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law will take Augustus about, and show him Kome,
and I shall have you all to myself. We have much
to talk of, haven't we ? "

Nelly murmured an assent, and the other con-
tinued :

*' It's all so sudden, and so dreadful, — one
doesn't realize it; at least / don't. And it usually
takes me an hour or two of a morning to convince
me that we are all ruined; and then I set to work
thinking how I'm to live on — I forget exactly what
— how much is it, darling ? Shall I be able to
keep my dear horses ? I'd rather die than part
with Ben Azir ; one of the Sultan's own breeding ;
an Arab of blue blood, Nelly, — think of that ! I've
refused fabulous sums for him; but he is such a
love, and follows me everywhere, and rears up when
I scold him, — and all to be swept away as if it


was a dream. \Miat do you mean to do, dearest ?
Marry, of course. I know that, — but in the mean-

" We are going to Cattaro. Augustus has been
named consul there."

" Darling child, you don't know what you are
saying. Isn't a consul a horrid creature that lives
in a seaport, and worries merchant seamen, and
imprisons people who have no passports?"

" I declare I haven't a notion of his duties," said
Nelly, laughing. •

" Oh, I know them perfectly. Papa always wrote
to the consul about getting heavy baggage through
the custom-house ; and when our seiwants quarrelled
with the porters, or the hotel people, it was the
consul sent some of them to jail ; but you are aware,
darling, he isn't a creatm-e one knows. They are
simply impossible, dear, impossible." And as she
spoke she lay back in her chair, and fanned herself
as though actually overcome by the violence of her

" I must hope Augustus -^-ill not be impossible ; "
and Nelly said this with a diw mixture of humour
and vexation.


" He can't help it, dearest. It will be from no
fault of his own. Let a man be what he may, once
he derogates there's an end of him. It sounds
beautifully, I know, to say that he will remain
gentleman and man of station through all the
accidents of life ; so he might, darling, so long as
he did nothing — absolutely nothing. The moment,
however, he touches an " emploi " it's all over; from
that hour he becomes the custom's creature, or the
consul, or the factor, or whatever it be irrevocably.
Do you know that is the only way to keep men of
family out of small official life ? We should see
them keeping lighthouses if it were not for the

" And it would be still better than depend-

" Yes, dearest, in a novel — in a three-volume
thing from Mudie — so it would ; but real life is not
half so accommodating. I'll talk to Gusty about
this myself. And now, do tell me about yourself.
Is there no engagement ? no fatal attachment that
all this change of fortune has blighted ? Who is he,
dearest ? tell me all ! You don't know what a won-
derful creature I am for expedients. There never


was the like of me for resources. I could always pull
any one tlirough a difficulty but myself."

"I am sorry I have no web to offer you for
disentanglement . ' '

'* So then he has behaved well; he has not
deserted you in your change of fortune ? "'

" There is really no one in the case," said
Nelly, laughing. '•' No one to be either faithful or

" Worse again, dearest. There is nothing so
good at your age as an unhappy attachment. A girl
without a grievance always mopes; and," added she,
with a marked acuteness of look, '' moping ages one
quicker than downright grief. The eyes get a heavy
expression, and the mouth drags at the comers, and
the chin — isn't it funny, now, such a stoHd feature
as the chin should take on to worry us '?— but the
chin widens and becomes square, like those Egyptian
hoiTors in the Museum."

'' I must look to that," saidXelly, gi'avely. '•' I'd
be shocked to find my chin betraying me."

" And men are such wretches. There is no
amount of fretting they don't exact from us ; but if
we show any signs of it afterwards, — any hard lines


about tlie eyes, or any patchiness of colour in the
clieek, — tliey cry out, * Isn't she gone off?' That's
their phrase, ' Isn't she gone off ? ' "

" How well you understand; how well you read
them ! "

" I should think I do ; but after all, dearest,
they have very few devices ; if it wasn't that they
can get away, run off to the clubs and their other
haunts, they would have no chance with us. See
how they fare in country-houses, for instance. How
many escape there ! What a nice stuff your dress is
made of ! "

" It was \erj cheap."

" No matter ; it's English. That's the great
thing here. Any one can buy a ' gros.' What
one really wants is a nameless texture and a neutral
tint. You must positively walk with me on the
Pincian in that dress. Roman man remark every-
thing. You'll not be ten minutes on the promenade
till every one will know whether you wear two buttons
on your gloves or three."

