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Produced by David Widger





ONE OF THEM

By Charles James Lever


With Illustrations By Phiz


Boston: Little, Brown, And Company.

1902.



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

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

Your attached friend,

CHARLES LEVER.

Spezia, December 90, 1860.




A WORD OF APOLOGY FOR MY TITLE.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"One of Them."





ONE OF THEM, Volume I.



CHAPTER I. A PIAZZA AFTER SUNSET

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Englishman bowed assent.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I don't think the parallel applies."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




CHAPTER II. THE VILLA CAPRINI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Online LibraryCharles James LeverOne of them → online text (page 1 of 46)