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AT LADY AUGUSTA'S.
"THE Count Pracontal, my lady," said a very grave-looking groom of the chambers, as Lady Augusta sat watching a small golden squirrel swinging by his tail from the branch of a camalia tree.
Say I am engaged, Hislop-particularly engaged. I do not receive-or, wait: tell him I am much occupied, but, if he is quite sure his visit shall not exceed five minutes, he may come in."
Count Pracontal seemed as though the permission had reached his own ears, for he entered almost immediately, and, bowing deeply and deferentially, appeared to wait leave to advance further into the room.
"Let me have my chocolate, Hislop; " and, as the man withdrew, she pointed to a chair, and said, "There. When did you come back?"
Pracontal, however, had dropped on his knee before her, and pressed her hand to his lips with a fervid devotion, saying, "How I have longed and waited for this moment." "I shall ring the bell, sir, if you do not be seated immediately. I asked when you returned?"
"An hour ago, my lady-less than an hour ago. I did not dare to write; and then, I wished to be myself the bearer of my own good news."
"What good news are these?"
"That I have, if not won my suit, secured the victory. The registries have been discovered found in the very spot indicated in the journal. The entries are complete; and nothing is wanting to establish the legality of the marriage. Oh, I entreat you, do not listen to me so coldly. You know well for what reason I prize this success. You know well what gives its brightest lustre in my eyes."
Pray be narrative now the emotional can be kept for some other time. Who says that this means success ?"
My lawyer, Mr. Kelson. He calls the suit won. İle proves his belief, for he has advanced me money to pay off my debt to Longworth, and to place me in a position of ease and comfort."
"And what is Kelsonjudges?"
- is he one of the
"Of course not. He is one of the leading solicitors of London; a very grave, thoughtful, cautious man. I have shown you many of his letters. You must remember him."
"No; I never remember people; that is, if they have not personally interested me.
"By no means. I do not intend to press my claim farther than the right to the estates. I am not going to proceed for - I forget the legal word- the accumulated profits. Indeed, if Mr. Bramleigh be only animated by the spirit I have heard attributed to him, there is no concession that I am not disposed to make him."
"What droll people Frenchmen are! They dash their morality, like their cookery, with something discrepant. They fancy it means 'piquancy.' What, in the name of all romance, have you to do with the Bramleighs? Why all this magnanimity for people who certainly have been keeping you out of what was your own, and treating your claim to it as a knavery?"
"You might please to remember that we are related."
"Of course you are nothing of the kind. If you be the true prince, the others must be all illegitimate a couple of generations back. Perhaps I am embittered against them by that cruel fraud practised on myself. I cannot bring myself to forgive it. Now, if you really were that fine generous creature you want me to believe, it is of me, of me, Lady Augusta Bramleigh, you would be thinking all this while: how to secure me that miserable pittance they called my settlement; how to recompense me for the
fatal mistake I made in my marriage; how | Castello, and carried away a quantity of to distinguish between the persons who fraudulently took possession of your property, and the poor harmless victim of their false pretensions."
"And is not this what I am here for? it not to lay my whole fortune at your feet?" A very pretty phrase, that doesn't mean anything like what it pretends: a phrase borrowed from a vaudeville, and that ought to be restored to where it came from." "Lord and Lady Culduff, my lady, wish to pay their respects."
They are passing through," said Lady Augusta, reading the words written in pencil on the card presented by the servant. "Of course I must see them. You needn't go away, Count; but I shall not present Yes, Hislop, tell her ladyship I am at home. I declare you are always compromising me. Sit over yonder, and read your newspaper, or play with Felice."
My lord, as your lordship is so palpably referring to me, and as I am quite sure you are not aware of my identity, may I hasten to say I am Count Pracontal de Bramleigh?” Oh, dear! have I forgotten to present you?" said Lady Augusta, with a perfect simplicity of manner.
Marion acknowledged the introduction by the slightest imaginable bow and a look of cold defiance; while Lord Culduff smiled blandly, and professed his regret if he had uttered a word that could occasion pain.
'Love and war are chartered libertines, and why not law?" said the viscount. "I take it that all stratagems are available; the great thing is, they should be successful."
"Count Pracontal declares that he can pledge himself to the result," said Lady Augusta. "The case, in fact, as he represents it, is as good as determined."
