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frankly own I'd rather Jack owed his good fortune to his good fame than to all the peers in the calendar.”
“What pains Ellen takes,” said Marion, " to show that her ideas of life and the world are not those of the rest of us."
“ She has me with her whenever she goes into the lobby,” said Jack, " or I'll pair with Temple, who is sure to be on the stronger side.”
“Your censure I accept as a compliment,” said Temple.
“ And is this all our good news has done for us,—to set us exchanging tart speeches and sharp repartees with each other ?” said Colonel Bramleigh ; "I declare it is a very ungracious way to treat pleasant tidings. Go out boys, and see if you couldn't find some one to dine with us, and wet Jack's commission, as they used to call it, long ago.”
“We can have the L'Estranges and our amiable neighbour Captain Craufurd,” said Marion, “but I believe our resources end with these.”
“Why not look up the Frenchman you smashed some weeks ago, Jack?” said Augustus ; " he ought to be about by this time, and it would only be common decency to show him some attention." ;
“ With all my heart. I'll do anything you like but talk French with him. But where is he to be found ? "
“He stops with Longworth,” said Augustus, “which makes the matter awkward. Can we invite one without the other, and can we open our acquaintance with Longworth by an invitation to dinner?" “ Certainly not,” chimed in Temple. "First acquaintance admits of
“ no breaches of etiquette. Intimacies may, and rarely too, forgive such."
“What luck to have such a pilot to steer us through the narrow channel of proprieties," cried Jack, laughing.
“I think, too, it would be as well to remember,” resumed Temple, " that Lord Culduff is our guest, and to whatever accidents of acquaintanceship we may be ready to expose ourselves, we have no right to extend these casualties to him."
“I suspect we are not likely to see his lordship to-day, at least ; he has sent down his man to beg he may be excused from making his appearance at dinner: a slight attack of gout confines him to his room,” said Marion.
“ That's not the worst bit of news I've heard to-day," broke in Jack. “Dining in that old cove's company is the next thing to being tried by court-martial. I fervently hope he'll be on the sick list till I take my departure."
" As to getting these people together to-day, it's out of the question,” said Augustus. “Let us say Saturday next, and try what we can do."
This was agreed upon, Temple being deputed to ride over to Longworth's, leaving to his diplomacy to make what further advances events seemed to warrant,-a trustful confidence in his tact to conduct a nice negotiation being a flattery more than sufficient to recompense his trouble. Jack and Nelly would repair to the cottage to secure the L'Estranges. Craufurd could be apprised by a note.
“ Has Cutbill got the gout, too ? " asked Jack.
"I have not seen him this morning."
“No; that very cool gentleman took out my cob pony, Fritz, this morning at daybreak,” said Augustus, “saying he was off to the mines at Lismaconnor, and wouldn't be back till evening."
“ And do you mean to let such a liberty pass unnoticed ? asked Temple.
“A good deal will depend upon how Fritz looks after his journey. If I see that the beast has not suffered, it is just possible I may content myself with a mere intimation that I trust the freedom may not be repeated."
“You told me Anderson offered you two hundred for that cob,” broke in Temple.
“Yes, and asked how much more would tempt me to sell him.",
“If he were a peer of the realm, and took such a liberty with me, I'd not forgive him," said Temple, as he arose and left the room in a burst of indignation.
"I may say we are a very high-spirited family,” said Jack gravely, " and I'll warn the world not to try any familiarities with us.”
“ Come away, naughty boy," whispered Eleanor; “you are always trailing your coat for some one to stand upon.”
“Tell me, Nelly,” said he, as they took their way through the pinewood that led to the cottage, “ tell me, Nelly, am I right or wrong in my appreciation-for I really want to be just and fair in the matter—are we Bramleighs confounded snobs ? ”
The downright honest earnestness with which he put, the question made her laugh heartily, and for some seconds left her unable to answer him.
