Charles James Lever.

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Temple, would have accepted you like a fever or an
ague — a great calamity sent from above — but he
would not have felt shame, any more than if you had
been the scarlatina. Look at poor George," cried
she, with a merry laugh. ^' He thinks I've said
something very wicked, and he feels he ought to
deplore it, and possibly rebuke me."

Jack could not help laughing at the rueful expres-
sion of L'Estrange's face, and his emotion was catch-
ing, for the others joined in the laugh, and in this
merry mood returned to the garden.

( 225 )




The mornin<Tf that followed this scene broke very

happily on the yilla, for Augustus was to arriye by
the afternoon packet, and all were eager to meet him.
His telegram said, " Cutbill is with me ; but I do not
know if he will stop." xlnd this announcement,
indeed, more than tempered the pleasure they felt at
the thought of meeting Augustus.

Jack, whose sailor's eye had detected a thin streak
of smoke in the sky long ere the others had seen it,
and knew by what time the steamer might arriye,
hastened down to the shore to meet his brother alone,
not wishing that the first meeting should be obseryed
by others. And he was so far right. Men as they
were, — tried and hardened by the world's conflict, —
they could not speak as they clasped each other in
their arms ; and when they separated to gaze at each
VOL. ni. 60


other's faces, their eyes swam in heavy tears. " My
poor fellow ! " was all that Augustus could say for
several minutes, till, struck by the manly vigour and
dignified bearing of the other, he cried out, '' What a
great powerful fellow you have grown. Jack. You
are twice as strong as you used to be."

" Strong enough, Gusty ; but I suppose I shall
need it all. But how comes it that you have grey
hair here ? "

''You find me terribly changed, Jack? I have
aged greatly since we met."

" You are tired now, old fellow. A little rest and
the pleasant care of the villa will soon set you up again."

" Perhaps so. At all events I have strength
enough for what I am called on to bear. How are
they all ? "

" Wei] and hearty. I'd say jollier than I ever
saw them before."

" What a noble girl is Nelly."

" Ay, and her companion, too. I tell you. Gusty,
there's the same comrade spirit amongst girls that
there is in a ship's company ; and where good ones
come together, they make each other better. But
tell me now of yourself. What's your news ? "


"Not good; far from it. I Lelieve, indeed, our
cause is ' up.' He — Pracontal I mean — intends to
behave handsomely by us. There will be no severity
used. Indeed, he means to go further ; but I'll have
time enough for all this later on. I'm so glad to see
you again, my poor dear fellow, that I have no mind
to think of anything else."

" How did you get rid of Cutbill ? "

" I haven't got rid of him ; he is on board there.
I don't think he means to land. I suspect he'll go
on with the steamer to-night ; and he is so ashamed
to show, that he is snug in his berth all this time."

" But what does he mean by that ? "

" He's in a scrape. Jack, and had to get away
from England to save himself from a gaol ; but I'll
tell you the story this evening, — or better still, I'll
make him teU you, if you can manage to persuade
him to come on shore:"

" That he shall do," said Jack. " He behaved
like a trump to me once when I was in trouble ; and
I don't forget it." And so saying, he hastened on
board the packet, and hurried below, to re-appear in
a few minutes, holding Cutbill by the collar, as
though he were his prisoner.


" Here's the culprit," cried Jack ; '* and if lie
won't land his luggage, he must take to a Monte-
negro rig like mine ; and he'll become it well."

" There, don't collar me that fashion. See how
the fellows are all staring at us. Have you no

" Will you come quietly, then ? "

" Yes ; let them hand up my two trunks and my
violin case. 'What a droll place this is."

'^ There's many a worse, I can tell you, than our
villa 3'onder. If it were my own, I'd never ask to
leave it."

" Nor need you. Jack," whispered Augustus.
'' I've brought back money to buy it ; and I hope it
will be our home this many a day."

" What's this scrape of yours. Cutty? " said Jack,
as they made their way homewards. " Whom have
you been robbing this time, or was it forgery ? "

" Let him tell you," said CutbiU, doggedly, as he
motioned with his hand towards Gusty.

" It's a mixed case of robbery with housebreaking,"
said Augustus. " Pracontal had taken it into his
head that certain papers of great value to himself
were concealed in some secret press in our house at

A RETURN ho:me. 229

Castello ; aud Cutbill was just as comdnced that there
were no papers and no press, and that the whole was
a dream or a delusion. They argued the case so often
that they got to quarrel about it."

