be useless.  I think I have heard that
she is long since dead; nay, I am sure of it."

"Dead!--that is most unfortunate.  But do you know any of her relations
or friends?  Can you suggest any mode of tracing this packet, if it came
to her hands?"

"No."

"And Lady Jane had scarcely any friend that I remember except my mother,
and she knows nothing of this Mrs. Bertram.  How unlucky!  I think I
shall advertise.  Yet, no.  I could only distinguish this Mrs. Bertram
from any other of the same name, by stating with whom she had gone
abroad, and that would catch the attention of Peschiera, and set him to
counterwork us."

"And what avails it?" said Egerton.  "She whom you seek is no more--no
more!"  He paused, and went on rapidly: "The packet did not arrive in
England till years after her death, was no doubt returned to the post-
office, is destroyed long ago."

Harley looked very much disappointed.  Egerton went on in a sort of set,
mechanical voice, as if not thinking of what he said, but speaking from
the dry practical mode of reasoning which was habitual to him, and by
which the man of the world destroys the hopes of an enthusiast.  Then
starting up at the sound of the first thundering knock at the street
door, he said, "Hark! you must excuse me."

"I leave you, my dear Audley.  But I must again ask, Are you better now?"

"Much, much,--quite well: I will call for you,--probably between eleven
and twelve."



CHAPTER VIII.

If any one could be more surprised at seeing Lord L'Estrange at the house
of Madame di Negra that evening than the fair hostess herself, it was
Randal Leslie.  Something instinctively told him that this visit
threatened interference with whatever might be his ultimate projects in
regard to Riccabocca and Violante.  But Randal Leslie was not one of
those who shrink from an intellectual combat.  On the contrary, he was
too confident of his powers of intrigue not to take a delight in their
exercise.  He could not conceive that the indolent Harley could be a
match for his own restless activity and dogged perseverance.  But in a
very few moments fear crept on him.  No man of his day could produce a
more brilliant effect than Lord L'Estrange, when he deigned to desire it.
Without much pretence to that personal beauty which strikes at first
sight, he still retained all the charm of countenance, and all the grace
of manner, which had made him in boyhood the spoiled darling of society.
Madame di Negra had collected but a small circle round her; still it was
of the elite of the great world,--not, indeed, those more precise and
reserved /dames de chateau/, whom the lighter and easier of the fair
dispensers of fashion ridicule as prudes; but nevertheless, ladies were
there, as unblemished in reputation, as high in rank, flirts and
coquettes, perhaps,--nothing more; in short, "charming women,"--the gay
butterflies that hover over the stiff parterre.  And there were
ambassadors and ministers, and wits and brilliant debaters, and first-
rate dandies (dandies, when first-rate, are generally very agreeable
men).  Amongst all these various persons, Harley, so long a stranger to
the London world, seemed to make himself at home with the ease of an
Alcibiades.  Many of the less juvenile ladies remembered him, and rushed
to claim his acquaintance, with nods and becks, and wreathed smiles.  He
had ready compliment for each.  And few indeed were there, men or women,
for whom Harley L'Estrange had not appropriate attraction.  Distinguished
reputation as soldier and scholar for the grave; whim and pleasantry for
the gay; novelty for the sated; and for the more vulgar natures was he
not Lord L'Estrange, unmarried, possessed already of a large
independence, and heir to an ancient earldom, and some fifty thousands a
year?

Not till he had succeeded in the general effect--which, it must be owned,
he did his best to create--did Harley seriously and especially devote
himself to his hostess.  And then he seated himself by her side; and, as
if in compliment to both, less pressing admirers insensibly slipped away
and edged off.

Frank Hazeldean was the last to quit his ground behind Madame di Negra's
chair; but when he found that the two began to talk in Italian, and he
could not understand a word they said, he too--fancying, poor fellow,
that be looked foolish, and cursing his Eton education that had
neglected, for languages spoken by the dead, of which he had learned
little, those still in use among the living, of which he had learned
nought--retreated towards Randal, and asked wistfully, "Pray, what age
should you say L'Estrange was?  He must be devilish old, in spite of his
looks.  Why, he was at Waterloo!"

"He is young enough to be a terrible rival," answered Randal, with artful
truth.

Frank turned pale, and began to meditate dreadful bloodthirsty thoughts,
of which hair-triggers and Lord's Cricket-ground formed the staple.

Certainly there was apparent ground for a, lover's jealousy; for Harley
and Beatrice now conversed in a low tone, and Beatrice seemed agitated,
and Harley earnest.  Randal himself grew more and more perplexed.  Was
Lord L'Estrange really enamoured of the marchesa?  If so, farewell to all
hopes of Frank's marriage with her!  Or was he merely playing a part in
Riccabocca's interest; pretending to be the lover, in order to obtain an
influence over her mind, rule her through her ambition, and secure an
ally against her brother?  Was this finesse compatible with Randal's
notions of Harley's character?  Was it consistent with that chivalric and
soldierly spirit of honour which the frank nobleman affected, to make
love to a woman in mere /ruse de guerre/?  Could mere friendship for
Riccabocca be a sufficient inducement to a man, who, whatever his
weaknesses or his errors, seemed to wear on his very forehead a soul
above deceit, to stoop to paltry means, even for a worthy end?  At this
question, a new thought flashed upon Randal,--might not Lord L'Estrange
have speculated himself upon winning Violante; would not that account for
all the exertions he had made on behalf of her inheritance at the court
of Vienna,--exertions of which Peschiera and Beatrice had both
complained?  Those objections which the Austrian government might take to
Violante's marriage with some obscure Englishman would probably not exist
against a man like Harley L'Estrange, whose family not only belonged to
the highest aristocracy of England, but had always supported opinions in
vogue amongst the leading governments of Europe.  Harley himself, it is
true, had never taken part in politics, but his notions were, no doubt,
those of a high-born soldier, who had fought, in alliance with Austria,
for the restoration of the Bourbons.  And this immense wealth--which
Violante might lose, if she married one like Randal himself--her marriage
with the heir of the Lansmeres might actually tend only to secure.  Could
Harley, with all his own expectations, be indifferent to such a prize?--
and no doubt he had learned Violante's rare beauty in his correspondence
with Riccabocca.

Thus considered, it seemed natural to Randal's estimate of human nature
that Harley's more prudish scruples of honour, as regards what is due to
women, could not resist a temptation so strong.  Mere friendship was not
a motive powerful enough to shake them, but ambition was.

While Randal was thus cogitating, Frank thus suffering, and many a
whisper, in comment on the evident flirtation between the beautiful
hostess and the accomplished guest, reached the ears both of the brooding
schemer and the jealous lover, the conversation between the two objects
of remark and gossip had taken a new turn.  Indeed, Beatrice had made an
effort to change it.

"It is long, my Lord," said she, still speaking Italian, "since I have
heard sentiments like those you address to me; and if I do not feel
myself wholly unworthy of them, it is from the pleasure I have felt in
reading sentiments equally foreign to the language of the world in which
I live."  She took a book from the table as she spoke: "Have you seen
this work?"

Harley glanced at the title-page.  "To be sure I have, and I know the
author."

"I envy you that honour.  I should so like also to know one who has
discovered to me deeps in my own heart which I had never explored."

"Charming marchesa, if the book has done this, believe me that I have
paid you no false compliment,--formed no overflattering estimate of your
nature; for the charm of the work is but in its simple appeal to good and
generous emotions, and it can charm none in whom those emotions exist
not!"

"Nay, that cannot be true, or why is it so popular?"

"Because good and generous emotions are more common to the human heart
than we are aware of till the appeal comes."

"Don't ask me to think that!  I have found the world so base."

"Pardon me a rude question; but what do you know of the world?"

Beatrice looked first in surprise at Harley, then glanced round the room
with significant irony.

"As I thought; you call this little room 'the world.'  Be it so.  I will
venture to say, that if the people in this room were suddenly converted
into an audience before a stage, and you were as consummate in the
actor's art as you are in all others that please and command--"

"Well?"

"And were to deliver a speech full of sordid and base sentiments, you
would be hissed.  But let any other woman, with half your powers, arise
and utter sentiments sweet and womanly, or honest and lofty, and applause
would flow from every lip, and tears rush to many a worldly eye.  The
true proof of the inherent nobleness of our common nature is in the
sympathy it betrays with what is noble wherever crowds are collected.
Never believe the world is base; if it were so, no society could hold
together for a day.  But you would know the author of this book?  I will
bring him to you."

"Do."

"And now," said Harley, rising, and with his candid, winning smile, "do
you think we shall ever be friends?"

"You have startled me so that I can scarcely answer.  But why would you
be friends with me?"

"Because you need a friend.  You have none?"

"Strange flatterer!" said Beatrice, smiling, though very sadly; and
looking up, her eye caught Randal's.

"Pooh!" said Harley, "you are too penetrating to believe that you inspire
friendship there.  Ah, do you suppose that; all the while I have been
conversing with you, I have not noticed the watchful gaze of Mr. Randal
Leslie?  What tie can possibly connect you together I know not yet; but I
soon shall."

"Indeed!  you talk like one of the old Council of Venice.  You try hard
to make me fear you," said Beatrice, seeking to escape from the graver
kind of impression Harley had made on her, by the affectation partly of
coquetry, partly of levity.

"And I," said L'Estrange, calmly, "tell you already that I fear you no
more."  He bowed, and passed through the crowd to rejoin Audley, who was
seated in a corner whispering with some of his political colleagues.
Before Harley reached the minister, he found himself close to Randal and
young Hazeldean.

He bowed to the first, and extended his hand to the last.  Randal felt
the distinction, and his sullen, bitter pride was deeply galled,--a
feeling of hate towards Harley passed into his mind.  He was pleased to
see the cold hesitation with which Frank just touched the hand offered to
him.  But Randal had not been the only person whose watch upon Beatrice
the keen-eyed Harley had noticed.  Harley had seen the angry looks of
Frank Hazeldean, and divined the cause.  So he smiled forgivingly at the
slight he had received.  "You are like me, Mr. Hazeldean," said he.  "You
think something of the heart should go with all courtesy that bespeaks
friendship--

               "'The hand of Douglas is his own.'"

Here Harley drew aside Randal.  "Mr. Leslie, a word with you.  If I
wished to know the retreat of Dr. Riccabocca, in order to render him a
great service, would you confide to me that secret?"

"That woman has let out her suspicions that I know the exile's retreat,"
thought Randal; and with quick presence of mind, he replied at once,

"My Lord, yonder stands a connection of Dr. Riccabocca's.  Mr. Hazeldean
is surely the person to whom you should address this inquiry."

"Not so, Mr. Leslie; for I suspect that he cannot answer it, and that you
can.  Well, I will ask something that it seems to me you may grant
without hesitation.  Should you see Dr. Riccabocca, tell him that I am in
England, and so leave it to him to communicate with me or not; but
perhaps you have already done so?"

"Lord L'Estrange," said Randal, bowing low, with pointed formality,
"excuse me if I decline either to disclaim or acquiesce in the knowledge
you impute to me.  If I am acquainted with any secret intrusted to me by
Dr. Riccabocca, it is for me to use my own discretion how best to guard
it.  And for the rest, after the Scotch earl, whose words your Lordship
has quoted, refused to touch the hand of Marmion, Douglas could scarcely
have called Marmion back in order to give him--a message!"

Harley was not prepared for this tone in Mr. Egerton's protege, and his
own gallant nature was rather pleased than irritated by a haughtiness
that at least seemed to bespeak independence of spirit.  Nevertheless,
L'Estrange's suspicions of Randal were too strong to be easily set aside,
and therefore he replied, civilly, but with covert taunt,

"I submit to your rebuke, Mr. Leslie, though I meant not the offence you
would ascribe to me.  I regret my unlucky quotation yet the more, since
the wit of your retort has obliged you to identify yourself with Marmion,
who, though a clever and brave fellow, was an uncommonly--tricky one."
And so Harley, certainly having the best of it, moved on, and joined
Egerton, and in a few minutes more both left the room.

"What was L'Estrange saying to you?" asked Frank.  "Something about
Beatrice, I am sure."

"No; only quoting poetry."

"Then what made you look so angry, my dear fellow?  I know it was your
kind feeling for me.  As you say, he is a formidable rival.  But that
can't be his own hair.  Do you think he wears a toupet?  I am sure he was
praising Beatrice.  He is evidently very much smitten with her.  But I
don't think she is a woman to be caught by mere rank and fortune!  Do
you?  Why can't you speak?"

"If you do not get her consent soon, I think she is lost to you," said
Randal, slowly; and before Frank could recover his dismay, glided from
the house.



CHAPTER IX.

Violante's first evening at the Lansmeres had passed more happily to her
than the first evening under the same roof had done to Helen.  True that
she missed her father much, Jemima somewhat; but she so identified her
father's cause with Harley that she had a sort of vague feeling that it
was to promote that cause that she was on this visit to Harley's parents.
And the countess, it must be owned, was more emphatically cordial to her
than she had ever yet been to Captain Digby's orphan.  But perhaps the
real difference in the heart of either girl was this, that Helen felt awe
of Lady Lansmere, and Violante felt only love for Lord L'Estrange's
mother.  Violante, too, was one of those persons whom a reserved and
formal person, like the countess, "can get on with," as the phrase goes.
Not so poor little Helen,--so shy herself, and so hard to coax into more
than gentle monosyllables.  And Lady Lansmere's favourite talk was always
of Harley.  Helen had listened to such talk with respect and interest.
Violante listened to it with inquisitive eagerness, with blushing
delight.  The mother's heart noticed the distinction between the two, and
no wonder that that heart moved more to Violante than to Helen.  Lord
Lansmere, too, like most gentlemen of his age, clumped all young ladies
together as a harmless, amiable, but singularly stupid class of the
genus-Petticoat, meant to look pretty, play the piano, and talk to each
other about frocks and sweethearts.  Therefore this animated, dazzling
creature, with her infinite variety of look and play of mind, took him by
surprise, charmed him into attention, and warmed him into gallantry.
Helen sat in her quiet corner, at her work, sometimes listening with
almost mournful, though certainly unenvious, admiration at Violante's
vivid, yet ever unconscious, eloquence of word and thought, sometimes
plunged deep into her own secret meditations.  And all the while the work
went on the same, under the small, noiseless fingers.  This was one of
Helen's habits that irritated the nerves of Lady Lansmere.  She despised
young ladies who were fond of work.  She did not comprehend how often it
is the resource of the sweet womanly mind, not from want of thought, but
from the silence and the depth of it.  Violante was surprised, and
perhaps disappointed, that Harley had left the house before dinner, and
did not return all the evening.  But Lady Lansmere, in making excuse for
his absence, on the plea of engagements, found so good an opportunity to
talk of his ways in general,--of his rare promise in boyhood, of her
regret at the inaction of his maturity, of her hope to see him yet do
justice to his natural powers,--that Violante almost ceased to miss him.

And when Lady Lansmere conducted her to her room, and, kissing her cheek
tenderly, said, "But you are just the person Harley admires,--just the
person to rouse him from melancholy dreams, of which his wild humours are
now but the vain disguise"--Violante crossed her arms on her bosom, and
her bright eyes, deepened into tenderness, seemed to ask, "He melancholy
--and why?"

On leaving Violante's room, Lady Lansmere paused before the door of
Helen's; and, after musing a little while, entered softly.

Helen had dismissed her maid; and, at the moment Lady Lansmere entered,
she was kneeling at the foot of the bed, her hands clasped before her
face.

Her form, thus seen, looked so youthful and child-like, the attitude
itself was so holy and so touching, that the proud and cold expression on
Lady Lansmere's face changed.  She shaded the light involuntarily, and
seated herself in silence that she might not disturb the act of prayer.

When Helen rose, she was startled to see the countess seated by the fire,
and hastily drew her hand across her eyes.  She had been weeping.

Lady Lansmere did not, however, turn to observe those traces of tears,
which Helen feared were too visible.  The countess was too absorbed in
her own thoughts; and as Helen timidly approached, she said--still with
her eyes on the clear low fire--"I beg your pardon, Miss Digby, for my
intrusion; but my son has left it to me to prepare Lord Lansmere to learn
the offer you have done Harley the honour to accept.  I have not yet
spoken to my Lord; it may be days before I find a fitting occasion to do
so; meanwhile I feel assured that your sense of propriety will make you
agree, with me that it is due to Lord L'Estrange's father, that strangers
should not learn arrangements of such moment in his family before his own
consent be obtained."

Here the countess came to a full pause; and poor Helen, finding herself
called upon for some reply to this chilling speech, stammered out, scarce
audibly,

"Certainly, madam, I never dreamed of--"

"That is right, my dear," interrupted Lady Lansmere, rising suddenly, and
as if greatly relieved.  "I could not doubt your superiority to ordinary
girls of your age, with whom these matters are never secret for a moment.
Therefore, of course, you will not mention, at present, what has passed
between you and Harley, to any of the friends with whom you may
correspond."

"I have no correspondents, no friends, Lady Lansmere," said Helen,
deprecatingly, and trying hard not to cry.

"I am very glad to hear it, my dear; young ladies never should have.
Friends, especially friends who correspond, are the worst enemies they
can have.  Good-night, Miss Digby.  I need not add, by the way, that
though we are bound to show all kindness to this young Italian lady,
still she is wholly unconnected with our family; and you will be as
prudent with her as you would have been with your correspondents, had you
had the misfortune to have any."

Lady Lansmere said the last words with a smile, and left an ungenial kiss
(the stepmother's kiss) on Helen's bended brow.  She then left the room,
and Helen sat on the seat vacated by the stately, unloving form, and
again covered her face with her hands, and again wept.  But when she rose
at last, and the light fell upon her face, that soft face was sad indeed,
but serene,--serene, as with some inward sense of duty, sad, as with the
resignation which accepts patience instead of hope.



CHAPTER X.

