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“ How he'd have liked to have heard about Hewlett and Bell! They're gone for close on two millions; they'll not pay over sixpence in the pound, and Rinker, the Bombay fellow that went in for cotton, has caught it too! Cotton and indigo have ruined more men than famine and pestilence. I'd be shot, if I was a Lord of the Council, if I wouldn't have a special prayer for them in the Litany. Well, Temple, and how are you, all this while ? " said he, turning abruptly to the diplomatist, who sat evidently inattentive to the dialogue.
“ What, sir; did you address me ? " cried he, with a look of astonishment and indignation.
" I should think I did ; and I never heard you were Premier Earl, or that other thing of England, that you need look so shocked at the liberty ! You Foreign Office swells are very grand folk to each other ; but take my word for it, the world, the real world, thinks very little of you."
Temple arose slowly from his place, threw his napkin on the table, and turning to Augustus, said, “You'll find me in the library," and withdrew.
“That's dignified, I take it,” said Cutbill; “but to my poor appreciation, it's not the way to treat a guest under his father's roof.”
“A guest has duties, Mr. Cutbill, as well as rights; my brother is not accustomed to the sort of language you address to him, nor is he at all to blame if he decline to hear more of it."
" So that I am to gather you think he was right ? ” Augustus bowed coldly.
“ It just comes to what I said one day to Harding : the sailor is the only fellow in the house a man can get on with. I'm sorry, heartily sorry for him.” The last words were in a tone of sincere feeling, and Augustus asked, —“ What do you mean by sorry? what has happened to him ? "
“ Haven't you seen it in The Times-no, you couldn't, though-it was only in this morning's edition, and I have it somewhere. There's to be a court-martial on him; he's to be tried on board the Ramsay, at Portsmouth, for disobedience and indiscipline, and using to his superior officer-old Colthurst-words unbecoming the dignity of the service and the character of an officer, or the dignity of an officer and the character of the serviceit's all the one gauge, but he'll be broke and cashiered all the same.”
“I thought that if he were to recall something, if he would make some explanation, which he might without any peril to honour"
" That's exactly how it was, and when I heard he was in a scrape I started off to Portsmouth to see him.”
“ You did ? " exclaimed Augustus, looking now with a very different expression at the other.
“ To be sure I did ; I went down by the mail-train, and stayed with him till the one-forty express started next day, and I might have saved myself the trouble."
“ You could make no impression upon him ? "
“ Not a bit-as well talk to that oak sideboard there; he'd sit and smoke and chat very pleasantly too, about anything, I believe; he'd tell
about his life up in town, and what he lost at the races, and how near he was to a good thing on the Riddlesworth ; but not a word, not so much as a syllable would he say about his own hobble. It was growing late ; we had had a regular bang-up breakfast—turtle steaks and a devilled lobster, and plenty of good champagne-not the sweet stuff your father gives us down here—but dry. Mum,' that had a flavour of Marcobrunner about it. He's a rare fellow to treat a man, is Jack; and so I said—not going about the bush, but bang into the thicket at once- - What's this stupid row you've got into with your Admiral ? what's it all about ?'"
66. It's about a service regulation, Master Cutbill,' said he, with a stiff look on him, “A service regulation that you wouldn't understand if you heard it.'
"You think,' said I, that out of culverts and cuttings, Tom Cutbill's opinion is not worth much ? '
" . No, no, not that, Cutbill; I never said that,' said he, laughing ; 'but you see that we sailors not only have all sorts of technicals for the parts of a ship, but we have technical meanings for even the words of common life, so that though I might call you a consummate humbug, I couldn't say as much to a Vice-Admiral without the risk of being judged by professional etiquette. « • But
you didn't call him that, did you ?' said I. “I'll call you worse, Cutty,' says he, laughing, ‘if you don't take your wine.'
««• And now Jack,' said I, it's on the stroke of one ; I must start with the express at one-forty, and as I came down here for nothing on earth but to see if I could be of any use to you, don't let me go away only as wise as I came ; be frank, and tell me all about this business, and when I go back to town it will push me hard if I can't do something with the Somerset House fellows to pull you through.'
