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stance of the perennial inequality between the two halves of mankind. He had to brace himself up to the encounter of all his people, while she had to meet nothing less delightful than her own dreams. This was how matters came to an issue in respect of Frank Wentworth's personal happiness. His worldly affairs were all astray as yet, and he had not the most distant indication of any gleam of light dawning upon the horizon which could reconcile his duty and honour with good fortune and the delights of life. Meanwhile other discussions were going on in Carlingford, of vital importance to the two young people who had made up their minds to cast themselves upon Providence. And among the various conversations which were being carried on about
the same moment in respect to Mr Wentworth-whose affairs, as was natural, were extensively canvassed in Grange Lane, as well as in other less exclusive quarters-it would be wrong to omit a remarkable consultation which took place in the Rectory, where Mrs Morgan sat in the midst of the great bouquets of the drawing-room carpet, making up her first matrimonial difficulty. It would be difficult to explain what influence the drawing-room carpet in the Rectory had on the fortunes of the Perpetual Curate; but when Mr Wentworth's friends come to hear the entire outs and ins of the business, it will be seen that it was not for nothing that Mr Proctor covered the floor of that pretty apartment with roses and lilies half a yard long.
Printed by William Blackwood & Sons, Edinburgh.
"I SUPPOSE M'Gruder's right," muttered Tony, as he sauntered away drearily from the door at Downing Street, one day in the second week after his arrival in London. "A man gets to feel very like a 'flunkey,' coming up in this fashion each morning 'for orders.' I am more than half disposed to close with his offer and go 'into rags' at once."
If he hesitated, he assured himself, very confidently too, that it was not from the name or nature of the commercial operation. He had no objection to trade in rags any more than in hides, or tallow, or oakum, and some gum which did not "breathe of Araby the blest." He was sure that it could not possibly affect his choice, and that rags were just as legitimate and just as elevating a speculation as sherry from Cadiz or silk from China. He was ingenious enough in his selfdiscussions; but, somehow, though he thought he could tell his mother frankly and honestly the new trade he was about to embark in, for the life of him he could not summon
VOL. XCVI.-NO. DLXXXVI.
courage to make the communication to Alice. He fancied her as she read the avowal repeating the word ‘rags,” and, while her lips trembled with the coming laughter, saying, "What in the name of all absurdity led him to such a choice?" And what a number of vapid and tasteless jokes would it provoke! "Such snobbery as it all is," cried he, as he walked the room angrily; if there was any poetry in cotton bales, or anything romantic in molasses, and yet I might engage in these without reproach, without ridicule. I think I ought to be above such considerations. I do think my good blood might serve to assure me, that in whatever I do honourably, honestly, and avowedly, there is no derogation."
But the snobbery was stronger than he wotted of; for, do what he would, he could not frame the sentence in which he should write the tidings to Alice, and yet he felt that there would be a degree of meanness in the non-avowal infinitely more intolerable.
While he thus chafed and fretted,
he heard a quick step mounting the stair, and at the same instant his door was flung open, and Skeffy Damer rushed towards him and grasped both his hands.
Well, old Tony, you scarcely expected to see me here, nor did I either thirty hours ago, but they telegraphed for me to come at once. I'm off for Naples."
"And why to Naples ?"
"I'll tell you, Tony," said he, confidentially; "but remember this is for yourself alone. These things mustn't get abroad; they are Cabinet secrets, and not known out of the Privy Council.”
"You may trust me," said Tony; and Skeffy went on.
"I'm to be attached there," said he, solemnly.
"What do you mean by attached?"
"I'm going there officially. They want me at our Legation. Sir George Home is on leave, and Mecklam is Chargé d'Affaires; of course every one knows what that means."
But I don't," said Tony, bluntly. It means being bullied, being jockeyed, being out - manoeuvred, laughed at by Brennier, and derided by Caraffa. Mecklam's an ass, Tony, that's the fact, and they know it at the Office, and I'm sent out to steer the ship."
"But what do you know about Naples ?"
