Charles James Lever.

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adorn existence, and at the same time not suffer
them to lapse into dreamy inactivity or lethargic
indifference, was a great trial of skill, and it was
hers to achieve it. As she said, not without a touch
of vain-glory, one day to Nelly, " How intensely
eager I have made them about small things. Your
brother was up at daylight to finish his rock-work
for the creepers, and George felled that tree for the
keel of his new boat before breakfast. Think of
that, Nelly ; and neither of them as much as asked
if the post had brought them letters and newspapers.
Don't laugh, dearest. When men forget the post-
hour, there is something wonderfully good or bad
has befallen them."

so:me news from without. 91

" But it is strange, after all, Ju, how little we
have come to care for the outer world. I protest
I am glad to think that there are only two mails
a week — a thing that when we came here, I would
have pronounced unendurable."

" To George and myself it matters little," said
Julia, and her tone had a touch of sadness in it,
in spite of her attempt to smile. " It would not
be easy to find two people whom the world can
live ydthout at so little cost. There is something in
that, Nelly; though I'm not sure that it is all

"Well, you have your recompence, Julia," said
the other, affectionately, " for there is a little * world '
here could not exist without you."

" Two hares, and something like a black cock,
they call it a caper, here," cried Augustus fi-om
beneath the window. " Come down, and let us
have breakfast on the terrace. By the way, I have
just got a letter in Cutbill's hand. It has been a
fortnight in coming, but I only glanced at the date
of it."

As they gathered around the breakfast-table they
were far more eager to learn what had been done


in the garden and what progress was being made
with the fish-pond, than to hear Mr. Cutbill's news,
and his letter lay open, till nigh the end of the meal,
on the table before any one thought of it.

"Who wants to read Cutbill?" said Augustus,

" Not I, Gusty, if he vn^ite as he talks."

"Do you know, I thought him very pleasant?"
said L'Estrange. "He told me so much that I had
never heard of, and made such acute remarks on life
and people."

"Poor dear George was so flattered by Mr.
Cutbill's praise of his boiled mutton, that he took
quite a liking to the man ; and when he declared
that some poor little wine we gave him had a flavour
of ' muscat ' about it, like old Moselle, I really believe
he might have borrowed money of us if he had
wanted, and if we had had any."

"I wish you would read him aloud, Julia," said

"With all my heart," said she, turning over the
letter to see its length. " It does seem a long
document, but it is a marvel of clear writing. Now
for it : — ' Naples, Hotel Victoria. My dear Bramleigh.'


Of course you are his dear Bramleigli ? Lucky, after
all, that it's not dear Gusty."

" That's exactly what makes evenihing about
that man intolerable to me,'' said Xelly. *' The
degree of intimacy between people is not to be
measured by the inferior."

"I will have no discussions, no interruptions,"
said Julia. "If there are to be comments, they
must be made by me.'"

" That's tp-anny, I think," cried Xelly.

" I call it more than arrogance," said Augustus.

"My dear Bramleigh," continued Julia, reading
aloud — '' I followed the old %-iscount down here, not
in the best of tempers, I assure you ; and though
not easily outwitted or baflBed in such matters, it
was not till after a week that I succeeded in getting
an audience. There's no denying it, he's the best
actor on or off the boards in Europe. He met
me coldly, haughtily. I had treated him badly,
forsooth, shamefully; I had not deigned a reply to
any of his letters. He had written me three — he
wasn't sure there were not four letters — to Rome.
He had sent me cards for the Pope's chapel — cards
for Cardinal Somebody's receptions — cards for a


concert at St. Paul's, outside the walls. I don't
know what attentions lie had not showered on me,
nor how many of his high and titled friends had
not called at a hotel where I never stopped, or left
their names with a porter I never saw\ I had to
wait till he poured forth all this with a grand
eloquence, at once disdainful and damaging ; the
peroration being in this ^\ise — that such lapses as
mine were things unknown in the latitudes inhabited
by well-bred people. ' These things are not done,
Mr. Cutbill ! ' said he, arrogantly ; ' these things
are not done ! You may call them trivial omissions,
mere trifles, casual forgetfulnesses, and such like;
but even men who have achieved distinction, who
have won fame and honours and reputation, as I
am well aware is your case, would do well to observe
the small obligations which the discipline of society
enforces, and condescend to exchange that small coin
of civilities which form the circulating medium of
good manners.' When he had delivered himself of
this he sat down overpowered, and though I, in
very plain language, told him that I did not believe
a syllable about the letters, nor accept one word of
the lesson, he only fanned himself and bathed his


•temples with rose-water, no more heeding me or mv
indignation than if I had been one of the figures
on his Japanese screen.

