Charles James Lever.

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" Pardon me. Count, but the matter, so far as I
learn, is precisely as it was before. There is neither
subject for condolence nor gratulation."

" So far as the verdict of the juiy went, my lady,
you are quite right; but what do you say to that
larger, wider verdict pronounced by the press, and
repeated in a thousand forms by the public ? May I
read you one passage, only one, from my law}'er
Mr. Kelson's letter ? "

"Is it short?"

" Very short."

" And inteUigible ? "


'' Most intellegible."
" Kead it then."

"Here it is," said he, opening a letter, and
turning to the last page. '' * Were I to sum up
what is the popular opinion of the result, I could
not do it better than repeat what a City capitalist
said to me this morning, " I'd rather lend Count
Pracontal twenty thousand pounds to-day, than take
Mr. Bramleigh's mortgage for ten." ' "

" Let me read that. I shall comprehend his
meaning better than by hearing it. This means
evidently," said she, after reading the passage,
"that your chances are better than his."
"Kelson tells me success is certain."

"And your cautious friend, Mr. ; I always

forget that man's name ? "
" Longworth ? "

" Yes, Longworth. What does he say ? "
" He is already in treaty with me to let him have
a small farm which adjoins his grounds, and which
he would like to throw into his lawn."

" No, not a bit seriously ; but we pass the whole
morning building these sort of castles in Spain, and


the grave way that he entertains such projects ends
by making me beheve I am actually the owner of
Castello and all its belongings."

'' Tell me some of your plans," said she, with a
livelier interest than she had yet shown.

''First of all, reconcihation, if that be its proper
name, T\-ith all that calls itself Bramleigh. I don't
want to be deemed a usurper, but a legitimate
monarch. It is to be a restoration."

" Then you ought to marry Xelly. I declare
that never struck me before."

"Soy has it yet occurred to me, my lady," said
he, with a faint show of irritation.

"And why not, sir? Is it that you look
higher ? "

"I look higher," said he; and there was a
solemn intensity in his air and manner as he spoke.

" I declare. Monsieur de Pracontal, it is scarcely
delicate to say this to me."

"Your ladyship insists on my being candid, even
at the hazard of my courtesy."

"I do not complain of j-our candour, sir. It is
your — your "

" My pretension ? "


" Well, yes, pretension will do."

"Well, my lady, I will not quarrel with the
phrase. I do 'pretend,' as we say in French. In
fact, I have been little other than a pretender these
last few years."

" And what is it you pretend to ? May I ask the
question ?"

"I do not know if I may dare to answer it,"

said he, slowly "I will explain what I

mean," added he, after a brief silence, and drawing
his chair somewhat nearer to where she sat. '' I
will explain. If, in one of my imaginative gossipries
with a friend, I were to put forward some claim —
some ambition — which would sound absurd coming
from me noiv, but which, were I the owner of a great
estate, would neither be extravagant nor ridiculous,
the memory of that unlucky pretension w^ould live
against me ever after, and the laugh that my vanity
excited would ring in my ears long after I had ceased
to regard the sentiment as vanity at all. Do you
follow me ? "

" Yes, I believe I do. I would only have you
remember that I am not Mr. Longworth."

'' A reason the more for my caution,"


" Couldn't we converse without riddles, Count
Pracontal ? "

" I protest I should like to do so.''

" And as I make no objection "

'' Then to begin. You asked me what I should
do if I were to gain my suit ; and my answer is,
if I were not morally certain to gain it, I'd never
exhibit myseK in the absurd position of planning a
life I was never to arrive at."

'•' You are too much a Frenchman for that."

" Precisely, madam. I am too much a French-
man for that. The exquisite sensibihty to ridicule
puts a very fine edge on national chai-acter, though
your countrymen will not admit it."

" It makes very tetchy acquaintances," said she,
with a maHcious laugh.

" And developes charming generosity in those
who forgive us ! "

" I cry ofi". I can't keep up this game of give
and take flatteries. Let us come back to what we
were talking of, that is, if either of us can remember
it. yes, I know it now. You were going to teU
me the splendid establishment you'd keep at Castello.
I am sm-e the cook will leave nothing to desire — but


liov\^ about the stable ? That ' steppere ' will not
exactly be in his place in an Irish county."

