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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."
“Oh, Gusta! what are you saying ? "
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 potions 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, I lace Vendôme—the cruellest creature that ever made a ball-dress. It is to tell
me she can't wait; and I'm so sick of saying she must, that I'll not write any more.
And who is this? The postmark is · Portshandon.' Oh! I see; here's the name in the corner. This is from our eldest son, the future head of the house. Mr. Augustus Bramleigh is a bashful creature of about my own age, who was full of going to New Zealand and turning sheep-farmer. True, I assure you ; he is an enthusiast about independence. Which means he has a grand vocation for the workhouse."
“By what strange turn of events has he become your correspondent ?
“ I should say, Dora, it looks ill as regards the money. I'm afraid that this bodes a refusal.”
“Would not the shorter way be to read it ? ” said the other simply.
“ Yes, the shorter, but perhaps not the sweeter. There are little events in life which are worse than even uncertainties; but here goes :
(“ A very pretty beginning from my son,
-I mean my husband's son ; and yet he could not have commenced • Dearest Mamma.'”)
"I WRITE my first letter to you in a very painful moment. My poor father was seized on Tuesday last with a most serious and sudden illness, to which the physician as yet hesitates to give a name.
It is, however, on the brain or the membranes, and deprives him of all inclination, though not entirely of all power, to use his faculties. He is, moreover, enjoined to avoid every source of excitement, and even forbid to converse. Of course, under these afflicting circumstances, everything which relates to business in any way is imperatively excluded from his knowledge ; and must continue to be so till some change occurs.
"It is not at such a moment you would expect to hear of a marriage in the family, and yet yesterday my sister Marion was married to Lord Viscount Culduff.'"
Here she laid down the letter, and stared with an expression of almost overwhelmed amazement at her sister. “Lord Culduff! Where's the Peerage, Dora ? Surely it must be the same who was at Dresden when we were children; he wasn't married—there can be no son. Oh, here he is : Henry Plantaganet de Lacey, fourteenth Viscount Culduff; born
: 9th February, 17– Last century.
' Last century. Why, he's the patriarch of the peers, and she's twenty-four ! What can the girl mean?”
"Do read on; I'm impatient for more."
“ . The imperative necessity for Lord Culduff to hold himself in readiness for whatever post in the diplomatic service the Minister might desire him to occupy, was the chief reason for the marriage taking place at this conjuncture. My father, however, himself was very anxious on the subject; and, indeed, insisted strongly on being present. The ceremony was accordingly performed in his own room, and I rejoice to say that, though naturally much excited, he does not appear to have sustained any increase
of malady from this trying event. I need not tell you the great disparity of age between my sister and her husband : a disparity which I own enlisted me amongst those who opposed the match. Marion, however, so firmly insisted on her right to choose for herself, and her fortune being completely at her own disposal, that all continued opposition would have been not alone unavailing for the present, but a source of coldness and estrangement for the future.
"• The Culduffs ”—(how sweetly familiar)— " the Culduffs left this for Paris this day, where I believe they intend to remain till the question of Lord Culduff's post is determined on. My sister ardently hopes it may be in Italy, as she is most desirous to be near you.'
“Can you imagine such a horror as this woman playing daughter to me and yet going into dinner before me, and making me feel her rank on every possible occasion. All this here I see is business, nothing but business. The Colonel, it would seem, must have been breaking before they suspected, for all his late speculations have turned out ill. Penstyddin Copper Mine is an utter failure ; the New Caledonia Packet Line a smash! and there's a whole list of crippled enterprises. It's very nice of Augustus, however, to say that though he mentions these circumstances, which might possibly reach me through other channels, no event that he could contemplate should in any way affect my income, or any increase of it that I deem essential to my comfort or convenience; and although in total ignorance as he is of all transactions of the house, he begs me to write to himself directly when any question of increased expense should arise—which I certainly will. He's a buon figliuolo, Dolly—that must be said—and it would be shameful not to develope such generous instincts."
“If my father's illness should be unhappily protracted, means must be taken, I believe, to devolve his share in business matters upon some other. I regret that it cannot possibly be upon myself; but I am totally unequal to the charge, and have not, besides, courage for the heavy responsibility.'"
“ That's the whole of it,” said she, with a sigh ; "and all things considered, it might have been worse."
Haberfeld Treiben in Upper Bavaria.
READING a short time since some account of the Irish constabulary, I was much struck with one item of the regulations—to the effect that the members of that admirable force must belong to no secret society whatever, with the sole exception of the order of Freemasons. The exception appeared to me remarkable, as I know that in Austria every officer in the army is, on appointment, obliged to sign a declaration “that he does not belong to any secret society whatever, or that if he had previously done so, he will sever his connection with it ;” and it is, I believe, understood that the prohibition applies more especially to Freemasonry, which Austria, like Spain, Naples, Bavaria-in fact, all strictly Roman Catholic Governments—seems to consider highly dangerous. And it really seems that secret political societies are more easily formed and developed amongst Roman Catholic populations than elsewhere. Even in the ages prior to the Reformation the same love of secret organizations was conspicuous in certain districts : the Sacred Vehme, as it was called, having flourished especially in the ultra-clerical circle of Westphalia ; and even up to the present day there exists a somewhat similar secret organization in a certain ultra-Catholic district of Upper Bavaria. This Haberfeld Treiben (literally, “ Oatfield Driving ”), as it is called, I propose to give some account of, having had personal opportunity of seeing its working.
It will be, perhaps, well, in the first place, to say a word or two about the Westphalian Vehme, or Fehm, because there is an evident family likeness between that now obsolete institution and the still existing Haberfeld Treiben. It is probable--although by no means certain - that both were instituted about the same period; and although each degenerated in the course of time and became an intolerable nuisance, they were originally called into life for the purpose of attaining laudable objects — which, as things then stood, would have been otherwise unattainable.
The Westphalian Vehme dates its origin from the first half of the thirteenth century, although some historians have endeavoured to represent it as having been first instituted by Charlemagne. But there is no trace whatever of its existence at an earlier period than that mentioned above. Moreover, its laws and method of procedure were altogether different, both in spirit and letter, from those introduced by that great monarch ; whilst, on the other hand, its organization and procedure resembled, in many respects, that of the Inquisition, founded in 1204, from which it was probably copied.