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Title: A Day's Ride: A Life's Romance
Author: Lever, Charles James
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.

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A DAY’S RIDE

A LIFE’S ROMANCE


By Charles James Lever.

With Illustrations By W. Cubitt Cooke.

BOSTON:

LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY.

1904.



A DAY’S RIDE:

A LIFE’S ROMANCE.



CHAPTER I. I PREPARE TO SEEK ADVENTURES

It has been said that any man, no matter how small and insignificant the
post he may have filled in life, who will faithfully record the events
in which he has borne a share, even though incapable of himself deriving
profit from the lessons he has learned, may still be of use to
others,--sometimes a guide, sometimes a warning. I hope this is true. I
like to think it so, for I like to think that even I,--A. S. P.,--if I
cannot adorn a tale, may at least point a moral.

Certain families are remarkable for the way in which peculiar gifts
have been transmitted for ages. Some have been great in arms, some in
letters, some in statecraft, displaying in successive generations the
same high qualities which had won their first renown. In an humble
fashion, I may lay claim to belong to this category. My ancestors have
been apothecaries for one hundred and forty-odd years. Joseph Potts,
“drug and condiment man,” lived in the reign of Queen Anne, at Lower
Liffey Street, No. 87; and to be remembered passingly, has the name of
Mr. Addison amongst his clients,--the illustrious writer having, as it
would appear, a peculiar fondness for “Pott’s linature,” whatever that
may have been; for the secret died out with my distinguished forefather.
There was Michael Joseph Potts, “licensed for chemicals,” in Mary’s
Abbey, about thirty years later; and so we come on to Paul Potts and
Son, and then to Launcelot Peter Potts, “Pharmaceutical Chemist to his
Excellency and the Irish Court,” the father of him who now bespeaks your
indulgence.

My father’s great misfortune in life was the ambition to rise above the
class his family had adorned for ages. He had, as he averred, a soul
above senna, and a destiny higher than black drop. He had heard of a
tailor’s apprentice becoming a great general. He had himself seen a
wig-maker elevated to the woolsack; and he kept continually repeating,
“Mine is the only walk in life that leads to no high rewards. What
matters it whether my mixtures be addressed to the refined organization
of rank, or the _dura ilia rasorum?_--I shall live and die an
apothecary. From every class are men selected for honors save mine; and
though it should rain baronetcies, the bloody hand would never fall to
the lot of a compounding chemist.”

“What do you intend to make of Algernon Sydney, Mr. Potts?” would say
one of his neighbors. “Bring him up to your own business? A first-rate
connection to start with in life.”

“My own business, sir? I’d rather see him a chimneysweep.”

“But, after all, Mr. Potts, being so to say, at the head of your
profession--”

“It is not a profession, sir. It is not even a trade. High science and
skill have long since left our insulted and outraged ranks; we are mere
commission agents for the sale of patent quackeries. What respect has
the world any longer for the great phials of ruby, and emerald, and
marine blue, which, at nightfall, were once the magical emblems of our
mysteries, seen afar through the dim mists of lowering atmospheres, or
throwing their lurid glare upon the passers-by? What man, now, would
have the courage to adorn his surgery--I suppose you would prefer I
should call it a ‘shop’--with skeleton-fishes, snakes, or a stuffed
alligator? Who, in this age of chemical infidelity, would surmount his
door with the ancient symbols of our art,--the golden pestle and mortar?
Why, sir, I’d as soon go forth to apply leeches on a herald’s tabard, or
a suit of Milan mail. And what have they done, sir?” he would ask,
with a roused indignation,--“what have they done by their reforms? In
invading the mystery of medicine, they have ruined its prestige. The
precious drops you once regarded as the essence of an elixir vitæ,
and whose efficacy lay in your faith, are now so much strychnine, or
creosote, which you take with fear and think over with foreboding.”

I suppose it can only be ascribed to that perversity which seems a
great element in human nature, that, exactly in the direct ratio of my
father’s dislike to his profession was _my_ fondness for it. I used
to take every opportunity of stealing into the laboratory, watching
intently all the curious proceedings that went on there, learning
the names and properties of the various ingredients, the gases, the
minerals, the salts, the essences; and although, as may be imagined,
science took, in these narrow regions, none of her loftiest flights,
they were to me the most marvellous and high-soaring efforts of human
intelligence. I was just at that period of life--the first opening of
adolescence--when fiction and adventure have the strongest bold upon our
nature, my mind filled with the marvels of Eastern romance, and imbued
with a sentiment, strong as any conviction, that I was destined to a
remarkable life. I passed days in dreamland,--what I should do in this
or that emergency; how rescue myself from such a peril; how profit by
such a stroke of fortune; by what arts resist the machinations of this
adversary; how conciliate the kind favor of that. In the wonderful tales
that I read, frequent mention was made of alchemy and its marvels;
now the search was for some secret of endless wealth; now, it was for
undying youth or undecay-ing beauty; while in other stories I read of
men who had learned how to read the thoughts, trace the motives, and
ultimately sway the hearts of their fellow-men, till life became to them
a mere field for the exercise of their every will and caprice, throwing
happiness and misery about them as the humor inclined. The strange life
of the laboratory fitted itself exactly to this phase of my mind.

The wonders it displayed, the endless combinations and transformations
it effected, were as marvellous as any that imaginative fiction could
devise; but even these were nothing compared to the mysterious influence
of the place itself upon my nervous system, particularly when I found
myself there alone. In the tales with which my head was filled, many
of them the wild fancies of Grimm, Hoffman, or Musæus, nothing was more
common than to read how some eager student of the black art, deep in the
mystery of forbidden knowledge, had, by some chance combination, by some
mere accidental admixture of this ingredient with that, suddenly arrived
at the great secret, that terrible mystery which for centuries and
centuries had evaded human search. How often have I watched the fluid as
it boiled and bubbled in the retort, till I thought the air globules,
as they came to the surface, observed a certain rhythm and order. Were
these, words? Were they symbols of some hidden virtue in the liquid?
Were there intelligences to whom these could speak, and thus reveal a
wondrous history? And then, again, with what an intense eagerness have
I gazed on the lurid smoke that arose from some smelting mass, now
fancying that the vapor was about to assume form and substance, and bow
imagining that it lingered lazily, as though waiting for some cabalistic
word of mine to give it life and being? How heartily did I censure
the folly that had ranked alchemy amongst the absurdities of human
invention! Why, rather, had not its facts been treasured and its
discoveries recorded, so that in some future age a great intelligence
arising might classify and arrange them, showing at least what were
practicable and what were only evasive. Alchemists were, certainly,
men of pure lives, self-denying and humble. They made their art no
stepping-stone to worldly advancement or success; they sought no favor
from princes, nor any popularity from the people; but, retired and
estranged from all the pleasures of the world, followed their one
pursuit, unnoticed and unfriended. How cruel, therefore, to drag them
forth from their lonely cells, and expose them to the gaping crowd as
devil worshippers! How inhuman to denounce men whose only crimes were
lives of solitude and study! The last words of Peter von Vordt, burned
for a wizard, at Haarlem, in 1306, were, “Had they left this poor head
a little longer on my shoulders, it would have done more for human
happiness than all this bonfire!”

How rash and presumptuous is it, besides, to set down any fixed limits
to man’s knowledge! Is not every age an advance upon its predecessors,
and are not the commonest acts of our present civilization perfect
miracles as compared with the usages of our ancestors? But why do I
linger on this theme, which I only introduced to illustrate the temper
of my boyish days? As I grew older, books of chivalry and romance took
possession of my mind, and my passion grew for lives of adventure. Of
all kinds of existence, none seemed to me so enviable as that of those
men who, regarding life as a vast ocean, hoisted sail, and set forth,
not knowing nor caring whither, but trusting to their own manly spirit
for extrication out of whatever difficulties might beset them. What a
narrow thing, after all, was our modern civilization, with all its forms
and conventionalities, with its gradations of rank and its orders! How
hopeless for the adventurous spirit to war with the stern discipline of
an age that marshalled men in ranks like soldiers, and told that each
could only rise by successive steps! How often have I wondered was there
any more of adventure left in life? Were there incidents in store for
him who, in the true spirit of an adventurer, should go in search of
them? As for the newer worlds of Australia and America, they did not
possess for me much charm. No great association linked them with the
past; no echo came out of them of that heroic time of feudalism, so
peopled with heart-stirring characters. The life of the bush or the
prairie had its incidents, but they were vulgar and commonplace; and
worse, the associates and companions of them were more vulgar still.
Hunting down Pawnees or buffaloes was as mean and ignoble a travesty
of feudal adventure as was the gold diggings at Bendigo of the learned
labors of the alchemist. The perils were unexciting, the rewards prosaic
and commonplace. No. I felt that Europe--in some remote regions--and the
East--in certain less visited tracts--must be the scenes best suited to
my hopes. With considerable labor I could spell my way through a German
romance, and I saw, in the stories of Fouqué, and even of Goethe, that
there still survived in the mind of Germany many of the features which
gave the color-ing to a feudal period. There was, at least, a dreamy
indifference to the present, a careless abandonment to what the hour
might bring forth, so long as the dreamer was left to follow out his
fancies in all their mysticism, that lifted men out of the vulgarities
of this work-o’-day world; and I longed to see a society where
learning consented to live upon the humblest pittance, and beauty dwelt
unflattered in obscurity.

I was now entering upon manhood; and my father--having, with that
ambition so natural to an Irish parent who aspires highly for his only
son, destined me for the bar--made me a student of Trinity College,
Dublin.

What a shock to all the romance of my life were the scenes into which I
now was thrown! With hundreds of companions to choose from, I found
not one congenial to me. The reading men, too deeply bent upon winning
honors, would not waste a thought upon what could not advance their
chances of success. The idle, only eager to get through their career
undetected in their ignorance, passed lives of wild excess or stupid
extravagance.

What was I to do amongst such associates? What I did do,--avoid them,
shun them, live in utter estrangement from all their haunts, their
ways, and themselves. If the proud man who has achieved success in
life encounters immense difficulties when, separating himself from
his fellows, he acknowledges no companionship, nor admits any to his
confidence, it may be imagined what must be the situation of one who
adopts this isolation without any claim to superiority whatever. As can
easily be supposed, I was the butt of my fellow students, the subject of
many sarcasms and practical jokes. The whole of my Freshman year was a
martyrdom. I had no peace, was rhymed on by poetasters, caricatured by
draughtsmen, till the name of Potts became proverbial for all that was
eccentric, ridiculous, and absurd.

Curran has said, “One can’t draw an indictment against a nation;” in the
same spirit did I discover “one cannot fight his whole division.” For a
while I believe I experienced a sort of heroism in my solitary state;
I felt the spirit of a Coriolanus in my heart, and muttered, “I banish
_you! _” but this self-supplied esteem did not last long, and I fell
into a settled melancholy. The horrible truth was gradually forcing its
way slowly, clearly, through the mists of my mind, that there might
be something in all this sarcasm, and I can remember to this hour, the
day--ay, and the very place--wherein the questions flashed across me: Is
my hair as limp, my nose as long, my back as arched, my eyes as green as
they have pictured them? Do I drawl so fearfully in my speech? Do I drag
my heavy feet along so ungracefully? Good heavens! have they possibly a
grain of fact to sustain all this fiction against me?

And if so,--horrible thought,--am I the stuff to go forth and seek
adventures? Oh, the ineffable bitterness of this reflection! I remember
it in all its anguish, and even now, after years of such experience as
have befallen few men, I can recall the pain it cost me. While I was yet
in the paroxysm of that sorrow, which assured me that I was not made for
doughty deeds, nor to captivate some fair princess, I chanced to fall
upon a little German volume entitled “Wald Wandelungen und Abentheure,”
 von Heinrich Stebbe. Forest rambles and adventures, and of a student,
too! for so Herr Stebbe announces himself, in a short introduction to
the reader. I am not going into any account of his book. It is in
Voss’s Leipzig Catalogue, and not unworthy of perusal by those who are
sufficiently imbued with Germanism to accept the changeful moods of a
mystical mind, with all its visionary glimpses of light and shade, its
doubts, fears, hopes, and fancies, in lieu of real incidents and actual
events. Of adventures, properly speaking, he had none. The people he
met, the scenes in which he bore his part, were as commonplace as
need be. The whole narrative never soared above that bread and butter
life--Butter-brod Leben--which Germany accepts as romance; but,
meanwhile, the reflex of whatever passed around him in the narrator’s
own mind was amusing; so ingeniously did he contrive to interweave the
imaginary with the actual, throwing over the most ordinary pictures
of life a sort of hazy indistinctness,--meet atmosphere for mystical
creation.

If I did not always sympathize with him in his brain-wrought wanderings,
I never ceased to take pleasure in his description of scenery, and
the heartfelt delight he experienced in Journeying through a world so
beautiful and so varied. There was also a little woodcut frontispiece
which took my fancy much, representing him as he stood leaning on his
horse’s mane, gazing rapturously on the Elbe, from one of the cliffs off
the Saxon Switzerland. How peaceful he looked, with his long hair waving
gracefully on his neck, and his large soft eyes turned on the scene
beneath him I His clasped hands, as they lay on the horse’s mane,
imparted a sort of repose, too, that seemed to say, “I could linger here
ever so long.” Nor was the horse itself without a significance in the
picture; he was a long-maned, long-tailed, patient-looking beast, well
befitting an enthusiast, who doubtless took but little heed of how he
went or where. If his lazy eye denoted lethargy, his broad feet and
short legs vouched for his sure-footedness.

Why should not I follow Stebbe’s example? Surely there was nothing too
exalted or extravagant in his plan of life. It was simply to see the
world as it was, with the aid of such combinations as a fertile fancy
could contribute; not to distort events, but to arrange them, Just as
the landscape painter in the license of his craft moves that massive
rock more to the foreground, and throws that stone pine a little further
to the left of his canvas. There was, indeed, nothing to prevent my
trying the experiment Ireland was not less rich in picturesque scenery
than Germany, and if she boasted no such mighty stream as the Elbe, the
banks of the Blackwater and the Nore were still full of woodland beauty;
and, then, there was lake scenery unrivalled throughout Europe.

I turned to Stebbe’s narrative for details of his outfit. His horse be
bought at Nordheim for two hundred and forty gulden,--about ten pounds;
his saddle and knapsack cost him a little more than forty shillings;
with his map, guide-book, compass, and some little extras, all were
comprised within twenty pounds sterling,--surely not too costly an
equipage for one who was adventuring on a sea wide as the world itself.

As _my_ trial was a mere experiment, to be essayed on the most limited
scale, I resolved not to buy, but only hire a horse, taking him by the
day, so that if any change of mind or purpose supervened I should not
find myself in any embarrassment.

A fond uncle had just left me a legacy of a hundred pounds, which,
besides, was the season of the long vacation; thus did everything
combine to favor the easy execution of a plan which I determined
forthwith to put into practice.

“Something quiet and easy to ride, sir, you said?” repeated Mr. Dycer
after me, as I entered his great establishment for the sale and hire of
horses. “Show the gentleman four hundred and twelve.”

“Oh, Heaven forbid!” I exclaimed, in ignorance; “such a number would
only confuse me.”

“You mistake me, sir,” blandly interposed the dealer; “I meant the horse
that stands at that number. Lead him out, Tim. He ‘s gentle as a lamb,
sir, and, if you find he suits you, can be had for a song,--I mean a ten
pound note.”

“Has he a long mane and tail?” I asked, eagerly.

“The longest tail and the fullest mane I ever saw. But here he comes.”
 And with the word, there advanced towards us, at a sort of easy amble,
a small-sized cream-colored horse, with white mane and tail. Knowing
nothing of horseflesh, I was fain to content myself with such
observations as other studies might supply me with; and so I closely
examined his head, which was largely developed in the frontal region,
with moral qualities fairly displayed. He had memory large, and
individuality strong; nor was wit, if it exist in the race, deficient
Over the orbital region the depressions were deep enough to contain my
closed fist, and when I remarked upon them to the groom, he said, “‘T
is his teeth will tell you the rayson of that;” a remark which I suspect
was a sarcasm upon my general ignorance.

I liked the creature’s eye. It was soft, mild, and contemplative; and
although not remarkable for brilliancy, possessed a subdued lustre that
promised well for temper and disposition.

“Ten shillings a day,--make it three half-crowns by the week, sir.
You ‘ll never hit upon the like of him again,” said the dealer,
hurriedly, as he passed me, on his other avocations.

“Better not lose him, sir; he’s well known at Batty’s, and they ‘ll
have him in the circus again if they see him. Wish you saw him with his
fore-legs on a table, ringing the bell for his breakfast.*’

“I’ll take him by the week, though, probably, a day or two will be all I
shall need.”

“Four hundred and twelve for Mr. Potts,” Dycer screamed out. “Shoes
removed, and to be ready in the morning.”



CHAPTER II. BLONDEL AND I SET OUT

I had heard and read frequently of the exhilarating sensations of horse
exercise. My fellow-students were full of stories of the hunting-field
and the race-course. Wherever, indeed, a horse figured in a narrative,
there was an almost certainty of meeting some incident to stir the
blood and warm up enthusiasm. Even the passing glimpses one caught of
sporting-prints in shop-windows were suggestive of the pleasure imparted
by a noble and chivalrous pastime. I never closed my eyes all night,
revolving such thoughts in my head. I had so worked up my enthusiasm
that I felt like one who is about to cross the frontier of some new land
where people, language, ways, and habits are all unknown to him. “By
this hour to-morrow night,” thought I, “I shall be in the land of
strangers, who have never seen, nor so much as heard of me. There will
invade no traditions of the scoffs and jibes I have so long endured;
none will have received the disparaging estimate of my abilities, which
my class-fellows love to propagate; I shall simply be the traveller
who arrived at sundown mounted on a cream-colored palfrey,--a stranger,
sad-looking, but gentle, withal, of courteous address, blandly demanding
lodging for the night. ‘Look to my horse, ostler,’ shall I say, as I
enter the honeysuckle-covered porch of the inn. ‘Blondel’--I will call
him Blondel--‘is accustomed to kindly usage.’” With what quiet dignity,
the repose of a conscious position, do I follow the landlord as he shows
me to my room. It is humble, but neat and orderly. I am contented. I
tell him so. I am sated and wearied of luxury; sick of a gilded and
glittering existence. I am in search of repose and solitude. I order my
tea; and, if I ask the name of the village, I take care to show by my
inattention that I have not heard the answer, nor do I care for it.

Now I should like to hear how they are canvassing me in the bar, and
what they think of me in the stable. I am, doubtless, a peer, or a
peer’s eldest son. I am a great writer, the wondrous poet of the day; or
the pre-Raphaelite artist; or I am a youth heart-broken by infidelity in
love; or, mayhap, a dreadful criminal. I liked this last the best, the
interest was so intense; not to say that there is, to men who are not
constitutionally courageous, a strong pleasure in being able to excite
terror in others.

But I hear a horse’s feet on the silent street. I look out Day is just
breaking. Tim is holding Blondel at the door. My hour of adventure has
struck, and noiselessly descending the stairs, I issue forth.

“He is a trifle tender on the fore-feet, your honor,” said Tim, as I
mounted; “but when you get him off the stones on a nice piece of soft
road, he ‘ll go like a four-year-old.”

“But he _is_ young, Tim, isn’t he?” I asked, as I tendered him my
half-crown.

“Well, not to tell your honor a lie, he is not,” said Tim, with the
energy of a man whose veracity had cost him little less than a spasm.

“How old would you call him, then?” I asked, in that affected ease that
seemed to say, “Not that it matters to me if he were Methuselah.”

“I could n’t come to his age exactly, your honor,” he replied, “but I
remember seeing him fifteen years ago, dancing a hornpipe, more by token
for his own benefit; it was at Cooke’s Circus, in Abbey Street, and
there wasn’t a hair’s difference between him now and then, except,
perhaps, that he had a star on the forehead, where you just see the mark
a little darker now.”

“But that is a star, plain enough,” said I, half vexed.

“Well, it is, and it is not,” muttered Tim, doggedly, for he was not
quite satisfied with my right to disagree with him.

“He’s gentle, at all events?” I said, more confidently.

“He’s a lamb!” replied Tim. “If you were to see the way he lets the
Turks run over his back, when he’s wounded in Timour the Tartar, you
wouldn’t believe he was a livin’ baste.”

“Poor fellow!” said I, caressing him. He turned his mild eye upon me,
and we were friends from that hour.

What a glorious morning it was, as I gained the outskirts of the city,
and entered one of those shady alleys that lead to the foot of the
Dublin mountains! The birds were opening their morning hymn, and the
earth, still fresh from the night dew, sent up a thousand delicious
perfumes. The road on either side was one succession of handsome villas
or ornamental cottages, whose grounds were laid out in the perfection of
landscape gardening. There were but few persons to be seen at that early
hour, and in the smokeless chimneys and closed shutters I could read
that all slept,--slept in that luxurious hour when Nature unveils, and
seems to revel in the sense of unregarded loveliness. “Ah, Potts,” said
I, “thou hast chosen the wiser part; thou wilt see the world after thine
own guise, and not as others see it.” Has my reader not often noticed
that in a picture-gallery the slightest change of place, a move to
the left or right, a chance approach or retreat, suffices to make what
seemed a hazy confusion of color and gloss a rich and beautiful picture?
So is it in the actual world, and just as much depends on the point
from which objects are viewed. Do not be discouraged, then, by the dark
aspects of events. It may be that by the slightest move to this side or
to that, some unlooked-for sunlight shall slant down and light up all
the scene. Thus musing, I gained a little grassy strip that ran along
the roadside, and, gently touching Blonde! with my heel, he broke out
into a delightful canter. The motion, so easy and swimming, made it a
perfect ecstasy to sit there floating at will through the thin air, with
a moving panorama of wood, water, and mountain around me.

Emerging at length from the thickly wooded plain, I began the ascent of
the Three Rock Mountain, and, in my slackened speed, had full time to
gaze upon the bay beneath me, broken with many a promontory, backed by
the broad bluff of Howth, and the more distant Lambay. No, it is _not_
finer than Naples. I did not say it was; but, seeing it as I then saw
it, I thought it could not be surpassed. Indeed, I went further, and
defied Naples in this fashion:--

     “Though no volcano’s lurid light
          Over thy bine sea steals along,
     Nor Pescator beguiles the night
          With cadence of his simple song;

     “Though none of dark Calabria’s daughters
          With tinkling lute thy echoes wake,
     Mingling their voices with the waters,
          As ‘neath the prow the ripples break;

     “Although no cliffs with myrtle crown’d,
          Reflected in thy tide, are seen,
     Nor olives, bending to the ground,
          Relieve the laurel’s darker green;

     “Yet--yet--”

Ah, there was the difficulty,--I had begun with the plaintiff, and
I really had n’t a word to say for the defendant; and so, voting
comparisons odious, I set forward on my journey.

As I rode into Enniskerry to breakfast, I had the satisfaction of
overhearing some very flattering comments upon Blondel, which rather
consoled me for some less laudatory remarks upon my own horsemanship. By
the way, can there possibly be a more ignorant sarcasm than to say a
man rides like a tailor? Why, of all trades, who so constantly sits
straddle-legged as a tailor? and yet he is especial mark of this
impertinence.

I pushed briskly on after breakfast, and soon found myself in the deep
shady woods that lead to the Dargle. I hurried through the picturesque
demesne, associated as it was with a thousand little vulgar incidents
of city junketings, and rode on for the Glen of the Downs. Blondel and
I had now established a most admirable understanding with each other.
It was a sort of reciprocity by which I bound myself never to control
_him_, he in turn consenting not to unseat _me_. He gave the initiative
to the system, by setting off at his pleasant little rocking canter
whenever he chanced upon a bit of favorable ground, and invariably
pulled up when the road was stony or uneven; thus showing me that he was
a beast with what Lord Brougham would call “a wise discretion.” In like
manner he would halt to pluck any stray ears of wild oats that grew
along the hedge sides, and occasionally slake his thirst at convenient
streamlets. If I dismounted to walk at his side, he moved along unheld,
his head almost touching my elbow, and his plaintive blue eye mildly
beaming on me with an expression that almost spoke,--nay, it did speak.
I ‘m sure I felt it, as though I could swear to it, whispering, “Yes,
Potts, two more friendless creatures than ourselves are not easy to
find. The world wants not either of us; not that we abuse it, despise
it, or treat it ungenerously,--rather the reverse, we incline favorably
towards it, and would, occasion serving, befriend it; but we are not,
so to say, ‘of it.’ There may be, here and there, a man or a horse that
would understand or appreciate us, but they stand alone,--they are not
belonging to classes. They are, like ourselves, exceptional.” If his
expression said this much, there was much unspoken melancholy in his sad
glance, also, which seemed to say, “What a deal of sorrow could I reveal
if I might!--what injuries, what wrong, what cruel misconceptions of
my nature and disposition, what mistaken notions of my character and
intentions! What pretentious stupidity, too, have I seen preferred
before me,--creatures with, mayhap, a glossier coat or a more silky
forelock--” “Ah, Blondel, take courage,--men are just as ungenerous,
just as erring!” “Not that I have not had my triumphs, too,” he seemed
to say, as, cocking his ears, and ambling with a more elevated toss
of the head, his tail would describe an arch like a waterfall; “no
salmon-colored silk stockings danced sarabands on _my_ back; I was
always ridden in the Haute École by Monsieur l’Etrier himself, the
stately gentleman in jackboots and long-waisted dress-coat, whose five
minutes no persuasive bravos could ever prolong.” I thought--nay, I was
certain at times--that I could read in his thoughtful face the painful
sorrows of one who had outlived popular favor, and who had survived to
see himself supplanted and dethroned.

There are no two destinies which chime in so well together as that of
him who is beaten down by sheer distrust of himself, and that of the
man who has seen better days. Although the one be just entering on life,
while the other is going out of it, if they meet on the threshold,
they stop to form a friendship. Now, though Blondel was not a man, he
supplied to my friendlessness the place of one.

The sun was near its setting, as I rode down the little hill into the
village of Ashford, a picturesque little spot in the midst of mountains,
and with a bright clear stream bounding through it, as fearlessly as
though in all the liberty of open country. I tried to make my entrance
what stage people call effective. I threw myself, albeit a little jaded,
into an attitude of easy indifference, slouched my hat to one side, and
suffered the sprig of laburnum, with which I had adorned it, to droop in
graceful guise over one shoulder. The villagers stared; some saluted me;
and taken, perhaps, by the cool acquiescence of my manner, as I returned
the courtesy, seemed well disposed to believe me of some note.

I rode into the little stable-yard of the “Lamb” and dismounted. I
gave up my horse, and walked into the inn. I don’t know how others feel
it,--I greatly doubt if they will have the honesty to tell,--but for
myself, I confess that I never entered an inn or an hotel without a
most uncomfortable conflict within: a struggle made up of two very
antagonistic impulses,--the wish to seem something important, and a
lively terror lest the pretence should turn out to be costly. Thus
swayed by opposing motives, I sought a compromise by assuming that I
was incog.; for the present a nobody, to be treated without any
marked attention, and to whom the acme of respect would be a seeming
indifference.

“What is your village called?” I said, carelessly, to the waiter, as he
laid the cloth.

“Ashford, your honor. ‘T is down in all the books,” answered the waiter.

“Is it noted for anything, or is there anything remarkable in the
neighborhood?”

“Indeed, there is, sir, and plenty. There’s Glenmalure and the Devil’s
Glen; and there’s Mr. Snow Malone’s place, that everybody goes to see:
and there’s the fishing of Doyle’s river,--trout, eight, nine, maybe
twelve, pounds’ weight; and there’s Mr. Reeve’s cottage--a Swiss cottage
belike--at Kinmacreedy; but, to be sure, there must be an order for
that!”

“I never take much trouble,” I said indolently. “Who have you got in the
house at present?”

“There’s young Lord Keldrum, sir, and two more with him, for the
fishing; and the next room to you here, there’s Father Dyke, from
Inistioge, and he’s going, by the same token, to dine with the Lord
to-day.”

“Don’t mention to his Lordship that I am here,” said I, hastily. “I
desire to be quite unknown down here.” The waiter promised obedience,
without vouchsafing any misgivings as to the possibility of his
disclosing what he did not know.

To his question as to my dinner, I carelessly said, as if I were in
a West-end club, “Never mind soup,--a little fish,--a cutlet and a
partridge. Or order it yourself,--I am indifferent.” The waiter had
scarcely left the room when I was startled by the sound of voices
so close to me as to seem at my side. They came from a little wooden
balcony to the adjoining room, which, by its pretentious bow-window,
I recognized to be the state apartment of the inn, and now in the
possession of Lord Keldrum and his party. They were talking away in that
gay, rattling, discursive fashion very young men do amongst each other,
and discussed fishing-flies, the neighboring gentlemen’s seats, and the
landlady’s niece.

“By the way, Kel,” cried one, “it was in your visit to the bar that you
met your priest, was n’t it?”

“Yes; I offered him a cigar, and we began to chat together, and so I
asked him to dine with us to-day.”

“And he refused?”

“Yes; but he has since changed his mind, and sent a message to say he
‘ll be with us at eight”.

“I should like to see your father’s face, Kel, when he heard of your
entertaining the Reverend Father Dyke at dinner.”

“Well, I suppose he would say it was carrying conciliation a little too
far; but as the adage says, _À la guerre_--”

At this juncture, another burst in amongst them, calling out,
“You ‘d never guess who ‘s just arrived here, in strict incog., and
having bribed Mike, the waiter, to silence. Burgoyne!”

“Not Jack Burgoyne?”

“Jack himself. I had the portrait so correctly drawn by the waiter,
that there’s no mistaking him; the long hair, green complexion, sheepish
look, all perfect. He came on a hack, a little cream-colored pad he got
at Dycer’s, and fancies he’s quite unknown.”

“What _can_ he be up to now?”

“I think I have it,” said his Lordship. “Courtenay has got two
three-year-olds down here at his uncle’s, one of them under heavy
engagements for the spring meetings. Master Jack has taken a run down to
have a look at them.”

“By Jove, Kel, you ‘re right! he’s always wide awake, and that stupid
leaden-eyed look he has, has done him good service in the world.”

“I say, old Oxley, shall we dash in and unearth him? Or shall we let him
fancy that we know nothing of his being here at all?”

“What does Hammond say?”

“I’d say, leave him to himself,” replied a deep voice; “you can’t go and
see him without asking him to dinner; and he ‘ll walk into us after, do
what we will.”

“Not, surely, if we don’t play,” said Oxley.

“Would n’t he, though? Why, he ‘d screw a bet out of a bishop.”

“I ‘d do with him as Tomkinson did,” said his Lordship; “he had him down
at his lodge in Scotland, and bet him fifty pounds that he could
n’t pass a week without a wager. Jack booked the bet and won it, and
Tomkinson franked the company.”

“What an artful villain my counterpart must be!” I said. I stared in the
glass to see if I could discover the sheepish-ness they laid such
stress on. I was pale, to be sure, and my hair a light brown, but so was
Shelley’s; indeed, there was a wild, but soft expression in my eyes that
resembled his, and I could recognize many things in our natures
that seemed to correspond. It was the poetic dreaminess, the lofty
abstractedness from all the petty cares of every-day life which vulgar
people set down as simplicity; and thus,--

     “The soaring thoughts that reached the stare,
          Seemed ignorance to them.”

As I uttered the consolatory lines, I felt two hands firmly pressed over
my eyes, while a friendly voice called out, “Found out, old fellow! run
fairly to earth!” “Ask him if he knows you,” whispered another, but in a
voice I could catch.

“Who am I, Jack?” cried the first speaker.

“Situated as I now am,” I replied, “I am unable to pronounce; but of one
thing I am assured,--I am certain I am not called Jack.”

The slow and measured intonation of my voice seemed to electrify them,
for my captor relinquished his hold and fell back, while the two others,
after a few seconds of blank surprise, burst into a roar of laughter; a
sentiment which the other could not refrain from, while he struggled to
mutter some words of apology.

“Perhaps I can explain your mistake,” I said blandly; “I am supposed to
be extremely like the Prince of Salms Hökinshauven--”

“No, no!” burst in Lord Keldrum, whose voice I recognized, “we never saw
the Prince. The blunder of the waiter led us into this embarrassment; we
fancied you were--”

“Mr. Burgoyne,” I chimed in.

“Exactly,--Jack Burgoyne; but you’re not a bit like him.”

“Strange, then; but I’m constantly mistaken for him; and when in London,
I ‘m actually persecuted by people calling out, ‘When did you come up,
Jack?’ ‘Where do you hang out?’ ‘How long do you stay?’ ‘Dine with
me to-day--to-morrow--Saturday?’ and so on; and although, as I have
remarked, these are only so many embarrassments for me, they all show
how popular must be my prototype.” I had purposely made this speech of
mine a little long, for I saw by the disconcerted looks of the party
that they did not see how to wind up “the situation,” and, like all
awkward men, I grew garrulous where I ought to have been silent. While
I rambled on, Lord Keldrum exchanged a word or two with one of his
friends; and as I finished, he turned towards me, and, with an air of
much courtesy, said,--

“We owe you every apology for this intrusion, and hope you will pardon
it; there is, however, but one way in which we can certainly feel
assured that we have your forgiveness,--that is, by your joining us. I
see that your dinner is in preparation, so pray let me countermand it,
and say that you are our guest.”

“Lord Keldrum,” said one of the party, presenting the speaker; “my name
is Hammond, and this is Captain Oxley, Coldstream Guards.”

I saw that this move required an exchange of ratifications, and so I
bowed, and said, “Algernon Sydney Potts.”

“There are Staffordshire Pottses?”

“No relation,” I said stiffly. It was Hammond who made the remark, and
with a sneering manner that I could not abide.

“Well, Mr. Potts, it is agreed,” said Lord Keldrum, with his peculiar
urbanity, “we shall see you at eight No dressing. You’ll find us in this
fishing-costume you see now.”

I trust my reader, who has dined out any day he pleased and in any
society he has liked these years past, will forgive me if I do not enter
into any detailed account of my reasons for accepting this invitation.
Enough if I freely own that to me, A. S. Potts, such an unexpected honor
was about the same surprise as if I had been announced governor of a
colony, or bishop in a new settlement.

“At eight sharp, Mr. Potts.”

“The next door down the passage.”

“Just as you are, remember!” were the three parting admonitions with
which they left me.



CHAPTER III. TRUTH NOT ALWAYS IN WINE

Who has not experienced the charm of the first time in his life, when
totally removed from all the accidents of his station, the circumstance
of his fortune, and his other belongings, he has taken his place
amongst perfect strangers, and been estimated by the claims of his own
individuality? Is it not this which gives the almost ecstasy of our
first tour,--our first journey? There are none to say, “Who is this
Potts that gives himself these airs?” “What pretension has he to say
this, or order that?” “What would old Peter say if he saw his son
to-day?” with all the other “What has the world come tos?” and “What are
we to see nexts?” I say it is with a glorious sense of independence that
one sees himself emancipated from all these restraints, and recognizes
his freedom to be that which nature has made him.

As I sat on Lord Keldrum’s left,--Father Dyke was on his right,--was I
in any real quality other than I ever am? Was my nature different, my
voice, my manner, my social tone, as I received all the bland attentions
of my courteous host? And yet, in my heart of hearts, I felt that if
it were known to that polite company I was the son of Peter Potts,
‘pothecary, all my conversational courage would have failed me. I would
not have dared to assert fifty things I now declared, nor vouched for a
hundred that I as assuredly guaranteed. If I had had to carry about me
traditions of the shop in Mary’s Abbey, the laboratory, and the rest of
it, how could I have had the nerve to discuss any of the topics on which
I now pronounced so authoritatively? And yet, these were all accidents
of my existence,--no more me than was the color of _his_ whiskers mine
who vaccinated me for cow-pock. The man Potts was himself through all;
he was neither compounded of senna and salts, nor amalgamated
with sarsaparilla and the acids; but by the cruel laws of a harsh
conventionality it was decreed otherwise, and the trade of the father
descends to the son in every estimate of all he does and says and
thinks. The converse of the proposition I was now to feel in the success
I obtained in this company. I was as the Germans would say, “Der Herr
Potts selbst, nicht nach seinen Begebenheiten”--the man Potts, not the
creature of his belongings.

The man thus freed from his “antecedents,” and owning no “relatives,”
 feels like one to whom a great, a most unlimited, credit has been
opened, in matter of opinion. Not reduced to fashion his sentiments by
some supposed standard becoming his station, he roams at will over the
broad prairie of life, enough if he can show cause why he says this or
thinks that, without having to defend himself for his parentage, and the
place he was born in. Little wonder if, with such a sum to my credit,
I drew largely on it; little wonder if I were dogmatical and
demonstrative; little wonder if, when my reason grew wearied with facts,
I reposed on my imagination in fiction.

Be it remembered, however, that I only became what I have set down here
after an excellent dinner, a considerable quantity of champagne, and no
small share of claret, strong-bodied enough to please the priest. From
the moment we sat down to table, I conceived for him a sort of distrust.
He was painfully polite and civil; he had a soft, slippery, Clare
accent; but there was a malicious twinkle in his eye that showed he was
by nature satirical. Perhaps because we were more reading men than the
others that it was we soon found ourselves pitted against each other
in argument, and this not upon one, but upon every possible topic that
turned up. Hammond, I found, also stood by the priest; Oxley was _my_
backer; and his Lordship played umpire. Dyke was a shrewd, sarcastic dog
in his way, but he had no chance with me. How mercilessly I treated his
church!--he pushed me to it,--what an _exposé_ did I make of the
Pope and his government, with all their extortions and cruelties! how
ruthlessly I showed them up as the sworn enemies of all freedom and
enlightenment! The priest never got angry. He was too cunning for that,
and he even laughed at some of my anecdotes, of which I related a great
many.

“Don’t be so hard on him, Potts,” whispered my Lord, as the day wore on;
“he ‘s not one of us, you know!”

This speech put me into a flutter of delight. It was not alone that he
called me Potts, but there was also an acceptance of me as one of
hier own set. We were, in fact, henceforth _nous autres_. Enchanting
recognition, never to be forgotten!

“But what would you do with us?” said Dyke, mildly remonstrating against
some severe measures we of the landed interest might be yet driven to
resort to.

“I don’t know,--that is to say,--I have not made up my mind whether it
were better to make a clearance of you altogether, or to bribe you.”

“Bribe us by all means, then!” said he, with a most serious earnestness.

“Ah! but could we rely upon you?” I asked.

“That would greatly depend upon the price.”

“I ‘ll not haggle about terms, nor I ‘m sure would Keldrum,” said I,
nodding over to his Lordship.

“You are only just to me, in that,” said he, smiling.

“That’s all fine talking for you fellows who had the luck to be first
on the list, but what are poor devils like Oxley and myself to do?” said
Hammond. “Taxation comes down to second sons.”

“And the ‘Times’ says that’s all right,” added Oxley.

“And I say it’s all wrong; and I say more,” I broke in: “I say that of
all the tyrannies of Europe, I know of none like that newspaper. Why,
sir, whose station, I would ask, nowadays, can exempt him from its
impertinent criticisms? Can Keldrum say--can I say--that to-morrow or
next day we shall not be arraigned for this, that, or t’other? I choose,
for instance, to manage my estate,--the property that has been in my
family for centuries,--the acres that have descended to us by grants
as old as Magna Charta. I desire, for reasons that seem sufficient to
myself, to convert arable into grass land. I say to one of my tenant
farmers--it’s Hedgeworth--no matter, I shall not mention names, but I
say to him--”

“I know the man,” broke in the priest; “you mean Hedgeworth Davis, of
Mount Davis.”

“No, sir, I do not,” said I, angrily, for I resented this attempt to run
me to earth.

“Hedgeworth! Hedgeworth! It ain’t that fellow that was in the Rifles;
the 2d battalion, is it?” said Ozley.

“I repeat,” said I, “that I will mention no names.”

“My mother had some relatives Hedgeworths, they were from Herefordshire.
How odd, Potts, if we should turn out to be connections! You said that
these people were related to you.”

“I hope,” I said angrily, “that I am not bound to give the birth,
parentage, and education of every man whose name I may mention in
conversation. At least, I would protest that I have not prepared myself
for such a demand upon my memory.”

“Of course not, Potts. It would be a test no man could submit to,” said
his Lordship.

“That Hedgeworth, who was in the Rifles, exceeded all the fellows I ever
met in drawing the long bow. There was no country he had not been in, no
army he had not served with; he was related to every celebrated man in
Europe; and, after all, it turned out that his father was an attorney
at Market Harborough, and sub-agent to one of our fellows who had some
property there.” This was said by Hammond, who directed the speech
entirely to me.

“Confound the Hedgeworths, all together,” Ozley broke in. “They have
carried us miles away from what we were talking of.”

This was a sentiment that met my heartiest concurrence, and I nodded
in friendly recognition to the speaker, and drank off my glass to his
health.

“Who can give us a song? I ‘ll back his reverence here to be a
vocalist,” cried Hammond. And sure enough, Dyke sang one of the national
melodies with great feeling and taste. Ozley followed with something
in less perfect taste, and we all grew very jolly. Then there came a
broiled bone and some devilled kidneys, and a warm brew which Hammond
himself concocted,--a most insidious liquor, which had a strong odor of
lemons, and was compounded, at the same time, of little else than rum
and sugar.

There is an adage that says “in vino Veritas,” which I shrewdly suspect
to be a great fallacy; at least, as regards my own case, I know it to be
totally inapplicable. I am in my sober hours--and I am proud to say that
the exceptions from such are of the rarest--one of the most veracious
of mortals; indeed, in my frank sincerity, I have often given offence
to those who like a courteous hypocrisy better than an ungraceful truth.
Whenever by any chance it has been my ill-fortune to transgress these
limits, there is no bound to my imagination. There is nothing too
extravagant or too vainglorious for me to say of myself. All the strange
incidents of romance that I have read, all the travellers’ stories,
newspaper accidents, adventures by sea and land, wonderful coincidences,
unexpected turns of fortune, I adapt to myself, and coolly relate
them as personal experiences. Listeners have afterwards told me that I
possess an amount of consistence, a verisimilitude in these narratives
perfectly marvellous, and only to be accounted for by supposing that
I myself must, for the time being, be the dupe of my own imagination.
Indeed, I am sure such must be the true explanation of this curious
fact. How, in any other mode, explain the rash wagers, absurd and
impossible engagements I have contracted in such moments, backing myself
to leap twenty-three feet on the level sward; to dive in six fathoms
water, and fetch up Heaven knows what of shells and marine curiosities
from the bottom; to ride the most unmanageable of horses; and,
single-handed and unarmed, to fight the fiercest bulldog in England?
Then, as to intellectual feats, what have I not engaged to perform? Sums
of mental arithmetic; whole newspapers committed to memory after one
reading; verse compositions, on any theme, in ten languages; and once a
written contract to compose a whole opera, with all the scores, within
twenty-four hours. To a nature thus strangely constituted, wine was a
perfect magic wand, transforming a poor, weak, distrustful modest man
into a hero; and yet, even with such temptations, my excesses were
extremely rare and unfrequent. Are there many, I would ask, that could
resist the passport to such a dreamland, with only the penalty of a
headache the next morning? Some one would, perhaps, suggest that these
were enjoyments to pay forfeit on. Well, so they were; but I must not
anticipate. And now to my tale.

To Hammond’s brew there succeeded one by Oxley, made after an American
receipt, and certainly both fragrant and insinuating; and then came a
concoction made by the priest, which he called “Father Hosey’s pride.”
 It was made in a bowl, and drunk out of lemon-rinds, ingeniously fitted
into the wine-glasses. I remember no other particulars about it, though
I can call to mind much of the conversation that preceded it. How I gave
a long historical account of my family, that we came originally from
Corsica, the name Potts being a corruption of Pozzo, and that we were
of the same stock as the celebrated diplomatist Pozzo di Borgo. Our
unclaimed estates in the island were of fabulous value, but in asserting
my right to them I should accept thirteen mortal duels, the arrears of
a hundred and odd years un-scored off, in anticipation of which I had
at one time taken lessons from Angelo, in fencing, which led to the
celebrated challenge they might have read in “Galignani,” where I
offered to meet any swordsman in Europe for ten thousand Napoleons,
giving choice of the weapon to my adversary. With a tear to the
memory of the poor French colonel that I killed at Sedan, I turned the
conversation. Being in France, I incidentally mentioned some anecdotes
of military life, and bow I had invented the rifle called after Minié’s
name, and, in a moment of good nature, given that excellent fellow my
secret.

“I will say,” said I, “that Minié has shown more gratitude than some
others nearer home, but we ‘ll talk of rifled cannon another time.”

In an episode about bear-shooting, I mentioned the Emperor of Russia,
poor dear Nicholas, and told how we had once exchanged horses,--mine
being more strong-boned, and a weight-carrier; his a light Caucasian
mare of purest breed, “the dam of that creature you may see below in the
stable now,” said I, carelessly. “‘Come and see me one of these
days, Potts,’ said he, in parting; ‘come and pass a week with me at
Constantinople.’ This was the first intimation he had ever given of his
project against Turkey; and when I told it to the Duke of Wellington,
his remark was a muttered ‘Strange fellow, Potts,--knows everything!’
though he made no reply to me at the time.”

It was somewhere about this period that the priest began with what
struck me as an attempt to outdo me as a storyteller, an effort I should
have treated with the most contemptuous indifference but for the amount
of attention bestowed on him by the others. Nor was this all, but
actually I perceived that a kind of rivalry was attempted to be
established, so that we were pitted directly against each other. Amongst
the other self-delusions of such moments was the profound conviction
I entertained that I was master of all games of skill and address,
superior to Major A. at whist, and able to give Staunton a pawn and the
move at chess. The priest was just as vainglorious. “He’d like to
see the man who ‘d play him a game of ‘spoiled five’”--whatever
that was--“or drafts; ay, or, though it was not his pride, a bit of
backgammon.”

“Done, for fifty pounds; double on the gammon!” cried I.

“Fifty fiddlesticks!” cried he; “where would you or I find as many
shillings?”

“What do you mean, sir?” said I, angrily. “Am I to suppose that you
doubt my competence to risk such a comtemptible sum, or is it to your
own inability alone you would testify?”

A very acrimonious dispute followed, of which I have no clear
recollection. I only remember how Hammond was out-and out for the
priest, and Oxley too tipsy to take _my_ part with any efficiency. At
last--Row arranged I can’t say--peace was restored, and the next thing
I can recall was listening to Father Dyke giving a long, and of course
a most fabulous, history of a ring that he wore on his second finger.
It was given by the Pretender, he said, to his uncle, the celebrated
Carmelite monk, Lawrence O’Kelly, who for years bad followed the young
prince’s fortunes. It was an onyx, with the letters C. E. S. engraved
on it. Keldrum took an immense fancy to it; he protested that everything
that attached to that unhappy family possessed in his eyes an uncommon
interest. “If you have a fancy to take up Potto’s wager,” said he,
laughingly, “I’ll give you fifty pounds for your signet ring.”

The priest demurred; Hammond interposed; then there was more discussion,
now warm, now jocose. Oxley tried to suggest something, which we all
laughed at. Keldrum placed the backgammon board meanwhile; but I can
give no clear account of what ensued, though I remember that the terms
of our wager were committed to writing by Hammond, and signed by Father
D. and myself, and in the conditions there figured a certain ring,
guaranteed to have belonged to and been worn by his Royal Highness
Charles Edward, and a cream-colored horse, equally guaranteed as the
produce of a Caucasian mare presented by the late Emperor Nicholas to
the present owner. The document was witnessed by all three, Oxley’s name
written in two letters, and a flourish. After that, I played, and lost!



CHAPTER IV. PLEASANT REFLECTIONS ON AWAKING.

I can recall to this very hour the sensations of headache and misery
with which I awoke the morning after this debauch. Backing pain it was,
with a sort of tremulous beating all through the brain, as though a
small engine had been set to work there, and that piston and boiler and
connecting-rod were all banging, fizzing, and vibrating amid my fevered
senses. I was, besides, much puzzled to know where I was, and how I
had come there. Controversial divinity, genealogy, horse-racing, the
peerage, and “double sixes” were dancing a wild cotillon through my
brain; and although a waiter more than once cautiously obtruded his head
into the room, to see if I were asleep, and as guardedly withdrew it
again, I never had energy to speak to him, but lay passive and still,
waiting till my mind might clear, and the cloud-fog that obscured my
faculties might be wafted away.

At last--it was towards evening--the man, possibly becoming alarmed at
my protracted lethargy, moved somewhat briskly through the room, and
with that amount of noise that showed he meant to arouse me, disturbed
chairs and fire-irons indiscriminately.

“Is it late or early?” asked I, faintly.

“Tis near five, sir, and a beautiful evening,” said he, drawing nigh,
with the air of one disposed for colloquy.

I did n’t exactly like to ask where I was, and tried to ascertain the
fact by a little circumlocution. “I suppose,” said I, yawning, “for all
that is to be done in a place like this, when up, one might just as well
stay abed, eh?”

“T is the snuggest place, anyhow,” said he, with that peculiar
disposition to agree with you so characteristic in an Irish waiter.

“No society?” sighed I.

“No, indeed, sir.”

“No theatre?”

“Devil a one, sir.”

“No sport?”

“Yesterday was the last of the season, sir; and signs on it, his
Lordship and the other gentleman was off immediately after breakfast.”

“You mean Lord--Lord--” A mist was clearing slowly away, but I could not
yet see clearly.

“Lord Keldrum, sir; a real gentleman every inch of him.”

“Oh! yes, to be sure,--a very old friend of mine,” muttered I. “And so
he’s gone, is he?”

“Yes, sir; and the last word he said was about your honor.”

“About me,--what was it?”

“Well, indeed, sir,” replied the waiter, with a hesitating and confused
manner, “I did n’t rightly understand it; but as well as I could catch
the words, it was something about hoping your honor had more of that
wonderful breed of horses the Emperor of Roosia gave you.”

“Oh, yes! I understand,” said I, stopping him abruptly. “By the way, how
is Blondel--that is, my horse--this morning?”

“Well, he looked fresh and hearty, when he went off this morning at
daybreak--”

“What do you mean?” cried I, jumping up in my bed. “Went off? where to?”

“With Father Dyke on his back; and a neater hand he could n’t wish
over him. ‘Tim,’ says he, to the ostler, as he mounted, ‘there’s a
five-shilling piece for you, for hansel, for I won this baste last
night, and you must drink my health and wish me luck with him.’”

I heard no more, but, sinking back into the bed, I covered my face with
my hands, overcome with shame and misery. All the mists that had blurred
my faculties had now been swept clean away, and the whole history of
the previous evening was revealed before me. My stupid folly, my absurd
boastfulness, my egregious story-telling,--not to call it worse,--were
all there; but, shall I acknowledge it? what pained me not less
poignantly was the fact that I ventured to stake the horse I had merely
hired, and actually lost him at the play-table.

As soon as I rallied from this state of self-accusation, I set to work
to think how I should manage to repossess myself of my beast, my loss of
which might be converted into a felony. To follow the priest and ransom
Blondel was my first care. Father Dyke would most probably not exact
an unreasonable price; he, of course, never believed one word of my
nonsensical narrative about Schamyl and the Caucasus, and he ‘d not
revenge upon Potts sober the follies of Potts tipsy. It is true my purse
was a very slender one, but Blondel, to any one unacquainted with
his pedigree, could not be a costly animal; fifteen pounds--twenty,
certainly--ought to buy what the priest would call “every hair on his
tail.”

It was now too late in the evening to proceed to execute the measures I
had resolved on, and so I determined to lie still and ponder over them.
Dismissing the waiter, with an order to bring me a cup of tea about
eight o’clock, I resumed my cogitations. They were not pleasant ones:
Potts a byword for the most outrageous and incoherent balderdash and
untruth; Potts in the “Hue and Cry;” Potts in the dock; Potts in the
pillory; Potts paragraphed in “Punch;” portrait of Potts, price one
penny!--these were only a few of the forms in which the descendant of
the famous Corsican family of Pozzo di Borgo now presented himself to my
imagination.

The courts and quadrangles of Old Trinity ringing with laughter, the
coarse exaggerations of tasteless scoffers, the jokes and sneers of
stupidity, malice, and all uncharitableness, rang in my ears as if I
heard them. All possible and impossible versions of the incident
passed in review before me: my father, driven distracted by impertinent
inquiries, cutting me off with a shilling, and then dying of
mortification and chagrin; rewards offered for my apprehension;
descriptions, not in any way flatteries, of my personal appearance;
paragraphs of local papers hinting that the notorious Potts was supposed
to have been seen in our neighborhood yesterday, with sly suggestions
about looking after stable-doors, &c. I could bear it no longer. I
jumped up, and rang the bell violently.

“You know this Father Dyke, waiter? In what part of the country does he
live?”

“He’s parish priest of Inistioge,” said he; “the snuggest place in the
whole county.”

“How far from this may it be?”

“It’s a matter of five-and-forty miles; and by the same token, he said
he ‘d not draw bridle till he got home to-night, for there was a fair
at Grague to-morrow, and if he was n’t pleased with the baste he ‘d sell
him there.”

I groaned deeply; for here was a new complication, entirely unlooked
for. “You can’t possibly mean,” gasped I out, “that a respectable
clergyman would expose for sale a horse lent to him casually by a
friend?” for the thought struck me that this protest of mine should be
thus early on record.

The waiter scratched his head and looked confused. Whether another
version of the event possessed him, or that my question staggered his
convictions, I am unable to say; but he made no reply. “It is true,”
 continued I, in the same strain, “that I met his reverence last night
for the first time. My friend Lord Keldrum made us acquainted; but
seeing him received at my noble friend’s board, I naturally felt, and
said to myself, ‘The man Keldrum admits to his table is the equal of any
one.’ Could anything be more reasonable than that?”

“No, indeed, sir; nothing,” said the waiter, obsequiously.

“Well, then,” resumed I, “some day or other it may chance that you will
be called on to remember and recall this conversation between us; if so,
it will be important that you should have a clear and distinct memory of
the fact that when I awoke in the morning, and asked for my horse, the
answer you made me was--What was the answer you made me?”

“The answer I med was this,” said the fellow, sturdily, and with an
effrontery I can never forget,--“the answer I med was, that the man that
won him took him away.”

“You’re an insolent scoundrel,” cried I, boiling over with passion, “and
if you don’t ask pardon for this outrage on your knees, I ‘ll include
you in the indictment for conspiracy.”

So far from proceeding to the penitential act I proposed, the fellow
grinned from ear to ear, and left the room. It was a long time before I
could recover my wonted calm and composure. That this rascal’s evidence
would be fatal to me if the question ever came to trial, was as clear as
noonday; not less clear was it that he knew this himself.

“I must go back at once to town,” thought I. “I will surrender myself to
the law. If a compromise be impossible, I will perish at the stake.”

I forgot there was no stake; but there was wool-carding, and
oakum-picking, and wheel-treading, and oyster-shell pounding, and other
small plays of this nature, infinitely more degrading to humanity than
all the cruelties of our barbarous ancestors.

Now, in no record of lives of adventure had I met any account of such
trials as these. The Silvio Pellicos of Pentonville are yet unwritten
martyrs. Prison discipline would vulgarize the grandest epic that ever
was conceived “Anything rather than this,” said I, aloud. “Proscribed,
outlawed, hunted down, but never, gray-coated and hair-clipped, shall a
Potts be sentenced to the ‘crank,’ or black-holed as refractory!--Bring
me my bill,” cried I, in a voice of indignant anger. “I will go forth
into the world of darkness and tempest; I will meet the storm and the
hurricane; better all the conflict of the elements than man’s--than
man’s--” I was n’t exactly sure what; but there was no need of the word,
for a gust of wind had just flattened my umbrella in my face as I issued
forth, and left me breathless, as the door closed behind me.



CHAPTER V. THE ROSARY AT INISTIOGE

As I walked onward against the swooping wind and the plashing rain, I
felt a sort of heroic ardor in the notion of breasting the adverse waves
of life so boldly. It is not every fellow could do this,--throw his
knapsack on his shoulder, seize his stick, and set out in storm and
blackness. No, Potts, my man; for downright inflexibility of purpose,
for bold and resolute action, you need yield to none! It was, indeed, an
awful night; the thunder rolled and crashed with scarce an interval
of cessation; forked lightning tore across the sky in every direction;
while the wind swept through the deep glen, smashing branches and
uplifting large trees like mere shrubs. I was soon completely drenched,
and my soaked clothes hung around with the weight of lead; my spirits,
however, sustained me, and I toiled along, occasionally in a sort of
wild bravado, giving a cheer as the thunder rolled close above my head,
and trying to sing, as though my heart were as gay and my spirits as
light as in an hour of happiest abandonment.

Jean Paul has somewhere the theory that our Good Genius is attached to
us from our birth by a film fine as gossamer, and which few of us escape
rupturing in the first years of youth, thus throwing ourselves at once
without chart or pilot upon the broad ocean of life. He, however, more
happily constituted, who feels the guidance of his guardian spirit,
recognizes the benefits of its care, and the admonitions of its
wisdom,--_he_ is destined to great things. Such men discover new worlds
beyond the seas, carry conquest over millions, found dynasties, and
build up empires; they whom the world regard as demigods having simply
the wisdom of being led by fortune, and not severing the slender thread
that unites them to their destiny. Was I, Potts, in this glorious
category? Had the lesson of the great moralist been such a warning to
me that I had preserved the filmy link unbroken? I really began to think
so; a certain impulse, a whispering voice within, that said, “Go on!”
 On, ever onward! seemed to be the accents of that Fate which had great
things in store for me, and would eventually make me illustrious.

No illusions of your own, Potts, no phantasmagoria of your own poor
heated fancy, must wile you away from the great and noble part destined
for you. No weakness, no faint-heartedness, no shrinking from toil, nor
even peril. Work hard to know thoroughly for what Fate intends you; read
your credentials well, and then go to your post unflinchingly. Revolving
this theory of mine, I walked ever on. It opened a wide field, and my
imagination disported in it, as might a wild mustang over some vast
prairie. The more I thought over it, the more did it seem to me the real
embodiment of that superstition which extends to every land and every
family of men. We are Lucky when, submitting to our Good Genius, we
suffer ourselves to be led along unhesitatingly; we are Unlucky when,
breaking our frail bonds, we encounter life unguided and unaided.

What a docile, obedient, and believing pupil did I pledge myself to be!
Fate should see that she had no refractory nor rebellious spirit in me,
no self-indulgent voluptuary, seeking only the sunny side of existence,
but a nature ready to confront the rugged conflict of life, and to meet
its hardships, if such were my allotted path.

I applied the circumstances in which I then found myself to my theory,
and met no difficulty in the adaptation. Blondel was to perform a great
part in my future. Blondel was a symbol selected by fate to indicate a
certain direction. Blondel was a lamp by which I could find my way in
the dark paths of the world. With Blondel, my Good Genius would walk
beside me, or occasionally get up on the crupper, but never leave me or
desert me. In the high excitement of my mind, I felt no sense of bodily
fatigue, but walked on, drenched to the skin, alternately shivering with
cold or burning with all the intensity of fever. In this state was it
that I entered the little inn of Ovoco soon after daybreak, and stood
dripping in the bar, a sad spectacle of exhaustion and excitement My
first question was, “Has Blondel been here?” and before they could
reply, I went on with all the rapidity of delirium to assure them that
deception of me would be fruitless; that Fate and I understood each
other thoroughly, travelled together on the best of terms, never
disagreed about anything, but, by a mutual system of give and take, hit
it off like brothers. I talked for an hour in this strain; and then my
poor faculties, long struggling and sore pushed, gave way completely,
and I fell into brain fever.

I chanced upon kind and good-hearted folk, who nursed me with care and
watched me with interest; but my illness was a severe one, and it
was only in the sixth week that I could be about again, a poor, weak,
emaciated creature, with failing limbs and shattered nerves. There is an
indescribable sense of weariness in the mind after fever, just as if
the brain had been enormously over-taxed and exerted, and that in
the pursuit of all the wild and fleeting fancies of delirium it had
travelled over miles and miles of space. To the depressing influence of
this sensation is added the difficulty of disentangling the capricious
illusions of the sick-bed from the actual facts of life; and in this
maze of confusion my first days of convalescence were passed.
Blondel was my great puzzle. Was he a reality, or a mere creature of
imagination? Had I really ridden him as a horse, or only as an idea?
Was he a quadruped with mane and tail, or an allegory invented to typify
destiny? I cannot say what hours of painful brain labor this inquiry
cost me, and what intense research into myself. Strange enough, too,
though I came out of the investigation convinced of his existence, I
arrived at the conclusion that he was a “horse and something more.” Not
that I am able to explain myself more fully on that head, though, if
I were writing this portion of my memoirs in German, I suspect I could
convey enough of my meaning to give a bad headache to any one indulgent
enough to follow me.

I set out once more upon my pilgrimage on a fine day of June, my steps
directed to the village of Inistioge, where Father Dyke resided. I was
too weak for much exertion, and it was only after five days of the road
I reached at nightfall the little glen in which the village stood. The
moon was up, streaking the wide market-places with long lines of yellow
light between the rows of tall elm-trees, and tipping with silvery sheen
the bright eddies of the beautiful river that rolled beside it. Over the
granite cliffs that margined the stream, laurel, and arbutus, and wild
holly clustered in wild luxuriance, backed higher up again, by tall
pine-trees, whose leafy summits stood out against the sky; and lastly,
deep within a waving meadow, stood an old ruined abbey, whose traceried
window was now softly touched by the moonlight All was still and silent,
except the rush of the rapid river, as I sat down upon a stone bench
to enjoy the scene and luxuriate in its tranquil serenity. I had not
believed Ireland contained such a spot, for there was all the trim
neatness and careful propriety of an English village, with that
luxuriance of verdure and wild beauty so eminently Irish. How was it
that I had never heard of it before? Were others aware of it, or was
the discovery strictly my own? Or can it possibly be that all this
picturesque loveliness is but the effect of a mellow moon? While I
thus questioned myself, I heard the sound of a quick footstep rapidly
approaching, and soon afterwards the pleasant tone of a rich voice
humming an opera air. I arose, and saw a tall, athletic-looking figure,
with rod and fishing-basket, approaching me.

“May I ask you, sir,” said I, addressing him, “if this village contains
an inn?”

“There is, or rather there was, a sort of inn here,” said he, removing
his cigar as he spoke; “but the place is so little visited that I fancy
the landlord found it would not answer, and so it is closed at this
moment.”

“But do visitors--tourists--never pass this way?”

“Yes, and a few salmon-fishers, like myself, come occasionally in the
season; but then we dispose ourselves in little lodgings, here and
there, some of us with the farmers, one or two of us with the priest.”

“Father Dyke?” broke I in.

“Yes; you know him, perhaps?”

“I have heard of him, and met him, indeed,” added I, after a pause.
“Where may his house be?”

“The prettiest spot in the whole glen. If you ‘d like to see it in this
picturesque moonlight, come along with me.”

I accepted the invitation at once, and we walked on together. The easy,
half-careless tone of the stranger, the loose, lounging stride of his
walk, and a certain something in his mellow voice, seemed to
indicate one of those natures which, so to say, take the world
well,--temperaments that reveal themselves almost immediately. He talked
away about fishing as he went, and appeared to take a deep interest in
the sport, not heeding much the ignorance I betrayed on the subject, nor
my ignoble confession that I had never adventured upon anything higher
than a worm and a quill.

“I’m sure,” said he, laughingly, “Tom Dyke never encouraged you in such
sporting-tackle, glorious fly-fisher as he is.”

“You forget, perhaps,” replied I, “that I scarcely have any acquaintance
with him. We met once only at a dinnerparty.”

“He’s a pleasant fellow,” resumed he; “devilish wideawake, one must say;
up to most things in this same world of ours.”

“That much my own brief experience of him can confirm,” said I, dryly,
for the remark rather jarred upon my feelings.

“Yes,” said he, as though following out his own train of thought “Old
Tom is not a bird to be snared with coarse lines. The man must be an
early riser that catches him napping.”

I cannot describe how this irritated me. It sounded like so much direct
sarcasm upon my weakness and want of acuteness.

“There’s the ‘Rosary;’ that’s his cottage,” said he, taking my arm,
while he pointed upward to a little jutting promontory of rock over the
river, surmounted by a little thatched cottage almost embowered in
roses and honeysuckles. So completely did it occupy the narrow limits
of ground, that the windows projected actually over the stream, and the
creeping plants that twined through the little balconies hung in tangled
masses over the water. “Search where you will through the Scottish and
Cumberland scenery, I defy you to match that,” said my companion; “not
to say that you can hook a four-pound fish from that little balcony on
any summer evening while you smoke your cigar.”

“It is a lovely spot, indeed,” said I, inhaling with ecstasy the
delicious perfume which in the calm night air seemed to linger in the
atmosphere.

“He tells me,” continued my companion,--“and I take his word for it, for
I am no florist,--that there are seventy varieties of the rose on and
around that cottage. I can answer for it that you can’t open a window
without a great mass of flowers coming in showers over you. I told him,
frankly, that if I were his tenant for longer than the fishing-season, I
‘d clear half of them away.”

“You live there, then?” asked I, timidly.

“Yes, I rent the cottage, all but two rooms, which he wished to keep for
himself, but which he now writes me word may be let, for this month and
the next, if a tenant offer. Would you like them?” asked he, abruptly.

“Of all things--that is--I think so--I should like to see them first!”
 muttered I, half startled by the suddenness of the question.

“Nothing easier,” said he, opening a little wicket as he spoke, and
beginning to ascend a flight of narrow steps cut in the solid rock.
“This is a path of my designing,” continued he; “the regular approach is
on the other side; but this saves fully half a mile of road, though it
be a little steep.”

As I followed him up the ascent, I proposed to myself a variety of
questions, such as, where and how I was to procure accommodation for the
night, and in what manner to obtain something to eat, of which I stood
much in need? and I had gained a little flower-garden at the rear of the
cottage before I had resolved any of these difficult points.

“Here we are,” said he, drawing a long breath. “You can’t see much of
the view at this hour; but to-morrow, when you stand on this spot, and
look down that reach of the river, with Mont Alto in the background, you
‘ll tell me if you know anything finer!”

“Is that Edward?” cried a soft voice; and at the same instant a young
girl came hastily out of the cottage, and, throwing her arms around my
companion, exclaimed, “How you have alarmed me! What could possibly have
kept you out so late?”

“A broad-shouldered fish, a fellow weighing twelve pounds at the very
least, and who, after nigh three hours’ playing, got among the rocks and
smashed my tackle.”

“And you lost him?”

“That did I, and some twenty yards of gut, and the top splice of my
best rod, and my temper, besides. But I ‘m forgetting; Mary, here is
a gentleman who will, I hope, not refuse to join us at supper.--My
sister.”

By the manner of presentation, it was clear that he expected to hear my
name, and so I interposed, “Mr. Potts,--Algernon Sydney Potts.”

The young lady courtesied slightly, muttered something like a repetition
of the invitation, and led the way into the cottage.

My astonishment was great at the “interior” now before me; for though
all the arrangements bespoke habits of comfort and even luxury,
there was a studious observance of cottage style in everything; the
bookshelves, the tables, the very pianoforte, being all made of white
unvarnished wood. And I now perceived that the young lady herself,
with a charming coquetry, had assumed something of the costume of the
Oberland, and wore her bodice laced in front, and covered with silver
embroidery both tasteful and becoming.

“My name is Crofton,” said my host, as he disengaged himself of his
basket and tackle; “we are almost as much strangers here as yourself. I
came here for the fishing, and mean to take myself off when it ‘s over.”

“I hope not, Edward,” broke in the girl, who was now, with the
assistance of a servant-woman, preparing the table for supper; “I hope
you ‘ll stay till we see the autumn tints on those trees.”

“My sister is just as great an enthusiast about sketching as I am for
salmon-fishing,” said he, laughingly; “and for my own part, I like
scenery and landscape very well, but think them marvellously heightened
by something like sport. Are you an angler?”

“No,” said I; “I know nothing of the gentle craft”

“Fond of shooting, perhaps? Some men think the two sports incompatible.”

“I am as inexpert with the gun as the rod,” said I, diffidently.

I perceived that the sister gave a sly look under her long eyelashes
towards me; but what its meaning, I could not well discover. Was it
depreciation of a man who avowed himself unacquainted with the sports
of the field, or was it a quiet recognition of claims more worthy
of regard? At all events, I perceived that she had very soft,
gentle-looking gray eyes, a very fair skin, and a profusion of beautiful
brown hair. I had not thought her pretty at first I now saw that she was
extremely pretty, and her figure, though slightly given to fulness, the
perfection of grace.

Hungry, almost famished as I was, with a fast of twelve hours, I felt no
impatience so long as she moved about in preparation for the meal. How
she disposed the little table equipage, the careful solicitude with
which she arranged the fruit and the flowers,--not always satisfied with
her first dispositions, but changing them for something different,--all
interested me vastly, and when at last we were summoned to table, I
actually felt sorry and disappointed.

Was it really so delicious, was the cookery so exquisite? I own frankly
that I am not a trustworthy witness; but if my oath could be taken, I
am willing to swear that I believe there never were such salmon-steaks,
such a pigeon-pie, and such a damson-tart served to mortals as these.
My enthusiasm, I suspect, must have betrayed itself in some outward
manifestation, for I remember Crofton laughingly having remarked,--

“You will turn my sister’s head, Mr. Potts, by such flatteries; all the
more, since her cookery is self-taught.”

“Don’t believe him, Mr. Potts; I have studied all the great masters of
the art, and you shall have an omelette to-morrow for breakfast, Brillat
Savarin himself would not despise.”

I blushed at the offer of an hospitality so neatly and delicately
insinuated, and had really no words to acknowledge it, nor was my
confusion unfavorably judged by my hosts. Crofton marked it quickly, and
said,--

“Yes, Mr. Potts, and I ‘ll teach you to hook a trout afterwards.
Meanwhile let us have a glass of Sauterne together; we drink it out of
green glasses, to cheat ourselves into the fancy that it’s Rhenish.”

“‘Am Rhein, am Rhein, da wachsen unsere Reben,’” said I, quoting the
students’ song.

“Oh, have you been in Germany?” cried she, eagerly.

“Alas! no,” said I. “I have never travelled.” I thought she looked
disappointed as I said this. Indeed, I already wished it unsaid; but her
brother broke in with,--

“We are regular vagabonds, Mr. Potts. My sister and myself have had
a restless paroxysm for the last three years of life; and what with
seeking cool spots for the summer and hot climates for winter, we are
scarcely ever off the road.”

“Like the gentleman, I suppose, who ate oysters for appetite, but
carried his system so far as to induce indigestion.” My joke failed;
nobody laughed, and I was overwhelmed with confusion, which I was fain
to bury in my strawberries and cream.

“Let us have a little music, Mary,” said Crofton. “Do you play or sing,
Mr. Potts?”

“Neither. I do nothing,” cried I, in despair. “As Sydney Smith says, ‘I
know something about the Romans,’ but, for any gift or grace which
could adorn society, or make time pass more pleasantly, I am an utter
bankrupt.”

The young girl had, while I was speaking, taken her place at the
pianoforte, and was half listlessly suffering her hands to fall in
chords over the instrument.

“Come out upon this terrace, here,” cried Crofton to me, “and we ‘ll
have our cigar. What I call a regular luxury after a hard day is to
lounge out here in the cool night air, and enjoy one’s weed while
listening to Spohr or Beethoven.”

It was really delightful. The bright stars were all reflected in the
calm river down below, and a thousand odors floated softly on the air as
we sat there.

Are there not in every man’s experience short periods in which he seemed
to have lived longer than during whole years of life? They tell us
there are certain conditions of the atmosphere, inappreciable as to the
qualities, which seem to ripen wines, imparting to young fresh vintages
all the mellow richness of age, all the depth of flavor, all the velvety
softness of time. May there not possibly be influences which similarly
affect our natures? May there not be seasons in which changes as great
as these are wrought within us? I firmly believe it, and as firmly that
such a period was that in which I sat on the balcony over the Nore,
listening to Mary Crofton as she sang, but just as often lost to every
sound, and deep in a heaven of blended enjoyments, of which no one
ingredient was in the ascendant. Starry sky, rippling river, murmuring
night winds, perfumed air, floating music, all mingling as do the odors
of an incense, and, like an incense, filling the brain with a delicious
intoxication.

Hour after hour must have passed with me in this half-conscious ecstasy,
for Crofton at last said,--

“There, where you see that pinkish tint through the gray, that’s the
sign of breaking day, and the signal for bedtime. Shall I show you your
room?”

“How I wish this could last forever!” cried I, rapturously; and then,
half ashamed of my warmth, I stammered out a good-night, and retired.



CHAPTER VI. MY SELF-EXAMINATION.

Our life at the Rosary--for it was _our_ life now of which I have to
speak--was one of unbroken enjoyment. On fine days we fished; that is,
Crofton did, and I loitered along some river’s bank till I found a quiet
spot to plant my rod, and stretch myself on the grass, now reading, of
tender dreaming, such glorious dreams as only come in the leafy shading
of summer time, to a mind enraptured with all around it The lovely
scenery and the perfect solitude of the spot ministered well to my
fanciful mood, and left me free to weave the most glittering web of
incident for my future. So utterly was all the past blotted from my
memory that I recalled nothing of existence more remote than my first
evening at the cottage. If for a parting instant a thought of
bygones would obtrude, I hastened to escape from it as from a gloomy
reminiscence. I turned away as would a dreamer who dreaded to awaken
out of some delicious vision, and who would not face the dull aspect of
reality. Three weeks thus glided by of such happiness as I can scarcely
yet recall without emotion! The Croftons had come to treat me like a
brother; they spoke of family events in all freedom before me; talked of
the most confidential things in my presence, and discussed their future
plans and their means as freely in my hearing as though I had been
kith and kin with them. I learned that they were orphans, educated and
brought up by a rich, eccentric uncle, who lived in a sort of costly
reclusion in one of the Cumberland dales; Edward, who had served in the
army, and been wounded in an Indian campaign, had given up the service
in a fit of impatience of being passed over in promotion.

His uncle resented the rash step by withdrawing the liberal allowance he
had usually made him, and they quarrelled. Mary Crofton, espousing her
brother’s side, quitted her guardian’s roof to join his; and thus had
they rambled about the world for two or three years, on means scanty
enough, but still sufficient to provide for those who neither sought to
enter society nor partake of its pleasures.

As I advanced in the intimacy, I became depository of the secrets of
each. Edward’s was the sorrow he felt for having involved his sister in
his own ruin, and been the means of separating her from one so well able
and so willing to befriend her. Hers was the more bitter thought that
their narrow means should prejudice her brother’s chances of recovery,
for his chest had shown symptoms of dangerous disease requiring all that
climate and consummate care might do to overcome. Preyed on incessantly
by this reflection, unable to banish it, equally unable to resist its
force, he took the first and only step she had ever adventured
without his knowledge, and had written to her uncle a long letter of
explanations and entreaty.

I saw the letter, and read it carefully. It was all that sisterly love
and affection could dictate, accompanied by a sense of dignity, that if
her appeal should be unsuccessful, no slight should be passed upon
her brother, who was unaware of the step thus taken. To express this
sufficiently, she was driven to the acknowledgment that Edward would
never have himself stooped to the appeal; and so careful was she of
his honor in this respect, that she repeated--with what appeared to me
unnecessary insistence--that the request should be regarded as hers,
and hers only. In fact, this was the uppermost sentiment in the whole
epistle. I ventured to say as much, and endeavored to induce her to
moderate in some degree the amount of this pretension; but she resisted
firmly and decidedly. Now, I have recorded this circumstance here,--less
for itself than to mention how by its means this little controversy
led to a great intimacy between us,--inducing us, while defending our
separate views, to discuss each other’s motives, and even characters,
with the widest freedom. I called her enthusiast, and in return she
styled me worldly and calculating; and, indeed, I tried to seem so,
and fortified my opinions by prudential maxims and severe reflections
I should have been sorely indisposed to adopt in my own case. I believe
she saw all this. I am sure she read me aright, and perceived that I was
arguing against my own convictions. At all events, day after day went
over, and no answer came to the letter. I used to go each morning to
the post in the village to inquire, but always returned with the same
disheartening tidings, “Nothing to-day!”

One of these mornings it was, that I was returning disconsolately from
the village, Crofton, whom I believed at the time miles away on the
mountains, overtook me. He came up from behind, and, passing his arm
within mine, walked on some minutes without speaking. I saw plainly
there was something on his mind, and I half dreaded lest he might have
discovered his sister’s secret and have disapproved of my share in it.

“Algy,” said he, calling me by my Christian name, which he very rarely
did, “I have something to say to you. Can I be quite certain that you
‘ll take my frankness in good part?”

“You can,” I said, with a great effort to seem calm and assured.

“You give me your word upon it?”

“I do,” said I, trying to appear bold; “and my hand be witness of it”

“Well,” he resumed, drawing a long breath, “here it is. I have remarked
that for above a week back you have never waited for the postboy’s
return to the cottage, but always have come down to the village
yourself.”

I nodded assent, but said nothing.

“I have remarked, besides,” said he, “that when told at the office there
was no letter for you, you came away sad-looking and fretted, scarcely
spoke for some time, and seemed altogether downcast and depressed.”

“I don’t deny it,” I said calmly.

“Well,” continued he, “some old experiences, of mine have taught me that
this sort of anxiety has generally but one source, with fellows of _our_
age, and which simply means that the remittance we have counted upon
as certain has been, from some cause or other, delayed. Is n’t that the
truth?”

“No,” said I, joyfully, for I was greatly relieved by his words; “no, on
my honor, nothing of the kind.”

“I may not have hit the thing exactly,” said he, hurriedly, “but I ‘ll
be sworn it is a money matter; and if a couple of hundred pounds be of
the least service--”

“My dear, kind-hearted fellow,” I broke in, “I can’t endure this longer:
it is no question of money; it is nothing that affects my means, though
I half wish it were, to show you how cheerfully I could owe you my
escape from a difficulty,--not, indeed, that I need another tie to bind
me to you--” But I could say no more, for my eyes were swimming over, and
my lips trembling.

“Then,” cried he, “I have only to ask pardon for thus obtruding upon
your confidence.”

I was too full of emotion to do more than squeeze his hand
affectionately, and thus we walked along, side by side, neither uttering
a word. At last, and as it were with an effort, by a bold transition,
to carry our thoughts into another and very different channel, he said:
“Here’s a letter from old Dyke, our landlord. The worthy father has
been enjoying himself in a tour of English watering-places, and has now
started for a few weeks up the Rhine. His account of his holiday, as he
calls it, is amusing; nor less so is the financial accident to which
he owes the excursion. Take it, and read it,” he added, giving me the
epistle. “If the style be the man, his reverence is not difficult to
decipher.”

I bestowed little attention on this speech, uttered, as I perceived,
rather from the impulse of starting a new topic than anything else, and,
taking the letter half mechanically, I thrust it in my pocket. One or
two efforts we made at conversation were equally failures, and it was a
relief to me when Crofton, suddenly remembering some night-lines be
had laid in a mountain lake a few miles off, hastily shook my hand, and
said, “Good-bye till dinner-time.”

When I reached the cottage, instead of entering I strolled into
the garden, and sought out a little summer-house of sweet-brier and
honeysuckle, on the edge of the river. Some strange, vague impression
was on me, that I needed time and place to commune with myself and be
alone; that a large unsettled account lay between me and my conscience,
which could not be longer deferred; but of what nature, how originating,
and how tending, I know nothing whatever.

I resolved to submit myself to a searching examination, to ascertain
what I might about myself. In my favorite German authors I had
frequently read that men’s failures in life were chiefly owing to
neglect of this habit of self-investigation; that though we calculate
well the dangers and difficulties of an enterprise, we omit the more
important estimate of what may be our capacity to effect an object, what
are our resources, wherein our deficiencies.

“Now for it,” I thought, as I entered the little arbor,--“now for it,
Potts; kiss the book, and tell the whole truth and nothing but the
truth.”

As I said this, I took off my hat and bowed respectfully around to
the members of an imaginary court. “My name,” said I, in a clear and
respectful voice, “is Algernon Sydney Potts. If I be pushed to the
avowal, I am sorry it _is_ Potts. Algernon Sydney do a deal, but they
can’t do everything,--not to say that captious folk see a certain bathos
in the collocation with my surname. Can a man hope to make such a name
illustrious? Can be aspire to the notion of a time when people will
allude to the great Potts, the celebrated Potts, the immortal Potts?” I
grew very red, I felt my cheek on fire as I uttered this, and I suddenly
bethought me of Mr. Pitt, and I said aloud, “And, if Pitt, why not
Potts?” That was a most healing recollection. I revelled in it for a
long time. “How true is it,” I continued, “that the halo of greatness
illumines all within its circle, and the man is merged in the grandeur
of his achievements. The men who start in life with high sounding
designations have but to fill a foregone pledge,--to pay the bill that
fortune has endorsed. Not so was our case, Pitt. To us is it to lay
every foundation stone of our future greatness. There was nothing
in _your_ surname to foretell you would be a Minister of State at
one-and-thirty,--there is no letter of _mine_ to indicate what I shall
be. But what is it that I am to be? Is it Poet, Philosopher, Politician,
Soldier, or Discoverer? Am I to be great in Art, or illustrious in
Letters? Is there to be an ice tract of Behring’s Straits called Potts’s
Point, or a planet styled Pottsium Sidus? And when centuries have rolled
over, will historians have their difficulty about the first Potts, and
what his opinions were on this subject or that?”

Then came a low soft sound of half-suppressed laughter, and then the
rustle of a muslin dress hastily brushing through the trees. I rushed
out from my retreat, and hurried down the walk. No one to be seen,--not
a soul; not a sound, either, to be heard.

“No use hiding, Mary,” I called out, “I saw you all the time; my mock
confession was got up merely to amuse you. Come out boldly and laugh
as long as you will.” No answer. This refusal amazed me. It was like a
disbelief in my assertion. “Come, come!” I cried, “you can’t pretend to
think I was serious in all this vainglorious nonsense. Come, Mary, and
let us enjoy the laugh at it together. If you don’t, I shall be angry.
I’ll take it ill,--very ill.”

Still no reply. Could I, then, have been deceived? Was it a mere
delusion? But no; I heard the low laugh, and the rustle of the dress,
and the quick tread upon the gravel, too plainly for any mistake, and
so I returned to the cottage in chagrin and ill-temper. As I passed the
open windows’ of the little drawing-room I saw Mary seated at her work,
with, as was her custom, an open book on a little table beside her.
Absorbed as she was, she did not lift her head, nor notice my approach
till I entered the room.

“You have no letter for me?” she cried, in a voice of sorrowful meaning.

“None,” said I scrutinizing her closely, and sorely puzzled what to make
of her calm deportment. “Have you been out in the garden this morning?”
 I asked, abruptly.

“No,” said she, frankly.

“Not quitted the house at all?”

“No. Why do you ask?” cried she, in some surprise.

“I ‘ll tell you,” I said, sitting down at her side, and speaking in a
low and confidential tone; “a strange thing has just happened to me.”
 And with that I narrated the incident, glossing over, as best I
might, the absurdity of my soliloquizing, and the nature of the
self-examination I was engaged in. Without waiting for me to finish, she
broke in suddenly with a low laugh, and said,--

“It must have been Rose.”

“And who is Rose?” I asked half sternly.

“A cousin of ours, a mere school-girl, who has just arrived. She came by
the mail this morning, when you were out. But here she is, coming up
the walk. Just step behind that screen, and you shall have your revenge.
I’ll make her tell everything.”

I had barely time to conceal myself, when, with a merry laugh, a fresh,
girlish voice called out, “I ‘ve seen him! I have seen him, Mary! I
was sitting on the rock beside the river, when he came into the
summer-house, and, fancying himself alone and unseen, proceeded to make
his confession to himself.”

“His confession! What do you mean?”

“I don’t exactly know whether that be the proper name for it, but it was
a sort of self-examination, not very painful, certainly, inasmuch as it
was rather flattering than otherwise.”

“I really cannot understand you, Rose.”

“I’m not surprised,” said she, laughing again. “It was some time before
I could satisfy myself that he was not talking to somebody else, or
reading ont of a book; and when, peeping through the leaves, I perceived
he was quite alone, I almost screamed out with laughing.”

“But why, child? What was the absurdity that amused you?”

“Fancy the creature. I need not describe him, Molly. You know him well,
with his great staring light-green eyes, and his wild yellow hair.
Imagine his walking madly to and fro, tossing his long arms about in
uncouth gestures, while he asked himself seriously whether he would
n’t be Shakspeare, or Milton, or Michael Angelo, or Nelson. Fancy his
gravely inquiring of himself what remarkable qualities predominated
in his nature: was he more of a sculptor, or a politician, or had fate
destined him to discover new worlds, or to conquer the old ones? If
I had n’t been actually listening to the creature, and occasionally
looking at him, too, I ‘d have doubted my senses. Oh dear! shall I ever
forget the earnest absurdity of his manner as he said something about
the ‘immortal Potts’?”

The reminiscence was too much for her, for she threw herself on a sofa
and laughed immoderately. As for me, unable to endure more, and fearful
that Mary might finish by discovering me, I stole from the room, and
rushed out into the wood.

What is it that renders ridicule more insupportable than vituperation?
Why is the violence of passion itself more easy to endure than the sting
of sarcastic satire? What weak spot in our nature does this peculiar
passion assail? And, again, why are all the noble aspirations of
high-hearted enthusiasm, the grand self-reliance of daring minds, ever
to be made the theme of such scoffings? Have the scorners never read of
Wolfe, of Murat, or of Nelson? Has not a more familiar instance reached
them of one who foretold to an unwilling senate the time when they would
hang in expectancy on his words, and treasure them as wisdom? Cruel,
narrow-minded, and unjust world, with whom nothing succeeds except
success!

The man who contracts a debt is never called cheat till his inability
to discharge it has been proven clearly and beyond a doubt; but he who
enters into an engagement with his own heart to gain a certain prize,
or reach a certain goal, is made a mockery and a sneer by all whose own
humble faculties represent such striving as impossible. From thoughts
like these I went on to speculate whether I should ever be able, in the
zenith of my great success, to forgive those captious and disparaging
critics who had once endeavored to damp my ardor and bar my career. I
own I found it exceedingly difficult to be generous, and in particular
to that young minx of sixteen who had dared to make a jest of my
pretensions.

I wandered along thus for hours. Many a grassy path of even sward led
through the forest, and, taking one of those which skirted the stream,
I strolled along, unconscious alike of time and place. Out of the purely
personal interests which occupied my mind sprang others, and I bethought
me with a grim satisfaction of the severe lesson Mary must have, ere
this, read Rose upon her presumption and her flippancy, telling her, in
stern accents, how behind that screen the man was standing she had dared
to make the subject of her laughter. Oh, how she blushes! what flush
of crimson shame spreads over her face, her temples, and her neck; what
large tears overflow her lids, and fall along her cheeks! I actually
pity her suffering, and am pained at her grief.

“Spare her, dear Mary!” I cry out; “after all, she is but a child. Why
blame her that she cannot measure greatness, as philosophers measure
mountains, by the shadow?”

Egotism, in every one of its moods and tenses, must have a strong
fascination. I walked on for many a mile while thus thinking, without
the slightest sense of weariness, or any want of food. The morning
glided over, and the hot noon was passed, and the day was sobering down
into the more solemn tints of coming evening, and I still loitered, or
lay in the tall grass deep in my musings.

In taking my handkerchief from my pocket, I accidentally drew forth the
priest’s letter, and in a sort of half-indolent curiosity, proceeded to
read it. The hand was cramped and rugged, the writing that of a man
to whom the manual part of correspondence is a heavy burden, and who
consequently incurs such labor as rarely as is possible. The composition
had all the charm of ease, and was as unstudied as need be; the writer
being evidently one who cared little for the graces of style,
satisfied to discuss his subject in the familiar terms of his ordinary
conversation.

Although I did not mean to impose more than an extract from it on my
reader, I must reserve even that much for my next chapter.



CHAPTER VII. FATHER DYKE’S LETTER.