"Has a jury decided, then?" asked Cul
She had barely finished these instructions when the double door was flung wide, and Marion swept proudly in. Her air and "No, my lord; the trial comes on next toilette were both queenlike, and, indeed, term. I only repeat the assurance given her beauty was not less striking than either.me by my lawyer; and so far confirmed by Lord Culduff followed, a soft pleasant smile him that he has made me large advances, on his face. It might do service in many which he well knows I could not repay if I ways, for it was equally ready to mean should not gain my cause." sweetness or sarcasm, as occasion called for. When the ladies had kissed twice, and his lordship had saluted Lady Augusta with a profound respect, dashed with a sort of devotion, Marion's eyes glanced at the stranger, who, though he arose, and only reseated himself as they sat down, neither lifted his glance nor seemed to notice them further.
"We are only going through; we start at two o'clock," said she, hurriedly.
"At one-forty, my lady," said Lord Culduff, with a faint smile, as though shocked at being obliged to correct her.
"It was so kind of you to come," said Lady Augusta; "and you only arrived this morning?"
"We only arrived half an hour ago." "I must order you some lunch; I'm sure you can eat something."
"My lady is hungry; she said so as we came along," said Lord Culduff. "Allow me to ring for you. As for myself, I take Liebig's lozenges and a spoonful of Curaçoa -nothing else before dinner."
"It's so pleasant to live with people who are dieted,' " said Marion, with a sneering emphasis on the word.
"So I hear from Bramleigh," interposed Lord Culduff, "that this man-I forget his name actually broke into the house at
These are usually cautious people," said the viscount, gravely.
"It strikes me," said Marion, rising, "that this sort of desultory conversation on a matter of such importance is, to say the least, inconvenient. Even the presence of this gentleman is not sufficient to make me forget that my family have always regarded his pretension as something not very far from a fraud."
"I regret infinitely, madam," said Pracontal, bowing low, "that it is not a man has uttered the words just spoken."
Lady Culduff's words, sir, are all mine," said Lord Culduff.
"I thank your lordship from my heart for the relief you have afforded me."
"There must be nothing of this kind," said Lady Augusta, warmly. "If I have been remiss in not making Count Pracontal known to you before, let me repair my error by presenting him now as a gentleman who makes me the offer of his hand.”
"I wish you good morning," said Marion. "No, thank you; no luncheon. Your ladyship has given me fully as much for digestion as I care for. Good-by."
If my congratulations could only shadow forth a vision of all the happiness I wish your ladyship," began Lord Culduff
"I think I know, my lord, what you
would say," broke she in, laughingly. "You the discussion, and the guessing that the would like to have uttered something very neat on well-assorted unions. There could be no better authority on such a subject; but Count Pracontal is toleration itself: he lets me tell my friends that I am about to marry him for money, just as I married poor Colonel Bramleigh for love."
note occasioned; the mere fact that George had ventured to issue an order of this kind without first consulting Julia, investing the step with a degree of mysteriousness perfectly inscrutable. I turn, however, to Cattaro, where L'Estrange and Jack sat together, each so eager to hear the other's tidings as to be almost too impatient to
"I am waiting for you, my lord. We have already trespassed too far on her lady-dwell upon himself. ship's time and occupations." The sneering emphasis on the last word was most distinct. Lord Culduff kissed Lady Augusta's hand with a most devoted show of respect, and slowly retired.
As the door closed after them, Pracontal fell at her feet, and covered her hand with kisses.
But, my lady, I have a heart; a heart that would be broken by a betrayal."
To account for their presence in this remote spot, George, as briefly as he could, sketched the course of events at Castello, not failing to lay due stress on the noble and courageous spirit with which Augustus and Nelly had met misfortune. "All is not lost yet," said L'Estrange; "far from it; but even if the worst should come, I do not know of two people in the world who will show a stouter front to adversity."
"And your sister, where is she?" said Jack, in a voice scarce above a whisper. Here at the villa." 'Not married?"
It was not often that L'Estrange attempted anything like adroitness in expression, but he did so here, and saw, in the heightened colour and sparkling eye of the other, how thoroughly his speech had succeeded.
"I wonder will she know me," said Jack, after a pause. "You certainly did not at first."