"Madame, you forget I was a lieutenant of

" My dear Count, that does not mean riding."

" Madame ! "

" I should now rise and say * Monsieur ! ' and it
would be very good comedy after the French pattern ;
but I prefer the sofa and my ease, and will simply
beg you to remember the contract we made the other
day — that each was to be at liberty to say any imper-
tinence to the other, without offence being taken."

Pracontal laid his hand on his heart, and bowed
low and deep.

" There are some half a dozen people in that
garden yonder, who have passed and repassed — I
can't tell how many times — just to observe us.
You'll see them again in a few minutes, and we
shall be town -talk to-morrow, I'm certain. There
are no tete-a-tetes ever permitted in Rome if a
cardinal or a monsignore be not one of the per-

" Are those they ? " cried he, suddenly.

*' Yes, and there's not the least occasion for that


flash of the eye, and that hot glow of indignation on
the cheek. I assure you, Monsieur, there is nobody
there to * couper la gorge ' with you, or share in any
of those social pleasantries which make the ^ Bois '
famous. The curiously minded individual is a lady
— a Mrs. Trumpler — and her attendants are a few
freshly arrived curates. There now, sit down again,
and look less like a wounded tiger, for all this sort of
thing fusses and fevers me. Yes, you may fan me,
though if the detectives return it will make the report
more highly coloured."

Pracontal was now seated on a low stool beside
her sofa, and fanning her assiduously.

" Not but these people are all right," continued
she. *' It is quite wrong in me to admit you to my
intimacy — wrong to admit you at all. My sister is
so angry about it, she won't come here — fact, I
assure you. Now don't look so delighted and so
triumphant, and the rest of it. As your nice little
phrase has it, you ' are for nothing ' in the matter at
all. It is all myself, my own whim, my fancy, my
caprice. I saw that the step was just as unadvisable
as they said it was. I saw that any commonly
discreet person would not have even made your


acquaintance, standing as I did; but unfortunately
for mc, like poor Eve, the only tree whose fruit
I covet is the one I'm told isn't good for me. There
go our friends once more. I wish I could tell her
who you are, and not keep her in this state of
torturing anxiety."

" Might I ask, my lady," said ho, gravely, " if
you have heard anything to my discredit or disparage-
ment, as a reason for the severe sentence you have
just spoken ? "

'' No, unfortunately not, for in that case my
relatives would have forgiven me. They know the
wonderful infatuation that attracts me to damaged
reputations, and as they have not yet found out any
considerable flaw in yours they are puzzled, out of all
measure, to know what it is I see in you."

" I am overwhelmed by your flattery, madam,"
said he, trying to seem amused, but, in spite of him-
self, showing some irritation.

" Not that," resumed she, in that quiet manner
which showed that her mind had gone off suddenly
in another direction, " not that I owe much deference
to the Bramleighs, who, one and all, have treated me
with little courtesy. Marion behaved shamefully —


that, of course, was to be expected. To marry that
odious old creature for a position, implied how she
would abuse the position when she got it. As I said
to Gusty, when a young Oxford man gives five
guineas for a mount, he doesn't think he has the
worth of his money if he doesn't smash his collar-
bone. There, put down that fan, you are making me
feverish. Then the absurdity of playing Peeress to
7ne ! How ashamed the poor old man was ; he
reddened through all his rouge. Do \'0U know,"
added she, in an excited manner, " that she had
the impertinence to compare her marriage with mine,
and say, that at least rank and title were somewhat
nobler ambitions than a mere subsistence and a
settlement. But I answered her. I told her, * Yon
have forgotten one material circumstance. I did not
live with your father ! ' yes ! we exchanged a
number of little courtesies of this kind, and I was
so sorry when I heard she had gone to Naples. I
was only getting into stride when the race was over.
As to my settlement, I have not the very vaguest
notion who'll pay it ; perhaps it may be you. Oh,
of course, I know the unutterable bliss, but you must
really ask your lawyer, how is my lien to be disposed


of. Some one said to me the other day that, besides
the estate, you would have a claim for about eighty
thousand pounds."

