« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
When Tony presented himself at the Legation, he found that nobody knew anything about him. They had, some seven or eight months previous, requested to have an additional messenger appointed, as there were cases occurring which required frequent reference to home; but the emergency had passed over, and Brussels was once again as undisturbed by diplomatic relations as any of the Channel Islands.
"Take a lodging and make yourself comfortable, marry, and subscribe to a club if you like it," said a grey-headed attaché, with a cynical face, "for in all likelihood they'll never remember you're here." The speaker had some experiences of this sort of official forgetfulness, with the added misfortune that, when he once had summoned courage to remonstrate against it, they did remember him, but it was to change him from a first to a second class mission-in Irish phrase, promoting him backwards for his temerity.
Tony installed himself in a snug little quarter outside the town, and set himself vigorously to study French. In Knickerbocker's 'History of New York,' we read that the sittings of the Council were always measured and recorded by the number of pipes smoked by the Cabinet. In the same way might it be said, that Tony Butler's progress in Ollendorf was only to be computed by the quantity of tobacco consumed over it.
nouns had cost two boxes of cigars; the genders, a large packet of assorted cavendish and bird's-eye; and he stood fast on the frontier of the irregular verbs, waiting for a large bag of Turkish that Skeffy wrote to say he had forwarded to him through the Office.
Why have we no statistics of the influence of tobacco on education? Why will no one direct his attention to the inquiry as to how far the Tony Butlers-a large class in the British Islands-are more moved to exertion, or hopelessly muddled in intellect, by the soothing influences of smoke?
Tony smoked on, and on. He wrote home occasionally, and made three attempts to write to Alice, who, despite his silence, had sent him a very pleasant letter about home matters. It was not a neighbourhood to afford much news; and, indeed, as she said, "they had been unusually dull of late; scarcely any visitors, and few of the neighbours. We miss your friend Skeff greatly; for, with all his oddities and eccentricities, he had won upon us immensely by real traits of generosity and highmindedness. There is another friend of yours here I would gladly know well, but she-Miss Stewart-retreats from all my advances, and has so positively declined all our invitations to the Abbey, that it would seem to imply, if such a thing were possible, a special determination to avoid us. I know you well enough, Master Tony, to be aware that you will ascribe all my ardour in this pursuit to the fact of there being an obstacle. As you once told me about a certain short cut from Portrush, the only real advantage it had was a stiff four-foot wall which must be jumped; but you are wrong, and you are unjust-two things not at all new to you. My intentions here were really good. I had heard from your dear mother that Miss Stewart was in bad health -that fears were felt lest her chest was affected. Now, as the doctors concurred in declaring that Bella must pass one winter, at least, in a warm climate, so I imagined how easy it would be to extend the benefit of genial air and sunshine to this really interesting girl, by offering to take her as a companion. Bella was charmed with my project, and we walked over to the Burnside on Tuesday to propose it in all form.
"To the shame of our diplomacy we failed completely. The old minister, indeed, was not averse to the plan, and professed to think it a most thoughtful attention on our part; but Dolly-I call her Dolly, for it is by that name, so often recurring in the discussion, I associate her best with the incident
Dolly was peremptory in her refusal. I wanted-perhaps a little unfairly-I wanted to hear her reasons. I asked if there might not possibly be something in her objections to which we could reply. I pressed her to reconsider the matter-to take a week, two if she liked, to think over it; but no, she would not listen to my compromise; she was steady and resolute, and yet at the same time much moved. She said No! but she said it as if there was a reason she should say so, while it was in direct violence to all her wishes. Mind this is mere surmise on my part. I am speaking of one of whose nature and temperament I know nothing. I may just as easily be wrong as right. She is indeed a puzzle to me; and one little trait of her has completely routed all my conceit in my own power of reading character. In my eagerness to overcome her objections, I was picturing the life of enjoyment and interest Italy would open to her-the charm of a land that realises in daily life what poets and painters can only shadow forth; and in my ardour I so far forgot myself as to call her Dollydear Dolly, I said. The words overcame her at once. She grew pale, so sickly pale, that I thought she would have fainted; and as two heavy tears stood in her eyes, she said, in a cold quiet voice, 'I beg you will not press me any more. I am very grateful to you; but I cannot accept your offer.'
"Bella insisted on our going over to your mother, and enlisting her advocacy in the cause. I did not like the notion, but I gave way. Your dear mother, all kind as she ever is, went the same evening to the Burnside; but a short note from her the next morning showed she had no better success than ourselves.
66 Naturally-you, at least, will say so I am ten times more eager about my plan now that it is pronounced impracticable. I have written to Dr Stewart. I have sent papa to him; mamma has call
ed at the cottage. I have made Dr Reid give a written declaration that Miss Stewart's case-I quote him-'as indicated by a distinct "Bronchoffany" in the superior portion of the right lung, imperatively demands the benefit of a warm and genial climate;' and with all these pièces de conviction I am beaten, turned out of court, and denied a verdict.
