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promise of an aid they never think of according. It would actually fret me, if I thought we were to owe anything to such intervention. In fact," said she, laughingly, “it's quite an honour to be his acquaintance. It would be something very like a humiliation to have him for a friend. And now good-night. You won't believe it, perhaps; but it wants but a few minutes to two o'clock."
“People, I believe, never go to bed in Italy,” said he, yawning ; " or only in the day-time. So that we are in training already, Julia.”
“How I hope the match may come off,” said she, as she gave him her hand at parting. “I'll go and dream over it.”
IN THE LIBRARY AT CASTELLO.
When L'Estrange and his sister arrived at Castello on the morning after the scene of our last chapter, it was to discover that the family had gone off early to visit the mine of Lisconnor, where they were to dine, and not return till late in the evening.
Colonel Bramleigh alone remained behind : a number of important letters which had come by that morning's post detained him ; but he had pledged himself to follow the party, and join them at dinner, if he could finish his correspondence in time.
George and Julia turned away from the door, and were slowly retracing their road homeward, when a servant came running after them to say that Colonel Bramleigh begged Mr. L'Estrange would come back for a moment; that he had something of consequence to say to him.
“I'll stroll about the shrubberies, George, till you join me,” said Julia. “Who knows it may not be a farewell look I may be taking of these dear old scenes.” George nodded, half mournfully, and followed the servant towards the library.
In his ordinary and every-day look, no man ever seemed a more perfect representative of worldly success and prosperity than Colonel Bramleigh. He was personally what would be called handsome, had a high bold forehead, and large grey eyes, well set and shaded by strong full eyebrows, so regular in outline and so correctly defined as to give a half suspicion that art had been called to the assistance of nature. He was ruddy and fresh-looking, with an erect carriage, and that air of general confidence that seemed to declare he knew himself to be a favourite of fortune and gloried in the distinction.
“I can do scores of things others must not venture upon," was a common saying of his. “I can trust to my luck," was almost a maxim with him. And in reality, if the boast was somewhat vainglorious, it was not without foundation ; a marvellous, almost unerring, success attended him through life. Enterprises that were menaced with ruin and bankruptcy would rally from the hour that he joined them, and schemes of fortune that men deemed half desperate would, under his guidance, grow into safe and profitable speculations. Others might equal him in intelligence, in skill, in ready resource and sudden expedient, but he had not one to rival him in luck. It is strange enough that the hard business mind, the men of realism par excellence, can recognize such a thing as fortune ; but so it is, there are none so prone to believe in this quality as the people of finance. The spirit of the gambler is, in fact, the spirit of commercial enterprise, and the “ odds” are as carefully calculated in the counting-house as in the betting-ring. Seen as he came into the breakfast-room of a morning, with the fresh flush of exercise on his cheek, or as he appeared in the drawing-room before dinner, with that air of ease and enjoyment that marked all his courtesy, one would have said, " There is one certainly with whom the world goes well.” There were caustic, invidious people, who hinted that Bramleigh deserved but little credit for that happy equanimity and that buoyant spirit which sustained him ; they said, “ He has never had a reverse, wait till he be tried:” and the world had waited and waited, and to all seeming the eventful hour had not come, for there he was, a little balder perhaps, a stray grey hair in his whiskers, and somewhat portlier in his presence, but, on the whole, pretty much what men had known him to be for fifteen or twenty years back.
Upon none did the well-to-do, blooming, and prosperous rich man produce a more powerful impression than on the young curate, who, young, vigorous, handsome as he was, could yet never sufficiently emerge from the res angustæ domi to feel the ease and confidence that come of affluence.
What a shock was it then to L'Estrange, as he entered the library, to see the man whom he had ever beheld as the type of all that was happy and healthful and prosperous, haggard and careworn, his hand tremulous, and his manner abrupt and uncertain, with a certain furtive dread at moments, followed by outbursts of passionate defiance, as though he were addressing himself to others besides him who was then before him.