'Nor, for that matter, did you recognize
"What a strange heart for a Frenchman! About as suitable to the Boulevards Italiens as snow-shoes to the tropics. Monsieur de Pracontal," said she in a much graver tone, "please to bear in mind that I am a very considerable item in such an arrangement as we spoke of. The whole question is not what would make you happy." Ah, but I did though," said Jack, passPracontal bowed low in silence; his ges-ing his hand over his brow, "but I had gone ture seemed to accept her words as a command to be obeyed, and he did not utter a syllable.
“Isn't she handsome ?" cried she, at length. "I declare, Count, if one of your country women had a single one of the charms of that beautiful face she'd be turning half the heads in Europe; and Marion can do nothing with them all, except drive other women wild with envy."
AT THE INN AT CATTARO.
WHEN L'Estrange had carried off Jack Bramleigh to the inn, and had seen him engaged with an excellent breakfast, he despatched a messenger to the villa to say that he was not to be expected home by dinnertime, but would be back to tea" with a friend," for whom he begged Gusty Bramleigh's room might be prepared.
I shall not delay to chronicle all the doubt,
through so much, and my head was so knocked about, I couldn't trust that my senses were not deceiving me, and I thought if I make any egregious blunder now, these people will set me down for mad. That was the state I was in the whole time you were questioning me. 1 promise you it was no small suffering while it lasted"
My poor fellow, what trials you must have gone through to come to this. Tell me by what mischance you were at Ischia."
With all a sailor's frankness, and with a modesty in speaking of his own achievements just as sailor-like, Jack told the story of the storm at Naples.
"I had no thought of breaking the laws," said he, bluntly. "I saw ships foundering, and small craft turning keel uppermost; on every side of me there was disaster and confusion everywhere. I had no time to inquire about the morals of the men I saw clinging to hencoops or holding on by stretchers. I saved as many as I could,
but there was little care given to the sick,
L'Estrange could not speak as he gazed on the poor fellow, over whose worn and wasted features joy had lighted up a look of delight that imparted an almost angelic elevation to his face.
and sorry enough I was to have seen many ill when I landed that I went to hospital; go down before I could get near them; and was fairly beat when it was all over, or perhaps they'd not have captured me so easily. At all events," said he, after a minute's silence, they might have let me off with a lighter sentence, but my temper got the better of me in court, and when they asked me if it was not true that I made greater efforts to save the galley-slaves than the soldiery, I told them it might have been so, for the prisoners, chained and handcuffed as they were, went down like brave men, while the royal troops yelled and screamed like a set of arrant cowards, and that whenever I pulled one of the wretches out of the water I was half-ashamed of my own humanity. That speech settled me, at least the lawyer said so, and declared he was afraid to say a word more in defence of a man that insulted the tribunal and the nation together."
"And what was your sentence?"
'Death, commuted to the galleys for life; worse than any death! It's not the hardship or the labour, I mean. A sailor goes through more downright hard work on a blowy night than these fellows do in a year. It is the way a man brutalises when vice and crime make up the whole atmosphere of his life. The devil has a man's heart all his own, whenever hope deserts it, and you want to do wickedness just because it is wickedness. For three weeks before I made my escape it was all I could do not to dash the turnkey's brains out when he made his night round. I told my comrade -the man I was chained to what I felt, and he said,We all go through that at first, but when you're some years here you'll not care for that or anything.' I believe it was the terror of coming to that condition made me try to escape. I don't know that I ever felt the same ecstasy of delight that I felt as I found myself swimming in that fresh cold sea in the silence of a calm starry night. I'm sure it will be a memory that will last my lifetime. I thought of you all I thought of long ago, of our happy evenings, and I pictured to my mind the way we used to sit around the fire, and I wondered what had become of my place: was I ever remembered, was I spoken of; could it be that at that very moment some one was asking, where was poor Jack? And how I wished you might all know that my last thoughts were upon you, that it was the dear old long ago was before me to the last. I was seventeen hours in the water. When they picked me up I was senseless from a sun-stroke, for the corks floated me long after I gave up swimming. I was so
But can I go back like this?" asked he, sorrowfully, as he looked down at his ragged clothes and broken shoes.
"I have thought of all that. There is nothing to be had here ready but Montenegrin costume, so the landlord tells me, and you will have to figure in something very picturesque."