" * Yon certainly said you were stopping at the
''Minerva/" said he.

'^'I certainly told your lordship I was at Spil-

" He wanted to show me why this could not
possibly be the case — how men like himself never
made mistakes, and men like me continually did so
— that the veiy essence of great men's lives was to
attach importance to those smaller circumstances
that inferior people disregarded, and so on ; but I
simply said, ' Let us leave that question where it
is, and go on to a more important one. Have you
had time to look over my account ? '

" ' If you had received the second of those letters
you have with such unfeigned candour assured me
were never written, you'd have seen that I only
desire to know the name of your banker in town,
that I may order my agent to remit the money.'

" * Let us make no more mistakes about an
address, my lord,' said I. ' I'll take a cheque for
the amount now,' and he gave it. He sat down and


wrote me an order on Hedges and Holt, Pall Mall,
for fifteen hundred pounds.

" I was so overcome by the promptitude and by
the grand manner he handed it to me, that I am free
to confess I was heartily ashamed of my previous
rudeness, and would have given a handsome discount
off my cheque to have been able to obliterate all
memory of my insolence.

*^ ' Is there anything more between us, Mr. Cut-
bill ? ' said he, politely, * for I think it would be a
mutual benefit if we could settle all our outlying
transactions at the present interview.'

" ' Well,' said I, ' there's that two thousand of
the parson's, paid in, if you remember, after Port-
law's report to your lordship that the whole scheme
must founder.'

'' He tried to browbeat at this. It was a matter
in which I had no concern ; it was a question which
Mr. L'E strange was at full liberty to bring before
the courts of law ; my statement about Portlaw was
incorrect ; dates were against me, law was against
me, custom was against me, and at last it was nigh
dinner-hour, and time was against me ; ' unless,'
said he, with a change of voice I never heard equalled


off the stage, ' j'ou will stay and eat a yery humble
dinner with Temple and myself, for my lady is

"To be almost on fighting terms with a man
ten minutes ago, and to accept his invitation to
dinner now, seemed to me one of those things
perfectly beyond human accomplishment ; but the
way in which he tendered the invitation, and the
altered tone he imparted to his manner, made me
feel that not to imitate him was to stamp myself for
ever as one of those vulgar dogs whom he had just
been ridiculing, and I assented.

'' I have a perfect recollection of a superb dinner,
but beyond that, and that ' the champagne was
decanted, and that there was a large cheese stufied
with truffles, and that there were ortolans in ice, I
know nothing. It was one of the pleasantest even-
ings I ever passed in my hfe. I sang several songs,
and might have sung more if a message had not
come from my lady to beg that the piano might be
stopped, an intimation which closed the seance, and
I said good-night. The next morning Temple called
to say my lord was too much engaged to be able to
receive me again, and as to that little matter I had
VOL. III. 52


mentioned, he had an arrangement to propose which
might be satisfactory ; and whether it was that my
faculties were not the clearer for my previous night's
convivialities, or that Temple's explanations were of
the most muddled description, or that the noble lord
had purposely given him a tangled skein to unravel,
I don't know, but all I could make out of the pro-
posed arrangement was that he wouldn't give any
money back — no, not on any terms : to do so would
be something so derogatory to himself, to his rank,
to his position in diplomacy, it would amount to a
self-accusation of fraud; what would be thought of
him by his brother peers, by society, by the world,
and by The Office ?