The next morning Harley appeared at breakfast.  He was in gay spirits,
and conversed more freely with Violante than he had yet done.  He seemed
to amuse himself by attacking all she said, and provoking her to
argument.  Violante was naturally a very earnest person; whether grave or
gay, she spoke with her heart on her lips, and her soul in her eyes.  She
did not yet comprehend the light vein of Harley's irony, so she grew
piqued and chafed; and she was so lovely in anger; it so brightened the
beauty and animated her words, that no wonder Harley thus maliciously
teased her.  But what, perhaps, she liked still less than the teasing--
though she could not tell why--was the kind of familiarity that Harley
assumed with her,--a familiarity as if he had known her all her life,--
that of a good-humoured elder brother, or a bachelor uncle.  To Helen,
on the contrary, when he did not address her apart, his manner was more
respectful.  He did not call her by her Christian name, as he did
Violante, but "Miss Digby," and softened his tone and inclined his head
when he spoke to her.  Nor did he presume to jest at the very few and
brief sentences he drew from Helen, but rather listened to them with
deference, and invariably honoured them with approval.  After breakfast
he asked Violante to play or sing; and when she frankly owned how little
she had cultivated those accomplishments, he persuaded Helen to sit down
to the piano, and stood by her side while she did so, turning over the
leaves of her music-book with the ready devotion of an admiring amateur.
Helen always played well, but less well than usual that day, for her
generous nature felt abashed.  It was as if she were showing off to
mortify Violante.  But Violante, on the other hand, was so passionately
fond of music that she had no feeling left for the sense of her own
inferiority.  Yet she sighed when Helen rose, and Harley thanked Miss
Digby for the delight she had given him.

The day was fine.  Lady Lansmere proposed to walk in the garden.  While
the ladies went up-stairs for their shawls and bonnets, Harley lighted
his cigar, and stepped from the window upon the lawn.  Lady Lansmere
joined him before the girls came out.

"Harley," said she, taking his arm.  "what a charming companion you have
introduced to us!  I never met with any that both pleased and delighted
me like this dear Violante.  Most girls who possess some power of
conversation, and who have dared to think for themselves, are so
pedantic, or so masculine; but she is always so simple, and always still
the girl.  Ah, Harley!"

"Why that sigh, my dear mother?"

"I was thinking how exactly she would have suited you,--how proud I
should have been of such a daughter-in-law, and how happy you would have
been with such a wife."

Harley started.  "Tut," said he, peevishly, "she is a mere child; you
forget my years."

"Why," said Lady Lansmere, surprised, "Helen is quite as young as
Violante."

"In dates-yes.  But Helen's character is so staid; what it is now it will
be ever; and Helen, from gratitude, respect, or pity, condescends to
accept the ruins of my heart, while this bright Italian has the soul of a
Juliet, and would expect in a husband all the passion of a Romeo.  Nay,
Mother, hush.  Do you forget that I am engaged,--and of my own free will
and choice?  Poor dear Helen! /A propos/, have you spoken to my father,
as you undertook to do?"

"Not yet.  I must seize the right moment.  You know that my Lord requires
management."

"My dear mother, that female notion of managing us men costs you ladies a
great waste of time, and occasions us a great deal of sorrow.  Men are
easily managed by plain truth.  We are brought up to respect it, strange
as it may seem to you!"

Lady Lansmere smiled with the air of superior wisdom, and the experience
of an accomplished wife.  "Leave it to me, Harley, and rely on my Lord's
consent."

Harley knew that Lady Lansmere always succeeded in obtaining her way with
his father; and he felt that the earl might naturally be disappointed in
such an alliance, and, without due propitiation, evince that
disappointment in his manner to Helen.  Harley was bound to save her from
all chance of such humiliation.  He did not wish her to think that she
was not welcomed into his family; therefore he said, "I resign myself to
your promise and your diplomacy.  Meanwhile, as you love me, be kind to
my betrothed."

"Am I not so?"

"Hem.  Are you as kind as if she were the great heiress you believe
Violante to be?"

"Is it," answered Lady Lansmere, evading the question--"is it because one
is an heiress and the other is not that you make so marked a difference
in your own manner to the two; treating Violante as a spoilt child, and
Miss Digby as--"

"The destined wife of Lord L'Estrange, and the daughter-in-law of Lady
Lansmere,--yes."

The countess suppressed an impatient exclamation that rose to her lips,
for Harley's brow wore that serious aspect which it rarely assumed save
when he was in those moods in which men must be soothed, not resisted.
And after a pause he went on, "I am going to leave you to-day.  I have
engaged apartments at the Clarendon.  I intend to gratify your wish, so
often expressed, that I should enjoy what are called the pleasures of my
rank, and the privileges of single-blessedness,--celebrate my adieu to
celibacy, and blaze once more, with the splendour of a setting sun, upon
Hyde Park and May Fair."

"You are a positive enigma.  Leave our house, just when you are betrothed
to its inmate!  Is that the natural conduct of a lover?"

"How can your woman eyes be so dull, and your woman heart so obtuse?"
answered Harley, half laughing, half scolding.  "Can you not guess that I
wish that Helen and myself should both lose the association of mere ward
and guardian; that the very familiarity of our intercourse under the same
roof almost forbids us to be lovers; that we lose the joy to meet, and
the pang to part.  Don't you remember the story of the Frenchman, who for
twenty years loved a lady, and never missed passing his evenings at her
house.  She became a widow.  'I wish you joy,' cried his friend; 'you may
now marry the woman you have so long adored.'  'Alas!' said the poor
Frenchman, profoundly dejected; 'and if so, where shall I spend my
evenings?'"

Here Violante and Helen were seen in the garden, walking affectionately
arm in arm.

"I don't perceive the point of your witty, heartless anecdote," said Lady
Lansmere, obstinately.  "Settle that, however, with Miss Digby.  But to
leave the very day after your friend's daughter comes as a guest!--what
will she think of it?"

Lord L'Estrange looked steadfastly at his mother.  "Does it matter much
what she thinks of me,--of a man engaged to another; and old enough to
be--"

"I wish to heaven you would not talk of your age, Harley; it is a
reflection upon mine; and I never saw you look so well nor so handsome."
With that she drew him on towards the young ladies; and, taking Helen's
arm, asked her, aside, "If she knew that Lord L'Estrange had engaged
rooms at the Clarendon; and if she understood why?"  As while she said
this she moved on, Harley was left by Violante's side.

"You will be very dull here, I fear, my poor child," said he.

"Dull!  But why will you call me child?  Am I so very--very child-like?"

"Certainly, you are to me,--a mere infant.  Have I not seen you one; have
I not held you in my arms?"

VIOLANTE.--"But that was a long time ago!"

HARLEY.--"True.  But if years have not stood still for you, they have not
been stationary for me.  There is the same difference between us now that
there was then.  And, therefore, permit me still to call you child, and
as child to treat you!"

VIOLANTE.--"I will do no such thing.  Do you know that I always thought I
was good-tempered till this morning."

HARLEY.--"And what undeceived you?  Did you break your doll?"

VIOLANTE (with an indignant flash from her dark eyes).---"There!--again!
--you delight in provoking me!"

HARLEY.--"It was the doll, then.  Don't cry; I will get you another."

Violante plucked her arm from him, and walked away towards the countess
in speechless scorn.  Harley's brow contracted, in thought and in gloom.
He stood still for a moment or so, and then joined the ladies.

"I am trespassing sadly on your morning; but I wait for a visitor whom I
sent to before you were up.  He is to be here at twelve.  With your
permission, I will dine with you tomorrow, and you will invite him to
meet me."

"Certainly.  And who is your friend?  I guess--the young author?"

"Leonard Fairfield," cried Violante, who had conquered, or felt ashamed,
of her short-lived anger.

"Fairfield!" repeated Lady Lansmere.  "I thought, Harley, you said the
name was Oran."

"He has assumed the latter name.  He is the son of Mark Fairfield, who
married an Avenel.  Did you recognize no family likeness?--none in those
eyes, Mother?" said Harley, sinking his voice into a whisper.

"No;" answered the countess, falteringly.

Harley, observing that Violante was now speaking to Helen about Leonard,
and that neither was listening to him, resumed in the same low tone, "And
his mother--Nora's sister--shrank from seeing me!  That is the reason why
I wished you not to call.  She has not told the young man why she shrank
from seeing me; nor have I explained it to him as yet.  Perhaps I never
shall."

"Indeed, dearest Harley," said the countess, with great gentleness,
"I wish you too much to forget the folly--well, I will not say that word
--the sorrows of your boyhood, not to hope that you will rather strive
against such painful memories than renew them by unnecessary confidence
to any one; least of all to the relation of--"

"Enough!  don't name her; the very name pains me.  And as to confidence,
there are but two persons in the world to whom I ever bare the old
wounds,--yourself and Egerton.  Let this pass.  Ha!--a ring at the bell--
that is he!"



CHAPTER XI.

Leonard entered on the scene, and joined the party in the garden.  The
countess, perhaps to please her son, was more than civil,--she was
markedly kind to him.  She noticed him more attentively than she had
hitherto done; and, with all her prejudices of birth, was struck to find
the son of Mark Fairfield the carpenter so thoroughly the gentleman.  He
might not have the exact tone and phrase by which Convention stereotypes
those born and schooled in a certain world; but the aristocrats of Nature
can dispense with such trite minutia?  And Leonard had lived, of late at
least, in the best society that exists for the polish of language and the
refinement of manners,--the society in which the most graceful ideas are
clothed in the most graceful forms; the society which really, though
indirectly, gives the law to courts; the society of the most classic
authors, in the various ages in which literature has flowered forth from
civilization.  And if there was something in the exquisite sweetness of
Leonard's voice, look, and manner, which the countess acknowledged to
attain that perfection in high breeding, which, under the name of
"suavity," steals its way into the heart, so her interest in him was
aroused by a certain subdued melancholy which is rarely without
distinction, and never without charm.  He and Helen exchanged but few
words.  There was but one occasion in which they could have spoken apart,
and Helen herself contrived to elude it.  His face brightened at Lady
Lansmere's cordial invitation, and he glanced at Helen as he accepted it;
but her eye did not meet his own.

"And now," said Harley, whistling to Nero, whom his ward was silently
caressing, "I must take Leonard away.  Adieu! all of you, till to-morrow
at dinner.  Miss Violante, is the doll to have blue eyes or black?"

Violante turned her own black eyes in mute appeal to Lady Lansmere, and
nestled to that lady's side as if in refuge from unworthy insult.



CHAPTER XII.

"Let the carriage go to the Clarendon," said Harley to his servant; "I
and Mr. Oran will walk to town.  Leonard, I think you would rejoice at an
occasion to serve your old friends, Dr. Riccabocca and his daughter?"

"Serve them!  Oh, yes."  And there instantly returned to Leonard the
recollection of Violante's words when, on leaving his quiet village, he
had sighed to part from all those he loved; and the little dark-eyed girl
had said, proudly, yet consolingly, "But to SERVE those you love!"  He
turned to L'Estrange, with beaming, inquisitive eyes.

"I said to our friend," resumed Harley, "that I would vouch for your
honour as my own.  I am about to prove my words, and to confide the
secrets which your penetration has indeed divined,--our friend is not
what he seems."  Harley then briefly related to Leonard the particulars
of the exile's history, the rank he had held in his native land, the
manner in which, partly through the misrepresentations of a kinsman he
had trusted, partly through the influence of a wife he had loved, he had
been drawn into schemes which he believed bounded to the emancipation of
Italy from a foreign yoke by the united exertions of her best and bravest
sons.

"A noble ambition!" interrupted Leonard,  manfully.  "And pardon me, my
Lord, I should not have thought that you would speak of it in a tone that
implies blame."

"The ambition in itself was noble," answered Harley; "but the cause to
which it was devoted became defiled in its dark channel through Secret
Societies.  It is the misfortune of all miscellaneous political
combinations, that with the purest motives of their more generous members
are ever mixed the most sordid interests, and the fiercest passions of
mean confederates.  When those combinations act openly, and in daylight,
under the eye of Public Opinion, the healthier elements usually prevail;
where they are shrouded in mystery, where they are subjected to no censor
in the discussion of the impartial and dispassionate, where chiefs
working in the dark exact blind obedience, and every man who is at war
with law is at once admitted as a friend of freedom, the history of the
world tells us that patriotism soon passes away.  Where all is in public,
public virtue, by the natural sympathies of the common mind, and by the
wholesome control of shame, is likely to obtain ascendancy; where all is
in private, and shame is but for him who refuses the abnegation of his
conscience, each man seeks the indulgence of his private vice.  And hence
in Secret Societies (from which may yet proceed great danger to all
Europe) we find but foul and hateful Eleusinia, affording pretexts to the
ambition of the great, to the license of the penniless, to the passions
of the revengeful, to the anarchy of the ignorant.  In a word, the
societies of these Italian Carbonari did but engender schemes in which
the abler chiefs disguised new forms of despotism, and in which the
revolutionary many looked forward to the overthrow of all the
institutions that stand between Law and Chaos.  Naturally, therefore,"
added L'Estrange, dryly, "when their schemes were detected, and the
conspiracy foiled, it was for the silly, honest men entrapped into the
league to suffer, the leaders turned king's evidence, and the common
mercenaries became--banditti."  Harley then proceeded to state that it
was just when the /soi-disant/ Riccabocca had discovered the true nature
and ulterior views of the conspirators he had joined, and actually
withdrawn from their councils, that he was denounced by the kinsman who
had duped him into the enterprise, and who now profited by his treason.
Harley next spoke of the packet despatched by Riccabocca's dying wife,
as it was supposed, to Mrs. Bertram; and of the hopes he founded on the
contents of that packet, if discovered.  He then referred to the design
which had brought Peschiera to England,--a design which that personage
had avowed with such effrontery to his companions at Vienna, that he had
publicly laid wagers on his success.

"But these men can know nothing of England, of the safety of English
laws," said Leonard, naturally.  "We take it for granted that Riccabocca,
if I am still so to call him, refuses his consent to the marriage between
his daughter and his foe.  Where, then, the danger?  This count, even if
Violante were not under your mother's roof, could not get an opportunity
to see her.  He could not attack the house and carry her off like a
feudal baron in the middle ages."

"All this is very true," answered Harley.  "Yet I have found through life
that we cannot estimate danger by external circumstances, but by the
character of those from whom it is threatened.  This count is a man of
singular audacity, of no mean natural talents,--talents practised in
every art of duplicity and intrigue; one of those men whose boast it is
that they succeed in whatever they undertake; and he is, here, urged on
the one hand by all that can whet the avarice, and on the other, by all
that can give invention to despair.  Therefore, though I cannot guess
what plan he may possibly adopt, I never doubt that some plan, formed
with cunning and pursued with daring, will be embraced the moment he
discovers Violante's retreat,--unless, indeed, we can forestall all peril
by the restoration of her father, and the detection of the fraud and
falsehood to which Peschiera owes the fortune he appropriates.  Thus,
while we must prosecute to the utmost our inquiries for the missing
documents, so it should be our care to possess ourselves, if possible,
of such knowledge of the count's machinations as may enable us to defeat
them.  Now, it was with satisfaction that I learned in Germany that
Peschiera's sister was in London.  I knew enough both of his disposition
and of the intimacy between himself and this lady, to make me think it
probable he will seek to make her his instrument and accomplice, should
he require one.  Peschiera (as you may suppose by his audacious wager) is
not one of those secret villains who would cut off their right hand if it
could betray the knowledge of what was done by the left,--rather one of
those self-confident vaunting knaves of high animal spirits, and
conscience so obtuse that it clouds their intellect, who must have some
one to whom they can boast of their abilities and confide their projects.
And Peschiera has done all he can to render this poor woman so wholly
dependent on him as to be his slave and his tool.  But I have learned
certain traits in her character that show it to be impressionable to
good, and with tendencies to honour.  Peschiera had taken advantage of
the admiration she excited, some years ago, in a rich young Englishman,
to entice this admirer into gambling, and sought to make his sister both
a decoy and an instrument in his designs of plunder.  She did not
encourage the addresses of our countryman, but she warned him of the
snare laid for him, and entreated him to leave the place lest her brother
should discover and punish her honesty.  The Englishman told me this
himself.  In fine, my hope of detaching this lady from Peschiera's
interests, and inducing her to forewarn us of his purpose, consists but
in the innocent, and, I hope, laudable artifice, of redeeming herself,--
of appealing to, and calling into disused exercise, the better springs of
her nature."

Leonard listened with admiration and some surprise to the singularly
subtle and sagacious insight into character which Harley evinced in the
brief clear strokes by which he had thus depicted Peschiera and Beatrice,
and was struck by the boldness with which Harley rested a whole system of
action upon a few deductions drawn from his reasonings on human motive
and characteristic bias.  Leonard had not expected to find so much
practical acuteness in a man who, however accomplished, usually seemed
indifferent, dreamy, and abstracted to the ordinary things of life.  But
Harley L'Estrange was one of those whose powers lie dormant till
circumstance applies to them all they need for activity,--the stimulant
of a motive.

Harley resumed: "After a conversation I had with the lady last night, it
occurred to me that in this part of our diplomacy you could render us
essential service.  Madame di Negra--such is the sister's name--has
conceived an admiration for your genius, and a strong desire to know you
personally.  I have promised to present you to her; and I shall do so
after a preliminary caution.  The lady is very handsome, and very
fascinating.  It is possible that your heart and your senses may not be
proof against her attractions."

"Oh, do not fear that!" exclaimed Leonard, with a tone of conviction so
earnest that Harley smiled.

"Forewarned is not always forearmed against the might of beauty, my dear
Leonard; so I cannot at once accept your assurance.  But listen to me!
Watch yourself narrowly, and if you find that you are likely to be
captivated, promise, on your honour, to retreat at once from the field.
I have no right, for the sake of another, to expose you to danger; and
Madame di Negra, whatever may be her good qualities, is the last person I
should wish to see you in love with."

"In love with her!  Impossible!"

"Impossible is a strong word," returned Harley; "still I own fairly (and
this belief alone warrants me in trusting you to her fascinations), that
I do think, as far as one man can judge of another, that she is not the
woman to attract you; and if filled by one pure and generous object in
your intercourse with her, you will see her with purged eyes.  Still I
claim your promise as one of honour."