" It was Longworth said so."

" I don't like your friend Longworth. Is he a
gentleman ? "

*' Most unquestionably."

" Well, but I mean a born gentleman ? I detest
and I distrust your nature-made gentlemen, who,
having money enough to ' get up ' the part, deem
that quite sufficient. I want the people whose
families have given guarantees for character during
some generations. Six o'clock ! Only think, you
are here three mortal hours ! I declare, sir, this
must not occur again ; and I have to dress now.
I dine at the Prince Cornarini's. Do you go
there ? "

" I go nowhere, my lady. I know no one."

" Well, I can't present you. It would be too
compromising. And yet they want men like you
very much here. The Komans are so dull and
stately, and the English, who frequent the best
houses, are so dreaiy. There, go away now. You
want leave to come to-morrow, but I'll not grant it.


I must hear what Mrs. Trumpler says before I admit
you again."

" When then may I ? "

" I don't know ; I have not thought of it. Let
it be — let it be when you have gained your law-
suit," cried she, in a burst of laughter, and hurried
out of the room.




If Cattaro was more picturesque and strange-looking
than the Bramleighs had expected, it was also far
more poverty- striken and desolate. The little town,
escarped out of a lofty mountain, with the sea in
front, consisted of little more than one straggling
street, which followed every bend and indentation
of the shore. It is true, wherever a little " plateau "
offered on the mountain, a house was built ; and to
these small winding paths led up, through rocks
bristling with the cactus, or shaded by oleanders large
as olive-trees. Beautiful little bits of old Venetian
architecture, in balconies or porticoes, peeped out
here and there through the dark foliage of oranges
and figs; and richly ornamented gates, whose ara-
besques yet glistened with tarnished gilding, were
festooned with many a flowery creeper, and that


small banksia-rose, so tasteful in its luxuriance.
From the sea it would be impossible to imagine any-
thing more beautiful or more romantic. As you
landed, however, the illusion faded, and dirt, misery,
and want stared at you at every step. Decay and
ruin were on all sides. Palaces, whose marble
mouldings and architraves were in the richest style
of Byzantine art, were propped up by rude beams
of timber that obstructed the footway, while from
their windows and balconies hung rags and tattered
draperies, the signs of a poverty within gi-eat as
the ruin without. The streets were lined with a
famished, half-clothed population, sitting idly or
sleeping. A few here and there affected to be
vendors of fruit and vegetables, but the mass were
simply loungers reduced to the miserable condition
of an apathy which saw nothing better to be done
^ith life than dream it away. While Bramleigh and
L 'Estrange were full of horror at the wi-etchedness
of the place, their sisters were almost wild with
delight at its barbaric beauty, its grand savagery,
and its brilliantly picturesque character. The little
inn, which probably for years had dispensed no other
hospitalities than those of the cafe, that extended


from the darkly columned portico to half across the
piazza, certainly contributed slightly to allay the
grumblings of the travellers. The poorly furnished
rooms were ill kept and dirty, the servants lazy, and
the fare itself the very humblest imaginable.

Nothing short of the unfailing good temper and
good spirits of Julia and Nelly could have rallied the
men out of their sulky discontent ; that spirit to
make the best of everything, to catch at every passing
gleam of sunlight on the landscape, and even in
moments of discouragement to rally at the first
chance of what may cheer and gladden, — this is
womanly, essentially womanly. It belongs not to
the man's nature ; and even if he should have it, he
has it in a less discriminative shape and in a coarser

While Augustus and L'Estrange then sat sulldly
smoking their cigars on the sea-wall, contemptuously
turning their backs on the mountain variegated with
every hue of foliage, and broken in every picturesque
form, the girls had found out a beautiful old villa,
almost buried in orange-trees in a small cleft of the
mountain, through which a small cascade descended
and fed a fountain that played in the hall; the


perfect stillness, only broken by tbe splash of the
falling water, and the sense of delicious freshness
imparted by the crystal circles eddying across the
marble fount, so dehghted them that they were in
ecstasies when they found that the place was to be
let, and might be their own for a sum less than a
Ter}' modest " entresol " would cost in a cognate city.