"Cannot I get a sailor's jacket and trowsers ? "
Ay, of Dalmatian cut and color, but they'll not become you as well as that green velvet attila and the loose hose of the mountaineer. Try if you can't take a sleep now. and when you awake you'll find your new rig in that room yonder, where there's a bath ready for you. I'll go down the town meanwhile, and do a few commissions, and will set out homewards when you're rested." I wish it was over," said Jack, with a
Wish what was over?"
"I mean I wish the shock was over. The shock of seeing me such an object as I am! Sickness changes a man quite enough, but there's worse than that, George. I know what this rough life of mine must have made of me. You won't say it, old fellow, but I see it in your sad face all the same. I am- say it out, mana most disreputable-looking blackguard!"
"I declare, on my honour, that, except the ravages of illness, I see no change in you whatever."
"Look here," said Jack, as his voice trembled with a peculiar agitation, "I'll see Nelly first. A man's sister can never be ashamed of him, come what will. If Nelly shows and she's not one to hide it that -no matter, I'll not say more about I see you're not pleased with me laying stress on such a matter."
"No, no, you wrong me, Jack; you wrong me altogether. My poor fellow, we never were we never had such good reason to be proud of you as now. You are a hero, Jack. You have done what all Europe will ring with."
"Don't talk balderdash; my head is weak enough already. If you're not ashamed of the tatterdemalion that comes back to you,
it's more than I deserve. There now, going admiration at his handsome looks and off, and do your business, and don't be long, gallant bearing. for I'm growing very impatient to see them. Give me something to smoke till you get back, and I'll be calm and reasonable by that time."
If L'Estrange had really anything to do in the town he forgot all about it, aad trotted about from street to street, so full of Jack and his adventures that he walked into apple-stalls and kicked over egg-baskets amid the laughter and amusement of the people.
"Are they commenting on the ass in the lion's skin?" said Jack, in a sly whisper; "is that what they are muttering to each other?" It is all in extrava
Quite the reverse. gant praise of you. The police are on the alert, too: they think there must be mischief brewing in the mountains, that has brought a great chief down to Cattaro."
Thus chatting and laughing they gained the outskirts of the town, and soon found themselves on one of the rural paths which led up the mountain.
If he had told no more than the truth in saying that Jack was still like what he had been, there were about him signs of suffer- Don't think me very stupid, George, ing and hardship that gave a most painful or very tiresome," said Jack, if I ask you significance to his look, and more painful to go over again what you told me this than even these was the poor fellow's con- morning. Such strange things have befalsciousness of his fallen condition. The len me of late that I can scarcely distinguish sudden pauses in speaking, the deep sighs between fact and fancy. Now, first of all, that would escape him, the almost bitter have we lost Castello - and who owns it?" raillery he used when speaking of himself, "No. The question is yet to be deall showed how acutely he felt his altered cided; the trial will take place in about two months."
L'Estrange was in no wise prepared for the change half an hour had made in Jack's humour. The handsome dress of Montenegro became him admirably, and the sailorlike freedom of his movements went well with the easy costume. "Isn't this a most appropriate transformation, George ?" he cried out. "I came in here looking like a pickpocket, and I go out like a stage bandit!"
"I declare it becomes you wonderfully. I'll wager the girls will not let you wear any other dress."
'And if we are beaten, does it mean that we are ruined? Does it sweep away Marion and Nelly's fortunes, too?"
"I fear so. I know little accurately, but I believe the whole estate is involved in the claim.".
Gusty bears it well, you say?" Admirably. I never saw a man behave with such splendid courage."
"I'll not ask about Nelly, for I could swear for her pluck. She was always the best of us."
If L'Estrange drank in this praise with ecstasy, he had to turn away his head, lest the sudden flush that covered his face should be observed.
"I have no wish to hear the story of this claim now; you shall tell it to me some other time. But just tell me, was it ever heard of in my father's time?"
"I believe so. Your father knew of it, but did not deem it serious."
"Marion, of course, despises it still; and what does Temple say?"
"One scarcely knows. I don't think they have had a letter from him since they left Ireland."
"See what a wise fellow I was!" cried he, laughing. "I sank so low in life, that any change must be elevation. You are all great folk to me!"
There was a long and painful pause after this each deep in his own thoughts. At last Jack asked suddenly, "How is Marion? Is she happy in her mrrriage?” 'We hear next to nothing of her; the