" No, we didn't quarrel," broke in Cutbill, sulkily ;
"we betted."

" Yes, that is more correct. Pracontal was so
firmly persuaded that the papers existed that he
offered three to one on it, and Cutbill, who likes a
good thing, took it in hundreds."

" No. I wish I had. It was in fifties."

" As they had no permission to make the search,
which required to break down the wall, and damage a
valuable fresco "

" No. It was under the fresco, in a pedestal.
I'd engage to make it good for thirty shillings," broke
in Cutbill.

" T^'ell, we'll not dispute that. The essential
point is, that Pracontal's scruples would not permit
him to proceed to an act of depredation, but that
Cutbill had more resolution. He wanted to determine
the fact."

" Say that he wanted to win his money, and you'll
be nearer the mark," interposed CutbiU.


*' Whichever way we take it, it amounts to this,
Pracontal would not be a housebreaker, and Cutbill
had no objection to become one. I cannot give you
the details of the infraction — perhaps he will."

Cutbill only grunted, and the other went on, —
'' However he obtained entrance, he made his way to
the place indicated, smashed the wall, and di-agged
forth a box with four or five thick volumes, which
turned out to be the parish registries of Portshannon
for a very eventful period, at least a very critical
one for us, for, if the discovery loses Mr. Cutbill
his fifty pounds, it places the whole estate in

" That's the worst of it," cried Cutbill. '' My
confounded meddling has done it all."

" When my lawj^er came to hear what had
occurred, and how, he lost no time in taking mea-
sures to proceed against Cutbill for a felony; but
Master C. had got away, and was already hiding in
Germany, and our meeting on the steamboat here
was a mere hazard. He was bound for — where was
it, Cutbill?"

" Albania. I want to see the salt mines. There's
something to be done there now that the Turks are


not sure they'll own the country this time twelve -

" At all events, it's hetter air than Newgate,"
said Jack.

" As you politely obseiwe, sii*, it's hetter air than
Newgate. By the way, you've been doing a little
stroke of work as a gaolbird latterly — is it jolly?"

" No ; it ain't exactly jolly : it's too monotonous
for that. And then the diet."

" Ah, there's the rub ! It's the skilly, it's the
four-ounce system, I'm afraid of. Make it a good
daily regimen, and I'll not quarrel -^ith the mere
confinement, nor ask for any extension of the time
allotted to exercise."

" I must say," said Jack, " that, for a very acute
and ingenious gentleman, this same piece of burglary
was about one of the stupidest performances I ever
heard of."

" Not so fast, admiral, not so fast. I stood on a
double event. I had lent Pracontal a few hundreds,
to be repaid by as many thousands if he established
his claim. I began to repent of my investment, and
my bet was a hedge. Do you see, old fellow, if there
were no books, I pocketed a hundred and fifty. If


the books turned up, I stood to win on the trial.
You may perceive that Tom Cutbill sleeps like a
weazel, and has always one eye open."

" Was it a very friendly part, then, to lend a man
money to prosecute a claim against 3'our own friend ?"
asked Jack.

" Lord love ye, I'd do that against my brother.
The man of business and the desk is one thing, the
man of human feelings and affections is another. If
a man follows any pursuit worth the name of a
pursuit, the ardour to succeed in it will soon swamp
his scruples ; aye, and not leave him one jot the
worse for it. Listen to me a minute. Did you ever
practise fly-fishing? Well, can you deny it is in
principle as ignoble a thing as ever was called sport ?
It begins in a fraud, and it finishes with a cruelty ;
and will you tell me that your moral nature, or any
grand thing that you fancy dignifies you, was im-
paired or stained when you landed that eight-pound
trout on the grass ?"

" You forget that men are not trout, Master

'' There are a good number of them gudgeons, I
am happy to say," cried he. *' Give me a light for


my cigar, for I am sick of discussion. Strange old
tumble-down place this — might all be got for a song,
I'd swear. What a grand spec it would be to start a
company to make a watering-place of it : ' The Baths
of Cattaro, celebrated in the time of Dioclesian' — eh ?
Jack, doesn't your mouth water at the thought of
' preliminary expenses ? ' "

" I can't say it does. I've been living among
robbers lately, and I found them veiy dull com-

" The sailor is rude ; his manners smack of the
cockpit," said Cutbill, nudging Augustus in the side.
*' Oh, dear, how I'd like a commission to knock this
old town into a bathing machine."

