Charles James Lever.

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coming ?"

" Now, Sir. Here, upon this spot ; here, where, before I rise, I
am determined to have my revenge."

" The bank always closes at daybreak," said Eica, gravely.

" Upon this occasion it will not," said the Duke, with an air of

" Be it so, my Lord Duke ; you shall have everything as you wish
it. I only call these gentlemen to witness that this proceeding is
contrary to my desire, and must form no precedent for the future."

" Few will be found to ask for sucli concession," said the Duke,
tartly. "Let us have no more trifling, but begiu."

" I back the Duke," said Linton, opening his pocket-book, and
taking out a roll of bank-notes. " AVhatever I have touched to-night
has gone luckily with me, and I am sure to bring him good fortune."

" If I miglit ask a favour. Monsieur," said the Duke, "it would be
to leave me to deal single-handed with my destiny."

" As you please, my Lord," said Linton, gaily. " If you will not
accept me as ally, you must have me as adversary. Charley, make
room for me beside you," continued he, addressing a man whose
haggard cheek and deep sunken eye could scarcely rccal the features
of Lord Charles Frobisher.

" He's in for it," muttered Frobisher, as Linton seated himself at
his side.

" AVe shall see," said Linton, calmly, arranging his note-book before
him. Meanwhile, Eica was busily engaged in counting out to the
Duke the heavy sum of the purchase. This occupied a considerable
time, during which Linton amused the others with a running fire of


that gossipry wlaicli goes the round of Parisian society, and takes in
the world of politics, of literature, of art, and of morals. The eventful
period was full of rumours, and none knew better than Linton how
to exalt some into certainty, and degrade others into mere absurdity.
" If the bank wins," said he, laughingly, at the close of some obser-
vation on the condition of parties, "' our friend Kica will be the last
duke in Europe."

" Bah !" said an officer of the Eoyal Guard ; " grape and canister
are just as effectual as ever they were. There is nothing to be appre-
hended from the mob. Two battalions of infantry and a squadron of
hussars will carry the ' ordinances,' if the ministry but give the

" I wish they would begin the game," said Frobisher, querulously,
for he took no interest in any topic but that of play.

" Has any one given orders that the doors shall be close-barred and
locked ?" said another. " The police will be here presently."

"What should bring the police here, Sir?" said Linton, turning
suddenly towards the speaker with a look of almost insolent defiance.

" They are making perquisitions everywhere the last few days,"
said the youth, abashed by the tone and manner of the question.

" Ah ! so they are — very true. I beg your pardon," cried Linton,
affecting a smile. " "We are so intent upon our game here, that one
actually forgets what is occurring in the greater game that is playing

" If there's to be no more play I'm off to bed," yawned Frobisher,
as he stretched himself along the chairs. A group had meanwhile
gathered round a table where refreshments and wine Veere laid out,
and were invigorating themselves for the coming campaign.

" I remember the last seance with closed doors I assisted at," said
a handsome middle-aged man, with a grey moustache, and short-cut
grey hair, " was in the stable at Fontainebleau. We played for seven-
teen hours, and when we separated we discovered that the Empire
was at an end, "and the Emiperor departed !"

"We might do something of the same kind now, Blancharde,"
said another ; " it would be no difficult matter, I fancy, to play an
old Dynasty out and a new one in at this moment."

" Hush, Eozlan ! Marsac is not one ' of us,' " whispered the
former, cautiously.

" He's going the shortest way to become so, notwithstanding.
Nothing enlarges the sphere of political vision like being ruined !
One always becomes liberal, in the political sense, when it is impos-
sible to be so in any other!"

The chatting now turned on the events that were then impending,
a great diversity of opinion existing as to whether the King would
insist upon carrying the " ordinances," and a still wider divergence


as to what result would follow. During tliis discussion, Frobislier's
impatience went beyond all control, and at last he rose, declaring that
he would remain no longer.

" You forget that the doors are locked for twenty-four hours, Sir,"
said another, " and neither can any one leave nor enter the room before
that time."

"We are more sacred than a privy council or a chapter of the
knights of St. Louis," said Eozlan.

" Now then to see who is the next Due de Marlier !" whispered
Linton in Eica's ear. " Let us begin."

" One word with you, Linton," whispered Eica ; " don't bet high,
it distracts my attention — make a mere game of amusement, for this
will be a hard struggle, and it must be the last."