"I give it," said Leonard, positively.  "But how can I serve Riccabocca?
How aid in--"

"Thus," interrupted Harley: "the spell of your writings is, that,
unconsciously to ourselves, they make us better and nobler.  And your
writings are but the impressions struck off from your mind.  Your
conversation, when you are roused, has the same effect.  And as you grow
more familiar with Madame di Negra, I wish you to speak of your boyhood,
your youth.  Describe the exile as you have seen him,--so touching amidst
his foibles, so grand amidst the petty privations of his fallen fortunes,
so benevolent while poring over his hateful Machiavelli, so stingless in
his wisdom of the serpent, so playfully astute in his innocence of the
dove--I leave the picture to your knowledge of humour and pathos.
Describe Violante brooding over her Italian Poets, and filled with dreams
of her fatherland; describe her with all the flashes of her princely
nature, shining forth through humble circumstance and obscure position;
waken in your listener compassion, respect, admiration for her kindred
exiles,--and I think our work is done.  She will recognize evidently
those whom her brother seeks.  She will question you closely where you
met with them, where they now are.  Protect that secret; say at once that
it is not your own.  Against your descriptions and the feelings they
excite, she will not be guarded as against mine.  And there are other
reasons why your influence over this woman of mixed nature may be more
direct and effectual than my own."

"Nay, I cannot conceive that."

"Believe it, without asking me to explain," answered Harley.

For he did not judge it necessary to say to Leonard: "I am high-born and
wealthy, you a peasant's son, and living by your exertions.  This woman
is ambitious and distressed.  She might have projects on me that would
counteract mine on her.  You she would but listen to, and receive,
through the sentiments of good or of poetical that are in her; you she
would have no interest to subjugate, no motive to ensnare."

"And now," said Harley, turning the subject, "I have another object in
view.  This foolish sage friend of ours, in his bewilderment and fears,
has sought to save Violante from one rogue by promising her hand to a man
who, unless my instincts deceive me, I suspect much disposed to be
another.  Sacrifice such exuberance of life and spirit to that bloodless
heart, to that cold and earthward intellect!  By Heaven, it shall not
be!"

"But whom can the exile possibly have seen of birth and fortunes to
render him a fitting spouse for his daughter?  Whom, my Lord, except
yourself?"

"Me!" exclaimed Harley, angrily, and changing colour.  "I worthy of such
a creature?---I, with my habits!  I, silken egotist that I am!  And you,
a poet, to form such an estimate of one who might be the queen of a
poet's dreasn!"

"My Lord, when we sat the other night round Riccabocca's hearth, when I
heard her speak, and observed you listen, I said to myself, from such
knowledge of human nature as comes, we know not how, to us poets,--I
said, 'Harley L'Estrange has looked long and wistfully on the heavens,
and he now hears the murmur of the wings that can waft him towards them.'
And then I sighed, for I thought how the world rules us all in spite of
ourselves, and I said, 'What pity for both, that the exile's daughter is
not the worldly equal of the peer's son!'  And you too sighed, as I thus
thought; and I fancied that, while you listened to the music of the wing,
you felt the iron of the chain.  But the exile's daughter is your equal
in birth, and you are her equal in heart and in soul."

"My poor Leonard, you rave," answered Harley, calmly.  "And if Violante
is not to be some young prince's bride, she should be some young poet's."

"Poet's!  Oh, no!" said Leonard, with a gentle laugh.  "Poets need repose
where they love!"

Harley was struck by the answer, and mused over it in silence.  "I
comprehend," thought he; "it is a new light that dawns on me.  What is
needed by the man whose whole life is one strain after glory--whose soul
sinks, in fatigue, to the companionship of earth--is not the love of a
nature like his own.  He is right,--it is repose!  While I!--it is true;
boy that he is, his intuitions are wiser than all my experience!  It is
excitement, energy, elevation, that Love should bestow on me.  But I have
chosen; and, at least, with Helen my life will be calm, and my hearth
sacred.  Let the rest sleep in the same grave as my youth."

"But," said Leonard, wishing kindly to arouse his noble friend from a
revery which he felt was mournful, though he did not divine its true
cause,--"but you have not yet told me the name of the signorina's suitor.
May I know?"

"Probably one you never heard of.  Randal Leslie,--a placeman.  You
refused a place; you were right."

"Randal Leslie?  Heaven forbid!" cried Leonard, revealing his surprise at
the name.

"Amen!  But what do you know of him?

"Leonard related the story of Burley's pamphlet."

Harley seemed delighted to hear his suspicions of Randal confirmed.  "The
paltry pretender;--and yet I fancied that he might be formidable!
However, we must dismiss him for the present,--we are approaching Madame
di Negra's house.  Prepare yourself, and remember your promise."



CHAPTER XIII.

Some days have passed by.  Leonard and Beatrice di Negra have already
made friends.  Harley is satisfied with his young friend's report.  He
himself has been actively occupied.  He has sought, but hitherto in vain,
all trace of Mrs. Bertram; he has put that investigation into the hands
of his lawyer, and his lawyer has not been more fortunate than himself.
Moreover, Harley has blazed forth again in the London world, and promises
again /de faire fureur/; but he has always found time to spend some hours
in the twenty-four at his father's house.  He has continued much the same
tone with Violante, and she begins to accustom herself to it, and reply
saucily.  His calm courtship to Helen flows on in silence.  Leonard, too,
has been a frequent guest at the Lansmeres: all welcome and like him
there.  Peschiera has not evinced any sign of the deadly machinations
ascribed to him.  He goes less into the drawing-room world; for in that
world he meets Lord L'Estrange; and brilliant and handsome though
Peschiera be, Lord L'Estrange, like Rob Roy Macgregor, is "on his native
heath," and has the decided advantage over the foreigner.  Peschiera,
however, shines in the clubs, and plays high.  Still, scarcely an evening
passes in which he and Baron Levy do not meet.

Audley Egerton has been intensely occupied with affairs, only seen once
by Harley.  Harley then was about to deliver himself of his sentiments
respecting Randal Leslie, and to communicate the story of Burley and the
pamphlet.  Egerton stopped him short.

"My dear Harley, don't try to set me against this young man.  I wish to
hear nothing in his disfavour.  In the first place, it would not alter
the line of conduct I mean to adopt with regard to him.  He is my wife's
kinsman; I charged myself with his career, as a wish of hers, and
therefore as a duty to myself.  In attaching him so young to my own fate,
I drew him necessarily away from the professions in which his industry
and talents (for he has both in no common degree) would have secured his
fortunes; therefore, be he bad, be he good, I shall try to provide for
him as I best can; and, moreover, cold as I am to him, and worldly though
perhaps he be, I have somehow or other conceived an interest in him, a
liking to him.  He has been under my roof, he is dependent on me; he has
been docile and prudent, and I am a lone childless man; therefore, spare
him, since in so doing you spare me; and ah, Harley, I have so many cares
on me now that--"

"Oh, say no more, my dear, dear Audley," cried the generous friend; "how
little people know you!"

Audley's hand trembled.  Certainly his nerves began to show wear and
tear.

Meanwhile, the object of this dialogue--the type of perverted intellect,
of mind without heart, of knowledge which had no aim but power--was in a
state of anxious, perturbed gloom.  He did not know whether wholly to
believe Levy's assurance of his patron's ruin.  He could not believe it
when he saw that great house in Grosvenor Square, its hall crowded with
lacqueys, its sideboard blazing with plate; when no dun was ever seen in
the antechamber; when not a tradesman was ever known to call twice for a
bill.  He hinted to Levy the doubts all these phenomena suggested to him;
but the baron only smiled ominously, and said,

"True, the tradesmen are always paid; but the how is the question!
Randal, /mon cher/, you are too innocent.  I have but two pieces of
advice to suggest, in the shape of two proverbs,--'Wise rats run from a
falling house,' and, 'Make hay while the sun shines.' /A propos/, Mr.
Avenel likes you greatly, and has been talking of the borough of Lansmere
for you.  He has contrived to get together a great interest there.  Make
much of him."

Randal had indeed been to Mrs. Avenel's /soiree dansante/, and called
twice and found her at home, and been very bland and civil, and admired
the children.  She had two, a boy and a girl, very like their father,
with open faces as bold as brass.  And as all this had won Mrs. Avenel's
good graces, so it had propitiated her husband's.  Avenel was shrewd
enough to see how clever Randal was.  He called him "smart," and said "he
would have got on in America," which was the highest praise Dick Avenel
ever accorded to any man.  But Dick himself looked a little careworn; and
this was the first year in which he had murmured at the bills of his
wife's dressmaker, and said with an oath, that "there was such a thing as
going too much ahead."

Randal had visited Dr. Riccabocca, and found Violante flown.  True to his
promise to Harley, the Italian refused to say where, and suggested, as
was agreed, that for the present it would be more prudent if Randal
suspended his visits to himself.  Leslie, not liking this proposition,
attempted to make himself still necessary by working on Riccabocca's
fears as to that espionage on his retreat, which had been among the
reasons that had hurried the sage into offering Randal Violante's hand.
But Riccabocca had already learned that the fancied spy was but his
neighbour Leonard; and, without so saying, he cleverly contrived to make
the supposition of such espionage an additional reason for the cessation
of Leslie's visits.  Randal then, in his own artful, quiet, roundabout
way, had sought to find out if any communication had passed between
L'Estrange and Riccabocca.  Brooding over Harley's words to him, he
suspected there had been such communication, with his usual penetrating
astuteness.  Riceabocca, here, was less on his guard, and rather parried
the sidelong questions than denied their inferences.

Randal began already to surmise the truth.  Where was it likely Violante
should go but to the Lansmeres?  This confirmed his idea of Harley's
pretensions to her hand.  With such a rival what chance had he?  Randal
never doubted for a moment that the pupil of Machiavelli would "throw him
over," if such an alliance to his daughter really presented itself.  The
schemer at once discarded from his objects all further aim on Violante;
either she would be poor, and he would not have her; or she would be
rich, and her father would give her to another.  As his heart had never
been touched by the fair Italian, so the moment her inheritance became
more doubtful, it gave him no pang to lose her; but he did feel very sore
and resentful at the thought of being supplanted by Lord L'Estrange,--the
man who had insulted him.

Neither, as yet, had Randal made any way in his designs on Frank.  For
several days Madame di Negra had not been at home either to himself or
young Hazeldean; and Frank, though very unhappy, was piqued and angry;
and Randal suspected, and suspected, and suspected, he knew not exactly
what, but that the devil was not so kind to him there as that father of
lies ought to have been to a son so dutiful.  Yet, with all these
discouragements, there was in Randal Leslie so dogged and determined a
conviction of his own success, there was so great a tenacity of purpose
under obstacles, and so vigilant an eye upon all chances that could be
turned to his favour, that he never once abandoned hope, nor did more
than change the details in his main schemes.  Out of calculations
apparently the most far-fetched and improbable, he had constructed a
patient policy, to which he obstinately clung.  How far his reasonings
and patience served to his ends remains yet to be seen.  But could our
contempt for the baseness of Randal himself be separated from the
faculties which he elaborately degraded to the service of that baseness,
one might allow that there was something one could scarcely despise in
this still self-reliance, this inflexible resolve.  Had such qualities,
aided as they were by abilities of no ordinary acuteness, been applied to
objects commonly honest, one would have backed Randal Leslie against any
fifty picked prize-men from the colleges.  But there are judges of weight
and metal who do that now, especially Baron Levy, who says to himself as
he eyes that pale face all intellect, and that spare form all nerve,
"This is a man who must make way in life; he is worth helping."

By the words "worth helping" Baron Levy meant "worth getting into my
power, that he may help me."



CHAPTER XIV.

But parliament had met.  Events that belong to history had contributed
yet more to weaken the administration.  Randal Leslie's interest became
absorbed in politics, for the stake to him was his whole political
career.  Should Audley lose office, and for good, Audley could aid him no
more; but to abandon his patron, as Levy recommended, and pin himself, in
the hope of a seat in parliament, to a stranger,--an obscure stranger,
like Dick Avenel,--that was a policy not to be adopted at a breath.
Meanwhile, almost every night, when the House met, that pale face and
spare form, which Levy so identified with shrewdness and energy, might be
seen amongst the benches appropriated to those more select strangers who
obtain the Speaker's order of admission.  There, Randal heard the great
men of that day, and with the half-contemptuous surprise at their fame,
which is common enough amongst clever, well-educated young men, who know
not what it is to speak in the House of Commons.  He heard much slovenly
English, much trite reasoning, some eloquent thoughts, and close
argument, often delivered in a jerking tone of voice (popularly called
the parliamentary twang), and often accompanied by gesticulations that
would have shocked the manager of a provincial theatre.  He thought how
much better than these great dons (with but one or two exceptions), he
himself could speak,--with what more refined logic, with what more
polished periods, how much more like Cicero and Burke!  Very probably he
might have so spoken, and for that very reason have made that deadest of
all dead failures,--a pretentious imitation of Burke and Cicero.  One
thing, however, he was obliged to own,--namely, that in a popular
representative assembly, it is not precisely knowledge which is power,
or if knowledge, it is but the knowledge of that particular assembly,
and what will best take with it; passion, invective, sarcasm, bold
declamation, shrewd common-sense, the readiness so rarely found in a very
profound mind,--he owned that all these were the qualities that told;
when a man who exhibited nothing but "knowledge," in the ordinary sense
of the word, stood an imminent chance of being coughed down.

There at his left--last but one in the row of the ministerial chiefs--
Randal watched Audley Egerton, his arms folded on his breast, his hat
drawn over his brows, his eyes fixed with steady courage on whatever
speaker in the Opposition held possession of the floor.  And twice Randal
heard Egerton speak, and marvelled much at the effect that minister
produced.  For of those qualities enumerated above, and which Randal had
observed to be most sure of success, Audley Egerton only exhibited to a
marked degree the common-sense and the readiness.  And yet, though but
little applauded by noisy cheers, no speaker seemed more to satisfy
friends, and command respect from foes.  The true secret was this, which
Randal might well not divine, since that young person, despite his
ancient birth, his Eton rearing, and his refined air, was not one of
Nature's gentlemen,--the true secret was, that Audley Egerton moved,
looked, and spoke like a thorough gentleman of England,--a gentleman of
more than average talents and of long experience, speaking his sincere
opinions, not a rhetorician aiming at effect.  Moreover, Egerton was a
consummate man of the world.  He said, with nervous simplicity, what his
party desired to be said, and put what his opponents felt to be the
strong points of the case.  Calm and decorous, yet spirited and
energetic, with little variety of tone, and action subdued and rare, but
yet signalized by earnest vigour, Audley Egerton impressed the
understanding of the dullest, and pleased the taste of the most
fastidious.

But once, when allusions were made to a certain popular question, on
which the premier had announced his resolution to refuse all concession,
and on the expediency of which it was announced that the Cabinet was
nevertheless divided, and when such allusions were coupled with direct
appeals to Mr. Egerton, as "the enlightened member of a great commercial
constituency," and with a flattering doubt that "that Right Honourable
gentleman, member for that great city, identified with the cause of the
Burgher class, could be so far behind the spirit of the age as his
official chief,"--Randal observed that Egerton drew his hat still more
closely over his brows, and turned to whisper with one of his colleagues.
He could not be got up to speak.

That evening Randal walked home with Egerton, and intimated his surprise
that the minister had declined what seemed to him a good occasion for one
of those brief, weighty replies by which Audley was chiefly
distinguished,--an occasion to which he had been loudly invited
by the "hears" of the House.

"Leslie," answered the statesman, briefly, "I owe all my success in
parliament to this rule,--I have never spoken against my convictions.
I intend to abide by it to the last."

"But if the question at issue comes before the House, you will vote
against it?"

"Certainly, I vote as a member of the Cabinet.  But since I am not leader
and mouthpiece of the party, I retain as an individual the privilege to
speak or keep silence."

"Ah, my dear Mr. Egerton," exclaimed Randal, "forgive me.  But this
question, right or wrong, has got such hold of the public mind.  So
little, if conceded in time, would give content; and it is so clear (if I
may judge by the talk I hear everywhere I go) that by refusing all
concession, the Government must fall, that I wish--"

"So do I wish," interrupted Egerton, with a gloomy, impatient sigh,--"so
do I wish!  But what avails it?  If my advice had been taken but three
weeks ago--now it is too late--we could have doubled the rock; we
refused, we must split upon it."

This speech was so unlike the discreet and reserved minister, that Randal
gathered courage to proceed with an idea that had occurred to his own
sagacity.  And before I state it, I must add that Egerton had of late
shown much more personal kindness to his protege; whether his spirits
were broken, or that at last, close and compact as his nature of bronze
was, he felt the imperious want to groan aloud in some loving ear, the
stern Audley seemed tamed and softened.  So Randal went on,

"May I say what I have heard expressed with regard to you and your
position--in the streets, in the clubs?"

"Yes, it is in the streets and the clubs that statesmen should go to
school.  Say on."

"Well, then, I have heard it made a matter of wonder why you, and one or
two others I will not name, do not at once retire from the ministry, and
on the avowed ground that you side with the public feeling on this
irresistible question."

"Eh!"

"It is clear that in so doing you would become the most popular man in
the country,--clear that you would be summoned back to power on the
shoulders of the people.  No new Cabinet could be formed without you, and
your station in it would perhaps be higher, for life, than that which you
may now retain but for a few weeks longer.  Has not this ever occurred to
you?"

"Never," said Audley, with dry composure.

Amazed at such obtuseness, Randal exclaimed, "Is it possible!  And yet,
forgive me if I say I think you are ambitious, and love power."

"No man more ambitious; and if by power you mean office, it has grown the
habit of my life, and I shall not know what to do without it."

"And how, then, has what seems to me so obvious never occurred to you?"

"Because you are young, and therefore I forgive you; but not the gossips
who could wonder why Audley Egerton refused to betray the friends of his
whole career, and to profit by the treason."

"But one should love one's country before a party."

"No doubt of that; and the first interest of a country is the honour of
its public men."

"But men may leave their party without dishonour!"

"Who doubts that?  Do you suppose that if I were an ordinary independent
member of parliament, loaded with no obligations, charged with no trust,
I could hesitate for a moment what course to pursue?  Oh, that I were but
the member for ----------!  Oh, that I had the full right to be a free
agent!  But if a member of a Cabinet, a chief in whom thousands confide,
because he is outvoted in a council of his colleagues, suddenly retires,
and by so doing breaks up the whole party whose confidence he has
enjoyed, whose rewards he has reaped, to whom he owes the very position
which he employs to their ruin,--own that though his choice may be
honest, it is one which requires all the consolations of conscience."

"But you will have those consolations.  And," added Randal,
energetically, "the gain to your career will be so immense!"