" You'll have ample time to mature your project
up at the villa. There, you see it yonder."

" And is that the British flag I see waving there ?
Wait a moment till I master my emotion, and subdue
the swelling feelings of my breast."

" I'll tell you what, Master Cutbill," said Jack,
sternly, " if you utter any stupid rubbish against the
Union Jack, I'll be shot if I don't drop you over the
sea wall for a ducking; and, what's more, I'll not
apologize to you when you come out."


" Outrage the second. The naval semce is not
what I remember it."

. " Here come the girls," said Augustus. " I hear
Juha's merry laugh in the wood."

" The L'Estrange girl, isn't it?" asked Cutbill ;
and though Jack started and turned almost as if to
seize him, he never noticed the movement.

" Miss L'Estrange," said Augustus Bramleigh.

" Why didn't you say she was here, and I'd not
have made any * bones ' about stopping ? I don't
know I was ever as spooney as I was about that girl
up at Albano. And didn't I work like a negro to get
back her two thousand pounds out of that precious
coal mine ? Aye, and succeeded too. I hope she
knows it was Tom Cutbill saved the ship. Maybe
she'll think I've come to claim salvage."

" She has heard of all your good-nature, and is
very grateful to you," said Gusty.

" That's right ; that's as it ought to be. Doing
good by stealth always strikes me as savouring of a
secret society. It's Thuggee, or Feenian, or any other
dark association you like."

" I'll go foi-ward and meet them, if you'll permit
me," said Augustus, and, not waiting a reply, hurried
on towards the wood.


" Look here, Master Jack," said Cntbill, stopping
short, and feeing round in front of him. "If you
mean as a practice to sit upon me on eveiy occasion
that arises, just please to say so."

"Nothing of the kind, man; if I did, I promise
Tou once would be quite enough/*

"Oh, that's it, is it ? "

" Yes, that's it."

" Shake hands then, and let us have no more
squabbling. If you ever find me getting into shoal-
water, and likely to touch a sandbank, just call out
* stop her ! ' and you'U see how 111 reverse my engine
at once. It's not in my Hne, the locomotives, but I
cmdd drive if I was put to it, and I know weU
every good lesson a man acquires from the prac-

'•' What do you think of this cause of ours. Cutty ;
how does it look to your eyes ? "

'•' Just as dark as thunder ! TSliy you go to trial
at aU next term I can't make out. Pi-acontal's case
is clear as noonday. There's the proof of the
marriage, — as legal a marriage as if an archbishop
celebrated it, and there's the registry of biiih, and
there is. to confirm aU, old Bramleigh's letters. If


you push on after such a show of danger signals as
these, it is because you must like a smash."

*' You'd strike then mthout firing a shot ? "

" To be sure I would, if it was only to save the
expense of the powder ; besides, Pracontal has already
declared, that if met by an amicable spirit on your
brother's part, there are no terms he would not accede
to, to secure recognition by your family, and accept-
ance as one of you."

"I'm sure I don't see why he should care
for it."

" Nor I, for the matter of that. If there's a lot in
life I'd call enviable, it would be to be born in a
foundling hospital, and inherit ten thousand a year.
A landed estate, and no relations, comes nearer to my
ideas of Paradise than anything in Milton's poems."

" Here they come," cried Jack, as a merry group
issued from the road, and came joyously forward to
meet them.

"Here's this good fellow Tom Cutbill come to
spend some days with us," said Jack, as the girls
advanced to greet him.

"Isn't it kind of him?" said Cutbill, "isn't it
like that disinterested good-nature that always marks


him ? Of course I'm heartily welcome ! how could it
be otherwise. Miss Bramleigh, you do me proud.
Miss JuHa, your slave. Ah, your reverence ! let's
have a shake of your devout paw. Xow I call this as
pleasant a place for a man to go through his sentence
of transportation as need be. Do the ladies know
what I'm charged with ? "

"They know nothing, they desire to know
nothing," said Augustus. " When we have dined
and had our coffee, you shall make your own confes-
sion ; and that only if you like it, and wish to
disburden your conscience."