"Have you any explanation to offer about this, Master Tony? Dolly was an old playfellow of yours, your mother tells me. What key can you give us as to her nature? Is she like what she was in those old days? and when did you cease to have these games together? I fancied- -was it mere fancy?—that she grew a little red when we spoke of you. Mind, sir, I want no confessions. I want nothing from you but what may serve to throw light upon her. If you can suggest to me any means of overcoming the objection she seems to entertain to our plan, do so; and if you cannot, please to hold your peace on this matter ever after. I wrote yesterday to Mark, who is now at Milan, to make some inquiries about Italian villa life. I was really afraid to speak to your friend Skeff, lest, as mamma said, he should immediately offer us one of the royal palaces as a residence. No matter, he is a dear good fellow, and I have an unbounded reliance on his generosity.
"Now, a word_about_yourself. Why are you at Brussels? Why are you a fixed star, after telling us you were engaged as a planet? Are there any mysterious reasons for your residence there? If so, I don't ask to hear them; but your mother naturally would like to know something about you a little more explanatory than your last bulletin, that said, 'I am here still, and likely to be so.'
"I had a most amusing letter from Mr Maitland a few days ago. I had put it into this envelope to let you read it, but I took it out again, as I remembered your great
and very unjust prejudices against him. He seems to know every one and everything, and is just as familiar with the great events of politics as with the great people who mould them. I read for your mother his description of the life at Fontainebleau, and the eccentricities of a beautiful Italian, Countess Castagnolo, the reigning belle there; and she was much amused, though she owned that four changes of raiment daily was too much even for Delilah herself.
"Do put a little coercion on yourself, and write me even a note. I assure you I would write you most pleasant little letters if you showed you merited them. I have a budget of small gossip about the neighbours, no particle of which shall you ever see till you deserve better of your old friend,
It may be imagined that it was in a very varying tone of mind he read through this letter. If Dolly's refusal was not based on her unwillingness to leave her father-and if it were, she could have said soit was quite inexplicable.
the girls he had ever known, he never saw one more likely to be captivated by such an offer. She had that sort of nature that likes to invest each event of life with a certain romance; and where could anything have opened such a vista for castle-building as this scheme of foreign travel? Of course he could not explain it; how should he? Dolly was only partly like what she used to be long ago. In those days she had no secrets-at least none from him—now she had long dreary intervals of silence and reflection as though brooding over something she did not wish to tell of. This was not the Dolly Stewart he used to know so well. As he re-read the letter, and came to that passage in which she tells him that, if he cannot explain what Dolly's refusal is owing to without making a confession, he need not do so, he grew almost irritable, and said, What can
she mean by this? Surely it is not possible that Alice could have listened to any story that coupled his name with Dolly's, and should thus by insinuation charge him with the allegation? Lady Lyle had said to herself, I heard the story from one of the girls." Was it this, then, that Alice referred to? Surely she knew him better; surely she knew how he loved her, no matter how hopelessly it might be. Perhaps women liked to give this sort of pain to those whose heart they owned. Perhaps it was a species of torture they were given to. Skeffy could tell if he were here. Skeffy could resolve this point at once, but it was too much for him.
As to the passage about Maitland, he almost tore the paper as he read it. By what right did he correspond with her at all? why should he write to her even such small matter as the gossip of a court? And what could Alice mean by telling him of it, unless-and oh the bitterness of this thought!-it was to intimate by a mere passing word the relations that subsisted between herself and Maitland, and thus convey to him the utter hopelessness of his own pretensions ?
As Tony walked up and down his room, he devised a very strong, it was almost a fierce, reply to this letter. He would tell her that as to Dolly he couldn't say, but she might have some of his own scruples about that same position called companion. When he knew her long ago, she was independent enough in spirit, and it was by no means impossible she might prefer a less brilliant condition if unclogged with observances that might savour of homage. At all events, he was no fine and subtle intelligence to whom a case of difficulty could be submitted.
As for Maitland, he hated him! he was not going to conceal it in any way. His air of insolent superiority he had not forgotten, nor would he forget till he had found an opportunity to retort it. Alice might think him as amusing as she pleased.
To himself the man was simply odious, and if the result of all his varied gifts and accomplishments was only to make up such a being as he was, then would he welcome the most unlettered and unformed clown that ever walked rather than this mass of conceit and self-sufficiency.
He sat down to commit these thoughts to paper, and though he scrawled over seven sheets in the attempt, nothing but failure came of it. Maitland came in, if not by
name, by insinuation, everywhere; and in spite of himself he found he had got into a tone not merely querulous, but actually aggressive, and was using towards Alice an air of reproof that he almost trembled at as he re-read it.
"This will never do," cried he, as he tore up the scribbled sheets. "I'll wait till to-morrow, and perhaps I shall do better." When the morrow came he was despatched on duty, and Alice remained unanswered.