"That is precisely what it cannot be," answered Egerton, gloomily.
"I grant that I may, if I choose, resign office with the present
Government, and so at once destroy that Government; for my resignation
on such ground would suffice to do it.  I grant this; but for that very
reason I could not the next day take office with another administration.
I could not accept wages for desertion.  No gentleman could! and
therefore--" Audley stopped short, and buttoned his coat over his broad
breast.  The action was significant; it said that the man's mind was made
up.

In fact, whether Audley Egerton was right or wrong in his theory depends
upon much subtler, and perhaps loftier, views in the casuistry of
political duties, than it was in his character to take.  And I guard
myself from saying anything in praise or disfavour of his notions, or
implying that he is a fit or unfit example in a parallel case.  I am but
describing the man as he was, and as a man like him would inevitably be,
under the influences in which he lived, and in that peculiar world of
which he was so emphatically a member.  "Ce n'est pas moi qui parle,
c'est Marc Aurele."

He speaks, not I.

Randal had no time for further discussion.  They now reached Egerton's
house, and the minister, taking the chamber candlestick from his
servant's hand, nodded a silent goodnight to Leslie, and with a jaded
look retired to his room.



CHAPTER XV.

But not on the threatened question was that eventful campaign of Party
decided.  The Government fell less in battle than skirmish.  It was one
fatal Monday--a dull question of finance and figures.  Prosy and few were
the speakers,--all the Government silent, save the Chancellor of the
Exchequer, and another business-like personage connected with the Board
of Trade, whom the House would hardly condescend to hear.  The House was
in no mood to think of facts and figures.  Early in the evening, between
nine and ten, the Speaker's sonorous voice sounded, "Strangers must
withdraw!"  And Randal, anxious and foreboding, descended from his seat
and went out of the fatal doors.  He turned to take a last glance at
Audley Egerton.  The whipper-in was whispering to Audley; and the
minister pushed back his hat from his brows, and glanced round the House,
and up into the galleries, as if to calculate rapidly the relative
numbers of the two armies in the field; then be smiled bitterly, and
threw himself back into his seat.  That smile long haunted Leslie.

Amongst the strangers thus banished with Randal, while the division was
being taken, were many young men, like himself, connected with the
administration,--some by blood, some by place.  Hearts beat loud in the
swarming lobbies.  Ominous mournful whispers were exchanged.  "They say
the Government will have a majority of ten."  "No; I hear they will
certainly be beaten."  "H--says by fifty."  "I don't believe it," said a
Lord of the Bedchamber; "it is impossible.  I left five Government
members dining at The Travellers."  "No one thought the division would be
so early."  "A trick of the Whigs-shameful!"  "Wonder some one was not
set up to talk for time; very odd P--did not speak; however, he is so
cursedly rich, he does not care whether he is out or in."  "Yes; and
Audley Egerton too, just such another: glad, no doubt, to be set free
to look after his property; very different tactics if we had men to whom
office was as necessary as it is--to me!"  said a candid young placeman.
Suddenly the silent Leslie felt a friendly grasp on his arm.  He turned
and saw Levy.

"Did I not tell you?" said the baron, with an exulting smile.

"You are sure, then, that the Government will be outvoted?"

"I spent the morning in going over the list of members with a
parliamentary client of mine, who knows them all as a shepherd does his
sheep.  Majority for the Opposition at least twenty-five."

"And in that case must the Government resign, sir?" asked the candid
young placeman, who had been listening to the smart, well-dressed baron,
"his soul planted in his ears."

"Of course, sir," replied the baron, blandly, and offering his snuff-box
(true Louis Quinze, with a miniature of Madame de Pompadour, set in
pearls).  "You are a friend to the present ministers?  You could not wish
them to be mean enough to stay in?"  Randal drew aside the baron.

"If Audley's affairs are as you state, what can he do?"

"I shall ask him that question to-morrow," answered the baron, with a
look of visible hate; "and I have come here just to see how he bears the
prospect before him."

"You will not discover that in his face.  And those absurd scruples of
his!  If he had but gone out in time--to come in again with the New Men!"

"Oh, of course, our Right Honourable is too punctilious for that!"
answered the baron, sneering.

Suddenly the doors opened, in rushed the breathless expectants.  "What
are the numbers?  What is the division?"

"Majority against ministers," said a member of Opposition, peeling an
orange, "twenty-nine."

The baron, too, had a Speaker's order; and he came into the House with
Randal, and sat by his side.  But, to their disgust, some member was
talking about the other motions before the House.

"What!  has nothing been said as to the division?" asked the baron of a
young county member, who was talking to some non-parliamentary friend in
the bench before Levy.  The county member was one of the baron's pet
eldest sons, had dined often with Levy, was under "obligations" to him.
The young legislator looked very much ashamed of Levy's friendly pat on
his shoulder, and answered hurriedly, "Oh, yes; H------ asked if, after
such an expression of the House, it was the intention of ministers to
retain their places, and carry on the business of the Government."

"Just like H-------!  Very inquisitive mind!  And what was the answer he
got?"

"None," said the county member; and returned in haste to his proper seat
in the body of the House.

"There comes Egerton," said the baron.  And, indeed, as most of the
members were now leaving the House, to talk over affairs at clubs or in
saloons, and spread through town the great tidings, Audley Egerton's
tall head was seen towering above the rest.  And Levy turned away
disappointed.  For not only was the minister's handsome face, though
pale, serene and cheerful, but there was an obvious courtesy, a marked
respect, in the mode in which that assembly--heated though it was--made
way for the fallen minister as he passed through the jostling crowd.  And
the frank urbane nobleman, who afterwards, from the force, not of talent
but of character, became the leader in that House, pressed the hand of
his old opponent, as they met in the throng near the doors, and said
aloud, "I shall not be a proud man if ever I live to have office; but I
shall be proud if ever I leave it with as little to be said against me as
your bitterest opponents can say against you, Egerton."

"I wonder," exclaimed the baron, aloud, and leaning over the partition
that divided him from the throng below, so that his voice reached
Egerton--and there was a cry from formal, indignant members, "Order in
the strangers' gallery I wonder what Lord L'Estrange will say?"

Audley lifted his dark brows, surveyed the baron for an instant with
flashing eyes, then walked down the narrow defile between the last
benches, and vanished from the scene, in which, alas!  so few of the
most admired performers leave more than an actor's short-lived name!



CHAPTER XVI.

Baron Levy did not execute his threat of calling on Egerton the next
morning.  Perhaps he shrank from again meeting the flash of those
indignant eyes.  And indeed Egerton was too busied all the forenoon to
see any one not upon public affairs, except Harley, who hastened to
console or cheer him.  When the House met, it was announced that the
ministers had resigned, only holding their offices till their successors
were appointed.  But already there was some reaction in their favour; and
when it became generally known that the new administration was to be
formed of men few indeed of whom had ever before held office, the common
superstition in the public mind that government is like a trade, in which
a regular apprenticeship must be served, began to prevail; and the talk
at the clubs was that the new men could not stand; that the former
ministry, with some modification, would be back in a month.  Perhaps that
too might be a reason why Baron Levy thought it prudent not prematurely
to offer vindictive condolences to Mr. Egerton.  Randal spent part of his
morning in inquiries as to what gentlemen in his situation meant to do
with regard to their places; he heard with great satisfaction that very
few intended to volunteer retirement from their desks.  As Randal himself
had observed to Egerton, "Their country before their party!"

Randal's place was of great moment to him; its duties were easy, its
salary amply sufficient for his wants, and defrayed such expenses as were
bestowed on the education of Oliver and his sister.  For I am bound to do
justice to this young man,--indifferent as he was towards his species in
general, the ties of family were strong with him; and he stinted himself
in many temptations most alluring to his age, in the endeavour to raise
the dull honest Oliver and the loose-haired pretty Juliet somewhat more
to his own level of culture and refinement.  Men essentially griping and
unscrupulous often do make the care for their family an apology for their
sins against the world.  Even Richard III., if the chroniclers are to be
trusted, excused the murder of his nephews by his passionate affection
for his son.  With the loss of that place, Randal lost all means of
support, save what Audley could give him; and if Audley were in truth
ruined?  Moreover, Randal had already established at the office a
reputation for ability and industry.  It was a career in which, if he
abstained from party politics, he might rise to a fair station and to a
considerable income.  Therefore, much contented with what he learned as
to the general determination of his fellow officials, a determination
warranted by ordinary precedent in such cases, Randal dined at a club
with good relish, and much Christian resignation for the reverse of his
patron, and then walked to Grosvenor Square, on the chance of finding
Audley within.  Learning that he was so, from the porter who opened the
door, Randal entered the library.  Three gentlemen were seated there with
Egerton: one of the three was Lord L'Estrange; the other two were members
of the really defunct, though nominally still existing, Government.  He
was about to withdraw from intruding on this conclave, when Egerton said
to him gently, "Come in, Leslie; I was just speaking about yourself."

"About me, sir?"

"Yes; about you and the place you hold.  I had asked Sir ----[pointing to
a fellow minister] whether I might not, with propriety, request your
chief to leave some note of his opinion of your talents, which I know is
high, and which might serve you with his successor."

"Oh, sir, at such a time to think of me!" exclaimed Randal, and he was
genuinely touched.

"But," resumed Audley, with his usual dryness, "Sir ----, to my surprise,
thinks that it would better become you that you should resign.  Unless
his reasons, which he has not yet stated, are very strong, such would not
be my advice."

"My reasons," said Sir ----, with official formality, "are simply these:
I have a nephew in a similar situation; he will resign, as a matter of
course.  Every one in the public offices whose relations and near
connections hold high appointments in the Government will do so.  I do
not think Mr. Leslie will like to feel himself a solitary exception."

"Mr. Leslie is no relation of mine,--not even a near connection,"
answered Egerton.

"But his name is so associated with your own: he has resided so long in
your house, is so well known in society (and don't think I compliment
when I add, that we hope so well of him), that I can't think it worth his
while to keep this paltry place, which incapacitates him too from a seat
in parliament."

Sir ---- was one of those terribly rich men, to whom all considerations
of mere bread and cheese are paltry.  But I must add that he supposed
Egerton to be still wealthier than himself, and sure to provide
handsomely for Randal, whom Sir ---- rather liked than not; and for
Randal's own sake, Sir ---- thought it would lower him in the estimation
of Egerton himself, despite that gentleman's advocacy, if he did not
follow the example of his avowed and notorious patron.

"You see, Leslie," said Egerton, checking Randal's meditated reply, "that
nothing can be said against your honour if you stay where you are; it is
a mere question of expediency; I will judge that for you; keep your
place."

Unhappily the other member of the Government, who had hitherto been
silent, was a literary man.  Unhappily, while this talk had proceeded, he
had placed his hand upon Randal Leslie's celebrated pamphlet, which lay
on the library table; and, turning over the leaves, the whole spirit and
matter of that masterly composition in defence of the administration (a
composition steeped in all the essence of party) recurred to his too
faithful recollection.  He, too, liked Randal; he did more,--he admired
the author of that striking and effective pamphlet.  And therefore,
rousing himself from the sublime indifference he had before felt for the
fate of a subaltern, he said, with a bland and complimentary smile, "No;
the writer of this most able publication is no ordinary placeman.  His
opinions here are too vigorously stated; this fine irony on the very
person who in all probability will be the chief in his office has excited
too lively an attention to allow him the /sedet eternumque sedebit/ on an
official stool.  Ha, ha!  this is so good!  Read it, L'Estrange.  What
say you?"  Harley glanced over the page pointed out to him.  The original
was in one of Burley's broad, coarse, but telling burlesques, strained
fine through Randal's more polished satire.  It was capital.  Harley
smiled, and lifted his eyes to Randal.  The unlucky plagiarist's face was
flushed,--the beads stood on his brow.  Harley was a good hater; he loved
too warmly not to err on the opposite side; but he was one of those men
who forget hate when its object is distressed and humbled.  He put down
the pamphlet and said, "I am no politician; but Egerton is so well known
to be fastidious and over-scrupulous in all points of official etiquette,
that Mr. Leslie cannot follow a safer counsellor."

"Read that yourself, Egerton," said Sir ----; and he pushed the pamphlet
to Audley.

Now Egerton had a dim recollection that that pamphlet was unlucky; but he
had skimmed over its contents hastily, and at that moment had forgotten
all about it.  He took up the too famous work with a reluctant hand, but
he read attentively the passages pointed out to him, and then said
gravely and sadly,

"Mr. Leslie, I retract my advice.  I believe Sir ---- is right,--that the
nobleman here so keenly satirized will be the chief in your office.  I
doubt whether he will not compel your dismissal; at all events, he could
scarcely be expected to promote your advancement.  Under the
circumstances, I fear you have no option as a--"  Egerton paused a
moment, and, with a sigh that seemed to settle the question, concluded
with--"as a gentleman."

Never did Jack Cade, never did Wat Tyler, feel a more deadly hate to that
word "gentleman" than the well-born Leslie felt then; but he bowed his
head, and answered with his usual presence of mind,

"You utter my own sentiment."

"You think we are right, Harley?" asked Egerton, with an irresolution
that surprised all present.

"I think," answered Harley, with a compassion for Randal that was almost
over-generous, and yet with an equivoque on the words, despite the
compassion,--"I think whoever has served Audley Egerton never yet has
been a loser by it; and if Mr. Leslie wrote this pamphlet, he must have
well served Audley Egerton.  If he undergoes the penalty, we may safely
trust to Egerton for the compensation."

"My compensation has long since been made," answered Randal, with grace;
"and that Mr. Egerton could thus have cared for my fortunes, at an hour
so occupied, is a thought of pride which--"

"Enough, Leslie!  enough!" interrupted Egerton, rising and pressing his
protege's hand.  "See me before you go to bed."

Then the two other ministers rose also and shook hands with Leslie, and
told him he had done the right thing, and that they hoped soon to see him
in parliament; and hinted, smilingly, that the next administration did
not promise to be very long-lived; and one asked him to dinner, and the
other to spend a week at his country-seat.  And amidst these
congratulations at the stroke that left him penniless, the distinguished
pamphleteer left the room.  How he cursed big John Burley!



CHAPTER XVII.

It was past midnight when Audley Egerton summoned Randal.  The statesman
was then alone, seated before his great desk, with its manifold
compartments, and engaged on the task of transferring various papers and
letters, some to the waste-basket, some to the flames, some to two great
iron chests with patent locks, that stood, open-mouthed, at his feet.
Strong, stern, and grim looked those iron chests, silently receiving the
relics of power departed; strong, stern, and grim as the grave.  Audley
lifted his eyes at Randal's entrance, signed to him to take a chair,
continued his task for a few moments, and then turning round, as if by an
effort he plucked himself from his master-passion,--Public Life, he said,
with deliberate tones,

"I know not, Randal Leslie, whether you thought me needlessly cautious,
or wantonly unkind, when I told you never to expect from me more than
such advance to your career as my then position could effect,--never to
expect from my liberality in life, nor from my testament in death, an
addition to your private fortunes.  I see by your gesture what would be
your reply, and I thank you for it.  I now tell you, as yet in
confidence, though before long it can be no secret to the world, that my
pecuniary affairs have been so neglected by me in my devotion to those of
the State, that I am somewhat like the man who portioned out his capital
at so much a day, calculating to live just long enough to make it last.
Unfortunately he lived too long."  Audley smiled--but the smile was cold
as a sunbeam upon ice-and went on with the same firm, unfaltering
accents.  "The prospects that face me I am prepared for; they do not take
me by surprise.  I knew long since how this would end, if I survived the
loss of office.  I knew it before you came to me, and therefore I spoke
to you as I did, judging it manful and right to guard you against hopes
which you might otherwise have naturally entertained.  On this head, I
need say no more.  It may excite your surprise, possibly your blame, that
I, esteemed methodical and practical enough in the affairs of the State,
should be so imprudent as to my own."

"Oh, sir!  you owe no account to me."

"To you, at least, as much as to any one.  I am a solitary man; my few
relations need nothing from me.  I had a right do spend what I possessed
as I pleased; and if I have spent it recklessly as regards myself, I have
not spent it ill in its effect on others.  It has been my object for many
years to have no Private Life,--to dispense with its sorrows, joys,
affections; and as to its duties, they did not exist for me.  I have
said."  Mechanically, as he ended, the minister's hand closed the lid of
one of the iron boxes, and on the closed lid he rested his firm foot.
"But now," he resumed, "I have failed to advance your career.  True, I
warned you that you drew into a lottery; but you had more chance of a
prize than a blank.  A blank, however, it has turned out, and the
question becomes grave,--What are you to do?"

Here, seeing that Egerton came to a full pause, Randal answered readily,

"Still, sir, to go by your advice."

"My advice," said Audley, with a softened look, "would perhaps be rude
and unpalatable.  I would rather place before you an option.  On the one
hand, recommence life again.  I told you that I would keep your name on
your college books.  You can return, you can take your degree, after
that, you can go to the Bar,--you have just the talents calculated to
succeed in that profession.  Success will be slow, it is true; but, with
perseverance, it will be sure.  And, believe me, Leslie, Ambition is only
sweet while it is but the loftier name for Hope.  Who would care for a
fox's brush if it had not been rendered a prize by the excitement of the
chase?"

"Oxford--again!  It is a long step back in life," said Randal, drearily,
and little heeding Egerton's unusual indulgence of illustration.  "A long
step back--and to what?  To a profession in which one never begins to
rise till one's hair is gray.  Besides, how live in the mean while?"

"Do not let that thought disturb you.  The modest income that suffices
for a student at the Bar, I trust, at least, to insure you from the
wrecks of my fortune."

"Ah, sir, I would not burden you further.  What right have I to such
kindness, save my name of Leslie?" And in spite of himself, as Randal
concluded, a tone of bitterness, that betrayed reproach, broke forth.
Egerton was too much the man of the world not to comprehend the reproach,
and not to pardon it.

"Certainly," he answered calmly, "as a Leslie you are entitled to my
consideration, and would have been entitled perhaps to more, had I not so
explicitly warned you to the contrary.  But the Bar does not seem to
please you?"

"What is the alternative, sir?  Let me decide when I hear it," answered
Randal, sullenly.  He began to lose respect for the roan who owned he
could do so little for him, and who evidently recommended him to shift
for himself.