Father Dyke was one of those characters which Ireland alone produces,--a
sporting priest. In France, Spain, or Italy, the type is unknown. Time
was, when the _abbé_, elegant, witty, and well-bred, was a great element
of polished life; when his brilliant conversation and his insidious
address threw all the charm of culture over a society which was only
rescued from coarseness by the marvellous dexterity of such intellectual
gladiators. They have passed away, like many other things brilliant and
striking: the gilded coach, the red-heeled slipper, and the supper of
the regency; the powdered marquise, for a smile of whose dimpled mouth
the deadly rapier has flashed in the moonlight; the perfumed beauty,
for one of whose glances a poet would have racked his brain to render
worthily in verse; the gilded _salon_ where, in a sort of incense,
all the homage of genius was offered up before the altar of
loveliness,--gone are they all! _Au fond_, the world is pretty much the
same, although we drive to a club dinner in a one-horse brougham; and
if we meet the _curé_ of St. Roch, we find him to be rather a morose
middle-aged man with a taste for truffles, and a talent for silence. It
is not as the successor of the witty _abbé_ that I adduce the sporting
priest, but simply as a variety of the ecclesiastical character which,
doubtless, a very few more years will have consigned to the realm of
history. He, too, will be a bygone! Father Tom, as he was popularly
called, never needing any more definite designation, was _tam Marte quam
Mercurio_, as much poacher as priest, and made his sporting acquirements
subservient to the demands of an admirable table. The thickest salmon,
the curdiest trout, the fattest partridge, and the most tender woodcock
smoked on his board, and, rumor said, cooked with a delicacy that more
pretentious houses could not rival. In the great world nothing is more
common than to see some favored individual permitted to do things which,
by common voice, are proclaimed impracticable or improper. With a sort
of prescriptive right to outrage the ordinances of society, such people
accept no law but their own inclination, and seem to declare that they
are altogether exempt from the restraints that bind other men. In a
small way, and an humble sphere, Father Tom enjoyed this privilege,
and there was not in his whole county to be found one man churlish or
ungenerous enough to dispute it; and thus was he suffered to throw his
line, snap his gun, or unleash his dog in precincts where many with
higher claims had been refused permission.

It was not alone that he enjoyed the invigorating pleasure of field
sports in practice, but he delighted in everything which bore any
relationship to them. There was not a column of “Bell’s Life” in which
he had not his sympathy,--the pigeon match, the pedestrian, the Yankee
trotter, the champion for the silver sculls at Chelsea, the dog “Billy,”
 were all subjects of interest to him. Never did the most inveterate
blue-stocking more delight in the occasion of meeting a great celebrity
of letters, than did he when chance threw him in the way of the jock
who rode the winner at the Oaks, or the “Game Chicken” who punished the
“Croydon Pet” in the prize ring. But now for the letter, which will
as fully reveal the man as any mere description. It was a narrative of
races he had attended, and rowing-matches he had witnessed, with little
episodes of hawking, badger-drawing, and cock-fighting intermixed.

“I came down here--Brighton--to swim for a wager of five-and-twenty
sovereigns against a Major Blayse, of the Third Light Dragoon Guards; we
made the match after mess at Aldershot, when neither of us was anything
to speak of too sober; but as we were backed strongly,--he rather the
favorite,--there was no way of drawing the bet. I beat him after a hard
struggle; we were two hours and forty minutes in the water, and netted
about sixty pounds besides. We dined with the depot in the evening,
and I won a ten-pound note on a question of whether there ought to be
saffron in the American drink called ‘greased lightning;’ but this was
not the only piece of luck that attended me, as you shall hear. As I was
taking my morning canter on the Downs, I perceived that a stranger--a
jockey-like fellow, not quite a gentleman but near it--seemed to keep me
in view; now riding past, now behind me, and always bestowing his whole
attention on my nag. Of course, I showed the beast off to the best, and
handled him skilfully. I thought to myself, he likes the pony; he ‘ll be
for making me an offer for him. I was right. I had just seated myself at
breakfast, when the stranger sent his card, with a request to speak to
me. He was a foreigner, but spoke very correct English, and his object
was to learn if I would sell my horse. It is needless to say that I
refused at once. The animal suited me, and I was one of those people
who find it excessively difficult to be mounted to their satisfaction.
I needed temper, training, action, gentleness, beauty, high courage, and
perfect steadiness, and a number of such-like seeming incongruities.
He looked a little impatient at all this; he seemed to say, ‘I know all
this kind of nonsense; I have heard shiploads of such gammon before.
Be frank and say what’s the figure; how much do you want for him?’ He
looked this, I say, but he never uttered a word, and at last I asked
him,--

“‘Are you a dealer?’

“‘Well,’ said he, with an arch smile, ‘something in that line.’

“‘I thought so,’ said I. ‘The pony is a rare good one.’

“He nodded assent.

“‘He can jump a bar of his own height?’

“Another nod.

“‘And he’s as fresh on his legs--’

“‘As if he were not twenty-six years old,’ he broke in.

“‘Twenty-six fiddle-sticks! Look at his mouth; he has an eight-year-old
mouth.’

“‘I know it,’ said he, dryly; ‘and so he had fourteen years ago. Will
you take fifty sovereigns for him?’ he added, drawing out a handful of
gold from his pocket.

“‘No,’ said I, firmly; ‘nor sixty, nor seventy, nor eighty!’

“‘I am sorry to have intruded upon you,’ said he, rising, ‘and I beg you
to excuse me. The simple fact is, that I am one who gains his living
by horses, and it is only possible for me to exist by the generosity of
those who deal with me.’

“This appeal was a home thrust, and I said, ‘What can you afford to
give?’

“‘All I have here,’ said he, producing a handful of gold, and spreading
it on the table.

“We set to counting, and there were sixty-seven sovereigns in the mass.
I swept off the money into the palm of my hand, and said, ‘The beast is
yours.’

“He drew a long breath, as if to relieve his heart of a load of care,
and said, ‘Men of _my_ stamp, and who lead such lives as I do, are
rarely superstitious.’

“‘Very true,’ said I, with a nod of encouragement for him to go on.

“‘Well,’ said he, resuming, ‘I never thought for a moment that any
possibility could have made me so. If ever there was a man that laughed
at lucky and unlucky days, despised omens, sneered at warnings, and
scorned at predictions, I was he; and yet I have lived to be the most
credulous and the most superstitious of men. It is now fourteen years
and twenty-seven days--I remember the time to an hour--since I sold that
pony to the Prince Ernest von Saxen-hausen, and since that day I never
had luck. So long as I owned him all went well with me. I ought to tell
you that I am the chief of a company of equestrians, and one corps,
known as Klam’s Kunst-Reiters, was the most celebrated on the Continent
In three years I made three hundred thousand guilders, and if the devil
had not induced me to sell “Schatzchen”--that was his name--I should be
this day as rich as Heman Rothschild! From the hour he walked out of the
circus our calamities began. I lost my wife by fever at Wiesbaden, the
most perfect high-school horsewoman in Europe; my son, of twenty years
of age, fell, and dislocated his neck; the year after, at Vienna, my
daughter Gretchen was blinded riding through a fiery hoop at Homburg;
and four years later, all the company died of yellow fever at the
Havannah, leaving me utterly beggared and ruined. Now these, you would
say, though great misfortunes, are all in the course of common events.
But what will you say when, on the eve of each of them, Schatzchen
appeared to me in a dream, performing some well-known feat or other, and
bringing down, as he ever did, thunders of applause; and never did he so
appear without a disaster coming after. I struggled hard before I
suffered this notion to influence me. It was years before I even
mentioned it to any one; and I used for a while to make a jest of it in
the circus, saying, “Take care of yourselves tonight, for I saw
Schatzchen.” Of course they were not the stuff to be deterred by such
warnings, but they became so at last. That they did, and were so
terrified, so thoroughly terrified, that the day after one of my visions
not a single member of the troupe would venture on a hazardous feat of
any kind; and if we performed at all, it was only some commonplace
exercises, with few risks, and no daring exploits whatever. Worn out
with evil fortune, crushed and almost broken-hearted, I struggled on for
years, secretly determining, if ever I should chance upon him, to buy
back Schatzchen with my last penny in the world. Indeed, there were
moments in which such was the intense excitement of my mind, I could
have committed a dreadful crime to regain possession of him. We were on
the eve of embarking for Ostend the other night, when I saw you riding
on the Downs, and I came ashore at once to track you out, for I knew
him, though fully half a mile away. None of my comrades could guess what
detained me, nor understand why I asked each of them in turn to lend me
whatever money he could spare. It was in this way I made up the little
purse you see. It was thus provided that I dared to present myself
to-day before you.”

“As he gave me this narrative, his manner grew more eager and excited,
and I could not help feeling that his mind, from the long-continued
pressure of one thought, had received a serious shock. It was exactly
one of those cases which physicians describe as leaving the intellect
unimpaired, while some one faculty is under the thraldom of a dominant
and all-pervading impression. I saw this more palpably, when, having
declined to accept more than his original offer of fifty pounds, I
replaced the remainder in his hand, he evinced scarcely any gratitude
for my liberality, so totally was he engrossed by the idea that the
horse was now his own, and that Fortune would no longer have any pretext
for using him so severely as before.

“‘I don’t know,--I cannot know,’ said he, ‘if fortune means to deal more
kindly by me than heretofore, but I feel a sort of confidence in the
future now; I have a kind of trustful courage as to what may come, that
tells me no disaster will deter me, no mishap cast me down.’

“These were his words as he arose to take his leave. Of his meeting with
the pony I am afraid to trust myself to speak. It was such an overflow
of affection as one might witness from a long absent brother on being
once again restored to his own. I cannot say that the beast knew him,
nor would I go so far as to assert that he did not, for certainly some
of his old instincts seemed gradually to revive within him on hearing
certain words; and when ordered to take a respectful farewell of me, the
pony planted a foreleg on each of his master’s shoulders, and,
taking off his hat with his teeth, bowed twice or thrice in the most
deferential fashion. I wished them both every success in life, and we
parted. As I took my evening’s stroll on the pier, I saw them embark for
Ostend, the pony sheeted most carefully, and every imaginable precaution
taken to insure him against cold. The man himself was poorly clad, and
indifferently provided against the accidents of the voyage. He appeared
to feel that the disparity required a word of apology, for he said, in a
whisper: ‘It ‘ll soon furnish me with a warm cloak; it ‘ll not leave
me long in difficulties!’ I assure you, my dear Crofton, there was
something contagious in the poor fellow’s superstition, for, as he
sailed away, the thought lay heavily on my heart, ‘What if I, too,
should have parted with my good luck in life? How if I have bartered my
fortune for a few pieces of money?’ The longer I dwelt on this theme,
the more forcibly did it strike me. My original possession of the animal
was accomplished in a way that aided the illusion. It was thus I won him
on a hit of backgammon!”

As I read thus far, the paper dropped from my hands, my head reeled, and
in a faint dreamy state, as if drugged by some strong narcotic, I sank,
I know not how long, unconscious. The first thing which met my eyes on
awakening, was the line, “I won him on a hit of backgammon!” The whole
story was at once before me. It was of Blondel I was reading! Blondel
was the beast whose influence had swayed one man’s destiny. So long as
he owned him, the world went well and happily with him; all prospered
and succeeded. It was a charm like the old lamp of Aladdin. And this was
the treasure I had lost. So far from imputing an ignorant superstition
to the German, I concurred in every speculation, every theory of
his invention. The man had evidently discovered one of those curious
problems in what we rashly call the doctrine of chances. It was not
the animal himself that secured good fortune, it was that, in his
“circumstances,” what Strauff calls “die amringende Bege-benheiten”
 of his lot, this creature was sure to call forth efforts and develop
resources in his possessor, of which, without his aid, he would have
gone all through life unconscious.

The vulgar notion that our lives are the sport of accident,--the minute
too early or too late, the calm that detained us, the snow-storm that
blocked the road, the chance meeting with this or that man, which we lay
such stress on,--what are they in reality but trivial incidents without
force or effect, save that they impel to action? They call out certain
qualities in our nature by which our whole characters become modified.
Your horse balks at a fence, and throws you over his head; the fall is
not a very grave one, and you are scarcely hurt; you have fallen into
a turnip-field, and the honest fellow, who is hoeing away near, comes
kindly to your aid, and, in good Samaritan fashion, bathes your temples
and restores you. When you leave him at last, you go forth with a
kindlier notion of human nature; you recognize the tie “that makes the
whole world kin,” and you seem to think that hard toil hardens not the
heart, nor a life of labor shuts out generous sympathies,--the lesson is
a life one. But suppose that in your fall you alight on a bed of choice
tulips, you descend in the midst of a rich parterre of starry anemones,
and that your first conscious struggles are met with words of anger and
reproach; instead of sorrow for your suffering, you hear sarcasms
on your horsemanship, and insults on your riding,--no sympathy, no
kindness, no generous anxiety for your safety, but all that irritate and
offend,--more thought, in fact, for the petals of a flower than for the
ligaments of your knee,--then, too, is the lesson a life one, and
its fruits will be bitter memories for many a year. The events of our
existence are in reality nothing, save in our treatment of them. By
Blondel, I recognized one of those suggestive influences which mould
fate by moulding temperament. The deep reflecting German saw this: it
was clear _he_ knew that in that animal was typified all that his life
might become. Why should not I contest the prize with him? Blondel was
charged with another destiny as well as his.

I turned once more to the letter, but I could not bear to read it; so
many were the impertinent allusions to myself, my manner, my appearance,
and my conversation. Still more insulting were the speculations as to
what class or condition I belonged to. “He puzzled us completely,” wrote
the priest, “for while unmistakably vulgar in many things, there were
certain indications of reading and education about him that refuted the
notion of his being what Keldrum thought,--an escaped counter-jumper!
The Guardsman insisted he was a valet; my own impression was, the fellow
had kept a small circulating library, and gone mad with the three-volume
novels. At all events, I have given him a lesson which, whether
profitable or not to _him_, has turned out tolerably well for _me_,
If ever you chance to hear of him,--his name was Podder or Pedder, I
think,--pray let me know, for my curiosity is still unslaked about him.”
 He thence went off to a sort of descriptive catalogue of my signs and
tokens, so positively insulting that I cannot recall it; the whole
winding up: “Add to all these an immense pomposity of tone, with a lisp,
and a Dublin accent, and you can scarcely mistake him.” Need I say,
benevolent reader, that fouler calumnies were never uttered, nor more
unfounded slanders ever pronounced?

It is not in this age of photography that a man need defend his
appearance. By the aid of sun and collodion, I may, perhaps, one
day convince you that I am not so devoid of personal graces as this
foul-mouthed priest would persuade you. I am, possibly, in this pledge,
exceeding the exact limits which this publication may enable me to
sustain. I may be contracting an engagement which cannot be, consistent
with its principles, fulfilled. If so, I must be your artist; but I
swear to you, that I shall not flatter. Potto, painted by himself, shall
be a true portrait. Meanwhile I have time to look out for my canvas, and
you will be patient enough to wait till it be filled.

Again to this confounded letter:--

“There is another reason” (wrote Dyke ) “why I should like to-chance
upon this fellow.” (“This fellow” meant me.) “I used to fancy myself
unequalled in the imaginative department of conversation, by the vulgar
called lying. Here, I own, with some shame, he was my match. A more
fearless, determined, go-ahead liar, I never met. Now, as one who deems
himself no small proficient in the art, I would really like to meet
him once more. We could approach each other like the augurs of old, and
agree to be candid and free-spoken together, exchanging our ideas on
this great topic, and frankly communicating any secret knowledge each
might deem that he possessed. I’d go a hundred miles to pass an evening
with him alone, to hear from his own lips the sort of early training and
discipline his mind went through,--who were his first instructors,
what his original inducements. Of one thing I feel certain: a man
thus constituted has only to put the curb upon his faculty to be most
successful in life, his perils will all lie in the exuberance of
his resources; let him simply bend himself to believe in some of the
impositions he would force upon others. Let him give his delusions the
force acquired by convictions, and there is no limit to what he may
become. Be on the lookout, therefore, for him, as a great psychological
phenomenon, the man who outlied

“Your sincerely attached friend,

“Thomas Darcy Dyke.

“P. S. I have just remembered his name. It was Potts; the villain said
from the Pozzo di Borgo family. I ‘m sure with this hint you can’t fail
to run him to earth; and I entreat of you spare no pains to do it.”


There followed here some more impertinent personalities as clews to my
discovery, which my indulgent reader will graciously excuse me if I do
not stop to record; enough to say they were as unfounded as they were
scurrilous.

Another and very different train of thought, however, soon banished
these considerations. This letter had been given me by Crofton, who had
already read it; he had perused all this insolent narrative about
me before handing it to me, and doubtless, in so doing, had no other
intention than to convey, in the briefest and most emphatic way to me,
that I was found out. It was simply saying, in the shortest possible
space, “Thou art the man!” Oh, the ineffable shame and misery of that
thought! Oh, the bitterness of feeling! How my character should now be
viewed and my future discussed! “Only think, Mary,” I fancied I heard
him say,--“only think who our friend should turn out to be,--this same
Potts: the fellow that vanquished Father Dyke in story-telling, and
outlied the priest! And here we have been lavishing kindness and
attentions upon one who, after all, is little better than a swindler,
sailing under false colors and fictitious credentials; for who can now
credit one syllable about his having written those verses he read for
us, or composed that tale of which he told us the opening? What a lesson
in future about extending confidence to utter strangers! What caution
and reserve should it not teach us! How guarded should we be not to
suffer ourselves to be fascinated by the captivations of manner and the
insinuating charms of address! If Potts had been less prepossessing
in appearance, less gifted and agreeable,--if, instead of being a
consummate man of the world, with the breeding of a courtier and the
knowledge of a scholar, he had been a pedantic puppy with a lisp and a
Dublin accent--” Oh, ignominy and disgrace! these were the very words
of the priest in describing me, which came so aptly to my memory, and I
grew actually sick with shame as I recalled them. I next became angry.
Was this conduct of Crofton’s delicate or considerate? Was it becoming
in one who had treated me as his friend thus abruptly to conclude our
intimacy by an insult? Handing me such a letter was saying, “There’s a
portrait; can you say any one it resembles?” How much more generous had
he said, “Tell me all about this wager of yours with Father Dyke; I want
to hear _your_ account of it, for old Tom is not the most veracious of
mortals, nor the most mealy-mouthed of commentators. Just give me _your_
version of the incident, Potts, and I am satisfied it will be the true
one.” That’s what he might, that’s what he ought to have said. I can
swear it is what I, Potts, would have done by _him_, or by any other
stranger whose graceful manners and pleasing qualities had won my esteem
and conciliated my regard. I ‘d have said, “Potts, I have seen enough
of life to know how unjust it is to measure men by one and the same
standard. The ardent, impassioned nature cannot be ranked with the cold
and calculating spirit The imaginative man has the same necessity for
the development of his creative faculty as the strongly muscular man
of bodily exercise. He must blow off the steam of his invention, or the
boiler will not contain it. You and Le Sage and Alexandre Dumas are a
category. You are not the Clerks of a Census Commission, or Masters
in Equity. You are the chartered libertines of fiction. Shake out your
reefs, and go free,--free as the winds that waft you!”

To all these reflections came the last one. “I must be up and doing, and
that speedily! I will recover Blondel, if I devote my life to the
task. I will regain him, let the cost be what it may. Mounted upon that
creature, I will ride up to the Rosary; the time shall be evening; a sun
just sunk behind the horizon shall have left in the upper atmosphere a
golden and rosy light, which shall tip his mane with a softened lustre,
and shed over my own features a rich Titian-like tint. ‘I come,’ will I
say, ‘to vindicate the fair fame of one who once owned your affection.
It is Potts, the man of impulse, the child of enthusiasm, who now
presents himself before you. Poor, if you like to call him so, in
worldly craft or skill, poor in its possessions, but rich, boundlessly
rich, in the stores of an ideal wealth. Blondel and I are the embodiment
of this idea. These fancies you have stigmatized as lies are but the
pilot balloons by which great minds calculate the currents in that upper
air they are about to soar in.’”

And, last of all, there was a sophistry that possessed a great charm for
my mind, in this wise: to enable a man, humble as myself, to reach that
station in which a career of adventure should open before him, some
ground must be won, some position gained. That I assume to be something
that I am not, is simply to say that I trade upon credit. If my future
transactions be all honorable and trustworthy,--if by a fiction,
only known to my own heart, I acquire that eminence from which I
can distribute benefits to hundreds,--who is to stigmatize me as a
fraudulent trader?

Is it not a well-known fact, that many of those now acknowledged as the
wealthiest of men, might, at some time or other of their lives, have
been declared insolvent had the real state of their affairs been known?
The world, however, had given them its confidence, and time did the
rest. Let the same world be but as generous towards _me!_ The day will
come,--I say it confidently and boldly,--the day will come when I can
“show my books,” and “point to my balance-sheet.” When Archimedes asked
for a base on which to rest his lever, he merely uttered the great
truth, that some one fixed point is essential to the success of a motive
power.

It is by our use or abuse of opportunity we are either good or bad
men. The physician is not less conversant with noxious drags than the
poisoner; the difference lies in the fact that the one employs his skill
to alleviate suffering, the other to work out evil and destruction. If
I, therefore, but make some feigned station in life the groundwork from
which I can become the benefactor of my fellowmen, I shall be good
and blameless. My heart tells me how well and how fairly I mean by the
world: I would succor the weak, console the afflicted, and lift up the
oppressed; and if to carry out grand and glorious conceptions of this
kind all that be needed is a certain self-delusion which may extend
its influence to others, “Go in,” I say, “Potts; be all that your fancy
suggests,--

     Dives, honoratus, pulcher, rex deniqne regain,

--Be rich, honored and fair, a prince or a begum,--but, above all, never
distrust your destiny, or doubt your star.”



CHAPTER VIII. IMAGINATION STIMULATED BY BRANDY AND WATER.

So absorbed was I in the reflections of which my last chapter is the
record, that I utterly forgot how time was speeding, and perceived
at last, to my great surprise, that I had strayed miles away from the
Rosary, and that evening was already near. The spires and roofs of a
town were distant about a mile at a bend of the river, and for this I
now made, determined on no account to turn back, for how could I ever
again face those who had read the terrible narrative of the priest’s
letter, and before whom I could only present myself as a cheat and
impostor?

“No,” thought I, “my destiny points onward,--and to Blondel; nothing
shall turn me from my path.” Less than an hour’s walking brought me to
the town, of which I had but time to learn the name,--New Ross. I left
it in a small steamer for Waterford, a little vessel in correspondence
with the mail packet for Milford, and which I learned would sail that
evening at nine.

The same night saw me seated on the deck, bound for England. On the
deck, I say, for I had need to husband my resources, and travel with
every imaginable economy, not only because my resources were small in
themselves, but that, having left all that I possessed of clothes and
baggage at the Rosary, I should be obliged to acquire a complete outfit
on reaching England.

It was a calm night, with a starry sky and a tranquil sea; and, when
the cabin passengers had gone down to their berths, the captain did not
oppose my stealing “aft” to the quarter-deck, where I could separate
myself from the somewhat riotous company of the harvest laborers that
thronged the forepart of the vessel. He saw, with that instinct a sailor
is eminently gifted with, that I was not of that class by which I was
surrounded, and with a ready courtesy he admitted me to the privilege of
isolation.

“You are going to enlist, I ‘ll be bound,” said he, as he passed me in
his short deck walk. “Ain’t I right?”

“No,” said I; “I’m going to seek my fortune.”

“Seek your fortune!” he repeated, with a slighting sort of laugh. “One
used to read about fellows doing that in story books when a child, but
it’s rather strange to hear of it nowadays.”

“And may I presume to ask why should it be more strange now than
formerly? Is not the world pretty much what it used to be? Is not the
drama of life the same stock piece our forefathers played ages ago? Are
not the actors and the actresses made up of the precise materials their
ancestors were? Can you tell me of a new sentiment, a new emotion, or
even a new crime? Why, therefore, should there be a seeming incongruity
in reviving any feature of the past?”

“Just because it won’t do, my good friend,” said he, bluntly. “If the
law catches a fellow lounging about the world in these times, it takes
him up for a vagabond.”

“And what can be finer, grander, or freer than a vagabond?” I cried,
with enthusiasm. “Who, I would ask you, sees life with such philosophy?
Who views the wiles, the snares, the petty conflicts of the world with
such a reflective calm as his? Caring little for personal indulgence,
not solicitous for self-gratification, he has both the spirit and the
leisure for observation. Diogenes was the type of the vagabond, and see
how successive ages have acknowledged his wisdom.”

“If I had lived in _his_ day, I’d have set him picking oakum, for all
that!” he replied.

“And probably, too, would have sent the ‘blind old bard to the crank,’”
 said I.

“I’m not quite sure of whom you are talking,” said he; “but if he was a
good ballad-singer, I’d not be hard on him.”

“O! Menin aeide Thea Peleiadeo Achilleos!” spouted I out, in rapture.

“That ain’t high Dutch,” asked he, “is it?”

“No,” said I, proudly. “It is ancient Greek,--the godlike tongue of an
immortal race.”

“Immortal rascals!” he broke in. “I was in the fruit trade up in the
Levant there, and such scoundrels as these Greek fellows I never met in
my life.”

“By what and whom made so?” I exclaimed eagerly. “Can you point to a
people in the world who have so long resisted the barbarizing influence
of a base oppression? Was there ever a nation so imbued with high
civilization as to be enabled for centuries of slavery to preserve the
traditions of its greatness? Have we the record of any race but this,
who could rise from the slough of degradation to the dignity of a
people?”

“You ‘ve been a play-actor, I take it?” asked he, dryly.

“No, sir, never!” replied I, with some indignation.

“Well, then, in the Methody line? You’ve done a stroke of preaching, I
‘ll be sworn.”

“You would be perjured in that case, sir,” I rejoined, as haughtily.

“At all events, an auctioneer,” said he, fairly puzzled in his
speculations.

“Equally mistaken there,” said I, calmly; “bred in the midst of
abundance, nurtured in affluence, and educated with all the solicitous
care that a fond parent could bestow--”

“Gammon!” said he, bluntly. “You are one of the swell mob in distress!”

“Is this like distress?” said I, drawing forth my purse in which were
seventy-five sovereigns, and handing it to him. “Count over that, and
say how just and how generous are your suspicions.”

He gravely took the purse from me, and, stooping down to the binnacle
light, counted over the money, scrutinizing carefully the pieces as he
went.

“And who is to say this isn’t ‘swag’?” said he, as he closed the purse.

“The easiest answer to that,” said I, “is, would it be likely for a
thief to show his booty, not merely to a stranger, but to a stranger who
suspected him?”

“Well, that is something, I confess,” said he, slowly.

“It ought to be more,--it ought to be everything. If distrust were not
a debasing sentiment, obstructing the impulses of generosity, and even
invading the precincts of justice, you would see far more reason to
confide in than to disbelieve me.”

“I ‘ve been done pretty often afore now,” he muttered, half to himself.

“What a fallacy that is!” cried I, contemptuously. “Was not the pittance
that some crafty impostor wrung from your compassion well repaid to you
in the noble self-consciousness of your generosity? Did not your venison
on that day taste better when you thought of his pork chop? Had not
your Burgundy gained flavor by the memory of the glass of beer that was
warming the half-chilled heart in his breast? Oh, the narrow mockery of
fancying that we are not better by being deceived!”

“How long is it since you had your head shaved?” he asked dryly.

“I have never been the inmate of an asylum for lunatics,” said I,
divining and answering the impertinent insinuation.

“Well, I own you are a rum un,” said he, half musingly.

“I accept even this humble tribute to my originality,” said I, with a
sort of proud defiance. “I am well aware how _he_ must be regarded who
dares to assert his own individuality.”

“I’d be very curious to know,” said he, after a pause of several
minutes, “how a fellow of your stamp sets to work about gaining his
livelihood? What’s his first step? how does he go about it?”

I gave no other answer than a smile of scornful meaning.

“I meant nothing offensive,” resumed he, “but I really have a strong
desire to be enlightened on this point.”

“You are doubtless impressed with the notion,” said I, boldly, “that men
possessed of some distinct craft or especial profession are alone needed
by the world of their fellows. That one must be doctor or lawyer or
baker or shoemaker, to gain his living, as if life had no other wants
than to be clothed and fed and physicked and litigated. As if humanity
had not its thousand emotional moods, its wayward impulses, its trials
and temptations, all of them more needing guidance, support, direction,
and counsel, than the sickest patient needs a physician. It is on this
world that I throw myself; I devote myself to guide infancy, to console
age, to succor the orphan, and support the widow,--morally, I mean.”

“I begin to suspect you are a most artful vagabond,” said he half
angrily.

“I have long since reconciled myself to the thought of an unjust
appreciation,” said I. “It is the consolation dull men accept when
confronted with those of original genius. You can’t help confessing that
all your distrust of me has grown out of the superiority of my powers,
and the humble figure you have presented in comparison with me.”

“Do you rank modesty amongst these same powers?” he asked slyly.

“Modesty I reject,” said I, “as being a conventional form of hypocrisy.”

“Come down below,” said he, “and take a glass of brandy and water. It
‘s growing chilly here, and we shall be the better of something to cheer
us.”

Seated in his comfortable little cabin, and with a goodly array of
liquors before me to choose from, I really felt a self-confidence in the
fact that, if I were not something out of the common, I could not then
be there. “There must be in my nature,” thought I, “that element which
begets success, or I could not always find myself in situations so
palpably beyond the accidents of my condition.”

My host was courtesy itself; no sooner was I his guest than he adopted
towards me a manner of perfect politeness. No more allusions to my
precarious mode of life, never once a reference to my adventurous
future. Indeed, with an almost artful exercise of good breeding, he
turned the conversation towards himself, and gave me a sketch of his own
life.

It was not in any respects a remarkable one; though it had its share of
those mishaps and misfortunes which every sailor must have confronted.
He was wrecked in the Pacific, and robbed in the Havannah; had his crew
desert him at San Francisco, and was boarded by Riff pirates, and sold
in Barbary just as every other blue jacket used to be; and I listened
to the story, only marvelling what a dreary sameness pervades all these
narratives. Why, for one trait of the truthful to prove his tale, I
could have invented fifty. There were no little touches of sentiment
or feeling, no relieving lights of human emotion, in his story. I never
felt, as I listened, any wish that he should be saved from shipwreck,
baffle his persecutors, or escape his captors; and I thought to myself,
“This fellow has certainly got no narrative gusto.” Now for _my_ turn:
we had each of us partaken freely of the good liquor before us. The
Captain in his quality of talker, I in my capacity of listener,
had filled and refilled several times. There was not anything like
inebriety, but there was that amount of exultation, a stage higher than
mere excitement, which prompts men, at least men of temperaments like
mine, not to suffer themselves to occupy rear rank positions, but at any
cost to become foreground and prominent figures.

“You have heard of the M’Gillicuddys, I suppose?” asked I. He nodded,
and I went on. “You see, then, at this moment before you, the last of
the race. I mean, of course, of the elder branch, for there are swarms
of the others, well to do and prosperous also, and with fine estated
properties. I ‘ll not weary you with family history. I ‘ll not refer to
that remote time when my ancestors wore the crown, and ruled the fair
kingdom of Kerry. In the Annals of the Four Masters, and also in the
Chronicles of Thealbogh O’Faudlemh, you ‘ll find a detailed account of
our house. I ‘ll simply narrate for you the immediate incident which has
made me what you see me,--an outcast and a beggar.

“My father was the tried and trusted friend of that noble-hearted but
mistaken man, Lord Edward Fitzgerald. The famous attempt of the year
‘eight was concerted between them; and all the causes of its failure,
secret as they are and forever must be, are known to him who now
addresses you. I dare not trust myself to talk of these times or
things, lest I should by accident let drop what might prove strictly
confidential. I will but recount one incident, and that a personal one,
of the period. On the night of Lord Edward’s capture, my father, who had
invited a friend--deep himself in the conspiracy--to dine with him,
met his guest on the steps of his hall door. Mr. Hammond--this was his
name--was pale and horror-struck, and could scarcely speak, as my father
shook his hand. ‘Do you know what has happened, Mac?’ said he to my
father. ‘Lord Edward is taken, Major Sirr and his party have tracked him
to his hiding-place; they have got hold of all our papers, and we are
lost By this time to-morrow every man of us will be within the walls of
Newgate.’

“‘Don’t look so gloomily, Tom,’ said my father. ‘Lord Edward will escape
them yet; he’s not a bird to be snared so easily; and, after all, we
shall find means to slip our cables too. Come in, and enjoy your sirloin
and a good glass of port, and you’ll view the world more pleasantly.’
With a little encouragement of this sort he cheered him up, and the
dinner passed off agreeably enough; but still my father could see that
his friend was by no means at his ease, and at every time the door
opened he would start with a degree of surprise that augured anxiety
of some coming event. From these and other signs of uneasiness in
his manner, my father drew his own conclusions, and with a quick
intelligence of look communicated his suspicions to my mother, who was
herself a keen and shrewd observer.

“‘Do you think, Matty,’ said he, as they sat over their wine, that I
could find a bottle of the old green seal if I was to look for it in the
cellar? It has been upwards of forty years there, and I never touch it
save on especial occasions; but an old friend like Hammond deserves such
a treat.’

“My father fancied that Hammond grew paler as he thus alluded to their
old friendship, and he gave my mother a rapid glance of his sharp eye,
and, taking the cellar key, he left the room. Immediately outside the
door, he hastened to the stable, and saddled and bridled a horse, and,
slipping quietly out, he rode for the sea-coast, near the Skerries. It
was sixteen miles from Dublin, but he did the distance within the hour.
And well was it for him that he employed such speed! With a liberal
offer of money and the gold watch he wore, he secured a small
fishing-smack to convey him over to France, for which he sailed
immediately. I have said it was well that he employed such speed; for,
after waiting with suppressed impatience for my father’s return from the
cellar, Hammond expressed to my mother his fears lest my father might
have been taken ill. She tried to quiet his apprehensions, but the very
calmness of her manner served only to increase them. ‘I can bear this no
longer,’ cried he, at last, rising, in much excitement, from his chair;
‘I must see what has become of him!’ At the same moment the door
was suddenly flung open, and an officer of police, in full uniform,
presented himself. ‘He has got away, sir,’ said he, addressing Hammond;
‘the stable-door is open, and one of the horses missing.’

“My mother, from whom I heard the story, had only time to utter a ‘Thank
God!’ before she fainted. On recovering her senses, she found herself
alone in the room. The traitor Hammond and the police had left her
without even calling the servants to her aid.”

“And your father,--what became of him?” asked the skipper, eagerly.

“He arrived in Paris in sorry plight enough; but, fortunately, Clarke,
whose influence with the Emperor was unbounded, was a distant connection
of our family. By his intervention my father obtained an interview with
his Majesty, who was greatly struck by the adventurous spirit and daring
character of the man; not the less so because he had the courage to
disabuse the Emperor of many notions and impressions he had conceived
about the readiness of Ireland to accept French assistance.

“Though my father would much have preferred taking service in the army,
the Emperor, who had strong prejudices against men becoming soldiers
who had not served in every grade from the ranks upwards, opposed
this intention, and employed him in a civil capacity. In fact, to his
management were intrusted some of the most delicate and difficult secret
negotiations; and he gained a high name for acuteness and honorable
dealing. In recognition of his services, his name was inscribed in the
Grand Livre for a considerable pension; but at the fall of the dynasty,
this, with hundreds of others equally meritorious, was annulled; and my
father, worn out with age and disappointment together, sank at last, and
died at Dinant, where my mother was buried but a few years previously.
Meanwhile he was tried and found guilty of high treason in Ireland, and
all his lands and other property forfeited to the Crown. My present
journey was simply a pilgrimage to see the old possessions that once
belonged to our race. It was my father’s last wish that I should visit
the ancient home of our family, and stand upon the hills that once
acknowledged us as their ruler. He never desired that I should remain a
French subject; a lingering love for his own country mingled in his
heart with a certain resentment towards France, who had certainly
treated him with ingratitude; and almost his last words to me were,
‘Distrust the Gaul.’ When I told you awhile back that I was nurtured in
affluence, it was so to all appearance; for my father had spent every
shilling of his-capital on my education, and I was under the firm
conviction that I was born to a very great fortune. You may judge the
terrible revulsion of my feelings when I learned that I had to face the
world almost, if not actually, a beggar.

“I could easily have attached myself as a hanger-on of some of my
well-to-do relations. Indeed, I will say for them, that they showed
the kindest disposition to befriend me; but the position of a dependant
would have destroyed every chance of happiness for me, and so I resolved
that I would fearlessly throw myself upon the broad ocean of life, and
trust that some sea current or favoring wind would bear me at last into
a harbor of safety.”

“What can you do?” asked the skipper, curtly.

“Everything, and nothing! I have, so to say, the ‘sentiment’ of all
things in my heart, but am not capable of executing one of them. With
the most correct ear, I know not a note of music; and though I could
not cook you a chop, I have the most excellent appreciation of a
well-dressed dinner.”

“Well,” said he, laughing, “I must confess I don’t suspect these to be
exactly the sort of gifts to benefit your fellow-man.”

“And yet,” said I, “it is exactly to individuals of this stamp that the
world accords its prizes. The impresario that provides the opera could
not sing nor dance. The general who directs the campaign might be sorely
puzzled how to clean his musket or pipeclay his belt. The great minister
who imposes a tax might be totally unequal to the duty of applying its
provisions. Ask him to gauge a hogshead of spirits, for instance. _My_
position is like _theirs_. I tell you, once more, the world wants men of
wide conceptions and far-ranging ideas,--men who look to great results
and grand combinations.”

“But, to be practical, how do you mean to breakfast to-morrow morning?”

“At a moderate cost, but comfortably: tea, rolls, two eggs, and a
rumpsteak with fried potatoes.”

“What’s your name?” said he, taking out his note-book. “I mustn’t forget
you when I hear of you next.”

“For the present, I call myself Potts,--Mr. Potts, if you please.”

“Write it here yourself,” said he, handing me the pencil. And I wrote in
a bold, vigorous hand, “Algernon Sydney-Potts,” with the date.

“Preserve that autograph, Captain,” said I; “it is in no-spirit of
vanity I say it, but the day will come you ‘ll refuse a ten-pound note
for it.”

“Well, I’d take a trifle less just now,” said he, smiling.

He sat for some time gravely contemplating the writing, and at length,
in a sort of half soliloquy, said, “Bob would like him,--he would suit
Bob.” Then, lifting his head, he addressed me: “I have a brother in
command of one of the P. and O. steamers,--just the fellow for _you_. He
has got ideas pretty much like your own about success in life, and won’t
be persuaded that he isn’t the first seaman in the English navy; or
that he hasn’t a plan to send Cherbourg and its breakwater sky-high, at
twenty-four hours’ warning.”

“An enthusiast,--a visionary, I have no doubt,” said I, contemptuously.

“Well, I think you might be more merciful in your judgment of a man of
your own stamp,” retorted he, laughing. “At all events, it would be as
good as a play to see you together. If you should chance to be at Malta,
or Marseilles, when the _Clarence_ touches there, just ask for Captain
Rogers; tell him you know me, that will be enough.”

“Why not give me a line of introduction to him?” said I, with an easy
indifference. “These things serve to clear away the awkwardness of a
self-presentation.”

“I don’t care if I do,” said he, taking a sheet of paper, and beginning
‘Dear Bob,’--after which he paused and deliberated, muttering the words
‘Dear Bob’ three or four times over below his breath.

“‘Dear Bob,’” said I aloud, in the tone of one dictating to an
amanuensis,--“‘This brief note will be handed to you by a very valued
friend of mine, Algernon Sydney Potts, a man so completely after
your own heart that I feel a downright satisfaction in bringing you
together.’”

“Well, that ain’t so bad,” said he, as he uttered the last words which
fell from his pen--“‘in bringing you together.’”

“Go on,” said I dictatorially, and continued: “‘Thrown by a mere
accident myself into his society, I was so struck by his attainments,
the originality of his views, and the wide extent of his knowledge of
life----’ Have you _that_ down?”

“No,” said he, in some confusion; “I am only at ‘entertainments.’”

“I said ‘attainments,’ sir,” said I rebukingly, and then repeating the
passage word for word, till he had written it--“‘that I conceived for
him a regard and an esteem rarely accorded to others than our oldest
friends.’ One word more: ‘Potts, from certain circumstances, which
I cannot here enter upon, may appear to you in some temporary
inconvenience as regards money----’”

Here the captain stopped, and gave me a most significant look: it was at
once an appreciation and an expression of drollery.

“Go on,” said I dryly. “‘If so,’” resumed I, “‘be guardedly cautious
neither to notice his embarrassment nor allude to it; above all, take
especial care that you make no offer to remove the inconvenience, for he
is one of those whose sensibilities are so fine, and whose sentiments sa
fastidious, that he could never recover, in his own esteem, the dignity
compromised by such an incident.’”

“Very neatly turned,” said he, as he re-read the passage. “I think
that’s quite enough.”

“Ample. You have nothing more to do than sign your name to it.”

He did this, with a verificatory flourish at foot, folded and sealed the
letter, and handed it to me, saying--

“If it weren’t for the handwriting, Bob would never believe all that
fine stuff came from _me_; but you ‘ll tell him it was after three
glasses of brandy-and-water that I dashed it off--that will explain
everything.”

I promised faithfully to make the required explanation, and then
proceeded to make some inquiries about this brother Bob, whose nature
was in such a close affinity with my own. I could learn, however, but
little beyond the muttered acknowledgment that Bob was a “queer ‘un,”
 and that there was never his equal for “falling upon good-luck,
and spending it after,” a description which, when applied to my own
conscience, told an amount of truth that was actually painful.

“There’s no saying,” said I, as I pocketed the letter, “if this epistle
should ever reach your brother’s hand, my course in life is too wayward
and uncertain for me to say in what corner of the earth fate may find
me; but if we _are_ to meet, you shall hear of it. Rogers”--I said,
“this you extended to me, at a time that, to all seeming, I needed
such attentions--at a time, I say, when none but myself could know how
independently I stood as regarded means; and of one thing be assured,
Rogers, he whose caprice it now is to call himself Potts, is your
friend, your fast friend, for life.”

He wrung my hand cordially--perhaps it was the easiest way for an honest
sailor, as he was, to acknowledge the patronising tone of my speech--but
I could plainly see that he was sorely puzzled by the situation,
and possibly very well pleased that there was no third party to be a
spectator of it.

“Throw yourself there on that sofa,” said he, “and take a sleep.” And
with that piece of counsel he left me, and went up on deck.



CHAPTER IX. HIS INTEREST IN A LADY FELLOW-TRAVELLER.

Next mornings are terrible things, whether one awakes to the thought of
some awful run of ill-luck at play, or with the racking headache of
new port or a very “fruity” Burgundy. They are dreadful, too, when
they bring memories--vague and indistinct, perhaps--of some serious
altercations, passionate words exchanged, and expressions of defiance
reciprocated; but, as a measure of self-reproach and humiliation, I
know not any distress can compare with the sensation of awaking to the
consciousness that our cups have so ministered to imagination that we
have given a mythical narrative of ourself and our belongings, and have
built up a card edifice of greatness that must tumble with the first
touch of truth.

It was a sincere satisfaction to me that I saw nothing of the skipper on
that “next morning.” He was so occupied with all the details of getting
into port, that I escaped his notice, and contrived to land unremarked.
Little scraps of my last night’s biography would obtrude themselves upon
me, mixed up strangely with incidents of that same skipper’s life, so
that I was actually puzzled at moments to remember whether “he” was not
the descendant of the famous rebel friend of Lord Edward Fitzgerald, and
_I_ it was who was sold in the public square at Tunis.

These dissolving views of an evening before are very difficult
problems,--not to _you_, most valued reader, whose conscience is not
burglariously assaulted by a riotous imagination, but to the poor weak
Potts-like organizations, the men who never énjoy a real sensation, or
taste a real pleasure, save on the hypothesis of a mock situation.

I sat at my breakfast in the “Goat” meditating these things. The
grand problem to resolve was this: Is it better to live a life of
dull incidents and commonplace events in one’s own actual sphere, or,
creating, by force of imagination, an ideal status, to soar into a
region of higher conceptions and more pictorial situations? What could
existence in the first case offer me? A wearisome beaten path, with
nothing to interest, nothing to stimulate me. On the other side lay
glorious regions of lovely scenery, peopled with figures the most
graceful and attractive. I was at once the associate of the wise, the
witty, and the agreeable, with wealth at my command, and great
prizes within my reach. Illusions all! to be sure; but what are not
illusions,--if by that word you take mere account of permanence? What is
it in this world that we love to believe real is not illusionary,--the
question of duration being the only difference? Is not beauty
perishable? Is not wit soon exhausted? What becomes of the proudest
physical strength after middle life is reached? What of eloquence when
the voice fails or loses its facility of inflection?

All these considerations, however convincing to myself, were not equally
satisfactory as regarded others; and so I sat down to write a letter to
Crofton, explaining the reasons of my sudden departure, and enclosing
him Father Dyke’s epistle, which I had carried away with me. I began
this letter with the most firm resolve to be truthful and accurate. I
wrote down, not only the date, but the day. “‘Goat,’ Milford,” followed,
and then, “My dear Crofton,--It would ill become one who has partaken
of your generous hospitality, and who, from an unknown stranger, was
admitted to the privilege of your intimacy, to quit the roof beneath
which the happiest hours of his life were passed without expressing the
deep shame and sorrow such a step has cost him, while he bespeaks your
indulgence to hear the reason.” This was my first sentence, and it gave
me uncommon trouble. I desired to be dignified, yet grateful, proud in
my humility, grieved over an abrupt departure, but sustained by a manly
confidence in the strength of my own motives. If I read it over once, I
read it twenty times; now deeming it too diffuse, now fearing lest I had
compressed my meaning too narrowly. Might it not be better to open thus:
“Strike, but hear me, dear Crofton, or, before condemning the unhappy
creature whose abject cry for mercy may seem but to increase the
presumption of his guilt, and in whose faltering accents may appear the
signs of a stricken conscience, read over, dear friend, the entire of
this letter, weigh well the difficulties and dangers of him who wrote
it, and say, is he not rather a subject for pity than rebuke? Is not
this more a case for a tearful forgiveness than for chastisement and
reproach?”

Like most men who have little habit of composition, my difficulties
increased with every new attempt, and I became bewildered and puzzled
what to choose. It was vitally important that the first lines of my
letter should secure the favorable opinion of the reader; by one unhappy
word, one ill-selected expression, a whole case might be prejudiced. I
imagined Crofton angrily throwing the epistle from him with an impatient
“Stuff and nonsense! a practised hum-bugger!” or, worse again, calling
out, “Listen to this, Mary. Is not Master Potts a cool hand? Is not this
brazening it out with a vengeance?” Such a thought was agony to me; the
very essence of my theory about life was to secure the esteem and regard
of others. I yearned after the good opinion of my fellow-men, and there
was no amount of falsehood I would not incur to obtain it. No, come what
would of it, the Croftons must not think ill of me. They must not only
believe me guiltless of ingratitude, but some one whose gratitude was
worth having. It will elevate them in their own esteem if they suppose
that the pebble they picked up in the highway turned out to be a ruby.
It will open their hearts to fresh impulses of generosity; they will
not say to each other, “Let us be more careful another time; let us be
guarded against showing attention to mere strangers; remember how we
were taken in by that fellow Potts; what a specious rascal he was,--how
plausible, how insinuating!” but rather, “We can afford to be confiding,
our experiences have taught us trustfulness. Poor Potts is a lesson that
may inspire a hopeful belief in others.” How little benefit can any one
in his own individual capacity confer upon the world, but what a large
measure of good may be distributed by the way he influences others.
Thus, for instance, by one well-sustained delusion of mine, I inspire
a fund of virtues which, in my merely truthful character, I could never
pretend to originate. “Yes,” thought I, “the Croftons shall continue to
esteem me; Potts shall be a beacon to guide, not a sunken rock to wreck
them.”

Thus resolving, I sat down to inform them that on my return from a
stroll, I was met by a man bearing a telegram, informing me of the dying
condition of my father’s only brother, my sole relative on earth;
that, yielding only to the impulse of my affection, and not thinking of
preparation, I started on board of a steamer for Waterford, and
thence for Milford, on my way to Brighton. I vaguely hinted at great
expectations, and so on, and then, approaching the difficult problem of
Father Dyke’s letter, I said, “I enclose you the priest’s letter, which
amused me much. With all his shrewdness, the worthy churchman never
suspected how completely my friend Keldrum and myself had humbugged him,
nor did he discover that our little dinner and the episode that followed
it were the subjects of a wager between ourselves. His marvellous
cunning was thus for once at fault, as I shall explain to you more fully
when we meet, and prove to you that, upon this occasion at least, he was
not deceiver, but dupe!” I begged to have a line from him to the “Crown
Hotel, Brighton,” and concluded.

With this act, I felt I had done with the past, and now addressed myself
to the future. I purchased a few cheap necessaries for the road, as few
and as cheap as was well possible. I said to myself, Fortune shall lift
you from the very dust of the high-road, Potts; not one advantageous
adjunct shall aid your elevation!

The train by which I was to leave did not start till noon, and to while
away time I took up a number of the “Times,” which the “Goat” appeared
to receive at third or fourth hand. My eye fell upon that memorable
second column, in which I read the following:--

“Left his home in Dublin on the 8th ult, and not since been heard of,
a young gentleman, aged about twenty-two years, five feet nine and a
quarter in height, slightly formed, and rather stooped in the shoulders;
features pale and melancholy; eyes grayish, inclining to hazel; hair
light brown, and worn long behind. He had on at his departure--”

I turned impatiently to the foot of the advertisement, and found that
to any one giving such information as might lead to his discovery was
promised a liberal reward, on application to Messrs. Potts and Co.,
compounding chemists and apothecaries, Mary’s Abbey. I actually grew
sick with anger as I read this. To what end was it that I built up a
glorious edifice of imaginative architecture, if by one miserable
touch of coarse fact it would crumble into clay? To what purpose did I
intrigue with Fortune to grant me a special destiny, if I were thus to
be classed with runaway traders or strayed terriers? I believe in my
heart I could better have borne all the terrors of a charge of felony
than the lowering, debasing, humiliating condition of being advertised
for on a reward.

I had long since determined to be free as regarded the ties of country.
I now resolved to be equally so with respect to those of family. I will
be Potts no longer. I will call myself for the future--let me see--what
shall it be, that will not involve a continued exercise of memory, and
the troublesome task of unmarking my linen? I was forgetting in this
that I had none, all my wearables being left behind at the Rosary.
Something with an initial P was requisite; and after much canvassing,
I fixed on Pottinger. If by an unhappy chance I should meet one who
remembered me as Potts, I reserved the right of mildly correcting him by
saying, “Pottinger, Pottinger! the name Potts was given me when at Eton
for shortness.” They tell us that amongst the days of our exultation
in life, few can compare with that in which we exchange a jacket for
a tailed coat. The spring from the tadpole to the full-grown frog,
the emancipation from boyhood into adolescence, is certainly very
fascinating. Let me assure my reader that the bound from a monosyllabic
name to a high-sounding epithet of three syllables is almost as
enchanting as this assumption of the _toga virilis_. I had often felt
the terrible brevity of Potts; I had shrunk from answering the question,
“What name, sir?” from the indescribable shame of saying “Potts;” but
Pottinger could be uttered slowly and with dignity. One could repose on
the initial syllable, as if to say, “Mark well what I am saying; this
is a name to be remembered.” With that, there must have been great and
distinguished Pottingers, rich men, men of influence and acres; from
these I could at leisure select a parentage.

“Do you go by the twelve-fifteen train, sir?” asked the waiter, breaking
in upon these meditations. “You have no time to lose, sir.”

With a start, I saw it was already past twelve; so I paid my bill with
all speed, and, taking my knapsack in my hand, hurried away to the
train. There was considerable confusion as I arrived, a crush of cabs,
watermen, and porters blocked the way, and the two currents of an
arriving and departing train struggled against and confronted each
other. Amongst those who, like myself, were bent on entering the
station-house, was a young lady in deep mourning, whose frail
proportions and delicate figure gave no prospect of resisting the shock
and conflict before her. Seeing her so destitute of all protection, I
espoused her cause, and after a valorous effort and much buffeting, I
fought her way for her to the ticket-window, but only in time to hear
the odious crash of a great bell, the bang of a glass door, and the
cry of a policeman on duty, “No more tickets, gentlemen; the train is
starting.”

“Oh! what shall I do?” cried she, in an accent of intense agony,
inadvertently addressing the words to myself: “What shall I do?”

“There ‘s another train to start at three-forty,” said I, consolingly.
“I hope that waiting will be no inconvenience to you. It is a slow one,
to be sure, stops everywhere, and only arrives in town at two o’clock in
the morning.”

I heard her sob,--I distinctly heard her sob behind her thick black veil
as I said this; and to offer what amount of comfort I could, I added,
“I, too, am disappointed, and obliged to await the next departure; and
if I can be of the least service in any way--”

“Oh, no, sir! I am very grateful to you, but there is nothing--I
mean--there is no help for it!” And here her voice dropped to a mere
whisper.

“I sincerely trust,” said I, in an accent of great deference and
sympathy, “that the delay may not be the cause of grave inconvenience to
you; and although a perfect stranger, if any assistance I can offer--”

“No, sir; there is really nothing I could ask from your kindness.” It was
in turning back to bid good-bye a second time to my mother--Here her
agitation seemed to choke her, for she turned away and said no more.

“Shall I fetch a cab for you?” I asked. “Would you like to go back till
the next train starts?”

“Oh, by no means, sir! We live three miles from Milford; and, besides,
I could not bear--” Here again she broke down, but added, after a pause,
“It is the first time I have been away from home!”

With a little gentle force I succeeded in inducing her to enter the
refreshment-room of the station, but she would take nothing; and after
some attempts to engage her in conversation to while away the dreary
time, I perceived that it would be a more true politeness not to obtrude
upon her sorrow; and so I lighted my cigar, and proceeded to walk up and
down the long terrace of the station. Three trunks, or rather two and
a hat-box, kept my knapsack company on the side of the tramway; and on
these I read, inscribed in a large band, “Miss K. Herbert, per steamer
‘Ardent,’ Ostend.” I started. Was it not in that direction my own steps
were turned? Was not Blondel in Belgium, and was it not in search of him
that I was bent? “Oh, Fate!” I cried, “what subtle device of thine is
this? What wily artifice art thou now engaged in? Is this a snare, or is
it an aid? Hast thou any secret purpose in this rencontre? for with thee
there are no chances, no accidents in thy vicissitudes; all is prepared
and fitted, like a piece of door carpentry.” And then I fell into
weaving a story for the young lady. She was an orphan. Her father, the
curate of the little parish she lived in, had just died, leaving herself
and her mother in direst distress. She was leaving home,--the happy
home of her childhood (I saw it all before me,--cottage, and garden, and
little lawn, with its one cow and two sheep, and the small green wicket
beside the road), and she was leaving all these to become a governess to
an upstart, mill-owning, vulgar family at Brussels. Poor thing! how my
heart bled for her! What a life of misery lay before her,--what
trials of temper and of pride! The odious children--I know they are
odious--will torture her to the quick; and Mrs. Treddles, or whatever
her detestable name is, will lead her a terrible life from jealousy; and
she ‘ll have to bear everything, and cry over it in secret, remembering
the once happy time in that honeysuckled porch, where poor papa used to
read Wordsworth for them.

What a world of sorrow on every side; and how easily might it be made
otherwise! What gigantic efforts are we forever making for something
which we never live to enjoy I Striving to be freer, greater, better
governed, and more lightly taxed, and all the while forgetting that the
real secret is to be on better terms with each other,--more generous,
more forgiving, less apt to take offence or bear malice. Of mere
material goods, there is far more than we need. The table would
accommodate more than double the guests, could we only agree to sit down
in orderly fashion; but here we have one occupying three chairs,
while another crouches on the floor, and some even prefer smashing the
furniture to letting some more humbly born take a place near them. I
wish they would listen to me on this theme. I wish, instead of all this
social science humbug and art-union balderdash, they would hearken
to the voice of a plain man, saying, Are you not members of one
family,--the individuals of one household? Is it not clear to you, if
you extend the kindly affections you now reserve for the narrow circle
wherein you live to the wider area of mankind, that, while diffusing
countless blessings to others, you will yourself become better, more
charitable, more kind-hearted, wider in reach of thought, more catholic
in philanthropy? I can imagine such a world, and feel it to be a
Paradise,--a world with no social distinctions, no inequalities of
condition, and, consequently, no insolent pride of station, nor any
degrading subserviency of demeanor, no rivalries, no jealousies,--love
and benevolence everywhere. In such a sphere the calm equanimity of mind
by which great things are accomplished, would in itself constitute a
perfect heaven. No impatience of temper, no passing irritation--

“Where the------are you driving to, sir?” cried I, as a fellow with a
brass-bound trunk in a hand-barrow came smash against my shin.

“Don’t you see, sir, the train is just starting?” said he, hastening on;
and I now perceived that such was the case, and that I had barely time
to rush down to the pay-office and secure my ticket.

“What class, sir?” cried the clerk.

“Which has she taken?” said I, forgetting all save the current of my own
thoughts.

“First or second, sir?” repeated he, impatiently.

“Either, or both,” replied I, in confusion; and he flung me back some
change and a blue card, closing the little shutter with a bang that
announced the end of all colloquy.

“Get in, sir!”

“Which carriage?”

“Get in, sir!”

“Second-class? Here you are!” called out an official, as he thrust me
almost rudely into a vile mob of travellers.

The bell rang out, and two snorts and a scream followed, then a heave
and a jerk, and away we went As soon as I had time to look around me, I
saw that my companions were all persons of an humble order of the middle
class,--the small shopkeepers and traders, probably, of the locality we
were leaving. Their easy recognition of each other, and the natural
way their conversation took up local matters, soon satisfied me of this
fact, and reconciled me to fall back upon my own thoughts for occupation
and amusement This was with me the usual prelude to a sleep, to which
I was quietly composing myself soon after. The droppings of the
conversation around me, however, prevented this; for the talk had taken
a discussional tone, and the differences of opinion were numerous. The
question debated was, Whether a certain Sir Samuel Somebody was a great
rogue, or only unfortunate? The reasons for either opinion were well put
and defended, showing that the company, like most others of that class
in life in England, had cultivated their faculties of judgment and
investigation by the habit of attending trials or reading reports of
them in newspapers.

After the discussion on his morality, came the question, Was he alive or
dead?

“Sir Samuel never shot himself, sir,” said a short pluffy man with an
asthma. “I ‘ve known him for years, and I can say he was not a man to do
such an act.”

“Well, sir, the Ostrich and the United Brethren offices are both of your
opinion,” said another; “they ‘ll not pay the policy on his life.”

“The law only recognizes death on production of the body,” sagely
observed a man in shabby black, with a satin neckcloth, and whom I
afterwards perceived was regarded as a legal authority.

“What’s to be done, then, if a man be drowned at sea, or burned to a
cinder in a lime-kiln?”

“Ay, or by what they call spontaneous combustion, that does n’t leave a
shred of you?” cried three objectors in turn.

“The law provides for these emergencies with its usual wisdom,
gentlemen. Where death may not be actually proven it can be often
inferred.”

“But who says that Sir Samuel is dead?” broke in the asthmatic man,
evidently impatient at the didactic tone of the attorney. “All we know
of the matter is a letter of his own signing, that when these lines are
read I shall be no more. Now, is that sufficient evidence of death to
induce an insurance company to hand over some eight or ten thousand
pounds to his family?”

“I believe you might say thirty thousand, sir,” suggested a mild voice
from the corner.

“Nothing of the kind,” interposed another; “the really heavy policies
on his life were held by an old Cumberland baronet, Sir Elkanah Crofton,
who first established Whalley in the iron trade. I ‘ve heard it from my
father fifty times, when a child, that Sam Whalley entered Milford in a
fustian jacket, with all his traps in a handkerchief.”

At the mention of Sir Elkanah Crofton, my attention was quickly excited;
this was the uncle of my friends at the Rosary, and I was at once
curious to hear more of him.

“Fustian jacket or not, he had a good head on his shoulders,” remarked
one.

“And luck, sir; luck, which is better than any head,” sighed the meek
man, sorrowfully.

“I deny that, deny it totally,” broke in he of the asthma. “If Sam
Whalley hadn’t been a man of first-rate order, he never could have made
that concern what it was,--the first foundry in Wales.”

“And what is it now, and where is he?” asked the attorney, triumphantly.

“At rest, I hope,” murmured the sad man.

“Not a bit of it, sir,” said the wheezing voice, in a tone of
confidence; “take _my_ word for it, he ‘s alive and hearty, somewhere or
other, ay, and we ‘ll hear of him one of these days: he ‘ll be smelting
metals in Africa, or cutting a canal through the Isthmus of Heaven knows
what, or prime minister of one of those rajahs in India. He’s a clever
dog, and he knows it too. I saw what he thought of himself the day old
Sir Elkanah came down to Fairbridge.”

“To be sure, you were there that morning,” said the attorney; “tell us
about that meeting.”

“It’s soon told,” resumed the other. “When Sir Elkanah Crofton arrived
at the house, we were all in the garden. Sir Samuel had taken me there
to see some tulips, which he said were the finest in Europe, except
some at the Hague. Maybe it was that the old baronet was vexed at seeing
nobody come to meet him, or that something else had crossed him, but as
he entered the garden I saw he was sorely out of temper.

“‘How d’ye do, Sir Elkanah?’ said Whalley to him, coming up pleasantly.
‘We scarcely expected you before dinner-time. My wife and my daughters,’
said he, introducing them; but the other only removed his hat
ceremoniously, without ever noticing them in the least.

“‘I hope you had a pleasant journey, Sir Elkanah?’ said Whalley, after a
pause, while, with a short jerk of his head, he made signs to the ladies
to leave them.

“‘I trust I am not the means of breaking up a family party?’ said the
other, half sarcastically. ‘Is Mrs. Whalley--’

“‘Lady Whalley, with your good permission, sir,’ said Samuel, stiffly.

“‘Of course; how stupid of me! I should remember you had been knighted.
And, indeed, the thought was full upon me as I came along, for I
scarcely suppose that if higher ambitions had not possessed you, I
should find the farm buildings and the outhouse in the state of ruin I
see them.’

“‘They are better by ten thousand pounds than the day on which I first
saw them; and I say it in the presence of this honest townsman here, my
neighbor,’--meaning _me_,--‘that both _you_ and they were very creaky
concerns when I took you in hand.’

“I thought the old Baronet was going to have a fit at these words, and
he caught hold of my arm and swayed backwards and forwards all the time,
his face purple with passion.

“‘Who made you, sir? who made you?’ cried he, at last, with a voice
trembling with rage.

“‘The same hand that made ns all,’ said the other, calmly. ‘The same
wise Providence that, for his own ends, creates drones as well as bees,
and makes rickety old baronets as well as men of brains and industry.’

“‘You shall rue this insolence; it shall cost you dearly, by Heaven!’
cried out the old man, as he gripped me tighter. ‘You are a witness,
sir, to the way I have been insulted. I ‘ll foreclose your mortgage--I
‘ll call in every shilling I have advanced--I ‘ll sell the house over
your head--’

“‘Ay! but the head without a roof over it will hold itself higher than
your own, old man. The good faculties and good health God has given me
are worth all your title-deeds twice told. If I walk out of this town as
poor as the day I came into it, I ‘ll go with the calm certainty that
I can earn my bread,--a process that would be very difficult for _you_
when you could not lend out money on interest.’

“‘Give me your arm, sir, back to the town,’ said the old Baronet to me;
I feel myself too ill to go all alone.’

“‘Get him to step into the house and take something,’ whispered Whalley
in my ear, as he turned away and left us. But I was afraid to propose
it; indeed, if I had, I believe the old man would have had a fit on
the spot, for he trembled from head to foot, and drew long sighs, as if
recovering out of a faint.

“‘Is there an inn near this,’ asked he, where I can stop? and have you a
doctor here?’

“‘You can have both, Sir Elkanah,’ said I.

“‘You know me, then?--you know who I am?’ said he, hastily, as I called
him by his name.

“‘That I do, sir, and I hold my place under you; my name is Shore.’

“‘Yes, I remember,’ said he, vaguely, as he moved away. When we came
to the gate on the road he turned around full and looked at the house,
overgrown with that rich red creeper that was so much admired. ‘Mark my
words, my good man,’ said he,--mark them well, and as sure as I live, I
‘ll not leave one stone on another of that dwelling there.’”

“He was promising more than he could perform,” said the attorney.

“I don’t know that,” sighed the meek man; “there’s very little that
money can’t do in this life.”

“And what has become of Whalley’s widow,--if she be a widow?” asked one.

“She’s in a poor way. She’s up at the village yonder, and, with the help
of one of her girls, she’s trying to keep a children’s school.”

“Lady Whalley’s school?’” exclaimed one, in half sarcasm.

“Yes; but she has taken her maiden name again since this disaster, and
calls herself Mrs. Herbert.”

“Has she more than one daughter, sir?” I asked of the last speaker.

“Yes, there are two girls; the younger one, they tell me, is going,
or gone abroad, to take some situation or other,--a teacher, or a
governess.”

“No, sir,” said the pluffy man, “Miss Kate has gone as companion to an
old widow lady at Brussels,--Mrs. Keats. I saw the letter that arranged
the terms,--a trifle less per annum than her mother gave to her maid.”

“Poor girl!” sighed the sad man. “It ‘s a dreary way to begin life!”

I nodded assentingly to him, and with a smile of gratitude for his
sympathy. Indeed, the sentiment had linked me to him, and made me wish
to be beside him. The conversation now grew discursive, on the score of
all the difficulties that beset women when reduced to make efforts
for their own support; and though the speakers were men well able to
understand and pronounce upon the knotty problem, the subject did not
possess interest enough to turn my mind from the details I had just been
hearing. The name of Miss Herbert on the trunks showed me now who was
the young lady I had met, and I reproached myself bitterly with having
separated from her, and thus forfeited the occasion of befriending her
on her journey. We were to sup somewhere about eleven, and I resolved
that I would do my utmost to discover her, if in the train; and I occupied
myself now with imagining numerous pretexts for presuming to offer my
services on her behalf. She will readily comprehend the disinterested
character of my attentions. She will see that I come in no spirit of
levity, but moved by a true sympathy and the respectful sentiment of one
touched by her sorrows. I can fancy her coy diffidence giving way before
the deferential homage of my manner; and in this I really believe I
have some tact. I was not sorry to pursue this theme undisturbed by
the presence of my fellow-travellers, who had now got out at a station,
leaving me all alone to meditate and devise imaginary conversations with
Miss Herbert. I rehearsed to myself the words by which to address
her, my bow, my gesture, my faint smile, a blending of melancholy with
kindliness, my whole air a union of the deference of the stranger with
something almost fraternal. These pleasant musings were now rudely
routed by the return of my fellow-travellers, who came hurrying back to
their places at the banging summons of a great bell.

“Everything cold, as usual. It is a perfect disgrace how the public are
treated on this line!” cried one.

“I never think of anything but a biscuit and a glass of ale, and they
charged me elevenpence halfpenny for that.”

“The directors ought to look to this. I saw those ham-sandwiches when I
came down here last Tuesday week.”

“And though the time-table gives us fifteen minutes, I can swear, for I
laid my watch on the table, that we only got nine and a half.”

“Well, I supped heartily off that spiced round.”

“Supped, supped I Did you say you had supped here, sir?” asked I, in
anxiety.

“Yes, sir; that last station was Trentham. They give us nothing more now
till we reach town.”

I lay back with a faint sigh, and, from that moment, took no note of
time till the guard cried “London!”



CHAPTER X. THE PERILS OF MY JOURNEY TO OSTEND.

“Young lady in deep mourning, sir,--crape shawl and bonnet, sir,” said
the official, in answer to my question, aided by a shilling fee; “the
same as asked where was the station for the Dover Line.”

“Yes, yes; that must be she.”

“Got into a cab, sir, and drove off straight for the Sou’Eastern.”

“She was quite alone?”

“Quite, sir; but she seems used to travelling,--got her traps together
in no time, and was off in a jiffy.”

“Stupid dog!” thought I; “with every advantage position and accident
can confer, how little this fellow reads of character! In this poor,
forlorn, heart-weary orphan, he only sees something like a commercial
traveller!”

“Any luggage, sir? Is this yours?” said he, pointing to a woolsack.

“No,” said I, haughtily; “my servants have gone forward with my luggage.
I have nothing but a knapsack.” And with an air of dignity I flung
it into a hansom, and ordered the driver to set me down at the
South-Eastern. Although using every exertion, the train had just started
when I arrived, and a second time was I obliged to wait some hours at
a station. Resolving to free myself from all the captivations of that
tendency to day-dreaming,--that fatal habit of suffering my fancy to
direct my steps, as though in pursuit of some settled purpose,--I calmly
asked myself whither I was going--and for what? Before I had begun
the examination, I deemed myself a most candid, truth-observing, frank
witness, and now I discovered that I was casuistical and “dodgy” as an
Old Bailey lawyer. I was haughty and indignant at being so catechised.
My conscience, on the shallow pretext of being greatly interested about
me, was simply prying and inquisitive. Conscience is all very well when
one desires to appeal to it, and refer some distinct motive or action to
its appreciation; but it is scarcely fair, and certainly not dignified,
for conscience to go about seeking for little accusations of this kind
or that. What liberty of action is there, besides, to a man who carries
a “detective” with him wherever he goes? And lastly, conscience has the
intolerable habit of obtruding its opinion upon details, and will not
wait to judge by results. Now, when I have won the race, come in first,
amid the enthusiastic cheers of thousands, I don’t care to be asked,
however privately, whether I did not practise some little bit of rather
unfair jockeyship. I never could rightly get over my dislike to the
friend who would take this liberty with me; and this is exactly the part
conscience plays, and with an insufferable air of superiority, too, as
though to say, “None of your shuffling with me, Potts! That will do all
mighty well with the outer world, but _I_ am not to be humbugged. You
never devised a scheme in your life that I was not by at the cookery,
and saw how you mixed the ingredients and stirred the pot! No, no, old
fellow, all your little secret rogueries will avail you nothing here!”

Had these words been actually addressed to me by a living individual, I
could not have heard them more plainly than now they fell upon my ear,
uttered, besides, in a tone of cutting, sarcastic derision. “I will
stand this no longer!” cried I, springing up from my seat and flinging
my cigar angrily away. “I ‘m certain no man ever accomplished any high
and great destiny in life who suffered himself to be bullied in this
wise; such irritating, pestering impertinence would destroy the temper
of a saint, and break down the courage and damp the ardor of the
boldest. Could great measures of statecraft be carried out--could
battles be won--could new continents be discovered, if at every
strait and every emergency one was to be interrupted by a low voice,
whispering, ‘Is this _all_ right? Are there no flaws here? You live in a
world of frailties, Potts. You are playing at a round game, where every
one cheats a little, and where the Drogueries are never remembered
against him who wins. Bear that in your mind, and keep your cards
“up.”’”

When I was about to take my ticket, a dictum of the great moralist
struck my mind: “Desultory reading has slain its thousands and tens
of thousands;” and if desultory reading, why not infinitely more so
desultory acquaintance? Surely, our readings do not impress us as
powerfully as the actual intercourse of life. It must be so. It is
in this daily conflict with our fellow-men that we are moulded and
fashioned; and the danger is, to commingle and confuse the impressions
made upon our hearts, to cross the writing on our natures so often that
nothing remains legible! “I will guard against this peril,” thought I.
“I will concentrate my intentions and travel alone.” I slipped a crown
into a guard’s hand, and whispered, “Put no one in here if you can help
it” As I jogged along, all by myself, I could not help feeling that one
of the highest privileges of wealth must be to be able always to buy
solitude,--to be in a position to say, “None shall invade me. The
world must contrive to go round without a kick from _me_. I am a
self-contained and self-suffering creature.” If I were Rothschild, I ‘d
revel in this sentiment; it places one so immeasurably above that busy
ant-hill where one sees the creatures hurrying, hastening, and
fagging “till their hearts are broken.” One feels himself a superior
intelligence,--a being above the wants and cares of the work-a-day world
around him.

“Any room here?” cried a merry voice, breaking in upon my musing; and
at the same instant a young fellow, in a gray travelling-suit and
a wideawake, flung a dressing-bag and a wrapper carelessly into the
carriage, and so recklessly as to come tumbling over me. He never
thought of apology, however, but continued his remarks to the guard, who
was evidently endeavoring to induce him to take a place elsewhere. “No,
no!” cried the young man; “I’m all right here, and the cove with the
yellow hair won’t object to my smoking.”

I heard these words as I sat in the corner, and I need scarcely say how
grossly the impertinence offended me. That the privacy I had paid for
should be invaded was bad enough, but that my companion should begin
acquaintance with an insult was worse again; and so I determined on no
account, nor upon any pretext, would I hold intercourse with him, but
maintain a perfect silence and reserve so long as our journey lasted.

There was an insufferable jauntiness and self-satisfaction in every
movement of the new arrival, even to the reckless way he pitched
into the carriage three small white canvas bags, carefully sealed and
docketed; the address--which! read--being, “To H.M.’s Minister and Envoy
at------, by the Hon. Grey Buller, Attaché, &c” So, then, this was one
of the Young Guard of Diplomacy, one of those sucking Talleyrands,
which form the hope of the Foreign Office and the terror of middle-class
English abroad.

“Do you mind smoking?” asked he, abruptly, as he scraped his lucifer
match against the roof of the carriage, showing, by the promptitude of
his action, how little he cared for my reply.

“I never smoke, sir, except in the carriages reserved for smokers,” was
my rebukeful answer.

“And I always do,” said he, in a very easy tone.

Not condescending to notice this rude rejoinder, I drew forth my
newspaper, and tried to occupy myself with its contents.

“Anything new?” asked he, abruptly.

“Not that I am aware, sir. I was about to consult the paper.”

“What paper is it?”

“It is the ‘Banner,’ sir,--at your service,” said I, with a sort of
sarcasm.

“Rascally print; a vile, low, radical, mill-owning organ. Pitch it
away!”

“Certainly not, sir. Being for _me_ and _my_ edification, I will beg to
exercise my own judgment as to how I deal with it.”

“It’s deuced low, that’s what it is, and that’s exactly the fault of
all our daily papers. Their tone is vulgar; they reflect nothing of the
opinions one hears in society. Don’t you agree with me?”

I gave a sort of muttering dissent, and he broke in quickly,--“Perhaps
not; it’s just as likely _you_ would not think them low, but take _my_
word for it, _I’m_ right.”

I shook my head negatively, without speaking.

“Well, now,” cried he, “let us put the thing to the test Read out one of
those leaders. I don’t care which, or on what subject Read it out, and
I pledge myself to show you at least one vulgarism, one flagrant outrage
on good breeding, in every third sentence.”

“I protest, sir,” said I, haughtily, “I shall do no such thing. I have
come here neither to read aloud nor take up the defence of the public
press.”

“I say, look out!” cried he; “you ‘ll smash something in that bag you
‘re kicking there. If I don’t mistake, it’s Bohemian glass. No, no; all
right,” said he, examining the number, “it’s only Yarmouth bloaters.”

“I imagined these contained despatches, sir,” said I, with a look of
what he ought to have understood as withering scorn.

“You did, did you?” cried he, with a quick laugh. “Well, I ‘ll bet you
a sovereign I make a better guess about _your_ pack than you ‘ve done
about _mine_.”

“Done, sir; I take you,” said I, quickly.

“Well; you ‘re in cutlery, or hardware, or lace goods, or ribbons, or
alpaca cloth, or drugs, ain’t you?”

“I am not, sir,” was my stern reply.

“Not a bagman?”

“Not a bagman, sir.”

“Well, you ‘re an usher in a commercial academy, or ‘our own
correspondent,’ or a telegraph clerk?”

“I ‘m none of these, sir. And I now beg to remind you, that instead of
one guess, you have made about a dozen.”

“Well, you ‘ve won, there’s no denying it,” said he, taking a sovereign
from his waistcoat-pocket and handing it to me. “It’s deuced odd how
I should be mistaken. I ‘d have sworn you were a bagman!” But for the
impertinence of these last words I should have declined to accept his
lost bet, but I took it now as a sort of vindication of my wounded
feelings. “Now it’s all over and ended,” said he, calmly, “what are
you? I don’t ask out of any impertinent curiosity, but that I hate being
foiled in a thing of this kind. What are you?”

“I ‘ll tell you what I am, sir,” said I, indignantly, for now I was
outraged beyond endurance,--“I ‘ll tell you, sir, what I am, and what I
feel myself,--one singularly unlucky in a travelling-companion.”

“Bet you a five-pound note you’re not,” broke he in. “Give you six to
five on it, in anything you like.”

“It would be a wager almost impossible to decide, sir.”

“Nothing of the kind. Let us leave it to the first pretty woman we see
at the station, the guard of the train, the fellow in the pay-office,
the stoker if you like.”

“I must own, sir, that you express a very confident opinion of your
case.”

“Will you bet?”

“No, sir, certainly not”

“Well, then, shut up, and say no more about it. If a man won’t back his
opinion, the less he says the better.”

I lay back in my place at this, determined that no provocation should
induce me to exchange another word with him. Apparently, he had not made
a like resolve, for he went on: “It’s all bosh about appearances being
deceptive, and so forth. They say ‘not all gold that glitters;’ my
notion is that with a fellow who really knows life, no disguise that was
ever invented will be successful: the way a man wears his hair,”--here
he looked at mine,--“the sort of gloves he has, if there be anything
peculiar in his waistcoat, and, above all, his boots. I don’t believe
the devil was ever more revealed in his hoof than a snob by his shoes.”
 A most condemnatory glance at my extremities accompanied this speech.

“Must I endure this sort of persecution all the way to Dover?” was the
question I asked of my misery.

“Look out, you’re on fire!” said he, with a dry laugh. And sure enough,
a spark from his cigarette had fallen on my trousers, and burned a round
hole in them.

“Really, sir,” cried I, in passionate warmth, “your conduct becomes
intolerable.”

“Well, if I knew you preferred being singed, I’d have said-nothing about
it. What’s this station here? Where’s your ‘Bradshaw’?”

“I have got no ‘Bradshaw,’ sir,” said I, with dignity.

“No ‘Bradshaw ‘! A bagman without ‘Bradshaw’! Oh, I forgot, you ain’t
a bagman. Why are we stopping here? Something smashed, I suspect. Eh!
what! isn’t that she? Yes, it is! Open the door!--let me out, I say!
Confound the lock!--let me out!” While he uttered these words, in an
accent of the wildest impatience, I had but time to see a lady, in deep
mourning, pass on to a carriage in front, just as, with a preliminary
snort, the train shook, then backed, and at last set out on its
thundering course again. “Such a stunning fine girl!” said he, as he
lighted a fresh cigar; “saw her just as we started, and thought I ‘d run
her to earth in this carriage. Precious mistake I made, eh, was n’t it?
All in black--deep black--and quite alone!”

I had to turn towards the window not to let him perceive how his words
agitated me, for I felt certain it was Miss Herbert he was describing,
and I felt a sort of revulsion to think of the poor girl being subjected
to the impertinence of this intolerable puppy.

“Too much style about her for a governess; and yet, somehow, she
was n’t, so to say--you know what I mean--she was n’t altogether _that_;
looked frightened, and people of real class never look frightened.”

“The daughter of a clergyman, probably,” said I, with a tone of such
reproof as I hoped must check all levity.

“Or a flash maid! some of them, nowadays, are wonderful swells; they ‘ve
got an art of dressing and making-up that is really surprising.”

“I have no experience of the order, sir,” said I, gravely.

“Well, so I should say. _Your_ beat is in the haberdashery or hosiery
line, eh?”

“Has it not yet occurred to you, sir,” asked I, sternly, “that an
acquaintanceship brief as ours should exclude personalities, not to
say--” I wanted to add “impertinences;” but his gray eyes were turned
full on me, with an expression so peculiar that I faltered, and could
not get the word out.

“Well, go on,--out with it: not to say what?” said he, calmly.

I turned my shoulder towards him, and nestled down into my place.

“There’s a thing, now,” said he, in a tone of the coolest
reflection,--“there’s a thing, now, that I never could understand, and
I have never met the man to explain it. Our nation, as a nation, is just
as plucky as the French,--no one disputes it; and yet take a Frenchman
of _your_ class,--the _commis-voyageur_, or anything that way,--and you
‘ll just find him as prompt on the point of honor as the best noble in
the land. He never utters an insolent speech without being ready to back
it.”

I felt as if I were choking, but I never uttered a word.

“I remember meeting one of those fellows--traveller for some house
in the wine trade--at Avignon. It was at _table d’hote_, and I said
something slighting about Communism, and he replied, ‘_Monsieur, je suis
Fouriériste_, and you insult me.’ Thereupon he sent me his card by the
waiter,--‘Paul Déloge, for the house of Gougon, _père et fils_.’ I tore
it, and threw it away, saying, ‘I never drink Bordeaux wines.’ ‘What do
you say to a glass of Hermitage, then?’ said he, and flung the contents
of his own in my face. Wasn’t that very ready? _I_ call it as neat a
thing as could be.”

“And you bore that outrage,” said I, in triumphant delight; “you
submitted to a flagrant insult like that at a public table?”

“I don’t know what you call ‘bearing it,’” said he; “the thing was done,
and I had only to wipe my face with my napkin.”

“Nothing more?” said I, sneeringly.

“We went out, afterwards, if you mean _that_,” said he, quietly, “and he
ran me through here.” As he spoke, he proceeded, in leisurely fashion,
to unbutton the wrist of his shirt, and, baring his arm midway, showed
me a pinkish cicatrice of considerable extent. “It went, the doctor
said, within a hair’s-breadth of the artery.”

I made no comment upon this story. From the moment I heard it, I felt as
though I was travelling with the late Mr. Palmer, of Rugeley. I was as
it were in the company of one who never would have scrupled to dispose
of me, at any moment and in any way that his fancy suggested. My code
respecting the duel was to regard it as the last, the very last, appeal
in the direst emergency of dishonor. The men who regarded it as the
settlement of slight differences, I deemed assassins. They were no more
safe associates for peaceful citizens than a wolf was a meet companion
for a flock of South Downs. The more I ruminated on this theme, the
more indignant grew my resentment, and the question assumed the shape of
asking, “Is the great mass of mankind to be hectored and bullied by some
half-dozen scoundrels with skill at the small sword?” Little knew I that
in the ardor of my indignation I had uttered these words aloud,--spoken
them with an earnest vehemence, looking my fellow-traveller full in the
face, and frowning.

“Scoundrel is strong, eh?” said he, slowly; “_very_ strong!”

“Who spoke of a scoundrel?” asked I, in terror, for his confounded calm,
cold manner made my very blood run chilled.

“Scoundrel is exactly the sort of word,” added he, deliberately, “that
once uttered can only be expiated in one way. You do not give me the
impression of a very bright individual, but certainly you can understand
so much.”

I bowed a dignified assent; my heart was in my mouth as I did it, and
I could not, to save my life, have uttered a word. My predicament was
highly perilous; and all incurred by what?--that passion for adventure
that had led me forth out of a position of easy obscurity into a world
of strife, conflict, and difficulty. Why had I not stayed at home? What
foolish infatuation had ever suggested to me the Quixotism of these
wanderings? Blondel had done it all. Were it not for Blondel, I had
never met Father Dyke, talked myself into a stupid wager, lost what was
not my own; in fact, every disaster sprang out of the one before it,
just as twig adheres to branch and branch to trunk. Shall I make a clean
breast of it, and tell my companion my whole story? Shall I explain to
him that at heart I am a creature of the kindliest impulses and most
generous sympathies, that I overflow with good intentions towards my
fellows, and that the problem I am engaged to solve is how shall I
dispense most happiness? Will he comprehend me? Has he a nature
to appreciate an organization so fine and subtle as mine? Will he
understand that the fairy who endows us with our gifts at birth is
reckoned to be munificent when she withholds only one high quality, and
with me that one was courage? I mean the coarse, vulgar, combative
sort of courage that makes men prizefighters and bargees; for as to
the grander species of courage, I imagine it to be my distinguishing
feature.

The question is, will he give me a patient hearing, for my theory
requires nice handling, and some delicacy in the developing? He may cut
me short in his bluff, abrupt way, and say, “Out with it, old fellow,
you want to sneak out of this quarrel.” What am I to reply? I shall
rejoin: “Sir, let us first inquire if it be a quarrel. From the time of
Atrides down to the Crimean war, there has not been one instance of
a conflict that did not originate in misconceptions, and has not been
prolonged by delusions! Let us take the Peloponnesian war.” A short
grunt beside me here cut short my argumentation. He was fast, sound
asleep, and snoring loudly. My thoughts at once suggested escape. Could
I but get away, I fancied I could find space in the world, never again
to see myself his neighbor.

The train was whirling along between deep chalk cuttings, and at a
furious pace; to leap out was certain death. But was not the same fate
reserved for me if I remained? At last I heard the crank-crank of
the break! We were nearing a station; the earth walls at either side
receded; the view opened; a spire of a church, trees, houses appeared;
and, our speed diminishing, we came bumping, throbbing, and snorting
into a little trim garden-like spot, that at the moment seemed to me a
paradise.

I beckoned to the guard to let me out,--to do it noiselessly I slipped a
shilling into his band. I grasped my knapsack and my wrapper, and stole
furtively away. Oh, the happiness of that moment as the door closed
without awakening him!

“Anywhere--any carriage--what class you please,” muttered I. “There,
yonder,” broke I in, hastily,--“where that lady in mourning has just got
in.”

“All full there, sir,” replied the man; “step in here.”: And away we
went.

My compartment contained but one passenger; he wore a gold band round
his oil-skin cap, and seemed the captain of a mail steamer, or Admiralty
agent; he merely glanced at me as I came in, and went on reading his
newspaper.

“Going north, I suppose?” said he, bluntly, after a pause of some time.
“Going to Germany?”

“No” said I, rather astonished at his giving me this destination. “I ‘m
for Brussels.”

“We shall have a rough night of it, outside; glass is falling suddenly,
and the wind has chopped round to the southward and eastward!”

“I’m sorry for it,” said I. “I’m but an indifferent sailor.”

“Well, I ‘ll tell you what to do: just turn into my cabin, you ‘ll
have it all to yourself; lie down flat on your back the moment you
get aboard; tell the steward to give you a strong glass of
brandy-and-water--the captain’s brandy say, for it is rare old stuff,
and a perfect cordial, and my name ain’t Slidders if you don’t sleep all
the way across.”

I really had no words for such unexpected generosity; how was I to
believe my ears at such a kind proposal of a perfect stranger? Was it
anything in my appearance that could have marked me out as an object
for these attentions? “I don’t know how to thank you enough,” said I, in
confusion; “and when I think that we meet now for the first time--”

“What does that signify?” said he, in the same short way. “I ‘ve met
pretty nigh all of you by this time. I ‘ve been a matter of eleven years
on this station!”

“Met pretty nigh all of us!” What does that mean? Who and what are we?
He can’t mean the Pottses, for I ‘m the first who ever travelled even
thus far! But I was not given leisure to follow up the inquiry, for he
went on to say how in all that time of eleven years he had never seen
threatenings of a worse night than that before us.

“Then why venture out?” asked I, timidly.

“They must have the bags over there; that’s the reason,” said he,
curtly: “besides, who’s to say when he won’t meet dirty weather at
sea,--one takes rough and smooth in this life, eh?”

The observation was not remarkable for originality, but I liked it. I
like the reflective turn, no matter how beaten the path it may select
for its exercise.

“It’s a short trip,--some five or six hours at most,” said he; “but
it’s wonderful what ugly weather one sees in it. It’s always so in these
narrow seas.”

“Yes,” said I, concurringly, “these petty channels, like the small
events of our life, are often the sources of our greatest perils.”