"I know it just as I know the Ecuador question-just as I know the Mouth of the Danube question
-as I know the slave treaty with Portugal, and the Sound dues with Denmark, and the right of search, and the Mosquito frontier, and everything else that is pending throughout the whole globe. Let me tell you, old fellow, the others the French, the Italians, and the Austrians know me as well as they know Palmerston. What do you think Walewski told Lady Pancroft the day Cavour went down to Vichy to see the Emperor? They held a long conversation at a table where there were writing materials, and Cavour has an Italian habit of
scribbling all the time he talks, and he kept on scratching with a pen on a sheet of blotting-paper, and what do you think he wrote ?-the one word, over and over again, Skeff, Skeff-nothing else. 'Which led us,' says Walewski, 'to add, Who or what was Skeff? when they told us he was a young fellow'these are his own words—' of splendid abilities in the Foreign Office ;' and if there is anything remarkable in Cavour, it is the way he knows and finds out the coming man."
"But how could he have heard of you?"
"These fellows have their spies everywhere, Tony. Gortchakoff has a photograph of me, with two words in Russian underneath, that I got translated, and that mean 'infernally dangerous'—tanski seratcztrakoff, infernally dangerous!-over his stove in his study. You're behind the scenes now, Tony, and it will be rare fun for you to watch the newspapers and see how differently things will go on at Naples after I arrive there."
"Tell me something about home, Skeffy; I want to hear about Tilney. Whom did you leave there when you came away?"
"I left the Lyles, Alice and Bella -none else. I was to have gone back with them to Lyle Abbey if I had stayed till Monday, and I left them, of course, very disconsolate, and greatly put out."
"I suppose you made up to Alice. I thought you would," said Tony, half sulkily.
"No, old fellow, you do me wrong; that's a thing I never do. As I said to Ernest Palfi about Pauline Esterhazy, I'll take no unfair advantage—I'll take no steps in your absence; and Alice saw this herself."
"How do you mean? Alice saw it?" said Tony, reddening.
"She saw it, for she said to me one day,' Mr Damer, it seems to me you have very punctilious notions on the score of friendship.'
"I have,' said I; 'you're right there.'
"I thought so,' said she."
"After all," said Tony, in a halfdogged tone," I don't see that the speech had any reference to me, or to any peculiar delicacy of yours with respect to me.'
"Ah, my poor Tony, you have a deal to learn about women and their ways! By good luck fortune has given you a friend-the one man— I declare I believe what I say the one man in Europe that knows the whole thing; as poor Balzac used to say, 'Cher Skeffy, what a fellow you would be if you had my pen !' He was a vain creature, Balzac; but what he meant was, if I could add his descriptive power to my own knowledge of life; for you see, Tony, this was the difference between Balzac and me. He knew Paris, and the salons of Paris, and the women who frequent these salons. I knew the human heart. It was woman, as a creature, not a mere conventionality, that she appeared to me.'
"Well, I take it," grumbled out Tony, "you and your friend had some points of resemblance too."
"Ah! you would say that we were both vain. So we were, Tony —so is every man that is the depositary of a certain power. Without this same conscious thought, which you common folk call vanity, how should we come to exercise the gift? The little world taunts us with the very quality that is the essence of our superiority."
"Had Bella perfectly recovered? was she able to be up and about?"
66 'Yes, she was able to take carriage airings, and to be driven about in a small phaeton by the neatest whip in Europe.'
"Mr Skeff Damer, eh?"
"The same. Ah, these drives, these drives! What delicious memories of woodland and romance! I fell desperately in love with that girl, Tony-I pledge you my honour I did. I've thought a great deal over it all since I started for Ireland, and I have a plan, a plan for us both."
"What is it?"
"Let us marry these girls. Let us be brothers in law as well as in
love. You prefer Alice-I consent. Take her, take her, Tony, and may you be happy with her!" And as he spoke he laid his hand on the other's head with a reverend solemnity.
"This is nonsense, and worse than nonsense," said Tony, angrily; but the other's temper was imperturbable, and he went on. 'You fancy this is all dreamland that I'm promising you; but that is because you, my dear Tony, with many good qualities, are totally wanting in one-you have no imagination, and, like all fellows denied this gift, you never can conceive anything happening to you except what has already happened. You like to live'in a circle, and you do live in a circle you are the turnspits of humanity.'
