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“ You'll think nothing of the hill, my lord, when you've come it three or four times,” said she, with a malicious twinkle of the eye.
" Which is precisely what I have no intention of doing."
" And that excursion, that ramble, or whatever be the name for it, you were to take together?
* It is a bliss, I am afraid, I must deny myself."
“ You are wrong, my lord ; very wrong. My brothers at least assure me that Julia is charming en tête-à-tête. Indeed, Augustus says one does not know her at all till you have passed an hour or two in such confidential intimacy. He says “she comes out'-whatever that may bewonderfully.
“Oh, she comes out, does she ? ” said he, caressing his whiskers.
“ That was his phrase for it. I take it to mean that she ventures to talk with a freedom more common on the Continent than in these islands. Is that coming out, my lord ? "
“ Well, I half suspect it is,” said he, smiling faintly. “ And I suppose men like that ? "
" I'm afraid, my dear Miss Bramleigh,” said he, with a mock air of deploring ; “ I'm afraid that in these degenerate days men are very prone to like whatever gives them least trouble in everything, and if a woman will condescend to talk to us on our own topics, and treat them pretty much in our own way, we like it, simply because it diminishes the distance between us, and saves us that uphill clamber we are obliged to take when you insist upon our scrambling up to the high level you live in.”
“ It is somewhat of an ignoble confession you have made there,” said she, haughtily.
“ I know it-I feel it-I deplore it,” said he, affectedly.
“ If men will, out of mere indolence—no matter,” said she, biting her lip. “ I'll not say what I was going to say."
“ Pray do. I beseech you finish what you have so well begun."
“ Were I to do so, my lord,” said she, gravely, “ it might finish more than that. It might at least go some way towards finishing our acquaintanceship. I'm sorely afraid you'd not have forgiven me had you heard me out."
“I'd never have forgiven myself, if I were the cause of it.”
For some time they walked along in silence, and now the great house came into view-its windows all glowing and glittering in the blaze of a setting sun, while a faint breeze lazily moved the heavy folds of the enor. mous flag that floated over the high tower.
“I call that a very princely place,” said he, stopping to admire it.
“What a caprice to have built it in such a spot,” said she. “The country people were not far wrong when they called it Bishop's Folly."
“ They gave it that name, did they ?”
“ Yes, my lord. It is one of the ways in which humble folk reconcile themselves to lowly fortune ; they ridicule their betters.” And now she
gave a little low laugh to herself, as if some unuttered notion had just amused her.
“ What made you smile ? ” asked he. “A very absurd fancy struck me."
Let me hear it. Why not let me share in its oddity ?" “ It might not amuse you as much as it amused me." · I am the only one who can decide that point.”
Then I'm not so certain it might not annoy you." “I can assure you on that head,” said he gallantly.
“Well, then, you shall hear it. The caprice of a great divine has, so to say, registered itself yonder, and will live, so long as stone and mortar endure, as Bishop's Folly ; and I was thinking how strange it would be if another caprice just as unaccountable were to give a name to a less pretentious edifice, and a certain charming cottage be known to posterity as the Viscount's Folly. You're not angry with me, are you ?”
“I'd be very angry indeed with you, with myself, and with the whole world, if I thought such a casualty a possibility.”
“I assure you, when I said it I didn't believe it, my lord,” said she, looking at him with much graciousness; "and, indeed, I would never have uttered the impertinence if you had not forced me. There, there goes the first bell; we shall have short time to dress,"—and with a very meaning smile and a familiar gesture of her hand, she tripped up the steps and disappeared.
"I think I'm all right in that quarter," was his lordship's reflection as he mounted the stairs to his room.
Ax EVENING BELOW AND ABOVE Stairs.
It was not very willingly that Mr. Cutbill left the drawing-room, where he had been performing a violoncello accompaniment to one of the young ladies in the execution of something very Mendelssohnian and profoundly puzzling to the uninitiated in harmonics. After the peerage, he loved counter-point; and it was really hard to tear himself away from passages of almost piercing shrillness, or those more still suggestive moanings of a double bass, to talk stock and share list with Colonel Bramleigh in the library. Resisting all the assurances that "papa wouldn't mind it; that any other time would do quite as well," and such like, he went up to his room for his books and papers, and then repaired to his rendezvous.