He gave a little short grunt: it might have been assent, and it might
possibly have been a rough protest against further moralizing; at all
events, he resumed his paper, and read away without speaking. I had time
to examine him well, now, at my leisure, and there was nothing in his
face that could give me any clew to the generous nature of his offer
to me. No, he was a hard-featured, weather-beaten, rather stern sort of
man, verging on fifty seven or eight. He looked neither impulsive nor
confiding, and there was in the shape of his mouth, and the curve of the
lines around it, that peremptory and almost cruel decision that marks
the sea-captain. “Well,” thought I, “I must seek the explanation of the
riddle elsewhere. The secret sympathy that moved him must have its root
in _me_; and, after all, history has never told that the dolphins
who were charmed by Orpheus were peculiar dolphins, with any special
fondness for music, or an ear for melody; they were ordinary creatures
of the deep,--fish, so to say, taken _ex-medio acervo_ of delphinity.
The marvel of their captivation lay in the spell of the enchanter. It
was the thrilling touch of _his_ fingers, the tasteful elegance of _his_
style, the voluptuous inthralment of the sounds _he_ awakened, that
worked the miracle. This man of the sea has, therefore, been struck
by something in my air, bearing, or address; one of those mysterious
sympathies which are the hidden motives that guide half our lives, had
drawn him to me, and he said to himself, ‘I like that man. I have met
more pretentious people, I have seen persons who desire to dominate and
impose more than he, but there is that about him that somehow appeals
to the instincts of my nature, and I can say I feel myself his friend
already.’”

As I worked at my little theory, with all the ingenuity I knew how to
employ on such occasions, I perceived that he had put up his newspaper,
and was gathering together, in old traveller fashion, the odds and ends
of his baggage.

“Here we are,” said he, as we glided into the station, “and in capital
time too. Don’t trouble yourself about your traps. My steward will be
here presently, and take all your things down to the packet along with
my own. Our steam is up; so lose no time in getting aboard.”

I had never less inclination to play the loiterer. The odious _attaché_
was still in my neighborhood, and until I had got clear out of his reach
I felt anything but security. _He_, I remembered, was for Calais, so
that, by taking the Ostend boat, I was at once separating myself from
his detestable companionship. I not only, therefore, accepted the
captain’s offer to leave all my effects to the charge of the steward;
but no sooner had the train stopped, than I sprang out, hastened through
the thronged station, and made at all my speed for the harbor.

Is it to increase the impediments to quitting one’s country, and, by
interposing difficulties, to give the exile additional occasion to think
twice about expatriating himself, that the way from the railroad to the
dock at Dover is made so circuitous and almost impossible to discover?
Are these obstacles invented in the spirit of those official details
which make banns on the church-door, and a delay of three weeks precede
a marriage, as though to say, Halt, impetuous youth, and bethink you
whither you are going? Are these amongst the wise precautions of a truly
paternal rule? If so, they must occasionally even transcend the original
intention, for when I reached the pier, the packet had already begun to
move, and it was only by a vigorous leap that I gained the paddle-box,
and thus scrambled on board.

“Like every one of you,” growled out my weather-beaten friend; “always
within an ace of being left behind.”

“Every one of us!” muttered I. “What can he have known of the Potts
family, that he dares to describe us thus characteristically? And who
ever presumed to call us loiterers or sluggards?”

“Step down below, as I told you,” whispered he. “It’s a dirty night, and
we shall have bucketing weather outside.” And with this friendly hint I
at once complied, and stole down the ladder. “Show that gentleman into
my stateroom, steward,” called he out from above. “Mix him something
warm, and look after him.”

“Ay, ay, sir,” was the brisk reply, as the bustling man of brandy and
basins threw open a small door, and ushered me into a little den, with
a mingled odor of tar, Stilton, and wet mackintoshes. “All to yourself
here, sir,” said he, and vanished.



CHAPTER XI. A JEALOUS HUSBAND.

I take it for granted that all special “charities” have had their origin
in some specific suffering. At least, I can aver that my first thought
on landing at Ostend was, “Why has no great philanthropist thought
of establishing such an institution as a Refuge for the Sea-sick?”
 I declare this publicly, that if I ever become rich,--a consummation
which, looking to the general gentleness of my instincts, the wide
benevolence of my nature, and the kindliness of my temperament, mankind
might well rejoice at,--if, I repeat, I ever become rich, one of the
first uses of my affluence will be to endow such an establishment.
I will place it in some one of our popular ports, say Southampton.
Surrounded with all the charms of inland scenery, rich in every rustic
association, the patient shall never be reminded of the scene of his
late sufferings. A velvety turf to stroll on, with a leafy shade above
his-head, the mellow lowing of cattle in his ears, and the fragrant
odors of meadow-sweet and hawthorn around, I would recall the sufferer
from the dread memories of the slippery deck, the sea-washed stairs, or
the sleepy state-room. For the rattle of cordage, and the hoarse
trumpet of the skipper, I would substitute the song of the thrush or the
blackbird; and, instead of the thrice odious steward and his basin, I
would have trim maidens of pleasing aspect to serve him with syllabubs.
I will not go on to say the hundred device» I would employ to cheat
memory out of a gloomy record, for I treasure the hope that I may yet
live to carry out my theory, and have a copyright in my invention.

It was with sentiments deeply tinctured by the above that I tottered,
rather than walked, towards the “Hôtel Royal.” It was a bright moonlight
night, and, as if in mockery of the weather outside, as still and calm
as might be. Many a picturesque effect of light and shade met me as I
went: quaint old gables flaring in a strong flood of moonlight, showed
outlines the strangest and oddest; twinkling lamps shone out of tall,
dark-sided, old houses, from which strains of music came plaintively
enough in the night air; the sounds of a prolonged revel rose loudly
out of that deep-pillared chateau-like building in the Place, and in the
quiet alley adjoining, I could catch the low song of a mother as she
tried to sing her baby to sleep. It was all human in every touch and
strain of it And did I not drink it in with rapture? Was it not in a
transport of gratitude that I thanked Fortune for once again restoring
me to land? “O Earth, Earth!” says the Greek poet, “how art thou
interwoven with that nature that first came from thee!” Thus musing, I
reached the inn, where, though the hour was a late one, the household
was all active and astir.

“Many passengers arrived, waiter?” said I, in the easy, careless voice
of one who would not own to sea-sickness.

“Very few, sir; the severe weather has deterred several from venturing
across.”

“Any ladies?”

“Only one, sir; and, poor thing! she seems to have suffered fearfully.
She had to be carried from the boat, and when she tried to walk
upstairs, she almost fainted. There might have been some agitation,
however, in that, for she expected some one to have met her here; and
when she heard that he had not arrived, she was completely overcome.”

“Very sad, indeed,” said I, examining the _carte_ for supper.

“Oh yes, sir; and being in deep mourning, too, and a stranger away for
the first time from her country.”

I started, and felt my heart bounding against my side.

“What was it you said about deep mourning, and being young and
beautiful?” asked I, eagerly.

“Only the mourning, sir,--it was only the mourning I mentioned; for she
kept her veil close down, and would not suffer her face to be seen.”

“Bashful as beautiful! modest as she is fair!” muttered I. “Do you
happen to know whither she is going?”

“Yes, sir; her luggage is marked ‘Brussels.’”

“It is she! It is herself!” cried I, in rapture, as I turned away, lest
the fellow should notice my emotion. “When does she leave this?”

“She seems doubtful, sir; she told the landlady that she is going
to reside at Brussels; but never having been abroad before, she is
naturally timid about travelling even so far alone.”

“Gentle creature! why should she be exposed to such hazards? Bring me
some of this fricandeau with chiccory, waiter, and a pint of Beaune;
fried potatoes too.--Would that I could tell her to fear nothing!”
 thought I. “Would that I could just whisper, ‘Potts is here; Potts
watches over you; Potts will be that friend, that brother, that should
have come to meet you! Sleep soundly, and with a head at ease. You are
neither friendless nor forsaken!’” I feel I must be naturally a creature
of benevolent instincts; for I am never so truly happy as when engaged
in a work of kindness. Let me but suggest to myself a labor of charity,
some occasion to sorrow with the afflicted, to rally the weak-hearted,
and to succor the wretched, and I am infinitely more delighted than
by all the blandishment of what is called “society.” Men have their
allotted parts in life, just as certain fruits are meet for certain
climates. Mine was the grand comforting line. Nature meant me for a
consoler. I have none of those impulsive temperaments which make what
are called jolly fellows. I have no taste for those excesses which go
by the name of conviviality. I can, it is true, be witty, anecdotic,
and agreeable; I can spice conversation with epigram, and illustrate
argument by apt example; but my forte is tenderness.

“Is not this veal a little tough, waiter?” said I, in gentle
remonstrance.

“Monsieur is right,” said he, bowing; “but if a morsel of cold pheasant
would be acceptable--mademoiselle, the lady in mourning, has just taken
a wing of it--”

“Bring it directly.--Oh, ecstasy of ecstasies! We are then, as it were,
supping together--served from the same dish!--May I have the honor?”
 said I, filling ont a glass of wine and bowing respectfully And with an
air of deep devotion across the table. The pheasant was exquisite, and
I ate with an epicurean enjoyment. I called for another pint of Beaune
too. It was an occasion for some indulgence, and I could not deny
myself. No sooner had the waiter left me alone, than I burst into an
expansive acknowledgment of my happiness. “Yes, Potts,” said I, “you are
richer in that temperament of yours than if you owned half California.
That boundless wealth of good intentions is a well no pumping can
exhaust. Go on doing imaginary good forever. You are never the poorer
for all the orphans you support, all the distresses you relieve. You
rescue the mariner from shipwreck without wetting your feet. You charge
at the head of a squadron without the peril of a scratch. All blessed be
the gift which can do these things!”

You call these delusions; but is it a delusion to be a king, to deliver
a people from slavery, to carry succor to a drowning crew? I have done
all of these; that is, I have gone through every changeful mood of hope
and fear that accompanies these actions, sipping my glass of Beaune
between whiles.

When I found myself in my bedroom I had no inclination for sleep; I
was in a mood of enjoyment too elevated for mere repose. It was so
delightful to be no longer at sea, to feel rescued from the miseries
of the rocking ship and the reeking cabin, that I would not lose the
rapture of forgetful-ness. I was in the mood for great things, too, if I
only knew what they were to be. “Ah!” thought I, suddenly, “I will write
to _her_. She shall know that she is not the friendless and forsaken
creature that she deems herself; she shall hear that, though separated
from home, friends, and country, there is one near to watch over and
protect her, and that Potts devotes himself to her service.” I opened my
desk, and in all the impatience of my ardor began:--

“‘Dear Madam,’--Quere: Ought I to say ‘dear’? ‘We are not acquainted, and
can I presume upon the formula that implies acquaintanceship? No. I
must omit ‘dear;’ and then ‘madam’ looks fearfully stern and rigid,
particularly when addressed to a young unmarried lady; she is certainly
not ‘madam’ yet, surely. I can’t begin ‘miss,’ What a language is
ours? How cruelly fatal to all the tenderer emotions is a dialect so
matter-of-fact and formal!

“If I could only start with ‘Gentilissima Signora,’ how I could get on!
What an impulse would the words lend me! What ‘way on me’ would they
impart for what was to follow! In our cast-metal tongue there is nothing
for it but the third person: ‘The undersigned has the honor,’ &c., &c.
This is chilling--it is positively repulsive. Let me see, will this
do?--

“‘The gentleman who was fortunate enough to render you some trivial
service at the Milford station two days ago, having accidentally learned
that you are here and unprovided with a protector, in all humility
offers himself to afford you every aid and counsel in his power. No
stranger to the touching interest of your life, deeply sensible of the
delicacy that should surround your steps, if you deign to accept his
devoted services, he will endeavor to prove himself, by every sentiment
of respect, your most faithful, most humble, and most grateful servant

“‘P. S. His name is Potts.’

“Yes, all will do but the confounded postscript. What a terrible
bathos,--‘His name is Potts’! What if I say, ‘One word of reply is
requested, addressed to Algernon Sydney Pottinger, at this hotel’?”

I made a great many copies of this document, always changing something
as I went. I felt the importance of every word, and fastidiously
pondered over each expression I employed. The bright sun of morning
broke in at last upon my labors and found me still at my desk, still
composing. All done, I lay down and slept soundly.

“Is she gone, waiter?” said I, as he entered my room with hot water. “Is
she gone?”

“Who, sir?” asked he, in some astonishment.

“The lady in black, who came over in the last mail-packet from Dover;
the young lady in deep mourning, who arrived all alone.”

“No, sir. She has sent all round the hotels this morning to inquire
after some one who was to have met her here, but, apparently, without
success.”

“Give her this; place it in her own hand, and, as you are leaving the
room, say, in a gentle voice: ‘Is there an answer, mademoiselle?’ You
understand?”

“Well, I believe I do,” said he, significantly, as he slyly pocketed the
half-Napoleon fee I had tendered for his acceptance.

Now the fellow had thrown into his countenance--a painfully astute and
cunning face it was--one of those expressive looks which actually made
me shudder. It seemed to say, “This is a conspiracy, and we are both in
it.”

“You are not for a moment to suppose,” said I, hurriedly, “that there
is one syllable in that letter which could compromise me, or wound the
delicacy of the most susceptible.”

“I am convinced that monsieur has written it with most consummate
skill,” said he, with a supercilious grin, and left the room.

How I detest the familiarity of a foreign waiter! The fellows cannot
respond to the most ordinary question without an affectation of showing
off their immense acuteness and knowledge of life. It is their eternal
boast how they read people, and with what an instinctive subtlety they
can decipher all the various characters that pass before them. Now this
impertinent lackey, who is to say what has he not imputed to me? Utterly
incapable as such a creature must necessarily be of the higher and
nobler motives that sway men of my order, he will doubtless have
ascribed to me the most base and degenerate motives.

I was wrong in speaking one word to the fellow. I might have said, “Take
that note to Number Fourteen, and ask if there be an answer;” or, better
still, if I had never written at all, but merely sent in my card to ask
if the lady would vouchsafe to accord me an audience of a few minutes.
Yes, such would have been the discreet course; and then I might have
trusted to my manner, my tact, and a certain something in my general
bearing, to have brought the matter to a successful issue. While I thus
meditated, the waiter re-entered the room, and, cautiously closing
the door, approached me with an ostentatious pretence of secrecy and
mystery.

“I have given her the letter,” said he, in a whisper.

“Speak up!” said I, severely; “what answer has the lady given?”

“I think you ‘ll get the answer presently,” said he, with a sort of grin
that actually thrilled through me.

“You may leave the room,” said I, with dignity, for I saw how the fellow
was actually revelling in the enjoyment of my confusion.

“They were reading it over together for the third time when I came
away,” said he, with a most peculiar look.

“Whom do you mean? Who are they that you speak of?”

“The gentleman that she was expecting. He came by the 9.40 train from
Brussels. Just in time for your note.” As the wretch uttered these
words, a violent ringing of bells resounded along the corridor, and he
rushed out without waiting for more.

I turned in haste to my note-book; various copies of my letter were
there, and I was eager to recall the expressions I had employed in
addressing her. Good heavens! what had I really written? Here were
scraps of all sorts of absurdity; poetry, too! verses to the “Fair
Victim of a Recent War,” with a number of rhymes for the last word,
such as “low,” “snow,” “mow,” &c.,--all evidences of composition under
difficulty.

While I turned over these rough copies, the door opened, and a large,
red-faced, stern-looking man, in a suit of red-brown tweed, and with
a heavy stick in his hand, entered; he closed the door leisurely after
him, and I half thought that I saw him also turn the key in the lock. He
advanced towards me with a deliberate step, and, in a voice measured as
his gait, said,--

“I am Mr. Jopplyn, sir,--I am Mr. Christopher Jopplyn.”

“I am charmed to hear it, sir,” said I, in some confusion, for, without
the vaguest conception of wherefore, I suspected lowering weather ahead.

“May I offer you a chair, Mr. Jopplyn? Won’t you be seated? We are going
to have a lovely day, I fancy,--a great change after yesterday.”

“Your name, sir,” said he, in the same solemnity as before,--“your name
I apprehend to be Porringer?”

“Pottinger, if you permit me; Pottinger, not Porringer.”

“It shall be as you say, sir; I am indifferent what you call yourself.”
 He heaved something that sounded like a hoarse sigh, and proceeded:
“I have come to settle a small account that stands between us. Is that
document your writing?” As he said this, he drew, rather theatrically,
from his breast-pocket the letter I had just written, and extended
it towards me. “I ask, sir,--and I mean you to understand that I will
suffer no prevarication,--is that document in your writing?”

I trembled all over as I took it, and for an instant I determined to
disavow it; but in the same brief space I bethought me that my denial
would be in vain. I then tried to look boldly, and brazen it out; I
fancied to laugh it off as a mere pleasantry, and, failing in courage
for each of these, I essayed, as a last resource, the argumentative and
discussions! line, and said,--

“If you will favor me with an indulgent hearing for a few minutes,
Mr. Jopplyn, I trust to explain to your complete satisfaction the
circumstances of that epistle.”

“Take five, sir,--five,” said he, laying a ponderous silver watch on the
table as he spoke, and pointing to the minute-hand.

“Really, sir,” said I, stung by the peremptory and dictatorial tone he
assumed, “I have yet to learn that intercourse between gentlemen is to
be regulated by clockwork, not to say that I have to inquire by what
right you ask me for this explanation.”

“One minute gone,” said he, solemnly.

“I don’t care if there were fifty,” said I, passionately. “I disclaim
all pretension of a perfect stranger to obtrude himself upon me, and by
the mere assumption of a pompous manner and an imposing air, to inquire
into my private affairs.”

“There are two!” said he, with the same solemnity.

“Who is Mr. Jopplyn,--what is he to me?” cried I, in increased
excitement, “that he presents himself in my apartment like a commissary
of police? Do you imagine, sir, because I am a young man, that
this--this--impertinence “--Lord, what a gulp it cost me!--“is to pass
unpunished? Do you fancy that a red beard and a heavy walking-cane are
to strike terror into me? You may think, perhaps, that I am unarmed--”

“Three!” said he, with a bang of his stick on the floor that made me
actually jump with the stick.

“Leave the room, sir,” said I; “it is my pleasure to be alone,--the
apartment is mine,--I am the proprietor here. A very little sense of
delicacy, a very small amount of good breeding, might show you, that
when a gentleman declines to receive company, when he shows himself
indisposed to the society of strangers--”

“One minute more, now,” said he, in a low growl; while he proceeded to
button up his coat to the neck, and make preparation for some coming
event.

My heart was in my mouth; I gave a glance at the window; it was the
third story, and a leap out would have been fatal. What would I not
have given for one of those weapons I had so proudly proclaimed myself
possessed of! There was not even a poker in the room. I made a spring at
the bell-rope, and before he could interpose, gave one pull that, though
it brought down the cord, resounded through the whole house.

“Time is up, Porringer,” said he, slowly, as he replaced the watch in
his pocket, and grasped his murderous-looking cane.

[Illustration: 132]

There was a large table in the room, and I intrenched myself at once
behind this, armed with a light cane chair, while I screamed murder in
every language I could command. Failing to reach me across the table,
my assailant tried to dodge me by false starts, now at this side, now
at that. Though a large fleshy man, he was not inactive, and it required
all my quickness to escape him. These manoeuvres being unsuccessful, he
very quickly placed a chair beside the table and mounted upon it. I now
hurled my chair at him; he warded off the blow and rushed on; with one
spring I bounded under the table, reappearing at the opposite side
just as he had reached mine. These tactics we now pursued for several
minutes, when my enemy suddenly changed his attack, and, descending from
the table, he turned it on edge; the effort required strength. I seized
the moment and reached the door; I tore it open in some fashion,
gained the stairs, the court, the streets, and ran ever onward with the
wildness of one possessed with no time for thought, nor any knowledge to
guide; I turned left and right, choosing only the narrowest lanes
that presented themselves, and at last came to a dead halt at an open
drawbridge, where a crowd stood waiting to pass.

“How is this? What’s all the hurry for? Where are you running this
fashion?” cried a well-known voice. I turned, and saw the skipper of the
packet.

“Are you armed? Can you defend me?” cried I, in terror; “or shall I leap
in and swim for it?”

“I’ll stand by you. Don’t be afraid, man,” said he, drawing my arm
within his; “no one shall harm you. Were they robbers?”

“No, worse,--assassins!” said I, gulping, for I was heartily ashamed of
my terror, and determined to show “cause why” in the plural.

“Come in here, and have a glass of something,” said he, turning into a
little cabaret, with whose penetralia he seemed not unfamiliar. “You ‘re
all safe here,” said he, as he closed the door of a little room. “Let’s
hear all about it, though I half guess the story already.”

I had no difficulty in perceiving, from my companion’s manner, that
he believed some sudden shock had shaken my faculties, and that my
intellects were for the time deranged; nor was it very easy for me to
assume sufficient calm to disabuse him of his error, and assert my own
perfect coherency. “You have been out for a lark,” said he, laughingly.
“I see it all. You have been at one of those tea-gardens and got into a
row with some stout Fleming. All the young English go through that sort
of thing. Ain’t I right?”

“Never more mistaken in your life, Captain. My conduct since I landed
would not discredit a canon of St. Paul’s. In fact, all my habits,
my tastes, my instincts, are averse to every sort of junketing. I am
essentially retiring, sensitive, And, if you will, over-fastidious in my
choice of associates. My story is simply this.” My reader will readily
excuse my repeating what is already known to him. It is enough if I say
that the captain, although anything rather than mirthful, held his
hand several times over his face, and once laughed out loudly and
boisterously.

“You don’t say it was Christy Jopplyn, do you?” said he, at last. “You
don’t tell me it was Jopplyn?”

“The fellow called himself Jopplyn, but I know nothing of him beyond
that.”

“Why, he’s mad jealous about that wife of his; that little woman with
the corkscrew curls, and the scorbutic face, that came over with us.
Oh! you did not see her aboard, you went below at once, I remember; but
there was, she, in her black ugly, and her old crape shawl--”

“In mourning?”

“Yes. Always in mourning. She never wears anything else, though Christy
goes about in colors, and not particular as to the tint, either.”

There came a cold perspiration over me as I heard these words, and
perceived that my proffer of devotion had been addressed to a married
woman, and the wife of the “most jealous man in Europe.”

“And who is this Jopplyn?” asked I, haughtily, and in all the proud
confidence of my present security.

“He’s a railway contractor,--a shrewd sort of fellow, with plenty of
money, and a good head on his shoulders; sensible on every point except
his Jealousy.”

“The man must be an idiot,” said I, indignantly, “to rush
indiscriminately about the world with accusations of this kind. Who
wants to supplant him? Who seeks to rob him of the affections of his
wife?”

“That’s all very well and very specious,” said he, gravely; “but if
men will deliberately set themselves down at a writing-table, hammering
their brains for fine sentiments, and toiling to find grand expressions
for their passion, it does not require that a husband should be as
jealous as Christy Jopplyn to take it badly. I don’t think I’m a rash or
a hasty man, but I know what I ‘d do in such a circumstance.”

“And pray, what would _you_ do?” said I, half impertinently.

“I ‘d just say,4 Look here, young gent, is this balderdash here your
hand? Well, now, eat your words. Yes, eat them. I mean what I say. Eat
up that letter, seal and all, or, by my oath, I ‘ll break every bone in
your skin!’”

“It is exactly what I intend,” cried a voice, hoarse with passion; and
Jopplyn himself sprang into the room, and dashed at me.

The skipper was a most powerful man, but it required all his strength,
and not very gingerly exercised either, to hold off my enraged
adversary. “Will you be quiet, Christy?” cried he, holding him by the
throat “Will you just be quiet for one instant, or must I knock you
down?”

“Do! do! by all means,” muttered I; for I thought if he were once on the
ground, I could finish him off with a large pewter measure that stood on
the table.

With a rough shake the skipper had at last convinced the other that
resistance was useless, and induced him to consent to a parley.

“Let him only tell you” said he, “what he has told me, Christy.”

“Don’t strike, but hear me,” cried I; and safe in my stockade behind the
skipper, I recounted my mistake.

“And _you_ believe all this?” asked Jopplyn of the skipper, when I had
finished.

“Believe it,--I should think I do! I have known him since he was a child
that high, and I ‘ll answer for his good conduct and behavior.”

Heaven bless you for that bail bond, though endorsed in a lie, honest
ship-captain! and I only hope I may live to requite you for it.

Jopplyn was appeased; but it was the suppressed wrath of a brown bear
rather than the vanquished anger of a man. He had booked himself for
something cruel, and he was miserable to be balked. Nor was I myself--I
shame to own it--an emblem of perfect forgiveness. I know nothing harder
than for a constitutionally timid man of weak proportions to forgive
the bullying superiority of brute force. It is about the greatest trial
human forgiveness can be subjected to; so that when Jopplyn, in a vulgar
spirit of reconciliation, proposed that we should go and dine with him
that day, I declined the invitation with a frigid politeness.

“I wish I could persuade you to change your plans,” said he, “and let
Mrs. J. and myself see you at six.”

“I believe I can answer for him that it is impossible,” broke in the
skipper; while he added in a whisper, “They never _can_ afford any
delay; they have to put on the steam at high pressure from one end of
Europe to t’ other.”

What could he possibly mean by imputing such haste to my movements,
and who were “they” with whom he thus associated me? I would have given
worlds to ask, but the presence of Jopplyn prevented me, and so I
could simply assent with a sort of foolish laugh, and a muttered “Very
true,--quite correct.”

“Indeed, how you manage to be here now, I can scarcely imagine,”
 continued the skipper. “The last of yours that went through this took
a roll of bread and a cold chicken with him into the train, rather than
halt to eat his supper,--but I conclude _you_ know best.”

What confounded mystification was passing through his marine intellects
I could not fathom. To what guild or brotherhood of impetuous travellers
had he ascribed me? Why should I not “take mine ease in mine inn”?
All this was very tantalizing and irritating, and pleading a pressing
engagement, I took leave of them both, and returned to the hotel.

I was in need of rest and a little composure. The incident of the
morning had jarred my nerves and disconcerted me much. But a few hours
ago, and life had seemed to me like a flowery meadow, through which,
without path or track, one might ramble at will; now it rather presented
the aspect of a vulgar kitchen-garden, fenced in, and divided, and
partitioned off, with only a few very stony alleys to walk in. “This
boasted civilization of ours,” exclaimed I, “what is it but snobbery?
Our class distinctions, our artificial intercourses, our hypocritical
professions, our deference for externals,--are they not the flimsiest
pretences that ever were fashioned? Why has no man the courage to make
short work of these, and see the world as it really is? Why has not some
one gone forth, the apostle of frankness and plain speaking, the same
to prince as to peasant? What I would like would be a ramble through the
less visited parts of Europe,--countries in which civilization slants
in just as the rays of a setting sun steal into a forest at evening.
I would buy me a horse. Oh, Blonde.” thought I, suddenly, “am I not in
search of you? Is it not in the hope to recover you that I am here; and,
with you for my companion, am I not content to roam the world, taking
each incident of the way with the calm of one who asks little of his
fellow-man save a kind word as he passes, and a God-speed as he goes?”
 I knew perfectly that, with any other beast for my “mount,” I could
not view the scene of life with the same bland composure. A horse that
started, that tripped, that shied, reared, kicked, craned his neck, or
even shook himself, as certain of these beasts do, would have kept me in
a paroxysm of anxiety and uneasiness, the least adapted of all modes for
thoughtfulness and reflection. Like an ill-assorted union, it would have
given no time save for squabble and recrimination. But Blondel almost
seemed to understand my mission, and lent himself to its accomplishment.
There was none of the obtrusive selfishness of an ordinary horse in his
ways. He neither asked you to remark the glossiness of his skin, nor the
graceful curve of his neck; he did not passage nor curvet Superior to
the petty arts by which vulgar natures present themselves to notice, he
felt that destiny had given him a duty, and he did it.

Thus thinking, I returned once more to the spirit which had first sent
me forth to ramble, to wander through the world, spectator, not actor;
to be with my fellow-men in sympathy, but not in action; to sorrow and
rejoice as they did, but, if possible, to understand life as a drama,
in which, so long as I was the mere audience, I could never be
painfully afflicted or seriously injured by the catastrophe: a wonderful
philosophy, but of which, up to the present, I could not boast any
pre-eminent success.



CHAPTER XII. THE DUCHY OF HESSE-KALBBRATONSTADT

I grew impatient to leave Ostend; every association connected with the
place was unpleasant. I hope I am not unjust in my estimate of it I
sincerely desire to be neither unjust to men nor cities, but I thought
it vulgar and commonplace. I know it is hard for a watering-place to
be otherwise; there is something essentially low in the green-baize
and bathing-house existence,--in that semi-nude sociality, begun on the
sands and carried out into deep water, which I cannot abide. I abhor,
besides, a lounging population in fancy toilets, a procession of donkeys
in scarlet trappings, elderly gentlemen with pocket-telescopes, and
fierce old ladies with camp-stools. The worn-out debauchees come to
recruit for another season of turtle and whitebait; the half-faded
victims of twenty polkas per night, the tiresome politician, pale from
a long session, all fiercely bent on fresh diet and sea-breezes, are
perfect antipathies to me, and I would rather seek companionship in a
Tyrol village than amidst these wounded and missing of a London
season. With all this I wanted to get away from the vicinity of the
Jopplyns,--they were positively odious to me. Is not the man who holds
in his keeping one scrap of your handwriting which displays you in
a light of absurdity, far more your enemy than the holder of your
protested bill? I own I think so. Debt is a very human weakness; like
disease, it attacks the best and the noblest amongst us. You’ may pity
the fellow that cannot meet that acceptance, you may be sorry for the
anxiety it occasions him, the fruitless running here and there, the
protestations, promises, and even lies he goes through, but no sense of
ludicrous scorn mingles with your compassion, none of that contemptuous
laughter with which you read a copy of absurd verses or a maudlin
love-letter.

Imagine the difference of tone in him who says: “That’s an old bill of
poor Potto’s; he ‘ll never pay it now, and I ‘m sure I ‘ll never ask
him.” Or, “Just read those lines; would you believe that any creature
out of Ham well could descend to such miserable drivel as that? It was
one Potts who wrote it.”

I wonder, could I obtain my manuscript from Jopplyn before I started.
What pretext could I adduce for the request? While I thus pondered, I
packed up my few wearables in my knapsack and prepared for the road.
They were, indeed, a very scanty supply, and painfully suggested to
my mind the estimate that waiters and hotel-porters must form of their
owner. “Cruel world,” muttered I, “whose maxim is, ‘By their outsides
shall ye judge them.’ Had I arrived here with a travelling-carriage and
a ‘fourgon,’ what respect and deference had awaited me,--how courteous
the landlord, how obliging the head-waiter! Twenty attentions which
could not be charged for in the bill had been shown me; and even had
I, in superb dignity, declined to descend from my carriage while the
post-horses were being harnessed, a levee of respectful flunkeys would
have awaited my orders. I have no doubt but there must be something very
intoxicating in all this homage. The smoke of the hecatombs must have
affected Jove as a sort of chloroform, or else he would never have sat
there sniffing them for centuries. Are you ever destined to experience
these sensations, Potts? Is there a time coming when anxious ears will
strain to catch your words, and eyes watch eagerly for your slightest
gestures? If such an era should ever come, it will be a great one for
the masses of mankind, and an evil one for snobbery. Such a lesson as I
will read the world on humility in high places, such an example will I
give of one elevated, but uncorrupted by fortune.”

“Let the carriage come to the door,” said I, closing my eyes, as I sunk
into my chair in revery. “Tell my people to prepare the entire of the
‘Hôtel de Belle Vue’ for my arrival, and my own cook to preside in the
kitchen.”

“Is this to go by the omnibus?” said the waiter, suddenly, on entering
my room in haste. He pointed to my humble knapsack.

“Yes,” said I, in deep confusion,--“yes, that’s my luggage,--at least,
all that I have here at this moment. Where is the bill? Very moderate,
indeed,” muttered I, in a tone of approval. “I will take care to
recommend your house; attendance prompt, and the wines excellent.”

“Monsieur is complimentary,” said the fellow, with a grin; “he only
experimented upon a ‘small Beaune’ at one-twenty the bottle.”

I scowled at him, and he shrank again.

“And this _objet_ is also monsieur’s,” said he, taking up a small white
canvas bag which was enclosed in my railroad wrapper.

“What is it?” cried I, taking it up. I almost fell back as I saw that
it was one of the despatch-bags of the Foreign Office, which in my hasty
departure from the Dover train I had accidentally carried off with me.
There it was, addressed to “Sir Shalley Doubleton, H.M.’s Envoy and
Minister at Hesse-Kalbbratonstadt, by the Hon. Grey Buller, Attaché,”
 &c.

Here was not alone what might be construed into a theft, but what it was
well possible, might comprise one of the gravest offences against the
law: it might be high treason itself! Who would ever credit my story,
coupled as it was with the fact of my secret escape from the carriage;
my precipitate entrance into the first place I could find, not to speak
of the privacy I observed by not mixing with the passengers in the
mail packet, by keeping myself estranged from all observation in the
captain’s cabin? Here, too, was the secret of the skipper’s politeness
to me: he saw the bag, and believed me to be a Foreign Office messenger,
and this was his meaning, as he said, “I can answer for him, he can’t
delay much here.” Yes; this was the entire mystification by which I
obtained his favor, his politeness, and his protection. What was to be
done in this exigency? Had the waiter not seen the bag, and with the
instincts of his craft calmly perused the address on it, I believe--nay,
I am quite convinced--I should have burned it and its contents on
the spot. The thought of his evidence against me in the event of a
discovery, however, entirely routed this notion, and, after a brief
consideration I resolved to convey the bag to its destination, and trump
up the most plausible explanation I could of the way it came into my
possession. His Excellency, I reasoned, will doubtless be too delighted
to receive his despatches to inquire very minutely as to the means by
which they were recovered, nor is it quite impossible that he may
feel bound to mark my zeal for the public service by some token of
recognition. This was a pleasant turn to give to my thoughts, and I took
it with all the avidity of my peculiar temperament. “Yes,” thought I,
“it is just out of trivial incidents like this a man’s fortune is made
in life. For one man who mounts to greatness by the great entrance and
the state staircase, ten thousand slip in by _la petite Porte_. It
is, in fact, only by these chances that obscure genius obtains
acknowledgment How, for example, should this great diplomatist know
Potts if some accident should not throw them together? Raleigh flung
his laced jacket in a puddle, and for his reward he got a proud Queen’s
favor. A village apothecary had the good fortune to be visiting the
state apartments at the Pavilion when George the Fourth was seized with
a fit; he bled him, brought him back to consciousness, and made him
laugh by his genial and quaint humor. The king took a fancy to him,
named him his physician, and made his fortune. I have often heard it
remarked by men who have seen much of life, that nobody, not one, goes
through the world without two or three such opportunities presenting
themselves. The careless, the indolent, the unobservant, and the idle,
either fail to remark, or are too slow to profit by them. The sharp
fellows, on the contrary, see in such incidents all that they need to
lead them to success. Into which of these categories you are to enter,
Potts, let this incident decide.”

Having by a reference to my John Murray ascertained the whereabouts of
the capital of Hesse-Kalbbratonstadt, I took my place at once on the
rail for Cologne, reading myself up on its beauty and its belongings as
I went There is, however, such a dreary sameness in these small Ducal
states, that I am ashamed to say how little I gleaned of anything
distinctive in the case before me. The reigning sovereign was, of
course, married to a Grand Duchess of Russia, and he lived at a
country-seat called Ludwig’s Lust, or Carl’s Lust, as it might be, “took
little interest in politics,”--how should he?--and “passed much of
his time in mechanical pursuits, in which he had attained considerable
proficiency;” in other words, he was a middle-aged gentleman, fond of
his pipe, and with a taste for carpentry. Some sort of connection with
our own royal family had been the pretext for having a resident minister
at his court, though what he was to do when he was there seemed not
so easy to say. Even John, glorious John, was puzzled how to make a
respectable half-page out of his capital, though there was a dome in the
Byzantine style, with an altarpiece by Peter von Grys, the angels in
the corner being added afterwards by Hans Lûders; and there was a
Hof Theatre, and an excellent inn, the “Schwein,” by Kramm, where the
sausages of home manufacture were highly recommendable, no less than a
table wine of the host’s vineyard, called “Magenschmerzer,” and which,
Murray adds, would doubtless, if known, find many admirers in England;
and lastly, but far from leastly, there was a Music Garten, where
popular pieces were performed very finely by an excellent German band,
and to which promenade all the fashion of the capital nightly resorted.

I give you all these details, respected reader, just as I got them in my
“Northern Germany,” and not intending to obtrude any further description
of my own upon you; for who, I would ask, could amplify upon his
Handbook? What remains to be noted after John has taken the inventory?
Has he forgotten a nail or a saint’s shin-bone? With him for a guide, a
man may feel that he has done his Em-ope conscientiously; and though it
be hard to treasure up all the hard names of poets, painters, priests,
and warriors, it is not worse than botany, and about as profitable.

For the same reason that I have given above, I spare my reader all
the circumstances of my journey, my difficulties about carriage, my
embarrassments about steamboats and cab fares, which were all of the
order that Brown and Jones have experienced, are experiencing, and will
continue to experience, till the arrival of that millenary period when
we shall all converse in any tongue we please.

It was at nightfall that I drove into Kalbbratonstadt, my postilion
announcing my advent at the gates, and all the way to the Platz where
the inn stood, by a volley of whip-crackings which might have announced
a Grand-Duke or a prima donna. Some casements were hastily opened, as
we rumbled along, and the guests of a _café_ issued hurriedly into
the street to watch us; but these demonstrations over, I gained the
“Schwein” without further notice, and descended.

Herr Krainm looked suspiciously at the small amount of luggage of the
traveller who arrived by “extra post,” but, like an honest German, he
was not one to form rash judgments, and so he showed me to a comfortable
apartment, and took my orders for supper in all respectfulness.
He waited upon me also at my meal, and gave me opportunity for
conversation. While I ate my Carbonade mit Kartoffel-Salad, therefore, I
learned that, being already nine o’clock, it was far too late an hour
to present myself at the English Embassy,--for so he designated our
minister’s residence; that, at this advanced period of the night there
were but few citizens out of their beds: the Ducal candle was always
extinguished at half-past eight, and only roisterers and revellers kept
it up much later. My first surprise over, I owned I liked all this.
It smacked of that simple patriarchal existence I had so long yearned
after. Let the learned explain it, but there is, I assert, something in
the early hours of a people that guarantee habits of simplicity, thrift,
and order. It is all very well to say that people can be as wicked at
eight in the evening as at two or three in the morning; that crime cares
little for the clock, nor does vice respect the chronometer; but does
experience confirm this, and are not the small hours notorious for the
smallest moralities? The Grand-Duke, who is fast asleep at nine, is
scarcely disturbed by dreams of cruelties to his people. The police
minister, who takes his bedroom candle at the same hour, is seldom
harassed by devising new schemes of torture for his victims. I suffered
my host to talk largely of his town and its people; and probably such
a listener rarely presented himself, for he certainly improved the
occasion. He assured me, with a gravity that vouched for the conviction,
that the capital, though by no means so dear as London or Paris,
contained much, if not all, these more pretentions cities could boast.
There was a court, a theatre, a promenade, a public fountain, and a new
jail, one of the largest in all Germany. Jenny Lind had once sung at the
opera on her way to Vienna; and to prove how they sympathized in every
respect with greater centres of population, when the cholera raged at
Berlin, they, too, lost about four hundred of their townsfolk. Lastly,
he mentioned, and this boastfully, that though neither wanting organs
of public opinion, nor men of adequate ability to guide them, the
Kalbbratoners had never mixed themselves up in politics, but proudly
maintained that calm and dignified attitude which Europe would one day
appreciate; that is, if she ever arrived at the crowning knowledge of
the benefit of letting her differences be decided by some impartial
umpire.

More than once, as I heard him, I muttered to myself, “Potts, this is
the very spot you have sought for; here is all the tranquil simplicity
of the village, with the elevated culture of a great city. Here
are sages and philosophers clad in homespun, Beauty herself in
linsey-woolsey. Here there are no vulgar rivalries of riches, no
contests in fine clothes, no opposing armies of yellow plush. Men are
great by their faculties, not in their flunkeys. How elevated must be
the tone of their thoughts, the style of their conversation! and what a
lucky accident it was that led you to that goal to which all your wishes
and hopes have been converging!--For how much can a man live--a single
gentleman like myself--here in your city?” asked I of my host.

He sat down at this, and, filling himself a large goblet of my
wine,--the last in the bottle,--he prepared for a lengthy _séance_.

“First of all,” said he, “how would he wish to live? Would he desire
to mingle in our best circles, equal to any in Europe, to know Herr von
Krugwitz, and the Gnadige Frau von Steinhaltz?”

“Well,” thought I, “these be fair ambitions.” And I said, “Yes, both of
them.”

“And to be on the list of the court dinners? There are two yearly, one
at Easter, the other on his Highness’s birthday, whom may Providence
long protect!”

To this also might he aspire.

“And to have a stall at the Grand Opera, and a carriage to return
visits--twice in carnival time--and to live in a handsome quarter, and
dine every day at our _table d’hote_ here with General von Beulwitz and
the Hof rath von Schlaff-richter? A life like this is costly, and would
scarcely be comprised under two thousand florins a year.”

How my heart bounded at the notion of refinement, culture, elevated
minds, and polished habits; “science,” indeed, and the “musical
glasses,” all for one hundred and sixty pounds per annum.

“It is not improbable that you will see me your guest for many a day
to come,” said I, as I ordered another bottle, and of a more generous
vintage, to honor the occasion.

My host offered no opposition to my convivial projects; nay, he aided
them by saying,--

“If you have really an appreciation for something super-excellent in
wine, and wish to taste what Freiligrath calls ‘der Deutschen Nectar,’ I
‘ll go and fetch you a bottle.”

“Bring it by all means,” said I. And away he went on his mission.

“Providence blessed me with two hands,” said he, as he re-entered the
room, “and I have brought two flasks of Lieb Herzentbaler.”

There is something very artistic in the way your picture-dealer, having
brushed away the dust from a Mieris or a Gerard Dow, places the work in
a favorite light before you, and then stands to watch the effect on your
countenance. So, too, will your man of rare manuscripts and illuminated
missals offer to your notice some illegible treasure of the fourth
century; but these are nothing to the mysterious solemnity of him who,
uncorking a bottle of rare wine, waits to note the varying sensations of
your first enjoyment down to your perfect ecstasy.

I tried to perform my part of the piece with credit: I looked long
at the amber-colored liquor in the glass; I sniffed it and smiled
approvingly; the host smiled too, and said, “Ja!” Not another syllable
did he utter, but how expressive was that “Ja!” “Ja!” meant, “You are
right, Potts, it is the veritable wine of 1764, bottled for the Herzog
Ludwig’s marriage; every drop of it is priceless. Mark the odor, how it
perfumes the air around us; regard the color--the golden hair of Venus
can alone rival it; see how the oily globules cling to the glass!” “Ja!”
 meant all this, and more.

As I drank off my glass, I was sorely puzzled by the precise expression
in which to couch my approval; but he supplied it and said, “Is it not
Gôttlich?” and I said it _was_ Gôttlich; and while we finished the
two bottles, this solitary phrase sufficed for converse between
us, “Gôttlich!” being uttered by each as he drained his glass, and
“Gôttlich!” being re-echoed by his companion.

There is great wisdom in reducing our admiration to a word; giving,
as it were, a cognate number to our estimate of anything. Wherever we
amplify, we usually blunder: we employ epithets that disagree, or, in
even less questionable taste, soar into extravagances that are absurd.
Besides, our moods of highest enjoyment are not such as dispose to
talkativeness; the ecstasy that is most enthralling is self-contained.
Who, on looking at a glorious landscape, does not feel the insufferable
bathos of the descriptive enthusiast beside him? How grateful would
he own himself if he would be satisfied with one word for his
admiration! And if one needs this calm repose, this unbroken peace, for
the enjoyment of scenery, equally is it applicable to our appreciation
of a curious wine. I have no recollection that any further conversation
passed between us, but I have never ceased, and most probably never
shall cease, to have a perfect memory of the pleasant ramble of my
thoughts as I sat there sipping, sipping. I pondered long over a plan
of settling down in this place for life, by what means I could realize.
sufficient to live in that elevated sphere the host spoke of. If Potts
père--I mean my father--were to learn that I were received in the
highest circles, admitted to all that was most socially exclusive, would
he be induced to make an adequate provision for me? He was an ambitious
and a worldly man; would he see in these beginnings of mine the seeds of
future greatness? Fathers, I well knew, are splendidly generous to
their successful children, and “the poor they send empty away.” It is
so pleasant to aid him who does not need assistance, and such a hopeless
task to be always saving him who _will_ be drowned.

My first care, therefore, should be to impress upon my parent the
appropriateness of his contributing his share to what already was an
accomplished success. “Wishing, as the French say, to make you a part in
my triumph, dear father, I write these lines.” How I picture him to my
mind’s eye as he reads this, running frantically about to his neighbors,
and saying, “I have got a letter from Algy,--strange boy,--but as I
always foresaw, with great stuff in him, very remarkable abilities. See
what he has done,--struck out a perfect line of his own in life; just
the sort of thing genius alone can do. He went off from this one’
morning by way of a day’s excursion, never returned,--never wrote. All
my efforts to trace him were in vain. I advertised, and offered rewards,
did everything, without success; and now, after all this long interval,
comes a letter by this morning’s post to tell me that he is well, happy,
and prosperous. He is settled, it appears, in a German capital with a
hard name, a charming spot, with every accessory of enjoyment in it:
men of the highest culture, and women of most graceful and attractive
manner; as he himself writes, ‘the elegance of a Parisian _salon_ added
to the wisdom of the professor’s cabinet.’ Here is Algy living with all
that is highest in rank and most distinguished in station; the favored
guest of the Prince, the bosom friend of the English minister; his
advice sought for, his counsel asked in every difficulty; trusted in the
most important state offices, and taken into the most secret counsels
of the duchy. Though the requirements of his station make heavy demands
upon his means, very little help from me will enable him to maintain
a position which a few years more will have consolidated into a rank
recognized throughout Europe.” Would the flintiest of fathers, would the
most primitive rock-hearted of parents, resist an appeal like this? It
is no hand to rescue from the waves is sought, but a little finger to
help to affluence. “Of course you ‘ll do it, Potts, and do it liberally;
the boy is a credit to you. He will place your name where you never
dreamed to see it. What do you mean to settle on him? Above all things,
no stinginess; don’t disgust him.”

I hear these and such-like on every hand; even the most close-fisted and
miserly of our acquaintances will be generous of their friend’s money;
and I think I hear the sage remarks with which they season advice with
touching allusions to that well-known ship that was lost for want of a
small outlay in tar. “Come down handsomely, Potts,” says a resolute man,
who has sworn never to pay a sixpence of his son’s debts. “What better
use can we make of our hoardings than to render our young people happy?”
 I don’t like the man who says this, but I like his sentiments; and I
am much pleased when he goes on to remark that “there is no such good
investment as what establishes a successful son. Be proud of the boy,
Potts, and thank your stars that he had a soul above senna, and a spirit
above sal volatile!”

As I invent all this play of dialogue for myself, and picture the speakers
before me, I come at last to a small peevish little fellow named Lynch,
a merchant tailor, who lived next door to us, and enjoyed much of my
father’s confidence. “So they tell me you have heard from that runaway
of yours, Potts. Is it true? What face does he put upon his disgraceful
conduct? What became of the livery-stable-keeper’s horse? Did he sell
him, or ride him to death? A bad business if he should ever come back
again, which, of course, he’s too wise for. And where is he now, and
what is he at?”

“You may read this letter, Mr. Lynch,” replies my father; “he is one who
can speak for himself.” And Lynch reads and sniggers, and reads again.
I see him as plainly as if he were but a yard from me. “I never heard
of this ducal capital before,” he begins, “but I suppose it’s like the
rest of them,--little obscure dens of pretentious poverty, plenty of
ceremony, and very little to eat. How did he find it out? What brought
him there?”

“You have this letter before you, sir,” says my parent, proudly.
“Algernon Sydney is, I imagine, quite competent to explain what relates
to his own affairs.”

“Oh, perfectly, perfectly; only that I can’t really make out how he
first came to this place, nor what it is that he does there now that
he’s in it.”

My father hastily snatches the letter from his hands, and runs his eye
rapidly along to catch the passage which shall confute the objector and
cover him with shame and confusion. He cannot find it at once. “It is
this. No, it is on this side. Very strange, very singular indeed; but as
Algernon must have told me--” Alas! no, father, he has not told you, and
for the simple reason that he does not know it himself. For though I
mentioned with becoming pride the prominent stations Irishmen now hold
in most of the great states of Europe, and pointed to O’Donnel in Spain,
MacMahon in France, and the Field-Marshal Nugent in Austria, I utterly
forgot to designate the high post occupied by Potts in the Duchy of
Hesse-Kalbbratonstadt. To determine what this should be was now of
imminent importance, and I gave myself up to the solution with a degree
of intentness and an amount of concentration that set me off sound
asleep.

Yes, benevolent reader, I will confess it, questions of a complicated
character have always affected me, as the inside of a letter seems to
have struck Tony Lumkin,--“all buzz.” I start with the most loyal desire
to be acute and penetrating; I set myself to my task with as honest
a disposition to do my best as ever man did; I say, “Now, Potts, no
self-indulgence, no skulking; here is a knotty problem, here is a case
for your best faculties in their sharpest exercise;” and if any one come
in upon me about ten minutes after this resolve, he will see a man who
could beat Sancho Panza in sleeping!

Of course this tendency has often cost me dearly; I have missed
appointments, forgotten assignations, lost friends through it. My
character, too, has suffered, many deeming me insupportably indolent, a
sluggard quite unfit for any active employment. Others, more mercifully
hinting at some “cerebral cause,” have done me equal damage; but there
happily is an obverse on the medal, and to this somnolency do I ascribe
much of the gentleness and all the romance of my nature. It is your
sleepy man is ever benevolent, he loves ease and quiet for others as for
himself. What he cultivates is the tranquil mood that leads to slumber,
and the calm that sustains it. The very operations of the mind in sleep
are broken, incoherent, undelineated,--just like the waking occupations
of an idle man; they are thoughts that cost so little to manufacture,
that he can afford to be lavish of them. And now--Good-night!



CHAPTER XIII. I CALL AT THE BRITISH LEGATION.

Breakfast over, I took a walk through the town. Though in a measure
prepared for a scene of unbustling quietude and tranquillity, I must
own that the air of repose around, far surpassed all I had imagined. The
streets through which I sauntered were grass-grown and untrodden; the
shops were but half open; not an equipage, nor even a horseman was to be
seen. In the Platz, where a sort of fruit-market was held, a few vendors
of grapes, peaches, and melons sat under large crimson umbrellas, but
there seemed few purchasers, except a passing schoolboy, carefully
scanning the temptations in which he was about to invest his kreutzer.

The most remarkable feature of the place, however, and it is one which,
through a certain significance, has always held its place in my memory,
was that, go where one would, the palace of the Grand-Duke was sure to
finish the view at one extremity of the street. In fact, every alley
converged to this one centre, and the royal residence stood like the
governor’s chamber in a panopticon jail. There did my mind for many
a day picture him sitting like a huge spider watching the incautious
insects that permeated his web. I imagined him fat, indolent, and
apathetic, but yet, with a jailer’s instincts, ever mindful of every
stir and movement of the prisoners below. With a very ordinary telescope
he must be master of everything that went on, and the humblest
incident could not escape his notice. Was it the consciousness of this
surveillance that made every one keep the house? Was it the feeling that
the “Gross Herzogliche” eye never left them, that prevented men being
abroad in the streets and about their affairs as in other places? I
half suspected this, and set to work imagining a state of society thus
scanned and scrutinized. But that the general aspect of the town so
palpably proclaimed the absence of all trade and industry, I might have
compared the whole to a glass hive; but they were all drones that dwelt
there, there was not one “busy bee” in the whole of them.

When I rambled thus carelessly along, I came in front of a sort of
garden fenced from the street by an iron railing. The laurel and
arbutus, and even the oleander, were there, gracefully blending a varied
foliage, and contrasting in their luxuriant liberty so pleasantly with
the dull uniformity outside. Finding a gate wide open, I strolled in,
and gave myself up to the delicious enjoyment of the spot. As I was
deliberating whether this was a public garden or not, I found myself
before a long, low, villa-like building, with a colonnade in front. Over
the entrance was a large shield, which on nearer approach I recognized
to contain the arms of England. This, therefore, was the legation, the
residence of our minister, Sir Shalley Doubleton. I felt a very British
pride and satisfaction to see our representative lodged so splendidly.
With all the taxpayer’s sentiment in my heart, I rejoiced to think that
he who personated the nation should, in all his belongings, typify the
wealth, the style, and the grandeur of England, and in the ardor of this
enthusiasm, I hastened back to the inn for the despatch-bag.

Armed with this, and a card, I soon presented myself at the door. On the
card I had written, “Mr. Pottinger presents his respectful compliments,
and requests his Excellency will favor him with an audience of a few
minutes for an explanation.”

I had made up my mind to state that my servant, in removing my smaller
luggage from the train, had accidentally carried off this Foreign Office
bag, which, though at considerable inconvenience, I had travelled much
out of my way to restore in person. I had practised this explanation as
I dressed in the morning, I had twice rehearsed it to an orange-tree in
the garden, before which I had bowed till my back ached, and I fancied
myself perfect in my part. It would, I confess, have been a great relief
to me to have had only the slightest knowledge of the great personage
before whom I was about to present myself, to have known was he short or
tall, young or old, solemn or easy-mannered, had he a loud voice and an
imperious tone, or was he of the soft and silky order of his craft. I’d
have willingly entertained his “gentleman” at a moderate repast for some
information on these points, but there was no time for the inquiry, and
so I rang boldly at the bell. The door opened of itself at the summons,
and I found myself in a large hall with a plaster cast of the Laocoon,
and nothing else. I tried several of the doors on either side, but they
were all locked. A very handsome and spacious stair of white marble
led up from the middle of the hall; but I hesitated about venturing to
ascend this, and once more repaired to the bell outside, and repeated my
summons. The loud clang re-echoed through the arched hall, the open door
gave a responsive shake, and that was all. No one came; everything
was still as before. I was rather chagrined at this. The personal
inconvenience was less offensive than the feeling how foreigners would
comment on such want of propriety, what censures they would pass on such
an ill-arranged household. I rang again, this time with an energy that
made the door strike some of the plaster from the wall, and, with a
noise like cannon, “What the hangman”--I am translating--“is all this?”
 cried a voice thick with passion; and, on looking up, I saw a rather
elderly man, with a quantity of curly yellow hair, frowning savagely on
me from the balcony over the stair. He made no sign of coming down, but
gazed sternly at me from his eminence.

“Can I see his Excellency, the Minister?” said I, with dignity.

“Not if you stop down there, not if you continue to ring the bell like
an alarm for fire, not if you won’t take the trouble to come upstairs.”

I slowly began the ascent at these words, pondering what sort of a
master such a man must needs have. As I gained the top, I found myself
in front of a very short, very fat man, dressed in a suit of striped
gingham, like an over-plethoric zebra, and wheezing painfully, in part
from asthma, in part from agitation. He began again,--

“What the hangman do you mean by such a row? Have you no manners, no
education? Where were you brought up that you enter a dwelling-house
like a city in storm?”

“Who is this insolent creature that dares to address me in this
wise? What ignorant menial can have so far forgotten my rank and his
insignificance?”

“I’ll tell you all that presently,” said he; “there ‘s his Excellency’s
bell.” And he bustled away, as fast as his unwieldy size would permit,
to his master’s room.

I was outraged and indignant There was I, Potts,--no,
Pottinger,--Algernon Sydney Pottinger,--on my way to Italy and Greece,
turning from my direct road to consign with safety a despatch-bag which
many a less conscientious man would have chucked out of his carriage
window and forgotten; there I stood to be insulted by a miserable
stone-polishing, floor-scrubbing, carpet-twigging Haus-knecht? Was this
to be borne? Was it to be endured? Was a man of station, family, and
attainments to be the object of such indignity?

Just as I had uttered this speech aloud, a very gentle voice addressed
me, saying,--

“Perhaps I can assist you? Will you be good enough to say what you
want?”

I started suddenly, looked up, and whom should I see before me but that
Miss Herbert, the beautiful girl in deep mourning that I had met at
Milford, and who now, in the same pale loveliness, turned on me a look
of kind and gentle meaning.

“Do you remember me?” said I, eagerly. “Do you remember the traveller--a
pale young man, with a Glengarry cap and a plaid overcoat--who met you
at Milford?”

“Perfectly,” said she, with a slight twitch about the mouth like a
struggle against a smile. “Will you allow me to repay you now for your
politeness then? Do you wish to see his Excellency?”

I ‘m not very sure what it was I replied, but I know well what was
passing through my head. If my thoughts could have spoken, it would have
been in this wise,--

“Angel of loveliness, I don’t care a brass farthing for his Excellency.
It is not a matter of the slightest moment to me if I never set eyes on
him. Let me but speak to you, tell you the deep impression you have
made upon my heart; how, in my ardor to serve you, I have already been
involved in an altercation that might have cost me my life; how I still
treasure up the few minutes I passed beside you as the Elysian dream of
all my life--”

“I am certain, sir,” broke she in while I spoke, I repeat, I know not
what,--“I am certain, sir, that you never came here to mention all this
to his Excellency.”

There was a severe gravity in the way that she said these words that
recalled me to myself, but not to any consciousness of what I had been
saying; and so, in my utter discomfiture, I blundered out something
about the lost despatches and the cause of my coming.

“If you ‘ll wait a moment here,” said she, opening a door into a neatly
furnished room, “his Excellency shall hear of your wish to see him.” And
before I could answer, she was gone.

I was now alone, but in what wild perplexity and anxiety! How came
she here? What could be the meaning of her presence in this place? The
Minister was an unmarried man, so much my host had told me. How then
reconcile this fact with the presence of one who had left England but
a few days ago, as some said, to be a governess or a companion? Oh, the
agony of my doubts, the terrible agony of my dire misgivings! What
a world of iniquity do we live in, what vice and corruption are ever
around us! It was but a year or two ago, I remember, that the “Times”
 newspaper had exposed the nefarious schemes of a wretch who had
deliberately invented a plan to entrap those most unprotected of all
females. The adventures of this villain had become part of the police
literature of Europe. Young and attractive creatures, induced to come
abroad by promises of the most seductive kind, had been robbed by this
man of all they possessed, and deserted here and there throughout
the Continent. I was so horror-stricken by the terrors my mind had so
suddenly conjured up, that I could not acquire the calm and coolness
requisite for a process of reasoning. My over-active imagination, as
usual, went off with me, clearing obstacles with a sweeping stride, and
steeplechasing through fact as though it were only a gallop over grass
land.

“Poor girl, well might you look confused and overwhelmed at meeting me!
well might the flush of shame have spread over your neck and shoulders,
and well might you have hurried away from the presence of one who had
known you in the days of your happy innocence!” I am not sure that I did
n’t imagine I had been her playfellow in childhood, and that we had been
brought up from infancy together. My mind then addressed itself to
the practical question, What was to be done? Was I to turn my head away
while this iniquity was being enacted? was I to go on my way, forgetting
the seeds of that misery whose terrible fruits must one day be a shame
and an open ignominy? or was I to arraign this man, great and exalted as
he was, and say to him, “Is it thus you represent before the eyes of the
foreigner the virtues of that England we boast to be the model of all
morality? Is it thus you illustrate the habits of your order? Do you
dare to profane what, by the fiction of diplomacy, is called the soil of
your country, by a life that you dare not pursue at home? The Parliament
shall hear of it; the ‘Times’ shall ring with it; that magnificent
institution, the common sense of England, long sick of what is called
secret diplomacy, shall learn at last to what uses are applied the wiles
and snares of this deceitful craft, its extraordinary and its private
missions, its hurried messengers with their bags of corruption--”

I was well “into my work,” and was going along slappingly, when a very
trim footman, in a nankeen jacket, said,--

“If you will come this way, sir, his Excellency will see you.”

He led me through three or four _salons_ handsomely furnished and
ornamented with pictures, the most conspicuous of which, in each room,
was a life-sized portrait of the same gentleman, though in a different
costume,--now in the Windsor uniform, now as a Guardsman, and, lastly,
in the full dress of the diplomatic order. I had but time to guess that
this must be his Excellency, when the servant announced me and retired.

It is in deep shame that I own that the aspect of the princely
apartments, the silence, the implied awe of the footman’s subdued
words as he spoke, had so routed all my intentions about calling his
Excellency to account that I stood in his presence timid and abashed.
It is an ignoble confession wrung out of the very heart of my snobbery,
that no sooner did I find myself before that thin, pale, gray-headed
man, who in a light silk dressing-gown and slippers sat writing away,
than I gave up my brief, and inwardly resigned my place as a counsel for
injured innocence.

He never raised his head as I entered, but continued his occupation
without noticing me, muttering below his breath the words as they fell
from his pen. “Take a seat,” said he, curtly, at last. Perceiving now
that he was fully aware of my presence, I sat down without reply. “This
bag is late, Mr. Paynter,” said he, blandly, as he laid down his pen and
looked me in the face.

“Your Excellency will permit me, _in limine_, to observe that my name is
not Paynter.”

“Possibly, sir,” said he, haughtily; “but you are evidently before me
for the first time, or you would know that, like my great colleague and
friend, Prince Metternich, I have made it a rule through life never to
burden my memory with whatever can be spared it, and of these are the
patronymics of all subordinate people; for this reason, sir, and to this
end, every cook in my establishment answers to the name of Honoré, my
valet is always Pierre, my coach-. man Jacob, my groom is Charles, and
all foreign messengers I call Paynter. The original of that appellation
is, I fancy, superannuated or dead, but he lives in some twenty
successors who carry canvas reticules as well as he.”

“The method may be convenient, sir, but it is scarcely complimentary,”
 said I, stiffly.

“Very convenient,” said he, complacently. “All consuls I address as Mr.
Sloper. You can’t fail to perceive how it saves time, and I rather think
that in the end they like it themselves. When did you leave town?”

“I left on Saturday last. I arrived at Dover by the express train, and
it was there that the incident befell me by which I have now the honor
to stand before your Excellency.”

Instead of bestowing the slightest attention on this exordium of mine,
he had resumed his pen and was writing away glibly as before. “Nothing
new stirring, when you left?” said he, carelessly.

“Nothing, sir. But to resume my narrative of explanation--”

“Come to dinner, Paynter; we dine at six,” said he, rising hastily; and,
opening a glass door into a conservatory, walked away, leaving me in
a mingled state of shame, anger, humiliation, and, I will state, of
ludicrous embarrassment, which I have no words to express.

“Dinner! No,” exclaimed I, “if the alternative were a hard crust and a
glass of spring water I not if I were to fast till this time to-morrow!
Dine with a man who will not condescend to acknowledge even my identity,
who will not deign to call me by my name, but only consents to regard
me as a pebble on the seashore, a blade of grass in a wide meadow! Dine
with him, to be addressed as Mr. Paynter, and to see Pierre, and
Jacob, and the rest of them looking on me as one of themselves! By what
prescriptive right does this man dare to insult those who, for aught he
can tell, are more than his equals in ability? Does the accident--and
what other can it be than accident?--of his station confer this
privilege? How would he look if one were to retort with his own
impertinence? What, for instance, if I were to say, ‘I always call small
diplomatists Bluebottles! You ‘ll not be offended if, just for memory’s
sake, I address you as Bluebottle,--Mr. Bluebottle, of course’?”

I was in ecstasies at this thought. It seemed to vindicate all my
insulted personality, all my outraged and injured identity. “Yes,”
 said I, “I will dine with him; six o’clock shall see me punctual to
the minute, and determined to avenge the whole insulted family of the
Paynters. I defy him to assert that the provocation came not from _his_
side. I dare him to show cause why I should be the butt of his humor,
any more than he of _mine_, I will be prepared to make use of his
own exact words in repelling my impertinence, and say, ‘Sir, you have
exactly embodied _my_ meaning; you have to the letter expressed what
this morning I felt on being called Mr. Paynter; you have, besides
this, had the opportunity of experiencing the sort of pain such an
impertinence inflicts, and you are now in a position to guide you as to
how far you will persist in it for the future.’”

I actually revelled in the thought of this reprisal, and longed for the
moment to come in which, indolently thrown back in my chair, I should
say, “Bluebottle, pass the Madeira,” with some comment on the advantage
all the Bluebottles have in getting their wine duty free. Then, with
what sarcastic irony I should condole with him over his wearisome, dull
career, eternally writing home platitudes for blue-books, making Grotius
into bad grammar, and vamping up old Puffendorf for popular reading.
“Ain’t you sick of it all, B. B.?” I should say, familiarly; “is not the
unreality of the whole thing offensive? Don’t you feel that a despatch
is a sort of formula in which Madrid might be inserted for Moscow, and
what was said of Naples might be predicated for Norway?” I disputed
a long time with myself at what precise period of the entertainment
I should unmask my battery and open fire. Should it be in the
drawing-room, before dinner? Should it be immediately after the soup,
with the first glass of sherry? Ought I to wait till the dessert, and
that time when a sort of easy intimacy had been established which might
be supposed to prompt candor and frankness? Would it not be in better
taste to defer it till the servants had left the room? To expose him to
his household seemed scarcely fair.

These were all knotty points, and I revolved them long and carefully, as
I came back to my hotel, through the same silent street.



CHAPTER XIV. SHAMEFUL NEGLECT OF A PUBLIC SERVANT.

“Don’t keep a place for me at the _table d’hôte_ to-day, Kramm,” said I,
in an easy carelessness; “I dine with his Excellency. I could n’t well
get off the first day, but tomorrow I promise you to pronounce upon your
good cheer.”

I suppose I am not the first man who has derived consequence from the
invitation it had cost him misery to accept. How many in this world
of snobbery have felt that the one sole recompense for long nights of
_ennui_ was the fact that their names figured amongst the distinguished
guests in the next day’s “Post”?

“It is not a grand dinner to-day, is it?” asked Kramm.

“No, no, merely a family party; we are very old chums, and have much to
talk over.”

“You will then go in plain black, and with nothing but your
‘decorations.’”

“I will wear none,” said I, “none; not even a ribbon.” And I turned away
to hide the shame and mortification his suggestion had provoked.

Punctually at six o’clock I arrived at the legation; four powdered
footmen were in the hall, and a decent-looking personage in black
preceded me up the stairs, and opened the double doors into the
drawing-room, without, however, announcing me, or paying the slightest
attention to my mention of “Mr. Pottinger.”

Laying down his newspaper as I entered, his Excellency came forward with
his hand out, and though it was the least imaginable touch, and his bow
was grandly ceremonious, his smile was courteous and his manner bland.

“Charmed to find you know the merit of punctuality,” said he. “To the
untravelled English, six means seven, or even later. You may serve
dinner, Robins. Strange weather we are having,” continued he, turning to
me; “cold, raw, and uncongenial.”

We talked “barometer” till, the door opening, the _maître d’hôtel_
announced, “His Excellency is served;” a rather unpolite mode, I
thought, of ignoring his company, and which was even more strongly
impressed by the fact that he walked in first, leaving me to follow.

At the table a third “cover” was just being speedily removed as we
entered, a fact that smote at my heart like a blow. The dinner began,
and went on with little said; a faint question from the Minister as to
what the dish contained and a whispered reply constituted most of the
talk, and an occasional cold recommendation to me to try this or that
_entrée_. It was admirable in all its details, the cookery exquisite,
the wines delicious, but there was an oppression in the solemnity of
it all that made me sigh repeatedly. Had the butler been serving a
high mass, his motions at the sideboard could scarcely have been more
reverential.

“If you don’t object to the open air, we ‘ll take our coffee on the
terrace,” said his Excellency; and we soon found ourselves on a most
charming elevation, surrounded on three sides with orange-trees, the
fourth opening a magnificent view over a fine landscape with the Taunus
mountains in the distance.

“I can offer you, at least, a good cigar,” said the Minister, as he
selected with great care two from a number on a silver plateau before
him. “These, I think, you will find recommendable; they are grown for
myself at Cuba, and prepared after a receipt only known to one family.”

In all this there was a dignified civility, not at all like the
impertinent freedom of his manner in the morning. He never, besides,
addressed me as Mr. Paynter; in fact, he did not advert to a name at
all, not giving me the slightest pretext for that reprisal I had come so
charged with; and, as to opening the campaign myself, I ‘d as soon have
commenced acquaintance with a tiger by a pull at his tail. We were now
alone; the servants had retired, and there we sat, silently smoking our
cigars in apparent ease, but one of us, at least, in a frame of mind the
very opposite to tranquillity.

What a rush and conflict of thought was in my head! Why had not _she_
dined with us? Was her position such as that the presence of a stranger
became an embarrassment? Good heaven! was I to suppose this, that,
and the other? What was there in this man that so imposed on me, that
when I wanted to speak I only could sigh, and that I felt his presence
like some overpowering spell? It was that calm, self-contained, quiet
manner--cold rather than austere, courteous without cordiality--that
chilled me to the very marrow of my bones. Lecture _him_ on the private
moralities of his life! ask _him_ to render me an account of his
actions! address _him_ as Bluebottle!--

“With such tobacco as that, one can drink Bordeaux,” said he. “Help
yourself.”

And I did help myself,--freely, repeatedly. I drank for courage, as a
man might drink from thirst or fever, or for strength in a moment
of fainting debility. The wine was exquisite, and my heart beat more
forcibly, and I felt it.

I cannot follow very connectedly the course of events; I neither
know how the conversation glided into politics, nor what I said on
that subject. As to the steps by which I succeeded in obtaining his
Excellency’s confidence, I know as little as a man does of the precise
moment in which he is wet through in a Scotch mist. I have a dim memory
of talking in a very dictatorial voice, and continually referring to
my “entrance into public life,” with reference to what Peel “said,” and
what the Duke “told me.”

“What’s the use of writing home?” said his Excellency, in a desponding
voice. “For the last five years I have called attention to what is going
on here; nobody minds, nobody heeds it. Open any blue-book you like, and
will you find one solitary despatch from Hesse-Kalbbratonstadt?”

“I cannot call one to mind.”

“Of course you can’t. Would you believe it, when the Zeringer party
went out, and the Schlaffdorfers came in, I was rebuked--actually
rebuked--for sending off a special messenger with the news? And then
came out a despatch in cipher, which being interpreted contained this
stupid doggerel:--

    “‘Strange that men difference should be
     Twixt Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dee.’

“I ask, sir, is it thus the affairs of a great country can be carried
on? The efforts of Russia here are incessant: a certain personage--I
will mention no names--loves caviare, he likes it fresh, there is a
special _estaffette_ established to bring it! I learned, by the most
insidious researches, his fondness for English cheese; I lost no time in
putting the fact before the cabinet I represented, that while timid men
looked tremblingly towards France, the thoughtful politician saw the
peril of Hesse-Kalbbratonstadt I urged them to lose no time:
‘The Grand-Duchess has immense influence; countermine her,’ said
I,--‘countermine her with a Stilton;’ and, would you believe it, sir,
they have not so much as sent out a Cheddar! What will the people of
England say one of these days when they learn, as learn they shall,
that at this mission here I am alone; that I have neither secretary nor
_attaché_, paid or unpaid; that since the Crimean War the whole weight
of the legation has been thrown upon me: nor is this all; but that a
systematic course of treachery--I can’t call it lies--has been adopted
to entrap me, if such were possible? My despatches are unreplied to, my
questions all unanswered. I stand here with the peace of Europe in my
hands, and none to counsel nor advise me. What will you say, sir, to the
very last despatch I have received from Downing Street? It runs thus:--

“‘I am instructed by his Lordship to inform you, that he views
with indifference your statement of the internal condition of the
grand-duchy, but is much struck by your charge for sealing-wax.

“‘I have, sir, &c.’

“This is no longer to be endured. A public servant who has filled some
of the most responsible of official stations,--I was eleven years at
Tragotà, in the Argentine Republic; I was a _chargé_ at Oohululoo for
eight months, the only European who ever survived an autumn there; they
then sent me special to Cabanhoe to negotiate the Salt-sprat treaty;
after that--”

Here my senses grew muddy; the gray dim light, the soft influences of
a good dinner and a sufficiency of wine, the drowsy tenor of the
Minister’s voice, all conspired, and I slept as soundly as if in my bed.
My next conscious moment was as his Excellency moved his chair back, and
said,--

“I think a cup of tea would be pleasant; let us come into the
drawing-room.”



CHAPTER XV. I LECTURE THE AMBASSADOR’S SISTER

On entering the drawing-room, his Excellency presented me to an elderly
lady, very thin, and very wrinkled, who received me with a cold dignity,
and then went on with her crochet-work. I could not catch her name, nor,
indeed, was I thinking of it; my whole mind was bent upon the question,
Who could she be? For what object was she there? All my terrible doubts
of the morning now rushed forcibly back to my memory, and I felt that
never had I detested a human being with the hate I experienced for her.
The pretentious stiffness of her manner, the haughty self-possession
she wore, were positive outrages; and as I looked at her, I felt myself
muttering, “Don’t imagine that your heavy black moiré, or your rich
falls of lace, impose upon _me_. Never fancy that this mock austerity
deceives one who reads human nature as he reads large print. I know, and
I abhor you, old woman! That a man should be to the other sex as a wolf
to the fold, the sad experience of daily life too often teaches; but
that a woman should be false to woman, that all the gentle instincts we
love to think feminine, should be debased to treachery and degraded into
snares for betrayal,--this is an offence that cries aloud to Heaven!

“No more tea,--none!” cried I, with an energy that nearly made the
footman let the tray fall, and so far startled the old lady that she
dropped her knitting with a faint cry. As for his Excellency, he had
covered his face with the “Globe,” and, I believe, was fast asleep.

I looked about for my hat to take my leave, when a sudden thought struck
me. “I will stay. I will sit down beside this old creature, and, for
once at least in her miserable life, she shall hear from the lips of a
man a language that is not that of the debauchee. Who knows what effect
one honest word of a true-hearted man may not work? I will try, at all
events,” said I, and approached her. She did not, as I expected, make
room for me on the sofa beside her, and I was, therefore, obliged to
take a chair in front. This was so far awkward that it looked formal; it
gave somewhat the character of accusation to my position, and I decided
to obviate the difficulty by assuming a light, easy, cheerful manner at
first, as though I suspected nothing.

“It’s a pleasant little capital, this Kalbbratonstadt,” said I, as I lay
back in my chair.

“Is it?” said she, dryly, without looking up from her work.

“Well, I mean,” said I, “it seems to have its reasonable share of
resources. They have their theatre, and their music garden, and their
promenades, and their drives to--to--”

“You’ll find all the names set down there,” said she, handing me a copy
of Murray’s “Handbook” that lay beside her.

“I care less for names than facts, madam,” said I, angrily, for her
retort had stung me, and routed all my previous intention of a smooth
approach to the fortress. “I am one of those unfashionable people who
never think the better of vice because it wears French gloves, and goes
perfumed with Ess bouquet.”

She took off her spectacles, wiped them, looked at me, and went on with
her work without speaking.

“If I appear abrupt, madam,” said I, “in this opening, it is because
the opportunity I now enjoy may never occur again, and may be of the
briefest even now. We meet by what many would call an accident,--one of
those incidents which the thoughtless call chance directed my steps to
this place; let me hope that that which seemed a hazard may bear all
the fruits of maturest combination, and that the weak words of one frail
even as yourself may not be heard by you in vain. Let me, therefore, ask
you one question,--only one,--and give me an honest answer to it.”

“You are a very singular person,” said she, “and seem to have strangely
forgotten the very simple circumstance that we meet for the first time
now.”

“I know it, I feel it; and that it may also be for the last and only
time is my reason for this appeal to you. There are persons who, seeing
you here, would treat you with a mock deference, address you with a
counterfeit respect, and go their ways; who would say to their selfish
hearts, ‘It is no concern of mine; why should it trouble me?’ But I am
not one of these. I carry a conscience in my breast; a conscience that
holds its daily court, and will even to-morrow ask me, ‘Have you been
truthful, have you been faithful? When the occasion served to warn
a fellow-creature of the shoal before him, did you cry out, “Take
soundings! you are in shallow water,” or did you with slippery phrases
gloss over the peril, because it involved no danger to yourself?’”

“Would that same conscience be kind enough to suggest that your present
conduct is an impertinence, sir?”

“So it might, madam; just as the pilot is impertinent when he cries out,
‘Hard, port! breakers ahead!’”

“I am therefore to infer, sir,” said she, with a calm dignity, “that
my approach to a secret danger--of which I can have no knowledge--is
a sufficient excuse for the employment of language on your part, that,
under a less urgent plea, had been offensive?”

“You are,” said I, boldly.

“Speak out, then, sir, and declare what it is.”

“Nay, madam, if the warning find no echo within, my words are useless. I
have said I would ask you a question.”

“Well, sir, do so.”

“Will you answer it frankly? Will you give it all the weight and
influence it should bear, and reply to it with that truthful spirit that
conceals nothing?”

“What is your question, sir? You had better be speedy with it, for I
don’t much trust to my continued patience.”

I arose at this, and, passing behind the back of my chair, leaned my
arms on the upper rail, so as to confront her directly; and then, in the
voice of an accusing angel, I said, “Old woman, do you know where you
are going?”

“I protest, sir,” said she, rising, with an indignation I shall not
forget--“I protest, sir, you make me actually doubt if I know where I
am!”

“Then let me tell you, madam,” said I, with the voice of one determined
to strike terror into her heart--“let me tell you; and may my words have
the power to awaken you, even now, to the dreadful consequences of what
you are about!”

“Shalley! Shalley!” cried she in amazement, “is this gentleman deranged,
or is it but the passing effect of your conviviality?” And with this she
swept out of the room, leaving me there alone, for I now perceived--what
seemed also to have escaped her--that the Minister had slipped quietly
away some time before, and was doubtless at that same moment in the
profoundest of slumbers.

I took my departure at once. There was no leave-taking to delay me, and
I left the house in a mood little according with the spirit of one who
had partaken of its hospitalities; I am constrained to admit I was the
very reverse of satisfied with myself. It was cowardly and mean of me
to wreak my anger on that old woman, and not upon him who was the
really great offender. He it was I should have arraigned; and with the
employment of a little artifice and some tact, how terrible I might
have made even my jesting levity! how sarcastic my sneers at fashionable
vice! Affecting utter ignorance about his life and habits, I could have
incidentally thrown out little episodes of all the men who have wrecked
their fortunes by abandoned habits. I would have pointed to this man who
made a brilliant opening in the House, and that who had acquired such
celebrity at the Bar; I would have shown the rising statesman tarnished,
the future chief justice disqualified; I would have said, “Let no man,
however modest his character or unfrequented his locality, imagine that
the world takes no note of his conduct; in every class he is judged
by his peers, and you and I, Doubleton, will as assuredly be arraigned
before the bar of society as the pickpocket will be charged before the
beak!”

I continued to revolve these and such like thoughts throughout the
entire night. The wine I had drunk fevered and excited me, and added to
that disturbed state which my own self-accusings provoked. Doubts, too,
flitted across my mind whether I ought not to have maintained a perfect
silence towards the others, and reserved all my eloquence for the poor
girl herself. I imagined myself taking her hand between both mine,
while, with averted head, she sobbed as if her heart would break, and,
saying, “Be comforted, poor stricken deer! be comforted; I know all. One
who is far from perfect himself, sorrows with and compassionates you; he
will be your friend, your adviser, your protector. I will restore you
to that home you quitted in innocence. I will bring you back to that
honeysuckled porch where your pure heart expanded in home affections.”
 Nothing shall equal the refined delicacy of my manner; that mingled
reserve and kindness--a sort of cross between a half-brother and a canon
of St. Paul’s--shall win her over to repentance, and then to peace. How
I fancied myself at intervals of time visiting that cottage, going,
as the gardener watches some cherished plant, to gaze on the growing
strength I had nurtured, and enjoy the luxury of seeing the once
drooping flower expanding into fresh loveliness and perfume. “Yes,
Potts, this would form one of those episodes you have so often longed to
realize.” And then I went on to fancy a long heroic struggle between my
love and that sentiment of respect for worldly opinion which is dear to
every man, the years of conflict wearing me down in health, but exalting
me immensely in every moral consideration. Let the hour of crowning
victory at last come, I should take her to my bosom and say, “There is
rest for thee here!”

“His Excellency begs that you will call at the legation, as early as you
can, this morning,” said a waiter, entering with the breakfast tray; and
I now perceived that I had never gone to bed, or closed my eyes during
the night.

“How did this message come?” I asked.

“By the chasseur of his Excellency.”

“And how addressed?”

“‘To the gentleman who dined yesterday at the legation. ’”

I asked these questions to ascertain how far he persisted in the
impertinence of giving me a name that was not mine, and I was glad to
find that on this occasion no transgression had occurred.

I hesitated considerably about going to him. Was I to accept that
slippery morality that says, “I see no more than I please in the man
I dine with,” or was I to go boldly on and denounce this offender to
himself? What if he were to say, “Potts, let us play fair; put your own
cards on the table, and let us see are you always on the square? Who is
your father? how does he live? Why have you left home, and how? What of
that horse you have--”

“No, no, not stolen--on my honor, not stolen!” “Well, ain’t it ugly?
Is n’t the story one that any relating might, without even a spice of
malevolence, make marvellously disagreeable? Is the tale such as you ‘d
wish to herald you into any society you desired to mix with?” It was in
this high, easy, and truly companionable style that conscience kept me
company, while I ate two eggs and a plate of buttered toast “After all,”
 thought I, “might it not prove a great mistake not to wait on him?
How if, in our talk over politics last night, I may have dropped
some remarkable expression, a keen appreciation of some statesman, an
extraordinary prediction of some coming crisis? Maybe it is to question
me more fully about my ‘views’ of the state of Europe.” Now I am rather
given to “views of the state of Europe.” I like that game of patience,
formed by shuffling up all the governments of the Continent, and then
seeing who is to have the most “tricks,” who’s to win all the kings,
and who the knaves. “Yes,” thought I, “this is what he is at. These
diplomatic people are consummately clever at pumping; their great skill
consists in extracting information from others and adapting it to
their own uses. Their social condition confers the great advantage of
intercourse with whatever is remarkable for station, influence, and
ability; and I think I hear his Excellency muttering to himself,
‘remarkable man that--large views--great reach of thought--wish I could
see more of him; must try what polite attentions may accomplish.’ Well,”
 said I, with a half sigh, “it is the old story, _Sic vos non vobis_; and
I suppose it is one of the curses on Irishmen that, from Edmund Burke to
Potto, they should be doomed to cram others. I will go. What signifies
it to _me?_ I am none the poorer in dispensing my knowledge than is the
nightingale in discoursing her sweet music to the night air, and
flooding the groves with waves of melody: like _her_, I give of an
affluence that never fails me.” And so I set out for the legation.

As I walked along through the garden, a trimly-dressed French maid
passed me, turned, and repassed, with a look that had a certain
significance. “It was monsieur dined here yesterday?” said she,
interrogatively; and as I smiled assent, she handed me a very small
sealed note, and disappeared.

It bore no address but the word “Mr.------;” a strange, not very
ceremonious direction. “But, poor girl!” thought I, “she knows me not as
Potts, but as Protector. I am not the individual, but the representative
of that wide-spread benevolence that succors the weak and consoles
the afflicted. I wonder has she been touched by my devotion? has she
imagined--oh, that she would!--that I have followed her hither, that I
have sworn a vow to rescue and to save her? Or is this note the cry of a
sorrow-struck spirit, saying, ‘Come to my aid ere I perish ‘?”

My fingers trembled as I broke the seal; I had to wipe a tear from my
eye ere I could begin to read. My agitation was great; it was soon to be
greater. The note contained very few words; they were these:--

“Sir,--I have not communicated to my brother, Sir Shafley Doubleton,
any circumstance of your unaccountable conduct yesterday evening. I hope
that my reserve will be appreciated by you, and

“I am, your faithful servant,

“‘Martha Keats.”

I did not faint, but I sat down on the grass, sick and faint, and I
felt the great drops of cold perspiration burst out over my forehead and
temples. “So,” muttered I, “the venerable person I have been lecturing
is his Excellency’s own sister! My exhortations to a changed life have
been addressed to a lady doubtless as rigid in morals as austere
in manners.” Though I could recall none of the words I employed, I
remembered but too well the lesson I intended to convey, and I shuddered
with disgust at my own conduct. Many a time have I heard severest
censure on the preacher who has from the pulpit scattered words of
doubtful application to the sinners beneath; but here was I making a
direct and most odious attack upon the life and habits of a lady of
immaculate behavior! Oh, it was too--too bad! A whole year of sackcloth
and ashes would not be penance for such iniquity. How could she have
forgiven it? What consummate charity enabled her to pardon an offence
so gross and so gratuitous? Or is it that she foresaw consequences so
grave, in the event of disclosure, that she dreaded to provoke them?
What might not an angry brother, in such a case, be warranted in doing?
Would the world call any vengeance exorbitant? I studied her last phrase
over and over, “I hope my reserve will be appreciated by you.” This may
mean, “I reserve the charge,--I hold it over you as a bail bond for the
future; diverge ever so little from the straight road, and I will say,
‘Potts, stand forward and listen to your indictment.’ She may have some
terrible task in view for me, some perilous achievement, which I cannot
now refuse. This old woman may be to me as was the Old Man of the Sea to
Sinbad. I may be fated to carry her forever on my back, and the dread
of her be a living nightmare to me.” “At such a price, existence has no
value,” said I, in despair. “Worse even than the bondage is the feeling
that I am no longer, to my own heart, the great creature I love to
think myself. Instead of Potts the generous, the high-spirited,
the confiding, the self-denying, I am Potts the timorous, the
terror-stricken, and the slave.”

Out of my long and painful musings on the subject, I bethought me of a
course to take. I would go to her and say:--

“Listen to this parable. I remember once, when a member of the
phrenological club, a stupid jest was played off upon the society by
some one presenting us with the cast of a well-known murderer’s skull,
and asking for our interpretations of its development. We gave them with
every care and deliberation: we pointed out the fatal protuberances of
crime, and indicated the depressions, which showed the absence of all
prudential restraints; we demonstrated all the evidences of badness that
were there, and proved that, with such a head, a man must have thought
killing no murder. The rejoinder to our politeness was a small box that
arrived by the mail, labelled, ‘the original of the cast forwarded on
the 14th.’ We opened it, and found a pumpkin! The foolish jester fancied
that he had cast an indelible stain upon phrenology, quite forgetting
the fact that his pumpkin had personated a skull which, had it ever
existed, would have presented the characteristics we gave it.” I would
say, “Now, madam, make the application, and say, do you not rather
commend than condemn? are you not more ready to applaud than upbraid
me?”

Second thoughts rather deterred me from this plan; the figurative line
is often dangerous with elderly people. It is just as likely she would
mistake the whole force of my illustration, and bluntly say, “I ‘d beg
to remark, sir, I am not a pumpkin!”

“No; I will not adventure on this path. There is no need that I should
ever meet her again, or, if I should, we may meet as utter strangers.”
 This resolve made, I arose boldly, and walked on towards the house.

His Excellency, I learned, was at home, and had been for some time
expecting me. I found him in his morning room, in the same costume and
same occupation as on the day before.

“There’s the ‘Times,’” said he, as I entered; “I shall be ready for you
presently;” and worked away without lifting his head.

Affecting to read, I set myself to regard him with attention. Vast piles
of papers lay around him on every side; the whole table, and even the
floor at his feet, was littered with them. “Would,” thought
I,--“would that these writers for the Radical press, these scurrilous
penny-a-liners who inveigh against a bloated and pampered aristocracy,
could just witness the daily life of labor of one of these spoiled
children of Fortune. Here is this man, doubtless reared in ease and
affluence, and see him, how he toils away, from sundown to dawn,
unravelling the schemes, tracing the wiles, and exposing the snares of
these crafty foreigners. Hark! he is muttering over the subtle sentence
he has just written: ‘I am much grieved about Maria’s little girl, but
I hope she will escape being marked by the malady.’” A groan that broke
from me here startled him, and he looked up.