“ . You are a good-hearted dog, Cutty,' said he, and I thought so the first day I saw you; but my scrape, as you call it, is just one of those things you'd only blunder in. My fine brother Temple, or that much finer gentleman Lord Culduff, who can split words into the thinnest of veneers, might possibly make such a confusion that it would be hard to see who was right or who was wrong in the whole affair ; but you, Cutty, with your honest intentions and your vulgar good sense, would be sure to offend every one. There, don't lose your train ; don't forget the cheroots and the punch, and some pleasant books, if they be writing any such just now.'
". If you want money,' said I—I mean for the defence.' “ Not sixpence for the lawyers, Cutty ; of that you may take your oath,'
666 said he, as he shook my hand. “I'd as soon think of sending the wardroom dinner overboard to the sharks.' We parted, and the next thing I saw of him was that paragraph in The Times."
“How misfortunes thicken around us. About a month or six weeks ago when you came down here first, I suppose there wasn't a family in the kingdom could call itself happier."
“You did look jolly, that I will say; but somehow-you'll not take the remark ill—I saw that, as we rail-folk say, it was a capital line for ordinary regular traffic, but would be sure to break down if you had a press of business."
" I don't understand you.”
“I mean that, so long as it was only a life of daily pleasure and enjoyment was before you,—that the gravest question of the day was what horse you'd ride, or whom you'd invite to dinner,—so long as that lasted, the machine would work well,—no jar, no friction anywhere; but if once trouble—and I mean real trouble—was to come down upon you, it would find you all at sixes and sevens,-no order, no discipline anywhere, and, what's worse, no union. But you know it better than I do. You see yourself that no two of you pull together; ain't that a fact ? ”
Augustus shook his head mournfully, but was silent.
“I like to see people jolly, because they understand each other and are fond of each other, because they take pleasure in the same things, and feel that the success of one is the success of all. There's no merit in being jolly over ten thousand a year and a house like Windsor Castle. Now, just look at what is going on, I may call it, under our noses here : does your sister Marion care a brass farthing for Jack's misfortunes, or does he feel a bit elated about her going to marry a viscount ? Are you fretting your heart to ribbons because that fine young gent that left us a while ago is about to be sent envoy to Bogota ? And that's fact, though he don't know it yet," added he, in a chuckling whisper. “It's a regular fairweather family, and if it comes on to blow, you'll see if there's a stormsail amongst you."
“ Apparently, then, you were aware of what was only divulged to me this evening ?” said Augustus. “I mean the intended marriage of Lord Culduff to my sister."
“I should say I was aware of it. I was, so to say, promoter and projector. It was I started the enterprise. It was that took me over to town. I went to square that business of old Culduff. There was qnestion to be asked in the House about his appointment that would have led to a debate, or what they call a conversation-about the freest kind of after-dinner talk imaginable—and they'd have ripped up the old reprobate's whole life—and I assure you there are passages in it wouldn't do for the Methodists' Magazine—so I went over to negotiate a little matter with Joel, who had, as I well knew, a small sheaf of Repton's bills. I took Joel down to Greenwich to give him a fish-dinner and talk the thing over, and we were right comfortable and happy over some red Hermitage-thirty shillings a bottle, mind you—when we heard a yell, just a yell, from the next room, and in walks—whom do you think ? — Repton himself, with his napkin in his hand-he was dining with a set of fellows from the Garrick, and he swaggered in and sat down at our table. • What infernal robbery are you two concocting here ?' said he. • When the waiter told me who were the fellows at dinner together, I
said, " These rascals are like the witches in Macbeth, and they never meet without there's mischief in the wind." ;
“ The way he put it was so strong, there was something so home in it, that I burst out and told him the whole story, and that it was exactly himself, and no other, was the man we were discussing."
“And you thought,' said he, ‘you thought that, if you had a hold of my acceptances, you'd put the screw on me and squeeze me as flat as you pleased. Oh, generation of silkworms, ain't you soft !' cried he, laughing. Order up another bottle of this, for I want to drink your healths. You've actually made my fortune! The thing will now be firstrate. The Culduff inquiry was a mere matter of public morals, but here, here is a direct attempt to coerce or influence a Member of Parliament. I'll have you both at the Bar of the House as sure as my name is Repton.'