" How odious ! "

" How delightful ! Why, my dear child, for
whom do we dress ? Not for each other ; no more


than the ai'tists of a theatre act or sing for the rest of
the company. Our audience is before us ; not always
a very enlightened or cultivated one, but always
critical. There, do look at that stupid gi-oom ; see
how he suffers my horse to lag behind : the certain
way to have him kicked by the other ; and I should
die, I mean really die if anything happened to Ben
Azir. By the way how well our parson rides. I
declare I like him better in the saddle than in the
pulpit. They rave here about the way he jumps the
ox-fences. You must say ^ tant des choses ' for me,
to him and his sister, whom I fear I have treated
shamefully. I was to have had her to dinner one
day, and I forgot all about it ; but she didn't mind,
and wrote me the prettiest note in the world. But
I always say, it is so easy for people of small means
to be good-tempered. They have no jealousies about
going here or there ; no heart-burnings that such a
one's lace is Brussels point, and much finer than
their own. Don't you agi-ee with me "? There, I
knew it would come to that. He's got the snaffle
out of Ben Azir's mouth, and he's sure to break

" That gentleman apparently has come to the


rescue. See, he has dismounted to set all to

'' How polite of him. Do you know him, dear ? "

** No. I may have seen him before. I'm so
terribly short-sighted, and this glass does not suit
me ; but I must be going. I suppose I had better
thank that strange man, hadn't I ? Oh, of course,
dearest, you would be too bashful ; but I'm not.
My old governess, Madame de Forgeon, used to
say that English people never knew how to be
bashful; they only looked culpable. And I protest
she was right."

*' The gentleman is evidently waiting for your
gratitude ; he is standing there still."

" What an observant puss it is," said Lady
Augusta, kissing her. " Tell Gusty to come and
see me. Settle some day to come in and dine,
and bring the parson : he's a great favourite of
mine. Where have I dropped my gauntlet? Oh,
here it is. Pretty whip, isn't it ? A present, a
sort of a love-gift from an old Kussian prince, who
wanted me to marry him : and I said I was afraid ;
that I heard Kussians knouted their wives. And
so he assured me I should have the only whip he


ever used, and sent me this. It was neat, or rather,
as Dumas says, ' La plaisanterie n'etait pas mal pour
un Cossaque.' Good-bv, dearest, good -by."

So actually exhausted was poor Nelly by the
rattling impetuosity of Lady Augusta's manner, her
sudden transitions, and abrupt questionings, that,
when Julia entered the room, and saw her lying
back in a chair, wearied looking and pale, she
asked —

''Are you ill, dear?"

" Xo ; but I am actually tired. Lady Augusta
has been an hour here, and she has talked till my
head turned."

" I feel for you sincerely. She gave me one
of the worst headaches I ever had, and then made
my illness a reason for staying all the evening here
to bathe my temples."

" That was good-natured, however."

" So I'd have thought, too, but that she made
George always attend her with the ice and the eau-
de-cologne, and thus maintained a little ambulant
flirtation with him, that, sick as I was, almost drove
me mad."

" She means nothing, I am certain, by all these


levities, or, rather, she does not care what they
mean ; hut here come our brothers, and I am eager
for news, if they have any."

"Where's George?" asked Julia, as Augustus
entered alone.

" Sir Marcus Something caught him at the gate,
and asked to have five minutes with him."

" That means putting off dinner for an hour
at least," said she, half pettishly. " I must go
and warn the cook."

( 31 )



When Sir Marcus Cliiff was introduced into
L'Estrange's study, his first care was to divest
himself of his various " wraps," a process not very
unlike that of the Hamlet gravedigger. At length,
he anived at a suit of entire chamois-leather, in
which he stood forth like an enormous frog, and
sorely pushed the parson's gravity in consequence.

" This is what Hazeldean calls the ' chest-
sufferer's true cuticle.' Nothing like leather, my
dear su', in pulmonic affections. If I'd have known
it earher in life, I'd have saved half of my left lung,
which is now hopelessly hepatized."

L'Estrange looked compassionate, though not
very well knowing what it was he had pity for.