“Ah! yes, by the way, I want you, Paynter.”

“I am not Paynter, your Excellency, my name is--”

“Of course, you have your own name for your own peculiar set; but don’t
interrupt. I have a special service for you, and will put it in the
‘extraordinaires.’ I have taken a little villa on the Lake of Como for
my sister, but, from the pressure of political events, I am not able to
accompany her there. She is a very timid traveller, and cannot possibly
go alone. You ‘ll take charge of her, therefore, Paynter,--there, don’t
be fussy,--you ‘ll take charge of her and a young lady who is with her,
and you ‘ll see them housed and established there. I suppose she will
prefer to travel slowly, some thirty miles or so a day, post horses
always, and strictly avoiding railroads; but you can talk it over
together yourselves. There was a Bobus to have come out--”

“A Bobus!”

“I mean a doctor,--I call every doctor, Bobus,--but something has
detained him, or, indeed, I believe he was drowned; at all events, he’s
not come, and you ‘ll have to learn how to measure out ether and drop
morphine; the ‘companion’ will help you. And keep an account of your
expenses, Paynter,--your own expenses for F. O.,--and don’t let her fall
sick at any out-of-the-way place, which she has rather a knack of doing;
and, above all, don’t telegraph on any account. Come and dine,--six.”

“If you will excuse me at dinner, I shall be obliged. I have a sort of
half engagement.”

“Come in about nine, then,” said he, “for she’d like to talk over some
matters. Look out for a carriage, too; I don’t fancy giving mine if you
can get another. One of those great roomy German things with a cabriolet
front, for Miss--I forget her name--would prefer a place outside. Kramm,
the landlord, can help you to search for one; and let it be dusted and
aired and fumigated and the drag examined and the axles greased,--in a
word, have your brains about you, Paynter. Good-bye.” Exit as before.



CHAPTER XVI. UNPLEASANT TURN TO AN AGREEABLE CONVERSE.

There is no denying it, I have led a life of far more than ordinary
happiness. The white squares in the checker of my existence have
certainly equalled the black ones, and it is not every man can say as
much. I suspect I owe a great share of this enjoyment to temperament,
to a disposition not so much remarkable for opposing difficulties as for
deriving all the possible pleasure from any fortunate conjuncture. This
gift I know I possess. I am not one of those strong natures which,
by their intrinsic force, are ever impressing their own image on the
society they live in. I am a weak, frail, yielding creature, but my very
pliancy has given me many a partnership in emotions which, with a more
rugged temperament, I had not partaken of. When one has wept over a
friend’s misfortunes and awakes to the consciousness that no ill has
befallen himself, he feels as some great millionnaire might feel who
has bestowed a thousand pounds in charity and yet knows he is never
the poorer. With the proud consciousness of this fresh title to men’s
admiration, he has the secret satisfaction of knowing that he will
go clothed in purple as before, and fare to-day as sumptuously as
yesterday. Do you, most generous of readers, call this selfishness?
It is the very reverse. It is the grand culminating point of human
sympathy.

I have a great deal more to say about myself. It is a theme I am really
fond of, but I am not exactly sure that you are like-minded, or that
this is the fittest place for it. I return to events.

It was on a bright, breezy morning of the early autumn that a heavy old
German travelling-carriage,--a wagon!--rattled over the uneven pavement
of Kalbbratonstadt, and soon gaining one of the long forest alleys,
rolled noiselessly over the smooth sward. Within sat an elderly lady
with a due allowance of air-cushions, toy-terriers, and guide-books; in
the rumble were a man and a maid; and in the cabriolet in front were a
pale but placid girl, with large gray eyes and long lashes, and he who
now writes these lines beside her. They who had only known me a few
months back as a freshman of Trinity would not have recognized me now,
as I sat with a long-peaked travelling-cap, a courier’s belt and bag at
my side, and the opening promise of a small furry moustache on my
upper lip; not to say that I had got up a sort of supercilious air of
contemptuous pity for the foreigner, which I had observed to be much in
favor with the English abroad. It cost me dear to do this, and nothing
but the consciousness that it was one of the requirements of my station
could have made me assume it, for in my heart of hearts, I revelled
in enjoyment of all around me. I liked the soft breezy balmy air, the
mellow beech wood, the grassy turf overgrown with violets, the wild
notes of the frightened wood-pigeon, the very tramp-tramp of the massive
horses, with their scarlet tassels and their jingling bells; all pleased
and interested me. Not to speak of her, who, at my side, felt a very
child’s delight at every novelty of the way.

“What would I have said to any one who, only a fortnight ago, had
promised me such happiness as this?” said I to my companion, as we drove
along, while the light branches rustled pleasantly over the roof of the
carriage, darkening the shade around us, or occasionally deluging us
with the leaves as we passed.

“And are you then so very happy?” asked she, with a pleasant smile.

“Can you doubt it? or rather is it that, as the emotion does not extend
to yourself, you _do_ doubt it?”

“Oh, as for me,” cried she, joyfully, “it is very different. I have
never travelled till now--seen nothing, actually nothing. The veriest
commonplaces of the road, the peasants’ costumes, their wayside
cottages, the little shrines they kneel at, are all objects of
picturesque interest to me, and I am ready to exclaim at each moment,
‘Oh! why cannot we stop here? shall we ever see anything so beautiful
again as this?’”

“And hearing you talk thus, you can ask me am I so very happy!” said I,
reproachfully.

“What I meant was, is it not stupid to have no companion of your own
turn of mind, none with whom you could talk, without condescending to
a tone beneath you, just as certain stories are reduced to words of one
syllable for little children?”

“Mademoiselle is given to sarcasm, I see,” said I, half peevishly.

“Nothing of the kind,” said she, blushing slightly. “It was in perfect
good faith. I wished you a more suitable companion. Indeed, after what I
had heard from his Excellency about you, I was terrified at the thought
of my own insufficiency.”

“And pray what _did_ he say of me?” asked I, in a flutter of delight.

“Are you very fond of flattery?”

“Immensely!”

“Is it not possible that praise of you could be so exaggerated as to
make you feel ashamed?”

“I should say, perfectly impossible; that is, to a mind regulated as
mine, over-elation could never happen. Tell me, therefore, what he
said?”

“I can’t remember one-half of it; he remarked how few men in the
career--I conclude he meant diplomacy--could compare with you; that
you had such just views about the state of Europe, such an accurate
appreciation of publie men. I can’t say how many opportunities you
mustn’t have had, and what valuable uses you have not put them to. In
a word, I felt that I was about to travel with a great statesman and a
consummate man of the world, and was-terrified accordingly.”

“And now that the delusion is dispelled, how do you feel?”

“But is it dispelled? Am I not shocked with my own temerity in daring to
talk thus lightly with one so learned?”

“If so,” said I, “you conceal your embarrassment wonderfully.”

And then we both laughed; but I am not quite sure it was at the same
joke.

“Do you know where you are going?” said I, taking out a travelling-map
as a means of diverting our conversation into some higher channel.

“Not in the least”

“Nor care?”

“Nor care.”

“Well, I must say, it is a most independent frame of mind. Perhaps you
could extend this fine philosophy, and add, ‘Nor with whom!’”

I was not at all conscious of what an impertinence I had uttered till
it was out; nor, indeed, even then, till I remarked that her cheek had
become scarlet, and her eyes double as dark as their wont.

“Yes,” said she, “there is one condition for which I should certainly
stipulate,--not to travel with any one who could needlessly offend me.”

I could have cried with shame; I could have held my hand in the flame of
a fire to expiate my rude speech. And so I told her; while I assured her
at the same time, with marvellous consistency, that it was not rude at
all; that it was entirely misconception on her part; that _nous autres
diplomates_--Heaven forgive me the lying assumption!--had a way of
saying little smartnesses that don’t mean much; that we often made our
coin ring on the table, though it turned out bad money when it came to
be looked at; that Talleyrand did it, and Walewsky did it, and I did
it,--we all did it!

Now, there was one most unlucky feature in all this. It was only a few
minutes before this passage occurred, that I said to myself, “Potts,
here is one whose frank, fresh, generous nature claims all your respect
and devotion. No nonsense of your being this, that, and t’other here. Be
truthful and be honest; neither pretend to be man of fortune nor man
of fashion; own fairly to her by what chance you adventured upon this
strange life; tell her, in a word, you are the son of Potts,--Potts the
‘pothecary,--and neither a hero nor a plenipotentiary!”

I have no doubt, most amiable of readers, that nothing can seem possibly
more easy than to have done all this. You deem it the natural and
ordinary course; just as, foi instance, a merchant in good credit and
repute would feel no repugnance to calling all his creditors together to
inspect his books, and see that, though apparently solvent, he was, in
truth, utterly bankrupt. And yet there is some difficulty in doing this.
Does not the law of England expressly declare that no man need criminate
himself? Who accuses you, then, Potts? And then I bethought me of the
worthy old alderman, who, on learning that “Robinson Crusoe” was a
fiction, exclaimed, “It may be so; but I have lost the greatest pleasure
of my life in hearing it.” What a profound philosophy was there in that
simple avowal! With what illusions are we not cheered on through life!
how unreal the joys that delight and the triumphs that elate us; for we
are all hypochondriacs, and are as often cured with bread pills as
with bold remedies. “Yes,” thought I, “this young girl is happy in the
thought that her companion is a person of rank, station, and influence;
she feels a sort of self-elation in being associated with one endowed
with all worldly advantages. Shall I rob her of this illusion? Shall I
rudely deprive her of what imparts a charm to her existence, and gives a
sort of romantic interest to her daily life? Harsh and needless would be
the cruelty!”

While I thus argued with myself, she had opened her guide-book, and was
eagerly reading away about the road we were travelling. “We are to halt
at Bömerstein, are we not?” asked she.

“Yes,” said I, “we rest there for the night. It is one of those little
villages of which a German writer has given us a striking picture.”

“Auerstadt,” broke she in.

“So you have read him? You read German?”

“Yes, tolerably; that is, well enough for Schiller and Uhland, but not
well enough for Jean Paul and Goethe.”

“Never mind; trust me for a guide; you shall now venture upon both.”

“But how will you be able to give up time valuable as yours to such
teachings? Would it be fair of me, besides, to steal hours that ought to
be devoted to your country?”

Though I had not the slightest imaginable ground to suspect any secret
sarcasm in this speech, my guilty conscience made me feel it as a
perfect torture. “She knows me,” thought I, “and this sneer at my
pretended importance is intended to overwhelm me.”

“As to my country’s claims,” said I, haughtily, “I make light of them.
All that I have seen of life only shows the shallowness of what is
called the public service. I am resolved to leave it, and forever.”

“And for what?”

“A life of retirement,--obscurity if you will.”

“It is what I should do if I were a man.”

“Indeed!”

“Yes. I have often reflected over the delight I have felt in walking
through some man’s demesne, revelling in the enjoyment of its leafy
solitude, its dreary shade, its sunlit vistas, and I have thought, ‘If
all these things, not one of which are mine, can bring such pleasure
to my heart, why should I not adopt the same philosophy in life, and
be satisfied with enjoying without possessing? A very humble lot would
suffice for one, nothing but great success could achieve the other.’”

“What becomes, then, of that great stimulus to good they call labor?”

“Oh, I should labor, too. I ‘d work at whatever I was equal to. I ‘d
sew, and knit, and till my garden, and be as useful as possible.”

“And I would write,” said I, enthusiastically, as though I were plotting
out my share in this garden of Eden. “I would write all sorts of things:
reviews, and histories, and stories, and short poems, and, last of all,
the ‘Confessions of Algernon Sydney Potts.’”

“Oh, what a shocking title! How could such names have met together? That
shocking epithet Potts would vulgarize it all!”

“I really cannot agree with you,” said I, angrily. “Without,” said she,
“you meant it for a sort of quiz; and that Potts was to be a creature of
absurdity and folly, a pretender and a snob.”

I felt as if I was choking with passion; but I tried to laugh, and say,
“Yes, of course.”

“That would be good fun enough,” went she on. “I ‘d like, if I could,
to contribute to that. You should invent the situations, and leave me
occasionally to supply the reflective part.”

“It would be charming; quite delightful.”

“Shall we do it, then-? Let us try it, by all means. We might begin by
imagining Potts in search of this, that, or t’other,--love, happiness,
solitude, climate, scenery, anything, in short. Let us fancy him on a
journey, try and personate him; that would be the real way. Do you, for
instance, be Potts, and I ‘ll be his sister Susan. It will be the best
fun in the world, as we go along, to see everything, note everything,
and discuss everything Potts-wise.”

“It would be too ridiculous, too absurd,” said I, sick with anger.

“Not a bit; we are travelling with our old grandmother, we are making
the tour of Europe, and keeping our journal. Every evening we compare
notes of what we have seen. Pray do so; I ‘m quite wild to try it.”

“Really,” said I, gravely, “it is a sort of trifling I should find it
very difficult to descend to. I see no reason, besides, to associate the
name of Potts with what you are pleased to call snobbery!”

“Could you help it? Could you, with all the best will in the world,
make Potts a man of distinction? Would n’t he, in spite of you, be low,
vulgar, inquisitive, and obtrusive? Wouldn’t you find him thrusting
himself forward, twenty times a day, into positions he had no right to?
Would n’t the creature be a butt and a dupe--”

“Shall I own,” burst I in, “that it gives me no exalted idea of your
taste, if I find that you select for ridicule a person on the mere
showing that his name is a monosyllable? And, once for all, I repudiate
all share in the scheme, and beg that I may not hear more of it.”

I turned away as I said this. She resumed her book, and we spoke no more
to each other till we reached our halting-place for the night.



CHAPTER XVII. MRS. KEATS MOVES MY INDIGNATION

I am forced to the confession, Mrs. Keats was not what is popularly
called an agreeable old lady. She spoke seldom, she smiled never, and
she had a way of looking at you, a sort of cold astonishment, seeming
to say, “How is this? explain yourself,” that kept me in a perpetual
terror.

My morning’s tiff with Miss Herbert had neither been condoned nor
expiated when we sat down to dinner, as stiff a party of three as can
well be imagined; scarcely a word was interchanged as we ate.

“If you drink wine, sir, pray order it,” said Mrs. Keats to me, in a
voice that might have suited an invitation to prussic acid.

“This little wine of the country is very pleasant, madam,” said I,
courteously, “and I can even venture to recommend it.”

“Not to me, sir. I drink water.”

“Perhaps Miss Herbert will allow me?”

“Excuse me; I also drink water.”

After a very dreary and painful pause, I dared to express a faint hope
that Mrs. Keats had not been fatigued by the day’s Journey.

She looked at me for a second or two before replying, and then said:
“I am really not aware, sir, that I have manifested any such signs of
weariness as would warrant your inquiry. If I should have, however--”

“Oh, I beg you will pardon me, madam,” broke I in, apologetically;
“my question was not meant for more than a mere ordinary politeness, a
matter-of-course expression of my solicitude.”

“It will save us both some trouble in future, sir, if I re-mark that I
am no friend to matter-of-course civilities, and never reply to them.”

I felt as though my head and face had been passed across the open door
of a blast furnace. I was in a perfect flame, and dared not raise my eye
from my plate.

“The waiter is asking if you will take coffee, sir,” said the inexorable
old lady to me, as I sat almost stunned and stupid.

“Yes--with brandy--a full glass of brandy in it,” cried I, in the
half-despair of one who knew not how to rally himself.

“I think we may retire, Miss H.,” said Mrs. Keats, rising with a severe
dignity that seemed to say, “We are not bound to assist at an orgy.” And
with a stern stare and a defiant little bow she moved towards the door.
I was so awestruck that I never moved from my place, but stood resting
my hand on my chair, till she said, “Do you mean to open the door, sir,
or am I to do it for myself?”

I sprang forward at once, and flung it wide, my face all scarlet with
shame.

She passed out, and Miss Herbert followed her. Her dress, however,
catching in the doorway, she turned back to extricate it; I seized the
moment to stoop down and say, “Do let me see you for one moment this
evening,--only one moment.”

She shook her head in silent negative, and went away.

I sat down at the table, and filled myself a large goblet of wine; I
drank it off, and replenished it It was only this morning, a few brief
hours ago, and I would not have changed fortunes with the Emperor of
France. Life seemed to open before me like some beautiful alley in a
garden, with a glorious vista in the distance. I would not have bartered
the place in that cabriolet for the proudest throne in Europe. _She_ was
there beside me, listening in rapt attention, as I discoursed voyages,
travels, memoirs, poetry, and personal adventures. With every changeful
expression of lovely sympathy did she follow me through all. I was a
hero to us both, myself as much captivated as she was; and now the brief
drama was over, the lights were put out, and the theatre closed! How had
I destroyed this golden delusion,--why had I quarrelled with her,
and for what? For a certain Potts, a creature who, in reality, had no
existence; “For who is Potts?” said I. “Potts is no more a substance
than Caleb Williams or Peregrine Pickle; Potts is the lay figure that
the artist dresses in any costume he requires--a Rachero to-day, a
Railway Director to-morrow. What an absurdity in the importance we lend
to mere names! Here, for instance, I take the label off the port, and
I hang it round the neck of the claret decanter: have I changed the
quality of the vintage? have I brought Bordeaux to the meridian of
Oporto? Not a bit of it And yet a man is to be more the victim of an
accident than a bottle of wine, and his intrinsic qualities--strength,
flavor, and richness--are not to be tested, but simply implied from the
label round his neck! How narrow-minded, after all, of her, who ought
to have known better! It is thus, however, we educate our women; this
is part and parcel of the false system by which we fancy we make them
companionable. The North American Indians are far in advance of us in
all this: they assign them their proper places and fitting duties; they
feel that, in this life of ours, order and happiness depend on the due
distribution of burdens, and the Snapping Alligator never feels his
squaw more truly his helpmate than when she is skinning eels for his
dinner.”

How I hated that old woman; I don’t think I ever detested a human
creature so much as that I have often speculated as to whether venomous
reptiles have any gratification imparted to them when they inflict a
poisonous wound. Is the mosquito the happier for having stung
one’s nose? And, in the same spirit, I should like to know, do
the disagreeable people of this world sleep the better from the
consciousness of having offended us? Is there that great ennobling sense
of a mission fulfilled for every cheek they set on fire and every heart
they depress? and do they quench hope and extinguish ambition with the
same zeal that the Sun or the Phoenix put out a fire?

“‘If you drink wine, sir, pray order it,’” said I, mimicking her
imperious tone. “Yes, madam, I do drink wine, and I mean to order it,
and liberally. I travel at the expense of that noble old paymaster who
only wags his tail the more, the more he has to pay--the British Lion.
I go down in the extraordinaires. I ‘m on what is called a special
service. ‘Keep an account of your expenses, Paynter!’ Confound his
insolence, he would say ‘Paynter.’ By the way, I have never looked how
he calls me in my passport. I ‘m curious to see if I be Paynter there.”
 I had left the bag containing this and my money in my room, and I rang
the bell, and told the waiter to fetch it.

The passport set forth in due terms all the dignities, honors, and
decorations of the great man who granted it, and who bespoke for the
little man who travelled by it all aid and assistance possible, and to
let him pass freely, &c. “Mr. Ponto,--British subject.” “Ponto,
What an outrage! This comes of a man making his _maître d’hôtel_ his
secretary. That stupid French flunkey has converted me into a water-dog.
This may explain a good deal of the old lady’s rudeness; how could she
be expected to be even ordinarily civil to a man called Ponto? She ‘d
say at once, ‘His father was an Italian, and, of course, a courier, or a
valet; or he was a foundling, and called after a favorite spaniel.’ Ill
rectify this without loss of time. If she has not the tact to discover
the man of education and breeding by the qualities he displays in
intercourse, she shall be brought to admit them by the demands of his
self-respect.”

I opened my writing-desk and wrote just two lines,--a polite request for
a few moments of interview, signed “A. S. Pottinger.” I wrote the name
in a fine text hand, as though to say, “No more blunders, madam, this is
large as print.”

“Take this to your mistress, François,” said I to the courier.

“Gone to bed, sir.”

“Gone to bed! why, it’s only eight o’clock.”

A shrug and a smile were all he replied.

“And Miss Herbert,--can I speak to _her?_”

“Fear not, sir; she went to her room, and told Clementina not to disturb
her.”

“It is of consequence, however, that I should see her. I want to make
arrangements for to-morrow,--the hour we are to start--”

“Oh! but we are to stop here over to-morrow; I thought monsieur knew
that,” said the fellow, with the insolent grin of a menial at knowing
more than his betters.

“Oh, to be sure we are,” said I, laughingly, and affecting to have
suddenly remembered it. “I forgot all about it, François; you are quite
right. Take a glass of wine, Francois,--or take the bottle with you,
that’s better.” And I handed him a flask of Hocheimer of eight florins,
right glad to get rid of his presence and escape further scrutiny from
his prying glances.

How relieved I felt when the fellow closed the door after him and left
me to “blow off the steam” of my indignation all alone! And was I not
indignant? Only to fancy this insolent old woman giving her orders
without so much as condescending to communicate with me! I am left to
learn her whim by a mere accident, or not learn it at all, and exhibit
myself ready to depart at the inn door, and then hear, for the first
time, that I may unpack again.

This was unquestionably a studied rudeness, and demanded an equally
studied reprisal. She means to discredit my station, and disparage
my influence; how shall I reply to her? A vast variety of expedients
offered themselves to my mind: I could go off, leaving a fearful letter
behind me,--a document that would cut her to the very soul with
the sarcastic bitterness of its tone; but could I leave without a
reconciliation with Miss Herbert,--without the fond hope of our meeting
as friends. I meant a great deal more, though I would n’t trust
myself to say so. Besides, were I to go away, there were financial
considerations to be entertained. I could not, of course, carry off that
crimson bag with its gold and silver contents, and yet it was very hard
to tear myself from such a treasure.

I say it under correction, for I have never been rich, and,
consequently, never in the position to assert it positively; but
I declare my firm conviction to be that no man has ever tasted the
unbounded pleasures of a careless liberality on a Journey, who has not
travelled at some other person’s expense. Be as wealthy as you like, let
your portmanteau be stuffed full of circular notes, and there will be
present at moments of payment the thought, “If I do not allow myself
to be cheated here, I shall have all the more to squander there.” But,
drawing from the bag of another, no such mean reflection obtrudes. You
might as well defraud your lungs of a long inspiration out of the fear
of taking more than your share of the atmosphere. There is enough, and
will be enough there when you are dust and ashes.

In fact, if I had on one side the “three courses” of the great
statesman, I had on the other full thirty reasons against each, and,
therefore, I resolved to suspend action and do nothing. And let me here
passingly remark that, much as we hear every day about the merits of
promptitude and quick-wittedness, in nine cases out of ten in life, I ‘d
rather “give the move than take it.” The waiting policy is a rare one;
it is the secret of success in love, and of victory in an equity court
And so I determined I ‘d wait and see what should come of it. I appealed
to myself thus: “Potts, you are eminently a man of the world, one who
accepts life as it is, with all its crosses and untoward incidents; who
knows well that he must play bad cards even oftener than good ones. No
impatience, therefore, no rashness; give at least twenty-four hours’
thought to any important decision, and let a night’s sleep intervene
between your first conception of a plan and its adoption.” Oh, if the
people who are fretting themselves about what is to happen this day ten
years, would only remember what a long time it is,--that is, counting by
the number of events that will occur between this and to-morrow,--not
to say what incidents are happening at the antipodes that will yet bring
joy or sorrow to their hearts,--they would keep more of their sympathies
for present use, and perhaps be the happier for doing so.



CHAPTER XVIII. AN IMPATIENT SUMMONS.

I am about to make a very original observation. I hope its truth may
equal its originality. It is, that the man who has never had a sister
is, at his first entrance into life, far more the slave of feminine
captivations than he who has been brought up in a “house full of girls.”
 “Oh, for shame, Mr. Potts! Is this the gallantry we have heard so
much of? Is this the spirit of that chivalrous devotion you have been
incessantly impressing upon us?” Wait a moment, fair creature; give me
one half-minute for an explanation. He who has not had sisters has had
no experiences of the behind-scene life of the female world; he has
never heard one syllable about the plans and schemes and devices by
which hearts are snared. He fancies Mary stuck that moss-rose in her
hair in a moment of childish caprice; that Kate ran after her little
sister and showed the prettiest of ankles in doing it, out of the
irrepressible gayety of her buoyant spirits. In a word, he is one who
only sees the play when the house is fully lighted, and all the actors
in their grand costume; he has never witnessed a rehearsal, and has not
the very vaguest suspicion of a prompter.

To him, therefore, who has only experienced the rough companionship
of brothers--or worse still, has lived entirely alone--the first
acquaintanceship with the young-lady world is such a fascination as no
words can describe. The gentle look, the graceful gestures, the silvery
voices, all the play and action of natures so infinitely more refined
than any he has ever witnessed, are inexpressibly captivating. It is not
alone the occupations of their hours, light, graceful, and picturesque
as they are, but all their topics, their thoughts, seem to soar out
of the commonplace world he has lived in, and rise to ideal realms of
poetry and beauty. I say it advisedly: I do not know of anything so
truly Elysian in life as our first--our very first--experiences of this
kind.

Werther’s passion for Charlotte received a powerful impulse from
watching her as she cut bread-and-butter for the children. There are
vulgar natures who will smile at this; who cannot enter into the intense
far-sightedness of that poetic conception; that could in one trait
of simplicity embody a whole lifetime with its ennobling duties, its
cheerful sacrifices, its gracefully borne cares. Let him, therefore, who
could sneer at Werther, scoff at Potts, as he owns that he never felt
his heart so powerfully drawn to Kate Herbert as when he watched her
making tea for breakfast. Dressed in a muslin that represented mourning,
her rich hair plainly enclosed in a net, with a noiseless motion, she
glided about, an ideal of gentle sadness, more fascinating than I can
tell. If she bore any unpleasant memory of our little difference, she
did not show it; her manner was calm and even kind. She felt, perhaps,
that some compensation was due to me for the rudeness of that old woman,
and was not unwilling to make it.

“You know we are to rest here to-day?” said she, as she busied herself
at the table.

“I heard it by a mere chance, and from the courier,” said I, peevishly.
“I am not quite certain in what capacity Mrs. Keats condescends to
regard me, that I am treated with such scant courtesy. Probably you
would be kind enough to ascertain this point for me?”

“I shall assuredly not ask,” said she, with a smile.

“I certainly promised her brother--I could not do less for a colleague,
not to say something more--that I ‘d see this old lady safe over the
Alps. They are looking out for me anxiously enough at Constantinople
all this while; in fact, I suspect there will be a nice confusion there
through my delay, and I ‘d not be a bit surprised if they begin to
believe that stupid story in the ‘Nord.’ I suppose you saw it?”

“No. What is it about?”

“It is about your humble servant, Miss Herbert, and hints that he has
received one hundred parses from the sheiks of the Lebanon not to
reach the Golden Horn before they have made their peace with the Grand
Vizier.”

“And is of course untrue?”

“Of course, every word of it is a falsehood; but there are _gobemouches_
will believe anything. Mark my words, and see if this allegation be not
heard in the House of Commons, and some Tower Hamlets member start up
to ask if the Foreign Secretary will lay on the table copies of the
instructions given to a certain person, and supposed to be credentials
of a nature to supersede the functions of our ambassador at the Porte.
In confidence, between ourselves, Miss Herbert, so they are! I am
intrusted with full powers about the Hatti Homayoun, as the world shall
see in good time.”

“Do you take your tea strong?” asked she; and there was something so odd
and so inopportune in the question, that I felt it as a sort of covert
sneer; but when I looked up and beheld that pale and gentle face
turned towards me, I banished the base suspicion, and forgetting all my
enthusiasm, said,--

“Yes, dearest; strong as brandy!”

She tried to look grave, perhaps angry; but in spite of herself, she
burst out a-laughing.

“I perceive, sir,” said she, “that Mrs. Keats was quite correct when she
said that you appear to have moments in which you are unaware of what
you say.”

Before I could rally to reply, she had poured out a cup of tea for Mrs.
Keats, and left the room to carry it to her.

“‘Moments in which I am unaware of what I say,’--‘incoherent intervals’
Forbes Winslow would call them: in plain English, I am mad. Old woman,
have you dared to cast such an aspersion on me, and to disparage me,
too, in the quarter where I am striving to achieve success? For her
opinion of me I am less than indifferent; for her Judgment of my
capacity, my morals, my manners, I am as careless as I well can be of
anything; but these become serious disparagements when they reach
the ears of one whose heart I would make my own. I will insist on an
explanation--no, but an apology--for this. She shall declare that she
used these words in some non-natural sense,--that I am the sanest of
mortals: she shall give it under her hand and seal: ‘I, the undersigned,
having in a moment of rash and impatient Judgment imputed to the bearer
of this document, Algernon Sydney Potts,’--no, Pottinger--ha, there is a
difficulty! If I be Pottinger, I can never re-become Potts; if Potts,
I am lost,--or rather, Miss Herbert is lost to me forever. What a dire
embarrassment! Not to mention that in the passport I was Ponto!”

“Mrs. Keats desired me to beg you will step up to her room after
breakfast, and bring your account-books with you.” This was said by Miss
Herbert as she entered and took her place at the table.

“What has the old woman got in her head?” said I, angrily. “I have no
account-books,--I never had such in my life. When I travel alone, I say
to my courier, ‘Diomede’--he is a Greek--‘Diomede, pay;’ and he pays.
When Diomede is not with me, I ask, ‘How much?’ and I give it.”

“It certainly simplifies travel,” said she, gravely.

“It does more, Miss Herbert: it accomplishes the end of travel. Your
doctor says, ‘Go abroad,--take a holiday--turn your back on Downing
Street, and bid farewell to cabinet councils.’ Where is the benefit
of such a course, I ask, if you are to pass the vacation cursing
customhouse officers, bullying landlords, and browbeating waiters? I
say always, ‘Give me a bad dinner if you must, but do not derange my
digestion; rather a damp bed than thorns in the pillow.’”

“I am to say that you will see her, however,” said she, with that
matter-of-fact adhesiveness to the question that never would permit her
to join in my digressions.

“Then I go under protest, Miss Herbert,--under protest, and, as the
lawyers say, without prejudice,--that is, I go as a private gentleman,
irresponsible and independent. Tell her this, and say, I know nothing
of figures: arithmetic may suit the Board of Trade; in the Foreign
Department we ignore it You may add, too, if you like, that from what
you have seen of me, I am of a haughty disposition, easily offended, and
very vindictive,--very!”

“But I really don’t think this,” said she, with a bewitching smile.

“Not to _you_ de--” I was nearly in it again: “not to _you_,” said I,
stammering and blushing till I felt on fire. I suspect that she saw all
the peril of the moment, for she left the room hurriedly, on the pretext
of asking Mrs. Keats to take more tea.

“She is sensible of your devotion, Potts; but is she touched by it? Has
she said to herself, ‘That man is my fate, my destiny,--it is no use
resisting him; dark and mysterious as he is, I am drawn towards him
by an inscrutable sympathy’--or is she still struggling in the toils,
muttering to her heart to be still, and to wait? Flutter away, gentle
creature,” said I, compassionately, “but raffle not your lovely plumage
too roughly; the bars of your cage are not the less impassable that they
are invisible. You _shall_ love me, and you _shall_ be mine!”

To these rapturous fancies there now succeeded the far less captivating
thought of Mrs. Keats, and an approaching interview. Can any reader
explain why it is, that one sits in quiet admiration of some old woman
by Teniers or Holbein, and never experiences any chagrin or impatience
at trials which, if only represented in life, would be positively
odious? Why is it that art transcends nature, and that ugliness in
canvas is more endurable than ugliness in the flesh? Now, for my own
part, I’d rather have faced a whole gallery of the Dutch school, from
Van Eyck to Verbagen, than have confronted that one old lady who sat
awaiting me in No. 12.

Twice as I sat at my breakfast did François put in his head, look at me,
and retire without a word. “What is the matter? What do you mean?” cried
I, impatiently, at the third intrusion.

“It is madam that wishes to know when monsieur will be at leisure to go
upstairs to her.”

I almost bounded on my chair with passion. How was I, I would ask, to
maintain any portion of that dignity with which I ought to surround
myself if exposed to such demands as this? This absurd old woman would
tear off every illusion in which I draped myself. What availed all the
romance a rich fancy could conjure up, when that wicked old enchantress
called me to her presence, and in a voice of thunder said, “Strip off
these masqueradings, Potts, I know the whole story.” “Ay, but,” thought
I, “she cannot do so; of me and my antecedents she knows positively
nothing.” “Halt there!” interposes Conscience; “it is quite enough to
pronounce the coin base, without being able to say at what mint it was
fabricated. She knows you, Potts, she knows you.”

There is one great evil in castle-building, and I have thought very long
and anxiously, and I must own fruitlessly, over how to meet it: it is
that one never can get a lease of the ground to build on. One is always
like an Irish cottier, a tenant at will, likely to be turned out at a
moment’s notice, and dispossessed without pity or compassion. The same
language applies to each: “You know well, my good fellow, you had no
right to be there; pack up and be off!” It’s no use saying that it was
a bit of waste land unfenced and untilled; that, until you took it in
hand, it was overgrown with nettles and duckweed; that you dispossessed
no one, and such like. The answer is still the same, “Where’s your
title? Where’s your lease?”

Now, I am curious to hear what injury I was inflicting on that old woman
at No. 12 by any self-deceptions of mine? Could the most exaggerated
estimate I might form of myself, my present, or my future, in any degree
affect _her?_ Who constituted her a sort of ambulatory conscience, to
call people’s hearts to account at a moment’s notice? It may be seen
by the tone of these reflections, that I was fully impressed with the
belief through some channel, or by some clew, Mrs. Keats knew all my
history, and intended to use her knowledge tyrannically over me.

Oh that I could only retaliate! Oh that I had only the veriest fragment
of her past life, out of which to construct her whole story! Just as out
of a mastodon’s molar, Cuvier used to build up the whole monster, never
omitting a rib, nor forgetting a vertebra! How I should like to say to
her, and with a most significant sigh, “I knew poor Keats well!” Could
I not make even these simple words convey a world of accusation, blended
with sorrow and regret?

François again, and on the same errand. “Say I am coming; that I have
only finished a hasty breakfast, and that I am coming this instant,”
 cried I. Nor was it very easy for me to repress the more impatient
expressions which struggled for utterance, particularly as I saw, or
fancied I saw, the fellow pass his hand over his mouth to hide a grin at
my expense.

“Is Miss Herbert upstairs?”

“No, sir, she is in the garden.”

This was so far pleasant. I dreaded the thought of her presence at this
interview, and I felt that punishment within the precincts of the jail
was less terrible than on the drop before the populace; and with this
consoling reflection I mounted the stairs.



CHAPTER XIX. MRS. KEATS’S MYSTERIOUS COMMUNICATION

I knocked twice before I heard the permission to enter; but scarcely
had I closed the door behind me, than the old lady advanced, and,
courtesying to me with a manner of most reverential politeness, said,
“When you learn, sir, that my conduct has been dictated in the interest
of your safety, you will, I am sure, graciously pardon many apparent
rudenesses in my manner towards you, and only see in them my zeal to
serve you.”

I could only bow to a speech not one syllable of which was in the least
intelligible to me. She conducted me courteously to a seat, and only
took her own after I was seated.

“I feel, sir,” said she, “that there will be no end to our
embarrassments if I do not go straight to my object and say at once that
I know you. I tell you frankly, sir, that my brother did not betray
your secret. The instincts of his calling--to _him_ second nature--were
stronger than fraternal love, and all he said to me was, ‘Martha, I have
found a gentleman who is going south, and who, without inconvenience,
can see you safely as far as Como.’ I implicitly accepted his words, and
agreed to set out immediately. I suspected nothing,--I knew nothing. It
was only before going down to dinner that the paragraph in the ‘Courrier
du Dimanche’ met my eye, and as I read it, I thought I should have
fainted. My first determination was not to appear at dinner. I felt
that something or other in my manner would betray my knowledge of
your secret. My next was to go down and behave with more than usual
sharpness. You may have remarked that I was very abrupt, almost, shall I
say, rude?”

I tried to enter a dissent at this, but did not succeed so happily as I
meant; but she resumed:--

“At any cost, however, sir, I determined that I alone should be the
depositary of your confidence. Miss Herbert is to me a comparative
stranger; she is, besides, very young; she would be in no wise a
suitable person to intrust with such a secret, and so I said, I will
pretend illness, and remain here for a day; I will make some pretext of
dissatisfaction about the expense of the journey; I will affect to
have had some passing difference, and he can thus leave us ere he
be discovered. Not that I desire this, sir, far from it; this is the
brightest episode in a long life. I never imagined that I should have
enjoyed such an honor; but I have only to think of your safety, and if
an old woman, unobservant and unremarking as myself, could penetrate
your disguise, why not others more keen-sighted and inquisitive? Don’t
you agree with me?”

“There is much force in what you say, madam,” said I; with dignity, “and
your words touch me profoundly.” I thought this a happy expression, for
it conveyed a sort of grand condescension that seemed to hit off the
occasion.

“You would never guess how I recognized you, sir,” said she.

“Never, madam.” I could have given my oath to this, if required.

“Well,” said she, with a bland smile, “it was from the resemblance to
your mother!”

“Indeed!”

“Yes; you are far more like her, than your father, and you are scarcely
so tall as he was.”

“Perhaps not, madam.”

“But you have his manner, sir, the graceful and captivating dignity that
distinguished all your house; this would betray you to the eyes of all
who have enjoyed the high privilege of knowing your family.”

The allusion to our house showed that we were royalties, and I laid my
hand on my heart, and bowed as a prince ought, blandly but haughtily.

“Ah, sir,” said she, with a deep sigh, “your present enterprise fills me
with apprehension. Are you not afraid, yourself, of the consequences?”

I sighed, too; and if the truth were to be told, I was very much afraid.

“But, of course, you are acting under advice, and with the counsel of
those well able to guide you.”

“I cannot say I am, madam; I am free to tell you that every step I am
now taking is self-suggested.”

“Oh, then, let me implore you to pause, sir,” said she, falling on her
knees before me; “let me thus entreat of you not to go further in a path
so full of danger.”

“Shall I confess, madam,” said I, proudly, “that I do not _see_ these
dangers you speak of?”

I thought that on this hint she would talk out, and I might be able to
pierce the veil of the mystery, and discover who I was; for though very
like my mother, and shorter than my father, I was sorely puzzled about
my parentage; but she only went off into generalities about the state of
the Continent and the condition of Europe generally. I saw now that my
best chance of ascertaining something about myself was to obtain from
her the newspaper that first suggested her discovery of me, and I said
half carelessly, “Let me see the paragraph which struck you in the
‘Courrier.’”

“Ah, sir, you must excuse me, these ignoble writers have little delicacy
in alluding to the misfortunes of the great; they seem to revenge the
littleness of their own station on every such occasion.”

“You can well imagine, madam, how time has accustomed me to such petty
insults: show me the paper.”

“Pray let me refuse you, sir; I would not, however blamelessly, be
associated in your mind with what might offend you.”

Again I protested that I was used to such attacks, that I knew all about
the wretched hireling creatures who wrote them, and that instead of
offending, they positively amused me,--actually made me laugh.

Thus urged, she proceeded to search for the newspaper, and only after
some minutes was it that she remembered Miss Herbert had taken it away
to read in the garden. She proposed to send the servant to fetch it,
but this I would not permit, pretending at last to concur in her own
previously expressed contempt for the paragraph,--but secretly promising
myself to go in search of it the moment I should be at liberty,--and
once more she resumed the theme of my rashness, and my dangers, and
all the troubles I might possibly bring upon my family, and the grief I
might occasion my grandmother.

Now, as there are few men upon whom the ties of family and kindred
imposed less rigid bonds, I was rather provoked at being reminded of
obligations to my grandmother, and was almost driven to declare that she
weighed for very little in the balance of my plans and motives. The old
lady, however, rescued me from the indiscretion by a fervent entreaty
that I would at least ask a certain person what he thought of my present
step.

“Will you do this?” said she, with tears in her eyes. “Will you do it
now?”

I promised her faithfully.

“Will you do it here, sir, at this table, and let me have the proudest
memory in my life to recall the incident.”

“I should like an hour or two for reflection,” said I, pushed very hard
by this insistence of hers, for I was sorely puzzled whom I was to write
to.

“Oh,” said she, still tearfully, “is it not the habit of hesitating,
sir, has cost your house so dearly?”

“No,” said I, “we have been always accounted prompt in action and true
to our engagements.”

Heaven forgive me! but in this vainglorious speech I was alluding to the
motto of the Potts crest,--“Vigilanti-bus omnia fausta;” or, as some one
rendered it, “Potts answers to the night-bell.”

She smiled faintly at my remark. I wonder how she would have looked had
she read the thought that suggested it.

“But you _will_ write to him, sir?” said she, once more.

I laid my hand over what anatomists call the region of the heart, and
tried to look like Charles Edward in the prints. Meanwhile my patience
was beginning to fail me, and I felt that if the mystification were
to last much longer, I should infallibly lose my presence of mind.
Fortunately, the old lady was so full of her theme that she only asked
to be let talk away without interruption, with many an allusion to the
dear Count and the adored Duchess, and a fervent hope that I might be
ultimately reconciled to them both,--a wish which I had tact enough to
perceive required the most guarded reserve on my part.

“I know I am indiscreet, sir,” said she, at last; “but you must pardon
one whose zeal outruns her reason.”

And I bowed grandly, as I might have done in extending mercy to some
captive taken in battle.

“There is but one favor more, sir, I have to beg.”

“Speak it, madam. As the courtier remarked, if it be possible it _is_
done, if impossible it _shall_ be done.”

“Well, sir, it is that you will not leave us till you hear from--” She
hesitated as if afraid to say the name, and then added, “the Rue St.
Georges. Will you give me this pledge?”

Now, though this would have been, all things considered, an arrangement
very like to have lasted my life, I could not help hesitating ere I
assented, not to say that our dear friend of the Rue St Georges, whoever
he was, might possibly not concur in all the delusions indispensable
to my happiness. I therefore demurred,--that is, in legal acceptance, I
deferred assent,--as though to say, “We’ll see.”

“At all events, sir, you ‘ll accompany us to Como?”

“You have my pledge to that, madam.”

“And meanwhile, sir, you agree with me that it is better I should
continue to behave towards you with a cold and distant reserve.”

“Unquestionably.”

“Barely meeting, seldom or never conversing.”

“I should say never, madam; making, in fact, any communication you may
desire to reach me through the intervention of that young person,--I
forget her name.”

“Miss Herbert, sir.”

“Exactly; and who appears gentle and unobtrusive.”

“She is a gentlewoman by birth, sir,” said the old lady, tetchily.

“I have no doubt of it, madam, or she would not be found in association
with you.”

She courtesied deeply at the compliment, and I bowed as low, and,
backing and bowing, I gained the door, dying with eagerness, to make my
escape.

“Will you pardon me, sir, if, after all the agitation of this meeting, I
may not feel equal to appear at dinner to-day?”

“You will charge that young person to give news of your health,
however,” said I, insinuating that I expected to see Miss Herbert.

“Certainly, sir; and if it should be your pleasure that she should dine
with you, to preserve appearances--”

“You are right, madam; your remark is full of wisdom. I shall expect
to meet her.” And again I bowed low, and ere she recovered from another
reverential courtesy I had closed the door behind me, and was half-way
downstairs.



CHAPTER XX. THE MYSTERY EXPLAINED

As between the man who achieves greatness and him who has greatness
thrust upon him there lies a whole world of space, so is there an
immense interval between one who is the object of his own delusions and
him who forms the subject of delusion to others.

My reader may have already noticed that nothing was easier for me than
to lend myself to the idle current of my fancy. Most men who build
“castles in Spain,” as the old adage calls them, do so purely
to astonish their friends. _I_ indulged in these architectural
extravagances in a very different spirit. I built my castle to live in
it; from foundation to roof-tree, I planned every detail of it to
suit my own taste, and all my study was to make it as habitable and
comfortable as I could. Ay, and what’s more, live in it I did, though
very often the tenure was a brief one; sometimes while breaking my egg
at breakfast, sometimes as I drew on my gloves to walk out, and yet no
terror of a short lease ever deterred me from finishing the edifice
in the most expensive manner. I gilded my architraves and frescoed my
ceilings as though all were to endure for centuries; and laid out the
gardens and disposed the parterres as though I were to walk in them in
my extreme old age. This faculty of lending myself to an illusion by no
means adhered to me where the deception was supplied by another; from
the moment I entered one of _their_ castles, I felt myself in a strange
house. I continually forgot where the stairs were, what this gallery
opened on, where that corridor led to. No use was it to say, “You are at
home here. You are at your own fireside.” I knew and I felt that I was
not.

By this declaration I mean my reader to understand that, while ready for
any exigency of a story devised by myself, I was perfectly miserable
at playing a part written for me by a friend; nor was this feeling
diminished by the thought that I really did not know the person I
was believed to represent; nor had I the very vaguest clew to his
antecedents or belongings.

As I set out in search of Miss Herbert, these were the reflections I
revolved, occasionally asking myself, “Is the old lady at all touched
in the upper story? Is there not something private-asylumish in these
wanderings?” But still, apart from this special instance, she was a
marvel of acuteness and good sense. I found Miss Herbert in a little
arbor at her work; the newspaper on the bench beside her.

“So,” said she, without looking up, “you have been making a long visit
upstairs. You found Mrs. Keats very agreeable, or you were so yourself.”

“Is there anything wrong hereabouts?” said I, touching my forehead with
my finger.

“Nothing whatever.”

“No fancies, no delusions about certain people?”

“None whatever.”

“None of the family suspected of anything odd or eccentric?”

“Not that I have ever heard of. Why do you ask?”

“Well, it was a mere fancy, perhaps, on my part; but her manner to-day
struck me as occasionally strange,--almost flighty.”

“And on what subject?”

“I am scarcely at liberty to say that; in fact, I am not at all free to
divulge it,” said I, mysteriously, and somewhat gratified to remark that
I had excited a most intense curiosity on her part to learn the subject
of our interview.

“Oh, pray do not make any imprudent revelations to me,” said she,
pettishly; “which, apart from the indiscretion, would have the singular
demerit of affording me not the slightest pleasure. I am not afflicted
with the malady of curiosity.”

“What a blessing to you! Now, I am the most inquisitive of mankind. I
feel that if I were a clerk in a bank, I ‘d spend the day prying into
every one’s account, and learning the exact state of his balance-sheet.
If I were employed in the post-office, no terror of the law could
restrain me from reading the letters. Tell me that any one has a secret
in his heart, and I feel I could cut him open to get at it!”

“I don’t think you are giving a flattering picture of yourself in all
this,” said she, peevishly.

“I am aware of that, Miss Herbert; but I am also one of those who do not
trade upon qualities they have no pretension to.”

She flushed a deep crimson at this, and after a moment said,--

“Has it not occurred to you, sir, that people who seldom meet except to
exchange ungracious remarks would show more judgment by avoiding each
other’s society?”

Oh, how my heart thrilled at this pettish speech! In Hans Gruter’s
“Courtship,” he says, “I knew she loved me, for we never met without
a quarrel.” “I have thought of that, too, Miss Herbert,” said I, “but
there are outward observances to be kept up, conventionalities to be
respected.”

“None of which, however, require that you should come out and sit here
while I am at my work,” said she, with suppressed passion.

“I came out here to search for the newspaper,” said I, taking it up, and
stretching myself on the grassy sward to read at leisure.

She arose at once, and, gathering all the articles of her work into a
basket, walked away.

“Don’t let me hunt you away, Miss Herbert,” said I, indolently;
“anywhere else will suit me just as well. Pray don’t go.” But without
vouchsafing to utter a word, or even turn her head, she continued her
way towards the house.

“The morning she slapped my face,” says Hans, “filled the measure of my
bliss, for I then saw she could not control her feelings for me.”
 This passage recurred to me as I lay there, and I hugged myself in the
thought that such a moment of delight might yet be mine. The profound
German explains this sentiment well. “With women,” says he, “love is
like the idol worship of an Indian tribe; at the moment their hearts are
bursting with devotion, they like to cut and wound and maltreat their
god. With _them_, this is the ecstasy of their passion.”

I now saw that the girl was in love with me, and that she did not
know it herself. I take it that the sensations of a man who suddenly
discovers that the pretty girl he has been admiring is captivated by his
attentions, are very like what a head clerk may feel at being sent for
by the house, and informed that he is now one of the firm! This may seem
a commercial formula to employ, but it will serve to show my meaning;
and as I lay there on that velvet turf, what a delicious vision spread
itself around me! At one moment we were rich, travelling in splendor
through Europe, amassing art-treasures wherever we went and despoiling
all the great galleries of their richest gems. I was the associate of
all that was distinguished in literature and science, and my wife the
chosen friend of queens and princesses. How unaffected we were, how
unspoiled by fortune! Approachable by all, our graceful benevolence
seemed to elevate its object and make of the recipient the benefactor.
What a world of bliss this vile dross men call gold can scatter!
“There--there, good people,” said I, blandly, waving my hand, “no
illuminations, no bonfires; your happy faces are the brightest of all
welcomes.” Then we were suddenly poor,--out of caprice, just to see how
we should like it,--and living in a little cottage under Snowden, and I
was writing, Heaven knows what, for the periodicals, and my wife rocking
a little urchin in a cradle, whom we constantly awoke by kissing, each
pretending that it was all the other’s fault, till we ratified a peace
in the same fashion. Then I remembered the night, never to be forgotten,
when I received my appointment as something in the antipodes, and we
went up to town to thank the great man who bestowed it, and he asked
us to dinner, and he was, I fancied, more than polite to my wife, and I
sulked about it when we got home, and she petted and caressed me, and
we were better friends than ever, and I swore I would not accept the
Minister’s bounty, and we set off back again to our cottage in Wales,
and there we were when I came to myself once more.

It is always pleasant--at least, I have ever felt it so, on awaking from
a dream or a revery--to know that one has borne himself well in some
imaginary crisis of difficulty and peril. I like to think that I was in
no hurry to get into the longboat. I am glad I gave poor Dick that last
fifty-pound note,--my last in the world,--and I rejoice to remember that
I did not run away from that grizzly bear, but sent the four-pound ball
right into the very middle of his forehead. You feel in all these that
the metal of your nature has been tested, and come out pure gold; at all
events, _I_ did, and was very happy thereat. It was not till after some
little time that I could get myself clear out of dreamland, and back to
the actual world of small debts and difficulties, and then I bethought
me of the newspaper which lay unread beside me.

I began it now, resolved to examine it from end to end, till I
discovered the passage that alluded to me. It was so far pleasant
reading, that it was novel and original. A very able leader set forth
that nothing could equal the blessings of the Pope’s rule at Rome,--no
people were so happy, so prosperous, or so contented,--that all the
granaries were full, and all the jails empty, and the only persons of
small incomes in the state were the cardinals, and that they were too
heavenly-minded to care for it. After this, there came some touching
anecdotes of that good man the late King of Naples. And then there was
a letter from Frohsdorf, with fifteen francs enclosed to the inhabitants
of a village submerged by an inundation. There were pleasant little
paragraphs, too, about England, and all the money she was spending to
propagate infidelity and spread the slave-trade,--the two great and
especial objects of her policy,--after which came insults to France and
injustice to Ireland. The general tone of the print was war with every
one but some twenty or thirty old ladies and gentlemen living in exile
somewhere in Bohemia. Now, none of these things touched _me_, and I was
growing very weary of my search when I lighted upon the following:--

“We are informed, on authority that we cannot question, that the young
C. de P. is now making the tour of Germany alone and in disguise, his
object being to ascertain for himself how the various relatives of his
house, on the maternal side, would feel affected by any movement in
France to renew his pretensions. Strange, undignified, and ill advised
as such a step must seem, there is nothing in it at all repulsive to the
well-known traditions of the younger branch. Our informant himself
met the P. at Mayence, and speedily recognized him, from the marked
resemblance he bears to the late Duchess, his mother; he addressed him
at once by his title, but was met by the cold assurance that he was
mistaken, and that a casual similarity in features bad already led
others into the same error. The General--for our informant is an old and
honored soldier of France--confessed he was astounded at the _aplomb_
and self-possession displayed by so young a man; and although their
conversation lasted for nearly an hour, and ranged over a wide field,
the C. never for an instant exposed himself to a detection, nor offered
the slightest clew to his real rank and station. Indeed, he affected to
be English by birth, which his great facility in the language enabled
him to do. When he quitted Mayence, it was for Central Germany.”

Here was the whole mystery revealed, and I was no less a person than a
royal prince,--very like my mother, but neither so tall nor robust as
my distinguished father! “Oh, Potts! in all the wildest ravings of your
most florid moments you never arrived at this!”

A very strange thrill went through me as I finished this paragraph. It
came this wise. There is, in one of Hoffman’s tales, the story of a
man who, in a compact with the Fiend, acquired the power of personating
whomsoever he pleased, but who, sated at last with the enjoyment of
this privilege, and eager for a new sensation, determined he would try
whether the part of the Devil himself might not be amusing. Apparently
Mephistopheles won’t stand joking, for he resented the liberty by
depriving the transgressor of his identity forever, and made him become
each instant whatever character occurred to the mind of him he talked
to.

Though the parallel scarcely applied, the very thought of it sent an
aguish thrill through me,--a terror so great and acute that it was very
long before I could turn the medal round and read it on the reverse.
There, indeed, was matter for vainglory! “It was but t’other day,”
 thought I, “and Lord Keldrum and his friends fancied I was their
intimate acquaintance, Jack Burgoyne; and though they soon found out the
mistake, the error led to an invitation to dinner, a delightful evening,
and, alas! that I should own, a variety of consequences, some of which
proved less delightful. Now, however, Fortune is in a more amiable
mood; she will have it that I resemble a prince. It is a project which I
neither aid nor abet; but I am not childish enough to refuse the _rôle_
any more than I should spoil the Christmas revelries of a country-house
by declining a part in a tableau or in private theatricals. I say, in
the one case as in the other, ‘Here is Potts! make of him what you will.
Never is he happier than by affording pleasure to his friends.’ To
what end, I would ask, should I rob that old lady upstairs at No. 12,
evidently a widow, and with not too many enjoyments to solace her old
age,--why should I rob her of what she herself called the proudest
episode in her life? Are not, as the moralists tell us, all our joys
fleeting? Why, then, object to this one that it may only last for a few
days? Let us suppose it only to endure throughout our journey, and the
poor old soul will be so happy, never caring for the fatignes of the
road, never fretting about the inn-keepers* charges, but delighted to
know that his Royal Highness enjoys himself, and sits over his bottle of
Chambertin every evening in the garden, apparently as devoid of care as
though he were a bagman.”

I cannot say how it may be with others, but, for myself, I have always
experienced an immense sense of relief, actual repose, whenever I
personated somebody else; I felt as though I had left the man Potts
at home to rest and refresh himself, and took an airing as another
gentleman; just as I might have spared my own paletot by putting on a
friend’s coat in a thunderstorm. Now I _did_ wish for a little repose, I
felt it would be good for me. As to the special part allotted me, I took
it just as an obliging actor plays Hamlet or the Cock to convenience the
manager. Mrs. Keats likes it, and, I repeat, I do not object to it.

It was evident that the old lady was not going to communicate her secret
to her companion, and this was a great source of satisfaction to me.
Whatever delusions I threw around Miss Herbert I intended should be
lasting. The traits in which I would invest myself to _her_ eyes, my
personal prowess, coolness in danger, skill in all manly exercises,
together with a large range of general gifts and acquirements, I meant
to accompany me through all time; and I am a sufficient believer in
magnetism to feel assured that by imposing upon _her_ I should go no
small part of the road to deceiving myself, and that the first step in
any gift is to suppose you are eminently suited to it, is a well-known
and readily acknowledged maxim. Women grow pretty from looking in the
glass; why should not men grow brave from constantly contemplating their
own courage?

“Yes, Potts, be a Prince, and see how it will agree with you!”



CHAPTER XXI. HOW I PLAY THE PRINCE.

Mrs. Keats came down, and our dinner that day was somewhat formal. I
don’t think any of ns felt quite at ease, and, for my own part, it was
a relief to me when the old lady asked my leave to retire after her
coffee. “If you should feel lonely, sir, and if Miss Herbert’s company
would prove agreeable--”

“Yes,” said I, languidly, “that young person will find me in the
garden.” And therewith I gave my orders for a small table under a great
weeping-ash, and the usual accompaniment of my after-dinner hours, a
cool flask of Chambertin. I had time to drink more than two-thirds of
my Burgundy before Miss Herbert appeared. It was not that the hour hung
heavily on me, or that I was not in a mood of considerable enjoyment,
but somehow I was beginning to feel chafed and impatient at her long
delay. Could she possibly have remonstrated against the impropriety of
being left alone with a young man? Had she heard, by any mischance, that
impertinent phrase by which I designated her? Had Mrs. Keats herself
resented the cool style of my permission by a counter-order? “I wish I
knew what detains her!” cried I to myself, just as I heard her step on
the gravel, and then saw her coming, in very leisurely fashion, up the
walk.

Determined to display an indifference the equal of her own, I waited
till she was almost close; and then, rising languidly, I offered her a
chair with a superb air of Brummelism, while I listlessly said, “Won’t
you take a seat?”

It was growing duskish, but I fancied I saw a smile on her lip as she
sat down.

“May I offer you a glass of wine or a cigar?” said I, carelessly.

“Neither, thank you,” said she, with gravity.

“Almost all women of fashion smoke nowadays,” I resumed. “The Empress
of the French smokes this sort of thing here; and the Queen of Bavaria
smokes and chews.”

She seemed rebuked at this, and said nothing.

“As for myself,” said I, “I am nothing without tobacco,--positively
nothing. I remember one night,--it was the fourth sitting of the
Congress at Paris, that Sardinian fellow, you know his name, came to me
and said,--

“‘There’s that confounded question of the Danubian Provinces coming on
to-morrow, and Gortschakoff is the only one who knows anything about it.
Where are we to get at anything like information?’

“‘When do you want it, Count?’ said I.

“‘To-morrow, by eleven at latest There must be, at least, a couple of
hours to study it before the Congress meets.’

“‘Tell them to bring in ten candles, fifty cigars, and two quires of
foolscap,’ said I, ‘and let no one pass this door till I ring.’ At ten
minutes to eleven next morning he had in his hands that memoir which
Lord C. said embodied the prophetic wisdom of Edmund Burke with the
practical statesmanship of the great Commoner. Perhaps you have read
it?”

“No, sir.”

“Your tastes do not probably incline to affairs of state. If so, only
suggest what you ‘d like to talk on. I am indifferently skilled in most
subjects. Are you for the poets? I am ready, from Dante to the Biglow
Papers. Shall it be arts? I know the whole thing from Memmling and his
long-nosed saints, to Leech and the Punctuate. Make it antiquities,
agriculture, trade, dress, the drama, conchology, or cock-fighting,--
I’m your man; so go in; and don’t be afraid that you ‘ll disconcert me.”

“I assure you, sir, that my fears would attach far more naturally to my
own insufficiency.”

“Well,” said I, after a pause, “there’s something in that Macaulay used
to be afraid of me. Whenever Mrs. Montagu Stanhope asked him to one
of her Wednesday dinners, he always declined if I was to be there. You
don’t seem surprised at that?”

“No, sir,” said she, in the same quiet, grave fashion.

“What’s the reason, young lady,” said I, somewhat sternly, “that you
persist in saying ‘sir’ on every occasion that you address me? The ease
of that intercourse that should subsist between us is marred by this
Americanism. The pleasant interchange of thought loses the charming
feature of equality. How is this?”

“I am not at liberty to say, sir.”

“You are not at liberty to say, young lady?” said I, severely. “You
tell me distinctly that your manner towards me is based upon a something
which you must not reveal?”

“I am sure, sir, you have too much generosity to press me on a subject
of which I cannot, or ought not to speak.”

That fatal Burgundy had got into my brains, while the princely delusion
was uppermost; and if I had been submitted to the thumbscrew now, I
would have died one of the Orleans family.

“Mademoiselle,” said I, grandly, “I have been fortunately, or
unfortunately, brought up in a class that never tolerates contradiction.
When we ask, we feel that we order.”

“Oh, sir, if you but knew the difficulty I am in--”

“Take courage, my dear creature,” said I, blending condescension with
something warmer. “You will at least be reposing your confidence where
it will be worthily bestowed.”

“But I have promised--not exactly promised; but Mrs. Keats enjoined me
imperatively not to betray what she revealed to me.”

“Gracious Powers!” cried I, “she has not surely communicated my
secret,--she has not told you who I am?”

“No, sir, I assure you most solemnly that she has not; but being annoyed
by what she remarked as the freedom of my manner towards you at dinner,
the readiness with which I replied to your remarks, and what she deemed
the want of deference I displayed for them, she took me to task this
evening, and, without intending it, even before she knew, dropped
certain expressions which showed me that you were one of the very
highest in rank, though it was your pleasure to travel for the moment in
this obscurity and disguise.”

She quickly perceived the indiscretion she had committed, and said,
“Now, Miss Herbert, that an accident has put you in possession of
certain circumstances, which I had neither the will nor the right to
reveal, will you do me the inestimable favor to employ this knowledge
in such a way as may not compromise me?’ I told her, of course, that
I would; and having remarked how she occasionally--inadvertently,
perhaps--used ‘sir’ in addressing you, I deemed the imitation a safe
one, while it as constantly acted as a sort of monitor over myself to
repress any relapse into familiarity.”

“I am very sorry for all this,” said I, taking her hand in mine, and
employing my most insinuating of manners towards her. “As it is more
than doubtful that I shall ever resume the station that once pertained
to me; as, in fact, it may be my fortune to occupy for the rest of
life an humble and lowly condition, my ambition would have been to draw
towards me in that modest station such sympathies and affections as
might attach to one so circumstanced. My plan was to assume an obscure
name, seek out some unfrequented spot, and there, with the love of
one--one only--solve the great problem, whether happiness is not as much
the denizen of the thatched cottage as of the gilded palace. The first
requirement of my scheme was that my secret should be in my own keeping.
One can steel his own heart against vain regrets and longings; but one
cannot secure himself against the influence of those sympathies which
come from without, the unwise promptings of zealous followers, the hopes
and wishes of those who read your submission as mere apathy.”

I paused and sighed; she sighed, too, and there was a silence between
us.

“Must she not feel very happy and very proud,” thought I, “to be sitting
there on the same bench with a prince, her hand in his, and he pouring
out all his confidence in her ear? I cannot fancy a situation more full
of interest.”

“After all, sir,” said she, calmly, “remember that Mrs. I Keats alone
knows your secret. _I_ have not the vaguest suspicion of it.”

“And yet,” said I, tenderly, “it is to _you_ I would confide it; it is
in _your_ keeping I would wish to leave it; it is from _you_ I would ask
counsel as to my future.”

“Surely, sir, it is not to such inexperience as mine you would address
yourself in a difficulty?”

“The plan I would carry out demands none of that crafty argument called
‘knowing the world.’ All that acquaintance with the byplay of life,
its conventionalities and exactions, would be sadly out of place in an
Alpine village, or a Tyrolese Dorf, where I mean to pitch my tent. Do
you not think that your interest might be persuaded to track me so far?”

“Oh, sir, I shall never cease to follow your steps with the deepest
anxiety.”

“Would it not be possible for me to secure a lease of that sympathy?”

“Can you tell me what o’clock it is, sir?” said she, very gravely.

“Yes,” said I, rather put out by so sudden a diversion; “it is a few
minutes after nine.”

“Pray excuse my leaving you, sir, but Mrs. Keats takes her tea at nine,
and will expect me.”

And, with a very respectful courtesy, she withdrew, before I could
recover my astonishment at this abrupt departure.

“I trust that my Royal Highness said nothing indiscreet,” muttered I to
myself; “though, upon my life, this hasty exit would seem to imply it.”



CHAPTER XXII. INCIDENTS OF THE SECOND DAY’S JOURNEY.

We continued our journey the next morning, but it was not without
considerable difficulty that I succeeded in maintaining my former place
in the cabriolet. That stupid old woman fancied that princes were born
to be bored, and suggested accordingly that I should travel inside with
her, leaving the macaw and the toy terriers to keep company with Miss
Herbert. It was only by insisting on an outside place as a measure of
health that I at last prevailed, telling her that Dr. Corvisart was
peremptory on two points regarding me. “Let him,” said he, “have
abundance of fresh air, and never be without some young companion.”

And so we were again in our little leathern tent, high up in the fresh
breezy atmosphere, above dusty roads, and with a glorious view over that
lovely country that forms the approach to the Black Forest. The road
was hilly, and the carriage-way a heavy one; but we had six horses, who
trotted along briskly, shaking their merry bells, and flourishing their
scarlet tassels, while the postilions cracked their whips or broke out
into occasional bugle performances, principally intended to announce to
the passing peasants that we were very great folk, and well able to pay
for all the noise we required.

I was not ashamed to confess my enjoyment in thus whirling along at
some ten miles the hour, remembering how that great sage Dr. Johnson had
confessed to a like pleasure, and, animated by the inspiriting air and
the lovely landscape, could not help asking Miss Herbert if she did not
feel it “very jolly.”

She assented with a sort of constrained courtesy that by no means
responded to the warmth of my own sensations, and I felt vexed and
chafed accordingly.

“Perhaps you prefer travelling inside?” said I, with some pique.

“No, sir.”

“Perhaps you dislike travelling altogether?”

“No, sir.”

“Perhaps--” But I checked myself, and with a somewhat stiff air, I said,
“Would you like a book?”

“If it would not be rude to read, sir, while you--”

“Oh, not at all, never mind me, I have more than enough to think of.
Here are some things by Dumas, and Paul Féval, and some guide-book
trash.” And with that I handed her several volumes, and sank back into
my corner in sulky isolation.

Here was a change! Ten minutes ago all Nature smiled on me; from
the lark in the high heavens to the chirping grasshopper in the tall
maize-field, it was one song of joy and gladness. The very clouds as
they swept past threw new and varied light over the scene, as though to
show fresh effects of beauty on the landscape,--the streams went by in
circling eddies, like smiles upon a lovely face,--and now all was sad
and crape-covered! “What has wrought this dreary change?” thought I; “is
it possible that the cold looks of a young woman, good-looking, I grant,
but no regular downright beauty after all, can have altered the aspect
of the whole world to you? Are you so poor a creature in yourself,
Potts, so beggared in your own resources, so barren in all the
appliances of thought and reflection, that if your companion, whoever
she or he may be, sulk, you must needs reflect the humor? Are you
nothing but the mirror that displays what is placed before it?”

I set myself deliberately to scan the profile beside me; her black veil,
drawn down on the side furthest from me, formed a sort of background,
which displayed her pale features more distinctly. All about the brow
and orbit was beautifully regular, but the mouth was, I fancied, severe;
there was a slight retraction of the upper lip that seemed to imply
over-firmness, and then the chin was deeply indented,--“a sign,” Lavater
says, “of those who have a will of their own.” “Potts,” thought I, “she
‘d rule you,--that’s a nature would speedily master yours. I don’t think
there’s any softness either, any of that yielding gentleness there, that
makes the poetry of womanhood; besides, I suspect she’s worldly,--those
sharply cut nostrils are very worldly! She is, in fact,”--and here I
unconsciously uttered my thoughts aloud,--“she is, in fact, one to say,
‘Potts, how much have you got a-year? Let us have it in figures.’”

“So you are still ruminating over the life of that interesting
creature,” said she, laying down her book to laugh; “and shall I
confess, I lay awake half the night, inventing incidents and imagining
situations for him.”

“For whom?” said I, innocently.

“For Potts, of course. I cannot get him out of my head such as I first
fancied he might be, and I see now, by your unconscious allusion to him,
that he has his place in your imagination also.”

“You mistake, Miss Herbert,--at least you very much misapprehend my
conception of that character. The Potts family has a high historic
tradition. Sir Constantine Potts was cup-bearer to Henry H., and I
really see no reason why ridicule should attach to one who may be, most
probably, his descendant.”

“I ‘m very sorry, sir, if I should have dared to differ with you; but
when I heard the name first, and in connection with two such names as
Algernon Sydney, and when I thought by what strange accident did they
ever meet in the one person--”

“You are very young, Miss Herbert, and therefore not removed from the
category of the teachable,” said I, with a grand didactic look. “Let
me guard you, therefore, against the levity of chance inferences. What
would you say if a person named Potts were to make the offer of his
hand? I mean, if he were a man in all respects acceptable, a gentleman
captivating in manner and address, agreeable in person, graceful and
accomplished,--what would you reply to his advances?”

“Really, sir, I am shocked to think of the humble opinion I may be
conveying of my sense and judgment, but I’m afraid I should tell him it
is impossible I could ever permit myself to be called Mrs. Potts.”

“But, in Heaven’s name, why?--I ask you why?”

“Oh, sir! don’t be angry with me; it surely does not deserve such a
penalty; at the worst, it is a mere caprice on my part.”

“I am not angry, young lady, I am simply provoked; I am annoyed to think
that a prejudice so unworthy of you should exercise such a control over
your judgment.”

“I am quite ashamed, sir, to have been the occasion of so much
displeasure to you. I hope and trust you will ascribe it to my ignorance
of life and the world.”

“If you are dissatisfied with yourself, Miss Herbert, I have no more
to say,” said I, taking up a book, and pretending to read, while I felt
such a disgust with myself that if I had n’t been strapped up with
a leather apron up to my chin, I think I should have thrown myself
headlong down and let the wheel pass over me. “What is it, Potts, that
is corrupting and destroying the naturally fine and noble nature you
are certainly endowed with? Is it this confounded elevation to princely
rank? If you were not a Royal Highness, would you have dared to utter
such cruelties as these? Would you, in your most savage of moods, have
presumed to make that pale cheek paler, and forced a tear-drop into that
liquid eye? I always used to think that the greatest effort of a man was
to keep him on a level with those born above him. I now find it is far
harder to stoop than to stand on tiptoe. Such a pain in the back comes
of always bending, and it is so difficult to do it gracefully!”

I was positively dying to be what the French call _bon prince_, and
yet I didn’t know how to set about it. I could not take off one of my
decorations,--a cross or a ribbon,--for I had none; nor give it, because
she, being a woman, could n’t wear it. I could n’t make her one of the
court ladies, for there was no court; and yet it was clear something
should be done, if one only knew what it was. “I suppose now,” said I to
myself, “a real R. H. would see his way here at once; the right thing to
do, the exact expression to use would occur as naturally to his mind
as all this embarrassment presents itself to mine. ‘Whenever your head
cannot guide you,’ says a Spanish proverb, ‘ask your heart;’ and so I
did, and my heart spoke thus: ‘Tell her, Potts, who you are, and what;
say to her, “Listen, young lady, to the words of truth from one who
could tell you far more glibly, far more freely, and far more willingly,
a whole bushel of lies. It will sit light on his heart that he deceive
the old lady inside, but _you_ he cannot, will not deceive. Do not
deem the sacrifice a light one; it cost St. George far less to go out
dragon-hunting than it costs me to slay this small monster who ever
prompts me to feats of fancy.”’”

“I am very sorry to be troublesome, sir, but as we change horses here, I
will ask you to assist me to alight; the weather looks very threatening,
and some drops of rain have already fallen.”

These words roused me from my revery to action, and I got down, not very
dexterously either, for I slipped, and made the postilion laugh,
and then I helped her, who accomplished the descent so neatly, so
gracefully, showing the least portion of such an ankle, and accidentally
giving me such a squeeze of the hand! The next moment she was lost to
me, the clanking steps were drawn up, the harsh door banged to, and I
was alone,--all alone in the world.

Like a sulky eagle, sick of the world, I climbed up to my eyry. I
no longer wished for sunshine or scenery; nay, I was glad to see the
postboys put on their overcoats and prepare for a regular down-pour. I
liked to think there are some worse off than even Potts. In half an hour
_they_ will be drenched to the skin, and I ‘ll not feel a drop of it!

The little glass slide at my back was now withdrawn, and Miss Herbert’s
pale, sweet face appeared at it. She was saying that Mrs. Keats urgently
entreated I would come inside, that she was so uneasy at my being
exposed to such a storm.

I refused, and was about to enter into an account of my ascent of Mont
Blanc, when the slide was closed and my listener lost to me.

“Is it possible, Potts,” said I, “that she has detected this turn of
yours for the imaginative line, and that she will not encourage it,
even tacitly? Has she said, ‘There is a young man of genius, gifted
marvellously with the richest qualities, and yet such is the exuberance
of his fancy that he is positively its slave. Not content to let him
walk the earth like other men, she attaches wings to him and carries him
off into the upper air. I will endeavor, however hard the task, to clip
his feathers and bring him back to the common haunts of men’? Try it,
fair enchantress, try it!”

The rain was now coming down in torrents, and with such swooping gusts
of wind that I was forced to fasten the leather curtain in front of me,
and sit in utter darkness, denied even the passing pleasure of seeing
the drenched postboys bobbing up and down on the wet saddles. I grew
moody and sad. Every Blue Devil of my acquaintance came to pay his visit
to me, and brought a few more of his private friends. I bethought me
that I was hourly travelling away further and further from my home; that
all this long road must surely be retraced one day or other, though not
in a carriage and post, but probably in a one-horse cart, with a mounted
gendarme on either side of it, and a string to my two wrists in their
bridle hands. I thought of that vulgar herd of mankind so ready to weep
over a romance, and yet send the man who acts one to a penal
settlement. I thought how I should be described as the artful knave,
the accomplished swindler. As if I was the first man who ever took an
exaggerated estimate of his own merits! Go into the House of Commons,
visit the National Gallery, dine at a bar or a military mess, frequent,
in one word, any of the haunts of men, and with what _pièces pour servir
à l’histoire_ of self-deception will you come back loaded!

The sliding window at my back was again drawn aside, and I heard Miss
Herbert’s voice,--

“If I am not giving you too much trouble, sir, would you kindly see if I
have not dropped a bracelet--a small jet bracelet--in the _coupé?_”

“I ‘m in the dark here, but I’ll do my best to find it.”

“We are very nearly so, too,” said she; “and Mrs. Keats is fast asleep,
quite unmindful of the thunder.”

With some struggling I managed to get down on my knees, and was soon
engaged in a very vigorous search. To aid me, I lighted a lucifer match,
and by its flickering glare I saw right in front of me that beautiful
pale face, enclosed as it were in a frame by the little window. She
blushed at the fixedness of my gaze, for I utterly forgot myself in my
admiration, and stared as though at a picture. My match went out, and I
lit another. Alas! there she was still, and I could not force myself to
turn away, but gazed on in rapture.

“I’m sorry to give you this trouble, sir,” said she, in some confusion.
“Pray never mind it. It will doubtless be found this evening when we
arrive.”

Another lucifer, and now I pretended to be in most eager pursuit; but
somehow my eyes would look up and rest upon her sweet countenance.

“A diamond bracelet, you said?” muttered I, not knowing what I was
saying.

“No, sir, mere jet, and of no value whatever, save to myself. I am
really distressed at all the inconvenience I have occasioned you. I
entreat you to think no more of it.”

My match was out, and I had not another. “Was ever a man robbed of such
ecstasy for a mere pennyworth of stick and a little sulphur? O Fortune!
is not this downright cruelty?”

As I mumbled my complaints, I searched away with an honest zeal, patting
the cushions all over, and poking away into most inscrutable pockets
and recesses, while she, in a most beseeching tone, apologized for her
request and besought me to forget it.

“Found! found!” cried I, in true delight, as I chanced upon the treasure
at my feet.

“Oh, sir, you have made me so happy, and I am so much obliged, and so
grateful to you!”

“Not another word, I beseech you,” whispered I; “you are actually
turning my head with ecstasy. Give me your hand, let me clasp it on your
arm, and I am repaid.”

“Will you kindly pass it to me, sir, through the window?” said she,
timidly.

“Ah!” cried I, in anguish, “your gratitude has been very fleeting.”

She muttered something I could not catch, but I heard the rustle of her
sleeve against the window-frame, and dark as it was, pitch dark, I knew
her hand was close to me. Opening the bracelet, I passed it round her
wrist as reverently as though it were the arm of a Queen of Spain, one
touch of whom is high treason. I trembled so, that it was some
seconds before I could make the clasp meet. This done, I felt she was
withdrawing her hand, when, with something like that headlong impulse
by which men set their lives on one chance, I seized the fingers in my
grasp, and implanted two rapturous kisses on them. She snatched her hand
hastily away, closed the window with a sharp bang, and I was alone once
more in my darkness, but in such a flutter of blissful delight that even
the last reproving gesture could scarcely pain me. It mattered little to
me that day that the lightning felled a great pine and threw it across
the road, that the torrents were so swollen that we only could pass
them with crowds of peasants around the carriage with ropes and poles
to secure it, that four oxen were harnessed in front of our leaders to
enable us to meet the hurricane, or that the postboys were paid treble
their usual fare for all their perils to life and limb. I cared for none
of these, Enough for me that, on this day, I can say with Schiller,

     “Ich habe genossen das irdische Gluck,
     Ich habe gelebt and geliebt!”



CHAPTER XXIII. JEALOUSY UNSUPPORTED BY COURAGE

We arrived at a small inn on the bordera of the Titi-see at nightfall;
and though the rain continued to come down unceasingly, and huge masses
of cloud hung half-way down the mountain, I could see that the spot was
highly picturesque and romantic. Before I could descend from my lofty
eminence, so strapped and buttoned and buckled up was I, the ladies had
time to get out and reach their rooms. When I asked to be shown mine,
the landlord, in a very free-and-easy tone, told me that there was
nothing for me but a double-bedded room, which I must share with another
traveller. I scouted this proposition at once with a degree of force,
and, indeed, of violence, that I fancied must prove irresistible; but
the stupid German, armed with native impassiveness, simply said, “Take
it or leave it, it’s nothing to me,” and left me to look after his
business. I stormed and fumed. I asked the chambermaid if she knew who I
was, and sent for the Hausknecht to tell him that all Europe should ring
with this indignity. I more than hinted that the landlord had sealed
his own doom, and that his miserable cabaret had seen its last days of
prosperity.

I asked next, where was the Jew pedler? I felt certain he was a fellow
with pencil-cases and pipe-beads, who owned the other half of the
territory. Could he not be bought up? He would surely sleep in the
cow-house, if it were too wet to go up a tree!

François came to inform me that he was out fishing; that he fished all
day, and only came home after dark; his man had told him so much.

“His man? Why, has he a servant?” asked I.

“He’s not exactly like a servant, sir; but a sort of peasant with a
green jacket and a tall hat and leather gaiters, like a Tyrolese.”

“Strolling actors, I ‘ll be sworn,” mattered I; “fellows taking a week’s
holiday on their way to a new engagement How long have they been here?”

“Came on Monday last in the diligence, and are to remain till the
twentieth; two florins a day they give for everything.”

“What nation are they?”

“Germans, sir, regular Germans; never a pipe ont of their mouths, master
and man. I learned all this from his servant, for they have put up a bed
for me in his room.”

A sudden thought now struck me: “Why should not François give up his bed
to this stranger, and occupy the one in my room?” This arrangement would
suit _me_ better, and it ought to be all the same to Hamlet or Groetz,
or whatever he was. “Just lounge about the door, François,” said I,
“till he comes back; and when you see him, open the thing to him,
civilly, of course; and if a crown piece, or even two, will help the
negotiation, slip it slyly into his hand. You understand?”

François winked like a man who had corrupted customhouse officers in his
time, and even bribed bigger functionaries at a pinch.

“If he’s in trade, you know, François, just hint that if he sends in
his pack in the course of the evening, the ladies might possibly take a
fancy to something.”

Another wink.

“And throw out--vaguely, of course, very vaguely--that we are swells,
but in strict _incog._”

A great scoundrel was François; he was a Swiss, and could cheat any
one, and, like a regular rogue, never happier than when you gave him
a mission of deceit or duplicity. In a word, when I gave him his
instructions, I regarded the negotiation as though it were completed,
and now addressed myself to the task of looking after our supper, which,
with national obstinacy, the landlord declared could not be ready
before nine o’clock. As usual, Mrs. Keats had gone to bed immediately
on arriving; but when sending me a “good-night” by her maid, she added,
“that whenever supper was served, Miss Herbert would come down.”

We had no sitting-room save the common room of the inn, a long,
low-ceilinged, dreary chamber, with a huge green-tile stove in one
corner, and down the centre a great oak table, which might have served
about forty guests. At one end of this three covers were laid for us,
the napkins enclosed in bone circlets, and the salt in great leaden
receptacles, like big ink-bottles; a very ancient brass lamp giving
its dim radiance over all. It was wearisome to sit down on the
straight-backed wooden chairs, and not less irksome to walk on the
gritty, sanded floor, and so I lounged in one of the windows, and
watched the rain. As I looked, I saw the figure of a man with a
fishing-basket and rod on his shoulder approaching the house. I guessed
at once it was our stranger, and, opening the window a few inches, I
listened to hear the dialogue between him and François. The window was
enclosed in the same porch as the door, so that I could hear a good deal
of what passed. François accosted him familiarly, questioned him as to
his sport, and the size of the fish he had taken. I could not hear the
reply, but I remarked that the stranger emptied his basket, and was
despatching the contents in different directions: some were for the
curé, and some for the postmaster, some for the brigadier of the
gendarmerie, and one large trout for the miller’s daughter.

“A good-looking wench, I’ll be sworn,” said François, as he heard the
message delivered.

Again the stranger said something, and I thought, from the tone,
angrily, and François responded; and then I saw them walk apart for
a few seconds, during which François seemed to have all the talk to
himself,--a good omen, as it appeared to me, of success, and a sure
warranty that the treaty was signed. Francois, however, did not come to
report progress, and so I closed the window and sat down.

“So you have got company to-night, Master Ludwig,” said the stranger,
as he entered, followed by the host, who speedily seemed to whisper that
one of the arrivals was then before him. The stranger bowed stiffly but
courteously to me, which I returned not less haughtily; and I now
saw that he was a man about thirty-five, but much freckled, with a
light-brown beard and moustache. On the whole, a good-looking fellow,
with a very upright carriage, and something of a cavalry soldier in the
swing of his gait.

“Would you like it at once, Herr Graf?” said the host, obsequiously.

“Oh, he ‘s a count, is he?” said I, with a sneer to myself. “These
countships go a short way with _me_.”

“You had better consult your other guests; _I_ am ready when _they_
are,” said the stranger.

Now, though the speech was polite and even considerate, I lost sight of
the courtesy in thinking that it implied we were about to sup in common,
and that the third cover was meant for him.

“I say, landlord,” said I, “you don’t intend to tell me that you have no
private sitting-room, but that ladies of condition must needs come
down and sup here with”--I was going to say, “Heaven knows who;” but I
halted, and said--“with the general company.”

“That, or nothing!” was the sturdy response. “The guests in this house
eat here, or don’t eat at all; eh, Herr Graf?”

“Well, so far as my experience goes, I can corroborate you,” said the
stranger, laughing; “though, you may remember, I have often counselled
you to make some change.”

“That you have; but I don’t want to be better than my father and my
grandfather; and the Archduke Charles stopped here in _their_ time, and
never quarrelled with his treatment.”

I told the landlord to apprise the young lady whenever supper was ready,
and I walked to a distant part of the room and sat down.

In about two minutes after, Miss Herbert appeared, and the supper was
served at once. I had not met her since the incident of the bracelet,
and I was shocked to see how cold she was in her manner, and how
resolute in repelling the most harmless familiarity towards her.

I wanted to explain to her that it was through no fault of mine we were
to have the company of that odious stranger, that it was one of the
disagreeables of these wayside hostels, and to be borne with patience,
and that though he was a stage-player, or a sergeant of dragoons, he was
reasonably well-bred and quiet I did contrive to mumble out some of this
explanation; but, instead of attending to it, I saw her eyes following
the stranger, who had just draped a large riding-cloak over a
clothes-horse behind her chair, to serve as a screen. Thanks are all
very well, but I ‘m by no means certain that gratitude requires such a
sweet glance as that, not to mention that I saw the expression in her
eyes for the first time.

I thought the soup would choke me. I almost hoped it might. Othello was
a mild case of jealousy compared to me, and I felt that strangling would
not half glut my vengeance. And how they talked!--he complimenting
her on her accent, and she telling him how her first governess was
a Hanoverian from Celle, where they are all such purists. There was
nothing they did not discuss in those detestable gutturals, and as
glibly as if it bad been a language meet for human lips. I could not
eat a mouthful, but I drank and watched them. The fellow was not long in
betraying himself: he was soon deep in the drama. He knew every play of
Schiller by heart, and quoted the Wallenstein, the Bobbers, Don Carlos,
and Maria Stuart at will; so, too, was he familiar with Goethe and
Leasing. He had all the swinging intonation of the boards, and declaimed
so very professionally that, as he concluded a passage, I cried out,
without knowing it,--

“Take that for your benefit,--it’s the best you have given yet.”

Oh, Lord, how they laughed! She covered up her face and smothered it;
but he lay back, and, holding the table with both hands, he positively
shouted and screamed aloud. I would have given ten years of life for the
courage to have thrown my glass of wine in his face; but it was no use.
Nature had been a niggard to me in that quarter, and I had to sit and
hear it,--exactly so, sit and hear it,--while they made twenty attempts
to recover their gravity and behave like ladies and gentlemen, and when,
no sooner would they look towards me, than off they were again as bad as
before.

I revolved a dozen cutting sarcasms, all beginning with, “Whenever I
feel assured that you have sufficiently regained the customary calm
of good society;” but the dessert was served ere I could complete the
sentence, and now they were deep in the lyric poets, Uhland, and
Körner, and Freiligrath, and the rest of them. As I listened to their
enthusiasm, I wondered why people never went into raptures over a cold
in the head. But it was not to end here: there was an old harpsichord
in the room, and this he opened and set to work on in that fearful
two-handed fashion your German alone understands. The poor old crippled
instrument shook on its three legs, while the fourth fell clean off, and
the loose wires jangled and jarred like knives in a tray; but he only
sang the louder, and her ecstasies grew all the greater too.

Heaven reward you, dear old Mrs. Keats, when you sent word down that
you could n’t sleep a wink, and begging them to “send that noisy band
something and let them go away;” and then Miss Herbert wished him a
sweet goodnight, and he accompanied her to the door, and then there was
more good-night, and I believe I had a short fit; but when I came to
myself, he was sitting smoking his cigar opposite me.

“You are no relative, no connection of the young lady who has just
left the room?” said he to me with a grave manner, so significant of
something under it that I replied hastily, “None,--none whatever.”

“Was that servant who spoke to me in the porch, as I came in this
evening, yours?”

“Yes.” This I said more boldly, as I suspected he was coming to the
question François had opened.

“He mentioned to me,” said he, slowly, and puffing his cigar at easy
intervals, “that you desire your servant should sleep in the same
room with you. I am always happy to meet the wishes of courteous
fellow-travellers, and so I have ordered my servant to give you _his_
bed; he will sleep upstairs in what was intended for _you_. Good-night.”
 And with an insolent nod he lounged out of the room and left me.



CHAPTER XXIV. MY CANDOR AS AN AUTOBIOGRAPHER.

My reader is sufficiently acquainted with me by this time to know that
there is one quality in me on which he can always count with safety,--my
candor! There may be braver men and more ingenious men; there may be, I
will not dispute it, persons more gifted with oratorical powers, better
linguists, better mathematicians, and with higher acquirements in art;
but I take my stand upon candor, and say, there never lived the man,
ancient or modern, who presented a more open and undisguised section of
himself than I have done, am doing, and hope to do to the end. And
what, I would ask you, is the reason why we have hitherto made so little
progress in that greatest of all sciences,--the knowledge of human
nature? Is it not because we are always engaged in speculating on what
goes on in the hearts of others, guessing, as it were, what people are
doing next door, instead of honestly recording what takes place in their
own house?

You think this same candor is a small quality. Well, show me one
thoroughly honest autobiography. Of all the men who have written their
own memoirs, it is fair to presume that some may have lacked personal
courage, some been deficient in truthfulness, some forgetful of early
friendships, and so on. Yet where will you find me one, I only ask
one, who declares, “I was a coward, I never could speak truth, I was by
nature ungrateful”?