“ He then arose and began to rehearse the speech he'd make when we were arraigned, and a spicier piece of abuse I never listened to. The noise he made brought the other fellows in from the next room, and he ordered them to make a house, and one was named speaker and another black rod, and we were taken into custody and duly purged of our contempt by paying for all the wine drank by the entire company, a trifle of five-and-thirty pounds odd. The only piece of comfort I got at all was getting into the rail to go back to town, when Repton whispered me, It's all right about Culduff. Parliament is dissolved ; the House rises on Tuesday, and he'll not be mentioned.'”
“But does all this bear upon the question of marriage ?”
“ Quite naturally. Your father pulls Culduff out of the mire, and the viscount proposes for your sister. It's all contract business the whole world over. By the way, where is our noble friend ? I suppose, all things considered, I owe him a visit.”
“ You'll find him in his room. He usually dines alone, and I believe Temple is the only one admitted."
“ I'll send up my name," said he, rising to ring the bell for the servant ; “and I'll call myself lucky if he'll refuse to see me."
“ His lordship will be glad to see Mr. Cutbill as soon as convenient to him,” replied the servant on his return.
“ All my news for him is not so favourable as this,” whispered Cutbill, as he moved away. “They won't touch the mine in the City. That last murder, though it was down in Tipperary, a hundred and fifty miles away from this, has frightened them all ; and they say they're quite ready to do something at Lagos, or the Gaboon, but nothing here. You see,' say they, “if they cut one or two of our people's heads off in Africa, we get up a gun-brig, and burn the barracoons and slaughter a whole village for it, and this restores confidence; but in Ireland it always ends with a debate in the House, that shows the people to have great wrongs and great patience, and that their wild justice, as some one called it, was all right; and that, sir, that does not restore confidence.' Good-night.”
THE VILLA ALTIERI.
THERE is a short season in which a villa within the walls of old Rome realizes all that is positive ecstasy in the life of Italy. This season begins usually towards the end of February and continues through the month of March. This interval—which in less favoured lands is dedicated to storms of rain and sleet, east winds and equinoctial gales, tumbling chimney-pots and bronchitis—is here signalized by all that Spring, in its most voluptuous abundance, can pour forth : vegetation comes out, not with the laggard step of northern climes--slow, cautious, and distrustfulbut bursting at once from bud to blossom as though impatient for the fresh air of life and the warm rays of the sun. The very atmosphere laughs and trembles with vitality, from the panting lizard on the urn to the myriad of insects on the grass : it is life everywhere, and over all sweeps the delicious odour of the verbena and the violet, almost overpowering with perfume, so that one feels, in such a land, the highest ecstasy of existence is that same dreamy state begotten of sensations, derived from blended sense, where tone and tint and odour mingle almost into one.
Perhaps the loveliest spot of Rome in this loveliest of seasons was the Villa Altieri. It stood on a slope of the Pincian, defended from north and east, and looking westward over the Campagna towards the hills of Albano. A thick ilex grove, too thick and dark for Italian, though perfect to English taste, surrounded the house, offering alleys of shade that even the noonday's sun found impenetrable ; while beneath the slope, and under shelter of the hill, lay a delicious garden, memorable by a fountain designed by Thorvaldsen, where four Naïdes splash the water at each other under the fall of a cataract; this being the costly caprice of the Cardinal Altieri, to complete which he had to conduct the water from the Lake of Albano. Unlike most Italian gardens the plants and shrubs were not merely those of the south, but all that the culture of Holland and England could contribute to fragrance and colour were also there, and the gorgeous tulips of the Hague, the golden ranunculus and crimson carnation, which attain the highest beauty in moister climates, here were varied with chrysanthemums and camelias. Gorgeous creepers trailed from tree to tree or gracefully trained themselves around the marble groups, and clusters of orangetrees, glittering with golden fruit, relieved in their darker green the almost too glaring brilliancy of colour.
At a window which opened to the ground—and from which a view of the garden, and beyond the garden the rich woods of the Borghese villa, and beyond these again, the massive Dome of St. Peter's, extended-sat two ladies, so wonderfully alike that a mere glance would have proclaimed them to be sisters. It is true the Countess Balderoni was several years older than Lady Augusta Bramleigh, but whether from temperament or the easier flow of an Italian life in comparison with the more wearing