If one could have pierced into Egerton's gloomy heart as he noted the
young man's change of tone, it may be a doubt whether one would have seen
there pain or pleasure,--pain, for merely from the force of habit he had
begun to like Randal, or pleasure at the thought that he might have
reason to withdraw that liking.  So lone and stoical had grown the man
who had made it his object to have no private life!  Revealing, however,
neither pleasure nor pain, but with the composed calmness of a judge upon
the bench, Egerton replied,--

"The alternative is, to continue in the course you have begun, and still
to rely on me."

"Sir, my dear Mr. Egerton," exclaimed Randal, regaining all his usual
tenderness of look and voice, "rely on you!  But that is all I ask.
Only"

"Only, you would say, I am going out of power, and you don't see the
chance of my return?"

"I did not mean that."

"Permit me to suppose that you did: very true; but the party I belong to
is as sure of return as the pendulum of that clock is sure to obey the
mechanism that moves it from left to right.  Our successors profess to
come in upon a popular question.  All administrations who do that are
necessarily short-lived.  Either they do not go far enough to please
present supporters, or they go so far as to arm new enemies in the rivals
who outbid them with the people.  'T is the historymof all revolutions,
and of all reforms.  Our own administration in reality is destroyed for
having passed what was called a popular measure a year ago, which lost us
half our friends, and refusing to propose another popular measure this
year, in the which we are outstripped by the men who hallooed us on to
the last.  Therefore, whatever our successors do, we shall by the law of
reaction, have another experiment of power afforded to ourselves.  It is
but a question of time; you can wait for it,--whether I can is uncertain.
But if I die before that day arrives, I have influence enough still left
with those who will come in, to obtain a promise of a better provision
for you than that which you have lost.  The promises of public men are
proverbially uncertain; but I shall entrust your cause to a man who never
failed a friend, and whose rank will enable him to see that justice is
done to you,--I speak of Lord L'Estrange."

"Oh, not he; he is unjust to me; he dislikes me; he--"

"May dislike you (he has his whims), but he loves me; and though for no
other human being but you would I ask Harley L'Estrange a favour, yet for
you I will," said Egerton, betraying, for the first time in that
dialogue, a visible emotion,--"for you, a Leslie, a kinsman, however
remote, to the wife from whom I received my fortune!  And despite all my
cautions, it is possible that in wasting that fortune I may have wronged
you.  Enough: you have now before you the two options, much as you had at
first; but you have at present more experience to aid you in your choice.
You are a man, and with more brains than most men; think over it well,
and decide for yourself.  Now to bed, and postpone thought till the
morrow.  Poor Randal, you look pale!"

Audley, as he said the last words, put his hand on Randal's shoulder,
almost with a father's gentleness; and then suddenly drawing himself up,
as the hard inflexible expression, stamped on that face by years,
returned, he moved away and resettled to Public Life and the iron box.



CHAPTER XVIII.

Early the next day Randal Leslie was in the luxurious business-room of
Baron Levy.  How unlike the cold Doric simplicity of the statesman's
library!  Axminster carpets, three inches thick; /portieres a la
Francaise/ before the doors; Parisian bronzes on the chimney-piece; and
all the receptacles that lined the room, and contained title-deeds and
postobits and bills and promises to pay and lawyer-like japan boxes, with
many a noble name written thereon in large white capitals--"making ruin
pompous," all these sepulchres of departed patrimonies veneered in
rosewood that gleamed with French polish, and blazed with ormulu.  There
was a coquetry, an air of /petit maitre/, so diffused over the whole
room, that you could not, for the life of you, recollect you were with a
usurer!  Plutus wore the, aspect of his enemy Cupid; and how realize your
idea of Harpagon in that baron, with his easy French "/Mon cher/," and
his white, warm hands that pressed yours so genially, and his dress so
exquisite, even at the earliest morn?  No man ever yet saw that baron in
a dressing-gown and slippers!  As one fancies some feudal baron of old
(not half so terrible) everlastingly clad in mail, so all one's notions
of this grand marauder of civilization were inseparably associated with
varnished boots and a camellia in the button-hole.

"And this is all that he does for you!" cried the baron, pressing
together the points of his ten taper fingers.  "Had he but let you
conclude your career at Oxford, I have heard enough of your scholarship
to know that you would have taken high honours, been secure of a
fellowship, have betaken yourself with content to a slow and laborious
profession, and prepared yourself to die on the woolsack."

"He proposes to me now to return to Oxford," said Randal.  "It is not too
late!"

"Yes, it is," said the baron.  "Neither individuals nor nations ever go
back of their own accord.  There must be an earthquake before a river
recedes to its source."

"You speak well," answered Randal, "and I cannot gainsay you.  But now!"

"Ah, the now is the grand question in life, the then is obsolete, gone
by,--out of fashion; and now, /mon cher/, you come to ask my advice?"

"No, Baron, I come to ask your explanation."  "Of what?"

"I want to know why you spoke to me of Mr. Egerton's ruin; why you spoke
to me of the lands to be sold by Mr. Thornhill; and why you spoke to me
of Count Peschiera.  You touched on each of those points within ten
minutes, you omitted to indicate what link can connect them."

"By Jove," said the baron, rising, and with more admiration in his face
than you could have conceived that face, so smiling and so cynical, could
exhibit,--"by Jove, Randal Leslie, but your shrewdness is wonderful.  You
really are the first young man of your day; and I will 'help you,' as I
helped Audley Egerton.  Perhaps you will be more grateful."

Randal thought of Egerton's ruin.  The parallel implied by the baron did
not suggest to him the rare enthusiasm of gratitude.  However, he merely
said, "Pray, proceed; I listen to you with interest."

"As for politics, then," said the baron, "we will discuss that topic
later.  I am waiting myself to see how these new men get on.  The first
consideration is for your private fortunes.  You should buy this ancient
Leslie property--Rood and Dulmansberry--only L20,000 down; the rest may
remain on mortgage forever--or at least till I find you a rich wife,--as
in fact I did for Egerton.  Thornhill wants the L20,000 now,--wants them
very much."

"And where," said Randal, with an iron smile, "are the L20,000 you
ascribe to me to come from?"

"Ten thousand shall come to you the day Count Peschiera marries the
daughter of his kinsman with your help and aid; the remaining ten
thousand I will lend you.  No scruple, I shall hazard nothing, the
estates will bear that additional burden.  What say you,--shall it be
so?"

"Ten thousand pounds from Count Peschiera!" said Randal, breathing hard.
"You cannot be serious?  Such a sum--for what?--for a mere piece of
information?  How otherwise can I aid him?  There must be trick and
deception intended here."

"My dear fellow," answered Levy, "I will give you a hint.  There is such
a thing in life as being over-suspicious.  If you have a fault, it is
that.  The information you allude to is, of course, the first assistance
you are to give.  Perhaps more may be needed, perhaps not.  Of that you
will judge yourself, since the L10,000 are contingent on the marriage
aforesaid."

"Over-suspicious or not," answered Randal, "the amount of the sum is too
improbable, and the security too bad, for me to listen to this
proposition, even if I could descend to--"

"Stop, /mon cher/.  Business first, scruples afterwards.  The security
too bad; what security?"

"The word of Count di Peschiera."

"He has nothing to do with it, he need know nothing about it.  'T is my
word you doubt.  I am your security."

Randal thought of that dry witticism in Gibbon, "Abu Rafe says he will be
witness for this fact, but who will be witness for Abu Rafe?" but he
remained silent, only fixing on Levy those dark observant eyes, with
their contracted, wary pupils.

"The fact is simply this," resumed Levy: "Count di Peschiera has promised
to pay his sister a dowry of L20,000, in case he has the money to spare.
He can only have it to spare by the marriage we are discussing.  On my
part, as I manage his affairs in England for him, I have promised that,
for the said sum of L20,000, I will guarantee the expenses in the way of
that marriage, and settle with Madame di Negra.  Now, though Peschiera is
a very liberal, warm-hearted fellow, I don't say that he would have named
so large a sum for his sister's dowry, if in strict truth he did not owe
it to her.  It is the amount of her own fortune, which by some
arrangements with her late husband, not exactly legal, he possessed
himself of.  If Madame di Negra went to law with him for it, she could
get it back.  I have explained this to him; and, in short, you now
understand why the sum is thus assessed.  But I have bought up Madame di
Negra's debts, I have bought up young Hazeldean's (for we must make a
match between these two a part of our arrangements).  I shall present to
Peschiera, and to these excellent young persons, an account that will
absorb the whole L20,000.  That sum will come into my hands.  If I settle
the claims against them for half the money, which, making myself the sole
creditor, I have the right to do, the moiety will remain.  And if I
choose to give it to you in return for the services which provide
Peschiera with a princely fortune, discharge the debts of his sister, and
secure her a husband in my promising young client, Mr. Hazeldean, that is
my lookout,--all parties are satisfied, and no one need ever be the
wiser.  The sum is large, no doubt; it answers to me to give it to you;
does it answer to you to receive it?"

Randal was greatly agitated; but vile as he was, and systematically as in
thought he had brought himself to regard others merely as they could be
made subservient to his own interest, still, with all who have not
hardened themselves in actual crime, there is a wide distinction between
the thought and the act; and though, in the exercise of ingenuity and
cunning, he would have had few scruples in that moral swindling which is
mildly called "outwitting another," yet thus nakedly and openly to accept
a bribe for a deed of treachery towards the poor Italian who had so
generously trusted him--he recoiled.  He was nerving himself to refuse,
when Levy, opening his pocket-book, glanced over the memoranda therein,
and said, as to himself, "Rood Manor--Dulmansberry, sold to the
Thornhills by Sir Gilbert Leslie, knight of the shire; estimated present
net rental L2,250 7s. 0d.  It is the greatest bargain I ever knew.  And
with this estate in hand, and your talents, Leslie, I don't see why you
should not rise higher than Audley Egerton.  He was poorer than you
once!"

The old Leslie lands--a positive stake in the country--the restoration of
the fallen family; and on the other hand, either long drudgery at the
Bar,--a scanty allowance on Egerton's bounty, his sister wasting her
youth at slovenly, dismal Rood, Oliver debased into a boor!--or a
mendicant's dependence on the contemptuous pity of Harley L'Estrange,--
Harley, who had refused his hand to him, Harley, who perhaps would become
the husband of Violante!  Rage seized him as these contrasting pictures
rose before his view.  He walked to and fro in disorder, striving to
re-collect his thoughts, and reduce himself from the passions of the
human heart into the mere mechanism of calculating intellect.  "I cannot
conceive," said he, abruptly, "why you should tempt me thus,--what
interest it is to you!"

Baron Levy smiled, and put up his pocket-book.  He saw from that moment
that the victory was gained.

"My dear boy," said he, with the most agreeable bonhommie, "it is very
natural that you should think a man would have a personal interest in
whatever he does for another.  I believe that view of human nature is
called utilitarian philosophy, and is much in fashion at present.  Let me
try and explain to you.  In this affair I sha'n't injure myself.  True,
you will say, if I settle claims which amount to L20,000 for L10,000, I
might put the surplus into my own pocket instead of yours.  Agreed.  But
I shall not get the L20,000, nor repay myself Madame di Negra's debts
(whatever I may do as to Hazeldean's), unless the count gets this
heiress.  You can help in this.  I want you; and I don't think I could
get you by a less offer than I make.  I shall soon pay myself back the
L10,000 if the count get hold of the lady and her fortune.  Brief, I see
my way here to my own interests.  Do you want more reasons,--you shall
have them.  I am now a very rich man.  How have I become so?  Through
attaching myself from the first to persons of expectations, whether from
fortune or talent.  I have made connections in society, and society has
enriched me.  I have still a passion for making money.  "/Que voulez-
vous/?"  It is my profession, my hobby.  It will be useful to me in a
thousand ways to secure as a friend a young man who will have influence
with other young men, heirs to something better than Rood Hall.  You may
succeed in public life.  A man in public life may attain to the knowledge
of State secrets that are very profitable to one who dabbles a little in
the Funds.  We can perhaps hereafter do business together that may put
yourself in a way of clearing off all mortgages on these estates,--on the
encumbered possession of which I shall soon congratulate you.  You see I
am frank; 't is the only way of coming to the point with so clever a
fellow as you.  And now, since the less we rake up the mud in a pond from
which we have resolved to drink the better, let us dismiss all other
thoughts but that of securing our end.  Will you tell Peschiera where the
young lady is, or shall I?  Better do it yourself; reason enough for it,
that he has confided to you his hope, and asked you to help him; why
should not you?  Not a word to him about our little arrangement; he need
never know it.  You need never be troubled."  Levy rang the bell: "Order
my carriage round."

Randal made no objection.  He was deathlike pale, but there was a
sinister expression of firmness on his thin, bloodless lips.

"The next point," Levy resumed, "is to hasten the match between Frank and
the fair widow.  How does that stand?"

"She will not see me, nor receive him."

"Oh, learn why!  And if you find on either side there is a hitch, just
let me know; I will soon remove it."

"Has Hazeldean consented to the post-obit?"

"Not yet; I have not pressed it; I wait the right moment, if necessary."

"It will be necessary."

"Ah, you wish it.  It shall be so."

Randal Leslie again paced the room, and after a silent self-commune came
up close to the baron, and said,

"Look you, sir, I am poor and ambitious; you have tempted me at the right
moment, and with the right inducement.  I succumb.  But what guarantee
have I that this money will be paid, these estates made mine upon the
conditions stipulated?"

"Before anything is settled," replied the baron, "go and ask my character
of any of our young friends, Borrowell, Spendquick--whom you please; you
will hear me abused, of course; but they will all say this of me, that
when I pass my word, I keep it.  If I say, '/Mon cher/, you shall have
the money,' a man has it; if I say, 'I renew your bill for six months,'
it is renewed.  'T, is my way of doing business.  In all cases any word
is my bond.  In this case, where no writing can pass between us, my only
bond must be my word.  Go, then, make your mind clear as to your
security, and come here and dine at eight.  We will call on Peschiera
afterwards."

"Yes," said Randal, "I will at all events take the day to consider.
Meanwhile, I say this, I do not disguise from myself the nature of the
proposed transaction, but what I have once resolved I go through with.
My sole vindication to myself is, that if I play here with a false die,
it will be for a stake so grand, as once won, the magnitude of the prize
will cancel the ignominy of the play.  It is not this sum of money for
which I sell myself,--it is for what that sum will aid me to achieve.
And in the marriage of young Hazeldean with the Italian woman, I have
another, and it may be a larger interest.  I have slept on it lately,--
I wake to it now.  Insure that marriage, obtain the post-obit.  from
Hazeldean, and whatever the issue of the more direct scheme for which you
seek my services, rely on my gratitude, and believe that you will have
put me in the way to render gratitude of avail.  At eight I will be with
you."

Randal left the room.

The baron sat thoughtful.  "It is true," said he to himself, "this young
man is the next of kin to the Hazeldean estate, if Frank displease his
father sufficiently to lose his inheritance; that must be the clever
boy's design.  Well, in the long-run, I should make as much, or more, out
of him than out of the spendthrift Frank.  Frank's faults are those of
youth.  He will reform and retrench.  But this man!  No, I shall have him
for life.  And should he fail in this project, and have but this
encumbered property--a landed proprietor mortgaged up to his ears--why,
he is my slave, and I can foreclose when I wish, or if he prove useless;
--no, I risk nothing.  And if I did--if I lost L10,000--what then?  I can
afford it for revenge!--afford it for the luxury of leaving Audley
Egerton alone with penury and ruin, deserted, in his hour of need, by the
pensioner of his bounty, as he will be by the last friend of his youth,
when it so pleases me,--me whom he has called 'scoundrel'! and whom he--"
Levy's soliloquy halted there, for the servant entered to announce the
carriage.  And the baron hurried his band over his features, as if to
sweep away all trace of the passions that distorted their smiling
effrontery.  And so, as he took up his cane and gloves, and glanced at
the glass, the face of the fashionable usurer was once more as varnished
as his boots.



CHAPTER XIX.

When a clever man resolves on a villanous action, he hastens, by the
exercise of his cleverness, to get rid of the sense of his villany.  With
more than his usual alertness, Randal employed the next hour or two in
ascertaining how far Baron Levy merited the character he boasted, and how
far his word might be his bond.  He repaired to young men whom be
esteemed better judges on these points than Spendquick and Borrowell,--
young men who resembled the Merry Monarch, inasmuch as--

                   "They never said a foolish thing,
                    And never did a wise one."

There are many such young men about town,--sharp and able in all affairs
except their own.  No one knows the world better, nor judges of character
more truly, than your half-beggared /roue/.  From all these Baron Levy
obtained much the same testimonials: he was ridiculed as a would-be
dandy, but respected as a very responsible man of business, and rather
liked as a friendly, accommodating species of the Sir Epicure Mammon, who
very often did what were thought handsome, liberal things; and, "in
short," said one of these experienced referees,  "he is the best fellow
going--for a money-lender!  You may always rely on what he promises, and
he is generally very forbearing and indulgent to us of good society;
perhaps for the same reason that our tailors are,--to send one of us to
prison would hurt his custom.  His foible is to be thought a gentleman.
I believe, much as I suppose he loves money, he would give up half his
fortune rather than do anything for which we could cut him.  He allows a
pension of three hundred a year to Lord S-----.  True; he was his man of
business for twenty years, and before then S----- was rather a prudent
fellow, and had fifteen thousand a year.  He has helped on, too, many a
clever young man,--the best borough-monger you ever knew.  He likes
having friends in parliament.  In fact, of course he is a rogue; but if
one wants a rogue, one can't find a pleasanter.  I should like to see him
on the French stage,--a prosperous /Macaire/; Le Maitre could hit him off
to the life."

From information in these more fashionable quarters, gleaned with his
usual tact, Randal turned to a source less elevated, but to which he
attached more importance.  Dick Avenel associated with the baron,--Dick
Avenel must be in his clutches.  Now Randal did justice to that
gentleman's practical shrewdness.  Moreover, Avenel was by profession a
man of business.  He must know more of Levy than these men of pleasure
could; and as he was a plain-spoken person, and evidently honest, in the
ordinary acceptation of the word, Randal did not doubt that out of Dick
Avenel he should get the truth.