'' Not," added the invalid hastily, " that even
this constitutes a grave constitutional defect. Davies


says, in his second volume, that among the robust
men of England you would not find one in twenty
without some lungular derangement. He percussed
me all over, and was some time before he found out
the blot." The air of triumph in which this was
said showed L 'Estrange that he too might afford to
look joyful.

" So that, with this reservation, sir, I do consider
I have a right to regard myself, as Boreas pronounced
me, sound as a roach."

" I sincerely hope so."

" You see, sir, I mean to be frank with you. I
descend to no concealments."

It was not very easy for L'Estrange to understand
this speech, or divine what especial necessity there
was for his own satisfaction as to the condition of
Sir Marcus Cluff 's viscera ; he, however, assented in
general terms to the high esteem he felt for candour
and openness.

" No, my dear Mr. L'Estrange," resumed he,
" without this firm conviction — a sentiment based
on faith and the stethoscope together — you had not
seen me here this day."

''The weather is certainly trying," said L'Estrange.


" I do not allude to the -weatlier, sir ; the weather
is, for the season, remarkably fine weather ; there
was a mean temperature of 68° Fahrenheit dui-ing
the last twenty-four hours. I spoke of my pulmonary
condition, because I am aware people are in the habit
of calling me consumptive. It is the indiscriminating
way ignorance treats a vers' complex question ; and
when I assured you that without an honest conviction
that organic mischief had not proceeded far, I really
meant what I said when I told you you would not
have seen me here this day."

Again was the parson mystified, but he only

" Ah, sir," sighed the other, " why will not
people be always candid and sincere ? And when
shall we arrive at the practice of what will compel
— actually compel sincerity ? I tell you, for instance,
I have an estate worth so much — house property
here, and shares in this or that company — but there
are mortgages, I don't say how much, against me ;
I have no need to say it. You drive down to the
Eegistration Office and you learn to a shilling to
what extent I am liable, ^'hy not have the same
system for physical condition, sir '? AYhy can't you
VOL. III. 48


call on the College of Physicians, or whatever the
body he, and say, ' How is Sir Marcus Cluff? I'd
like to know about that right auricle of his heart.
What about his pancreas ? ' Don't you perceive the
inestimable advantage of what I advise ? "

" I protest, sir, I scarcely follow you. I do not
exactly see how I have the right, or to what extent
I am interested, to make this inquiry."

'' You amaze — you actually amaze me ! " and
Sir Marcus sat for some seconds contemplating
the object of his astonishment. " I come here, sir,
to make an offer for jouv sister's hand "

" Pardon my interrupting, but I learn this inten-
tion only now."

" Then you didn't read my note. You didn't
read the ' turn over.' "

" I'm afraid not. I only saw what referred to
the church."

" Then, sir, you missed the most important ;
had you taken the trouble to turn the page, you
would have seen that I ask your permission to pay
my formal attentions to Miss L 'Estrange. It was
with intention I first discussed and dismissed a
matter of business ; I then proceeded to a question


of sentiment, premising that I held myself bound to
satisfy you regarding my propei*ty, and my pulmo-
nary condition. Mind, body, and estate, sir, are
not coupled together ignorantly, nor inharmoni-
ously; as you know far better than me, — mind,
body, and estate," repeated he, slowly. " I am here
to satisfy you on each of them."

" Don't you think. Sir Marcus, that there are
questions which should possibly precede these ? "

''Do you mean Miss L'Estrange's sentiments,
sir ? " George bowed, and Sir Marcus continued :
"I am vain enough to suppose I can make out a
good case for myself. I look more, but I'm only
forty-eight, forty-eight on the twelfth September. I
have twenty-seven thousand pounds in bank stock —
stock, mind you, — and three thousand four hundred
a year in land, Norfolk property. I have a share —
we'll not speak of it now — in a city house ; and
what's better than all, sir, not sixpence of debt in
the world. I am aware your sister can have no
fortune, but I can afford myself, what the French
call a caprice, though this ain't -a caprice, for I have
thought well over the matter, and I see she would
suit me perfectly. She has nice gentle ways, she