Though on terms of cordial intimacy with the curate, and always accustomed to call him by his name, he received him as he entered the room with a cold and formal politeness, apologized for having taken the liberty to send after and recall him, and ceremoniously requested him to be seated.
“ We were sorry you and Miss L'Estrange could not join the picnic to-day,” said Bramleigh ; " though to be sure it is scarcely the season yet for such diversions."
L'Estrange felt the awkwardness of saying that they had not been invited, and muttered something not very intelligible about the uncertainty of the weather.
"I meant to have gone over myself,” said Bramleigh, hurriedly; " but all these,” and he swept his hand as he spoke through a mass of: letters on the table, “ all these have come since morning, and I am not half through them yet. What's that the moralist says about calling no
man happy till he dies? I often think one cannot speculate upon a pleasant day till after the post-hour."
“I know very little of either the pains or pleasures of the letter-bag. I have almost no correspondence."
“How I envy you!” cried he, fervently.
“I don't imagine that mine is a lot many would be found to enry," said L'Estrange, with a gentle smile. “ The old story, of course. Qui fit Mæcenas, ut Nemo,'—I forget
•I my Horace, -ut Nemo;' how does it go ?"
“ Yes, sir. But I never said I was discontented with my lot in life. I only remarked that I didn't think that others would envy
it.” “ I have it, I have it,” continued Bramleigh, following out his own train of thought; “ I have it. •Ut Nemo, quam sibi sortem sit contentus.' It's a matter of thirty odd years since I saw that passage, L'Estrange, and I can't imagine what could have brought it so forcibly before me to-day.”
“ Certainly it could not have been any application to yourself,” said the curate, politely.
“How do you mean, sir ?” cried Bramleigh, almost fiercely. "How do you mean?"
“I mean, sir, that few men have less cause for discontent with fortune ?"
“How can you,—how can any man, presume to say that of another !" said Bramleigh, in a loud and defiant tone, as he arose and paced the
“Who can tell what passes in his neighbour's house, still less in his heart or his head? What do I know, as I listen to your discourse on a Sunday, of the terrible conflict of doubts that have beset you during the week,-heresies that have swarmed around you like the vipers and hideous reptiles that gathered around St. Anthony, and that, banished in one shape, came back in another ? How do I know what compromises you may have made with your conscience before you come to utter to me your eternal truths; and how you may have said, “ If he can believe all this, so much the better for him,'-eh ?"
He turned fiercely round, as if to demand an answer, and the curate modestly said, “I hope it is not so that men preach the gospel."
“And yet many must preach in that fashion," said Bramleigh, with a deep but subdued earnestness. "I take it that no man's convictions are without a flaw somewhere, and it is not by parading that flaw he will make converts."
L'Estrange did not feel disposed to follow him into this thesis, and sat silent and motionless.
“ I suppose," muttered Bramleigh, as he folded his arms and walked the room with slow steps, “it's all expediency,—all! We do the best we can, and hope it may be enough. You are a good man, L'Estrange
“ Far from it, sir. I feel, and feel very bitterly too, my own unworthiness," said the curate, with an intense sincerity of voice.
“I think you so far good that you are not worldly. You would not do
a mean thing, an ignoble, a dishonest thing; you wouldn t take what was not your own, nor defraud another of what was his,—would you ?"
Perhaps not; I hope not.”
“ And yet that is saying a great deal. I may have my doubts whether that penknife be mine or not. Some one may come to-morrow or next day to claim it as his, and describe it, Heaven knows how rightly or wrongly. No matter, he'll say he owns it. Would you, sir,—I ask you now simply as a Christian man, I am not speaking to a casuist or a lawyer,would you, sir, at once, just as a measure of peace to your own conscience, say, “Let him take it,' rather than burden your heart with a discussion for which you had no temper nor taste ? That's the question I'd like to ask you.
Can you answer it? I see you cannot,” cried he, rapidly. “I see at once how you want to go off into a thousand subtleties, and instead of resolving my one doubt, surround me with a legion of others.”