On arriving in Eaton Square, and asking for Mr. Avenel, Randal was at
once ushered into the drawing-room.  The apartment was not in such good,
solid, mercantile taste as had characterized Avenel's more humble
bachelor's residence at Screwstown.  The taste now was the Honourable
Mrs. Avenel's; and, truth to say, no taste could be worse.  Furniture of
all epochs heterogeneously clumped together,--here a sofa /a la
renaissance/ in Gobelin; there a rosewood Console from Gillow; a tall
mock-Elizabethan chair in black oak, by the side of a modern Florentine
table of Mosaic marbles; all kinds of colours in the room, and all at war
with each other; very bad copies of the best-known pictures in the world
in the most gaudy frames, and impudently labelled by the names of their
murdered originals,--"Raphael," "Corregio," "Titian," "Sebastian del
Piombo."  Nevertheless, there had been plenty of money spent, and there
was plenty to show for it.  Mrs. Avenel was seated on her sofa /a la
renaissance/, with one of her children at her feet, who was employed in
reading a new Annual in crimson silk binding.  Mrs. Avenel was in an
attitude as if sitting for her portrait.

Polite society is most capricious in its adoptions or rejections.  You
see many a very vulgar person firmly established in the /beau monde/;
others, with very good pretensions as to birth, fortune, etc., either
rigorously excluded, or only permitted a peep over the pales.  The
Honourable Mrs. Avenel belonged to families unquestionably noble, both by
her own descent and by her first marriage; and if poverty had kept her
down in her earlier career, she now, at least, did not want wealth to
back her pretensions.  Nevertheless, all the dispensers of fashion
concurred in refusing their support to the Honourable Mrs. Avenel.  One
might suppose it was solely on account of her plebeian husband; but
indeed it was not so.  Many a woman of high family can marry a low-born
man not so presentable as Avenel, and, by the help of his money, get the
fine world at her feet.  But Mrs. Avenel had not that art.  She was still
a very handsome, showy woman; and as for dress, no duchess could be more
extravagant.  Yet these very circumstances had perhaps gone against her
ambition; for your quiet little plain woman, provoking no envy, slips
into coteries, when a handsome, flaunting lady--whom, once seen in your
drawing-room, can be no more over-looked than a scarlet poppy amidst a
violet bed--is pretty sure to be weeded out as ruthlessly as a poppy
would be in a similar position.

Mr. Avenel was sitting by the fire, rather moodily, his hands in his
pockets, and whistling to himself.  To say truth, that active mind of his
was very much bored in London, at least during the fore part of the day.
He hailed Randal's entrance with a smile of relief, and rising and
posting himself before the fire--a coat tail under each arm--he scarcely
allowed Randal to shake hands with Mrs. Avenel, and pat the child on the
head, murmuring, "Beautiful creature!"  (Randal was ever civil to
children,--that sort of wolf in sheep's clothing always is; don't be
taken in, O you foolish young mothers!)--Dick, I say, scarcely allowed
his visitor these preliminary courtesies, before he plunged far beyond
depth of wife and child into the political ocean.  "Things now were
coming right,--a vile oligarchy was to be destroyed.  British
respectability and British talent were to have fair play."  To have heard
him you would have thought the day fixed for the millennium!  "And what
is more," said Avenel, bringing down the fist of his right hand upon the
palm of his left, "if there is to be a new parliament, we must have new
men; not worn-out old brooms that never sweep clean, but men who
understand how to govern the country, Sir.  I INTEND TO COME IN MYSELF!"

"Yes," said Mrs. Avenel, hooking in a word at last, "I am sure, Mr.
Leslie, you will think I did right.  I persuaded Mr. Avenel that, with
his talents and property, he ought, for the sake of his country, to make
a sacrifice; and then you know his opinions now are all the fashion,
Mr. Leslie; formerly they would have been called shocking and vulgar!"

Thus saying, she looked with fond pride at Dick's comely face, which at
that moment, however, was all scowl and frown.  I must do justice to Mrs.
Avenel; she was a weak woman, silly in some things, and a cunning one in
others, but she was a good wife as wives go.  Scotch women generally are.
"Bother!" said Dick.  "What do women know about politics?  I wish you'd
mind the child,--it is crumpling up and playing almighty smash with that
flim-flam book, which cost me one pound one."

Mrs. Avenel submissively bowed her head, and removed the Annual from the
hands of the young destructive; the destructive set up a squall, as
destructives usually do when they don't have their own way.  Dick clapped
his hand to his ears.  "Whe-e-ew, I can't stand this; come and take a
walk, Leslie: I want stretching!"  He stretched himself as he spoke,
first half-way up to the ceiling, and then fairly out of the room.

Randal, with his May Fair manner, turned towards Mrs. Avenel as if to
apologize for her husband and himself.

"Poor Richard!" said she, "he is in one of his humours,--all men have
them.  Come and see me again soon.  When does Almack's open?"

"Nay, I ought to ask you that question,--you who know everything that
goes on in our set," said the young serpent.  Any tree planted in "our
set," if it had been but a crab-tree, would have tempted Mr. Avenel's Eve
to jump at its boughs.

"Are you coming, there?" cried Dick, from the foot of the stairs.



CHAPTER XX.

"I have just been at our friend Levy's," said Randal, when he and Dick
were outside the street door.  "He, like you, is full of politics;
pleasant man,--for the business he is said to do."

"Well," said Dick, slowly, "I suppose he is pleasant, but make the best
of it--and still--"

"Still what, my dear Avenel?"  (Randal here for the first time discarded
the formal Mister.)

MR. AVENEL.--"Still the thing itself is not pleasant."

RANDAL (with his soft hollow laugh).--"You mean borrowing money upon more
than five per cent?"

"Oh, curse the percentage.  I agree with Bentham on the Usury Laws,--no
shackles in trade for me, whether in money or anything else.  That's not
it.  But when one owes a fellow money even at two per cent, and 't is not
convenient to pay him, why, somehow or other, it makes one feel small; it
takes the British Liberty out of a man!"

"I should have thought you more likely to lend money than to borrow it."

"Well, I guess you are right there, as a general rule.  But I tell you
what it is, sir; there is too great a mania for competition getting up
in this rotten old country of ours.  I am as liberal as most men.  I like
competition to a certain extent, but there is too much of it, sir,--too
much of it."  Randal looked sad and convinced.  But if Leonard had heard
Dick Avenel, what would have been his amaze?  Dick Avenel rail against
competition!  Think there could be too much of it!  "Of course heaven and
earth are coming together," said the spider, when the housemaid's broom
invaded its cobweb.  Dick was all for sweeping away other cobwebs; but he
certainly thought heaven and earth coming together when he saw a great
Turk's-head besom poked up at his own.

Mr. Avenel, in his genius for speculation and improvement, had
established a factory at Screwstown, the first which had ever eclipsed
the church spire with its Titanic chimney.  It succeeded well at first.
Mr. Avenel transferred to this speculation nearly all his capital.
"Nothing," quoth he, "paid such an interest.  Manchester was getting worn
out,--time to show what Screwstown could do.  Nothing like competition."
But by-and-by a still greater capitalist than Dick Avenel, finding out
that Screwstown was at the mouth of a coal mine, and that Dick's profits
were great, erected a still uglier edifice, with a still taller chimney.
And having been brought up to the business, and making his residence in
the town, while Dick employed a foreman and flourished in London, this
infamous competitor so managed, first to share, and then gradually to
sequester, the profits which Dick had hitherto monopolized, that no
wonder Mr. Avenel thought competition should have its limits.  "The
tongue touches where the tooth aches," as Dr. Riccabocca would tell us.
By little and little our Juvenile Talleyrand (I beg the elder great man's
pardon) wormed out from Dick this grievance, and in the grievance
discovered the origin of Dick's connection with the money-lender.

"But Levy," said Avenel, candidly, "is a decentish chap in his way,--
friendly too.  Mrs. A.  finds him useful; brings some of your young
highflyers to her soirees.  To be sure, they don't dance,--stand all in a
row at the door, like mutes at a funeral.  Not but what they have been
uncommon civil to me lately, Spendquick particularly.  By-the-by, I dine
with him to-morrow.  The aristocracy are behindhand,--not smart, sir, not
up to the march; but when a man knows how to take 'em, they beat the New
Yorkers in good manners.  I'll say that for them.  I have no prejudice."

"I never saw a man with less; no prejudice even against Levy."

"No, not a bit of it!  Every one says he's a Jew; he says he's not.  I
don't care a button what he is.  His money is English,--that's enough for
any man of a liberal turn of mind.  His charges, too, are moderate.  To
be sure, he knows I shall pay them; only what I don't like in him is a
sort of way he has of mon-cher-ing and my-good-fellow-ing one, to do
things quite out of the natural way of that sort of business.  He knows I
have got parliamentary influence.  I could return a couple of members for
Screwstown, and one, or perhaps two, for Lansmere, where I have of late
been cooking up an interest; and he dictates to--no, not dictates--but
tries to humbug me into putting in his own men.  However, in one respect,
we are likely to agree.  He says you want to come into parliament.  You
seem a smart young fellow; but you must throw over that stiff red-tapist
of yours, and go with Public Opinion, and--Myself."

"You are very kind, Avenel; perhaps when we come to compare opinions we
may find that we agree entirely.  Still, in Egerton's present position,
delicacy to him--However, we'll not discuss that now.  But you really
think I might come in for Lansmere,--against the L'Estrange interest,
too, which must be strong there?"

"It was very strong, but I've smashed it, I calculate."

"Would a contest there cost very much?"

"Well, I guess you must come down with the ready.  But, as you say, time
enough to discuss that when you have squared your account with
'delicacy;' come to me then, and we'll go into it."

Randal, having now squeezed his orange dry, had no desire to waste his
time in brushing up the rind with his coat-sleeve, so he unhooked his arm
from Avenel's, and, looking at his watch, discovered he should be just in
time for an appointment of the most urgent business,--hailed a cab, and
drove off.

Dick looked hipped and disconsolate at being left alone; he yawned very
loud, to the astonishment of three prim old maiden Belgravians who were
passing that way; and then his mind began to turn towards his factory at
Screwstown, which had led to his connection with the baron; and he
thought over a letter he had received from his foreman that morning,
informing him that it was rumoured at Screwstown that Mr. Dyce, his
rival, was about to have new machinery on an improved principle; and that
Mr. Dyce had already gone up to town, it was supposed, with the intention
of concluding a purchase for a patent discovery to be applied to the new
machinery, and which that gentleman had publicly declared in the corn-
market "would shut up Mr. Avenel's factory before the year was out."  As
this menacing epistle recurred to him, Dick felt his desire to yawn
incontinently checked.  His brow grew very dark; and he walked, with
restless strides, on and on, till he found himself in the Strand.  He
then got into an omnibus, and proceeded to the city, wherein he spent the
rest of the day looking over machines and foundries, and trying in vain
to find out what diabolical invention the over-competition of Mr. Dyce
had got hold of.  "If," said Dick Avenel to himself, as he returned
fretfully homeward--"if a man like me, who has done so much for British
industry and go-a-head principles, is to be catawampously champed up by a
mercenary, selfish cormorant of a capitalist like that interloping
blockhead in drab breeches, Tom Dyce, all I can say is, that the sooner
this cursed old country goes to the dogs, the better pleased I shall be.
I wash my hands of it."



CHAPTER XXI.

Randal's mind was made up.  All he had learned in regard to Levy had
confirmed his resolves or dissipated his scruples.  He had started from
the improbability that Pesehiera would offer, and the still greater
improbability that Peschiera would pay him, L10,000 for such information
or aid as he could bestow in furthering the count's object.  But when
Levy took such proposals entirely on himself, the main question to Randal
became this,--could it be Levy's interest to make so considerable a
sacrifice?  Had the baron implied only friendly sentiments as his
motives, Randal would have felt sure he was to be taken in; but the
usurer's frank assurance that it would answer to him in the long-run to
concede to Randal terms so advantageous, altered the case, and led our
young philosopher to look at the affair with calm, contemplative eyes.
Was it sufficiently obvious that Levy counted on an adequate return?
Might he calculate on reaping help by the bushel if he sowed it by the
handful?  The result of Randal's cogitations was that the baron might
fairly deem himself no wasteful sower.  In the first place, it was clear
that Levy, not without reasonable ground, believed that he could soon
replace, with exceeding good interest, any sum he might advance to
Randal, out of the wealth which Randal's prompt information might bestow
on Levy's client, the count; and secondly, Randal's self-esteem was
immense, and could he but succeed in securing a pecuniary independence on
the instant, to free him from the slow drudgery of the Bar, or from a
precarious reliance on Audley Egerton, as a politician out of power, his
convictions of rapid triumph in public life were as strong as if
whispered by an angel or promised by a fiend.  On such triumphs, with all
the social position they would secure, Levy might well calculate for
repayment by a thousand indirect channels.  Randal's sagacity detected
that, through all the good-natured or liberal actions ascribed to the
usurer, Levy had steadily pursued his own interests, he saw that Levy
meant to get him into his power, and use his abilities as instruments for
digging new mines, in which Baron Levy would claim the right of large
royalties.  But at that thought Randal's pale lip curled disdainfully; he
confided too much in his own powers not to think that he could elude the
grasp of the usurer, whenever it suited him to do so.  Thus, on a survey,
all conscience hushed itself; his mind rushed buoyantly on to
anticipations of the future.  He saw the hereditary estates regained,--
no matter how mortgaged,--for the moment still his own, legally his own,
yielding for the present what would suffice for competence to one of few
wants, and freeing his name from that title of Adventurer, which is so
prodigally given in rich old countries to those who have no estates but
their brains.  He thought of Violante but as the civilized trader thinks
of a trifling coin, of a glass bead, which he exchanges with some
barbarian for gold dust; he thought of Frank Hazeldean married to the
foreign woman of beggared means, and repute that had known the breath of
scandal,--married, and living on post-obit instalments of the Casino
property; he thought of the poor squire's resentment; his avarice swept
from the lands annexed to Rood on to the broad fields of Hazeldean; he
thought of Avenel, of Lansmere, of parliament; with one hand he grasped
fortune, with the next power.  "And yet I entered on life with no
patrimony (save a ruined hall and a barren waste),--no patrimony but
knowledge.  I have but turned knowledge from books to men; for books may
give fame after death, but men give us power in life."  And all the while
he thus ruminated, his act was speeding his purpose.  Though it was but
in a miserable hack-cab that he erected airy scaffoldings round airy
castles, still the miserable hack-cab was flying fast, to secure the
first foot of solid ground whereon to transfer the mental plan of the
architect to foundations of positive slime and clay.  The cab stopped at
the door of Lord Lansmere's house.  Randal had suspected Violante to be
there: he resolved to ascertain.  Randal descended from his vehicle and
rang the bell.  The lodge-keeper opined the great wooden gates.

"I have called to see the young lady staying here,--the foreign young
lady."

Lady Lansmere had been too confident of the security of her roof to
condescend to give any orders to her servants with regard to her guest,
and the lodge-keeper answered directly,--

"At home, I believe, sir.  I rather think she is in the garden with my
lady."

"I see," said Randal; and he did see the form of Violante at a distance.
"But, since she is walking, I will not disturb her at present.  I will
call another day."

The lodge-keeper bowed respectfully, Randal jumped into his cab: "To
Curzon Street,--quick!"



CHAPTER XXII.

Harley had made one notable oversight in that appeal to Beatrice's better
and gentler nature, which he entrusted to the advocacy of Leonard,--a
scheme in itself very characteristic of Harley's romantic temper, and
either wise or foolish, according as his indulgent theory of human
idiosyncrasies in general, and of those peculiar to Beatrice di Negra in
especial, was the dream of an enthusiast, or the inductive conclusion of
a sound philosopher.

Harley had warned Leonard not to fall in love with the Italian,--he had
forgotten to warn the Italian not to fall in love with Leonard; nor had
he ever anticipated the probability of that event.  This is not to be
very much wondered at; for if there be anything on which the most
sensible men are dull-eyed, where those eyes are not lighted by jealousy,
it is as to the probabilities of another male creature being beloved.
All, the least vain of the whiskered gender, think it prudent to guard
themselves against being too irresistible to the fair sex; and each says
of his friend, "Good fellow enough, but the last man for that woman to
fall in love with!"

But certainly there appeared on the surface more than ordinary cause for
Harley's blindness in the special instance of Leonard.

Whatever Beatrice's better qualities, she was generally esteemed worldly
and ambitious.  She was pinched in circumstances, she was luxuriant and
extravagant; how was it likely that she could distinguish any aspirant of
the humble birth and fortunes of the young peasant-author?  As a
coquette, she might try to win his admiration and attract his fancy; but
her own heart would surely be guarded in the triple mail of pride,
poverty, and the conventional opinions of the world in which she lived.
Had Harley thought it possible that Madame di Negra could stoop below her
station, and love, not wisely, but too well, he would rather have thought
that the object would be some brilliant adventurer of fashion, some one
who could turn against herself all the arts of deliberate fascination,
and all the experience bestowed by frequent conquest.  One so simple as
Leonard, so young and so new!  Harley L'Estrange would have smiled at
himself, if the idea of that image subjugating the ambitious woman to the
disinterested love of a village maid had once crossed his mind.
Nevertheless, so it was, and precisely from those causes which would have
seemed to Harley to forbid the weakness.

It was that fresh, pure heart, it was that simple, earnest sweetness, it
was that contrast in look, in tone, in sentiment, and in reasonings, to
all that had jaded and disgusted her in the circle of her admirers,--it
was all this that captivated Beatrice at the first interview with
Leonard.  Here was what she had confessed to the sceptical Randal she had
dreamed and sighed for.  Her earliest youth had passed into abhorrent
marriage, without the soft, innocent crisis of human life,--virgin love.
Many a wooer might have touched her vanity, pleased her fancy, excited
her ambition--her heart had never been awakened; it woke now.  The world,
and the years that the world had wasted, seemed to fleet away as a cloud.
She was as if restored to the blush and the sigh of youth,--the youth of
the Italian maid.  As in the restoration of our golden age is the spell
of poetry with us all, so such was the spell of the poet himself on her.