CHAPTER XXXIX. THE MAJOR'S MISSION.
If my reader has been as retentive as I could wish him, he will have borne in mind that on the evening when Major M'Caskey took a very menacing leave of Norman Maitland at Paris, Count Caffarelli had promised his friend to write to General Filangieri to obtain from the King a letter addressed to Maitland in the royal hand by the title of Count of Amalfi --such a recognition being as valid an act of ennoblement as all the declarations and registrations and emblazonments of heralds and the colleges.
It had been originally intended that this letter should be enclosed to Count Ludolf, the Neapolitan envoy at Turin, where Maitland would have found it; but seeing the spirit which had now grown up between Maitland and M'Caskey, and foreseeing well what would occur whenever these two men should meet, Caffarelli, with that astuteness that never fails the Italian, determined to avert the peril by a stratagem which lent its aid to the object he had in hand. He begged the General would transmit the letter from the King, not to Turin, but to the Castello di Montanara, where Maitland had long resided, in a far-away part of Calabria, and employ as the messenger M'Caskey himself; by which means this very irritable and irritating individual might be, for a time at least, with
drawn from public view, and an immediate meeting with Maitland prevented.
It was not very difficult, without any breach of confidence, for Caffarelli to convey to Filangieri that his choice of M'Caskey for this mission was something stronger than a caprice, and that his real wish was that this fiery personage should not be at Naples when they arrived there.
A very brief note, which reached Caffarelli before he had left Paris, informed him that all he requested had been duly done. "He gave it " -it was of the King he spoke— "he gave it at once, Carlo; only saying, with a laugh, One of my brothers may dispute it with him some of these days-for it gives some privilege; but whether it be to claim the rights of the Church after high treason, or to have two wives in Lower Calabria, I don't remember; but tell your friend to avoid both murder and matrimony, at least till he returns to a more civilised region.
"I shall send the Irish major with the despatch, as you wish. If I understand you aright, you are not over-anxious he should come back with the answer. But why not be more explicit? If you want remember Calabria is bria-you understand."
At first Caffarelli had intended not to show this note to Maitland;
Maitland, in fact, declared, that he knew of no misfortune in life so thoroughly ruinous as to be confronted in a quarrel with a questionable antagonist. From the ridicule of such a situation, he averred, the only escape was in a fatal ending; and Maitland knew nothing so bad as ridicule. Enmity in all its shapes he had faced, and could face again. Give him a foe but worthy of him, and no man ever sprang into the lists with a lighter heart: the dread of a false position was too much for him.
Leaving these two two friends, then, at Paris to talk, amid their lives of many dissipations, of plots and schemes and ambitions, let us betake ourselves to a very distant spot, at the extreme verge of the Continent- a little inlet on the Calabrian coast below Reggio; where, on a small promontory separating two narrow bays, stands the lone Castle of Montanara. It had been originally a convent, as its vast size indicates, but was purchased and converted into a royal residence by a former king of Naples, who spent incredible sums on the buildings and the gardens. The latter especially were most costly, since they were entirely artificial the earth having been carried from the vicinity of Naples.
The castle itself was the most incongruous mass that could be conceived-embracing the fortress, the convent, the ornate style of Venice, and the luxurious vastness of an Oriental palace, all within its walls. It may be imagined that no private fortune, however ample, could have kept in perfect order a place of such immense size, the gardens alone requiring above thirty men constantly at work, and the repairs
of the sea-wall being a labour that never ended.
The present occupant, Sir Omerod Butler, lived in one small block called the "Molo," which projected into the sea at the very end of the promontory, and was approachable on the land side by a beautiful avenue of cedars. They were of great age, and, tradition said, had been brought from Lebanon. If ruin and neglect and desolation characterised all around, no sooner had the traveller entered this shady approach than all changed to the most perfect care and cultureflowery shrubs of every kind, beds of gorgeous flowers, pergolati of vines leading down to the sea, and orange-groves dipping their golden balls in the blue Mediterranean at every step, till the ample gate was reached; passing into which you entered a spacious court paved with variegated marble, with a massive fountain in the centre. From this court, under a pillared archway, led off all the lower rooms-great spacious chambers, with richly painted ceilings and tesselated floors. Into these was gathered the most costly furniture of the whole palace :tables and consoles of malachite and porphyry, gorgeously inlaid slabs of lapis lazuli and agate, cabinets of rare beauty, and objects of ancient art. Passing through these again you gained the rooms of daily habitation, arranged with all the taste and luxury of modern refinement, and distinctively marking that the cold splendour without could not attain to that sense of comfort and voluptuous ease which an age of greater indulgence requires.
The outer gate of the castle, which opened by a drawbridge over a deep moat, on the Reggio road, was little less than a mile off; and it may give some idea of the vast size of the place to state that, from that entrance to the Molo, there was a succession of buildings of one kind or other, only interrupted by areas of courtyard or garden.