"He had, however, the alternate presentation
to the living of Oxington in Herts. It was two
hundred and forty pounds per annum and a house —
in fact * a provision more than ample,' he said, * for
any man not utterly a worldling.' He was not sure
whether the next appointment lay with himself or a
certain Sir Marcus Cluff — a retired fishmonger, he
thought, — then living at Kome ; but so well as I
could make out, if it was Lord Culdufi''s turn he
would appoint L'Estrange, and if it was Cluff's, we


were to cajole, or to bully, or to persuade him out of
it ; and L'E strange was to be inducted as soon as the
present incumbent, who only wanted a few months of
ninety, was promoted to a better place. This may
all seem very confused, dim, and unintelligible, but
it is a plain ungarbled statement in comparison with
what I received from Temple — who, to do him justice,
felt all the awkwardness of being sent out to do
something he didn't understand by means that he
never possessed. He handed me, however, a letter
for Cluff from the noble viscount, which I was to
deliver at once ; and, in fact, this much was intelli-
gible, that the sooner I took myself away from
Naples, in any du-ection I liked best, the better.
There are tinies when it is as well not to show that
you see the enemy is cheating you, when the
shrewdest policy is to let him deem you a dupe and
wait patiently till he has compromised himself be-
yond recall. In this sense I agi-eed to be the bearer
of the letter, and started the same night for Rome.

Cluff was installed at the same hotel where I
was stopping, and I saw him the next morning. He
was a poor broken-down creature, sitting in a room
saturated with some peculiar vapour which seemed


to agree with liim, but half suffocated me. The
viscount's letter, however, very nearly put us on
a level, for it took his breath away, and all but
finished him.

*' ' Do you know, sir,' said he, Hhat Lord Cul-
duff talks here of a title to a presentation that I
bought with the estate thirty years ago, and that
he has no more right in the matter than he has to
the manor-house. The vicarage is in my sole gift,
and though the present incumbent is but two-and-
thirty, he means to resign and go out to New
Zealand.' He maundered on about Lord Culduff's
inexplicable blunder ; what course he ought to adopt
towards him ; if it were actionable, or if a simple
apology would be the best solution, and at last said,
' There was no one for whom he had a higher esteem
than Mr. L 'Estrange, and that if I would give him
his address he w^ould like to communicate with him
personally in the matter.' This looked at least
favourable, and I gave it with great willingness ; but
I am free to own I have become now so accustomed
to be jockeyed at every step I go, that I wouldn't
trust the Pope himself, if he promised me anything
beyond his blessing.


" I saw Cluff again to-day, and lie said he had half
written his letter to L'Estrange ; hut being his post-
fumigation day, when his doctor enjoined complete
repose, he could not complete or post the document
till Saturday. I have thought it best, however, to
apprise you, and L'Estrange through you, that such
a letter is on its way to Cattaro, and I trust with
satisfactory intelligence. And now that I must bring
this long narrative to an end, I scarcely know
whether I shall repeat a scandal you may have heard
already, or, more probably still, not like to hear now,
but it is the to^^'n-talk here ; that Pracontal, or
Count Bramleigh, — I don't know which name he
is best known by — is to manw Lady Augusta.
Some say that the marriage will depend on the
verdict of the trial being in his favour ; others
declare that she has accepted him unconditionally.
I was not disposed to believe the story, but Cluff
assures me that it is unquestionable, and that he
knows a lady to whom Lady Augusta confided this
determination. And, as Cluff says, such an oppor-
tunity of shocking the world will not occur every-
day, and it cannot be expected she could resist the


"I am going back to England at once, and I
enclose you my town address in case you want me :
* 4, Joy Court, Cannon Street.' The Culduff mining
scheme is now wound up, and the shareholders have
signed a consent. Their first dividend of fourpence
will be paid in January, future payment will be
announced by notice. Tell L'Estrange, however, not
to ' come in,' but to wait.

" If I can be of service in any way, make use of
me, and if I cannot, don't forget me, but think of
me as, what I once overheard L'Estrange's sister call
me, — a well-meaning snob, and very faithfully yours,


( 103 )



The sun had just sunk below the horizon, and a
blaze of blended crimson and gold spread over the
Bay of Naples colouring the rocky island of Ischia till
it glowed like a carbuncle. Gradually, however, the
rich warm tints began to fade away from the base of
the mountains, and a cold blue colour stole slowly
up their sides, peak after peak surrendering their
gorgeous panoply, till at length the whole island
assumed a tinge blue as the sea it stood in.