Oh, how exquisite was that brief episode in the life of the woman palled
with the "hack sights and sounds" of worldly life!  How strangely happy
were those hours, when, lured on by her silent sympathy, the young
scholar spoke of his early struggles between circumstance and impulse,
musing amidst the flowers, and hearkening to the fountain; or of his
wanderings in the desolate, lamp-lit streets, while the vision of
Chatterton's glittering eyes shone dread through the friendless shadows.
And as he spoke, whether of his hopes or his fears, her looks dwelt
fondly on the young face, that varied between pride and sadness,--pride
ever so gentle, and sad ness ever so nobly touching.  She was never weary
of gazing on that brow, with its quiet power; but her lids dropped before
those eyes, with their serene, unfathomable passion.  She felt, as they
haunted her, what a deep and holy thing love in such souls must be.
Leonard never spoke to her of Helen--that reserve every reader can
comprehend.  To natures like his, first love is a mystery; to confide it
is to profane.  But he fulfilled his commission of interesting her in the
exile and his daughter, and his description of them brought tears to her
eyes.  She inly resolved not to aid Peschiera in his designs on Violante.
She forgot for the moment that her own fortune was to depend on the
success of those designs.  Levy had arranged so that she was not reminded
of her poverty by creditors,--she knew not how.  She knew nothing of
business.  She gave herself up to the delight of the present hour, and to
vague prospects of a future associated with that young image,--with that
face of a guardian angel that she saw before her, fairest in the moments
of absence; for in those moments came the life of fairy-land, when we
shut our eyes on the world, and see through the haze of golden revery.
Dangerous, indeed, to Leonard would have been the soft society of
Beatrice di Negra, had not his heart been wholly devoted to one object,
and had not his ideal of woman been from that object one sole and
indivisible reflection.  But Beatrice guessed not this barrier between
herself and him.  Amidst the shadows that he conjured up from his past
life, she beheld no rival form.  She saw him lonely in the world, as she
was herself.  And in his lowly birth, his youth, in the freedom from
presumption which characterized him in all things (save that confidence
in his intellectual destinies which is the essential attribute of
genius), she but grew the bolder by the belief that, even if he loved
her, he would not dare to hazard the avowal.

And thus, one day, yielding, as she had ever been wont to yield, to the
impulse of her quick Italian heart--how she never remembered, in what
words she could never recall--she spoke, she owned her love, she pleaded,
with tears and blushes, for love in return.  All that passed was to her
as a dream,--a dream from which she woke with a fierce sense of agony,
of humiliation,--woke as the woman "scorned."  No matter how gratefully,
how tenderly Leonard had replied, the reply was refusal.

For the first time she learned she had a rival; that all he could give of
love was long since, from his boyhood, given to another.  For the first
time in her life, that ardent nature knew jealousy, its torturing stings,
its thirst for vengeance, its tempest of loving hate.  But, to outward
appearance, silent and cold she stood as marble.  Words that sought to
soothe fell on her ear unheeded: they were drowned by the storm within.
Pride was the first feeling which dominated the warring elements that
raged in her soul.  She tore her hand from that which clasped hers with
so loyal a respect.  She could have spurned the form that knelt at her
feet, not for love, but for pardon.  She pointed to the door with the
gesture of an insulted queen.  She knew no more till she was alone.  Then
came that rapid flash of conjecture peculiar to the storms of jealousy;
that which seems to single from all nature the one object to dread and
to destroy; the conjecture so often false, yet received at once by our
convictions as the revelation of instinctive truth.  He to whom she had
humbled herself loved another; whom but Violante,--whom else, young and
beautiful, had he named in the record of his life?--None!  And he had
sought to interest her, Beatrice di Negra, in the object of his love;
hinted at dangers which Beatrice knew too well; implied trust in
Beatrice's will to protect.  Blind fool that she had been!  This, then,
was the reason why he had come, day after day, to Beatrice's house; this
was the charm that had drawn him thither; this--she pressed her hands to
her burning temples, as if to stop the torture of thought.  Suddenly a
voice was heard below, the door opened, and Randal Leslie entered.



CHAPTER XXIII.

Punctually at eight o'clock that evening, Baron Levy welcomed the new
ally he had secured.  The pair dined /en tete a tete/, discussing general
matters till the servants left them to their wine.  Then said the baron,
rising and stirring the fire--then said the baron, briefly and
significantly,

"Well!"

"As regards the property you spoke of," answered Randal, "I am willing to
purchase it on the terms you name.  The only point that perplexes me is
how to account to Audley Egerton, to my parents, to the world, for the
power of purchasing it."

"True," said the baron, without even a smile at the ingenious and truly
Greek manner in which Randal had contrived to denote his meaning, and
conceal the ugliness of it--"true, we must think of that.  If we could
manage to conceal the real name of the purchaser for a year or so, it
might be easy,--you may be supposed to have speculated in the Funds; or
Egerton may die, and people may believe that he had secured to you
something handsome from the ruins of his fortune."

"Little chance of Egerton's dying."

"Humph!" said the baron.  "However, this is a mere detail, reserved for
consideration.  You can now tell us where the young lady is?"

"Certainly.  I could not this morning,--I can now.  I will go with you to
the count.  Meanwhile, I have seen Madame di Negra; she will accept Frank
Hazeldean if he will but offer himself at once."

"Will he not?"

"No! I have been to him.  He is overjoyed at my representations, but
considers it his duty to ask the consent of his parents.  Of course they
will not give it; and if there be delay, she will retract.  She is under
the influence of passions on the duration of which there is no reliance."

"What passions?  Love?"

"Love; but not for Hazeldean.  The passions that bring her to accept his
hand are pique and jealousy.  She believes, in a word, that one who seems
to have gained the mastery over her affections with a strange suddenness,
is but blind to her charms because dazzled by Violante's.  She is
prepared to aid in all that can give her rival to Peschiera; and yet,
such is the inconsistency of woman" (added the young philosopher, with a
shrug of the shoulders), "that she is also prepared to lose all chance of
securing him she loves, by bestowing herself on another!"

"Woman, indeed, all over!" said the baron, tapping his snuff-box (Louis
Quinze), and regaling his nostrils with a scornful pinch.  "But who is
the man whom the fair Beatrice has thus honoured?  Superb creature!
I had some idea of her myself when I bought up her debts; but it might
have embarrassed me, in more general plans, as regards the count.  All
for the best.  Who's the man?  Not Lord L'Estrange?"

"I do not think it is he; but I have not yet ascertained.  I have told
you all I know.  I found her in a state so excited, so unlike herself,
that I had no little difficulty in soothing her into confidence so far.
I could not venture more."

"And she will accept Frank?"

"Had he offered to-day she would have accepted him!"

"It may be a great help to your fortunes, /mon cher/, if Frank Hazeldean
marry this lady without his father's consent.  Perhaps he may be
disinherited.  You are next of kin.

"How do you know that?" asked Randal, sullenly.

"It is my business to know all about the chances and connections of any
one with whom I do money matters.  I do money matters with young Mr.
Hazeldean; so I know that the Hazeldean property is not entailed; and,
as the squire's half-brother has no Hazeldean blood in him, you have
excellent expectations."

"Did Frank tell you I was next of kin?"

"I rather think so; but I am sure you did."

"I--when?"

"When you told me how important it was to you that Frank should marry
Madame di Negra. /Peste! mon cher/, do you think I am a blockhead?"

"Well, Baron, Frank is of age, and can marry to please himself.  You
implied to me that you could help him in this."

"I will try.  See that he call at Madame di Negra's tomorrow, at two
precisely."

"I would rather keep clear of all apparent interference in this matter.
Will you not arrange that he call on her?  And do not forget to entangle
him in a post-obit."

"Leave it to me.  Any more wine?  No?--then let us go to the count's."



CHAPTER XXIV.

The next morning Frank Hazeldean was sitting over his solitary breakfast-
table.  It was long past noon.  The young man had risen early, it is
true, to attend his military duties, but he had contracted the habit of
breakfasting late.  One's appetite does not come early when one lives in
London, and never goes to bed before daybreak.

There was nothing very luxurious or effeminate about Frank's rooms,
though they were in a very dear street, and he paid a monstrous high
price for them.  Still, to a practised eye, they betrayed an inmate who
can get through his money, and make very little show for it.  The walls
were covered with coloured prints of racers and steeple-chases,
interspersed with the portraits of opera-dancers, all smirk and caper.
Then there was a semi-circular recess covered with red cloth, and fitted
up for smoking, as you might perceive by sundry stands full of Turkish
pipes in cherry-stick and jessamine, with amber mouthpieces; while a
great serpent hookah, from which Frank could no more have smoked than he
could have smoked out of the head of a boa constrictor, coiled itself
up on the floor; over the chimney-piece was a collection of Moorish arms.
What use on earth ataghan and scimitar and damasquined pistols, that
would not carry straight three yards, could be to an officer in his
Majesty's Guards is more than I can conjecture, or even Frank
satisfactorily explain.  I have strong suspicions that this valuable
arsenal passed to Frank in part payment of a bill to be discounted.  At
all events, if so, it was an improvement on the bear that he had
sold to the hair-dresser.  No books were to be seen anywhere, except a
Court Guide, a Racing Calendar, an Army List, the Sporting Magazine
complete (whole bound in scarlet morocco, at about a guinea per volume),
and a small book, as small as an Elzevir, on the chimney-piece, by the
side of a cigar-case.  That small book had cost Frank more than all the
rest put together; it was his Own Book, his book par excellence; book
made up by himself,--his BETTING Book!

On a centre table were deposited Frank's well-brushed hat; a satinwood
box, containing kid-gloves, of various delicate tints, from primrose to
lilac; a tray full of cards and three-cornered notes; an opera-glass, and
an ivory subscription-ticket to his opera stall.

In one corner was an ingenious receptacle for canes, sticks, and whips--I
should not like, in these bad times, to have paid the bill for them; and
mounting guard by that receptacle, stood a pair of boots as bright as
Baron Levy's,--"the force of brightness could no further go."  Frank was
in his dressing-gown,--very good taste, quite Oriental, guaranteed to be
true Indian cashmere, and charged as such.  Nothing could be more neat,
though perfectly simple, than the appurtenances of his breakfast-table:
silver tea-pot, ewer, and basin, all fitting into his dressing-box--for
the which may Storr and Mortimer be now praised, and some day paid!
Frank looked very handsome, rather tired, and exceedingly bored.  He had
been trying to read the "Morning Post," but the effort had proved too
much for him.

Poor dear Frank Hazeldean!--true type of many a poor dear fellow who has
long since gone to the dogs.  And if, in this road to ruin, there had
been the least thing to do the traveller any credit by the way!  One
feels a respect for the ruin of a man like Audley Egerton.  He is ruined
/en roi/!  From the wrecks of his fortune he can look down and see
stately monuments built from the stones of that dismantled edifice.  In
every institution which attests the humanity of England was a record of
the princely bounty of the public man.  In those objects of party, for
which the proverbial sinews of war are necessary, in those rewards for
service, which private liberality can confer, the hand of Egerton had
been opened as with the heart of a king.  Many a rising member of
parliament, in those days when talent was brought forward through the aid
of wealth and rank, owed his career to the seat which Audley Egerton's
large subscription had secured to him; many an obscure supporter in
letters and the Press looked back to the day when he had been freed from
the jail by the gratitude of the patron.  The city he represented was
embellished at his cost; through the shire that held his mortgaged lands,
which he had rarely ever visited, his gold had flowed as a Pactolus; all
that could animate its public spirit, or increase its civilization,
claimed kindred with his munificence, and never had a claim disallowed.
Even in his grand, careless household, with its large retinue and superb
hospitality, there was something worthy of a representative of that time-
honoured portion of our true nobility, the untitled gentlemen of the
land.  The Great Commoner had, indeed, "something to show" for the money
he had disdained and squandered.  But for Frank Hazeldean's mode of
getting rid of the dross, when gone, what would be left to tell the tale?
Paltry prints in a bachelor's lodging; a collection of canes and cherry-
sticks; half-a-dozen letters in ill-spelt French from a figurante; some
long-legged horses, fit for nothing but to lose a race; that damnable
Betting-Book; and--/sic transit gloria/--down sweeps some hawk of a Levy,
on the wings of an I O U, and not a feather is left of the pigeon!

Yet Frank Hazeldean has stuff in him,--a good heart, and strict honour.
Fool though he seem, there is sound sterling sense in some odd corner of
his brains, if one could but get at it.  All he wants to save him from
perdition is, to do what he has never yet done,--namely, pause and think.
But, to be sure, that same operation of thinking is not so easy for folks
unaccustomed to it, as people who think--think!

"I can't bear this," said Frank, suddenly, and springing to his feet.
"This woman, I cannot get her out of my head.  I ought to go down to the
governor's; but then if he gets into a passion, and refuses his consent,
where am I?  And he will, too, I fear.  I wish I could make out what
Randal advises.  He seems to recommend that I should marry Beatrice at
once, and trust to my mother's influence to make all right afterwards.
But when I ask, 'Is that your advice?' he backs out of it.  Well, I
suppose he is right there.  I can understand that he is unwilling, good
fellow, to recommend anything that my father would disapprove.  But
still--"

Here Frank stopped in his soliloquy, and did make his first desperate
effort to--think!

Now, O dear reader, I assume, of course, that thou art one of the class
to which thought is familiar; and, perhaps, thou hast smiled in disdain
or incredulity at that remark on the difficulty of thinking which
preceded Frank Hazeldean's discourse to himself.  But art thou quite sure
that when thou hast tried to think thou hast always succeeded?  Hast thou
not often been duped by that pale visionary simulacrum of thought which
goes by the name of revery?  Honest old Montaigne confessed that he did
not understand that process of sitting down to think, on which some folks
express themselves so glibly.  He could not think unless he had a pen in
his hand and a sheet of paper before him; and so, by a manual operation,
seized and connected the links of ratiocination.  Very often has it
happened to myself when I have said to Thought peremptorily, "Bestir
thyself: a serious matter is before thee, ponder it well, think of it,"
that that same thought has behaved in the most refractory, rebellious
manner conceivable; and instead of concentrating its rays into a single
stream of light, has broken into all the desultory tints of the rainbow,
colouring senseless clouds, and running off into the seventh heaven, so
that after sitting a good hour by the clock, with brows as knit as if I
was intent on squaring the circle, I have suddenly discovered that I
might as well have gone comfortably to sleep--I have been doing nothing
but dream,--and the most nonsensical dreams!  So when Frank Hazeldean, as
he stopped at that meditative "But still "--and leaning his arm on the
chimney-piece, and resting his face on his hand, felt himself at the
grave crisis of life, and fancied he was going "to think on it," there
only rose before him a succession of shadowy pictures,--Randal Leslie,
with an unsatisfactory countenance, from which he could extract nothing;
the squire, looking as black as thunder in his study at Hazeldean; his
mother trying to plead for him, and getting herself properly scolded for
her pains; and then off went that Will-o'-the-wisp which pretended to
call itself Thought, and began playing round the pale, charming face of
Beatrice di Negra, in the drawing-room at Curzon Street, and repeating,
with small elfin voice, Randal Leslie's assurance of the preceding day,
"as to her affection for you, Frank, there is no doubt of that; she only
begins to think you are trifling with her."  And then there was a
rapturous vision of a young gentleman on his knee, and the fair pale face
bathed in blushes, and a clergyman standing by the altar, and a carriage-
and-four with white favours at the church-door; and of a honeymoon, which
would have astonished as to honey all the bees of Hymettus.  And in the
midst of these phantasmagoria, which composed what Frank fondly styled.
"making up his mind," there came a single man's elegant rat-tat-tat at
the street door.

"One never has a moment for thinking," cried Frank, and he called out to
his valet, "Not at home."

But it was too late.  Lord Spendquick was in the hall, and presently
within the room.  How d'ye do's were exchanged and hands shaken.

LORD SPENDQUICK.--"I have a note for you, Hazeldean."

FRANK (lazily).--"From whom?"

LORD SPENDQUICK.--"Levy.  Just come from him,--never saw him in such a
fidget.  He was going into the city,--I suppose to see X. Y.  Dashed off
this note for you, and would have sent it by a servant, but I said I
would bring it."

FRANK (looking fearfully at the note).--"I hope he does not want his
money yet.  'Private and confidential,'--that looks bad."

SPENDQUICK.--"Devilish bad, indeed."

Frank opens the note, and reads, half aloud, "Dear Hazeldean--"

SPENDQUICK (interrupting.)--"Good sign!  He always Spendquicks me when he
lends me money; and 't is 'My dear Lord' when he wants it back.  Capital
sign!"

Frank reads on, but to himself, and with a changing countenance,

     DEAR HAZELDEAN,--I am very sorry to tell you that, in consequence of
     the sudden failure of a house at Paris with which I Had large
     dealings, I am pressed on a sudden for all the ready money I can
     get.  I don't want to inconvenience you, but do try to see if you
     can take up those bills of yours which I hold, and which, as you
     know, have been due some little time.  I had hit on a way of
     arranging your affairs; but when I hinted at it, you seemed to
     dislike the idea; and Leslie has since told me that you have strong
     objections to giving any security on your prospective property.  So
     no more of that, my dear fellow.  I am called out in haste to try
     what I can do for a very charming client of mine, who is in great
     pecuniary distress, though she has for her brother a foreign count,
     as rich as a Croesus.  There is an execution in her house.  I am
     going down to the tradesman who put it in, but have no hope of
     softening him; and I fear there will be others before the day is
     out.  Another reason for wanting money, if you can help me, mon
     cher!  An execution in the house of one of the most brilliant women
     in London,--an execution in Curzon Street, May Fair!  It will be all
     over the town if I can't stop it.

     Yours in haste,
                              LEVY.

     P.S.---Don't let what I have said vex you too much.  I should not
     trouble you if Spendquick and Borrowell would pay me something.
     Perhaps you can get them to do so.


Struck by Frank's silence and paleness, Lord Spendquick here, in the
kindest way possible, laid his hand on the young Guardsman's shoulder.
and looked over the note with that freedom which gentlemen in
difficulties take with each other's private and confidential
correspondence.  His eye fell on the postscript.  "Oh, damn it," cried
Spendquick, "but that's too bad,--employing you to get me to pay him!
Such horrid treachery.  Make yourself easy, my dear Frank; I could never
suspect you of anything so unhandsome.  I could as soon suspect myself
of--paying him--"

"Curzon Street!  Count!" muttered Frank, as if waking from a dream.
"It must be so."  To thrust on his boots, change his dressing-robe for a
frock-coat, snatch at his hat, gloves, and cane, break from Spendquick,
descend the stairs, a flight at a leap, gain the street, throw himself
into a cabriolet,--all this was done before his astounded visitor could
even recover breath enough to ask "What's the matter?"