“I'm sorry to take you away from the drawing-room, Mr. Cutbill," said Bramleigh, as he entered, “but I am half expecting a summons to town, and could not exactly be sure of an opportunity to talk over this matter on which Lord Culduff is very urgent to have my opinion.”
“ It is not easy, I confess, to tear oneself away from such society. Your daughters are charming musicians, colonel. Miss Bramleigh's style
is as brilliant as Meyer's; and Miss Eleanor has a delicacy of touch I have never heard surpassed."
“This is very flattering, coming from so consummate a judge as yourself."
“ All the teaching in the world will not impart that sensitive organization which sends some tones into the heart like the drip, drip of water on a heated brow. Oh, dear! music is too much for me; it totally subverts all my sentiments. I'm not fit for business after it, Colonel Bramleigh, that's the fact."
“ Take a glass of that · Bra Mouton.' You will find it good. It has been eight-and-thirty years in my cellar, and I never think of bringing it out except for a connoisseur in wine.”
“Nectar, positively nectar," said he, smacking his lips. “You are quite right not to give this to the public. They would drink it like a mere full-bodied Bordeaux. That velvety softness,—that subdued strength, faintly recalling Burgundy, and that delicious bouquet, would all be clean thrown away on most people. I declare, I believe a refined palate is just as rare as a correct ear ; don't you think so ?”
“I'm glad you like the wine. Don't spare it. The cellar is not far off. Now then, let us see. These papers contain Mr. Stebbing's report. I have only glanced my eye over it, but it seems like every other report. They have, I think, a stereotyped formula for these things. They all set out with their bit of geological learning; but you know, Mr. Cutbill, far better than I can tell you, you know sandstone doesn't always mean coal ?”
“If it doesn't, it ought to," said Cutbill, with a laugh, for the wine made him jolly, and familiar besides.
“ There are many things in this world which ought to be, but which, unhappily, are not," said Bramleigh, in a tone evidently meant to be halfreproachful. “And as I have already observed to you, mere geological formation is not sufficient. We want the mineral, sir ; we want the fact."
“ There you have it; there it is for you,” said Cutbill, pointing to a somewhat bulky parcel in brown paper in the centre of the table.
“ This is not real coal, Mr. Cutbill,” said Bramleigh, as he tore open the covering, and exposed a black mis-shapen lump. “You would not call this real coal ?"
“I'd not call it Swansea nor Cardiff, colonel, any more than I'd say the claret we had after dinner to-day was · Mouton ; ' but still I'd call each of them very good in their way.”
“I return you my thanks, sir, in name of my wine-merchant. But to come to the coal question,—what could you do with this ?”
“What could I do with it? Scores of things,-if I had only enough of it. Burn it in grates—cook with it--smelt metals with it—burn lime with it-drive engines, not locomotives but stationaries, with it. I tell you what, Colonel Bramleigh,” said he, with the air of a man who was asserting what he would not suffer to be gainsayed. “It's coal, quite
enough to start a company on; coal within the meaning of the Act, as the lawyers would say."
“You appear to have rather loose notions of joint-stock enterprises, Mr. Cutbill,” said Bramleigh, haughtily.
“I must say, colonel, they do not invariably inspire me with sentiments of absolute veneration."
“I hope, however, you feel, sir, that in any enterprise-in any undertaking-where my name is to stand forth, either as promoter or abettor, that the world is to see in such a guarantee, the assurance of solvency and stability."
“ That is precisely what made me think of you : precisely what led me to say to Culduff, · Bramleigh is the man to carry the scheme out.'”
Now the familiarity that spoke of Culduff thus unceremoniously in great part reconciled Bramleigh to hear his own name treated in like fashion, all the more that it was in a quotation ; but still he winced under the cool impertinence of the man, and grieved to think how far his own priceless wine had contributed towards it. The colonel therefore merely bowed his acknowledgment and was silent.