"So I perceive," rejoined Linton; "events are coming fast ; we
must be off ere the tide overtake us."

" The game, the game!" cried Frobisher, striking the table with
his rake.

" And Maritana ?" whispered Linton, holding Eica by the arm.

The other grew lividly pale, and his lip quivered as he said, " Is
this the time, Linton "

" It is the very time," rejoined the other, determinedly, " and I
will have my answer now. You cannot equivocate with me."

" I do not seek to do so. I have told you always what I tell you
still — I cannot coerce her."

" There will be no need. This dukedom will do the business. I
know her well — better than you do. See, they are watching us
yonder. Say the word at once — it is agreed."

" Hear me, Linton "

" I'll hear nothing ; save the one word, 'agreed.' "

"Let me but explain "

" There is nothing to explain. The betrothal you allude to is — as
none knows better than yourself — an idle ceremony ; and if she loves
the fellow, so much the more urgent are the reasons for my request.
Be quick, I say."

" If she consent "

" She shall. My Lord Duke, a thousand pardons, I beg, for this
delay ; but Eica has been tormenting me these ten minutes by the
refusal of a petty favour. He is become reasonable at last ; and now
for the combat !"

The party seated tliemselvcs like men about to witness an exciting
event ; and, although each had liis venture on the game, the Duke
was the great object of interest, and speculation was high as to how
the struggle was to end.

It is no part of our object to follow the changing fortunes of that
long contest, nor watch the vacillating chances which, alternately,


elevated to hope and lowered to very desperation. Before the day
began to dawn, every player, save the Duke, had ceased to bet. Some,
worn out and exhausted, had sunk to sleep upon the rich ottomans ;
others, drinking deep of champagne, seemed anxious to forget every-
thing. Frobisher, utterly ruined, sat in the same place at the table,
mechanically marking the game, on which he had no longer a stake,
and muttering exclamations of joy or disappointment at imaginary
gains and losses, for he still fancied that he was betting large sums,
and participating in all the varying emotions of a gambler's life.

The luck of the bank continued. Play how he would, boldly " back
the colour," or try to suit the fitful fortunes of the game, the Duke
went on losing.

"Were such an ordeal one to evoke admiration, it could scarcely be
withheld from him, who, with an unwearied brain and unbroken
temper, sat patiently there, fighting foot to foot, contesting every inch
of ground, and, even in defeat, preserving the calm equanimity of his
high breeding. Behind his chair stood Linton — a flush of triumph
on his cheek as he continued to behold the undeviating course of
luck that attended the bank. "Another deal like that," muttered
he, " and I shall quarter the arms of Marlier with Linton."

The words were scarcely uttered, when a deep sigh broke from the
Duke — it was the first that had escaped him — and he buried his
head between his hands. Eica looked over at Linton, and a slight,
almost imperceptible, motion of his eyebrows signalled that the battle
was nigh over.

" Well ! how is the game ? Am I betting ? — what's the colour ?"
said the Duke, passing his clammy hand across his brow.

" I am waiting for you, my Lord Duke," said Eica, obsequiously.

" I'm ready — quite ready," cried the other. " Am I the only
player ? I fancied that some others,, were betting. "Where's my
Lord Charles ! — ah ! I see him. And Mr. Linton — is he gone ?"

" He has just left the room, my Lord Duke. "Will you excuse me
if I foUow him for an instant?" And at the same moment Eica
arose, and left the chamber with hasty steps.

It was at the end of a long corridor, tapping gently at a door,
Linton stood, as Eica came up.

" What ! is't over abeady ?" said Linton, with a look of angry im-

"This is not fair, Linton!" said Eica, endeavouring to get nearest
to the door.

"What is not fair ?" said the other, imperiously. " You told me a
while ago that she must pronounce, herself, upon her own future.
Well, I am willing to leave it to that issue."

" But she is unfit to do so at present," said Eica, entreatingly.
" You know well how unsettled is her mind, and how wandering are


her faculties. There are moments when she scarcely knows me — her

" It is enough if she remember me,'' said Linton, insolently. " Her
intellects will recover — the cloud will pass away ; and, if it should not,
still — as my wife, it is an object I have set my heart on ; and so, let
me pass."

" I cannot — I will not peril her chances of recovery by such a
shock," said Eica, firmly, then changing suddenly, he spoke in ac-
cents of deep feeling : " Eemember, Linton, how I offered you her
whom you acknowledged you preferred. I told you the means of
coercion in my power, and pledged myself to use them. It was but
two days since I discovered where they were ; to-morrow we will go
there together. I will claim her as my daughter : the laws of France
are imperative in the matter. Mary Leicester shall be yours."