“I half suspect that we may be, Jack," said she, still smiling.
“I'm certain of one thing," continued he in the same earnest tone, “our distinguished guest deems us such. There is a sort of simpering enjoyment of all that goes on around him, and a condescending approval of us that seems to say, 'Go on, you'll catch the tone yet. You're not doing badly by any means.' He pushed me to the very limit of my patience the other day with this, and I had to get up from luncheon and leave the house to avoid being openly rude to him. Do you mind my lighting a cigar, Nelly, for I have got myself so angry that I want a weed to calm me down again ?"
“Let us talk of something else; for on this theme I'm not much better tempered than yourself.”
“ There's a dear good girl," said he, drawing her towards him, and kissing her cheek. “I'd have sworn you felt as I did about this old fop; and we must be arrant snobs, Nelly, or else his coming down amongst us here would not have broken us all up, setting us exchanging sneers and scoffs, and criticizing each other's knowledge of life. Confound the old humbug; let us forget him."
They walked along without exchanging a word for full ten minutes or
more, till they reached the brow of the cliff, from which the pathway led down to the cottage. “I wonder when I shall stand here again ?” said he, pausing “ Not that I'm going on any hazardous service, or to meet a more formidable enemy than a tart flag-captain ; but the world has such strange turns and changes, that a couple of years may do anything with a man's destiny."
“A couple of years may make you a post-captain, Jack; and that will be quite enough to change your destiny."
He looked affectionately towards her for a moment, and then turned away to hide the emotion he could not master.
“And then, Jack,” said she caressingly, “it will be a very happy day that shall bring us to this spot again.”
“ Who knows, Nelly ? " said he, with a degree of agitation that surprised her. “I haven't told you that Julia and I had a quarrel the last time we met.”
“A quarrel !”
“ Well, it was something very like one. I told her there were things about her manner,—certain ways she had,—that I didn't like ; and I spoke very seriously to her on the subject. I didn't go beating about, but said she was too much of a coquette."
“Oh, Jack !”
“It's all very well to be shocked, and cry out, 'Oh, Jack !' but isn't it true ? haven't you seen it yourself? hasn't Marion said some very strange things about it?"
“My dear Jack, I needn't tell you that we girls are not always fair in our estimates of each other, even when we think we are,—and it is not always that we want to think so. Julia is not a coquette in any sense that the word carries censure, and you were exceedingly wrong to tell her she was.”
" That's how it is!” cried he, pitching his cigar away in impatience. " There's a freemasonry amongst you that calls you all to arms the moment one is attacked.
Isn't it open to a man to tell the girl he hopes to make his wife that there are things in her manner he doesn't approve of and would like changed ?”
Certainly not; at least it would require some nicer tact than yours to approach such a theme with safety."
“ Temple, perhaps, could do it,” said he, sneeringly. “ Temple certainly would not attempt it.”
Jack made a gesture of impatience, and, as if desirous to change the subject, said, “What's the matter with our distinguished guest ? Is he ill, that he won't dine below-stairs to-day ?”
“ He calls it a slight return of his Greek fever, and begs to be excused from presenting himself at dinner.”
“He and Temple have been writing little three-cornered notes to cach other all the morning. I suppose it is diplomatic usage."
The tone of irritation he spoke in seemed to show that he was actually
seeking for something to vent his anger upon, and trying to provoke some word of contradiction or dissent; but she was silent, and for some seconds they walked on without speaking.
“ Look ! ” cried he, suddenly ; “ there goes Julia. Do you see her yonder on the path up the cliff; and who is that clambering after her ? I'll be shot if it's not Lord Culduff.”
“ Julia has got her drawing-book, I see. They're on some sketching excursion."
“He wasn't long in throwing off his Greek fever, eh ? " cried Jack, indignantly. “It's cool, isn't it, to tell the people in whose house he is stopping that he's too ill to dine with them, and then set out gallivanting in this fashion."
