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world, soft-carpeted and damask-curtained, is a very universe, and without the recognized stamp of a certain rank in it, she is absolutely nothing."
"And may not all these things be bought too dearly, Marion ?"
"I don't know the price I'd call too high for them."
"What! Not your daily happiness? not your self-esteem? not the want of the love of one who would have your whole heart in his keeping?"
"So he may, if he can give me the rank I care for."
"Oh, Marion! I cannot think this of you," cried he, bitterly.
"That is to say, that you want me to deceive you with false assurances of unbought affection and the like; and you are angry because I will not play the hypocrite. Lord Culduff has made me an offer of his hand, and I have accepted it. You are aware that I am my own mistress. Whatever I possess, it is absolutely my own; and though I intend to speak with my father, and, if it may be, obtain his sanction, I will not say that his refusal would induce me to break off my engagement."
"At all events, you are not yet this man's wife, Marion," said he, with more determination than he had yet shown; " and I forbid you positively to impart to Lord Culduff anything regarding this telegram."
"I make no promises."
"You may have no regard for the interests of your family, but possibly you will care for some of your own," said he, fiercely. "Now, I tell you distinctly, there are very grave perils hanging over us at this moment-perils of which I cannot measure the amount nor the consequences. I can only dimly perceive the direction from which they come; and I warn you, for your own sake, make no confidences beyond the bounds of your own family."
"You are superbly mysterious, Gusty; and if I were impressionable. on this kind of matter, I half suspect you might terrify me. Papa ought to have committed a forgery, at least, to justify your dark insinuations." "There is no question of a forgery; but there may be that which, in the end, will lead to a ruin as complete as any forgery."
"I know what you mean," said she, in a careless, easy tone; "the bank has made use of private securities and title-deeds, just as those other people did-I forget their names-a couple of years ago."
"It is not even that; but I repeat the consequences may be to the full as disastrous."
"You allude to this unhappy scrape of Jack's."
"I do not. I was not then thinking of it."
"Because as to that, Lord Culduff said there never yet grew a tree where there wasn't a branch or two might be lopped off with advantage. If Jack doesn't think his station in life worth preserving, all the teaching in the world won't persuade him to maintain it."
"Poor Jack!" said he, bitterly.
"Yes, I say, poor Jack! too. I think it's exactly the epithet to apply to one whose spirit is so much beneath his condition."
"You are terribly changed, Marion. I do not know if you are aware of it ?"
"I hope I am. I trust that I look at the events around me from a higher level than I have been accustomed to hitherto."
"And is my father in a state to be consulted on a matter of this importance?" asked he, half indignantly.
"Papa has already been spoken to about it; and it is by his own desire we are both to see him this evening."
"Am I the only one here who knew nothing of all this ?”
"You should have been told formally this morning, Augustus. Lord Culduff only waited for a telegram from Mr. Cutbill to announce to you his intentions and his hopes." A slight hesitation delayed the word.
"These things I can't help," said he bitterly, and as if speaking to himself. "They have been done without my knowledge, and regardless of me in every way; but I do protest, strongly protest, against Lord Culduff being introduced into matters which are purely our own."
"I never knew till now that we had family secrets," said she, with an insolent air.
"You may learn it later on, perhaps, and without pleasure."
"So, then, these are the grave perils you tried to terrify me with a while ago. You forget, Augustus, that I have secured my passage in another ship. Personally, at least, I am in no danger."
"I did forget that. I did indeed forget how completely you could disassociate yourself from the troubles of your family."
"But what is going to happen to us? They can't shoot Jack because he called his commanding officer an ugly name. They can't indite papa because he refused to be high-sheriff. And if the world is angry with you, Gusty, it is not certainly because you like the company of men of higher station than your own."
He flushed at the sarcasm that her speech half revealed, and turned away to hide his irritation.
"Shall I tell you frankly, Gusty," continued she, "that I believe nothing-absolutely nothing-of these impending calamities? There is no sword suspended over us; or if there be, it is by a good strong cord, which will last our time. There are always plenty of dark stories in the City. Shares fall and great houses tumble; but papa told me scores of times that he never put all his eggs into one basket: and Bramleigh and Underwood will be good names for many a day to come. Shall I tell you, my dear Augustus, what I suspect to be the greatest danger that now hangs over us? And I am quite ready to admit it is a heavy one."
"What is it?"
"The peril I mean is, that your sister Nelly will marry the curate. Oh, you may look shocked and incredulous, and cry impossible, if you like; but we girls are very shrewd detectives over each other, and what I tell you is only short of certainty."
"He has not a shilling in the world; nor has she, independently of my father."
"That's the reason. That's the reason! These are the troths that are never broken. There is nothing aids fidelity like beggary."
"He has neither friends nor patrons; he told me himself he has not the vaguest hope of advancement."
"Exactly so; and just for that they will be married! Now it reminds me," said she, aloud, "of what papa once said to me. The man who wants to build up a name and a family, ought to have few children. With a large household, some one or other will make an unhappy alliance, and one deserter disgraces the army."
"A grave consideration for Lord Culduff at this moment," said he, with a humourous twinkle of the eye.
"We have talked it over already," said she.
"Once for all, Marion, no confidences about what I have been talking of." And so saying he went his way.
MR. CUTBILL ARRIVES AT CASTELLO.
On the eve of that day on which the conversation in the last chapter occurred, Mr. Cutbill arrived at Castello. He came full of town news: he brought with him the latest scandals of society, and the last events in politics; he could tell of what was doing in Downing Street, and what was about to be done in the City. In fact, he had the sort of budget that was sure to amuse a country audience, and yet, to his astonishment, he found none to question, none even to listen to him. Colonel Bramleigh's illness had thrown a gloom over all. The girls relieved each other in watches beside their father, and Augustus and Temple dined together alone, as Lord Culduff's gout still detained him in his room. It was as the dinner drew to its close that Mr. Cutbill was announced.
"It ain't serious, I hope? I mean, they don't think the case dangerous?" said he, as he arranged his napkin on his knee.
Augustus only shook his head in silence.
"Why, what age is he? not sixty?"
"Fifty-one-fifty-two in June."
"That's not old; that's the prime of life, especially when a man has taken nothing out of himself."
"He was always temperate; most temperate."
"Just so even his own choice Mouton didn't tempt him into the second bottle. I remember that well. I said to myself, Tom Cutbill, that green seal wouldn't fare so well in your keeping.' I had such a bag of news for him! All the rogueries on 'Change, fresh and fresh. I suppose it is quite hopeless to think of telling him now?"
"Not to be thought of."
VOL. XVI.-No. 96.
"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?'"
"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,' 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."