" I care for her no longer," said Linton, haughtily. " I doubt,
indeed, if I ever cared for her. She is not one to suit my fortunes.
Maritana is, or at least may become so."

" Be it so, but not now, Linton ; the poor child's reason is clouded."

" AVhen she hears she is a Duchess," said Linton, half sneeringly,
" it will dispel the gloomy vapour."

"I implore you — I entreat— on my knees I beg of you " said

the distracted father, and, unable to utter more, he sank powerless at
Linton's feet ; meanwhile the other opened the door, and, steppiug
noiselessly over the prostrate figure, entered the room.


Like a bold criminal he stood,
Calm in his guilt.

The Fokgek.

With firm step and head higli, Linton entered a room where the
dim half-light of the closed jalousies made each object indistinct.
He halted for an instant, to cast a searching glance around, and then
advanced to a door at the farthest end of the apartment ; at this he
tapped twice gently with his knuckles. He waited for an instant,
and then repeated his summons. Still no answer, even though he
rapped a third time, and louder than before. Linton now turned the
handle noiselessly, and opened the door. For a moment or two he
seemed uncertain whether to advance or retire ; but his resolution
was soon made — he entered and closed the door behind him.

The chamber in which Linton now stood was smaller than the


outer one, and equally shaded from the strong sunlight. His eyes
were now, however, accustomed to the dusky half-light, and he was
able to mark the costly furniture and splendid ornaments of the
room. The walls were hung with rose-coloured damask, over which
a drapery of white lace was suspended, looped up at intervals to
admit of small brackets of bronze, on which stood either " statuettes"
or vases of rare " Sevres." At a toilet-table in the middle of the room
were laid out the articles of a lady's dressing-case, but of such costly
splendour that they seemed too gorgeous for use. Trinkets and
jewellery of great value were scattered carelessly over the table, and
an immense diamond cross glittered from the mother-o' -pearl frame
of the looking-glass.

The half-open curtains at the end of the room showed a marble
bath, into which the water flowed from a little cascade of imitation
rustic, its, tiny ripple murmuring in the stUl silence of the room.
There was another sound, still softer and more musical than that,
there — the long-drawn breathing of a young girl, who, with her face
upon her arm, lay asleep upon a sofa. AVith stealthy step and noise-
less gesture, Linton approached and stood beside her. He was not
one to be carried away by any enthusiasm of admiration, and yet he
could not look upon the faultless symmetry of that form, the placid
beauty of that face, on which a passing dream had left a lingering
smile, and not feel deeply moved. In her speaking moments, her
dark and flashing eyes often lent a character of haughty severity to
her handsome features ; now, their dark lashes shrouded them, and
the expression of the face was angelic in sweetness. The olive-dark-
ness of her skin, too, was tempered by the half-light, while the slight
tinge of colour on her cheek might have vied with the petal of a rose.
Linton drew a chair beside the sofa, and sat down. With folded arms,
and head slightly bent forward, he watched her, while his fast-hurrying
thoughts travelled miles and miles — speculating, planning, contriving
— meeting difficulties here — grasping advantages tliere — playing over
a game of life, and thinking if an adversaiy could find a flaw in it.

" She is worthy to be a Duchess," said he, as he gazed at her. " A
Duchess ! — and what more ? — that is the question. Ah, these women,
these women ! if they but knew their power ! If they but knew
how all the boldest strivings of our intellects are as nothing compared
to what their beauty can efiect ! "Well, well ; it is better that they
should not. They are tyrants as it is — petty tyrants — to all who
care for them ; and he who does not is their master. That is the
real power — there the stronghold — and how they fear the man who
takes his stand behind it ! — how they crouch and tremble before him !
— what fascinating graces do they reserve for liim, tliat they would
not bestow upon a lover ! Is it that they only love where they fear ?
How beautiful she looks, and how calmly sweet ! — it is the sleeping



tigress, notwitbstanding. And now to awake her : it is a pity, too ;
tliat wearied mind wants repose, and the future gives but little pro-
mise of it."

He bent down over her, till he almost touched the silken masses
of her long dark hair, and, in a low, soft voice, said :

" Maritana — Maritana."