“If I know anything about myself I'm not much of a casuist; I haven't the brains for it,” said L'Estrange, with a sad smile.
“Ay, there it is. That's the humility of Satan's own making; that's the humility that exclaims, 'I'm only honest. I'm no genius. Heaven has not made me great or gifted. I'm simply a poor creature, rightminded and pure-hearted.' As if there was anything,—as if there could be anything so exalted as this same purity.”
“But I never said that ; I never presumed to say so," said the other, modestly.
“And if you rail against riches, and tell me that wealth is a snare and a pitfall, what do you mean by telling me that my reverse of fortune is a chastisement? Why, sir, by your own theory it ought to be a blessing,
a a positive blessing; so that if I were turned out of this princely house tomorrow, branded as a pretender and an impostor, I should go forth better, --not only better, but happier. Ay, that's the point; happier than I ever was as the lord of these broad acres !” As he spoke he tore his cravat from his throat, as though it were strangling him by its pressure, and now walked the room, carrying the neckcloth in his hand, while the veins in his throat stood out full and swollen like a tangled cordage.
L'Estrange was so much frightened by the wild voice and wilder gesture of the man, that he could not utter a word in reply.
Bramleigh now came over, and leaning his hand on the other's shoulder, in a tone of kind and gentle meaning, said,
“It is not your fault, my dear friend, that you are illogical and unreasonable. You are obliged to defend a thesis you do not understand, by arguments you cannot measure. The armoury of the Church has not a weapon that has not figured in the middle ages; and what are you to do with halberds and cross-bows in time of rifles and revolvers! If a man, like myself, burdened with a heavy weight on his heart, had gone to his confessor in olden times, he would probably have heard, if not words of comfort, something to enlighten, to instruct, and to guide him. Now what can you give me ? tell me that ? I want to hear by what subtleties the
Church can reconcile me not to do what I ought to do, and yet not quarrel with my own conscience. Can you help me to that ? ”
L'Estrange shook his head in dissent.
“I suppose it is out of some such troubles as mine that men come to change their religion.” He paused; and then bursting into a laugh, said, -“ You hear that the other bank deals more liberally—asks a smaller com. mission, and gives you a handsomer interest—and you accordingly transfer your account. I believe that's the whole of it.”
“I will not say you have stated the case fairly,” said L'Estrange ; but so faintly as to show that he was far from eager to continue the discussion, and he arose to take his leave.
“You are going already ? and I have not spoken to you one word about —what was it ? Can you remember what it was ?—something that related personally to yourself.”
“Perhaps I can guess, sir. It was the mine at Lisconnor, probably ? You were kind enough the other day to arrange my securing some shares in the undertaking. Since that, however, I have heard a piece of news which may affect my whole future career. There has been some report made by the Commissioner about the parish.”
“ That's it, that's it. They're going to send you off, L'Estrange. . They're going to draft you to a cathedral, and make a prebendary of you. You are to be on the staff of an archbishop : a sort of Christian unattached. Do you like the prospect ?"
“ Not at all, sir. To begin, I am a very poor man, and could ill bear the cost of life this might entail."
"Your sister would probably be pleased with the change; a gayer place, more life, more movement."
“I suspect my sister reconciles herself to dulness even better than myself."
“Girls do that occasionally ; patience is a female virtue."
There was a slight pause; and now L'Estrange, drawing a long breath as if preparing himself for a great effort, said,
“ It was to speak to you, sir, about that very matter, and to ask your assistance, that I came up here this day.”
“I wish I were a bishop, for your sake, my dear friend.”
“I know well, sir, I can count upon your kind interest in me, and I believe that an opportunity now offers
" What is it? where is it?"
“ At Rome, sir; or rather near Rome, a place called Albano. They want a chaplain there."
“But you're not a Catholic priest, L'Estrange."
think this would suit you ?" “ There are some great attractions about it; the country, the climate, and the sort of life, all have a certain fascination for me, and Julia is most eager about it.”