Now, it would be exactly through such confessions as these our knowledge
of humanity would be advanced. The ship that makes her voyage without
the loss of a spar or a rope, teaches little; but there is a whole world
of information in the log of the vessel with a great hole in her, all
her masts carried away, the captain invariably drunk, and the crew
mutinous; then we hear of energy and daring and ready-wittedness,
marvellous resource, and indomitable perseverance; then we come to
estimate a variety of qualities that are only evoked by danger. Just
as some gallant skipper might say, “I saw that we couldn’t weather the
point, and so I dropped anchor in thirty fathoms, and determined to
trust all to my cables;” or, “I perceived that we were settling down,
so I crowded all sail on, resolved to beach her.” In the same spirit I
would like to read in some personal memoir, “Knowing that I could not
rely on my courage; feeling that if pressed hard, I should certainly
have told a lie--” Oh, if we only could get honesty like this! If some
great statesman, some grand foreground figure of his age would sit down
to give his trials as they really occurred, we should learn more of life
from one such volume than we glean from all the mock memoirs we have
been reading for centuries!

It is the special pleading of these records that makes them so
valueless; the writer always is bent on making out his case. It is the
eternal representation of that spectacle said to be so pleasing to the
gods,--the good man struggling with adversity. But what we want to see
is the weak man, the frail man, the man who has to fight adversity
with an old rusty musket and a flint lock, instead of an Enfield rifle,
loading at the breech!

I ‘d not give a rush to see Blondin cross the Falls of Niagara on a
tight-rope; but I’d cross the Atlantic to see, «ay, the Lord Mayor or
the Master of the Rolls try it.

Now, much-respected reader, do not for a moment suppose that I have,
even in my most vainglorious raptures, ever imagined that I was here
in these records supplying the void I have pointed out. Remember that I
have expressly told you such confessions, to be valuable, ought to
come from a great man. Painful as the avowal is, I am not a great man!
Elements of greatness I have in me, it is true; but there are wants,
deficiencies, small little details, many of them,--rivets and bolts, as
it were,--without which the machinery can’t work; and I know this, and I
feel it.

This digression has all grown out of my unwillingness to mention what
mention I must,--that I passed my night at the little inn on the table
where we supped. I had not courage to assert the right to my bed in the
Count’s room; and so I wrapped myself in my cloak, and with my
carpetbag for a pillow, tried to sleep. It was no use; the most elastic
spring-mattress and a down cushion would have failed that night to
lull me! I was outraged beyond endurance: _she_ had slighted, _he_
had insulted me! Such a provocation as he gave me could have but one
expiation. He could not, by any pretext, refuse me satisfaction. But was
I as ready to ask it? Was it so very certain that I would insist upon
this reparation? He was certain to wound, he might kill me! I believe I
cried over that thought. To be cut off in the bud of one’s youth, in
the very spring-time of one’s enjoyment,--I could not say of one’s
utility,--to go down unnoticed to the grave, never appreciated, never
understood, with vulgar and mistaken judgments upon one’s character and
motives! I thought my heart would burst with the affliction of such
a picture, and I said, “No, Potts, live; and reply to such would-be
slanderers by the exercise of the qualities of your great nature.”
 Numberless beautiful little episodes came thronging to my memory of
good men, men whose personal gallantry had won them a world-wide renown,
refusing to fight a duel. “We are to storm the citadel to-morrow,
Colonel,” said one; “let us see which of us will be first up the
breach.” How I loved that fellow for his speech; and I tortured my mind
how, as there was no citadel to be carried by assault, I could apply
its wisdom to my own case. What if I were to say, “Count, the world is
before us,--a world full of trials and troubles. With the common fortune
of humanity, we are certain each of us to have our share. What if we
meet on this spot, say ten years hence, and see who has best acquitted
himself in the conflict?” I wonder what he would say. The Germans are
a strange, imaginative, dreamy sort of folk. Is it not likely that he
would be struck by a notion so undeniably original? Is it not probable
that he would seize my hand with rapture, and say, “Ja! I agree”?
Still, it is possible that he might not; he might be one of those vulgar
matter-of-fact creatures who will regard nothing through the tinted
glass of fancy; he might ridicule the project, and tell it at breakfast
as a joke. I felt almost smothered as this notion crossed me.

I next bethought me of the privileges of my rank. Could I, as an R.
H., accept the vulgar hazards of a personal encounter? Would not such
conduct be derogatory in one to whom great destinies might one day be
committed? Not that I lent myself, be it remarked, to the delusion
of being a prince; but that I felt, if the line of conduct would be
objectionable to men in my rank and condition, it inevitably followed
that it must be bad. What I could neither do as the descendant of St.
Louis, or the son of Peter Potts, must needs be wrong. These were the
grievous meditations of that long, long night; and though I arose from
the hard table, weary and with aching bones, I blessed the pinkish-gray
light that ushered in the day. I had scarcely completed a very rapid
toilet, when François came with a message from Mrs. Keats, “hoping I
had rested well, and begging to know at what hour it was my pleasure to
continue the journey.” There was an evident astonishment in the fellow’s
face at the embassy with which he was charged; and though he delivered
the message with reasonable propriety, there was a certain something in
his look that said, “What delusion is this you have thrown around the
old lady?”

“Say that I am ready, François; that I am even impatient to be off, and
the sooner we start the better.”

This I uttered with all my heart; for I was eager to get away before
the odious German should be stirring, and could not subdue my anxiety to
avoid meeting him again. There was every reason to expect that we should
get off unnoticed, and I hastened out myself to order the horses and
stimulate the postilions to greater activity. This was no labor of
love, I promise you! The sluggardly inertness of that people passes all
belief; entreaties, objurgations, curses, even bribes could not move
them. They never admitted such a possibility as haste, and stumped about
in their wooden shoes or iron-bound boots, searching for articles of
horse-gear under bundles of hay or stacks of firewood, as though it
was the very first time in their lives that post-horses had ever been
required in that locality. “Make a great people out of such materials
as these!” muttered I; “what rubbish to imagine it! How, with such
intolerable apathy, are they to be moved? Where everything proceeds at
the same regulated slowness, how can justice ever overtake crime? When
can truth come up with falsehood? Whichever starts first here, must
inevitably win.” To urge the creatures on by example, I assisted with my
own hands to put on the harness; not, I will own, with much advantage
to speed, for I put the collar on upside down, and, in revenge for the
indignity, the beast planted one of his feet upon me, and almost
drove the cock of his shoe through my instep. Almost mad with pain
and passion, I limped away into the garden, and sat down in a damp
summer-house. A sleepless night, a lazy ostler, and a bruised foot
are, after all, not stunning calamities; but there are moments when our
jarred nerves jangle at the slightest touch, and even the most trivial
inconveniences grow to the size of afflictions.

“We began to fear you were lost, sir,” said François, breaking in upon
my gloomy revery I cannot say how long after. “The horses have been at
the door this half-hour, and all the house searching after you.”

I did not deign a reply, but followed him, as he led me by a short path
to the house. Mrs. Keats and Miss Herbert had taken their places
inside the carriage, and, to my ineffable disgust, there was the German
chatting with them at the door, and actually presenting a bouquet the
landlord had just culled for her. Unable to confront the fellow with
that contemptuous indifference which I knew with a little time and
preparation I could summon to my aid, I scaled up to my leathern attic
and let down the blinds.

“Do you mean,” said I, through a small slit in my curtain,--“do you mean
to sit smoking there all day? Will you never drive on?” And now, with a
crash of bolts and a jarring of cordage, like what announced the launch
of a small ship, the heavy conveniency lurched, surged, and, after two
or three convulsive bounds, lumbered along, and we started on our day’s
journey. As we bumped along, I remembered that I had never wished the
ladies a “good-morning,” nor addressed them in any way; so completely
had my selfish preoccupation immersed me in my own annoyances, that I
actually forgot the commonest attentions of every-day life. I was pained
by this rudeness on my part, and waited with impatience for our first
change of horses to repair my omission. Before, however, we had gone a
couple of miles, the little window at my back was opened, and I
heard the old lady’s voice, asking if I had ever chanced upon a more
comfortable country inn or with better beds.

“Not bad,--not bad,” said I, peevishly. “I had such a mass of letters to
write that I got little sleep. In fact, I scarcely could say I took any
rest.”

While the old lady expressed her regretful condolences at this, I saw
that Miss Herbert pinched her lips together as if to avoid a laugh, and
the bitter thought crossed me, “She knows it all!”

“I am easily put out, besides,” said I. “That is, at certain times I
am easily irritated, and a vulgar German fellow who supped with us last
night so ruffled my temper that I assure you he continued to go through
my head till morning.”

“Oh, don’t call him vulgar!” broke in Miss Herbert; “surely there could
be nothing more quiet or unpretending than his manners.”

“If I were to hunt for an epithet for a month,” retorted I, “a more
suitable one would never occur to me. The fellow was evidently an actor
of some kind,--perhaps a rope-dancer.”

She burst in with an exclamation; but at the same time Mrs. Keats
interposed, and though her words were perfectly inaudible to me, I had
no difficulty in gathering their import, and saw that “the young person”
 was undergoing a pretty smart lecture for her presumption in daring to
differ in opinion with my Royal Highness. I suppose it was very ignoble
of me, but I was delighted at it. I was right glad that the old woman
administered that sharp castigation, and I burned even with impatience
to throw in a shell myself and increase the discomfiture. Mrs. Keats
finished her gallop at last, and I took up the running.

“You were fortunate, madam,” said I, “in the indisposition that confined
you to your room, and which rescued you from the underbred presumption
of this man’s manners. I have travelled much, I have mixed largely, I
may say, with every rank and condition, and in every country of Europe,
so that I am not pronouncing the opinion of one totally inadequate to
form a judgment--”

“Certainly not, sir. Listen to that, young lady,” muttered she, in a
sort of under growl.

“In fact,” resumed I, “it is one of my especial amusements to observe
and note the forms of civilization implied by mere conventional
habits. If, from circumstances not necessary to particularize, certain
advantages have favored this pursuit--”

When I had reached thus far in my very pompous preface, the clatter of
a horse coming up at full speed arrested my attention, and at the very
moment the German himself, the identical subject of our talk, dashed up
to the carriage window, and with a few polite words handed in a small
volume to Miss Herbert, which it seems he had promised to give her, but
could not accomplish before, in consequence of the abrupt haste of our
departure. The explanation did not occupy an entire minute, and he was
gone and out of sight at once. And now the little window was closed,
and I could distinctly hear that Mrs. Keats was engaged in one of those
salutary exercises by which age communicates its experiences to youth.
I wished I could have opened a little chink to listen to it, but I could
not do so undetected, so I had to console myself by imagining all the
shrewd and disagreeable remarks she must have made. Morals has its
rhubarb as well as medicine, wholesome, doubtless, when down, but
marvellously nauseous and very hard to swallow, and I felt that the
young person was getting a full dose; indeed, I could catch two very
significant words, which came and came again in the allocution, and
the very utterance of which added to their sharpness,--“levity,”
 “encouragement.” There they were again!

“Lay it on, old lady,” muttered I; “your precepts are sound; never was
there a case more meet for their application. Never mind a little pain,
either,--one must touch the quick to make the cautery effectual. She
will be all the better for the lesson, and she has well earned it!” Oh,
Potts! Potts! was this not very hard-hearted and ungenerous? Why should
the sorrow of that young creature have been a pleasure to you? Is it
possible that the mean sentiment of revenge has had any share in this?
Are you angry with her that she liked that man’s conversation, and
turned to _him_ in preference to _you?_ You surely cannot be actuated by
a motive so base as this? Is it for herself, for her own advantage, her
preservation, that you are thinking all this time? Of course it is. And
there, now, I think I hear her sob. Yes, she is crying; the old lady has
really come to the quick, and I believe is not going to stop there.

“Well,” thought I, “old ladies are an excellent invention; none of these
cutting severities could be done but for them. And they have a patient
persistence in this surgery quite wonderful, for when they have
flayed the patient all over, they sprinkle on salt as carefully as a
pastry-cook frosting a plum-cake.”

At last, I did begin to wish it was over. She surely must have addressed
herself to every phase of the question in an hour and a half; and yet
I could hear her still grinding, grinding on, as though the efficacy
of her precepts, like a homoeopathic remedy, were to be increased by
trituration. Fortunately, we had to halt for fresh horses; and so I got
down to chat with them at the carriage-door, and interrupt the lecture.
Little was I prepared for the reddened eyes and quivering lips of that
poor girl, as she drank off the glass of water she begged me to fetch
her, but still less for the few words she contrived to whisper in my ear
as I took the glass from her hands.

“I hope you have made me miserable enough _now_.”

And with this the window was banged to, and away we went.



CHAPTER XXV. I MAINTAIN A DIGNIFIED RESERVE.

I was so hurt by the last words of Miss Herbert to me, that I maintained
throughout the entire day what I meant to be a “dignified reserve,” but
what I half suspect bore stronger resemblance to a deep sulk. My station
had its privileges, and I resolved to take the benefit of them. I
dined alone. Yes, on that day I did fall back upon the eminence of
my condition, and proudly intimated that I desired solitude. I was
delighted to see the dismay this declaration caused. Old Mrs. Keats was
speechless with terror. I was looking at her through a chink in the door
when Miss Herbert gave my message, and I thought she would have fainted.

“What were his precise words? Give them to me exactly as he uttered
them,” said she, tremulously, “for there are persons whose intimations
are half commands.”

“I can scarcely repeat them, madam,” said the other, “but their purport
was, that we were not to expect him at dinner, that he had ordered it to
be served in his own room and at his own hour.”

“And this is very probably all your doing,” said the old lady, with
indignation. “Unaccustomed to any levity of behavior, brought up in a
rank where familiarities are never practised, he has been shocked by
your conduct with that stranger. Yes, Miss Herbert, I say shocked,
because, however harmless in intention, such freedoms are utterly
unknown in--in certain circles.”

“I am sure, madam,” replied she, with a certain amount of spirit,
“that you are laboring under a very grave misapprehension. There was no
familiarity, no freedom. We talked as I imagine people usually talk when
they sit at the same table. Mr.--I scarcely know his name--”

“Nor is it necessary,” said the old woman, tartly; “though, if you had,
probably this unfortunate incident might not have occurred. Sit down
there, however, and write a few lines in my name, hoping that his
indisposition may be very slight, and begging to know if he desire to
remain here to-morrow and take some repose.”

I waited till I saw Miss Herbert open her writing-desk, and then I
hastened off to my room to reflect over my answer to her note. Now that
the suggestion was made to me, I was pleased with the notion of passing
an entire day where we were. The place was Schaffhausen,--the famous
fall of the Rhine,--not very much as a cataract, but picturesque withal;
pleasant chestnut woods to ramble about, and a nice old inn in a wild
old wilderness of a garden that sloped down to the very river.

Strange perversity is it not; but how naturally one likes everything to
have some feature or other out of keeping with its intrinsic purport!
An inn like an old _chateau_, a chief-justice that could ride a
steeple-chase, a bishop that sings Moore’s melodies, have an immense
attraction for me. They seem all, as it were, to say, “Don’t fancy life
is a mere four-roomed house with a door in the middle. Don’t imagine
that all is humdrum and routine and regular. Notwithstanding his wig
and stern black eyebrows, there is a touch of romance in that old
Chancellor’s heart that you could n’t beat out of it with his great
mace; and his Grace the Primate there has not forgotten what made
the poetry of his life in days before he ever dreamed of charges or
triennial visitations.”

By these reflections I mean to convey that I am very fond of an inn that
does not look like an inn, but resembles a faded old country-house, or a
deserted convent, or a disabled mill. This Schaffhausen Gasthaus looked
like all three. It was the sort of place one might come to in a long
vacation, to live simply and to go early to bed, take monotony as a
tonic, and fancying unbroken quiet to be better than quinine.

“Ah!” thought I, “if it had not been for that confounded German, what a
paradise might not this have been to me! Down there in that garden, with
the din of the waterfall around us, walking under the old cherry-trees,
brushing our way through tangled sweetbriers, and arbutus, and laburnum,
what delicious nonsense might I not have poured into her ear! Ay! and
not unwillingly had she heard it. That something within that never
deceives, that little crimson heart within the rose of conscience, tells
me that she liked me, that she was attracted by what, if it were not for
shame, I would call the irresistible attractions of my nature; and
now this creature of braten and beetroot has spoiled all, jarred the
instrument and unstrung the chords that might have yielded me such sweet
music.”

In thinking over the inadequacy of all human institutions, I have often
been struck by the fact that while the law gives the weak man a certain
measure of protection against the superior physical strength of the
powerful ruffian in the street, it affords none against the assaults of
the intellectual bully at a dinner-party. _He_ may maltreat you at his
pleasure, batter you with his arguments, kick you with inferences, and
knock you down with conclusions, and no help for it all!

“Ah, here comes François with the note.” I wrote one line in pencil
for answer: “am sensibly touched by your consideration, and will pass
to-morrow here.” I signed this with a P., which might mean Prince,
Potts, or Pottinger. My reply despatched, I began to think how I could
improve the opportunity. “I will bring her to book,” thought I; “I will
have an explanation.” I always loved that sort of thing,--there is
an almost certainty of emotion; now emotion begets tears; tears,
tenderness; tenderness, consolation; and when you reach consolation, you
are, so to say, a tenant in possession; your title may be disputable,
your lease invalid, still you are there, on the property, and it will
take time at least to turn you out. “After all,” thought I, “that rude
German has but troubled the water for a moment, the pure well of her
affections will by this time have regained its calm still surface, and I
shall see my image there as before.”

My meditations were interrupted, perhaps not unpleasantly. It was the
waiter with my dinner. I am not unsocial--I am eminently the reverse--I
may say, like most men who feel themselves conversationally gifted, I
like company, I see that my gifts have in such gatherings their natural
ascendancy,--and yet, with all this, I have always felt that to dine
splendidly, all alone, was a very grand thing. Mind, I don’t say it is
pleasant or jolly or social, but simply that it is grand to see all that
table equipage of crystal and silver spread out for _you_ alone; to know
that the business of that gorgeous candelabrum is to light _you_; that
the two decorous men in black--archdeacons they might be, from the quiet
dignity of their manners--are there to wait upon _you_; that the whole
sacrifice, from the caviare to the cheese, was a hecatomb to _your_
greatness. I repeat, these are all grand and imposing considerations,
and there have been times when I have enjoyed these _Lucullus cum
Lucullo_ festivals more than convivial assemblages. This day was one of
these: I lingered over my dinner in delightful dalliance. I partook of
nearly every dish, but, with a supreme refinement, ate little of any,
as though to imply, “I am accustomed to a very different _cuisine_ from
this; it is not thus that I fare habitually.” And yet I was blandly
forgiving, accepting even such humble efforts to please as if they had
been successes. The Cliquot was good, and I drank no other wine, though
various flasks with tempting titles stood around me.

Dinner over and coffee served, I asked the waiter what resources the
place possessed in the way of amusement. He looked blank and even
distressed at my question: he had all his life imagined that the Falls
sufficed for everything; he had seen the tide of travel halt there to
view them for years. Since he was a boy, he had never ceased to witness
the yearly recurring round of tourists who came to see, and sketch, and
scribble about them, and so he faintly muttered out a remonstrance,--

“Monsieur has not yet visited the Falls.”

“The Falls! why, I see them from this, and if I open the window I am
stunned with their uproar.”

I was really sorry at the pain my hasty speech gave him, for he looked
suddenly faint and ill, and after a moment gasped out,--

“But monsieur is surely not going away without a visit to the cataract?
The guide-books give two hours as the very shortest time to see it
effectually.”

“I only gave ten minutes to Niagara, my good friend,” said I, “and would
not have spared even that, but that I wanted to hold a sprained ankle
under the fall.”

He staggered, and had to hold a chair to support himself.

“There is, besides, the Laufen Schloss--”

“As to castles,” broke I in, “I have no need to leave my own to see all
that mediaeval architecture can boast. No, no,” sighed I out, “if I am
to have new sensations, they must come through some other channel than
sight. Have you no theatre?”

“No, sir. None.”

“No concert-rooms, no music-garden?”

“None, sir.”

“Not even a circus?” said I, peevishly.

“There was, sir, but it was not attended. The strangers all come to see
the Falls.”

“Confound the Falls! And what became of the circus?”

“Well, they made a bad business of it; got into debt on all sides, for
oil, and forage, and printing placards, and so on, and then they beat
a sudden retreat one night, and slipped off, all but two, and, indeed,
they were about the best of the company; but somehow they lost their
way in the forest, and instead of coming up with their companions, found
themselves at daybreak at the outside of the town.”

“And these two unlucky ones, what were they?”

“One was the chief clown, sir, a German, and the other was a little
girl, a Moor they call her; but the cleverest creature to ride or throw
somersaults through hoops of the whole of them.”

“And how do they live now?”

“Very hardly, I believe, sir; and but for Tintefleck,--that’s what they
call her,--they might starve; but she goes about with her guitar through
the _cafés_ of an evening, and as she has a sweet voice, she picks up
a few batzen. But the maire, I hear, won’t permit this any longer, and
says that as they have no passport or papers of any kind, they must be
sent over the frontier as vagabonds.”

“Let that maire be brought before me,” said I, with a haughty
indignation. “Let me tell him in a few brief words what I think of his
heartless cruelty--But no, I was forgetting,--I am here _incog_.
Be careful, my good man, that you do not mention what I have so
inadvertently dropped; remember that I am nobody here; I am Number Five
and nothing more. Send the unfortunate creatures, however, here, and let
me interrogate them. They can be easily found, I suppose?”

“In a moment, sir. They were in the Platz just when I served the
pheasant.”

“What name does the man bear?”

“I never heard a name for him. Amongst the company he was called
Vaterchen, as he was the oldest of them all; and, indeed, they seemed
all very fond of him.”

“Let Vaterchen and Tintefleck, then, come hither. And bring fresh
glasses, waiter.”

And I spoke as might an Eastern despot giving his orders for a “nautch;”
 and then, waving my hand, motioned the messenger away.



CHAPTER XXVI. VATERCHEN AND TINTEFLECK

Had Fortune decreed that I should be rich, I believe I would have been
the most popular of men. There is such a natural kindness of disposition
in me, blended with the most refined sense of discrimination. I love
humanity in the aggregate, and, at the same time, with a rare delicacy
of sentiment, I can follow through all the tortuous windings of the
heart, and actually sympathize in emotions that I never experienced.
No rank is too exalted, no lot too humble, for the exercise of my
benevolence. I have sat in my arm-chair with a beating, throbbing heart,
as I imagined the troubles of a king, and I have drunk my Bordeaux with
tears of gratitude as I fancied myself a peasant with only water
to slake his thirst. To a man of highly organized temperament, the
privations themselves are not necessary to eliminate the feeling they
would suggest. Coarser natures would require starvation to produce the
sense of hunger, nakedness to cause that of cold, and so on; the gifted
can be in rags, while enclosed in a wadded dressing-gown; they can go
supperless to bed after a meal of oysters and toasted cheese; they can,
if they will, be fatally wounded as they sit over their wine, or cast
away after shipwreck with their feet on the fender. Great privileges all
these; happy is he who has them, happy are they amidst whom he tries to
spread the blessings of his inheritance!

Amid the many admirable traits which I recognize in myself,--and of
which I speak not boastfully, but gratefully, being accidents of my
nature as far removed from my own agency as the color of my eyes or the
shape of my nose,--of these, I say, I know of none more striking than
such as fit me to be a patron. I am graceful as a lover, touching as a
friend, but I am really great as a protector.

Revelling in such sentiments as these, I stood at my window, looking at
the effect of moonlight on the Falls. It seemed to me as though in the
grand spectacle before my eyes I beheld a sort of illustration of my
own nature, wherein generous emotions could come gushing, foaming, and
falling, and yet the source be never exhausted, the flood ever at full.
I ought parenthetically to observe that the champagne was excellent, and
that I had drunk the third glass of the second bottle to the health of
the widow Cliquot herself. Thus standing and musing, I was startled by a
noise behind me, and, turning round, I saw one of the smallest of men in
a little red Greek jacket and short yellow breeches, carefully engaged
in spreading a small piece of carpet on the floor, a strip like a very
diminutive hearth-rug. This done, he gave a little wild exclamation
of “Ho!” and cut a somersault in the air, alighting on the flat of
his back, which he announced by a like cry of “Ha!” He was up again,
however, in an instant, and repeated the performance three times. He was
about, as I judged by the arrangement of certain chairs, to proceed to
other exercises equally diverting, when I stopped him by asking who he
was.

“Your Excellency,” said he, drawing himself up to his full height of,
say, four feet, “I am Vaterchen!”

Every one knows what provoking things are certain chance resemblances,
how disturbing to the right current of thought, how subverting to the
free exercise of reason. Now, this creature before me, in his deeply
indented temples, high narrow forehead, aquiline nose, and resolute
chin, was marvellously like a certain great field-marshal with whose
features, notwithstanding the portraits of him, we are all familiar. It
was not of the least use to me that I knew he was not the illustrious
general, but simply a mountebank. There were the stern traits, haughty
and defiant; and do what I would, the thought of the great man would
clash with the capers of the little one. Owing to this impression,
it was impossible for me to address him without a certain sense of
deference and respect.

“Will you not be seated?” said I, offering him a chair and taking one
myself. He accepted with all the quiet ease of good breeding, and smiled
courteously as I filled a glass and passed it towards him.

I pressed my hand across my eyes for a few moments while I reflected,
and I muttered to myself,--

“Oh, Potts, if instead of a tumbler this had really been the hero, what
an evening might this be! Lives there that man in Europe so capable of
feeling in all its intensity the glorious privilege of such a meeting?
Who, like you, would listen to the wisdom distilling from those
lips? Who would treasure up every trait of voice, accent, and manner,
remembering, not alone every anecdote, but every expression? Who, like
you, could have gracefully led the conversation so as to range over the
whole wide ocean of that great life, taking in battles and sieges and
storm ings and congresses, and scenes of all that is most varied and
exciting in existence? Would not the record of one such night, drawn
by you, have been worth all the cold compilations and bleak biographies
that ever were written? You would have presented him as he sat there in
front of you.” I opened my eyes to paint from the model, and there was
the little dog, with his legs straight up on each side of his head and
forming a sort of gothic arch over his face. The wretch had done the
feat to amuse me, and I almost fainted with horror as I saw it.

“Sit down, sir,” said I, in a voice of stern command. “You little know
the misery you have caused me.”

I refilled his glass, and closed my eyes once more. In my old
pharmaceutical experiences I had often made bread pills, and remembered
well how, almost invariably, they had been deemed successful. What
relief from pain to the agonized sufferer had they not given! What
slumber to the sleepless! What appetite, what vigor, what excitement!
Why should not the same treatment apply to morals as to medicine? Why,
with faith to aid one, cannot he induce every wished-for mood of mind
and thought? The lay figure to support the drapery suffices for the
artist, the Venus herself is in his brain. Now, if that little fellow
there would neither cut capers nor speak, I ask no more of him. Let him
sit firmly as he does now, staring me boldly in the face that way.

“Yes,” said I, “lay your hand on the arm of your chair, so, and let the
other be clenched thus.” And so I placed him. “Never utter a word, but
nod to me at rare intervals.”

He has since acknowledged that he believed me to be deranged; but as I
seemed a harmless case, and he could rely on his activity for escape, he
made no objection to my directions, the less, too, that he enjoyed his
wine immensely, and was at liberty to drink as he pleased.

“Now,” thought I, “one glance, only one, to see that he poses properly.”

All right; nothing could be better. His face was turned slightly to
one side, giving what the painters call action to the head, and he was
perfect I now resigned myself to the working of the spell, and already
I felt its influence over me. Where and with what was I to begin?
Numberless questions thronged to my mind. I wanted to know a thousand
disputed things, and fully as many that were only disputed by myself.
I felt that as such another opportunity would assuredly never present
itself twice in my life, that the really great use of the occasion would
be to make every inquiry subsidiary to my own case,--to make all my
investigations what the Germans would call “Potts-wise.” My intensest
anxiety was then to ascertain if, like myself, his Grace started in life
with very grand aspirations.

“Did you feel, for instance, when playing practical jokes on the maids
of honor in Dublin, some sixty-odd years ago, that you were only, in
sportive vein, throwing off so much light ballast to make room for the
weightier material that was to steady you in the storm-tossed sea
before you? Have you experienced the almost necessity of these little
expansions of eccentricity as I have? Was there always in your heart,
as a young man, as there is now in mine, a profound contempt for the
opinions of your contemporaries? Did you continually find yourself
repeating, ‘_Respice finem!_ Mark where I shall be yet’?” There was
another investigation which touched me still more closely, but it was
long before I could approach it I saw all the difficulty and delicacy
of the inquiry; but, with that same recklessness of consequences which
would make me catch at a queen by the back hair if I was drowning, I
clutched at this discovery now, and, although trembling at my boldness,
asked, “Was your Grace ever afraid? I know the impertinence of the
question, but if you only guessed how it concerns me, you ‘d forgive
it. Nature has made me many things, but not courageous. Nothing on earth
could induce me to risk life; the more I reason about it, the greater
grows my repugnance. Now, I would like to hear, is this what anatomists
call congenital? Am I likely to grow out of it? Shall I ever be a
dare-devil, intrepid, fire-eating sort of creature? How will the change
come over me? Shall I feel it coming? Will it come from within, or
through external agencies? And when it has arrived, what shall I become?
Am I destined to drive the Zouaves into the sea by a bayonet charge of
the North Cork Rifles, or shall I only be great in council, and take
weekly trips in the ‘Fairy’ to Cowes? I ‘d like to know this, and begin
a course of preparation for my position, as I once knew of a militia
captain who hardened himself for a campaign by sleeping every night with
his head on the window-stool.”

As I opened my eyes, I saw the stern features in front of me. I thought
the words, “I was never afraid, sir!” rang through my brain till they
filled every ventricle with their din.

“Not at Assaye?”

“No, sir.”

“Not at the Douro?”

“No, sir.”

“Not at Torres Vedras?”

“I tell you again, no, sir!”

Whether I uttered this last with any uncommon degree of vehemence or
not, I so frightened Vaterchen that he cut a somersault clean over the
chair, and stood grinning at me through the rails at the back of it I
motioned to him to be reseated, while, passing my hand across my brow,
I waved away the bright illusions that beset me, and, with a heavy sigh,
re-entered the dull world of reality.

“You are a clown,” said I, meditatively. “What is a clown?”

He did not answer me in words, but, placing his hands on his knees,
stared at me steadfastly, and then, having fixed my attention, his face
performed a series of the most fearful contortions I ever beheld. With
one horrible spasm he made his mouth appear to stretch from ear to
ear; with another, his nose wagged from side to side; with a third, his
eyebrows went up and down alternately, giving the different sides of his
face two directly antagonistic expressions. I was shocked and horrified,
and called to him to desist.

“And yet,” thought I, “there are natures who can delight in these, and
see in them matter for mirth and laughter!”

“Old man,” said I, gravely, “has it ever occurred to you that in this
horrible commixture of expression, wherein grief wars with Joy and
sadness with levity, you are like one who, with a noble instrument
before him, should, instead of sweet sounds of harmony, produce wild,
unearthly discords, the jangling bursts of fiend-like voices?”

“The Tintefleck can play indifferently well, your Excellency,” said
he, humbly. “I never had any skill that way myself.”

Oh, what a _crassa natura_ was here! What a triple wall of dulness
surrounds such dark intelligences!

“And where is the Tintefleck? Why is she not here?” asked I, anxious to
remove the discussion to a ground of more equality.

“She is without, your Excellency. She did not dare to present herself
till your Excellency had desired, and is waiting in the corridor.”

“Let her come in,” said I, grandly; and I drew my chair to a distant
corner of the room so as to give them a wider area to appear in, while
I could, at the same time, assume that attitude of splendid ease and
graceful protection I have seen a prince accomplish on the stage at
the moment the ballet is about to begin. The door opened, and Vaterchen
entered, leading Tintefleck by the hand.



CHAPTER XXVII. I ATTEMPT TO OVERTHROW SOCIAL PREJUDICES

I was quite right,--Tintefleck’s _entrée_ was quite dramatic. She
tripped into the room with a short step, nor arrested her ran till she
came close to me, when, with a deep courtesy, she bent down very low,
and then, with a single spring backward, retreated almost to the door
again. She was very pretty,--dark enough to be a Moor, but with a
rich brilliancy of skin never seen amongst that race, for she was a
Calabrian; and as she stood there with her arms crossed before her, and
one leg firmly advanced, and with the foot--a very pretty foot--well
planted, she was like--all the Italian peasants one has seen in the
National Gallery for years back. There was the same look, half shy; the
same elevation of sentiment in the brow, and the same coarseness of the
mouth; plenty of energy, enough and to spare of daring; but no timidity,
no gentleness.

“What is she saying?” asked I of the old man, as I overheard a whisper
pass between them. “Tell me what she has just said to you.”

“It is nothing, your Excellency,--she is a fool.”

“That she may be, but I insist on hearing what it was she said.”

He seemed embarrassed and ashamed, and, instead of replying to me,
turned to address some words of reproach to the girl.

“I am waiting for your answer,” said I, peremptorily.

“It is the saucy way she has gotten, your Excellency, all from
over-flattery; and now that she sees that there is no audience here,
none but your Excellency, she is impatient to be off again. She’ll never
do anything for us on the night of a thin house.”

“Is this the truth, Tintefleck?” asked I.

With a wild volubility, of which I could not gather a word, but
every accent of which indicated passion, if not anger, she poured out
something to the other, and then turned as if to leave the room. He
interposed quickly, and spoke to her, at first angrily, but at last in a
soothing and entreating tone, which seemed gradually to calm her.

“There is more in this than you have told, Vaterchen,” said I. “Let me
know at once why she is impatient to get away.”

“I would leave it to herself to tell your Excellency,” said he, with
much confusion, “but that you could not understand her mountain dialect.
The fact is,” added he, after a great struggle with himself,--“the fact
is, she is offended at your calling her ‘Tintefleck.’ She is satisfied
to be so named amongst ourselves, where we all have similar nicknames;
but that you, a great personage, high and rich and titled, should do so,
wounds her deeply. Had you said--”

Here he whispered me in my ear, and, almost inadvertently, I repeated
after him, “Catinka.”

“_Si, si_, Catinka,” said she, while her eyes sparkled with an
expression of wildest delight, and at the same instant she bounded
forward and kissed my hand twice over.

I was glad to have made my peace, and, placing a chair for her at the
table, I filled out a glass of wine and presented it. She only shook her
head in dissent, and pushed it away.

“She has odd ways in everything,” said the old man; “she never eats but
bread and water. It is her notion that if she were to taste other food
she ‘d lose her gift of fortune-telling.”

“So, then, she reads destiny too?” said I, in astonishment.

Before I could inquire further, she swept her hands across the strings
of her guitar, and broke out into a little peasant song. It was very
monotonous, but pleasing. Of course, I knew nothing of the words nor
the meaning, but it seemed as though one thought kept ever and anon
recurring in the melody, and would continue to rise to the surface, like
the air-bubbles in a well. Satisfied, apparently, by the evidences of
my approval, she had no sooner finished than she began another. This was
somewhat more pretentious, and, from what I could gather, represented a
parting scene between a lover and his mistress. There was, at least, a
certain action in the song which intimated this. The fervent
earnestness of the lover, his entreaties, his prayers, and at last his
threatenings, were all given with effect, and there was actually good
acting in the stolid defiance she opposed to all; she rejected his vows,
refused his pledges, scorned his menaces; but when he had gone and left
her, when she saw herself alone and desolate, then came out a gush
of the most passionate sorrow, all the pent-up misery of a heart that
seemed to burst with its weight of agony.

[Illustration: 252]

If I was in a measure entranced while she was singing, such was the
tension of my nerves as I listened, that I was heartily glad when it
was over. As for her, she seemed so overcome by the emotion she had
parodied, that she bent her head down, covered her face with her hands,
and sobbed twice or thrice convulsively.

I turned towards Vaterchen to ask him some question, I forget what, but
the little fellow had made such good use of the decanter beside him,
while the music went on, that his cheeks were a bright crimson, and his
little round eyes shone like coals of fire.

“This young creature should never have fallen amongst such as you!”
 said I, indignantly; “she has feeling and tenderness,--the powers of
expression she wields all evidence a great and gifted nature. She has,
so to say, noble qualities.’

“Noble, indeed!” croaked out the little wretch, with a voice hoarse from
the strong Burgundy.

“She might, with proper culture, adorn a very different sphere,” said
I, angrily. “Many have climbed the ladder of life with humbler
pretensions.”

“Ay, and stand on one leg on top of it, playing the tambourine all the
time,” hiccuped he, in reply.

I did not fancy the way he carried out my figure, but went on with my
reflections,--

“Some, but they are few, achieve greatness at a bound--”

“That’s what she does,” broke he in. “Twelve hoops and a drum behind
them, at one spring; she comes through like a flying-fish.”

I don’t know what angry rejoinder was on my lips to this speech, when
there came a tap at my door. I arose at once and opened it. It was
Francois, with a polite message from Mrs. Keats, to say how happy it
would make her “if I felt well enough to join her and Miss Herbert at
tea.” For a second or two I knew not what to reply. That I was “well
enough,” François was sure to report, and in my flushed condition I was,
perhaps, the picture of an exaggerated state of convalescence; so, after
a moment’s hesitation, I muttered out a blundering excuse, on the plea
of having a couple of friends with me, “who had chanced to be just
passing through the town on their way to Italy.”

I did not think Francois had time to report my answer, when I heard him
again at the door. It was, with his mistress’s compliments, to say, she
“would be charmed if I would induce my friends to accompany me.”

I had to hold my hand on my side with laughter as I heard this message,
so absurd was the proposition, and so ridiculous seemed the notion of
it. This, I say, was the first impression made upon my mind; and then,
almost as suddenly, there came another and very different one. “What is
the mission you have embraced, Potts?” asked I of myself. “If it have a
but or an object, is it not to overthrow the mean and unjust prejudices,
the miserable class distinctions, that separate the rich from the poor,
the great from the humble, the gifted from the ignorant? Have you ever
proposed to yourself a nobler conquest than over that vulgar tyranny
by which prosperity lords it over humble fortune? Have you imagined a
higher triumph than to make the man of purple and fine linen feel happy
in the companionship of him in smock-frock and high-lows? Could you ask
for a happier occasion to open the campaign than this? Mrs. Keats is an
admirable representative of her class; she has all the rigid prejudices
of her condition; her sympathies may rise, but they never fall; she can
feel for the sorrows of the well-born, she has no concern for vulgar
afflictions. How admirable the opportunity to show her that grace and
genius and beauty are of all ranks! And Miss Herbert, too, what a test
it will be of _her!_ If she really have greatness of soul, if there
be in her nature a spirit that rises above petty conventionalities and
miserable ceremonials, she will take this young creature to her heart
like a sister. I think I see them with arms entwined,--two lovely
flowers on one stalk,--the dark crimson rose and the pale hyacinth! Oh,
Potts! this would be a nobler victory to achieve than to rend battalions
with grape, or ride down squadrons with the crash of cavalry.”--“I
will come, Francois,” said I. “Tell Mrs. Keats that she may expect us
immediately.” I took especial care in my dialogue to keep this prying
fellow outside the room, and to interpose in every attempt that he made
to obtain a peep within. In this I perfectly succeeded, and dismissed
him, without his being able to report any one circumstance about my two
travelling friends.

My next task was to inform them of my intentions on their behalf; nor
was this so easy as might be imagined, for Vaterchen had indulged very
freely with the wine, and all the mountains of Calabria lay between
myself and Tinte-fleck. With a great exercise of ingenuity, and more of
patience, I did at last succeed in making known to the old fellow that a
lady of the highest station and her friend were curious to see them. He
only caught my meaning after some time; but when he had surmounted
the difficulty, as though to show mc how thoroughly he understood the
request, and how nicely he appreciated its object, he began a series of
face contortions of the most dreadful kind, being a sort of programme
of what he intended to exhibit to the distinguished company. I repressed
this firmly, severely. I explained that an artist in all the relations
of private life should be ever the gentleman; that the habits of the
stage were no more necessary to carry into the world than the costume.
I dilated upon the fact that John Kemble had been deemed fitting company
by the first gentleman of Europe; and that if his manner could have
exposed him to a criticism, it was in, perhaps, a slight tendency to an
over-reserve, a cold and almost stern dignity. I ‘m not sure Vaterchen
followed me completely, nor understood the anecdotes I introduced about
Edmund Bean and Lord Byron; but I now addressed myself pictorially to
Tintefleck,--pictorially, I say, for words were hopeless. I signified
that a _très grande dame_ was about to receive her. I arose, with my
skirts expanded in both hands, made a reverent courtesy, throwing my
head well back, looking every inch a duchess. But, alas for my powers
of representation! she burst into a hearty laugh, and had at last to lay
her head on Vaterchen’s shoulder out of pure exhaustion.

“Explain to her what I have told you, sir, and do not sit grinning at me
there, like a baboon,” said I, in a severe voice.

I cannot say how he acquitted himself, but I could gather that a very
lively altercation ensued, and it seemed to me as though she resolutely
refused to subject herself to any further ordeals of what academicians
call a “private view.” No; she was ready for the ring and the sawdust,
and the drolleries of the men with chalk on their faces, but she would
not accept high life on any terms. By degrees, and by arguments of his
own ingenious devising, however, he did succeed, and at last she arose
with a bound, and cried out, “Eccomi!”

“Remember,” said I to Vaterchen, as we left the room, “I am doing
that which few would have the courage to dare. It will depend upon the
dignity of your conduct, the grace of your manners, the well-bred ease
of your address, to make me feel proud of my intrepidity, or, sad
and painful possibility, retire covered with ineffable shame and
discomfiture. Do you comprehend me?”

“Perfectly,” said he, standing erect, and giving even in his attitude a
sort of bail bond for future dignity. “Lead on!”

This was more familiar than he had been yet; but I ascribed it to the
tension of nerves strung to a high purpose, and rendering him thus
inaccessible to other thoughts than of the enterprise before him.

As I neared the door of Mrs. Keats’s apartment, I hesitated as to how
I should enter. Ought I to precede my friends, and present them as they
followed? Or would it seem more easy and more assured if I were to give
my arm to Tintefleck, leaving Vaterchen to bring up the rear? After much
deliberation, this appeared to be the better course, seeming to take
for granted that, although some peculiarities of costume might ask
for explanation later on, I was about to present a very eligible and
charming addition to the company.

I am scarcely able to say whether I was or was not reassured by the mode
in which she accepted the offer of my arm. At first, the proposition
appeared unintelligible, and she looked at me with one of those
wide-eyed stares, as though to say, “What new gymnastic is this? What
_tour de force_, of which I never heard before?” and then, with a sort
of jerk, she threw my arm up in the air and made a pirouette under it,
of some half-dozen whirls.

Half reprovingly I shook my head, and offered her my hand. This she
understood at once. She recognized such a mode of approach as legitimate
and proper, and with an artistic shake of her drapery with the other
hand, and a confident smile, she signified she was ready to go “on.”

I was once on a time thrown over a horse’s head into a slate quarry; a
very considerable drop it was, and nearly fatal. On another occasion I
was carried in a small boat over the fall of a salmon weir, and hurried
along in the flood for almost three hundred yards. Each of these was a
situation of excitement and peril, and with considerable confusion as
the consequence; and yet I could deliberately recount you every
passing phase of my terror, from my first fright down to my complete
unconsciousness, with such small traits as would guarantee truthfulness;
while, of the scene upon which I now adventured, I preserve nothing
beyond the vaguest and most unconnected memory.

I remember my advance into the middle of the room. I have a recollection
of a large tea-urn, and beyond it a lady in a turban; another in long
ringlets there was. The urn made a noise like a small steamer, and there
was a confusion of voices--about what, I cannot tell--that increased the
uproar, and we were all standing up and all talking together; and there
was what seemed an angry discussion, and then the large turban and the
ringlets swept haughtily past me. The turban said, “This is too much,
sir!” and ringlets added, “Far too much, sir!” and as they reached the
door, there was Vaterchen on his head, with a branch of candles between
his feet to light them out, and Tintefleck, screaming with laughter,
threw herself into an arm-chair, and clapped a most riotous applause.

I stood a moment almost transfixed, then dashed out of the room, hurried
upstairs to my chamber, bolted the door, drew a great clothes-press
against it for further security, and then threw myself upon my bed
in one of those paroxysms of mad confusion, in which a man cannot say
whether he is on the verge of inevitable ruin, or has just been rescued
from a dreadful fate. I would not, if even I could, recount all that
I suffered that night There was not a scene of open shame and disgrace
that I did not picture to myself as incurring. I was everywhere in the
stocks or the pillory. I wore a wooden placard on my breast, inscribed,
“Potts the Impostor.” I was running at top speed before hooting and
yelling crowds. I was standing with a circle of protecting policemen
amidst a mob eager to tear me to pieces. I was sitting on a hard stool
while my hair was being cropped _à la_ Pentonville, and a gray suit lay
ready for me when it was done. But enough of such a dreary record. I
believe I cried myself to sleep at last, and so soundly, too, that it
was very late in the afternoon ere I awoke. It was the sight of the
barricade I had erected at my door gave me a clew to the past, and again
I buried my face in my hands, and wept bitterly.



CHAPTER XXVIII. RESULTS OF THE EXPERIMENT

I could not hear the loud and repeated knockings which were made at my
door, as at first waiters, and then the landlord himself, endeavored
to gain admittance. At length a ladder was placed at the window, and a
courageous individual, duly armed, appeared at my casement and summoned
me to surrender. With what unspeakable relief did I learn that it was
not to apprehend or arrest me that all these measures were taken: they
were simply the promptings of a graceful benevolence; a sort of rumored
intimation having got about, that I had taken prussic acid, or was
being done to death by charcoal. Imagine a prisoner in a condemned cell
suddenly awakened, and hearing that the crowd around him consisted not
of the ordinary, the sheriff, Mr. Calcraft and Co., but a deputation of
respectable citizens come to offer the representation of their borough
or a piece of plate, and then you can have a mild conception of the
pleasant revulsion of my feelings. I thanked my public in a short
but appropriate address. I assured them, although there was a popular
prejudice about doing this sort of thing in November in England, that it
was deemed quite unreasonable at other times, and that really, in
these days of domestic arsenic and conjugal strychnine, nothing but
an unreasonable impatience would make a man self-destructive,--suicide
arguing that as a man was really so utterly valueless, it was worth
nobody’s while to get rid of him. My explanation over, I ordered
breakfast.

“Why not dinner?” said the waiter. “It is close on four o’clock.”

“No,” said I; “the ladies will expect me at dinner.”

“The ladies are near Constance by this, or else the roads are worse than
we thought them.”

“Near Constance! Do you mean to say they have gone?”

“Yes, sir, at daybreak; or, indeed, I might say before daybreak.”

“Gone! actually gone!” was all that I could utter.

“They never went to bed last night, sir; the old lady was taken very
ill after tea, and all the house running here and there for doctors and
remedies, and the young lady, though she bore up so well, they tell me
she fainted when she was alone in her own room. In fact, it was a piece
of confusion and trouble until they started, and we may say, none of us
had a moment’s peace till we saw them off.”

“And how came it that I was never called?”

“I believe, sir, but I’m not sure, the landlord tried to awake you. At
all events, he has a note for you now, for I saw the old lady place it
in his hand.”

“Fetch it at once,” said I; and when he left the room, I threw some
water over my face, and tried to rally all my faculties to meet the
occasion.

When the waiter reappeared with the note, I bade him leave it on the
table; I could not venture to read it while he was in the room. At
length he went away, and I opened it. These were the contents:--

“Sir,--When a person of your rank abuses the privilege of his station,
it is supposed that he means to rebuke. Although innocent of any cause
for your displeasure, I have preferred to withdraw myself from your
notice than incur the chance of so severe a reprimand a second time.

“I am, sir, with unfeigned sorrow and humility, your most devoted
follower and servant,

“Martha Keats.

“To the--de----”

This was the whole of it; not a great deal as correspondence, but matter
enough for much thought and much misery. After a long and painful review
of my conduct, one startling fact stood prominently forward, which was,
that I had done something which, had it been the act of a royal prince,
would yet have been unpardonable, but which, if known to emanate from
one such as myself, would have been a downright outrage.

I went into the whole case, as a man who detests figures might have gone
into a long and complicated account; and just as he would skip small
sums, and pay little heed to fractions, I aimed at arriving at some
grand solid balance for or against myself.

I felt, that if asked to produce my books, they might run this wise:
Potts, on the credit side, a philanthropist, self-denying, generous,
and trustful; one eager to do good, thinking no evil of his neighbor,
hopeful of everybody, anxious to establish that brotherhood amongst men
which, however varied the station, could and ought to subsist, and which
needs but the connecting link of one sympathetic existence to establish.
On the other side, Potts, I grieve to say, appeared that which Ferdinand
Mendez Pinto was said to be.

When I had rallied a bit from the stunning effect of this disagreeable
“total,” I began to wish that I had somebody to argue the matter out
with me. The way I would put my case would be thus: “Has not--from
the time of Martius Curtius down to the late Mr. Sadlier, of banking
celebrity--the sacrifice of one man for the benefit of his fellows, been
recognized as the noblest exposition of heroism? Now, although it is
much to give up life for the advantage of others, it is far more to
surrender one’s identity, to abandon that grand capital Ego! which gives
a man his self-esteem and suggests his self-preservation. And who, I
would ask, does this so thoroughly as the man who everlastingly palms
himself upon the world for that which he is not? According to the
greatest happiness principle, this man may be a real boon to humanity.
He feeds this one with hope, the other with flattery; he bestows courage
on the weak, confidence on the wavering. The rich man can give of his
abundance, but it is out of his very poverty this poor fellow has
to bestow all. Like the spider, he has to weave his web from his
own vitals, and like the same spider he may be swept away by some
pretentious affectation of propriety.”

While I thus argued, the waiter came in to serve dinner. It looked
all appetizing and nice; but I could not touch a morsel. I was sick at
heart; Kate Herbert’s last look as she quitted the room was ever before
me. Those dark gray eyes--which you stupid folk will go on calling
blue--have a sort of reproachful power in them very remarkable. They
don’t flash out in anger like black eyes, or sparkle in fierceness like
hazel; but they emit a sort of steady, fixed, concentrated light, that
seems to imply that they have looked thoroughly into you, and come back
very sad and very sorry for the inquiry. I thought of the happy days I
had passed beside her; I recalled her low and gentle voice, her sweet
half-sad smile, and her playful laugh, and I said, “Have I lost all
these forever, and how? What stupid folly possessed me last evening?
How could I have been so idiotic as not to see that I was committing the
rankest of all enormities? How should I, in my insignificance, dare to
assail the barriers and defences which civilization has established,
and guards amongst its best prerogatives? Was this old buffoon, was this
piece of tawdry fringe and spangles, a fitting company for that fair and
gentle girl? How artistically false, too, was the position I had taken!
Interweaving into my ideal life these coarse realities, was the same
sort of outrage as shocks one in some of the Venetian churches, where
a lovely Madonna, the work of a great hand, may be seen bedizened
and disfigured with precious stones over her drapery. In this was I
violating the whole poetry of my existence. These figures were as
much out of keeping as would be a couple of Ostade’s Boors in a grand
Scripture piece by Domenichino.

“And yet, Potts,” thought I, “they were _really_ living creatures. They
had hearts for Joy and sorrow and hope, and the rest of it. They
were pilgrims travelling the selfsame road as you were. They were not
illusions, but flesh and blood folk, that would shiver when cold, and
die of hunger if starved. Were they not, then, as such, of more account
than all your mere imaginings? Would not the least of their daily
miseries outweigh a whole bushel of fancied sorrow? And is it not a poor
selfishness on your part, when you deem some airy conception of your
brain of more account than that poor old man and that dark-eyed girl?
Last of all, are they hot, in all their ragged finery, more ‘really true
men’ than you yourself, Potts, living in a maze of delusions? They only
act when the sawdust is raked and the lamps are lighted; but you are _en
scène_ from dawn to dark, and only lay down one motley to don another.
Is not this wretched? Is it not ignoble? In all these changes of
character, how much of the real man will be left behind? Will there be
one morsel of honest flesh, when all the lacquer of paint is washed off?
And was it--oh, was it for this you first adventured out on the wide
ocean of life?”

I passed the evening and a great part of the night in such
self-accusings, and then I addressed myself to action. I bethought me of
my future, and with whom and where and how it might be passed. The bag
of money intrusted to me by the Minister to pay the charges of the road
was banging where I had placed it,--on the curtain-holder. I opened it,
and found a hundred and forty gold Napoleons, and some ten or twelve
pounds in silver. I next set to count over my own especial hoard; it was
a fraction under a thousand francs! Forty pounds was truly a very small
sum wherewith to confront a world to which I brought not any art, or
trade, or means of livelihood; I say forty, because I had not the shadow
of a pretext for touching the other sum, and I resolved at once to
transmit it to the owner. Now, what could be done with so humble a
capital? I had heard of a great general who once pawned a valuable
sword--a sword of honor it was--wherewith to buy a horse, and, so
mounted, he went forth over the Alps, and conquered a kingdom. The story
had no moral for me, for somehow I did not feel as though I were the
stuff that conquers kingdoms, and yet there must surely be a vast
number of men in life with about the same sort of faculties, merits, and
demerits as I have. There must be a numerous Potts family in every land,
well-meaning, right-intentioned, worthless creatures, who, out of a
supposed willingness to do anything, always end in doing nothing. Such
people, it must be inferred, live upon what are called their wits, or,
in other words, trade upon the daily accidents of life, and the use to
which they can turn the traits of those they meet with.

I was resolved not to descend to this; no, I bad deter-. mined to say
adieu to all masquerading, and be simply Potts, the druggist’s son, one
who had once dreamed of great ambitions, but had taken the wrong road
to them. I would from this hour be an honest, truth-speaking,
simple-hearted creature. What the world might henceforth accord me of
its sympathy should be tendered on honest grounds; nay, more, in
the spirit of those devotees who inspire themselves with piety by
privations, I resolved on a course of self-mortification, I would
not rest till I had made my former self expiate all the vainglorious
wantonness of the past, and * pay in severe penance for every
transgression I had committed. I began boldly with my reformation. I sat
down and wrote thus:--

To Mr. Dycer, Stephen’s-Green, Dublin.

“The gentleman who took away a dun pony from your livery stables in the
month of May last, and who, from certain circumstances, has not been
able to restore the animal, sends herewith twenty pounds as his probable
value. If Mr. D. conscientiously considers the sum insufficient, the
sender will at some future time, he hopes, make good the difference.”

Doubtless my esteemed reader will say at this place, “The fellow could
n’t do less; he need not vaunt himself on a commonplace act of honesty,
which, after all, might have been suggested by certain fears of
future consequences. His indiscretion amounted to horse-stealing, and
horsestealing is a felony.”

All true, every word of it, most upright of Judges: I was simply doing
what I ought, or rather what I ought long since to have done. But now,
let me ask, is this, after all, the invariable course in life, and is
there no merit in doing what one ought when every temptation points to
the other direction? and lastly, is it nothing to do what a man ought,
when the doing costs exactly the half of all he has in the world?

Now, if I were, instead of being Potts, a certain great writer that we
all know and delight in, I would improve the occasion here by asking my
reader does he always himself do the right thing? I would say to him,
perhaps with all haste to anticipate his answer, “Of course you do. You
never pinch your children, or kick your wife out of bed; you are a model
father and a churchwarden; but I am only a poor apothecary’s son brought
up in precepts of thrift and the Dublin Pharmacopoeia;” and I own to
you, when I placed the half of my twenty-pound crisp clean bank note
inside of that letter, I felt I was figuratively cutting myself in two.
But I did it “like a man,” if that be a proper phrase for an act which
I thought godlike. And oh, take my word for it, when a sacrifice has
n’t cost you a coach-load of regrets and a shopful of hesitations about
making it, it is of little worth. There’s a wide difference between the
gift of a sheep from an Australian farmer, or the present of a child’s
pet lamb, even though the sheep be twice the size of the lamb.

I gave myself no small praise for what I had done, much figurative
patting on the back, and a vast deal of that very ambiguous consolation
which beggars in Catholic countries bestow in change for alms, by
assurance that it will be remembered to you in purgatory.

“Well,” thought I, “the occasion is n’t very far off, for my purgatory
begins to-morrow.”



CHAPTER XXIX. ON FOOT AND IN LOW COMPANY

I was in a tourist locality, and easily provided myself with a light
equipment for the road, resolved at once to take the footpath in life
and “seek my fortune.” I use these words simply as the expression of the
utter uncertainty which prevailed as to whither I should go, and what do
when I got there.

If there be few more joyous things in life than to start off on foot
with three or four choice companions, to ramble through some fine
country rich in scenery, varied in character and interesting in story,
there are few more lonely sensations than to set out by oneself, not
very decided what way to take, and with very little money to take it.

One of the most grievous features of small means is, certainly, the
almost exclusive occupation it gives the mind as to every, even the most
trivial, incident that involves cost. Instead of dining on fish and fowl
and fruit, you feel eating so many groschen and kreutzers. You are not
drinking wine, your beverage is a solution of copper batzen in vinegar!’
When you poke the fire, every spark that flies up the chimney’ is a
baiocco! You come at last to suspect that the sun won’t warm you for
nothing, and that the very breeze that cooled your brow is only waiting
round the corner to ask “for something for himself.”

When the rich man lives sparingly, the conscious power of the wealth he
might employ if he pleased, sustains him. The poor fellow has no such
consolation to fall back on; the closer his coat is examined, the more
threadbare will it appear. If it were simply that he dressed humbly
and fared coarsely, it might be borne well, but it is the hourly
depreciation that poverty is exposed to, makes its true grievance. “An
ill-looking”--this means, generally, ill-dressed--“an ill-looking fellow
had been seen about the premises at night-fall,” says the police report
“A very suspicious character had asked for a bed; his wardrobe was in
a ‘spotted handkerchief.’ The waiter remembers that a fellow, much
travel-stained and weary, stopped at the door that evening and asked if
there was any cheap house of entertainment in the village.” Heaven help
the poor wayfarer if any one has been robbed, any house broken into,
any rick set fire to, while he passed through that locality. There is
no need of a crowd of witnesses to convict him, since every bend in his
hat, every tear in his coat, and every rent in his shoes are evidence
against him.

If I thought over these things in sorrow and humiliation, it was in a
very proud spirit that I called to mind how, on that same morning, I
deposited the bag with all the money in Messrs. Haber’s bank, saw the
contents duly counted over, replaced and sealed up, and then addressed
to Her Majesty’s Minister at Kalbbratonstadt, taking a receipt for the
same. “This was only just common honesty,” says the reader. Oh, if there
is an absurd collocation of words, it is that! Common honesty! why,
there is nothing in this world so perfectly, so totally uncommon! Never,
I beseech you, undervalue the waiter who restores the ring you dropped
in the coffee-room; nor hold him cheaply who gives back the umbrella
you left in the cab. These seem such easy things to do, but they are
not easy. Men are more or less Cornish wreckers in life, and very apt to
regard the lost article as treasure-trove. I have said all this to you,
amiable reader, that you may know what it cost me, on that same morning,
not to be a rogue, and not to enrich myself with the goods of another.

I underwent a very long and searching self-examination to ascertain
why it was I had not appropriated that bag,--an offence which, legally
speaking, would only amount to a breach of trust. I said, “Is it that
you had no need of the money, Potts? Did you feel that your own means
were ample enough? Was it that your philosophy had made you regard gold
as mere dross, and then think that the load was a burden? Or, taking
higher ground, had you recalled the first teachings of your venerable
parent, that good man and careful apothecary, who had given you your
first perceptions of right and wrong?” I fear that I was obliged to say
No, in turn, to each of these queries. I would have been very glad to be
right, proud to have been a philosopher, overjoyed to feel myself swayed
by moral motives, but I could not palm the imposition on my conscience,
and had honestly to own that the real reason of my conduct was--I was in
love! There was the whole of it!

There was an old sultan once so impressed with an ill notion of the sex,
that whenever a tale of misfortune or disgrace reached him, his
only inquiry as to the source of the evil was, Who was she? Now, my
experiences of life have travelled in another direction, and whenever I
read of some noble piece of heroism or some daring act of self-devotion,
I don’t ask whether he got the Bath or the Victoria Cross, if he were
made a governor here or a vice-governor there, but who was She that
prompted this glorious deed? I ‘d like to know all about _her_: the
color of her eyes, her hair; was she slender or plump; was she fiery
or gentle; was it an old attachment or an acute attack coming after a
paroxysm at first sight?

If I were the great chief of some great public department where all my
subordinates were obliged to give heavy security for their honesty, I
would neither ask for bail bonds or sureties, but I’d say, “Have you got
a wife, or a sweetheart? Either will do. Let me look at her. If she be
worthy an honest man’s love, I am satisfied; mount your high stool and
write away.”

Oh, how I longed to stand aright in that dear girl’s eyes, that she
should see me worthy of her! Had she yielded to all my wayward notions
and rambling opinions, giving way either in careless indolence or out of
inability to dispute them, she had never made the deep impression on
my heart. It was because she had bravely asserted her own independence,
never conceding where unconvinced, never yielding where unvanquished,
that I loved her. What a stupid revery was that of mine when I fancied
her one of those strong-minded, determined women,--a thickly shod,
umbrella-carrying female, who can travel alone and pass her trunk
through a custom-house. No, she was delicate, timid, and gentle; there
was no over-confidence in her, nor the slightest pretension. Rule me?
Not a bit of it. Guide, direct, support, confirm, sustain me; elevate
my sentiments, cheer me on my road in life, making all evil odious in my
eyes, and the good to seem better!

I verily believe, with such a woman, an humble condition m life offers
more chances of happiness than a state of wealth and splendor. If
the best prizes of life are to be picked up around a man’s fireside,
moderate means, conducing as they do to a home life, would point more
certainly to these than all the splendor of grand receptions. If I
were, say, a village doctor, a schoolmaster; if I were able to eke
out subsistence in some occupation, whose pursuit might place me
sufficiently favorably in her eyes. I don’t like grocery, for instance,
or even “dry goods,” but something--it’s no fault of mine if the English
language be cramped and limited, and that I must employ the odious word
“genteel,” but it conveys, in a fashion, all that I aim at.

I began to think how this was to be done. I might return to my own
country, go back to Dublin, and become Potts and Son,--at least son! A
very horrid thought and very hard to adopt.

I might take a German degree in physic, and become an English doctor,
say at Baden, Ems, Geneva, or some other resort of my countrymen on the
Continent. I might give lectures, I scarcely well knew on what,
still less to whom; or I could start as Professor Potts, and instruct
foreigners in Shakspeare. There were at least “three courses” open to
me; and to consider them the better, I filled my pipe, and strolled off
the high-road into a shady copse of fine beech-trees, at the foot of one
of which, and close to a clear little rivulet, I threw myself at full
length, and thus, like Tityrus, enjoyed the leafy shade, making my
meerschaum do duty for the shepherd’s reed.

I had not been long thus, when I heard the footsteps of some persons on
the road, and shortly after, the sound discontinuing, I judged that
they must have crossed into the sward beneath the wood. As I listened I
detected voices, and the next moment two figures emerged from the cover
and stood before me: they were Vaterchen and Tintefleck.

“Sit down,” said I, pointing to each in turn to take a place at either
side of me. They had, it is true, been the cause of the great calamity
of my life, but in no sense was the fault theirs, and I wished to show
that I was generous and open-minded. Vaterchen acceded to my repeated
invitation with a courteous humility, and seated himself at a little
distance off; but Tintefleck threw herself on the grass, and with such a
careless _abandon_ that her hair escaped from the net that held it, and
fell in great wavy masses across my feet.

“Ay,” thought I, as I looked at the graceful outlines of her finely
shaped figure, “here is the Amaryllis come to complete the tableau; only
I would wish fewer spangles, and a little more simplicity.”

I saw that it was necessary to reassure Vaterchen as to my perfect
sanity by some explanation as to my strange mode of travelling, and told
him briefly, “that it was a caprice common enough with my countrymen to
assume the knapsack, and take the road on foot; that we fancied in
this wise we obtained a nearer view of life, and at least gained
companionship with many from whom the accident of station might exclude
us.” I said this with an artful delicacy, meant to imply that I was
pointing at a very great and valuable privilege of pedestrianism.

He smiled with a sad, a very sad expression on his features, “But
in what wise, highly honored sir?”--he addressed me always as Hoch
Geehrter Herr,--“could you promise to yourself advantage from such
associations as these? I cannot believe you would condescend to know
us simply to carry away in memory the little traits that must needs
distinguish such lives as ours. I would not insult my respect for you by
supposing that you come amongst us to note the absurd contrast between
our real wretchedness and our mock gayety; and yet what else is there to
gain? What can the poor mountebank teach you beyond this?”

“Much,” said I, with fervor, as I grasped his hand, and shook it
heartily; “much, if you only gave me this one lesson that I now listen
to, and I learn that a man’s heart can beat as truthfully under motley
as under the embroidered coat of a minister. The man who speaks as you
do, can teach me much.”

He gave a short but heavy sigh, and turned away his head. He arose
after a few minutes, and, going gently across the grass, spread his
handkerchief over the head and face of the girl, who had at once fallen
into a deep sleep.

“Poor thing,” muttered he, “it is well she _can_ sleep! She has eaten
nothing to-day!”

“But, surely,” said I, “there is some village, or some wayside inn near
this--”

“Yes, there is the ‘Eckstein,’ a little public about two miles further;
but we did n’t care to reach it before nightfall. It is so painful
to pass many hours in a place and never call for anything; one is
ill-looked on, and uncomfortable from it; and as we have only what would
pay for our supper and lodging, we thought we ‘d wear away the noon in
the forest here, and arrive at the inn by close of day.”

“Let me be your travelling-companion for to-day,” said I, “and let us
push forward and have our dinner together. Tes, yes, there is far less
of condescension in the offer than you suspect. I am neither great nor
milor, I am one of a class like your own, Vaterchen, and what I do for
you today some one else will as probably do for me to-morrow.”

Say what I could, the old man would persist in believing that this was
only another of those eccentricities for which Englishmen are famed;
and though, with the tact of a native good breeding, he showed no
persistence in opposition, I saw plainly enough that he was unconvinced
by all my arguments.

While the girl slept, I asked him how he chanced upon the choice of
his present mode of life, since there were many things in his tone and
manner that struck me as strangely unlike what I should have ascribed to
his order.

“It is a very short story,” said he; “five minutes will tell it,
otherwise I might scruple to impose on your patience. It was thus I
became what you see me.”

Short as the narrative was, I must keep it for another page.



CHAPTER XXX. VATERCHEN’S NARRATIVE.

I give the old man’s story, as nearly as I can, the way he told it

“There is a little village on the Lago di Guarda, called Caprini. My
family had lived there for some generations. We had a little wine-shop,
and though not a very pretentious one, it was the best in the place, and
much frequented by the inhabitants. My father was in considerable repute
while he lived; he was twice named Syndic of Caprini, and I myself once
held that dignity. You may not know, perhaps, that the office is
one filled at the choice of the townsfolk, and not nominated by the
Government. Still the crown has its influence in the selection, and
likes well to see one of its own partisans in power, and, when a popular
candidate does succeed against their will, the Government officials
take good care to make his berth as uncomfortable as they can. These
are small questions of politics to ask you to follow, but they were our
great ones; and we were as ardent and excited and eager about the choice
of our little local Governor as though he wielded real power in a great
state.

“When I obtained the syndicate, my great ambition was to tread in the
footsteps of my father, old Gustave Gamerra, who had left behind him a
great name as the assertor of popular rights, and who had never bated
the very least privilege that pertained to his native village. I did my
best--not very discreetly, perhaps--for my own sake, but I held my head
high against all imperial and royal officials, and I taught them to
feel that there was at least one popular institution in the land that
no exercise of tyranny could assail. I was over-zealous about all our
rights. I raked up out of old archives traces of privileges that we once
possessed and had never formally surrendered; I discovered concessions
that had been made to as of which we had never reaped the profit; and I
was, so to say, ever at war with the authorities, who were frank enough
to say that when my two years of office expired they meant to give me
some wholesome lessons about obedience.

“They were as good as their word. I had no sooner descended to a private
station than I was made to feel all the severities of their displeasure.
They took away my license to sell salt and tobacco, and thereby fully
one half of my little income; they tried to withdraw my privilege to
sell wine, but this came from the municipality, and they could not touch
it. Upon information that they had suborned, they twice visited my house
to search for seditious papers, and, finally, they made me such a mark
of their enmity that the timid of the townsfolk were afraid to be seen
with me, and gradually dropped my acquaintance. This preyed upon me most
of all. I was all my life of a social habit; I delighted to gather my
friends around me, or to go and visit them, and to find myself, as I was
growing old, growing friendless too, was a great blow.

“I was a widower, and had none but an only daughter.”

When he had reached thus far, his voice failed him, and, after an effort
or two, he could not continue, and turned away his head and buried it in
his hands. Full ten minutes elapsed before he resumed, which he did
with a hard, firm tone, as though resolved not to be conquered by his
emotion.

“The cholera was dreadfully severe all through the Italian Tyrol; it
swept from Venice to Milan, and never missed even the mountain villages,
far away up the Alps. In our little hamlet we lost one hundred and
eighteen souls, and my Gretchen was one of them.

“We had all grown to be very hard-hearted to each other; misfortune was
at each man’s door, and he had no heart to spare for a neighbor’s
grief; and yet such was the sorrow for her, that they came, in all this
suffering and desolation, to try and comfort and keep me up, and though
it was a time when all such cares were forgotten, the young people went
and laid fresh flowers over her grave every morning. Well, that was
very kind of them, and made me weep heartily; and, in weeping, my heart
softened, and I got to feel that God knew what was best for all of us,
and that, may-bap, he had taken her away to spare her greater sorrow
hereafter, and left me to learn that I should pray to go to her. She
had only been in the earth eight days, and I was sitting alone in my
solitary house, for I could not bear to open the shop, and began to
think that I *d never have the courage to do so again, but would go away
and try some other place and some other means of livelihood,--it was
while thinking thus, a sharp, loud knock came to the door, and I arose
rather angrily, to answer it.

“It was a sergeant of an infantry regiment, whose detachment was on
march for Peschiera; there were troubles down there, and the Government
had to send off three regiments in all haste from Vienna to suppress
them. The sergeant was a Bohemian, and his regiment the Kinsky. He was
a rough, coarse fellow, very full of his authority, despising all
villagers, and holding Italians in especial contempt. He came to order
me to prepare rations and room for six soldiers, who were to arrive that
evening. I answered, boldly, that I would not I had served the office of
syndic in the town, and was thus forever exempt from the ‘billet,’ and I
led him into my little sitting-room, and showed him my ‘brevet,’
framed and glazed, over the chimney. He laughed heartily at my little
remonstrance, coolly turned the ‘brevet’ with its face to the wall, and
said,--

“‘If you don’t want twelve of us instead of six, you ‘ll keep your
tongue quiet, and give us a stoup of your best wine.’

“I did not wait to answer him, but seized my hat and hurried away to the
Platz Commandant. He was an old enemy of mine, but I could not help it;
his was the only authority I could appeal to, and he was bound to do me
justice. When I reached the bureau, it was so crowded with soldiers and
townsfolk, some seeking for billets, some insisting on their claim to be
free, that I could not get past the door, and, after an hour’s
waiting, I was fain to give up the attempt, and turned back home again,
determined to make my statement in writing, which, after all, might have
been the most fitting.

“I found my doors wide open when I got there, and my shop crowded
with soldiers, who, either seated on the counter or squatting on their
knapsacks, had helped themselves freely to my wine, even to raising the
top of an old cask, and drinking it in large cups from the barrel, which
they handed liberally to their comrades as they passed.

“My heart was too full to care much for the loss, though the insult
pressed me sorely, and, pushing my way through, I gained the inner room
to find it crowded like the shop. All was in disorder and confusion.
The old musket my father had carried for many a year, and which had hung
over the chimney as an heirloom, lay smashed in fragments on the floor;
some wanton fellow had run his bayonet through my ‘brevet’ as syndic,
and hung it up in derision as a banner; and one--he was a corporal--had
taken down the wreath of white roses that lay on Gretchen’s coffin till
it was laid in the earth, and placed it on his head. When I «aw this,
my senses left me; I gave a wild shriek, and dashed both my hands in his
face. I tried to strangle him; I would have torn him with my teeth had
they not dragged me off and dashed me on the ground, where they trampled
on me, and beat me, and then carried me away to prison.

“I was four days in prison before I was brought up to be examined. I did
not know whether it had been four or forty, for my senses had left
me and I was mad; perhaps it was the cold dark cell and the silence
restored me, but I came out calm and collected. I remembered everything
to the smallest incident.

“The soldiers were heard first; they agreed in everything, and their
story had all the air of truth about it They owned they had taken my
wine, but said that the regiment was ready and willing to pay for it so
soon as I came back, and that all the rest they had done were only the
usual follies of troops on a march. I began by claiming my exemption as
a syndic, but was stopped at once by being told that my claim had
never been submitted to the authorities, and that in my outrage on
the imperial force I had forfeited all consideration on that score. My
offence was easily proven. I did not deny it, and I was lectured for
nigh an hour on the enormity of my crime, and then sentenced to pay
a fine of a thousand zwanzigers to the Emperor, and to receive
four-and-twenty blows with the stick. ‘It should have been
eight-and-forty but for my age,’ he said.

“On the same stool where I sat to hear my sentence was a circus man,
waiting the Platz Commandant’s leave to give some representation in the
village. I knew him from his dress, but had never spoken to him nor he
to me; just, however, as the Commandant had delivered the words of my
condemnation, he turned to look at me,--mayhap to see how I bore up
under my misfortune. I saw his glance, and I did my best to sustain it.
I wanted to bear myself manfully throughout, and not to let any one know
my heart was broken, which I felt it was. The struggle was, perhaps,
more than I was able for, and, while the tears gushed out and ran down
my cheeks, I buret out laughing, and laughed away fit after fit, making
the most terrible faces all the while; so outrageously droll were my
convulsions, that every one around laughed too, and there was the whole
court screaming madly with the same impulse, and unable to control it.

“‘Take the fool away!’ cried the Commandant, at last, ‘and bring him to
reason with a hazel rod.’ And they carried me off, and I was flogged.

“It was about a week after I was down near Commachio. I don’t know how
I got there, but I was in rags, and had no money, and the circus people
came past and saw me. ‘There’s the old fellow that nearly killed us with
his droll face,’ said the chief. ‘I ‘ll give you two zwanzigers a day,
my man, if you ‘ll only give us a few grins like that every evening. Is
it a bargain?’

“I laughed. I could not keep now from laughing at everything, and the
bargain was made, and I was a clown from that hour. They taught me a
few easy tricks to help me in my trade, but it is my face that they care
for,--none can see it unmoved.”

He turned on me as he spoke with a fearful contortion of countenance,
but, moved by his story, and full only of what I had been listening to,
I turned away and shed tears.

“Yes,” said he, meditatively, “many a happy heart is kindled at the fire
that is consuming another. As for myself, both joy and sorrow are dead
within me. I am without hope, and, stranger still, without fear.”

“But you are not without benevolence,” said I, as I looked towards the
sleeping girl.

“She was so like Gretchen,” said he; and he bent down his head and
sobbed bitterly.

I would have asked him some questions about her if I dared, but I felt
so rebuked by the sorrow of the old man, that my curiosity seemed almost
unfeeling.

“She came amongst us a mere child,” said he, “and speedily attached
herself to me. I contrived to learn enough v of her dialect to
understand and talk to her, and at last she began to regard me as a
father, and even called me such. It was a long time before I could bear
this. Every time I heard the word my grief would burst out afresh; but
what won’t time do? I have come to like it now.”

“And is she good and gentle and affectionate?” asked I.

“She is far too good and true-hearted to be in such company as ours.
Would that some rich person,--it should be a lady,--kind and gentle and
compassionate, could see her and take her away from such associates, and
this life of shame, ere it be too late! If I have a sorrow left me now,
it is for her.”

I was silent; for though the wish only seemed fair and natural enough
on his part, I could not help thinking how improbable such an incident
would prove.

“She would repay it all,” said he. “If ever there was a nature rich in
great gifts, it is hers. She can learn whatever she will, and for a
word of kindness she would hold her hand in the fire for you. Hush!”
 whispered he, “she is stirring. What is it, darling?” said he, creeping
close to her, as she lay, throwing her arms wildly open, but not
removing the handkerchief from her face.

She muttered something hurriedly, and then burst into a laugh so joyous
and so catching, it was impossible to refrain from joining in it.

She threw back the kerchief at once and started to her knees, gazing
steadfastly, almost sternly, at me. I saw that the old man comprehended
the inquiry of her glance, and as quickly whispered a few words in her
ear. She listened till he had done, and then, springing towards me, she
caught my hand and kissed it.

I suspect he must have rebuked the ardor of her movement, for she hung
her head despondingly, and turned away from us both.

“Now for the road once more,” said Vaterchen, “for if we stay much
longer here, we shall have the forest flies, which are always worse
towards evening.”

It was not without great difficulty I could prevent his carrying my
knapsack for me, and even the girl herself would gladly have borne some
of my load. At last, however, we set forth, Tintefleck lightening the
way with a merry can-zonette that had the time of a quickstep.



CHAPTER XXXI. A GENIUS FOR CARICATURE

What a pleasant little dinner we had that day! It was laid out in a
little summer-house of the inn-garden. All overgrown with a fine old
fig-tree, through whose leaves the summer wind played deliciously,
while a tiny rivulet rippled close by, and served to cool our
“Achten-thaler,”--an amount of luxury that made Tintefleck quite wild
with laughter.

“Is it cold enough?” she asked archly, in her peasant dialect, each time
the old man laid down his glass.

As I came gradually to pick up the occasional meaning of her words,--a
process which her expressive pantomime greatly aided,--I was struck by
the marvellous acuteness of a mind so totally without culture, and I
could not help asking Vaterchen why he had never attempted to instruct
her.

“What can I do?” said he, despondently; “there are no books in the only
language she knows, and the only language she will condescend to
speak. She can understand Italian, and I have read stories for her,
and sonnets, too, out of Leopardi; but though she will listen in all
eagerness till they are finished, no sooner over than she breaks out
into some wild Calabrian song, and asks me is it not worth all the fine
things I have been giving her, thrice told.”

“Could you not teach her to write?”

“I tried that. I bought a slate, and I made a bargain with her that she
should have a scarlet knot for her hair when she could ask me for it in
written words. Well, all seemed to go on prosperously for a time; we
had got through half the alphabet very successfully, till we came to the
letter H. This made her laugh immediately, it was so like a scaffold we
had in the circus for certain exercises; and no sooner had I marked down
the letter, than she snatched the pencil from me, and drew the figure
of a man on each bar of the letter. From that hour forth, as though
her wayward humor had been only imprisoned, she burst forth into every
imaginable absurdity at our lessons. Every ridiculous event of our daily
life she drew, and with a rapidity almost incredible. I was not very
apt, as you may imagine, in acquiring the few accomplishments they
thought to give me, and she caricatured me under all my difficulties.”

“_Si, si,_” broke she in at this; for, with a wonderful acuteness,
she could trace something of a speaker’s meaning where every word was
unknown to her. As she spoke, she arose, and fled down the garden at top
speed.

“Why has she gone? Is she displeased at your telling me all these things
about her?” asked I.

“Scarcely that; she loves to be noticed. Nothing really seems to pain
her so much as when she is passed over unremarked. When such an event
would occur in the circus, I have seen her sob through her sleep all the
night after. I half suspect now she is piqued at the little notice you
have bestowed upon her. All the better if it be so.”

“But here she comes again.”

With the same speed she now came back to us, holding her slate over her
head, and showing that she rightly interpreted what the old man had said
of her.

“Now for my turn!” said Vaterchen, with a smile. “She is never weary of
drawing me in every absurd and impossible posture.”

“What is it to be, Tintefleck?” asked he. “How am I to figure this
time?”

She shook her head without replying, and, making a sign that she was
not to be questioned or interrupted, she nestled down at the foot of the
fig-tree, and began to draw.

The old man now drew near me, and proceeded to give me further details
of her strange temper and ways. I could mark that throughout all he
said a tone of intense anxiety and care prevailed, and that he felt her
disposition was exactly that which exposed her to the greatest perils
for her future. There was a young artist who used to follow her through
all the South Tyrol, affecting to be madly in love with her, but of
whose sincerity and honor Vaterchen professed to have great misgivings.
He gave her lessons in drawing, and, what was less to be liked, he made
several studies of herself. “The artless way,” said the old man, “she
would come and repeat to me all his raptures about her, was at first a
sort of comfort to me. I felt reassured by her confidence, and also by
the little impression his praises seemed to make, but I saw later
on that I was mistaken. She grew each day more covetous of these
flatteries, and it was no longer laughingly, but in earnest seriousness,
she would tell me that the ‘Fornarina’ in some gallery had not such eyes
as hers, and that some great statue that all the world admired was far
inferior to her in shape. If I had dared to rebuke her vanity, or to
ridicule her pretensions, all my influence would have been gone forever.
She would have left us, gone who knows whither, and been lost, so that
I had nothing for it but to seem to credit all she said and yet hold the
matter lightly, and I said beauty had no value except when associated
with rank and station. If queens and princesses be handsome, they are
more fitted to adorn this high estate, but for humble folk it is as
great a mockery as these tinsel gems we wear in the circus.

“‘Max says not,’ said she to me one evening, after one of my usual
lectures. ‘Max says, there are queens would give their coronets to have
my hair; ay, or even one of the dimples in my cheek.’

“‘Max is a villain,’ said I, before I could control my words.

“‘Max is a _vero signor!_’ said she, haughtily, ‘and not like one of
us; and more, too, I ‘ll go and tell him what you have called him.’ She
bounded away from me at this, and I saw her no more till nightfall.

“‘What has happened to you, poor child!’ said I, as I saw her lying on
the floor of her room, her forehead bleeding, and her dress all draggled
and torn. She would not speak to me for a long while, but by much
entreating and caressing I won upon her to tell me what had befallen
her. She had gone to the top of the ‘Glucksburg,’ and thrown herself
down. It was a fearful height, and only was she saved by being caught
by the brambles and tangled foliage of the cliff; and all this for
‘one harsh word of mine,’ she said. But I knew better; the struggle was
deeper in her heart than she was aware of, and Max had gone suddenly
away, and we saw no more of him.”

“Did she grieve after him?”

“I scarcely can say she did. She fretted, but I think it was for her own
loneliness, and the want of that daily flattery she had grown so fond
of. She became overbearing, and even insolent, too, with all her equals,
and though for many a day she had been the spoiled child of the troop,
many began to weary of her waywardness. I don’t know how all this
might have turned out, when, just as suddenly, she changed and became
everything that she used to be.”

When the old man had got thus far, the girl arose, and without saying a
word, laid the slate before us. Vaterchen, not very quick-sighted, could
not at once understand the picture, but I caught it at once, and laughed
immoderately. She had taken the scene where I had presented Vaterchen
and herself to the ladies at the tea-table, and with an intense humor,
sketched all the varying emotions of the incident.’ The offended dignity
of the old lady, the surprise and mortification of Miss Herbert, and my
own unconscious pretension as I pointed to the “friends” who accompanied
me, were drawn with the spirit of high caricature. Nor did she spare
Vaterchen or herself; they were drawn, perhaps, with a more exaggerated
satire than all the rest.

The old man no sooner comprehended the subject than he drew his hand
across it, and turned to her with words of anger and reproach. I meant,
of course, to interfere in her behalf, but it was needless; she fled,
laughing, into the garden, and before many minutes were over, we heard
her merry voice, with the tinkle of a guitar to assist it.

“There it is,” said Vaterchen, moodily. “What are you to do with a
temperament like that?”

That was a question I was in no wise prepared to answer. Tintefleck’s
temperament seemed to be the very converse of my own. I was over eager
to plan out everything in life; _she_ appeared to be just as impulsively
bent on risking all.

_My_ head was always calculating eventualities; _hers_, it struck me,
never worried itself about difficulties till in the midst of them. Now,
Jean Paul tells us that when a man detects any exaggerated bias in his
character, instead of endeavoring, by daily watching, to correct it,
he will be far more successful if he ally himself with some one of a
diametrically opposite humor. If he be rash, for instance, let him
seek companionship with the sluggish. If his tendency bear to
over-imagination, let him frequent the society of realists. Why,
therefore, should not I and Tintefleck be mutually beneficial? Take the
two different kinds of wood in a bow: one will supply resistance, the
other flexibility. It was a pleasant notion, and I resolved to test it.

“Vaterchen,” said I, “call me to-morrow, when you get ready for the
road. I will keep you company as far as Constance.”

“Ah, sir,” said he, with a sigh, “you will be well weary of us before
half the journey is over; but you shall be obeyed.”



CHAPTER XXXII. I RELIEVE MYSELF OF MY PURSE

Next morning, just as day was breaking, we set out on foot on our road
to Constance. There was a pinkish-gray streak of light on the horizon,
sure sign of a fine day, and the bright stars twinkled still in the
clear half-sombre sky, and all was calm and noiseless,--nothing to be
heard but the tramp of our own feet on the hard causeway.

With the cowardly caution of one who feels the water with his
foot before he springs in to swim, I was glad that I made my first
experiences of companionship with these humble friends while it was yet
dark and none could see us. The old leaven of snobbery was unsubdued
in my heart, and, as I turned to look at poor Vaterchen and then at the
tinsel finery of Catinka, I bethought me of the little consideration the
world extends to such as these and their belongings. “Vagabonds
all!” would say some rich banker, as he rolled by in his massive
travelling-carriage, creaking with imperials and jingling with bells.
“Vagabonds all!” would mutter the Jew pedler, as he looked down from the
_banquette_ of the diligence. How slight is the sympathy of the realist
for the poor creature whose life-labor is to please! How prone to regard
him as useless, or, even worse, forgetting the while how a wiser than
he has made many things in this beautiful world of ours that they should
merely minister to enjoyment, gladden the eye and ear, and make our
pilgrimage less weary! Where would be the crimson jay, where the scarlet
bustard, where the gorgeous peacock with the nosegay on his tail, where
the rose and the honeysuckle and the purple foxglove mingling with the
wild thorn in our hedgerows, if the universe were of _their_ creation,
and this great globe but one big workshop? You never insist that the
daisy and the daffodil should be pot-herbs; and why are there not to
be wild flowers in humanity as well as in the fields? Is it not a great
pride to you who live under a bell-glass, nurtured and cared for, and
with your name attached to a cleft-stick at your side,--is it not a
great pride to know that you are not like one of us poor dog-roses? Be
satisfied, then, with that glory; we only ask to live! Shame on me for
that “only”! As if there could be anything more delightful than life.
Life, with all its capacities for love and friendship and heroism and
self-devotion, for generous actions and noble aspirations! Life to feel
life, to know that we are in a sphere specially constructed for the
exercise of our senses and the play of our faculties, free to choose
the road we would take, and with a glorious reward if our choice be the
right one!

“‘Vagabonds!’ Yes,” thought I, “there was once on a time such a
vagabond, and he strolled along from village to village, making of his
flute a livelihood,--a poor performer, too, he tells us he was, but he
could touch the hearts of these simple villagers with his tones as
he could move the hearts of thousands more learned than they with his
marvellous pathos; and this vagabond was called Oliver Goldsmith.” I
have no words to say the ecstasy this thought gave me. Many a proud
traveller doubtless swept past the poor wayfarer as he went, dusty
and footsore, and who was, nevertheless, journeying onward to a great
immortality; to be a name remembered with blessings by generations when
the haughty man that scorned him was forgotten forever. “And so now,”
 thought I, “some splendid Russian or some Saxon Croesus will crash by
and not be conscious that the thin and weary-looking youth, with the
girl’s bundle on his stick and the red umbrella under his arm, that this
is Potts! Ay, sir, you fancy that to be threadbare and footsore is to
be vulgar-minded and ignoble, and you never so much as suspect that the
heart inside that poor plaid waistcoat is throbbing with ambitions high
as a Kaiser’s, and that the brain within that battered Jim Crow is the
realm of thoughts profound as Bacon’s, and high-soaring as Milton’s.”