" No, no, no," said she, in the low, muttering accents of sleep,
"not here — not here!"

"And why not here, dearest ?" said he, catching at the words.

A faint shudder passed over her, and she gathered her shawl more
closely around her.

" Hace mal tiempo — the weather looks gloomy," — said she, in a
faint voice.

" And if not here, Maritaiia, where then ?" said he, in a low tone.

*' In our own deep forests, beneath the liana and the cedar ; where
the mimosa blossoms, and the acacia scents the air ; where fountains
are springing, and the glow-worm shines like a star in the dark
grass. Oh, not here ! not here !" cried she, plaintively.

" Then in Italy, Maritana mia, where all that the tropics can boast
is blended with whatever is beautiful in art; where genius goes
band-in-hand with nature ; and where life floats calmly on, like some
smooth-flowing river, unruffled and unbroken."

A faint low sigh escaped her, and her lips parted with a smile of
surpassing loveliness.

" Yes, dearest — there with me, beside the blue waters of the
Adriatic, or lost amid the chesnut forests of the Apennines. Think
of those glorious cities, too, where the once great still live, en-
shrined by memory, in their own palace walls. Think of Venice "

The word was not well uttered when, with a shrill scream, she
started up and awoke.

" "Who spoke to me of my shame ? "Who spoke of Venice ?" cried
she, in accents of wild terror.

" Be calm, Maritana. It was a dream — nothing but a dream,"
said Linton, pressing her gently down again. " Do not thiuk more
of it."

" Where am I ?" said she, drawing a long breath.

" In your own dressing-room, dearest," said he, in an accent of
deep devotion.

" And you, Sir ? Why are you here ? and by what right do you
address me thus?"

"By no right," said Linton, with a submissive deference which
well became him. " I can plead nothing save the devotion of a heart
long since your own, and tlie good wishes of your father, Maritaiia,
who bade me speak to you."

" I will not believe it, Sir," said she, proudly, as she arose and


Linton's last visit to Maritaiia


■R-alked the room "witli stately step, " I know but too well the in-
fluence you wield over him, although I cannot tell how it is acquired.
I have seen your counsels sway, and your wishes guide him, when my
entreaties were unheard and unheeded. Tell me nothing, then, of
his permission."

" Let me speak of that better reason, wbere my beart may plead,
Maritana. It was to ofier you a share in my fortunes that I have
come here — to place at your feet whatever I possess in rank, in sta-
tion, and in future hope — to place you where your beauty and your
fascinations entitle you to shine — a Peeress of the Court of France
— a Duchess, of a name only second to Eoyalty itself"

The girl's dark eyes grew darker, and her flushed cheek grew crim-
son, as with heaving bosom she listened. " A Duchess!" murmured
she, between ber lips.

" La^Duchesse de Marlier," repeated Linton, slowly, while his keen
eyes were riveted on her.

" And this real — not a pageant — not as that thing you made of me
before ?"

" La Duchesse de Marlier," said Linton, again, " knows of no rank
above her own, save in the Blood Eoyal. Her chateau was the pre-
sent of a king — her grounds are worthy of such a donor."

" And the Duke de Marlier," said she, with a look of ineffable
irony, " who is to play him ? Is that part reserved for Mr. Linton ?"

" Could he not look the character ?" said Linton, putting on a smile
of seeming good humour, while his lip trembled with passion.

" Look it — ay, that could he ; and if looks M'ould suffice, he could!:-
be all that his ambition aims at."

" Tou doubt my sincerity, Maritana," said he, sorrowfully ; " have -
I ever given you cause to do so ?"

" Never," cried she, impetuously. " I read you from the first hour
I saw you. Tou never deceived me. My training has not been like
that of others of my sex and age, amidst the good, the virtuous, and
the pure. It was the corrupt, the base-born, and the abandoned
oflered their examples to my eyes : the ruined gambler, tlie beggared
adventurer — their lives were my daily study. How, then, should I
not recognise one so worthy of them all?"

" This is less than fair, Maritana ; you bear me a grudge for having
counselled that career wherein your triumphs were unbounded ; and
now you speak to me harshly for offering a station a princess might
accept without a derogation."