"I'm a troublesome dog, though, if you anger me," said Tony, half fiercely.
"Very possibly, but there are certain men dogs never attack." And as Skeffy said this he threw forward his chest, held his head back, and looked with an air of such proud defiance that Tony lay back in a chair and laughed heartily.
"I never saw a great hulking fellow yet that was not impressed with the greatness of his stature," said Skeffy. "Every inch after five feet six takes a foot off a man's intellectual standard. It is Skeff Damer says it, Tony, and you may believe it."
“I wish you'd tell me about Tilney," said Tony, half irritably.
I appreciate you, as the French say. You want to hear that I am not your rival—you want to know that I have not taken any ungenerous advantage of your absence. Tonino mio, be of good comfort—I preferred the sister; shall I tell you why?"
"I don't want to hear anything about it."
"What a jealous dog it is, even after I have declared, on the word of a Damer, that he has nothing to apprehend from me! It was a lucky day led me down there, Tony.
Don't you remember the
old woman's note to me, mentioning a hundred pounds, or something like it, she had forgotten to enclose? She found the banknote afterwards on her table, and after much puzzling with herself, ascertained it was the sum she had meant to remit me. Trifling as the incident was, she thought it delicate, or high-minded, or something or other, on my part. She said 'it was so nice of me;' and she wrote to my uncle to ask if he ever heard such a pretty trait, and my uncle said he knew scores of spendthrifts would have done much the same; whereupon the old lady of Tilney, regarding me as ill-used by my relatives, declared she would do something for me; but as her good intentions were double - barrelled, and she wanted to do something also for Bella, she suggested that we might, as the Oberland peasants say, 'put our eggs in the same basket.' A day was named, too, in which we were all to have gone over to Lyle Abbey, and open negotiations with Sir Arthur, when came this confounded despatch ordering me off to Naples! At first I determined not to go-to resign-to give up public life for ever. 'What's Hecuba to him?' said I; that is, 'What signifies it to me how Europe fares? Shall I not think of Skeff Damer and his fortunes?' Bowling down dynasties and setting up nine-pin princes may amuse a man, but, after all, is it not to the tranquil enjoyments of home he looks for happiness? I consulted Bella, but she would not agree with me. Women, my dear Tony, are more ambitious than men-I had almost
said, more worldly. She would not, she said, have me leave a career wherein I had given such great promise. You might be an ambassador one day,' said she. 'Must be!' interposed I; 'must be!' My unfortunate admission decided the question, and I started that night." "I don't think I clearly understand you," said Tony, passing his hand over his brow. Am I to believe that you and Bella are engaged?
"I know what's passing in your mind, old fellow; I read you like large print. You won't, you can't, credit the fact that I would marry out of the peerage. Say it frankly; out with it."
Nothing of the kind; but I cannot believe that Bella
"Ay, but she did," said Skeffy, filling up his pause, while he smoothed and caressed his very young mustaches. "Trust a woman to find out the coming man! Trust a woman to detect the qualities that insure supremacy! I wasn't there quite three weeks in all, and see if she did not discover me. What's this? Here comes an order for you, Tony," said he, as he looked into the street and recognised one of the porters of the Foreign Office. "This is the place, Trumins," cried he, opening the window and calling to the man. "You're looking for Mr Butler, aren't you?"
Mr Butler on duty, Friday 21," was all that the slip of paper contained. "There," cried Skeffy, "who knows if we shall not cross the Channel together to-night? Put on your hat and we'll walk down to the Office."
CHAPTER XXXVIII.-TONY WAITING FOR ORDERS.
Tony Butler was ordered to Brussels to place himself at the disposal of the Minister as an ex-messenger. He crossed over to Calais with Skeffy in the mail-boat; and after a long night's talking, for neither attempted to sleep, they parted with the most fervent assurances of friendship.
"I'd go across Europe to thrash the fellow would say a hard word of him," muttered Tony; while Skeffy, with an emotion that made his lip tremble, said, "If the world goes hard with you, I'll turn my back on it, and we'll start for New Zealand or Madagascar, Tony, remember that I give it to you as a pledge."