If I make my reader a sharer in these musings of mine, it is because
they occupied me for some miles of the way. Vaterchen was not talkative,
and loved to smoke on uninterruptedly. I fancy that, in his way, he was
as great a dreamer as myself. Catinka would have talked incessantly if
any one had listened, or could understand her. As it was, she recited
legends and sang songs for herself, as happy as ever a blackbird was to
listen to his own melody; and though I paid no especial attention to her
music, still the sounds floated through all my thoughts, bathing them
with a soothing flood; just as the air we breathe is often loaded with
a sweet and perfumed breath ere we know it. On the whole, we journeyed
along very pleasantly; and what between the fresh morning air, the brisk
exercise, and the novelty of the situation, I felt in a train of spirits
that made me delighted with everything. “This, after all,” thought I,
“is more like the original plan I sketched out for myself. This is the
true mode to see life and the world. The student of nature never begins
his studies with the more complicated organizations; he sets out with
what is simplest in structure, and least intricate in function; he
begins with the extreme link of the chain; so, too, I start with the
investigation of those whose lives of petty cares and small ambitions
must render them easy of appreciation. This poor Mollusca Vaterchen, for
instance,--to see is to know him; and the girl, how absurd to connect
such a guileless child of nature as that with those stereotyped notions
of feminine craft and subtlety!” I then went on to imagine some future
biographer of mine engaged on this portion of my life, puzzled for
materials, puzzled still more to catch the clew to my meaning in it “At
this time,” will he say, “Potts, by one of those strange caprices which
often were the mainspring of his actions, resolved to lead a gypsy life.
His ardent love of nature, his heartfelt enjoyment of scenery, and, more
than even these, a certain breadth and generosity of character, disposed
him to sympathize with those who have few to pity and fewer to succor
them. With these wild children of the roadside he lived for months,
joyfully sharing the burdens they carried, and taking his part in
their privations. It was here he first met Catinka.” I stopped at this
sentence, and I slowly repeated to myself, “It was here he first met
Catinka!” “What will he have next to record?” thought I. “Is Potts now
to claim sympathy as the victim of a passion that regarded not station,
nor class, nor fortune; that despised the cold conventionalities of
a selfish world, and asked only a heart for a heart? Is he to be
remembered as the faithful believer in his own theory,--Love, above all?
Are we to hear of him clasping rapturously to his bosom the poor forlorn
girl?” So intensely were my feelings engaged in my speculations, that,
at this critical pass, I threw my arms around Catinka’s neck, and
kissed her. A rebuke, not very cruel, not in the least angry or peevish,
brought me quickly to myself; and as Vaterchen was fortunately in front
and saw nothing of what passed, I speedily made my peace. I do not know
how it happened, but in that same peace-making I had passed my arm
round her waist, and there it remained,--an army of occupation after the
treaty was signed,--and we went along, side by side, very amicably, very
happily.

We are often told that a small competence--the just enough to live
on--is the bane of all enterprise; that men thus placed are removed from
the stimulus of necessity, and yet not lifted into the higher atmosphere
of ambitions. Exactly in the same way do I believe that equality is
the grave of love. The passion thrives on difficulty, and requires
sacrifice. You must bid defiance to mankind in your choice, or you are
a mere fortune-hunter. Show the world the blushing peasant-girl you have
made your wife, and say, “Yes, I have had courage to do this.” Or else
strive for a princess,--a Russian princess. Better, far better, however,
the humble-hearted child of nature and the fields, the simple, trusting,
confiding girl, who, regarding her lover as a sort of demi-god, would,
while she clung to him--

“You press me so hard!” murmured Catinka, half rebukingly, but with a
sort of pouting expression that became her marvellously.

“I was thinking of something that interested me, dearest,” said I; but I
‘m not sure that I made my meaning very clear to her, and yet there was
a roguish look in her black eye that puzzled me greatly. I began to
like her, or, if you prefer the phrase, to fall in love with her. I knew
it--I felt it just the way that a man who has once had the ague never
mistakes when he is going to have a return of the fever. In the same way
exactly, did I recognize all the premonitory symptoms,--the giddiness,
the shivering, increased action of the heart--Halt, Potts! and reflect a
bit; are you describing love, or a tertian?

How will the biographer conduct himself here? Whether will he have to
say, “Potts resisted manfully this fatal attachment; had he yielded to
the seductions of this early passion, it is more than probable we would
never have seen him this, that, and t’ other, nor would the world have
been enriched with--Heaven knows what;” or shall he record, “Potts loved
her, loved her as only such a nature as his ever loves! He felt keenly
that, in a mere worldly point of view, he must sacrifice; but it was
exactly in that love and that sacrifice was born the poet, the wondrous
child of song, who has given us the most glorious lyrics of our
language. He had the manliness to share his fortune with this poor
girl. * It was,’ he tells us of himself, in one of those little touching
passages in his diary, which place him immeasurably above the mock
sentimentality of Jean Jacques,--‘it was on the road to Constance, of
a bright and breezy summer morning, that I told her of my love. We were
walking along, our arms around each other, as might two happy, guileless
children. I was very young in what is called the world, but I had a
boundless confidence in myself; my theory was, “If I be strengthened
by the deep devotion of one loving heart, I have no fears of failure.”’
Beautiful words, and worthy of all memory! And then he goes on: ‘I drew
her gently over to a grassy bench on the roadside, and, taking my
purse from my pocket, poured out before her its humble contents, in all
something less than twenty sovereigns, but to her eyes a very Pactolus
of wealth.’”

“What if I were to try this experiment?” thought I; “what if I were,
so to say, to anticipate my own biography?” The notion pleased me much.
There was something novel in it, too. It was making the experiment in
the _carpore vili_ of accident, to see what might come of it.

“Come here, Catinka,” said I, pointing to a moss-covered rock at the
roadside, with a little well at its base,--“come here, and let me have a
drink of this nice clear water.”

She assented with a smile and a nod, detaching at the same time a little
cup from the flask she wore at her side, in _vivandière_ fashion. “And
we ‘ll fill my flask too,” said she, showing that it was empty. With a
sort of childish glee she now knelt beside the stream, and washed the
cup. What is it, I wonder, that gives the charm to running water, and
imparts a sort of glad feeling to its contemplation? Is it that its
ceaseless flow suggests that “forever” which contrasts so powerfully
with all short-lived pleasures? I cannot tell, but I was still musing
over the difficulty, when, having twice offered me the cup without my
noticing it, she at last raised it to my lips. And I drank,--oh, what
a draught it was! so clear, so cold, so pure; and all the time my
eyes were resting on hers, looking, as it were, into another well, the
deepest and most unfathomable of all.

“Sit down here beside me on this stone, Catinka, and help me to count
these pieces of money; they have got so mingled together that I scarcely
know what is left me.” She seemed delighted with the project, and sat
down at once; and I, throwing myself at her feet, poured the contents of
my purse into her lap.

“_Madonna mia!_” was all she could utter as she beheld the gold. Aladdin
in the cave never felt a more overwhelming rapture than did she at sight
of these immense riches. “But where did it come from?” cried she, wildly.
“Have you got mines of gold and silver? Have you got gems, too,--rubies
and pearls? Oh, say if there be pearls; I love them so? And are you
really a great prince, the son of a king; and are you wandering the
world this way to seek adventures, or in search, mayhap, of that lovely
princess you are in love with?” With wildest impetuosity she asked these
and a hundred other questions, for it was only now and then that I could
trace her meaning, which expressive pantomime did much to explain.

I tried to convince her that what she deemed a treasure was a mere
pittance, which a week or two would exhaust; that I was no prince, nor
had I a kingly father; “and last of all,” said I, “I am not in pursuit
of a princess. But I ‘ll tell you what I am in search of, Catinka,--one
trusting, faithful, loving heart; one that will so unite itself to
mine as to have no joys or sorrows or cares but mine; one content to go
wherever I go, live however I live, and no matter what my faults may be,
or how meanly others think of me, will ever regard me with eyes of love
and devotion.”

I had held her hand while I uttered this, gazing up into her eyes with
ecstasy, for I saw how their liquid depth appeared to move as though
about to overflow, when at last she spoke, and said,--

“And there are no pearls!”

“Poor child!” thought I, “she cannot understand one word I have been
saying. Listen to me, Catinka,” said I, with a slow utterance. “Would
you give me your heart for all this treasure?”

“_Si, si!_” cried she, eagerly.

“And love me always,--forever?”

“_Si_,” said she, again; but I fancied with less of energy than before.

“And when it was spent and gone, and nothing remaining of it, what would
you do?”

“Send you to gather more, _mio caro_,” said she, pressing my hand to her
lips, as though in earnest of the blandishments she would bestow upon
me.

Now, I cannot affect to say that all this was very reassuring. This
poor simple child of the mountains showed a spirit as sordid and as
calculating as though she were baptized in May Fair. It was a terrible
shock to me to see this; a dire overthrow to a very fine edifice that
I was just putting the roof on! “Would Kate Herbert have made me such
a speech?” thought I. “Would she have declared herself so venal and
so worldly?--and why not? May it not be, perhaps, simply that a mere
question of good-breeding, the usages of a polite world, might have made
all the difference, and that she would have felt what poor Catinka felt
and owned to? If this were true, the advantages were all on the side
of sincerity. With honesty as the basis, what may not one build up of
character? Where there is candor there are at least no disappointments.
This poor simple child, untutored in the wiles of a scheming world,
where all is false, unreal, and deceptive, has the courage to say that
her heart can be bought. She is ready in her innocence, too, to sell
it, just as the Indians sell a great territory for a few glass beads or
bright buttons. And why should not I make the acquisition in the very
spirit of a new settler? It was I discovered this lone island of the
sea; it was I first landed on this unknown shore; why not claim a
sovereignty so cheaply established?” I put the question arithmetically
before me: Given, a young girl, totally new to life and its seductions,
deeply impressed with the value of wealth, to find the measure of
venality in a well-brought-up young lady, educated at Clapham, and
finished at Boulogne-sur-Mer. I expressed it thus: D-y=T+a?, or an
unknown quantity.

“What strange marks are you drawing there?” cried she, as I made these
figures on the slate.

“A caprice,” said I, in some confusion.

“No,” said she; “I know better. It was a charm. Tell truth,--it was a
charm.”

“A charm, dearest; but for what?”

“_I_ know,” said she, shaking her head and laughing, with a sort of
wicked drollery.

“_You_ know! Impossible, child.”

“Yes,” she said with great gravity, while she swept her hand, across the
slate and erased all the figures. “Yes _I_ know, and I ‘ll not permit
it.”

“But what, in Heaven’s name, is trotting through your head, Catinka? You
have not the vaguest idea of what those signs meant.”

“Yes,” she said, even more solemnly than before. “I know it all. You
mean to steal away my heart in spite of me, and you are going to do it
with a charm.”

“And what success shall I have, Catinka?”

“Oh, do not ask me,” said she, in a tone of touching misery. “I feel it
very sore here.” And she pressed her hand to her side. “Ah me,” sighed
she, “if there were only pearls!”

The ecstasy her first few words gave me was terribly routed by this vile
conclusion, and I started abruptly, and in an angry voice, said, “Let us
go on; Vaterchen will fear we are lost.”

“And all this gold; what shall I do with it?” cried she.

“What you will. Throw it into the well if you like,” said I, angrily;
for in good sooth I was out of temper with her and myself and all
mankind.

“Nay,” said she, mildly, “it is yours; but I will carry it for you if it
weary you.”

I might have felt rebuked by the submissive gentleness of her words;
indeed, I know not how it was that they did not so move me, and I walked
on in front of her, heedless of her entreaties that I should wait till
she came up beside me.

When she did join me, she wanted to talk immensely. She had all manner
of questions to ask about where my treasure came from; how often I went
back there to replenish it; was I quite sure that it could never, never
be exhausted, and such-like? But I was in no gracious mood for such
inquiries, and, telling her that I wished to follow my own thoughts
without interruption, I walked along in silence.

I cannot tell the weight I felt at my heart I am not speaking
figuratively. No; it was exactly as though a great mass of heavy metal
filled my chest, forced out my ribs, and pressed down my diaphragm; and
though I held my hands to my sides with all my force, the pressure still
remained.

“What a bitter mockery it is,” thought I, “if the only false thing in
all the world should be the human heart! There are diamonds that will
resist fire, gold that will stand the crucible; but the moment you come
to man and his affections, all is hollow and illusory!”

Why do we give the name worldliness to traits of selfish advancement
and sordid gain, when a young creature like this, estranged from all the
commerce of mankind, who knows nothing of that bargain-and-barter system
which we call civilization, reared and nurtured like a young fawn in her
native woods, should, as though by a very instinct of corruption, have a
heart as venal as any hackneyed beauty of three London seasons?

Let no man tell me now, that it is our vicious system of female
training, our false social organization, our spurious morality, laxity
of family ties, and the rest of it. I am firmly persuaded that a young
squaw of the Choctaws has as many anxieties about her _parti_ as any
belle of Belgravia, even though the settlements be only paid in sharks’
teeth and human toupees.

And what an absurdity is our whole code on this subject! A man is
actually expected to court, solicit, and even worship the object that he
is after all called upon to pay for. You do not smirk at the salmon in
your fishmonger’s window, or ogle the lamb at your butcher’s; you go in
boldly and say, “How much the pound?” If you sighed outside for a week,
you ‘d get it never the cheaper. Why not then make an honest market
of what is so salable? What a saving of time to know that the splendid
creature yonder, with the queenly air, can only be had at ten thousand
a year, but that the spicy article with the black ringlets will go for
two! Instead of all the heart-burnings and blank disappointments we see
now, we should have a practical, contented generation; and in the same
spirit that a man of moderate fortune turns away from the seductions
of turtle and whitebait, while he orders home his mutton chop, he would
avert his gaze from beauty, and fix his affections on the dumpy woman
that can be “got a bargain.”

Why did not the poet say, Venality, thy name is Woman? It would suit the
prosody about as well, and the purpose better. The Turks are our masters
in all this; they are centuries--whole centuries in advance of us. How
I wish some Babbage would make a calculation of the hours, weeks, years,
centuries of time, are lost in what is called love-making! Time, we are
told, is money; and here, at once, is the fund to pay off our national
debt. Take the “time that’s lost in wooing” by a nation, say of
twenty-eight or thirty millions, and at the cheapest rate of labor--take
the prison rate if you like--and see if I be not right. Let the
population who now heave sighs pound oyster-shells, let those who pick
quarrels pick oakum, and we need no income-tax!

“I’ll not sing any more,” broke in Catinka. “I don’t think you have been
listening to me.”

“Listening to you!” said I, contemptuously; “certainly not. When I want
a siren, I take a pit ticket and go to the opera; seven-and-sixpence
is the price of Circe, and dear at the money.” With this rude rebuff I
waved her off, and walked along once more alone.

At a sudden bend in the road we found Vaterchen seated under a tree
waiting for us, and evidently not a little uneasy at our long absence.

“What is this?” said he, angrily, to Catinka. “Why have you remained so
long behind?”

“We sat down to rest at a well,” said she, “and then he took out a great
bag of money to count, and there was so much in it, so many pieces of
bright gold, that one could not help turning them over and over, and
gazing at them.”

“And worshipping them too, girl!” cried he, indignantly, while he turned
on me a look of sorrow and reproach. I returned his stare haughtily, and
he arose and drew me to one side.

“Am I, then, once more mistaken in my judgment of men? Have _you_, too,
duped me?” said he, in a voice that shook with agitation. “Was it for
this you offered us the solace of your companionship? Was it for this
you condescended to journey with us, and deigned to be our host and
entertainer?”

The appeal came at an evil moment: a vile, contemptible scepticism was
at work within me. The rasp and file of doubt were eating away at my
heart, and I deemed “all men liars.”

“And is it to me--Potts--you address such words as these, you consummate
old humbug? What is there about me that denotes dupe or fool?”

The old man shook his head, and made a gesture to imply he had not
understood me; and now I remembered that I had uttered this rude speech
in English, and not in German. With the memory of this fact came also
the consciousness of its cruel meaning. What if I should have wronged
him? What if the poor old fellow be honest and upright? What if he be
really striving to keep this girl in the path of virtue? I came close
to him, and fixed my eyes steadfastly on his face. He looked at me
fearlessly, as an honest man might look. He never tried to turn
away, nor did he make the slightest effort to evade me. He seemed to
understand all the import of my scrutiny, for he said, at last,--

“Well, are you satisfied?”

“I am, Vaterchen,” said I, “fully satisfied. Let us be friends.” And I
took his hand and shook it heartily.

“You think me honest?” asked he.

“I do think so.”

“And I am not more honest than she is. No,” said he, resolutely,
“Tintefleck is true-hearted.”

“What of _me?_” cried she, coming up and leaning her arm on the old
man’s shoulder,--“what of _me?_”

“I have said that you are honest, and would not deceive!”

“Not _you_, Vaterchen,--not _you_,” said she, kissing him. And then, as
she turned away, she gave me a look so full of meaning, and so strange,
withal, that if I were to speak for an hour I could not explain it. It
seemed to mean sorrow and reproach and wounded pride, with a dash of
pity, and above all and everything, defiance; ay, that was its chief
character, and I believe I winced under it.

“Let us step out briskly,” said Vaterchen. “Constance is a good eleven
miles off yet.”

“He looks tired already,” said she, with a glance at me.

“I? I’m as fresh as when I started,” said I. And I made an effort to
appear brisk and lively, which only ended in making them laugh heartily.



CHAPTER XXXIII. MY ELOQUENCE BEFORE THE CONSTANCE MAGISTRATES.

Respectable reader, there is no use in asking you if you have ever been
in the Hotel of the “Balance,” at Constance. Of course you have not. It
is neither recorded in the book of John, nor otherwise known to fame. It
is an obscure hostel, only visited by the very humblest wayfarers,
and such poor offshoots of wretchedness as are fain to sleep on a
truckle-bed and sup meanly. Vaterchen, however, spoke of it in generous
terms. There was a certain oniony soup he had tasted there years ago
whose flavor had not yet left his memory. He had seen, besides, the most
delicious _schweine fleiseh_ hanging down from the kitchen rafters, and
it had been revealed to him in a dream that a solvent traveller might
have rashers on demand.

Poor fellow! I had not the vaguest idea of the eloquence he possessed
till he came to talk on these matters. From modest and distrustful, he
grew assured and confident; his hesitation of speech was replaced by a
fluent utterance and a rich vocabulary; and he repeatedly declared
that though the exterior was unprepossessing, and the surface generally
homely, there were substantial comforts obtainable which far surpassed
the resources of more pretentious houses. “You are served on pewter, it
is true,” said he; “but pewter is a rare material to impart relish to
a savory mess.” Though we should dine in the kitchen, he gave me to
understand that even in this there were advantages, and that the polite
guest of the _salon_ never knew what it was to taste that rich odor of
the “roast,” or that fragrant incense that steamed up from the luscious
stew, and which were to cookery what bouquet was to wine.

“I will not say that, honored sir,” continued he, “to you, in the mixed
company which frequent such humble hearths there would be matter
of interest and amusement; but, to a man like myself, these chance
companionships are delightful. Here all are stragglers, all adventurers.
Not a man that deposits his pack in the corner and draws in his chair
to the circle but is a wanderer and a pilgrim of one sort or other.” He
drew me an amusing picture of one of these groups, wherein, even without
telling his story, each gave such insight into his life and travels as
to present a sort of drama.

Whether it was that my companion had drawn too freely on his
imagination, or that we had fallen on an unfortunate moment, I cannot
say; but, though we found the company at the “Balance” numerous and
varied, there was none of the sociality I looked for, still less of that
generous warmth and good greeting which he assured me was the courtesy
of such places. The men were chiefly carriers, with their mule-teams and
heavy wagons, bound for the Bavarian Tyrol. There was a sprinkling
of Jew pedlers, on their way to the Vorarlberg; a deserter from the
Austrian army, trying to get back to Hesse Cassel; and an Italian image
carrier, with a green parrot and a well-filled purse, going back to
finish his days at Lucca.

Now none of these were elements of a very exalted or exclusive rank;
they were each and all of them taken from the very base of the social
pyramid; and yet, would it be believed that they regarded our entrance
amongst them as an act of rare impudence!

A more polished company might have been satisfied with averted heads or
cold looks; these were less equivocal. One called out to the landlord
to know if he expected any gypsies; another, affecting to treat us as
solicitors for their patronage, said he had no “batzen” to bestow on
buffoonery; a third suggested we should get up our theatricals under
the cart-shed outside, and beat the drum when we were ready; and the
deserter, a poor weak-looking, mangy wretch with a ragged fatigue-jacket
and broken boots, put his arm round Catinka’s waist, to draw her on his
knee, for the which she dealt him such a slap on the face as fairly sent
him on the floor, in which ignoble position.

Vaterchen kicked him again and again. In an instant all were upon us.
Carters, pedlers, and image men assailed us furiously. I suppose I beat
somebody; I know that several beat _me_. The impression left upon me
when all was over was of a sort of human kaleidoscope, where the people
turned every way without ceasing. Now we seemed all on our feet, now on
our heads, now on the floor, now in the air, Vaterchen flying about like
a demon, while Tinte-, fleck stood in a corner, with a gleaming stiletto
in hand, saying something in Calabrian, which sounded like an invitation
to come and be killed.

The police came at last; and, after a noisy scene of accusation and
denial, the weight of evidence went against us, and we were marched off
to prison, poor old Vaterchen crying like a child, for all the disgrace
and misery he had brought on his benefactor: and while he kissed my
hand, swearing that a whole life’s devotion would not be enough to
recompense me for what he had been the means of inflicting on me,
Catinka took it more easily, her chief regret apparently being, that
nobody came near enough to give her a chance with her knife, which she
assured us she wielded with a notable skill, and could, with a jerk,
send flying through a door, like a javelin, at full six paces’ distance;
nor, indeed, was it without considerable persuasion she could be induced
to restore it to its sheath, which truth obliges me to own was inside
her garter. Our prison, an old tower adjoining the lake, had been once
the dungeon of. John Huss, and the torture chamber, as it was still
called, continued to be used for mild transgressors, such as we were.
A small bribe induced the jailer’s wife to take poor Tintefleck for the
night into her own quarters, and Vaterchen and I were sole possessors
of the gloomy old hall, which opened by a balcony, railed like a sort of
cage, over the lake.

If the torture chamber had been denuded of its flesh pincers and
thumb-screws, and the other ingenious devices of human cruelty, I am
bound to own that its traditions as a place of suffering had not died
out, as the fleas left nothing to be desired on the score of misery.
Whether it was that they had been pinched by a long fast, or that we
were more tender, cutaneously, than the aborigines, I know not, but I
can safely aver that I never passed such a night, and sincerely trust
that I may never pass such another. Though the air from the lake was
cold and chilly, we preferred to crouch on the balcony to remaining
within the walls; but even here our persecutors followed us.

Vaterchen slept through it all; an occasional convulsive jerk would
show, at times, when one of the enemy had chanced upon some nervous
fibre; but, on the whole, he bore up like one used to such martyrdom,
and able to brave it. As for me, when morning broke, I looked like
a strong case of confluent smallpox, with the addition that my heavy
eyelids nearly closed over my eyes, and my lips swelled out like a
Kaffir’s. How that young minx, Catinka, laughed at me. All the old
man’s signs, warnings, menaces, were in vain; she screamed aloud with
laughter, and never ceased, even as we were led into the tribunal and
before the dread presence of the judge.

The judgment-seat was not imposing. It was a long, low, ill-lighted
chamber, with a sort of raised counter at one end, behind which sat
three elderly men, dressed like master sweeps,--that is, of the old days
of climbing-boys. The prisoners were confined in a thing like a fold,
and there leaned against one end of the same pen as ourselves, a
square-built, thick-set man of about eight-and-forty, or fifty, dressed
in a suit of coarse drab, and whom, notwithstanding an immense red beard
and moustache, a clear blue eye and broad brow proclaimed to be English.
He was being interrogated as we entered, but from his total ignorance of
German the examination was not proceeding very glibly.

“You ‘re an Englishman, ain’t you?” cried he, as I came in. “You can
speak High Dutch, perhaps?”

“I can speak German well enough to be intelligible, sir.”

“All right,” said he, in the same free-and-easy tone. “Will you explain
to those old beggars there that they ‘re making fools of themselves.
Here’s how it is. My passport was made out for two; for Thomas Harpar,
that’s me, and Sam Bigges. Now, because Sam Rigges ain’t here, they tell
me I can’t be suffered to proceed. Ain’t that stupid? Did you ever hear
the like of that for downright absurdity before?”

“But where is he?”

“Well, I don’t mind telling you, because you ‘re a countryman; but
I don’t like blackening an Englishman to one of those confounded
foreigners. Rigges has run.”

“What do you mean by ‘run’?”

“I mean, cut his stick; gone clean away; and what’s worse, too, carried
off a stout bag of dollars with him that we had for our journey.”

“Whither were you going?”

“That’s neither here nor there, and don’t concern you in any respect
What you ‘ve to do is, explain to the old cove yonder,--the fellow in
the middle is the worst of them,--tell him it’s all right, that I ‘m
Harpar, and that the other ain’t here; or, look here, I ‘ll tell you
what’s better, do you be Rigges, and it’s all right.”

I demurred flatly to this suggestion, but undertook to plead his cause
on its true merits.

“And who are you, sir, that presume to play the advocate here?” said
the judge, haughtily. “I fancied that you stood there to answer a charge
against yourself.”

“That matter may be very easily disposed of, sir,” said I, as proudly;
“and you will be very fortunate if you succeed as readily in explaining
your own illegal arrest of me to the higher court of your country.”

With the eloquence which we are told essentially belongs to truth,
I narrated how I had witnessed, as a mere passing traveller, the
outrageous insult offered to these poor wanderers as they entered the
inn. With the warm enthusiasm of one inspired by a good cause, I painted
the whole incident with really scarcely a touch of embellishment,
reserving the only decorative portion to a description of myself, whom I
mentioned as an agent of the British government, especially employed on
a peculiar service, the confirmation of which I proudly established
by my passport setting forth that I was a certain “Ponto, Chargé des
Dépêches.”

Now if there be one feature of continental life fixed and immutable, it
is this: that wherever the German language be spoken, the reverence for
a government functionary is supreme. If you can only show on documentary
evidence that you are grandson of the man who made the broom that swept
out a government office, it is enough. You are from that hour regarded
as one of the younger children of Bureaucracy. You are under the
protection of the state, and though you be but the smallest rivet in
the machinery, there is no saying what mischief might not ensue if you
were either lost or mislaid.

I saw in an instant the dread impression I had created, and I said, in
a voice of careless insolence, “Go on, I beg of you; send me back to
prison; chain me; perhaps you would like to torture me? The government
I represent is especially slow in vindicating the rights of its injured
officials. It has a European reputation for long-suffering, patience,
and forbearance. Yes, Englishmen can be impaled, burned, flayed alive,
disembowelled. By all means, avail yourselves of your bland privileges;
have me led out instantly to the scaffold, unless you prefer to have me
broken on the wheel!”

“Will nobody stop him!” cried the president, almost choking with wrath.

“Stop me; I suspect not, sir. It is upon these declarations of mine,
made thus openly, that my country will found that demand for reparation
which will one day cost you so dearly. Lead on, I am ready for the
block.” And as I said this, I untied my cravat, and appeared to prepare
for the headsman.

“If he will not cease, the court shall be dissolved,” called out the
judge.

“Never, sir. Never, so long as I live, shall I surrender the glorious
privileges of that freedom by which I assert my birthright as a Briton.”

“Well, you are as impudent a chap as ever I listened to,” muttered my
countryman at my side.

“The prisoners are dismissed, the court is adjourned,” said the
president, rising; and amidst a very disorderly crowd, not certainly
enthusiastic in our favor, we were all hurried into the street.

“Come along down here,” said Mr. Harpar. “I ‘m in a very tidy sort of
place they call the ‘Golden Pig.’ Come along, and bring the vagabonds,
and let’s have breakfast together.”

I was hurt at the speech; but as my companions could not understand its
coarseness, I accepted the invitation, and we followed him.

“Well, I ain’t seen _your_ like for many a day,” said Harpar, as we went
along. “If you ‘d have said the half of that to one of our ‘Beaks,’ I
think I know where you ‘d be. But you seem to understand the fellows
well. Mayhap you have lived much abroad?”

“A great deal. I am a sort of citizen of the world,” said I, with a
jaunty easiness.

“For a citizen of the world you appear to have strange tastes in your
companionship. How did you come to forgather with these creatures?”

I tried the timeworn cant about seeing life in all its
gradations,--exploring the cabin as well as visiting the palace, and
so on; but there was a rugged sort of incredulity in his manner that
checked me, and I could not muster the glib rudeness which usually stood
by me on such occasions.

“You ‘re not a man of fortune,” said he, dryly, as I finished; “one sees
that plainly enough. You ‘re a fellow that should be earning his bread
somehow; and the question is,--Is this the kind of life that you ought
to be leading? What humbug it is to talk about knowing the world and
such-like. The thing is, to know a trade, to understand some art, to
be able to produce something, to manufacture something, to convert
something to a useful purpose. When you ‘ve done that, the knowledge of
men will come later on, never be afraid of that. It’s a school that we
never miss one single day of our lives. But here we are; this is the
‘Pig.’ Now, what will you have for breakfast? Ask the vagabonds, too,
and tell them there’s a wide choice here; they have everything you can
mention in this little inn.”

An excellent breakfast was soon spread out before us, and though my
humble companions did it the most ample justice, I sat there, thoughtful
and almost sad. The words of that stranger rang in my ears like a
reproach and a warning. I knew how truly he had said that I was not a
man of fortune, and it grieved me sorely to think how easily he saw it.
In my heart of hearts I knew it was the delusion I loved best To appear
to the world at large an eccentric man of good means, free to do what
he liked and go where he would, was the highest enjoyment I had ever
prepared for myself; and yet here was a coarse, commonplace sort of
man,--at least, his manners were unpolished and his tone underbred,--and
he saw through it all at once.

I took the first opportunity to slip away unobserved from the company,
and retired to the little garden of the inn, to commune with myself and
be alone. But ere I had been many minutes there, Harpar joined me.
He came up smoking his cigar, with the lounging, lazy air of a man at
perfect leisure, and, consequently, quite free to be as disagreeable as
he pleased.

“You went off without eating your breakfast,” said he, bluntly. “I saw
how it was. You did n’t like _my_ freedom with you. You fancied that I
ought to have taken all that nonsense of yours about your rank and your
way of life for gospel; or, at least, that I ought to have pretended to
do so. That ain’t my way. I hate humbug.”

It was not very easy to reply good humoredly to such a speech as this.
Indeed, I saw no particular reason to treat this man’s freedom with any
indulgence, and drawing myself haughtily up, I prepared a very dry but
caustic rejoinder.

“When I have learned two points,” said I, “on which you can inform me,
I may be better able to answer what you have said. The first is: By what
possible right do you take to task a person that you never met in your
life till now? and, secondly, What benefit on earth could it be to me to
impose upon a man from whom I neither want nor expect anything?”

“Easily met, both,” said he, quickly. “I’m a practical sort of fellow,
who never wastes time on useless materials; that’s for your first
proposition. Number two: you’re a dreamer, and you hate being awakened.”

“Well, sir,” said I, stiffly, “to a gentleman so remarkable for
perspicuity, and who reads character at sight, ordinary intercourse must
be wearisome. Will you excuse me if I take my leave of you here?”

“Of course, make no ceremony about it; go or stay, Just as you like. I
never cross any man’s humor.”

I muttered something that sounded like a dissent to that doctrine, and
he quickly added, “I mean, further than speaking my mind, that ‘s all;
nothing more. If you had been a man of fair means, and for a frolic
thought it might be good fun to consort for a few days with rapscallions
of a travelling circus, all one could say was, it was n’t very good
taste; but being, evidently, a fellow of another stamp, a young man
who ought to be in his father’s shop or his uncle’s counting-house,
following some honest craft or calling,--for _you_, I say, it was
downright ruin.”

“Indeed!” said I, with an accent of intense scorn.

“Yes,” continued he, seriously, “downright ruin, There’s a poison in the
lazy, good-for-nothing life of these devils, that never leaves a man’s
blood. I ‘ve a notion that it would n’t hurt a man’s nature so much
were he to consort with housebreakers; there’s, at least, something real
about these fellows.”

“You talk, doubtless, with knowledge, sir,” said I, glad to say
something that might offend him.

“I do,” said he, seriously, and not taking the smallest account of the
impertinent allusion. “I know that if a man has n’t a fixed calling,
but is always turning his hand to this, that, and t’ other, he will
very soon cease to have any character whatsoever; he ‘ll just become as
shifty in his nature as in his business. I ‘ve seen scores of fellows
wrecked on that rock, and I had n’t looked at you twice till I saw you
were one of them.”

“I must say, sir,” said I, summoning to my aid what I felt to be a most
cutting sarcasm of manner,--“I must say, sir, that, considering how
short has been the acquaintance which has subsisted between us, it would
be extremely difficult for me to show how gratefully I feel the interest
you have taken in me.”

“Well, I ‘m not so sure of that,” said he, thoughtfully.

“May I ask, then, how?”

“Are you sure, first of all, that you wish to show this gratitude you
speak of?”

“Oh, sir, can you possibly doubt it?”

“I don’t want to doubt it, I want to profit by it.”

I made a bland bow that might mean anything, but did not speak.

“Here’s the way of it,” said he, boldly. “Rigges has run off with all my
loose cash, and though there ‘s money waiting for me at certain places,
I shall find it very difficult to reach them. I have come down here
on foot from Wild-bad, and I can make my way in the same fashion, to
Marseilles or Genoa; but then comes the difficulty, and I shall need
about ten pounds to get to Malta. Could you lend me ten pounds?”

“Really, sir,” said I, coolly, “I am amazed at the innocence with which
you can make such a demand on the man whom you have, only a few minutes
back, so acutely depicted as an adventurer.”

“It was for that very reason I thought of applying to you. Had you
been a young fellow of a certain fortune, you ‘d naturally have been
a stranger to the accidents which now and then leave men penniless in
out-of-the-way places, and it is just as likely that the first thought
in your head would be, ‘Oh, he’s a swindler. Why has n’t he his letters
of credit or his circular notes?’ But, being exactly what I take you
for, the chances are, you ‘ll say: ‘What has befallen _him_ to-day may
chance to _me_ to-morrow. Who can tell the day and the hour some mishap
may not overtake him? and so I ‘ll just help him through it.’”

“And that was your calculation?”

“That was my calculation.”

“How sorry I feel to wound the marvellous gift you seem to possess of
interpreting character. I am really shocked to think that for this time,
at least, your acuteness is at fault.”

“Which means that you ‘ll not do it.”

I smiled a benign assent.

He looked at me for a minute or more with a sort of blank incredulity,
and then, crossing his arms on his breast, moved slowly down the walk
without speaking.

I cannot say how I detested this man; he had offended me in the very
sorest part of all my nature; he had wounded the nicest susceptibility I
possessed; of the pleasant fancies wherewith I loved to clothe myself he
would not leave me enough to cover my nakedness; and yet, now that I
had resented his cool impertinence, I hated myself far more than I hated
him. Dignity and sarcasm, forsooth! What a fine opportunity to display
them, truly! The man might be rude and underbred; he _was_ rude and
underbred! and was that any justification for _my_ conduct towards
him? Why had I not had the candor to say, “Here ‘s all I possess in the
world; you see yourself that I cannot lend you ten pounds.” How I wished
I had said that, and how I wished, even more ardently still, that I had
never met him, never interchanged speech with him!

“And why is it that I am offended with him,--simply because he has
discovered that I am Potts?” Now, these reflections were all the more
bitter, since it was only twenty-four hours before that I had resolved
to throw off delusion either of myself or others; that I would take my
place in the ranks, and fight out my battle of life a mere soldier. For
this it was that I made companionship with Vaterehen, walking the high
road with that poor old man of motley, and actually speculating--in a
sort of artistic way--whether I should not make love to Tintefleck! And
if I were sincere in all this, how should I feel wounded by the honest
candor of that plain-spoken fellow. He wanted a favor at my hands, he
owned this; and yet, instead of approaching me with flattery, he at once
assails the very stronghold of my self-esteem, and says, “No humbug,
Potts; at least none with _me!_” He opens acquaintance with me on that
masonic principle by which the brotherhood of Poverty is maintained
throughout all lands and all peoples, and whose great maxim is, “He who
lends to the poor man borrows from the ragged man.”

“I ‘ll go after him at once,” said I, aloud. “I ‘ll have more talk
with him. I ‘m much mistaken if there’s not good stuff in that rugged
nature.”

When I entered the little inn, I found Vaterehen fast asleep; he had
finished off every flask on the table, and lay breathing stertorously,
and giving a long-drawn whistle in his snore, that smacked almost of
apoplexy. Tintefleck was singing to her guitar before a select audience
of the inn servants, and Harpar was gone!

I gave the girl a glance of rebuke and displeasure. I aroused the old
man with a kick, and imperiously demanded my bill.

“The bill has been paid by the other stranger,” said the landlord; “he
has settled everything, and left a _trinkgeld_ for the servants, so that
you have nothing to pay.”

I could have almost cried with spite as I heard these words. It would
have been a rare solace to my feelings if I could have put that man down
for a rogue, and then been able to say to myself, how cleverly I had
escaped the snares of a swindler. But to know now that he was not
only honest but liberal, and to think, besides, that I had been his
guest,--eaten of his salt,--it was more than I well could endure.

“Which way did he take?” asked I.

“Round the head of the lake for Lindao. I told him that the steamer
would take him there to-morrow for a trifle, but he would not wait.”

“Ah me!” sighed Vaterchen, but half awake, and with one eye still
closed, “and we are going to St. Gallen.”

“Who said so?” cried I, imperiously. “We are going to Lindao; at least,
if I be the person who gives orders here. Follow!” And as I spoke I
marched proudly on, while a slip-shod, shuffling noise of feet, and a
low, half-smothered sob told me that they were coming after me.



CHAPTER XXXIV. A SUMPTUOUS DINNER AND AN EMPTY POCKET

Mr poor companions had but a sorry time of it on that morning. I was in
a fearful temper, and made no effort to control it. The little romance
of my meeting with these creatures was beginning to scale off, and,
there beneath, lay the vulgar metal of their natures exposed to view.
As for old Vaterchen, shuffling along in his tattered shoes, half-stupid
with wine and shame together, I could n’t bear to look at him; while
Tintefleck, although at the outset abashed by my rebukeful tone and
cold manner, had now rallied, and seemed well disposed to assert her
own against all comers. Yes, there’ was a palpable air of defiance about
her, even to the way that she sang as she went along; every thrill and
cadence seemed to say, “I ‘m doing this to amuse myself; never imagine
that I care whether you are pleased or not.” Indeed, she left me no
means of avoiding this conclusion, since at every time that I turned on
her a look of anger or displeasure, her reply was to sing the louder.

“And it was only yesterday,” thought I, “and I dreamed that I could be
in love with this creature,--dreamed that I could replace Kate Herbert’s
image in my heart with that coarse travesty of woman’s gentleness. Why,
I might as well hope to make a gentleman of old Vaterchen, and present
him to the world as a man of station and eminence.”

What an insane hope was this! As well might I shiver a fragment from a
stone on the road-side, and think to give it value by having it set as a
ring. The caprice of keeping them company for a day might be pardonable.
It was the whim of one who is, above all, a student of mankind. But why
continue the companionship? A little more of such intimacy, and who
is to say what I may not imbibe of their habits and their natures; and
Potts, the man of sentiment, the child of impulse, romance, and poetry,
become a slave of the “Ring,” a saltimbanque! Now, though I could
implicitly rely upon the rigidity of my joints to prevent the
possibility of my ever displaying any feats of agility, I could yet
picture myself in a long-tailed blue coat and jack-boots walking round
and round in the sawdust circle, with four or five other creatures of
the same sort, and who have no consciousness of any function till they
are made the butt of some extempore drollery by the clown.

The creative temperament has this great disadvantage, that one cannot
always build castles, but must occasionally construct hovels, and
sometimes even dungeons and jails; and here was I now, with a large
contract order for this species of edifice, and certainly £ set to work
with a will. The impatience of my mind communicated itself to my gait,
and I walked along at a tremendous rate.

“I can scarcely keep up with you at this pace,” said Tintefleck; “and
see, we have left poor Vaterchen a long way behind.”

I made some rude answer,--I know not what,--and told her to come on.

“I will not leave him,” said she, coming to a halt, and standing in a
composed and firm attitude before me.

“Then I will,” said I, angrily. “Farewell!” And waving my hand in a
careless adieu, I walked briskly onward, not even turning a look on her
as I went. I think, I’m almost certain, I heard a heavy sob close
behind me, but I would not look round for worlds. I was in one of those
moods--all weak men know them well--when a harsh or an ungracious act
appears something very daring and courageous. The very pain my conduct
gave myself, persuaded me that it must be heroic, just as a devotee is
satisfied after a severe self-castigation.

“Yes, Potts,” said I, “you are doing the right thing here. A little
more of such association as this, and you would be little better than
themselves. Besides, and above all, you ought to be ‘real.’ Now, these
are not real any more than the tinsel gems and tinfoil splendors they
wear on their tunics.” It broke on me, too, like a sudden light, that
to be the fictitious Potts, the many-sided, many-tinted,--what a
German would call “der mitviele-farben bedeckte Potts,”--I ought to be
immensely rich, all my changes of character requiring great resources
and unlimited “properties” as stage folk call them; whereas, “der echte
wahrhaf-tige Mann Potts” might be as poor as Lazarus. Indeed, the poorer
the more real, since more natural.

While I thus speculated, I caught sight of a man scaling one of
the precipitous paths by which the winding road was shortened for
foot-travellers; a second glance showed me that this was Harpar, who,
with a heavy knapsack, was toiling along. I made a great effort to
come up with him, but when I reached the high road, he was still a
long distance in front of me. I could not, if there had been any one to
question me, say why I wished to overtake him. It was a sort of chase
suggested simply by the object in front; a rare type, if we but knew it,
of one half the pursuits we follow throughout life.

As I mounted the last of these bypaths which led to the crest of the
mountain, I felt certain that, with a lighter equipment, I should come
up with him; but scarcely had I gained the top, than I saw him striding
away vigorously on the road fully a mile away beneath me. “He shall not
beat me,” said I; and I increased my speed. It was all in vain. I could
not do it; and when I drew nigh Lindau at last, very weary and footsore,
the sun was just sinking on the western shore of the lake.

“Which is the best inn here?” asked I of a shopkeeper who was lounging
carelessly at his door.

“Yonder,” said he, “where you see that post-carriage turning into.”

“To-night,” said I, “I will be guilty of an extravagance. I will treat
myself to a good supper, and an honest glass of wine.” And on these
hospitable thoughts intent I unslung my knapsack, and, throwing as much
of distinction as I could into my manner, strolled into the public room.

So busied was the household in attending to the travellers who arrived
“extra post,” that none condescended to notice me, till at last, as the
tumult subsided, a venerable old waiter approached me, and said, in a
half friendly, half rebukeful tone, “It is at the ‘Swan’ you ought to
be, my friend, the next turning but two to the left hand, and you ‘ll
see the blue lantern over the gateway.”

“I mean to remain where I am,” said I, imperiously, “and to remember
your impertinence when I am about to pay my bill. Bring me the _carte_.”

I was overjoyed to see the confusion and shame of the old fellow. He saw
at once the grievous error he had committed, and was so overwhelmed that
he could not reply. Meanwhile, with all the painstaking accuracy of a
practised _gourmand_, I was making a careful note of what I wished for
supper.

“Are you not ashamed,” said I, rebukefully, “to have _ortolans_ here,
when you know in your heart they are swallows?”

He was so abject that he could only give a melancholy smile, as though
to say, “Be merciful, and spare us!”

“Bohemian pheasant, too,--come, come, this is too bad! Be frank and
confess; how often has that one speckled tail done duty on a capon of
your own raising?”

“Gracious Herr!” muttered he, “do not crush us altogether.”

I don’t think that he said this in actual words, but his terrified eyes
and his shaking cheeks declared it.

“Never mind,” said I, encouragingly, “it will not hurt us to make a
sparing meal occasionally; with the venison and steak, the fried salmon,
the duck with olives, and the apricot tart, we will satisfy appetite,
and persuade ourselves, if we can, that we have fared luxuriously.”

“And the wine, sir?” asked he.

“Ah, there we _are_ difficult. No little Baden vintage, no small wine of
the Bergstrasse, can impose upon us! Lieb-frauen-milch, or, if you can
guarantee it, Marcobrunner will do; but, mind, no substitutes!”

He laid his hand over his heart and bowed low; and, as he moved away,
I said to myself, “What a mesmerism there must be in real money, since,
even with the mockery of it, I have made that creature a bond slave.”
 Brief as was the interval in preparing my meal, it was enough to allow
me a very considerable share of reflection, and I found that, do what
I would, a certain voice within would whisper, “Where are your fine
resolutions now, Potts? Is this the life of reality that you had
promised yourself? Are you not at the old work again? Are you not
masquerading it once more? Don’t you know well enough that all this
pretension of yours is bad money, and that at the first ring of it on
the counter you will be found out?”

“This you may rely on, gracious sir,” said the waiter, as he laid a
bottle on the table beside me with a careful hand. “It is the orange
seal;” and he then added, in a whisper, “taken from the Margrave’s
cellar in the revolution of ‘93, and every flask of it worth a
province.”

“We shall see--we shall see,” said I, haughtily; “serve the soup!”

If I had been Belshazzar, I believe I should have eaten very heartily,
and drunk my wine with a great relish, notwithstanding that drawn sword.
I don’t know how it is, but if I can only see the smallest bit of _terra
firma_ between myself and the edge of a precipice, I feel as though
I had a whole vast prairie to range over. For the life of me I cannot
realize anything that may, or may not, befall me remotely. “Blue are the
hills far off,” says the adage; and on the converse of the maxim do I
aver, that faint are all dangers that are distant. An immediate
peril overwhelms me; but I could look forward to a shipwreck this day
fortnight with a fortitude truly heroic.

“This is a nice old half-forgotten sort of place,” thought I, “a kind
of vulgar Venice, water-washed, and muddy, and dreary, and do-nothing.
I ‘ll stay here for a week or so; I ‘ll give myself up to the drowsy
_genius loci_; I’ll Germanize to the top of my bent; who is to say what
metaphysical melancholy, dashed with a strange diabolic humor, may
not come of constantly feeding on this heavy cookery, and eternally
listening to their gurgling gutturals? I may come out a Wieland or a
Herder, with a sprinkling of Henri Heine! Yes,” said I, “this is the
true way to approach life; first of all develop your own faculties, and
then mark how in their exercise you influence your fellow-men. Above
all, however, cultivate your individuality, respect this the greatest of
all the unities.”

“_Ja, gnädiger Herr_,” said the old waiter, as he tried to step away from
my grasp, for, without knowing it, I had laid hold of him by the wrist
while I addressed to him this speech. Desirous to re-establish my
character for sanity, somewhat compromised by this incident, I said:

“Have you a money-changer in these parts? If so, let me have some silver
for this English gold.” I put my hand in my pocket for my purse; not
finding it, I tried another and another. I ransacked them all over
again, patted myself, shook my coat, looked into my hat, and then,
with a sudden flash of memory, I bethought me that I had left it with
Catinka, and was actually without one sou in the world! I sat down, pale
and almost fainting, and my arms fell powerless at my sides.

“I have lost my purse!” gasped I out, at length.

“Indeed!” said the old man, but with a tone of such palpable scorn that
it actually sickened me.

“Yes,” said I, with all that force which is the peculiar prerogative of
truth; “and in it all the money I possessed.”

“I have no doubt of it,” rejoined he, in the same dry tone as before.

“You have no doubt of what, old man? Or what do you mean by the
supercilious quietness with which you assent to my misfortune? Send the
landlord to me.”

“I will do more! I will send the police,” said he, as he shuffled out of
the room.

I have met scores of men on my way through life who would not have felt
the slightest embarrassment in such a situation as mine, fellows so
accustomed to shipwreck, that the cry of “Breakers ahead!” or “Man the
boats,” would have occasioned neither excitement nor trepidation. What
stuff they are made of instead of nerves, muscles, and arteries, I
cannot imagine, since, when the question is self-preservation, how can
it possibly be more imminent than when not alone your animal existence
is jeopardized, but the dearer and more precious life of fame and
character is in peril?

For a moment I thought that though this besotted old fool of a waiter
might suspect my probity the more clear-sighted intelligence of the
landlord would at once recognize my honest nature, and with the
confidence of a noble conviction say, “Don’t tell me that the man yonder
is a knave. I read him very differently. Tell me your story, sir.” And
then I would tell it. It is not improbable that my speculation might
have been verified had it not been that it was a landlady and not a
landlord who swayed the destinies of the inn. Oh, what a wise invention
of our ancestors was the Salique law! How justly they appreciated
the unbridled rashness of the female nature in command! How well they
understood the one-idea’d impetuosity with which they rush to wrong
conclusions!

Until I listened to the Frau von Wintner, I imagined the German language
somewhat weak in the matter of epithets. She undeceived me on this head,
showing resources of abusive import that would have done credit to a
Homeric hero. Having given me full ten minutes of a strong vocabulary,
she then turned on the waiter, scornfully asking him if, at his time of
life, he ought to have let himself be imposed upon by so palpable and
undeniable a swindler as myself? She clearly showed that there was no
extenuation of his fault, that rogue and vagabond had been written on my
face, and inscribed in my manner; not to mention that I had followed the
well-beaten track of all my fraternity in fraud, and ordered everything
the most costly the house could command. In fact, so strenuously did she
urge this point, and so eager did she seem about enforcing a belief
in her statement, that I almost began to suspect she might suggest an
anatomical examination of me to sustain her case. Had she been even
less eloquent, the audience would still have been with her, for it is
a curious but unquestionable fact that in all little visited localities
the stranger is ungraciously regarded and ill looked on.

Whenever I attempted to interpose a word in my defence, I was overborne
at once. Indeed, public opinion was so decidedly against me, that I felt
very happy in thinking Lynch law was not a Teutonic institution. The
room was now filled with retainers of the inn, strangers, town-folk,
and police, and, to judge by the violence of their gestures and the loud
tones of their voices, one would have pronounced me a criminal of the
worst sort.

“But what is it that he has done? What’s his offence?” I heard a voice
say from the crowd, and I fancied his accent was that of a foreigner. A
perfect inundation of vituperative accusation, however, now poured in,
and I could gather no more. The turmoil and uproar rose and fell, and
fell and rose again, till at last, my patience utterly exhausted, I
burst out into a very violent attack on the uncivilized habits of a
people who could thus conduct themselves to a man totally unconvicted of
any offence.

“Well, well, don’t give way to passion; don’t let temper get the better
of you,” said a fat, citizen-like man beside me. “The stranger there has
just paid for what you have had, and all is settled.”

I thought I should have fainted as I heard these words. Indeed,
until that instant, I had never brought home to my own mind the utter
destitution of my state; but now, there. I stood, realizing to myself
the condition of one of those we read of in our newspapers as having
received five shillings from the poor-box, while D 490 is deputed to
“make inquiries after him at his lodgings,” and learn particulars of his
life and habits. I could have borne being sent to prison. I could
have endured any amount of severity, so long as I revolted against its
injustice; but the sense of being an object of actual charity crushed me
utterly, and I could nearly have cried with vexation.

By degrees the crowd thinned off, and I found myself sit-, ting alone
beside the table where I had dined, with the hateful old waiter, as
though standing sentinel over me.

“Who is this person,” asked I, haughtily, “who, with an indelicate
generosity, has presumed to interfere with the concerns of a stranger?”

“The gracious nobleman who paid for your dinner is now eating his own at
No. 8,” said the old monster with a grin.

“I will call upon him when he has dined,” said I, transfixing the
wretch with a look so stern, as to make rejoinder impossible; and then,
throwing my plaid wrapper and my knapsack on a table near, I strolled
out into the street.

Lindau is a picturesque old place, as it stands rising, as it were, out
of the very waters of the Lake of Constance, and the great mountain of
the Sentis, with its peak of six thousand feet high, is a fine object
in the distance; while the gorge of the Upper Rhine offers many a grand
effect of Alpine scenery, not the less striking when looked at with a
setting sun, which made the foreground more massive and the hill tops
golden; and yet I carried that in my heart which made the whole picture
as dark and dreary as Poussin’s Deluge. It was all very beautiful.
There, was the snow-white summit, reflected in the still water of the
lake; there, the rich wood, browned with autumn, and now tinted with a
golden glory, richer again; there were the white-sailed boats, asleep
on the calm surface, streaked with the variegated light of the clouds
above, and it was peaceful as it was picturesque. But do what I could,
I could not enjoy it, and all because I had lost my purse, just as
if certain fragments of a yellow metal the more or the less, ought to
obscure eyesight, lull the sense of hearing, and make a man’s whole
existence miserable. “And after all,” thought I, “Catinka will be here
this evening, or to-morrow at furthest. Vater-chen was tired, and
could not come on. It was _I_ who left them; I, in my impatience and
ill-humor. The old man doubtless knew nothing of the purse confided to
the girl, nor is it at all needful that he should. They will certainly
follow me, and why, for the mere inconvenience of an hour or two, should
I persist in seeing the whole world so crape-covered and sad-looking?
Surely this is not the philosophy my knowledge of life has taught me. I
ought to know and feel that these daily accidents are but stones on
the road one travels. They may, perchance, wound the foot or damage
the shoe, but they rarely delay the journey, if the traveller be not
faint-hearted and craven. I will treat the whole incident in a higher
spirit. I will wait for their coming in that tranquil and assured
condition of mind which is the ripe fruit of a real insight into
mankind. Pitt said, after long years of experience, that there was more
of good than of bad in human nature. Let it be the remark of some future
biographer that Potts agreed with him.”

When I got back to the inn, I was somewhat puzzled what to do. It would
have been impossible with any success to have resumed my former tone
of command, and for the life of me I could not bring myself down to
anything like entreaty. While I thus stood, uncertain how to act, the
old waiter approached me, almost courteously, and said my room was ready
for me when I wished it.

“I will first of all wait upon the traveller in No. 8,” said L

“He has retired for the night,” was the answer. “He seems in very
delicate health, and the fatigue of the journey has overcome him.”

“To-morrow will do, then,” said I easily; and not venturing upon an
inquiry as to the means by which my room was at my disposal, I took my
candle and mounted the stairs.

As I lay down in my bed, I resolved I would take a calm survey of my
past life: what I had done, what I had failed to do, what were the guiding
principles which directed me, and whither they were likely to bear me.
But scarcely had I administered to myself the preliminary oath to tell
nothing but the truth, than I fell off sound asleep.

My first waking thought the next morning was to inquire if two persons
had arrived in search of me--an elderly man and a young woman. I
described them. None such had been seen. “They will have sought shelter
in some of the humbler inns,” thought I; “I’ll up and look after
them.” I searched the town from end to end; I visited the meanest
halting-places of the wayfarer; I inquired at the police bureaus--at
the gate--but none had arrived who bore any resemblance to those I asked
after. I was vexed--only vexed at first--but gradually I found myself
growing distrustful. The suspicion that the ice is not strong enough for
your weight, and then, close upon that, the shock of fear that strikes
you when the loud crash of a fracture breaks on the ear, are mere
symbols of what one suffers at the first glimmering of a betrayal. I
repelled the thought with indignation; but certain thoughts there are
which, when turned out, stand like sturdy duns at the gate, and will
not be sent away. This was one of them. It followed me wherever I
went, importunately begging for a hearing, and menacing me with sad
consequences if I were obdurate enough to listen. “You are a simpleton,
Potts, a weak, foolish, erring creature! and you select as the objects
of your confidence those whose lives of accident present exactly as the
most irresistible of all temptations to them--the Dupe! How they must
have laughed--how they must yet be laughing at you! How that old drunken
fox will chuckle over your simplicity, and the minx Tintefleck indulge
herself in caricatures of your figure and face! I wonder how much of
truth there was in that old fellow’s story? Was he ever the syndic of
his village, or was the whole narrative a mere fiction like--like--” I
covered my face with my hands in shame as I muttered out, “like one of
your own, Potts?”

I was very miserable, for I could no longer stand proudly forward as the
prosecutor, but was obliged to steal ignominiously into the dock and
take my place beside the other prisoners. What became of all my honest
indignation as I bethought me, that I, of all men, could never arraign
the counterfeit and the sham?

“Let them go, then,” cried I, “and prosper if they can; I will never
pursue them. I will even try and remember what pleased and interested me
in their fortunes, and, if it may be, forget that they have carried away
my little all of wealth.”

A loud tramping of post-horses, and the cracking of whips, drew me to
the window, and I saw beneath in the court-yard, a handsome travelling
britschka getting ready for the road. Oh, how suggestive is a well
cushioned calèche, with its many appliances of ease and luxury, its trim
imperials, its scattered litter of wrappers and guide-books,--all little
episodes of those who are to journey in it!

“Who are the happy souls about to travel thus enjoy-ably?” thought I, as
I saw the waiter and the courier discussing the most convenient spot to
deposit a small hamper with eatables for the road; and then I heard the
landlady’s voice call out:

“Take up the bill to No. 8.”

So, then, this was No. 8 who was fast getting ready to depart,--No. 8
who had interposed in my favor the evening before, and towards whom a
night’s rest and some reflection had modified my feelings and changed my
sentiments very remarkably.

“Will you ask the gentleman at No. 8 if I may be permitted to speak with
him?” said I to the man who took in the bill.

“He ‘ll scarcely see you now,--he’s just going off.”

“Give the message as I speak it,” said I; and he disappeared.

There was a long interval before he issued forth again, and when he did
so he was flurried and excited. Some overcharges had been taken off
and some bad money in change to be replaced by honest coin, and it was
evident that various little well-intended rogueries had not achieved
their usual success.

“Go in, you ‘ll find him there,” said the waiter, insolently, as he went
down to have the bill rectified.

I knocked, a full round voice cried, “Come in!” and I entered.



CHAPTER XXXV. HART CROFTON’S COMMISSION

“Well, what next? Have you bethought you of anything more to charge me
with?” cried a large full man, whose angry look and manner showed how he
resented these cheatings.

I staggered back sick and faint, for the individual before me was
Crofton, my kind host of long ago in Ireland, and from whose hospitable
roof I had taken such an unceremonious departure.

“Who are you?” cried he, again. “I had hoped to have paid everything and
everybody. Who are you?”

Wishing to retire unrecognized, I stammered out something very
unintelligibly indeed about my gratitude, and my hope for a pleasant
journey to him, retreating all the while towards the door.

“It’s all very well to wish the traveller a pleasant journey,” said
he, “but you innkeepers ought to bear in mind that no man’s journey is
rendered more agreeable by roguery. This house is somewhat dearer than
the ‘Clarendon’ in London, or the ‘Hôtel du Rhin’ at Paris. Now, there
might be, perhaps, some pretext to make a man pay smartly who travels
post, and has two or three servants with him, but what excuse can you
make for charging some poor devil of a foot traveller, taking his humble
meal in the common room, and, naturally enough, of the commonest fare,
for making him pay eight florins--eight florins and some kreutzers--for
his dinner? Why, our dinner here for two people was handsomely paid at
six florins a head, and yet you bring in a bill of eight florins against
that poor wretch.”

I saw now that, what between the blinding effects of his indignation,
and certain changes which time and the road had worked in my appearance,
it was more than probable I should escape undetected, and so I affected
to busy myself with some articles of his luggage that lay scattered
about the room until I could manage to slip away.

“Touch nothing, my good fellow!” cried he, angrily; “send my own people
here for these things. Let my courier come here--or my valet!”

This was too good an opportunity to be thrown away, and I made at once
for the door; but at the same instant it was opened, and Mary Crofton
stood before me. One glance showed me that I was discovered; and there
I stood, speechless with shame and confusion. Rallying, however, after a
moment, I whispered, “Don’t betray me,” and tried to pass out Instead of
minding my entreaty, she set her back to the door, and laughingly cried
out to her brother,--

“Don’t you know whom we have got here?”

“What do you mean?” exclaimed he.

“Cannot you recognize an old friend, notwithstanding all his efforts to
cut us?”

“Why--what--surely it can’t be--it’s not possible--eh?” And by this time
he had wheeled me round to the strong light of the window, and then,
with a loud burst, he cried out, “Potts, by all that’s ragged! Potts
himself! Why, old fellow, what could you mean by wanting to escape us?”
 and he wrung my hand with a cordial shake that at once brought the blood
back to my heart, while his sister completed my happiness by saying,--

“If you only knew all the schemes we have planned to catch you, you
would certainly not have tried to avoid us.”

I made an effort to say something,--anything, in short,--but not a word
would come. If I was overjoyed at the warmth of their greeting, I was
no less overwhelmed with shame; and there I stood, looking very pitiably
from one to the other, and almost wishing that I might faint outright
and so finish my misery.

With a woman’s fine tact, Mary Crofton seemed to read the meaning of my
suffering, and, whispering one word in her brother’s ear, she slipped
away and left us alone together.

“Come,” said he, good-naturedly, as he drew his arm inside of mine, and
led me up and down the room, “tell me all about it. How have you come
here? What are you doing?”

I have not the faintest recollection of what I said. I know that I
endeavored to take up my story from the day I had last seen him, but
it must have proved a very strange and bungling narrative, from the
questions which he was forced occasionally to put, in order to follow me
out.

“Well,” said he, at last, “I will own to you that, after your abrupt
departure, I was sorely puzzled what to make of you, and I might have
remained longer in the same state of doubt, when a chance visit that I
made to Dublin led me to Dycer’s, and there, by a mere accident, I heard
of you,--heard who you were, and where your father lived. I went at once
and called upon him, my object being to learn if he had any tidings
of you, and where you then were. I found him no better informed than
myself. He showed me a few lines you had written on the morning you
had left home, stating that you would probably be absent some days, and
might be even weeks, but that since that date nothing had been heard
of you. He seemed vexed and displeased, but not uneasy or apprehensive
about your absence, and the same tone I observed in your college tutor,
Dr. Tobin. He said, ‘Potts will come back, sir, one of these days, and
not a whit wiser than he went. His self-esteem is to his capacity in the
reduplicate ratio of the inverse proportion of his ability, and he will
be always a fool.’ I wrote to various friends of ours travelling about
the world, but none had met with you; and at last, when about to
come abroad myself, I called again on your father, and found him just
re-married.”

“Re-married!”

“Yes! he was lonely, he said, and wanted companionship, and so on;
and all I could obtain from him was a note for a hundred pounds, and
a promise that, if you came back within the year, you should share the
business of his shop with him.”

“Never! never!” said I. “Potts maybe the fool they deem him, but there
are instincts and promptings in his secret heart that they know nothing
of. I will never go back. Go on.”

“I now come to my own story. I left Ireland a day or two after and came
to England, where business detained me some weeks. My uncle had died and
left me his heir,--not, indeed, so rich as I had expected, but very well
off for a man who had passed his life on very moderate means. There were
a few legacies to be paid, and one which he especially intrusted to
me by a secret paper, in the hope that, by delicate and judicious
management, I might be able to persuade the person in whose interest
it was bequeathed to accept. It was, indeed, a task of no common
difficulty, the legatee being the widow of a man who had, by my uncle’s
cruelty, been driven to destroy himself. It is a long story, which I
cannot now enter upon; enough that I say it had been a trial of strength
between two very vindictive unyielding men which should crush the
other, and my uncle, being the richer,--and not from any other
reason,--conquered.

“The victory was a very barren one. It imbittered every hour of his
life after, and the only reparation in his power, he attempted on his
death-bed, which was to settle an annuity on the family of the man
he had ruined. I found out at once where they lived, and set about
effecting this delicate charge. I will not linger over my failure; but
it was complete. The family was in actual distress, but nothing would
induce them to listen to the project of assistance; and, in fact, their
indignation compelled me to retire from the attempt in despair. My
sister did her utmost in the cause, but equally in vain, and we prepared
to leave the place, much depressed and cast down by our failure. It
was on the last evening of our stay at the inn of the little village,
a townsman of the place, whom I had employed to aid my attempt by his
personal influence with the family, asked to see me and speak with me in
private.

“He appeared to labor under considerable agitation, and opened
our interview by bespeaking my secrecy as to what he was about to
communicate. It was to this purport: A friend of his own, engaged in the
Baltic trade, had just declared to him that he had seen W., the person
I allude to, alive and well, walking on the quay at Riga, that he traced
him to his lodging; but, on inquiring for him the next day, he was not
to be found, and it was then ascertained that he had left the city. W.
was, it would seem, a man easily recognized, and the other declared that
there could not be the slightest doubt of his identity. The question was
a grave one how to act, since the assurance company with which his life
was insured were actually engaged in discussing the propriety of some
compromise by paying to the family a moiety of the policy, and a variety
of points arose out of this contingency; for while it would have been
a great cruelty to have conveyed hopes to the family that might by
possibility not be realized, yet, on the other hand, to have induced
them to adopt a course on the hypothesis of his death when they believed
him still living, was almost as bad.

“I thought for a long while over the matter, and with my sister’s
counsel to aid me, I determined that we should come abroad and seek out
this man, trusting that, if we found him, we could induce him to accept
of the legacy which his family rejected. We obtained every clew we could
think of to his detection. A perfect description of him, in voice, look,
and manner; a copy of his portrait, and a specimen of his handwriting;
and then we bethought ourselves of interesting you in the search. You
were rambling about the world in that idle and desultory way in which
any sort of a pursuit might be a boon,--as often in the by-paths as
on the high-roads; you might chance to hit off this discovery in some
remote spot, or, at all events, find some clew to it. In a word, we grew
to believe that, with you to aid us, we should get to the bottom of this
mystery; and now that by a lucky chance we have met you, our hopes are
all the stronger.”

“You ‘ll think it strange,” said I, “but I already know something of
this story; the man you allude to was Sir Samuel Whalley.”

“How on earth have you guessed that?”

“I came by the knowledge on a railroad journey, where my
fellow-passengers talked over the event, and I subsequently travelled
with Sir Samuel’s daughter, who came abroad to fill the station of a
companion to an elderly lady. She called herself Miss Herbert.”

“Exactly! The widow resumed her family name after W.’s suicide,--if it
were a suicide.”

“How singular to think that you should have chanced upon this link of
the chain! And do you know her?”

“Intimately; we were fellow-travellers for some days.”

“And where is she now?”

“She is, at this moment, at a villa on the Lake of Como, living with a
Mrs. Keats, the sister of her Majesty’s Envoy at Kalbbratonstadt.”

“You are marvellously accurate in this narrative, Potts,” said he,
laughing; “the impression made on you by this young lady can scarcely
have been a transient one.”

I suppose I grew very red,--I felt that I was much confused by this
remark,--and I turned away to conceal my emotion. Crofton was too
delicate to take any advantage of my distress, and merely added,--

“From having known her, you will naturally devote yourself with more
ardor to serve her. May we then count upon your assistance in our
project?”

“That you may,” said I. “From this hour I devote myself to it.”

Crofton at once proposed that I should order my luggage to be placed on
his carriage, and start off with them; but I firmly opposed this plan.
First of all, I had no luggage, and had no fancy to confess as
much; secondly, I resolved to give at least one day for Vaterchen’s
arrival,--I’d have given a month rather than come down to the dreary
thought of his being a knave, and Tintefleck a cheat! In fact, I
felt that if I were to begin any new project in life with so slack an
experience, that every step I took would be marked with distrust, and
tarnished with suspicion. I therefore pretended to Crofton that I had
given rendezvous to a friend at Lindau, and could not leave without
waiting for him. I am not very sure that he believed me, but he was most
careful in not dropping a word that might show incredulity; and once
more we addressed ourselves to the grand project before us.

“Come in, Mary!” cried he, suddenly rising from his chair, and going to
meet her. “Come in, and help us by your good counsel.”

It was not possible to receive me with more kindness than she showed.
Had I been some old friend who came to meet them there by appointment,
her manner could not have been more courteous nor more easy; and when
she learned from her brother how warmly I had associated myself in this
plan, she gave me one of her pleasantest smiles, and said,--

“I was not mistaken in you.”

With a great map of Europe before us on the table, we proceeded to plan
a future line of operations. We agreed to take certain places, each of
us, and to meet at certain others, to compare notes and report progress.
We scarcely permitted ourselves to feel any great confidence of success,
but we all concurred in the notion that some lucky hazard might do for
us more than all our best-devised schemes could accomplish; and, at
last, it was settled that, while they took Southern Germany and the
Tyrol, I should ramble about through Savoy and Upper Italy, and our
meeting-place be in Italy. The great railway centres, where Englishmen
of every class and gradation were much employed, offered the best
prospect of meeting with the object of our search, and these were
precisely the sort of places such a man would be certain to resort to.

Our discussion lasted so long that the Croftons put off their journey
till the following day, and we dined all together very happily, never
wearied of talking over the plan before us, and each speculating as
to what share of acute-ness he could contribute to the common stock
of investigation. It was when Crofton left the room to search for the
portrait of Whalley, that Mary sat down at my side, and said,--

“I have been thinking for some time over a project in which you can aid
me greatly. My brother tells me that you are known to Miss Herbert.
Now I want to write to her; I want to tell her that there is one who,
belonging to a family from which hers has suffered heavily, desires to
expiate so far, maybe, the great wrong, and, if she will permit it,
to be her friend. While I can in a letter explain what I feel on this
score, I am well aware how much aid it would afford me to have the
personal corroboration of one who could say, ‘She who writes this is not
altogether unworthy of your affection; do not reject the offer she makes
you, or, at least, reflect and think oyer it before you refuse it’ Will
you help me so far?”

My heart bounded with delight as I first listened to her plan; it was
only a moment before that I remembered how difficult, if not impossible,
it would be for me to approach Miss Herbert once more. How or in what
character could I seek her? To appear before her in any feigned part
would be, under the circumstances, ignoble and unworthy, and yet was
I, out of any merely personal consideration, any regard for the poor
creature Potts, to forego the interests, mayhap the whole happiness, of
one so immeasurably better and worthier? Would not any amount of shame
and exposure to myself be a cheap price for even a small quantity
of benefit bestowed on _her!_ What signified it that I was poor and
ragged--unknown, unrecognized--if _she_ were to be the gainer? Would
not, in fact, the very sacrifice of self in the affair be ennobling and
elevating to me, and would I not stand better in my own esteem for this
one honest act, than I had ever done after any mock success or imaginary
victory?

“I think I can guess why you hesitate,” cried she; “you fear that I will
say something indiscreet,--something that would compromise you with Miss
Herbert,--but you need not dread that; and, at all events, you shall
read my letter.”

“Far from it,” said I; “my hesitation had a very different source. I
was solely thinking whether, if you were aware of how I stood in my
relations to Miss Herbert, you would have selected me as your advocate;
and though it may pain me to make a full confession, you shall hear
everything.”

With this I told her all,--all, from my first hour of meeting her at the
railway station, to my last parting with her at Schaffhausen. I tried to
make my narrative as grave and commonplace as might be, but, do what I
would, the figure in which I was forced to present myself, overcame all
her attempts at seriousness, and she laughed immoderately. If it had not
been for this burst of merriment on her part, it is more than probable
I might have brought down my history to the very moment of telling, and
narrated every detail of my journey with Vaterchen and Tintefieck. I
was, however, warned by these circumstances, and concluded in time to
save myself from this new ridicule.

“From all that you have told me here,” said she, “I only see one
thing,--which is, that you are deeply in love with this young lady.”

“No,” said I; “I was so once, I am not so any longer. My passion has
fallen into the chronic stage, and I feel myself her friend,--only her
friend.”

“Well, for the purpose I have in mind, this is all the better I
want you, as I said, to place my letter in her hands, and, so far as
possible, enforce its arguments,--that is, try and persuade her that to
reject our offers on her behalf is to throw upon us a share of the great
wrong our uncle worked, and make us, as it were, participators in the
evil he did them. As for myself,” said she, boldly, “all the happiness
that I might have derived from ample means is dashed with remembering
what misery it has been attended with to that poor family. If you urge
that one theme forcibly, you can scarcely fail with her.”

“And what are your intentions with regard to her?” asked I.

“They will take any shape she pleases. My brother would either enable
her to return home, and, by persuading her mother to accept an annuity,
live happily under her own roof; or she might, if the spirit of
independence fires her,--she might yet use her influence over her mother
and sister to regard our proposals more favorably; or she might come
and live with us, and this I would prefer to all; but you must read my
letter, and more than once too. You must possess yourself of all its
details, and, if there be anything to which you object, there will be
time enough still to change it.”

“Here he is,--here is the portrait of our lost sheep,” said Crofton,
now entering with a miniature in his hand. It represented a bluff, bold,
almost insolently bold man in full civic robes, the face not improbably
catching an additional expression of vulgar pride from the fact that the
likeness was taken in that culminating hour of greatness when he first
took the chair as chief magistrate of his town.

“Not an over-pleasant sort of fellow to deal with, I should say,”
 remarked Crofton. “There are some stern lines here about the corners
of the eyes, and certain very suspicious-looking indentations next the
mouth.”

“His eye has no forgiveness in it,” said his sister.

“Well, one thing is clear enough, he ought to be easily recognized; that
broad forehead, and those wide-spread nostrils and deeply divided chin,
are very striking marks to guide one. I cannot give you this,” said
Crofton to me, “but I ‘ll take care to send you an accurate copy of it
at the first favorable moment; meanwhile, make yourself master of its
details, and try if you cannot carry the resemblance in your memory.”

“Disabuse yourself, too,” said she, laughing, “of all this accessorial
grandeur, and bear in mind that you ‘ll not find him dressed in ermine,
or surrounded with a collar and badge. Not very like his daughter, I ‘m
sure,” whispered she in my ear, as I continued to gaze steadfastly at
the portrait. “Can you trace any likeness?”

“Not the very faintest; she is beautiful,” said I, “and her whole
expression is gentleness and delicacy.”

“Well, certainly,” said Crofton, shutting up the miniature, “these are
not the distinguishing traits of our friend here, whom I should call a
hard-natured, stern, obstinate fellow, with great self-reliance, and no
great trust of others.”

“I was just thinking,” said I, “that were I to come up with such a man
as this, what chance would my poor, frail, yielding temperament have, in
influencing the rugged granite of his nature? He ‘d terrify me at once.”

“Not when your object was a good and generous one,” said Miss Crofton.
“You might well enough be afraid to confront such a man as this if your
aim was to overreach and deceive him; but bear in mind the fable of the
man who had the courage to take the thorn out of the lion’s paw. The
operation, we are told, was a painful one, and there might have been an
instant in which the patient felt disposed to eat his doctor; but, with
all these perils, strong in a good purpose, the surgeon persevered, and
by his skill and his courage made the king of the beasts his fast friend
for life. The lesson is worth remembering.”

I was still pondering over this apophthegm, when Crofton aroused me
by pushing across the table a great heap of gold. “This is all yours,
Potts,” said he; “and remember that as you are now my agent, travelling
for the house of Crofton and Co., that you journey at my cost.”

Of course I would not listen to this proposal, and, although urged by
Miss Crofton with all a woman’s tact and delicacy, I persisted so firmly
in my refusal, that they were obliged to yield. I now had a hundred
pounds all my own; and though the sum be not a very splendid one,
I remember some French writer--I ‘m not sure it is not Jules
Janin--saying, “Any man who can put his hand into his pocket and find
five Napoleons there, is rich;” and he certainly supports his theory
with considerable sophistry and cleverness, mainly depending on the
assumption that any of the reasonable daily necessities of life, even in
a luxurious point of view, are attainable with such means. Now, although
a hundred pounds would not very long supply resources for such a life,
yet, as I am not a Frenchman, nor living in Paris, still less had I
habits or tastes of a costly kind, I might very well eke out three
months pleasantly on this sum, and in these three months what might not
happen? In a “hundred days” the great Napoleon crushed the whole might
of the Austrian empire, and secured an emperor’s daughter for his bride;
and in another “hundred days” he made the tour of France, from Cannes to
Rochefort, and lost an empire by the way! Wonderful things might then be
compassed within three months.

“What are you saying about three months, Potts?” asked Crofton, for
unwittingly I had uttered these words aloud.

“I was observing,” said I, “that in three months from this day, we
should arrange to meet somewhere. Where shall we say?”

“Geneva is very central; shall we name Geneva?”

“Oh, on no account Let our rendezvous be in Italy Let us say Rome.”

“Rome be it, then,” cried Crofton. “Now for another point: let us have a
wager as to who first discovers the object of our search. I ‘ll bet you
twenty Napoleons, Potts, to ten,--for as we are two to one, so should
the wager be.”

“I take you,” cried I, entering into his humor, “and I feel as certain
of success as if I had your money in my hands.”

“Will you have another wager with _me?_” whispered Mary Crofton, as she
came behind my chair. “It is, that you ‘ll not persuade Miss Herbert to
wear this ring for _my_ sake.”

“I ‘ll bet my life on it,” said I, taking the opal ring she drew from
her finger, as she spoke; “I’m in that mood of confidence now, I feel
there is nothing I could not promise.”

“If so, then, Potts, let me have the benefit of this fortunate interval,
and ask you to promise me one thing, which is, not to change your mind
more than twice a day; don’t be angry with me, but hear me out. You are
a good-hearted fellow, and have excellent intentions; I don’t think I
know one less really selfish, but, at the same time, you are so
fickle of purpose, so undecided in action, that I ‘d not be the least
astonished to hear, when we asked for you to-morrow at breakfast
time, that you had started for a tour in Norway, or on a voyage to the
Southern Pacific.”

“And is this your judgment of me also, Miss Crofton?” said I, rising
from my seat.

“Oh, no, Mr. Potts. I would only suspect you of going off into the
Tyrol, or the Styrian Alps, and forgetting all about us, amidst the
glaciers and the cataracts.”

“I wish you a good-night, and a better opinion of your humble servant,”
 said I, bowing.

“Don’t go, Potts--wait a minute--come back. I have something to tell
you.”

I closed the door behind me, and hastened off, not, however, perfectly
clear whether I was the injured man, or one who had just achieved a
great outrage.



CHAPTER XXXVI. FURTHER INTERCOURSE WITH HARPAR

I am obliged to acknowledge that I was vainglorious enough to accept
a seat in the Crofton carriage on the morning of their departure,
and accompany them for a mile or so of the way,--even at the price of
returning on foot,--just that I might show myself to the landlady and
that odious old waiter in a position of eminence, and make them do
a bitter penance for the insults they had heaped on an illustrious
stranger. It was a poor and paltry triumph, and over very contemptible
adversaries, but I could not refuse it to myself. Crofton, too,
contributed largely to the success of my little scheme, by insisting
that I should take the place beside his sister, while he sat with his
back to the horses; and though I refused at first, I acceded at last,
with the bland compliance of a man who feels himself once more in his
accustomed station.

As throughout this true history I have candidly revealed the inmost
traits of my nature--well knowing the while how deteriorating such
innate anatomy must prove--I have ever felt that he who has small claims
to interest by the events of his life, can make some compensation to
the world by an honest exposure of his motives, his weaknesses, and his
struggles. Now, my present confession is made in this spirit, and is not
absolutely without its moral, for, as the adage tells us, “Look after
the pence, and the pounds will take care of themselves;” so would I say,
Guard yourself carefully against petty vices. You and I, most esteemed
reader, are--I trust fervently--little likely to be arraigned on a
capital charge. I hope sincerely that transportable felonies, and even
misdemeanors, may not picture among the accidents of our life; such-like
are the pounds that take care of themselves, but the “small pence” which
require looking after, are little envies and jealousies and rancors,
petty snobberies of display, small exhibitions of our being better than
this man or greater than that; these, I repeat to you, accumulate on
a man’s nature just the way barnacles fasten on a ship’s bottom,--from
mere time, and it is wonderful what damage can come of such paltry
obstacles.

I very much doubt if a Roman conqueror regarded the chained captive who
followed his chariot with a more supreme pride than I bestowed upon that
miserable old waiter who now bowed himself to the ground before me,
and when I ordered my dinner for four o’clock, and said that probably I
might have a friend to dine with me, his humiliation was complete.

“I wish I knew the secret of your staying here,” said Mary Crofton, as
we drove along; “why will you not tell it?”

“Perhaps it might prove indiscreet, Mary; our friend Potts may have
become a _mauvais sujet_ since we have seen him last?”

I wrapped myself in a mysterious silence, and only smiled.

“Lindau, of all places, to stop at!” resumed she, pettishly. “There is
nothing remarkable in the scenery, no art treasures, nothing socially
agreeable; what can it possibly be that detains you in such a place?”

“My dear Mary,” said Crofton, “you are, without knowing it, violating a
hallowed principle; you are no less than leading into temptation. Look
at poor Potts there, and you will see that, while he knows in his
inmost heart the secret which detains him here is some passing and
insignificant circumstance unworthy of mention, you have, by imparting
to it a certain importance, suggested to his mind the necessity of a
story; give him now but five minutes to collect himself, and I’ll engage
that he will ‘come out’ with a romantic incident that would never have
seen the light but for a woman’s curiosity.”

“Good heavens!” thought I, “can this be a true interpretation of my
character? Am I the weak and impressionable creature this would bespeak
me?” I must have blushed deeply at my own reflection, for Crofton
quickly added,--

“Don’t get angry with me, Potts, any more than you would with a friend
who ‘d say, ‘Take care how you pass over that bridge, I know it is
rotten and must give way.’”

“Let me answer you,” said I, courageously, for I was acutely hurt to be
thus arraigned before another. “It is more than likely that you, with
your active habits and stirring notions of life, would lean very heavily
on him who, neither wanting riches nor honors, would adopt some simple
sort of dreamy existence, and think that the green alleys of the beech
wood, or the little path beside the river, pleasanter sauntering than
the gilded antechamber of a palace; and just as likely is it that you
would take him roundly to task about wasted opportunities, misapplied
talents, and stigmatize as inglorious indolence what might as possibly
be called a contented humility. Now, I would ask you, why should one
man be the measure of another? The load you could carry with ease might
serve to crush me, and yet there may be some light burdens that would
suit _my_ strength, and in bearing which I might taste a sense of duty
grateful as your own.”

“I have no patience with you,” began Crofton, warmly; but his sister
stopped him with an imploring look, and then, turning to me, said,--

“Edward fancies that every one can be as energetic and active as
himself, and occasionally forgets what you have just so well remarked as
to the relative capacities of different people.”

“I want him to do something, to be something besides a dreamer!” burst
he in, almost angrily.

“Well, then,” said I, “you shall see me begin this moment, tor I will
get down here and walk briskly back to the town.” I called to the
postilions to pull up at the same time, and in spite of remonstrances,
entreaties,--almost beseeching from Mary Crofton,--I persisted in my
resolve, and bade them farewell.

Crofton was so much hurt that he could scarcely speak, and when he gave
me his hand it was in the coldest of manners.

“But you ‘ll keep our rendezvous, won’t you!” said Mary; “we shall meet
at Rome.”

“I really wonder, Mary, how you can force our acquaintanceship where it
is so palpably declined. Good-bye,--farewell,” said he to me.

“Good-bye,” said I, with a gulp that almost choked me; and away drove
the carriage, leaving me standing in the train of dust it had raised.
Every crack of the postboys’ whips gave me a shock as though I had felt
the thong on my own shoulders; and, at last, as sweeping round a turn of
the road the carriage disappeared from view, such was the sense of utter
desolation that came over me, that I sat down on a stone by the wayside,
overwhelmed. I do not know if I ever felt such an utter sense of
destitution as at that moment. “What a wealth of friends must a man
possess,” thought I, “who can afford to squander them in this fashion!
How could I have repelled the counsels that kindness alone could have
prompted? Surely Crofton must know far more of life than I did?” From
this I went on to inquire why it was that the world showed itself so
unforgiving to idleness in men of small fortune, since, if no burden to
the community, they ought to be as free as their richer brethren. It was
a puzzling theme, and though I revolved it long, I made but little of
it; the only solution that occurred to me was, that the idleness of the
humble man is not relieved by the splendors and luxuries which surround
a rich man’s leisure, and that the world resents the pretensions of ease
unassociated with riches. In what a profound philosophy was it, then,
that Diogenes rolled his tub about the streets! There was a mock purpose
about it, that must have flattered his fellow-citizens. I feel assured
that a great deal of the butterfly-hunting and beetle-gathering that we
see around us is done in this spirit They are a set of idle folk anxious
to indulge their indolence without reproach.

Thus pondering and musing, I strolled back to the town. So still and
silent was it, so free from all movement of traffic or business, that
I was actually in the very centre of it without knowing it. There
were streets without passengers, and shops without customers, and even
_cafés_ without guests, and I wondered within myself why people should
thus congregate to do nothing, and I rambled on from street to alley,
and from alley to lane, never chancing upon one who had anything in
hand. At last I gained the side of the lake, along which a little
quay ran for some distance, ending in a sort of terraced walk, now
grass-grown and neglected. There were at least the charms of fresh air
and scenery here, though the worthy citizen seemed to hold them cheaply,
and I rambled along to the end, where, by a broad flight of steps, the
terrace communicated with the lake; a spot, doubtless, where, once on
a time, the burghers took the water and went out a-pleasuring with fat
fraus and fräuleins. I had reached the end, and was about to turn back
again, when I caught sight of a man, seated on one of the lower steps,
employed in watching two little toy ships which he had just launched.
Now, this seemed to me the very climax of indolence, and I sat myself
down on the parapet to observe him. His proceedings were indeed of the
strangest, for as there was no wind to fill the sails and his vessels
lay still and becalmed, he appeared to have bethought him of another
mode to impart interest to him. He weighted one of them with little
stones till he brought her gunwale level with the water, and then
pressing her gently with his hand, he made her sink slowly down to the
bottom. I ‘m not quite certain whether I laughed outright, or that some
exclamation escaped me as I looked, but some noise I must unquestionably
have made, for he started and turned up his head, and I saw Harpar the
Englishman whom I had met the day before at Constance.

“Well, you ‘re not much the wiser after all,” said he, gruffly, and
without even saluting me.

There was in the words, and fierce expression of his face, something
that made me suspect him of insanity, and I would willingly have retired
without reply had he not risen and approached me.

“Eh,” repeated he, with a sneer, “ain’t I right? You can make nothing of
it?”

“I really don’t understand you!” said I. “I came down here by the merest
accident, and never was more astonished than to see you.”

“Oh, of course; I am well used to that sort of thing,” went he on in
the same tone of scoff. “I ‘ve had some experience of these kinds of
accidents before; but, as I said, it’s no use, you ‘re not within one
thousand miles of it, no, nor any man in Europe.”

It was quite clear to me now that he _was_ mad, and my only care was to
get speedily rid of him.

“I ‘m not surprised,” said I, with an assumed ease,--“I’m not surprised
at your having taken to so simple an amusement, for really in a place so
dull as this any mode of passing the time would be welcome.”

“Simple enough when you know it,” said he, with a peculiar look.

“You arrived last night, I suppose?” said I, eager to get conversation
into some pleasanter channel.

“Yes, I got here very late. I had the misfortune to sprain my ankle, and
this detained me a long time on the way, and may keep me for a couple of
days more.”

I learned where he was stopping in the town, and seeing with what pain
and difficulty he moved, I offered him my aid to assist him on his way.

“Well, I ‘ll not refuse your help,” said he, dryly; “but Just go along
yonder, about five-and-twenty or thirty yards, and I’ll join you. You
understand me, I suppose?”

Now, I really did not understand him, except to believe him perfectly
insane, and suggest to me the notion of profiting by his lameness to
make my escape with all speed. I conclude some generous promptings
opposed this course, for I obeyed his injunctions to the very letter,
and waited till he came up to me. He did so very slowly, and evidently
in much suffering, assisted by a stick in one hand, while he carried his
two little boats in the other.

“Shall I take charge of these for you?” said I, offering to carry them.