But for the memory of the former glory it would
have been difficult to imagine a more beautiful
pictm-e. Every cliff and jutting promontory tufted
with wild olives and myrtle was reflected in the
waveless sea below ; and featheiy palm-trees and
broad-leaved figs trembled in the water, as that
gentle wash eddied softly round the rocks, or played
on the golden shore.


It was essentially the hour of peace and repose.
Along the shores of the h£ij, in every little village,
the angelus was ringing, and kneeling groups were
bowed in prayer ; and even here, on this rocky islet,
where crime and T\T.'etchedness were sent to expiate
by years of misery their sins against their fellow-
men, the poor galley-slaves caught one instant of
kindred with the world, and were suffered to taste in
peace the beauty of the hour. There they were in
little knots and groups— some lying listlessly in the
deep grass ; some gathered on a little rocky point,
watching the fish as they darted to and fro in the
limpid w^ater, and doubtless envying their glorious
freedom ; and others, again, seated under some
spreading tree, and seeming, at least, to feel the
calm influence of the hour.

The soldiers who formed their guard had piled
their arms, leaving here and there merely a sentinel,
and had gone down amongst the rocks to search for
limpets, or those rugged ''ricci di mare" which
humble palates accept as delicacies. A few, too,
dashed in for a swim, and their joyous voices and
merry laughter were heard amid the plash of the
water they disported in.


In a small cleft of a rock overshadowed by an old
ilex-tree two men sat moodily gazing on the sea.
In dress they were indeed alike, for both wore that
terrible red and yellow livery that marks a life -long
condemnation, and each carried the heav}- chain of
the same terrible sentence. They were linked
together at the ankle, and thus, for convenience sake,
they sat shoulder to shoulder. One was a thin,
spare, but still wiry-looking man, evidently far
advanced in life, but with a vigour in his look and
a quick inteUigence in his eye that showed what
energy he must have possessed in youth. He had
spent years at the galleys, but neither time nor
the degradation of his associations had completely
eradicated the traces of something above the common
in his appearance ; for No. 97 — he had no other
name as a prisoner — had been condemned for his
share in a plot against the life of the king ; thi'ee of
his associates having been beheaded for their gi-eater
criminality. "VMiat station he might originally have
belonged to was no longer easy to determine ; but
there were yet some signs that indicated that he had
been at least in the middle rank of life. His com-
panion was unlike him in every way. He was a


young man, with fresh complexion and -large blue
eyes, the very type of frankness and good-nature.
Not even prison diet and discipline had yet hollowed
his cheek, though it was easy to see that un-
accustomed labour and distasteful food were begin-
ning to tell upon his strength, and the bitter smile
with which he was gazing on his lank figure and
wasted hands showed the wearing misery that was
consuming him.

" Well, old Nick," said the young man at length.
" this is to be our last evening together ; and if I
ever should touch land again, is there any way I
could help you — is there anything I could do for

" So then you're determined to try it ? " said the
other, in a low growling tone.

" That I am. I have not spent weeks fihng
through that confounded chain for nothing : one
wrench now, and it's smashed."

" And then ? " asked the old man with a grin.

" And then I'll have a swim for it. I know all
that — I know it all," said he, answering a gesture of
the other's hand ; " but do you think I care to drag
out such a life as this ? "


" I do," was the quiet reply.

" Then why you do is clear and clean beyond me.
To me it is worse than fifty deaths."

" Look here, lad," said the old man, with a
degree of animation he had not shown before. " There
are four hundi-ed and eighty of us here ; some for
ten, some for twenty years, some for life ; except
yourself alone there is not one has the faintest
chance of a pardon. You are English, and your
nation takes trouble about its people, and, right or
wrong, in the end gets them favourable treatment,
and yet you are the only man here would put his life
in jeopardy on so poor a chance."

'' I'll trs' it, for aU that."