“I'll be frank with you," said Cutbill, emptying the last of the decanter into his glass as he spoke. “I'll be frank with you. We've got coal; whether it be much or little, there it is. As to quality, as I said before, it isn't Cardif. It won't set the Thames on fire, any more than the noble lord that owns it; but coal it is, and it will burn as coal-and yield gas as coal and make coke as coal, and who wants more ? As to working it himself, Culduff might just as soon pretend he'd pay the National Debt. He is over head and ears already ;-he has been in bondage with the children of Israel this many a day, and if he wasn't a peer he could not show ;-but that's neither here nor there. To set the concern a-going, we must either have a loan or a company. I'm for a company."
“ You are for a company,” reiterated Bramleigh, slowly, as he fixed his eyes calmly but steadily on him.
“ Yes, I'm for a company. With a company, Bramleigh,” said he, as he tossed off the last glass of wine, " there's always more of P. E.”
" Of what?"
“Of P. E.-Preliminary Expenses! There s a commission to inquire into this, and a deputation to investigate that. No men on earth dine like deputations. I never knew what dining was till I was named on a deputation. It was on scwerage. And didn't the champagne flow! There was a viaduct to be constructed to lead into the Thames, and I never think of that viaduct without the taste of turtle in my mouth, and a genial feeling of milk-punch all over me. The assurance offices say that there was scarcely such a thing known as a gout premium in the City till the joint-stock companies came in ; now they have them every day."
“Revenons à nos moutons, as the French say, Mr. Cutbill,” said Bramleigh, gravely.
- The only
“ If it's a pun you mean, and that we're to have another bottle of the same, I second the motion.”
Bramleigh gave a sickly smile as he rang the bell; but neither the jest nor the jester much pleased him.
“ Bring another bottle of Mouton,' Drayton, and fresh glasses," said he, as the butler appeared.
“I'll keep mine, it is warm and mellow," said Cutbill. fault with that last bottle was the slight chill on it.”
- You have been frank with me, Mr. Cutbill,” said Bramleigh, as soon as the servant withdrew, “ and I will be no less so with you. I have retired from the world of business, I have quitted the active sphere where I bare passed some thirty odd years, and have surrendered ambition, either of money-making, or place, or rank, and come over here with one single desire, one single wish,-I want to see what's to be done for Ireland.”
Cutbill lifted his glass to his lips, but scarcely in time to hide the smile of incredulous drollery which curled them, and which the other's quick glance detected.
“There is nothing to sneer at, sir, in what I said, and I will repeat my words. I want to see what's to be done for Ireland.”
“It's very laudable in you, there can be no doubt,” said Cutbill, gravely.
“I am well aware of the peril incurred by addressing to men like yourself, Mr. Cutbill, any opinions—any sentiments—which savour of disinterestedness or-or
"Poetry," suggested Cutbill.
“No, sir; patriotism was the word I sought for. And it is not by any means necessary that a man should be an Irishman to care for Ireland. I think, sir, there is nothing in that sentiment at least, which will move your ridicule.” “Quite the reverse. I have drunk Prosperity to Ireland' at public
· dinners for twenty years; and in very good liquor too, occasionally."
"I am happy to address a gentleman so graciously disposed to listen to me,” said Bramleigh, whose face was now crimson with anger. “ There is only one thing more to be wished for,--that he would join some amount of trustfulness to his politeness ; with that he would be perfect.”
" Here goes then for perfection," cried Cutbill, gaily. “I'm really from this time to believe anything you tell me."
“Sir, I will not draw largely on the fund you so generously place at my disposal. I will simply ask you to believe me a man of honour.”.
"Only that? No more than that ? ” “No more, I pledge you my word.”
“My dear Bramleigh, your return for the income tax is enough to prove that. Nothing short of high integrity ever possessed as good a fortune as yours."
“You are speaking of my fortune, Mr. Cutbill, not my character." " Ain't they the same? Ain't they one and the same ? Show me