can be soothing without depression, and calm with-
out discouragement. Ah, that is the secret of
secrets ! She gave me my drops last evening with
a tenderness, a graceful sympathy, that went to
my heart. I want that, sir — I need it, I yearn
for it.. Simpson said to me years ago, ' Marry,
Sir Marcus, marry ! yours is a temperament that
requires study and intelligent care. A really clever
woman gets to know a pulse to perfection ; they
have a finer sensibility, a higher organization, too,
in the touch.' Simpson laid great stress on that;
but I have looked out in vain, sir. I employed
agents ; I sent people abroad ; I advertised in The
Times — M. C. was in the second column — for above
two years ; and with a correspondence that took two
clerks to read through and minute. All to no end !
All in vain ! They tell me the really competent
people never do reply to an advertisement ; that
one must look out for them oneself, make private
personal inquiry. Well, sir, I did that, and I got
into some unpleasant scrapes with it, and two actions
for breach of promise ; two thousand pounds the
last cost me, though I got my verdict, sir ; the
Chief Baron very needlessly recommending me, for


the future, to be cautious in forming the acquaint-
ance of ladies, and to avoid widows as a general rule.
These are the pleasantries of the Bench, and doubt-
less they amuse the junior bar. I declare to you,
sir, in all seriousness, I'd rather that a man should
give me a fillip on the nose than take the liberty of
a joke with me. It is the one insufferable thing in
life." This sally had so far excited him that it was
some minutes ere he recovered his self-possession.
"Now, Mr. L'Estrange," said he, at last, '' I bind
you in no degree — I pledge you to nothing ; I
simply ask leave to address myself to your sister.
It is what lawyers call a ' motion to show cause
why.' "

''I perceive that," broke in L'Estrange; "but
even that much I ought not to concede without
consulting my sister and obtaining her consent.
You will allow^ me therefore time."

" Time, sir! My nerves must not be agitated.
There can be no delays. It was not without a
great demand on my courage, and a strong dose of
chlorodine — Japps's preparation — that I made this
effort now. Don't imagine I can sustain it much
longer. No, sir, I cannot give time."


" After all, Sir Marcus, you can scarcely suppose
that my sister is prepared for such a proposition."

*' Sir, they are always prepared for it. It never
takes them unawares. I have made them my study
for years, and I do think I have some knowledge of
their way of thinking and acting. I'll lay my life on
it, if you will go and say, * Maria ' "

''My sister's name is Julia," said the other,

" It may be, sir — I said ' Maria ' generically,
and I repeat it — 'Maria, there is in my study at
this moment a gentleman, of irreproachable morals
and unblemished constitution, whose fortune is
sufficiently ample to secure many comforts and all
absolute necessaries, who desires to make you his
wife ; ' her first exclamation will be, ' It is Sir
Marcus Cluff.' "

"It is not impossible," said L 'Estrange, gravely.

" The rest, sir, is not with you, nor even with
me. Do me, then, the great favour to bear my

Although seeing the absurdity of the situation,
and vaguely forecasting the way Julia might possibly
hear the proposition, L'Estrange was always so much


disposed to yield to tlie earnestness of any one wlio
persisted in a demand, that lie bowed and left the

" Well, George, he has proposed ? " cried Julia,
as her brother entered the room, where she sat mth
Nelly Bramleigh.

He nodded only, and the two girls burst out into
a merry laugh.

" Come, come, Julia," said he, reprovingly.
" Absurd as it may seem, the man is in earnest,
and must be treated with consideration."

" But tell us the whole scene. Let us have it
all as it occm-red."

^* I'll do nothing of the kind. It's quite enough
to say that he declares he has a good fortune, and
wishes to share it with you, and I think the expres-
sion of that wish should secure him a certain defer-
ence and respect."

" But who refuses, who thinks of refusing him
all the deference and respect he could ask for ? Not
I, certainly. Come now, like a dear good boy, let
us hear all he said, and what you replied. I suspect
there never was a better bit of real-life comedy. I
only wish I could have had a part in it."


" Not too late yet, perhaps," said Nelly, with
a dry humour. " The fifth act is only beginning."

" That is precisely what I am meditating. George
will not tell me accurately what took place in his
interview, and I think I could not do better than
go and learn Sir Marcus' sentiments for myself."

She arose and appeared about to le^ve the room
when L'Estrange sprang towards the door, and stood
with his back against it.