“ Poor old man !” said she, in a tone of half scornful pity.
for whose captivation all her little gracefulnesses were intended. I saw it the first night he stood beside her at the piano. As Marion said, she is determined to bring him down. She saw it as well as I did."
“ What nonsense you are talking, Jack; as if Julia would condescend"
" There's no condescension, Nelly," he broke in. 6. The man is a lord, and the woman he marries will be a peeress, and there's not another country in Europe in which that word means as much. I take it we needn't go on to the cottage now?"
“I suppose we could scarcely overtake them ? "
" Overtake them! Why should we try ? Even my tact, Nelly, that you sneered at so contemptuously a while ago, would save me from such a blunder. Come, let's go home and forget, if we can, all that we came about. I at least will try and do so.”
“My dear dear Jack, this is very foolish jealousy."
“ I am not jealous, Nelly. I'm angry; but it is with myself. I ought to have known what humble pretensions mine were, and I ought to have known how certainly a young lady, bred as young ladies are now-a-days, would regard them—as less than humble; but it all comes of this idle shoregoing good-for-nothing life. They'll not catch me at it again, that's all.”
“ Just listen to me patiently, Jack. Listen to me for one moment."
“ Not for half a moment. I can guess everything you want to say to me, and I tell you frankly, I don't care to hear it. Tell me whatever you like to-morrow—” He tried to finish his speech, but his voice grew thick and faltering, and he turned away and was silent.
They spoke little to each other as they walked homewards. A chance remark on the weather, or the scenery, was all that passed till they reached the little lawn before the door.
“ You'll not forget your pledge, Jack, for to-morrow ?" said Ellen, as he turned towards her before ascending the steps.
“I'll not forget it," said he coldly, and he moved off as he spoke, and entered an alley of the shrubbery.
The family dinner on that day at Castello was somewhat dull. The various attempts to secure a party for the ensuing Saturday, which had been fixed on to celebrate Jack's promotion, had proved failures. When Temple arrived at Longworth, he learned that the host and his guest were from home and not to return for some days—we have seen how it fared as to the L'Estranges so that the solitary success was Captain Craufurd, a gentleman who certainly had not won the suffrages of the great house.
There were two vacant places besides at the table ; for butlers are fond of recording, by napkins and covers, how certain of our friends assume to treat us, and thus as it were contrast their own formal observances of duty with the laxer notions of their betters.
“ Lord Culduff is not able to dine with us,” said Colonel Bramleigh, making the apology as well to himself as to the company.
“No, papa," said Marion; "he hopes to appear in the drawing-room in the evening."
“ If not too much tired by his long walk," broke in Jack. “What walk are you dreaming of ?" asked Marion.
“An excursion he made this morning down the coast, sketching or pretending to sketch. Nelly and I saw him clambering up the side of a cliff
“Oh, quite impossible ; you must be mistaken."
“No,” said Nelly, “there was no mistake. I saw him as plainly as I see you now; besides, it is not in these wild regions so distinguished a figure is like to find its counterpart."
“But why should be not take his walk ? why not sketch, or amuse himself in any way he pleased ?" asked Temple.
“Of course it was open to him to do so," said the colonel ; “ only that to excuse his absence he ought not to have made a pretext of being ill.”
“I think men are “ill' just as they are out,' ” said Temple. “I am ill if I am asked to do what is disagreeable to me, as I am out to the visit of a bore."
“ So that to dine with us was disagreeable to Lord Culduff ?” asked Jack.
“ It was evidently either an effort to task his strength, or an occasion which called for more exertion than he felt equal to," said Temple, pompously.
“ By Jove !” cried Jack, “I hope I'll never be a great man! I trust sincerely I may never arrive at that eminence in which it will task my energies to eat my dinner and chat with the people on either side of me."
“Lord Culduff converses : he does not chat; please to note the distinction, Jack.”
“That's like telling me he doesn't walk but he swaggers."