“No, don’t trouble yourself,” said he in the same rude tone. “Nobody
touches these but myself.”

I now gave him my arm, and we moved slowly along.

“What has become of the vagabonds? Are they here with you?” asked he,
abruptly.

“I parted with them yesterday,” said I, shortly, and not wishing to
enter into further explanations.

“And you did wisely,” rejoined he, with a serious air. “Even when
these sort of creatures have nothing very bad about them, they are bad
company, out of the haphazard chance way they gain a livelihood. If you
reduce life to a game, you must yourself become a gambler. Now, there’s
one feature of that sort of existence intolerable to an honest man; it
is, that to win himself, some one else must lose. Do you understand me?”

“I do, and am much struck by what you say.”

“In that case,” said he, with a nudge of his elbow against my side,--“in
that case you might as well have not come down to watch _me?_--eh?”

I protested stoutly against this mistake, but I could plainly perceive
with very little success.

“Let it be, let it be,” said he, with a shake of the head. “As I said
before, if you saw the thing done before your eyes you ‘d make nothing
of it. I ‘m not afraid of you, or all the men in Europe! There now,
there’s a challenge to the whole of ye! Sit down every man of ye, with
the problem before ye, and see what you ‘ll make of it.”

“Ah,” thought I, “this is madness. Here is a poor monomaniac led away
into the land of wild thoughts and fancies by one dominating caprice;
who knows whether out of the realm of this delusion he may not be a man
acute and sensible.”

“No, no,” muttered he, half aloud; “there are, maybe, half a million of
men this moment manufacturing steam-engines; but it took one head, just
one head, to set them all working, and if it was n’t for old Watt, the
world at this day would n’t be five miles in advance of what it was a
century back. I see,” added he, after a moment, “you don’t take much
interest in these sort of things. _Your_ line of parts is the walking
gentleman, eh? Well, bear in mind it don’t pay; no, sir, it don’t pay!
Here, this is my way; my lodging is down this lane. I’ll not ask you to
come further; thank you for your help, and good-bye.”

“Let us not part here; come up to the inn and dine with me,” said I,
affecting his own blunt and abrupt manner.

“Why should _I_ dine with _you?_” asked he, roughly.

“I can’t exactly say,” stammered I, “except out of good-fellowship,
just as, for instance, I accepted your invitation t’ other morning to
breakfast.”

“Ah, yes, to be sure, so you did. Well, I ‘ll come. We shall be all
alone, I suppose?”

“Quite alone.”

“All right, for I have no coat but this one;” and he looked down at the
coarse sleeve as he spoke, with a strange and sad smile, and then waving
his band in token of farewell, he said, “I ‘ll join you in half an
hour,” and disappeared up the lane.

I have already owned that I did not like this man; he had a certain
short abrupt way that repelled me at every moment. When he differed in
opinion with me, he was not satisfied to record his dissent, but he
must set about demolishing my conviction, and this sort of intolerance
pervaded all he said. There was, too, that business-like practical tone
about him that jars fearfully on the sensitive fibre of the idler’s
nature.

It was exactly in proportion as his society was distasteful to me, that
I felt a species of pride in associating with him, as though to say,
“I am not one of those who must be fawned on and flattered. I am of
a healthier and manlier stamp; I can afford to hear my judgments
arraigned, and my opinions opposed.” And in this humor I ascended the
stairs of the hotel, and entered the room where our table was already
laid out.

To compensate, as far as they could, for the rude reception of the day
before, they had given me now the “grand apartment” of the inn, which,
by a long balcony, looked over the lake, and that fine mountain range
that leads to the Splugen pass. A beautiful bouquet of fresh flowers
ornamented the centre of the small dinner-table, tastily decked with
Bohemian glass, and napkins with lace borders. I rather liked this
little display of elegance. It was a sort of ally on my side against
the utilitarian plainness of my guest. As I walked up and down the room,
awaiting his arrival, I could not help a sigh, and a very deep one too,
over the thought of what had been my enjoyment that moment if my guest
had been one of a different temperament,--a man willing to take me on
my own showing, and ready to accept any version I should like to give of
myself. How gracefully, how charmingly I could have played the host to
such a man! What vigor would it have imparted to my imagination,
what brilliancy to my fancy! With what a princely grace might I have
dispensed my hospitalities, as though such occasions were the daily
habit of my life; whereas a dinner with Harpar would be nothing more
or less than an airing with a “Slave in the chariot,”--a perpetual
reminder, like the face of a poor relation, that my lot was cast in an
humble sphere, and it was no use trying to disguise it.

“What’s all this for?” said Harpar’s harsh voice, as he entered the
room. “Why did n’t you order our mutton-chop below stairs in the common
room, and not a banquet in this fashion? You must be well aware I could
n’t do this sort of thing by _you_. Why, then, have you attempted it
with _me?_”

“I have always thought it was a host’s prerogative,” said I, meekly, “to
be the arbiter of his own entertainment.”

“So it might where he is the arbiter of his purse; but you know well
enough neither you nor I have any pretension to these costly ways, and
they have this disadvantage, that they make all intercourse stilted
and unnatural. If you and I had to sit down to table, dressed in court
suits, with wigs and bags, ain’t it likely we’d be easy and cordial
together? Well, this is precisely the same.”

“I am really sorry,” said I, with a forced appearance of courtesy,
“to have incurred so severe a lesson, but you must allow me this one
trangression before I begin to profit by it.” And so saying, I rang the
bell and ordered dinner.

Harpar made no reply, but walked the room, with his hands deep in his
pockets, humming a tune to himself as he went.

At last we sat down to table; everything was excellent and admirably
served, but we ate on in silence, not a syllable exchanged between us.
As the dessert appeared, I tried to open conversation. I affected to
seem easy and unconcerned, but the cold half-stern look of my companion
repelled all attempts, and I sat very sad and much discouraged, sipping
my wine.

“May I order some brandy-and-water? I like it better than these French
wines,” asked he, abruptly; and as I arose to ring for it, he added,
“and you ‘ll not object to me having a pipe of strong Cavendish?” And
therewith he produced a leather bag and a very much smoked meerschaum,
short and ungainly as his own figure. As he thrust his hand into the
pouch, a small boat, about the size of a lady’s thimble, rolled out from
amidst the tobacco; he quickly took it and placed it in his waistcoat
pocket,--the act being done with a sort of hurry that with a man of less
self-possession might have perhaps evinced confusion.

“You fancy you ‘ve seen something, don’t you?” said he, with a defiant
laugh. “I ‘d wager a five-pound note, if I had one, that you think at
this moment you have made a great discovery. Well, there it is, make
much of it!”

As he spoke, he produced the little boat, and laid it down before me. I
own that this speech and the act convinced me that he was insane; I was
aware that intense suspectfulness is the great characteristic of
madness, and everything tended to show that he was deranged.

Rather to conceal what was passing in my own mind than out of curiosity,
I took up the little toy to examine it. It was beautifully made, and
finished with a most perfect neatness; the only thing I could not
understand being four small holes on each side of the keel, fastened by
four little plugs.

“What are these for?” asked I.

“Can’t you guess?” said he, laughingly.

“No; I have never seen such before.”

“Well,” said he, musingly, “perhaps they _are_ puzzling,--I suppose they
are. But mayhap, too, if I thought you ‘d guess the meaning, I ‘d not
have been so ready to show it to you.” And with this he replaced the
boat in his pocket and smoked away. “You ain’t a genius, my worthy
friend, that’s a fact,” said he, sententiously.

“I opine that the same judgment might be passed upon a great many?” said
I, testily.

“No,” continued he, following on his own thoughts without heeding my
remark, “_you ‘ll_ not set the Thames a-fire.”

“Is that the best test of a man’s ability?” asked I, sneeringly.

“You’re the sort of fellow that ought to be--let us see now what you
ought to be,--yes, you ‘re just the stamp of man for an apothecary.”

“You are so charming in your frankness,” said I, “that you almost tempt
me to imitate you.”

“And why not? Sure we oughtn’t to talk to each other like two devils in
waiting. Out with what you have to say!”

“I was just thinking,” said I,--“led to it by that speculative turn of
yours,--I was just thinking in what station _your_ abilities would have
pre-eminently distinguished you.”

“Well, have you hit it?”

“I’m not quite certain,” said I, trying to screw up my courage for an
impertinence, “but I half suspect that in our great national works--our
lines of railroad, for instance--there must be a strong infusion of men
with tastes and habits resembling yours.”

“You mean the navvies?” broke he in. “You ‘re right, I was a navvy once;
I turned the first spadeful of earth on the Coppleston Junction, and,
seeing what a good thing might be made of it, I suggested task-work to
my comrades, and we netted from four-and-six to five shillings a day
each. In eight months after, I was made an inspector; so that you see
strong sinews can be good allies to a strong head and a stout will.”

I do not believe that the most angry rebuke, the most sarcastic
rejoinder, could have covered me with a tenth part of the shame and
confusion that did these few words. I’d have given worlds, if I had
them, to make a due reparation for my rudeness, but I knew not how to
accomplish it I looked into his face to read if I might hit upon some
trait by which his nature could be approached; but I might as well have
gazed at a line of railroad to guess the sort of town that it led to.
The stern, rugged, bold countenance seemed to imply little else than
daring and determination, and I could not but wonder how I had ever
dared to take a liberty with one of his stamp.

“Well,” said I, at last, and wishing to lead him back to his story, “and
after being made inspector--”

“You can speak German well,” said he, totally inattentive to my
question; “just ask one of these people when there will be any
conveyance from this to Ragatz.”

“Ragatz, of all places!” exclaimed I.

“Yes; they tell me it’s good for the rheumatics, and I have got some
old shoulder pains I ‘d like to shake off before winter. And then this
sprain, too; I foresee I shall not be able to walk much for some days to
come.”

“Ragatz is on my road; I am about to cross the Splugen into Italy; I’ll
bear you company so far, if you have no objection.”

“Well, it may not seem civil to say it, but I have an objection,” said
he, rising from the table. “When I’ve got weighty things on my mind, I
‘ve a bad habit of talking of them to myself aloud. I can’t help it, and
so I keep strictly alone till my plans are all fixed and settled; after
that, there’s no danger of my revealing them to any one. There now, you
have my reason, and you ‘ll not dispute that it’s a good one.”

“You may not be too distrustful of yourself,” said I, laughing,
“but, assuredly, you are far too flattering in your estimate of _my_
acuteness.”

“I’ll not risk it,” said he, bluntly, as he sought for his hat.

“Wait a moment,” said I. “You told me at Constance that you were in
want of money; at the time I was not exactly in funds myself. Yesterday,
however, I received a remittance; and if ten or twenty pounds be of any
service, they are heartily at your disposal.”

He looked at me fixedly, almost sternly, for a minute or two, and then
said,--

“Is this true, or is it that you have changed your mind about me?”

“True,” said I,--“strictly true.”

“Will this loan--I mean it to be a loan--inconvenience you much?”

“No, no; I make you the offer freely.”

“I take it, then. Let me have ten pounds; and write down there an
address where I am to remit it some day or other, though I can’t say
when.”

“There may be some difficulty about that,” said I. “Stay. I mean to be
at Rome some time in the winter; send it to me there.”

“To what banker?”

“I have no banker; I never had a banker. There’s my name, and let the
post-office be the address.”

“Whichever way you ‘re bent on going, you ‘re not on the road to be a
rich man,” said Harpar, as he deposited my gold in his leather purse;
“but I hope you ‘ll not lose by me. Good-bye.” He gave me his hand, not
very warmly or cordially, either, and was gone ere I well knew it.



CHAPTER XXXVII. MY EXPLOSION AT THE TABLE D’HÔTE

I went the next morning to take leave of Harpar before starting, but
found, to my astonishment, that he was already off! He had, I learned,
hired a small carriage to convey him to Bregenz, and had set out before
daybreak. I do not know why this should have annoyed me, but it did
so, and set me a-thinking over the people whom Echstein in his
“Erfahrungen,” says, are born to be dupes. “There is,” says he, “a
race of men who are ‘eingeborne Narren,’--‘native numskulls,’ one might
say,--who muddy the streams of true benevolence by indiscriminating acts
of kindness, and who, by always aiding the wrongdoer, make themselves
accomplices of vice.” Could it be that I was in this barren category?
Harpar had told me, the evening before, that he would not leave Lindau
till his sprain was better, and now he was off, just as if, having no
further occasion for me, he was glad to be rid of my companionship--just
as if--I was beginning again to start another conjecture, when I
bethought me that there is not a more deceptive formula in the whole
cyclopaedia of delusion than that which opens with these same words,
“just as if.” Rely upon it, amiable reader, that whenever you find
yourself driven to explain a motive, trace a cause, or reconcile a
discrepancy, by “just as if,” the chances are about seven to three you
are wrong. If I was not in the bustle of paying my bill and strapping
on my knapsack, I ‘d convince you on this head; but, as the morning is a
bright but mellow one of early autumn, and my path lies along the placid
lake, waveless and still, with many a tinted tree reflected in its fair
mirror, let us not think of knaves and rogues, but rather dwell on
the pleasanter thought of all the good and grateful things which daily
befall us in this same life of ours. I am full certain that almost all
of us enter upon what is called the world in too combative a spirit We
are too fond of dragon slaying, and rather than be disappointed of
our sport, we ‘d fall foul of a pet lamb, for want of a tiger. Call it
self-delusion, credulity, what you will, it is a faith that makes life
very livable, and, without it,

     “We feel a light has left the world,
          A nameless sort of treasure,
     As though one pluck’d the crimson heart
          From out the rose of pleasure.

     I could forgive the fate that made
          Me poor and young to-morrow,
     To hare again the soul that played
          So tenderly in sorrow,

     So buoyantly in happiness.
          Ay, I would brook deceiving,
     And even the deceiver bless,
          Just to go on believing!”

“Still,” thought I, “one ought to maintain self-respect; one should not
willingly make himself a dupe.” And then I began to wish that Vaterchen
had come up, and that Tinte-fleck was rushing towards me with tears
in her eyes, and my money-bag in her hands. I wanted to forget them. I
tried in a hundred ways to prevent them crossing my memory; but though
there is a most artful system of artificial “mnemonics” invented by some
one, the Lethal art has met no explorer, and no man has ever yet found
out the way to shut the door against bygones. I believe it is scarcely
more than five miles to Bregenz from Lindau, and yet I was almost
as many hours on the road. I sat down, perhaps twenty times, lost in
revery; indeed, I’m not very sure that I did n’t take a sound sleep
under a spreading willow, so that, when I reached the inn, the
company was just going in to dinner at the _table d’hôte_. Simple
and unpretentious as that board was, the company that graced it was
certainly distinguished, being no less than the Austrian field-marshal
in command of the district, and the officers of his staff. To English
notions, it seemed very strange to see a nobleman of the highest rank,
in the proudest state of Europe, seated at a dinner-table open to all
comers, at a fraction less than one shilling a head, and where some of
the government officials of the place daily came.

It was not without a certain sense of shame that I found myself in the
long low chamber, in which about twenty officers were assembled, whose
uniforms were all glittering with stars, medals, and crosses; in fact,
to a weak-minded civilian like myself, they gave the impression of
a group of heroes fresh come from all the triumphant glories of a
campaign. Between the staff, which occupied one end of the long table,
and the few townsfolk who sat at the other, there intervened a sort of
frontier territory uninhabited; and it was here that the waiter located
me,--an object of observation and remark to each. Resolving to learn how
I was treated by my critics, I addressed the waiter in the very worst
French, and protested my utter ignorance of German. I had promised
myself much amusement from this expedient, but was doomed to a severe
disappointment,--the officers coolly setting me down for a servant,
while the townspeople pronounced me a pedler; and when these judgments
had been recorded, instead of entering upon a psychological examination
of my nature, temperament, and individuality, they never noticed me any
more. I felt hurt at this, more, indeed, for their sakes than my own,
since I bethought me of the false impression that is current of this
people throughout Europe, where they have the reputation of philosophers
deeply engaged in researches into character, minute anatomists of human
thought and man’s affections; “and yet,” muttered I, “they can sit at
table with one of the most remarkable of men, and be as ignorant of
all about him as the husbandman who toils at his daily labor is of the
mineral treasures that lie buried down beneath him.”

“I will read them a lesson,” thought I. “They shall see that in the
humble guise of foot-traveller it may be the pleasure of men of rank
and station to journey.” The townsfolk, when the dessert made its
appearance, rose to take their departure, each before he left the room
making a profound obeisance to the general, and then another but less
lowly act of homage to the staff, showing by this that strangers were
expected to withdraw, while the military guests sat over their wine.
Indeed, a very significant look from the last person who left the room
conveyed to me the etiquette of the place. I was delighted at this,--it
was the very opportunity I longed for; and so, with a clink of my knife
against my wine-glass, the substitute for a bell in use amongst humble
hostels, I summoned the waiter, and asked for his list of wines. I saw
that my act had created some astonishment amongst the others, but it
excited nothing more, and now they had all lighted their pipes, and sat
smoking away quite regardless of my presence. I had ordered a flask of
Steinberger at four florins, and given most special directions that my
glass should have a “roped rim,” and be of a tender green tint, but not
too deep to spoil the color of the wine.

My admonitions were given aloud, and in a tone of command; but I
perceived that they failed to create any impression upon my moustached
neighbors. I might have ordered nectar or hypocras, for all that they
seemed to care about me. I raked up in memory all the impertinent and
insolent things Henri Heine had ever said of Austria; I bethought me how
they tyrannized in the various provinces of their scattered empire, and
how they were hated by Hun, Slavac, and Italian; I revelled in those
slashing leading articles that used to show up the great but bankrupt
bully, and I only wished I was “own correspondent” to something at home
to give my impressions of “Austria and her military system.”

Little as you think of that pale sad-looking stranger, who sits sipping
his wine in solitude at the foot of the table, he is about to transmit
yourselves and your country to a remote posterity. “Ay!” muttered I, “to
be remembered when the Danube will be a choked-up rivulet, and the park
of Schônbrunn a prairie for the buffalo.” I am not exactly aware how
or why these changes were to have occurred, but Lord Macaulay’s New
Zealander might have originated them.

While I thus mused and brooded, the tramp of four horses came clattering
down the street, and soon after swept into the arched doorway of the inn
with a rolling and thunderous sound.

“Here he comes; here he is at last! said a young officer, who had
rushed in haste to the window; and at the announcement a very palpable
sentiment of satisfaction seemed to spread itself through the company,
even to the grim old field-marshal, who took his pipe from his mouth to
say,--

“He is in time,--he saves ‘arrest!’”

As he spoke, a tall man in uniform entered the room, and walking with
military step till he came in front of the General, said, in a loud but
respectful voice,--

“I have the honor to report myself as returned to duty.”

The General replied something I could not catch, and then shook him
warmly by the hand, making room for him to sit down next him.

“How far did your Royal Highness go? Not to Coire?” said the General.

“Far beyond it, sir,” said the other. “I went the whole way to the
Splügen, and if it were not for the terror of your displeasure, I ‘d
have crossed the mountain and gone on to Chiavenna.”

The fact that I was listening to the narrative of a royal personage
was not the only bond of fascination to me, for somehow the tone of the
speaker’s voice sounded familiarly to my ears, and I could have sworn
I had heard it before. As he was at the same side of the table with
myself, I could not see him; but while he continued to talk, the
impression grew each moment more strong that I must have met him
previously.

I could gather--it was easy enough to do so--from the animated looks
of the party, and the repeated bursts of laughter that followed his
sallies, that the newly arrived officer was a wit and authority amongst
his comrades. His elevated rank, too, may have contributed to this
popularity. Must I own that he appeared in the character that to me is
particularly offensive? He was a “narrator.” That vulgar adage of “two
of a trade” has a far wider acceptance when applied to the operations
of intellect than when addressed to the work of men’s hands. To see this
jealousy at its height, you must look for it amongst men of letters,
artists, actors, or, better still, those social performers who are the
bright spirits of dinner-parties,--the charming men of society. All
the animosities of political or religious hate are mild compared to the
detestation this rivalry engenders; and now, though the audience was a
foreign one, which I could have no pretension to amuse, I conceived the
most bitter dislike for the man who had engaged their attention.

I do not know how it may be with others, but to myself there has always
been this difficulty in a foreign language, that until I have accustomed
myself to the tone of voice and the manner of a speaker, I can rarely
follow him without occasional lapses. Now, on the present occasion, the
narrator., though speaking distinctly, and with a good accent, had a
very rapid utterance, and it was not till I had familiarized my ear
with his manner that I could gather his words correctly. Nor was my
difficulty lessened by the fact that, as he pretended to be witty and
epigrammatic, frequent bursts of laughter broke from his audience and
obscured his speech. He was, as it appeared, giving an account of a
fishing excursion he had just taken to one of the small mountain lakes
near Poppenheim, and it was clear enough he was one who always could eke
an adventure out of even the most ordinary incident of daily life.

This fishing story had really nothing in it, though he strove to make
out fifty points of interest or striking situations out of the
veriest commonplace. At last, however, I saw that, like a practised
story-teller, he was hoarding up his great incident for the finish.

“As I have told you,” said he, “I engaged the entire of the little inn
for myself; there were but five rooms in it altogether, and though I
did not need more than two, I took the rest, that I might be alone and
unmolested. Well, it was on my second evening there, as I sat smoking my
pipe at the door, and looking over my tackle for the morrow, there came
up the glen the strange sound of wheels, and, to my astonishment, a
travelling-carriage soon appeared, with four horses driven in hand; and
as I saw in a moment, it was a _lohnkutscher_ who had taken the wrong
turning after leaving Ragatz, and mistaken the road, for the highway
ceases about two miles above Poppenheim, and dwindles down to a mere
mule-path. Leaving my host to explain the mistake to the travellers,
I hastily re-entered the house, just as the carriage drove up. The
explanation seemed a very prolix one, for when I looked out of the
window, half an hour afterwards, there were the horses still standing
at the door, and the driver, with a large branch of alder, whipping away
the flies from them, while the host continued to hold his place at the
carriage door. At last he entered my room, and said that the travellers,
two foreign ladies,--he thought them Russians,--had taken the wrong
road, but that the elder, what between fatigue and fear, was so overcome
that she could not proceed further, and entreated that they might be
afforded any accommodation--mere shelter for the night--rather than
retrace their road to Ragatz.

“‘Well,’ said I, carelessly, ‘let them have the rooms on the other side
of the hall; so that they only stop for one night, the intrusion will
not signify.’ Not a very gracious reply, perhaps, but I did not want to
be gracious. The fact was, as the old lady got out, I saw something like
an elephant’s leg, in a fur boot, that quite decided me on not making
acquaintance with the travellers, and I was rash enough to imagine
they must be both, alike. Indeed, I was do resolute in maintaining my
solitude undisturbed, that I told my host on no account whatever to make
me any communication from the strangers, nor on any pretext to let me
feel that they were lodged under the same roof with myself. Perhaps,
if the next day had been one to follow my usual sport, I should have
forgotten all about them, but it was one of such rain as made it
perfectly impossible to leave the house. I doubt if I ever saw rain
like it. It came down in sheets, like water splashed out of buckets,
flattening the small trees to the earth, and beating down all the light
foliage into the muddy soil beneath; meanwhile the air shook with the
noise of the swollen torrents, and all the mountain-streams crashed and
thundered away, like great cataracts. Rain can really become grand at
such moments, and no more resembling a mere shower than the cry of a
single brawler in the streets is like the roar of a mighty multitude. It
was so fine that I determined I would go down to a little wooden bridge
over the river, whence I could see the stream as it came down, tumbling
and splashing, from a cleft in the mountain. I soon dressed myself in
all my best waterproofs,--hat, cape, boots, and all,--and set out Until
I was fully embarked on my expedition, I had no notion of the severity
of the storm, and it was with considerable difficulty I could make
bead against the wind and rain together, while the slippery ground made
walking an actual labor.

“At last I reached the river; but of the bridge, the only trace was a
single beam, which, deeply buried in the bank at one extremity, rose
and fell in the surging flood, like the arm of a drowning swimmer.
The stream had completely filled the channel, and swept along, with
fragments of timber, and even furniture, in its muddy tide; farm
produce, and implements too, came floating by, showing what destruction
had been effected higher up the river. As I stood gazing on the current,
I saw, at a little distance from me, a man, standing motionless beside
the river, and apparently lost in thought,--so, at least, he seemed; for
though not at all clad in a way to resist the storm, he remained there,
wet and soaked through, totally regardless of the weather. On
inquiring at the inn, I learned that this was the _lohnkutscher_--the
_vetturino_--of the travellers, and who, in attempting to ascertain if
the stream were fordable, had lost one of his best horses, and barely
escaped being carried away himself. Until that, I had forgotten all
about the strangers, who, it now appeared, were close prisoners like
myself. While the host was yet speaking, the _lohnkutscher_ came up, and
in a tone of equality, that showed me he thought I was in his own
line of business, asked if I would sell him one of my nags then in the
stable.

“Not caring to disabuse him of his error regarding my rank, I did not
refuse him so flatly as I might, and he pressed the negotiation very
warmly in consequence. At last, to get rid of him, I declared that I
would not break up my team, and retired into the house. I was not many
minutes in my room, when a courier came, with a polite message from his
mistress, to beg I would speak with her. I went at once, and found an
old lady,--she was English, as her French bespoke,--very well mannered
and well bred, who apologized for troubling me; but having heard from
her _vetturino_ that my horses were disengaged, and that I might, if not
disposed to sell one of them, hire out the entire team, to take their
carriage as far as Andeer--By the time she got thus far, I perceived
that she, too, mistook me for a _lohnkutscher_. It just struck me what
good fun it would be to carry on the joke. To be sure, the lady herself
presented no inducement to the enterprise; and as I thus balanced the
case, there came into the room one of the prettiest girls I ever saw.
She never turned a look towards where I was standing, nor deigned to
notice me at all, but passed out of the room as rapidly as she entered;
still, I remembered that I had already seen her before, and passed a
delightful evening in her company at a little inn in the Black Forest.”

When the narrator had got thus far in his story, I leaned forward to
catch a full view of him, and saw, to my surprise, and, I own, to my
misery, that he was the German count we had met at the Titi-See. So
overwhelming was this discovery to me, that I heard nothing for many
minutes after. All of that wretched scene between us on the last evening
at the inn came full to my memory, and I bethought me of lying the whole
night on the hard table, fevered with rage and terror alternately. If
it were not that his narrative regarded Miss Herbert now, I would have
skulked out of the room, and out of the inn, and out of the town itself,
never again to come under the insolent stare of those wicked gray eyes;
but in that name there was a fascination,--not to say that a sense of
jealousy burned at my heart like a furnace.

The turmoil of my thought lost me a great deal of his story, and might
have lost me more, had not the hearty laughter of his comrades recalled
me once again to attention.

He was describing how, as a _vetturino_, he drove their carriage with
his own spanking gray horses to Coire, and thence to Andeer. He had
bargained, it seemed, that Miss Herbert should travel outside in the
cabriolet, but she failed to keep her pledge, so that they only met
at stray moments during the journey. It was in one of these she said
laughingly to him,--

“‘Nothing would surprise me less than to learn, some fine morning, that
you were a prince in disguise, or a great count of the empire, at least.
It was only the other day we were honored with the incognito presence of
a royal personage; I do not exactly know who, but Mrs. Keats could tell
you. He left us abruptly at Schaffbausen.’

“‘You can’t mean the creature,’ said I, ‘that I saw in your company at
the Titi-See?’

“‘The same,’ said she, rather angrily.

“‘Why, he is a saltimbanque; I saw him the morning I came through
Constance, with some others of his troop dragged before the maire
for causing a disturbance in a cabaret; one of the most consummate
impostors, they told me, in Europe.’”

“An infamous falsehood, and a base liar the man who says it!” cried I,
springing to my legs, and standing revealed before the company in an
attitude of haughty defiance. “I am the person you have dared to defame.
I have never assumed to be a prince, and as little am I a rope-dancer.
I am an English gentleman, travelling for his pleasure, and I hurl back
every word you have said of me with contempt and defiance.”

Before I had finished this insolent speech, some half-dozen swords were
drawn and brandished in the air, very eager, as it seemed, to cut me to
pieces, and the Count himself required all the united strength of the
party to save me from his hands. At last I was pushed, hustled, and
dragged out of the room to another smaller one on the same floor, and,
the key being turned on me, left to my very happy reflections.



CHAPTER XXXVIII. THE DUEL WITH PRINCE MAX.

I had no writing-materials, but I had just composed a long letter to the
“Times” on “the outrageous treatment and false imprisonment of a British
subject in Austria,” when my door was opened by a thin, lank-jawed,
fierce-eyed man in uniform, who announced himself as the Rittmeister von
Mahony, of the Keyser Hussars.

“A countryman--an Irishman,” said I, eagerly, clasping his hand with
warmth.

“That is to say, two generations back,” replied he; “my grandfather
Terence was a lieutenant in Trenck’s Horse, but since that none of us
have ever been out of Austria.”

If these tidings fell coldly on my heart, just beginning to glow with
the ardor of home and country, I soon saw that it takes more than two
generations to wash out the Irishman from a man’s nature. The honest
Rittmeister, with scarcely a word of English in his vocabulary, was as
hearty a countryman as if he had never journeyed out of the land of Bog.

He had beard “all about it,” he said, by way of arresting the eloquent
indignation that filled me; and he added, “And the more fool myself to
notice the matter;” asking me, quaintly, if I had never heard of our
native maxim that says, “One man ought never to fall upon forty.”
 “Well,” said he, with a sigh, “what’s done can’t be undone; and let us
see what’s to come next? I see you are a gentleman, and the worse luck
yours.”

“What do you mean by that?” asked I.

“Just this: you’ll have to fight; and if you were a ‘Gemeiner’--a
plebeian--you’d get off.”

I turned away to the window to wipe a tear out of my eye; it had come
there without my knowing it, and, as I did so, I devoted myself to the
death of a hero.

“Yes,” said I, “_she_ is in this incident--she has her part in this
scene of my life’s drama, and I will not disgrace her presence. I will
die like a man of honor rather than that her name should be disparaged.”

He went on to tell me of my opponent, who was brother to a reigning
sovereign, and himself a royal highness,--Prince Max of Swabia. “He was
not,” he added, “by any means a bad fellow, though not reputed to be
perfectly sane on certain topics.” However, as his eccentricities were
very harmless ones, merely offshoots of an exaggerated personal vanity,
it was supposed that some active service, and a little more intercourse
with the world, would cure him. “Not,” added he, “that one can say he
has shown many signs of amendment up to this, for he never makes an
excursion of half-a-dozen days from home without coming back filled with
the resistless passion of some young queen or archduchess for him. As he
forgets these as fast as he imagines them, there is usually nothing to
lament on the subject. Now you are in possession of all that you need
know about _him_. Tell me something of yourself; and first, have you
served?”

“Never.”

“Was your father a soldier, or your grandfather?”

“Neither.”

“Have you any connections on the mother’s side in the army?”

“I am not aware of one.”

He gave a short, hasty cough, and walked the room twice with his hands
clasped at his back, and then, coming straight in front of me, said,
“And your name? What’s your name?”

“Potts! Potts!” said I, with a firm energy.

“Potztausend!” cried he, with a grim laugh: “what a strange name!”

“I said Potts, Herr Rittmeister, and not Potztausend,” rejoined I,
haughtily.

“And I heard you,” said he; “it was involuntarily on my part to add the
termination. And who are the Pottses? Are they noble?”

“Nothing of the kind,--respectable middle-class folk; some in trade,
some clerks in mercantile houses, some holding small government
employments, one, perhaps the chief of the family, an eminent
apothecary!”

As if I had uttered the most irresistible joke, at this word he held his
hands over his face and shook with laughter.

“Heilge Joseph!” cried he, at last, “this is too good! The Prince Max
going out with an apothecary’s nephew, or, maybe, his son!”

“His son upon this occasion,” said I, gravely.

He, did not reply for some minutes, and then, leaning over the back of a
chair, and regarding me very fixedly, he said,--

“You have only to say who you are, and what your belongings, and nothing
will come of this affair. In fact, what with your little knowledge of
German, your imperfect comprehension of what the Prince said, and your
own station in life, I’ll engage to arrange everything and get you off
clear!”

“In a word,” said I, “I am to plead in _forma, inferioris_,--isn’t that
it?”

“Just so,” said he, puffing out a long cloud from his pipe.

“I ‘d rather die first!” cried I, with an energy that actually startled
him.

“Well,” said he, after a pause, “I think it is very probable that will
come of it; but, if it be your choice, I have nothing to say.”

“Go back, Herr Rittmeister,” cried I, “and arrange the meeting for the
very earliest moment.”

I said this with a strong purpose, for I felt if the event were to come
off at once I could behave well.

“As you are resolved on this course,” said he, “do not make any such
confidences to others as you have made to me; nothing about those
Pottses in haberdashery and dry goods, but just simply you are the high
and well-born Potts of Pottsheim. Not a word more.”

I bowed an assent, but so anxious was he to impress this upon me that he
went over it all once more.

“As it will be for me to receive the Prince’s message, the choice of
weapons will be yours. What are you most expert with? I mean, after the
pistol?” said he, grinning.

“I am about equally skilled in all. Rapier, pistol, or sabre are all
alike to me.”

“_Der Teufel!_” cried he: “I was not counting upon this; and as the
sabre is the Prince’s weakest arm, we ‘ll select it.”

I bowed again, and more blandly.

“There is but one thing more,” said he, turning about just as he was
leaving the room. “Don’t forget that in this case the gross provocation
came from _you_ and, therefore, be satisfied with self-defence, or, at
most, a mere flesh wound. Remember that the Prince is a near connection
of the Royal Family of England, and it would be irreparable ruin to you
were he to fall by your hand.” And with this he went out.

Now, had he gravely bound me over not to strangle the lions in the
Tower, it could not have appeared more ridiculous to me than this
injunction, and if there had been in my heart the smallest fund of
humor, I could have laughed at it; but, Heaven knows, none of my
impulses took a mirthful turn at that moment, and there never was
invented the drollery that could wring a smile from me.

I was sitting in a sort of stupor--I know not how long--when the door
opened, and the Rittmeister’s head peered in.

“To-morrow morning at five!” cried he. “I will fetch you half an hour
before.” The door closed, and he was off.

It was now a few minutes past eight o’clock, and there were, therefore,
something short of nine hours of life left to me. I have heard that
Victor Hugo is an amiable and kindly disposed man, and I feel assured,
if he ever could have known the tortures he would have inflicted, he
would never have designed the terrible record entitled “Le Dernier Jour
d’un Condamné.” I conclude it was designed as a sort of appeal against
death punishments. I doubt much of its efficacy in altering legislation,
while I feel assured, that if ever it fall in the way of one whose hours
are numbered, it must add indescribably to his misery.

When, how, or by whom my supper was served, I never knew. I can only
remember that a very sleepy waiter roused me out of a half-drowsy revery
about midnight, by asking if he were to remove the dishes, or let them
remain till morning. I bade him leave them, and me also, and when the
door was closed I sat down to my meal. It was cold and unappetizing. I
would have deemed it unwholesome, too, but I remembered that the poor
stomach it was destined for would never be called on to digest it, and
that for once I might transgress without the fear of dyspepsia. My case
was precisely that of the purseless traveller, who, we are told, can
sing before the robber, just as if want ever suggested melody, or that
being poor was a reason for song. So with me any excess was open to me
just because it was impossible!

“Still,” thought I, “great criminals--and surely I am not as bad as
they--eat very heartily.” And so I cut the tough fowl vigorously in two,
and placed half of it on my plate. I filled myself out a whole goblet of
wine, and drank it off. I repeated this, and felt better. I fell to now
with a will, and really made an excellent supper. There were some potted
sardines that I secretly resolved to have for my breakfast, when the
sudden thought flashed across me that I was never to breakfast any more.
I verily believe that I tasted in that one instant a whole life long of
agony and bitterness.

There was in my friendless, lone condition, my youth, the mild and
gentle traits of my nature, and my guileless simplicity, just that
combination of circumstances which would make my fate peculiarly
pathetic, and I imagined my countrymen standing beside the gravestone
and muttering “Poor Potts!” till I felt my heart almost bursting with
sorrow over myself.

“Cut off at three-and-twenty!” sobbed I; “in the very opening bud of his
promise!”

“Misfortune is a pebble with many facets,” says the Chinese adage, “and
wise is he who turns it around till he find the smooth one.”

“Is there such here?” thought I. “And where can it be?” With all my
ingenuity I could not discover it, when at last there crossed my mind
how the event would figure in the daily papers, and be handed down to
remote posterity. I imagined the combat itself described in the language
almost of a lion-hunt “Potts, who had never till that moment had a sword
in his hand,--Potts, though at this time severely wounded, and
bleeding profusely, nothing dismayed by the ferocious attack of his
opponent,--Potts maintained his guard with all the coolness of a
consummate swordsman.” How I wished my life might be spared just to let
me write the narrative of the combat I would like, besides, to show the
world how generously I could treat an adversary, with what delicacy I
could respect his motives, and how nobly deal even with his injustice.

“Was that two o’clock?” said I, starting up, while the humming sound of
the gong bell filled the room. “Is it possible that but three hours now
stand between me and--” I gave a shudder that made me feel as if I was
standing in a fearful thorough draught, and actually looked up to see if
the window were not open; but no, it was closed, the night calm, and the
sky full of stars. “Oh!” exclaimed I, “if there are Pottses up amongst
you yonder, I hope destiny may deal more kindly by them than down here.
I trust that in those glorious regions a higher and purer intelligence
prevails, and, above all things, that duelling is proclaimed the
greatest of crimes.” Remnant of barbarism! it is worse ten thousand
times; it is the whole suit, costume, and investure of an uncivilized
age. “Poor Potts!” said I; “you went out upon your life-voyage with very
generous intentions towards posterity. I wonder how it will treat
_you?_ Will it vindicate your memory, uphold your fame, and dignify your
motives? Will it be said in history, ‘Amongst the memorable events of
the period was the duel between the Prince Max of Swabia and an Irish
gentleman named Potts. To understand fully the circumstance of this
remarkable conflict, it is necessary to premise that Potts was not what
is vulgarly called constitutionally brave; but he was more. He was--‘?
Ah! there was the puzzle. How was that miserable biographer ever to
arrive at the secret of an organization fine and subtle as mine? If I
could but leave it on record--if I could but transmit to the ages that
will come after me the invaluable key to the mystery of my being--a few
days would suffice--a week certainly would do it--and why should I
not have time given me for this? I will certainly propose this to the
Rittmeister when he comes. There can be little doubt but he will see
the matter with my own eyes.”

As if I had summoned him by enchantment, there he stood at the door,
wrapped in his great white cavalry cloak, and looking gigantic and
ominous together.

“There is no carriage-road,” said he, “to the place we are going, and I
have come thus early that we may stroll along leisurely, and enjoy the
fresh air of the morning.”

Until that moment I had never believed how heartless human nature could
be! To talk of enjoyment, to recall the world and its pleasures, in any
way, to one situated like I, was a bold and scarcely credible cruelty;
but the words did me good service; they armed me with a sardonic
contempt for life and mankind; and so I protested that I was charmed
with the project, and out we set.

My companion was not talkative; he was a quiet, almost depressed man,
who had led a very monotonous existence, with little society among his
comrades; so that he did not offer me the occasion I sought for, of
saying saucy and sneering things of the world at large. Indeed, the
first observation he made was, that we were in a locality that ought
to be interesting to Irishmen, since an ancient shrine of St. Patrick
marked the spot of the convent to which we were approaching. No remark
could have been more ill-timed! to look back into the past, one ought to
have some vista of the future. Who can sympathize with bygones when he
is counting the minutes that are to make him one of them?

What a bore that old Rittmeister was with his antiquities, and how I
hated him as he said, “If your time was not so limited I ‘d have taken
you over to St. Gallen to inspect the manuscripts.” I felt choking as he
uttered these words. How was my time so limited? I did not dare to ask.
Was he barbarous enough to mean that if I had another day to live I
might have passed it pleasantly in turning over musty missals in a
monastery?

At last we came to a halt in a little grove of pines, and he said, “Have
you any address to give me of friends or relatives, or have you any
peculiar directions on any subject?”

“You made a remark last night, Herr Rittmeister,” said I, “which did not
at the moment produce the profound impression upon me that subsequent
reflection has enforced. You said that if his Royal Highness were
fully aware that his antagonist was the son of a practising chemist and
apothecary--”

“That I could have, put off this event; true enough, but when you
refused that alternative, and insisted on satisfaction, I myself, as
your countryman, gave the guarantee for your rank, which nothing now
will make me retract Understand me well,--nothing will make me retract.”

“You are pleased to be precipitate,” said I, with an attempt to sneer;
“my remark had but one object, and that was my personal disinclination
to obtain a meeting under a false pretext.”

“Make your mind easy on that score. It will be all precisely the same in
about an hour hence.”

I nearly fainted as I heard this; it seemed as though a cold stream of
water ran through my spine and paralyzed the very marrow inside.

“You have your choice of weapons,” said he, curtly; “which are you best
at?”

I was going to say the “javelin,” but I was ashamed; and yet should
a man sacrifice life for a false modesty? While I reasoned thus, he
pointed to a group of officers close to the garden wall of the convent,
and said,--

“They are all waiting yonder; let us hasten on.”

If I had been mortally wounded, and was dragging my feeble limbs along
to rest them forever on some particular spot, I might have, probably,
effected my progress as easily as I now did. The slightest inequality of
ground tripped me, and I stumbled at every step.

“You are cold,” said my companion, “and probably unused to early
rising,--taste this.”

He gave me his brandy-flask, and I finished it off at a draught.
Blessings be on the man who invented alcohol!

All the ethics that ever were written cannot work the same miracle in
a man’s nature as a glass of whiskey. Talk of all the wonders of
chemistry, and what are they to the simple fact that twopennyworth of
cognac can convert a coward into a hero?

I was not quite sure that my antagonist had not resorted to a similar
sort of aid, for he seemed as light-hearted and as jolly as though he
was out for a picnic. There was a jauntiness, too, in the way he took
out his cigar, and scraped his lucifer-match on a beech-tree, that quite
struck me, and I should like to have imitated it if I could.

“If it’s the same to you, take the sabre, it’s his weakest weapon,”
 whispered the Rittmeister in my ear; and I agreed. And now there was
a sort of commotion about the choice of the ground and the places, in
which my friend seemed to stand by me most manfully. Then there followed
a general measurement of swords, and a fierce comparison of weapons.
I don’t know how many were not thrust into my hand, one saying, “Take
this, it is well balanced in the wrist; or if you like a heavy guard,
here’s your arm!”

“To me, it is a matter of perfect indifference,” said I, jauntily. “All
weapons are alike.”

“He will attack fiercely, and the moment the word is given,” whispered
the Rittmeister, “so be on your guard; keep your hilt full before you,
or he ‘ll slice off your nose before you are aware of it.”

“Be not so sure of that till you have seen my sword play,” said I,
fiercely; and my heart swelled with a fierce sentiment that must have
been courage, for I never remember to have felt the like before. I know
I was brave at that moment, for if, by one word, I could have averted
the combat, I would not have uttered it.

“To your places,” cried the umpire, “and on your guard! Are you ready?”

“Ready!” re-echoed I, wildly, while I gave a mad flourish of my weapon
round my head that threw the whole company into a roar of laughter; and,
at the same instant, two figures, screaming fearfully, rushed from the
beech copse, and, bursting their way through the crowd, fell upon
me with the most frantic embraces, amidst the louder laughter of the
others. O shame and ineffable disgrace! O misery never to be forgotten!
It was Vaterchen who now grasped my knees, and Tintefleck who clung
round my neck and kissed me repeatedly. From the time of the Laocoon,
no one ever struggled to free himself as I did, but all in vain; my
efforts, impeded by the sword, lest I might unwillingly wound them, were
all fruitless, and we rolled upon the ground inextricably commingled and
struggling.

“Was I right?” cried the Prince. “Was I right in calling this fellow a
saltimbanque? See him now with his comrades around him, and say if I was
mistaken.”

“How is this?” whispered the Rittmeister. “Have you dared to deceive
_me?_”

“I have deceived no one,” said I, trying to rise; and I poured forth
a torrent of not very coherent eloquence, as the mirth of my audience
seemed to imply; but, fortunately, Vaterchen had now obtained a hearing,
and was detailing in very fluent language the nature of the relations
between us. Poor old fellow, in his boundless gratitude I seemed more
than human; and his praises actually shamed me to hear them. How I had
first met them, he recounted in the strain of one assisted by the gods
in classic times; his description made me a sort of Jove coming down on
a rosy cloud to succor suffering humanity; and then came in Tintefleck
with her broken words, marvellously aided by “action,” as she poured
forth the heap of gold upon the grass, and said it was all mine!

Wonderful metal, to be sure, for enforcing conviction on the mind of
man; there is a sincerity about it far more impressive than any vocal
persuasion. The very clink of it implies that the real and the positive
are in question, not the imaginary and the delusive. “This is all
his!” cried she, pointing to the treasure with the air of one showing
Aladdin’s cave; and though her speech was not very intelligible,
Vaterchen’s “vulgate” ran underneath and explained the text.

“I hope you will forgive me. I trust you will be satisfied with my
apologies, made thus openly,” said the Prince, in the most courteous
of manners. “One who can behave with such magnanimity can scarcely be
wanting in another species of generosity.” And ere I could well reply,
I found myself shaking hands with every one, and every one with me;
nor was the least pleasurable part of this recognition the satisfaction
displayed by the Rittmeister at the good issue of this event. I had
great difficulty in resisting their resolution to carry me back with
them to Bregenz. Innumerable were the plans and projects devised for
my entertainment. Field sports, sham fights, rifle-shooting, all were
displayed attractively before me; and it was clear that, if I accepted
their invitations, I should be treated like the most favored guest. But
I was firm in my refusal; and, pleading a pretended necessity to be at
a particular place by a particular day, I started once more, taking the
road with the “vagabonds,” who now seemed bound to me by an indissoluble
bond; at least, so Vaterchen assured me by the most emphatic of
declarations, and that, do with him what I might, he was my slave till
death.

“Who is ever completely happy?” says the sage; and with too good
reason is the doubt expressed. Here, one might suppose, was a situation
abounding with the most pleasurable incidents. To have escaped a duel,
and come out with honor and credit from the issue; to have re-found not
only my missing money, but to have my suspicions relieved as to those
whose honest name was dear to me, and whose discredit would have
darkened many a bright hope of life,--these were no small successes; and
yet--I shame to own it--my delight in them was dashed by an incident so
small and insignificant that I have scarce courage to recall it. Here
it is, however: While I was taking a kindly farewell of my military
friends, hand-shaking and protesting interminable friendships, I saw, or
thought I saw, the Prince, with even a more affectionate warmth, making
his adieus to Tintefleck! If he had not his arm actually round her
waist, there was certainly a white leather cavalry glove curiously
attached to her side, and one of her cheeks was deeper colored than the
other, and her bearing and manner seemed confused so that she answered,
when spoken to, at cross-purposes.

“How did you come by this brooch, Tintefleck? I never saw it before.”

“Oh, is it not pretty? It is a violet; and these leaves, though green,
are all gold.”

“Answer me, girl! who gave it thee?” said I, in the voice of Othello.

“Must I tell?” murmured she, sorrowfully.

“On the spot,--confess it!”

“It was one who bade me keep it till he should bring me a prettier one.”

“I do not care for what he said, or what you promised. I want his
name.’*

“And that I was never to forget him till then,--never.”

“Do you say this to irritate and offend me, or do you prevaricate out of
shame?” said, I angrily.

“Shame!” repeated she, haughtily.

“Ay, shame or fear.”

“Or fear! Fear of what, or of whom?”

“You are very daring to ask me. And now, for the last time,
Tintefleck,--for the last time, I say, who gave you this?”

As I said these words we had just reached the borders of a little
rivulet, over which we were to cross by stepping-stones. Vaterchen was,
as usual, some distance behind, and now calling to us to wait for him.
She turned at his cry, and answered him, but made no reply to me.

This continued defiance of me overcame my temper altogether, sorely
pushed as it was by a stupid jealousy, and, seizing her wrist with a
strong grasp, I said, in a slow, measured tone, “I insist upon your
answer to my question, or--”

“Or what?”

“That we part here, and forever.”

“With all my heart. Only remember one thing,” said she, in a low,
whispering voice: “you left me once before,--you quitted me, in a moment
of temper, just as you threaten it now. Go, if you will, or if you must;
but let this be our last meeting and last parting.”

“It is as such I mean it,--good-bye!” I sprang on the stepping-stone as
I spoke, and at the same instant a glittering object splashed into the
stream close to me. I saw it, just as one might see the lustre of a
trout’s back as it rose to a fly. I don’t know what demon sat where my
heart ought to have been, but I pressed my hat over my eyes, and went on
without turning my head.



CHAPTER XXXIX. ON THE EDGE OF A TORRENT

Very conflicting and very mixed were my feelings, as I set forth alone.
I had come well, very well, out of a trying emergency. I was neither
driven to pretend I was something other than myself, with grand
surroundings, and illustrious belongings, nor had I masqueraded under
a feigned name and a false history; but as Potts, son of Potts the
apothecary, I had carried my head high and borne myself creditably.

_Magna est Veritas_, indeed! I am not so sure of the _prævalebit
semper_, but, assuredly, where it does succeed, the success is
wonderful.

Heaven knows into what tortuous entanglements might my passion for the
“imaginative”--I liked this name for it--have led me, had I given way to
one of my usual temptations. In more than one of my flights have I found
myself carried up into a region, and have had to sustain an atmosphere
very unsuited to my respiration, and now, with the mere prudence of
walking on the _terra firma_, and treading the common highway of life,
I found I had reached my goal safely and speedily. Flowers do not assume
to be shrubs, nor shrubs affect to be forest trees; the limestone and
granite never pretend that they are porphyry and onyx. Nature is real,
and why should man alone be untruthful and unreal? If I liked these
reflections, and tried to lose myself in them, it was in the hope of
shutting out others less gratifying; but, do what I would, there, before
me, arose the image of Catinka, as she stood at the edge of the rivulet,
that stream which seemed to cut me off from one portion of my life, and
make the past irrevocably gone forever.

I am certain I was quite right in parting with that girl. Any
respectable man, a father of a family, would have applauded me for
severing this dangerous connection. What could come of such association
except unhappiness? “Potts,” would the biographer say,--“Potts saw, with
the unerring instinct of his quick perception, that this young creature
would one day or other have laid at his feet the burnt-offering of her
heart, and then, what could he have done? If Potts had been less endowed
with genius, or less armed in honesty, he had not anticipated this
peril, or, foreseeing, bad undervalued it. But he both saw and feared
it. How very differently had a libertine reasoned out this situation!”
 And then I thought how wicked I might have been,--a monster of crime
and atrocity. Every one knows the sensation of lying snugly a-bed on a
stormy night, and, as the rain plashes and the wind howls, drawing more
closely around him the coverlet, and the selfish satisfaction of his own
comfort, heightened by all the possible hardships of others outside. In
the same benevolent spirit, but not by any means so reprehensible, is it
pleasant to imagine oneself a great criminal, standing in the dock, to
be stared at by a horror-struck public, photographed, shaved, prison
costumed, exhorted, sentenced, and tien, just as the last hammer has
driven the last nail into the scaffold, and the great bell has tolled
out, to find that you are sitting by your wood fire, with your curtain
drawn, your uncut volume beside you, and your peculiar weakness, be it
tea, or sherry-cobbler, at your elbow. I constantly take a “rise” out
of myself in this fashion, and rarely a week goes over that I have not
either poisoned a sister or had a shot at the Queen. It is a sort
of intellectual Russian bath, in which the luxury consists in the
exaggerated alternative between being scalded first and rolled in the
snow afterwards. It was in this figurative snow I was now disporting
myself, pleasantly and refreshingly, and yet remorse, like a sturdy dun,
stood at my gate, and refused to go away.

Had I, indeed, treated her harshly,--had I rejected the offer of her
young and innocent heart? Very puzzling and embarrassing question this,
and especially to a man who had nothing of the coxcomb in his nature,
none of that prompting of self-love that would suggest a vain reply.
I felt that it was very natural _she_ should have been struck by the
attractive features of my character, but I felt this without a particle
of conceit. I even experienced a sense of sorrow as I thought over
it, just as a conscientious siren might have regretted that nature had
endowed her with such a charming voice; and this duty--for it was a
duty--discharged, I bethought me of my own future. I had a mission,
which was to see Kate Herbert and give her Miss Crofton’s letter. In
doing so, I must needs throw off all disguises and mockeries, and be
Potts, the very creature she sneered at, the man whose mere name was
enough to suggest a vulgar life and a snob’s nature! No matter
what misery it may give, I will do it manfully. _She_ may never
appreciate--the world at large may never appreciate--what noble motives
were hidden beneath these assumed natures, mere costumes as they were,
to impart more vigor and persuasiveness to sentiments which, uttered in
the undress of Potts, would have carried no convictions with them. Play
Macbeth in a paletot, perform Othello in “pegtops,” and see what effect
you will produce! Well, my pretended station and rank were the mere
gauds and properties that gave force to my opinions. And now to
relinquish these, and be the actor, in the garish light of the noonday,
and a shabby-genteel coat and hat! “I will do it,” muttered I,--“I will
do it, but the suffering will be intense!” When the prisoner sentenced
to a long captivity is no more addressed by his name, but simply called
No. 18, or 43, it is said that the shock seems to kill the sense of
identity with him, and that nothing more tends to that stolid air of
indifference, that hopeless inactivity of feature, so characteristic
of a prison life; in the very same way am I affected when limited to my
Potts nature, and condemned to confine myself within the narrow bounds
of that one small identity. From what Prince Max has said at the _table
d’hôte_ at Bregenz, it was clear that Mrs. Keats had already learned
I was not the young prince of the House of Orleans; but, in being
disabused of one error, she seemed to have fallen into another; and
it behoved me to explain that I was not a rope-dancer or a mountebank.
“She, too, shall know me in my Potts nature,” said I; “she also shall
recognize me in the ‘majesty of myself.’” I was not very sure of what
that was, but found it in Hegel.

And when I have completed this task, I will throw myself like a waif
upon the waters of life. I will be that which the moment or the event
shall make me,--neither trammelled by the past nor awed by the future.
I will take the world as the drama of a day. Were men to do this, what
breadth and generosity would it impart to them! It is in self-seeking
and advancement that we narrow our faculties and imprison our natures.
A man fancies he owns a palace and a demesne, but it is the palace that
owns _him_, obliges him to maintain a certain state, live in a certain
style, surrounded with certain observances, not one of which may be,
perhaps, native to him. It is the poor man, who comes to visit and gaze
on his splendors, who really enjoys them; _he_ sees them without one
detracting influence,--not to say that in _his_ heart are no corroding
jealousies of some other rich man, who has a finer Claude, or a grander
Rubens. Instead, besides, of owning one palace and one garden, it is the
universe he owns: the vast savannah is his race-ground; Niagara his
own private cascade. My heart bounded with these buoyant fancies, and I
stepped out briskly on my road. Now that I had made this vow of poverty
to myself, I felt very light-hearted and gay. So long as a man is
struggling for place and pre-eminence in life, how can he be generous,
how even gracious? “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s ox,” says the
commandment, but surely it must have been your neighbor’s before it
was yours, and if you have striven for it, it is likely that you have
coveted it. Now, I will covet nothing,--positively nothing,--and I will
see if in this noble spirit there will not be a reward proportionately
ample and splendid.

My road led through that wild and somewhat dreary valley by which the
Upper Rhine descends, fed by many an Alpine stream and torrent, to reach
the fertile plains of Germany. It was a desolate expanse of shingle,
with here and there little patches of oak scrub, or, at rare intervals,
small enclosures of tillage, though how tilled, or for whom, it was hard
to say, since not a trace of inhabitant could be seen, far or wide. Deep
fissures, the course of many a mountain stream, cut the road at places,
and through these the foot traveller had to pass on stepping-stones;
while wheel carriages, descending into the chaos of rocks and stones,
fared even worse, and incurred serious peril to spring and axle in the
passage. On the mountain-sides, indeed, some chalets were to be seen,
very high up, and scarcely accessible, but ever surrounded with little
tracts of greener verdure and more varied foliage. From these
heights, too, I could hear the melodious ring of the bells worn by the
cattle,--sure signs of peasant comfort. “Might not a man find a life of
simple cares and few sorrows, up yonder?” asked I, as I gazed upward.
While I continued to look, the great floating clouds that soared on
the mountain-top began to mass and to mingle together, thickening and
darkening at every moment, and then, as though overweighted, slowly to
descend, shutting out chalet and shady copse and crag, as they fell, on
their way to the plain beneath. It was a grievous change from the bright
picture a few moments back, and not the less disheartening, that the
heavily charged mist now melted into rain, that soon fell in torrents.
With not a rock nor a shrub to shelter under, I had nothing for it but
to trudge onward to the nearest village, wherever that might be. How
speedily the slightest touch of the real will chase away the fictitious
and imaginary! No more dreams nor fancies now, as wet and soaked I
plodded on, my knapsack seeming double its true weight, and my stick
appearing to take root each time it struck the ground. The fog, too, was
so dense that I was forced to feel my way as I went. The dull roar
of the Rhine was the only sound for a long time; but this, at length,
became broken by the crashing noise of timber carried down by the
torrents, and the louder din of the torrents themselves as they came
tumbling down the mountain. I would have retraced my steps to Bregenz,
but that I knew the places I had passed dryshod in the morning would by
this time have become impassable rivers. My situation was a dreary
one, and not without peril, since there was no saying when or where
a mountain cataract might not burst its way down the cliffs and sweep
clean across the road towards the Rhine.

Had there been one spot to offer shelter, even the poorest and meanest,
I would gladly have taken it, and made up my mind to await better
weather; but there was not a bank, nor even a bush to cower under, and I
was forced to trudge on. It seemed to me, at last, that I must have
been walking many hours; but having no watch, and being surrounded with
impenetrable fog, I could make no guess of the time, when, at length, a
louder and deeper sound appeared to fill the air, and make the very
mist vibrate with its din. The surging sound of a great volume of water,
sweeping along through rocks and fallen trees, apprised me that I was
nearing a torrent; while the road itself, covered with some inches of
water, showed that the stream had already risen above its embankments.
There was real danger in this; light carriages--the great lumbering
diligence itself--had been known to be carried away by these suddenly
swollen streams, and I began seriously to fear disaster. Wading
cautiously onward, I reached what I judged to be the edge of the
torrent, and felt with my stick that the water was here borne madly
onward, and at considerable depth. Though through the fog I could make
out the opposite bank, and see that the stream was not a wide one, I
plainly perceived that the current was far too powerful for me to breast
without assistance, and that no single passenger could attempt it
with safety. I may have stood half an hour thus, with the muddy stream
surging over my ankles, for I was stunned and stupefied by the danger,
when I thought I saw through the mist two gigantic figures looming
through the fog, on the opposite bank. When and how they had come there,
I knew not, if they were indeed there, and if these figures were not
mere spectres of my imagination. It was not till having closed my eyes,
and opening them again, I beheld the same objects, that I could fully
assure myself of their reality.



CHAPTER XL. I AM DRAGGED AS A PRISONER TO FELDKIRCH

The two great figures I had seen looming through the fog while standing
in the stream, I at last made out to be two horsemen, who seemed in
search of some safe and fordable part of the stream to cross over. Their
apparent caution was a lesson by which I determined to profit, and I
stood a patient observer of their proceedings. At times I could catch
their voices, but without distinguishing what they said, and suddenly I
heard a plunge, and saw that one had dashed boldly into the flood, and
was quickly followed by the other. If the stream did not reach to
their knees, as they sat, it was yet so powerful that it tested all the
strength of the horses and all the skill of the riders to stem it;
and as the water splashed and surged, and as the animals plunged and
struggled, I scarcely knew whether they were fated to reach the bank, or
be carried down in the current. As they gained about the middle of the
stream, I saw that they were mounted gendarmes, heavy men with heavy
equipments, favorable enough to stem the tide, but hopelessly incapable
to save themselves if overturned. “Go back,--hold in,--go back! the
water is far deeper here!” I cried out at the top of my voice; but
either not hearing, or not heeding my warning, on they came, and, as I
spoke, one plunged forward and went headlong down under the water,
but, rising immediately, his horse struck boldly out, and, after a few
struggles, gained the bank. The other, more fortunate, had headed up the
stream, and reached the shore without difficulty.

With the natural prompting of a man towards those who had just overcome
a great peril, I hastened to say how glad I felt at their safety,
and from what intense fear their landing had rescued me; when one,
a corporal, as his cuff bespoke, muttered a coarse exclamation of
impatience, and something like a malediction on the service that exposed
men to such hazards, and at the same instant the other dashed boldly up
the bank, and with a bound placed his horse at my side, as though to cut
off my retreat.

“Who are you?” cried the corporal to me, in a stern voice.

“A traveller,” said I, trying to look majestic and indignant.

“So I see; and of what nation?”

“Of that nation which no man insults with impunity.”

“Russia?”

“No; certainly not,--England.”

“Whence from last?”

“From Bregenz.”

“And from Constance by Lindau?” asked he quickly, as he read from a slip
of paper he had Just drawn from his belt.

I assented, but not without certain misgivings, as I saw so much was
known as to my movements.

“Now for your passport. Let me see it,” said the corporal again.
“Just so,” said he, folding it up. “Travelling on foot, and marked
‘suspected.’”

Though he muttered these words to his companion, I perceived that he
cared very little for my having overheard them.

“Suspected of what, or by whom?” asked I, angrily.

Instead of paying any attention to my question, the two men now
conversed together in a low tone and confidentially.

“Come,” said I, with an assumed boldness, “if you have quite done with
that passport of mine, give it to me, and let me pursue my journey.”

So eager were they in their own converse, that this speech, too, was
unheeded; and now, grown rasher by impunity and impatience, I stepped
stoutly forward, and attempted to take the passport from the soldier’s
hand.

“Sturm und Gewitter!” swore out the fellow, while he struck me sharply
on the wrist, “do you mean to try force with us?” And the other drew his
sabre, and, flourishing it over his head, held the point of it within a
few inches of my chest.

I cannot imagine whence came the courage that now filled my heart, for
I know I am not naturally brave, but I felt for an instant that I could
have stormed a breach; and, with an insulting laugh, I said, “Oh, of
course, cut me down. I am unarmed and defenceless. It is an admirable
opportunity for the display of Austrian chivalry.”

“Bey’m Henker! It’s very hard not to slice off his ear,” said the
soldier, seeming to ask leave for this act of valor.

“Get out your cords,” said the corporal; “we ‘re losing too much time
here.”

“Am I a prisoner, then?” asked I, in some trepidation.

“L suspect you are, and likely to be for some time to come,” was the
gruff answer.

“On what charge--what is alleged against me?” cried I, passionately.

“What has sent many a better-looking fellow to Spielberg,” was the
haughty rejoinder.

“If I _am_ your prisoner,” said I, haughtily,--“and I warn you at
once of your peril in daring to arrest a British subject travelling
peacefully--You are not going to tie my hands! You are not going to
treat me as a felon?” I screamed out these words in a voice of wildest
passion, as the soldier, who had dismounted for the purpose, was now
proceeding to tie my wrists together with a stout cord, and in a manner
that displayed very little concern for the pain he occasioned me.

As escape was totally out of the question, I threw myself upon the last
resource of the injured. I fell back upon eloquence. I really wish I
could remember even faintly the outline of my discourse; for though
not by any means a fluent German, the indignation that makes men poets
converted me into a greater master of prose, and I told them a vast
number of curious, but not complimentary, traits of the land they
belonged to. I gave, too, a rapid historical sketch of their campaigns
against the French, showing how they were always beaten, the only
novelty being whether they ran away or capitulated. I reminded them
that the victory over _me_ would resound through Europe, being the
only successful achievement of their arms for the last half-century. I
expressed a fervent hope that the corporal would be decorated with the
“Maria Theresa,” and his companion obtain the “valor medal,” for what
they had done. Pensions, I hinted, were difficult in the present state
of their finances, but rank and honor certainly ought to await them.
I don’t know at what exact period of my peroration it was that I was
literally “pulled up,” each of the horsemen holding a line fastened to
my wrists, and giving me a drag forward that nearly carried me off my
feet, and flat on my face. I stumbled, but recovered myself; and now saw
that, bound as I was, with a gendarme on each side of me, it required
all the activity I could muster, to keep my legs.

Another whispered conversation here took place across me, and I thought
I heard the words Bregenz and Feldkirch interchanged, giving me to
surmise that they were discussing to which place they should repair.
My faint hope of returning to the former town was, however, soon
extinguished, as the corporal, turning to me, said, “Our orders are to
bring you alive to headquarters. We ‘ll do our best; but if, in crossing
these torrents, you prefer to be drowned, it’s no fault of ours.”

“Do you mean by that,” cried I, “that I am to be dragged through the
water in this fashion?”

“I mean that you are to come along as best you may.”

“It is all worthy of you, quite worthy!” screamed I, in a voice of
wildest rage. “You reserve all your bravery for those who cannot resist
you,--and you are right, for they are your only successes. The Turks
beat you”--here they chucked me close up, and dashed into the stream.
“The Prussians beat you!” I was now up to my waist in water. “The Swiss
beat you!” Down I went over head and ears. “The French always--thrashed
you”--down again--“at Ulm--Auster--litz--Aspern”--nearly suffocated,
I yelled out, “Wagrara!”--and down I went, never to know any further
consciousness till I felt myself lying on the soaked and muddy road,
and heard a gruff voice saying, “Come along--we don’t intend to pass the
night here!”



CHAPTER XLI. THE ACT OF ACCUSATION

Benumbed, bedraggled, and bewildered, I entered Feldkirch late at night,
my wrists cut with the cords, my clothes torn by frequent falls, my
limbs aching with bruises, and my wet rags chafing my skin. No wonder
was it that I was at once consigned from the charge of a jailer to the
care of a doctor, and ere the day broke I was in a raging fever.

I would not, if I could, preserve any memory of that grievous interval.
Happily for me, no clear traces remain on my mind,--pangs of suffering
are so mingled with little details of the locality, faces, words,
ludicrous images of a wandering intellect, long hours of silent
brooding, sound of church bells, and such other tokens as cross the
lives of busy men in the daily walk of life, all came and went within my
brain, and still I lay there in fever.

In my first return of consciousness, I perceived I was the sole occupant
of a long arched gallery, with a number of beds arranged along each
side of it. In their uniform simplicity, and the severe air of the few
articles of furniture, my old experiences at once recalled the
hospital; not that I arrived at this conclusion without much labor and
a considerable mental effort. It was a short journey, to be sure, but
I was walking with sprained ankles. It was, however, a great joy and a
great triumph to me to accomplish even this much. It was the recognition
to myself that I was once more on the road to health, and again to feel
the sympathies that make a brotherhood of this life of ours; and so
happy was I with the prospect, that when I went to sleep at night my
last thought was of the pleasure that morning would bring me. And I
was not disappointed; the next day, and the next, and several more that
followed, were all passed in a calm and tranquil enjoyment Looking back
upon this period, I have often been disposed to imagine that when we lie
in the convalescence that follows some severe illness, with no demands
upon our bodily strength, no call made upon our muscular energies, the
very activity of digestion not evoked, as our nourishment is of
the simplest and lightest, our brain must of necessity exercise its
functions more freely, untrammelled by passing cares or the worries
incident to daily life, and that at such times our intellect has
probably a more uncontested action than at any other period of our
existence. I do not want to pursue my theory, or endeavor to sustain
it; my reader has here enough to induce him to join his experience to my
own, or reject the notion altogether.

I lay thus, not impatiently, for above a fortnight. I regained strength
very slowly; the least effort or exertion was sure to overcome me. But
I wished for none; and as I lay there, gazing for whole days long at
a great coat-of-arms over the end of the gallery, where a huge
double-headed eagle seemed to me screaming in the agony of
strangulation, but yet never to be choked outright, I revelled in many
a strange rambling as to the fate of the land of which it was the emblem
and the shield. Doubtless some remnant of my passionate assault on
Austria lingered in my brain, and gave this turn to its operations.

My nurse was one of that sisterhood whose charities call down many a
blessing on the Church that organizes their benevolences. She was what
is called a _graue Schwester_; and of a truth she seemed the incarnation
of grayness. It was not her dress alone, but her face and hands, her
noiseless gait, her undemonstrative stare, her half-husky whisper, and
her monotonous ways, had all a sort of pervading grayness that enveloped
her, just as a cloud mist wraps a landscape. There was, besides, a kind
of fog-like indistinctness in her few and muttered words that made a
fitting atmosphere of drowsy uniformity for the sick-room.

Her first care, on my recovery, was to supply me with a number of little
religious books,--lives of saints and martyrs, accounts of miracles, and
narratives of holy pilgrimages,--and I devoured them with all the zest
of a devotee. They seemed to supply the very excitement my mind
craved for, and the good soul little suspected how much more she was
ministering to a love for the marvellous than to a spirit of piety. In
the “Flowers of St. Francis,” for instance, I found an adventure-seeker
after my own heart To be sure, his search was after sinners in need of
a helping hand to rescue them; but as his contests with Satan were
described as stand-up encounters, with very hard knocks on each side,
they were just as exciting combats to read of, as any I had ever perused
in stories of chivalry.

Mistaking my zest for these readings for something far more
praiseworthy, “the gray sister” enjoined me very seriously to turn
from the evil advisers I had formerly consorted with, and frequent the
society of better-minded and wiser men. Out of these counsels, dark
and dim at first, but gradually growing clearer, I learned that I was
regarded as a member of some terrible secret society, banded together
for the direst and blackest of objects; the subversion of thrones,
overthrow of dynasties, and assassination of sovereigns being all labors
of love to us. She had a full catalogue of my colleagues, from Sand, who
killed Kotzebue, to Orsini, and seemed thoroughly persuaded that I was
a very advanced member of the order. It was only after a long time, and
with great address on my part, that I obtained these revelations from
her, and she owned that nothing but witnessing how the holy studies had
influenced me would ever have induced her to make these avowals. As my
convalescence progressed, and I was able to sit up for an hour or so
in the day, she told me that I might very soon expect a visit from the
Staats Procurator, a kind of district attorney-general, to examine me.
So little able was I to carry my mind back to the bygone events of my
life, that I heard this as a sort of vague hope that the inquiry would
strike out some clew by which I could connect myself with the past,
for I was sorely puzzled to learn what and who I had been before I came
there. Was I a prosecutor or was I a prisoner? Never was a knotty point
more patiently investigated, but, alas! most hopelessly. The intense
interest of the inquiry, however, served totally to withdraw me from my
previous readings, and “the gray sister” was shocked to see the mark in
my book remain for days long unchanged. She took courage at length
to address me on the subject, and even went so far as to ask if Satan
himself had not taken occasional opportunity of her absence to come and
sit beside my bed? I eagerly caught at the suggestion, and said it was
as she suspected: that he never gave me a moment’s peace, now torturing
me with menaces, now asking for explanations, how this could be
reconciled with that, and why such a thing should not have prevented
such another?

Instead of expressing any astonishment at my confession, she appeared to
regard it as one of the most ordinary incidents, and referred me to my
books, and especially to St Francis, to see that these were usual and
every-day snares in use. She went further, and in her zeal actually
showed a sort of contempt for the Evil One in his intellectual capacity
that startled me; showing how St Jude always got the better of him, and
that he was a mere child when opposed by the craft of St. Anthony of
Pavia.

“It is the truth,” said she, “always conquers him. Whenever, by any
chance, he can catch you concealing or evading, trying to make out
reasons that are inconsistent, or affecting intentions that you had not,
then he is your master.”

There was such an air of matter-of fact about all she said, that
when--our first conversation on this theme over--she left the room, a
cold sweat broke over me at the thought that my next visitor would be
the “Lebendige Satan” himself.

It had come to this: that I had furnished my own mind with such a
subject of terror that I could not endure to be alone, and lay there
trembling at every noise, and shrinking at every shadow that crossed the
floor. Many and many times, as the dupe of my own deceivings, did I find
myself talking aloud in self-defence, averring that I wanted to be good
and honest and faithful, and that whenever I lapsed from the right path,
it was in moments of erring reason, sure to be followed after by sincere
repentance.

It was after an access of this kind “the gray sister” found me one
morning, bathed in cold perspiration, my eyes fixed, my lips livid, and
my fingers fast knotted together.

“I see,” said she, “he has given you a severe turn of it to-day. What
was the temptation?”

For a long while I refused to answer; I was weak as well as irritable,
and I desired peace; but she persisted, and pressed hard to know what
subject we had been discussing together.

“I’ll tell you, then,” said I, fiercely, for a sudden thought, prompted
perhaps by a sense of anger, flashed across me: “he has just told me
that you are his sister.”

She screamed out wildly, and rushing to the end of the gallery, threw
herself at the foot of a little altar.

Satisfied with my vengeance, I lay back, and said no more. I may have
dropped into a half-slumber afterwards, for I remember nothing till,
just as evening began to fall, one of the servants came up and placed a
table and two chairs beside my bed, with writing-materials and a large
book, and shortly after, two men dressed in black, and with square
black caps on their heads, took their places at the table, and conversed
together in low whispers. Resolving to treat them with a show of
complete indifference, I turned away and pretended to go to sleep.

“The Herr Staats Procurator Schlassel has come to read the act of
accusation,” said the shorter man, who seemed a subordinate; “take care
that you pay proper respect to the law and the authorities.”

“Let him read away,” said I, with a wave of my hand; “I will listen.”

In a low, sing-song, dreary tone, he began to recite the titles and
dignities of the Emperor. I listened for a while; but as he got down to
the Banat and Herzégovine, sleep overcame me, and I dozed away, waking
up to hear him detailing what seemed his own greatness, how he was
“Ober” this, and “Unter” that, till I fairly lost myself in the maze of
his description. Judging from the monotonous, business-like persistence
of his manner, that he had a long road before him, I wrapped myself
comfortably in the bedclothes, closed my eyes, and soon slept.

There were two candles burning on the table when I next opened my eyes,
and my friend the procurator was reading away as before. I tried to
interest myself for a second or two; I rubbed my eyes, and endeavored to
be wakeful; but I could not, and was fast settling down into my former
state, when certain words struck on my ear and aroused me:

“The well-born Herr von Rigges further denounces the prisoner Harpar--”

“Read that again,” cried I, aloud, “for I cannot clearly follow what you
say.”

“‘The well-born Herr von Rigges, ‘“ repeated he, “‘further denounces
the prisoner Harpar as one of a sect banded together for the darkest
purposes of revolution!’”

“Forgive my importunity, Herr Procurator,” said I, in my most
insinuating tone, “but in compassion for the weakness of faculties
sorely tried by fever, will you tell me who is Rigges?”

“Who is Rigges? Is that your question?” said he, slowly.

“Yes, sir; that was my question.”

He turned over several pages of his voluminous report, and proceeded to
search for the passage he wanted.

“Here it is,” said he, at last; and he read out: “‘The so-called Rigges,
being a well-born and not-the-less-from-a-mercantile-object-engaging
pursuit highly-placed and much-honored subject of her Majesty the Queen
of England, of the age of forty-two years and eight months, unmarried,
and professing the Protestant religion.’ Is that sufficient?”

“Quite so; and now, will you, with equal urbanity, inform me who is
Harpar?”

“Who is Harpar? Who is Harpar? You surely do not ask me that?”

“I do; such is my question.”

“I must confess that you surprise me. You ask me for information about
yourself!”

“Oh, indeed! So that I am Harpar?”

“You can, of course, deny it We are in a measure prepared for that. The
proofs of your identity will be, however, forthcoming; not to add that
it will be difficult to disprove the offence.”

“Ha, the offence! I ‘m really curious about that. What is the offence
with which I am charged?”

“What I have been reading these two hours. What I have recited with all
the clearness, brevity, and perspicuity that characterize our imperial
and royal legislation, making our code at once the envy and admiration
of all Europe.”

“I ‘m sure of that But what have I done?”

“With what for a dulness-charged and much-beclouded intellect are
you afflicted,” cried he, “not to have followed the greatly-by-
circumstances-corroborated, and in-various-ways-by-proofs-brought-home
narrative that I have already read out.”

“I have not heard one word of it!”

“What a deplorable and all-the-more-therefore-hopeless intelligence is
yours! I will begin it once more.” And with a heavy sigh he turned over
the first pages of his manuscript.

“Nay, Herr Procurator,” interposed I, hastily. “I have the less claim to
exact this sacrifice on your part, that even when you have rendered it,
it will be all fruitless and unprofitable. I am just recovering from a
severe illness. I am, as you have very acutely remarked, a man of very
narrow and limited faculties in my best of moments, and I am now still
lower in the scale of intelligence. Were you to read that lucid document
till we were both gray-headed, it would leave me just as uninformed as
to imputed crime as I now am.”

“I perceive,” said he, gravely. Then, turning to his clerk, he bade
him write down, “‘And the so-called Harpar, having duly heard and with
decorously-lent attention listened to the foregoing act, did thereupon
enter his plea of mental incapacity and derangement.”

“Nay, Herr Procurator, I would simply record that, however open to
follow some plain narrative, the forms and subtleties of a legal
document only bewilder me.”

“What for an ingeniously-worded and with-artifice-cunningly-conceived
excuse have we here?” exclaimed he, indignantly. “Is it from England,
with her seventeen hundred and odd volumes of an incomplete code, that
the Imperial and Royal Government is to learn legislation? You are
charged with offences that are known to every state of civilization:
highway assault and molestation; attack with arms and deadly implements,
stimulated by base and long heretofore and with-bitterness-imagined
plans of vengeance on your countryman and former associate, the so-named
Rigges. From him, too, proceeds the information as to your political
character, and the ever-to-be deplored and only-with-blood-expiated
error of republicanism by which you are actuated. This brief, but
not-the-less-on-that-account lucid exposition, it is my duty first
to read out, and then leave with you. With all your from-a-wrong-
impulse-proceeding and a-spirit-of-opposition-suggested objections, I
have no wish nor duty to meddle. The benign and ever paternal rule under
which we live gives even to the most-with-accusation-surrounded, and
with-strong-presumption-implicated prisoner, every facility of defence.
Having read and matured this indictment, you will, after a week, make
choice of an advocate.”

“Am I to be confronted with my accuser?”

“I sincerely hope that the indecent spectacle of insulting attack and
offensive rejoinder thus suggested is unknown to the administration of
our law.”

“How, then, can you be certain that I am the man he accuses of having
molested him?”

“You are not here to assail, nor I to defend, the with-ages-consolidated
and by-much-tact-accumulated wisdom of our Imperial and Royal Code.”

“Might he not say, when he saw me, ‘I never set eyes on this man
before’?”

He turned again to his clerk, and dictated something of which I could
but catch the concluding words, “And thereby imputing perjury to the
so-called Rigges.”

It was all I could do to repress an outburst of anger at this
unjustifiable system of inference, but I did restrain myself, and merely
said, “I impute nothing, Herr Procurator; I simply suggest a possible
case, that everything suffered by Rigges was inflicted by some other
than I.”

“If you had accomplices, name them,” said he, solemnly.

This overcame all my prudent resolves. I was nowise prepared for such
a perversity of misconception, and, losing all patience and all respect
for his authority, I burst out into a most intemperate attack on
Austria, her code, her system, her ignorant indifference to all European
enlightenment, her bigoted adherence to forms either unmeaning or
pernicious, winding up all with a pleasant prediction that in a few
short years the world would have seen the last of this stolid and
unteachable empire.

Instead of deigning a reply, he merely bent down to the table, and I saw
by the movement of his lips, and the rapid course of the clerk’s pen,
that my statement was being reduced to writing.

“When you have completed that,” said I, gravely, “I have some further
observations to record.”

“In a moment,--in a moment,” patiently responded the procurator; “we
have only got to ‘the besotted stupidity of her pretentious officials.’”

The calm quietude of his manner, as he said this, threw me into a fit of
laughter which lasted several minutes.

“There, there,” said I, “that will do; I will keep the remainder of my
remarks for another time and place.”

“‘Reserving to himself,’” dictated he, “‘the right of uttering still
more bitter and untruthful comments on a future occasion.’” And the
clerk wrote the words as he spoke them.

“You will sign this here,” said he, presenting me with the pen.

“Nothing of the kind, Herr Procurator. I will not lend myself to any,
even the most ordinary, form of your stupid system.”

“‘And refuses to sign the foregoing,’” dictated he, in the same unmoved
voice. This done, he arose, and proceeded to draw on his gloves. “The
act of allegation I now commit to your hands,” said he, calmly, “and you
will have a week to reflect upon the course you desire to adopt.”

“One question before you go: Is the person called Rigges here at this
moment, and can I see him?”

He consulted for a few seconds with his subordinate, and then replied,
“These questions we are of opinion are irrelevant to the defence, and
need not be answered.”

“I only ask you, as a favor, Herr Procurator,” said I.

“The law recognizes no favors, nor accepts courtesies.”

“Does it also reject common sense?--is it deaf to all intelligence?--is
it indifferent to every appeal to reason?--is it dead to--”

But he would not wait for more, and having saluted me thrice profoundly,
retired from the gallery and left me alone with my indignation.

The great pile of paper still lay on the table next me, and in my anger
I hurled it from me to the middle of the room, venting I know not what
passionate wrath at the same time on everything German. “This the land
of primitive simplicity and patriarchal virtues, forsooth! This the
country of elevated tastes and generous instincts! Why, it is all Bureau
and Barrack!” I went on for a long time in this strain, and I felt the
better for it. The operative surgeons tell us that no men recover so
certainly or so speedily after great operations as the fellows
who scream out and make a terrible uproar. It is your patient,
self-controlling creature who sinks under the suffering he will not
confess; and I am confident that it is a wise practice to blow off the
steam of one’s indignation, and say all the most bitter things one
can think of in moments of disappointment, and, so to say, prepare the
chambers of your mind for the reception of better company.

After a while I got up, gathered the papers together, and prepared to
read them. Legal amplifications and circumlocutions are of all lands
and peoples; but for the triumph of this diffusiveness commend me to the
Germans. To such an extent was this the case, that I reached the eighth
page of the precious paper before I got finally out of the titular
description of the vice-governor in whose district the event was laid.
Armed, however, with heroic resolution, I persevered, and read on
through the entire night,--I will not say without occasional refreshers
in the shape of short naps; but the day was already breaking when I
turned over the last page, and read the concluding little blessing on
the Emperor, under whose benign reign all the good was encouraged,
all evil punished, and the Hoch-gelehrter--Hoch wohl-geborner Herr
der Hofrath, Ober Procurators-fiscal-Secretar, charged with the due
execution of the present decree.

In the language of _précis_ writing, the event might be stated thus:
“A certain Englishman named Rigges, travelling by post, arrived at the
torrent of Dornbirn a short time before noon, and while waiting there
for the arrival of some peasants to accompany his carriage through
the stream, was joined by a foot-traveller, by whom he was speedily
recognized. Whatever the nature of the relations previously subsisting
between them,--and it may be presumed they were not of the most
amiable,--no sooner had they exchanged glances than they engaged in
deadly conflict. Rigges was well armed; the stranger had no weapon
whatever, but was a man of surpassing strength, for he tore the door
of the carriage from its hinges, and dragged Rigges out upon the road
before the other could offer any resistance. The postilion, who had gone
to summon the peasants, was speedily recalled by the report of firearms;
three shots were fired in rapid succession, and when he reached the spot
it was to see two men struggling violently in the torrent, the stranger
dragging Rigges with all his might towards the middle of the stream, and
the other screaming wildly for succor. The conflict was a terrible one,
for the foot-traveller seemed determined on self-destruction, if he
could only involve the other in his own fate. At last Rigges’ strength
gave way, and the other threw himself upon him, and they both went down
beneath the water.

“The stranger emerged in an instant, but one of the peasants on the bank
struck him a violent blow with his ash pole, and he fell back into the
stream. Meanwhile the others had rescued Rigges, who lay panting, but
unconscious, on the ground. They were yet ministering to his recovery,
when they heard a wild shout of derisive triumph, and now saw that the
other, though carried away by the torrent, had gained a small shingly
bank in the middle of the Rhine, and was waving his hat in mockery of
them. They were too much occupied with the care of the wounded man,
however, to bestow more attention on him. One of Rigges’ arms was badly
fractured, and his jaw also broken, while he complained still more
of the pain of some internal injuries; so severe, indeed, were his
sufferings, that he had to be carried on a litter to Feldkirch. His
first care on arriving was to denounce the assailant, whose name he
gave as Harpar, declaring him to be a most notorious member of a ‘Rouge’
society, and one whose capture was an object of European interest. In
fact, Rigges went so far as to pretend that he had himself perilled life
in the attempt to secure him.

“Detachments of mounted gendarmes were immediately sent off in pursuit,
the order being to arrest any foot-traveller whose suspicious appearance
might challenge scrutiny.”

It is needless to say how much I appeared to fulfil the signs they
sought for, not to add that the intemperance of my language, when
captured, was in itself sufficient to establish a grave charge against
me. It is true, there was in the act of allegation a lengthened
description of me, with which my own appearance but ill corresponded.
I was described as of middle age, of a strong frame and muscular habit,
and with an expression that denoted energy and fierceness. How much of
that vigor must they imagine had been washed away by the torrent, to
leave me the poor helpless-looking thing I now appeared!

I know it is a very weak confession,--I feel as I make it how damaging
to my character is the acknowledgment, and how seriously I compromise
myself in my reader’s estimation; but I cannot help owning that I felt
very proud to be thought so wicked, to be classed with those Brutuses of
modern history, who were scattering explosive shells like bonbons, and
throwing grenades broadcast like “confetti” in a carnival. I fancied how
that miserable Staats Procurator must have trembled in his inmost heart
as he sat there in close proximity with such an infuriate desperado as I
was. I hoped that every look, every gesture, every word of mine, struck
terror into his abject soul. It must also unquestionably do them good,
these besotted, self-satisfied, narrow-minded Germans, to learn how an
Englishman, a born Briton, regards their miserable system of government,
and that poor and meagre phantasm they call their “civilization.” Well,
they have had their opportunity now, and I hope they will make much of
it.

As I pondered over the late incident, as recorded in the allegation,
I remembered the name of Rigges as that of the man Harpar mentioned as
having “run” or escaped with their joint finances, and had very little
difficulty in filling up the probable circumstances of their rencontre.
It was easy to see how Rigges, travelling “extra-post,” with all the
appearance of wealth and station, could impute to the poor wayfarer
any criminality he pleased. Cunningly enough, too, he had hit upon the
precise imputation which was sure to enlist Austrian sympathies in the
pursuit, and calling him a “Socialist and a Rouge” was almost sealing
his fate at once. How glad I felt that the poor fellow had escaped, even
though it cost me all the penalty of personating him; yes, I really was
generous enough for that sentiment, though I perceive that my reader
smiles incredulously as I declare it. “No, no,” mutters he, “the arrant
snob must not try to impose upon us in that fashion. He was trembling to
the very marrow of his bones, and nothing was further from his thoughts
than self-sacrifice or devotion.” I know your opinion of me takes this
lively shape; I feel it, and I shrink under it; but I know, besides,
that I owe all this depreciating estimate of me to nothing so much as my
own frankness and candor. If my reader, therefore, scruples to accord
me the merit of the generosity that I lay claim to, let him revel in the
depreciating confession that I am about to make. I knew that when it was
discovered I was not Harpar, I must instantly be set at liberty. I
felt this, and could, therefore, be at any moment the arbiter of my own
freedom. To do this, of course, would set in motion a search after the
real delinquent, and I determined I would keep my secret till he had
ample time to get away. When I had satisfied myself that all pursuit of
him must be hopeless, I would declare myself to be Potts, and proudly
demand my liberation.

My convalescence made now such progress that I was able to walk about
the gallery, and indeed occasionally to stroll out upon a long terrace
which flanked the entire building, and gaze upon a garden, beyond which
again I could see the town of Feldkirch and the open Platz in which the
weekly market was held. By the recurrence of these--they always fell
upon a Saturday--was I enabled to mark time, and I now reckoned that
three weeks had gone over since the day of the Herr Procurator’s visit,
and yet I had heard nothing more of him, nor of the accusation against
me. I was seriously thinking whether my wisest plan might not be to take
French leave and walk off, when my jailer came one morning to announce
that I was to be transferred to Innspruck, where, in due course, my
trial would take place.