" My conscience is pretty much like my balance
at my banker's, — it's a mighty small matter, but
somehow it never troubles me ; and you'll see by-and-
by that it doesn't interfere with my appetite."

'' You saw my sister at Naples, Mr. Cutbill," said
Xelly, " how was she looking ? "

" Decidedly handsome, and as haughty as hand-
some ; as an Irish friend who was walking with me
one day her carriage passed, obser^'ed, ' A bow from
her was the next thing to a black-eye.' "

" Marion's pride always became her," said NeUy


" It must be a comfort to her to feel she has a
great stock of what suits her constitution."

*' And the noble Viscount," asked Jack, " how
was he looking?"

" As fresh as paint. The waxworks in the museum
seemed faded and worn after him. He was in an
acute attack of youth, the day I dined with him last,
and I hope his system has not suffered for it."

" Stop her," muttered Jack, with a sly look at
Cutbill ; and to the surprise of the others, that astute
individual rejoined, " Stop her, it is."

''We dine at four, I think," said Bramleigh,
" and there's just time to dress. Jack, take charge
of Cutbill, and show him where he is to lodge."

" And is it white choker and a fiddle coat ? Do
you tell me you dress for dinner ? " asked Cutbill.

*'Mr. Cutbill shall do exactly as he pleases," said
Julia ; "we only claim a like privilege for ourselves."

" You've got it now, Tom Cutbill," said he
sorrowfully, " and I hope you like it."

And with this they went their several ways ; Jack
alone lingering in the garden in the hope to have
one word with Julia, but she did not return, and his
"watch on deck," as he called it, was not relieved.

( 239 )



A LONG letter, a letter of several pages, from Marion
reached the \'illa ; and though it is not my intention
to ask the reader to listen to it textually or through-
out, I crave permission to give certain parts of its

As Lady Culduff prospered in the world, she
became what she thought " devout," and perpetually
reminded all around her that she was well aware
she was li\-ing in a veiy sinful world, and keeping
daily company with transgressors ; and she actually
brought herself to believe that by a repeated reference
to the wickedness of this life, she was entering a
formal protest against sin, and qualifying herself, at
this very cheap price, for something much better

She was — and it was a pet phrase with her —


" resigned " to everything : resigned to Lord Culduff 's
being made a grand cross and an ambassador, with
the reasonable prospect of an earldom ; resigned to
her own gi'eat part — and was it not a great part ? —
in this advancement ; resigned to be an ambassadress !
That she was resigned to the ruin and downfall of
her family, especially if they should have the delicacy
and good taste to hide themselves somewhere, and
not obtrude that ruin and downfall on the world, was
plainly manifest ; and when she averred that, come
what might, we ought to be ever assured that all
things were for the best, she meant in reality to say
it was a wise dispensation that sent herself to live in
a palace at Pera, and left her brothers and sisters to
shiver out existence in barbarism.

There was not a shadow of hypocrisy in all this.
She believed every word she said upon it. She
accepted the downfall of her family as her share of
those ills which are the common lot of humanity;
and she was very proud of the fortitude that sustained
her under this heavy trial, and of that resignation
that enabled her not to grieve over these things in an
unseemly fashion, or in any way that might tell on
her complexion.


"After that splendid success of Culduff's at
Naples," wrote she, ''of which the newspapers are
full, I need not remind you that we ought to have
had Paris, and, indeed, must have had it, but the
Ministry made it a direct and personal favour of
Culduff that he would go and set that troublesome
Eastern question to rights. As you know nothing
of politics, dear Nelly, and, indeed, are far happier
in that ignorance, I shall not enter upon what, even
with the fullest explanation, would only bewilder you.
Enough if you know that we have to out-manoeuvre
the Kussians, baffle the French, and bully the Greeks;
and that there is not for the task Culduff's equal in
England. I think I see your astonishment that I
should talk of such themes : they were not certainly
the sort of subjects which once occupied our thoughts :
but, my dear Nelly, in linking your fate to that of a
man of high ambition, you accept the companionship
of his intellect, instead of a share in his heart. And,
as you well know I always repudiated the curate and
cottage theory, I accept the alternative without re-
pining. Can I teach you any of this philosophy,
Nelly, and will it lighten the load of your own
sorrows to learn how I have come to bear mine ? It