*' You're not serious, Ju?" cried he, in amazement.

" I should say very serious. If Sir Marcus only
makes out his case, as favourably as you, with all
your bungling, can't help representing it, why —
all things considered, eh, Nelly ? you, I know, agree
with me — I rather suspect the proposition might be

" Oh, this is too monstrous. It is beyond all
belief," cried L'Estrange. And he rushed from the
room in a torrent of passion, while Julia sank back
in a chair, and laughed till her eyes ran over with
tears of merriment.

'' How could you, Julia ! Oh, how could you ! "
said Nelly, as she leaned over her and tried to look


'' If 3-0U mean, how could I help quizzing him ?
I can understand you ; but I could not — no, Xellv,
I could not help it ! It is my habit to seize on
the absurd side of any emban-assment ; and you may
be sure there is always one if you only look for it ;
and you've no idea how much pleasanter — ay, and
easier too — it is to laugh oneself out of difficulties
than to grieve over them. You'll see George, now,
will be spirited up, out of pure fright, to do what
he ought : to tell this man that his proposal is an
absurdity, and that young women, even as destitute
of fortune as myself, do not marry as nursetenders.
There ! I declare that is Sir Marcus dri^-ing away
already. Only think with what equanimity I can
see wealth and title taking leave of me. Never say
after that that I have not couraore."




*' This is a very eventful clay for me, George," said
Augustus, as they strolled through the garden after
breakfast. " The trial was fixed for the 13th, and
to-day is the 14th ; I suppose the verdict will be
given to-day."

'*But you have really no doubt of the result?
I mean, no more than anxiety on so momentous a
matter must suggest ? "

" Pardon me. I have grave doubts. There was
such a marriage, as is alleged, formed by my grand-
father; a marriage in every respect legal. They
may not have the same means of proving that which
we have ; but we know it. There was a son born
to that marriage. We have the letter of old Lami,
asking my grandfather to come over to Bruges for
the christening, and we have the receipt of Hodges

"A TELEGRxiM." 43

and Smart, the jewellers, for a silver gilt ewer and
cup which were engraved with the Bramleigh crest
and cypher, and despatched to Belgium as a present ;
for my grandfather did not go himself, pretexting
something or other, which evidently gave offence ;
for Lami's next letter declares that the present has
been returned, and expresses a haughty indignation
at my grandfather's conduct. I can vouch for all
this. It was a sad morning when I first saw those
papers; but I did see them, George, and they exist
still. That son of my grandfather's they declare to
have married, and his son is this Pracontal. There
is the whole story, and if the latter part of the
narrative be only as truthful as I believe the first
to be, he, and not I, is the rightful owner of

L 'Estrange made no reply ; he was slowly going
over in his mind the chain of connection, and
examining, link by link, how it held together.

''But why," asked he at length, "was not this
claim preferred before ? Why did a whole genera-
tion suffer it to lie dormant ? "

" That is easily — too easily explained. Lami
was compromised in almost every country in Europe ;


and his son succeeded him in Lis love of plot and
conspiracy. Letters occasionally reached my father
from this latter; some of them demanding money
in a tone of actual menace. A confidential clerk,
who knew all my father's secrets, and whom he
trusted most implicitly, became one day a defaulter
and absconded, carrying with him a quantity of
private papers, some of which were letters written
by my father, and containing remittances which
Montagu Lami — or Louis Langrange, or whatever
other name he bore — of course, never received, and
indignantly declared he believed had never been
despatched. This clerk, whose name was Hesketh,
made Lami's acquaintance in South America, and
evidently encouraged him to prefer his claim with
greater assurance, and led him to suppose that any
terms he preferred must certainly be complied with !
But I cannot go on, George ; the thought of my
poor father struggling through life in this dark
conflict rises up before me, and now I estimate the
terrible alternation of hope and fear in which he
must have lived, and how despairingly he must have
thought of a future, when this deep game should be
left to such weak hands as mine. I thought they

'•' A TELEGRAM." 45

were cruel words once in which he spoke of my
unfitness to meet a great emergency, — but now I
read them very difi'erently."

" Then do you really think he regarded this claim
as rightful and just ? "

" I cannot tell that ; at moments I have leaned
to this impression ; but many things dispose me to
believe that he saw or suspected some flaw that

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