"Just imagine, Gusty, he -^ill let it to us for
three hundred florins a year ; and for eighteen
hundred we may buy it out and out, for ever."
This was Nelly's salutation as she came back full of
all she had seen, and glowing with enthusiasm over
the splendid luxuriance of the vegetation and the
beauty of the view.

"It is really princely inside, although in terrible
dilapidation and ruin. There are over two of the
fireplaces the Doge's arms, which shows that a
Venetian magnate once lived there."

"What do you say, George?" cried Bramleigh.
" Don't you think you'd rather invest some hundred
florins in a boat to escape from this dreary hole than
purchase a prison to live in it ? "

" You must come and see the ' Fontanella ' — so
they call it — before you decide," said Juha. " Mean-

YOL. III. 51


while here is a rough sketch I made from the garden

" Come, that looks very pretty, indeed," cried
George. ** Do you mean to say it is like that ? "

" That's downright beautiful ! " said Bramleigh.
** Surely these are not marble — these columns ? "

*' It is all marble — the terrace, the balconies, the
stairs, the door-frames ; and as to the floors, they
are laid down in variegated slabs, with a marvellous
instinct as to colour and effect. I declare I think
it handsomer than Castello," cried Nelly.

" Haven't I often said," exclaimed Bramleigh,
''there was nothing like being ruined to impai-t a
fresh zest to existence? You seem to start anew
in the race, and unweighted too."

*' As George and I have always been in the
condition you speak of," said Julia, "this charm
of novelty is lost to us."

*' Let us put it to the vote," said Nelly, eagerly.
*' Shall we buy it ? "

"First of all let us see it," interposed Bramleigh.
*' To-day I have to make my visit to the authorities.
I have to present myself before the great officials,
and announce that I have come to be the representa-


tive of tlie last joint of the British lion's tail ; but
that he being a great beast of wonderful strength
and terrific courage, to touch a hair of him is temerity

" And they will believe tou ? " asked Julia.

" Of course they will. It would be very hard
that we should not surrive in the memories of
people who live in lonely spots and read no news-

" Such a place for vegetation I never saw,"
cried Nelly. '^ There are no glass windows in the
hall, but through the ornamental ironwork the oranges
and limes pierce through and hang in great clusters ;
the whole covered vrith. the crimson acanthus and
the blue japonica, till the very brilliancy of colour
actually dazzles you."

" We'll write a gi-eat book up there, George, —
' Cattaro under the Doges : ' or shall it be a
romance ? " said Bramleigh.

" I'm for a diary," said Julia, " where each of
us shall contribute his share of life among the -wild-

"Ju's right," cried Xelly ; ''and as I have no
gift of authorship, I'll be the public."


" No, YOU sLall be the editor, dearest," said
Julia; *' he is always like the Speaker in the House,
— the person who does the least and endures the

" All this does not lead us to any decision," said
L'Estrange. '' Shall I go up there all alone, and
report to joii this evening what I see and what I
think of the place ? "

This proposal was at once acceded to ; and now
they went their several ways, not to meet again till a
late dinner.

" How nobly and manfully your brother bears
up," said Julia, as she walked back to the inn with

"And there is no display in it," said Nelly,
waimly. "Now that he is beyond the reach of
condolence and compassion, he fears nothing. And
you will see that when the blow falls, as he says it
must, he will not wince nor shrink."

" If I had been a man, I should like to have been
of that mould."

" And it is exactly what you would have been,
dear Julia. Gusty said, only yesterday, that you had
more courage than us all."


When L'Estrange returned, he came accompanied
by an old man in very tattered clothes, and the worst
possible hat, whose linen was far from spotless, as
were his hands innocent of soap. He was, howeyer,
the owner of the villa, and a Count of the great
family of Ki-eptowicz. If his appearance was not
much in .his favour, his manners were those of a
well-bred person, and his language that of education.
He was eager to pai*t with this villa, as he desired to
go and live with a married daughter at Eagusa ; and
he protested that, at the price he asked, it was not a
sale, but a present ; that to any other than English-
men he never would part "^ith a property that had
been six hundred years in the family, and which
contained the bones of his distinguished ancestors,
of which, incidentally, he threw^ in small historic
details ; and, last of all, he avowed that he desired
to confide the small chapel where these precious
remains were deposited to the care of men of station
and character. This chapel was only used once a
year, when a mass for the dead was celebrated, so
that the Count insisted no inconvenience could be
incurred by the tenant. Indeed, he half hinted that,
if that one annual celebration were objected to, his