" Did 3'ou ever hear of a man that escaped by
swimming ? "

" If they didn't it was then* own fault — at least
they gave themselves no fair chance ; they always
made for the shore, and generally the nearest shore,
and of course they were followed and taken. Ill
strike out for the open sea, and when I have cut
the cork floats off a fishing-net, I'll be able to
float for hours, if I should tire shimming. Once
in the open, it will be hard luck if some coasting


vessel, some steamer to Palermo or Messina, should
not pick me up. Besides, there are numbers of
fishing-boats ' '

'* Any one of which would be right glad to make
five ducats by bringing you safe back to the police."

" I don't believe it — I don't believe there is that
much baseness in a human heart."

" Take my word for it, there are depths a good
deal below even that," said the old man, with a harsh
grating laugh.

" No matter, come what will of it, I'll make the
venture ; and now, as our time is growing short,
tell me if there is anything I can do for you, if
I live to get free again. Have you any friends who
could help you ? or is there any one to whom you
would wish me to go on your behalf? "

" None— none," said he, slowly but calmly.

" As yours was a political crime "

" I have done all of them, and if my life were to
be drawn out for eighty years longer it would not
suffice for all the sentences against me."

" Still I'd not despair of doing something '*

" Look here, lad," said the other, sharply; ''it
is my will that all who belong to me should believe


me dead. I was shipwrecked twelve years ago,
and reported to have gone down with all the crew.
My son "

" Have YOU a son, then ? "

" My son inherits rights that, stained as I am by
crime and condemnation, I never could have main-
tained. \Yhether he shall make them good or not
vnll depend on whether he has more or less of my
blood in his veins. It may be, however, he will want
money to prosecute his claim. I have none to send
him, but I could tell him where he is almost certain
to find not only money, but what will serve him
more than money, if you could make him out. I
have wi'itten some of the names he is known by
on this paper, and he can be traced through Bolton
the banker at Naples. Tell him to seek out all the
places old Giacomo Lami worked at. He never
painted his daughter Enrichetta in a fresco, that he
didn't hide gold, or jewels, or papers of value some-
where near. Tell him, above all, to find out where
Giacomo's last work was executed. You can say
that you got this commission from me years ago in
Monte Yideo ; and when you tell him it was Xiccolo
Baldassare gave it, he'll believe you. There. I


have written Giacomo Lami on that paper, so that
you need not trust to your memory. But why do I
waste time with these things ? You'll never set foot
on shore, lad — never."

" I am just as certain that I shall. If that son
of yours was only as certain of winning his estate,
I'd call him a lucky fellow. But see, they are
almost dressed. They'll be soon ready to march
us home. Rest your foot next this rock till I
smash the link, and when you see them coming
roll this heavy stone down into the sea. I'll make
for the south side of the island, and, once night
falls, take to the water. Good-by, old fellow. I'll
not forget you — never, never," and he wrung the
old man's hand in a strong grasp. The chain gave
way at the second blow, and he was gone.

Just as the last flickering light was fading from
the sky, three cannon shots, in quick succession,
announced that a prisoner had made his escape, and
patrols issued forth in every direction to scour the
island, while boats were manned to search the caves
and crevasses along the shore.

The morning's telegram to the Minister of Police
ran thus : — ^' No. 11 made his escape last evening.


filing his ankle-iron. The prisoner 97, to whom
he was linked, declares that he saw him leap into
the sea and sink. This statement is not helieved;
but up to this, no trace of the missing man has been

In the afternoon of the same day. Temple
Bramleigh learned the news, and hastened home
to the hotel to inform his chief. Lord Culdufl'
was not in the best of tempers. Some independent
member below the gangway had given notice of
a question he intended to ask the Secretary for
Foreign Affairs, and the leader of a Eadical morning
paper had thus paraphrased the inquiry : — " '^liat
Mr. Bechell wishes to ascertain, in fact, amounts
to this, — ' Could not the case of Samuel Eogers
have been treated by our resident envoy at Naples,
or was it necessary that the dignity and honour
of England should be maintained by an essenced
old fop, vrhose social successes — and we never heard
that he had any other — date from the early days of
the Eegency ? ' "

Lord Culduff was pacing his room angrily when
Temple entered, and, although nothing would have
induced him to show the insolent paragraj^h of


the paper, lie burst out into a violent abuse of those

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