Left thus alone, Lord Spendquick shook his head,--shook it twice,
as if fully to convince himself that there was nothing in it; and then
re-arranging his hat before the looking-glass, and drawing on his gloves
deliberately, he walked downstairs, and strolled into White's, but with a
bewildered and absent air.  Standing at the celebrated bow-window for
some moments in musing silence, Lord Spendquick at last thus addressed an
exceedingly cynical, sceptical old roue,

"Pray, do you think there is any truth in the stories about people in
former times selling themselves to the devil?"

"Ugh," answered the rout, much too wise ever to be surprised.  "Have you
any personal interest in the question?"

"I!--no; but a friend of mine has just received a letter from Levy, and
he flew out of the room in the most ex-tra-ordi-na-ry manner,--just as
people did in those days when their time was up!  And Levy, you know,
is--"

"Not quite as great a fool as the other dark gentleman to whom you would
compare him; for Levy never made such bad bargains for himself.  Time up!
No doubt it is.  I should not like to be in your friend's shoes."

"Shoes!" said Spendquick, with a sort of shudder; "you never saw a neater
fellow, nor one, to do him justice, who takes more time in dressing than
he does in general.  And talking of shoes, he rushed out with the right
boot on the left foot, and the left boot on the right.  Very mysterious!"
And a third time Lord Spendquick shook his head,--and a third time that
head seemed to him wondrous empty.



CHAPTER XXV.

Buy Frank had arrived in Curzon Street, leaped from the cabriolet,
knocked at the door, which was opened by a strange-looking man in a buff
waistcoat and corduroy smalls.  Frank gave a glance at this personage,
pushed him aside, and rushed upstairs.  He burst into the drawing-room,--
no Beatrice was there.  A thin elderly man, with a manuscript book in his
hands, appeared engaged in examining the furniture, and making an
inventory, with the aid of Madame di Negra's upper servant.  The thin man
stared at Frank, and touched the hat which was on his head.  The servant,
who was a foreigner, approached Frank, and said, in broken English, that
his lady did not receive,--that she was unwell, and kept her room.  Frank
thrust a sovereign into the servant's hand, and begged him to tell Madame
di Negra.  that Mr. Hazeldean entreated the honour of an interview.  As
soon as the servant vanished on this errand, Frank seized the thin man by
the arm.  "What is this?---an execution?"

"Yes, sir."

"For what sum?"

"Fifteen hundred and forty-seven pounds.  We are the first in
possession."

"There are others, then?"

"Or else, sir, we should never have taken this step.  Most painful to our
feelings, sir; but these foreigners are here to day, and gone to-morrow.
And--"

The servant re-entered.  Madame di Negra would see Mr. Hazeldean.  Would
he walk upstairs?  Frank hastened to obey this summons.

Madame di Negra was in a small room which was fitted up as a boudoir.
Her eyes showed the traces of recent tears, but her face was composed,
and even rigid, in its haughty though mournful expression.  Frank,
however, did not pause to notice her countenance, to hear her dignified
salutation.  All his timidity was gone.  He saw but the woman whom he
loved in distress and humiliation.  As the door closed on him, he flung
himself at her feet.  He caught at her hand, the skirt of her robe.

"Oh, Madame di Negra!--Beatrice!" he exclaimed, tears in his eyes, and
his voice half-broken by generous emotion; "forgive me, forgive me!
don't see in me a mere acquaintance.  By accident I learned, or, rather,
guessed--this--this strange insult to which you are so unworthily
exposed.  I am here.  Think of me--but as a friend,--the truest friend.
Oh, Beatrice,"--and he bent his head over the hand he held,--" I never
dared say so before, it seems presuming to say it now, but I cannot help
it.  I love you,--I love you with my whole heart and soul; to serve you--
if only but to serve you!--I ask nothing else."  And a sob went from his
warm, young, foolish heart.

The Italian was deeply moved.  Nor was her nature that of the mere sordid
adventuress.  So much love and so much confidence!  She was not prepared
to betray the one, and entrap the other.

"Rise, rise," she said softly; "I thank you gratefully.  But do not
suppose that I--"

"Hush!  hush!--you must not refuse me.  Hush! don't let your pride
speak."

"No, it is not my pride.  You exaggerate what is occurring here.  You
forget that I have a brother.  I have sent for him.  He is the only one I
can apply to.  Ah, that is his knock!  But I shall never, never forget
that I have found one generous noble heart in this hollow world."

Frank would have replied, but he heard the count's voice on the stairs,
and had only time to rise and withdraw to the window, trying hard to
repress his agitation and compose his countenance.  Count di Peschiera
entered,--entered as a very personation of the beauty and magnificence of
careless, luxurious, pampered, egotistical wealth,--his surtout, trimmed
with the costliest sables, flung back from his splendid chest.  Amidst
the folds of the glossy satin that enveloped his throat gleamed a
turquoise, of such value as a jeweller might have kept for fifty years
before he could find a customer rich and frivolous enough to buy it.  The
very head of his cane was a masterpiece of art, and the man himself, so
elegant despite his strength, and so fresh despite his years!--it is
astonishing how well men wear when they think of no one but themselves!

"Pr-rr!" said the count, not observing Frank behind the draperies of the
window; "Pr-rr--It seems to me that you must have passed a very
unpleasant quarter of an hour.  And now--/Dieu me damne, quoi faire/!"

Beatrice pointed to the window, and felt as if she could have sunk into
the earth for shame.  But as the count spoke in French, and Frank did not
very readily comprehend that language, the words escaped him, though his
ear was shocked by a certain satirical levity of tone.

Frank came forward.  The count held out his hand, and with a rapid change
of voice and manner, said, "One whom my sister admits at such a moment
must be a friend to me."

"Mr. Hazeldean," said Beatrice, with meaning, "would indeed have nobly
pressed on me the offer of an aid which I need no more, since you, my
brother, are here."

"Certainly," said the count, with his superb air of grand seigneur; "I
will go down and clear your house of this impertinent canaille.  But I
thought your affairs were with Baron Levy.  He should be here."

"I expect him every moment.  Adieu! Mr. Hazeldean."  Beatrice extended
her hand to her young lover with a frankness which was not without a
certain pathetic and cordial dignity.  Restrained from further words by
the count's presence, Frank bowed over the fair hand in silence, and
retired.  He was on the stairs when he was joined by Peschiera.

"Mr. Hazeldean," said the latter, in a low tone, "will you come into the
drawing-room?"

Frank obeyed.  The man employed in his examination of the furniture was
still at his task: but at a short whisper from the count he withdrew.

"My dear sir," said Peschiera, "I am so unacquainted with your English
laws, and your mode of settling embarrassments of this degrading nature,
and you have evidently showed so kind a sympathy in my sister's distress,
that I venture to ask you to stay here, and aid me in consulting with
Baron Levy."

Frank was just expressing his unfeigned pleasure to be of the slightest
use, when Levy's knock resounded at the streetdoor, and in another moment
the baron entered.

"Ouf!" said Levy, wiping his brows, and sinking into a chair as if he had
been engaged in toils the most exhausting,--"ouf!  this is a very sad
business,--very; and nothing, my dear count, nothing but ready money can
save us here."

"You know my affairs, Levy," replied Peschiera, mournfully shaking his
head, "and that though in a few months, or it may be weeks, I could
discharge with ease my sister's debts, whatever their amount, yet at this
moment, and in a strange land, I have not the power to do so.  The money
I brought with me is nearly exhausted.  Can you not advance the requisite
sum?"

"Impossible!--Mr. Hazeldean is aware of the distress under which I labour
myself."

"In that case," said the count, "all we can do to-day is to remove my
sister, and let the execution proceed.  Meanwhile I will go among my
friends, and see what I can borrow from them."

"Alas!" said Levy, rising and looking out of the window--"alas!--we
cannot remove the marchesa,--the worst is to come.  Look!--you see those
three men; they have a writ against her person: the moment she sets her
foot out of these doors she will be arrested."

     [At that date the law of /mesne process/ existed still.]

"Arrested!" exclaimed Peschiera and Frank in a breath.  "I have done my
best to prevent this disgrace, but in vain," said the baron, looking very
wretched.  "You see these English tradespeople fancy they have no hold
upon foreigners.  But we can get bail; she must not go to prison--"

"Prison!" echoed Frank.  He hastened to Levy and drew him aside.  The
count seemed paralyzed by shame and grief.  Throwing himself back on the
sofa, he covered his face with his hands.

"My sister!" groaned the count--"daughter to a Peschiera, widow to a Di
Negra!"  There was something affecting in the proud woe of this grand
patrician.

"What is the sum?" whispered Frank, anxious that the poor count should
not overhear him; and indeed the count seemed too stunned and overwhelmed
to hear anything less loud than a clap of thunder!

"We may settle all liabilities for L5,000.  Nothing to Peschiera, who is
enormously rich. /Entre nous/, I doubt his assurance that he is without
ready money.  It may be so, but--"

"Five thousand pounds!  How can I raise such a sum?"

"You, my dear Hazeldean?  What are you talking about?  To be sure you
could raise twice as much with a stroke of your pen, and throw your own
debts into the bargain.  But--to be so generous to an acquaintance!"

"Acquaintance!--Madame di Negra! the height of my ambition is to claim
her as my wife!"

"And these debts don't startle you?"

"If a man loves," answered Frank, simply, "he feels it most when the
woman he loves is in affliction.  And," he added, after a pause, "though
these debts are faults, kindness at this moment may give me the power to
cure forever both her faults and my own.  I can raise this money by a
stroke of the pen!  How?"

"On the Casino property."

Frank drew back.

"No other way?"

"Of course not.  But I know your scruples; let us see if they can be
conciliated.  You would marry Madame di Negra; she will have L20,000 on
her wedding-day.  Why not arrange that, out of this sum, your
anticipative charge on the Casino property be paid at once?  Thus, in
truth, it will be but for a few weeks that the charge will exist.  The
bond will remain locked in my desk; it can never come to your father's
know ledge, nor wound his feelings.  And when you marry (if you will but
be prudent in the mean while), you will not owe a debt in the world."

Here the count suddenly started up.

"Mr. Hazeldean, I asked you to stay and aid us by your counsel; I see now
that counsel is unavailing.  This blow on our House must fall!  I thank
you, Sir,--I thank you.  Farewell.  Levy, come with me to my poor sister,
and prepare her for the worst."

"Count," said Frank, "hear me.  My acquaintance with you is but slight,
but I have long known and--and esteemed your sister.  Baron Levy has
suggested a mode in which I can have the honour and the happiness of
removing this temporary but painful embarrassment.  I can advance the
money."

"No, no!" exclaimed Peschiera.  "How can you suppose that I will hear of
such a proposition?  Your youth and benevolence mislead and blind you.
Impossible, sir,--impossible!  Why, even if I had no pride, no delicacy
of my own, my sister's fair fame--"

"Would suffer indeed," interrupted Levy, "if she were under such
obligation to any one but her affianced husband.  Nor, whatever my regard
for you, Count, could I suffer my client, Mr. Hazeldean, to make this
advance upon any less valid security than that of the fortune to which
Madame di Negra is entitled."

"Ha!--is this indeed so?  You are a suitor for my sister's hand, Mr.
Hazeldean?"

"But not at this moment,--not to owe her hand to the compulsion of
gratitude," answered gentleman Frank.  "Gratitude!  And you do not know
her heart, then?  Do not know--" the count interrupted himself, and went
on after a pause.  "Mr. Hazeldean, I need not say that we rank among the
first Houses in Europe.  My pride led me formerly into the error of
disposing of my sister's hand to one whom she did not love, merely
because in rank he was her equal.  I will not again commit such an error,
nor would Beatrice again obey me if I sought to constrain her.  Where she
marries, there she will love.  If, indeed, she accepts you, as I believe
she will, it will be from affection solely.  If she does, I cannot
scruple to accept this loan,--a loan from a brother-inlaw--loan to me,
and not charged against her fortune!  That, sir," turning to Levy, with
his grand air, "you will take care to arrange.  If she do not accept you,
Mr. Hazeldean, the loan, I repeat, is not to be thought of.  Pardon me,
if I leave you.  This, one way or other, must be decided at once."  The
count inclined his head with much stateliness, and then quitted the room.
His step was heard ascending the stairs.

"If," said Levy, in the tone of a mere man of business--"if the count pay
the debts, and the lady's fortune be only charged with your own, after
all, it will not be a bad marriage in the world's eye, nor ought it to be
in a father's.  Trust me, we shall get Mr. Hazeldean's consent, and
cheerfully too."

Frank did not listen; he could only listen to his love, to his heart
beating loud with hope and with fear.

Levy sat down before the table, and drew up a long list of figures in a
very neat hand,--a list of figures on two accounts, which the post-obit
on the Casino was destined to efface.

After a lapse of time, which to Frank seemed interminable, the count
re-appeared.  He took Frank aside, with a gesture to Levy, who rose, and
retired into the drawing-room.

"My dear young friend," said Peschiera, "as I suspected, my sister's
heart is wholly yours.  Stop; hear me out.  But, unluckily, I informed
her of your generous proposal; it was most unguarded, most ill-judged in
me, and that has well-nigh spoiled all; she has so much pride and spirit;
so great a fear that you may think yourself betrayed into an imprudence
which you may hereafter regret, that I am sure she will tell you that she
does not love you, she cannot accept you, and so forth.  Lovers like you
are not easily deceived. Don't go by her words; but you shall see her
yourself and judge.  Come."

Followed mechanically by Frank, the count ascended the stairs, and threw
open the door of Beatrice's room.  The marchesa's back was turned; but
Frank could see that she was weeping.

"I have brought my friend to plead for himself," said the count, in
French; "and take my advice, sister, and do not throw away all prospect
of real and solid happiness for a vain scruple.  Heed me!"  He retired,
and left Frank alone with Beatrice.

Then the marchesa, as if by a violent effort, so sudden was her movement,
and so wild her look, turned her face to her wooer, and came up to him,
where he stood.

"Oh," she said, clasping her hands, "is this true?  You would save me
from disgrace, from a prison--and what can I give you in return?  My
love!  No, no.  I will not deceive you.  Young, fair, noble as you are,
I do not love you as you should be loved.  Go; leave this house; you do
not know my brother.  Go, go--while I have still strength, still virtue
enough to reject whatever may protect me from him!  whatever--may---Oh,
go, go."

"You do not love me?" said Frank.  "Well, I don't wonder at it; you are
so brilliant, so superior to me.  I will abandon hope,--I will leave you,
as you command me.  But at least I will not part with my privilege to
serve you.  As for the rest, shame on me if I could be mean enough to
boast of love, and enforce a suit, at such a moment."

Frank turned his face and stole away softly.  He did not arrest his steps
at the drawing-room; he went into the parlour, wrote a brief line to Levy
charging him quietly to dismiss the execution, and to come to Frank's
rooms with the necessary deeds; and, above all, to say nothing to the
count.  Then he went out of the house and walked back to his lodgings.

That evening Levy came to him, and accounts were gone into, and papers
signed; and the next morning Madame di Negra was free from debt; and
there was a great claim on the reversion of the Casino estates; and at
the noon of that next day, Randal was closeted with Beatrice; and before
the night came a note from Madame di Negra, hurried, blurred with tears,
summoning Frank to Curzon Street.  And when he entered the marchesa's
drawing-room, Peschiera was seated beside his sister; and rising at
Frank's entrance, said, "My dear brother-in-law!" and placed Frank's hand
in Beatrice's.

"You accept--you accept me--and of your own free will and choice?"

And Beatrice answered, "Bear with me a little, and I will try to repay
you with all my--all my--" She stopped short, and sobbed aloud.

"I never thought her capable of such acute feelings, such strong
attachment," whispered the count.

Frank heard, and his face was radiant.  By degrees Madame di Negra
recovered composure, and she listened with what her young lover deemed a
tender interest, but what, in fact, was mournful and humbled resignation,
to his joyous talk of the future.  To him the hours passed by, brief and
bright, like a flash of sunlight.  And his dreams when he retired to rest
were so golden!  But when he awoke the next morning, he said to himself,
"What--what will they say at the Hall?" At that same hour Beatrice,
burying her face on her pillow, turned from the loathsome day, and could
have prayed for death.  At that same hour, Giulio Franzini, Count di
Peschiera, dismissing some gaunt, haggard Italians, with whom he had been
in close conference, sallied forth to reconnoitre the house that
contained Violante.  At that same hour, Baron Levy was seated before his
desk, casting up a deadly array of figures, headed, "Account with the
Right Hon. Audley Egerton, M. P., Dr. and Cr."--title-deeds strewed
around him, and Frank Hazeldean's post-obit peeping out fresh from the
elder parchments.  At that same hour, Audley Egerton had just concluded a
letter from the chairman of his committee in the city he represented,
which letter informed him that he had not a chance of being re-elected.
And the lines of his face were as composed is usual, and his foot rested
as firm on the grim iron box; but his hand was pressed to his heart, and
his eye was on the clock, and his voice muttered, "Dr. F--should be
here!"  And that hour Harley L'Estrange, who the previous night had
charmed courtly crowds with his gay humour, was pacing to and fro the
room in his hotel with restless strides and many a heavy sigh; and
Leonard was standing by the fountain in his garden, and watching the
wintry sunbeams that sparkled athwart the spray; and Violante was leaning
on Helen's shoulder, and trying archly, yet innocently, to lead Helen to
talk of Leonard; and Helen was gazing steadfastly on the floor, and
answering but by monosyllables; and Randal Leslie was walking down to his
office for the last time, and reading, as he passed across the Green
Park, a letter from home, from his sister; and then, suddenly crumpling
the letter in his thin pale hand, he looked up, beheld in the distance
the spires of the great national Abbey; and recalling the words of our
hero Nelson, he muttered, "Victory and Westminster, but not the Abbey!"
And Randal Leslie felt that, within the last few days, he had made a vast
stride in his ambition,--his grasp on the old Leslie lands, Frank
Hazeldean betrothed, and possibly disinherited; and Dick Avenel, in the
background, opening against the hated Lansmere interest that same seat in
parliament which had first welcomed into public life Randal's ruined
patron.

              "But some must laugh, and some must weep;
               Thus runs the world away!"





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large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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