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"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."

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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 a question 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 ?"

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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.

Temple is the only one admitted."

He usually dines alone, and I believe

"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."

CHAPTER XXVII.

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 Thorwaldsen, 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

excitement of an English existence, she certainly looked little, if anything, her senior.

They were both handsome,—at least they had that character of good looks which in Italy is deemed beauty, they were singularly fair, with large deep-set blue-grey eyes, and light brown hair of a marvellous abundance and silkiest fibre. They were alike soft-voiced and gentlemannered, and alike strong-willed and obstinate, of an intense selfishness, and very capricious.

"His eminence is late this evening," said Lady Augusta, looking at her watch. "It is nigh eight o'clock."

"I fancy, Gusta,' he was not quite pleased with you last night. On going away he said something, I didn't exactly catch it, but it sounded like leggierezza;' he thought you had not treated his legends of St. Francis with becoming seriousness."

"If he wanted me to be grave he oughtn't to tell me funny stories." "The lives of the saints, Gusta!

"Well, dearest, that scene in the forest where St. Francis asked the devil to flog him and not to desist even though he should be weak enough to implore it wasn't that dialogue as droll as anything in Boccaccio?"

"It's not decent, it's not decorous, to laugh at any incident in the lives of holy men.",

"Holy men then should never be funny, at least when they are presented to me, for it's always the absurd side of everything has the greatest attraction for me."

"This is certainly not the spirit which will lead you to the Church!" "But I thought I told you already, dearest, that it's the road I like, not the end of the journey. Courtship is confessedly better than marriage, and the being converted is infinitely nicer than the state of conversion."

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"Saying what I most fervently feel to be true. Don't you know better even than myself, that it is the zeal to rescue me from the fold of the heretics, surrounds me every evening with monsignori and vescovi, and attracts to the sofa where I happen to sit, purple stockings, and red, a class of adorers, I am free to own, there is nothing in the lay world to compare with ; and don't you know too, that the work of conversion accomplished, these seductive saints will be on the look-out for a new sinner?"

"And is this the sincerity in which you profess your new faith? is it thus that you mean to endow a new edifice to the honour of the Holy Religion?"

"Cara mia! I want worship, homage, and adoration myself, and it is as absolute a necessity of my being, as if I had been born up there, and knew nothing of this base earth and its belongings. Be just, my dearest sister, and see for once the difference between us. You have a charming husband, who never plagues, never bores you, whom you see when it is pleasant to see, and dismiss when you are weary of him. He never worries you about money, he has no especial extravagance, and does not much trouble himself

about anything,-I have none of these.

I am married to a man almost double my age, taken from another class, and imbued with a whole set of notions different from my own. I can't live with his people; my own won't have me. What then is left but the refuge of that emotional existence which the Church offers,-a sort of pious flirtation with a runaway match in the distance, only it is to be Heaven, not Gretna Green." "So that all this while you have never been serious, Gusta?"

"Most serious! I have actually written to my husband-you read the letter-acquainting him with my intended change of religion, and my desire to mark the sincerity of my profession by that most signal of all proofs-a monied one. As I told the Cardinal last night, Heaven is never so sure of us as when we draw on our banker to go there!"

"How you must shock his eminence when you speak in this way.” "So he told me, but I must own he looked very tenderly into my eyes as he said so. Isn't it provoking?" said she, as she arose and moved out into the garden. "No post yet! It is always so, when one is on thorns for a letter. Now when one thinks that the mail arrives at daybreak, what can they possibly mean by not distributing the letters till evening? Did I tell you what I said to Monsignore Ricci, who has some function at the Post Office?"

"No, but I trust it was not a rude speech; he is always so polite." "I said that as I was ever very impatient for my letters I had requested all my correspondents to write in a great round legible hand, which would give the authorities no pretext for delay, while deciphering their contents." “I declare, Gusta, I am amazed at you. I cannot imagine how you can venture to say such things to persons in office."

"My dear sister, it is the only way they could ever hear them. There is no freedom of the press here; in society nobody speaks out. What would become of those people if they only heard the sort of stories they tell each other; besides, I'm going to be one of them. They must bear with a little indiscipline. The sergeant always pardons the recruit for being drunk on the day of enlistment."

The countess shook her head disapprovingly and was silent.

"Oh, dear! oh, dear!" sighed Lady Augusta. "I wonder what tidings will the post bring me. Will my affectionate and afflicted husband comply with my prayer, and be willing to endow the Church, and secure his own freedom; or will he be sordid, and declare that he can't live without me? I know you'd laugh, dear, or I'd tell you that the man is actually violently in love with me. You've no notion of the difficulty I have to prevent him writing tender letters to me."

"You are too, too bad, I declare," said the other, smothering a rising laugh.

"Of course I'd not permit such a thing. I stand on my dignity, and say, 'Have a care, sir.' Oh, here it comes! here's the post! What! only two letters after all? She's a dun! Madame La Ruelle, Ilace Vendôme-the cruellest creature that ever made a ball-dress. It is to tell

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