ancestors might be prayed for elsewhere, or even rest
satisfied with the long course of devotion to their
interests which had been maintained up to the pre-
sent time. As for the chapel itself, he described it
as a gem that even Venice could not rival. There
were frescoes of marvellous beauty, and some carvings
in wood and ivoiy that were priceless. Some years
back, he had employed a great artist to restore some
of the paintings, and supply the place of others that
were beyond restoration, and now it was in a state of
perfect condition, as he would be proud to show

*^ You are aware that we are heretics, Monsieur ? "
said Julia.

" We are all sons of Adam, Mademoiselle," said
he, with a polite bow ; and it was clear that he could
postpone spiritual questions to such time as temporal
matters might be fully completed.

As the chapel was fully twenty minutes' walk
from the villa, and much higher on the mountain
side, had it even been frequented by the country
people it could not have been any cause of incon-
venience to the occupants of the villa ; and this
matter being settled, and some small conditions as


to surrender being agreed to, Bramleigh engaged to
take it for tliree years, with a power to purchase if he
desired it.

Long after the contract was signed and completed,
the old Count continued, in a half-complaining tone,
to dwell on the great sacrifice he had made, what
sums of money were to be made of the lemons and
oranges, how the figs were celebrated even at Kagusa,
and Fontanella melons had actually brought ten
kreutzers — three -hal^ence — apiece in the market at

"Who is it," cried Julia, as the old man took
his leave, " who said that the old mercantile spirit
never died out in the great Venetian families, and
that the descendants of the doges, with all their
pride of blood and race, were dealers and traders
whenever an occasion of gain presented itseK? "

'' Our old friend there has not belied the theory,"
said Bramleigh ; '' but I am right glad that we have
secured La Fontanella."




There is a sad significance in the fact that the
happiest days of our lives are those most difficult to
chronicle ; it is as though the very essence of enjoy-
ment was its uneventful nature. Thus was it that
the little household at the Fontanella felt their
present existence. Its simple pleasures, its peace-
fulness never palled upon them. There was that
amount of general similarity in tastes amongst them
that secures concord, and that variety of disposition and
temperament which promotes and sustains interest.

Julia was the life of all ; for though seeming to
devote herself to the cares of housethrift and manage-
ment, and in reality carrying on all the details of
management, it was she who gave to their daily life
its colour and flavour ; she who suggested occupations
and interest to each ; and while Augustus was charged


to devote his gun and liis rod to the replenishment
of the larder, George was converted into a gardener ;
all the decorative department of the household being
confided to Nelly, who made the bouquets for the
breakfast and dinner-tables, arranged the fruit in
artistic fashion, and was supreme in exacting dinner-
dress and the due observance of all proper etiquette.
Julia was inflexible on this point ; for, as she said,
*' though people laugh at deposed princes for their
persistence in maintaining a certain state and a
certain pageantry in their exile, without these, what
becomes of their prestige, and what becomes of them-
selves? they merge into a new existence, and lose
their very identity. 'We, too, may be 'restored'
one of these days, and let it be our care not to have
forgotten the habits of our station." There was in
this, as in most she said, a semi-seriousness that
made one doubt when she was in earnest ; and this
half-quizzing manner enabled her to caiTy out her
will and bear down opposition in many cases where a
sterner logic would have failed her.

Her greatest art of all, however, was to induce
the others to believe that the chief charm of their
present existence was its isolation. She well knew


that while she herself and Nelly would never complain
of the loneliness of their lives, their estrangement
from the world and all its pursuits, its pleasures
and its interests, the young men would soon discover
Tyhat monotony marked their days, how uneventful
they were, -and how uniform. To convert all these
into merits, to make them helieve that this immunity
from the passing accidents of life was the greatest
of blessings, to induce them to regard the peace in
which they lived as the highest charm that could

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