" Tell me not of my triumphs," said she, passionately ; "they were
my shame! Tou corrupted me, by trifling with my ignorance of the
world. I did not know then, as now I know, what were the prizes of
that ambition I cherished ! But you knew them ; yoxi, speculated on
them, as now you speculate upon others. Ay, blush for it ; let your

T 2


cheek glow, and sear your cold heart for the infamy The coroneted
Duchess would have been a costlier merchandise than the Avreathed
dancer! Oh, shame upon you ! — shame upon you! Could you not
be satisfied witLyour gambler's cruelty, and ruin those who have man-
hood's courage to sustain defeat, but that you should make your
victim a poor, weak, motherless girl, whose unprotected life might
have evoked even your pity?"

" I will supplicate no longer ; upon you be it, if the alternative be
heavy. Hear me, young lady. It is by your father's consent — nay,
more, at his desire — that I make you the profier of my name and
rank. He is in my power — not his fortune, nor his future prospects,
but his very life is in my hands. Tou shudder at havingbeen a dancer :
think of what you may be — the daughter of a for9at, a galley-slave!
If these be idle threats, ask himself; he will tell you if I speak truly.
It is my ambition that you should share my title and my fortune. I
mean to make your position one that the proudest would envy ; reject
my ofier if you will, but never reproach me with what your own blind
folly has accomplished."

Maritaiia stood with clasped hands, and eyes wildly staring on
vacancy, as Linton, in a voice broken with passion, uttered these
words :

" I wiU not press you, now, Maritaiia ; you shall have to-night to
think over aU I have said ; to-morrow you will give me your answer."

" To-morrow ?" muttered she, after him.

" "Who is there ?" said Linton, as a low, faint knock was heard at
the door. It was repeated, and Linton approached and opened the
door. A slight gesture of the hand was all that he could perceive in
the half-light ; but he understood it, and passed out, closing the door
noiselessly behind him.

" Well?" said Eica, as he grasped the other's arm — " well ?"

" "WeU," echoed Linton, peevishly, " she is in her most insolent
of moods, and affects to think that all the splendour I have offered
her is but the twin of the mock magnificence of the stage. She is a
fool, but she'll think better of it, or she must be taught to do so."

Eica sighed hea\i]y, but made no answer ; at last he said,

" It is over with the Uuke, and he bears it well."

*' Good blood always does," said Linton. " Tour men of birtli have
a lively sense of how little they have done for their estates, and there-
fore part with them with a proportionate degree of indifference.
Where is he?"

" AVriting letters in tlie boudoir off" the drawing-room. Tou must
sec him, and ask when the necessary papers can be signed and ex-

Linton walked on, and passing through the play-room, around which


in every attitude of slumber tlie gamblers lay, entered the boudoir,
before a table in whicb the Duke de Marsac was busy writing.

" Fortune has still been obdurate, my Lord Duke, I bear," said be,
entering softly.

Tbe Duke looked up, and bis pale features were totally devoid of
all emotion as be said,

"I bave lost beavily, Sir."

" I am sincerely grieved to bear it ; as an old sufferer in tbe same
field, I can feel for others." A very slight movement of impatience
on the Duke's part showed that be regarded the sympathy as obtru-
sive. Linton saw this, and went on : " I would not bave invaded your
privacy to say as much, my Lord Duke, but I thought it might
be satisfactory to you to learn that your ancient dukedom — the
chateau of your proud ancestors — is not destined to fall into plebeian
bands, nor suffer the indignity of their profanation. I mean to pur-
chase the property from Eica myself."

" Lideed !" said tbe Duke, carelessly, as though tbe announcement
bad no interest for him.

" I bad fancied, my Lord, this information would bave given you
pleasure," said Linton, with evident irritation of manner.

'■ No, Sir," said the other, languidly, " I am ashamed to say I can-
not appreciate tbe value of these tidings."

"Can the contract and transfer be speedily made out?" said
Linton, abruptly.

" Of course ; there shall be no delay in the matter. I will give
orders to my 'Notaire' at once."

" And where shall you be found to-morrow, my Lord Duke, in ease
we desire to confer with you ?"

The Duke grew lividly pale, and be arose slowly from bis chair,
and, taking Linton's arm, drew him towards a window in silence.
Linton saw well that some new train of thought bad suddenly sprung
up, and wondered what could so instantaneously have wrought this
change in bis manner.

" You ask me. Sir," said the Duke, with a slow emphasis on every
word, " where am I to be "found to-morrow ? Is not Mr. Linton's
knowledge of Paris sufficient to suggest tbe answer to that question ?"

Online LibraryCharles James LeverRoland Cashel (Volume 2) → online text (page 30 of 32)