VOL. in. 61


is in the worldliness of people generally lies their
chief unhappiness. They will not, as Culduff says,
* accept the situation.' Now we have accepted it, we
suhmit to it, and, in consequence, suffer fewer heart-
burnings and repinings than our neighbours. Dear
Augustus never had any costly tastes ; and as for
yourself, simplicity was your badge in everything.
Temple is indeed to be pitied, for Temple, with
money to back him, might have made a respectable
figure in the world and married well ; but Temple
a poor man, must fall down to a second-class legation,
and look over the Minister's larder. Culduff tried,
but failed to make something of him. As C. told
him one day, you have only to see Charles Mathews
act, to be convinced that to be a coxcomb a man
must be consummately clever ; and yet it is exactly
the ' role ' every empty fellow fancies would suit him.
T. resented this, well meant as it was, and resigned
his secretaryship. He has gone over to England,
but I do not imagine with much prospect of re-

*' Do not think, my dear Nelly, of quitting your
present refuge. You are safe now, and in harbour,
and be slow to adventure on that wide ocean of life


where shipwrecks are occumng on every hand. So
long as one is obscure, poverty has no terrors. As
Culduff says, you may always wear a ragged coat in
the dark. It is we, who unfortunately must walk in
the noonday, cannot be seen unless in fine raiment.
Do not mistake me, however. I say this without
complaint ; I repine at nothing.

" I had wi-itten so much of my letter, dear Nelly,
intending to finish it at Kome ; but Culduff is obliged
to hurry on to Ischl, where some great diplomatic
gathering is now assembled, and I must omit a
number of things I desire to say to you.

" Culduff thinks we must call on Lady Augusta
as we go through. I own I have done my best to
avoid this, and if I must go, it will not be in the
best of tempers. The oddest thing of all is, C.
dislikes her fully as much as I do ; but there is
some wonderful freemasonry among these people that
obliges them, like the members of a secret society,
to certain ' egards ' towards each other ; and I am
satisfied he would rather do a positive wi-ong to some
one in middle-class life than be wanting in some
punctilio or attention to a person of her condition.
I have often been much provoked by displays of this


sentiment, needlessly paraded to offend my own sense
of propriety. I shall add a line after my visit.

" JRome.

*' I have news for you. M. Pracontal — if this be
his name — not only takes your estates, but your step-
mother. The odious woman had the eflfrontery to
tell us so to our faces. How I bore it, what I said,
or felt or suffered, I know not. Some sort of fit, I
believe, seized me, for Culduff sent for a physician
when I got back to the hotel, and our departure was

" The outrage of this conduct has so shaken my
nerves that I can scarcely WTite, nor is my sense of
indignation lessened by the levity with which it
pleases Culduff to treat the whole matter. * It is a
bold coup — a less courageous woman would have
recoiled from it — she is very daring.' This is what
he says of her. She has the courage that says to the
world, ' I am ready to meet all your censures and
your reproaches ; ' but I never heard this called
heroism before. Must I own to you, Nelly, that
what overwhelms me most in this disgraceful event
is the confidence it e\*inces in this man's cause.
' You may swear,' said Culdufi', ' that she is backing


the winner. Women are timid gamblers, and never
risk tlieir money without almost every chance in their
favour.' I know that my lord plumes himself on
knowing a great deal about us, prompting him at times
to utter much that is less than complimentary ; but I
give you this opinion of his here for what it is worth,
frankly owning that my dislike to the woman is such I
can be no fair judge of any case into which she enters.

" Pracontal — I only saw him for an instant —
struck me as a third-class Frenchman, something
between a ' sous-officier ' of cavalry and a commis-
voyageur; not ill-looking, and set up with that air
of the soldier that in France does duty for dignity.
He had a few hasty words with Culduff, but did not
persist nor show any desire to make a row in presence
of ladies. So far, his instincts as a corporal guided
him safely. Had he been led by the commis-voyageur
side of his character, w^e should have had a most
disgraceful scene, ending by a hostile meeting between
a British peer and a bagman.

" My nerves have been so shaken by this incident,
and my recollection is still so charged with this
odious woman's look, voice, and manner, that I can-
not trust myself to say more. Be assured, dear


Nelly, that in all the miserable details of this great
calamity to our family, no one event has occurred
equal in poignant suffering to the insult I have thus
been subjected to.

" Culduff will not agree to it, but I declare to you

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