“What if I refuse to go?” said I; “what if I demand my liberation here
on the spot?”

“I don’t imagine that you ‘d delay your journey much by that, my good
friend,” said he; “the Imperial and Royal Government takes little heed
of foolish remonstrances.”

“What if the Imperial and Royal Government, in the plenitude of its
sagacity, should be in the wrong? What if I be not the person who is
accused of this crime? What if the real man be now at liberty? What if
the accuser himself will declare, when he sees me, that he never met me
before, nor so much as heard of me?”

“Well, all that may happen; I won’t say it is impossible, but it cannot
occur here, for the Herr von Rigges has already set off for Innspruck,
and you are to follow him to-morrow.”



CHAPTER XLII. A GLIMPSE OF AM OLD FRIEND

If there be anything in our English habits upon which no difference of
opinion can exist, it is our proneness to extend to a foreigner a degree
of sympathy and an amount of interest that’we obstinately deny to our
own people. The English artist struggling all but hopelessly against the
town’s indifference has but to displace the consonants or multiply the
vowels of his name to be a fashion with it and a success. Strange and
incomprehensible tendency in a nation so overwhelmingly impressed with
a sense of its own vast superiority! But so it is. Mr. Brady may sing
to empty benches, while il Signor Bradini would “bring down the house.”
 What set me thinking over this was, that though Silvio Pellico was a
stock theme for English pity and compassion, I very much doubted if a
single tear would fall for the misfortunes of Potts. And yet there was
a marvellous similarity in our suffering. In each case was the Austrian
the jailer; in each case was the victim a creature of tender mould and
gentle nature.

I travelled in a sort of covered cart, with a mounted gendarme at either
side of me. Indeed, the one faintly alleviating circumstance of my
captivity was the sight of those two heavily equipped giants, armed to
the teeth, who were supposed to be essential to my safe conduct. It was
such an acknowledgment of what they had to apprehend from my well-known
prowess and daring, so palpable a confession that every precaution was
necessary against the bold intrepidity of a man of my stamp! At times,
I almost wished they had put chains upon me. I thought how well it
would read in my Memoirs; how I was heavily “manacled,”--a great word
that,--“orders being given to the escort to shoot me if I showed the
slightest intention to escape.” It was an intense pleasure to me to
imagine myself a sort of Nana Sahib, and whenever we halted at some
wayside public, and the idle loungers would draw aside the canvas
covering and stare in at me, I did my utmost to call up an expression of
ogre-like ferocity and wildness, and it was with a thrill of ecstasy I
saw a little child clasp its mother by the neck, and scream out to come
away as it beheld me.

On the second night of our Journey we halted at a little village at
the foot of the Arlberg, called Steuben, where, in default of a regular
prison, they lodged me in an old tower, the lower part of which was
used for a stable. It stood in the very centre of the town, and from
its narrow and barred windows I could catch glimpses of the little
world that moved about in happy freedom beneath me. I could see the
Marktplatz, from which the booths were now being taken down, and could
mark that preparations for some approaching ceremony were going on, but
of what nature I could not guess. A large place was neatly swept out,
and at last strewn with sawdust,--signs unerring of some exhibition of
legerdemain or conjuring, of which the Tyrolese are warm admirers. The
arrangements were somewhat more portentous than are usually observed in
open-air representations, for I saw seats prepared for the dignitaries
of the village, and an evident design to mark the entertainment as under
the most distinguished protection. The crowd--now considerable--observed
all the decorous bearing of citizens in presence of their authorities.

I nestled myself snugly in the deep recess of the window to watch the
proceedings, nor had I long to wait; some half-dozen gayly dressed
individuals having now pierced their way through the throng, and
commenced those peculiar gambols which bespeak backbones of gristle and
legs of pasteboard. It is a class of performance I enjoy vastly. The
two fellows who lap over each other like the links of a chain, and the
creature who rolls himself about like a ball, and the licensed freedoms
of that man of the world--the clown--never weary me, and I believe I
laugh at them with all the more zest that I have so often laughed at
them before. It was plain, after a while, that a more brilliant part
of the spectacle was yet to come, for a large bluff-looking man, in
cocked-hat and jack-boots, now entered the ring and indignantly ejected
the clowns by sundry admonitions with a lash-whip, which I perceived
were not merely make-believes.

“Ah, here he comes! here he is!” was now uttered in accents of eager
interest, and an avenue was quickly made through the crowd for the new
performer. There was delay after this; and though doubtless the crowd
below could satisfy their curiosity, I was so highly perched and so
straitened in my embrasure that I had to wait, with what patience I
might, the new arrival. I was deep in my guesses what sort of “artist”
 he might prove, when I saw the head of a horse peering over the
shoulders of the audience, and then the entire figure of the quadruped
as he emerged into the circle, all sheeted and shrouded from gaze. With
one dexterous sweep the groom removed all the clothing, and there stood
before me my own lost treasure,--Blondel himself! I would have known him
among ten thousand. He was thinner, perhaps, certainly thinner, but in
all other respects the same; his silky mane and his long tassel of a
tail hung just as gracefully as of yore, and, as he ambled round, he
moved his head with a courteous inclination, as though to acknowledge
the plaudits he met with.

There was in his air the dignity that said, “I am one who has seen
better days. It was not always thus with me. Applaud if you must, and if
you will; but remember that I accept your plaudits with reserve, perhaps
even with reluctance.” Poor fellow, my heart bled for him! I felt as
though I saw a cathedral canon cutting somersaults, and all this while,
by some strange inconsistency, I had not a sympathy to bestow on the
human actors in the scene. “As for them,” thought I, “they have accepted
this degradation of their own free will. If they had not shirked
honest labor, they need never have been clowns or pantaloons; but
Blondel--Blondel, whom fate had stamped as the palfrey of some high-born
maiden, or, at least, the favorite steed of one who would know how to
lavish care on an object of such perfection--Blondel, who had borne
himself so proudly in high places, and who, even in his declining
fortunes, had been the friend and fellow-traveller of--yes, why should
I shame to say it? Posterity will speak of Potts without the detracting
malice and envious rancor of contemporaries; and when, in some future
age, a great philanthropist or statesman should claim the credit of
some marvellous discovery, some wondrous secret by which humanity may be
bettered, a learned critic will tell the world how this great invention
was evidently known to Potts, how at such a line or such a page we shall
find that Potts knew it all.”

The wild cheering of the crowd beneath cut short these speculations, and
now I saw Blondel cantering gayly round the circle, with a handkerchief
in his mouth. If in sportive levity it chanced to fall, he would
instantly wheel about and seize it, and then, whisking his tail and
shaking his long forelock, resume his course again. It was fine, too, to
mark the haughty indifference he manifested towards that whip-cracking
monster who stood in the centre, and affected to direct his motions. Not
alone did he reject his suggestions, but in a spirit of round defiance
did he canter up behind him, and alight with his forelegs on the
fellow’s-shoulders. I am not sure whether the spectators regarded the
tableau as I did, but to _me_ it seemed an allegorical representation of
man and his master.

The hard breathing of a person close behind me now made me turn my head,
and I saw the jailer, who had come with my supper. A thought flashed
suddenly across me. “Go down to those mountebanks, and ask if they will
sell that cream-colored pony,” said I. “Bargain as though you wanted
him for yourself; he is old and of little value, and you may, perhaps,
secure him for eighty or ninety florins; and if so, you shall have ten
more for your pains. It is a caprice of mine, nothing more, but help me
to gratify it.”

He heard me with evident astonishment, and then gravely asked if I had
forgotten the circumstance that I was a prisoner, and likely to remain
so for some time.

“Do as I bade you,” said I, “and leave the result to me. There, lose no
more time about it, for I see the performance is drawing to a close.”

“Nay, nay,” said he; “the best of all is yet to come. The pretty Moorish
girl has not yet appeared. Ha! here she is.”

As he spoke, he crept up into the window beside me, not less eager for
the spectacle than myself. A vigorous cheer, and a loud clapping of
hands below announced that the favorite was in sight long before she was
visible to our eyes.

“What can she do?” asked I, peevishly, perhaps, for I was provoked how
completely she had eclipsed poor Blondel in public favor. “What can she
do? Is she a rope-dancer, or does she ride in the games of the ring?”

“There, there! Look at her; yonder she goes! and there’s the young
Prince--they call him a Prince, at least--who follows her everywhere.”

I could not but smile at the poor jailer’s simplicity, and would
willingly have explained to him that we have outlived the age of
Cinderella. Indeed, I had half turned towards him with this object, when
a perfect roar of the crowd beneath me drew off my attention from him
to what was going on below. I soon saw what it was that entranced the
public: it was the young girl, who now, standing on Blondel’s back, was
careering round the circle at full speed. It is an exercise in which
neither the horse nor the rider is seen to advantage; the heavy
monotonous tramp of the beast, cramped by the narrow limits, becomes a
stilty, wooden gallop. The rider, too, more careful of her balance than
intent upon graceful action, restricts herself to a few, and by no means
picturesque attitudes. With all this, the girl now before me seemed
herself so intensely to enter into the enjoyment of the scene, that all
her gestures sprang out of a sort of irrepressible delight. Far from
unsteadying her foot, or limiting her action, the speed of the horse
appeared to assist the changeful bendings of her graceful figure, as
now, dropping on one knee, she would lean over to caress him, or now,
standing erect, with folded arms and leg advanced, appeared to dare him
to displace her. Faultlessly graceful as she was, there was that in her
own evident enjoyment that imparted a strange delight to the beholder,
and gave to the spectacle the sort of magnetism by which pleasure finds
its way from heart to heart throughout a multitude. At least, I suppose
this must have been so, for in the joyous cheering of that crowd there
was a ring of wild delight far different from mere applause.

At last, poor Blondel, blown and wearied, turned abruptly into the
middle of the ring, and with panting sides and shaking tail came to a
dead halt. The girl, with a graceful slide seated herself on his back
and patted him playfully. And to me this was by far the most graceful
movement of the whole.

It was really a picture! and so natural and so easy withal, that one
forgot all about her spangles and tinsel, the golden fillet of her hair,
and the tawdry fringe of her sandals; and, what was even harder still,
heard not the hoarse-mouthed enthusiasm that greeted her. At length, a
tall man, well-dressed and of striking appearance, pushed his way into
the ring, and politely presented her with a bouquet, at which piece of
courtesy the audience, noways jealous, again redoubled their applause.
She now looked round her with an air of triumphant pleasure, and while,
with a playful gesture, she flung back the ringlets on her neck, she
lifted her face full to my view, and it was Tinte-fleck! With all my
might I cried out, “Catinka! Catinka!” I know not why, but the impulse
never waited to argue the question. Though I screamed my loudest, the
great height at which I was placed, and the humming din of the crowd,
totally drowned my words. Again and again I tried it, but to no purpose.
There she sat, slowly making the round of the circus, while the stranger
walked at her side, to all seeming conversing as though no busy and
prying multitude stood watching and observing them. Wearied with my
failure to attract notice, I turned to address the jailer; but he had
already gone, and I was alone. I next endeavored by a signal to call
attention to me, and, at last, saw how two or three of the crowd had
observed my waving a handkerchief, and were pointing it out to others.
Doubtless they wondered how a poor captive could care for the pleasant
follies of a life of whose commonest joys he was to be no sharer,
and still greater was their astonishment as I flung forth a piece of
money,--a gold Napoleon, it was,--which they speedily caught up and
gave to Catinka. How I watched her as she took it and showed it to the
stranger! He, by his gesture, seemed angry, and made a motion as though
asking her to throw it away; and then there seemed some discussion
between them, and his petulance increased; and she, too, grew
passionate, and, leaping from the horse, strode haughtily across the
circus and disappeared. And then arose a tumult and confusion, the mob
shouting madly for the Moorish girl to come back, and many much disposed
to avenge her absence on the stranger. As for him, he pushed the mob
haughtily aside and went his way; and though for a while the crowd
continued to vent its expressions of displeasure and disappointment, the
performance soon concluded, and all went their several roads homeward;
and when I looked out upon the empty Platz, over which the dusky shadows
of the old houses were now stealing to mingle together, and instead of
the scene of bustle and excitement saw a few lingering townsfolk moody
and purposeless, T asked myself if the whole incidents were not a vision
mind-drawn and invented. There was not one single clew by which I could
trace it to reality.

More than once in my life had my dreamy temperament played me such
pranks; and, strangely too, even when I had assured myself of the
deception, there would yet linger in my mind thoughts and impressions
strong enough to influence my actions, just as we often see that our
disbelief in a scandalous story is not sufficient to disabuse us of a
certain power it wields over us.

Oh, what a long and dreary night was that, harassed with doubts, and
worn out with speculations! My mind had been much weakened by my fever,
and whenever I followed a train of thought too long, confusion was sure
to ensue. The terror of this chaotic condition, where all people and
lands and ideas and incidents jostle against each other in mad turmoil,
can only be estimated by one who has felt it. Like the awful rush of
sensations of him who is sliding down some steep descent to a tremendous
precipice, one feels the gradual approach of that dreamy condition where
reason is lost, and the mind a mere waif upon the waters.

“Here ‘s your breakfast,” said the jailer, as he stopped the course of
my revery. “And the Brigadier hopes you ‘ll be speedy with it, for you
must reach Maltz by nightfall.”

“Tell me,” said I, eagerly, “was there a circus company here yesterday
evening? Did they exhibit on the Platz there?”

“You are a deep one, you are!” muttered he, sulkily to himself, and left
the cell.



CHAPTER XLIII. I AM CONFINED IN THE AMBRAS SCHLOSS

I bore up admirably on my journey. I felt I was doing a very heroic
thing. By my personation of Harpar, I was securing that poor fellow’s
escape, and giving him ample time to get over the Austrian frontier, and
many a mile away from the beaks of the Double Eagle. I had read of such
things in history, and I resolved I would not derogate from the proudest
records of such self-devotion. Had I but remembered how long my illness
had lasted, I might have easily seen that Harpar could by this time have
arrived at Calcutta; but, unfortunately for me, I had no gauge of time
whatever, and completely forgot the long interval of my fever.

On reaching Innspruck, I was sent on to an old château some ten miles
away, called the Ambras Schloss, and being consigned to the charge of a
retired artillery officer there, they seemed to have totally forgotten
all about me. I lived with my old jailer just as if I were his friend:
we worked together in the garden, pruned, and raked, and hoed, and
weeded; we smoked and fished, and mended our nets on wet days, and read,
living exactly as might any two people in a remote out-of-the-world
spot.

There is a sort of armory at the Ambras, chiefly of old Tyrolese weapons
of an early period,--maces and halberds, and double-handed swords,
and such-like,--and one of our pastimes was arranging and settling and
cataloguing them, for which, in the ancient records of the Schloss,
there was ample material. This was an occupation that amused me vastly,
and I took to it with great zeal, and with such success that old Hirsch,
the jailer, at last consigned the whole to my charge, along with the
task of exhibiting the collection to strangers,--a source from which the
honest veteran derived the better part of his means of life.

At first, I scarcely liked my function as showman, but, like all my
other experiences in life, habit sufficed to reconcile me, and I took to
the occupation as though I had been born to it If now and then some rude
or vulgar traveller would ruffle my temper by some illiterate remark
or stupid question, I was well repaid by intercourse with a different
stamp. They were to me such peeps at the world as a monk might have from
the windows of his cloister, tempting, perhaps, but always blended with
the sense of the security that encompassed him, and defended him from
the cares of existence.

Perhaps the consciousness that I could assert my innocence and procure
my freedom at any moment, for the first few months reconciled me to this
strange life; but certainly, after a while, I ceased to care for any
other existence, and never troubled my head either about past or future.
I had, in fact, arrived at the great monastic elevation, in which a man,
ceasing to be human, reaches the dignity of a vegetable.

I had begun, as I have said, by an act of heroism, in accepting all
the penalties of another, and, long after I ceased to revert to this
sacrifice, the impulse it had once given still continued to move me. If
Hirsch never alluded to my imputed crime to me, I was equally reserved
towards him.



CHAPTER XLIV. A VISIT FROM THE HON. GREY BULLER

From time to time, a couple of grave, judicial-looking men would arrive
and pass the forenoon at the Ambras Schloss, in reading out certain
documents to me. I never paid much attention to them, but my ear at
moments would catch the strangest possible allegations as to my exalted
political opinions, the dangerous associates I was bound up with, and
the secret societies I belonged to. I heard once, too, and by mere
accident, how at Steuben I had asked the jailer to procure me a horse,
and thrown gold in handfuls from the windows of my prison, to bribe the
townsfolk to my rescue, and I laughed to myself to think what a deal of
pleading and proof it would take to rebut all these allegations, and how
little likely it was I would ever engage in such a conflict.

By long dwelling on the thought of my noble devotion, and how it would
read when I was dead and gone, I had extinguished within my heart all
desire for other distinction, speculating only on what strange and
ingenious theories men would spin for the secret clew to my motives.
“True,” they would say, “Potts never cared for Harpar. He was not a man
to whom Potts would have attached himself under any circumstances;
they were, as individuals, totally unlike and unsympathetic. How, then,
explain this extraordinary act of self-sacrifice? Was he prompted by
the hope that the iniquities of the Austrian police system would receive
their death-blow from his story, and that the mound that covered him in
the churchyard would be the altar of Liberty to thousands? Or was Potts
one of those enthusiastic creatures only too eager to carry the load of
some other pilgrim in life?”

While I used thus to reason and speculate, I little knew that I had
become a sort of European notoriety. Some Englishwoman, however, some
vagrant tourist, had put me in her book as the half-witted creature who
showed the coins and curiosities at Ambras, and mentioned how, for I
know not how many years, I was never heard to utter a syllable except
on questions of old armor and antiquities. In consequence I was always
asked for by my travelling countrymen, and my peculiarities treated with
all that playful good taste for which tourists are famous. I remember
one day having refused to perform the showman to a British family. I had
a headache, or was sulky, or a fit of rebellion had got hold of me,
but I sauntered out into the grounds and would not see them. In my walk
through a close alley of laurels, I chanced to overhear the stranger
conversing with Hirsch, and making myself the subject of his inquiries;
and, as I listened, I heard Hirsch say that one entire room of the
château was devoted to the papers and documents in my case, and that
probably it would occupy a quick reader about twelve months to peruse
them. He added, that as I made no application for a trial myself, nor
any of my friends showed an inclination to bestir themselves about me,
the Government would very probably leave me to live and die where I was.
Thereupon the Briton broke out into a worthy fit of indignant eloquence.
He denounced the Hapsburgs and praised the Habeas Corpus; he raved of
the power of England, our press, our public opinion, our new frigates.
He said he would make Europe ring with the case. It was as bad, it
was worse than Caspar Hauser’s, for he was an idiot outright, and _I_
appeared to have the enjoyment of certain faculties. He said it should
appear in the “Times,” and be mentioned in the House; and as I listened,
the strangest glow ran through me, a mild and pleasurable enthusiasm, to
think that all the might, majesty, and power of Great Britain was about
to interest itself in behalf of Potts!

The Briton kept his word; the time, too, favored him. It was a moment
when wandering Englishmen were exhuming grievances throughout every
land of Europe; and while one had discovered some case of religious
intolerance in Norway, another beat him out of the field with the
coldblooded atrocities of Naples. My Englishman chanced to be an M.P.,
and therefore he asked, “in his place,” if the Foreign Secretary had
any information to afford the House with respect to the case of the man
called Harper, or Harpar, he was not certain which, and who had
been confined for upwards of ten months in a dungeon in Austria, on
allegations of which the accused knew nothing whatever, and attested by
witnesses with whom he had never been confronted.

In the absence of his chief, the Under-Secretary rose to assure
the right honorable gentleman that the case was one which had for a
considerable time engaged the attention of the department he belonged
to, and that the most unremitting exertions of her Majesty’s envoy at
Vienna were now being devoted to obtain the fullest information as to
the charges imputed to Harpar, and he hoped in a few days to be able to
lay the result of his inquiry on the table of the House.

It was in about a week after this that Hirsch came to tell me that a
member of her Majesty’s legation at Vienna had arrived to investigate
my case, and interrogate me in person. I am half ashamed to say how vain
gloriously I thought of the importance thus lent me. I felt, somehow, as
though the nation missed me. Waiting patiently, as it might be, for
my return, and yet no tidings coming, they said, “What has become of
Potts?” It was clearly a case upon which they would not admit of any
mystification or deceit. “No secret tribunals, no hole-and-corner
commitments with us! Where is he? Produce him. Say, with what is he
charged?” I was going to be the man of the day. I knew it, I felt it;
I saw a great tableau of my life unrolling itself before me. Potts, the
young enthusiast after virtue,--hopeful, affectionate, confiding, giving
his young heart to that fair-haired girl as freely as he would have
bestowed a moss-rose; and she, making light of the gift, and with a
woman’s coquetry, torturing him by a jealous levity till he resented the
wrong, and tore himself away. And then, Catinka,--how I tried the gold
of my nature in that crucible, and would not fall in love with her
before I had made her worthy of my love; and when I had failed in that,
how I had turned from love to friendship, and offered myself the victim
for a man I never cared about. No matter; the world will know me
at last. Men will recognize the grand stuff that I am made of. If
commentators spend years in exploring the recondite passages of great
writers, and making out beauties where there were only obscurities, why
should not all the dark parts of my nature come out as favorably,
and some flattering interpreter say, “Potts was for a long
time misconceived; few men were more wrongfully judged by their
contemporaries. It was to a mere accident, after all, we owe it that we
are now enabled to render him the justice so long denied him. His was
one of those remarkable natures in which it is difficult to say whether
humility or self-confidence predominated”?

Then I thought of the national excitement to discover the missing Potts;
just as if I had been a lost Arctic voyager. Expeditions sent out to
track me; all the thousand speculations as to whether I had gone this
way or that; where and from whom the latest tidings of me could be
traced; the heroic offers of new discoverers to seek me living, or,
sad alternative, restore to the country that mourned me the _reliquiæ
Pottsi_, I always grew tender in my moods of self-compassion, and I felt
my eyes swimming now in pity for my fate; and let me add in this place
my protest against the vulgar error which stigmatizes as selfishness
the mere fact of a man’s susceptibility. How, I would simply ask, can
he feel for others who has no sense of sympathy with his own suffering
nature? If the well of human kindness be dried up within him, how can he
give to the parched throats the refreshing waters of compassion?

Deal with the fact how you may, I was very sorry for myself, and
seriously doubted if as sincere a mourner would bewail me when I was
gone.

If a little time had been given me, I would have endeavored to get up
my snug little chamber somewhat more like a prison cell; I would have
substituted some straw for my comfortable bed, and gracefully draped a
few chains upon the walls and some stray torture implements out of the
Armory; but the envoy came like a “thief in the night,” and was already
on the stairs when he was announced.

“Oh! this is his den, is it?” cried he from without, as he slowly
ascended the stairs. “Egad! he hasn’t much to complain of in the matter
of a lodging. I only wish our fellows were as well off at Vienna.” And
with these words there entered into my room a tall young fellow, with a
light brown moustache, dressed in a loose travelling suit, and with the
lounging air of a man sauntering into a _café_. He did not remove
his hat as he came in, or take the cigar from his mouth; the latter
circumstance imparting a certain confusion to his speech that made him
occasionally scarce intelligible. Only deigning to bestow a passing look
on me, he moved towards the window, and looked out on the grand panorama
of the Tyrol Alps, as they enclose the valley of Innspruck.

“Well,” said he to himself, “all this ain’t so bad for a dungeon.”

The tone startled me. I looked again at him, I rallied myself to an
effort of memory, and at once recalled the young fellow I had met on
the South-Western line and from whom I had accidentally carried away the
despatch-bag. To my beard, and my long imprisonment, I trusted for not
being recognized, and I sat patiently awaiting my examination.

“An Englishman, I suppose?” asked he, turning hastily round. “And of
English parents?”

“Yes,” was my reply, for I determined on brevity wherever possible.

“What brought you into this scrape?--I mean, why did you come here at
all?”

“I was travelling.”

“Travelling? Stuff and nonsense! Why should fellows like you travel?
What’s your rank in life?”

“A gentleman.”

“Ah! but whose gentleman, my worthy friend? Ain’t you a flunkey? There,
it’s out! I say, have you got a match to light my cigar? Thanks,--all
right. Look here, now,--don’t let us be beating about the bush all the
day,--I believe this government is just as sick of you as you are of
them. You ‘ve been here two months, ain’t it so?”

“Ten months and upwards.”

“Well, ten months. And you want to get away?”

I made no answer; indeed, his free-and-easy manner so disconcerted me
that I could not speak, and he went on,--

“I suspect they have n’t got much against you, or that they don’t care
about it; and, besides, they are civil to us just now. At all events, it
can be done,--you understand?--it can be done.”

“Indeed,” said I, half superciliously.

“Yes,” resumed he, “I think so; not but you’d have managed better in
leaving the thing to _us_, That stupid notion you all have of writing
letters to newspapers and getting some troublesome fellow to ask
questions in the House, that’s what spoils everything! How can _we_
negotiate when the whole story is in the ‘Times’ or the ‘Daily News’?”

“I opine, sir, that you are ascribing to me an activity and energy I
have no claim to.”

“Well, if you did n’t write those letters, somebody else did. I don’t
care a rush for the difference. You see, here’s how the matter stands.
This Mr. Brigges, or Rigges, has gone off, and does n’t care to
prosecute, and all his allegations against you fall to the ground.
Well, these people fancy they could carry on the thing themselves, you
understand; we think not. They say they have got a strong case; perhaps
they have; but we ask, ‘What’s the use of it? Sending the poor beggar to
Spielberg won’t save you, will it?’ And so we put it to them this way:
‘Draw stakes, let him off, and both can cry quits.’ There, give me
another light Isn’t that the common-sense view of it?”

“I scarcely dare to say that I understand you aright.”

“Oh, I can guess why. I have had dealings with fellows of your sort
before. You don’t fancy my not alluding to compensation, eh? You want to
hear about the money part of the matter?”

And he laughed aloud; but whether at _my_ mercenary spirit or _his own_
shrewdness in detecting it, I do not really know.

“Well, I’m afraid,” continued he, “you’ll be disappointed there. These
Austrians are hard up; besides, they never do pay. It’s against their
system, and so we never ask them.”

“Would it be too much, sir, to ask why I have been imprisoned?”

“Perhaps not; but a great deal too much for me to tell you. The
confounded papers would fill a cart, and that’s the reason I say, cut
your stick, my man, and get away.” Again he turned to the window, and,
looking out, asked, “Any shooting about here? There ought to be cocks
in that wood yonder?” and without caring for reply, went on, “After
all, you know what bosh it is to talk about chains and dungeons, and
bread-and-water, and the rest of it. You ‘ve been living in clover here.
That old fellow below tells me that you dine with him every day; that
you might have gone into Innspruck, to the theatre if you liked it--I
‘ll swear there are snipes in that low land next the river.--Think it
over, Rigges, think it over.”

“I am not Rigges.”

“Oh, I forgot! you ‘re the other fellow. Well, think it over, Harpar.”

“My name is not Harpar, sir.”

“What do I care for a stray vowel or two? Maybe you call yourself
Harpar, or Harper? It’s all the same to _us_.”

“It is not the question of a vowel or two, sir; and I desire you to
remark it is the graver one of a mistaken identity!” I said this with a
high-sounding importance that I thought must astound him; but his light
and frivolous nature was impervious to rebuke.

“_We_ have nothing to say to that,” replied he, carelessly. “You may be
Noakes or Styles. I believe they are the names of any fellows who are
supposed by courtesy to have no name at all, and it’s all alike to _us_.
What I have to observe to you is this: nobody cares very much whether
you are detained here or not; nobody wants to detain you. Just reflect,
therefore, if it’s not the best thing you can do to slope off, and make
no more fuss about it?”

“Once for all, sir,” said I, still more impressively, “I am not the
person against whom this charge is made. The authorities have all along
mistaken me for another.”

“Well, what if they have? Does it signify one kreutzer? We have had
trouble enough about the matter already, and do not embroil us any
further.”

“May I ask, sir, just for information, who are the ‘_we_’ you have so
frequently alluded to?”

Had I asked him in what division of the globe he understood us then to
be conversing, he would not have regarded me with a look of more blank
astonishment.

“Who are we?” repeated he. “Did you ask who are we?”

“Yes, sir, that was what I made bold to ask.”

“Cool, certainly; what might be called uncommon cool. To what line of
life were you brought up to, my worthy gent? I have rather a curiosity
about your antecedents.”

“That same curiosity cost you a trifle once before,” said I, no
longer able to control myself, and dying to repay his impertinence. “I
remember, once upon a time, meeting you on a railroad, and you were so
eager to exhibit the skill with which you could read a man’s calling,
that you bet me a sovereign you would guess mine. You did so, and lost.”

“You can’t be--no, it’s impossible. Are you really the goggle-eyed
fellow that walked off with the bag for Kalbbratonstadt?”

“I did, by mistake, carry away a bag on that occasion, and so
punctiliously did I repay my error that I travelled the whole journey to
convey those despatches to their destination.”

“I know all about it,” said he, in a frank, gay manner. “Doubleton told
me the whole story. You dined with him and pretended you were I don’t
remember whom, and then you took old Mamma Keats off to Como and made
her believe you were Louis Philippe, and you made fierce love to your
pretty companion, who was fool enough to like you. By Jove! what a rig
you must have run! We have all laughed over it a score of times.”

“If I knew who ‘we’ were, I am certain I should feel flattered by
any amusement I afforded them, notwithstanding how much more they are
indebted to fiction than fact regarding me. I never assumed to be Louis
Philippe, nor affected to be any person of distinction. A flighty old
lady was foolish enough to imagine me a prince of the Orleans family--”

“You,--a prince! Oh, this is too absurd!”

“I confess, sir, I cannot see the matter in this light. I presume the
mistake to be one by no means difficult to have occurred. Mrs. Keats has
seen a deal of life and the world--”

“Not so much as you fancy,” broke he in. “She was a long time in
that private asylum up at Brompton, and then down in Staffordshire;
altogether, she must have passed five-and-twenty or thirty years in a
rather restricted circle.”

“Mad! Was she mad?”

“Not what one would call mad, but queer. They were all queer. Hargrave,
the second brother, was the fellow that made that shindy in the
Mauritius, and our friend Shalley isn’t a conjuror. And _we_ thought you
were larking the old lady, I assure you we did.”

“‘We’ were once more mistaken, then,” said I, sneer-ingly.

“We all said, too, at the time, that Doubleton had been ‘let in.’ He
gave you a good round sum for expenses on the road, did n’t he, and you
sent it all back to him.”

“Every shilling of it”

“So he told us, and that was what puzzled us more than all the rest. Why
did you give up the money?”

“Simply, sir, because it was not mine.”

“Yes, yes, to be sure, I know that; but I mean, what suggested the
restitution?”

“Really, sir, your question leads me to suppose that the ‘we’ so often
referred to are not eminently remarkable for integrity.”

“Like their neighbors, I take it,--neither better nor worse. But won’t
you tell why you gave up the tin?”

“I should be hopeless of any attempt to explain my motives, sir; so pray
excuse me.”

“You were right, at all events,” said he, not heeding the sarcasm of
my manner. “There ‘s no chance for the knaves, now, with the telegraph
system. As it was, there were orders flying through Europe to arrest
Pottinger,--I--can’t forget the name. We used to have it every day in
the Chancellerie: Pottinger, five feet nine, weak-looking and vulgar,
low forehead, light hair and eyes, slight lisp, talks German fluently,
but ill. I have copied that portrait of you twenty, ay, thirty times.”

“And yet, sir, neither the name nor the description apply. I am no more
Pottinger than I am ignoble-looking and vulgar.”

“What’s the name, then?--not Harpar, nor Pottinger? But who cares a rush
for the name of fellows like you? You change them just as you do the
color of your coat.”

“May I take the liberty of asking, sir, just for information, as you
said awhile ago, how you would take it were I to make as free with you
as you have been pleased to do with _me?_ To give a mock inventory of
your external characteristics, and a false name to yourself?”

“Laugh, probably, if I were amused; throw you out of the window if you
offended me.”

“The very thing I ‘d do with you this moment, if I was strong enough,”
 said I, resolutely. And he flung himself into a chair, and laughed as I
did not believe he could laugh.

“Well,” cried he, at last, “as this room is about fifty feet or so from
the ground, it’s as well as it is. But now let us wind up this affair.
You want to get away from this, I suppose; and as nobody wants to
detain you, the thing is easy enough. You need n’t make a fuss about
compensation, for they ‘ll not give a kreutzer, and you ‘d better not
write a book about it, because ‘we’ don’t stand fellows who write books;
so just take a friend’s advice, and go off without military honors of
any kind.”

“I neither acknowledge the friendship nor accept the advice, sir. The
motives which induced me to suffer imprisonment for another are quite
sufficient to raise me above any desire to make a profit of it.”

“I think I understand you,” said he, with a cunning expression in his
half-closed eyes. “You go in for being a ‘character.’ Haven’t I hit it?
You want to be thought a strange, eccentric sort of fellow. Now there
was a time the world had a taste for that kind of thing. Romeo Coates,
and Brummel, and that Irish fellow that walked to Jerusalem, and
half-a-dozen others, used to amuse the town in those days, but it’s all
as much bygone now as starched neckcloths and Hessian boots. Ours is an
age of paletots and easy manners, and you are trying to revive what our
grandfathers discarded and got rid of. It won’t do, Pottinger; it will
not.”

“I am not Pottinger; my name is Algernon Sydney Potts.”

“Ah! there’s the mischief all out at last. What could come of such a
collocation of names but a life of incongruity and absurdity! You owe
all your griefs to your godfathers, Potts. If they ‘d have called you
Peter, you ‘d have been a well-conducted poor creature. Well, I’m to
give you a passport. Where do you wish to go?”

“I wish, first of all, to go to Como.”

“I think I know why. But you’re on a wrong cast there. They have left
that long since.”

“Indeed, and for what place?”

“They ‘ve gone to pass the winter at Malta. Mamma Keats required a dry,
warm climate, and you ‘ll find them at a little country-house about a
mile from Valetta; the Jasmines, I think it’s called. I have a brother
quartered in the island, and he tells me he has seen them, but they
won’t receive visits, nor go out anywhere. But, of course, a Royal
Highness is always sure of a welcome. Prince Potts is an ‘Open, sesame!’
wherever he goes.”

“What atrocious tobacco this is of yours, Buller!” said I, taking a
cigar from his case as it lay on the table. “I suppose that you small
fry of diplomacy cannot get things in duty free, eh?”

“Try this cheroot; you ‘ll find it better,” said he, opening a secret
pocket in the case.

“Nothing to boast of,” said I, puffing away, while he continued to fill
up the blanks in my passport.

“Would you like an introduction to my brother? He’s on the Government
staff there, and knows every one. He’s a jolly sort of fellow, besides,
and you ‘ll get on well together.”

“I don’t care if I do,” said I, carelessly; “though, as a rule, your
red-coat is very bad style,--flippant without smartness, and familiar
without ease.”

“Severe, Potts, but not altogether unjust; but you ‘ll find George above
the average of his class, and I think you ‘ll like him.”

“Don’t let him ask me to his mess,” said I, with an insolent drawl.
“That’s an amount of boredom I could not submit to. Caution him to make
no blunder of that kind.”

He looked up at me with a strange twinkle in his eyes, which I could not
interpret He was either in intense enjoyment of my smartness, or Heaven
knows what other sentiment then moved him. At all events, I was in
ecstasy at the success of my newly discovered vein, and walked the room,
humming a tune, as he wrote the letter that was to present me to his
brother.

“Why had I never hit upon this plan before?” thought I. “How was it that
it had not occurred that the maxim of homoeopathy is equally true in
morals as in medicine, and that _similia similibus curantur!_ So long
as I was meek, humble, and submissive, Buller’s impertinent presumption
only increased at every moment With every fresh concession of mine he
continued to encroach, and now that I had adopted his own strategy,
and attacked, he fell back at once.” I was proud, very proud of my
discovery. It is a new contribution to that knowledge of life which,
notwithstanding all my disasters, I believed to be essentially my gift.

At last he finished his note, folded, sealed, and directed it,--“The
Hon. George Buller, A.D.C., Government House, Malta, favored by Algernon
Sydney Potts, Esq.”

“Is n’t that all right?” asked he, pointing to my name. “I was within
an ace of writing Hampden-Russell too.” And he laughed at his own very
meagre jest.

“I hope you have merely made this an introduction?” said I.

“Nothing more; but why so?”

“Because it’s just as likely that I never present it! I am the slave of
the humor I find myself in, and I rarely do anything that costs me
the slightest effort.” I said this with a close and, indeed, a servile
imitation of Charles Matthews in “Used Up;” but it was a grand success,
and Buller was palpably vanquished.

“Well, for George’s sake, I hope your mood may be the favorable one. Is
there anything more I can do for you? Can you think of nothing wherein I
may be serviceable?”

“Nothing. Stay, I rather think our people at home might with propriety
show my old friend Hirsch here some mark of attention for his conduct
towards me. I don’t know whether they give a C.B. for that sort of
thing, but a sum,--a handsome sum,--something to mark the service,
and the man to whom it was rendered. Don’t you think ‘we’ could manage
that?”

“I ‘ll see what can be done. I don’t despair of success.”

“As for your share in the affair, Buller, I ‘ll take care that it shall
be mentioned in the proper quarter. If I _have_ a characteristic,--my
friends say I have many,--but if I have one, it is that I never forget
the most trifling service of the humblest of those who have aided me.
You are young, and have your way to make in life. Go back, therefore,
and carry with you the reflection that Potts is your friend.”

I saw he was affected at this, for he covered his face with his
handkerchief and turned away, and for some seconds his shoulders moved
convulsively.

“Yes,” said I, with a struggle to become humble, “there are richer men,
there are men more influential by family ties and connections, there are
men who occupy a more conspicuous position before the public eye, there
are men who exercise a wider sway in the world of politics and party;
but this I will say, that there is not one--no, not one--individual
in the British dominions who, when you come to consider either the
difficulties he has overcome, the strength of the prejudices he has
conquered, the totally unassisted and unaided struggle he has had to
maintain against not alone the errors, for errors are human, but still
worse, the ungenerous misconceptions, the--I will go further, and call
them the wilful misrepresentations of those who, from education and rank
and condition, might be naturally supposed--indeed, confidently affirmed
to be--to be--”

“I am certain of it!” cried he, grasping my hand, and rescuing me from
a situation very like smothering,--“I am certain of it!” And with a
hurried salutation, for his feelings were evidently overcoming him, he
burst away, and descended the stairs five steps at a time; and although
I was sorry he had not waited till I finished my peroration, I was
really glad that the act had ended and the curtain fallen.

“What a deal of bad money passes current in this world,” said I, as I
was alone; “and what a damper it is upon honest industry to think how
easy it is to eke out life with a forgery!”

“What do you say to a dinner with me at the ‘Swan’ in Innspruck, Potts?”
 cried out Boiler, from the courtyard.

“Excuse me, I mean to eat my last cutlet here, with my old Jailer. It
will be an event for the poor fellow as long as he lives. Good-bye, and
a safe journey to you.”



CHAPTER XLV. MY CANDID AVOWAL TO KATE HERBERT

I was now bound for the first port in the Mediterranean from which I
could take ship for Malta; and the better to carry out my purpose, I
resolved never to make acquaintance with any one, or be seduced by any
companionship, till I had seen Miss Herbert, and given her the message
I was charged with. This time, at least, I would be a faithful envoy;
at least, as faithful as a man might be who had gone to sleep over his
credentials for a twelvemonth. And so I reached Malta, and took my place
by diligence over the Stelvio down to Lecco, never trusting myself
with even the very briefest intercourse with my fellow-travellers, and
suffering them to indulge in the humblest estimate of me, morally and
intellectually,--all that I might be true to my object and firm to my
fixed purpose. For the first time in my life I tried to present myself
in an unfavorable aspect, and I was astonished to find the experiment by
no means unpleasing, the reason being, probably, that it was an eminent
success. I began to see how the surly people are such acute philosophers
in life, and what a deal of selfish gratification they must derive from
their uncurbed ill-humor. I reached Genoa in time to catch a steamer
for Malta. It was crowded, and with what, in another mood, I might have
called pleasant people; but I held myself estranged and aloof from all.
I could mark many an impertinent allusion to my cold and distant manner,
and could see that a young sub on his way to Join was even witty at the
expense of my retiring disposition. The creature, Groves he was called,
used to try to “trot me out,” as he phrased it; but I maintained both my
resolve and my temper, and gave him no triumph.

I was almost sorry on the morning we dropped anchor in the harbor. The
sense of doing something, anything, with a firm persistence, had given
me cheerfulness and courage. However, I had now a task of some nicety
before me, and addressed myself at once to its discharge. At the hotel I
learned that the cottage inhabited by Mrs. Keats was in a small nook
of one of the bays, and only an easy walk from the town; and so I
despatched a messenger at once with Miss Crofton’s note to Miss Herbert,
enclosed in a short one from myself, to know if she would permit me to
wait upon her, with reference to the matter in the letter. I spoke of
myself in the third person and as the bearer of the letter.

While I was turning over the letters and papers in my writing-desk,
awaiting her reply, I came upon Buller’s note to his brother, and,
without any precise idea why, I sent it by a servant to the Government
House, with my card. It was completely without a purpose that I did
so, and if my reader has not experienced moments of the like
“inconsequence,” I should totally break down in attempting to account
for their meaning.

Miss Herbert’s reply came back promptly. She requested that the writer
of the note she had just read would favor her with a visit at his
earliest convenience.

I set forth immediately. What a strange and thrilling sensation it is
when we take up some long-dropped link in life, go back to some broken
thread of our existence, and try to attach it to the present! We feel
young again in the bygone, and yet far older even than our real age in
the thought of the changes time has wrought upon us in the meanwhile. A
week or so before I had looked with impatience for this meeting, and now
I grew very faint-hearted as the moment drew nigh. The only way I could
summon courage for the occasion was by thinking that in the mission
intrusted to me _I_ was actually nothing. There were incidents and
events not one of which touched me, and I should pass away off the scene
when our interview was over, and be no more remembered by her.

It was evident that the communication had engaged her attention to some
extent by the promptitude of her message to me; and with this thought I
crossed the little lawn, and rang the bell at the door.

“The gentleman expected by Miss Herbert, sir?” asked a smart English
maid. “Come this way, sir. She will see you in a few minutes.”

I had fully ten minutes to inspect the details of a pretty little
drawing-room, one of those little female temples where scattered
drawings and books and music, and, above all, the delicious odor of
fresh flowers, all harmonize together, and set you a-thinking how easily
life could glide by with such appliances were they only set in motion
by the touch of the enchantress herself. The door opened at last, but it
was the maid; she came to say that Mrs. Keats was very poorly that day,
and Miss Herbert could not leave her at that moment; and if it were not
perfectly convenient to the gentleman to wait, she begged to know when
it would suit him to call again?

“As for me,” said I, “I have come to Malta solely on this matter; pray
say that I will wait as long as she wishes. I am completely at her
orders.”

I strolled out after this through one of the windows that opened on
the lawn, and, gaining the seaside, I sat down upon a rock to bide her
coming. I might have sat about half an hour thus, when I heard a rapid
step approaching, and I had just time to arise when Miss Herbert stood
before me. She started back, and grew pale, very pale, as she recognized
me, and for fully a minute there we both stood, unable to speak a word.

“Am I to understand, sir,” said she, at last, “that you are the bearer
of this letter?” And she held it open towards me.

“Yes,” said I, with a great effort at collectedness. “I have much to ask
your forgiveness for. It is fully a year since I was charged to place
that in your hands, but one mischance after another has befallen me; not
to own that in my own purposeless mode of life I have had no enemy worse
than my fate.”

“I have heard something of your fondness for adventure,” said she, with
a strange smile that blended a sort of pity with a gentle irony. “After
we parted company at Schaffhausen, I believe you travelled for some time
on foot? We heard, at least, that you took a fancy to explore a mode
of life few persons have penetrated, or, at least, few of your rank and
condition.”

“May I ask, what do you believe that rank and condition to be, Miss
Herbert?” asked I, firmly.

She blushed deeply at this; perhaps I was too abrupt in the way I spoke,
and I hastened to add,--

“When I offered to be the bearer of the letter you have just read, I was
moved by another wish than merely to render you some service. I wanted
to tell you, once for all, that if I lived for a while in a fiction
land of my own invention, with day-dreams and fancies, and hopes and
ambitions all unreal, I have come to pay the due penalty of my deceit,
and confess that nothing can be more humble than I am in birth, station,
or fortune,--my father an apothecary, my name Potts, my means a very few
pounds in the world; and yet, with all that avowal, I feel prouder now
that I have made it, than ever I did in the false assumption of some
condition I had no claim to.”

She held out her hand to me with such a significant air of approval, and
smiled so good-naturedly, that I could not help pressing it to my lips,
and kissing it rapturously.

Taking a seat at my side, and with a voice meant to recall me to a quiet
and business-like demeanor, she asked me to read over Miss Crofton’s
letter. I told her that I knew every line of it by heart, and, more
still, I knew the whole story to which it related. It was a topic that
required the nicest delicacy to touch on, but with a frankness that
charmed me, she said,--

“You have had the candor to tell me freely your story; let me imitate
you, and reveal mine.

“You know who we are, and whence we have sprung; that my father was
a simple laborer on a line of railroad, and by dint of zeal and
intelligence, and an energy that would not be balked or impeded, that
he raised himself to station and affluence. You have heard of his
connection with Sir Elkanah Crofton, and how unfortunately it was broken
off; but you cannot know the rest,--that is, you cannot know what we
alone know, and what is not so much as suspected by others; and of this
I can scarcely dare to speak, since it is essentially the secret of my
family.”

I guessed at once to what she alluded; her troubled manner, her swimming
eyes, and her quivering voice, all betraying that she referred to the
mystery of her father’s fate; while I doubted within myself whether
it were right and fitting for me to acknowledge that I knew the
secret soucre of her anxiety, she relieved me from my embarrassment by
continuing thus,--

“Your kind and generous friends have not suffered themselves to be
discouraged by defeat. They have again and again renewed their proposals
to my mother, only varying the mode, in the hope that by some stratagem
they might overcome her reasons for refusal. Now, though this rejection,
so persistent as it is, may seem ungracious, it is not without a fitting
and substantial cause.”

Again she faltered, and grew confused, and now I saw how she struggled
between a natural reserve and an impulse to confide the soitow that
oppressed her to one who might befriend her.

“You may speak freely to me,” said I, at last. “I am not ignorant of
the mystery you hint at. Crofton has told me what many surmise and some
freely believe in.”

“But we know it,--know it for a certainty,” cried she, clasping my hand
in her eagerness. “It is no longer a surmise or a suspicion. It is
a certainty,--a fact! Two letters in his handwriting have reached my
mother,--one from St. Louis, in America, where he had gone first; the
second from an Alpine village, where he was laid up in sickness. He had
had a terrible encounter with a man who had done him some gross wrong,
and he was wounded in the shoulder; after which he had to cross the
Rhine, wading or swimming, and travel many miles ere he could find
shelter. When he wrote, however, he was rapidly recovering, and as
quickly regaining all his old courage and daring.”

“And from that time forward have you had no tidings of him?”

“Nothing but a check on a Russian banker in London to pay to my mother’s
order a sum of money,--a considerable one, too; and although she hoped
to gain some clew to him through this, she could not succeed, nor have
we now any trace of him whatever. I ought to mention,” said she, as
if catching up a forgotten thread in her narrative, “that in his
last letter he enjoined my mother not to receive any payment from the
assurance company, nor enter into any compromise with them; and, above
all, to live in the hope that we should meet again and be happy.”

“And are you still ignorant of where he now is?”

“We only know that a cousin of mine, an officer of engineers at Aden,
heard of an Englishman being engaged by the Shah of Persia to report
on certain silver mines at Kashan, and from all he could learn, the
description would apply to him. My cousin had obtained leave of absence
expressly to trace him, and promised in his last letter to bring me
himself any tidings he might procure here to Malta. Indeed, when I
learned that a stranger had asked to see me, I was full sure it was my
cousin Harry.”

Was it that her eyes grew darker in color as this name escaped, her was
it that a certain tremor shook her voice, or was it the anxiety of my
own jealous humor that made me wretched as I heard of that cousin Harry,
now mentioned for the first time?

“What reparation can I make you for so blank a disappointment?” said I,
with a sad, half-bitter tone.

“Be the same kind friend that he would have proved himself if it had
been his fortune to have come first,” said she; and though she spoke
calmly, she blushed deeply! “Here,” said she, hurriedly, taking a small
printed paragraph from a letter, and eagerly, as it seemed, trying
to recover her former manner,--“here is a slip I have cut out of the
‘Levant Herald.’ I found it about two months since. It ran thus: ‘The
person who had contracted for the works at Pera, and who now turns
out to be an Englishman, is reported to have had a violent altercation
yesterday with Musted Pasha, in consequence of which he has thrown up
his contract, and demanded his passport for Russia. It is rumored here
that the Russian ambassador is no stranger to this rupture.’ Vague as
this is, I feel persuaded that he is the person alluded to, and that it
is from Constantinople we must trace him.”

“Well,” cried I, “I am ready. I will set out at once.”

“Oh! can I believe you will do us this great service?” cried she, with
swimming eyes and clasped hands.

“This time you will find me faithful,” said I, gravely. “He who has said
and done so many foolish things as I have, must, by one good action,
give bail for his future character.”

“You are a true friend, and you have all my confidence.”

“Mrs. Keats’s compliments, miss,” said the maid at this moment, “and
hopes the gentleman will stay to dinner with you, though she cannot come
down herself.”

“She imagines you are my cousin, whom she is aware I have been
expecting,” said Miss Herbert, in a whisper, and evidently appearing
uncertain how to act.

“Oh!” said I, with an anguish I could not repress, “would that I could
change my lot with his!”

“Very well, Mary,” said Miss Herbert; “thank your mistress from me, and
say the gentleman accepts her invitation with pleasure. Is it too much
presumption on my part, sir, to say so?” said she, with a low whisper,
while a half-malicious twinkle lit up her eyes, and I could not speak
with happiness.

Determined, however, to give an earnest of my zeal in her cause, I
declared I would at once return to the town, and learn when the first
packet sailed for Constantinople. The dinner hour was seven, so that
I had fully five hours yet to make my inquiries ere we met at table. I
wondered at myself how business-like and practical I had become; but a
strong impulse now impelled me, and seemed to add a sort of strength to
my whole nature.

“As Cousin Harry is the mirror of punctuality, and you now represent
him, Mr. Potts,” said she, shaking my hand, “pray remember not to be
later than seven.”



CHAPTER XLVI. CAPTAIN ROGERS STANDS MY FRIEND

“Constantinople, Odessa, and the Levant.--The ‘Cyclops,’ five hundred
horse-power, to sail on Wednesday morning, at eight o’clock. For freight
or passage apply to Captain Robert B. Rogers.”

This announcement, which I found amidst a great many others in a frame
over the fireplace in the coffee-room, struck me forcibly, first of all,
because, not belonging to the regular mail-packets, it suggested a cheap
passage; and, secondly, it promised an early departure, and the vessel
was to sail on the very next morning, an amount of promptitude that I
felt would gratify Miss Herbert.

Now, although I had been living for a considerable time back at the cost
of the Imperial House of Hapsburg, my resources for such an expedition
as was opening before me were of the most slender kind. I made a careful
examination of all my worldly wealth, and it amounted to the sum of
forty-three pounds some odd shillings. On _terra firma_ I could, of
course, economize to any extent. With self-denial and resolution I could
live on very little. Life in the East, I had often heard, was singularly
cheap and inexpensive. All I had read of Oriental habits in the “Arabian
Nights” and “Tales of the Genii,” assured me that with a few dates and
a watermelon a man dined fully as well as need be; and the delicious
warmth of the climate rendered shelter a complete superfluity. Before
forming anything like a correct budget, I must ascertain what would be
the cost of my passage to Constantinople, and so I rang for the waiter
to direct me to the address of the advertiser.

“That’s the captain yonder, sir,” whispered the waiter; and he pointed
to a stout, weather-beaten man, who, with his hands in the pockets of
his pilot-coat, was standing in front of the fire, smoking a cigar.

Although I had never seen him before, the features reminded me of some
one I had met with, and suddenly I bethought me of the skipper with whom
I had sailed from Ireland for Milford, and who had given me a letter for
his brother “Bob,”--the very Robert Rogers now before me.

“Do you know this handwriting, Captain?” said I, draw-, ing the letter
from my pocket-book.

“That’s my brother Joe’s,” said he, not offering to take the letter from
my hand, or removing the cigar from his mouth, but talking with all the
unconcern in life. “That’s Joe’s own scrawl, and there ain’t a worse
from this to himself.”

“The letter is for you,” said I, rather offended at his coolness.

“So I see. Stick it up there, over the chimney; Joe has never anything
to say that won’t keep.”

“It is a letter of introduction, sir,” said I, still more haughtily.

“And what if it be? Won’t that keep? Who is it to introduce?”

“The humble individual before you, Captain Rogers.”

“So, that’s it!” said he, slowly. “Well, read it out for me; for, to
tell you the truth, there’s no harder navigation to me than one of Joe’s
scrawls.”

“I believe I can master it,” said I, opening and reading what originally
had been composed and drawn up by myself. When I came to “Algernon
Sydney Potts, a man so completely after your own heart,” he drew his
cigar from his mouth, and, laying his hand on my shoulder, turned me
slowly around till the light fell full upon me.

“No, Joseph,” said he, deliberately, “not a bit of it, my boy. This
ain’t my sort of chap at all!”

I almost choked with anger, but somehow there was such an apparent
earnestness in the man, and such a total absence of all wish to offend,
that I read on to the end.

“Well,” said he, as I concluded, “he used n’t to be so wordy as that. I
wonder what came over him. Mayhap he was n’t well.”

What a comment on a style that might have adorned the Correct Letter
Writer!

“He was, on the contrary, in the enjoyment of perfect health, sir,” said
I, tartly.

“All I can pick out of it is, I ain’t to offer you any money; and as
there is n’t any direction easier to follow, nor pleasanter to obey,
here’s my hand!” And he wrung mine with a grip that would have flattened
a chain cable.

“What’s your line, here? You ain’t sodgering, are you?”

“No; I ‘m travelling, for pleasure, for information, for pastime, as one
might say.”

“In the general do-nothing and careless line of business? That ain’t
mine. No, by jingo! I don’t eat my fish without matching, ay, and
salting them too, I ain’t ashamed to say. I ‘m captain, supercargo, and
pilot of my own craft; take every lunar that is taken aboard. I ‘ve writ
every line that ever is writ in the log-book, and I vaccinated every
man and boy aboard for the natural small-pox with these fingers and
this tool that you see here!” And he produced an old and very rusty
instrument of veterinary surgery from his vest-pocket, where it lay with
copper money, tobacco quids, and lucifer matches.

I quickly remembered the character for inordinate boast-fulness his
brother had given me, and of which he thus, without any provocation on
my part, afforded me a slight specimen. Now, perhaps, at this stage of
my narrative, I might never have alluded to him at all, if it were
not for the opportunity it gives me of recording how nobly and how
resolutely I resisted what may be called the most trying temptation of
human nature. An inveterate dram-drinker has been known to turn away
from the proffered glass; an incurable gambler has been seen to decline
the invitation to “cut in;” dignitaries of the church have begged
off being made bishops; but is there any mention in history of an
anecdote-monger suffering himself to be patiently vanquished, and
retiring from the field without firing off at least an “incident that
occurred to himself”? If ever a man was sorely tried, _I_ was. Here was
this coarsely minded vulgar dog, with nothing pictorial or imaginative
in his nature, heaping story upon story of his own feats and
achievements, in which not one solitary situation ever suggested an
interest or awakened an anxiety; and I, who could have shot my tigers,
crippled my leopards, hamstrung my lionesses, rescued men from drowning,
and women from fire,--with little life touches to thrill the heart and
force tears from the eyes of a stock-broker,--I, I say, had to stand
there and listen in silence! Watching a creature banging away at a
target that he never hit, with an old flint musket, while you held in
your hand a short Enfield that would have driven the ball through the
bull’s eye, is nothing to this; and to tell the truth, it nearly choked
me. Twice I had to cough down the words, “Now let me mention a personal
fact.” But I did succeed, and I am proud to say I only grew very red in
the face, and felt that singing noise in the ears and general state of
muddle that forebodes a fit. But I rallied, and said in a voice, slow
from the dignity of a self-conquest,--

“Can you take me as a passenger to Constantinople?”

“To Constantinople? Ay, to the Persian Gulf, to Point de Galle, to
Cochin China, to Ross River; don’t think to puzzle me with navigation,
my lad.”

“Are there many other passengers?”

“I could have five hundred, if I ‘d take ‘em! Put Bob Rogers on a
placard, and see what’ll happen. If I said, ‘I ‘m a-going to sea on a
plank to-morrow,’ there’s men would rather come along with me than go in
the ‘Queen’ or the ‘Hannibal.’ I don’t say they ‘re right, mind ye; but
I won’t say they’s wrong, neither.”

“Oh, why did n’t I meet this wretch when I was a child? Why didn’t my
father find a Helot like this, to tell lies before me, and frighten me
with their horrid ugliness?” This was the thought that flashed through
me as I listened. I felt, besides, that such stupid, purposeless
inventions corrupted and blunted the taste for graceful narrative, just
in the same way that an undeserving recipient of charity offends the
pleasure of real benevolence.

“May I ask, Captain Rogers, what is the fare?” said I, with a bland
courtesy.

“That depends upon the man, sir. If you was Ramsam Can-tanker-abad, I’d
say five hundred gold pagodas. If you was a Cockney stripling, with a
fresh-water face, and a spunyarn whisker, I ‘d call it a matter of seven
or eight pound.”

“And you sail at eight?”

“To the minute. When Bob Rogers says eight o’clock, the first turn of
the paddles will be the first stroke of the hour.”

“Then book me, pray, for a berth; and, for surety’s sake, I’ll go aboard
to-night!”

“Meet me, then, here, at ten o’clock, and I ‘ll take you off in my gig,
an honor to be proud on, my lad; but as Joe’s friend, I’ll do it.”

I bowed my acknowledgments and went off, neither delighted with my new
acquaintance, nor myself for the patience I had shown him. After all,
I had secured an early passage, and was thus able to show Kate Herbert
that I was not going to let the grass grow under my feet this time, and
that she might reckon on my zeal to serve her in future. As I retraced
my road to the cottage, I forgot all about Captain Rogers, and only
thought of Kate, and the interests that were hers. It was next to
a certainty that her father was yet alive; but how to find him in a
strange land, with a feigned name, and most probably with every aid
and appliance to complete his disguisement! It was, doubtless, a noble
enterprise to devote oneself for such as she was, but not very hopeful
withal; and then I went over various plans for my future guidance: what
I should do if I fell sick? what if my money failed me? what if I
were waylaid by Arabs, or carried away to some fearful region in
the mountains, and made to feed a pet alligator or a domestic
boa-constrictor? I hoped sincerely that I was overestimating my possible
perils, but it was wise to give a large margin to the unknown; and so I
did not curb-myself in the least.

As I entered the grounds, the night was falling, and I could see that
the lamps were already lighted in the drawing-room. What surprised
me, however, was to see a very smart groom, well mounted, and leading
another horse up and down before the door. There was, evidently, a
visitor within, and I felt indisposed to enter till he had gone away. My
curiosity, however, prompted me to ask the groom the name of his master,
and he replied, “The Honorable Captain Buller.”

The very essence of all jealousy is that it is unreasoning. It is well
known that husbands--that much-believing and much-belied class--always
suspect every one but the right man; and now, without the faintest clew
to a suspicion, I grew actually sick with jealousy!

Nor was it altogether blamable in me, for as I looked through the
uncurtained window, I could see the Captain, a fine-looking, rather
tigerish sort of fellow, standing with his back to the fireplace, while
he talked to Miss Herbert, who sat some distance off at a work-table.
There was in his air that amount of jaunty ease and self-possession that
said, “I ‘m at home here; in this fortress I hold the chief command.”
 There was about him, too, the tone of an assumed superiority, which,
when displayed by a man towards a woman, takes the most offensive of all
possible aspects.

As he talked, he moved at last towards a window, and, opening it, held
out his hand to feel if it were raining.

“I hope,” cried he, “you’ll not send me back with a refusal; her
Ladyship counts upon you as the chief ornament of her ball.”

“We never do go to balls, sir,” was the dry response.

“But make this occasion the exception. If you only knew how lamentably
we are off for pretty people, you ‘d pity us. Such garrison wives and
daughters are unknown to the oldest inhabitant of the island. Surely
Mrs. Keats will be quite well by Wednesday, and she ‘ll not be so cruel
as to deny you to us for this once.”

“I can but repeat my excuses,--I never go out.”

“If you say so, I think I’ll abandon all share in the enterprise. It was
a point of honor with me to persuade you; in fact, I pledged myself to
succeed, and if you really persist in a refusal, I ‘II just pitch all
these notes in the fire, and go off yachting till the whole thing is
over.” And with this he drew forth a mass of notes from his sabretache,
and proceeded to con over the addresses: “‘Mrs. Hilyard,’ ‘Mr. Barnes,’
‘Mr. Clintosh,’ ‘Lady Bladgen.’ Oh, Lady Blagden! Why, it would be worth
while coming only to see her and Sir John; and here are the Crosbys too;
and what have we here! Oh! this is a note from Grey. You don’t know my
brother Grey,--he ‘d amuse you immensely. Just listen to this, by way of
a letter of introduction:--

“‘Dear George,--Cherish the cove that will hand you this note as
the most sublime snob I have ever met in all my home and foreign
experiences. In a large garrison like yours, you can have no difficulty
in finding fellows to give him a field-day. I commit him, therefore, to
your worthy keeping, to dine him, draw him forth, and pitch him out of
the window when you’ve done with him. No harm if it is from the topmost
story of the highest barrack in Malta. His name is Potts,--seriously and
truthfully Potts. Birth, parentage, and belongings all unknown to

“‘Yours ever,’

“‘Grey Buller.’”

“You are unfortunate, sir, in confiding your correspondence to me,” said
Kate, rising from her seat, “for that gentleman is a friend--a sincere
and valued friend--of my own, and you could scarcely have found a more
certain way to offend me than to speak of him slightingly.”

“You can’t mean that you know him--ever met him?”

“I know him and respect him, and I will not listen to one word to his
disparagement. Nay, more, sir, I will feel myself at liberty, if I think
it fitting, to tell Mr. Potts the honorable mode in which your brother
has discharged the task of an introduction, its good faith, and
gentlemanlike feeling.”

“Pray, let us have him at the mess first. Don’t spoil our sport till we
have at least one evening out of him.”

But she did not wait for him to finish his speech, and left the room.

It is but fair to own he took his reverses with great coolness; he
tightened his sword-belt, set his cap on his head before the glass,
stroked down his moustache, and then, lighting a cigar, swaggered off to
the door with the lounging swing of his order.

As for myself, I hastened back to the town, and with such speed that
I traversed the mile in something like thirteen minutes. I had no very
clear or collected plan of action, but I resolved to ask Captain Rogers
to be my friend, and see me through this conjuncture. He had just dined
as I entered the coffee-room, and consented to have his brandy-and-water
removed to my bedroom while I opened my business with him.

I will not, at this eleventh hour of revelations, inflict upon my reader
the details, but simply be satisfied to state that I found the skipper
far more practical than I looked for. He evidently, besides, had a taste
for these sort of adventures, and prided himself on his conduct of them.
“Go back now, and eat your dinner comfortably with your friends; leave
everything to me, and I promise you one thing,--the ‘Cyclops’ shall not
get full steam up till we have settled this small transaction.”



CHAPTER XLVII. MY DUELLING AMBITION AGAIN DISAPPOINTED

Though I was a few minutes late for dinner, Miss Herbert did not chide
me for delay. She was charming in her reception of me; nor was the
fascination diminished to me by feeling with what generous warmth she
had defended and upheld me.

There is a marvellous charm in the being defended by one you love,
and of whose kind feeling towards you you had never dared to assure
yourself till the very moment that confirmed it. I don’t know if I ever
felt in such spirits in my life. Not that I was gay or light-hearted so
much as happy,--happy in the sense of a self-esteem I had not known till
then. And what a spirit of cordial familiarity was there now between us!
She spoke to me of her daily life, its habits and even of its trials;
not complain-ingly nor fretfully,--far from it,--but in a way to imply
that these were the burdens meted out to all, and that none should
arrogantly imagine he was to escape the lot of his fellows. And then we
talked of the Croftons, of whom she was curious to hear details,--their
ages, appearance, manner, and so on; lastly, how I came to know them,
and thus imperceptibly led me to tell of myself and of my story. I am
sure that we each of us had enough of care upon our hearts, and yet
none would have ever guessed it to have seen how joyously and merrily we
laughed over some of the incidents of my checkered career. She bantered
me, too, on the feeble and wayward impulses by which I had suffered
myself to be moved, and gravely asked me, had I accomplished any single
one of all the objects I had set before my mind in starting.

Far more earnestly, however, did we discuss the future. She heard
with joy that I had already secured a passage for Constantinople, and
declared that she could not dismiss from her mind the impression that
I was destined to aid their return to happiness and prosperity. I liked
the notion, too, of there being a fate in our first meeting; a fate in
that acquaintanceship with the Croftons, which gave the occasion to
seek her out again; and, last of all, if it might be so, a fate in the
influence I was to exercise over their fortunes. I was so absorbed in
these pleasant themes that I, with as little of the lion in my heart as
any man breathing, never once thought of the quarrel and its impending
consequences. How my heart beat as her soft breath fanned me while she
spoke! As she was telling me when and from whence I was to write to
her, the servant came to say that a gentleman outside begged to see Mr.
Potts. I hurried to the hail.

“Not come to disturb you, Potts,” said the skipper, in a brisk tone;
“only thought it best to make your mind easy. It’s all right.”

“A thousand thanks, Captain,” said I, warmly. “I knew when the
negotiation was in your hands it would be so.”

“Yes; his friend, a Major Colesby, boggled a bit at first Could n’t see
the thing in the light I put it. Asked very often ‘who were you?’ asked,
too, ‘who I was?’ Good that! it made me laugh. Rather late in the day,
I take it, to ask who Bob Rogers is! But in the end, as I said, it all
comes right, quite right.”

“And his apology was full, ample, and explicit? Was it in writing,
Rogers? I ‘d like it in writing.”

“Like what in writing.”

“His apology, or explanation, or whatever you like to call it.”

“Who ever spoke of such a thing? Who so much as dreamed of it? Haven’t
I told you the affair is all right? and what does all right mean,
eh?--what does it mean?”

“I know what it ought to mean,” said I, angrily.

“So do I, and so do most men in this island, sir. It means twelve
paces under the Battery wall, fire together, and as many shots as the
aggrieved asks for. That’s all right, isn’t it?”

“In one sense it is so,” said I, with a mock composure.

“Well, that’s the only sense I ever meant to consider it by. Go back now
to your tea, or your sugar-and-water, or whatever it is; and when you
come home to-night, step into my room, and we’ll have a cosey chat and
a cigar. There ‘s one or two trifling things that I don’t understand in
this affair, and I put my own explanation on them, and maybe it ain’t
the right one. Not that it signifies _now_, you perceive, because
you are here to the fore, and can set them right. But as by this time
to-morrow you might be where--I won’t mention’--we may as well put them
straight this evening.”

“I’ll beat you up, depend upon it,” said I, affecting a slap-dash style.
“I can’t tell you how glad I am to have fallen into your hands, Rogers.
You suit me exactly.”

“Well, it’s more than I expected when I saw you first, and I kept saying
to myself, ‘Whatever could have persuaded Joe to send me a creature like
that?’ To tell you the truth, I thought you were in the cheap funeral
line.”

“Droll dog!” said I, while my fingers were writhing and twisting with
passion.

“Not that it’s fair to take a fellow by his looks. I’m aware of that,
Potts. But go back to the parlor; that’s the second time the maid has
come out to see what keeps you. Go back, and enjoy yourself; maybe you
won’t have so pleasant an opportunity soon again.”

This was the parting speech of the wretch as he buttoned the collar of
his coat, and with a short nod bade me goodbye, and left me.

“Why did you not ask your friend to take a cup of tea with us?’” said
Kate, as I re-entered the drawing-room.

“Oh! it was the skipper, a rough sort of creature, not exactly made for
drawing-room life; besides, he only came to ask me a question.”

“I hope it was not a very unpleasant one, for you look pale and
anxious.”

“Nothing of the kind; a mere formal matter about my baggage.”

It was no use; from that moment, I was the most miserable of mankind.
What availed it to speculate any longer on the future? How could I
interest myself in what years might bring forth? Hours, and a very few
of them, were all that were left to me. Poor girl! how tenderly she
tried to divert my sorrow! She, most probably, ascribed it to the
prospect of our speedy separation; and with delicacy and tact, she
tried to trace out some faint outlines of what painters call “extreme
distance,”--a sort of future where all the skies would be rose-colored
and all the mountains blue. I am sure, if a choice had been given me
at that instant, I would rather have been a courageous man than the
greatest genius in the universe. I knew better what was before. At last
it came to ten o’clock, and I arose to say good-bye. I found it very
hard not to fall upon her neck and say, “Don’t be angry with poor Potts;
this is his last as it is his first embrace.”

“Wear that ring for me and for my sake,” said she, giving me one from
her finger; “don’t refuse me,--it has no value save what you may attach
to it from having been mine.”

Oh dear! what a gulp it cost me not to say, “I ‘ll never take it off
while I live,” and then add, “which will be about eight hours and a half
more.”

When I got into the open air, I ran as if a pack of wolves were in
pursuit of me. I cannot say why; but the rapid motion served to warm
my blood, so that when I reached the hotel, I felt more assured and more
resolute.

Rogers was asleep, and so soundly that I had to pull the pillow from
beneath his head before I could awaken him; and when I had accomplished
the feat, either the remote effect of his brandy-and-water or his
drowsiness had so obscured his faculties, that all he could mumble
out was, “Hit him where he can’t be spliced,--hit him where they
can’t splice him!” I tried for a long time to recall him to sense
and intelligence, but I got nothing from him save the one inestimable
precept; and so I went to my room, and, throwing myself on my bed in
my cloak, prepared for a night of gloomy retrospect and gloomier
anticipation; but, odd enough, I was asleep the moment I lay down.

“Get up, old fellow,” cried Rogers, shaking me violently, just as the
dawn was breaking; “we ‘re lucky if we can get aboard before they catch
us.”

“What do you mean?” said I. “What’s happened?”

“The Governor has got wind of our shindy, and put all the red-coats in
arrest, and ordered the police to nab us too.”

“Bless him! bless him!” muttered I.

“Ay, so say I. He be blessed!” cried he, catching up my words. “But let
us make off through the garden; my gig is down in the offing, and they
‘ll pull in when they hear my whistle. Ain’t it provoking,--ain’t it
enough to make a man swear?”

“I have no words for what I feel, Rogers,” said I, bustling about to
collect my stray articles through the room. “If I ever chance upon that
Governor--he has only five years of it--I believe--”

“Come along! I see the boat coming round the point yonder.” And with
this we slipped noiselessly down the stairs, down the street, and gained
the Jetty.

“Steam up?” asked the skipper, as he jumped into the gig.

“Ay, ay, sir; and we’re short on the anchor too.” In less than half
an hour we were under weigh, and I don’t think I ever admired a land
prospect receding from view with more intense delight than I did that,
my last glimpse of Malta.



CHAPTER XLVIII. FINAL ADVENTURES AND SETTLEMENT

Our voyage had nothing remarkable to record; we reached Constantinople
in due course, and during the few days the “Cyclops” remained, I had
abundant time to discover that there was no trace of any one resembling
him I sought for. By the advice of Rogers, I accompanied him to Odessa.
There, too, I was not more fortunate; and though I instituted the most
persevering inquiries, all I could learn was that some Americans were
employed by the Russian Government in raising the frigates sunk at
Sebastopol, and that it was not impossible an Englishman, such as I
described, might have met an engagement amongst them. At all events, one
of the coasting craft was already at Odessa, and I went on board of her
to make my inquiry. I learned from the mate, who was a German, that they
had come over on rather a strange errand, which was to convey a corps of
circus people to Balaklava. The American contractor at that place, being
in want of some amusement, had arranged with these people to give some
weeks’ performances there, but that, from an incident that had just
occurred, the project had failed. This was no less than the elopement of
the chief dancer, a young girl of great beauty, with a young prince of
Bavaria. It was rumored that he had married her, but my informant gave
little credence to this version, and averred that he had bought,
not only herself, but a favorite Old Arab horse she rode, for thirty
thousand piastres. I asked eagerly where the others of the corps were to
be found, and heard they had crossed over to Simoom, all broken up
and disjointed, the chief clown having died of grief after the girl’s
flight.

If I heard this tale rudely narrated, and not always with the sort of
comment that went with my sympathies, I sorrowed sincerely over it, for
I guessed upon whom these events had fallen, and recognized poor old
Vaterchen and the dark-eyed Tintefleck.

“You ‘ve fallen into the black melancholies these some days back,” said
Rogers to me. “Rouse up, and take a cruise with me. I ‘m going over to
Balaklava with these steam-boilers, and then to Sinope, and so back to
the Bosphorus. Come aboard to-night, it will do you good.”

I took his counsel, and at noon next day we dropped anchor at Balaklava.
We had scarcely passed our “health papers,” when a boat came out with a
message to inquire if we had a doctor on board who could speak English,
for the American contractor had fallen from one of the scaffolds that
morning, and was lying dreadfully injured up at Sebastopol, but unable
to explain himself to the Russian surgeons. I was not without some small
skill in medicine; and, besides, out of common humanity, I felt it my
duty to set out, and at about sunset I reached Sebastopol.

Being supposed to be a physician of great skill and eminence, I was
treated by all the persons about with much deference, and, after very
few minutes’ delay, introduced into the room where the sick man lay.
He had ordered that when an English doctor could be found, they were to
leave them perfectly alone together; so that, as I entered, the door
was closed immediately, and I found myself alone by the bedside of the
sufferer. The curtain was closely drawn across the windows, and it was
already dusk, so that all I could discover was the figure of a man, who
lay breathing very heavily, and with the irregular action that implies
great pain.

“Are you English?” said he, in a strong, full voice. “Well, feel that
pulse, and tell me if it means sinking; I suspect it does.”

I took his hand and laid my finger on the artery. It was beating
furiously,--far too fast to count, but not weakly nor faintly.

“No,” said I; “this is fever, but not debility.”

“I don’t want subtleties,” rejoined he, roughly. “I want to know am I
dying? Draw the curtain there, open the window full, and have a look at
me.”

I did as he bade me, and returned to the bedside. It was all I could do
not to cry out with astonishment; for, though terribly disfigured by his
wounds, his eyes actually covered by the torn scalp that hung over them,
I saw that it was Harpar lay before me, his large reddish beard now
matted and clotted with blood.

“Well, what’s the verdict?” cried he, sternly; “don’t keep me in
suspense.”

“I do not perceive any grave symptoms so far--”

“No cant, my good friend, no cant! It’s out of place just now. Be
honest, and say what is it to be,--live or die?”

“So far as I can judge, I say, live.”

“Well, then, set about the repairs at once. Ask for what you want,--they
‘ll bring it.”

Deeming it better not to occasion any shock whatever to a man in his
state, I forbore declaring who I was, and set about my office with what
skill I could.

With the aid of a Russian surgeon, who spoke German well, I managed to
dress the wounds and bandage the fractured arm, during which the patient
never spoke once, nor, indeed, seemed to be at all concerned in what was
going on.

“You can stay here, I hope,” said he to me, when all was finished. “At
least, you ‘ll see me through the worst of it I can afford to pay, and
pay well.”

“I ‘ll stay,” said I, imitating his own laconic way; and no more was
said.

Now, though it was not my intention to pass myself off for a physician,
or derive any, even the smallest advantage from the assumption of such a
character, I saw that, remote as the poor sufferer was from his friends
and country, and totally destitute of even companionship, it would have
been cruel to desert him until he was sufficiently recovered to be left
with servants.

From his calm composure, and the self-control he was able to exercise, I
had formed a far too favorable opinion of his case. When I saw him first
the inflammatory symptoms had not yet set in; so that at my next visit I
found him in a high fever, raving wildly. In his wanderings he imagined
himself ever directing some gigantic enterprise, with hundreds of men at
his command, whose efforts he was cheering or chiding alternately. The
indomitable will of a most resolute nature was displayed in all he said;
and though his bodily sufferings must have been intense, he only alluded
to them to show how little power they had to arrest his activity. His
ever-recurring cry was, “It can be done, men! It can be done! See that
we do it!”

I own that, even though stretched on a sick-bed and raving madly, this
man’s unquenchable energy impressed me greatly; and I often fancied to
myself what must have been the resources of such a bold spirit in sad
contrast to a nature pliant and yielding like mine. To the violence of
the first access, there soon succeeded the far more dangerous state of
low fever, through which I never left him. Care and incessant watching
could alone save him, and I devoted myself to the last with the resolve
to make this effort the first of a new and changed existence.

Day and night in the sick-room, I lost appetite and strength, while an
unceasing care preyed upon me and deprived me even of rest. The very
vacillations of the sick man’s malady had affected my nerves, rendering
me overanxious, so that just as he had passed the great crisis of the
malady, I was stricken down with it myself.

My first day of convalescence, after seven weeks of fever, found me
sitting at a little window that looked upon the sea, or rather the
harbor of Sebastopol, where two frigates and some smaller vessels were
at anchor. A group of lighters and such unpicturesque craft occupied
another part of the scene, engaged, as it seemed, in operations for
raising other vessels. It was in gazing for a long while at these, and
guessing their occupation, that I learned to trace out the past, and why
and how I had come to be sitting there. Every morning the German servant
who tended me through my illness used to bring me the “Herr Baron’s”
 compliments to know how I was, and now he came to say that as the “Herr
Baron” was able to walk so far, he begged that he might be permitted
to come and pay me a visit I was aware of the Russian custom of giving
titles to all who served the Government in positions of high trust, and
was therefore not astonished when the announcement of the “Herr Baron”
 was followed by the entrance of Harpar, who, sadly reduced, and leaning
on a crutch, made his way slowly to where I sat. I attempted to rise to
receive him, but he cried out, half sternly,--“Sit still! we are neither
of us in good trim for ceremony.”

He motioned to the servants to leave us alone; then laying his wasted
hand in mine, for we were each too weak to’ grasp the other, he said,--

“I know all about it It was you saved my life, and risked your own to do
it.”

I muttered out some unmeaning words--I know not well what--about duty
and the like.

“I don’t care a brass button for the motive. You stood to me like a
man.” As he said this, he looked hard at me, and, shading the light with
his hand, peered into my face. “Have n’t we met before this? Is not your
name Potts?”

“Yes, and you’re Harpar.”

He reddened, but so slightly that but for the previous paleness of his
sickly cheek it would not have been noticeable.

“I have often thought about _you_.” said he, musingly. “This is not the
only service you have done me; the first was at Lindau,--mayhap you have
forgotten it. You lent me two hundred florins, and, if I ‘m not much
mistaken, when you were far from being rich yourself.”

He leaned his head on his hand, and seemed to have fallen into a musing
fit.

“And, after all,” said I, “of the best turn I ever did you, you have
never heard in your life, and, what is more, might never hear, if not
from myself. Do you remember an altercation on the road to Feldkirch,
with a man called Rigges?”

“To be sure I do; he smashed the small-bone of this arm for me; but I
gave worse than I got. They never could find that bullet I sent into
his side, and he died of it at Palermo. But what share in this did you
bear?”

“Not the worst nor the best; but I was imprisoned for a twelvemonth in
your place.”

“Imprisoned for _me?_”

“Yes; they assumed that I was Harpar, and as I took no steps to
undeceive them, there I remained till they seemed to have forgotten all
about me.”

Harpar questioned me closely and keenly as to the reasons that prompted
this act of mine,--an act all the more remarkable, as, to use his own
words, “We were men who had no friendship for each other, actually
strangers; and,” added he, significantly, “the sort of fellows who,
somehow, do not usually ‘hit it off’ together. You a man of leisure,
with your own dreamy mode of life; I, a hard worker, who could not enjoy
idleness; and in this sense, far more likely to hold each other cheaply
than otherwise.”

I attempted to account for this piece of devotion as best I might, but
not very successfully, since I was only endeavoring to explain what I
really did not well understand myself. Nor could a vague desire to
do something generous, merely because it _was_ generous, satisfy the
practical intelligence of him who heard me.

“Well,” said he, at last, “all that machinery you have described is so
new and strange to me, I can tell nothing as to how it ought to work;
but I’m as grateful to you as a man can be for a service which he could
not have rendered _himself_, nor has the slightest notion of what could
have prompted _you_ to do. Now, let me hear by what chance you came
here?”

“You must listen to a long story to learn that,” said I; and as he
declared that he had nothing more pressing to do with his time, I began,
almost as I have begun with my reader. On my first mention of Crofton,
he asked me to repeat the name; and when I spoke of meeting Miss Herbert
at the Milford station, he slightly moved his chair, as if to avoid the
strong light from the window; but from that moment till I finished, he
never interrupted me by a word, nor interposed a question.

“And it was she gave you that old seal-ring I see on your finger?” said
he, at last.

“Yes,” said I. “How came you to guess that?”

“Because _I_ gave it to her the day she was sixteen! I am her father.”

I drew a long breath, and could only clutch his arm with astonishment,
without being able to speak.

“It’s all well-known in England, now. Everybody has been paid in full,
my creditors have met in a body, and signed a request to me to come back
and recommence business. They have done more; they have bought up the
lease of the Foundry, and sent it out to me. Ay, and old Elkanah’s
mortgage, too, is redeemed, and I don’t owe a shilling.”

“You must have worked hard to accomplish all this?”

“Pretty hard, no doubt. You remember those little boats with the holes
in ‘em at Lindau. _They_ did the business for me. I was fool enough at
that time to imagine that you had got a clew to my discovery, and were
after me to pick up all the details. I ought to have known better! It
was easy enough to see that _you_ could have no head for anything with
a ‘tough bone’ in it. Light, thoughtless creatures of _your_ kind are
never dangerous anywhere!”

I was not quite sure whether I was expected to return thanks for this
speech in my favor, and therefore only made some very unintelligible
mutterings.

“There’s only one liner now to be raised, and all the guns are already
out of her, but I can return to-morrow. I am free; my contract is
completed; and the ‘Ignatief’ sloop-of-war is at my orders at Balaklava
to convey me to any port I please in Europe.”

He said this so boastfully and so vaingloriously that I really felt
Potts in his humility was not the smaller man of the two. Nor, perhaps,
was my irritation the less, at seeing how little surprise our singular
meeting had caused him, and how much he regarded all I had done in his
behalf as being ordinary and commonplace services. But, perhaps, the
_coup de grace_ of my misery came as he said,--

“Though I forwarded that ten-pound note you lent me to Rome, perhaps you
‘ll like to have it now. If you need any more, say so.”

My heart was in my mouth, and I felt that I ‘d have died of starvation
rather than accept the humblest benefit at his hands.

“Very well,” said he to my refusal; “all the better that you ‘ve no need
of cash, for, to tell the truth, Potts, you ‘re not much of a doctor,
nor are you very remarkable as a man of genius; and it is a kind thing
of Providence when such fellows as you are born with even a ‘pewter
spoon’ in their mouths.”

I nearly choked, but I said nothing.

“If you ‘d like me to land you anywhere in the Levant, or down towards
the Spanish coast, only tell me.”

“No, nothing of the kind. I ‘m going north; I ‘m going to Moscow,
to Tobolsk; I ‘m going to Persia and Astrakhan,” said I, in wildest
confusion.

“Well, I can give you a capital travelling-cloak--it’s one of those
buntas they make in the Banat, and you ‘ll need it, for they have
fearfully severe cold in those countries.”

With this, and not waiting my resolute refusal, he rose, hobbled out of
the room, and I--ay, there’s no concealing it--burst out a-crying!

Weak and sick as I was, I procured an “araba” that night, and, without
one word of adieu, set out for Krim.

*****

It was about two years after this--my father had died in the interval,
leaving me a small but sufficient fortune to live on, and I had just
arrived in Paris, after a long desultory ramble through the east of
Europe--I was standing, one morning early in one of the small alleys of
the Champs Élysées, watching with half-listless curiosity the various
grooms as they passed to exercise their horses in the Bois de Boulogne.
Group after group passed me of those magnificent animals in which Paris
is now more than the rival of London, and at length I was struck by the
appearance of a very smartly dressed groom, who led along beside him a
small-sized horse, completely sheeted and shrouded from view. Believing
that this must prove some creature of rare beauty, an Arab of purest
descent, I followed them as they went, and at last overtook them.

The groom was English, and by my offer of a cigar, somewhat better than
the one he was smoking, he was very willing to satisfy my curiosity.

“I suppose he has Arab blood in him,” said he, half contemptuously; “but
he’s forty years old now if he’s a day. What they keep him for I don’t
know, but they make as much work about him as if he was a Christian; and
as for myself, I have nothing else to do than walk him twice a day to
his exercise, and take care that his oats are well bruised and mixed
with linseed, for he hasn’t a tooth left.”

“I suppose his master is some very rich man, who can afford himself a
caprice like this.”

“For the matter of money, he has enough of it. He is the Prince Ernest
Maximilian of Wurtemberg, and, except the Emperor, has the best stable
in all Paris. But I don’t think that _he_ cares much for the old horse;
it’s the _Princess_ likes him, and she constantly drives out to the wood
here, and when we come to a quiet spot, where there are no strangers,
she makes me take off all the body-clothes and the hood, and she ‘ll
get out of the carriage and pat him. And he knows her, that he does! and
lifts up that old leg of his when she comes towards him, and tries to
whinny too. But here she comes now, and it won’t do if I ‘m seen talking
to you; so just drop behind, sir, and never notice me.”

I crossed the road, and had but reached the opposite pathway, when a
carriage stopped, and the old horse drew up beside it. After a word
or two, the groom took off the hood, and there was Blondel! But my
amazement was lost in the greater shock that the Princess, whose
jewelled hand held out the sugar to him, was no other than Catinka!

I cannot say with what motive I was impelled,--perhaps the action was
too quick for either,--but I drew nigh to the carriage, and, raising my
hat respectfully, asked if her highness would deign to remember an old
acquaintance.

“I am unfortunate enough, sir, not to be able to recall you,” said she,
in the most perfect Parisian French.

“My name you may have forgotten, madam, but scarcely so either our first
meeting at Schaffhausen, or our last at Bregenz.”

“These are all riddles to me, sir; and I am sure you are too well bred
to persist in an error after you have recognized it to be such.” With a
cold smile and a haughty bow, she motioned the coachman to drive on, and
I saw her no more.

Stung to the very quick, but yet not without a misgiving that I might be
possibly mistaken, I hurried to the police department, where the list of
strangers was preserved. By sending in my card I was admitted to see
one of the chiefs of the department, who politely informed me that the
princess was totally unknown as to family, and not included in the Gotha
Almanack.

“May I ask,” said he, as I prepared to retire, “if this letter here--it
has been with us for more than a year--is for your address? It came with
an enclosure covering any possible expense in reaching your address, and
has lain here ever since.”

“Yes,” said I, “my name is Algernon Sydney Potts.”

Strange are the changes and vicissitudes of life! Just as I stood there,
shocked and overwhelmed with one trait of cold ingratitude, I found a
letter from Kate (she who was once Kate Herbert), telling me how they
had sent messengers after me through Europe, and begging, if these lines
should ever reach me, to come to them in Wales. “My father loves you, my
mother longs to know you, and none can be more eager to thank you than
your friend Kate Whalley.”

I set off for England that night--I left for Wales the next morning--and
I have never quitted it since that day.

THE END.





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